Monday, July 18, 2016

Ella's First Dance Solo

I know I've taken a break from blogging and the reasons are multi-faceted.  First, my life is like groundhog day and blogging about the same things over and over again seemed boring and not entertaining to anyone (including myself).  Also my kids are older and there are less crafts, preschool programs and the like to post.  And seriously how many times can you read about my mediocre races?  Ha!  But there are still things I want to remember and so I'm here to blog about Ella's first dance nationals and first solo because it's a moment I don't want to forget.  This could be long.... you've been warned. 

Ella has been dancing since she was 4 years old.  We've never taken it too seriously.  I held her back from competitive dance for a long time (this year was her first year) because it was something I didn't want to do.  Looking back, it was unfair to her.  She's definitely at a disadvantage to the girls that have been doing competitive dance since they were 5 years old.  

I personally think Ella is a beautiful and entertaining performer, but her skills definitely need improvement.  She doesn't have a lot of "tricks" (think aerial) and she lacks flexibility.  Because of this, Ella doesn't dance in her technique classes with all her friends.  She's in a hodgepodge (my words) group of girls and she's the youngest dancing with some girls in high school.  When she was assigned to her group during registration in June for the 2016/2017 dance season, she was in the SAME group.  It created a lot of stress for me.  I wondered if Ella was good enough.  I spent days lamenting over the issue and even called and talked to the studio owner (hi Tina).  She assured me that Ella's group wasn't the misfits (as I had named them) but they're just a group of girls that learn differently.  She explained that the groups are based yes on abilities, but also on the dancer's learning style.  She (Tina) encouraged me to trust the process and know that she (and the other instructors) want Ella to succeed and they will put her on the path to do so.  I believed Tina, I really did, but it was still a tough pill to swallow.  It's hard when you're paying literally thousands of dollars a year for your daughter to dance to know she's behind or not quite as good as other girls her age.  Again, this is is what I BELIEVED and contradictory to what Ella's teachers had told me.  Even still the writing was on the wall for me and it made me feel sad for Ella. 

I had been asking one of Ella's instructors (Jamie) for privates since the first competition.  She is a VERY busy instructor and told me she would start after our last competition.  Long story short, Ella had her first private with Jamie after school was out in June.  During that first private, Jamie asked Ella if she wanted to do a solo at Nationals.  I honestly figured Ella must have heard her wrong.  How was Ella going to learn and perform a solo in a month's time?  Turns out Ella didn't hear wrong and Jamie did want her to do a solo and Ella was on board.

As everyone prepared for Nationals and Ella was on vacation with her friend in California, scheduling lessons with Jamie was very difficult.  Ella learned her solo in 3 1/2 hour private sessions and completed her dance less than 2 weeks before Nationals.  We were going out of town for the 4th of July and then again the week leading up to Nationals.  Ella wound up having 2 more privates with Jamie (a total of 5) for a solo she was to perform at nationals.

Once she knew the dance, I made her practice every day.  Not just once, not just twice but AT LEAST 20 minutes twice a day.  I loved her routine and she looked beautiful doing it.  It is a lyrical routine and there was a LOT of rolling around on the floor.  I joked with all my friends that's all she was doing was rolling around.  I was so nervous for the competition.  I didn't want Ella to feel embarrassed or not do well.  She loved her dance and despite feeling nervous she felt confident heading into competition.

I felt more confident after I learned Jamie had entered Ella as a beginner.  Not many girls from our studio are entered as beginners so I had no idea what would happen for Ella.  Of course, not many girls at our studio are beginners and Ella truly is a beginner.  I was relieved and happy with her placement.

When we got to the competition I felt like I would throw up.  Jamie, Tina and Sam (all of Ella's instructors) were there and they assured me it would be fine and not to worry at all.  I turned Ella over to Jamie and went and sat in the audience.  At this point I felt confident about Ella's ability to perform the dance.  I knew she could do it.  She wouldn't forget her choreography and she'd be able to do her dance.  I was still a nervous wreck.  I'm her mom, I'm also a type A perfectionist.  I wanted her to do well and not feel like she wasn't as good as the other girls.

The more and more routines I watched the more relaxed I became.  There were some really good routines but some were not impressive at all.  I mean yes to get out there at 12, 8, 10 years old is amazing and that in and of itself is an accomplishment.  I'm just saying I expected to see Ella's lack of experience become apparent by watching the other routines and that did NOT happen.  I knew her dance was going to fit in and I felt more relaxed.

When Ella came on stage and began to dance, I cried.  I don't know why.  It was a feeling that just overwhelmed me.  It was a sob and only lasted about 10 seconds and I composed myself.  I was in awe of her body and her movement.  She looked incredibly beautiful up there dancing and when she completed the dance I was overwhelmed with pride.

The girl that went on right before Ella was also in her category.  She was a incredibly flexible and her leaps were really good.  I thought she put on the best dance I had seen that day, but I did notice that her dance wasn't very fluid.  That was one thing Jamie had told me Ella needed to work on and what I kept talking to Ella about during her practice sessions.  I would remind her that the dance is one fluid act and not a bunch of little scenes pieced together.  I felt like her routine became very fluid and it didn't look as though she was thinking about each step-- it looked very natural.  In comparison to the immediate prior competitor, I could tell Ella had done better in the fluidity department.  However, this girl put her heel behind her head and I joked that she was "super bendy."

When Ella got off stage, I felt relieved and I was definitely proud of her.  Her good friend Eva had competed as well and as they waited for the awards ceremony to start they discussed the likelihood of winning an award.  They both "wanted to" but didn't think they would.  I really wanted Ella to be realistic with her expectations.  She had watched the dancer right before her.  I pointed out all that girl's strengths and told Ella it was likely that girl would beat her.  If that seems harsh I'm sorry, I just didn't want her to be disappointed.  She laughed and said, "Thanks a lot mom."

I talked to Jamie, Tina and Sam after the performances and before awards and they all told me Ella did well.  Tina looked me in the eye and said to me, "She did really good."  I was encouraged and happy that our studio owner seemed happy with her performance.  Jamie admitted how nervous she had been and that she was NOT ok before the performance (she had 3 girls she choreographed).  Thank God she didn't let on to that BEFORE.

Jamie and Ella 

Fast forward to awards.  I sat there in my seat in almost the last row mind you (so much for my confidence in Ella winning awards) and prayed Ella would score Elite High Gold.  (The rankings go:  Silver, Elite High Gold, Platinum).  The awards ceremony is very quick paced.  The announcer is announcing names and levels and being a new dance mom I never quite know exactly what's going on.  He's also announcing the category champion for each category (lyrical, jazz, tap, etc)  Ella's friend was called first and she scored Platinum.  I was so happy for and proud of her.  Now the pressure was on.  Please God, let Ella score Platinum. Then it happened.  Ella Tirch:  Platinum.  OMG I was relieved and happy.  Thank you God!  Life is good.  Then right after.... "And the category champion is Ella Tirch."  I almost fell out of my chair.  I had no idea what had just happened.

Next they announce each category (type of dance) in the order in which they ranked 10th to 1st.  I should have known Ella got 1st because she was announced as the category champion, but I honestly had no idea what was going on.  It was all confusing and too fast paced for me.  So they're announcing the category and I'm like la-la-la not even thinking Ella's name will be called and then she was announced as the first place winner.  I put my hands over my face and cried.  I was overwhelmed with emotions-- pride, relief.  It was so much emotion and a release of all the worry I had felt with her dance placement.

Next they moved on to announcing the overall winners. This is where the dancers are ranked according to how they scored without regard to their category.  So she's now competing against ALL dancers 12 and under no matter what type of dance you did.  Ella did lyrical but she was now being ranked against those that did tap, jazz, etc.  This was the BIG award.  I found myself sitting there with a glimmer of hope that she would be called.  I then put it aside and told myself it was pointless to get my hopes up.  Be happy with what she got, I told myself.  And I was.  I truly was so happy and proud and it was beyond my expectations for Ella.

They announce the 10th trough 4th place winners. Ella's friend had gotten 10th place and again I was so proud of and happy for her.  I was happy it had been such a great day for our girls.  They send the 6th through 4th place girls off and put out the 3rd through 1st trophies.  They announce the 3rd place overall winner and it was the super bendy girl Ella had beaten out for lyrical.  I was like holy $#*^ Ella's name is going to be called.  I knew if she had beaten that girl in the category she'd beaten her in the overall.  That's just math and I can do math.  Ha!  Sure enough Ella's name was called and she was the 2nd place winner in the overall.  Again, I cried.  I was so overwhelmed and to be honest. SHOCKED.

The lesson to be learned from all of this?  First:  I will no longer NOT trust the process.  I have to know that Ella's instructors know more than I do and they're doing what is best for her and won't put her in a position to fail.  Second:  I will no longer underestimate my daughter.  She's a hard worker and she'll go out there and give it her all.

The feeling of PRIDE, surprise and excitement that I had for Ella will forever go down as one of my best memories as a mother.  This is not because she went home with trophies but because all along this child believed in herself. She had confidence, she worked hard and she believed in herself and it paid off.  Of course, I can't thank Jamie enough for taking her under her wing and also believing that she could do it.  So thank you Miss Jamie for believing in my baby girl.

I'm looking forward to this crazy ride of dance with my amazing daughter.  It might not be "my thing" but it sure is hers!

Tracey's Syracuse Half Ironman Race Recap

Syracuse Half Ironman
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
June 19, 2016

I asked Susan if could write a blog post about my IM 70.3 Syracuse so I can remember all of the details.  I have also had many people interested in what goes into an event like this.  So, here it goes-

I decided to train for IM Syracuse 70.3 after my friend Kelli was talking about wanting to do one this year.  She researched different ones and we finally decided on Syracuse because of the time of year (not having to train through the summer) and the fact that we could drive to it.
So, in January, the training began.  I got back in the pool after two years out of it.  I swam two days a week (anywhere between 2000-2500 yards each time).  I biked at least three times a week on my bike trainer until it was nice enough to get outside.  I ran a lot also, completing a half marathon in April and May.  I also refused to give up Crossfit.  I love Crossfit and I know it makes me a much stronger athlete.  So, I went 2-3 times a week.  It was hard to fit everything in, and a lot of days I did double workouts.  Many of my workouts were at 5:30 am and also at 10:00 pm.  I tried my hardest not to let my workouts take away from my family time.  I think I did a pretty good job even if it came with sacrifices and times I just didn’t want to get up or get on the treadmill after the kids went to bed.

Because the triathlon was on Father’s Day, I also decided to dedicate this race to my Dad and raise money for CCMAC, an organization that raises money to increase awareness and prevention of melanoma.  My dad passed away in August of 2012 from melanoma.

The Race
Kelli and I traveled to Syracuse on Friday.  On Saturday morning, we headed down to Jamesville Beach where the race activities were occurring.  We checked in, signed away our life in waivers and picked up all of our race gear.  We hit the Ironman store, spent lots of money, and then attended the mandatory athlete meeting where it was repeatedly emphasized how hilly this course was.  We got a bit scared!  We then checked in our bikes, checked out the swim course and drove the first 12 miles of the bike course.  We were told miles 2-12 were all uphill, and that was not a lie.  At least now we had an idea of what we were facing.

We headed to meet our families, had a great pre-race dinner at Pastabilities, got our stuff together and headed to bed.

Race Day

The alarm went off at 4 am.  Way too early!  We got up, ate, collected our things and were off.  We got to the race at 5:30, headed to the transition area and got set up.  The forecast for the day was 91 and sunny, so we braced ourselves for a long, hot day.

The swim course was a rectangle with buoys every 100 meters.  That was really nice.  Kelli’s age group was scheduled to start at 7:16, so I said goodbye to her and wished her luck.  My age group went off at 7:56, so I stood around and looked for my mom and her friend Mark.   I finally found them, got in the water and we were off!  The swim was pretty uneventful.  It is my favorite part of the triathlon.  I exited the water, really enjoyed the wetsuit strippers and was off to transition.  My goal for the swim was 40 minutes.
Time:  39:16.

Transition 1
It was a bit of a run to the transition area.  I stopped to use the bathroom, got my bike gear on, applied more sunscreen and was off.

Let me start my saying that the bike is my weakest part of the triathlon.  I also worry a lot while riding that something will happen to my bike that I won’t be able to fix.  That is my biggest fear- not being able to finish because of a mechanical problem, not a physical one.  So, I started out on the bike very nervous.  What a course!  The first 12 miles were grueling to say the least.  There were some more good climbs in there, including one at mile 48 where I saw people pushing their bikes up the hill.  I only stopped once on the bike course at mile 40 to use the bathroom.  Because it was so hot, I was hydrating, hydrating, hydrating, so it was good sign that I had to go to the bathroom again. I also took advantage of the bike time to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a pretty melted granola bar.  The end of the bike course was good, despite my bike mileage being over 56 miles.  My goal for this was 15 mph. 
3:48:20    14.72 mph

Transition 2
I changed shoes, put my visor on, applied more sunscreen and used the bathroom again.

Going into this race, I thought the run would be my strongest part, until I saw the weather forecast.  I decided not even to wear my watch and just listen to my body and run (for those of you who know me, you know this is hard for me to do!).  This course was very difficult.  It was a two loop course, so we had to run the same hills twice.  Add in the 90 degree temperature and a very sunny sky, it was pure torture.  My only goal was to finish at this point.  I ran aid station to aid station (every mile).  I drank so much Gatorade and water I thought I would float away.  I also ate a bunch of salted pretzels and keep putting ice down my top.  I ran through every hose possible.  I saw Kelli three times on this run.  Mentally, it was great to see her.  She looked strong.  The middle of each loop had a hill designed by the devil himself.  I did not see one person running up that hill.  I walked it both times.  I was so scared of cramping or getting light headed from the heat.  I decided that my time was not important.  Seeing my mom and Mark at the turn around helped a lot.  I told them the second loop was going to be slow.  The second loop actually ended up being very close in time to the first loop.  I took it aid station by aid station again.  Until finally I made it.
2:22.51    (1st loop- 1:11:15, 2nd loop- 1:11:36)

Running down to the finish line was the best feeling.  It was such a relief to be done. 

Review of the course

Overall, the Syracuse 70.3 course was very challenging.  There were lots and lots of hills, which I am used to training in Pittsburgh.  I do love challenges.  I would definitely attempt this course again.  The race itself was extremely organized.  I need to give a huge thanks to the volunteers.  They were absolutely incredible!  From the wetsuit strippers to the sunscreen sprayers to the people giving out gatorade, water and ice- they were all amazing.  So supportive and energetic and encouraging.  Hands down the best volunteers I have ever encountered.  I really needed them on such a tough day and they did not disappoint.  I also have to thank my mom and Mark for driving from Long Island to watch me compete.  It really meant a lot to me.

I really want to congratulate Kelli for finishing her first half Ironman on a tough course in not so ideal conditions.  Kelli, you rock and I look forward to completing many more races with you.  You push me to do better and I really enjoyed sharing this experience with you. 

Tracey and Kelli  
This was definitely not the race I had envisioned in my mind.  I had a goal time of 6:30.  I finished in 7:01:35.  On another day, I would have been very disappointed in myself.  But, for once, I was proud of myself.  I trained well, I gave it my all, and I raced smart in the heat.  I know my dad was watching out for me that day, giving me the strength to push through.

I want to thank everyone who donated to CCMAC and everyone who supported me.  I received so many texts and messages wishing me luck and had numerous text messages from friends when I turned on my phone after the race.  I especially want to thank Susan who rode many miles next to me on her bike when she didn’t have to.  She also got me this necklace before I left which was so very thoughtful.  I have so blessed to have all of these amazing people in my life!  

Will I do another one?  Never say never, right?  A full Ironman is on my list to complete by age 50.  I have 7.5 years to train.  Hopefully that is enough!

Thanks for reading!