Rest Day Wrap-Up, No. 5

Today is a special Tuesday edition of Rest Day Wrap-Up. Yesterday, for Labor Day, I ran a 5K. Coming off a 93 mile stretch for the preceding 2-week period, I ran well, finishing 39th overall, 5/60 in my age group, and with a time of 21:24, my fastest 5K of the year by 9 seconds. The race fell on my seventh consecutive of running (not something I typically do) and immediately following a 42.6 mile week. Last week also included a strong long run (14 miles at 8:22 pace) and some tempo work (4 mile tempo work at 7:37/mile pace). I finished August with 165.5 miles. And with all this volume, I feel good. Other than some blisters, the result of running 90% humidity routinely, I have no physical concerns following August’s increase in volume. But today’s rest day is much needed. If all goes as planned, my mileage will continue to climb in September and August before a steady taper through November for marathon. Continue reading

Rest Day Wrap-Up, No. 4

My fourth week of training for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon was a success on multiple levels. I pushed my body to levels I haven’t hit in a while, finishing the week with 50 miles in 7 hours, 4 minutes, and 40 seconds of runnings (average of 8:26/mile). On faster tempo runs, I hit my target paces, and I did my long run of 14 miles at an 8:26 pace. The coming week is another high volume week before a slight drop down week for recovery. I am at 140 miles, so far, for August and building the volume to build confidence in my ability to cover the marathon distance.

Rather than focus on the physical successes of this week, of which there are many, I want to think more through the mental aspects, benefits, and risks of this training. This week, of the more than 7 hours I spent running, all but about 2 hours and 20 minutes of that time was spent running alone.  Continue reading

Rest Day Wrap-Up, No. 3

Today is hardly a “rest” day. Today marks the first day of the semester, so it is begins another 16-week cycle of sorts, one that culminates just a week after my 18-week marathon training cycle. As both come to a climax around the same time, I know there is a risk for stress and fatigue affecting both. Therefore, I am going to share my thoughts (or perhaps goals) for sleep and time management here. Then I’ll review the last week of training and look to the week ahead.

Sleep

One of the hardest parts of my job as a department chair is that I too often take the work home with me, sometimes intentionally and often unintentionally. Some nights, like last Wednesday, I struggle to sleep because my mind races with questions: Are there enough seats in first-year composition courses for incoming students? When will I finish my own syllabi? What information do I have to get to the faculty? In almost all cases, these concerns aren’t real. I have already prepared for all contingencies and have plans in place, but I can’t tell my mind that at night, so I can get in bed at 10:00 PM and still be wide awake at 2:30 or 3:30 AM. The key to avoiding this sort of anxiety-driven insomnia seems to be a mix of mindfulness and good sleep habits, especially avoiding screen time (and especially work-related screen time) before bed. The new semester also brings the risk of falling into other bad sleep related habits. Late afternoon office hours make it too easy to have a 2nd, 3rd, … or 4th cup of coffee for the day. Although the coffee might make an extra hour of work possible, I know I will pay the price hours later. Continue reading

Rest Day Wrap-Up, No. 2

Thank you to anyone who read, shared, or reached out after I posted my first Rest Day Wrap-Up next week. I start this writing project with no particular agenda in mind. Rather, I hope each week will be a reflection on training and living.

The Running

Week 2 was harder than week 1. In part, I think this was due to the increase in mileage over previous weeks to lead up to a 40 mile week. For week two, I only ran 28.2 miles. Part of the drop in mileage was planned to prepare for Sunday’s 5-mile race. Part was unplanned. I bailed on Thursday’s long run (planned 11 miles) 3.5 miles in. It was extremely humid and felt like it would storm. And I was fighting some knee pain from runner’s knee or, more particularly, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. I could see the source of the pain, my right knee diving inward due to tight hamstrings and weak hips and core. Therefore, I would rather cut some mileage now and address the issues rather than run with dull pain for a few weeks until it gets worse.

Also, the humidity. I can’t wait for the weather to change. Every run this week was uncomfortable. Even the “easy” runs hurt a little due to the conditions. Continue reading

Rest Day Wrap-Up, No. 1

After building up base mileage during July (a period which followed a light June to recover from spring racing), I started my 18-week dedicated training for the St. Jude Memphis marathon last week. Although it will vary from time to time, Mondays will be my most frequent rest day during this training period, with additional rest days falling the weeks of races and later in the cycle as marathon day nears.

Each week, I hope to share some reflections–about training and running, about work, and about life–to mark the rest day and another week in the pursuit of the marathon.

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Photo by Leah Fletcher

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2016 C2C Graduation Remarks, Posted in Support of those Students Threatened by Trump’s Agenda

Introductory Note: In July 2016, I returned to Saint Mary’s University, CBU’s sister school in Winona, Minnesota, to teach in the Countdown to College (C2C) program. The program seeks to provide would-be first generation students from underrepresented groups a pathway to college. As part of the final graduation ceremony for students completing their 4th year of C2C before they head into their final year of high school, I was asked to have some of the students share from the work their prepared in our college writing course. I also posted my 2015 remarks here.

The election of Donald Trump has led to increased fears from Latinx students about the educational futures, as the president-elect has vowed to end DACA. To suggest the students granted DACA should be deported is to misunderstand their contributions to our society and economy. In hearing the fears of some of my CBU students in the past 5 days, I understand their fear, and I know that we must fight to preserve DACA and to offer sanctuary to these students.

In the spirit of standing in solidarity of all underrepresented students affected by Trump’s proposed agenda and in dedication to standing next to these students in the struggle to come, I share my 2016 C2C graduation remarks. We can learn a lot from the wisdom these students have gained in situations and neighborhoods that have already been too neglected and too dangerous.

Please call your elected officials and ask them to pressure the president-elect to preserve DACA so the hardworking students protected by it can continue to pursue the educations that will help them forge the more just future from which we will all benefit.

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The media on race: which side are they on?

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I didn’t know this post would have an epigraph, and then I saw the above by Steven Salaita as I made my final edits on this post.

The recent coverage of the ongoing protests at the University of Missouri have led me to reflect on how the news media covers black pain, protest, and free speech. Certainly, by weighing in on the topic now, I’m late to the game, so I draw attention to a couple pieces that I think articulate the reasons why black protesters would be distrustful of the media. Moreover, in looking at the work of one of our local journalists, I aim to look at a microcosm of the larger problem in journalism in covering black lives.

As a nation, we need to have important conversations about race. As an educator, I understand that facilitating these conversations is a significant part of my profession. I take that responsibility seriously. It represents my most significant but rewarding challenge. But one news story–or even one tweet from a local news station–will reach a far larger audience in one minute than I might reach in a career in the classroom. How the media frames events will shape the way people understand them. We need the members of the press to take their roles seriously. When they don’t, we must call them out. When they do their work well, I think they will find people actually want to grant them access. A free press is essential for the function of democracy, but a press that disseminates its bias does not help democracy. We need better.

On Sunday, a friend texted me an image of a tweet by George Brown, the web content manager for WREG, the CBS affiliate in Memphis. Brown, an on-air personality as well as the person who can decide what classifies as news online for WREG, linked to a CBS story about the University of Missouri football team’s decision to boycott football activities until university president Tim Wolfe stepped down.

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Reflection for Faculty Assembly after Another Campus Shooting

Today I wrote the following and incorporated Nikki Giovanni’s “We Remember” to serve as our opening reflection for Faculty Assembly. As VP for Faculty Assembly, I invite faculty to offer the opening reflection, but today I decided to address a topic on my mind.

For this reflection, I want to bring up something serious, something that may be weighing on all of us. Around this very time one week ago, I was eating lunch in the dining hall, deep in discussion with a student for her independent study, when I noticed a breaking news alert on CNN about another mass shooting on a college campus, this time at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon. In our School of Arts meeting a couple weeks ago, we discussed CBU’s active shooter response plan, a discussion prompted by the fact that the shooting at Delta State University had happened so close to us. However, I think all of these shootings–whether they happen in Blacksburg, Virginia; Santa Monica, California; Dekalb, Illinois; Cleveland, Mississippi; or Roseburg, Oregon; or anywhere–feel close to us. We can measure their impact in degree, a proximity that transcends distance. All of these tragedies are too close. We may feel paralyzed or numb, fearful or angry, but we all know that college campuses should not places where we worry about being killed while doing our jobs or where our students have to fear for their lives as they are here to prepare for their futures as citizens, workers, and people–for their lives. For me, as someone who teaches first-year writing, I am haunted that the shooter in Oregon targeted his composition class; writing courses aim to help students find their voices as members of the academy and as citizens outside it. Such courses should be spaces where all voices can find their place. All campuses should be safe spaces. Continue reading

Into the caldron: neoliberalism, ideology, education, and life itself (on The Whole Horse Project now!)

My August feature essay for The Whole Horse Project is available now.

Check it out: Into the caldron, ideology, education, and life itself

When opportunities to study race systematically are cut, then the university or state declares that black lives matter less. When opportunities to study gender are cut, then the university or state upholds patriarchy. When opportunities to study poverty are cut, then the university upholds economic domination. What remains is education for capitalism and for hegemony, preparing people to participate in markets and not disrupt them. – See more at: http://www.wholehorseproject.org/?p=311#sthash.kLQanocV.dpuf

Remarks for Countdown to College Graduation, 2015

C2C 2015 Graduation Remarks, July 17, 2015

This summer, I taught college writing to rising high school seniors who have spent the past 4 years as part of the Countdown to College (C2C) program at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN. The program aims to make students college read, understanding that access alone is not enough to guarantee persistence. For the program’s graduation ceremony, Dr. Jane Anderson, program director, asked me to select a student essay to be read and to introduce the student. The following text is that introduction. In it, I also called on other students to read excerpts from their essays. In particular, I wanted to address concerns (complaints, unfounded fears?) that these students get a “free ride” through college without having to put any skin in the game. For the C2C students, drawn from underrepresented groups in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Racine, Tucson, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, they are the “skin” in the game of American capitalism. An excerpt from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me grapples with that same truth:

You must struggle to truly remember this past in all its nuance, error, and humanity. You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were no bricks in our road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. (70).

The C2C students are not getting anything “free,” and the access that Saint Mary’s University’s C2C and First Generation Initiative provide are a start to returning these students and their families back to the realm of people from the status of fuel. The text below incorporates, with permission, passages from students’ essays, but the final essay, which was read, is omitted. Student last names have also been omitted.

Good afternoon. I am Dr. Jeffrey Gross, and I was honored to have the opportunity to visit from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, this year to teach college writing to these graduating C2C students. The visions of Mary Ann and Jack Remick and Dr. Jane Anderson have created a life-changing program at Saint Mary’s University; the model here is one that should be followed by every university–Lasallian, Catholic, private, or public–with a stated commitment to social justice. Today, I am privileged to have the opportunity to introduce a student who will read her essay from the writing class as our commencement address, but first I want you to hear excerpts from some of the other emerging voices and leaders in this room. In our class, we discussed the importance of writing as a means to inform, to educate, to move to action, and even to open the hearts of its audience. For their final project, students were asked to describe and analyze a place that was important in their development into the persons they are today. Themes of family, community, service, faith, and education emerged as recurring topics. Considering the ways these students love their families and each other, these themes are not surprising. All college students could stand to learn from these C2C graduates, who not only work hard individually but who look after each other to help each member of the group succeed. The students graduating from this program today are carrying the torch of Lasallian education forward. Continue reading