This race took place at the Freedom Elementary School in Deland. Proceeds from the Falcon 5K were to benefit the school's technology fund. There were a lot of kids in this race, plus family members of students, as well as school faculty and staff.

Training & Goals
The Star Wars Dark Side races at Disney World were just a week away. I was in taper mode for the half marathon. With ideal race conditions this morning -- certainly the last such cool Florida morning we'd have for months -- I hoped to PR on this race.

Race Day: April 9, 2016
It was 55° and sunny at the start -- perfect conditions for running and ideal for those hoping to PR. The race would take us from the school into the neighboring subdivision of Victoria Park. Before the race began I asked a fellow runner to take my photo. I think it was the first time he used a smartphone camera... it seemed to be taking too long so I smiled and said it was okay. I like how the photo came out. :)

Mile 1: 9:22
Woo, I was feeling really good in the cool weather. But could I keep up this pace for the entire race? No walk breaks here, but I was doubtful I could keep the pace.

Mile 2: 9:18
Woah, faster still? No walk breaks in this mile either, but I definitely started to feel fatigued here. I figured I had "banked" some time so if I needed a quick walk break later to keep me going, it might help.

Mile 3+: 9:30, 1:58*
I took a super quick walk break by the water stop to take a drink and then sprinted to the finish for my first sub 30 5K! So happy!

Chip time: 29:39 (1:14 PR)
Placement details: 4th of 17 in age, 40th overall out of 164 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a short sleeve cotton t-shirt. No finisher medals.
Cost: $20.00

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written April 21, 2016

Finish photo (c) Almost There Photography

The races keep getting smaller! This was a tiny field of just 51 runners. The Stone Island 5K was to benefit the DeBary Volunteer Fire Department. I was happy to support our local firefighters and get a nice timed race in a pretty location. Let's run!

Training & Goals
My first half marathon was just two weeks away. I had my longest run (12 miles) the previous week, and was starting my taper, with just 16 miles under my belt in the week leading up to this race. I told myself I'd take this race easy, especially considering the conditions (see below), but it sure is hard not to race a race!

Race Day: April 2, 2016
At 75° and muggy, running conditions were not ideal at the start. At least the sun wasn't shining. In fact, it was threatening rain and quite blustery. The inflatable finish line arch wasn't put up due to the unfavorable conditions.

Mile 1: 9:27
This was a new way to time a race for me - we had a gun start but chip-timed finish at a different location. I tried to position myself near the front, but with such a small group running, everyone had a good spot, and I guess everyone was over the start within just a few seconds.

Mile 2: 9:53
Stone Island is a really pretty community on the shore of Lake Monroe. The course took us past the lake and through the tree-canopied streets. Very pretty.

Mile 3+: 10:13, 1:54*
I took a couple of walking breaks in mile three. The humidity took a toll! I was happy to see I had a new PR (by just 2 seconds!) and placed first in my age group! I think half of the runners got medals. :)

Chip time: 30:53 (0:02 PR)
Placement details: 1st of 6 in age, 15th overall out of 51 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a short sleeve cotton shirt. I got a first place age group medal (no finisher medals).
Cost: $20.00

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written April 21, 2016
Racing photo (c) Almost There Photography

Hey, look, it's another race at Gemini Springs! This was the inaugural running of the Dash for Downs, which was held in conjunction with Welcoming Hearts' 2nd Annual Spring Festival. Proceeds from the race and the festival support Welcoming Hearts' mission to help those with special needs.

Training & Goals
Still running 3x a week, my training at this time was focused on preparing for my first half marathon coming up in mid-April. I had run a nine-miler the Wednesday before this race, with about 20 miles total for the week. As usual, I hoped to PR, because as a newer runner that was my normal!

Race Day: March 19, 2016
Race morning I headed over to Gemini Springs on my bike. I got my packet, bib, and t-shirt and secured the bike against what I hoped was an out-of-the-way tree. It looked to be a small race. I noticed there was no singing or playing of the National Anthem before the start. We started more or less on time with the race director shouting READY SET GO! It was 70° and overcast but not too muggy.

Mile 1: 9:40
This route was very similar to the Rotary River Run from February. I didn't take any walking breaks for this part of the race.

Mile 2: 10:15
I was still feeling pretty good, but my pace slowed. I took a short walking break at about mile 1.5, close to the turn-around. I was very surprised where the turn around was located, since I guessed it was nearly a quarter mile shy of the turn-around point for Rotary Run.

Mile 3*: 9:25
Approaching the finish area, I could see my Garmin was tracking the race shorter than a full 5K. As I sprinted to the finish line, I could hear the timing guy shout an encouraging "You're under 30 minutes!" But you can see by the look on my face I knew it wasn't going to be a PR after all.

In the end my Garmin gave my distance as 2.9 miles. I approached a small group of runners who were chatting and asked if anyone else tracked the race on GPS. Another guy confirmed it was a short race. Bummer!

After the race was over, the results were posted online. I could see that I placed so I wanted to wait for the medal ceremony, but the timing guy didn't know where the race director was. I decided to check out the festival and made a note to myself which stands I wanted to revisit to pick up some tasty treats. I took a photo with this character.

I was about to get a free massage when I heard the medals were about to be distributed so I ran over. Even though it was a small race (125 participants) it was still cool to hear my name called out as first in my age group. I collected my medal, got my free massage (so good!) and bought a celebratory cupcake or two to bring home.

Chip time: 29:10 (approximately 2.9 mile course)
Placement details:
1st of 8 in age, 16th overall out of 125 finishers
Race Amenities:
Swag included a short sleeve cotton t-shirt. I got a 5K placement medal. A small festival to visit after the race.
Cost: $27.50 including $2.50 transaction fee

*This was a short race.

Report written April 19, 2016
All photos except character picture (c) race photographer Chasity Hanners.

The Winter Park Road Race was my first 10K. This was also my first larger race -- the capacity was 3700 runners! This race was done in conjunction with a 2-mile race; participants could opt to race both and earn a "Distance Dare" extra challenge medal. Maybe next year!

This was the 39th running of this race, which benefits local youth charities. At the race expo Arthur and I noticed a local celebrity, one of our NBC affiliate meteorologists (Eric Burris), milling about. Later on social media I saw other personalitities from the same news team (Angela Taylor & Stewart Moore) also ran in the race.

The course for this race was advertised as featuring "slight inclines, tree canopied roads, historic homes and views of Chain of Lakes." It was a great route! We did run over some brick streets which proved a bit tricky on the footing.

Training & Goals
In preparation for this race, I started having slightly longer runs during my weekly training runs, building up to 10K. I hoped to finish this race in under 1:15.

Race Day: March 12, 2016
While Winter Park isn't terribly far from home, this was the furthest I'd traveled for a race (about 24 miles). Arthur went with me and we struggled a bit to find a parking place, first spinning around a parking garage before giving up and finding a tight spot on the street. A small group of runners saw us craning our necks and offered to scoot their car a bit to make room for us to squeeze in.

The expo area was pretty big, with vendors and local businesses at various stands. I exchanged my shirt for a different size and had a last pit stop at the porta-potties before kissing Arthur goodbye and getting ready at the starting area. It was a steamy 68° at race time.

The starting area was super crowded! Runners piled up on the street and spilled out onto the sidewalks. I ended up behind the line (corral) for walkers and tried to scoot forward among the masses as the time drew near. Once the race began it took me a good two minutes before I crossed the starting mats.

Mile 1: 10:45
I spent the first 2+ miles bobbing and weaving between slower runners, which was a very strange feeling! Of course, there were a lot of walkers in the mix too. And I was getting passed myself. For several blocks I and other passers would hop onto the sidewalk in order to pass walkers who took up space on the roadway. After about 2 and a half miles I was able to remain mostly to the road.

Mile 2: 10:19

At various spots during the race, local residents were out to watch us run and give encouragement. At some point a spectator offered free high fives so I took one to power up. Later (not sure which mile at this point) we ascended a hill but we were assured by spectators that Florida doesn't have hills. Unfortunately his mind tricks didn't really help.

Mile 3: 10:50
There were porta-potties in two spots during the race, but I'm not sure any of them were specifically for us. First (again not sure of the mile locations of these) there were a couple standing near a home construction site. Runners were lined up to use them! Later we passed a few set up at a local park, which I also saw being used by runners.

Mile 4: 10:51
The course took us past Lake Maitland, where we could see we were not the only ones racing that day. Teams of rowers were propelling their boats across a marked trail on the water.

Mile 5: 11:12
During this mile we passed the third and final water stop. I didn't take any but made sure to thank the volunteers. I didn't see any trash bins so I think they must have been busy after the race picking up after everyone.

Mile 6+: 11:27, 4:03*
Spectators increased as we approached the finish line in downtown Winter Park. It was really encouraging to see everyone cheering us on, including plenty of folks who had finished the race and already had their medals. I heard the emcee calling out names ahead of me, and then when I crossed the finish line I heard my name! That was funny and unexpected! I knew from my Garmin that I had accomplished my time goal; once the times were posted I was happy to see my official chip time was well under 1:15.

I got my medal and then lined up to pick up my finisher's beer glass (oh yeah!) and complementary sport towel (woot woot). I found Arthur and got in line for my free beer (yum!). We milled around the expo for a bit and then I scored another beer ticket from a non-drinking runner so we hung around the expo area a bit longer. I picked up some other free swag like hair ties, pink sunglasses, rice crispy treats, and of course the obligatory post-race banana.

Cooled down and a bit sloshed, we headed to the car to drop off all the goodies and I changed out of my sweaty race duds. Winter Park's weekly market was worth a look so we walked back to the center of town and got ourselves some tasty quiche for a late breakfast. It was a great morning with a fun race that I look forward to running again!

Chip time: 1:08:27 (new distance = PR)
Placement details:
128th of 310 in age, 1478th overall out of 3139 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a short sleeve ladies tech shirt, a finisher medal for all, a nice glass pint glass, and a sport towel. A good spread of eats and a free beer for every runner.
Cost: $33.00 with $2 coupon code

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written April 4, 2016

Final Mile Race Management had a promotion this year: free birthday races! My birthday fell on a Saturday this year and there happened to be a race, Groovin’ @The Grove 5k & Family Fun Run in Deland. I got a free registration by sending a copy of my ID -- sweet! The race was to benefit Citrus Grove Elementary School and had a lot of students signed up to race.

Training & Goals
In February I ran 3 times per week, usually two 5K runs plus one "long" run in the 10K range. This was my fourth 5K race in a row in February, and I had gotten a PR in each previous race. Noob gains were still going strong! Since it was my birthday and I was looking forward to a fun day out with my husband, I told myself that I wouldn't worry about making another PR. *cough* *cough*

Race Day: February 27, 2016 (my 44th birthday!)
We arrived at the school about 25 minutes before race time. It was cold out, perfect running weather but cold standing-around weather, so I picked up my shoe tag and waited in the car until about 5 minutes before the 8:00AM start. It was 48°F and sunny.

Mile 1: 10:04
There looked to be a lot of folks who were going to walk the course, so I tried to position myself mid-forward at the start. An older gentleman runner standing next to me wished me good luck and shook my hand. Kids from the school sang the national anthem before the DJ hit the airhorn and we were off. We looped around the school parking lot and then headed into the neighborhood for the lollipop course. We had been told there were spectators in the neighborhood sitting out with signs in their front yards. One family had a sign that read MAY THE COURSE BE WITH YOU. We passed the water stop just before the loop close to the mile 1 marker. I took two ~:30 walk breaks at about 4 minute intervals.

Mile 2: 10:16
More spectators with signs. A couple of little girls cheered us on with pom-poms. They were adorable. Others wished us a good morning or encouraging words. I took two more short walking breaks and noticed a couple of other runners taking similar short breaks at similar intervals. A fellow runner I menally dubbed White Tube Sock Woman seemed to be running very close to my pace.

Mile 3+: 9:58, 1:23*
We passed the water stop again shortly after M2, regaining the out-and-back part of the route. I took a cup during a short walk break, my last on the run. Now I was racing closely against White Tube Sock Woman, who I guessed was in a younger age group. We approached the school and as I turned into the parking lot I started running as fast as I could, overtaking WTSW briefly. With 50 yards to go I could hear her gaining on me, and she overtook me right at the end. But I also saw the clock read just slightly over 31:xx so I hoped for a new PR when the results were posted.

White Tube Sock Woman ended up being in my age group, but we were well behind the top finishers. As I was sucking down a bottle of water I saw her sitting on the curb next to me. She offered her hand so we could congratulate each other on a great race.

Chip time: 30:55 (1:08 PR)
Placement details:
8th in age, 67th overall out of 173 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a short sleeve ladies tech top. No finisher medals.

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written March 8, 2016

The DeBary Rotary River Run 5K was a new race that took place at Gemini Springs, just about a mile from my house. A race so close is hard to resist entering. The local Rotary club put on the race along with Florida Hospital Fish Memorial to benefit the Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Training & Goals
All through February I ran 3 times per week, usually two 5K runs plus one longer run in the 10K range. This was my third 5K race in a row in February. I had gotten a PR in my previous two races and I hoped to do so again in this race, especially since I'd be running in very familiar territory.

Race Day: February 20, 2016
I rode my bike to the park and locked it up. I got my shoe tag and then waited for the race to start. I chatted with a birding friend, Eli, for a bit before the race started. It was nice to see a familiar face at a race. The starting corral area was quite open. I tried to position myself somewhere in the middle. It was 57°F and partly cloudy at 8:00AM when the race began.

Mile 1: 10:04
I had been running with 5:1 (5 minutes running, 1 minute walking) intervals in training. When my watch beeped for my first break, my pace looked terrible. I decided then to skip taking breaks in this race.

Mile 2: 10:09
This was an out-and-back course with a loop at the end. Mid-race we made a sharp turn-around on the Spring-to-Spring Trail, looping around a traffic cone and a photographer.

Mile 3+: 10:34, 1:53*
Skipping walk breaks took a toll on my pace here. Approaching the finish line a volunteer encouraged me to gun it to the end. I sputtered "No PR though!" which is a lousy attitude and I regretted saying it even though I was laughing at the time. I tried to pick up my pace at the very end and did my version of a "sprint" through the finish line.

I downed a banana and a bottle of water as I waited for the results to post. I was pleased to see I got another PR, this time by just 17 seconds. One celebratory chocolate chip cookie turned into three. Other runners enjoyed the free burgers being offered. I went to pick up my bike and rode home.

Chip time: 32:03 (0:17 PR)
Placement details:
9th in age, 84th overall out of 216 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a short sleeve ladies cotton tee and a finisher medal for all.
$22.70 including $2.70 transaction fee

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written March 8, 2016
Featured photo (c) Eli Schaperow; start photo (c) Almost There Photography

Deltona's Love Your Heart 5K was a nearby race that I could bike to, so registering was practically inevitable. The cute cupid finisher's medal didn't hurt, either. This race took place at Deltona Middle School and benefitted the American Heart Association. The out-and-back course followed the bike trail spur from the school to Thornby Park and back.

Training & Goals
This was my second of four races in February. I had been running 3 times per week for several months, usually two short runs of 5K and a longer run. Three days prior to the race I had my longest run at 7.5 miles. I was hoping to beat my previous 5K PR.

Race Day: February 13, 2016
I rode up to the school and looked around for somewhere to park. I secured my bike and went to packet pickup (early pickup had been cancelled last minute due to an unknown snafu). After getting my bib, shirt, and goodie bag, I went back to my bike to put everything away and attach my bib to my shirt. As I walked back to the start area I heard the emcee mention that the race was not timed. I was confused for a moment because I thought I had read it was chip-timed when I signed up. Indeed my bib was chipless though, so I guessed I misread the situation. A few minutes later the emcee corrected himself and said we'd be passing a timing mat at the start and finish of the race. Then I was really, really confused. How would they record our times? In all of my prior timed races, the chip was affixed to the bib. I found the race director, Jennifer, and asked her how it was supposed to work, and she pointed at my shoe. Huh? Oh no, I didn't get my shoe tag at packet pickup! I was paying attention at pickup, I swear, but no one offered me my tag at the time. I felt like an idiot as we ran over to the pickup tables and found my tag. There weren't any zip ties so I laced it through my shoelace and trotted back to the starting area in time for the national anthem. It was 54°F and partly cloudy at the start.

Mile 1: 10:06
Since I was late to the starting area I wound up far back in the pack, but I didn't mind. The airhorn blew and we were off. Leaving the school grounds, we had to cross a major road before hitting the bike path. Traffic was stopped for us. Somewhere before the M1 marker we passed a dead cat on the side of the road. I had seen it biking there earlier in the week. The next time I biked the path, vultures had taken care of it.

Mile 2: 10:33
Right around M1 we turned into a neighborhood for a little jog before heading back to the bike path and running towards the turn-around at Thornby Park.

Mile 3+: 10:22, 1:33
As I approached the street crossing heading back to the school, I saw that officers were letting some cars through, and stopping some runners. I was a bit bummed as I was heading for a PR. Lucky for me I was just slow enough (haha!) to miss stopping as the officers halted traffic again to let runners through. As I raced to the finish line, the race director came tearing out, apologizing to us for being stopped. She was going to yell at the traffic cops. For this race I ran 5:1 intervals (run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute). I skipped my last walk break and "sprinted" at the finish for another PR.

Chip time: 32:20 (1:14 PR)
Placement details: 10th in age, 107th overall out of 274 finishers
Race Amenities:
Swag included a long sleeve ladies tech shirt and a finisher medal for all.
Cost: $25.00 (registered by post; no fee)

Report written March 9, 2016
Featured photo (c) Almost There Photography

So I kind of signed up for the Volusia Pines Elementary 5K on a whim. I was looking for races on and this nearby event came up. There weren't a lot of participants listed and the price was right ($10) so I thought I'd go for it. After I registered online, I realized I hadn't been asked my shirt size. And that it wasn't a timed race, which was something I'd meant to avoid. RunSignUp allowed cancellation for a while before the registration went through, so I cancelled my registration and sent an inquiry to the race director... who thanked me profusely for signing up. I got the t-shirt business sorted out and signed up again for the race. The race was to raise money for the school's kindergarten playground.

Training & Goals
I had been running 3 times per week for several months, usually two short runs of 5K and a longer run. Since the race wasn't timed, I wasn't worried about making a PR.

Race Day: February 6, 2016
This was the first race I went to by myself. I really downplayed it to my husband, plus I was going to be racing three more times in February. When I arrived at the school, the gate was still locked with two cars in front of me. After we got inside and I parked the car, I went out to pick up my shirt and bib. The race director showed us the route, which was mapped out on a whiteboard. We would be running two loops around the parking lot, and then two loops outside of the school. As I wasn't at all familiar with the area, I asked if there would be pointers out on the course. We were assured it was so -- phew!

The race was supposed to begin at 8:00AM, but we didn't start lining up until about 8:15. In total there were 72 people registered for the race, with about 1/3 of them being students and nearly everyone else associated with the school as a parent or teacher. A group of totally adorable little cheerleaders performed a few cheer routines before the race. It was 54°F and partly cloudy at the start.

Mile 1: 10:51
We ran around the parking lot twice. There were a lot of walkers so I passed a bunch of people on these two loops. Then we headed out on a rural road and followed a farm field.

Mile 2: 10:44
We turned into a small woods that ran alongside the school grounds. The water stop was being manned by two older students who just sat behind the table. The table was pretty obscured by a boundary fence so I didn't even see the water until I was right on top of it. We passed the school and headed into the second loop.

Mile 3+: 10:53, 5:07*
What a pretty course! I thanked the people directing us and stopping traffic. Along the farm field I started passing a few other runners. Heading into the woods, I saw a lot of walkers just finishing up their first loop. I didn't see anyone running in front of me any more. As I ran back into the school parking lot, I was unsure of how to reach the finish line. Loop the parking lot again? Or run to the finish "backwards"? I saw the cheerleaders and race director motioning me towards them so I headed in their direction to finish the race.

The race director handed me a little medal with an envelope and said "Congratulations, first adult"! What. I laughed and said, "You're kidding!" No joke, but I couldn't stop laughing, and then smiling like an idiot. I got a little first place medal, a $20 Walmart gift certificate, and a $5 ice cream parlor gift certificate. The cheerleaders gave out medals to the next few finishers, too.

The course was a bit long. My Garmin put me at having run just under 3.5 miles (5K is about 3.1 miles). Another runner mentioned the same.

Garmin GPS time: 33:34
Placement details:
1st overall out of 72 registrants.
Race Amenities:
Swag included a cotton t-shirt. And of course my sweet sweet 1st place medal (no finisher's medals).
$13.00 including $3 transaction fee

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written March 9, 2016

My first race of 2016! The Soaring Soles 5K and 10K races started just down the street from our house. How could I resist a race I could walk to, and that offered free unlimited beer to participants? The dual races raised money for Volusia County Special Olympics on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Training & Goals
At this point I had been running 3 times per week for about five months. Runs around this time ranged in length from about 3 to just over 4 miles. My previous race was three weeks prior and I hoped to PR.

Race Day: January 10, 2016
I walked over to the start line down the street about a half hour before race time and watched the beer vendor set up. It was unseasonably warm and humid, about 70°F and cloudy at the start.

Mile 1: 10:58
Both races started at the same time. 10K racers split just after mile 1; this was very well marked.

Mile 2: 11:05
The 10K runners joined us again just before the marker for mile 2.

Mile 3+: 11:00, 2:13*
I was very happy to PR again in this race!

There was someone walking around in an eagle suit -- of course I had to get a photo after the run! I also enjoyed a couple of big beers from Central 28 Brewery. Yum!

Chip time: 34:20 (1:47 PR)
Placement details:
5th in age, 41st overall out of 113 finishers
Race Amenities:
Swag included a cotton t-shirt and a finisher medal for all. Fun Bald Eagle character photo op. :)
$22.70 including $2.70 transaction fee.

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written March 9, 2016

Addendum 9/6/22: I gave this shirt away (Goodwill) in July 2022

The Naughty or Nice 5K in Lake Mary was my third race. Costumes were encouraged, and lots of people dressed up as elves or Santa Claus. One woman dressed like an angel and I heard a lot of jingle bells on the run. I wore a festive outfit and got photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a candy cane stilt walker.

Training & Goals
Prior to this race I had been running 3 times per week for almost five months. Runs around this time ranged in length from about 3 to about 4 miles. I had been fighting a head cold before the race so I didn't expect to PR.

Race Day: December 19, 2015
Driving to the start and parking were uneventful. It was good weather for running: 46°F and sunny.

Mile 1: 11:24
We started in front of Front Running Sports in Lake Mary and headed down a nice multi-use trail.

Mile 2: 11:38
Jingle all the way!

Mile 3+: 11:45, 2:09*
Even though I didn't expect to PR, I was still disappointed to see I finished slower than my previous race. That didn't stop me from having two celebratory Munchkins afterwards.

Chip time: 36:07 (NO PR)
Placement details: 26th in age, 231st overall out of 373 finishers
Race Amenities:
Swag included a cotton ladies t-shirt and a nice big finisher medal. Various holiday character photo ops including Santa & Mrs. Claus.
$28.00 including $3 transaction fee.

*I often forget to turn off my Garmin after a race, so the final time is skewed.

Report written March 9, 2016