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Lilac Bloomsday: Dad and me

I'm all smiles as I watch my dad
accomplish something he didn't
think he would do: a 52:13 PR.
Bloomsday has always crept up on me. Each year I promise myself I'll train more seriously for the next year's race, and each year I find a different excuse to not do so. Usually, I'm injured. One year my left hip flexor was strained. I ran that race with a hip spica to keep the pain at bay. Another year I had knee pain. This year, I had (and still have) my share of little injuries that plague most of us as we near our target race. Knee pain, back pain, some shin pain, and tired legs all kept me in the present. The day previous, Kathi Best and Martin Scates had pulled me out to Liberty Lake to conquer a 70 mile bike ride that started out with hill after hill, continued along the new CDA IM course on highway 95 (FYI: It's a nice steady incline going out about 13 miles, and we had a constant, grueling headwind to top it off), and finished up with scaling the same hills we coasted down on our way out. Least to say, there was no possible way my legs would be anything but mushy mounds of flesh the next morning of Bloomsday. I told my dad my plan involved using Bloomsday as a training day to test my endurance on tired legs. He didn't believe me.

You see, each Bloomsday leading up to this one, I've started in the Second Seeding section, minimizing the hassle of weaving through countless other participants. My dad has always started in the yellow section, the group behind mine, because the qualifying times for men to race Second Seed have eluded him. As a result, we've run each Bloomsday apart, me racing at a slightly faster clip while he runs in an effort to catch me. He never does. Yet we always meet on the bridge at the finish and congratulate each other on another Bloomsday finish.

My dad is more than just a running partner. An accomplished cyclist in his college days, he inspired me to learn how to ride a bike. Not just the tricycle kind, but the road bike kind: the kind on which you go "fast". Living in Spokane has given him plenty of opportunity to teach me to love the hills. Much of his cycling in his youth happened in northern California, where hills abound with every turn. Therefore, he learned to love to climb, and it seemed only natural that he'd teach his daughter to do the same.

We worked pretty hard at planning
our wardrobe so as to clash--royally.
At least I could keep track of him up
ahead of me when he decided to kick
it into high gear after doomsday. 
It hasn't all been about the bike. He'll give himself a hard time about his "slow" running times. What he doesn't understand--and what I keep trying to convince him of--is that for a 52 year old, his average 7:45 running pace is really not that slow at all. In fact, I often run with him during our lunch breaks and feel as though I'm the one slowing him down. Least to say, he's a great runner, too. I remember the first race/run we did together: the New Year's Resolution Run in CDA. I struggled to maintain 9-min/miles, and he could have easily left me to run his faster race. He didn't. I'll never forget that. And so my decision to pace him to his goal finish time of 53 minutes this year felt like the perfect way to show my appreciation for a dad who has taught me how to exercise, how to live healthfully, and how to enjoy activity even when it hurts a little bit.

This year, he signed up to race with Avista in the Corporate Cup section, which placed him right up alongside me in Second Seed. I told him we'd start conservatively and save ourselves so that the last 2.5 miles after Bloomsday wouldn't feel like such a struggle. The first two miles flew by in a whirlwind of activity, music, and the random words spoken by Spokane onlookers. My favorite quote of the day I heard just as we ran out of downtown was, "People actually smell GOOD!" I could only imagine how we'd smell at the finish line.

My dad always pushes himself to the
limit. Nearing the finish line proved
to be no exception.
We neared Doomsday hill after averaging about a 7:06-min/mile pace displayed by my Timex Run Trainer. Without warning, dad took off. I could only watch him weave through the stragglers while I hastened my legs to keep a steady cadence and not slip off to a slower pace. Not a single person passed him as he scaled that hill, and for the next mile, I wondered exactly who was pacing who. It turns out he conquered that hill in under 3 minutes. It wasn't until mile 6 that I caught up to him, breathing hard but pushing along. By then, we had somehow managed to increase our average pace to 7-min/mile, and I wouldn't let him slow down with only a mile and a half to go.

The finish line in sight, I saw the clock time at 51:20. I told him to run and make it in before 52:30. He did--with a time of 52:13. He PR'd by a minute, besting a time he'd posted back in 2009. I couldn't have been happier to see me dad, who's struggled with his slowing pace as he's aged, finish so strong and be so humble about it days after. It was truly a blessing to have had the chance to race with him. What he didn't know is that despite my tired body, despite the fact that I am a faster runner, he pushed me to post a Bloomsday PR. Like I said, I still don't know who was supposedly pacing the other.

Along with Tony Dibartalo, I ran into Bryan Rowe running and Greg Gallagher
taking pictures out on the course. Afterward, I caught up with
Jayne Anderson, Craig Thorsen, Erica Ziemer, and Natalie Gallagher.
David Dennison hooked up with dad and me for a 2-hr bike ride to cool down.

A big thank you to everyone who came out and cheered on the participants, especially the countless volunteers who made the experience of 48,000 participants so much more enjoyable. I raced in my red K Swiss K-onas and still can't find anything wrong with that shoe. So fast and light! My Timex Run Trainer kept dad and me on pace and also reflected my heart rate throughout the run to keep my effort in check. Finally, thanks to GU Energy for the chomps dad and I consumed before the race for that added burst of fuel. The 2-hour bike ride afterward wouldn't have been possible without the continued fuel from my gels.


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