2021 OUC Half Marathon

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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. 

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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.

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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.  How is going to join me?

Irie!

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Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Virginia Beach half

“Remember, the second most important thing to choosing the right shoe is choosing the left one”.

(Unknown)

Decided to exercise one of my 2020 race credits for the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon over the Labor Day weekend.  I targeted this race in 2020 before COVID-19 shut down running but never got a chance to explore Virginia Beach. 

I have traveled to the state of Virginia before, but it was in the Washington D. C. area—never the coast.  Starting and finishing a race on the Virginia Beach boardwalk was an appealing draw for me and wanted to explore the area as a running tourist

Happy to report the race, festivities and weather were fantastic and I enjoyed my adventure.

I have been training but knew my current regimen was not where it needs to be to run a Personal Record (PR).  Most folks know I am always chasing my next PR, but it appears I am getting wiser with my mental focus.  My goal for Virginia Beach was to take a measured approach to the race and then determine how fast my pace would be for the rest of the race.

Booked an early Southwest airlines flight out of Orlando to get to my race destination.  This was my first plane ride since my Rock N Roll half marathon and cheesesteak adventures in Philadelphia back in 2019.  I did not know how I would react to being back on a plane but felt safe since everyone in the airport and on the plane wore their masks.  I have seen horror stories on the news about people not wearing masks but did not experience this at all. 

Settled into my exit row seat with extra leg room and enjoyed the two-hour flight to Virginia.  This was a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on my reading.  I currently have two books going—Eat that Frog and Start With Why.  Both books speak to my current work situation, so I bounce back and forth between the books.  May need to just finish one so I can tackle the other one with more energy—we will see!

The flight to Virginia Beach was uneventful—nothing special happened but was excited to finally arrive to get the adventure started.

Hotels close to the race venture were booked or too expensive for my taste.  Ended up staying in Chesapeake, Virginia which is close to a lot of shopping and entertainment.  Made the most of this fact and did some light window shopping and got a pedicure.  Nothing like having your feet rubbed prior to pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles. 😊  Completed my carb loading process with extra pasta at The Olive Garden and made sure to drink extra water.

The weather was projected to be hotter than normal so drinking water was necessary to stay hydrated. 

EXPO

The Rock N Roll EXPOs are always a highlight of the weekend.  The excitement of being so close to race day puts a smile on the face of most runners.  I was happy to be back around runners again and experiencing a new city.  The Virginia Beach Rock N Roll EXPO was light on merchandise and vendors—believe this is because 2021 was the 20th Anniversary of this race and also the last year for the event. 

The Virginia Beach city leaders decided they did not want to host the race anymore and wanted to leverage the Labor Day holiday weekend for other activities.  There were vendors available but not as many as I am used to for the Rock N Roll series.  I made sure to shop and buy a new set of leg compression sleeves since they were marked down 50%–got a pair of white CHEP compression sleeves.  I am sure you will see picture of me rocking them soon. 😊

Virginia Beach Expo

Boardwalk

Made my way over to the boardwalk after the EXPO to get a taste of Virginia Beach.  Got a chance to take some pictures at the King Neptune statue that sits right on the boardwalk.  King Neptune is popular with running tourists so had to ensure I got the photo.  The beach was crowded—this could be because it was Labor Day weekend, and the local schools start the following week.  There were a ton of families on the beach enjoying the sun, surf, and weather.  Decided to find a spot to get a drink and food. 

Virginia Beach

Found Catch 31 right on the boardwalk and pulled up at the outdoor bar to enjoy the beach and the view.  Ordered crab cake and beer so I could people watch and enjoy college football on the  TVs.  This was a popular place, and everyone was friendly—I would recommend visiting Catch 31 if you are in the Virginia Beach area.  

https://catch31.com/

Virginia Beach Neptune

Race

Left Catch 31 with the intent to get to bed early so I could get up the next day to run the half marathon.  I hit the bed to get my rest and get off my feet.  I always set my race outfit out the night before since this makes life easier on race day.  Decided to rep the Orlando Track Shack running club again during this race.  My Track Shack race shirts always get attention from other runners and give us something to talk about before the race.

The race start was staggered to ensure we maintained a safe distance prior to crossing the start line.  I was assigned Corral #4 again based on my projected finish time.  Happy to report my start position has improved over the years which means I am running faster than most of the runners in each race. 😊

My goal was to run a steady pace, enjoy the process and not hurt myself by trying to do too much.  Mission accomplished!  The race started one block over from the beach and we made our way to the boardwalk within the first mile.  It was great running next to the beach with a nice sunrise coming up over the water.

The course brought us back onto the main drag and then we headed south through neighborhoods for most of the race.  My plan is always to run to each water stop and then walk through them when I get water or Gatorade.  I take off running again and head towards the next water stop.  This approach has allowed me to complete multiple races and set PRs in the process. 

I ran with a smile on my face for the first 8 miles then my quads and hamstring started to scream at me.  Again, I have been running but not putting in the correct number of miles to build the lactic acid threshold needed for a half marathon.  I knew this coming into the race, but it never seems to help when your legs are burning—you just keep moving forward.  I continued my game plan even with the pain, but I was not moving very fast. 

Mile 10 is where I decided trying to run a PR was not happening so slowed my pace to enjoy the rest of the race.  Luckily for me I decided a PR was not worth the pain—Mile 11 is where runners faced the problem of running up a steep bridge to get closer to the finish line.  Most of us let out an audible ‘Holy Crap’ when we saw the bridge and the knowledge we had to get up and over to finish the race.  My pace slowed down even more while making my way over the bridge.  The downhill portion was great and led us back to the boardwalk to finish the race.  There were race spectators along the boardwalk and they cheered us to the finish line.

Very happy and proud to finish this race considering my training program was subpar—I can improve and will put more effort into my preparation.

Realm Brewery

The reward for completing the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon was a trip to New Realm Brewery.  This spot was highly recommended and did not disappoint.  Realm Brewery is an open air and inside sitting establishment.  The outside sitting is covered and there is plenty room to social distance while enjoying food and drink.  I got the Acai and Blueberry Seltzer and New Realm Burger which was outstanding.  There was live music in the afternoon and the environment was fantastic.  They did not have TVs outside to watch football but that is a small thing considering how great this place is.  Yes, I will visit again when I am back in the Virginia Beach area.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon will not be run again.  Great location, course, and entertainment in the area—guess I will have to explore other Rock N Roll locations to continue this running tourist program. 😊

Savannah is next on the list!

“If found on the ground, drag to the finish line”.

(From a runner’s t-shirt)

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)

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)

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”

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)

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.

Walking and being black in America!

Candles

(Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage”.

(James Baldwin)

“I’m a black man in America so I always feel there’s a target on me”.

(Wale)

The Walk into the Future blog has provided me with a creative outlet where I can share my thoughts, leadership philosophy and life adventures.  It puts a smile on my face when I look back at this journey and see the quality of my writing and content improve daily.  Never thought an electronic journal would become such a huge part of my daily life.  I smile every time someone follows the blog or sends me a comment.

Well, I did not smile so much today!

The battle we fight daily as black men in America has been playing out on every major TV network first with Ahmaud Arbery (killed jogging), then Breonna Taylor (killed sleeping) and now George Floyd (killed while handcuffed).  Think about that last sentence for a minute!

I know there are others out there who have faced the wrath of America but there was not video evidence of what happened to them.  Black America has been hoping and praying these incidents would stop and we can fully engage in the American dream—good thing I am not holding my breath—this never seems to end!  Why not?  I know this is not a simple question to answer but it needs to get answered soon.

Got several text messages from my friends to check on me to see how I am doing with all of this.  Thank you for thinking of me and reaching out!

Think it hits closer to home with my friends because they know how much I am out and about with my running program.  Seeing a black man get killed while out for a run highlighted our plight to my friends—yes, that could have been me.  I have had to reassure my mom, brothers, and friends that I am doing everything I can to stay safe when I am out for a run.  Sad to say I must think about being able to make it home safely when I go out for a run.  How many who read my blog have these thoughts when you go for a run?  Life is weird, huh?

My running outfits are selected to provide me with the most visibility as possible.  The extreme bright, loud, and sometimes fluorescent colors are used so everyone will know I am not hiding anything or trying to blend in.  I want to be visible and remembered by everyone who sees me running through their neighborhood.  I also make a point to speak, wave, and smile at everyone I encounter because I do not want them to feel threatened.  Surprisingly, most do not wave back but that is not the point of my actions.  I smile and wave whenever I see a police car drive by too.  Cannot be seen as a threat while exercising!

(Do I look like a runner?)

I also make a point to carry my retired Air Force identification card when I am on my runs in case I encounter police.  I have found police are less threatened when they realize they are talking with someone who has served the country.

When driving I always show my military identification if I get pulled over for any reason first, then I provide whatever identification is requested.  Please know both hands remain on the steering wheel and then I explain in a clear, distinct voice what I am doing if ordered to produce anything else.  I am sure most black people follow this same process to avoid misunderstandings that leads to…you know!

Being a black man in America is exhausting!  I have a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, a Master’s degree in Counseling/Human Relations, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Air Force retiree identification and recognized nationally for authentic leadership development.

Now, imagine what black men without my credentials must do to survive in America.  The insanity must stop!

NOTE:  I will get back to my normal tone next week—thanks for allowing me to vent.

 

“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color”.

(Malcolm X.)

“Usually, when people are sad, they don’t do anything.  They just cry over their condition.  But when they are angry, they bring about change”.

(Malcolm X.)

Time for change—let’s get out and vote, remain vigilant and demand change—we must do better!

How can you help?

Great article:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/05/29/george-floyd-ahmaud-arbery-killings-make-hard-blacks-breathe-column/5278108002/

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