2016 Year in Review

The year started with two goals: to qualify for Boston and do a one pull up. Two completely different things, both of which would be very challenging. I’d come into the year well trained for Houston in January so I had a feeling a BQ would happen but the pull up was a different story. My upper body has always been weak so it would be a challenge.

January 17 – I ran the Houston Marathon got a massive PR (3:29) and as expected qualified for Boston! Unfortunately, I came away with a horrible case of shin splints which left me swimming, rowing and biking instead of running. It was my second major injury in as many years and left me wondering what I was doing wrong. Internet research commenced. I read article after article about overuse injuries but couldn’t find any concrete causes. In the process though, I stumbled on a class called Healthy Running which would be coming to Galveston the following month, after a little consideration I realized I didn’t have anything to loose other than the registration fee and a weekend. I registered, ordered the textbook off Amazon and spent every spare second reading and learning.

February 27-28 – Healthy Running Class. It was two days of relatively intense medical classroom instruction, plus running lessons and drills – the goal is to teach you how to run safely without injury so that you can help others do the same. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my running life! Suddenly everything that had happened to me made sense. Though 10 months later I still haven’t completed the last step to become a Certified Healthy Running Coach (I still have to make an instructional video, ack!).

I started incorporating core and balance into workouts by doing things like box jumps, planks, jump rope, single leg balance on a Bosu ball, kneeling on a swiss ball, skips and lunges. I still wasn’t running because of the shin splints but at least now I knew why they happened and what to do about it.

March 5The Woodlands Marathon. It didn’t end well (4:07). Though my shins behaved my IT band didn’t. My body needed more work. What I was doing was working but it would take some time.

Just a couple of weeks later I was back to running slowly but only three miles once a week and it wasn’t pain free. After each run I was massaging a massive knot on the inside of my right shin and using a heating pad to loosen it up at night. Every day it got a little better. One morning I woke up, stepped out of the bed and onto the floor without shin pain and had a little party in my head. I might have even done a little early morning dance in the bedroom.

April 3 – After nearly three months of injury, I finally had a completely pain free run! Yes! I was back and made it a goal to never have it happen again.

April 15 – The Healthy Running class taught me that the primary cause of my injuries was weak supporting muscles in my core and hips (specifically gluteus medius and minimus). Faster pace equals higher impact and my core and hips weren’t strong or smart enough to properly stabilize the higher impact of speed work.

The drills and balance work I was doing made a big difference, I was now running slowly without pain but every time I tried to add speed the shin splints returned. Realizing that I needed help, I hired a personal trainer and started working with him 1-2 times a week. I also shared with him my pull up goal and we’ve worked on them weekly since.

May 7 – My husband’s employer sponsored a 5k so we packed up the kids and went downtown for the event. Jason walked/ran with the kids in the stroller and for the first time I actually raced a 5k. I had no expectations since I wasn’t doing any speedwork but I did win my age group (22:53). Unfortunately, it didn’t mean much because the entire race was only 100 people, most of whom worked with my husband and walked the whole thing so in my mind it didn’t count as a real podium finish but it was fun anyway and it gave me a confidence boost. It also made me particularly popular with the hubby’s coworkers. And as a bonus, speedy running with no pain!

June 1 – After 5 years of being an anti-social runner I finally joined my local running club. I’m pretty introverted and somewhat standoffish so this was a big deal for me. It’s easily been one of the best things that I’ve ever done for myself. In the months since I’ve met a handful of people who have quickly gone from being friends to family. I don’t know if I’ve ever bonded with a group as quickly as I have my running friends and I couldn’t be more thankful I found them.

September 2 – We went on a week long vacation starting in Virginia Beach and then to Maine. In Virginia we got to see my husband’s family and run Rock N Roll Virginia Beach. Then onto Maine where we stayed with my sister-in-law’s family who are generational lobster fishermen. What a beautiful place for a morning run! Also, I’ve never eaten so much lobster.

September 16 – I got accepted into the Boston Marathon! I knew I would get in because I qualified by more than 10 minutes so I was surprised at how emotional I became when I got the email. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I sobbed almost uncontrollably for a half hour.

My 5 year old daughter asked me what was wrong and I told her, “Mommy gets to run a race, I’m crying because I’m happy.” Explaining it to her in that way made the whole thing sound trivial and I could see her little brain trying to figure out exactly why this was a big deal.

Just after I stopped crying my husband’s brother called to congratulate me. Tears started flowing all over again. It was like that on and off the rest of the day.

October 19 – My husband was laid off. He came home from work two hours early with a 6 pack of beer and a severance package. He wasn’t the only one they let go that day. They also let go the comptroller, the head of IT, an accountant and a guy who was a partial owner and served on the board. That week I ran 52 miles, simply trying to relieve stress. My weekly mileage hasn’t come down since.

November 19 – I ran the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. I got a PR (1:38) and won my age group! My first bonafide podium finish! Yeah!

The race was hilly and I had an unexpectedly hard time with it. The hills made me realize how truly unprepared for Boston I am. I started doing research on how to train for a hilly race when you live somewhere flat and started writing a training plan.

December 10 – First and definitely not last trail race! Brazos Bend 100 – full marathon distance, which really ended up being a baby ultra at 28 miles (4:10). It was a tough race and I learned a lot of lessons.

December 26 – Boston training officially began! The first workout was the first of many hill sessions. 9 miles total. 1 mile at 0% grade to warm up, 1 mile at 1% to get used to the idea of running uphill, 6 miles at 2% and one mile cool down at 1%.

The results of working with the trainer since April have been phenomonal. I am stronger, leaner and healthier than I have ever been. I’m faster and running higher mileage than I was before training for Houston and all of it is pain free. No shin problems. No IT band problems. Occasionally I feel tightness in my knees toward the end of a long run when I get tired but I know it’s due to tightness in the hips. A little light stretching. Problem solved.

For the first time in my running career, I feel like I actually know what I’m doing and it’s a great feeling!

This past Tuesday when I met with my trainer I had him take a video to document the progress I made on my pull up goal. Here for you, not one but THREE wide grip pull ups! An entire year of work summarized in 20 seconds.

What did you do this year?

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