Sunday, May 29, 2011

Twitter makes me feel like a celebrity

Today kicks off the 100 days of summer challenge, which I am optimistically embarking on. I am challenging myself to 30 minutes of purposeful activity a day for the next 100 days. 20 laps in the pool, breast and freestyle taught me two things: first, my form is terrible and my college swim instructor would be terribly upset if she was watching, and second, salt water pools rock. How did I not know that the pool at my apartment was salt water? And heated? If only it was olympic sized, it would be HEAVEN.

This all started last night. I had a dream about swimming laps in a pool, which I haven't done regularly for 2 years (almost to the day). I had a few outings last year, but my aquatic fitness has really gone by the wayside. I love to swim but have never considered myself a swimmer. Someday I would like to change that, just like how I changed the whole "runner" thing. In my dream, it was perfect, gliding through the water for thousands of yards. Every part of me felt good. I knew I had to get in a pool today, and I am glad I did. I hope I can find time to do it more.

I confess, I haven't been exercising at all for the past 3 weeks (I am shamed, hence the lack of blogging). I have been using every ounce of energy just to get through my daily routine. I have worried that I will never run again (not likely) and be stuck in this funk forever. My batteries have needed a major recharge. Big changes are coming my way: I will be moving back to Southern California soon to look for work. The district has laid off so many teachers I have given up hope of being reinstated. The private school was a dream job, except the salary was not high enough for me to pay off my student loans and afford to buy my weekly ramen allotment. I am taking this as an opportunity to return to my roots and have a fresh start. I have been deeply homesick and I am very excited to be able to see my family again on a regular basis instead of just on the major holidays. I had a great training routine last summer, doing speed work on the middle school track and long runs with killer hills. Most of all, my family is looking forward to having me as their personal chef, which makes me feel incredibly special and excited to try out some new ideas on them, including another round of sorbets and ice creams. Everybody needs something that makes them feel incredibly special!

Which brings us back around to the title of this post. I consider myself a mediocre runner who runs slow miles and has yet to finish a marathon without having to take walk breaks in the last 8 miles. Despite the fact I know that there are so many better runners out there, running still makes me feel special. Being a runner attracted my first celebrity follower on Twitter (Bart Yasso), which was the highlight of my month. Running coaches re-tweeting and responding to my tweets makes me feel like a million bucks. Making friends at races and feeling like their insider follower on twitter makes running relationships magical. But what makes me feel the most special, the most important, is friends and family who have experienced my tortoise-like approach while waiting hours at the finish that make me feel special by bragging about accomplishments for me and always cheering me on like I am Kara Goucher or something.

I'll close with a senior quote from a student in the dance department, which I think really hits on why life is bringing me back home:
"We're not here to impress those who judge us, we're here to make those who will never judge us proud"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Really Big Free Marathon

Part of the bummer I will face being unemployed is not being able to pay entry fees for races. Super big boo! Marathons are typically super expensive and it seems hard to find a cheap one. Well, here is the cheapest marathon you will find!
It's the Really Big Free Marathon. For people not from the Southwest, it isn't actually in Vegas, but in a suburb outside of the city called Henderson. If you want to run down the strip, you probably need to run the Rock n' Roll marathon for that. I'm not sure if you can pick up a hooker in Henderson, but I imagine this more where they live and not where they work. I don't know if you noticed from the name, but it is free. It costs nothing except a $50 deposit that is funded when you toe the line. And you get the usual stuff: tech shirt, goodies, medal, aid stations, etc.

Best part: you have 18 months to start training for the race, so no excuses not to PR. Too long for you to run? Don't worry, there is a half and I have a non-runners guide to running marathons that I will give you to jump start your training. Have plans November 3, 2012? It's a Saturday, and the race is in the morning, so you can go down to the strip to celebrate. I plan of eating twice my weight at a buffet, drinking anything and everything with a lime in it, and falling asleep in a party dress and a pair of Brooks at a slot machine. (If that doesn't convince you, I am not sure what will). These people figured out how to get the sponsors to foot the entire cost of the race as long as you show up to run. Thanks to Adam at The Boring Runner for posting this!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Good Things: Monday Edition

I devoured Dean Karnazes Ultra Marathon Man, gobbling it up in less than 24 hours. That man is a running machine. I am confident I will never reach his level of insanity when running, but I am inspired to continue to push myself and challenge my mind and body to see how much I have to give. The prospect of this is very exciting. And Amanda at Runninghood has pointed me toward some more reading to get me one more step out of my mental slump. Yay!  She is an amazing, reflective, introspective runner/mom/teacher so I have a feeling these books are going to be good. I just love blogging. It opens up so many connections and possibilities I would otherwise be without.

More good news, the ol' running buddy wants to do another race! It only took her 7 months to stop hating me for Nike Women's Marathon. Pending my employment status, we may be running the California International Marathon this winter. I really prefer racing with a someone rather than flying solo. This alone is helping me change my mental state.

In addition to thing running, I am so lucky to have friends and family outside of my running world who are so understanding and supportive, even if they don't get why I want to keep running races and (temporarily) destroying my body. Without Mags and the Bestie, I would be a complete mess. You ladies build me up when I am down, bring me back to earth when I am getting over the top, and unknowingly make me smile when I least expect it and need it the most. I can't imagine my life without them in it. I am lucky to be a woman because I just don't see guys having such rich relationships like this. Love Love Love.

Life is a crazy roller coaster right now, and I have definitely let it get the best of me. Reading my posts for this same time last year, when I was still stressed and feeling lost in life, I noticed I was still upbeat and full of hope. That's the Stephanie I want to return to. When times got tough, I started to do the "Good Things" post to fuel optimism and maintain a humor about things. So, I am going to resume this tradition and get back to the lighter side.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I have an Interview!

The job search officially began about a month ago, but now it is officially official now that I have an interview. Nervous because it is uncharted territory: Middle school and some science teaching responsibilities. The idea of working at a private school is exciting; having met some of the parents at this school already, I know that I will not face the same struggles as I have this year working with at-risk population. I also have applications with other schools closer to my family, which I am eagerly awaiting a response. I was never good at this waiting game.

I really underestimated how difficult my first year of teaching would be. Was it because it was my first year teaching high school? That I had never taught single-subject before? That I was the minority in each of my class periods? All of the above? I am ending this school year utterly exhausted from trying to be the best teacher possible for these kids, constantly having to defend my students, my career and my profession, and end back at square one without employment secured for next year.  I knew that I would most likely be pink slipped for the first 5 years. I knew it would be long hours making lesson plans and trying to figure out the best practices. I never once doubted if I had it in me to be an amazing teacher (I really believe I was born for this profession). But I would be lying if I didn't think to myself at least once or twice the past few weeks if I had what it takes to get past the next 4 years so I am not a statistic (Most teacher quit within 5 years of entering the profession).

With so many changes and things consuming my mental capacity, I have decided not to keep jumping into races. I am going to avoid setting myself up for failure and/or injury by committing the race without adequate training. Instead, I am working on my mental game. I have been a reading machine, finishing the book The Female Brain by Louanne Brizendine (fantastic read for both men and women) and started Dean Karnazes Ultra Marathon Man. Reading about how other people use running to become better at living is like soul food. I just eat it up.

When you hear about injury set backs in training, you mostly hear about physical injuries. There is overwhelming information about how to prevent and recover from IT band issues, nasty blisters, and muscle strains. But rarely do you read about how to overcome mental injuries. When life hits you like a bus and you just can't get back out to do what you love best. Anything that is of the mind is taboo for discussion in our culture.  In a sport so devoted to mental endurance and fitness of the mind, I am surprised there are not as many resources focused on treating injuries of the mind and spirit. If you fracture your hip, you can water run. Stretching, cross training, and rest all help us prevent and treat the physical things keep us from logging our best miles. But when the great motivator in our head breaks down, where do we turn to? How does a runner learn to heal? How do you prevent injuries of the mind/spirit in the first place?

For now I am sticking to small stuff, mostly 30 minute cross training sessions, some treadmill, and a lot of reading and research to get my mental game back. I have lost the mental fortitude I went into my Nike Women's Marathon training with (Boston sucked the runner's life out of me?), and I am desperately seeking it back. Now I am trying to figure how to just shut up about all the bad stuff and get out for a nice, long run.