I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Posts tagged ‘progress’

One More Time

I amuse my students in rehearsals by telling them the only time they shouldn’t take me literally is when I tell them, “One more time!” This is a “lie” that all music teachers tell, I say. They groan, but they know that doing it one more time will bring them closer to a result they can appreciate. One more time can be the difference between a confident performance and a reluctant one, or it can be the space between a solid, harmonic ending and a stumble across the finish line of our song.

As 2019 concludes, I find myself making resolutions – one more time. Like my students, I groan because I am tired. I wish I could have it all right in this moment, but I don’t. There are many who scoff at new year’s resolutions because of the natural tendency to allow ourselves to lapse, but that is not the fault of the calendar. Why would we fault each other for trying to be the best versions of ourselves? This is a difficult thing to do, all year long!

Even when my students need to play one more time, I make a conscious effort to tell them what they are doing well. I want them to know that celebrating their strengths and managing their weaknesses can happen concurrently AND that I love and appreciate them and their effort. I deserve the same for myself, do I not?

I am thankful that at the end of 2019 I am a tad less cynical than I was at the end of 2018. This is despite not meeting my goal of running 1019 KM, or running a 10 miler with the best Mentor ever, and still being fat. I definitely have to work on this healthy human thing one more time. Look at my 2018 running stats:


Compare them to my 2019 stats:


Look how much better I did! Yay, me! Yes, I’m still fat, but I did lose 20 pounds and managed to only gain one pound in November and December – no small feat, between a trip to Jamaica, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Garmin gave me this badge today:


I am stoked that I have finished the year strongly. I tell my babies all the time that even if we have a rough start, we can have a strong ending and that counts for a whole lot. I love that Garmin has marked this badge as repeatable, for Lord willing, I will have another strong finish. The tricky bit, as you can tell from 2 years of training logs, is the middle. I want to approach 2020 fearlessly – unafraid to set new goals, but perhaps more importantly, unafraid to RESET old goals.

Happy New Year! One more time.

Permission Granted

Every Triathlete Ever: OMG, it’s so hard; this is so much work. I’m miserable right now. You should totally do this. It’s great.

Um, what?

I can’t be the only person who has noticed this. When E.T.E. is asked why I should, like, totally do this (this being sign up for X or Y race), typically the response involves his or her addiction to racing. “I just love it, Joan.” Of course, having chosen to do it more than once, I’ve experienced the thoughtfulness of E.T.E. as I panic and question my decision. However, not one of them warned me of what would happen after my first half-ironman.

The afterglow.

Don’t misunderstand. Any fool could reason that life after a big event would feel calmer. I knew my training load would be lighter, despite having two races left in my season. Time in the pool and on the road feels easier now that I’ve experienced what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. What I was NOT expecting was to be a more forgiving person in the classroom.

I realize that things probably should feel different for me this year, in that I’m no longer quite a rookie at work. I am noticing drastic changes for the better. The way I talk to my students is different. I am much more calm in general, and it takes a lot more for me to become upset by anything that happens at work, really. I had thought that I was already judicious with choosing my battles, but now I am seeing that some situations aren’t even battles. When a student is flipping out about playing a. stupid. note, I handle it much more sensitively.

I must admit that I feel more than a little foolish about this change. I am an experienced musician and have no shortage of empathy for my students as they deal with performance anxiety. Why, then, have I been such a (relative) bitch to them in years previous? I believe the reason is twofold:

1. I have had the opportunity to see their growth despite my imperfection.

One of the many reasons I love being a specialist is that I am privileged to work with my students for several years. There are times I have looked through and executed my lesson plans and thought to myself – shit. Did I teach anyone anything? Now I am able to see students who used to look at me like I have two heads use musical terms with ease and play confidently. Children who once were completely unenthused about playing by themselves eagerly raise their hand to show me what they can do. While I don’t take all the credit, I think it’s fair for me to take some when what they do is pretty solid. They quote things that I have said that make it seem like they have paid attention to me throughout the years despite all the errors I’ve made along the way.

2. I have had the opportunity to see my growth despite my imperfection.

From the department of the bleeding obvious – I’ve always been imperfect. I’ve always made progress nonetheless. However, I have been a musician for so long that the process has often taken place without my being aware of it. The difference between the person who starts something at 4 and the one who starts something at 27 is stark. Only a complete dumbass My head would have to be buried under the sand for me not to be aware of the risks I’ve taken in the last 22 months; I’ve signed more “if you die it’s your own damn fault” waivers than I can count.

It took me 7:35:58 to finish 70.3 miles. Were there things that could have gone better? Of course. Did I do my absolute best? Totes. Are most people faster than I am? Am I black? I know I have a lot of room to grow, not because I’m black and therefore inherently meant to participate in endurance sports but because I know my best can get better. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy where I am right now, despite all of my flaws.

How gracious of me to allow myself to be human, whether I’m in the classroom, on the race course, or anywhere else. I’m welcome.


Bada$$es need love, too

As the peak of triathlon season approaches, I am feeling many things. With less than two weeks remaining until my “A” race, what I am feeling most is doubt. Doubting that I will finish within the time goal. Doubting that I will finish at all. Incredulous that I belong among this group of people who do things like swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles. In a row. This is my first race of this distance – it’s normal to feel some anxiety, right?

Evidently, I am not the only person who will show up at his or her race with these type of feelings. I have found myself sympathetic with other beginning triathletes who question themselves similarly. However, I have caught myself being judgmental with anyone who has more than like, 5 minutes racing experience than I do.

I’ve been there.

I know what you’re going through.

and the worst –

I. Am. Right. There. With. You.

The f*** you are.

You have been doing this a long time OR completed this same distance or even same course before. You’re so much faster and stronger than I am. Why are you even talking to me? You make me sick.

And then – I am reminded of my relationship with music and my music babies. One of my favorite exercises is to have them raise their hands if they suffer from stage fright. I always raise my hand with them because indeed, I still get very anxious before I perform. Invariably, at least one student responds, “No. Way.” I tell them we are all growing musicians, but I’ve just been growing a little longer than they have. And they actually buy it.

I applaud my babies when they are brave enough to play 3 note songs for each other. As I age, I think I am even more proud of the risk I take as I share music with others. In some ways, greater experience brings greater risk. You’ve delivered results in the past and success becomes more normal than not. As you expect more of yourself, others start to believe in you as well. “Man. People think this is going to go well. What if it doesn’t?”
Dammit, if anyone DARED to question why I was nervous as my recital last month was approaching, I looked at him or her as though s(he) had two heads. “Why wouldn’t I be nervous? Dumbass.”

Oh. Heh.

I suppose that if I am allowed to be nervous on stage, despite having performed since I was 4, people who already call themselves Ironman can be nervous too. While I haven’t read the USAT guidebook lately, I think it’s a safe bet to say that only humans are allowed to compete in races. To be human is to be fragile. Having the will to test your limits, regardless of your experience level, is to always be admired – never judged.

So uh – for all the thoughts that have ever run through my head about you – my bad. 🙂 I am praying for your progress, just as I pray for my own.

13 days.


15. Bloody. Seconds. Race Report


So my plan had been to run with the 2:30 pace group. My best time to date is 2:27 and change, and I had received instruction from Coachie to take it easy. There were 2 of the 2:30 pace teams – one that planned to run continuously and one that was to do intervals of running 5 minutes and walking 1. I figured I would go with the run/walk group to A. Ensure that I was indeed not pushing myself too hard physically and B. Pace myself mentally. I thought this would be especially beneficial because I had been loathing struggling with running and this would be a way to not focus on having to do it for two and a half hours. Plan in place. Rock on.

I wandered over to the chick holding the 2:30 sign. Y’all already know. I don’t tend to open my mouth unless I feel the need to speak. Or flirt. I listened to the pacer explain to someone else that the run/walk pacer couldn’t make it. I’m sure you can imagine how disappointed I was. “Oh, well! Guess it’s just me and G and G.” G and G being God and Garmin, of course. I figured I would stay behind the group, keeping them in site to make sure I didn’t go too fast in the beginning. New plan in place.

While the race officially started at 6:30 AM, my corral didn’t arrive at the starting line until about 10 after 7. As we were about to start, I gave my cousin a hug, listened for the horn, and off I went. Garmin’s on. Music is on. Chicago is so pretty! Almost immediately, we went through a tunnel. “Uh-oh.” My Garmin was angry. I figured she would be better as soon as I got through the tunnel and I could check my pace again. I wanted to err on the side of slow because I was feeling all the feels and didn’t want to burn out because my adrenaline was pumping. Out of the tunnel, my watch looked more accurate. I passed mile marker one feeling awesome. The official time clock read about 53 minutes.

Mile 2 took us through some of Chicago’s most iconic sites. Over the river. Through downtown. Oh, no! The ABC building headline read that Maverick died! I arrived at the next mile marker to see that my Garmin was only reading 1.8 miles. Um. I began paying closer attention to my watch as I ran the next mile. I noticed it was auto-pausing even though I was running. Apparently, all of those iconic buildings were interfering with satellite reception. By the time I completed mile 4, I realized that the only thing I could rely on was the time on the watch – the pace was all over the place. 9:30! 16:20! 7:50! Fan. Freaking. Tastic. Okay, Joan. New plan! I passed the pace group and thought, what the hell? Let’s try to keep each mile around 11 minutes and go for a PR. So now I had to run and add at the same time. Piss off!

Looking back, I think my Garmin’s acting out was a blessing in disguise. I had thought my main concern would be my brain being bored of running. There was just way too much going on for that even to be an option. My legs felt great. The city and weather were lovely. My only lament was that I didn’t want to stop and take pictures OR stop at Giordano’s! It just isn’t natural to pass Nordstrom and not go inside. I pressed on.

Along the course, there were rock bands playing. I had my own music, but I’m sure you can imagine that these bands were quite loud. Of course, they were playing loudest when my favorite pieces came on my iPhone. “Sigh. Don’t these people know that Earl Wild’s Chopin Etudes ARE SACRED?!” I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they were only playing so loudly to motivate me to run faster and out of earshot. In addition, I had been smelling ALL kinds of fantastic Chicago food during the race, but mile 8 brought the most pleasant scent yet.


I don’t know who had it, but I thanked them. I remember when that used to smell like old people to me. Either I’m maturing, an old person, or both, but that smelled so soothing! I thought “YEAHHHHHH guuuuuuurl Imma get me some of that in less than an hour!” Still feeling good, I kept running.

Then there was mile 10.

By this point, I had been running about an hour and 50 minutes. I’m not sure what did it, but all of a sudden the giggles were gone and I turned into a bitch. I thank God that no one can read minds and that He has blessed me with a functioning frontal lobe because if I were to say out loud some of the things that were going through my head, I am sure I could have started a fight or two. EVERYTHING was making me angry. This joker over the mic saying “you only have 3 miles to go!” Another loud band outplaying Andre Watts and the Atlanta Symphony. The ABSOLUTE worst was my turning a corner to be greeted by a seated spectator doing NOTHING. He was just sitting there, observing. “You’ve got some *bleep* *bleep* nerve CHILLING and watching thousands of people run for their lives.” I was irrationally upset with this ugly ass man. Even thinking about it now makes me grimace, hah! We made the final turn toward the finish line around mile 11. Soon after mile 12, I could see it.


“But Lady J,” you counter. “You’ve got visual confirmation that the end is near!” Indeed, that was true. But from so far away, it feels like a tease. A mirage, even. I looked down at my watch and it appeared my plan to PR was still intact, but it didn’t allow for any wiggle room. I ran. My legs complained. “Mommy will take care of you in less than 10 minutes. You do me, I’ll do you,” I told them. They carried me across the finish line, where I noticed they were feeling quite jelly-like. I checked my watch. 2:24 something, but I knew that wasn’t right because of the stopping and starting it had done. Thanks, Chicago. Still, I thought I had run enough to PR. Rock on.

I received an email later announcing that official results were available on the site.


Of course, I had to check my previous best from the Suncoast Half Marathon.

2:27:38. Oh, dear. 15 seconds long.

This made me wish I had run with the pace group. If I’m not going to PR, why would I run as hard as I could? Then again, did I really run hard as I could? Did I take it too easy in the beginning? Did I walk too long as I got water? It’s not particularly pleasant for me to rack my brain, wondering where I could have shaved off fifteen stupid seconds. Lots of places, I imagine.

Not proud.

However, I do realize what my not being proud means. I completed my first half marathon only 7 months ago. For me to be whining about 15 seconds over 13.1 miles shows that I’m pretty committed to this madness. That’s probably something.

Welp, I did it. Something.


July 22 – Update:

I’ve decided to be proud for taking a risk to do my best even though it didn’t come out the way I wanted to. I guess that’s the point of living. I am smiling about the race today. Yay!

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