TWIN STREAKS - Vince

TWIN STREAKS

By Vincent

 

  Envisioned as a distraction to the zaniness that enveloped the entire world seemingly overnight in mid-March, the 40 Day Streak to Restore Sanity (STRS) was later extended to an 80-day event.  Even by that time, it was apparent that sanity (if we ever really had any) would not be restored anytime soon.  Nevertheless, I persevered and completed all 80 days of the streak; gratefully taking the next day off.  But the STRS never would have even started if not for another streak that began exactly 1,946 days before it did…

 

  Many people don’t know this, but I was a pack a day smoker for over 38 years and now have been tobacco free since smoking that last cigarette on November 23, 2014.  On that day, I could not run 200 yards without being hopelessly out of breath.  Just under 5 years later, on October 13, 2019, I completed the Army 10 Miler with a pace but a few seconds over a 10-minute mile.  The Kingstowne Striders became part of that transformation….

 

  The STRS began with a rather uninspiring 1.23-mile jaunt around the interior confines of my company’s 10,000 square foot office space.  It was a chilly day for late March and just not a good one to be outside…

 

  My first real attempt at running as an ex-smoker was on January 11, 2015 on a treadmill at the Planet Fitness I had joined 2 days before.  I struggled to make it to a quarter mile at a 10-minute pace….

 

  Day 6 of the STRS was a much more ambitious endeavor involving a 5.77-mile hike with serious elevation changes…

 

Vince's Day one STRS time

 

  On January 30, 2015, I set an ambitious goal to run a half mile on the treadmill at Planet Fitness.  I lumbered from the .45 mark onward to .50, but made it!  That joy was shattered when I went into the locker room soon afterward and discovered that my lock had been clipped and my wallet stolen.  {I did learn that describing in graphic detail to a therapist the various scenarios imagined (both inside and outside of prison) for petty thieves, leads to feedback along the lines of,  “I am glad that you are comfortable enough with me to share all of those feelings.”  Then, at the next session, your file folder is like a half inch thicker} ....

 

  Day 7 of the STRS was an unsanctioned "Distance Run" from Panera Bread with two fellow Striders (Rachel & Christina).  "Distance" referred to how far apart we stayed; not how far we ran.  Rachel suggested that we finish with a small loop in the parking lot to make it measure out to a 5k. I did not know it at the time, but it would be more than 2 months before I ran with another person again....

 

  By the end of February 2015, this ex-smoker could easily run a mile on the treadmill....

 

The STRS almost ended for me on Day 15; I had forgotten all about it until 10:49 pm.  A brisk walk of exactly 1.00 miles saved the day....

 

  In mid March 2015, I decided that it was time to run a mile in the outdoors.  I charted a flat course, but with no treadmill to set the pace, and no fancy watch to guide me, I went out way too fast and was out of gas after only half a mile....

 

  Saturday afternoon hikes became a favorite part of the STRS.  I went off the beaten path in Kingstowne Park and discovered this secluded place....

 

The Lake in Kingstowne Park

 

 A fellow Strider posted about a Stay at Home race where participants choose their own distance, chart their own course, and then submit their time to a website. After signing up and handpicking a 5k course that had a net elevation loss of over 200 feet, I set my sights on setting an EPIC PR....

 

  The starting line at my first ever race in May 2015 looked like this.  Yes, we were led off by a Harley....

 

A Harley Leading the start of Vince's first race

 

  April 25 was day 34 of the STRS and the Stay at Home 5k beckoned.  The course was basically a plunge down the steep hills from the Beacon Hill area to the Belleview Shopping Center, with some flat stretches thrown in to make the distance official.  Maybe it was a lack of serious training, or an onset of common sense that reminded me that I could not just run pell-mell down a steep slope like I did as a child, but I missed that PR by just over a minute and a half. Inexplicably, in designing this course, I forgot all about including a beer garden at the finish line. Unforgiveable....

Vince with Stay at Home 5k Results

 

  May 16, 2015:  The roar of the Harley and the race was underway!  This annual Stingray Run is a big deal for the Catholic School that hosts it; and the enthusiasm of those kids was like nothing I had ever experienced.  They pumped me up!  Despite having to dodge all kinds of obstacles (otherwise known as small children; who knew they would run in zigzag fashion?), I was passing people with every stride.  I even cut a few feet into the grass of some front yards to go around the slowpokes that were in my way.  Less than six months removed from being a pack a day smoker, I ran that mile in an official time of 8:08.  I was 16th out of 149 runners, and although I did not make it onto the podium that day, I was hooked on racing....

 

  Whether it was a matter of having limited free time, dealing with weather issues, or just plain laziness, 9 days of the STRS had runs that were from exactly 1 mile to 1.05 miles…

 

  A local charity was hosting a racing event to be held at Fort Hunt Park in early June 2015.  The offerings were a 5k race and something called a 1 mile “Family Fun Run.”  {Back in those days, I had no interest in running more than just a mile}.  Rather than a Harley, these races were led off by a bicycle. I was already left wanting….

 

  I was wanting to push the reset button on 2020 well before May 1 (the 4oth day of the STRS and its originally scheduled end date) and go back to January 1 for a “Do-Over.”  Maybe the revised version would have at least one decent snowstorm, and one less virus…

 

  June 6, 2015:  The gentle whir of bicycle spokes and the race was underwhelming, er, underway!  With maybe only 20 participants, it was easy to quickly work my way to the front and take the lead.  My only competition seemed to be two brothers about age 10 or so, as well as their father.  Those three stubbornly stayed on my heels well past the point where I was thinking that this was the longest darn mile there ever was. {I later measured the actual distance around the big loop at Fort Hunt Park and determined that it really is 1.21 miles} ….

 

  Day 36 of the STRS was an otherwise unremarkable 1.21-mile walk done for no other reason than to check that days’ box…

 

  Bogus!  No wonder I was starting to gasp for breath before the finish line was even in sight.  Fortunately, the family behind me must have been just as fooled by the added distance as I was; despite throttling down just a bit, I was able to pull away as I entered the home stretch. Although disappointed by the absence of a tape stretched across the finish line, I was nevertheless thrilled at outright winning just my second ever race.  When the trophy presentations included only the 5k participants, the sad realization set in that I hadn’t read the fine print on the registration form; race results are not part of a Family Fun Run.  Bogus....

 

  The biggest benefit of the STRS was that whether walking or running, it kept me moving every day.  I had invested a lot of time in gaining the conditioning necessary to run several miles at a time and it would be a shame to regress…

 

  Noticing that most officially timed races are at a 5k distance or longer, I had no choice but to start training for those longer events if I wanted to keep feeding my newfound racing addiction.  Armed with a couch to 5k program, I spent June and July of 2015 in training.  I even did a few of the sessions running barefoot on the sand at Virginia Beach.  {Um, this was not exactly Bo Derek out there} ….

 

  One of the Striders told me that there is quicksand in some areas of Kingstowne Park; quicksand is a lifelong phobia of mine.  I hiked in that park twice as part of the STRS:  Day 13 and Day 70….

 

  I learned the hard way that running barefoot on the sand can cause something called plantar fasciitis.  That set my training back about a week or so. 

 

  I don’t think that quicksand cares whether you are barefoot or not.  {I wonder if snowshoes would work in quicksand?} …

 

  {I wonder if Bo Derek ended up with plantar fasciitis?} ….

 

 Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the barriers blocking the entrances to the parking lots at all county parks disappeared.  That inspired me to park at South Run Rec Center and hike 4.16 miles around Lake Mercer on Day 62 of the STRS.  With the hiking boots forgotten at home, I wore an inadequate pair of shoes and ended up with yet another case of plantar fasciitis.  I have become quite adept at treating that condition by rolling out my feet with a tennis ball.  The STRS was not impacted….

 

  August 9, 2015:  My very first 5k was about to start.  This race wasn’t led off by a Harley, or even a bicycle; they found some scrub to run out ahead and lead us from a parking lot to the entrance to the trail we were going to run on at Prince William Forest Park.  {At that rate of regression, my next race was going to be led off by a toddler riding a tricycle} …

 

  I witnessed something special happen in my neighborhood during the STRS. A little girl of maybe five got a new bicycle with training wheels and didn’t seem to have any idea of the purpose of such a toy.  The first night she sat on it motionless while her mother pushed her up and down the sidewalk.  The next night, that little girl was zipping around all by herself; the look of pure joy all over her face made my day…

 

  This 5k course sucks!  Onto a trail and down a steep slope; then across a bridge constructed of rope and wooden planks that swayed from the motion of the other runners.  Slogging through some puddles, up and down hills we went until the turnaround point. Then running the course in reverse until that steep slope (something like a 70-foot climb in 1/10th of a mile) loomed just before the finish line.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it up that hill and had to stop to catch my breath and rest my screaming leg muscles.  Some guy who looked to be about my age went past me at a walking pace.  I did finally make it up the hill and to the finish line with an official time of 34:19. {it is the only 5k I have ever run that was not less than 30 minutes}.  This race only gave awards to the first-place runner in each age bracket.  When it came to my bracket, the man who had passed me at a walking pace right near the end of the race took home a trophy.  Empty handed, I learned one thing that day; never stop moving in a race, even if it means walking…

 

  Talk about steep slopes.  Day 64 of the STRS was Memorial Day and I met up with a small group of friends in Harpers Ferry for lunch and a hike.  The parking lots were barricaded and much of the trails were closed off due to the pandemic, but we did come across some turtles basking on a log.  Most noteworthy was the walk back to the car where the elevation gain was almost 400 feet in less than one mile…

 

The hike at Harper's Ferry

 

  On Labor Day Saturday 2015, I entered a mile race in the Mount Vernon area that promised to record official results.  It was a bit humid and there were hills on this course as opposed to the flat courses offered in my two previous one-mile runs.  I ran a very good race and finished 6th place out of 65 participants.  My official time was 6:47; which remains my personal best to this day.  {A nine-year-old girl smoked me by 20 seconds}. Most remarkable is that in less than four months, I had shaved 1:21 seconds from my official mile pace; even while running under less favorable conditions.  Oh, and I made it onto the podium that day as the first adult to cross the finish line.  Now I was really hooked on racing…

 

  Once hooked into something like the STRS, it becomes just another part of life; somedays come with more motivation than others.  At my lowest point, what kept me going was that it appeared that Bob Havey and I were the only two remaining participants.  I just couldn’t let our most senior member put the rest of us to shame…

 

  I ran in a total of four 5k races in the months of September and October 2015.  I didn’t make it onto the podium in any of them, but by the end of October I was running throughout the entirety of the race without the need to walk part of the course anymore.  That was a good thing because I had my sights set on a 5k to be held close to home on the first Saturday of November 2015.  I even met up with a group on Halloween morning 2015 for a preview run of the race to be held the next Saturday.  I was so into racing that now I was even scouting out the course beforehand…

 

  By Day 17 of the STRS, masks were becoming ever more prevalent everywhere I went.  In an effort to find out whether masks were comfortable to wear while exercising (turns out they are not), I figured I would wear one while taking a walk.  I also wanted to show some love to my favorite annual 5k, and my favorite running club…

 

Vince modelling a mask for his run on day17

 

 

  November 7, 2015:  What a great day for a race!  It was one of those days where the high temperature for the day was set at midnight, followed by a slight decline, and then a sharp drop off later in the day.  But, at race time, the temperature was in the low 60s.  Following some warm-up exercises conducted by one of the sponsors, the group made it over to the starting line.  The Fill the Shoes 5k was run as a two-loop course in 2015, which allowed me to lap several of the slower participants later in the race.  That only stoked my competitive instincts; and feeling that I had run a good race, I waited for all of the slowpokes to finish up so they could start handing out awards.  I was really feeling extra special when I won a gift certificate to Pure Barre as a door prize from one of our sponsors.  When it was finally time to announce the race results for my age bracket (it takes a while to get to that point), I was stunned to hear that the time of the third place winner was announced as almost one and a half minutes behind what I had timed myself as running.  Indeed, with the next breath, I heard my name announced as the second-place winner.  I was on the podium at a 5k race…

 

Vince on Podium at 2015 FTS

 

  Day 69 of the STRS and the Striders were finally able to meet as a group again.  Having been a member of the Striders since 2018, I had missed my friends, and I was tired of running alone…

 

Belle View Shopping Center first Striders run since start of shut down

 

  Before everything got cancelled in 2020, I had a regular schedule of 5k races that I joined every year.  From the G.W. Parkway classic in April (why is there always a headwind?), to the Stingray Run held in VA Beach every May where I ran a 28:38 5k (2nd Place) in 2016 and 28:12 5k (3rd Place) in 2019. I even made it onto the podium with 1st Place in 2019 at the Lane Elementary 5k. (Full disclosure:  I was the only entrant in my age bracket).  But my favorite 5k will always be the Fill the Shoes 5k that is affiliated with the Kingstowne Striders and is run from Hayfield Park.  That race has by far the most door prizes of any other race that I have run.  Best of all, I have gotten on the podium in 3 of the 5 years I have run it; earning 3rd Place the past two years, with the 2018 time of 26:17 being my personal record…

 

  Days 69 and 70 of the STRS were back to back runs with the Kingstowne Striders.  Saturday at Edison High School and Sunday at the Belleview Shopping Center (still no beer garden in sight)…

 

Selfies from Days 69 and 70 of STRS

 

  I didn’t think that I would have the patience to train for longer distance runs, much less run in one. But some of the Striders encouraged me to give the October 2018 Army 10 Miler a try.  “Coach” Amelia drew up a training schedule for me one day after a run from Panera Bread and I stuck to it as best I could.  My goal was to finish in less that 1 hour and 45 minutes, which I only missed by 14 seconds on what was a humid day for mid-October.  Thinking that a half marathon is but a 5k longer than the ten miles that I know I is already possible, I may try that distance someday…

 

  I closed out Day 80 of the STRS by aiming to cover a distance of 2.08 miles to match what I had averaged over the previous 79 days.  I challenged myself to start walking with no set course in mind other than to mentally compute the remaining distance on the fly and adjust the route as necessary.  The goal was to finish back at my starting point having travelled exactly 2.08 miles.  I was off by about 30 feet and had to finish that far apart from my starting point.  Close enough…

 

  Of all my accomplishments as a runner, this gem from last October 13 tops my list…

 

VInce's Results from the 2018 Army 10 Miler

 

I lost 5 pounds over 80 days while completing the Streak to Restore Sanity.

I gained a wonderful group of new friends over the past 2050 days by becoming a runner.