Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Death to Snake Bit Chris

I have long thought of myself as an unlucky person.  I have used the term “snakebit” for myself from time to time.  People will say, “you’ve got a great wife” (true), or “great kids” (also true) or “at least you have your health” (well, kinda.  I’m pretty doughy).  It’s not that stuff, per se.  It’s the automotive breakdowns or golf swings or job opportunities, things don’t often seem to roll the right way for me.

That isn’t to say life isn’t good, it is.  I’ve just noticed sometimes in life that the same people seem to have amazing stories of falling into perfect situations or just having things work out for them.

So, where am I going with this?  Funny story.

I played in a golf tournament last weekend.  It was a charity golf tournament for the Rotary Club.  I played with my wife and a couple of her work friends.  It was a nice afternoon that included a couple of cold ones and a lot of bad golf.  For those who have played in scramble tournaments, you’ll know that our even par final score is well below what one would expect from such an event.  I didn’t help.

I have developed an intense case of the ‘yips’ over the last few months and it has led to a very frustrating experience on the links.  Yips aside, it was a fun, relaxed afternoon.  Frankly, it’s the most fun I’ve had golfing in a while.

When we got done, we were offered a buffet lunch.  As stated earlier, I’m a bit doughy and you don’t get that way without taking advantage of buffets.  I went through the line and filled my plate.  I blissfully sat down to enjoy my lunch with my wife but then her name got called over a loudspeaker.

We both dismissed it a bit, me thinking I misheard it, her knowing that there was another Adrienne in the crowd and guessing it was meant for her.  Surely our even par score didn’t merit any prize beyond a consolation prize for ‘crappiest team’ and they would have had my name for that award, not hers.

Then it was called again “Adrienne Jacobson”, louder, clearer and more impatient than the last time.

She got up from her plate and made her way to the tent that the voice came from.  I was curious for a moment then got lost in conversation about better golf games than mine.

A solid ten minutes passed and no wifey.  At this point I was at least peripherally curious about her whereabouts.

A friend of mine came over letting me know she was in the raffle and had gone pretty far.

That was an understatement.  The raffle was for all of the golfers in the tournament and she had made the final twenty.  Pretty exciting except for the fact that a one in twenty shot isn’t great and I had no idea what the prize was anyway.

They called ten names. Adrienne’s was among them.  I assumed she had just been eliminated. 
She hadn’t.  Those ten got to continue on and then more waiting.

Some ten or fifteen minutes later they called five more names, this time hers wasn’t among them.
“Damn” I thought to myself, not realizing the ridiculousness of bemoaning losing a prize that you were oblivious to in the first place.

The five named called were eliminated.

There Adrienne stood with the final five.

Then the final three.

Then two.

Adrienne and an older lady.  They were hugging each other warmly, disingenuously wishing each other luck.

I was as invested as I could be in a mystery prize.  Everyone else seemed VERY excited.  What did they know that I didn’t?

Then the MC got to talking.  “The final two for the all expense paid trip to Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego.”

I perked up immediately.  It is where Adrienne and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary and we had discussed going for our fifteenth anniversary, just six months from now.  We discussed that the money may not be right to go.

“Uh-oh” I thought to myself.  Snake-bit Chris is getting his hopes up.  This is precisely the moment where the carpet generally gets torn out from under my feet.  Generally, the stakes aren’t this high.
The MC started up again.  He drew a name out of the hopper.  “If your name stars with an “A” (then a cruel dramatic pause)….you’re OUT!”

Adrienne walked off the stage, obviously dejected.  But then a funny thing happened.  The other lady walked off, too.

The MC continued, “Ann, you can keep walking.”

Adrienne stopped in her tracks.  She won! We Won! A snake-bite free experience.

The lesson here girls?  It’s as simple as it is self-directed.  There is no need to look at the dark side of things all the time.  It’s okay to have hope.  It’s okay to have hope even if it kicks you in the short and curleys later.  I’ve spent a lot of time in my life assuming the worst to give myself the softest landing, but there is a cost to that.  Living with negative expectations has probably cost me a lot in terms of jobs, and achievements, and writing, and relationships.

Let yourself hope big.  Sometimes even the failure is a fun ride! Granted when 1st place is San Diego and 2nd is a long walk back to your table, sometimes winning is better!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Rattler: Fun for the Feeble Minded

I ran a race this past weekend.  I trained for it from early January and began to get excited/ nervous as the big day started creeping up.  The race, The Rattler, took place in Colorado Springs and is a 15.5 mile trail run that I thought that I may be a good target for the first quarter of the year.

I was wrong.

Turns out, The Rattler would be the single most difficult undertaking I have ever paid to participate in.  Admittedly, I don’t have a solid point of reference, but I assume it to be much tougher physically than childbirth.

I knew going in that the weather was going to be a little rough.  It was.  What I didn’t consider was how bad the weather was going to render the course’s condition.  The mud on the course was uniquely clay.  It was made of the very stuff that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore would have made sweet pottery with. Each step in this stuff created a weird suction that tempted shoe from foot.  When my foot disagreed, its reward was several ounces of tagalong mud.  Layers built up step by step, making my feet heavier as we went along.

Rain and snow made clothes heavier and made the first half dozen miles very chilly.  A slip in the mud three miles in cost me an iPod and a sweatshirt.  Losing the sweatshirt made me colder but losing the iPod let me live between my ears for the next several hours.  Losing the iPod was much worse.

Around mile 13 sat the final checkpoint.  It is the first time in any race I have ever run, that I considered quitting.  Had there been a way off the mountain that didn’t involve my feet, I may have taken it.  There wasn’t so I didn’t.  I pushed and finished.

I didn’t set any records, not in a good way anyway.  I came in around 100th out of 150 finishers.  I came in a full half hour after my running buddies (they had beer, so I think they didn’t mind).  My initial reaction after finishing was “that’s a one-time deal, never again”.  Often times, finishing a race offers a feeling of euphoria with a smattering of pride.  This race left me feeling a little weak and disappointed in my performance.

Let me tell you something.  Running for four hours then being disappointed in yourself sucks.

There is a lesson in here, ladies.  The big takeaway is to give yourself a break every once in a while.  As I got a little distance from the race, I started to think a little differently.  We sat down for a well-earned breakfast and time with friends.  The benefit was two-fold.  Spending time with Katie and Jon and Randy after made me remember one of the reasons for running these types of races is the comradery. Talking with friends after about the race and how tough it was is fun.  A shared experience like The Rattler leaves plenty of room for self-depreciating jokes.

There is also the accomplishment.  Four hours of trudging around the mountains in the rain is hard.  Doing it in the rain and snow complicated it.  Maybe I didn’t get the time I wanted and maybe I can allow myself to get down on myself a little bit about that but in the big picture, I accomplished something difficult.  I trained for a few months for it which in itself is difficult.  If you can’t celebrate your victories, even if they come with a bit of an asterisk, then you may not be prone to tackle the next one.  So, maybe this thing wasn’t a “one and done” experience.  Maybe I’ll see The Rattler again next year. Never can tell, but I won’t rule it out just yet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Lower Your Expecations and Save Your Weekend!

Expectations are a funny thing.  

Not so long ago, my daughters played soccer to have a good time.  They played in soccer tournaments for the opportunity to stay in a hotel and have unfettered access to a pool and the guarantee of dining out multiple times in a few days’ time.  We paid a lot of money for tournaments, what we got was ice cream and chlorine.  

Macy, my nine-year-old had a tournament in Denver this past weekend.  We were sure to get a hotel with a pool for the kids and free breakfast for my wallet.  In years past, the prospect of the hotel was enough.  That just isn’t true anymore.  She spent the days leading into the tournament talking about winning a medal, pitching shutouts and shots on goal.  Ugh, who are you.  Where is my little Star Wars fan?  

A day or two before the tournament we got an email saying that a local team in my oldest age group needed players as well.  Avery plays with a team that is a year older than she is, but she was excited to play with her own age and there were a number of kids that she had played with previously on the team.  

But I knew in my heart of hearts that this little girl played for the love of the game.  Winning and medals didn’t mean as much as it did to Macy, hell, it wasn’t even her team.

I’m a moron.

Avery started talking about how good this team was and that they had a real shot at the tourney.  I knew this was going to be a long weekend. 

The first day went okay, it was “fine” but not spectacular.  Avery’s team got rolled in their first game.  The other team was awake and looked to have drank at least a few cups of coffee before the game.  Our girls looked like they had spent at least a few hours in the pool.  Note: they had.  They lost 3-1.

Macy played a couple of hours later.  They were more awake.  A lot more awake.  They jolly-stomped the poor team they played.  They won 6-0 and took their foot off the gas in the second half.  The scoreboard didn’t reflect how bad it was on the field.  

Avery was up next.  The temperatures were dropping and even the most enthusiastic of parents were beginning to lose interest.  Her team didn’t lose interest.  They won their game 3-0 and the team played with the skill that Avery had talked about.  

Macy had the last game of the day.  It was against what may have been the best team in her age group.  The parents knew it but the girls didn’t.  Macy’s team looked good.  They took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but the second half was a bit more interesting.  The other team tied it up early in the second half, but Macy’s team put up the leading goal a few seconds later.  The game hung with a one goal lead with almost no time left and a parent yelled “Girls!  Only a minute left!”

Now, I don’t know what the parent hoped to accomplish, but I can tell you exactly what happened.  Smiles spread across the girls faces.  One girl raised her arms in victory.  One audibly squealed. The other team heard it, too.  But they didn’t raise their hands or squeal.  They had what could be described as an ‘increased sense of urgency’.  A couple of seconds later they ball was in the back of our net.  2-2 tie.

The loss for Avery’s team and the tie for Macy’s team meant that they had to count on other teams to get them into the finals.  Avery’s team still had another game Sunday morning.  Macy’s did not. 
Avery’s team won the morning game 3-0.  They had a shot.  Macy’s team looked like a long shot.  Both kids knew where their respective teams stood.  Both were surprised, Avery not so pleasantly. 

Avery found out at noon she wouldn’t have another game.  We tried to console her in the fact that she finished third in a very tough division.  She was consolable, but only to the point that she wasn’t ‘Old Yeller’ broken.  Macy’s game wasn’t until three.  It was going to be a long few hours.  

In the interim, we found out that Macy’s team would be playing the upper team from our hometown, meaning that all of the girls on Macy’s team tried out for that team and didn’t make it.  There was a group pant soiling that took place among the parents.  No one said it out loud, but we were all thinking the same thing.  “We could beat traffic if we just forfeited the game.”

The game would go on.  We sat anxiously as the game started.  They had a tiger by the tail.  They got to halftime with a surprising 1-0 lead.  We kept waiting for the tiger to break free.  A minute into the second half, the game was tied.  “Uh oh” we thought to ourselves.  We kept waiting for it to turn ugly, but that little group of girls kept the game exactly where it was.  The game finished 1-1.  Soccer allows for ties, right?  Usually, but not in the finals.  

It would be decided with a shoot-out.  This was where the extreme size difference between their team and ours took full display.  These sasquatches of children lined up five feet from our goalie and our little angels did the same with theirs.  Long story short, they aren’t Cinderella stories because they always come though.  They took second.  Macy was crushed.  Macy got a second-place medal.  Avery was crushed.  

These are two little girls who went through years of tournaments without winning a game.  I remember one particularly bad one where Avery’s team didn’t score a goal.  They never seemed upset back then. 

Expectations are funny things.

The lessons here girlies?  There’s a few.  I like you being disappointed by losing and I like you having the expectation of winning.  It’s healthy.  On the flip side being leveled by losing isn’t great.  Both of you played well, your teams did great and everyone involved had fun.  Maybe you didn’t get every single thing you wanted out of it, but you should appreciate what you did get. 

There is also something to be said for what you do with losing.  You can sit and cry in the back of the car for an hour and a half.  You can let it ruin the end of your spring break.  Or, you can ask what happened.  What went right and what went wrong.  Celebrate your wins and evaluate what you can do to prevent your losses. Listen to the coach after the game and figure out what is needed to help your team next time. 

All of that being said, winning medals is fun, winning tournaments is fun, I get it.  So, don’t just hope to win them, work your little tushies off to make it happen.  Keep working hard and it’ll happen for you.