Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Compromises for Success

In marathon running, or any endurance sport I suppose, it is a good idea to set goals. We don't just set one goal, often times we set more than one -- our ideal, and then variations descending down to the absolute minimum we will set for ourselves.

"I'm going to run 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes."

Then you head through mile 17, and you realize that's impossible.

"I'm not going to take any walk breaks."

Then, maybe things break down. You get an injury or the weather, the course prove to be more than you bargained for.

"I'm going to finish this race, crawling if I have to."

We need to think like that, because endurance is gained over time and we're all in some state of progression in our lives as endurance athletes. We compromise on our definition of success to minimize the feeling of defeat we would surely meet by having one goal which was unattainable.

I'm finding a similar thing is true for parenting -- my wife and I went into this with really high ideals, and we've already had to compromise on some. Chiefly we've had to change our thinking on sleeping. We both went through a college program that crammed five years of work into a four year program. We've pulled all-nighters. At various stages of my life I have lived with insomnia. We know what it means to go without sleep.

Sleep is a thing we (as a society) talk about a lot to folks who are about to become parents.

"You won't be getting much sleep."


"No, really, you won't sleep anymore."


"Hahaha, you still think you'll get to sleep. Just wait."

There are issues that I have with this. I mean for one thing, if you're someone who absolutely does go unconscious after being awake for 40 hours and are un-roustable, you then feel like a crap parent because you aren't just somehow awake. Inexplicably awake. I mean, how could you sleep? You're responsible for another human life!

As if it would be possible to sit in a space awake and alert for days on end without losing consciousness. That is lunacy. No one should level those kinds of expectations on themselves or someone else.

But also it couples with this idea that babies should be in the bassinet or cradle, and that just isn't realistic all the time. My daughter doesn't like the bassinet. She can be tricked into sleeping in it for fifteen minutes at a time, but she'll sleep on my chest for two hours at a stretch. After the third night of two hour shifts, my wife and I reached our breaking point. We did what had previously been unimaginable to us: we bought a co-sleep bassinet.

Hold your gasps in. I hope none of you fainted.

This is a sort of "nest" with hard plastic sides designed to lay flat on the bed between the adult's pillows.

The first night wasn't perfect, but it was decidedly better than the previous nights. The baby would sleep for an hour at a stretch, and we were able to get some shut-eye during that span. We really beat ourselves up over this -- because everyone knows that co-sleeping can be dangerous. The way people talk about it, it is similar to actually trying to kill a child. Now that we've used the co-sleep system we have, I have to say it seems safe. She is between our heads, and the bassinet has hard plastic sides, so there is little chance that we could roll even near her without waking up. We also have a king-size bed, so we do not have a lack of space -- a concern I would feel stronger about if we were in a queen size bed.

Ultimately I've had to shift my thinking, though. Are we going to be able to do everything perfectly? No, certainly not. We will do our best to be there for this child, however. This is a compromise situation.

We need to develop a new set of skills, as well, when it comes to reflection and self-evaluation. We aren't people who have worked under this kind of physical stress before. I'm a marathon runner, but I'm not an ultra marathon runner. I'm not used to going for days and days without sleep while constantly moving at a good clip. That is the kind of endurance I think would be required to do this thing.

So we get moody when we're overtired, or hungry, and it can be hard to tell the difference between those things as well. Usually, if it is my wife who is angry with me I will encourage her to get a good chunk of sleep, and then to eat and she feels much better. Likewise, I need to get better at identifying when I am absolutely dead tired. I need to get better at realizing when I need to eat. In this game it is fair for me to expect to look after my wife, but I shouldn't expect anyone to look out for me. That would be selfish, I think.

I mean, there are a fair number of little things in any day that can add up to an argument. These things are really magnified when you're without sleep, or food. Sleep deprivation is real form of torture. I know. I'm living it.

Finished up the holiday running streak on New Year's Day, and I'm now looking forward to my training for Big Sur. I'm not usually the best with following running plans, and my last marathon I sort of did a free-form plan where I worked the different types of workouts in and ran for 60 days straight. I'm less confident about doing a similar thing for Big Sur, though, because it is Big Sur. It is supposed to be a very challenging marathon. I may want to step it up.

I've been working through what my wife and I call the "New Parent Adjustment Period" which is tough. Ran almost fourteen miles this past Sunday, came home and ate, slept, got eight hours of sleep (our daughter, and my wife, got six hours, which was really great.) I have not felt so wiped the day after a long run since I ran the Marine Corps. Marathon. I didn't feel this wiped the day after Baystate (my most recent marathon.) Clearly my exhaustion has had a toll on my endurance. I'll need to see to that as I continue to train, building in more time for productive rest while still keeping up with all the chores.

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