Friday, November 21, 2008

Running with my kid: The C&D Canal 10K (11/02/08)

I've had the pleasure recently of running more and more with daughter Megan (23), and sometimes also her boyfriend BJ. A great father-daughter bonding experience.

The kid has been through a couple of knee surgeries in the last year or so, the first for an ACL and meniscus repair, and the second as meniscus touch-up just this past summer. Well, getting back in shape, she set the admirable goal to run a 10K. At the end of the summer and during the fall, she steadily worked up her mileage. And, on a nice cool fall day, we did her first 10K together -- the C&D Canal 10K, part of the C&D Canal Running Festival put on by Piranha Sports.

Maybe I wasn't the best person to do a first race with -- I almost got her there late! Well, not late for her -- she was pre-registered -- but I was purty dern close to the last one to be allowed to register onsite. My buddy Greg, poor guy, was even later -- he called me from the starting line minutes before I arrived, wondering if he had the day right because there was nobody there. Turns out, he went to the starting line of last year's race in Delaware City! I tried to be as nice as I could to the folks handling registration -- the event staff looked thinner than last year and late registrants were giving them headaches as they were needing to get other things ready for the race.

Anyhow, with registration taken care of, Megan and I chatted with Greg, fellow Trail Dawg Angus, and a guy who works in our department, Curt. Megan didn't seem to be too nervous. The race starts were staggered. Marathon first -- Angus was out of the gate pretty quickly. Half-marathon next -- we got to cheer Greg and Curt as they took off.. Then our 10K, and I assume we were followed soon after by the 5K.

We went out with a steady pace, about 10 minute miles, occasionally having to slow down after the adrenaline of the start. Megan's goal was to average about 10 minute miles and to break an hour if possible. The course heads from the St. George's general store to the old St. George's Bridge, to the canal, then eastward along the gravel road next to the canal. After about 2 miles, with a bit of a headwind, I could tell by Megan's breathing that the challenge would be in maintaining our more or less 10 minute pace. Before the turnaround, we backed off slightly and let a 60-ish guy we ran some with get ahead. From the halfway point turnaround, I tried to psyche her up, pointing out the benefit of the tailwind. But, as you'd expect for a first 10K, it got harder and harder. By the time we hit 4 miles, I knew she was at a place that Greg said she'd need to be ready for -- I love this -- "that magical place of misery somewhere between the adreneline wearing off and too far from the finish to be excited." I don't know if any further proof was needed about how unfit I am to be a parent, but I began trying to talk her into "embracing the pain, embracing the fatigue," and telling her that "suffering is good." Trying to bring out more motivation, as we hit the 5 mile point, I tried to point out to her that she was going to soon feel great -- because she could stop!

As we rounded the second-to-last turn, we hit pavement and Megan began to pick it up. As the last turn got in sight, only yards from the finish, she really picked it up, getting out ahead of me with a spring like she was chasing a ball in a soccer game. I hustled to try to catch her and we crossed the finish line in close succession, Megan at 1:04:18 and me at 1:04:19 -- just about a 10 minute mile pace!

It's a real pleasure to be able to share something like this with your kid. I was proud of her for her effort in training and running the race, and even prouder of her for forgiving me for being a task-master in the last couple of miles.

Post-script/race review: I appreciate the race organizers' efforts, and really like supporting great local races like this one -- but I think the race slipped a notch since last year (where I did the half). Pluses: pleasant running along the canal (except maybe when the headwind was bad); really nice volunteers, friendly and hard-working; pretty cool concept to offer races from 5K to marathon distance the same morning; a very generous number of awards, including three for each 5 year age group; and the race set up is really easy to get to. Minuses: poor course control causing wrong/missed turns and bad mileage postings in places; not enough cups for the runners (they were out of cups so unable to give drinks by the time we hit about 4 miles on the 10K); not the same party atmosphere in the little town of St Georges as you can have by the ferry landing in Delaware City, no loud music or loudspeaker announcing finishers like they did before.

Kudos: Speed Dawg Angus Repper won the marathon for the second year in a row. He finished in 2:54 and change and looked great as he crossed the finish line. Fellow Dawg Mark Holliday broke 4 hours in the marathon for the first time with a great run. Greg Forgang and Mary Holliday had what I believe to be male and female course records in the 12K or 13K or 14K or 15K race. This was a special event at this year's C&D Run Fest made possible by poor course control causing them (and maybe 1/5 of the 10K field) to miss a turn and run extra miles -- and in their cases cheating them of high podium finishes.

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