On April 20th, I ran my second 10k race. If the first race was about learning that I can do it, this one was about learning how to appreciate both my body and the trail when neither worked in my favor, learning from that experience, and pushing through.
— this post includes a mention of some common (female) bodily functions —
The day was perfect for a race. The sky was blue, there was a gentle breeze and it wasn’t too hot. The lake was calm and the trail looked the best it could have. I couldn’t wait for the race to start, I couldn’t wait to get out there, I couldn’t wait to feel my feet hitting the ground. Although I did have some concerns, both my body and my mind were excited to run through the start and not stop until I ran through the finish arch. And then, finally, Tim, the race director, reached zero in his countdown and the fun begun.
The first half a mile felt awesome. Fresh air in my lungs, beautiful Folsom Lake on my left, trail below my feet (well, now it was a levy but… before – and long after – it was a trail)…
Faster, run, run, run, my legs were saying.
Go for it, run, run, run, answered my lungs.
If you keep going, I’ll make sure you suffer every step of the way, chimed in my uterus – and fully honored its words for the rest of the race…
Yes, my body timed it perfectly. More precisely, I had it all perfectly timed and my body screwed me over. I was NOT supposed to be on my period on the race day. But, voilà, a day before the race, there it was, greeting me with the unmistakable feeling of someone flaying my belly from the inside.
Now, before any of you gentlemen go into trying to explain that periods “can’t be that bad” or some of you ladies try to tell me the same, let me tell you;
Gentlemen, before you go through someone trying to rip your insides from your body, don’t you try to tell any woman that periods can’t be that bad if you want to live.
Ladies who have experienced periods and can still say that they aren’t that bad, I am green with envy. No, not only green, I’m rotten through with envy and will go up in flames right before your very eyes if you tell me that.
That being said, I begun the race with the best mindset I could have put together. I’m running this race with friends. The community around this race and other races organized by them is like my family. It’s a beautiful day. It’s not too hot. The air smells awesome. My legs feel like I could run a hundred miler and then some more. I can do that. I know it. I can’t wait to do that. Shut up, uterus. This is gonna be awesome. I’m going to finish strong. I’m giving it my very best and nothing less. Yes. Yes. Yes…
However, my belly had a different opinion on how I was going to get through the six miles (which ended up being almost seven). I had to walk every. single. tiny. hill. When I managed to run – even though calling it running is a little bit of an exaggeration in this case – a few slight uphills, I got such cramps that I had to stop and breathe for a few seconds, losing the precious time I saved by “running.” As this was a rare out-and-back, I was meeting people who have already reached the aid station and turned around to run back to the start/finish.
Hmmm… two and a half miles in, I should meet Anthony soon, I thought. And it didn’t take even half a minute and there he was, running down the trail, probably making his new PR. I smiled at him. He waved at me. Anthony, always trying to break his own PRs and always winning all 10k races he signs up for usually doesn’t wave at people. This must be a good sign, I can do this! Yes, I must admit that by then, I’d probably take anything as a good sign.
I met Alex and smiled. Then I met Gavin and still smiled. Alex and Gavin are my two classmates whom I told about the race and asked if they wanted to run it. I gave them a ride that morning. I hoped they remembered where I told them I hid the key so that they could get in the car and get their change of clothes and whatever they might need.
I met a couple more people whom I knew.
“You’re almost there!”
They called words of encouragement as I smiled at them, too, now getting a little teary-eyed from the pain building up in my belly, as if my uterus was commanding all other organs to set themselves on fire. I still ran every downhill and flat. But I have to admit, my resolve was starting to disappear as my body commanded me to just trow up, drop to the ground, and curl up into a little ball of despair. I hated it; I hated my body, I hated the trail, I hated that everything was so beautiful and I couldn’t enjoy it.
When I made it to the aid station, guess what. I smiled. Again. But this time, I smiled through real tears. They tried to find some pain killers. I knew we usually don’t have pain killers at aid stations. They tried to find something else while I laid down and did a series of movements to get my left hip back into its place. Yep, my hip revolted, too.
In the end, I managed to make my hip at least half-functional again, downed a small cup of ginger ale and ate some tablet they found for me – it wasn’t a pain killer but I could at least try to fool my body – and ate a ~disgusting~ Oreo. I love Oreos. But that stuff was just plain disgusting. But I think everything would be disgusting at that point.
On my way back, I didn’t meet almost anyone. Or at least it seemed like that to me. Shortly after I left the aid station, I met a couple people and called words of encouragement to them, even though I felt like dropping to the ground and throwing a fit against my uterus.
It wouldn’t be helpful. It would only mean that my uterus won the war.
The next two miles seemed to be pure hell. Several times I had to stop and breathe out of pain. I felt so sick that throwing up would be a mercy. I was actually a little surprised that I was still moving forward and not laying by the side of the lake, waiting for someone to… to what? They couldn’t drive here for me. The only thing I could do was put one foot in front of the other and get back to the start/finish.
And so I did. When I had about a mile, mile and a half left, I got to the point where I was so mad at my body that I started to get mad at myself for being mad at my body. Yep. And from there,… I broke through.
I can’t say I immediately loved myself and the trail and my body again. I can’t say it was like the snap of fingers. It took work – mile and a half of work and then some more time – but I decided to start to do my best to appreciate my body even when it was giving me hell. I repeated over and over again that I love my body even when it hurts, even when it does stupid stuff (like getting period right before a race), and I tried to really feel it, to really feel thankful and appreciative. I looked around. Beautiful purple, blue, yellow and white wildflowers were lining the single-track trail. Folsom Lake was calm and clear. The trees were offering me their shade. My legs could move. My lungs could breathe. My uterus hurt like hell – but that was okay. All I needed to do was to learn how it feels, learn how to deal with it, and then only to push, push, push through. And find a new strength in me. I started to smile again.
I started to smile again – not because it got easier, less painful, or because there was this moment you would imagine where everything was perfect. Nothing like that happened, let’s keep it real. The trail was the same, the pain was the same, the feeling that I could throw up any second was the same. What changed was the point of view I decided to take on the whole situation. What changed was my perception.
I ran through the finish line. I ran through the finish line smiling like I haven’t for the entirety of the race.
“Strong finish!” I heard someone next to me. I had to laugh internally about that – I felt anything but strong during majority the race.
“And smiling!” called the woman who handed me my medal.
“Almost barely,” I replied, now laughing, when I crossed the finish line. I took the medal from her and didn’t stop running. Instead, I threw my water bottle on the ground and made a dash straight for the restrooms. My body was done with only feeling like I had to puke, it decided to act on its own.
On our way home, when the heroes (who both finished before me) fell asleep while I was driving, I has to smile for myself.
Tim told me that this race was “actually, more like seven miles, because of the placement of the aid station.” And so, although I had what I’d call a much-less-than-satisfying time for the race, I managed to break my 10k PR. I had to almost laugh at that. How did I do it? I have no idea. How did I run that fast even though it felt like I could walk the entire course and it would have been faster than the thing I did which I called running? I have no idea.
When I got home, I went for a short one-mile run. How and why did I do that?
You know the answer; I have no idea.
The story of my first ever race is right HERE, if you’d like to read more!