“You’re the face of the future, the blood in my veins…”

2018 Richmond 8k

Race Report

55:01    (11:04 min/mile)     1/5 AG

(Jillian’s Results)

November 10, 2018 – For the past few years I’d run either the Richmond Marathon (2015 and 2016) or the Richmond Half Marathon (2017) in November as my last serious race of the year.  Technically, the Turkey Day 5k comes last, but my real prep work after tri season ends has been for the full or the half marathon.  Leigh Anne had planned to run the half this year, so I was going to be on parenting duty for the race.  I could have inquired about a babysitter if I really wanted to race, like we’d done in the past, but for a couple of reasons, I decided against racing.

Still, over the summer Jillian and I began talking about whether she might be interested in running the 8k.  She’d done a couple of 5ks in the past, but nothing over that distance.  Jillian told me that she wanted to run it, but I made her commit to training for it before I would agree to sign her up.  Jackson had no interest in racing, and he’s old enough now to stay home alone by himself for a few hours.  So, after Jillian promised to put in the training, I signed us both up.  We planned to run the 8k while Leigh Anne tackled the half marathon, and then Jillian and I would have a bit of time to wait around before Leigh Anne finished.

Generally speaking, I made Jillian run with me at least once a week over the summer and fall, and Leigh Anne would take her some as well.  Most of the time, I’d do my Saturday morning bike and transition run and then I’d collect Jillian for her training run.  We started off running about 1.5 miles and I tried to add about a half mile every week.  Jillian has a lot of natural running ability and loves to race, but man, she doesn’t like to train.  It probably didn’t help that it was hot and humid on some of our runs, and there was a lot of complaining early on.

In those moments, I tried to remind her that it was her idea to run the 8k, and that she needed to follow through with her training commitment if she wanted to race.  On one particularly gruesome three mile run, the complaining (and even crying) got so bad that I stopped, began to walk and told her that I was done training her for the race.  Since it was so terrible, we could just walk back to the house and call it quits.  Now, I always let her run at the pace of her choosing and we took walk breaks whenever she needed, so its not like I was setting the pace and forcing her to keep up with me.  She was just having trouble getting her head in the right place on the training runs.  I guess my comment about quitting got through to her though, because she ran the rest of the way home and then apologized for having a bad attitude.  She promised to have a better attitude in the future if we could still train for the race.

Shortly thereafter, I found her pink Ipod Shuffle in a drawer and gave it to her for our next run.  Well apparently that was the magic elixer, because I never heard another complaint on any of our other runs.  If I heard anything from her at all while we ran, it was typically her singing Imagine Dragons songs.  I hate running without music too, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to solve that piece of her puzzle.

Most of the time, our training runs were done at just above a 12 minute/mile pace, which seemed to be the pace that Jillian was comfortable running longer distances.  Since the 8k equates to almost exactly five miles, my goal time for her for the race was one hour.  I was cautiously optimistic that she could make it once the adrenaline of race day kicked, but I was afraid to push her too much since she had never run five miles.  Her longest training run was just over four miles and included some walking.  Thus, I planned to run very close to 12 minute miles for miles 1-4 and then hope she had a strong finishing kick so she would come in under the one hour mark.  I was really afraid of pushing too hard early and having her bonk at the end.


Race morning was clear and sunny, but it was in the 30’s as we drove downtown to the race site.  The temperature was supposed to rise into the low to mid-40s during the race, but there was going to be some wind chilling it down a bit.  I always over-dress for cold weather runs, but I was cognizant of the fact that Jillian and I would have an hour-plus wait for Leigh Anne in the cold after we finished our race.

We used Leigh Anne’s parking pass to park in the MCV Hospital parking deck and then wound our way to the 8k starting line through the hospital.  That also gave us all the opportunity to use indoor plumbing instead of having to hit the portapotties outside, and after I checked my backpack at the bag drop, Jillian and I made our way into the starting corral and nestled into the one hour pace group.  It was fairly crowded, so we held hands to make sure we didn’t get separated once the gun went off.

8k pre

Getting ready to race!

Garmin Data




Mile 1 (11:31)

We were in a mass of people at the start, and it was tough to maneuver for the first quarter mile or so.  Eventually, we made our way over to the left side of Broad Street and found a little bit of breathing room.  We’d started at the back of the one hour pace group, so most of the people should have been moving at about our pace.  Nevertheless, I felt like we were constantly weaving around slower people in the first mile, including a lot of folks who’d already started walking.  There was a slower pace group behind ours in the starting corral, so I was a little perturbed by the walkers who had seeded themselves ahead of us.  I’ve got no problem with people walking the course, but a little better self-seeding would be helpful.

Jillian was cruising along in the first mile and basically silent since she had her Ipod going.  She continued to hold my hand, and I asked her every quarter mile or so if she was happy with the pace.  She voiced no concerns, so we kept plodding along and hit the one mile mark at 11:31.  A little fast, so I decided to throttle us back a little.

Mile 2 (11:50)

The second mile continued west on Broad Street and it was basically more of the same.  Jillian continued to affirm that the pace was good for her and the spacing between us and the other runners was still improving.  There were a fair amount of spectators on the sidewalk, including a band or two.  Jillian had never run in a large race, so I think she was pretty excited to see all the sights, and it probably kept her mind off of running a bit.  We finished the second mile a little closer to our 12:00 minute/mile goal, and things seemed to be going well.8k race.jpg

Mile 3 (11:41)

We hit the first water stop just after mile two and I was hoping that we could just run through it.  Jillian said that she wanted to get some water, and I figured that she would stop and take her time.  Nope, she grabbed a cup and threw it back like a champ without missing a beat.  I’m not sure when she’d practiced that move, but I need some pointers from her since since I invariably choke when I do the same.

Around mile 2.3 we hit the westernmost part of the course and took a left turn towards Grace Street to head back east.  There were a lot of spectators near the turnaround and Jillian got a lot of encouragement.  I told her that we were about halfway done and she seemed to be having no trouble maintaining our pace, even though we’d averaged about 20 seconds per mile faster than our goal pace up to that point.  I was wondering if I should push the pace even more, but I was still concerned about her bonking near the end since she’d never ran five miles before.

Mile 4 (11:20)

Right after the turnaround point we’d passed a boy who was running with his dad.  He looked like he was a year or two older than Jillian, so I pointed him out and told her that she was doing so well that she was passing a boy.  She smiled and pressed on.

We didn’t get too far though before she pulled up and said “I need to walk.”  I was immediately concerned since we had almost two miles to go, and I was already having heartburn in thinking that I’d pushed the pace too hard.  As it turned out, one of her ear buds had come out and she just wanted to fix it.  I did my best to get it to go back into her ear as we make a quick stop, and then we were off and running again.  The boy had passed us while we were stopped, and Jillian was motivated to pass him again.

All was well again until mile 3.75, when the ear bud popped out again.  We stopped to fix it once more, but Jillian told me to take it off and that she’d finish without the Ipod.  Even with the two stops, we were actually having our fastest mile so far, so I was pretty happy about that.  We only had a mile and a quarter left, so I was cautiously optimistic that we’d make it to the end without a bonk.

At that point, I decided to take a page from Coach Karen’s playbook and wage a little psychological warfare.  Even though were were ahead of schedule, I told Jillian that we were slightly behind, but that we could finish in under an hour if we went a little faster.  She said “lets go,” so off we went.  We finished mile four in 11:20.

8k race 2.jpg

Mile 5 (8:34)

As soon as we passed the mile 4 marker Jillian looked at me and said, “I want to run fast.”  I told her to set the pace and that I’d follow.  The next thing I knew, she was running at a sub-9:00 minute pace and we were passing people left and right.  I reminded her that we still had about a mile left to go, but she was on a mission.  I knew that the end of the course was downhill and fast, but she was running so hard that I was still a little worried.

We continued east on Grace Street, and then the course cut over to Franklin Street for a couple of blocks.  There was then a right turn onto 5th Street, which left a half mile to the finish line.  Jillian’s breathing was getting really labored and she started telling me that her legs hurt.  We were too close to the end to ease up though, particularly with nice downhill finish.  Thus, I told her that it was a good burn that that she’d feel great once we crossed the line.  Her favorite shirts of all time (mine and hers) say “Suck It Up Buttercup,” so I told her that the shirts were talking about that particular moment and to revel in the pain instead of hating it.

At that point, I started picking out people ahead of us and telling her that we’d better not let them beat us.  Lady in a purple shirt…guy with a red hat, etc. We’d pass that person and then I’d pick someone else out for her to catch.  We did that all the way down the hill and we passed a lot of people!  Finally, we saw the finish line camera so I told Jillian to make sure she looked up and smiled.8k finish.jpg

As we crossed the finish line, the announcer must have read his screen wrong.  He said, “here comes Justin Gravatt, how about that folks, only eight years old.”  We got a good laugh out of it, but I was concerned that perhaps our bibs had gotten mixed up or something.  Thankfully it was just an announcing error, and we’d finished in 55:01 – five minutes ahead of our goal.  Jillian had run the last mile in 8:34, so she had plenty left in the tank coming into the last mile.  Who knows how fast she could have run if I hadn’t held her back for four miles.  Maybe we’ll find out next year?


After finishing, we went to the bag check and got my backpack so that we could both put on some additional clothes.  It was getting pretty chilly since we’d stopped running, and we had about an hour and a half to wait for Leigh Anne to finish the half marathon.  As Jillian and I walked back towards the finishing area, a girl approached us and asked me for my number so she could text me the photos she’d taken of us on the course.  One of those photos is the cover for this post, and she said that she thought it was cute that we were holding hands while running.  In actuality, Jillian held my hand for the entire race, with the only exceptions being the times that she’d grabbed water at the aid stations and when I was fixing her Ipod.  I don’t really track the stat, but I’m pretty sure that five miles of hand holding beat my prior hand holding PR by at least four miles.

After a while, Leigh Anne finished her half marathon and earned a PR of her own, even though it hadn’t been a perfect race for her.  She’d followed the pacing plan that her coach put together for her though, so it had all worked out in the end.  As we walked back up Broad Street towards the MCV parking deck we came across a reporter for the Richmond Times Dispatch, who asked us a few questions about ourselves and about the race.  We made it into the paper the next day, so that was neat.  Even better though, was finding out later that night that Jillian won her age group by over seventeen minutes – despite being the youngest female in the entire race!  Hopefully that’s a sign of great things to come for her.



“I will reach inside just to find my heart is beating…”

2018 Martinsville Turkey Day 5k

Race Report

21:41     (6:59 min/mile)     1/5 AG     10/180 Overall

November 22, 2018 – For the past few years, we’ve run the Turkey Day 5k in Martinsville when we’ve gone to my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving.  Its not a super competitive race with a deep field, but there are always some really fast runners out front.  In years past, either Leigh Anne or I would run with the kids to help pace them and make sure they didn’t get lost.  This year, however, the kids wanted to run on their own, so it was going to be every man, woman and child for themselves.  Ultimately, Leigh Anne began having piriformis issues after the Richmond Half Marathon, so she’d decided to run with Jillian (much to Jillian’s dismay).

My triathlon season had ended in September with the Giant Acorn Olympic distance triathlon, and coach Karen had dialed back my running pretty substantially for 4-6 weeks.  I’d also bought a pair of Hoka Bondis to replace the Nike shoes (same model, not actual shoes) that I’d been wearing since 2014.  The Hokas had really taken some getting used to since they were much larger and heavier than my Nikes.

I needed the extra cushioning to lessen the pounding that my body had been taking, but I began having horrible foot pain soon after making the switch.  The pain was consistent with plantar’s faciitis symptoms, and it began getting so bad that I could hardly walk when I first got out of bed in the morning.  I was fine when running, but when I finished and took my shoes off, my arches were killing me.  The mornings were the worst.  I began rolling my feet with lacrosse balls and saw my friend Tressa for some therapeutic work, but nothing really helped.  Finally, after about a month of running in the Hokas my feet must have adapted and the pain began to abate.

The other issue that I had coming into the race was that I was over my ideal race weight by 5-7 pounds and felt out of shape due to my running hiatus.  Karen had started me back into some speed work a week or two before, but nothing super fast.  Ok, maybe I wasn’t out of shape, but certainly didn’t feel like I was in peak form for 5k speed.  As always, I bellyached to Karen about being “fat” and out of shape and received her standard response about being a crybaby.  She also said that I might surprise myself since my body was more rested than normal.

Karen must have a psychology degree, because she seems to know how to get me motivated.  A little bit of encouragement mixed with a hefty dose of snark typically does the trick.  I wanted to prove her right because I wanted to PR, but I wasn’t really buying it.  At a minimum, I planned to run as hard as I could so that when she looked at my heart rate stats she couldn’t accuse me of sandbagging to prove her wrong.  I’ve been called a sandbagger once or twice before (mostly on swim sprints), and I was going to make sure that I didn’t give her that ammunition…


We arrived in Martinsville Wednesday night, but didn’t have time to make it to packet pickup.  Thus, we got to the YMCA around 8 a.m. for the 9 a.m. race and got situated.  It was cold out, but not terribly so.  Still, it was nice to be able to hang out inside the YMCA to warm up.  They have an indoor track above the basketball court, which is good for getting loose.  After some light jogging, some strides and some dynamic stretching, we all headed outside for the start.


Garmin Data

My 5k PR was 21:54 (7:03/mile), which was my time at this race in 2017.  My goal was to beat that, but as noted above, I didn’t think I was in shape to do so.  I’d taken the time to look at my mile splits from 2017, which were 7:01, 7:23 and 7:03 respectively.  My plan in 2017 was to try to negative split the run, but based upon the topography of the course, that was a mistake.  The first mile is predominantly downhill and fast, with the second mile the exact opposite.  Mile three is rolling, but still has more gain than loss.  Thus, I needed to go out fast in the first mile instead of sitting back and trying to negative split since the hills would be against me in the last two miles.  My concern though, was that I might overdo it early on and blow apart near the end.  Well, that might be fun at least…




Mile 1 (6:47)

I lined up near the front of the field, and I took off hard as soon as the air horn sounded.  The course goes around the block in the beginning and is relatively flat.  You then take a left onto a paved trail, and there’s a fairly steep downhill section, which includes a slippery bridge.  I’d taken off at about a 6:30 pace, and did my best to keep from braking on the downhill portion of the trail.  The trail was damp and there were some leaves on it, so I still couldn’t run quite as fast as I wanted without risking a fall.

The trail bottomed out around the .7 mile mark, and there was a gradual incline for the remainder of the trail.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my legs responding well to the uphill section, and I did my best to maintain a fast pace.  Still, the pace on my Garmin had begun to tick up as I climbed, but I hit the first mile marker at 6:47 – 14 seconds faster than last year.  It was an encouraging small victory, but the worst hills were still ahead of me.

Mile 2 (7:15)

The trail finished up around mile 1.3 and the course dumped us out onto Franklin Street.  There was then a quad-crushing climb up the steepest hill on the course.  I tried to choose an effort that balanced speed and stamina, and I wanted to make sure that I could accelerate over the top of the hill.  Leigh Anne’s parents were standing at the crest of the hill and got a video of me slogging up it.  My legs and lungs were hurting pretty bad at the top, but I was still able to get myself back up to speed quickly enough.  Thankfully, there was a slight downhill after the crest, but that was then followed by another small climb once I rounded the block and headed back in the other direction.

After finishing the loop around the block, I almost had a SNAFU and went off course.  I’m getting concerned, because going off course seems to be my signature move all of a sudden.  Anyways, I knew that the next turn was to the right, and I was about twenty feet behind the runner ahead of me.  He turned right onto Walnut Street, even though we had about another block and a half before the actual turn.  I was hurting pretty bad and was myopic at that point, and I began to play follow the leader without really thinking about where I was going.  Thankfully, someone behind us yelled “go straight,” and we righted ourselves pretty quickly.  I had’t yet made the complete turn onto Walnut Street, so I lucked out and ended up passing the guy ahead of me since he had to turn around.

I hit the two mile mark about a block later, and saw that I’d done my second mile in 7:15.  Not bad considering that there was 100 feet of elevation gain, and it was eight seconds faster than in 2017.  I was starting to believe in Karen’s prediction by that point, but I knew that the wheels could still come off in the last 1.1 miles.

Mile 3 (7:06)

The last full mile of the course is a roller coaster ride through the downtown area, with about 79 feet of gain and 59 feet of loss.  I did my best to let my legs churn on the downhill portions, and on the uphill portions I kept telling myself that it was almost over and to suck it up.  There was a nice uphill stretch from mile 2.5 to 2.6, and then I turned right onto Church Street for the last half mile to the finish.

I’m not quite sure whether I love that part of the course or whether I hate it, so I guess there’s a love/hate relationship.  You’re almost done and its initially downhill, so that’s nice.  But from 2.8 to the finish its all uphill and it seems to go on forever.  The finish line is just over the crest of the hill, and you know its up there somewhere, but you can’t see it until you’re right up on it.

As I headed down Church Street on the downhill portion I was still able to make pretty good time.  As soon as I began heading uphill, however, things started getting really rough for me.  It was at that point that I started feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest.  I also began to feel a bit nauseous.  I was almost done, so I just needed to keep it together for a little bit longer.  I finished mile three in 7:06, which was three seconds slower than 2017.  Maybe that fast start was coming back to haunt me.

3 – 3.1 (6:36/mile pace)

Somewhere around the three mile marker I noticed another runner coming up on my left side.  I like to do the passing at the end, not the other way around, so I was determined to stay ahead of him.  We began running shoulder to shoulder and began accelerating together.  The heart pounding and nausea were getting worse, but I still had it in my head that I had one last burst left in me.  I planned to make a move on him about 50 meters from the finish, and hopefully I’d catch him off guard with no time for him to respond.

The joke was on me though, because he accelerated with about 75 meters to go and got the jump on me.  I tried to dig deep and go with him, but it just wasn’t there.  Nothing was left in the tank and he beat me by three seconds.  I suppose that means that I paced myself well and left it all on the course, but it still bugs me that he passed me at the end.  Still, I finished in 21:41, which was a PR by 13 seconds.  I guess Karen was right again.

After crossing the finish line I immediately collapsed on the grass to the right of the finishing chute.  My heart was racing like I’ve never felt it before, and for a moment it was a little scary.  As it turned out, my heart rate had gotten up to 193 beats/minute at the end, and I’d set every possible “All-Time” heart rate record possible for the race, per my Training Peaks account.  At least I couldn’t be accused of sandbagging!  The nausea and chest pain quickly abated, and after about 60 seconds I had myself back under control enough to get up and to think about circling back to find the rest of my family that was still on the course.


As I headed back down Church Street I eventually came across Jillian and Leigh Anne headed in the other direction towards the final hill.  They looked like they were doing well, so I continued on to find Jackson.  I found him trudging up the hill on Chestnut Street and ended up running with him for the last .75 miles.  I know why he likes to run by himself, because there were a few times when he didn’t seem to enjoy my encouragement.

When we were all done, we gathered in the basketball court of the YMCA for the awards.  Jillian, Leigh Anne and I all won our age groups, which was cool.  I think I’d been second in my age group every year before since a similarly aged guy named Greg Dean always runs circles around me.  I’m not sure why Greg didn’t run this year, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  Standing atop the podium was nice, but really and truly, I was racing against myself to try to set a PR.  I also wanted to be able to say that I’d fought off Father Time for at least one more year since that’s getting harder and harder to do.

So…2018 closed on a high note after my tri season ended with a fizzle (DQ and 4th AG).  My 2019 calendar was already starting to take shape, with Ironman 70.3 Virginia looming large in May.  The question still remained, however, as to whether a 140.6 was in the cards for later in the year.


Do these pants make me look fat?

turkey family.jpg