How to Win Big with a Double Stroller
1. It's important that your opponent is not fully aware of the mounting competition. In our case, Pink Shirt and Ponytail may or may not have been privy to her role in yesterday's race...I mean run...around Forest Park but she was the target. My friend and I first encountered her inside the first mile, only yards away from the park's Visitor's Center. From the moment we first passed her, I smelled trouble. Her pace was just close enough to ours that there was an almost audible click as my running buddy and I shifted into compete mode.
We passed her on a subtle downhill. Then, possibly because she realized I was loaded down by a stroller, a pumpkin seat, an infant and a toddler, she quickly bolted past us as the path rose into a very slight incline near the northeast corner of the park. For the next half mile or so, Team Stroller didn't discuss it--we didn't need to--but we both knew the game was afoot.
2. Support is crucial. It certainly helps to have a teammate/partner who is just as bat-shit crazy as you are. In my case, the support came from a whack-job grade school teacher who spent this past summer cycling across the country to raise essential funds to support a sick and needy child. Therefore, she happens to be in stellar physical condition. Oh, she's also training for a marathon in six weeks...a decision she made last Friday. My boys and I were joining her for the first half of a 12 mile training run. So the woman is clearly loony toons but also willing to push 50-ish lbs worth of stroller and offspring on the hilly south end of the park without batting an eye.
She also 'gets me' on a cellular level and was not about to let Pink Shirt prevail. Just when I was about to mentally abort the mission entirely, she swooped in on stroller duty and we whizzed past our unwitting opponent on the first steep uphill climb at the southeast corner of the park.
My boys were the other support. Despite the fact that they were technically weighing us down, they were also acting as very necessary motivators. Toddler Monkey was more or less rooting for us to go faster the entire time. He may lack the language skills necessary to explicitly request a faster pace, but his grunts, finger pointing, and happy babbles got the point across and basically amounted to verbal encouragement.
3. Never let up. Here's the thing about an innocent run that morphs dramatically into an unspoken race to the death: you cannot let your guard down, not even for a minute. Ponytail spent the first mile or so proving herself a worthy opponent and we would be fools to think that a few hills would change that.
Therefore, we amped up the pace and fell into determined silence (unless you count toddler squeals, occasional baby chirps, and Darth Vader-esque breathing patterns ... Luke, I need an oxygen tank).
If you know me and/or my running pal, you are aware that silence is a pretty unnatural state for us both. Typically, our runs are action packed with witty banter and outbursts of belly-busting chortles (because we are hilarious, just ask us). Therefore, the relative quiet was a significant indicator of our unspoken decision to create a meal from the trail dust kicked up by our sneakers and watch Pink Shirt eat it for lunch.
The only words we spoke were somewhat essential one and two word phrases ('bike coming' and 'outside path?'), expelled between gasps of air. At one point she sputtered, 'where's my phone?' And we paused just long enough to determine that it had somehow fallen into the sneaky little hands of my klepto toddler. During that time, a squat middle aged lady with about six gallons of water bulging from a Camelback trotted past us. We wasted no time in putting her back in her place and reclaiming our brutal ass-kicking pace (both of us secretly worried we'd lost precious ground against Pink Shirt).
4. Be aware of your opponent's whereabouts. As we lengthened the gap between ourselves and the Ponytail, we frequently threw glances behind us under the pretense that we were scouting for bikes as we readied to pass others whose pace wasn't going to cut it. Approaching the zoo on the southwest corner of the park, a backwards glance momentarily made us think we'd officially shaken that Pink Shirt from our tails and maybe we could cool our jets for a minute.
But then she was spotted rounding a bend about a tenth of a mile back and we kicked it back into high gear for the final couple of hills on our route.
5. Have faith...and outrageously perfect weather. Yes, I am presently 12 weeks postpartum and that shit counts for at least one viable excuse for 'failure.' Still, I had unloaded the (literal and figurative?) weight of my stroller and children on my workhorse of a running buddy and had to believe that I could hang, even counting the extra 15 lbs of baby weight I am still burdened to carry.
Deep down, I like to think I am blessed with the soul of a warrior who will simply not accept defeat. I have faith that I can step into any challenge with the intent to emerge victorious...or die trying (figuratively, of course).
Call it crazy, call it arrogance, call it whatever you like; I call it perseverance blended with conviction (ok, pepper in some crazy) and frankly folks, it gets shit done.
Credit should also be given to the picture perfect weather. Sure, it was a hair on the warm side, but the oppressive heat and humidity that had suffocated us just a couple days prior was nowhere to be found. A light breeze would emerge just often enough to provide a little refreshment to our abused and sweat-drenched bodies. It was glorious and magnificent and it was not taken for granted.
6. Finish strong. Our run had originated at a coffee shop northwest of the park and it was no accident that we would complete the last leg of our workout (well, my half anyways) on almost a mile of downhill strides. I could have called it a cool down and eased up on my screaming thighs and cursing lungs, but I was not about to let Pink Shirt stand even the slightest chance of gaining on us. We'd come too far for that garbage.
When we finally skidded to a stop at the drinking fountains on the northwest corner of the park, panting and lightheaded (at least on my end), I was floored to learn that our splits were just under 9 minute miles for a total of just over 6 miles.
With a jogging stroller...and two kids.
Feeling elated and all amped up on endorphins, I marched my way back to my car through the sunshine with a sense of pride and accomplishment that ranked right up there with marathon completions and delivering my beautiful babies.
It wasn't until later that day that I came to realize that the Pink Shirt and Ponytail wasn't my real opponent out there on the trail. Sure, she was the catalyst that propelled us forward; a tangible target for us to chase down and overcome. But as we circled the park at our surprising pace, I think was really racing against my own demons.
See deep down, nestled in right next to that warrior I mentioned, there's a huge bucket of doubt and insecurities. It's filled right to the rim with all my greatest fears and even the slightest shift in the wrong direction could cause it to spill over and send that tiny warrior into a sputtering, watery grave. I live every day in the very real fear that I am one tiny misstep away from this catastrophe.
I need that little warrior. I need her (yes, her--don't pretend to be surprised) to be ready to fight for me at a moment's notice and every victory I have makes her stronger.
Yesterday's victory wasn't really won over some poor unsuspecting broad in the park. Sure, she got her ass kicked left, right and center in a race she didn't sign up for; but the real loser here was my insecurity bucket.
...and that my friends, is how you win big with a double stroller.