Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lesson From My Son: ENJOY THE RIDE

When I train for a half marathon, I do it with gusto. I start about eight weeks out and follow a strict schedule, logging every time and pace improvement. I hydrate obsessively. I change my eating habits. I change my sleeping habits. I adopt a “two drink maximum” policy on weekends.

That is why every year, for the past three years, I marvel at my son (now age 11) when he shows up and competes--with nary a training day--in the St. Anthony’s Meek & Mighty Triathlon. This year was no exception. 

True to form, my son picked up his race packet on Friday and completed the tri on Saturday. No training, no practice, no early morning wake-up swims or runs for weeks ahead of time. He didn’t even eat anything for breakfast that morning, despite my prodding about the importance of fueling your body. "Nah, I'm not hungry, I'll be fine," he said.

Actually, on the Tuesday before the race he did show momentary panic, asking me if he could run with me on Wednesday morning because he felt an urgency to practice for the race. I run about four times a week, but at 5:30am, so I responded that no, I would not be waking him up at 5:15am to head out the door and run on a school morning because:
A) He’d be crabby for the rest of the day if he woke up that early and 

The St. Anthony’s Meek & Mighty Triathlon traditionally welcomes about 900 or so participants each year, most of whom are children and teenagers, though some adults do race. The two age categories are 7-10 and 11 and older. The 11 and older category must swim 200 yards, bike 5.4 miles and run 1 mile. This seems like a lot for a scrawny, skinny, barely-75-pound 11-year-old, but mine loves it. And as a seasoned racer, I totally get why he puts himself through it each year, even sans training.

Triathlons, like any road race I’ve ever run, are electric. As the race volunteer marks your arms and legs with a Sharpie, it’s like putting on war paint. You can see the other competitors’ bikes and shoes and race paraphernalia and you take pride in your own and the miles and memories you've put in together. The smell of the sunscreen, the feel of goose pimples on your arms before the sun comes up to warm you . . . it’s all just . . . electric. 
Now imagine you feel all that electricity but none of the nervousness or worry about beating a personal record or a buddy in the race with you. You are there just for the accomplishment and bragging rights of getting up early on a Saturday morning to finish something fun before most people wipe the sleep out of their eyes. That’s why my son is there.

It’s good for me to see my son on his bike with his arms raised high like this. I will always picture his posture of success. Even before he’d entered the third leg of the race (the run) he already felt like a winner. 

I’m going to adopt this posture for all the races I’ve signed up for this year. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't beat myself (or my PR). Not that I won't strategically train--I will, of course. But I will also remember that it's great just to be DOING IT with a healthy heart, two strong legs, and supportive family and friends to cheer me on. 
This month, I’m running a Foam Fest 5K with two great girlfriends (it is the day before Mother’s Day, and what I asked to do for Mother’s Day) and later this month I'll be doing a Color Run with my husband and children. 
In the fall my husband and I will be traveling to Savannah with friends for all of us to run their Rock N Roll Half Marathon, and then a week later we're back in St. Pete for the Women’s Half Marathon. In early 2015 I’ve got a six-person team running a 200 mile Ragnar race with me from Miami to Key West. 

Type-A that I am, I have already recorded and printed out training schedules for all these events in hopes of beating times and ultimately, meeting my goal of running 1,000 total miles this calendar year. But I will also post this photo of my son next to my training schedules and--as he clearly did this day--remember to just enjoy the ride.