There was a time in all our lives when we were instructed with nothing more than, "Get out of the house and go play!" That was the only responsibility we had. School was out. We were too young to work. So, we played.
That time ended for most of us around 12 or 13. At least for me it did. Newspaper routes, day camp jobs and ultimately being a cub news reporter filled the rest of my summers until college graduation.
I reclaimed a bit of my childhood during the last two weeks of December. Our games studio closed for the holidays on December 15 and didn't reopen its doors until January 4. My wife had to remain at work during most of that time since we took an extended honeymoon in August and she was out of vacation days.
So there really was only one thing I could do...PLAY.
Instead of playing soccer, basketball or baseball like a did as a kid, I played triathlete. Oh, and I played video games too, since you know, that's a part of my job. (So that part of my childhood didn't change.) I ran, swam and biked practically every day. Though mostly I cycled, including eight outings in 10 days as part of an unofficial Fortius Racing Team winter training camp. By the end of my "camp," I saw massive improvement. I felt stronger on hills, faster thanks to strenuous pace lines and sprint intervals, my descending skills improved and I found a great spot for scones at Griffith Park! Yet I couldn't really measure any of my progress officially since I STILL haven't bought a computer watch to replace my lost Garmin. I'm learning that sometimes what I can't measure is more valuable than what I can measure. If I can sense that I'm climbing a hill more powerfully (in the big chain for the first time) or descending a curvy road with more confidence (fewer brake squeezes), that's good enough for me. And after capping my cycling camp with a sojourn from Glendora Mountain Road to the ski lifts at Mount Baldy, it didn't matter what my watts were, what the elevation was or how fast I pedaled. All that mattered was that I made it to the top, saw beautiful scenery, hung out with my friends and enjoyed a new adventure. Instead of losing the forest for the trees metaphorically, I appreciated them both literally. In 20 years I won't remember my average heart rate at Mt. Baldy, but I'll remember the pain of the last two miles of the climb, the elation I felt hanging with Coach at the snowy ski lifts, and the rocket-ride descent back to the car.
I feel so fortunate that I could carve out a small block of time in my life at this age to play like a little kid again. I realize how special those moments are and I truly savored every minute. Yes, the training camp was hugely beneficial from a skills standpoint. Coach Gerardo deserves a ton of credit (and probably some extra money!) for improving my cycling dramatically in such a short timespan. But what I valued more was the opportunity to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at 10 in the morning with my Fortius friends in the middle of a cycling break at Griffith Park. I didn't have to be anywhere. I wasn't missing a meeting. I wasn't disappointing friends or family by missing an event. Everyone was accounted for. I wasn't missed. I wasn't missing anything. I was caught up with bills, priorities, columns, life.
I had time to play. No strings attached.
For two weeks, I was 12 again.
You can go back to summer camp, even in the winter.