I won my bracket. That's the good news from the weekend. The Tough Guy Book Club, almost to a man, chose Duke to win it all. When the Blue Devils went down it became a matter of the Virginia-Auburn game to determine our champion. Thanks to an iffy last-minute foul — and a non-call — I win. As champion, our punishment is that the loser now has to chug a six-pack of the beer of my choosing. Our group numbers several grown men who have achieved considerable success in a wide variety of fields, from medicine to publishing to golf to finance to real estate and software development. But when it came time to select a penalty for losing the bracket, we all resorted to the residue of our college days.
I have selected Drake's Denogginizer, a 9.75% ABV Imperial IPA, the sort of brew one should enjoy just one at a time in the privacy of one's own home — or with an Uber ride on speed dial. Six will do a great deal of damage. The guy who lost favors Coors Light and once made the mistake of not only bragging that he was so slender he could wear women's bike shorts, but also buying a pair and wearing them in a race to prove his point. We've never let him live that one down. Should make for a nice spectacle at our next book club meeting.
But life comes in doses, and even as I received congrats for winning the bracket, I had the feeling it might just be the high point of the weekend. It was not, thankfully. That honor would go to brunch with my oldest son in San Diego yesterday. But I had hoped for a coaching accomplishment to be the runner-up, not the bracket. Saturday night was the Arcadia Invitational — a sort of Diamond League meet for America's top high school runners. It's a big deal to get runners into the Saturday night invitational races, and I was rightfully proud to be in the mix. Both my guys raced extremely well and obviously deserved to be in their races, performing on the national stage.
But as I made the three-hour drive from Arcadia down to San Diego, where Calene and I were spending the night, I had one of those misplaced moments of sadness and self-doubt that left me second-guessing my coaching methodology as we now enter the stretch run towards the California State Meet. I have finished the latest Killing book, and am absent a project to occupy my time. So instead I channeled my obsession into the abstract: the fact that I coach athletes of such a high caliber, and the fact that they are such solid young men, and that failing them as a coach would be a personal disappointment of monumental proportions.
Calene was already asleep when I arrived at our room just after midnight. We had a lovely view from the 25th floor of the Hyatt, and so I sat up for two more hours, plotting and scheming the workouts for the big weeks of competition to come. Thus engaged, my mind continued this strategizing even after I fell asleep, making for a fitful night of feverish dreams and little rest.
And then. . . .
Well, I confided my fears in Calene the next morning. She's got a background in therapy and is always quick with an insight, so I thought she might say something warm and inspirational. This is what I got: "Stop being such a whiny little bitch."
In this world of accomplishment and rest, setbacks and triumph, it's possible to overthink. I know how to coach, so my runners are going to be just fine. I used to obsess that I would forget how to write if I took too long of a break between books, but I'm finally letting that one go, too. I personally like the extreme highs and lows that come with the creative life and the coaching life, and I fear I may actually be addicted to these volatile emotions. But sometimes that moment of perspective — the whiny little bitch moment, let's call it — is a solid reminder to enjoy life and not take things so seriously.
And for that perspective, I am extremely thankful.