Somewhere between the fourth night feeding in six hours and his first birthday we realized there is nothing on this blue orbiting marble more precious than time.
Consolidation became the name of the game. Do we have time for a training run and a sandwich and a quick grocery store run when your mom comes over to watch him Saturday? Can I wash both cars and clean both bathrooms during his midday nap? Is it possible to read the paper, hold the baby and make pancakes with only two hands?
Should we get the rare opportunity of our work calendars meshing, the moon’s creeping into both our travel houses and we can, somehow, squeeze everything—including his mini bathtub and not-very-collapsable high char—into the Subaru—where do we go?
Or, more accurately, where can we go to get a little r&r, trashy novel beach time, sip on an Instagrammably delicious sweaty boat drink, dig the toes in the fine-as-hourglass-grain sand...and do a race.
Smirk all you want at the word, “Racecation” but sometimes you gotta be efficient and make a new word out of two that really don't belong together.
Our first Racecation was 2014’s Squaw Mountain Run.
The boy was three-months old and nothing seemed further from possible 90 days earlier during the sleepless c-section recovery days than a 3.6-mile, 2k-foot ascent that starts at altitude in the heart of Olympic Valley (6,200’) and ends at altitude-plus at Squaw’s Olympic Chalet (original carpet included) High Camp (8200’).
Something beyond the race motivated us. Maybe it was the promise of the fresh-tapped pale ale at the top and a view that chases the dry heaves...plus a free ride down the Squaw Funitel (a fancy word for cable car that drops over a dramatic granite cliff). Or maybe it was the opportunity to throw on a bib for racing, not for food-catching again; to lace ‘em up for a reason, to be a runner toeing the starting line with other...individuals. No straps, no passis, no “where’s the cap to his bottle?”
To a person, we both needed this race, to feel like individuals again.
...But we also needed the recovery part. Maybe it was the idea of enjoying a few August days in Tahoe that tempted us to register: Lazy days pool- or beach-side at the lake; warm evening barbecues and maybe a turn at the tables on the Nevada side one night to chase away memories of a brutal chalk-dusty hill climb.
Our early sea-level training revealed we were more ready for beach time than slogging up the sweat-drenched singletrack. We reasoned it wasn’t about whether we could get in race-day shape during the eye-opening Eli Roth-esque first few weeks with baby, it was that we had to simply do something—for our sanity, our relationship and simply to have something to look forward to. Yes folks, brutalizing your body like dehydrated pack mules up three vertical miles was a welcome reprieve to all the sensory overload and deprivation of nights in the nursery.
The race day results were mixed. Both of us were carrying a midsection pack in the form of 15 extra pounds (that thing about dads gaining baby weight too, it's true) at the start line and the unforgiving sleep schedule affected our turnover and cardio.
But something else happened too.
En route to the top (not a personal best for either one of us) we both, separately, found a little something extra. We weren't in good enough shape to do this race. We didn't get enough sleep the night before to do this race. We hadn't been training on hills enough to do this race.
And yet, there we were, at the top. A post-race embrace, beer glass in hand looking out over the Sierras and that medallion of blue lake between sips thinking, "This is the best race we've ever done."
And then we high-tailed to the tram to go see our son...and kick off our leisure time.
It wasn’t the perfect race day but it was the perfect beginning to our first family vacation.
Three other races you should pair with a vacation*:
Tri Lanai Three Hills: If you haven’t heard by now, Oracle founder and dead-ringer for a Die Hard villain Larry Ellison bought his own island off the coast of Maui. Though the locals are still trying to figure out whether his plan of creating an eco-friendly oasis for the mega-rich will ever come to fruition, start-up Tri Lanai is throwing down big race ideas. Their Three Hills race (July 25, 2015) is a kind of hybrid event for whatever strikes your fancy. It’s a 50-mile ultra or bike or relay or run/bike combo. Lanai is one of those spots that deserves a closer look...simply because it’s like a Kubrick movie, every frame a painting. Grab five of your besties and sign up for the race...then beach, then massage, then drinks on the lanai (get it :), then surf & turf dinner...repeat.
Gay Head 10k Martha’s Vineyard: Early October is the best time of year to check in on Martha’s Vineyard. Summer crowds are gone, weather is hot and locals peek their heads out to stock up before winter. The Gay Head 10K is a fundraiser to restore the Gay Head Lighthouse to remove the historic building from eroding cliffs, restore and relocate it. The race provides not only a scenic (and straight) coastal path out to the lighthouse but the spoils of being on MV mean a few days’ worth of perusing Larsen’s Fish Market and chasing those views and unspoiled walks on empty beaches with a Bad Martha brew.
Chicago 10k: *I think it’s important to note I did not select any half or full marathons for this Racecation list, nor do I recommend the big bucket-list races for your travels. Too often I’ve watched athletes couple their milestone runs with a week on either end to enjoy the sights...and too often have I gotten texts that say, “Santa Barbara was nice...from what I saw of my hotel room bathtub.” The point of being on a Racecation is you want to be fresh post-run and ready to enjoy the surrounds as well as the days (and nights) to follow. No Racecation is complete without a few extra training runs to take in the surrounds as well. So be sure to plan a race that keeps a little in the tank. The Chicago 10k starts/finishes at Grant Park and gives revelers the best tour of Chicago this side of a Vince Vaughn-guided boat tour. Which brings up the last/best attribute to look for in a Racecation race: a course which features all the bars, restaurants and attractions you’ll be visiting in the week to come.