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 race-walk a half-marathon in all 50 states by her 70th birthday to raise money for the Gertrude Barber Center.
I caught up with Grammy recently, but it wasn’t easy. She’s a woman on the move! I just love her, her energy level and her enthusiasm for helping the Gertrude Barber Center who helped her autistic grandson.
Q&A with the Racing Grammy
Q. Your goal is to race walk a half marathon in all 50 states before you’re 70. How old are you now & how many states have you completed?
I am 67 and will complete 25 states (half-way) by December 2011. My goal is to have all 50 states completed by my 70th birthday (March 2014).
Q. What are your most recent races? How many more do you plan to walk this year? Which states?
I completed Connecticut and Massachusetts in September. I will complete Missouri in October, Georgia in November and Nevada in December.
Q. How is your body treating you? Have you had to deal with any injuries?
After meeting with Jeff Galloway, a best selling author on running, I have changed my technique to that of walk-run-walk. I walk for 30 seconds, run for 40 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, and keep repeating this throughout the entire 13.1 miles. This method has kept me injury free and has enabled me to compete in as many as two half-marathons a month plus some 5ks and 10ks I can fit in. I use an interval timer that beeps/vibrates when it’s time for me to change my pace.
Q. What is your training schedule like? How often do you walk-train and how far do you go?
I walk/run/walk at least 3 – 4 miles every Tuesday and Thursday. On either Saturday or Sunday (depending on family schedule), I complete a long walk/run/walk which varies from 6 miles to 15 miles depending on when my next race is scheduled. On Fridays, I take a nice easy walk for 5 miles. Mondays are always off and I swim 1/4 mile and bike 15 miles on Wednesdays.
Q. What do you enjoy most about walk-running?
I love the “quiet” time I have while exercising. This is my time to think, reflect, enjoy the beautiful outdoors (or the LECOM facility on rainy or cold days), and during races, the company of other runners. Runners are friendly and happy people and encourage each other along the way.
Q. Has your fitness had an influence on your family members, friends? Have any of them taken up walking because they see how healthy and happy it makes you?
My son, David, completes Iron Man races throughout the United States. My daughter, Mikaele, competes in 5ks, 10ks and the occasional half-marathon. These two originally challenged me to race with them while I was recovering from a fall down some stairs. Now my daughter, Erin, and son-in-law, Rob Dever, compete in 5ks and 10ks. All five grandchildren (ages 6 through 10) run in the shorter races. The kids wear their Race With Grammy t-shirts for gym class.
Abby, age 8, made me a card for my last birthday. The front of the card shows a field of flowers, a big smiling sun and hearts. Inside, she wrote: Happy Birthday! Grammy, Whenever I tell someone that you do races, they say really! I say yep! And that makes me feel speacil because your speacil to me! (Spelling and Grammar are Abby’s).
Most of my non-running friends give me excuses why they can’t do what I do, such as:
1. My knees are bad.
2. I have arthritis.
3. When I lose some weight, I’m going to join you.
4. I don’t have the time to exercise.
5. Who wants to run with all those people, etc.
If they would only use those things as reasons to do something instead of excuses, they would enjoy this!!! I have arthritis in one knee. The doctor told me I have arthritis and will have arthritis whether I sit on the couch and watch TV or if I participate in the races. So, I participate. In fact, the more I keep moving, the better I feel.
Q. You’re doing all of this to raise money for The Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation which has helped your grandson, Aidan, and his entire family deal with autism. How much have you raised for them so far?
Just about $20,000 has been raised to date. Also, there is a pledge for $5,000 a year for the next three years so we are well on the way to reaching our goal of $100,000.
Q. You spend zero donated dollars on your race expenses, right? You pay for your own travel/race expenses, correct?
100% of all monies contributed to The Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation are used for programs to help the children and adults at the Barber Center. Contributions are made directly to the Barber Foundation. My husband, Dave, and I pay all our own expenses.
Q. How can people donate?
The best way to donate 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. Or, if you prefer, go to www.racewithgrammy.com and click on the “Donate” link which goes directly to the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation website and follow the instructions. With each $50 donated, Dave and I provide a Race With Grammy T-shirt as our personal thank you.
Q. Which has been your favorite half marathon so far?
As I write this, I have completed 22 states and among my favorites are the Disney Coast- to-Coast Challenge (Walt Disney World, FL and Disneyland, CA in the same calendar year) and the Rock n Roll series of races. This series of runs features rock bands all along the course and are well-organized with great race expos. The only drawback to the big races is the number of runners in the race, anywhere from 8,000 to 40,000.
Q. Any unsung half marathons you want to share with us —a race that’s really fun/nice/scenic —which few people know about?
A really fun race is the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon and Half Marathon in West Virginia. The course winds through two states (West Virginia and Kentucky) and takes you to the actual sites of the Hatfield and McCoy feud.
In fact, “Hatfield and McCoy” start the race with a shotgun blast and are there to cheer you on as you cross the finish line. The runners are designated as Hatfield’s or McCoy’s by their race number and there is a challenge to see which “clan” does the best in the race. The course is challenging, yet manageable, with lots of hills, valleys and even a run up Blackberry Mountain.
Many descendents of the real Hatfields and McCoys participate in the race.
Q. Any half marathons you’ve done that were overrated?
I have learned to shy away from a “First Annual” race. These races tend to be poorly organized. For example, the First Annual Shoreline Half Marathon in Rochester, New York, had few water stations along the rural course, no porta-johns and was held on a hot, sunny 92-degree day!
Another, race was the First Annual Gulf Beach Half Marathon in Milford, Connecticut. The course was along a beautiful ocean view boardwalk but the course had few volunteers and we had to relay on chalk markings on the roadway as to which way to run. In addition, there were no mile markers. At mile 9, we merged with an on-going 5k race put on by an entirely different group. Runners went everywhere and several of us crossed the wrong finish line and had to backtrack to get on the correct course.
As a surprise, the race organizers moved the finish line to the beach and the last quarter mile of the run was on loosely-packed sand. They felt the beach would be a great background for pictures!
Q. Has there ever been one you didn’t think you’d finish? Why?
Because we have taken the time and expense to travel to the various races, I am determined to finish every one — no matter what! Some races, however, seem MUCH longer than 13.1 miles.
One of those extra long ones was in Columbia, South Carolina, when I had a fever of 102; another was at Notre Dame this June with a temperature of 94 degrees. The South Bend residents were wonderful, however. A good 50 or so homes turned on their lawn sprinklers so we had plenty of cool mist to help keep us going.
Q. How long does it take you, on average, to complete a half marathon?
I have never, ever, been the last one to cross the finish line. My average time is 12-minute miles; this pace keeps me injury free and ready to run the next race.
My best time so far was 2 hr. 30 minutes in Providence, Rhode Island, and my slowest time ever was 3 hr. 5 minutes in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I have come in first, second or third in my age category many times; sometimes there are just a few women in the 65-69 age bracket and sometimes there are more than 100. The number of older women competing is increasing! In the last three races, quite a few runners are also following the walk-run-walk technique.
Q. What kind of walking/running shoes do you like? Where do you get those skirts?
I wear Brooks Ghost3s. These give me the proper support for running on pavement and yet are flexible enough to let me race walk on the intervals.
I started wearing sparkle skirts this past June and love them! The material does, indeed, shine, but the best features of the skirt are the hidden pockets for gels, iPod or iPhone, car keys, etc. and that the skirt flounce hides any “little flaws” you might not want to share with others. During races, I have passed out so many www.sparkleskirts.com cards that the company now donates $2 to the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation for every green sparkle skirt sold!
Bev in her green sparkle skirt.
Q. How do you get through a tough race–are there any mantras you repeat or mind-games you play with yourself (or people you think about)?
I plan on enjoying the experience and talk with the runners standing by me before the race starts. People notice the autism and the Race With Grammy logos on my t-shirts and share their experiences with relatives and friends dealing with autism.
I do think about a particular family member for each mile of the race but during the last mile, mile 12 through 13.1, I always focus on Aidan and how far he has advanced. If it gets tough for me, I just think of him and how hard he works to accomplish the things we all do easily with so little effort. This gets me across the finish line.
Q. What’s your favorite pre-race meal? Post-race?
I really, really pay attention to what I eat all the time. I am now vegan and since I stopped eating all animal products about three months ago, I have notice a big improvement in my joints and my energy level.
The day before I race, I eat breakfast at the regular time (cereal with almond milk, banana, slice of whole grain bread with jelly) and a late lunch (soup/sandwich or pasta with vegetables) no later than 3 p.m. Then I just drink water and munch on energy bars if I get hungry.
Race day morning, I eat a slice of bread with peanut butter about 3 hours before the race and sip water, as needed.
During the race, I eat sport beans and gel blocks and sip on water (I wear a camel pack since the Rochester, New York, race).
After the race, I eat the snacks provided and a vegetable pasta dinner several hours later.
Q. What are you going to do in your 70s? Marathons?
After I complete a race in all 50 states, I plan on completing a race on each continent; then, I’m going to start on completing a race in every country. This should keep me going for awhile!