Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pants Wearing Pants

portrait by a professional artist 8th grader
One of my students drew a picture of me every day for two weeks, so eventually, I started brushing my hair more nicely and making sure my outfits matched.

I entered the school building today to the tune of a 7th grade boy telling his friends he beat me during warm-up laps in our morning workout. His back was turned, so as I walked by I added, “Mrs. Little is slower than my grandma,” and darted into the copy room.

These days, I am hanging out with a pretty rough crowd. They all wear neatly pressed uniforms, say things like "yes, ma'am," read in Latin, and have clean-cut hair. But don't be fooled: They are tough. They provide a new honesty to my life and training—letting me know when my diction is unclear or my cultural references have expired, informing me when I look happy or unhappy, drawing accurate sketches of my worst hair days, and having selective memories for the days they beat me in anything (sprints, repeats, out-and-backs, warm-ups, trips to the water fountains, or tying their shoes. Any victory will do.)

There are only a few weeks remaining before the World Championships in Steenbergen, Netherlands. There will be 350 runners on the starting line, with thirty-seven nations competing. I am excited, and I'm nervous. I am training as much as I can in quantity and depth, without compromising more important things—time with my husband and with several flocks of ducklings (my students and athletes).

(during a comma usage quiz)
Student: Mrs. Little, did you write this quiz yourself?
Me: Yes.
Student: And you’re running a lot these days?
Me: I guess so. Why?
Student: Oh, no reason. All of your sentences are about types of cakes, and I figured there must be some reason why you’re so hungry.

Texas has many lovable qualities:

1-the people
2-the food
3-the ubiquity of zoos and aquariums
4-the weather

It never gets too cold in the winter. In New Jersey winters, I would often triple-layer my pants to stay warm. A panoply of pants. A pant-oply. Texas has been more of a singular-pants venture, and there is greater freedom of movement when my pants are not wearing pants. My winter training was unhindered by unsustainable (for me) cold weather, so I didn't need to do as much mileage rebuilding at the beginning of Spring as usual.

I run 2-3 times a day (short runs). It's called prepositional running--when training has to happen before things, between things, and after things.

I lift twice a week, and do longer runs plus cross-training (basketball and tennis) on weekends. I rest when I need it. I train consistently, but (excepting weekends) each run is only between thirty minutes to an hour-fifteen, and often with my students. This means, I have to focus on pushing myself harder each time I’m out alone. My focused intent is to extend the length of my stride, which shrunk down a bit because of so many years on technical trails in minimalist sneakers. And I am perfecting the fine art of quick changes from school dress to running clothes in the stalls of the students’ restroom, using my prep period for speed work a few days a week.

It’s a bit of a hectic schedule, and sometimes I have to step back and breathe or take some time off. But my legs feel sharp, and I’m adjusting to a new life with great people in a wonderful place.

I am writing this in study hall. The last time I was inattentive in study hall, the 8th grade girls put a magical pony sticker on my Physics book and named me Queen of all the Ponies. True story. Teaching 8th grade is an exhaustion I have never known. I have run for 48 hours before, so this is saying something.

Two weeks and two days until I fly away to Steenbergen. David is coming with me. I can’t wait. Go U.S.A. and happy trails.