Friday, April 24, 2015

Baby Fern and Race Directing

Family - Fern Amelia just 5 days old.
What started as a routine pregnancy check-up for my wife four weeks before the due date, turned into an unforgettable night and a memorable week.  I remember the doctor saying somewhat surprisingly even to herself, "I think you're... actually... in labor?!"  Just a day before April 1, I thought this might have been an early April Fools prank - but after the instruments were hooked up to my wife's baby bump and seeing the contractions on paper, reality was setting in that baby Fern Amelia was coming early!  

Bobbi and I found out we were expecting our first child in late August of 2014.  The due date was projected to be April 26th - to me this was not just a figure of 8 months away, but also the month of the Iron Furnace Trail Run that I organize and direct.  In fact, last year the inaugural running of IFTR was April 26 - how fitting.  Although I was already toying around with the idea to change the date of the race for the 2nd annual running to an earlier weekend in April to avoid other similar events in the area, this news was a definite confirmation that I needed to do so.  After searching for a suitable weekend to host IFTR, I decided on April 4, 2015 - not only was this a "free" weekend in the calender for similar events in SE Ohio, but it would also ensure that if Bobbi delivered a little early, I would still be in the clear... or so I thought.

On that Tuesday afternoon as Bobbi, myself, and a nurse walked across the hospital sidewalks to the O'Bleness Birth and Delivery Center, many thoughts were running through my mind, as expected for any about-to-be-new parents.   Wow, I'm going to become a father tonight!  Oh man, I'm not even close to being finished with the new baby room.  How has Bobbi not felt contractions or even noticed that she is in labor?!  Maybe they are wrong about this... IFTR is in just 4 days - there is so much I need to do to pull this event together!

From here things moved by quickly.  Thoughts about anything but Bobbi and our baby girl on the way vanquished.  This was a reality that was unexpected in that moment but one that I simply had to be in.  I had been preparing to be a father for 7 months, but in the span of 2 hours, I made myself get into the mindset that I am becoming a father and this was how it was going to be.  The night passed quickly, family arrived and waited, and at 10:45 pm on March 31 Fern Amelia Owen was born.
My first picture with my baby girl!
Fern was born at 6lb. 10oz., but still premature and jaundiced.  While she was born healthy, doctors and nurses still wanted to monitor her.  Besides the jaundice and concern over losing a little more weight than typical, Fern was healthy, a blessing and something cherished.  Bobbi did such a great job during delivery and certainly has made me respect all mothers - it is such a intense process but Bobbi handled it so strongly and bravely.

With the jaundice and weight concern, Bobbi and Fern had to stay in the hospital for a few days.  I slept there as well.  In the meantime, I was running (literally) back and forth from one place to another getting last minute IFTR duties in order.  The course still needed to be marked, shirts picked up, awards picked up, bib numbers assigned and arranged, van of equipment and gear packed and loaded, aid station and post-race food purchased, shuttle bus confirmed, and so on.  There are some things, as a race director, that I just cannot avoid doing last minute.  Races of this type and size typically follows a pretty straight forward schedule with tasks being marked off Monday through Friday of race-week.  Typically, having your first child is not listed on that schedule!

At any rate, since this was such a unique situation, so many people reached out and offered a supporting hand to ensure IFTR still operated smoothly.  So I need to give a big thanks to my immediate family members who took a hold of some of the reigns and helped tackle some tasks while I tried to spend as much time as I could with Bobbi and Fern at the hospital.  Plus Bobbi's mom and family was always with her when I had to be away from the hospital.  My sister, Becca, did a tremendous job at handling registration and participant information pre-race and on race-day.  She was a huge help.  The participants were also vital in their support - I hesitated to announce the big news thinking it would be "more professional" to not mention it, but then I realized that this is what the trail running community is all about.  I needed their support, and once people learned about the birth of Fern just four days prior to the race, I got that support.
Race Day at the 2015 Iron Furnace Trail Run.  Photo by Dale Starr.
Although lacking sleep tremendously, including going to bed around 2:30am on race morning and waking up 2hrs15min later, I was wired and exciting for race day to be there!  Race day is the best day (next to the solitude of course marking day)!  Still though, among the race day excitement and rushing around, the thought of Bobbi and Fern, who had just spend a fourth straight night in the hospital, was constantly on the back of my mind.  I tried to be fully absorbed in race-day duties, but how could I be in a time like this.  It panged me that I wasn't able to be at the hospital with them.  But when I received a text before noon from Bobbi saying that they had just been released from the hospital, it was a huge relief.  Her parents helped accompany her home and I only wished that I was able to make that trip home with Fern as she entered the big new world for the first time.  

The 2015 Iron Furnace Trail Run was a great day, growing in size tremendously from 79 finishers last year to 144 finishers this year.  I continue to get exciting to see and be a part of the growth of trail running in SE Ohio.  I have plans for hosting more races and longer races (ultras!) through SEOTR in the future.  I love seeing people finish a race being downright fatigued and vulnerable, but still saying they loved the experience.  I like to think that I do little in giving them the experience except for setting up a date, time, and location.  The course and trails speak for themselves on race day.  And then there are the exceptional volunteers of the race that make everything run smoothly for participants.  Thank you to all, it is so appreciated on my behalf.
The start of the 2015 IFTR.
When I finally arrived home on Saturday night to see my wife and daughter, the days emotion had yet been topped.  The overall emotion of the week, then race day, to finally be concluded, and being able to sit at home holding what matters most, is what made my motivation to direct this race even more surreal and that moment at home holding Fern was unmatched.  This type of motivation had not been felt in the past, but being a father is all the better, and I cannot wait for all the new memories to come!

Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement at IFTR and since!

Happy Trails!

Fern Amelia Owen

In other news, I had a great opportunity to be interviewed and profiled for an article in The Athens News.  The article profiles my experiences in ultra-running and my vision for trail running in SE Ohio.  Check it out online here:
The Athens News Article - Happy Trails  

Photo by Dennis Powell, The Athens News
Photo by Dennis Powell, The Athens News
Photo by Dennis Powell, The Athens News