Achieving Flow

I went for my morning swim today. It was only a half mile and it kicked my butt. It made me kind of sad. A half mile used to be my warmup, before I broke my leg. And now a half mile is a workout! Regardless, after a quarter of a mile I was sucking wind. Never mind that I forgot my water bottle or that I hadn’t eaten anything beforehand. I was feeling a lot of things, and none of them stack-ranked against “awesome,” “stellar,” or “fantastical.”

And then, I had that familiar moment. That time when my rhythm found a certain clarity, when everything momentarily aligned. Your ability to achieve flow in your work, training, creative endeavors, and the like is incredibly important. It isn’t until you’ve planned and executed on something that you can achieve flow. I don’t think flow is extemporaneous. You earn it. Inspiration is spontaneous, but flow is intentional.

In a moment of flow, everything feels effortless. You don’t realize what’s going on until it’s over and you’re able to reflect on your masterpiece (a workout flawlessly executed?).  In an effort to achieve flow in the inevitable ebbs of life, I’ve decided to get organized a bit. It’s one thing to have a bunch of ideas floating around in your head. The what-ifs. The could-have-beens. Getting it out on paper (or in this case, screen) makes it feel more real, tangible, plausible. It forces you to strategize. It forces you to timebox and set deadlines and contingencies. It also forces you to see how everything works in tandem. There’s a special magic to it.

Here’s what I came up with. Your designs and results will most likely vary.

 

I know exactly what is important to me (right now, at least) and the things in each area that I want to accomplish. I also recognize that things will change — that the desires and milestones are fluid. As circumstances and desires change, so will the chart. And that’s perfectly okay.

What’s also okay is if, at any given point on this timeline, things come to an end. Because I’ve always lived my life to the fullest — living in a way that would minimize the most amount of regrets in the least amount of time — I’m perfectly fine with how things will eventually end up. This isn’t a hard and fast doc meant to dictate my life. This is meant to give structure to some of the thinking I’ve done intermittently on Monday mornings when I get back into the office…the thoughts that creep in my mind while I’m swimming laps or cycling in the living room…the questions that creep up when I enjoy a glass of wine by myself. It’s a living, breathing doc. And things will inevitably change.

It All Works Out In My Favor

So with this broken leg still a’healing, and my free time at an absolute black market premium nowadays, I’ve considerably scaled back my Ironman goals this year. There is simply not enough time to get in the requisite base training at this point for me to comfortably tackle a full 140.6 event by year’s end.

So, what exactly does that mean?

As you may already know, I’m not really one to throw in the towel. The goal hasn’t changed…but perhaps the milestones and timeline have. Here’s the thing: triathlon is who I am. It’s in me. It’s like my little black dress: I wear it with pride, it looks great on me, and it makes me happy. It doesn’t matter what distance I get to swim, bike, and run, so long that I get to do it in succession and to finish with a smile on my face.

That said, I’ve scaled back my goals to the sprint distance for the rest of the year. Except for my last event, which is still the HITS Palm Springs Championship. Maybe I can work my way up to Olympic or Half-IM again. Not sure if it would be worth taking the time off and traveling with my bike for such a short event, but that’s neither here nor there right now.

I’ve had trouble wrapping my brain around racing sprints again, mostly because they don’t seem worth my time. But take a look at that sentence again. How arrogant and presumptuous of me. I used to aspire to a sprint! Since when am I beneath a sprint triathlon? There is so much room for improvement — my times could be way better, I could focus on form. A shorter race means less time for recovery, which will be great with my heavy workload. A shorter event gives me just enough time to train since, again, my free time is at a black market premium at the moment. I don’t even know the first thing about putting together a sprint tri plan. How many hours a week should I be training? What are the miles like? Shorter training times means less excuses to NOT go to the gym, easier to fit brick workouts into a workday. I can work on speed and form. And, for some reason, shorter distances also seem to get me into better shape. It’s at the longer distances that I seem to overcompensate for my training and I end up eating more than I burn anyways, which defeats a few of my purposes for racing and training for triathlons.

My broken leg isn’t the only reason for scaling back my Ironman goals though. Work will be guaranteed crazy through the end of the year, so I will be pretty swamped there. I also got in to the human-computer interaction graduate program over at Iowa State earlier today, so hopefully I’ll start classes in a few weeks. I’m already starting my marketing class (went back to another school too to finish my masters) so with two concurrent grad school programs and a full-time job, my free time is *really* at a premium. I need to spend my time wisely, so I think sprint tris are still the way to go. I’ll still get to do what I love, at the distance that I originally fell in love with. And I get to go to school. And I get to push my limits at work. It’s all this delicately amazing experience, when you think about it.

All I know is that there will always be another Ironman…another marathon…another ultramarathon. There will always be another lofty goal to chase. I guess it all works out in my favor.

A Letter to My 30+ Year Old Self

Tomorrow, you upgrade to your next triathlon age group: F 30-35!

Your last decade was very interesting, wasn’t it? You finally got the big break in design that you’ve been looking for all of your life. Do you remember those nights as a teenager where you dreamed of calling your own shots, living a life that you designed all for yourself? You’re finally there. I know you wanted to be there ten years ago, or even five years ago. Regardless of those timelines, you’ve finally earned your stripes and you’re finally moving on up. Know that it only gets better from here. There’s going to be a lot of demands on your time and your creativity. Never let that entrepreneurial and creative fire die. Fight like your life depends on it, because it really does.

Spend your time focusing on the things, people, and experiences that matter. Those are the things that will carry you for the rest of your days. Those days are indeed numbered. Life can change in an instant. You must be prepared to live every day like it’s your last, not because you are cynical or skeptical but because that is the reality of life. There’s a reason why you have ‘memento mori’ on the back of your mind. You must truly know that the only constant in life is change. In life, nobody makes it out alive so be prepared to make the rest of your days count.

With the work that you do, the people you spend your time with, and the efforts you invest your heart into, do it to leave a positive mark on someone else’s life. Recognition, praise, and money never motivated you, and it probably won’t start to motivate you anytime soon. Continue following your heart because it never led you astray. Balance it out every once in awhile with your mind to make sure you’ve designed around all the edge cases. You’re a UX designer after all…act like it.

A word on your parents and your family – you only have one life to spend with them. They deserve more of your time and attention than you’ve given them. No matter how much you don’t want to admit it, they depend on you. Make them a priority. You can’t change what happened in the past but you can shape how you deal with it now. Forgiveness has been a major theme of your twenties. Keep moving on. Let go of that tragic childhood you endured. It doesn’t define you.

A thing on goals: you’ve got a lot of them. There’s a lot of unfinished business from your twenties: finishing grad school; finishing an Ironman; finishing that second book; traveling the world; climbing up the career ladder; starting an international design firm; starting a design school; building out a scholarship foundation for your alma mater; writing a design curriculum with your old design professors; building a halfway house; paving the way to become a design professor; learning some new markup and programming languages; getting your photography into a gallery or even published; finding Mr. Right. I dare you to continue chasing those goals. You solve a lot of problems at work. You solve a lot of problems for your friends and family. Take some time to solve these problems that will continue eating at you until the day you die.

This is day one of what can be ostensibly described as the most important decade of your life. It’s a turning point. Take caution and pause when appropriate. Know when to hang on and when to let go. Your heart and mind is way too precious to focus on the things that don’t really matter. Take care of the people that take care of you, but most importantly, take care of you. You didn’t endure all that you have to give up now. Fight until the end and set a blazing example for those who want to follow your path.

And, whatever you do, cross that finish line with a smile on your face.

Best wishes,

Your 20-29 year old self

 

Choose Your Thoughts and Choose to Believe Them

Before you start reading a post like this, you have to cue the music. (Here’s the link.) Don’t forget to turn up the speakers.

I’ll wait.

Every once in awhile, I’m reminded that life will throw you the proverbial shit sandwich. It will also throw these aforementioned shit sandwiches in spades when given the opportunity. Earlier this week I was completely blindsided by some unfavorable news. I suspect that it was because my life has been on an upward trend and it was time to knock down the good ol’ self-esteem down a few notches anyways. What can I say…life happens.

That said, I’m always surprised by people who do some really mean things to one another. I find it partially fascinating and partially terrifying. How can someone, in clear conscious, ever seek out to hurt someone else for their own personal gain? How is that even satisfying? I can’t fathom it. I wonder if these people ever have the capacity to realize that in hurting someone else, they are in fact setting off a chain reaction of that person hurting another person, and that person hurting another person, etc? These events start off a negative spin cycle that makes it incredibly difficult to break out of, until someone is strong enough to step up and turn it all around.

I’m trying to go zen but every day, I face a different battle. Reality vs. expectations. What I feel vs. what I know. What everyone else thinks vs. what I think. I know that I can’t control how other people act. I can’t control how other people treat me. There isn’t really much in this world you and I have control over, except for one thing: how we react to the things that happen to us.

My coach said it best — “You choose your thoughts. And you also choose to believe them.” I choose to believe that the way I was treated was a reflection of that person’s reality, not of my character. I choose to believe that every passing moment will be better than the next. I choose to believe that people enter into your life to teach you valuable lessons. I choose to believe that people depart from your life when they have nothing left to offer you. I choose to believe that forgiveness is possible. I choose to believe that love prevails when there seems to be no reason that it should.

The world’s greatest lie is that “at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.” I choose to believe that we all make a series of decisions that propel us forward or set us back. But it is all a series of choices that we make. We set all the pieces in motion to arrive at where we are right this very second. When we realize that, we can learn to set the pieces in the direction of your goals and aspirations.

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.

2704 miles + 448 hours = 2013

So this year was an amazing year in many respects. I’ve traveled 2,704.9 miles in 448 hours.

I somehow managed to hit some pretty great highs and some awful lows all in the span of twelve months. It included:

-6 races: 3 half marathons, my first 2 Olympic tris, and 1 half Ironman
-My mom going missing (during a psychiatric emergency) and having to fly down to LA to locate her
That time I learned that my friend died in a cycling accident
-Finally completing a major goal race, my first half Ironman
Getting over my fear of open water
That one time I finished last at a triathlon
Losing love & finding love within myself [I pity the fools who don’t think I’m amazing company]
-Signing my new coach, Brett from ZenTriathlon
-Making an appearance in a CNN article
Gaining some perspective at 12,500 feet
-Vacationing in Hawaii for the first time ever
Skiing & clipping in to my bike for the first time ever
Meeting my fundraising goal for the year
-Getting surprised with a new set of skis, bindings, and boots for Christmas

You learn a lot about yourself over the course of 448 hours. (When you do the math, that was only 5% of my year.) You learn what you’re capable of. You learn what you want and what you don’t want. You learn to listen to yourself in some ways, and to ignore yourself in others. You learn that you are most definitely more resilient and stronger than you think.

I’m looking forward to dreaming bigger in 2014. I’m looking forward to smashing some PRs. I’m looking forward to crossing more items off of my goals and bucket lists. I’m looking forward to putting my all into everything I do and never apologizing for it. I look forward to getting over my fear of falling off of mountains. I look forward to entering a new age group (HELLO F 30-35!). I look forward to love and loss and everything in between.

Let’s do this.

Triathlon Is Not A Solitary Sport: Here's 70.3 Miles of Dedications

On the cusp of my first half Ironman race, I thought I’d take the time to do something I’ve been thinking about since my first marathon…I wanted to dedicate each mile of my race to someone important to me.

Triathlon is definitely not a solitary sport. Sure, you train alone, but it’s really the journey of a group of people. For some, this group is small and tiny. For others (like myself) it is a large group of loosely connected people who have been somewhat helpful and inspirational on my journey thus far.

Thank you for all that you do.

Love and light.

-Amara

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.
  1. Mom: My mom taught me that I could get somewhere in life if I was a good person. It was better to be good than to be smart. (…but it was always good to be smart.) She has always inspired me to give back selflessly without expectation. I dedicate my fundraising efforts to her.
  2. Dad: My dad taught me the meaning of focus, hard work, and determination. A lot of his drive and commitment carries over into my training. He told me that I only had one body this life and to give it all I have. I’ll do the best I can, dad!
  3. Ann: She’s my best friend. I’d give an eye, a kidney, or my life savings to keep her safe and healthy. She never questions my motives and supports me 1000% in all of my endeavors. I’m surprised she doesn’t think I’m crazy. 
  4. Aimey: I love her because she tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.
  5. Kaylee: She somehow always knows what’s going on with me, even before I open my mouth. ESP?
  6. AlexSomehow he manages to have much more faith in my abilities than I do. I’m grateful for it. You have no idea how much it carries me through a large part of my training and races.
  7. Barce: The guy who got me into running. It’s all because of you. Thank you so much for the inspiration…I haven’t stopped running yet.
  8. Greg C: He was there when I announced that I wanted to do an Ironman. Saying it in front of him made it real. Thanks for your support. You’ve quite literally been there for me every step of the way. I can’t thank you enough.
  9. Gabriel: He was there when I registered for my first marathon in Greece. Without him I wouldn’t have figured out how to change a tire!
  10. Vidur: He’s such a great friend, hands down. I wish he’d do a race with me though. Definitely a tri next summer 🙂
  11. Guillaume: He’s the first person from work to ever donate to my fundraiser. (He might’ve also been the last…?)
  12. Skrud: He’s confirmed that I’m crazy for doing all of this. (I think we all need those types of people around, right?)
  13. Emma: She inadvertently sparked my interest in the Ironman due to a brief discussion about where I’d get my M-dot tattoo. (She had me at tattoo.)
  14. Katie: She’s incessantly patient with my training schedule and my energy peaks and lows at work. Without her support I don’t think I would’ve been able to travel and get my training in. Thanks so much.
  15. Anna: She’s the lady version of #12 who also confirms that I’m crazy, most days of the week. 
  16. William: My first coach. He helped me bust through my plateau and got me into the best shape of my life. And then I got fat when he left me for another club. THANKS COACH. 🙂
  17. Lois: My open water swim coach. I didn’t think it’d ever be possible for me to enjoy swimming in open water, but somehow you’ve made it one of my life’s joys. Thank you for this gift. 
  18. Amy B: One of the sweetest and gifted athletes on my team! It was great swimming with her in Lake Union over the summer. Can’t wait to race with her next summer. She is such a sweetheart.
  19. Andy: This badass got his first set of triathlon prison tattoos in HAWAII. And he’s an awesome cyclist. “How can I be awesome like Andy?” is usually floating somewhere in my head when I’m on my bike.
  20. Darci: Doctor Darci has a quiet ferocity to her training. It was great watching her overcome her fear of the water. She is such an amazing athlete. I hope to grow up to be like her one day!
  21. Greg T: We lost touch after we both dropped out of our first IM race. I hope things are going well and that you’ll get to the 140.6 distance soon.
  22. Jim: He swears that I’m running from something in my past. And he’s probably right. But aside from that, he has always been so supportive and motivational. You are such a great friend. I am happy to have you in my life.
  23. Jasenka: She validates me on my fat days. Every girl needs a girlfriend like that. (And…THANK YOU!)
  24. Jaewon: My swimming buddy in spirit. She’s consoled me when I was down, and she’s been there to celebrate my achievements.
  25. Tyler: My training brother from another sport. I commend and admire your dedication to the acrobatic arts. Of all the people that “get” the training ups and downs, you certainly do. Thanks for the inspiration!
  26. Shirley: She convinced me that a half Ironman was still a respectable distance, after three Ironman DNSs. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  27. Jason J: The founder of RunKeeper. We’ve kept in touch here and there over the years, but the app/company/service he’s founded has changed my life. I can’t thank him enough. 
  28. Chas: We’ve talked about training, we’ve talked about RunKeeper. He’s had some good tips and words of wisdom for me. Thanks for your support!
  29. Erin: Another one from the RunKeeper family, she’s been incredibly supportive of my journey. I can’t thank her enough.
  30. Jake: I’ve been chatting with Jake the longest out of the entire RK family. He’s been there through most of my transformation. Thank you for your support.
  31. Rodney: My Twitter brother from another mother! He’s another person on this earth who might actually love the sport of triathlon more than I do. His spirited messages keep me upbeat. I can’t wait to race with him in the future and to cheer him on at his first marathon. (You know, the race that doesn’t start with a swim and a bike ride.)
  32. Zindine: He got me back on the bike after a few disappointing races this summer. His support and check ins have been ever so important as I lost focus and direction for a bit. Thank you. 
  33. Irina: She is a machine! What a talented athlete this woman is. She also does it while balancing a full-time job and a family. I’m pretty sure she is SuperWoman and I hope to one day grow up to be just like her.
  34. Ron: You passed away too soon. I still remember when I found out about your accident. I miss you. I know that you’re running and riding along beside me where ever I go.
  35. Debra: Your strength and motivation inspire me. Love and light.
  36. Roman: I admire your drive to head out to the mountains every weekend for a double-digit trek through the wilderness. I hope to one day join you when I am not in training!
  37. Tracy: You are a great friend. Thanks for taking me snowshoeing last winter and thanks for all the great times around Seattle and the Eastside. I hope to have many more adventures with you in the future.
  38. Natasha: My globe-trotting tri sister! We never did get a chance to race together but seeing as though you are traveling the world, maybe one day we’ll be able to meet halfway and swim/bike/run again. 
  39. Briana: You can do anything you set your mind to. You have it in you. It is so uncanny to have a soul sister like you. I applaud your drive and ambition in all that you do. If there is anyone that understands self-reinvention as well as me, it is you.
  40. Nathaniel: My bestie from art school. You’ve always been an inspiration to me. Thank you for all that you do!
  41. Hai-Ping: One day I hope to grow up and be as awesome as you. I’ll be thinking of you while wriggling into my wetsuit. (And I’m finally being more patient with it, thanks to you!)
  42. Rachel: Seriously, the secret is mac and cheese. And cats. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But really though, you are an amazing lady with tons of drive, creativity, and energy. I admire you.
  43. Jen J: Keep on running, lady. You kept a pretty good pace when we were running together at Border Stylo. Rock your race…can’t wait to hear all about it.
  44. Robert: I’m happy to have shared our first LA Marathon experience together. You were there when I was first riding Big Bertha around town to Venice, freaking out about my first triathlon, and more. We’ve come a long way and I’m glad to see you doing so well!
  45. Debbie: Your feats in triathlon are amazing! Plus, any girl who can ride rollers is pretty awesome. Looking forward to seeing what’s in your tri future! Maybe one day we’ll get to trade war stories. 
  46. Marcus: You’ve been a constant source of inspiration for me. Business owner who runs ultramarathons in his spare time? That’s pretty awesomesauce if I do say so myself.
  47. Mark: Thank you so much for your support during my first two marathons. Hope you are on track with all of your goals. Drink a cup of tea for me!
  48. Jean-Marc: Your positivity has helped me more than you know. Thank you for always checking in on me. You’re a great friend and I’m glad to have you around.
  49. Sara: I’m so glad I met you when I did. You cram so much living into your exciting life. You are seriously just…amazeballs.
  50. Frank: Seriously, you too. Both of you. Power couple! In between riding and snowboarding and drinking, you both are just living THE LIFE.
  51. Nellie: I admire your work in the charity world. I can’t believe I finally convinced you to run a marathon. You’re going to do great!
  52. Adriana: You too. You keep saving the world, one charity at a time. You are such a positive spirit. I am happy to have crossed paths and to have worked alongside you. Good luck in the LA Marathon!
  53. Tracey: Thank you for the opportunity to help bring the 5K and the LA Marathon to Dress for Success. It was an amazing experience being able to connect two things that were near and dear to me.
  54. Rhonah: You lost your battle with brain and breast cancer before I had a chance to visit you here in Seattle. You were a guiding light when I had my design business. You were a beautiful, smart, and intelligent woman. I could not have fathomed a more suitable mentor at that stage in my life. Thank you for everything.
  55. Page: You are simply inspiring. I love all of your recaps and everything that you do. I admire your ability to stick to and follow through with a training plan. You make it look so easy, lady.
  56. Shauna F: I’ve loved seeing you achieve your tri and marathon goals this year. To more tri and marathon goals in 2014, my tri sister!
  57. Heather: Thank you for all of your guidance and help over the years. You’ve given me a lot of perspective on many aspects of my life.
  58. Nick: The photos from his ultramarathons, hiking excursions, and even his honeymoon was so inspirational. Can’t wait to cross paths with you one day.
  59. Dustin: One of many plant powered Ironmen who have encouraged me to stick to my goals. 
  60. Emily: She is one of my heroes. Goofy Challenge? Ironman? Coach? Ultramarathoner? I hope to one day achieve half as much as you have.
  61. Chris F: Thanks for your continued friendship and always being so encouraging of my training. I hope you reach your health and wellness goals in the near future!
  62. Laura B: One of my old designers when I had my firm, you inspired me with your strength and innate talent to make everything you touch so beautiful. I’m so glad you have found happiness in your new life!
  63. Amy T: One of my students from back in the day. She checks in on me from time to time to see what my next race entails. I’m so proud of how far she’s come in her life. Can’t wait to call her Dr. Amy!
  64. Shant: We’ve grown apart but thank you for all that you’ve done for me. I won’t forget the times you helped motivate and support me.
  65. Diana N: I don’t know you but you have achieved some amazing feats during your career. When the race gets difficult, I promise I’ll find a way.
  66. Rich R: I don’t know you either but I feel like I do. Listening to your difficult experiences during the Ultraman on Molokai will help give me perspective when things look tough. Thank you for being so inspirational. You live an exceptional life.
  67. Charlotte F: We met on the plane on our way to a race and we ended up racing together again in Portland and Seattle. Hope to see you at the start line of another race sometime soon. Keep on running and inspiring others along the way. You are amazing!
  68. Cappie B: The race is a celebration of a season well done. Let’s get out there and rock this half Ironman! Can’t wait to catch up with you at the finish line. Congrats on all of your wild success in the sport. You’re incredibly inspirational.
  69. Alan: I’ve always admired how you used your birthday to fundraise for charity. You were one of the first people I knew that raised money through running. It has definitely shaped my perspective on racing and charity and how people can carefully combine the two.
  70. Me: Yes. Mile 70 is dedicated to me. To all the miles and hours and lonely times when I thought that I couldn’t make it, to only come out the other side stronger. I finally made it to the start line in one piece. Now all I need to do is make it to the finish!
And the last 0.3 miles? That’s dedicated to you

An Extended Season Retrospective: Remember Why You Started

So if you’ve been following my training lately, you’ll probably notice that I’ve logged significantly less time swimming, biking, running. After about 11 months of intense training (as well as the ebbs and flows that come with it), and all the stressors that come with life in general, I think my body finally gave in.

My 70.3 is a little under a month away. There is no worry, or panic, really. I am comfortable with the swim and run distances. The bike distance is still a bit scary, but things in life worth doing generally are. (Also, I have completed a ride greater than 56 miles before, so it’s not like I can’t do it again.) I feel comfortable in the water. I feel comfortable on my feet. I feel comfortable enough on my bike if I’m not clipped in. Palm Springs is flat and far as the eye can see — clipping in would be nice, but with such little ramp-up time (totally my fault here) I think I’ll stick to my usual M.O. and just use my running shoes on the ride.

Many things went right this season. I got into the mode of strength training 2-3 times a week, and that paid dividends come race day. That’s definitely something I want to replicate in the future, although maybe at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the frequency. I conquered my fear of swimming and open water head on and now I enjoy it so much. I proved to myself that most of triathlon was mind over matter — I was racing the weekend after I returned home from when my mom went missing and was subsequently found. I’ve met some really fun people along the way, and trained my way to better health. I’ve never felt more healthy and alive than I do at this very moment, even with the last eight weeks of abuse! (And my abuse I mean that I’ve been “off” my training regimen, going back to pescetarianism, drinking a little more, and enjoying the sweets a bit too much.)

What went wrong this season? There were a few things. I got injured more than I would’ve liked. I stressed out way more about my training schedule than I should’ve. I definitely should’ve learned to clip in to my bike outside of the rainy season. I should’ve tried again after I fell down.

But honestly, I think that’s about it.

I couldn’t have trained harder, gone farther or longer. I have a finite amount of time handed to me every day, and I spent a lot of it on triathlon. There’s a lot more in my life outside of triathlon…my creative endeavors, traveling, family, friends. This is one thing on my bucket list but there are tens and hundreds more line items I need to cross out. Triathlon is a lifelong pursuit — not something I plan on starting and stopping once I reach the finish line. I’m in it for the long haul. There will always be another race, another 140.6, another destination. Being 70.3 ready is part body, part mind. I’m already there.

Remember why you started. I remember. I’ve never forgotten. Things have gotten in the way but no, I’ve never forgotten. I started to prove myself wrong. (Check!) I started to see how far I could take my body, my mind. (Check!) I started to live a healthier life. (Check!) I started to inspire people. (Check!) I started to help others. (Check!) I haven’t stopped, but I need to keep going.

Triathlon is a lifelong journey and this is only the beginning.

Week 8 HITS 140.6 Palm Springs Training: Action Always Beats Intention

What a week, folks. I’ve been thoroughly stressed out about things non-training related (for once!) and I’m so glad to have a community of people who I can rely on when things get really tough for me. Thank you. You know who you are.

It was actually a bit light on the training side during the weekdays. The weekend though, especially today, was difficult. An unassisted triple-brick was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted to do on my own. No one around to help (not that I really needed it, but it would’ve been nice) and nothing to really keep me motivated besides what was between my ears.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me happy (and not). I think when you try to re-evaluate things, there will always be some tough calls. Emotions are a tricky thing. I found myself losing a lot of steam towards the end of the week when said emotions got very heated (in a bad way) and come Saturday I didn’t really think I’d have it in me to continue.

And by continue, I mean the whole 140.6 thing.

Action always beats intention

Heretofore I’ve derived a lot of strength from external factors. I place them in buckets outside of myself. Maybe it’s a way for me to dodge total responsibility for, you know, being accountable to my goals. I do/did things out of love. I did them to be an inspiration to others. What I learned is that I need a lot more love and inspiration within than the world needs from me right now. Right now I’m a bit down on personal issues, but in due time I am sure they will work themselves out.

What got me thinking, though, were a few external factors that I could not shy away from. Two designers that I know at work — one that I’ve worked with, and one that I know on a casual basis — both confided in me about things that were going on in their lives. One is going through chemo, the other will have surgery on both of their feet. The latter friend has been eyeing a 70.3 for the entire time I’ve known him and he is so bummed that he can’t train until next spring/summer. Having those two stories behind me, I thought of James Lawrence, the guy who completed 30 Ironmans in one year. Insane, right? In one of his last races, the HITS 140.6 Lake Havasu City (you know, the one race that I missed when I first joined Amazon) he races with a young boy with cerebral palsy.

He said something in his film that really struck a cord with me. He said that he wanted to quit so bad, so many times, but he thought to himself that unlike the boy he raced with, *he* got to ride his bike. *He* got to run. I thought about that a lot as I was pedaling nowhere on my trainer. I thought a lot about it on my runs. I thought about it in between every transition I had today, every lingering pain I had in my body, every time I was short of breath. I thought about the people who couldn’t do what I do, about the causes and foundations that I am personally fundraising for, and it pulled me through.

The whole fundraising thing was self-directed but it looks like there is another race that does the same. I was quasi-invited (okay, maybe directly invited) to join the race, and since I’ll be tapped out for 2013 I will definitely add that to my agenda for 2014. It’s already looking like a marathon and Ironman season and the year isn’t even over yet!!

Oh, and before I forget — my fundraiser is still active! $288 raised, $1,212 to go in 10 weeks time.

Donate to my fundraiser – http://crowdrise.com/amaravp

Week 8 HITS 140.6 Palm Springs training: 10.87 hours; 4,928 yards swim; 68.65 miles cycling; 14.32 miles running.

Monday, September 23: 1 hour swimming

Tuesday, September 24: Rest day

Wednesday, September 25: 30 minute swim (I had nothing in me to train)

Thursday, September 26: Mandatory mental day

Friday, September 27: 1:10 indoor riding

Saturday, September 28: 1:10 swim, 1:00 ride followed by deathly GI pains. I haul myself back home in the rain to breathe and relax and it subsides.

Sunday, September 29: Due to my lack of consistent training during the week I opt to lump all of my training together. Yeah, it’s never a good idea, but I tried to position it into something positive: a triple brick. 1 hour intervals each. EHRMAHGERD. (Needless to point out I survived the ordeal.) I can’t believe that I actually did this!

My triple brick. What an awesome training session!

You Can't Run Away From the Quantified Self

When I first started my health and fitness journey with running a few years ago, I logged every mile and for a stretch, logged every morsel I ate. I think that measurement gave me a barometer by which I could measure progress. I could see when I stalled, when I made progress, when I was slipping and when I was succeeding.

One of the things I’ve been ignoring pretty heavily has been my personal finances. Actually, I’ve been ignoring the problem for almost 14 years. 14 years of bad spending habits, lackluster saving habits, poor judgements, and more. There are things I spend my money on, and then there’s the things I bleed money on. You could probably say that triathlon is one of those things, but believe it or not I think I balance the cost/benefits pretty well.

The thing about the quantified self is that there are no judgements. There are only numbers and trends and forecasts, and they do not lie. It’s like looking at a training plan and seeing a bunch of missed days, or looking at a food log and seeing five-too-many Ferrero Rochers logged. (Guilty on both charges.)

This morning, I crunched the numbers. I took a long hard look at one of the things that make me the most uncomfortable — my student loan debt. The principal wasn’t budging much in the last few months and I needed to take a hard look at it to see why. I was appalled to see that 80% of my payment was interest. It’s like training at low intensity for 16 weeks hoping to run a really fast and speedy marathon. It just doesn’t work that way. I was already getting really fed up at where I was financially. My peers are buying homes and raising families. I felt like I was stuck in the same rut I’ve been in since I got my first job when I was 15: trying to hopelessly budget my money and save cash here and there. It wasn’t working.

So, as with many things in my training and on my journey to self-improvement, I’ve made a commitment to myself. This $62K horse I have on my back really has to go. That’s right — $62K. About a third of it was for my undergraduate and the rest of it was for my private grad school degree that I’m only halfway done with. My goal is to be done with paying off these student loans in 2 years. And, if I want to go back to school, I will pay in cash. Just like my training, I will stay connected to the details and make up where I am deficient. I will learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Does that have to put a dent in my triathlon dreams though? Absolutely not, and here’s why:

1) I can pare down my coaching and training a bit — maybe opting for training 1x a week instead of 2-3x a week. I could stretch out my paid training blocks over two months instead of blowing through it once a month. The sessions might be a little more per hour but I will still get the benefits of strength training with the team once a week. This will also give me a chance to work on yoga or rowing once a week, which is perfect!

2) I could budget for specializing coaching on the bike and in open water as needed. I am finally getting the hang of open water, and if I get more practice, it’ll be great. Once I burn my private lessons I can stick to group clinics (which run me about $20 a pop, not to mention the gas money it takes to drive all the way down there). For the bike, I really need a few sessions to get the hang of things and then I need to practice, practice, practice! A way to do this would just to ride more!

3) I could register for my BIG triathlons way in advance and save lots of money by going with the HITS Triathlon race circuit. They race at less commercially popular venues so travel is a bit cheaper. If I can fly with Southwest then even more brownie points.

4) If a large Ironman is in my future, I can race via the Ironman Race For Free program. I pay $50 to register for an event and commit to raising $3,000 for the Ironman Foundation. That’s a pretty sweet deal! I already love fundraising for charity and a $3,000 commitment would definitely be a challenge. They have openings for Ironman Canada and Ironman Lake Tahoe, both races that I am very interested in. It’ll be difficult to have back-to-back fundraisers though.

5) I could test around with more natural foods on my long rides and runs, rather than relying on expensive Gu. (I’m already finding that orange slices and bananas are working great for me…and they are probably much healthier anyways, not to mention cheaper!)

6) I can race in a lot of small, local community races here in the summer. The small community races aren’t too expensive and if I plan ahead enough, I can make space in my budget for them.

So, yes, it is less of an athletic challenge but this goal will definitely effect some of my other plans as well. I look forward to finding creative ways to still enjoy racing but doing so on a budget. The days of limitless traveling and racing may not necessarily be over, but perhaps a bit more controlled and planned. Looking back at my race recaps, it looks like my first year I amassed 12 races. The year after that it was 5. It looks like I’ll cap this year at 5 as well. It might be a tradition worth keeping around!

But, enough stressing about finances. I have an 1-hour open water swim, a 1 hour ride, and an hour and a half run tomorrow. Isn’t that technically an Olympic distance tri? And isn’t that a self-tri a week before my next Olympic distance tri?!