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)