Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Wall

I consider myself to be a pretty focused person. The skill I loved learning for the marathon, probably beyond the running, was the focus and mental strength it takes to endure such a long time engaged in motion. It can be really grueling, and you find ways to stay in the moment when you need to, and to drift off when you need to. Those things have to be controlled, though, to really put in a good effort.

I figured approaching fatherhood -- especially the infancy phase -- with this same attitude would make things a little better for me. After all, I've covered 26.2 miles before. How hard could night time feedings be?

Things worked out OK in that regard, mostly because we used formula to supplement early on, so I could do those feedings and be up with the baby. As my wife transitioned the baby off the bottle, I did less of those, and so I was actually getting pretty good sleep. That is really what allowed me to train for Big Sur earlier this year. It's how I was able to put in heavy weeks without totally losing my mind.

Then I had a tremendous summer of running. 94 days straight of at least one mile a day. I think I enjoyed running that streak more than any race I've ever run, although I have to admit that I didn't put as much time into my long runs as I would have hoped. I mean, the baby was six months old at the start of the summer. There were so many evening trips to the beach, out with friends. I put that time into being with my family, and loving the times I was running. I also put in a lot of good hikes this summer.

And now we're in fall. I've run two half marathons since August, I've thrown in a 5k. Work started up in a big way for us in September, and between that and surprise doctor's visits, days out from school sick, days that seem to stretch for twice their actual length, at some point, it happened. I had started writing a post several times in the midst of this period, and I never posted it:

Things are crazy now. Baby girl is getting her first tooth, which is really exciting but compounded with the unpleasantness of a case of pink eye. Found that out at the end of a long day Monday, and daycare has a 48 hour exclusion period.
The wife stayed home yesterday, and today is my turn I'm glad for the time with our 9 month old, but frustrated at an inability to get much done. I did manage to clean the kitchen and prepare breakfast this morning, but I felt bad about leaving baby girl in the high chair while I worked. We spent a bit of time after that to play, and she had a bottle.

You know that part in the marathon (for me it's twenty-mile mark, and then the twenty-two mile mark...) where you think, "I'm a little tired, but this is nothing, I've got this." and then a mile or two later you feel completely beaten and you're not sure how you're going to lift your feet?

So that's what happened. Back when I wrote that post I was already faltering on my running habits, and it was inevitable that I was going to need a break. But I wasn't ready to accept that mentally, because what really sucks the most for an endurance athlete is hitting the wall. And that's what happened. I hit the wall.

Not really in terms of parenting. I still have an inexhaustible amount of energy for the little one. But I certainly lost, at least for a couple of weeks, the need to kick myself out the door and on to the road. I took a couple of full weeks off in September, and I believe that I'm better for it. I can still throw down some miles, and I am happy with the amount of time I'm spending with my family. I'm not in the shape I need to be in to run that second marathon I was hoping to run this year. And that's OK. I've made peace with that. There will be other races, and other years in my running career. 

And more over, it has to be OK with me, because life doesn't really give you a choice on stuff like this. There are things you sacrifice when you have a kid, and for me the normal racing schedule is one of them. It is OK with me that this year looks different because this is the first year that I've ever been a dad. I wouldn't trade being a dad for anything.

So my daughter is perfect. She is well-loved, and confident, funny and socially advanced. She shares toys. She is starting to shout things that sound like "Doggie!" at the dog when she comes into the room. I love the time I get to spend with her, and I love focusing in on all these little stages of development. There will be time for running later. There will be years where I can focus on my goals later. I won't get this time with her back.

Excellent article over at Scary Mommy on attachment parenting, that my wife and I were in awe of. It was like we could have written it ourselves.

Watching the entire Star Wars Trilogy today with some friends. It will be baby girl's first time seeing it, so we made sure we found some copies of the movies without all the special edition garbage added in. It will be so much fun! She's totally going to sleep through it. She's ten months old.

If all goes well tomorrow I'll be walking the Pell Bridge in Newport, RI with some family. I have run it once, but since my family likes to walk it I walked it with them last year. We'll see, though, as it looks pretty rainy to be walking over the bridge...

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