Rock n Roll Virginia Beach & Future Plans

Labor day weekend we made a somewhat regular trip to Virginia Beach to visit family. As is tradition Jason, his brother and I ran Rock n Roll Virginia Beach half marathon together. This year the race was unique because tropical storm Hermine moved through the day before, leaving behind a half assembled course and 35 mph wind gusts.


As luck would have it, my daughter came down with something the night before the race and this momma got ZERO sleep. Needless to say, race conditions weren’t ideal.

Regardless, I was determined to do the best I could. This year, for the first time EVER I was in corral ONE. When I first ran this race 6 years ago I was in corral 13, I love seeing signs of progress like this. Races are unpredictable, once the gun goes off its anyone’s guess how they go but no matter how well I did that day I started in corral one and to me that was a big deal.

I had no idea what to expect of myself performance wise since I hadn’t really trained for the race. I’ve spent all my time lately on easy aerobic runs and I was sure that I was sure my legs had forgotten how to run quickly.

Here are the splits:

Mile 1 – 7:20
Mile 2 – 7:34
Mile 3 – 7:29

5k – 23:46 (7:39)

Mile 4 – 7:47
Mile 5 – 7:42
Mile 6 – 7:44

10k – 48:04 (7:44)

Mile 7 – 7:47
Mile 8 – 7:45
Mile 9 – 7:50
Mile 10 – 7:48

10 Mile – 1:17:25 (7:45)

Mile 11 – 7:51
Mile 12 – 8:21
Mile 13 – 7:55
Last .1 – 7:46

Official Results

After the race, as I shivered while waiting on the boys, I had a lot of time to think about the race. Though 1:42 isn’t a PR it was only 3 minutes off

My PR was run while I was in the middle of training for the Chevron Houston Marathon. I was doing speed work twice a week, and was in nearly peak condition. That race was run under nearly ideal circumstances. I was well rested and the weather was a perfect 50 degrees with no wind. The course was flat and close to home. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

This race was the exact opposite. I didn’t train for it and am most certainly not in peak condition. It was 75 degrees and windy. I was 1,000 miles from home and exhausted. The course IS relatively flat but there’s a giant bridge you have to cross at mile 4 and again at mile 12 which slows things down considerably.

All those things considered, 3 minutes shy of PR is a great result. I was happy with the race and my performance and it leaves me excited about things to come because big things are coming!

November 19th, I’m running the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. I AM training for this race with the full intention to kick it’s butt. In April I’m running the BOSTON MARATHON! Registration was three weeks ago and I’m officially in! Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this. Training doesn’t start until January though so for the next three months I need to find something to keep me occupied so I don’t go crazy. I should have about six weeks of downtime after Shiner before Boston training starts and that sounds just about perfect. The countdown begins!

Catching Up

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile, no? I’d love to say that I’ve been absent for some super fantastic reason but the honest reason is that I’ve been overwhelmed. Oh so overwhelmed.

We have spent the better part of the last year remodeling our house. Planning began this time last year. We moved out in January when construction began and we moved back in at the end of July. Around that same time we started homeschooling our daughter who is in kindergarten. Between moving out of our house and into a rental, supervising the renovation, moving back into our house and figuring how to homeschool, my entire life has been one big pot of goo (I could use a different word but I’m trying to keep this clean).

My only solace? Running. That should have been a given, right?

Monday though Thursday I take out all my frustrations at the gym. During those two hours I can forget all my problems, at least temporarily. I run for an hour and then spend an hour doing any number of fun cross training, strength training and running drills. I can now run 7 miles, then do 36″ standing box jumps, 20 pullups and 25 full pushups before finally giving out. At least my stress is good for something?

The truth is, I haven’t been very happy lately and it’s certainly evident in my running. I’m a more committed athlete when I’m unhappy. The days when I’m angry, sad, stressed, lonely and depressed are the days I am most dedicated. I pour everything I have into the things that bring me joy and my running, at least right now, is pretty much all there is.

At least I know eventually, the house will come together, we will fall into a homeschooling routine and I’ll find a solution to my desire to have time away from the kids. For now, I’ll be at the gym, throwing my stress at the treadmill and trying to figure out life.



Recovering from The Woodlands Marathon

It’s been a month since The Woodlands Marathon. The decision to walk at mile 15 is paying off and I am now back to running. My knee pain is non-existent and my shins are healing. Though my volume is reduced from my typical non-training running volume, I can now go for a 5-6 mile jog and come home without pain. Last week I ran 27 miles, my longest run was 7 miles on Sunday.


Monday morning my shins woke up ever-so-slightly tender so I decided to give them a day off and instead of running, I swam for an hour (1600 yards). Yesterday, the tenderness was gone so I taped my shins in KT tape, as a preventive measure, and ran 6 easy miles. No pain. No big deal. I think I can safely say that the shin splints are on their way out.

My new goal? Never let it happen again.

I’ve been doing a lot the last several weeks to strengthen my body. While letting my legs heal from The Woodlands I’ve spent a lot of time doing running drills and strength work to build my stability muscles. It’s evident from the problems I’ve had the last couple months that I’ve neglected all the supportive parts of my body. At the gym lately I’ve been doing a lot of box jumps, jumprope, clamshells, planks, wall squats, single leg balance, bridges, skips and stretching my hip extensors.

I can feel the difference that the strength work is making. I feel much more supported when I run and much less like Gumby, a change I welcome. Now I realize how poorly supported my body was toward the end of marathon training. With the intense speed work and high mileage (peak week was 82 miles, the month of December was 241 miles) no wonder my shin gave up on me.

My only goal right now is to heal properly and build my stability muscles and aerobic capacity. Ideally, by mid-summer I will be ready to begin strength training again in the weight room and anaerobic work on the treadmill. I don’t have any fall races planned yet but I know I’ll end up choosing one or two soon.

The question of the day is, do I want to run another full marathon before Boston in 2017?

It’s a bit scary to think that the next time I run a full would be in Boston but as far as reality goes I don’t have many choices.

Running fall marathons in Texas is tough. The only one I can think of that might fit would be Rock n Roll San Antonio at the beginning of December. Any earlier than that and you’re running 20 mile long runs in the heat of the summer…which if you live in Houston lasts until the end of October. I could try to run the Houston Marathon again but it’s at the end of January I’m a little nervous about running Houston and Boston in the same year. The last thing I want is to mess up my trip to Boston, I worked too hard for it. It’s a question that will remain unanswered for now.

For now I’m going to keep doing box jumps at the gym and standing on one leg while I make dinner.

Qualifying for Boston – Thoughts on a Life Changing Moment

It’s been eight weeks since I qualified for Boston. You’d think that would be enough time for me to appreciate the impact this would have on my life. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few days ago I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school and I caught myself thinking, I can’t believe I did it. I actually did it. I qualified for Boston. Me! Little ol’ me! Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about how hard I worked, how long it took and how much the process changed me as a person.

I spent two years thinking about nothing but qualifying for Boston. TWO YEARS.

Two years of strapping my kids in the stroller to push them for hours (they now hate the stroller), two years of dragging them to the YMCA so I could spend hours doing speed drills and lifting weights (they now hate the YMCA). Two years of ice packs on my legs as I cooked dinner. Two years of foam rolling while watching TV instead of cuddling on the couch.

Two years of pretending to be awesome – pretending that I was capable of something my brain told me was impossible.

Two years of fake it until you make it.

It’s hard to change your perspective that quickly. In a single moment I went from being the person who wanted to qualify for Boston to the person who did qualify for Boston.

The moment I crossed the finish line in Houston and I realized what I’d done I was overcome with tears. I was no longer faking it, I had become the person I wanted to be. I actually did it.

We all have moments in our lives like that. Moments that only last a few seconds that literally change you forever.

I’ve had four.

The moment I got married.
The moment I decided to loose weight.
The moment I became a mom.
The moment I qualified for Boston.

It was that big of a deal.

I’m not sure where to go from here.

Last week I was at the chiropractor and he had a woman observing his patients. The chiro mentioned I was a marathon runner so she asked me if I had any goals. I didn’t know how to respond. I did have a goal but now what? I didn’t know how to answer.

With The Woodlands Marathon behind me I do have some big plans (more on that later) but nothing on the immediate horizon. I’ve contemplated attempting a triathlon because I did so much swimming and biking in the weeks between Houston and The Woodlands but I’m a little burned out on training right now and a break seems like a better idea. I will probably run a half this fall and I’m thinking about running Houston again next January but the jury is still out.

I do have one race planned though – I will be running the Boston Marathon on April 17, 2017!

(Yes, I know that qualifying alone isn’t enough to get you into Boston but I qualified by more than 10 minutes so my spot is all but guaranteed. Goodness help me if everyone else in my age group ran a sub 3:30. I might cry.)


The Woodlands Marathon Race Recap


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.


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


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 polymetrics 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 of the IT band 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 by the IT band. 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. (Surprise, my ITBS case was in my left leg.)

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-evalaute everything that I was doing and how it was working. I was still unsure of the exact cause of the injury but I knew that I’d been neglecting my body and I needed to change.

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, after that you needed to stop running. 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. Since I didn’t want to quit exercising, I set a 30 minute cardio goal for each visit. I’d start on the treadmill and run until my knee began to hurt at which point I got off the treadmill and got on another piece of equipment for the remainder of my 30 minutes. 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. Somewhere 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.

During one of my rare outdoor runs, I was a half mile from home when that familiar tightness in my knee returned. I started running faster hoping to get home before it got worse, oddly enough the faster I ran the less it hurt. I began running faster all the time.

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. I continued to cross train and I lift twice a week. By the end of the summer I could do 15 full body pushups and I was squatting 135 pounds – 15 pounds more than my body weight. I started getting random compliments about how good I looked. All the hard work was paying off.

I started training for the Houston Marathon the second week in September. My plan included 6 days of running, speedwork 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, just two weeks before the race. I thought racing a half during marathon training would be a good gauge of my progress and give me a better idea how to execute the second half of training.

The week after I registered for the Cypress Half I ran my first ever 60 mile week, the following Monday when doing my normal workout I felt it – that familiar pain in my left knee returned, six days before I was scheduled to race.

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 it was due to tight muscles and I spent the next three days stretching my legs out. 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.