Finally – Austin Marathon Recap

Wow, this post has been on my mind for such a long time.  I was on a roll blogging about our trip in February then kept finding excuses to put this one off which pretty much prevented any other blogging because, of course, I wanted to be chronological.

Don’t worry, we’ve still been running and definitely eating just not necessarily at the same time.  I finally lost my tolerance for cold which has reduced the appeal of the breakfast run for me.  I just can’t warm up again once we stop to eat.  Thank goodness warmer weather is just around the corner.

So, The 2016 Austin Marathon . . .

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The Before Pic

One of my favorite parts was milling around in the middle of the city with thousands of other runners while it was still dark.

There was no traffic, of course, and even though there were a lot of people, there was plenty of room to spread out, so it just seemed peaceful.  The capitol building was beautifully lit up at the top of Congress Street.

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See the Capitol Building in the Background?

There seemed to be a feeling of relaxed anticipation – the calm before the storm.  Maybe that was just my feeling, but after months of getting ready and thinking about the race, (agonizing over my training times, wishing I’d skipped a few more cookies, etc.) and getting more and more nervous by the day, I was relieved to be on the verge of just. doing. this. thing.

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Once the National Anthem started, my nervousness came rushing back.  Then finally the starting gun went off and minutes later we crossed the start line, and we were RUNNING!  Even though I could swear it was still dark when we started, it felt like sunny midday by the time we crossed the bridge and started up South Congress street.

My first mile was great, but by mile 5 I was kind of falling apart.  I hadn’t been able to eat much before the race – too nervous – so I had my first Gu.  I knew Mike was somewhere behind me.  I thought about trying to wait for him in hopes that he would help motivate me to keep going.  By mile 7 or 8, the Gu kicked in, and I felt okay.  (Note to self – eat before the race – no matter what!)

My confidence really wavered during the whole race – feeling great one minute, feeling like I couldn’t finish the next.  I think it was around mile 12 when the half marathon split off.  It was so hard to make myself stay on the left for the full!

We had a friend there cheering us on at around mile 18 or 19.  Looking forward to seeing him really helped.  And it was a pretty great feeling once I reached the last 6 miles.  I took about 3 or 4 walk breaks which I’d never done before, but it sure did feel great to walk and drink my water and eat my Gu without being out of breath.

Finally, I was running through the UT campus and on the last stretch.  There was one more really ugly hill during the last mile then I was able to sprint down the hill to the finish.  What a relief!  My slowest marathon and probably my hardest.  I finished in about 3:58.  Nice to stay under 4 hours but almost 15 minutes slower than my previous slowest marathon.

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We made it!

And you know what?  It really didn’t matter.  I was still just as ecstatic as I was when I completed my other, faster marathons.  I had exactly the same feelings of relief, accomplishment, and that indescribable post-race euphoria.  As I get ready to run Boston IN TWO DAYS, I keep trying to remind myself that.

The race itself was really well organized.  I actually can’t think of a single thing to improve in that area.  The spectators were awesome.  I was pretty jealous of quite a few groups that were partying in their yards while watching the race.  One group was drinking mimosas, and I almost stopped and just hung out with them for the rest of the day.  The signs were all very entertaining.  I can’t believe I’d never seen this quote before, but there were quite a few signs that said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.  That hit home for me, since I was having such a mental struggle during the race.

The course was really hilly!  It was described as having “rolling  hills”.  We both thought that Texas was super flat, so it couldn’t possibly be as hilly as The Maine Marathon.  We weren’t worried about the hills at all.  Apparently, Austin is in “Hill Country”.  Oops.  There weren’t any hills that I remember that were particularly steep (although I hear there’s a killer one on the half marathon course) – it was kind of like the accumulation of them just snuck up on you.  The first 2 miles or so were almost all uphill (which I had read), and I started too fast as usual which I think might have been part of my problem.

We had been more worried about the heat.  You can’t exactly train for that in Maine in January.  It turned out to be quite nice – in the 50’s with a bit of a breeze.

We will definitely do this race again!  Well, maybe.  Lots of other places to visit.

Whew, finally finished a blog post.  Thanks for reading.

Austin Marathon – Pre Race Day

I was really nervous for this race.  I hadn’t trained as well as for my other races and had been eating like a pig since Thanksgiving.  I skipped almost the entire pre-race week of running, so when we saw that there was a group run that morning, we jumped on it.

I was actually a bit sluggish when the time rolled around.  We had to find the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue – wherever the heck that was – but Mike was motivated, so he tracked it down for us.  We weren’t sure what to expect – a huge group – or no one else but us.

I had read that Dick Beardsley would be hosting the event, and I immediately recognized that slim, elite runner build when we arrived that the meeting spot.  Even though I knew he would be hosting, I didn’t really expect to be able to talk to him.  I’m kind of shy, and I figured there would be lots of other people vying for his attention.  However, when we arrived, there was just a handful of people milling around, and Mr. Beardsley came right up to us and introduced himself – so cool!
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He spent quite a bit of time chatting to us before we started the run – such a down-to-earth, friendly guy.  We really enjoyed talking with him.  I couldn’t believe we were standing there (calmly – for the most part – I look pretty dorky) next to the 33 year Grandma’s Marathon record holder (meaningful to me especially, since Grandma’s was my first, and ironically, that record was broken the year I ran it).  I really hadn’t known much else about him, but check out his story.  It’s pretty interesting.

We finally set off on the run, hosted also by Bobby Overton from SpiBelt – also a super nice guy – especially considering his task of herding us cats.  (We both felt a little guilty that Mike was wearing his new FlipBelt.)  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the run either.  Some of the other participants looked like they might be around our same pace (you never really can tell by appearances), but I was pretty sure that even though it’s been almost 34 years since his exciting Boston Marathon finish seconds behind Alberto Salazar, Mr. Beardsley could probably still set a pretty darn good pace.

We set out on a nice, easy run.  I was even able to run up ahead to snap a photo.

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We ran along the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail which was really beautiful.

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Our route (also includes getting there and back from hotel and a detour to the Expo)

Mr. Beardsley told me how part way you used to have to go up on the highway and back down, but they’ve since made a beautiful boardwalk to connect those two ends of the trail.  We got to run along that and had beautiful views of the city from there.  I got to run with my new friend, Dick, the whole way to our turnaround point.

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We had a great conversation, and he even recommended a few marathons to me (Fargo Marathon and Dick Beardsley Marathon – he was very humble about it being called that).  I kind of felt like I was hogging him, so I chatted with a few of the other runners on the way back.  One of whom was none other than Henry Rono, a 5000 meter record record breaker in the 70’s and 80’s – among many other accomplishments.  He was also very humble and interesting to talk to.

It was great to be in the midst of such running fame, but the other people in the group were friendly and fun, too.  One guy was running his first marathon, but quite a few of the others had run Austin before and were able to give us good advice about the course and about where to visit in Austin.  (Thank you for your advice about the speed bumps and your recommendation of HopDoddy’s!)
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What an amazing experience!  I was happy to have done the shakeout run, since it helped me remember that I did still know how to run.  But more than that, it got me excited about running again – what a great community and a great way to interact with people.  You already have something in common.  Somewhat surprisingly to me, the conversation that Mr. Beardsley and I had about running wasn’t any different than I conversation I might have with any other, average Joe runner like myself – the nerves before a race, the gear, the locations.

Happy running!

Austin Marathon – Expo

We managed to only leave Portland about an hour late.  We’re notorious for getting a late start.  Always so many late minute things to do.  On top of that there was a crazy freak snowstorm and tons of traffic because of it.  The first hour of our journey from Portland to Boston was quite harrowing, but we finally made it to my Mom’s and had a nice dinner and said good-bye to the kids.

My mom was kind enough to take us to the airport the next morning at 4:00 am.  Even then the security line at Logan was quite long, and we got to our gate just in time to board.  We’d never traveled on SouthWest before, but everything went quite smoothly.

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Celebrating our first flight together since 2002

We landed in Chicago right on time, had just enough time to use the bathroom then continued on to Austin.

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We arrived at around noon and took a cab to our hotel.  Our room wasn’t ready yet, but we were able to ditch our bags and head out to lunch.

Compared to home, the weather was just gorgeous.  It was so nice to leave all that built up tension from the cold behind.  I hadn’t done much research on Austin food, so we ventured out to a Mexican restaurant recommended by the hotel.  It wasn’t great, but it was WONDERFUL to be able to eat outside.  (Margarita’s were too sweet, chips were boring, but Ceviche was quite good, and atmosphere on the outdoor second floor deck was perfect.)

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We wandered around 6th street for a very short time after lunch then got the call from our hotel that our room was ready.  We headed back to the hotel, washed the travel off of us, put on some running clothes, and headed over to the Expo to pick up our packets and check that out.

The Austin Marathon is supposed to be pretty big – over 10,000 participants between the half and the full, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Expo after we told the hotel we were here for the marathon, and they asked, “Which marathon is that?”.

It turned out to be just perfect.
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We were there for a marathon and wanted to bask in the running hype, and there was plenty of that there.

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Picked up our numbers first

 

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The heart bibs for Valentine’s Day were cool

We got a lot of great SWAG including a cool backpack that came in really handy all weekend.  I think our favorite booth was the Nuun one.  I had tried Nuun once before and didn’t love it until I realized how much I really don’t like Gatorade.  We bought a bunch of the tablets and got some cool water bottles both of which we used the whole time we were there.  We also really liked this yummy cold pressed juice that we tried.  We kind of tried to find some the rest of the week with no luck.  I might try Whole Foods here this week.

There was so much to see and great live music playing while we wandered around.  We wanted to make the most of our experience, so we checked out every single booth.  I bought a shirt, and Mike bought a flip belt.  We ran there and had planned to walk back to the hotel, since we expected to have a lot of stuff to carry.  Thanks to our new, free backpacks, we were able to run the mile or so back.  It was hot though!

We got back to the hotel and showered (and may have napped), got hungry, and decided to venture out again.  We didn’t want to eat or drink too much before the race, but a burger and a beer sounded great.  We still hadn’t spent much time researching where to eat, so we headed back out to 6th Street where we’d had lunch.  We walked up and down a bit before settling on a place called Jackalope.  Like everything else on 6th St., it kind of looked like a dive bar at first, but The Chupacabra burger (Barbacoa beef, salsa verde, jack, pickles, jalapenos, ghost pepper aioli) that we ordered to share turned out to be really good.  We each ordered a local beer from Austin Beer Works.  I got the Pearl Snap Pilsner.  I can’t remember what Mike got – something darker with a nice taste of coffee at the finish.

The waitress was very friendly and somehow talked us into a couple of tequila shots.  I guess, by that time, we were thinking we still had one more whole day before the marathon, and we should, after all, make the most of our rare vacation.

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In spite of the tequila, we didn’t get too crazy, but we did end up testing out the on-premise Jackalope.

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It was much more tame than the mechanical bull we’d seen further down the street.

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We vowed to follow a pre-marathon diet religiously the next day.

Race Review – Hangover Classic

Great name for a race, huh?  This one is becoming a tradition for us.  It’s a New Year’s Day race which seems like the perfect way to kick off the year.  We discovered it last year when we were looking for a 10K on that day.  It was going to be Mike’s first one.  There were a lot of 5K’s in the area but only a few 10K’s;  this Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA and one in Lowell.  I’m not sure how we decided on the Hangover Classic whether it was the name, the free beer, or that it’s a bit shorter drive.  In any case, we had a great time in 2015 and decided to repeat this year.

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This was 2015, we didn’t take any pictures this year.

 

The race starts around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to get to Salisbury from Portland and were even able to sleep in a bit after seeing in the New Year the night before.  We had a glass or two of champagne but didn’t party too hard, so for us the race was Hangover Classic in name only.

There is also a 5K option which had more runners.  There’s also the option to do a quick plunge in the ocean from the expansive (and wintertime-empty) Salisbury Beach (there were a few crazy surfers out).  Mike and I didn’t go for that option, but it was interesting to watch the people who did.

The course is super flat, so it’s great for a PR.  Mike and I both managed to hit one this year.  In spite of that, I still came in 5th for my age group which is that same as last year.  I wanted some “hardware” even if just age group hardware.  They do give out nice glasses to the top 40 male and female finishers.  I was able to snag a glass, so that was cool.
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There’s a great after party at The Carousel Lounge with free beer and pizza and wall to wall people.  It seemed like everyone there knew everyone else which gave it a great vibe although we didn’t know a single soul.

My favorite part of the race was when I passed a guy about 0.1 miles from the finish, and he shouted out encouraging words to me.  I always wish I would think to do things like that in a race.

We enjoyed our post race, post PR high and after consuming our free beer and pizza made our way to Portsmouth, NH where we had booked a hotel for the night and had a great time restaurant hopping for both dinner and breakfast the next day.  More on that another day.

Hangover Classic Race Summary

Best Parts:

  • New Year’s Day Race!
  • Flat course
  • Great party atmosphere; before, during, and after
  • Cool glass for top 40 finishers (each male and female)
  • Cool long-sleeved cotton T (although both years, we signed up too late to get one, we did get a free pair of gloves)

Complaints

  • Slow start – it’s a big race.  Both races start at the same time at the same place.  Not that it ever really works, but runners were not encouraged to line up by time, so the start was clogged with walkers and runners who insisted on not only starting at the front but staying abreast of one another and really clogging up the first quarter of a mile or so.  I know I’m being a total running snob even bringing this up, and it probably added less then 15 seconds to my time, but it was annoying at the time.

Race Review – Portland Brewer’s Holiday Dash

Just a week ago today, we were running a fun race along the Eastern Promenade Trail.  I had harassed a bunch of my coworkers (and Mike) into joining me in running the 6th annual Portland Brewers’ Holiday Dash 5K.  We had a blast.  See?
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All the runners (and walkers) were in such a great festive mood.  The costumes were great, especially this guy dressed up as Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos

He was really fast, too.

It was the first time I dressed up for a race.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos


My striped tights were pretty tame compared to the ugly Christmas sweaters and Christmas tutus I saw other people wearing.  I’m going to have to step it up a notch next year.

Rira’s was the home base for the race.  The day ended up being unseasonably warm, but it was still nice to be able to go inside (and use their bathrooms) while waiting for the race to start.  It was especially nice to be able to enjoy our free beers inside Rira’s after the race.  (Not exactly free – included with the $35 race registration fee – but still delicious.)

The start line was about a quarter mile away from Rira’s right where the trail first crosses the Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks.  We ran about a mile and a half out to just past the graffiti wall near the sewage treatment plant and turned around and came back.  It’s a pretty course with views of the ocean the entire time.  I even think the graffiti wall is cool.  Here’s a picture from a year or so ago.
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The artwork keeps changing.  And thank goodness there’s no snow yet.

Three of us set a PR which was really exciting.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos

Actually, at least five of us set a PR, since it was a first time race for a couple people.  By the time we all finished the race, Rira’s was packed, but we managed to push our way up to the bar and get our beer.  The line for the brunch (also included in the entry fee) was all the way up the stairs, so we enjoyed our beers while waiting for the line to get a little shorter.

In the meantime, we started to see people walking by with their plates full of brunch food.  It didn’t look terrible but didn’t look worth the wait either, so we decided to move on to a less crowded place.  We hit up The Porthole and ended up having their backroom (used to be The Comedy Connection) all to ourselves.  I opted to drink my breakfast and had a delicious Bloody Mary, and we all had a great time chatting and joking reveling in our race accomplishments.

Overall, here are my thoughts on the race:

Best Parts

  • Great ocean view
  • Good location, easy walk into town
  • Festive mood
  • Having a warm restaurant as home base.  It was really crowded both before and after the race, but it seemed to actually run pretty smoothly.  The race directors and Rira’s had obviously worked out the process for allocating the free beers, checking id’s, etc.
  • Great photos by Maine Running Photos
  • Being able to see my friends on the out and back course

Complaints

  • The race web-site says that the race has “Automatic timing” which I took to mean chip timing.  It was timed by a timing company but was not chip timed.  It doesn’t matter a whole lot in a small-ish race (400 people in this one, so not that small), but I had told my friends who were doing their first 5K that it didn’t matter where they started because it would be chip-timed.
  • The race t-shirt was light blue.  I was hoping for something more Christmas-y (like red), since this was a holiday-themed race.
  • No age group prizes.

 

Race Review: Saint Brigid School Harvest Hustle 5k (????)

I’m sentimental for this race for a couple of reasons: 1) This is part of the annual Harvest Fair Fundraiser at Saint Brigid School where I teach and our daughter, Addie, attends, and 2) This was the first race (last year) in my current running journey.  I also had a small part in the race organization as the person in charge of ordering and delivering the race T-shirts.  Fortunately, I was able to get the shirts printed and delivered ahead of time thanks to the great folks, Tony and Jennifer Balzano, at Hanging By A Thread.

After a great couple of weeks to start my training for the 2016 Austin Marathon in February, I was convinced that I would achieve a PR in this race.  Additionally, this was the first 5k in a while that I would be able to have a rest day before the race (my last PR had an 8 mile run the day before and a morning run prior to the evening race).  Things turned out that Friday night lasted a little longer than expected.  Katie and I were invited to an 80s themed birthday party at Bubba’s Sulky Lounge (that place would make for an interesting Breakfast Night Out Run Review…It was great, but upon entering I first felt like I was in the scene of True Detective Season One at the Biker Bar).  Katie really got into the spirit of the party with some 80s style Big Hair:

Hoping Katie doesn’t mind this look on the blog!

One thing led to another and I did not exactly have the recommended pre-race evening intake of hydration and healthy food.  Rather, I was up past midnight and enjoyed too much a couple of adult libations.

Fortunately, I was miraculously up with the sun in time to hydrate, have a breakfast snack, and run a 1.5 mile warm-up to the start line (this is one of the most shocking changes for me since running this race a year ago.  Last year I was sure not to waste a single step running during warm-ups in fear that it would cause me not to finish the race).

It looked like there was a decent turnout for the race and we had fun watching the Kids  Childrens (kids are baby goats!  Does that sound snobby; I don’t know) Fun Run prior to the start (disappointingly the total race turnout was around 50 runners).  Earlier this week, I did scouting run on the course which would be 5K on Baxter Boulevard.  We’ve run the Boulevard many times, but I wanted to get another look at it in order to plan a PR strategy.  My goal was a sub 23 minute race, so my pace would have to be around 7:24 per mile.  I planned to run a 7:30 first mile with 7:20 the last 2.1 miles.  I did some further pre-race cheatin’ preparation with a Gu (I can hear the “real” runners’ groans) and a (gasp!) Red Bull.  I feel like the 5k race is about an energy burst, so I wanted as some excess in the tank for a fast (for me at least) pace.

A few minutes before race time it was time to shed the warm-up gear (no wool needed today since the temperature was near 60 degrees) and pin on my bib (even for this race my hands were shaking…still get nervous for races!)

Getting ready to run the Harvest Hustle!

As Katie previously posted, our daughter, Addie, was in this race also with Katie.  It was fun to have them there and would later be exciting to cheer Addie on at the finish!

So, as I’m heading to the start line, the Race Director informed us that the race would be the full Boulevard (3.6 miles).  Ugh!!!  What!  My thoughts were now that even if I hit a 5K PR it wouldn’t count!  WTF! (What the Frak!…any BSG fans out there?).  Most of the racers were students from Saint Brigid (I’m so impressed with many of the 9-12 year olds who ran this race with awesome times…a 12 year old won it with a sub 7:00 per mile pace!) who didn’t pay attention to were unfazed by the announcement, but the adults groaned knowing an extra half mile had been snuck in there!  At any other race this would have caused a riot an uproar, but everyone seemed to take it in stride.  After some encouraging words from our Principal, Bill Burke, we started the race!

The pace started fast.  Many of the students shot out at a full sprint not really comprehending how long 5K is.  I had my sights set on beating matching a couple of middle school students that I teach, but they set out at a sub 7:00 pace.  I was drawn in for a quarter mile, but I managed to pull it back before I totally flamed out.  at the 1/2 mile mark I found a runner to pace off of.  She was definitely experienced (turns out she has run many races and is a parent of a former student of mine) since she was maintaining a 7:10-7:15 pace, and at her heels, I managed a 7:09 first mile.  Shortly after, I passed my competition students (I feel bad because I think they were a bit upset that I passed them and they expended too much energy early on and finished well below their potential times; still, they had impressive times).

Just around mile 2 of the Boulevard there is a slight incline.  In prior races and training runs, I have been able to turn it on here and pass other racers (Katie sometimes jokingly I think calls me the “Hill Killer”).  I had been pacing off of my “rabbit” and was convinced I would pass her at this point.  I made two moves and each time she picked it up to stay in front.  Just couldn’t muster enough to pass her.  I think she was just toying with me, because it turns out she was staying just behind her son (12 years old) and husband for the race.  Try as I might, I was not able to catch them (they finished about 15 seconds ahead of me in the end).

The biggest disappointment from this race is that at the 5K mark, my TOMTOM Runner GPS Watch had me at a 7:20 per mile pace which would have been my PR, BUT (!) I still had to run another half fraking (BSG again) mile! I gutted it out, but still watched my average pace time climb.  I was happy that no other runners passed me during the home stretch (usually a horde seems to pass my burnt out, slow ass  me by at the finish).  I finished the 3.6 mile course in 26:26.  Turns out this was a PR time which is very exciting, but I won’t officially count it until I achieve it in an official 5K race.  Looks like I’ll have to wait for our race in December, the 6th Annual Portland Brewer’s Holiday Dash 5K hosted by Ri Ra Irish Pub.

It was a great day despite the last minute distance change.  I hit a PR, came in 8th overall (first top 10 finish ever), and most importantly, it was great to run the final stretch with Addie as she completed her first 5K ever!

I’m hopeful this race will continue with some improved organization.  It is for a great cause (and my employment!) and Portland is a great venue for a race.  Many people are hoping the race can move back to our neighborhood (that’s another story) where the turnout will have an increase.  Maybe we’ll have to take a shot at being Race Directors for 2016…

See you on the road!


Addie’s First 5K!

It’s been a busy weekend so far, but the most exciting thing is that our youngest daughter finished her first 5K this morning.
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Now all four kids have done at least one 5K.  Sadly none of them are as addicted to running as we are.  Yet.

The race was put on by Addie’s school, and there was some kind of reward for the class with the most participants, so she was motivated to help her class.  Our plan was to walk some and run some.  She made sure to tell me that she would decide when we would run and when we would walk.  (I think she’s heard Mike complain a time or two about me setting too fast a pace and always wanting to be one step ahead.)  I’m actually surprised she was even concerned.  She thinks she can run 35 miles an hour, since she and Mike happened to be running by one of those digital signs that tells cars how fast they’re going when a car going 35mph also went by.  We don’t have the heart to explain.

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We ended up walking more than we ran, but I was impressed that she never gave up running completely – didn’t even really consider it.  As we were walking along, we’d pick out trees, signs, benches, etc. off in the distance where we’d plan to start running again and pick another landmark where we would stop.  We were excited to see Mike/Dad waiting near the end and made sure to be running when we went by him and got some high fives.  We took a quick walk break after that to make sure we’d have enough left to finish strong and managed to pick up our pace at the end for in impressive 54 minute or so time (the course was actually about half a mile too long – so we did about 3.6 miles).

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Addie told me later that she thought it was cool that people she didn’t even know were cheering her on.  I like that in a race, too.  Mike also had a great race, but I’ll let him write about that.

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Thanks for reading!