Training for TNB Marathon

So, remember my tribute to Grandma Anna who passed away in August? And her final jab aimed to make me squirm: “Hey, Lisa [my wife]…when’s the baby coming?”

Well, turns out it was less of a jab and something far more eerie. You see, my wife was a couple of weeks pregnant, but we just didn’t know it yet.

Well, we think our alien baby is cute.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This week is supposed to be about balance, and I do have a reason for the announcement of The New Ballou (or TNB for short) on this topic, but let me answer your questions first so we can get back on track.

  • We’re thrilled and as ready as we’ll ever be.
  • Our first.
  • The wife is almost 17 weeks along with TNB expected Mid-May (very close to when GILT debuts).
  • We haven’t found out if TNB is a boy or girl yet, but will before Christmas. I’m a planner, folks, there’s no WAY I could keep it a secret from myself.
  • Yes, we’re very much enjoying sleep now. And freedom.
  • Uh huh. I understand my life is about to change. A lot. Which bring us to the topic of the week…Balance.
First, a disclaimer: I’m *EXTREMELY* pumped about TNB – becoming a father is… the thing I was put on Earth to do.

However, to a lesser degree, I feel similarly about writing. It’s one of my top priorities. Up until now I’ve had to balance my writing with a full time job, a very accommodating wife, a (busy) tight-knit family, two awesome dogs, and my own bodily needs. A baby means…less time, more responsibility, fewer dollars, new priorities, and being way, way more exhausted. In summary, throwing TNB into the mix = goodbye current equilibrium. 

I’m like Katherine, fearful of loosing the ability to write. Honestly, I’ll admit to having long conversations with my writing tribe about what to expect. Am I going to have time to write? Will I fall asleep at the keyboard? Should I just kill the storyteller in me and hope he rises from the dead when the kids leave for college?

In one of those conversations, a friend mentioned that it’ll be a marathon – grueling, painful, and draining. “But,” she said, “People run marathons all the time.” And it hit me: I’ve run a marathon. I survived.  


I trained.

Could I prepare for this shockingly new life? A task both infinitely harder and infinitely more rewarding.

I’m not sure – I’m coming up with it as I go along. But here are some of the things I learned in my marathon days, that I’m now applying:  

Set a goal: When I signed up for my marathon, other than my name, age, and credit card number, they asked me what time I wanted to hit. I happily selected the four hour box and moved on. Turns out, that feels a lot longer when you’re running…so I broke the pace down into just under nine minute miles. I can do almost anything for that long…I figured those intervals would stack up and, eventually, I’d be done with my race in a blaze of glory.

With TNB, I’ll keep setting goals. I’m not sure what will work, but I’m hoping for an hour per day. Now, even that might have to come in smaller chunks, but I can do an hour a day. (Even if it means skipping Modern Family – yes, even that).

Know the course: When getting ready for the race, I wanted to make sure I trained on a similar terrain. The route was hilly, so I made sure to find some hills to run on. Simple.

I understand my chunks of uninterrupted time are going to be pulverized. But babies sleep (sometimes – hopefully – maybe yours didn’t, but I’ve heard some do). Mommy takes them to the store. Grandparents babysit. There are lots of cracks in life where I hope to squeeze in my manuscript.

Currently, I’m training myself to write at these moments…I try 20 minutes here, 15 there. I stop mid-sentence and come back the next time, picking the thread up. At first, it was mighty difficult, but every time “getting into the zone” gets easier. Leaving a thought dangling has helped because it’s easy to finish a sentence...then not so hard to come up with the next one. Before I know it, the pages are a’flyin’.

Be in the right conditions: Same as knowing the course, I wanted to train in the right conditions. For example, my race started at 7am, so I ran many of my training runs groggy in the morning.

Speaking of groggy, another part of the baby-raising is being tired. It’s impossible to fathom the sheer level of exhaustion that TNB will bring. However, I’m learning to write in those instants where I cringe/yawn at the thought of opening the computer and finishing off that sentence. I set myself an easy goal: “Try it for 10 minutes, then go watch TV. You can do 10 minutes.” Most the time the 10 minutes turns into 20 or 30 or whenever I’m forced to stop.  

Get the right equipment: I was going to be living (or dying) in my running shoes, but after 26 miles, the socks, underwear, and rest of the garb become critical too. I didn’t nickel and dime. Getting the right stuff (within a good $ range) was more important than saving a little extra dinero.

THAT is a manly desk
As some of you may know, I’m a *Bux junkie. After May, spending countless hours there will end. I want to be home as much as possible. So, essentially, I’m reproducing all my *Bux comforts at home. It’ll be a lot more efficient to get to the changing table when I just have to walk a couple rooms over rather than a couple blocks. We got an awesome desk. (Tangent: It’s HUGE. As in Donald-Trump-eat-your-heart-out size. But I love it and I get excited about writing at it). And guess what I asked Santa to bring me. Yep, my very own espresso machine. 

                                                      Barista Bret, at your service.

Bring cheerleaders: I arranged for my cousins to show up at mile 18 to cheer me on. It was the moment when I was facing “The Wall” and their support got me up and (mostly) over it.

Between my wife, family, friends, and The Muses, I’ve got a whole Dallas Cowgirls lineup rooting for me. They all know how important being a father is to me, but also how much I care about writing. They’re already pushing me when I need it, listening when I need that, and generally, just keeping me on track. Best of all, they’re committed to keeping me going when I’m facing “The Wall.”

Wear the dinky medal proudly: When I finally crossed the finish line, they handed me the same medal they handed the other 25,000 runners. Before collapsing into a sweaty heap, I looked at the clock. After all the training – doing all the right things – I was sure to be minutes under my four hour goal.


My time was four hours, one minute, and a handful of seconds. Yep, over 26 miles and I missed my target by a G-D#%$ minute. But, you know what? I plopped my feet in the ice bath and enjoyed my accomplishment.

I planned to say something inspiring here about not letting something like a G-D#%$ minute get in the way of true success. That I had to learn to forgive myself and will have to do so when I miss my writing goals due to baby duty. But, honestly, Talia nailed it on Wednesday and I don’t want to compete with her perfect post on the subject.

So to all those who made it to the end of this ridiculously long post: Congrats, you’ve completed a marathon of your own.

Here’s a medal. 

P.S. Make sure to swing by Monday, because we're launching another contest! 
(Folks, it's a doozy this time - I'm jealous that I can't win)


Congratulations! It's definitely tough to write around a child's schedule. My son is almost two and I'm still trying to figure it out. Fifteen minute sprints on Write or Die seems to be the best fit for me. Good luck finding your balance and routine. I wish all the best for you and your wife and little TNB!

Yoshi likes your alien baby. We're so excited for you and Lisa!

I've got three toddlers in the house and an extra family living here and had a book launch this Fall along with a new book due - and was putting in 16 hour days. The marathon seemed to go on and on and on and on and on . . . well, it's still going. Then I sold a trilogy to Harpercollins and now I have 5 books under contract (3 still to completely write) that will all launch in the next 2.5 years. I have a feeling Marathon Days are now a way of life. It's an exciting, thrilling dream-come-true race, but without any breaks!

Congrats on the baby and your book and your actual running marathon!

Good luck, too! ;-)

Great post Bret! You'll definitely have many babysitters lining up to help you out when you need some writing time! ;-)

Hey, Daddy-O! Congratulations! And good luck with the training! Just be aware that the biggest threat to your novel writing won't be lack of time; it will be lack of focus. Yep, for sure. Because all of a sudden you're going to want to start writing picture books!

Congratulations Bret and Lisa!
While nothing can prepare you for having a baby - don't over look the good, it will inspire you in ways you never imagined, seriously good for your writing! And everyday with a baby gets better, there'll be loads of time in between periods of extreme baby need, you'll just have to be more creative to find it.
Most of all enjoy the ride!


Our babies could possibly have THE VERY SAME BIRTHDAY. This is awesome.

This baby's my second, and in just a quick word of encouragement - I write more now than I did before I had my first baby. Time is more precious and less often wasted.

Oh, also, congratulations!
Hold on, I didn't do that right...


Awesome, Bret. Congratulations. I'm super excited.

Hugs & congratulations! Lots of big kids (mine included) are proof that head & heart grow, allowing writers to do a weirdly good job of child rearing even when other worlds are spinning in their brains.
Grandmas may not approve of the "crawling cookie sheet" method of grabbing writing time, but I'll share with you and it totally rocks.
Embrace the adventure!

YAY!!! HUGE congrats, Bret! Parenthood is amazing. Best exercise in creativity you'll ever experience. And the most rewarding too. All the best.

Thanks for all the cheerleading! Keep it coming...I'm going to need it a lot more when I hit "The Wall".

TNB on the way. That is so wonderful...and yes, very eerie that a passing loved one nailed the pregnancy.
*cue three seconds of creepy music and stop*

But I like your thought process and can appreciate the fact that you aren't in "I've got this thing all figured out" mode. You're getting ready as best you can and that's all that really matters. When TNB gets here, then the real marathon will begin.

Congratulations to you and your growing family.

Looks more like a monkey than an alien. Bret...are you a monkey-shifter? ;-)

Bret: Congrats and great post. I was just up last night for 2 hours with my 13-month old and then got on my commuter van to DC at 4:30 this morning. When I get into DC for my day job, I write for a few hours before the other staff arrive and drink a big cup of Joe. I am often tired but the funny thing is that I became way more productive after I had kids. I work full-time, have an 8 year old in addition to the 1 year-old, and am a volunteer proposal writer for my daughter's school. The lack of time is weirdly motivating for me and the story grows best in my head when I am dying to sit down and type. It's true you'll never be the same after the baby arrives but, mostly, you'll be better and even more connected to your writing. Good luck!!!!!!

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