Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snow sighted in Sarasota at the Frosty 5K

While a cold weather front blankets the north with snowy skies we Floridians have found a different way to celebrate the season, it involves costumes, fake snow, a beer truck and 700 runners. That's right, the Frosty 5K took place this past weekend in Sarasota and it attracted a monster crowd of endurance junkies who were warmly wrapped in the Christmas spirit.

The event brought in running groups from all over southwest Florida as well as visitors from as far away as Canada. Attendees added flair to the occasion wearing reindeer antlers, sparkly red Christmas shorts or simply dressing as Frosty the snowman. However, Frosty himself showed up wearing his running shoes. He was made of snow but the children know that he ran the Frosty 5K and boy did he run fast. Well, who could blame him? With the morning temperature reaching 80 degrees, Frosty had to finish the race before he melted.

The Frosty 5K is organized by the Active Suncoast Foundation and is one of the most scenic runs in the area. It starts on a road inside Twin Lakes park, a gathering point that can comfortably hold 665 runners before the arch. There would have been more runners if not for a car fire on I-75 North that caused some to miss the race. After the obligatory announcements, playing of the national anthem and early start of the Care2Tri duo, the race began.

The fleet of feet banked right through the parking lot then right again down towards the entrance. Before reaching the street they veered onto a grass section which took them into the adjacent neighborhood. Almost immediately 16 year old Tyler Fisher took a phenomenal lead followed by a strong pack which included Heather Butcher, Rachael Chambers, Michael Giampino and Alvin Duere.

While the challengers were formidable, there was no catching Tyler Fisher who went on to win the race with a time of 16:45. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Tyler has become a rising star in the local running scene. As a cross country runner for the Port Charlotte High School Pirates, he is a top competitor who is comfortable at speeds that most of us will never reach. As for big races, Tyler won last year's Turkey Trot at Edison College with a similarly fast time. Keep an eye out for him in the future.

Rounding out the top few on the men's side was Alvin Duere who took 1st in class (Male 20-24) and 3rd overall with a time of 19:31. Only 2 seconds behind him was 24 year old Brian Sullivan who took 2nd in class (Male 20-24) and 4th overall.

On the ladies side we saw another sparkling victory from well known favorite Heather Butcher. As the Female Overall Winner and 2nd fastest time overall, Heather showed top form coming in at a blazing finish of 18:57. The Female Masters Winner was Sarasota's very own Rachael Chambers coming in with the 6th fastest time at 19:45.

The Female Grand Master Winner was Marti Stetter who, having just completed her first 50K ultra only a week before, took the win with a time of 23:29. We also saw a dazzling pace set by the Senior Grand Master Winner Sandy Meneley. Sandy traveled down from Holmes Beach, Florida to slay the competition with a time of 23:55.

Not to be discounted was the number of young participants at this year's event. There were 85 runners under the age of 14 years old. Each brought a delightful enthusiasm to the holiday festivities. The youngest was 4 year old Jayden Zayas who finished the race in a little over an hour.

The fastest of the youth girl runners was Darielle Costa (Winner ages 13-14) with a time of 22:24, Isabella Busi (Winner ages 8-10) with 26:00 and Chloe Lear (Winner ages 11-12) with 26:44. On the boys side it was Ben Sweiderk (Winner ages 11-12) with a time of 21:03, followed by Zachary Jones (Winner ages 8-10) with 21:07 and Noah Brindley (Winner ages 13-14) with 22:40.

This year's event was boosted by two changes that appeared to have spurred greater interest than in years past. The 750 runner registration cut off caused a rush to sign up and fill that quota which it did way ahead of time. The shiny new finishers medals are some of the most eye catching and well made bling out there. They are also cleverly disguised bottle openers, very sneaky.

The finishing area was one of smiles and sunshine. Under a canopy of oak trees and spanish moss, runners enjoyed bowls of Geckos Bar & Grill's famous chili alongside nuggets from Chik-fil-A, coffee from Dunkin Donuts and the glorious beer truck. If the turn out was any indicator we can expect the Frosty to solidify itself as one of the area's premier 5K races. Don't be surprised if it sells out next year as well.

Photos and results are listed at the links below.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

6 Events to Kick Off Your New Year

At the beginning of each year we resolve to start a new. We make promises to ourselves that we will eat healthier, spend more time with friends and family and we will exercise more. It's often that last one that kicks us in the butt. However, if you are going to suffer for better health, you don't need to do it alone.

Listed below are six fun filled activities based here in southwest Florida to kick off your New Year. Peruse the list at your leisure. With walking, running (Fun runs to a half marathon), biking (On and off road) and even longboarding there is something for everyone.

1. Mimosa Fun Run - On Jan 1st in Punta Gorda the Foot Landing Running Shoe Store is holding their Annual Mimosa Fun Run. Think you had enough to drink the night before? Nonsense! Meet up at the Foot Landing at 7:15am and take a nice relaxed jog, walk or stroll around the city. The volunteers at the finish will greet you with a delicious Mimosa and a smile. Registration is FREE but arrive early. For more details visit their Facebook Event Page.

2. Resolution Run 5K - On Jan 4th in Venice you can get started on those promises you made a few days before by taking part in the Resolution Run 5K. Organized by the South County Family YMCA, this run starts and ends at Maxine Barritt Park near Sharky's on the Pier Restaurant. The course has beautiful views of the ocean and plenty of snacks to eat afterwards. I attended this race last year (Read the story here) and scored a personal record in part thanks to the January morning cold so dress appropriately. You can register on

3. Piggy's Revenge Mountain Bike Race - On Jan 12th in Venice the good people at SCORR (Sarasota County Off Road Riders) will be hosting a Mountain Bike endurance race/ride known as Piggy's Revenge. This race/ride takes place in the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve park where riders can choose their distance: either 20, 40 or 60 miles. Finishers will receive a T-Shirt and they get to enjoy some delicious homemade sausage hot off the grill. You can register on

4. The Ringling Bridge Run - On Jan 18th in Sarasota the Wilde Automotive Family is holding their Annual Ringling Bridge Run. This 4 mile race starts at 7:30am at the Van Wezel parking lot. It sends runners over and back across the Ringling Bridge with amazing views of the city. All proceeds go to the Sarasota YMCA. You can register on

5. Hands Across the Harbor - On Jan 25th in Punta Gorda the various agencies of Charlotte County assemble to bring you the Hands Across the Harbor run/bike/longboard/walk event. There is something for everyone here. The fun starts at Bayshore Live Oak Park at 6:45am. You can do a 5K walk, an 8K run, a 10 or 20 mile ride and the newest addition is an 8K longboard race. There is a pancake breakfast served by Charlotte County Fire/EMS plus there will be spectacular prizes including two round trip tickets to Key West. For more details check out their website at

6. The Suncoast Half Marathon - On Jan 26th in Lakewood Ranch the Active Suncoast Foundation hosts their popular Suncoast Half Marathon. Arrive a day early and you can enjoy the Health & Fitness Expo held at the Gold Coast Eagle Conference Center. The 13.1 mile race begins at 7am with the start and finish on Lakewood Ranch's picturesque main street. For more info visit

Make 2014 your year to shine. Don't make empty promises to yourself, make promises to run with someone, to ride with someone, to make this year the one that changes the happiness level of your life. Remember that all of these events contribute to some non-profit or charity group that is doing good work. Just by taking part you are helping your community but above all, remember to enjoy your journey.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Can Running Shoe Stores Succeed in Today's Economy?

This is a question I would have been afraid to ask a year ago. With store fronts being crushed by low prices from mega-corporations it has become hard to imagine how a small business with a sport specific product could make a profit. I recently made a trip to the Foot Landing in Punta Gorda, Florida where after only one year in business, something outstanding has happened.

Before I reveal their story, I should probably explain where my pessimism originated. Eight months ago I was suffering from foot pain and decided to buy some new running shoes. I knew that the Foot Landing was a supporter of Zoomer's Run & Tri Club, of which I'm a member, so I decided to check out their store.

The Foot Landing is forty-five minutes away from my home so I had to make a special trip. The owner Sherri Kemp Lennon was courteous and helpful. She had me stand on a computer pad that shows the weight distribution on each leg and the arch of my feet. This can help a person pick the proper shoes related to their foot type. Next she measured my feet, apparently one is slightly longer than the other. I'm told this is a common occurrence but it does make a difference when trying on shoes because you always want to use your larger foot for proper fit.

I tend to be the exception to every rule so I wasn't surprised when they couldn't find shoes to fit my tiny feet. Also as a full time writer I can't afford retail prices. While they have a range of respected brands, all of them were beyond my meager budget. In the end all I could afford was a new pair of insoles to put in my current shoes. I drove away from the store that day worried that they would have real trouble competing in today's world of internet bargains. It turns out that I was wrong.

At around the same time I had visited, the Foot Landing began hosting Wednesday night pub runs that start right at their front door at 117 Herald Court. It was a good way for the owner and staff to get to meet the local runners. They started with anywhere from 30 to 50 participants while posting the weekly event on Facebook so more could join in. The crowd was steady with some people driving from as far away as Sarasota to be a part of it.

Over the summer and despite constant rainstorms, the weekly pub runs continued to grow in numbers. In order to accommodate such demands they have organized four routes through the city each ending at a different pub or restaurant. The routes are named after the restaurant theme, for example: Tiki run, Irish pub run or Salsa run. These meet ups have surpassed 100 runners with one in particular gathering more than 200. That is an astonishing number of people for a weekly event.

The pub runs were just the start. The Foot Landing continued their community outreach with movie nights, Sunday morning wake-up runs and various parties. In addition, the store has also assembled a superb race team. It includes more than 15 athletes like Team USA Duathletes Scott & Krissy Varner and USAT National Triathlete Sherri LaBree (Who also works at the Foot Landing). Podium regulars at the local races include Kathy Hendricks, Ian Vincent, Manny Masony and Stephanie Powers.

What does all of this mean for the company? As it celebrated its one year anniversary the Foot Landing has become the premiere running shoe store in Charlotte County. It is supported by the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) and the IRRA (Independent Running Retailer Association). It even won the designation of being the 2013 Punta Gorda Business of the Year.

The secret to their success? Timing was a big part of it. Punta Gorda has been considered a sleepy ocean side city full of senior citizens but the demographics are changing. The Foot Landing tapped into a core of fitness enthusiasts of all ages, many of whom had only recently moved to southwest Florida. The outreach of the store gathered these active residents and gave them a community to be a part of.

So what's next on the agenda for this amazing little store? The Foot Landing is working in association with The Yoga Sanctuary to combine running groups with yoga classes. As for events, the weekly pub runs continue and there will be a special one on Valentines Day known as the Red Dress Run. Information about all of these events can be found on their website or Facebook page. While this is only one example of what is possible in today's economy, it is the kind of success story that breeds hope in these uncertain times.

The Foot Landing Facebook Page

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The 3rd Annual Achieva Reindeer Trot

While the big events get all the press and attention, I decided it might be nice to check out one of the smaller races that flies under the radar. The 3rd Annual Achieva Reindeer Trot takes place not far from main street in Sarasota. The Reindeer Trot is actually three events in one. They have a 5k race, a 10k race and a holiday dog walk followed by a doggy costume contest.

Why did I pick this race? First of all, it's held at Payne Park. This beautiful little stretch of city property is decked out with meticulously groomed grass, a central jogging track, a playground and a skate park. I filmed part of a Strider Sports video here only a few months ago. Secondly, the race is sponsored by Achieva which is a credit union based in Southwest Florida. In the past I've bought two cars through Credit Unions. They are an excellent alternative to the traditional bank because the members/account holders are also part owners.

In addition to my personal reasons, small races possess a charm and warmth all their own. You get to meet people quickly and easily because there are so few of you. I spoke with fellow runners, race volunteers and even people who worked for Achieva. All of them took the event as a lighthearted Christmas get together to raise funds for a good cause.

All the money raised went to the Sarasota County Classrooms, with 14 grants handed out to individuals at the opening ceremonies. A local school band played for the crowd and was followed a live performance of the National Anthem. Shortly afterwards the runners gathered on the sidewalk lining School Avenue and found their mark. A volunteer got on the microphone to explain the start procedure but some younger kids thought she was starting the race so they took off. Most everyone got a chuckle out of the false start and regathered for the actual beginning.

The race course was the same for both 5K and 10K runners. The difference was that you completed 2 laps for 5k and four laps for 10k. A well colored map shows where the route takes you but that didn't stop me from getting a little confused in some places, including the finish line. My bad for not doing recon.

The pace for the first mile was fast, I started in fifth place but couldn't hold position. Slowly a hand full of competitors made their way past me but only a handful. I managed to keep the rest at bay finishing in 10th overall. The top spot went to a determined teenager who aced the course in 19 minutes. You can find his photo at the top of this story but his name and all of the results will be posted on their event page.

The event was chip timed by Elite Timing and Event Management and while they were easy to work with, they did fumble up some people's times. In the end all the issues were resolved and everyone got the right trophies and medals.

The event was a lot of fun. Many people wore reindeer antlers, some came in full costumes including this guy with a red suit and white beard who sat next to a Christmas tree and accepted wishes from all the kids. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, the Reindeer Trot is an excellent alternative to the big, crowded races that happen elsewhere in town on the same day. The terrain is pleasing to the eye and varied enough to be challenging. The competition is a little lighter giving you a good chance to land on the podium even if your not the fastest runner. It worked for me.

Make sure to check out our photo gallery of the event and check the Achieva website for more photos and a full list of results.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

555 Chilly Runners took on the Turkey Trot 5K

If you think it never gets cold in Florida, I welcome you to race the Habitat for Humanity Turkey Trot 5k which takes place on the beautiful grounds of Edison State College in Punta Gorda. I entered this race in 2012 and had my first taste of Thanksgiving morning's unexpected chill. Last year it was about 45 degrees but this year was at least 5 degrees colder.

555 Runners, many wrapped in sweatsuits, took to the grounds of the college passing back and forth on the roads with a final loop around the pond and down to the finish. The benefit of the weather change was that chattering teeth and crisp winds inspired people to run very fast.

How fast were the runners? Let's start with the top 3 Men Overall. All of them were under 23 years old, one of them (Ian Elkin) was only 16. All three braved the weather with the minimum of clothing and the maximum of preparation. All three were cruising along doing 5 minute miles.

1. Johnathan Nusbaum 15:59
2. Anthony Pollizzi 16:12
3. Ian Elkin 16:21

Johnathan Nusbaum is no stranger to the Turkey Trot. He competed last year winning the Men's 20-24 class and taking 2nd overall. His time last year was 17:21 but he picked up his game this year by chopping off a full two minutes! Johnathan and his overall plaque are pictured at the top of this article.

Now for the ladies! The top spot for overall female was as close a race as anyone could possibly imagine. Twenty six year old Brooke Dilmore went elbow to elbow with sixteen year old Jamie Weisburger in a mad sprint to the finish line. Brooke won the challenge with only three tenths of a second separating them. The two ladies can be seen in the photo below.

1. Brooke Dilmore 20:28.5
2. Jamie Weisburger 20:28.8
3. Sherri LaBree 21:52

Coming third fastest was Punta Gorda's Sherry LaBree. While Sherry was a full minute behind the two leaders she managed win the Women's 35-39 class with a two minute lead.

The racing action was worth watching even if you did have to huddle deep in a winter coat sipping a steaming mug of coffee. However, this was still a charity race. All proceeds from the event went to the Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity which helps provide homes for needy families. With 555 participants of all ages they certainly got the help they needed.

Plenty of photos were taken of this event. The Zoomers captured runners as they crossed the line while the Bog Dogs got the winners on the podium. Tag yourself, friends and family at the links below.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Introduction to the Joy of Mud - Tippecanoe 2013

When I first learned that people were paying good money to run around in the woods and get covered in mud, I wasn't so sure about the concept. I remembered doing it quite a lot as a kid and it was fun back then but why is it suddenly popular now? Sometimes you have to witness an event to understand the appeal.

At the 2nd Annual Tippecanoe Trail Mud Run, I got up close to the race and zoomed right in on the action to see what motivates such behavior. What did I see? I saw a man running in a kilt. I saw women with fake mustaches. I saw mud covered kids with huge smiles on their faces. I saw teammates waiting up for each other, even at the finish line. What I saw through the lens was good clean, no wait, not clean at all. It was even better, it was dirty fun.

A week before it all began my wife and I stumbled upon some of the constructions being built for this race and they were amazing. From the water slide on Mount Tippecanoe to the sudden plunge of the mud pit to the heartbreaking climb at the wall, there was both joy and drama all along the course and for all levels of athletic ambition.

Runners started in the Charlotte Stadium parking lot. They bolted past the pond where they got a cold shower from a water cannon and then sprinted straight into the trails. The next obstacle would get their feet wet and then it was a long jog to parts unknown. Along the way they would climb wood and ropes, balance over see saws, drop down a water shoot, wriggle through spider webs and finally splash into the gooiest mud ever!

The two categories were a 5k single lap and a much harder 10k double lap. While both groups equally hit every section of the course, the 10k runners had an additional obstacle - the ladder peak monkey bars. It was here that even the strongest struggled to keep their grip and continue on.

This brings us to the results. I'm not sure who won. I think it was the guy in the Air Force shirt, he was way ahead of everyone. I'll leave it to the timers at Zoomers to figure out the rest but they didn't have an easy task as so many people lost their electronic tags. While every event has winners and losers, mud running might be the exception. If you have fun, finish the course and get dirty - you won.

When the racing was over everyone, including onlookers, needed a good bath. The organizers were well prepared by having a water truck spray finishers with a fire hose. The demand for this public shower attracted quite a long line of filthy competitors all hoping to get at least some of the sticky mess cleansed from their skin.

After a good hosing, participants were served a tent full of treats while being serenaded by a singer/guitarist. So there you have it - fresh air, creative obstacles, laughter, food and music. Mud running, not a bad way to spend the morning with family and friends. The memories alone are worth the price of admission. Now I get it.

Want to see more photos? I posted 280+ of them on Facebook,
feel free to tag yourself or others.

 Click here to see Alex's complete library

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tempo Cyclery Grand Re-Opening Party

A bike shop is often the heart of a local biking community. Even in a cycle saturated city like Sarasota, Tempo Cyclery had no problem filling their shop for their Grand Re-Opening party on Nov 16th, 2013. What a party it was! With good food from the grill, good beer in the coolers and prizes being raffled off every 15 minutes, the atmosphere was jubilant and anticipatory.

Tempo owner Julian Gregory and his staff kept the shop running with sales and service even while it was filled with friends and customers.

Between sips of Fat Tire Amber Ale and sweets from Sirard's Chocolate Cafe, the cyclists retreated out back to prepare for the day's planned entertainment. A chalk outline on the cement marked an obstacle course designed to be raced by adults on miniature kids bikes. The prize was two brand new Scott cycling helmets, one each for the male and female winners.

A handful of men and women, some of them Ironman competitors, struggled playfully with the tiny bikes. The course was timed and hilarious as each took their turn trying to pedal like mad while avoiding hitting their knees against the handlebars. In the end it was former BMX racers and married couple Terri Brashear and myself, Alex Hutchinson who took the victories.

The party was also a congratulations to shop owner Julian Angus jr who had recently completed his very first Ironman contest. This was a big check on his athletic bucket list and he enjoyed the experience. Julian took time during the celebration to show off his trials skills by riding wheelies and bunny hopping onto the coolers behind the building.

The raffles raged on and the generosity of Tempo Cyclery continued to surprise. They gave away cyclometers, road tires, t-shirts, hats, socks, boxes of energy bars, a $180. gift certificate to Mr. Beerys and much more. The big prize came at the very end of the day when they raffled off a beautiful Cruiser bike.

All through the day the cameras were clicking as there were so many images you just had to catch. Be sure to look through our photos to see some of the fun and if you happen to be in Sarasota be sure to swing by the shop to say hi.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Our Mysterious Tippecanoe Adventure

When I was running the Southwest Florida Lung Cancer 5K at the Charlotte Sports Park, I noticed that there was a trail system behind the stadium. The Tippecanoe Environmental Park is maintained by Charlotte County who protect a beautiful piece of land hugged on its outer rim by waterways and a salt marsh. The County fenced off this property and set in place a system of wide (Truck size) trails meant for hiking.

Terri and I decided that it would a fun place to explore and we were hoping to get in a couple miles of walking in this beautiful fall weather. Happily, we got a little more than we expected.

Let me start off by saying, this park is still a work in progress. That was clear from the roughness of the sandy trails and the lack of internal signs. Biking is possible but pointless as the deep sand would not be much fun and the actual distances are rather short. Otherwise, everything is wide open. There are wide open views, wide open trails and a wide sky looming over you. We were lucky to have full cloud cover, otherwise you should expect a sunburn from so much open air.

We entered at the arch and traveled all the way down the Brown trail to "Mount Tippecanoe." This is a fifteen foot tall hill that has a striking view of the Sam Knight creek. It is also where our walk turned into a mysterious adventure. Something was being built on the hill (We are not at liberty to give details) but it seemed odd that something so unusual was being constructed so deep in the park.

We enjoyed our view of the adjacent Flamingo Waterway and then continued on our walk. I had memorized the trail map from the website so we wouldn't get lost. The Brown trail brought us under the cover of trees and then onto a bridge over a wide stream. It was easy to get close to the exotic birds that made their homes nearby but in the distance you could also see Osprey and an Eagles nest. Another flat bridge gave you views of the salt flats. Then when we turned the corner we ran into a new surprise.

There in the center of the trail was another creation being built. Was it another bridge? Was it a walkway of some kind? We still weren't sure what was going on but we knew that we were not alone in the park. Beyond the sounds of whispering winds and scurrying animals was the distinct racket of mechanical vehicles in motion.

The Brown trail broke off into the desolate stretch of Green trail which appeared to travel along forever. The park alters your spacial perceptions as everything appears further away than it actually is. At that point we would swear that our car was three miles away and yet we had only traveled a single mile to get there.

As we enjoyed the rustic scent of week old burnt brush, a white pick-up truck spotted us and started coming our way. The driver was a very friendly Charlotte County employee. He informed us that the park was closed because they were doing construction projects to prepare for the upcoming Tippecanoe Mud Run on November 23rd, 2013.

The mystery had been solved. Those unusual constructions now made sense. In fact, the County was working on building unique obstacles to make this year's race one to remember. The Tippecanoe race had already been recommended to us from several running friends. Their pitch was that the big races (Tough Mudder & Spartan) were getting too expensive where as Tippecanoe was local, cheaper and still a ton of fun.

While we were informed of some of the new additions to this year's course, we were also asked to keep the changes a secret. We had taken pictures of their constructions but I kept them out of our photo gallery. You might want to check out the Tippecanoe Mud Run on Nov 23rd. I can promise it is going to be a race worth watching.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lung Cancer 5K Raises Thousands for Research

Did you know that Lung Cancer is the number one killer in Charlotte County? It's a harsh statistic to hear when you call Southwest Florida your home but it helps you understand why charity races are so important. Sometimes we get caught up in our goals, our personal records or age group rivalries and forget that at the end of the day this is a race to raise money that will help save lives.

The Southwest Florida Lung Cancer 5K attracted 33 teams, 165 timed runners and a score of untimed runners and walkers. Thousands of dollars were raised for the Lung Cancer Research Council all of which will benefit this worthy cause.

The pageantry of the day was fitting. Runners gathered in front of the stadium where a huge American flag hung from the extended ladder of a fire truck. A bagpiper played patriotic tunes as the color guard marched in time. Politicians and sponsors made proclamations and gave thanks. Prayers were spoken for those still in the fight and silence was given for those whose fight was over.

The most unique sights and sounds came from the Charlotte Warriors cheerleaders. Dressed in bold blue uniforms complete with pom poms, these energetic young ladies cheered the runners at both the start and finish of the race.

Now to the winners! Bradenton's Mickey Hooke won the overall men's category in dramatic fashion. Mickey is 52 years old and he aced the race with a time of 17:54. Astonishing! The ladies overall was taken by North Port's rising star Kathy Hendricks at 21:52. 

This was a race dominated by the ladies as the three largest age groups were all female. Randi Lynn Huber (25:12) took the 40-44 group which had 15 runners, Lori Vasquez (24:07)  took the 45-49 group ahead of 16 others and Susan Coldiron (30:25) took the 50-54 group which had 14 competitors.

While the turn out might have been a little smaller than last year, the spirit remained vigilant. Some causes demand every ounce of strength that a person can muster, this is one of those causes. If you ever doubted that fact you only had to listen to the stories of the survivors, some who never showed any symptoms to indicate that this type of cancer was sneaking up on them. Or on this day you could read the signs that lined the finish inside the stadium, each in loving memory of someone who had lost their battle.

This is why this race matters. It's not for the times or the medals or the cheers, it is for the fallen. We can't bring them back but we can help the many who are determined to survive.

Find all of the race results and photos here:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mountain Bike Trail Access Expanding in Venice

Success breeds access. That is the theme at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve, a enormous park purchased in 1982 for the purpose of natural resource protection and nature based recreation. Nowadays nothing is more nature based than Mountain Biking. The most successful trails in the Reserve as of late have been built by SCORR or the Sarasota County Off Road Riders.

A steady pattern has developed at parks across the country. Local riders assemble into a MTB group and then seek the right to build on State or Public lands. This can sometimes be a long, tiresome process but with good reason, the park managers need to know that the groups are sincere, responsible and capable. Often times the new trails attract a larger crowd, bringing new life to the park and economic growth to the neighboring towns and businesses.

Earlier this year SCORR was given permission to start building Mountain Bike specific trails in the Carlton Reserve (Read the Trail Building Story Here). These changes have turned a once modest destination into a riding area with flair. Exploring these first 4 miles of twisty singletrack has ignited the interest of a wider audience. Recent Tuesday group rides have brought in 20 riders per night with some variety.

With renewed interest in the Reserve, park managers have given SCORR permission to extend their trail crafting even further. They want to expand access to anyone who wishes to visit this beautiful spread of land.

SCORR immediately set about to raise money with their Halloween Scavenger Hunt Pub Ride on Venice Island (Read Pub Ride Story Here). With the money raised and equipment purchased, volunteers traversed the deep brush to mark out new paths. Tagging the bushes and trees with pink ribbons they marked a route that will start cyclists at the Carlton Parking lot and take them directly into the woods for a fun ride.

This Saturday volunteers gathered at the parking lot armed with clippers and ready to get dirty for the great cause of knobby tires. They pushed their way into the woods and started clearing the way.

Facing chest high palmetto bushes, thorns, vines, long grass, fallen branches and stubborn roots, the team labored hard through the morning. Chopping, raking, cutting and digging takes sweat and effort but no specific skills so anyone can be a part of this undertaking. On this occasion the weather stayed in their favor, the threat of rain maintained a blanket of clouds keeping the workers cool as they cleared a way for the future.

Four hours later they had chopped almost half a mile into the brush. A small gallery of their efforts, including before and after photos, can be seen on Facebook (See Gallery Here). 

This is only the beginning of great things to come. More work is planned and more workers are needed to further the project and get these trails built. The start has been promising but now it is time for momentum. If you would like to help expand Mountain Biking in Southwest Florida, you can join SCORR on their trail work weekends. If you want to see what they have built already, tag along on a guided Tuesday night group ride (Read about Carlton Night Riding Here).

For more information and updates visit them on Facebook: