So, most of you who know me, know that I am a runner!! I live, breath and sleep ANY and ALL things running. I will talk about it, schedule my day, weekly life and vacations around it….I will spend hours and hours reading about it, watching it…..blah, blah, blah..you get the point!!
What few of you know is, my wife’s journey and steady progression with becoming a runner.
Crystle Santos (Welch), my wife, was born with club feet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_foot . To give you a general description, she was born with her feet completely inverted. Thus, her feet were turned 180 degrees from their natural position.
Her first couple years of life involved having surgeries and her feet in casts. She was told that sports, particularly anything that involved running, was not advisable. So, with the news from her doctors, she participated in gymnastics for a few years and a bit of cheerleading, but otherwise, none of your traditional sports (those involving running).
Now, fast forward 20+ years to 2010.
Crystle started her running endeavors, solely for me…she had run a few times before, here and there, but mainly just for fitness and weight management….she never enjoyed running and never saw much excitement in it…..but, being the supportive girlfriend (at the time) she was, she decided to start gradually taking up the sport of running.
I joined the world’s greatest running group http://www.meetup.com/HamptonRoadsRunners in June 2010 and started running several times a week with them, mostly at Mt. Trashmore.
Crystle would accompany me to Trashmore, but would usually only walk or do some light running with another acquaintance , who was not a part of the group.
Her original concerns were that “she wasn’t fast enough” for the group, or that “she didn’t really enjoy running THAT much”…
After going out on some social excursions with members of the running group, she was finally peer pressured and relented into coming to some of the meetups and being a part of the runs.
From the start, she put in some effort, but was never “in love” with it. But, with the help from some of the girls in the group and with consistency, she started seeing improvements and this started to slowly change her mind a bit.
Her first actual race, was a Jingle Bell Run in December of 2010…I had done a long run that morning and decided to just be the photographer (a position of responsibility that is typically hers)….So, our mutual friend, William Tallent decided to “pace” her……he took her out at a pace well within her abilities, but, things didn’t quite go so well that day.
Within under 30 minutes from the race start and against my advice, she decided she would eat a chicken wrap from Chik-fil-A…..So, 29 or so minutes later, she came around the corner and was within 100 meters of the finish line…I was cheering and yelling and taking pictures, when all of a sudden, I realize things weren’t good…she approached me, stopped, puked on my shoe and professed her desire to quit and walk off the course…After a minute or two of convincing, I talked her into at least jogging it in to the finish..which she did in 32:34 (10:29 pace).
Back then, she would never even think of caller herself a “real runner”. Her biggest hopes were that someday, for a race or training run, she could hold a 9:00 pace…To her and at the time, that seemed like all she would ever be capable of…Man, was she wrong!!
After completing a couple 5k’s and a 10k, she finally committed to running her first half marathon. She decided to do the Rock n Roll 2011 half since that is one that our running group and Team Hoyt does every year.
We kept her expectations within reason and she ran a very respectable 2:17 (10:30 pace…NOTE, this pace for 13.1 miles was the same as her first 5k, less than a year prior).
Even though her first half was somewhat of a challenge, she had fun and enjoyed it and wanted to put in better training for another one. So, I started her on a training plan and started to coach her so that she could continue to improve, but at a rate that wouldn’t kill her. I wanted her to do well, but not at the risk of burnout or injury.
Because a large majority of our Hampton Roads Runners group was targeting the Outer Banks for the marathon/half marathon, Crystle decided she too would like to do the half there as well.
Since I was pacing a friend, Gerald Currie, for the full marathon, another friend and fellow HRR member, Fitz, decided to pace Crystle for her half. He kept her at a comfortable and steady pace the entire time. She PR’d by over 8 minutes, running a 2:09 (9:53). So within just two months from the Rock n Roll, she already took off another huge chunk of time.
Now, after having run two half marathons within two months, she was feeling more confident with her training and was enjoying her gradual improvements…But, she still refused to believe she was a runner…..now she was saying, “If only I could get down to sub 9:00 pace”..LOL!
Toward the end of 2011, the HRR group started getting several new members..many of which become perfect training partners for Crystle. Several of these runners were experienced runners with many races under their belt and they would become her frequent training partners for the winter.
During this time, I had Crystle on a 3 day per week running routine. Her runs consisted of a “tempo interval workout” a “tempo” and a “long run”. Enough to continue improvement, but not so much that she was tired or beat up all the time. This would allow her to see gains, feel confident, but not succumb to the typical workload of most traditional training plans.
As she continued improving, her and several of her new training partners begin throwing around the idea of going sub 2:00 hours in their next half marathon.
So, as winter passed and spring turned to summer, Crystle continued to improve on her times, running several 5k’s to help get her comfortable with harder paces. Aside from just running, in the spring, she started training with Jamie Brennan, who was coaching and advising her with swimming and cross-training.
In addition to her 3 runs per week, Crystle would swim 2-3 times per week and would also hit the gym 3-4 times per week. During this time, she continued to see running success, without adding any additional mileage or intensity. The mix of cross-training, running and swimming seemed to be the perfect combination for her. She was dropping weight/body fat and was starting to sculpt some serious muscle tone…I was actually getting jealous!! LOL!
Because her and I had a wedding coming up in August, Crystle decided to not target any big race until after the wedding. So, since the next closest half marathon after our wedding was Crawlin’ Crab in October, she decided to target that one.
Her goal was sub 2:00 hours. Based on all of her training runs leading up to the race, I KNEW she could go sub 2 and then some. But, to make certain that she obtained her goal, I decided I would pace her for the race. Because I was running the race with Team Hoyt, I figured this would be perfect. She could run along beside me, I would push my rider and could also ensure Crystle maintained pace, fueled and hydrated properly and had someone there to break up the boredom.
For her to break 2 hours, she needed to maintain at least a 9:09 per mile pace. But, because I knew her capabilities and was she was fitness wise, I decided to take her out at 8:50 pace to build a bit of a comfort zone for her goal time.
I made her leave behind her Garmin and I would worry about the pace. Her only job was to stay right on my shoulder.
She ran the absolute perfect race…All splits were right on point and she ran completely comfortable and relaxed the entire time. The last 2 miles were rainy and nasty and she still pushed on…and we finished together, running a 1:55:56…a whole 4+ minutes below her original goal….She had the biggest smile on her face and I couldn’t have been happier for her.
No matter the goals she sets or the paces she deems as “unachievable”, she always meets the challenge. Every race and every training run, she gains more and more self confidence and realizes “Hey, maybe I am a runner after all”. For instance, just lastnight, I had her doing 4×6 minute repeats at 5k-ish pace. She ran all 4 of her repeats in the range of 7:48-7:56 and even managed to PR her 5k, in training, without even trying.
Aside from not only becoming a good runner, she has also become a wonderful training partner for me and a big pillar of support to new members that join our group. Now, because her regular training paces have dropped so much, her and I are able to get in 2-3 runs together per week. I normally get to pace her for her tougher workouts and help pull her along (which I really enjoy being able to do for her).
In the short span of two years, she has become her own person through running. She has improved in so many areas and running has even helped her with her foot issues. In the past, she could barely walk in the mornings after being on her feet all day with work or school. Now, and for reasons not completely known, she no longer wakes up with the pain and soreness of years past. The running has helped cure the problem.
She has also helped to inspire her family. Because of her running, her father has recently taken up running and ran his first half marathon last month. He narrowly missed breaking 2 hours and now they are talking of running their next race together so that he can break that 2 hour mark.
Her next big race will be the Shamrock half marathon in March. She has thrown out a number to shoot for..I won’t mention it, because I don’t like to jinx things. But, as her coach, husband and biggest supporter, I know without a doubt she will hit her mark!!!