If there's any ancient society I ever believed and belonged in it was ancient Greece. I mean they had a guy who ran the first marathon to announce a victory before his death. That's what I thought I was doing when I put off the brain surgery to run a marathon and qualified for Boston. It sure felt like that's what I had managed to do last March when I got to win one behind a stroller... But it turns out the Greek society had another great city, Sparta one where maybe Kiana and I both belonged in.
I have done six Spartans this year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auM8kK7qblg). When I first got invited, I thought how tough could this be... Well watch that video or the NBC sports special about the Spartan championships and well... you'll learned it kicked my ass. In each of those spartan races, the guys who are in the lead are incredibly balanced athletes. And simply put while there are some of those that are ahead of me that I would outrun on the road, the best by far I've ever done is 7th, I'm usually way further back. Oh did I say the guys that were ahead of me, without fail, every single time I've gotten beat by at least one girl. It's because of that spirit that Sparta would have been my kind of town because they were well ahead of their age. Their women were unparalleled, the only ancient city state in which women were given a formal education all but on par with the boys. The only difference was that they were given less education in military training: notice, not none, just less than the men.
And while there may be media pieces about my athletic, may it be ever clear that that is and always will be therapy, it is fun and intense therapy. The point of life, at least mine, is relationships and Kiana is above all others in that pecking order. So when I trained for the biking century, it didn't feel right to be learning how to learn to cycle unless I was teaching Kiana how to ride a bicycle. And this year, with the Spartan events, they felt incomplete because Kiana had never been to one. So, when one came back in to Texas, it was time to take Kiana to do the kids Spartan. Because the point of my therapy is to keep going because of those relationships but sometimes that therapy and that relationship happen simultaneously.
It set off on the right foot because Kiana and I have been practicing for the school musical for a while. She even had a speaking part in "A Very Beary Christmas" because the school mascot is the bears. She did it with gusto. She even keeps that beaming smile these days despite her first missing front tooth, showing I've taught her to not be greedy since she only wants one front tooth for Christmas (I love that she keeps beaming because teeth is something I remember being far more self conscious about). As we talked about the Spartan, I talked to her about trying to be like a bear out there.
Kiana was having fun with the obstacles until her shoe came off and she realized that putting a shoe back on while it's muddy and you're muddy in the cold is less than fun. But she grimaced and kept going. Then she got a sticker in her hand during the crawling and took it off and gave me a look. She liked some of the obstacles but the muddy ones were not any fun. But she kept going till it was time to do the burpees and going up and down in cold mud... she was by then definitely not happy and started crying. The natural instinct at that point was to pick her up and go why did I sign her up for this? But I picked up the tape of the course and said, step over here and I'll carry you back. Through crying and burpees, she said, "No, I'm going to finish this but then I'm never doing it again." And she did finish it.
Frankly that's kind of how my first Spartan and my first marathon went. After both, my initial thought was I don't ever need to do that again... well I'm at 6 spartans and 8 marathons... We got her cleaned up and changed and she learned like I did, the thought of a challenge makes you smile even if the challenge doesn't. And then afterwards somehow that medal does too... And this morning she said well maybe I'll do a spartan again if it's warmer and I can wear gloves. (My first 2 marathons were 13 days apart, the first time she rode on a bicycle she fell, cried, came home and then decided she was going back out after an hour. May it never be questioned whose daughter this is.) Afterwards, I took her out to show her some of the obstacles on the course for the adults and "performed" them for her. I hadn't done any since September so I was pretty proud of the fact that I got them all including the spear throw and she was like that one was cool daddy, do it again. (Since I've never actually hit two in a row, I might have said, oh I'm only allowed to try once ;)
I also introduced her to Amanda Sullivan who after a massive car accident and had to relearn to walk completed a Spartan beast yesterday (http://blog.spartanrace.com/overcoming-obstacles-amanda-sullivan/). Not everyone has to do a Spartan or run a marathon but as I keep meeting these types of people, it's just true that there's no excuse to do that basic function of using your body in exercise which for me has been a tool for good mental and physical health.
So today, she's saying climbing over walls and going under them was fun and the net was fun but the dirty parts weren't as fun. I can't say that I disagree with that from the Spartans I've done but I will tell you that I do think life is too short to pretend like it's always clean and messes come to all of us so it's fairly therapeutic to have some of them be ones you sign up for.
I don't know if Kiana will focus on being a girl who likes to workout or a girl who likes to do her make up but like the Spartan women of old and the Spartan athletes of now, I want her to know that her gender is not pre destiny. That may mean big things or it may mean little things like when her and I paint our toenails together. I was raised by a great woman. If there's ever any question of how I have any capacity to raise a princess, it's because I was raised by a Queen. There's a saying of a Spartan woman whose son was complaining that his sword was too short and she responded with "Add a step to it." Some of the arsenal since cancer isn't what it used to be, finances, medical things, literally a piece of my brain. But you know what, that Spartan women's spirit lived into my mother and I hope to pass it on to my daughter and we're going to add a lot more than one step to it. Aroo!