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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

After 10+ years, I quit teaching

In the summer of 2017, I quit my job as an elementary music teacher.  I started singing in choirs in fourth grade.  I taught music for 10.5 years.  More, if you include subbing and directing musicals.  I was a great elementary school music teacher and choir director.  I have bachelor's and master's degrees from UofM in music education.  I have three Grammy awards from my undergrad days.  I've been a paid performer many times.  I've sung under world famous conductors.  I conducted original music ed. research and wrote a thesis.  I published a portion of that thesis in a peer reviewed journal.  I presented my findings at a state conference.  Shit, I was even recruited to move back to Louisiana as part of LSU's doctoral program in music education (we didn't go).  At no point can I tell you I was honestly proud of any of that with the exception of defending my thesis and publishing.  I was happy when I'd win a competition or a solo, or make a state choir, and singing and performing was absolutely fun.  But, in hindsight, when I compare all of it to the pride I feel regularly related to running, I wasn't proud of those accomplishments.  I think this is largely because singing and music were never hard for me.  To be honest, I hardly ever practiced.  I certainly worked hard at school, but I wouldn't say it was difficult.  Not like researching and writing and publishing, and not like running.  I was proud of many of the relationships I formed with my students, loved many of them as if they were my own children, and was proud to be a positive adult figure in their lives, but, for me, it had nothing to do with my role as their music teacher.  When someone asked me what I "did," (I can't tell you how much that question irritates me) I didn't feel a sense of pride when I responded.  I actually felt a little dread, not wanting to play the part, once again, in the typical conversations about education and teaching and music.  Teaching was hard in that it was a lot of work, but not the kind of work I ever felt great about doing.  Curriculum maps and accreditation committees and getting yelled at by ignorant parents and increasing numbers of students whose behavior indicated they didn't respect their teachers further than they could throw us doesn't make you feel great about your measley salary compared to the hours you're working and qualifications.  This is a whole other conversation and not the point of this post.  Additionally, more and more, I didn't feel that great feeling you get when you share something important with someone.  Again, I loved many of my students and I was happy they were happy because of music, but that's where it ended.  When a runner thanks me for helping them dial in their nutrition, or get them to a starting line feeling confident, or knock time off their PR, I feel proud.  Proud that I helped them feel a little more like a runner and hopeful they'll grow in their love of our sport.  And if you're reading this, I imagine you already know how proud I am of my own running accomplishments, because RUNNING IS HARD, and I work my ass off to be even a little good at it.  I don't know if I've put in my 10,000 hours yet as a runner and coach, but I certainly plan to.  I hated practicing for voice lessons.  Those 10,000 hours would have killed me.  By comparison, my brother and sister in law perform in a professional reed quintet and practice several hours a day.  To quote Kari when asking how I have time to run so much, "But when do you practice clarinet?"  When it comes to running and coaching, I want to read everything, listen to every podcast, attend classes, work towards more certifications, talk to other runners and coaches, and run all the workouts and races!

There have been several times since I graduated college that I thought it would be fun to work in fitness.  But leaving a career in which I'd invested so much time and money seemed insane and scary. By the end of the 16-17 school year, not leaving seemed more insane and scary.  But I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do.  I've worked since I was 16.  I started looking for full time admin jobs, but only had one interview out of who knows how many applications.  I subbed, but I really just don't like teaching.  And it finally hit me that I need to pursue coaching more actively.  I've been coaching a few runners here and there, but I've never put myself out there before.  Once I started working on this, everything clicked.  I can't ever think of a time in my life I've felt so creative.  Creating my website, articulating my philosophy, choosing a name, talking to other coaches, designing a logo...I've been so excited working on this in a way I've never felt excited about other projects.  I've wanted to draw and write and create.  I started working with a new runner and, as usual, the process of learning her goals and creating her program from scratch is fun and exciting and gives me joy.  And then, a week or so into the process, I was volunteering at packet pickup at our local running store, RUNdetroit.  One of their staff was about to go on maternity leave, and it had occurred to me to offer to help out while she was gone.  Turns out they had also been planning to ask me if I was interested!  So now, when someone asks me what I "do," I tell them I work at a specialty running store and coach.  And that makes me proud.  And I look forward to working with more runners and sharing my knowledge and passion for our sport.  I look forward to learning more every day as a runner and coach myself.  It's scary putting this out there; as another coach and friend said, we're our own worst critics, always questioning whether we're good enough.  But I love what I'm doing enough to take the leap and say, "I'm a running coach."  And that gives me joy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Spring 2018 Marathon Goals

Time to get this out there.  Put it out into the universe.  Write it down in more detail, with heart. It's in my training log; Coach Amanda and Jason know my goals.  But it's eight weeks until race day.  I'm about to start some harder workouts, longer long runs, higher mileage, and it's time to dream and time to grind.

Glass City Marathon
Toledo, Ohio
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 7:00 am
PR:  Beat 3:32:15 (last April, same race)
BQ:  3:40 for F35-40 (I'll age up before Boston 2019)

I'd love to run a 3:28.  I'd be thrilled with anything faster than my PR.  I'd be lying if I said I'd be happy with a 3:35.  While that should be enough extra time to earn a Boston bib, I've had my heart broken in the past.  Last year, I had a BQ+2:45.  Historically, the most extra time needed was BQ+2:28 .  This year, it was BQ+3:23.  So I'd rather just run a PR and feel confident I've earned my bib.  Registration isn't until September.  That's a long time to wonder!

I think I can do it.  Every time I've trained for and run a marathon, I've learned a lot.  It took six half marathons for a breakthrough race and PR.  This is only my fifth marathon, so I'll understand if I'm just not there yet.  But I think I'm doing what I need to earn that PR.

  • Serious strength training 2x/week at Detroit Body Garage
  • Mini bands, home strength training, and core 3x/week
  • Stretching and rolling almost every day
  • A little more weekly mileage
  • Really improved diet, making sure I eat as much real food as possible and more protein/carbs
  • Better hydration
  • Resting like a champ
  • Addressing how my cycle affects my hormones, which really affects my running, with some help from Dr. Stacy Sims' book, Roar.
I think my biggest fears are going out too fast and giving up when I get tired in the later miles and slowing down.  Pretty common, right?  I'm planning to run with a pace group for the first time and I've been practicing using my music to help me keep pace when I get tired.  Even if I don't hit my time goals, I'll be happy if I run even or negative splits.

I'm starting to get excited about this race.  As I said, this is my fifth marathon.  I'm starting to feel like maybe, after the suffer-fest that was the FREEP in 2016 and the medical pit stop at Chicago in 2017, I've learned a lot, which you see reflected in the list above.  I've also learned, from my good races, that I CAN do this.  That my 1:34:30 half marathon wasn't just a lucky break.  I DID THAT.  My Boston Qualifiers were still BOSTON QUALIFIERS, even though I didn't earn bibs.  We're so hard on ourselves as runners.  We don't want to bluster.  We don't want to sound boastful.  But I'm finally able to acknowledge that I'm a little tougher than I give myself credit for, and I'm working hard.  Marathons are tricky, and who knows what will happen on race day, but I think this just might be my best one yet, and I'm looking forward to finding out.  And I'm putting these goals out there so that I can celebrate with my community, because one important piece of the puzzle for me is knowing Jason will be at the starting line with me, my parents will be there (first time spectating a marathon!), I'll see friends out there on the course, Amanda will be out in the dead zone like she is every year, and I'll see friends from our Detroit running community in those final miles when it's time to embrace the suck.  And when the suck comes, I think I'll be just a little bit more ready to look it in the eye and prove how much I've grown since last time.

But until then, time to go to work.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reflections on 2017

Two main experiences from 2017 stuck with me.  When I say, "stuck with me," I mean they made the kind of impact where they keep coming back to me weeks and months later.  I feel the emotional weight these two experiences carry.  I'm grateful for these experiences.  I finished the Chicago Marathon after the worst race I've ever had, and I had a lot of difficult dental work done.  Might sound fairly benign, but hey, my life, my experiences, my blog post.  I'll try to paint a picture.

The 2017 Chicago Marathon was rough.  It was the worst race I've ever run.  It was hot, humid, and sunny.  I didn't hydrate properly in the week leading up to the race.  I was sick.  In fact, I'm still sick as I write this.  And I had bad PMS.  Everything fell apart.  I was pulled off the course into a med. area.  I walked a lot.  I ran my slowest time by a lot; no where even close to my April time or my goal time.  But instead of getting pissed at myself, which up until that point would be my response, I just wanted to finish.  I didn't want to quit the Chicago Marathon.  Up until that point, my competitive, type A, perfectionist personality would only perceive achieving my time goals as "good enough."  Somehow, on that day, something allowed me to just let go of all that and accept the reality of the situation.  Maybe it was seeing people all around me in similar situations.  Running sideways because their quads were destroyed.  Walking.  Stopping.  Sitting.  Crying.  Refusing help.  Accepting help.  Medics running down the course with wheelchairs.  But something clicked, and I was just so grateful to finish. Grateful to have the opportunity to be there.  Grateful knowing I was doing something hard, something that made life worth living.  I cried through that finish line, something I've never done before.

Sometimes the finish of the 2017 Glass City Marathon comes back to me.  Arms out, flying across the  finish line.  Jumping on Jason and screaming, "I'm fucking going!" (I'm not).  The feeling that it was (almost) easy.  The feeling of being able to pick it up in the last mile.  But Chicago comes back more often.  When workouts get hard, when I want to quit, when something in life sucks, the knowledge that I made it through the carnage gives me hope I can endure.

I can line up at the starting line of a marathon, ready to endure 26.2 miles, with very little fear.  The fear of dental work keeps me awake at night.  This summer/fall, I had an extraction, two root canals, post/core, crowns, and fillings.  I'm 34 years old.  I must have gone to the dentist and endodontist 10 times in five months.  The fear I felt leading into every visit woke me up at night.  It simmered in the background at all times.  I experienced constant, low-grade stress the entire summer and fall.  It's not that my dentist isn't wonderful; he is.  In the end, I think I was scared of the potential pain and of not being in control of the situation.  Scared of what was coming next.  And upset that my teeth are so bad, even though I did what you're supposed to do.

My sweet, dear friend Amanda came with me to a root canal attempt (visit two) and to a root canal with the endodontist (visit three).  It definitely helped to have her there the first time.  The second time, I was so high on gas I couldn't drive for a while after.  We had a hilarious time going to Babies R Us.  But the fear I experienced leading into the day I went for the root canal and extraction was the worst, and I knew I wouldn't make it through without Jason.  And here's where the learning experience came in.  I'm very self-reliant.  I do not like thinking anyone else has to worry about me or do things for me or help me.  It manifests and being very organized and detail-oriented.  If I plan everything, map out every detail, and account for every variable, no one will have to worry about me or anything I'm involved in, right?  Well, as noted above, dental work really isn't in my control.  Hell for someone like me.  So what's Jason going to do?  Sit there and watch?  It's not like he could do the damn extraction for me, and even if he could, he still had just as much potential to hurt me as the dentist.  Then, because they had so much work to do, they had a lot of stuff set up in the room and he couldn't even come in with me anyway!  Learning experience, personal growth:  Just having him sit next to me in the waiting room, holding my hand, just knowing he was in the waiting room while I was having the work done, just having him with me in the car and at home afterwards, was all the peace I needed.  It was magic.  Again, irrational, I know.  It's not like he could have actually do the dental work.  But my self-reliant brain actually allowed for the fact that, sometimes, we just need someone to be there.  More specifically, the people who love us most.  And if you know us, you know Jason's always there.  At marathons, at concerts, on the highway with a flat tire, and at the dentist's office.  And he always will be.  But some of us have hard heads and don't always fully internalize that we need help.  I hope everyone's lucky enough to have people at their metaphorical dentist's office.

More marathons and more dental work in 2018.  I can't say I'm looking forward to the dental work, but I'm looking forward to whatever these experiences present.