Couples Retreat April 2021

A couple months ago, I made a prediction… Coming out of the pandemic, it would take very little to improve my life. This past week, we put my expectation to the test by taking a mid-week trip.

We drove 75 miles, stayed in a motel overlooking the interstate, ate mediocre takeaway and had a really good time!

The kids were in school, so we hired two favorite sitters to cover for us. Our kids loved it.

Our lead sitter was duly impressed with how the kids had up-skilled themselves during the pandemic.

“Things change above tree line”

Each morning started with a trip to 12,500 feet.

Our time together was a reminder of the benefits of an athletic spouse, and how learning new skills can benefit a marriage.

Uphill skiing is a skill we learned as we transitioned out of elite sport.

When we met, we spent a lot of time sharing meals in hotel rooms.

Good memories, which reminded me I have something to look forward to… a future life together.

A happy expectation, 10 years away, is a useful antidote to a dark vision that had been appearing around bedtime each night.

Coffee indoors – first time since March 2020

One of last week’s blogs was covered on the drive to the motel. My wife got the long-form version of “using money to opt out of BS“.

The concept is simple but there is a deep human urge to be “proven right” rather than “quietly opt out of drama”.

A effective treatment (for my desire to be proven right) was spending time with preschoolers. A preschooler has no capacity to understand my perspective about what is right & fair!

With little kids, and the child in all of us, it pays to choose peace over drama.

Focus on what works – opting out of drama works.

On Top

One of my 2021 projects is less resistance. I lay things out in my blogs and explain them to my family.

And then…

I follow my own advice and let it go.

Something I let go of last week was a planned trip to ride up Haleakala. It was going to be my June adventure. My wife wanted us to head to Maui as a couple. Fair enough. I’ll probably be able to make the 10,000 foot climb in a few years.

If you want to perform at high altitude then touch 12,000 feet as many times as possible in your training, and do most your sleeping under 6,500 feet. Whatever “high” altitude is for you, just touch it – do your real training (and sleeping) lower down.

With each passing week, it’s looking like Colorado’s summer will be fairly normal. We mapped out the next four months for our kids.

Related, Boulder County has 500 open vaccine appointments for today, as I type this on 4/23. I suspect we’re going to start hearing about vaccine-tourism into the US.

If you are still in the COVID smackdown then take heart. You will see rapid improvement once the weather turns and your local vaccine supply ramps up.

If you’re not vaccinated then be careful. We’ve had a three friends get seriously ill in April.

For me, the money altitude for training is 6,000 to 9,000 feet – high enough to desaturate, not so high I slow down and extend recovery. Once you’re doing a bunch of volume over 9K elevation, it doesn’t translate as well down to where the races happen. Different, however, if you’re preparing for a high altitude event.

Make time for the people who got you through the pandemic.

Thanks, babe.

Two Luxury Vacations

In each of April and May, my wife and I left the US (and our three kids) for about a week.

While it is cheaper to leave the kids at home, our childcare bill for a week away is massive – roughly equal to what we spend on all other aspects of the trip, combined.

A friend jokes that spending money to strengthen your marriage is cheaper than a divorce but it’s still a heck of a lot of cash to have flow out the door.

Given my primal, subconscious, and frequent urge to flee, I know that I’m likely to keep fooling myself about the need to “get away.” 20 hours of planes, trains and automobiles on the return leg from Italy gave me a chance to take some notes.

What Is A Luxury Experience?

Early in the vacation, I was trying to put my finger on what made the hotel feel luxurious. I came up with:

Ease of exercise (swim, bike, run) – the hotel where we stayed had multiple scheduled rides each day, all seeded by ability, all guided.

Ease of laundry – the hotel offered overnight laundry service (included in room rate) for all our training gear.

Ease of eating – the hotel catered three meals per day with a wide selection of healthy foods, and a ton of veggies.

Coffee – high quality Italian coffee for breakfast and one (or more!) cappuccino stops on every single ride!

People – Marina and her staff are extremely friendly and enjoy helping guests have a good time. They care about the little things and are genuinely happy to see the guests.

Friends – I had a chance to spend time with existing, and new, pals who enjoy living the same way as me. This was the #1 lesson for me – it is worth making an effort to meet new people and spend time with successful leaders. This is the one aspect that is tough to re-create at home, multiple days of having fun with friends.

Bedtimes – I was relieved not to have to put my kids to sleep for a week. We are going to rejig our bedtime duties so we rotate our exposure to the kids – might prove better for everyone.

Unscheduled afternoons with my wife – Monica and I rarely spend an unscheduled afternoon with each other. We should. This time together was the best part of the vacation.

When I wrote the list down, I realized that I could re-create all of the above (minus Marina and her team) at home. I simply have to get organized. Further, the money that I spent in 8 days would buy 50 similar days at home. Somehow a luxury vacation “feels” better but a ratio of 50:8 shows how I fool myself.

Until the flight back from Italy, I had been thinking that it would be nice to get away quarterly and focusing on reducing the cost of our childcare when we travel.

Much smarter to apply the lessons every-single-week at home.

Living at home makes it much more likely that I’ll maintain what’s good with my life. Being ruthlessly honest I noticed the following about my week away:

  • I drank a month’s worth of booze
  • I consumed ten weeks (!) worth of sugar, and had the headaches to prove it
  • My kids start to suffer when both of us are away for more than five days
  • Training fatigue triggers feelings of entitlement for: anger, stress, gluttony and excess

Naturally, all of the negative implications were easier to see in others than myself… another example of fooling myself.

The key lessons:

  • Make time, to spend unstructured time, as a couple
  • Consider what you really enjoy about being on vacation
  • Build “luxury” into your daily living
  • The toughest part of improving my life is creating the space for change
  • Once a week, free yourself from the self-imposed tyranny of scheduling

Upon getting home, my first restructuring act was to collapse three working trips into a single visit where everyone came to Boulder.

Let’s see if we can build these lessons into our family plans for the next 18 months.