Q+A: Why Tri?

The other day, a friend of mine asked me — “Why triathlon?”

Good question…and deserving of a blog post.

The simple and short of it all is that I’m trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Training for a triathlon takes a lot of time and dedication. It takes a certain amount of willpower to commit to a training and nutrition plan. It cuts into things like lazy weekends, roadtrips home, going to dinners and sometimes going to happy hour…and I’ve learned from first-hand experience that even your closest friends and family won’t be okay with this. (Most friends and family feel threatened by newfound willpower/commitment and actually try to sabotage your efforts.) In this case, being comfortable with change means that you’ll learn to back off at the appropriate times and do what’s best for you, no matter who is barking up your tree.

Most of my training is done alone, which is conducive to a lot of self-reflection, pushing, and thinking. About 10% of conscious thought is focused on technique. Another 10% is focused on intention. The rest of it is really in a state of meditation. It doesn’t mean that my mind is empty, but I’m generally concentrating on something that’s been bothering me, a problem I want to solve, or some uncomfortable part of my day that I’m trying to dissect. I spend anywhere between 5 and 10+ hours a week training, so admittedly that’s been a lot of time for me to work through those issues. In that time I’ve been able to make difficult decisions and come to terms with a lot of things that have happened to me in my life.

I’m fairly young but have lived through a lot of difficult instances — some that should have killed me, some that should’ve scarred me for life, and some that should have left me questioning my existence. Living through those experiences really just means that I’ve managed to survive and thrive despite them. I think that focusing my energy and efforts on something that requires more commitment than I’ve ever really put forth towards anything else will help me build character and gives me the chance to help others along the way. (I truly believe that the best way to improve yourself or your condition is to focus on helping other people.) I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this consistently for this long, but I’m very motivated.

If that answer didn’t suffice, here are some that I usually blurt out depending on my mood:

  • I want to prove to myself that I could achieve what I used to think was impossible.
  • I want to show other people that they can commit and achieve their goals too.
  • I want to eat as many burritos, pizzas, and hot dogs as I feel like and never feel guilty.
  • I need an energy outlet that doesn’t require me to think (too much).
  • I don’t want to die a fat, unhealthy, technological sloth.
  • I decided I needed a hobby outside of my career.
  • It was something new that I haven’t tried before.
  • I wanted to travel to different places, but with a purpose.
  • I wanted to stop worrying about how I looked and focus more on how I feel.
  • I wanted to save money on “lazy” entertainment, like booze and movies.
  • I’m taking a break from grad school and needed something worthwhile to do.

Everyone has different motivations. It doesn’t make you any more or less an athlete…but it sure will effect how sustainable your goals and methodologies really are.

Only 92 days to go until the LA Triathlon!

Finally Wrapped the Triple Crown Race Series!

Today I wrapped up a three-part race series in Orange County called the Triple Crown. It was a sequence of three back-to-back races that all benefited different charities: Miles 4 Melanoma, Project YES, and the Villa Park Library. For my stick-to-it-iveness I got some nifty, long awaited medals for my efforts:

  • Triple Crown Race Series medal for having ran all three races
  • A 10K finishers medal (even after my cramp/side stitch in mile 2)
  • A progressive marathon medal (for having completed 20 miles prior to my 6.2 this morning)

Pretty neat idea and the proceeds benefit charity…everything I like in life! (Well, almost.) I would definitely recommend this race series for anyone local to LA/Orange County, who is looking to test their limits and train consistently, and to also give back to the community. The 5k/5k/10k series every other weekend is pretty manageable if you build up a decent running schedule about three-four months beforehand. I’ll be looking forward to it next year for sure!

I also finally came across Be The Match, the national bone marrow donor registry program. Got my cheeks swabbed and I’m hoping to be entered into the database in the case that my bones can offer any sort of help to someone in need. Ever since I’ve heard of the program I’ve been wanting to add myself to the list but just haven’t had the chance. It was a great idea to have them table at this race.

Adding some photos courtesy of Shant Kiraz, whom I dragged out of bed at 6am to join me. What a trooper! I think I also might have convinced him to do a duathlon with me but I suppose we will see. Enjoy the pics! I finally got some shots of me that don’t look like I’m dying. Awesome!

Also, I’ve managed to improve quite a bit from my first 10K race in April. Nice to see that in two months time you can see an improvement with consistent training and eating right.

 

 

My Theory on Excuses

I spent the summer after my high school graduation with my face in lots of geese poop in a very humid and steamy New England. Most of the time I was getting yelled at — not because I was doing anything wrong, but mainly because I wasn’t doing anything right. I was a cadet candidate at the US Coast Guard Academy and I was looking for an easy way out of paying for college. Big mistake!

Didn’t look forward to much during those eight weeks. I made a few friends and learned a lot about myself and the power of persuasion. On the days where I mentally fought back and made excuses for why I was slipping up, they were infinitely tougher. On days where I just accepted my shortcomings and strategized on how to improve, I felt more in control of my situation.

But, one thing I learned from the indoctrination experience was that there are “no excuses” — meaning, that for whatever you slipped up on, there was no real, viable reason why you should’ve done or reacted the way you did. Having to bite my tongue whenever I was called out on a really daft move to say “No excuse, sir” was really just a mental exercise in asking myself the deeper question of “Why on earth did I do that?”

People give themselves a lot of excuses as to why they can’t achieve their goals. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough time or willpower to see it through. Sometimes they are terrified of success. Other times their friends or family are sabotaging their efforts. When people begin to realize that “Done is better than perfect” and that “every excuse of a choice to fail,” it will help put their decisions into a real perspective. Even though I’m getting ready for a morning run, I probably won’t do as good as I’d like to do. I can make excuses — I had a hard day at work yesterday…my legs are still sore from the night before…I didn’t get enough rest — or I can realize that getting myself out the door and being consistent has its rewards. If I give myself the excuses to crutch my bad behavior, I’ll keep repeating said bad behavior. Thus, it’s more beneficial for me to take a “no excuses” approach and to answer to the person I’m most trying to compete with — me.

On the other hand, perhaps I should’ve gone to bed earlier.

What’s your theory on excuses? What do you do to combat your own excuses?

Featured in Fitbie!

Check out the original article here

Over the weekend, Fitbie.com published a neat article on my recent journey. It’s been great but it’s certainly not over! I still have a long way to go in terms of training for the triathlon (mainly getting myself INTO the water, which I have failed at the last two weeks and counting) and training for the marathon (only 145 more days)…but hey, it still feels nice to be able to help more people with their journey too.

If you’re looking to ask any questions about this journey, what I did, etc., feel free to submit it via Formspring and I’ll do my best to keep up with them here on my blog.

Q+A: "Isn't Running an Inefficient Way to Spend Your Energy?"

Running seems pretty counterintuitive to nature, right? After all, the human body is essentially built to be self-regulating at all times — you push too hard, your body makes you lay off a bit. Your system gets stressed or taxed a bit, and suddenly you’re forced to recover. Running, on first glance, seems to burn off more energy than it creates. After thousands of years of evolutionary anthropology, why would we want to expend our energy when we don’t have to? Clearly the couch potatoes have it right….right?

 

WRONG.

I believe that there is a level of efficiency that is achieved with repeated motion. For instance, a programmer doesn’t really become adept until they go through the motions and actually program a few applications or websites. A dancer doesn’t learn to perform overnight, but instead takes years to perfect their form and presentation. Much in the same way, our body can’t possibly become as efficient as it can without some sort of practice. And that’s where running comes in to play.

I find that through running, I’m able to solve a lot more design and communications problems than without it. It’s almost as if the act of doing something physical stimulates the mental processes while making them more efficient. I read somewhere once that if you couldn’t solve a problem on a run then it probably wasn’t worth your energy to begin with.

Also, it seems as though that people who expend more energy exercising seem to have ample amounts of it. They are able to juggle more tasks, handle stress well, stay positive, eat better, and radiate vibrance. If the answer seems so easy, why isn’t everyone on the bandwagon?

Most of the time it seems as though “life gets in the way,” or people “get too busy to exercise,” or they “don’t enjoy it.” It seems as though people are setting themselves for failure by making excuses for themselves or not taking the time to really explore their interests. It makes me wonder what they are really busy doing — whether it’s working, dealing with family commitments, or helping others, are they really able to function at their best without taking at least a few minutes to themselves a day? What do you think?

I found this great quote that sums up my opinion quite nicely — It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you decide you can’t be stopped.

Q+A: "Why Do You Keep Running?"

I received a blog request from Elijah this week on my running habit —

“You should do a post on why you kept running after you started, even on those days that you didn’t want to.”

 

Lately, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep the momentum going.

I’ve been running between 4-6 days a week for 4 months now. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this diligent about something. But, then again, I can’t remember the last time I continuously did ONE THING that helped me in all aspects of my life.

In hindsight, running seemed to have been the silver bullet that fixed a lot of problems in my life. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I got into a fight with someone, I’d go on a run. If I wanted some time alone, I’d go on a run. Heck, if I wanted to pig out that night, I’d go on a run.

So, why am I still running?

There’s a part of me that has made room for this in my life. I made the choice that I was no longer going to be held prisoner to my own mind and body. The extra weight, sluggishness, decreased productivity, and lack of mental focus was really just a manifestation of my unhappiness. That isn’t to say that being skinny is the key to happiness — it isn’t — but when there’s one less thing for you to worry about it frees up your mind to concentrate on the things that matter.

To be honest, I’m still running because I’ve found so much inspiration in a lot of other people…the NPO director who manages a thriving career with spinlates every week. The aspiring triathlete who decided to take baby steps with her training program. The coworker who decides to lace up his running shoes to join me for a few miles around town. The friend who decides to take charge of her life. The significant other who keeps trying to find ways to live a healthier lifestyle, no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. There are people out there who I know that try a thousand times harder than I do to be the best that they can be. If all I have to do is throw on some workout gear and run around town a bit to keep up with them, it seems well worth it. It makes me feel like I’m chasing their successes and supporting their aspirations too.

In addition to that, I think I’ve also been getting better at playing mind games with myself. By always dangling yet another carrot in front of me that is *just* out of reach for now, it makes me work harder to achieve those goals. For instance, I’ve registered my races as far in advance as 6 months. I know that I’ll always have something to work towards. My first 5K was in March, 10K in April, 15K in July, half marathon in September, sprint triathlon in September, and marathon in November.

Living life to the fullest is not about setting it on auto-pilot. It’s about challenging yourself to be the very best self you can be. That’s why, when I get comfortable doing one thing (like running), I try to switch it up a bit (like deciding to train for a triathlon). I had not even been on the saddle of a bike for almost five years before I got back on it again. It took me a few weeks to get comfortable riding around a block at a time. When I got comfortable, I decided to challenge myself to ride it to work about a mile away. When I got comfortable doing that for a bit, I decided to increase my mileage 200% and to get comfortable doing that. And, you can bet that when I am comfortable making that ride I will keep the momentum going.

When I get tired — as in, fatigued from my daily life, bicycling around town, or mentally taxed from an inundation of emails — I know when to lay off. Sometimes, though, my body tricks me into modes of conservation. It tells me when I’m tired when I’ve actually still got some gas left in the tank. What I’ve learned at races is when to hold back — such as in the cases of fatigue in training — and when to leave it all out on the road and to come home empty. At my two best races thus far, I’ve had complete strangers help pace me when I nearly wanted to throw in the towel. My first experience was actually in my first race — about halfway through I was exhausted and tired. I trained primarily on flat roads and this course was hilly. I wasn’t prepared at all and my body was screaming at me to start walking. However, the minute that I began to doubt my abilities, a much older man — probably in his sixties or so — came right up behind me and (literally) gave me the extra push and words of confidence that I needed to hear to keep on going. I still get chills thinking about that kind man’s gesture to this day.

Similarly at my last race in Santa Monica, I was so very close to the finish line that I could see it. I could hear the crowd cheering on runners as they crossed the timing mats. I could feel myself pretty darned tired from the course (uphill grade again), and pretty tired from the four weeks that┬ápreceded┬áthe race (I just wrapped the planning and execution of a 5K event the day before). He saw me about half a mile from the finish and he began pacing — and I tried to keep up with him. When he noticed what I was doing, he kept speeding up a bit, here and there, to see if I could keep up. I did, and we crossed the finish line together. Afterwards he beamed a huge smile and told me that I kept up a great pace and that he’d see me at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon in the fall. (I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with him then!)

Lastly, nothing — honestly, nothing — gives me more joy than knowing that I was able to help someone else reach their goals. (Beware that if you ever divulge some sort of secret hidden goal you have that I will probably try to concoct a way for you to achieve it…and I’ll probably pester you in some fashion as to why you are not yet actively trying to do it on your own.) Being able to cheer a friend on at the finish line or give my two cents on how they should approach a problem makes me happy. And, since running seems to be facilitating that conversation, I think I’ll just lace up my shoes and keep on running!

Long Weekends, Long Runs

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent my time off balancing pure relaxation and pushing my limits. All in all it was pretty fun!

 

I’ve found that double digit runs have been very intimidating for me personally, even though I’ve done a few of them already. There’s reticence on my end since I usually have to prep a bit for it. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 mile run requires nothing more than staying hydrated beforehand and then eating immediately afterwards…and usually sunscreen 20 minutes before I leave.

However, when a run goes into 10, 11, 12, 13+ mile range, I usually load up my hydration pack and a few portable snacks since I get hungry pretty easily. Then comes the lag. I take forever to get dressed. I walk circles around my apartment — even though it’s pretty small — and make excuses and procrastinate. I start flipping through magazines or organizing my desk, cleaning out the fridge, fix my hair…pretty much anything except get myself out of the door. The last bit of procrastination usually includes me laying down on my couch for a bit and visualizing my run. I never really know what gets me up off that couch and out the door but it does and I get on with it.

It’s not so much the dread of feeling tired, or getting sweaty, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, that gets in the way. For some strange reason I’m always paranoid that I won’t finish my run. It sounds ridiculous because all I have to do is choose to end it — I can cut it short, I can take a detour, I can stop and enjoy a park, or I can extend it — so really, “finishing” is relative. Finishing a run is not really the same as finishing school, finishing a project, or finishing the course of a relationship. Or perhaps it really is the same, since we are all in control of our choices, our happiness, and how we manage the things that effect us.

There’s almost an invisible amount of pressure on me that I’ve really just fabricated. Being enrolled in a marathon training class is a little pressure, but it’s really the good kind. I’ve enjoyed it thus far but what I’ve missed the most lately is running just for the sake of running — not to train for something, not to qualify for a race, not to check in or check out, but just for the sheer fun of it.

Today I decided to take a different mental approach and re-run a very difficult course with the mentality that I was just running for fun. (I of course checked in to it!) I focused on a few things: 1) keeping my composure, 2) smiling a bit more at strangers, 3) enjoying the scenery and 4) maintaining a consistent pace. I ran through Miracle Mile, Hancock Park, Sunset Blvd/The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and back to Miracle Mile. With that attitude, my run was an absolute breeze!! I enjoyed a beautiful sunset along the Sunset Strip, and enjoyed magic hour in Beverly Hills. It was night by the time I made my way though WeHo and back towards my home and when I ran through the final streetlight, I didn’t feel a bit tired. My knees were a bit achy, but my breathing wasn’t labored and my energy wasn’t shot. Los Angeles is so beautiful, especially on the tail end of a long weekend that vacates the city. With the wind this weekend, the skies were clean and clear. For once I felt like I had the city all to myself…and I treasured every minute of it.

Now that I’ve taken this route a second time, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for some interesting photos. Next time I run this same route, I’ll create a photo album so that you guys get to see what I see! After this weekend I feel confident that I will be able to successfully take on the 15K in Santa Barbara on July 4th without a problem. I’m so excited to make my way back to Santa Barbara again…I am positive that the course will be absolutely stunning.

To end an otherwise great weekend, I received this nugget of genius in my email box just a few minutes ago…

Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. -John Bingham

Recent Read: Born To Run

I started this book today waiting for the Metro to take me home from my just-completed 13 mile point-to-point run from my apartment to the ocean. It came highly recommended by a client who also happens to be a triathlete.

I’m about halfway through it so far and I’m impressed — it’s linear insomuch that it reconstructs the chronology of particular chance encounters but also spins off into sub-chapters explaining the characteristics that each of the ultrarunners bring to the game. I’ve excerpted a few of my favorite passages below.

(Update: I’ve finished the book and it was great! I loved the storytelling aspect as the writer follows many different runners on their journey. The only part I didn’t like was that there was one small portion where the author was hypocritical: he makes a mention of an unsaid runners code of ethics, but then manages to slam another professional runner a few pages later. I wonder why the editor let that one slide by!)

Pick it up! My rating: 8/10

* * *

“Lesson two….think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You don’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

* * *

Was Zatopek a great man who happen to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed — haven’t they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of DNA? We wouldn’t be alive without love; we wouldn’t have survived without running; maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

* * *

That fall, a photo appeared in UltraRunning Magazine. It shows Jenn finishing a 30-mile race somewhere in the backwoods of Virginia. There’s nothing amazing about her performance (third place), or her getup (basic black shorts, basic black sports bra), or even the camera work (dimly let, crudely cropped). Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling. But that smile is strangely stirring. You can tell she’s having an absolute blast, as if there’s nothing on earth she’d rather be doing and nowhere on earth she’d rather be doing it than here, on this lost trail in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness. Even though she’s just run four miles further than a marathon, she looks light-footed and carefree, her eyes twinkling, her ponytail swinging around her head like a shirt in the fist of a triumphant Brazilian soccer player. Her naked delight is unmistakable; it forces a smile to her lips that’s so honest and unguarded, you feel she’s lost in the grip of artistic inspiration.

* * *

Ann liked to tell her friends that running huge miles in the mountains was “very romantic.” But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget that you’re moving. And once you break through that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up.

* * *

 

21 Days Ago I Made A Commitment…And I Stuck With It!

So, 21 days ago I made a commitment to my community here and I’m happy to report that I’ve been completely, unequivocally dedicated to sticking it out! I’ve maintained at least half an hour of exercise daily. I’ve been watching what I eat, logging all of my food intake everyday (except for Wednesdays for some reason). I’ve moderated my levels of stress and am learning to recognize and deal with triggers as they emerge. I’m being a bit more descriptive about things that bother me when the issues arise, instead of bottling them up, blowing up, or imploding.

Consistency was an important issue. I made a point to run at least once every day even if I didn’t feel like it. I missed only one day and that was because I had a three hour car ride back from my mother’s birthday shindig, a landslide of work to welcome me from my time away, and a meetup event that evening. I gave myself cheat days but I didn’t really do anything with them. I made a point not to be too absolute with cutting out particular foods. If I had to have something, I had a small portion of it and kept it under control. What I found was most effective was exercising early in the day — because I ran in the morning, I didn’t have an excuse at the end of day (i.e. “I’m too tired”). Additionally, it set a precedent for the rest of the day. Because I felt better in the morning, I ended up feeling better for the rest of the day. The first few days were really exhausting…I’d need a nap after my run, sometimes for an hour, sometimes two. But, as I kept with it, my body adjusted to the physical activity and now I don’t need naps, nor do I get tired midday. I’m pulling more productive days and I’m staying chipper through stressful situations.

All in all I feel better, look better, present better, and am happier. Today I met with a client and the first thing she said was “Wow, you are glowing. Life is agreeing with you.” Nice compliment, I’d say! Clothes are fitting better, I’m a bit more cheery…but I suppose all that matters is that I’m feeling healthier.

Special thanks to everyone who has been extra supportive in my efforts. You’ve either left me motivational comments or kept the junk food at bay in my presence. You’ve made healthier choices in your life. You’ve confided in me your desire to take the same steps to a healthier life as well. I thank you, commend you, and support your efforts. Hopefully I will be able to keep up these efforts when I go on my road trip in a few weeks! I’m hoping my Angels keep me in check.

Day 2 Seems To Be The Hardest

In case you missed it, I started a self-challenge yesterday when I declared to the entire blogosphere that it was time for me to get back into shape…again. I am doing this through a heart-healthy diet, exercise (cardio and resistance training), as well as documenting my journey (via social media, i.e. blogging and RunKeeper).

Runner

In less than 24 hours I am already feeling better! Some improvements I’ve noticed include:

  • I found myself more focused and productive.
  • I methodically worked through my to-do list instead of jumping around tasks like I normally do.
  • I noticed that my problem solving skills were heightened today as I worked through several design compositions.
  • I also found that I was not quick to react in the negative to a situation that would’ve normally pushed me over the edge.
  • I didn’t stress out about the leftovers on my to-do list for tomorrow.
  • I didn’t stress out over my 1.5 hour client teleconference.
  • I didn’t get upset when my friends couldn’t make it to my evening get-together.
  • I didn’t get upset when my bestie had to take a rain check on getting together tomorrow.
  • I even took the night off to get social relax with some new Scrabble friends!
  • I stuck to my revised eating plan and tried to be more mindful of my grazing habits.
  • I went for my run today despite having to wedge it completely in the middle of my workday, which actually seemed to help me focus more.
  • I started to track my nutrition intake again.
  • I feel more relaxed and at peace…and I’m even sleepy before midnight!

All in all, a win day. I am sure that not everyday will be as successful as today, but I will try my best to not get upset. Again, what is most important is to build a habit of consistency to achieve a goal. I am looking forward to a productive tomorrow!