Ski Math

The tiny dot in the middle of the frame is my son hiking up from a yard sale, in a gale, at the top of Pali Chair. FIVE minutes later he said, “Dad, I’m glad you’re as good a skier as me.” I’d kept my skis during the traverse! They have such short memories.

Our family ski experience is like my Pandemic Predictions => I got a lot wrong.

When I was shelling out for childcare/preschool, skiing struck me as a very expensive way to do a lot of driving, without much cardio.

Not interested.

A friend, with four kids (and a jet), made the observation… “you gotta be able to do something as a family.” Given his role, as the smartest guy I know, we decided to give it a try.


My wife didn’t believe me when I said, in advance, “We’re making a million dollar decision here.”

Frankly, I took it easy on her. The math is daunting…

But wait, there’s more.

Add-in the inflationary effect of surrounding yourself with the largest spenders in our society.

And… have a look around the parking area, with the smell of legal weed wafting across the empty beer cans… Is this an environment where I’d like to leave my teenaged kid unsupervised?

Still… “you gotta be able to do something as a family”.



$175,000 worth of opportunity cost later, I can ski any run, with any member of my family. This makes me happy during a time of year I used to dread.

Total immersion (5 million vertical feet, in three seasons) let me achieve my goal quickly… Something outside, at a high level, with any member of my family.

Unexpectedly worth it… but only after I figured out our family’s cash burn.


I cope with the “demographic” by focusing my energy on seeking to ski like an instructor, with the fitness of a ski patroller. These goals provide structure for my athletic year.

Like much of my outdoor life, my participation is conditional and always one major crash away from ending.

Stay variable.

Developing Child Athletes

Watching their sister compete via Live Feed.

Our oldest (13 soon) started year round swim team at the end of last summer.


In Boulder, it’s not unusual for 8-10 year olds to be doing double workouts, and competing at a high level in multiple sports. We have some very well trained middle schoolers.

My approach is different => we want to leave room so performance will improve all the way from child to adult.

Leave the athlete somewhere to go => improve from 12 to 21 and beyond.

With a motivated kid, this means my role is holding back the pace of progression so the athlete has a better chance to reach their full potential and enjoy the benefits of lifelong exercise.


When To Go Year Round

When the kids were little, we didn’t specialize. Our younger kids still do a wide range of sport. The idea here is to develop a range of skills.

Racing is a skill.

While we didn’t ramp training load, all my kids have been racing fast since they were 5 yo. Summer swim league was the venue.

They love it and are building an invisible edge. Invisible to them but my lack of racing skills was obvious when I started competing as an adult…

  • Intensity tolerance
  • The ability to go way past reasonable, stay there, then go further

This spills into their endurance when it comes to learning capacity.

Summer swim league easily splits into three types of racing… where you’ll crush, about right, where you will be crushed (hopefully not too hard).

Early specialization has the field strength too strong, too early.


Parents

I’m a potted-plant parent and give very little feedback. It helps that I’m clueless when it comes to swimming really fast!

I make no effort to remember their times so I’m genuinely impressed every time they race.

You went so fast!

My main area of input is: (a) encouraging the kids to be nice to the new/slower/different people they come across; and (b) fielding off-the-wall questions about sex and human development. Our daughter is learning a lot (from being tossed in with older kids).

I also make sure we remember every athlete ends up back in the “real world” at the end of their career.


Boys & Men

We were fortunate to replace Uncle Andy with another male swim coach. Having male character models for my son does a lot for his motivation to attend.

JiuJitsu is coming back this week (male coaches) and his swim coach works part-time as a wilderness firefighter.

The cool factor matters to him, and me, when I think back to my own development.

Home School Stuff

Top of Hogback Loop, Boulder, Colorado


Science Wednesday was Plastic Milk – the girls weren’t interested and opted out – Axel enjoyed the session.

We’re going to take a break from experiments for a week and build ourselves a Volcano!


Eating the “plastic” was a highlight for him.

Workout Thursday saw Axel do more in 20-minutes than I can do in 25-minutes.



It’s a pattern you can do at home: (a) sandbag getup and run to the next room, repeat 4x; then 20 squat jumps (step down, never jump backwards) => keep rolling continuous.

Body slammed himself on the bench on the final rep of his 9th round (180 jumps total).

True savagery – once we were sure he hadn’t cracked a rib, we shared a laugh.



My daughter and I have been butting heads with her math.

This must happen to other families so I’ll share the workaround we discovered.

Like their Dad, my kids are good at pretending they understand when they have absolutely no frickin’ clue!

As you can see from the world around you, being clueless isn’t usually a problem. However, it is a suboptimal method to learn new math concepts via Zoom call.

In a typical school, the learning rate is slow enough that most of the kids figure things out on their own. At the Byrn Family Academy of Personal Excellence, we’ve been learning at a faster rate.

I didn’t realize how much faster until I noticed our youngest was nearly finished Unit Three of next year’s math. Five weeks to do half a year’s math curriculum => keeping things in perspective, it’s Grade Two and I give the kids supplemental lessons when they ask me about concepts. We’re not blazing AP Calculus but the pace for our Grade Four and Grade Six is legit.

With the new concepts, our oldest was reprinting the assignments on a clean sheet and handing in 100% correct work. Behind the scenes, I had been subjected to a half hour of tears and abuse => “Sweetie, it’s math, our opinions don’t change the answer.”

Anyhow, we both got sick of the struggle. She has no interest in receiving lessons from me => “Just tell me the answer, Dad!”

Not being able to teach is frustrating because I’m a great teacher! However, the goal is for student to learn, not the teacher to teach!

Family Value => It is OK to say “no.”

On the basis of “relationship before all else,” I resigned.

My resignation resulted in more tears. She’d rather struggle through with me than admit she doesn’t understand with her teacher.

So, we struck a truce…

  • Side by side, we review
  • When I find an error, she works through again
  • We arrive at the step that’s causing problems
  • Chip away until she gets it right

So far, no more tears and I don’t feel an ulcer coming on.


PE with Dad. Ax-man has 5L of water on the his back. Mountain Lion country (notice the bushes above, right). I had to tell him to stop dropping us!

Axel finished The Everest Trilogy by Korman.

He loved it and he’s going to do a book review with his English teacher.


My next summer essay is on the life cycle of an athlete.

Stage One is the Sporty Kid.

  • It is easier to have sporty kids if you lead the way.
  • Sporty kids have more energy for everything, ie learning.
  • If you want to develop sporty kids then the program is about their current ability level – not your workout goals (train daily before they wake up).
  • Use outside experts to teach technical skills.
  • Focus on enjoyment of the “doing” – resist the urge to teach.
  • Only positive feedback.
  • Focus on activities without a score and no judges.

Kids And Mountains

Spending years crafting a desired outcome is something I do better than most.

It’s not just inside my marriage where I seek to influence outcome – I’ve been building a mountaineering partner. Since my son was two years old, he’s loved going uphill.

The “up” has never been a problem. In those early days, it was the “down” where he’d flame out. Back then, I’d never take him further than I could carry him out. We used to negotiate when the shoulder rides would start.

We’re into another hiking season and I wanted to share some ideas about developing your kids.

Last season, I carried everything, all the time. When I tried to get him to help out, the joy of the hike drained out of him. This led to some heavy, heavy days.

Over the winter, I adapted my training program so I could tolerate the loads.

This year, we’re trying something new. To change our view on weight, I’m leading by example and carrying extra water to every summit.

Weight is a privilege. The picture above represents ~25 pounds of privilege. ūüėČ

Seeing me carry, had the desired psychological outcome and he’s been asking me to carry “more.”

Two things are required to earn the right to carry:

  • Beat me to the summit
  • Don’t fall on the way down

The not falling is tougher than it sounds. Our mental cue is “walk like a boss” => wide stance, toes down the mountain, stand tall. It’s easy for a minute.

Less easy for an hour while discussing the finer points of the latest Clone Wars season or estimating Chewbacca’s age.

Dad, Chewie is in every movie, I can’t figure it out…


With lockdown, my full program has become visible to the kids. They noticed that I do a lot of strength training. Two (out of three) asked to join. So they’ve been doing some supplemental work to our hiking program.

I made light sandbags for them. We do burpees, short runs, clean & press, keg lifts… Because their bags are light, they can run circles around me (literally). They get a kick out of being “faster than Dad” and that keeps them coming back for more.

Our youngest (below) is working with an orange dry-bag I filled with clothes. It looks HUGE but doesn’t weigh much. My son had bag envy – his is filled with pea gravel.

Let everyone be strong is a lesson I learned from Scott Molina.

Be sure you let your kids be strong and find their win. It helps build their internal motivation to persist.


As for the program we are:

  • following a gradual, weekly progression
  • doing it locally before considering any travel
  • including a mixture of too easy, just right and challenging routes
  • inserting easy days so we bounce back
  • making sure we get consistent sleep

If you think the above sounds like the approach used by a gold-medal coach then you’d be right. It was taught it to me early in my triathlon career.

I special ordered a black mask from our oldest. Combined with blue-iridium sunglasses, a baseball hat and a hunting knife… we don’t have any problems getting folks to yield on the trail.

Why masks?

Foremost, because America need more people wearing masks. Be the change.

Secondly, because we might be on some crowded routes when the high mountains open up. Get sick later.

Finally, because it’s going to make life above tree-line seem a whole lot easier when we take them off.


Over multi-year time horizons, we have tremendous influence on the direction of our life.

My son is 9 and we can hike any route I want in the Rockies.

Be willing to inconvenience yourself (today) to help the people in your life become what you wish for them (tomorrow).

How I Watch Sport

2019-11-08 16.19.44It was the family’s first water polo tournament this past weekend.

2019-11-08 12.46.22It’s worth spending time to understand what YOU want from sport. This will let you see if your desires line up with the reality of your sport-of-choice.

I’ve seen enough to decide it’s best if I focus primarily on my kids’ sport.

I have one overriding goal for my kids.

Create an enduring positive association with exercise.

Former athletes, bitter athletes, non-athletes… they can lack the positive association and it costs them.

It is easy to get distracted by winning, skill development, playing time, parent board politics…

Create the positive association!

ax_poloSo, when I watch:

  • Sit passively and try to learn what’s going on => my kids don’t do “my” sports
  • Very little feedback => only positive, given 1-on-1, after they’ve slowed down from the event
  • Be seen in the last third of practice (it’s the only part they remember) => use the first 2/3rds of practice to do something useful => I buy groceries then read a book
  • Phone put away (ideally in airplane mode – warn your spouse you won’t be taking pictures or answering questions)
  • Listen to, and work through, coaches => reinforce a consistent message => you need a team (and school) culture that matches what you teach at home => if your teen tracks into a single sport then her team becomes a key reference point, at an important transitional point in her life
  • Ample healthy snacks afterwards => do not train the “exercise-sugar-reward” cycle, as it will haunt them forever!
  • Drive them with no music, no electronics => create a forum to ask about life issues => no taboo topics, everyone gets to speak (or not speak)

If you’d predicted that I would enjoy doing the above, even three years ago, then I would have said you were high.

The fact that I look forward to these times shows I am incapable of predicting where life will take me!

2019-11-08 17.39.27Take the above together:

  1. Dad is there
  2. Dad’s not on his phone
  3. Dad talks about anything
  4. Food rewards are healthy snacks => strong food
  5. Dad is always happy to see me afterwards

Building these habits was a major pain in the rear.

The phone habit is a tough one!


ax_g_poloI’ll end with a story.

My son is the youngest on the team and he has a concern, he might drown.

Bro, there’s no way you’re going to drown.¬†You’re going to pass out and that’s no big deal.

I’ll Superman into the pool, we’ll pull you out and¬†I’ll stay with you until you wake up.

You can even go back in, if you want.

Thanks Dad.

2019-11-09 16.01.23

Where Markets Fail

2019-10-06 15.14.46A decade ago, I tried to assemble a group of investors to build an aquatics facility in Boulder. The project was getting its land for “free,” yet we struggled to get the economics to make sense.

Fortunately for my family, the taxpayers of a neighboring county approved a school bond issue that financed a world-class aquatic facility.

My kids have some of the best memories of their life associated with this building.

Ax_IM


I’m reminded of a few things each time I visit.

It’s impossible to capture the value given, and problems avoided, by making athletics available to all the young people of your community.

The picture below shows what I mean: 8-18 year olds improving themselves, daily.

2019-10-02 18.41.13.jpg

I’m grateful to the taxpayers, school district and people who made it happen. People I’ll never know.


The facility is dedicated to our veterans and there are plenty of memorials around the property to spark conversations.

2019-10-02 19.02.51.jpg

#1 for me is the plaques remembering the district’s graduates, who died in foreign wars. Most were just out of high school, not far off the age of my kids’ favorite cousin.

Tom was CJ’s age when he was killed in Vietnam.

2019-10-02 19.02.56.jpg

That’s a lot of living given up, by people I’ll never know.

The older I get, the more I feel their sacrifice.

When people talk about the challenges facing our country, they’re correct.

However, the challenges are not unprecedented. I will never know what it’s like to go to war out of high school and watch my buddies die in a foreign country.

My kids might not understand for a while.

Alpha Tween

2019-06-23 12.54.22

I’ve noticed that a couple mornings each month, she arises with one goal in mind…

Test. Pack. Hierarchy.

She has a go with random acts of sibling violence and a Marie-Antoinette approach to manners.

It’s tiring but far better than when she was an Alpha Pup, each of those days was a grind.

+++

We’ve tweaked our approach as she gets older.

Written schedule – always visible – seven days forward. Without the anchor of the school week, this is a huge help. Keeps me relaxed as well.

Binary choices – One of her weaknesses is self-directed time, so offering simple choices works for everyone. Frankly, I don’t care what she does (so long as she does something). Since her first birthday, when she’s not engaged… it’s been challenging.

With the top two in mind => Listen, consider. change later. In order to run the house, we need a schedule.

She understands “change later” and we make it clear when we’re adjusting the plan based on her feedback.

+++

If you have a go-with-the-flow personality then all the structure, rules, discipline… you’ll be asking, “Is this really necessary?”

If your home life is calm then “no, it isn’t.”

However, if you have a young person (or husband ūüėČ ) who is constantly trying to take command then they might do better with structure, routine and scheduling.

For a few days each month the conflict is real. For the rest of the month, she relaxes into the hierarchy and our mutual expectations.

+++

It helps to remember my goals for the kids:

  1. Daily physical activity
  2. Polite => most importantly, to people with no recourse
  3. Learn to teach yourself and live independently

I am at my most effective when I lead by example.

When I need to give guidance: immediate consequences and always follow through (especially when inconvenient).

She has a nose for inconsistency and weakness.

The Big Boys Can’t Do It

We didn’t have the purest of reasons for starting our daughter climbing:

  • Living with her¬†was “rather unpleasant” when she didn’t exercise
  • The classes lasted 90 minutes
  • We didn’t have to stay in the building

There have been some favorable unintended consequences and all our kids will climb.

Upper body strength РGirls that do an upper body sport early get a lifelong athletic advantage in most areas. Climbing fits nicely into our swim family.

Clarity of thought Рone of the few healthy ways I could clear my mind prior to my 40s was via exercise. The clarity that arrived through my climbing was addicting. I was fortunate to change sport before serious injury. An old guide introduced me to the progression of a world-class mountaineer (Good, Great, Dead).

But the best part was my daughter’s reaction after the climb in the video.

We were watching the video together. The boy that you can see in the foreground tried to follow the route. He came off on the overhang. Two of his buddies gave it a shot and they both came off.

She smiled, gave me a hug and said, “Look Daddy, the big boy’s can’t do it.”

A useful lesson for daughters, and sons.