Monday, September 20, 2021

Somehow, I Made a 200 Mile Race Less Fun

A few weeks ago I participated in a race called the Wild West Relay.  For those who don’t know, the Wild West Relay is a 200-mile relay race from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs Colorado.  For most teams, the race takes about thirty hours and is riddled with pulled muscles, insomnia and foot stink.  We pay for the privilege to run it.  We are not bright.

Most of the runners have been with us for years.  We’ve had husband/wife tandems, brother/sister and this year we even had a father/ daughter.  We’ve had lawyers, restauranteurs, students, bartenders and bird rescuers. The common thread for all of us?  Running perhaps?  Nope. Morons, one and all. 

Its something that I look forward to every year.  This was the eight year I’ve run it.  We have a few runners that are in their tenth or eleventh year.  It’s a chance to see friends that we don’t get to see often. 

For some reason, this year, my heart wasn’t in it.  I hate to say it, but I literally spent more days trying to get out of the race than I did training for it.  It showed.

For a twelve-man team, each runner runs three legs ranging from a few miles up to ten miles each.  My legs added up to approximately 16 miles and each of the three legs were vastly different from one another.  My first leg was a short but very uphill leg that is considered “very hard” by the race organizer.  I struggled more than I expected.  It was at around 8000 feet and there was a lovely combination of a headwind and smoke-filled air from a nearby forest fire.  It was no fun. 

My second leg started around 3:00 in the morning and was a seven-mile leg with rolling hills.  The only issue with this one was the fact that my headlamp kept quitting on me.  Running around in the mountains with passing traffic, no shoulder and no light provided more than a couple of pant soiling moments, but I think fear sped me along and made for my most enjoyable leg. 

My final leg was the one that will stick with me for a while.  It is a five-mile leg that starts at 9000 feet and loses 1800 feet by the finish.  Sure, a nice downhill run is great.  This isn’t that. This is just gravity at work.  You set off and hope for the best.  I’ve run this leg once before and despite being my fastest five mile run I’ve ever had, I hated every step of it.  This year was much, much worse. 

My first mile was fine, fast actually.  The first mile had a 7:30 pace.  Anyone who knows me knows that is uncharacteristic at best.  Just after the first mile I felt a ‘pop’ just above my knee.  At first it was uncomfortable more than it was painful.  Discomfort was a sensation that would last only another mile or so.  Discomfort gave way to an achy pain that seemed to grow step by shitty step. My miles got slower, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and then a 10:30.  My knee was killing me. To run that last mile at a 10:30 pretty much defies physics.  Near impossible to fall down a mountain that slowly. I had a tough time walking by the time I was finished and wouldn’t run again for nearly a month.

I’d like to make excuses, but it comes down to two things: 1) I didn’t want to be there and 2) my pre-race training reflected that.  While I enjoyed seeing everyone, this was not a banner job for your tubby writer friend. 

The lesson here, little ladies?  It’s a good one.  If you commit to something, commit to it.  Wrap your mind around it and do the best you can and apply yourself.  Here is the part where I could say, you’re part of a team and you owe it to them to do your best, which is a fair but obvious point. 

There is another, far more selfish reason to commit.  I got hurt, I would wager, because I hadn’t trained well enough.  I hated my first leg for the same reason.  In the spirit of self-preservation, if you are going to commit to something, its best to be in a position to keep yourself from hurting yourself while doing it.  That is a brand of “lazy tax” that you should be reluctant to pay.  I paid that lazy tax for hours.  I can tell you, I’d have been happier if I had trained, or given my spot to someone else, or faked an injury or manufactured a real injury or paid someone else to run.  But I didn’t.  A lesson I won’t soon forget, at least until my next race sign-up.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Ten Goals in a Half? Seems Like a Lot!

Two of my daughters played in a soccer tournament this weekend, my middle, Macy and my youngest, Darby.  Macy is a very accomplished soccer player and her team is more than competitive.  Per usual, Macy left the tournament with a medal, albeit silver, much to her chagrin.

But this post isn’t about made goals and wins, not off any of my kid’s cleats, anyway. 

To the uninitiated, a team is a team is a team.  Any given day, any team can win.  In a perfect world, sure, but anyone who endured 2020 knows the world isn’t perfect.  Because of the imbalance, every league splits its players into different tiers based on ability.  For example, my middle daughter plays on the “gold” team which is tier two only behind the “select” team.  Below Macy is the “white” team and below that is “blue” where Darby plays. 

See, Darby, while enthusiastic, hasn’t hit any brand of growth spurt yet and tends to be slower and less physical than most of the other kids.  She tends to be behind the play as it migrates down the field.  It doesn’t matter all that much.  She’s having fun and she will catch up. 

The problems, for the point of this story, are that A) Darby has started playing goalie and B) the first team they played in the tournament was a “premier” level team.  A premier team is the equivalent of the highest-level team in the tournament. 

It was a recipe for disaster. 

Anyone waiting for the “David versus Goliath” ending might as well stop reading now. 

Darby was in goal for the second half of the game.  The team was already down 3-0 when she took the net.  They were behind big and it got much, much worse. 

Darby would allow ten goals in the second half.  She was outmanned, as was her team.  There was a sense, as the half went on, that the girls had to endure the drubbing they were taking but their willingness to fight back waned.  The less the girls fought, the worse it got for Darby in the net.  It was no one’s fault.  They ran into a buzz saw and there wasn’t a lot they could do about it.

The worst part about it was the other team.  The most politically correct way to describe these 11-year-olds would be “snarky little shits”.  Literally the kindest way I can find to describe them. 

The girls made jabs at Darby.  As the goals mounted, the jabs got worse.  The team would rip a goal past Darby and mock her with a sarcastic “nice try goalie” then “it’s like you’re playing for our team”.  It was audible to the parents.  It concluded with a penalty shot that went off Darby’s fingertips and left her in tears.

The game ended 13-0. After the game, Darby was a hybrid of angry and embarrassed and sad.  She asked if she could skip the rest of the tournament, and truth be told, we were tempted to let her.  Deep down, her mother and me knew that was the wrong thing to do and we sent her back into the fray.

It felt like bad parenting.  It was a feeling that would be exacerbated watching Darby putting the goalie jersey back on for the first half of the next game.

“You’ve got to be joking” I thought to myself.  “Yesterday wasn’t bad enough?”.  I was hoping that she would be put in midfield where she could blend in and just get by.  Instead, what happened was remarkable.

She was stopping balls.  Her team was scoring.  At the end of her half, the team was up 3-0.  She didn’t play goal in the second half as it was someone else’s turn.  When the game ended, she was happy. I was relieved.

The lesson here, ladies?  There’s a few.  The first is this: don’t let someone else take your joy.  Those little girls, and their snarky little selves, made you want to quit.  Screw them.  I’m proud of you quieting the noise and playing again. Secondly, be brave.  I took stones to go back on the field.  The fun you had with your teammates over the last few days is directly attributable to the bravery you showed going back on the field, back in the net and back in the line of fire.  I couldn’t be prouder of you.  I’m sorry I doubted you. I’m glad you went back to goalie. 

Finally, it’s about those sardonic little shits on the other team.  Maybe you didn’t get the chance to shut them up (nor did anyone else as they outscored their opponents 33-0 in the tourney).  Every team, and I mean every single one, gets their comeuppance at some point.  Any team that behaves the way they did will not handle losing well.

Your team hugged and consoled each other.  You had a water balloon fight.  You ate snacks and played with your teammates.  Winning as a team is easy, losing as a team can be harder.  There was no blame between one another.  The lesson is to be a gracious winner and an optimistic loser.  This weekend your team was both.  You won a couple; you lost a couple and you had fun.  Seems about right. 


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Just Because There's a Knock, Doesn't Mean You Have to Answer

 I heard a quote a few weeks ago.  Per usual, I feel like there is a need for transparency here.  I wrote this post once a few weeks ago but didn’t love it and didn’t post it.  This is a second run at it, so instead of “I heard a quote today”, it’s “I heard a quote a few weeks ago”.

“You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore for you to decide to be happy”

It struck a chord a little harder than I’d like to admit. 

The purpose of these blog posts is to give my girls a little bit of guidance as they get older.  I suppose that I need to peel back the proverbial curtain of myself every once and a while. 

The last year has been rough.  Maybe it’s the lockdown.  Maybe it’s the four-foot commute from my bed to my desk.  Maybe it’s the weight I’ve put on or the reclusive lifestyle I found a way to pull off despite living in a house with five people.  Regardless of what it is, I’ve been down, like Chrystal Pepsi down.

I’ve hidden it as best possible from the girls, but I know there have been times when the mask slipped.  Maybe I should be more honest with them, but we’ve all dealt with so much over the last year.  In reality, the last year has done a lot to all of us but the biggest thing it’s done to me is to make me feel helpless, maybe a little weak.

“You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore for you to decide to be happy”

The person who said this quote is struggling with cancer and was offered a 2% chance of survival.  She doesn’t look at the ninety-eight percent that stands in her way, she embraces the strength of that 2%. 

I guess life is all about that 2%.

I had dinner with my stepbrother over the weekend.  He has an unrelentingly optimistic view of me, one that sometimes feels both unearned and unattainable.  While unearned, being with him recharges my batteries.  I see a lot of younger me in him and I like being able to offer pathways through the potholes that I so frequently stepped in.  One of the things we discussed over dinner was gratitude. 

Perhaps when life seems content to leave a bag of poo on your porch maybe it’s fair to just not answer the doorbell.  Maybe it’s better to look at the Honor Roll Avery made, or the soccer teams the girls all made. Maybe peek at the tough half marathon Adrienne just ran and the growth she and you girls have done over the last year. 

The lesson here, girls?  I suppose it’s as much for me as it is you.  Happiness, in large part, is a decision.  It is often easier to answer the doorbell and its fecal package.  It’s a doorbell, its what’s expected of you.  It’s easy to spiral and think of the world as something that is conspiring against you.  It’s simple to let it compound and blind you to the good things. 

I know it’s easy. 

I’ve been doing it effortlessly for quite a little while. 

“You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore for you to decide to be happy”

Life will always be hard.  There will always be things that don’t go your way.  There will always be loss and even grief.  Life, like it or not, is short.  Something I forget, more often than I’d like to admit, it that life is too short to get caught up in the smelly bag on the porch.