2022 Orlando Track Shack Winter Park 10k

WP 10k 1

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”.

(Fred DeVito)

Dictionary.com defines aggressive as making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive.

You could characterize my 2022 running schedule as aggressive.  I decided to test myself and get back to racing like how I ran prior to COVID-19.  My 2019 training was focused on getting faster each time I toed the line and resulted in my fastest time at the 2019 OUC Half Marathon in Orlando (2:05:51).  I was able to maintain my race form over the Christmas break and ran my second faster time at the 2020 New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon in February 2020.  Races and the country came to a standstill in April 2020 due to the pandemic.

Fast forward to 2022 and I made a concerted effort to find more races and stay active with my race schedule.  I identified 9 half marathons I wanted to run throughout the year and targeted races to help with my quest to go faster.  I don’t run a lot of 5ks but added a challenging one to my race calendar to help me push myself. 

My most aggressive move for 2022 was to tackle the Winter Park 10k less than a week after running the Treasure Coast Half Marathon.  This concept made a lot of sense when I signed up but proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought.

The goal for the Winter Park 10k was to set another 10k Personal Record (PR) since I was able to lower my PR in this same race in 2021.  I did not think the limited time between races would impact me so toed the line with the confidence of someone who would be able to dictate pace and adjust when needed.

Turns out, this person did not exist for the Winter Park 10k. LOL.

The weather forecast in the Orlando area called for severe weather and it was hot, humid, and overcast as race time drew closer.  A lot of runners were checking the weather apps to determine how much time we had before the skies opened and we were going to get wet.

Luckily, the rain held off long enough for us to run the 10k and get some time to spend in the race village before getting soaked.  FYI—this was unusual weather for Orlando in March—temperatures are normally cooler and no threats of rain.

Track Shack does not use corral starts for the smaller races so everyone can line up as close to the start line as they want.  This brings runners with different race expectations together and creates a unique environment where you must be careful not to run over or bump into people. 

The first mile of this race is always interesting since you have elite athletes mixed in with weekend warriors.  I like to hang back during the first mile to avoid collisions and the possibility of tripping while trying to get my pace up.

I entered the race with a goal to run sub 55 minutes and I got off to a better-than-expected start in Mile 1 (9:00), Mile 2 (9:14), Mile 3 (9:57).  I was happy with this pace considering the amount of bumping we had just to clear people during the first mile of the race.  I did not realize how much I slowed down during Mile 3 while running the race but felt myself slowing down.  I chalked it up to the energy expended during Mile 1 and figured I would level my pace out and kick it into gear to move faster.  Well, I kicked it in gear, but it appears the gear kicked me back.  😊

Have you ever pressed your gas pedal in your vehicle, and nothing happens?  That’s exactly what happened to me during this race.  I put the pedal down ‘in my mind’ but my body did not react in the way I wanted it to.  Mile 4 (10:09), Mile 5 (10:46), Mile 6 (11:00) did not go as planned, I had no extra gear or legs to carry me much faster than what I just threw down.  I was able to muster up a kick to finish the race that allowed me to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.  The crowd along Park Avenue was great as they cheered for all runners—I appreciate them being out so early to cheer for strangers.  I finished in 1:02:17 which is a 10:01 per mile pace.

I pouted about my results for about 3 minutes after the race.  I spoke with several elite runners who described their race like what I just experienced.  The heat and humidity got to them too so hearing that made me fell a lot better about my race.  Several mentioned they thought about quitting during the race because the conditions were so tough.  It’s funny how hearing about the misery other runners felt made me feel good about myself again. 😊  We are a funny group of people.

I originally thought running a 10k less than a week after a half marathon may have been the reason, I did not have an extra gear.  It may have been a factor, but the heat and humidity also contributed to my results.  I plan to space my races out a bit more but will continue to be aggressive with my selection.

Currently prepping for the 2022 Nashville Rock N Roll (April) and Atlantic City Rock N Roll (May) Half Marathons.  No races scheduled for the summer.  I start the new racing season in October with the 2022 Clearwater Rock N Roll Half Marathon and a couple local races throughout the fall.  The running tourist will stay active with races if it remains safe to travel.

Being aggressive is not a bad thing! 😊

Irie!

“Running releases more than just sweat”.

(run-for-good.com)

2022 Treasure Coast Half Marathon

TCHM1

“Running a marathon takes balls, other sports just play with them”.

(Anonymous)

I created an aggressive (for me) 2022 running schedule to make up for lost races in 2020 and 2021.  Not trying to recapture those miles but wanted to get back to running races in multiple locations and get this running tourist thing going again.

Targeted a monthly half marathon for the first 5 months of 2022 with the intent to get better mentally and physically with each passing race.  The full goal is to run as fast as possible when I get to Atlantic City for the 2022 Atlantic City Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  I have never been to Atlantic City and thought it would be a great place to visit, run and take a shot at a personal record.  I still need to put in the training work for the PR to occur but the flat course there is enticing for me.  A bonus is the opportunity to see my friend, Lauren Apgar while in town. 😊

The 2022 Treasure Coast Half Marathon is a local race for me in Stuart, Florida.  The race location is only a quick 30-minute drive down the Florida Turnpike and I thought this would be a great race to test myself and see a new city in the process.

The EXPO was held in a local middle school gymnasium and had several interesting vendors selling gear.  My focus for the EXPO was to pick up my race packet and then get a sneak peek at the course I would be running the following day.  Got my customary photo op at the EXPO and tried a few of the energy drinks the vendors made available to runners.  Did not spend a lot of time at the EXPO since I was interested in getting a view of the bridge, I would have to cross during the half marathon.  There are multiple bridges in Stuart, but I was happy to discover the bridge half marathoners had to cross was not one of the steep one.  Left with the knowledge this bridge crossing and location would not be as diabolical as what I experienced during the 2022 Florida Marathon in Melbourne.

Went to bed early with the knowledge I would face a challenging course but one that was manageable with good effort.

Drove back to Stuart at 5 am the next morning to ensure I got parking and could warm up before the 6:15 am race start time.  There was plenty of parking near the start/finish line and I made my way over to the race village to get prepared for the race.  Got some stretching in and made one last bathroom stop before heading to the start line.

This was not a large race so there were no corral assignments for the runners.  I settled into the middle of the half marathon pack to ensure there was separation between myself and the other runners.

We were still bunched tight, so I decided to hold back a bit, so I did not get caught up in traffic and possibly bump into anyone. 

Surprisingly, I clocked 9:18 for Mile 1 and felt good doing it considering the amount of traffic I had to avoid.  Miles 1 – 4 all were run with a 9 out front (9:18, 9:38, 9:39, 9:45).  Mile 5 is where we crossed over the bridge for the first time, and I still clocked a 10:52 which is not bad for me with a bridge ascent.  Miles 5 – 8 all were run with a 10 out front (10:52, 10:46, 10:37, 10:41).

The temperature at race time was 74 degrees and it got progressively warmer as the race unfolded.  What’s my point?  Happy you asked!

My race pace, strategy, and energy all took a hit once the temperatures climbed into the mid-80s.  You could say I fell off a cliff or hit the wall after Mile 8.  You pick the race metaphor and it applied after Mile 8. 

Most of the course was run in direct sunlight and the higher the temperatures got the more the sun beamed down.  I am happy with my efforts during the latter part of the race because I was able to bear down and keep moving forward.  My pace slowed but I was making positive progress towards the finish line and found an extra gear to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.  This was not my fastest half marathon but that was not the point of signing up for this race.  My January, February, and March races are laying the foundation for my April and May races.  I have a hard time making myself run fast on my solo training runs so decided to leverage races as my long runs and help me get faster in the process. 

My next race is the Winter Park 10k on March 12, 2022.  I set a 10k PR last year and look to repeat this feat in 2022.  The speed I generate in the 10k will allow me to gauge my fitness levels for the 2022 Nashville Rock N Roll Half Marathon in April and the 2022 Atlantic City Rock N Roll Half Marathon in May.  I will use the summer months to build mental and physical fitness to launch into the next running season in October.

Still got goals and races to conquer!

What goals do you have to accomplish in 2022?

“My doctor told me that running could add years to my life. I think he was right. I feel ten years older already”.

(Milton Berle)

2022 Florida Half Marathon

“Please ignore the faces I make while running”.

(Anonymous)

IMG_20220212_201240_884

Diabolical:  Outrageously wicked (Dictionary.com).

Never thought I would describe a race as diabolical but that’s what I am going to do.  I know there are other meanings for diabolical, but I will stick with outrageously wicked.

The Florida Marathon/Half Marathon is a fine race that is put on by a fantastic run organization.  My use of the word diabolical is more to describe the course and how the runners must finish both races.

Yes, this was a half marathon, so I was ready to put in my 13.1 miles of work in for the day.  I was happy with my 2022 Vero Beach Half Marathon results in January and wanted to translate that effort into the 2022 Florida Half Marathon in Melbourne.

Let’s jump ahead a bit—there was no translation from the Vero Beach race to the Melbourne race.  Happy with my effort but did not get close to matching or exceeding my January race time during this race.  More on that later. 😊

Signed up for this race to ensure I run monthly half marathons January through May.  Wanted to test myself by adding more races to my schedule in 2022 and building a run base that will allow me to get faster with each race—in theory

Melbourne is one of my favorite places to visit because of the great beaches and laid-back vibe of the people.  This race provides the best of my worlds—beaches and running.  This was my first race in Melbourne, so I was excited to run the city as a running tourist

Drove up on Saturday morning since this race had a Sunday morning start.  I wanted to get in town early enough to pick up my race packet and continue to carb load throughout the day.  My ultimate motive was to get into town early enough so I could go sit on the beach at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a bit.  I always maximize beach time when I can. 😊

The EXPO was held in the Front Street Park Civic Center.  This sounds like a huge place, but it is the size of a regular house, and it is right on the river side in downtown Melbourne.  Parking was quick and easy, so made my way into the Civic Center to get my race packet and see what the vendors had to offer.

There were only a handful of runners in the Civic Center when I arrived so went right to the front of the line to get my race bib (#715) and packet.  Grabbed a fellow runner to take my picture in front of the step and repeat race display which is a tradition for me.  Walked around a bit to see the vendors but did not buy anything while at the EXPO.

Went outside and took a few pictures along the river and got a great shot of one of the bridges we would have to cross during the race.  The bridge incline should have been a precursor of what was to come.

Left the Civic Center and checked into my hotel.  Wanted to drop off my bags and get a good feel for how close the hotel was to the race start line.  Made my way to the Crowne Plaza to get lunch and continue my carb loading process.  The weather was great on Saturday and provided a perfect backdrop to relax on the beach and listen to the band playing on the deck.  Enjoyed a turkey club sandwich, fries, and Bud Light at the Crowne Plaza.  They have an extensive menu, but I stay conservative the day before a race to eliminate potential stomach issues during the race—lesson learned from a past race.  Sat on the beach for a bit and enjoyed the views before heading out.

Left the Crowne Plaza and made my way to Patrick Space Force Base (PSFB) for a quick shopping trip.  Wanted to see if they had the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22s to replace my GTS 21s.  They had the 22s but not in my size so walked around and looked at stuff I didn’t need—never a wasted trip since I get to spend time around military people again—love being back on-base.

Made my way to the Olive Garden to finish my carb loading for the day and get to bed early.  The restaurant was crowded so made my way to the bar and found a seat there.  I am basic when carb loading so went with the Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, lots of bread sticks and Bud Light.  Relaxed back at the hotel before an early bedtime so I could get my rest and get up early to tackle the half marathon.

Remember the term diabolical from earlier?  Well, let jump into that a bit more now. 😊

Woke up at 4:45 am to prepare my mind and body for the 13.1 miles I needed to cover at 6:30 am.  I do some stretching and mental preparation during this timeframe before putting on my equipment (KT tape, Salonpas patches and BioFreeze) and getting dressed.  My run outfit was conservative for me so got dressed after putting on my layers of equipment.

Luckily, I grabbed one of my running jackets before leaving the hotel because it was already raining.  The weather forecast ‘mentioned’ rain the day before, but this was just a steady flow, and it was not cold.  I thought the rain would be around for a little bit but was wrong on my forecasting skills.

Made my way downtown towards the race starting point and arrive about 10 minutes after leaving the hotel.  Researched places to park the night before and found a spot about 100 yards from the race start line.  There was still a light rain coming down at this point, but it got heavier the closer we got to race time.  The race announcer came on the loudspeaker and let us know the race was delayed due to weather—the on-course police support was still getting setup because of the rain.  I sat in my vehicle to avoid standing around in the rain without knowing the exact time we would start the race.  The delay lasted for only 15 minutes, but most runners did not get a chance for a normal warmup.

The marathon runners were allowed to start 10 minutes before the half marathoners.  I did not leave my vehicle until the announcer gave us a 5-minute warning for our race to start.  Made my way to the bathroom and then got a quick stretch in before heading to the start line.

IMG_20220213_133315_491

Yes, it was still raining, and the streets were wet!  We finally got started at 6:50 am

I decided to go out very controlled since the streets were wet and did not want to injure myself or anyone else.  I did not have a specific finish time in mind with the wet conditions—wanted to enjoy the course (LOL) and the experience.

Miles 1 – 3 were crowded as runners were very cautious trying to avoid slipping and bringing others down with them.  My first mile was a comfortable 9:19 which was probably too fast for the conditions and what was to come.  Miles 2 and 3 were like my Mile 1 pace but still felt comfortable.  A cool experience during this portion of the race was we got a chance to see dolphins swimming in the river.  Yes, runners enjoy the scenery during races. 😊

Slowed my pace a bit during Miles 4 and 5 because I knew the course got a bit tougher at the 6-mile point.  The FIRST bridge crossing starts at Mile 6 and goes up until you hit the Mile 7 marker.  Bridge running is tough in normal conditions but gets a lot tougher in the rain.  I did not want to lose too much time so gritted out the incline and then made-up time on the bridge decline.  Felt great through Mile 8 but hit a wall right at the Mile 9 marker.  This may have happened because my warmup routine was impacted due to rain or I went too fast on the bridge.  Either way, my legs were on fire and yes, it was still raining on us.

Decided at this point to just finish the race.  No need to try to set a Personal Record (PR) since my legs were not moving that fast anyway.

Miles 9 through 11 were consistently slow for me but I keep moving forward.  Started feeling good about myself again at this point but then the second bridge crossing was looming.  So, my question is:  who puts another bridge crossing at the 11-mile point of a half marathon?  A diabolical person, that’s who.

Yep, had to dig down to get up and over another bridge to finish this @#$% race!  I made it slowly up to the 12-mile marker and then found some level of courage to go faster on the decline.  I did not want to limp across the finish line but that is how I felt.  I put on my best I’m not in pain face and found a kick to get me across the finish line.  My official time was:  2:17:52 which was 6 minutes slower than Vero Beach.  I’ll take it with the conditions and bridge placement.

Got my medal, a couple beers and donuts and found a place to sit down to enjoy my prizes.  It was still raining so got my rain jacket out of my vehicle so I could sit and get some ice on my quads.  Talked with my fellow runners and we all experienced the course in a similar way.  Happy to finish but beat up by the conditions and the course.  Would love to meet the person who thought it was a good idea to cross a bridge after Mile 11. 😊

As much as I’m complaining, I will probably run this race again next year.  Hopefully, we will have better weather and I know the course now and can pace myself for a better finish.  We will see!

Irie!

“I run because punching people is frown upon”.

(Anonymous)

2022 Vero Beach Half Marathon

Vero Beach

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough”.

(Og Mandino)

I ran the 2022 Vero Beach Half Marathon for the first time and happy to report this was my best tactical race ever.

I completed the race in 2:11:05 (two hours, eleven minutes, and 5 seconds) which is 7 minutes faster than my 2021 OUC Half Marathon time in December.  It is not my fastest time, but I am extremely happy with my ability to run faster and maintain a consistent pace during this race.

My prerace goal was to run faster than I did in Orlando and I felt good throughout the race.  I consider this my best tactical race because I hit every marker I set out for during each phase of the race.

I am not familiar with Vero Beach so had no idea what type of course I would experience.  I looked at the course map online, but this provided no intel on elevation or type of environment I would have to run through.

The one aspect I came into the race dreading was the fact all runners would have to tackle an over and back bridge crossing within the first 5 miles of the race.  My experience with bridges during a race have never been that great so I viewed the second crossing of the bridge as something that would be unpleasant.  This was my mental picture even before I toed the line to start the race, luckily, I did not let my preconceived ideas get in the way of an opportunity to run this race and overcome my fear of bridge running.

The day started with temperatures in the low 50s which is deathly cold for most Floridians.  😊

I left the house dressed in layers to keep me warm prior to race time.  This was not a repeat of my time in Savannah since there was no sign of rain or bad weather, just cold temperatures which I viewed as a positive since I did not have to fight the Florida humidity.  Excited with the possibility of being able to breath throughout the race.

I arrived at River Side Park in Vero Beach at 6 am for the 6:45 am start time.  Again, I was not familiar with this area so made sure I got there early enough to warm up, stretch and get acclimated to the weather.  Most of the runners were dressed in hoodies and long pants but I decided to run in my normal gear:  running tank top, shorts, and compression sleeves.  Figured I would warm up once I got into full race pace and I did.

I was assigned to Corral C for the race start and I made my way into the correct spot to mentally prepare for the 13.1 miles that were in my immediate future.

The race started without much of a hassle as there were 400+ runners which is pretty small compared to the Rock N Roll races I normally run.  Decided to not go out too fast and ease my way into a comfortable pace.  There were a few fast runners who decided to set a faster pace and it was great watching them head out towards the first bridge crossing.

I settled into a pace that would keep me competitive but not too fast.  The first bridge crossing started at the .50 (half mile) point and the course was up a steep bridge for the next half mile.  I was surprised to see so many folks pushing the pace at this point considering we still needed to make it to the top.  I was comfortable with my pace and did not worry about the other runners.  I picked up my pace once I made it to the top of the bridge and started to lock into my race.

My Mile 1 was run at a 9:20 pace and this was with the bridge incline.  I maintained a 9:20 pace throughout the first 4 miles of the race and slowed to a 10:18 pace for Mile 5 which included my second crossing of the same bridge.  I am proud of myself for this portion of the race because I contemplated walking the second bridge ascent.  Decided to take a measured pace to get back over the bridge and then run faster on the descent.

Miles 6 – 10 were run at a 9:35 pace and I was able to manage my lactic acid threshold by shortening my strides to eliminate overextending myself.  This was a new approach for me since I normally try to power through but discovered a new way to manage my race form and control the pain in my legs.

Miles 11 – 13.1 were run at a 9:52 pace which is good for me closing out a race.  My 9:47 pace for Mile 13 was my celebration as I decided to make a huge kick to finish the race strong.  I wanted to come across the finish line fast and with a smile on my face.  Mission accomplished.

The secret weapon during this race was the song Motivation by T.I.  I put this song on repeat at the 11-mile marker and it got me across the finish line with a big smile on my face.  This song normally provides a boost for me while training, so I leveraged this same boost during the half marathon.

There were only 4 water stops on this course so had to ensure I got Gatorade and water at each one of them.  I doubled up a few times to help keep me fueled and moving forward.

The only aspect of this race I did not enjoy was traffic was not eliminated from the course.  We had volunteers and police available on the course, but cars were allowed to turn in front of runners which normally does not happen with larger races.  I will have to assess this fact when it comes time to register for the 2023 Vero Beach Half Marathon.

Made my way over to Mulligan’s on the beach for a very large breakfast and then a Bud Light to celebrate my race.  Yes, I had a Bud Light at 9:30 am—it was fantastic!  😊

Great way to start a day and continue to run into the future!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars”.

(Kahlil Gibran)

Running into 2022

Bridge Buster 5k

“I run so my goals in life will continue to get bigger instead of my belly”.

(teepublic.com)

Started my 2022 running program with the Bridge Buster 5k in Fort Pierce, Florida.

I ran this same 5k back in 2021 and decided it would be a great way to jump start my 2022 running odyssey and get me back to competing with other runners.

My 2022 run goals are slightly different from what I established for 2021.  The 2021 goal was to get in 1,110 training/running miles for the year.  I was able to exceed this goal but felt like I was always chasing the number.  Yes, I put the work in to get to that number but the closer I got to 1,110 miles the more I started pressing to ensure I got there.  Seems counterintuitive but chasing the number was not as fun as just going out to run.

My written 2022 run goal is simply to ensure I get in 3 quality runs each week.  I created an aggressive race calendar for 2022 by registering for 8 races on December 30, 2021, with an eye towards additional races.  The race dates range from January 8 to May 14 to go along with the 2022 Clearwater Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  Plan to add September, November, and December races to the schedule to provide a full year of races.  Still contemplating a full marathon this year but that will happen in the fall if I decide it is time to take on that challenge.

The Bridge Buster 5k is a smaller race but this was the 39th running of the race.  The race proceeds go to local educational programs so this was a great way to give back to the Fort Pierce community.

I did not have to get up super early since this was a hometown race and I live about 10 minutes away from the start/finish line.  I got up with plenty of time to prep with beet juice, drink water and get coffee to take on my drive over to the race starting point.  I added a new wrinkle to my preparation by leveraging a 10-minute yoga stretching YouTube session by Adrienne Mishler.  I discovered her free yoga classes through the Runner’s World magazine.  The session was short but very effective to get me ready to run my race.

Arrived at packet pickup to get my race bib, t-shirt, and instructions for the 5k.  Again, this is a small race, so packet pickup took a full 10-minutes start to finish.  Went back to my vehicle to attach my bib and complete my last-minute stretching routine.

Toed the line towards the middle of the start corral to ensure I did not go out to fast and to allow me to avoid runners who may not know how to control their initial race pace.  The start line can be dangerous when trying to avoid other runners—crashes do occur.

I did not have a specific finish time in mind when the race started—always like to get a feel for the course and then see how much I can push myself towards the start line.  This was the first race of the 2022 season so wanted to gauge my fitness levels during this race to see how much training work I need to put in.

Happy to report, I am not too far off with my fitness, and this should be a great running season. 😊

I covered the 5k distance in 28:36 which averages out to 9:12 per mile.  My splits were:  Mile 1 (8:38) / Mile 2 (9:37) / Mile 3 (9:29) / Mile .1 (.52). 

Mile 1 is completely flat as we made our way through downtown Fort Pierce.  This may be my favorite portion of this race because it is flat and there are no bridges in sight.  The Mile 1 marker sits at the beginning of the Seaway Drive Bridge.  The next half mile of the race is on an incline as we made our way over the bridge towards Hutchinson Island.  This half mile portion of the race is where most runners must decide how they want to complete the race.  I decided to slow my pace at this point to ensure I had enough gas in the tank to finish as strong as I wanted.  The bridge descent was welcomed by all runners as we made up time coming down off the bridge and continued towards Hutchinson Island and the turnaround point.

The course flattens once off the bridge, and we made our way to the turnaround point.  The turnaround was just short of the 2-mile point of the race, and I tried to make up some time here knowing the bridge was looming in the distance.  Yes, we had to get back over the same bridge to complete this 5k.  Therefore, the race is called the Bridge Buster 5K. 😊

The second bridge crossing was just as taxing as the first portion, but runners were spaced out more coming back towards downtown Fort Pierce.  I pressed myself to not give up too much time running up the bridge and pressed the gas coming down the other side for the descent.  I had to crank my music on this portion to keep me churning towards the finish line.

I picked off a few runners with my finishing kick and crossed the line with a smile on my face.  Turns out I finish second in my age group but did not hang around for the awards ceremony.

Why not you ask?  I have a lot of races scheduled for 2022 and leveraged the cool morning to get a 5-mile training run in.  Yes, I went for a 5-mile training run after I completed the Bridge Buster 5K.

Got my 5-miles in on Ocean Drive which is one of my normal routes close to the beach.  This allowed me to train and then get a few minutes to sit on the beach for a bit.

Bridge Buster 5k b

Not a bad way to start my 2022 running program. 😊

What are you excited for in 2022?

Irie!

“Running keeps me busy until it’ acceptable to drink wine”.

(Etsy.com)

2021 OUC Half Marathon

OUC 1

Running Friend (n):  One who listens, does not judge, and somehow makes two hours of running fun.

(Pinterest)

Yes, I made the trek over to run the Orlando Hometown Half Marathon again this year.  This is becoming my favorite half marathon due to the course, weather, proximity, and the great Track Shack staff.

The is the 8th time for me running this half marathon and it may have been the most enjoyable.  I signed up for the race in December 2020 with the intent to target a Personal Record (PR) during the event.  I made an adjustment to my mindset during packet pickup to just enjoy the course, the spectators and, great December weather in Orlando.

I still wanted to beat my 2020 time but did not overemphasize the concept of a time-based goal.  My training has been good but nothing like the miles or training sessions I put in in 2019.  The hills in Tallahassee helped prepare me for races so I knew where my conditioning was before every race.  Targeted race times were easier to predict due to hill training.

I toed the start line this year with the intent to get/stay close to a pace so I would complete the half marathon in 2:15 (two hours and 15 minutes).  This would be ten minutes slower than my PR but obtainable without stressing my body too much just to hit a number.  This is personal growth for me because I normally beat myself up if I do not hit a certain number.  Decided to listen to my body and have fun since that is what this is all about.

I crossed the finish line this year in a time of 2:18:58 (two hours, 18 minutes, and 58 seconds).  Close but extremely happy with this time.  Why you ask?

Great question! 😊

I knew my tree branch, Daniel Botero was signed up for the race and we texted to make sure we connected prior to the race start.  Always great seeing my tree branches and this was the first time Daniel and I have seen each other in-person since February 2020.  While catching up and stretching Daniel asked me what my targeted time was for the race.  I gave him 2:15 for my targeted time and he asked if he could tag along. 

OUC 2

Looking at past articles on my training program and race schedules highlight I run alone.  This is mostly by choice but also because not many people in my Fort Pierce circle exercise or run.  I happily accepted Daniel’s request to run with me and embraced having a tree branch running with me.  I was surprised when he identified he would try to keep up with me—made me laugh a bit too since I am a lot older than him.

We agreed to run together until it was no longer practical.  Happy to report I got to run the first 5 miles of the half marathon with Daniel.  We kept a decent pace of 9:30 per minute over this distance before going our separate race strategies.

I traditionally run 8 smaller races within the half marathon.  I find it easier mentally and physically to leverage this approach and it has helped me gets faster.

Example:  The water stops are approximately 1.8 miles apart for most half marathons.

I run to each water stop and then walk through the area to drink water and Gatorade.  Please note, I do not stop moving forward but take about a 20 – 30 second walk break to replenish my fluids.  I take off running to the next water stop after getting my water and Gatorade.  This concept creates 8 smaller races and helps me stay strong throughout the half marathon.

There are other running strategies for success, but this works well for me.

My pace stayed consistent for the first 8 miles, but I began to slow a bit when the lactic acid in my legs started to get away from me.  I incorporated beet and tart cherry juice into my diet to help with the lactic acid buildup but there are times when it just jumps up and grabs you by the quads.  This was one of those times!

I carry nutrition gels in my running belt and started taking them at the 8-mile mark.  The gels help get more carbs into my system and helps with the leg pain.  Yes, I spend money, time and, effort to put myself in pain—runners are a unique breed.

A new adventure for this race is I ran with the 2:15 pace group for a good portion after mile 8.  The pacer was an experienced marathoner and paces half marathons for fun—again, we are a unique breed. 😊

I was happy to have company again and stayed with the group until my quads told me to slow down—I did!  My goal at this point was to stay ahead of the 2:20 pace group that was further behind me—I refused to let them catch up with me.  I stayed between both pace groups as I made my way back downtown Orlando.  The crowds were huge at this portion of the course and having people cheer for me gave me the extra inspiration to finish strong.

Yes, I was able to fake wellness and sprint across the finish line with a smile on my face.  This was a forced smile but smile I did.  Looked down at my watch and was happy with my effort and time for the day. 

Track Shack ran a 3-year series and every runner that completed the OUC Half Marathon in 2019, 2020 and 2021 got an extra medal to go along with the normal swag.  I did not realize I was in this elite group but happily accepted my additional bling.

OUC 4

Made my way to the runner’s village to get some refreshments and recover.  I wanted to stick around to cheer Daniel across the line and make sure he was okay.  He came across the finish line in good shape and I directed him to the medical tent to get some ice on his legs.  I always get ice to begin the recovery process and it helps with pain and inflammation caused by a 13.1-mile race.

Got a couple beers to replenish carbs and Daniel and I parted ways with a new memory for our growing friendship.  Hope to run with him again in 2022!

My plan is to run the OUC Half Marathon again in 2022.  Who is going to join me?

Irie!

OUC 3

Smoky Mountains 2021

Gatlinburg1

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? 😊

Yes, I made my annual pilgrimage back to the Smoky Mountains right before Thanksgiving.  This was my third year in a row Walking into the Future with the Tennessee mountains as my backdrop.  I plan to continue this tradition as long as possible to live life on my terms.  Never envisioned the Smoky Mountains being part of my life journey but happy I found the mountains for the peace and joy I feel there.

My drive up this year was uneventful.  Decided to bypass all the outlet malls except one as I made my way north.  It took me an extra two hours to drive up in 2020 because there were so many outlet malls on the way.  My friends know I love outlet malls so for me to bypass several is a major growth step for me.  I made a quick outlet mall stop in Georgia and got some new running gear for my 2022 races—always looking for running gear.

My drive up this year was pleasant—not much traffic to fight through.  I arrived in Gatlinburg early in the evening on a Saturday night and decided to venture out and see some familiar sights. 

The Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery is always on my list of places to visit while in Gatlinburg.  Decided to get my moonshine tasting in early and figured the moonshine would help me warm up since the temperature was 25 degrees when I arrived in Tennessee.  Happy to report the folks at the Ole Smokey distillery were still conducting tasting tours.  They added a bunch of new flavors to the rotation this year.  My goal for visiting this year was to restock with Blue Flame moonshine which is 123-proof alcohol.  They did not have Blue Flame in 2020 because they were highlighting a special 150-proof blend.  I was able to get my preferred Blue Flame this year.  Note:  most of the other blends are available in Publix, Walmart and Winn-Dixie liquor stores and the prices are less than what I would pay at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Moonshine

A new adventure for me in Gatlinburg was a visit to the Ole Smokey Whiskey Distillery.  I have walked past this store multiple times but never ventured in since my focus was always on moonshine.  They have a similar tasting tour in this distillery as well.  Pay $5 dollars to get a taste of each whiskey flavor and get a $5 credit towards your purchase.  Not a bad deal!  The whiskey flavors were all good, but I decided to get a Strawberry/Lemonade blend which the folks in the store identified would go great with Publix lemonade.  I have tried it as suggested and it is good!  Not a bad first day back in the Smoky mountains.

I mapped out several hikes for Day 2.  Decided to warm up with the Gatlinburg trail again to get myself moving and prep for the bigger trails I wanted to tackle on this trip.  The Gatlinburg trail is scenic and allows hikers an excellent way to explore the Smoky mountains without taking too much energy.  There are a few spots with elevation, but the trail allows hikers to experience the best of the mountains.  Took this trail out to the Sugarland area before turning around and retracing my steps back to the trail head on the outskirts of Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg2

This was my warmup for the real reason I was back in the Smoky mountains—the Chimney Top trail. 

This trail beat me down in 2020 and I decided to tackle it again earlier this time.  I did not want to have tired legs as I made my way up to the top this year.  Happy to report I was able to handle Chimney Top this year without having to stop as much as I did last year. 

This trail has it all—elevation, tough terrain, rocks, water, and amazing views once you make it to the top.  I was able to help other hikers keep going this year by providing them with the encouragement I needed last year.  It was a great experience when several hikers finally made it to the top and thanked me for not letting them give up before making it to the top.  Turns out there were a lot of people on the top this year enjoying the views.  This sounds like a great thing, but I did not hike to the top of a trail in the Smoky mountains to have a bunch of folks around me talking about work.  Decided to make my way back down the trail and discover other areas of the mountains.

I left the Chimney Top area and drove further up into the mountains looking for adventures.  The colors in the mountains this year were fantastic.  Made multiple stops so I could capture the views and colors in pictures.  The smoke (clouds) on the mountains made for some great pictures.  A new aspect to my Smoky Mountain adventures in 2021 was the fact there were black bears out.  Yes, black bears are normally hibernating in November but for some reason they were out and about this year. 

The first one I saw was in a tree as I was driving down the mountain heading back to Gatlinburg.  I could not figure out why there was so much traffic, but cars were stopping to get a picture of the bear.  This Bear Jam (traffic) was unexpected but seeing a black bear in the wild seemed to energize everyone as they took pictures while still in their vehicles.  Seeing the bear in the tree made me reassess my next hikes and pick trails with better visibility. 

Smokey Bear

Day 3 adventures centered around the Gatlinburg Skybridge Park and finding waterfalls. 

I discovered prior to driving up to Tennessee the Skybridge Park added a new feature:  The Sky Trail.  They were building the Sky Trail last year, but I had no idea what it was at the time.  This added feature allows for amazing views of downtown Gatlinburg and the mountain tops.  Decided to begin my day in Skybridge Park and enjoy the views and new features.  The Christmas lights were already hanging on the Skybridge and made for a festive walk across.  Grabbed some lunch after spending a few hours on top of the mountain and mapped out the next adventure.

I made my way to view smaller waterfalls on my previous Smoky Mountain adventures but wanted to hike to one of the larger falls this year.  Laurel Falls was recommended by a lot of folks I spoke with, so I decided it was the next stop on my trip.  Turns out Laurel Falls was about 15 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, so it was a quick trip getting there.  It took me a little time to find a parking spot since this was a popular destination.  I almost turned around due to the number of cars parked at the trailhead.  Glad I decided to make the trek up the mountain.

This trail was paved so this made it a bit easier to get up the mountain.  There were a lot more people on the trail than I normally see in the mountains, but everyone was friendly going up and coming back down.  The inclines grew gradually but you could tell we were walking up the mountain.  The views were amazing and there were multiple spots with steep drop-offs.  Please note, I saw bear #2 at the bottom of one of these steep drops.  It was a cub getting some sun and mama bear was close by.  We were safely out of range, so I continued my trek up the mountain to view the falls.  Again, there were people everywhere but finally getting to the falls was well worth the traffic on the trail.  I was able to get several good pictures of the fall and surrounding area, glad I didn’t let a crowded parking area keep me from this trail.

My walk back allowed me to get some great pictures of the mountains and the fall colors.  Took in as much of the scenery as possible before heading back to Gatlinburg.  I recommend Laurel Falls if you make it to the Smoky Mountains.

Made my way to Ole Red after my mountain adventures to get some food and listen to live music.  I have seen this place before but never made my way in.  This is a place to add to your dining experience when you visit Gatlinburg.  I decided to get the meatloaf wrapped in bacon and mashed potatoes.  It was as good as it sounds. 😊

The mountains were good to me again this year.  Can’t wait to visit again in 2022!

Irie!

Running to Savannah

RnR Savannah

“The journey is the destination”.

(Dan Eldon)

Searched for a clever destination run quote since I have been writing about the 2021 Savannah Rock N Roll Half marathon for months now.  The quote above brings me back to center with the simple concept on the importance of the journey.

Well, I have been working up to this journey for quite a bit of time.  I was originally scheduled to run in Savannah for the first time back in November 2020.  We know COVID-19 caused havoc and most races were cancelled in 2020. 

The Rock N Roll folks allowed runners to defer race credits forward to 2021 races—I decided to do a direct swap to the 2021 Savannah half marathon since I have never run in the city.  Please note, I have visited Savannah multiple times to enjoy the culture, food, and sightseeing.  My draw was to be a running tourist in Savannah and take in the sights while running through the city.

Full disclosure, my running tourist adventures did not happen in 2021 and we cannot blame it on COVID-19 this time.

Savannah weather in the month of November is normally mild and attracts 15k+ runners from all over the world.  I am sure my fellow runners targeted this race for the mild temperatures, flat course, music, and great food.  Unfortunately, I am not sure many runners experienced any of these things.

The weather forecast for race weekend identified rain and colder weather early in the week.  The premise was the rain would clear out before race day and keep temperatures cooler than normal.  I was excited to run in cooler weather since I train in Fort Pierce, Florida and experience heat and humidity daily.

I got on the road on Friday to head up I-95 to Savannah.  The trip was a straight shot up the interstate and took a little over 5 hours to get there.  It rained the entire drive up, but it was never a heavy rain, just steady.  My thoughts heading up was the rain would clear out by race day and things would be great in the morning.

This concept did not play out and the weather got much worse than projected. 

I made my way to the EXPO to pick up my race packet and get some shopping in—normal routine.  The rain impacted the foot traffic at the EXPO while I was there so getting in and out was quick.  Most of the folks there had rain gear on, but we all were hoping the rain would be gone by race day.  I was shocked with the number of vehicles still trying to get to the EXPO—I am sure the weather caused delays with runners arriving in town and then to the EXPO.

Made my way to the hotel to check-in and then look for a place to continue my carb loading program.  Decided to make a quick trip to a local Goodwill store to buy a sweatshirt I could wear in the corral while waiting for the race to start.  Runners routinely drop sweatshirts and blankets prior to racing—these items are then donated to local homeless shelters.  I did not find a sweatshirt at the Goodwill so headed across the street to Burlington and found what I needed for a very good price. 😊

Headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to complete my carb loading process and watch some college football before going to bed early.  FYI—it was raining the entire time I was out and about, but the hope was the rain would stop before morning—it did not!

I laid out my race outfit like normal when I got to the hotel.  Decided to dress in layers with a long sleeve run shirt since it was colder than normal.  My sweatshirt would allow me to stay warm prior to the race—in theory.

Fast forward to race day and it was STILL raining!  The rain was a drizzle when I headed out towards downtown and got a bit heavier the closer I got to the shuttle pickup spot.  My fellow runners were dressed in layers wearing rain gear, trash bags and large coats to stay dry and warm.  This should have been an indication of what was to come but we all got on the shuttle and headed to the start line.  The rain appeared to get heavier the closer we got to our drop off spot.

Everyone got off the shuttle with full intent to run the half or full marathon.  This intent lasted for about 30 minutes as the rain came down harder and the streets started to flood.  I met a lot of nice people from all over America as we huddled and shivered under a restaurant overhang trying to stay dry and somewhat warm. 

There was a gentleman who flew in from Seattle two days prior who needed to run this race to complete his goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states.  He was conflicted with the weather but determined to run.  Other runners had similar stories or reasons they wanted to run.  The consensus was none of us expected the weather to be this bad and completing the race in these conditions would be tough.  Some vowed to stay and run while others said to hell with this.  

I was in the hell with this camp since I rarely train in the rain but have done it.  The temperature at the time was 41 degrees and we were experiencing a downpour with no end in sight.  I decided to call NO JOY and not risk injury or sickness with the current conditions.

Made my way to Forsythe Park since that’s where the shuttles were to drive runners back to their vehicles.  A positive note is the shuttles had heat and provided a dry environment to get us out of the rain.  I have never made it to a race start line and not run but this was the best option for me considering the cold, rain, and race conditions for the day.

Happily made it back to my hotel, took a hot shower and got back in the bed for a 2 hour nap! 😊

I normally write about the sightseeing from a race location, but the rain never stopped.  I made my way back downtown so I could visit New Realm Brewery.  My first experience with New Realm Brewery was when I ran in Virginia Beach back in September.  Great food again!  They were out of the Acai Berry cider, but I was able to enjoy another local craft beer which was pretty good.

That’s about it for my trip—the rain and cold weather was not conducive to exploring so I didn’t.  Made my way back to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch more football and stay dry.        

Don’t know if I will try to run Savannah again—two tries and two false starts.

May just take a trip back up in the summer to experience the city as a regular tourist. 😊

https://www.savannahnow.com/story/sports/recreation/2021/11/06/nasty-weather-forces-rock-n-roll-savannah-marathon-shortened/6300893001/

RnR Savannah 2

Track Shack UCF 5 Miler

5 Mile race

“Every morning we are born again.  What we do today is what matters most”.

(Buddha)

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Happy to report there has not been any misfortune for me, but the change has been an adjustment to my training regimen.  I am still putting in work but not able to get the same quality sessions I put in pre-COVID.  This can be directly attributed to my work role in Fort Pierce but please do not think I am complaining.

We have made some major operational improvements and there is light at the end of the tunnel where we will soon normalize operations and I can get back to putting in more training miles.

The concept of resiliency reminds me of the old saying:  try and then try again!

Decided to use shorter races as a bigger part of my training program to get me prepared for the rigors of the half marathon distance.  I have the 2021 Rock N Roll Savannah half marathon in November and the 2021 Track Shack OUC half marathon in December.  My overall goal is to run a half marathon under 2 hours and the Track Shack OUC half marathon is the ideal setup to make this happen.  I need to put in additional training miles to build my endurance back to my 2019 levels. 

My fastest half marathon was the 2019 Track Shack OUC half marathon with a time of 2:05:51 (two hours, five minutes, and 51 seconds).  2020 was set to be my fastest year ever but of course COVID-19 shut down racing and my training lagged—that’s on me! 😊

So, what’s my plan to correct my training and speed issues?  Well, I check multiple running clubs to see what races are being offered locally and within driving distance to me in Fort Pierce. 

I routinely scan the Fleet Feet Stuart and Orlando Track Shack events pages to determine which races are available to help with my training program.  I just shared with my best friend I have a hard time training with race pace—it is a mental thing for me since I do not have competitors or anyone to pace with.  I am sure I may be the only active running with this issue but targeting real races seems to get my competitive nature going.  This may not be the ideal strategy, but I will try this out to get me closer to my half marathon goal. 

Made my way back over to Orlando for the 2021 Track U Can Finish 5 Mile race to get some speed work in.  I ran this same event when I lived in Oviedo, but this is the first time I tackled the race distance in 8 years. 

This is an interesting event because it has multiple distances available for runners to try.  The first event is the U Can Finish 2 Mile race and Track Shack has a distance dare.  Runners can sign up to run the 2-mile race and then compete in the 5-mile race right after.  The hook for distance dare runners is the opportunity to collect 3 medals:  2-mile, 5-mile, and distance dare medals.  Runners love their bling and a lot of them took part in the distance dare.  I did not—officially. 😊

Did something new on race day to ensure I got in extra training miles.  I stay in the same hotel each time I visit the Orlando area and it is down the street from the UCF campus. 

I decided to leave my vehicle parked at the hotel and ran the 2-mile distance to the UCF campus for the start of the 5-mile race.  Figured this was a great way to warmup and stretch my legs before my race and ensured I would get in a long training session—it was just broken up into segments.

Toed the line for the 5-mile race completely warmed up and excited to run on the UCF campus again.  The race village was setup directly in front of the Career Services building where I worked for 4-years prior to moving to Tallahassee and the FSU Career Center.  Great being back on the old stomping grounds. 😊

My goal for the 5-mile race was simply to test my endurance and consistently run miles splits with a 9 on the front of them (9:05, 9:10, etc.).  Mission accomplished.

The UCF campus is completely flat which helped a lot.  Went out with the intent to run my race based on feel and then push myself when I could. 

Mile-1 went by at an 8:44 per minute pace and I felt good with the effort.  Mile-2 through 5 were:  9:15, 9:33, 9:57, 9:42 which got me to the finish line at 47:29.  Targeted 45 flat but happy with my results considering I put in a 2-mile run before my race. 

Collected my 5-mile medal and took some pictures to commemorate the race and my time back at UCF.  Got some refreshments and stretched a bit before heading out.  I tucked my race medal away and began my 2-mile journey back to my hotel—yes, I ran back for a total of 9 training miles for the day.  Felt great every step of the day!

I will look for additional races to help me prepare for my next two half marathons.  Still have some speed in these legs, just need to release it in my unique way.

FYI—I am still on pace to meet my 2021 goals of 1,000 training miles.  Imagine my mileage if I could stay consistent with my training.

Irie!

How do you display resilience in your daily activities?  Thanks!

“Life does not get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient”.

(Steve Maraboli)

Pizza night

2nd Street Bistro

“Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself”.

(Bill Murray)

Raise your hand if you do not like pizza!  Doubt there are many hands up right now since everyone loves pizza. 😊

I admit I enjoy pizza probably more than anyone I know and have decided this is my go-to cheat meal.  I have never been one to count calories and my running program allows me to indulge without having to worry much about gaining weight.  Not saying this as a brag point but just a daily fact for me.

The Treasure Coast provides me with multiple dining options to include fresh seafood and great ocean views while out for a meal.  I take advantage of these options, but my designated pizza night is one I look forward to weekly.

I was introduced to 2nd Street Bistro as a great place to catch a ballgame while enjoying a beer at the bar.  Seemed like a typical place to get wings, drink a beer, and watch Florida Gator football on Saturdays.  Happy to report 2nd Street Bistro provides all these things but it turns out they have a fantastic menu with rotating daily specials.  It is not your typical dive bar but a place to get a great meal for really good prices.  Note:  they provide a substantial military discount on all menu items, so I am hooked since I love saving money. 😊

I made my first weekday journey into 2nd Street Bistro on a random Wednesday after work because I wanted to get a beer and see what was on the menu.  I did not venture out a lot in 2020 due to COVID but kept hearing about this place and the food.  Made my way downtown Fort Pierce once I felt comfortable being around people again and grabbed a high-top table to enjoy a meal.

Turns out Wednesday is half price Bistro Burger night and there are a lot of fans of the burger.  There is always a good crowd of folks in the restaurant to take advantage of the special and get their burgers.  The menu has a lot of variety and everyone in there has a favorite menu item.

I did not have a specific food item in mind when I stopped in on the first Wednesday night so I asked the waitress what she recommended.  She rattled off that everything on the menu is great, so I was on my own selecting what I wanted for dinner.

Gravitated to the pizza selections and the waitress said they were all good—she’s tried them all.  Decided to go with my tried-and-true Pepperoni pizza with extra Pepperoni.  Never imagined a place like 2nd Street Bistro would have pizza this good but I am hooked. 

The personal pizzas are made once ordered so it takes a bit for it to make it to the table.  Trust me, it is well worth the wait.  The ingredients are fresh, and the pizza comes out of the oven smoking hot.  Learned that lesson the hard way the first time I got a pizza.  😊

I have been hooked on the Pepperoni pizza from day one and Wednesdays have become my official pizza night.  Everyone who knows me can track my location after work on Wednesdays to 2nd Street Bistro.  I am such a regular there the hostess takes me directly to a high-top table and the waitress does not bring me a menu.  She puts in my Bud Light draft and a personal Pepperoni pizza with extra Pepperoni.  I told her one day I am going to change my order up to mess with her but one day has not happened yet. 

I have tried other items on the menu but not on Wednesdays—that is my designated pizza night since I run on Tuesdays and Thursdays after work.  Figure I earned a cheat day and 2nd Street Bistro helps me cheat like a champ! 😊

Can’t wait for my next pizza night!

What is your favorite place to get a cheat meal?  What is the meal?  Thanks!

https://2ndstreetbistro.com/

“I’d rather have leftover pizza than leftover feelings”.

(Sarah Burgess)

Jayla's Thoughts On

INSTAGRAM: @jayla_brianna

Retrospective Lily

Reflections on Faith, Disability, Blogging, Books & More!

The Content Consultancy

Copywriting : Editing : Strategy

Walk Into the Future

Don't wait, get moving!

Discover WordPress

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: