(yep, i used that word).
not because it's been a while since i've entered a 5k. not because there were a ton of the Barrie Running Ninjas out for this MEC Barrie Race Four all sporting their custom-designed, available-only-through-MEC-Barrie's-group-run t-shirts.
it's because i finally got my birthday present from my kids.
when i was asked back in june what i wanted for my birthday, i told my girls that i would love for them to run this 5k race in september with me. three of them immediately agreed, while my oldest knew right off the bat that she wouldn't be up for it (and instead bought me a big bag of twizzlers). so with that commitment in place we embarked on a semi-regular schedule of 'family run nights' through the summer in order to prepare. the kids had already had some experience with running/race-training through our local chapter of the Girls On The Run programme but would not be considered 'active' runners ... and while my wife runs from time-to-time on the treadmill she rarely ventures out onto the streets of barrie unless coerced by her nutjob husband.
despite the long-range forecast calling for rain it turned out to be near ideal 'racing' conditions (overcast and about 14°C with little wind). granted it was a bit on the brisk side for standing around, but certainly would not make dehydration a high risk factor for the day.
allyson, the girls and i arrived about an hour before gun time for our distance (the 15k race would start at 9am, followed by the 10k race at 9:10am and then our 5k), providing us ample time to get our timing chips and hobnob with various familiar faces (well, at least to me). it was actually surprising to me how many people i knew there that morning, and i felt like i was constantly making introductions to my heretofore snuffleupagus-like family.
with the staggered starts i was able to see off a bunch of my friends and cheer them on as they embarked on their respective race journeys. while this was great, it did mean that my family and i were left trying to figure out ways to keep warm until our starter's pistol fired. amelie (our second oldest daughter) thought that the best way to do that was to down as many of the complimentary taste of nature organic bars as possible.
having completed our lunge matrix stretches we were sent on our way on a short stretch of packed gravel before hitting the roads just on the south side of orillia by the lake. although i thought that amelie and allyson would be taking it nice and slow together while i paced an eager charlotte, it quickly turned out that those energy bars (or maybe just that race atmosphere) had amelie going out at a brisk pace. i realized then and there that i would be looping forward and backward on the course to spend time encouraging each of my ladies as they pounded the pavement for 5k. no one had any specific goals in mind (at least not that i was told about beforehand) so i was just out there to try to help them each have the best experience that they could.
here's a mini-breakdown of how each voo racer fared:
amelie - our natural-born athlete succumbed to every racer's temptation of going out too hard at the beginning. she seemed to be overtaking numerous fellow competitors using her shorter, compact, high-turnover legs but did wind up walking good stretches of the course (as she knew that she would). still she would lead the voo pack throughout and in the final 500m huffed and puffed her way up the incline. i was concerned at one point that she was looking like her asthma was going to kick in (as i paced her through to the finish over the last 1.5k or so), but she gritted it out with the prospect of more 'energy bars' to devour after crossing the finish line.
charlotte - who had been eager to train with me just about every time that i offered and showed signs of being in strong competition shape wound up finding the 5k more of a stuggle than she had anticipated. her long and lean 9-year old frame still served her well although she had to back off of the pace that she had carried through many of our training runs ... it could well have been that she was overheating a bit as she made the last-second decision to wear her hoodie for the run. still, she finished strong in the final stretch - and as a bonus we discovered that the pickiest of our eaters (who has to this point shown the ability to subsist on ramen noodles, french fries and yorkshire puddings) enjoys CLIF bars. who knew?!?
allyson - my wife would call herself almost exclusively a treadmill runner, so dealing with breezy, cool conditions on an undulating route was challenge enough. but ally played it smart - from the get-go she determined to find a 'manageable' pace that she thought that she would be able to keep up for the entirety of the 5k distance, and to her credit she took fewer walk breaks than did our daughters. it was certainly a test of endurance for her, made a little more enjoyable when she connected in with a group of other ladies who seemed to be running at close to her pace. apparently during their banter it came up that she was running this as a birthday gift for me - to which they responded with some wit "then next year you should ask your husband to take you on a trip to cuba for your birthday". i dunno ... i got ally into the race on a complimentary registration ... cuba sounds a whole lot pricier (not that she isn't worth it!). in any case, we crossed the finish line together (after our daughters) at which point she revealed that she'd hit her goal of completing the event in under 45 minutes. success!
everybody seemed to be in fine shape after crossing the timing mats - ally spent a little extra time with a cool-down walk, while i found the girls raiding the refreshment tent like it was going out of style. ally would also fill me in later that charlotte had said to her that after she'd finished the race she felt 'proud of herself'. big win there!
as well it was great to check in with the Ninjas to see how they'd done ... there were numerous happy faces to be sure, and great results to boot. it really is such an awesome feeling to be in with a league of such happy and dedicated runners - they are without a doubt like another family to me.
so i got to double-dip on family time!
[ photos courtesy of chris hillis ]