Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for national senior games

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?

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National Senior Games 2015

After competition in more than 20 individual sports spread out across several cities in Minnesota with more than 12,000 senior athletes competing, the National Senior Games of 2015 are closed.

For those unfamiliar, the National Senior Games take place during the summer of odd-numbered years (this year Minneapolis & environs, Birmingham, Alabama slated for 2017). To participate in the National Senior Games, an athlete must be 50 years of age or older and must first qualify at state games held in even-numbered years.

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NSGA 5K – F65-69 top finishers. The 5K included runners in age groups 50-54 through 90-94.

This was my second competition with the Senior Games and once again I come away with renewed respect for fellow athletes and renewed ambition and a promise to myself to train more consistently.

Running is my sport and longer distance events are my friend. Still, I attempt to hang in there for the 5K and 10K, the longest running distances offered, for the opportunity to compete with some of the top senior athletes in the country.

Both events were held on the same course at the Minnesota fairgrounds, with a two-loop 10K held the first day of competition, July 4. My road-tripping sibling support group and I arrived the evening before with enough time to pick up my credentials prior to competition.

Version 2The morning air was muggy and the smoke from wildfires in Saskatchewan created a haze throughout the region. None of that seemed to slow down the competition. I managed to eek out a 4th place with a 55:20, just missing the podium. First place in the F65-69 AG was Jeannie Rice finishing nearly 10 minutes before me with a sizzling 46:43. A runner who can handle almost every distance, Jeannie holds the American record for fastest marathon for her age.

July 5 offered a day off to hang out with the sibs, returning in a downpour to the Fairgrounds for the July 6 5K. Fortunately, it tapered off to a drizzle and had stopped midway into the 5K. I finished hat-in-hand as the baseball cap I wore to shield my eyes from the rain became a heat trap.

There is an incredible amount of running talent for this event. Where else will any woman in the F65-69AG run a 5K when the top three finishers clock sub-23 minute times? The Senior Games acknowledge the top 8 finishers in each age group and podium spots to the top three finishers. I managed to sneak in at 7th place.

Many of the athletes were far more ambitious than I and had qualified and competed in several other sports. Some participated in the triathlon held on the day between the 10K and 5K, many others participated in Track & Field events held the week following. Still others compete in swimming and cycling competition.

With one of my AG running idols Nancy Rollins and fellow age-grouper Sylvia Halasz. Always an opportunity to chat with fellow athletes at the Games.

With one of my AG running idols Nancy Rollins and fellow age-grouper Sylvia Halasz. Always an opportunity to chat with fellow athletes at the Games.

If you by chance are feeling the AG competition on your home turf has gotten a bit thin, consider looking at the state senior games in your state or a nearby state next year to get your qualification for participation in the national games for 2017. It’s a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved.

And to that end – although I didn’t personally see this couple competing, I love the Runners World story and their formula for graceful aging and an interesting life.

Sketched-Out Running Plans on a Frigid Morning

As expected, dawn on this last day of January brought single digit temps, drifting snow and a windchill well below zero, I’ve rescheduled my long run and taken to the keyboard. It’s about time, since the draft version of my 2015 running plan is stale and outdated.

With the nagging ache of a 2-year old ski injury, I’ve taken a few pie-in-the-sky running adventures off the table for this year in order to concentrate on strengthening my knee and working on alignment, doing what I need to do now to assure that I can continue to say that I am still a runner.

So, what is left for the year? I plan to honor the races I have already registered for, but run them simply as training and enjoyment without a concern for time. By mid-year, I expect to be back full-throttle. In the meantime, here is a scaled back list of possibilities:

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Lakeside Trail Pinchot Park January 2015

February: First up is the Squirrely Tail Twail Wun, a 1/2 Marathon in the woods. I impulsively registered after a January trail run/walk tagging along behind a fellow race director and his cohorts mapping out the HARRC in the Park fall 15K trail race on some of the same trails. Conditions for Squirrely Tail were notoriously bad last year and this year will likely not resemble the snowy but reasonably passable trail of January. This may be a scratch.

March:

Lower Potomac River Marathon, a low-key, low cost Maryland marathon limited to 200 runners. I selected it as an antidote after running New York, the largest marathon in the world, a few months ago. Originally, I also selected it for the likelihood of a good finish time. Now, I’m planning to just take it easy and make it through.

Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts On March 29, I will be race directing the race but I love the course through the Greenbelt and across the Susquehanna bridges and will be running it with race committee members a number of times before race date.

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

 April:

Hmm, seems to be a drought here. A good time to continue working on corrections and rest. I will likely pick up a few 5K’s and 10K’s and find some trail runs or hikes in preparation for ……

May:

Dirty German 50K (really) I signed up for my first ultra, a well-established run and the course is a figure 8. If I decide a 50K is beyond my ability, this may be downgraded to the 25K. We’ll see.

June:

My big plans for June are scuttled by better judgment, with hope for that adventure next year. I’m sure I will find something to fill this space.

July:

National Senior Games in Minneapolis, MN. I will be racing the 10K on July 4 and the 5K on July 6. Qualification for national games is at the state level in even-numbered years. If you’re interested, take a look at your state – or surrounding states – for the competition schedule in 2016. This is a great opportunity to meet and watch some outstanding senior athletes in action. With a minimum age of 50 years, there will be 12,000 athletes attending and competition in more than 20 different sports.

Running with the big dogs. In 1st place on the AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, with Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at Boston this year. Keep looking to the right, to the right - and there I am in 7th place just proud to be in the top 10.

2013 Senior Games 5K in Cleveland and running with the big dogs.1st place on the 65-69 AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, 2nd place Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at 2014 Boston. Keep looking to the right, to the right – and there I am in 7th place just pleased to be in the top 10 of the outstanding field of women.

My last trip to Minneapolis was to a conference where my time in the beautiful city was mostly spent in meeting rooms. This time, I plan to enjoy family, the outdoors and some of the many arts venues.

August/September/October:

Nothing big planned here, so a great time to get in distance training and throw in a couple of half-marathons. Wild card – I may throw my name in the Chicago Marathon lottery, another opportunity to tie running in with a visit to the Midwest.

November:

Harrisburg Marathon In spite of tempting e-mails from the NYC Marathon warning me I have only xxx weeks left to claim my guaranteed entry before the February 15 deadline, with only a week between the New York and Harrisburg Marathons, I’m saying no. It has been several years since I ran the full Harrisburg Marathon and I want to get at least one in while in the F65-69 AG. This is a wonderfully organized marathon with miles of scenic riverside and neighborhood running.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

When I’m not running the full Harrisburg, I volunteer and/or run with a senior relay team, all great alternatives. So, NYC, I’ll see you again another year.

December:

It depends – on where or if I’m traveling. Who knows what the future holds?

Well now, I see sunshine flowing in the window and temps have moved into the high teens. Maybe I’ll get in a mile or two.  Gotta run…………

 

 

10K + Brandywine Art = Great Mini-Roadtrip

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2nd Floor atrium at Brandywine Art Museum

It’s travel Tuesday and I hope you’ll agree with me that a 2-3 hour road trip qualifies as travel. While running friends were scattered across the region at various marathons, I carved the weekend out for the Joy Hope Delaware 10-K, a qualifying race for the 2015 National Senior Games. I looked at this as a secondary opportunity to pay a visit to the nearby Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Speaking of art, there is an art to combining a day trip road race with sightseeing or shopping. It involves a dry change to street clothes, a tattered washcloth and towel from the bottom of your linen closet, a plastic bag, sunblock, and on a rainy day, a comb to run through your thoroughly drenched locks. Lotion, lipstick and mascara are optional as is a bathroom with running water.

The day’s 10K and art trek were equally successful. 6.2 rainy miles through neighborhood streets and rolling hills, slowing a bit on the uphill through Mile 5 and feeling the chill come on during Mile 6 ended with a finish time 55:08, meeting the National Senior Games qualifying time for W-AG 65-69.

Credit: ahungryrunner.com

Credit: ahungryrunner.com

After finding a corner of the crowded church bathroom, removing mud from my calves and practicing the art of the discreet wardrobe change, I found my way to the post-race food. I thanked the well-organized Delaware Senior Games volunteers, and chatted with some fellow senior  runners. I look forward to running with them again at the National Senior Games in 2015.

Through damp runners and spectator umbrellas, I made my way to the parking lot. A short drive took me past upscale outlet stores, Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe’s. I was tempted, but continued on to the nearby chosen destination for the day: Chadds Ford and the Brandywine Museum. The indoor/outdoor feel in the atrium welcomes the natural beauty that still abides in this valley.

Bucolic landscape and sculpture

Bucolic landscape and sculpture

The work of one or more generations of the Wyethe family is always found on display here, along with several temporary exhibits.

This is an art museum where you could spend the day, take a lunch break in the on-site restaurant (although the use of plastic dishes and utensils seems so at odds with the natural setting), enjoying a view of the Brandywine Creek through floor to ceiling windows.

Dining with a view

Dining with a view

A nicely kept secret, this nature and art stop-off can be found when driving near the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware area. From major highways, its easy to pop in, stretch your legs for an hour or so and be on your way, revived by the art, the natural setting and the sense of history.

Or, you can take a shorter break by simply walking down one of the many nature trails on the property. I did both.

Creekside Trail

Creekside Trail

If you have any tips on doing a road race day trip with other activities, please share. 

 

My Melanoma Awareness Alert

 

Most 5Ks and 10Ks are associated with a cause, most frequently a disease or other health concern and less frequently a  human services charity. How deeply the race is steeped in information for their fundraising cause varies. At many a race, I’ve picked up my banana and bagel, stayed for the awards ceremony and left the venue only vaguely aware of the charity or cause.

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Credit: runnerunleashed.com

This was not the case at the Moving for Melanoma 5K. My purpose for seeking out this 5K in Wilmington was not to learn about Melanoma but to run a qualifying race to ensure my participation in the 2015 National Senior Games.

I hoped to come away with a qualifying time, but didn’t expect an education. I received both. Moving for Melanoma of Delaware focuses on building awareness and prevention of Melanoma, raises funds for research and provides support to those affected in the community in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

I picked up my race packet and checked in with officials at the Delaware Senior Olympics table. On a slightly muggy morning, I ran a 26:12, well under the maximum qualifying time allowed for the F65-69 age group.

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Moving for Melanoma pre-race warmup dance

Other runners were there to get a similar qualifying time and still others simply looking for a weekend 5K. With nearly 1,000 finishers, no doubt we were outnumbered by the multiple fundraising teams, some over 100 strong, running and walking for friends and family in treatment for Melanoma. Other teams participated in memory of a loved one lost.

At the finish line and beyond the bananas and bagels were multiple tents and kiosks with information on Melanoma prevention and ongoing research on the disease. Post-race speakers made their running audience aware of activity that will make any of us more vulnerable to Melanoma. I also became aware that this disease can strike even when we take precautions.

I got more than I came for. My love of running, hiking, walking, snowshoeing, gardening and generally enjoying the outdoors won’t change. But I realize my habitual application of sunscreen alone while important is not a guarantee.

This was a wake up call. The Moving for Melanoma 5K began my education process and its up to me to continue it with action.  And, what action do you take to protect your skin and save your life?

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Credit: Skinfo.com

How Old is Too Old?

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National Senior Games Triathlon finish area on Cleveland waterfront.

At the National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio, I had Sunday off from competition. I took the opportunity to do a leisurely morning run and cheer on the Triathlon participants. After watching some incredible athletes, I walked from the finish chatting with another Games participant about events.

     Me:  Are you competing today?

     She:  I’m competing in Swimming.  I used to compete in Cycling, but now I’m too old.

     Me:  How old is too old?

     She:  I’m 93.  I may ride in the State Games next year, but I won’t compete on the bike at the Nationals again.  My daughter tells me I’m too old.

She also offered that her daughter has little room for criticism, as she is a 68-year old who continues to do several hundred mile bike rides.

My new acquaintance and I said good-bye at the street corner where I walked on to my hotel and she crossed the street to catch the shuttle to hers.

That refreshing conversation was typical of many I’ve had over the last few days. Opening ceremonies on a beautiful mall adjacent to the Convention Center included several fantastic bands, the arrival of a flame to begin the games and fireworks lighting the sky. Cleveland welcomed 11,000 lycra-clad and fit seniors ready for competition and, based on the general mood on the Mall, ready to have a good time.  Those 11,000 athletes brought with them roughly 18,000 family members and friends.

Photo:  Plain Dealer

Photo: Plain Dealer

Some of those athletes are as young as 50, two athletes are over 100, and the rest of us are somewhere in between.

The Convention Center in Cleveland is incredibly convenient and the Senior Games have done a beautiful job of staffing volunteers and providing a great venue with lots of informative and fun activities located at the Center.

I’m competing in two running events and will write about those in a later post.  In the meantime, I’ll simply say I am sold on the National Senior Games and wondering why I waited this long to compete.  This isn’t just track and field and road running.  There are more than two dozen sports represented – basketball, softball, golf, volleyball, tennis – and some I’m not even familiar with.  

If this is of interest to you, start early. To compete in the National Senior Games, held in odd-numbered years, participants must first qualify the previous year at the state level. You can do this in your own state, or some states will allow out-of-staters do use their venue for qualification.

National Senior Games Cauldron

National Senior Games Cauldron (Photo credit: Texas.713)

I did this, qualifying for the 5K through the Keystone Games in Pennsylvania in July or August of 2012 and qualifying for the 10K through the Delaware Seniors Games event in October 2012.

And how old is too old? As long as there is another age group, we’re not too old.

Will you be there? Who’s in?