The final weeks before our trip were incredibly stressful for Amy and I as we planned details for the trip, wrapped up loose ends, worked hard on Amy's transition to full-time private college counseling, trained for my races, and tried to make sure our kids had something to eat.
When we got to Spain, the first five nights leading up to my initial race involved "family fun" from midnight until 3:00 a.m. as the kids grappled with jet lag. Our "fun day in London" ended up being a true adventure race involving transporting all of our stuff and both kids through the Metro system and a series of buses, including multiple stairway relay races in which Amy stood at the top with the kids and I completed intervals of sprinting up and down stairs to ferry each bags, hoping nothing was stolen at the bottom. We've also struggled at times on the journey with making time for remote work and personal time a midst caring for young children in a structure-less and new environment. I've spent long afternoons driving aimlessly with the kids asleep in their car seats because they won't nap in yet another new room and Amy needs some work time, and (more than once) I have ended up going the wrong way on a busy, one-way city street or nearly trapped in a narrow passageway that--as it turns out--wasn't actually made for vehicles.
Has it all been worth the time, stress, and general investment of energy?
Without a doubt.
Amy has been able to use a change of setting to reflect on her transition from part-time private college counselor and full-time Director of College and Transition Counseling at Denver Academy to full-time private college counselor. She has successfully worked through the summer using wifi and her laptop, but the shift in place and perspective here in Europe has allowed her to think intentionally about how to do her new work best and to mentally shift away from Denver Academy, a great community that was tough to leave. Like me, she has also enjoyed sharing new adventures around every corner--some profound like a random, 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater in a small Italian town we explored and some simple like yet another waterfall in the Alps in a rainstorm--with her kids and partner.
Wyatt has gotten to see and do many things unavailable in the US, and he's still incredibly stoked about every new castle we come upon (even though there seems to be one around every corner). Most importantly, in a world where too many young kids are constantly distracted by the latest electronic gadget or new toy, a full summer entirely bereft of those options has meant nearly endless time outside with sticks and rocks for Wyatt Jacoby. That's the way it should be, and sometimes making things the way they should be requires putting in the work and planning needed to completely remove yourself from your own little bubble (I'm glad I got out of mine this summer).
Everyone learns to walk, but I don't know many people who can say they took their first steps high in the Alps in Val d'Isere, France. Lila can, and she's also the only one in the family who speaks as much French as English.
I competed in three races in Europe, and though I suffered in each challenging mountain run (this newsletter could also be called, "Most good things in life are also really hard") I also enjoyed them immensely. The Milla Vertical d'Areu in Spain was a steep climb that gained 5280 feet, or one vertical mile, over just 2.6 miles en route to a mountain top finish. I was happy to finish second. Two weeks later, I did another uphill race, the Skyrunning Vertical Kilometre World Championship(same concept, but gaining 1000 meters) in France, finishing seventh. My ultra run for the trip came at theIce Trail Tarentaise, a 65k ramble over about 15,000 feet of vertical gain and plenty of snow, glaciers, and scree. I finished sixth, sometimes feeling like (and even pretending to be) Wyatt at play as he runs around the mountains.
The racing has been fun, meaningful, and a chance to experience flow. More significantly, however, by overcoming one negative story--"traveling with little kids is too much work"--this summer, I have been given the chance to reckon with another that constantly stalks me at home: "a father's primary purpose is to make money." Seeing the various ways people live and find happiness around the world is always grounding for me, and I have also been reminded that the best things I can give my family are my time and my example of how to live a meaningful life. Don't get me wrong: I'll be happy to be back in nice, capitalistic Evergreen, Colorado (I always am), and making money is one of my goals. But I will be cognizant of the subconscious pressure to keep up with the Joneses and thankful that my home (rather small by neighborhood standards) is large and plush by world standards.
Checking out of my frenzied homelife bubble has been illuminating, and I know I'll be a better person and professional when I get back. I also can't wait to get on the road again soon.
I caught up with one of the best in the world at the "life juggle" while we were in Spain to get her thoughts on just that. Emma Roca is an international endurance racing superstar, firefighter (one of just a few female mountain rescue firefighters in Catalonia), and mother of three. This video share's Emma's take on how to balance making the most of family, work, and racing. I think she provides some excellent advice here; if anything resonates win you, let us know by leaving a comment.
Along with my co-writer, John Hanc, I'm writing a book called The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion's 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life. Da Capo Press is publishing it, and it will come out in the spring. To research the book--and, more importantly, to improve my own life--I've been doing a lot of reading.
I really liked Seth Godin's The Icarus Deceptionbecause it promotes shooting for the moon, emphasizing the idea that creative, innovative work is actually the new "safety zone." I like that. I also liked Carol Dweck's Mindset, which talks about using thegrowth mindset rather than the fixed mindset; this idea has been huge for me and my students at Jeffco Virtual this year.
Whether you do it in your head out on your next run, over coffee with someone you care about, in your journal at a nice spot in the mountains, or right now on your computer (I'd be honored to read your answers), take a few minutes to consider these questions:
What does going big mean to you?
In which three areas could you go big? Are you doing so already?
Which negative stories, thought patterns, systems, and/or actions are holding you back? How will you rewrite these stories and alter your actions?
Who will you call on for help?
What step will you take today?
Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear about the ways you are putting in the work to go big with work, family, racing, and life--and to support you if I can.
Speaker and consultant
Endurance athlete and coach
Author, The Ultra Mindset (Spring 2015, Da Capo Press, co-written with John Hanc)
PS--Here are three quick tips on mountain running in Europe.