Racing (again) into the future

Race Time

“Running is alone time that let’s my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days”.

(Rob Haneisen)

I entered 2020 with an aggressive goal to expand my running tourist role and travel to new locations for Rock N Roll Half marathon races.  Started the year with a goal to run seven half marathons in the series along with a few local 5k and 10k races for speed work.

COVID-19 has turned the world upside down and we are still trying to get a handle on what normal daily actions look like now.  FYI—I understand there are more important things in the world than me traveling America and running on city streets.

My last official race was a 5k on March 14, 2020 in Tallahassee.  We were just getting a better understanding of how bad COVID-19 was at the time, but the event organizers took extra precautions but did not cancel the race. I remember the event was small with maybe 70 runners at the start line.  We practiced physical distancing at the start line and gave everyone extra space just to be safe.  There were no face masks present because the U.S. government told us there was nothing to worry about at that time.  Now we know different, huh?

Fast forward to October 24, 2020 and I was back at a 5k starting line, but we all had on face masks.  Physical distancing and masks were mandated to participate in this event.  We could take the masks off once we began to run and had to put them back on once the race was over.  Happy to report everyone complied and I felt safe while waiting my turn to start the race.  The race organizers used a digital chip timer, so our times were synced based on our on-course performance instead of when we started.  Example:  I was the 60th runner to start but this did not impact where I placed because my time was synced directly to my performance not when I started. 

I was extremely happy to be back on a race course with other people around.  I love my training runs because I view running as my form of therapy but cannot make myself run fast without others around.  It may be a mental block or simply a lack of motivation, but I run faster when other people are around.  Think I just need to see people ahead of me to force myself to try to catch them.

I was able to slowly reel in runners during my 5k event.  I wanted to post a good time but did not want to go out too fast and die a slow death on the backend of the race. 

My first mile was a controlled 8:28 pace and I felt good with the pace.  The second mile was a bit slower at 9:35 but still controlled considering I did no speed work or 5k training prior to showing up.  Decided to maintain a level of control for the third mile and recorded 9:23 and felt comfortable at this pace.  Finished with a little kick to see if I had anything left in the tank—crossed the finish line at 28:38 which is a minute slower than my race in March.  To put that in context I was in full half marathon training mode in March so to run this fast without proper training is a good sign for me.  May not be a good sign for my friends who run since we all know I can go faster.  No pressure! 😊

I am happy with my performance and the ability to maintain my speed throughout the race.  I went ahead and signed up for the OUC Half Marathon in Orlando on December 5, 2020.  My original goal was to run in San Antonio in December, but COVID-19 has made an adjustment to my race schedule.  The OUC race will have a staggered start and require face masks before and after the race.  I feel comfortable with this process since I just completed a 5k with the same parameters.  Looks like this is the new normal if we are going to see races again.  It was not hard to practice physical distancing prior to racing so I will look for additional races to get my competitive fix again.  Look forward to running in downtown Orlando again in December.  Hope to catch up with friends while in town and enjoy being back in a great city.

So, I am racing again and enjoying every moment!  Will not take racing for granted in this COVID-19 world.

What have you been able to do again safely in this COVID-19 world?  What are you looking forward to? 

Thanks!

Total miles in 2020:  982.77! 😊

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they have a second”.

(William James)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

(Image by Satheesh Sankaran from Pixabay)

2020 has been a tough year for us all!

The good folks from the Walk into the Future blog wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2021 New Year!

The challenges we endured in 2020 will lead to a stronger mentality as we get ready to have a FANTASTIC 2021!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.

(Proverbs 27:17)

I hope the Walk into the Future blog has sharpened you in 2020.  Looking forward to another great year enjoying life to the fullest and sharing my experiences, thoughts, and adventures with you in 2021!

Thanks for walking with me!  Irie!

Merry Christmas!

Calvin

Poetic Fridays

Step by Step

Steps in this journey

Mark the places I have been

Each one leads to the next goal

And brings into focus the dreams that I dream

Without these steps that I take

The reality of life will have to wait

Why put off what needs to be done

Take the next step in the journey

The life you want has only just begun

Walking and enjoying Mulligans Beach House (Vero Beach)

Mulligans

“An ocean breeze puts the mind at ease”.

(Anonymous)

My Walk into the Future allows me to continue to seek out new adventures and venues.  The COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully slowed down unnecessary travel and interactions, but the beach still has wide open spaces to explore. 

My relocation to the Treasure Coast provides access to some great beaches with amazing views to take in.  Several of my work colleagues provide me with places where the locals hang out and guided me towards Mulligan’s Beach House in Vero Beach. The biggest reason they wanted me to visit Mulligan’s is because it has a huge outdoor seating area that sits right on the world-famous Vero Beach.  I have visited Vero Beach (city) multiple times for the outlet mall and other retail shopping but have not been on the beach side of the city in years.

Turns out I visited Mulligan’s Beach House back in August 2014 prior to relocating from Oviedo, Florida to Tallahassee, Florida for my job at Florida State University.  Always heard how beautiful Vero Beach was so took a road trip back in 2014 to get a feel for the area and take in the beach scene.  Mulligan’s was close to the hotel I booked back in the day, so it was an easy choice for some great food.

Fast forward to 2020 and I immediately recognized I had been there before as soon as I hit the parking lot.  Seeing the familiar outside seating area and extra-large deck chair put a smile on my face.  I instantly reflected to my 2014 visit and the great memories made during my visit back in the day.  Also highlights the concept of small world because my original visit was made because I never thought I would make it back down to visit Vero Beach.  Now I live 20 minutes from the famous beach and local attractions on the board walk.

My most recent trip to Mulligan’s Beach House was made on a Sunday afternoon.  Figured this would be a good day and timeframe to visit to avoid the potential of large crowds.  The overcast weather also contributed to a smaller crowd when I got there.  The outside seating areas provided a great place to sit on the beach, people watch and listen to some good music.  I was able to find a nice corner spot and continue to physical distance.  Did not have a taste for anything specific but wanted to explore the menu a bit.  I am not an adventurous eater so settled on chicken wings and draft beer—which was two for one during happy hour.  The wings were surprisingly good and went great with the atmosphere of Mulligan’s.  A nice, chill place where the locals eat.

Mulligan’s has indoor seating at the bar and tables—some of the locals were comfortable seating inside but I do not know when/if I will be that comfortable again.  The governor just announced restaurants and bars are no longer restricted to 50% capacity so I am sure more people will be dining and drinking inside again without proper physical distancing.  Scary thought but eliminating these restrictions will expand our time trying to combat COVID-19 in the state of Florida.  Hate to see the gains we have made with COVID-19 get sidetracked as our governor tries to help political gains for the presidential election.

Mulligan’s Beach House is a fantastic place to visit if you are in Vero Beach.  My next venture in the Vero Beach area will be the Ocean Grille which is right across the parking lot.  I have heard great things about the food there and will get back soon to see what they have to offer.

Where have you always wanted to eat but have not made it yet?  How have you adjusted your dining plans in a COVID-19 world?

http://www.mulligansbeachhouse.com/vero-beach/

 “The waves of the sea help me get back to me”.

(Anonymous)

Mulligans2

Back to the Great Smoky Mountains

“Live a life of quiet inspiration.”

(William Britten)

Let us go ahead and admit it—2020 has been a tough year for us all!

COVID-19 has adjusted how and who we interact with these days.  Not a complaint but a simple fact that has become necessary in 2020.  A major adjustment for me has been the concept of travel. I got a kick out of labeling myself a running tourist, but this has been almost nonexistent in 2020.

I decided to make another trip to the Great Smoky Mountains for a quick and physical distanced getaway prior to Thanksgiving.  I enjoyed myself so much when I hiked in 2019 so wanted to come back to the mountains and find the peace and fresh air again.  Happy to report the Smoky Mountains, fresh air and peacefulness are still there—love the ability to get there and just escape for a bit.

My 2019 Smoky Mountains experience and talking with friends allowed me to do more research and plan out my hikes this year.  I just rode around and then stopped when I saw something interesting in 2019.  I felt like a seasoned hiker in 2020 and made plans for which trails I made a trek on and the order.  Felt like I had a better understanding of the hiking process this year and this allowed me to make all the hikes I planned with minimal issues.

Hiking the Smoky Mountains

The weather was fantastic again this year.  The morning temperatures started around 45 degrees and warmed up to the low 60s while I was in the mountains.  Perfect hiking weather for me—I layered up and was able to shed layers as the day got warmer.  I also carried a small backpack this year to carry my water bottles and put my extra layers in when needed.

Discussed trails in the Smoky Mountains with one of my friends who is an avid hiker.  She provided me with additional inspiration to get back out in nature and enjoy the process. 

Found the following site that describes trails by location, features, distance, and difficulty:

http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/location.htm

Used this information to make my hiking experience better this year. 😊

Started my 2020 hiking adventure on the Gatlinburg Trail which has a trail head right on the edge of downtown Gatlinburg.  I hiked the Gatlinburg Trail in 2019 but it was more of a warmup type hike for me this year.  Wanted to fully explore the Gatlinburg Trail and take it from the trailhead all the way to the end which is about 2 miles. 

The end of the Gatlinburg Trail runs directly into the Sugarland Welcome Center and the Sugarland Trails.  I hiked this area in 2019 but decided to adjust my route and the distance in 2020.  There were a lot more people out on this trail and my goal was to make my way to Cataract falls and get some good pictures.  Cataract falls is a major attraction in the Sugarland Trails area, so everyone wants to stop and get pictures there—only spent a few minutes at the falls before it was time to move on down the trail.  Bumped into a couple from Wisconsin who decided to ask me for trail directions—I helped them as much as possible but explained to them I live in Florida and I am just out walking in the woods.  Guess it is a good thing they felt comfortable enough to stop and ask me for direction.  People are friendly when in the mountains. 😊

Cataract falls

Decided to head further up into the mountains to tackle my next adventure.  Research shows the Clingman Dome as the highest elevation in the Smoky mountains.  I did not feel comfortable making the trek in 2019 but put it firmly on my 2020 adventure list.  Thought of it more as a challenge and wanted to get to the highest point in the Smokies to get some great shots. 

The drive up was nice—I wanted to stop and take pictures but decided to get up the mountain and take pictures on the way down.  The cloud cover or smoke in the mountains got thicker the higher up I drove.  That is when I realize how far up the mountain I had traveled because I was in the clouds on the ascent.  Amazing experience and one I will repeat as often as possible.  There is peace in the mountains!  The area attracted a large group of visitors, but everyone was friendly and gave each other space for pictures and the trek up to the Dome.  Please note, the trek up to Clingman’s Dome is paved but the incline is extreme, and the elevation is over 6,600 feet.  This was the first time I noticed hikers taking breaks on their way up the mountain.  I soon realized the altitude and incline would impact me as well.  I did not stop moving but my pace was a lot slower than it was when I started the climb up.  I also realized I left my water bottles back in my vehicle but did not stop climbing higher.

I will report the climb up to the Clingman Dome was well worth the pain!  The views were covered in smoke (clouds) but you could still see the peaks and valleys below.  The wind whipping the clouds around sounded like the clouds were singing—amazing being so high up in the Smoky mountains.  The Clingman Dome borders right on the Tennessee and North Carolina state lines.  I crossed over into North Carolina on this portion of my hike.

I took a quick detour on my descent from the Clingman Dome and ventured onto a portion of the Appalachian Trail.  Decided it was worth the trip since I was already high up in the mountains.  I did not go far on the Appalachian Trail because this portion was very rocky, and I wanted to save my legs for my next trail adventure I had mapped out.

https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm

My last trail was the Chimney Tops Trail, and it was well worth the hike.  The trail description identifies the difficulty as moderate which it may be, but this was my fourth trail of the day and my legs were screaming all the way up the trail.  I would recommend doing this trail first if you visit the Smoky mountains or do it on a separate day.  The hike up the mountain is very scenic and offers multiple opportunities to take some great pictures.  The terrain changes multiple times on the ascent but it is an exciting hike.  I had to stop and take breaks multiple times on the Chimney Tops Trail.  This was due to the fact I had been hiking multiple trails and probably should have deferred this trail for the next day after getting some rest.  Discovered a new mental toughness as I slowly made my way up to see the views I had read about. 

I almost gave up on making it to the top but a fellow hiker who was coming back down gave me a little extra inspiration to make it to the top.  He casually said to me, “You are only 4 minutes away from the top”.  I think we both knew he was lying to me to keep me going forward but surprisingly it worked because I put a smile on my face and kept going.  I made it to the top about 15 minutes after encountering my hiking friend and was extremely happy I did not give up.  The views and the feeling of accomplishment were well worth the leg pains I endured to make it up the Chimney Tops Trail.  Mind over matter came into play while making this hike and I am happy I made it to the top.  We can accomplish anything we put effort into, and the Chimney Tops Trail become my Mount Everest! Pun intended! 😊

http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/chimney.htm

The descent down from Chimney Tops was just as beautiful as going up.  My legs were in better shape to walk down the mountain after I took about 30 minutes to just sit still at the top and admire the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.  I recommend you visit it if you have not been there because of the peacefulness the mountains bring.  The hikes are a great distraction and provides an opportunity to get out and get some exercise at the same time. 

Skybridge

Decided not to do the Gatlinburg Skybridge this year because the lines were too long, and people were not practicing physical distancing while standing in line.  I will try the Skybridge again on my next adventure back into the mountains.

https://www.gatlinburgskylift.com/skybridge

Moonshine tasting

Yes, I made it back to the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery to get more moonshine.  They have added a few new flavors this year and I got a chance to taste them all.  Some I liked and others were not that great—not a huge fan of the flavored moonshine (Sour Apple, etc.).  I was shocked they were out of my favorite moonshine, Blue Flame which is 128 proof.  They replaced it with a 10th Anniversary edition which is the Ole Smoky Moonshine 153.  Yes, that is 153 proof moonshine!  It has a kick to it, but I played it safe and got my tried and true White Lightning which is ONLY 100 proof. 😊 Will make the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery a regular stop each time I am back in Gatlinburg.

https://olesmoky.com/collections/moonshine

Got all of this done the weekend before Thanksgiving and still was able to enjoy time with my family as we gave thanks for 2020.  It has been a tough year but there are still things to be thankful for.

Thanks to you for reading my words and following my adventures!  Here is to a great end of the 2020 year and a better 2021—let’s make it happen!

Irie!

Poetic Friday

(Image by GieziUzziel from Pixabay)

Open your eyes 

Open your eyes

Tell me what you see

Do the dreams you dream about still look good to you?

Can you reach the heights of greatness predetermined for you?

Nothing is promised in this world

You have got to make your own way

To ensure the promises of life

Get started today

Open your eyes to the life opportunities around

Set your goals and move forward

Stop hiding behind closed eyelids

Wake up and open your eyes

To the revolving world around

Walking and enjoying the Square Grouper (Ft. Pierce)

Square Grouper1

“It is life, I think, to watch the water.  A man can learn so many things”.

(Nicholas Sparks)

My Walk into the Future continues to look more like My Walk with COVID-19.

That would not be as catchy of a blog title so will stick with Walk into the Future! 😊  Again, the pandemic has slowed down the adventures but has not completely shut them off.  I remain careful when I venture out and take precautions to ensure I am not exposing myself to undue risks.

Most of my adventures center around the beach and shopping excursions.  These have proved to be safe and gets me out of the house for fresh air.  Will continue to find new beaches to sit on and enjoy the views on the Treasure Coast.  Still do not know why it is called the Treasure Coast, guess that will have to be a future blog article when I find out.

A favorite spot for the locals is Square Grouper.  Thought it was a clever name when I first heard it but Googled the definition to make sure I understood how the place got the name.  Turns out it is a clever hook and attracts a lot of people based on the name and meaning.  Yes, you should Google it to understand what it means. LOL.

My attraction to Square Grouper is it is close to Jetty Park and sits right on the Fort Pierce Inlet.  The location is at the mouth of the inlet before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a great location to catch sunsets that seem to plunge directly into the inlet.  The Square Grouper is 95% an outdoor venue with two bars, a tiki hut stage, and a large outdoor seating area.  The plastic chairs are not comfortable but serve a purpose as you can move them around as needed.

Square Grouper2

The outdoor venue has been great to practice physical distancing while also enjoying some live music.  Most of the bands are local and only play for two hours—cannot say the bands have been memorable but they have been good enough to make a few people get up and dance.  There has never been a large crowd when I visited but everyone seems to enjoy the atmosphere.  I spoke with one of the bartenders and he let me know they typically got around 600 people nightly before COVID-19 impacted the world.  The crowds are a lot less than that now—the most I have seen there is around 50 people spread out around the outdoor seating areas.  A few brave folks will sit at the bar but not very many.  Face masks are still required to enter but do not know how long that will last since the governor has relaxed statewide restrictions.

A surprising aspect of visiting the Square Grouper is the food.  Typical bar staples but they use fresh ingredients and fantastic seasonings.  I have tried multiple items on the menu and have not been disappointed yet.  I have been a bit adventurous and explored menu items I would not normally get. Both bars are fully stocked but the signature drink is the Rum Runner.  Never had one prior to my visit to Square Grouper but now it is my go-to drink when I am there—try it frozen if you make it there.

Hoping the band lineup starts to improve since I enjoy live music.  Will continue to leverage the Square Grouper as part of my Walk into the Future.

https://squaregrouper.net/

What locations are on your adventure list?  What makes it a place you want to visit?  Thanks!

“On the beach, you can live in bliss”.

(Dennis Wilson)