A Week in Niseko

After being flogged at work and school for about six weeks straight, I was able to score a week or so off to hit up the slopes in Japan. It was my first international trip since I left LA, and my first trip to Japan, and it was awesome! The groomed beginner runs were challenging enough to break me into a sweat, and when I got tired of the narrow hairpin turns I tried out a short blue run a few times which took me forever but alas, I survived.

I’ve learned enough about myself out there to know that I psych myself out way too much. Half of the time my mind is in panic mode and the other half is in lala-land. If I keep reminding myself that I can pizza my way down a hill then I keep my bearings and manage down fine. It’s when I watch the other skiers zoom down the hill gracefully and effortlessly that I eat a mouthful of pow.

I’ve gotten pretty decent use out of my Epic ski pass this year already. 3 days in Vail + 5 days in Niseko so far. It’ll be nice to head back to Vail (or Breckenridge or Beaver Creek) before the season is up, but I have a ton of summertime activities to prep for. Thanks to my diligence at Orangetheory, I was fairly strong for this season’s ski vacay. I’ve been adding in some running over the last month so I have some base miles under me now.

It’s time to turn my attention to my race schedule for the rest of the year. I have a half marathon in March, a full marathon in June, and an ultramarathon in July. I have a sprint triathlon trifecta this summer as well (an excuse to keep me on the bike and in the pool during my rest days). I’m still wondering how I’ll squeeze in some open water swim training. In October I plan on celebrating a season well done with a half marathon trifecta in beautiful Lake Tahoe! Squeeeeee! It feels like the odd-numbered years are my overzealous years and my even numbered years are my rest years…so let’s see if the tradition continues on.

This year is already off to a pretty good start. Granted it’s already late February but I could’ve sworn that it was just the new year. Regardless, I’m pretty happy how things have turned out so far. I’m never going to forget this trip and I am definitely coming back!

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Looking forward to being stateside again in a day or so. My birthday festivities are coming up and I need to find a place that has enough snow for skiing in early March!

What You Seek Is Seeking You

I came across a saying the other week: “What you seek is seeking you.”

There was a certain peace and comfort that I found in that phrase. For as long as I remember, I’ve been looking and seeking for a lot: I’ve been looking for a life of accomplishment, things worthy of my pursuit, and people worthy of my time. I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve actualized my penchant for difficulty. I seem to be drawn to the most difficult path. You could even argue that the difficult path may be the most efficient path in developing character, persistence, determination, and the like.

What you seek is seeking you. What is it that you seek?

I seek the proverbial road less traveled. I seek the hard way out. I seek the hardest way to make an easy living. I seek the pastimes that make me sweat. I seek the things, emotions, and titles that I have to earn. I seek the miles I have left to go. I seek a type of happiness that someone can’t buy or rationalize. It’s something you have to earn. It’s something you strive for and it comes with the process of loving, living, and compassion. I live to live — my method of living has been misunderstood by many people, those who have come before you and those who will inevitably come after. I seek love, but not in the way that you would normally think. I believe that love is a verb, not a noun. I seek the act of loving, which for me comes in the form of sharing my art and sharing my time. (I suppose you could count that sharing my art is a natural extension of sharing my time, since my craft takes time to manifest.) This blog itself is a manifestation of love. There’s nowhere else that I share a lot of these innermost thoughts. Sure, in my natural conversation with friends I may reference snippets here and there of my daily life but it is here that I really lay it all out. It is up to you, the other person at the end of this connection, to take that initiative to click through and dive in.

I also seek a lot of clarity. There’s more than enough knowledge, books, and the like that I will never have enough time to consume all of this information, but I make do with the time I have. That is, of course, the essence of life: the ability to make do with the short time we all have. There is a certain zen to it, an intersection of ability, time, desire. You could deduce that a lot of what I do — throwing myself into a giant question mark, a lot of unknowns, things supposedly beyond my reach — seems a bit silly, or maybe a giant waste of my time. However, if my life was spent pursuing what I loved, with the people I decided to share that love with, and understanding my implicit motivations, then I would argue that I lived a life worth living.

I’ve spent a lot of my off-season considering my many reasons for pursuing the iron distance. What does it mean to me? What is it that I seek from such a distance? For starters, I think I’ve been thinking about this race for so long that I want to do it already. I am pretty confident that with the right training, the right coaching, and the right prioritization that I can accomplish what I set out to do. It’s a matter of aligning the universe to conspire with me, right? The more I look at this year, the more the 140.6 seems like it’s out of reach. The stresses of work will certainly overcome my ability to train through mental fatigue, and if there is something I’ve learned from the last eighteen months at work is that mental fatigue certainly trumps physical fatigue. Thus, I’m thinking that this is a good year to work on a little bit of me time…the offseason plans of skiing have been progressing nicely. What about nailing a steady 10k, or riding my first criterion, or spending some more time in open water without the goals of a 140.6 looming over me? The race will always be there to burn some brain cells in the back of my mind…it will always fuel me, but then what? All of this is a lifelong endeavor. It doesn’t stop with one race, or goal. It is a way of life, a way of thinking and existing. It is the way in which I choose to construct my world.

So, if what I seek is seeking me…I say, bring on the lifetime of uncertainty, difficulty, discomfort, and insecurity.

You Only Get To Be A Beginner Once

There was a time in my life when I was enrolled in one of those 3-month programming schools. Right before I dropped out to take a full-time design job with Amazon, Jared Tame, my mentor at Bloc, shared this golden nugget with me:

“You only get to be a beginner once.”

I’ve thought quite a lot about what he’s said since then, and even more so in learning how to ski.

Lately I’ve been quite frustrated with myself. Wanting to see impossible gains in a short period of time is like wanting to strike it rich with a game of roulette. It’s just not going to happen. I don’t say that in a self-defeating way…mostly a realistic way. Having a really supportive boyfriend who doesn’t leave my side on the hill is helpful. So is the reassurance from my other friends who say it takes awhile to get a hang of things. I’ve looked in to some private instruction, but the snow conditions aren’t quite right this weekend and my legs are just not having it. Nonetheless, the instructor is lined up. The equipment is primed and ready to go. My season pass is ready to be used. All I need is a pair of functioning legs!

Cue doge, who will explain everything to you:

So in addition to my coach warning me that I was overloading my legs, my massage therapist started helping me connect the dots. That two-month old foot cramp has been tugging on some of the deeper muscles in my lower leg and locking up my calf muscles. Those old sprained ligaments are tensing up my lower legs. And for reasons beyond me (as well as my compression socks), my legs feel like LEAD. Like, the type of lead that I generally feel during an intense brick workout. I have less response time. My brain says, “TURN!” and nothing happens…so I dive for the snow. For the record, I think I did that 20+ times on Sunday, which eventually resulted in the bloody mess below when I fell into my ski pole and needed a trip to the ER to get my eyebrow glued back together —

Rest and recovery was never something I did particularly well. My idea of doing nothing is….doing something. If I was over-exerting myself physically, then I’d instead over-exert myself mentally. My method of balance was really just counterbalancing, which in of itself, is just swinging the pendulum from one extreme to another, right? I wish I could take things a bit more zen, but I feel like that’s beyond me. Unfortunately, it’ll be pretty crucial to my longevity in any sort of endeavor. I can’t always fire on all cylinders. I need to know when to push it and when to push back. It’s never been in my personality to take the relaxed approach to any new endeavor. My friend uses the phrase “hard in the paint” to describe the way I do things: “To approach a problem, obstacle, or challenge with supreme confidence of success through a commitment to use all facilities available to one’s self to achieve a goal.”

I see an obstacle, something difficult, something new. I want to figure it out. I want to crack it, understand it, experience it, overcome it. I hate turning away from a problem. The only way out is through. But yeah, I only get to be a beginner once. This is the fun part. This reminds me of all the things that went through my head when I was starting off with swimming, biking, and running. I remember what it was like to get started. I remember how inferior I felt. I remember how much I dreaded going to the pool when people were there. I used to wait for the lanes to clear before getting in. I would go to the pool at absurd hours to avoid swimming with people. I’d go out of my way to run alone when I first started. And don’t even get me started with biking. I’m a bit of a kook I guess.

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior…the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”

None of this feels natural. I’m feeling meh. I can’t even train until my eyebrow heals over. How frustrating. I have a ton of misdirected energy. I have the energy to go for days but my legs won’t carry me. Time to make friends with epsom salt, a hot tub, and my foam roller. And maybe work on a warm-up routine and mood-setting mental routine for the next time I’m headed to the mountain. And maybe I’ll check in on my races for the year. Or something. Again, misdirected energy.

This whole thing is an exercise in patience…something that I have very little of. Gahhh!

Keep Climbing and Fall Forward

Well before I resume the hustle bustle of the workweek, I like to take a short bit of time to reflect on the things I’ve done, and the time that I’ve spent. They say that what you spent your New Years Day doing is you’ll spend your new year doing.

I wonder if they are right.

I’ve recently gotten into something new: skiing. Terrifying, really. I have (had? is it past tense yet?) a fear of falling down mountains. I fear moving quickly, even though people say I move fairly quickly in my day-to-day life as it is. I fear the usual barrage of worries regarding broken bones and twisting ankles. I fear the night and all the bad things that can and have happened to me after sundown.

My twenties were all about facing my fears, imagined, real, and actualized.

I think learning how to ski at the end of my second decade was symbolic. It reflected within me a cumulation of preconceived notions and personal judgements. It is true that you are your own worst enemy. You are the one that most stands in the way of your own goals. “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” Every goal is surmountable if you put in the effort.

And so, I spent my New Years Eve running away from work and worries for a bit to conquer a much bigger challenge: conquering my mind. Like the night before a triathlon, I rehearsed it all in my mind: where to grab my gear, how to pack it, how to navigate to the hill, estimating how long it’d take me to get there, gauging my energy level to see how far I could go and still have enough energy to make it back for some evening festivities.

The next day, I returned with my two favorite gents of Seattle for another day on the hill. I had a blast. My usual goal for my triathlons is to finish with a smile on my face. That evening, I finished with a smile on my face but also a snowball in my pocket, like some sort of existential welcome gift from the snow gods.

This challenge is refreshing, especially after the great swim-bike-run fatigue of 2013. Every time I get off that lift, my heart still races a little. I’m getting closer to conquering those demons inside, the ones that tell me that I’m not good enough, that I’m too slow, the ones that keep me from being the best version of myself. After all, my new years resolution was legs, core, and doing the things that terrify me most.

Here’s to doing the things that scare me…always.

On Fear and Falling

Ladies and gents, I am so happy right now. Like, bursting at the seams happy.

So, finally after many months/years of this weird mental game of being scared of clipping in, I decided to give it a go again. And guess what? I did it! I’m still in one piece!

It might sound kind of lame but I finally felt like a *real* cyclist. Is that even such a thing? Anyhow, I am completely over the moon. I felt pretty comfortable since I had plenty of practice leading up to it. I worked on some clip in/out speed drills on the trainer. Skiing definitely helped me get over the fear of feeling locked in. Seeing that my feet didn’t come flying off when tumbling down the bunny hill was pretty reassuring for some reason. And skydiving definitely helped assuage my fear of falling.

There is a moment when fears and dreams must collide.

For some people, this is probably a really trivial skill. But, for me, it means a lot. I was scared to do it, but I did it anyways. Falling is normal — it’ll happen again eventually. Just like in skiing and skydiving, I need to embrace the fall. After mentally agonizing about this for years — yes, YEARS — I feel accomplished in finally getting over this hurdle. I look forward to previewing the bike course tomorrow morning and also getting some more riding in. Nothing too strenuous…just want to get the legs moving. The weather here is so beautiful that it would be a waste to not get in some fun riding in the sun!

With this under my belt, I somehow feel more confident that I can finish the bike leg under the time limit. It might be a mental crutch, but I’m hoping that this will give me the badly needed boost in the cycling department.

In other news, I fell in love last weekend. (It was my first time ever on skis.) Felt so exhilarating to learn something new, get over old fears, and practice patience with myself. I seem to be thinking about it a lot more, trying to schedule it in as much as possible, etc. I’m definitely working it in to my off-season training! I think a part of it is that I felt that I was nearing the top of my triathlon career (note: I said triathlon and NOT Ironman!) — I’ve got the basics down, and now I just need to work on strength and endurance. With triathlon, I’m working on improving what I currently have. However, with this endeavor, I’m venturing into unknown territory again — learning new things, getting out of my comfort zone, facing my fears head on. I’ve not felt this way in a long time. I struggled with the basics of just standing up. I fell every two to three feet. I don’t feel comfortable turning left. It’s the little things, you know?

Anyways…yes, I am bursting at the seams happy. Might’ve been all of the delicious food I had today, the fact that I’m finally on a real vacation, that I got to travel and read today, that I successfully clipped in and out of my bike, or that I’ve been sipping a mint melange tea for the last few hours, but I am quite excited at what the next few days, weeks, and months have in store for me.