Hilary Stellingwerff

Coming back to competitive running from pregnancy has been an amazing ride; I can’t believe Theo will be a year old on June 29. In some ways, I feel like I wasn’t off at all. On the other hand, so much has changed. My perspective and ability to adapt have been challenged to the nth degree.

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Let’s take the 72 hours leading into my first 1500m race in nearly 2 years: It’s our last day in Flagstaff, Ariz., after a great 23 days at altitude; Theo adapted like a champ and was a gem for Trent and I, as well as grandma and grandpa who came along to babysit. I’m out for a morning workout, the grandparents are packing up the van when Theo makes the split-second decision that he’d like to take a leap, head first, from the seat to the carpeted van floor. Although he had a pretty good sob fest, he came away seemingly unscathed, until I was feeding him a bottle an hour later on our drive down to Phoenix. I notice blood in his mouth, then I notice he was missing one of his front teeth! At that moment I had my first mom panic attack. I don’t deal well with bloody, open wounds at the best of times, so I fainted. What kind of mom faints when her child is in trouble?

It turned out Theo was completely unfazed: his tooth is actually still there, just pushed up a bit. He’s just wondering why mommy suddenly took a 30 second nap. Needless to say, I was a little shaky and didn’t feel very perky that afternoon on my pre-comp track workout, but I got enough in to feel race-ready, or at least would be in 72 hours.

So, we get to Palo Alto. Theo has a fat lip but otherwise everyone is doing great and I’m stoked to be racing back at Stanford for probably the 11th time. We get to race day, are have a nice relaxing day, even getting in a family nap. We are chilling out in our hotel room when Theo crawls into the bathroom and quickly shuts the door. No big deal, he is obsessed with opening and closing doors right now so we are just careful with opening it. But this time he somehow managed to lock the bathroom door from the inside!

We start banging on the door and calling for him, which of course scares the crap out of him so he starts bawling. I sprint to the front desk and tell the manager what happened and he hands me a paperclip! Somewhat dumbfounded, I grab it and sprint back to try and pop open the door. Trent and I both try with no luck. Theo is absolutely beside himself at this point. Finally the manager calls our room and after Trent threatens to break down the door, he comes and pops the door open with one try of the paperclip (apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened).

We calm Theo down and he quickly forgets about the incident. Then, just as we’re about to leave for the track Theo grabs a luke-warm cup of coffee from the desk and it comes down over his head like Niagara Falls, drenching him and all the layers we just dressed him in. We quickly strip him down, put him in new layers and, besides smelling like a Starbucks barista, he’s good to go.

Not quite my usual lead-in to a race, where I’m usually trying to be as relaxed and focused as possible, but there’s nothing I could really do to control any of the previous 72 hours of events. The only thing I knew I could control was my attitude going into the race, which was nervous excitement. I also used every focus cue in the book to re-group, and focus on the race and let everything go. Let’s face it, life is good: I was back at Payton Jordan with my husband, son, coach, Speed River teammates, fellow Canadian and former college teammates, all cheering for me.

When it came time to warm up and get in race-mode, I knew exactly what to do: put one foot in front of the other and run like it might be the last race of my life.

I ran 4:13 in a sit and kick race, feeling like there’s lots more there. If someone told me six months ago I’d be running and feeling like this, I’d have laughed at them. Now I can’t wait for the year ahead: likely to be filled with more bumps and bruises, as well as exciting racing!


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