Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Dumbassery of the Wild West Relay

A couple of weekends ago my wife, my sister, and myself joined nine other knuckle heads and ran the Wild West Relay.  For those with half a brain in their head and would never subject themselves to such dumbassery, the Wild West Relay is a 200 mile relay run between Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs in Colorado.  It consists of two vans of six people taking turns running ‘legs’ with each runner eventually running three legs adding to a total of about 17 to 19 miles for each runner.  The legs and distance are one thing but the real issues are the lack of sleep and the unforgiving body odor that accompanies six people stuffed into a van for thirtyish hours.  

Many of the people I work with have asked me why I would commit to such a stupid endeavor.  The question is similar to one I got from my daughters about marathon running, but the answer is very different.  For marathon running it is about the accomplishment of pushing yourself a little farther than you think possible. That is simply not the case with relay running.  Being honest, I tell my coworkers and anyone else who asks that it is about the feeling of finishing something so difficult, but that isn’t really it.  I have run this race several times so the feeling of accomplishment has been replaced with the joy of being finished, which is hardly reason enough to participate in this endurance test. 

The real reason is to be a part of a team.  I am part of a team in a golf league but I had missed the camaraderie of a large team pushing themselves to reach a common goal.  I had played baseball and softball, but in the years since my ‘retirement’ from the diamond, I haven’t had that feeling until I started relay running.   Being the weakest link at times didn’t change the fact that I was a link. As I am becoming a better runner, I am enjoying it more and wondering 'why' less.

For the last few years our team, Tuts and Teabags, has set simple goals: to have fun, to push ourselves and to finish in under thirty hours.  We have succeeded in the first two goals to varying degrees every year, the third goal, the thirty hours, has proven as elusive as the alleged ‘runners high’.  

Enter Tutus and Teabags 2016.  As a team we made the decision to become a slightly more competitive team this year, not by improving our runners, per se but by signing up for a more competitive division, so dumb its genius. 

As it happens in relay racing, we lost a few runners and we gained a few.  The vans were fun.  It was nice to see old friends and the new runners fit in really well.  What happened next was surprising.  We were faster than ever.  For some unknown reason (perhaps the new runners, perhaps the right combination of GU packs, coffee and post leg beers) we were able to manage a time under thirty hours!   Truth be told, I have to believe, that as we starting crunching numbers as we were getting closer to the end of the race, no one wanted to let the team down.  Everyone ran very well and the second van made up the last dozen minutes we needed to get to our goal.  We not only came in under thirty hours, we were, in fact, able to take the bronze in our division!  I don’t know that we felt any better at the end of it all, or if the bronze medal made a difference, but the sub-thirty hour time had our collective chests puffed out a little more than they usually would be. 

So girls, how does this relate to you?  Simple, you all play on soccer teams, and it is likely you will play other sports, too.  Signing up for these sorts of things are fun, but they are an obligation as well.  It’s fine to play for the love of the game, but you need to recognize a love of your teammates as well.  Not trying your hardest, not training on your own, not doing your best before and during games is being a bad teammate.   Giving your all for yourself is great but leaving it on the field for your team is what makes sport as awesome as it is. At the end of the day, team sports will eventually give way to individual sports and activities and you, like me, will miss the camaraderie.  So for the time being the message is simple, give it your all, because you never know how long this team thing will be going on.  Heck, I'm surprised I keep getting invited back!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Smelling the Roses in Glenwood Canyon

A couple of weekends ago, my mother and I took my three girls to Glenwood Hot Springs.  For those not from the Colorado region, Glenwood is a massive sulfur smelling pool surrounded by shops that boast offerings from ice cream to rubber dog poo.  This is the third or fourth year I have taken my daughters to the hot springs and it is now a trip they look forward to it every year. 

It got me thinking, a good part of the reason I take my girls up to Glenwood is because it was an annual trip that my family took when I was a kid.  I’m not necessarily a sucker for tradition but it is among my favorite childhood memories.  Not that having three kids in a pool the size of several football fields afforded me a ton of time to reflect, I was able to afford myself a minute here and there to dwell on my less-gray-haired days. 

I think the main thing I noticed, outside of spending a great family weekend and reliving memories, was that everything seemed to take longer back when I was a kid.  For example, the drive to Glenwood takes about four hours, maybe three and a half with me behind the wheel.  This weekend we left home around six in the morning and were in the pool well before noon.  When I was a kid, it was an all-day adventure.    Like so many things about my youth I think I am misremembering the details of these trips, but I’m sure that Glenwood was easily twelve hours away when I was a kid.  I’m not saying that they moved Glenwood, but I’m not conceding that they didn’t either.  Then there were the lines, the lines to the slide, the diving, hell, the line to get in the door of the pool always seemed daunting.  I listened to my daughters complain about the line for the slide on Saturday.  They were gone for no longer than fifteen minutes.  I’ve waited longer than that for a cup of coffee.   

But it wasn’t just the bad things that seemed to take forever.  I remember the water slide taking an entire lunch break to get down, but my girls rode it for twenty seconds at a pop.  Side note, the price per ride seemed like a much better deal thirty years ago.  The soft serve seemed bigger than my head, the days seemed to last forever and the weekend seemed to be about six days long.

I’m not quite sure why that is.  Maybe the world just moves a little slower when you’re a kid.  Maybe it’s a little easier to stop and smell the roses when you aren’t thinking about mortgages and getting kids to soccer practice and work and making ends meet. 

Whatever it is that slows time down, it has also erased a lot of the not so great things that Glenwood brings.  Long gone from my memory was the sunburns, the chafing, the red eyes and getting dunked by my brother.  Three of the items on this list reared their heads this weekend, you’re welcome little ladies. Long gone are the car rides and the construction in the canyon.  Long gone are the smashed PB & Js and the seemingly always damaged rafts.  When all the little nuisances get stripped away, I suppose what is left is a childhood memory worth passing on.

So here it is girls, the point of today’s diatribe.  It’s something I’ve been working on in the days since.  Stopping and smelling the roses should be a way of life.  As you grow up you’ll find yourself racing through days, looking towards goals down the road failing to see what is right in front of you, that there is a lot of beauty in the ‘now’.  Sure the construction in the canyon made those childhood drives to Glenwood really long, but it’s when my sister and I threw rocks into the river while we waited for traffic to start moving.  Of course red eyes and sunburn hurt a little, but they were earned in the hours I spent playing with my siblings from sun up to sun down in the springs.  Life is short, and it gets even shorter when you are constantly looking down the road.  This one is a lesson I need to take to heart as well.   Speaking of which, your cousins are just waking up so this post will be cut short and less than edited.  Living in the ‘now’ so to speak.