Friday, July 24, 2020

Agony Ironman–Robin-2020


7/24/2020 Folsom, CA


2.4M Swim – 112M Bike – 26.2M Run


13:56:31 (1:15:32-9:03-7:07:02-5:37-5:18:56)


NA (=


Karen Bonnett Natraj

Today is the day!  My race goal this year was to compete in the Ironman Santa Rosa race on July 25. Unfortunately (but really fortunately), that race has been cancelled. I still wanted to complete the distance of 140.6 Miles (2.4 Miles Swimming-112 Miles Biking-26.2 Miles Running) and so I felt God leading me to do the Ironman distance for Christian Encounter Ranch (CER).  Our family has been friends and supporters of CER for many years.

Christian Encounter Ranch is a domestic mission organization with the unique purpose of discipling and counseling troubled young people. These young people come to CER with major damage from families, society, and/or their own poor choices. As a domestic mission, we are dependent on the loving generosity of mission-minded ministry partners.

Every year CER puts on the Agony Ride, their largest fundraiser.  IM Santa Rosa was scheduled for the same weekend as Agony so the timing is perfect.

(The) annual Agony Ride is an opportunity for (CER’s) partners to participate in (their) vital mission. Some of (the) staff and approximately ninety other riders attempt to push their limits by riding as far as they can in 24 hours. The Agony has become more than just a personal challenge; it now stands as a pointed demonstration of Christ's love for our students as well as a witness for Christ in the communities of the Sierra Valley."

This year, due to COVID, the Agony Bike Ride is virtual.  Instead of a huge support group helping all the riders in one place, about 95 riders & support crews are spread across 22 cities around the country (and even in Uganda!).  My Agony will be unique in that part of my ride will include a swim and a run.   The best part is the great motivation I have to finish this “race” - the kids, the staff and Christ leading it.  I found a group of riders that are meeting in nearby Lincoln for their Agony Ride.  They included the Blackburn Family (Tom, Grace and Amy) from our Life Group (Bible Study).  We incorporated their SAG stop and part of their 20 mile loop course into my bike course towards the end.  I really hope to connect with the Blackburns if the timing is right!

My IM training buddy, Karen Bonnett Natraj, decided to join me for the whole distance!  She’s training for an Ultraman (320 miles over 3 days vs. 140 miles in 1 day for an Ironman) so my Ironman distance should seem short to her.  Karen is starting at 6:30am and I am starting at 7am with the hope we’ll connect at the Agony SAG later in the day.

I wake up early to spend time with Jesus.  It’s been a tumultuous few weeks.  Last week I injured a tendon on the outside of my left knee.  It hurts all the time.  It hurts to walk up or down hill/stairs and it basically hurts to run.  I was able to get in 7 miles this past Sunday.  After 4 miles, it seemed to improve but still hurt.  On Monday of this week, someone broke into my car at Rattlesnake Bar (which is the start of my Agony IM).  They stole my phone, house keys, purse, wallet, library books and clothes while I was swimming.  Some fishermen saw what might be the suspects’ car.  Then our security camera got footage of that car driving by our house 3 times later that day.  That was really concerning because I knew they had my house keys.

Now it’s race day and I’m carrying my father-n-law’s cell phone (I still don’t have one) so Troy can track me.  I’m still mad at myself for so much being stolen and feel vulnerable to what could happen next.  With all this floating around in my mind… if it wasn’t for Jesus, there is no way I could get through this race today. 


Karen heads out with her neighbor, Landy, as support in a kayak and Ariel supporting on paddleboard.  Ariel knows the course and is leading Karen while also being a visual for passing boats.  I’m up soon!  Anna will be leading me out on another paddle board.  The water continues to drop drastically each time I come here.  Today, I have to walk further out in order to get in the water. 


I get to the swim start.  Julie, a friend who trains with Karen and I, is there to send me off and take pictures.  Troy is also there ready to send me off.


Ready, set, go!  Here we go!  No turning back!


As I follow the paddleboard out of the now small cove, I also look for the landmarks Troy told me about.  On an average swim out here I try to get sub-10 min per 500.  Often on the way back it can be even slower.  I’m hoping this is not the case today!  Today, I would like to stay at sub- 9 min pace for the entire swim.

The first 500 is 8:43. Yay!  I’m feeling good.

The 2nd 500 is 8:38.  All right.  Anna is doing a great job staying straight and keeping a good pace. 

The 3rd 500 is 8:08!  Wow!  Great!  I can see Ariel heading back now with Karen. 

The 4th 500 is 8:43. Almost to the turn around!  Anna tells me it’s time but looking at my watch I decide to go a few more yards just in case I’m short coming back.  I turn around and wonder what my pace will be like coming back.

The 5th 500 is 8:08 again!  Nice! 

The 6th 500 is 8:44. I can tell I’ve slowed a bit.  I really try to focus on pulling the water effectively while keeping my head down for as long as possible. 

The 7th 500 is 8:58.  Just barely under 9!  Got to hang in there!

The 8th 500 is 8:57.  Oh boy, so close now.  Don’t want to lose my groove!  At my best in an Ironman surrounded by thousands of athletes I can do a 1:06 total.  I’ll be over 1:10 today but I’ll take it for swimming solo with no draft.  


Just a little bit more!  I can almost see the finish.  I can see Julie videotaping me as I come into the cove.  I’m pushing good now.  Anna pulls off and I’m here!  It’s a 1:15 swim. I take off my wetsuit then get out of the water and start the long journey to my bike.



I get to my bike and see Karen head out.  I grab my bike gear and run to the bathroom.  It takes me 9 minutes to finally get all ready to go!  That rivals my cold IM Tahoe T1 in 2013.  Ok, time to go!



I head out with motivation.  I have a goal of getting a moving time of 6:30 hours.  With stops I hope to make the cumulative time less than 7 hours.  I’m wearing my new FCA tri jersey and race cleats.  I’ve got my race wheels on.  Time to move!  It’s a good climb getting out of the park and there are a few small climbs that follow.  Once I hit 5 miles I’m just under 15mph.  Got to pick it up now.  As I pull up to the new light at Cavitt Stallman, I can see the light changing.  I surge and get through before it turns red.

Around Mile 10 I see Julie taking pictures.  I smile and wave.  I can see Karen up ahead.  Looks like we’ll cross paths sooner than expected.  I follow Karen for another 6 miles.  Everytime I get close, she gets through several stoplights while I don’t.  In a real Ironman there is no stopping for traffic, they stop for the racers.  I don’t have that luxury today.

Finally I catch her as she makes a turn off Auburn-Folsom.  We ride together through this short detour to get over to Prairie City.  Once on Prairie City, we part ways as I pull ahead. As the terrain turns rural, the shoulder disappears and the road is rolling which makes for many blind areas for cars coming behind.  This is one of 2 of my least favorite parts of this course.  It is necessary though to be able to enjoy a lot of great roads and a great bike path.  We choose Friday for racing today to avoid weekend traffic on the roads and on the run course later.  It’s not terribly busy but the cars that come by are moving fast.  I try to put my hand out to slow them down if I know that there is a car coming from the other direction.

I make it through the worst of it and turn off this road.  I’m still concerned about Karen so I pull over for a moment to see if she makes it.  I see her and she looks good!  Thank you Lord! 

No stoplights for miles now!  Yay!  Now I can tuck into aero position and push.  For the next 8 miles I get my moving average to over 17 mph.  Just one more yucky section to go through.  No shoulder and rolling hills.  Fortunately I get passed by just a few cars here and they pass safely. Thank you Lord!

I make it to Jackson Hwy and push again.  The first opportunity for a bathroom break is coming up.  I pull over and there is Julie!  We chat a bit and then I’m off again.  She can see that Karen is not too far behind on her phone. 

At Mile 38, I hit a stoplight at a major road.  Darn.  I get going again and get stuck again just a little further down the road.  I can see the bike path from where I am at but I’m stuck here.  My moving average is still 17 but with the pit stop and these lights, my overall average is more like 16.4.

Ah, the bike path!  This place is basically deserted on weekdays and I just tuck in again and get moving.

It’s over 10 miles of bliss. I do have to cross Sunrise Blvd but am able to do it quickly since the road is clear at that moment.  I really need a bathroom.  I keep looking.  I go through the narrow dark tunnel safely, phew!  As I exit, I find a spot. 

Just a little further around Mile 50 is the first Soares official Aid Station.  I see my family!  Anna is playing her trumpet while Troy and Ariel wave and cheer.  Thank you Lord for my family!  I know it’s not easy supporting at real Ironman events and this is even more difficult.  They have to track me and Karen somehow.  Glad Julie was also available today to help! They hand me fresh bottles but they are still completely frozen.  I take one and tell them to let the other thaw until the next Aid Station.  I grab a few snacks and it’s time to go.  Hugs and kisses and time to go!

Over to the Folsom bike path I go. It’s about 5 miles.  It’s pretty quiet because it’s Friday late morning.  I don’t try to hammer through here out of respect for folks who are recreational. 

Finally I exit and head over and through a nice and quiet neighborhood in north Folsom that Troy and I discovered.  It gets me to the start of the competitive Coffee Republic ride route.  

The next Soares Aid Station is at a park ahead. Perfect timing, bathroom needed again.  I pull in and don’t see the family.  I head out again but still no family.  I saw them 10 short miles ago so I guess it was too hard for them to make it.  I press on and trust God that all is well and I will see them all soon!

I catch the light at Douglass just in time.  The ride is nice and quiet until I pass Cavitt Stallman.  It gets narrow and turns into a climb.  The cars are actually pretty nice here today so not too  stressful. Thank you Lord!

Now I’ll ride through Rocklin and over to Lincoln to the Lincoln Agony Ride Main SAG. 


Mile 68.  As i’m riding down Granite Dr. in Rocklin, I see Troy!  They found me!  I pull over and get my extra bottle and some food.  That is a nice boost!  I’m good to go until Lincoln.

As I am about to enter Lincoln I take advantage of another bathroom stop.  I am sure all these stops are adding up!  Once I pass the Agony Main SAG, no more stops I hope!  In Lincoln there are few miles with stoplights and I pray I can make it through them all! I get ready to do some surging. 

God answers my prayers and I make it through all the lights!  It took some hard sprinting to do it but it was good motivation to move! 


Mile 83.  I thankfully find the Agony Main SAG tucked away in a business in a very quiet neighborhood.  Troy and the girls are there along with the Blackburn Sag: son Donald, his girlfriend Hannah and Susan from church.  Although I am feeling the need to get this ride done, I take a few extra minutes to say hi to everyone and enjoy some fresh fruit. 


As I leave, I am feeling like I need to hurry.  As I look the overall time on the bike I can see that all my stops now add up to 30 extra minutes!  Although my moving speed is 17, my overall speed is under 16 mph! 


I see Karen as I head out.  Since I’m rushing I decide I don’t want to wait at the light to turn left.  Instead I decide to turn right to make a u-turn.  Bad idea!  There is a dirt median.  I start to try and a Sheriff goes by.  Oops!  I wait in the middle until he passes.  I feel God telling me that this race is for His Glory so I don’t need to take risks to get to the finish. I decide I will wait next time and let Him determine the remaining stops.  He knows my hearts desires.  I leave it His hands now.

Now our route will take us on part of the Agony route.  I hope to see the Blackburns! 

Mile 90.   I see a pack of riders coming toward me.  I look closely and see Tom!  I think he’s with his daughter Amy.  I wave and he waves back.  A few miles down the road I can see that I’m catching up to another pack of riders.  Could that be Grace?  I know that they are going to turn off and go in a different direction soon.  I push hard and am able to barely catch up in time.  It is Grace!  Pull up next to her and say hi.  I say goodbye and we part part ways.  Thank you Lord!  What perfect timing!

Mile 95.  I have one last big climb ahead followed by a few smaller climbs.  No more breaks, the stops are up to the Lord.  Just going to get to T2 as soon as I am able.  The climb up Sierra College to English Colony is tough and hot and my average speed suffers.  I don’t mind, I’m at 100!  Just 12 to go! 

Mile 103.  Short climb up King.

Mile 107.  Short, steep climb on Dick Cook.  Back on Auburn Folsom now!  I only get a few miles of flat but it’s a nice break.  Soon I’m turning on Twin Rocks.  This is it!  I make it to the backside of Granite Beach park and hit the dirt path to the park road.  Nice, a flat to the finish!  I’m going to be just over 6:30 for the moving time and just over 7 hours for the overall average.  Almost exactly what I was hoping for!  Thank you Jesus!


As I’m pulling into the Granite Beach Parking area, I can see Troy and the girls have just arrived.  They see me and quickly grab some of my gear.  I can see the staging area.  Ariel and Julie are there. I pull over and park my bike.


Ariel accidentally hands me the wrong bag.  I describe the right one to her and she races off to get it.  She’s back in a jiffy.  I run to the bathroom to change into my run gear.  I decide to do a full change for the run to be more comfortable.   I’m off in a little over 5 minutes.



I head out while it’s getting hot but I feel NO PAIN yet!  Praise Jesus!  This is awesome! I hope this is a lasting trend!  I’m also averaging sub-10 min per mile pace for the first few miles. 

My next Aid will be at mile 7.  Sounds do-able but soon I realize that I won’t have enough water for the journey. 

At Mile 3, I’m still running pain free but almost out of water.  I’m still averaging sub-10 pace.  Beale’s Point is ahead but to get to a fountain I have to go pretty far off course.  I rack my brain for a place to stop.  I remember there is a Watershed Museaum coming up.  It’s got to be closed but maybe there is a drinking fountain there that works. 

Around Mile 4, I get to the museum and see a fountain.  Please Lord, let it work!  it does!!  Thank you Jesus.  I am able to fill up my bottle and wet my hat.  That was so needed!

My Garmin tells me the battery is dying. Oh dear!  I will see if I can grab Anna’s Garmin.

I am at around 10 min pace with the stop but get it back down to sub-10.  I finally make it to the first Soares Run Aid Station, the Lake Natoma Inn.  Troy has booked a room so we can get ice and bathroom access…and the two of us get to stay here alone tonight.  Something to look forward to!  I can tell that he just got there and Julie as well.  Ariel takes me into the bathroom.  I try to go. They fill my bottle and give me some oranges.  I ask for my tube sock filled with ice to wear on my neck.  They cannot find it so Troy puts some ice in my hat.  Before I leave I ask Anna if she can loan me her watch when I see her next.  Of course she says yes.  Troy shows me the way to the bike path. 

As I head out, I realize I forgot to tell him about my knee!  Although the sun is so hot, it is so nice not to also be in pain!  I have energy and I’m just around 10:15 pace with the stop.

Mile 9 and 10 are good.  But just before Mile 11, I feel like my heart is racing.  I remember that I have the heart rate monitor going and I click over to it.  My heart rate is over 170!  I’m not running too hard, I’m running too hot.  I decide to walk to get it under control.  I pray for God to bring Troy to help me.  In a few minutes he appears towing the aid station in a bike trailer.   Thank you Lord!  Anna is with him and she gives me her watch as Troy fills up my bottle with water and my hat with ice.  I use a bathroom and then continue on.

Troy shows me the loop. Anna reminds me that I’m doing this for the kids at CER.  Right!  This really is agony right now but it’s temporary.  I tell them that I am running pain free and that is a gift.

As Troy and Anna stop to adjust the trailer, I get ahead.  I turn the corner and there is a perfectly clean yet damp tube sock in the middle of the path.  I pick it up and thank God.  I can now have my ice sock!  Troy and Anna show up and they fill up the sock with ice.  Ahhh, that’s nice! 

Troy takes off to find Karen and Anna stays with me. 


Mile 13 to 14.5 back to the hotel is brutal.  Although the hills on a normal day are small, they are tough today.  I walk the uphills to keep my heartrate from skyrocketing and drag myself through the flats and downhills.  I see Karen and she encourages me.  I know she’s hurting too but yet she’s smiling and cheering me on.  I smile and return the encouragement.

I make it to the hotel for aid.  Julie and Ariel give me water and cold bananas and oranges.  Yum.  Anna and Ariel head out with me.  My watch dies and I turn Anna’s on.

We are heading out on the other side of the Lake Natoma.  It’s touch and go.  I’m running ok one moment and then walking the next.  I try to eat Clif Bloks but they are too sweet and I cannot keep them down.  Chips and oranges are good.

Troy catches up and attaches the trailer to Anna’s bike. He tells us to look for a clockwise trail known as Mississippi Bar.  He mentions Shadow Glen Stables parking area.  I think I’ve got it.  

We come upon a bike path going off to the right.  Maybe this is it.  I really have to go the bathroom so I turn.  Troy said there is a bathroom out here…but have to find an alternative.  Once we are a half mile up the trail, I realize that this is going counter-clockwise.  Oops!  We figure we can just do it backwards. 

We get to the Shadow Glen parking area.  Yay!  There is a horse stable here and folks being taken out on rides.  That looks like fun!  I see a road with cars driving by.  That must be Greenback Road.  That’s probably not the way to go.  I pick a trail going by the stable.  Pretty soon we see a maze of trails and have no idea where to go.  I hand the phone i’m carrying over to Ariel and ask her to call Troy.  Anna continue to be positive and look for a clear path.  I decide to walk so I don’t get too far in the wrong direction. 

We don’t have the right trail and are lost but Troy tells Ariel for us to head towards the lake.  We pick a path and go.  Since I’ve switched watches, I’m not exactly sure what mile I am on.  Maybe Mile 20?  With this mishap, will I get the right miles?  And even know if I have enough miles?  Anna trys to assure me it’s going to be okay and I blow up.  “I don’t know how far I’ve gone or if I’m going to be short”.  I see tears well up in her eyes.  I apologize and hug her.  “I’m sorry Anna!”  She immediately forgives me.

The trail is getting really narrow…too narrow for Anna to get through with the trailer.  She decides to find another way out while Ariel continues to follow me.

Finally, we are back on the main bike path.  Anna finds us.  I start to run pretty steady again.  We run into Troy and explain everything.  He thinks I am only a 1/2 short so I decide to take on more before I run the last miles in Downtown Folsom.  Karen and I are really far apart now.  It’s getting dark and we realize that he needs to stay with her to show her the right way to go.  That means he won’t see me finish.  It’s a tough decision but the right one.  He takes back the trailer and we part ways.  Ariel heads out with me while Anna gets instructions for the final miles. 

I head out and see Karen, and Julie is running with her.  We encourage one another as we part.

I decide to swich entirely to drinking Coke.  Ariel tries to give me the Coke several times while biking with me but one of us keeps dropping it.  I hand her my water bottle and tell her to fill it up halfway.  We have a successful exchange!  I continue to run pretty steady througth it all.

Anna catches up.  We send Ariel across the walking bridge back to the hotel while Anna and I do a little extra to make up for the 1/2 mile.  Finally, we get to cross the bridge and turn on the Johnny Cash Bike Trail (JCBT) to finish up the last 2 miles.  Wow, almost done!  It’s getting dark.  There are a few shady characters up ahead and I tell Anna to stay close. 

This is a tough mile!  It’s a climb up the JCBT!  I’m surprised.  I am tired but able to run pretty well.

Finally, it’s flat!  We run through some quiet downtown neighborhoods.  It’s nice and cool and quiet! 


We get to the downtown where lots of people are enjoying outdoor dining.  Anna annouces “Ironman athlete coming through”.  I hear some cheers.  This is neat!  It really reminds me of the finish of Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  I’m so close now!

Anna assures me that we are close to the hotel now.  We get to the parking lot.  I see Ariel, Nattu (Karen’s husband), and our swim buddy Christa and her husband Dan.  They cheer me in and Christa announces “You are an Ironman”.


Thank you Lord! So, so good to be done!  Yay!  Cannot wait to see Troy and cheer Karen in!


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Firecracker 5k

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7/4/2020 Auburn, CA


5K (just under)




7th? (Male)


Cossentine: Bailey & Matty; Gallo: Emily, Enzo & June; Ganzenhuber: Gannon, Steve, Zachary; Nickel: Ben & Ellie; Soares: Anna, Ariel, Robin; Anna, Bernie, Krista & Julie Sopky; Mona Baughman, Caryn Galeckas, Suzanne Hartley, Jennifer Wright


Usually we’re in San Diego on the 4th but because of the coronavirus we’re in Auburn and the blessing in disguise is that we get to participate in Karen Nicke’s Firecracker 5k which gathers food for the Interfaith Food Closet.  Robin and the girls are excited because they’ve never done it like I have the 2 years I wasn’t able to go to San Diego.

The loop is an easy-to-follow, but not so easy-to-run, familiar route around the Skyridge Neighborhood.  The Nickel’s mark the course with lots of personal touches. Registration looks very official and social distancing for coronavirus is in play.

Unfortunately, my right heel is really bothering me and I can barely jog for a warm up.  But I will do what the Lord allows me to do.

Some of us gather and pray, trying to keep our hearts and minds on Jesus, especially when the competition of racing can distract us.

Karen plays the National Anthem on the banjo.  It’s a special moment.

Now it’s time to start.  There will be some fast running ahead with 4 Placer High School runners, 2 HS runners from Stockton, and Baily Cossentine (a national champion pushing a baby stroller). Go!

Oscar and I start off and quickly end up mid-pack.  On the climb up Maidu Rd, I meet the runner next to me, Scott and we encourage each other.  Oscar is annoyed I think that we aren’t running faster, but this is as fast as my foot can go.  Scott and I talk about running, training and run training with dogs.  I pass Ariel and Ellie running together.  Down the long hill, up the other side and now the short steep “50 yds of fun”.  My foot won’t warm up but the Lord is good and I believe I’ll run again without pain one of these days.

In the neighborhood I pull ahead of Scott, but near the finish he’s able to catch up and it makes for a great finish… even though he did beat me by a toe.


We got to cheer a lot of friends today and then afterwards cheered the younger kids in the “1 Mile” race.

God is great, today is great, and we still live in a great country with great heros that gave us our freedom!

Firecracker 5K–Ariel-2020


7/4/2020 Auburn, CA


5K (just under)




6th (Female)


Cossentine: Bailey & Matty; Gallo: Emily, Enzo & June; Ganzenhuber: Gannon, Steve, Zachary; Nickel: Ben & Ellie; Soares: Anna, Robin & Troy; Anna, Bernie, Krista & Julie Sopky; Mona Baughman, Caryn Galeckas, Suzanne Hartley, Jennifer Wright


5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go! I start running. I see Ellie a little bit ahead of me, so I catch up to her and start running with her. We turn to the right and keep going straight. Ellie and I are running together still. We run down a hill by the fire station. Ellie points out the chalk signs they made before the race.

We turn to go up a long hill. I hear Daddy behind me. I turn around and see him getting closer. He passes us. At the top of the hill, we keep going straight and pass a different Anna, Anna S, that is Ellie's friend. She starts running with us, but then gets far ahead. We start going down a long hill. Ellie points out some more signs. One says go, Ariel. I tell Ellie I'm going to go fast down this hill. I pick up speed. Ellie catches up with me again.

We pass the green gate and go down the hill. I see Anna S again. She stops and waits for us. Anna S starts running with us too. I go a little faster down this hill and then we start running up a gradual long hill. Ellie gets a cramp. Anna S and Ellie start walking. I keep running.

After a little bit, they catch up to me. We go a little farther. Anna S starts walking and falls behind. We turn up a steep hill and when we get to the top. I tell Ellie I'll see you at the finish. I start going faster. I see another one of Ellie's friends up ahead and I want to pass her. I keep a good steady pace. I run up a small hill and then down a hill. I turn onto a neighborhood road and I can hear cheering. I sprint faster and I see Ellie's friend ahead. I sprint up a small hill. I'm pretty sure I can't catch her but I still try. I turn and sprint into the finish line. Almost. I finished with 28 minutes.


Firecracker 5K–Anna-2020


7/4/2020 Auburn, CA


5K (just under)


19:38 (New Female Course Record)


1st (Female), 5th OA


Cossentine: Bailey & Matty; Gallo: Emily, Enzo & June; Ganzenhuber: Gannon, Steve, Zachary; Nickel: Ben & Ellie; Soares: Ariel, Robin & Troy; Anna, Bernie, Krista & Julie Sopky; Mona Baughman, Caryn Galeckas, Suzanne Hartley, Jennifer Wright

I get to the starting line and get ready to race. I tell some high school friends of mine to beat the record. They tell me back to beat the girl's record (19:43). Great, I think sarcastically.


106746463_3167528566699434_2238899081152400137_nI look to God and know that I'm going to do my best for Him. Karen Nickel counts down to the start of the race and it begins. We run along the neighborhood road then turn off heading towards Auburn Folsom. I'm running with Enzo right now at a pretty good pace. I move a little farther ahead though. Bailey, the record-breaker last year, runs past me with her son in a baby stroller. I might have an advantage this year because she has to push the baby stroller up the hill after this downhill. I might even finish with her! I turn on Auburn Folsom and head towards the fire station. There are many different chalk marks on the ground telling which way to go and cheering you on. I see the names of many people on the ground,  I know only some of them. I turn off Auburn Folsom and start heading up Maidu Road. I know it's a long steep hill but on the other side, there is a big downhill. I push up the hill hard in order to keep my pace and to be able to catch up to Bailey. I catch up to her about halfway up the hill and pass her. I keep my eyes on the boys and keep up the pace. I get to the top of the hill and am relieved. On the ground, there's a chalk sign that says 1 mile. Yes, only two to go and I'm feeling pretty good.

I run on the flat ground looking forward to the downhill that I can see just up ahead. I remember to push over the top of the hill like my mom said. I push into the downtown start to feel gravity pulling me down. I continue to see more chalk names and then I see my name and Ariel’s name on the road. It was very nice of the Nickels to write our names down to cheer for us during the race. I get halfway down the long hill and hit the flat section. I'm starting to hurt but I focus on God and push through. I see the boys up ahead altogether. Two boys are from out of town that are the Nickel’s friends and the other two are two Placer high schoolers trying to beat the record. I get to the green gate and start down the last half of the long downhill. I'm keeping up a good pace and I try to stay ahead of my goal Pace 6:40. I know this next long uphill will be hard but it'll be just about the last big hill there is. I pass the mile-and-a-half sign saying “I'm only halfway there”. It's weird, I thought I would already hit mile two by now. I don't let that put me down and I keep running and looking to God. I get to the bottom of the hill and start going up. I can barely see the boys, they're so far ahead. I push up the uphill and know that this is the hardest hill left. I try to cut off the corners as much as possible so I don't add on any extra mileage.

I get to the last corner and know that I'm almost to the road. I turn onto a super steep little road (“50 Meters of Fun”) that leads up to the main road. I get the top and feel relieved. I try to get as much energy as I can back as I go down small downhill. I start heading up another hill again but it's not as long or big like the one I just went up. I get to the top and now I'm at the home stretch. I try to give everything I can and run hard. I get to the stop sign and cross the crosswalk. I am so close and there is a chalk mark that says 400 left. One lap around the track. I got to push it. I turn into the neighborhood and run down a short hill.  Up ahead I see a hill towards the Finish area. I push up the hill hard and it really hurts. I turn the corner and see the Finish Line. I sprint with all my might and give the glory to God. He helped me through it. I knew that if I wouldn't get my time I would still do my best for him and he blessed me with a great time. My two high school friends did beat the old record, but the Nickel’s nephews won the race and set a new record. Thanks to God I got a pace of 6:38. It was only 3 miles, not a 5k.


Praise the Lord for he is good his love endures forever.


Firecracker 5K–Robin -2020


7/4/2020 Auburn, CA


5K (just under)




3rd (Women)


Cossentine: Bailey & Matty; Gallo: Emily, Enzo & June; Ganzenhuber: Gannon, Steve, Zachary; Nickel: Ben & Ellie; Soares: Anna, Ariel &Troy; Anna, Bernie, Krista & Julie Sopky; Mona Baughman, Caryn Galeckas, Suzanne Hartley, Jennifer Wright

This is the first real race with people since March.  Thankful for the Nickel family to continue this great neighborhood tradition that benefits our local food pantry.  This is the first time I’ve done this race since we are usually in San Diego racing and watching fireworks.  With COVID that plan changed.  COVID has also changed the Nickel event too with limited numbers and social distancing.  Just so grateful to race.  And even better to race on roads I know like the back of my hand!

We pause while Karen plays the National Anthem on her banjo and we sing along.  The Fourth of July tradition and American pride is alive and well here!  Thank you Lord!


We line up and get last minute instructions from Karen Nickel.  There is a nice mix of kids and grown ups.  Some of Anna’s Placer teammates are here along with some fast kiddos, the Ganzenhubers, friends of Karen’s.  This should be quite the race!

Ready, set, go!  We are off and off quick!  The beginning is a fun and fast downhill which is helpful for keeping a good average going up the big Maidu climb.

Once we hit the hill, the field in front of me splinters and I pass several folks.  Those who took off too fast are paying for it a bit.  This is a tough hill and I’m feeling it and just trying to maintain.

Mile 1 is 7:39. Phew, the hill is done and I have a LONG downhill to enjoy now.  I am now able to pay more attention to the chalk signs the Nickels and Gazenhubers have put on the pavement…”Go Gannon”, “Go Anna”, “Go Ben”, “Go Ariel”… very motivating for the kids for sure!  I’m running with Steve Gazenhuber and the young and talented Enzo Gallo is right behind me.  There is dog poop on the ground with a chalk bomb around it that says “Watch Out!”  Ha, ha!

MIle 2 is 7:05.  Yeah, that is nice to see that pace!  But once again we climb.  Just got to hang in there.  I see more fun chalking that makes me laugh and keeps me going.  Soon, I hit the “50 Meters of Fun” hill up to Pacific Ave…short and terrible!  Enzo goes by and catches up to another boy ahead.  They duel it out for a few strides and then Enzo pushes past.

I’m so close to being done. As I make the last turn back into the neighborhood, I come up on that kid that Enzo passed.  I encourage him to go for it and he takes off. I hold on and push with what is left.  Anna is waiting ahead and cheering.  I’m sure she ran fast!

I cross the finish and look up to God.  Thank you Jesus!  I ran the last mile at 7:35 pace.  I’ll take it!  Now to see Troy, Oscar and Ariel to the finish!