Category Archives: Cape Island Spotlight

Cape Island Spotlight – Lisa Rumer

spotlight imageCape 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…

Lisa Rumer

lisa biking

I think of Lisa as my mama hen as far as racing is concerned. I first got to know her in 2004, when Lil Sis was working at the Ocean City Fitness Center. Lisa welcomed us into a group of women who all worked out together, training and competing in road races and triathlons. She is that incredible mix that is so hard to find – someone super talented yet very open with sharing with her time and experience to help others along. As you can see from the picture above, Lisa is all business on race day… but the rest of the time? She is one of the nicest people you would ever hope to meet. On group bike rides, she was the one that would make sure no one got lost, pedaling back and forth between the groups that inevitably form to make sure everyone was ok. She is the primary reason I never learned to fix a flat – although she taught me multiple times, she would just as easily take care of it for me! She is a great cook and has fed me many a night when my own culinary skills would have left me high and dry (aka eating cereal for dinner). And she takes care of everyone in the same way – from her own family of Carrie and TJ, to their extended one of aunts, cousins, grandparents, to the larger Ocean City community, Lisa is someone we all turn to for inspiration (she really is one of my favorite runners to watch, her form is efficient and beautiful) and encouragement (I did my first tri because of her and started running harder because I saw through her that road running could be a place to push myself and try to reach my own potential). Check her out:

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

I guess that would be my dad. I’m not even sure how it started, but when I was a kid, he would take me out – I would run and he would bike next to me. Then one summer, he signed me up for an Ocean City Rec Run. I think I was 9. There was no running attire back then and I remember I had on my huge glasses and wore a Mr. Peanut shirt, jeans (not even jean shorts) that I kept up with a huge belt buckle! This was an event for kids – it was prior to Fenton Carey and they were just testing out whether a kids run would work. It was a 1-mile run and my clearest memory is thinking it took awhile to get to the turnaround cone. After that, I ran it every summer that it was offered, plus some other races. I remember I was in 8th grade when I did one where they forgot to put the turnaround cone for the .5 marker and we wound up running a mile out so they gave us 2 medals for the 2 miles we ran when we finished!

I had just started girls track the year before and during school I got called down to the office. I was really nervous, thinking, “what did I do?” But it turned out they just wanted to give me a letter from the high school girls track congratulating me on a recent run (ed note: that she had won) and asking if would I run for her next year?  I was like, “yeah man, somebody wants me!” so I did– but I remember I got terrible shin splints that first year! I wound up running all four years in high school for all three seasons (ed note: cross-country, indoor track, spring track). I did not run in college, which turned out to be one of my biggest regrets in life. I had a boyfriend at home so I always wanted to come back to see him.

By the time my sophomore year ended, I had gained 25 pounds so I took up running again. (ed. note: I want pictures!!! Lisa is so sculpted and petite I just cannot imagine her with 25 pounds on that frame!) I earned my degree in recreation administration and when I was about 26 I got a job at the Ocean City Fitness Center. About this same time, I started doing road races and triathlons. There were a bunch of us that were pretty hardcore – just a great a mix of people that worked really hard.

Running is my forte but I enjoy all three disciplines of triathlon. I believe that cross training has really helped me be an athlete and it makes it more enjoyable. There are days that your body feels like doing one or the other so that helps with motivation to keep training.
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?

I started when I was 9 and I am 47 now, so 38 years.
A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”

Oh, that is so hard…one of my favorites was one of the first times Carrie and I did a race together. It was the Broad Street Run. We ran together the whole time and I remember thinking “we are running hard!”. I just loved that feeling of really working hard and doing it together.

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

Oh boy, one would be the Miami Man Triathlon, international distance in 1994 (ed note: .6 mi swim, 22 mi bike, 10k). The run was excruciating! I said to some “older” woman who was probably in her late 30 (I was in my 20s) “Come on, let’s go!” and man, did she kick my ass! That run was so hot and I was working so hard and by the end I was thinking “that was the worst run ever!”

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)?

I pretty much follow all the rules. *laughs* I do always have one drink before race day – either beer or wine. I have it with dinner and it is a bit of a superstition now!

Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?

Umm, I enjoy both. There are times that I am like “it is so nice being out here” , being away from everything but other times that I really like running with people.

Favorite winter running gear?            

My Nike running hat – it’s royal blue. It’s not too heavy, not too light, covers my ears, love it. Even if it is almost too warm I will wear that hat.

Bucket list race?

I would really love to do one more national championship triathlon at international distance. It will be in  Milwaukee in 2013 and it stays in the same place two years in a row. That area does not really appeal to me so I’ll probably wait until it is somewhere I want to go!

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

Yes, I would. It would have to warm enough though! My co-worker was visiting her son out west and was on a duck boat and saw a naked race going by!

What is your favorite race distance?

The 10k

Do you run on vacation or take a break?

We always run on vacation. A memorable one was Jamaica – I was running on dirt roads with just the goats out and guys driving by yelling “Hey mon!”

And you know something really interesting that I have noticed at work? (ed note: reminder, Lisa works at the Fitness Center in Ocean City, a prime tourism location on the Jersey coast) 20 years ago, the attitude of most visitors was, “I’m on vacation, I’m not doing anything!”. 10 years ago it was, “I’m on vacation, I get to work out! This is great!”  And then the last few years it has been “We’re a family on vacation, what can we do together?!”. It’s been really cool to see that transition.

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

Umm, nothing weird, I am a pretty by the books runner. I have my drink the night before, race morning  I usually have a banana with PB, and then I do some squats and jumps right before the gun goes off.

Advice to fellow runners?

Stay loose. Running does not feel good when you are tense. So physically, make your body relax.  While running, I think to myself, “fast without tension” and also “good arms”  to remind myself not to let my arms cross the center line of my body. It’s amazing how bad your form can go when you are tired and equally amazing how much energy you can get back if you just adjust your form. When I’m really hurting, I think “breathe slower and deeper” “stay relaxed” and “foot cadence”. When racing, I constantly think about form and that is what gets me thorough the entire race. I think a lot of runners would improve if they worked on focusing on what their body was doing as they run and race.

What is your favorite post-race indulgence?

Whatever I can get my hands on! I pretty much indulge all the time, so there is nothing specific I wait to have after a race. It is more like indulging while feeling that feeling of success!

Weird, random fact about yourself?

I have this reoccurring dream where I am trying to run and can’t move! I am using everything I have to move even a little bit.  I am just trying to move one step forward but I can’t. Eventually I get on the ground start trying to pull myself forward and I can’t. I think it is related to anxiety.

Thanks so much Lis! Lisa is the race director for all the races that happen under the City’s sponsorship. If you have never done the Mayor’s Labor Day Race, the OC Tri or (my personal favorite) the OC Half, you really must! She puts on great races – very well organized, excellent food after, door prizes in many cases. The best!

Since the first photo of Lis is of her fierce racing self, I wanted to also include on that is more in line with the Lisa we see day to day – friendly with a huge smile on her face:

Lisa and Carrie, my running heroes and one of my favorite couples around! I did a Spotlight on Carrie a few months back, check it out here if you missed it the first time around!

Lisa and Carrie, my running heroes! I did a Spotlight on Carrie a few months back, check it out here if you missed it the first time around!

Anyone have questions for Lisa?

 

10 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

Cape Island Spotlight – Melissa Tucker

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…

Melissa Tucker

MT and bart yasso

Melissa and our running boyfriend, Bart Yasso. Sure, he does not know he is our shared boyfriend and sure, our husbands probably won’t be too psyched to hear we are sister wiving it up with Bart, but the man is a legend so we are assuming we get a pass on this one!

Melissa and I met a few years ago when she started working for us at the Endangered and Nongame Species Program. We chummied up pretty fast, given our mutual love of all things Piping Plover and running. We’ve spent many a run working through the various challenges we’ve each faced, finding comfort in logging those miles together. Melissa is an accomplished runner and has racked up quite a few impressive PR’s in everything from 5ks to marathons.  Last summer, she and her husband Will did something that many people dream of, but never quite pluck up the courage up to do – they packed themselves, their dog Scout, their cat Ruby and moved out west! They are both natives of the South Jersey area so this represented a huge change for them – they left everything and everyone they knew and made a leap of faith all the way over the Continental Divide to Oregon. I am so proud of them for following their own path, it is really inspiring. You can read more about their adventures on Melissa’s blog, Beyond The Yellow Brick Road.  I miss running with Melissa so much, she was (and is!) one of my favorite running buds and I can’t wait for her visit east in April and the eventual trip I will make west to see those ever adorable Tuckers! Until then, let’s hear (read??) what she had to say about the following:

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

Well,  no actual person saw the runner in me. I started running to get into shape because I drank too much in college. I didn’t start  running 5ks until… I guess it was 2008 that I started running 5ks. My first one was a super, giant one in Philly – the Susan G Komen. Everyone we did it with walked but me and Will, we were racing each other. I did not have a fast time (it was so many people), but it is what made me train to do another one and try to go fast. The next one was Zack’s Run in Ocean City and I won my age group!
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?

I was 22 when I started running on and off. It was always short runs and it was not frequent–  I’d just run 1.5-2 miles two times a week. That was 2006 and I ran pretty casually for the next two years.

I never really thought I could run long distance…actually, I never even thought of myself as an athlete – running a marathon was seemed very far away from who I was. But then I did a 10 miler and was successful with that. It was the Ocean Drive race  (ed note: this race is famous for it’s less than stellar weather – March at the shore – need I say more??)  and that year the wind was at our backs and there really wasn’t any rain. For OD, it was  pretty good. After that race, I thought “ok now I have to do a half, it’s only 3 more miles!”  It was after my first half-marathon that I thought I might be able to do marathon. I put my name into the NYC lottery and decided that if I got in I would run a marathon and if I didn’t I would not. I got in!
A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”

The first time I ran the entire Ocean City boardwalk, a total of 5 miles. It was an amazing feeling of “wow, I ran the whole thing!”. Plus, it was a beautiful day, just  gorgeous out. Little did I know then how much I would run that boardwalk later for marathon training. I ran it for many, many training runs.  The most I ever did on it was 18 miles. There was just something very appealing to me about breaking down my long runs into these smaller, manageable pieces. It was easier mentally than to think “ok, I’m just going to run the whole island today!”.

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

Probably the NYC marathon. It was my first marathon… and maybe this is not true for everyone, but for me that first one hurt so bad. I got to about mile 18 and everything just…my back hurt, my legs hurt, my shoulders hurt. The one good thing was that the crowds were insane and were cheering for me to keep going – so I did.

I asked her if it had been a smaller race with fewer crowds whether she would have stopped or quit Umm, no , I don’t think so, but I would have walked a lot I bet. I was already going pretty slow but the crowds kept me from walking, for sure.

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)?

Hmm, I have also found that I can pretty much eat whatever I want before I go running even though that was not always true. Anyway, the one that is true for me is that I don’t need high mileage to race a marathon. I can do a couple of long runs and go do a marathon no problem. *laughs* I mean, it’s hard to run a marathon no matter what but I can do it “comfortably” averaging just 35 miles/week. I would like to adapt to higher mileage weeks in the future because I like running, but I definitely don’t need high mileage to complete a race.

Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?

I guess I like having “me” time and running by myself but I do like to mix it up and that is what I am missing in Oregon. I like having a running buddy, other than my dog Scout. *laughs* But I also like running in a group. My problem is that there aren’t even any running stores nearby, not even in Coos Bay. Hal Koerner’s running group in Ashland is probably the closest and that is three hours away! I did meet a few women runners on the trails and am hoping to hook up with them when they start their spring training. My town is small, so there aren’t a lot of people here to begin with (~2000) and then 70% of them are 65+, so it is hard to find people to run with!

Favorite running gear?                       

Ohhh, I have a couple. Probably my most favorite is a handheld water bottle by Nathan that can hold my phone so I can run without needing a belt (I really don’t like running with belts).  I also got new trail running shoes that I love from a company called Altra. They are a zero drop shoe and the toe box is a lot rounder than other shoes which is great because it stops me from getting blisters. Those are my two faves right now.

Bucket list race?

This is very,very far away and I don’t know if I will ever ever get to run it, but Western States (ed note: I am similarly mesmerized by this race, and posted about it here) . It is killing me I am in within driving distance of the course and I have not been there yet. I would love to go and watch the race, maybe even volunteer. The movie Unbreakable had a real impact – more people are so into it and I think that has made more sign up. The movie is so good – even though I know what happens I still get worked up for the end every time I watch it! By the way, both times I have been to Hal Koerner’s store it’s been on repeat.

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

*laughs* um, absolutely not. I don’t even like to be in a bikini, so I don’t ’t think so! But I loved Bart Yasso’s story about his naked run! (ed note: it was at this point that Melis and I took a break from the interview to talk about how much we love Bart Yasso – I’m not including the dialogue here, but picture a lot of gushing).

What is your favorite race distance?

Umm, I guess out of the distances I have done so far, I am most captivated by the marathon because I want to master it. As far as a comfortable distance, the half-marathon. I think they are super fun – you don’t have to do a ton of training to and I can kind of do one on a whim. I hope to one day feel that way with the marathon (ed note: and if she does an ultra, that will happen!)

Do you run on vacation or take a break?

Since I started racing, I really plan vacations around races. They are usually the center of the trip.  I haven’t been on vacation that I haven’t run on since my honeymoon! My favorite running trip was probably my first half marathon, the Silver Strand Half Marathon in San Diego. We were in SD for 5 days and I got to run a half and see the Eagles play football in a stadium there on the same day. It was pretty great.

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

The only thing I can think of is that the night before races I like to drink beer, which some people might think is weird but I think a lot of runners do it! I like a good beer, so usually an IPA from a micro brewery. One that I like right now is  Jubeale from Deschute’s.

Advice to fellow runners?

Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Don’t doubt you can do something.  Growing up, I  never thought I could run a marathon– but I found out I can and you can too.

What is your favorite post-race indulgence?

I would love to say martinis because that is what I always tell myself I can have after a race but I usually don’t feel like drinking after. The  last few races I have had a cheeseburgers and fries – it’s very Shalane Flanagan of me! *laughs*

Weird, random fact about yourself?

I am pretty much obsessed with popcorn. I eat popcorn almost every night and now that I live in Oregon we don’t have a microwave so I have been air popping and figuring out different ways to perfect it. I need to get away from butter and salt and find something healthier, but it is soo good! (ed. note: suggestions anyone?)

Thanks Melis!! Miss you bunches!

Anyone have questions for Melissa?

10 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

The 3 Times Running Saved Mr. P’s Life

During our Cape Island Spotlight interview, Mr. P and I went on many a tangent. Due to space, I had to cut a lot of what we talked about, but there was one conversation I just could not dismiss. It did not answer any of the questions that I had asked him, so I decided to give it its own post. Hey, if running is saving someone’s life, it is the least I can do! Enjoy!

The 3 Times Running Saved Mr. P’s Life

As he mentioned during our interview, Mr. P has a birth defect that does not allow his right hand to properly function. As a child, he endured 8 surgeries. In between those surgeries, he was an athletic kid – his whole family was, in fact. He loved playing sports like baseball and football. But each of those important surgeries came with a price – a cast. A cast is a wonderful thing, but not when you are trying to play sports where you have to grip bats, throw balls and tackle people. By freshman year, he gravitated towards running and finally found the answer to his very unique problem – he could run whenever or wherever he wanted,  with or without a cast. As he put it “It changed my life because my hand would never get in the way again. The hand dominated my early life, everyone was always worried about me. This was finally something that was  not my hand , something different just for me”. 

In the mid-1990s I had let my weight creep up to 230 pounds. I felt like I could not run because I was too fat and I could not lose the weight because I was not running. It was a viscous circle. I considered quitting coaching because what kind of example is an overweight coach who can’t run with his athletes setting?  I finally was able to get on a bike to lose some of the weight and then was able to start running again.  Adding running back into the mix allowed me to drop 40 pounds and feel like myself again. It saved my life.”

In the spring of 2009, Mr. P was struck with what was originally diagnosed as colitis. He’d never had experienced anything quite as bad as this and as the summer progressed, it got  worse. Much worse. Through a series of concerned friends and doctors he finally learned what he was actually battling – a nasty bout with Crohn’s that turned downright life threatening when an abscess in his colon formed a fistula.    By the time they figured out what it actually was, there was a serious chance that he would not pull through. He got set up with a fantastic surgeon at Temple University and together they, along with Mr. P’s family, began a battle for his life.

He spent 7 weeks in the hospital, lost an enormous amount of weight and recalls the time period mostly through the memories of others, as he has few  of his own from the early weeks of the hospital stay. Especially since we know the story ends happily, some of the stories from that time are equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious. For instance:

His good friend and fellow runner/biker, Jamie,  came to visit and ask him “what do you want to do?” and Mr. P would say, “I want to run”  and he would mimic the motions of running.

He told his wife (let’s take a a quick detour here and give a word of praise for Mrs. P – throughout this whole ordeal, she never lost hope that he would pull through and would not even entertain thoughts or talk of any other outcome.   She, and Mr. P’s sister, rearranged their schedules and made herculean efforts to be by his side as much as possible. You can’t help but think this had to make a difference. Way to go Mrs. P and Sister P! The recovery is his, his doctors and yours!) … anyway, he told his wife that he had been having long conversations with his Uncle Sal who not only was not there, but had been dead for years (Well, strike that. What do I know? Maybe good ol’ Sal was there!). She would also come into the room to Mr. P telling her  “hang on just a second,I just have to finish this lesson about FDR.”

Despite still being alive and starting to regain his wits, Mr. P. found himself in a very dark place. Sure, it was fantastic he was alive – but what kind of life was he in? He was hooked up to all manner of machines, which he kept trying to pull out of his body, and just could not make the mental leap that was needed to help him take those baby steps on a very long road to recovery. We have all been to this place (and if you have not, just wait, it will happen eventually) – where you know what needs to be done but it just sounds so exhausting and hard and terrible that you put off doing anything, frozen in a place that is neither here nor there.

Enter a brother of Mr. P.  He said the magic words that unlocked P’s mental paralysis – “Remember marathon training? You never missed a practice. Well, this is a marathon and you are on Day 1.”  The words hit P’s sweet spot and that day he got up and walked down the hallway and every day did a little more.

What followed was his journey on that long road back. He started with a rowing machine and eventually got himself back to running. He used Broad Street training (it’s now quite clear why that race means so much to him!) to keep him going. One day, he had Mrs. P drop him 8 miles from their house, just to ensure that he would have run to get home. The girls track team happened to go by on a bus and cheered their little hearts out. He ran home so fast that when he came inside Mrs. P. asked who had given him a ride. The truth was that no one had physically pulled over in their car and driven him back. But Mrs. P, his family, his students, his athletes, his doctors, fellow coaches, everyone that had prayed for him – every single one of those people gave him a ride that day.

Running saved his life once more, and this time it was clearer than ever that it was not just the miles logged on legs that should not be here, but also every person that believed that he would live to run again that did the trick.  Running is a gift and if we let it, every day it gives us just what we need.

Mr. P., thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s ones like this that I tuck in my pocket for the hard miles in a marathon, where I will pull it out, draw on its strength, and remember that every day I get to run (no matter how much it hurts) is an awfully good day.

7 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

Cape Island Spotlight – Mr. P

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…

Steve Pierangeli, aka “Mr. P” or “P”

Mr. P is the man responsible for the running nut I am today (though he can’t take responsibility for the rest of my non-running nuttiness. That is all me!). He was my high school cross-country coach and if I were to answer the “Cape Island Spotlight”, his name would appear under the question of who saw the runner in me. I owe an awful lot to this man, and you can read more about that here. But today the spotlight is on P. He is a teacher and coach in the Pittsgrove Township school system, where he has been for many years. His is a fascinating story and I especially loved doing this interview because it gave me the chance to better understand the person that he is and all he has overcome. As high schoolers, I think we all experience the sensation that teachers are not actually people – they are just the adults whose whole reason for existence seems to be tied up with their identity as we see it in the classrooms and hallways. Once we become adults ourselves we realize the folly of that assumption, but it is not often we get to go snap into focus the blurry images we had of them. This interview gave me that chance and it happily filled in blanks that made me put this man on an even higher pedestal. For all you former Cougars out there, take a peek at what we were not seeing as we roamed “the golden halls of learning”.

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

I come from an athletic family and tried a lot of different sports in grade and middle school. But because of my hand (ed. note: Mr. P has a birth defect in his right hand that required 8 operations), I could never get very far. I was actually great at baseball, decent at football but every time I would make a team a surgery would come up and I could not play because of a cast. By freshman year running made sense because I could run with a cast. It changed my life because my hand would never get in the way again.

My first practice I only ran 15 minutes. My coach, Steve French, said “take your time, build slow”. And by the end of the season, I could do 10 mile workouts and that was something. Running gave me a tremendous amount of confidence, and I found my identity (ed. note: no small feat in a family with lots of kids!). I never really achieved a lot in high school running – not in terms of medals or places or times. It was more things like how to treat others and how to be a teammate. In cross-country, when we finish a race we all still like each other. We might have battled it out over the miles but that falls away when it is over. What we do is hard, and at the end there is mutual respect because we all know what it took to get there. I have never been too into the competitive side, for me it has always been more about teamwork and camaraderie.
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?

Since I was 14, but running was always a family tradition. We went to the Penn Relays  because my dad had run in the Penn relays. When I was a kid I watched McCory and Jim Ryun before they were Olympians. I love taking the kids to the relays – they are 25 yards from Usain Bolt. You can’t buy that experience, you just can’t.

A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”

It wasn’t actually a race. I can remember this clear as day. There was a runner I coached named John Thompson. I could run a marathon at the time and 12-13 miles was no big deal. But this was back in the days when it was hard to get the high school kids to do longer runs. Thompson was ready, though. We went out for a 10 mile run and at 9.5 I could not feel my body anymore. I felt nothing but the fact I was floating. I was in my 30s, I was toe to toe with this 17 yr old and I felt like I was flying. I have not felt it since, I don’t know if I ever will again but I am always looking for it. I call it the Thompson spot.

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

That would be Broad Street 2012. I did not train enough for it. All week leading up to it, I said “I am not doing it.” But some of local coaches were saying, “oh come on, once a runner always a runner” and ” don’t worry, the crowd will pull you along!” And then I got to expo and I get my shirt and some new shoes and just swept up in all the excitement. So race morning comes and within a ½ mile of the start I thought, “what the hell are you doing?”  But I wound up pacing myself nicely and made it through to the end.

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)?

For us it was the superstition that new uniforms will ruin a team’s season. It’s that “if it is working for you, don’t change it”. I almost did not give out new uniforms because of this! But I built them up so much; I had to give them out. And you know what? They have worked out really well for us, we are having an incredible year. (ed. note: P showed off the new uniforms and I was duly impressed! Very high tech fabric and super cool design)

Speaking of superstitions, I always think of a runner I had, Greg Frith, and his ritual meal before a race. On the bus on the way to a meet he would always eat a bologna sandwich, a Snickers bar, a banana and can of Pepsi. He ran every race perfect, he was a decorated 16:30 runner and one of our best by the time his high school career was over. All those rituals that we do (both alone and as a team) – none of it really works, but it truly is a mental thing that can help.

Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?

Both. There are times…there are just days I want to be alone. No one can call me, no one can get in touch with me and I need that. But there are other times when – like today, when we ran together. There is nothing like that. (ed. note: here, here!).

I also will partner run when I need to talk to kids individually. We go out a little earlier then the rest of the pack and sort out whatever we need to.

Favorite running gear?

I have really grown to love tights. I started hating sweatpants in the winter and I now feel more comfortable  in tights. My son said to me,  “aww, man, can’t you put some sweats over them?” so I went out and got a bright green pair. *laughs*

And I also love a really light pair of shorts. You can’t beat a pair that you can’t feel. If I find ones I like, I’ll hold on to them forever.

Bucket list race?

There are 2. Bay to Breakers and Pike’s Peak.

Bay to Breakers because of the change in elevation, the uniqueness of the race and that it is point to point. Pike’s Peak just sounds like a cool challenge. I am at the point now that I am looking for something new and different. There are a few races that I return to again and again (like Broad Street) but overall I want to do something new. But not the mud runs or the Warrior Dashes or anything like that – I have no desire to be electrocuted while running. *laughs* The kids try to get me to do them, but I haven’t been convinced so far.

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

Probably not. Again, I like to feel comfortable while running and I would not feel comfortable at all on a number of levels. I don’t mind if other people do them, but it’s not me. And I really can’t imagine it on a bike (ed. note: P has been getting more into biking as of late). I need special equipment for a bike, I can’t imagine no equipment. *laughs* (ed. note: love that he took this question in stride! Thanks, P!)

What is your favorite race distance?

Hmmm. Now?  I would probably say 8k. For different reasons, I like different distances. Broad Street 10 miler – you feel ok for the first 7, then you have to work for last 3. It is not the whole grind of a half, but more challenging than a 5k or 10k. With the boys now out of the house, I have more time and I know where I want to put that time – I am planning on the Philly Distance Runnext year(ed note: this race is now the Philly RnR , but will probably always be known as the PDR to most locals).

Do you run on vacation or take a break?

I especially like running on vacation because it is new, someplace I have not run before. I love running at the shore, on the beach. No matter where I go, I take my running shoes. You just have no idea when a chance to run will come up. You don’t have to plan it, but you’ll be glad you have them if an opportunity comes up. I tell the kids “when on summer vacations, take your shoes!” and they come back telling me of the great,unexpected runs they had.

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

I actually don’t have any, I’m pretty easy. I am the opposite of Greg Frith *laughs*. Well, actually, I don’t eat before a run, even a long run, which is unusual for most runners. I have trained myself better over the years to eat, but it’s hard. I had to do it for the marathon. But my preference is to eat the night before and not that morning. It’s something I’ve  had to work at.

Advice to fellow runners?

“Enjoy”. One word. Before each race, we say a prayer (I ask the kids ahead of time if  it is ok with them – we’ve had years when we would do “Our Father” and then Hindu, Muslim, and Yiddish prayers. If a kid objects they don’t have to do it, no problem), go over race strategy and then the last thing I say to them is “have fun”. It has to be something that makes you feel good.

I would also tell others to “run relaxed”,  that is hugely important.

What is your favorite post-race indulgence?

A beer. It to be a dark beer, like a Yuengling. If I were to have a light beer, I might as well stick with water. It’s a whole lot cheaper and tastes the same. *laughs*

Weird, random fact about yourself?

When students come back to the school, years after graduating, you all say to me, “you look the same!”. Now, I know I have changed physically, but the essence of who I am has remained the same. I am always going to be positive, always going to find something good in any situation. We remain the essence of who we are and I think that is what you all are seeing. I am a product of everyone in my life – obviously my immediate family but so much of my time is with my students and athletes, and even the other coaches, that you make me who I am too. Who gets this kind of life? What can I say? I have been so blessed, even with the hard times, I have been so blessed.

Mr P. recently led the Cougars to his 200th career win so I had to ask, “which was the most memorable?”

Oh, I could list a ton, there are so many. Of the recent ones, probably the duel meet we just had against Woodstown on October 2nd  this year. We had trained very hard for this race, we had built our season towards this and it was Milestone #1. They beat us last year and they had their whole team back so they rightly felt confident. Halfway through the race, they were winning 25-33 and our boys were in positions 1,5,6,10 and 13. By then end we were 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 and won. I was so proud of them for staying on the race plan and not getting flustered. It is so hard for them to run their race in a position like that. So there was the satisfaction of beating a rival, of them running their race plan and to set us up for the #200 win. It was a good day of coaching.

Can you see now why I love this man?! Thank you, Mr. P! Come back tomorrow for an special bonus section of Cape Island Spotlight where he shares the three times running saved his life. Like, literally. You don’t want to miss it!

This is what a Cape Island Spotlight interview looks like. I basically laugh a lot and type in between. You runners crack me up! Thanks to my dad for snapping this shot 🙂

18 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

Cape Island Spotlight – Sherry LaBree

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…

Sherry LaBree

Sherry and I have known each since we were kids running around the Norman Rockwell-esque town we grew up in. We were on swim team together and were always friendly but we lost contact after high school.  The dawn of the MySpace and Facebook era changed all that and we found that our adult selves had even more in common than our teenage ones did and became fast cyber friends. The distance between us (over 1,000 miles at this point, as she and her high school sweetheart and now husband Scott live in Florida) means we don’t get to train or race together regularly (though we did get to do the Philly half a few years back  and are doing the full Philly enchilada this year!) but that does not stop us from being running buddies. We cheer each other on from afar, commiserate on lousy runs and celebrate the great ones! Sherry has fully embraced the runner lifestyle and now helps others do the same. She recently launched her own training business, Endurance in Motion, where she coaches athletes near and far. She has such a warm, supportive personality and her attention to sports science and her own impressive achievements speak of a woman who can take you to the places you want to go!

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

I did not grow up as a runner. I was a swimmer and a cheerleader (ed note: foreshadowing a future as a coach, methinks!) I might have done one run over 2 miles before I was 30. During my 20s I literally sat on my butt, I did absolutely nothing active. It’s so funny, I don’t even know that girl from a decade ago anymore.

Anyway, right after I turned 30 I joined a local gym. I was thinking, “I’m 30, I’m so out of shape, I need to do something”. I met a trainer who had run the Boston Marathon and was training for Ironman Florida. It lit the spark for me, I had this realization that “oh my gosh, real people do this, I could do this”.

In November of 2007, Scott brought home a reminder magnet for a Susan G. Komen 5k for March 2008 and randomly stuck it on the fridge. I looked at it for a couple of days then looked online and saw it was fundraiser, which really appealed to me since we had lost Scott’s mom to breast cancer the year before. In December 2007 I started the Couch to 5k program and I was on my way!  So no one saw the runner in me and I didn’t even really see her in there myself, but it was the realization that I didn’t  have to be a professional or have done it since I was a kid to try it. And that is how I started.
How long have you been pounding the pavement/trails?

Dec 10, 2007 was my very first day. I know this because I have kept a training log from Day 1 (Ed Note: I am so jealous of this!). However, I consider the beginning of my transition into a runner in November of 2007 , right around my birthday. It feels like that is when I mentally got there, even though I had not started running yet.
A moment where you said to yourself “oh my god, I love running!”

Ok, a little background here.  In between doing the Couch to 5k training, I also started to ride the bike as general cross-training and made a commitment to do the May 2008 Danskin Triathlon.  To be honest, I sorta disliked running in those early days. I have a swimming background and was naturally good at cycling. But the running was horrid for me. My times were quite disproportional in the beginning – I had good swim and bike results but not so much for running. At Danskin 2008 I was fast off the bike and then caught on the run. So I hired a coach and she made me write inspirational messages like “I am a runner” and “I love running” and post them up all over the house (like on the bathroom mirror, microwave, steering wheel, etc.). I told her things like  “I can’t run” and she made me write the message like “I am a great runner”. She had me start telling myself that I was a runner and believe that I  could run. By seeing the notes every day and following her guidelines (part of the issues was that I wasn’t running enough) I really started to believe that I was a runner. Fast forward to Danskin 2009  where I raced again. This time, after all that psychological and physical conditioning, I won my age group. And right then and there, for me, I became a woman who loves running.

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

That is a very, very easy one for me – Florida 70.3. It was a horrible, rotten race. The heat index did not dip below 90dF. Three-quarters of the run was on a grassy greenbelt with drainage pools around it and that evaporating water made it a steambath. I’d estimate 70% of people were walking the run, myself included. I was asking myself “who does this??” It was my slowest half Ironman, but I was proud that I finished. I would like to go back and try it again, but the course is different now so it would not be a true redemption. That race, among others, caused me to put into effect my “no races longer than 1.5 hours between May and September” rule. It is just too brutal in the Florida heat. Ed Note: I asked Sherry why and how she kept going during that race and she said: I don’t think you get involved with these sports if you are a person who gives up easily. You are just hard wired to not lie down. You put one foot in front of the other and you keep going. That is endurance sports; you just go no matter what it takes.

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)?

Actually the first thing that pops in my head is “try nothing new on race day”. I don’t advocate it for my athletes, but I have been really fortunate regarding this. I wore practically brand new shoes for the Wisconsin marathon. I remember thinking “what are you doing?!”. I’ve also gone into a half Ironman with a brand new saddle, but I was fine. So I know I have gotten very lucky!

Prefer to run alone or with partner/group?

I prefer to run alone. If I meet with a group, I like to start with them, do my own thing for the run and reconvene for breakfast. I like to be alone with my thoughts. I also do not like to get caught up with other people’s paces, which happens when I run with a group. My rate of perceived exertion also goes through the roof when I run with people – maybe too much time smiling?? The only exception for me is intervals. I do find it easier to go faster with others.

I love the social aspect before and after runs and love my running club, Zoomers Southwest Florida Running and Triathlon Club. Being involved with the club is really great. I recently did a last minute sprint triathlon where I went alone and knew no one there. It was a horribly lonely race – there was no support and I really felt it. You cannot put a price on that support.

Favorite running gear?

Before we start any of our Zoomers meeting, we answer questions like this. This one was asked about 2 months ago. Other people were saying their Garmins, their shoes, etc.… but mine is my training log. It’s not a piece of gear, per se, but every workout since December 2007, everything, has gone in that log. In training for the Philly marathon this year, I am able to look back at my Philly training last year.  It is neat – if you look at the two weeks before I got shingles, you can see a trending off in training performance, an increase in heart rate.  It is an invaluable, powerful tool.

Bucket list race?

Definitely the Boston Marathon (Ed Note: for the uninitiated, Boston is unique in that you have to qualify for it – i.e. run another marathon at a fast enough pace that you can enter it). I really, really want to get there. I know that is a ubiquitous one and many runners want to do it. But I love the big races, the crowds and all the hoopla. You can’t beat Boston if you like that kind of thing. And I love that kind of thing.

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

*laughs hysterically* No way Chris! *laughs* No way!

What is your favorite race distance?

I have to really think about this. I am so enamored with the marathon right now because of my Boston goal…but I think my favorite race distance is the half marathon. It is such a beautiful blend of endurance and speed.  Not just for me – for everyone. The distance is nothing to sneeze at and you have to put the time in for training yet you can still have a life while preparing for it.

Do you run on vacation or take a break?

I do run on vacation, I think exploring a new area by foot is one of the most enjoyable things about going on vacation! I have gotten to the point that wherever we go on vacation there will definitely be a race as part of it. I like to find one that we can take in a taste of local running flavor. They are all a little different everywhere you go. The fist race I ever did outside of Florida was in Memphis, Tennessee while we were visiting Scott’s relatives. The outskirts get petty hilly. At the time I had only been running about a year in the very flat area that we live in. But here I was being presented with all these hills and it was an eye opening experience. I enjoyed the heck out of it! It was a small local race, but I was so excited to get to see something new.

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

Hmm, I must be the most boring runner in the world because nothing obvious comes to mind. Oh, there is something that I do that  I don’t see anyone else do. I do spinoff of around the world lunges.  There is a running guru that came up with the lunge matrix  and a trainer introduced it to me last year. I took to it right away – it hits every muscle in the glutes, hips and thighs. I have noticed that while doing it before local races it garners me some strange looks, which makes me want to hide behind a bush! You have to be brave to do it, just make a little circle around yourself and not care what others think.

Advice to fellow runners?

This is an easy one and I feel like a broken record because I say it so often to my clients –  there is no instant in endurance sports. The “I want it now” mindset is a function of the society we live in so when you start endurance sports, it is sort of deflating at first. You think “why am I not faster? why is everyone else getting so much faster?” I remember being that girl and am very candid with my athletes about my history with this mindset. But over time I learned – there is no instant. It takes time to develop the attributes of patience, persistence and consistency. You must be dedicated and if you are, the payoff is huge. It is not done in months or a year, it is years. Enjoy the ride! You will make great gains in the beginning and it is a lot of fun to watch your numbers fall. As you get better, it gets tougher to knock off even seconds and you have to work harder. But it will come, it will come.

What is your favorite post-race indulgence?

Definitely pizza. And after the Wisconsin marathon, that has been amended so that can’t just be pizza now, it has to be Chicago deep dish. Immediately after a race, I can hit a food tent and down anything. I think I could probably eat a slice on the run! I am perfectly content eating as soon as possible after the race, and I’ll take my  pizza with eggplant and mushroom toppings, please.

Weird, random fact about yourself?

My hidden talent is song lyrics. I am a whiz at them! If I had been smart I would have auditioned for  that show “Don’t Forget The Lyrics” . I would have won enough money to be up to my ears in running shoes! It isn’t something that I developed as an adult – I’ve been able to do it for as long as I can remember. By 5 or 6, I would be standing up in the backseat of the care yelling songs from radio. Ah, the good ol’ days of child restraint in cars! laughs I just pick them up really easily and it’s weird because I am not musical in any other way.

 So that is our fun-loving, hard-working Sherry! Stay tuned on the blog over the next few months to see how she makes out in Philly (I will of course report on her race as well!) and click on over to Endurance in Motion – she’s open for business, coaching runners and triathletes. Oh, and lest you wonder if she is legit she is certified by the Road Runners Club of America and just about done her USAT certification for triathlon training. You can’t go wrong with this one!

Anyone have questions about Sherry?

11 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight

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?

11 Comments

Filed under Cape Island Spotlight