Barry and Braden's PR Times

Friday, November 27, 2015

2015 Turkey Trot 5K and USATF Arkansas XC Championships


It's a two in one special blog as Braden ran to qualify for the USATF XC Junior Olympic Nationals and had his last road race of the year on Turkey Day.

First up...the USATF Arkansas Junior Olympic XC Championships.

This particular event was one that has been on the calendar for quiet a while. It has already been a foregone conclusion that Braden would qualify for the Junior Olympic XC Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 12. In order to qualify, he had to finish in the top eight in his 7-8 age group and since there are hardly any kids who run distance that participate in USATF here in Arkansas, he was pretty much already locked in (barring an injury or not showing up).


Preceding the race, he has been doing a lot of track work and, of course, running a lot of distance events in the Grand Prix and other local races. Even though distance is never an issue, especially since his age group runs the 2K distance for XC, he has been really working on his speed to get faster and faster. In Nationals, Braden will be running against the very best in the country and a lot of kids will already have a leg up on him because they are a year older. A lot of times it doesn't matter as much on the local level because Braden can more than hold his own against older kids in his age division in the distance races, but on the shorter distances (a 2K is 1.24 miles) he has to be really quick to compete against older kids...especially on a national level.

When I have worked him out on the track here recently, he has been running the 2K distance at around 9:00. The thing is, though, cross country races are not flat track-like surfaces, so I knew the 9:00 time was a little deceiving. Historically, there are about 200 runners that participate in his age group at Nationals and a 9 minute time would place him around the top 100 and he would have to run close to an 8 minute time to place around the top 25 and get a medal. The nice thing is that in the spring, he had been running the 2K in about 10 minutes, so his time has improved quite a bit.

Originally the race was supposed to be in Little Rock, which was great because we wouldn't have had to travel that far, but a few days before the race, something happened with the group that was putting it on in Little Rock and we found out that we would now have to race in Nashville. Nashville is off the beaten path and a 2 1/2 hour drive from our house, so needless to say, I wasn't pleased with the change in venue. Thankfully, they made adjustments to the start time and Braden didn't have to run until 10 a.m. 

The people who organized the event put together a nice course at the Nashville City Park, especially on such short notice, but because of all the twist and turns, it was necessary for the runners to have a four-wheeler lead the runners through the course. I was a little concerned about the rain that was forecast, but it had pushed out by the time we reached the park. The temperature was a little brisk, but most of all it was very windy at 12-15 mph!

Because of the last minute change in location, a lot of runners did not show up, including the one boy that Braden was going to race against in his group. This meant that Braden would have to run by himself, since his age group is the only one to run the 2K distance.

Braden hopped on the four-wheeler to take him to his starting line and he was instructed to take off at the sound of the air horn. Unfortunately he lost a few seconds after the air horn sounded because the four-wheeler didn't take off. He hesitated because he didn't want to pass it up so he got off to a little of a slow start. To be honest, I didn't think he would do that great since he was by himself and it was windy, but he proved me wrong.

From a distance, it didn't look he was running that fast, but the other runners were saying that he was going pretty quick. When he came into view to go the final 100 meters, he was flying, so much to the point, he passed the four-wheeler before crossing the finish line. When I got to the finish line to see how he did, the officials said he clocked in at 8:56 (a 7:12 minute per mile pace)! The head of USATF Arkansas said that he was very impressed by his time and said Braden was a very fast runner for his age. I couldn't help to think what his time would have been if it wasn't for the hesitant start and if he could have run against someone else.

Braden knew that he could've walked the course and still won a gold medal, but he gave a full effort and ran his best time at that distance. Overall, I was very happy with his performance and really look forward to what he can do against the nation's best in a few weeks when we travel to Albuquerque!

After Braden's short race, we had a quick turnaround for our final road race of the year on Thanksgiving at the Turkey Trot 5K.

Braden, as you know, has kicked it into another gear this month and has seen his 5K and 10K PRs fall by the wayside as his pace has ramped up dramatically. Knowing this was the final race of the year (other than USATF), he wanted to set another PR.

This was the first year for the Turkey Trot 5K, put on by the United Way, and after driving most of the course prior to the race, I knew he had a very good shot at setting that new PR because it was mostly flat. Most of the course winded it's way around  Centennial Country Club (which has a very nice neighborhood) and through the Country Club's golf course. Once again we were keeping our fingers crossed concerning the weather, and once again the rain came before the race. The winds were about 8 mph, but it was overcast and in the low 60's...a lot nicer than what it could've been.

I told Braden that I would let him lead us and he said that he wanted to run at a 7:35 pace. Since it was their first year putting on the event, there was some things that didn't go quite right The start to the race was abrupt to say the least. After the lone wheelchair racer headed off we stood by waiting for a countdown to when we would begin and before you know it, the pistol went off without a countdown or a ready, set, go. I think everyone was just as startled as we were, but we really didn't lose any time getting out of the starting area.

We settled into our first mile pretty quick and navigated up the only part of the course I would call a hill. We didn't have to fight through many runners since most of the ones in front of us were high school cross country types, but we did get to run most of the race with one of our Conway Running Club teammates who Braden has never been able to keep up with before, so he was excited by that. Braden's first mile came in at a 7:22 pace and he said he was feeling great.

Our second mile took us on the golf course cart path, which was uneven and rolling (as you would expect from a golf course), and because I was feeling good, I kept ahead of Braden by a few meters to push him a little more. After exiting the golf course, we had a nice slight downhill and then started heading into the wind. This took just a small toll on Braden as he finished the second mile at a 7:55 pace.

See, Braden isn't the only who throws up at the finish!!

A little into the third mile, we once again got back on the golf course to head towards the finish. We were able to pass some older kids in their cross country attire (which made Braden feel real good) and he started to pick up the pace as I was encouraging him that we weren't too far away from the finish and I knew a new PR was in sight. As we made our final turn off of the golf course for the final .10, I slowed it up and let him rocket past me with his patented kick so I could cheer him on to the end. His third mile pace was at 7:50 and the last .10 at 6:44.

This is a link to the United Way of Central Arkansas' video of Braden's finish:

Braden crossed the line with a time of 23:23, setting another PR by 40 seconds and he beat his goal by running a 7:32 minute per mile pace!! He came in first in his age group and because he is getting faster, it is making me go all out as well, which allowed me to finish third in my age group. Even neater, from my perspective, was him and I finishing 24th and 25th out of 243 runners overall!

At the awards ceremony, the organizers admitted that they had messed up because they didn't anticipate anyone under 10 running in the race, so they made some adjustments as Braden and I both received a bag of goodies. For some of the minor issues they did have, they had a lot of good things as well. Everyone received a nice turkey spinner medal and the food/drinks and kids activities was really nice. Overall, it was a great experience that I'll put on the calendar each Thanksgiving.

After Braden's Junior Olympic event in New Mexico, our next "road race" will actually be a Grand Prix one-hour track run on January 24 and we'll also be ramping up Braden's mileage a little bit because he wants to run the Grand Prix River Trail 15K (9.3 miles!) on February 6. 

I only have only a couple of more blog entries before the end of the year. I hope they've been as nice to read as they've been as fun to's been a blast!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Breakaway 10K

What got into him?!

That's the only phrase I can think of as I sit here writing the latest race report. I am still scratching my head trying to figure out if my son has grown a new set of legs or has he just reached a different tier to his running after his latest race...the Breakaway 10K in Searcy, AR.

The previous week, Braden set a new 5K PR (by a lot) and I wrote that it would be scary to think what his times would be like in the upcoming year. Little did I know that it would only take a week for him to show me how fast he truly has progressed.

The Breakaway 10K was the first 10K race Braden participated in last year and as a 6-year-old, he finished with a time of 1:04:25. From there, he raced in the Little Rock Marathon 10K and, even though he was sick as a dog, finished with a time of 1:10:07. Two weeks later, and after feeling a lot better, he was able to knock 6 minutes off his PR with a 58:04 at the JLLR Downtown Dash. Three weeks later, and his last race at age 6, he knocked another 3 minutes off his PR to finish with a time of 55:08 at the Capital City Classic 10K. Ever since early April, Braden has run four other 10K races that have resulted in times within a minute of his personal best, but he just hasn't been able to crack the 55 minute mark...until this past weekend's race.

The Breakaway 10K course winds itself through the Harding University campus and is generally flat. What made it even better was the fact that the temperature at race time was 50 degrees, the sun was out, and there was no wind. In other words, the conditions were perfect!

As always, we discussed what pace he wanted to run. At the 5K race, where he set his PR, he ran a 7:45 minute per mile and his Capital City Classic 10K pace was an 8:54, so we looked at running at an 8:30 pace, which would have knocked a couple of minutes off his best 10K time and set a new PR.

We got in front of the pack at the starting line and quickly settled into a much faster pace than the 8:30 we had talked about. Normally I would be concerned about the quick start, but after asking him a 1/2 mile into the race how he was feeling and him telling me that he was great, I told him that I would let him pace us and I would just stay with him. As the second and third mile came and went, there was a few runners ahead of us we were hanging behind, but one in particular was a young runner who Braden has never come close to beating and at that point I looked at my watch and realized we were definitely going a lot faster than what was planned.

Our splits for the first 3 miles were the following:

Mile 1 - 7:52 pace
Mile 2 - 7:57
Mile 3 - 7:44

3/4 into the third mile, Braden and I started to pass the runners we had been trailing behind including the one Braden had never finished in front of. It was at that point that I realized I couldn't keep up the pace we had been running as well, so I told him to keep going and not to wait on me. Of course he never would pass up an opportunity to beat me, so he proceeded to put a little distance between the both of us. I thought at some point he would give out from the rigorous pace he was setting for himself, but he just kept on going. I kept within approximately 100 meters of him the rest of the way, which allowed me to keep shouting out and encouraging him the last three miles. He passed a couple of more runners and got overtaken by those same runners with less than a mile to go (as his pace finally slowed a little), but he did have enough in the tank to make a final push to the finish line. 

The splits for his final 3.2 miles were the following:

Mile 4 - 7:38
Mile 5 - 7:55
Mile 6 - 7:57
Last .20 - 7:04

As I was crossing the finish line behind him, the clock showed 48:04. To my utter disbelief (and the timekeeper as well), Braden finished with a time of 47:39!!

Where to begin...

1. He broke his 10K PR by 7 1/2 minutes!
2. He has shaved 16 minutes off his 10K time in one year
3. He negative split the race
4. Lastly, he actually beat my PR time for a 10K!

When Braden first beat me in a race at the Watermelon 5K in August, it was a day where I didn't get any sleep, had to drive 2 1/2 hours to the race, and it felt like I was running in sand. It was by far my worst 5K run and I had my excuses on why he beat me. This time it was totally different...he beat me at my best with the time I ran, as I actually came within 6 seconds of breaking my own personal best from 2011! I will say, though, that my PR was set on my very first race at the Toad Suck 10K and I hadn't run any other 10K races other than with Braden. A couple of years ago I was much faster, and if I had run a 10K race, I most likely would have established another PR, but as it stands, he has a better 10K time than the old man!

Braden finished in 1st place in his age group, and never walking away from an opportunity to run some more, he ran a one-lap race around the Harding track after the 10K where he also finished 1st.

After the race, all I could think about was where he found the speed to take that much time off his previous PR. The 55 minute 10K times he had been running as of late are really excellent times for a 7-year-old and I would have understood if he had finished with a time around 52 or 53 minutes, but to finish at 47:39 is insane (especially since he runs a lot slower during training runs)! I just don't know if this will be the new norm or was it a one-off kind of run that I won't see again for a great while. I guess I won't be able to find out until March when we run our next 10K race at the Little Rock Marathon 10K. I'm just so proud of his accomplishments and so thankful that the Lord has blessed him with the ability to do so well!

Braden's next race will be the USATF Arkansas Association XC Championship in Little Rock where he'll qualify for Nationals in December, and then we'll have our final road race of the year on Thanksgiving at the Turkey Trot 5K in Conway.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

2015 Veterans' Museum 5K

After running the Soaring Wings Half Marathon Relay, which completed a streak of five straight weekends of having races, we took a weekend off in preparation for another race filled calendar for the month of November. The first race on the docket was the Vilonia Veterans' Museum 5K. Braden and I ran this particular race last year, but this year, I wouldn't be able to run it because I had National Guard commitments.
We run this race because it helps out the museum, they have a very nice ceremony afterwards, and because Linda Hicks, who is the race and museum director, has always been a supporter of the both of us. The original museum was destroyed in the tornado that hit Vilonia in 2013 and it was re-opened at its new location this year. The previous race course started at the high school and ended close to the original museum, but this year Linda wanted a different course. I felt honored when she asked if I could map out a new course and I wanted to make it where the course basically began and ended at the new museum location. My plan for the new route was to eliminate some issues from the past with timing, since it isn't a chip-timed race and keeping off of the main highway that runs through town. After experiencing a few challenges with trying to get a course laid out, I was able to get an out and back loop designed for the 3.1 mile event that took care of the issues from the past.

Ever since Braden set a PR at the ARK 5K Classic in early September he has had trouble with the two subsequent 5K races he participated in. The ARK 5K was very humid, so I figured with the cooler weather Braden would be able to continue to set new PRs. Even with perfect weather conditions and courses, Braden didn't do near as well as what he wanted to, but he did bounce back and put together some solid 10K runs leading up to the Veterans' Museum 5K. Bad weather hampered some of our preparation the week of the race, but we were able to get a good run in on the exact course a few days prior. The only worries I had was that I saw that the conditions would be a little difficult with 10-12 mph winds and he started to get a cough the day before. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting anything great and based off of past races where he had the coughing situation, he hasn't performed well.

Luckily on the day of the race we had family day activities for my unit. Even though I had to be at the unit to lead and assist others in our Army Physical Fitness Test in the morning, after the test we were released to bring our families back for festivities in the afternoon. After pacing some of our Soldiers for the 2-mile run, we finished up at around 9:30 a.m. There are not too many races that start late in the morning, but the Veterans' Museum 5K started at 10 a.m. and I started to make a beeline to Vilonia hoping to maybe run a little of the course with Braden. After rushing home and quickly changing, I got to the museum, jumped out of my truck and started running the course where I knew I would most likely meet up with Braden as he was heading back.

Prior to getting to the museum, I was hoping that maybe they had started late and once I headed on the course, I found out that it had started about 15 minutes late when my wife called me as I was passing the tail end of the walkers about a 1/2 mile into the race. Once I hit the one-mile mark of the course the race leader was passing on the other side of the road and not too far behind him came the second and third place runners. To my surprise, I looked in the distance and saw Braden coming towards me in fifth place!

Once we met, I turned around to run the rest of the race with him and right off the bat I could tell that he was going at a very good pace. He told me that his watch messed up and he didn't know how fast he was going, but I told him that we were going pretty quick and that the rest of the course was going to be more downhill and the wind was going to be to his back. I asked him how he was feeling and he said he felt great other than going into the wind for the first part of the race. We tried to set a goal to catch the fourth place runner and going into the final turn, I let Braden turn it on and he almost caught him at the finish line.

Before we got to the finish, one of our friends mentioned that he was going to finish below 25 minutes, which would be a new PR, but I didn't realize, until I met up with him, how good he really did. He finished with a time of 24:03 and knocked 1 minute and 6 seconds off his previous PR!! Because his Garmin messed up, I wasn't able to get any splits, but overall he finished with a 7:45 minute per mile pace and I figured that he most likely was going faster than the 7:45 pace his last mile.

To get an idea on how much he has progressed; at the same race a year ago he finished with a time of 30:07 (a six minute difference!) and he has shaved off 2 1/2 minutes of time since the Spring Fling 5K seven months ago when he ran a 26:35. It's almost scary to think how much faster he will be this upcoming year. I know one thing...him running USATF track has really helped his speed and his coach and I have really noticed how much faster he has gotten over the past few months.

After the race, Braden received two awards as the youngest participant and youngest runner (there were no age group awards). Since I'm in the military, I was honored to participate in the program after the race honoring our fallen military members and, like last year, Braden stood with me during the ceremony. Another one of the special things the event does is they give a picture and narrative of who the runner is racing for in their running packet.

Braden ran for a fallen Marine and it said the following:

This is to certify that Braden Eason ran in the Museum of Veterans and Military History 5K held Nov. 7, 2015 in honor of Pvt. 1st Class Wallace Lee Reather, Jr. of Conway, Ark. A rifleman, he served in B Company, 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force, U.S. Marine Corps. He died Jan. 27, 1968 in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Ground casualty from explosive device.

I'm really glad that Braden had one of his best races to honor Pvt. 1st Class Reather!

Our next race will be the Breakaway 10K in Searcy, AR, where Braden ran his very first 10K race. Last year it was very cold when it was in the low 20's, but the forecast is looking like it will be in the 40's this year, so Braden should have another good performance.