Athlete Race Recap: It’s A Wonderful Run & IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

Posted On:
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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It was the tale of two climates for this week’s races!

It’s A Wonderful Run

Christina Barker, Daria Bakina, me (Coach Coach Laura Henry Henry), and Lisa Crockford at Fall Street Brewing before the race!

Saturday, December 10, 2022 was a wonderful day in Seneca Falls, New York because it was time for It’s A Wonderful Run! This local 5K is a festive and fun holiday race that is beloved by the community here in Upstate New York. Daria Bakina, Christina Barker, Lisa Crockford, and Mary Houck were all in the “real life Bedford Falls” for this year’s version of the race.

Many believe that Seneca Falls is the real place that inspired Frank Capra’s Bedford Falls in the holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life.  Every year, the hamlet of Seneca Falls puts on a “It’s A Wonderful Life” festival and celebrates the holiday season and the film.  It’s A Wonderful Run is a part of that celebration weekend.

With over 3,700 finishers, this is a massive 5K for such a small little town (its population is 6,200 people).  However, the community comes out in force to cheer for runners and celebrate the season.  It truly is a magical race that can bring a smile to the face of the Scroogiest of Grinches.

All four Full Circle Endurance athletes embraced and enjoyed their experience in Seneca Falls this year.  It’s A Wonderful Life, indeed.

IRONMAN 70.3 Florida

On Sunday, December 11, 2022, Neil Beck, Carolyn Classen, Natalie Metz, and Maureen Novak all raced at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida in Haines City, Florida!

Carolyn, Neil, and their friend Beth smile after their final race week pre-race swim!

This late-season long-course triathlon was a goal for these four athletes for very different reasons.  For Natalie and Maureen, who both hail from Upstate New York, racing in Florida in December was an attractive break from the weather and training experience that is typical for this time of year in New York State.  For Carolyn, it was a chance to visit her training partner and friend Neil, who winters in Florida.  For Neil, it was a chance to race relatively locally to his winter home in Florida.

Back in September, Neil sustained a significant injury that left him completely sidelined and in tons of pain.  He couldn’t even walk without pain.  He sought out a good orthopedic doctor and a good physical therapist, and was compliant with each and every one of their recommendations.  Through his diligence and hard work, Neil resolved his injury incredibly quickly.  Even his orthopedic doctor told him that he’s never seen a faster recovery!  For Neil, IRONMAN 70.3 Florida turned into a celebration of his recovery and of what his body is able to do after being so significantly sidelined. He had a great day and crossed the finish line with a smile!

Carolyn, fresh off of her appearance at the World Triathlon Grand Final, flew down to Florida to soak in the sunshine and get one last race in for 2022.  The travel over the last few weeks was tough on Carolyn and she wasn’t feeling her best heading into this week.  She asked me if everything was going to be okay, and I told her that I thought it would be.  I also told her that something amazing could happen, so she should think positively, approach the race with curiosity, and be open to the possibility of amazing things happening.  Well, the day went very well for Carolyn; she executed a solid and steady race that landed her in 6th place in her age group!

Natalie (please note her signature race pearls) and Maureen found each other after the race!

Back in July, Natalie raced at IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman and didn’t finish the bike course.  We took several lessons learned from that experience and applied them in her training moving forward.  Natalie made the decision to race at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida to build upon her experience at IRONMAN 70.3 Musselman and to go to a fun destination with her family.  (Haines City is really close to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, after all. ;) )  At IRONMAN 70.3 Florida, Natalie made it through 64 miles of the race, and was ultimately pulled after one loop on the run course due to her being over the race’s time limits.  When I asked her how she was feeling, she said the following:

I'm great!  I had a blast on my 64-ish mile journey!  I met so many people, actually finished the bike, and was able to do a loop of the run.  I feel like I should be disappointed, but I genuinely gave it everything I had in me today.  So I am actually very happy.

I am so proud of Natalie; she’s made major progress since July and executed a smart race in Florida this weekend.  Even more than that, I’m proud of Natalie’s attitude about her experience at IRONMAN 70.3 Florida.  It’s tempting and/or easy to see a DNF (Did Not Finish) race result as a failure, but truly, it is not.  Natalie achieved success on so many levels throughout her training for this race and on race day itself, which is truly wonderful.  I’m excited to see where she goes from here!

Maureen Novak was also fresh off of a recent racing experience; she ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon three weeks ago.  Doing these events back-to-back was a big goal of hers, and she was excited to take on the 70.3 distance of triathlon for the first time since 2019.  Traveling to a triathlon was a big adventure for her, but she took it in stride and arrived in Florida excited and ready to race.  She executed a steady race and wisely modified her efforts to account for the heat, especially on the run.  (That heat is no joke for someone who is from New York!)  

Congratulations to Neil, Carolyn, Natalie, and Maureen for such a great day in Haines City! 


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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