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: