Nozomi Wade is proof that enthusiasm can go a long way in trail running.
Just three years after picking up running as a way to stay fit - in her 50s - Wade can now claim an XTERRA Regional Championship. She won the female 55-59 age division for the 2012 XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series. And she did it convincing fashion, winning her age group at four of the six races in the series.
"I started running in 2009 at the age of 51," she said. "My husband and son thought I would quit in a day. But I kept on running, increasing my distance each week … It has only been three short years, but on average, I race twice a month. I have completed two marathons, four half-marathons (three of them were trail), and a bunch of 15K, 10K, and 5Ks. I love to compete and enjoy the ambience of a race."
(James and Nozomi Wade photo courtesy Wade family)
Wade's next XTERRA race will be the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, on September 23. "Competing in the National Championship started as a far-fetched dream, but I decided that if I were to win my age group (in Georgia), I would go to Utah and see how I would do against the best trail runners in the country."
Georgia is one of the most popular states for XTERRA Trail Run events, often drawing more than 400 runners per race. Wade said the competition and the variety of trails in Georgia helped her prepare for what's to come in Utah.
"Georgia is an extremely hilly state," she said. "The Georgia Series begins in September and ends in June, hence I get to race a variety of trails in all kinds of weather conditions … the variety in terrain, weather conditions and tough competition help me prepare for Nationals."
Wade is an elementary school teacher, so she knows the value of homework and extra credit. She put in some extra running work last month when she made a trip to Utah with her husband, James, to practice on the course at Snowbasin Resort. James is runner/triathlete, and he will also participate in the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship on September 23.
"We ran the different trails every day," she said. "How wonderful it was to check out Snowbasin. We were mesmerized by the big blue sky, the never-ending canyons, and the narrow, rocky trails. I think we fared quite well with the altitude change. The first mile was tough on our lungs, but our bodies adjusted. It's going to be a tough half marathon on race day, but we were so glad we got to see the beautiful venue."
In addition to the trip to Utah, the Wades have been waking up at 4 a.m. each day to train - although not together. Nozomi said she prefers to run in the dark of the early morning, while James heads for the gym for his workout.
"Although we ran together in Utah, James and I rarely run or train together," she said. "And when we race, we do not run together! This is competition!"
Wade said the early-morning exercise supplies her with the energy needed to teach a class of 1st graders later in the day.
"Teaching requires a lot of stamina," she said. "Therefore I get my training in before I go to work. Running invigorates me and I have lots of energy for a busy day!"
The Wades are familiar faces to the other runners in the XTERRA Georgia Series, and not just because they are fast runners. A few years ago, the Wades showed up early for a race and noticed how many runners were there for registration. After picking up their race packets, they offered to help the race staff. They've been on the volunteer team ever since -- waking up extra early to help with registration, then going out to run the race.
"We knew just how hard (Tim Schroer and staff) work to get these races going, so one day we offered to help," Nozomi said. "It turned out to be so much fun! Sure, we have to get up earlier, but it's an incredible feeling, greeting each runner during check-in and wishing everyone a great race!"
Now, the Wades are hoping for a great race themselves at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, regardless of where they place in the standings.
"I just hope that both James and I will be satisfied with our results and truly enjoy the XTERRA experience," Nozomi said.