Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We Are The Parents

This was the best tribute to Michael Jackson I could think of that was also really self serving and a way to blow off some steam:

There comes a time.

When the tears begin to fall.

And the wailing

comes together as one.

There are eardrums dying.

Including yours, we know

And the other

Is kicking on the ground.

We are the parents.

Who have young children.

We are the ones who make a bad day worse

With all our screaming.

There's a choice we're making

We're trying to have a life.

But it's true it makes your life worse

We know. Trust me.

Send us your heart

Or a little sympathy

Not those looks

Of death and misery.

As Allie shows us, her shorts are full of poop

So we all, must lend a helping hand.

We are the parents.

Who have young children.

We are the ones who make a bad day worse

With all our screaming.

There's a choice we're making

We're trying to have a life.

But it's true that makes your life worse

We know. Trust me.

You're trying to eat

in quiet and the peace

But our kids just

keep kicking your seat

Well well well welllll we realize you don't have any kids

but you're saying, "Why can't their kids act like my niece?"

We are the parents.

Who have young children.

We are the ones who make a bad day worse

With all our screaming.

There's a choice we're making

We're trying to have a life.

But it's true that makes your life worse

We know. Trust me.

Yes, our children screaming

Might make you grind your teeth

But it's true it'll stop in time

Just wait and see.

(Ah come on now, let me hear you)....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One down, hundreds to go

Two miles, 800 feet gained, several stickers avoided, one summit gained. Not bad for 4!

P.S. I promise you he wanted to do this. I did not force him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A kind soul goes home

When I got the news, I thought of the time Uncle Carl gave us a riddle.
"We're going to a place where we're going to have some fun. Birthday or Christmas? Choose one."
I was young, at an age when Poltergeist would keep me up nights, so I had no idea what the riddle meant. What could it mean?
My brother and I knew it would be good. It always was with Uncle Carl.
There are cool uncles. And we have one, Keith, who swam in oceans for his triathlons and introduced me to Queen and even liked some of my heavy metal music and almost never got married until a lady finally ensnared his heart. He sends me text messages. He's cool.
There are funny uncles. And we have one, Clyde, who wears a big, thick, Deadwood-type mustache and laughs like he'd been sucking on helium balloons for three days. He always chuckled and tried to get us to do the same. He loves to tell jokes. He's funny.
Carl was neither of these.
He was the kind one.
The thought of a bachelor bringing two boys to his apartment to play Atari 2600 and swim in his pool today might give some people goose bumps, but every time we visited California to spend time with my parents' parents and brothers and sisters, we got a day with Uncle Carl. We looked forward to that special day as much as any other. My parents never worried. They knew we were in good hands.
We just knew it would be fun. It always was with Uncle Carl.
He'd greet us with his Donald Duck voice. Sometimes I swore he was the guy in the cartoons. Then he'd probably play something for us on his guitar and sing: I'm certain that my brother and I got my musical talent from him. Then he would take us for our fun outing.
The time that stuck with me, after I got the news, was the riddle. Carl liked to challenge us, to make us use our brains. That was probably the teacher in him. He would play video games with us, sure, but only for a limited amount of time. The goal wasn't to burn the day with us to give my parents a break, though, as a parent today, I realize how nice that was for Mom and Dad. It was to spend quality, real time with his nephews.
"We're going to a place where we're going to have some fun. Birthday or Christmas? Choose one."
I still didn't know what it meant when he pulled up to the toy store. I was young. My brother was younger.
Then it hit me.
"Do you mean we get to pick something from the store?" I said.
He smiled.
I settled on a Burger King handheld video game. I probably took advantage of him. He mumbled something about how this would cost us BOTH my birthday and Christmas presents. That was OK. I played it for a few years. It was worth it.
I think, in his eyes, we were always that age, even when he showed us respect for our individualism and our own adult choices as we got older. He continued to call me and sing Happy Birthday on our special day. He would send us cards for every occasion, even Valentine's Day, and occasionally we'd still get a couple crisp dollar bills in those cards. Remember how cool it was to get dollar bills in your cards when you were a kid? I never forgot what that was like.
He wouldn't let me forget what that was like to feel 12 and special. It was always like that with Uncle Carl.
He was 60. I got the news today that his body finally broke down, and his spirit left him that morning. Carl was grossly overweight his whole life. He knew it. We knew it. We always hoped he would fix it, but bad genes and addiction to food were stronger than his willpower. If that sounds judgmental, I don't mean it that way. I was blessed with good genes, and food never meant to me what it did to him. I was able to get that feeling from mountain climbing, music and running. I'm lucky. I know that. Let's just say I ran my intervals extra hard tonight.
I just wish he was still around.
My memories of him will not be clouded by that. I'll remember the riddle, the special days together and the conversations about, and over, video games.
And I'll remember the time Carl took us to his school for another outing. This was always my favorite memory of Uncle Carl.
We were young. Really young, actually, for a bunch of high school students. But his students all ran out to greet us. They were great to us. They were really nice. They were fun.
They were kind.
People want to be kind. I want to be kind. We all just need someone like Carl to show us the way.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A day in the mountains

Two blisters + three ridges + 1,000 feet of snow glissaded + 9 scrapes and slight gashes + one Sonic cheeseburger + three gels + one disgusting backpack + one mountain lion + two moose + two summits + 78 screaming muscles = An awesome day in the Never Summer range in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ow. :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I limit myself sometimes. Especially when it comes to proving myself as an athlete.
I'm pretty sure that goes way back to elementary school. I'd hate to think that getting picked last over and over at kickball could affect me at 37. But I'm afraid it does.
I also think that's why I'm so comfortable in my Wednesday track group. Many of them are the superstars of Greeley. They regularly place or even win their age groups at major races. One of the older females won her age group this year at the Bolder/Boulder. That's almost 50,000 runners, folks, and she beat them all. And in this group, she's just one of the runners.
I know there's no way I'll ever compete with them. They were blessed with genes I don't have. They've been runners their whole lives. I'm on my fifth summer. They ran track or cross country in high school, and some of them even ran in college. I was in marching band. They're too good.
At least that's what I told myself.
I set two milestones for myself this summer, two longtime goals that I've had since I began running competitively. The first was to break 22 minutes in a 5K. I thought that was attainable. Sure enough, I did it July 4.
The second was to break 6 minutes in a mile. I honestly wasn't sure I'd do that. That's 1:30 quarters. Try running a quarter-mile in 1:30. It's hard. It was really hard for me to put four together. I could put two or even three together. But four? No.
And last year we ran the mile three times as a group, and my best time was 6:20. I was pretty pleased with that. It was a great time. For me, I thought.
Yesterday, I ran a 5:57 mile.
Yes, the course was fast. And to show you how fast our group is, that placed me maybe 20th out of 35-40 runners. But I still broke six minutes. I still can't believe it.
Maybe I should believe it. Maybe I should stop capping myself. Maybe now the sky's the limit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The bright side of a broken arm

This sounds awful. But every time I come home from a run, I have to take three deep breaths before I can open the door.
Runs are peaceful. They're hard, yes, especially when it's 147 degrees out, as it was Sunday morning (at 9:30 a.m. no less), but they're quiet, and I can actually think about something other than where the stupid frakkin (yep, watching too much BSG, I like that word) juice cups are. 
Sure enough, I walked inside Sunday (after four deep breaths because I could already hear the screaming from my car), and it's chaos, as usual. Jayden was having one of his powerful, black-hole-mood-creating fits, and Kate had just sent him to his room. And then she broke the news about Andie. Namely, her break.
Andie was clutching her arm. Jayden, apparently, had jumped on her, only he landed on her wrong, and she was holding her wrist. It had already started to swell. Kate, a PE teacher, knows her injuries, and she thought it was broken.
"Daddy!" Andie held out her arms. Sigh. I always thought it was a cliche when parents said they would trade places with their child. Something they really didn't mean. Folks, they mean it. I know that now.
But Andie wanting me to hold her, and not just Kate, confirms something I've noticed lately. I'm actually Parent #2 now. I'm not just a guy to jump on when I'm on the floor trying to stretch after a run. I'm not just a temporary set of arms until Mom's are empty. I'm an option now, and not only that, sometimes I'm the preferred option.
I had long ago accepted the fact that Mom was #1. It's like that with most kids, I was told by many fathers, even my own. I worked hard not to take it personally, though that's harder with twins, given that you're doing just as much (if not more) work than a mother with singletons, let alone any father out there. A little extra love from the kids would be nice given that. But no, it was Mom Mom Mom. OK. I can be a stopgap, I thought.
Sometimes, because of that, I accepted it a little too well. When one was crying, I didn't bother to comfort her, knowing she'd probably just resist my arms anyway and I wasn't in the mood for another rejection. That could have added to them wanting Mom even more. It's possible there was a cycle there.
The cycle, however, appears to be over. I'm not sure what the difference is, but when I ask the girls to come sit with me, they do, or they just climb up the couch with their tiny legs and plop down by me while I'm eating. 
Then they start to demand my food.
When Kate finally took Andie out of the Urgent Care facility, she looked at Kate and said, "Go home and see Daddy?" I was at work, but my heart warmed when Kate told me she said that. I made it a point this morning to spend some time with her.
Jayden and I will camp out tonight, and it should be fun, just the two of us. Tuesday I was going to go climbing, but I decided against that, knowing that I have a cool trip planned Friday and that time with the kids is starting to get a lot of fun. 
I'll take Andie to the doctor myself Tuesday to figure out what we need to do about this arm. 
She'll need me there, and for the first time, probably as much as I need her.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Home Improvement a grain at a time

I should probably resign from being a male by saying this.
But I hate home improvement projects.
I mean I really hate them. Our day is already packed full of the kids. I mean I literally have a hard
time taking 15 minutes for myself every day I'm home. So throw anything at all on top of just trying toget through the day and household chores such as laundry, the kitchen and feedings, and I'm whipped
by 8 p.m.
But throw a big, frickin', huge pile of sand on top of that, and we're screwed.
And I'm sore.
We had a monster pile delivered to our house today so we could essentially create a big, mongo sandbox in the backyard. It's now our job to shovel that sand into a wheelbarrow and barrow it to the backyard, where we dump the load and start over, etc., etc., etc., until the pile is gone.
I realize this is the kind of thing that a man should love. It's a chance to show how strong and powerful you are by shoveling tons (literally) into a wheelbarrow. I even had my shirt off while working. But it, like most home improvement projects, is simply mindless, hot, numbing work, the kind usually reserved for prisoners or friends you've plied with light beer.
I'm obviously not lazy - anyone who considers running and climbing mountains a fun pastime can't be lazy - but I do resent being put to work like this. I'm really trying to get over it, but this is my flaw as a male. Throw in the fact that I'm hooked on BSG, I got a new cell phone (no, it's not the iPhone, dammit) and I just got the kids' movie done for the year and there's too much temptation to sit on the couch and play. Maybe I should tell Kate I need to go run 10 miles and hide out in the park with my new phone.
I love summer, but the problem with summer is Kate's at home, with the kids, because she's a teacher, and though there aren't many moments of boredom, when the girls are napping, she gets a tad bored and probably finds lots of projects that we suddenly need to do right then. She's already painted the deck and bought a bunch of frames to redo our "family picture wall," as she calls it. She's also talking about painting the house next summer.
If you need me, I'll be under the bed in the basement.
Seriously, I'm more comfortable with our other, more important home improvement project, and that's project potty. Times two. The girls have been out of diapers for a week, and surprisingly, they're doing great. Already they're telling us when they need to go. Diapers have their advantages - after we got our cell phones, Allie told me she needed to potty, and we were by the food court, and everyone, including me, was hungry, and the bathrooms looked a half-mile away.
But I haven't changed a shitty diaper in at least a week. I honestly forgot how nice it is to not have feces on your hands. It's really is kinda nice. It took Jayden at least three years before we started to even think about potty training, but the girls, because they're girls, I guess, are kicking ass.
Maybe we should throw a party. I'll try anything to get out of shoveling sand Saturday.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The final countdown

I approached this year's goal of going under 22 minutes in a 5K for the first time ever with a strange sensation in my gut.
I actually thought I could do it.
The goal of going under 22 minutes was actually a goal for three years, sort of one of those life lists, like running a mile under 6 minutes. But it seemed like some faraway obstacle, something that only elite runners and athletes achieve. I didn't put myself in those categories. I was merely above average.
I first started running races as seriously as I could take them in 2005. That meant I went for a time and tried to get a lot of sleep before the event (which, as you loyal readers know, isn't really up to me) and even kept my weight to below what I weighed my senior year in high school. That first year, I was thrilled to run the July 4 5K in 23:15. I ran it the next year in 22:34, and that seemed like a ceiling. The twins hadn't been born yet. I predictably bombed out of the 2007 July 4 5K a month after the girls were born. I simply had no energy.
But later that year, on an impossibly fast course (most of it was downhill), I ran 22:01, just two seconds from the golden standard. In fact, they had me at 21:53, until I discovered that they got the times out of order and I went up the race director to correct the mistake. If I was going to reach that goal, I was going to do it honestly.
So I didn't get under 22 minutes, but that told me someday I might.

When people ask me if I'd rather run a half marathon or a 5K, they're always puzzled by my answer. It's always a half marathon. 13.1 over 3.1. Yep. Because though 13.1 is a bear, 3.1 is a bitch.
5Ks are by far the most intense thing I've ever done. Yes, I've climbed many mountains, some of them dangerous. But those are marathons, not sprints. And in fact though I'm faster than the average climber by quite a bit, many of the elite climbers who I climbed with could easily leave me in the dust because speed was never a priority.
Speed, suddenly, was a priority when I started running, and I had to adjust. I'm still adjusting. Half marathons, even at the 8-minute-per-mile pace I set for them, are a lot more like climbing a mountain. They're a long adventure, something you breathe hard, controlled breaths over for hours before you reach your goal. Plus the pressure's off. If you have to tie your shoe, take a gel or get a drink, you can without blowing your race.
5Ks are fast, insane little races where one slip can ruin your time. They don't have to be this way, of course, but try telling that to the little competitive demon inside me. I typically gasp my way through a 5K. The idea is to find the edge and stay there. Maybe even push it a bit. They're hard and uncomfortable and can get the best of anyone: One of my best friends, a 50-year-old woman who has run at least 35 marathons and probably, I'm not kidding, hundreds of 5Ks, threw up at this year's race.
But last fall, I experienced a breakthrough. I was running times that I didn't ever think were possible three years ago. My goal was to break 48 minutes in a 10K, and without a whole lot of effort, I broke 47 instead. I ran nearly 8-minute miles for the first time last fall in a half marathon, destroying my best time by nearly four minutes. I began running 5Ks smoothly even when I was regularly busting the 22:30 mark.
So why couldn't I break 22 minutes? I couldn't find an excuse. July 4 would be my first 5K of the
year, and I knew this was the year to do it.
And then the kids got sick.

We went to Kid Rock Friday night. The tickets were free, and I wasn't going to turn down a fun night
with my wife only because of a race. When we got home, the cries started around 11 p.m. Allie was
hot, then Andie was hot, then Jayden was warm, then hot, then one needed to be held. This went on
until 2 a.m. By the time I finally slipped into sleep, it was 2:30 a.m., and the alarm clock was set to
go off three hours later. I woke up a half before that.
Bye, bye, confidence.
I went to the race early, ate my meal and started to warm up, but deep down, I knew it probably wasn't going to happen. I don't have the athletic ability to make up for being tired even before the race starts. Even as my friends reassured me that the sleep the night before the race doesn't matter as much as the sleep leading up to it, I felt empty inside. I was tired and I knew it.
However, I may not have pure athletic ability, but I do have a talent for one thing, and it's gotten me on many peaks on bad days: sucking it up. I can suck it up with the best of them. Right before the gun went off, I decided I really wasn't that tired and would just try my best. Screw the excuses.
The thing is, you don't even know how you're going to feel until you start running a 5K. I felt a little sick, pretty tired and winded. But I also felt OK. When I crossed the first mile in 6:40, I still felt OK.
I suppose I have two demons inside me. The first is the competitive one who pushes me beyond
what I think is possible. The second I'll call couch potato demon. That's the one who loves to play
poker, drink and watch hours of "Battlestar Galactica." They were at war by the second mile as I
approached the hill.
"Just walk," couch potato whispered. "No one would blame you. You got less than three hours of sleep. You could at least slow down."
In the past year, I've researched different ways to beat the mental game of running fast much more than the physical side. I wouldn't think someone who has climbed nearly as many mountains as I have would be weak. I've had to battle heights, cold, dehydration, storms, sleep deprivation and altitude sickness, but the intensity of 5Ks appears to be my biggest weakness. I've worked on blocking out all thought. It's worked. But I still have a lot of work to do.
Just get to the top of the hill, I told myself as I huffed and puffed my way up it, trying to maintain enough speed so I'd have a chance at under 22 minutes and feeling like I was failing miserably.
When I made the turn and started downhill, I thought I'd blown it, and then a friend slipped beside me.
This guy had run 21:57 in last year's July 4 5K, and I knew he was on pace to do it again.
Don't lose him, I said to myself.
I stuck right by him and almost passed him a couple times. I also wanted the race to end in the worst way. I was panting like a dog, my legs were dead and I was tense. Then I looked at my GPS.
6:45, 21:05, 2.97.
That was my pace, my time and my mileage. I had a chance. My friend took off. So did I.
By the end, I was dying, but I sprinted as the last 10 seconds ticked away. And then I crossed the line.
I pumped my fist in the air as I gasped for air.
Some of my running friends came over to say congratulations. They were the elite group who finished well ahead of me.
And now, finally, I could stand with them.

Stats: 21:59, 94/1,300 (estimated), 7:05 pace, 15th/89 in my age group.