April 17, 2015

Race Recap: Emmaus 4 Mile Classic

Wow, this is my first race recap in a very very long time! And I'm writing it with a smile on my face. Must be a good thing, right?

On Sunday, I ran my very first race as a mom and it was wonderful. The Emmaus 4 Mile Classic is put on yearly by the Lehigh Valley Road Runners. Sunday marked the 38th Anniversary of this race which started and ended at the Emmaus High School, and weaved through a neighborhood of rolling hills.

I signed up for this race a few weeks ago because I felt that to get back into running, I needed something to train for. During my 12 weeks off after Emmett's birth, I couldn't wait to get back to running. But once I was cleared to get in the miles, it was much harder than I anticipated. Finding the time to run was one thing. Finding the energy was another. And when I could find both, my body was only too happy to remind me that I was starting from below ground zero. Post c section & an emergency surgery a week after birth, my body was weaker than it's ever been and every run reminded me of that.  So I signed up for a race and figured that with it on my calendar, I'd have more motivation to get my goal of 4 runs a week done.

I was wrong. Well, sort of. The motivation was there but like I said, the time & energy weren't always available. The weekend before the race, I went out for a 3 mile run and it was hard. Like really, really hard. I blame the wind and the hills, but still, it was discouraging. It left me pretty nervous for the Four Mile Classic with tons of self doubt streaming through my brain. What if I couldn't finish? What if I had to walk? I hate walking during races. What if I finished last? The day before the race, I was in the shower where I do my best thinking, and couldn't get these doubts out of my head. I realized I might need a new mantra during the race... so I headed down to my studio and made a new bracelet to wear. Work in progress... progress would be my focus. At this point, it should be all that matters. My only goal would be to finish the race. I wouldn't care about my pace and I would just listen to my body and stay comfortable enough to finish happy.

The morning of the race was like no other race morning I'd ever experienced. Before baby, a typical race morning involved breakfast in bed, getting dressed and then dancing around my home to loud music getting myself pumped up. But Sunday, I woke early to nurse Emmett, pumped to empty the rest of my boobs so I wouldn't leak (which didn't really help because they filled up halfway through the race. Ouch), changed his diaper, got him dressed and then changed his diaper again, packed his diaper bag and put expressed milk in a bottle in case he needed to eat while I was running. Oh, and somewhere in there I found the time to get dressed too.
Bag full of race gear: Check! Expressed breast milk: Check! Baby: Check!
We arrived at the high school with plenty of time to find parking, get my bib, and hit the bathrooms. We headed out to watch the kid's one mile race and I couldn't help but get excited for when Emmett will be old enough to run. I hope the kid digs it as much as we do! But if not, that's cool too. The kid's race winner finished the mile in 6:01 which was pretty amazing to watch. Some time between arriving and the kids race, I also managed to stuff a banana down my throat.
What do you think kiddo, want to run races when you're old enough? 
And then it was our turn. I headed to the start along with the other runners and was quickly reminded what it's like to run a small race. Back in my NYC days, I ran NYRR races almost every weekend with thousands of runners. Those races were always divided into corrals based on pace. I forgot that this race wouldn't be that way and so I walked to the back of the bunch to start. For one, I didn't want to get in anyone's way with my slow pace. But also, I didn't want to be influenced by the fast runners, going out too fast and burning out quickly. And then we were off!

According to my watch, I started the race at around a 10 minute mile which was right where I thought I'd be. Although I didn't have a time goal, I figured that if I listened to my body, I'd end up with an average pace anywhere between a 9:30 and a 10 minute mile. As you can see on the elevation chart above, the first portion of the race was uphill so I made sure to keep it easy. As other runners past me, including a woman pushing a double stroller (nice job lady!), I let them and kept my steady relaxed pace. Around mile 1.5, the banana I shoved down my throat bit me in the ass. Hello cramps! My stomach was killing me so I focused on my breathing. In deeply through my nose, out slowly through my mouth. Slow and steady. I'd experienced cramps like this in past races and they always forced me to walk but I really didn't want to walk my first race back.

I remembered my race mantra, Work In Progress, and kept going. Breathing through the cramps. With each downhill, I refused to increase my pace too much, knowing that another significant hill was coming up and that I'd need my breath and my energy to climb it. The strategy really worked and I maintained a pretty steady pace for the entire race. I steadily climbed the hill from 1.5-2 and headed back down. At around 2.5, I noticed a big cheer squad up ahead. It was a bunch of young kids with their parents holding signs and I thought "it would be so cool to have a cheer squad like that one day". I could just imagine Emmett holding a sign. And then I got closer, I saw the signs and I realized the cheer squad was for me! I mean, wow! I almost cried. Thank you Sarah & Jessica, the signs & cheering made my day!!!
Cheer squad & picture courtesy of Sarah & Jessica. Thank you guys so much!!!
The cheering & good vibes were just what I needed to finish the rest of the race strong.  Another short uphill and then a recovering downhill and I was headed to the finish line. I looked down and saw my average pace was 9:26.  As I entered the high school parking lot, I heard Robert call my name and spotted him holding Emmett. The moment couldn't have felt better and I crossed the finish line with a giant smile on my face. I looked up to see the clock reading 36:40 and was pretty pleased. Later, when I told Robert about the banana and the cramps, he pointed out that it probably helped me more than hurt me. It forced me to keep my effort easy instead of going too fast and crashing and burning. The cramps kept my ego in check, I stuck to my strategy, and I finished my first race as a mother runner happy. Even better was seeing Robert with Emmett waiting for me and cheering me on. Thank you Robert for being an amazing dad & husband- I love you!!!
Approaching the finish line
Posing with my favorite little guy right after the finish... and before he started freaking out & reaching for the boob. I guess cheering made him hungry!
 A great benefit of small races is finding your crew easily. I reunited with Robert & Emmett, sat on the curb, wiped my sweat off and fed the kiddo, and we were on our way to celebrate with brunch. It was a perfect morning and I couldn't have asked for a better return to racing.


  1. Love this. Congrats Erica! You did so great. Oh my, I would totally be crying if I saw that cheer squad for me!

  2. Congrats Mama! Welcome back to racing! You had a great race!