December 30, 2012

Love for 2012

I became an aunt and godmother to the most beautiful, special little girl ever.  My brother and sister in law had their first baby in January 2012, and even though I didn't get to meet her until March, it was love at first sight.
I got to take three trips to Florida to visit said adorable niece.  I wish so much that she lived closer (and my brother and sis in law too!), but the excuse for a few vacations a year in a warm place is pretty great!
Got to enjoy some fabulous beach running too :)
I lost a job I'd been working my ass off at.  It was unfair and completely devastating...but then, it was the best thing ever.  After working for three years giving my heart and soul to teaching 5th grade students, dealing with difficult coworkers and a principal who I was NEVER good enough for, I realized I'd been set free and given a chance to set roots somewhere else.  Everyone told me that things happen for a reason, and after this year I believe more than ever that that is the honest truth.
Job Interview Time!
I completed two sprint triathlons, in the process conquering my fears of open water swimming, transitions, and basically failure in general.  Crossing the finish lines at my first and second tris--and finishing STRONG--were completely unforgettable experiences.  I love this sport.

I packed up my old classroom and embraced a fresh start at my new job teaching 3rd & 4th multiage at a new building working for the principal who'd first hired me at my old school.  It was absolutely the right decision, and I am so. much. happier.  With the new building, the grade change, my new team...everything.
Bye, 5th Grade!

I learned to embrace the 4am workout--as much as I HATE it--and made an early-morning workout happen once or twice a week since school started.
I read 74 1/2 books (still hoping I finish #75 by before the new year to meet my goodreads goal!!).  
Just a few of my favorites...

I ran, biked, and swam my way through a grand total of 11 races.  Some were fast, some slow.  Some felt easy, others felt way tougher.  All of them represent something I never thought I could EVER do.  All of them will be memories I treasure forever.
From the Chicago Perfect 10, one of my favorite ever races

I decided it was FINALLY time to get my slow legs to the track, do some speedwork, and try and get a little bit faster.  For the past few years I've been content to be a "back of the pack" runner.  I will never be fast by any real standards, but thanks to some hard work, I shocked myself by setting PRs in the 5K (finally breaking 30 minutes!), 10 mile, and half marathon.  I never thought I could run miles under 10 minutes, but this year I did!  A year ago if you asked me if I thought I could run 13 miles in under 11 minutes each, I would have laughed.  But I did!  Like I said, I will never be fast, but this year I learned that if I am willing to set big goals, work my ass off, and refuse to settle for less, I can do anything.
PR in Louisville, KY in April!

PR in Cocoa, FL in November!
2012, you've been a great year and certainly an unforgettable one.  
Here's to making 2013 just as packed to the brim with adventures and filled with beautiful memories.

December 14, 2012

Friday Favorites

Edit: I wrote this post this morning before school, planning on publishing it when I got home.  Now all I can think about is the tragedy in Connecticut.  I'm still publishing it, but with the deep knowledge I can be grateful for any of the small complaints I have about my week because they mean that my students and I are safe.  That's all I can coherently say about this awful, awful tragedy--my heart goes out to teachers, students, and families in Connecticut.

Has this week been about 100 years for anyone else?  Teachers?  I swear, it feels like it started at least a month ago.  Not a single day this week have I not caught myself thinking that it was the next day or even two days later, starting with Monday.  AWFUL.  My kiddos have [thankfully] been holding our routines together and not acting naughty, but this week it seemed like most of them have turned their brains from high power down to medium-low.  #howwillimakeitthroughanotherweek...

Anyways, enough grumbling.  It is Friday after all, so that's something to celebrate!  Some of the things I'm loving right now...

1. My tiny, lame Christmas tree.  Yes, it has one single ornament and is super pathetic, but when Christmas Break feels like it will never come, my tree reminds me that although we have still ANOTHER week of school, it is in fact around the corner.

2. The new pack of Mr. Sketch markers I got yesterday.  Seriously, is there anything better than Mr. Sketch markers?  I'm an anchor chart junkie and pretty much live with marker all over my hands at all times.  I've already used up about half the markers from the pack I bought in August, and I've been getting frustrated that most of my favorite colors have run out.  NOT OKAY.  Was so excited to break into the new box today!

3. The fact that almost ALL of my Christmas shopping is done, and the fact that I did it all while laying in my pajamas in bed last weekend.  A few more orders to place this weekend, then just waiting for it all to arrive! (Oh, and wrapping...not my favorite job...)

4. The fun plans I'm looking forward to this weekend.  After a totally restful yet somewhat boring weekend last week, this weekend is chock full of plans.  Dinner and a movie (Breaking Dawn for the second time...go ahead and judge me, I'm already judging myself...) tonight, spending the day with my cousin tomorrow and catching up with a college friend at night, and finishing up with cookie baking with Mom on Sunday. Perfect.

5. Stations of Christmas music on Pandora...especially while getting ready for school in the morning!
6. December night runs illuminated by housed decorated for Christmas.  I look forward to these every year.  Nothing like looking at pretty Christmas lights to keep up that motivation to run even when the days are short and the nights are cold.

7. The electricity experiments we did in science this week.  I feel like my kids have so little time to EXPLORE in my super structured days.  This week we ditched the science text books, and I checked my control freak self at the door.  Instead of a structured lab or demo, I let the kids explore with wires and batteries and bulbs.  The joy they felt for learning this week was beautiful.
 8. After lunch yoga with my kiddos.  I started this a few weeks ago with a few simple poses and L O V E it.  I have been teaching the kids the Sun Salutation sequence, and today was the first time we were able to actually flow through the poses.  Love that it gets us focused, calmed, and centered for the afternoon.

What are you loving this Friday?

December 12, 2012

More than a Test Score?

 After taking our district's winter standardized tests last week, I had been working on a post about how I get my students all pumped up for our trimester-ly testing in math and reading--you know, the chants, the goal setting, etc.  But today I am in a bit of a funk and testing is the reason why, so that post is on hold for now as I'm experiencing a bit of a teacher-wallow tonight.  Let me back up--we take MAP tests (Measure of Academic Progress--or is it proficiency? who can keep the acronyms straight!) three times a year in math and reading.  The tests are taken on the computer and generate a score, a percentile, and growth targets for winter and spring testing for each student in each subject area.

Our elaborate goal-setting sheets
My district is crazy data-driven, as I know they are all coming to be, and place a lot of weight (read: pressure) on these tests...I'm talking tons of goal setting time, reflecting on the goals, poring over data in fancy schmancy data analysis programs, etc.   We talk about our grade level and classroom's scores at our evaluations (although they are not TECHNICALLY part of them...yet...) and reflect on the students  progress like crazy.  This all means, you guessed it, that the pressure is on like whoa.  When I proctor MAP, I walk around the room sneaking peeks at the kids' questions and responses on their computers, growing more and more nauseous every time I see a kid answer a question wrong.  When they raise their hand to let me know they have finished and that their score is displayed on their computer screen, as I'm walking over to check their score, I am pretty much 100% of the time terrified that they didn't make their growth target or worse--went down a few points.  The kids feel the pressure for sure, but I'm positive that I feel it more.  

We took our Math and Reading MAP tests last week.  My kids did great overall, especially in reading.  We celebrated our growth, recognized our hard work, and were feeling pretty great.  Then today I looked more closely at the data from my math class.  We use a guided math structure in our building and are lucky enough to have a support teacher help out with guided groups a few days a week.  I have 4 groups--an approaching group, a bubble group, and two on/on+ groups.  After trying to cram an entire 90min Everyday Math lesson into 30 minutes, I typically meet with my approaching group every day, then check in with my on groups to answer questions, check work on their independent tasks, etc.  My support teacher meets with my bubble group MWF for a full 25 minutes, then that group is on their own Tuesdays and Thursdays when I don't have the support.  
Goal Setting, Goal Setting, Goal Setting!

I thought this structure was working well for the most part--the kids are doing great on classroom assessments, the high kids who see me very little did AWESOME on MAP and are clearly making growth with the support they are getting, and my approaching group showed some big gains.  However, when I looked closely at specific scores, kids, and growth targets this afternoon, I realized that 6/7 kids in that bubble group made very little growth on their MAP tests.  Crap.

The more closely I looked at the numbers and the more I thought about these kids this afternoon, the more my heart sank.  While my support teacher is great and is a certified teacher, the fact is that she isn't there everyday to work with that group and isn't in the room when I teach the shared lesson for Math so that she can reinforce it verbatim in guided groups.  It's not her fault these kids didn't make growth.  But for me right now I can't escape this awful feeling:

It's all my fault.

Anyone else feel like that?  I sure do.  It's my fault that these kids didn't make more growth--I didn't check in on them enough, I didn't make enough time for them...I just feel rotten tonight.  Last year at my old school, I remember telling friends that I truly felt my administrators believed that if my kids didn't make growth that it would be 100% my fault.  It was awful.  I just want to be clear that I am not getting that message AT ALL this year from my administrators and teammates.  But how can I not feel like that when the data is there in black and white??  

After feeling like an awful teacher and bad person this afternoon--I know, I know, I'm not!--I am thinking about testing.  When did testing become this crazy powerful force?  It's hard to escape the feeling that my worth as a teacher is nothing more than a test score--even though I KNOW my principal doesn't believe that.  Don't get me wrong--testing and accountability and progress monitoring are SO IMPORTANT.  Our testing gives us such valuable data about our kids.  And this particular situation with my kiddos opened my eyes to an issue in my math structure that I can and will correct now, halfway through the year, which is awesome.  It's just so defeating sometimes to think, "Man, I was working SO HARD to make kids A, B, C, and D make did I miss these kids..."
There are just times I look at situations like this or think about how I'm feeling about testing--how much I worry and how many times I go over their scores and growth--and I have to wonder if there's a better way.  My college ed professor had a bumper sticker on her car that said "My Child is More than a Test Score."  I KNOW my kids are more than data points.  They are children.  This test does not measure the joy they experienced as they solved that super tricky math problem or the way they shot up their hand to share a deep thought during our class read aloud.  My kids are more than test scores.  But am I?  Are we as teachers nothing more than our test scores? 

Anyways...I am trying to come up with a coherent closing thought, but needless to say it's been a long day...

Would love to hear your thoughts about testing in general...
Do you get as wrapped up in test scores as me?  

NOTE:  I am 100% NOT writing this post to get affirmations of "You are a good teacher!"  or "Testing sucks!"  Just getting out my thoughts and feelings and looking to hear some of your thoughts too.

November 30, 2012

Guest Post: How the Role of a Teacher Goes Beyond Simply Educating Children

Here is a guest post from health writer Lily Brooke about meeting all children's needs in the classroom by recognizing each child's strengths and weaknesses--including recognizing the signs of different medical conditions.

How the Role of a Teacher Goes Beyond Simply Educating Children

Being a teacher can be a totally rewarding job – in fact there are not many other professions where you can attain the type of job satisfaction that comes with teaching the next generation of young minds. Helping to shape, educate and influence a child is a fantastically gratifying way to earn a living that’s for sure. Teachers have key responsibilities that go above and beyond sticking to the curriculum and coaching youngsters on the fundamentals in education.

As the 31st U.S President Herbert Hoover put it: ‘Children are our most valuable resource’ which is a simple but inspiring quote that helps us to understand the importance of our small people and the affect they will have on the world. As teachers, we have a responsibility to make sure we get the best out of our kids and enhance their individuality. Recognising that not all children are the same is major important key to good teaching. Some are great at writing, others not so. Other kids will succeed in sports, while some sit on the sidelines, some kids struggle with reading and concentration, some are bookworms. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of a child in the classroom, it’s up to the teaching staff to recognise what they are and to do something about it.

Looking for signs that something is wrong in the classroom
Children spend much of their lives at school where they are entrusted into the care of the education system and looked after by us teachers. Teaching is not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic; we have a social responsibility as their entrusted guardians when they are in our classroom. So it’s up to us to spot any potential problems they might be facing. Why does Johnny seem to loose concentration so easily? Is Carla struggling with her writing more than the other kids? Harrison seems to be tired all of the time. Paula cannot seem to make friends with the other children, I wonder why? Katherine seems to be loosing a lot of weight, is everything OK? These are just a few examples of the questions that could fly through a teacher’s mind. It may be difficult to look out for these types of things when you are faced with a classroom of 20 or 30 kids all battling to be heard, but surely it’s the duty of teachers to pay close attention to their little people.

Recognition is often the first step to solving a more long-term problem. So being aware of the different types of disorders and medical conditions within our society is a good start for teachers who are determined to do everything possible for their pupils. Whilst teachers are not experts in medical matters, they are the eyes and the ears of the classroom and are often the first ones to observe unusual behaviour and the early signs that something may be wrong. Teachers may catch a glimpse of a behaviour that makes them wonder if there is an underlying problem that needs to be examined and investigated. Using the examples from above; what if Johnny has the condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? What is the next move? What if Paula struggles to form friendships with the other kids because she has symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome (SA)? Harrison is not a lazy kid at all; he’s actually suffering from an undiagnosed form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that makes him tired all of the time. This is serious stuff and teachers are at the forefront of looking out for the early warning signs of little known conditions that have serious affects on a child’s life. There’s a rich information source available to us with much being written about these types of issues from the likes of the Autism Society and other credible organisations geared towards challenging behaviour in the classroom.

None of us want to label children with a ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’, no way. But teachers are duty bound to educate themselves about all manner of things that could be thrown at them in the classroom and this includes knowing a little about some of the issues affecting children of today. Knowing how to recognise the early signs of a medical condition or a physiological issue could be the start of some much-needed help and support the child needs in order to live a healthy and happy life.

Post written by Lily Brooke

November 28, 2012

Space Coast 13.1 Recap--The Race I Didn't Even Know I Had In Me

Shocked.  Awed.  Amazed.  Overjoyed.  Unstoppable.  Completely exhausted.  These are some of the emotions I was flooded with after crossing the finish line of the Space Coast Half Marathon in Cocoa, Florida Sunday morning.  This race was nothing short of amazing.  After processing it for a few days (and catching up on sleep and school--well, getting as caught up as a teacher can EVER be...), I'm finally ready to write a recap!
Even my niece was there at the finish! :)  
Can't wait til she's old enough to do one of these with me!

First, some back story.  Sub 2:30 has been "someday" goal for me since I started running races.  You know, "someday"...when I'm older/faster/less injured/stronger/have more time to train... Basically it was a goal I wanted to achieve but didn't really think I could, at least not enough that I'd actually, you know, work for it.  I'd always been okay with staying in my comfort zone of around 12:00 miles for any real distances, but as I trained for a sub-30 5K this summer and fall, something started to happen.  I was getting faster--not by chance or by magic, but because I was actually working at it.  I nailed my sub-30 5K back in September and finally began to realize that maybe I'd been selling myself short for awhile.  
Post-5K I focused all my attention on training for the Space Coast Half.  Initially, I was hoping to just come in with a PR (Under 2:37), but after the 5K I started wondering if maybe that "someday" goal was actually within my reach.  During my training, I'd visualize seeing 2:29:59 on my watch as I crossed the finish line of the half.  I pictured it at the track when I was ready to fall over and die half way through my 400s, pictured it when the alarm went off at 4:15am for a before-school run, and pictured it when I was struggling at the end of a long run.  I wrote it on my wall in chalk, in my training log, and all over my brain.  
But when I got to Florida, the doubts started creeping in as they so often do.  Was I really ready?  Did I have it in me?  Would I be able to run that fast after being sick and basically stagnant all week?  The little nagging self-doubt voice in the back of my head told me, "Oh well, if you don't make it, you can always blame it on being sick all week..."  <--i attitude="attitude" know="know" p="p" right="right" winning="winning">
Packet Pickup at Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center
When I lined up at the start at the back of the pack with the other 11:30 runners Sunday morning, I gave myself a pep talk.  I told myself to trust my training, told myself I was READY.  I mentally went over my race plan: hold an 11:30 average for the first couple miles, then gradually take a few seconds off my average pace every mile until the end of the race, finishing around an 11:20 min/mi average pace.  

It was cold for Florida standards at the start of the race!  Yikes!  I was thankful for my arm warmers, but totally was wishing for some throwaway gloves!  For the first few miles, I was averaging between 11:05-11:15 min/mi according to my Garmin.  I'd planned to start a little more conservatively, but I was feeling great.  The course was shady, the views of the Indian River complete with a gorgeous sunrise, swooping pelicans, and waves hitting the shore were stunning, and I was pumped up.  I'd surprised myself with my paces before like at the Perfect 10 race a few weeks back, so I decided to just go with it and see what my legs could do.  Well, they ended up surprising me alright!
I'm not sure when exactly it was, but there was a point in the race where I realized that the 2:30 pace group I'd been lingering around for the first 5 or 6 miles wasn't even in my rear view mirror anymore.  Not only was I going to finish in 2:30, but I was going to CRUSH 2:30.  The average pace on my garmin was showing times I'd never seen on a run over 5 miles, and I was still going strong.  My new "race plan" became "see how many seconds I can shave off this average pace by the end of the race."  

On that note, are you ready for the least flattering race picture EVER?  Because I love you I'm going to share it with you.
Do I look like I'm dying?  At a certain point that's how I was feeling, that's for sure!

Halfway through the race my legs were hurting.  After trading in a taper for a week of almost complete rest thanks to a nasty cold, my legs were pretty tight going into the race (try as I might to loosen them up with the Stick the day before--my IT bands tighten up something FIERCE when I back off TOO much!).  I've definitely had it worse with my ITBS, but I'd get a sharp pain in one of my knees, run through it, then feel it in the other knee a few miles later.  Ouch.  As I got deep into the second half of the race, my legs started feeling just plain tired.  I mean, my muscles were probably confused about the pace I decided to randomly run at, so I should just be happy they kept up!  Anyways, I usually have some kind of mantra come into my head during a long run or race, and Sunday my mind kept coming back to this article from Runner's World I read awhile back...
It must have been months ago that I read it, but it obviously resonated with me enough at the time that I took a picture of it!  I kept telling myself, "Running a PR is supposed to hurt.  I am not afraid of pain."  I'd look at my Endorphin Warrior "FEARLESS" bracelet and push through whatever aches and pains I was feeling.
I need to throw a big thank you into the universe to a stranger named Mark who, when he ran past me as I was walking near mile 12, turned back, motioned "come on" with his hand, and said, "We're almost there."  That was exactly the push I needed to start running again and not stop.  I jogged up near Mark, then passed him, and jogged just in front of him for the next several minutes.  We only talked long enough for me to learn his name, and then I sped up a little and he fell back.  It may seem like nothing, but the interaction was exactly the push I needed.  My knees were hurting, my feet ached, and I was tired, but I dug deep, pushed ahead, and found a new gear I didn't even know I had.  
As I neared the finish, I sprinted past my mom, followed by my brother and sister-in-law, followed by my dad.  There is nothing like having "your people" near the finish to give you that last push you need.  Nothing.  One of my goals for this race was to finish completely on empty, unable to go another step.  I passed several runners as I neared the finish, was momentarily delayed by a group of about 5 girls running side by side down the narrow finish stretch (grr...) before I managed to squeeze by, and crossed the finish line with a gigantic grin on my face and not an ounce of energy left in my legs.

My original goal when I registered for this race: 2:35
My "reach goal" leading up to the race: 2:29:59
My final finishing time: 2:21:21

What a perfect way to end Thanksgiving weekend.  This race made me feel so many things--pride, elation, even relief.  But it truly made me feel GRATEFUL.  I spent so much of my life as NOT a runner.  Then when I finally discovered I LOVED running, I spent so much of my time injured.  Obviously my legs still aren't in tip top shape, but this year and especially this race has made me just so grateful for the gift of running in my life.  Because it truly is a gift.  

Have you ever had something or someone unexpected give you that extra push you needed at the end of a race?

How do you push through the pain in a race when things just start HURTING?

November 26, 2012

A Race to be Thankful For

Happy belated Thanksgiving! :)  Hope you ate tons and relaxed like crazy.  I know I did.  I took a break from blogging because I spent the long Thanksgiving with my family in sunny Florida.  Even though I ended up coming down with a bad cold at the start of the trip, I still enjoyed tons of time with my wonderful family and beautiful niece.  What a perfect way to celebrate all of the things I have to be thankful for.  The highlight of the trip though was the culmination of the past few months of training and a race I'd been looking forward to since I heard about it this time last year--the Space Coast Half Marathon!  I'm still too tired from the trip (and being sick...oh and a crazy Monday back at school with the monkeys...) to do a full recap yet, but here's my favorite picture:

Oh, and by the way...I blew my half marathon PR outta the water!  I dug deep and pulled out a race I didn't even know I had in me, taking over 16 minutes off of my previous PR.  I think I am still in shock.  I can't wait to tell you all about it soon when I can find the words to truly do the recap justice.  :)
All in all, it was an amazing weekend that reminded me about the many, many ways I am blessed and the things I have to be thankful for, including the gift of running.

November 16, 2012

Tommie Copper Shorts Review

Thanks for all of the advice about my running shoe dilemma!  Based on your input and my own gut feeling, I am going to go with my Pure Cadences for the half-marathon.  I already wear them for shorter runs twice a week, and I plan to run a 7 miler on Saturday.  Cross your fingers for me! As one comment said, my calves will be sore no matter what, so better off in the shoes that cause less pain!  Speaking of sore calves... (see how I changed topics all smoothly like that?)

It is no big secret that I capital-L-LOVE compression wear.  I rock my compression sleeves on long runs, my recovery socks post-run, and have lately been loving compression shorts for recovery.  Back in January, I had the opportunity to to try out a few items of Tommie Copper compression gear.  Read my review of their calf and knee sleeves here.  My hips like to tighten up like crazy after long runs, not to mention my ongoing IT band woes, so compression shorts are something I'm a fan of.  I wore a different pair for practically two days straight (no comments on my laundry habits...) after my April half marathon, and was super pleased about their help with my recovery!  
Tommie Copper Calf Sleeves

Recently, I was excited to receive a pair of Tommie Copper compression shorts to review.  The first thing I noticed when I got the shorts was how lightweight they are.  Like other Tommie Copper products, the shorts are thin, stretchy, and have a silky feeling.  My favorite thing about the calf sleeves is that they are so thin I can wear them under skinny jeans.  Win!  The shorts are the same way.  Whereas my other compression shorts can be worn under yoga pants, the Tommie Copper shorts can definitely fit under jeans, a dress, whatever!  They are really thin and comfortable.
My dad took this picture for me.  After, his comment on it was, 'You look really young.' 
Story of my life.

Don't be fooled by the thin, comfortable nature of the shorts--they still do a darn good job as far as compression is concerned.  My first thought with the calf sleeves was that I couldn't believe that they could be so thin and comfortable but still compress, but they totally do.  The shorts are the same way.  I have been changing into them immediately after my long runs lately and wearing them most of the day.  My legs have felt great the next day, hips and all!
What, you don't immediately don compression shorts and eat a PBJ in bed post long run?

While I am usually a strict nike tempo shorts girl on my runs, I wore these for a 3-miler when I first got them just to see how they felt, and I was pleasantly surprised!  The shorts were comfortable, and I really liked the feel of them on a run.  The best part, though, was that I could feel the shorts compressing my IT bands a little bit!!  I have been leaving the KT tape and ITB straps at home for runs 3mi and shorter lately (yay!), but I can usually still feel some tightness or pain by the end.  These shorts are no miracle cure for the ITBS I have been dealing with for 18mos, but on my run I could feel them compressing the IT bands in a good way--does that make sense?  Sound weird?  I don't know, but it was a good thing!
I rocked the shorts under my jeans after the Perfect 10 race last weekend.  
Added bonus--they kind of work like spanx... :)

The only thing that could be improved in my opinion would be a wider waistband.  I'm know I'm not the only girl out there who is not the biggest fan of shorts with a thin stretchy waist because of the inevitable muffin top factor--no good!  A wider waistband more in a yoga pants style would make them way more comfortable to run in IMHO.  Anyways, I give these shorts a thumbs up and will continue wearing them for recovery and on the occasional run!  

DISCLAIMER: Tommie Copper sent me a pair of compression shorts in exchange for writing a review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

November 15, 2012

My Ridiculous Shoe Dilemma...

I have shoe issues.  I'm not talking about my obsession with buying shoes (which is very real and very much an issue...).  I'm talking about my current running shoe major issues.  This is a long one, but I seriously need your help!!!!  Some back story...
I have weird feet.  I also have a really weird stride.  I'm positive this is why I'm always injured  and yes, I know, I need to change my form.... Anyways, when I run I do something weird with my right foot when I hit the ground--I don't really understand what I'm doing  but when I've had my feet filmed on the treadmill at the running store, you can see something a little weird happening with that right foot.  Somehow I think this is connected to the fact that like 90% of running shoes run my right ankle weirdly and uncomfortable when I run in them.  Just the right side, which is why I think it's a stride thing.  I don't really know what I'm doing and therefore have no idea how to change it.  It makes buying running shoes tricky though!  Every pair of Asics, Sauconys, and Mizunos I've tried has rubbed that ankle and been immediately ruled out.  New Balances are hit or miss.  Nikes don't bother me there  but I just don't like them--I think my old nikes were the reason I used to get so many awful knots in my calves.  Since switching to Brooks, I haven't had any issues with calf knots, and they used to be seriously out of hand awful.  I even had a brief membership to Massage Envy to get them professionally kneaded out back when I was training for my first half--only now do I realize it was partly because of the damn shoes.
These Nikes got me through my first 13.1, but they were NOT the shoe for me!
The only brand of shoes I've had consistent luck with has been Brooks.  I bought my first pair of Brooks Ghost 3's back in May 2011 and loved them.  I bought another pair last November and cycled between the two before retiring the first pair.  In May I added a pair of Brooks Pure Cadences to the mix.  I LOVE those shoes.  I still have that second pair of Ghosts because they even after a year they have under 250 miles on them.   I only run 3 days a week since I've been pretty much wearing the Ghosts only on long runs and Cadences in shorter runs during the week, so they've lasted awhile.  However, they are at the end of their lift.   I know some people can get 500 miles out of their shoes, but I can tell these shoes are just DONE.

I saw it coming a few months ago and ordered a pair of Ghost 4s online, figuring they'd be the same as the 3s.  WRONG.  Oh my gosh wrong.  They tweaked them a little bit and now they rub my darn ankle too!
Ghost 4s...They will always look this bright and shiny... :(
GAHH!  Brooks!  You've let me down!  I scoured the internet to try to track down another pair of 3s, but seeing that Brooks is already on Ghost 5s, it is pretty much impossible to find 3s anywhere.  Bummer.
I LOVE my Pure Cadences, but I've never worn them over 5 or 6 miles.  They aren't really a minimalist shoe since they have nice cushioning and a little stability, but they are a lightweight and have a 4mm heel toe drop, a change from Ghosts.  I wear would like to make cadences my primary running shoe because I love the feel of them so much, but planned to do the smart thing and wait until after the space coast half to transition into them. 
Love these shoes.  Love my stretchy laces for triathlon too :)
I planned to make my ghosts last long enough to run the half marathon at the end of this month, then take a trip to the running store to experiment with some new shoes while simultaneously building up mileage on the cadences before the Disney Princess half in February.  

Well, after Saturday's 10mi race, this plan doesn't seem as foolproof as it did before.  I had weird aches and pains in my feet throughout the entire race.  Not fun.  Now, 2 weeks out from the half, I am torn.  Part of me knows it's crazy to run a race in shoes I haven't trained in, but part if me knows that it could be worse to run in dead shoes that are hurting my feet.  What to do???

Option 1: run in the ghosts and cross my fingers that my feet make it through unscathed.
Option 2: run in the cadences and cross my fingers that I don't jack up my feet/legs because I didn't transition to them properly.
Option 3: ???
What do you guys think?? I am leaning towards the cadences.  I've run up to 5/6 miles in them comfortably, and after reading several blogs where runners said they didn't really need a transition period to adjust to Cadences (the worst case I read was some calf achiness...), I'm thinking I should be okay in them.  Not only do I not want to search for a new basic neutral running shoe this close to the race, I don't really have time!  But the injury-phobe in me knows that running a 1/2 marathon in ANY shoe I didn't train consistently in is a mistake...ugh.  Please weigh in...

November 13, 2012

Race Recap: Chicago Perfect 10

Can I just say that I love that the 10 mile race distance is starting to become more popular?  I ran my second 10 mile race this year (and ever) on Saturday, and it was awesome.  Earlier this fall I started looking for longer race distances that would fit nicely into my training schedule for the Space Coast half, and was pumped to discover the Chicago Perfect 10 ten-miler was taking place just two weeks before race day.  I love when a race can neatly take the place of a training run--don't have to worry about carrying my water plus crowd support?  I'll take it. Can I have a race for every long run please?
Love Chicago races. :)
After a 10 mile training run the previous weekend that was less than enjoyable (cold weather, tired body, head not in the game...cut to me watching the miles SLOOOWLY tick by on my garmin as I plugged along...), I started having some self-doubt last week about whether or not a sub-2:30 half is in the cards for me in Florida.  According to the Cool Running pace calculator, I need to maintain an 11:21/mi pace to come in just shy of 2:30.  With my Galloway 3/1 run/walk intervals, though, I am constantly weaving through the crowds to get off to the side for my walk breaks, so I always come in with a little extra distance tacked on at the end of the race.  This means I need to shoot for under 11:21, a pace I've never been able to maintain for a distance like 13.1 miles.  While I've had a few great long runs close to the 11:21 pace, and while I KNOW the long runs are supposed to be SLOW (I know, I know), when I finished my 10 miles 2 weeks ago, my garmin read an 11:50/mi average, and I literally could not have dragged myself through that run a second faster.  I was a little bummed and not so optimistic after that...
Hanging out with Lauren pre-race...the race was delayed HALF AN HOUR because of PARKING issues, so we had lots of sit-around time...
Well, Saturday I got up bright and early to run the Chicago Perfect 10 and gave myself a little pep talk.  Part of me wanted to run the race pretty slow since it was a training run, but another part of me was itching to see how fast I could really run 10 miles.  The beautiful high-50s weather and the even more beautiful course along the lakefront path and museum campus in Chicago gave me the little extra boost I needed to dig deep.
Besides some aches and pains in my feet which I 100% attribute to the fact that my go-to shoes are at the end of their life (more on that later...), I felt great the whole race.  After a speedy first two miles, I forced myself to slow down a bit for the next few before giving myself permission to kick it up again for the last two miles.  I got an awesome surprise just past mile 9 though--my parents!  My dad was standing by the path, camera ready, and my mom was cheering from the car.  I got a big grin on my face, dug deep, and pulled a strong and speedy finish out of my tired feet and legs.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:53:08 with an average pace of 11:13 min/mi.  Holy crap.  I felt great after too--I know I had extra juice left that could have gotten me through 3 more miles at a similar pace.  I FINALLY feel confident that I can finish my half in under 2:30 and can't wait for race day!  Hoping the weather is equally as beautiful in Florida as it was Saturday here in Chicago, and please please please not too hot!!

November 12, 2012

Manic Monday

Happy Monday!  Good ol' Chicago weather took another crazy turn, going from 60 degrees Saturday to a brisk 28 degrees this morning...I even had to bust out the mittens.  Gross.
This morning I started my week off with a new addition to my class--another new student from Syria!  I swear, is there a billboard with blinking lights in Damascus advertising for our school?  This is the FOURTH Syrian transplant to the school this year!  Things seem to be pretty rough there right now, so I'm glad the kiddos are here and safe, but it is certainly challenging!  Thankfully my new little guy speaks fairly good English and is just a few levels behind grade level in reading--phew!  Big difference from the little guy I got a few weeks back who has proven to be a bit...challenging...both in terms of his ELL status and his overall behavoir and personality.  Cultural differences aside, this kid is...umm...quirky...
This morning I was in a bit of a panic over adding ANOTHER new ELL student to my already overflowing room, so I told myself that if I could just get through the day, I could reward myself with a Target trip later.  Nothing says motivation like the big red bullseye!  One busy school day, a tutoring job, and a vinyasa yoga class later, I walked into target for bandaids and toothpaste and left with a $100 bag of stuff including 3 sweaters and a top...How does this ALWAYS happen to me?

Seriously, always.  Anyways, off to finally eat some dinner and catch up on last night's Revenge, followed by an early bedtime...I WILL get up at 4:30 to run tomorrow, I WILL get up at 4:30 to run tomorrow...

Race Recap of the Chicago Perfect 10 mile race coming up tomorrow!

Tell me I'm not the only one who NEVER leaves target under $100...

November 7, 2012

Guest Post: "Helpful Advice for New ESL Teachers"

Hi guys!  I've been taking a mini-break from blogging as I get deal with a mess of end of trimester grading, get my report cards squared away, and finish projects for a grad class that's wrapping up next week.  I'll be back in action once I have my feet back on the ground (hopefully that actually happens!), but in the mean time I'm happy to bring you a guest post from Katheryn Rivas, a blogger for  I shared with Katheryn that I am adjusting to me new role teaching a level 1 ELL student who is a newcomer from Syria, and she agreed to write a guest post sharing some helpful tips for teaching English Language Learners. Enjoy!  :)

Helpful Advice for New ESL Teachers
Being an ESL teacher is no easy job, and it is especially overwhelming when you are new to the game. However, it is also a highly rewarding job that can easily put a smile on your face with every small classroom accomplishment.

If you are new to ESL teaching, you probably have days where you aren't sure if your students will ever learn English! Don't worry; they will. Just keep doing your thing, and everything will fall into place. In the meantime, it helps to search for inspiration and support from other ESL teachers who have been through the same thing as you. Below is a little bit of helpful advice to get you started.

Find a Translator
If possible, ask your school district if they would consider hiring a temporary translator to assist you and your students. The translator does not need a teaching degree, but they must be fluent in both English and your students' first language. This person will serve as the bridge between the teacher and her ESL classroom, until the students know enough of the English language to function on their own. If your school district does not have enough funds to hire a translator, see if you can't find someone who would be interested in volunteering; for example, a college student who is studying your students' first language.

Use is a great online resource that can be used to quickly clear up misunderstandings in communication. For example, let's say one of your ESL students is trying to communicate something to you, but they don't know how to say it in English yet. You can ask them to write it down in their first language on a piece of paper, and then use to translate the phrase or sentence into English. can be used to translate words, phrases and sentences from 15 different languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.

Make a Connection
Imagine that you are one of your students, and try to understand how difficult it would be to learn another language from a teacher who doesn't speak your first language? First, it would be very hard to learn to trust someone with whom you cannot hold a conversation. Second, it would be very frustrating and tiring to try to learn something when you can't ask questions about what you are learning. One way to mitigate this difficult situation is to try to find a way to make a meaningful connection with each of your students. Try learning a few words and phrases in their language. They will appreciate your effort and see that you are truly interested in getting to know them and converse with them. Also, if you have a translator, spend one day in class for "show and tell." This will allow everyone to get to know each other a little better and ease anxieties.

Get Parents or Guardians Involved
If your ESL students are learning English because they are living in a region where English is the predominant language, it is highly important that their parents or guardians play a role in their education. Explain to the parents how important it is for their children to practice their second language outside of the classroom, and encourage them to enroll in an adult ESL class at a local community center or with a private teacher. If your ESL students never speak English at home or in other public spaces, they will have a very difficult time gaining fluency, so parents must also speak English with their children to increase fluency.

Do you have experience as an ESL teacher? If so, what advice do you have for new instructors?
Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and blogger for In addition to writing about all things education, Katheryn also enjoys covering topics related to technology, business and career advancement. Please send any questions or comments to her at

Got any suggestions for teaching ELL students?

October 29, 2012

Not Impressed. (Halloween + a WINNER!)

Happy Monday!  This weekend I took a "rest week" from training and started my Saturday with an easy 3 miles.  I quickly learned that I have to retrain my lungs to be able to tolerate cold air because it was chilly!!  And to think it is only October.  (Side note: I had to break out my scraper for the first time this season when I came downstairs this morning to be greeted by a sheet of frost on my windshield...must remember to call car dealership to price remote start...)  After a day of errands, pretending to lesson plan, couch naps, and an epic fail at attempting to make puppy chow (#reason101whyidon'tcook...), I pulled on the Halloween costume that my awesome mom and dad helped me pull together the night before.  (Yes, I am 25 and I still need my parents to help me with Halloween costumes...)
Get it?  Unfortunately, most people at the Halloween party I attended didn't!  
That face was NOT easy to replicate.  Go ahead, try it in front of a mirror.  I swear normal faces don't work like that!

Oldest Brother dressed up as Quint from Jaws...

Anyways, the party ended up turning into a super late night, and this lame old lady teacher is still recovering two days later!  Holy cow.  I am definitely not in college anymore!  I'll gladly take an early night and a long run next weekend!  Much shorter recovery time. :)

Speaking of recovery, it's time for a giveaway winner!  Thanks so much for entering my CLICK giveaway, and WELCOME to my new followers!!!  Hope you decide to stick around :)  The winner of a CLICK canister and blender bottle is...
#34, Pam!  Based on her comment, it sounds like Pam definitely needs a little CLICK in her life!
DOUBLE stroller runs???  Holy super mom!
Pam, email me at juiceboxesandcrayolas AT gmail DOT com by Friday to claim your CLICK. :)

And with that, I'm off to catch up on Revenge, eat pumpkin ice cream, and maybe grade some papers...Have a great week, everyone!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...