Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Short-track Penguin

It's interesting how the boys are broadening their cultural memes. These are often strange mash-ups of the world I expect is familar to them and a world I hope is not. For example, Lego (what 10 year old doesn't know Lego) and The Matrix. The Matrix is part of a pre-teen's zietgeist?

The very latest thing I had to see was "300 Penguins". As the blurb underneath the vid said "the raw, unadulterated masculinity of 300 forced upon the loveable and sweet Happy Feet" Again, I know they know Happy Feet (they saw it with me) but 300? I find the mash-up funny (and well done; even the lip/beak-synching is pretty good), but how do they even know it's funny?

I don't want to know!

Perhaps to counter this alarming increase in age-inappropriate sophistication in screen-time I've been getting the boys out to the races a little bit. As much as I would love to see them represent something (school, university, country) at the highest levels with their name on their shirts, I would rather that instead of burning out and fading away by the age of 25, as so often happens, they take a love for running, or cycling or competitive tiddly winks and will still be doing it when they are my age. Plus, of they are at the races, they aren't watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre trailer on-line. Besides, when it comes to healthy life-style choices, this one sure beats passively interacting with sport instead from ones' couch on a Saturday afternoon armed with beer and chips.

Even so, sometimes I look at the amount of chips eaten and beer drunk by the average Canadian and the amount eaten and drunk by yours truly and feel aggrieved that someone, somewhere, is eating my chips and drinking my beer. Bastard.

Joshua, I think as most of you know, has been running a storm in the local 5Ks recently. He doesn't do so well at the YRS and the recent Grade 6 track meet but part of this is the distance (only 1.5 k), partly because Grade 6 encompasses a wide range of physiologies (some of those boys are already into their PHV growth-spurts whilst Joshua can't spell PHV) and finally, he just isn't really aggressive. The term "race face" has no meaning for him. Like father like son though, he can be a bit of a basket-case before an event. Even so, the slightly more laid back nature of the local 5Ks suits him more, and in terms of setting a basis for an active lifestyle, probably better for him in the long run.

At Stacy Juckett's Benny Bulldog 5K he ran a 26 something, and that was a technical off road run with corners and hills. There's usually no point speculating the what-ifs but a 26 at the Lung run would have placed our hypothetical runner about half way down the field. So, instead of what-if-ing (which to be honest really irritates the crap of me) it was time for just what-ing, and sticking him in a road 5K and finding out.

So we hit the Enfield Penguin run. I put a fatherly arm around his shoulder and told him he'd grown out of YRS and it was time to do a proper race. He took that quite well. After some last-minute panic (I had to pull him out of the 1.5 K start corral where he was lined up with his younger brother), I got him correctly seeded in the the 10 mile/5K corral, gave him a good-luck pat on the shoulder and pushed my way to the front of the corrall where, as history and this blog shows, I ran myself stupid.

When I got back J told me he'd done a 24. Hey, that's good; 2 minutes faster than the Benny 5K and a personal best. When the results got posted we went over to have a look. I scoured the results and couldn't find him in the 24s. I widened my search and eventually looked down at him

"you didn't do a 24 Joshua"
"Oh, that's OK" he said, a little despondently
"You did a 22!"

Yup, 22:33. Pretty damned good for a not-quite-12 year old. Plus he missed out on 3rd place in his age-group by 30 seconds to a kid who was a lot bigger than he was.

Still, no more than 5K for him at the moment, LTAD and all of that. Plus, it's for enjoyment.

This leaves Dan, who really doesn't like running. Partly he just doesn't like it, and so he doesn't really try at it, and then he compares himself negatively to his brother's performance. It's not so much sibling rivalry as sibling envy. Understandable. So I took Dan to race#2 pf Cyclesmith's short-track mountain biking series to see if he'd like it. I figured that, as the prototypical second child, if anyone in the family was going to ride their bike off a rock without a second thought, it would be Dan.

Firstly, to make him feel the part, I put him in a real cycling jersey (with pockets!!) in a fetching fish pattern - what else?! Oh, and proper mountain-biking gloves too. After a helmet, probably the most useful piece of PPE for cyclists!

We pre-rode the course, it wasn't technical. The race started and he went off and I felt th usual pang you feel when your child rides off out of sight! He came around past me at regular intervals when I'd scan his face and general demeanor for any tell-tale signs he wasn't enjoying it, Dan will make a crappy poker-player later in life, so there was no danger I'd miss them! When it got to the end, no he didn't win it, that's a fairy-tale, but he held his own. He got the hang of the multi-loop course and seemed to be working hard to master the obstacles; he was nailing things on lap #5 that had him walking in lap 1. His flying mounts and dismounts are better than mine! He even got a hang for the etiquette calling "passing you" and letting faster riders through (something some age-groupers could learn).

More importantly, he finished it grinning and with pride. I think something may have "clicked". He didn't call it stupid, he didn't call himself stupid and useless for being passed. Normally he has a very low frustration threshold; not in mountain biking (apparently), well not yet at least.

We went back for race#3 and same thing. As we walked back to the car after race he quietly asked me which was more "athletic", running or riding. Ah, crunch time! I told him both were, but they were different. You can't directly compare Ussain Bolt or Lance Armstrong. Why would you, they are different athletes in different disciplines, but both very good at what they do. Same here. I think he bought it, and why not? It's the truth. I put a cherry on top, saying mountain biking requires bravery, which again is the truth, is it not? Everyone feels a slight tingle when their bike is on the edge of something loose or high, it's just how you deal with it!

Funny story; before Race#3 I thought we should both prepare his bike for the race. So many things just "happen" for a 10 year old, I wanted him to know a race-ready bike, even if that race is only the junior short-track series, doesn't race-ready itself. We were doing tyre pressures and I realised when I got to contact patches and pinch-flats I'd probably gone too far! Anyway, his tyres were rated for 40-65 psi. So I explained how if it was really muddy and sloppy he should probably run closer to 40 and if it was hard-baked (or, God help us, frozen) mud he should run 65. As it had been hot and sunny all day but it rained last night, he should probably run something in the middle. OK he said, let's run 52.5 psi!

Er, it's not calibrated to 0.5 psi; can be ball-park it to 50 instead?

He does have trouble with asthma and we diligently do the whole salbutamol thing before the race. After the race his cheeks were looking flushed and I asked him if his chest hurt. "No Dad" he said, "my legs hurt".

Welcome to the club, son!



  1. ANdrew,
    THis is a great post, and touches on many wonderful and difficult things about being a parent! When do you push, when do you walk away? YOu want your kids to be active and get involved but you don't want to turn into "Earl Woods"!SOrting out the issues between siblings is tricky too-supporting them all equally despite their varied interests ans abilities!
    SOunds like you are a great DAd Andrew!
    ANd your kids look like great athletes!
    Warm regards,
    Laura Keefe

  2. I think you now have a great 2 person Duathlon Team forming. Perfect for the Du it like Bryan.

  3. I am about as maternal as your average male lion (and I am a woman) but I have to admit this post was both touching and interesting. If my fast-twitch fibres continue their current rate of decline Joshua is sure to crush me if we ever meet in a race!