July 26, 2012


Hi guys :)  I'm still alive, just ON VACATION!!!  I've been away from home for almost two weeks now between an out of town wedding immediately followed by a looong family vacation, and still have a couple days of relaxing in the sun and reading nonstop left.  The place I'm staying doesn't have internet, believe it or not, so while I've been catching up on YOUR posts on my phone, I have taken a little vacation from blogging.  Anyways, it's back to reading and spending time with my niece!  Talk to you next week!  (I have a TON of book recommendations for you guys too, so stay tuned!)

July 10, 2012

Triathlon Training Tuesday! Race Recap: Xxtra Mile Run/Swim/Run

Or, Swimming Peril + Speedy Transitions
The Race
As I've already mentioned about 1 billion times on this blog, this is the summer of tri training!  If you're sick of hearing about my training, feel free to skip this post.  ;)  During my first triathlon last month, some things went great (like my speedy bike ride!), some things left room for improvement (ahem hyperventilating at the swim start...), and some things were pretty darn pathetic, namely, my transitions.  Transitioning should be simple, right?  Well, with a T-1 time at 4:46 for the tri, I definitely had something to work on for #2!  I was excited when I found out the Danskin tri I am doing at the end of next month was hosting a "Come run and swim the tri course and have fun!" event and signed up right away.  What a perfect opportunity to work on both my swim and transitions!  The race was Sunday and ONE of these two goals was successful...

The day started with a 5am wake up call...ugh...before hopping in my car with my bag o' gear and driving to the race site about an hour away.  The "race" was tiny and casual with a fun, friendly atmosphere.  For the first (and likely last) time, I had a number in the double digits!  I'm pretty much an elite athlete, what can I say...I mean no, they totally didn't just hand out numbers in the order we checked in...
Leg 1: 2 mi run
The race started with a 2 mile run.  I felt great, kept a steady pace, remembered to hit start on my watch, and even forced myself to stick to the 3 min run/1 min walk intervals I do in my training instead of getting caught up in the atmosphere and plowing ahead.  I figured jumping into a lake with tired legs wouldn't be the smartest plan! ;)  I finished the first run leg in 19:39--way speedy for me--before hurrying into the transition area and getting ready for my swim.  It was super weird to rush to take my shoes and socks OFF and put my cap and goggles ON!  Since the swim is first in triathlons, I always practice it first in my bricks and never rush through that part!  I managed to make it out quickly though with a time of 1:45, waded out into the water, and got my swim on.
Leg 2: 1/2 mi swim
This is where things fell apart...the lake was nice and warm, but even though it was small, the water was pretty choppy!!  I felt like every time I tried to breath I got splashed with a wave of water into my nose and mouth!  You can imagine what this did to my anxious swimmer self...Yup, I started panicking.  Since I don't have a picture capturing this awesome moment in my race, I've taken the liberty of sketching what I'm sure I no doubt looked like...
I know, I should probably quit this teaching thing and take up a full-time career as a stick figure artist.  If you'd like to commission a stick figure sketch for your own blog, I'd be more than happy to oblidge. ;)

Just like at SheRox, I just couldn't catch my breath and kept freaking out about how far I still had yet to go.  I paddled along, rested on my back a few times, and then when I realized I was only a quarter of the way through the swim and was still hyperventilating, I realized I might be in trouble.  The course had "swim angels" on it offering noodles to struggling swimmers, and I decided the best thing to do would be to take a short rest.  I hung out on a noodle and caught my breath for about two minutes, chatting with my "Angel."  (And an angel she was!)  She let me know that I was more than welcome to take a noodle and swim with it (it wasn't a timed race so no risk of being disqualified), and many other women were doing this.  I decided I would rather take a rest and make it through the full half mile using my own swim strength rather than use the noodle, though, and just rested until I felt ready to move again.  When I let go of the noodle and started swimming, I tried to focus on my breath (you'd think all of the yoga I'm doing would be helping with this...) and EVENTUALLY found a rhythm.  I felt much stronger when I realized I had made it to the halfway point buoy and managed to (miraculously) finish strong!  My total swim time was 21:30:53--not awful, but my SheRox swim time for the same distance was 16:08...so much for improvement!  
Leg 3: 2 mi run
Just grateful for having survived the swim in one piece, I mustered what energy I had left to run up the beach and back to the transition area.  Even if I couldn't improve my swim, I was determined to improve my transitions at this race, so instead of taking a minute to dry off like I did at SheRox, I just quickly wiped my feet, pulled my socks and shoes on despite the fact that they were still wet and sandy, and took off.  T2 time-1:38.  Not bad!  The last 2 mile run leg was a little tougher (duh), but I still finished in a respectable 21:38 bringing me to a total time of 1:06:13.  Phew!!

I'm a little frustrated that I'm still struggling with the swim leg so much.  I've been putting in plenty of time in the pool and really building my stamina, but I just can't seem to shake this!  One good thing though was that pretty much everyone else I talked to after the race struggled wth the swim.  Darn choppy water!  (This experience confirmed the fact that I will NEVER do a tri in nearby Lake Michigan which has ACTUAL waves and currents...I'll stick to tiny lakes, thanks...)  I definitely need to get myself to the lake for a few more open water swims this summer!  I also plan to experiment with mantras to use during my practice swims to help me keep a rhythm for my breathing and stay positive and focused.  Mantras always help me dig deep during long runs--maybe one can help me stay calm in the water!
Cutting Time Off My Transitions
To help speed up my transitions, I did a few things differently during this race.  First, I put these handy dandy stretchy laces in my shoes.  I was able to slip my shoes on and off really quickly and didn't have to spend time tying them.  I'm usually super picky about my shoe laces and insist on tucking the ends in so they don't hit my ankles when I run (can we say control freak?), so as you can imagine these saved me some time!  I love them--$5 well spent!
Second, instead of swimming in a tri sports bra and pulling on a shirt, I tried wearing a tri top for the entire race to save a few seconds of "outfit change" time.  I pinned my number to my spi belt and put the belt on as I was walking out of the transition area.  A few more seconds saved!

Third, while this was a short race and I didn't really need fuel during it, I wanted to experiment with fuel to prep for the next tri.  At my first tri, I took a Gu during T1 and T2.  I experimented with shot blocks during this race because they're a little easier to fuel with on the go, and would be way easier to fuel with on a bike. I liked them, but will continue trying them out on some longer brick workouts as the tri gets closer.

Any tips to help me not freak out in the water????

July 8, 2012

My Training Journal

Can I just take a moment to profess my love for journals?  I have a whole row lined up on my bookshelf at home, having kept a journal from ages 10 through 22 or so.  When I started blogging my first year teaching, there just wasn't time anymore to keep up with a journal AND a blog, so I abandoned pen and paper journals for awhile.  The summer after my first *stressful* year in the classroom during which pretty much everything in my life (including exercise) outside of teaching was on the back burner, I decided to try the Couch to 5K running plan and discovered a new love for running.  (Read more about my "Running Journey" here.)  I knew almost instantly that this newfound love was the real deal and decided to start keeping a training journal.  The first workout I recorded was from week 4 of Couch to 5K.  Here's a picture of the journal I started back in June 2010:

 That summer I read The Courage to Start by John Bingham, a book that was a HUGE part of my falling in love with running and creating my own identity as a runner.  When I read about Bingham's journey from couch-potato-smoker to ("penguin" slow) marathon runner, I was completely inspired and realized for the first time that walk breaks were a-okay and did not make me less than a runner!  I wrote the title quote from that book on the first page of my journal, and it truly sums up the journey to become a runner that I captured in its pages.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.  For the past two years, I've recorded my workouts, thoughts about training (and injury after injury), and motivational quotes in this journal.
It captured my very first 5K in 2010...
My first half-marathon in 2011...
And most recently my first tri...
It's pretty amazing to look back through this journal and remember that just two years ago I felt like an imposter calling myself a "runner" and was shaking with nerves just lining up at my first 5K.  What a journey it's been!  After this week, though, my training journal will be FULL.  Crazy!  Since recording my training on paper has become so special to me, I decided to put some extra TLC into making my next training log even more special than the first.  Being a child of two children of the 60s, Mod Podge has always been my absolute favorite craft supply.  I would mod podge every piece of furniture in my house if I thought it would be socially acceptable.  
I spent an evening paging through copies of Runner's World magazine and cutting out just the right pictures and words, then meticulously arranging them on the notebook I had bought and covering them with layer after layer of mod podge.  I absolutely love love love the finished product: 
Front cover
Back cover
Love love love this quote from Marc Parent's column, "The Newbie Chronicals"
Inside cover
 Like in my first training journal, I decorated the first page with a few quotes and mantras that sum up my thoughts on running from where I stand right now.  Special thanks to Julia for sharing the verse in the middle.  Love it so much. :)  I know so many runners use their blogs to record their mileage, or daily mile, or other smartphone apps, but I think I will always keep a training journal.  There is just something so special about being able to flip back through the pages and see how far I've come, and look forward at the blank pages and think about how many amazing running adventures I still have waiting for me...

Do you keep a training journal?

July 7, 2012

Post-Long Run Trail of Debris

I was looking around my apartment the other day after I finished a "long run" (I use quotation marks because my long run these days is about 5 miles...) and realized that when I get home from a run ("long" or otherwise), I leave something of a trail not unlike the debris left behind by a tornado.  One look around and it would be clear to any visitor that either I am a gigantic slob or I just got back from a run and have no energy left.  And now, without further delay, scenes from my apartment, post-long run...
Shoes kicked into a corner (still tied), sweaty balled-up socks kicked off feet immediately upon removing shoes, and bag of misc running "stuff" dropped just inside the door...
Balcony chairs arranged to support perfect leg-propping position, empty box of chocolate milk, and abandoned ice pack slowly warming in the sun...
Beach-towel covered couch with pillow in prime napping position...

I feel like I could use these pictures for a lesson on making inferences with my kiddos :)  

What does your "post-long run trail of drbris" look like?

July 4, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Happy 4th!  What better way to celebrate the holiday than with some reading?? Oh, you'd prefer beer and fireworks?  That sounds good too.  In fact, I'm heading up to Milwaukee in a couple hours to visit my best friend and celebrate the 4th with exactly that!  But first, let me share two books I read this past week that I just loved.

Let me preface this review by saying that both of these were books that I did not expect to love.  Both were a little slow for the first chapter. (I'll admit that since I've started reading EXCLUSIVELY teen fiction I've fallen to victim to the instant-gratification-induced mindset of needing my books to hook me almost instantly.  I think I regress in age with each teen book I devour, and it is entirely possible that by the end of the summer I will mentally be 12 1/2 years old.)  To be honest, the "world building" in each of these books was confusing to me at first.  Where was my straight-forward, Hunger Games-style, easy to understand dystopian world?  But trust me when I say this: these books are worth getting through the first chapter, suspending disbelief, and forcing yourself to adopt some shred of patience when they aren't instantly dropping you into a romantically-charged fight-to-the-death arena.  Both books were wonderful.  Read them.

 Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Summary: (courtesy of goodreads.com) New soul.  Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.  No soul.  Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?..Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?  

My thoughts:  Like I said, this book moved slowly at first which is actually completely fitting as the characters are anything but rushed.  I loved meeting Ana, the protagonist, and watching how the deep scarring from her upbringing of being called a "Nosoul," a soulless being incapable of emotion much less love, influences her actions and words.  It is powerfully beautiful to watch Ana grow to understand herself and realize that she truly is a soul-filled person and to watch Sam patiently accompany her on this path to self-acceptance.  Of course there is a little romance--but it is so sweet and beautiful.  I love love love a break from the "we spotted each other from across the cafeteria/parking lot/yard/biology lab and instantly fell in love and will run away from home/turn our backs on friends/drop out of school/become a vampire in order to never be separated from each other again" completely crazed romance that is in so many teen books these days.  This romance (although completely fantasy as well, don't get me wrong) was like a breath of fresh air.  I found myself forcing my eyes to stay open as I devoured this book well into the night, only to pry them back open early the next morning to finish it.  Not a perfect ending and not a perfect book, but I loved it.
4/5 stars

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Summary: (courtesy of goodreads.com) WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.  DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.  Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.  Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.  If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.

My thoughts:  Again, I had a hard time getting into this book at first.  The dystopian word Rossi constructs was a little...challenging for me to visualize.  I felt kind of dumb during the first few chapters actually, especially considering this is another teen book.  However, it all comes together and after finishing Under the Never Sky, I actually like the fact that Rossi didn't devote a chapter explaining her "world" to us point blank--I like that she trusted her readers to understand the world as the novel played out.  Aria and Perry are truly awesome characters and I loved the way the omniscient narrator alternated between sharing their thoughts and emotions with us with each chapter. 

What I loved most, though, was the development of their relationship.  Like Incarnate, this development is so different from most of the teen reads I've been devouring as of late, but in a totally different way.  Aria and Perry have been raised in completely different worlds--her in the technology-saturated protection of the "pods" in which many humans have taken shelter and constructed their own digital worlds, and him in the wild expanse outside of the pods where the human race has divided into powerful tribes seeped in ritual, customs, and unique cultures.  They are completely opposite in every way and pretty much hate each other through a good chunk of the book.  And you know what?  If this ever happened in real life, two people thrust together into a painful situation like Aria and Perry WOULD hate each other, or at least drive each other crazy!  I know the boy-meets-girl, boy-hates-girl, boy-and-girl-learn-to-love-each-other plot isn't new by any means, but it is less common in teen fiction than it is in Hollywood rom coms.  I loved it in this book, and really really loved the ending which I promise not to spoil.
4/5 stars

The good?  Both books are the first in brand new series.  The bad?  Book 2 for each is light years away.  (Or so it feels at least!)

What are you reading this week?

As always, cover photos and italicized summaries are courtesy of goodreads.com.

July 3, 2012

Triathlon Training Tuesday: Giving 110% and FINALLY Embracing Freestyle

Can I tell you a secret?  I don't always like to push myself.  Yup, I can be a creature of comfort, loving the feeling of a routine.  One area of tri training that I have definitely NOT been pushing myself this summer was swim training.  Yes, I conquered my fears of open water swimming, but to be honest, I've been swimming SHORTER distances since I started tri training than I used to swim as part of regular running cross training!  How did that happen?  That does not even make sense!

I'm pretty mediocre at every aspect of triathlon, but my swimming is pretty much Terrible.  Sorry for all the money you spent on lessons, Mom and Dad, but none of it really sunk in!  Let me spell it out for you: I'm a breaststroker.  Period.  For the past few years since I rediscovered the wonders of weightless cross training in the pool, breaststroke has been my go-to stroke.  This winter when I first started thinking about triathlons, I decided to give freestyle another chance.  How bad could it be?  I used to swim this stroke as a kid.  I was in shape.  Every other swimmer at the gym seemed to be able to swim freestyle without issues.  Why not me?  So I tried a lap...and almost drowned.  Not even kidding.  I remember thinking, "What the *$&#$???  What is happening here?  Why did I almost just die in the pool when I can swim 1,000yds of breaststroke without blinking an eye?"  (<- that may be an exaggeration, but you get the picture.)  I decided to take it in stride (in stroke?) as a challenge to work on during the winter, and I had big plans to be able to swim freestyle for my June tri.  Then...I didn't.
Awesome breaststroking action.  Yep. I'm that swimmer who actually stopped to WAVE to her family.  
Hardcore athlete right here, folks.

Swimming got put on the back burner during the end of my half-marathon training in April, and when I made it back to the pool in May, I got a little freaked out.  I couldn't swim more than a lap or two of freestyle without hyperventilating, and hyperventilating was NOT something I wanted to happen in open water! (Hah. The joke was on me, it turns out, as I hyperventilate for at least 1 minute any time I attempt an open water swim freestyle or no freestyle...)  I said, "Screw it.  I'm swimming breaststroke and just trying not to drown." My swim workouts settled into an easy pattern of breaststroke laps, never exceeding the 1/2 mile distance I needed for my tri, regardless of the fact that I'd previously exceeded this distance on a regular basis.  I was comfortable.  Life was good.  I froggy kicked my way through my first tri and every swim workout since.
 Let me be clear: There is ABSOLTELY nothing wrong with swimming breaststroke for a workout or for a tri.  For me though, I'd had a goal to push myself out of my swimming comfort zone and attempt to improve at a stroke that's challenging, and I totally stepped away from the challenge instead of rising up to it. Until last week when I decided enough was enough.   Wednesday morning I was pulling on my swim suit for a workout and noticed the pool in my apartment complex was completely empty.  Is there nothing sweeter than an empty pool?  Oh, maybe an empty pool with the sun shining down on it.  Granted, this pool is maybe 1/2-2/3 the size of my gym pool, but I figured I better embrace this sunny day swimming opportunity, as I'd be longing for the chance come fall!  I jumped in the pool and decided the tiny lengths were the perfect chance for me to practice my abysmal freestyle since I only needed to make it to one end without drowning, sinking, or otherwise embarrassing myself in front of the maintenance workers sanding the patio.

You know what? I totally rocked it and ended up swimming freestyle for almost my entire workout!  I have no idea how long the distance was, but I swam for about 25 minutes which is definitely a new freestyle record.  Then...I forgot to go to the pool again for days...oops.  Was probably too busy playing with this girl...
Sorry, I had to put in an Adorable Niece picture.  Don't even pretend she's not the cutest baby you have ever seen.  That's what I thought.

Yesterday morning I somehow tore myself away from an awesome book (check back tomorrow for my review!) and headed to the gym, ready to jump back in the water.  On my way there, I decided it was time to stop settling for good enough.  I can swim a 1/2 mile of breaststroke with no breaks and no problem.  I can settle and swim that for my tri in August and for my run/swim/run race I'm doing Sunday.  It's fine.  Breaststroke is fine.  1/2 mile is a solid distance.  Is fine really enough though?  Seriously?  I leave it all out there on the road when I'm running; why is the pool any different?  Enough was enough.  It was time to go for it.  I planned my workout in my head, deciding I would do at least 1,250 yds and try to do every other lap freestyle (+ breaststroke warm up and cool down).  I told myself I could do this.  I had this.  Today was the day. 

You know what?  I think I finally hit my freestyle groove!  I have never felt as comfortable with the stroke as I did yesterday!  It was still crazy hard and way harder than breaststroke, but for the first time I felt like I was actually swimming semi-correctly, moving forward, and not on the verge of dying.  Success?  In my book, YES!  I ended up swimming a set of 10 laps (500yds) alternating freestyle/breaststroke, and then swam 10 more alternating 2 freestyle/1 breaststroke, with 4 back-to-back freestyle laps at the end.  I know that may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was like knocking down a HUGE wall! 

I now know that I am capable of swimming freestyle for more than 1 lap at a time, and I'm wondering if it was just my mental block that was holding me back all along.  I know that in my swim/run race Sunday and in my tri, if I get tired or get freaked out about the open water or other swimmers and revert to breaststroke, it will be fine.  But I know now that I have it in me to swim at least part of my distance freestyle, and I also know that I have a lot more in me than I'd previously thought.  I start every day in my classroom with a cheer that goes something like this:
Me: Team (my last name), why are we here?
Students: To learn!
Me: Where are we living?
Students: Above the line! (<- from a Quantum Learning lesson on accountability)
Me: What are we gonna give?
Students: 110%!
I like starting the day this way, with a reminder (for all of us!) that anything less than our best in the classroom is unacceptable.  I needed this reminder when it comes to training, and you can bet I will keep it in my head from now on.  This swim was the beginning of something for me, and while I will never be a great swimmer, you can bet I will NOT be settling for less than MY BEST in the pool again!

Note to self: Never settle for less than 110%.  Oh, and wear sunscreen when swimming in the outdoor pool. That diamond back tan + sports bra tan is doing nothing good for you.

What have you done lately to get our of your comfort zone?

July 2, 2012

Belated Race Pics!

I've been meaning to post these for weeks--my race pics from my tri a few weeks ago actually turned out pretty decent!  2012 resolution to have cute race pics--another win!
Okay, this one isn't exactly cute, but I love that I'm laughing with the girl next to me as we wade out of the lake/pool/whatever post-swim!  Captures the fun spirit of this awesome race.

Yay!  Success! (And holy heel strike...)

Do you buy your race pics? I have to admit, I never do...I pretty much just save the tiny files on my computer to look back at later and smile about :)

Check back tomorrow for more about my training for triathlon #2!
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