June 26, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week I have one book to add to your DEFINITELY DON'T read list, and one to recommend!!

Evermore by Alyson Noel
SummarySince a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch.   Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste . . . Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition.  He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets.  Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head.  She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is.  Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies. (source: goodreads.com)

My Thoughts: This book was capital-T-TERRIBLE.  As in, one of the worst books I have EVER read.  EVER!  I picked it up because I saw that one of my friends had logged it as "read" on goodreads and it sounded like another guilty pleasure teen love story...but dear god it was completely awful in a way that makes Twilight seem like intellectual, quality literature.  Which is really saying something.  Not only is it a COMPLETE Twilight-wannabe (which isn't always a bad thing!  I still liked Die for Me even though I could say the same about that!), but the characters are just plain annoying and the plot is ridiculous even for fantasy.  First, the main character Ever (which is sooo not a name...) wakes up from a near death experience and discovers she has psychic powers.  Let me clarify that--she doesn't just have ONE psychic power like an ability to see the future, but she has EVERY POSSIBLE psychic power that has ever been imagined.  Seriously, this girl can suddenly see auras, hear others' thoughts, see the future, manifest objects/change the future...the list goes on.  At one point, she also casually mentions that she sees dead people "all the time," and then never mentions anything about that again!!  Um, I'd say that's an important thing that might factor into the story, but I guess not??  My personal favorite, though, is that mid-way through the book she explains that school doesn't really matter because she can sweep a finger over test questions and know the answer and just touch a book and absorb all information.  Okay.  I KNOW this is not realistic fiction.  I KNOW all of her other abilities are pretty much fictional too.  But really?  REALLY???  

Okay, enough about that.  Moving on.  I know Twilight is super poorly written and a horrible example of a manipulative borderline-abusive relationship, and I hate myself for saying this, but I cared about those characters!  I wanted Edward and Bella to just be HAPPY!  As silly as their romance was, I was on board.  In this book, I don't even LIKE the male lead, Damen!  I don't understand what she likes about him at all, and their relationship isn't even interesting.  And that's saying something, because I am usually a sucker for any boy-meets-girl story.  This one?  Completely dumb.  

Never read this book.  Enough said.  Phew, that felt good!  1/5 stars

Impossible by Nancy Werlin
SummaryLucy is seventeen when she discovers that she is the latest recipient of a generations-old family curse that requires her to complete three seemingly impossible tasks or risk falling into madness and passing the curse on to the next generation. Unlike her ancestors, though, Lucy has family, friends, and other modern resources to help her out. But will it be enough to conquer this age-old evil?  A beautifully wrought modern fairy tale from master storyteller and award-winning author Nancy Werlin.  Inspired by the classic folk ballad "Scarborough Fair," this is a wonderfully riveting and haunting novel of suspense, romance, and fantasy. (source: goodreads.com)

My Thoughts: I have some mixed feelings about this book, but overall I really enjoyed reading it.  It wasn't what I expected, for sure.  When I picked it up, I was expecting it to be more of a twisted fairy tale story, like Ella Enchanted or something along those lines, but it is set in modern times.  Unlike Evermore, I loved the characters in this book and was completely hooked into the story.  I wanted to read more and more as the characters tried to figure out how to break the curse, and I thought it was really cool that the plot was based on a familiar song.  My only small complaints  are that the ending is a little weird--without saying too much, I feel like the book was so grounded in modern times that when some fantasy elements were thrown in towards the end, it just felt...weird.  Also, again trying not to spoil the book, I struggled with the fact that the story almost glorifies teen pregnancy and worry about the message it may send young readers...buuut at the same time I did love the little romance between the characters that developed as they worked to break the curse.  Just read it and you'll see what I mean!  I would give this one 3.5/5 stars. :)

What have you been reading this week?

Triathlon Training Tuesday: Digging Myself Out of a Training Slump

As I mentioned in this post, I spent last week digging myself into a pretty deep training rut and developing a pretty negative attitudeabout working out to keep me company down there!   By the end of last week, after several days in a row of really sucky workouts, I was starting to just not feel like MYSELF.  Does anyone else get that way when you get out of a regular fitness routine?  Tired, crabby...just blech.  I knew I had to make a serious commitment to not only getting back on track with training, but getting my myself mentally back on track!  Friday morning I dragged myself out of bed early, hopped on my bike, and headed to the gym for a swim workout.  I'm a breast stroke girl normally, but I've been forcing myself to work on my freestyle lately in hopes that I can swim freestyle for at least part of the Danskin tri.  I had a pretty good swim workout, a nice bike ride home, and a positive attitude about the whole thing.  I have to tell you, it made my whole day that much better!
Dripping wet post-swim!
Saturday morning I was determined to get two great training days in a row.  Even though the Danskin sprint tri is my immediate training goal, I am trying to slowly build up a running mileage base again.  My plan is to slowly build up mileage this summer and fall, add in some speed work in the next couple of weeks, and be ready to pound out a couple of speedy 5Ks this fall before I start seriously upping mileage for my November half marathon.  Anyways, running has SOOOO not been my friend lately!  Between the heat, my inability to get an early start these days, and my cranky pants attitude, I've been pretty much hating my life every time I lace up my Brooks!  Yuck.  Where did that girl go who is so in love with running she cries when she gets injured and can't run??  Friday night I did my best to get my brain back on track--I went through the motions of my night time routine as though I were preparing for a Saturday morning long run, even though I had only 4 miles on the schedule (which for me, right now, is a long run!).  Since I love long runs during half marathon training, I figured that if I treated my planned run like that it would help get my head in the game!  I laid out my socks, hat, and gu, filled up a water bottle, and planned to drive to the forest preserve to run instead of running around my neighborhood.  Before heading out the door, I decided I needed a mantra sharpied on my arm.
Fearless: What else??
 I am so happy to say that the run was a success.  Minus my IT band straps sliding down my sweaty legs, I actually felt HAPPY to be out there for the first time since my tri.  Man, that is a feeling I'd been missing!!!  The difference between this run and my previous few was crazy, and I'm positive it was all due to that mental shift.  I told myself I was going to love running that morning and lo and behold, I did.  It's a beautiful thing.

Needless to say, after FINALLY having a good run, I had a much better attitude about the short run on my schedule for this morning.  Also, I had a special running buddy join me--my sister in law!  My wonderful older brother and sister in law are visiting this week from Florida with their beautiful baby (my goddaughter!), and like I mentioned in this post, Sister in Law has decided to start running!  She has her eye on a few 5Ks for fall and the Disney Princess Half for February!  We stopped at the running store yesterday to get her some new shoes.  Beautiful Niece loved the running store!  I'm positive she's going to be a little runner. ;)
I'm hoping this means I'm back in the training game.  I guess there will always be days--or weeks!--like this, but the important thing is to remember that these things pass, to dust yourself off, and to keep moving forward.  Looking forward to a full week of triathlon training--and spending time with this kiddo...

June 25, 2012

Writing Workshop: The Recurring Line

This is a lesson I borrowed from CRAFT by Ralph Fletcher, my favorite go-to writing mini-lesson book.  When I was first learning about Writing Workshop at a seminar, the presenter said that initially, teaching good mini-lessons is more important than making sure the kids are using what you've just taught in their writing right away.  Gradually, over time, she said, you'll start seeing the techniques you've taught pop up in their projects and drafts.  This concept is different than what I'd initially thought about teaching writing, but after two solid years of using the Writing Workshop model, I have to say that I agree.  There are some lessons I teach, like good beginnings and endings or transition words, that I make sure the kids are practicing right away.  Those lessons have an important purpose in the context of a writing project that we are all working on.  But other times, I just want to teach a lesson on a quality technique that isn't essential, but will help elevate their writing to the next level.  When I'm looking for something like that, I turn to CRAFT.

This lesson is called "The Recurring Line."  To teach it, I used three mentor texts: The Doorbell Rang, The Giving Tree, and Chicken Sunday.  After each story, we identified the recurring line and the author's purpose for including it.  In The Doorbell Rang, a preschool book, the recurring lines just add a pattern to the story, making it easy for little kids to pick it up.  Simple.  In The Giving Tree, the recurring line ("And the tree was happy.") embodies the story's theme--the tree is happy when he is helping the boy and when he is a part of the boy's life.  In Chicken Sunday, the recurring line ("A voice like slow thunder and sweet rain") describes an important, memorable quality about an important character.  After reading that story, we talked about how the author wanted to leave a lasting impression of that character in our minds, and how her voice was something special about her.
The kids loved the lesson (they love any lesson with picture books!), and even though I didn't see recurring lines pop up in their writing much, I'm confident that if I taught it again next year and extended it with modeling using a recurring line in my own writing, some of my little writers will catch on.  It doesn't have to be every single student, but if one of my little writers picks up a quality writing technique from a mini-lesson, I consider it a success. :)

June 21, 2012

Things I'm Loving Thursday

Since I've been in a complete running funk lately (seriously, running is about my LEAST favorite thing this week for some reason...), instead of writing about my sucky runs of late and get all debbie downer on you guys, I figured I'd try to perk myself up by writing about some of the things I've been loving this week.

$1 iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts
I have a confession to make.  Until last week, I could definitely count on 1 hand the number of times I've gotten coffee at Dunkin' Dounts, and probably on 2 hands the number of times I'd even visited a Dunkin' Donuts.  (I have EATEN their donuts many times, as I have absolutely no will power or self-control when it comes to treats left out in the teacher's lounge at school...)  There just aren't that many around where I live, and I've always been more of a Starbucks kinda girl.  Well a new DD with a drive through just opened around the corner from my parents', so I drove through last Tuesday evening before class only to find out that from 2-5pm any size iced coffee is $1.  ANY SIZE!  I would never make this up.  I have been back almost every day and have been enjoying every moment spent chugging down gigantic cups of iced coffee goodness.  $1 gigantic DD coffee > waaaaay over priced Starbucks.  Seriously, coffee drinks this large should not even be legal.

While my running mojo is MIA, I have been loving me some yoga this summer!  Last night my gym had an outdoor "yoga under the stars" class on the pool deck.  It was pretty cool to do yoga outside (pretending the traffic sounds were ocean waves...), even if my mat kept blowing around.  I did think the instructor may have had a few screws loose though when she added in a billion arm balance and hand stand moves towards the end of the class...ummm jumping into a handstand on a concrete deck facing a pool?  Call me overly cautious, but no thank you...
 The fact that Older Brother, Sister-in-law, and Adorable Niece are en route as we speak for a week-long visit!
I haven't seen Brother, Sister-in-law, and Adorable Niece since we spent Spring Break in Florida back in March, so I am super pumped about their visit!  Seriously, my niece was pretty beautiful when I last saw her, but if our Skype chats are any indication, she's been getting cuter every day!
 Last week Sister-in-Law told me that she wants to start running and train for the Disney Princess Half Marathon next February, which will be her first half.  I'm so excited for her, and immediately added the race to my calendar too.  Disney Princess was my first half in 2011 and my first ever big running goal!  Can't wait to go back and earn another tiara shaped medal. :)  We're hoping to find time during their visit to take a trip to the running store to get Sister-in-law some new shoes.  Hopefully I can convince her to come on a run with me too--and hopefully I can find a positive attitude about running somewhere deep inside me before then!

Chocolate peanut butter ice cream--Do I really need to say any more?
This amazing quote from Susan Lacke, triathlete and columnist for No Meat Athlete
Reading this quote on the "I <3 to Run" facebook page was probably one of the highlights of my day yesterday.  Just perfect.

I used to feel pretty sometimes. And then I started running. It was hard. My face was red, I would sweat profusely, my nose would run when it was cold, and no matter how many different pairs of shorts I tried, my thighs always seemed to rub together. The first time I saw my race photos, I cringed. Did I really look like THAT when I ran? Yes, in my past, sometimes I would feel pretty. But thanks to running and triathlon, I gained scars on every elbow, knee, and hip, a crooked nose, and tan lines that would put zebras to shame. Things had changed, in a big way. I stopped worrying about the red face and sweating and realized that the feeling of crossing a finish line was so much better than any good hair day. Yes, in my past, sometimes I would feel pretty. But now, thanks to running and triathlon, things are different. With my crooked nose, battle scars and spandex, I don’t feel pretty anymore. I feel beautiful.
- Susan Lacke

What have you been loving this week?

June 20, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I have one really great book and one trashy Twilight-wanna-be series to share with you this week!  Get excited. :)

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt
Summary from goodreads.com: HARPER’S DAD IS getting a divorce from her beloved stepmother, Jane. Even worse, Harper has lost her stepsister, Tess; the divorce divides them. Harper decides to escape by joining a volunteer program to build a house for a family in Tennessee who lost their home in a tornado. Not that she knows a thing about construction.  Soon she’s living in a funky motel and working long days in blazing heat with a group of kids from all over the country. At the site, she works alongside Teddy, the son of the family for whom they are building the house. Their partnership turns into a summer romance, complete with power tools. Learning to trust and love Teddy isn’t easy for Harper, but it’s the first step toward finding her way back home.

My thoughts: I did not expect to love this book.  The concept wasn't all that interesting to me actually, and I only had it laying on my coffee table because a friend suggested it to me when we were at the library together last month.  However, I found myself last week with nothing to read and picked it up.  I didn't really put it down until the next morning when I finished it!  This book was wonderful.  The premise is one that got me thinking.  Harper's mom died when she was very young, so her step mother is the only mother she ever knew, and her step sister is like a blood sister to her.  Divorce is always hard, but how awful would it be to be "divorced" from your sister too?  I loved reading about Harper's time with the work group building the house, and loved the sweet summer romance even more.  This book was definitely worth reading!

The Revenants Series: Die for Me & Until I Die by Amy Plum
 Summary of Die for Me from goodreads.com:  In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.  When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.  Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

My thoughts: As I read Die for Me a few months ago, I couldn't escape the feeling that I was reading a SLIGHTLY better written but equally irritating Twilight.  So many similarities...first, a teenage girl is new in town and has absent parents.  (In this case, they're dead.)  She is awkward and plain, but somehow a mysterious, attractive, and inexplicably rich man enters her life and the two fall "irrevocably" (to use a SMeyer word) in love.  However, there is a problem.  The male lead is actually a supernatural being, and to be with him is to be put in extreme danger.  Soon both of their lives are so codependently intertwined that they're unable to imagine life without the other, despite the fact that they've known each other a shockingly short amount of time.  Sound familiar???

That being said, I couldn't put either of these books down.  I KNOW.  I don't even LIKE books like this!  They are so addictive though!  I stayed up all night reading the sequel, Until I Die, as soon as I got my hands on it last week.  These are not quality literature, but if you liked Twilight, go check them out.  The heroine is SLIGHTLY less annoying than Bella, so that's always a plus. :)

*As always, italicized summaries and cover photos are from goodreads.com

What have you been reading lately?

Do you find yourself unable to stop reading certain books even though the intelligent part of your brain knows they are trash?  No?  Just me?  :)

June 19, 2012

Training Slump

Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves in a huge training funk shortly after a big race?  Ever since my tri, I have been severely lacking energy and motivation when it comes to working out.  I'm still following a training plan because I have a second tri coming up in about 9 weeks that I need to stay in shape for and plans to crush a sub-30 5K this fall.  Actually, let me clarify that one--I HAVE a training plan, but to say I am FOLLOWING it would definitely be a stretch...

I gave myself permission to take a lazy week last week with easy, leisurely workouts and a few rest days, rationalizing it with the thought that I deserved a break after a few months of intense half-marathon and triathlon training.  The trouble is, after taking a rest week, I can't get back into things this week!  Yesterday I had big plans for yoga and a swim in the evening, but ended up running errands with my mom and couldn't make it to the yoga class.  That didn't mean I had to miss swimming though, right?  I must have been in an all-or-nothing mindset because before I knew it I was curled up on the couch eating a popsicle and watching Sister Wives.  (Can't help but love that show, and I have no idea why...)  This morning I planned to redeem myself with a 1000yd swim + 3 mile run.  Well, I got off to a late start (I can't seem to get ENOUGH sleep these days!), and was dragging in the pool.  Combine that with goggle issues and the next thing I knew, I was hopping out of the pool after just 500 yds.  Oh well, I still had the run, right?  Wrong.  By this time it was already 80+ degrees, my stomach was upset for god knows why, and I was quitting after less than a MILE.  Pathetic!!!
^To Remember...
I definitely need to get my mojo back somehow!!!  I know that getting back into the routine is the hardest part, and once I'm in it, it will be MUCH easier!  Tomorrow's the day, I can feel it.  I'm planning on an early morning bike ride before it gets too hot and a night time "yoga under the stars" class at my gym.  I'm doing it. I promise.  No backing out!!

How do you get your motivation back?

Triathlon Training Tuesday: Gear Checklist

When it comes to running, I'm a gear junkie.  I have a zillion little gadgets and am always looking for something new to try, from garmins to headbands to foam rollers.  Since I already love getting new gear, who would have thought I'd find the amount of gear needed for a triathlon intimidating!  But intimidating it was.  I scoured triathlon books and blogs for race day packing lists, finding some that were pages long!  YIKES!  With some trial and error during my training, I was able to figure out what I actually would need for my race, and now having finished one tri, I have a better idea what I will need again next time and what I should leave at home.  I'm no expert, but since the packing list was one of the most nerve wracking parts of training for me, I thought I'd share what I brought to my tri with you!

  • track jacket, t-shirt, yoga pants to wear over tri clothes
  • water bottle
  • pre-race Gu (or your breakfast of choice!)
  • sunscreen
  • hair ties
  • permanent marker to fix body marking post-sunscreen
  • flip flops 
  • bike pump
  • tri clothes (for me, this was tri shorts and a tri sports bra, although I'd like to try a tri shirt next time...)
  • race-issued swim cap
  • goggles
  • extra swim cap and goggles just in case
  • digital watch
  • road id 
  • towel spread out under bike to lay gear on (I brought an extra one to dry off with, but it was so hot that I didn't really need to take the time to dry off, so it wasn't really necessary.  Maybe I would bring an extra hand towel to quickly dry off next time...)
  • shoes (just plain running shoes for me)
  • socks
  • shirt with race number pinned on (many people had a race number belt that they just put on if they wore a top in the water)
  • bike gloves
  • helmet
  • sun glasses
  • water bottle(s) on bike
  • Gu
  • kleenex!  (I was so glad I had this one, my nose is always running like crazy post-swim and on my bike!  I had a couple pieces out with my gear in transition and one in my bike bag)
  • hat
  • IT band straps
  • Gu
  • Change of clothes
  • Flip flops
  • Plastic bag for wet/sweaty clothes
Phew!  That's it!  For Tri #2, I plan to experiment with a tri top and number belt instead of a tri sports bra and running top to pull over it.  My hope is to shave off 30 seconds of transition time without having an outfit change!  :)  I'll keep you posted...

What is your "must have" gear for a triathlon or any race??

June 17, 2012

Thanks, Dad.

For waking up at 4am to be there with me at the start of every big race...
 ...And for being there for me every step of the way in my life...
Thanks, Dad.

June 15, 2012

Why I Love Summer

Oh hi there.  I hope you're enjoying a lazy summer day week like I have been.  (My sincere apologies to those of you who have to...WORK...and stuff...)  I seriously cannot remember the last time I was this freaking lazy.  I decided that after a crazy week last week with the end of school, packing my classroom, and oh yeah, getting ready for and DOING a triathlon (was that really only last week?  It seems like years ago...), this week would be a complete week of lazy.   You know what I'm talking about.  The sleep in and then refuse to get out of bed for hours, blog stalking and pinning and reading teen books type of week.  The get myself out of bed only to go down and continue laying around, this time by the pool (and trying hopelessly to even out my sports bra tan).  The drinking wine on my balcony and reading in the evening type of week.  The having no commitments but a mid-morning yoga class type of week.   BLISS.
I have to admit though that by today I am getting a TEENY bit antsy.  I better find myself a project soon before I start to NOT enjoy this wonderful summer freedom anymore!

What are your favorite lazy-days-of-summer activities?

June 13, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Summary from goodreads.com: It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.  She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?  Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.

Another book from the teen section at the library (but a break from my beloved dystopian genre), while not my favorite book, North of Beautiful was definitely an enjoyable read.  You guys know how much I love teen fiction.  Well, I think that there are teen books that EVERYONE should read (Hunger Games...), and there are teen books for, well, Teens.  This book is definitely one I would recommend to a teen.  The themes and topics discussed in it are important ones for teens to read about: inner beauty, being true to yourself, recognizing and celebrating your gifts, and finding someone who loves you for YOU, not in spite of you.  I liked that fact that while there was a little romance, the romance didn't drive the plot--it was more about Terra's self-discovery and journey to acceptance.  (Don't get me wrong, I love a good romance, but there's a time and a place.)  My gripes were that Terra's inner monologue was a little annoying a few times during the book, and I could not STAND reading her dad's dialogue.  Her father is verbally abusive to Terra and her mother, and we are definitely SUPPOSED to hate his character, but I just literally couldn't stand him.  Yes, I know, that's the point, but it really annoyed me.  Oh well.  Anyways, this was a heart warming story and one I would especially recommend to teens.

As usual, cover photos and italicized summaries are from the wonderful goodreads.com. :)

What have you been reading this week??

June 12, 2012

Triathlon Training Tuesday: Post-Race Reflections and Not Selling Myself Short

Thank you so much for the supportive comments on my SheRox tri race recap!  You guys are seriously amazing.  To the few of you who said something along the lines of that you could never make it through a tri, trust me when I say this: if I can get through a tri, ANYONE can!

Two days post-tri, I've had a chance to reflect a little bit on the experience of training for and finishing my first triathlon.  It's pretty crazy to think that a couple of years ago I couldn't have finished ANY of the three legs of the tri!  I'm really thankful that Lauren mentioned triathlons to me last summer and assured me that I could definitely do one.  I'm so glad you put that little bug in my brain, Lauren!  One huge thing I'm realizing is how much easier on my body training for and racing the sprint tri was than my half-marathons.  I'm one of those runners who is ALWAYS injured, and while training for the tri drained my energy big time, I was almost never sore or hurting from any part of the training (minus my sore neck that was from a poorly adjusted bike seat!).  What a welcome relief from my constant running injuries!  Also, even immediately after the race (and the next day!), my body felt great.  How awesome is that?!?  Maybe triathlon is where it's at for me!  (Although I'm just going to stick with the sprint distance for now!)
One other thing I've been thinking about while reflecting on the race is how I had a little bit of a defeatist attitude in the weeks leading up to the tri.  During my training, even though everything was going great and I was improving week to week, anytime I talked about it with friends or family, I would say things like, "Yeah, it's going to be a train wreck," or, "I'm probably going to drown," or, "I'm definitely going to be one of the last ones crossing the finish line--if I even make it!"  This is not unusual for me.  My dad and I were just talking the other day about how he tends to miss me crossing the finish line even if he's right there watching.  This happened during the Soldier Field 10 Mile race a few weeks ago, and my dad commented that he wasn't expecting me because I'd said I'd probably be one of the last finishers.  It was a challenging race for me, but one of the last finishers?  I wasn't even close to last.  I may be a "back of the pack" runner in terms of my pace, but actually in bigger races, I tend to be a middle of the pack finisher.  Why am I so self-deprecating, then?  Did I actually think I was going to drown?  Was "not finishing" really a possibility?  The truth is, I trained hard for this race and was more than ready.  Why would I assume it was going to be a "train wreck"?  What's more, anytime someone asked me about the tri distance, I'd start talking it down.  "Well, it's *just* a sprint tri, so it's really short.  It's not a big deal."  Not a big deal?  Did I really think that?  Or was I just worried that other people would think that?    

Maybe it's time I stop selling myself short.

After finishing three races in a row that I am genuinely proud of, I'm realizing that while I will NEVER be fast, I have accomplished so much.  In the past year and a half, I have conquered some huge goals.  Finishing a half-marathon and crushing my time when I finished #2.  Setting a 5K PR.  Running 12 races in 12 months.  And most recently, finishing a triathlon.  Nothing about these accomplishments is "not a big deal."  They are a big deal, and they are huge achievements for me.  I'm proud of them, and you can bet that next time I train for a race, I'm going to stop selling myself short.  Here's the thing--it's okay to be afraid of your goals and dreams.  It's okay to be nervous about races.  But I'm deciding right now that it's no longer okay for me to hide my fear behind a mask of jokes and self-doubt.  From now on, I'm going to be confident in my ability.

That being said, let's celebrate things that went really great during the tri.  I like celebrations, don't you?  The teacher in me who comes up with silly cheers to give *props* to students will celebrate each of these things with a marshmallow clap.  What is a marshmallow clap, you ask?  1. Hold out your hands in front of you like you're about to clap them together.  2. Picutre a gigantic marshmallow in between your hands.  3. Attempt to clap your hands--but wait!  There's a marshmallow in between them!  Congratulations, you have successfully executed a marshmallow clap.
Breaking out the marshmallow clap during senior bar crawl in college..

  • I made it through the swim and did not get kicked in the face or need to hang onto the buoys to rest. (Marshmallow clap!)
  • I got out of transition areas in less than 5 minutes.  (Marshmallow clap!)
  • I biked the entire distance without once feeling tired.  (Marshmallow clap!)
  • I finished the run strong with a sprint to the finish.  (Marshmallow clap!)
  • I truly enjoyed the entire race and celebrated every mile.  (Marshmallow clap!)
And those things, my friends, are no small potatoes.  Or small marshmallows.
Of course, there is always room for growth, and as I've said before, one of my favorite things about running (and I guess triathlons!) is that there is always another goal to be set.  On August 26th I will be doing the Danskin Sprint Tri in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.  At this race, I really want to improve my swim and transitions.  I did okay during the swim at SheRox, but I totally was freaking out during the swim start.  My goal for Danskin is to STAY CALM in the water and just KEEP BREATHING.  In the transitions, I'd like to get out of T-1 in under 4 minutes and T-2 in under 3 minutes.  I better work on getting those shoes on and off quickly!  I already can't wait for tri #2--just wish it wasn't so far away!  Until then, I guess I should start thinking about Fitness Goal #3 for 2012: Sub-30 5K...

Here's to celebrating achievements, not selling yourself short, and chasing goal after goal!

June 11, 2012

Race Recap: SheRox Sprint Triathlon

First, thank you for the awesome support you guys have provided as I trained for my first adventure into the crazy world of triathlons!  You are the best, seriously. :)

The day started bright and early with a 4:30am wake up call...ugh.  I grabbed my gigantic pile of gear, tossed it into the car, poured myself yet another water + gatorade cocktail in preparation for the 90 degree temperatures ahead, and hit the road with my dad.  When we got to the race site, I headed over to the transition area to set up my bike and gear.  I'd read a ton of different people's strategies for setting up their transition area, and to be honest, all of the crazy tips for speed people had kind of just freaked me out! Since I had no time goal in mind, I decided to just go with what made sense to me and laid out my things...

I finished setting up around 6:15.  The race started at 7...but my wave of 23-25 year olds didn't start until 8:44!!  Needless to say there was PLENTY of time to apply sunscreen, wait in line for the rest room, walk the swim in/bike out route through the transition area to get a feel for things, etc. etc. etc.  Around 7, Dad and I found a great spot to stand to watch the early swim waves.  The swim was a little unique, as it was in this weird lake/pool hybrid.  It had zero depth entry and a sandy beach, but also had chlorinated water and brick sides.  As we watched wave after wave of swimmers, I realized that TONS of the women doing the race were swimming breast stroke, back stroke, dog paddling...one woman even had a snorkel!  That definitely made me feel better about my own swimming skills (or lack thereof!).  Eventually, I decided it was time to head down to the beach and find some other swimmers from my wave.
We swam in a zig zag up and down the pool/lake, around the orange buoys.
My wave start!
When it was time for my wave to start, we waded into the water until about our thighs and waited for the countdown.  It was already so hot out that I was excited to get in the cool water!  Before I knew it, it was go time!  I have to be honest, I had a tough time with the first chunk of the swim.  I couldn't seem to catch my breath and get into a groove.  Thank goodness I had done a couple of open water swims, so I knew I would probably get a little panicky/struggle breathing at first.  It was way tougher than my lake swims the past two weeks, though, just because there were so many more people starting together and that stresses me out!!  I don't even particularly like sharing lanes at the pool...  Being a women's race, there was no intentional kicking or swimming over each other, but it just freaks me out to have people so close to me.  It took me a good third of the swim to stop panicking/breathing crazy, and up until the last third to actually get into a groove!  I knew my parents and my cousin would be watching from a hill at the end of the pool, so I treaded water and waved to them at the end of one of the lanes, per their request. :) 
"Look!  I haven't drowned yet!"

As scary as it was at the beginning, the 1/2 mile swim was over before I knew it!  Swim time: 16:08.  I jogged up the beach and into the transition area for T1.  I had no trouble spotting my bike, probably because I'd taken the time to walk through the the route for Swim In before the race and new right where to look.  I dried myself off, pulled on socks and shoes, bike gloves, sunglasses, and helmet, sprayed my neck with icy hot and hoped that it wouldn't kill me on the bike, grabbed a gu, and walked my bike through the transition area and out the other side.  T1 time: 4:46.  The race was super well organized, and there were volunteers to tell you exactly when to mount your bike.  I finished my chocolate gu and hopped on.

I'm no great cyclist, but I hadn't been super worried about the bike leg during my training until my neck cramped up last week and had been killing me on a couple training rides.  Thankfully the adjustment my dad made to my seat height combined with some tweaking to my posture seemed to do the trick!  The bike leg went GREAT!  I was totally loving the cool breeze and the slight hills that were just big enough to give me a chance to coast a little bit.  There were tons of hybrid and mountain bikes on the course, but I was super glad I had splurged on a road bike last fall!  Like I said, I'm not a great or particularly fast cyclist, but I was able to pass other women like crazy during the bike leg, mostly because of having a lighter bike than a lot of others.  The bike course was 14.2 miles consisting of two loops.  Bike time: 50:47.

I'm 99% sure that I'm waving at a little kid in this pic and totally missing my dad standing on the opposite side of the street!

After a nice downhill into transition, I hopped off my bike and hustled back to my gear area.  I racked my bike, exchanged my helmet and gloves for a hat and my IT band straps, grabbed another gu, and headed out to the run.  T2 time: 3:31.  (Note to self: Work on transitions for Tri #2...)  It was hot hot hot by the time I started on the run course, already close to 90 degrees. I expected the run to be MISERABLE because of the heat, but I was actually pleasantly surprised.  There were 3 water stations on the 3.1 mile course, plus a few spectator groups with hoses, sprinklers, ice, and even wet towels.  That definitely helped!  It's been so long since I've run a 5K that I couldn't believe how quickly it went by!  I remember passing the marker for mile 1 and thinking, "Whoa, we're already a third done!"  Oh the magic of a short running race. :)

Usually I am stopping my garmin in the finish picture--broken watch FTW!

Most of the run leg was through neighborhoods and had just a handful of spectators, but when we got close to mile 3 we turned back into the central race location and there was a ton of great crowd support (plus shade!).  I ran past my cousin and mom around mile 3 and kicked it into high gear for a strong finish.  Run time: 30:22.  (Side note: There's no way that course was a full 3.1 miles if that was my chip time...that would be over a 1 minute PR for me, and I walked way too much for that to be the case!! Oh well, I'll take it!)
Total Finishing Time: 1:45:31 (and still smiling!)

I felt SO good after this race!  Not only was it an awesome feeling to finish my first TRIATHLON, but I felt awesome about how strong I felt during the entire race (minus the first couple hundred swim yards...).  Plus, I couldn't believe the difference in how my body felt between this race and a half marathon.  Yeah, I was tired, but I wasn't sore at all and had no problem walking around town to find a place for breakfast with my family.  Pretty awesome!  Before we were even in the car to head home, I was already planning my next tri!
 Overall thoughts on the SheRox race series: AWESOME!  I would recommend this race without hesitation to any women thinking about doing a tri, especially first timers like me.  There was so much support from race volunteers, including "Swim Buddies" paddling around the entire swim course and encouraging athletes. It was well organized, efficient, and just plain fun.  It was exactly what I was looking for in a tri!

Now, it's onto the next 2012 Goal: Sub-30 5K.   BRING IT!

June 10, 2012

Triathlon? CHECK! (+ Sprigs Giveaway Winner!)

Who's a triathlete??
This girl!!
Check back tomorrow for a full race recap. :)  Can't wait to tell you all about it!

Also, thank you for entering my Sprigs giveaway!  The winner of the infinity scarf is...
 Kindergarten Teaching Goddess Kelly from Busy in K!
Kelly, email me your address at juiceboxesandcrayolas AT gmail DOT com!

June 9, 2012

Twas the Night Before the Triathlon...

And I'm turning from my usually compulsively organized self into a completely comically over-the-top version of my compulsively organized self.  I get like this before every race, but I've been an extra special version of my Type A self lately because there is just so much gear you need for a tri!!!  I have made packing list after packing list, have divided transition gear into ziplock bags to keep it together for now, and meticulously gone through my bag to make sure I'm not forgetting anything...

My biggest worry is the heat.  It's currently 90 degrees out and tomorrow will be even HOTTER.  My wave of 23-25 year olds doesn't start until 8:40!  That means by the time I get to the run leg it's going to be scary hot.  YIKES!  I'm gulping down glass after glass of my trusty water + fruit punch G2 cocktail...

Oh well, if anything I will be super slow on the run especially and will have to do this race again next year and CRUSH my time. :)  Tomorrow is just about FINISHING!  My second biggest concern is that my neck has been killing me on my bike.  My dad and I have been tweaking my seat height to get it the right height for my legs, but now my neck is in serious pain so obviously something is wrong (with the height, or my posture, or both...Note to self: take a trip to the bike shop after this race to have the bike refitted!).  We lowered the seat a tiny bit yesterday, and I'm hoping that helps.  Even if it does, though, my neck is already sore so I think it would be hurting regardless!  I've got the tylenol and icy hot packed...

And now I'm off to take a nap, then it's pasta, a quick appearance at a bachelorette party this evening, and checking over my gear ONE LAST TIME before crashing at my parents' tonight so my wonderful dad can drive me to the race in the morning.  Thanks, Dad!  One last FEARLESS thought to leave you with...

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
Muhammad Ali

The miracle is not that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
John Bingham


June 7, 2012

Three Things Thursday: School's Out For Summer Edition

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a beautiful infinity scarf from Sprigs!  

1. School is OVER.  I packed my boxes, purged all of the unnecessary books and files, and said goodbye to my coworkers and students.  When I told my students that I was moving schools, I surprised myself by getting choked up.  I was definitely not expecting that!  I am SO ready to leave...but the truth is, I am attached to this group and will definitely miss them next year!
I was inspired by a similar picture on pinterest and had to recreate it with my own class.  I love the diversity you can see in this picture!  I seriously love these kids.  Might have to print and frame this one... :)

On the last day of school, I like to have the kids spend a few minutes reflecting on the year and writing me a letter.  I ask them to include something they liked this year, something they were proud of, etc.  Many are rushed because it's the last day and the kiddos are ready to be DONE, but there are always a few in the bunch that make me really remember why I do this...Highlights from this year...

Love the "your student/friend" signature :)


2. I spent the day with my new team doing some initial planning yesterday!  We had a great meeting and did some general curriculum mapping for science, social studies, and writing.  Literacy is pretty much mapped out for us (as is math), so we have a skeletal structure for our curriculum already!  And on the first day of summer too. :)  Speaking of being unable to turn my school brain off, I am already brainstorming my room layout and decor for next year!  In comparison to my current room, my new room is TINY.  Yikes!  That will be an adjustment for sure!  I will just have to be my super organized self and arrange/unpack carefully!  Right now I'm planning on ditching my teacher's desk for something much smaller from IKEA.  It will mean spending my own $$, but will save me SO much space!  And, as I learned in my packing/moving process, that desk was a magnet for JUNK.  There was stuff in the back of those deep drawers that I shoved out of sight during the first weeks of my first year! Maybe this little guy...
Also, in the spirit of making next year POSITIVE and HAPPY (as opposed to the nightmare of this year), I think I may ditch my sports theme and go with a classroom decor in pretty, calming teal blue with black and polka dot accents.  Why?  Because I love teal blue and black and polka dots.  They are pretty.  They will make me happy.  Happy Teacher = Happy Students.  :)  I'm bringing home a little bookshelf and my "teacher stool" to give teal and black makeovers to this summer!  I also hope to recover file cabinets in contact paper to give them a little face lift too and hopefully make some sheer curtains for the windows.  Is it sad that summer just started and I already am dreaming about my new room?  Can you tell I'm excited for a fresh start next year???

3. On a final note, we are T minus 3 days away from my TRIATHLON!  AHHHH!!!!   The good news is that I had a brick workout Sunday that was pretty near the distances I'll be taking on in the tri, and I survived.  Plus I did another open water swim at the same lake as last week, and it went great!  I finished in pretty speedy time (for me)!  The bad news is that my calves have been cramping up this week.  I haven't had calf issues in over a year!  Where is this coming from???  I suspect biking...time to roll out big time and pull on my compression sleeves...I'm going to do one more short bike/run workout this evening to stay loose, then it's 2 rest days followed by the race!  Woohoo!
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