Race Recap: Jackson Hole Half Marathon 2016

My race in Jackson was my 30th. The Tetons were a beautiful backdrop to a particularly meaningful day.

We drove in to Jackson from Denver the day before. I think this was the farthest I’ve ever traveled — by car –for a race. It was really scenic and allowed us to explore a bit. (We didn’t get a chance to really do that during our move since our cats were in a hurry to get home.)

The open road allowed us to catch up a bit. The hubbub of school, work, freelancing, and teaching have all interfered with my capabilities to have a normal human conversation without incessantly complaining or crying about my lot in life. This was the first time in a long time that I was genuinely smiling and cheerful. Erik took notice (and has been doing so since I’ve last reported in to work).

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It started off as any other race — my alarm clock went off way too early. I could hear the people in the room next to us shuffle about. They were out the door in about 15 minutes flat, whereas I took my sweet time getting ready. (It would turn out that we would run into these runners again over the course of the weekend.)

I laid out my race kit the night before. Crumpled my race bib, like I always do. I read about a pro runner doing it early on when I was running, and now I can’t remember the story but I always do it regardless.

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It was to be a colder race. Since all of my training is done on the treadmill, I thought back to my outdoor running days and thankfully remembered to pull some base layers. My shoes still have some miles on them. The new addition to this race was my headband (I’d been training with it and it hasn’t slipped off yet!), along with a handheld water bottle. I had lost the one that Dress for Success gifted me in 2011 for my fundraising efforts during my last move to Seattle, and this was my first replacement. I’ve used hydration belts for running but I’ve felt that they were more suitable for triathlons. I’m not even sure if I can find mine right now, but I bought one for my husband so I figured I’d buy one for myself. Jackson Hole’s race was a cup-free race, and I thought it was a really noble and respectable initiative. I wish that more races were like that, but I can see how it would be more feasible during a smaller race. (Imagine having to fight 20,000 other runners for a refill!)

On my way out the door, I managed to twist my ankle on some uneven pavement right outside of my hotel room. I got really upset to have gotten this far uninjured only to have painfully rolled my ankle at the eleventh hour. I decided to play it by ear and see how I feel at the start, knowing that I could hitch a ride back to the start.

The race shuttles picked us up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It brought back a flood of memories to the week I spent there a few years ago learning how to ski. It was a magical week for me. I spent a significant amount of time during the day alone, despite traveling there with my then-boyfriend. Nevermind that at the end of the trip it ended with me getting dumped…a month later I met my future husband anyways, so all in all it all worked out. Everything was as I remembered it to be, without the snow. I thought about how we could sneak in a trip later in the year when they opened up again. Maybe sometime after the Dopey Challenge, if our legs aren’t completely trashed.

After a 20-minute or so ride, we were dropped off at the start line. Having driven up the mountains, it only got colder. I was thankful for my base layers, but not very thankful for my ankle. I kept stretching and massaging it, hoping for the best. I thought about walking the entire way down the mountain, but even walking on it was very painful. At that point, I figured that I could try to make it to the first aid station and then see how I felt.

The race started and we were off. I lightly jogged on it and it felt better than walking on it. Oddly enough it didn’t hurt at all. I’m not sure if it’s the “racing effect” but I went with it, hoping that I wouldn’t incur any sort of physical debt for this later on. I still  have a few tune-up races this season before the Dopey Challenge and I didn’t want to put them in jeopardy. I jogged along knowing that my pace would be slower and telling myself to be okay with it.

It turns out that the elevation change between Denver and Jackson — only 1,300 feet or so — made a big difference. I found myself a lot more tired early on. My breathing was slightly more labored. It was better for me than the other folks who flew in from places at sea level though. I’m sure that they struggled a lot more, unless they all trained on insane hills and in saunas. (That’s not out of the realm of possibility…I know plenty of Ironman athletes who have done that.)

As I ran, I tried to soak up the scenery as much as possible. It was an absolutely gorgeous race. Since the field was so small — 200+ runners or so — it allowed me plenty of space to pull off to the side to snap some photos without interfering with someone else’s race. I felt really lucky to be privy to the views — having an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, and being able to run, even if on a bum ankle.

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I continued along the race. It was mostly uncovered so it eventually warmed up. I didn’t wear any sunscreen except for on my face, so I didn’t take off my base layers. I ended up trying to stay cool by drinking as much water as I could and refilling with cold water during each aid station. I also had a cooling headband that I could activate at any time, but I never had to. Walk breaks in between also helped a lot.

I spent a lot of the race reflecting on the last two years. The transition between two cities and two very different companies. Having completed grad school and getting married and beginning to teach. I thought a lot about my co-workers at Sphero and how hard everyone had worked on the product launch. I hoped that they weren’t toiling away during this holiday weekend and that they had been able to steal the weekend for themselves. I thought a lot about some old coworkers at Amazon, especially some of the younger ones that had joined my teams right out of college. I knew some of them were still sticking it out. I thought about some of my mentors who had left the company and how they mentioned that the doggedness that was required there came back to haunt them at their future companies. I wondered if I had fallen prey to that. I thought about my mentors and wondered if they were happy with where they currently were — one is on sabbatical, two are working at completely new companies, and the other one is still on my old team. I thought about my students toiling away on their projects over the weekend because I had set a benchmark deadline to prevent them from procrastinating until the last minute, because the worst thing is trying to deliver something that might end up in your portfolio under negative pressure. I also thought about my fundraiser for Best Friends Animal Society and if it really made any kind of difference. I know it does, but I want to do so much more. At the moment, I lack a support network here in Denver. I lack a circle of friends or community mostly because I’ve buried myself in work and school during this first year, something that I had not done in the absence of friends and acquaintances in other cities. I thought about my fundraisers in LA and Seattle and the people who’ve helped contribute to my journey. I thought about my parents and wondered how they were doing and if I should take a few days to go visit them in between teaching, interviewing, and freelancing.

So, in other words, I thought a lot about a lot of other people, but it was a typical amount of thinking that I would do over the course of three hours anyways.

The results came in and I was fairly happy with them. I’m not a stellar athlete but at least I’m out there. I didn’t fare too poorly between mile zero and 8.5:

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Post-race, I was pretty satisfied with myself. I thought I’d be able to break three hours, but alas my ankle and the elevation got the best of me. There’s always next time.

We got back to our hotel. I commenced the most elaborate recovery routine ever. My ankle was fine for awhile but it had began swelling up with the lack of activity. I tried RICE and we acquired an ankle brace. It eventually swelled up to the size of a baseball. We were both pretty exhausted and slept the day away. It was really nice. I consider that quality time. 🙂

The next day, we topped off our vacation — and I delivered the last portion of his birthday gift — with a trip to the nearby hot springs.

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All in all, it was a great race-cation. I’m looking to some more great ones this season…hopefully with a lot less ankle injuries.

Dopey Challenge Week 6+7+8+9: Getting Unstuck

Week 6, 7, 8, and 9 of training has been mostly a blur because of the constant flurry of work. The miles are increasing but at a fairly slow pace — they’ve been alternating short and long run weekends: Week 6 was 7 miles, week 7 was 3 miles, week 8 was 9 miles, week 9 is supposed to be 3 miles, if I can motivate myself out the door tonight. (Running in the evenings tend to be a weakness for me, since I am mostly paranoid about getting an upset stomach because of having to time my eating.)

Now that I am coming into some time off before my next venture, I’m looking forward to incorporating yoga, some weight training, and maybe even swimming into my routine. It would be nice to decompress a bit before my next venture.

Training on my broken foot has been okay. It hasn’t been much of a nuisance lately, with exception of my morning run and a walk around town yesterday. It’s mostly been my stress level eating me up and tiring me out, so I’m really looking forward to my vacation. I have a ton of books I would love to catch up on. I also need to put my teaching materials together. I’m already putting together a to-do list for my time off so that I make the best use of my time off. Is that weird?

I’ve been toying around with the idea of hiring a running coach or joining a running group. A few months ago I cancelled my membership to Orangetheory, mostly to focus on my running. Since then I have done exactly that, but I’d like to do some more focused work on it. I think hiring a running coach would be a nice idea if I actually had some real tangible goals in mind though. My goals are always somewhat vague, mostly dealing with finishing a race but not really focusing on performance. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take my favorite past-time to that level yet.

I feel like I am so performance-driven elsewhere in my life that there should at least be one thing — that thing being running — that I don’t really beat myself up over to do particularly well in. One foot in front of the other, and try not to injure myself — how much more complicated should I make it, right? That was pretty much how I approached my other two marathons. I didn’t focus on performance too much. I think I was more concerned about performance in the 5K, 10K, and 13.1 range, even though I never did particularly spectacular. I think my best 5K time was 27:11 (8:40 min/mi), 10K was 1:00:15 (9:34 min/mi), and 13.1 was 2:26:49 (11:12 min/mi). I suppose it would be nice to work myself up to those times again.

I’ve also looked at a few running groups — it would be nice to meet some new folks, but making the time for it would also be challenging.  The Rocky Mountain Road Runners group looks like it would be a good fit, but I also have a pretty full training calendar already through the end of the year. Maybe it’s something to look into for next year.

Speaking of next year, I’m already peeking at a few races for my calendar. The Colfax Half Marathon is swinging around after the spring semester, and since they’re still pre-registering, the race is really cheap. I’m also peeking at some races abroad for our potential honeymoon, although we’ve yet to settle on a location, date, and race yet. I can put that on my list of to-dos for these next few weeks.

Speaking of the next few weeks, here’s what I have in store…

  • Next weekend: Mystery vacation weekend for my husband
  • Following weekend: Weekend trip to Seattle
  • Following weekend: Breckenridge film festival and half marathon
  • Following weekend: A break from traveling
  • Following weekend: Back to Seattle for a wedding and for the 15M training race
  • 10 weekends from there: the half + full marathon race weekend before Dopey

With all of the changes ensuing, this will be my mantra for the upcoming month:

practice

I’ve spent a bit of time planning for and dismantling some of the negativity around me. It’s time for me to focus more on myself: what I am looking to accomplish and what will really make me happy. I’ve spent the last few months fairly unhappy, and a few months is really a few months too long. Life is short — depending on how you look at it, I’m most likely more than 33% done with my life and I’m not about to spend it completely miserable. The bounty is high on my time and my happiness, and if I will be spending my precious life hours on something it’d better be worth my time.

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Hopefully I’ll be updating this more often now Amara-Dopey-Fundraiserthat I’ll have some free time.

And yes, I am still fundraising for Best Friends Animal Society! 

I’m donating $1 for every mile I’m running while training for the Dopey Challenge. If you can spare any dollars, I’m sure the kitties and puppies will love you furrrrever.

Happy training!

Dopey Challenge Week 5: The Mystery of My Broken Footsie

My foot is broken! Well, not the whole thing, just one of the many bones that comprise a foot:

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Not my actual foot

The 2nd bone that is labeled there is pretty much split into 2 pieces, hamburger style. The two halves have conveniently aligned themselves into a tendon and have healed themselves into such a position. Well, “healed” is a bit of a loaded word, since that presupposes that the 2 broken pieces have fused back together. Each time I press down on my foot, it stretches the tendon and creates this sensation of painful pressure, which is what I am misinterpreting as a foot cramp. And, based on the current location of the broken bones in my foot, they may just stay apart, like separated Siamese twins.

This pain in my right foot has been lingering for at least a year. My feet have generally caused consternation over the last few years based on my blog and training history, and even when I went in to the doctor’s office on Monday I mistook it for the tendinitis I had in my left foot at the end of 2013.

//begin said tendinitis story//

It was a November, my second year living in Seattle. I remember it as a gray morning, sometime around 6:45am. My really good friend Alex and I were running around the Seattle Center, up towards the Space Needle, when I said “Ow.”

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10426694_10154721857175504_94570704112427741_nI thought that my toe was cramping up. I thought it was quite weird and annoying. I paused right in front of the Pacific Science Center to check my shoe and stretch out my foot a bit and then continued on my way. And since then, I’ve thought that this strange, weird toe cramp has been very annoying. I went to the orthopedic and they took some x-rays, and he said to take ibuprofen everyday and to get slippered up. That was three years ago…

//end said tendinitis story//

Between then and now, my injuries have somehow mysteriously migrated from one side of the body to another, as evidenced to me here in Denver that now resulted in a fracture in my right foot. After combing through my training logs, I’m not seeing a pattern of when this could’ve settled in. There was not a major race where I was having any severe pain from my foot due to some sort of injury. I can remember it being there last year, because I remember being fitted for an insert at RoadRunner Sports…

The bone is broken, no matter how much denial I am in 😐

During last week’s training, it bothered me a little bit. There was some discomfort here and there but I assumed it was because I now know that it is broken. I tried to run more carefully and land a little softer on my feet and that has helped a bit.

It didn’t get too bad when I was pacing around in the classroom. I spend most of my time standing while I teach. When it got really bad I leaned against the wall, desk, or podium, or I tried to shift my weight. While running, I’m also trying to shift my weight a bit which I’m sure will have a impact on me (good? bad?) in the near future.

This week’s running (and overall life) mantra:

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Maybe I could buy some bone glue…? Full-body bubble-wrap suit?


Amara-Dopey-FundraiserDon’t forget to donate to my fundraiser for Best Friend’s Animal Society! I am running 48.6 miles and raising money along the way. BFAS is a national animal welfare organization working to end the killing in America’s shelters with the goal of placing all adoptable animals in loving and compassionate homes.

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

Week 2+3 Seafair Sprint Tri Training: Stay Overzealous, Friends

Hi party people! Four weeks in to my new training regimen and I’m feeling good. Still squeezing workouts into random time pockets in my calendar but at least I feel like things are somewhat back to normal. Week 2 was particularly momentous because I got some wonderful news: my fracture was completely healed up, and I received my long-awaited Bia! Woo-hoo!

Because my fracture was all healed up, I took to the streets and trails to make up for some lost time. Hence, I haven’t been biking and swimming as much as I should be. Running is just so convenient…all I do is lace up and head out. I suppose with my bike on the trainer it is still sort of like that. My swims are at odd hours of the day, mostly because of my work and school schedule. So far 2am has been the best time to catch some laps at my local pool. It’s okay though. Even though my training is not as regimented as seasons past, I think I can still forgive myself because I’m really still just getting back into the swing of things.

So far the odd scheduling is working for me: work during the day, go to sleep immediately when I get home from work. Wake up at around midnight. Maybe head in for a swim or get cracking on my schoolwork. Try to catch some sleep by 5am. Wake up at 7, get some training in, and then head to work again. Weekends are for resetting the sleep schedule and hiking during the day. I’m really beginning to appreciate my decision of sticking with sprint triathlons this year…it’s really opening up my schedule for school and for all the hiking I missed out on last year. Maybe I can finally have it all…?

I think what’s most confusing about me is that I focus on so many things simultaneously. I can’t choose one sport…I choose five. I have so many simultaneous goals and aspirations that it’s hard for me to give my time accordingly. Also, it really cuts out time for socializing, which I think is semi-okay, since the people I want to spend my time with will have similar interests anyways and will join me on some of these excursions! I just sent out a save the date for my December San Jacinto Peak hike. Still keeping my tri goals in check. Ever excited about skiing Niseko next winter. This girl can’t choose just one sport. (Believe me, I’ve tried.) So, I guess the only alternative is to do it all. Be overzealous. Always have a reach goal — something that causes you to stretch out of your comfort zone, something a little more difficult than what you want to take on. It is in that discomfort zone that the magic happens. Been there…and I want to be there again.

Hiking Cougar Mountain

Week 2 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 19: Rest day

Tuesday, May 20: 11.25 miles cycling on the indoor trainer/45 minutes

Wednesday, May 21: 3.17 mile run. My first run in eons. My fracture-is-finally-healed victory run!

Thursday, May 22: 3.2 mile run. Still feeling good.

Friday, May 23: 3.56 mile run. Okay, maybe a bit overzealous. Legs are getting really tired at this point but I don’t really care because I get to run!

Saturday, May 24: 11.25 miles cycling on the trainer

Sunday, May 25: 2.81 mile hike at Cougar Mountain, Shangri-la Trail

Week 3 Seafair Sprint Tri Training:

Monday, May 26: Memorial Day weekend called for back-to-back hikes. 3.83 miles up Poo Poo Point trail. It was really steep for our level so we backed out. Will definitely go back soon!

Tuesday, May 27: That steep hike really kicked my butt. It kicked my butt so hard that my hamstrings were totally shot. Tried to head out for a run and only made it up the street and back. 0.46 mile run.

Wednesday, May 28: Tried to run again. 0.42 miles. Still hurting. Still icing and rolling. I hop on the bike instead for half an hour, 7.5 miles. (I killed my time going out for that test run so I couldn’t bike as long.)

Thursday, May 29: Squeezed in a 0.5 mile swim. Quick and efficient. Still hovering around the 20-minute mark. Would like to continue working on this and work my way down to 15 minutes. I wonder if I should even bother with a wetsuit for a sprint tri. I guess it depends.

Friday, May 30: 1.01 mile run. Hamstrings are mostly on the mend but are still a bit sore. Decided not to push it so that I could bank my recovery for weekend hiking.

Saturday, May 31: 3.74 mile hike at Cougar Mountain

Sunday, June 1: Today, I haven’t headed out yet…but will probably hike Tiger Mountain or Cougar Mountain, hopefully something in the 3-4 mile range.

Lessons learned this week (and last):

-Don’t go too hard too fast. My hamstring is still kind of annoyed with me. My heart has more endurance than my body — that’s a fact that I need to accept. Gradual adaptation is best.

-Balance and harmony is everything. If I’m not feeling a workout, it is better to stop early than it is to push myself and get injured. Personally, my injuries come from when I’m not paying attention. I rarely slack.

-Have goals in mind, but follow where your heart leads. My goals are an Olympic triathlon and a summit at the end of the year, but right now I want to focus more on running and hiking. That’s okay. I know that I won’t perform as well in the swimming or biking portion for now but it is a trade-off I am willing to make.

-Training slows down life just enough so that I appreciate my surroundings and the people I am with. Life moves at such a hectic pace, and training really allows me to slow down and regroup for a few small chunks of time. This time is sacred to me. I don’t get to experience the holistic picture of my life in front of a computer screen, at a bar, or with my nose in a book. I get to experience it when I unplug and explore my surroundings and my limits.

Sunset over Lake Union

-One of these days I’ll actually have to swim a bit more consistently. And I’ll have to do some practice swims out in Lake Union, just to make sure that I haven’t forgotten how to swim in open water.

-I need to take my bike off the trainer. There’s a park nearby — Interlaken Park — that is supposed to be wonderful for cycling. I can always hit the Burke-Gilman though. There’s just so many tree roots in the way.

So, on that note…onwards to week 4+5…Seafair awaits!

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.

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!

Week 6+7 HITS 140.6 Palm Springs Training: Warrior, Not Worrier

Week 6 and 7 are in the books. Only 10 weeks left to go before the big day!

I’ve spent the last few weeks pretty stressed and exhausted. I never knew what it was like to be so tired that I couldn’t sleep. My legs and body would be sore but my mind would wander and race. (Typical me.)

In between week 6 and 7 I went tandem skydiving. It was really awesome. One of the only times this year that I actually found peace. Not having to really worry about equipment and such it was really nice going along for the ride. There’s nothing like falling out of a plane at 12,500 feet with a minute of freefall to give you a new perspective. When I was falling, all was calm in between the ears. I was mostly awe-stricken by the beautiful scenery. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. The irony is that my father (and probably by proxy, mother) were horrified that I had made the jump. I got a few choice words, like “what were you thinking?” “you could do anything else, just not this” “you know everyone is talking about this”.

In life, be a warrior, not a worrier

Let me be clear — crystal clear — that I don’t do any of this to impress anyone. I do these things because I want to do them, plain and simple. And I don’t care if people gossip or talk ill about me behind my back. I could honestly care less. My goals have never been able to impress anyone. I’d rather befriend and motivate people to make changes in their lives for the better. Yes, I take risks…like swimming in open water, riding my bike in traffic, driving my car around, and okay, once jumping out of a plane. All of these things are calculated risks. No one ever expected life to be a safe ride, right? I’m tired of hearing that people are scared of doing things. Fear holds you back. Fear is what keeps people from learning about others, experiencing new things, exploring new places, or understanding themselves. I’ve spent my twenties conquering a lot of my fears — fear of success, fear of falling, fear of failing, fear of swimming, fear of responsibility, fear of commitment, fear of never being able to speak openly about the things that have happened to me. When you live in fear, you lower expectations. I never want to live that way. I could care less if it makes someone else uncomfortable, because frankly I think the positivity I bring to the world far outweighs the fear of naysayers.

Life doesn’t have to suck – do something about it

On a good note, I also had another win last week. My friend signed up for the Whidbey Island Marathon! Looks like I’ll be running another 26.2 after all in April. I’m really excited about getting him race-ready. I’ve put together a pretty sweet plan between the time he gets back from vacation. We’ll be running once or twice a week together. It’s going to be awwwweeesome! On a bad note, my coach cut his hand pretty deep with an ax during a camping trip and it looks like I’ll be doing my Ironman solo. Bahumbug. You win some, you lose some.

Week 6 HITS 140.6 Training: 9.9 hours, Swim: 1408 yds, Bike: 58.75 mi, Run: 10.43 mi

Monday, September 9: 50-minute swim, 50-minute tri team conditioning

Tuesday, September 10: Morning 10K around Seattle

Wednesday, September 11: 40-minute swim

Thursday, September 12: 1-hour ride, 50-minute evening run

Friday, September 13: 1-hour ride

Saturday, September 14: Skydiving! (but the day started out with a 1-hour ride)

Sunday, September 15: 2-hour ride

Week 7 HITS 140.6 Training: 16.7 hours, Swim: 6547.2 yds, Bike: 83.39 mi, Run: 27.17 mi

Monday, September 16: Rest day 🙂

Tuesday, September 17: 1:15 ride

Wednesday, September 18: 8.35 mile sunrise run

Thursday, September 19: 1.32 mile swim, 12.63 mile ride, 5.24 mile run

Friday, September 20: 1.2 mile swim, 3.24 mile run

Saturday, September 21: 30.84 mile ride

Sunday, September 22: 1.2 mile swim, 26.25 mile ride, 10.34 mile run

Also, thanks to everyone who has donated to my fundraiser so far. $244 of my $1500 goal. I really appreciate it!

$244 down. $1,256 to go!