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!

family

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

 

 

 

The good kind of exhausted

It’s no secret that my life is like a 3-ring circus, and most of the rings are of my own doing.  If only I had Hermione’s time-turner, I would be able to stay on top of everything!!  The past few days have gone by in a whirl wind!  I wish I could say my toilets are clean and all the clothes are put away, but (sigh) I cannot.  However, I logged some nice miles over the weekend and spent the rest of it watching Alli’s 10-year-old team dominate the 11s, so the toilets can wait!

First, I’ll get to the running updates:

Thursday evening, we ran hill repeats again.  They weren’t as much fun this time, because my partner had me run them at easy effort on the first 4 repeats.  (I was NOT happy about that, but he didn’t seem to care one bit in the least.)  The last 2 repeats were shorter, but he instructed me to give a hard effort on them.  I clocked a pace that I didn’t even know was possible for me.  OK….I’m not stupid…I know there is NO way I could sustain that pace for any distance at all, but it was a really exciting payoff to be able to see it….attached to ME!  The weirdest thing is that I didn’t go through any stiffness or soreness from this workout.  I’m still not quite sure what to think about that.  When I got home and showered, did some yoga, foam rolled and put on my new Zensah recovery socks.  OH.  MY.  GOSH!  I love them!!  They are amazing and felt sooooo good!zensah

Saturday morning’s long run was to be 10.5 miles, at a god-awfully slow pace.  However, I am coming to understand and appreciate what SLOW runs do for your body, so even tho my partner couldn’t make it for that run I knew I had to maintain the pace.  I kept the pace pretty well through mile 5 with not much fluctuation (SO NOT Jen).  Around mile 6 (when Jen got the run-high), pacing became painfully difficult.  I looked down more times than I could count and found myself close to 1:00 faster than my prescribed pace, but, contrary to my normal response (run the faster pace and just get a little faster), I managed to slow myself and get back into the zone.  This is quite a noteworthy accomplishment and I still don’t know what it means or how I was able to accomplish this on my own.

There really is no better feeling that greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.
There really is no better feeling than greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.
There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.
There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.

Around the time that I started having pacing issues, I also had some minor ITB issues.  I tried not to panic.  I stopped and stretched and continued on the way.  I wrestled with the decision to scrap the run and take a shortcut back, but I decided to continue on.  That was probably Crazy Jen rearing her head, but I can’t keep her locked away ALL the time.  I may be rushing recovery by having entered  a half marathon on 5/3, but logging the miles for that race training run was in the back of my mind.  Throughout the day, I felt that ITB tightness, but stretched as much as was possible (which wasn’t much since I was now camped out at the Dallas Convention Center).  The good news is that it now feels great.  I’m hoping and praying that it is all related to increase in distance from the more focused training I’ve been doing the last 6 weeks.  For now, I’m taking the Scarlett O’Hara approach and have decided I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

After the Saturday long run, I came home and did some recovery yoga and foam rolling.  Then Alli and I packed, frantically, and were off to Dallas for a tournament a the convention center.  Alli’s team played in the Mizuno Lone Star Classic, one of the National Qualifiers for USA Volleyball.  This qualifier is the largest in the nation (fitting, since everything is bigger in Texas) and is divided into 2 weekends…each one with over 100 courts.  The teams are seeded, then divided into pools of 4 teams (sometimes 3 teams due to numbers).  There is an AM wave and a PM wave each day during pool play, then brackets are played out on Sunday.  Most divisions are giving out bids for the Girls’ Junior National Championships, so there are 2 days of pool play for every age group except 11s.  And since Alli’s team is a true 10s team, we were playing in the non-bid 11s division, which meant we only played Saturday and Sunday.

We started our pool on Saturday with our referee duties and I gave our scorekeeper the match off and kept score for her.  Mainly because it would make the match go faster, but I also really enjoy keeping score.  I was much more comfortable keeping score here, rather than Friday night when I kept the books for softball.  (I’m too ADHD to keep up with the base runners!)

The pencils were old and terrible.  HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can't erase? #scorekeepingnerd
The pencils were old and terrible. HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can’t erase? #scorekeepingnerd

Then, it was time for our girls to get to work.  We were in a 3-team pool, and HAD to win both of our games in order to keep our hopes for Gold bracket alive.  The first set was sloppy, but the girls pulled it together and came out on top in the end….29-27.  The next set was a beating and we won 25-6.  We should have won both sets 25-6, but a win is a win.  Next up was an Oklahoma team.  They stomped us in the first set 14-25, but we answered in set 2 for a 25-14 win, finally pulling it out in the tiebreaker 15-12.  These wins put us first in our pool and guaranteed us the right to play for gold on Sunday morning.  However, we had a crossover match later that evening to determine pool seeding for those pools.  AGAIN, playing an Arkansas team, we lost the first set 22-25.  And AGAIN, we battled second set to force a tiebreaker, which we won 15-7.  (WHY can’t they just save my heart and take care of business in 2? LOL)

Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening.  Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL
Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening. Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL

We were back on the court early Sunday to ref, then play our last 2 pool games.   Just like Saturday, we were in a MUST WIN situation.  We had to win both of our pool games to make it to the 8 team gold bracket.  We took care of business 25-15, 25-5 in the first match.  The second match was closer, but we still managed to close it out in 2 games: 25-22, 25-23.  Making it to the gold bracket meant that the lowest we could finish would be 5th of 44 teams.  Sadly, the first team we were to face would be a team that knocked us out at a tournament a few weeks ago, effectively handing us 5th place in that tournament as well.  We played on our heels the entire first set, which ended terribly 8-25.  The girls came ready for battle during the second set, but we made too many unforced errors and ended the game a little short with 19-25.  Our girls were the only 10s team in this 11s division and ended up 5th.  There is NO way we could walk away with our heads down!!

Our girls are so much fun.  I tried to get video of them playing leap frog during the opposing team's warm-ups.  I mean, they ARE Frogs!!
Our girls are so much fun. I tried to get video of them playing leap-frog during the opposing team’s warm-ups but failed. One parent made a snide comment about the goofing off, but what does she know? They ARE Frogs!! (And they are TEN year olds!)

Normal tournaments are exhausting, but qualifiers are exhausting x 10.  We walked out of the convention center at 9:30 Saturday evening and had to be back on the court, ready at 7:30 AM.  I had reserved a room at the Omni, because it is connected to the Convention Center and for too many good reasons to list.  When we got back to the hotel, the wait to eat at the hotel buffet was 1 1/2 hours.  I knew there was NO way we could do that, so, much to Alli’s disappointment, she had to raid her Sunday snack bag.  I assured her we would find something healthy to eat at the concession stands on Sunday….she was SO worried about her healthy snacks!!  (WHY???  I had already successfully bribed motivated her to get her serves in with the promise of a smoothie!)  Since the hotel buffet had been such a fiasco on Saturday evening, I decided to order room service for breakfast so that we wouldn’t be stuck in that same situation again Sunday morning.  She was SO excited when it arrived!  Doesn’t take much to excite a 10-year-old!

Alli had the eggs and bacon.  I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands ;)
Alli had the eggs and bacon. I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands 😉

The Omni did a great thing for the Lone Star guests and set up a room in which we could check our luggage until we were finished in the convention center.  It saved me a big hassle as my car was in the valet.  After we claimed our luggage and finally got our car out of the valet, we were on our way home.  And in less than 15 minutes, Alli had settled in for a nice, long, well-deserved nap.

Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!
Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!

Happy Marathon Monday!!  I’m cheering on all the runners!

Jen

Alli loves Gold!

 

I don't cry over spilled milk, but I do cry over spilled coffee.
I don’t cry over spilled milk, but I do cry over spilled coffee.

Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging….and that is exactly what has happened to me the last few days!  I’ve barely stopped to sleep since Friday….quite frankly: I’m exhausted!!

I was lucky enough to find ripe avocados at the grocery Friday evening.  What else would I do?? I made guac!!!  Now, I’m not one to brag, but I probably make the best guac in Texas…..maybe even the US.  And, just like with my cupcakes, it is ALL from scratch.  You won’t find me using a guacamole seasoning packet! (Yes.  I am a guacamole snob, too)  I start with fresh ingredients….

The limes were a bit camera-shy and failed to make it into the pic.
The limes were a bit camera-shy and failed to make it into the pic.

First, I make pico de gallo from the onion, tomatoes, jalapeno and cilantro.  Then I mash the avocado with a potato masher.  guac

I add pico until it “looks right”, then I season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh lime until it “tastes right”.  It was soooooo delicious!

This weekend Alli’s 10s team played 11s division in their tournament.  Generally speaking, they usually play 12s division because there aren’t always enough 11 and under teams to warrant having a separate division.  Knowing they were playing 11s, I assumed that they would win the tournament, but you never know until you have that medal!  winning

The girls played amazing, as usual!  They went 3-0 (6-0 set count) in Saturday pool play, then rolled through the Gold bracket 3-0 on Sunday, not dropping a set!  They came close in the championship game, however.  They won the first set of championship 25-7, which made them a little cocky, I think.  Set 2 started out disastrously; they were on their heels the entire game!  They were down 8 or 9 points at one point, but kept chipping away at the deficit.   Finally, when the score was 18-23, they got on a roll and closed out the match 25-23.  This is their 2nd tournament championship this season.  They also have a 2nd place finish and 2-5th place finishes (5th place is our lowest finish….can you tell I’m a proud mom?)medals!

Alli was so proud of her medal that she wore it ALL DAY LONG!  She also informed me that she needs a medal holder, since she plans on winning LOTS of gold bling! LOL!!mr sunshine

Luckily, we got home from the tournament early enough that I spent some QT with this lovely ball of fire in the sky.  It was a great day for pool maintenance.  I CAN NOT wait until it is lounging by the pool time!

And: no post would be complete without a run update!!

My last run was Saturday evening.  We ran intervals: 20:1×3.  Felt great the entire time! I had some hip tightness afterwards, but I didn’t freak out!  (Noteworthy!)  I foam rolled and stretched a little more than usual, slapped some KT on it and it feels pretty good!  Next run (TODAY!!!) will be 25:1×3.  We are getting closer and closer to the 30 min intervals <read: FREEDOM from intervals> which means I will be actually TRAINING within a week or two.  My biggest challenge right now is letting go of the “injured” label.  I must shift my thinking and realize that I am recovered, because intellectually I know I am recovered!

 

 

Frozen, Texas style

You can stop worrying….I am surviving the ice/sleet storm, if just barely.  But, this really happened:Texas closed

Maybe not exactly, but pretty much.  Working for a school district, I have been lucky to have both Monday AND Tuesday off!!  Now, I really  wanted to *save* those days for Easter and Memorial Day, but I haven’t wasted one minute of my time off!!  My regular schedule is so packed, generally, that I don’t have a lot of spare time to get things done around the house.  Yesterday, I worked the entire day and got all but 2 things crossed off my list!  I would have tackled those as well, but we got the call fairly early about school being cancelled today, so I decided to relax the remainder of the evening.

Sleet, NOT snow.
Sleet, NOT snow.

Yes, it is white.  No it is not snow.  So please stop saying we had a snow day.  Cold pool

Our poor pool looks SO COLD!!!

The weekend was fun, fast and furious!  Alli celebrated her birthday Saturday by playing in a volleyball tournament.  We were up early and left the house at 6:15.  Our little Frogs played their game and ended up 1st in our pool again!  The funny thing is, we dropped one set, and one of the girls couldn’t believe we got first because “it didn’t feel like we won”.  I love the way these girls just expect that they will win.  They work together so well and in each game, a different player shines.  It has already been a fun season and the best is yet to come!  After play was finished for the day, Alli passed out cupcakes and the girls sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  birthday cupcakes

I knew our little Frogs would have a hard road in the Gold bracket on Sunday.  We easily beat the first team we played.  In the next round, we faced the Texas Pistols – a team that I hadn’t seen but kept hearing about.  They really weren’t better than us.  I was disappointed, actually, in their lack of discipline.  The setter rarely took the second ball….just whomever was close to it would bump it or set it.  They killed us with their serves, though.  We had difficulty passing in the first set and lost 25-18.  We came out ready to play in the second set and had those Pistols on their heels the entire game, but they were able to get the advantage late in the game and won 25-23.  We ended up 5th overall, which isn’t bad for a bunch of 10 year olds playing 12s.

We also wore our “Battle for Bear” shirts in honor Mikayla “Bear” Bass, who was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, which is a disease that causes muscle weakness.  She played for Madfrog and went on to play collegiate volleyball at St. Mary’s University before being diagnosed with this terrible disease.  The family is raising funds for a trip to Russia where Bear would receive a stem cell transplant that isn’t approved by the FDA.  To make the situation even more sad, Bear’s dad has recently been fighting prostate cancer.  You can read more about Bear here.  Battle for Bear

The shirts sales are part of the fundraising effort, but anyone can donate via website link above!