Short Strides and Odd Thoughts: The countdown to Washington

So the tickets have been purchased and the hotels and AirBnbs lined up.  After having spent a week with my eldest daughter Victoria in Flagstaff, along with a former athlete and her boyfriend, I’ll be venturing to the Pacific Northwest with my youngest daughter Amelia.  This trip spiraled out from her missing the usually scheduled eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. which was canceled due to Covid, into a trip to that other Washington where I’d be willing to take a graduation vacation.

The itinerary has changed a bit, as while we had planned to travel again with Elizabeth on this one too, she’s had to ditch as her summer plans now include an end of summer 100 mile trek through the Wasatch mountains running the Wasatch 100 and she needs to bank her time off for that one.

So it’s going to be just me and Amelia, which in many respects simplifies things a bit.  We don’t have to squeeze a couple thirty mile runs into the list of anticipated stops.  Not that I had any intention of running them, but waiting for Elizabeth, even as much as a beast she is, would put a crimp in moving from one general location to another.  We’ll be a bit more streamlined, meaning a bit more agile as we bump our way along the Pacific Northwest.

I’m really excited for this trip as it will serve as a fairly significant demarcation in both my personal and running worlds.  With the trip scheduled for the week after Amelia’s graduation, she’ll go from being one of my high school runners to a pre college student over the seven days.  While I’m not entirely sure she’ll run in college, she and I have been involved in this running thing, especially her running, for more than a dozen years.  Whether she runs in school or not, my involvement will change dramatically.

She started as a seven year old, following her sister into the sport both her parents enjoyed.  Landing on a Granite State Flash 8U team, she qualified for the Junior Olympic National championships in San Antonio where her team earned a third place team finish.  I have a fantastic picture of her, wearing my oversized Flash sweatshirt as she forgot hers, looking up bewilderedly at a fairly short Mexican American man wearing a nice suit and a cowboy hat that had just shook her hand and handed her medal to her.  Olympic silver medalist, Leonel Manzano.

Over her elementary school career she kept running fall cross country with the Flash, but getting most of her running in through a before school running club, two days a week, where students ran as many half mile laps as they wanted.  Laps were counted and the big prize at the end of every fall and spring was a gift certificate to the local ice cream shop.  She always ended up with the most laps and gift certificate, not just because she was the fastest or one of the fastest, but as the kid of the overseeing adult, she never missed.

This led into her middle school career where she won the first MS race she entered.  I unfortunately had a high school meet the same day, having to rely on my wife to provide the details to a tickled pink father.  After that, she and her sister traded off wins most of the season, however that was the last time she was ever the top dog.  And she was OK with it.  Also during this time, again due to being the offspring of parents who run, she entered her first ultra type race, running a 25K race in the early years of middle school.  At first I was reluctant to let her, but then realized it was a 15 mile run through field trails that looped back on themselves with “candy” stops every three miles or so, making keeping tabs on her and her friend a bit easier.   

What better introduction to endurance running?

And over her high school career, she’s never been our top runner, and for pretty good reason.  Her entire career, we had someone, if not two people, as a Division 3 All star.  She was always a significant player, running in our top seven from freshman to senior year. Last year the team finished second, and this year first, she being their fifth scorer.  So big changes for her. 

Additionally, with no more kids involved in high school athletics, and the challenges of my new job and coaching, my 25 year association with high school running will change as well.  I’ll still be involved, but more in the background than the forefront.  And while I anticipated I’d coach forever, I’m becoming more content with the idea that I won’t be making more early morning bus rides or having my weekends primarily occupied by Invitationals.

Another shift will be our relationship through running.  With me no longer at the helm of her ship, she’ll have the opportunity to take the sport on as it suits her best.  She professes to hate running, simply having grown up in a family that does so, with no light at the end of the tunnel.  But over her high school career she’s learned there are a couple things about running she’d never be willing to give back.  The camaraderie of collectively working towards something bigger than individual performance is a big one.  Begrudgingly she realizes that running helps her with life balance, so there’s a chance in the future she’ll use running as a tool to help make this world a little more sane.

But on this trip we’ll finally be equals in running, not that I can even come close to keeping up to her.  It was probably somewhere during her freshman to sophomore transition that I last had a shot of beating her and today I’d be lucky to finish a 5K within three minutes of her.  Me downshifting while she’s putting it into overdrive, so to speak.  Now we’ll be equals in our reasons for running.  The trip has a number of runs on it, with the coup de gras now being a 13 mile round trip into Hart Lake via the Lily Basin trail, stretching the limits of what I can handle, but easily within her wheelhouse.  Sure we could hike all these, but why not run if you can.

With all this running, there has actually been little time we’ve actually run together.  She’s always drawn her friends in with her, and having grown up within the sport, it was early on we let the girls race on their own.  If you asked her what her memories were of running with me I’d bet one or both of these two times would be what she answers.  First there was a local race where, for some unknown reason it was only me and her from the family.  At eight she was the youngest entrant and we headed off together, running a solid, but repeatable pace.  The course was composed of rolling hills, and keeping a consistent speed saw us passing on uphills while sometimes getting passed on downhills. After battling back and forth with a “seasoned” veteran in an orange shirt, we took the advantage for good over the final uphill mile.  Afterwards he came up to us, commenting on how well she raced.  Every race after that when we saw him, he was always the orange man.

The other would be from the Hollis Fast 5K, when she and two of her fourth grade friends entered and wanted to run.  With more than three thousand entries, and it being a downhill race, I decided that I’d run close to them just to be sure nothing bad befell them.  In the chaos that is the first half mile of the race, the three were cut off by some early teenage kid, wanting to cross to the other side of the road RIGHT THEN, cutting off three smaller girls.  While the other girls stayed on their feet, Amelia went down.  Thankfully, racing not being anything new, she was up quickly and we had a solid run the rest of the way.

There certainly were other runs, where she and her sister tagged along with my high school kids, like during our summer camping outings that were centered around, running woods trails, swimming, and rock climbing.  Being along for the ride, getting out running was never that odd a prospect.

But now it will be all on her own to decide.  I hope she continues to run, even if it’s in a recreational fashion.  I’d love to see her join a team in college, giving me reason to follow her running journey a little further.  But if not, I hope as she turns to a casual runner she considers hopping in with me for a run when she’s back from school.  While we’re not likely to solve all the world’s problems, I can imagine we might iron out a few.

See ya out there.