You Only Get To Be A Beginner Once

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

“You only get to be a beginner once.”

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

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

Cue doge, who will explain everything to you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Climbing and Fall Forward

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

I wonder if they are right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Fear and Falling

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

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

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

There is a moment when fears and dreams must collide.

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

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

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

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