Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Glow the Distance - the 2012 Firefly Run

I will always have soft spot in my heart for the Firefly Run. Taking place last June, it was the first running event I ever voluntarily participated in and might have been the first time I ever felt good about running. I had trained for it (sort of), prepared for it (by making light up tutus with my friends), and beat a couple personal records (like running for 6 minutes without whimpering). I had a genuinely (Jenny-uinely?) good time running with some of my closest friends and left feeling good about myself and what I could accomplish. It gave me the confidence to keep running (albeit sparsely) and the encouragement I needed to sign up for even more races! Since then, I've participated in the Hot Chocolate Run, the Color Run, the Warrior Dash, and, of course, the 3rd Annual Firefly Run!

Why did they use a phoenix for the logo?

I'll be honest, despite the soft spot in my heart, when March 31 (race day) came around, I was less than excited. I had probably done less training and prep for this race than any other running event I've been in (with the exception of the Warrior Dash, but more on that later). I had only been running once since the Color Run, which took place over a month before the Firefly Run. Rather than try to get a full night of sleep, I had stayed out until 4 in the morning the previous night and got up four hours later to attend an Easter egg hunt with my sister and nephew (it was super cute watching the little one-year-old try to figure out how to pick up eggs and put them in a basket). Instead of eating nutritious meals that would be a good source of energy during the race, I ate half a pizza, passed out on my couch, and woke up only when Hannah called to say that she was running late but was on her way to my place so we could ride to the event together. Once we got to the starting area, however, I was pumped and raring to go (I think the plethora of glow sticks we brought with us had something to do with that). Once we waved to the helicopter flying overhead (slow news day, apparently) and finished the countdown, we were off!

Hannah and I ran the first 1.25 miles (roughly - I'm bad at judging distances) before we started walking. We then started running again at the start of the third mile. After about 6 minutes, we broke into a walk again (because that first mile really took it out of me). As we approached the finish line (or so we thought), we started running again. Unfortunately, we had been bamboozled into thinking the race was almost over. Had we studied the course map (does anyone actually do that?), we would have known that the course was going to take us near the finish, only to curve and loop around (like a conniving jerk). Regardless, we kept running until the end to collect our participant bracelets and complimentary bottles of water.

This year, we decided to skip most of the after-party and just head back to my place. This proved to be a good idea because it took us forever to find my car (we might have accidentally re-walked a good portion of the course trying to find the parking garage - it's confusing when the start and finish areas for a race are in different locations).

I forgot my camera, so here is a picture of a bunch of
strangers that I stole from the Firefly Run website.

Even though I trained very little for this race, I think it went very well. In fact, I found it rather promising and encouraging. Up until then, it had always been my lungs that forced me to slow down and stop running. At the Firefly Run, however, it was my legs that were having problems keeping up. Rather than worry that my legs are getting weaker, I'm just going to
assume that my lungs are finally getting stronger, which is awesome.

Results: Time spent running: 24:03 (last year - 12:00ish)
Total race time: 43:14 (last year - 51:00ish)
Placement: 3431 (Hannah) and 3433 (Me) out of 4945 - top 70% (last year - barely top 90%)

Do you ever study course maps before a race so that curves don't come as so much of a surprise? Isn't it upsetting that we saw people who were running the 10k course passing us by the end? Wouldn't "glow the distance" have been a way better motto than "chase the night and win"?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"When you jump, try to keep your feet on the ground." What?

After spending years trying desperately to emulate ballet in my dancing (first in ballet, then in drill team, and even a little bit in swing dance (ah, the beauty of proper spotting)), it is very difficult for me to hear "you dance like a ballerina" and not take it as a compliment. But it's not... at least not in tap class anyway.

In tap class, "dancing like a ballerina" means that I'm too rigid, too structured, and working too hard for too little payoff. It means that I'm putting all the strain of every move on my weakest muscles, and making things much more difficult on myself. Basically, it means that I keep trying to point my toes.

I didn't even realize I was doing that at first! I had no idea that I was treating every shuffle and flap like a high kick (without the kicking high part)! Even had I known, I wouldn't have had the slightest inkling that that could be detrimental to my dancing. When Keira started teaching our class, though, she noticed right away the egregious error I'd been making, and tried to instill in me the proper technique. "In tap dance," she said, "you want to keep your ankles and toes as relaxed as possible. All of your movement should be coming from the top of your leg."

Even after being called out in class about it, I didn't think that pointing my toes or relaxing my ankles would make all that much of a difference, so while I tried to tap properly when I thought about it, I didn't work too hard on re-wiring my brain. That was all well and good when it came to shuffles and flaps. Worst case scenario, I would get tired out faster or maybe miss a couple sounds... not too bad. Then, we started learning pull-backs.

I don't just love this routine because
of the plaid suits, I promise!
Pull-backs are a tap dance step that involves jumping up into the air, tapping the ground with the balls of your feet whilst in the air, then landing on the balls of your feet. When done correctly, it will make two sounds. It's the gateway step to dynamic tap dancing; without it, there is little to no hope of dancing like Gene Kelly and Donald O'Conner as they performed "Fit as a Fiddle" in Singing in the Rain (which may or may not be a personal dream of mine). Though we started learning this step months ago, I never was able to do it correctly until last week. Why? Because my feet were always pointed when I'd jump.

I thought I'd tried everything to get them. I tried lifting my toes before I jumped so that they'd just brush back (which apparently is TERRIBLE technique, even though that's how our first instructor taught us to do it... w (for whatevs)). I tried jumping higher, then when that didn't work, jumping lower. I even tried following my classmate's advice, which was "when you jump, try to keep your feet on the ground." But what did I never try? Paying attention to whether my feet were pointed or not.

Pull-back instructions courtesy of the United Taps Tap Dance Forum

So finally, after a lot of frustrating hours and embarrassing attempts, I made a conscious effort to relax my ankles. Immediately, I was able to do pull-backs across the floor as if they were the easiest thing in the world.

Tl;dr: Always listen to your teachers, especially if you're a stubborn jerk like me.

Did you ever learn the hard way that dancing like a ballerina is not always a compliment? If it was when you tried incorporating arabesques and pirouettes into your krumping, will you please tell me all about it?! Does anyone else feel like a frog when doing pull-backs across a floor?

And for your enjoyment, here is a clip from Robin Hood: Men in Tights that I stole off the internet. I think it's the only routine I've seen that has been able to successfully mix hip hop and ballet.