Adjusted Reality

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

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Establishing Habits (for now this is enough)

So, here we are. Week 1 down of being a reasonable hoo-man, and honestly it was pretty great.

I’ve got a new routine, one that I quite like. My alarm goes off at 8am, I snooze it once while my brain wakes up, and then I do this 10 minute meditation thing I came up with. Half the time, I start the process with crazy brain work or life thoughts, but by the end, my mind is calm, clear, and awake. Then I go over what I’d like to accomplish, setting my intentions for the day. If I’m nervous or excited about something, I acknowledge the butterflies in my stomach, and give them a pep talk. This week I’ve woken up feeling more relaxed and energized than I have in months. Maybe years.

Each day at lunch I’ve made time to either bike 20 minutes or run 1 mile. I’m keeping the feelings of “wow, this is pathetic” at bay and being grateful that my back is holding up so I can actually do some daily activity. I’m also prioritizing 10-15 mins of stretching and rolling each day, and some very light strength 3x week.

I mean… very light.

  • 3×10 knee pushups
  • 3×20 crunches
  • 3×20 side crunches
  • 3×10 supermans
  • 3×10 sec boat pose
  • 3×10 single leg calf raises

If you look back at my history, this is nothing. Laughable. Why even bother? But for now, it is enough.

I’ve been tracking my calories, trying to stay around 1500 per day. For the level of activity I’m doing, I can certainly safely go lower, but I don’t want to drive myself crazy. This should reasonably be a 3500-ish calorie deficit for the week, taking off 1 lb. One nice thing about being SO far gone for SO long? I’m about 5 lbs down already. It’s all water/inflammation weight certainly, but it was nice to see the OMG number go away pretty quickly. My plan is about 1/3 Snap Kitchen meal delivery, 1/3 batch cooked healthy meals, and 1/3 making shit up like this greek chicken meal we threw together today. Homemade hummus is best hummus.

I’ve also been trying to chill on the pressure to DO ALL THE HOBBIES. Between all manner of games, writing, photography/editing, reading, painting, and guitar, there’s always more I want to be doing with my spare time. This weekend, I’ve been meaning to paint and crack back open a video game I started Friday and also another I started last week and haven’t even touched my guitar but I also spent all day yesterday reading two books in a really fun RPG lit series snuggled under my blanket next to a roaring fire and then spent today playing outside in the once-every-10-years snow Austin gets. It is okay sometimes not to be productive with my spare time and just relax.

There are some interesting things brewing professionally right now for me as well, but they are all in “wait and see” mode. I’m eager to see which of two (both favorable and exciting) paths will lay out for me in 2021. In the meantime, I’m appreciative of the fresh start on this year’s to do list. For the first time in forever, I didn’t start a work week behind the eight ball. I was adequately prepared for every meeting I had, and there was this moment where I was working my way down my to do list for the day and I found myself doing something 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I finished my work for the week on Friday without anything hanging over my head.

I realize it’s not always going to be this way, but it nice to have a moment in time where things were really and truly under control.

For the next week, for the rest of January, really, I plan to just continue to keep all these nascent habits going. I’d like to add a little bit to the bike and run each week, but ONLY if it’s good for me to do so. I’m not who I was, I’m not who I want to be yet, but I see a path there now, and that is enough.

Lost for Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace Bend Ultra 6 Hour Cycling Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3M Half Marathon Shorty Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being bad in public/jukebox hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It makes one tough. It also makes one tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good thing I like the climb.

What could it be? Maybe a tommy gun?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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