Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I Don't Teach Middle School.

Alright, so technically I don't teach anything right now. And I have taught 7th/8th grade summer school a couple of times, and will be again this coming summer. But every now & then I get it into my head that it might be fun to teach middle school full time. Luckily something always happens to remind me why I stick to the big kids.

Today I had 800m repeats on the agenda, so I headed out to the track. I started my warm-up miles in relative peace & quiet; then I noticed small groups of kids in school tank tops and T-shirts trickling into the Stadium. Some of them made camp in the stands; others started walking or jogging around the track in clusters.

At first I thought this was just another school track practice like any number of others that I've run through. But they just kept coming! By the time I started my 800s, they'd packed the stands, and the track was becoming harder and harder to navigate.

But then I noticed something different about these kids: there were several different school shirts floating around the stadium. Also a bunch of them were doing short little sprints or practicing baton handoffs. Ah! it dawned on me as I wove in & out of them. There is an actual track meet about to go down here!

Soon enough I was informed that the track would be closing in a few minutes, and for once I wasn't bitter about it -- I really have no problem with them closing the track for something that actually involves using the track, and if it involves kids being active, all the better. I grabbed my stuff & moved up onto the upper concrete track. (We've had our rough days, me & the upper track, but we're all good now.)

But what I will never be able to get on board with in terms of middle schoolers is the cat herding aspect of the whole thing. From the upper track I watched teachers and coaches try repeatedly & in vain to get the kids off the track and into the stands, and the kids repeatedly jump back down onto the track for a rousing game of tag and some random shrieking. No sooner would they get one group back up there before another would leap down and begin an impromptu game of soccer (on the track! While kids are running on it!). It was like some bizarre game of whack-a-mole. Or whack-a-teen.

Generally, running on the upper track meant a lot less dodging & weaving. The only trouble was that it passed directly between the bleachers and the bathrooms, which, if you've ever been around middle schoolers, is kind of a problem because for middle schoolers the bathroom area is the equivalent of a singles bar. You go there to be & be seen, catch up on gossip, & embarrass yourself in front of cute strangers. For reasons I don't understand, in middle school this often involves a lot of shrieking & scampering & shoving people into other people. (I say I don't understand because I pretty much wasn't aware that boys existed or were a thing one might care about until halfway through high school. Suddenly sooooooo many things made sense....) So every time I rounded that particular corner I found myself faced with a gauntlet of wee humanity trying OMG SO HARD to look & sound as cool/hot as humanly possible. Or as cool/hot as one can look in a "Presidio Middle School" T-shirt two sizes too big.

Also, a trivia question. 7th grade boys racing the 100 meters warm up by....?

Yep, you guessed it. Spontaneously racing kids from other schools 100 meters right before the meet. You know. To get a feel for the competition.

What was I talking about?

Ah. Right. 800s.

I don't run 800s very often, so every time I see them on the schedule, I'm always like, "Oh, 800s are easy! I'll just whip these out & be on my merry way." I mean yes, you run them fast, but they're over so quickly that it's almost like they didn't happen. And the first ones usually are pretty easy. But by the 5th or 6th, inevitably, I start to feel them. Plus today was actually rather on the warm side in SF (maybe 75ish?) so I was feeling them more than usual.

On the schedule I think these were supposed to be at 5K pace. I don't run at 5K pace all that often (maybe once a month?), so it's an effort level I sometimes have a hard time dialing in to. Plus, I haven't raced a 5K in nearly 2 years, so I'm really guessing about my 5K pace anyway. Mostly I just tried to go by what "felt" right, knowing I was going to run six 800s, and this happened:

When I got home I checked with Coach McMillen, who says my 800 speed intervals should be in the 3:18-3:27 range. So win. :)

I also threw in another 3 easy miles to make it an even 8 for the day. (I don't know why 8 feels more even than 5, 6, or 7, but I decided it did.) Much as with the 800s, sometimes I'm like, "Oh, after I finish my speed workout, I'll just thrown in a few easy miles. NBD." WRONG. There's really no such thing as easy miles after speed work. Slow miles, maybe. But not really easy ones. On the other hand, it was kind of encouraging to see that when I felt like I was plodding along in that last mile thinking DEAR GOD LET IT END, I was actually running an 8:16 pace. Uphill. Not sure what's up with that but I'll take it.

So that was my afternoon. How was yours? :)


  1. I have been doing a few 800s this cycle and they are TOUGH! Good, but tough. Like you said -- the first couple and fine & dandy, and the last few are like, "Ok, just kill me now." Go for some 1000s if you want an even better/worse workout. :P They definitely make "easy" cool-down miles afterward enjoyable -- I love looking down and see I'm actually moving at a decent clip!

    1. OMG 1Ks are sooo hard for me! In my mind it sounds really short so I always start too fast. It is funny, though, how my "cool down" miles after speed stuff can be just unreasonably fast if I don't pay attention. :)

  2. you are so fast!! that is amazing. i have literally never done 800s. maybe this will inspire me. or maybe not, but its the tohught that counts? ;)

    1. You can do it!!! If you want to dip a toe into speed / interval stuff, just start with fewer reps & see how it feels. It really does help! (Plus, you feel SUPER legit after.)