Monday, August 6, 2018

NU Run For Walk 4.1 Miler 2018 - "Pace" Recap

My 10 year old nephew was in town last weekend. He loves running, so I offered to pace him for his first race ever at Northwestern University's "Run for Walk" which would be by far the longest he'd ever run continuously. His previous record was two miles and since this was a 4.1 mile race, I thought a good strategy would be to pace him slowly for the first 2 miles, see how he felt and then up the pace if he felt good. Last year, the youngest age group was 0 to 10, so since he is one of the few age groups where it pays to actually be younger than older, I thought he had a decent shot of at least getting an AG medal.

Once we got our bibs and race packets, we sat down in Northwestern's football stadium and watched them setup the finish line on the 50 yard line. Then we walked over to the start line which was just outside the stadium. There, we bumped into Erica and Brooke and ran about 0.25 miles of warm-ups with them.

We lined up near the back and we were off! My nephew can sprint 100m almost as fast as me (probably by next year he will be faster), so I intentionally held him back. I told him we would take it easy and for breaks we would walk through the water stations. I had to instruct him to stay off to the side while walking with his water. Anyway the mile went by quickly, probably because we stayed chill and just chatted.

We hit mile 1 in 8:54, and he started to complain that "it feels like we're going so slow, we're walking". So, in a moment of carelessness, I thought that maybe I wasn't challenging a potential running prodigy enough and we started to speed up (contrary to plan).  In any case, he seemed to take the increase in pace well. I tried to keep him distracted from the effort by jumping up and running on the concrete benches on the Northwestern campus, and he followed my lead. Near the lake, one of Northwestern's athletic teams was handing out water and we slowed to walk again. The course ran right along Lake Michigan and by the beach full of sailboats, which is on Northwestern's (beautiful) campus.

As we finished mile 2 in 8:23, he seemed fine, so we kept up the speedier-than-planned pace. However, once we slowed to walk through the next water stop, he complained that his legs felt bad and that he needed to walk more. So, we walked an extra 30 seconds past the water station and watched as scores of runners passed us by. I tried giving him a little pep talk about how we were less than two miles away and that if we got going again we could rest all we wanted once we got to the finish line. My talk may have worked, because he started to run again slowly, but after another quarter mile, he needed to walk again for another minute.

Run/walking got us to through mile 3 in 10:22 and I was afraid that we would be walking the last mile entirely. However, he was able to do a run/walk combo that kept us moving at a reasonable pace. I told him, that once we could see the football stadium (where the finish line was), we would pick up the pace and sprint on in. He let me know that he had actually been saving some energy for the final 0.1, since he wanted to sprint on the football field. Once I realized he had more in the tank than he was perhaps letting on, I gave him pep talks to "just keep moving"  and told him to run behind me and just focus on my feet. That seemed to work for him.

After some high-fives with the Northwestern football team, we got to the mile 4 marker in 10:37, and turned into the football stadium. We weaved around the 5k walkers and shot across the finish line. Our final 0.17 was at 7:23 pace.

Video of us finishing (starting at 19:15)

After sitting and recovering on the field for about 5 minutes, we walked over to the results tent to see if he had gotten an AG top 3. When we looked up his time on the computer it said that the age group was now 0 to 14 (instead of 0 to 10) and he didn't place. I think I was more disappointed than he was. He was happy to get the race shirt and the purple foam hand we got in our goody bag and didn't miss getting a medal too much.

The race was a pretty big positive split, but not a disaster. I was kicking myself afterwards for not sticking to our pace plan, but it was my first time pacing a newbie for an entire race, so lesson learned.

Post-race, my nephew said his legs were sore and he was slow walking up and down the stadium steps. However, after an hour of two he was running and jumping around with the pups at home, his recovery complete. It's nice to be young!