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.