Until now. The culprit: My second try at a Half Marathon, coming up this Saturday.
Last year at this time, I ran 13.1 miles for the first time ever. I had trained since the previous June, and was bolstered (believe it or not) by a big fall in September that gave me a concussion and 12 stitches in my head. After that, I was NOT going to quit running. And I didn’t. I knew I could finish a Half Marathon. And I did.
This year feels totally different. I have been running since last year, and actually did a series of hills and speedwork at Shelby Farms this summer. (For nonrunners, what you get from speedwork is the realization that you won’t die from going faster; it just feels like it. And it makes an easy jog feel like walking.) I joined my wonderful St. Mary’s training group again in August, and have pretty much done all of the workouts. Even Holly, our coach and an experienced distance runner, told me today to “trust my training,” and Ellen, my likely partner on Saturday in the race, is sure that “we’ve got this.”
So what’s my problem?
I hear from experienced distance runners that this kind of anxiety isn’t unusual. I haven’t run as much as I usually do this week; maybe these are the yips I have read about. I am a little worried that Ellen, who has done several triathlons since last year, will leave me in the dust Saturday. I know exactly how long 13.1 is now, and it’s LONG. I’d like to point out that the impending ice storm — set to arrive Friday — doesn’t worry me. I’ve run along Lake Michigan in February. Cold is better than hot.
All I can say is: Wish me luck. Maybe by the time you read this, I’ll be finished. (You can follow my progress on a neat app that St. Jude uses. What a great cause. And THANKS to everyone who is supporting me in my newly acquired status as a Hero.)
Actually, just thinking about all of the support I’ve found this year for my running, not to mention the stalwart pals who are always there to lift me up, I feel a lot better. Maybe I’ll go lay out my clothes for Saturday.
Whew. I have just finished the second week of my Medill MOOC, Understanding Media by Understanding Google. I have committed to doing this ALL online, so in addition to the intellectual challenge of the various viewpoints of the SIX authors (plus Prof. Youngman) we are reading, I have to use extra brain cells remembering where I read something, highlighting the important stuff, etc., etc. I feel as though my brain is being rewired as I go, which is both exhausting and exhilarating.
Observations for this week: Google has pervaded online American life much more thoroughly than I knew before I began this course, and it makes me more than a little uneasy. I wish I still worked at The Commercial Appeal, because the stuff my friends and I used to daydream about — outsourcing ad sales to Google, concentrating on great local coverage in an online format that was easy to navigate, breaking down silos between reporters and departments — really will be the next generation of journalism. This is most surprising to me, that I feel this optimistic about the news business. I have come to believe that most news-on-paper outlets will go away, but good reporting and journalism doesn’t have to be printed on paper to gain an audience. The question is: How can journalists make a living working only online, for a company that doesn’t understand how the world has changed?
Finally, I’ve learned some cool Google tricks. Check out HandWrite (still in beta testing), and get your local teenager to show you all of the highlighting and annotating features that Kindle now serves up. Oh, and have you tried Google Voice? Very cool. Almost makes me stop dreaming of Siri.
A few observations after four days of my first-ever online class:
1. Learning this way is completely rewiring my brain. I have decided to try to do it all online — the textbooks are on my Kindle app (had to ask my 14-year-old how to highlight Kindle text), I take notes on my iPad, and of course the readings and lectures are at the Coursera site for the course. It feels more difficult to remember tiny details (did Jeff Jarvis write that, or did I see it on the Google site?), but it’s also undeniably more efficient. And cool.
Speaking of cool, no way did I ever imagine seeing a motorized Android wheeling past one of the towers of the Northwestern Library, with Deering in the background. This was the opening video of the first lecture.
2. Video lectures leave a lot to be desired. The professor, Owen Youngman, is a nationally known expert in digital media, and I enjoy his blog a lot. I’ll bet in the classroom, he is terrific. But online I find myself wishing I could ask a question, and seeing slides with concepts on them as the lecture keeps going feels a lot like listening to the radio while trying to read the newspaper. How quaint, I know, but multi-tasking has never been my thing.
3. Google Plus sucks. So far I have gotten hundreds of notices from around the world saying, basically, “I’m glad to be taking this class.” It’s interesting, I guess, to know that there are 42,000 students in this class from 156 countries, but I am probably going to opt out of this forum unless something more substantive comes up soon.
4. Best part of the class so far: Watching the Google Hangout chat between Youngman and journalist/author/thinker Jeff Jarvis. Jarvis’s book, What Would Google Do?, is one of the assigned texts for this class. The reason I wanted to take this class was to think again about how the media — starting with my former employer, The Commercial Appeal, and going on from there — can rethink how they do what they do. No one in journalism would deny that the print media business model is broken, and it seems clear to me now that it’s only a matter of time before the advertising that newspapers and magazines sell to support their journalism won’t do that any more. Many of the choices traditional news organizations have made seem exactly the wrong ones, but what are the right ones? The Jarvis Hangout interview (I hope you can see it; the link might be accessible only to MOOC members) begins to answer those questions, which, as he points out, is the “moral of the course.”
Final note: I got a 4.25 out of 5 on the first quiz. Crap.
So I have signed up for an online class. It’s the not the first time I’ve tried learning this way, but I’m as excited as I’ve been in a while. (My last try, a wonderful-sounding course on creativity taught by a Stanford design prof, crashed on the shoals of graduation season at St. Mary’s.)
The course is from Northwestern, and the Medill School (of Journalism, I think … do they still call it that in Evanston?). It’s called Understanding Media by Understanding Google. Hey, you can sign up, too, if you want. It’s a MOOC, a massive open online course, and it’s free. So far, it looks like north of 40,000 of us from around the world are taking this class.
OK, it’s not exactly free. I’ve loaded six new books onto my Kindle. It will take some serious time and discipline to figure out all the ways to communicate with my classmates and the prof, Owen Youngman. I’m a little overwhelmed at the volume of texts, links, wikis, forums and the comments on each. (Do we really need to have a discussion about Youngman’s religious preferences?)
It’s time for me to go down this path, though. The school where I work has jumped into online learning in a big way: St. Mary’s was a charter member of the Online School for Girls, and many of our wonderful teachers do their thing online, too. Many of the girls will take an online course before they graduate; there’s talk that an online course might become a graduation requirement. My kid is going to a school where all of his learning is online, and he spends his homework hours each night plugged into his laptop. I know from watching him that online learning is different from the books/lectures/notes learning I did in high school, but I don’t really know how. I need to know.
My brainiac husband has been taking online classes for several years now — computer programming from Stanford was a recent one, I think — but since he is an engineer who is also an online entrepreneur, I’m not sure our online learning journeys will have much in common. Still, at least I am on social media already. Maybe that’s one learning curve that won’t be so steep. (Though I am a newbie to Google+.)
In these blog posts I want to write about taking this course as if I were talking to a plugged-in but not necessarily online-learning literate friend. Tonight’s news flash: I’m a bit overwhelmed. This is a university-level course, and it’s been a long time since I had graded homework, forget about graded forum discussions.
Tomorrow’s the first day of class. Somehow I think it won’t be the same as Basic Writing, circa 1977, which was my last first day at Medill. Wish me luck.
That’s right: I trained all summer with a women’s running group, paid the fee for the race, picked up my shirt and bib, then didn’t go. I’ve never done that before.
I had a good reason, I guess: Last weekend, I did my first Zumba class ever, and though I loved it, it didn’t love me. By the end of the day of the class, my knee was swollen and throbbing, and no amount of ice, ibuprofen and fewer miles seemed to help. Friday night when I was out with Andy, I finally told him about my knee, and he pointed out that I didn’t have to race if I didn’t want to. I had literally never thought of that.
I come from a long line of stoics. Complaining about an ache or pain just wasn’t something our family ever much countenanced, and I still feel slightly ashamed when I call in sick to work. Living with my hardworking but tender-hearted husband all these years has helped a little, but yesterday was miserable.
“You totally could have done that race,” my conscience shouted at me all day. And I probably could have. It would have been pain from the beginning to the end, and more pain later. I probably wouldn’t have come close to the time goal I was trying for, but I would have pushed as hard as I could. Should I have done it?
Truthfully, running fast is painful for me, even on a good day. Most runners have run through pain, and most don’t like to talk about it. This weekend’s adventures have given me a lot to think about. Should I keep trying for a time goal, even if it hurts? Am I taking the easy way out, letting an achy knee make training decisions for me? What about slowing down, running longer, and concentrating on the fun of it again? It’s probably not a coincidence that I have been running alone a lot lately. I miss my running friends, and the way the miles slide by when there’s someone to talk to.
I will keep thinking, but in the meantime, here’s the good news: My knee feels some better today. Maybe I’ll hit the road tomorrow morning and see how things go.