The web goddess Nikki is all too aware of my propensity to procrastinate. Thus, today's reminder that the blog has gone unattended this week, and needs action immediately.
There's a reason: the twenty-two weeks defining the main portion of the cross country season are at an end. All that's left is the national-level racing, which begins this Saturday with the Footlocker Western Regional at Mt. SAC, the world's oldest and greatest cross country course. I have four runners competing — one of whom won his first California State Championship last Saturday in Fresno. So I am still coaching this week, putting the Rover in drive every afternoon at 2 p.m. as my iPhone tells me it is twenty-two minutes to the track. But this is the icing on the cake. There is no real management to be done, a task which is ultimately the goal of the head coach. Right now it's just about keeping runners sharp and rested. My job is done. Now I just get to enjoy the sound of the starting gun and revel in the sight of these elite runners doing their thing on the legendary climbs of Mt. SAC — Switchbacks, Poop-Out, and Reservoir. I'll stand atop Reservoir, whose crest is exactly 1,000 meters from Saturday's finish, and ask them to give a little more. But that's really all I can do right now. These are amazing young men and women. I can't wait to watch them go to work among some of the best runners in America.
So it's all fun and games at this point. I sat down with the rest of the team for exit interviews today. We went back through the season, figuring out highs and lows. Not surprisingly, we all learned that things taking place way back in July had a direct impact on how we raced in November. We all promised to do better next year. I know that we will. In fact, I'm already planning it.
And while that process of revisiting what went right and wrong will continue for months, it's important that I step back and take a mental health break. I hold on too tight in cross country. The daily affairs of the team become dinner table conversation in my home. I obsess (too much) about everything from uniform pantones to iron deficiency. The team management intrudes into every dream, every breath, every waking hour from June 26 until November 25.
Now I'm exhausted. I just want to go someplace far away and sleep late in a big comfortable bed, in a hotel that costs way too much money. I want to order room service, take long hot showers under a steaming nozzle that blasts water at me like a fire hose, luxuriate in a foreign coffee shop, and read books that never once use the term "VO2 MAX."
This is how I get my head back. It used to be a solitary process, but now that the boys are grown, Callie comes along. A week ago I didn't know where we were going. This morning, I spontaneously came up with three outrageous travel plans — adventures that would take me as far away from responsibility as possible. One was Hawaii, which means a beach. The other was New Orleans, which means Bourbon Street. And the third was the one she chose. I can't tell you where. Let's just say there is no beach and maybe a little bourbon.
So the question is why? Why fill my days with the intensity of cobbling together books and the emotional roller coaster of coaching competitive high school sports, knowing that if I'm successful my runners can pencil in their own future with a college scholarship? It's a burnout proposition to be sure.
Because it makes me feel alive. I go as hard as I can, as long as I can, praying that the results in all aspects of my livelihood kick ass. Then just as suddenly, I shut down completely for three to five weeks, making sure to fly someplace far away so I am not tempted to fill that space with some new creative endeavor.
Then the break ends and we do it again. And until the day comes that I am not eager to be ramping it up for one more championship, I'll keep on keeping on.