Saturday, January 30, 2016

Seaside and the 50K that wasn't

While Jim and I really enjoy the woods, we are never opposed to spending time at the beach during an Ohio winter. If I could live in Florida in January and February, and Ohio the rest of the year, I would. Months ago we had signed up for the Clearwater Distance Classic 50K in Clearwater, Florida, in January. We spent time in Florida in 2015 on Jim's birthday, and it was so much fun we decided to do something similar this year.

When it was time to head south, I was more than ready. I also had big, big plans for a very short trip.

The first of my big plans consisted of getting a tour from Dr. Charles Levy, Chief of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System. Sounds important, right? Well, he is a pretty big deal. He is also extremely nice. I was more excited than I can possibly explain to get a tour of the virtual reality system he is developing to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This topic also happens to be the focus of my PhD dissertation so I was beyond excited! Our plans also consisted of hanging out with Mary, my long time bestie from West Point days of yore. There aren't many awesome people you get to call a friend for 20 years, and we find adventure wherever we go.  Another of our big plans was to visit Jim's Aunt Sally and Uncle Paul in Orlando. While we had seen them a few years ago at a Clouse reunion, Jim had not been to Orlando to visit them in over 20 years. Jim even added in a lunch with Bill Rodgers! Somewhere in there we planned to run a 50K as well. Not bad for a 4 day trip, eh?

I've found that one of the best things in life is spending time around good people and discussing interesting topics with those folks who also share your interests. It really is exhilarating, and I had plenty of time to do that this trip. From talking about life, the universe and everything with Jim and Mary to virtual environments with Dr. Levy, Shiva, and David and then to talking about running with Bill Rodgers and then onto General Longstreet, the founding fathers, and Jesus with Paul and Sally, it was one of the best weekends ever.  The beach was an added bonus.
Jim found a new friend!
Mary and I hanging with the turtle.

On the beach!

We had some GREAT food here!
Lunch with Bill Rodgers
The 50K did not exactly turn out as planned. It was delayed an hour due to a large line of storms, but we were happy to get an extra hour of sleep.  Unfortunately when we arrived at the start, we heard rumors that the marathon and ultra were downgraded due to the threat of bad weather. Since we never heard anything official, we did not really know until the half marathon turn around point. The rumors were true, and we were routed back to the Start / Finish area. Less than 100 miles away, 2 souls had lost their lives due to a tornado. The winds were crazy and kept changing direction while we ran. They went something like this:

8:18am 22mph, gusts 26 mph
8:30am 31 mph, gusts 36mph
8:48am 33 mph, gusts 40mph
9:00am 33mph, gusts 38 mph
9:36am 36mph, gusts 43mph

The conditions were rough, and it would have been an extremely difficult 50K.
Flying in the Storm
Holding my hat since it wouldn't stay on my head
Since our race was cut short, we were able to have brunch at Lenny's with Mary and two of her friends from the area. I also got a chance to try duck bacon for the first time ever. It was delish! After a great brunch, Jim and I headed to Orlando to see Paul and Sally.

We had a great dinner and great time catching up with them. Jim's family has some of the nicest people you will ever meet. These two are sharp cookies, and they took great care of us on our last night in Florida. Wish we could have stayed longer!

While our race didn't turn out as planned, the rest of the trip was amazing. Times like these help me to realize how great my life is and how many wonderful people you can find in the world.  I can't wait until Jim's next birthday!

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