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Sam’s Squad 5k race recap

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (or know me in “real life”), you know that I am not what I’d consider a “natural” runner. What I mean by that is that the sport (hobby? past time?) does not come easily to me, and that I am fighting against genetics and proclivity on each and every run. I did not run as a child or teenager, with the exception of a brief stint as a defensive back on my high school field hockey team for one season, after which I “suggested” to my coach that perhaps I would be better suited to the goalie position, which just happened to involve much less running.

She agreed. I’m pretty sure it pained her to watch me attempt to run almost as much as it hurt me.

This is all to say that when I enthusiastically signed up for the Sam’s Squad 5k charity run, a leadership project organized by one of our seniors to support the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation, I had no idea that he was modeling it after a cross-country workout. When I met with him for his conference for the senior program that I run, I cheerily asked, “So fill me in, where is the route?”, imagining that it would span the local roads around our school.

He began, “Okay, so we’re going to start on the track. Then we’re going to go back in the fields by the community college, loop around there, then come back on the track, then loop on the fields over by the basketball courts, then run along the fence by the playground, then back by the baseball field, then loop again, then finish on the track.”

I blinked a few times. “So…so…it’s not..on…road?”

Him, “Oh no. Only a little bit.”

Me, “So…I’m guessing I won’t get a PR at this 5k, is what you’re saying.”

Him, “Um, well, probably not.”  #understatement

Did I ever imagine I would find myself running a cross-country practice/meet simulation at the age of 43? No, no I did not. But still, I was excited to come support a student endeavor and run with members of our community.

The weather was perfect, overcast and relatively cool for Dallas in mid-October. It was by far the most relaxed race I’ve ever been to, more like how I imagine a group training run put on by a running club would go (not that I would know, since I can barely muster the energy to run, never mind simultaneously extrovert). There wasn’t a clear start time, rather we mulled about chatting until bibs had been picked up, and then my student grabbed a megaphone and called out “Okay, let’s head to the track now!”.

We all (48 registered 5k runners) gathered on the track behind the starting/finishing line, and then he counted us down and we were off. We did a 1/2 loop on the track, then exited through a gate to hit the fields behind the community college campus. Student volunteers were posted at various points along the route to direct us where to go, which for me, was simultaneously fun (since they all know me and cheered me on) and disconcerting (since they all know me and cheered me on). A few senior boys commandeered a golf cart and played “Eye of the Tiger” on full blast as we made our way past them.

While in some places we were clearly running on an oft-used path (well worn dirt trail), in others, we were *literally* running through knee high grass. The New England native in me found myself obsessing on the possibility of ticks, and I kept fighting the temptation to high step to try to avoid touching the grass.

As I exited the community college fields to rejoin the track, I glanced at my Garmin, sure that I had run at least 1 mile. I was already tired, but without mile markers or a familiar route, couldn’t gauge the distance.

Clearly, since according to my watch, I had run exactly .55 miles. Oh dear. Those grass and hills were no joke.

Fortunately, the next section involved some track/parking lot/school drive running, and I was able to get into my normal rhythm for a bit, until I had to turn back on the grass to loop around the school grounds.

I hate running on grass.

As I looped back on the track to begin my 2nd school grounds circuit, I passed my husband and all the other non-runner supporters, who cheered. I looked at him and groaned as I passed.  He ran cross country in high school, so the “off-road” running was familiar to him. He laughed.

I disliked him tremendously at that moment on both counts.

I ran out of gas at exactly 2.1 miles (I know, because I looked at my watch thinking “welp, there goes that sub-10 minute pace I was keeping”). I run-walked the last mile, half-disappointed in myself, but mostly thinking how much I could never do cross country because running on anything other than a treadmill or asphalt makes a normally challenging activity, damn near excruciating.

I finished in 31:46, which all things considered, is okay for my first, and last, cross country run.

Most importantly, over $10,000 was raised for a very worthwhile and important cause, so huge props to my senior who worked hard to put together this race!

 

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Another summer of my discontent: the triathlon version

It’s no secret that, every year, as reliably as the daylight lasts longer and the sun beats brighter, I embark on summer projects.

Last year was the summer runstreak.  The summer before that was a July 4th half marathon and move.  While I’d like to blame my summer brainstorms solely on the restless desire to fill the days while my kids are gone, I’ll admit this is a lifelong affliction.

My husband has titled my (fictitious) novel: The Agony of Goal Setting.

Remember that one time I did a sprint triathlon, in the thunderstorm, and was terrified the entire time on the bike because I have a traumatic history with bikes and everything hurt and I hated it?

But I did pretty well, considering I mostly ran and barely biked or swam for the entirety of my training, and it was my first one, and I did I mention I really didn’t train? I think I rode my bike a total of 5 times before the race, and swam about the same?

I wonder what I could do if I trained? Like, in the summer, when I’m not working 9-10 hours a day, followed by kid activities and dinner-making and homework-overseeing. When my house is empty, with my kids at their Dad’s and my husband at work (he works year-round as an administrator), and I find myself talking to the mastiffs more than is socially acceptable.

So, I’ve decided to do another triathlon. Not another sprint triathlon – I’ve already done one of those, so where is that challenge in that? The next logical step is an Olympic triathlon.

Because what’s the point in a goal unless it scares stretches you?

Have I ever in my life done an open water swim? With the exception of my surf lifeguard certification test 24 years ago, no. No, I have not. Am I scared of swimming in open water? Let’s just say I don’t even snorkel or swim in clear water. Not to mention I was a sprinter. Don’t mistake my former swimming experience with an ability to intelligently race 1500 meters. It will take me the entire summer to train myself not to go out all hell’s bells, then drown in the middle of the lake.

And then there’s the bike. 25 miles. That’s all I need to say about that.

Followed by a 10k run (“only” 6.2 miles, but that’s 6.2 miles after roughly 2? hours of racing, on Labor Day, in Austin. If I’m lucky it will be, oh, only 88 degrees mid-morning.)

I’ve started training. I have a plan, cobbled together by comparing several different plans I found on the internet. I have a practice open water race on July 10th, just to get me out in open water, and feel the distance, before the tri.  I went to a local pool that has long course meters and did a practice 1500m straight, just to see if I would die. I didn’t, although I was very bored.

I’m not going to lie, I’m fairly intimidated by just about every element of this endeavor. Even my slowest half marathons have only lasted 2 1/2 hours; I think this triathlon will take me somewhere around the 3:15 timeframe. That’s a lot of pain. Combine that with Labor Day heat in Texas (and my averse reaction to temps anywhere north of 75 degrees), a crowded open water race in Lady Bird Lake, and 25 miles on a bike (my longest training ride to date has only topped out at 19 miles), and I’m more apprehensive than enthusiastic.

On the other hand, after only a few weeks of training, I’m already seeing my body transform. It’s fascinating, in a science-experiment-kind-of-way, to see my body respond to swimming and biking and weights (oh my!) after 3 years of just running.

Have you done an Olympic triathlon? Experience? Pointers? Warnings?

Millennials get a bad rap and other musings unpublished

Yikes. It’s been almost a month since I posted. Posted, but not composed.

I’ve composed a litany of posts, abstractly. My favorite running mind-float is to write in my head. Sure, I occasionally daydream, (unsuccessfully) practice meditative mindfulness, or (often) run through my weekly lists, but usually, at some point, my mind begins working on posts.

There’s been so much to write about the past month. The inaugural year of the signature program finished its first iteration, mostly successfully. The kids finished their school years, successfully. I made it to summer break, relatively intact. I “wrote” about each of these events during early morning hours on the treadmill.

I had the chance to talk to a former graduate from long ago, class of 2004, I think. She is now an editor at a major publication, and working on a back to school story about navigating the over-scheduled and anxiety-ridden high school years (for both students and their parents). It was amazing, and awesome, to hear her voice again (she’s in New York City, so it was a phone interview). I asked her how she ended up in journalism and publishing, since my recollection was that she went to Brown University as a pre-med student last time I saw her. She marveled that I remembered details about her life; I think most students never realize how much their teachers invest in them. We carry them with us.

I’ve been in education nearly twenty years. Teaching expectations and protocol has changed, significantly, but students not so much. To that end, I think Millennials get a really bad rap. I’ve taught hundreds, probably thousands, of Millennials. Based on the usually-accepted definition of the generation, almost my entire career has been spent, day in and day out, with Millennials.

I said a lot about that topic, in my head, on a recent 19 mile bike ride.

this was my very first “robed” graduation ceremony as a teacher, the class of 1999 (my 2nd year teaching). I was proud to already have my Master’s sleeves!

This month marks ten years since we piled the 3 kids, and cat, in the minivan and drove from Rhode Island to Austin. I could write a novel about my thoughts on the past decade as a Texan after 3+ decades as a Yankee: the culture shock, the life changes, the regrets and rewards. I tried to edit myself down to a meaningful, yet measured, post about that milestone as I swam, lap after lap, during recent swim workouts.

Yes, that IS a portable DVD player suspended from the minivan ceiling. We did not have a system in our van (or apparently, a high standard for vehicular safety). These pics snapped during a particularly horrendous traffic jam, lasting so long that my oldest got out and picked flowers for me on the side of the road. 

I have written many posts, in my head, during the past month. Until school let out, I was simply too busy to write them down. My typical 9 hour work day easily extended to 12 and 13 hour shifts during the last few weeks in May, when many (most?) nights had evening functions, due to my position as a senior program director – not to mention one memorable weekend when I, quite literally, worked virtually around the clock (*mental note to stagger program deadlines next year).

But school has been out for almost two weeks. I can’t blame my work schedule for the dearth of posts recently. Instead, I have been trying to soak up every second with my kids (well, the younger two. The oldest has a summer job and is working ALL THE HOURS. I’m super proud of him but he’s like a ghost around here, albeit a ghost that consumes most of my fridge and pantry when he floats through the house).

The drum is beating, a little louder each day, as the 30 days approaches June 15th.

So I’m making my annual Mother Crab summer visitation distraction plans. I planned a long weekend getaway for July 4th with the husband. I have a summer grant proposal that involves many hours of research and work. I’ve (mostly. Still not totally confirmed. Still feeling out the scary details) decided on this summer’s irrational and painful athletic distraction.

I will blog about that next. After June 15th. Right now I still have 5 days to soak up morning walks, afternoon pool time, frozen yogurt trips, and friend sleepovers.

2016 Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap

On Saturday  Feb 6th I ran the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k. I’m finally posting the race recap a week and a half later, because life is ridiculously, insanely, busy (and it’s about to get a lot worse until the end of May). I have a new position at my school, and the workload is kicking my butt, not to mention the 3 kids are busier than ever.

I write entire novels in my head while on the treadmill, but alas, no time to put fingers to the keyboard.

It was my first Hot Chocolate race (and my first 15k), and the race fit perfectly into my March half marathon training schedule. The weather was absolutely perfect for running – low 40’s, not a lot of wind, cloudy. I wasn’t sure how the race would go, since my training hit back to back monthly hiccups with an injury in December, then bronchitis last month.

I couldn’t have asked for a better race. My goal pace was a 10:45 min/mile (my goal for my half marathon, so I thought this would be a good indicator). My splits were:

  1. 10:35
  2. 10:34
  3. 10:37
  4. 10:36
  5. 10:49
  6. 10:21
  7. 10:40
  8. 10:58
  9. 11:03
  10. 3:23 for the last .33

Average pace: 10:40 min/mile. I know, right?  I was pretty happy.

I’m really trying not to get overconfident or too excited about the March 20th half (my first in a year!), but the training is going well. I’ve also incorporated weekly swim and bike workouts to begin working on my April sprint triathlon.

If it sounds like a lot of training, it is. I’m on a half marathon training schedule (peaking with my mileage the next 3 weeks) while also training for a sprint tri.

My husband has dubbed my (imaginary) novel “The Agony of Goal Setting”.

New Year’s Goals 2015: Retrospective

I wrote last year that I usually make New Year’s goals (which sound more forgiving than resolutions) on January 1st, however arbitrary and contrived. As today is the last day of 2015, I thought I would reflect and recap how much I accomplished (or as the case may be, missed the mark).

1. Run 1000 miles: Welp, fell (165 miles) short on that one. As of this morning’s run, I clocked 835 miles in 2015.

Strangely, I am really, really okay with this.

I’ve written a lot about my ambivalence (antipathy?) for running in 2015. I only ran 1 half marathon (compared to 3 in 2014), and struggled at various points to complete even 3 or 4 slow miles. I’m at the point in my running journey where the novelty of medals and races has worn off, and the dedication and discipline needed for early mornings, careful Friday night pre-long run nutrition, and hours upon hours of pounding pavement (or the treadmill) is wearing thin.

Given that, I’m proud I’ve remained as consistent and dedicated as I have. I’m still running, a lot.  I have races on the horizon. I’m still putting in the miles. So it wasn’t 1000 miles. It was close enough. And it was 835 more miles than I ran for 20+ years of my adult life.

2. Finally break a 30min for a 5k. Done! Not once, but twice. Current PR is sitting pretty at a 29:10. Can I break a 29? I think so, but even if I don’t, I’m happy I hit this.

3. Take my daily vitamins. I hit this goal as well. Did I take my vitamins every single night in 2015? No, but I think it’s a fair estimate that I remembered 5 nights out of 7, on average. That counts in my book.

4. Read for pleasure. Relatively speaking, I did well on this. Whereas relative is in relation to previous years, not necessarily compared to where I would like to be. I did read more. I did not read as much as I felt I should have, or could have. It’s just so hard (insert whiny tone) with the running and the teaching and the reading I do for my courses (which I don’t count as “pleasure”, but is a good amount of reading) and the parenting. And all the television viewing. Ahem. But I guess I can count this as a win, since I did make a concerted effort to read more all year long, and did. Ish.

5. Put down the damn iPhoneDepending on the month, week or day, I either nailed this goal, or failed miserably. After all, I did take a 2 week break, when I abstained (almost) completely. But there were other week periods where I definitely spent too many mindless hours minutes on the little screen.

Overall, much like my reading for pleasure goal, I think it was an admirable effort. I was more conscious of my use, and made a concerted effort to unplug more (or at the very least, felt guilty when I didn’t).

6. The forgiveness thing. What to say about this goal? It’s hard to write about, both for privacy reasons (my kids are getting older), and, well, privacy reasons (I’m well aware this post is being scrutinized). I will say that I had a liberating breakthrough in May after reading Janis Abrahms Spring’s How Can I Forgive You? about reframing my acceptance of what happened during, and following, my first marriage. My goal became less about forgiveness for them, and more about making them irrelevant (for me). Some might argue that the shift is purely semantic, but it gave me permission to not be upset about ongoing issues with my ex husband and his wife, because I’m not trying to get to a different relationship with them. It is what it is.

Did I forgive them in 2015? I got to a place where I don’t even care if I’ve forgiven them, because I just don’t have the emotion invested to reflect on the relationships. I don’t feel like I have much of anything invested at all, except a legal and moral obligation to follow a court enforceable document for 6 more years.

Maybe that’s what forgiveness feels like? I don’t know. I don’t care. I just know I’m in a better place about the whole crazy mess.

Goals for 2016? That will have to wait until the New Year, which I’ll be ringing in with my extended and immediate family. Here’s to a happy, healthy, peaceful 2016 for all.

Social media

“We just love your Facebook posts. Your kids are ADORABLE – you have the perfect family.”

“You do realize how lucky you are, right? I mean, he’s the perfect husband.”

“Mom, don’t put this picture on Facebook or Instagram, okay? I don’t want my friends’ moms to see it and show it to them.”

I’ve heard the previous statements over the past two months, from 1. former students, 2. a colleague and 3. my daughter.  I cringed each time.

Listen, my kids are adorable, but my family is far from perfect. My husband? He’s a gem, and I adore him, but even he would admit that “perfect” is a bit of a stretch. And while I didn’t have any intention  of putting that particular picture up for social media consumption, my 11 year old daughter’s awareness of how she might “appear”, should any of her friends’ moms even see it, not to mention care enough to show their daughters, made my shoulders sag.

The double edged sword of social media.

A couple days ago, I posted this article from the New York Post on Facebook about the negative effects of social media on our society, on our youth in particular, and how it is manipulated to portray a certain image (and yes, I fully recognize the inherent irony in posting the article on social media). By now, nearly 16 years into the digital age of the 21st century, we’re all aware of the “public” nature of social media, and how it can negatively impact us with regard to college acceptance, or employment; we’ve read more than one tragic account of cyberbullying leading to suicide, and  those of us in the field of education speak to our students regularly about “appropriate and responsible” use of social media.

But what about the (arguably) less outwardly dangerous but more insidious impact of social media on our day to day lives?

It’s something I struggle with, a lot.

On the one hand, I love social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram (although I still don’t get Snapchat, at all. I briefly flirted with, then abandoned, Periscope).  I like sharing pictures of my family on Instagram, and Facebook is my primary form of contact with my family and faraway friends. Twitter is my daily chat with my local girlfriends, since our busy career and mom schedules only permit for a bimonthly GNO, if we’re lucky.

Do I try to stay positive in my posts? Focus on the fun stuff my family is doing, or vignettes that I think others might find funny or entertaining? Sure. Am I doing it to try to portray some sort of “image” about my family? Convince people that I have a “perfect” family, the “perfect” husband? Am I one of the people the article warned about, the “friends on social media who contribute to this fake reality”?

Not only does that idea make me cringe (see above), but I viscerally recoil at that notion because I do know others who utilize social media for those purposes. I suspect we all know people who hit “publish” or “tweet” with the express calculated intent of presenting a manipulated facade to the internet world, whether out of self-protection or self-promotion.

Fortunately, my own kids are pretty oblivious. My oldest (15) has an Instagram and Facebook, but rarely, if ever, checks them. My middle (13) and youngest (11) both have had Instagrams and one a Pinterest page for over a year now, initiated and set up at the other house (without discussion with or consent by me), but thanksfully, the interest in Pinterest was short lived, and they rarely get on Instagram. I’ve had to have honest and frank talks with all 3 of them about how social media is manipulated and used by certain individuals, and for better or for worse, my kids understand and “see”  the manufactured image of false realities.

As the article notes, there’s a growing backlash against social media, and I, for one, welcome it. As much as I like seeing pictures and updates from friends and family near and far, there’s something to be said for our flawed, imperfect, but real, lives.

Mother crab

Cancer is the mother of the zodiac.

If you know anything about astrology (and I’ve been a sucker for all things zodiac from a young age), you know that, in profile after profile after profile, the Cancer woman is known for her maternal nurturing (followed closely by her moodiness. Of course, these astrological profiles are never 100% accurate).

Say what you will about the legitimacy of horoscopes, I always felt a sense of recognition reading about my sign. Married at 23 and a mother at 25, I’ve been a caretaker virtually all of my adult life, a role that I willingly chose. Unlike so many of my Gen X peers, particularly those with my level of education and socioeconomic status, especially given that I came from a divorced household, I pursued motherhood young, enthusiastically, and in spades.  On my 30th birthday, I was 6 weeks postpartum from my 3rd child (with 2 additional pregnancies ending in miscarriages).

For me, and I suspect for so many women, the role of motherhood goes beyond care taking and nurturing, beyond the financial support and basic needs, beyond loving my children unconditionally. It’s not just a core part of my identity, but perhaps the sum of my parts; I am a mother more than an educator, a runner, a daughter, sister, friend and wife. Despite my higher education in Erikson and Marcia, and admonishments to my students on oversimplifying characterization, my instinctive and immediate response to “Who am I?” is mother.

And so, five years after my divorce was finalized, I still struggle, every summer.

It is certainly easier than in 2010, when I found myself without my 3 children on a regular basis for the first time in a decade, for the first time ever. When well meaning but completely clueless friends offered laughingly “What I wouldn’t give for a break from my kids!” (word to the wise: that’s just about the worst thing you can say to a newly divorced woman, particularly one who had no choice in the matter) and experienced divorced moms, several years out,  would gently suggest to “take some time for me”. Back then I wanted to punch pretty much everyone in the face, and counted the hours, literally, until my chicks were back under my roof.

It’s easier now. If time does not heal all wounds, it at least lets them scab over.

I still dislike not seeing my children every other weekend and Tuesday nights during the academic year. I hate hearing the other class of 2018 moms talk about “only” having their children definitively home for 3 more Thanksgivings and Christmas mornings and spring breaks, and knowing that for me, as this past year was “my” year, it is only 1.  One. All the benchmarks and milestones that mothers triumphantly yet anxiously mark on the determined march to the empty nest happen to divorced mothers also, only it’s uptempo, beating twice as fast.

I have accepted it with resignation.

But the summer. The summer gets me the most.

Once upon a time, in the (singular) summer post-divorce but prior to remarriage, there was an agreement that the kids would not be away for an entire 30 day stretch. There was more flexibility then, more amicability, of working together to do what was best for the children despite the shocking circumstances of the marital dissolution. Slowly but surely, as so often happens within marriage and divorce, agreements were broken, promises forgotten, the rules changed without negotiation or even discussion.

And so it is that now, years before the expected 2022 empty nest, I find myself spending weeks at a time every summer in an empty house, off of work, with my kids 4 miles away but legally beyond my reach.

I fake it well. I make plans with my husband, with my friends. I come up with crazy fitness challenges. I run half marathons. I move. I teach summer classes and tutor and cook elaborate meals for my husband and organize every closet in the house.

I don’t say much to friends and family about how hard it is; they’ve heard it all before, and no one knows what to say anyway.  By now, it seems, I should have a better handle on this divorced mom gig.

And in so many ways, I do. I am productive, and shed very few tears, and count down the days silently, to myself.  I keep a stiff upper lip, and tell myself to suck it up, that I still have 3 healthy, beautiful kids (when so many don’t), and at least they are being well taken care of (when so many aren’t), and that, heck, in a few short years, they will not be bound by a decreed visitation schedule, and can come and go as they please (how’s that for the ultimate empty nest positive reframe?).

Generally speaking, I am proud of myself, how I handle the summers. How I handle it all. Everything. The absurdity, the ludicrosity, of my so-called life.

I just haven’t figured out yet, no matter how many miles I run, no matter how many books I read, no matter how many cakes I bake, how to feel like there isn’t a part of me, the essential part, the sum that is greater than all the other parts, gone missing without my permission or consent every summer.