Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cape Island Spotlight – Carrie Merritt

Cape Island Spotlight” will be an occasional series about runners I know and love and think you will too! Runners are an interesting breed – a little quirky mixed with a little masochist mixed with hard work and hard play makes for some of the most fun people I know!

Here, I’ll show you…

Carrie Merritt

Carrie and I have been friends since 2006 when she started working out with the group of ladies I trained with in Ocean City.  Her insane talent pushed me further in workouts, but it was really her personality that drew me to her. She is hard-working, humble and hilarious.  She is an accomplished triathlete and while biking is her favorite, she also kills it on a run course. She is a kindergarten teacher and also a personal trainer at Exodus Integrated Wellness.  Recently, she became the strength trainer for several Ocean City HS teams, most notably field hockey. She is sponsored by Tuckahoe Bike Shop, Scott shoes and NeoSport wetsuits(yeah, she’s good!).  If there were ever a person that would motivate you to reach your potential, it is Carrie!

Who saw the runner in you, ie how did you get into running?

I despised running in high school and college. Softball catchers (as I was in college) are not generally known for our running skills! After I graduated, I noticed that my sister and dad were running a lot and since I was looking for something active to do post-college to get rid of the bulky muscle I had needed when playing softball, I decided to join them. I did not go for speed or distance at first, it was totally based on a slow running pace and blossomed from there. Over time I saw progress – at first I was running next to my dad, then within the same block, and then suddenly my dad was in the rear view. That was my start. I had no aspirations of being a fast runner until I met my wife, Lisa. I have always had a competitive fire, regardless of whether it was being a catcher, playing Uno, or being something like the best dog walker! But it wasn’t until I met Lisa and she started coaching me that I became a faster runner.
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?

Let’s see, I started with my sis and dad in 2000 and around 2006 with Lisa.
A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”

I have had 3 great days of running – when it felt natural and easy and like I could go forever. Just motoring! Amazingly, they were all on the same course at the same race over three different years (2009, 2010 and 2011). This was during the final leg of the Danskin Woman’s Triathlon  (ed note: Carrie is too modest to say so, but she actually won –as in, won, won, not just her age group, but the whole enchilada -each year! About 1500 women participate, so it’s no small feat!)

One thing that is really vivid in my memory of these races is the view of the lighthouse. I just followed it visually each year and it reminded me so much of trips I would take as a kid with my family where we would visit lighthouses all over the US.

The other part I want to mention about Danskin is how great it is to compete with Lisa. She has always been within 3 spots of me and if she ever caught me, it would not bother me at all. But her perspective would be “why did you let me catch you when you had the lead off the bike?!?”. She is a great coach who always puts me as an athlete first and our relationship second (on the course that is, not in our daily life!). We maintain this balance of healthy competition that just fuels us both to be better out there and still be genuinely happy with the other one’s accomplishments. (ed. note: they really do, it’s a beautiful relationship to watch!)

A moment when you said to yourself “Whose idea was this again? Why in the world am I doing this!?”

Every run portion of the NJ State Triathlon (I did this race each year from 2007-2011) where the sun is beating down on you, it’s inland Jersey in July, it’s noon and you feel like you are in a desert even though you know full well you are not in a desert! I just despise that run. I made Lisa promise me that I would never have to do it again!

Running adage that is not true for you (i.e. they say to avoid running on a full stomach, but lil sis can house a hoagie and be fine to run immediately)?

That to be really competitive, you have to take every run seriously and have a goal for it. I went from a very relaxed way of running to a much more dialed-in version – running my line, being aware of my breathing. But I find that I also really need runs where I can just be silly and relax, it makes me more productive overall. I do a pretty good job of getting those runs in – last weekend I did the Color Run with my sister and 10 year old niece. It was great! No race clock, no awards, just a bunch of people out for a fun run. It was especially cool to see so many young women (20-23 yrs old) which is not the norm for a 5k and to be out there with my niece. My sister has done an excellent job exposing her to running and it really shows.

Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?

I am right down the middle on this. I have really come to love running with a partner, especially for hard runs. I like being pushed and feeling either one step behind (trying to catch up) or one step ahead (trying not to be caught). I’ve recently been running with a partner who is faster than me and it has given me a much better appreciation for what my clients must go through! The night before our runs I think about how she is going to crush me, torture me… but then I start seeing the progress I am making and it is really satisfying.

On the flip side, after a long day at work there is nothing better than running alone. To be 100% honest, I don’t always write out my lesson plans –they are fully formed and mentally cataloged during my solo runs!

Favorite running gear?

Coconut water and shoes! I love a wide variety of shoes, especially in electric, bright colors. I have recently been wearing  Scott a lot – I really like them because I prefer running sockless and they have a shammy inside that prevents blisters. But I am drawn to anything colorful at the Sneaker Shop.

Bucket list race?

This is going to sound crazy to anyone who knows my issues with swimming, but some sick part of me wants to do Escape From Alcatraz.

Would you (or have you) ever do a bare it all (ie naked) run?

In the right situation with the right people, yes. I still run a lot with my family and I have no interest in seeing that!

What is your favorite race distance?

I would like to concoct my own perfect race. It would be a .25 mile swim, a 25-26 mile bike, and a 5 mile run. Hey, I know where my strengths are!

Do you run on vacation or take a break?

I like running and I love moving on vacation. It’s an integral part of mine and Lisa’s relationship. We were in Boston a few weeks ago and ran some of Heartbreak Hill – it’s just a really fun way to see a city.

What is a running ritual you have that makes other raise their eyebrows?

I have a secret way that I carry around good luck charms for a race – sometimes it might be a letter “L”, sometimes it is the Wonder Woman symbol, but it is always kept close to me to bring me luck. I think if you knew the secret part of this, your eyebrows would go way up, so I am going to leave it at that!

Advice to fellow runners?

I think a lot of us start out thinking we never could be a runner. But you have to keep moving forward, it will get easier!

What is your favorite post-race indulgence?

Starbucks caramel macchiato. I count my miles to Starbucks for sure!

Weird, random fact about yourself?

Here’s three: Lisa says my elbows are on backwards, I am afraid of mice and squirrels and I always really wanted to be a clown in the Ringling Brothers Circus

And there you have it! Isn’t she adorable?!?! Love me some Carrie!

Anyone have questions about Carrie?


Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

Running in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Wowies, this is some place! I (with shame) admit that when Claud told me which city we’d be visiting for the trip, my first thought was “umm, where is that?”. After having seen the 11 million strong (20 million if you count the ‘burbs) city, it is hard to imagine that I had never even heard of is a place so many call home. Cities are fascinating places where you get everything from fine dining and symphony performances (loved it, must go to these type of shows more often!) to cabbies who rip you off (yeah, buddy, I know you drove in a circle just to charge me extra, but my stupid Americano vocab does not include Portuguese – I trust my stern, disapproving glare taught you a lesson though, lol) and homeless people doing drugs right in front of you. While I can’t say it’s the most beautiful city I have been to, it sure is up there for entertainment – both people watching and the more traditional types!

Yesterday morning I struck out on my own (Thursday I was joined by Doug, from Peet’s Coffee and Tea, but he had to jet off to another coffee meeting – you know those java dudes, they just can’t sit still!) with a plan to run from our hotel to the major green space of the city, Parque Ibirapuera. It’s like the Central Park of Sao Paulo, with everything that goes with it – museums, beautiful trees, bike lanes, playgrounds, concert spaces and people of all kinds enjoying the picture perfect days we have had here.

To really get a sense of the size of the city, you should check it out on Google Earth! This little bit does not even do it justice.

To get to the park, I had to navigate the ~4km from the hotel. The area we are staying is the Jardim (Garden) district. Not a ton of green trees in this area, but plenty of green bucks! It’s an affluent part of Sao Paulo and so very pretty, with lovely cafes and upscale shopping (very upscale – the Asics store featured kicks for $400US!). All the private homes and apartment buildings are heavily gated, so as you run the sidewalks you see these signs and must be careful of cars backing out.

These signs blink and make sounds when cars are pulling out of their underground driveways.

The apartment buildings were quite nice, as evidenced here:

oh-la-la, or, in Portuguese, oh-la-la

The major issue with running through these streets was the constant stopping for red lights. As a country mouse, I really don’t understand how anyone gets any training done in cities, it is so frustrating to stop all the time. This guy quickly became my arch nemesis:

*shakes fist angrily at lil man*

I finally made it to the park and was able to get some real miles in – plus lots to look at to keep me occupied! There was what I think was a giant tai chi class of some sort going on, lots of runners (the ones in groups and pairs made me long for a partner)bikers, and birds! I was able to rack up a half dozen new birds as the miles clicked off, which was great. My favorites of the day were Cocoi Heron and Southern Lapwing plus an unidentified hummingbird (GD will help me figure it out when I get home). Here is some of what I saw as I happily plugged along:

Just like Central Park!

Planetarium – sadly not open when I was there, but I would have loved to check it out!

This was a weird log with holes cut in that people loved! Every time I went by it, kids and adults were all over it!

Bike lanes too!

I then started to make my way back to the hotel and as I was watching the street signs like a hawk to avoid getting lost, I saw this one:

9 de julho, the street. It’s like their JFK or MLK!

Our guide had told us earlier that streets can be named after dates that play an important role in history. We also saw 25 de marco and 21 de maio (I think it was 21 anyway, little fuzzy on that!). I have to remember to look these up – I like the idea of naming streets in this way, it’s like a mini history lesson.

Sao Paulo can be quite hilly and the tail end of my run had me hauling my tired legs uphill. Guess who was nowhere to be seen? And guess whose evil brother showed up over and over again at every intersection?

Ohh, you think you are sooo funny, dontcha??

Ohh, the pain! But when I hit “stop” on Garmy, I did have a nice sense of accomplishment, so maybe Mr. Green’s tough love tactic was a blessing in disguise. I then wished I could read Portuguese because post-run, this would have been fun to peruse over breakfast:

RW, Brazil Style!

Our plane leaves tonight and I am happy to say I managed to squeeze in 5 runs while here (2 at coffee estate, 3 in Sao Paulo) and did not have to resort to the dreadmill for any of them. Brazil has been checked off my running list and the sights I saw safely tucked into my memory. Being able to run in both the country and the city was a real highlight of this trip and I thank Claudia and Peet’s  for the opportunity!


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What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays – Brazil Edition!

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

The internet has been spottier here than I expected, so apologies for the lateness of this post!

I got my independence on at Monte Alegre Estate with a run on their property this morning. It was breathtaking – the kind of run that makes you giddy from the OD of eye candy. I love to run when I travel and one reason is that you can be far, far from home and yet sill feel connected to a new place with the familiar action of putting one foot in front of the other. Monte Alegre was a spectacular place and although I tried to capture that below, you all know that pictures never do a place justice. So look at these , then imagine it a thousand times prettier, with super fresh air and perfect temperatures (50s at night, 70s during day and no sign of the dreaded humidity folks in the northeast are suffering through!). Yeah, it was pretty ridiculous.

Misty morning – where are the dinosaurs??

It felt other worldly in the “just before the sun rises” dawn

“Wowies” was my deep thought of the day.

Monte Alegre has about 20% of its property in preservation, as per Brazilian law. Here’s how it looked before the sugarcane and coffee (well, maybe not that far back as this is likely not virgin growth, but still counts as lovely forest!)

Looking back down to where I ran from – I was actually enjoying the hill work!

Blue skies have been the theme of the trip! Lucky dogs – apparently two weeks ago, the skies opened and it rained for days.

Coffee “cherries” (as our guide Jose Francisco described them) on the very beginning of their journey to your morning cup.

Kashi’s shadow bids you good morning!


Filed under What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays