Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Big Littles Weekend

Last weekend was a crazy one...

I have to admit that Little Districts (our state qualifying tournament) is one of my least favorite tournaments of the year. Every year, I am pleasantly surprised by who qualified and saddened by the tearful faces of kids who didn't. This year was no exception. To be quite honest, the tournament ran rather smoothly. Despite having to host, most of the debaters I coach had a pretty good tournament, and they represented our school well. There were a couple of surprises of kids who did not qualify, and I genuinely felt bad for those students.

In the end, Copley got 2 PF teams and 2 LDers to state along with one student in oratorical. Not necessarily our best showing, but not bad either. Along with the state qualifiers, I earned my diamond coaching award, which comes with my 1,500th coaching point. Apparently, when a woman my age who has been dating the same guy for quite a while says, "I got my diamond," the first thing even other coaches think isn't about coaching... Sadly, even my own mother thought I had gotten engaged when she heard the news, sorry mom, not happening anytime soon that is for sure.

There are so many things I want to say here that I cannot air publicly. My VP at work once said, "You either get better, or you get worse, there is no staying the same." I think that this tournament and students' reactions to it illustrate that statement perfectly. My first national qualifier did not qualify to state as a sophomore. I sat next to him crying on the bus ride home, and I don't think anything drove him to succeed more than that feeling of not making it. I think of my senior this year who didn't qualify as a sophomore, and he and his partner worked so hard over the next couple of weeks that they backdoored at Bigs to make it to state. (Note: we have had a total of 3 students do that ever so it's not as easy as it sounds). I guess my point is that lessons need to be learned, and while there are plenty of excuses for why a kid doesn't qualify (bad judges, tough draw, etc), each student has a choice to get better or to get worse.

With that said, I fell asleep early Saturday night as I prepared myself for the big swim: 100 x 100's. I was super nervous about this swim this year as 1) I took about a month off from working out and 2) I found myself pretty tired after two miles of swimming so how was I possibly going to swim nearly 6????

Last year, SO and I trained for this swim by doing 100 after 100 after 100 for months. Then, when we got to the pool, we decided to double our normal 500 warmup. When we finished the 1,000 warmup, we looked at each other and decided, rather than doing 90 more 100's, we would just do 9 more 1,000's, which worked out very well for us. We finished in almost exactly 3 hours.

This year, we elected to use the same strategy, although we actually spent sometime training for the 1,000 reps. Over the last month, I have been getting progressively faster as I was pretty slow when I first started back after the surgery, but not nearly as fast SO has been. The two other people in our lane were willing to go along with the 1,000's so we were all set, except....

The lead guy in our lane was fast! We'll call him yellow cap guy. I mean, he tailed off after about 4,000, but the fist 4,000 he lapped us once if not twice per rep, and we aren't slow! I think there was only one rep where he didn't lap us, and that is because SO made a conscious effort to draft off of him.

Yellow Cap Guy was also rightly frustrated by the tendency to get pelted in the head or hand...most likely by me. To my defense, the lanes were very narrow, but when I watched the video of the challenge, it was pretty obvious I swim with my elbows out and ready to fire. Even though there was only three seconds of me on the video, still so dreadful to watch! How am I so fast yet so awful at swimming?

Yellow Cap Guy's frustration with the slow pokes in his lane forced him to cut laps in the middle rather than wait for us to get to a wall to let him pass. In order to pass people, he would get near the end, and as whoever was approaching the wall, he would just turn around and start swimming. It was a little weird, and I think he was doing extra laps to compensate for the yardage he was losing, but his extra laps threw off our count, causing us to do a few more laps than the 200, which felt unnecessary given the quantity we signed up for.

I was so drafting off SO for nearly 4 or 5 of the reps, I mean right on his feet. It's a good thing he's not ticklish because I was poking at his feet for hours! The 4th person in our lane, and a long time friend of SO's, even mentioned to me that she was surprised he wasn't annoyed with me being right on top of him. I kind of feel like it was cheating because it was significantly easier drafting off of him, but I knew I couldn't really go any faster than him so I didn't try to pass him, he could have held up at a wall and let me pass, and had the situation been reversed, he would have done the exact same thing to me.

We didn't really take that many breaks, and we finished about 5 minutes faster than last year. I am not going to lie, I am pretty happy with swimming 200 laps or 10,000 yards in less than 3 hours, but I think I was most grateful for 3 hours away from my phone in a world where the only thing I was focusing on was the number of laps completed in the set I was doing.

I think it's in It's Not About the Bike, but Lance Armstrong talks about questions he always gets asked, one of them being, "what do you think about for all of those hours you are cycling." To which he responds, "it might sound stupid, but I am thinking about cycling." I guess what I enjoyed most about the event this year was "thinking about swimming."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sylvania - What a Weekend!

Sitting at a McDonalds off the turnpike late Saturday night surrounded by the six debaters I took to the Sylvania tournament, I finally felt the passion I have for coaching that has been missing most of this season.

For the non-debate audience, the Sylvania tournament is in a suburb of Toledo, easily the biggest tournament of the year in Ohio with over 1,000 high school students competing, and the only overnight (stay in a hotel) tournament for the Copley team this year. The tournament starts Friday afternoon and ends sometime Saturday evening. In order to compete at tournaments, each school has to provide judges. For debate, the basic ratio is 1 student: 1 judge, 2 students: 1 judge, 3 students: 2 judges, 4 students: 2 judges. You get the idea. Because the distance away, we can't really ask our local judges for the time commitment and the expense of driving out there to help our team. We rely on coaches and parents who are willing to judge. Consequently, we just can't take our entire team. In debate, we can traditionally take two entries in each debate (Public Forum {PF}and Lincoln Douglas {LD}). This year, we also took a couple of kids on the speech side of the team, but because of the way the tournament is set up, I didn't really get to see them.

2 day tournaments work like this: the kids debate 4 rounds on Friday, then they debate 2 more on Saturday. After those 2 rounds, all kids with winning records (4-2 or higher) break into a partial double-octa bracket. At that point, it is single elimination until you have a champion in the final round.

Last year, we had a very successful Sylvania tournament. We took our senior and our only second year LDer and our senior and junior power house PF team and two sophomores. We left the tournament with the senior LDer winning and the power house PF team taking 3rd. Yeah, it felt good! The kids who didn't place had good tournaments, and we generally had a good time.

The decision of who to take this year wasn't all that easy. In PF, it was pretty simple, I only had two established teams, but in LD, it was pretty tough. Ultimately, we decided to take a sophomore over a junior because of that sophomore's level of dedication. The junior was very upset with the decision as were his parents, but ultimately, the decision stood.

For the first time in several months, I was in the judges pool. For the first round, I judged PF, and it wasn't a very interesting round. One team was quite weak, but showed some potential, while the other team was good, but I was more impressed (and distracted by the murals drawn on the ceiling).

For the debatisms:

From there, I judged LD the rest of the tournament. The second round had one of the funniest cases I have ever heard, which takes some effort because the topic is "Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence." The topic doesn't really lend itself to humor, but...

The negative (arguing it's wrong for the abused to try to kill their abuser) used a case touting the power of peace and reconciliation. When he mentioned that women in Saudi Arabia can't drive cars, they couldn't possibly kill their abuser," I nearly lost it.

Ironically, this kid wasn't the only one running this particular case, as another judge told me, "I just heard a case that was just too catholic...and I'm catholic."

In that same round, I heard the phrases:

"something as arbitrary as domestic violence"

"There's a difference between domestic violence and your spouse killing you."

Later on in the tournament, I heard:

"What you can do in your home is different than what you can do in public. You can kill someone in the privacy of your own home, but not in public." Be careful folks when someone invites you over for dinner, you never know what might happen.

Now, for our hotel room, I was sharing a room with our parent judge and my sister. Last year at the state tournament, I tried to "share" a bed with my sister but woke up shivering as she had wrapped the blankets around herself and had proceeded to push me to the very edge of the bed. I decided just to take a sleeping bag and sleep on the floor, which was fine except cement floors covered in carpet just aren't comfortable. I ended up waking up at 4:45 and going and hitting the elliptical in the hotel gym.

There were some other funny stories. My two boy PF team shared a hotel room, and apparently, the one kid is quite the snorer. When the judge walked into their first round on Saturday morning, he commented that all of the students looked quite tired. The judge then said, "the first one who snores loses," and the one boy immediately pointed to his teammate and said, "HIM!"

Because of an internet server issue, the tournament didn't go as planned, they could only run 3 rounds on Friday and consequently broke only the topic 16 kids rather than all of the kids with winning records. So, the 5 of my kids who had winning records did not break, but they at least learned a lot from the experience. My sophomore was one of those kids with a winning record, and he was through the roof excited. This kid doesn't speak well. He gets pretty nervous and tends to stutter. This stuttering problem caused him barely to win a round last year. He seriously won 3 out of 20 rounds at his last four tournaments last year so for this kid to win 4 at one tournament for the second time this year just shows how hard he works and the passion he has to improve.

Now, the drive home had one noteworthy story. Sylvania is right off the turnpike so we along with nearly every other school from Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton drive the turnpike home. While we only took 8 students, most schools take 20-40 kids. Well, we left the tournament around 7:30 Saturday night. Now, my sister was in a van and got a head start on the bus and told us to to skip the 1st travel plaza as it only had one restaurant open and to go to the second. Well, the Wadsworth coach had a bad feeling about that plan, so we stopped at the 1st travel plaza. My sister called me screaming to get back on the bus, that the 2nd stop had 5 restaurants. Since it wasn't my bus, I told her to call the Wadsworth coach. After 5 minutes, she convinces the Wadsworth coach to re-load the kids on the bus and head to the travel plaza 15 miles down the road.

As we are driving, my sister sends me a text that a school bus pooled in: it's Wooster, then another 2 from Youngstown, and then another 2 from Canton. By the time we got there, there were 7 buses and that all the restaurants but one were closed. Frustrated, we didn't stop and decided to get off the highway and hit up a McDonalds.

It was at that McDonalds where my debaters sat around me, and we talked about our team. I talked about why I liked the kids in the past so much, how they helped build the program I coach because they understood the importance of a team and the reputation of that team to their underlying success. Some of them were around for part of that, while others never knew that Copley didn't use to be a power debate school, that it was through their former teammate's hard work that people started taking our team seriously.

Taking a day off work and being in a high school with about 300 high school students for two days might not be how most 30 year olds spend their weekends, but it works for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flashback to this Past Summer

There was a day this past summer that I felt so compelled to write about that it sat in my email as a draft for the last four months. So, take yourself back to the hot humid days of August and imagine this day, about two weeks before Ironman Wisconsin, one of my last big workouts before the taper for the race.

"I just felt it necessary to write about what a horribly stupid person I have been so far today...

Let's start with the morning. I got out my cereal and as I pour the milk, it comes out in a clumb. Dang it!!! Ok, plan B, I bought a bagel at Brueggers Friday so I was fine for breakfast.

I decided to ride with some CTC folks (actually begged for company on my ride and was heard by JE) up in Chagrin. I got on the entrance ramp for the highway and realized that I forgot my water bottles in the freezer so I decided to get right on the exit ramp and go home and grab them.

I got up to the place where we are meeting to start, and as we set out to leave, I royally dropped my chain. It was actually caught between the big ring and the front derailler. Fortunately, someone there fixed it for me so I didn't delay the group. We head south towards the valley, and I am talking to BH when I hit a major, bone shaking hole. I was sure I was going down, but both my bike and I made it through okay, but my heart started racing out of my chest. It took a good five minutes for my heart to settle down. For food, I was working on my nutrition, so when I hit that major hole, I managed to loosen my peanut butter sandwiches out of my bento box (little box velcroed on frame to hold things like said PB sandwiches), and they fell out without me noticing. Fortunately, someone was behind me and managed to pick them up for me.

From there, I was actually able to start concentrating on riding, but I was with a group of very strong cyclists. I mean, when I got there, I knew I was in for a hurt. My first lesson was that I am apparently a horrible descender. I kept getting dropped... on the downhills! By the end, I was really struggling. I think the problem was that everyone besides BH and JE planned on this 55 miles being their entire workout so they had no problem pushing harder to stay with everyone else. I, on the other hand, had every intention of finishing then going back out for an hour on the bike then going running for another hour and a half. When we got back to the starting place, after a hilly 55 miles, we averaged over 18 mph. I was hurting and still had 2+ hours to go.

So, I went back out to finish my ride, and on the way back, I rode through a vertical crack and nearly broke my wheel. After another five minute calm down from panicking, I got back to my car to prepare for my run. When I got there, I see that I forgot my fuel belt for running so despite it being about 90 degrees and humid, I have no easy way to carry water for my 90 minute run. I also forgot my purse so I had no headphones to listen to while running.

BH had suggested a running route, and it SUCKED. It was a very hilly road after about 2 miles of false flat. I was freakin' hurting, carrying a water bottle in my hand that kept slipping out, then I had the brilliant idea to stop at a gas station and fill that water bottle with freezing cold water at the soda fountain. I easily guzzled two full bottles...but I forgot I still had about a mile to run, yeah, that felt great sloshing around my stomach.

When I finished, I though, man, a diet coke and a cookie (my vision of heaven on earth) would just rock, right? Well, not for me because I forgot my purse and my wallet and had a total of $1 in my car.

So, my hunger pains started to become noticeable on the drive home so I decided to go home, grab my purse, take the bike out of the car, and go grocery shopping. I got to the grocery store, looked to the passenger side seat and saw NO PURSE. Are you f***** kidding me? I went home specifically to grab my purse and forgot the damn thing."

While driving back to my apartment, I called my mom crying, asking her, "what's wrong with me?" She agreed that with Ironman, I had lots of things on my mind so I probably wasn't very focused.

For those of you who know me well enough, nothing in this post should come as a surprise. Looking forward to 2012, I should make a resolution to be more diligent about remembering things which would have come in handy last night as I went to my cycling class..grabbed my clothes, trainer, bike, towels out of the car and realized I had forgotten my cycling shoes. Duh! Good thing I live close by...