Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Joy of Racing

*note* This picture is not my son, or anyone I know, just a cute shot of little kids blasting it out in my old favorite sport - motocross!  I would imagine behind that helmet and goggles is a smiling face!!!

*if you like this blog, you might enjoy my book:"Quiet the Noise: A Trail Runner's Path To Hearing God"

"The Joy Of Racing"

Race number 3 for my, now 11 year old, son Ryan.

This year I was scheduled to do my first “stage” race on Father’s Day weekend.  This is the weekend that Ryan and I have run his 4 mile road race the past 2 years so we would have to pick another race to do this year.

Originally, we were looking at the 10k distance on trails as his training had really picked up with Cross Country, however, a 4.5 mile option seemed to work out perfectly for our schedules so we signed up.

I knew this would be a very different experience than his last trail running experience (under-trained, over fed the morning of the race, fighting a cold, puking in the first mile – I knew it would not take much to improve on this experience).

I spent a lot of prayer time and alone time with God checking in that I was doing the right thing having my son do these races so early in his life – I also check in with him so much I am sure it annoys him to no end!

I also knew this would be different in terms of the pace we would be running.  Ryan was in the best running shape of his life (although most training we did was limited to 1-3 miles of fast running) from 6 weeks of Cross Country training and we mentally much more into it and mature than he was for his last race.

We got to bed fairly early Friday night (around 10pm) and I got him up at 6:20 to leave at 6:30am (not much for him to do but get dressed – not like an 11 year old has to do foam rolling, etc. like a 50 year old needs to do before a race!).

We definitely learned our lesson on nutrition, Ryan ate a very small protein bar and sipped on Powerade on the drive there.  Everytime I asked him if he wanted anything more, he declined, nausea really is a strong memory!

We had a great time on the drive there, Ryan was very talkative (a good sign) and we were both feeling great.  The weather was perfect (cool and very low humidity) and we were excited!  The only thing I would change is I had planned on doing at least one decade of the Rosary with him and it never happened.  I did pray silently but I really want to take these opportunities to pray with my kids so I will work on it next time.

We got there nice and early and went to sign in.  Funny (not really) story, my race number was “666”.  In 20 years of racing and over 200 races, this has never happened – ironic as I am closer to God now than I have ever been.  Anyway, we got a good laugh out of it and I decided to wear it upside down to alleviate any possible bad omens!!!

Great moment number 1 – it was cold so we waited in the car for the race to start.  Putting on our numbers, listening to music, enjoying each other’s company (again, great opportunity to pray that I did not take – lesson here is that praying before, during exercise/racing has become a strong habit when I am alone but I have to work on it when I am with others).

On comes one of our favorite songs (Buckaroo – not sure of artist) – basically a song about a boy wanting to be just like his dad. Can you say perfect timing?  We are both singing it, and I start to cry silently, look over and Ryan is crying also!  We hug each other and tell each other we love each other!

What a wonderful moment.

Time to race!

This race starts off around a field to sort people out (there were 350 people there, about ½ in the 10 mile option and ½ in the 4.5 mile option) as it can get pretty crowded when it hits single track.

Ryan also learned his lesson (he really is a mature kid, gets that from his mom) by starting too quickly in his last trail race so we start off very comfortably until we hit the trail. 

He wanted to lead and set the pace (good move) and told me to let him know if he was going too fast.  Time really flew in the beginning as we hit the first mile in just under 9 minutes (faster than he ran on the road last year) and were both feeling good.

Ryan was very talkative for the first 2 miles (until the hills started) and was running great.

This was such a different experience as he was running at, or faster, than my training pace so it felt like a real run – not taking a slower runner through an experience. 

In fact, he would actually gap me a bit on the downhills and I was not holding back.

At all.

I can see the future, if he stays with this sport, and it is not too far away, that I will only be seeing my boy at the start and the finish and he will be waiting for me! 

The way it should be, I suppose.

He ran steady and strong.  Only walked the very steep climbs and even then not for long. 

Didn’t even stop at the aid station at mile 2.6, just threw a cup of water over his head (and I threw one on him also).

I knew he was in better shape but this was amazing.  I was thanking God and smiling the whole time – he has such a drive when he gets out there, I just love to see it.

Originally I thought we might break an hour on this course as I had heard it was not an easy trail. 

Well, we broke an hour, for sure.

As we neared the finish line, I was setting up to beat him in the sprint this time – no more give aways at this age.  We rounded the corner and there was not enough space, he timed it perfectly and beat me again!


We walked around a bit and had a drink and a snack, I could tell he was really happy with his performance and knew he had done well. 

Now the “icing on the cake”.

The results were available right away.  Amazing, I have been doing these races long enough that the results used to be hand written on paper, or you wouldn’t get them till hours later.  Now they are instantly uploaded to ipads that you can look at right away!

Anyway, turns out Ryan was 4th in his age group!

But wait, it gets better. 

I noticed the age group was “18 and under” instead of 14 and under like normal – so I chatted with the Race director and she asked Ryan how old were the people who beat him, he knew right away: 15, 16 and 18. 

Bam – she gives him his hard-earned 1st place medal (a golden goat head, too funny) and his happiness was overflowing.

Praise god again!

I also ended up 2nd in the 50-54 category (or as they like to call it, “tough old men”) so I was sporting the silver goat head all day!

The overwhelming feeling this day, I really think for both of us, was joy. 

Joy of being together.

Joy of running.

Joy of pushing ourselves.

Joy of the whole process.

And, as an added bonus….

Joy of the outcome against others.

Ryan was also 55th overall out of 122 people, not too shabby for an 11 year old!

What a way to start a Memorial Day Weekend. 

Again, thanks be to God.