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

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!