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Reflections and lessons from a less than ideal training cycle

When I started a 27 week training plan for the Marine Corps Marathon, my thinking was that I could take the whole thing really slow and easy. I could up my mileage very gradually and even take a stair-step approach with my long runs to avoid just constantly bumping up every weekend. In the past, I’ve gotten a little lost in training plans in the middle, losing focus and then overtraining towards the end, especially in pace. I tend to get to start lines a little burnt out. The first 8-9 weeks of this plan went very smoothly. Well, duh, that didn’t have a whole lot of volume to it at that point. But really, it started to get a little bumpy in July as I weaned from exclusively pumping for Rhett. That was a much tougher two weeks physically than I anticipated, and that became my first hiccup. I started to feel like I was falling behind a little, and the heat combined with stroller running didn’t help. For the next several weeks, I was on a hormonal roller coaster as my body tried to navigate this new postpartum milestone, and I think all of that ended up being a big stressor on my training plan. We also hurdled hurricane obstacles and teething ones, each of those being very valid, but excuses nonetheless. With no access to a treadmill, all in all, I let obstacles stop me way more days than I would have liked.

More so than obstacles, I willingly put family planning in front of my running plan. A few months out from the race, I started to have the mentality that I would likely be pregnant by the time the race finally got here. I ran my last marathon in 2015 at 7 weeks pregnant because I found out the day after my 20 mile long run, so I was basically entering the taper anyways, and I was so game for going that route again if it came to it. Well cue the positive pregnancy test, I thought I had predicted it all perfectly in September. I did the math, and this time I would be 9 weeks along for the race. I wasn’t up to my longest training run yet, but surely I could still continue on much slower and finish training. Not long after finding out about baby #2, in the back of my mind, I got nervous about continuing to up my mileage at barely pregnant, and I sort of fell off with the weekend long run. I would go out and do 8-10 instead of the 18-19 I needed to be doing at that point. I don’t know if I sensed that the pregnancy wasn’t going quite right or if I was just a little afraid of doing damage, but I did start to take it pretty easy training-wise. My energy levels were definitely low, but I didn’t have any other symptoms to complain about, which was typical for my pregnancy with Rhett, too.

Two weeks out from the race exactly, after getting an ultrasound and hearing that glorious tiny heartbeat 3 days before, I started to have strong cramping early on a Sunday morning. Before we got out of bed, I told Marcus I was nervous about the cramping, and less than an hour later, I was sobbing in the bathroom.

Going through a miscarriage two weeks before a marathon is probably one of the worst case scenarios I can imagine for any race, and I’m glad I didn’t see it coming. The faith it took for us to muster and continue on was paramount, but I know those wounds will linger much longer than my race soreness. I’m glad I went on to do this race, as it was an incredible experience. None of it– the training or the race– went the way I wanted it to, but I’m stronger for it in every way. I take my pregnancy with Rhett for granted less, and I have more accurate expectations of future training cycles. Motherhood and running are so deeply intertwined for me, and this training cycle was a huge learning opportunity in all of it.

I am reminded that I am not the creator of life or the designer of my family. I can plan a race schedule, but I can only control so many factors. It is up to me to adapt, adjust, overcome, learn, bounce back, and do it all with a good attitude. Those lessons are priceless to me, and I’m so thankful to have so many others on this journey around me, too.

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