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)

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)

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)

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!

Running tourist—the Treasure Coast edition

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out what you put into it”.

(Oprah Winfrey)

Shared my running tourist Tallahassee adventures in an earlier post.

Decided to tackle the subject from my new home, Fort Pierce, Florida earlier than I did from Tallahassee.  The Tallahassee post was written when I knew I was leaving the city and realized I never took the time to write about things available there.

Wanted to get an early jump on writing about the Treasure Coast.  I am sure I will come back to this topic and provide an updated view when the COVID-19 pandemic is gone.  Most things in this area are still closed or I am not confident enough to visit yet.  There are a ton of fresh seafood markets and restaurants in the local area but do not see me going in for a meal right now even with proper physical distancing.

A good spot for takeout is 12A Buoy:  http://12abuoy.com/.  Do not know where the name came from, but they have good shrimp!

Running routes

My first two attempts to find a place to run in Fort Pierce did not go well.  I got my runs in but did not enjoy them very much.  There are not many multipurpose trails here so got out for a sidewalk run to stretch my legs.  Turns out the sidewalk I was on ended after about a quarter mile and I was relegated to running on the side of the road.  Not a huge fan of this process but did discover a nice hill and made the most of it to maintain endurance.  Never went back to this route since it had me too close to traffic.

My second attempt at finding a place to run was at my complex.  We have a large circular route (.59 miles) and I thought maybe this would get me going.  Never been thrilled going in circles but gave it a shot. My initial goal was 5 miles total, but I only got in 3.5 miles before boredom tapped me on the shoulders and I stopped.  Not a huge fan of seeing the same things when I run, and this route did not have the feel of being on an adventure—which I need for distance training.

Decided to use Google to find better spots to run.  Google identified the George LeStrange Preserve as a place with trails and it was only a 10-minute drive away.  Decided to scout the preserve and it provides multiple options with the best route going around the lake.  Again, this was a circular route but longer and there’s wildlife, shade, the lake, and people to see while in the preserve.   Enjoyed this location so much I make sure to get over there for one of my weekly runs.  Completed my Nashville Rock N Roll Half Marathon dedication run there in April to get 13.2 miles in since the actual race was postponed.  Posted a decent time considering I had no on-course support, crowds cheering or beer at the finish line.

 

A work colleague provided his favorite running spot which goes over the large, picturesque Sea Way Drive bridge and leads to Jetty Park.  I initially viewed this route as an extremely tough run since the bridge is so big, but it appears my hill training in Tallahassee prepared me well to get up and over the bridge.  Enjoy this route because there is so much to see while running and there is always a nice breeze coming off the water to help minimize the heat.  I have leveraged this route multiple times for my Tuesday and Thursday runs—leave work and head east to get my 6-mile run in.  Used an over and back approach recently to get in a double digit run—nice views each time on the bridge. 😊

 

Beaches

The beaches in the local area opened again the last week in April.  The county mandate was people could be on the beach just for exercise.  This lasted for 4 days before the governor lifted the stay at home order and the beaches opened fully with a mandate for people to maintain physical distancing.  I have gone by the beaches to get a look and feel for them but will explore fully when it is safe to be out again.  I have visited Jetty Park multiple times and sat in my vehicle to enjoy the views of the water.  It is a good place to watch people and the boats floating by.

 Beach

The Treasure Coast is comprised of Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, Jensen Beach and Stuart, FL.  These cities are all modest size but when viewed together comprise a large area.  My goal is to fully explore them all and then come back and write about the unique features of each.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

What areas are you looking forward to exploring when it is safe again?  Thanks!

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”.

(Andre Gide)

FYI—the beaches are closing again for the 4th of July holiday weekend!  COVID-19 is not going away.

The Wolf of Networking

Wolf of Networking

(Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay)

“Networking is an enrichment program, not an entitlement program”.

(Susan RoAne)

My Walk into the Future continues to provide me with opportunities to make a difference daily.  It helps that I have opened my eyes and mind to all possibilities and the opportunities keep presenting themselves to me.  The journey moves forward!

The title of this blog article references the Wolf of Networking.  I have identified myself as a People Builder, running tourist and Inspiration Man in multiple posts.  Well, say hello to my next moniker, Wolf of Networking! 😊

I selected this new moniker to have fun with a project that has been years in the making.  My past roles in university career services allowed me to build and maintain a network with recruiters who primarily hire recent college graduates.  I was responsible to find, network and recruit these recruiters to come on-campus to hire students.  My unit put on career fairs, networking events, professional development workshops and scheduled on-campus interviews to connect students and recruiters.  So, this put me in a prime position to learn inside information on how different organizations created their on-campus recruiting programs.

The Wolf of Networking had to compete with other schools for recruiters’ attention and resources to ensure our students got opportunities.  Happy to say we won more battles than we lost and maintained a robust on-campus recruiting program at multiple schools (UCF and FSU).  Shared tricks of the trade with other wolf packs (UF, USF, FAU, FIU) to help them become more successful getting employers on their campuses.  Found it was easier to keep employers in Florida if other schools were viewed as attractive options—I am competitive but also practical.

I leveraged the Wolf of Networking status to build my handpicked wolf pack and I am happy to see the great things they are doing around the country at prestigious institutions.  We stay in contact to ensure the pack continues to grow.

Went back to my wolf pack mentality recently to help a tree branch network with recruiters for future employment.  This tree branch had heard about my contacts but did not fully understand how connected I still am in the college recruiting world.  Happy to say they get it now! 😊

I was presented with a list of 9 organizations of interest for future employment.  I had professional contacts with 8 of the 9 organizations on the list.  Some of these contacts are also personal friends so it was a bit easier to get them to respond to my requests.  My tree branch now had people inside the organizations they wanted to work for looking out for them.  Nothing was promised but my network was looking out for my tree branch just as I would.

I tell people I work with you are always networking even when you do not know it.  Look for ways to benefit others and then when you need a helping hand people will respond to you.  Think my tree branch will look at the Wolf of Networking from a different perspective now.  The wolf makes positive things happen! 😊

Who can you help reach their goals?  What action steps are needed for a successful outcome?

 “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives”.

(Michelle Obama)

 Network Tree

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

2020 Wolf pack:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-apgar-m-s-38ab4035/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurenkume/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mforges/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/vrhanikuhaynes/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-a-collins/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jadevite/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/pagetisdale/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaylabriwilliams/