How to Outrun your Demons. In a Skirt.

This post is being submitted to Skirt Sports for consideration in their 10th Anniversary essay contest in which they’ve asked customers to share their Skirt Sports story.  I have received no compensation for my review of their products and my opinions are my own.  That said, cross your fingers that I win the $1k shopping spree from their awesome, awesome site!

I’ve had two children, given birth twice.  Medically speaking, neither experience was particularly noteworthy.  Uneventful pregnancies, full-term births, no complications.  I am lucky.  Blessed.  But neither of my births were what I thought they would be or should be.  I wanted an unmedicated birth for my daughter, Blossom (my eldest), but gave in to the epidural and Pitocin after much pressure (and, quite frankly, some passive-aggressive bullying) from hospital staff for “stalling” too long in my labor.  It was not the outcome I’d envisioned or wanted, and I’d felt like I failed.  The feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness that followed my birth experience was overwhelming.   I succumbed to a deep and dark spell of postpartum depression that nearly swallowed me whole.  I left my job because of my PPD.  We lost our house because of my PPD.  We filed for bankruptcy because of my PPD.  And in the midst of this mess, we became unexpectedly pregnant again.

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For my son Oakley’s pregnancy and birth, we’d hired a pair of homebirth midwives in the hopes of having an unhurried, unmedicated, peaceful homebirth.  But my son was even more stubborn than my daughter and after 24 excruciating hours of laboring at home, it was decided that I’d be better off transferring to the hospital for some medical intervention.  Epidural, Pitocin, and that familiar feeling of failure followed.  After this second birth, my postpartum depression reappeared and took on an uglier and more intense shape.  I spent my days cranky and on edge, and my nights restless with fear and worry.  I didn’t sleep much, yet was constantly exhausted.  I began to develop crippling panic attacks.  I ate my feelings and my weight climbed to 220 pounds.

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Full of self-loathing and anxiety about my declining health and wellness, I ordered a workout DVD program when my son was 9 months old.  I did the workouts, adjusted my diet, and the weight began to come off.  I decided that I wanted to add running to this new routine.  One snowy Sunday afternoon, I dressed in sneakers and layers of spandex for a family outing to the store.  On our way home, I had my husband pull the car over exactly one mile from our house so that I could run the rest of the way.  That mile, by the way, was much longer than the average mile.  Physically and geographically speaking, I’m not sure how that’s possible, but I know for a fact that it was longer.  There were a lot of walk breaks in that so-called “mile,” and a burning sensation in my chest from sucking in the cold winter air.  It took 16 agonizing minutes to make it home.  And?  I felt like a million bucks.

Fast forward through the following spring and summer in which I continued running, weightlifting, eating a modified Paleo diet, and shedding pound after pound, and I eventually decided that I’d go ahead and register for a half marathon because, hey, why not.  I was as healthy as I’d ever been, down nearly 70 pounds at this point, and in therapy for my ongoing anxiety and depression, which I’d gotten to a manageable level thanks to my new lifestyle.

 

Almost as quickly as I’d clicked “I Agree” on the registration consent form, I was searching for a race outfit.  It had to be snazzy, something that screamed “I am an athlete!  With style!”  And it had to be functional.  Flattering to my post-baby, post-weight-loss body of sagging skin.  I found Skirt Sports while searching for running skirts and fell in love with their prints and their story.  Nicole DeBoom’s vision of adding femininity and fun to women’s sports spoke to me.  I was a mom who came out on the other side of a postpartum mood disorder and obesity a stronger person.  An athlete.  It was time to show off my hard work.

I purchased the Race Belt Skirt and matching Arm Warmers in Fiesta for my late-October race.  Paired with a tank and capris, it was the perfect ensemble for unpredictable mid-Atlantic fall weather – if it got too warm, I could peel the sleeves right off, though they ended up being perfect for the overcast mid-50s morning.

The race itself was kind of a blur.  I spent the first few miles fiddling with the MP3 player on my phone because it was set to “Shuffle” and I couldn’t figure out how to change the setting.  I was instantly frustrated since I’d spent hours cultivating the perfect half-marathon playlist, in order from power-pumping warmup tunes, to more mellow mid-race beats while I fell into a rhythm and took in the scenery, to bonk-breaking beats for the final miles.  I eventually gave up and just went with it.

That running skirt was absolute perfection.  It kept my race bib in place and shielded my not-flat tummy from any unflattering race photos.  And – if I’m going to be totally frank here, as I’ve had two kids and two vaginal births and the muscles that control bladder function are just a wee (no pun intended) bit out of shape – that skirt served as the perfect camouflage for the little leaks that happened on the downhill parts of the course.  I was praising the Skirt Sports goddesses every time I unsuccessfully tried to do a kegel as I bounded down the sloping roads.

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There was a group of women running in a pack near me that I pegged early on as my unofficial pace group.  We’d take turns passing each other, rolling back and forth like ocean waves along the race path.  Somewhere around mile 10, I heard them shout, “Go, Sleeves!” as I took off up a hill and passed them.  I whipped around and made the, “Who, me?” gesture with my hands.  They nodded enthusiastically and clapped and pumped their fists at me.  “We’ve been calling you ‘Sleeves’ for the last few miles,” one woman told me, pointing to my hot pink patterned arm warmers.  “Those are so cute!  And you’re doing awesome!”  Their words were some serious motivation.  I kept ahead of them for most of the remaining miles, until they passed me one last time at the 12-mile marker sign.

 

Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of that twelfth mile.  As soon as I saw the mile marker I began to cry.  I had nearly made it.  Had this been labor, I was now in transition, the final moments before the big push.  Except this time, no one was going to make me quit so that they could give me drugs I didn’t want.  Nobody was going to pull me off the course and make me ride in an ambulance to the finish line; I would do it on my own two feet.  I wasn’t going to fail.  My body was not a lemon.  It was strong, it was capable, it was amazing.  My beautiful, beautiful body had carried me twelve miles.  It had survived postpartum depression.  It had overcome obesity.  It had grown and birthed two perfect children.  It was about to take me all the way to the finish line of a half marathon.  The gravity of these realizations about myself and my capabilities could have pulled me straight down to the ground were it not for the fact that I seemed to be floating on air.

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When I crossed that finish line, the tears were streaming down my cheeks, mixing with the late morning drizzle that had begun to fall.  My unofficial pacing group had finished just moments before me and were whooping and cheering for me, shouting, “Yeah, Sleeves!”  I had done it.  And wow, was I proud of myself.

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So, my Skirt Sports uniform for my first Half had clearly made an impression, and I’m thrilled to say that I’ll be racing my first triathlon in their Trifecta Short in less than two weeks.  I’m a forever fan of the brand that played a role in transforming me from a self-doubting couch potato into a confident athlete who runs 13.1 miles for fun.  In a skirt.  🙂

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