On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


Frozen Heart, Frozen Feet

I don’t like being muddy. Or being wet and muddy. Or being wet, muddy, cold, and sore. But those are the adjectives that described me after Saturday’s Frozen Heart 50k.

Here’s a picture of me and my dad before we set off on our first-ever trail run. Note that we are not muddy or wet. See how happy we are? It’s important to acknowledge how we always set off optimistically. You see, this is the fourth race we’ve run together in the past 12 months; only one of those races was warm and sunny.

Frozen Heart

Here’s another smiley picture for you. We’ve reached the 5-mile aid station, and we’re foolishly thinking that the worst parts of the run are behind us. Why am I lifting my vest? We had to prove that we had paid actual money to be on the trail and weren’t just regular crazy people out for a snowy, muddy jog in the middle of a rocky, root-y nature path around St. Mary’s Lake.

Frozen Heart 2014

Coincidentally, my race number is significant. Saturday was my dad’s 65th birthday and the reason for our adventure race. He wanted to celebrate his milestone birthday with a race on his actual birthday, and we chose the Frozen Heart 50k since it was cheap, close to my home, and offered three distance options. My sister was supposed to join us, but 20 inches of snow was blanketing her street.

There are no more pictures of us running on Saturday, and I was too exhausted to remember to take pictures later in the day. By the time we hit Mile 8, someone wanted to quit. Someone else pointed out that there was no use quitting since we’d still have to walk the rest of the trail back to the finish. When we finally finished one lap, we were covered in mud from our knees to our toes. Our hands were frozen since we’d both dipped our gloves in pools of mud, our socks were full of mud, and our toes looked like frozen grapes. We opted to run just one loop, which brought our total distance to 10.76 miles in just over 2 hours.

We averaged a 12-minute pace. In retrospect, we could have shaved 2 minutes off our finish time if we hadn’t stopped at the aid station. We also could have run up every single hill, too. Someone kept falling in the last few miles; that really slowed us down as well. Then there’s the debate over running straight through the puddles as opposed to zigzagging and running around them off-trail.

The important thing is we finished together. It was impossible to run side-by-side since much of the course required moving in single-file fashion, but we accomplished our goal. Will we ever run another trail race? Probably not. Was it the best way to celebrate a milestone birthday? Well, that’s debatable, too. Was it a good way to feel 65 years old? According to my dad, it was, but I don’t think he meant this in a positive way. Did we make some great memories? Absolutely. Happy 65th, Daddy!

Editor’s Note: Want to see the rest of the course? Follow this link to a fellow trail runner’s blog post on Saturday’s run. Check out all the yummy food and nice volunteers. I forgot to mention them in my original post. (I think I got sidetracked by the lactic acid in my calves, glutes, and quads.)

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Photo Finish

I have yet to master the art of taking a good action shot while running. Or should I say I can’t seem to focus on running and posing. Case in point: This is the photo finish of me (#67) seconds before I crossed the end of the Chaptico Classic 10k. My eyes are, as usual, closed, and the effort of catching a runner whom I trailed for 6.1 miles is all over my face. But I don’t care. I PR’ed last Saturday and ran my first race at 8:00 pace! That’s 49:22 for those of you trying to do the math in your head.


From The Enterprise, September 4, 2013
Staff photo by TAMMY SHOWALTER

I would be remiss if I didn’t include my dad, too. We ran 6.1 together and kept a steady pace. Before we started, he asked me what my goal was. I wanted to break 50 minutes, but the heat and humidity of summer had significantly slowed my training pace. Mile after mile, I was surprised to see us running under 8:00. Once we conquered the hill in Mile 5, I knew he had helped me reach my goal. And while he didn’t sprint to the finish, I knew he wouldn’t mind if I did. So here he is, too–#12 in the yellow shirt. Thanks, Daddy!

Staff photo by TAMMY SHOWALTER

Staff photo by TAMMY SHOWALTER

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Running with My Dad: A Tribute

On Saturday, my dad and I set out for a 10-mile run. We left when the temperature was in the 70s and looked promising.  But the humidity was evil: it was hovering around 90%, and I was ready to quit the run at Mile 7. My splits show I was fading, too. 9:00 gradually became 10:00. And I’ll admit to an 11:00 mile when I decided I needed to walk. My dad only “needed” to run 6 miles to make his weekly average of 40, but he gamely agreed to steer me through 10. I decided that 9.3 miles was close enough to 10, and he did not object.

2013 Charlottesville 10 Miler. This is probably around Mile 8.

2013 Charlottesville 10 Miler. This is probably around Mile 8.

But that’s the ugly side of our run. The beauty of it is that we’ve come full-circle. My dad won’t mind me telling you that he’s 64 years old; in fact, he’s quite proud that most people can’t guess his age accurately. He played football and ran track through college but took up running with my mom when we were living in Hawaii around 1980. Almost 35 years later, he still runs 6 miles a day. He no longer runs marathons, and my mom has given up running. On the other hand, I was the child who ran but complained the whole way. I whined through the first 5k I ever ran at the age of 7, and my 5-year-old brother beat me. He pointed out how grossly unfair it was that I won a plaque and he didn’t. I ran high school cross country but only because it kept me in shape for soccer–not because my heart was truly in the sport, right, Mr. Upton? I continued to run in college; again, that was for soccer. Coach Glaeser’s rule was that you couldn’t start unless you could run 5 (hilly) miles in 45 minutes or less.

After college and soccer ended, I had no more reason to run. And since I had blown out both knees playing so much soccer, running wasn’t really a priority. Instead I discovered the elliptical machine, walking, and Pilates; oh, and I also got married and had a whole bunch of babies in rapid succession. It wasn’t until our youngest was 18 months that I tried running again. That was nearly 5 years ago. In that time, I’ve progressed from running 5ks to half marathons. I’ve gone from a couple of casual weekly runs as part of my sanity fitness regime to following training plans and purposefully planning my runs.

One of my first ever races required that I be dressed as a centipede. Yes, a centipede. My dad was the head, our neighbor Mrs. Campbell was the tail, and I was one of 4 children in the middle. I ran behind my dad the whole way wearing antennae and connected to the other centipede runners. Now I run next to my dad. Even when I’m ready to drop back and I tell him to finish without me, he always stays with me.

My parents, both wearing race t-shirts, circa 1981. I'm the little face peeking out from behind my mom.

My parents, both wearing race t-shirts, circa 1981. I’m the little face peeking out from behind my mom.

We ran the Charlottesville 10 Miler together this past March. It rained for the first 4 miles, and we went out too fast because the first 2 miles were mismarked. Still, we finished together in 1:25:00. Just like last Saturday. He only “needed” to run 6, but we finished those 9.3 miles together.