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The Reluctant Race Director

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I never wanted to be a race director.  But, as head cross country coach at Manatee High School, it came with the job.  The Canes Cross Country Classic 5K is held every year on Labor Day and it serves as our cross country team’s main fundraiser.  When I first started coaching back in 2003 it also included a one mile fun run/walk which I changed to a 1K a few years ago in the hope that it would attract more families and younger runners in our goal to fight childhood obesity.  The 5K course gives the participants a unique experience in that it runs over our home cross country course and usually features tons of high school competitors in the field.

Start of the 22nd Annual Canes Cross Country Classic 5K

This past Labor Day was our 22nd Annual Canes Classic and my 11th year as race director.  Every year I state that my favorite day of the year is the day AFTER Labor Day.  The job of race director is a very challenging one and definitely way more stressful than I ever imagined.  Knowing that the experience of every runner, walker, and volunteer out there rests on me is a huge responsibility.  The one thing I can brag about is that we have the coolest t-shirt designs year after year!

Members of the MHS girls’ XC team showing off the 2014 shirt design

Working as a race director has definitely taught me to appreciate all the work that goes into the races that I compete in even more.  I no longer show up at races expecting things but rather appreciating all that has been done.  It is great idea for all runners and walkers to volunteer at races to develop more of an understanding of what makes a successful event happen.

Directing a race is much like training for a marathon.  You need to have a good plan and start working on it months in advance.  You must be consistent in that work over weeks and months in order to have the greatest success on race day.  If you lack that consistency, like I did for this year’s Canes Classic, you end up stressed out, sleep deprived, and struggling to complete all the tasks at the last minute.  And like with not so consistent marathon training, you may be able to cram in enough work in the last few weeks to get you through race day but you definitely will not do your best.  I thought I had it all covered:  permits, insurance, sponsors, registration, shirts, goody bags, volunteers, all the school paperwork and permissions, security, timing, awards, food and drink, course set up, and clean up.  But I forgot about marketing.  Without a plan, without the consistent work in the previous seven months, this very important item was left undone until it was too late.

While the race went off perfectly, our participation numbers were very low.  With this being our team’s fundraiser, this definitely hurts us.  I own this mistake and vow to improve.  I thoroughly enjoy following a tough marathon training plan and seeing the success on race day.  Now I just need to lay out a Canes Classic race directing plan and follow through with the same resolve.  Maybe the greater success next year will make me less reluctant.

Overall female winner Diana Sitar with me in the background announcing the award winners

Special thank you to Roxanne Britt for taking photos for our team this year!

http://www.CanesClassic.com

Grateful

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

When training and racing are going well, it is easy to start to take it all for granted. I have been running and racing since 1986 when I began a run/walk program to earn a fitness badge in Girl Scouts and then joined the varsity cross country team later that fall when I entered seventh grade at our junior-senior high school. I have had my share of injuries over the years, especially in college where I missed more competitive seasons than I raced. Since college I have been self-coached, which has been quite the learning experience. I have had a lot fewer injuries but I still make mistakes despite all of my trial and error, coaching education, and just “knowing better!”

In February while racing the Gasparilla 8K in Tampa, I felt a weird painful twinge in my left thigh. It hit me about halfway through the race and would not let up no matter how I changed my stride, sped up, or slowed down. I was fortunate to be able to finish and won the Masters division. I was definitely concerned about the pain but with only eight weeks to Boston, I could not afford any time off. I continued training and racing and racing and racing. Confession: I raced way too much this spring. With over ten years of coaching experience and 28 years of training and racing experience, I should know better. Yet here I am making this major rookie mistake. I think I have become a race adrenaline junkie.

I made it through the eight weeks of training with consistent hamstring pain which also hurt quite a bit during the Boston Marathon. After Boston I took five days of complete rest before the DeSoto 5K in Bradenton that Saturday night. I had committed to run it for my racing team, S2 Timing, and I had also challenged my track team that if any of them beat me, I would treat them to frozen yogurt but if I beat them, they would treat me. They definitely had the advantage since I was just five days off a marathon. I was hesitant to race but decided to just go out comfortably and not push that hamstring at all. I ended up running negative splits, finishing second female, and winning Masters. And let’s just say that I am getting treated to frozen yogurt sometime soon! Two of my track girls set new personal bests that night, which was fantastic.

2014 DeSoto 5K with my Track girls

 

S2 Timing Racing Team at DeSoto 5K

I was making excuses for why I won Masters – it was a very small race, my time was not that great compared to what I usually run, etc. I took another week off from running to rest that hamstring but had another race commitment the following Saturday with the S2 Timing racing team (which I am incredibly grateful for!). For the Miles for Moffitt 8K in Tampa, I had the same mentality going in; I would go out comfortably and let the hamstring pain dictate my pace. I finished sixth female, second Masters, and just missed winning Masters by six seconds! I think my friend Meagan’s comment was “you’re ridiculous” or something like that.

With Meagan after the DeSoto 5K

I started making excuses again saying things like I only placed because I’m over 40 now, and then she stopped me. I should not make excuses for how or why I placed in these races. I should be thankful that I have been able to run all these years. I should be grateful that despite the hamstring injury and missing two weeks of training, I was able to run these two races and place in them. I am grateful for all of my amazing friends who have come into my life as a result of running, so thankful for the incredible support of my husband and family over the years, and grateful for all of the athletes I coach. I just need to remember to be grateful for the fact that I must have some running in my genetic code and that I am ABLE to train and race at the level I do. Running is a gift.

#runhappy

 

The Craziness of the Long Distance Runner

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was originally a short story (Alan Sillitoe, 1959) and then a film (1962).  I have not read it or watched it yet but I like the title and it influenced the title of this blog entry.  Both titles remind us that long distance runners are a little different to say the least.

My tale starts last night about this time when I was supposed to be going to sleep.  I couldn’t sleep despite being extremely tired.  So I sat up with laptop on my lap and the Hansons Marathon Method book open next to me as I reviewed my calendar of races that I am already signed up for, keeping in mind that Boston is only 8 weeks away!  I had no training plan, nothing to guide me to Boston.  That coupled with less than stellar training since the Celebration Marathon on January 26 was really starting to worry me.  I took about 3 weeks to “recover” after Celebration and then started training by basically doing what I felt like doing.  I did run several hilly runs over bridges and even a couple of hill repeat sessions but that was about it.

Sunday I ran the Gasparilla 8K, won masters, and was 8th overall female but my time was 50 seconds slower than last year and I had a couple of issues with leg/hip pain and a very bad cramp for the last 2+ miles.  All of these contributing factors seemed to hit me last night at bed time.  So I sat up trying to put together a plan.

Between planning workouts around my races and coaching/work schedule and posting like crazy all over social media, I must have stayed up until 1:30-2:00 a.m.  I don’t really remember.  Then I got up at 7:00 a.m. to start my day today with a BodyPump class and dentist appointment.  I thought for sure I would take a power nap mid day before my afternoon track practice.  But I didn’t.  I wasn’t sleepy.  So I used the time to get caught up on some work then headed to track practice.  After practice I lead a group of school board employees (mostly teachers) through a workout to get them ready for their next 5K or 10K race.  This was the last class of the six week session before their 5K and 10K races this Sunday.  As the day went on, it got colder, the wind picked up, and it started to rain.  Thankfully I packed a light jacket and pants.  By the end of class I was wearing all the layers I had and had my hood on!

After class I drove to our Suncoast Striders group run at Riverwalk.  It was cold, rainy, and pretty dreary looking.  I didn’t see anyone when I first arrived.  After changing and getting my Garmin ready to go, Leah, Laura, and Meagan joined me for the dynamic warm up.  I was still pretty chilled from being out in the cold for the past three hours.  I don’t mind running in the rain, but when I am coaching and not moving around too much, it gets cold!!!

I knew what I had hoped to accomplish in tonight’s workout but with so little sleep the past two nights and doing a BodyPump class in the morning, I was not sure I would be up for the more challenging pace.  The workout goal was a 2 mile warm up, 6 miles at goal marathon pace (GMP), and a 1 mile cool down.  My GMP runs for Celebration were 7:50.  The Hansons Marathon Method worked so well for me that I decided to up the ante a little and train at a slightly faster GMP of 7:38-7:49 for Boston.  Despite rain, wind, and cold I had an amazing run.  For 6 miles I averaged 7:38 exactly, even with going over and back on the bridge twice.  I am trying to run bridges (Florida hills) as frequently as possible as I prep for Boston.  When I finished that sixth mile I screamed inside “heck yes!!!!”  Part of me wanted to let that out but I didn’t want to scare anyone walking or running near me at the Riverwalk.  Or have them think I was crazy!  ;)

I don’t know if the reason for my great run tonight was that I was rested enough after Celebration Marathon, was inspired and encouraged by my fabulous friends/running buddies out on a cold, rainy, windy night, or if it was knowing I have a training plan in place after my late night planning session.  Maybe it was a combination of all those factors.  I think part of it was definitely knowing that I now have a map, a plan to get me to Boston.

On my cool down I found Laura and Meagan (they were doing a different workout), we stretched, then met Leah for dinner where I had the most amazing hot chocolate.  Crazy how good a day and a run can turn out!

Rookie mistake

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Before I even start writing here I must take a moment to log yesterday’s run on my shoe mileage spreadsheet…

So to be totally honest, I was not really looking forward to writing this one.  But lucky for me when I toss around ideas to write about my husband sometimes gives me that little push to get it on paper.  I don’t remember where I first heard the term “rookie mistake,” but it strikes both of us as funny, especially when used in the right situation.  I guess it’s most funny when used for silly things that end up being nothing more than slightly inconvenient. “You forgot to use bodyglide yesterday and now you’re a little chafed?  Rookie mistake.  You forgot to bring your swimsuit on vacation?  Rookie mistake.  You forgot to bring our refillable popcorn bucket to the movies?  Rookie mistake.

As we all know or have heard over the years, we are supposed to replace our running shoes every 300-500 miles or 200-300 miles for the more minimalist styles.  I have worked at two specialty running stores, am a certified running coach, and have been running for 29 years.  I think this somehow relates to the story of the cobbler whose kids don’t have proper shoes…

Anyway, I tend to rotate 3-5 pairs of running shoes when I am training.  Usually I have 3-4 pairs of training shoes and one pair of trail shoes in my rotation at any one time.  I like to let my shoes completely dry out between uses.  I use my running shoes for my own training runs, when I am coaching, and when I go to the gym so 3-5 pairs might seem like a lot but when the shoes are getting wet a couple of times a day, it does take some time for each pair to dry out before the next workout.  Plus, I’ll be honest, I love all the cool colors that the Brooks Adrenaline comes in now!  I have been known to match my shoes with my outfit pretty regularly.

This past year I have not tracked the mileage on each pair of shoes as carefully as I have in the past.  Normally I would at least make a note when a shoe reached 3-4 months of use to keep an eye on it.  Lately I have been dealing with some calf and Achilles tendon pain, hamstring tightness, and blisters.  I have treated it with massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments in addition to stretching and yoga.  For the blisters I have tried different socks, different anti-chafe products, and changing my socks and shoes in the middle of longer runs.

I spent most of my birthday money on a couple of new colors of Brooks Adrenaline so I have quite a few pairs “in the queue.”

2013_birthdayshoes12013_birthdayshoes2

It’s not like I don’t have the new shoes readily available when old shoes are ready to be retired.  Sadly I just wasn’t paying attention to the very important details of how many miles were on my shoes!  I decided this week to retire two pairs of my older training shoes and break out the new neon lime and purple Adrenaline 13.  I went for one 6 mile run and my feet and Achilles felt much better.  After a couple more runs in the new shoes I realized that many of my aches and pains and probably blisters were from running in shoes that were past their prime.  Rookie Mistake!!!!!

I share this story in hopes that others will learn from my mistakes and avoid aches and pains that really can and should be avoided with just a couple of minutes worth of time each day spent tracking shoe mileage, whether on a spreadsheet, training log, or a simple index card.  I have definitely learned my lesson and now have a pretty color coded spreadsheet to track the mileage on each pair of shoes. Run Happy!

shoe_mileage_tracker

Birthday run

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

This year I tried something new – a birthday run.  Since I was not able to go to Massachusetts this year to run the Tornado Alley 57 Miler again, the new plan was to run 40 miles on my 40th birthday.  I had trained for it and all went well up until a couple of weeks ago when I developed pretty severe blisters.  I really cannot recall having blister issues in all my years of running since college anyway.  I did get a doozie of a blister in college, but hey, we also wore cotton socks back then!

Normally I do not run super long during the summer in Florida.  I save my marathon training runs for the fall.  I think between the longer runs and the Southwest Florida heat and humidity, it created the perfect storm.  I wear really good socks, have custom orthotics, wear good fitting shoes, and use BodyGlide.  Florida weather must be no match for even the best laid plans.

I did no running at all for five days leading up to my birthday run in hopes that the blisters would heal and dry up enough to make it through 40 miles.  I felt great when I started out this morning but around 13-15 miles, my feet were soaked and it was time to change socks and shoes.  By the time I actually made it back to my car, I had finished 17 miles and knew the blisters were back.  So the blisters were very painful for the rest of the day; each step hurt and made me question whether I could finish the full 40 miles.  I changed socks several times, used Blistershield powder twice, and on the final sock change I used Aquaphor healing ointment.

Blisters aside, I could not have predicted the outcome of the day.  I was so blessed to have so many of my Suncoast Striders friends and Manatee High cross country runners out there with me.  Sarah, Meagan, and Katie were there bright and early for the 7:00 a.m. start and with birthday cards and gifts too!  Then Amber, Kristen, Canaan, and Ellen took over running duty on the 8:30 a.m. shift while Tiffany captured some great photos.  By 10:00 I had logged about 17 miles when Janet joined me for a few miles and even created a custom cadence for me!  Ellen ran out to buy me some watermelon and delivered it so I had a cold, refreshing treat at 25 miles.  At just before noon Jessica and JP joined me for my toughest miles of the day.  I had already taken one minute walk breaks after every mile completed from about mile 22 to 25 so once we reached 27, I broke the news about the walk breaks which they were happy to do.

We were heading to my favorite part of the trail just after the 27 mile mark.  It’s a nice shaded, single track trail along the water.  Shortly after running (slowly) onto this trail, I started to feel a little light headed and running became so difficult.  We walked almost the whole trail out and back and I had to make a tough decision.  I had to listen to the signs my body was giving me and tell JP and Jessica that I had to call it a day.  We were still a couple miles out from the parking lot so they graciously walked back the entire way with me.  I am so glad they did!  I think I was in worse shape than I thought.  I felt light headed and really felt I had to focus my vision on the path ahead.  And I was told later that I was slurring my words a little on the walk back.  Yikes!

When we reached the parking lot, we hit 30 miles total and saw Chris who was there to run the last leg with me.  I had to apologize to him that I was finished and could not run anymore.  He’s such an awesome guy; he ran my last 10 miles for me in the hottest part of the day at a preserve with little to no shade.  I guess I looked fairly bad because Janet and JP then proceeded to stay with me until I refueled a bit and cooled off.  I don’t remember how long it took for me to seem like my normal self again, but they hung out with me just chatting away and Janet had me sit in the back of her SUV which was cranking out the AC.  Then Theresa and Dawn and her cute crew of minions stopped by to deliver birthday cards, flowers, and balloons.

When I was finally feeling recovered enough to drive I left Robinson Preserve and took a detour on the way home for a dip in the pool and some quality time with my sister.  So refreshing.  All I could think about during the last 2-3 miles walking in the hot sun was how wonderful it would feel to be immersed in water!  I didn’t weigh myself before or after the run today, but probably should have so I’d have a better idea of the state I was in.

Deciding to stop my adventure today at 30 miles was extremely difficult.  I did not want to let anyone down by not reaching my goal.  But the most important thing I learned today is that I must listen to my body.  We all must listen to our bodies!

At first I was disappointed with 30 miles but after Chris texted me telling me that he did the last 10 for me and I had time to reflect on the day, all the people I was able to spend time with, and read all my birthday cards, texts, and messages on facebook, I knew that today’s birthday run was a huge success.  I am truly blessed to have so many amazing friends in my life and we have found each other through running.  This is certainly a birthday I will never forget.  And several people have told me that 40 is the new 30…

A mile or two

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Holding the fence as I squeezed under

Brushing the dirt off each other

Sneakers wet from the morning dew

Stretching, as I listened to you

Explain the morning’s adventure.

A light warm up, a mile or two

Then peel the sweats.

Off I went around the track

At blazing speeds, or so I thought.

Half way ‘round, “speed up!” you’d yell

And sometimes “slow down!”

At workout’s end, you gave results

And always encouraging words

Ending with “a mile or two”

As you walked across the field.

Minutes later we squeezed back under,

Leaving our place until next time

Never thinking that our adventures would end.

If I only knew…

 

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

1990 WMASS Track One Mile Champion

 

My dad was my high school cross country and track coach.  I wrote this in college when I was away from home for the first time in my life, missing my family, and being coached by someone new for the first time.   While my dad does not coach me anymore or run anymore, I feel that the lessons I learned from him as a runner and coach have helped me become a better runner, coach, and person.  I decided to post this poem as a blog entry for Father’s Day weekend as a way of thanking him and remembering those special moments.  I would also like to thank my mom for being the most amazing, patient, and supportive mom, team mom, and volunteer assistant coach ever.  She was there at every meet no matter how far away or how bad the weather.  She would help injured runners out of the woods, take pictures, and be there at the finish never knowing what to expect.  One of the two most memorable races with my mom was a home cross country meet when I was trying out a new insert in my shoe.  The insert bunched up so badly and caused me so much pain that I literally crossed the finish line, pulled off my shoe, and threw it.  Let’s just say I was a little frustrated and uncomfortable!  I did not throw it at my mom, but she jokes that I did…it may have been in her direction since she was waiting for me past the finish line.  The other was my junior year when I ran the mile in track and my mom took me to the WMASS championship when my dad was out of town.  I ran as an individual since my school did not have a track team.  We arrived at the meet and I was headed to the infield to pick up my packet and competition number when the coach from a neighboring school told me I would be disqualified if I went on the infield.  I was so nervous since I had never been to such a big track meet before.  My mom was not about to let another coach intimidate me so she took charge, went to the infield, picked up my packet, and I ended up winning and qualifying for state.

Once I figured out that I wanted to be a running coach, all I have tried to do is be like my parents and do all the amazing things that they did for me.  They kept it fun, always pushed me to be my best, and were supportive, caring, encouraging, strong, and understanding no matter the outcome of each race.

1988 WMASS XC

1988 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

1987 WMASS XC

 

 

The Darlings of the team

The Darlings of the team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 weeks

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Two weeks ago I received an email from a woman who needed help getting faster so she could pass the physical test for law enforcement school.  She had one more shot to pass.  Since time was of the essence I skipped the usual first meeting I have with coaching clients and we got to work.

She had to shave 11 seconds off her 300 meter time and 1 minute 1 second off her 1.5 mile time.  At our first workout I told her that the 1.5 mile time goal was likely but the 300 meter time would be tough in just two weeks.  I could not guarantee anything.

We worked together twice a week for two weeks and she ran on her own and cross trained the other days.  I showed her how to properly warm up and we worked on improving her form to make her a more efficient runner.

Two weeks is such a short time but during those training sessions I saw her form improve, her confidence in her running improve, and her ability to embrace the pain that comes with running fast improve as well.

I was able to be there the morning she retook her test.  We warmed up just like we did during our workouts and even did a timed 100 meters to remind her what her 300 meter pace would feel like.  Then she left to check in, take the vertical jump test, then returned to the track with the instructor and other students who were also retaking the test.  She passed the sit ups portion of the test then it was time for the 300 meters.

I timed each 100 meter section of it for her and called out her times so she knew exactly where she was.  She finished in exactly her goal time.  Passed!  Then on to the push ups.  Passed.  Now the final test was the 1.5 mile run.

I reminded her where she needed to be at each 200 and 400 meters.  She started slower than goal pace and gradually picked up the pace.  With a lap and a half to go she really started to push.  I could see the effort on her face and hear her labored breathing.  She learned to embrace that discomfort and in doing so she beat her goal by 24 seconds, which was 1 minute and 25 seconds faster than two weeks ago.

I don’t know who was more nervous and excited that morning.  I felt the adrenaline pumping through my body and I wasn’t even running!  Even her instructor who was giving the test came over to me afterwards and told me how impressed he was with her improvement in such a short time.

I don’t know if there is anything more satisfying than helping someone achieve her goals…especially in just two weeks.


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