Adjusted Reality

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

On giving up…

It’s only January and I’m talking about giving up. But it’s actually a really good thing, I promise…

It’s time to chase this face instead of doing things I “should” be doing…

My facebook post about this race came up in the “three years ago” memories. Joel sent it to me in a message with the comment – “I haven’t seen you look this happy in years.” He’s not wrong. I want to be this happy again and my 2022 path needs to change if I want to make that happen.

After limping through Kerrville last year, building to an Ironman seemed reasonably doable, even with a break. I took one in October, because I really, really needed it. Then as the weather started to be the loveliest version of fall, I started running again. It was going really well for a while! I resumed weight training and swimming too after joining a second gym, and it all seemed copacetic. Maybe the Ironman would be possible after all! In November, I think my hopes were the highest.

Always at my happiest when I can run, though the smile is a little different.

Then, in mid-December, I came down with cranky heel syndrome (yes, it’s the technical term). For about a month, even on vacation, we maintained cycling base (30-90 min rides) and strength work. I was pretty nervous by that point, but figured after I returned from the cruise, then I’d come back rested and hit it super hard. Instead, I returned sick as an effing dog, and I hit the bed and Pedialyte reps instead. I was terrified it was Covid, and thankfully tested negative, but still endured almost 2 weeks of low energy, digestive issues, major dehydration, and alternating between being a sleep monster (literally could only work and sleep) and unable to sleep because of some sort of skin reaction that made me itch like a mofo. I finally coaxed the demon out of my meatbag earlier this week, realized I’m 3 months away from Ironman and started freaking out.

This is not the way to start a year or a training cycle. So, maybe I just won’t.

I think I’ve decided to give up on Ironman Texas. I am not excited about it in the slightest. Ironman takes heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, and a whole lotta fire in your belly to complete. I have NONE of that toward this effort. It feels like an obligation me-three-years-ago made, so I “should” do it. Screw that. I wanted it in 2020. Putting in the work was a challenge that made me smile. Right now it doesn’t. When you think of something so beautiful as the Ironman experience, the inexplicable joy of suffering and rending your heart and soul bare, when you think of this as obligation, it’s the wrong fit. Period.

I can chase this crazy smile some other year

I don’t even care about the race entry fees. Making a decision to soldier forward on a bad path only due to sunk costs is a bad call. IM can consider my race fee a donation. However, I have never not started a race I signed up for except when I was injured. It’s a weird feeling to give up on it, since I don’t give up on things, but I deserve to pivot and change plans to chase my happy again. So, I shall.

Instead, we decided to sign up for ALL THE SMALLER RACES instead and chase that sh*t- eating grin of a hard-fought PR, age group medal, or just racing my arse off and feeling amazing at the finish line. In the span of 24 hours, I went from absolutely dreading everything about triathlon to smiling, thinking about the potential of the season to come, and making a race schedule and a training plan (which makes me smile because it is SO doable, where training for the IM was going to be. The utter dread has been replaced with sly smiles and utter enthusiasm. It feels SO GOOD to have the sword of Damocles that was Ironman no longer looming large. If I was iffy about my decision yesterday, I have no doubts today.

Nothing like wasting everything in the tank on the run and then trying to stand for pictures 🙂

I’m looking at these potential races for the year:

I don’t think I’ll sign up for all of them (the South Padre and No Label are the first that would drop off, in that order), but the idea of some more frequent race/camp weekends sounds like SO MUCH FUN. I get to return to X-50 at Texasman, which I really enjoyed in 2014 (wow, it’s been EIGHT YEARS?) and it’s enough distance to encourage me to maintain some volume this spring, but not to the point where I shouldn’t be able to reasonably knock out a race distance swim, bike, or run rather comfortably at any time. I would like another crack at Kerrville to see if I can, by that time, race a half ironman instead of limp through one, but I’m open to doing the sprint or Olympic if the idea of some longer training sounds like an obligation instead of an exciting challenge.

I need some swagger back, and that takes feeling good in my skin again

This change also allows me to continue to focus on getting strong and body composition. In November, I couldn’t even do one pushup from my toes. Yesterday, I did two sets of ten as part of my circuit. It’s not the three sets of twenty I used to easily knock out but a large improvement from two months ago. I’m very motivated to keep going here. I feel like a sturdier human being with better posture, if nothing else. With the level of training I’m planning, sticking to an average of 1500 calories per day is actually very reasonable without negative impact to my body, and should net me some results.

Really, with the reset in goals, 2022 appears to now be mirroring 2018 instead of 2017. I spent the winter getting strong, losing weight, and working form. In the Spring, I raced shorter, more frequently, and I found my mojo and started placing at races. I’m starting ~5-8 lbs higher than I was in Jan 2018, but I’d love to replicate this:

It’s doable. It takes work, care, and attention. It also takes enthusiasm. And I feel that enthusiasm now, excited to solve the problem and undertake the challenge.

So, we embark. I haveHere’s where I’m at right now and where I need to focus on the five sports:

I have not tried the Roka sausage on for quite a while. Glad I have a few months before open water!

Swim – I’m fully comfortable swimming 1-1.2k right now. I’m also slow AF right now because being injured degraded my form. My back is fine now, but my stroke is still janky. So, next steps?*

  • Swim 2x week. No pressure to rush into longer swims than 20-30 mins, but just getting to the pool twice a week is key.
  • Bring the toys and do drills. Now that I’m not worried about building my distance to swim for 2.4 miles, I can work on my form so I can swim faster.
  • Once my form feels like a fish and not a flounder, do some speedwork. But that’s not useful until I feel like I’m gliding through the water instead of muscling through it.

*With omicron spreading like wildfire right now, I’m avoiding the gym for a bit. The pool is the FIRST place I’ll feel comfortable returning to, especially the outdoor pool at Lifetime, but I’m going to give it one more week to stay away from humans just to make sure.

Bikes are always the answer. I just can’t wait when I can answer that question outside.

Bike – I’m at a comfort level of 60-90 minutes on the trainer, which should easily translate to about 1.5-2 hours outside casual road riding. I’ve been eschewing any level of effort simply to build distance since 2020, since that’s been necessary. Now it’s not! My Spring “A” Race is 40 miles on the bike, which on the TT, should take me a little over 2 hours. So, while I need to not COMPLETELY neglect some distance riding, I can focus on getting faster which just made me go “wheeeee” and also “ieeeeee” at the same time.

  • This means the dreaded FTP tests should start soon. February 1st, I’m looking at you. I need to look at it like my weight progress – this is where I’m at right now – and focus on making the 2022 number go up, not looking at how many watts I’ve lost since 2019.
  • My trainer rides mayyyybe need to be a little more focused than just watching Bloodbowl games and pedaling easily each time. Definitely 1x week needs to be speedwork if not more often. Bloodbowl games can prompt speedwork too (sprint for 60 seconds every time an elf gets injured!).
  • But also, when the Austin allergy season dies down, I need to do some outdoor rides in the sunshine. These make my heart happy.
I can’t wait to return to this run energy…

Run – my comfort level is unknown. At present time, my cranky heel is feeling happy and fine, so I’m ready to try again.* This is another area where my back injury is still effing with my form. Thankfully, if I am not worried about ramping distance so quickly, I can work on that!

  • I need to refresh myself on my pre-run drills, concentrate on my form during the run, and work hip flexibility. This helped me decrease my pace a lot in 2018, and it can work for me again this year.
  • Speedwork needs to return to my life. I’m fine keeping the runs shorter for the next two months (3-5 miles) if I can cut my pace from the 12 minute/miles closer to 10. We do this by running faster in shorter intervals.
  • I do owe myself a half marathon as a 3M virtual race, but I’ll just keep the shirt around and worst case, I’ll earn it at Kerrville completing the half. I do love long runs, I love them SO MUCH, but I need to earn the right to run again instead of faking it.

*Some unknowns about how often I can run as Austin’s air is often trying to kill me and I don’t really feel comfortable enough to run in a gym on a treadmill (read: breathe heavy around a lot of people during this Omicron BS). However, I’m willing to endure a little bit of allergy malaise to try to get out 2-3x week for short jaunts.

I’m almost back to using Black Betty-type weights!

Strength (the 4th sport): I’ve talked about this a lot, so the only thing I have to say is I’m committed to hitting this three time a week, doing whatever the trainer says to do. Like I’ve done every week since November except the week I was sick. Non. effing. negotiable. Nuff said. Let’s move on.

Nutrition (the 5th sport): Ok, here we go. I know what needs to be done. I just need to do it. Let’s call this #projectraceweight, Take 4. I’m just cutting and pasting past me’s planning and wisdom from March 2018:

  • Eat 1500 calories or less UNLESS it’s that special once a week splurge day IF you need it.
  • Eat good quality food 90% of the time.
  • Don’t eat random crap just because it’s there.  If you splurge, do it because you absolutely MUST HAVE THE THING and do that not very often.
  • This actually means a lot to you, so don’t eff it up with self-sabotage.
  • This is temporary and you are really good at maintaining your weight* once you settle somewhere, so you won’t have to be this neurotic forever.

*except in times of a pandemic, I guess.

Ready to feel comfortable in my skin again! Like she did!

All in all, I’m energized, excited, and so relieved to be following 2018’s path instead of 2017’s. Something about the shift just flipped my confidence on, I believe in myself instead of being filled with doubt and I think that’s going to make all the difference this year. I’ve made this journey before, and previous versions of myself been kind enough to detail a path to success, leaving myself this map and plan via year of blog posts, telling me how to return to my happy place.

2022 Focus and Direction

Alright, 2022, let’s do this. You and me, we’re gonna be friends, I promise.

I started you on a boat, so it can’t be all that bad!

So, let’s talk about goals. Many years previous to 2020, I would share a laundry list of the things I would like to do in all aspects of my life. This is not the year for it. I really and truly have a few important goals, and many smaller actions I need to work on to get there. Surprising no one but me after contemplation, they’re all very intertwined. Of course, I’ve got tangential personal creative projects and travel and adulting and such so I’ll also share my wishes for the various and sundry things of 2022.

Lookie, a sunrise on New Years. How novel!

Goal #1 – Establish some work-life boundaries and strategize how to use my time most effectively

It’s not often I list a work goal here, and certainly never first. I promise, it’s relevant and ties into other things too. I know that 2022 is not going to calm down. As Teal’c in Stargate says, in fact, it will “calm up”, almost certainly. I also know that it’s all very important, and it’s all very achievable. One of the best ways for me to set myself and my team up for success is to work hard but also do the things that make me a good human being outside of work so, frankly, I have more effs to give during work hours. Here are some strategies I plan to employ:

  • Making myself a daily checklist of non-work things I need/want to do and check them off (stretch, roll, ice, meditation, play guitar, etc) so I don’t ignore everything non-work related on busy days.
  • Giving myself 1 hour per day (and a half day on Friday) true focus time (no teams or email answering allowed) and blocking off time specifically to catch up on said correspondence instead of it distracting me during meetings and during my focus time.
  • Enforcing shutting down my work computer at least once a month for a fresh start. I found I would get so distracted when I had 50 tabs and 40 spreadsheets open, I couldn’t find anything and would get lost on my way to what I actually should be doing.
  • Using a daily cut off time where work ends and I’m unavailable (say, 530) UNLESS it’s an emergency that can’t wait OR I’m deep in the flow and I don’t have something pressing. If I have important focus work I still need to do, I’ll go back to my desk around 8pm after dinner and something non-work related when it’s quieter and under no circumstances will I get distracted with Teams chats that late (keeping them as unread and answering in the morning instead).
  • There are sometimes I’ll chat with various people (which I actually like chatting with) after hours. I need to make sure this is intentional and in both of our best interests to continue talking work (or socialize in some cases) rather than pick it up in the morning.
  • One of my biggest problems is I’m carrying work “home” with me a lot more than I used to. Some of this is talking, some of this is actual after hours work, but mostly it’s thinking. I do need some refractory time because my day-to-day work schedule doesn’t really allow me time to think, just do, but I also need to not spend evenings on the couch or worse, wake up in the middle of the night trying to solve all the problems. I’m going to try and write them down – that is, keep a work journal with all the various and sundry thoughts and ideas that come up whenever they appear. When I start mulling this stuff over (and over and over and over), instead, I’m going to go record. When I employ this strategy with other things, this allows me to let it go for the moment. Then, I can actually deal with it at an appropriate time, vs lying in bed at 3am having conversations with myself. This may look like more working (typing, at my desk) but I believe it will result in less working (in my head, at all hours)

This doesn’t include the actual optimization of my time at work, which includes bowing out of meetings I don’t need to be in and delegating a lot more, but trust me, this is a big one in 2022. In summary, I’m going to have to be a lot more of an arsehole with my time. Some of it feels bad and self-important. But I know I need to be more protective of the hours I have each day if I want to help us accomplish great things and not be a husk of a person at the end of it like I found myself at the end of each day, week, and year in 2021.

Remembering when I was back at my goal weight (and still wanted to lose 20 lbs, LOL). Baby steps.

Goal #2 – Be 165 lbs or less at the end of 2022.

Notice we haven’t even gotten to sport yet. I put this one second, but it also highly ties into the other two. While, yes, we’ve established I am a bit of a vain creature at times concerning my appearance, this is not just me-the-perfectionist nitpicking here. We’re so far gone, it’s affecting more than, “well, I’d like to fit in size 5, not size 7” or “I can take a few seconds off my run if I shave some weight and maybe get first instead of third at Texasman”. I’m snoring/not sleeping as well. I feel awful lugging myself around doing sporty things. Nothing fits, like, even stretchy pants and pajamas 4 sizes too big feel gross right now. I am the biggest I’ve been since I first lost weight back in 2007-8, and this trend cannot continue.

Also, I’m pretty sure I hit the opposite “thermocline” that I did when I dipped below 170 and found myself less hungry than I used to be – which made it pretty effortless to maintain that weight. Once I gained the “Covid 19” I’ve found that I’m always freaking hungry, and it’s annoying because I ain’t burning that many calories, so it’s pretty effortless to GAIN weight. So, I will endeavor to do the things I know I need to do and stop kvetching about how unfair it is and/or letting up on progress because of work stress or the fact there’s like 20 bags of chips in my house right now or whatever. If there is a way to throw money at this problem to save time that I discover along the way, I’m totally willing.

  • Track my food. Period. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing it, but I know I’m starting right now. 2022 rule: I cannot leave the dinner table and do anything else before I am caught up on food tracking each day. Nuff said.
  • Aim for 1500 calories a day average (+some tolerance for eating a little more when I’ve done over 1 hour of cardio). For example, if I do weights and an hour of cycling – 1500 calories. If I go run for an hour and a half – more like 1800-2000. The only days I should be going over 2000 calories are weekends when I’m training 3+ hours a day. And, I should aim to spread that calorie intake over two days. (Aka, if I do a 6 hour bike ride, eat ~2200 calories on Saturday and Sunday instead of trying to eat back 1500 extra calories in one day unless I’m in a period where it’s happening day after day).
  • Continue to weight train. If I end up building enough muscle that my body feels/looks good, but is above 165, I’ll still consider this a success.
  • Weigh at least 4 times a week (daily if possible but allowing for some missed days) because tracking this metric is important and it’s time for me to get over my feelers being hurt by the scale because I don’t like the number right now.
  • Make use of healthy meal delivery services (like Snap Kitchen and My Fit Foods) so we don’t have to cook to get healthy food. I’ve been whining about how you have to commit to x-amount per week but you know what? Let’s do it. I need someone to take some decision fatigue out of my life and food can be “fun” again at some point in the future when my clothes fit and I can run 8-10 minute miles again.
  • I am curious about Noom and the various and sundry other apps I’ve gotten on my Facebook ads since I clicked on Noom. Maybe I’ll try one of them. Sparkpeople.com was integral in my weight loss many moons ago, Duolingo is doing amazing for me learning German, maybe it’s time for a little more help.
Let’s try this one again…

Goal #3 Toe the line of IM Texas April 23rd AS LONG AS IT IS HEALTHY FOR ME TO DO SO

Hoooboy. It’s a long road from where I’m at to Ironman in less than 4 months (ieeeee), at least in terms of swim, bike, and run. But I remember this build, I’ve done it twice in two different ways, and I’m going to figure it out this third time, I have confidence. HOWEVER, this is a commitment I made to myself for 2020 that has been pushed 2 years. There is NO WAY IN HELL would I have signed on for it this year if it wasn’t a deferment. So, as much as I’d like to prove to myself that I’m still tough as nails even after weathering the storms which were 2020 and 2021, I have to remember that I also have the option to just walk away, anytime from now until halfway through the run on April 23rd. I’m giving myself that latitude and grace so I don’t push through something that honestly means very little to me (it’s my second Ironman, I’m not looking to PR, it’s not the race I signed up for) and end up with another year-long injury. It’s allowed to be difficult, hell, it’s allowed to suck arse through a straw in space, but it’s not allowed to ruin my May-December or jeopardize Goal #1 or #2 above.

Putting aside that I’m giving myself an out if I think it would damage me, I am going for it. Here’s the plan:

  • Do the things in Goal #1, respecting my time so I can get training in without it feeling like my entire life is work or triathlon. It’s allowed to MOSTLY feel like that, because both will be a lot, just not completely and totally because as we discussed, I need some creative, some social, and some downtime too, even if it’s not perfectly in balance this first four months of 2022.
  • Do the things in Goal #2. While there is some minimum level of swim, bike, and run I’ll need to hit to be prepared, it’s a lot less than I thought before IM season 2020, when I was pretty ready to toe the line on MANY fewer hours than 2017. However, when faced with a decision of priorities, injury prevention is the key. And the two ways I can really help that along are to strength train and carry around less weight. Any fat I can lose and muscle I can gain in the next ~4 months will really help me on this quest.
  • Put together a training plan, review each week for sanity, and commit to nailing at least 80%. I won’t lie, things will be busy from January until April. And I KNOW I won’t be perfect. But it’s approaching the time for me to hold myself accountable to doing the things I need to do to make my goals happen, no matter how difficult it feels.
  • Start getting a monthly massage again. Now that I’m not so protective of my back, I need this key piece of recovery back in my life.

Once I see how life is in May, I’ll determine what the rest of the year’s race goals are (I know I will need one of SOME sort) and how to proceed. For now, monofocus is on traversing 140.6 miles of our own accord in less than 17 hours. Period. And then I’ll figure out the rest.

Let’s all be butterflies in 2022! (emerge from our pandemic cocoons, remember how to fly, etc)

Alright, so those are the biggies. What else?

Continue to fight the urge to not fail in public and normalize the right kind of failures (those where you take a calculated risk, fail, and then learn from it) for the people around me. I’ve grown so much here over the last two years, but sometimes I’ll catch myself wanting to make like the duck (smooth and calm on the surface and paddling like heck underneath) and keep my fumbles quiet. There’s a time and a place for it, sure, and it’s fun to look effortlessly competent, but asking for help, explanations, or just struggling a bit isn’t the end of the world.

Find my new Pavlovian relaxation response, like Bloodbowl and Guitar in 2020 or reading whilst listening to ambient music in 2019 – the thing that I do to unwind and not think. Reading is good when I can get into it, but it’s not reliable anymore. 2022 could be the return of Bloodbowl, but I haven’t been playing it lately, or much of anything besides this stupid Board Kings mobile game which I kind of hate myself for because it’s such a timewaster endorphin generator (hit button, roll dice, feel happy). I need to find the thing that I can do that signals “it’s time to be happy and relax” because I realize I don’t really have that cue in my life right now.

Ready to visit some new places (and maybe favorites where I haven’t been for a while)

Figure out our travel plans, both local-ish and further out. So far I know of:

  • I started the year on a boat!
  • Camping for the Ironman race in April
  • Family cruise in May
  • 4th of July camping at Krause
  • Likely Germany over the summer
  • Some sort of diving trip
  • ???

There will definitely be some more camping in there, and I am super missing good diving in Bonaire (though we are intrigued with the dive resort we visited in Roatan) so fair chance one of those happens, but it’s all up for debate right now. My boss has a (smart, after getting through this year) strategy of working most of December but taking time off in January once all the end-of-year things are done. I may do this next year and GTFO of Austin during Cedar season or something, so that could affect travel plans too.

I need to tune this thing (I’ve been playing almost exclusively electric in 2021) so I can taunt people with barding outside my home!

Hobbies:

  • I’d like to add three new songs to my guitar repertoire
  • I’d like to complete my 9 scenery paintings and 4 underwater paintings (so I can hang them all up in collections)
  • Please, for the love of all that’s dear and fluffy, once I can stand it, crack my Fork Files back open, look at them with 2 years of perspective, and see if it’s even worth turning into a book or just filing it away as a good idea at the time but no thank you, and move onto something else. I need some fiction writing in my life again.
  • It’s now almost a joke because it’s been on the list for so long, but I would really like to set up a gallery on this site of my favorite photos, upload more to stock photo sites, and actually figure out how to “market” them with hashtags.

And last, and probably least – adulting. I’m sure there’s more, but we’ll start here.

  • Get to the damn doctor for a checkup before I turn 43. It was cute to put it off during the pandemic but it’s been over 2 years now.
  • Seriously start looking into an investment property (a duplex or four-plex). Speaking with a real estate agent we met on the cruise, while housing prices may not be going down any time soon, they’ve stabilized and interest rates for loans will probably soon go UP, so now is actually a decent time to buy.
  • Once we have an office to go to, so they’re not working 10 feet from my desk at home, get the floor in the living room fixed.
Aight, let’s do this

And, that’s a wrap. Or a start. Hopefully a more focused one than I’ve had in the last 2 years. I’m the kind of person who likes to have a lot of goals because I love checking them off. Sometimes that means I hit a lot of the little ones and miss the big ones. This year, instead, I’m trying to focus on the big goals of managing my time better and losing weight, as I believe they are the keys to doing almost anything else I could list here. Also, it’s a great question to ask myself. If I feel I’m going astray, I can ask “Is this the best way to use my time right now to achieve my goals?”

Almost always the answer though

I just need to remember when the answer to this question involves bikes, it’s usually not wrong.

2021 in Review – Patience, Persistence, Imbalance

Wow, 2021, you’ve been a lot.

Also, sometimes I’m a lot, so it works out…

You know that friend, the one everyone adores, but is just a bit more maintenance than others? Yeah, that’s 2021 in a nutshell. I wouldn’t have traded what transpired for the world but 2021 was not so effortless as previous years and 2022 is looking to be more of the same.

It ain’t all bad though, not in the slightest. Let’s refract.

At the beginning of the year, I dusted off this blog and decided to write again. Because all I did in 2020 was type casual chatter words in a messenger program all day (Teams) when I’m not (or sometimes while) talking to a box (also on Teams), my writing style had degraded from words that sound nicely put together to borderline word vomit if I was not vigilant. As 2021’s months went on, I stopped trying so hard, and in some cases, this blog showcases barely-edited word vomit. And I decided that was okay. Perfect is the enemy of good enough, and it was indeed good enough to record my history and sort through my sh*t with words even if it was more plainer than some years.

I celebrated the change then, I still celebrate it now.

In January, also, big changes happened at our company. Very public changes, so I don’t hesitate to mention it, but it really shaped my year. Twelve months ago, I truly did look at two very positive, but mutually exclusive paths, both with opportunities that excited me, and now one of them has faded into oblivion, with the label: the road not traveled. I have no regrets, I truly enjoy what my professional life has evolved into even if some SPECIFIC days I feel like I’ve been dragged behind a wagon for a few miles. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, once I can assemble more of a team, I’ll be carrying a little less of the load myself (and so will some of my folks). I am truly grateful our new owners promoted me to Director sight unseen based on the health and metrics of our product and that I’m being stretched to go way beyond those duties to take over more and conquer the world.

Nacho sez: WTF is this frozen stuff and why is it in my backyard?

Last fall/winter, I had a pretty debilitating back injury. It took most of 2021 to figure it out and (mostly) fix it, as I still feel it’s vestiges at times, but the difference between me on Jan 1 and me on Dec 28th is like night and day. First thing was just getting the eff active again any way I could. It took some fits and starts, where I did some virtual racing, powered by daily stretching and core, and then the Snowpocolypse happened and we just COULDN’T do anything for a week, and then it was March and our birthday month and we were huge slackers, and then all of a sudden my back was as bad as it had ever been and I was beyond despondent and wondered if I would ever be who I was again.

Bikes are always the answer

Then, we got the vaccine and by May, I was back in the pool and riding bikes outside. I will credit BOTH of these on my road to recovery. Cycling outside was as close as I could get to running (outdoors, sweaty endorphin generating fun, etc) and was a decent substitute after a year of utter neglect. Swimming… hurt a bit. But in a weirdly good way, it felt like it was stretching my back muscles in ways they needed to be stretched and the (mild) pain was just… assembling my body correctly again, if that makes any sense. I started to whisper about completing the half ironman I do almost every year in September, and in June, I *VERY* slowly added run/walk to the plan and hit the signup button even through trepidation it was premature.

It was not my best training cycle, not in the slightest. However, it was good enough, as I finally showed the heck up each week as I could manage it. I toed the line feeling confident about the swim, tentative about the bike (aero position and the one big hill I remember on the course being my concerns, not completing the distance as that was in pocket), and laughed about the “run” – figuring it would be a run/walk heavy on the WALK, but I’d be able to complete the race within time limits and that’s all I cared about – covering 70.3 miles on my own accord.

I did a thing and I didn’t even die!

It went just about as planned, even better at times! The swim was slow, a personal worst but as expected as my not-as-cranky-but-still-touchy back didn’t tolerate the motion of sighting buoys well. The bike was WAY more pleasant than expected. I cruised along at around 17 mph the whole time feeling just… JOY. For about 3 hours and change, I just enjoyed being present at the race, singing showtunes to myself, taking in the fact that I was RACING! The run was about as much of a sh*tshow as I expected but I made it, just a minute longer than it’s ever taken me before (yeah, personal worst by less than 60 seconds), but I didn’t really care. Six months before that, it was tough to pick up socks off the floor. Fast forward half a year, I completed my eleventh half ironman.

The return to travel not-in-a-camper was neat.

It was awesome, although kinda weird, to resume travel in 2021. We started the year camping on New Years Eve, we returned to the woods as soon as the air and weather weren’t trying to kill us in March (I forgot to post about this, but KL Ranch in New Braunfels was a beautiful place to spend a long weekend) and in April (also forgot to post on this, but Canyon Lake for a work-from-camper test). In June, we finally hopped a plane to Cozumel, sort of last minute, because the office was closed for almost a week to move servers and it was a little weird but amazing to once again submerge myself and dance with the fishies. We camped again at Krause Springs for our normal fourth of July trip (which was awesome, even though I wrecked on my bike), camping again at Kerrville for the race in September. A week later, in October, we jumped on a boat for a family cruise. I think I’m feeling a little restless right now since I’ve been at home for almost three months, the longest since Summer 2020. We shall fix that shortly though! It was truly nice to return to some semblance of normality in travel, albeit with cloth face coverings. In most cases, I felt reasonably safe, probably safer than in crowds at home as mask-wearing is enforced a lot more outside of Texas.

My one 2021 resolution, which I neglected to translate here from my “facebook as a blog” tendencies before Jan 3, 2021, was to treat my meatbag with more respect and care. I consider this as both a failure and a success, depending on which lenses you put on to examine the situation.

In 2020, I gained about the “Covid 10” and while I was a little cranky about it, I fully understood. I didn’t track my food, I didn’t even try to eat healthy (legit and frequent meals were Chef Boyardee and Top Ramen). I didn’t do anything significantly sporty after the world shut down, and I fully deserved what I got. In 2021, I gained the rest of the “Covid 19“. And it’s a little more frustrating, because I did try, at least in a half-arsed way, at least some of the time. And I was doing sporty activity things, at least some of the time. But here I am, with the majority of my closet just not fitting, and I’m exiled to stretchy pants or nothing at this point. So some of the time isn’t good enough right now. Noted.

Flattering mirror, not so flattering me.

I started the year with some really bad stress-coping strategies that I wanted to replace with healthier ones like morning meditation, and it just fell off after February. However, as expected, once I was able to return to sport things definitely got better up in the grey matter (and then also got worse after the race in September when I took a break from regular training). I have truly found my “why” beyond racing. I can’t handle as much stress in my life unless I sweat and breathe heavy more days than not. I’m not me without sport. I’m really glad to have it back in my life.

One great habit we’ve established in the last two months (and committed to for the next year) is strength training with a trainer. Booking a session once a week is enough to make us complete the other sessions we are supposed to each week (3x). Our second gym (yeah, spoiled, I acknowledge it) is within a quick walk, which after work is so much easier than the idea of sitting in traffic, and the workouts are 4-6 exercises and done within 30 minutes. We both feel more stable, our problem areas hurt us less than before, our posture is better, and we are definitely building strength. While I’m a little nervous about continuing this 3xweek during IM training next year, I think it’s probably one of the best things we can do for our hopeful finish, and it’s worth sacrificing some of the cardio to make it happen if necessary.

One very big failure was any attempt at work-life balance, respecting my own time, and setting boundaries. For various reasons work was very needy. And I needed to let it be, at least for a while. However, this trend is stretching on a bit too long, and in some cases, I need to solve problems instead of just waiting for the panacea to arrive to keep myself sane and also effective. Considering how ragged I ran myself into this holiday break, I need to establish some new habits and methods here as I’m realizing how precious my time is going to become, at least through the end of April next year.

The hobby room IS A THING. Some of y’all call it a dining room but I disagree.

And, yes, the hobbies. It wasn’t the worst year for ’em, but it wasn’t the best. I had weeks where I didn’t play guitar because I didn’t make the moments to do so (but I also had weeks where I played multiple times). Regardless, I have about 10 songs I can play from memory, even if I let it go for a few months, and I feel like I’ve improved. I painted… some… but not like I did the year before. We fell off playing solo tabletop role playing games but started playing with HUMANS in person again after we were all vaccinated and felt reasonably safe to do so. The amount of Bloodbowl (and other games, to be honest) I’ve played this year is pretty laughable compared to the last two. I made words here, but nowhere else, though I am copy editing for someone else right now and I’m getting the itch to crack open my own work, at least a little bit, but finding time to write is ultimately challenging, only stolen moments on the weekend mornings is when that happens, so it’s about priorities.

It’s difficult for me to sum up the year with three words as I normally do. Usually, they’re super positive like courage, confidence, and worthiness because I had some pretty amazing years pre-2020. But, I shall try:

Patience – Going from 0 direct reports to 13 was a learning experience in patience (and finding some kindness that I had sort of tucked away a few years ago when I started managing projects, not people). I had to be patient with my stupid cranky back recovering so slooooowly, but as frustrating as it was, it paid off. There has been a lot of patience with watching the world start to return to normal, then taking a step back, and then stalling out for a while. Who thought we’d still be wearing masks almost 2 years later? I am not a patient person by nature, in the true sense of “just waiting for something”, but when combined with persistence, “the ability to continue to bash my head against a brick wall until it breaks”, aka, the ability to be patient when I can make progress towards something, I am better.

Persistence – Even through all the things 2020 and 2021 threw at me, I may have retreated a bit, but discretion is sometimes the better part of valor. One thing I don’t do is give up. It gets me through races, difficult training days, difficult days at work, and big challenges that seem insurmountable. I’m unafraid of hard work and actually have a lot of effs to give. One of my greatest strengths is relentless forward progress. One MAY call it stubbornness, but I’ll paint it in the positive light of persistence.

Imbalance – I have a LOT of effs to give as long as I maintain some modicum of balance in my life between work, sport, creative hobbies, socialization, and rest. Sounds tricky, but I had all the plates spinning happily before March last year. 2020 threw it WAY out of balance where I spent the entirety on work and creative hobbies with almost no sport and no socializing, and I was missing one of the most important creative hobbies that kept me sane (writing). 2021 leaned even more into work, and I found a little less of my attention span ready to create on my own time. Thankfully sport and socializing became a thing again later in the year (though it was weird and awkward to do the latter sometimes after a year of just… not), but the four other aspects besides work were squished into a smaller box than normal. Sometimes you must embrace the imbalance, as it’s the path to progress, although it’s not something you can maintain for the long term.

Time for a little more of this before I go kick 2022’s arse!

If I sound a little tired and jaded, maybe I am. This is the latest in the year I’ve started my holiday break in over a decade (on Wednesday last week), and I’m still a little crispy since we went DIRECTLY into holiday shenanigans without any unwind time (coming soon, I promise). However, worry not, I know I have many effs to give for 2022, and I also have quite a bit of time to relax before I have to give them. So, stay tuned for all things 2022 because goals are BACK, my friends. At least, as soon as I get back from some time in the ocean.

Stability, normality, and too many restaurants

Tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary of the little big muscle man hurting me with 5 lb dumbbells and making me realize that this is what was missing in my life.

I have neglected to take selfies during workouts so please enjoy the height of work-from-home chic instead with a bonus iguana tail

I can happily report I’ve shown up 3 days a week for the last 4 weeks to the gym to do our workouts as planned. When I can create a routine that feels enjoyable and that I look forward to, I succeed, and this has been the case here. Mondays and Wednesdays at 530 or so, we put down work for a bit and walk to the gym, do our workout, and walk home (Fridays, sometimes at lunch, sometimes after work, or sometimes Saturday instead, for those of you keeping track). Sometimes we just go right there and back, especially if it’s the second workout for the day but it’s still an extra 1.2-mile walk. Sometimes we’ll take the long way home and look for holiday decorations. Sometimes the long way includes a stop to get dinner somewhere. Occasionally, I’ll have to go back to work after dinner, but it’s generally quieter and I get more done at 8pm than at 530 anyway, so it works out.

I also can happily report that my strength is improving. I’ve progress up in weights and/or reps when the exercises repeat very occasionally. Often, though, we’ll do something completely different and it’s kinda fun not to know exactly what I’m in for until I get there. I’m no longer sore for days after these workouts – I’ll feel it a little bit the day after but not so much that I’m unable to function, some days it’s barely noticeable. When I started this, I was worried it would mess with Ironman training (I need to cardio 5-6 days a week) but now that I’m used to it, I think it will be totally doable.

Another perk is that my body feels SO much more stable. I have not done a lick of “core”, focusing on push (arms), pull (arms), shoulders, and legs instead. I’m guessing core work has been a biproduct as my back has not bothered me at all. Occasionally I’ll notice it, but it’s the soreness of muscles on the edge of overdoing it (that are fine later or the next day), not this weird seizing and then hobbling around for days, unable to pick stuff up off the floor. After so many months of pain, a small reprieve, then more pain I’m hesitant to say I’m actually truly recovering here, but all signs are pointing in that direction. Of course, nothing can be perfect, and I’m nursing a bit of a cranky heel, but I think I just need to solve some running shoe problems there. Besides those weird heel twinges, all is lovely!

We keep going out and doin’ stuff and sometimes that stuff involves truffle fries so why am I not losing weight again?

What I’m not seeing is any noticeable progress in body composition or weight. I know I’m not giving 100% in this area – my food tracking has been spotty at best, and I know I’m not hitting 1500 calories exactly per day or sticking to my macros, and the frequency at which I’ve gone out to dinner lately is obnoxious. I will continue to give this the best I can through the holidays, since halfway trying is better than not trying at all, but I’m ready to give this my all in January. Also, lack of quality sleep and stress is a thing up in here lately, and I’m hoping that 3 weeks off work will be the recharge I need to feel like myself again after a super exciting but stressful year.

During the fall the last few years (pre-2020), I’ve spent it on my bike adventuring. I wish I could say the same this year, but I’ve neglected it badly since the race, doing maybe a handful of trainer rides instead. Fall 2021 has really been about being on foot – last week I put together 16 running miles and 15 walking miles. The weather has been beautiful, I’m up to seven miles (running, not run/walk!), and I’ve loved the return to solving all the problems during the active meditation which is the long run. If I stick with +1 mile to my long run each week from now until 3M (1/23/2022), I think I’ll be able to run 10 miles as my NYE run, and 13.1 miles on 3M day should be the next week’s natural progression instead of a big jump. I have zero goals for this race except I would like to slowly jog the whole thing and feel good after.

No unicorn rainbow PR expectations for this one. Just wanna finish.

I know I will need to become reacquainted with my bike again soon. Once I finish out this last week of work, I have BIG PLANS to go play bikes outside more often over vacation simply because we’ll have the daylight to do so. Swimming – I’m not afraid of it being the 4th or 5th focus (after weights and even nutrition) right now. Yes, I need to swim 2.4 miles in April but whatever. I don’t anticipate any issues getting there, and this shoulder/arm strength I’m building will DEFINITELY be an asset. My swimming limitations were my cranky back and a crunchy shoulder from the bike crash, and both of these seem to have improved throwing weights at the problem, so I’ll keep at it and not worry about actual pool time right now.

Life feels a bit more normal lately. Yeah, I spend my days WFH in pajamas, and it’s weird wearing a piece of cloth over my nose and mouth that fogs up my glasses every every everywhere in public, but it’s starting to feel routine and we’re actually out there in the world a bit and human-ing. In the last week or so, we had our every-2-weeks D&D group over, we went for dinner and saw the opening night of Hamilton on Tuesday, had our ‘rents over for dinner and cards on Thursday, and walked to dinner on Friday as well.

Yesterday, I got my Covid booster (the price for being a human in these times, I suppose). I have been trying to schedule it for some time but didn’t have a weekend where I could do nothing for 1-2 days if necessary (since the J&J kicked my arse for a whole weekend back in April, I wanted to be prepared). I also wanted to get it in plenty of time before vacation. So, I worked up until I had to go for my run, I ran (did I mention seven miles without walking? wheee!), and then took notes on the work problem I was crunching in my head during the run, and then cleaned up a little and Joel drove me downtown to get my jab. On the way home, we celebrated with Easy Tiger (that pretzel was damn delicious) and stocked up on a few things in case I felt terrible.

Hello lover. Oh, and hi to you to, Joel!

The head fog descended pretty quickly and is still prevalent (I’m going to guess this is not going to be my most grammatically smooth or even grammatically correct missive I’ve ever put together), and I’ve been a little extra tired the last 24 hours. I had the most INSANE carb cravings last night (like, I needed to keep eating carbs or I was going to die), and I definitely had to vocalize the things wrong with Wheel of Time while we were watching it even though I really did quite enjoy it! However, I experienced no fever, aches, chills, nausea, or sweating through my sheets while sleeping nonsense like last time. I’m really hoping tomorrow I’ll wake up feeling 100% back to normal – I have a presentation to give and a LOT to do – but enduring a little bit of a mood and the tireds this weekend was well below the expectations of my misery.

Regardless of how I feel, the train continues to chug along the tracks for just one more week. Five more weekdays including 2 power point presentations, 1 post-mortem, 6 more reviews, at least 20 meetings, finishing up a few projects, and one holiday livestream to top it off (not to mention 3 weights sessions, a few runs, and probably some walks) and then I’m looking forward to a nice end-of-December slowdown. I am ready.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

My last post was cute. Absolutely adorbs.

When I started lifting again in 2020. And later in 2020. And then in early 2021. And then about 3 more times. Never got much beyond the pink kettlebell.

Here’s how that particular week and the one after it went:

  • Start Sunday and Monday with great intentions and hit the gym
  • Be heckin over it with work and stress by Tuesday night
  • Do nothing but go for walks the rest of the week when Joel can drag me away from my computer
  • Repeat
Because this is my life right now

Luckily, we had scheduled the first free session with a personal trainer. Joel made mention of perhaps continuing it, and I scoffed. Pfft, come on, we know how to do all that. We’re (lapsed) certified personal trainers, I’m a triathlon coach, I know more about sports nutrition than a lot of nutritionists. Why would I pay someone to do a thing that I can do in my sleep?

Then, we went to the gym and met with Tim, the little big muscle man. While he does not skip leg day, he DEFINITELY doesn’t skip arm day. He proceeded to ask us about goals and talk through what it would take to get there in terms of diet and training and he passed the first test – it all tracked with me. No crazy diets (just sane calorie and macro goals), no promises of rapid results (1 lb week fat loss and ~1 lb month muscle gain), and just the stuff I knew I should be doing anyway but haven’t been. He did say the typical, “I promise I won’t bulk you up” girl thing but I understand that’s a silly stigma with women and weight training. Good sir, I used to deadlift my weight and looking imposing in a dark alley is on my lifegoals list, do your worst.

Proof I used to do this thing

Then, he proceeded to absolutely wreck us with a very simple 30 minute 5 lb dumbbell workout. My arms were in pain for DAYS. And then we gave them a lot of money to continue to do this for us for the next year.

We decided on this for a few reasons:

  1. Accountability. It’s not been a huge issue for me before, but 2020 just wrecked my momentum. Apparently, I need to feel like I’m going to let someone down beside myself if I don’t do the thing. Also, I have now PAID for someone to feel let down, so it’s both social and financial peer pressure!
  2. Decision fatigue. I make a stupid crazy number of decisions per day at work. Not having to think about what I’m going to be doing at the gym lifts some of that fatigue.
  3. Variety. I’m a creature of habit, I’ll do the same strength workouts over and over because they generally work. However, with our assessments, it was determined that we did a great job maintaining our large muscles, but could do better with the smaller/stabilizer muscles. This will help with that

We went the first week on Monday and Wednesday with Tim and then Friday with Adrian. Tim was awesome, but I think Adrian is our dude. He does triathlon (sprints), so while he doesn’t quite understand the insanity we’re about to embark on with Ironman, he does get endurance sports a little bit. He’s focused on body composition and injury prevention, which is really what we need right now vs GETTIN SWOLE.

This is week two. Our goal is to stay on the one day per week plan with a trainer, and two days where they write workouts for us and we show up and do them. We do have the option if we start falling off to book more sessions per week; we’ll just chew through our funds a little faster, as right now we’ve prepaid for about a year at the once-per-week rate. For all my skepticism spending money on this at first, I have no regrets. This is what I need right now for all those reasons above.

2021, was able to waddle before I gobbled again!

My big fall goal after Kerrville was to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. No, not the real one downtown with the mass of humanity, but a similar one around my neighborhood. The key goal: 5 miles without walking. I was all set to gradually ramp up to it, but then see above for how my weeks have fared. See below for my training plan:

  • October 29th – 1.5 miles
  • October 31st – 2 miles
  • November 3rd – 2.5 miles
  • November 8th – 2.5 miles
  • November 22nd – 3.1 miles
  • Thanksgiving – 5 miles

This is a “do as I say, not as I do” moment, but it is what it is. The turning point has been I can honestly say the last two runs, for the first time in well over a year, were entirely without back pain. I set out on Monday to run until I felt any slight discomfort or 3.1 miles. Same with yesterday and 5 miles. I’m slow as sh*t, my heartrate is through the roof at what feels like a relaxed pace. However, somewhere between the last chiropractor adjustment and finally adding some strength training, this seems to be the last piece of the recovery puzzle. Beyond just the physical activity benefits, this enables me to do the most wonderful thing I’ve been missing for the last 20 months. I can kick myself out my door with just my running shoes, music, and a head full of thinky thoughts and process them while I put one foot in front of the other for some sizable amount of time. I have been kicking myself at why I have been able to allow all this lovely fall weather pass by without me running in it. I think the answer is above. This week, I finally regained the ability to truly enjoy running instead of faking it.

And running right now should probably be the priority (after weight training), followed by biking and then swimming. I have a half marathon in January. Ramping quickly is doable for me but is sooooo risky for injuries. If I can (sanely this time, please) increase my long run 1 mile a week, very likely I can actually trot along comfortably at my 11:5x pace for 13.1 miles and that would be enough for me to joyfully kick off 2022. I cam build pretty quickly on the bike, but we are eyeballing the normal early February 6 hour race as Ironman prep, so I need to have at least some 3-4 hour rides under my belt before we tackle that one. Swimming is lowest on the totem pole, it takes me very little time to ramp even after a long time away, and there’s very little injury risk. For the rest of 2021, I will be swimming for injury prevention (does wonders for stretching out my back) and enjoyment (it’s another one of those active meditation exercises for me that helps unspool my brain), but no stress in terms of race prep if I mostly ignore the pool until January.

Totally gratuitous picture of the hobby room right now

For now, the focus is consistency, establishing good habits, and conquering the stupid voice in my head that says work is more important than all this. And it doesn’t have to be either or. Yes, I need to be away from my desk but I got some DAMN good (in my head focus) work done on the 5-mile run. I’ve mostly worked through a 40-minute lunch trainer ride on my phone. Just like I was playing D&D online or Bloodbowl practice games whilst finishing my trainer rides in 2020 when I was hell bent on not giving up other hobbies for Ironman, I can make this multitasking happen for work as well.

Hopefully this new road I’m following goes somewhere else than hell, and is paved with something sturdier than just intent.

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