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.
After a break, we played again and this time, won easily (LIKE WE SHOULD HAVE THE FIRST TWO GAMES!!).
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.
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!!
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!
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 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!!
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 took Alli to Dylan’s Candy Bar on Saturday….not surprisingly she claims this as the most treasured part of her trip!
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!
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!
And, of course, couldn’t resist a pic of the famous “L”!!
I still haven’t recovered from the trip, but it was so worth it! We had a great time!!
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
I’ve been sucking it up at blogging lately. I envisioned more discretionary time when I decided to take the season off from officiating. That HAS NOT been the case. This is the busiest time of the year as far as work is concerned, however, the non-working hours are flying by! Of course, I’ll blame this on Coach McKinney for twisting my arm into keeping score for our home games this past week. 😉
The time not spent in the gym officiating has been a blessing, though! I have actually been able to spend a lot of time with the kids, for which I am very thankful. Bobby and I even twisted Logan’s arm into seeing Mission Impossible with us on Sunday afternoon. I was more excited about Logan coming along than I was about the movie!
The weekend was packed! Cycling, running, movie, pool party and birthday dinner for Bobby just to name a few.
Marathon Training <GULP>
I realized yesterday that it is time to think about marathon training. I will be running Dallas Marathon on December 13. I considered running a different marathon (for about a nanosecond), but I STILL have unfinished business out on THAT course.
This time around, I’ll be taking a more laid-back approach. I think that knowing I completed my first marathon under hellish body conditions has given me a confidence that I didn’t have before. Before, I thought I could finish a marathon, but now I know I can finish a marathon. The not-knowing-for-sure intensified the obsessive part of my personality (I know – this obsessiveness is news to everyone!) and, as a result, I made marathon training very stressful on myself mentally. Physically, I made marathon training stressful on my body because I ran all my long runs at race pace. (I literally cringe EVERY time I think about it! SO STUPID!!!)
My main goal is to remain injury-free. I haven’t had time to built a good base since my return from the stress fracture two weeks ago. Even though things are going well, it is more imperative than ever that I address every little ache and pain before it blossoms into a full-blown injury. I think that not officiating this season will free up enough time for me that I can stay focused on this part of the process.
A nice distraction from the 16 week plan will be the 2 half marathons that I have on the horizon. Plano Balloon HM is mid-September and I have NO time goal whatsoever for this race. I want to finish. It will be hard not to push myself, but I’m not sure that I will be able to push myself too much regardless. Even though I was able to cycle during my stress fracture, my heart rate during my recent runs is higher than normal. And chances are it will be as hot as blazes on race day! Rock n Roll St. Louis is in mid-October. Hopefully my time will be a bit better by then, but I still don’t expect to post a sub-2 as I had hoped. Who wants to travel for a race and stress about your time anyway! LOL
By focusing on the half marathons, I’ll be half-way through “marathon training” before I give much thought to Dallas. It may not be the best way to PR, but I figure I could walk it and get a better time than I had last year. (Let it go, Jen. Let it go.) Honestly, I would like to run a 4:00-4:15 marathon. Not even sure if it will be possible, but I’m not going to spend much time focusing on it. Plus, if I build my base properly and add in the appropriate speed work, I may just surprise myself!
The bottom line is that I want to run the race healthy, whatever that means for my time. Last year I needed to know that I could finish. This year I need to know what it feels like to run a marathon without nagging injuries. What can I say? I’ll probably never be satisfied!
Time for Truth Telling
Running is going well. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I am still having some issues with ankle stiffness and soreness post-runs. This was very stressful to me at first, because mentally I feel injured and keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. However, the ankles are less stiff/sore after each run and it is all working out more quickly than before. As far as any issues during my runs – I am happy to say I have nothing to report!!
I have worked my way up to 20:1 intervals x 3 without having any problems, so my next run will be a continuous 45 min run! The recovery from that should give me a good gauge of where I stand. If all goes well, I’ll be running a 6 mile long run this weekend in preparation for Plano Balloon Half Marathon!!
I’ll try not to be the sucky-sometimes-blogger in the weeks to come. The start of school on Monday will undoubtedly shock me out of summer mode. I can almost feel my increase in productivity now!
Happy Hump Day AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my very special friend, Carmen!
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!
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.
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…
Tuesday morning, we were at the courts bright at early at 7AM, which seemed like 6AM for all the Texas folks.
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.
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)
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.
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…
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. 🙂
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….
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!
At the end of the festivities, a prize was awarded for the best hat and my mother won!
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.
I work through Wednesday, then my summer will officially begin!
I’ve been in a funk lately. Not a life-funk, but a blog funk. I suspect it has something to do with the end of the school year (I’m barely hanging on by my fingernails!). More likely it has something to do with the fact that I now live in a tropical rainforest….actually, a rainforest without the forest. I am growing weary of having my runs cancelled because of thunderstorms!! And even though the closest tornado has only been about 15 miles from me, enough with the bad weather!
This is the upcoming forecast, which is pretty much the same as it has been for the last month! You can imagine how excited and suprised I was when this beauty popped out at us last evening!
Currently, storms are predicted for Saturday, which is hopefully my new 10k PR day. As of right now, the storms are expected to come in after lunch. <fingers crossed> But, like I said – this is Texas and the forecast changes hourly. Literally.
Non-funky things have been going on in my life, though!! For one, Taylor is home for the summer! I’m not the only one who was beyond excited to have her back!
I’m not sure if I mentioned it or not, but I have been coaching our JV volleyball team in their Spring league games. I have had SO MUCH FUN and I think the girls are learning and improving. We are having weekly practices, but since I had a conflict during practice yesterday, Taylor took over. Taylor is MUCH more qualified and capable than I am, but I still felt as if I was leaving my newborn with a babysitter! When she sent me this text about the practice, it made my day!
Maybe I do have a clue what I am doing! 🙂
Maybe I’m not in a funk after all.
Happy Friday! Don’t forget to take a moment to remember those who have given their lives for our country!
Friday was a really great day. The staff at my school planned a spread just for the office ladies. I have to admit I was a bit nervous, because spread food can be somewhat less than healthy. Of course, everyone I work with knows my eating habits. And this is just one reason I love working here….so many people brought “healthier” versions of food – just for me! 🙂 I was also blessed with this note from a coworker. It completely made my day.
And then, if that wasn’t enough, when the mail came I was completely blown away again!
My Twitter “Sole Sister”, @karaokejennjenn had mailed me a package containing this coffee cup. I absolutely LOVE it!!! I have to say that I’ve had my coffee out of it for the past 3 days!
Friday evening, Alli and I made cupcakes. One of her teammates was having a birthday on Saturday and requested our cupcakes. 🙂 She wanted red velvet, so it seemed like a good time to search for a good red velvet recipe (since I had yet to find one that I thought was satisfactory). I am happy to announce that we found “THE” red velvet recipe. It is soooo delicious!
I’m actually looking forward to whipping these up again, red finger nails and all! LOL
Saturday morning I was out running at 6AM, in order to get my 10 mile long SLOW run in before the volleyball festivities of the day were to begin. I know that no one would believe me if I told them I wore a shirt that said “Minnesota” on it, so I took a pic before heading out.
I feel this needs some explanation…. A LOT of explanation. Because everyone who knows me knows that I am a Texas gal through and through. However, Taylor recently went to Minnesota to a National Qualifier with one of her club’s teams. She found this running shirt in a store and bought it as a souvenir. I actually really like the shirt, even if it does have a weird state plastered on the front of it! 😉
The run was amazing. Absolutely amazing! There really is nothing better than running when the sun comes up. But the run wasn’t without its problems. Last week, I suffered some ITB issues from mile 6 on (and it was a 10.5 mile run). The rest of the day, my leg really bothered me. I have been diligent with my foam rolling and strength training, so I tried my best not to worry. (Those of you who know me know that I failed miserably at this attempt.) It bothered me again just a bit on my next run, but got better each day. This week, ITB started bothering me around mile 5. I couldn’t believe it. I tried not to get too upset about it, but with my history of ITB derailing my race efforts (and my first half marathon of 2015 coming up next weekend), it was hard not to let it get in my head. However, something happened…..by mile 7, it had worked itself out. I have NO idea how this happened, but this gave me hope that I am just working through some issues related to the distance increases. The miracle in all this is that my legs felt AMAZING Saturday afternoon! I couldn’t believe how fresh they felt after driving the distance to the tournament location, then sitting as long as I did. When they still felt so good on Sunday, I really began to get excited. Maybe this actually is related to the distance increases and not the beginning of more problems!
Alli’s team played in the North Texas Region tournament this weekend, in the 12s division. The teams in this tournament were vying for a bid to next weekend’s Region Bid tournament, so they were a higher caliber 12s than we typically play. The girls didn’t play well on Saturday in pool play. We dropped 2 sets (we never drop sets in pool play) and ended up seeded 2nd in our pool, but still earned our way into the Gold bracket for Sunday play.
Sunday morning we faced the Texas Image 12 National team that handed us second place in our first tournament of the year. They beat us 22-25, 23-25 in the finals that day and our girls were so upset! Every single tournament, Alli has asked if this team will be playing in it because she wanted a rematch! The girls seemed so nervous when they found out who they were playing, but they stepped up their game when they went out onto the court. We lost the first set 24-26, after being up 24-17. Heartbreaker….we SO should have won!! The second set we rallied and closed out the set 25-17 to force a tiebreaker. We went point for point in the last set, but ran out of steam and ended up losing 11-15. The girls had nothing to be ashamed of – they were playing against giants!
You can see the size difference in that picture! LOL
I was so proud of Alli this weekend. She really stepped up her game in getting to the ball and rarely called for help. It has been so much fun to see the improvements with all the girls on the team this season! We are now finished with USAV tournaments and can focus all our efforts toward AAU Nationals (and beating the Puerto Ricans) in Orlando in June!
STAAR testing is over!!! (For my elementary campus, at least.) Nothing is as tiring as administering (and taking) this test. I feel like I’ve run 2 marathons over the past couple days! Now all that is left is the waiting game to get our scores, then to see how the GREAT (read sarcastically) Texas Education Agency changed the rules for passing standards and School Accountability standards. Yes, they change the rules AFTER the test is given. Does it make any sense? NO!!!
It is crazy how stressful this test is….on EVERYONE! We had so many kids freaking out. In my humble opinion, 8 year olds should be worried about whether or not it is their turn to get on the monkey bars, not a 4 hour test that may or may not reflect the amount of knowledge and reasoning that is in their brain. Lest I climb atop my soap box, I should just stop now.
On our campus, we dress professionally on test days. Our dress code is more casual most days, but we make exception on test week. This means that one time per year, I don a dress. I always receive lots of comments, because, let’s face it….dresses aren’t my thing and as a result people rarely see me wearing one. Running shoes and shorts are my thing. But to prove that I own a skirt to the rest of the world, I took a pic before I changed into my comfy clothes last night 😉
Back to the test. Taylor was in the first wave of Student Success Initiative, aka SSI, which meant that 3rd graders had to pass Math and Reading tests to move on to the next grade level. I had suspicions of Taylor’s dyslexia in 1st grade but she wasn’t diagnosed until 3rd grade. Taylor ALWAYS had major test anxiety when it came to any English/Reading tests. I remember how off-the-charts nervous she was, anticipating her first Spelling test in 1st grade. At the time, I didn’t realize what was fueling the fear. I kept in communication with her 1st grade teacher, who had NO concerns of dyslexia. Since Taylor’s dyslexia wasn’t severe, she was able to memorize all the words, which made her seem fluent in reading. Her 2nd grade teacher didn’t have any concerns either. However, it caught up with her early in 3rd grade when the focus transitions from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. The words became longer and harder; it became too difficult to keep memorizing all those words AND remember what the passage said.
We were so blessed to have a 3rd grade teacher that knew what to look for as far as dyslexia goes. She asked almost immediately if I would agree to have her tested, and I was so relieved that someone else shared the same concerns that I had! So my good friend, Cindy, who was our district dyslexia therapist at the time tested Taylor and she was put into our dyslexia program. (The program that was developed by Scottish Rite hospital….which made running the Dallas Marathon so special to me, since that is their charity focus!)
The Scottish Rite program is a 2-year program and results aren’t usually noticed until the 2nd year. So, 3rd grade was a stressful year for Taylor. She was SO WORRIED that she would not be able to pass that test. Of course, she passed!! I remember 4th grade seemed a little easier, but she was still nervous about those tests. After she was exited from the program, things started clicking for her and things seemed to come more easily for her each year. She was (and still is) such a hard worker, which paid dividends where her school work was concerned. She ended up graduating in the top 10 of her class and just this week received a math award from Texas Women’s University. I’m so very proud of the wonderful young lady she has become! She is absolutely AMAZING!!
This past weekend while Alli and I were camped out at the Dallas Convention Center for the Lone Star Classic National Qualifier, Taylor was in Minnesota coaching a team at Northern Lights Qualifier. But she kept in contact ALL weekend, wanting updates on how Alli and her team were doing. She called me more times than I can count, including early Sunday morning to talk to Alli and wish her good luck in the Gold Bracket. She also brought home a sack of goodies for Alli, including a Happy Frog Volleyball. Apparently they don’t make MadFrog volleyballs 😉
I don’t think Alli realizes how lucky she is to have such a thoughtful and loving big sister. But I do, and I appreciate Taylor so much for everything she does for our family.
It’s been around 3 weeks since one of my vials of allergy serum was dropped and broken. I went to pick up my new vial on Monday morning. Since a new lab mixed this serum, I have to start back on a minimal dose and work my way up. Translation: Jen is sneezing ALL. THE. TIME. The spacing of these shots is to be every 5 days until I’m worked up to a full dose, but it is growing increasingly difficult to wait! I’m staying focused on the fact that I actually have the serum and a few days of suffering is worth it to have the relief (and be able to breathe) in the long run. However, my friend Carmen sent me this the other day and it seems more true now than ever:
If you are lucky enough not to suffer from allergies, say a prayer of thanks!
I’ll leave you with the beautiful flowers that Alli picked for me! I LOVE Indian Paintbrushes almost as much as I love Bluebonnets!
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!
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.
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!)
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)
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!!
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!
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.
Happy Marathon Monday!! I’m cheering on all the runners!