What really matters

Summer's been quite the roller coaster ride, and I'm not even a month in.  So far, in chronological order, it's featured:

1) Nathan's appendicitis
2) Tornadoes at home while I was in Kansas and my 3 days post-surgery child (who, at 18, is hardly a child but still my baby) was home alone.  Once again I drop in the Mother of the Year rankings.
3) Yet another DNF at Dirty Kanza.
4) The death of one of my former students, a 9 year old boy who had been fighting a brain tumor for basically his entire life.

And in order of importance, some updates...

1) Joshua was the coolest little kid, sweet and funny and very much his own person.  In his 9 years, he touched an amazing number of people, including the entire St. Louis University mens' basketball team.  I hope you click that link, read the post, and watch the video.  It's worth a few minutes of your time, both to see that sweet boy and his wonderful family, cheerful and uncomplaining in the face of being dealt a pretty cruddy hand of health cards, and to see what great men those SLU boys are.  Jake, the player in the interview with Joshua, spoke at his funeral, and I could only hope to be as eloquent.  Joshua's dad also spoke, displaying the kind of grace, faith, and strength that have marked every interaction I've ever had with the family.  The funeral truly was a celebration of Joshua's life, one richly lived in spite of its short duration, and if I spent an awful lot of time crying there was also laughter.

2) Nathan's all recovered and hoping to play in a volleyball tournament with his dad on Friday night. 

Pretty typical of what our trails looked like post-storm
3) Despite significant storm damage in town including many tree limbs down on our street, we didn't have more than a small branch or two down.  It's almost like there was a bubble over my house.

4) Though looking at this list definitely puts DK's importance in perspective, I won't pretend I'm not disappointed.  Worse than last year, even, when I felt more proud of my effort.  But I'm going to use a quote from my friend Aaron: "There is no failure, only feedback."  So here's my feedback:

Pictures don't do justice to how beautiful and BIG it is out there.  You just have to be there.
  • The race: Kansas is beautiful.  Those gravel roads are super cool.  The race is such an experience. I was afraid that with so many more racers this year (between the different distances going on race day, there were nearly 1000 riders competing) that things would be too crowded or congested, but that wasn't the case at all.
  • Equipment: The bike (Airborne Delta CX) was great, no mechanicals, no complaints.  The tires (Continental Travel Contacts) were bombproof and will be my go-to tires again next year. 
  • Nutrition: Using the Camelbak was absolutely the right choice for me.  While I probably should have eaten more pre-race, I did much better staying on top of nutrition though I kind of shot myself in the foot by bringing some foods which worked for me (nuts and dried fruit) but were difficult to access/eat on the go.  If I'm going to use those again I've got to have something like a mountain feed bag next year.
  • Training: While I did go out in "not great" weather, I never really forced myself out in bad weather.  I focused on getting in miles rather than getting in miles at a certain pace; that's great if all you have to do is finish but not so awesome if you have a time cut-off.  I didn't ride nearly enough miles.  I was trained to finish if everything went well.  Next year I want to be trained to finish, period.
  • Quitting: Quittting is like eating too much pizza or that extra big bowl of ice cream...it feels so good when you're doing it, but once it's done you're miserable and uncomfortable.  I had valid reasons for quitting -- I still don't think I could have made that third checkpoint in time -- but I still wish I'd ridden that third leg.  Next year I need to bring a stronger mental game.  Monika Sattler, who took second place at DK, had a great post about what it takes to finish something like this or Trans Iowa.

Nice words :)
If you were paying attention you might have noticed the phrase "next year" creeping in there.  Whether it's a case of being a glutton for punishment or not knowing my own limits, I'm not ready to give up yet.  Hopefully, as a couple friends have suggested, it's a case of third time's a charm.  What's the half-life of kryptonite, anyway?

The silver lining to falling far short of ones goals is that the recovery period is pretty brief, and the week after the race looked like this:

Monday: ride 12 miles, hike 2.5 checking out storm damage
Tuesday: run 6 trail miles (my first running since April 13)
Thursday: run 6 trail miles
Friday: hike 3 miles
Saturday: mountain bike 6 miles

It's a little different from last year, when I basically sat on the couch for the three weeks between DK and the Indian Camp Creek 12-hour.  I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted since my husband and youngest were in Colorado for Jeff's family's vacation, which I'd skipped due to money and because I'd already committed to DK. It wasn't particularly fun to see the pictures and hear all about what I was missing, but I was also missed.

My 9 yr old reading to me from the journal he kept on his CO vacation.
J reading to me from the journal he kept while they were gone.
My independent, doesn't-really-need-his-mommy boy has been much more snuggly since they got back.

Top o' the Colossus to ya!
At Six Flags on Monday
And then on Tuesday this happened.

The boy who really didn't want to ride a bike is out on singletrack!
We'd talked about mountain biking in the past, and he'd never been interested.  For whatever reason, suddenly he's up for it.  We went to Cliff Cave Park, where the trails are just right for a beginner.

Any time there's a tree to climb is a bonus

He was pretty tentative for our first lap, but the second one went much faster, enough so that he was making me nervous with how (relatively) fast he was going.  He had to walk most of the uphills, but he didn't get frustrated about it, and he was carving turns like he'd been on trails before. 

He had a couple of small falls, and then right towards the end took a switchback too fast and crashed hard.  He didn't want any part of riding his bike for a while, so we pushed them as we headed off in search of the way out.  Eventually I coaxed him into getting on and just coasting downhill, and before long he was riding again. He certainly hasn't let me forget that he crashed, though...or that he wouldn't have fallen if I'd gone the right way back to our car.

It's thirsty work mountain biking on a 95* day.
  In all, we rode a little over three miles.  And guess who wants to go back tomorrow. :)


  1. I love that your son is trying out the mountain biking thing! Kids are so resilient--I bet he ends up loving it.

    You've had a lot going on in your life, but as always you have the best attitude. Of course you have it in you to deal with that kryptonite half-life, whatever it is, and get that DK finish next year. (A little good weather wouldn't hurt either.)

  2. So sad about the 9 year old. Some things we are just not supposed to question but accept. I like your order of importance. DK and you have an interesting relationship. You will still beat it one day I'm sure. I have mountain biking in the back of my head. Maybe after I complete my trail run goals I can try my hand at it. Have a great weekend Kate!

  3. That's a lot for a month, but even in the dark places, you're finding the light. Good to hear DK is on the menu again.

  4. A nice read even if I knew a fair bit of what had been going on. Glad you have been able to jump back in training even with all that is going on. I've been a little too couch-bound for my own good. Didn't get up early enough this morning to meet the guys for a trail run so a loser once again.

  5. I freaking LOVE that your kiddo is riding with you. Very cool.

    I also love reading all the "next years" here. I am confident that third time's the charm. You'll get it. Because you WANT it.

    So glad that Nathan is recovering well!

    And so sorry about Joshua - thinking of his family. I can't even imagine...

  6. Next year is always a tease.

    And by the way, riding with your kid makes you jump up a few slots on the cool mom scale. Just sayin'

  7. I'm with you on the summer roller coaster. Glad to hear that things seem to be recalibrating a bit and that you're getting to spend time with the people and doing the things you love.

  8. "Quittting is like eating too much pizza or that extra big bowl of ice cream..."

    I love this quote. It does sound so good in those dark moments. You'll get there, I know it!

  9. Quite a busy start to summer with plenty of ups and downs. Glad your boy isn't too cool to go riding with you. Making some nice memories there for sure.

    Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  10. That is so cool your son is now into mountain biking. And of course he missed you!
    I still can't comprehend any kind of 200 mile race. I am quaking at the thought of 100 and it's not a race.

  11. You definitely evened up your parenting points there, so don't worry. Your pizza/quitting thing is genius, I will think of it next time I am almost eating too much pizza or dithering about a DNF.
    I have noted your gear recommendations and will change my tyres (after payday), I am the queen of punctures but would like to pass my crown onto someone else now.
    You have got through a crap time really well, and with grace so well done. You have kept your perspective!

  12. I totally picked up on the "next year" cue :) You've gained so much experience over the last two tries...third time's gotta be a charm. I agree with those above, I love the "quitting is like eating too much pizza quote"! How great that your son is trying mountain biking...I have a feeling he'll be rushing past you before you know it :) Enjoy!!

  13. I just took and Ambien so really can't comment with anything coherent spewing out from my fingers....but I did want to say I love reading this - thank you. Maybe it's time to enlist the help of a mtb coach? There's so good ones out there....though I've had my share of coaching nightmares, I do fine they are extremely helpful in these type of endurance situations....it's hard to not push yourself harder and harder when there are days I'd rather eat chocolate ice cream. Anyway, I love that you've put the race back on your must-do list...you will nail it.

    Okay, meds kicking in :)...off to bed. Love ya much!!

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  15. Yes, in times of a "crisis" (big or small) one finds out what truly matters, who truly matters, and who you really can turn to for support. The passing of the little boy touched so many people's lives and the storms around here I could live without!!!! :0) take care and that's for being an awesome person.


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