Monthly Archives: October 2010

Weight of the Big Race

The setup for our story was this:

High school senior wants very badly to make it to the state cross country championship in her last year. Her team has a good chance to make it, but it will be a tough meet on a tough course. Dad is feeling melancholy over it possibly being her last race. The last few weeks have been all about this climax to the season. Pressure is high.

I know from bike racing that when you line up for the Big Race everything is different. When the stakes are higher and field of competitors is deeper, you realize it’s not like that little race you won last week. You have to adapt and race the race that is in front of you, not the one from last week.

Our hero and her team were crushed under the weight of the Big Race. They went with the blistering pace at the front in the uphill first 1/4 mile then soon paid for going into that oxygen debt so early. The tears I knew would be shed were tears of disappointment. It’s tough to end your last race thinking that you “should have” done better.

That’s why they run the race.

Before the start I was so caught up in the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement that I didn’t have time to focus on the “this may be last race” feeling. Then afterward I ran around watching a friend’s daughter in the D1 (big school) race. It wasn’t until I got in my car and drove out of the parking lot with the course flags visible in the rear-view mirror that I fully realized that this was the last time.

It was a long ride home from Youngstown.

Teenagers, with their short attention spans, will soon shift to whatever is the Next Thing. If only parents could be so lucky. I’ve got a whole series of “lasts” coming in the next six months.



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A season of lasts

Tomorrow might be the last time I lace up my running shoes for a high school cross country race.

My daughter is the competitor; I’m just the crazy spectator who runs around to different parts of the course to see the runners as many times as I can.

Tomorrow is the regional finals, and it’s her senior year. If the team finishes in the top 4, or if she’s in the top 16 individually, then I’ll be driving to Columbus next weekend for the state championship meet. Otherwise, this will be her last high school meet.

It’s been a whole season of lasts.

Last time at the Berkshire Early Bird, and every other meet. Just when I learned all the best places to watch on all the courses.

Last time hearing the hopes and expectations that start the season, then watching her and the other girls fight off illness, injury, discouragement, and doubt.

Last time taking snacks and drinks to a meet. Yeah, even in high school they still want snacks and drinks.

And if tomorrow ends up being THE last race …

There will be no more do-NOT-take-my-picture dirty looks during a race.

I will have stuffed my last newspaper into wet, smelly training shoes so she will have dry shoes for the next day.

We will have had our last week of talking about last week’s race and anticipating the upcoming race.

It will be my last time telling her to believe in herself, and that when she finds herself running with the fast girls, to know that she belongs there.

It will be the the last time I see her cry at the end of the race. Over the years there have been tears of exhaustion, tears of disappointment, and tears of happiness. Tomorrow, the tears will fall into at least one of those categories.

Like every other parent, I’ve experienced the teenager’s tendency to think that parents don’t know anything. Athletics is one of those things that we still share, and maybe the only thing where I still have some credibility. I wouldn’t give up having been involved in her athletics for anything.

Whether or not tomorrow is the last race, it will be a first for me: waiting for the starter’s gun, I’m pretty sure I’ll have tears in my eyes.


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