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,  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 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. 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.