Saturday morning marked the final 5K race of our summer race season. Our 10th overall this summer if my math is correct, could be 9, could be 11 right? But this race was a special one for a couple of reasons. The cause for one and of course Monday will be the one-year anniversary of losing Dom.
The race today was held in honor and support of Jaylie and her family – who just this past spring got crushing news that as a new Dad and father of a beautiful little girl, I simply cannot imagine being confronted with. Take a moment and imagine:
It’s April 28, 2011, when Jaylie complains of vision problems and is quickly taken to the emergency room. After a series of tests, her family learns that their precious 5-year-old daughter has a brain tumor. Jaylie undergoes immediate brain surgery and the tumor is successfully removed. But the resulting biopsy reveals that tumor is an extremely aggressive and rare form of cancer: Supratentoral Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor (PNET).
Jaylie is now going through months of radiation and chemotherapy treatments to hopefully once and for all knock her cancer into remission allowing Jaylie to live a long, happy, healthy and wonderful life.
The race on Saturday was more like a carnival or fair than a little local 5K. You truly had to be there to believe the amount of support the Austin community put together for the 1st Jaylie.org 5K and fun run. There was face painting, a Chick Fil A booth, Home Depot had kids building bird houses, a stage, a band, princesses, photographers – the infield of the track was literally filled with activities for any and every member of the family.
And of course there were runners.
A lot of runners.
I saw bib numbers up into the 650’s when I was getting ready to find my spot in the starting corral. This had turned into a big, big event. I have not been so happy to have been a part of a race like this in a long, long time. The last time I felt this was literally Boston. Running for Dom, his initials on my shoes and his fight against cancer in my heart.
It was a damn good day for a race.
I got to the track at the County Park about an hour before the gun-time of 7:30. The sun was not up yet, but I could hear the sound of the generators running as I locked up the truck. I tucked my key into my shorts and went over to pick-up my timing chip and to ask about the course.
I had never run out at the Williamson County Park before, only took in the track and the parking lots in the past. So I was very unsure as to where the race was going to go. Not the way I like to run an event, but I figured I would just do a little warm-up and try to figure out the lay of the land.
After asking around it seemed like everyone was pretty much in the same boat I was in. No idea where the course went, but there would be a cyclist up ahead of us showing us the way. Guess I better stay near the front I thought as I went for my warm-up.
I ran an easy 2 miles at 8:15 pace to get loose. About :15 per mile slower than my usual warm-up, but I wanted to take it extra easy getting loose. I had a lot of tough runs this week already as NYC Marathon training has taken on a particular seriousness right now in week number 6.
An 8 mile tempo run on Tuesday, 10 mile marathon pace run Wednesday, Hill Repeats on Thursday. My legs were pretty tuckered out, but I felt like I still had a pretty good race in me if I could even out my splits and run smooth.
We assembled in the small starting area right at 7:29. I found a spot next to some High-School Runners, just behind Tyler from Lago Vista and Scott from Rogue Running who is an absolute monster. I knew those guys would be heading out around 5:15 pace. I wanted to hang just behind them and turn in an opening 1/2 mile of 2:55 or so. If I could turn in a sub 6:00 minute first mile, I would be in good shape I thought.
At the sound of the horn we were off and as we looped out onto the course off of the track I settled into 5th position. We made the right turn up onto the road and I gave my watch a quick glance. It looked like we were running at around 5:25 pace, which is fairly typical for me over the first 400 meters. The opening surge of adrenaline is hard to hold in check. My opening 1/2 mile is always my fastest in a 5K. I started to rein myself in and lock into a nice smooth effort.
At the 1/2 mile mark my watch chirped at me and I had run a 2:51 opening half. Very solid and amazingly, my legs felt like they could hold pace at just a tick slower. I settled in and noticed that the high school runners were starting to fall off of my back shoulder. I was running comfortably in 4th as the course wound around to the left.
We reached the end of the first mile as I turned in a second half mile in 3:00 flat. Perfect.
This is the part of the 5K where I feel like I really need to concentrate. This is the part of the race where you body starts to fight you for the first time.
It’s a different “fight” than the final mile, which in any race just is what it is. A battle of wills. Your body begging you to slow down, your mind fighting it off knowing that you only have X/10’s of a mile to go or only Y minutes left …. it isn’t easy, but at least the finish line is growing closer and closer with every stride.
Mile 2 is entirely different. You have not even reached the half-way point yet. You have further to go at this point to the finish line than you have run to this point and already your breathing is quickening and your legs are starting to feel heavy. These are the dark moments when you are racing, wondering if you can hold effort or if you should back off just a bit to play it safe. It’s far more mental than physical at this point to keep going and a lot of runners resort to tricks to stay focused.
I thought of my friend Steve Spiers out in Va. Beach who told me that he imagines a string attached to the runner in front of him attached from his waist to Steve’s. He tries to imagine that string is taught and he cannot let it break. He locks in and stays the same distance behind, then gradually starts to real the runner in from up ahead.
I had a great opportunity to use this tactic today as I had a runner up ahead of me who was running a very similar pace to mine, he had about a 15 yard lead on me as we approached the 1.5 mile mark. I would lock on and try to take him at the end.
I kept that runner just ahead of me over the entire course of mile 2. There were no footsteps behind us and we were quite away behind the runners who were running 1,2. It was just the two of us – finally after months of racing this summer – I had someone to chase.
My third 1/2 mile split – 3:03.
My fourth 1/2 mile split – 3:06.
A 6:09 middle mile – :04 seconds below my “target” but given the course and the week of training, I was happy. One more to go.
The distance between the runner ahead of me had shrunk down to about 5 yards. I was trying to just stay smooth and steady over the next 1/2 mile, then pass him over the final stretch of the race. He appeared to be falling off pace just a bit and I felt as if I was slowing down a little bit myself to keep that 5 yard distance between us.
As we reached the 2.5 mile mark I swung around his left side and powered past.
I glanced down at my watch at the beep – 3:08.
Time to go to work.
I started to wind the watch just a bit and get back on pace over the next 1/2 mile. The course took us off of the crushed granite trail and back onto black top which would help the legs have a little more bounce to close things out. We were now back on a stretch of the course we covered over the first mile of the race and we were heading in the opposite directions of some of the walkers.
They were shouting encouragement as we motored past which was a great pick me up so late in the race.
I hit the 3 mile mark with a 1/2 mile split of 2:59. Almost there.
The course actually measured a bit long which can sometimes happen at the first running of any event. The final 1/10 was actually a final 2/10. No matter, as we hit the final turn and got back onto the track surface the finish line looked just as sweet.
I hit the line with a time of 19:23 – 3rd Place overall, 1st place male masters.
I was hoping that I would get a chance to find Jaylie and say hello to her after the race. I wanted to let her know that I thought that she was a brave, brave little girl and that she had a whole community behind her, wishing her the best.
After I took off my timing chip, amazingly, right in front of me with a big smile on her face and a big bran muffin in her hand was Jaylie. I was able to give her a quick peck on the cheek and Dawn was able to get a great photo of us in the finishing area.
Landry was there for all of the fun and festivities and had a great time with her Mom and me. She even got a chance to meet a giant Cow!
Landry and I made our way up to the stage for the awards ceremony – It was a great day to rock the Run for Dom Race Singlet I thought, and we received a lot of compliments from the runners that we met.
Landry was kind enough to let me have the trophy afterwards.
So with that, our summer race season is officially wrapped up. If you get an opportunity to stop by and visit Jaylie’s page – please do so – the number of sponsors and supporters is truly remarkable as is little Miss Jaylie.
Monday is going to be a pretty rough day at Run for Dom, of that I am certain, but seeing Jaylie this weekend and being part of such a great event restored a piece of me that I lost last year at this time.
It might be a small word, but it wields great power.
Give ’em hell Jaylie.