I signed up for Longhorn Run last May to motivate myself to work out harder, thinking I had little chance of actually completing it, or at least completing it without walking some part of the course. I surprised myself by succeeding, and of course, I immediately stopped working out and lost most of my fitness and endurance.
So I signed up for Warrior Dash to motivate myself to work out harder. I seriously underestimated how tough it would be, though. I thought, "It's just a 5K; I've already done a 10K. How hard could it be?" and I didn't train nearly as hard for this one as I did for the Longhorn Run.
Here I am approaching the finish, trying to look like I still have some spring in my step, but I was seriously dragging:
The difference was the terrain and the obstacles. Somehow I'd convinced myself that there were only 3 or 4 obstacles, and that they were mostly for entertainment value, since the event seems largely about the silly costumes many participants wear and the beer and turkey legs to be had on the other side of the finish line. It turns out that some of those obstacles, like high-stepping through a field of tires and climbing a pyramid of hay bales and scaling cargo nets, were downright tough. There weren't any long hills, but there were lots of little ones, as well as some slick, steep creek beds to navigate.
I trained mostly by running on the treadmill, with some weights thrown in here and there and an occasional outdoor run. My running strategy has been to find a nice, steady, sustainable pace and focus on my breathing. On this course, though, with all of the up-and-down, and the broken ground, and the 11 obstacles interspersed throughout, I couldn't find my pace. I couldn't steady my breathing. I was winded all the way and did much more walking than I anticipated.
My oldest brother ran the course with me. He said that he's never been much of a runner, preferring biking and softball. When I talked about running a 35-minute 5K, he acted like I was nuts if I thought he was going to be able to keep up with a pace like that. But throughout the course, he was well ahead of me, and while he got winded here and there, I think most of the time he spent walking was for my benefit. Here he is waiting for me to finish the third-to-last obstacle:
In the end, I wasn't as proud of my performance (though at the time I'm writing this, official results have not yet been released) as I was after the Longhorn Run. But I feel more motivated moving forward than I did then. Both of my brothers, several friends, and Aerie are all talking about running another one in the Dallas area in April, and there is no doubt in my mind that I'm going to have to step up my training significantly over the next 5 months if I'm going to be proud of myself when I stagger up out of the mud the next time.
The other great thing about Warrior Dash was the after party. Thumper had a blast. He and his cousin danced their butts off and charmed all of the ladies within a 50-foot radius. They did the Cupid Shuffle:
And the Macarena:
And, uh, whatever this is:
And with everyone else showing off their bodies:
He just couldn't resist showing off a little himself:
I should be blogging about Warrior Dash, a 3.2-mile obstacle course I ran today with my oldest brother. My older brother was going to run with us, too, but at the time we registered, a huge uncertainty in his family's life prevented him from committing, and so, the uncertainty resolved, he was only able to stand at the finish line and cheer us on. It was a fabulous time, and I'll tell the thrilling tale soon, but what I wanted to say instead was that I'm glad for my family, and glad for brothers who enjoy each others' company, and good conversation, and periodically forging anew those old connections that we take for granted and getting to know anew people we think we know, though it's been so long since we've seen or really talked to them. I love my family, despite and because of all its foibles. I'm getting all sentimental and sappy, so I'm going to sing some Tim Michin. I know, I already posted this song; I just really like it. And it says something about family that I really want to be true for Thumper, no matter how nutty his relatives may be:
"And you, my baby girl, My jet-lagged infant daughter, You'll be handed 'round the room Like a puppy at a primary school, And you won't understand, But you will learn some day That wherever you are and whatever you face These are the people Who'll make you feel safe in this world, My sweet blue-eyed girl.
And if, my baby girl, When you're twenty-one or thirty-one And Christmas comes around, And you find yourself 9000 miles from home, You’ll know whatever comes, Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum Will be waiting for you in the sun. Whenever you come, Your brothers and sisters, Your aunts and your uncles, Your grandparents, cousins, And me and your mum. Will be waiting for you in the sun, Drinking white wine in the sun."
What I really should be blogging about is the thing that's on my mind most, which is all of the guilt and frustration I've been going through lately and the sneaking suspicion that I'm not that good at this job and it's a pretty good thing that we've only got one kid or I might end up either divorced or in jail.
But gah, who has the energy for that kind of self-loathing on a Sunday night?
So the other thing I've been thinking about is structure. Since the boy was a wee lad of less than two years, we've occasionally attempted library story time. The first one we went to was a moderate success, until I realized that it was intended for kids under 1, and he was stomping around among the crawlers like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. He enjoyed himself and participated in the activities, but, despite another dad's reassurance that the age ranges listed for the several story times were merely suggestions, I felt socially awkward and we didn't return to that age group's story time again.
Instead, we tried his own age group's story time, and it was, each and every time, a complete failure. He refused to participate. When everyone stood to sing and gesture and pantomime along to the songs ("down came the rain and washed the spider out!") he would sit in my lap, sucking his thumb and eying everyone else suspiciously. When everyone else sat still while Ms. Jane read, he would stand up and wander and talk to me as loudly as a teenager with headphones on ("I WANT MY SNACK, DADDY!"). The more we went, the shorter his attention span was ("I WANT TO GO PLAY PUZZLES, DADDY!")
So we kind of gave up on structured group participation activities for awhile, until we decided to try a gymnastics class at the YMCA. It was titled something completely non-descriptive, like "Buddy and Me" or something like that, and I signed up thinking it would be a mild introduction to structured group activities, with instructors at least suggesting specific activities for the various pieces of equipment.
Instead, it was 45 minutes a week of free play time in the gymnastics room, with no instructor participation except reminding us that the "TumblTrak" was a one-way street and the high balance beams were off-limits. Otherwise, it was Daddy and Thumper playing, much like we do any other day, except on gymnastics equipment instead of playground equipment. It was fun, but by week six, he was more interested in exploring the thermostat and electrical outlets than he was in playing on the equipment again.
In the meantime, my mother and several of the members of the moms' groups expressed the opinion that a Mother's Day Out program was an essential step in his preparation for a classroom setting someday. I felt like paying someone to watch him while I did something else was sort of like cheating, and pretty much what we'd tried to avoid by having me stay home with him full-time in the first place, but I also didn't want to deny him an advantage that would ultimately help him get ready for school. So I priced the YMCA's Mother's Day Out program, was a little shocked, and immediately tabled the idea for reconsideration at a later date.
So time went on, he turned three, he was potty-trained and eligible for the next level of YMCA classes, and I signed up for gymnastics again. This one was "Intro to Tumbling" or "Toddler Tumbling" or something like that, and definitely had instructors and group activities, and the whole thing. I was certain it would be a complete disaster.
And it wasn't! At his first class, every other kid sat in a circle listening to the teacher and participating in a toddler stretching routine ("Pretend your hands are a butterfly. Now land your butterfly on your toes; now fly your butterfly way up in the sky!"), Thumper ran 'round and 'round the outside of the circle. The teacher suggested he sit down and join them; he just kept right on running.
But after a few minutes, he did sit down. He did participate. He followed instructions. He joined in the group activities. I was stunned. I was proud. And I realized: one of the keys to his success in group activities is peer pressure. With other kids staring at him like he's a nut, he starts to reel in his behavior a bit. The other key: I was not allowed in the room with him. On the last of the six weekly classes, the instructors declared that it was "Parents' Day" and we were allowed to sit in the room, and lo and behold, it was utter chaos. Not only my kid, but almost every other kid in the room, went nuts. If I'd been able to watch Library Story Time through a window, he probably would have been just fine.
So the kid who wouldn't participate in group activities was finally participating. The kid who wouldn't jump off of anything more than an inch high if he weren't holding my hands was suddenly jumping and tumbling and rolling and balancing and hanging and swinging. When the six-week program was over, I asked him if he wanted to sign up again, and he said no. The only other class for his age group was "Tap Dance and Ballet," and when I asked him if he wanted to do that, he said, "No, that's just for girls." I'm not sure where the kid who loves to dance and who has the dad in the alternative gender role gets the idea that something is "just for girls," but there you go. Cultural inculcation starts early, I guess.
With structure a success, but with no structure on the near horizon, I thought again about pre-school. Aerie took Thumper to a "Fall Fest" with pony rides that turned out to be a marketing ploy by a local pre-school. She gave them my phone number on Saturday, and by 9 a.m. on Monday, the owner called me. I had no doubt it would be more expensive than the Y, but I also figured with that kind of response time, he was probably not going to leave me alone, so I took him up on his offer for a tour that afternoon.
It was impressive. The teachers seemed patient and kind, and the owner was too. Thumper started out clinging to me like a baby chimp. I wasn't sure why he was so anxious, but after awhile, when he said, "You said school when I'm five!" it became clear that when I told him we were going to "tour a school," he thought I was going to take him there and leave him. The owner captured his interest with a collection of Melissa & Doug puzzles and then let him wander into each of the different classrooms while we watched and talked in the hall. By the end, Thumper didn't want to leave.
It was state-of-the-art, with a security system that uses two keypads and a thumbprint scanner. When he pointed out some kind of interactive touch-screen wall projector and proudly declared that "we're the only school in the state of Texas that has one," I was even more certain the program would be out of our price range. And I was right. It was twice the cost of the YMCA Mother's Day Out.
So there you go: a whole bunch of words to say, "We tried structure, we liked it, and we're not doing it anymore."
I'm going to write more about our experiments in structured activities, but I have a deadline to meet tonight first. Gymnastics was a success, though. The kid who wouldn't jump off the side of the pool without holding my hands is now doing leaping rolls off the couch.
One post in nearly three months, and I'm wondering if I'm still a blogger. When I think about blogging, I don't have much more to say than what I've already said, except for anecdotes about Thumper that I've already put on Facebook in abbreviated form. When I think I might have something to say, I put it off because I have copy writing deadlines, or database deadlines, or I'm just tired and would rather stare at ridiculous episodes of Black Adder on Netflix for Wii.
Part of it is that I think the novelty and excitement I felt at becoming a parent and at being a stay-at-home dad has worn off. It's not that novel anymore. I have a routine; I feel more confident than I used to. I have friends; Thumper has friends; things are progressing, and there's not that much new. I'm used to being a SAHD; I'm used to being an usher; I'm used to being a copywriter. Telling stories about each of those things seems a little redundant now. The biggest challenge I have now, the one that occupies my mind most and is most ripe for exploration via blog post is my struggle dealing with the aggravation that comes from living with a three-year-old who constantly pushes the boundaries, constantly tests my patience, constantly challenges me not to yell. But writing about my regular failures to meet those challenges isn't exactly inspiring.
But one of the moms from one of my playgroups invited me to follow her blog, one of the moms that I admire because of her energy and positive attitude, despite the fact that she has 3X the kids (plus 2 dogs, a cat, and a snake) and a much fuller schedule than I do. It's one of the things I appreciate about my 3 different play groups: they surround me with parents who seem to be better at it than I am, inspiring me to try to be better at it myself. They're involved; they do crafts; and they don't yell (at least when I'm around). And reading her blog, I remembered that part of blogging is reminding myself of the good things, articulating the things that I love in fuller detail than a picture and a few words on Facebook allows.
Halloween and the 3 days preceding it were a blast, by the way. And did I mention, we ran into Kat Nash at Which Wich?
So, I don't know. I guess I'm still a blogger. But, gah, who has the time? I'm going to go play Bejeweled Blitz now...
Running: Best 5K: 26:56 on 1/21/12 (New Year's Resolution Run) Best 5K Obstacle: 34:11 on 4/16/11 (Warrior Dash) Best 10K: 57:57 on 10/2/11 (IBM Uptown Classic) Best Half Marathon: 2:09:30 on 1/29/12 (3M) Best Sprint Triathlon: 2:19:31 on 9/3/12 (TriRock, 700 m/12mi/3mi)