Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Father's Visit With His Daughter: The Virginia 10-Miler; September 26-28, 2014

When the online version of the Genworth Virginia 10-Miler Athlete Guide was posted, Waverly was warned:  Don't look at page 18.

There's only four streets in Lynchburg that are parallel and those are in downtown.

There are even fewer that are totally flat.

Rollers were to be expected even aside from Farm Basket Hill.

"Farm Basket Hill is treacherous. It’s exhausting and takes sheer will to climb," said the pre-race article in the Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance.

This might have been a slight overstatement compared to the two-loop course that I ran just three weeks prior in Bastrop State Park, but the course certainly wasn't flat.

The only thing athletically that Waverly had trained for more diligently was the half marathon she completed in January 2006 at the age of 10.

After spending five weeks on the road traveling with Lift Ministries to four different Christian youth camps in four states this summer, she began her training in late July.

We did a 5K together before she left to head back to the college the first week of August at the Outriggers By The Bay 5K in Kemah and it was just 20 seconds off her best time from earlier in the year.

So that it wasn't me that was trying to put together a plan for Waverly to prepare, I engaged Volte Endurance Training founder Bill Dwyer.

He put together a basic plan that called for running two days back to back each week and then three others run - one long - with a day's rest in between.

And she pursued it as diligently as she had eight years ago.

Her longest run was eight (8) miles -- one that she said she completed in about 85 minutes.

A Liberty Flames singlet that she wears with pride had gotten a bit loose during this time:  the same effect eight years ago when she prepared for her only half marathon to date.

She said it was never "tight" to begin with, but before it would cling a little bit to her tall frame.

I arrived Friday afternoon after a nice drive up Highway 501 from Raleigh-Durham.

I picked Waverly up at her dorm and we went downtown to pickup our packets.  As we were doing so, we saw Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson setting up their table.

I wanted to get a picture of Waverly with Kathrine and when I asked her if we could do so, she told me, "Three minutes."  Of course, not a problem.

What proceeded to take place after that was nothing short of amazing.

When they were in town in 2006 to participate in the RRCA National Convention that was hosted by the Houston Striders, I didn't take part in a lot of the festivities other than speaking on "Blogging" on a panel with's John Elliott.

They were two of the nicest individuals that I've met in a long tie and their incredible recognition factor in the running world was not something that they hung on to every second.

We engaged in a number of topics.  Roger shared that his father was very involved in education and encouraged Waverly greatly after learning that she was studying Elementary Education at Liberty.

We purchased his latest book and video on "Spirit of the Marathon II" and personally addressed it to the two of us.  As a bonus, Kathrine signed the pictue forward of her running what was her longest race ever (I believe that she told us) - an ultra.

I didn't get the opportunity to wait and see RRCA executive director Jean Knaack as Kathrine said that she was at the hotel working on some Roads Scholar activities.

We had a 25-minute or so run to get in.  Nothing hard, but something to just get loosened up for the day to come on Saturday.

As we left from her dorm, crossed the bridge over Highway 460 and around Williams Stadium, I could tell that I would "really" have my work cut out for me.  We ran by both the baseball and the new softball stadium and around a loop that circles the campus.

By the time we made it to University Drive, which includes a long, slow incline back to Williams Stadium (and with the afternoon warmth), we walked the back half of it not to take too much out of either one of us.

Waverly and I went to Vinny's - a local Italian restaraunt that we've been to once before - and then relaxed the remainder of the evening watching Liberty's women's volleyball team defeat Radford in Big South Conference action.

I picked her up at her dorm at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning to be parked and well-prepared for an 8:00 a.m. start.  We walked over to the starting line as I was looking for Jean, but instead we saw Kathrine and Roger as they were going to be race announcing.

I talked to the sound guy and encouraged him by telling him how important it was to do what he did well for people like me to be able to communicate.  When I announce, I'm as only as good as the sound underneath my voice and the timer with a functioning reader mat.

We walked back to the car, sat and talked - while also staying warm as there was a little coolness in the air - until about 7:35 a.m.  As we stood in the port-a-potty line, Waverly pointed out to me a Liberty University professor that was running the race barefoot.

This was her race.  We had talked that if we got separated that she was to go on and not wait for me.

I've been running, but not as diligently as she has.  Her preparation was much better and it showed.  Hills had been kicking my butt the last eight weeks or so - and Saturday would prove to be no different.

We entered the sea of people, which included a larger number of runners who were doing the four-mile race.  (Note to the Lynchburg Road Runners Club, do a separate start please.)

In hometown or small-town races, the rule of thumb is to move up a little further in the queue or corral as there are many participants who are not aware of that piece of running etiquette.

When the gun went off, I gave her a kiss and after about 90 seconds, we had crossed the starting line and were on our way.

I told her as we walked from the car to the start that I had something to share with her after we finished.

It was something that I thought about the night before and when I checked, I was right.  It was 11 years to the day from what was probably my worst day as a parent.

And it was something that could have ruined the day that we were about to embark on.

In 2003, I had started to run.  I carried a lot more weight than what I have on me today, but I ran my first race in January of that year - the old four-miler at the then hp Houston Marathon.

Waverly would run her first race on Memorial Day four months later - the Kids' 1K at the inaugural Race for the Pennant 5K that finished on the field at then-Enron Field.

By September, she would run her first 5K - the Bearkat Bash in Klein.

With that enthusiasm, we had planned a day at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.  And, as we've now done so many times over the last 11 years, there was a race.  Another 5K.

However, somewhere around mile 1, I got the impression that she wasn't trying hard enough.  Yes, me - the new runner myself.

We finished, but I handled myself so inappropriately that we got in the car and headed straight back to Spring.

She actually had finished second in her age group that morning - at the age of 8, but my chilidsh behavior deprived her of that.

Definitely the worst thing that I believe that I've done to her as a parent.

The race starts next to E.C. Glass High School.  It is the 41st running of the event.  And it goes north on Langhorne Road, which is five lanes wide.

We both know (and knew) the dangers of going out too fast.  It wasn't hot, but humidity could be felt in the air.

We ran together and passed the first mile marker in 10:17.13.

Midway through the second mile was the bottom of Farm Basket Hill - and the start of a 122-foot climb to the 2-mile marker.

Waverly got ahead of me as my additional weight didn't do me any favors going up the hill.

I could see her ahead of me and was able to track our separate splits.  She hit mile 2 in 11:05.14 while I came through 26 seconds behind in 11:31.58.

I was immediately worried if she was going to run away from me, but it is something that we had discussed - for her to just keep going.

Now my mission was:  Catch up with her.

I cut 14 seconds into that over the next mile that included some rollers and another 60-foot climb.  She ran it in 11:00.14 while I made it through in 10:46.39.  So the edge was now a 12-second advantage.

With another set of rollers that only netted out to a 10-foot elevation gain, but a relatively flat section approaching the fourth mile, I was only able to make up four seconds as she ran mile 4 in 10:45 while I did so in 10:41.

During this time, though, as the four-mile participants turned off to their finish, I realized that this is what parenting was all about:  her mother and I had trained her to be able to run her own race in life.

As a runner, I was able to watch from behind as she did her best to run the tangents where it was possible as well as keeping her head up and running tall.

I smiled and I got a bit emotional, but one thing was for sure:  I had to catch her.

I did so shortly after we turned into Riverside Park.

The funny thing is, though, that she told me that she knew that I was close because she could hear my foot fall.  :-)

And just before a short, steep 60-foot climb to the mile 5 marker, I caught up with and went by her - charging up the hill.

We passed the midway point at 54:14.3.  I wasn't specifically thinking about our overall time, but it gave us a good shot to hit my realistic goal of 1:50 for her.

Bill based his time projection based on a recent 5K time, but when she and I talked about it later she wondered which time he had used.  Her PR is 33:07.

I had sent Bill a text the night before - after running with her (and not completely knowing every mile of the course) - that I thought she would be at 1:47-1:48.

As we prepared to leave Riverside Park and get well into mile 6, Waverly indicated that her left hip had started to hurt.  It was from the heavy camber in the street, even though 1.) it was well-paved and 2.) she tried to run near the center of the lane.

We started to slow a little bit as we made it to mile 6 in 11:15.12 (65:29.46).

Somewhere around here, she saw one of her two roommates, Laura, from the first semester last year that was volunteering with a group from Lynchburg College (where she now goes to school).

On the way out to the Park, we saw numerous members of Liberty University's men tennis team volunteering as course marshals and I would holler "Go Flames!" as I ran by.

There was a little rise to the middle of mile 6 and then a downhill to mile 7.  Not even a net gain I don't believe, but right before mile 7 I was feeling pretty good.

There was a young female adult who was on the shoulder of a young man and I - for some reason - decided to try and jump and "high five" her.  When I came down, I had pulled my right hamstring.  Uh oh.

Just before then Waverly said that she was thinking to herself that the last thing that was needed for me to get hurt.  Oops!

I stretched it out, but by the time we got to the mile 7 marker she had put 16 seconds on me (11:28.75 to 11:44.34).

However, we picked up a drop of some 60-plus feet to mile 8 and I was starting to get a second wind.  She was running steady - but a step or two slower because of her hip - so I did what I've done in many races and that was to run strong ahead of her to give her a target to focus on.

Like I said, I was feeling good.  I noticed that the Liberty's women's volleyball team - who we watched the night before - was out volunteering.

I started to engage with them.  The first two were sisters, Jade and Sirena Vorster from Wellington, Florida.  The older of the two, who I saw first, is 6-4.  The younger of the two by two years is 6-2.  You can't miss them.

I saw freshman Hannah Weidner, a freshman from Shorewood, Minnesota - #5 who played like a machine the night before - and tried to engage, but she didn't catch on (nor get it, according to Waverly) after I passed.

Then there was Rachel Smoltz from Alpharetta, Georgia.  Yes, that Smoltz.

She's the daughter of former Atlanta Braves pitching great John Smoltz.

And as we were working our way towards the bottom of Farm Basket HIll, we saw Caila Stapleton (#2) from Daytona Beach, Florida.  She was completely recognizable with a very short haircut.

I congratulated them all on a great match the night before, but when I saw Stapleton, I motioned and said, "No. 2, right?"  She confirmed.

Waverly said later at breakfast at our favorite place to eat, Market at Main, that it had made her day.  She said something to the effect - to her teammate - that they were out to encourage runners and here she was being encouraged.

As we talked over the weekend, that is how I serve God.  I don't quote a bunch of scripture or say flowery prayers.  I just simply try to encourage other people to live life abundantly.

We made it to mile 9 in 11:53.03 - our slowest of the day as he slugged it out against Farm Basket Hill.

I think I remember seeing 1:41 on my watch and knew that we had been about 90 seconds across the start line.  I wanted to keep it as close to 1:50 as possible, but my wheels were starting to come up as I was beginning to cramp in my calves.

And she was starting to get a second wind.

She probably could have run off and left me by 30 seconds or so in that last mile, but to her credit - and me kind of pleading with her a little bit - we ran it in together as they called both of our names just short of the finish line.

We had made it in 1:51:33.

I was able to return a favor many times that she had done with me by getting her medal and putting it around her neck and giving her a big hug.

We went to our favorite breakfast place in all of Lynchburg - Market at Main - after the race and spent a great time reminiscing of a job well done by her.

We later went a Liberty softball scrimmage against Randolph College in their beautiful new stadium before heading to one of favorite places to eat dinner - The Neighbors Place Restaraunt.

She had some pasta and chicken while I had a nice skirt steak (well done).

Our waitress was really, really good and engaged in conversation a little bit, especially after she learned that we had run the 10-miler earlier in the day.  She said she was out supporting a friend that was doing the 4-mile race.

We talked about marathons and ultras, but Waverly noticed a necklace around the young woman's neck of the continent of Africa and she asked if she had been.

We found out that she had recently come back from an 11-month adventure called The World Race, which is "is a stretching journey into 11 countries in 11 months to serve "the least of these" while amongst real and raw community. This unique mission trip is a challenging adventure for young adults to abandon worldly possessions and a traditional lifestyle in exchange for an understanding that it's not about you; it's about the Kingdom."

Her name, based on what the credit card receipt suggested, is Jenny House.  And this is her blog from the race --

Waverly stopped at Cook Out - a regional chain - to get a shake.  I got some ice cream some place else.  Then we went to watch a period of Liberty's Division I women's club hockey team play against a talented 18-U team from Washington, D.C. at 9:30 p.m.

As we were leaving, we saw one of her best friends with her Mom - who was in town for a visit - in the parking lot.

Earlier today, we went to church together at Blue Ridge Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia where Waverly is the leader of the second grade girls Sunday School class for the 8:30 a.m. service.

Then we went to Moe's for lunch.

It is kind of our departure meal.  If I'm leaving, we're eating at Moe's, which is a Mexican food chain kind of in the Freebirds and Chipotle mold.

I had figured that - for various reasons - it was my eighth trip to Lynchburg and I enjoy each and every one, but it was hard leaving.

Almost as hard as it was last year during the fall semester when I visited in October.  I think I teared up 30 miles south that day.

However, I know that this is where she believes that God has led her to be at and is doing what she believes God is her calling her to do -- and I support her and believe that wholeheartedly.

I'm so proud of the young woman that she has become and the leader that she is.

I couldn't be more fortunate of a father - and proud of her.

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