I spent most of the day Friday relaxing and enjoying my last day off before starting my new job with Back on My Feet on Monday. They say that this generation of workers will have three “careers” before retirement. Monday will mark number 2 for me as I get a chance to serve as an Executive Director with an incredible organization that is launching a chapter in Austin this January.
Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to creating independence and self-sufficiency within the homeless and other underserved populations by first engaging them in running as a means to build confidence, strength and self-esteem. The organization does not provide food nor shelter, but instead provides a community that embraces equality, respect, discipline, teamwork and leadership. Back on My Feet’s approach focuses on the very profound and innate desire for all of us – regardless of age, race, socio-economic status – to feel recognized, appreciated, valued and important. Through dedication and hard work, Members earn the opportunity to create a new road for themselves by advancing to the “Next Steps” phase of the program where they gain access to educational, job training and employment opportunities, as well as financial aid. In short, BoMF focuses on changing the direction of people’s lives by changing the way they see themselves.
As I was getting ready for Friday Night’s Race I took a moment to reflect on all the gifts that running has given me over the last 7 years and how fortunate I was to be able to go out and do something I love to do for a great cause. We were going to be racing Friday Night and trying to run a fast time, but we were going to show up already winners as Landry was able to raise $1,315 for the Ronald McDonald House before we even got in the car to head over to the Mueller Hanger. Our team, Caleb’s Army was well over $6,000 in donations making it two years in a row where the Team raised the most money among all groups for the charity.
The race was going to be basically a victory lap – but I had a feeling something good might be in store as even though the temperatures were a bit higher than I would have liked for a race, 70 degrees, the wind was still and my legs were feeling very “runnerish”.
I thought about my splits from last year as I was slipping on my race shorts – 5:43, 6:10, 6:04. I had run a solid opening mile last year, then I let off the gas too much. That 6:10 would need to be more like a 6:02 this year and that final 6:04 closer to 6:00. If I was able to pull that off, that would turn my time from 18:19 to 18:09 and a new PR at the 5K distance by :03. I didn’t share this with Dawn, Landry or anyone else – but in my mind I had my goal for the night.
Just PR, by the narrowest of margins – I would be fine with that. My 5K PR was one day older than Landry having been set at the NOCC Balance 5K on August 28, 2010. 25 hours later I would be a Dad. With Landry running, talking and doing all the things that a lucky, healthy and happy 27 month old can do – it was time. That PR was old news.
Sure it was hot, sure I ran 80 miles last week and had another 31 in the books already on this one, but for some reason – I really liked my chances.
To The Race: Dawn, Landry and I left the house around 4:20 p.m. to make our way over to the race site and beat some of the traffic. We had an easy drive, chit-chatted on the way and got a great parking spot to get in and out after the race ended. We loaded up Landry’s jogging stroller with our bags and made it to the Caleb’s Army Tent that the Ronald McDonald House was so generous in providing to the teams who raised I believe $3,000 or more for the race this year.
We saw Bea and Jay, Caleb’s Mom and Dad upon arriving and helped them get the tent and their Triple Jogging Stroller set up with a big Caleb’s Army lighted sign. That’s right – TRIPLE jogging stroller for Caleb and his two sisters. Great stuff.
Landry chowed down on some pizza, potato chips and a water – pre-race meal of champions. I decided to just have a bagel on the drive over and a Gatorade. No need to get the stomach feeling full before a short race like the 5K. I was very relaxed up until it was time for Landry and Dawn to get in line for the family fun run that preceded the 5K race. Once they were ready to go I would head out alone to run my warm-up.
Pre-Race: I ducked around the side of the starting area and ran down the course all alone. The only people out there were some early spectators setting up their food, drink and music and the volunteers that were lining the course. I quietly strode along the race course running the final mile in the opposite direction that I would be traveling in about 45 minutes. Downloading the turns to memory from last year and remembering the slight hills and where the water stations would be.
It was all coming back to me and I was starting to feel the pre-race anxiety that no matter how many events you run, always seems to hit me about 30 minutes before the gun.
I wrapped up my warm-up of 2 miles in 15:48 – and quietly went down to the tent. I hit the porta-potty for one last visit and then dropped my singlet in a bag for after the race. Time to line up.
The Start: I waited to see Landry and Dawn return from their Fun Run and sure enough my little daughter stayed out of the stroller and walked the entire route. She crossed the finish line and with about 5 minutes to go until the gun, she and her Mommy disappeared from sight.
I hopped across the starting mat and ran a quick 200 meters to get the blood going in the legs, tucked back in to the front and waited for the Star Spangled Banner. After the anthem, Robert “Evil” Evilsizer did the honors as announcer, got us staged as he does race after race in Austin.
“Runners to your Mark! – Horn!”
Mile 1: With a lot of small kids up front at the starting line which happens at these events all the time, it was a little bit dicey. I just jumped out quickly – far above pace for the first 15 meters to get away from any trouble and hit the course running out front. I knew that I would be swallowed up by some of the younger college aged runners in the first quarter-mile, but I wanted to get out clean and not have to do any dodging.
In a short race like the 5K, you just can’t make up precious seconds later on like you can in a longer event. I was happy with my start – the legs felt great and all I could think about was that opening 5:45 I wanted to post. Stay smooth I thought, don’t get caught up racing anyone yet – just run your mile.
As a few runners slid past me I fell back into 7th place. I didn’t hear or feel anyone else going with us, I was just off the lead pack and did not think that I would have anyone coming up behind me from the rear. A race of 400 runners was now down to a group of 7. Just stay steady I thought, they’ll come back to you when you are getting stronger, they are going to be getting weaker.
The first mile ticked over in a blur – I heard the watch beep at me – 5:42 split. We had given ourselves a chance.
Mile 2: I wanted to run the second mile as close to 6:00 flat as I could. I knew that this mile in particular was going to define the race. No matter how tired you are, the last mile tends to run itself, basically 3/4 of a mile and then a kick. But mile 2 is where you are starting to hurt a bit and still have a long way to go before you get to finally empty the tank.
I decided I would try to just run two identical 1/2 miles. 3:00 minutes and 3:00 minutes. I was still running in 7th place, but the distance between me and the 6th place runner was shrinking. I clocked the first 1/2 mile of this section in 3:00 flat. Perfect. Oddly, I didn’t feel like I had to pour any more energy out to hold pace. It was hot for sure, sweat was running down my face, shoulders, chest, legs – but with no wind, the course still felt fast.
We hit the C shaped section of the course and I worked the tangents, around a right turn I pulled past the runner ahead of me and dropped him quickly behind. I was not speeding up so much as he was slowing down – at the beep the second 1/2 mile in this section came in at 2:58.
A 5:58 2nd Mile – if we could just stay even we had it.
Mile 3: Quickly into the mile we closed on two runners up ahead. With a glance over the shoulder the first runner acknowledged me as I slid past, then the next runner let out a “nice job” as I pulled past him into 4th position. The rest of the runners were far out of reach – no chance to catch them – so I would be alone for the rest of the race, but the crowd support in the neighborhood was great and we were getting a lot of encouragement every block.
I didn’t check my watch at the first 1/2 mile split in this section of the course as I didn’t want to know how hard we were pushing. I was just gradually opening the faucet until we hit the 3 mile sign, then I would make the last turn to the left and let it all hang out.
Mile 3 came in at 5:57, then it was time to kick.
Finish: As I made the left turn at the large Oak Tree in the circle filled with Christmas Lights, I saw the race clock still ticking in the high 17’s … for the first time I thought we might have a shot of finishing sub 18:00. I kicked to the finish and left every ounce of energy I had out there on the course.
Post Race: Our effort was good enough for 4th place overall, 1st Place Male Masters and a new PR by :10.
I couldn’t find Landry and Dawn in the finishing chute or at the Caleb’s Army Tent, so I went back out on the 5K course and found Bea pushing Caleb and the girls in the triple stroller. I spent some time with them and then jogged back to the finish area and found Dawn and Landry. We chatted a bit with everyone and then went over to the hanger for the awards ceremony.
Landry made the trip up to the stage with me and we got a chance to be interviewed for a promotional video about the Lights of Love event that Ronald McDonald House will be putting together for next year. It was again a tremendous event that is absolutely as well run and organized as any of the races in Austin.
They do a tremendous job having a little something there for everyone and even the smallest details are accounted for. Pretty indicative of how the entire Ronald McDonald House Operates on a daily basis. Just a top-notch organization that makes a tremendous impact on the lives of so many.
So what’s next for us? First day of work on Monday which is pretty darn exciting and then another race – this time a half-marathon down in Shiner, TX next Sunday. At that point we will be exactly one month away from the starting line down in Houston. Makes you want to tap the brakes just a bit and slow things down – as things are moving way too fast right now.
Kind of like raising a little girl.