Much like when Mrs. Hudson deeply sighs and says to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, “Oh look. He killed the dog – again” as Holmes has done another experiment on Gladstone, it’s how the summer seems to play out as it gets away from us every year.
So much has happened since I blogged about Ryan’s last visit to Dr. Tentler where he was given the all clear including no mileage limits with his new orthotics.
Here’s the bullet-points-Cliff-Notes version of the summer in chronological order.
- Ryan got a signed autograph of Runner’s World from his favorite runner Jordan Hasay
- We took a road trip to Franklin, Ind. and ran 10 miles through Franklin College, the path throughout the city, which included Province Park and Greenlawn Cemetery.
- We returned a couple of days later and ran the Sparkler Sprint 5k in Franklin. I broke away from Ryan setting my sights on placing in my age group and setting a new PR. I got the latter and not the former. Ryan finished fourth in his age group.
- Ryan joined a cross-country team.
- We began CNO Financial Group Indianapolis Half Marathon training on July 30.
- I nailed my assessment for marketing in my MBA program.
- Ryan had his first cross-country meet last Saturday. It was a Hokum Karem (Native American word basically meaning relay). He was under goal pace for all three miles and set a new mile personal record with a 6:46.
There, I think you’re caught up.
The big news is – YES, Ryan joined a cross-country team through the home school sports organization called Genesis United in Greenwood.
Considering the two weeks prior to his first meet and a horrific practice run the Monday before, Ryan bounced back and had three solid runs and capped it off with three great miles at the Greenwood Christian Academy Hokum Karem last Saturday.
Here’s how it all happened.
I went to pick Ryan, Luke and Andrew up from youth group on July 14. I was talking to one of Wendy’s friends when my oldest son, Andrew, ran down the stairs and said, “Dad. Dad. You have to talk to Mr. Hogan.”
“In a minute.”
I continued to talk to Wendy’s friend. She was asking me what I had done for Wendy’s birthday the day before and how some other things we are working on at the moment were going
“Dad. You have to get up there and see Mr. Hogan. It’s important.”
“Andrew, I will when I’m finished.”
“Now, Dad! It’s about Ryan! It’s about running!”
Wendy’s friend could see I wasn’t going to get to finish and said she understood. She hoped everything we have going on right now worked out and that we have a good anniversary coming up in August.
Andrew then grabbed me by the arm and led me upstairs to where the ping-pong table and carpet-ball game is upstairs. He introduced me to Matt Hogan.
Hogan is the athletics director of Genesis United sports club. The organization has developed a successful soccer program through the years. He explained to me there had been interest throughout the home-school community on the southside of Indianapolis to begin a cross-country team. Hogan had heard of Ryan and wanted to know if I thought he would be interested.
About a week later there was a call out meeting. There were several families who appeared. The ages ranged from junior in high school to sixth grade. Corresponding with the different ages, all the runners were at vastly different levels of experience.
After the meeting, I did my best Bob Whitewood and asked Crystal Neil and Hogan if they would be open to having someone be the coach. I told them I had someone in mind that would be perfect, but wanted their consent before going any further.
On several occasions with Ben Houston helping me with Ryan, he expressed his interest to be able to have the time to coach a team again.
With the number of days a week and the time practices would start, I thought Genesis United would be a perfect situation for Houston to return to his passion.
I texted Ben and told him what was going on with the team. We met the next night. He talked with his wife and then his department head and got their approval. On Monday evening, Ben was at practice ready to coach the first ever Genesis United Cross Country team.
Ben coaching also made the decision for Ryan to run for Genesis United easier. Since Ben knows Ryan and has run on several occasions with him, he would know how to push Ryan during practices and meets. Houston coaching the team also put Wendy and I both at ease knowing Ryan would have a familiar face and feel comfortable doing whatever Ben told him to do in practices and meets.
On our Sunday-morning run prior to the first practice, I told Ryan there would be a set of expectations Houston would want from him. I also told him that Ben would probably yell at him during practices and meets.
“Understand, Ben’s not going to be yelling because he’s mad at you,” I said. “He’s doing it to push you. To make you better.”
“I know, Dad,” Ryan replied. “I know.”
It all was an answered prayer for us. Since Ryan began running with me on St. Patrick’s Day of 2015 and appeared he liked it and would stay with it, we searched for a running program.
It never seemed like there was one on our side of town. Most of the teams were on the northside of Indianapolis. That would be about an hour to 90-minute drive from us with traffic to get to the places where practices and meets are held for those teams.
Along with Ryan saying he wanted to run for Genesis United, Wendy and Andrew have also constantly reminded me, “DON’T BE THAT DAD!”
You know the overbearing-win-at-all-cost Dad. The one who thinks he knows more than the coach. The one that’s gonna be a fit of rage when his kid doesn’t perform well and could end up costing the team in an event. The one not only Wendy, but myself, saw me becoming after Ryan ran a 1:48:51 at last year’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.
If anything though, I want to be like Bob Sanders (not the oft-injured former Indianapolis Colts linebacker), but the father of 1992 United States Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders. Summer wrote this about her father in her book “Champions are Raised, Not Born” – “My dad was on a constant campaign to keep my sport in the background. He loved to quote Mae West, whose motto was “Life’s a party, only most fools don’t know they’re invited.” He made sure I had fun–with him and my brother, with my friends, with school, with vacations, with prom dates and part-time jobs, with movies and pizza parties.”
That’s what I want for Ryan and his teammates. I want to make sure they achieve their goals, the team does well, everyone gets along and we (parents, coaches and runners) have fun doing it.
Looking for a good book to read if you have kids who play competitive sports, then there’s no better book to get than Sanders’ book. Although, it may be hard to find these days. It was published in 2000.
I also want to be like the father of a friend who ran cross country. I contacted him a couple of days prior to last Saturday’s meet for any words of wisdom he used to say before my friend’s races. He did not disappoint in his response.
“My only advice for a CC father is to be positive and encouraging. I never was one of those to constantly push, only to do their best. The mental game is so important. I would always spend just a few minutes prior to each race ‘taking all worries and concerns’ from them and telling them that they were now mine and they had no reason to worry.”
I also have the comment Uncle Bill said last year to me after I messaged him about Ryan moving up a seed class for the 500 Mini – “Remember the main reason you’re doing this” posted next to my journalism medallion from high school on my desk.
Along the same lines, I am also remembering what I learned from Elizabeth Clor’s book, “Boston Bound” and know not to compare Ryan to other runners. It’s what I like to call the “Ty Webb Approach.”
If I’m ever asked how I compare Ryan to other runners, I’ll simply look at them like Ty Webb looked at Judge Smails in the Bushwood Country Club locker room in “Caddyshack” and reply, “by height,” with a small grin on my face.
The biggest challenge right now seems to be complementing Ryan’s focus during the day when he has cross-country practices in the evenings. When the cross-country practices started, we tried to run him for a short distance in the morning and then the practice in the evening. It proved to be too much.
Now, when I return from my run in the mornings, I take him to the basement and we do a 20-minute version of the IronStrength workout along with a couple of sets of box jumps.
Another obstacle is coordinating the cross-country practices with training for the Monumental Half Marathon. It seems like I am constantly changing the training plan and getting agreement with another coaching friend before I propose it to Houston. It’s Ben though, who I have full trust, giving me the final say on whether he likes the revision or what he wants changed.
Ryan runs with me on Sundays and Fridays. He runs with the team on practice days. On those days, he runs the same distance of miles I ran earlier that morning to keep up with training plan we have in place for the Monumental Half.
When there are cross-country meets on Saturdays, we adjust our mileage for Sundays and Fridays – it’s basically reversed. Since Ryan returned in February, I moved our long runs from Saturdays to Fridays. This was easier to do because I have Fridays off and we can run the longer distance without me having to rush to eat breakfast and get to work on Saturday mornings.
With the Saturday meets, the long run moves to some Sundays. Using the philosophy of the great running author Hal Higdon, Ryan running fast on Saturday will allow him to want to run slow on Sundays for that long run. We had a trial run of how that schedule would work out this past weekend. On those weekends with Saturday meets, I think it will be best if Ryan doesn’t run with me on Fridays.
Even though I ran two months without Ryan as he recovered from his surgery, he’s adjusted to running without me easier than I thought. I think Ryan knowing he’s part of a team has a lot to do with it.
Last Saturday during each of his one-mile legs of the relay, I saw a look of determination I had never seen in his eyes. This was quite evident when we would point at a runner in front of Ryan and told him to surge to get passed them and set sights on another one.
During that first mile, Ryan picked off about five runners before tagging his teammate Garrett. During his last two legs, Ryan did the best he could to catch other runners and not be passed by faster runners while he tried to stay under the goal pace Ben had set for him.
After the race, Ryan couldn’t stop smiling. He gave high fives to all of his teammates. You could tell he was proud to be a member of the Genesis United Cross Country team.
Thus, a new chapter in this journey has begun. Ryan the runner and me just the Dad. And not “THAT DAD!”