Tuesday, December 18, 2012


“Where the heck is Mount Dora?”  These were the first words I uttered when Elaine sent me the link for this race back in June.  For the record, Mount Dora is north of Orlando and east of Leesburg.  This was the inaugural running of the race, and it wasn’t very expensive to enter.  Elaine, Pam and Jen were all interested in participating, so we made the executive decision to sign up.  Jen offered to pay for my entry fee as a thank you for all the help and wisdom I had provided as she obtained her Master’s Degree (a very sweet gesture on her part).  We would later learn that quite a few of the Ocala Turtles had signed up for the race as well, including Robin.  I had originally signed up to do the full marathon; after discovering everyone else had entered the half, I decided to “downsize” and run with all of my friends.

Glenda originally entertained the idea of going with me to watch us run, but Rachel and her middle school band was playing in the parade at Universal Studios on Friday.  Glenda volunteered to chaperone the trip, so they left early Friday morning.  Lindsey came home Friday night from UF after taking her last final, so I decided to hang out with her and leave early Saturday morning.  The plan was to stay at Jen’s house, and drive to Mount Dora Sunday morning.  Jen lives about an hour north of Mount Dora, so I would take my car to the race and head home after that.  Jen and Robin would hitch a ride back with Pam and Elaine, who were running a half marathon in Palm Coast on Saturday night.  I got to Jen’s house around noon, and we spent the day shopping.  This was highlighted by a trip to Trader Joe's in Gainesville, which had just opened earlier in the week.

We woke up our usual early time and Jen made us both a fruit juice smoothie for the trip.  Robin arrived at Jen’s house around 5am, and we were ready to hit the road.  It was an easy drive to Mount Dora, but both Jen and I started to feel sick along the way.  I had to pull over to the side of the road and take care of some magical unplanned business in the woods.  Robin pointed out that there was a gas station across the street, but I figured the bushes would have some cleaner facilities (and I would be "one with nature").  When we parked the car, it was now Jen’s turn to “release the hounds,” as she threw up for a few minutes.  This clearly appeared to be smoothie related. With these pre-race festivities now out of the way, it was time to get our bibs and race shirts.

The starting line was at the Lakeside Inn, which opened in 1883, and has entertained President Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  There were 201 entrants in the full marathon, and 479 running the half298 runners will hit the pavement for a 5K later that morning. As we met up with Elaine and Pam, both Jen and I felt much better.

Having never been to Mount Dora, the scenery far exceeded my expectations.  It was a little hilly for the first few miles, but nothing compared to Gainesville.  I ran with Elaine; Jen, Pam and Robin ran together at a little slower pace.  It was very quiet and extremely peaceful.  The people were very friendly, and I was totally digging this race.  It was shady during the first eight miles, but it got pretty hot after that.  It may have been very challenging to complete the full marathon, as the temperature climbed into the mid 80’s by the end of the race.  We had a chance to run through some beautiful neighborhoods, with lots of spectators cheering us on.  We even spotted some of the other Turtles competing in the race, including Awesome Amy.

As we made the final turn to “bring it on home,” you couldn’t see the finish line.  This was because there was a pretty big downhill drop for the last tenth of the race.  This was way cool, as you had no choice but to sprint past the finish line!  The finisher medal (and race shirt) was very nice, and we later had a privilege to take a picture with former Boston & NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers

After grabbing a victory breakfast at Perkins, it was time for me to make my three hours (plus) drive home.  This was a truly enjoyable race; one that I would welcome entering again.

Now comes the fun part…training for the Miami Marathon on January 27th.


Monday, December 10, 2012


As I was to embark in my second consecutive half marathon, it actually seemed weird not getting in the car to drive for many hours.  The city of Weston is only about 15 miles from my house, but the running gods got even with me and started the race at 6:20am!  I’ve participated in this event three previous times, but for some strange reason, I have one extra medal.  I’ve searched my memory (as well as my photos); the only conclusion I can come up with is that someone out there is sadly missing a medal from a past race. 

The Weston Run For Tomorrow may arguably be the most boring half marathon I’ve ever participated in.  The course starts out at the Weston Town Center.  After that, you run west on Royal Palm Blvd. for four miles; then east on Royal Palm Blvd. for four miles.  You then head north on Bonaventure Blvd. for a few miles; then south on Bonaventure Blvd. to the finish line.  Having said that, I have been critical of those who don’t support their local races; it would be hypocritical of me not to be out there…running!  Maybe it is because I mostly run “lone wolf” style all of the time, and drive many hours to run a race with my friends, but I don’t get why someone would pass up a race right in their own backyard.

I left my house at 5am and got to the Weston Town Center around 5:20.  This is a really pretty shopping area, with a lot of specialty stores.  I found a parking spot right next to the bathrooms, which would prove to be convenient before the race began.  Similar to the Tom Walker Half Marathon last week, this was a very low budget race.  With an entry fee of only 40 dollars, my expectations regarding the shirt and the finishers’ medal were modest at best.  The race shirt was exactly the same as in previous years: long sleeve and cotton.

As I made my way to the starting line, it was still pretty dark outside.  I decided to try a 5-Hour Energy shot to see if it would enhance my running experience; in truth, I was praying that it would not make me hurl.  There were 417 participants in the half marathon, with 274 entered in the 5K.  Despite the predictability of the course, it was very flat with no real incline to speak of. The temperature was around 78 degrees when the gun sounded and very humid.  Thankfully, we were in complete shade for most of the race.  I had good energy during the entire run, but my finishing time was a few minutes off last week’s race.  After crossing the finish line (and grabbing my bogus medal), I walked around the expo for a little while and grabbed some chow before I made my way home.  I didn’t get much sleep the night before, and crashed out on the couch while watching football.

I take to the road next week, as I participate in my third half marathon in as many weeks.  Mount Dora, here I come!


Monday, December 3, 2012


Now that racing season is in full swing, this would be the first of three consecutive half marathons I have scheduled.  The Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon is a race that is put on by the Florida Track Club and takes place in Bowlware Springs Park, Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.  I’ve had this race on my radar for a few years now, even though it’s not the most glamorous race out there.  However, (a): it was only 35 dollars to enter, (b): it was in Gainesville, and (c): Jen was willing to run with me; what other motivation was necessary?

Since the Blue Moon Half Marathon last month, I did sneak in the Tamarac Turkey Trot, which of course is the race that started it all for me.  This is an annual Thanksgiving Day tradition, and Rachel and I once again met up with Doug and his two daughters to run this 5K.  In breaking traditions somewhat, Doug was driving to Cocoa Beach to do Thanksgiving with his sister and his parents right after the race; the post-race celebration would have to take place at a later date.

The Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon was scheduled for a Saturday (as opposed to Sunday), so I left for Jen’s house right after work on Friday.  The original plan was to meet up with Lindsey right after the race and spend the day with her, but my cousin Fern was in South Florida for business (I have not seen her in over 16 years, since she lives in L.A.).  I decided to drive home right after the race, since Saturday night was probably the only time she would be free.

The start time for the race was 8am, which is kind of late for a half marathon.  Since Jen lives about an hour away from Gainesville, I still had to get up at 5am to make sure we were out the door by 6.  We got to the park around 7, and the temperature was 46 degrees.  I knew it would warm up during the run, so I wore a short sleeve shirt with compression sleeves. There were only 236 entrants in this race, and the shirt they gave us was as ugly as it gets (you win some; you lose some). 

The course itself was a paved trail that went through the park.  It was pretty much an out-and-back course, with not a huge amount of scenery.  There was a great deal of changes of elevation (not really hills per se), but it does kind of take you by surprise when you are used to running on flat terrain in South Florida.

I did make an astute observation during the race, which I shared with a fellow runner.  During the out-and-back portion of the race where you had runners going in both directions, it appeared as if those runners who were on their way back felt a sense of entitlement to more of the road, compared to us slower folks.  It was all I could do to stay out of harm’s way, even though I was all the way to the right.  The guy I mentioned this to just laughed, because he said he was just thinking the same thing.  Since I’m bigger than most people, the other runners would probably take more of the brunt of any contact if we were to collide.

The race itself was very pleasant and extremely peaceful.  It started to get warm about three miles into the run, so I removed the compression sleeves. My back had been bothering me all week, but it felt good throughout most of the race.  My finishing time was not as good as Blue Moon, but I didn’t run as hard as I did for that race.  Jen’s finishing time was better than both Blue Moon and Space Coast (which she ran the week before), so she was very encouraged.  We didn’t stick around for too long after the race, as I needed to hit the road, and Jen had a baby shower to go to.

In which may unfortunately become a reoccurring race theme, the battery in Jen’s car had died (Pam wasn’t around so we couldn’t blame her).  Fortunately, the first people we approached had cables, and we were on the road in a matter of minutes.

I enjoyed the race, but I don’t know if I would pencil it on my calendar in the future.  It was a long way to drive for a race so low budget, but I would definitely run it every year if I lived up in the area.

Next week, only a 15 minute drive to the Weston “Run for Tomorrow” Half Marathon.

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