My Favorite Thing I’ve Ever Done

Last week, after a work trip up to North Carolina, I wound up attending an afternoon class at Celebration Crossfit, which is rare.  Normally it is either 6am or it doesn’t happen.  But, I was there, and the CCF social media guy – and fantastic photographer – Guillermo was also there, but waiting for the class after mine to start.  Guillermo takes great photos everyday at CCF, but they tend to be of the same-ish group of folks because of his timing for being in the box.  Since I was different, I was a target for him – we were doing push presses, which I suck at, and he got this shot, which was posted to the CCF social media sites with some very kind words:

Push Presses – 175#, a 10lb PR

It is always fun to have my picture featured on the sites – I still find it to be a bit surreal – but then this one had a little follow-up.  My wife showed it to my kids, and the 5-year old apparently studied it for a minute, got all wide-eyed, and gave a big thumbs-up.  And then moved on.  Like a 5-year old.  When she told me this, I initially smiled and also moved on … but over the last few days, this little moment – one that I didn’t even see – has stuck with me.  Maybe it is that we’re having a challenging few weeks at home – summertime means the boys are out of their routine, which means they can be little disasters – or maybe it is because Father’s Day just passed, or maybe it is because a couple of close friends and colleagues recently lost their dads … whatever is driving it, fatherhood is on my mind.

A few weeks ago, each of the boys battled a round of illness.  They hand it off to each other, and we’ve learned that one booger-y nose usually means 2 – 3 weeks of somebody not feeling right at our house.  When they’re bad enough, they get housebound, and then one of my jobs is to get the other one out of the house and get some fresh air and activity.  My go-to for that is Epcot, because Epcot is awesome.  And so, within a couple of weeks of each other, each of my boys had a Daddy day at Epcot while the other one stayed home and rested.

One of the challenges that I put on myself, as a father, is that I want to teach my boys how to notice things around them.  I want them to be curious, and to ask questions and seek answers, and to critically evaluate those answers.  About everything.  And I want to expose them to the widest possible array of things to be curious about and ask questions about.  We spend a lot of time talking about the natural world – plants, animals, stars, the moon, the ocean, all of it – but also about engineering and art and movies and building and cooking and exercise and music and books and math and anything they are, or for that matter I am, interested in.  And frankly, that’s exhausting sometimes.

Because if I am serious about this task, then not being exhausted means I’m doing it wrong.  I have seen the difference in people who have their curiousity encouraged and those that have had it stifled.  I have seen kids who ask questions because they get engagement and also kids who don’t ask questions anymore because those questions are discouraged.  I have seen kids that are allowed to help and are thereby taught the skills and confidence they need to be independent, and I have seen kids that want only to be a part of what their dad is doing but are instead parked in front of the TV so they are out of the way.  It is easier to not answer the questions, or to tell them they can’t help.  But I won’t have it – if I’m not going to do those things, why did I have kids in the first place?

There is a flip side to the exhaustion, though.  Some of it you’ve heard before – about how you get to watch these two little boys grow, and learn, and succeed, and fail, and figure it out, and about how your heart bursts with pride and joy and sadness and anger for them and on their behalf.  This weekend, my oldest was trying to set up a domino field in the shape of a square – tip one over, they all fall down – and he was struggling.  At one point he tried to quit, but I wouldn’t let him – just because it is hard doesn’t mean you should stop.  And when he finally did it, when he made it work, you cannot imagine the look on his face.  He learned a lesson that day that I hope he remembers for the whole rest of his life, and his happiness and pride might has well have been mine.

But there is another, more subtle thing that happens when you try to parent this way. In order to be able to engage and respond to them, you have to pay attention to them.  You have to see what interests them, and understand when something happens that surprises them or that they don’t understand.  You sometimes have to anticipate what will be fascinating and actually prepare to handle the discussion.  And then – and this is the absolute best – you get to experience these things again through their eyes, as though you are experiencing them yourself for the first time.

When your 2-year old gets fascinated by a puddle of water, or an ant, or the way a ball rolls down a hill – it reminds you about what it means to be fascinated by the things around you.  Our immediate world, however regular, is a miracle, and we should approach it as such.  When your 5-year old begs you to stop and watch the Japanese drumming at Epcot, or goes crazy at the idea of a strudel, or sees a film and asks if we can visit China one day – it reminds you to dream big, and to stop putting limits on yourself or your family, and to be open to the whole world.

These boys, they are making my life richer than they will ever know.  And they are pushing me to be a better father, a better husband, and a better person – because I want them to feel about their father like I felt about mine.  I want them, when they are nearly 40 and have kids and families and dreams and struggles all their own, to believe that my example can, in some way, help them navigate the crazy waters ahead.  And, if I’m very, very lucky, I want them to give me a call so that I can tell them I still love them.

Sometimes, when we’re sitting after a bedtime story, or we’re laughing at a silly joke, I will tell them that I like being their daddy.  That’s the language that they understand.  But one day, I will tell them what I really mean.  I will tell them that being their dad was my favorite thing I’ve ever done.  And that my life would be immeasurably poorer without them in it.

And that I hope that someday they know what it means to love somebody like this.

Father’s Day, 2017

 

RR #16: Branford Road Race

The Branford 5m Road Race was recommended to me by a poster over on the Motley Fool.  The recommendation was basically that this is a relatively large race that they’ve been doing for a long time and has great support.  The race is also part of a festival that is done on the green in Branford every Father’s Day.  When I looked it up, and saw that the race itself didn’t start until 10:15 – which means late enough that my family could come – I signed up.

So … it turns out that this Branford Festival is a thing.  A legit thing.  At 9am when we got there we were very surprised at how difficult parking in the area was … and then when we got to the green there were people and tents and just activity all over the place.  We didn’t explore a whole lot at first because I was prepping for the race, but it turned out that on the next block over there were rides and carnival games and food vendors and car shows and just all kinds of stuff.  And after the race was over we hung around and had a blast.  Overall, in spite of what I’m going to say in a minute, this was basically the best Father’s Day ever.

I like starting line pictures like this...

I like starting line pictures like this…

Not that I was as prepared as I thought I was for the race.

I went in optimistic – my mileage has been slowly increasing, and I’ve been feeling pretty good.  My intention was to try and keep it under control in the first mile and then see what was left in the tank at around mile 4 and try and finish strong.  My stated goal was 55 minutes, so 11 minute miles, which I expected to be very achievable.  My backup goal was an hour flat, which I almost didn’t even think bore mentioning.  And if I’d gotten to mile 4 at 44 minutes or less I was going to try and uncork it and see what I could do in the last mile.  I understood the course to be basically downhill or flat through the 3rd mile, mostly uphill in the 4th mile, and then flat to slightly uphill into the finish.

Confusion at the start – there was a 2-mile walking course that was, against all logic, set to start 5 minutes before the regular 5 mile race.  The idea was that after about a quarter of a mile they took a turn we didn’t, so they cleared the course.  However, we all were lined up in the same starting chute, so nobody was sure if they were in the right place.  When they let the walkers go there was a collective “oh shit!” from the walkers lined up at the back, and it took them awhile to push through.  Once they cleared the course, though, we had a national anthem and were off – just under 2,000 runners.

Mile 1 came in at 10:39, which was fast-ish for what I wanted to do but not too awful bad.  Mile 2 was 11:19, which means my first 2 miles were right on.  At about mile 2.5 we came to the bottom of the first hill and I just blew up.

Just blew right the hell up.

Seriously, I have no idea what happened other than I’m just completely out of shape.  Mile 3 was 12:46, Mile 4 was 13:15 (!), and Mile 5 was 12:42.  My shins tightened up, my right foot felt numb on the outside … which was weird.  And I just couldn’t summon the energy.  The hills went on longer than I expected – from mile 2.5 until basically mile 4.5 – but that’s no excuses … I just sucked.  My finish time was 1:00.46.  I missed my really easy goal by 46 seconds and my go-get goal by over 5 minutes.

I don’t usually do this – I like to stay positive – but I also got a jolt when I got the pictures after.  The pictures are standard, and the photographers were all in the last couple of miles of the course.  But one in particular stood out:

So, this is pretty horrifying.  I’ve only gained back between 5 and 10 pounds of the weight I’ve lost, but my self body image is no longer this.  I don’t think I’m svelte, by any means … but I thought I’d moved past mortifying pictures, or at least farther past them than this.

What I have to face is that I’m still a fat guy.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not that down on myself.  Only a little.  I think I probably needed this.  I’ve been going around lately acting like I’m not a fat guy.  I’ve been eating whatever I wanted, blowing off runs fairly regularly, just pretty much behaving as though I’m a regular high-metabolism skinny athletic guy.  And I’m not.  I’m just not.

For proof, see that picture up there.

Anyway – I didn’t have a great race, and I don’t feel great about where I’m at after it.  But I’m not done, by any stretch.  And I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I think I’ll run.  See you out there.

This one is better.  They caught me on the up...

This one is better. They caught me on the up…

Notes:

–          Seriously, though, with all of that – what a great day.  We had so much fun at the festival, and my wife and I each independently came to the conclusion that we could live in Branford, Connecticut.  That’s a successful race by any standard.

–          Speaking of successful races – they were quick to claim the title of best 5 mile race in the nation.  I heard that several times.  Have to give it to them, though – they go out and try to earn that.  There were bands on the course, many water stops, and there was plenty of support at the end.  Overall a very well run race.

–          For the last quarter of a mile or so they had the crowd behind barriers, and you had to round a corner just before the finish line.  It felt like coming into a legitimate chute and running for a big crowd.  Even the finish was cool.

–          Many many strollers.  One guy cut me off and nearly ran over the person running next to me.  And several others were being pretty rough as they ran through the crowds.  Just about the time I got frustrated with it, I was tapped on the shoulder and warned about one coming – but they were pushing an adult, just like the Hoyts.  I happily got out of their way – those guys are amazing.

–          They had an official 2.5m split, which is a weird distance.  I guess I get 2 PRs out of this, though…

–          One big acknowledgement of the William & Mary shirt I was wearing – lady practically knocked her husband down getting his attention to show him the shirt.

–          Not really any SWAG – an ink pen, several coupons and flyers for local businesses, and the shirt.  The shirt is the exact same brand and color as the shirt that I got at the Ridgewood 5K last month, just a different logo.  This is a good thing – it is a nice shirt.  I did, however, get a pint glass at the festival for $5 … and the festival made up for everything.

–          That was June, which is 16 straight months running a race.  This wasn’t my best, but it counts, and I’m proud I did it.

–          Next race:  NYCRUNS Shore Road Summer Mini-Series #2, 5K, Brooklyn, New York

Best.Father's.Day.EVER

Best.Father’s.Day.EVER