Running

The Woodlands Marathon Race Recap

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Saturday I ran The Woodlands Marathon.

Let me start off by saying, I didn’t intend to run two marathons in two months. When I qualified for Houston back in December 2014 I knew I was going to run it- I’d been wanting to run for years and always said that I wasn’t going to run it until I qualified. I qualified so my decision to run the Houston Marathon was made.

Less than a month later I suffered my IT band injury and was forced to defer my entry into the 2015 The Woodlands Marathon to 2016, which just happened to be 7 weeks after Houston.

Marathons are HARD on your body. The distance is such that serious breakdown occurs and it needs time to heal. Though everyone says you’re “recovered” after four weeks, I still think that real recovery after a hard marathon effort takes closer to eight.

After the Houston Marathon, I suffered from some shin splints in my right leg which forced me to cut back on running significantly. I only ran seven times in the weeks between the two races and most of those runs were under three miles. To supplement the running I spent most days cross training (swimming, rowing, biking, elliptical, etc) and for the most part it did a good job of maintaining my fitness. Unfortunately, despite the cross training my running muscles began the process of de-training. I knew this was going to be a tough race.

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Pre-race with my hubby (he ran the half)

I wasn’t sure how much fitness I had left so I went into the event with the intention to race but to keep an open mind as I began to get feedback from my body.

I put KT tape on my shin and stood in the corral not knowing what to expect. They sounded the horn and we were off!

Pace wise, the first half of the race was great. At the halfway point I was second in my age group. My legs felt a little stiff but the KT tape did it’s job and kept the shin splints in check.

Mile 1 – 7:41
Mile 2 – 7:43
Mile 3 – 7:46
Mile 4 – 7:37
Mile 5 – 7:46
Mile 6 – 7:49
Mile 7 – 7:43
Mile 8 – 7:46
Mile 9 – 7:59
Mile 10 –  7:52
Mile 11 – 7:46
Mile 12 – 7:54
Mile 13 – 8:04

13.1 – 1:41

I could tell during those miles that though I was able to maintain my race pace, it was harder than seven weeks prior in Houston. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the detraining or the cold I’ve been fighting but nonetheless it was something that I was monitoring throughout the first half of the race.

Mile 14 – 8:04

At mile 14, I could feel some stiffness developing in my left knee – the same knee that I’ve been fighting IT band tightness in for the past year. The knee was reminding me that I hadn’t been running regularly.

When you run, especially distances like the marathon you become very aware of your body. When we repeatedly push ourselves to our limits  we need to the difference between challenge pain and warning pain. The sensation I felt building during mile 14 was warning pain.  My body was talking to me and it wasn’t happy.

At mile 15, the knee stopped talking to me and started yelling. I was forced to make a decision to run hard (and risk a DNF and most likely an injury) or run smart. I chose to run smart. Just past the mile 15 marker I did something that I’ve never done in a race before…I pulled off to the side of the road and started walking.

Mile 15 – 9:51

Immediately the pain subsided and I began to formulate a new plan. Run until it hurt, walk until it didn’t.

I could have been upset and felt defeated but it was hard to. I started training for these two marathons in June of last year. For the last nine months I’ve been pushing my body. I’ve asked it to do things that I wasn’t sure it could do and when it performed I pushed it harder. In the last 9 months, I had run three races and set three PRs. I qualified for the Boston Marathon and all the while my body did it almost without question.

At mile 15, it finally told me that it’d had enough. Instead of feeling sad when the 3:30 pace group passed me, I mentally wished them luck and made the decision to let it go.

For the next 11 miles I was hurting but happy. I soaked up the sunshine, high-fived spectators and thanked volunteers. I smiled and enjoyed doing what I love so much.

Mile 16 – 10:50
Mile 17 – 10:54
Mile 18 – 11:26
Mile 19 – 10:52
Mile 20 – 11:07
Mile 21 – 11:38
Mile 22 – 12:31

The final miles of the race were HARD. I needed to walk more than run and even walking was painful. Miles 23, 24 and 25 were particularly difficult – several times I caught myself fighting off tears.

Mile 23 – 12:50
Mile 24 – 12:09
Mile 25 – 13:16

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Mile 26 was easier as I got closer to the finish and the number of spectators increased. A half mile from the finish I saw my husband who was taking pictures with his phone. I walked up the final hill then ran the last third of a mile to the finish. I have never been happier to finish a race!

Mile 26 – 10:42

26.2 – 4:07

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Marathons are dangerous and unpredictable. It’s a short enough distance to race but plenty long enough to seriously injure yourself if you don’t give the distance the respect it deserves. They’re not something to be taken lightly regardless of your fitness level.

When I signed up for two marathons in two months, I honestly had doubts if I could even do it. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to have to dig deep. Saturday, I did it. I came home with a new shirt, a medal, a good story  and most importantly without an injury. I will live to run another day…but I might wait until next week. Ouch.

Recovering from the Houston Marathon

For the record, I didn’t mean to run two marathons in two months. I’d been telling myself for years that I didn’t want to run the Houston Marathon until I time qualified for it and in December of 2014 I finally did. Then in January 2015 I was forced to defer my The Woodlands Marathon entry due to my IT band injury. The Houston Marathon is at the end of January and the Woodlands Marathon is at the beginning of March – seven weeks apart.

Coming into this spring I knew running two marathons in two months was going to be hard. I spent most of the summer doing strength training and plyometrics to get my body into peak shape. I knew I’d need that strength in the seven weeks between races to accomplish this crazy goal.

Five weeks post marathon and I feel like things are going pretty well. I have two weeks until The Woodlands marathon and though I feel like my body is back to normal my running isn’t.

My knee healed up almost immediately. I spent the entire week after the race stretching every day and the tightness that developed during the race was gone after three days.

Here’s where it gets tough. In the second week of taper prior to Houston I noticed some tightness in my right shin. Like a lot of people I battled shin splints when I first started running but over time they went away as my legs grew stronger. The 70, 80 and 70 mile weeks that made up the last three weeks of training took their toll on my body and shin splints made a return.

The week leading up to the race I wrapped my lower leg up in an ace bandage to provide some compression and wore my compression sleeves during the marathon and didn’t have a problem with the splints.

During recovery it’s been a different story. Since I’m trying to maintain my fitness for The Woodlands Marathon I’ve spent the last five weeks cross training. I’ve only run seven times since the Houston Marathon and each time it’s been painful.

The first couple of weeks after the race the pain was so bad that my shin ached sitting still. Not cool.

My original plan for the seven weeks between the Chevron Houston Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon called for three weeks of recovery, two weeks of training at 80% my peak mileage and two weeks of taper. That’s all been thrown out the window.

That phrase “listen to your body” comes to mind. It was time to do the smart thing and recognize that something isn’t quite right with my body and cross train until things heal up.

Since I already qualified for Boston by a hefty margin, I have no need to race the upcoming marathon. I am in good enough shape that I can cross train leading up to The Woodlands and take the race easy so I can leave with my medal and t-shirt. I won’t be breaking any land speed records but the last thing I want is to finish The Woodlands Marathon with an injury that leaves me unable to run for several months. That would suck.

Instead of following my original plan I have been cross training for the equivalent time duration. The past couple of weeks I’ve been alternating spinning, rowing, swimming and using the arc trainer so I will continue to do these activities in rotation until the race.

I had been doing a short run once a week (because not running is making me crazy) but I feel like that’s slowing the healing process so no running up to The Woodlands is the way to go.

With two weeks to go until race day my shin no longer hurts while doing daily activities. I don’t feel it much unless I am running (and the day after a run) so healing is happening. It’s just a slow process that requires patience – unfortunately, patience isn’t one of my best virtues.

Hopefully two weeks of solid healing will be enough to get me through my second marathon in two months. Because, yes, I’m crazy and maybe a bit stupid but I knew that already.

 

IT Band Rehab

(Note: I’m not a health professional. I am merely a runner who suffered an injury related to my IT band and am sharing what I did to get back on the road.) 

When I hurt my knee, I didn’t do the smart thing and go to a doctor – instead I went to the internet and self-diagnosed. I knew that ITBS and runners knee were two of the most common running knee injuries so that’s where I started and I found that ITBS symptoms exactly matched the pain I was having.

I quickly learned that a case of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a two part problem.

  1. There’s the acute injury (inflamation near your knee that causes the knee pain)
  2. The underlying cause of the injury

They need to be treated separately. Step one was healing the damage done to my knee. We addressed the inflammation in my last post when I changed my diet and though diet did solve the chronic achiness, it wasn’t enough to keep the pain from returning when I ran and diet alone didn’t treat the underlying problem – which I still was unsure of.

I was sure, however, that I needed a fundamental change in my training strategy.

Prior to the injury, I’d been running 4-5 times a week through our neighborhood, mileage was between 25-35 miles. Our neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks so I run on the side of the road which is made of concrete and severely canted for drainage. Because safety is always my number one concern I always run on the left side of the road.

Also, I had switched the type of shoe I was training in. When I first began running I ran in the Mizuno Wave Creation. Later I switched to the Mizuno Wave Rider. The Wave Rider never suited me well. After a few weeks I developed pain the arches of my feet that never seemed to go away but for some reason I insisted that they were the right shoes for me and I continued running in them (that was stupid, don’t do that).

Finally, though I’d been consistent in my running I’d neglected everything else. I hadn’t been cross training, stretching, foam rolling or weight training. I knew I should be doing all these things but was just too lazy to do them.

The ITBS caused me to re-evaluate everything I was doing and formulate a new plan.

The first order of business was rest. I’d read online that it was safe to run until you felt pain, which for me surfaced around 1.5 miles. Knowing that I needed some kind of workout and knowing I couldn’t run further than 1.5 miles I started going to the YMCA. I set a 30 minute cardio goal for each visit, starting on the treadmill and ending with cross training. Run until it hurt, cross train the remainder. I got to know the gym equipment well. The elliptical, the arc trainer, the rower, the spinner, they were all my friends. I even started swimming again.

During this time I realized that I could run further without pain on the treadmill then I could outside. The softer, flat surface of the treadmill combined with the lack of turns (turns place torque on your knees) meant I could run 50% further pain free. Soon I was running almost exclusively on the treadmill.

It’s almost impossible to read about an IT band injury that doesn’t talk about weak hip and glute muscles. I read that if you couldn’t do a single leg squat then your hip muscles were too weak. I attempted doing one single leg squat, immediately my knee collapsed and I fell to the floor. Clearly the hip muscles needed some work. I bought mini bands and started doing hip exercises once a day.

One day, when researching ITBS online, I came across a blog post written by Peter Larson on RunBlogger. Peter was in a similar situation as me. He found that switching back to his old shoes made a difference in how far he could run without pain. That’s all the motivation I needed to dig an old, retired pair of Wave Creations out of my closet and take them on a test run. That day I ran 3 miles pain free – double the length of my last pain free run two days earlier. I immediately bought a new pair of Wave Creations online.

I gave my knee a few days rest and then started running in the Wave Creations and on the treadmill exclusively. After 3 weeks I’d gone from a 1.5 mile pain free run to a 7 mile pain free run. I finally felt like I was making progress.

All that time spent cross training made me realize just how weak my body was. Though my running muscles were strong, the rest of my body that supported those muscles weren’t. I could run a sub 1:50 half marathon but I couldn’t do 5 (knee) pushups.

I started lifting weights to build all my supporting muscles. I did the stronglifts 5×5 program which I modified to fit my abilities and my schedule.

By the beginning of March, two months after the initial injury, I was running pain free. My total mileage for January 2015 was 6.5 miles by March it was 70 miles. I declared myself healed.

I knew running the Houston Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon only 7 weeks apart was going to require some serious training, especially since I was coming off an injury so over the summer I focused on building my strength by weight lifting and cross training. By the end of the summer I could do 15 full body pushups and I started getting random compliments about how good I looked. All the hard work was paying off.

Training for the Houston Marathon started the second week in September. My plan included 6 days of running, speed work twice a week and strength training once a week. I’d never asked my body to do anything close to this but surprisingly it handled it fine – so fine, in fact that I signed up for the Cypress Half at the last minute.

The Monday before the race when doing my normal workout I felt it – that familiar pain in my left knee returned. Ugh.

I was confused. I had been doing my hip exercises. I was still running in the same shoes. I was still doing most of my running on the treadmill. But I learned my lesson the first time and spent the next 5 days cross training while my knee healed. I also started reading Scott Jurek’s Eat to Run. One of the things he mentioned in that book was his stretching routine and The Wharton’s Stretch Book. I bought a copy and started doing the stretches recommended in the book. That was the final piece of the puzzle – three days of following the stretching routine for runners outlined in the book was exactly what I needed.

I ran the Cypress Half that Sunday pain free in a massive 8 minute PR (1:39). The days that followed my knee still ached but after an additional week of stretching my IT problems were gone.

Occasionally I still feel tightness in my knee, almost always when I have gone through a period of not stretching regularly. When I do, I immediately get down on the floor with my piece of paracord and stretch out my legs. It works every time. It’s like my body’s way of reminding me that I’ve been neglecting it and it needs attention.

The pain did return during the Houston Marathon but this time I knew why and spent the three days after the race stretching. Two weeks later, it’s my shin that’s sore – not my knee and hip.

IT band problems are a very common and frustrating injury. When trying to heal my injury I found that testimonials from others who had experienced a similar injury was my best resource. I hope that by sharing my experience I can help someone else with their own injury and get back to running faster.

IT Band Rehab & Whole 30

The last I left you, I had deferred my The Woodlands Marathon entry due to some serious IT band problems.

The injury didn’t happen overnight. My body was giving me warning signs for months. I ignored it, of course. It wasn’t until it went from ache to pain that I admitted that I was injured.

I think, as runners, we all can relate to that feeling of panic when we realize we’re hurt and can’t run. Desperation sets in quickly and we’re willing to do anything to get us back to running faster. That’s where I found myself in January. I knew the acute knee injury was inflammation in the knee and I also knew that some foods contribute to inflammation. I figured that by eliminating the inflammatory foods in my diet I would speed up the healing of the inflammatory response in my knee. Seems logical, right?

I’d known several people who did Whole 30 and wouldn’t stop talking about how life changing it was so I did a little research and realized that Whole 30 eliminated all the inflammatory foods I wanted to avoid. I started January 2 and ended January 31. It actually was life changing.

IMG_20150131_133219What is Whole 30?

Simply put Whole 30 is a restrictive food program that lasts 30 days. It’s not about loosing weight (though that’s often a pleasant side effect), it’s about retraining your body, your metabolism, your taste buds and changing your eating habits.

The rules are simple. Eat meat, eggs, nuts, fruits and vegetables; don’t eat dairy, legumes, refined sugar, grains, and alcohol or try to make traditional foods out of approved ingredients (a pancake is still a pancake!). You can eat as much of the approved foods as you want.

It was hard, especially in the beginning. The first few days were easy because it was a novelty but the entire second week seemed to drag by. I dreaded the first sip of black coffee every morning – I could barely choke it down.

I started feeling different after about three days. I had more energy. I no longer needed that after lunch cup of coffee to make it past the kids’ bedtime. I immediately noticed that I thinned out around my waist and my muscles felt a lot stronger. That foggy headed feeling disappeared and I was thinking clearly.

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After a week the achiness in my knees disappeared completely.

One morning during week three I sat down on the couch with my coffee and all of a sudden it was no longer bitter. I could actually taste the coffee instead of the creamer. I felt like I’d been freed.

The hardest part about Whole 30 was re-learning how to cook and confronting the idea that foods you thought we’re “good for you” aren’t necessarily as good as you thought. When you don’t eat dairy, wheat, beans or sugar that leaves a lot of calories to be filled by fruits and vegetables – then you realize that though foods like whole grains and dairy look good for you on paper they’re never as good for you as their caloric equivalent of fruits and veggies.

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My body responded. By the time our 30 days were up I felt like a different person. I had more energy, more…spunk. I no longer felt like I was being dragged through life – I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it just felt right. Added bonus, I lost the last 10 pounds of baby weight. We were so pleased with the results that we did an extra 30 days.

Re-intoducing myself to normal food was hard because I felt so good both mentally and physically! I didn’t want to go back to my old way of eating because I didn’t want to go back to my old way of feeling. I know how different types of foods affect my body. I’ve also figured out how much of the offending foods I can eat before the adverse reaction begins. For example, I know that wheat makes me bloated but rice doesn’t and I can eat about 3 servings of wheat a week before I notice a change in the way my body feels. I can handle dairy in small amounts but the days of eating cheese a half a block at a time are gone.

A year later the lessons we learned doing Whole 30 still govern our life. Though we no longer follow it exclusively we do use it as a general guideline for our eating habits. To keep us from going crazy and to allow for dining out we make exceptions during the weekend. It’s an arrangement that keeps us honest, and works for our lifestyle.

Though I did Whole 30 to help my knee heal faster I noticed a marked difference in my athletic performance. Now that I’ve changed my eating habits and my body is getting the proper amount of nutrition I recover faster after hard workouts; I have more energy which makes completing my workouts easier. My joints feel strong and muscle soreness which used to linger for days now goes away after 24 hours.

The correlation between the food that goes in and the performance that comes out is real. If you’re going to ask your body to push itself beyond it’s known limits you have to give it good fuel. That’s the biggest takeaway from Whole 30, food is fuel for your body. That’s what Whole 30 taught me. It’s a lesson that I will keep with me forever.

Houston Marathon & Boston Qualifier!

(I’ve been working on this post for several days but it took me a while to get it finished. We’re in the process of moving and not having internet is seriously cramping my style.)

On Sunday, January 17, I ran the Houston Marathon!

Official time was 3:29.33 (7:59/mile) and I qualified for the Boston Marathon! It was easily one of the best and most memorable days of my life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t run a full marathon in two years and the last one I ran was a 4:16. Two years is a long time in the world of running. I’d had a couple of half marathon performances since then that indicated I might be close to qualifying but I had nothing concrete to give me confidence and running is all about confidence.

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The morning of the race I was a nervous wreck. I knew I had a shot at qualifying and I’d spent six months getting ready for this race. I was terrified I’d waste six months of training and not qualify.

The weather was PERFECT – 39 degrees F at 7 am and 50 by the time I finished, a slight north wind and sun with cloudless skies. Perfect. I lined up in the corral slightly in front of the 3:30 pacers, not because I was confident but because I was afraid to get stuck behind 100 people trying to keep up with the pace guy.

The race began and the pace of the group was FAST. 7:30/mile. I tried to slow myself down to my planned 8:10/mile pace but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make myself go slower than a 7:55. So instead of fighting it, I went with it. New race pace was a 7:55. That wasn’t in the plan. Yikes.

The large field of runners made maneuvering the course difficult. Until the half marathon/marathon split I was constantly dodging stuff (curbs, potholes and people). The first 6 miles flew by. I don’t remember much about them. My body felt strong and the pace was easy. Surprisingly easy.

Mile 1- 8:06
Mile 2- 8:03
Mile 3- 7:55

5k- 25:13

Mile 4- 8:01
Mile 5- 7:57
Mile 6- 7:48

10k- 49:58

I had done a lot of research on fueling during the race and determined that in the past I hadn’t been taking in enough calories and I’d been waiting too late into the race to take them so I highly modified my fueling strategy. I took a Gu every other water stop and the stops were about 1.5 miles apart. 7 total. My first Gu was only 3 miles into the race.

Racing a marathon is all about being strategic with your glycogen stores and I figured that by fueling early and often I’d give myself a bit of an advantage. By the time mile 6 came around I was breaking into my second Gu and absolutely flying.

Mile 7- 7:58
Mile 8- 7:53
Mile 9- 7:49

15k- 1:14

At the water stop just past mile 9, I reached down for my third Gu. My belt only has space for 6 fuel packets and I brought 8. The first two I carried in my hands so the fuel I took at mile 9 was the first I had to retrieve from my belt.

My hands were numb from the cold and I couldn’t really feel my fingers. When I pulled the Gu out of the belt it flew out of my hand and onto the ground. I immediately stopped to pick it up. Going from almost 8 mph to 0 in a matter of 5 feet caused the muscles in my left hip to seize up and almost immediately upon returning to a run I felt a pain shoot up from my knee into my hip. It hurt so much that if this had been a training run I would have stopped and gone home. It was now or never though so I ran through the pain. It hurt, almost unbearably for the next four miles.

Mile 10- 7:55
Mile 11- 7:54
Mile 12- 7:52
Mile 13- 7:52

13.1- 1:44

The pain in my leg slowly subsided over the next several miles and I was able to run with no problem but I knew it could resurface at any time so I was trying to be careful with every foot fall.

Mile 14- 7:37
Mile 15- 7:52

25k- 2:04

Mile 16- 7:56

My calves started to tighten up. Not badly but enough to care about but as the miles ticked by the tightness started to get worse. It wasn’t anything to worry about but it was pain that I needed to manage throughout the remainder of the race.

Mile 17- 7:43
Mile 18- 7:49

30k- 2:28

Mile 19- 7:50

At mile 20 the route crossed under the inner loop and I stepped on a reflector in the road trying to dodge someone who had started to walk. The pain in my leg came back immediately and didn’t go away for the rest of the race. Between the leg pain and the increasing calf tightness the rest of the race hurt.

Mile 20- 8:00
Mile 21- 8:01

35k- 2:53

Mile 22- 8:06
Mile 23- 7:56

Though I certainly slowed down in the last 6 miles, I didn’t slow down nearly as much as in previous races. I kept waiting to hit the wall – that moment when you feel like you’ve come to a standstill. It should have happened around mile 20 but it never did.

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Mile 24- 8:06

40k- 3:19

Mile 25- 8:02
Mile 26- 8:10
Last .2- 7:05

26.2 – 3:29.33

Overall: 920/7808
Overall Female: 191/3026
Age Group (35-39): 50/632

I had enough energy left to run the last bit of the race (the last half mile, according to my Garmin) at 7:00/mile. Somehow, I raced a marathon and never hit the wall.

I crossed the finish line and immediately began crying. I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston. I finished in 3:29.33, I qualified by a full 10 minutes – all but guaranteeing myself entry. I have never been so proud of myself as I was in that moment.

Almost immediately my phone began dinging. People, who I had no idea were following my race, began sending congratulations. It dinged, pinged and made other sounds as various forms of messages came through. Facebook messages, text messages, gchat messages, posts to my Facebook wall, posts to my MOMS club page. So much love from so many people!

One of the trainers at the YMCA was spectating at the finish line and saw me come through the chute. I’m generally pretty reserved when I’m at the gym. I’ve only made a couple of friends there but when I showed up on Monday he cornered me. Let’s just say I’m a lot more popular at the Y now than I was the week before the race.

RECOVERY

The day after the race my muscles in my calves were so tight I couldn’t bend my ankles and the damage from running through the knee pain was evident. Though I could bend my knees it hurt wildly. I walked around all day sort of like a zombie. I went to the gym that day and spent 30 minutes on the bike with no resistance just so I could try to re-establish some range of motion, then spent 30 minutes stretching out my legs and on my way home went to the chiropractor. I by the time I left I felt somewhat normal.

I went for a six mile run on Thursday, which was extremely painful to my tight calves. Sunday, I ran eight miles and my calves felt much better. I have some lingering shin pain that showed up in the second week of taper (it didn’t cause a problem during the race) and I want to let it heal before I hit the mileage hard again so I’m cross training for the next several days until it goes away.

 

 

IT Band Injury & Marathon Deferral

I’m officially injured.

This injury isn’t something that just spontaneously happened one day, it’s been coming for a while. During training for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio I was doing some pretty intense speed training (intense at least for me). With that speed work came some tight and achey knees. I didn’t think much about it and just chalked it up to a new training routine and a tough training cycle.

I was wavering on whether I should run a spring marathon because of the concern about my knees, I was almost committed to no spring marathon until…

…Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio happened. I PRed (1:48) and it seemed that my pie-in-the-sky goal of qualifying for Boston was actually attainable sooner than I thought. I was on an emotional high and I went home and immediately registered for The Woodlands Marathon. Training began.

Just after Christmas on an 18 mile long run my knees were exceptionally stiff. I just ignored them and hoped they would loosen up some as the miles progressed. At mile 4 all of a sudden, sharp pain went through my left knee and brought me to a stand still. I walked for 20 yards or so hoping it was just a tweak but as soon as I started running again it came back. At that point I turned around and walked back home. Run cancelled. Something was very wrong.

I wasn’t sure what the injury was but I knew I couldn’t run with it hurting like that so I took three days off, went on a test run and made it a mile before the pain came back. Three days later I tried another run and made it three miles but the pain came back. The week after I tried running more with mild success but I have’t been on a pain free run since that fateful failed 18 miler.

After much googling I decided with certainty that it was my IT band.

This injury caught me off guard but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been neglecting my body for a while. Every time I saw “cross train” or “strength train”on a training plan I ignored it. My laziness got the best of me.

Pair that with shoes that I now realize are not the right choice for my feet and injury was a given.

Weak hip muscles doing speed work on a canted road in non-ideal shoes? Yeah. Genius.

I guess the big question here is, what am I doing about it?

Most importantly, I’m not running. At all. Last week, I did a little test run in some of my old shoes to see if they helped (they did) but I haven’t run since then. Instead I’m doing every other exercise at the gym that I failed to do before. Elliptical. Rower. Spin. Swimming. Yoga. If it’s offered at the Y and (and doesn’t aggervate my IT band) that’s what I’m doing. At least an hour everyday.

I’ve also added strength training to my routine. I’m doing the Strong Lifts program but slightly modified to fit my schedule and abilities. Lifting twice a week.

Stronglifts

The days I don’t do Strong Lifts, I use a mini band to do hip exercises.

I also bought a new pair of my old type of shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation). It was almost time for a new pair of shoes anyway and I’ve never been happy with the Wave Riders. The Wave Riders are great shoes but they just aren’t the right fit for me and I’ve had problems since I switched to them. I’ve had success with the Wave Creation in the past so they’re a safe bet when I return to running during the healing period.

Foam rolling. Every day. Every single day.

All this cross training and weight lifting have me feeling stronger than I’ve ever felt – like I do at peak marathon training which is FANTASTIC.

Unfortunately, I’m not in a good place to run a marathon. Even if I could finish it wouldn’t be a smart move, so I’ll be deferring my marathon entry. I’m sad and disappointed but I know I’ll come back from this as a much stronger and much smarter runner and I’m confident that this is the best decision for me and my body.

Lesson learned.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Recap

What a whirlwind few weeks we’ve had around here! One Saturday morning, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we were sitting around the kitchen while I made breakfast. Evie was whining, Alvy was crying, Jason had his head buried in the computer and I was trying my best to ignore all of them so that I didn’t overcook our eggs. Just when I was about to snap, Jason, who had been extremely quiet all morning, handed me a sheet of paper. Airline tickets to for us all to go to San Juan. We were going on vacation! In two weeks! Ack!

Puerto Rico

We had a great time on the beach! It’s amazing what a week in the sand and sun can do for your morale. BUT this post isn’t titled Puerto Rico Vacation Recap so I’ll skip to the important part. We were to arrive home just 48 hours prior to the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon, which I’d been training for since September. Hmmmm. Interesting.

The end result? Apparently copious pina coladas and unlimited beach time are good for tapering because I ran a 5 minute PR! 1:48:33! Granted when I began this training cycle my first long run was 12 miles so I wasn’t training for distance, I was training for speed – which worked!

We ran this race in 2011. Since then the course has changed so I was unfamiliar with the route. On Saturday morning before we left our house for San Antonio I looked at the route online and printed out our confirmation sheets. When I grabbed the confirmation sheets off the printer I saw my corral. 4?!?! I felt my heart skip a beat.

Do they have the right person? Me? 4? Are they sure?

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The last time we ran this race I was in corral 13. Corral 4 is….not 13. I wasn’t nervous about the race at all until then. Then I started second guessing my pina coladas and every other ounce of my training. Did I run enough intervals? Would my feet give me problems? Should I back off a corral or two?

No. You trained to run a 1:49, your corral is for a 1:49. Do not let the corral intimidate you. Do not be afraid of the pain. Don’t be a wuss. Put on your big girl panties and go do it.

I didn’t really have much of a plan, just stick as close to an 8:00 minute mile as I could.

Right off the start line I could tell it was going to be a great day. My legs felt fresh, running was easy. The weather was perfect for racing (low 50s). I was keeping a nice pace and it wasn’t difficult at all. I was focusing on my pace and my form and those first few miles flew by. I was so focused that I ran right past the Alamo and never even saw it.

Mile 1 – 8:08
Mile 2 – 7:44
Mile 3 – 7:59
Mile 4 – 8:09
Mile 5 – 8:04

HILLS. HOLY HILLS. Living in Houston I forget that hills exist. The course was relatively flat but I think the event planners found every single hill in San Antonio. There’s nothing like that here shy of an overpass and I just can’t train for them. They kicked my butt and are the reason that I’m still sore. I haven’t been sore from a run in YEARS.

Elevation

Mile 6 – 8:41
Mile 7 – 8:33

I recovered from the hills…kind of.  Thighs felt a little wobbly but I had no joint pain, no cramping, no big cause for concern.

Mile 8 – 8:04
Mile 9 – 7:55
Mile 10 – 7:50
Mile 11 – 8:11

I started doing math in my head. If I can keep this pace for two more miles……then I hit a wall.

Almost instantly things became exceptionally hard. Around the same time I found myself in hole in the pack, practically running alone. It was me and two male runners both of whom were just a couple of paces in front of me.

Male runner #1 turns his head towards me and says, “You go girl. You got this!” He obviously could tell I was beginning to struggle.

Male runner #2 musters his best high-pitch female voice and says, “Thank you. I think I’ll be just fine.”

Male runner #1 says, “Not you. Her.”

I started giggling. Thanks guys. I needed that.

Runners are awesome.

By mile 12 I was completely spent. My legs were moving but I couldn’t feel them. My energy was completely drained and I really had nothing left to give the course. I did the best I could to maintain my pace to the finish. When I saw the finish line up ahead I started crying simply because I was almost done.

Mile 12 – 8:28
Mile 13 – 8:36

I crossed the finish line and I could no longer stand. Two very nice volunteers held me up while I convinced my legs that they really needed to walk back to the hotel.

I left San Antonio with absolutely no regrets. I gave that race every bit I had, all my energy both physical and mental was left there on the course. I can say for certain that I could not have run a better race.

Standings

My next goal is a big one. According to McMillan to qualify for Boston I need to be able to run a 1:44 half. Time to shave off 4 minutes!