Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Believe - 2011 Tri Season

Dear Coach,

It's been a long off-season (probably too long.)  And now I am ready to swim/bike/run into the 2011 season.  I got some new toys for this season -- a Garmin, leg compression sleeves, arm warmers, a new training partner, new Aquasphere goggles (that actually fit my face) and a new dedication and focus for the season.

As you know, this is my last season in the 35 - 39 year age group category.  I need this year to be THE year to take triathlon to a new level.  That darn 40 - 44 year old category is so DARN fast!!!  I want to be ready for it and need to gain some speed in the 2011 season.

So here is my race plan for 2011

YMCA Indoor Tri - Mar. 7th (just to feel some speed again even though I will still be in the base period)
Eastern States 1/2 marathon - Mar 27th (the end of my base training)
Polarbear Tri - May ?
Mooseman Olympic distance Tri - June 4th
Black Fly International distance Tri - July 9th
Gloucester Fisherman Sprint Tri - August 7th
Age Group National Championship - August 20th
Pumpkinman Sprint Tri - Sept. 10th

My "A" races are definitely the Mooseman, AG National Championships and the Pumpkinman Sprint.

I have been getting back into swim/bike/run gradually but more consistently these past two weeks.  I am following Joel Friel's "Your Best Triathlon" base training so I'll be ready for a butt kicking once I get to you in March.

Coach -- I am being serious -- I am ready for whatever you have to dish out....track workouts, bike intervals until I puke, constant salt water hair......I'm ready.

BTW - I won't be ready for the nutrition portion until after January 1st, 2011.  These are my last few days of indulgent eating.  I know, I know, I know...it just makes me have to work that much harder on 1/1/2011.  But the biggest sacrifice and commitment I am making is to the nutrition piece.


Doing the calculations -- I can shave 4 minutes just by dropping the weight I need to.  You did say we were going to drop my 5k time down 3 - 5 minutes this season.  This SCARES and EXCITES the heck out of me.  This would put me @ 19:30 - 21:30.  HOLY COW!

I need to get in the right mindset for this.  And the theme for this year (thanks to you and my tri BFF Jen) is BELIEVE.

There are obstacles in my way from now until August -- no doubt.  But if you lay out the plan - I will push, run, bike, swim, crawl, lift, puke, cry and scream my way to the end.  Sometimes for me it is the mental part of triathlon that gets me in the end.  If you provide me the physical tools -- I will work on the mental one:

I will believe.

See you in March coach.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

First "Race" of the Season - a long way to go....

Today was my first race of the new season.  Well……wasn’t really a race – more of an organized run.  It was for Operation Jack, a satellite run for Train for Autism.  My tri BFF Jen talked me into running it and I finally registered the day before.

This was before:

Let’s just say – the during wasn’t pretty.  I definitely had an off-season after my last triathlon.  I trained from January all the way until the end of September and really needed to not do or think bike/swim/run for a long time.  I complied for the most part about the “do” but definitely not about the “think.”  But “thinking” did not help me today. Some "doing" might have made it a lot better.

This morning – 18 degrees.  BRRRRRRR……no……effin BRRRRRRR.  And this would be the one time I don’t bring eight different outfit options with me.  Jen showed up at 7:00 a.m. and I picked up another runner friend, Misty, and off we went up to Southern Maine Community College for the run.
Now – the longest distance I’ve done in a  strictly running race is a 5k.  I actually swore I wouldn’t ever do a 10K – I was going to jump up to the half-iron distance  and skip over the whole Olympic distance triathlon.  Today – I did my first 10K…….and not well.

Granted  -- let me get my “excuses” out of the way:

  1.  Started base training three days ago.  Running on the dreadmill, at a speed I am embarrassed to admit to, yielded a 169 heart rate three days ago.
  2. Prior to three days ago – no running since the third week in November. I was up to 8 miles at that time. After that: nada – because…
  3. I got very sick right after Thanksgiving – bronchitis and pneumonia that basically trashed my lungs for almost three weeks.  Strong, strong antibiotics, and orders forbidding me from running and had to stay out of the cold air as much as possible.

So today was my first 10k “race.”   Two words: it sucked.  The air was so cold and raw that it felt like all my airways constricted.  I was breathing really shallow and basically my lungs burned for the first two miles.  Thank God Jen was there to distract me from myself.  I vaguely remember her singing Christmas carols and pointing out a Santa that had fallen drunk along the route(I think it was an inflatable one – but I can’t be sure.)  The pace was glacial for her – but she is an awesome friend and stuck with me. 

Oh and one more thing about the route – how in the hell can there be that many HILLS in one South Portland neighborhood????  For crying out loud – Jen finally just said “don’t look up.”  She kept asking me these questions – I don’t even remember what she asked me – but my answer was the same “Do you want me to puke?”  Literally, it was the answer to at least four separate questions.

Alas – one foot in front of the other – I finished.  It was one of those terrible, awful runs that you just have to get through.  And I did.  I looked at my Garmin close to the end and realized that I was close to breaking 60 minutes.  I did.  Whew.   

Oh man. Six months from now I need to be sub 45 minutes.  This is where I begin.   Bring it on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If you really knew me.....

Today I gave over a hundred hugs.  Today my principal sat on my lap.  Today I danced on a chair.  Today I put my arm around a kid who mourned the loss of a childhood he never had.  Today was Challenge Day at Biddeford High School.

Challenge Day is a 6.5 hour experiential experience for high school students to help them understand that it is okay for them to be real and show who they really are. 

I’ve done it a few times.  The first time blew me away. I had no idea what to expect.  I had never heard of Challenge Day and knew nothing about it.  The second time, it was good – just not as good as the first time.  I took last year off and wanted to let other teachers have a chance.  And this year, they had trouble finding adult facilitators so I said if they needed me – I would do one of the days.

I expected that the third time would barely register a blip on my emotional temperature. I know the drill -- we play games, listen to the leaders' stories, get in our families and share our stories, walk the line, write our cards and go home feeling good about ourselves and everyone in the room.  I know, I know, I sound kind of jaded.  Yes, all those things happened.  But I decided to make it different today -- for me.

There is a section during the day where they talk about "dropping your water line."  They use an iceberg analogy to explain this.  Icebergs are huge -- but only a little bit shows above the surface.  If you could look below the water -- there is so much more hidden under there.  People are like icebergs.  They only show about 10% of who they are -- mostly their "image."  The other 90% exists below the water line.  This is the real stuff.  This is who you really are.  This is where you hold your emotions like fear, jealousy, loneliness, anger, and your hopes and dreams.  They encourage students to "drop their water line" and show the stuff they hide away.  They encourage the kids to get "real."

Usually when we get to this part of the program, I think through what I am willing to share with students and pre-program it in my brain and then do my sharing.  Today was different.

All the adults have a small "family" group of four or five students. We get together and each student has two minutes to share "If you really knew me you would know...." I had a student who not only the had the courage to share first, but shared the most heartbreaking and heart-lifting story.  For confidentiality purposes - what is said in Challenge Day...stays in Challenge Day.  But let's just say - this kid has NEVER known what it was like to be a child....ever.

In that moment, I forgot what I had pre-selected to share with the students and when my turn came -- I said whatever came into my head and my heart.

It's funny.  The whole program is designed to help students get real with who they are, but today it was me.

If you ever have a chance to be an adult facilitator for a Challenge Day -- do it once.  If you would like to do it in Biddeford -- I can get you in.

Today I played hug tag.  Today I danced an Irish jig with 125 other people. Today I saw a thousand tears fall for all the kids who have been teased or bullied, lost a parent, suffered physical or emotional abuse, or just felt completely alone in a building filled with a thousand other people.

Today I was challenged to "be the change I want to see in the world." (Ghandi)

So, I begin here.

If you really knew me......

You would know that I am most proud of being the first in my family to earn a college degree and now a master's degree.

You would know that the hardest thing I have ever done is let go of a guy I loved who was hurting me.  That sounds like it would be easy to do -- but it truly wasn't.

You would know that one piece of good news from my life this week is that my in-laws want to come and watch me compete at the AG national championships next summer.  It kind of touches my heart that they would want to travel to watch and support me.

You would know that my husband and son are the most important people in the world to me.  Although sometimes I get caught up in my job, activities and interests -- I couldn't derive any enjoyment from those things if it weren't for those two in my life.

You would know that my relationship with my family is complicated.  While I resented my father's stern and gruff manner growing up, I now treasure the moments I have with him.  He instilled in me a strong work ethic and a sense of if I am going to do something -- I am going to do it the right way the first time and to the best of my ability.  He has begun to teach me woodworking and taught me how to build new doors and faceplates for my bathroom cabinets.  He has a heart condition and I worry that I might lose him.  My relationship with my mother is not the same as it once was -- for many reasons.  I need to continue to work at that.  I guess I am at that age where I have begun to truly fear the day I lose my parents.

You would know that my favorite part about teaching is pushing to kids to think.  It's easy to just require students to do work or complete assignments.  It's much more difficult to help kids LEARN and thinking leads to learning.

You would know that my biggest dreams are to write a book, get my doctorate, qualify for Boston and Kona and make Team USA in triathlon.  I might have to wait until I hit the 60 - 70 year old age group to do it :)  But damn it -- I want to wear a uniform that says USA and represent my country at the world championships.  I've often toyed with convincing Cabela's to sponsor me in skeet shooting for the next Olympic Games.  It's one of the only sports I can start now and have a shot at making an actual Olympic team.

You would know I speak my mind.  I hate to hurt people -- sometimes to a fault. I dislike conflict and avoid it for as long as possible -- which I know conflicts with the "I speak my mind."  I am ultra-competitive.  I am a hard worker.  I am a procrastinator. I am afraid of pain.  I love and hate the mental challenge of triathlons.

If you really, really knew me you would know that I'm not as confident or assertive as I appear to be.  I think it is challenging to make real friends.  I have a lot of acquaintances but I tend to personalize EVERYTHING and that leads to insecurities.  I do have a small core of women that I trust and know that I can be "me" around and know that they will support me -- warts and all.

If you really knew me you would know that I am full of contradictions -- good and bad.  And this drives my wonderful husband crazy!

If you really knew me you would know that starting and writing this blog is one of scariest and most vulnerable things I have ever done. I constantly think....why would anyone care what I have to say?

After today, I challenge myself to think....why wouldn't someone care what I have to say?

If I really knew you.....what would I know?

Friday, October 29, 2010

"......dream with open eyes...."

I would like to introduce you all to my my new "boyfriend. "

His name is Andrew Ferrence.  Yeah, I know I'm married.  So is he.  Doesn't matter.  I will forever CRUSH on this guy not only because he is slightly attractive -- *wink, wink* -- but because this is who he really is:

And after the Boston Bruins warmup at last night's game -- he stopped on his way to the locker room and took time to acknowledge a five-year-old little boy and hand him a puck that ALL the Bruins had passed and slapshotted during warmups.  Here is what he did to that five-year-old little boy:

In fact -- I am really impressed with so many of the Bruins players.  Recci stopped and gave Elijah a smile, Shaun Thornton glass checked him, and Tim Thomas stopped right in front of him and gave him a look.

Obviously, they remember being little boys and idolizing NHL players.  It only took a few seconds, but they gave him a memory that will hopefully last him all the way to the NHL himself.  He told me that night that he was going to be a "Bruin" someday.  By God, I believe him.  I'm hoping Andrew Ferrence is still playing then. :)

The Bruins game was AWESOME!  It was Milt Schmidt night and they retired his number to the rafters.  Four Bruin legends were on hand to honor him - Cam Neely, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Terry O'Neill.  But it was what the 93 year-old himself said that stuck with me.  He said that "the spoked-B [was] practically my family crest."  And that got me to thinking about how this man just totally gave himself to hockey.  It wasn't just a job to him -- it was his dream and his passion.

He didn't just play for the Bruins.  He was, "an integral part of the 1939 and '41 Cup-winners and as a GM, Schmidt added two more titles to his resume in 1970 and '72" (John Bishop, Bruins.com).  He was a Bruin all the way and now #15 will watch Bruins hockey from high in the rafters forever.

And that got me thinking about about passion and just giving yourself over to something completely and all the way.  I see that in my five-year-old Eli.  He has just given himself over to the game of hockey.  And I'm not talking just likes it -- he IS hockey.  He watches every Bruins game televised, he wakes up in the morning and the first thing he asks (even before Good morning Mommy) if the Bruins won and what was the score, he is hardly seen without his stick and a ball in the house and happily gets up every Saturday and Sunday morning and plays himself.

We sat way up in the balcony of of section 312; row 8.  No one on the ice could see or hear him but it didn't matter one bit to Eli.  You know those CRAZY fans you see at football games who just go ALL THE WAY to cheer on their teams?  That's Eli.  He screamed, taunted, danced, chanted, clapped and roared the entire night and up onto the JUMBOTRON!  He entertained the entire section with his antics.  And let me assure you -- we were ALREADY in the rowdy section!

I just kept looking at him with pride.  He was totally giving himself over to his passion.  He didn't care what people thought of him or how he looked or the fact that no Bruin would know what he did or didn't do.

I love that.  I admire that.  I am going to vow to try and live my life that way from now on -- give myself over to my passions in that pure, uninhibited fashion.

So, triathlon, next year -- it's all about you.  It wasn't an immediate thing with you -- more like a slow burn stoked race by race by race.  But this upcoming season - I am going to give myself ALL THE WAY to you and see what happens.  I am ready to commit - physically, nutritionally and mentally.

I'm yours.  The same way hockey is for Andrew Ferrance, Milt Schmidt and Eli.

This was my beginning....

King Pine Tri - May 2009 (40 lbs. ago)

This was last season....

3rd place 35-39 AG Kennebunk Firemen Tri - August 2010 (40 lbs. lighter)

3rd place 35-39 AG Pumpkinman Sprint - Sept. 2010

Here's to my future:

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." -T.S. Eliot


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Pothole Diatribe

Starting back into training slowly……two runs this week and Total Immersion swimming clinic tomorrow with Celeste (which is great for showing me how much I DON’T KNOW about swimming.)  Coach said to run a few times a week when I feel like it, and do some cross training with other sports – mountain biking, hiking, etc...It’s hard to not start itching to really start TRAINING!!!  Especially when I am reading on other triathlete’s blogs that their base training has begun.  I have to trust in coach’s plan and recognize that the off-season is long and I will be burnt to a crisp by July if I jump back in right now.   In my head I understand, but my heart is saying “GET OUT THERE AND CRANK!”   Thankfully my bike is getting its end of season clean-up/tune-up.

Even if I could start training again, the craziness of school this past week would never have let it happen.   Progress reports, parent teacher conferences, PSATs, department meeting, flooding that closed the school last Friday --- ridiculous!

I almost don’t want to go here right now because it makes me soooooooo freakin’ mad!  But I think I will get up on my educational “soapbox”!

This “documentary” Waiting for Superman has boiled my blood for the past few weeks. Every news network, magazine, newspaper has focused on the issue of education and how much teachers are failing the students and ultimately the country.  It’s funny how all of these panels put together on MSNBC and such all have these education “gurus” who have spent little to NO time in a classroom but seem to have ALL the answers.  Especially that one idiot who said in his closing remark, “If only teachers would give FIVE more hours a week to students….”  Are you freaking kidding me?????  You want to give five more hours in addition to the sixty plus hours I already give?? 

You know what?  I am a damn good teacher.  I don’t mind saying so.  I work hard to engage my students; I work hard to make sure my students LEARN what is expected; I work hard to develop rapport with my students and make my classroom climate safe, and respectful, but still academically challenging.  I DO MY JOB!  And I actually love it.  Did you hear that?  I don’t just like my job – I love it.  But when the measure of my teaching ability comes from a standardized test that was NEVER intended to assess my teaching ability or a student’s knowledge, but was designed to measure  a student’s potential aptitude in college – I FUME!!! Yes, in Maine we use the College Board’s SAT as our state assessment.

I’m not opposed to using standardized tests to give a “snapshot” of a student at one moment in time.  But what I am opposed to is using that type of assessment as the SOLE means of determining the quality of a teacher or a school.  There are plenty of ways to show learning and teaching ability.  I wish someone in Augusta would ask ME!  I could give them a list.

I can’t make all my students care about the SAT.  Some do, some don’t.  And it’s not even care, it’s more like even try.  Some kids know that the SAT does not mean squat to anything – not their credits, not their graduation, not their report cards, not anything.  I have personally seen kids open the testing booklet, write their name and promptly put their head on their desk and close their eyes.  Yes, the kids who are college bound do take it quite seriously, but some kids, whose post-secondary plans do not include a four-year college, do not try at all.  I can talk about all the reasons they should try until I am literally dead – but to some kids it doesn’t make an iota of difference.  Yet, our schools are measured by this. 

Maybe I am way, way off in left field.  Maybe I am the one failing these kids.  Maybe if I was a better teacher, these kids would care and pull themselves out of their generational poverty, substance abuse, fifth grade reading level (don’t get me started on this point), and horrific familial dysfunction and begin to try on the SAT.

Just tell me this.  In what other profession are practitioners held responsible for performance of their charges when the only thing they can control is 75 minutes out of their day?  Are doctors held responsible if their patients do not choose to lose weight?  Are banks held responsible if their customers bounce checks?  Yet, we are held responsible if kids don’t do their homework (or can’t for a variety of reasons), or don’t study for a quiz or don’t bring home notices (we have to call home to make sure parents at least know there was a notice) or try on the SAT.

Of course all can kids can learn.  I'm not one of those teachers who are so totally jaded and close-minded that every educational initiative is scorned and sneered at almost immediately.  

But this is what I believe. 

We expect most babies will learn to eventually walk.  Notice I said eventually.  Babies do not learn to walk at all the same time.  They don't hit twelve months and automatically let go of the coffee table and toddle precariously over to mom's outstretched arms.  Some do it at ten months.  Some do it in fifteen.  Do we categorize moms and dads as "ineffective" parents for the lack of upright mobility?  Of course not.  Babies learn to walk at all different ages, but with practice most do.  Shouldn't we believe the same in our students?

Grade level expectations and standards are arbitrary.  Some random person decided that all kids must be able to add and subtract fractions by fourth grade.  Some random person decided that all kids must be able to recognize run-on sentences by seventh grade.  

Some students enter high school with a fourth grade reading level.  How the hell am I supposed to get them to reading at an eleventh grade reading level in less than three years?  That's eight years of education compacted in less than three!  And for this --  I am held responsible. 
Why am I diatribing (I’m definitely making up a verb here) about this and who the hell cares?  Well, for one it’s my blog.  Love that.  And second, if I am a good English teacher, and I do what I say to do with my students, I need to bring this all around to the beginning and find a thread that runs between it all.  Okay, I am a good English teacher.  I even began writing this post without thinking about where it was headed. But now I need to find the thread.

Third, (about why I am diatribing if you have already forgotten), with all this lack of training hours – I no longer have hours and hours to obsess about all of this educational b.s. on the bike or in the pool.  It’s not all I think about, but it’s a terrific time to just settle into an idea or situation and let it all play out in my head.  Instead of in the water or the road, my internal crap played itself out on the page. 

It seems just a tad safer than forgetting to watch out for potholes.  And yes, the potholes in education and in tri-training SUCK!

How’s that for tying it all together?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fitness falls FAST!!

My alliteration above is nonetheless totally TRUE!  I ended my mandatory rest from everything triathlon today with a five mile run with my friend Jenn.  And right now -- I feel like I've run a marathon.  I need a nap in the worst way.  

When I first starting doing triathlons last year, I would race and then be WIPED for the rest of the day.  This year, I felt like that for the first couple but then, it started getting easier and easier.  I would race and then be ready for the day.  Five miles has done me in.  I am sooooo tired.  Three weeks and I definitely feel my fitness level has fallen. :(

Not all is lost -- I did run five miles.  And it actually went by super fast.  Jenn and I chatted the entire time about everything and I got to try out my new Garmin and loved every time it beeped at me for the mile markers.  I don't quite know how everything works yet but I really really love it.  And now I can't make any excuses to my coach for not following goal pace.  But coach I'm really really bad at math -- literally I would try and do simple addition and subtraction after finishing a zone 4/5 interval and it was like rocket science.

So coach said that I was supposed to run a few times a week for the next month when I felt like it - "keep it easy."  Check!  Got that one in for the week.  Next up will be masters swimming on Tuesday and Thursday.  Hopefully I will be able to just cruise more than push for speed.  But my friend Kristen and I have now announced that ours will be the "fun lane."  I need ideas on how to be "fun" in a masters swim practice.  How about rubber duckies and beachballs?

The last thing I am going to start to focus on is the nutrition piece.  I got a HUGE wakeup call from Jenn about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  I kind of already knew it wasn't good for you and all that, but hearing her explanation about the bodies inability to break down the chemicals that have been engineered into HFCS and I got scared!  So.....I went on a little walk through my kitchen cupboards and right now I am HORRIFIED!!!!!  So many things that my family eats is loaded with the stuff.  Hello.....even my favorite bbq sauce - Sweet Baby Ray's - lists HFCS as its main ingredient!!!!!  All of Elijah's fruit snacks, Twinkies, cookies, Wheat thins, OMG!!!!!!

I have been able to lose weight during this three week break.  Surprisingly, all I had to do was bring fruits and vegetables for snacks at school and have a lean turkey sandwich.  Clean eating.....who knew?  I can't promise that I won't eat anything with HFCS, but I am going to make a more concerted effort to make better choices at the grocery store and read more labels.

Here goes another school week.  Second blog post and on a roll. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In Medias Res - into the middle of things

I have been thinking about writing a blog for as long as I have known blogs to be in existence.  I guess that would be about three years or so.  But the thing is, I always thought there had to be a "perfect" time to start my blog.  Either it was the start of a school year, the start of a triathlon season, the start of a new diet.  And it seemed that I would never remember at the start of anything, so I never started it.

The term "in medias res" is latin for into the middle of things.  I am a high school English teacher, and my students sometimes have trouble beginning a piece of writing.  And my advice always is "in medias res."  And of course they look at me as if I have just starting speaking in tongues and my head has spun around several times.  But then I explain -- just start in the middle.  I advise them that it's better to jump right into the action.

So I am taking my own advice -- I'm jumping right into the action.  In this case.....my blog.

It's not the beginning or end of my triathlon season.  In fact, it's three weeks into my mandatory rest period.  It's not the beginning of my school year -- progress reports are due on Monday and I'm not done yet. Yikes.  It's right in the middle of nothing and everything and like the title of my blog - I'm trying for everything.

I'm not going to stuff my first post with background stuff.  I'll try and flashback as we go.  I'm deathly afraid if I front-load all the background stuff, I'll end overwhelmed and with nothing at all.

Blah, blah, blah.

Tomorrow -- I resume training.  I am a triathlete and I am finding myself a little tooooooo comfortable with my mandatory break.  Thank goodness for my new friend Jen!!!!!  She is this super fit amazing runner/triathlete/fitness nut that I recently met at my final triathlon of the season and I am going running with her tomorrow and maybe her little munchkin - Lola.  Every time I say her name I also sing the song in my head.  LOLA, la la la la la LOLA.  What a GREAT name!  And can I just say she is super cute and super smart?

My birthday was Tuesday and I got a brand new Garmin that I have been coveting all season.  Thank you honey!  And Jen, Lola and I went to Maine Running Company to spend my B-day $ on a new pair of running sneakers.  I am thrilled that I have been moved out of the super supportive (aka memere-ish looking) stability range and downgraded into the only slightly overpronating line of sneakers.  Much cuter options!

I ended up with the Saucony Glide -- with metallic blue on the sides.  I got talked into a pair of running socks which will probably start a new obsession with Balega Endurance socks.  It doesn't take much.  I also tried on racing flats and checked out a fuel belt.  LOVE, love, love running gear.

Anyway -- my goals for this fall's off season of triathlon are:
  1. focus on running (weakest event)
  2. strength training (starting with Insanity -- crazy, I know)
  3. improve swim technique (Total Immersion clinic with Celeste St. Pierre)
So tomorrow -- I start back into running.  I'm only doing 3.5 to 4 miles at a 9.5 min/mile pace.  And I'll now know my pace because I'm trying out my new GARMIN!!!!  Yea!!! Instead of attempting to do the math in my head when I hit an approximate mile marker.  Very scary.

So...here I go.  :)  I'll fill you in about my tri history and my racing obsession and my school life and my fam....and.....I'll save it all for other posts.