Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunshine and Sucker Punches

Today is a beautiful day outside. I'd love to be riding my bike or walking the dog. I'm not doing either of those things. Rather, I have spent the last several hours inflicting severe pain by catching up on my grad class this term. It's called "Cultural, Social and Philosophical Issues in Education". Sounds smart right? Well they should have just called it "You Suck."

Basically the entire premise of this class is that the public school system is a sham and we are slowly and painfully killing our children with our current system. The current theme of the week is that school and education are completely unrelated. The sad thing is that I'm starting to agree with a big chunk of what is being said.

Add that to the fact that our preliminary budget for next year came out this week. Next year I look forward to us loosing 17 teachers, 20 assistants, 8-10 furlough days, closing a couple of schools and consolidating others, and a pay freeze. It makes me wonder what the hell I'm even doing anymore.

The irony here? I paid for this! I'm taking this class in my on-going pursuit of my master's degree. Which is of course required to renew my license, so that I can........

wait for it.....

teach in a public school.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sink or Swim

Today was the first day of swimming lessons for the 3rd graders. Most kids have some level of water experience at this stage of life, however through a generous gift of an anonymous donor, each 3-5th grader in my district receives 7 days of swimming lessons each year. As I have experienced so many times before, the first day is almost always a mixture of excitement, nerves and general 3rd grade chaos. Today was no different.

Each session always starts with a basic water proficiency test. The kids gather in the shallow end (about 3 1/2 feet). In groups of 3, the kids jump in and put their face in with arms clasped out front and flutter kick to the middle of the pool. If they are proficient at that, they cross a lane line and do the back stroke. From there they turn directions and do the crawl. Very few 3rd graders are proficient to that stage. Depending on skills and comfort level they are placed in a group by color - Red for those with little to no experience all the way up to Green for the fish of the class. I have a lot of fish this year which was really cool actually. I love swimmer athletes because you can't judge a book by the cover on that one. My best swimmers are those kids who are completely non athletic in any other area. It makes them stealthy rock stars and I just love that! But, I digress. My favorite moment of the day was with one of my less "fishy" kids.

Child "A" has been excited about swimming all year. I had no clue of what was to come. He walked right up to the edge of the pool when it was his turn and he jumped in with the rest of the kids. He jumped in with the confidence of Michael Phelps right up until he hit the water, at which point he started screaming in the loudest voice I have ever heard, "I can't swim, I can't swim, can you people hear me, I said I can't swim". He is flailing arms and legs everywhere, it was like a Tasmanian devil in the pool. I leaned over the edge and said to him "stand up" "Oh", he says. And I see his legs hit the bottom of the pool and about 1/3 of his body emerge from the water as he realizes he is fine. He then spends the rest of the test going through all the hand motions while walking with feet firmly planted on the bottom of the pool. Needless to say, he was placed in the "red" group. He then spent the rest of the swim session, clutching the wall but trying to sneak into another group. I know it is wrong to find the whole thing funny, but I really did.

It all come back to me again tonight when I had my 3rd track session for the half marathon training program. I hate track nights. It is cold and my legs always hurt. I even have fantastic new shoes that proclaim "run happy" right on the box. While they felt soft and nice on my feet, I still had right leg pain that was as annoying as hell. To top it off, we were doing sprint work tonight. Much like my experience of last year, I cranked up the speed and pretty much looked the same as when I have a normal "tempo" run. Whatever, I'm no Usain Bolt.

But my sister is. Well, to me she is. And to the coach too because he was trying to talk her into moving into the fast group. She has been hanging out with me and going way too slow for her own running. I have been trying to go faster, but it isn't fast enough for her. So the coach was telling her how she should move. She tried to hem and haw about how she shouldn't, that she couldn't maintain that fast speed for a long time like the others in the fast group. I could tell the coach wasn't buying it. He told us that you shouldn't be afraid to run fast because it is when you run too slow that you get hurt. She then mentioned that she had noticed that on our run last week when she was running with me that she kept feeling like she was loosing her form. Yes, like I said, I'm slow. I try and I'm faster than I used to be but I'm still slow. And I'm always in pain. Makes me wonder if I would be in less pain if I moved faster.

The whole thing reminded me of my student at the pool this morning. He couldn't swim, yet that didn't stop him from wanting to be with the better swimmers. Maybe he is on to something. I can't run fast, but it doesn't stop me from wishing that I'd be asked to run with the faster runners. I know I'm not one of them but I still wish I was. When I watch the Biggest Loser, they always push the contestants to do things they never knew they could. How do you find that balance between what your mind and maybe even your heart wants and where reality lives. Maybe that is the key that separates athletes from the rest of us. They see the vision and they go for it. Their hearts and minds are in charge.

I don't know how it will all turn out. I know that tomorrow my student will still be in the red group and on Saturday's long run I will still be in the back of the pack. But maybe just dreaming a little of the what if, might be worth a shot. Maybe sneaking into another group for just a glimpse of their world wouldn't be such a bad idea.

My hope for 7 days from now is that my student will take a chance, let go of the wall and get those feet off the bottom of the pool. Maybe I can take some inspiration from that myself and get my feet off the track in just a slightly faster motion. We all need a little inspiration sometimes. Sometimes we need to let go of the wall to be able to break through it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Can I get a matching cape?

So today was the long run day of the week. I have been dreading it since track day on Wednesday. As previously posted, it was a disaster. I even went and got a massage on Thursday after work as an attempt to undo the damage of Wednesday. The massage was only successful in aggravating other areas of my leg that hadn't previously hurt at all. My IT band which I have never even felt before was on fire all night Thursday and all day yesterday. My ankle which had been perfectly healed since last January crunched like a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal all day. I have never eaten so much ibuprofen in 48 hours trying to prepare for the long run of the week.

Last night I drug out my Chi Running video in an attempt to dramatically alter my gate so as to avoid heel striking. It looked too hokey, but I agreed to try and shorten my stride and strike lighter. I got out my compression sleves, went to bed and prayed to god that I could make it through the run.

All night I dreamed of running. I had special coaches, I was living in a studio apartment training my form. I was exhausted from all my running when my alarm went off.

I drug myself out of bed and headed to the coffee pot. My shin still hurt but not as bad as it had. I got ready and realized I hadn't tried my CWX compression tights my sister got me for my birthday. What the hell I though, why not. So I compression rolled myself into them. It was like wrestling a baby into a set of spanks to get them on. I'm slightly too short for the knee spot, but with a little adjusting it worked. I then decided to go for full aid and put the compression sleeve on my right shin to help in any way possible.

We headed to the group and as usual the groups quickly spread out. I needed to run a little slower this week, but still kept it at a jog rather than walk. Did my shin hurt, yes it did, but not as bad as at the track. Interestingly enough, my left knee (the bad one) and my right ankle also hurt, but all of it was tolerable and I finished the entire 5.3 miles in ok shape. It hurt initially when I stopped but after stretching out, I feel pretty good right now. I'm going to ice and ibuprofen again and stretch later, but I actually am somewhat hopeful at this point.

I'm pretty sure it was the tights. My new magical tights. If I could only get a cape to go with them I think I'd be set!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'll take stupid injuries for 100 Alex.

Tonight was another night at the track. I was dreading it. The air was cold, I was running late and my right shin was still crabby from my Monday run. I think it was actually still crabby from my Saturday long run, then my Monday run on top of that. Either way, I had a sinking feeling it wasn't going to be pretty.

But I pulled up my styling $40 compression sleeves which apparently I got in a size too big because I didn't feel any compression at all. I was barely into the first warm up lap when I knew it wasn't going to be my night. First off, I could hardly get warmed up. I'm not sure I could even get blood to all extremities, let alone warm them up. But the searing right shin told me that my old friend is back full force. Yes, I appear once again to have shin splints. This is what has been my arch Nemesis of running since I ran cross country back in high school. It is always, always the shin pain that sidelines me. Last year though I thought I had finally won the war on shin pain. I had run months and months without a peep out of them through trails here and there. But now, due to the knee (which is a whole other blog story for another day), I can no longer run trails except for flat trails. Good luck finding those here in Oregon. Anyway, it is back to the pavement for me.

And apparently back to the battle of the shins. With a twist of course, because the same old stuff would be too easy. No now the shin pain is strictly in my right leg. Left leg feels good as new. Interestingly enough, my left knee is the one injured. But again I digress. Nope, it is the right shin screaming as I run lap after lap on the track tonight. Slow, fast, they both hurt about the same. But heaven forbid I come to a stop and just stand there. That is the worse pain of all. Well, that and the big old pain in my ass this whole stupid thing is in the first place.

So I guess it's back to the mystery files of trying to figure out what works, what doesn't and if it is really worth the effort in the first place.

The positive outcome of tonight's workout? Sarah. She had a great track workout and she looked amazing out there. I know she was cold too, but she didn't look it. She looked all gazelle like once again. And because of her and because we are doing this together I will go pop half a bottle of ibuprofen, haul out my frozen veggies for my legs and hit the couch for a while. Oh, and I"ll probably haul out some plastic on Saturday after our long run so I can head to Eugene Running Company and start searching for the right shoes because clearly these are not them.

Happy trails. Oh who am I kidding, I'd love happy trails, but that ain't gonna happen. I guess I'll settle for not painful pavement.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time Stands Still

This is a picture from this evening. In it are four dear friends. It was taken not more than an hour ago, yet it could have been taken 10 years ago. That is what it felt like when we sat down with Kris and Angie, in town for just a few hours after nearly a decade hiatus. We spent the better part of the mid to late 90s attached at the hip to those two. Angie and I met at our first jobs out of college. Meager wages at a non-profit, but both ready to change the world. It was to this day, my favorite job of my life.

We became fast friends. Kris was a grad student, they weren't even married yet. We were the older "mentor" couple, but they taught us how to have some fun. Camping, Mt. bike rides and a true appreciation for the X-files. We argued endlessly over the meaning behind the meaning of all sorts of things. Kris and Angie cultivated our love for fine wine and good food, mostly prepared in their tiny little duplex. Kris is directly responsible for my love of a big red cabernet and our dog Casey Jones is directly responsible for his conversion to a dog lover and I suspect his current ownership of two Golden Retrievers. We traveled on a four layover Southwest Flight and rented a Chevy Lumnia, just to get to their wedding in Wisconsin. They are two of the best people we have ever known and seeing them tonight brought it all back.

Time and life pulled us apart. Kris graduated and looked for a faculty job closer to their family in the Midwest. Time has brought them two beautiful boys, a lovely house and successful careers. We have visited once, they visited once and there have been e-mails and Christmas cards. If not for Facebook, we might have inevitably drifted completely apart. Thank god for Facebook. I got the message they were coming, and could we meet up which lead to tonight just an hour ago.

Eating dinner together, laughing, sharing stories of family and friends and laughing at the years gone by. Yet it felt as if none had. I guess that is the mark of true friends. You can pick right back up where you left off, as if time has stood still. Now they are gone again, and all I have is the warmth in my heart of a wonderful evening spent with treasured friends. That and a photograph. A photograph and a promise that true friends are worth the effort. I hope we see them again soon. Cheers and safe travels my wonderful friends. We adore you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warp Speed!

Today was the first day of my 1/2 marathon training program. This year I have signed up for an actual program with the local running club. There are coaches, schedules and loads of motivation through other runners. Seriously, there are like 50 or more of us. It is really cool to have all these people together facing a common goal. The ability groups range from the guy that lapped me twice during our 2 mile track work out, to the little old lady who finished 7 out of 8 laps hunched over, but still smiling. It is wonderful to be part of this.

The best part though is the woman beside me. Tall, fit, beautiful and strong. She looks at home in running tights and a tech jacket, like someone off the pages of Runner's World. She is my sister. She is the gazelle and I am the water buffalo. I know that she can run much faster and farther than I can. But she is doing this with me anyway. So I want to do better for her. Normally I run somewhere between 11:30/mi and 12:30 mi. I know that is slow, but I have bizarre lungs and a trick knee (and not a cool trick either). Anyway, tonight, having my sister beside me and the motivation of everyone around us, I kicked it up and was able to run the entire time at a 9:34 pace. Two miles, 2:07 to be exact, at less than 10 minutes. I'm so damn excited and proud of myself I can hardly stand it.

I still feel super guilty that my sister is going too slow, but I have to trust that I will improve and get faster and she really just does want to be with me. I've spent the last 10 years just wanting to be with her, so I'm just going to have to swallow my pride and accept her being right there next to me. Running on a dark drizzle filled Oregon night, counter clockwise around a high school track. At a 9:34 pace, a 9:34 pace! And I can't for the life of me think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Today is my 42nd birthday. That number seems impossible in my head, but I've done the math and my mom has the official paperwork. It's true, I'm 42 years old. Somehow 40 didn't seem too bad, but each year I delve deeper into the decade that is one's 40s I panic a little as January makes it back around.

Well, so far this day has gone really well. I took the day off which was a great move on my part. A student free birthday will be a new tradition! I spent a leisurely morning at home drinking coffee and hording the TV all to myself with General Hospital and The Price is Right. Then came a phone call from a dear old friend. Then lunch with my Mom and Sister followed by a manicure and pedicure. I then picked up the kids from school and am getting ready to eat a delicious Shogun Bowl dinner brought home by Sean. We are going to wrap up the day with a trip out to the farm for some home made cherry chip cake, presents and stories with the kids.

Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start at 42. I'm beginning to train for the first annual Corvallis half-marathon. My goal is to finish it much stronger than I did the dirty half last year. I am in a training group that has a plan. I'm excited and from where I stand right now, I think this is going to be a pretty great year!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chasing Mediocrity

This is a lovely picture from my family's property. It was taken last weekend when we all got together and went on a family hike. It was a beautiful, but cold day. The scenery was spectacular. I wish this was the scenario for everything around me right now. Beautiful and spectacular. This however is not the case.

I feel like I am at a place in life where I am being pulled in so many directions that nothing I do is spectacular nor beautiful. Wherever I am, I can think of a million other things I need to be doing. I'm constantly trying to do a better job at work, do a better job at home, do a better job at school, work out, clean up, tick tock, tick tock. So many directions all demanding so little time. Everything gets a half assed job it feels. Nothing is excellent, nothing is spectacular. Somewhere along the way mediocrity has become the norm.

I have decided that rather than coming up with a ton of New Year's Resolutions that I probably won't keep anyway, I need to focus on living in the moment and really being present in what I do. Wherever I am, I need to be there. Not making mental lists of everything else I need to be doing or worrying about what isn't done. Because there are always going to be things that aren't done. I need to appreciate the here and now because at any given moment that is the only certain thing that we all have. I'm really beginning to see what John Lennon meant when he said "Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans".

So while it is about a week over due, I guess my plan for 2011 is to be present in my own life. To appreciate what I have and to make the most of every day. After all, I have right here in my life, exactly what I want. I have the love of my best friend, I have my family back and really, what more does a girl need?

Well except for beautiful shoes maybe...but otherwise, I'm covered.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye old friend!

2010 was a very good year to me. I'm sorry to see it go. I hope that 2011 can only continue the winning streak I feel like I'm on so far. I will be posting soon about my resolutions and goals so that they are in writing to refer back to when I falter.

But for tonight, I'd like to just say a final thank you to 2010. You exceeded my expectations by allowing the following events to occur in my life;

1. Not only register for, but complete a 1/2 marathon. Rock Star day!
2. Actually compete in 7 events this year. Including 5 running events, 1 stair climb and the warrior dash. Crazy for a couch potato like myself.
3. Rogue made it through the year without a major health crisis. Wow!
4. The rocky road that was my first year at Timber Ridge paved the way to a nice start to this year.

5. My family being returned to Oregon. I know it is a tough transition for all and I hope that 2011 smooths out the rough edges, but seeing them and knowing they are just a 10 minute drive away is an amazing gift that I still can't believe.

Yes, 2010 was a very, very good year.

Happy New Year Everyone!