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A Rare Gift

This summer, I spent a week traveling around Southern Ireland with a dear friend. But I’ve been hesitant to sit down at my desk and put into words my experience. I’ve waited, soaking the experience into my soul, before I shared it. Just like long runs deepen your connection with people, nature, and your inner self, an international adventure strengthens relationships – to yourself and to others – and creates lifelong memories, stories and experiences over miles and miles that cannot be made any other way.

My Irish adventure involved hiking, walking and running along cliffs, exploring castles, discovering hidden beaches, touring gardens, hiking through waterfalls and rainbows, eating seafood, sightseeing, logging almost as many miles on our feet as in a car, and having so much fun outdoors that we’d allot only 10 minutes to shower and throw on clothes before heading out again. Plans were easy and subject to change. The miles on the trip were exactly what I needed.

Below is a map of our journey. Click on the markers to see pictures!

Runners learn endurance and it serves us well in every area of our life. I channeled this endurance during a long flight from Richmond to Atlanta and then to Dublin—where we immediately rented a car and headed to the Cliffs of Moher, on no sleep. At least, I didn’t sleep. I met a friend on the plane (that can’t sleep on planes either) so our happy “hour” chatting lasted all night long and into the morning, when we started spiking our morning coffee with Bailey’s to make it through the final stretch. Being a runner came into play—pacing, patience and the ability to function on very little sleep. And, of course, lots of coffee.

Exhaustion didn’t stop us; I was determined to enjoy every moment of my time in this new place.

The views along the Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking. It’s a view that reveals the enormity and power of our beautiful world; I felt so small in it. The sea was like a battlefield of giant waves hitting the rocks with such force it gave the appearance of geysers of water spouting high from the collisions. The seascape was so high and the clouds were so low you could barely see where one ended and the other began. I’m grateful we could run and explore the cliffs by foot. There is no better way to see the terrain, beauty and history of this beautiful country.

Travel tip: we stayed at this B&B. Thank you James and Shelia for the best stay ever.

The adventure continued to Dingle, and I return to the subject of endurance, because we were back in the very small car, driving down very narrow roads. I spent some time in hopeful prayer that we would make it, in one piece, to the next town.

Dingle quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. The countryside was lush, green and fresh. Beautiful wild flowers cascaded down rock walls lining the winding, narrow roads. We pulled over often to take photos and to soak in the prettiest mountain views I have ever seen. We saw sheep and cattle feeding in the fields or herding along the roads, ignoring us while we stopped to watch. We took our time driving along the peninsula with full view of the sea, learning about the history and the culture of the people with our eyes and hearts wide open. We ate fresh fish and chips. We drank Guinness and danced.

I didn’t want to leave Dingle. This place and our time there was a gift from God. I said thank you often, squinting into the sunrise over the cliffs. I wanted to linger here, just for a bit and relish the goodness of this moment.

Travel tips: Stay at this B&B. Thank you Michael and Blandina for a wonderful stay. I will be back—one day. 

Visit this local pub, where we listened to great Irish music and danced the Irish waltz with the locals.   

This pit stop was yet another reminder that while we meet many people in life, we never know the moment when we will meet the ones that we’ll remember forever. Bart and Mariam: I hope our paths cross again. These are the moments I hold most dear.

On the advice of the locals, we decided to squeeze in a stop at Killarney National Park. We thought it would be a great place to run. As it turned out, this was not a leisurely walk in the park. The hills of Killarney were eternal and beastly—up stone steps and winding trails—but the scenery was so amazing that you barely noticed how hard you were working. We ran and explored the trails and saw the most amazing waterfall I have ever seen. We visited Muckross castle and gardens, where the lush plants and flowers exploded with color, like a canvas of vibrant hues and shadows that would pop into focus as you drew closer.

The next stop on our journey was Cobh, a sweet quaint, beautiful seaport village. While yet again I could wax poetic about the beautiful scenery, my most notable memory from this leg of our journey is that the people of Cobh are the nicest, friendliest humans on the planet. For instance, on my last day, during an early morning walk, I spotted a small souvenir in the window of a shop that I wanted to buy for my grandchildren. The store was closed and I was about to turn towards home, when the young shopkeeper went out of her way to open her store for me to make that one totally-not-worth-it-for-her transaction.

At the end of our brief stay here, I felt happy, grateful exhausted and full. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Our final destination before heading back to Dublin was Wicklow Park. We didn’t have much time here as the trip was long and time was short. But my travel companion’s one request before we left was to stop here—to see where the TV show Vikings was filmed (and we secretly hoped to run into some of the cast, like this badass :).

Wicklow Park is a popular location for films. While we didn’t succeed in meeting any of our favorite show’s cast, we did enjoy sandy beaches, rolling mountains, hidden lakes, bogs and small villages. We very quickly understood why this beautiful spot makes the perfect Hollywood backdrop.

We finished the trip back in Dublin and at the infamous Temple Bar for dinner with flowing Guinness and lively Irish music. It is a “must go” destination when in Dublin. After dinner, we strolled around Dublin, taking in the bustle of a lively city—the busy-ness was a stark contrast from any other stop on our trip.

A journey through Ireland is like a deep breath for your soul. My time there was overflowing with goodness, friendship, culture and adventure. Saying goodbye to this country was awful. At the airport, the only thing heavier than my carry-on bag was my heart. But the memory of this adventure–this rare gift—is now part of who I am, just like every place I’ve ever run and every person I’ve ever run with. They are the building blocks of me.

Eyes on Iron Man

By John Sicat

I did the Richmond Marathon last November and had a fantastic day. I improved my previous PR by about 20 minutes (3:27:03). I’m short about 2 minutes for Boston, but I see it within reach! I’m thrilled and I think a lot of my success was due to utilizing the good form/technique Coach Brenda taught me.

Brenda, your wisdom paid off! In hoping to keep the momentum going, I’ve signed up for an Iron Man in September (Chattanooga, TN). What have I done?!!

PR Every Race

By Amy McCann

As a later-to-life distance runner, I did not have much experience when I met Coach Brenda.  I had run some marathons, half marathons and other races, but my performance was unpredictable.  Coach Brenda used her experience and expertise to set a training plan specific to me and my goals.  Her approach is different from the one-size-fits-all training plans I was using.  Since working with Coach Brenda, every race has been a new personal record!  She continues to challenge me, but is always mindful of keeping me healthy and injury free.  Her knowledge and experience have helped me achieve my goals AND enjoy the training process.  I highly recommend Coach Brenda to runners of all levels.

Yes, I am a runner!

By Sue Tait, Peak athlete

“I think that you would enjoy my running group,” said a workout friend of mine. “I do not think so, I am not a runner,” I replied. “But I see you on the treadmill and you have run the Monument Ave 10k a few times….” Hmmm—I do love working out with a group and I did want to run the 10k again with an improved time. So in the summer of 2014 I joined Brenda Averette’s Peak Running and Fitness training group. It has changed my life!

Brenda fully exemplifies what a healthy mind, body and spirit are. She is as passionate about life as she is about running. As a coach, she spends time getting to know each of her runners. She wants to understand where you are, both mentally and physically, and where you would like to be. She provides her runners with inspiration, encouragement and unlimited support. She will challenge you to be the best that YOU want to be. You will be successful.

When other workout friends found out about this new endeavor they all asked if I was going to run a ½ or full marathon. “Heck no! Not on my bucket list; no interest at all. Never!”

Brenda created a training plan for my 2016 10k. One of my training days was a mileage day and she gradually increased that distance from 6 to 8 to 10 miles. After I did the 10 miles, I thought to myself “Huh! Not that bad. Maybe I could and should run a ½ marathon.” Brenda was very enthusiastic when I shared this thought with her. She checked out the race I was thinking of doing and said “Sign up! I know that you can do it! “

I did! It was an inaugural race in November 2016 through Everglades National park. Brenda developed a training plan just for me to prepare for this distance and for this race. Her goal was for me was to be confident and successful and to enjoy the race. We communicated regularly throughout my training. She made sure that I was hydrating well, eating nutritiously, stretching and resting. She was always there to answer any questions I had and she ran with me on many training days, always smiling and encouraging me.

As I headed to Florida she said, “You are ready for this. You have trained well. Enjoy the experience.” As I was approaching the last mile of the race there was a pacer in a bright yellow jacket, just like Brenda’s, encouraging all of the runners. I immediately felt Brenda’s presence by my side. As I headed for the finish line I heard her saying “you are almost there. You got this! “

Now when asked I say “Yes, I am a runner!” Thank you Brenda!

Letting Go

On a recent rainy day run, I discovered something beneficial about running: No one can tell if the water dripping down your face is tears, sweat or rain. No one knows for sure if your ugly red face is caused by emotion or exertion. It’s the best cover up for a breakdown.

A few weeks ago my daughter Lindsay got married.  She is now officially a married woman.  I am now the mother of two married daughters. I knew this was happening when I first met her now husband, Phil. There’s something about a man who gives flowers for no reason except to say, I like you, that tells you he’s here to stay. But that Saturday made it official.

Is she really old enough to marry?  Wasn’t she just my little girl?  I can barely remember.  As I walk her down the aisle, my heart beating, my eyes full of tears, sweating profusely (did I mention it was outside on a cold February day?) my emotions got the best of me. I did not cry during the ceremony.  Not during the reception.  Not when Lindsay and Phil made their big exit, everyone shouting, with sparklers and noise makers, as Lindsay in her pink running shoes, and Phil in his red shoes sprinted out of the building.  “Just for you, Mom!” she said. But that night when I got in my bed, happily, exhausted, I reflected on the day and finally letting go. It hit me too when she told me “I can’t call you next week Mom…I’m on my honeymoon.” That night after her reception, she hugged me tight and said, “See you in a week when we get back from Dominican Republic.” I am learning. Babies grow up.

image by PhotoLadyLove

The morning before the wedding, I got up, on a drizzling, cold day, put on my running clothes and ran.  Not far, not fast, just ran, to wash away the tears of emotions for the day ahead.  I knew I needed it; some time a reset run is imperative regardless of the weather. That day my condition warranted it.  I started running and felt a tightness move from my legs into my heart.  Finally, when I was in a rhythm, I allowed myself to let go of everything I had so tenuously held together all week long.  The rain bore down on me; my thoughts consumed me and finally, after about two miles, so did my tears.

I thought about how my time with my kids is so brief.  I thought about every old lady who wistfully smiled and warned me that time would fly by.  I thought about the kind of mother I have been, wondering if I am giving them everything they need and knowing that I really won’t know for sure until the time has long passed to do anything about it.  It took a few more miles to make peace with that. I finished my run, red-faced and weary, but at peace and full of excitement. The cold made me gasp, bringing me back to the present.  It was time to head home, to shower and head to my daughter’s house to get ready with the bridal party. Coffee, bagels, breakfast casseroles and mimosas await.  The day will get happier and happier as we’re bubbling over with champagne and caffeine. My reset run worked, I was relaxed, happy and content and I had room in my heart and my soul for more moments and memories with my sweet family.

The amazing thing about kids growing up is that it mandates that parents grow up too. Loving and letting go is a fine art, that requires practice and patience.  There is no manual; we learn as we go along, simultaneously teaching it to our children. Everything is happening as it should, according to a force far greater than ourselves.  As runners, we get a little taste of that every time we work up a sweat.

To love and let go.


Birds of a Feather

It’s hard to get motivated when you look out your window and see cold, dreary, rainy, or cloudy days…for days. How can you “look on the bright side” when there is no bright side? Yesterday, I was looking out my kitchen window and noticed I left my bird feeder out overnight (usually I bring it in after dinner), and it was full of birds, who didn’t seem at all phased by the temperature. It made me wonder: why do we feel like we’re confined to the indoors when it’s cold or rainy? We start to feel depressed, pouty, and restless, like a kid stuck in a classroom for too long. The birds seemed to be having a good time–splashing around, eating, being happy together and not the least bit bothered by the weather. Funny, I always thought they flew south for the winter.

Birds flock together, as a team, like geese flying in a V. Let’s learn a lesson from this carefree flock. Staying motivated in the winter is a challenge for many people. We make ambitious resolutions at the start of the new year, only to fall short. Thus, we start out a brand new year feeling discouraged. Crummy weather is the cherry on top of this self-pity sundae. Remember: change doesn’t happen overnight.  Set realistic goals. If you get off the path, gently remind yourself of your intentions, get back on track and continue moving forward. Call a friend. Join a group. Staying connected through support systems, friendship, fitness goals, and fun is vital to the success of a healthy, lifestyle. Becoming a mentor to someone is a great way to challenge yourself and renew your fitness goals, as well as be a part of helping someone else reach theirs.

Peak Running wants to help people reach their fitness goals, of course. But we consider it part of our mission to bring people together. Our athletes are runners, teachers, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, coaches and more. We love to hear the variety of journeys people take as they endure the winter training to reach their personal goal. And we ask: what better way to form friendship than to go on a run together?

In time, you’ll see that your personal journey is a community journey. You don’t have to bear the hurdles, fear and hardship alone. Your personal commitment transforms into a commitment towards yourself and others who need your strength and inspiration…and you need theirs, too.

Cheers to you.  Cheers to another year together and all the miles we have shared.  May God bless you, your family, and your friends.




Peach Mango Salsa

This recipe is fast, easy, and most importantly healthy. It’s a great topper for grilled fish, chicken or your favorite tacos. For a snack that’s good for you try it with baked tortilla chips or with flax crackers.


  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet yellow pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled mango
  • 2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
  • Tortilla chips


In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Serve with tortilla chips. Make 4 cups.

Nutritional Facts

1/4 cup (calculated without chips) equals:
14 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 2 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, trace protein


The Little Things

Every runner I know wants to improve in some way shape or form, and each runner has some idea of how that feat is to be accomplished. This improvement is usually defined as the BIG thing — runners want to increase mileage, run faster miles, attempt hilly runs, run workouts, etc. Each of these aspects of running are usually considered big things, big pieces of the running puzzle that will lead to success.

However, most of the time, runners forget what can be the biggest thing of all: the little things. The little things comprise all the behind-the-scene routines that go unnoticed or undone. When you look at a professional athlete and you hear them speak about their training you think to yourself “wow, they work really hard–two runs a day and four workouts a week seems tough!” Well, I am here to tell you what you don’t see and hear: top level professional athletes work all day long, their job is not just running but doing all the little things after and before that can make the training they do possible. What you don’t see a professional doing is the ice baths or stretching or the technique drills that take up time each day.

Most of my athletes have a constant drive for improvement, so I often hear the refrain: “Coach what more can I do? How can I get better? I have tried everything!” While I know they’re trying hard, it’s almost certain that no one has “tried everything.” So I want to share some of the key “little” things you can do that will greatly improve your running.

  • Ice baths
  • Hip and core strength training
  • Recovery drinks
  • Proper stretching
  • Striders/form sprints
  • Upper body strength
  • Running on softer surfaces.  Ex:  Go and drop a golf ball on the pavement. Watch it bounce.  Now go drop it on the ground/grass.  Get the picture. Now imagine that the golf ball is your legs.  Running on softer surface, can not only improve your ankle dexterity, but it will help you be less injury prone and recover quicker.

While you may already sporadically participate in the above techniques, it should become a daily part of any runner’s lifestyle. This is why I classify these aspects of running as “little things.”

Ice baths and recovery drinks are the best tools a runner can have for sore tired legs and bodies. Hip and core strength along with upper body weights are imperative in running because you generate most of your power from your hips and core — when your legs die you only have your arms to rely on. Most runners claim that they don’t need arm strength, when in fact it is crucial. Lastly, strider or form sprints: with so much focus on endurance, our bodies forget how to run fast… Remind them! Striders and sprints are a great way to work on your form and technique which is the key element in injury-free running. Added benefits of striders are the speed and quickness you keep in your muscle memory.

Each of these aspects will improve your running efficiency if done on a consistent basis. Sometimes the biggest thing of all is actually many small things together. I challenge each runner to go out and attempt to complete regularly each of the little things listed and I can assure your body will show you the benefits and improvements over time.

Coach James

Running in the Heat

I just got back from a midday run and it was HOT! (especially for a person who loves summer). The heat of summer has arrived, and we must take precautions as we acclimate to running in hot, humid weather. Our bodies are far better designed to handle cold than hot and we have a difficult time in an environment that is even a few degrees above normal body temperature. Excessive temperatures can impair performance and lead to dehydration, fatigue and heat illness. Here are a few facts and guidelines that will help us better enjoy our summer training.

  • It takes 2-3 weeks of training in hot conditions to acclimate.
  • On hot, humid days, slow your pace from the onset rather than waiting until you body forces you to slow.
  • Many athletes experience fatigue and dehydration as they adjust to the hotter weather. Don’t worry, this is normal.
  • Runners perspiration rate differ, hydrate accordingly. In addition to fluids needed by daily maintenance, athletes need to replace fluids lost with exercise (weigh yourself before and after runs over a period of time). Drink 2 cups of fluid for each pound lost during exercise. If exercises exceed one hour, a sports drink will replace sugar and salt lost, less than an hour, water is adequate. However, don’t overdo it either. Some athletes adhere to the “more is better” theory, but drinking excessively, can lead to hyponatremia (low salt) which can be potentially dangerous.
  • Recent research has suggested that drinking ice cold fluids helps to combat the core body temperature rise.
  • An acclimatized person can sweat up to 4 liters per hour, while a person not acclimatized can only sweat about 1.5 per hour.
  • Vary time of day you run—morning is the most humid, but temps are cooler and evening is generally hotter.
  • Expect slower times for long distances.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that allows moisture and heat to be lost from the body.Wear sun screen and a visor for protection from the sun

Using strategies like these can make a difference in hot weather training.

Happy Summer Running!

Anytime Smoothie

This green smoothie contains 4 servings of fruit, 1 serving of veggies, and 1 serving of dairy. And it’s yummy to boot!


  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla soy milk (or low-fat milk)
  • 6 oz low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, strawberries, peaches or any fruit you have on hand
  • 2 tbsp wheat germ
  • Handful of almonds


Combine soy milk and yogurt in blender. Add frozen banana pieces, spinach, blueberries (various fruits), wheat germ and almonds; blend on high until ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. For a thinner smoothie, add a little water.

Recipe adapted from this article on