Monday, May 28, 2012

How To Pace an 11 Year Old

Today was a great example of how your mind can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Especially when it comes to running.

This was year #4 that my daughter, Emma (age 11), ran the Bolder Boulder 10K Race. She absolutely LOVES this race. In regular life, she doesn’t run a ton, but is a pretty active kid. She has had a great experience in the past at this race and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Before you think I am in favor of child torture, let me start out by saying that I do not push my kids to run or to love running. Just because it’s my thing does not mean it has to be theirs. They decide if they want to do races and how they want to pace themselves. I let them take the lead.

Before the race started, it was all rainbows and Skittles. We made some friends at the start (cows), danced to the music and enjoyed the warmth of the early morning sun. I learned how to not mess my tutu in the bathroom. I just knew this was going to be the best Bolder Boulder ever.

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Kathy, Emma & Me. You can call me Forehead Freddy if you want.

Then we started running.

We were seriously not .25 miles in, when Emma’s legs hurt. Then she had heartburn. Then her toes ached. Next was a cramp. All psychosomatic if you ask me.  I’m thinking to myself, “Are you kidding me?” But then I remember that she’s 11, and when I was 11 I would never have attempted this.

Emma:Mom. I don’t want to do this.”

Me: “I don’t care if you never run another race again, but we are finishing this one.” (I’m very sympathetic).

At mile .5, she wanted to walk. We took a little break.

At mile 1, she wanted to quit. I said absolutely not.  We will make it to the finish line. I reminded her she had done this three times before, and that just two weeks ago she had run a strong 5K. I sensed that it was not so much that she was tired, but that she had given up mentally. Already.

I also know about the “mom effect.” This is when a child (even a grown child like myself) automatically regresses and needs extra sympathy when they are with their mom. This is the first year that we have run this race together. Somehow when she is with Ken, it’s different.

At mile 2, there was more complaining. She said she didn’t want to do the race anyway. I held her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. I told her it did not matter how long it took us to finish, what mattered that we did finish. What mattered was her attitude, and I wanted her to turn it around NOW. I told her I thought she had given up right when she started running. I was a mom of few words, trying to make a point without lecturing.

At mile 3, I let her know we were almost halfway. I encouraged her to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. That’s when she took off.  There was a defining moment when her head got in the game and it was obvious. She was smiling ear to ear, she was running effortlessly. Something about being half way made her think she could do it.

As we got to mile 5, I told her it was only about another mile. I told her in about 15 minutes she would be done running. She was tired, we took a couple of walk breaks. I reminded her that this was when running became about what was going on in your head and not so much about your body. I’m sure she wanted me to shut the hell up, but I saw this as a fine parenting moment – a time to sneak an important lesson in there.

By the time we got into our final lap of the University of Colorado stadium, the crowds cheering and full of energy, I could not keep up with this girl. Literally. She ran her little heart out and crossed the finish two minutes faster than last year, in 1:12. She was beaming. Proud of herself. Accomplished. Confident.

She told me that when she started the race, it seemed so overwhelming. She didn’t think she could do it, and she knew how much further she had to go. She psyched herself out. Once her mind and spirit gave up, so did her body.

Then slowly, she got behind herself.

Isn’t that just what it takes? Getting behind ourselves?

Today was the perfect example of that Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” Yes, we train our bodies physically, but it is the mental strength that takes us through the miles. Our bodies want to stop long before our minds. If the mind is still in it, you can go further than you ever imagined. Just ask Emma!

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And as for Sam – well, he and Ken were planning to run together. That is until mile 2 when Sam ditched Ken and busted out a 49 minute race! I think it was the bicep that did it. Ken came in two minutes later.

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Yes, all of these people ran the race. About 54,000 of us!

Ever had a race where you were not mentally in the game, but turned it around? To be perfectly honest, almost every half marathon or marathon is like this for me. I have this feeling at about mile 2 of defeat, wondering if I can do it or not. I remember in Boston in 2011, I got to mile 1 and some douche yelled “Only 25 more miles to go!”

With races, I think  it’s especially important to break it up in a way that works for you. I should have done this with Emma. I think the distance might have felt more manageable if I had told her we were running three 2 milers or something like that. Next time. Because despite what she said at mile 2, she’s on board for next year already.

SUAR

46 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I ran a 5K with my daughter this weekend and we had a similar experience. We had barely started when she was all "I can't do this!" Of course she could, she'd done it before! But then, that's what I love about running- the mental torture we put ourselves through! :) Later, we learned that she had actually won her age group despite all the whining, so she was thrilled!

    Congratulations on your race- your tutus are fabulous!

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  2. So great to run with your kids. My kids won't have anything to do with it. Lol. They each have their own thing but runnning...no way. :) my 15 year old recently said she might run (a little bit) this summer with me only to keep in shape for ballet. Love your daughter's smile at the end! So fun.

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  3. Truthfully, so many of my runs feel that way, not just the races. I always finish them and am amazed at what I've done, but you would think it would be easier to be more confident by now.

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    1. Yes, I would have to agree with that. It really can be so mentally taxing!!

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  4. Also, congrats to Emma on finishing the race when she was doubting herself, and to all of you for running it!

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  5. Congrats on all of you finishing the race.

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  6. Great job, Emma *and* Sam! So much fun. I really hope as my kids get older, they want to run with me. I'm off to drink more wine to soothe myself over getting my ass kicked by at least one 7 year old at the BB today.

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  7. So, so cool that you and Ken and both kids did it...and did so well and are all talking to each other and are on good terms! I know all about that Mom Effect you speak of. I've yet to do an event with my kids. I'm scared to :P

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  8. She did awesome..congrats to her. It's so funny what you said to her, because it's exactly what I told Amelia (my almost 9 year old) about her 5K race coming up this weekend. The words were almost exact! I told her I don't care how slow you go but you can't quit and you have to cross that finish line. I said after this race (that she wanted to do) is over, she doesn't have to do anymore but she needs to get this one done. I hope my experience turns out as well as yours!

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  9. With my running buddies whenever we are starting a 2-digit long run we say we run 5 miles and then we just have to get back to our car! It jut happens to be 5 miles away. Or we break it up into multiple 5ks because we know we can do those. I did my first half marathon this month and mile 9 and 10, I was pretty convinced I was done. My running buddy just basically said whatever it takes, we are crossing that line together. Once the time pressure was off and we didn't care that the police car was trailing us, we just had fun.

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    1. Exactly! You have to put it in terms that the mind can handle and accept!

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  10. You are an awesome mom! Way to encourage your daughter! And this experience will come back to help her not just on runs, but all those times when something seems too daunting to tackle, and she will feel like quitting. She will remember when she ran with her mom and her mom taught her not to give up. What a joyful, encouraging memory to carry with her.

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  11. Great lesson learned for both Emma and us readers. You're right, no matter the distance you have to be mentally strong to finish!

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  12. My five year old participated in a 1/2 mile fun run this past weekend. Approx 30 seconds into this "fun run", a guy clipped the back of her foot with a jogging stroller which laid her out on the pavement screaming. He said "sorry" and kept running. A medic on a bike helped her to the side so she didn't get trampled by a bunch of kids. She skinned her face. Her upper lip and the tip of her nose were bleeding. I was ready to scoop her up and love on her. The medic checked her out and told her that he really thought she should continue on to the finish to get her medal because he just knew that she was a strong girl! I held her hand the rest of the way with constant encouraging words. She cried the whole way to the finish with her little road rash face. I got a lot of strange (disapproving) looks from people. But, ultimately, she learned a huge life lesson about not quitting and she was so proud to have her medal. Thank you, " Mr. medic" for the encouragement to go on and to you "Mr. Stroller guy who shouldn't have been in the middle of all those kids with a jogging stroller"...I'm glad this momma bear didn't run into you after the race!

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  13. I always have this problem! I really needed to hear this. I'm glad to hear that other people have this problem.

    Can you come guilt me through my next race?

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  14. This is me on every single run and many times before I go. Queen of excuses! I just found your blog a couple of days ago and I swear, "Shut up and run" is exactly what I need to be told. I am so glad to have found your blog! It's on my regular reading list now, and I'm passing it along to my other runner friends :D

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  15. You are an awesome example to your kids. Congrats to your Emma for going for it and pushing through. And Sam rocked it! What a speed demon!
    I have a mental battle during a majority of my runs especially at the beginning. It seems like the first mile or two of any run is super hard for my until I get over some mental block and find my comfortable pace.

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  16. I struggled with the psychology of running for most of my younger years as a runner. I think it was when there wasn't the stress of finishing in a certain time or place that I was able to finally start running to finish, instead of always pushing myself (unsuccessfully) to finish to win. You're such an awesome Mom, though, getting her through that tough spot so she'd cross the line!

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  17. I love running! :) I was thrilled! It is great to run with your kids. My kids won't have anything to do with it.

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  18. I ran a 5K (sorta) with my Oldest Boy for the first time this weekend. Problem is, he hasn't trained for one and truthfully wasn't ready. We had planned to just do the 1 mile (we were only doing this in support of his CC coach/best friend's mom). I tried to talk him out of it because I didn't want him to get SO discouraged by not being able to do it, but his friend was doing it so, dang it, so was he. We finished (no timing since it was just for fun...) but after 0.75 miles he said, "I shoulda just run the mile..." His best bud ran/walked with us the whole way and I tried to get them to push themselves a little bit but there's a reason I'm not a coach (or a teacher). {SIGH} I hope he's not scarred for life...

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  19. Oh,and GO EMMA! AND SAM! WOOT!!

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  20. INSPIRING! Tell Emma that she rocks and has just learned an important life and running lesson that most adults haven't! I can't wait to get my 5 & 7 year old into racing, hopefully they'll be as willing as your two.

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  21. PS: Sam is the BOMB for pulling a time like that!

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  22. First of all - yay on the skirts!

    Second of all - I think that was the perfect advice - telling her that it only mattered that you finished. Way to go! She should be very proud of herself - I think she would have been more upset if you let her back out :)

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  23. Great post SUAR! Sam is a stud, and yourmwhole family is amazing. Nice job!

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  24. great race report. yay for emma! :)

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  25. Congrats on the fab race for Sam. I absolutely LOVE pacing my son. I've seen him go through the same thing. I think as a mom pacer, you walk a fine line between pushing too hard and helping them break through that wall. Yesterday was my son's first race without me and he still killed it! I get amazingly proud of my own races (when they're good) but there's nothing like watching your child rock a race :)

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  26. I have had the mind take over the body in a race in the past. Luckily, not in my longer races. It almost happened to me this weekend at the Soldier Field 10, but, I was able to quelch the naggy bitch in my head and finish strong. Rather than envision 10 miles ahead of me, I envisioned a 5K, then half way, then a 5K left, then 2 miles left, then we were in the stadium, then we were done! I told my friend to think of it in a similar way, and at the end of the race, she said it helped. She was a ball of nerves and crabby before the start, but after the race she was all smiles!

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  27. What a perfect Bolder Boulder for your whole family! I know Emma will never forget this race and how special it was for you to be there along side her (in those adorable princess outfits :)), even in her earlier protests. You taught her how to trust herself and doing things she never thought possible...how cool is that!!

    Congrats to your son, he's getting super speedy!

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  28. I absolutely love this!!! SUch a great way to get the whole family involved and such great proof that it really is mind over matter. I love that your daughter is learning those lessons early. amazing!

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  29. Damn that kid is jacked. Is he on HGH or something?

    New title for your blog: Shut The Hell Up

    And seriously an 11 year old that uses the word overwhelmed......you got some smart and athletic kids my friend. Who'd they get that from? HA HA HA!!!!!!

    Great job parenting though.....and I am serious about that. She saw you believed in her and then she believed in herself. That is all we need sometimes.

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  30. So sad we missed you. :( But congrats to Emma on pulling through after feeling so low...that takes some guts, and I think you absolutely did the right thing by not letting her quit.

    I am blaming the altitude and taking a detour on the slip n slide for my PW...but I had so much fun I don't care! Boulder is beautiful...so hard to leave...coming back to DC humidity was a smack in the face!

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    1. SO wanted to do the slip and slide but they were "fixing" it when we came by. Damn that thing was muddy. Glad you had a great time. Now MOVE out here.

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    2. Oops, sorry I broke it. ;) Yeah, just gotta convince the Fed Govt. to move to Boulder so my husband has a job, and I'm THERE.

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  31. Totally off topic:

    Fell off the SUAR-wagon for a few weeks. Life, the universe, and everything else got in the way. So I just burned up an hour or two of valuable employer time while catching up on all of the past month's posts.

    Well worth the time, as always! :-)

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    1. It doesn't matter that you fell off, but that you got back on! Employers take up too much of our time anyway.

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  32. Way to go SUAR family! Emma, you're a ROCKSTAR for turning that race around and finishing strong. NEVER give up, girl. Sam, I'm digging the bicep and am hugely jealous of your speediness. SUAR & Mr. SUAR, way to go getting your kids out there AND yourselves. What a great family memory!

    I never believed runners when I'd hear them say that running was largely a mental game. Until I started running. But man, it's SO true. On my long run last weekend, it was quite warm and I ran out of water a couple miles (and hills) from home and I just had to keep telling myself that I WAS going to make it, that it was only about 20 minutes more and that the pain was temporary. And I was right. :)

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  33. Congratulations to Emma....loved your tutus

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  34. omg...how cute is that bicep!?!

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  35. What an great moment to get to experience with your daughter. You both looked so cute!! A great story to share, and I glad you were with her to show her you believed in her!!

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  36. great job to all of your family memmbers that ran!!! Great post!!

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  37. Great post and congratulations to Emma for finishing the race! And to you Beth for being such an inspiring mom (whether Emma knows it or not!)

    I am more of a cyclist and when I am participating in an event - especially an annual century event I do - I set a goal for my time and then I tell myself over and over that it is just x number of hours out of my ENTIRE life. For me this puts all the hard work and pain of the event into perspective that it really is a small chunk of time in the grander scheme of life. Just my way of altering reality to make it seem shorter.

    P.S. Emma's arm around you makes Kathy's arm look freakishly long in that top photo. :o)

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  38. I needed this today. Not for a race but for LIFE.

    Thank you!

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  39. Beth! I freaking love you in a tutu!

    You and Ken are setting a great example for your kids--finish, be active, dig deep, and always carry TP (not this post, but I gather you don't want E and S to SUAR themselves from previous ones!) :)

    Way to go mom!

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  40. Great job to your whole family! I love this!

    As for a time I wasn't mentally in a race: I ran a 5k on a Sunday morning in a town I hate last summer because it was the race that best fit into my schedule. My mind was definitely not in it and I wanted to quit. I took a ton of walking breaks. But, then, as I rounded the corner and could see the timeclock, I realized I had somehow managed to bust out a PR! So, I hightailed it and finished feeling pretty good.

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  41. My 4 year old ran a 1 mile run run and wanted to quit right away. I pretty much told him the same thing. We walked most of it, but he finished!

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