Responding to the Thin-Skinned

In March of 2016, I made the decision to leave the Greenville Track Club. I detailed that in a post on my old blog so I will not rehash that here. I left with the intent and hope of being able to rejoin should the dysfunction improve.

As of this past Memorial Day, it had not.

This year the GTC launched a new race, the Freedom Flyer 2 Miler. I knew right away that I had to run this race because not only do I have a compulsion to run all the races but it’s a new distance, ripe for a PR.

I thought for sure that even though it was a new race, a good number of people would show up. As the day approached I kept occasionally checking the two registration sites to see how many people had signed up. Come race day, that number barely topped two hundred. The pessimist in me expected this outcome. The optimist kept hoping for the last minute sign ups that didn’t come.

The unexpected conflict began, even though I did not know it, my review of the tribute put on by the race director. I know that his heart was in it, that he wanted to honor the fallen servicemen and women. However, a few things like technical difficulties obscured his intent. Mom summed it up well when she called it awkward. I did not phrase it as diplomatically as she did. Hindsight is always 20/20. I whipped out the words without realizing how they might appear to others, especially people who are not inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I posted the link on the official GTC page with a cheery tagline expressing my very real hopes that this race would last at least 40 years like Reedy River. After I posted the recap, I headed to a baseball game and then dinner with family. I disconnected from my phone and didn’t see the comment until a few hours after she had posted.

For Blog
(I obscured names for privacy’s sake.)

When I read her comment, my jaw dropped. This criticism blindsided me. I had no idea what she was talking about. I looked back at the race review portion of my recap and came away even more confused about the intensity of her comment. I responded without remembering the sentence from early in the recap itself. When the second person commented, I realized the inaccuracies of what I had said when I spoke in my own defense.

Blog Photo

I wished that I hadn’t goofed and given him that opening. I wanted so much to defend myself but instead thanked him for the correction. I even went one step further and reworded the offending sentences.

Their response? The page administrator deleted the entire post.

How do I respond to this or something like this? What I write next looks a lot different than my original intent. I thank Mom for that. On our way to Life Group, the night on which I wrote part of this essay, we talked about teh whole incident. Often talking things out brings about clarity and wisdom. Instead of becoming confrontational or withdrawing completely, I will continue to run GTC races. However, in the future when I critique the race in my race review, I will go out of my way to edit and review my words. I will choose to respond in love.

2017 Travels – London Edition – Preparation

When this post publishes, Mom and I will be well into a long awaited jaunt across the pond. We started setting aside money in 2014. For as long as it took to finally get the trip under way, it is well worth it.

Planning this trip looked a lot different than the others, especially from my first European journey. Even though these two trips share a lot, leaving on Wednesday June 7th for example, the day after completing school year obligations, I dod not have the luxury of a snow-storm induced week off from school in early January this time. I made do with the time that I had, thankful for technology enhancements over the past six years. That alone significantly eased the planning duties.

Planning for this trip took place in two primary stages.

Stage One

I knew that I would need to spend one of my winter break beach vacation days planning the skeleton of the trip aka booking flights and lodging as well as nailing down a rough itinerary. I knew that I would not have much time to work on the itinerary once the semester started up again so I also planned to book as much as I could at that time.

I started with the basics, first of which was the flight. Once I found cheap enough tickets, it was time to move on to lodging. Apart from airfare, lodging can make or break a budget. I looked first at hotels to estimate the approximate cost. I then looked at airbnb. Before this trip I had not made use of the services provided but Laura has used it frequently with great success. I excluded all other options besides whole house/apartment, knowing that that would be the most comfortable option both for myself and for MOm. To my surprise I found that six nights in a charming flat north of London cost less than $100 a night with taxes and fees included. I found a similar option for our two night stay in Edinburg. Altogether, our lodging for eight nights cost a little over $700 for two people during peak vacation season.

After nailing down the skeleton of the trip, I set to work on fleshing out the itinerary. I first needed to figure out the best way to fit in the handful of “must sees” on the list. Admittedly, these were things that were must sees to me. Mom, gracious as ever, deferred to me when it came to what we would see on the trip. I knew that if possible, I wanted to go to Cardiff and take part in the Doctor Who Experience. I also could not possibly go to London and not take in the sights of the Harry Potter Studio. Apart from that, I simply wanted to take in as much history as I could without repeating anything from my first trip.

I quickly discovered that, to my horror, the Doctor Who Experience was scheduled to close some time that summer. Tickets had not yet been released for the spring and summer. I had to maintain hope that closing at the end of summer meant July or August, not June. I then moved over to a tool which has served me well the past two international trips, Viator. After reading the descriptions and reviews, Mom deferred to me once again but let know if there was an option she preferred.

By the time the day ended, I had booked our flights, reserved our lodging, booked three tours, made a list of things yet to be booked and nailed down a rough itinerary.

Stage Two

That one day of planning comprised the entirety of my effort for the next several months. Occasionally I checked on Doctor Who Experience tickets but until early May, nothing had been released, including a lack of notification regarding the official closure date. I kept meaning to get around to trip planning but life kept getting int he way.

After Spring Break and the Chicago trip, I knew that I could not afford to put it off any longer. I tentatively scheduled in a little time each weekend to chip away at the remaining tasks. I should have known better than that. I do my best work when I’m on a roll.

On the first weekend of May I sat down to work – I remember because I postponed seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. I started with the Doctor Who Experience tickets. By the time I finished several hours later I had booked and arranged everything that I could ahead of time. The only things that we will purchase once we arrive are Oyster cards (for the Underground), food/meals and a handful of souvenirs.

Some things had to be scrapped form the original plan, like touring the Houses of Parliament. Due to the snap election called by Prime Minister Teresa May, the number of available tours diminished and by the time I went to purchase tickets, sold out. Even if I had been able to snag one of those tour tickets, it would not have included the House of Lords, closed for preparation for the opening of the new session of Parliament. Even with taking some things out, our itinerary is full, not quite to the brim, of amazing things that I cannot wait to share with Mom.

When I return, look for two more posts on the trip: one on the completion of the plan and another, possibly more, on the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the United Kingdom.

A Chance to Start Over

Today marks the last official contracted day of my first year back in the classroom. Tomorrow, I leave for a long-awaited trip to England and Scotland. The parallels beg for comparison.

Six years ago I completed my last contracted day for the school year with the prospect of a trip of a lifetime to London and Paris. On June 6, 2011, I packed up all my things, checked everything off the list, grabbed my name tag, turned in my keys and left. At the time, I thought that I left more than just the building. That day I left teaching. A huge weight rolled off my shoulders. I walked with my back straight, no longer bent under the strain of what felt like too much for me to handle.

I end this year with a feeling completely unfamiliar for me in my teaching career. This time around has been like a complete restart. I compare it to a video game. I have been through this level before but I died before making it out of the level. I restarted the level with complete knowledge of what I did wrong and armed with increased maturity and additional tools.

To better analyze this refresh year, I want to compare this year to my first year. I marched into that classroom with grand ideas for just how well I would teach and how well everything would work. I had nerves, of course, but I also had a false sense of confidence. Reality quickly set in. That confidence melted away in a flash flood. When I came back to teaching, trepidation weighed down every step. I remember starting to cry on one of the work days thinking about how ill-prepared I felt for the coming year; I didn’t want to fail, again.

God blessed me with an amazing veteran teacher as a cohort who reached over, gave me a side hug and promised that we would get through this together. Phend, if you read this, thank you! I will miss you so much next year.

The first thing that punched a hole in my boat that original first year was classroom discipline. I started teaching at 23. I assumed that I had plenty enough life experience. I also knew that I would be able to handle discipline in the public school system despite my personal history at a private Christian school; I completed student teaching at Lakeview after all.

That very first semester God placed a student with an emotional disability in one of my classes. This boy had explosive anger that absolutely terrified me. I had no idea how to handle this. I had no clue what to do a student – or multiple students – treated my instructions with utter contempt. My mind simply could not understand the fact that these kids would choose disobedience or defiance. Too often I reached the end of my rope and resorted to raising my voice, most often in threats I could not back up. The kids sensed my fear and capitalized on it. Each day I woke with dread.

This year I learned from the mistakes of the past. Things have not been perfect; I can look back and identify areas of improvement. The overall experience, however, has been completely different. This time, I was mindful as much as I could, to keep my voice on an even keel and to follow through with the procedures I established. There was a time with my sixth period lovelies that all I could see was a continued downward spiral into history repeating itself. The difference this year came in my cry for help. While things were far from perfect with that class, I know that the students have more respect for me and that I have a grasp on even more tools in my tool kit.

Another thing that left me feeling like I was hung out to dry my first year was the fact that I, as a related arts teacher, lacked a team on which I could rely. Granted, Beck, as an International Baccalaureate School, placed a heavy emphasis on language learning; every student took a language class each year. That meant that Beck employed 3 full-time language teachers: two Spanish and one French. Although we met fairly often, we did not plan together as my cohort and I did every week this past restart year. Rather, I spent countless hours preparing four separate lesson plans every week. I taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade exploratory as well as Spanish 1. That alone consumed hours of my evening and weekend time.

In contrast, this year I benefited greatly from a fantastic team, cohort teacher and co-teacher. I relied heavily on my cohort teacher and her twelve years of experience at Lakeview, especially at the beginning of the year. I cannot adequately express just how grateful I am for all her support and patience. I remember promising several times at the beginning of the year that I would start pulling my weight. She always responded with a smile and assurance that it was no problem at all.

Then there’s my team. We jelled from day one. We hit the ground running and proved as the only core team without a male teacher that women can more than get the job done. We took our school’s motto of TEAM – Together Everyone Accomplishes More – and proved it. Even though three out of the four of us started the year brand new to Lakeview and one brand new to teaching altogether, no one would be able to tell. I knew that I could rely on them. We made decisions together. This level of support and camaraderie exists rarely. I feel privileged to have been a part of it this past year and thankful for the prospect of another year working together.

I ended that first year with the plan to spend the summer digging into books on classroom management, desperately hoping to find a way to salvage my teaching career. I did not want to spend another year as exhausted, frustrated and burnt out as the year before. I dreaded the oncoming of another school year because no matter how much time I planned to spend preparing, I knew that I would not feel prepared enough.

This year, however, I end the year with satisfaction. I plan to spend my non-travel days this summer working on my teaching as a whole, taking the next steps in becoming the best teacher I can be. In between my four trips – yes, I like to travel – I will be taking two grad classes to obtain a GT (Gifted and Talented) Endorsement as well as working on my long-range plans for the year. (In fact, although I tried to work ahead, I will be taking grad work with me to London!) I am looking towards the upcoming year with anticipation.

At the end of this reflection, I have to acknowledge just how grateful I am to God’s work in my life over these past eight years. No other human explanation suffices.

Charity Chase Half Marathon 2017 – Race Recap

Race #129
Half Marathon #39
NC Half Marathon #6
2017 Race #13
2017 Half Marathon #4
Charity Chase Half Marathon #2

Back in 2012 when I was still a fairly new runner, I made a goal of running a double digit race every month. (Living in the south makes it difficult to get in a half marathon.) Thus, I ended up running several races that were slightly beyond easy race day travel, like this race. I did not think that I would ever run this race again. However, with my normal June race, Sunrise Run 8k, taking place while we are across the pond, I needed a June race.

I decided on this one. At first, I also decided to make this a goal race. Then I remembered to Mountains to Main and made that my half marathon goal race of the season. I still registered for this one and with very little persuasion needed, convinced Mom to run this one with me as well.

I knew this was a hilly race. I also knew that the weather has been trending hot and humid. My race performance two weeks ago showed what I long knew, I do not perform as well in this sort of weather. Also, the time between these two races was a mere two weeks. I planned to simply run this race with Mom and attempt to beat my previous course PR.

With just enough time we arrived at the race start, ready to run.

Charity Chase Half Marathon 2017

Right at 6:30am (yes…super early but very necessary in Carolina summers) we were off. Shortly into the race I decided to switch to the third screen on my Garmin, the one designed to display heart rate data should I have a heart rate band attached. When no heart rate band is attached, the screen displays nothing. I did not want to be tempted to look at the watch.

Barely a couple miles into the race and I could feel the sweat start to drip into my eyes. We had 11 miles still to go.

I spend the first couple miles trying to talk myself into the run. For some reason, I had no desire to run. I felt fine, aside from the ridiculous humidity, but the want was not there, yet.

Mile 1: 7:59
Mile 2: 8:21

Eventually my want came into synch with my body and I started to feel good. This course provides the textbook definition for rolling hills. I did not study the course beforehand and thus had no idea how many rollers the course contained or where those rollers were on the course. Thus whenever I saw an uphill, I reminded myself that a downhill would soon come after.

Thankfully, none of these hills were too terrible. We got over them with ease and felt strong especially as we drew ever closer to the start line at the end of our first loop, the finish line for the “lite” version of the race.

The only distraction came in the form of a need to take a pit stop. Even though I drank nothing the morning of the race, I still needed to go. I should have waited in the line pre-race with Mom but I thought I would be fine. I got myself to that fifth mile by telling myself to take the first portopotty that I saw. I nearly passed it but then I forced myself to go in.

With that taken care of, the run felt even better. I did accidentally hit the lap button on my Garmin shortly after that when I tried to wipe some sweat off my face with my left hand. Thus from then on my Garmin and the mile markers were nearly .2 different. My splits are slightly off as well.

Mile 3: 8:25
Mile 4: 8:52
Mile 5: (.88) 9:38 (avg pace)

I felt really good throughout this section. Many runners around us approached the finish line so the excitement was contagious. While I love longer races, the urge to take the right side of the fork was strong. We kept going though onto the second loop of the race.

Mile 6: 8:59
Mile 7: 8:40

The rollers continued to present themselves throughout the next few miles as well. Mom and I kept plugging along. I felt great but waited for Mom to ask about taking a fuel break. I have been experimenting with just liquid nutrition since faster paces prevent easy intake of chews or even gels. She brought some Gatorade chews though.

We did not take a fuel break until just before the mile 10 marker.

Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9: 9:43
Mile 10: 9:11

As our paces indicate, the heat and humidity had ramped up significantly by this point. Mom mentioned afterwards how thankful she was for the early start. If we had started at 8, it would have been unbearable.

I continued to feel good fitness wise through the remaining miles although I did start to feel drained thanks to the ever present heat and humidity.

Then came the final two miles and two of the most significant hills of the entire race. These hills were much more than rollers. These were the kind of hills that nearly suck you dry. On one of them we moved into single file with Mom behind me. I hoped to serve as motivation, something to help “pull” her up the hill. After this first hill Mom asked to walk, the only time this race. I easily agreed. We walked for about 10-20 seconds before starting to run again. By this point, a little more than a mile remained.

With a little more than half a mile to go, I saw the second significant hill with Ellis waiting about midway up.

Charity Chase Half Marathon 2017
Charity Chase Half Marathon 2017
(I still need to work on that hip drop.)

When we got up to where he was, he started running with us, cheering us on. We were so close. I started picking up what pace I could to try to finish strong.

In the final quarter mile I passed three people – two guys got “chicked” – and finished strong.

Mile 11: 9:11
Mile 12: 9:41
Mile 13: 9:16
last .21 7:34
Final time: 1:58:25

I loved this race. I definitely need to work on my adaptation for humid weather although that will soon take a back seat to marathon training.

Race Review

Registration and Packet Pick Up
While I do not remember much about the actual registration, packet pick up went off without a hitch. I loved the location in Union Square, much easier to find than the location from 2012. I don’t even remember where that was.

Race Shirt
The race shirt is definitely comfortable. I’m wearing it as I write. It’s not my preference for working out but it fits fairly well and works as an excellent lounging shirt.

Prerace/morning (evening) amenities
The race organizers provided plenty of pre-race amenities such as portopotties and some permanent public restrooms in Union Square. The PA system broadcasted well eliminating any confusion on when to move towards the start and announcements such as that.

This course challenges you but not too much . I have run much more difficult courses. That, however, does not take away from the difficulty. It is also a pretty course though it contains many turns which is likely the cause of the extra .1 my Garmin measured.

Course Support
Charity Chase excels in this. Just like back in 2012, they organized a contest for the best course supporters. Although I was so exhausted at the end I missed the voting station, I really appreciated this effort. Many people came out and filled the course with plenty of enthusiastic spectators; my favorites were the Jenkins Waterita’ville and the Pink Heals Minions. Organizers also provided water stops at nearly every mile, a portopotty at approximately every 4 or 5 miles as well as Gu (vanilla bean and lemon) just after mile 10. Well supported.

Finish line and Post Race Amenities
The finish line in Union Square is beautiful. Volunteers handed me a cold water bottle and my medal right after I finished. I didn’t see all of what was offered past the finish line, I did notice that they had Gatorade and helped myself to one of those.

I know that there were a couple photographers, at least one on the course and one at the finish. I will update when I find out for sure.

Results were a little difficult to find. When we found them, they did not list the age group break down, only overall place and maybe gender place. I cannot remember for sure. I will update this if I find where the full results are listed.

I highly recommend this race! Charity Chase knows how to put on a half marathon!