Long Time Coming
It's been a couple months since I've posted. A little explanation is in order. I'd been kind of hoping to use this space to chronicle my cross country team's season, thinking it might be the basis for a book. So I took some detailed notes, posted a few missives, and waited for things to come together. Then a series of mishaps struck my team that it didn't make sense to share with the world (i.e., other coaches and teams). One runner suffered an intestinal parasite, thanks to a summer trip to Africa. Three runners experienced a crazy hip muscle tear, thanks to awkwardly leaping over hay bales during a race in Portland. One runner blew out her knee, suffering a soccer-like injury during a normal Monday long run. And so it went, on and on, one freak injury after another. With every injury there was a moment of healing, when I regained my confidence and felt like we were finally getting the band back together. But every time I said those words out loud -- literally, every single time I uttered that famous line from the Blues Brothers -- something else happened. I got a little cranky during cross country season.
Now, let's take a look at that. I planned the 2012 season on February 5, sitting in the economy car of a train traveling from Dublin to Galway. It was a master plan, complete with tempo runs, high ambitions, an extra long base phase, and a scheme for complete domination. My boys teams and girls teams would both enjoy a revolutionary new level of training. All would be wondrous. But as the saying goes, when you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. So it was, that my well-crafted plan fell apart. All the emotional energy I'd placed upon my girls team winning a third straight title (and my boys team winning their first), was siphoned away as the injuries mounted.
But I never lost faith that we'd win. Somehow, some way, I knew that the girls would take another title. And even as I suspected that the boys are still a year away, I saw a level of personal growth and maturity from my guys that tells me they're going to be just fine.
The boys finished the season ranked #11 in Southern California. A great honor, but not enough to make the State Meet. They were in the mix for one of those seven qualifying spots. They are a tight unit, and a joy to coach. Really looking forward to getting back at it with track season.
On Saturday, the girls won State again. One stepped out of a walking boot just in time to race. Another had to have her knee and IT worked over by a physical therapist an hour before stepping to the line. Another wrapped her hip in a length of ace bandage longer than she is tall. And like the Blues Brothers, they got the band back together just in time.
This has been an amazing year for me as a writer. Beyond belief. If someone had told me twenty years ago, when I was writing 50-word articles for Triathlon Today just to get a byline (actual monetary payment was out of the question -- and I didn't care), that a couple books I'd co-authored would ride the New York Times list, I would have been dazzled by the notion. And believe me, I am. But as I sit in my office this morning, knowing that there is no practice to attend this afternoon (first time in 22 weeks), I don't find myself in a self-congratulatory mode. I find myself thankful. Maybe it's the post-Thanksgiving vibe kicking in a few days late, but I just feel like thanks are in order. Thanks that I get to write for a living. Thanks that my sons are such fantastic young men. Thanks that I have a wife who kicks my ass in a loving and direct manner. And thanks that I get the privilege of watching my runners overcome doubt, pain and anxiety in order to be their best. The fact that we all got to stand atop a podium and hoist the State trophy on Saturday just makes it all better.
There is always a silence when the season ends. A stillness. I usually fill it with busy-ness, because I am more comfortable with achievement than contemplation. There was a time in my life where I was clearly headed for a life of misery and dead-end jobs, so I've chased the memory of that demon (and the person I was at that time, who actually wasn't a bady guy at all, just someone trying to make sense of the world) by working nonstop from dawn until dusk. My thought was always that if I couldn't be better than someone, I could outwork them. I was running to stand still, to quote Bono. But today I don't want to do that. Today I want to be thankful. And quiet. And not, for once, planning yet another grand adventure. Those will all make themselves known, in good time. I'm not even sure I can go a day without the creative side of my brain seizing all this koombaya and exploding with some grand new scheme designed to preoccupy me for months on end. So let's just say I'm going to be thankful and quiet for the next hour. I'm going to think about those wilderness years where I was trying to figure things out (but which I've never had the courage to write about), and I'm going to go easy on that guy. Just for this hour, if I can pull it off, the Keep Pushing... Always mantra, gets a rest.