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.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Curious Case of Winnie the Pee

I try to mix heartfelt writing here with observations about my kids and the world.  This week will be a little different.  I’ve been trying to solve a mystery for some time now and perhaps I should be reaching out for some help.  I have exhausted the help of wife and family and no turn to blog readers for help.  What could possibly go wrong?

Here we go.  

The Curious Case of Winnie the Pee

As few people know, I have taken on a year long project and will be documenting the experience for a book for next twelve months.  This project will require me to spend more time than usual in the gym and in the vegetable section of the grocery store.  

My body had grown doughy and somewhat translucent over the winter months and I was not looking forward to my first day at the gym this last January.  I tend to go to the gym before the sun comes up and that day was no different.  I entered the gym around 5:30 which means the mystery started at approximately 5:35 A.M.  That detail may seem too specific, but I’m no detective so I don’t really know what is important and what isn’t.

I put my glasses, my sweatshirt and hat into a locker and prepped for my run.  I decided to use the restroom if for no other reason then to delay the inevitable run I was about to go for.  I took the end urinal, because I know the code, and began to relieve myself. 

Here is where the mystery hits full stride. 

An older gentleman strode up and chose the urinal next to me (despite the third urinal being available mind you).  My attention was drawn to the man due to the slap of his bare feet against the tile floor.  My cockles went up.  Who walks barefoot to the urinal?  Disgusting, sure, but a mystery? Not really.  

What happened next Is what really perplexed me.  The barefoot man proceeded to take off his shorts and hang them on the divider between him and me.  Underneath the shorts?  Nothing.  Just full Donald Duck.  Full Winnie the Pooh.  His little septuagenarian patootie just out in the world.  

For my more feminine readers.  A note about men’s locker rooms.  They are regulated places.  Regulated by social norms that go back to ancient Greece.  You can shower, change all in full view of your cohorts.  It is also more than acceptable to have a modicum of inhibition in such situations and change under a towel or even at home.  Those rules go for both the shower and locker room, but that brand of exhibition tolerance does not extend to the urinal area.  Those rules aren’t written anywhere but they are widely accepted and understood all the same. 

The fact is, that even without those rules, it does not explain the need to remove shorts entirely.  I pondered that fact long after the man put his shorts back on and left.  

Here is what I came to.  He was a swimmer.  He had no shoes on because he was headed to the shower and his swimming suit didn’t have a ‘pee-flap’.  That reasoning doesn’t excuse him completely, but it begins to flesh out a reasonable explanation.  

I was satisfied with my rationale and made my way to the treadmill in some brand of peace.  A peace that was instantly broken.

He was there.  With shoes.  With shorts.  Walking on the treadmill in front of mine.  

There was no lap pool or hot tub for Winnie.  He was wogging in what I know to be commando attire.
So many mysteries.  He distracted me from my run completely, for which I was grateful, but I haven’t been able to shake that situation for near a month now.

So here we are with the unanswered questions.  
  • Why take the urinal next to me with the third one open?
  • Why the bare feet?  Are staff infections still a thing?
  • Finally, and most importantly, why remove the shorts entirely? 
Any assistance to this mystery would be appreciated.  I thank you in advance for your help.  

Total side note.  For those of you in the Northern Colorado area, you may have heard of a young man named Carter Edgerley.  He is a good kid who is battling a rare form of cancer and his family could use help if you are able.  If you want to learn more or are inclined to help, click here, if not, it costs nothing to share!

Monday, January 28, 2019

I Just Knew She Would Outlive Me....Now What?

We put our cat down this week.  She was 23 years old.  It wasn’t a surprise.

Funny thing, she, for 95% of her life, defied the definition of ‘pet’ as no one could pet her.  For twenty plus years she was just this thing that lived under my bed and came out occasionally for food or to scratch someone.  She always looked like a kitten which always gave me the idea that she would outlive me, if for no other reason, then merely out of spite.

She was relatively unlikable for a long time.

But late in life something changed in her.  Perhaps it was age, perhaps it was the fact that she had outlived all of her other pet friends, perhaps it was one last dig at me, getting me to care about her before she shed her mortal coil.  Somewhere in the last year or so, she became a cat.  A somewhat pleasant creature who even ~ gasp~ let one of my daughters pet her in the last month or so.

Last Thursday we sat the girls down letting them know that we would be taking Phoebe to the vet the next morning and that they should spend the evening saying ‘goodbye’.  Macy, my animal whisperer, lost it completely.  It was no surprise.  Avery, my eldest also had a meltdown.  My youngest, Darby, ever the opportunist immediately asked for a new 'replacement' kitten.

Let’s get the body in the ground before we have that discussion, Darbs, but nice try.

My wife was able to keep herself together until the big day, as was I, but when the time came, we both became the same brand of puddles that our kids were 12 hours earlier.

Our reactions surprised me, but I was surprised for different reasons for each of us.  For my wife, it was surprising seeing her melt down considering she grew up on a ranch.  The rancher’s life requires that you often see things you’ve named appear on the dinner table.  It offers a bit of detachment from situations like this from a young age. For one reason or another, her immunity didn't work this time.

I was also surprised that I was bothered to the degree that I was.  I literally had a hate-hate relationship with the animal for half of my life and most of hers.  I have, in the past, tried to get my wife to get rid of it.  I have kicked it off the bed tens of thousands of times.  Simply put, she has been my nemesis since I was in my late twenties. So why was I upset?

I guess that’s the lesson here, little ladies.  I was affected for a variety of reasons.  The first is familiarity.  The little demon lived under my roof since we owned the roof.  I’ve thrown her off the bed ten times a night for the last fifteen years.  I was used to her.  But more importantly, it’s the weight of having to tell you guys, the weight of being there with mommy.  It’s seeing how it affects you three and your mother. I don’t want to see any of you hurting.  Sort of my dad job is to keep you safe and to see you that upset gives me a “I’m failing at dad jobs” sort of feeling.  One last thing it could be.  Perhaps we all need an nemesis.  A being that proves that you are good by the very nature of their existence.  I know I'm good because I'm hated by something evil.  Not entirely sure about that last one, but I'll take it.

Here’s the other thing though, ladies.  It’s important to learn the lessons that the death of a pet teaches.  You had it once with “The Claw” the hermit crab, but this one cuts a little deeper.   I can tell you this; there is no substitute for experience when it comes to loss.  It sucks, it sucks a lot, but down the road, you’ll be a little better for it.

Phoebe knew you loved her and deep down, super deep down, Mariana Trench deep, she appreciated it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Sorta Wish I had a Real Reset Button

2018 wasn’t all bad, but more often than not, I didn’t have a great time.  I didn’t accomplish much of what I wanted to do and got fatter while not doing it. 
I didn’t run the marathon I planned on running.
I didn’t get certified for the certification I intended to do.
The porch didn’t get built and the flooring looks like the same flooring as 2017.
I was moodier than I wanted to be.
I ran half as much as I had hoped.
Long story short, I wasn’t the dad, the hubby or the person I was hoping to be last year. I wasn’t bad, but I had big plans.  The best laid plans of mice and men, right?
Here’s the thing.  As the calendar changes from year to year, nothing magical happens at midnight.  The world doesn’t reset itself.  It is merely the morning after a later than normal night.
Sort of.
While nothing magical happens to the outside world, something can change inside.
I have long believed that as the January calendar rolls around, a lot of things can change.  It takes a bit of honest reflection.  It requires a willingness to call yourself out for your shortcomings.  Most of all, however, it necessitates a boat load of optimism. 
I have all of that in spades.
Reflective, self-critical and foolishly optimistic?  Check, check and check!
So, with 2018 solidly in the rear view, it’s time to turn my sights towards 2019. 
Most years I give my self an impossibly long list of resolutions.  Long enough to be pretty much unattainable.  I always figure that if I fall short, I will still have accomplished a lot. 
This year I have only one resolution.
But it’s a monster.
And it’s just for me to know.  Suffice it to say that if I fall short on this one, I have accomplished nothing. 
Maybe I’d better build the porch, too.  

So, girls, the lesson here is pretty simple.  A lot of starting fresh and getting a bit of a life reset lives between your ears.  For me, January first is a big deal.  Realistically, it could be January first or August first or June fifth.  It doesn’t matter the day or the hour or the minute.  I personally like to reset on New Year’s as my batteries are generally recharged having seen friends and family over the holidays.  If you decide it’s time for a fresh start just give yourself one. Look at what needs fixing and approach it with vigor and optimism. 
Avery, if you’ve blown off baritone training for the better part of the semester, it doesn’t do you any good to look backwards.  Push forwards.  Macy, if you lose your starting spot in soccer, you can remember that you haven’t practiced your foot skills in a year but don’t beat yourself up, just try harder.  Darby, yeah, you’ve missed some homework assignments.  Get caught up and move on.  Life is to short to fill it with regrets.  Hit the reset button and move on. 
I need to remember that more often the rest of the year.