A Note from Fatty: A big thanks to those of you who have bought copies of Susan’s book, The Forgotten Gift. And an even bigger thanks to those of you who have left a review of the book. I’ve been really happy to see that the appeal of the book goes way beyond the teenager market I had originally talked about — adults are loving it too.
I’m not even going to try to disguise this post. Plain and simple, this one’s all about how proud I am of my 17-year-old son, Brice. Brice is a gifted kid. Extraordinarily smart (he was the top student in his gifted student class back in sixth grade). A great sense of humor. Good at pretty much everything he tries.
He also battles severe depression, which would have been bad enough on its own, but pretty much wiped him out for a few years as his mom’s cancer got really bad and then took her life.
I don’t want to go into the bad times he’s had, though. Not in this post. What I want to do is write about a few awesome things that have happened lately.
The University of Utah has a great program, called TeenScope, Brice participated in. And it did amazing things for him — in fact, I’d say it’s no exaggeration to say that the program saved his life.
It’s also the program my insurance company, Cigna, actively battled me on covering. While they eventually paid for part of it, several thousand dollars are now my responsibility — it’s my hope that royalties from Susan’s book will help meet that.
Following that program, Brice started coming back to us — I don’t even know how to describe it better than that. He even started going back to regular school, and is now back in school full time.
And that’s not all.
A couple weeks ago, Brice did something he hasn’t done in — quite literally — years. He — on his own — joined an extracurricular program at school, called Academic Decathlon (AcaDec). Essentially, this is competitive test-taking, which may not sound all that exciting to you unless you happen to be really good at taking tests.
Which Brice is.
The thing is, though, Brice joined the school’s AcaDec team pretty late in the year, and didn’t have time to read the books and essays that were the subject of this year’s essays and tests.
So he talked with some of his teammates, getting the best sense of the topics he could, and traveled with the team to the state competition.
When he came home, he told us all about the essay assigned: compare a particular Russian short story (which he hadn’t read, and the name of which I can’t remember) to the novel Dr. Zhivago (which he also hadn’t read).
“I totally had to bluff it,” he told the family, saying that he turned it into an essay comparing thematic scope potential of short stories to what is possible in novels, and what each is best suited for.
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” I started, wanting to let him know that to me it wasn’t important that he didn’t do well; it was great that he had simply tried.
Brice interrupted me by saying, “I took first place.”
And in fact, Brice was an important reason his team will now be participating in AcaDec online Nationals.
He and I have agreed we will each read Dr. Zhivago by then.
The Big Race
Getting back into his academic groove is only part of the story, though. Around the beginning of the year, Brice also agreed to train with me to run a five-mile race in Moab.
We started by running 2.5 miles, inching up to our longest run before the race itself: 4.25 miles last week.
An then, last weekend, we had the race itself. Brice and I would be running five miles together; The Hammer would be running the half marathon. Here’s the group of us together, sharing a moment as we waited for our respective turns at the port-a-potties:
And yes, Brice really is half a foot taller than The Hammer and I (Susan’s dad and grandfather were both 6′4″).
The Hammer went to get on a bus to the half-marathon starting line; Brice and I found ourselves at the end of the line for the bus to the five-mile starting line (same course, just eight miles further down the canyon).
As it turned out, the last bus didn’t quite have room for us, so we — along with a half-dozen other runners — were put on a van.
It was a very exciting ride:
Even as riders on the very last bus, we arrived at the starting line with almost an hour to kill. “Show me your awesome running pose,” I said.
Brice is way too obliging.
We sat on a big rock, watching all the people mill around, with most everyone waiting for a turn at a port-a-potty:
I swear, races are 90% toilet-related.
At 9:20am, ten minutes before the race began, we ditched our coats and joined everyone else in a short walk down the canyon road to the starting line:
It was a good way to get ready for a race to begin — standing around for a long time at a starting line just makes me anxious, which in turn makes me need to pee (yes, more toilet-related observations. See?).
We got to the starting line just a couple minutes before the race began, and settled in where we figured we belonged: right in the middle of the pack.
“Are you nervous?” I asked Brice.
“A little,” he said. “Mostly, I just want to get started.”
“Show me your ‘very nervous’ face anyway,” I said.
Like I said, Brice is way too accommodating.
The starting gun went off precisely on time (this race has been run annually for more than thirty years; they know exactly what they’re doing), and we began. Brilliantly, I had set my camera to take rapid-fire shots, figuring that at least once in a while I’d capture Brice in the frame. And I was right:
And I even managed to capture the two of us together in a selfie. Of the fifteen shots I took while holding the camera pointing in our general direction, this was the best of them:
I need to learn not to hold my mouth open in that position when I’m concentrating. I think it may look a little bit silly.
Honestly, I didn’t care even a tiny bit about how fast we went or whether we walked half of the course, or whatever. The fact that my son was outside, doing something with me, was a massive victory, and we both knew it.
“A year ago, would you have guessed you’d be out here today, doing this?” I asked.
“No way,” Brice said.
“You should be massively proud of how far you’ve come,” I said. “I am.”
“I’m proud of both of us,” said Brice. “We’re doing awesome.”
And he was right. We finished our first mile in under nine minutes, a pace faster than we had ever run in training.
“We haven’t run this far before,” I said, “So let’s be sure we agree the same rules apply during this race as did during training: either of us can declare a walking break at any time and we don’t have to give a reason. The walking break can go as long as necessary. Whoever starts the walking break also declares when it ends. Our objective isn’t to win anything, it’s to do this together.”
“Yep,” said Brice. But he continued going faster.
Our second mile was faster than our second — 8:19, I think. Maybe it was because of the adrenaline that comes with racing. Or maybe it was because of the drummers that famously play for the duration of the race, their booming drums echoing across the canyon:
“This is an amazing day,” Brice told me as we hit the halfway mark and came out of the canyon.
Price to Pay
Anyone who knows anything about adrenaline-fueled racing knows that it doesn’t last. As we crossed the three-mile sign, we slowed to a walk for break. In under a minute, though, we were back to running:
How did he get to be so tall and skinny?
We took one more break at the four mile mark, after which I asked Brice to slow down a bit during the final mile. He was dropping me.
With a half mile left to go, I looked ahead and could see the finish line banner. “We’re going to do it,” I said.
“And we’re going to finish faster than Lisa’s projected time (47 minutes) for us,” Brice answered. And he was right:
46:34 by the clock, with corrected chip time of 46:15 for Brice:
And a similar placing for me:
And medals for both of us:
The Part I Didn’t Tell Him
“That was fun,” Brice told me, which was pretty much the most awesome thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life.
“Let’s keep doing this,” I said. “Maybe even work up to a downhill half marathon this autumn.” He agreed we should. We started talking about doing the Mt. Nebo half this Fall.
Then we walked into the post-race feed zone, which is really well stocked at this race. Cookies, chips, ice cream bars, chocolate milk, more chips, candy. Brice got some of everything.
“You didn’t tell me about this part,” Brice said. “This is the best part of the race, by far.”
Which made me feel a little bit bummed about the sad little cup of water I had gotten for myself on the way through.
Brice and I walked back to the car, changed, and came back to the race venue to wait for The Hammer to finish. While we did, Brice went through the feed zone again (I figured we were within our rights, since I had gotten nothing at all on the way through).
Then we went to wait at the finish line. As we stood there I told Brice that The Hammer’s previous best on this course was a 1:45, so we started craning our necks, looking for her orange, black and white jersey at 1:40.
She came hauling through at 1:43, setting a personal best for this course, and a top-ten finish for her category:
I got a picture of her with Estella, a woman we’ve become friends with, even though we never see her anywhere except for at races.
She’s not even from the same county as us, but we’ve run into her at this race twice, at the Ogden marathon, and at the Boston marathon. She and The Hammer run very similar times, and both have husbands considerably slower than they are.
And then a picture of the three of us, now post-race, taken by the guy guarding the feed zone (whom I could tell was getting ready to turn Brice and me away as we approached):
As we started home, Brice conked out immediately and slept for the duration of the three hour drive. Like most teenagers, he has an infinite capacity for sleep.
As we drove home, I thought a little bit about what we had done: a five-mile race. We had built it up in our minds to be something big, but when it came down to it, the race itself had lasted just over three-quarters of an hour.
A lot of the time, after a race I’ll feel a little let down, thinking to myself, “That’s it? That’s all there was to it? It seemed like such a big deal before I did it, and now it’s just something I’ve done.”
I guess races are as meaningful as you make them. And this time, what we did still seems huge. I don’t think that’s going to change.