Sunday, August 26, 2012

Time Trials: A Race of Truth

Aug. 25-26 -- Day 18

Today I'm 194 pounds of rolling thunder.

Actually, I have no idea how many pounds of rolling thunder I am today. I was so busy yesterday I slept in today and forgot to weigh myself this morning. I was also so busy yesterday with cross country time trials and freelance work that I didn't get a chance to blog.

And, Oh yes, we were basking in the glow of the arrival of Georgia Violet, our new great niece in Oregon, who was born Friday happy and healthy. At least we think she's happy, you never know with newborns.

Anyway, Georgia is a peach, and we welcome her aboard the clan of misfit toys that is our family.

Saturday morning came way too early at our house. I pounded the keyboard until after midnight the night before doing my contract work and didn't really fall asleep until about 1. So when the dogs rousted my wife at 5:30 a.m. and the alarm sounded at 6, needless to say I was not about jumping up and getting the boys ready for their time trial.

Eight years ago we taught ourselves how to be football parents. The rhythms of game days. The bumps and bruises of practices. The team rituals. The real time versus coach time clock. We learned the elation of perfect seasons and the lessons learned by winless ones.

But going into our fourth year as cross country parents we're still getting the routines down. The correct time for pre-race meals. The equipment they need versus what they want. How the gains are gauged by personal time bests and not always race placements.

With two runners on one of the largest teams in the country (nearly 200 boys and girls; last year almost 300) it's a mix of social runners and competitive racers. The onus has always been a little more on the former, but the team likes it that way and so do we.

Our older son went down the cross country road because that's what his friends were doing. And it was a great way to find a peer group and explore his footing as he entered high school.

The first year was all about new things. New aches and pains. New challenges of personal endurance. And new challenges as a racer.

Somewhere in his junior year running became part of who he was. His times had progressively gotten better, but now he was enjoying the runs and what they could do for his health and fitness. He learned to push himself in races.

Like most teens, his younger brother is cutting his own path. His goals are more personal, and he's still in the mode of mom and dad not letting him come home right after school and vegging out. He's found the camaraderie of a team, but the love of exercise hasn't quite struck home.

So the two entered Saturday's time trial with different goals. One was hoping to just survive and qualify for the team. The other was hoping to start the year among the top 20 on the squad.

The day broke overcast and humid, so the rolling course would be a different sort of challenge that in years past when the sun was already beating down when the runners were on the course.

The parents all click their cellphone timers as the runners left the start line, and so the waiting began. Folks hustled to various points on the course to encourage their children and team members along the quest. Top 10 would be varsity; next 10 jayvee and those under 30 minutes for the 5K would be "C" teamers.

It was the first real race of the year and a winding, hilly course on deep grass. The first runner came in as predicted. Then lo and behold our older son rolled in among the top 20 as did one of his friends. At the end of last year and now again, he had found a way in those final couple hundreds of meters to go to that place where you put pain aside and just flat out run.

So then we turned our sights on his brother. He had assured us that sub 30 was doable this year. He ran his legs off in the choppy form that I'm sure he inherited from his father. Somehow he managed to do a personal best for the distance and right at the time limit.

He's still finding his way, but it's the journey that will be his destination. And hopefully the baton of running for enjoyment will be passed along.

So if you see the world's slowest human running today, give me a wave for my new friend Georgia Violet.


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