Monthly Archives: June 2023

How to be a Ninja

Hi. Remember me? Your old blogger pal RRG? It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written anything other than a patient chart note or a grocery list.  But, ya know, that’s life as a working mom of teenagers who are always going in a million different directions and eat everything in sight. 

I also haven’t been running a whole lot lately, but I still get out there when I can.  I’ve been dealing with a long bout of Metatarsalgia.  Between that and all kinds of other stuff, running just hasn’t made its way to the top of the priority list.  I’ve been walking a lot more.  And doing some weights, cross training and the likes.  I do what I can to fight the demons of middle-age.

I did manage to put in the training miles earlier this year to run not just one, but two, half marathons a couple weeks apart.  The first one, in Louisville, was a blast and went way better than expected.  The second one, which involved some time with extended family in Quincy, was somewhat torturous and did not go as hoped.  Regardless, I had a great time with my Jacobs side.  If there is one thing that sports teach us, its that there are good days and bad days.  Enjoy the good, learn from the bad. 

Back in November when my almost 16 year old ran the Hot Chocolate 5k with me, he decided to set a goal for himself this year: Run a 5k every month.  In January, he got out there and ran it on one of the coldest days of the year.  He has ticked off each month so far, including upping the stakes in May when he ran the 10k the day of my half marathon in Quincy.  It was hot that day…and we were given absolutely zero days of heat prior so no chance to acclimate.  But he whipped out a first place age group finish like it was nothing. 

This is the kid who I used to have to slow down for and encourage him to keep going, but now he lets me start before him and then he still kicks my butt.  Sometimes we just run on our own, sometimes we do organized races.  In April we ran the Cardinals 5k and got to finish at Busch Stadium for a cool down lap around the warning track on the field.  I mean, it wasn’t Wrigley, but it’ll do. 

June was no exception.  The other day he said, “Mom, we still have to do our 5k for the month” and the opportunities were dwindling.  Between the air quality alert days, the heat advisories and work schedules, we landed on June 30.  Today. 

Our text convo yesterday went like this:

Me: Are we running this 5k at 6am or on the treadmill?

Him: I ain’t doing it on the treadmill.

Me: Well I’m not doing it in the afternoon!

Last night we discussed our plan of attack.  Despite the fact that he has always been my early riser, he was not looking forward to being up at sunrise during summer break.  And then he said, “I guess that’s part of the challenge.”  Yes, kiddo, that it is.  Working towards our goals, even when we don’t feel like it.

And so, we rose by 6am and were out the door shortly after.  I left first and headed around the lake.  We typically cross paths when we run from home, but I went a slightly different route today than he did so I never even saw him.  But just knowing he was doing the same, kept me going. 

I’m not gonna lie, it was warm this morning, but at least it wasn’t as bad as yesterday when I walked outside at 5:30am and felt the humidity slap me silly.  Or on Wednesday when I went out for my pre-work walk and felt like I was thrown directly into a smoky bonfire.  By the time I finished that one, my lungs were burning. 

The beau said to me upon arrival home, “You aren’t supposed to be outside today”. 

“Oh, well, I can see why.”

At any rate, today it was about 75 degrees during run time and it was surprisingly less horrible than I prepared myself for it to be.  When I finished running every step of that 3.10 miles, I texted him to make sure he was good.  He was already done, of course, in about 29 minutes. I think he was feeling bad about it not being anywhere close to his best. 

Again, there are good days, and bad days.  But I’ll get back to that.

Did I mention that we got home from his World’s competition for Ninja on Monday?  Last week we went on an epic adventure to the Carolinas.  World Ninja League held the 2023 Championships in Greensboro, NC last weekend.  In the fall, Silas set a goal to qualify for World’s.  And that he did. 

I will never forget a day about 10 years ago, he was probably 6 at the time.  It was a hot summer morning and he came downstairs wearing a long sleeve black shirt that read, “How to be a Ninja…”  

I said, “Bud, are you sure you want to wear that?  It’s so hot outside.  Why don’t I go help you find something cooler.”

“Umm, no” he replied, “I’m ok.  And besides, I kind of want to be a ninja.” And so it began.

The trip to Greensboro was arranged.  And rearranged. And rearranged again due to unforeseen circumstances.  But there was no denying it was happening. 

We left on Monday afternoon and stopped in Nashville for some Hattie B’s hot chicken.  On the way through the Smoky Mountains we stopped to hike and picnicked by a waterfall. He found a fun barn Airbnb for us outside of Greenville, SC, where we toured the sights in the rain, ate some great food and laughed a lot. We planned the whole road trip around ninja gyms he wanted to stop at. How lucky am I that my 15-year-old (16 in a month) still enjoys hanging out with his mom? Then we arrived in Greensboro, NC on Thursday for the pinnacle of the trip, where he promptly ditched me for his friends and I hardly saw him.  Ha!

He was set to compete in Stage 1 on Saturday morning.  We got to the Coliseum nice and early for him to check in.  He warmed up and strategized with his friend and coach, Aidan.  I got progressively more nervous and had to remind myself to breathe. 

When Ally did cheer, I started a thing when she was warming up I would pray, “Lord, give me her nerves”.  She can keep the adrenaline, but I’ll take the nerves.  And now I have transferred that prayer for her younger brother.  And so I said my prayer, “Lord, give me his nerves”. 

The time for his course run came.  I knew with everything in me that he could full clear the course.  However, one of the obstacles that eventually took out many of the others had its way with him.  In the moment, it feels somewhat crushing.  You work so hard for something and then its done in an instant.  He went on to complete the rest of the course almost flawlessly. 

He was disappointed.  I was disappointed for him.  I let him know how proud I was and that I understood his disappointment, then I gave him some space to process as he needed to.  It was a long day after that with lots of good moments.  Watching his little buddy Ivan full clear the kids course with literally 1 second to spare so he could move on to Stage 2.  Seeing Silas coach some of the other kids. Cheering on the others that made it to Stage 2. The parents telling me how much they adore Silas and appreciate how much he does for the kids.  There were also some other tough moments when some of his teammates had similar missteps that ended their run. Like I said, good days and bad days.  Even for the Elites. 

Ninja is a really special community.  Much like running and triathlon, its an individual sport, but the camaraderie is something to behold.  The way they encourage each other, support each other, even when they are competing against each other, is a really beautiful thing. 

Much later in the evening, as Aidan’s course run was nearing, the schedule had gotten a little off.  Kids still needed coaches, coaches were preparing to run the skills course.  It got a little dicey on timing.  People shifted around to make sure all the athletes were covered.  Will, who was supposed to coach Aidan, went to skills and at the last second Silas stepped in to coach Aidan. 

Aidan’s course run was so fun to watch.  He crushed it!  And just like on the show American Ninja Warrior, he got to the end, hit the buzzer and the smoke went up.  With smoke still hanging in the air, Silas and Aidan threw their arms around each other yelling “Let’s Go” and my heart busted into a million pieces. 

Seeing my kid react with that much joy for his friend, his own disappointment completely eliminated in that moment, was beyond heartwarming.  It was heart exploding. 

Even on his not best days, this kid still constantly impresses me with his determination and perseverance, his drive to be better and his never give up attitude.  I’d like to think maybe I’ve had a part in teaching him that.  But even more than that, his ability to pick himself up when he’s down and genuinely love his people.  I could not be more proud of my ninja.

So, this morning, after our run, I showered and had coffee.  And then I went off to see Dr. Laiderman.  You might recall that he put me back together after an injury during Ironman training many years ago.  Earlier this year, I went back to see him for this foot issue, which is really a calf issue and so much more because little things lead to big things when we don’t take care of them.  We’ve been slowly working through it and hopefully there will be another marathon in my future. 

As we talked through how my pain has shifted, he said something really profound.  He was talking about how when trauma happens, if we don’t address it right away, its in the body’s nature to try and avoid pain so we compensate in other areas, which ultimately leads to a big mess.  He said it much more eloquently than that, but I’m RRG, so that’s what you get.  I sat there looking at him, like, whoa. 

“It’s the same with emotional trauma,” I said. 

“Yeah, that’s how the brain works,” he replied.

So where does that leave us?  I guess what I’m trying to say is, everyone should be more like my ninja.  I don’t remember how his shirt said to do that, but here’s what I would say: Pursue your dreams fiercely.  Process your disappointment. Set your goals high and go after them.  Learn from your falls but don’t let them keep you down. Pick yourself up again.  Cheer on your friends.  Don’t be afraid of a challenge. And no matter what, run fearlessly through the ninja course of life.