Do you ever get nervous before a race? I usually don’t, but this race had me looking at last year’s times to scope out the competition, strategizing starting position, stressing over shoe choice, and sweating the details. I wanted everything to go perfectly.
The race I am referring to is the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Bloomin’ Kids Mile.
Of course I wasn’t running it, but I wanted Connor to do his best, have fun, and kick some eight and nine year olds’ butts. This was his third year running the race, so we knew what to expect going in.
This race is big. Let me set the stage for you. The one mile race is a loop around the historical and picturesque Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia. Close to 1500 kids from age six to fourteen, accompanied by an entourage of parents and spectators, converge on the Handley Bowl to race against kids in their age groups. The first time we participated in this race, Connor had turned six just days before the race. It was a nerve wracking circus of kids and parents. But since this is our third go-around, it was no sweat. We are seasoned veterans by now.
Kids are grouped throughout the surrounding lawn into boys and girls and age groups. Once again, Connor had his birthday just a few days before the race, so he came into the eight and nine year old group as one of the very youngest. Each age group race is spaced fifteen minutes apart, so there is a lot of standing and waiting – and impatient kids goofing off stressing out their parents. I had fun watching Connor interact with his friends from school and getting to see kids who I have coached at various sports in the past.
Once Connor got situated in the starting corral for his race, I went across the Handley Bowl to the downhill part of the race so I could catch an action photo as he came down the hill. The first quarter mile is a formidable uphill grade where the group starts to thin out. Here he is with his friend Cal.
After they passed, I returned to the start/finish line to see Connor cross the line at 7:14, a full minute and a half faster than last year. He finished 28th out of around 200 eight and nine year olds. Awesome job!
I had a race, too, on Saturday morning.
The Apple Blossom 10k.
This was my second year running this race. My goal was a sub-38 minute time. I also wanted to make sure RunningDad.com and The Lucas Fund were on display on shirts throughout the race. I sold a few shirts, raising money for the babies at the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I think my shirt-selling efforts might have hindered my warmup time. My head just was not in the game. The whole race I kind of felt in a funk.
I was running right with my friends for the first mile, and then I dropped my pace a bit and Mario and Mitch left me in the dust. My friend Chris, with whom I have finished either right in front of or right behind in the majority of recent races, passed me at the second mile and informed me I needed a singlet to run in. I was like, “Huh?”. I think he was playing mind games. I knew he would run in the 36-37 minute range, so I decided to stay right with him. About a half mile later, he pulled up with a calf strain. From that point on, I was on cruise control at a good pace, but not as fast as I wanted. I had lost my rabbit to chase.
At mile five, I passed Mario and Mitch as they were descending the hill I was climbing. I gave Mario a high-five as he went by. Shortly after that, my friend, and fellow Running-Dad-Shirt-Wearer, Josh caught up to me. That’s when I finally kicked in the competitive drive and started to race. We battled it out right to the finish and I just edged him out at the line.
My time was 38:44 – almost a full minute faster than last year. Not my goal, but a personal best 10k time and placed second in my age group.
I definitely want to thank my friends that either wore or purchased a Running Dad shirt – Josh, Alex, Steve, Kevin, Jeremy P. and Mitch. It means a lot to me and to the babies and families of the UVA NICU.