Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Beach Dreams on an Icy Day

February is a great teaser. One day, the afternoon brings balmy 50-degree temperatures perfect for a run. The following morning, a layer of ice clogs your doorways and walkways. You hope your yaktrax hold on for your brief stint in the out of doors.

There is nothing to do with February but enjoy the balmy days and dream of beaches on icy days. My beach memories this year are of the beautiful islands of Guadeloupe.

This is not a swimming beach due to the ruggedness of the coastline and an undertow. It is an enchanting beach where I became mesmerized by the ocean. Many visitors and residents take a hike to reach the cross atop the cliff.

If cliff climbing isn’t for you, stop by this lovely swimming beach, Place de Petit-Havre on Grande-Terre. Don’t worry about bringing your beach umbrella. When you emerge from the beach there are ample trees for shade

Anse de la Perle sits in a crescent of the shoreline. A beach for stronger swimmers that is rated by many as the most beautiful beach on Guadeloupe. Orange sand, coconut trees with a few beach bars sprinkled nearby, it’s no surprise this location was chosen for the series Death in Paradise.

If you’re interested in an authentic view of a pirate’s cove, stop at La Rhumérie du Pirate for some creole cuisine, casual outdoor dining and a beautiful view of the cove. Take a surreptitious peak around the side of the deck and you will see lobster pots bobbing in the water and staff preparing fresh seafood.

As I wrap up this post, snowflakes have again returned. So, I will return to my beach dreaming. If this persists I may take you on a future blog tour of our drive across the inland mountains.

Travelers hint: If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., Norwegian Airlines now has affordable and convenient flights to Pointe-à-Pitre Guadeloupe out of JFK.

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What makes a Successful Running Year

I suppose the answer to my title is this: Any year I can run is a successful running year. Whether you have met your goals or whether you had goals at all, the simple act of getting out the door and breaking into a run can constitute success.

That may sound like a low bar to qualify for success, but I will claim it as mine for 2018. There are years when events in life, happy or sad, expected or not, take precedent over any preset running plans for the year.

Having said that, there were a few highlights, like that crazy rainy Boston that made me question my sanity but in the end left me a decent finish place entitling me to this fabulous shirt

The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is merino wool and light as a feather.

So, yes, we will call this a success.

Trying something new in 2018, I ran in a track meet for the first time since 4th Grade. That effort qualified me for the 2019 National Senior Games, and who doesn’t want to go to New Mexico to compete and then do some sightseeing? So, we will put this event in the success category as well.

Then, there was the Sasquatch Adventure Run. It was a fun, scenic run through horse trails, lots of climbs, a few steep downhills and crossing a fast-running stream. What seemed like a minor trip turned out to be a deep cut to my knee resulting in stitches and time off from running for a few weeks.

I didn’t realize I had an injury until Photographer Clay Shaw, perched on the creek bank said to me “Did you fall? You’re bleeding.” With only a mile or so to go to the finish, I simply kept running.

This I would not call a success as much as a wakeup call. My success has been running and hiking trails over the last 20 years and never needing stitches until this event.

So what’s up for 2019? In my seventies I’m not anticipating any great breakthrough moments. But maybe I will find some fresh territory to run or some races I haven’t yet experienced. Any suggestions?

Ultimate Family Gift: A Themed Vacation

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season. Are you still looking for that perfect family gift to remember all year long? Consider a themed vacation in a sunny place.

Winter doldrums will hit, but there are a number of ways to benefit from the warmth of the Caribbean Islands and those in the Pacific as well. I’ve enjoyed a few days away now and then to simply read, enjoy friends and family, savor the local foods, and of course, run.

There are any number of resorts that will cater to your needs as you let the cares of the world wash away. There is another way to spend some time with family: dig deep into a topic they would find worthwhile or intriguing. I just experienced one of these on my first visit to the Caribbean in many years.

My recent week away on the French island of Guadaloupe included a study on the topic of the Slave Trade History in Post-Colonial Guadeloupe. 

Ruins of a colonial prison

I came away from my week in Guadeloupe with a deeper understanding of the complex, violent past of many of the islands in the area.

Historian interpets signage at a slave rebellion site 

I also learned some about the plant life and the topography of this beautiful island, much I would have overlooked had I chosen a more passive vacation.

We also had opportunity to enjoy the many beautiful and varied beaches of Guadaloupe

On a much earlier trip to Hawaii, just by chance I happened upon an announcement in a local windward side free newspaper. A local civic historic group was offering a tour of ancient sites in the area. I was surprised that with the myriad  of tourists on the island of Oahu, we were  the only non-residents of Hawaii taking the tour. It was a magnificent opportunity to learn about ancient fish ponds. sacred burial grounds and a drive to some cliff locations that mark the historical changes of power on Oahu.

As a proponent of both the get-away-and-be-pampered vacation and the thought-expanding vacation, I’ll provide my ideas on what makes the latter a success.

1.Prepare well for the subject or territory you will be exploring. In my recent trip, I sought out fiction and non-fiction literature to give me a basis for the history and a sense of place. Ask your tour contact for their suggestions for advance reading.

2. If you are not on a specific topic tour, keep an eye out for information, both on the web and in print, that may be offered by local groups such as the one I ran across in Hawaii. Generally they know their subject matter well and are eager to share their knowledge.

3. Consider a trip that includes a homestay, at least for a portion of the trip. My trip to Guadeloupe did. I stayed in the home of a professional young woman and came to understand much of family life, residential architecture designed for the lifestyle and the climate, and the favorite restaurants and home cuisine that are preferred by locals.

4. Learn in advance who will be your guide and who will be providing information of the credentials of your primary guide. If you are doing a study tour, the background of the leader should be available to you. Is he or she an educator, a resident or former resident, a frequent traveler to the area?

5. What is the maximum size of your group? A smaller group can move more efficiently and sometimes have access to venues not available to larger groups. It also offers more opportunity for individual questions and discussion, but may be a bit more costly. There are always trade-offs.

6. Will there be downtime to digest information and enjoy time with your host or fellow participants? Simply taking a drive for the mountain view, enjoying a warm walk on a sunset beach, or following up on a lead of a wonderful local eatery can provide a break and add to your memories.

7. Will the tour be age-appropriate and of interest for your entire family? Will there be recreational time for those less interested?  

Do you search for something more intriguing for family vacations? Is there a topic or activity your entire family enjoys? Have you tried a vacation exploring a specific topic or engaging in a home stay with a local? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Thanksgiving Weekend Cocoa Bean 5K

It was great to come home to the Cocoa Bean 5K this year. Generally, I’m out of town Thanksgiving week, but some schedule changes this year made it possible to squeeze into registration at the last minute.

Rick Blood cheering on runners near the finish:
Photo credit: Paul Moretz

This 5K is worth coming out for on a frosty windy morning. Let me count the ways:

  1. Indoor bathrooms located near packet pickup at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center University Fitness and Conference Center.
  2. A race day registration fee of $23 (that included the race premium of gloves).
  3. Race announcer and overall time record holder for the 30-something year Harrisburg Marathon Rick Blood shouting words of encouragement near the finish line.
  4. Useful AG awards – choice of holiday decor or socks accompanied by a Hershey bar.
  5. Ample food – both healthy and plenty of the not as healthy sort for those of us with a sweet tooth.
  6. Great race directors and organizers Marge Lebo and Holly Bohensky bring their years of experience in running and race directing to the event.
  7. A traffic-free looped course following a sidewalk trail through the complex.
  8. AG awards for those under 10 right up through over 80 years.
  9. You will see most of your running friends there. If you don’t have running friends when you arrive, you will have made a few  before you leave.
Race Director Extraordinaire presenting age group awards.
Photo credit: Clare Flannery Gan

All in all, a wonderful finish to a Thanksgiving weekend.

304 Years of Wisdom

Here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and there are four men in particular who are thankful to continue their running careers.

Tony Lee Jim & Brad Relay Hbg Marathon 18

At packet pickup on City Island, Tony, Lee, Jim and Brad bringing with them 304 Years of Running Wisdom, are ready for marathon morning.

Competing against 84 other relay teams at the Enders Harrisburg Marathon earlier this month, my favorite team, 304 Years of Wisdom, placed 69th, finishing ahead of 16 other teams.

My friends, Tony (age 73, Brad (age70), Jim (age 74) and Lee (age 87), displayed their 304 combined years of wisdom on this nearly perfect day for running. 

Believe it or not, there was not a category for a 70 & over relay division award. Our good friends on the Silver Streaks team took first place in the 60 & over category, the oldest designated category. Perhaps we can lobby for a 70+ category for 2019.

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Looking as fresh at the finish as at the start, 304 Years of Wisdom convene near the finish line for a congratulatory beverage.

I was honored to be one of two designated backup runners if any of the above had to drop due to any number of problems that people in our age category run upon. Alas (and good for them) I was not needed.

I had earlier deferred from the full marathon as a change in travel plans left little time for even a semblance of taper miles and had me returning home late in the week of the marathon.

So, while my brave 70+ running friends were challenging the course, my contribution was to stand near the finish line ringing a cowbell and shouting appreciative comments to finishers.

Lee ran the final leg for the team and crossed the marathon finish line with a total team time of 4:46:43 and an average pace of 10:57.

Enjoy that Thanksgiving dinner, my age-group friends. You have earned it.

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Added bonus for Lee, age 87. Two daughters from out of town surprise him at the finish line. He is planning for a repeat in 2019.

A Rainy Harrisburg Half-Marathon

If it’s not one storm it’s another. Last weekend, the winds of Tropical Storm Gordon  let us know inland what was happening along the coast – and it was coming our way.  Fortunately, with my mishap at the Sasquatch yesterday, I had earlier decided to volunteer at the Harrisburg Half rather than running it this year.

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My friend and bride-to-be Jenn stopped at my monitor station for a hello and a wet hug

I had a great course monitor spot located a couple of miles into the race. After my experience at Boston this year, I feel like an expert in dressing for heavy cold rains. A long sleeve merino shirt and my trusty North Face rain jacket, Helly Hanson waterproof pants (a staple in my  athletic gear drawer for going on 20 years) over my light running warmups. And let’s not forget that ridiculous yellow hat that does a superb job of keeping the rain falling several inches in front of my face instead of on it.

The overall winning time was Jason Ayr at 1:10:48, a 5:24 pace. First female and third runner overall was Emily Hume with a time of 1:19:25 and a 6:04 pace. Congratulations in order for both.

If you haven’t volunteered for a race, try volunteering as a course monitor. It’s a good way to see all the runners, from the elites flying by to the mid-pack to those in the back of the pack pushing forward with smiles on their faces.

It’s also a good way  to see and cheer on your friends who have trained hard for the race. Yesterday was a bit tough but most folks took it in stride. In Harrisburg., we run through sleet, snow, rain, and occasionally a day of sunshine.

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Most t-shirts were hidden under rain gear on Sunday. Sarah made sure we knew she was wearing her 2014 Capital 10-Miler shirt. That shirt has become the symbol for completing a wicked race with weather conditions moving in faster than forecast, including blinding rain, wind, sleet and snow. The shirt conveys “I am a bad _ _ _ runner!”

 

 

Finding Sasquatch – A Preservation Trail Run 5 & 10K

A week of high temperatures and humidity gave way to an evening of downpours that continued through Saturday’s Sasquatch Preservation Trail Run 5K and 10K. The run is billed as an adventure run – and definitely is. It begins at North Branch Farms and benefits the Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County.

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Sasquatch did appear. I’m sure there must have been more than one, since I saw him (or her?) several times on the trails. The mixture of terrain was good, with some open pasture land, some horse trails through the woods, and at least five or six horse jumps to find our way over by whatever means, followed by short but steep ups and downs. Then near the end of mile 5 came the stream crossing.

With the intense rain the night before Codorus Creek was running high and fast, more than waist-high for me. A couple of burly volunteers were stationed in the creek to ensure none of us was swept downstream. 

It was when I emerged from the stream that I realized that from a quick fall – down and back up again in a second – that I had blood running from my knee. I reached the finish line at 1:27:30. Friends who had finished much earlier were there cheering. Seeing my bloody knee, they flagged down a gator. I hopped in for  a ride back to my car, pulled out my first aid kit, and with the help of the volunteer cleaned out and bandaged my knee  well enough to get to urgent care.

With only a light breakfast hours before and 10K of trail under my belt, I decided just a bit of nourishment was needed to keep from getting lightheaded. At the McDonald’s nearest to the highway, I pulled up at the drive-through. Creek-wet from the waist-down and blood dripping from my knee, I wasn’t suitable for even the interior of a McDonald’s. My order?  Apple pie and coffee, please. Calories and caffeine.

Back on the highway to urgent care, I was seen quickly.  As expected, stitches were in order. Not a great ending to a scenic run, but for my many miles of trail runs and hiking, this was my first experience with stitches. Bumps, bruises, scratches and a few insect bites, yes, but never stitches until now. A small price to pay for many wonderful experiences in the outdoors.

How was your weekend run? Hopefully less eventful than mine.