Friday, December 02, 2011


I mentioned a few days ago that I met with Coach for the 1st time last weekend. After looking at my athlete questionnaire, she said, “You’ve been running for 10 years?” to which I responded with a “Yes”. She told me that technically, I really should be faster by now and that there’s no reason why I couldn’t get under a 4 hour marathon (rather than a sub-5).

I’ll admit that at first, I was taken aback by this. I was a little offended. Hey, I worked hard for my 23-minute PR in NYC! But then I had to remember, Coach was a competitive athlete growing up. She didn’t compete in running, but since starting running and triathlons she has quickly improved and gone from sprint distance races to Ironman distance races in the course of a few short years. She started this sport and was competitive from day 1. And she is kicking butt!

I, on the other hand, was not like that. At all. I felt that I needed to justify exactly why I was so friggin slow…this may take awhile.

My Humble Beginnings…
I began running in the summer of 2001. I had recently lost 32+ lbs using Weight Watchers, power walking, cardio kickboxing and Tae-Bo. However, I had this goal of actually running an ENTIRE 5K before my 30th birthday the following year. I had a treadmill at home and I worked toward that 5k goal and achieved it. Before I knew it, I was running 4, then 5 miles. By October of that year, I was running about 6 miles pretty easily and my BFF who was training for the Houston Marathon suggested that I train for the inaugural Houston Half Marathon. I found the Hal Higdon training plan on-line and trained mostly on my treadmill. My longest run before the race was 9 miles. I was completely and utterly clueless – I wore Nikes purchased at the outlet mall for about $39, I had on cotton socks, cotton shirt and cotton sports bra, I had no idea what Gu was and had no clue about hydration. But, I ran the 2002 Houston ½ Marathon and had a great time doing it. Before I knew it, it was summer of 2002 and I decided to join my BFF’s running group (Houston Fit) and train for the 2003 Houston Marathon with her. Never mind that had I run very little since finishing the ½ in January!

My 1st Marathon…
I thoroughly enjoyed Houston Fit, its coaches and all the friends I made there. But, I will admit, I never attended track workouts or hill workouts and probably skipped a weekday more often than I should have. We practiced the Galloway method of running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute. For me, it was about continuing to keep the weight off and fitness. And, I was a social runner. My friends and I chit-chatted during our long runs, never pushing the pace and taking extra walk breaks toward the end of most of our long runs. And, my BFF had an injury and ended up dropping out of the training. My first marathon time was 5:21:17 and some change. Not bad considering I had started out too fast, had some ITB issues and was borderline hypronatremic. I cursed through those last 5 miles, swearing I’d never do this again. But, the minute I had the medal around my neck I was already saying, “Next time, I am going to do…” and “Next time, I will be careful to…”.

My 1st NYC (and 2nd Marathon)…
On a whim, my BFF and I signed up for the NYC Marathon lotto. And we both got in. Again, we started training after not running much during the off season. Our 1st group training run was 8 miles, the BFF and I were not ready for that at all, so we came up with an excuse why we could only run 4 miles that day. Again, we were both pretty clueless – we now knew about hydration, Gu, etc., but a few weeks before the NYCM, one of the coaches asked us if we were ready for the hills in NYC. We looked at each other and then asked, “WHAT HILLS?”. We successfully finished NYC, hills and all, but we were extremely slow. The BFF was still nursing an injury, so we were stopping every few miles for her to stretch. Finally, at mile 22 after using the restroom at Marcus Garvey Park, I told the BFF that I couldn’t stop anymore. I needed to be done with this freaking race and I went ahead. My finish time was a depressing 6:02…but, until this year’s NYC marathon, I will say that this was the most fun I’ve ever had in a marathon!

My Dumb Decision…
My next marathon was a result of a very poor decision. I had decided after NYC that I would take a break and run the ½ marathon in Houston in January…and that’s what I trained for. But, my BFF was running the full and talked me into running the full with her. I changed from the ½ to the full the day before the race (you could do that in those days). Yeah, dumb. We had fun until about mile 16. After that, I think we both walked more than we ran. My finish time was 5:51:51. Seriously, we could see the police cars with flashing lights in the distance behind us. I vowed to never do another marathon without proper training again! (I also vowed to always continue running in the off season!)

My Trifecta Year (2006)…
A few months later, I was still running and I found out I was pregnant with the Kiddo. She was born in November and 4 weeks later I began the power walking/jogging again. I went and cheered for my friends who were running the 2005 Houston Marathon and Half Marathon in January and was envious. I knew I wanted to get back out there! That summer, I joined Houston Fit once more (without the BFF this time) and found a group of fun girls to run with who also attended track and hill workouts. For the 1st time, I started track and hill work and I loved it! But, about a week before our 25k, I had a bad case of achilles tendonitis and didn’t resume the hill/speedwork for the final 2 months of training.

I’ll be honest, running after having a baby was the hardest thing I’ve done. Those long runs in the summer were harder than I remembered and I felt like I was moving at a snail’s pace. I focused on regaining my fitness level and trying to build up my base mileage again. I did quite a few local 5k and 10k distance races during this time as well to work on my pace. I finished the 2006 Houston Marathon in 5:40:43. I was disappointed in my time. I knew I could do better, but I started out much too slow and could just never make up the time later.

I decided to run the Austin Marathon one month later and did a little better at 5:31:44, despite the delay at the start due to sleet and ice on the roads. But still, I knew I was capable of doing better. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. Ugh, I had forgotten how brutal training for a Fall marathon could be when you train in Houston. The summer heat kicked my arse! To top things off, I had to work around the Hubby’s work schedule and ended up running at least a portion of my long runs alone. And, as if there wasn’t enough on my plate, I started grad school in August (2 months before Chicago). My training was less than stellar from that point forward. But, I did get a PR in Chicago. Barely. 5:20:56. And, I decided to sideline any marathon training until after grad school.

Baby #2…
During grad school, I kept running, although it was more for fitness and stress relief (juggling school, work and a family was tough!). I ran the Houston ½ Marathon in 2007 (2:27:21) and started doing some speed work again to see if I could improve my times. Then, I found out during the summer that I was pregnant with the Munchkin. So, no more races for me. In early 2008, I was finishing my final 2 semesters of grad school, updating our current house to sell, buying a new home, moving, and working full time. Ugh, it was a lot to juggle.

Once the Munchkin was born, I was ready to work off the baby weight again! In the summer of 2008, I joined Woodlands Fit (we had moved to the ‘burbs). I didn’t get to run with them until I finished grad school in August, but once I did, I immediately became friends with an awesome group of women. We decided to run the inaugural Rock & Roll San Antonio ½ Marathon and have a fun girl’s weekend…I knew I was far from being ready, so I decided to treat this as a training run (one with a medal at the end!). My time was my slowest yet – 2:43. Again, I had to build that base mileage and endurance up again and it was hard. Again. My next race was the 2009 Houston ½ in January, which just happened to fall on my birthday – I ran it in 2:31:38 and I felt I had given it my best. In April of 2009, I ran a very hilly Zooma Austin, but was still slower than I’d like – 2:38.

The fire ignites…
The next year, 2009, was when something in me really changed – I wanted to do better. The hubby was working on the weekends, so I couldn’t join a training group. I trained on my own for my next races and I was determined to improve. Finally.

I stayed focus and followed a training plan. I ran more miles and actually did speed work. My 2009 Houston ½ Marathon time improved – 2:19:54! I was stoked! Then, something else changed. I learned to swim (sort of) and did my 1st triathlon. Something about triathlons added more fuel to the fire…I wanted to do even better. And that’s where I started actually caring about my times. I worked harder and ran more mileage. My next races improved more – 2010 Zooma (2:24:50), 2011 Houston ½ Marathon (2:16:20) and of course, NYCM (4:57:52).

Don’t get me wrong, the underlying reason for my running and triathlon-ing remains the same - for fitness, weight control, stress relief and fun. But, now I want to constantly see how much I can improve. And I don't think I'll ever go back to that complacent attitude again. I know I am not a natural-born athlete and I may never qualify for Boston (nor do I really want to) or end up on a podium, but I want to know – what is my potential? As a runner? As a swimmer? As a cyclist?

I think Coach can help me find out.


saroy said...

Hmm. I probably would have been offended too. I've also been running for 10 years and I'm not really any faster than I was in 2001. I've had years where I trained hard and performed better, and years where I slacked off and slowed down. Sometimes my goal is to get faster, but sometimes I just want to have fun, improve my fitness, and enjoy the outdoors.

I'm complacent and I'm ok with that. :)

K said...

Sometimes the progress we make may not be reflected in an objective way (IE time goals, distances, etc) Sometimes the progress goes even deeper than that. An internal change. A motivational change. A new level of awareness as to who we are and where we are headed. While I don't disagree with time goals and such, I do think that each goal, each race, each PR, comes with a host of other things to consider, some of which are much more important than the pleasure of racing.
Let's be clear, running, exercising etc for fitness takes the normal person about 60 mins 3 times per week.
We go beyond that. It is about more than fitness for us, but to that end, we also have to consider the balance between the goals we set and the other aspects of our lives.
Personally, my goals from 5 years ago are different not only because my ability has changed, by my life circumstances have changed. My children are a bit older. But I have grandchildren now. I don't have a nursing baby to tend to, but I have an active family and I want to encourage their participation in a healthy lifestyle. Often times that means sacrificing my training time so that they can do something.
And even more important, my relationships with others. Yes, I want to maintain fitness. Yes, I use running and swimming as outlets for stress. But to the expense of lost time with my husband? Unable to help at church? Unable to drop what I am doing to have coffee with a friend because she needs to talk? Sometimes those costs are too much.
So I say, have a goal, have a plan, but never be a slave to it. And make sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are YOUR goals. That you are comfortable with what they will cost you and those you love the most.
Right in line with the post mulling around in my brain right now, Christy!

Shannon (IronTexasMommy) said...

We have such similar stories!

Sometimes it takes the time and the experience gained through those lessons before we're ready to start pushing ourselves to go faster. I am competitive, but with myself. Winning is fun, but people who feel like every time they race have to win miss out on the experience and set themselves up for failure.

You've built a healthy lifestyle. You participate because you enjoy it. There will be good race days and bad race days, but what's important is that you continue to enjoy what you're doing. Set goals, whether it be time or distance to stay motivated.

Keep up the great work!!

Cindy said...

good post, i liked seeing your running history! i've thought about working with a coach as well...i'm an ok runner and been able to do ok without a ton of speed work so the other day was thinking heck...with some proper training, i wonder what i could achieve?!

excited to see how you do with a coach!

Terri said...

Interesting post! I've thought about joining a running group since our move to Texas, more for motivation for long runs or speed work. It should be great to have your own coach. It will be fun to see how you do!

Jenn said...

Loved reading this post!! Love all the background. Excited to see what IS your potential. Best of luck with COACH!