Adjusted Reality

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

Austin Half Marathon Stupid Hills of Stupidness

I ran (I can say this without irony, minus some short walks because stupid hills are stupid) the Austin Half Marathon yesterday.

Two weeks ago, I was just getting back to the tail end of my training after Covid. I successfully did 10.5 miles, but the two mid-week runs that next week, my hip flexor felt… off. So, I decided to pull the plug on running until the race and aggressively rehab (boots, ice, massage gun, stretch, roll every day). I did a test run Wednesday off the bike and it didn’t feel bad during but didn’t feel completely awesome after. So, I went back to aggressive rehab and figured que sera, sera. I’d start the race and see what happened.

The day before, we ate very normal things: a rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and veggies for lunch, and a turkey sandwich for dinner (switched up the normal order though because the chicken arrived hot and fresh from the store, wasn’t passing that up!). We had planned to take a walk to stretch out our legs but sheeeesh it was frigid and windy, so we skipped it. It’s been in the 60s or 70s every day for weeks, but a cold front blew in Friday afternoon, taking it down to lows in the 30s and highs just barely at 50 this weekend. Back up to 70s today!

Hi hello the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet

At first, I was fretting about the temps (32 at the start), and overprepared with layers forgetting 30s, sunny, and little wind is actually a great race temperature – it’s just been a minute since I did a run only race. I got to the gear check with about 20 minutes before official start time, deciding between two layers of sweatshirts and a garbage bag (which provides excellent disposable warmth) and ditched everything but the throwaway black hoodie I picked up at goodwill the day before. We got started about 15 mins after official race start, which meant we were close to the back, and that was fine with me – I didn’t need to get caught up trying to catch faster people.

However, that meant a lot of dodging and weaving, which actually seemed to be okay on my hip, it liked the variance of different surfaces and angles. The first three miles were mostly uphill going south on Congress from the bridge, and my pace was in the 11s, but I felt oddly fine. Happy even. A starbucks coffee pod – which is for me absolute overkill rocketfuel – was keeping me smiling and bopping to my music. I ate one small chew every mile I didn’t take a gel, and I took the first one at mile 4. More caffeine! Wheee! I really and truly thought I might just speed up and negative split the race with how I was feeling right around halfway.

Really and truly, up until a few miles to go, I spent the morning enjoying the weather, my caffeine buzz, and my playlist thinking, “gosh, this isn’t so bad, what the heck was I worried about?” Joel and I were running different race plans and paces, so we just kept texting back and forth with progress. I’m impressed texting and running is something I can do without falling on my face. Then around mile 8, I had to walk a hill, a very short steep one, and then got right back to running. I was well ahead of my (slower than normal but achievable) goal pace of under 2:30, so I didn’t worry about it.

From the top of the previous hill, it looks even stupider

Then, I was reacquainted with Enfield, which is frankly, just dumb. I’d blame it on the fact that I was underprepared, but I remembered walking some of these when I was in fighting shape. I am not sure why every race course that goes through downtown has to be on this street, but it has entirely uneccessary ups and downs. I saw my goal time feasibility slip away somewhere between mile 11 and 12, but I couldn’t really do anything when the steep inclines threatened leg/back cramping (both downhill and uphill).

My face at mile 12.

The last bad hill at the mile 12 marker was the one where you have to run a very steep long downhill just to get to a steep uphill and you question WHY, for the love of peanut butter, why do we have to go so far down just to go so far back up again. As I was making the face pictured above, I noticed spectators were handing out Fireball shots. I took one, which I never do in races. Once I summited the hill, it was just enough to loosen me up and I ran the rest of the way in, no more crampies. I’m not saying it’s race strategy in the future, but it certainly worked for me this eighteenth of February in the year of twenty twenty-four and I will take it.

Somehow the Enfield hills weren’t enough and instead of sending us directly down Congress, we had to weave through other streets and find JUST A FEW MORE. My adjusted goal time was 2:40 and I hit the finish line at 2:39:54. Can’t complain.

Then, after making my way through the finisher corral, I sat on the ground, ate my pretzels, vibrated with too much caffeine still in my system, and was thankful I didn’t ditch my throwaway hoodie (it rode 12.5 miles with me tied around my waist) because I was shivering again by the time Joel joined me to make the trek home. Yesterday was a smorgasbord of air-fryer snacks and whiskey (it was a few glasses before I could actually walk around without cramping, heh). Today, I’m super hungry and imagine I’ll eat a little more than the calories say I should (1200 ain’t happening today and I am not exercising!) but will be back to normality by tomorrow.

Om nom nom

Hopefully my legs get with the program. I mean yesterday was OWWWW my everything. This morning? Cranky hip is mildly cranky. I’m kinda shuffling around today because of general soreness. I think I’m probably going to skip running this week and prioritize walking and biking and weights and maybe get my arse to the pool for a swim, finally. Longer term (as in, maybe in a couple weeks), my run focus will be shorter (5-10k max) and faster. I want to try to keep that base over the summer if possible so I can try this again next year. But, like, 3M. Or something else late fall. Not this stupid race of stupidness.

All in all, glad I did it, glad it’s done. The main motivation for signing up was to get me to increase my run endurance over the winter, which I did. With Covid, and then my hip, I had feared I’d just limp this one in, but I was able to do more than that on the stupid hilly course of stupid stupidness. All smiles now.

Batter up, February!

Not even one month into 2024, and life threw me a curveball.

Apparently, this is my run-10-miles outfit, twice in 3 weeks and not intentional!

When we last spoke, I just ran my 10 miles, and I was feeling pretty good about all the things. Joel had been under the weather, but all signs and portents pointed it toward NOT Covid. That lasted until the next day when he took a test and found it was indeed Covid. Bleh.

I tested negative. Since I’d been taking care of the poor guy for two days breathing the same damn air, I figured I had it or I didn’t. I frontloaded my week with some weights and biking just in case since I felt fine. That Wednesday, I woke up absolutely flattened. I couldn’t get out of bed, my batteries just stayed somewhere between .01% and 0% charge all day. Making food was impossible. Getting chips from the kitchen was half-marathon worthy. Even digesting food was difficult. It wasn’t that I was nauseous, my body was just like, “this is hard, yo!” and noped out. I pretty much slept all day.

Thursday, I woke up weirdly fine. I felt like I had a mild cold, or bad allergies. Totally able to work and go for 2-3 mile walks. I tested Sunday before I rejoined the real world and found out, “Surprise! It was Covid!” My symptoms were totally gone by the next day or two, and the only thing lingering was my brain wasn’t quite as sharp as normal.

On one hand, I was extremely fortunate to have such a mild case. On the other, I can see how this damn thing spread so much this time. It was indistinguishable for me from a 24-hour flu-like illness with bad allergies, both of which are super plausible in Austin in January. It was definitely not like 2022 Covid with a week+ of low energy, stabbing sore throat, aches and pains, and where the idea of doing anything besides dragging myself around the house would have been laughable.

Lots of walkies with this one instead when he felt better. It wasn’t all bad.

I REALLY wanted to start running again as soon as my symptoms were gone, like I said, I felt totally fine. But I had enough people send me articles in caution of my plans, I waited the minimum of 7 days from symptoms abating before I took a very tentative 20-minute jog, keeping my heart rate really low, and I felt GREAT. I did a little more the next day, and a little more two days after that. I kept up with the strength *pretty* well the whole time, considering. I managed two sessions a week the two weeks I was Covid-ing, and was back to three sessions last week and even upped some numbers. I walked 28 miles over the last three weeks of sickness and recovery.

Yesterday, I set out to do a long run. I had in my head “somewhere between 3 and 12 miles” which is weird, but let me explain. I prepared for a situation where I actually wasn’t indeed recovered and would be okay calling it if I felt crappy. If I was doing optimal training, this would be my 12-mile week. I made it 10.5, which I’m actually pretty thrilled about. My muscles got tired a little quicker, but my endurance felt great. I had a wonderful first 4-mile loop, pretty good second 4-mile loop (though muscle fatigue set in around 6+), and I decided 10 was good enough, then it was close to 2 hours, then it was close to 10.5. My legs were much more tired after this one than the last one, but I still feel like with race energy, more fuel, and more caffeine I’ll make it the 13.1 just fine.

My goal here is to just survive this race, get my medal and t-shirt because I totally don’t have enough of those (but Austin Half shirts are usually pretty choice), complete the goal, and then resume running 3-ish times a week with a max of 10k. That’s my happy place right now. Running for an hour – yay! Running for two hours – ehhh. I’ll get back there eventually but I’ve had enough of it for a while. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll figure out the speedwork thingee this year.

I covered the training part of Covid pretty well, which obvious wasn’t great, but let me also discuss food/scale. I can’t complain about this, and TBH, the point in which my weight really started to go down was when I got sick. *shrug emoji*

I didn’t do a great job keeping up with my written-out sheets, but I’d give myself a B+ with everything else. I tracked every day. I weighed most days. I meditated most days. I did two forms of recovery most days (I think every day but the sleep-for-15 hours day). And at the end of January, my trendweight was right where I asked myself to be: 186.4. My goal will be to be at the most 185.4 by the end of February, and spoilers – if I don’t screw it up, I’m making great progress and almost there ALREADY!

  • Week 1: -718 calories
  • Week 2: 1511 calories
  • Week 3: -1390 calories
  • Week 4: -252 calories
  • Week 5 (so far): 1191 calories

So, yeah, while I was sick, I made sure to not starve myself, if I needed extra food to have energy and feel better, I gave it to myself. And the scale did the right thing for once. I’m now back on track, February is looking great, so I just need to keep at it.

In the world of adulting, we have a date tentatively in April to get both our bathrooms remodeled. The planning process took about two hours, and then writing the biggest check we’ve written since the down payment for the house, but it’s all taken care of, and supposedly each one will be done in a week. I’m excited! Big 2024 adulting goal, check.

We also finally took down inside Christmas (what? we were sick, give us some slack) and mostly cleaned up the garage. We need one more push this month to get the last 20% and we’ll finally have both cars back in! Woo!

The last adulting thing I have on my list is cleaning out the fridge. This one is also on the list for February – we normally get forced into the issue because of a freeze/power outage (at least the last three years), so if this doesn’t happen, we’ll just do it the old-fashioned way, not under duress, later this month.

Before you know it, these times will be here!

I had dealing with the pool on the list but by this point, we may as well wait for it to get a little warmer and just start getting it prepped for use. The benefit of getting it covered over the winter is not a big deal anymore since the leaves already did their thing this year and we did two rounds of major leaf patrol. At least we have the big cover for this fall when it’s time to put the pool to bed for the year.

Onto the fun stuff! I picked up my guitar three times. It was nice to reconnect with it. My fingers are a little clumsy, but I remember how to play even after a few months. I finished the last Germany 2023 pictures this week and have started to sort Paris 2022. I’m making a goal to get through them (at least sorting them, if nothing else) by end of February. I’m at 93k words in Book 2 and truly closing in on the ending (the weekend I was sick I just really zoned out and wrote all day both days and made some great progress last weekend too). I’ve got a goal to get an editable draft done by birthday camping time. It’ll be close (possibly done DURING the trip, hehe). I haven’t touched my paints, and probably won’t until after the draft is done.

5 nights here? Okay, if I have to…

We decided, after much looking at tropical islands, to go camping at Canyon Lake for my birthday for 5 days. Everything was super expensive during my birthday since it butts up against spring break. We also had some questions about whether we could travel that far for reasons that are reasons no longer, so we just made the call to just chill out in the urban woods for a few days and go on pretty hikes and Joel will make me some excellent food in celebration of my progression to my next triathlon age group. Still need to arrange the rest of the year for travel, I am still planning on a Bonaire trip and something in Europe. February goals? Probably.

So, this tiny little short but longer than normal month, goals are:

  • Survive the half marathon, and then keep running after but shorter
  • Weights 3x week non-negotiable
  • 29 days of counting calories and 185.4 or lower trendweight
  • Clean out garage and fridge
  • Finish sorting Paris photos
  • Finish first edit readable draft of Book 2
  • Plan travel for the year

Sounds like a lovely month to meeeee!

January, we meet again

Ah, January. My nemesis.

It’s not that I can’t get down with some chilly days, like today, where I have a totally valid excuse to sit under blankets by the fire. It’s that on the nice ones, when I go play outside, you hit us with allergies, so I’m sneezing and sniffling by the fire under my blankets. MUCH LESS FUN, JANUARY.

But… I was not going to do a 10-mile run that I already had a lack of motivation to do on the treadmill when it was absolutely perfect outside besides the dusting of posionous pollen I took. It makes no sense. My suffering today is mild compared to what almost 2 hours on the treadmill would have been.

I digress. I came here to recap week one and two of the year with the new goals and tracking and super fun stuff like that. Let’s start with the physical.

#1 Lose 1 lb a month OR track for 365 days/weigh 5x week

Well, so far so good on the tracking! I have weighed and measured every day. I’m going to go ahead and give it the full month before I talk about many numbers here for a few reasons. First, I definitely cherry-picked my days to weigh in November and December. My average weight went WAYYY up in January, and I don’t think it’s that I magically gained 2-3 lbs overnight, it’s that I stopped taking any days of “oh crap, that’s what ‘guest’ weighs” and owned each one. Second, I started the month with four days of bloat, which spiked it up. We’re relearning, after most of 2023 not dealing with this, how all that works (and how frustrating it is). I can say my trendweight is somewhere between 187-188 and so at the end of the month, my hope is for a) stabilization and b) for it to be 186-187 (1lb down).

Food tracking has gone well, and I’ve got some idea of maybe why the weight is trending the way it is 🙂

  • Week 1: -718 calories
  • Week 2: 1511 calories

Not having drinks every other day or so sorta helps the cause. I look at my weeks Monday – Sunday, and if you do it that way, I successfully limited myself to 2 days of measured drinks (which stayed within my calorie range both days). Because I’m the queen of spontaneity, I’ve actually scheduled which day of the week I can potentially have beverages. I know it sounds weird AF, but as a planner, it helps me.

#2 Continuing to earn my right to run

I’ve done quite well here!

Feeling less stabby lately but, yeah, sometimes…
  • 3x week, strength training. Check week 1, check week 2. Again, nothing I do is more important than this, so unless I have a specific injury keeping me from it, these sessions are first priority.
  • Consistent recovery. I missed one day where I only iced but did three the next day to make up for it – so two a day successfully reached. Week 1 I only rolled and stretched 2x. Week 2 I rolled 3x and stretched 2.5x (some, but not a full stretch so I didn’t count it). Baby steps. We’ll get it.
  • Run 3x week.
    • Week 1: Monday 2 mi, Wednesday 5 mi, Friday 3 mi, Sunday 7 mi (with a last finishing mile of 9:11! I decided to go for a slightly shorter but faster run) = 17 miles
    • Week 2: Tuesday 5k speedwork (quarter mile alternating 11 min/9 min mile pace), Thursday “hill” run (it’s hilly around work!), Saturday 10 miler (slow and steady) = 16.2 miles
    • Week 3 is a stepback week so likely 5k, 5k, and then 6-8 miles on the weekend.
  • Cardio on other days
    • Week 1 I took Tuesday completely off but walked 5 miles Thursday and 2 miles Saturday
    • Week 2 I mostly made use of the elliptical (which I definitely need to remember when it’s hot as well!). 40 mins Monday, 15 mins Wednesday, 15 mins + 20 mins brisk walk (it was cold AF!) Friday.
    • Week 3? Might be a challenge with the weather and the circumstances but I’ll do my best!

While it’s a little bit of “here we are, we are here” with the number on the scale, I’m starting with such a better base of health and healthy habits in 2024 than I did in 2023. I’ve had a full year of good strength training, base running, and overall consistent activity. I’m not a weak little broken noodle. When the numbers on the scale go back down, I’ll definitely be happier with how I look and feel than before. I’m happy with my trajectory and just need to make sure everyone and everything (especially me) stays out of my damn way here.

Let’s pretend it’s still fall here for a moment.

I did finally sign up for the Austin Half Marathon and the Cap 10k. This will only be my 3rd time at the Austin half (2009, 2012) and my first at Cap 10k. I skipped 3M mostly because I didn’t like the shirt, but I also didn’t want to compare myself to 2019 and 2020 me there. I’m in shape to run a decent race, but not PR pace, so I didn’t want to be disappointed. Neither of these are PR races (read: HILLY!) so the goal is just to go out and go hard and see what happens!

Alrighty, let’s swing on over to the personal, since we have made some progress there too!

#3 Adulting

  • We cleaned out the freezer. Honestly, we didn’t have enough trash space for anything else, so the fridge cleanout is on hold until we can get a little time to do it. It needs it. There’s a jar of pickles, one of like 10 jars of pickles or pickled products we have, that I actually can’t pick up because it’s too stuck to the shelf. 😛
  • Joel is awesome and found one company to come out in a few weeks to give us a master bathroom quote. I am on the hook to look for 1-2 more for comparison.
  • We have an appointment with an accountant in the area to talk tax stuff later this month.

I would really, really like to complete the garage clean out this month ahead of the inevitable freeze/ice storm we’ll have in February, but that may be a tall order. We’ll see.

#4 Staying Happy and Well Rounded

I have made it a goal to be the force of calm around the household and work. Sometimes we all get busy and overwhelmed and in our own heads and start leaking stress all over the place, riling people up unnecessarily, and snapping at people who unintentionally trigger us. I’m going to do the opposite of all that, trying to project an aura of even-tempered peacefulness. When I have to do unpleasant things, I’ll do them calmly and firmly, without incensed passion. I dunno if I’ll make it the whole year, but I’m going to try. Daily meditation (two full weeks and counting!) helps.

Not much photo editing but not NONE!
  • I’ve made probably about 10-15k more words than I had when I last wrote here (closing in on 75k). I think this book will be a little longer than the last, as I’m definitely not at the ending yet.
  • I’ve not been doing some much photo editing lately (trying to write more!) but slowly working through Germany in August.

No firm travel plans yet, but hopefully we’ll at least have winter and spring trips settled by the end of the month.

What does this look like on the calendar?

Remember that I count Monday to Sunday for things, and drinks during vacation the first week don’t count 🙂

When I check in at the end of the month, I’ll do a full progress/calendar thingee like I did last year, but for now, I simply continue to show up and do all the things that I’ve been doing.

2024: showing up and becoming one

Ah, the fresh smell of a shiny new year. I do love a good fresh start.

New years, new hairs, it 2024 me

I spent some time reflecting on how the last few years have changed me, and I think I came up with an interesting metaphor. Let’s try it on here. In 2018, I got my ish together, stopped meandering, stopped playing like everything was indifferent to me, and I really started climbing the proverbial rope of achievement. I was one whole me climbing towards what I wanted personally (personal goals and achievements), physically (body composition, triathlon, etc), and professionally.

In 2020, when the world shut down, it’s like I fractured into three pieces. Physical me just let go of the rope and crashed to the ground. I went from (for me) prime athletic condition to feeling like a dumpster on fire. Personal me kinda stalled out on the rope a bit, swung myself up to an alcove, hung out there a bit, drew on the walls, sang a few songs to myself, etc. Professional me watched those two idiots and though, “No, we can’t ALL screw up, I guess it’s up to me.” And that one, unfettered by the others, climbed really fast and really far and she’s at the summit, waving at the others, waiting for them to catch up.

And oh, the interesting places and literal buildings I’ve climbed because of it…

After the year of being lost (hey, it was 2020, it was all the rage), personal me got back on track in early 2021 climbing that rope. I certainly can’t say I spent the year of the pandemic doing nothing, far from it, but it was a really weird one and my steps back to normalcy included restarting writing here. She’s climbing pretty well now, writing voraciously since the Muse showed back up a year ago, working on lots of various creative personal projects, not completely ignoring her surroundings, doing some kind of adulting things occasionally, and not zoning out to TV or doom scrolling too much. She’s a reasonably functioning human again. She’s also found a middle ground, somewhere between the indifference and the megamaniacal. Not to say there’s no stress (far from it) but she’s getting better at putting things in boxes again and taking them out when it’s useful instead of just staring at all the things all of the time.

In late 2022, physical me got back on the rope after a few false starts, and she’s been slowly, but steadily climbing. In some ways the medication I’m taking that’s helping some physical symptoms and as a side effect, keeping me more even tempered, is also challenging me here. Right now, in terms of weight loss and the scale, it feels like the rope got slicker, more difficult to grip. But slick doesn’t mean unclimbable. I am buoyed by a full year (since Oct 2022) of consistent strength training, and I’ve finally rebuilt my running base with a slow, careful, and consistent increase. I am a strong, functional human with some decent endurance, which is more than I’ve been able to say in the last few years. I’ve established some good habits, and some bad habits, and this year it’s all about encouraging the right ones. We are what we repeatedly do.

So, what am I looking to repeatedly do this year? I used to think I wanted to be the person I was pre-pandemic. That’s not true anymore. In some respects, I wear rose-colored glasses regarding her and frankly, she had her own sins and failings that I gloss over. While I’d kill to have her body, I’d prefer my mind. So, what really do I envy about her?

This one, the 2019 me, showed up relentlessly and found amazing things about consistently doing what’s difficult.

I miss her relentless ability to keep showing up, even when it was frustrating, even when it was terrifying, walking through the fire, no matter what was in front of her. So, that’s what I’m going to try to embrace this year. Showing up to fight, to climb, to move towards the various things I want until I feel like all my selves feel like one again.

Let’s start with the physical me, since I think she has the farthest to climb, though she certainly is far from the me who crashed to the ground. At the end of 2024, I’d feel over the moon if I could make some serious progress back towards looking and (most importantly) feeling physically fit. Someone who could describe themselves as an athlete again without snickering.

How do we do this? (hey look, specific goals and actions finally!)

#1 Lose 12 lbs or track 365 days of food/5x week weight

I’ve tried to do this a bunch of different ways to no avail. Or some partial avail. But definitely not full avail. In 2024, I’ll set a dual win condition. I’d like to lose 1 lb per month. Easy, right? Hah. I wish. But at least it sounds simple. The other way I succeed here is relentlessly tracking my metrics and balancing my calories in/out. Showing up every day to face the scale and own up to my decisions, good or bad. The latter will beget the former, as I’ve seen in the past.

This’ll get me close to looking like this human again.

I will do this by doing all the same things I’ve been doing, so I won’t belabor the point, it’s just that I’m committed to do this for 365 days without fail. One additional goal: to cut down on my favorite brown relaxant (whiskey). Besides being empty calories, it’s been a crutch as a cue to cut loose and relax and destress a little. I need to establish other ways to do that, the choice isn’t always “have drinks or go to bed at 8:30pm like you’re 70 years old”. I will do this by remembering there are other fun and relaxing things to do after work (games! going to a movie! probably a million other things!) and measuring out the number of drinks I’m willing to have before I do imbibe (so as to not break my calorie bank).

#2 Continue to earn my right to run

In this, my fourteenth season of doing triathlons and fifteenth doing running races, I realize that my goals and interests ebb and flow here over the years. I am honestly not sure where I’ll be, or frankly, where I’ll be interested in being in December 2024. I do know this – keeping my “runner” card is one of the most important things for my happiness, health, and sanity, so I’m going to focus my goals here on keeping that membership and maybe trying to move up to gold status or something.

This is priority #1 in staying in run club

In 2024 I will show up each day/week to do:

  • 3x week, strength training. This is, and will always be henceforth, priority #1. There is no running without weights. Me without weights is an injured, broken me.
  • Consistent recovery. I need to hit at least two recovery methods (boots, ice, stretch, roll) per day, and shouldn’t go more than 2-3 days without hitting each one (e.g. I need to stretch 3x week not just do the boots/ice every day since it’s easy). There is no consistent running without recovery.
  • Run 3x week. Yep, third priority behind strength and recovery. I want to run longer in the seasons with nice weather, shorter in the summer when I split my focus to triathlon but show up even if the weather suuuuucks (and remember that I have a treadmill half a mile down the street).
  • Keep walking on non-running days until it gets hot as balls and then do those low intensity miles on the trainer to compensate the lack of steps even though it’s way less fun.
  • Once running gets shorter, pick up cycling and swimming again. Do these at least 1-2 times a week each when it’s time.

Races? I’d like to do at least one official half-marathon (and run the whole way), and the same three triathlons I did this year. Would it be cool to hit some other races? Yeah. Maybe a 5k or 10k? Possibly.

Someday, I’ll get back on a bike. Until then, there’s running.

How about some speedwork instead of just heading out to do 10:30-10:45 min/miles no matter how short or long they are? That’d be cool too. But again, right now I’m focusing on keeping my body in good condition so I can show up consistently to keep doing the things I want to do.

Let’s move onto the personal. Like I said, she’s more or less back on track after the great meandering which was the pandemic, and the great work/life imbalance, which was during and immediately after. I feel like the non-professional, non-athlete aspects of identity are mostly intact. The way I judge this is imagine introducing myself to someone without mentioning my job or that I did an Ironman.

“Hi, nice to meet you. Me? I really enjoy running, lifting weights, and taking long walks – in beautiful places when I can – but if not, just getting my errands done on foot brings me great joy. When I can, I snap tons of photographs in interesting places and edit them later and post them on Facebook to annoy and confuse people about where I’m currently located. Oh, yeah, I paint sometimes too, when the mood strikes. My goal when I was little was to fill my house with my own paintings someday, and while I’m definitley not there, I’ve got about 20 canvases hung. I finally got some inspiration and started working on a novel about my silly genderfluid bard from a previous D&D campaign last year and I’m rounding the bend on book 2, and I’m casually playing in a few different current campaigns. I play games for either 5 minutes or 5000 hours, and my current more-than-5-minute addictions are Bloodbowl and Peglin.”

I maded all of dese (and more)

In previous years, I couldn’t have called myself so well-rounded. In a world where a fulfilling job and a time-consuming hobby like racing is probably more than enough for many, I’m happy to have other sides of me to fall back on should either of those come crumbling down (like with racing during the pandemic).

One thing I haven’t done so well at – pre- or post- pandemic – is adulting. Some people are so good at this, and as an achiever, I should be so excited to check things off my list but I’d much rather go run 10 miles than call around and get bathroom quotes or find a tax person or clean out the freezer. Often, I HAVE employed that tactic of filling my time with other things so I had a good excuse not to deal with it (I’m training for a half-ironman, I’m busy, I’ll clean out my closet later). Since it’s the most challenging to me, I’m starting there. In 2024 I will:

#3 Adulting Stuff

No description available.
Behold! A cleaned-out pantry with only food we actually eat!
  • Complete the kitchen cleanout – we did the pantry, just need to do the fridge/freezer.
  • Redo the Master Bath. If that goes well, maybe replace the tub in the guest bath.
    • Finish the great bedroom/bathroom cleanout. We made such great progress over break, there’s just a little more to go.
    • Get some quotes and get someone to do the work.
  • Project: move Joel’s office to the guest room.
    • Move the storage at the end of the bed in the guest room to the bedroom.
    • Clear all the rest of the furniture out of the guest room.
    • Determine whether we need to store one of the beds in the attic (would prefer if we can do it without).
  • Turn Joel’s current desk (in my office) into a retro gaming corner with the new consoles we just acquired/store any unused crap in the closet.
  • Get the garage back to a place where two cars can fit in it, not using one side as the recycling station/storage/staging area.
Spending the last year with my office like this vs piles of junk? So much more zen.

These are big, shared projects that I can’t just do on my own, so my success is tied to Joel’s motivation here too. My goal will be to be as motivated and helpful as I can so we can tackle them together.

My sub-goal is to notice when clutter starts to pile up on/in things and try to spend at least a few hours a month just getting stuff that is no longer useful or enjoyable to own from places where it has gone to disappear and die for years. For example, I cleaned out my shoe closet last week so I could offer Joel some space there. I’m sitting here eyeing our coffee table which has a bunch of storage, and I have NO idea what’s in almost any of it. Little stuff like that.

Also, a few other non-house-related things:

  • Get a dedicated accountant to help us with money stuff. I’m sick of paying penalties because I’m lazy and not employing experts to help me.
  • Frame more of the art in the tube of death. We do, in fact, have wall spaces and I have room in my office.

And, now back to the fun stuff. The things that bring me joy and fulfillment, not dread and annoyance.

#4 Staying Happy and Well-Rounded

My first goal here is to not confuse work travel with vacation. I made that mistake this year and it bit me in the posterior. I will travel once a quarter for personal reasons, and I won’t take stupid half days during it so I can make meetings and check my email and teams all throughout it. If I have to do that, it doesn’t count. Like I tell my people, paid vacation time is a perk, and it’s not intended to mean you’re not in the office but still tied to your devices.

Very much looking forward to my happy place.

We’ve got nothing booked, but some intentions:

  • Likely somewhere for my birthday in March. Vegas?
  • Bonaire in May-ish. It’s been too dang long since I did a dive trip.
  • Somewhere in Europe after anticipated work travel in Sept. Maybe a cruise to get a taste of a bunch of different places?

Our only camping plans right now are our yearly Krause Springs and Kerrville long weekends. I think we’re both a little frustrated with the camper and want less work with our time away. It’s something to think on a more permanent solution, but maybe not solve this year.

In terms of all my various and sundry hobbies, I’m going to set two actual goals:

  • Finish Book 3 in 2024 and have a loose roadmap through the end. I’m making this a goal because this has become one of my favorite things I’m most proud right now. It was something super intimidating to me and I relentlessly started showing up and writing through the uncertainty. I’m at the point of “despair” in Book 2 – meandering, rudderless, crappy first draft words about 2/3rds of the way through with no clear vision how it ends. But I conquered it once, and I’ll conquer this one again. And again.
  • Finally edit the damn Paris pictures by the end of 2024. Yep, I said it. I’ve been putting it off since it’s THOUSANDS each day to sort through. I keep clearing other projects first, saying I’ll get to it. I’ll never be that caught up. It’s next after I finish Germany.
I’m coming for you, Paris. I mean the pictures. Going there again would be cool too.

Other than this, I’ll just set some intentions:

  • I started a London At Night series of paintings and I picked things that intimidate me (a perfect circle, they all have perspective, etc). I want to tackle these this year, and spend some time on the fiddly bits, working on improving my technique not just finish them and move on (quality over quantity).
  • I’m not sure I need any special motivations to keep taking photos, editing them, and posting travel blogs, but I’ll mention that I want to because it makes me happy.
  • I meant to get really into a bunch of different games, but instead, I started playing Peglin, this rogue-lite peggle game that Joel’s played for 125 hours and watching the Great Brittish Baking Show. Somehow it feels less legitimate than playing something like Baulder’s Gate III or Persona 5 (neither of which I touched over break), but it’s better than just noping out because I don’t want something serious or that I have to put my full attention on. I’ll just state this intention: play more games. Even if it’s just Peglin. 🙂
  • Get back to playing guitar. No specific interval or goals. It’s just a really nice monofocus activity and a great break from work and relaxes me.
Three things keeping me sane in 2020 in one photo – guitar, Bloodbowl, and camping.

And finally, how do we keep track of all this? We keep metrics for the important stuff. I’m trying the absolute lowest-tech method (along with all the other ways I track):

Print 2 Week Calendar | Month Calendar Printable

Yep, I’m going to the good old piece of paper and pen, like a heathen, and giving myself proverbial gold stars by writing down the things that I show up to each day (and what I miss). It’ll be my accountability for my consistency. And consistency will finally bring together the pieces in places I feel I’ve been lacking.

2023 – where I showed up

The other day, I heard someone say, “Remember Rihanna’s halftime Superbowl show? Yeah, that was this year.”

Pretty sure this happened about 5 years after February 2023

And holy effing schneikes, that did really cement in my mind how LONG of a year 2023 felt. I won’t say it was the worst year – far from it – but gosh it did feel like it cracked on for ages.

Let’s hit the highlights:

I got another shiny new promotion, and it was a really big one. Unlike the last few that came quickly, I didn’t think “I didn’t expect to be here yet” but it was really more like “I didn’t expect to be here, ever”. This one has not been without its challenges, but it’s a huge opportunity for me to continue to learn and grow and expand my ability to help great people do great things. It’s a far cry from five years ago, when I felt like I was stagnating and was really pushing myself to expand my knowledge, expertise, and responsibility, and hoo boy, what a ride it’s been since then. I’d say I’m extremely lucky, but I mean that in the way of Luck = Preparation + Opportunity. I have to give myself some credit for the hard work I’ve done to get here once I found myself in the right place at the right time.

Awww, these hopeful feets of mine would indeed run and walk a lot!

I have earned the right to run again. I’ll talk about this one more below in the goals section, but it’s worth mentioning under highlights. I weight trained consistently every month, which meant I stayed relatively uninjured so I could run every month, and I was patient and stayed at 5k for around 9 months, just building a base again, before I started stretching that further in October. Now, I’m just a few weeks away from my first double digit run and seven weeks away from running (not PRing but not limping through) a half marathon. Some days I don’t want to go, and some days aren’t the best runs ever, but after losing it for a few years, the ability to get out there and tromp around my neighborhood a few times a week is not something I will ever take for granted again.

This one may sound stilly but it was also almost half a decade in the making. After 11 seasons and over 1500 hours of playing the damn game, I won my first KIBBL Bloodbowl championship. I did it with Amazons, a team that I never quite clicked with except right at the end when I did, which was also a team that hadn’t won the league yet, so I couldn’t be accused of picking something “easy”. And then the league kind of imploded. About 8 of us left are playing half-heartedly. I’m really glad I was able to get the W before that happened. I still intend to make a damn championship shirt but the time to do it has probably reasonably passed.

We #1, finally!!!

On boxing day last year, the Muse woke me up at 2am with an idea about how to take my 250 pages of notes and 60+ videos from our D&D campaign and turn it into a book (I think at that time, I thought just one, how adorbs). This year, I finished a second-edit pass of my FIRST book, sent it off to four beta readers for feedback, and am probably about 50% through the crappy first draft version of Book 2! My writing buddy ran it through an AI program (Auto Crit) and while he simply can’t stop reminding me that HIS (half-finished) draft is clocking in at a .1% higher score than mine in one genre, we’re both around 87% which apparently is “wow, this could be a best seller” territory (take that with a shaker of salt, though I appreciate the AI buttering me up). I’m absolutely thrilled I’ve made so much progress in a year.

In all of these situations, I can see patience, persistence, and perseverance with correct prioritization to get to the potential and promise. I took something that challenged me, that I was interested in conquering, and didn’t let frustrations or setbacks defeat me. If I could look at every goal in my life that mattered under this lens, I’d have no regrets.

Oh, the Places We Went

We raced three sprint triathlons and they were all moderately successful!

First CapTex in a decade? Done and dusted.

No placement awards or unicorn performances, but no implosions or DNFs. Just good, solid racing at my current capacity. Compared to 2021 and 2022? I’ll effing take it.

And… travel! Somehow so, so, so much and not enough at the same time.

Two and a half days with this view was a nice way to end June’s EU trip.

We already have resolutions for more non-work trips next year, as you’ll notice January was the last time we had a week off, everything else was either work or a long weekend where we probably worked half the time anyway (except for the Arch trip, I was good there). More regularly scheduled non-work vacation next year!

So, the lowlights:

While I definitely handled work/life balance better than the past in terms of hours worked, I often spent too much mental energy on things I shouldn’t have dwelled on outside of those hours, and I let stress get me all riled up about dumb stuff when I just needed to make like the cucumber and be cool. Moving up so quickly has been mostly a blessing, but it has taken a huge shift in perspective which at times is challenging. It’s hard to say “damn the man” when you ARE the man. Luckily, my near future goals with this position are not to find the next place to climb, but to acclimate and become better at the job I have now. For the first time in five years, I’m not expecting a new title anytime soon and it’s actually a source of relief. While I’ve been assured I’m doing well, I’d like to feel, in my own head, like I fit what people call me now a little bit better and that will just take some time and attention.

Some of this stress was a literal physical imbalance, and I’ve been much better in the last two months since I’ve taken steps to fix it. The drawback here has been that it put about 4-5 lbs on me overnight and they haven’t gone away. I was 9-10 lbs down before that and it felt real bad having that just sliced in half by something outside of my control. Starting it around the holidays sure didn’t help either, I’ve been tracking my calories, and they surely aren’t in weight loss territory, but I should not have had an extra sack of potatoes appear on my body one week for no reason and not leave.

Also, weirdly enough, I’m not immortal and I’m starting to feel my age a little the last few months. Besides actually being on some sort of medication now, my new lenses are progressives (a little bit of “reader” glasses in the bottom), and I started taking Ginko Biloba for my memory like a grandma. I suppose that maybe it’s time at almost 45 for these things to happen, but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

Let’s talk specifics for my 5 yearly goals:

#1 Weigh 165 by December 31st.

Here we at right now, buff but a little extra fluff

Nope, but it’s not all bad news, as I said, I managed to shave off about 5 lbs this year. That’s a big thumbs up from previous years. I also will say that my 184-5 lbs right now is remarkably stronger, leaner, and more capable than where I was at the same weight a few years ago because of lifting. I was really consistent, missing only a few weeks of 3x week strength training this whole year (and in all cases, for good reason during travel or due to injury).

Can eat whatever I want, especially tacos. But it has to be tracked.

However, I tracked my food inconsistently. I went back and counted and I missed 14 of 52 weeks. Y’know what? 12 of those weeks were in the second half of the year, when I stopped making progress. I tell myself this all the time, but it’s worth repeating. TRACKING IS WHAT MAKES THE MAGIC HAPPEN. Even if the numbers are bad, at least we KNOW the numbers are bad and we’re motivated to take the steps to make them better.

Looks like someone needs to show up everyday and maybe I’ll get the progress I’m expecting. I’ll give myself a C grade for these efforts this year. Not a failure, but just average.

#2 Strength Over Stamina

There’s a bunch of speed related triathlon goals in here that frankly, I’m not really worried about and I’m also not worried about tracking. There will be a time when the idea of speedwork clicks again, and when it does, I’ll probably kick myself for taking this long to get back to it. However, I really needed the year to do one thing: earn the right to run again. Which I have. And it’s been glorious.

Wasn’t sure I’d ever run a 10k again but here I went on Thanksgiving!

And walking! I have learned to love the walk and also use it to increase my stamina. Should I be cycling or swimming more? Sure. But for now, I’m happy with the focus on #1 Weights, #2 Running, #3 Other Activities (including walking)

Some yearly stats on running and walking:

  • 2020 Run (141 mi), Walk (?) <- it says none, but I’m SURE I tracked some walks 😛
  • 2021 Run (204 mi), Walk (239 mi)
  • 2022 Run (135 mi), Walk (140 mi)
  • 2023 Run (310 mi), Walk (321 mi) (and I still have a few days of runs and walks to go!)
You get to see a lot of cool things walking 300+ miles!

Let me also note that in 2020 I was training for a freakin’ Ironman for 2 months before the pandemic shut it down, a half Ironman which I actually completed on that meager mileage in 2021, a 50-mile (read: 9 miles of running) triathlon in 2022, and nothing but sprints (max, 3-mile run) in 2023. The mileage up there makes a lot of sense, right?

I will give myself some kudos for aggressively recovering. My goal this year was to do two forms of recovery per day (massage boots, ice, stretch, roll), and I can’t think of many days beyond travel or extenuating circumstances where I didn’t do that. Where I could do better is not gravitate towards the same two all the time (massage boots and ice are the easiest), and while it’s better than nothing, stretching is really important and I do it the least, and using the massage foam roller gets places the boots don’t.

For my expectations, I’ll give myself a B. I was really damn consistent with weights, and my run and walk volume almost tripled last year. I hit the important stuff, and I’m above-averagely happy.

#3 Not Ignoring My Surroundings

I did things here!

  • We cleaned out the workout room, and it’s been fully usable as a cycling/weights room for all of 2023, which has really helped with strength training consistency.
  • We did the cleanout thing in the guest room, but sadly, it’s now messed up a completely different way, but that’s a project for 2024 (spoilers).
  • The office got cleared out and set up as my office/music room. It’s not 100% perfect (there are a few stray boxes I can’t seem to keep stored anywhere) but it’s my Zen place to go to work and play music instead of squeezing myself into a spot in various corners of the house in between a bunch of other random crap.
  • I mostly cleaned off the vanity in the bathroom and mostly cleaned off the bathroom counter. Something in 2024 will force this to happen so I’m happy I made progress.
  • I did a purge of all of my drawers and my giant piles of crap on top of my dresser and nightstand are gone.
  • We did a huge closet cleanout for Joel, a cleanout of the linens/sports gear, and cleaned out our shoe storage. There’s an overstuffed car full of things going to goodwill, and our closets are now again the right size instead of too small.

We did not remodel the bathroom yet, but we’re looking into options, and this will definitely be a 2024 goal, along with a few other things we plan to do with the rest of our holiday break.

I will give this a B-. I made progress but not with solid consistency. I really could show up here for like 2 hours every month to make incremental progress and be impressed with where I’m at a year from now with projects that just seem annoyingly overwhelming but really aren’t.

#4 Relaxing Hobbies:

My intention here is not necessarily to aggressively progress here, but to remind myself there’s stuff I like doing way better than binge watching shows I’ve seen a million times and doomscrolling social media. Occasionally, one needs to do that, and it’s totally okay. However, most of the time I’m much happier after a photo edit session, playing a game or the guitar, or hitting submit on a travel blog, so I need to remind my brain to gravitate towards that sustained hit dopamine of monofocusing creatively vs the quick, easy hit of being force fed content someone else created.

Krause Springs 2023 pics were edited in record time, but somehow I have 2000 pics from 2022 left

Photo editing/travel blogs: Paris 2022 continues to be that project I just can’t get back to, for some reason, but I’m otherwise caught up to trips through August this year. I’m working on some smaller ones before I tackle the 1000+ pictures I took at the Louve only. As I finish the sets, I’ve been pretty good at adding a travel blog for them, even if it’s months later.

Painting: Ehhhh. I finished a cool set of geometric paintings, but it took me 4 months. I painted the Eiffel Tower and some ornaments and probably some minis too. But… I could definitely paint more. I have some hurdles here with feeling like I have the space to do it, and also, I find the time that Joel spending painting is my writing time instead, so creativity is happening. But I do love slapping acrylic on canvas, so I need to make sure it happens SOMETIMES.

Guitar really fell off second half of the year, to the point where I didn’t even play the Christmas song I know during the Christmas season, because I didn’t play. I did learn a new song this year. I’m not sure if I have problems to solve here or habits to make, or whether it’s just okay if I pick up the guitar when I feel like it.

Meditation was inconsistently consistent (it was good most of the year but fell off occasionally and definitely in the last month). That’s one of those I need to re-up for 2024.

Playing Games was fair to middling. This was real slow most of the year besides Bloodbowl, but I did pick up a few new games (Peglin, Baulder’s Gate III, Persona 5) and with the Steam Deck I got for Christmas, I anticipate good things here in 2024 with the ability to play the Steam Deck anywhere.

I do have to realize I only have so much time and attention without stressing myself out about it, and thinking about how I spent my time over the year, I cycled through my relaxing hobbies, prioritizing what was fun and made me happy throughout the year. Only the type-A flower sniffing champion would give themselves a grade on doing relaxing hobbies. So, let’s get on with it, shall we? If I was pressed, probably a B.

#5 Write a Book or Two

I won’t belabor the point since it’s in my super-highlights of the year, but I’m so glad the Muse decided to give me inspiration for Christmas last year. It’s like one of those pieces of me I lost in 2020 finally came back and I feel a bit more whole again. A+, if I can’t give myself an A+++. I’m thrilled with my progress and even more so my motivation to continue happily plugging away at these books until they’re done.

Last year, my words for 2022 were promise, potential, and priority.

For 2023? I think I’m going to break that tradition. I’m going to give the year overall the grade of a B and summarize thusly: I can see where I showed up and where I did not. Where I stayed consistent and didn’t let frustrations or it “being too hard” drag me down? I won. Where I let myself off the hook with regularity and let myself get in the way? I didn’t.

So, what’s on tap for next year? I really think it’s just showing up. More particulars once we get to the other side.

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