Four days after Club Nationals I boarded a plane with Lilyana and headed to Montana to race the Montana Mile which is a part of the Big Sky State Games Opening Ceremonies. I have participated in this race 7 times, this one was my 8th. I am the current record holder and won 6 years in a row, took one year off to have a baby and knee surgery, then decided to come back and race this year.
When I was initially contacted to do the race I was a little hesitant. Levi and I were in the process of buying and moving into a new house, I had club nationals the weekend before, and I would have to travel solo with a baby. The latter being my main deterrent. I decided to be brave and do the race. My sister lives in Billings, MT where the race is held so I would have a place to stay and a kitchen to cook Lily’s food. One of my high school classmates I found out lives in Billings and she was more than willing to let me borrow a Pack n Play, high chair and car seat. This made traveling solo with a baby so much easier as I didn’t have to pack a bunch of baby gear. I just had one small suitcase, a backpack to put Lily in, and her diaper bag. Another friend who works close to the SeaTac Airport offered to drive me to the airport and have me park my car in her work parking lot. I originally was going to have to just park at the airport but this was way better. Having this gear and a ride to the airport helped us out so much and I am so thankful to have such thoughtful people in my life!
The first flight took off at 12:40pm. Lilyana usually naps in the morning around 10 or 11am but with the travel to the airport she did not nap. I was a little worried about her fussiness as on the drive to my friend’s work she was very frustrated but once at the airport she was fine.
As I boarded, I glanced around nervously to see who I would be sitting next to, praying they were at least somewhat child friendly. As it turns out I was sitting next to a cute little 6 year old girl who was traveling alone to Billings, MT to spend time with her Grandma. She loved Lilyana and even brought out toys for her to play with. She was such a sweet little girl and I couldn’t have gotten a better seat mate for Lilyana. Lily even slept for 30 or so minutes on the flight. Traveling with a lap infant is exhausting though, even when they sleep. Your arms never get a break! I also had the joy of changing a diaper in the smallest bathroom I have yet to be in on a plane. It didn’t even have the tiny changing table that most have.
The weekend before we left Lilyana got her first diaper rash. I thought it was due to her eating peaches and nectarines as it showed up a day or so after I introduced these to her. I stopped feeding them to her but the rash didn’t go away. Her being out in the heat at Club Nationals also didn’t help and seemed to make it worse. I tried everything to help it go away but was unable to by the time we had to fly. I changed her often to help with the rash, which meant changing her in all sorts of awkward areas, like the plane bathroom.
I brought food for her and fed her banana and scrambled eggs on the flight. One thing that made things easier was being able to nurse her during takeoff and landing or when she would start to act fussy. Nursing is one sure way to calm a baby down!
Once I got to Billings I made a trip to the store to buy food and prepared a week’s worth of food for Lily. I bought more diaper creams (Butt Paste which is basically zinc oxide) and even splurged on some “organic” or something type of diapers as I wasn’t going to be doing cloth diapers while traveling. I was willing to try anything to help clear up her rash. Billings was hot but my sister’s house has AC and her yard has a hammock with trees for shade. I let Lilyana run around naked to help air her bum out.
|(Spending time with Grandpa)|
Thursday afternoon my Dad came into town which allowed me some free time to get an easy shake out run in before the race. Having family in town was so helpful! Between my sister, Dad and Mom I always had someone who was willing to watch Lily so I could run or race.
Friday was the day of the race. I took some naps when Lilyana napped and was feeling eager to race. No matter the result I was bound to have a good time. Unfortunately her diaper rash seemed to be getting worse. I had contacted her Doctor and he told me to try the Zinc Oxide for a few days. When that didn’t work he suspected it could be a yeast rash. He wasn’t able to see her but based on my detailed description of the rash he prescribed me some medicine that would help a yeast rash. I got the call that my prescription was ready to pick up right before I was going to warm up for the mile. The pharmacy closed at 9pm (the race was supposed to go off at 8:35pm but it happened closer to 9pm). Looks like I would be getting the cream in the morning. This is the life of being a mom runner; even when you are warming up for a race things that come up involving your children always take precedence.
When I got to the race I went through the athlete pass gate and headed to the main entrance to wait for my dad. While waiting I saw the little girl from the plane! I immediately went and talked to her and her grandparents who recognized me as the Montana Mile Champion. The little girl’s eyes lit up and they said I bet you didn’t know you were sitting next to a celebrity! It was so cute and humbling. Seeing her made my day and she said she was going to watch me race. I told her I would do my best to try and win.
My heart felt light and I was very glad to have made the trip. As an athlete it is easy to get caught up in the “I’m not at my fittest, so I shouldn’t race” mentality. But I can assure you that is foolish. Yes, there are times when you should wait to race when sticking to a plan but to have this attitude because you are afraid of competition is foolish. You may miss out on so many great opportunities because you are living scared. Most people do not care how “fit” you are or how fast you run, but that you got out there and competed. It is your attitude that counts. Did you give it your all? Did you step on the track and compete? In just rising to the occasion you are an inspiration and role model to others.
|(Lilyana says to run happy and race!)|
I started my warm up later than I typically would as I figured they might be running late. It turns out they were running much later than I anticipated but I stayed relaxed, maybe too relaxed as it felt hard to get pumped up to race when the time came.
The gun went off and I took off fairly hard then tried to ease up. I was in the lead. I came through in 71-72 seconds for the first quarter. A weekend ago that pace felt easy, tonight it didn’t feel as effortless. I slowed up a bit the next couple laps but maintained a good lead. My legs didn’t have much pop in them and I feel that was from all the racing the weekend before. I stayed strong throughout and crossed the line somewhere between 5:02-5:04 in first place, my 7th title at this event.
I saw my Dad with Lilyana after I crossed the finish and she was crying hard. It was past her bedtime and I am sure she was a bit overwhelmed with all the excitement, fireworks and missing mom. I swooped her up in my arms and she was instantly cured. When it came time to go up on the podium and get our awards I was going to hand Lilyana off to my Dad but the race director told me to take her with me. I didn’t want to take away from the other girls on the podium or make it all about me and the baby but I don’t think anyone took it this way. Before the race my Dad said to, “Do it for the Moms!” and that is what I did. Afterwards I had several mothers come up to me and tell me what an inspiration I am to them. The little girl from the plane came up to me and gave me a big hug. It’s the little moments like this that are important to remember. You are never too famous, too fast or even the opposite too slow and unknown to serve as a hero to a child. Even if you can only make a difference in the life of one person, it is worth it. I pray I will be able to be a role model to Lilyana and that she will look up to me when she gets older, not because of the times I have run or the races I have won but because of my work ethic and that I wasn’t afraid to try.
|(Post race picture courtesy of the Billings Gazette)|
After the race I nursed Lilyana and headed to the car. My Dad and I grabbed some Wendy’s and got Lilyana home and to bed. Once she went to sleep, which was almost immediately, I headed out for a cool down. It was 10:30pm. I jogged an easy mile and got sprayed in the face by some automatic city sprinklers as I ran. I chuckled to myself about how things change when you have a kid.
The rest of my trip was filled with some fun firsts for Lilyana. We took her to her first splash park, her first zoo trip, and she said “potty” then went in her diaper for the first time. I ordered her up a potty chair and a couple weeks later she used it for the first time! On one of my runs I ran past a guy who told me good job on my race. I was about at my turn around point and soon caught him when I turned around. I chatted with him briefly and found out his wife and 3 kids were sitting in the front row cheering for me. He said his wife would be jealous he got to run with me. Little did he know but words of encouragement like this help keep me going!
|(Splash park fun)|
|(Yawning when there are tigers to see?!)|
|(Joy and Lilyana)|
The plane ride home I sat next to an older lady who was a Grandma so I lucked out again. Lilyana was a bit fussier and did not nap at all so it was a little rougher on me. I ended up having to change her on board again and basically changed her on my knee while standing up, talk about awkward. She screamed the whole time in the bathroom. Hopefully the engine drowned out the noise. We ended up having to take a detour through Oregon due to bad thunderstorms and turbulence. It “only” added 25 minutes to the flight but I say “only” because with a baby that felt like 2 hours! Traveling solo with a baby is exhausting and I was very thankful to be home.
All in all it was a very worthwhile trip. I was able to see my family and race at a fun event. I remember when I was 12 years old sitting in the stands watching the Montana Milers thinking, “I will never be fast enough to do that!” Oh if I could tell that little girl that not only will she race it 8 times but she will win 7 of those and have the record. She would have thought I was crazy. I wonder where I will be 5 years from now? I have my doubts just like I did as a child but that will never stop me from trying!
My advice to those still reading this long blog is that you can do it! If you are a mother thinking you can’t I can assure you that you can. Maybe it is in running, maybe something else, just believe in yourself the way your children believe in you. You have one of the hardest and most important jobs already as a Mother so I know the power is in you! So to all, go out there, try a new event, volunteer, spend time with a child and be their hero, because that could be the seed of belief that you plant in their mind allowing them to have hope and dare to dream which can make the world a better place.
|(She is worth it.)|
YouTube Race video: