Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

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Cozumel Intermission

We’re moving. No, not us personally, and not to Cozumel (not that I would be terribly opposed, but not currently happening). Our office is moving, so that meant moving a TON of server equipment. This meant the office needed to close for five days.

Full flights were full. I guess we missed the window when there were 3 people on each plane…

Once we realized that we were fully vaccinated and travel was a thing again, we considered our options. One possibility was just bailing for a month and “WFI” (work from island) in Bonaire. After our first pilot program of “WFC” (work from camper), we decided against it. Working from anywhere is a nice concept, but it’s still a full work day. In the camper, it’s not a huge deal. Camping is cheap, working just kind of replaces the time I’d spend reading in the camper, you can still go on a lunch hike or swim, and you can look at something pretty when you glance away from your laptop vs just wall. Bonaire ain’t cheap. We typically dive all day every day, so work would feel like a BURDEN. We decided we’d feel cheated unless we owned a condo and were just paying for the flight and diving.

So, it had to be a real vacation. Right now, neither of us feel like we could leave work for a week without checking in/working a bit each day. There’s not enough redundancy (yet – working on it). This office closure was our window! We weighed a lot of different options, and Cozumel hit all the boxes (no cooking, reasonably affordable, easy access to shore diving, not a super long travel day) so on June 10th, we hopped an early flight to the same resort we stayed at 3 years ago.

This was the weather most of our trip. 70s, grey, and rainy.

It was kind of a trip (heh) to be back. Last time I was here, I was all sorts of fit, getting ready to PR a 70.3 in brutally hot and humid conditions. Now, three years later I am the most unfit I’ve been in a decade, unsure my cranky back would even let me dive. On the ride from the airport, we drove past the run course and I shuddered. No thanks. Not right now.

We had aspirations for an afternoon dive the first day, but we were REALLY tired so we went with the enchilada, cerveca, and siesta plan instead. The second day, we set up our gear and jumped in the water and with a *little* more help from Joel than normal we were diving!!! I definitely was missing some speed and power to chase things down and kick at weird angles to steady myself in the current for photography, but I was blowing bubbles and saying hello to fish friends and life was great.

What do we do now?

We dove 7 times in 4 days, opting against night dives when seas were rough and we skipped the 5th day entirely. Each dive, we stuck to the same very shallow area (25 feet max) around the shore. Lest this sound totally boring, I assure you it was not. We danced with lobsters and hermit crabs and eels and shrimp and all the fishy friends we expected (except squid – the cephalopods were notably absent). I haven’t edited the photos yet but these two fish about to fight… or maybe another f word… was a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Looking forward to cleaning it up!

Breakfast views don’t suck…

The rest of the trip was rather relaxing and uneventful for the most part. We ate lots of interesting and mostly mediocre all-inclusive resort food (of which I took way too many pictures). We (mostly) responsibly indulged on the unlimited pool bar drinks. I read 6 books in 7 days. I swam in the pool a few times. We took a few walks when it wasn’t super rainy (which was most of the time). I spent one day mostly reading in bed. It was lovely and relaxing and everything we needed.

After so much time in the space station away from everything, vacationing was weird. So. many. humans. All the flights were full or almost full. The resort wasn’t packed, but it certainly wasn’t empty. My mother was concerned that Mexico didn’t have the proliferation of vaccines that the US did, but the minute we got there, we noticed they were actually taking this ish seriously (unlike a lot of the US). Masks in public were MANDATORY, with a penalty of a fine or possibly jail time. All the residents of Cozumel, and I mean EVERYONE wore a mask. Almost none of the Americans at the resort did (we did at all times when we weren’t diving or sitting at a table).

Instead of crowds, I give you this Coati enjoying some pastries from the housekeeping staff.

Because our immune systems suck after staying at home for 15 months and sanitizing everything, even being masked like 90% of the time in public, we both caught a stomach bug that hit us two days after our return. I’ll spare you the details. It was pretty rough yesterday, but I think I’m over the worst of it today and just feel a little tired. I’ll need to snag a Covid test because it’s recommended after travel anyways (we took one Monday afternoon before traveling and it was obviously negative), but I’m really sure it’s not that.

Even with the unwanted souvenir, Cozumel was a lovely break in this weird new reality, and the ocean was exactly what my soul needed. However, tomorrow the intermission ends and it’s back to reality. Time to embrace the heat (uck) and start training all three sports for the 70.3 in September. Let’s do this.

My softer world…

It’s odd when your expectations are diametrically opposed to reality.

Doesn’t everyone wear red lipstick to ride bikes?

At work, I’ve climbed the ladder a bit and the next rung, one I never really thought I’d get to, is pretty well within my grasp failing only with my own failing. If I were to follow many of the examples before me, which I kind of expected to, I needed to get even tougher. Harder. More heartless. When one considers “the man”, thoughts stray to cold, calculating, tough, and serious MF’ers. Over the last 5 months, I’ve found the opposite. I’ve found I needed to be kinder. Softer around the edges. And I’ve found my “serious business” limit is a few hours, max. Then I just revert to the me that makes jokes and bad puns in big meetings, uses emojis in emails, emotes wayyyy too expressively over video calls, and otherwise is just the silly human being that is the core of my identity.

For the last few years, I managed projects. I mentored and guided people, but they had other managers to take care of the true personnel stuff. I now have a dozen human beings that I manage directly and find myself pseudo-managing a few more. Projects are black and white. They work or they don’t. They’re fun or they’re not. They’re clean or they’re buggy. Humans are full of grey areas. They have feelings, thoughts, concerns, bad days, or personal emergencies. Humans are wonderful, surprising, and amazing creatures. They are also unpredictable, imperfect, and at times illogical.

For all the challenges managing people presents, there was always something missing when I wasn’t and it feels right and good to be back to it. Going from zero to twelve people was a huge pendulum swing, but I’m enjoying it even if some days after work I just need to stare into space for a while. My sardonic wit, my little black heart, they’re fading a bit. One of the penultimate interview questions is, “What is your managerial style?” Over the years, I think I’ve adopted the chameleon as my management spirit animal, as my answer is this – whatever the team, situation, and project needs currently. And right now, we need kindness, we need communication, we need humanity. We are an organization of full competent adults that needs someone to nudge them the right way occasionally and remove roadblocks in front of them instead of some super serious stern meeting face grumperpants handing out reprimands when someone makes tiny mistakes and making sure people are taking 1 hour and not 1 hour and 10 minute lunches (what even is time right now?). So, rather thankfully, I have been afforded the opportunity to change for kinder rather than having to harden the eff up (even more).

Not quite crushing it like I used to

I suppose some of the hard edges falling off my persona right now may also relate to the lack of competition in my life. I’m in a league season of my new Covid “sport” Bloodbowl where I’m barely playing and totally phoning it in. Instead of practicing all the time, I play 1 lazy practice game a week and show up to official games with an IDGAF mood. I’m no longer feeling like I need to prove myself in the same way at work. This is odd, because there’s so much more at stake, but the sentiment is more like “I believe in you, here’s all the support you need and also here’s some realistic criteria for success” vs “I don’t believe your worthy, prove me wrong, and hey, the bar is about 10x higher for you than anyone else”. I do fine with both, honestly, but I can tell you that one feels like a challenge and the other feels more like being the underdog in a competition. Also, in the sporty section of my life, I’m just fighting to DO triathlon vs compete (either with others or even myself).

Swimming is going quite… swimmingly. I’m at the pool 2-3x per week and can tell it’s doing nice things to my cranky back. At the beginning of the swim workout, it’s a bit grumbly, but through the first ~500m or so it does something that I can only describe as “working the kinks out” and it’s a little jarring but then I’ll swim nicely for the rest of the time. I always feel better after getting out of the pool. I’m slow right now, but I’ve had a few good back days where I’m faster, and I can see a path to swim the 1.2 miles of a half Ironman in four months without an issue. I’ve got an Olympic distance swim on the plan today (1500m) which is honestly pretty much there. I have missed the swimming shaped hole in my heart, and I’m yearning for long swims where I solve all the problems and plot and scheme how to take over the world.

Do you like Desano pizzas? Biking out in the rain?

Cycling (outdoors – the aero position on my trainer is NOT so great right now) is also progressing nicely. I always feel better after I bike (mentally and physically) than before, even now that I’m approaching a 2.5 to 3 hour long ride. Last week I remembered the KT tape and my back held up like a champ for 35 miles. I’m very confident that I’ll be able to ride 56 miles in September – though riding it in aero position on my tri bike is certainly an open question. Bailing out of the “office” for a lunch or after-work bike ride is bliss and I’m doing this once or twice a week. Honestly, if this CONSTANT RAIN would stop, I could probably do this more often but apparently Texas is now the new swampland in training and the sky can’t stop crying about it. Get over it and give me the hot – at least I can predictably and miserably cycle in 100 degree heat. 😛

I can do the full dozen strength set (with knee pushups, switching out v-ups for something else) now, no problem. I just keep forgetting to do it. I have been succeeding at it 1-2 times a week – which, if I’m trying for 3x week, means I’m failing just as often – but it’s better than nothing. Stretching and rolling have fallen off. This isn’t great. I need to do better here.

And, let’s save the worst for last. Running. I gave it a try this week. One mile. Thirteen minutes. It didn’t feel great during, and my back was SO SORE after. I have a lot of unkind words for running right now. I’ve been asked to refrain from this sport before we hop a plane to Mexico where I will be hauling dive tanks so my back can be in the best condition it can be, so I’ve called it until later this month. Swimming and cycling are great, and I am extremely grateful to be back to them, but not running sucks. I miss the time in my head, the same song on repeat in my headphones because today THIS IS MY JAM, distracting myself by thinking all the thoughts to ignore the hurting and/or just succumbing and becoming one with it. I miss the pain because it gave me the most pleasure – endorphins are a hell of a drug and the other sports don’t quite give the same fix.

I miss this feeling after a long hard run…

Instead of simply complaining, let me list out my plans of attack to fix it:

  • Actually stretch, roll, and do the strength work. Apparently, I need to schedule this separately on my calendar from workouts or I will skip them.
  • I hate saying it, I’m going to hate doing it even effing more, but maybe I need to start with run/walk cycles instead of straight running. Ugh. I guess it’s better than not running at all.
  • I now have an adjustable standing desk as of… today. This is the last thing I can think of to fix my back. If it doesn’t resolve itself, it’s probably (past) time to bring in some sort of medical opinion. It’s entirely frustrating since I didn’t DO anything to it, and I’m pretty knowledgeable about the human body and sports stuff, but maybe there’s some physical therapy that I can do to make it behave.

Even with the run issues, I’m going to have a little faith and sign up for the Kerrville Half (not the Aquabike) this weekend. It’s only 10$ to transfer to the Aquabike if needed. I know me – if I sign up for the swim-bike event only, I will be less motivated to attempt to solve my run problems. My goal for this race is to complete, not compete. It’s simply enough to do sporty things again and I have zero expectations for PRs or podiums this year. Just the motivation to resume training is enough for me.

Rain, rain, something, something…

This has to be the coolest and rainiest May in memory. April showers kinda brought May showers this year, I suppose. It seems like we’re a month behind normality in the great outdoors – we’re JUST now getting our first sunflowers and the spring wildflowers are still in bloom.

While I certainly will not complain about the temperature being… temperate, it’s definitely made outdoor training a bit of a challenge. Sunday, we found our window for our long ride – from about 130-330pm – and made the most of it to hit 25 miles. Tuesday, we made a break for the pool (!!) for the first time in 15 months at lunch between storms. Wednesday, we took a work break around 3pm and rode 10 miles. Today, I’m staring at the rain hoping for a window to ride or swim again (or mebbe just drive up north to the indoor pool) and wondering how tomorrow’s 30 miles are going to go when the forecast says rain all day (I REALLY don’t want to ride on the trainer…).

I’ve also taken 3 walks, did my dozen once and I’m staring at the yoga mat right now and it will be my next stop today, so that will make at least 2 sessions this week. I stretched, oops, like, once. Let’s put that on today’s agenda as well, shall we? No running yet, but that’s sorta by design in the quest to calm my cranky back.

I’m happy to report that el backerooni (ok, nah, let’s never use that one again) is probably the best it’s been today in at least a month. Coincidentally, yesterday was the first time in forever I had zero meetings, so I wasn’t hunched over my desk quite the same way as normal when I’m on camera for hours and hours. I don’t ACTUALLY think this is a coincidence, so hopefully this weekend we can do the chores required to free up some space, which will allow me to get a real desk! I’m hopeful this could be the last piece of the puzzle to permanently un-eff my cranky back. Since we will be working from home through 2021, and then probably be in a WFH/in office hybrid situation as a long term thing, it’s necessary. My little corner desk was totally fine when I spent a few hours a week in my home office. Definitely NOT FINE when I spend 8+ hours every weekday there.

I have to admit that I have zero clue what I weigh right now. I also have to admit that I have not managed to track my food lately. Gut check (heh) is that I’m not eating terribly but I’m also probably not maintaining enough of a deficit to lose a significant amount of weight. Shirts have still most definitely shrunk and jeans are intolerable for more than an hour or two and I’m still on the “pjs and maxi dresses” fashion plan.

I should be more worried about this than I am, but I know my tolerance for adulting right now (beyond work, which is using up most of the adulting reserves) is pretty low. So, I’m picking my battles. And right now, the hills on which I’m willing to die are establishing regular swim, bike, and weights workouts, healing my back, and eating things that are green and grow in the ground more than once a day. Once those things are rote again, I can start nitpicking every calorie. Maybe after I go here for a while…

We’re closing the office for a few days next month to move our servers, and I’ve decided to bail to Mexico since I’m not (thankfully) unneeded. I’m unreasonably excited for the ocean and fishies and diving and beaches and tropical drinks and lounging by the pool. This will be the first vacation in 18 months that won’t involve WORK. Our camper is fantastic, and actually being able to get away *somewhere* kept us just on the edge of sanity during the pandemic, but we’re both ready to just show up somewhere and let someone else cook and clean and drive and bartend for a while.

Off to do all the things and wait for my window to do a thing that makes me sweaty later!

Bikes are the answer

What was the question? Actually, wait, does it even matter? Aren’t bikes the answer to everything?

I’m certainly not 100% back to it, but getting there. I keep doing stupid things to irritate my back (for example, packing up an office worth of paperwork and hefting around boxes) but it’s more like two steps forward one step back right now. Problems like this are stopping me for a few days vs a few weeks. Small victories.

I’m doing the dozen again 2-3 times a week. V-ups are a no-go right now, and I’m doing the pushups from my knees, but everything else is doable and generally I feel *better* after, not worse. I’m hoping to work up to actually lifting kettlebells at some point, but only after I can do this whole routine easily. It’s nice to do something that feels normal, something I used to do in my pre-covid athlete life.

Riding road bikes outside (not in aero) also seems to make me feel better after. Sunday, I rode 20 miles and felt great. I realized that it’s light until after 8 right now, so I figured “let’s do this” and went right back out the next day. Riding outside is happiness and a great way to unwind from work. I was excited to do it again and maybe start a little running and then… bam. Packed up an office and my cranky back returned. Then work. Then social plans. So I haven’t been back out.

But, speaking of social plans, I believe they’ll play a part in helping as well. We’re riding bikes with a friend tomorrow. Aiming to make that a weekly thing. Some of the weekly social rides are starting up again and I have this weird mix of feeling tied to work but also a huge level of flexibility in schedule, so the ownness of my schedule is really on me. Riding bikes outside is giving me joy and also seems to be rehabbing my back, so I need to make it a priority.

Next week, we aim to set up the pool and I’ll have yet another avenue for quick and easy at-home exercise which should, in theory, heal my back further. Since I’m vaccinated I can also return to the gym and swim in the pool or lake, but I’d like to start at home where a 10 minute swim workout doesn’t feel like a waste of a drive. This is the longest I’ve been away from swimming in a decade. I am highly looking forward to resuming being a fish again.

Running has been… slow to start. It feels *okay* off the bike for a 15-20 minute run, but it makes me really sore the next day. I miss it. A lot. However, I need to earn the right to run first, I suppose, so I’ll focus on ramping up the other two sports and strength first.

In that light, I’m considering signing up for the Kerrville Half Aquabike instead in September. 1.2 miles swimming + 56 mile bike feels reachable by then. The run does not. Ramping up from one to 13.1 miles over the summer sounds… rough (and more importantly, potentially harmful to recovery). Maybe I’ll do the sprint on Saturday and then the Aquabike the next day. That might be a nice stretch goal. Taking a bit of time to decide – a few dollars more in race fees are worth figuring out what a challenging but achievable goal will be by then.

I’ve now started scheduling my workouts on my work calendar, and being more specific than “do something”. It’s helped a bit. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic right now and looking forward to playing bikes all summer!

Sometimes it is just that simple…

April has been a mixed bag in the quest to become an athlete again, but things are looking up. I had… what I’ll call an “aha” moment but really it’s a “uh doiiii” moment.

I’ve been trapped in this vicious cycle – every time I get motivated and get some momentum going, *something* happens and then I throw a pity party and eat and drink crap and eff off workouts and then all of a sudden I’m back to square one.

I had spent two glorious weeks without much back pain. The first week I think I was like, “fool me twenty times…” and didn’t do a whole lot, waiting for my back to go out again, but I got my ass in gear after a week passed. All was well… until I spent five and a half hours on a folding chair at a socially distanced family Easter yard party. My back started seizing up and I could barely walk again. I went the the chiropractor the next day hopeful, but the adjustment didn’t quite do the trick this time.

I was UTTERLY pissed. Why the hell was this happening to me? I know how to start from scratch, I know how to train, I actually have been YEARNING for the ability to just go out for a pain-free run, or go ride my bike in the sunshine. My brain wants to do this for so many reasons. I need more activity so I can lose some weight without eating only rabbit food. I need my active mediation time so I can think and dream and create. As I keep saying, I need my identity back.

A week ago, I went out for a waddle to check out the spring flowers even though my back was cranky, and for some reason it clicked – my posture has been absolute poopoo kaka lately. When I’m wearing normal clothes and around normal humans, I’m vain enough to want to stand up straight, suck in my gut, and look like I’m not smuggling bags of cookies under my shirt. When all you wear is pajamas that are four sizes too big, there’s absolutely no reason to engage your core.

So I engaged my core whilst walking that day. And my abs were sore by the end, which is pretty pathetic, but my back felt… okay. For the rest of the week, I did the same, while walking, while bending over to do things, and yet again, it felt absolutely pathetic that I had to retrain my body to do something so simple but… it’s helped. Five walks, five stretches, and three bikes, and today I rode outside (!) for 45 minutes (!) and then even took a walk later and so far, so good. I have muscle soreness but I don’t feel injured.

So, I shall to attempt to continue to suck it up, buttercup (my abs) and continue to ride this wave of momentum. Sometimes, it actually is so simple, at least I hope.

Because it’s go time. 9 days ago, I got my J&J shot. While it was an unpleasant weekend involving major brain fog, aches, chills, fever, sweats, and exhaustion, at least it was one and done (well, until we need boosters, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it). Now, I’ve got 19 days until I can carefully people again.

I’m looking forward to it, but I also not the person I was a year ago. I’d love to say that I’m super excited for group rides again, but uh… yeah… I don’t think I can keep up with anyone and if 10 miles is a long ride for me right now, I’m pretty sure that’s everyone’s warmup. It used to be mine. My kits are all too small and tbh, the idea of wearing a pair of jeans gives me anxiety. So, yeah, it’s time to suck it up, buttercup, in more ways than one.

One thing I *CAN* control is what I shove in my cakehole. So, I’m concentrating on that. I’m tracking calories again and even though it’s sorta maddening some days to try to eat 1200 calories + activity (when my activity most days is around 200 calories max because I’m starting so slow), it’s the only way I’m going to make my t-shirts stop shrinking.

I’m signed up for IM Texas 2022 in April. I’m about to pull the trigger on Kerrville Half Ironman in September this year. I need this long term motivation not to quit. It all seems so far away, so I’m not even trying to conceptualize what it will take to get there, but I know I need to start. I long for the days where I can pop out the door for an hour run at lunch or actually go out on a group ride with other cycling humans. So, that is where I start. Simply. And from there I shall build.

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