Slowly warming up

A month or so ago, I downloaded an audiobook on kaizen, the idea of continuous improvement through small incremental steps. I listened to it on the car ride back to the airport from my parents’ house, and have listened to it here and there during my commute to work. One of the key takeaways from kaizen is that in order to take the first step towards any goal, you must break down the goal into the smallest incremental action item possible. It’s akin to flossing one tooth a night when you’re trying to build a flossing habit, or wearing your running gear to bed (like how I used to!) to be dressed and ready to go the next morning.

Since I’ve began listening to that audiobook, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I could incorporate the concept of kaizen in my training. Oftentimes I give myself monumental goals that seem insurmountable and intimidating. That’s part of the thrill — attempting something that I feel that I mostly can’t do, but somehow might be able to pull off with enough work and determination. These are things like the Ironman (still haven’t checked that one off my list…), and some of my other lofty goals.

The idea of kaizen reminds me a lot of this:

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In an attempt to employ this concept in my life, I bit off the 21-day run streak again that originally got me into the running habit. I was doing really well for a bit, until I managed to get myself sick a week ago and while I’ve been nose-trumpeting, it’s been tough getting my daily run in.

I’m trying not to come down too hard on myself seeing as though I really couldn’t help catching the cold, nor was it the lack of willpower or motivation that kept me from running — it was legitimately because I could not get myself out of bed to run, let alone to the office to work. (I did manage to work from home a lot last week in between some in-town travel, which was nice).

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It’s still a pretty impressive graph to me at least! I’m knocking off the distance a few miles at a time, but it’s been awhile since I’ve really been back on my feet in this way. These small incremental goals have been refreshing. All of this will serve as a warm up for the Dopey Challenge training plan, which is something that I’m trying to get set up on my calendar. 29 weeks of run training! Where will I fit in my HIIT? What about tune-up races? So many questions!

So, in classic Amara fashion, here’s what I’m thinking: warm up races, cross-training, and back to a more regimented training style may be in order. I’m also longing for laps in the pool and have been doing tons of research into which 24 Hour Fitness gyms around me have a clean enough pool to my liking. It’d be great to get in a few short sessions a week. Being in the water has a calming effect on me, at least when it’s just me and the lane markers. I miss my solitary midnight swims, happy hour swims, early morning swims…I guess you can just say that I really miss swimming. Being completely landlocked in Colorado doesn’t really help. However, getting back on a 30-minute swim practice, a couple of times a week, could help me brush up on some pool techniques so that when I’m ready to consider triathlons again, I can be mentally prepared for the water.

With grad school wrapped up, I wonder what is next though. What is my next big thing? I suppose the Dopey Challenge is a pretty big thing, but it still seems like a stepping stone on my way to an Ironman one day. I suppose only time will tell. I’m slowly warming up to the idea of racing again, and I’ll have plenty of things to do on my list until I get into the throes of my season. I am excited to venture down this journey again. It’s about time for a new medal rack anyways.

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Race Recap: 2016 Star Wars Kessel Run Challenge

On the heels of a really great product launch I decided to treat myself to the Star Wars Light Side half marathon race entry, only to then be persuaded by the Mr. to sign up for the Dark Side half marathon race a few months later. This was my first Disney coast-to-coast challenge, which was something I never thought I’d get to do. The races were also a few months apart, which was unique in that I went in to the Light Side half with no training whatsoever. I paid the dear, dear price for that during the 2-day car ride home!

Here are some photos from the Light Side half marathon:

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However, in preparation for the Dark Side half, I didn’t get as much training in as I would’ve liked. Never mind an actual 9 or 12-week training plan…I was having enough trouble getting to the gym on a regular basis. If I were to average everything out, I realistically probably got about 2 workouts in a week, which is really sad. However, a week leading up to the race I decided to start a 21-day run streak challenge, which I think ultimately saved my legs from their demise. Epcot was still a blast, and since it was my first time at Disney World, it added to the magic. I don’t know if it was the new shoes, or the humidity, or perhaps the magic of being somewhere new, but I managed to shave 13 minutes off of my time in between races, according to runDisney and RunKeeper. I’ll take it!

Here are some photos from the Dark Side half marathon:

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I’m definitely planning on coming back for other Disney races! I saw that they added a weekend in Paris…that’ll have to wait for another year. I’m signing up for the Dopey Challenge for January 2017!

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Race Recap: 2015 Beat the Blerch 10K

This was a really fun run hosted by The Oatmeal himself!

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The race was really fun. Along the way there were lots of treats and sights to see. It was a small enough race where you could actually run the whole thing, but big enough where you never actually lost sight of the pack. This was the Mr’s first big marathon. I was very much out of training at the time, so I stuck to a stretch goal distance of 10K. I used it mostly as a litmus test to see how much my HIIT workouts at elevation have been helping me, and after the race I felt great.

The course began/ended at Raley Field, and the 10K course was pretty solid — paved roads or well maintained urban running trails. The marathoners and half-marathoners had some dicey spots like cobblestone and wooden decks but all in all I didn’t hear too many people complain about it.

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The most endearing part of the race was seeing the blerches on site handing out treats, like bacon-wrapped dates. There was an aid station with cupcakes. I missed out on a lot of the birthday cake unfortunately.

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The strategic placement of couches were also appreciated by many, but it made me wonder how much work it took for someone to wheel them out around the field and course. Overall, this was a really fun race and I would run another Oatmeal race again. I just saw that there will be a race in Las Vegas in October so I will definitely sign up!

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Reviving the blog

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down to reflect about all the change and upheaval in my life over the last year. I finally feel like I’m a point where I’ve settled in to my new city, Denver. I am wrapping up my final WEEK of grad school. Work is all over the place but when isn’t it? Life is moving pretty quickly and I’m getting married in a few weeks, and I’m pretty excited about that.

There has been an intense sense of irony in my move to Denver in that this has been the least active I’ve ever been. I was really excited to move to Denver because I thought I’d get out (as in, outside into the wilderness!) a lot more often, and I’d be able to focus a lot more on my training. That hasn’t quite been the case since I’ve moved here. The first month or so I was able to get quite a bit of time in, mostly because I was here a month before I was set to begin working and before Mr. was permanently moved in. I spent that month detoxing from prior work stress, only to slide in to another rinse-repeat cycle. It has since been compounded and relieved a few times over, mostly due to the ebb and flow of my work and the types of opportunities come my way. I’m trying my best not to overcommit but it is easier said than done.

That said, I am really looking forward to striking a better balance between all of my competing priorities. When grad school took over the scene, a lot of my training time disappeared. How, with grad school practically out of the picture, that should open up a little more time for training. The amount of training I’ll be able to do will depend on how much teaching work I’m taking on outside of my normal 9-5 (if you can call it that). I think that this is the typical story of the average adult though — we all have aspirations, and we’re all overextended. No part of this struggle makes me particularly special. However, in articulating this, I hope to find some sort of clarity in how I’ve structured my time and how I will go about my training in the future. I’ve failed miserably at having a regimented schedule, and I’ve also failed when having nothing on the calendar too. What’s seemed to have worked in the past is a mix of having a goal, having a semblance of a plan, and having some wiggle room along the way for training augmentation, rewards, rest, and the like.

What I’ve found to be the biggest barrier to my training over the last two years since I’ve been in grad school, and while exiting my position in Seattle, and while launching my first product at my current job and now working on the second launch, is that the cognitive stress from my work really does take a physical toll on my body and my energy level. I’ve spent countless weekends trying to recover from them. It feels very similar to having raced without the proper amount of training. I have the mental strength to pull myself through those prolonged periods of stress but it’s in no way healthy to continue to do so.

There are a few changes that I am making…

For one, I’ve switched out the domain — from Ironwoman in Training to Amara in Training. I’m not quite sure if I’ve completely shelved the idea of completing an Ironman. At the moment it’s hard to fathom being able to find the time to commit to that kind of training again. I don’t necessarily feel that my window has passed, but perhaps my motivation has. Maybe it’ll one day return. Nonetheless, the domain address didn’t seem as fitting anymore, so I switched it out to something that was a little more enduring. It seems as though I will always be in training, so this one seemed to have fit the bill.

Second, I’m on day 13 of a 21-day run streak. (I had to take one day off this weekend because I was at the height of my cold, unfortunately.) My goal has been to get at least 30 minutes of running in a day. I’ve identified a lot of false obstacles in my way, one in particular being a HIIT gym schedule that I try to adhere to. When I haven’t been able to make my classes, I tended to write off that day completely. Now, I’ve been prioritizing my runs and I haven’t been trying to schedule any days at the gym. (A part of me is still torn about whether or not to keep the membership, but that’s another discussion completely.)

Third, I’m trying to be somewhat more conservative with my race calendar. I’ve historically registered for lots of races up front, only not to make it to the start line for a myriad of reasons. By being a little more methodical up front, I think I can probably save myself a lot of money and a lot of disappointment. I’ve committed to a fairly large goal in early 2017 — the Disney’s Dopey Challenge — so there will be plenty of warm-up races and training pains to discuss!

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When the unthinkable happens

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived with the motto memento mori etched at the back of my head where it meets my neck. I traced the letters from Andy Warhol’s various illustrations — someone who was rebellious and poked fun at conventional living. The placement of my tattoo is particularly symbolic in that this idea is something that I keep in the back of my mind every day.

Memento mori and Andy Warhol come together in an interesting way. Memento mori is a statement that literally translates to “remember that you have to die,” which is a phrase that helps one reflect on personal mortality and what it means in regards to vanity, earthly life, and the transient nature of the people and things that surround us. One of my favorite quotes by Andy Warhol is, “Sometimes the little times you don’t think are anything while they’re happening turn out to be what marks a whole period of your life.” These two elements came together in a natural way for me, and as the idea hit me, I ditched class to work on the design of the tattoo during the daytime and had it etched into my skin later that evening.

On Saturday, one of my esteemed colleagues lost his life on a major Seattle freeway to a young 20 year old man who decided that his phone was more important than anyone else’s safety or life. Granted, maybe he was getting a very important message or call, or perhaps he had just learned some very bad news and was distracted. It is worthless to speculate the what-could-have-beens, but regardless of that young man’s circumstances, he should’ve prioritized life over whatever communications were coming his way.

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As a human being in general, we have a certain amount of responsibilities to ourselves and other people to not put them in harms way. I give this young man the benefit of the doubt that whatever he was distracted by was important enough to him that he needed to take his eyes off the road. Given the outcome, I hope that he would’ve done things differently.

Not a lot of good can come from someone’s death in such a tragic way. However, I hope this lesson reverberates with this particular young man, his family, and his extended circle of friends. I hope that this is a lesson that others will learn from, so that my friend’s death was not in vain.

With regards to Sohel Ahuja, I met him in 2012 when I first considered moving to Seattle to work at Amazon. During my interview, he grilled me on how I would work on improving the team’s current product suite. When I was eventually hired, Sohel helped me feel at home, often swinging by my desk to reminisce about In-N-Out and the now-defunct Chano’s Mexican Food joint right outside of USC. Over happy hour, he oftentimes recounted the story of how he and his wife met. I’ve probably heard that story a dozen times. Every time he told that story, it was as if he was falling in love with her all over again. He also had a penchant for appletinis (of which the team relentlessly made fun of him) and whirlyball (something that became an annual team tradition).

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On a small design project, he and I tag-teamed on a few different tasks as our other engineers were busy launching another product. He was earnestly learning from our senior managers what it meant to truly lead a team. Learning as you go, you make a lot of mistakes, but then again, who’s perfect anyways? His efforts did not go unnoticed because no matter what he worked on, he never half-assed anything. Even if he weren’t 100% perfect at what he did, he gave 100% of himself to it. That was the Sohel I knew first-hand.

In early 2014, I had made the difficult decision to transition to another team at Amazon. Sohel took some time out of his insane work schedule to write out an 8-point bullet list that outlined all the reasons why I should stay. The first four were about my career as a designer and how I was a valued person on my team. The last four were, “5. The team really likes you. 6. Steve really likes you. 7. Katie really likes you. 8. I really like you.” I still ended up transferring out but would run into him every once in awhile around South Lake Union. We would quickly exchange pleasantries but dash off to another meeting. Such is life at Amazon.

Sohel played a supporting role during a huge phase of my life. He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things, and eventually my focus (and reporting structure) was moved over to other people and projects. However, it is was the little ways in which he participated during this phase of my life that stays with me. He left us in the most tragic of ways, but I’ll try to remember the ways in which he genuinely tried to make someone feel like a part of the family.

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My time in Seattle has come to an end…for now

I came to Seattle a few years ago, completely burnt out on the idea of being a designer.

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In fact, when Amazon recruited me, I was freelancing to make ends meet but was saving up to go to med school. I got the call to come in for an interview, and eventually got an offer, and so I took it. I figured that this was going to be my one last shot I would give design, as a profession, before I swore it off completely. I rationalized with myself that I could always quit if I still found it awful or boring. I didn’t know a soul, and I figured that it was half of the fun of coming to a new city. I flew in the night before I was slated to start my job, overslept, and nearly missed my new hire orientation the next day. I think I drove to the office that morning and forgot what parking lot I had parked in, and spent the better part of that evening checking all of the underground parking lots in South Lake Union.

After my first week in Seattle, I knew that I had finally found somewhere that I belonged. Over the course of the next few years, I learned a lot about myself and what it meant to me to be a designer. Each quarter, as I reviewed my professional goals at work, I always made it a point to list out a few personal goals for my own edification. They included things like, “move on from the boyfriend who doesn’t treat me the way I deserve,” “go back to grad school and finish the damn degree,” “solve real problems,” etc.

goals

I’ve spent the better part of three years in Seattle deconstructing my identity and rebuilding it in the image of the person that I thought I’d grow up to be: someone who would put others above herself, someone who would give back more than she took, and someone who prioritized people over artificial/created problems. I can say with a clear conscience that I unabashedly gave myself to my work, my craft, and my tribe.

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A lot of people have asked me about what my greatest accomplishment was during my time here. I had launched quite a few products and helped on projects across a lot of different teams. It’s easy to define yourself by the traditional markers of success — what you launched, how much you made, etc — but for me, success is a little different. What I consider my biggest successes are the three people I helped mentor in to new roles and positions. Of all the projects I worked on across all of the different parts of the company, I found that helping these three specific people achieve their goals was singlehandedly the most important thing I could’ve ever done over these past three years.

I leave Seattle knowing that I’ve done my best, in all aspects. I left no stone unturned. I’m looking forward to coming back to what I’ve already dubbed as my forever-home in the near future. Until then…

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Looking forward to what’s next!

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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!

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And the Training Months Tick By…July and mid-August Recap

Hmm. It’s been an interesting month. I don’t have a lot of time to go into too much detail about what’s been going on, but let’s recap:

 

-I went on a weeklong vacation to Waikiki with Erik. By day we hiked, ran, snorkeled, swam, surfed, boogey boarded, and by night we hopped skipped karaoke bars.
-I acquired two gnarly quarter-sized blisters on the bottom of both of my feet that prevented me from racing in Seafair.
-I rejiggered my tri training schedule (rather unsuccessfully) and my marathon training schedule (successfully).
-I’ve added P90X3 to my training repertoire and have been loving it! It’s been helping me a lot with my cardio output on my runs, and strengthening a lot of weak spots in my legs. Reminds me of when I was training with a personal trainer. I’m looking forward to adding some more Team Beachbody DVDs to my collection. They are intense but great!
-I finished out my first semester of grad school. There were tears and fussy nights, but I did it.
-Things at work are moving along.
-Bought a new mountain bike (taking it to Duthie Hill tomorrow with Alex!)
-Trying to get down to race weight on my old two gigantic salads a day diet (with tons of protein and snacks in between).
-I invested in way too many blender bottles.
-I keep exercising my control muscles. Look at all that candy at the office!
-I’m finalizing plans for my awesome ski trip to Niseko next February. Japow hereeeeee I come!

I’m still training for the Portland Marathon in October. I also have three sprint tris coming up in three consecutive weekends starting next Saturday. And still planning on a HITS triathlon in Palm Springs in December but I’m still majorly undecided as to which distance. I’m pretty sure I can pull a half IM again if I really focus on cycling and running (and I guess swimming too) after the marathon. Regardless, here’s my training plan for the next 1.5 months:

So, essentially life is full of work, grad school(s), training, fundraising, eating, and sleeping. And not much else. Until next time!

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Monday Morning Stand Up: Seafair Weeks 6-7-8 + Portland Weeks 1-2-3 2014 Training

For lack of a better way to combine the concurrent training threads, I’m now officially lumping them both together in the headline. The last few weeks have been insanely bizarre. Not only is my sleeping schedule all over the map, but so is my schoolwork and work-work (because when you say it twice, it’s legit).

So my swimming activities are pretty much nil. Same goes with my biking. I’ve finally switched out all the batteries on my speed/cadence sensors and my heart-rate monitor so things should be paired and working well with the Bluetooth dongle and TrainerRoad. I tried riding to work and making it a habit but I find my messenger bag to be quite infuriating. It’s not really worth riding the few miles to and from at this stage. I think when I was still learning to ride it made more sense. I suppose it would make sense now so that I could get comfortable clipping in and out at stops and stuff, but for most of my races I will be riding long distances between clipping in and out anyways. (Maybe I’m just rationalizing myself out of riding to work?)

Week 6 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 1 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 16: 4.08 mile run, 0.5 mile swim

Tuesday, June 17: Rest day

Wednesday, June 18: 4.06 mile run

Thursday, June 19: Rest day

Friday, June 20: 4.02 mile run

Saturday, June 21: 8 mile run

Sunday, June 22: Rest day

Week 7 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 2 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 23: Rest day

Tuesday, June 24: 4.68 mile run

Wednesday, June 25: 2.05+1.54 mile bike commute, 5.22 mile run

Thursday, June 26: 1.41 mile bike commute, 4.02 run

Friday, June 27: 10.09 mile run…before work

Saturday, June 28: Five Mile Lake Tri, which served as a season dress rehearsal – 0.25 mile swim, 14 mile ride, 3.1 mile run

Sunday, June 29: Rest day

Week 8 Seafair Sprint Tri/Week 3 Portland Marathon Training:

Monday, June 30: Rest day

Tuesday, July 1: Rest day

Wednesday, July 2: 4.88 mile run

Thursday, July 3: 5.01 mile run

Friday, July 4: 6.84 mile hike up Mt. Si, probably one of the most challenging hikes I’ve completed this season

Saturday, July 5: Rest day

Sunday, July 6: 5.67 mile run around Green Lake during one of the hottest days of the year

Week 9-10 training resolutions:

-I resolve to use my vacation as a partial jumpstart to my tri training. I would actually argue that it is way too late, but I’m going to aim for it anyways. I’ll continue my marathon training and try to add swimming during my leisure downtime and maybe wake up early to run and jump on a spin bike at the Waikiki 24 Hour Fitness. (I don’t think I’ll be renting a bike this time so this is my next best and free alternative, since I already have a membership.)

-I resolve to do as much swimming in Hawaii 5 out of 7 days, with a half-mile minimum. The clear and shallow water will be good for me. I can practice dodging humans and form while working on my tan. And since I’ll have to swim in open water without a wetsuit, it’ll help me regain some of that alignment I may have lost in all of the time I’ve spent out of the water.

-I resolve to ride on my trainer while doing my reading (as much as it is possible for me to still comprehend my reading and still focus on the workout). I would like to get at least 2 rides in while I am still in town, and to ride 4 times in the early mornings while in Hawaii.

-I resolve to continue with my marathon training plan, but giving myself permission to drop one of the easy/short runs, or to break up the weekly long run with half-run sandwiches (splitting a 12 miler between 2 consecutive 6 milers)

What’s really important is that Seafair will be the weekend I return from Hawaii, so it is really important that I at least get *half* of my resolved sessions in. AT. LEAST. I’m sure I’ll survive. I think I will. I think I can!

Lessons learned from the last three weeks:

-Respect the distance: Just because you’ve done the distance before, it doesn’t mean you can attempt the distance (comfortably) without the training. During my last race/open water swim I seriously thought I was down for the count. I’ve never flagged down a safety kayak but I did that morning. I ended up making it out of the water just fine but seriously…I can’t let that happen again. It’s a safety hazard at that point. I need to get in the training if I expect to be able to finish these races comfortably.

-Train before your brain knows what’s going on: Making things dead simple and automatic is the name of the game. You perform what you practice, so take the brainpower out of practice by scheduling everything in advance (as much as possible) so that you can focus on execution. This became apparent to me on race morning when I got my gear ready at the last minute (instead of laying everything out the night before) and then being at a loss of how to fuel before the race (since I’ve made it a habit to train in the morning on an empty stomach). It’s one thing to be self-aware…it’s a completely different story to self-correct.

-If you can’t get the little things right, you can’t achieve the bigger things: Seriously…fueling issues? Can’t get my swim training in? How do I expect to ever finish a 140.6 if I can’t nail the little simple things? 140.6 miles is no joke, and it’s a dream I’ve been chasing for years at this point. If I want to go for it, I’ll need to prove that I can stick to something consistently and get the training in. The more I fumble on these little things, the more the bigger goals are out of reach.

Humble brags from the last three weeks:

-Nailing an A-average across both of my grad school classes, despite my insane schedule

-Getting most of my marathon training in, on point and on schedule

-Still cognizant and self-correcting on my triathlon training mishaps

-Actively trying to make better eating choices, going to begin logging my food intake again

-Still managed to finish a triathlon, even though I had some pretty severe highs and lows during the race

-Raised $215 for my Stand Up To Cancer fundraiser in the first week

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