Adjusted Reality

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

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Lost for Words

Uh, hello, is this thing on? *taps mic*

This… writing stuff… it feels weird in my fingers, my brain, my soul, but it’s time to dust off this little corner of the internet and say things again. Writing is how I unravel my brain, it’s my therapy, it’s how I process and analyze and learn from my successes and failures. I took a bit of a break from it for various reasons, and that’s just not working out for me, so here I go again.

At first I stopped writing here because I dove headfirst into writing some fiction, which stretched some really fun new brain muscles. I hadn’t written in anyone else’s voice in a while and it was fun to hide in that other character for a while – his sins, his motivations, his perspective on life definitely bisects my own on ye olde personaltity venn diagram in some aspects, but it’s also fun to delve into the “not me” parts and be someone else for a while. As I always enjoy digging around in my grey matter, in some cases, I found ways to use the “not me” parts in “me” useful ways as well.

Then, I stopped writing because the world fell away. The first week in March, I completed Long Day #2, a 8 hour training day in preparation for my second Ironman 7 weeks later. The second week in March, life as we know it got cancelled for an indefinite amount of time. Many of the plates I worked so hard to keep spinning over the years came crashing down, and I just let them fall on the floor and stay there. It was surreal, it was excruciating, and bit by bit, as every plan I had for 2020 got scratched off the calendar, I felt a bit of my soul die until I just didn’t care anymore. I just learned to work around the shards on the floor. My life has been, and frankly still is just this existence in this four bedroom “space station”, with infrequent “space walks” every few weeks to take care of something I can’t online. I communicate and exact my influence on the world through this portal in my office. At some point, I figure, someone would let me know when I should return to earth and be normal again and that hasn’t happened yet.

Since it’s been *ahem* a few months since I’ve last recorded the history of my life here, it’s worth dedicating a bit of space to the oddity that contributed to the black hole for my words. 2020 was just a blur without specific events like vacations and races and the normal societal pleasures and obligations. Time lost meaning. I can only really describe the period of time as these overlapping ages and eras. Since “July” really didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t grab onto it as a descriptor of that month, but instead, I do remember the “pool” era.

In the first era, this whole new stay-at-home life was novel and exciting. We walked a lot and took pictures of the pretty flowers. Later, when this life became less than novel, with no end to the ambiguity in sight, thus began the era where work tested me to the point where I really thought I might mentally break, but I survived instead and learned things. I may have made it through because that overlapped with the age where we got a pool, and that age had two strata – the first where it was utterly awesome, and also another where it was mostly frustrating, and a ton of work to maintain.

Sometime around the eleven hundred and sixty-first of March, we gave up the idea of taking any non-camping vacations and instead sunk our vacation budget into a SUPER nice new pop up. Like the pool, it has saved our sanity as we’ve camped 21 days since mid-July. Though, also like the pool, it has been a pain at time, especially for someone like me who is not a giant. I can’t reach anything without climbing around like a monkey. It’s much heavier and harder to deal with setup, takedown, and storage. However, these camping trips gave me a date to associate with a thing, which was few and far between this year. We went camping on September 10-20th in Colorado. I could not tell you what I did any other specific day that month. These trips were a nice anchor to reality.

The later 2020 ages are ridiculously muddy in my brain, even though they are the most recent. I put myself through power point bootcamp to learn how to create within the confines of that tool. I grumbled the whole way through it, but creating animated demos is now a really awesome weapon in my professional arsenal. Around this era, my back REALLY started to act up, some days making it difficult to do heroic and impressive things like get out of bed, and pick up a sock. This happened just in time for the weather to be beautiful for outdoor activities, which was just a lovely middle finger in my direction. My motivation was back, but my body had already noped out of anything athletic, so we took lots of spooky walks and Christmas light walks instead.

Throughout these ages of 2020, there have been some constants. I played a ton of guitar. I became obsessed with Bloodbowl and our work league. These two hobbies alone may have kept me on the right side of the looney line. I found throughout the year that it became increasingly difficult to focus, this in and of itself may be worth an entire post, but guitar was a bit of meditation and monofocus for me that I wasn’t getting elsewhere. Bloodbowl scratched some of the itch I was missing with triathlon – the competition and camaraderie – and gave me something to be (arguably, depending on the day and the dice) good at when a lot of the rest of my life was just falling apart.

I played and even ran some tabletop games and played a hell of a lot more video games than I normally do. I picked up a phone that has a better camera than my CAMERA, so I’ve been toting that thing around everywhere. I think sometimes I see the world more clearly in photography shots, and I enjoy the power of editing the photo to actually capture what I felt in that moment. I shook something loose in my brain with my painting later in the year and convinced myself that it’s better to finish something imperfectly than to leave it on a canvas, half complete, for the better part of a year. Besides the lack of writing, it was actually quite the year for hobbies and non-athletic pursuits.

I cannot ignore that the things I am cursing elsewhere contributed to this boon. The ability to work from home, the absence of racing as the north star of my personal life, and the lack of almost any sort of in-person plans did give me the space to be able to indulge and nurture these interests. However, one would truly think that it also would make daily activity and staying in shape easier. And for a few ages, it did. For some ages, I actively rebelled against the year, giving it my own middle fingers in return, and drinking whiskey and playing video games instead of riding my bike like it would hurt anyone but me to do so. For some ages, I found myself in a different body, a weak lumpy one that felt really mortal with weird aches and pains. I truly have some empathy and perspective. This sucks, y’all. I’ve got a hill to climb to be even a SHADE of myself as an athlete even just a year ago.

And thus, this is where I’m at right now. I’m certain this is one reason for my writing muse to be so utterly and complete blocked right now. For someone who’s used to having awesome stories to tell, I just… haven’t. On this Sunday the third of January, this beautiful day where responsibilities and *life* have not yet unsullied good intentions, I resolve to return here, to write, on a very rigid schedule of “more weeks this year than not”. I may not have interesting stories to tell right now, but telling the uninteresting ones will at least restore a bit of my identity.

Pace Bend Ultra 6 Hour Cycling Race

For posterity, since it’s been a while, this is a compilation of words I said on Facebook before and after the race.

This race was how I finished off 31 days of cycling with a bang, I arrived at camp the night before utterly exhausted but enjoyed unwinding by playing some guitar, as well as some games, eating all the food, and then crashing for 10 hours.

In the morning, I awoke feeling much less exhausted, and puttered around eating more of all the foods (English muffin, chicken salad sandwich, etc) and getting ready. At 11:45, we hit the start line for the race briefing, and then we were OFF!

I can fake being trained for a 3 hour ride, and up to that point, I was rolling happy, enjoying the ride, bopping to my nonsense pop playlist. Close to that 3 hour mark, I noted that I was at half ironman (3 hour total ride) power and knew I was in trouble. “Caffeine and sugar got me into this, caffeine and sugar will get me out of this!” was my mantra. One of my guilty pleasures during these types of races is regular coca cola. I had two small cokes over the race plus a caffeinated gel. When I ended the race, I thought I might never sleep again!

3.5 to 4.5 hours was my low point, though I was thankfully not despondent as normal. My back hurt, my legs hurt, everything hurt and I was dying but I’m now very familiar with this feeling and I know it comes and goes. And it did. The last hour my mood and pace improved and I ended at 88 miles in 5:24 (the rest of the time was in the pit changing bottles, getting food, trying not to die). This is one of those races where the only women that show up are pretty much pros, so I was faaaar from the podium (5th out of 6), but that’s not why I was here, so no worries.

I ended the six hour ride a ball of pain and caffeine and tireds and happy and hungry, but I was pleased with the effort, considering it was quite a stretch for me on a 50 mile long ride previously.

This kicked off the next stage of Ironman training where it was time to kick it up a notch, but first, I enjoyed my first, my first day off since December the day after the race.

Usually whilst camping, you’re required to be packed up and out by noon. However, because certain races were running up through the next afternoon, we had our spot until six pm! We enjoyed a nice leisurely morning eating all the food once again, playing guitar, taking some pictures, reading books in the sun, and most decadently, an afternoon nap.

Somehow, after riding six hours the day before, I felt much less tired than I did all week previous. Nature is the best!

3M Half Marathon Shorty Race Report

For posterity, copying over the short race report from Facebook, since it’s been a month and I don’t much on which to elaborate!

I suppose this is now my 3M uniform since it’s worked out well for me the last two years!

To keep the cycling streak alive, this morning began with 30 minutes on the bike at 5:45am whilst consuming coffee and an English muffin. It was actually a great warmup. The warm part of the morning concluded when I left the car. Giving up my sweatshirt was painful and I was very thankful for the disposable replacement which was a garbage bag. I kept it around my nose and ears and kept telling my husband I felt like trash and giggling. Whatever keeps you amused before sunrise in the cold, right?

Oddly enough, I started running and felt… good. Possibly even great! My pace was not quite PR level (2:03) but not too far off. I ditched my bag as I was no longer trash and stowed my gloves, wondering why it was earlier to do that than last year and then realized I had left all my nutrition in my morning drop bag. D’oh! I had a momentary freak out and then remembered there was a gel station halfway through the race. Around 4.5 miles, where I’d normally take a gel, I felt the absence, and pulled my effort back from about an effort level of 7.5 to a 7 until I picked up two gels and knocked one with caffeine back really quickly (and another one 2 miles later).

Mile seven felt very ploddy until the sugar and caffeine kicked in, but thankfully it was not too little too late and it perked me up just fine. Around 10.5 miles my quads started to threaten to cramp when the hills went up instead of down. I have a full seven days of training next week, I couldn’t give it everything and risk being out of commission, but I gave it enough to come in at 2:09 and some change.

This is my fourth best of many (at least two dozen) half marathon efforts over the years. On tired, unsharpened, sloggy from base building legs. My forties are neat! I’m a fan.

Not a fan of walking right now, however. Probably won’t be tomorrow either. ?

Being bad in public/jukebox hero

Let’s go for the scandalous views based on the title alone, shall we?

I assure you, while I’ve an absentee blogger, I haven’t changed THAT much. 🙂

2020 started with all the hope, passion, optimism, and fervor that all years do. Quickly, I emerged from my bubble wrap and found literally ALL the chinks in my armor at once.

In the most general sense possible, things that I thought I had nailed, I hadn’t. Things I thought I was good at, I wasn’t. The transition from hedonism to structure was rough, and the vestiges of almost a month off left me in a weird state. I was without my edge, at a disadvantage, and just feeling screwed. A rude awakening from 26 days of leisure, absolutely and for sure.

Let’s face some facts. I don’t deal with being bad at things well. I’m either good at things, or “they don’t matter to me”. My tendency if I don’t succeed quickly is to say “fuck it” unless something grabs me by the nose and makes me REALLY WANT IT. Triathlon did that. Bloodbowl did that. Game Production did that. Now, I’m applying that elsewhere.

I spoke previously about my proud moment where I realized that reaching out to ask for mentorship would help with that dumb game, and that perhaps spending time flailing in public at something that interested me wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It was a nice gentle foray into those two things that trip me up (being bad in public and asking for help) that didn’t have high stakes in my life. On the heels of sticking my neck out there, I was licking my wounds about an opportunity at work that I thought was something I had in the bag that didn’t work out, and decided to do the same thing. I walked into my boss’s boss’s office and asked if we could have weekly mentorship meetings.

Oddly enough to no one but me, like most of these interludes, it wasn’t met with disdain, but actually got me some cred and he’s been helping me to learn and improve. It’s been awesome, but also scary for me because I AM SHOWING MY WARTS. I like doing all the improvements in secret and showing people when I’ve found my awesome. This whole vulnerability thing is rough and terrifying but also enthralling.

I am in a perpetual state of overwhelm lately, to the point where it’s become the norm. I understand people that can legitimately say they feel boredom the least. My entire existence, work and personal life, right now feels like it’s a cycle between going full tilt at as many things as I want to pursue as I can, bashing my head against them as long as I can stand it, and then recovering for the shortest amount of time possible until I can go rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it all over again until I yield yet again.

It makes one tough. It also makes one tired.

Me, doing my damndest to indulge as many hobbies as possible at once (Bloodbowl matches on the screen whilst riding the bike trainer)

I’m training for an Ironman right now. I’m 11 weeks away. Previous me would LAUGH at my progress, say I’m not doing enough, I should be crushing the volume, I should be putting together a lot more training than I am right now. Current me realizes that I’m doing what I can do while I’ve not been able to monofocus, and that might actually fare BETTER than the alternative.

I’ll spoil the race reports I haven’t put up yet, but I actually ran my 4th best half marathon (out of at least two dozen) at 3M (2:09) on so little training and unfortunate circumstances that it was silly. I rolled my best 6 hour Pace bend (88 miles) yet on a long ride of 3 hours the week before. I put together a day I called Long Day Junior (30 min swim, 3h ride, 1.5h run) and lived to tell the tale just fine. I’ve been really bad about the weekday workouts being anything but short base, and inconsistent between the sports (aka – I haven’t run in 3 weeks but I’ve been killing it on the bike and swim, earlier I was only running and biking), but endurance is endurance is endurance and I’ve been skating by.

This weekend will test some boundaries. I have a 15 mile run slated for Saturday. As I said, I haven’t run for a while. We’ll see how that goes. Maybe my endurance will chug through 2.75ish hours just fine. Maybe I’ll die at 10. Only the proverbial dice of the universe know. That will inform how I proceed.

My hope is that less training will get me to the start line uninjured, and my muscle memory and mental toughness will see me through the long long day, hopefully reaching the finish line somewhere before 15:52. It’s a gamble, but since my focus remains elsewhere, it’s my only play right now.

It’s fun to have a good reason to say “I feel like trash” and not be self-deprecating (it was COLD 3M morning)

I owe you a story about a guitar, and I’ll elaborate because it circles back to my first point.

When I was 16 years old, I wanted to BE A ROCKSTAR. I could see it, feel it, the epitome of Juke Box Hero

Bought a beat up six string, in a secondhand store
Didn’t know how to play it, but he knew for sure
That one guitar, felt good in his hands
Didn’t take long, to understand
Just one guitar, slung way down low
Was a one way ticket, only one way to go
So he started rockin’, ain’t never gonna stop
Gotta keep on rockin’, someday gonna make it to the top

That was so going to be me. I asked for a guitar for Christmas. My parents gave me money to literally buy a beat up six string in a secondhand store. I lost my nerve and spent the money on clothes instead and I’ve never owned a guitar since.

Through my life, I’ve always felt the call to music and I’ve been able to envision myself on a stage singing and playing guitar. But… this was the sacred cow. I didn’t admit this to myself for at least two decades, but if I sucked at it, I would be crushed. For some reason, this was my holy grail and it had me shaking in my boots.

Lately, I’ve been eating sacred cows for breakfast, but this one still mooed loudly at me. Finally, I asked my husband for my Christmas present last year – to dig out his old guitar so I could learn to play it. In my mind, I definitely didn’t deserve anything new, but something that already existed would be such a low investment that if I sucked, if I couldn’t do it, if I gave up, it wouldn’t matter. Even just asking for THAT was nerve-wracking for me. I had to face the climb.

Good thing I like the climb.

What could it be? Maybe a tommy gun?

I gave myself 2020 to suck at guitar. That might sound weird to anyone not inside my head, but I assure you, it’s important. Refer to above where I have to be good at things or I quit them. Building on sucking at things in public, I also decided it was important to suck at things in private too (so many innuendos, I realize, but bear with me without snickering too much).

I spent many days in the last month and a half building up callouses and swearing at the C chord (ok, I still swear at C) and my guitar strings sounding like a dying narwhal, but eventually I could play Amazing Grace. And then I could play some chords without looking. And it started feeling a little more natural. I spent so much time steeling myself to be frustrated at guitar, convincing myself the practice was worth it, convincing myself to not give up so easily, prepping myself for a fight.

Oddly enough, guitar is one of the things in my life right now that calms me. There’s no stakes, I’ve got no timeline, progression is happening, and I can produce things that sound like music after about a month of practice. This amuses me so! It’s also a new enough hobby that I can spend entire runs just imagining myself performing, having proficiency, and it’s just spellbinding to me. I’m not yet in the messy middle (like a lot of other places in my life) where I’m banging my head against improvements, feeling like a failure at things while actually improving incrementally but below my threshold of notice, despondent that I SUCK AT EVERYTHING, while I just need to keep going.

I still see that me, up on a stage, singing and plucking, and it gives me hope and motivation. Motivation for that specifically, and for everything else, for the fact that I can fight through feeling like a failure at things to improve and conquer and not stay complacent and relentlessly and dauntlessly pursue the things I want.

Often, I judge myself for being a dabbler, but I think dabbling gives me hope. When I’m at the prohibitively difficult parts of the proverbial skill tree of life in other areas, it’s nice to have a place where improvement is easy and noticeable.

On that note, it’s probably time to play some guitar…. my fingers don’t hurt TOO BADLY right now…

Relentless, Dauntless, Analytical

2019 gave me an incredible opportunity to grow, learn, and really reexamine my priorities, methodologies, and desires.

It me. Thanksgiving. With the hairs and everything!

I started this missive with the words Courageous, Confident, and Logical, but I wanted to refine my intentions even more. While courage and confidence were huge pillars for me over the last year or so, I don’t think they accurate describe what I’ve sought and continue to seek in my thoughts and in life. They’re even a little too wishy washy. Relentless is the confidence to not stop in the face of either potential or actual failure. Dauntless is the courage to look something or someone really intimidating in the eyes and believe that you can be a worthy opponent. While I had my faltering moments this year, I aimed to be relentless and dauntless in the challenges I took on, and I think more often than not, I succeeded in embodying those ideals.

The third descriptor, Analytical, is what keeps me from being the bull in the China shop. There’s been a big push at work to be incredibly analytical, to examine the data before coming to anecdotal conclusions. We’re letting our numbers, our community, the current market trends, and sanity dictate what we undertake. “This is the way it’s always been done” is notably absent from that list.

I spent a lot of time post morteming the last decade of my work decisions, which was crazy making until I realized that my own gut was more often than not correct when I was given enough information. I spent a lot of time over the last two years doing that with triathlon as well, and when I revised some unuseful processes and really prioritized the important stuff. I have done my best to spend time both deep in my own head, and also looking at my thoughts and actions from over my own shoulder to figure out what makes me tick and the true reasons behind my thoughts and actions.

My only regret is that I seem to have unmade some health and triathlon-related habits over the last few months in the pursuit and passion of other hobbies, but it’s all about priorities. My work life has changed so much that instead of looking for things to be done, my plate is now 200% full each day. For 2020, my goal both in work and in my personal life is to keep a constant stack rank of all the things, and figure out what falls below the “suck” line. At work, that means they’ll have to be delegated, we’ll have to make the process more efficient, or we’ll have to decide it’s unneeded. In my personal life, it mostly means that I’ll have to decide what is most important, and give myself permission to suck at or leave undone the rest.

This iguana gives no effs. 2020 goals, to be more like this leezard…

Putting aside analytical for now, as that’s not a huge challenge for me, while Relentless and Dauntless take a little more oomph for me. I searched my mental archives for some of the things of which I was most proud that embodied working on my weaknesses here.

I’ve made strides in my public speaking over the last decade (it’s kind of required when you lead a team), however, this last year took it to a new level. Each month I’ve spoken in front of the company, and I got the opportunity to be on a panel at SXSW. It’s grown from a quick wrap up where I talked on the surface of our features and thanked the team to an in-depth look at thoughts and motivations behind the psychology and analytics of our strategy on features. I’ve also taken this from a literal script I would write for myself and read not as confidently as I would like to being able to do this without said script, just a power point with a few bullet points, as long as I practice it a few times beforehand. This is something I’m hugely proud of, as I’ve always considered myself more of an actor (reading prepared lines) vs a charismatic speaker (my own thoughts, more off the cuff). I look forward to more opportunities to practice this art in the coming year.

Dauntless is an obvious one here, as public speaking is further up on some people’s list-o-phobias than spiders or even death. I will also offer relentless as I aggressively pursued the opportunity to speak at work until it was just expected of me on a monthly basis.

Climbing this volcano = much less daunting than winging public speaking!

Bloodbowl, a turn based strategy game loosely based on football/rugby starring orcs, elves, and other fantasy races attempting to kill each other in interesting ways, is the best worst game ever. It’s frustrating, one unlucky dice roll can ruin your game even if you’re doing everything right. It’s definitely “not my kind of game”, and it was definitely not intuitive to me and I wasn’t magically good at it when I picked it up. Just the opposite, quite frankly. I sucked. Instead of letting this faze me, I embraced the incremental improvements. In fact, last season, I remember thinking at one game halfway through the season, “this is my best loss yet, with a few things going my way, I could have maybe even tied!” and then, I was able to tie, and I’ve even won a few matches after practicing like hell.

While I’m proud of the fact that I was undaunted by the level of difficulty and relentless in the fact that I wasn’t innately good at it and didn’t immediately give up, I think I’m most chuffed by the fact that I asked for help. When I started to improve, I found I had more questions than answers, and instead of going into my own research hole and banging my head against things and getting frustrated, I asked the winner of the last season for advice, and he’s sorta my coach now. 🙂 I still have to catch myself from apologizing too many times about asking his advice, because he truly does seem to enjoy giving it, but I’m making progress.

Speaking of the mentality of apologizing for taking up space, let me lastly circle around to Dungeons&Dragons. It finally hit me this year that these sessions weren’t only an excuse to eat cheese and misappropriate song lyrics. The exciting thing about becoming someone else is that you can explore other mindsets, other mentalities, other viewpoints, and do things that are either against your nature or that scare the fuck out of you in a less threatening way, and try how they feel on for size. Playing a genderfluid bard has done things like reinvigorate my love of music, poetry, and writing, but has also let me explore the psychology of stepping outside of traditional female thought processes.

It’s fun to try on other personalities…

It’s reinforced that if I want things, I need to ask for them. No one is going to show up and offer me my goals, I need to pursue them relentlessly and dauntlessly, obviously using my logical side to make sure I’m taking the correct steps to get there.

I’ve tried on internalizing successes and externalizing failures as it makes sense. Obviously, I want to learn from my mistakes, but I’ve tried to stop letting it shake my core. We make mistakes, sometimes they’re not really our fault, sometimes they completely and totally are, and that’s what it means to be a human. I may be imperfect in my actions and thoughts and words, but that doesn’t make me an unworthy and inadequate person. I have the chance to wake undaunted and relentlessly try again the next day in pursuit of whatever it is that’s on top of the list.

I’ve learned that rejection is not the end of the world. Honestly, my character is better at it than I am, I’m constantly fighting a situation where me IRL wants to say “fuck it”, but it’s absolutely not what my bard would do, so I’m sticking with it as an exquisite exercise in frustration ><. However, it’s a great lesson that simply because something doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be. The more confident I am in certain areas, the more dauntless and relentless I am to make it happen. I need to believe in myself and summon that same magic power in wide variety of areas.


And in that same vein, perhaps next time I’ll tell you a story about a guitar.

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