During the pandemic, my friend David started posting about “races” out in Oregon. David recently moved from Ithaca to just outside of Portland, Oregon. I started noticing races in his Strava entries. At the time I was rather stuck in my running. I’d just finished our family marathon that was originally supposed to be the Mountains to Beach marathon in California and I just wasn’t feeling the running thing.
Back to Fall 2020
At the start of the school year I was wrapping up a 200-day quarantine hike streak with my daughter. My foot was hurting a little, reminding me of my first and thankfully only stress fracture two years prior. That injury put me in a boot for 6 weeks. I was in no mood to repeat this so I went promptly to Sports Medicine to have it looked at. The doctor saw no evidence of a fracture, but asked me to lay off running for two weeks just to be safe. I could still hike and with the start of school being so busy, a running break made sense anyway. I dialed my running way back in the fall while focusing on cross training to keep my fitness up. I rowed. I biked. I hiked. I lifted. I did yoga. My mantra was quality over quantity.
Meanwhile, Scott spent his fall training for his own fast half marathon that he planned to complete on Christmas morning. We rarely diverge much in our fitness goals. It felt a little weird not having a bit of a shared goal.
Time for the FLRC Challenge
In late 2020 Scott shared that Adam Engst and the Finger Lakes Running Club had an idea for something called the Finger Lakes Runners Club Challenge. There would be a bunch of courses - some trail, some road, some short and some long - that we could run. You would sign up and there would be QR codes to scan when you started and ended each course. This sounded very similar to what David got to do in Oregon. Count me IN!
The FLRC Challenge gives so many options that are on local courses. Some are on courses I haven't run. It will give me a push to run some trail!
Quick Facts about the FLRC Challenge
- There are 10 courses.
- There are road and trail options.
- Some courses are short and some are long. (1 mile to 13 miles)
- You can take the courses at your own pace. Even walking is ok.
- You can complete each course as many times as you want.
- You scan in to start and end your run.
- There are turn by turn directions in Run Go for some of the courses.
- There are maps for each course. On the website if you select the course you can get driving directions right there!
- You can go for speed, distance, efforts (regardless of pace), or points. Points are fun to read about since there's a nice math component.
Why I LOVE the FLRC Challenge
There are so many reasons why this challenge has refreshed my running. After the pandemic year I just felt a little stuck and this challenge has given me renewed purpose for my running. Here are just a few things I enjoy.
- It is flexible.
- You can look at your stats over time. Stats motivate me.
- The challenge helps me set goals.
- I can see my fellow athletes in the results and also in Strava.
- It has helped make in-person and virtual connections with local runners.
- There is a team component even if you don't actually run together as a team.
- I can run just for fun or for a fast time.
- It pushes me to try out new courses. Once I run them, it gives me motivation to improve on them.
Scott and I started the FLRC Challenge in spring with an every-other-week goal. We’d do the Black Diamond Trail course (10 miles) alternately with the Pseudo Skunk course (13 miles). This routine quickly became something we really looked forward to. We felt almost as excited when we finished a challenge course as we did after finishing a traditional race. This routine helped me ease back into loving running after my struggle with injury in the fall.
We got a slow start to summer running because Scott had hernia surgery. I wanted to wait until he recovered before I started to hit the other trails. Soon, we were a month post-surgery and it was time to ramp things up!
I Run for Credit
This idea of running mini races with yourself and seeing the leaderboard compared to others after you run is surprisingly motivating for me. It stops me from slogging through runs, quitting early and most importantly, it mixes things up!
I do find I’m willing to run “for credit” more often than not and I drag my more willing friends into Ithaca to do a challenge course as much as I can when pre-challenge I would usually just pop out my door to run.
I recently finished all 10 courses. The day after I finished one of my good friends that I run with asked me if I had finished. She smiled when I said "yes" only to frown when I replied, "but I'm still going to keep doing the courses to get faster on them."
The best part of this for me is that 5 of the courses are trail courses (one of those is really essentially road but it is a trail surface). I’m historically stressed and nervous on trail so this challenge provides a growth opportunity that I wouldn’t have sought out on my own this summer. Since we started doing the more challenging trail courses just last month I’ve been reminded of all the great benefits of trail running. Here they are as I see them.
- Trail takes your mind off the challenge of running.
- You have to focus on the trail. I don’t get quite as stuck in my head.
- Navigation opportunities - I get lost A LOT on trail so I need this!
- MUD! I feel accomplished when I emerge from the trail covered in mud.
- It is a great muscle stabilizer workout.
- It is fun to navigate roots and not fall.
- It makes the road runs feel easier. I am solidly in my “learning zone” on the trail.
Here is the link to my FLRC Challenge athlete page. I can keep up with how I'm doing and check how many times I've run a course.