Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon

139781-127-027hTwo weeks ago I ran the Shiner Beer Run Half Marathon. After my relatively good performance at Virginia Beach in September on zero training (and zero sleep), I went into Shiner with the intention to fully train and to give it everything I had. I tried a different training strategy this time around, focusing on getting in quality aerobic runs and not starting speedwork until 6 weeks before the race. Speedwork included a tempo run on Monday and alternating hills and intervals on Wednesday (intervals were 1/4 mile repeats @ 5k pace and 1/2 mile repeats @ 10k pace). Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the race.

THE RACE

Like the town it’s located in, Shiner is a small race which starts and ends at Spotzel Brewery. The course first takes you through the town of Shiner, then loops around the surrounding country roads. Y’all, this course is hilly – there’s no other way to describe it. I don’t think there was a single section that was truly flat. When coupled with the steady 15 mph north wind that was leftover from a cold front that came through the day before, this was a tough race. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the details. The only thing I remember is how much my quads burned after going up the giant hill into the wind at mile 5  – everything else is just a blur of thoughts that included but were not limited to: OMG, ouch and holy s%^!

The first few miles were relatively easy through town. Though there was some pretty significant elevation gain, I don’t remember it being difficult. Fresh legs and race adrenaline made things pretty easy. I tried to focus on utilizing the downhill portions to help make up time lost on the uphill.

Mile 1 – 7:14/mile (elevation gain: 57 feet)
Mile 2 – 7:06/mile (elevation gain: 27 feet)
Mile 3 – 7:13/mile (elevation gain: 47, elevation loss: 56 feet)

At mile 4, we left town and turned north. I found the wind. Thankfully it was a relatively flat mile but the change in pace was indicative of the extra effort it took to fight the wind.

Mile 4 – 7:41/mile (elevation gain: 15 feet, elevation loss: 28 feet)

OMG. At mile 5, the road started climbing. The wind combined with the climb made me feel like I was barely moving. In some ways, I’m happy I can run an 8 minute mile going uphill but the memories here aren’t good ones. At mile 6 we turned a corner and the wind went from being a headwind to a crosswind – which wasn’t much better. The wind blew me all over the road, running in a straight line was a fight and by the time I crested that hill I was in a significant amount of pain.

Mile 5 – 8:07/mile (elevation gain: 48 feet)
Mile 6 – 7:43/mile (elevation gain: 47 feet)

Most of the next mile was on a gravel road. Rocks were about the size of golf balls but in the ruts they were packed down nicely and relatively easy to run on. I was happy during this stretch that I’d been running trails for the last couple of months; nimble is good!

Mile 7 – 7:24/mile (elevation gain: 59, elevation loss 79)

The next couple of miles weren’t memorable. They were downhill and I was doing my best to make up some time. Unfortunately, my quads were shot and my legs felt like cooked spaghetti. Also, I almost tripped over a loose dog. That was fun.

In other news, I clocked my first ever sub 7:00 mile in a race! Yeah!

Mile 8 – 6:55/mile (elevation loss: 12 feet)
Mile 9 – 7:19/mile (elevation loss: 33 feet)

At this point, the race participants had thinned out so there was at least 100 yards between me and the guy in front of me so following the crowd wasn’t working. I was really having to focus on following the course markings on the road. The course turned into a park and I almost missed the turn.

Mile 10 – 7:28/mile (elevation loss: 37 feet)
Mile 11 – 7:41/mile (elevation gain: 8 feet)

Mile 12 never seemed to end. I knew I was close to the finish but since we were still out in the country, it felt like further than it really was. Toward the end of mile 12, we left the country roads and turned back into town, which as it turns out was completely uphill. Pain. So much pain.

Mile 12 – 7:42/mile (elevation gain: 53 feet, elevation loss: 14 feet)

The last mile was great. After we crested the hill at mile 12, it was literally all downhill from there. My legs had nothing left in them but I did the best I could to give that last mile everything I had.

Mile 13 – 7:05/mile (elevation loss: 70 feet)

Official Time: 1:38.04 (In case you’re interested, here’s the Garmin data)

I crossed the finish line and went immediately into the parking lot because I thought I was going to throw up. Thankfully there wasn’t much in my stomach so I didn’t embarrass myself too badly. Dry heaving for the win!

It took a few minutes after the race for my stomach to settle but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the great post race party. I was with similarly paced friends so I had some good company while I waited for Jason to finish, who was behind us by an hour. Once we found Jason, we all sat around for a couple of hours waiting for awards in the area near the brewery. We talked, ate a yummy lunch and drank plenty of Shiner. It was a fantastic time!

As it turns out my time was good enough to win my age group! My first real podium finish!

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It wasn’t the 1:35 I wanted but it was still an almost 2 minute PR. Being able to PR on a hilly and windy course is something I can be happy with. I know I have that 1:35 in me and I’m pretty sure I have a 1:31 in me…if I find the right course. Now, I’m on a hunt for a good flat PR course. I think it’s going to be Katy Half which is in February but I’m not registered yet so that’s still up in the air.

Will I run Shiner again? Emphatically yes. Sign me up for next year!

Weight Loss and Becoming A Runner

dsc03119I took this picture exactly seven years ago today. December 1, 2009 was one of the most important days of my life and I didn’t even know it.

At the time, I was borderline obese and depressed. I couldn’t walk up the stairs to our bedroom without being winded at the top. I couldn’t run a mile – I could barely walk a mile.

I had been skinny through high school and like everyone else I gained a few pounds in college but not anything to be worried about. Before my wedding I crash dieted to fit into a wedding dress that was accidently ordered a size too small and once the wedding was over I let myself go. I gained 45 pounds in two years. I was a size 14 shoving myself into size 12 jeans. I had a nearly 40″ waist.

That morning I was sitting at my kitchen table surfing the internet. I had just polished off a giant stack of pancakes, some eggs, toast with jelly, coffee and orange juice. As I sat there I could feel the rolls of my stomach touching each other. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I cried, not figurative tears, real tears. I had tried loosing weight several times, unsuccessfully. I had done Weight Watchers with some friends, I joined a gym and tried working out. None of it worked. I lost weight in the short term but immediately gained it back plus some. I couldn’t stick with anything for longer than a few weeks. After three years of trying to loose weight, I felt like I was stuck in a body that I didn’t belong in.

I’m a smart girl, I knew that loosing weight meant changing my entire lifestyle but it was so hard and I didn’t want to work hard.

But something happened that morning while sitting at the kitchen table. I had what was the most important epiphany of my life, I realized that the only person I was hurting by being overweight was myself. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting yourself get away with this? Why don’t you stop being so weak and do something about it?”

That very second I got up from the table, got my camera and the tripod and set it up in our bedroom. I put on my swimsuit, took some pictures, I weighed myself, took all my measurements and wrote it in a blog post, hoping that the accountability of the world would motivate me to follow through.

I did some research and found out exactly how much weight was safe to loose in a week (1-2 pounds) and how many calories I could eat to meet that goal (1,500) and I stuck to it.

Y’all, the first few weeks were hard. They were so. hard. I knew nothing about nutrition. Nothing. Zero. It was one big game of trial and error. I started by shaving off the little calories I didn’t need, like the jelly on my toast (50 calories) and the sugar in my coffee (60 calories x 2 cups). I quit putting syrup on my pancakes (200 calories).

Later, I gave up the toast and the pancakes altogether. I quit drinking juice. I gave up bagels. I gave up donuts. I gave up anything that didn’t stay in my stomach very long. By trial and error, I learned that if I ate eggs for breakfast, I would still be full at lunch and all I would need was a handful of almonds to get me through until dinner. I learned to eat something small before we went out to eat and order a broth based soup instead of a hamburger. I learned a lot about nutrition.

By process of elimination, I unintentionally cut out all the extra sugar in my diet and many of the processed carbs I’d been eating. If it didn’t keep me full it wasn’t worth the calories.

By Christmas, just three weeks later, I’d lost 9 pounds. I knew I needed to add exercise for any weight loss to really stick but I had no idea where to start. My previous attempts at being a gym rat failed miserably because I hated the gym. I tried it again anyway. Unsurprisingly, my disdain for that little cinder block building didn’t go away because I was on a diet. I hated the smell. I hated the machines. I needed something I didn’t hate.

One day, some time around the New Year, when it was time to make the dreaded trip to the gym I did something that changed my life. I put on my running shoes instead and slogged through a three mile loop. I walked a lot, ran a little and cursed myself the entire time. It hurt. My lungs burned. I didn’t love it…but I didn’t hate it either. A couple of days later I did it again. That April, just four months after I started running, I ran my first half marathon.

All in, it took nine months to loose 45 pounds. The diet change and learning about nutrition helped me loose the weight but running… y’all, running saved me. I found something that I truly loved, something that brought me joy that I could dedicate myself to every day. If you want to know why I talk about running so much, why it is such a huge part of my life – that’s why. It saved my life; it’s a strong statement but it’s true.

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I spent the better part of the last seven years trying to forget that me – I even deleted my fat pictures off Facebook. Most of the people in my life now didn’t know me then and don’t know this me ever existed. It was a dark time that I don’t talk about much.

Recently though, I’ve met several people who are in a similar situation to the one I was in. Talking with them forced me to think about how my experience impacted my life. I’ve realized that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had always been thin. I wouldn’t be as motivated. I wouldn’t be as dedicated. I wouldn’t be as strong. I wouldn’t be as successful. It fundamentally changed me. They encouraged me to share my story.

Now, most days, I run because I found a hobby I love. But on the days when I didn’t sleep well, or when I’m sore or when I would rather sit on the couch and drink a beer but I go running anyway, it’s because of this.

I don’t think about this picture much anymore, but every December 1st I do – not because I want to but because I can’t help it. It was that important.

Today, I’m sharing my story with the hope that it will help one person who feels trapped by their choices find the motivation to make a change.

Just because you’re not happy with who you are today doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Start small. Educate yourself. Pay attention to what you’re putting in your body. Go outside. Take the dog for a walk. Ride a bike. Go for a jog. Find an activity you like or at least can tolerate. Surround yourself with people who share your desired lifestyle. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it. Make the decision to try. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

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.

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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

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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 running again. 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.

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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.

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, jump rope, 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.

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! 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.

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?

With The Woodlands Marathon behind me there’s 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

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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.