Reaching High and Falling Short {Houston Half Marathon 2016 Recap}

I’m not really sure when the idea entered my head. Perhaps sometime in November when I ran my first four sub-11 minute miles around the block in my neighborhood. Or that one time I missed a group long run and did eight miles on my own…in under 12 minute miles and feeling strong. Certainly when I realized I could do a 10k without walk intervals and shattered that PR.

My “A” goal for the Houston Half Marathon became 2 hours and 30 minutes.


As an endurance running coach I advise my trainees to choose an A, B, and C goal time for their main race. The C goal for a first time half or full marathoner is just to finish. Hopefully uninjured. The B goal is somewhat based on the pace you kept during training. The A goal is a stretch, possibly attainable if everything comes together right and you really push yourself.

Two years ago I set my half marathon PR (personal record) at the Houston Half in 2 hours 39 minutes. That was using 5:1 walk/run intervals and following a strong pacer. That was pretty unexpected at the time.

I’ve run a few half and a full marathon since then but all were slower. This year I was coaching a 5:1 interval group with a few first time half marathoners, so we take it “easy” on long training runs. It’s about distance, not speed. But I changed my diet this fall and lost about twenty pounds. And I did more hill training, more yoga, some high impact aerobics and faster mid-week runs. I watched my pace drop and started to believe.

Setting my sights on this 2:30 goal made me nervous for weeks. I’m not gonna lie, I frequently thought about forgetting it, using some injury or illness as self-justification for not going all in. Because I knew deep down it was probably achievable but I knew it would take everything from me and I knew it would likely hurt. It would be less “fun” than the social half marathons I have run before.

But I also know the incredible fulfillment of aiming high, working hard, and reaching a big goal. I know it means more if I go all in, hold nothing back.

I quietly told a few people about my goal. Saying it out loud makes it more real.

I started to strategize. I could probably run 7:1 intervals, even though I never had before. That would mean averaging about 11:05 running, with quick walks. My friend Manny said he thought a 2:30 half would be a good goal for him, so I asked if he’d want to run with me. He usually talks my ear off, a very pleasant distraction. He agreed to try and hang with me at 7:1s. I picked up my 2:30 pace band tattoo at the race expo and got serious.

Mike kept asking why I was so anxious the days before. He knew I’d been training hard and had run this race many times before. I kept telling myself that anything better than 2:39 would be a new PR and a great race. But 2:30 was my goal and I wanted it.

A couple of my friends noticed how quiet and serious I was on race morning. My running group were all conferring with me but I kept telling them to run their own race, do not try to stay with me. I had no doubt they could finish strong without me.

The 5:1 group I coached ready to race!

I lined up with all my friends around the 12 minute mile pace signs. That turned out to be probably not the best idea, because I ended up continuously weaving around crowds of much slower runners and walkers for the. entire. race.  I swear I have never passed so many people in my life.

Manny stayed right with me as we sailed down Washington Avenue enjoying the gorgeous blue skies and crisp cool air. He sounded like he was breathing hard and maybe having trouble but he kept assuring me he felt good. We had an agreement if one of us fell behind it didn’t matter and the other would just go. I ditched my sweatshirt around mile three and checked my pace band at each mile marker. We were right on pace.

Neither of us talked much at all the whole race. A few words here or there, the occasional burst of energy to wave to excited spectators. I tried to stay between 10:40 and 11:05 as much as I could, and the first 6 miles sailed by. I took some Gu around mile 6 and then somewhere around mile 8 I got my first hint of discomfort. I was just starting to tire a little and breathing harder when a wave of nausea crept up. It became much more of a mental game once we turned onto Montrose Blvd. We were falling very slightly behind pace now, about a minute, but I thought there was still time to make it up. The crowds which I enjoyed so much in the past became just a distraction.


Somewhere around mile 10, Manny said he needed to stop for water. I was becoming really fatigued, my eyes were watering so I couldn’t see as clearly and I wanted to walk. So I stopped with him for a sip of gatorade and then refilled one of my bottles with water. I started up again before he did but I knew he’d catch up and he did. Then a few hundred feet later he suddenly tripped and fell down hard. I stopped and asked if he was ok as he slowly got back up. He said he hand mostly was hurt but he started walking again. He looked like he was in pain but could continue on, so I decided I needed to go. I turned and ran off, realizing I was now on my own. I put my other earbud in, and looked forward, letting gravity carry me downhill slightly to the turn onto Allen Parkway. I saw my friend Leo cheering on the side and ran over to high five him. He is truly an inspiration to me and was a big pick-me-up.

Allen Parkway really is a bit like a death march. You can see the downtown skyline but it feels so far away. LOADS of people are walking at that point, very few are still running. Spectators line the sides of the road screaming at you, which can be good but also can be  annoying. A guy called my name and offered me a can of beer. I smiled and waved him off. This was the point where more and more people started cheering for me by name (which was on my bib). I slowed down a bit, realizing I probably wasn’t going to make 2:30 but I was going to be way ahead of my PR. But my watch and my Runkeeper didn’t seem to agree on my average pace so I hoped one of them was wrong and determined not to give up. I knew I could suffer through two more miles of running, even if it had to be 30 seconds a mile slower. The last two miles or so really was hard. I dug deep. My left foot felt a blister forming. My legs were ok but my breathing was much harder. I just wanted to be done. The loud cheering as I came into the finish gave me anxiety, isn’t that weird? I usually love the encouragement but this time I could have done without it.

My awesome partner Manny!

2:32:32. That’s my official time, however my GPS says I ran well over 13.1, so really my pace was pretty much right on. But I fell just short of my goal. I blew my PR away by 7 minutes, which is a huge accomplishment itself. It feels really good.

5:1 group runners finished!
More 5:1 group. Babu’s first half marathon!





And so I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which served as my inspiration to go all in. Till next year.



Adjusting to Life as a Stay At Home Mom

A month ago, just before we left to fly to Haiti and bring home our new daughter, I left my job as the Director of Engineering for a wastewater treatment equipment company. It’s actually a temporary leave of absence since I plan to go back part time once Rose is in school, but that’s probably two years away.


Even though I have worked from home for the past ten years, this is very different. I really had no maternity leave with either of my first two children. When you start-up a company and work from home you don’t get maternity leave. You never stop answering the phone or email. The most I did was miss our big annual conference twice. I hated missing that conference each of those years because it’s always so great to see my colleagues, my industry friends and present the great work my company does in front of a large audience.

This year things are so different because I’ve been waiting for this little girl to come home for two and a half years and now she’s here and I wouldn’t dream of having any other focus. I will miss some fun nights in New Orleans but I’ve had enough of those over the years to sustain me for quite some time. I do not yet miss work at all.

My job right now is therapeutic parenting of a little girl who doesn’t even know what a family means. Watching her thrive and blossom has been so joyful and fulfilling, and I can only say it’s a miracle from God that she is doing so well.


I usually only have one or two big things to get done a day right now and I like it that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store, maybe some laundry, maybe going to get my allergy shots. I am always happy to get out of the house and talk to some grown-ups, but I try to keep like simple and unhurried.

My little sidekick is very accommodating and I see her using her orphanage coping skills less and less often. Sometimes she thinks she’s the boss of me but I pick my battles and I’m bigger so I can win but I also know how to circumvent or repair any disconnections that happen. Life with Rose is a dance of connecting and disconnecting and reconnecting.  She chooses to shut down instead of throw a tantrum and I don’t like when it happens but I can fix it quickly. A quick game of Patty-cake is my go-to solution, she’s usually up for it and it brings back the smiles and eye contact immediately.


The toughest time of day for me by far is after the boys get home from school and the couple hours up until dinner. She gets pretty wound up around them and they need to get homework done right away. The boys seem conflicted because they really want to play and engage with her after a long day away but they also know they need to work and sometimes need my help. One thing that has really helped us was creating a new rule to keep the screens off until after dinner. The boys can get sucked into playing Minecraft or watching Stampy videos quickly and that leaves Rose trying to get their attention and them getting annoyed. Since I started that rule they mostly choose to play with their sister, which leaves me peace to go fix dinner.


So right now I’m pretty much taking one day at a time with her, passing up lots of fun opportunities like blogger conferences or races. I know it’s a season and before I know it she’ll be speaking English and staying with babysitters and life will probably be much like it used to be except with more singing and giggling and talking.