Friday, April 16, 2010

Well we've certainly got some catching up to do, don't we? Where to begin? . . .

Let's talk school first. Last week, our main focus in 2nd grade was finalizing our preparations for our presentation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to our school. Everything seemed to be going very smoothly each time we practiced so I had pretty high hopes that it was going to be an easy, low-key experience for all of us. But I should know by now that nothing is ever as simple as it seems in the education world. There is always a curve ball. In this case, that curve ball came in the form of 3 of my students not showing up to school that day. Now, I tried planning for this by giving the most important parts (of course, EVERY part is equally important . . .) to my boys that have great attendance so there would be a smaller chance of them not being there on our performance day. As it turned out, all 3 of these boys had a sort of leadership role in the play. Therefore, we had to do some last minute switching of parts so that, during our actual performance, I had 3 boys playing 2 roles, one of which was a part had never practiced before. All things considered, however, I thought the boys handled the last-minute changes very well and the play still went fairly smoothly. Most importantly, the boys all seemed really excited about what they had just done when we were finished, so in the end we still accomplished our primary goal which was to have fun.

The very next day, last Thursday, I was on a plane to Jordan for my ultra marathon. I had felt really good all week with my limited amount of running (I only ran about 10 miles all week to keep my legs fresh), so I was very excited to see how that would translate to my race. Part of me was a little nervous that my greatly-reduced mileage the previous 3 weeks would leave me feeling a little out of shape for the 31-mile race, but I figured the worst that would happen is that I would get really tired and have to run really slow or walk to finish the race.

On the morning of the race, they had a bus going from my hotel (our hotel was a race sponsor so a lot of people staying there were doing the race) to the meeting point. First of all, the bus was 30 minutes late. Then, when we got to the meeting point (a city park), there were literally thousands of people shouting and pushing each other around, trying to figure out which bus they were supposed to get on to take them to their starting point. You see, there were actually 4 distances being run that day--a 50 km, 42 km (marathon distance), 21 km (half marathon), and 10 km--and each one had a different starting point so that they all ended at the same place. Unfortunately, and not to my surprise, none of the buses at the park were marked with which starting point they were taking runners to. As a result, everybody was pushing each other to get on the buses, many times only to find out that that was not the bus they needed to be on. While I was a little nervous that I might miss the bus to take us to the 50 km starting point, I just sat back (a little amused I must admit) and kept my cool, waiting for someone to say in English that such-and-such bus was the one I needed to be on. After about 20 minutes of chaos, I finally heard word that somebody figured out which bus the 50 km runners needed to be on, so I followed a couple people and got on the bus without any sort of confrontation.

The race was supposed to start at 7:00 am, and our bus got us to the starting point at 6:45. It wasn't an ideal amount of time for a quick warm-up jog and a last-minute trip to the bathroom before the race, but in comparison to what I had just experienced, I figured the situation could have been much worse. With about 2 minutes to spare, I was all ready for the race to begin when an official announced that the race start would be postponed for about 10 minutes (it was actually closer to 25) due to technical difficulties with the computer system. So at 7:25 in the morning, my race began. I ran with some guys that had a good pace going for the first 10 or 12 miles, but feeling nice and relaxed up to that point, I decided to make a but of a push. Nobody really answered my challenge and so for the next 10 or 12 miles, it was just my iPod and the natural beauty of the Jordanian countryside (and the occasional marathon runner that I was passing up) that kept me company. With about 5 miles to go, I came upon hordes of people who were finishing the marathon and 1/2 marathon, and hundreds of teenagers walking the 10 km. In a way, I was kind of annoyed by all these people I was having to run through, but at a point in the race when my body was really starting to break down and cramp up, I also kind of felt like I had an audience that I didn't want to give up in front of. I struggled through the last 5 miles or so, and finished in a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes, which was 13 minutes faster than my goal time. I was really happy about that and decided to go celebrate at the beach party they had set up for all the participants. I finagled my way to the Amstel Lite tent and gulped down a few free beers, which was probably the only time all day that I felt good. Then I went and got some food, which included a Snickers bar, a banana, a bag of popcorn, and an ice cream cone. And then another Snickers bar. For the rest of the day, I just lazed about in the city of Amman.

This past week all kind of seemed like a hangover from the previous one. I didn't do any running (not that I didn't feel like going for a run on a couple of occasions) because I promised myself I wouldn't until my body felt 100% recovered from my race. I felt a bit sick all week with a sore throat and some coughing, but I feel like I'm on the mend now.

Well, I think that's all for now. Until next time,


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Didn't really get up to much last week so didn't feel it was worthy of a post. But I have plenty to write about this week.

This past weekend (April 2 and 3), we had our dragon boat regatta in Dubai. Our first race was at 8:30 in the morning, so we met in Abu Dhabi at 6:00 to catch our charter bus (which means I had to get up before 5--blugh). I think pretty much everybody slept on the bus ride there. Having never been in a dragon boating competition before, I didn't really know what to expect, but I figured our 2 days of racing would be pretty intense. Having been in the UAE for 8 months now, however, I DID expect things to be pretty unorganized. Turns out I was right on both accounts.

Basically, we had 3 races throughout the day on Friday (2 preliminaries and a semi-final), a mixer at a really nice hotel club Friday night so that people from the different teams could get to know each other, and 4 races throughout the day on Saturday (1 preliminary, 1 semi-final, and 2 finals). Between the really strenuous rowing, being out in the sun for 2 days straight, and the late Friday night, the weekend was really exhausting! Even still, it was also a lot of fun and now I plan on participating on the team for the remainder of my time in Abu Dhabi.

School Update: School has been going pretty smoothly the past few weeks. For English, we have focused on basic vocabulary for much of the year with phonics and reading preparation taking the backburner (figured building vocabulary to actually communicate with them was a priority). But lately we've flip-flopped so that we have spent a larger proportion of our time focusing on building reading skills and decoding words they haven't seen before. For math, we've turned our attention to addition and subtraction skills pretty intensively. My first graders can all add and most of them can subtract, so we're working on memorizing and quickly solving the basic facts for better efficiency. My 2nd graders are now adding and subtracting 2-digit numbers with mixed results, which is good progress from where we were at at the beginning of the year--learning how to count from 1 to 10 for the first 3 weeks. We have our big presentation coming up this next Wednesday, and all my students are getting pretty excited for that (and me too)!

Running Update: With my big 50k coming up next weekend, I started my taper 2 weeks ago. 2 weeks ago, I brought my mileage down to 40 and I felt like crap for most of them. This past week, I brought it down to 30 and did shorter, higher-intensity runs. By the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good. The plan is to take it easy this next week and mostly just focus on keeping my legs nice and fresh!

Happy Easter everybody! I hope you all enjoy time spent with family and friends!

Until next time,