You’ve probably heard of the Whole 30 program.
If you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably one of those naturally slim women with a red-hot metabolism and luxuriously thick straight hair and eight letters from playing varsity sports at your high school. If that describes you, hon, you can stop reading right now. Also, we can’t be friends.
Me? I’ve been waging war with my weight all of my life. I’ve mostly won the battles since my late 20s and have managed to maintain my weight for the last 20+ years within a 10-pound range.
Lately that’s been 15 pounds and it’s creeping slowly toward 20 and I don’t like it. It didn’t help that I was injured and couldn’t do any physical activity for nearly seven months, including the holiday (feasting) season. It also doesn’t help that I’ve now got two feet firmly planted in middle age.
Desperate to shed some of this winter/injury weight before summer shorts season and a family trip to Mexico in June, I decided to give the Whole 30 thing a try for the month of April.
I’ve done the no-sugar, no-grains, no-dairy thing before and know that A.) it works, B.) the first week that is the worst, C.) Once you stop eating sugar, you stop craving it.
I downloaded all the Whole 30 materials. I planned out a menu and shopping list. I cleared the kitchen of my favorite junk foods. I swore off the office candy jar. I bought tons of vegetables and fruit.
I started out strong. I prepared a week’s worth of meals on Sunday and I even found a recipe for a sugar-free salad dressing that I could tolerate. But I soon found myself swapping my “bad” habits (a handful of peanuts after work, or pretzels before the gym) with new habits, like eating four pieces of fruit or handfuls of nuts a day.
By the 2nd weekend, I was cheating in small ways — tortilla chips with salsa before a meal at El Canelo, a few peanuts (they are legumes, not nuts, you know!) or sprinkling a little cheese on my eggs.
I gave it all up entirely in spectacular sugary style by Day 22 when we went for a walk at the peninsula and stopped at Sara’s:
The funny thing is that I don’t even really like ice cream all that much, but….dang, was I sick of depriving myself at that point. I don’t do well with deprivation. It just makes me want the things I can’t have.
So f**k it. I’m done.
If never eating sugar, pizza, tortilla chips, or cheese is what what I have to do to be a size 8, then I’m just going to go buy some damn size 10s and 12s.
I’ve said this before, but this time I mean it. Really.
It hit me like a truck on Day 19 of the Whole 30 thing when I was sitting at the kitchen table choking down a gritty (perhaps I should’ve washed the greens) kale salad with lemon-olive-oil dressing and sliced almonds while Dan cooked up a skillet dinner rife with pasta, cheese, and ground beef.
I looked at my disgusting kale salad and thought: This is so f***ing stupid.
It might be because I’ve been reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***k” by Mark Manson and absorbing wisdom like this:
“OK, you may hear this and say: ‘I get that my values suck but how to do I change?
And to this I say, in my best Yoda impersonation: Do or do not; there is no how.
“You are already choosing, in every moment of every day, what to give a f**k about, so change is as simple as choosing to give a f**k about something else.
“It really is that simple. It’s just not that easy.”
Manson goes on to say that it’s not easy because you’ll feel like a loser, a fraud, a dumbass at first. You’ll be nervous. You’ll freak out. You may get pissed off.
“These are necessary, though painful, side effects of choosing to place your f**ks elsewhere, in a place far more important and more worthy of your energies.”
I can think of a thousand things more worthy of my time, energy, and focus than food and weight. I just don’t give a f**k anymore.
Somewhere after Kelly and before Lauren, I started attending weekly track workouts (speed work) at McDowell High School hosted then by Erie running phenom, Barb Filutze or maybe it was Carmen Garrison, by then. I’m not sure because it’s been 15 years.
My memory is fuzzy about it now, but I remember two things about after-work summer speed sessions at McDowell: it was hot as hell, and I absolutely hated it. But I kept going back because I started to like the people there and sharing the misery. Commiserating with other runners while we gasped for air at the end of an 800.
At some point (again, the memories are fuzzy), Carmen invited me to a sleepover at her friend Linda’s cabin-in-the-wood behind her farmhouse in McKean with a handful of other running women. To this day, I cannot believe I said “yes,” and then actually showed up to sleep with a half-dozen strangers, most of whom were at least 10 or more years my senior.
Despite my hazy memories about most things from that long ago, I recall vividly being in my car with my pillow, sleeping bag, snack, and overnight bag, and driving to Linda’s thinking, what am I doing? I don’t know hardly any of these women and I’m going to spend all night with them? This is insane. I’m just going to turn around and tell Carmen something came up. What grown woman accepts an invitation to spend the night in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of people she doesn’t know?
I am eternally thankful that I didn’t turn that car around.
Hanging out with them that night was like being 15 again and having a circle of friends to talk, giggle, and eat a bunch of junk food with. Only we could drink, too, which made it even more fun.
Carmen, Barb, and I in the cabin.
I had an absolute blast that night and the women that I met there (and, later, the women I met through them) have enriched my life in ways I can’t even put into words. Their friendship, advice, support, and presence in my life has been constant and unconditional.
Some have come and some have gone. Carmen moved to Washington a dozen years ago. Karen, Sarah, and Dottie moved, too. Others quit running and then fell away from the group. But, we’ve invited new friends in, too. And, it’s not always just women (though we do love our girls-only events), but the husbands, too. We hang out together on holidays and at events. We started a book club. We’ve gone on a bunch of weekend and week-long vacations together. Everyone knows each others’ kids.
When I was 7+ months pregnant with Lauren, I went to a girls-night at Linda’s and they had organized a little surprise baby shower. I teared up because it was just so sweet. Also, I was pregnant, so I cried about pretty much everything then. I remember sitting at the table in Linda’s kitchen, opening presents — little yellow outfits, pictures frames, and teething toys.
This weekend, that baby in my womb, now a 14-year-old girl, circled around that same table in Linda’s kitchen, trying to pick which piece of Linda’s homemade pie she wanted. It was cider day at the Huegels’.
Every September, John and Linda invite dozens of friends to bring boxes of apples and make fresh cider using John’s 1800s-era cider press. It’s quite an operation, but one that so many of us have done for so many years, that we easily switch jobs and jump in where needed.
Cider Day a couple years ago.
After the work is done, Linda feeds the whole crew a chicken-and-biscuits dinner, complete with dessert. Every single bit of it is homemade (that’s the only way Linda cooks, thank you.) I think she said she used 17 pound of chicken this year. Dan loves going to Linda’s because, as he puts it, she “cooks with love,” (which in Dan-speak means plenty of butter and natural fats).
Even Lauren, who tends to be a pretty big homebody, gives us no complaint when we say we’re going to Linda’s (which is quite often because Linda and John are the rare breed of people who enjoy hosting parties and having people over for dinner). Lauren who complains about anyplace we ever have to go, jumps right in the car. Ready to go.
Adventure awaits at the Huegels’ house. There’s the creek, the bridge over the creek, the cabin in the woods, the rope swing, the hammock and, of course, tons of other kids to play with, not to mention plenty of food.
My daughters have literally grown up with our running friends and see them as an extended family. In fact, when Lauren was a toddler and we’d tell her we were going to a party or picnic, she’d often ask: Is it our real family or our runnin’ family?
It’s never lost on me how lucky my daughters (and I) am to have not just our own large families (Dan and I are both from family’s of five), but an even wider circle of adults who love and care for them.
All because I didn’t turn the car around that night.
Here’s a photo of Kelly, my niece, Syd, and another “runnin’ family” friend, Joe Lang, in the loft of the Huegel’s cabin — the very place I rolled out my sleeping bag and slept next to a bunch of strangers that became family:
Aren’t we lucky?
About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”
Friends and I (in the hot pink pants) hit the trails on our shoes this weekend.
The older I get the harder winter running is on my body. It’s not the cold (I actually prefer colder temps), but the snow/ice/slush that make footing dicey and terrain uneven. The constant adjustments required by my ankles and lower legs/feet to keep me upright aggravate my long-standing Achille’s tendon and hip issues and lead to a day or two of post-run hobbling and icing.
Since I hate the dreadmill and/or running on an indoor track, I’m at the mercy of Mother Nature. I’ve learned to be flexible — skipping a day or running later in the afternoon and early evening (after the sun has had a chance to melt the roads) or driving to run in parts of Erie where the streets are clear.
But, in the last couple years, I found another option: snowshoeing.
What I like about it:
- It doesn’t require much gear, just a pair of shoes and poles (optional), a good pair of snow boots and warm clothes (mittens, hat, etc.)
- You don’t have to go to a ski resort. You can put on your shoes and stomp around any snow-covered field, trail, or path.
- It’s easy. It is literally just walking. You’ll have a slightly wider stance and you’ll have to lift your foot/knee higher, but..that’s as complicated as it is.
- It may not be running, but it’s still a workout. It’s like doing high-knees for an hour so your hip flexors, quads, and glutes get quite a workout.
- You can enjoy the scenery. When you run trail, you have to watch your footing the entire time. Not so when walking through the woods on snowshoes. I mean, yes, you have to pay attention to where you’re going, but you can look up quite a bit, too.
- You can go places you can’t without snowshoes and/or without snow. Thanks to the crampons on the bottom of snowshoes (and using your poles) you can literally climb up or down the side of mountains or hillsides you could not without shoes.
- You can easily hold conversations with walking partners — so it’s a good “lets-do-something-together” activity.
What you need to know:
- Dress in layers: It’s highly likely you’re going to work up a sweat and want to take off some clothes. I typically start out in tights, ski pants, an Under Armour mock-neck shirt, and a lightweight shell jacket or windbreaker. If the weather is warm or the sun is out, I will sometimes just wear tights, U.A. shirt, and a windbreaker.
- Wear sunglasses. They are vital on sunny days to cut the glare, but helpful and useful on any day to keep snow out of your eyes.
- Essentials: Good snow boots (think weather/waterproof boots…Kmart cheapies or rainboots aren’t good enough), and good ski mittens and/or gloves. I wear a pair of stretchy black gloves and layers a thick pair of ski mittens over top. You may not need the mittens, but it’s better to take them and remove them if you don’t need them than to be without them (hello frostbite!).
- You can get shoes for less than $80. I just bought this pair and I love them. You can, of course, spend a LOT more money on shoes, but if you’re buying them to occasionally cross-train, you can definitely get by spending less than $100.
- If you’re going to buy shoes, pay attention to the weight guidelines on the shoes more so than the length of the shoes.
- Shoes come in different lengths — I think it’s personal preference if you want shorter shoes or longer shoes. Obviously, longer shoes will offer more ability to stay “on top” of the snow, but…they can be harder to walk in so… buy based on your own preference (with an eye to the weight guidelines for the shoes you’re considering).
At Devil’s Backbone at the top of the Wintergreen Gorge trail.
Where to shoe around Erie:
- Presque Isle State Park: Try Gull Point, or the Sidewalk Trail, or walk along the beaches (just STAY off any ice dunes, of course!)
- Penn State Behrend/Wintergreen Gorge (Harborcreek) There’s a 1-mile trail on Penn State Behrend property from the foot of Cooper Road in Harborcreek to “Devil’s Backbone” which overlooks four-mile creek. You can stay on the big white path…or tromp around closer to the edge of the water or even go off trail and explore a path less traveled.
- Pleasant Ridge Park (Fairview)
- Asbury Woods (Millcreek)
- Scott Park (Millcreek)
- Six Mile Creek Park (Harborcreek)
- Erie Bluffs State Park (Girard)
- Headwaters Park (Millcreek/Greene Twp)
- Any PA State Game Lands (just take care during hunting season unless it’s a Sunday)
- Oil Creek State Park (nearby Oil City, Pa, about a 90-minute drive)
Want to try before you buy?
Both Presque Isle TREC and Asbury Woods frequently offer snowshoe clinics and, I believe, both rent snowshoes at their facilities (at PISP…they are at the cabins where they rent XC skis). Also, you can rent snowshoes and use the snowshoe trails at Wilderness Lodge cross-country ski resort in Wattsburg.
Photos blatantly stolen from my friend, Eloise.
You’ve heard me talk about my workout group — Team Adrenaline — and you’ve seen the photos of some of the crazy stuff we do. If you’ve ever THOUGHT of joining us…or you need some motivation and accountability to continue working out — I’ve got good news for you.
You can join us for the entire month of April for FREE.
What is Team Adrenaline?
Led by Erie chiropractor Steve Krauza (that’s him in the blue shirt above), Team Adrenaline is best described as an “organic” or “urban” workout. All the workouts are done outside year-round using minimal “equipment” beyond what nature or the venue provides (curbs for box jumps, bleachers for running, etc.). See video below.
Workouts are offered in east county at various locations on Monday morning, Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning, Thursday evening, and most Saturdays. The latest schedule & locations can be found here.
Workouts typically last an hour and they are never the same (though you will see the same elements — planks, sprints, pushups, etc.).
And…believe it or not…they are fun! (I’m not kidding!)
How you can join — TRY IT FOR FREE in APRIL!
Friend and fellow T.A. teammate & blogger, Eloise, recently wrote a concise blog post telling you how you can join the team (all fitness levels and ages are welcome!).
BUT…..starting April 4….all the April workouts are FREE, FREE, FREE!
It’s that time of year again! Free Team Adrenaline for all!! Starting Monday, April 4th, all Team Adrenaline workouts will be free for THREE weeks!! The free workouts are 1) a thank you to those who toughed it out with me during the winter months. 2) an invite to those who worked out indoors during the winter to rejoin us as the weather warms up. 3) Encourage new participants to give Team Adrenaline a try without any financial risks or long term commitments.
Workouts are offered Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This means there will be 15 opportunities to try Team Adrenaline for free! Spread the word!
Questions? Email me (zipdang22 at aol.com) or post a question below.
JOIN US….I promise that it will change your life…if you let it.
NO EXCUSES — IT’s FREE!
I’ve participated in the Highmark Quad (Swim, bike, run, ski) several times, but I’ve only ever had to do the ski portion once (thank you, Mother Nature!).
I did it three years ago at the Peek and, well…friends, I’ll just say it, it was terrifying. It was icy and the course was fast and I had no idea how to stop, besides skiing into deep snow or a tree. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. (Snowplow…I know, but…what can you PLOW when there is no snow on the course?) I even wrote about it. Read my whole
hilarious, er, sad account here.
I’ll admit it soured me on the Quad.
But then, they moved the ski event to the Wilderness Lodge which had become sort of a home base for us the past few years as the girls participated in the Wilderness Wildcats Cross-Country team. (BTW, the Wildcats is a FABULOUS program for kids/teens.) I briefly pondered doing it last year, but…I chickened out.
This year, new Quad director Kelly Latimer flat out flattered me onto the course, talking Pam Parker and I (current and past editors of the Erie Times-News’ Her Times magazine) to do the 2.5 mile snowshoe together. Latimer clearly learned a few things from her father-in-law, Craig (former Quad director), who was also known to be a very likable and confoundingly persuasive guy (a true marketing guy).
Flattery and the prospect of a couple hours of uninterrupted adult girlfriend-talk time and maybe a post-race beer will get you everywhere with me, so I told Pam I’d do it if she would and we agreed to strap on a pair and give it a go on Sunday at the final event in the 2015/2016 Quad games.
It was pretty awesome, as evidenced by the genuine smiles in this “after” photo:
The location. You’d be hard-pressed to find another ski lodge that offers what the Wilderness Lodge can — snow that sticks around (the lodge is in some weird pocket that allows it to keep what it gets for a long time) with acres and acres of old-growth forest and well-groomed and interesting trails. And the eclectic lodge itself is pretty awesome, too (more on that below).
This photo doesn’t even begin to do the scenery justice.
The event. This will come as no surprise to you, I liked the snowshoe a whole lot better than the ski. Really, anyone can snowshoe. And you can pick up a set of shoes for less than (or a little over) $100.
The course. There weren’t a ton of hills on the course, but there were enough to make you sweat a little. Because we were walking on the side of the groomed trails, it was easier shoeing that what I’m used to (tromping through a foot or more of snow in the woods).
The organization. The whole event was really well organized, but I will say that if I weren’t familiar with the lodge, I might have been confused about where to go (registration was in the Wilderness Wildcats room below the ski rental, not in the lodge). I actually thought the event started at 2, so we arrived pretty late (my bad) and just in time to strap on our shoes and go. (I also thought the event was Saturday, so…moral of this story: Always double check when I tell you the date or time for something, k? *kiss kiss*)
The porta potties. There’s only one bathroom in the Wildcats room and one with two stalls in the main lodge, so….additional porta potties located outside the rental shop were a smart call and money well spent, in my opinion.
The volunteers. Friendly, helpful, smart, efficient. I was pretty impressed with every volunteer we came in contact with, but was especially impressed with some of the “road marshals” who were standing out there directing participants in the cold. Word has it many of the volunteers were from the Erie Tri Club (you guys– and girls — rock!).
The weather. Wow…we could not have asked for better weather than we had on Sunday. Clear and cold, but not too cold. It was a little windy in the open fields (always is), but was sweet once we got between the treelines.
The timing. Big White Trailer is the best. Results were posting before we even had our snowshoes off.
The post-race lodge fun. I love the lodge — the noise, the warmth, the old photos on the wall, the mismatched coffee mugs from all over the world, the snowmobilers mixing it up with the skiers, the wait staff screaming out people’s names to pick up their orders, and, of course, that cracking fire in the center of it all, where everyone dries their gear and warms their butts.
I’m reaching here because none of these are really “bad,” but…
I was overdressed. I had on running tights, snowpants, an under armour tank and a fleece-lined microfiber LL Bean jacket, and I was sweating pretty quick. I got so hot that I took off my gloves and I would’ve taken off my hat, too, but….(see “The ugly” below). Tights, Under Armour and a windbreaker probably would’ve been enough.
The drive there. Look, I’ll be honest. The drive to the lodge sucks. Now, this may be just the way that I go there (which I’m told is the “hills and thrills” version), but there is no “easy” way to get to the lodge. The roads are really hilly, not well-maintained (read: long after the snow had fallen…it’s still there) and there’s no signage pointing you where to go (unless you count the little blue “cross country skier” signs you see randomly along the way). That said, good luck finding a ski lodge that is easy to get to or doesn’t involved driving up and down snow- or ice-covered hills. On a good day, like it was Sunday, the drive is fine….pleasant (and quite beautiful), in fact.
Parking. Meh. I hate to even add this to the list because where could you put the influx of traffic from a couple hundred people for an afternoon event? The lodge actually doubled their parking lot a couple years ago, which is great for busy weekends, but, of course, even if they expanded it four-fold it couldn’t contain all the Quad participants. The good news is…there’s a least a mile of road parking on each side of the lodge.
Southern Tier on tap. Um…here’s a PSA: The Southern Tier Brewing beer on tap at the lodge (I think it was Old Man Winter...it could’ve been 2Xmas) has a 7.5% alcohol content. Just letting you know. It was really, really good beer, but just don’t let it go down too fast, if you know what I’m sayin’.
My hair after taking off my sweaty hat. ’nuff said.
Quad 2015/16 results & photos
- See complete results from Sunday’s event and the entire Quad series here.
- See photos from GoErie’s Street View here and from the Erie Times-News here.
- Read ETN’s coverage of Sunday’s event and see video here.
Note: If you choose to do the snowshoe, you are considered a “fitness participant” and you’re not in the running for the overall Quad title because, well, it wouldn’t be fair. The snowshoe is half the distance and probably requires half the skill/energy of the ski race.
Ready to do the Quad?
After a fun snowshoe event, I’m planning to talk/bully/persuade/bribe at least one of my daughters, if not both, into doing the Quad this year. The first event — a 100 yard swim at Edinboro University (4 lengths of the pool) — will be held in April. When this year’s info is available, it will be posted here. You can also like them on Facebook.
Going to the big dance (the ERC’s annual Turkey Trot) on Thursday morning? All the cool kids are doing it.
Unfortunately, there’s some sort of bug in their blogging platform that will not allow me to just link you, so…I’ve copy & pasted:
By heather.cass | September 30, 2015 9:12 am
One of my guilty pleasures is a subscription to Us Weekly (don’t judge me). I’m not sure why I like it because I don’t really like/care about wealthy/famous people and mostly I feel they should help others with all their obscene wealth and fame and I sort hate gossip, so it makes no sense, but….I like it. I’m chalking it up to easy reading and pretty pictures.
ANYWAY…perusing a recent issue I came across this and it make me LOL:
This is EXACTLY what my friends and I look like when we run….thigh gap, perfect hair, full makeup, jewelry.
Oy vey. They’re not even SWEATING.
About the only thing my running friends and I have in common with these running stars is that we, too, are laughing most of the time.
Here’s what running friends really look like:
By heather.cass | October 6, 2015 8:00 am
10 years of HT5K T’s
Let’s get into the waayyyy back machine and go back to the early 2000s, shall we?
In 2005, I was in my early 30s and I had a new boss, a new desk in a new department at the Erie Times-News, a pixie cut, and a fairly new baby (Lauren was 18 mos. old) and a toddler (Kelly was 3) at home.
In a brainstorming session with the new boss, Marnie Mead, we talked about reviving a woman’s special section I had tried before. We decided to go great guns and make it a glossy quarterly magazine (later it became a monthly). Dubbed Her Times, it was designed to be written by, for, and about local women. I hand-picked the freelancers I wanted to write for the magazine and carefully chose the content for each issue. I was adamant that it would contain useful, uplifting, and helpful information for women, not the trite stuff you find in national women’s magazines that fill their pages with articles to help you fix all your flaws. (Psssh…bite me, Cosmo). We covered fashion and makeup/hair because, as Marnie frequently had to remind me, there are lots of women who actually do care about these things. We balanced each other out that way and she was generally supportive of nearly anything I wanted to do.
Exhibit A: One morning I casually said: “You know what would be cool? We should do, like, a women’s race…a 5K maybe. They used to have one in Erie years ago & I loved it because, for once, the women got to be first. We could, like, print a training plan and encourage women to do it through Her Times magazine.”
I wanted women to find the power, strength, self-confidence, and the friends that I’d found when, a few years after college, I somehow got the courage/gumption to get off my size-20 butt and start walking, which progressed to running and a 60+ pound weight loss. Running had saved/changed my life and I wanted to give that to every other unhappy woman out there. I wanted to shout from the rooftops: OMG…girls! FOLLOW ME…I know how you can feel GREAT about yourself!
Anyway….when I said this to Marnie, I was just thinking out loud, but she mentioned it her boss who later said to me, “So, when the race?”
“Uh…well…I was just…you know…I don’t know, I was just thinking…,” I stammered.
“You should do it,” he said. “I really think you should.”
“Uh..OK, well, I’ll…ah….look into it,” I said.
I emailed a friend at the Erie Runners Club, inquired about potential dates and how to do this whole race-director thing anyway. I gathered advice, recruited friends to help, secured a spot as an official ERC race, and soon we had a date — October 7, 2006. Close to 300 women signed up for that inaugural race which was held at Beach No. 1 (you know….BEFORE the ERC shelter was built). It was a terrible day. Windy and raining. Then it began sleeting and then…hand to God…it started SNOWING. SNOWING on October 7th! I will admit to you that when I saw snowflakes, I lost it and I cried. And, I never cry.
This is me…after that very first 5K — note the SNOW on the ground!
Weather-wise, it was not a fine start to the Her Times 5K dynasty, but I did learn that Erie women are a tough, dedicated breed. All but 30 or so women who signed up for that race finished it. They weren’t going to let a little rain/sleet/snow stop them from reaching their goals.
After that, how could I quit on them? So, we did it again in 2007…and then again in 2008…and again..and again. And each year it got easier. And bigger. It snowballed (pun totally intended).
Today, I’ve got the whole process down to a science and, thanks to the help of a lot of friends/volunteers, it’s pretty easy to pull off.
Two of the guys who make the Her Times race possible. Timing guy, Jim Lang (beard) and Chuck Orton who does the course set up/tear down with my husband, Dan
Though, I still can’t control the damned weather, I can tell you that I don’t care anymore. Truth: I never even looked at the forecast this year until Friday. Why bother? What could I do about it? Why stress myself out, right?
This year — 2015 — we celebrated our 10th year of building stronger women.
Though I quit working at the newspaper several years ago, we still work together on the Her Times 5K. Marnie secured a sponsor this year — Saint Vincent Hospital — who made it possible for us to celebrate in style with swanky bags that fold unto themselves into a cute little heart, custom HT5K finisher’s pins from Breakiron Jewelers, a photo booth, and 1,000 sugar cookies from Ye Ole Sweet Shoppe, Erie’s premier (woman-owned!) bakery!
The weather was less than ideal this year. Again, it was cold and windy. But, the rain held off until after 9:30, giving us time to get the 5K and kids races off, so I can’t complain too much. I wasn’t driven to tears. (Wasn’t my first rainy rodeo).
We had lower attendance than we have in the past few years. I’m not sure why, but if I had to guess, I’d say it had to do with both the weather and competition from other events (be that other runs or just mom stuff…like cross country season, football season, etc.). But, I’m not discouraged because every year I meet a few more women who are doing their very first 5K. They usually come back the very next year with friends/family.
Because the thing about getting a woman to run is that it has a ripple effect that really can’t be measured. She ends up — deliberately or not — influencing the people around her. Before you know it, her kids are joining her on her runs, coworkers start thinking “well, if she can do it…then maybe I can,” her friends start attending races with her (maybe walking first), and she has changed 100 lives simply by living hers.
Sometimes I wonder how many women we’ve started down this path. How many women have changed their lives because of that random “hey…you know what we should do” morning conversation 10+ years ago? We’ll never know.
The newbies inspire me every year. I cheer the hardest for them — the women at the end. The women for whom 3.1 miles is a huge accomplishment. I can always pick them out. While I’m in awe (always) of my fast friends at the front of the pack, I admire the slower ones just as much.
When we started this race in 2005, I always had to arrange care for my daughters. Often, my mother would take them overnight, so Dan and I could get up at 5 a.m. to get down to the park and get set up. When they got a little older, she started bringing them down so they could do the kids races.
This year, at 12 and 14, they were old enough to get up at 5 a.m. to go with us and help us set up. They both did the race, too. Kelly — who doesn’t run regularly — ran it in 34 minutes. Lauren walked with my mother.
My sister, niece, and two sister-in-laws also participated. Two of my brothers, my nephews, and my dad were there to help out. It’s a family affair these days.
My extended “family” includes the dozens of running friends who are there for me each year — helping set up and road marshal and work the finish line and the registration table. I’m blessed beyond measure and honored each year to share some of my good fortune with the hundreds of women who show up to challenge themselves.
This is me Saturday afternoon after the 10th annual HT5K – from champagne in 2005 to cake in 2015!
Thank you to all of you who have helped, participated, or just offered a few words of support. Race directing can be a thankless job (talk to any marathon director and they’ll confirm that), but I’m happy to say that I’ve had the opposite experience with the HT5K. Every year, I receive kind words from the participants — kudos, thanks, offers to help the next year, etc.
I feel the love, ladies.
And that’s what this is really all about. We can be competitive and compassionate. We can challenge each other without tearing each other down. We’re stronger when we support each other.
I can hear the wind and rain as I lay in bed at 4 a.m. Going to be a wet one today. Won’t be the first time I’ve run in the rain. Won’t be the last.
The temperature is not bad – near 60 — but the wind will make it feel colder and The Beast on the Bay race, which is at — and in — Lake Erie for 10+ miles, is likely to be even colder. I debate my options and ultimately decide on a layer of Under Armour, which I wear below my blue Superfriends team shirt.
I’m not unhappy that I have to wear a base layer. I prefer cooler temps when running. And I like how U.A. makes me feel—firm and sleek—two things my 44-year-old body is not anymore without compression gear.
I put on one of my favorite black running hats to keep the rain out of my eyes and my hair contained. The hat stinks when it gets wet, the bacteria from tens of thousands of beads of sweat and miles upon miles of runs as woven into the fabric as the white swoosh on the front, but I put it on anyway because I like the way it fits.
I arrive at Waldameer with my Chevy Trailblazer’s radio blaring Beyonce’s Run the World, like a silly 17-year-old schoolgirl. But, I don’t care because I’m happy and it’s fun and because girls do run the world.
My teammates are already gathering and passing around a giant bottle of Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Fire. Some are clutching umbrellas. Some are clustered under the open gate of a minivan. Some are wearing rain boots and coats in an effort to stay dry until race time.
But, most have chosen to embrace the suck and just stand there in the rain. Wet is inevitable today.
We get on the shuttle bus. It takes an entire bus to deliver the Superfriends team to the race start even with many standing and/or sitting on friend’s laps. The chatter is, as always, near deafening. The windows fog from our breath and the body heat radiating from our damp bodies. The average age of our Superfriends team is probably near 40, though our members range in age from 16 to 60.
When we arrive at the race start, we hit the restrooms. The Superfriends create a super long line that stretches out and around the bathhouse.
More Tennessee Fire. More photos. More rain.
The DJ is pumping up the crowd at the start line and the Superfriends buy in. Soon, we’ve got a dance party going on. We hop up and down (mostly to stay warm, but still…), we dance from foot to foot, we sing out loud and take turns in the center of the circle. It’s cold and windy and it’s still raining, but nobody seems to care.
When we start, we follow a sandy road to the beach that—thanks to hours of rainfall—is littered with mud puddles. At first, I avoid them, running around or jumping over them. But, soon the puddles are so deep and wide that they stretch the length of the road, so I just start stomping right through them, deliberately splashing and kicking water at my teammates in front, beside and behind me.
They gleefully splash me back and we all scream and laugh. Mine is not a fake, courtesy laugh. Not an LOL. Not a grin. Not a self-conscious giggle. But, rather the unbridled joyful and genuine laughter of a middle-aged mom stomping through mud puddles with a whole bunch of Superfriends.
Video by my Super friend, Jon Wolff, here.
About Just Write: “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”