Endless Summer….NOT

Well, here I am, on my LAST day of summer vacation – I must return to work on Monday. <insert sobs here>  Honestly, the summer has flown by and I don’t really have much to show for it.

Ending the volleyball season with a bang 

The first part of the summer was spent shuttling Alli back and forth to practices as her team made final preparations for Nationals.  The last week of June, we all made our way to Indy for our last tournament as 11 year olds, hoping to bring home the gold!!

We were to start play on Tuesday, June 28 but our coach flew in 2 days early (on Sunday) to sight-see and get the team checked in.  When he arrived, however, he started feeling badly – so badly that he went to the ER.  He ended up having an emergency appendectomy on Sunday evening!

Of course, the girls were beside themselves with worry.  They LOVE Josh and wanted him to be OK.  And they depend on him during games to keep them on track and motivated.  Everyone was nervous because we just didn’t know what to expect or how the girls would perform without him on the sideline as he was not cleared to come to the gym on Tuesday.

Our assistant, Courtney (who is a very good, knowledgeable coach on her own), stepped up and led the girls to a 2-1 finish in our first round of games.  The one loss of the day actually put us in a better position going into Wednesday – we were in a pool with much easier teams AND going 3-0 would guarantee us no less than 3rd place.  Josh was back on Wednesday, albeit subdued, and the girls took care of business by beating everyone in 2 sets.

Thursday was bracket day….we were in the gold bracket and only needed to win one game to make it to the finals.  We knew that any team we faced at this point would be tough, but any team we faced could be beaten as well.  The girls came out swinging – I have never seen them play so well and with so much intensity and heart.  The team we were against was a very talented team that received serve very well – a sound passing team is always harder to get out of system.  We lost the first set with a close score of 24-26 but rallied tough and kept them on their heels in set 2 for a 25-17 win which forced a tiebreaker set.  Set 3 looked to be all in our favor until the momentum changed and we ended up with a heartbreaking 13-15 loss.  The fact that the girls were to get a 3rd place medal wasn’t much consolation at this point.  They fought with everything they had but just came up short.  The other team played fearlessly and we ended up playing it too safe after the momentum changed.  It was a hard pill to swallow.  They all wanted to play on the championship court and they all wanted that GOLD medal!  True competitors, through and through!

Parents had a hard time accepting the loss as well.  We all knew that our girls had the ability to win – it just didn’t happen that game.  And the reality was that any of the final four teams could have beaten any of the other final four teams….depending on each game.  The fact that we placed 3rd in the country isn’t anything to be ashamed of.  So many teams never make it to Nationals.  So many teams that make it to Nationals never even medal.  This was an amazing experience and quite an accomplishment for our girls!

I have to say, I have NEVER been more proud of Alli.  She is a talented setter, but has struggled with defense (LONG STORY which I will not bore you with here).  She has blossomed and improved beyond my wildest dreams under Josh & Courtney’s coaching this year.  Her defense at Nationals was RED HOT!  I have NEVER seen her play so well and so consistently.  So proud!!img_9968

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Summer FINALLY started

I counted the end of volleyball as my official start of summer.  The season was so exhausting – club volleyball at any level is quite a commitment, but being on a national team that has a post-season requires even more.  I think it was less the volleyball and more the driving one-hour each way to practice that wore me and Alli completely out!  We were ready for a break, for sure.  The only drawback of the end of volleyball was that I had to intentionally make time to go swim, as I had been using Alli’s practice time to do those workouts.

It still seems as if I have been busy and had no time to check anything off the summer project lists, but I have NO idea what I have been doing.  I have enjoyed having the ability to workout at whatever time I chose during my day.  I have been getting my workouts done…..beyond that?  Not much.  LOL

Always up for a new challenge

I have started experimenting with meal prep.  Marathon training officially starts Monday, after I complete my first sprint triathlon!  I MUST get better at what I eat for lunches at work.  I never eat poorly, but I want to be more prepared and have more nutritious food handy.  I have a good handle on my training  and I know that Brent will have me as fit as I can possibly be to be ready for these upcoming races.  At this point, I feel that getting myself to the next level of nutrition will be the best way to enhance my training and performance.  I love how my journey is always evolving and presenting new challenges to overcome!

When I first started this journey 5 years ago, I started by counting calories.  I would drink half a soda instead of a whole, to cut calories.  Then I realized I didn’t like sodas anymore and cut them out all together.  The next things that I cut were chips and fried foods.  Along the way, I began to look at food differently – as fuel for my body instead of just calories to be counted.  That’s when I began to try to pay more attention to eating food that would nourish my body instead of eating something that was nutritionally void.  And now, I am moving forward again.  I am trying to focus on getting a better balance of nutrients and macros (I’ve been pretty heavy on the carbs! LOL) because I feel that will give me biggest advantage for  performance.

I’m also excited to have been invited to a Wildtree meal prep party.  This will help me in having more nutritious family meals ready to cook and will hopefully help alleviate some of the stress that comes with the full-blown schedule.  Anything I can do to make sure that I am not tempted to take short cuts will pay off in the long run.

And now, I must go and do my last bike workout before the triathlon on Sunday!

Happy Friday!!

Jen

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Blowing through the Windy City

Last Thursday, the girls in my family flew up to Chicago for the Windy City National Qualifier.  Alli and her teammates were looking to get a bid to Nationals in the 12s division.  Luckily, I was able to meet some Twitter running friends and squeeze in some sight-seeing and drink A LOT  of beer before the whirlwind trip was over!  The weather was so cooperative and beautiful – it was *almost* like Texas!!

The Important Stuff: Volleyball

After a series of unfortunate events, we finally opened the door of our hotel room at 11:30 PM Thursday night.  (Hint: this was NOT the way to start a weekend of virtually non-stop volleyball.)  Luckily, Alli was asleep before midnight.  Those few extra moments of sleep didn’t help much, though, because the team was meeting for breakfast in the lobby at 6:45 AM before heading to the convention center to start day 1 pool play.

We were at a disadvantage, as our first 2 matches were scheduled back-to-back.  Our girls played like zombies, as if they had never seen a volleyball before in their life.  We lost the first match in 2 sets (should have easily won) then had to go right into the next match, which would be the most difficult team in our pool.  The girls still didn’t have their wits about them because they had not recovered from the first shocking loss and lost in 2 sets….again.  Me?  I was in my own zombie-like state court side, too tired to care that we had just screwed ourselves for THE ENTIRE TOURNAMENT.

Alli has....defensive issues. I get SO EXCITED when she digs the ball!
Alli has….defensive issues. I get SO EXCITED when she digs the ball!

After a break, we played again and this time, won easily (LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE THE FIRST TWO GAMES!!).img_8001

Saturday proved to be much better and we easily won all 3 matches, even though they still didn’t play up to their normal level.  Sunday play was the same – the competition was a tad bit more difficult but we still pulled off wins easily.img_8007

When it was all said and done, we ended up 9th.  Not too shabby, but still disappointing because we know how much better these girls can play – how much better they actually do play!!img_8029

Running Friends are THE BEST

I have some Twitter friends in Chicago that I was hoping to connect with and…..it worked out!!

Jenn came up on Friday after the tournament and drove me all around Chicago showing me the city.  She even brought me some protein balls so that I could have healthy snacks for the tournament!  She is just as fun and sweet as she comes across on Twitter!  We made it back just in time to have dinner with Alli’s team.  I enjoyed visiting with her so much and am so thankful that I was able to get that opportunity!img_7946

On Saturday, Elizabeth and her husband, Steve, drove in and actually spent the afternoon stuck in the convention center with me!  I am so glad that I was able to meet them both!!  I LOVE Elizabeth and would have been so sad if meeting up hadn’t worked out.  She came bearing gifts as well.  She definitely knows the way to my heart!  (I feel the need to confess that we also had a beer in the hotel bar that is attached to the convention center! LOL)

I shared Jenn's protein balls with Elizabeth :)
I shared Jenn’s protein balls with Elizabeth 🙂
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SO. GOOD!!!

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Wisconsin beer. Pretty damn good.
Wisconsin beer. Pretty damn good.

I am SO LUCKY that my running pal, Rebecca, came along on this trip.  I actually met her through this team and am SO THANKFUL that our paths crossed.  We are actually very compatible runners (or at least I think so), and we had the most wonderful time running along the lake and river fronts early Saturday morning.  This was the highlight of my trip (besides meeting new friends), for sure!!img_7954

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Beer, Beer, more Beer and Other Things

I am not going to lie – I drank quite a bit of beer in Chicago and it was all DELICIOUS!!!  In between my beer breaks, I managed a little sight-seeing.

I downed this in the airport before leaving Texas. It just seemed appropriate.
I downed this in the airport before leaving Texas. It just seemed appropriate.
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The Poet Oatmeal Stout. You can never go wrong with an Oatmeal Stout.
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Eh. I drank this one because it was Easter weekend and this was called Messiah.
Left Hand Milk Stout - my new favorite!
Left Hand Milk Stout – my new favorite!

I took Alli to Dylan’s Candy Bar on Saturday….not surprisingly she claims this as the most treasured part of her trip!img_7979

Sunday included a MUST – deep dish pizza at Giordano’s.  It was SO GOOD.  If I lived in Chicago, I would have to work out a lot more because I would be eating ALL THE FATTY FOOD!img_8044-1

Taylor and I managed to get to “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park on Sunday before leaving for the airport.  Most people call it “The Bean”, because of its kidney bean shape.  Whatever you want to call it – it was cool!img_8054

And, of course, couldn’t resist a pic of the famous “L”!!img_8031-1

I still haven’t recovered from the trip, but it was so worth it!  We had a great time!!

Happy Hump Day!

Catching up before the spring forward!

Honestly, I have really good intentions of regularly posting here, but life just keeps getting in the way!  It takes quite a bit of time to write a blog post – the proofreading is the worst part for me.  If you read my blog much you know that I never actually proofread that well.  Why am I still horrified when I find a gazillion mistakes after the blog is actually posted?!?  (Welcome to the Life of Jen.)

Running

I’ve been doing a fairly decent job of posting running updates. (IF you count race recaps! LOL)  Running is going really, really well.  I can only give credit where credit is due, and that credit is due to my coach.  I find it such a relief that I no longer need to question my training plan (if you could call what I was doing prior to hiring my coach a *plan*).  Probably the best part is that I am not constantly wrestling with my ego.  It is NO secret that my ego got me into lots of trouble where running was concerned.  I am still my own worst enemy, though, as evidenced in yesterday’s bike trainer workout.  I had a pretty hard workout in which I needed to get my heart rate up past a certain threshold, but was unable to get it as high as needed.  I would get very shaky and just wasn’t able to hold the intensity.  Then it hit me – I had not eaten a pre-workout snack.  I thought that my during-workout drink would be enough and I was WRONG.  I was so disappointed in myself.   I SUCK at nutrition in regards to my workouts.  I’m not going to dwell on it, though.  I’m going to do my best to fix it going forward.  Yes, I’ll probably do it again.  I’m not there yet but am getting better….I think.

I have another half marathon next weekend – Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas.  I’m hoping to drop my time just a bit from Cowtown, but this is also a difficult course and I’ll be relying on me, myself and I to push through this time (no Brent to drag me along)….anything could happen.  Right now, the weather looks favorable, but this is Texas and the forecast will change at least 14 times between now and next Sunday.  After RnR Dallas, I’ll have just a few weeks until Ragnar Relay in Austin – I am SO EXCITED!!

After that, and I have been keeping this under my hat (I am SO afraid of failure), my main goal is making a 3:45 marathon.  I have no idea how close (or far away) I am right now.  I know I am loads faster than I was at Dallas, but how much so??  It’s a mystery.  I wish I could add a marathon in this Spring to get a good gauge, but Alli’s volleyball schedule makes it virtually impossible to train for a full.  I have had trouble keeping up with half marathon training! LOL.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to achieve this goal, but they always say if it isn’t just a little bit out of reach, you aren’t dreaming enough.  So I’m dreaming big and I try to remind myself during every workout that any slacking won’t get me to my goal.  I hope this will be the catalyst that helps me move past the tendency I have to let off the gas a bit when I start feeling fatigue.

So what’s been going on outside of running?

Life has been keeping me very busy!  Alli’s volleyball team is really taking shape.  They play SO WELL together, which is a direct result of the great coaching staff on the team.  This is an 11s team playing in 12 Open (the most difficult division) and our region of USA Volleyball (NTR – North Texas Region) is known for its very competitive level of volleyball.  These girls are consistently finishing 3rd or 5th in every tournament.  Of course, they would love to finish 1st or 2nd and earn a medal, but the teams that knock us out are very talented teams that will likely go on to Nationals and finish very high.  Our team is preparing to travel to the Windy City Qualifier on Easter weekend in hopes of earning a bid to Nationals.  Whether we do or don’t, the higher level of competition will prepare us for our own road to Nationals.img_7675

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LOVE how they always put their arms around each other during time outs!
LOVE how they always put their arms around each other during time outs!

 

Logan’s soccer team has one more game before play-offs, and they are also hitting their stride.  Our new coach has been good for this team.  I’ll be honest….when I attended the first scrimmage I was a bit worried about the season….but each game they play better and better!  I am extremely proud of Logan.  He was moved from midfield to defense this season and he has been playing some great soccer.  He seems much more at home in defense and I believe he has positively impacted the team more there than he could have in midfield.JOHN5260

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Spring Break is almost over 😦

I have enjoyed Spring Break SO MUCH, even though it has rained EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I haven’t even gotten that much stuff done, but Alli and I made time to go shopping, I was able to take my mom to her doctor’s appointment, and even seen Race and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  I LOVED Race!!!  I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they like running or not!  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was good in a different way, but after having just seen Race, it pales in comparison.

And now, I need to get in my strength work and get out for a short run before the rains come once again!

Happy Friday!!

Jen

Nailing my speed workout and taking the plunge!

It’s been a long while since I posted.  Club volleyball is in full swing and has taken over our entire life!  I am feeling the need to refocus on #myoneword from 2015: balance, but focusing on it won’t erase all the extra-curricular commitments on my calendar!  This weekend will mark the third weekend in a row of volleyball tournaments, and the fourth in a 5-week time span.  Add in Logan’s soccer games, my workouts and the pile of never-ending laundry and you have one very tired Jen.

Mental prep isn’t just for racing 

Despite of my constant state of exhaustion, I have still managed to execute some pretty sweet workouts, aside from sucking up the speed work!  Thursdays are my speed work days and last night, I FINALLY paced my mile repeats properly.  Since the break after my marathon, pacing on the track has been, ummmmm, challenging.  I have gone out without thinking about how to pace my first interval.  That is, until the warm-up is over, at which point I panic because I feel like I’m running naked and blind!  Needless to say, I’ve been running the first one wayyyyyyyyyy too fast and the rest of the workout basically stinks.

You can’t fix what you won’t change, so I asked for some direction from my coach on Wednesday.  Thinking about how I needed to run the repeats a full day in advance made execution of the workout <almost> a breeze!  OK….I might have thought I was dying by the end, but I did remind myself that I wanted to be uncomfortable this year!  In any case, this was the first speed session this year that I didn’t leave the track angry with myself.  In fact, I might say that I was satisfied!img_7219

Dory makes her debut

I think I may have alluded to the fact that I wanted to make the transition into triathlon.  Just regular tris, NOT Ironman competitions…..yet.  In order to do this, I obviously need to become a swimmer.  Let me be clear: I DIP in the pool; I LOUNGE by the pool; I DON’T “swim”.  One week ago today, after I had gathered all the necessary equipment (this took me the entire month of January – Garmin 920xt, MioLink HRM, swim suit, cap, and goggles), I finally mustered the courage to get in the pool during one of Alli’s practices.  I fully expected to drown.  Thankfully, I was wrong!

I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to swim the entire length of the pool (I DID NOT anticipate being able to do this!).  For the swimmers out there, I know you’re laughing, but this was a BIG DEAL.  I was also able to breathe with proper techniques about half of each lap.  Seriously, I get halfway, become tired and start panicking.  When this happens, I swim the rest of the lap without putting my face in the water.  I didn’t get mad at myself like I usually do when I struggle.  How could I be upset when I faced my fears and had the courage to start?  I swam again Wednesday evening.  I felt more comfortable in the water and even managed a couple of laps breathing properly the entire time!  I am now very excited about this new challenge ahead of me and can’t wait to see improvement over the coming months!!

Branching out into the water has prompted one of my best friends to give me a new nickname: img_7235

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Is there such a thing as too much volleyball?

I love volleyball.  I really do.  But I’m tired. and we’ve only started the season!  Last week, I drove to volleyball 7 out of 9 days.  SEVEN out of NINE days.  Let me remind you that I live 50 minutes from our gym IF there are no traffic problems.  Driving all of those days WORE. ME. OUT.

Even so, I absolutely love it!  Alli is thriving and blossoming on this team.  Both of our coaches are phenomenal and we have the BEST group of girls!  They are an 11-year-old team playing up in 12 Open (hardest 12s division) and winning almost all of our matches.  There is a HUGE difference between 11s and 12s.  It’s almost like the 12 year olds started taking steroids.  The size gap is more like a canyon and the ability/coordination gap is just about as large.  Our girls have very sound fundamentals, which is why they are able to play so competitively in this age group. img_7179

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Why can’t soccer be indoors?

What is the deal with soccer?  It seems like every week we have GREAT weather on Monday – 60-70 and sunny.  Then Tuesday, aka Game Day, rolls around and temps dip into the 30-40s with howling winds.  Have I ever discussed how much I HATE the cold?  Even so, I go to all the games that I am able so that I can support Logan and his team.  This season has been a struggle.  Soccer at BHS is in its 3rd season – EVER – and we graduated some very seasoned and talented players last year.  That isn’t to say that we don’t have talented players now – they just aren’t as seasoned…yet.  But they never give up and fight hard to the finish.  Every game I see improvements, and the games are full of great play so it is fun to watch!  I just wish it was warm!!!

The weekend is upon us!

If I can survive this weekend and the coming week – I’ll have a break next weekend!

Tomorrow I’ll be running Hot Chocolate 15k in Dallas.  I wanted to race it so badly last year when they introduced those gorgeous chocolate bar medals, but, alas, I was still injured.  I really should not have signed up to run this one.  Alli has a tournament and I took a big gamble of missing Alli’s games.  The volleyball and running gods smiled upon me by giving Alli’s team an afternoon pool.  I’ll be running the race in the morning near downtown Dallas, heading back to get Alli, then to downtown again for Alli to play at the Dallas Convention Center.

Alli’s team has a really good chance of a high finish in this tournament – wouldn’t it be cool if we could both medal this weekend?!?

Happy swimming/biking/running/soccer-ing/volleyball-ing!!

Jen

Everything is connected and change is difficult

Of course, the running updates are first and foremost.

Running is going REALLY well.  This past week I have moved from the interval stage of recovery to running without breaks.  Even though that sounds like the most exciting news ever, even more exciting is that my ankles are giving me less and less trouble after each run.  I’ve known for some time that I needed to address strength and mobility issues in my ankles, I just didn’t know exactly what to do.  A couple weeks ago, I read an article that suggested one-legged calf raises while holding a hand weight.  I screen shotted the exercise instructions as I had EVERY intention of going home and doing them that evening.  Except several days passed before I actually did the exercise.  After the not-so-stellar post run stiffness (and soreness) in my ankles continued, I bit the bullet last Monday and started them.

The exercise is so simple that one wouldn’t expect it to do much at all (or at least me, anyway).  Basically, you hold a hand weight in one hand and hold the other hand against a wall for balance.  Then raise up as high on the balls/toes of your feet as high you can and lower slowly down only on the leg (same side as weight).  Do 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg and you’re done!  The weight should be just enough to cause some fatigue by the end of each set.

OH.  MY.  GOSH.  I began feeling the difference almost immediately!  The normal post-run stiffness from Tuesday’s run was at least 50% less than “normal”.  I barely even noticed any stiffness after my Thursday run.  Saturday I ran 6 miles – the longest since my injury – and I had ZERO post-run issues!!

During marathon training, I experienced these same issues with my calves and Achilles, so the feeling wasn’t new to me.  It’s just that my ITB was a bigger problem at the time.  I think that after strengthening my hips, the next weak body part in line was destined to fail and that is how I ended up in a boot in July!  I never cease to be amazed at how everything in your body is connected, especially parts that you wouldn’t expect to have anything to do with each other!  This reminded me of my friend Jane and one of her posts earlier this year.  She actually fixed a hip issue by rolling her foot on a therapy ball!

Recovery is important, too.

I worry about calories.  I know I shouldn’t, but I started this whole running gig to help with weight loss.  While I wasn’t that overweight, I weighed more than I should have and I DO NOT want to go back there.  So sometimes (OK, a lot of times) I don’t want to drink my recovery drink because it seems like a lot of calories to me.  I know that I am eating to run and need to change my mindset accordingly.  I have known this a LONG time, but actually changing my mindset is harder than one would think!  I realize that I wasn’t fueling properly post-run and I know that contributed to my stress fracture.  I won’t be skipping recovery fuel any more, even though I wince at the calories!  These are good calories and I must remember that!

No, it isn't ice cream. It's my recovery drink.
No, it isn’t ice cream. It’s my recovery drink.

Cycling is a close second.

Something exciting happened yesterday morning.  I saw a REAL cyclist on the way to church, and it wasn’t me!! (OK….I’m not saying I qualify as a *real* cyclist.)  In any case, I was so excited that I had Alli snap a pic!  IMG_5083

BTW, I think that the novelty cyclist and I have the same shoes!
BTW, I think that the novelty cyclist and I have the same ugly cycling shoes!

After a mad dash to get Logan a pair of athletic shoes, I went out for a ride myself.  I checked the weather beforehand and learned that I would be facing a 15 mph headwind for the last half of the ride.  That was SO exciting to me….NOT!  Of course, the first half was a breeze – literally.  The last half was a battle between my will power and the wind, but I WON!!

Aaaaaand….I didn’t fall off my bike!  #winning

Change is difficult.

Many of you know that Alli has played for MadFrog Volleyball since she was in 2nd grade.  That is going to change this season, as she will be making a move to Skyline Juniors, another club in our region.

I wanted Alli to play for our high school coach, who also coaches 11s at Skyline, but wasn’t willing to rock the boat with Madfrog for one year with him.  When it became clear that MadFrog might not be the best place for Alli this season, I contacted Coach McKinney immediately.

I’m so thankful that he felt she could contribute to his team!  He is an AMAZING coach and I was terribly sad that Alli wouldn’t get the experience of playing for him this year.  Alli was apprehensive at first….it is so difficult to leave a place so comfortable and familiar and one that feels like home.  It was difficult for her to leave her teammates whom she had grown to love.  However, she is growing to love her new home at Skyline.  She absolutely loves Coach McKinney and his assistant and she has realized that there are good friends to be made wherever she goes!  I can’t wait to see how she grows and matures as a player throughout this upcoming club season!

Callie and Blair - Alli's most treasured teammates ever!
Callie and Blair – Alli’s most treasured teammates ever!

 

Frogs hop into Orlando

I haven’t blogged much lately…..things have been crazy busy!  I was finally emancipated from work last Wednesday (Wednesday the 10th, that is) and I haven’t had time to stop since!

Thursday and Friday (11th & 12th – I feel I must clarify for myself more than anything because it seems so long ago!) were spent shuttling to the last volleyball practice before AAUs and last-minute preparations for the visit of my Uncle Richard and cousins Phil and Mark.  Uncle Richard came in for his high school reunion.  We had a lovely gathering at my house on Friday evening, complete with my sister’s famous chocolate cake and my mom’s homemade strawberry ice cream!

Uncle Richard and my brother Dean listening to my sister, Carol.
Uncle Richard and my brother Dean listening to my sister, Carol.
And the famous strawberry ice cream!
And the famous strawberry ice cream!
No, this is NOT Phil's hat, but he HAD to wear one....because, Texas...
No, this is NOT Phil’s hat, but he HAD to wear one….because, Texas…   He is performing his electrical trick on Avery.  All the kids LOVE it!

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We enjoyed the visit so very much, but it was too short!

Monday morning, I was able to squeeze a run in before we headed for the airport.  We were the last family to arrive for the tournament (had I known what I know now at the time of ticket booking……).  Alli and I rushed off the plane to the car rental counter to pick up one of our cars so that we could get to the opening ceremonies on time.  As luck would have it, there was a weather delay due to lightning, which gave us all the time we needed.

Our little Frogs at the Opening Ceremonies
Our little Frogs at the Opening Ceremonies

The girls were able to walk around the stadium to cheers from fans.  In addition to the slew of Puerto Rican teams, in attendance, I noticed a familiar Maple leaf flag…

The girls exchange tokens before each game.  I wonder if the Canadians brought Maple syrup?
The girls exchange tokens before each game. I wonder if the Canadians brought Maple syrup?

Tuesday morning, we were at the courts bright at early at 7AM, which seemed like 6AM for all the Texas folks.  AAU

The day started with a loss against a strong Puerto Rican team.  (Get used to this….)  Like any good parent, I feel we could have beat them.  *sigh*

The first day, we only had to win one match in order to keep hopes alive for the Championship.  But who wants to stay in the hunt by the skin of their teeth?  We were able to easily win our second match.  The third match of the day should have been the most difficult to win, which had me worried.  I didn’t have a lot of faith in the seeding process regarding the teams that came out of Puerto Rico.  (I’m so tempted to use PR, but PRs are a good thing in running and these Puerto Rican teams were NOT good for MadFrogs.)  The last match of the day went to 3 sets and we squeaked out a win, 15-13.  At least we went into day 2 with 2-1 record….

We were off to a better start on day 2, after winning our first 2 matches.  We knew the last match would be tough (as usual), but the team ended up being more than we could handle and, again, the Puerto Ricans won rather easily.  (By the way, the ONLY American team we faced was on day 1.)  Luckily, top 2 teams in each pool advanced and our hopes for the championship bracket were still alive.  Afterward, the team went out to Downtown Disney for some fun and food.  The girls enjoyed the outing and their meal at Rainforest Cafe. rainforest

We knew that Thursday would be tough.  Not only from the level of play, but from literally playing all day long.  We had 2 morning games at 8 & 9, a game at 1 then another match at 6.  Oddly enough, the match at 6 was the only one that mattered regarding advancement to the championship bracket.  In any case, we were down to 9 teams vying for 4 spots in the championship.  (Only 2 American (and Texan) teams, I might add)alli

In the crossover match, we were ahead and at set point, but could not side out.  We ended up losing 24-26.  HEARTBREAKING.  The second set we came out, guns blazing and won 25-21, forcing a tiebreaker.  But once again, we had trouble breaking serve and ended with a 7-15 loss.  This was the most devastating loss of the tournament, because we all knew (girls included) that we COULD have beat this team.  The loss put us in the consolation bracket which meant the highest we could place would be 5th.  timeout

Friday morning, we played another team that we should have been able to beat.  Once again, we found ourselves in the situation where all we needed was a side out to win and couldn’t force an error.  First set score was 24-26.  We came back to win set two 25-11, and I was hopeful that we would carry that momentum in to the 3rd set for the win.  However, we were unable to return the first serve of the game and the girls imploded.  We lost that set 5-15, which is probably the worst showing for them this entire season.

Our girls were the highest finishing American team in the tournament with our 7th place finish.  I say that like it makes getting 7th easier, only it doesn’t.  I don’t want to seem as if I am not proud of their work.  I’ve never seen them fight as hard as they did this weekend.  They played with heart and determination.  And even though we didn’t get the results for which we were seeking, I am so glad that we played in this tournament.  Our girls had not traveled for a tournament before and they certainly hadn’t played in a National Championship.  This experience will help them prepare for the USAV Girls Junior National Championships next year!

I later learned that the Puerto Rican girls likely attend a volleyball academy in which they attend classes each morning and practice volleyball all afternoon, every afternoon.  If this is the case, our girls did VERY well against them, as they weren’t really much better than us.  They were more consistent with passing and that was the game changer (but isn’t passing ALWAYS the game changer?)

I’ll be blogging about our non-volleyball activities soon after we arrive home.  Until then…

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

Jen

 

 

 

Weekend Warrior

The weekend was eventful in more ways than one and in some ways, I would have preferred not eventful!

Friday evening, Alli was helping her dad make stew by chopping some of the vegetables.  Well….she ended up slicing her finger.  I’ll spare everyone by NOT posting the pics that we took (that Alli showed to ANYONE who would look).  I would like to give a shout out to my friend Jenn in New York for encouraging me to take Alli to get it checked out.  Long story short, we went to an urgent care facility and walked out with a glued finger.

I’m about to admit my short-comings as human being, and more importantly – a mother.  With AAU Nationals coming up within the week, one of the first things I thought was “Oh my gosh….Alli won’t be able to set!” Luckily, I scolded myself for thinking those thoughts (even though it may or may not have been after I realized that her finger would be fine by tournament time).

I have to brag on Alli for a bit, though.  She is the baby of the family, which means she has been coddled more than the other two.  At one point, I worried about whether she would EVER toughen up.  Back in basketball season, she rolled her ankle, walked it off the rest of the period and came back to finish the game (I still get teary-eyed over it), so I knew that she was getting tougher.  She had an extra practice on Saturday evening.  I told her that, as part of the team, she would go even though she wouldn’t be able to set.  She could still serve, hit and possibly pass and if there were drills she couldn’t do then she could help shag balls.  That little stinker ended up setting toward the end of practice.  I could tell that it hurt, because after taking a few balls her hand started shaking when she would put her hands up to set.  She told me afterwards that it did hurt some – not too much, but she felt she could endure the pain because her team needed her.  Now I’m not a proponent of playing injured, but if you are hurt and playing doesn’t further hurt you, I think it is good to work through the pain.  There IS a difference between being hurt and being injured.  The tricky part is to recognize the difference.  Needless to say, I’m proud of the athlete she is becoming.  🙂

Bahama Bucks before practice.  Possibly the best sno cones on the planet.
Bahama Bucks before practice. Possibly the best sno cones on the planet.

Sunday, I found myself at a tea party, hosted by the youth of my church.  They were fundraising to help pay for camps and conferences.  I took one for the team and wore a hat….Mad hatters

We had a very good time!!  Logan was one of the servers.  I’m sure you can sense his excitement, just looking at this photo!

Can't accuse him of not being enthusiastic! LOL
Can’t accuse him of not being enthusiastic! LOL

At the end of the festivities, a prize was awarded for the best hat and my mother won!  Memo tea party

Now on to the training updates!  Friday through Sunday, I racked up 22.6 miles!  Training is going incredibly well, thanks to the direction that my coach/partner has given me.  However, instead of him just telling me how we need to train, I have noticed that I am starting to internalize what he has taught me.  This is a huge transition for me which is really starting to boost my confidence in my abilities as a runner.

Saturday’s training was to be a timed 1:15 run with my goal pace between 11:00-11:15.  Typically, I attempt to run the fastest pace allowed and end up fighting and wrestling with myself the entire run.  I will admit that I was a little apprehensive about having to run it on my own, because I struggle so much with pacing.  This run turned out to be one of those pivotal runs – one that I will no doubt look back up on and realize that it truly was a turning point in my attempts to become a better runner.  I didn’t struggle with pace AT ALL, and almost every mile split was right at 11:15.  Even MORE exciting is the fact that I didn’t deviate from pace much within each mile.  I was truly running that pace.  And if that wasn’t enough, I could tell almost immediately when I deviated from the pace AND possessed the self-control to get myself back on track.  I can’t put into words how monumental this was, except it was AMAZING!!

My partner is suffering from a swollen/bruised ankle & heel, that he suspects is delayed onset from a fall down stairs earlier in the week.  This little development meant that I would have to run our 12 mile long run solo….in the afternoon heat.  Had I known in time, I would have planned to run early Sunday morning, but even he didn’t realize the problem until he was getting ready for work Sunday morning.

So I set out around 6 pm, sun blazing with temp of 94.  Make no mistake about it – this was by far my toughest run since my marathon.  The first 8 miles of my run were every bit as tough as the last 8 of my mara, but I battled mentally and garnered several victories along the route.

Running this tough of a run by myself allowed me to realize how much I have matured the past 3 months.  Here are some things stuck out for me yesterday:

  • I have finally accepted (and genuinely believe) that long runs are about time on your feet – NOT pace.  I was truly satisfied with slowing down when needed.  Old Crazy Jen would have beaten herself up for slowing down.  I think part of that stemmed from the fact that I didn’t feel adequate as a runner if I wasn’t running a certain pace.  I’ve made peace with that – and I am quite happy running a pace that will allow me to improve as a runner and remain injury-free!
  • Now that I have built a good base, I am able to use my heart rate data more effectively during my runs.  I know where my zones are and (this is the kicker!) am willing to slow down when needed to get my heart rate in the proper zone for that run.  (Except Sunday, when it was so hot that I just tried to keep my heart rate below 160, which I know is way too high for a long slow run.  But with more heat training my heart will hopefully adapt.)
  • I no longer run with music.  I can practically hear the gasps from all of you.  Learning to run sans music has been good for me.  REALLY good.  Without the distraction of the music, I am much more in tune with my body and what is going on.  I find it much easier to stay focused on the run, which I suspect has directly resulted in developing my pace-awareness.

I got several “looks” yesterday from people in passing cars.  I’m not sure if I looked that desperate, that horrifying, if they were offended that I had taken off my shirt, or if they simply thought I was insane.  In any case, I didn’t really care.  I felt blessed to be out there regardless of the heat.  I was, however, incredibly jealous of the guy who drove by looking at me while sipping what was surely an ice-cold drink.

Beautiful, but deceiving.  Hard to believe how hot it was when you look at this gorgeous sunset.
Beautiful, but deceiving. Hard to believe how hot it was when you look at this gorgeous sunset.
No, that is not snow....it is part of the "B" on the 50 yard line.  I needed .15 to finish my run and got it on the track :)
No, that is not snow….it is part of the “B” on the 50 yard line. I needed .15 to finish my run and got it on the track 🙂

I work through Wednesday, then my summer will officially begin!

Happy Monday, all!

Jen