Saturday, December 10, 2011

A little inspiration

Here's a pretty neat video that my teammate stumbled upon.  I hope it inspires you to go for a run like it did for me.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today was going to be, if things went generally well, another point-to-point run.  This time, it would be thirteen miles longer than the one from this summer, back when nine miles was a post-injury accomplishment.  I didn't want to think about the added distance, though.  It just made it seem even longer.  Today was going to be my birthday run, and I was going to enjoy it, I decided, even if I was a little apprehensive at the start.

Early this morning, I pulled into the vacant parking lot of the Serenova Tract entrance to J. B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve.  Twenty two miles to go.

It was dark for the first few miles, but I knew the route and plodded along trying to find a rhythm in the blackness.  The sun started to rise around mile four, which made it easier to relax.  I wasn't as worried about tripping or stepping on a snake.

Shortly thereafter, I made my way to the Serenova powerlines.  This time, the powerline stretch seemed shorter since it was familiar.  Once I hit the Starkey paved bike path, I headed further east instead of west, like normal.  Overall, I felt really good for eight and a half miles of trails.  I was eager to make it out to the Suncoast Trail.  It had been two years since I had seen that side of Starkey. 

On the bike path, I felt strong.  I was ready to fly on the pavement.  During the last few miles on the path, I could start to feel my hip.  Even though those were easily my fastest miles, I was ready for the soft ground again.

I found the path that jutted off near a water station without much trouble.  This is where the unfamiliar paths began.  Of course, I wanted to go off and explore, but I knew that by the end of this run, I wouldn't want to have gone farther than necessary.  So, I stuck to my planned route and didn't get creative.

What I did discover along the way, though, was water.  Lots and lots of water.  My big mistake on planning this route was assuming that the water levels would be low enough to not get soaked when running through the lowest paths.  Oh, how very wrong I was.  Flooded Path 1 wasn't bad because it was shallow, clear, and flowing.  Flooded Path 2 was essentially stagnant and black.  The third was moving slightly, deep, and dark because of the depth (about calf to knee).  I had no choice but to run directly through the third at about mile sixteen.  There was no going back at that point.  I was on my way back to the powelines and my mile nineteen marker.

My favorite miles were easily the few just over half way.  The land was unfamiliar and vast.  The path was extremely wide, with tall golden grasses swaying on either side.  I felt small, a strange feeling, as I was dwarfed by the grasses inches above my head.  These miles seemed peaceful and relaxed.

Once the path pointed me back west, I picked up the pace again.  I knew that I needed to get back as soon as I could.  At that moment my legs felt strong, something I planned to take full advantage of.  The paths were grassy and firm underfoot and I felt great.  I knew it wouldn't last for long.

I hit the powerlines by my landmark pump-house.  Three miles to go.  Because I was drained and the trails were predominately deep sand, these were the most challenging miles.  My hips had a hard time, but I pushed through it, knowing how close I was.  These last miles went by surprisingly quickly.  It helped that I knew the land well.  This was home.  I was back.

Right now, hours later, I feel great.  I've certainly felt worse after shorter runs.  My hips are sore, yes, but it's nothing to worry about.  The strange thing was when I finished my toes hurt.  Twenty two miles and it was my toes that concerned me.  No worries, they are fine now.  I think the softness of the trails will help greatly with my recovery.
Overall, this was a nice route (even with the water), and I can see myself repeating it for future long runs.  It is definitely a winter run, unless you plan to go swimming as well.

Tomorrow, I think I'll take the day off.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2011

Both were beautiful, clear, cool mornings at Starkey.  The greatest difference is that this year I ran, pain-free and effortlessly.

I'm thankful for the woods, healthy hips, long runs, painting, pool running, my team, my coach, sunrises, and, above all else, my family.  They gave me the most incredible support this past year which helped me get to where I am today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Division I Cross Country Championship

Only collegiate cross country runners would gather in a library group study room to watch a live stream of other people running.  If you have a spare 29 minutes, I recommend watching. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011


The Plan:

I am turning twenty two a few days after Thanksgiving when I am back at school finishing up the semester.  During the short holiday break, I plan to celebrate by doing my favorite things.  One of the best ways to celebrate is to run.  A lot.

The last time I tried this crazy idea, I was turning twenty and itching for an excuse to complete twenty miles.  So, I did it.  Usually I completed my long training runs before my morning classes, which always presented me with the interesting task of getting out of my seat at the end of the hour.

Anyway, over Thanksgiving break, I headed out to the Starkey Park bike path and put in twenty miles in just under three hours.  It was exhilarating and easily the best run of my life at that point.  Naturally, I wanted to try twenty one miles the next year.  I was unable to run at all on my birthday, so I took a nice long walk in the woods instead.  It was enough just to be out there again.

Now, I am turning twenty two and ready to run.  I want to take on twenty two miles of trails (easier on the legs and hips than roads) with no specific goal time, although I still have an idea of around where I want to finish.  I aimed to run the twenty fast.  This time, I am more concerned about taking care of my body since the days when I couldn't run a step are still fresh in my mind.

I just want to run farther than I have before.  That's all.

Currently on my to-do list:

Buy GU! 
And work on a route that allows me to drop bottles of water

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cross Country

Racing cross country for eight years has given me so much, taught me so much.  Ultimately, the sport introduced me to the woods, which has changed my life.  The history, landscapes, and meandering trails of the state of Florida will be always play an important part in my life.  It has influenced my art and career choices.  Cross country taught me to appreciate small victories and not let the bad moments get me down.  Some days I am so happy to be moving and running.  I remember just a few months ago when each step was a milestone.  The sport has also introduced me to the greatest people that I know.  It showed me how much I enjoy the act of running, moving through space at my own will, challenging myself, and discovering the fragility of limitations.  This year, I have experienced the challenges of racing.  I have also experienced the fun in racing for the first time.

I love to run fast.  I love to run far.  I love the days when I can feel every ache in my legs and the days when the motions are effortless.  I love to train and log the miles, but in previous years, I did not look forward to racing.  This season, I have had some of the worst races of my life.  Part of the process was overcoming the mental aspect of being injured for an extended period of time.  I also had to get back into shape-  running fast shape.  Then, I also had to learn how to race and transfer all of the daily work to the race course.  That was the most difficult part for me.  It sounds simple, but I had never really been coached on racing.  It took some time and persistent coaching, but in the end, I discovered how I need to race in order to be successful.

In the last meet of the season, I finally was successful.  It was a beautiful, cool morning.  The course was perfect for my hip (fast compact gravel and dirt- not Florida sand), and the trails wandered through a wooded park and past a lake.  The morning was beautiful and I was determined to have no regrets.  When I crossed the line, I had run my first true cross country PR in four years in the 6k.  In the race, I ran the fastest cross country 5k that I have run since high school.  I felt like a runner. I felt like I was racing.  I felt like myself.

The best news is that I am not done with collegiate racing because the cross country season has ended.  For the first time in my school's history, the team is training for a track season.  I cannot wait. I'm ready to race, truly race.  No regrets.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I have an unrelenting need to preserve moments of old Florida through imagery.  My most precious moments spent in natural Florida stem from cross country running.  Being a collegiate cross country runner, I seek old Florida by taking to parks and preserves on foot.  Running marries the grand landscapes and ecosystems of the state with the exhilaration and adventure that comes with endurance sports.  My art transfers personal experiences, emotions, and sights of natural Florida into a tangible item, essentially preserving the moment.  I allow firsthand observations, feelings, and recollection to influence the scenery and subjects as opposed to copying directly from nature.  As a whole, my work is a means for me to further connect with the land that I grew up with and capture moments for myself and others.

An artist statement was required within the first few weeks of my ceramic sculpture class.  I think that is important to be able to communicate thought processes and intentions in writing, but I will still nervous about turning in my statement because my process tends to be different.  I had recently written an artist statement for an application, so I made a few tweaks and handed it in.  I wondered if it was appropriate to include running, or if my methods of exploring the outdoors were somehow not appropriate in an formal statement.  I have never seen a statement like mine before, but then again, when it comes to art, I've learned it's best to do what works for me and not worry about what other people are doing.  I got the grade, and even better, my professor loved it.  Hopefully those reading that application will, as well.

Sculpting and carving is a new thing for me, and so far I have enjoyed it. The first two projects of the semester have been the "Slab Shrine" and the still life carving.

The shrine required a container-like form (think shrines from art history) and some sort of conceptual design. I choose to reinterpret the imagery from The Secret River in the three dimensional medium. The slabs of clay were reminiscent of the flat, paper cut-out, 1950s illustrations that I love.

This one looks better in person, but you get the idea

The most recent project was intended to make the class more comfortable with the medium. It required the building of a still life in a box and then carving the objects from life out of a slab of clay the same size.  The night before the still life was due, I still had no idea what I wanted to carve.  I went on a run the next morning and it was clear: palm tree parts, bulbs, a stick, and magnolia cones.  Running fixes just about everything.  My box was 9.5x9.5x3in. Creating the textures and negative space was a lot of fun. I'm happy with the composition as a whole and the cones (which were difficult to solve- glad I only put in two). 

In progress

Finished carving

Friday, September 30, 2011

5 Weeks

In exactly one week, I will run my final collegiate 5k. Two 6ks follow, and then my collegiate cross country career is over. I am still working on the hip. Most days are good days, but I had my worst day in long time on Wednesday, the afternoon following a fantastic speed workout. Since then, I have been in the pool. Hopefully I will be ready to run hard tomorrow morning. A good workout can do a lot for race mentality.

This is the point in the season where I have to work on staying focused. I have been back training with the team for over seven weeks. I miss the woods and solitary runs, but I know that my last season will end in just five weeks. I know that after that last race, I will miss even this time of the season.

I really can't believe this is all ending so soon. I mean, I knew it would end. The day has been marked on my calendar for months. In past years, I wished it would all end sooner. I wanted to run for myself again. I wanted to be free from the pressure and the pain. But now I have truly realized how great this bond is with my teammates. We make it through the hard times together and witness the good side by side. These experiences are shared only by our small group. We will never have this again.  Let's make the most of it. Five weeks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

We're not in Florida anymore

I have very few opportunities to race for my cross country team outside of the state of Florida.  In my collegiate career, I will have traveled out of the state for five meets.  Last weekend, my team and I ventured many hours north to South Carolina.

The land was beautiful.  I had the chance to take in the views the night before the race when the girls and I got in a good five miles on the course.  Even though it was nice, it really makes me appreciate where I run at home.  I think that most cross country runners have that special place that nothing can even compare with.  I certainly have mine.  But it is good to experience what other runners love, too. 

A few differences:

1.  I could have been convinced it was mid-December (Temperatures in the 50s!)
2.  Grey, grey, grey skies
3.  Everything was a winter brown
4.  Dirt
5.  Hills...

The course is probably the most difficult race I have ever run, and one of the most fun.  Although the start is a slight downhill, the footing is quite different than any Florida race.  The hard ground was covered with dips and holes, making the first mile challenging.  This front part of the course, a few hills and all, was the flat part of the course, so it needed to be faster.

The large back loop of the 6k race was like a roller coaster.  A sandy roller coaster.  In the second mile, I took advantage of the longest downhill I have ever experienced.  I could not have stopped even if I had tried, so I let the hill take me and tried to make my legs keep up.  Naturally, the next mile was all uphill.  Gradual and less sandy, this was the place to maintain a constant pace and close in the gaps between other runners.

I knew I was about to hit mile three because I could just spot the wall of sand was peaking through the trees.  This hill marked the start of the end of the race.  If I could be strong and work my way to the top, it was generally downhill for the rest of the race.  I booked it at the bottom of the hill, trying to pass a few girls and put some space between us.  Chances were, they wouldn't put up a fight.  Then, I worked on staying strong.  I remembered the months of the work I put in to get back to this point.  Recovery from injury is never easy and it makes us stronger.  There is no way I was going to give up here.  I repeated that as I climbed.  At the top, I felt a sense of relief, but it was no time to rest.  I went.  Up a smaller hill and back down to the start, I gave it everything I had left. 

In the end, I do not know my finish time.  The race results were inaccurate because of the primitive timing system and lack of a backup.  According to the posted results, I PRed by about 15 seconds, but I am not sure that is true.  I guess when I race here again in just over a  month I will just have to be even faster and earn a new personal record.  I honestly felt strong, even up that final hill, and I know that I will be a better runner in a few weeks.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let's Try This Racing Thing Again

It's amazing how much you can learn about yourself in just over twenty minutes.  As much as I would like to skip a write up of this race, I know that I have to reflect on those three miles.  It is just one step in the long process of becoming competitive again.  This race provided a baseline.  I now truly have a place to start.

The University of Tampa's Early Bird Classic is the season opener for much of the state.  The 5k held at Tampa's Sydney Dover Trails was the first collegiate cross country race I ran years ago.  It was nice to go back once more.  I learned a lot this time around.

I learned that I can still ask my body to give me more.  I don't have to hold back in fear of re-injury.  I can be competitive.  I can run a smart race.  After everyone was settled from the first mile and a quarter or so, no one passed me.  I did not run negative splits, but I kept my eye on those ahead of me and picked them off one by one.  Honestly, it felt good to run like that again.

Going into the race I expected to be tired, which was probably by biggest mistake.  This past week or so has been rough on my legs.  They have just felt trashed.  I have been running with caution for months because of my hip injury.  Inclines, sand, and banked surfaces, all things that worry me, were waiting for me in the race.  And you know what?  I did it.  The hip is really no worse for the wear.

I am a no-excuses kind of girl.  I ran it, I analyzed the problems, and I will figure out how to do better in the future.  It's strange how a mediocre race can help me regain the confidence I gradually lost in the past year.

Now for the park:  The path at Sydney Dover lends itself for large cross country races.  The majority of the trail is wide and open; great for big starts and spectating.  A bit of sand and a few inclines makes things interesting and unlike many Florida races that are simply run around retention ponds (seriously).  I do not know the layout or size of the entire park, but I believe it is generally one loop just over seven miles long.  Being that the land is so open, it gets quite hot in the afternoons, so I recommend morning and evening running.  Overall, it is a perfect place for cross country races and I can imagine causal running.  But let me tell you, that speed bump of a hill at the first mile mark and in the middle of the second is just mean.

Photos are not from race day.  All photos from Biking Florida (great website with directions to the multiple park entrances).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Team Travels

Before each season, the cross country team takes a short camping trip to a Florida park.  This year, the team decided on trekking to Fanning Springs State Park.  No one on the team had been, but it met the trip requirements: a place to run, a place to swim, and cabins because the women's team isn't the most outdoors-y this year.  I know, I know, this is cross country, but a handful would likely complain if there weren't showers or air conditioning. 

The journey to the park was perfect: no air conditioning, windows down, good music, and good people.  I love driving through the small towns of central Florida, as the few teammates in the car learned.  "How do you know all of these places?"  How do you not?

When we arrived in the park, we tossed our duffel bags in the cabins, stripped down to almost nothing, and, naturally, ran to the spring.  Up on the banks, I heard screaming and splashing.  A few teammates were already in and apparently it was colder than expected.  When I hit the water, I felt like I was in a picturesque full-body ice bath.  No one was in the water but a pair of locals, two great egrets, and many glistening fish.

I would love to tell about the running, but my hip has been acting up lately and it's better to be cautious this early in the cross country season.  I got in a good five hours of pool running along with 30-35 miles last week.  Water running in a spring was a welcomed change from the campus pool, although after about forty-five minutes the cool temperature of the water starts to become very apparent.

By the end of the trip, there was hair braiding, team games, and a little harmless havoc.  Goals were made and we left a stronger team than we have been in a long, long time.

I plan on returning to this park soon.  But with a tent and my running shoes. 


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week One

Week one of preseason training is almost complete.  There has been plenty of pool running, strength training, and road running.  My body hurts all of the time, and I am loving every minute.  Tomorrow will be my long awaited first run back on trails.  I say that like it has been months, and even though it feels like it, I've only been away for a week.

But it won't be the same as my central Florida runs.  I won't be able to stop and explore, cross rivers, or run for as long as I see fit.  I will have a set time, a set distance, and a set group of people to run with.  Don't get me wrong, I am running with the best people I know, but there is something so invigorating about going at the trails alone. 

However rough of a transition this may be for me (it is every year), fall is the season to be calculated and precise, to run with  determination and train for a single race.  Spontaneity is for winter break and summer, and the rest of my life as a runner.  I am eager to see how far I can go this season.  Just a few weeks shy of a year ago, I was not able to run.  I lost nine months of good running.  Now, I appreciate the motion much more.  That is why I can't hold back, not for my final season.  I won't waste it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

That Time of the Summer

Mid August means the end of summer and central Florida running for me.  It's about time to return to campus and get down to business: fast road running and studying hard.  I have a few things on my to-do list this week, including mile repeats, catching up with my high school coach, and, of course, my final summer trail run at J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park.

Yesterday was my scheduled Starkey run, and I did run there, but it wasn't a real farewell run.  The good news is that I wasn't killed by lightning and was able to return today. 

When I set out this morning, I was enthralled with the color.  (This happens a lot...) The sunrise was rose-colored and warm, surprisingly similar to the flashes of lightning yesterday.  Not twenty-four hours ago, the humidity hung in the air, taunting me.  That should have been my sign, but I know that if I am going to run at all during the summer months, I will have to run in a few thunderstorms.   I needed 6 miles, so I felt I had to at least try.

By the looks of the dark cloud blanketing the sky in the west, it was going to rain and rain a lot, but I had no idea how brutal it would turn out to be.  I was able to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, golden and brilliant,  before darkness retook the morning.  Before I could even really get into the run, rain fell and the wind picked up.  The drops were cold and large, stinging my  face and shoulders.  I turned around about a mile and a half out, looked up at the storm over top of me, and started retracing my steps.  Fast.  Or as fast as someone who had  done her first speed workout in a year just the day before could run.

The rumbling overhead grew increasing loud as the power of the lightning strikes increased.  The sky would grow warm and pink for an instant and then return to black.  Sandy trails that were dry minutes before already held enough water to drown my shoes.  Splashing along, the lightning strikes continued, thunder booming more and more frequently. 

Today, that same rose color was peaceful and welcoming, a good warm memory to hold me over until November.  This land is where I fell in love with running and old Florida.  Leaving it, even for a few months, isn't easy.  The paths may change, but the land will always be here when I return.

Here are a few pictures from throughout the summer:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Birthday Wishes

On this day in 1896, Marjorie Kinnan was born in Washington D. C, quite a distance from the small Florida town nestled between two lakes that she would immortalise in her writings.  Happy Birthday, Marjorie.  You continue to inspire.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Point to Point

Let's face it: point to point runs can be quite inconvenient.  That is why I had never embarked on one, however, I discovered the Serenova entrance of J. B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve on 52 and knew I had to find a way to connect it to the gate just off of Starkey Blvd.  Unfortunately, I had to wait until late this summer because of the hip issue.  This run, marked in ink, had been on my summer running calendar for weeks:

Saturday: Point to Point.  Serenova- Starkey.  9mi.

Sunrise in Serenova

My route:  I meandered back on the Serenova paths for about two miles, making sure I hit all of my favorite spots.  Then, I hopped off the sandy trails and onto the powerlines path.  From there, I ran south and kept running south.   For a very long time.

The powerline path feels much more extensive than I thought it would.  Of course, I know that it cuts directly through the preserve from end to end, but I did not expect it to seem so long.  I am glad that even though much of my route was simply a gravel road following a stretch of  powerlines, it was still unbelievably scenic.  Deer (including a fawn!), rabbits, and many, many birds kept me occupied.

Looking back at where I had been

Despite all  of the beautiful paths that intersect the powerlines trail, I stayed true to my planned route.  I knew if I took a detour, I could easily add an extra few miles or more onto my total distance.   I really have no self-control when it comes to trail running.  Someone was waiting for me on the other end, so it was not the day to play.

By the time on my stopwatch, it had been about an hour, I knew that I would stumble upon the paved bike path within the next few minutes.  And then I saw it.  Or at least I saw something.  Even though I was a few hundred meters away, I  could tell that the forest opened up slightly on both sides of the powerlines.  Just then, a white shape moved across the open stretch between the trees.  A fellow runner!  I was there!

Getting there!

As I made my way up the slight incline, my pace quickened and a spring returned to my step.  Let me tell you, I have never been so happy to see the bike path.  I usually view the path as a way get in a road run without leaving the woods.  That day, it was the road home!

When I reached the bike path, the pavement felt strange to my legs.  I felt fast even though I was tired.  In need of water, I made use of the nearest water station and then found the connecting horse trails.  These were the trails I had run since the summer before I entered high school.  The next two miles felt so easy because of the familiarity of the woods.  I was home.  After nine miles, the longest run in my log since the injury, I was exhausted but exhilarated.

View for most of the run

It is a strange feeling knowing that I had no intention of going back to where I stated, at least on foot.  Usually, I am burdened by the ticking seconds of my watch.  There was no turn around point this time, just nine miles in one general direction.  When I drove back to the entrance on 52, I was surprised at how far it really was.  My kind friend who enabled  this crazy idea of mine agreed and said, "and you did it on trails!"

This isn't something I  could do every weekend because of the logistics, but it was definitely a good route and great experience.  If I do it again, I will be sure to stay on the Serenova paths for as long as possible so that I will have less time along the powerlines.  The hiking paths vary and are a nice change from the powelines, especially after that many miles of them.

After this run and passing all of those enticing trails, I now plan to fully explore all of the places I passed.  Even though I have literally run the distance of the park, there is still so much to experience!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Serenova Tract
The parking lot is empty when I take to the trails.  The nearest people are in their vehicles on the opposite side of a fence flying by on the Suncoast Parkway, oblivious to the sole girl exploring the land on foot.  There is something so peaceful and yet exhilarating knowing that I and I alone occupy the surrounding few thousand acres.  Six thousand?  At least.  Eight thousand?  Probably.  It's hard to wrap my mind around sometimes. 

Today, I traveled further into Serenova's eastern portion than I ever have before.  Countless trails meandered through the scrub and the cypress trees.  Occasionally I wish I had a horse or faster mode of transportation so that I could see more, experience more in one outing.  Then, I remember that there is no better way to connect with the land than on foot.  In a way, it is like painting or drawing.  My hand makes the mark and has contact with the surface.  With running, every step I take makes that contact, and especially after being inured, I am thankful for each time my foot touches the earth.  For the first time in almost a year, I am not severely limited by my body.  I am able to push through the most overgrown paths, sprint through flowing waters, and stumble upon the remnants of a summertime prescribed fire. 

Just over an hour later, when I return to the parking lot, a car pulls up and two clean hikers hop out.  They look at me as if to say I hope I don't come back looking like that.  I smile and say good morning.  This dirt, sweat, and exhaustion is seven and a half miles of happiness.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dispatches from the Land of Flowers

Once again, I am drawn to the works of Jeff Klinkenberg: runner, writer, and Floridian.
I took my time with Dispatches, knowing that it was the final unread Klinkenberg on my shelf. No matter how much I wanted to, I was determined not to curl up on the bench on my raised front porch to read it in a day. I would make it last at least a handful of sittings.

Although the book was published in 1996 and the writings are from the early 1990s, the collection felt just as captivating as Pilgrim and Seasons.  The dates are important to nonfiction writing and make me think about these people and moments that may already be gone.

Klinkenberg organizes his writings by season, clearly influencing his Seasons of Real Florida.  I loved this pattern, and was pleasantly surprised to see it here.  It works wonderfully.  The broad range of topics fits seamlessly into the 268 pages.  Here are a few topics to look forward to: Cross Creek oranges, Stalking the ghost orchid, A Haunted house, with egg salad, and Bad memories of a deadly blow.

Jeff's writing is top-notch and feels like a conversation with a good friend.  He captures the nature of the people he interviews in his prose.  Klinkenberg clearly knows the land, the culture, and the importance of this state and presents his knowledge in a way to be appreciated by all.  I look to no one else, besides Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, when I long to hear tales of my home.

My only complaint is over the cover and illustrations.  I do not think the imagery captures the Florida Klinkenberg so beautifully narrates.  Florida may be the Land of Flowers, but Klinkenberg proves it is not about white picket fences and pruned flowering shrubbery.  Pick up this collection to learn about the Bone Man, a lightning stalker, right wales, and a young historian.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


New book, new paint brushes (50% off at Hobby Lobby today!), new discoveries at Starkey.  I'm feeling inspired.  Time to start a new painting!

Bartram's Travels (full title: Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws. Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions; Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians) has been on my reading list for the last few months.

A great Florida reading list can be found on Jeff Klinkenberg's website.  Klinkenberg's Seasons of Real Florida is on my list of top Florida reads.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Secret River

It was last summer when I learned the Anclote River begins in J. B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve.  While on a run, a fellow runner with her two scampering black labs and I crossed paths.  She recommended a service road along the powerlines that I had long overlooked.  The Anclote River passes the trail, she pointed South.  She told me that she didn't take her four legged running companions down that way in the summer months because it tended to flood.  It sounded wonderful.

Powerlines in a wilderness park seem like an odd choice of route for a cross country runner.  Why not take to the deepest and most rugged paths?  I have learned that the powerline path cuts directly through the park.  Trails intersect right and left; new opportunities to explore seem unlimited.  But I do love those rugged trails, too.

It is summertime, although the river has yet to flood my path.  Just two weeks ago there was little river to speak of, so I was overjoyed to see the waters of  the Anclote River gushing from one side of the road to the other this morning.

According to Wilfred T. Neill in the Pasco Times of March 20, 1977: “The name Anclote dates back to early Spanish times. The Spaniards called these islands Cabo de Anclote—Cape of the Kedge Anchor—because ships had to use a kedge to winch their way through the shallow water or the winding channels. And early French sailors called the islands Cap d'Anclote, which, of course, has the same meaning as Cabo de Anclote.” According to Neill, Anclote is by far the oldest place name in Pasco County and one of the oldest in Florida. The name is found on a 1715 map which I have seen, and a 1545 map, according to a newspaper article. The Red Race of America (1847) by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft has:
“ANCLOTE, an island on the southwest coast of Florida; also, a river flowing into the gulf at that locality, which is also called, in the Seminole dialect, the Est-has-hotee.”
From Origins of Place Names and Anclote Images

The segment of the river that crosses my path is unlike the better known mouth.  This part is narrow, winding, shallow, and hidden.  There are no boaters or fisherman, just a great blue heron, a slew of mosquitoes, and a sole runner to be seen.

I have viewed the river at this point of intersection countless times, but toady it seemed as if it were singing as it ran by, to use the words of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings from The Secret River.  I could not simply run past it today.  I had to see where the waters would lead me.

Mere steps away from the trail, the morning sun was blackened by a veil of leaves and intertwined branches.  Inside, the air was noticeably cooler, a welcomed relief from central Florida summer heat.  The twisting waters and buzz of mosquitoes were the only sounds.  No longer was I in a wilderness park with other runners, cyclists, and hikers.  I was simply in the wilderness! 

To follow the river further, I decided that it was best to cross and move westward.  Thankful for long legs and, at the moment, lower water levels, I managed to hop across without getting too wet.  I felt more free than ever before.  It was difficult to believe that I was in the same park, now that I was without trails to follow and signs marking the way.  Only the riverbeds and fallen trees directed my path.  I could not help but think of the early settlers of this area.  At one point in time not too long ago, this is what my home was like.  No fences.  No traffic.  No footsteps but your own. 

I felt like I had traveled far, crossing the river multiple times, and occasionally standing in awe of this seemingly undiscovered part of the park.  When I made my way back towards the poweline path, I was shocked.  I had traveled no more than 100 meters down the maintenance road, and even that was a generous estimate.

There is still so much more to explore, I thought.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Oh, and I finally broke in my new shoes.  After a week of exclusive road running, they are now covered in the sand, grit, and brown waters of central Florida.  It's about time.