Dig the Dunes: Coffee Creek Reopens Trails to the Public

May 28, 2015

The main pavilion at Coffee Creek is a popular spot for gatherings and functions. The 5k Frenzy Run and Walk will begin and end at the pavilion this Saturday.

The main pavilion at Coffee Creek is a popular spot for gatherings and functions. The 5k Frenzy Run and Walk will begin and end at the pavilion this Saturday

Though available now to wander through, the trail of the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve will officially open for the public this Saturday. The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at Coffee Creek at the main pavilion before the start of the 8th annual Field Station 5k Frenzy Run and Walk.

The race, hosted by the Field Station Cooperative and directed by one of the teachers, Brenda Campbell, will be the first large-scale event on the new trails.

The Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy Board of Directors closed about one mile of the established trails in March of 2014.

Katie Rizer, the Executive Director of the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, said the trails were closed to allow a four-lane vehicle bridge to be constructed throughout the trails.

CC Bridge

According to Rizer, in the 1990’s the Lake Erie Land Company designed the center to include four bridges to intersect throughout the preserve while maintaining a continuous trail system. Meaning, the nature preserve will always be a running, hiking, family-friendly trail community without the concern of vehicle traffic.

“As plans for Coffee Creek Center have been revised over the years, only one of four of the bridges remained in the master plan: Gateway Boulevard Bridge,” Rizer said. “When Urschel Laboratories, the global leader in food reduction technologies, purchased 158 acres on the east side of Coffee Creek, the time had finally come to construct the bridge.”

“During the construction process, trail access was limited to the northern two-thirds of the trail system.”

Now, with renovations done, the Frenzy 5k this Saturday will be just one of many races and events scheduled to take place at the watershed preserve. The calendar which includes the dates of events such as, Rebuilding Together and concerts featuring local bands, can be found on the Coffee Creek website.

Coffee Creek has been a popular, social-gathering since the donation of the Coffee Creek Center in 1999. Since then, the park’s well-groomed trails, streams, and shelters have been drawing locals and visitors.

“With over five miles of trails that meander along a restored salmon stream it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere!” Rizer said. “It’s awesome!”

Over the years, there have not been too many changes to the natural settings of the preservation. But, the board of directors has restored some of the native plants and kept other invasive species at bay.

“We’ve done extensive restoration, including over 300,00 native plants plugs that were installed around 1998 and we’re watching them grow,” Rizer added. “We’re also starting to see new buildings along our borders and are working with neighbors to help protect our preserve from infringements.”

As a nature-focused and environmentally concerned cooperative, the Field Station chose the trails of Coffee Creek for the annual 5k run and walk.

“The staff at Coffee Creek have been wonderful to work with for the last eight years,” Brenda Campbell said. Campbell, whose role as race director is new this year, has attended the race as a runner and volunteer in the past.

“We really like the fact that it has trails, and is ‘naturesque’,” she added. “The preserve embodies everything the Field Station stands for and the racers seem to enjoy the venue.”

The race starts Saturday morning at 8:15 a.m. with three different distances including a 1k, 2k, and 5k for runners ages three and over. Registration remains open until Friday May 29th at 3 p.m. and entries will be available during packet pick-up and race day morning.

Trail markers throughout Coffee Creek is another recent addition to the preserve. They mark out a 5k course overall.


WeRunFar: Dink Taylor

It all started with one 10k race. It was 1979 and a 12-year-old Dink Taylor stepped onto the starting line of his first race. The next day, his stepmother took him to the mall for his first pair of running shoes and a training log.

For the next 38 years, every race finish time has been written down. Every single mile of every single training run documented. Course records have been frequent, and PRs are numerous. These log books represent the career of Dink Taylor, but you don’t need them to see the importance of this sport has on the runner.

Dink Taylor 1 - Trail

Dink can rattle off the numbers of a race run 10 years ago. He knows that the amount of ultras he’s competed in is around 178, and around 78 marathons. The voluminous number of short-distance races will take some time to count up though, he says.

There are two approaching figures on his mind right now: 100,000 and 50.

“Right now I am close to 100,000 miles,” he said. “I was looking at my training a few months ago and knew I was on pace to hit 100,000 around my 50th birthday this June.”

100,000 miles.

1,214 races.

Most of these are trail and road-running races, including four from this year already, one of which was yesterday’s Boston Marathon where he ran a 3:09:46. Sixteen of them were triathlons and there was one mountain-bike race in Leadville, Colorado which he did “just to keep things interesting.”

For the big 5-0, Dink has something else in mind for the logbooks. “I am doing four Ironmans this year,” he said. “I’m calling it the Ironman Slam. I had to do something big for my birthday. My own event.”

Dink Taylor 2 - Beach

It takes a strong person, both mentally and physically, to stick with something and reach such an accomplishment. For, Dink, that strength is inspired by his current hometown of Huntsville, Alabama.

He was born in Houston, Texas, but spent most of his childhood in Gadsden, Alabama. He moved to Huntsville to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville and to live with his mother, who had divorced from his father when he was four. Since then, he has remained near Huntsville in a small community called Hampton Cove.

“Huntsville is a running town,” he said. The town has its own Facebook group called We Run Huntsville and a nonprofit club, the Huntsville Track Club, which has over 1,300 members. “Think about that,” he said, “1,300 people. I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

And he has been. Dink eats, sleeps, thinks, and breathes running.

Dink and his wife, Suzanne, opened in 2004 and still co-own the Huntsville branch of Fleet Feet Sports, a lifelong dream of Dink’s. He and Suzanne have three children, two in their 20’s; a son who works at the store, and a daughter who is still in school receiving her Masters degree. Neither are big runners, but the gene did pass onto the youngest son, Skylar, who runs cross-country for his school team.

According to Dink, his neighbors claim him as the “forefather” of trail running in the Huntsville area. In 1995, he initiated one of the first trail races in the Southwest, the Mountain Mist 50k. He directs the race every year, and tries to jump onto the course to run it as much as possible.

“I realized my passion for running,” he said. “I wanted to make running everything. I wanted running to be 24/7.”

Dink Taylor 4 - Store

In Suzanne’s words, Dink is pretty laid back, except when it comes to his daily run. “His schedule revolves around making sure his run is done,” she said. “At the end of the day all things happen, a balance between work, family, and running. But the run must happen!”

And there have been many. Dink measures his progress by looking back at the race times of 50 milers. One of his first 50-mile races was run in 7:05. It dropped quickly to 6:40, then 6:30, then 6:05. Even today, he says, a six hour 50 miler is pretty good in his book.

Dink Taylor 3 - Family history

In the early years, his training goal was to average 12 miles a day. He kept the streak going for 17 years with a three-mile minimum. During this time, Dink experienced his first and only injury in 1998. He developed plantar fasciitis from overtraining and not taking good care of his feet, he said. It took six months to heal, but by then Dink knew he had to readjust his training. But, his all-or-nothing mentality stubbornly persisted.

“When I was young, I would take a day off of running, then two, then three,” he said. “I found that because of my lack of discipline, I had to run everyday to keep with it.”

So, his 12-mile average switched to nine miles a day, which he then kept up for the next 20 years. This routine resulted in 60 to 85 miles a week and 3,000 to 3,600 yearly miles spent running. Now, as he gets older his training has finally changed. Recovery he says has been the most challenging alteration he’s experienced as he approaches 50.

Dink Taylor 5 - Running

“I did not need a lot of recovery back in the hay-day,” he said. In 2000, he listed off three ultras completed in three months; the Mountain Mitchell Challenge 40 Mile (4:57:50), the Mississippi 50 Mile Trail Run (5:55:41), and the Ouachita Trail 50 Mile Endurance Run (7:04:46).

“I ran all three ultras and set three course records,” he said. “I ran, recovered for three or four days, then was ready to run again by Thursday.”

The 5 hour and 55 minute 50-mile run in Mississippi remains the course record to this day.

Steve Carter, a friend of Dink’s since they met back in the fourth grade, and the former general manager of Dink’s Fleet Feet Sports store in Huntsville, believes the three course records in one spring is one of Dink’s greatest achievements.

“His training is focused and impressive,” he said. “But, if you know Dink like I do, you know that he enjoys being outside and soaking up the scenery.”

“The fact that he’ll reach 100,000 miles soon doesn’t surprise me, but it is very impressive.”

According to Steve, high mileage has always been Dink’s thing.

Dink Taylor 6 - Vermont 100 Mile

Within the last few years his mileage has dropped to 2,400, a still notable number. Now, instead of running for every workout, Dink spends time in the pool and outside on the bike for Ironman training. He also spends two days a week in the gym, doing a straight 30-minute core exercise.

“I have only taken three days off this year,” he said. “I only run five days a week now, but tri-train a lot.”

A strong, but steady swimmer, Dink says he can keep going for the 2.4-mile swim and he caught on to the biking part pretty easily. But deep down, and his triathlon partners confirm it; Dink will always be an ultrarunner.

Suzanne sheds light on the reality of Dink’s “rest days.” They are not necessarily rest days but really just a shorter run, she said. “He is pretty much a genetic freak,” she added. “He definitely has had a very long very career and his times have not slowed down that much given the fact that he has been running for over 35 years.”

Dink Taylor 7 - Rocket City finish

His UltraSignup page lists his first ultra in 1996. In reality, Dink’s first one was in 1986 after he read an UltraRunning magazine article about a 24-hour race on a track in Alabama. “I ended up doing 16 hours, about 80 miles, and then quit,” he said. “I could hardly walk the next day.”

Three months later, he was at another 24-hour race. This time he completed 107 miles in the 24 hours.

Dink prefers to stay in the South for long runs and races instead of traveling to races farther away. This way, Dink spends more time on his hometown trails. And, his biggest competition at races is his previous finish times.

He chooses his favorite races by the distance. For 40-to 50 milers he enjoys the Strolling Jim 40 Mile, the JFK 50 Mile, and the Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Mile.

Dink Taylor 8 - Family now

This May will be Dink’s 29th year to run the Strolling Jim 40 Mile. He has run it every year since he was 21 years old, has finished under five hours nine times, and holds the masters record for the most consecutive finishes. It is a classic race he says, and the only road race he competes in now.

For the 50k distance, his favorite race is the Mountain Mist, but in his completely biased opinion. “I try to run it sometimes,” he said, “but it is hard to run and direct the race.”

The 100-mile distance is not a favorite he admits. He has been out to Western States, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run and Old Dominion 100 Mile Cross Country Run, among others. No matter which one, he says, “they beat me to death.”

“Hundreds are challenging,” he added. “Fifty miles and under there are no doubts of finishing, but 100s kick your butt and get you down mentally.”

There are a few factors that Dink will take into account before deciding to DNF a race. If he’s at mile 55 of a 100 and not doing well, Dink says listening to his body to prevent further harm outweighs reaching the finish line. But, if he’s at mile 80, Dink says he will finish no matter what shape he’s in.

Dink Taylor 9 - Western States 100

“Even if I have to walk, I am finishing those 20 miles,” he said. “If you make it to 80 you go on. It’s a different beast then.”

Dink knows his ability to train and race as much as he does requires a healthy lifestyle. “I try to live healthy,” he said. “I am goin’ for quality not quantity.”

In a lifetime of running there have been very few changes. He’s learned what works for him during a run and can recite the exact time he crossed the finish line at a race run 10 years ago. He’s friends with many of the veterans of the sport, and keeps tabs on the accomplishments of the new speedy runners, like the “unbelievable” Max King.

Similar to his own style of running, the world of ultrarunning over the years, Dink says that it is pretty similar now to what it looked like 30 years ago. “There’s not a lot of change,” he stated. “There’s a big population in the sport, yeah, but when you look at the Boston Marathon, there’s still not a lot of people. There is more talent now, though.”

In his day, Dink says he has won maybe 50 ultras overall.

“It is hard to do that now,” he said. “It is a good thing that ultras have attracted the faster guys. But there are still the same guys here, too. They’re just older now, like me.”

Dink Taylor 10 - White River 50 Mile

WeRunFar: Linda Barton-Robbins

Talk to most ultrarunners and you find the lot reserved and quiet, unless spurred on by talk of the latest minimalism versus maximalism article. And, usually they’re a humble bunch. Linda Barton-Robbins is no different.

Stumbling upon the ultrarunning scene, Linda found her people. She found she fit nicely with the type who go to bed early for the next day’s 30 miler, and share an unexplainable call to the woods. But that quiet side–ultrarunning, her passion for reading, and her work as a children’s librarian–outweighs her social personality a bit more than most.

“I like running with people,” Linda said, reassuring any friends who may read this, “but I need my alone time as well.”

We began our interview talking about our love of books, something other than running that we have in common. Her last love was a book written with two storylines; one of a young boy in the World War II era, and the other of a young, blind girl. “It was beautifully written,” she said. “It bounces between each story then intertwines in the end.”

Linda’s life is similarly written. One story takes her to the quiet trails of her North Vancouver, British Columbia backyard. The other finds her nestled on the couch with a cat named Shazzar on her lap and her latest book propped in her hands. At 37 years old, Linda, born in America, recently moved to the Vancouver area to be with her husband, ultrarunner Gary Robbins.

Linda Barton-Robbins - Photo 2

During the day, Linda’s two stories weave together. When not scheduled to work, a long run among the trails outside her house is followed by a long concentration within a thick-paged novel. When first arriving in the hilly area of Canada, she said she was heartbroken after realizing her runs were closer to 10 miles than the 25 she’d been running before in the same amount of time. “I had to stop running by mileage and go by hours instead,” she said.

Now, the runner seeks technical and climbs, and races that challenge her. The joke she likes to make is that she is “more of a climber than a runner.”

“I like trails that make me feel like a kid. Jump, skip, try to get around a huge rock,” she said. “It’s slower going, but so much better.” Oddly though, she was not skipping over rocks as a kid. “I hated P.E,” she groaned. “I used to fake cramps. I think I got a C.” Instead, she spent her high-school time with gymnastics and dance, before turning into a “gym bunny” in college before finally finding the running bug.

Linda Barton-Robbins - Photo 3

She started her running career with a spur-of-the-moment, race-day sign up of the Portland Marathon while she was training for her first half marathon that would take place a week later. “I ate a Tootsie Roll at mile 18 and that was it for calories,” she said, now completely shocked she even finished the race. “It was delicious, though!” She finished in four hours and twenty minutes, then ran the half marathon one week later, and was again at the starting line of another marathon two months later.

“No one told me you don’t do that,” she exclaimed. “Most people just do one marathon a year, I learned.”

She became a member of the Marathon Maniacs where she laid the groundwork for her ultrarunning world with 34 marathons in one year. In 2006, she ran her first ultra, a low-key 39-mile run in Canada.

Her second world began to form during college when Linda received an undergraduate degree in psychology, and then a Masters degree in library and information science. She now works as a librarian for two local libraries. For one, she has a substitute position where she sits at the front desk and helps customers when needed. For the other, she manages the children’s section of the library where she crafts, conducts book clubs, and runs the daily story time.

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 4

“The kids are hilarious,” she said, laughing as she recalls odd stories they tell her about frogs. “They say things that are just so off the wall.”

Like the endurance runner engrained in her soul, Linda has the mindset of an endurance reader as well. When she has a day off from work, after her morning run and breakfast, Linda spends the rest of the time with her book, the genre ranging from historical fiction to fantasy to nonfiction. Similar to a typical race-training plan, her reading varies from month to month. In January, she plowed through a pile of books, but tapered down in the month of February to enjoy a Netflix binge.

Her last page-turner was, surprisingly, a 950-page Western, she told me. Recommended by another trail runner, it was a long, slow read but one that Linda never wanted to end. “I’d never thought I would read a Western and enjoy it,” she admitted. “I couldn’t stop reading it.”

She squeaks in pages like runners squeak in a few miles whenever they can. While her husband Gary watches hockey at night, she reads. She doesn’t go anywhere without a book. When traveling to Canada to visit Gary before they were married, she would read while waiting in standstill lines at the border, glancing up every so often to keep other cars in check. “Bonus time,” she called it. Others would call it hell.

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 5

Her voracious appetite for reading has provided her with miles of knowledge. She knows what genres will spark an interest or cause her to drop halfway through. She knows reading at night is prone to pain, since the act of trying to put down a good book is impossible and staying up too late has its own consequences. And, she knows what types of books push her against “the wall.”

“I shy away from series,” she said, referencing Game of Thrones as an attractive to-read, but will probably be a to-watch television endeavor instead. “It [watching the show] goes against everything I stand for, but they [the series] are just so long. There are so many other things…” A series is a little like 100 miles. They are long, painful at times to get through, and just keep going on and on. (If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you know the truth of this).

The 100 miler has too many pages of miles to get through in one day. But the 100k, according to Linda, is the perfect race distance.

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 6

“There are not enough of them,” she said. “You can finish the 100k in one day, get to bed in the same day, and recover faster.”

Her first 100 miler was the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Run, where “every step was beautiful and painful. After each 100-mile finish, Linda says, “I don’t think I should do one again.” But, like a book series, good or bad, you’re in it to the end. One 100 that remains on her loved and despised list is Hawaii’s H.U.R.T. 100-Mile Endurance Run.

HURT pulls the ultrarunning couple to its mountainous trails every January. Extending beyond the blood and tears left on root-y track, HURT is the memorial of the first “I love you” and first kiss between her and Gary.

During Linda’s 2011 HURT race, Gary was forced to cheer and crew for friends due to a broken foot instead of defending his 2010 course-record time. The two had met in 2009 and were friends in the flirty-email, saw-each-other-at-various-races, she-stalked-his-Western-States-race kind of way. When she received an email saying that Gary would be attending HURT as a spectator and needed a place to crash, she had a feeling.

“I told my pacer, ‘Don’t let me flirt with Gary’,” she said. Miles into the race, and basking in the heat and flirtatious crewing by Gary, Linda arrived at an aid station not asking for water or food. Instead, she walked in and declared, “I’m going to marry Gary Robbins.”

Linda Barton-Robbins - Photo 7

“Yeah, my pacer obviously failed,” she laughed.

The couple married in September of 2013. Gary Robbins, a professional ultrarunner, spends a lot of time traveling the world for races. On some of these trips she attends as crew member and cheerleader, but for most, due to time and money restraints, Linda stays at home. “I can’t go to everything or we would be poor,” she said. “It is hard though, especially if he has to drop.” When things aren’t going well, Linda’s only form of communication is live coverage until Gary can reach a phone or Internet access. “I watch online but I don’t know anything more than anyone else,” she said. “There is no extra link that wives get. I wish I did.”

The opposite is just as bad. “When he has a great race and I can’t celebrate,” she said. “I can’t give him a hug or even go out and buy him a beer.”

She says it is not so hard living with an elite athlete. They’re each others’ biggest fans, during his races and her own. The two run together only once a week, mostly because of their speed gap.

“If we run the trails together, then I make him go ahead,” she said. “I always joke that if I had to pace him in a race then he should probably drop, maybe go to the hospital.”

When not out on her own, Linda is accompanied by her “#LindaSquared” partner, Linda Wong. A Vancouver ultrarunner, Linda W. ran into Gary out on the trails and was told that she should meet his wife. The two met, and have run together since. The Lindas spend hours on the trails, talking about everything from running, to girl-only gossip, to creating their own language with the “LindaSquared” hashtag.

“She is a badass spirit that would win a Miss Congeniality award, if there’s such a thing,” Linda W. said, who attributes her first 100k success to Linda B. “We are a very balanced pair,” she explained. “I apparently made her train, whereas, she made me relax my training and gave me a lot of confidence.”

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 8

Both girls started the Miwok 100k together, but Linda B. pulled away. They spent the rest of the race hassling aid-station workers about where the other one was. Thinking Linda B. had dropped, Linda W. crossed the finish line in tears of joy and sadness. But, the two found each other. “We both walked towards each other and gave each other a huge hug and we both had tears in our eyes,” she said. “She did actually finish and was maybe about 10 minutes behind me. So what was sad ended up being really amazing.”

Linda W. deems it is Linda B.’s free spirit towards training that makes her such a great runner. However loose her training regimen seems, Linda B. usually has one goal race in the back of her mind that involves no one but herself. “One event a year is all mine,” she stated. “We [Gary and her] are very independent people. We know what we want, and we are not attached to the hip.”

In these times, Linda makes sure she is the only one running the race. This includes the Grindstone 100 Mile where Gary paced, and The Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run where he didn’t even come. “It is my show,” she said for her yearly race. “It is fun to be in the spotlight and have people know I am Gary Robbins’s wife, but I don’t always need that.”

The couple does share one race each year, the Squamish 50 Mile north of Vancouver, where Linda usually runs and Gary race directs.

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 9

“I love Squamish,” she said. “We both love the trails. We actually got married there!”

However, this year Linda has to skip running the race, along with the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, which was going to be her spotlight show. Instead, her August will provide a different type of pain. A positive pregnancy test took her out of any late-summer running and into the running of new-found motherhood.

“It’s the first time I have to miss it [Squamish]” she said. “A part of me is okay because it takes a lot of you, but I’m also sad. Crossing that 50-mile finish line is great.”

According to Linda, it is a finish line where runners finish, run to Gary [one of the RDs], and hug him while giving him a nice “fu*k you!”

“You drink a beer with tears of joy,” she added. “It is going to be hard to miss and not be a part of.”

However, she will be there in spirit, and looser clothes. Currently, Linda is training for the Yakima Skyline Rim 25k in mid-April, and will continue to run through the pregnancy as much as is comfortable for her. Running the morning of our interview, she said that so far everything is going well except minor things. “My boobs are getting in the way now,” she said exasperatingly. “I used to have runner-girl boobs, so basically nothing. Now, I have to get new sports bras!”

It is a good balance Linda maintains in her life: among morning long runs and page-turning novels and children’s read-a-longs, between being the wife of a professional athlete versus her running goals, and between being an independent, quiet homebody versus a soon-to-be-mother.

Linda Barton-Robbins - photo 10