Monday, May 30, 2011

Grouchy Kids, Lazy Rabbits and Dead Birds

My running partner is my 12 year old daughter, Brianna. We've decided to run together 5 to 6 days a week over the summer to get a good cardiovascular base. She wants to be better in cross country and track and I want to be a better runner and in better shape myself. For both of us that means early mornings when we wouldn't otherwise have to wake up!

I am careful to make sure it's not a situation where I'm living vicariously through her running experiences. I'm not forcing her to run. If she wants to skip a run, she is free to do so without consequence or disapproval. She runs because she wants to. Or, so I hoped!

Today, I found out that was the case.

We spent the weekend at my in-laws' house. They live in Marana, Arizona, about eighty miles north of us. As always, we had a great time and ate too much food, probably none of it on a runner's dietary plan!

As a result, we were both tired and grouchy this morning. We got up an hour late (7 instead of 6). We took forever to get ready. When we left, I knew Brianna was grouchy and irritable. I tried to have the kid gloves out.

Before running, I suggested we walk up the hill to the end of our street. It's a steep hill, about 1/4 mile long. I figured it would get our bodies warmed up a bit before we hit the road running.

While walking, everything I said was met with a grouchy, borderline disrespectful grumble or grunt. About half way down the hill I stopped and corrected her behavior, told her to be respectful (in a more aggressive fashion that was probably really called for, I was tired too).

I tried to engage her in conversation again, just to break her out of her mood. Often, it's little things out of the ordinary that one of us will notice that will set the world right again. I saw the first signs of summer monsoon clouds on the horizon, and wanted to point them out to her. No luck. She was still sour and unreasonable. I mean, everything was irritating to her.

I stopped and bent down to her eye level and said, "Listen, you don't have to go on this run. You don't have to be here. Why don't you just go back up the driveway and go back to bed if you don't want to run."

As we walked down the road towards the driveway she was on the side of the street where our house is. I was watching out of the corner of my eye to see if she'd go home or stay with me. I was hoping she'd stay with me and be happy, but figuring that only the prior half of the wish would be true, I also hoped she'd go home. I didn't want to be snapped at by a 12 year old on a morning run when I felt crappy.

She stayed. I was happy. Even if we didn't talk, it was nice to have my running partner with me.

I let her pace the run. She's shown signs of being able to really cook, but also sometimes runs half-heartedly. Today I'd see both.

The first mile and a half we were running 12 minute miles...barely moving! That was ok, I figured. We both had new shoes and I was sore from the previous day's run. But, that was on the down hill and flat portion of the run. We had a 250 foot climb ahead of us. I was sure we'd come to a screaming halt then.

Over the years I've shown an uncanny knack for one thing in particular: incorrectness. I had done it again. I was wrong.

As we turned onto the dirt road with the hill, Camino Revolucion, she perked up and started telling me all about the road, how it was bumpy, how there were dogs at the top and how steep the hill was. (Her school bus travels down the road on its route.) Her pace quickened significantly as we started the climb.

The climb gradually increases until it gets to the last 200 yards and then it rapidly increases. As we approached that point where the hill increases incredibly I told her I was just going to run up it and wait for her at the top. She ran with me but stopped. While I was finishing the hill, on her own, she had gathered her composure and started to sprint up the road. When I reached the top she was 50 feet behind me. When she reached the top she was as red faced as humanly possible and about ready to collapse. She put her hands on top of her head as I'd taught her and she was stumbling around.

Then we saw the lazy rabbit. A cotton tail, right between us just slowly crawling along, aware but unconcerned. Maybe it had run up that hill before and knew we had nothing left with which to pose a threat.

We were now back on pavement and had a short, but very steep hill to climb, then a short descent, and then another climb and then some long down hills until we were back home. We crested the first short hill and came down the back side. At the bottom the hill changes from an incredible pitch of probably 8% to flat almost instantaneously. Cars always smack their bumpers here if they are unfamiliar with how to drive it.

At that spot there was a dove, dead. Not only was it dead, but it appeared it had no head! Johnny-on-the-spot, I was ready with the Dumb and Dumber quote. As it turned out, it wasn't headless, but had its head curled back like they do when sleeping.

We turned to start the last climb of the run and Brianna went sprinting past me. It was all I could do to catch up! We ran like that for the next 100 yards to the top of that hill. My hamstring was screaming at me but it was a lot of fun.

The thing with running together is that it's something you do, together. There are things that happen that don't happen at home in front of the TV. There are bonds made and common experiences shared and later relived. The physical benefits are just icing really.

Here's a graph of the elevation changes. It wasn't a long run, but you can find as much challenge as you want in hills.

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