The 2017 Raptor Ridge Trail Half Marathon was my first trail half marathon and only my third trail race ever (I’ve done a Ragnar Trail race and a 10K trail race), but more importantly – it was my first half marathon that I ran while pregnant with twins! At my first doctor appointment at 7 weeks in, my doctor and I discussed my running, including running long distance, and I was given his blessing. After we did the ultrasound and discovered there were two, not just one, babies in there, one of my first questions was “how does this affect my running?” I let out a sigh of relief when he said “It doesn’t. Keep running!” YAY!
After doing some research online, I discovered that I probably won’t be running much past 20 weeks with this pregnancy (I ran til 33 weeks with my singleton pregnancy), so I knew that this trail race would likely be my only half marathon. I originally picked this race knowing that we would be trying for a baby and knowing that trail races are low key, low pressure and fun! It’s not a technical course at all so I didn’t find it risky in that sense.
For anyone who is a new reader of found my blog via google search because you’re also pregnant with twins and want to know more about other moms who have run through their twin pregnancy (there isn’t a lot of info out there!), I’ll give you some background on me. I’ve been running about 7 years and have countless half marathons and 7 half marathons, the last two of which were in the year before I got pregnant (NYCM & Mountains 2 Beach Marathon). My last marathon was in May and after that marathon I maintained a decent base of about 25 miles per week with a long run averaging 8-12 miles every week (along with strength training, as usual). I stopped doing speed work in late July and got a positive pregnancy test the next week. During my last pregnancy, I ran two half marathons, both in the first trimester at 6 weeks and 12 weeks. I had planned and trained to run another half at around 23 weeks but ended up getting a stomach bug the day before the race and decided to play it safe and not run. By 33 weeks, I was only running 1-2 (or less) times per week and usually walk/running only 3 miles. I called it quits but still worked out (yoga, barre, spin, hiking) until the day I went into labor at 41 weeks pregnant.
Back to the race. I must say that trail races are incredibly convenient and super low key! There was no packet pickup. I got up at 5:30 AM, left my house at 6 AM, parked at 6:30 AM, picked up my bib, used the port-o-potty (and totally missed these clever signs until I was near the front…oops), and was standing in the cold shivering with 10 minutes to spare before the 7 a.m. start. There was no start line, just an announcer and a line in tape across the trailhead. We even waited to start the race until everyone was out of the bathrooms. I’d guess there were 200ish runners there, including one fellow Oiselle teammate Jen and my husband’s boss Arch and his wife Christy.
The race started with just over four miles of flat trails with just a few slightly graded inclines and declines and not much in the way of obstacles. It was really, really cold (high 50s maybe?! Cold for this southern California native) at the start and my face and hands were kind of numb! The high for the day was supposed to be 90 (the race is about 30 min inland from where I live) so I was thankful that it wasn’t hot yet. I had started running with Jen but she was running low 9s and dropped me within a few hundred yards. I settled in with a high 9 min/mile pace and soon Christy came up running next to me. She stayed with me for about 3 more miles and it was really nice to have someone to chat with!
We passed by farms, fields, brush and trees. At one point were snaking up a slight hill with the sun coming up low ahead of us – you could see the runners winding through the tall grass along the trail and the sun was peeking over them. It was absolutely beautiful! I wanted to stop and take a photo but knew that it would never look as good in a photo as it looked in real life. Will have to save that one in my mind! We skipped the first aid station which was about 3 miles in – I was carrying my water bottle so I didn’t need it.
My first four miles were 9:28, 9:47, 9:50 and 9:44 – not bad! After mile 4, the climb begins! I pretty much started to walk as soon as it did and Christy ran ahead. It started to get a little awkward because a lot of people wanted to pass me on this hill given my relatively decent pace on the flat section. I tried to keep to one side of the path as much as I could and stopped a few times where there was space to catch my breath. I took my first Gu while going up the hill and made sure to drink a lot of water.
I was shocked that once I got to the top, around mile 5 (which took 14:42 by the way) the lead men were already flying back down the hill! They were literally 3 miles ahead of me at this point! There are two large hills, so after we went up the first one, we had to go back down it and then go back up and down an equally long but less steep second hill (or so it seemed that way). At the end of the second hill there was a long flat section through beautiful open fields. At this point a significant portion of the runners had turned around and so many of them would encourage the runners on the other side as they passed. I did the same. Trail runners are so nice!
At the turnaround point there was an aid station and I prayed that ONE portopotty would be there. Nope. Bummer. One downside to running a trail race while pregnant is that you will definitely have to pee. No way around that. When I ran Zion Half at 12 weeks pregnant I had to stop 3 times for the restroom, waiting in long lines each time. I had already started looking for good looking bushes over the course of the last couple of miles so I knew there weren’t any. I thought maybe I could hold it and after I filled up my water bottle and ate a few pieces of watermelon, I headed the way I came toward the finish!
I couldn’t believe how great I was feeling. My legs didn’t feel fatigued at all and my breathing was pretty easy. My pace was slower than the start but not much (averaging mid 10s mostly with some slower miles on the inclines). I knew I’d finish and finish strong at this point. I headed back up the hill again, this time not getting passed much because I was with people more my pace now (who also walked the hill). Going down the hill felt good and I actually looked forward to walking up the second one again. During the walk I got out my peanut butter sandwich (yes, I brought a sandwich! I tend to get nauseous on an empty stomach and hasn’t convinced my Gu would fill me up) because my stomach started to growl. I stopped on the side of the trail and ate a few bites, took a few photos and kept going. I was walking slow enough that I could easily eat while in motion.
During my descent down the second hill, my bladder was giving me a SOS – I needed to stop ASAP. However, there was literally no where to stop on the hills without baring my ass for many to see. Luckily at the bottom of the hill there was a decent tree that I could use to block me from at least one direction on the path. Luckily no one came by from the other direction (aka hikers/not trail runners who might actually be offended by my bare bottom) during the time I was squatting so I’m pretty sure I got out of there safely.
I had brought my headphones but decided against using them. I was enjoying the trails without needing any additional entertainment. It did get a big lonely in the final miles as there weren’t many other runners and not a lot of passing happening. At some point I realized that my “A” goal (yes I still have goals even while pregnant) of running sub 2:30 was probably going to happen and it motivated me to take fewer walking breaks. I stopped at the last aid station for a water refill and more watermelon around mile 10 feeling pretty good still. The next couple of miles were near 11 minute miles but I got a burst of energy at the very end and was able to run a 9:17 for my final mile – fastest of the day!
I finished in 2:25 and change. The course was a little short (or my watch just skipped a section or something) but I didn’t mind when the finish line came quicker than anticipated. I did it!!! I went to bed the night before the race NOT expecting to make it to the finish feeling as good as I did and I was really happy. To compare to my first pregnancy, despite this race having 1,200 feet of elevation gain, I actually ran this race over 10 minutes faster than the Zion half marathon that I ran at 12 weeks pregnant with Siena (part of that was due to waiting in long port-o-potty lines THREE times). I was so glad that I ran this race – it truly reminded me how much I LOVE running. Knowing that I won’t be doing anything like it for many months makes me sad, but I know it’ll be there when I’m ready!
The race schwag was great – a medal, a wine glass and a shirt! I’d highly recommend this race for anyone wanting a low key, beautiful run!
Have you ever run a trail half marathon? Do you like hilly races or do you avoid them?