Friday, December 10, 2021

Turning 50 isn't all Sunshine...or is it?

Begrudgingly, I turned 50 this week.  It’s been a while since I’ve written for my blog, in large part because of my upcoming birthday.  My wife put together a very special birthday for me, frankly, a little out of my tax bracket but suffice it to say, I entered the back half of my particular century in paradise. 

I didn’t mind turning thirty.  I loved turning forty and found myself shocked that I was so apprehensive about hitting the big 5-0.  Maybe it’s that mid-life crisis you hear about.  Maybe it's that my sense of accomplishment is going the opposite direction of my waistline.  Any way you slice it, I wasn’t ready and father time didn’t care.

I traveled to Mexico on an extremely early morning flight and started my fiftieth a little under rested and a lot down.  I didn’t stay that way for too long.

A funny thing happens every time I go to paradise.  It isn’t the sun or the cheap beverages.  While I love being with my wife and family, it isn’t them either.  It’s the people you bump into.  They seem to smile easier than I do.  When problems arise, they handle it with a better sense of calm than I do.  When day turns into night and night turns into early morning, they seem to just laugh off whatever comes their way. 

I was having dinner with my dive master a few years ago and in a less than candid moment, he told me about dock fees, and license fees and the cost of gasoline for his boat.  It was an unguarded moment where he described that, despite owning his own company, that times could get tighter than he liked.

I asked, probably clumsily, if he was okay.

“Mister Chris,” he told me, “Look around.  I dive for a living.  Look where I live. The ocean is my office!”  We were eating tacos at the time.  In a restaurant with plastic tables and loud music.  He leaned in and was more impassioned than usual. “It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

I went on a snorkeling tour yesterday and was lingering on turning 50 and my station in life.  The young men who took us out had the same easy smile that I’ve seen so often in paradise.  I worked in the hospitality industry for years and I’m pretty good at spotting who is working happily and who is wearing the work smile mask.  These weren’t fake.  They were happy to be doing what they were doing.  The boat ride and the snorkeling.  These were guys that probably live with less than my dive master did.

They understand something that I forget too often.

 “It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

Here’s the thing, girls.  Victor, my dive master, wasn’t on a soap box when he talked about happiness.  He was in a taco bar with a beer in his hand and cabbage in his beard.  It wasn’t a scripted moment and, honestly, I would have liked to massage his words into a more beautiful statement.  But it says what it says. 

“It's easy to live without money in your pocket when you’re happy”.

The way I took it then and the way I think about it now is that we all need to stop chasing a bit.  Money and happiness do not exist in a one-to-one ratio. Does your car get you from “A” to “B”? Then it's fine.  No need to envy the car in the next driveway.  The way I thought about it on my fiftieth is that I need to live a little slower and a little more simply. I spent my fiftieth surrounded by people I love, my feet in the sand and a boat drink in hand.  It was a really good day. I need to remember to stop for a minute and appreciate that.

I’d like to go on about corporate greed and the “keeping up with the Jonses” mentality that we all seem to have these days, but from where I’m sitting, there is literally a hammock in the ocean and it has my name on it. 

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.