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Inspiration: Meet Melissa Tomcho

By | February 26, 2014 8:42 am | 0 Comments

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I met Melissa Tomcho, 46, as we bellied up the race results sheets posted on the side of Gannon University’s Carneval Athletic Pavilion after the Pump-Kin Run in October.

I think she told me I had a nice race and that she had kept me in her sights and paced off me. We struck up a conversation and she told me that she had just set a P.R. of 25:35, but even more impressive, she’d taken the pre-race pump challenge and bench pressed her way into 2nd place among 15 women who did the weight lifting portion of the race!

Melissa is the principal at Union City Middle/High School, where she works out with her “coach,” the school’s physical education teacher, Michael Krause, and other coworkers and colleagues in the early morning hours on most weekday mornings.

I thought some of you might find Melissa’s story inspiring, so I did a little Q&A with her:

Family: Husband, Anthony Tomcho; children, Megan Preston age: 23, Molly Preston, age 21, and Hayden Tomcho age 7

Residence: Corry

Profession:  Principal at Union City Middle/High School

You mentioned that you were once overweight. What motivated you to get fit?  It stemmed from health issues in my family and, also, after we adopted Hayden, I quickly realized I needed to be able to keep up with him!

How did you lose 60 lbs? Losing weight (and keeping it off) is a daily battle. It was a long process. I did not follow a particular diet or exercise routine, but rather just quality, quantity, and exercise. I watch what and how much I eat. I also try to engage in some physical activity at least five days a week. I just started running a little over a year ago.

Have you changed your diet, too? (How so?) I watch what and how much I eat. If I want something in particular I don’t deny myself, I just limit the amount. I know I will only set myself up for failure, if I try to deprive myself.

Did you ever think you’d be a runner, let alone a competitive one?  I never imagined I would be a runner! Coach Krause has tried for years to get me to run and I would never try until last year. At this time, I do not consider myself a competitive runner, but I enjoy the competitive nature of the races. I sign up for a race every few months, just as a goal to maintain my exercise routine.

What appeals to you about running? The sense of power and accomplishment I feel during and after I run.

How often and how far do you run weekly? I usually run five days a week.  It depends if I have a race on the weekends. Lately, I have only been averaging 18-20 miles per week. This winter has been really tough!

Do you have any specific running goals for 2014? Not really. Last year, I did the Liberty 10K on July 4th, so I may do another 10K.  When I hear about a race that sounds interesting to me, I sign up.

Your bench press was impressive! How often/how long do you weight train?  Coach Krause developed a weight lifting routine for me to use. I trained for the Gannon Pump-Kin-Run, so I lifted Monday through Friday. Currently, I complete a circuit routine using the different stations. Coach Krause creates different programs for me to follow.

Does it help with your running?  Weight training definitely helps with my running and weight maintenance. I think having a strong core.

How did/does Mike Krause, phys ed. teacher at U.C.H.S. help/inspire you to get fit? Coach Krause is a constant, positive force or perhaps he’s just a pain. (LOL)

How long have you known Mike? I have known Coach Krause for about 25 years, since I did my student teaching at Union City Middle/High School. I taught in the Social Studies Department.

Why do you think he takes his time (and goes to “work” at 5:30 a.m.) to help others? I believe Coach Krause wants everyone to benefit from living a healthier lifestyle. His firm personal philosophy is that a healthy body is a healthy mind.  He knows the advantages and wants others to have that opportunity.

What keeps you going (besides Mike)? How do you drag yourself to a workout on a cold day, etc? I know how much better I feel after exercising.  I have more energy throughout the day. It is a great stress reliever, my overall health has improved, and I can keep up with my 7-year-old until bedtime!

What advice do you have for other people who are just starting to exercise/run? Be a little selfish. You have to take time for yourself before you can do for others and set short term goals and reward yourself.

Read more about Mike Krause in Sunday’s edition of Her Times, in home delivered copies of the Erie Times-News.

A Q&A with two Dopey locals ;)

By | January 24, 2014 1:39 am | 0 Comments

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Two Erie runners, Mark Dombrowski and Jenny Turak, recently completed the Dopey Challenge — a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and a marathon in four consecutive days — in Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

I had to find out more:

1. What made you want to do the Dopey Challenge? What appealed to you?

MARK: In 2013, I completed my 4th “Goofy Challenge,” which is a 1/2 marathon on Saturday and a full Marathon on Sunday. I remember telling my wife “that’s it for the Goofy; not much more to prove at Disney.” Soon after I heard about the Dopey and signed up almost immediately. It was a new challenge. I’ll never be an ultra-marathoner. But string almost 50 miles together in 4 days and I’m in.

JENNY: Ever since I started running it had been my dream to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. I’m in love with both running and Disney, and 2014 was the year! I had requested my time off of work and saved up my money, and was planning on running the Goofy Challenge until I found out about the Dopey Challenge. I love running races and race every chance I get, so it immediately appealed to me. Thank goodness Mark told me it was 90% sold out after 2 days. I got in just in time!

2. What special things did you get for doing the Dopey Challenge? (discount on the package, special medal, etc.)?

MARK: Six race shirts and six medals. One shirt and medal for running each of the races; a shirt and medal for running the 1/2 and full (Goofy) and a shirt and medal for running all 6 (Dopey).

3. Have you run at Disney before? If  yes, what keeps you coming back.  If no, would you go again?

MARK: This was my fifth trip to Disney World Marathon Weekend. It’s a first class event. Considering the number of runners—10,000 each for the 5K and 10K and 25,000 each for the half and full—the races are incredibly well organized. The entertainment along the course is great, typical Disney. Running through the parks is hard, but awesome. Mainstreet USA in the dark, 6:30 in the morning, and the street is lined with cheering spectators and “Cast Members” (Disney employees). For the full marathon, runners get to run through all four theme parks plus Wide World of Sports and Disney’s NASCAR track. Once again I told my wife I’ve had my fill of Disney races, but who knows!

JENNY: I ran the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon in 2011. I had the time of my life, and at the time I wasn’t as into running as I am today. It was just incredible—from the fireworks at the start, to the characters, concerts and entertainment on the streets, to running through the parks and the cheering crowds, to the medals and Disney swag available to purchase. I’m a kid at heart and love just being in Disney. There is something so magical about it. Disney really knows how to do races right, and I plan on signing up for the Wine and Dine half marathon in November 2014 as soon as registration opens.

4.How do Disney races compare (or stand out) from other marathons?

MARK: All races have unique characteristics that make them appealing. I’d say Disney races are more social and casual. In 2013, my goal to to get as many character picture as possible along the course while still getting a respectable finish time (result in the marathon was 31 photos with a 4:11 finish). While that was fun for me, many others at Disney seem to have even more fun. I have a friend who stopped for a beer and did some shopping at Epcot before finishing the marathon. At Disney, there are also a lot of “highway miles” between the parks. Disney works to make them entertaining with characters and music, but it’s a lot different that running through downtowns and neighborhoods that you’d find in the majority of races (PA Grand Canyon excluded). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you’ll never see as many port-a-potties as you see at Disney in the runner’s village at the start and along the course.

JENNY: At Disney they say Every Mile is Magic, and it really is. Like I said previously, there are just so many aspects that make Disney races so special. The course entertainment goes above and beyond any other marathon I’ve been to, and it’s more like a party than a race. They even have fun DJs and music to pump you up, and they make you feel like a true champion when you finish. They give you a treat box, take your picture, cheer for you when you pick up your bag, and they have character pictures after and you can get your picture with your medal. The Dopey Challenge was the best experience of all my life! I’d recommend Disney races to anyone… Even if they are not an avid runner, because it is just an incredible amazing experience and the miles fly by. Especially since you run through the parks and it keeps it so exciting! The most magical part for me was running through Magic Kingdom at the marathon. The castle looked like something out of a dream, and all the lights on mainstreet were mesmerizing. Plus cheering crowds like you wouldn’t believe! I felt like a superstar and was dressed up like Cinderella and everyone was yelling “go Cinderella” such a rush!!

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5.  Which was the hardest race for you?

MARK: Usually it’s the marathon, particularly the second half. This year, it was definitely the half marathon. Orlando had a record high temperature on the day of this year’s half marathon—86 degrees.. Even though I finished around 7:30 a.m., the temperature as already 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity. It was tough. Thankfully the next day the temps for the marathon were in the low 50s and the humidity was gone.

JENNY: The hardest race for me was actually the 10k. It was soooo humid that morning and hot and my body was in shock after the negative windshields I was used to training at in Erie. The half marathon was the same way, but I was saving myself for the marathon so ran slow and got my picture with every character and just made it a fun experience.

6. Was there ever a point at which you thought….what have I done? I can’t do this!

MARK: Nope. There’s way too much going on around you to keep you occupied.

JENNY: I loved every mile and was smiling the whole time!

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7. What is it like to run four progressively longer races in four days? Did you conserve energy in the first couple?

MARK: I’d say I moderated my pace for all four. With the shorter races, I tried to stick with 9 minute miles. Normally, I’d be about 30 seconds a mile faster. For the1/2 marathon, I started with 9:15 & 9:30 miles, but I knew the heat was going to take a lot our of me so I slowed down considerably. The full marathon was a crap shoot this year. I felt good for the first 18 miles and kept decent sub 10-minute pace. I slowed down the last 6 to 8 miles because I needed to walk away without injury since my next marathon is Boston.

JENNY: I knew I would complete the challenge no matter what, but I conserved on the half marathon because the marathon is such a long way to run and I was exhausted already after the 10k with the early morning wake up calls (3a.m.!) and the humidity. I’m the worst heat and humidity runner! I think I ran the 5k too hard also, and my legs were sore. It’s hard to know how to pace yourself for so many miles. Luckily the marathon was perfect ideal weather and it was the best I felt of all four races! I was on such a high and it was the best experience of all my life, and I even got my picture with all the characters.

8. If you don’t mind, would you provide times for each of your races?

MARK: 27:13 in the 5K; 55:38 in the 10K; 2:07 in the half marathon; 4:24 in the full marathon

JENNY: I did Disney solely for fun. I dressed up as a different princess every day and felt like I was back in my childhood. I started off trying to run the 5k for time, but it was so crowded and got stuck behind walkers from start so decided just to get pictures with characters and have fun with it. Lines for pictures at half marathon were insane! I was in corral F so people were running way slower than my half marathon pace… I usually run around a 1:45 half and they were running 9:45 pace. Again, got frustrated from start, so I decided to conserve energy and waited 5-10 min for each picture. The pathways were so skinny so it got pretty frustrating after stopping and getting stuck behind walkers. I learned a lot for next year, and will definitely do some things different because I’m pretty competitive and was not happy with my times. But anyways here are my times: 24:45 in the 5K; 56:23 in the 10K;  3:04.30 in the half; 4:17.37 in the full marathon.

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9.Parting thoughts?

MARK: Anyone planning to run a Disney race should consider it a chance to have some fun. Stop and take pictures with characters. Enjoy the parks. The second time I did the Goofy Challenge, I had a sub two-hour half and a sub four-hour full marathon. So, with the rest of them, I had little to prove. I still wanted to have respectable finish times but I also wanted to have a “magical” experience. Disney does it right.

JENNY: Disney is really such a wonderful experience! For how many runners are  involved, it is really well organized and it is so convenient staying at a Disney resort because they have buses to take you to start and back to the resort after you finish. I had the time of my life and am already planning on for sure running the Dopey again next year, and, like I said earlier, the Wine and Dine in November. I can’t get enough of Disney . Lived up the whole experience and went to 3 parks while I was there as well and just had such a blast! They also have the best running expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports — walking in there felt like Christmas morning. I didn’t want to come home and can’t wait to go back again!

Erie runners are Dopey

By | January 14, 2014 8:01 pm | 0 Comments

It would be…um…dopey to do four races in four days — 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon & marathon– but at least two local runners took the challenge and completed all four events at Walt Disney World last weekend.

Congrats to Mark Dombrowski and Jenny Turak who you can now officially call Dopey.

I’m planning a Q&A with both of them in a future blog post.  For now you just get photos, blatantly ripped off from their Facebook pages:

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Mark Dombrowski, who clearly had nothing on Jenny when it came to outfits (You need to step up your wardrobe game, Mark! LOL).

 

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Guest post: Getting to know Barb Filutze

By | December 11, 2013 1:50 am | 0 Comments

By Larry Kisielewski

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Loretta Lynn is the queen of country music, Aretha Franklin is the queen of soul, and Paul Dean is the queen of Southern cooking. Mention the “Queen of Erie running” and only one name comes to mind. She has been in the forefront of local running for three decades and represented us in the first women’s Olympic marathon trials. But she is much more than a blur in nylon and Nikes. I would like you to meet Barb Filutze.

Barbara was the firstborn of five children of Erie lithographer George Heintzel and his wife Betty. She was a cheerleader for St. John’s grade school when she first met Mike Filutze, a basketball star for St. Luke’s. Their mutual attraction blossomed through high school, she at Villa, he a three-sport star at Prep. After graduation, they married at 20 and Mike started working at GE while Barb became a secretary. Three years later, the kids came—daughter Lisa first, then son Geoffrey, and a second daughter Erin.

About six years later, at age 29, Mike quit smoking and started running. With his extensive athletic background, he excelled at it, making it look so easy and fun that Barb, four years later, decided to take up the sport herself. Instead of going on short jogs and working up to distance, she picked a road race in New York state for her first run. She was so nervous that she smoked a cigarette to calm her nerves while walking to the start line. She finished the 1.5 mile course (barely) and a spark was ignited.

How would you react if you woke up one morning with superpowers you didn’t know you possessed? This wasn’t exactly the case for Barb—there were lots of miles and interval training and sweat involved in the process, but Barb tapped into an unlimited potential she never knew she had. Within a year, she won her first award—first place overall in the prestigious Bonnie Bell race. From then on, in part due to coaching from Doug Watts and Bill Hoffman, she pretty much dominated the women’s running scene through the late 70s through the early 90s.

Although she clocked 16:17 5Ks and 35:20 10Ks when she was into her 40s, the pinnacle of her career was being one of 40 U.S. runners invited to Olympia, Washington in 1984 for the first women’s Olympic marathon trials. Her 2:40 marathon didn’t qualify her for the team, but at age 38, she was now on the radar of big-time sponsors. She had financial backing for her racing in the 80s, averaging 25 races a year. She was paid appearance fees and her hotel and transportation costs were covered by sponsors.

Barb was the U.S women’s masters runner of the decade for the 40-50 year age group, coached the American women’s team in China (twice), earned a trip to Ireland for winning the ST. Pat’s race in Reading, PA., and ran races in Korea, Mexico, and Europe, with Germany a frequent stop.

Although she came in fourth in the trials for the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, she made the team when one of the top three finishers was injured. During the race, the other U.S. runners dropped out, leaving Barb as the sole U.S. finisher.

Barb has also seen the seamier side of top-tier competition, once in a race when Amazon Laurie Binder gave her a rough elbow to the ribs in a secluded section of the course, and another time when Gabriel Anderson purposely poured water on her shoes at a water stop.

Through it all, Barb has kept her sense of where she came from. She has served on the ERC Board of Directors as secretary, and for ten years headed a 10-week training program preparing newbies to run in the Hamot 10K/Mayor’s Cup race. She has also been the cross-country and track coach for Mercyhurst High School. She is also a member of the PA Hall of Fame (Erie Branch), inducted along with Freddie Biletnikoff.

She and Mike maintained a second home in Las Vegas for 10 years, primarily to be close to two of their eight grandchildren, which cut into her schedule as a real estate agent. Lately, she has cut out the speedwork and gradually reduced her weekly mileage from 80 to 90 to a more relaxed 40 miles, but still maintains her slim 102-pound frame.

She has been a shining star in Erie athletics, a dedicated wife and mother (now grandmother), a friend and a mentor. Now you know the Queen of Erie runners, Barb Filutze.

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Barb (seated in pink shirt…with the big AWARD!) at the Women’s Half Marathon in Niagara Falls in June of 2012

Barbara Bits:

Pets: Merlin, a 6-year-old Nova Scotia Tolling Dutch Retriever

Music: Oldies

TV: Dr. Phil

Motto: Never give up

Admires: Mercyhurst professor and fellow runner Laura Lewis

You’d be surprised to know: She and Mike are devoted Erie Philharmonic supporters

Charities: St. John’s/St. Luke’s

Most famous people met: Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter

Sports team: Steelers

Hobby: Avid knitter

Cool car: ’74 Audi convertible with vanity plates

Musical instrument: Plays violin

You’d be surprised to know – part 2: She was a Girl Scout all the way through high school

Tattoo: Winged Nike foot (one year old)

Greatest accomplishment: “I’ve always tried to be a good friend.”

 

This originally appeared in the Erie Runners Club’s December 2013 newsletter.

 

50 by 70 — Grammy did it (and raised nearly $40K in the process!)

By | November 29, 2013 1:42 am | 0 Comments

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Remember Bev DiCarlo? She’s the Harborcreek grandma I wrote about in Lake Erie Lifestyle who, after a harrowing and temporarily-paralyzing fall at her home, decided to do a half-marathon in all 50 states by her 70th birthday to raise money for the Gertrude Barber Center.

Well, she did it, completing her last half at the Des Moines Marathon on October 20!

Your goal was to do a half marathon in all 50 states before you turned 70 and you did it, right?

Yes.  My original goal was to have all 50 states finished in 5 years (by my 70th birthday) averaging about a race a month.  However, I found it was very doable to do several races a month, and many back-to-back races(one state on Saturday and a neighboring state on Sunday).  This cut the travel time and helped keep expenses down.

What & when was your final race?

My very last race was the Des Moines Marathon on October 20, 2013 in Iowa.   When I returned to the hotel after the race, I threw my running shoes and compression socks in the trash can.  My running days are over!

What were your top three races?

I really enjoyed every race; each one has special memories.  I met so many runners and friendly people along the way.   If I have to choose, I would pick these:

Rock n Roll series of races:  These races are always in great locations, big cities, smooth relatively flat courses, bands every mile or so along the way, impressive finisher’s medals and are easy to travel to.  I completed RnR races in Washington DC, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Illinois.  Various family members joined me so we always had a great time.

Zombie Run, Anchorage Alaska:  My 12-year old grandson, Noah Dever, completed his first half-marathon with me.  We spent five days traveling around Alaska–great time.

Disney series:   The Donald Duck in Orlando Florida, and the Mickey Mouse in Anaheim, California.  When you run both races in the same year, you complete the Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge.  The finisher’s medals are big, beautiful and flashy.  Bling is nice!!!   My son, David, completed the Goofy Challenge:  5k on Friday, 1/2 marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday–all on the same weekend.

Name one you didn’t really enjoy:

The Bear Lake Back-to-Back Marathon and Half sounded so good, that I couldn’t pass it up.

I raced around the Idaho half of Bear Lake on a Friday morning and the Utah half of Bear Lake the following day.  However, there was road construction in Idaho and the road crew moved a race route direction arrow so those of us who were not familiar with the race route ran an extra eight miles!!!!!

Which are your worse miles in a 1/2 and how do you get through them?

I really believe you don’t “hit the wall” in a half-marathon as you may experience in a full-marathon.   I dedicated my miles to my family members and would think about them, in turn, as I completed the miles.  For example, Start to mile 1 is Justin, next mile is Hayley, up to mile 3 is Abby, next mile is Logan, up to mile 5 is Noah, next mile is Rob, up to mile 7 is Karen, next mile is Mikaele, up to mile 9 is Erin,  next mile is David (son), up to mille 11 is David (husband), next mile is for extended family and from mile 12 to the Finish Line is always for Aidan (grandson with autism).

How long, on average, does a 1/2 marathon take you to complete?

I run for 3 minutes, walk for 30 seconds and repeat the sequence throughout the race.  I use a Garmin watch that keeps track of my pace, measures the miles and vibrates when it’s time to change my gates.  I run at a comfortable pace and maintain 12 minute miles; this usually lets me place in my age category and keeps me from finishing last.

Are you glad it’s over…or are you sad it’s over? 

I’m glad its done!  After I completed 40 states, I just wanted to finish the challenge so I could move on to other projects.   However, the races, themselves, were fun and the people I met along the way were great.  I now have friends all over the United States.   And, of course, I got to brag about Erie everywhere.  Several new out-of-town friends completed the Presque Isle Marathon because they heard about it from me.

And Erie is known . . . while Noah and I were enjoying refreshments after the Anchorage race, a fellow runner asked where we came from.  When Noah told him Erie, Pa., another runner walked over and said, “Romolo Chocolates!”  Her favorite is Romolo sponge candy so Dave and I mailed some to her.

You did all this to raise money for the Barber Institute, which has helped your grandson, Aidan, and his entire family deal with autism. How much did you raise?

As of today, $39,650 has been received by the Barber Foundation.  However, I have received emails and notes from other autism support groups all over the United States thanking me for mentioning autism.  If my son or I were featured in a news release, radio or TV spot, many readers/listeners contributed to their local autism group.  We know about $50,000 was raised from our efforts but unless I was contacted by the agency or group, I couldn’t  track it.   We are just happy people were motivated to contribute to the cause!

You didn’t spend any donations on your race expenses, right?

Yes; contributions were sent directly to the Barber Foundation or the local autism agencies.  We never collected any monies directly.   I flew 79,869 miles; drove an additional 35,773 miles and stayed 170 nights in hotels.  The only figure I did not calculate was the total cost of this endeavor—my husband, Dave, doesn’t want to know!

Can people still donate?

Yes; the best way is to send a check, payable to The Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation, to The Advancement Office, 100 Barber Place, Erie, PA 16507-1863.  Be sure to write “Race With Grammy” in the memo section.

Favorite running shoes?

I wore out 13 pairs of running shoes over the 3 years and 10 months, including the 668.1 race miles (1,336,200 steps) and the 4,850 training miles.  I prefer Brook shoes. Proper fit is vital.  I recommend getting shoes at a specialty store (such as Achilles Running Shop) because they make sure the shoes fit your feet and your running style.

Are you still vegan? How did that work with training? 

I now follow a moderate diet that includes all the major food groups.  I avoid all processed and prepared foods.  I prefer to eat at home so I know what and how the food is prepared.

What’s next? Any big plans on the horizon?

I am already preparing for my next adventure but cannot release the details at this time.  Needless to say, it will still be helping children and adults with autism and special needs.

What advice do you have for other trying to do the 50-state thing?

Visiting each state was awesome; our country is beautiful!   Just make up your mind to complete the challenge, put together a time frame, and schedule the races.   I found that races listed on www.marathonguide.com were usually well-organized.  Other sites I found helpful were www.runningintheusa.com which has a “50 Stater” link (lists back-to-back races) and www.halffanatics.com which lists smaller races.   Go for it!

By the numbers:

Here are some fun stats from Grammy’s adventure:

13 pairs of running shoes worn out

51 races (50 states, plus Washington D.C.)

170 nights spent in a hotel

668 total miles

1,336,200 steps

4,850 miles of training over three years & 10 months

35,773 miles traveled by car to races

79,869 miles traveled by air to races

$39,650 (so far) raised for the Dr. Getrude A. Barber Foundation

 

Guest Post: Getting to Know Pamela McCormick

By | October 16, 2013 1:44 am | 0 Comments

By Larry Kisielewski

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What are your criteria for best athlete? Is it whoever is the  strongest? The fastest 5K time? 10K time? Marathon? The most enduring ultra runner? Maybe the best swimmer or the cross-fit champ?

A multi-sport athlete would probably come to mind – a duathlete or a triathlete. In the Erie area, we can probably take it one step further and consider the Quad champion, with its four-event format. No matter what your top athlete criteria, your short list would have to include our October GTKY subject, Pamela McCormick.

Pamela (not Pam, please) has an impressive champion’s resume too long to list here. Some highlights would include wins at the ’09 Cleveland Tri, the 2012 Buffalo Tri, the Geneva Tri, the Meadville Dam Tri, five times at the Presque isle Tri, and six times at the Edinboro Tri. She came in second at the Pittsburgh Tri, and was edged out of last year’s PI Tri by four seconds before coming back this year to re-claim her crown. As far as the aforementioned Quad, she has won five overall titles, and her most recent win of the run leg puts her on track for her sixth consecutive title. Whew!

Her first taste of the Quad was at age 12 when she participated with her mom, Denise. Pamela was a standout swimmer all through grade school and at McDowell High School, which she chose so she could swim for Coach Dave Schultz. She was the only female swimmer on the boys’ water polo team. Evidently the Academy boys had a problem with that, when they broke her jaw in a match. The resulting injury was so painful, with far-reaching complications, so much so that Pamela never competed again in high school, in college, and on into adulthood.

Matthew McCormick was a star athlete at St. Peter’s Grade School when Pamela Robinson first met him. They graduated and went on to different high schools and that was that. Pamela met Matt again while on break from Villanova, where she majored in education. Matt had athletic issues of his own, tearing his ACL while attending Canisius College. That curtailed his basketball and football aspirations, but he was still a gym rat when they crossed paths at Nautilus. The spark was reignited and they have been married for 16 years now, having been blessed with seven children: Andrea (14), Mary Therese (13), Matthew (10), Helen Ann (8), Katherine (6), Grace (5), and John (2-1/2).

Pamela taught middle school for several years until the kids started rolling in, then devoted her full energy to being a stay-at-home mom, and the myriad activities that includes. Pain from the water-polo injury plagued her all this time, as five surgeries over the years failed to help. Finally, in 2001, the sixth surgery was a winner, and she was pain-free. Hallelujah!

It wasn’t until 2005 that Pamela re-dipped her toes in the competitive pool, and subsequent successes have resulted in full immersion. As a multi-sport rookie at age 35, she credits Nancy Herbst with teaching her to cross-country ski and Pete McMaster from Competitive Gear with imparting bicycling tips. She is obviously a quick learner, so much so that she is now a personal trainer for other mothers wanting to get into the multi-sport lifestyle.

So she is the wife of an active husband and the mother of seven active children. Besides everyday household chores, the kids are into soccer, basketball, golf, swimming, and the kids’ Quad (plus piano lessons for four of them!). Pamela is a past athletic director at St. Peter’s, a board director at Covenant pre-school, the race director for the Kids’ Duathlon, and a volunteer with EYSA soccer. She manages to shoehorn in her own workouts by rising at 4:15 a.m. for her two-and-a-half hour sessions, four hard days interspersed with Nautilus training. During the winter, skiing the Peak with a headlamp is standard procedure.

Sundays are church days, no workout.

Dedicated wife & mother – definitely.

Best Erie-area athlete – possibly.

Class act – no doubt.

Now you know Pamela McCormick.

Pamela Facts
Hobby – flower gardening
Music – Classic rock (Led Zeppelin)
Books – Historic fiction
TV – Chopped (cooking show),
Website – Tri-Slow Twitch
Dream vacation – snorkeling in the Caymans
Charities – St. Peter’s, St. Jude’s
Sports teams – Notre Dame, Celtics, Steelers
Most famous people met – Ronald Reagan, Ted & Joan Kennedy
Most admired – her mom, Nancy Herbst, Phil Friedman
You’d be surprised to know – she relaxes by bass fishing!

Getting To Know You is reprinted from the October 2013 Erie Runners Club newsletter.

 

Guest Post: Getting to know Joe Dobrich

By | September 18, 2013 1:30 am | 0 Comments

Guest Post

By Larry Kisielewski

Drive: v. to urge forward. N., a trip in a vehicle. N2, an impulse or urge…

There are at least 25 definitions of “drive” in the dictionary. Look them up. The “picture” you will get is of our September GTKY subject, Joe Dobrich.

Joe epitomizes drive. His dad, Joe S., was a Pittsburgh steelworker, and there was never a  lot while Joe was growing up. As he puts it now, “When the rent was due, it was time to move,” His mom, Gloria, however, made sure that they never lacked for anything. Though she died at the too-young age of 48, she is still Joe’s most admired person.

But they did move quite often. Joe was born in New Eagle, PA., outside of Pittsburgh, and 11 schools and several moves later, the Dobrich family came to Erie when Joe was 12. He went to Gridley Middle School, then on to Tech, where he played water polo and took the AC/Heating and auto repair programs. Upon graduation, he was hired at GE, where he took Machine Operator training in their apprentice program, and settled in as a happy GE worker. (This is where the drive part comes in).

While working at GE, Joe married his first wife, Theresa, and had three children with her: Joe (33), Deanna (28), and Mike (30). He was also in the National Guard for six years, topping out as a nuclear, chemical and biological warfare specialist NCO. HE spent his 21st birthday in boot camp and is proficient with the M-15 rifle and 50-caliber machine gun. All through this time, Joe knew he wasn’t meant to work for someone else. While working the dayshift at GE in 1980, he started his own electrical business on the side. He began small at first, working out of the back of his ’66 Dodge sedan, installing phone jacks out of one kit-box and ceiling fans from another. By 1990, he was big enough to quit GE and devote himself to the business full time.

Besides “drive,” another word that describes Joe is “success.” His business has grown from the beat-up Dodge to a fleet of 10 vans, a bucket truck, and an employee base of 11, including two secretaries. He has branched out from strictly electrical work to general contracting, where he can take on any construction project, working out of his warehouse at 17th and Chestnut streets.

While running his business, Joe has generously taken up the general contracting duties for the pavilion the ERC is building for Presque Isle State Park at Beach #1. This is no small task, and Joe has been working hard at it, soliciting and coordinating contractors on a project originally estimated at nearly $170,000 and bringing it down to under $100,000! Joe has donated electrical supplies and labor, and also brought in similar donations and help from Spaeder Plumbing, Craig Nass Gutters, Emergy Yaeger Engineering, Faher Excavating, and others. It’s truly a Herculean effort, and it is due to be completed in time for the Turkey Trot in November!

Joe isn’t much of a self-promoter, and he’s a pretty big guy, so it was all I could do to get him in a headlock and force him to tell me some of his other community projects, such as wiring the first wind turbine at Presque Isle’s Stull Center, and working on the Korean and Vietnam memorials at the Erie Veteran’s Park, in honor of his Korean War-vet father.

So I guess now you know Joe Dobrich.

Well, wait a minute, maybe there’s a little more. You see, Joe is now happily married to wife Lisa, a self-made woman with her own career as a nurse practitioner. Lisa and Joe tragically lost a daughter, Gloria, at birth, but have been blessed with three more daughters: Gianna, 10, Micalla, 8, and Silvanna, 6. Twenty years separate Joe’s first three kids from the second set, and the energy level is phenomenal. The girls are involved in sports, dance, and the Kids’ Quad. (This interview was partially conducted in a giant living room transformed into a Barnum & Bailey snow globe of pirouetting acrobats!)

Joe has settled down a bit (not really), traiding in his 900-cc Kawasaki for five racing and touring bicycles. The ’66 Dodge is gone, replaced by an ’82 Datsun 29OZ, a classic ’66 Chevelle, a 28-foot SeaRay, and assorted family vehicles. He is a 3rd degree Knight at St. Jude’s parish, and served on the boards of the Arthritis Foundation, the YMCA, and the Montessori School. He is a past sponsor and director of the Erie Marathon, past sponsor of the Presque Isle Duathlon and Poker runs, and he sponsors three soccer teams.

His own athletic career was re-energized in the early 80s with the Corporate Fitness races, and he has participated in five (soon to be six) cross-state bike tours as well as several NY-state tours. He has run an impressive sub-39-minute 10K, a hilly sub-6-hour 35-mile ultra, a 35-miler in South Africa, and more than 30 marathons, including a 3:21 in Las Vegas. And Joe is one of less than 60 runners worldwide to have completed a marathon on all seven continents!

Loving husband, dedicated father, successful businessman, generous philanthropist, athletic world-wide traveler – now you know the Viceroy of Voltage, the epitome of “drive,” Joe Dobrich.

joe d.

Joe Facts

Hobbies: Collecting coins, antiques, stamps, world-wide souvenirs

Music: Country & Western, reggae, jazz

TV:  “Dance Moms” (Joe’s girls are dancers, remember!)

Motto: Livin’ a dream, and today you’r in it.

Charities: Team in Training (Leukemia), St. Jude’s, Arthritis Foundation.

Pets: Two tuxedo cats (mom & daughter) abandoned at one of his job sites.

Most Famous People met: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, John Edwards

Tattoo: Black panther (arm; military)

Sports team: Steelers (the Browns placard out front is Lisa’s!)

Pet Peeves: Inconsiderate smokers, Peach Street beggars

You’d be surprised to know: Joe’s  been a scuba diver for 22 years, including a trip to an orca-breeding area off Capetown, South Africa; he’s bungee-jumped in Fort Lauderdale; and he’s skydived, zip-lined and road a parapent (glider) in New Zealand.

Guest post: Getting to know Kathy Shreckengost

By | September 4, 2013 1:27 am | 0 Comments

dj-kelly

Longtime Erie runner Larry Kisielewski (a.k.a DJ Kelly) has been writing a monthly column in the Erie Runners Club newsletter called “Getting to Know You”  in which he profiles a local runner. I’ve really enjoyed the feature and I asked Larry for his permission to reprint here on Runner’s Notes. Here is last month’s profile of Kathy Schrekengost, a fixture at many local sporting events, including the Quad events and the Wilderness Wildcats cross-country ski program for kids.

Getting to Know You: Kathy Schreckengost

By Larry Kisielewski

kathy

It’s not unusual to find someone who has decided what to do with her life, acted on it, and been successful. What is less common is finding someone who rolls with the changes life presents and successfully re-invents herself. Such a person is our August GTKY subject, Kathy Schreckengost.

The physical aspect of her life needed no re-invention. Kathy has always been athletic. Long before Title IX brought equality to women’s sports, Kathy and her three sisters, thanks to parents Jack and Jeanette, have been sports-minded. Tragedy struck the Donovan household hard: Jack died at 59 of a heart attack, older brother Mark at 21 of cerebral palsy, and younger sister Susie at 4 of leukemia, but Jeanette and her remaining children have persevered.

Gym and swim lessons at the Buffalo Athletic Club started early in life. At age 12, Kathy took up golf with her sisters, and high school brought he ski club. By college, she was a ski instructor at Kissing Bridge and a swim instructor negotiating currents in the Niagara River. While working her way to a degree in elementary education at Daemen College, Kathy worked at the Buffalo YMCA, where she met Ray Schreckengost, who was attending the University of Buffalo. Ray graduated in 1969, and they married in 1970 and moved to Caribou, Maine where Ray’s ROTC experience got him his officer’s commission. With Ray in the military, Kathy tutored elementary ed and ran the ski program for 2 ½ years, coinciding with the births of son Brett and daughter Kelly.

In 1973, the family moved back to Erie. Ray began working at his father’s business, Mayer Bros. Construction. His civil engineering degree eventually led him to the post of supervisor at the Port Authority. Three more children — Brian, Jennifer and Mark — officially made Kathy a stay-at-home mom.

The kids are all grown and successful now. Among them are a Colorado ski photographer, a State College attorney, a marketing manager in LA, a whale-watching ship captain in Monterrey, and an engineer in Manhattan.

Kathy and Ray recently celebrated their 43rd anniversary, and with her five kids and two grandchildren scattered around the country, it was time for her to slow down, savor her past 64 years, and look to her golden years, right? Wrong! This is where the re-inventing comes in.

Planning for the future when she was 40, Kathy had enrolled at Gannon. With all her family responsibilities, it wasn’t easy and, at one point, Ray had a houseful of teenagers for 10 weeks while she interned out of town. But in 1993, Kathy was in the first class to graduate from Gannon with a master’s degree in physical therapy, specializing in newborn to 3-year-olds.  She has worked at HealthSouth and the Achievement Center, before settling in for the past four years at Barber Intervention. She specializes in flatheads and gushes with praise for the courage of her patients. Re-invention has been good for both Kathy and her clients.

After middle son Brian got her interested in the Quad, she eventually got herself a real bike and started running, working her way up to five miles. Since then, she’s been a force in anything she competes in, regularly placing in competitions for swimming, cross country skiing and biking. She’s done well in her three marathons, six or seven half marathons (with a 2:10 effort at Big Sur) and the Senior Games. In the just-completed National Senior Games in Cleveland, she won six ribbons in swimming (4th through 8th places) and took third in the triathlon. Wow!

She regularly competes in Quad events with her daughter Kelly and son-in-law Larry Mroz, and a recent bonding event occurred May 5th when she completed the Indianapolis half with son Brian. She still has a way to go to catch up to her 93-year-old mother, who last year switched to a 3-wheeler for her biking sojourns in a reluctant concession to her age.

Not to say that Kathy is immune to her own nicks and bruises. A family history of psoriatic arthritis has turned her more to aerobic sports and she is quick to praise Dr. Chuck Herbst for keeping her in the saddle. Even alopecia hasn’t dulled her competitive edge.

Then there was her run-in with road debris in Gillette, Wyoming in 2012 that wrecked her and her bike, 1,500 miles into her cross-country bike trip to Boston. Her bike fared better than she, as Kathy broke multiple ribs and her scapula. She is now healed and plans on finishing the ride, benefitting nine different charities, in 2014.

In addition to everything on her plate, Kathy manages to squeeze even more into her busy schedule. During the summer, she helps special-needs children learn to bike on two wheels. During the winter, she works with the Wilderness Wildcats, teaching kids cross-country skiing.

She loves her Barber Center job and doesn’t foresee retirement. She has plenty more miles left in her and doesn’t even have time for her first loves—golf and tennis. We wish her well on finishing her cross-country bike trip and any other surprises she comes up with.

The new, improved, re-invented Kathy Schreckengost!

Kat-Facts

She admires: her mom

Hobbies: crocheting, sewing, flower gardening

Sports team: the Buffalo Bills

Favorite Music:  70s (Cat Stevens)

Musical instrument: piano

Favorite website: Facebook

Most famous person met: Jeff Galloway

TV: Not much, an occasional movie

Pets: In between dogs right now

Board member: St. Ben’s East Coast Migrant Program (day care)

You’d be surprised to know: She went heli-skiing in Colorado at age 63

Her inspiration: Barber Center children and their families

Sports memory: Laughing and training with Joyce Quadri and Debbie Mizikowski

 

 

4 Good Reasons to Marathon (and a step-by-step how-to)

By | May 10, 2013 1:31 am | 0 Comments

tracy

Tracy Scotch, just after Chicago in 2012

I talked to four Erie-area running women this story about marathoning, which ran in the Erie Times-News’ Her Times women’s magazine.

Ange Eberlein and Karen Manganaro are well-known Erie runners and experienced marathoners, Tracy Scotch is a North East mom who started running just to have something for herself (and then ran her first marathon last fall!) and Tracy Jenks is an Erie woman who has just begun training for her first marathon.

Read more about these inspirational ladies here.

So you wanna run a marathon?

Step 1: Pick your marathon, preferably one eight to 18 months away. Big city marathons are often best for first-timers because they draw thousands of cheering spectators, many with hilarious signs, that will keep you going.

Step 2: Pick your marathon training plan. Visit www.runnersworld.com/training for dozens of printable training plans for beginners, intermediate and advanced runners. There are even run/walk plans that offer walk breaks at every mile.

Step 3: Tell everyone. Post it on Facebook, tweet your friends, tell everyone who will listen because then you will be accountable.

Step 4: Invest in good gear. Essentials: Good running shoes (visit Achille’s Running Shop for a professional fitting), a good sports bra, a water bottle (for longer training runs), moisture-wicking running clothes. Under Armour and other running clothes are expensive, but they last forever and are worth every dollar.

Step 5: Recruit or make new friends. The best way to get through long training runs (and they’ll get up to 20 miles in most plans) is to recruit a friend or find a group to do your long runs with. Join the Erie Runners Club (www.erie-runnersclub.org) and “like” the Erie Runners Club Facebook page to find running partners.

Step 6: Learn from veteran marathoners. You’ll find area runners, even the hard-core fast ones, to be some the friendliest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. Veteran runners love newbies. Read the Runner’s Notes blog (goerie.com/blogs/runnersnotes) for advice, encouragement and support.

Step 7: Enjoy the process. Training for a marathon is long (most plans are 12 to 18 weeks), hard and exhausting, but it’s also an opportunity to spend time in nature, to appreciate what your body can do, and to accomplish something you’re just dreaming about now.

A new use for your foam roller

By | February 6, 2013 1:42 am | 0 Comments

Did you happen to notice that an Erie native was quoted in the January issue of Runner’s World magazine (above)?

Tyler Travis is the executive director of the LECOM Wellness Center and he was quoted on “The Body Shop” page, in which he teaches us a whole new way to use every runner’s best friend — the foam roller.

Known to most runners to be a useful post-run stretching and massaging tool, the foam roller can also be used to build strength, as Tyler showed us in the magazine.

I talked to Tyler to find out more about his career path, his fitness philosophy, and how he ended up in the pages of Runner’s World magazine.

How did you end up the executive director of the LECOM Wellness center?

I was the past Fitness Manager of the Wellness Center. I was bestowed the task of hiring the Center’s fitness specialist and served on our facility management team. I worked with our fitness team to manage and implemented the launch of a New Medical Fitness & Wellness Center. I facilitated and assessed over 700 medical students in the first three months of operations. I helped develop the assessment and training system for incoming member population and was responsible for the development of the center’s safety policy and procedures.

I served in the Fitness Manager role for 2 years. The experience, teamwork and staff support was instrumental in my opportunity to interview for the Director position when it became available.

What does your job entail?

I provide leadership to center team through direct accountability of the development, programming marketing and operations of the Wellness Center. I provide direction and support to the management team concerning center policies and procedures and plan and conduct regularly scheduled management team meetings. I assist managers and the administrative/accounting coordinator in determining HR needs and job responsibilities. I am responsible for managing center operations and goals within the approved operating budget. I present a section on cardiac rehab and exercise physiology to 2nd year medical students annually.

I also facilitate annual preseason movement screenings and communication with coaching staff of NBA-D League Team, the Erie Bayhawks. A large portion of my role is to also help facilitate health fairs and promote community involvement. I also continue to serve with performing member assessments, personal training, and program design.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the interactions and relationships of the people I serve. It is truly humbling to be a part of a team that is driven to empower others to improve health and wellness each day. I still really enjoy applying my education and teaching others how to improve their health and athletic performance through strength and conditioning.

What is your  educational background? And, how does it  help you in your current position?

I have an undergraduate degree in psychology from Penn State Behrend, 2001, and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Minnesota State University, Mankato, 2003.

The fundamental requirements for anyone who wants to enter the health and fitness industry is education. The unique aspect of a medical fitness and wellness center is that we are balancing science with customer service. Our employees must have a passion for people. The health and fitness of one of our members can only be improved when the fitness professional/exercise physiologist knows how to treat the customer well.

My graduate degree in Exercise Physiology has provided me with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to evaluate and develop exercise programming for special population ranging from those with cardiovascular disease to the professional athlete. My psychology degree from Behrend served as the foundation that I needed to understand how to help new exercisers adhere to an exercise program and how our nervous system is crucial in understanding the way we think and move.

Are you a runner?

I run for leisure, but do not compete like when I ran cross country and track in college. I have a lot of fun participating in a variety of conditioning. I play ice hockey throughout the year and strength train on most days of the week. I also enjoy playing in a basketball league from time to time.

Any PR you want to share (any distance)?

My PR’s in college were 16:04 for the 5k and 4:12 for the 1500meter.

How did you end up with a feature in the January issue of Runner’s World magazine?

Nicole Falcone, a writer for Runner’s World, asked me to create a series of exercises using foam rollers. Nicole is a member of our Wellness Center and she approached me last fall and asked if I would like to be a resource for a future article. Nicole happens to be in Erie because her boyfriend is a LECOM Medical Student.

Is that you in the photos?

No. They took photos of me at the Wellness Center performing the exercises. The photos were then sent and duplicated by a model for the magazine.

Most runners are familiar with the foam roller as a way to stretch/massage sort muscles, but you say
it’s also good for building muscles?

Yes, and the foam rolling strength routine is a great way to get runners to do strength training. Most runners own a foam roller. The exercises that I suggest can be done anywhere from the beginning of the runner’s warm-up or at the end of the run. It can be done in the office or simply at the track. The foam roller is very portable.

And why should runners do strength training? Isn’t running enough?

It is well known in the world of strength & conditioning that runners are very asymmetrical. Many runners tend to be desk jockeys (let’s face it, our society as whole is moving less and sitting more.) The typical running pattern is what we call very sagital plane dominant. This plane is the same pattern we are in when we sit – hip flexed, knee flexed, ankle dorsiflexed.

Distance runners especially have weaker core muscles, glutes, tight hamstrings and hips flexors. Many runners unfortunately do not take time to balance their running with strength training.

A strength-training program can help improve areas of weakness commonly found in runners. The hips are the power source for runners. Hips should be strong and mobile. Any compromise in the hips can lead to low back or knee issues.

The next area that should be considered is the core, which supports the spine, and hips. Many runners have tight anterior deltoids/shoulders that need stretched and posterior deltoids/shoulders that need strengthened.

What one thing can a runner do to improve their performance?

Runners should make sure they are moving correctly. Moving repetitively, as a runner does mile after mile, can put their body in a compromised risk for future injuries if the movement is not correct. My recommendation is to be evaluated by having a Functional Movement Screen. The screen identifies the risk factor level for non-impact injuries. Corrective exercises can then be developed to improve movement and asymmetries.

What is your personal workout routine?

It’s much like what I suggested above. I am still guilty of having some of same asymmetries above. I like to strength train on most days of the week. I like to break up my cardiovascular workouts with circuits that utilize the ultra slide board, jumping rope, and kettlebell.

The slide board is a great tool that all runners should use from time to time. It helps open the hips and improve mobility and strength of the adductors and abductors (inside and outside of the legs.) I picked up ice hockey for that reason as well. It is a great high intensity workout that increases hip and glute strength.

What is your diet like (i.e. do you do the “paleo” thing or anything like that)?

I do not adhere to any specific diet and encourage balance. My family and I eat very clean. We focus mostly on plant-based food. The benefits of phytochemicals are tremendous. They help with combating oxidative stress that can be detrimental to the cells of our body. We balance the fruits and vegetables with lean meats such as turkey, chicken and fish. We avoid red meat except with the occasional buffalo burger. We really try to eat as little processed food as possible. Our favorite bread is Ezekiel bread.

Family (wife, kids?): My wife, Beth, is a 3rd grade teacher, and we have a son Matthew Dennis Travis, 8 months. We also have a yellow lab named Sidney who is typically by my side when I take runs or even when I’m simply working in the yard.