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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

The Suncoast Striders started out in 2006 as a club based out of On A Shoestring Inc., the local specialty running store in Bradenton, Florida. They offered an organized walk/run on Monday nights for customers, friends, and family, basically anyone in the community who was interested in walking or running as a way to get in shape. The club was originally named after the store. After a few years the club officers saw a need for a walking and running club that offered more opportunities for walkers and new runners to train and receive coaching advice on a regular basis. The need for a club to help local charities organize fundraiser races also grew. In 2010 the name changed to what it is today:  Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club.

From SuncoastStriders.com: “The mission of the Suncoast Striders is to promote walking and running as a way to achieve a healthy and fit way of life through group training opportunities, community events, and coaching.” The club’s focus has always been on encouraging all ages and all abilities to become more active. Sadly, On A Shoestring Inc. closed April 30, 2013 but the Suncoast Striders have thrived, offering four group training opportunities per week plus numerous social events throughout the year. There is literally something for everyone. They promote walking as an excellent form of exercise when many local clubs focus only on their fast runner members. While the faces in the weekly training groups change from season to season with the weather, work and vacation schedules, time changes, and the different events they train for, the heart of the club is a strong group of individuals striving to make our community a healthier one.

Most recently they awarded their second annual running camp scholarship. This news was featured on Running Journal’s website: http://tinyurl.com/ss14schol. The Suncoast Striders offer incentives for their members through programs like the 1,000 Mile Club / 500 Mile Club and summer group run/walk attendance contest where members are challenged and encouraged to be consistent in their training, track their mileage, and attend more group training sessions. The club hosts a number of social events, including picnics and movie nights.

2014 Scholarship Recipient Sydney Britt of Manatee High and Coach Rae Ann

One of the most memorable moments for the club was when well over a dozen members decided to train together for the inaugural Celebration Marathon and Half Marathon in January of 2014. They spent 18 weeks working together and encouraging each other through some tough training, weather, and dark winter nights. But that is how they all made it to the finish line. For many, it was their first ever marathon or half marathon. At such a small, first year event it felt like the Suncoast Striders owned that finish line. One member even bought mylar blankets for everyone in the club so they could be wrapped up once they crossed the line and have that big marathon finish line experience.

This quote, shared by Suncoast Striders member Laura, describes the club very well: “Running has given me many things but the greatest gift has been the people that it’s brought into my life.” Thoughts from Maggie: “I enjoy being part of the Suncoast Striders because I have met so many wonderful people who want to live a healthy and active life. Also it’s not just about walking/running, but making lifetime friendships and going to social activities together.” Another comment from Laura: “I love the Suncoast Striders because I feel like I am at the bar Cheers where everyone knows your name except we drink Gatorade and water instead of beer! I get a great workout and training but also true friends to run with.” From Katie: “Through The Suncoast Striders Walking/Running Club, I have met a great group of like-minded individuals. Together, we strive to be better than we were yesterday. To me, being a Suncoast Strider is about friendship and consistency.”

Follow the Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club on https://www.facebook.com/SuncoastStriders and https://twitter.com/SuncoastStrider

The Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club is a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and USA Track & Field (USATF) club with certified running and walking coaches.  SuncoastStriders.com


Suncoast Striders before a Sunday group run/walk

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…

1st quarter recap

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Back in January I was training on my hybrid marathon training plan which combined long runs, several races, hill training, and speed work.  The week ending January 15 marked my “highest week ever” (noted that way in my training log) with 63.25 miles.  Highlights of that week included a hill workout, 22 mile long run, and a decent 10K race.

My previous blog entry goes into great detail about the January 21 Ringling Bridge Run.  The week ending January 22 featured a 9 mile speed workout, some hill sprints, and the 26.2 mile run with the race in the middle.  That week ended with 57.45 miles.

I am going week by week for a reason here.  I wanted to share my build up to the February marathon so you can see the crazy hybrid training schedule I concocted.  ;)

Last week of January I totaled 49 miles with a tough speed workout (600s!) and one of my best races in a while – the Newnan’s Lake 15K in Gainesville (6:55 pace for 9.3 miles) which was followed by a 22 mile long run the next day.  Exhaustion was setting in but luckily it was taper time!

First week of February I had another good quality speed workout (800s this time), some 400s uphill, and took first overall female in the Run for the Manatees 5K.  Only 39 miles this week.  I was having some major IT band pain so I decided to switch to shoes with a little less stability to see if that would help.  I normally train in Brooks Adrenaline and decided to try the Brooks Ravenna.  Probably not the best idea a couple of weeks before my marathon but I didn’t know what else to do at this point.  I stretch, get massage regularly, and had acupuncture.

Taper time!  I do not handle the taper very well.  But who does?  The week ending February 12 totaled 34.25 miles with a tempo run, a couple short runs at GMP (goal marathon pace), and the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which I ran at GMP.  It was tough to hold back during this race but I knew if I did not, I would ruin my chances at a decent marathon next week.  All this week I ran in the Brooks Ravenna (less stability).

Marathon week!  After two and a half weeks training in the Brooks Ravenna, my IT bands felt better but my left hamstring and TFL were so painful.  So bad that I decided I better run the marathon in my good old Brooks Adrenalines.  Race conditions were not ideal for the Five Points of Life Marathon in Gainesville.  It was super windy, extremely humid, hilly, and a small race so I often found myself alone with no one around to even think about drafting.  I felt very good through halfway and was exactly on my goal pace at 20 miles but that’s when the good feelings blew away with the strong wind gusts.  My pace slowed every mile from 20 to the finish.  I even had to walk in the last mile.  I felt awful trying to ascend the final incline before the left turn to the finish line.  I know I looked as bad as I felt from expressions on the faces of my husband and friends at the finish.  My goal was to finish just under 3:30.  For some reason 3:30 has been a weird barrier for me in my last few marathons so I wanted to break it.  I finished in 3:39:46.  Of course I was disappointed.  I felt like I had trained so hard and so well for this.

5 Points of Life Marathon

After I walked around for a while and came back to see the posted results, my mood immediately changed.  The winning female time was 3:20.  I was the second overall female and won $450!

After a week or so of recovery, I closed out February and started March with 30 miles including an 8 mile speed workout, a hilly trail tempo run, and the Gasparilla 8K where I finished 3rd overall female.  Since the marathon I had been back full time in my Brooks Adrenaline with no IT band pain but still some lingering left hamstring and TFL tightness and soreness that just would not respond to anything.  On March 11 Team RunnerGirl won the female division of the Sarasota Half Marathon Relay.  I ran the first leg which was about 6 miles and included the Ringling Bridge while my relay partner Kali ran the longer second leg.  It was our second relay together this year and this time we took home the gold.  What fun!  We had such a great time at this race with so many of our running friends from Team RunnerGirl – On A Shoestring – Brooks as well as Suncoast Striders and many of our local high school runners.

Team RunnerGirl Wins Sarasota Half Marathon Relay

Team Brooks-RunnerGirl-On A Shoestring

And then somewhere in mid March I decided I was going to do my first ultra…

Why do I run?

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

At mile 11 of my long run today I stopped and walked onto the beach since it was low tide.  I looked north across Tampa Bay to see the Sunshine Skyway bridge.  It was so calm, peaceful, still, and cloudy with a light rain.  I just looked around at all the beauty and felt at ease.  Robinson Preserve is one of my favorite places to run because of how calm and peaceful it is.  I love taking in all the sights and sounds of the wind, birds chirping, fish jumping out of the water, pelicans diving in, and unknown little critters scurrying in the bushes.

I started my run slower today and decided not to focus on pace since I raced yesterday.  I ran easy and really enjoyed letting my thoughts wander.  My marathon training plan calls for very specific paces on all three of my key runs each week.  But since I did race yesterday and ran a total of 8 miles I gave myself a day off from pace so I could enjoy a true Long Slow Distance run with no pressure.

At the end of this 18 mile run I actually ran faster.  My last two miles were the fastest of the day at 7:59 and 7:47 respectively.  I just ran how I felt.  I guess I was feeling negative splits!  My long run goal pace was supposed to be 8:40 for this run…if I hadn’t raced the day before.  I ended up at 8:47 pace without checking the Garmin during the run, starting out slower, and just running how I felt.  I was totally amazed.  I was able to just run, let my mind wander, enjoy the experience, and still be pretty close to my scheduled pace.

Runs like today remind me why I run.  I think it’s important to find meaning in running.  “Running one might say is basically an absurd pastime upon which to be exhausting ourselves.  But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you’ll be able to find meaning in another absurd pastime:  life.” – Bill Bowerman

Today reminded me of one reason I run.  Why do you run?  To inspire others?  To win awards?  To set Personal Records?  For personal satisfaction?  To slow down the aging process?  We all seek peer recognition from time to time but ultimately, is what others think of us our reason to run?  Why do you lace up those shoes and head out the door each day, week, month, year?

The good old college try

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

When I ran cross country and track at Brown University, there were so many levels of competition.  We competed in NCAA Division I and the Ivy League, yet the highest level of competition always seemed to be amongst ourselves, as we were all trying for one of those coveted top seven varsity spots on the cross country team or trying to hit a qualifying time or be in a top spot for an event in track so we could make the traveling team.

This competition started in the fall of freshman year in cross country and never let up.  In high school I had always run easy on my long runs, you know, conversational pace for the most part.  Not in college!  I remember cold, slushy winters in Providence when we hit the streets and hammered out hard 10-12 milers with the upperclassmen.  And all we ever tried to do was not fall off the back.

Then spring arrives and it’s time to head to the track.  Brown has an awesome stadium and all weather track.  But, it is two miles away from the main campus.  So that meant a two mile warm up run to the track, hammering away these workouts that left me wondering if I could finish, and then, yes, you guessed it, a two mile cool down jog to get back to campus.  And no matter which route you took back to campus, you had to run uphill at some point.

I remember heading to the dining hall after practice with teammates and as we stood in line with our trays, I recall not wanting to eat.  I had run so hard that although feeling hungry during the workout and knowing I needed to refuel, my stomach was feeling kind of sick and food was the last thing on my mind.  One guy put his tray down and left.  The rest of us knew we needed to eat so we stayed.  After a while, that feeling passed and then we felt hungry and devoured insane amounts of food and stuffed snacks in our back packs for later too.

That feeling I am talking about mostly comes when doing speedwork or really putting forth a strong effort.  I felt that a little today.  And as crazy as it sounds, it made me smile!  I was doing a five mile tempo run on a nice trail but the head wind was strong and cold.  Despite the wind and softer surface, I was determined to complete the workout at the pace I was supposed to so I really had to work.  I fought the wind and even felt hungry during the workout.  When I finished the five miles, slightly faster than goal pace, and started my super slow cool down jog, I felt that sick feeling just a little.  And all I could do was smile as it brought me back to my days at Brown.

I am training for the 2011 Boston Marathon, which his only 14 weeks away.  My training has been challenging and after today’s run and feeling like I used to back in college, I knew I must be doing something right.

Keep your easy days easy, but don’t be afraid to run hard on your hard days no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

Remembering how to play

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

When is the last time you went outside and played?  According to George Sheehan, my favorite author, “Fitness has to be fun.  If it is not play, there will be no fitness.  Play, you see, is the process.  Fitness is merely the product.”

I have been running and racing for 26 years and I will admit, not every single run or race has been fun or felt like play.  Sometimes I get so focused on training right and getting in shape to try for a new PR on race day that I lose sight of the fun of it all.

Luckily many of the girls I coached in high school came home from college for Christmas break and I was able to go on many training runs with them over the past two weeks.  Between my new training buddies and these special visitors, the past few weeks of training have been so much more fun than usual.  I actually don’t remember my last run by myself!   :)

Today was a long day on the computer with deadlines.  I was a little rushed leaving the house to meet a friend for today’s run.  Traffic was of course slow going – too many people on the road!  So when I arrived a little late and frazzled for our run, I stepped out of the car and we immediately started running as I explained my crazy day.  We were about a mile into the run on top of the steep bridge and although I was out of breath, I was still trying to talk.  It felt good.  We were running faster than I normally do for a longer run.

Neither of us had a route planned so we just ran over bridges, along the beach, through a park, along the water then back over the big bridge.  We ended up with 12 miles total.  The fun part was just running and talking and not worrying about pace.  The route was new and unplanned.  That’s why it felt so much like play.  It wasn’t a route that was pre-measured and that we had run hundreds of times.  We ran a good pace.  Trying to talk while being a little out of breath and not really knowing where this run would take us made me feel like a kid who just ran outside to escape it all.  I ran away from the stress of the day.

I felt like I truly played today.  During the run and especially driving home I couldn’t stop smiling.  Today I felt free.  I was able to leave work at work and enjoy all that today’s run had to offer.

George Sheehan’s words of wisdom:  “Play is where life lives.”  Whatever form of fitness you choose, enjoy it, do it regularly, make it fun, and live life to the fullest my friends.  Play!  I did today and am happier for it.

Becoming a runner

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The first book I discovered by George Sheehan was “George Sheehan on Running to Win:  How to Achieve the Physical, Mental & Spiritual Victories of Running.”  I was browsing at Books-A-Million back in 1997 or 1998 and stumbled across it by accident.  I can admit that at the time I was not aware of this running guru or his amazing books.  I was only a couple of years out of college and had just jumped into marathoning without really knowing what I was doing.  I read the front cover, the back cover, then started reading the first chapter right there in the store.  After the first couple pages I could not believe that what he wrote applied so directly, so perfectly to me.  I had to buy it!

From that point I read everything I could get my hands on written by George Sheehan.  And even his early books that were out of print, thanks to Phil (now husband, then boyfriend) who was a computer and Internet whiz even back then.  This is before I was doing much online, never mind shopping.  I am now the proud owner of all of George Sheehan’s books and even a rare audio tape of one of his lectures and a VHS but we don’t have a VCR so I haven’t actually watched that yet.  But that’s a whole other story…

I have read all of his books and some twice.  After just 22 pages of “Running to Win” I am already inspired again and don’t want to put it down.  He starts out talking about the difference between a runner, a jogger, and a racer.  I won’t go into all the details – you should definitely read the book!  One of the most fascinating parts (so far) is about becoming a runner.  According to Sheehan, “running has become an accepted method of taking charge of one’s life and becoming one’s personal best.”

The premise here is that people become runners for the basic reason of changing themselves.  It can be a physical change they seek or a psychological change or both.  Sheehan goes on to say that every runner has a “before” and “after” story.  I have heard many great stories about lives changed by running.  They are dramatic and amazing and important.  The funny thing for me is that I started running when I was 11 years old.  Still a child.  My Girl Scout troop was working towards a fitness badge and the sport we chose was running because my dad was a runner, my mom was our troop leader, and running was a sport we could do without a lot of people or equipment.

Now at age 37 I honestly don’t remember what I was like “before” running.  I have been running for 26 years.  The longest lay off I had from running was 4 months recovering from an injury.  I have been a runner for my entire adult life, teen years, and some of my childhood.  I don’t feel like I really have a “before” story.  I am blessed to have been a runner almost all of my life.  I could not even imagine what my life would be like without running.  I guess that is why I encourage anyone and everyone to try it.  I promote and educate, support and give back.  Running has given me so much.  I hope others find that gift as well.

Rather than a “before” and “after” story I think I have a long and varied journey through running, through various training methods, through various obsessions, and what I call “before” and “after” coaching education.  Training smarter after the coaching education was really key for me.  I think that is why I was able to PR at the half marathon at age 36.  Some PRs like the 5K and anything shorter than that are definitely behind me but I feel like the longer distances are still within reach.  And after 26 years of running and racing, it’s good that I can still go after these goals.  We all need purpose, right?

Sheehan answers the question of what makes runners run with this great quote from a 39-year-old runner:  “Running is the most important thing in my life.  It’s given me the freedom to be myself, to live a life I deemed not worth living.  It has freed me from the hang-ups of my youth.  It has matured and strengthened me.  It is the most important thing I have ever done.”  And he goes on to say “This runner has done what millions of other runners have done:  They have accepted a moral imperative, the necessity of being a good animal, and have become a good person as well.”

If you have not read George Sheehan, you are in for a real treat.  His focus is on being the best YOU, an experiment of one.  Not the fastest on race day or beating a training partner or rival, but comparing yourself to yourself and trying to be the best YOU that you can be.  Competing and winning are definitely great and can keep us excited, interested, and challenged, but truly becoming a runner is about you and the run.

Running to Win

All I want for Christmas is a new PR!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Car accident on 10/8 really threw things way off course.  Car totaled, waited for insurance company to do their thing, finally received check and thanks to my wonderful husband, getting the new car was a very easy process.  He’s really awesome with the online research so we were totally prepared when we left the house to go “test drive” and came home with the new car…the actual car he thought we would get after checking the car fax, etc.

Anyway, injuries were not too bad and the air bag burns healed within two weeks.  The seatbelt injury to my chest/pec area and the back and neck soreness/pain have taken longer to heal, but I am thankful for my chiropractor and massage therapist!  I went to my general practitioner first and after an X-ray showed nothing broken or cracked, he suggested going to a chiropractor.  Good advice.

So two weeks of no running and trying to heal.  Let’s just say I was not happy.  I had numerous races already lined up that I had already paid for and had hotel reservations for so I wasn’t going to lose out on that investment.  Losing two weeks of running would normally not be a huge deal, but the timing was the absolute worst with races every weekend in November including two half marathons and a 20K.  I could not cross train so it was two weeks of nothing.  Definitely more of a taper than I needed!

So I attempted the first race, the Creaky Bones 5K on 10/23 which was painful and my time was nowhere near where I would have liked, but it was a fun event with friends anyway.  The second was on Halloween, the Daytona Beach Half Marathon.  I knew I would not be able to race it and be happy with my time so I decided to run with two good friends who were also running it.  That turned out to be a very fun experience.  The next race is this coming Sunday, the XTERRA Wildhorse Trail Half Marathon.  It is put on by TampaRaces.com – who put on amazing events.  Since I am already registered and it is the first race in the XTERRA series, I have convinced myself that I must do it.  I know I am not in the shape I had hoped to be in by this time of the year but I will do my best.  The following weekend is the Naples 20K.  This was my chance to PR at 20K since that is not a very popular distance.  I was confident about setting that new PR before the accident, but now I’m not so sure.

Most of you know that I am President of RunnerGirl Inc. and so tonight while I was updating our online gift shop, I added our holiday section for those who are already thinking about those festive times and who like to shop early.  My favorite items in that section of the online store are those with this clever saying:  All I want for Christmas is a new PR!

All I want for Christmas is a new PR!

This made me think about Christmas and all the special people in my life.  It made me smile about those who make their health and well-being their top priority but it also made me quite sad because some of the people in my life do not make their health and fitness a priority.  I know that I cannot motivate others to take better care of themselves, but I do hope that maybe I can inspire them through my actions.  And basically that is all we can do to help our loved ones.  We can support, encourage, and educate them.  But we cannot make them do it.  We cannot do it for them, as much as we would like to.

I know that for myself I do wish for a new PR and continued good health.  But really, for Christmas, since that is the biggest gift giving holiday in my family, I truly only want one thing:  for my loved ones to make their health a priority.  I would like them to start and stick to a fitness program, eat healthier, and just take better care of themselves.  There’s nothing anyone could buy me that would mean more than spending time with my loved ones who are healthy and happy for years and years to come.

I think being in a car accident or going through any type of trauma like that makes you re-evaluate life a bit and definitely helps you to prioritize.  Be well my friends.     :)

Talk about being humbled!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

I hope I do this race and this course justice in my description because I do feel humbled by the whole experience.

When I first found this race online I was so excited about a race at Northfield Mountain.  This is the place where many of my high school cross country races were held.  A place where I experienced great joy and success and also great frustration.  A place where more friends and family than I can count all gathered to watch me run my senior year when I placed second at State.  It is a ski area in the winter and there’s a reservoir with tons of trails for hiking, walking, running, orienteering, and mountain biking during the spring, summer, and fall.

To say it is hilly would be like saying the ocean is a little bit salty.  It is not called Northfield Mountain for nothing.  This race was billed as the USA Track & Field New England Trail/Mountain Championship.  Originally it was to be a 10.3K race but due to the draining of a reservoir and all the truck traffic along that route, the course had to be changed at the last minute (yesterday) to a 5.3 Mile race.  THANK GOODNESS!!!!

Here’s a quick overview of my splits for each mile:  8:36, 10:26, 11:26, 6:36, and 6:25.  That should give you a glimpse of what I am about to tell you.

We started on a hill we ran on in our high school races.  I was conservative, but didn’t want to start out too easy – it was a race after all.  But instead of using any of the trails that flatten out from the high school course, they had us go UP.  We kept going up and up and up.  My legs and lungs were burning and a bunch of people passed me so I glanced down at my Garmin to see only 0.91 miles.  Are you kidding me?  My legs and lungs were burning this badly and we had not even reached the first mile marker.

We were blessed with a couple of short declines and flat sections here and there but mainly the first 2.7 miles were uphill after uphill.  Not just up hills or inclines, mind you.  These hills were so steep that even the speedier runners ahead of me walked up them.  Yes, that’s right; I had to walk at least three times up these steep, tortuous hills.  We were told that there was an unmanned water stop about half way.  I was SO looking forward to water.  But that meant stopping, grabbing a cup, pouring the water, then getting to drink it.  I didn’t want to stop; I just wanted this to be over.  So I skipped the water because I figured it was only 5 miles plus I could see where the down hills started.  I had to get to the downhill! 

Walking up those steep hills almost made me laugh the first time because I thought about all the “hill” training I did the past six weeks on the Green Bridge and Ringling Bridge at home to get ready for this race.  Ha!  Who was I kidding?  Well if I hadn’t run those bridge workouts at all, maybe this race would have been even more punishing for me.  So it was better than nothing I suppose.

So we are more than halfway into the race and have finished the 785 feet of “climb” that the race director emailed us about the day before.  I leaned forward a little and just let gravity take me down the hills.  The last two miles were almost entirely downhill.  And not just a gentle sloping decline.  These were steep trails with rocks, roots, grass, and dried leaves.  They twisted and turned us back towards the finish.  I tried to let go and run them with reckless abandon.  Now I felt like I was back in high school!  No fear.  I was passing quite a few people who passed me on the uphill section.  I was flying by runners who were older and I suppose wiser since they did not want to chance falling or twisting an ankle.  I didn’t catch the whole thing, but one guy I flew by on the downhill said something like “I used to run suicide down hills like that when I was younger.”  For an instant, I thought, “Am I crazy to run them this fast?”  I guess I could have fallen.  Oh well.

I don’t know if I can fully explain how fast I was running down these hills.  I really felt like I was flying.  I did hit one soft spot where my left ankle turned a bit and I thought for sure my legs were going to give out and I was going to eat dirt, hard.  Thankfully I caught myself and was able to keep going.  That would have hurt big time.  I continued on, flying down the hills, maybe a tad slower than earlier once I felt my legs almost give out.  There were two smaller up hill sections towards the end where I was able to use the momentum of the down hills to power about halfway up and then try to maintain to the top.

A quick turn, steep downhill, sharp right, then probably the only real straightaway of the race, led us to the finish line.  I could not sprint to the finish line, I was just happy to be finishing in an upright position at that point.  I exited the finish chute then kind of half smiled at how unbelievably wobbly my legs felt.  I was exhausted but so happy to have finished and not fallen.  I was greeted by my husband and Grandma.  What a great day.  The weather was absolutely perfect too.  Warm in the sun yet cool in the shade.  Very little humidity, if any.  None that I noticed anyway.  We stayed for the awards ceremony because I wanted to applaud those hardcore runners who finished ahead of me.  I was not expecting anything today, especially with the hills and those veteran trail/mountain racers, plus they only went one deep in ten year age groups.

I tried to do a cool down jog but after about 200 meters, I could not jog anymore.  I had to walk the rest.  I honestly could not remember my legs ever feeling as wobbly and spent as they did today.  This has to be the toughest race I have ever run in my life.  And I have run a lot of races.

As I said before, I did some “hill” training back home to get ready for this race so I thought I would be somewhat ready to tackle the mountain.  I clearly had no idea what 785 feet of climb on paper would mean on my legs.  So to say that this race humbled me is an understatement.  I have never felt beaten by a course before.  I have never run a trail/mountain race before.  I guess they have a whole crazy mountain series or something.  I couldn’t imagine. 

Well maybe I could.  If I lived near this type of terrain and could train on it regularly, that would be a different story.  When I lived in New England, I loved hills – training on them and annihilating the competition on them.  But now that I am a flatlander from Florida, I humbly bow to the mountain at Northfield.  You trail/mountain racers are on a whole different level.  And I respect that.

Finishing at Northfield Mountain


Northfield Mountain

Age 36 course record or “How to pick your races!”

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Holyoke Elks Reservoir Run

When I first planned this trip back home I only intended to race the USATF New England Trail/Mountain Championship race on Saturday but once I looked at the website for the local running club and saw that I had a shot at the female age 36 course record for their Thursday night cross country races at the reservoir, I had to do it!

I grew up running these 5K cross country races during the summer as part of my summer training.  They were held every Thursday night from late spring to early fall.  My parents and I would go to a few each summer.  The cool thing about these races is how low key they are.  You show up, pay your $4 (yes, that is correct, only four dollars), pin on your laminated number, and head down to the reservoir for the race.  No frills.  Just a weekly race in a beautiful place, no cars or exhaust, no road closures or cones, no goody bags or shirts, no mile markers or split callers, just run on a cinder path around a reservoir, enjoy the beauty and see who you can beat this week or try to beat your time from the last time (since it is the same basic course each week).

Since I was racing on Saturday, my only goal going in was to run fast enough to set the female age 36 course record.  They have a course record for each age male and female.  I turn 37 next month so this was my only chance at it.  Once I started the race, I saw two women ahead of me – one “youngster” who was probably a high school runner or possibly college age way ahead and a woman who was probably over age 40.  I stayed comfortable for the first mile, knowing I was running only what I needed to for the record.  We passed the girl who “won” the first mile shortly after my Garmin buzzed letting me know we reached that first mile.  I closed in on the over 40 woman and just stayed behind her since I was running the pace I needed to.  But once we reached half way, I felt like I was maintaining my pace and she started to slow so I went by her.  Then when I felt the 2 mile buzz on my wrist, I picked it up since I felt good.  So I ended up racing a couple of guys in that last mile.  I looked at the Garmin again and saw we had about a half mile to go.  I leaned into the downhill and took off.

Saw the clock at the finish line in the high 20s and thought how cool it would be to drop that old 22:36 record down to below 21:00.  But my slower pace earlier set me back a little and I didn’t want to kill myself trying (Saturday’s race in the back of my mind).  I did sprint to the finish where I outkicked and out leaned a gentleman at the finish line.  Official time was 21:02 but this was an age graded race so my age graded time was 20:46.  I don’t know how that works, but I will stick with my 21:02 new age 36 female course record.  Oh, and I was the overall female winner.  That was a nice bonus.     :)

Sometimes the best thing you can do is “pick your races” and find a small race, low key race, and who knows what might happen.  I overheard the race director say how tonight’s race was their biggest weekly race ever with around 134 runners.  Very cool.


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