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”

The Big Harvest—Collecting Race Bling

 ‘Any idiot can run, but it takes a special kind of idiot to run a half marathon.’

(Spectator sign, Nashville 2019)

The process of running a half marathon has many layers.  You have the training, nutrition, travel to the race site, EXPO and the actual race.  Sounds like a lot but each layer gets easier the more you invest into the process of being a runner.

Took me a while to get comfortable with the concept of labeling myself a runner but finally stopped fighting the term and gladly accept it.  Hi, my name is Calvin and I’m a runner! 😊  Felt good getting that off my chest.  The quote above is from a spectator’s sign I saw while running the 2019 Nashville Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon.  There are thousands of similar and funnier signs at every race.  The spectators are there to cheer, motivate and at times make runners laugh to help get through their respective race.  I make a point to acknowledge sign holders especially when they display a clever sign.  Another of my favorites:

‘Worse parade…EVER!’

The signs and spectators are welcome distractions from the actual process of completing a 13.1-mile race.  Music helps break up the miles, but the spectators always make me laugh with their encouragement and clever signage.

‘You know you’re a runner when…bling has nothing to do with jewelry.’

(Runners World)

An overlooked layer to the half marathon is what happens directly after crossing the finish line.  A legion of volunteers waits for each runner to cross the finish line and present us with city/race unique bling.  I never thought race medals would mean much to me but getting crowned after finishing a half marathon completes the journey.  I would feel I accomplished something big without the bling but let’s be honest—what’s the fun in that?! 😊

I always write about races and my training routine to get prepared.  The race city and entertainment options are other favorite things I have written about.  Decided to invest in a medal holder for the bling I’ve collected over the years to properly display my ‘adult trophies’.  Didn’t realize how many medals or how cool some of them are prior to researching the medal holder.  I didn’t have much of an organizational system for them either.  This will all change since I put in the work to earn the bling—will get these properly displayed on a medal holder where everyone can see them and then must listen to me explain each one—just joking!

Seriously, runners put in a lot of work to get ready for the races and perform their best.  The bling is a nice reminder of the race and city.  The bling is something we cherish and look forward to seeing what next year’s bling will look like.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll series has a Heavy Medal program that allows runners to collect additional bling based on number of events:

https://www.runrocknroll.com/Programs/Medals/Heavy-Medals

Of course, I’m trying to get the Don’t Worry Just Run medal.  I’m sure you can figure out why! Everything Irie!

Had an interesting conversation with a tree branch last month about race bling.  He selects race participation strictly on the bling available for the race.  Bling not up to par and he will not run in your race!  I’m not there yet, if there’s beer at the end I’m probably going to run your race! 😊

How do you display your race bling?  How important is this aspect of the race for you?  Thanks!

Happy Trails—Running and enjoying new sights!

My current Walk into The Future has allowed me to grow in multiple areas.  I have put an emphasis on my running program to expand my mental and physical capacities.

This extra attention to running provides me with an outlet to explore new places to run, stimulate my mind and to a degree get some sightseeing in.  I have been creative when identifying locations to run to combat the concept of boredom.  I rarely run the same route twice in a week—I’m able to leverage my neighborhood and parks to keep my route from getting stale.  I’ve recently discovered and added local trails to my running routine in my efforts to get faster at the half marathon distance.

St. Marks Trail

My goal to run a half marathon under two hours provides an additional level of motivation to my runs.  My old running routine did not incorporate a ‘true’ long run as part of my training.  I would routinely get a couple 6-mile, or 7-mile runs in before a race but that was the longest distance I put in.  Most running programs identify long runs in the 10-mile to 12-mile distance.  I was introduced to the St. Marks Trail by friends who know this trail would provide me mile options to get a true long run in to help with my training.

The St. Marks Trail is a converted railway that runs from Tallahassee, Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.  The trail is listed as 20 miles long and is extremely flat.  It provides an ideal place to build up mileage and is well marked to keep track of distances.  The trail is maintained by state trail rangers and there are facilities (bathroom, water fountains, rest areas) along the trail which makes it a popular choice for bicycle enthusiasts, runners and walkers.

My longest run to date on the St. Marks Trail is 12 miles…6 out and 6 back.  Enjoyed the concept of not having to ‘map’ out a course and hope it meets the distance I needed for the specific day.  I have designated the St. Marks Trail as my go to location now for my long run days.  The long runs concept was instrumental in getting me ready for the New Orleans Rock and Roll Half Marathon in early February.  Putting additional effort into my long run process prepared me better to perform during the actual race.  I was able to reduce my personal best time down to 2:10:39 (two hours, ten minutes and 39 seconds) official.  Believe my mid-race and late race endurance was enhanced because I now have the capability to incorporate long runs into my training program.

Projecting to incorporate 15-mile runs on the St. Marks Trail to continue to build my endurance, speed and mental approach for the other races I’m registered for later in the year.

Lafayette Heritage_Alford Greenway

The Lafayette Heritage_Alford Greenway (LHAG) trail provides a different challenge from the St. Marks Trail.  I can access the LHAG trail from home so don’t need to get into a car.  I simply lock my door and walk a little less than half a mile and I’m off and running on the trail.  The LHAG trail provides a lot of scenic views as you run through a neighborhood and public park to access the dirt portion of the trail.  This trail then allows you to run dirt trails next to lakes and ponds, so it is a great way to experience nature during a run.  I occasionally see rabbits, hawks and alligators as I work my way deeper into the run.  The terrain changes multiple times which makes it challenging and fun all at the same time.  There are inclines to climb on the trail which makes it a bit harder than the St. Marks Trail.  I normally can get a good 6-mile run in (out and back) for this trail but feel it more because the inclines are very steep.  This is good for building my endurance but does nothing for my speed. 😊  It also helps when I’m in a time crunch—I don’t have to drive anywhere to run—just go out and back and I’m done.

There are other trails nearby to add to my running program.  Will do some additional scouting to identify distances available on these other trails and start running them soon.

Will leverage trail running more as I expand my Walk into The Future!  More to come!

Trail Running