Monday, June 28, 2010

Brady is now a bonafide track addict!

I spent most of June traveling around TX, mostly in the Trans-Pecos region north of Big Bend, for a horned lizard project I'm helping out on. So I haven't been able to update much. I'm still catching up on missed work, house stuff, organizing pictures (I take A LOT with my new camera!), etc. Because of this, I haven't been able to write in the month of June. As I catch up, expect an update on our family camping trip to S. Llano River in April sometime in the next month. But the main reason I'm blogging today is to let friends and family know about Brady and his new-found love of track!!

We found out through one of Brady's former teachers that there are organized track teams for kids as young as 5. We asked Brady if he wanted to try it and his first response was, "What is track?" When we said it's running, his response was an excited "YES!!" I explained to him that it's not a fun playing time with friends or anything, it's just running around an oval over and over and over. And that it would hurt, he'd be tired, and he'd do nothing but run. "Still want to do it?" Brady: "Yes!" Okay, let's sign him up.

No doubt about it, he loves it. He doesn't always give his best effort at every practice, but he's 5 and that's just the attention span he has right now. And if I had to compare it to soccer or baseball, I'd say he takes track much more seriously with a lot less goofing around. In the last 5 weeks or so he's ran, I've seen a big change in his conditioning and running form. His teammates and the other parents really seem to like him and he's earned the nickname, "B." One of the coaches is really impressed with how fast he is for only a 5 year old with minimal training: "Man, if he could have joined us back in March, I'd love to see where he'd be right now." (Note: track season started in March but we didn't find out about it until May.) It's been a huge time commitment with practices every Mon, Tue, and Thur and long, all-day track meets on Saturdays. At track meets, the field events and the 2 mile run start early, about 8 a.m., but the other races start at about 10 or 11 a.m. and go until 3-5 p.m. Our entire Saturdays pretty much revolve around the track meet. But as much as he loves it, and we really like it too, it's well worth it.

I can't believe how big youth track is here in Texas!! At his first track meet (see paragraph below), there were 800 kids and 26 teams at the event. It was massive. The way these meets work is that there are different age groups: Pee-Wee is 8 and under, then there is 10 and under, 12 and under, 14 and under, 16 and under, and finally 18 and under. By far the majority are 12 and under as older than this and they are usually running with a particular school. As a 5-year-old, Brady is obviously in the 8 and under group. But even within this age group, the number of kids is so large that they break them down into heats based on sub-categories of age. They'll have all the 4 and small 5 year olds together, the 5 and 6 year olds together, and then they try to keep the 7-8 year olds together in the same heats. That way everyone is racing against kids at roughly the same ability as there is a HUGE difference in athletic ability of a 7 year old compared to a 5 year old. So Brady races against mostly 5-year-olds and sometimes 6 year olds. Within each heat (8 participants per heat for the sprints), they hand out ribbons for places within heat. That gives you an idea of the structure of these events, so when Brady places high, he's not beating the 8 year olds, it's just a reflection of how well he does against about 7 other kids his own age.

Now on to the races!! After about 4 weeks of practice, he races in his first track meet on June 12, 2010, at Southlake High School. The coaches entered Brady in the 50m dash, the 100m, and the 200m. The first race up was the 100m. Here it was, Brady's first ever track race! This kid handles pressure so well. I thought he'd be nervous, but he is just as calm and cool as a cucumber before he runs. He gets up, we (mom and dad) are all excited, and the gun goes off! He got a horrible start and was in last place at the 50m mark. But then he kicked it in to an extra gear and smoked the last 50m....1st place! He took first in his first ever race. That was pretty awesome. He took 6th in the 50m dash and then when the 200m came around (it's at the end of the track meet), he was pretty tired and struggled to a 7th place finish. It was a great experience for so many reasons: 1) He, and we, had fun! 2) He got some really good experience. 3) He got in some great he gets more conditioning, he'll feel less 'tired' at the end of the day at a track meet. 4) He got to try some new things.

His second track meet was June 19 at Mineral Wells, TX. This meet was a lot of fun and I started recording his race times so that I could write them on his ribbons. I should mention that at his early age, I'm letting him try anything and everything whether he's good at it or not. I think it's important that he gains that experience and starts to identify which events he likes most and which events he isn't that crazy about. So for this year, I'm fine with him trying anything and everything...but he'll need to cut down the number of his events to only 2 or 3 as he gets older. But for this race, I gave him the option of running the 400 meters (1/4 mile) if he wanted to. He was nervous and wavered back and forth, "yeah, I want to. No wait, I changed my mind. No wait, yes, I want to." He was nervous and scared as it's more of a 'bigger kids' race (not many kids under 7 run it), and that's understandable. Finally he decided that he wouldn't know if he liked it or not if he didn't try. So he decided to try it. His first event of the day was the 100m. He finished 2nd with a time of 20.67 seconds. Very good! Next up was the new one, the 400m. He was lumped in with the older kids (7 and 8 year olds) because there aren't many 5 year olds to race against. He took 7th (out of 7) with a time of 1 minute and 55 seconds. It was a great learning experience as he bolted out too fast for the first 200 meters (and was near the front) but then realized it's a longer race that he's used to and really struggled coming home for the final 200 meters. Although last in the heat, he was pretty close to the 5th and 6th place kids so he wasn't way far back. I thought he did great and he showed great determination. He had the biggest grin on his face when he got back to his teammates who couldn't believe he ran so well for being only 5. He felt pretty good about that. His next event was the 50m dash and he took 2nd. His last event, and I figured he'd be too tired to do well, was the 200m. He finished 2nd with a time of 49.02 seconds! That was 2 seconds faster than his fastest 200m time so far! Great job for being so tired at the end of the meet. And here's the gushing dad moment where I was so damn proud. On the way home, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was. He said it was the 400m. I said, "Really? You liked that race even though you were in last place better than the ones you place higher in?" He said emphatically, "Yep." "Why?" I asked. He answered, "Because it was so hard and I had try my best to run as fast as I could. I wouldn't have known I liked it if I wouldn't have tried it." Exactly what I wanted to hear. :)

His third track meet was in Arlington, TX this past weekend on June 26. I gave him the option of trying the 800 meters (half mile) if he watned to. The downside to the 800m is that it's the first event, which would make him pretty tired for the rest of the day. But like I said earlier, it's good experience and good conditioning. He went to the tent to get assigned to a heat. I was expecting them to do similar to what they do for the 100m and 200m and line up the under 8 kids based on age (keeping 5-6 year olds together). I asked a volunteer, "I've got a 5 year old for the 800, where's he need to line up?" The volunteer's response: "Uh, I don't know. We don't get any 5 year olds who want to run the 800." Turns out they didn't have many 8 and under for the 800 period, so they lumped them in with the 10 and unders (the meets are so long that any time they can lump together for longer races, it speeds things up so much). That's right, my 5 year old was racing against 10 year olds in his first ever 800m!! As always, he was so calm and cool before the start. I now joke with him about 'taking care of business'...I'll ask him is he's nervous and he says no, and I say you just gonna take care of business, and he says yep. :) Anyway, the heat of 10 and unders is somewhere between 15-20 kids. He lines up on the starting line, dwarfed in size by nearly all the kids, and the gun goes off! Here we go. I talked to him a lot about not going out too fast (remember his 400m learning experience above?) and he really seemed to 'get it.' He stayed very smooth and calm for the first 400m and then tried to go a little faster to catch kids on the 2nd lap (800 is 2 laps). He did fade a little at about the 500m mark to the 700m mark, but he had enough gas in the tank to run a very strong last 100 meters. I was impressed! So were the coaches...they usually don't let 5 year olds run the 800 because they usually can't run it without walking (and that slows down the whole track meet, which is long anyway)...but the coaches noticed how strong he finished. The 8 and under coach told Brady after the race, "Brady, I think we found your race!" He ran a 4:20 and finished 3rd from last. I was pretty proud and impressed. Next up, he ran the 100m in a time of 20.28 seconds and took 4th. He ran the 400m right after the 100m and finished 6th with a time of 1:55.87, the same he did last week (but last week he wasn't already tired from the 800m!). Next event was the 50m and finished 6th. The 100, 400, and 50 are all back-to-back-to-back so he is pretty spent by the end of the 50. He then had some time to rest and relax before the 200m. He ran a 50.86 second 200m and finished 2nd. Very good track meet and his fitness is getting a lot better and his running form is looking quite good. When he started, he just looked like a little kid running around, but now, he looks more like a track runner with a purpose. Oh, and how does he like the 800m even though he was toward the back? He said it's his favorite along with the 400m. The kid loves running.

He's lucky in that he's joined a very, very good track team. Our kids place very high compared to a lot of other teams. No one on the team, and also the parents, can believe how much he can run though. He may not be the fastest, but man he can just run and run and run without getting too tired. Most kids only can do 2-3 events because they get too tired, but Brady seems to just be able to run forever. And they also are pretty impressed with his speed for being only 5. At the end of the meet last weekend, as the parents were joking about how much he runs, I jokingly asked him if he wanted to run the 1600m (the mile, it's right after the 200m), and he said, "how many laps it is?" I said "4." He said, "Yes, I want to run it." The parents all laughed but one dad said, "The thing is, he's not joking. He'd really go try it right now." He was right. I asked Brady later that night if he really did want to try the mile in a race (which they don't even have an 8 and under age group for that race as most kids are 9 or 10). I also told him that he would have to race against bigger kids who are a lot faster than him, so he'll probably come in last. He was okay with that. So this weekend, 4th of July weekend, we do not have a track meet. I told him that we'll go to the track and I'll time him in the mile to see if he is in good enough shape to try it. He's okay with that. So if he runs it well this weekend in training, we're going to let him try it in a meet the following weekend. The problem is that he will be dead-legged tired as he doesn't want to give up any of his other races: the 800, 100, 400, 50, and the 200. The 1600m comes after all of those. I think he's willing to give up the 50 and the 200, but he really likes the 800 and 400 and the 100 to a lesser extent.

I'll post an update and let you know how his mile goes this weekend as well as updates on future track meet results.

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