Saturday, January 13, 2024

A Dozen Lessons Learned from a Diaper Dash

Last time I wrote, I was in labor. Today, our baby girl--it was a girl!--participated in her first race. They grow up so fast!

Rendezvous Louisiane is one of my favorite weekends of the year; the weekend includes the Louisiana Marathon and its various festivities that showcase some of the best parts about Louisiana, and this year, they introduced a Diaper Dash. I didn't think much of it when I saw the e-mails about the Diaper Dash back in December, but Baby D has quickly gotten more mobile, so last night around 7:30 pm, I decided to sign her up for the race. The website described the Diaper Dash in this way:

Open to children 2 and under, this promises to be the cutest event of the weekend!
"Competitors" will crawl across the 10' race course to determine the winner. Parents are encouraged to bring their favorite toy, binky, or whatever shiny plaything that motivates the young athletes to crawl faster than the competition. Children must be 2 years or younger to register. Crawling is mandatory. Any child who stands and walks will be disqualified from awards.

Sign them up today and start "training"!
Every parent thinks their kid is the best, and it turns out I am no exception. After seeing Baby D seemingly teleport from one side of her play area to another when I turned my back for half a second, crawling ten feet would be no big deal. I was ready to watch my baby rock her race.

The actual race went differently than I imagined, in part due to my missteps. We started off in Wave 2 of the race with seven other babies and a large crowd of spectators, but Baby D didn't make it over the starting line. Instead, she cried until I went to pick her up and feed her. Our cousins Tim and Emily showed up a little after 2:00, and we were able to get into the impromptu Wave 3 (with babies who were late) around 2:10 pm. Wave 3 only had three other participants, and Baby D completed the race, placing third in the wave.

As this all went down, I found myself reflecting on what I have learned in my running life and recognizing how the lessons from the Diaper Dash apply to runners of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and races of all distances. After more than eight months of blog silence, I am back to share some of these lessons.

1. Proper rest makes everything better.
The eight-month sleep regression is no joke. We were up multiple times last night, and Baby D only caught two short naps (interestingly, both were 36 minutes each) before she had to toe the line. I believe the lack of sleep compromised her race performance.

2. Hydration and nutrition are critical.

I fell short here today. I fed her shortly after she awoke from her second 36-minute nap at approximately 11:30 am. I hoped she would sleep until at least 12:30. She eats every 2.5-3 hours, so a 12:30 bottle would have put her in the sweet spot of not spitting up but not being hungry yet when we started the race at 2:00 pm. As it happened, she was definitely hungry at 2:00 pm, which impacted her race.

3. You've gotta get your gear right.
This wasn't such a big deal for a 10-foot race, especially one where the participants were not wearing shoes, but I think everyone has experienced a run where something was off with their gear. Those of us who are lucky have this happen on a short training run rather than a major race day, but the wrong socks, shoes, or an inconvenient seam can really throw a wrench in things.

4. [Proper] training matters.
Signing her up for a race with under 24 hours notice was asking a lot. Obviously, we did not have sufficient time to train, so we were 100% winging it. The next few lessons relate to areas I will address in future races.

5. Have a support crew you can trust.
In my early running days, I trained and raced mostly solo. I had several years where I trained and raced with other people, and Richard would come to races and meet me on the course to take my jacket, give me a snack, or hug me. Now, I am mostly by myself again. I thought we would be fine, so I rolled up to the event just the two of us. At a minimum we needed one other person--someone to get her going at the start and someone at the end to shake toys and distract her. I was so glad Tim and Emily showed up before Wave 3

6. The size of the race makes a difference.

I ran the New York City Marathon in November and went in with a bit of a big head. I was humbled by the hills and the thousands of other runners quite quickly. My best race times have been at much smaller races, so I have to consider the size of the race when I make my plans for the event. Baby D did much better with the smaller field in Wave 3, though she'd also eaten before Wave 3 (see #2). The NYC Marathon had spectators almost the whole way after about mile 8, which is also unlike many races I do. While I loved the crowd, it does make for a different race experience!

7. Block out the noise.
Aside from Scooter's fervent barks at passersby and delivery trucks, we lead a pretty quiet life at the Davis house. On top of the lack of proper sleep and nutrition, the crowd at the Diaper Dash was noisy and enthusiastic. Baby D was not prepared for the noise or crowd, and I did not properly train her on how to block out the noise--both the loud people on the outside and any negative voices on the inside.

8. It's not *all* about the bling.
Before the race, baby D was very interested in the medal I brought home from this morning's Louisiana Quarter Marathon. I thought it would entice her to crawl to me faster, but she didn't care about it one bit once the race was on. I think many runners can learn from this; running is also about the journey and celebrating what our bodies can do.

9. It's okay to be scared when you are doing new or big things.
The crowd, the noise, the distance--heck, racing in general!--it's all new. Everyone was new at some point, but with some experience, some help from each other, and likely a few blunders, we figure it out. It's okay to be a little scared of so much unknown.

10. Win or lose, be a good sport.
As Baz Luhrmann says in "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)," "The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself." People have so many different reasons for racing. I started running in honor of my dad and found it to be an excellent way to process grief and celebrate my body. Baby D raced today because I signed her up for the Diaper Dask the night before. Although the circumstances were challenging, she displayed grace and poise...especially once she had a bottle. Congratulate the winner (if you know how to talk), and appreciate what your body did for you that day.

11. Don't take yourself too seriously.
Again, everyone has their reasons for racing. Many of those reasons are different from person to person, and they are just that: personal. Celebrate the victories, and take the tougher days in stride. My dad once told me, "Things are never as good or bad as you think they are." Not only that, but...

12. There will be another opportunity to get back out there.
Sure, Baby D will age out of Diaper Dashes, but this is just the first of many opportunities she will have to compete and celebrate her body. Honor what went well with this opportunity and look ahead to how you can continue to improve in the future.

Something that made today great: I ran my best time ever in the Louisiana Quarter Marathon!
Time I woke up: 6:00-ish am

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