Monday, January 20, 2014


Fresh off the disappointment known as De Leon Springs, I was really stoked to run the Clearwater Half Marathon.  I don’t often venture out to the west coast of Florida, but I’ve never had anything but positive experiences when I do.  Jen is a frequent visitor to that area, and assured me that the course would be truly picturesque.  The race was the same day as the Ocala Marathon, so it was a great excuse to venture out of our comfort zone.  When they released the course map (and the medal), I just had this gut feeling that this race was going to be a blast!

The added bonus of doing this race was that we were FINALLY going to get some cold weather.  The question was just how cold was it going to get.  Having learned a major lesson the last time I ran 26.2 With Donna (see 2/12/12 post), I literally spent as much time selecting outfits as Cher from Clueless.  It was in the mid fifties when I drove up to Jen on Saturday, but there was no way I was going to take a chance of an artic blast.  We drove to Gainesville to do some shopping on campus, only to stumble into a Cosplay convention going on inside the Union.  Was this my lucky day or what?

Clearwater is about two hours from Jen’s house.  Since the race was scheduled to start at 7am, we planned to be out the door by 4am.  I went to sleep at 9pm, which has to be a personal record for me.  When my alarm went off, it was 30 degrees outside; race temperatures were expected to be around 45-48 degrees.  I decided to sport the long pants, long sleeve shirt, and running jacket ensemble for the run.  It was easy to find Coachman Park, and after getting out of the car, we picked up our race shirt and bib.  We had the choice of either a long-sleeve cotton or a short-sleeve tech race shirt, and the race chips needed to be laced in our running shoes (kickin’ it old school).

As we stood at the starting line, there were 1,502 runners participating in this event (357 for the 5 mile run, 679 for the half marathon, and 466 for the marathon).  When the sun came up, we instantly realized that we were probably overdressed for the occasion.  Once the gun sounded, we took off our jackets within the first two miles of the race.  The lesson here is throwaway clothes!

The course was beautiful.  We ran on the beach for the first two miles, then over a couple of bridges with water on both sides.  Around mile five, we did a lap through Sand Key Park.  This was no ordinary out-and-back course; we had so much to take in aesthetically, my eyes were figuratively bulging out of my head!  The race was mostly flat (except for the bridges), and the adrenaline was definitely pumping.  The cooler temperature made it delightful, even with a long sleeve shirt and running pants.  The race ended by going down a spiral ramp, similar the ones you see in football stadiums.  We did have a chuckle discussing the possibility of there being no medals for us at the end (see my last post), but we knew that this race was way too organized for that to happen.

The post-race activities were outstanding.  There was a stage at Coachman Park with a dude singing and playing guitar for the crowd.  The food, which included pancakes and vegetable pasta, was exceptional; they even served beer and chocolate milk.  This was so first class, we did not want to leave.  If I were to do this race again (I’m sure I will), bringing chairs and hanging out at the park would be a definite must.

I can honestly say this was the most enjoyable race I have participated in in quite some time, and would highly recommend to all my running friends.  Now the attention shifts towards Miami.


Friday, January 10, 2014


To answer the burning question, De Leon Springs is located just a little north of DeLand.  Quite frankly, I had never heard of the place before Jen asked me if I wanted to do the race.  She said this was a total no-frills event, but some of the Ocala Turtles had good things to say about the race.  For 40 dollars and a chance to visit a place I would never have to reason to frequent, I was all in.

I left Saturday morning, and got to Jen’s house around 1:30pm.  We did not have much on the agenda, and were pretty “shopped out” from my last visit.  De Leon Springs is around 50 miles from Jen’s house, but it’s mostly back roads.  The start of the race was scheduled for 8am, which is pretty late for a half marathon.  Since it was taking place in De Leon Springs State Park, it would probably be too dark if the race started earlier.

We left Sunday morning at 5:30am, which was definitely too early.  The directions said it would take us around 90 minutes to get there, but it took way less time than that.  When we arrived at Chuck Lennon Park, we were surprised to see that many of the participants were already there.  To my surprise (and delight), the race shirts were very nice.  They were long-sleeve tech shirts, which was quite a contrast to the car rags given out at the Weston Run For Tomorrow Half Marathon.

Of the 218 runners entered in this event, 44 registered that day (this will come into play later on).  The course was your basic out-and-back, with nothing but trees on both sides of the road.  I was hoping for something a bit more scenic, but we could have been running on the Florida Turnpike in terms of aesthetics.  The course was very flat, with water stations almost every mile.  The key term here is “water,” as in no Gatorade.  In addition, the water tasted as if they scooped it out of the river, or even a toilet bowl (not that I have any point of reference on that one).  Around the halfway point, we did run past a few houses, which gave us a chance to take a few photos.

The rest of the race was very uneventful.  It was very quiet, and very peaceful.  As we crossed the finish line, the unthinkable happened…THEY RAN OUT OF FINISHER MEDALS!  I know I’m slow, but there were still many runners out there on the course.  The race director told me that because they did not anticipate so many runners registering the day of the race, they did not order enough medals to compensate for the last minute blitz.  They took our names and bib numbers, and assured Jen and me that we would receive our medal in the mail within a few weeks.  I was very upset, because I felt we were penalized for being slow.  I suggested that the folks who registered that day should have had the medals mailed to them, but it was too late for that discussion.  I later called the owner of Alta Vista Sports, and he took full ownership for the mistake.  All in all, not a bad race, but it was no Tom Walker Half Marathon.

Next up, the Clearwater Half Marathon on January 19th.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Christian: Do you like Billie Holiday? 
Cher: I love him.

As if!!!

As I’ve probably mentioned in previous blogs, running during the summer months is anything but easy.  With no races in immediate sight, my main purpose for running in the insane heat is to stay in shape.  However, no matter how early I get up to run, it just gets more difficult as the summers roll on.  I find myself doing less and less mileage as the heat index soars.  I would love to be able to blame it all on the deterioration of the ozone layer, since I am in total denial that “Father Time” may be catching up to me.  I say this because I do not struggle at all once running season kicks into gear, and the weather cools off (as much as it can cool off in South Florida).  It’s not so much the physical toll the summer has on me; running 15 miles is running 15 miles, no matter how you slice and dice it.  It’s the breathing, and how laborious it can become, that takes it all out of me.  Imagine waking up at 4am to run, getting out the door before 5am, and sucking wind shortly after that.  Good times!

I’ve had the opportunity to run with friends on three different occasions during this past summer.  The first was the unofficial “Lindsey’s Graduation Half Marathon,” which took place in early May.  Jen met me in Gainesville for a 13.1 mile run to celebrate the college graduation of my daughter Lindsey.  We ran a victory lap past her apartment in celebration of her remarkable accomplishment.

“The Mr. Salty Half Marathon” took place in late June.  This was the Bat Mitzvah weekend of my daughter Rachel, and had been highly anticipated for many years.  Elaine, Jen and Pam were all invited, and we made our way out at 5am to knock out this run before the party later that evening.  This was the first time the three ladies ran on my “home turf.”

My third run was with Kai, who works in my dentist’s office.  She is way faster than me, but we pounded out a 12-mile run on A1A in Boca Raton.

Besides all of this excitement, I had an exercise-induced asthma attack, which led me to see a cardiologist to make sure the old ticker was working correctly.  It was all “good in the hood,” but the moral of the story was I needed to be out the door as early as possible during the summer months.

As summer turned to fall, and football season was now in full swing, I was running with Jen during my weekend visits to the Swamp.  I even ran a 20 miler with her, as she was training for the New York  City Marathon.  As the weather dropped (slightly), my breathing was never an issue again.

Now that we are caught up, it was time to start running some races. I traditionally would post one blog per race, but since I’ve participated in many of these races before, I’m going for the quick recap here:

The annual Thanksgiving Day tradition, this is the race that started it all off for me back in 1996.  However, this year it would be different.  This would be the first time I would not be running (or hanging out after the race) with my “former” friend Doug.  Not really the place to air dirty laundry, Doug and I had a parting of the ways, so it was just Rachel and me.  The temperature was cooler than in past years, and we had our usual great time.  With just under 1,500 finishers (1,497), this is the biggest 5K I’ve ever participated in.  Ironically, Doug finished 30 seconds behind me, but I never saw him.

This race is as bare bones as it gets.  For a modest entry fee of 40 dollars, you get what you pay for.  I was able to convince Kai to enter the race, but I knew she would be sprinting ahead of me.  The city of Weston is about fifteen minutes from my house, and the course is pretty scenic.  The race shirt and the medal have not changed in at least five years, and both are pretty ugly.  The temperatures were in the mid-seventies, but the early 6:15am start lets you run for about an hour before the sun starts to hit.  I passed a good amount of runners in the last four miles, and was able to finish very strong.  There were 435 participants in this race.

With the excitement of doing back-to-back half marathons, I left my house on Friday morning to meet up with Jen in Belleview.  She had volunteered us to help with registration for the Reindeer Run 5K, which was the kickoff for the Ocala Holiday Parade.  In appreciation for our help, we were given free entries into the race, which would serve as a warm-up for Mt. Dora.  Unfortunately, it was very nasty, and it rained for most of the race.  306 runners participated, but it probably would have been more if the weather had cooperated.

It poured for most of the night, and we were seriously concerned about running in monsoon-like conditions.  Angel, Mary, Terri, Sandy and Robin met us around 5:30am, and we made our way to Mt. Dora.  It was just a slight drizzle on the ride down, and it totally stopped when we parked the car.  Several more members of the Ocala Turtles joined us, and we took many pictures before the race.  The race shirt itself was totally different than last year.  This was a sleeveless New Balance tech shirt, as opposed to the long sleeve cotton shirt from last year’s race.  They did away with the full marathon this year; 647 participants would be running the half.  Mary was running in the 5K, as she recently had knee surgery, and was still on the mend.

Angel is significantly faster than all of us, so she took off like the Flash.  I was able to stay with Terri for the first mile, but with all the training she has done over the past year, her times have improved by leaps and bounds.  I ran most of the race with Jen and Robin, as we are all in the same ballpark in terms of our pace.  It was very overcast and nasty, with the temperature around 66 degrees.  It never rained, but we hit some pretty intense wind during the first few miles of the race.  I guess I didn’t realize last year just how hilly this course was.  No monster hills like Gainesville, but very steep during the first seven miles. Around the nine mile mark, a got this sudden burst of energy and was able to finish very strong.  The finisher’s medal was outstanding, and the whole group went to Perkins Restaurant to feast after the race.

THE 12 MILES OF CHRISTMAS – 12/24/2013

This was the third year of this event, which was hosted by Runner’s Depot.  This twelve mile training run the day before Christmas had over 200 participants, which was double that of last year.  All the runners were given a very nice Brooks tech shirt, and the store had a private sale for all of the participants.

My next scheduled race is the De Leon Springs Half Marathon.  Just where is De Leon Springs?