Ok peeps. You read looked, you scratched your head, you pondered, you commented (fist bump), you got bored and ate a sandwich…and now I will use the ol’ alphabet to fill you in on what happened during my post-baby 5k debut in Sydney last weekend. Part one here.

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After a night of decent sleep thanks to the hospitality of the Sydney Track Classic race organizers, I left Jude in the hands of two very capable friends: my Aussie sister and Olympic wondergirl Georgie Clarke (left), and my Picky Bars partner in crime and elite marathoner Stephanie Bruce (the pregno one).

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Right when I was about to walk the half mile from the hotel to the track, a HUGE storm rolled in. Gusts of wind slamming sheets of rain against the hotel lobby windows, lightening lit up the sky and the thunder made you wanna hug attack your neighbor.The race director assured me it was going to pass quickly and that the meet would stay on schedule, and I looked at him like this.

He took pity on me and drove me to the track, but he could only take me so far. The whole stadium of people was huddled under the overhang while ankle deep water flowed across the sidewalk and sheets of rain poured down. In 50 meters I was soaked hair to sneaker. My dear favorite, cottony LF Sweatpants proved to be a very poor choice (shoulda stuck with the Leslie but I wanted to feel “loungy,” sigh). Twenty minutes later, the sky was clear and it was perfectly still, as promised, and it was biznass time!

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First things first. Before going on a warmup jog, I stopped at the checkin desk to get my race number, which is generally what you do an hour before a track event, but there was nobody at the table to check in with. They must have fled the lightening seeking safety in an area not surrounded by metal tent poles, which begged the question, should I also flee this area? Athletes descended on the table, flinging envelopes and grabbing numbers willy nilly, and I jumped in on the fun. The officials came back just as I was slipping out the tent door.

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I warmed up alone mostly, and was really missing my Little Wing teammates. I occupied my mind with thoughts about what they have been up to, which was a great distraction for pre-race nerves. Then I jumped in with Eloise Wellings for the last few minutes and we talked about our babies. She has a 10 month old named India Rose and just started back racing a month ago (hello! That’s me now!)

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At final call, which is generally about 20 minutes before the race, all the 5k women were brought into the tent and “hipped.” Basically you get your lane number assigned and have to stick the corresponding number on your hip(s). There’s a lot of variety when it comes to “hipping.” The number is there in case of a photo finish to help identify who was who, (as if you couldn’t tell any other way.) Ideally you only have to wear one on your right hip (that’s where the camera is), but some races make you wear it on both hips, or even put one on your chest as well. Sometimes you just stick them on, and other times you have to also put a pin through it. They can be small, or big, or shaped like a diamond in the case of the Diamond League Series. In this race, there were two, they were fairly gigantic, and the officials required four pins, each. After all of us managed to put eight pins through the numbers on our tiny bun huggers, we were informed that every pin had to go through the number TWICE, so it wouldn’t fall off. At this point, we were all just laughing. This pin business was going to delay the freaking race! Eloise (who ended up beating me as the only other participant in the lactation division,) decided she had had enough.

“I’ll give you a million dollars if this number falls off my hip. You hear that? A million dollars. In 15 years, a number has never fallen off my hip. Think about it. A million dollars.”

This is Eloise being a badass, from her website.

This is Eloise being a badass, from her website.

The rest of us started totally cracking up, and the officials didn’t know what to make of it. Eloise led the way as we all walked out toward the track, and she pointed over her shoulder, smiling, one final time, “a million dollars.” The official just smiled.

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After all that hipping and pinning and waiting around, we walked halfway around the track to the start line, where a line of baskets awaited us to drop off our sweats and change into our spikes. And after all that was done, we all lined up in hip order a few feet behind the start line, waiting for the gun. And then! Out of nowhere! World Silver Medalist and pre-race favorite from Kenya, Mercy Cherono, saunters over to the baskets. Where on Earth has she been? We all stand there watching as she takes off her sweats and…GASP! No HIP NUMBERS! The race is meant to be starting already! Luckily eight hands are much faster than two. Mercy didn’t stress. She went out and won like it ain’t no thang.File:Mercy Cherono Daegu 2011.jpg

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As for me…I struggled to maintain the fast pace up front and started sucking wind after about 3k. The front pack gradually pulled away. My form started eroding, my power diminishing, and with it my enthusiasm. When you’re excited about your position, it’s easy to push yourself to your max. When you’re alone and suffering, if you allow it, your mind disengages and the body follows. I had a moment with three laps to go where I asked myself “Are you really going as fast as you can go right now, in this moment?” In that exact moment the answer was no, so I picked up the pace. It caused a lot more suffering, for no tangible gain, but at least I’d be able to walk off the track knowing I did my best.

Part of me believed I was capable of a sub 15:30 on a good day, but it wasn’t a good day, and I also may have overestimated my fitness. Because of all the years of experience I have, I can rip out a few workouts that fool me into thinking I can swing a good race, when in fact, I’m far from race ready. There is so much work to be done.

All these thoughts went through my mind during the last lap, and when I crossed the finish line I felt defeated. I was flown in and put up in a hotel like a star athlete, and my performance was mediocre. I looked up in the stands and saw my son and had to hold him, and when I did I was reminded of the purpose of 2014. I put myself in this position intentionally. I’m working hard, but not nearly as hard as one needs to if they want to be truly excellent. And that is on purpose. Doing so will allow me to have the experience I want as a new mom. It will also keep me healthy, and I desperately need a full year of health under my belt to achieve what I want in the future.

Logically, that’s all fine and good. Deep down, it didn’t feel that sweet.

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And that’s when the awesome started. I signed a few autographs on my way out of the tunnel and who was waiting for me outside but my friends from Bend who live in Australia now! Jesse’s best friend’s sister Marie brought her family all the way from Manly and made a sign and everything, keeping their little ones up WAY past their bedtime, just to support me in my race. Marie even wore Oiselle to bring some bird love my way. I was so grateful for their effort I could cry, and I sent them home with lots of hugs and thank you’s.

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I wasn’t too far off on the sign. Photo from Marie.

The real picture doesn't show Andrew and Ethan, but seriously how cute are they?

The real picture doesn’t show Andrew and Ethan, but seriously how cute are they?

And then, as I started on my cooldown, I saw a stranger standing with Georgie, Steph and Jude, also wearing Oiselle. Considering there’s only one place to buy it in Australia, I was curious. And sure enough, it was the owner of FiveMore, the Sydney Boutique that carries it! Catherine was absolutely awesome to chat with and an inspirational runner herself. O fans, you’ll get a kick out of the google maps street view of her store. Glad they can’t get that close to my actual house!

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Well if you are a runner, or know one, this photo doesn’t need an explanation. Race done. Burger. Boom. *

*(Crappy Australian porter not pictured).

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For a rapid fire interview on the race, check out the latest in the Fireside with Fleshman series with Sally Bergesen.

Results posted here.

Special thank you to Maurie Plant and the rest of the team at Athletics Australia for your hospitality and the competitive opportunity. I underestimated how tough the first one back would feel, and hopefully I can come back when mom strength is in full effect like Eloise! Speaking of Eloise, thanks for the encouragement and inspiration over the weekend. My fanhood for you ever increases. Nice website by the way! Steph Rothstein Bruce, thanks so much for taking two weeks out of your life to travel and help me with Jude. You’ll be an amazing mom. And Ben, thanks for sharing her! Thanks to Jesse for never clipping my wings, even if it means I kidnapped your only son during a critical time of baby development so I could have an adventure. He only got three teeth while we were gone. To the birds, and brobirds, family, friends and fans, thanks for following along, some of you in the middle of the night! I was a little self conscious getting out there again, but you all make me feel supported.

And finally, to this girl:

11 years ago I met you on a train in London, and we've had so many great adventures. Thanks for everything you did to make this one special! And thanks to your mum and dad too!

11 years ago I met you on a train in London, and we’ve had so many great adventures. Thanks for everything you did to make this one special! And thanks to your mum and dad too! Georgie Clarke, I mean Sutherland (wahoo!), I have SO much love for you.