People who passed by us today, if they noticed us at all, perhaps observed that we were just another family out enjoying the sunny, early spring weather.  They would have been correct.  Mostly.

It was a sunny day with glorious clear blue skies and crisp, fresh air.  The kind of day we just haven’t had enough of recently.  And we were enjoying ourselves.

Except when we weren’t.

I had 17 miles worth of training runs to complete this weekend.  One 5 mile tempo run and a 12 mile long run.  My husband was out of town and I felt a bit guilty leaving the girls alone while I ran so I suggested they join me on their bikes for the five miler.  They enthusiastically agreed.  We set off on an out and back course over rolling hills adjacent to the river.  A beautiful run/ride although by the end my youngest had to be cajoled along.  To her credit, her bike seat was much too short as she seems to have gained four inches over the winter.  This caused her legs to work less efficiently than is optimal and she let me know about it when she was tackling those hills.  We all agreed at the end that it had been a success, though, and the girls were eager to ride again.

I felt pretty confident, however, that neither of the girls would want to join me for 12 miles today.  After all, it’s more than double what they rode yesterday and four miles longer than any ride they have completed thus far.  I underestimated their sweet optimism and sense of adventure, though.  When asked if they wanted to stay home and play or come with me and ride 12 miles, they didn’t even hesitate.  So I loaded the bikes, the helmets and assorted paraphenalia.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t travel light and that includes trips across town to go for a run.  Since my girls are related to me, we probably looked like we were headed out of town for a long weekend, the truck loaded down with biking gear, running gear, a change of clothes, snacks and six water bottles.  Just in case.

We parked downtown and hit the trail, crossing bridges, cruising over dirt paths and through cool tunnels.  The girls pedaled along, not even looking like they were working hard.  They would speed ahead and I would find them around the corner, lounging on a park bench and waiting for me.  After five miles we stopped for a bathroom break and to refill our water bottles.  We started up again but by eight miles in, it became clear that my youngest wasn’t too happy with the state of affairs.  I had raised her bike seat after the debacle of the previous day but hadn’t raised her handlebars.  That required a tool I couldn’t find.  It all looked okay to me in the driveway but after 8 miles of pedaling her back was aching from bending forward too far in order to reach those handlebars.  So we stopped.  We drank some water.  We readjusted the seat.  She toughed it out for another quarter of a mile before the subject of her sore back came up again.  She complained a bit, maybe even whined.  Asked how much longer we had to go and rolled her eyes and stomped her feet when I told her the answer.  It was beginning to feel like the final four miles might get ugly.  She persevered, though, and by 11 miles we were back to where we had started.  I know, I know.  I planned to go 12.  But I compromised  in the face of my child’s abject misery.

It’s hard to know how to feel about that.  We set out to go 12 miles.  Was anything less a failure?  Was I letting her off the hook by “only” going 11?  Was I pushing too hard at 8 miles in when I made her keep riding even though she didn’t want to?  I wrestled with these thoughts over the last few miles of the run and well into the rest of the day.  Then I started to think about what the purpose of the ride/run was.  Obviously to get outside, enjoy the sun, be active, do something together.  Even more so, though, the purpose was to appreciate the crisp spring air and the long-absent sun warming our skin.  The purpose was to do something difficult, something challenging, something neither of the girls had ever done before.  The purpose was to feel the warm glow of pride after accomplishing something that was really hard to do.  The purpose was to learn how to persevere even when you wanted to quit.  When I frame it that way, I think we struck the perfect balance.

We finished feeling tired yet energetic.  A slow smile spread across my youngest’s face as she realized what she had accomplished.  As we sat at brunch a few minutes later, I realized how grateful I was to be able to share that gorgeous morning with my daughters.  I know they think we were just riding but believe me, we were doing so much more.