Running and enjoying the Winter Park 10k

10k2

“Life is short…running makes it seem longer”.

(Baron Hansen)

Decided to test my fitness again by running the Winter Park 10k with Orlando Track Shack.  It should be obvious Track Shack is my favorite running organization but will go ahead and say it again—I love Track Shack and the way they put on racing events.

The 2021 Winter Park 10k was the last event in the Track Shack running series.  I was a regular Track Shack Fanatic when I lived in Oviedo but only get to participate in a couple events now. The Track Shack running series consists of 6 scheduled races over an 8-month period which ends with the Winter Park 10k event.  You do not have to be a Fanatic to run the Winter Park race, so I made a point to sign up again this year to test myself against the best runners in Central Florida.

My 10k goal continues to be to run faster than my tree branch, Lauren Kume and eventually beat her 10k Personal Record (PR).  A quick note, I did not beat her time but was able to shave a substantial amount off my PR and set a new one in 2021.  Lauren still has the best time in the family! 😊

Made my way over to Track Shack on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet and get some last-minute shopping in.  I love making it into the Track Shack store to see the new running gear they have.  I did not need anything specific but always seem to come out of the store with something new.  I try not to run with the same outfit two races in a row, so I am always looking for additional color schemes for my run outfits.

I found a new Track Shack running tank top that caught my eye due to the unique color.  Unfortunately, they did not have my size on the rack.  Betsy Hughes who is the co-owner with her husband Jon helped me as I was shopping in the store.  Small world fact—I met Betsy two years earlier while I was out for a run in Tom Brown park in Tallahassee.  One of their daughters lives in Tallahassee and Betsy and Jon were up for a visit.  I noticed her Track Shack gear and stopped my run to say hello.  Fast forward two years and Betsy remembered me from our quick conversation on a running trail in Tallahassee.  Betsy brought Jon over and we got a chance to talk about the great running trails Tallahassee has to offer.  Great time catching up with them both—they wished me luck for the race, and I thanked them for being so awesome! 😊

Race day was a comfortable 58 degrees—perfect weather for a run through the Winter Park neighborhoods.  Made sure I got there early to make sure I could find parking and get to the start line on-time.  COVID-19 has adjusted how races are run so there was not as much activity prior to the race as in the past.  There were vendors available but just not as much traffic.  We followed Track Shack protocols, and everyone wore their face masks as we waited for the start of the race. 

Race time

The starting area was organized to ensure we maintained physical distance prior to the race. 

The corrals were marked to ensure runners knew how to line up—there were dots placed on the ground to ensure we stayed a safe distance from the other runners.  Runners were able to line up based on their projected mile per minute time (example:  6 minutes, 8 minutes, etc.).  I decided to line up with the 8 minute per mile group to avoid having to navigate through a crowd of runners at the beginning of the race.

Happy to report I was able to get out without having to adjust my pace to make it through the initial traffic.  I set out to establish a fast but comfortable pace and then see how I felt at the halfway point.  Luckily, the runners in my immediate area set a good pace and I decided to hang with them to see how much my conditioning had improved since my last big race which was the OUC Half Marathon in December.

Mile 1:  8:35 / Mile 2:  8:54 / Mile 3:  9:12 / Mile 4: 9:18 / Mile 5:  9:16 / Mile 6:  9:18 / Last .2 / 1:27

I was happy to get in the sub 9-minute miles at the beginning of the race.  My goal was to clock as many sub 9-minute miles as possible and then hang on to my form to get me to the finish line.  Felt comfortable from start to finish this year.  There was a steep incline in the middle of Mile 3 so had to adjust my stride to ensure I did not lose much momentum going up.  I broke my sub 9-minute streak here but felt good once I made it to the top.  Made up a few seconds on the descent but not enough to keep me under 9 minutes for Mile 3.  Took advantage of the first water stop just before the Mile 4 marker—new COVID protocols do not allow open containers so we were provided sealed bottled water during the race.  I got back to running comfortably after the water stop and decided to see how much I had left in the tank.  Happy to see my times did not drop off as I got deeper into the race.  I knew at the Mile 5 marker I would not beat Lauren’s time but had a good race going and a new PR was within reach. 

Crossed the finish line strong with a new PR of 55:57. Erased close to a minute off my 2020 10k time. 

I am happy with my race results and conditioning at this point of the year.  Will look to incorporate speed training to increase my endurance and help keep and maintain my pace for the next race.  I am not projected to run another race until the OUC Half Marathon in December.  Track Shack has a 5k scheduled in Winter Park in April—thinking about coming back to the Orlando area and run that one.  The course is flat and may set-up for another PR for me to lower my 5k time—we will see how it goes. 

FYI—I added Tart Cherry juice to my prerace routine and believe it helped my performance from start to finish.  I did not experience a lactic acid build up during the race or soreness after. 

Give it a try:  https://cheribundi.com/

“I chose running as my therapy”.

(Dean Karnazes)

Clearwater Beach…

“The beach…the only place where salt lowers your blood pressure”.

(Pinterest)

The new year has renewed my sense of adventure again.  Nothing too wild but decided to make a trek west over to Clearwater Beach.  I have friends who have been telling me how great Clearwater Beach is, but I never made the drive to see for myself.

That all changed this past weekend.  Decided to take a weekend flyer and just book a hotel and then drive over.  Seemed simple enough and it was! 😊

My day started with an impromptu 5k in Fort Pierce.  A colleague from work casually mentioned he belongs to the local Kiwanis organization and they were hosting a 5k the next day (Saturday).  I normally do my long runs on Saturdays but told him to send me the registration instructions so I can research the race.  He sent me everything I needed to research and register for the race.  Turns out the 5k course covers most of my normal Tuesday and Thursday training route so I was already familiar with the course.  Decided to register Friday afternoon for the race on Saturday morning—did not figure I needed to do much mental or physical preparation since I was running the area anyway.

Happy to report I was able to run a respectable (for me) 28:04 official time for the 5k.  I am especially happy with this time since we had to cross (over and back) the Seaway Drive bridge which has steep inclines.  First mile was 8:38, second mile 9:18 and third mile 9:20.  The second and third miles had bridge inclines so happy I was able to hold it together on both.  NOTE:  I felt good throughout and see faster times with a flatter course in my future.

I found out online I placed second in my age group.  I did not stick around for the awards presentation since I had to get on the road to drive over to Clearwater beach.

Left Fort Pierce heading for my destination soon after I completed the 5k.  Wanted to maximize much of the day to explore and walk on the famed beach.  I had already booked my hotel and completed early check-in using the Marriott Bonvoy application.

The drive over to the west coast of Florida was simple.  Just needed to follow directions provided by Google maps and I did not have issues with traffic.  Made good time without having to speed—enjoyed the route and seeing new scenery on the trip.

Arrived in Clearwater Beach early afternoon and made my way to my hotel.  Check-in was a breeze considering I did early check-in before arrival.  Got myself settled in my room and added another layer of clothing on because it turns out I picked the coldest day of 2021 to go to the beach—oh well, it was still a great experience. 😊

My hotel was one block away from the beach so made the short walk over and made my way onto the famed Clearwater Beach.  My plan was to walk the beach and take in the scenery while getting some pictures.  Mission accomplished.

Explored a few shops on the main drag, Mandalay Avenue.  Most of the shops catered to the tourists who pour onto Clearwater Beach daily.  There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, bars, and shopping options within walking distance to the beach.

Made my way to the Salt Cracker Fish Camp for a late lunch.  Nice little spot located in the marina district.  I was able to eat and watch the charter boats come in and out of the harbor.  The Salt Cracker Fish Camp has a great menu to select from, but I decided to go with the Jumbo Fried Shrimp dinner.  Will try the Shrimp and Grits on my next visit.  Recommend visiting this spot for the views and food.

The only Clearwater beach spot I found live music was the Salty Crab North Beach.  Small little place the locals prefer but the food options are unlimited.  There were only 10 people there when I visited so decided to grab a beer and check out the food menu.  They have a huge selection, but I decided to build my own pizza.  It was a great decision—the pizza was outstanding!  Visited the Salty Crab the following morning for breakfast.  Again, had a fantastic meal there and the coffee was amazing.  Will try a crab dish on my next visit to the Salty Crab North Beach.

Did a little more beach walking after breakfast prior to driving back to Fort Pierce.  This was a short weekend trip, but I was able to maximize my time on Clearwater beach.  I will make a point to get back over there so I can get more time to explore—may even take a dolphin sightseeing tour for a new adventure.

Great weekend trip! 😊

Where have you wanted to visit?  When will you make the trip?  Thanks!

Irie!

“Bucket list: #1 beach, #2 more beach”.

(Pinterest.co.uk)

Falling back: Running and staying safe

“Running in the dark, learning to embrace the dark side”.

(Pinterest quote)

I wanted to use a clever quote to highlight the new Walk into the Future adventure that happens when we switch from Daylight Savings time.  Most of us understand the time falls back in America every fall.  This occurred for us on November 1, 2020.  Some people like the time change and others hate it.  I was never too concerned with the time changes—still do not understand why we continue to do this but make the clock adjustments like everyone else.

My concern as a running tourist is my weekday runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays are done in the dark.  I routinely leave work on Tuesdays and Thursdays and head out for my weekday runs as part of my normal training routine.  Nothing spectacular with this process prior to the time change but now I leave work and it is dark when I head out for my runs.

I have been telling people I work with how I combat running in the dark but do not believe they fully understand what it takes to remain safe and be seen when running this time of the year.

I take my running program seriously and cannot imagine not running during the week.  My way to combat the darkness is to invest in reflective gear to ensure I remain safe when out for my runs.  My runs prior to moving to Fort Pierce were all done during the day—all my weekly runs were completed during the day—mostly in the mornings prior to the Florida heat kicked in during the summer.  My winter runs could be done a little later but were still completed with plenty of daylight available.

My move to Fort Pierce and daily work schedule make weekday runs after work a better option to maintain my mileage.  I still leverage the weekend runs to get my long runs in but need the weekday runs to build up my base miles and keep me focused on race days.

I invested in reflective gear to keep me visible and safe when I run in the dark.  My first investment was to get reflective bands I wear on my legs.  These bands can be seen when illuminated by light and ensure I can be seen when it is dark outside.  I like to ensure an extra level of visibility so invested in a fluorescent and reflective running vest.  I did not use this vest much when I lived in Tallahassee but wanted to make sure I had it when needed.  This vest is one of my best purchases I have ever made from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  Was able to get it on sale and it gives me the confidence to continue to run even when it is dark outside.

I jokingly tell people the vest makes me glow in the dark, but it is true.  The yellow run vest stands out and has two reflective strips as an added feature.  Both strips can be seen when lights bounce off them.  My goal when running in the darkness is to remain safe and ensure everyone can see me.

I have decided to adjust my running routes with the time change to minimize how many intersections I must cross.  My Tuesday and Thursday runs have been cut down to no more than 4 miles since this distance keeps me out of traffic and I avoid driveways where people could back out and not see me.  Scaling back on my miles during the week means I must increase my weekend miles to make up for the reduction.  I believe this is a fair trade off to keep me running and safe.

I have decided to embrace the darkness safely and keep on running! 😊

How has the time change impacted your weekly routines?  What adjustments have you made to keep Walking into the Future?

“Stars cannot shine without darkness”.

(Pinterest quote)

Itching to race again!

Oviedo trail3

“Run because zombies will eat the untrained first”.

(Zombie apocalypse survival guide)

We all know COVID-19 wrecked a lot in 2020.  Our lives have changed and how we get things done may never be the same.  That is not a complaint but just a simple observation of how the pandemic impacts our daily lives.

One thing I got excited about in 2020 was the prospects of being able to run races again.  Most run organizations completely shut down their in-person races and pivoted to the virtual race format.  Took a bit to get use to but runners started signing up for virtual races to compete in the COVID-19 world.  I signed up and ran a few but it just did not give me the same competitive feel as the in-person racing. 

I was more than happy to sign-up for a local 5k with new COVID-19 safety protocols in October 2020.  Felt safe with how the race organizers kept runners apart before and after the race.  The staggered starts for everyone allowed the runners to maintain proper physical distance and still enjoy the race process.  Felt good throughout the race and did not worry about safety once we got started.  The same protocols were in-place after the race—nothing was handed to us—everything was prepackaged and unopened (bagels, water, granola bars, etc.). The COVID-19 initiative should remain even when the pandemic starts to wane—the race world needed to look at food handling protocols and now we know there is a better way to handle after race activities.

The Track Shack running club in Orlando is one of my favorite run organizers and great people work there.  Track Shack made the adjustment to virtual races to keep people in Central Florida running.  I did not sign up for any of their virtual races but was excited to watch people send in pictures from their virtual races.  Track Shack continued to look for ways to get runners back on courses safely.

Happy they were able to get clearance from the City of Orlando and Orange County to bring back in-person racing in time for the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon.  I have run this race multiple times and it provides a flat course that winds through downtown Orlando neighborhoods.  I projected to run the Rock N Rock Half marathon in San Antonio as my December race at the beginning of the year, but COVID-19 had other plans.  The OUC Half was a perfect replacement race and allowed me to run fast again.  I did not target a personal record (PR) but just wanted to get back out and race with other runners and enjoy the process.  Never thought running 13.1 miles would be something I craved but it is true—I am a runner now! 😊

Decided to get creative with my training program and expand my running options.  Fort Pierce does not have the same running trail system as Tallahassee or the Orlando area.  I can get some good runs in but mostly on sidewalks where I encounter traffic.  Never been a fan of running around traffic but make it work based on where I live.  I needed to get in some double digit runs so decided to look north and tackle one of my old trails in the Orlando area. 

The Cross Seminole Trail is one I have trained and raced in the past when I lived in Oviedo, Florida.   Made up my mind to just head back to Oviedo and get some training done on a shady trail without traffic.  Happy to report the trail was everything I hoped for and needed!

Started my run with the intent to get in 10 miles on the training run—5 miles out and 5 miles back.  The weather was 64 and sunny when I started my run—perfect October day to run in Florida!  Did not have an intended time for my run—just wanted to get out and put in work and enjoy the trail, weather, and the process.  The Cross Seminole Trail is a multi-use trail used by bikers, walkers, skaters, and runners.  It is always great seeing so many active people out enjoying the trail.

I was able to go out with an easy pace for the first 3 miles.  Got lucky when another runner joined the trail fun and passed me at a good pace.  Decided to leverage this to see if I could keep up with the pace—it is always good to have a run goal so decided my goal was to keep her within sight and potentially pass at some point.  Kept this process up for the next 2 miles and finally passed her at my 5-mile point.  Runners are a friendly bunch, so we exchanged runner talk as we both continued to get our runs in.  Turns out she was out for a 10-mile run to get prepared for the OUC Half Marathon too.  Small world!  She was also excited the OUC race was back as an in-person option.

I felt good at the 5-mile point so decided to extend my run a bit and set out to max out with a 12-mile run.  The cooler temperatures and shady trail had a lot to do with how good I felt while out for my run.  Kept pressing forward to the 6-mile point and then gave myself a slight break by walking for a bit before turning around to head back to the starting point.  Running allows an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the surrounding area.  Noticed a lot of new construction and growth in the area since the last time I was there.  My run took me from downtown Oviedo to downtown Winter Spring via the trail systems.  Great way to explore an area without worrying about traffic or getting in anyone’s way.

Turned around to head back after walking for about 5 minutes.  I was not in a rush so just enjoyed the weather, nature, and the trail.  Took several pictures of the trail on the way back so my return pace was more leisurely than the first part of my run.  No worries, 12 miles is still 12 miles! 😊

Will look for additional ways to enhance my half marathon training.  May try to leverage the Cross Seminole Trail again—will just have to determine the best day and time to head back to Oviedo.  Excited to have races to train for again!  It is a small step towards normalcy, but it is promising and will allow me to get my competitive fix again.

More training to do but I am headed in a great direction!

What do you crave for your sense of normalcy?

“Make sure your worst enemy does not live between your own ears”.

“Laird Hamilton”

Success in Black and White podcast

Success

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“A podcast is a great way to develop relationships with hard-to-reach people”.

(Tim Paige)

The Walk into the Future blog has provided me with multiple opportunities to share my words, thoughts, and experiences with others. 

I started this journey in 2018 with an idea of the direction I wanted to go but had no idea the process would be so much fun for me.  The ability to be creative and explore adventures are two key elements that allow me to continue to produce content for the blog.  I love the comments, texts, and emails I receive when something I write speaks to others—I guess you can say I am finding my voice as I develop content.

One area that puts a huge smile on my face is when one of my tree branches reaches out and want to produce content with me.  My smile gets even bigger when the request comes from TWO tree branches! 😊

My tree branches, Darryl and April Lovett have a successful platform:  Success in Black and White. 

Proud of these two as they tackle issues others may shy away from, but they have fun as they do it.  Love the fact they move forward as a POWER couple; their energy is contagious and makes you want to get up and make a difference in the world.

They asked me to join them for a podcast episode and I immediately said yes.  Saw this as a perfect way to catch up with them and share a little bit of Walk into the Future with their growing audience.  Please note, recording the episode was more fun than I ever imagined—well done Darryl and April!

We were able to catch up during the podcast and cover a lot of content in the one-hour timeframe.  They asked great questions and were not afraid to follow-up for clarity.  The question that really got me energized was:  What is your calling and why are you passionate about it?

I have been asked this question in multiple ways but really enjoy the opportunity to continue to share my WHY.  My why is to leave everyone better than when I met them.  It took me a few years to put this down into a simple statement, but it has been with me for some time now.

I was able to dive a bit deeper while speaking with Darryl and April during the podcast.  My desire to help others started for me in high school.  I had a Guidance Counselor who did not even try to help me plan my life after high school.  I had several friends who got excellent advice from this same counselor, but she only told me to join the military.  We never discussed how to apply to colleges, how to apply for financial aid or anything about further education and the doors it would open.  Fast forward and I hold three degrees without ever having a student loan—so maybe it was a good thing my high school guidance counselor did not help me with the process. 😊

My why is driven by the lack of support I received from my guidance counselor.  I provide mentorship to everyone that crosses my path because I do not want them to have to struggle because I would not take the time to help them.  I wanted to make sure Darryl, April and their audience understood how important this is for me.  The passion I display when working with my tree branches and potential branches is because I want to help them grow.  Sounds cliché but it is something I live every day.

A funny but true aspect of how I developed my why is I do not remember the name of my high school guidance counselor.  Imagine, this lady fueled my passion with her lack of attention to my future and I do not remember her name, but she has allowed me to touch so many lives in a positive way.  Good things come out of bad situations.  Please note, I would not change a thing—I seem to be doing okay with this Walk into the Future journey. 

Discovered during the podcast episode April also considers herself a running tourist!  We got a chance to discuss why I run and the positive impacts it has on my daily journey.  Hoping we can all get back to running, exploring, and traveling soon—there are still races out there to run.

So, I repeat the question Darryl and April asked me:

What is your calling and why are you passionate about it?

Thank you, Darryl and April for allowing me to come on your podcast!  It was fun! 😊 Irie!

“Podcasting is great.  Total freedom”.

(Bill Burr)

Resiliency and the Chimney Tops Trail

Chimney Top

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo—far more flexible than you would ever imagine.”

(Jodi Picoult)

Resilience is a measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing, and able, to overcome obstacles to get it. It has to do with your emotional strength. (Dictionary.com)

“You are only 4 minutes away from the top”.

(Smoky Mountain hiker, November 2020)

Thought I had a good handle on what resiliency really means but discovered I needed to redefine how it is shown.  I viewed resiliency from the spectrum of work or emotional intelligence but my recent hike on the Chimney Tops Trail in the Smoky mountains gave me a new appreciation of resiliency.

The hiker from the quote above provided me with inspiration to keep going but I had to decide mentally and physically to keep going up the mountain.  The trail was listed as a moderate hike, but I added a new level of difficulty by tackling Chimney Tops after 3 other hikes on the same day.  A better plan would have been to save this hike for the next day, but I wanted to experience as much as possible in a short period of time.

I left my hotel with the intent to make four hikes and that concept drove me to keep going up the mountain.  I would have felt I was letting myself down if I did not stick with the plan.  Also, wanted to test myself to determine how much I could accomplish in one day.  My thought process was to make it up the mountain and then celebrate at the top.

I took more breaks on this hike than ever before and was slow on the ascent.  My legs felt like I had run a half marathon at this point—in fact, my total hiking mileage for the day was 15.4 miles.  Not a bad day walking in the Smoky mountains.

I view my ability to keep pressing onward as a sign of resiliency.  I could have tapped out and nobody would have known I gave up on my last hike if I did not bring it up.  I could have taken the failure to make it to the top of my last hike to the grave, but I am sure it would have bothered me knowing I gave up.  Trust me, I understand my making it to the top of the Chimney Top trail does not make the world a better place, but I needed to make it up there.

I take pride being an active mentor for my tree branches and encourage them to work towards their goals.  Quitting on the Chimney Top trail would make my words ring hollow if I did not practice what I preach to my tree branches.  The resiliency to make my last hike successful became a metaphor for Walking into the Future.  This journey has been successful because I have been able to overcome obstacles and continue to move forward in life.  Seems simple but I take a lot of pride in making goals and then crossing them off my list.  This process works for me so I will continue to make it a priority. 

Proud of the resiliency I showed while climbing the Chimney Top trail.  I will admit I need to space my hikes out better in 2021 but I will not stop until I complete them all! 😊

How do you display resiliency in your daily life?  What impact does resiliency have on how you get things done?  I welcome your thoughts!

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”.

(Nelson Mandela)

Walking into 2021!

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

“Celebrate endings—for they proceed new beginnings”.

(Jonathan Lockwood Huie)

Happy New Year from the Walk into the Future blog!

Grateful to continue to write blog articles to express my thoughts and document life adventures.  This blog started as a way for me to share with my friends and has evolved into a space for me to highlight a bit of creativity.  This blog also provides a place to advocate for social change in the world—did not have this in mind when I launched the blog but there is no turning back now.  My walk continues to expand so I am excited to see what new angles I can tackle in 2021.

2021 promises to bring new opportunities for us all.  2020 was a monster on multiple levels but there were opportunities for growth as well.

Happy to report I was able to meet all my 2020 goals except the number of half marathons I ran.  Of course, COVID-19 was the reason the race season did not happen, so I am not upset I did not meet this goal.

I am in the process of generating my 2021 goals and look forward to working towards them daily. 

My reading program increased in 2020 and I enjoyed exploring new topics and authors.  I see this as an area I can expand in 2021.  I fancy myself as a lifelong learner and reading keeps me engaged in learning new things and hopefully sharing these things with my tree branches.  Please note, I am always open to your suggestions for books so send me a few—thanks!

The Rock N Roll marathon series has 6 races projected for in-person competition in 2021.  My favorite race, the Nashville Rock N Roll half marathon is scheduled for April 25, 2021.  My 2020 registration automatically rolled over so I can run in the race this year if I would like.  I am not committed to running this or any race at this point especially if it means I must get on a plane to get to the race city.  Will wait and see how the vaccination process impacts the spread of COVID-19 before deciding on this race.  Would hate to miss Nashville two years in a row but this is the world we live in. The Savannah race is scheduled for November 7, 2021 and this may be a better option—we will see.

I will look at some smaller, local races to get my competitive fix.  I am sure Track Shack in Orlando will have some races I want to run—the OUC half may be on my race calendar again this year based on location and safety measures.

I began the process of creating an Authentic Leadership eBook in 2020.  Will look to put the finishing touches on this project in 2021.  Wanted to share a few leadership principles in a different format to see if others would be interested in this project.  It has been fun working on a new outlet for my thoughts and plan to expand the authentic leadership platform in 2021.

My leadership consulting is another area I want to expand in 2021.  My work in 2019 had me positioned for a huge consulting year in 2020 but we all know the impact of COVID-19 on all industries.  Will look to create an outreach program to reengage with organizations I have worked with in the past and generate new leads.  Virtual programming and meetings became common in 2020 and see this continuing in 2021.  This can lead to new ways to reach organizations and provide a consulting rebirth for me and others.  Fingers crossed!

I am sure there will be other goals to add to my list, but these are a few I will work towards in 2021.

What goals do you have for the new year?  How successful were you meeting your 2020 goals?  Thanks!

“Every moment is a fresh beginning”.

(T.S. Elliot)

2020 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon

OUC1

“I plan on having such an epic run, Morgan Freeman should narrate it”.

(Runner’s World)

Running and racing has become such a large part of my lifestyle that I felt a definitive loss in 2020.

I will not harp on the COVID-19 impact on our daily lives.  There are more important things in this world than me traveling around the country and chasing people in my attempt to gain a personal record (PR) in the half marathon.  Everyone who reads the Walk into the Future blog or listens to me long enough know I love my PR attempts. 

My 2019 progress set the stage for me to run even faster in 2020 while tackling more races and new locations.  I targeted 7 half marathons to complete in 2020 with an incremental decrease in my PR time for each race I ran.  My goal continues to be to run the half marathon distance under 2 hours.  I will need to bring out the Benjamin Button affect again at some point to reach this goal. 

Luckily, I was able to complete the 2020 New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon in early February before we knew the future impact of COVID-19 on the country.  I left New Orleans with a goal to train harder and get ready for the 2020 Nashville Rock N Roll half marathon scheduled for April—Nashville is my favorite race and city.  Missed seeing the sights in Nashville and line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon.  Maybe in 2021!

Races 2 (Nashville) through 7 (San Antonio) were all canceled/postponed/terminated due to COVID-19.  Most of my running friends wanted to race but we knew eliminating the races was the right thing to do.  I still trained but not with as much intensity because I did not have a finish line to run across.  I wrote earlier about the virtual race process but never felt the same excitement racing against myself.  Could not make myself run fast without someone else around for me to compete against.

Fast forward a bit and my favorite running club, Track Shack in Orlando identified they received Orange county and City of Orlando clearance to stage the 2020 OUC Half Marathon in December with new safety measures.  I did not immediately sign-up but got excited when I discovered a real race was possible again.  I did a lot of research on the Track Shack race safety measures to make sure I would not be at risk during the event. 

The entire race experience was adjusted by the Track Shack staff to keep all runners physical distanced before and after the race.  We were required to wear masks prior to starting the race and immediately after crossing the finish line.  We did not have to run with the masks on but had to have them for the finish line.  Runners were lined up in corrals based on estimated finish times, but we had to stand on assigned markers on the ground before we could start the race.  Felt a bit weird but everything was done to protect the runners.

I registered for the OUC half marathon on October 15, 2020 with a race date of December 5, 2020.  This timeframe gave me less than a two-month physical and mental preparation window for the 13.1-mile journey in front of me.  Decided at this point to just enjoy the training runs and eliminate the thought processing of chasing a PR.  This concept provided me with a free mind and gave me the perspective that completing the race was the most important thing.  Thing #2 was to run the race and not hurt myself! 😊

OUC3

Race day

The Orlando weather was a bit warmer than I expected but the cloud cover kept the sun away which helped a lot.  I did not queue up close to the front corrals since I knew I was not going fast this year and wanted to let the faster folks go out without me in the way.

The new safety measures allowed about 200 runners to go out at a time, so I ended up waiting about 20 minutes before I made it to the start line to begin the race.

Mask off and I was back in my world of racing!  I am sure people wondered why I was smiling so much but the joy of running was there at the beginning.  My first mile pace was 8:50—which was not too bad considering my goal was to go out nice and easy.  Felt good so I kept running at this pace for a bit to see what I had under the hood this year. 😊

A fun fact–at the 3-mile marker while running through a downtown Orlando neighborhood I passed the house of one of my old on-campus recruiters from my UCF days.  He was standing on his front lawn cheering on the runners with his daughter.  Did not know if he would recognize me in my running gear but I was able to say hello to him and invite him to recruit students at my new school.  Please note, I never broke stride but was able to successfully network with an Orlando recruiter while running a half marathon. Completed a Zoom call with him the following Monday and he is excited to recruit our students in the spring semester—small world, huh?

Miles 3 through 8 were my parade through Orlando neighborhoods.  I waved at spectators who were out on their lawns to cheer for the runners.  I stopped at a pop-up table serving shots of beer as a refresher during the race.  I thanked law enforcement officials who were there for traffic duty.  You would have thought I was a politician with the amount of smiling, waving, and speaking to people I got done during this race.

Miles 9 through 13 were not as enjoyable as the previous set of miles.  Limited training also means my lactic acid thresholds were not built up as they should have been.  This means my legs started to hurt and it only got worse the longer I went.  I have been here before, so I was able to press forward but my speed and demeanor changed quite a bit.  The smile was gone, and I did not feel like waving at folks anymore.  Had to bear down and keep moving forward towards the finish line.  Luckily for me I was not chasing records and just wanted to complete the race while enjoying the process of running again.

Crossed the finish line with a smile on my face because I was able to run and compete again.  COVID-19 has beat us up in 2020 but it could not keep me from running in one of my favorite cities.  Mission complete!

The post-race area was sparse as part of the safety measures.  No beer, doughnuts, or music to enjoy this year.  We were handed a Publix bag with water, banana, granola, and our race medal.  That was it—no fanfare, networking and hanging around to cheer other runners on.  Run, conquer, and go home was the message of the day.

No worries, we had a great day to race and fantastic people to chase around Orlando again.

Fingers crossed that racing returns in 2021—I have a few PRs to set! 😊

What are you looking forward to in 2021?  Let’s make it happen!  Irie!

“You never realize how long a minute is until you are running”.

(Pinterest)

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)

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!