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.