Monday, November 24, 2014

Chasing the finish line euphoria - my thoughts on Ironman goals

In my experience there is nothing quite like the euphoria experienced when one crosses the Ironman Finish line.

Background informal Case Studies
In the best of cases Ironman races take your intended goals and chew them up and spit them up as tears during the marathon. This year however mother nature joined the show and just made chaos out of Ironman goals across the nation.
Lake Placid Ironman - lightening in the swim.
Lake Tahoe Ironman - cancelled. The whole kit and caboodle.
Florida Ironman - swim cancelled and it became the IronBrick. Goals crushed.
Arizona Ironman - super windy beating the tar out of pro and age grouper dreams on race day.

These things got me thinking about Ironman goals. I'm a big goal person.

Who am I to say?
I'm certainly not an Ironman expert. I've done only two and I didn't win either of them. I dunno but I'm giving myself license to expound on my thoughts on Ironman goals.

Be realistic. It has to fit into your life.
There's a lot of bravado and type-a personality stuff that goes around with Ironman training. Slogans like HTFU, Sufferfest, pain cave, PR or ER. It's part of the package.
This is just here because I think it's funny.

When I was not even signed up for my first Ironman a fellow training buddy Tony was training for his first Ironman. He mentioned that he was looking forward to having a good single-malt scotch after the race. He had abstained from scotch for the duration of his six month training and was missing it. Tony is young and single. He had sworn off happy hours for the duration of his training and he was feeling lonely and anti-social. My other training buddy Randy snorted and said something like, "That's ridiculous! It [Ironman] has to fit into your life."

Two things. First, I agree with both things these guys said. I'll explain in a minute. Second, I think the key to being happy with your iron-distance performance is partly in what Randy said.

The more we sacrifice for something the more important it feels and the more pressure there is that it just be perfect. It takes 6 months of daily physical training to prepare for an Ironman. About 6 weeks of that is very time intensive and requires sacrifices by everybody in a family just because of the time involvement needed. Those are the facts, according to me.

I do abstain from lots of things including alcohol, carbonated drinks and deserts for a short period (about 4-6 weeks) before an Ironman or marathon. I want my body to be in as good of shape as I can to take on the challenge. But I don't feel deprived while I do this. If I did ... I wouldn't do it.

In fact, for the first time for this marathon coming up after Thanksgiving I am not modifying my diet before the race. It will affect my performance but I'm enjoying my life.  So, I agree with Tony's decision to drop this from his diet. But I also agree with Randy. Because it is ridiculous to give up something you enjoy, something that is a part of your life in pursuit of this hobby if it makes you unhappy. I'm not going to win this race so why should I make myself miserable training for it?

I think that in order to be able to enjoy your race you need to not resent the time investment it takes to get to race day.  It is always a good idea to remember that this is just a race and it is just a hobby we do for fun.

So let's talk about goals. 
Anybody who has ever taken a leadership or management seminar has probably been taught about setting "smart" goals. It's a pretty common technique and I think it's fairly effective. One of the things that makes a smart goal smart is that it's realistic. It's worth saying again - Realistic.

This is something to be very careful of when making your Ironman goals. So much of the day is completely out of your control that it's important to take this into account when making your goal. I think it's also a good thing to keep in mind with your training goals. It has to be realistic. It has to fit into your life.

Why do diets fail over and over? Because people try to make dramatic changes all at once. Anybody can make a drastic change for a short period but if it doesn't fit into your life it won't stick forever. The same is true of endurance training for these races. You probably can make huge financial and lifestyle changes for six months while you train for an Ironman but if it doesn't fit in your life, you might be miserable and it might not feel worth it.

Even more common is that you will be mentally exhausted by sacrificing so much during your training that you don't have the mental capacity to dig very deep during the race.

Beware racing in training
I've been running and racing a long time. I'm old. Okay not old but older. One thing I've observed is that if you can't tell the difference between racing and training you won't race well. It takes an effort both mentally and physically to perform on race day. Leave that effort to race day if you want to have the best performance on that day.

There is another danger hidden in racing during Ironman training and that is that you may err and set your time goals based on peak training performances. That is super risky because the only time most people put all three of the disciplines together at that distance is on race day. So don't stress how fast you ran your 18 miler or your best time on your 100 miler because it may not relate in the end. 

Beware the time goal
One hour in an Ironman race is both a huge amount of time and also practically no time at all. So much of an Ironman is completely out of our control. Specifically, the weather and flat tires. We can only race the race given to us on the day of the race. So if I give myself a goal of a 1:15 swim but I wake up to 15 mph winds I'm not going to make that goal. I'm just not. If I set my goal for a sub six hour bike but I get two flat tires - it's not going to happen. It's not a realistic goal given the scenario. So, in that case if I'm not prepared to adjust my goals on the fly I will most likely experience a sensation of failure.

This dog is awesome but perhaps not a goal setter. He's not worried about anything but enjoying this ride. A lot can be learned from this dog about being happy.
Many people are afraid of adjusting their goals because they feel that it might open up the mental door to allowing less of an effort during the race. That's a definite thing to be wary of. A lot of Ironman is mental and sticking to your goals in the middle of the long bike and long run is tough. There is a difference between adjusting your goal for a flat tire and giving up because you're tired during the end of the bike/run. I mentally practice how I will get through the mental fatigue in the bike and run. I have a mantra I want to use if I find my self veering off my desired effort. In Chattanooga on the run it was to ask myself do I have anything left? The answer was always yes and I would pick up my feet and run. 

But there is another option in those two scenarios which is to be proud of the accomplishment. To finish a 2.4 mile swim in rough conditions is impressive. To finish a 112 mile bike including two flat tires is impressive.

This is not to say that we shouldn't have time goals. I have conditional time goals for all of my events but I try to have the awareness that conditions have to be correct for me to meet them. Conditions of my body, conditions of my training, conditions on race day. And for me the ultimate goal is always to give each race my best effort that I can that day.

Beware the one and done pressure.
You may only want to do one Ironman. That is a perfectly acceptable goal. Ironman races sell out sometimes as much as a year in advance. Ironman races are also very expensive. So there is a lot of pressure on that one single day. It's a good idea to think about that before the event. 30% of people who register for an Ironman don't start the race. Their training fails, they are injured or they just get sick. Due to no fault of your own you could have the flu on race day.

File this under the 7 ps slogan. Prior proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Be ready to accept it and make a plan. It would stink but what will you do?

One way to avoid this pressure is to be registered for more than one race in a year. But for Ironman sometimes that's not feasible.Another way to avoid this is to celebrate your accomplishments as they come and understand that the race is just a race and nothing more and nothing less.
Yes, propaganda but I love it.

So how do you get that euphoria over and over? You have to love it all.
My kids love winning. And they hate losing. Who doesn't? But I tell them this when it comes to sports. You have to love it all. You have to love everything about it. The practice and the competition or else it isn't worth doing. You will lose. Anybody who chooses to participate in sport will at some point not be the winner. What makes winning so special is that it is so incredibly tough to do.

For me in Ironman winning is finishing. Winning is doing my best, meeting my goal of the day whatever the day may bring. 

May your next finish line be euphoric wherever that finish line may be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why I get a physical every year ... and so should you

I'm a middle-aged mom and every once in a while I just can't resist getting up on my box and saying, "hey you should do this!"

I'm healthy. I'm 41 years old and I'm healthy. But every year I get a physical. I just had my physical Friday.

adding to the chaos of my life this car was in the body shop for 2 weeks after it was skewered by a forklift. Not related to my physical at all but still a crazy story. all better now as you can see.
My doctor has a new team member and because I'm healthy I get the new kid but my doctor will still review all my results. She must have asked me about 15 times why I was there ... did I have any concerns. I finally asked her whether I was the only adult to get a physical and she admitted it wasn't all that common. One of the nurses was in the room when I asked this and she chuckled and said that I was a good patient who followed directions. I guess that's not the norm either.

I'll admit that one reason I do this is because I am out there racing endurance events and it's good to know my body is in good shape. But that's not the primary reason I do it.
from my daughter's birthday party. 11 year olds singing karaoke. adorable.

My father died of heart disease and for better or worse I was around during the last say 7 years while he was getting treatments and surgeries and so forth. I learned 2 major things during that time that I take with me always.

First, the decisions you make in your 20s and 30s will dramatically effect your medical options in your 60s and 70s. My father stopped smoking around 1980 his surgical options when he had a bypass surgery more than 20 years later were very limited from the damage done to his veins by smoking. While we can't do anything about the way we've already lived our life we can make better decisions from this day forward.
The final cake from the endless birthday celebrations of October and November. Dairy Queen ice cream cake.

Next, it's really good to have a relationship with your doctor and for them to know what you are like when you are healthy. That way when you get sick they have a comparison to make and a basis to recommend what treatments you can handle. Every person is different and figuring out what's going on when you're sick is a very complicated process. If there is somebody who knows your baseline that can be helpful in the process of diagnosing what's going on. 

I'm healthy and my doctor and his office know that. They know me very well. They know my hobbies and they know my family history. When I collapsed last year after making a poor decision to run a triathlon while I had the flu - I was out of town. I was in the emergency room in another city. When I came home I was able to call in and tell them what happened and they helped me recover and get back to form.

In this off season I tried zumba. With my daughter behind me in the jean shorts (which she did classify as work out clothes). It was a fundraiser to benefit the UM CARD center. Portia Lange the instructor is amazing. I still lack any kind of dance coordination but it was fun.
Like I said above. I'm 41. I actually remember when my parents both turned 40. I remember each of them got reading glasses for the first time. I have been able to avoid this by getting lasik about 8 years ago. My parents also for a 40th birthday present both started high-blood pressure medication. At 40 they were both pretty overweight and inactive. I remembered this about them this morning and I was happy that with my 41st physical exam or well checkup I do not have that.

This is the first school project that I have almost done completely for my kid. This was ridiculous. Even after I downloaded directions from google and pbs it still took me about 5 hours. And I'm not kidding it doesn't work all that well so she'll probably get a D. We're at peace with it. Hopefully there will be some extra credit we can do.
So, take care of yourself. If you don't have a doctor maybe look for one. If you haven't had a well checkup in a few years - go get one. 

Me on the bike this past weekend. I actually was dropped by my group. So all that iron fitness is gone. I have to admit that the little paunch around my belly is probably from all the cake and not just the jersey being unflattering. Yikes. Back to work soon.
In other news specific to training. I am sort of off track. Just sort of. I have a pain in my right leg that doesn't hurt while running, walking or riding my bike but sort of niggles me other times. Also family stuff has been keeping me majorly busy so I've been eating too much, drinking too much and treating myself too much. It's okay. Let's call this the off season. I'm adjusting my goals for the marathon accordingly and all will be okay.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The word of the last few weeks is "overcommitted"

I'm not even sure if overcommitted is an actual word.

But it should be.

There is one week a year that is always very busy in my house.

As a family we have gotten better at handling it but it's a madhouse no matter what.

That week is the last week of October. This year that week multiplied itself into a few weeks. 

October 26th - off to grandma and grandpas house to celebrate the birthdays with bbq and ice cream cake.

October 27th - my daughter's actual birthday - and swim Halloween party plus a cub scout meeting. I always make my kids homemade cakes for their birthday so that's what I did while they were in school.Oh and I ran to the lego store for a giant lego set which was her toy present. She's growing up but she still wants a toy for her birthday.

October 28th not her birthday but we had to take a giant cookie to gymnastics anyway.

October 29th - my birthday. I celebrated by eating lunch at school with my son and playing games and reading books with him. Plus later stone crabs and a giant chocolate cake.

October 30th - just lots of leftover cake.

October 31st - Halloween. Fun all day. Plus costumes and candy and way too much wine.

November 1st -- this runner did not get up and run her 17 miles. Nope. Didn't. I did actually get up and make coffee and then decided I was in no shape to run and went back to bed. Bad runner.

My husband took my daughter and a friend to see Cinderella the show and on the way back they were speared by a forklift while driving. I know this sounds too bizarre to be real but it's what actually happened. Nobody was hurt. Traffic on US-1 was ridiculous so he took a local frontage road that goes in front of a hardware/lumber store (shell lumber). As they went by the store a forklift ran into the car and speared the front and took out the right front tire. So that added a little extra chaos to our day. Luckily we were home when he called. We were heading out to the bookstore because we just read my son's homework worksheet which said at the top, "read a book about a hispanic american" which we hadn't done and didn't have. Oops. But instead, I took the other car to get them all and I noticed that this car seriously needed service. All the scary looking service lights were on which got my attention. My favorite part was calling to tell my daughter's friend's parents what happened ... not.

Oh and then my husband took my son to the haunted house and to get the aforementioned book on a hispanic american. My instructions were to find the shortest book possible. Which turned out to be Roberto Clemente.  My daughter and I stayed home. It was a long day for my husband. 

November 2nd -- my son and husband spent the day with the cub scouts at the football game. Seriously 9:45 - 6:30. My daughter and I finished her science project. There were only 2 sets of tears so that was a success. And then at 12 we went to her swim meet. Where she did very well, thank you for asking. Then we went to dinner and then quickly to Macy's to get pants she needs for school this week. Apparently Macy's closes at 7 which we didn't know and let me tell you they should really make an announcement because it scared the pee out of me when the lights went out while we were in the dressing room. Luckily not all of the lights but still. Very weird. We were able to get the pants but after we checked out we couldn't get back into the mall and had to walk around the outside to get to the car. So we got home at about 7:15 and the boys were already in bed. By 8 the whole house was sleeping. It was daylight savings but still we were all exhausted from the week and weekend.

At this point of the busy week we had exactly zero food in the house. So the next morning I fed the kids something and scraped together a bare minimum lunch with my one goal of going to the grocery store. But instead ... remember the car being speared by the forklift ... I spent the morning with my husband getting a rental car which took slightly less than forever. I was a little grumpy about the whole thing because after all "I" didn't get the car speared by a forklift. Then my husband's car went off to the shop where it needed to be seen because all of the scary service lights were on and it was frightening. Turns out he had basically no front brakes left ... those are good to have so I'm glad the scary lights were on. Although I don't know if my husband would have every actually had the car serviced. And then it was time to pick up the kids and there was no trip to the grocery store made. Proof that I have a very creative mind was shown when I managed to make a dinner out of the nothing in the refrigerator.

And then on November 4th I finally got to go to the grocery store. Ahhhhhh. Who knew that all it took to make me happy was ... produce.

Then we immediately had house guests and some out of town travel because my husband 's father was celebrating his 80th birthday. Which is HUGE and I'm thrilled to celebrate it with them. But those celebrations turned into a week. A fun week but still I'm ready for some downtime.

In order to spend the weekend with them I did my 20 mile run on Friday. So that's the longest solo run I've ever done. 

Our houseguest left today. In fact I just got a text he landed at his home airport. Now it's time to catch up. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Marathon Monday

I ran the Miami Halloween half marathon on Saturday with some friends which was a good time.
I'm in the tutu.

We have been suffering through a tropical depression for about a week. A tropical depression translates to rain ... constant insufferable rain and sometimes wind. Friday was a mess. What I wanted to do was nap all day but halfway through the afternoon I headed to South Beach to get my packet. Pickup took all of 30 seconds but the drive there and back was almost endless.

I also picked up a new handheld bottle for my hydration since I tossed mine in the Rome marathon and I likewise tossed my amphipod fuel belt in the marathon of Ironman Chattanooga. It's a bad habit I seem to have made tossing things that annoy me at the end of a marathon. But it feels awesome at the time. Very cathartic. This thing "insert offending item" annoys me and fliiing it's gone.

Some people always run in costume. Not me. Not ever. But this is obviously a costume theme run. Some people are better at costumes than others. I'm not very good at it but I did pick up a tutu and a bow tie for the occasion. That was enough. Some costumes were very clever and it was definitely entertaining. I was passed by a runner in a full bacon suit. That was humiliating. I thought to myself, you can't be passed by the bacon ... and yet he was much faster than me so there it was.
proof of my one and possibly only tutu run. The bow tie as you can see was almost immediately flung sideways.

We started at Parrot Jungle and finished at Nikki Beach on South Beach. The course was fine. A good chunk of it was over the wood boardwalk and at one point we had to descend a few steps which was pretty dumb but I made it through then at the end we climbed the hill in Lummus Park and that was painful but overall a good course. It was a tad shy of the ful 13.1 miles at least .1 or .2. But that was okay with me. I was happy with my new PR of 1:52:36. I'll take it. That was good enough to put me 12th in my age group. And there were well over 100 in my age group.

But the thing I'm happiest about is that my average pace was 8:47 overall. Initially I was excited because I thought that my coveted BQ pace is 8:45. However after a teeny tiny bit of research my bq pace is more like 8:35. Not quite as close. Admittedly that's over a marathon not a half marathon and I didn't quite hit that pace but it feels close ... it feels very close.

Back to my bad habit. It was a cool day 75 at the start 82 at the finish probably. I didn't look it up that's a guess. A little warm for me to run fast. I was wearing a hat and my head was really warm I was tempted to toss my hat but a cooler head prevailed. Pun intended. I thought to myself that I had to be able to hold onto all the things I started with for a half marathon otherwise I was being ridiculous.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Catching up ... the ridiculously mundane side of Ironman recovery

Piles and overstuffed drawers.
I'm a piler my husband is a stuffer. So after any big project our counters are covered with piles of things that need to be addressed and the drawers are all full of just general garbage.

Training for an Ironman takes time. Time that otherwise might be used to do stuff like sort piles and complete paperwork.

In my house - housekeeping means keeping the house up and running not cleaning. I'm not a good cleaner when it gets much past loading the dishwasher.

In order to make time for training a lot of little things don't get done. You do the most pressing things and then the others just get a bit delayed. Just like any big project in life. Some you hear about all the time when you read about Ironman training like dinners out with friends, date night with your spouse, mowing the grass is a common one and so on. But as I was going through all the things I'm catching up on I thought I'd share with you if only so that if it's also happening to you you don't feel alone.

Non-workout clothes - This one is in better shape than it was after I did IM France because I've signed up for Stitchfix. But while I do a great job of buying new workout clothes during training my other clothes are all in sad shape. Sad sad shape.

Heart of Darkness - Nope not the Conrad book. It really is dark in here. We have at least one light bulb out in every room. Not to mention all of the outdoor bulbs were completely out and also we had two fixtures that need an electricians attention. My husband actually changes the light bulbs so what I fell behind on here was actually just nagging him to do it, buying the bulbs and calling the electrician.

Underwear -- hee hee don't be offended by the intimacy here. I spend practically all my time in workout apparel while I'm training and built in undies are always there. While I did update my sports bras as needed during training I realized that it was way overdue to update all my delicates in my drawer. When I mentioned it to my daughter I discovered that so were my kids. So new undies, bras and socks all around.

Dry cleaning - While I live in workout wear my husband does not. So who knows when the last time I took the dry cleaning in. It was a huge amount of shirts. He's going to feel like he's got a new wardrobe when it all comes back tomorrow.

School paperwork - I just finished the beginning of the year school paperwork. I hate paperwork. I'll blame the Ironman training but seriously how can there be so many stupid little things to complete for school?

New glasses and cookie sheets and pans
I cook almost all that we eat in my house. We have well water and it's hard on our glassware and stuff. So we had one nonstick pan that was basically destroyed - the cookie sheets had gotten so rusted in the corners that it was ridiculous and the glassware was white and opaque with mineral deposits. These I finally just replaced.

Doctors appointments Before Ironman France I had to have a medical certificate so I got a physical. I learned that actually 3 weeks before a big race you might have irregular lab results. So I was happy to not do that again. But it's time for the whole run of appointments, eye doctor, dermatologist, ob, and regular physical. Ugh. I am generally of the opinion that the only way to stop bad news from doctors is to not visit doctors. But it should be done, right?

My kids have outgrown a ton of stuff. Toys, books, clothes you name it. Some of it has made it into bags that just need to be delivered to the goodwill. But their rooms are crammed full of crap. Going through it and sorting it for what they use now and what is ready to go is seriously behind.

Crap in the garage
I swear that the stuff in the garage mates and multiplies if you don't keep up with it. Seriously where does all this stuff come from? I filled up a giant garbage can earlier this week with just stuff I could reach while I was looking for my bike pedals. Crazy.

Houseware staples
I have a cleaning lady. She never tells me when we're out of anything except laundry detergent and garbage bags. She will just make due. She makes due by watering down all the cleaning supplies. Which means my house is basically being cleaned with water.

I learned last training cycle to stock up early with cleaning staples and kitchen staples. But I realized last week that we were out of everything. Windex, counter spray, bleach, rice, flour, salt. Those ridiculous towels that the maids in Miami use - totally worn out. Seriously, everything. I wonder what the clerk thought when I was checking out of target with my supplies. Maybe that I had just moved or something. My cleaning lady was super excited to find all the replacement stuff. I'm not sure why I can't get her to tell me when things are empty. It's a little strange.

Quick training notes
I did my first bike ride yesterday since the race. I had to find my pedals which I can conveniently stored in a ziploc on the floor in the garage. This is when I noticed the abundance of crap that had accumulated.

It was a short brisk ride. Fun and not too hard. I wasn't sure I was looking forward to being on the bike but it was great fun. My training friend Nicole did a century yesterday. This is why she's faster than me. I can't think of anything I wanted to do less than go do a century. Yuck. And I ran. Lots of running right now on the schedule.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The week my life became an episode of 60 minutes

First things first I have not ever nor do I want to ever be on 60 minutes. I'm happy with my boring anonymous life.

Middle School
My daughter is in 5th grade. We live in Miami, Florida (an area not known for it's educational excellence). Her elementary school only goes through 5th grade.
So, Wednesday I toured 3 middle schools.

One is our home school a public school that is open to all the kids in our district. One is a highly-ranked magnet public school. The last was an extremely expensive competitive admission private school.

The three could not be more different. That is perhaps the most obvious statement ever made. Until this week I thought I understood our options. I thought we had a good plan which was if we got the magnet great - if not our suburban home school for middle school would be okay.

At the end of the day. I had a headache. I was confused. My husband and I were a little cross with each other and my poor kid ... well who knows what she thought about the whole thing.

I didn't sleep well last night with the pressure of the situation weighing on me mightily.

Change is hard. Change when you don't fully understand the options is harder still. Change when you aren't in control of any or all of the situation is especially hard.

I'm not sure why but this feels like a super complicated and really important decision.

Also, there is no perfect solution and that's just a giant pain in my tooshie.

People say, "you have to know your kid."

Well I do know my kid. She's 10 years old. She'll be 11 this month. She's not a fully-formed person yet. That's what I know.

Here's what else - She's very independent. She wants to post on Instagram but I won't give her an account yet. She plays Minecraft, she can do Sudoku puzzles that her father and I can't complete - she loves math and wants to be a cheerleader and she still travels with her American Girl doll. She does not like to brush her teeth and she hates Brussels sprouts.

How in the world does any of that relate to helping her choose a middle school? It doesn't so to all those people who keep saying that I say, "please shut up." Don't be offended - I said please :-)

I want her to have the least traumatic middle-school experience possible and if she didn't come out of middle-school hating learning that would be pretty great. Is that even possible? What was your middle school experience like?

So wait, what's the problem?
Lets take a look at the schools and what we saw.

The Community School
First lets look at our home school. I called to find out about tours and the phone rang 11 times. Seriously, not an exaggeration. When it answered I was transferred to the voice mail of a counselor (one of 4 I know because her message was 90 percent explaining which group she was responsible for) It was a very long message because it was in English and Spanish. We are a bilingual city - it's complicated. I left a message and I didn't hear back. Ever. I still haven't heard back.

So, I just went over in person. I parked and I walked around the campus. It's fine. Not amazing but big fields outside and outdoor gym stuff. Some portable classrooms - not a ton. Then I went inside. I saw the security table but nobody was there. I then actually ran into somebody I knew a daughter of a friend who is happy there. She is happy and her parents are happy. There are plenty of people who are happy with this school option. She took me to the office because she does an hour of her day in the office instead of taking an elective course because as she told me, they're really bad. The office on first glance seemed unstaffed. Weird. I thought.

Finally somebody came to their desk and when I asked for how I would see the school she said she didn't know, the principal wasn't in because they were teaching and the vice principals were busy dealing with a "violence issue" but I could see if one of the counselors was in if I wanted to.

She waived me back toward the back of the office to talk to a secretary. She had this entire conversation with me without even looking at me. Pretty rude actually. But we're in public school now so I know people are overworked and underpaid.

Let's take a minute and digress. While I tell you this story please understand I live in a suburb called Pinecrest. Look it up. It's not inner city at all. But we are a part of the Miami-dade school district which is the third largest in the country. It serves over 300,000 students. I have lived in at least two cities smaller than that.

At this point I was getting a bad vibe. But I took a deep breath and walked into the office to find the secretary and counselors. I walked in to the only other occupied desk and found a very busy secretary. Who was helpful but clearly very busy. On my way to the counselors office (also on my own) I found the assistant principals and part of the security team. They were talking to the child I know about the "violence issue" and this child was being given the responsibility of calling the parents and finding other kids to give written statements. Um, what? So I asked this child whose 13th birthday party is this week how often this happens in the school and she grinned and said, "oh every day."

I did meet with the guidance counselor who was nice. Harried and overwhelmed and busy but nice. Who told me that in a few weeks there is a curriculum fair where we can come and meet teachers and stuff. I should find out about it from my school.

And then I left. Not impressive. Actually not even acceptable. The words I would use are actually shocking and upsetting. In all honesty while she would probably be happy here there is not much chance that we'll send her here. Of course there are some kids who can excel in this school but I think the odds are against it.

Magnet School
At the start of this process this is our first choice. My daughter actually heard about the school from a friend. It's her choice which makes it a pretty great thing.

The school was old, but well maintained. We saw the kids change classes and they were well behaved and sweet. We saw a presentation from the lead teacher and then we got a tour from two- eighth grade students. They were normal and sweet.

If she gets in here she'll be happy.

The middle-school magnets are all random select. If you meet the basic criteria you throw your name in a hat and if you get picked - yippee. If not too bad so sad. For example the school we visited gets 1600 applicants for 150 spots. 1/10 get picked.

So the pressure of this randomness is kindof annoying.

Going Private
I'm hugely blessed that we can actually consider private school as a potential option. It's massively expensive and it comes with it's own set of problems but it's an option. We would have to make huge changes in our life but it can be done. So we went to the open house for the only true selective addmission preperatory school here. This was the only school I took my daughter to. The others were just my husband and myself.

So one other short digression. I have adult step-kids. They both were in a local private school for their entire education until college. So in one sense we've done this and we're a little jaded. We do feel that the high-school tuition was money well spent but kindergarten through eighth grade we feel was just the best of bad options. If we don't have to pay for middle school we don't want to. There are lots of reasons why private school can be the best option but being a good value isn't usually one of them if anybody is being honest in my opinion.

There were at least 1000 people there. Parents and children all hoping for the chance to pay more than a years worth of minimum wages for the privalege of attending.

The sales presentation was spectacular. Some very talented kids sang and danced and performed and extolled the joys of the school. There was a disco ball and confetti. It's a great campus. We knew lots of the kids and parents who were there. After there was a reception with punch and cookies and mini hot dogs and the kids could ask questions from teachers. My daughter loved the cookies and had fun with her friends who were there. I made her go to the math table and she did actually enjoy playing math games with the teacher.

This school is application only. She takes a test, is interviewed, we fill out an application that in all honesty is as much about us the parents as it is about her and if she is accepted she can go.

It's a great school. She would probably be happy there. But is it worth the money? Nope. How could it be? How could any school ever be worth that much money? It can't. But it might be the best option out there.

We are also considering 2 other private schools if she doesn't get into this the most competitive. The reality is that it's totally possible that she might not get in. That's life. 

Must have COFFEE
The next morning in my bleary-eyed state of sleep-deprivation as my coffee brewed. I was so desperate for the caffeine that I was standing at the brewing machine waiting for the coffee to drip into the pitcher (in case you're curious). I took a second to reflect on my own middle school experiences. My parents were divorced and lived in two separate states. My mother when I was young was of the belief that a full life included moving states or cities on close to an annual basis potentially even more often. But she lived in the mid-west where to be honest the schools were fine. There were no huge safety issues - there was no magnet program - I don't think there was a gifted program. My father lived in NYC which has got to be the biggest school district in the country. It had lots of safety issues but hidden in among the just bigness was a system that sometimes worked to get smart kids where they needed to be for the best chance. It was there that I was tested in 4th grade and determined to be a smart cookie.

So I think I attended at least 3 middle schools for a variety of time in 3 separate states. That being said I'd be shocked if combined my parents spent a total of 5 whole minutes even thinking about where I would go to school.

It just was a totally different situation. The total of their research probably included one question: what is the school for this address.

My husband and I had a brief chuckle over that. His parents were middle school teachers - they probably thought about it a lot but he went where they taught and that was that. He had no choice. If I was on site where my kid would go to school I would make that choice too. Nevertheless what they did worked he went from new york public schools to the Ivy league. Something that's always impressive. He's a smart guy.

Its a big problem
Somewhere during my sleepless night or my run the next day I made the connection that I was now neck deep in a problem that has been the basis of documentaries and news programs. It was a bit of a releif but doesn't make it any more fun.

I don't think public schools were ever amazing. I think that's a myth just because people want to believe it. They weren't great when I went through them but I think in Miami it's gotten more complicated.

By creating magnet and charter schools they have succeeded in pulling the most motivated parents/kids out of the community schools and into the magnet/charter schools which does have a good effect if you can get into one of those schools. But there is also I think a rebound effect in the community schools.  What I see is basically a brain drain of good teachers, parents and students. So then the community school (the one in your neighborhood) is not really a good option. I mean it's a good option if your other choice is no school but otherwise not really.

Here's why I think that. The standardized test scores for the 3 elementary schools that feed into our community middle school all average in the 90th percentile. But the standardized scores for the middle school fall to 60th percentile. Yikes. The only way I see that happening is to add poor students and to lose high achieving students. The magnet schools we're looking at all maintain the 90th percentile scoring. 

So what's a parent to do? Drink beer and hope for the best apparently.

I'm kidding - just kidding. Wait am I kidding?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ying to the Yang - a story of a happy family where mommy races Ironman

This picture reminds me of high school. The whole idea of ying and yang and balance in the world was majorly appealing to me as an adolescent.

Training is intense - surprisingly so is recovery
The last several weeks or months or so of Ironman Training is very intense. My family definitely makes some sacrifices to be sure in the form of lost time with me.

So once the race is over there has to be a shift. The ying to the yang. For an entire week I do nothing and it feels great. The first week is heaven. I sleep like a newborn, deep and intense and I have no desire to do anything except eat, rest and enjoy being a newly minted Ironman.

The Itch 
Then I start back slowly but continuing to keep my first focus on my family and my friends. They deserve it. I make my kids brownies, I let my husband serve me wine with dinner, I go to lunch with my husband and even my friends. I take the dry cleaning in, I answer the phone when my mother-in-law calls, I catch up on birthday presents that are overdue. I spend an entire weekend with my daughter at a swim meet. This is how I work to bring the family back to balance - see that's the ying to the yang idea ... get it?
note the homemade brownie in the lunch.

I love my family but I also love my hobby. So believe it or not I want to stop this whole stay up late and sleep in business before my family is quite caught up with their Amy-deficit. I begin looking forward to races I sign up for events. I am envious of those racing and doing long training rides while simultaneously loving my shorter training runs. This is where we are now.

My husband is loving the non-exercising me. He gets up and goes for a bike or a run without any concern that I'll be off doing my thing. My kids love that I'm all about them. It's a needed thing this family recovery. It works for my family this ying and yang.

I've made a lot of pancakes these 2 weeks. Also I got a new pancake pan. Isn't it pretty? Of course, my husband immediately used a metal spoon on it making me want to thrash him but with my post-Ironman blissful state he has lived.
This period of post-Ironman recovery was well timed because my son came down with a weird virus that we went back and forth to the doctor a few times and then yesterday my daughter was sent home with lice. Lice - or in spanish los piojolos is the giant parenting time suck of the universe. So, it's well timed that it happened during this period of recovery.

I did see a little peek of Ironman blues this past week. Mentally, I feel better when I have the focus of the training. That's one of the reasons I do it. I went to bed one night and found my self awash in feelings of why... why...why. Luckily after a few minutes of wondering if I'd lost my mind I thought this my bit of blues colored with the wine that was with dinner...probably and I drifted off to sleep.

The mind is willing - the body a little less so
Also I have to admit that my body is not yet fully recovered. I have a little twinge in my right leg that started with the Ironman marathon. So I'm stretching and rolling and not rushing the intense exercise. All at the same time that I'm restarting the training for my fall marathon. I'm following the Pfitzinger 8 week between marathons schedule and glory be the first 2 weeks are full of recovery runs. It's lovely.

I have a friend who does ultra events all the time. She'll do Iron-distance events week after week. I think she's a little crazy. Also I wonder how in the world her body does it. For me even though I'm not the fastest improvement motivates me. In fact I'm firmly locked into my middle of the pack status. I was almost exactly in the middle of my age-group in Chatty. I'm average ... painfully average.  Some day of course, age will make improvement impossible. But I hope today is not that day.