This piece is another in a series for RunBlogRun by Cait Chock focused on women running and racing in our sport. We hope that you enjoy it!
Julia Webb: Back from baby number two and running stronger than ever
By Cait Chock
Anyone who knows Julia Webb will attest that a mere second with her and you'll be invigorated with a drive to get sh*t done. Julia is of a rare breed of people, uniquely adept at breathing positivity and motivation into anyone lucky enough to be in her presence. When she speaks of running, you can feel her passion for the sport...it's as if she can give her audience a vicarious endorphin high.
Highly active on social media, follow her and you'll get the same buzz. Coming off of giving birth to her second child with husband, Alan Webb, Julia was both smarter and more patient with how she's been training and her string of PR's have been the reward.
"For track I have already set PR's in two of three races, plus came within a second for the 3K, and looking forward to dropping more time in the 1500, 5000 and steeple distances," shares Julia. One of those PR's being the 4:56.45 indoor mile at the inaugural House of Track event at Nike's new indoor track in Beaverton, OR. "The difference is letting myself run much easier on the off days, having the confidence knowing how less can be so much more when you are a mom dealing with a tough baby and trying to absorb the intense workouts or race efforts."
A lesson she, along with most every runner, had to learn the hard way. Flashback to her first pregnancy in 2012, Julia ignored the escalating pain in her hip for weeks, which eventually resulted in an injury so severe she could hardly walk for weeks post-birth. The injury and instability in her pubic bone lingered for over a year. "It was the first time I had ever been injured related to running, and I didn't know how to handle it," Julia admits.
This time was different. Much more in-tune with her body, or perhaps more correctly stated heeding to warning signs, Julia scaled back the running at the first signs of pain and was able to bounce back without the prolonged layoff after this pregnancy. "The second time around has also been much easier mentally knowing that I've been here before. In 2013 I was in full panic mode of thinking I'd never return to any form of fitness during my first long term layoff; but that proved to be untrue as I ended up running much faster than I previously had only four months after my return to running."
Both pregnancies have instilled the runner with another form of confidence, "The pain of running is so far from the extreme physical suffering of both labors I've gone through." Julia opted for all-natural childbirths and at home for her the birth of her second daughter, Paula. The decision to do so was in part a self-prescribed test and with a conscious effort to break through to another pain threshold level which would benefit her racing ability. "[It's] very empowering to know just how much your body can actually take on; which is much more than your mind believes. With labor, you can't stop the intensity, you just have to accept it. With racing, you are the one who inflicts it and many times, you don't go nearly as hard as you could."
Stronger mentally and physically this time around, Julia explains the trickiest obstacle at the moment is one every new parent relates to, the lack of sleep. Little Paula has been much more difficult than the elder, Joanie, and compounded with work, Julia has again been adhering to the rule that listening to your body rather than stubbornly plowing forward wins out in the end. Julia also attributes Coach Jon Marcus to keeping her 'honest' in that regard.
"Jon has been a critical reason for my success," shares Julia, and recalls one such occasion of adjusting at the track. "Just last week he came to check in at the start of my workout. I was pretty wiped going in due to mom duties in the middle of the night so he knew the prescribed 72's for 400 wasn't realistic. He ended up pacing me for all 12 of my 400's, which turned out to be an average of 74. Without him it would have been 76-plus and then joined in the 2 mile tempo, which we decided to make 2 miles at ¾ mile in. It's pretty incredible to have someone willing to sacrifice his own run for the sake of his athlete."
This is Julia's fourth season training under Coach Marcus, the two have been friends for six years. The move from friend to also coach was a major jump in the intensity of her training; a challenge Julia eagerly took on. The hard workouts were a new level of hard, pretty much forcing Julia to take those easy days seriously, "It was critical for me to scale back the intensity of my non-workout days, which I still have to constantly remind myself so I can have a chance at surviving the workouts."
Survive she did and has continued to thrive. Now the Webbs are back living in Portland, Oregon, but they had moved to Phoenix, Arizona for a period. It was during this time that Coach Marcus had divulged to her the plans for his big brainchild: a new team to connect the bevy of high caliber, yet unpaid runners across the Portland area. Marcus brought to light this team, High Performance West, while Julia was still in Phoenix, but as soon as her location changed and she was back to training after Paula's birth, there was never any question if there would be a singlet waiting for her.
Julia speaks of the dynamic of this team of self-motivated individuals all chasing their Olympic and Olympic qualifying dreams, "the majority of us are unsponsored, have other jobs, obligations, and just have a pure love for the sport. We don't do this for money. What's also different is the group allows athletes with different brand connections to come train under one umbrella." Julia races for the Bowerman Track Club, teammate Tara Welling (nee Erdmann) is sponsored by Sketchers, McKayla Fricker of Brooks, and many of the men are racing for the Jacuzzi Boys Track Club. Regardless of other affiliations, the High Performance West team is united by a shared passion for the sport and the drive to pursue a dream despite other 'life' commitments and possible constraints.
Coach Marcus embraces the wide array of availability and means of each of his athletes and individualizes the schedules for each. As with most successful coaches, a large part of his talent comes down to the instinctive ability to read his athletes and adjust on the fly. "The best part about Jon is his versatility as a coach," commends Julia.
For Julia, this means having those twice weekly quality sessions work as double duty for her long days and a mandatory day off at least once every two weeks. Currently in base phase, Julia supplements with core work three times a week, at least one lifting session, hurdle drills, and 'activation' runs on her new True Form Runner treadmill. While she knows she needs more massage work, husband Alan has been great at offering up some of that crucial massage when he can...after all, what are husbands for? ;)
Retaining her title as the first woman at the Shamrock Run 15k March 13th with a new course PR (54:44), Julia is eagerly anticipating the outdoor season. Given the okay from Alan to hold down home base, for the first time Julia will be able to travel to both the Oxy High Performance and Payton Jordan Meets for the steeple. "At this point my goal [this season] is to PR - my toughest would be the steeplechase. It's pretty early to say what my time goal is but for now sub 9:55. It will take a sub 9:52 to get to the Trials, so that is also on my radar. I just need to start racing, no more talking."
A bigger goal that encompasses the entire High Performance West team, "It would be great to have HPW represented at the Trials in every distance event this summer! I'm talking 800-1500-steeple-5000-10,000."
Which brings us right back to that vicarious endorphin rush one can't help but get from Julia. An intangible ability born of genuine passion for running at the most basic level, "I am extremely thankful each time I'm out there running, whether it's a race, crazy hard workout, or just an easy jog."
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer and artist, you can see more of her work on her website and Instagram @caitchock.