In a traditional training program, it's a fairly routine progression. There's the "I Decided to Run a Marathon!" initial excitement. This quickly morphs into the "Hmm, This is a Bit Tougher Than I Anticipated" phase. After that, it's the "OMG Everything Hurts and I'm Dying" stage right before the taper, at which point the brain messes with all of your hard work. It convinces you that taking a day or two off from running will result in spontaneous weight gain and a total loss of fitness. Race day arrives, you run, you finish, you eat a banana, you post it on Facebook and life goes on. The End.
Except when you don't finish. My running narrative was interrupted by an exploding cyst and I didn't get to the ending. It's not bad though - probably the only thing more surprising than my DNF was how quickly I accepted what had happened. Even before they had taken the IV out, friends were helping me focus on the future, not the past and I was already looking ahead. Getting in CIM was like a giant beacon of light on that yucky rainy Monday. I had my newly revamped 8 week training program written out by Wednesday, excited and hopeful for my second chance.
Until I really looked at it. Eight weeks doesn't seem long, then I noticed it involved three 20 milers. Ugh. My shoulders instantly hurt at having to carry all that water, all over again. Remember all the speed work? The countless laps around the track - let's do it again. This time, faster! Who wants to tempo run? It felt like all of my energy spent in August and September -- all of those early mornings, foam roll-outs, and chiropractic appointments - OMG I had to repeat all of that. The enormity of what I had decided to do suddenly hit me. If you count my training for LA earlier this year, I've been in marathon training for every single week this year, minus six. SIX WEEKS. And during that brief hiatus, I willingly ran a half marathon. So much for training less in 2015.
Right when I was getting discouraged and overwhelmed, I found inspiration in the most unlikely of places: the Bear.
If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you know Scotty is a sweet, smart, sensitive little guy. He's goofy, wiggly and six. He's exactly what he should be. What he is not is highly motivated. While some kids push their parents, our little guy is a ridiculously low maintenance child. He's not particularly strong-willed. We joke that his burner is set to low. If he cant' do it, he will find someone to do it for him. There's not a lot of tenacity in the boy.
All of this, of course, is baffling to Brian and I. Considering Scotty's lineage, his parents are two incredibly intense, type-A, competitive people. My family won't play board games with us after one unfortunate involving Monopoly in 2002. The only two times Brian and I have ever almost broken up in 14 years involved a game of mini golf and a tennis match. (And to date: I refuse to play mini-golf and Brian won't play tennis with me). Brian's a lot smarter and more strategic with his killer instinct, whereas I'm more primal, resorting to simplistic anger and aggression. Charming, I know.
Enter a very mellow, could-care-less child. We were dumbfounded and genuinely concerned at first. You don't want to play until someone cries? What's wrong with you? Go for the throat! No mercy, right? Even in our family games of Star Wars Trouble, Brian and I would be glaring at each other from across the die, frantically knocking each other off the board while Scotty blissfully moved his piece, unaware that Mom and Dad were locked in a duel to the death.
Then baseball started this fall. And by baseball, I mean: real baseball. No more of this t-ball nonnense. This is coach-pitch, run hard, hit hard, play with 8-year olds-kind of baseball. The first day we showed up to practice, I was shocked we didn't have to explain where to stand at the plate. The kids knew. And they were good! They were crushing the ball to the outfield. On day one! And the wheels on these kids - some of them are faster than I am. ("These are the kids passing me in the last 200m of 5Ks...terrific...").
I looked at my 45-pound bobble-headed child and thought, "We're dead."
The first six week of the season were rough. There were a lot of "Ks" next to his name in the score book. When he was in left field, I breathed with relief when the ball was hit to right. In a particularly low moment of Motherhood, he was up to bat in the last inning of the game. We were down by three, bases loaded, and a full count. I actually caught myself silently hoping he'd get hit by a pitch.
(just a little graze, nothing big. You know, off the booty. There's plenty of padding there. Okay, you're right, I'm a horrible person).
He struck out. We lost.
And then, over the past two weeks, something happened. All that time at practice, hanging out with impossibly cool big kids ("Mom, they're EIGHT!") and the countless hours in the batting cages, I noticed a difference. His swing was faster. He was tracking the ball. Instead of him going through a 1/2 bucket of balls in 30 minutes, complaining the whole time his arms were hurting, he was blowing through 2 full buckets. And he was making consistent contact.
Last week, during yet another batting session, I noted that we were running low on time. "Five more balls," I called out to him from behind the pitching machine. He put his bat down and pouted. I braced for the inevitable whining. "No!" he shouted. "TEN MORE!"
That burner just got turned up to medium-low, folks.
It hit me - if my little Bear, my breezy, cheerful child could dig deep - I can too. Watching him fall in love withe the sport made me think about how and when I fell in love with one, too. It's motivating and so exciting to see him race around to get his uniform on, or take off to catch up with his teammates. It's a good lesson for me. Time to stop whining about those 20s. Tempo runs? Absolutely necessary. Here I am, already in marathon shape with just a bit of fine tuning to do, panicking about the next eight weeks when my child is learning a sport from the ground up and developing and building brand new muscles. He has to balance this with all the newness that kindergarten brings - the poor kid's brain is probably fried by the end of the day. (no wonder he's sleeping so well these days).
Watching Scotty's progress has simply reinforced that I need to trust the process. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen in a week. And it's certainly not linear. It takes consistent effort, thoughtfulness, and dedication to see improvement. I need to stop critiquing my own performance and just let it go. Putting St. George behind me was the first step; now I have a whole bunch more to go. But I am happy to report that with Scottys' progress in mind, I've had two awesomely successful 20-milers since hitting the reset button. Only four more long runs until CIM and I'm staying positive. If my six year old can do it, so can I.
WARNING! Shameless Mother bragging ahead: in our last game of the season, the Bear batted 4 for 4 (1000), brought in 2 RBIs, and scored two runs. His goal was to "run around all the bases" at least once this season, and he got to do it twice during the game. I'm just glad I didn't keel over from a heart attack during the process. Little League is not for the faint of heart.