RunnerCacher: A History

Back in 2007, my husband bought a Garmin eTrex handheld GPS for our then eight-year-old on his birthday. About once a month for the next year or two, we would look on Geocaching.com on a Saturday for some nearby caches to hunt for, print out the pages, enter the coordinates into the Garmin, and head out for a little adventure. Before long, my kids lost interest, and a little while later, my husband did too. I, however, was obsessed. Finally in 2010 I opened up my own account on Geocaching.com and called myself “Mom4AllSeasons.” Over the next three years, I found a total of 32 caches. (OK, maybe I wasn’t as obsessed as I thought.)

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Meanwhile, my sons were busy with school, I was working part time, and spending a lot of my free time reading and blogging–good things, to be sure, but I wasn’t getting much exercise. When it was time for the boys to test for their black belt in Tae Kwon Do, their instructor suggested that they participate in a 5K, preferably one that would benefit the community. I signed them all up for the 2012 JP5K, at John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries. It’s an annual 5K held the Saturday before Thanksgiving to benefit their special education program. Well, if they were going to run a 5K, darn it, so was I! I got a training app for my phone called Ease Into 5K, and started by running in 30-45 second intervals with about a minute of walking in between. The program is designed to increase your running intervals and decrease the amount of time walking, and after eight weeks you’re running nonstop for 30 minutes. The race was less than eight weeks away, and I knew I wouldn’t yet be at that point, but I persevered and stuck to the program. Well, the boys ended up not running the 5K (long story), but that darn well wasn’t going to stop me!

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I was so nervous! I thought, I’m going to stand out like a sore thumb out there, I’ll be the only one walking, I’ll be the last one to finish and everyone will judge me, etc. etc. When the race started I realized that everyone there was just out to have a great time and support a good cause, and nobody cared who was fast, who was slow, who walked, or who ran the whole race. I ran as much as I could, and took walk breaks when I needed them. Of course I wasn’t the only one who walked! It took me 45 minutes to finish, and there were so many people cheering for me! I could really get into this.
I kept going with my running, and before long I was running 30 minutes at a stretch. Then Christmas came, life happened, and my running came to a halt.

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(For one thing, the boys gained a cousin…who has a younger brother now.)

The following summer I tried again, and this time, I wasn’t going to quit. I signed up for a 5K in September, ran the whole thing, and finished in 37 minutes. I did a 10K in October with the help of another app, Bridge to 10K. I finished in 1:08:15. (Looking back, I realize that wasn’t half bad for a 45-year-old woman who’d been a runner for less than two months. I was even in the top half of my age group, if you can believe that.)

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I was hooked. I ran the Blue Talon Bistro Turkey Trot in Williamsburg in November, the Blue and Gray 5K in December, and decided to sign up for the Frostbite 15K in Richmond in January. That distance scared me a little bit, but I knew I could pull it off. I found a training plan on Hal Higdon’s website, stuck to it, and ran the race. I was spent at the end (partly because I hadn’t learned about proper fueling–now I know I need to have a Gu or something if I’m going to run more than 7 or 8 miles), I was one of the last ones to finish, but it was a beautiful course and I LOVED it.

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Meanwhile I started working with a trainer. Katie helped me strengthen the other muscles in my body to help me become a stronger runner. She also wrote some training plans for me, with the right balance of speedwork, hill training, and tempo runs to help me run faster. When she landed a new job and moved to Colorado I started working with Sarah. She rocks. And now that I’ve run a marathon (see my recap of the 2015 Richmond Marathon here), Sarah predicts that soon I’ll be running ultras. We’ll see!

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Around the same time I decided to become a runner, I also got back into geocaching. By the end of 2013 I had found 165 caches, including the 32 I had found during the previous three years. In 2014 I found 200, and as of this writing I’ve found 113 in 2015. Pretty lame numbers, I’ll admit–the die-hard geocachers can find as many caches in a week as I do in a year. Since I’m the only person in my family who likes geocaching, and no one else runs, I’ve found myself looking for creative ways to combine the two. If there is a geocache along a route I’m running, I might stop my run long enough to look for it, especially if I’m visiting a new place. If I’m doing a race some distance from where I live, I often try and look for a few caches on the way to or from the event–or those rare times when I’ve done a race large enough to have an expo the day before, I might try to find some nearby when I go for packet pickup. (Here’s something: Want to know my personal record for the most caches I’ve found in one day? If you’re a dedicated geocacher you’ll laugh. Six. In Fairborn, Ohio, the morning before the 2014 Air Force Half Marathon. I arrived early for the expo and spent an hour or so geocaching on foot. There are many more caches to be found in that area, and if I ever go back there to run the full marathon, I’ll hopefully find some more.)

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(Found this cache while out running in Marietta, GA on Thanksgiving Day, 2015.)

Just before Thanksgiving 2015, I changed my geocaching name from Mom4AllSeasons to Runnercacher. I don’t always geocache when I run, and I’m not always running when I’m geocaching, but I do enjoy both. I hope you’ll like this little blog about two of the things that make me happy!

(And if you want to read about the other things that make me happy–namely food, family, and faith–check out my other blog, Eat Pray Work Love.)

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