2018 Richmond 8k
55:01 (11:04 min/mile) 1/5 AG
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.