2022 Running Season

Track Shack1

“Running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined”.

(Patti Sue Plumer)

The 2022 running season started for me with the 2022 Track Shack Celebration of Running 5k in August.  I have run this event multiple times and view it as a great way to launch my running season and test my fitness levels prior to the half marathon schedule.  An added angle for me this year is this event allows me to combine the 5k miles within my long run for the weekend.

I officially started my training program two weeks ago to prepare for my first full marathon on 12/11/2022.  My program calls for a long run on Saturdays so used these 5k miles as a warmup and then got down to the longer portion of my run while I was in the Orlando area.

Traveled to Orlando on Friday after work this year with designs to pick up my race bib and t-shirt prior to the race on Saturday morning.  I had enough Marriott Bonvoy points for a free night so took advantage of this and stayed at my favorite Marriott property in Oviedo, Florida.  There were locations a bit closer to the race sight, but I planned to leverage the trails in Oviedo so decided to just stay there and drive a bit for race day.

August in Florida is hot and humid, but the weather was a bit cooler this year.  I was not ready for the humidity in 2021 but my new training focus has me running several days per week and acclimating to the heat a lot better than last year.

Made my way to the Orlando Science Center on race day to get my bib and allow time to warmup before the race.   There were a lot more runners this year as people are starting to come back and enjoy the running communities again.  I got a chance to catch up with a few runners I have known for years and made sure my legs were ready to move me around the course.  I completed several rounds of stretches, lunges, and hip swings to bring everything into alignment to avoid injuries while running.

Track Shack allows runners to self-identify their projected pace at the start line, so this makes the start of races interesting to say the least.  I say interesting because you will have people who plan to walk the 5k at the very front and this creates traffic faster runners must maneuver through.  It also causes folks to bump into each other, but no one got hurt this year, but it is a weird dynamic.  I always line up in the 8 minute per mile group with the intention of using that pace as a guide for my race plans—sometimes it works. 😊

My marathon training so far has focused on building up my base miles, so I have not done much speed work.  I race at a faster pace than I train so know I can speed up on race day—it’s just a matter of determining how fast I can go based on how my body feels and the conditions.

Decided not to focus on a specific time but to run as fast and safely as possible.  Wanted to enjoy the course, the process and just being back around the Orlando running community.  There were several folks I followed as pacers and this race was a lot of fun for me this year.

My time was 29:35 which is a 9:31 per minute pace—not superfast or slow, just steady for me.

  • Mile 1 = 9:17
  • Mile 2 = 9:45
  • Mile 3 = 9:37
  • Mile .1 = :58

I was able to finish the final portion of the race with a sprint to the finish line and felt good—I had another gear but did not fully engage for the race.  I collected my medal, got water, fruit and my complimentary beer—yes, we drink beer at 8 am.  I got a few pictures in the race village to document the day and prepared for the next phase of my training program.

I left the Orlando Science Center and drove over to Oviedo to take advantage of the Cross Seminole Trail again. 

The trail provided a great and shaded place to complete the next 6 miles of my weekend training plan.  I parked in downtown Oviedo and walked over to the trail to begin the journey towards 9 total miles for the day.

The Cross Seminole Trail is professionally maintained and is used by walkers, runners, bicyclist, and skaters.  The people I encountered all had smiles on their faces and greeted me.  It was great being back on a trail with folks again.  My runs in Fort Pierce are done mostly on sidewalks and there is not a lot of folks to interact with—not complaining just stating facts.

My goal on the Cross Seminole Trail was to run out for 3 miles, regroup and then come back for a total of 6 miles on the trail.  Mission complete.  Most of the trail run was uneventful but at one point there was a truck parked in the street blocking a portion of the trail.  I did not understand why the truck was there but quickly discovered the driver’s pit-bull got out of the truck somehow and was roaming the trail.  The driver was trying to get his dog back into the vehicle, but the dog was not ready to go yet.  This caused a bit of a scare to folks on the trail, but the dog was just excited and happy to be out and about.  It started to run with me on the trail, so I stopped and turned around to lead it back to the owner.  Never imagined my long run would include me directing a dog back to an owner—fun day! 😊

Completed my run with no problems and made my way back to my vehicle so I could get out of my sweaty clothing.  Made my way back to the hotel and then got lunch at Bahama Breeze which is one of my favorite places to eat.  Got some quick shopping in at Dick’s Sporting Goods and then got on the road to head back to Fort Pierce.

This was a quick trip over to Orlando for the 5k but eventful.  I will leverage my 5k efforts into my training program to continue to get faster and mentally ready for my full marathon in December.

Irie!

https://www.osc.org/

https://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/departments-services/leisure-services/greenways-natural-lands/trails/cross-seminole-trail.stml#

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful”.

(Eric Thomas)

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

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)

Cross Seminole Trail run

Seminole Cross Trail

“Running:  my sport is your sport’s punishment”.

(Funny running quotes)

Took me a little time to fully understand what being a runner truly means.  I started getting serious about running when I moved to Oviedo, Florida from Bonaire, Georgia. 

I ran in Georgia because I was still in the Air Force and needed to maintain my cardio fitness to ensure I completed our annual fitness test.  I was always in shape but focused on football, basketball and weightlifting while in the Air Force.  I signed up for an occasional 5k but never really trained for them—just showed up and ran.  I also had NO idea how important the correct shoes can be in this sport.

Now, back to the quote above.  I played football, basketball, and baseball back in the high school days.  I transitioned to flag football, basketball, softball and weightlifting during my time in the Air Force.  Coaches in both worlds routinely assigned RUNNING as a motivational tactic or punishment depending on how they felt.  A missed assignment in football was punished by running a lap or two around the track.  A missed free throw in basketball was punished by unlimited ‘down and backs’ on the basketball court.  An error in baseball or softball got a lap around the field to regain your focus.  So, as you can see, the quote above rings true in more ways than one. 😊

Fast forward to today and punishment from my younger days is something I routinely leave my house to accomplish, for fun! The therapeutic benefits have been amazing also.

Running has taken on a large part of my Walk into the Future, and I do not see it diminishing anytime soon.  I got into running later in life, so I am blessed to not have run related injuries that limit my ability to get my miles in.  I also know the importance of nutrition and stretching so make sure I take care of my body before, during and after my runs.

Another fun fact about my running program is I bring my running gear whenever I travel in case I can sneak a run in. Sometimes I never get a chance to break out my gear but want to be ready.

My work with the Central Florida Employment Council (CFEC) back in May brought me back to the Orlando area and the large trail systems available there.  My event with CFEC was on a Friday afternoon so I decided to hang out in Oviedo after the event so I could get up on Saturday morning and run the Seminole Cross Trail while in the area.  Yes, you read that right—Inspiration Man made a point to get a run in while in town making a difference. 

I love the Seminole Cross Trail because it has visible mile markers and most of the trail is shaded.  I made sure I got out early because I wanted to beat the Central Florida heat and still have time to enjoy time in Oviedo.

There was a lot of activity on the trail with bikers, walkers and runners sharing the trail.  I made a point to wave and say hello to everyone I saw on the trail.  My Fort Pierce runs do not provide many opportunities to see many folks during my runs, so it was great seeing others out enjoying the morning on the trail. 

A first for me was seeing someone riding a unicycle on the trail.  Guess I only thought people rode unicycles as part of a circus act but this guy rode by me at a good pace.  I was impressed with the ability to balance and ride a unicycle while avoiding people on a busy trail.  Started to wonder if I could ride one of those things.  Running provides time to think about stuff. 😊

I was able to complete a quick 6 mile run on the trail before it got too hot—not bad considering I was there for an event.

I look forward to leveraging the Seminole Cross Trail more as I ramp up my half marathon training.  I plan to get back into racing later in the year and need to start getting long runs in again. 

My run gear bag remains packed, and I am ready to keep logging miles.  Each run brings me closer to 1,000 training miles for the year.

How many miles have you logged this year?  Let’s get busy!

“Running helps me maintain my ‘never killed anyone’ streak”.

(Pinterest)

Running into the Future—goal within reach

Run article

“Set goals and crush them”.

(www.tresfleeck.com)

Goals continue to be a big part of my Walk into the Future.  I sit down in January and write out my goals for the year.  I break these goals up into categories so I can track my completion progress.

My weekly physical fitness goals include weight training (2 days), run (3 days) and speed work on Wednesdays.  My overarching physical fitness goal is 1,000 training miles in 2021—this includes running and biking miles.

I set 1,000 training miles as a goal to push my training to a new level.  This mile marker also helps my motivation since there are not as many races to run in this COVID-19 world.  I am always looking for ways to maintain my running edge and adding more miles to my training program appears to be a good thing for me.

Happy to report I logged 615 miles so far in 2021.  I have not been consistent with my long runs but routinely get in three quality sessions each week. 

Tuesdays:  3 – 4 miles (after work)

Thursdays:  4 – 6 miles (after work)

Saturdays:  6 – 8 miles (morning runs)

My Tuesday and Thursday runs are done when I get off work, so I am not concerned about my run times during these sessions.  Working 9, 10, 11-hour days creates a mental drain, but I still make time to hit the road since this helps to recharge me physically and mentally.  Some days are a lot slower than others, but I smile because I am out doing something I love.  Never thought I would say that, but I would be lost without my running program—it just took me awhile to come to this conclusion.

My Saturday runs are not like my long training sessions when I had half marathons to train for.  I routinely crushed 10+ mile runs on Saturdays before my move to Fort Pierce but 8 is the longest distance I hit when running locally.  I have not found a route that allows me to enjoy the run while getting in longer distances.  I have searched multiple locations, but nothing is available like the St. Mark’s Trail or John Brown Park in Tallahassee:

The trail system in Tallahassee allowed me to push my mileage and extend my long runs up to 16 miles on multiple training sessions.  I plan to get back to the longer versions of my runs since I am looking forward to getting back to being a running tourist

I am scheduled to run the 2021 Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon in September.  I have never run this race or visited the city so looking forward to getting back to a starting line to test my conditioning against some world class athletes.  My goal for this race is to run another Personal Record (PR) and get under 2 hours for the distance.  I was on track to go under 2 hours before COVID-19 hit the world, but I am confident I am going to hit my goal.

My training for Virginia Beach will increase my speed towards the Orlando OUC Half Marathon in December.  This course is completely flat so it should provide a fast track to help me hit my goals.  This will truly springboard my runs into 2022 as I gear up for a full running season—8 or more half marathons.

A full marathon (26.2 miles) will make it on my goals list for 2022—there I said it so now it is out in the open.  Let’s see who is going to run it with me! Come on Laurens! 😊

What goals did you set for 2021?  How is your progress so far?

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”.

(Tony Robbins)

One year in Fort Pierce

Fort Pierce

“Your life is a story of transition.  You are always leaving one chapter behind while moving to the next”.

(Anonymous)

2020 brought us a year of uncertainty and change.  Not the most prophetic thing I have ever written for the Walk into the Future blog but felt the need to drop that nugget. 

I celebrated the one-year mark of my move to Fort Pierce on April 13th and decided to look back.  I am sure I was not the ONLY person to move to a new city during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic but have not met anyone in my current circle.  Turns out I was the last employee hired by Indian River State College before a hiring freeze was imposed due to COVID-19 uncertainty and the onset of remote work for all college employees.

I remember when I was preparing to move from Tallahassee to Fort Pierce the thought kept coming up that maybe my opportunity to work at Indian River State College would be pulled due to the pandemic.  I called a few times to make sure I was still hired, and Human Resources kept saying yes.  Packed up the U-Haul, pointed it south and the rest is history—arrived in Fort Pierce without knowing the pandemic was about to get a whole lot worse than we expected.  It did not help the government kept telling people there was nothing to worry about—that dang U.S. government, they have never lied before, right? 😊

I never had a remote work schedule when I arrived—being new to the area, going into the office was my only interaction with other people. The limited staff in the buildings all wore masks and practiced physical distancing but going to work was a welcomed part of my day.  I could not imagine moving to a new city and then sitting at home all day without seeing anyone. 

True story—my entire staff was working remotely so I met my 11-person team on my laptop via a Zoom meeting.  Never thought this would be possible but 2020 made us find creative ways to get things done.  My initial staff meetings were all done via a virtual platform (Zoom, Black Board Collaborate or Microsoft Teams).  I love the functionality of Microsoft Teams and continue to conduct staff meetings with this platform. Most of the staff are fully vaccinated but we still have a few stragglers—hope to be able to get everyone together with physical distancing in the fall—fingers crossed.

I had to find new running routes over the past year.  Discovered Fort Pierce is not as runner friendly as Tallahassee or Oviedo so finding places to run safely continues to be a challenge.  I have two good running areas but would like more routes for a change of scenery.  I love running but still get bored if I do not have variety on my routes. Will keep searching for new places to run because I need to extend my long runs with my focus on becoming a running tourist again.  I have race entries for the following:

  • 2021 Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon / September 5, 2021
  • 2021 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon / December 4, 2021
  • 2022 Rock n Roll New Orleans Half Marathon / February 6, 2022

Would like to add more races but need to build my long runs back up to 12+ miles again. 

My initial workouts in Fort Pierce were done strictly at home.  Most of the gyms closed due to COVID-19 protocols and I would not have ventured in even if they were open.  I stopped going to the gym before leaving Tallahassee because the gym environment is a prime place for close contact with others.  This close contact led to people spreading the virus so I invested in workout equipment so I could maintain my fitness levels from home.  Surprisingly, I stayed in great physical shape with home workouts.  I have slowly returned to the gym but only go two days a week now when I am in town.  I do body weight workouts (pushups, crunches, squats, etc.) in the mornings before I head to work.  I am happy with my results and will keep this up since it is working and a lot cheaper than having a gym membership. 😊

The beaches on the Treasure Coast provide me with great places to sit, relax and catch up on my reading.  Funny, I live about 10 minutes from a beach but find I must schedule my beach outings.  I run close to the water and stop to enjoy the views but need to do a better job of just making beach days.  I am heading to Melbourne tomorrow for an air show and will get an early start so I can stake my claim to a prime beach location to relax and enjoy the Blue Angels as they put on their show.  I plan to get to the beach more this year and keep taking beautiful sunset shots.

Time continues to move forward.  It feels like I just got here yesterday but it has been a year.  Most days seemed to be the same due to COVID-19 protocols but a year it has been.  Looking forward to new adventures in 2021 and you know I am going to highlight a few in the Walk into the Future blog! 😊

Irie!

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”.

(Henri Bergson)

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)

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”

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)

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