Erin Drasler crossed the finish line of the Leadville Trail 100 in 29:03:45. That accomplishment made the 36-year-old woman a Leadwoman—at 18 weeks pregnant. To become a Leadman and Leadwoman, participants complete five races in the Leadville series—Leadville Trail Marathon, Silver Rush 50 MTB or Run, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Leadville 10K Run and Leadville Trail 100 Run presented by New Balance—in a single year.
We chatted with Drasler to find out about her training, what it means to be a Leadwoman and what she wishes pregnant woman knew about exercise during pregnancy. (As a note, she laughed when telling us that her first pregnancy took place during her Emergency Medicine residency, which she considers longer and definitely more stressful than the races.)
Did you find out you were pregnant during the series?
“No, before the series started, so it was during my training. On the first race of the series I was already nine weeks pregnant and then on the last race of the series I was 18 weeks.”
They say if you’re active you can keep exercising safely, but were you worried about taking this on once you found out?
“The thing that I was most worried about was that a lot of the challenge of the Leadwoman series―and doing 100 miles and endurance racing in general―is that it’s mental; you have to push through walls and that’s what I was most worried about. I wasn’t worried about continuing to be active during pregnancy because I know that it’s safe and I had a pretty high level of activity before I got pregnant. I wasn’t worried about continuing it, but I was worried about pushing through any sort of lulls or pushing myself because I feel that’s where you can get into trouble; I was worried about not having the same mental ability to push through walls that I basically would not have if I was not pregnant. I pretty much thought I might drop out the whole time, especially all the long races. I was like, Well I’ll just see how it goes, but I was not 100 percent convinced that I was going to finish because I felt like I was going to put my baby first.”
Did you have any issues―especially during the first trimester―that impacted how you were out on the course?
“I did. I had some issues with nausea and I had a lot of issues with dizziness and lightheadedness. My blood pressure was really low and I guess fortunately for me I felt better when I was exercising, but it was certainly harder to exercise just with fatigue and everything. It was harder to get the same volume of training. I think my training definitely suffered, which was also a little bit worrisome going into the series. I think that I had as good of a training block as I could have.”
Do you think women shy away from doing these kinds of challenges? Are you hoping to encourage woman to not let pregnancy stop them from doing things like this?
“I feel like when I found out that I was pregnant, I searched on the internet to try to find stories of other women that have done similar things and had good experiences with it. There’s really very minimal out there and I mean, it’s not for everyone. I think one thing that I found is that obviously, you’re heavier and you’re not as fast. I was 12 pounds heavier when I did the Leadville Trail 100. But I think that if you’re not thinking about it as racing then it’s very doable. I don’t think it’s dangerous to the baby and I think that’s one thing that I felt like I struggled with over and over again. When everybody found out that I was still going to do it, they gave me this look like I was insane. People have this perception that you’re going to cause damage to the baby. A lot of conservative guidelines don’t really have any evidence behind them. Just dealing with the conservative stigma that I was getting was really difficult.”
Is there anything you would change or do differently for any of the races that you can think of? Or are you pretty happy with how it all went?
“I’m pretty happy with how it all went. Because I wasn’t feeling that well during first trimester, I sometimes had to pick whether to focus on running or biking; because the run was what I really wanted to finish, the run was sort of my goal and it’s just such an emotional experience. I’ve been up there pacing my husband many times for it, so that’s what I really wanted to finish and I feel like sometimes I focused on that more than the bike. I’m not a particularly good cyclist, so I think that was a big struggle for me, especially since I really didn’t want to fall. I think that I took the downhills far slower than I otherwise would have, but I don’t think I would have done that differently. I just felt like that was what I needed to do.”