Just the boost I needed

Science-wise, this week has been awesome – I got to attend an awesome talk on the Mars rover, a cool seminar on gesture and technology used in design, and got to spend my Friday evening making little origami circuits, playing video games, and eating (free!) pizza with MountainMan. I even got through a chapter of thesis revisions (woohoo!!!).

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Using little LEDs to mimic the tapeta lucida of course 😉

However, this week was not so hot on the running front. I ended up getting a nasty cold early in the week and barely made it through each day before heading home to pass out on the couch. I made it through teaching, a good chunk of thesis revisions, and prepping for a mid-week career fair, but struggled to get through even the shortest, slowest runs. I managed a grand total of 10 miles for the week and was feeling pretty bummed about losing the little bit of fitness that I’d finally built up.

However, today I got just the boost that I needed. I got in a cough & sniffle-free 5-miler and even did some drills! Best of all, I’ve apparently regained some spring in my step – an older lady came up to me while I was doing drills and told me “It’s just so fun to watch you glide along like that! So much energy!”  Awww 🙂

drills

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Windy laps

Today’s track workout (again courtesy of the marvelous MountainMan) was a rude re-introduction to longer intervals.  The workout itself was actually pretty short, but MM had thrown in some longer race pace stuff and both Fish and I were a little nervous.  The workout was 2 laps of SSJC (stride straights, jog curves) into 1200m at 5k pace (so 96’s for now – that’s 20 flat pace for a 5k), then 2 more laps of SSJC into 300 m at current mile pace (so around 6 flat pace), 100m jog R, and lastly 800m at 5k pace (3:12).  

I was able to hold the paces with a bit of suffering and Fish finished just a little off on the long stuff but totally smoked our 300. Wheee!  I do think I may have a bit of an advantage in the wind – Fish weighs a good 20 lbs less than me and half the time I’m afraid I’ll look over my shoulder to see her flying off through the air like a little, runner-girl shaped kite!  My muscular frame on the other hand is in no danger of getting wafted away on the breeze 😉 

Perhaps the best (and least expected!) part of the whole workout was that we ran into one of my former teammates who is coaching throws at a nearby high school.  She happened to be at the track giving some private throws lessons and totally made my day when she walked by as Fish and I were doing strides – the look of surprised recognition as I sprinted by waving and grinning was priceless 🙂  And the brief chat with her after the 1200 gave us a little extended recovery…for which Fish and I were both *extremely* grateful.  

All in all I’d say the workout was a success – first longer reps out of the way and we held pretty steady in spite of the wind.

 

On the non-running front life is chilling out a bit.  I’m done TAing (minus a marathon grading session with my fellow TA’s at the end of the week), have been taking a little break from finite element simulations while waiting for software tokens to free up (woohoo, time to actually *think* (and write!)), and have been enjoying watching everyone else madly cram for finals as I saunter lazily to and from the lab 😉  

Teaching & the end of the semester

My students totally made the long hours of TAing and grading worth it today…got so many thank you’s for what was apparently a fun semester of lab as students walked out the door at the end of lab and even had a few students asking what lab I’m teaching next semester so they could try to get into my section.  

It might be just because I’m the “nice” TA (apparently some of the students think my fellow TA’s are scary, which I find hilarious), but I figure even niceness can’t make up for crappy teaching.  At least not to the point where students would seek out my lab section!  Actually looking forward to getting my teaching evals this semester – knowing that the majority of my students are actually enjoying the lab and my teaching makes the idea of facing the typical evaluation criticisms seem more like an exciting opportunity to improve on my weaknesses, rather than an intimidating list of my failures as an instructor.  Just the boost I needed on a long Friday before finals’ week!   

Just your usual long-weekend Sunday night panic

Spent a large chunk of the Thanksgiving break running finite element code in an attempt to get some results that actually make sense.  Basically came up empty handed – even when no warning/error messages pop up, my stress results are off by a ridiculous amount.

And it’s really starting to freak me out.  Research has turned into this exhausting cycle of running code, swearing at the results, fixing code using every bit of knowledge and trouble-shooting skill that I have, and re-running the code, swearing at the results, and so on for what is going on several MONTHS.

My advisor can give me suggestions as far as theory and general modeling, but can’t really help with the actual implementation.  The instructor of the course that I’m in has been extremely helpful, but admits that’s it’s a tricky problem and he hasn’t dealt with it much before.  And I leave that class in a couple of weeks, which will make it much more difficult to ask him for help.  Everyone around here is busy as hell and I hate bugging people for help when I don’t have anything to contribute back.

I’m afraid I’ll never figure this out and I’ll never graduate.  And I’ll be *that* grad student – you know, the one that looked good on paper and then turned out to be a total waste of time and resources.  If I wasn’t at least TAing for my stipend I’d feel like a total ass.

Went for a run to clear my head and then spent most of it fighting off a panic attack.  Not helpful!

Ah well, enough ranting.  Just need to keep throwing myself at this problem and hopefully I’ll break through the wall before it’s too late…

Holding on for dear life

The last 3 weeks have been overwhelming!  I’ve spent 30 hours between coursework, TA duties, and research so far this week…and it’s only 3pm on Weds.  The previous couple weeks weren’t much different.  But I’ve got a little breather now while I wait for some simulations to finish running, so time to write a few words 🙂

Awesome happenings of the week:

1)  Realizing that I find teaching the engineering concepts necessary for my TA lab about a million times easier than I did at this time last year.  I had the background to teach freshman level engineering last year, but a year of dealing with those concepts on a more regular basis has improved my ability to quickly come up with simple examples and explanations on the fly while teaching.  It’s been so rewarding to be able to work back and forth with a student until they finally “get it”!  Last year I helped a few students out, but I often felt like I was letting students down due to my struggles with teaching clearly from the start.  I still find teaching challenging, but I’ve developed more confidence and better tools to help overcome those challenges.  

2)  Got some positive feedback on a writing assignment and then got the chance to write another 20 page review that’s due tonight.  Give me a keyboard and some research papers to read and I am content 🙂

3)  I get to run 15 whole miles this week!  Foot injury has been good, so I’ve given myself permission to add a couple miles onto my weekly total.  15 miles doesn’t sound too crazy when I think back to the consistent diet of 50 mile weeks that I put in for 5 years during my undergrad days, but after what feels like an eternity of 10 mile weeks 15 sounds grand!

4)  Found one of the books that I checked out almost a year ago for my thesis research.  Started flipping through it and actually got excited about my topic again!  The last couple months I’ve really gotten away from the literature other than some finite element software manuals.  Struggling with software is fine and all, but it doesn’t exactly get me all fired up about what I’m trying to do.  It was a relief to be reminded that I do in fact still find my general research topic fascinating 😛 

These happy realizations have kept me rolling through the exhaustion – I may be completely fried by the end of every day, but it’s so worth it.