2019 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon recap — the Benjamin Button effect

OUC prerace

“You know you’re a runner when, your running shoes ARE the most expensive pair of shoes you possess”.

(Anonymous runner)

My 2019 racing schedule ended on 12/7/19 at the OUC half marathon in Orlando.

This was my 5th half marathon and 7th race of the year.  I started 2019 with an aggressive (for me) race schedule where I wanted to race more and increase the number of half marathon finishes.  I also set a goal to run a half marathon under 2 hours—I didn’t meet this goal but did improve my Personal Record (PR) four times this year, so progress has been made.  I’m faster now than when I started running half marathons in 2013 (Benjamin Button).

How many times running this race?

I started my half marathon quest in 2013 at this very same race.  A UCF friend convinced me to run a half marathon with intent to run it with me for support.  She had several half and full marathons completed and thought it would be a good challenge for me to run a half marathon.

Fast forward a bit, I signed up and began training but her husband got a job transfer and they moved to Dallas, Texas before the race.  I thought about backing out since I didn’t have a running partner but decided to give it a try on my own.

Had no idea how to train, eat or prepare for a half marathon so simply relied on athletic ability for my first try.  This was a horrible idea!  I would have quit during my first half marathon but didn’t know how to get back to my car, so had to keep going in order to figure out where I parked.  This is not a joke, I finished because I had no other choice.

Ran this race again the following year because I had to prove to myself, I could run a half marathon and appear to be competent while doing it.  I improved my finish times incrementally over the years so the pull to come back was there.  I skipped the OUC half marathon in 2018 and ran on Amelia Island instead.

The 2019 race was my sixth time running the OUC half marathon.  I’m currently 19 minutes faster than the first time I ran the same race (Benjamin Button).

Why come back?

Wanted to test my new training knowledge and program against a course that beat me up in the past.  Figured the best way to know if I’m improving is to run the course I wanted to quit on and then move forward.

Happy to report I enjoyed the 2019 version of this race from start to finish!  Even found myself with a goofy smile on my face for some reason around mile 9.  This may have been the runner’s high people tell me about, but I never experienced before.

No worries just decided to keep on smiling and run my best.  This approach allowed me to finish with a PR (2:05:51) and a level of satisfaction with my entire 2019 running program.  Can always look for areas to improve but very happy to improve my PR four times this year.  As you can see, I’m getting faster as I get older (Benjamin Button).  I’m still looking for another gear and project to get a bit faster in 2020.

Stick with the Walk into the Future blog to follow my running progress.

Race recap

Decided not to put an official time goal on this race but wanted to run fast and safely.  My top goal was to have fun and complete the 2019 race schedule in style.

Blue is my power color so outfitted with blue from head to toe for this race.  Accented my race outfit with orange compression sleeves to represent the Florida Gators as I ran through downtown Orlando.

Miles 1 – 5

Wanted to get out fast but not expend too much energy during the first third of the race.  The OUC half marathon also has a 5k race which starts at the same time.  Wanted to avoid the extra runners at the beginning of the race so went out with a controlled pace and mindset until the 5k runners split away from the half marathoners at Mile #2.  Felt good with my mile splits and knew I had the conditioning to keep my pace going.

Miles 6 – 10

Past races I’ve struggled with this portion of the half marathon.  My training, nutrition and mindset have improved this year to where I know how to handle this segment of the race and not slow down much.  Was able to stay consistent with my mile splits with no glaring slow miles.  This may have been why my goofy smile came out—I knew I was running faster and not slowing a bit.

Miles 11 – 13.1

Realized I wouldn’t break 2 hours at this point but didn’t let that take my smile away. Kept plugging away because I knew I could set another PR by just pressing forward.

Put TI’s song, Motivation on repeat because this is my running hype song that helps me mentally when I run.

The goofy smile was with me the entire time and the miles flew by.  There were spectators out helping the runners finish strong; I’m sure they were cheering for me, but I was in my zone and focused on finding the finish line.

Crossed the finish line at 2:05:51 (two hours, 5 minutes and 51 seconds) with a smile on my face and a raised fist!  You would have thought I saved the world from annihilation from my reaction, but it was a big deal to me.  Ran a smart race with a good time and felt great physically at the end.  Trifecta!

After race party

Track Shack does a fantastic job with all aspects of race day.

The vendors, health care and music after the race are first rate.  Made my way to the beer truck to get my two beers to go along with my other snacks collected in the vendor area.  Yes, runners really drink beer at 9:30 am—we’ve earned it after getting up before the sun rises and running 13.1 miles. LOL.  Ran into a few people I knew from my time in Orlando and we celebrated another great Track Shack race.

“It’s all about the bling!”

(Spectator sign, 2019)

Benjamin Button

So, why do I reference Benjamin Button in this post?  Great question!

Most people begin to slow down as runners as they age.  I’ve only been attempting the half marathon distance for 6 years now and continue to learn more about training, nutrition (beet juice) and mental focus.  I’m just scratching the surface on my running ability and see faster times coming in 2020.  So, I’m not getting younger but faster (Benjamin Button).  I’m sure the day will come when I can’t keep running faster times but it’s not here yet—so fast I must go! 😊

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be”.

(Benjamin Button)

Goodbye OUC hello San Antonio Rock N Roll (2020)

I will not run the OUC half marathon in 2020.  I’m trading this race and experience in for the 2020 San Antonio Rock N Roll half marathon.  I lived in San Antonio while in the Air Force but wasn’t a runner then.  This will be my chance to run in a great city and experience the culture and the River Walk from a different perspective.  I’m sure I’ll return to the OUC race again in the future, maybe 2021.

Project to run 7 half marathons in 2020.

Already registered for New Orleans (February), Nashville (April) and Philly (September).  Will add San Antonio and Savannah; looking at San Diego and maybe Las Vegas to complete 7 with the Rock N Roll series.  May adjust with a local half marathon but 7 is the number for 2020.

Logged just under 1,000 miles on this running journey in 2019; I’m sure that number is going up in 2020.  Who’s ready to run with me? 😊

 

How many of your 2019 goals did you accomplish?  Have you thought about your 2020 goals yet?

Thanks for walking with me!

Merry Christmas!  Will see you in 2020!  Thanks!

OUC Christmas tree

We all win with diverse work environments!

brand trademark cobblestones community denim pants
Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

neon signage
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

Walking and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains (Gatlinburg, Tennessee)

My adventure in the Smoky Mountains!

Smokey Mountains hue

“Live a life of quiet inspiration.”

(William Britten)

Why Gatlinburg?

There’s an old saying The mountains are calling, and I must go” attributed to John Muir who spent his life advocating for wilderness preservation.  I would like to think John Muir’s words were instrumental to my trek back up to the Smoky mountains and Gatlinburg in particular.

My true inspiration to get back in the mountains came from an August 2019 NBC Nightly News special on a new Gatlinburg attraction, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America:  https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/take-a-trip-to-the-longest-pedestrian-suspension-bridge-in-north-america-67497029583

  • Requested my 2019 Gatlinburg Vacation Guide when the news went off

I’ve been in the Smokey mountains and Gatlinburg years ago but seeing the suspension bridge on TV got me excited to go back to the mountains and explore.  Finally, just decided to head up in mid-November before the weather got too cold and snow covered the mountain roads.  I’m good driving in the mountains but didn’t want to fight ice and snow as I made my way through the winding roads.  Got lucky with sunny weather and high temps in the low 50s.  Turned out to be ideal hiking weather and didn’t have to wear too many layers of clothes to stay warm.  Started peeling off layers about an hour into my first hike.

Hiking the Smokey Mountains

So, this is where I apologize to all my friends who have been avid hikers over the years.  I didn’t fully get the concept of hiking because I’m always looking for my next training run.  Texted a few of them to admit my error while I was out on my first hike of the day.  I fully get hiking now—it was an amazing experience and can’t wait to do it again!

Started the hiking adventure on the Trails in the Sugarland Area which is the first Smokey mountain hiking area leaving Gatlinburg.  Decided this would be a nice warm up trail to get me out and exploring.  Got a map and quick briefing at the Welcome Center and then I was off on the trails.  Didn’t know what I would see on this trail but was excited to begin the adventure.

Well, to my surprise almost got run over by a deer and while trying to take a picture of the buck, saw a flock of turkeys coming up behind me—this was the first 5 minutes of my hike! LOL.  Believe this episode is where I decided hiking is the greatest thing ever—this flurry of wildlife activity got me ready to see more.  Didn’t get a picture of the deer since I was trying to keep the turkeys in range to take a picture of them.

Continued the trails to see what else was ahead and came to the John Ownby cabin.  The structure was in decent shape and highlights how early mountain folks lived.  This was also a good place to take a break and take in everything I had experienced in a short period of time.  This is also the spot I texted my friends to say I get hiking now! 😊  Left the cabin and got on the next trail head and made it over to Cataract Falls.  Thought this was going to be a larger area but was happy with the scenic beauty I saw hiking over to the falls.  Only saw a few hikers out but everyone was friendly.  Got a chance to take pictures at the falls and sit awhile to admire the surroundings.  Very peaceful, quiet and refreshing time sitting at the falls.  Covered about 3 miles on this hiking segment.  Wanted to explore a bit more in this area but decided to move on after the tour buses started dropping groups off—the trail heads got crowded quickly!

Moved further into the Smokey mountains and made my way to the Sugarland Parks Trail.  Similar name as the first adventure but this was a .5-mile paved trail.  Not much wildlife to see on this trail but had great water views and river scenery.  Didn’t spend a lot of time here because it was a short, one loop trail.

Decided to venture further up the mountain to see what other adventures were waiting.  Saw several stop points on the way and pulled over at the Carlos C. Campbell Overlook. No trails here but the view of the mountains was tremendous!  Had this area to myself so took advantage of the photo opportunity while it lasted.

 Campbell Overlook

Next stop was the Gatlinburg trail which had a little bit of everything.  Trails, rivers, bridges, climbs, drops and wildlife.  Spent quite a bit of time exploring on this trail just enjoying the experience and nature.  Covered 10 miles total hiking on the different trails during my Smoky mountain adventures.

Skybridge

Got a quick lunch after my hiking adventures and headed to the main reason for my visit, the Gatlinburg Skybridge.  Gatlinburg has always had a Sky Lift Park to haul people up the mountain to get a higher view of the area.

The Skybridge is a new addition to Sky Lift Park and has become the main attraction for most people to see when visiting Gatlinburg.  It did not disappoint!  It’s a suspension bridge so it moves while walking on it—it really moves with a lot of people walking on it!  There were several folks on the bridge who didn’t look so happy with their decision to make the walk across.  The Skybridge is an excellent way to view Gatlinburg, see the surrounding mountains tops and people watch.  The pass for Sky Lift Park is good for the entire day so I was able to come back once it got dark to experience the ride up and the bridge at night.  Didn’t stay as long the second time up because it started getting cold when the sun went down.

https://www.gatlinburgskylift.com/skybridge

Moonshine tasting

The Gatlinburg Vacation guide was an excellent resource to help plan out my activities.  Discovered Gatlinburg has several distilleries and wineries right downtown.  I’ve toured rum and whiskey distilleries in the past but never a moonshine tour.  Researched the moonshine distilleries and decided to visit multiple since they were so close to each other and walkable.  My first stop was the Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery because of the variety of flavors they make.  $5 gets you a taste of every moonshine flavor/proof in the store.

These range from 128 proof down to 40 proof with different flavors:  https://olesmoky.com/collections/moonshine.

Made sure I ate before touring the moonshine distilleries—good thing because moonshine has a kick to it. 😊

Next, made my way down the street to visit Sugarlands Distilling Company to see what they had:  https://www.sugarlands.com/moonshine/.

They had some unique moonshine flavors and names but gave several of them a try during my tasting tour.  FYI, moonshine really warms you up, didn’t feel the cold after my sipping tour of moonshine distilleries.

Decided to head back to Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery and went right to the top of the moonshine proof levels—got the Blue Flame (128 proof).  Will probably be sipping on this jar of moonshine for months—not for heavy consumption.

Freedom to travel

2019 has been an adventurous year for me to explore.  I’ve been blessed to have the ability to pick places to visit and then make my way there.  I’ve explored places I’ve always wanted to visit and some of my favorite places again.  Looking forward to seeing where 2020 takes me!  I plan to keep Walking into the Future with no return date! 😊

Lessons learned

  • Never drive in the Smoky mountains at night— (1) it’s scary and (2) you miss the scenic beauty of the mountains
  • North Carolina / East Tennessee BBQ sauce is vinegar based; I don’t like vinegar in my BBQ sauce
  • Hiking is a fantastic pastime! Will find other areas to explore this new hobby! 😊
  • I like moonshine! It mixes great with fruit punch
  • Gatlinburg has a walkable downtown area—find a place to park and walk around to enjoy the attractions

Thanks for walking with me!

Where have you always wanted to visit?  How much hiking do you plan to do in 2020?