Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running a 5K Race

I recently ran a 5K race. (If you're reading this, then you probably already know that since you are a friend of mine.) I ran the race because of a few important reasons:

1. My doctor told me that I needed to lose weight after discovering that I was at the beginning of the "Morbidly Obese" section of the weight chart.
2. I thought this would be a great motivation to do something that would cause my weight to drop and be more healthy.
3. I've always wanted to run an "official" race with a number on my chest and official time clock at the end. When I see those races on TV I think, "That must feel great to run across the finish line and have accomplished that."
4. I turn 35 on Nov. 25 and figured it was about time I did something like that.

At the end of this summer, a friend told me about a "Couch to 5K" program that let you ease into the long-distance run at a slow pace. It really is a good program that is manageable and not too stressful (and works) if you make the time to run for about 30 minutes a few times a week. There is even an App for iPhone that helps you keep the timing as you run. SHOCK!!! So, I thought about all the reasons from above and started the program in August. Unfortunately, at the same time, I kicked the hearth in our apartment and apparently (according to the X-Ray) broke a small bone in my foot and had to wait 3-4 weeks before really starting the program. And keep up my motivation while beginning to teach school.

So, after some healing I began the program again. You are supposed to run 3 times per week and build up to longer runs as you go. My "days between runs" were actually more like "10 days between runs", but I got them in. (At least the first 4 weeks of it).

I was a little frustrated the day of that I had not finished the program, but, I had set a goal (and paid $20 for the entry) so we were going to go running on Nov. 21.

The morning was early but really great with Lissa being so supportive and getting up with me and planning ahead for the boys to be woken up on the first Saturday of Thanksgiving Break. We drove toward Richardson and were doing great until I took the Dallas North Tollway instead of waiting until the North Central Expressway. Ten minutes later, we were $1 (in change) poorer from the two toll booths we HAD to go through and back on the The George Bush Turnpike for another 5 miles to get to the right "Expressway" and found our way to the place of the race. We had no idea where the festivities would begin, but soon found the arch of balloons and heard the noise of the crowd. The pre-race was interesting as the kids got to bounce in a bounce house and I had all of the anticipation of "what have I gotten myself into".

I read somewhere that your first race you should begin at the back of the pack so as not to be run over by the more "experienced" racers. So, I started near the back and walked right up to the starting line so I could save as much energy for the actual timed portion of the race. I saw Lissa and the boys there and jumped across the starting line only to be told to "STOP" because the camera was messing up and she was not videoing my start. In hindsight, that's pretty funny.

So, I took off running (well more of a jog that was surprisingly faster than alot of people). I had decided I would try to run for 5 minute intervals and walk for 1-2 minute intervals alternating. I made the first 5 minute, but after that it was whatever I could muster up the strength to do depending on whether it was up hill or down hill. The website noted that the course was "flat with an occasional incline". It was not the Texas Hill Country, but it definitely was not flat. I walked most of the uphills and jogged the downhills. That seemed easier at the time.

The other runners were quite nice and considerate as we went along. I didn't feel bad when older people passed me by. I figured they had actually done this before and was kind of glad they were there still doing this sort of thing. And, I knew that if worst came to worse I could pass them easily. One lady did inspire me a few times when as I was just walking and she would trot past me. I would think, "Uh-uhh" and begin to jog again. (I did beat her to the finish line.) I learned that when you are by yourself you should wear your iPod to keep your brain distracted as you run. That may have helped me shave 3-4 minutes off my time in the end if I would have done it, but then I couldn't have "soaked up the experience" as I was able to do without it.

I planned ahead and jogged the entire last 1/4 of a mile or so so that I could come across the line running. It really was lots of fun to come across with the crowd cheering on. That's the part that makes me want to do it again, actually. Also, I saw a picture of a friend coming across the finish line of a marathon that he had run. I thought at the time what a great feeling and sense of accomplishment that must have been for him. I by no means think that my little 5K compares to his marathon, except that this same friend told me that his first race was also a 5K. I don't really think I'll end up at a marathon some day, but you never know.

Today I got an email with a picture of myself going across the finish line. I also found out that I finished 42 out of 46 in my age class and 454 overall with a time of 41:10. This is just the beginning I know. I am already looking for the next one that I can run.

If there is a moral to this it is that you should set goals and follow through. Even if you aren't able to finish all the parts, do what you can and enjoy the challenge. For my 35th birthday I ran my first 5K race and lost a little weight along the way.

But there is still a long way to go......

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Judging Band Auditions

Have you heard of "Band Auditions"? If not, then you either were not in band in junior high or you don't happen to know any band people (directors or students). If you don't know, it's okay... we still love you.

Band Auditions are a very interesting experience in which a band student (of course, it could also be a vocalist or string player, but then it wouldn't be a "band" audition would it?) puts themself up against a number of other students who play the same instrument in a search to see who is the better player. The best players are rewarded with a spot (or chair) in a band that will, on a given day, rehearse for 8 or so hours and then perform a concert for doting parents and friends. In the end, it may seem trivial and not much of a prize, but many a day has been ruined or celebrated based on the results of mere minutes of instrumental playing. (Don't get me started on my own experiences growing up in the "band world". I'm still bitter about some of those auditions). But I digress....

There are two sides to this audition process.

One side is that of the student who has worked for months (or in some cases only days) on special music that will be picked over with a fine-toothed comb (or ear) as they perform for 3-5 adults who sit behind a screen and place judgment upon them anonymously. Imagine a combination of a job interview and The Dating Game and you can begin to get the picture. It is tough being the student, but I always say that it is an important step in growing up into maturity as a musician (and often as a person). When he/she enters the room there is a monitor that announces their letter to the judges. What's fun is that the monitor comes up with some word to represent the letter as in: "Letter D as in Delta" or something like that. We used to give them free range to make up their own but then some would say things like: "D for Dummy" or "L for Loser" so we now stick to a phonetic alphabet or musical terms. Then the student plays the required material and either leaves pleasantly or in a huff if things did not go so well.

In the olden days (yes I turn 35 this month) all the students would be in one room and would not only face the judgement of the judges but also the room full of competition. It was gruelling and many a person did not play well when faced with "the eyes" from all around the room. Now students get to be in a room by themself without "the eyes" staring at them. I wonder if it really is the same in the end.

On the other side of the screen are the "judges". They are (most often) band directors, private music teachers and other professional musicians who know what the before mentioned music is supposed to sound like. They are equipped with little more than a pencil and some papers that look a lot like a blank accounting spreadsheet. As the students play they score each performance with a number based on a predetermined standard. Such a standard should already be known before the auditions begin. (If the judge doesn't know what the standard is, they won't be asked back again to judge any time soon. I can tell you that). The process of coming up with all these numbers is kind of boring to explain so I'll spare you the details now. If you truly are curious, I'd be glad to tell you about it in a personal message sometime. But, when it's all said (played) and done we end up with individual orders of letters that represent students who still remain in anonymity to the judges (remember that all the judges have is a bunch of letters to organize). At one point in this we get to put bar code stickers on a page and it seems a lot like elementary school. That's always fun!! Then these are turned in to the contest officials who put them into a computer program to determine the final "chair" order for that section in the bands.

But the real fun for the judges is getting to visit with friends. You see, most normal people don't really understand musicians and all of their oddities. (To this you say DUH!!). So when we get together we speak a different language and laugh at the strangest things. Like this weekend one audition sounded more like a lawn mower than a trumpet or the student that sped up and then suddenly slowed down or the one that ..... (sorry I got caught up in that world for a moment). Anyway, we have a good time behind the screen but we also must remember that the students have worked very hard and it is serious business to place them in the best order possible. This is why there is always more than one of us behind the screen in case one of us goes to sleep and misses something important. (Not that that ever happens when listening to 50 of the same instrument playing the exact same music for 4 - 6 hours. That's NEVER happened to me!). That's also why they provide really great food for the judges in the form of catered lunches and a food cart that travels from room to room providing snacks to keep us energized for optimal listening. Or maybe it's just to bribe us into agreeing to do it again next time. Who can really tell?

So, there is a little taste into the world of band auditions. And the next time you hear someone say they have "Region Band Auditions" next Saturday, you'll have a little insight into what in the world they are talking about.

Of course, now I have to wonder if I should worry about my band friends taking me out for giving away this secret.