This morning we were enjoying “special daddy breakfast” (a Saturday or Sunday morning tradition at my house) and we had been telling jokes and trying to get the kids to understand how knock knock jokes work. At some point, I can’t even remember why, I was pantomiming the act of driving a car. Well apparently in the little world inside my head driving a car involves moving your hands up and down, kind of like using a steering wheel, and moving your feet up and down like you’re riding a bike or maybe crushing grapes with your feet, just like they do in the movies. So while I am demonstrating this complicated act to my children Leah looks at me and says, “You’re running and milking a cow at the same time?” Yeah, I know, this concept might sound a little strange to some of you, but you have to understand a little bit of Leah’s background, let me explain.
Leah was born in a small town on the eastern coast, you’ve probably never heard of it, but it was called Bergsberg, named after the original settler of the town, Henry Quarlington Jones. Where does any of his name fit in with Bergsberg you may ask? Well Henry had a nickname growing up, Iceberg Jones, and without going into too much detail we’ll just say that his nickname came from an unfortunate incident at the town pool, a metaphorical “sinking of the Titanic” you could say. Anyways, Bergsberg was a small town that was known for primarily two things, its strong background in dairy farming and its beautiful running paths. Henry “Iceberg” Jones pretty much owned the entire town. His dairy farm provided many jobs for the townfolk and kept the economy running smoothly. Henry had two sons, Stephen and Lorenzo. As Henry got older he prepared to pass his dairy farm on to his two sons. When he sat down to talk with his sons about passing on the business Stephen was all for it but Lorenzo was less than excited. Lorenzo had grown up very athletic and had a strong love for running and had, 2 years prior, organized the towns first official marathon, The Bergsberg Hurlberg. (The named was changed in later years after participants began to realize that chili dogs and banana cream pie were not appropriate for the pre-race morning celebration.) The Jones were a very tight knit family and Lorenzo did not want to leave his family legacy behind but he wanted to keep running. It was this train of thought that lead Lorenzo to combine the family business and the toughest marathon on the east coast (at that time) into one spectacular sporting event, appropriately named The Other Brother Udder Nutter Relay. This race combined the fun of a team relay with the sheer skill of the lost art of handmilking. It may sound hard but scientists in Bergsberg have studied the best arm movements for appropriate economy of motion during running and found that they very similarly mimic the movements used in the “Under Udder Teat tweet” method of dairy cow milking.
So to make a short story long, when Leah saw me doing my “car driving motions” at the breakfast table this morning she was reminded of her hometown of Bergsberg. Now why am I telling you all this you may ask? Well, when Leah first made her comment about running and milking a cow I thought, “That is impossible” but as you can tell from the story I just told, it is very possible. While it took a few years for the “Other Brother Utter Nudder” to catch on, catch on it did and it is now a great success and people travel from all over the world to see these world class athletes milk cows and run top speeds at the same time.
When I started running a few months ago I had hoped to be able to do a 5k by the end of the summer. Then someone (thanks coach!) said, “If you can do a 5k you can do a 10k!” Well, I wasn’t convinced but I decided to give it a shot. Soon after that it got warm enough that I gave up running on the good old treadmill, forked over $90 for a pair of running shoes, bought some short shorts… and tight tights… and went for it. I began by trying to run a mile straight without stopping. I usually made it about half a mile, got tired, walked a bit, and then ran the other half mile and walked a bit more. This went on for about a week and one day I decided that I was going to do that mile. I hit that mile, was feeling tired, and decided I’d go just a little farther to see what I could do. I ran for 3 miles straight and could hardly believe it. The day before I couldn’t do a mile and suddenly I was doing 3? What was the difference? This last Saturday I ran my 2nd race, a 10k that was a very challenging course full of lots of ups and downs. I ran a practice run of the course at the beginning of the week just to see what it would be like and after running it I knew it would be a challenge. Saturday came and about 1 mile into the race on I had a runner pass me that I had overheard talking with someone just a little and had gotten the impression she was a “runner” who probably had some running experience. As she passed me I decided to use her as motivation and told myself that I would pass her by the end of the race. Throughout the first 4 miles I watched as she she slowly got farther ahead of me but never so far that I couldn’t see her. The last two miles of the race were mostly an uphill slope and I noticed that I could gain on her a little whenever we started going uphill. So I started pushing myself a bit more. I finally passed her but I could hear her behind me as I ran. I hit the final stretch, which was a good uphill run back to the hospital parking lot where we started, and she started to pass me again so I pushed it a little bit more. My legs burned and I felt my stomach starting to protest a little. In the little reading on running that I’ve done I’ve heard the phrase, “pushing past the wall” used before. While this was no full or even close to a half marathon, I felt like I had hit my wall. But I knew I could push past it, so to tie this whole random set of thoughts together, I grabbed the cow by the udders and milked it for all it was worth. I ran hard up that hill, and finished the race just seconds before the “runner” I had used as my motivation. I finished in 51 minutes and 43 seconds, over seven minutes quicker than my practice run days before and almost a minute quicker per mile. Also I placed 25th out of 85 runners. Yes, I am proud of myself, but I hope not to sound like I am bragging. My point is, we all hit that wall, we all feel like it’s time to stop, but we can push through it. As I write this I look at my beautiful wife sleeping and think about how long the last 9 months have been for her. We have our 4th child due in 3 weeks and she has said several times today, “I’m done, I want this baby to come now!” I can’t imagine how hard pregnancy and childbirth are. She can’t change when this baby will come, but I know she will push through that wall and keep doing what she needs to do for this family and our home as much as she can right up to when the baby comes, and then get right back to it afterwards.
It’s the same for all of us, we will encounter challenges and trials. They may seem impossible and we will hit that wall, when we do we have to think of those things that drive us, pray for strength, and grab that cow by the udders and milk it for all it’s worth.
Please share any “cow milking” experiences, I would love to hear them.
**Some parts of this blog involving the past history of my wife may have been embellished, or completely made up**