Monday, October 31, 2011

Run Ichabod, Run! - Pumpkin Run

My oldest son, Ryan, has been running in the Mini Milers youth program for a couple of seasons. He's getting faster and gaining endurance by the month. He recently ran 5.4 miles, just to prove to me he could do it. My goal is to stay faster than him for at least another year. By the way, he's seven. And I'm... old.

Each season the Mini Milers have a target race towards the end of their schedule. This Fall, it was the 4K Pumpkin Run. The goal for the Mini Milers was to beat their training run of the previous month on the same course. My goal was to beat as many little kids as I could, especially my own kid (Yes, I'm accepting nominations for parent of the year).

The Race
The Pumpkin Run is a actually a fun event! We arrived at the YMCA in Chapel Hill, parked quickly and easily, and then had our race bibs and shirts in a matter of minutes. A couple of minutes after that, we were on a transport bus headed to the trails where the race would be held. Turns out, the YMCA is just down the street from the race site, so we were off the bus again in under 5 minutes. I'm not sure why they didn't just have the race headquarters set up near the actual trail. Still, it was easy enough.

After a short walk down the dirt road, we arrived at the race start/finish line. I noticed that there were 3 starting corral areas. The race announcer informed us that there would be 3 waves - competitive adults, competitive kids, and casual runners. Each wave would be separated by 1 minute gaps at the start. I didn't feel bad about the 1 minute advantage I would have over the prepubescent hoard. I actually thought I might be able to beat most of the kids with that sort of advantage. Oh, how wrong I was...

I really needed a horse in this race...
Run Ichabod, Run!
Standing among all the local fasties (people like Marc Jeuland, who only beat me by AN HOUR at the Owl's Roost Rumble trail half marathon last year... sheesh!) I felt very out of place. But I had kids to stomp! Speedsters who had come out to lay down sub 13 minute times at least wouldn't be in my way on the trail (or even in sight really). So, I kept my cool and tried not to ask for autographs.

The gun went off, and I stumbled across the starting line heading up a long, but low incline. I tried to find a pace on the other side of uncomfortable, just shy of painful, to try to put some distance between me and the goblin mob that would soon be chasing me. By the time we reached the mid point of the incline, I heard the gun go off for the second wave. That couldn't be a minute separation! Felt more like 30 seconds. Panic time...

As we cleared the top of the first incline, I couldn't even see the speedsters in my wave. They were long gone. Good riddance. More oxygen for me and the other turtles. And I was in desperate need of oxygen! The panic had done real damage. I had gone out too fast. And to make matters worse, my shoe became untied. I toyed with the idea of ignoring it, but then my shoe almost flew off my foot as I hopped over a root, so I decided to pull over and re-tie. This was when the first little goblin blew past me. He looked to be about 10 years old, and he was flying! I quickly rejoined the race, but when I couldn't catch the kid, I decided to slow down and recover for a minute or so. Recovery in this case meant not puking.

It's just one kid, I thought to myself. I can hold off the rest!

A minute later, a stream of little imps was flowing past me. One, then two, then five at once! I was drowning in a veritable ocean of little ogres!

Time to adjust my race goals. I'm pretty good at changing goals, or at least adding new goals, during races. It's an excellent way to compensate for my innate lack of running talent.

New Goals
I wouldn't be beating the kids. Heck I probably wouldn't be beating my own 7 year old son. I had blasted out too quickly, on an up hill start and had blown up. My new goal was to recover and finish in under 20 minutes. And not to puke. Losing to kids is one thing. Losing to kids while puking is simply unacceptable.

I passed the first mile marker at around the 7:40 mark. Not too bad considering I'm a turtle and I was about to puke a few minutes before. I picked up a small group of people who seemed to be running a decent pace and tried to stick with them. After a few easy stretches of trail, I recovered and finally got my breathing under control again.

Since I was feeling good once again, I broke away from my little group on the steepest downhill section of the course. I've actually gained a bit of downhill skill in the past few months, so it felt good to actually do something right for a change.

I passed the 2 mile mark in 15 minutes flat. That couldn't be right I thought. I was getting faster?! I had a great shot at a sub 20 minute time now, even if I blew up again, which was very likely, since I decided to go all out for the last 800 meters.

Winner! (in my own mind)
I was passing people now. Lots of people. I heard the finish line cheers from across the last stretch of trail. I had lost complete control of my breathing again, and was about to lose my lunch as well, but suddenly, there was the finish line, tucked around the last sharp turn on the trail. I held onto my cookies and clomped across the line.

18:15 at 7:20min/mile pace. If anyone who was at the race reads this and was wondering who the kook was that was dancing around celebrating a totally mediocre 4K time at the finish line. That was me. I'm not proud. I celebrate when I can.

I grabbed a cup of water and waited for my speedy spawn to come flying across the line. And in a few more minutes, there he was, sprinting it out against some other 7 year old imp.

Back at the YMCA, we both had a slice of pumpkin pie and shared a cup of sugary, hot coffee - the best pie and coffee I've ever had, mostly because I shared it with my son.

Ryan made his goal by beating his previous time by almost 2 minutes. I couldn't be prouder of him.

I, on the other hand, got stomped by a bunch of kids in a 4K trail race. But I loved every minute of it!