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December 2016

November 2016

A Tribute To My Running Partner

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, ‘How do you fit it all in? How do you balance training/work/family/etc?’. My ‘easy’ answer is, “I get up really early”. And - I do. As such, I am very limited in training partners - especially for running. However, I have four who - no matter the hour, weather, distance, or duration, are ALWAYS ready before me, and ALWAYS excited to run. My dogs. (*disclaimer, two are ‘mine’ and the other two belong to other family members but are a little confused about that and live with, and run with, me - hence I will call them mine).



Let me share with you a little history. My husband (Jeff) and I received our first dog in 2006 as a gift from a girl at work - an early wedding present and our first ‘baby’ - a Border Collie we named Dixie (as in the Chicks). My parents long ago started naming our dogs after bands/musicians and we continued the tradition. Over the years our family has had: Ringo, Fiona, Alanis, Conway and Merle (both bloodhounds - and my father currently has a Loretta - one of the owner confused dogs who runs with me), and - of course - Elvis.

Sebastian and Loretta


Later that year Jeff came home with a ‘Walmart Dog’ - you know, the kind someone is giving away from a cardboard box outside the supermarket. He was a lab/cocker spaniel mix - looked just like a little yellow lab. His brother came with him, as a gift to my brother (another of the dogs who currently runs with me). So - this little pup wailed like nobody’s business every night, for the longest time. No surprise, the perfect name for him was . . . Waylon. And his brother became - Willie. Well, not only did Waylon wail at night, when he started running with me and we would happen across a deer or rabbit in the early morning hours - he would take off after it - wailing and whimpering the entire way. Needless to say - none of the wildlife was ever in danger, and I had a lot of good laughs. The other thing Waylon had an affinity for were - skunks. At first, it was kinda funny. We thought maybe he was confused - Dixie had the same coloration and was about the same size at that time as a skunk - and we laughed that he was just after her and ended up with a skunk instead. But, he never did grow out of it. It would never fail, I would be about 1/2 mile into a 20 mile run, and that dog would get good and sprayed, then proceed to run right in front of me for the next three hours - and I mean directly in front of me. Of course, this was a lot more funny when it happened to my father on the occasion I was not running with him . . . .

(L-R): Willie, Waylon, and Dixie


So - my faithful running partners. My runs generally begin long before dawn - and often finish before that as well. We have shared springtime mornings anxiously awaiting the sound of the first spring peepers, and then whippoorwills (two of my FAVORITE sounds in the world), which give way to the muggy summertime sounds of bullfrogs and crickets, then cool crisp fall and winter as the mornings fall silent again except for the occasional yipping of coyotes in the distance (at least I hope). We have run through crazy thunderstorms with lightening racing across the sky, and under star-filled skies watching as the occasional shooting start darts across above us. The moon is generally our source of light - so the brightness of a full moon has always been one of my favorites. Together we have shared countless miles and witnessed numerous sunrises. From short recovery runs, to faster interval sessions, hill repeats, and long ‘Ironman / Marathon training’ runs - they are always there, always excited, always ready, and always happy.



As the years have passed, the dynamics of our little group has changed. My partners who once forged far ahead of me or ran countless extra miles through fields chasing whatever moved, now tend to lag behind. They know all my turn around spots, and often can be found waiting patiently for me to return - or are already heading home waiting for me to catch back up. They get really excited when we happen across my father running, and wave me off to run with him instead. All of them, that is, except Waylon. Waylon has always been my most loyal of partners. Any of the neighborhood dogs who dared step out in the road as we passed by were met with a stern look, but wagging tail (the most non-aggressive, aggressive dog ever) - warning them to stay put. No matter how slowly he was moving, nor how far or fast I was running, he never turned back until I circled back . . . only then would he turn to head home with me.

I know very well that time is passing. Dixie is moving more slowly every day - and though she still makes it down the driveway with me, there are days that is as far as she goes. In the week leading up to my race in New Orleans, I noticed that Waylon was noticeably slower as well. When I returned home from racing and went for my run on Tuesday - there was no Waylon. Jeff informed me he had disappeared over the weekend. I held out hope - we live in the country, maybe he was at my dad’s? or out back? or hanging with the chickens? But when he was not there Wednesday I knew. My Waylon will never run with me again.

For over ten years that dog was with me.  How many training partners do you have that - no matter the time, the weather, or the distance, are never late, never make excuses, never complain, are always ready, waiting, and excited to run?  It didn't matter if he stayed up too late the night before (i.e. barking), if he was sore, or stiff, or hadn't really planned on running, he was always at the door when I stepped out, tail wagging, enthusiastic, begging to go run.



In my heart of hearts I know, it was a good way for him to go. No suffering. No long, drawn out illness. No having to put him up to watch as I went off for a run without him. And, reflecting on it, it only serves to reinforce my convictions - that we never really know what tomorrow may bring. It is so, so, SO very important to make the most of every day we have. Hold your loved ones close, tell your friends what they mean to you, do random acts of kindness, turn your ‘one’-days, and ‘some’-days into TODAY, be the calm in the sea of torment and turmoil that our world can be and be the best you can possibly be. Dare to dream, chase your dreams, walk that line - whatever it may be. Live you life to it’s fullest. And - hug your training partners every chance you get. ;)

Running is usually my consolation - my therapy. I will not lie - this time it has been more difficult. You see, there is this empty space in the road beside me, and an ache in my heart. However, somewhere, I know, my Waylon is running - he is running young, and spry, and carefree - and above all, he is running happy. And…probably still getting sprayed by skunks.

Thanks for reading.


Miami Man - Finishing Up The Season With My Dad

It was SO fun to finish off my racing season, in Miami, racing with my father! He was doing the Aquabike in hopes of getting a Worlds slot - but I think mostly the two of us were just happy to be racing together. Last year I finished off my season racing the Duathlon Long Course Nationals with him - so it was nice to finish off this year with him too.



The weather was absolutely perfect. Not too hot, or humid, or windy - just perfect. And, once again, it seemed there were a lot of people I knew that were racing - which always makes it really fun.

The 1/2 Ironman and Aquabike nationals were both being held as part of the Miami Man - and after much back and forth with the race management, I was entered to race both. The 1/2 Ironman racers went first, and as I was doing the Aquabike I started almost an hour behind them with the Aquabike wave - which combined the men and women. Now, I have done a lot of races, in a lot of places, and a lot of mass starts - but for whatever reason, this one was one of the most challenging for me. I got dunked, pulled, punched, elbowed, swam over - you name it. I very nearly pulled to the side to let the masses go by just so I could swim - but I managed to hang in there until I got some space. It was a two loop swim, and going in on the first loop was straight into the sun - my goggles fogged and I could see nothing. I just tried to follow the splashes ahead of me and hope they were going the right way. There was a short run before starting the second lap, so I took some time to clean my goggles - and the second lap was SO much better (probably because everyone was ahead of me, but at least I could swim, and see). Suffice it to say - it was not my best of swims.

Bring on the bike. Which was absolutely fantastic. Flat, and fast. I enjoyed it - too much. There were a lot of girls ahead of me after that swim, so I knew I would have to put in a good solid bike to be in contention for the aquabike. So - I rode as hard as I could, and then some. But, it was great. I couldn’t catch the lead girl, but she’s a solid athlete and I am happy that she had a fantastic race!  Great way to end up the season.

So, in all my bright ideas, I really wanted to do the 1/2 Ironman as well - largely because the run went through the zoo. However, digging that deep on the bike left a toll - starting that run I knew I was in trouble. But - the zoo was awesome. The first lap there were about 10 giraffes all running alongside the fence right beside me. Of course, on the second lap they were gone and there was a tortoise who was moving faster than me . . .
For about the last mile and a half I found a guy running about my speed and we pushed each other on to the finish - that helped (and hurt) immensely.



By the finish my calves and feet were cramping so badly - I honestly have to say that I gave that race everything I had left after a long, crazy racing season. I was 5 seconds off the top women’s finisher for the half. It is one of the things I constantly say to myself when I’m racing: “Every second counts”. I said that while I was out there running, and knew I was slowing down. Did I have another 5 seconds in there somewhere? Maybe. But - it is equally true that had I tried to push any harder my calves would have completely locked up and I would have lost a lot more time. So, I have to conclude that I gave what I had at that time, I raced as hard as my mind and body would allow, I got to race with my dad, and - I got to run through the zoo!!!!  I really can’t ask for too much more than that!

That evening we met up with a group of friends in South Beach for a little dinner and post-race celebration. My dad (and most everyone in the group) got a slot for Worlds. And - that pretty well sums it up. Race hard, test yourself, spend time with your family, meet up with old friends, and make new ones...and when given the opportunity - run through a zoo.   It has been a great year. Life is good.

And . . . I am already excited for Penticton!!!!


California meets Tennessee - in Florida


John and Maday Lines - I owe most of my racing season to John's assistance - and...he beat me in the swim


My friend, Kevin Elmore (and his wife), who I raced with last weekend in New Orleans, also made the trek to Miami


New Orleans and The Thin Line Between Amazing and Crazy


I would like to share a story with you. It is about a girl, named Kimee Armour. You see, Kimee has a burning desire to compete in the World Championship for Duathlon to be held in Penticton, Canada, in 2017. At the Duathlon National Championship qualifier which was in Bend, Oregon in June, she missed qualifying. Her only other chance was going to be at the Draft Legal race in New Orleans on November 6th. The challenge? She was entered to race Ironman Florida the day before… November 5th. Did that stop her? No. She prepared her Ironman gear, and packed a bag for the Duathlon the next day. She set an almost 2 hour PR for her Ironman, and hit the road with her husband driving from Panama City to New Orleans, and raced the Duathlon mere hours after finishing an Ironman. AFTER FINISHING AN IRONMAN. Most of us are doing good just to walk after finishing an Ironman….maybe just stand up. The race announcer recognized her at the starting line - and stated, “There is a thin line between amazing and crazy”.

Pre-Race - with Kimee

 As for me - well, I had a great time in New Orleans. The children are beyond their max allowable days of school missed, so Jeff graciously allowed me to go race. I met up with my friends Bruce Heiser and Dan Hammond from Nashville when I arrived - and they took such good care of me. Between the two of them we found some of the coolest restaurants with the best food off-the-beaten-track that you can imagine! Kevin Elmore and Marc Mone from Cali joined us on Saturday night - and it was a wonderful evening swapping stories and laughs (and a really funky restaurant).

Bruce, Dan and I after the "Tri" turned Du
Bruce, myself, Marc, Kevin, and Dan

And the races! So, the weather turned on us Saturday morning and the race mgmt and officials were faced with the tough call of canceling the swim. There were numerous upset folks, but I have to agree with the decision. While the water itself was swimmable, it was more the exit that was the deciding factor (as far as I could tell). With the chop crashing on the concrete embankment, there was a huge risk for getting people out safely. Could it be done? Sure. Could everyone do it safely? No way. It just was not worth the risk. So - the triathlon became a duathlon. 5k run, 20k bike, and 5k run. Ironically, the very same race that was to be held the next day. For all those triathletes that have been hesitant to do a duathlon - there ya go!

Beautiful morning . . .
Pre-Race with Rachel Capshaw

Draft legal is just a different type of race. The men raced first and it was fun to cheer on all the guys I knew racing and see how the draft format played out. In my race, running that first 5k there were several girls out in front and my ‘strategy’ was to try to finish with the lead girls and hopefully work together on the bike, then see what was left for the last run. By the end of the 5k there was one girl about 10sec up - I managed to head out of transition ahead of her and called to her to come and let’s work together on the bike. There was a short hill out of transition beginning the bike, and I slowed up to see if she would catch up -when she hadn’t by the top I just decided to go ahead. There was a pretty sweet tailwind for the first mile to the turnaround, and I figured she would catch up there. The turnaround came, and she was still behind me, so I just settled in and decided to ride my race. If she caught me, great - we would be able to work together. If not - well, what would be would be. It was a two loop bike, and there was a stiff headwind as well (the price you pay for a sweet tailwind). A chase pack had formed behind me, and I kept expecting them to catch me at any moment. Somehow I managed to hold them off and had enough of a lead to make it through the last run. Might I add - the crowds were just fantastic! The 2 loop course on the bike meant going by the main staging area several times - and the cheers helped SO much!


The guys - Bruce, Kevin, Marc, and Dan
My photo bomb attempt on Kevin - was laughing to hard though....

Sunday morning I have to confess, I REALLY enjoyed watching the men’s race. There was a group from Memphis that came down to race together - and I almost forgot I was racing I was so excited to see how it all played out (and they did fantastic)! My race ended up about the same - several girls ahead of me on the run, entered transition with one, hoped to work with her on the bike, didn’t work out, rode as hard as I could, expected to be caught any moment, somehow wasn’t, crowds were even BETTER than Saturday (including the Memphis contingent who stayed to cheer which REALLY made my day, and Tim Yount who I always love to see!), and in some unimaginable way, I managed to defend my win from last year!

The Memphis BPC guys
Pre-race with Pam Tate (also from Memphis)

 And, (yes I made you read all that to get to the main point of my story) Kimee Armour raced. She raced with everything she had left. Not only did she race, but she got her slot, by 42 seconds.

 And that, my friends, is what life and sport are all about. You find something you are passionate about. You dedicate yourself to it. You dare to dream, you push yourself, you test your limits, you do what others might deem impossible. And, yes, you may have to walk that fine line between amazing and crazy. Otherwise you might never know . . . nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Walk that line.






And a few more random pics . . . just 'cause:


The 'Best Seat in The House' from the restaurant Saturday night
Running across the levee
Saturday's podium


I may have mentioned this . . . but I really love this bike!
and this is what I came home to . . .