To use Ellie's words... "Today was one of the best days ever." For me it was one of the best days ever, because I truly believe it was one of the best days ever for her, and here is why it was one of her best days.
Ellie has been in Level 4 of swimming lessons for the past 18 months (I think). She passed Level 3 at the end of the Summer 2013, and she was unable to pass Level 4 last year in her 3 attempts. It was very frustrating for her, and since many things come easily to her, she wasn't sure how to handle this. So part of me was glad she was going through this trial, but part of me felt for her. At the beginning of the summer, Ellie set a goal to just pass Level 4, even if that mean passing it during her last session of the summer. I think she was a little concerned coming into her first set of lessons for the year, because, unlike last year, she hadn't done any swimming lessons in California during the year. However, it became apparent to me during her first lesson last Monday, that she looked a lot stronger this year. Ellie wasn't convinced, but she did an excellent job of listening to her teacher. In fact she was so determined to pass that she asked if we could go to family swim so she could do some laps. So we did that on Saturday and Monday. Then came today... her teacher was 5 minutes late to class, because I think he didn't realize that today was the day he had to hand down final grades. He gave Ellie her little card, she looked it and because she couldn't figure out what it said, so she asked me, and I responded by telling her she had passed! The smile on her face was priceless, and so began the best day ever.
As we have mentioned previously, in July the Oregon Track Club hosts the All-Comers Meet at Hayward Field. This was the second meet of the year. Last week, Ellie participated in the Long Jump (3rd place, but we didn't get the distance), 400 m (1:36) and 800 m (4:12). This week Ellie signed up for the long jump, 400 m and 1500 m. A huge difference between this week and last week is that there were about a million more kids. It is amazing how many more people come out when it is not 102 F outside. Anyway, last week Ellie came in 3rd out of 8 people. However, this week there were 26 jumpers. However, Ellie was money, jumped 8'2" and finished 3rd again. I think the 2 girls that beat her this week, were the ones that beat her last week. Either way she was super excited, and ready to move onto to the remaining 2 events.
We set a goal of a sub 1:34 for the 400 m. Our reasoning behind it... we had none. Although I know deep down, Ellie wants to run something faster than Aeryn (I told Ellie that Aeryn's PR was a 1:31, but I just saw that is a 1:28.4). Anyway, prior to the race, she asked me to show her how fast to go out, because last time she went out super slow. So we went to the backstretch and ran a 100, going at what I thought was a good pace. Ellie was assigned Lane 1, and the gun went off. Ellie went out much quicker than last week, but it was very relaxed. I had Tate with me, so I couldn't run with her like I would have wanted. Most of the girls went out really fast, and I told Ellie not to worry, that she would catch them on the final turn. After about 200 m, she started to pick things up, and halfway through the final turn, she turned the jets on, and flew past 3 or 4 girls. Ultimately she ran a 1:34.9, which was just off of her goal, but it was a PR. I think she could have gone out a little faster, but she was pretty happy, especially after I reminded her that despite not hitting her goal, she ran a 400 faster than she had before. I think she has a 1:30 in her, and we have 3 weeks to see if that is possible.
Similar to the 400 m, she wanted me to show her fast to go out, because she went out at a walk for the 800 m last week. So we ran a a 36 sec 100 to simulate a 9:00 1500. We set her goal at 9:30, but I was hoping to have her run a sub 9:00. During this run, one of our friends and her two girls was around and they watched Tate, which allowed me to run/talk to Ellie on the straightaways. For the 1500 m, they run all the kids at once, regardless of age, and so when the gun went off, Ellie was in last place, but again I reminded her not to worry, just focus on what she was doing, and everything would be okay. I don't have her exact splits, but she was below 9:00 minute pace from the beginning. With about 500 m to go, Ellie was starting to hurt a little bit (partly due to her running hard, and partly due to the fact she was wearing a crappy pair of shoes, instead of her athletic ones). She told me was worried she wasn't going to be close to reaching her goal, because she was positive they told her it took over 3:00 to run the first 300 m. I assured her that wasn't the case and she was going to break 9:00 as long as she kept running, although in reality I thought she had an outside chance to break 8:00. With about 200 m to go, I could tell she was starting to hurt even more, and she was going to start walking. I asked her what she was doing, since all she had left was half a lap. I think that clicked, and all of the sudden, she turned on the afterburners on. She ran a 46 second final 200 m and passed several older kids. When she crossed the line, I caught up and showed her my phone. Her time was 8:10. The smile on her face was even bigger and better than the one after swimming lessons.
I could go on and on, but I will keep it short. On the way back to the car, we discussed a couple of things to learn from today. 1. Ellie can do hard things. 2. Hard work helps you accomplish hard things. 3. Ellie can do more than she realized. And with that we decided to get some ice cream in celebration of her great day (This was postponed due to the lateness of the evening and the long line at the ice cream shop. Rain check for tomorrow)