25 June, 2011

Sulphur Springs 10k trail run

May 28th 2011 - Never did I think racing 10k in 53:38 would feel so great, but then I also wasn't sure my 16 yr old son, Graham, would have the sangfroid to be seen running with his uncool dad.

This culminated on the dampest, chilliest morning the RD could recall in the 19 yr history of this trail running event, hosted by the Burlington Runners club. In the eight weeks previous we tried our best to adhere to a Franken-schedule I pulled together with considerations of our vastly different life timetables, running base levels, motivations and health, not to mention nuisances like homework, 2011's notoriously limp weather, and perhaps most importantly, Graham's knees' propensity for pain.
From the outset I had resolved that if I could get him across the finish line happy and healthy my mission would be accomplished. To this end we took things slow & steady; my GPS-free pacing usually erred on the side of prudence over heroics; we chose gravel over pavement whenever possible, and Graham's untimely success on the school badminton team meant new tournaments turned run days into "cross training" as the schedule broke apart like a pack of dogs at a cat show. Rather than overtrain the distance I gambled to have him just train up to it so that May 28th would be pretty much the first time he experienced the full 10 kilometres.

To his credit Graham always held up his end of the bargain, even running a few times on his own when my schedule just wouldn't sync with his and no more days could elapse without setting us back. We went out in the dark, in the rain, at the crack of dawn, whenever we needed to ensure no more than two consecutive days were skipped. He patiently indulged my verbal questionaires about his knee pain as we ran, with the distinct understanding we would back off the pace if he felt anything above 1/10 on the soreness scale.

A recognizance run at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area a couple of weeks before the big day gave us a better sense of what we were getting ourselves into, and it was clearly going to be no cakewalk. Very steep hills scaling both sides of the narrowing Niagara Escarpment promised more than enough challenge to every joint and muscle south of our navels.
The race itself went according to plan. Our barely-spoken hope was to break one hour; while I'd admonished him to avoid time goals - especially for a first time at a new distance, because it might push him to the point of injury - there is no denying that this round figure kept cropping up in our sights. In spite of that, my adolescent partner displayed remarkable discipline by remaining within his limits, even with many rabbits bounding ahead of us. We covered the distance with a consistency that made me proud. It was apparent that my training plan was decent enough, given how we made it to the crest of the final, very steep, long hill - just hundreds of metres from the finish line - intact and still running. Indeed, when Graham's closest AG competitor slipped past us with less than a minute to go, all it took was my breathless "go for it" for him to shift into a finishing kick that made his old man proud and nearly sent his feet sliding out from under him on the last hairpin turn in sight of the finish line.

Watching my 16 year old sprint toward his first finish (and a podium one at that!), and pull away from me in doing so, was a memory I'll cherish forever... it made me laugh out loud with joy. When I saw him photographing his muddy shoes afterwards it struck me that we may just be doing this again.

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