Adjusted Reality

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

Tag: navel gazing Page 2 of 29

On the Precipice of Forty.

Warning: I’m about to get at least three different kinds of nerdy here.  

This is (almost) 40.

When I was a kid, I was smart.  Like, crazy smart.  When I entered kindergarden, my elementary school wanted to skip me immediately to the first grade for the first half of the year and then straight to fourth for the rest at five years old.  I declined, because I thought it was much more fun to play with my new friends and that sounded scary.  When I was actually in fourth grade years later, I turned in all my math homework for the year within the first month, so they sat me at a side table during math with a book of fairly advanced logic problems.  

I’m convinced the only thing that saved me from getting swirlies was the fact that I also was fairly athletic, rather buff for a kid my age due to sports.  However, I didn’t make a whole lot of close friends in elementary school, I’m fairly convinced the ones I had were probably due to mothers conspiring behind the scenes saying, “Yes, you HAVE to invite her, be nice.”  Between fifth and sixth grade, in the transition from elementary to middle school, it hit me that I had the opportunity to reinvent myself, and NOT be the girl sitting out of math because she was better at it than everyone in the room.

Sure, I still did all the honors things, and got what felt like “safe” grades, mostly A’s with a peppering of Bs, I didn’t start smoking under the bleachers during P.E. or anything, but I learned where the limits lie to be tolerated by your peers.  You can be good, you can be great, but to pursue true excellence in something, that makes you a target.  I pushed the line by showing up to my sixth grade book report with Gone With The Wind (having really and truly read the whole thing in a few nights), but then I got a C in home ec, so it all balanced out.

Slowly, it became less of a strategy and just a part of me.  

Just a few months before my brain got the best of me and I quit gymnastics…

The great thing about not pursuing excellence is that it makes life really quite comfortable.  For what it was worth, I always felt like sport was a much more accepted way to pursue excellence, but the habit was already engrained.  I never pushed myself to any sort of edge of glory, and if I got close, I tended to either self-sabotage or quit.  I easily qualified for just about every honors thing that crossed my path.  I got into every college I applied to with scholarships.  My first semester was a bit of a challenge, but it just necessitated learning the rules to a slightly new game, and I was back in business on easy street before long.  I got straight As my senior year while doing a ridiculous amount of partying and on a ridiculously small amount of sleep.  

I participated in so much self-sabotage, and it wasn’t even enough to bring me down.  I left college exhausted and fat from how I treated myself, but still Cum Laude with Honors.

Finally, I thought.  It’s time to be an adult.   No more playing around, this is for my livelihood.  However, I found the real world similar to my classroom experiences.  Being a competent employee was good.  Being an exemplary employee, as a peon, was sort of frowned upon and didn’t really garner a lot of favor with the team or even managers.  Instead of getting praised for breaking video games in really weird ways, at times I was told, “the dev team says STOP IT”.  I turned in a 150 page binder applying for a design job.  I didn’t even get an interview – though they did steal at least three things from it.

I have had some brief periods of laying myself out on the line over the years – my last two years of gymnastics, my first actual design job once I finally got the interview, losing 115 lbs, and I’m starting to see the beginning of a similar renaissance right now in a myriad of arenas.  I look back on all these times fondly – not because I want to work 100 hours right now or fight my body for a few years to let go of half od it’s precious resources, but because it felt amazing in those moments to just give it my all.

One of the moments where it actually clicked…

I’m sure that everyone in the world would have considered me an athlete before I considered myself one.  When I first started racing, it was all new and fun, but then I spent so much time with so little belief in myself when it got a little difficult to produce results.  I put a lot of limits on myself, at least subconsciously, because I didn’t find myself perfect yet.  I let my head get the best of me – a lot – and so many times backed down in competition and felt terrible about myself.  

After finding the place which Calm the F*ck Down calls “the fed up athlete”, I found I needed to do some of the hardest work yet.  No, not the swimming, biking, and running.  I’ve never found it difficult to pile on the miles because it feels worthwhile, (pseudo) confidence building, and frankly, numbing.  The most difficult things were to step back and acknowledge that I needed to work on my mental game, my body composition, and addressing form imbalances.  None of these feel sexy at all.  None of the processes were anything beyond frustrating, messy, and felt highly unintuitive, especially because some were at the COST of swimbikerun.  With already flagging confidence and performance, it feels like sport suicide to decide to dial back the hours.

But dial them back I did.  I lifted when I wanted to run.  I stretched and did pre-hab when I wanted to be biking for hours instead.  I took days off and studied sports (and regular) psychology books.  I refrained from numbing out and built a race persona.   I kept my calories lower instead of making excuses about my body composition.  And y’know what?  After a while, it started paying divedends.

The last year has been night and day.  I envisioned winning my age group in my first triathlon of 2018, and then HOLY SHIT I did it.  I dared to dream a little, and then I dreamed A LOT.  Not all of them came true, but I had the most wonderful season because I let myself believe, sometimes just for a moment, that I was worthy.

My bardic muse…

There is a HUGE culture of playing tabletop roleplaying games at work.  For so long, I resisted.  I told myself it was because I wanted my husband to have something that was HIS hobby, but as I’ve unpacked a lot of emotions and insecurities lately, I’m pretty sure it was also the fact that I thought I’d be terrible. I got coerced into a session and I fell in love with it, even though, YEP! I was indeed pretty much shite.  For quite a long time. I picked safe choices of classes that I knew and found my little niche, allowing others to really drive the games while I just piped in to contribute a little and then let everyone else run the show.

Here’s where I probably lose anyone here for triathlon insights, but I press forward.

I’ve been playing these types of games for almost two decades now (just online previously), and I’ve gravitated towards one specific character type: the caster.  One who’s weaker in body, but strong in mind, who hangs back at the edge of the battle and slings spells, hoping not to attract too much attention.  However, I’ve always pumped up the Constitution/Stamina statistic, which provides a little extra armor if I DO indeed attract that attention I seek to avoid.  This is usually at the cost of being truly excellent at the slinging of spells but it feels like a worthwhile tradeoff for extra protection.

This is incredibly telling of my own personality.  Unless I push myself, I tend to hang back in life and not really go for things.  I would rather play defense to hedge my bets rather than, yet again, pursue true excellence.  I’d rather be moderately good at some things rather than really good at something, even though I’d be better served pursuing where my talents lie.  If I start getting too good at something, it scares me.  I’ve always found myself pacified by being decent at a lot of things, because being decent at something feels much better than sucking at something (and to be truly good at something, you have to accept that you’re going to suck at a lot of other things as we only have a finite lifetime).  

This last campaign, I picked something different that stretched my legs a little because it sounded fun.  I didn’t realize the psychological implications at the time of becoming a bard.  From the start, I felt awkward playing this character, and then after a while, I was called on to be the face and the leader of the party in matters of diplomacy and persuasion.  For someone who tends to hang back and say “whatever y’all want to do is good with me”, this has been terrifying and uncomfortable.  I tried to just show up and wing it halfheartedly but it doesn’t work for me.  I just pissed myself off with my incompetence and stopped having fun.

Thinking about the backstory of all my characters, they have something in common: they’re hiding a big secret, they’re running or hiding from something, and they have a BIG PROBLEM being who they really are.  Again, if this isn’t telling, I don’t know what is.

In my thirties, I spent the decade being the person who I wanted to become, at least on the surface.

I wanted to become an athlete.  I may not have exactly known that at thirty, but I knew I wanted some sort of motivation to keep myself fit and also, I had this ridiculous competitive drive that’s been with me my whole life that was being utterly unindulged.  Enter racing.  It. was. awesome.  And humbling.  And SO SO SO HARD.  But it was exactly what I needed to scratch the itch which evaded me in my twenties.  Over the course of the decade, I finally got to the point where I could call myself an athlete without an asterisk.  Or a sheepish grin.  I stand at almost fourty as an athlete and no one can tell me otherwise.

I wanted to learn how to be a strong leader.   If I was to really and truly pursue what I do as a lifetime career, I wanted to learn how to lead and inspire a team towards greatness.  At thirty, my hands shook and my voice faltered when I had to lead a meeting even though they called me Producer.  That instinct to hang back and keep my voice down doesn’t do anyone in this role service, so I had to continue to push myself to be confident, strong, have the tough conversations, and stand up for both the folks that work for me and the ones I work for.  I had to learn that my instincts are to be trusted.  That I should have faith in my ideas while also being open to the fact that I can absolutely be wrong and admitting such was not weakness but indeed strength.  It’s my job to nurture the best ideas into the light, no matter where they come from.   While I’ll never stop learning day by day how to do all this better, at almost forty, I feel worthy to stand and lead my team and represent my company and products with confidence.

I wanted to be outdoorsy.  I used to joke that I was the embodiment of the meme, y’know, the one that says “I’m outdoorsy, as in, I like drinking on patios”.  I learned to love and revel in the elements.  I will still complain incessantly about mosquitos, but it doesn’t stop me because I have the best mosquito hat with me.  I’ve learned to embrace the sweat and the exhaustion of our brutal summers.  I’ve found a cheeky smile in the chill of a run in the coldest weather Austin has to offer.  I’ve found beauty in the scenery of the barren trees and the scorching noonday sun as well as the temperate falls and the overly beautiful spring days filled with wildflowers.  I find peace and joy both in the woods and underneath the waves, in ways that I can’t describe to someone that remains indoors.  I find utter quiet and stillness in nature at almost forty and I can’t imagine a life without now.

I wanted to stop being so one-dimensional.  I had already made strides into two-dimensional-ness by thirty with both work and also sport.   Honestly, who could fault me for having a job and also a hobby?  However, it became pretty apparent halfway through this decade that it wasn’t enough for me.  Once we had a shakeup at work, it rocked my world.  I wanted to make sure I had a plan, one which at this particular moment, I have no immediate timeline to enact, but it makes me much more confident that at almost forty, I have about seventeen different business plans, some with the proper certifications and all with much more knowledge than I had in my early thirties.

I sorely missed my creativity.  Even when I had the opportunity finally to delve into it more at work, I realized that also wasn’t enough.  Many of my previous hobbies I stopped in my twenties and early thirties because I was scared of not being good enough with them.  I’ve had to work to bust through those barriers one by one but I can now say that I’ve picked back up with most of the creative pursuits that meant a lot to me as my younger self: writing (actually putting words together I care about, sometimes deeply), painting, photography, singing and music, and I’ve dabbled in making movies as well.  I have to keep catching myself saying, “ugh, I’m almost forty and I’m still not good at this, why am I still trying” but still I persist.  I have to remind myself that the joy is in the process, and as Jake the Dog says, “Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

So, forty.  I’ve been trying it on for size for the last few months.  I’m not thirty-nine again or thirty-nine and three hundred and some days, I’ve been forty for a while in my mind and I actually quite like it.  

Forties are the decade where I let the unbridled confidence shine.   I’m sick of playing small and masking my intelligence and capabilities.  I don’t give a flying fuck anymore of my perception of how it makes anyone else feel.  I want to use the big words and the strong thoughts and the swelling emotions in the way that makes me the best human I can be and make the poetry and magic.   I’m ready to tell the haters to take a backseat to the cheerleaders and just GO FOR IT, whatever IT may mean at the time.

Forties are the decade where I will fire walk confidently into external criticism.  I’m tired of not pursuing opportunities or paths that can improve me as a person because the haters in my head deem me not worthy to even begin to tread the path.  If something excites me, and threatens to develop me as a person, I’ll let someone else tell me I’m not worthy instead of having that come from the dark recesses of my own brain. I’ll be open to trying and failing and getting back up and going for it again and again if it’s something I really want, instead of convincing myself I don’t actually want it simply because it’s safe and nice and easy to not try hard.

Forties are the decade I will lay it all on the line on the race course.  I will not show up to a start line indifferent and apathetic, I will shed all my defenses and pursue each opportunity as a true offensive exercise, and I will experience each battle to my fullest.  If circumstances lead me to less than excellent performances, I won’t let it shake my confidence.  Forty is not the time anymore for running scared anymore, hoping either someone else, or mostly my own head won’t catch me, it’s the decade for running those bitches down until I literally give out or find the finish line, victorious either way because I gave everything.

Forty is the year I become the person who my inner bard wants me to be.  I wish to build on my confidence and courage, discover what it means to live with vulnerability and uncover what it means to really be who am I am and what I am meant to become in the next decade.  

Deep thoughts now cease.  Time to drink some whiskey and eat some tacos to celebrate the changing of the decades!

A work in progress…

Another week, and another which I would describe as, “whew, that was nuts!”

It is the junction where uncertainty is settling in some regards, and also where other uncertainties have just begun.  

Brene Brown (yes, I know, shut up, you’re going to hear this name for a while) defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  This is what I’ve been calling courage, but it’s actually quite different.  I’m pretty great at courage, but as I’ve discussed before, I’m a big fan of avoiding vulnerability at all costs with disengagement and aloofness.  This has reared it’s ugly head in many facets of my life.  I recognized it rather quickly in my racing, probably because it was the least emotional risk.  There are very few people (and they’re probably all in my head) who have any vested interested in whether I succeed or fail at triathlon.

However, the chapter I just read this morning was quite timely; it was about vulnerability of leaders in education and the workplace (in which, she equated that teachers and bosses are kind of the same thing, a sentiment which I actually love).  In the last two months, I’ve been struggling to find both where I fit in the org chart and also the best way to lead my team to succeed.  Some of these decisions relate to personnel changes, duty changes, and team dynamics.  

And most terrifyingly, some of these are things that belie my current title, and my authority over them exists in a world of grey due to technicalities.  I hate grey areas with a passion.  Everything in me wants to shine a light on it and sort it into sections of black and white, arranged neatly, with clearly defined labels and parameters, and say, “Okay, that’s sorted, I know exactly what I’m working with, let’s proceed.” 

In this case, the grey won’t sort right now.  I can’t do a thing or make someone else do a thing that will separate this one color into it’s two components.  My road diverges into two paths: to shrink back down into my clearly defined boundaries because it makes me uncomfortable to push beyond them, or acknowledge that pushing my limits feels awkward for me, and sit with those feelings while still setting foot into the grey.

This week, I had a few situations at work which made me feel vulnerable.  No, it wasn’t getting up and talking in front of the company as I do once a month, or putting my ideas front and center for initiatives coming up, or the immense responsibility I’ve taken on, y’know, the stuff that normal people probably freak out about.  In these particular instances, they were conversations regarding, either indirectly or directly, my worthiness and place as a leader.  This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, folks.

I didn’t really put two and two together until I read that chapter this morning, but I made the difficult choice to be vulnerable where years past, heck, maybe even weeks past, I might have turned the other way.  I won’t get into the how or what of these conversations, as my lead writer says, that would be telling, but I feel like they encouraged productive and positive outcomes.  I’m pretty proud that I took the risks even though I wasn’t backed in a corner, forced to do so.  I could have used disengagement as an avoidance tactic, telling myself that the conversations were unnecessary, and in one case, I almost did.

Am I sitting here right now days later with a mild shame hangover?  Absolutely. “Aw shit, I did actually expose my underbelly and leave myself vulnerable.  That happened.” These thoughts are running through my brain.  However, I also feel more pride than shame that I was able to approach someone with thoughts I wasn’t completely comfortable with myself.  Typically, I sit with these things until I can fully understand them and analyze them and find solutions and put them into neat little boxes.  In one case, there was no solution and I was simply asking for advice and help sorting through my feelings.

If y’all know me, I’d rather spend days researching something than actually ask another human a question that might make me look stupid or worse yet, cause some sort of rejection.  This goes doubly so for discussing feelings, the most disgusting of all topics.  This was huge for me.

Because this is not a management blog, let me transition a bit to other interests I talk about more often.  I have various personal quests: racing to my potential, publishing a book, and chasing other creative pursuits like photography, painting, music, and heck, even table top role playing games applies here.  I’ve found that in these pursuits, the willingness to be vulnerable is both of great import, and the place where I’m absolutely found wanting.  Throwing my creative work out to the world at large to judge gives me the willies.  When that involves that judgement and approval to be successful (like a book), that’s the stuff that freaks me right the hell out.

I’m a work in progress.  I’ve had this recurring vision lately where I come off the bike in third again at Texasman.  Instead of fading back to seventh, letting four women pass me, one of those less than a quarter mile from the finish line, this time I chase the girls ahead of me down and finish first overall.  It’s a big step that I can even have the inkling to even entertain this daydream, but the doubt monster still appears VERY quickly in it’s wake.  Who am I to dream about being first overall in a race?  That doesn’t happen for me.  Yeah, I’m good at the bike, but anyone that can beat me on the bike is SURE to beat me on the run.  

I’m not quite quick enough with a witty retort yet, but I’m at least trying one on for size.  I surprised the heck out of myself at Indoor Tri with the pace I kept, and that was on a treadmill, with no external motivation to catch anyone.  I had NO idea where I stood in the race because of the format, so who’s to say that with someone ahead of me to catch, I couldn’t push myself harder.  My athletic potential is a bit of an unknown right now.  Who’s to say that I don’t actually have that run in me?  Maybe I always have, and it’s just that nagging voice telling me I don’t that’s holding me back instead of some other physical quality.

All I can do is approach the start line with courage, confidence, and vulnerability, and have the cojones to really go for it this year.

Speaking of going for it, or actually NOT – the book is still sitting on the computer in my office, untouched.  I think I’ve accepted that I need to pursue this work with myself, and in some ways, my writing, before I think I’ll have a fighting chance here.  As a new author, I’d need to aggressively promote my book, not just sheepishly say, “I did a thing” and secretly hope no one notices while I get pissed off when that actually happens.  I need to be ready to shout about it from the rooftops, and I’m not there yet.  While I thought it was just a thing I needed to do, I’m now realizing that it’s a confidence I need to have in myself and a willingness to be extremely vulnerable.  I’m not there yet, but I’m walking the path.  

Swords, Shame Monsters, and Too Many Analogies

Guys.  Guys… GUYS!  Holy crap it’s been busy over here.

And all I am is a girl, standing in front of a bicycle, wanting to go playyyyy…

However, I like to make time to do at least a quick weekly check in, and I don’t want to break that habit, so here’s some stream of consciousness fun-and-games for posterity about January and what’s next.


While I had almost no leadup to my two races in two weeks, pushing that hard mentally seven days apart took a bit of a toll on my motivation for training after.  My brain needed and felt like it deserved a tiny little “offseason”, so I’ve taken the last two weeks fairly light.  Last week, all I did was ride my bike three times at no pace which could be considered fast.  Fast forward to today, Thursday, and I’ve swam ONCE on Monday and I’ve had my running stuff laid out since then, ready to go, and no dice.  Hoping to break that streak today, but the struggle has been real, y’all.

I’m not stressing about it, though.  My first triathlon this year is May 5th, and I actually plan to mostly soldier through the full season this year without much of a mid-season break.  I will still obviously periodize my training with shifting focus as the months go on, and schedule in recovery weeks, but I don’t plan on any extended month long breaks like I’ve planned in the past.  This means I’m not in a huge hurry to pursue peak form in March or anything, so this lazing around in early February is just fine. 

Next week this changes.  While I’m not ready to sharpen the sword just yet, it’s now time to mold the clay (how many different analogies can I use today? let’s find out!).  Two three-week periods of lifting heavy (hypertrophy) and then heavier (maximum strength) with a week rest in between did me was so beneficial last year I plan to repeat it.  My main focus in February and March will be lifting 3xweek, and swim/bike/run (1-2 short sessions of each per week) will supplement this, rather than the opposite the rest of the year.

Of course when the weather is amazing I’ll duck out for a smile paced ride with my camera, but not at the expense of picking up and putting down heavy things.

The Scale:

January was a rough start to the year, I did *okay* the first two weeks, and then racing always throws a wrench in the diet, and then a camping weekend… let’s just say I have made no progress.  I think I’ve done well enough that I’m not backsliding further, but I’m not quite back to that consistently under 170 where I was in early December.  I have yet to transfer everything to trendweight (busy and also, if it doesn’t change maybe my weight doesn’t change? is that how it works?) but it really helped me last year so I really need to do that.

Definitely haven’t gained everything back I lost, but it needs to trend down now, kthx…

But, I’m back, baby.  Since Monday, I’ve had a really good streak with my eating habits, and I’ve declared February a month of no deserts.  Everyone and their mother (and literally my mother as well) is trying to eff this up for me, but I will just take their offerings, put them in my freezer, and break them out when I’m at a higher training volume.

So, the plan and the goal is the same as it ever was.

  • 1500 calories per day, slightly less on days I can get away with it, to account for 1-2 days closer to 2000.
  • Mostly snap kitchen meals, supplemented with perfect fit meals since they are a little different/cheaper, with a small amount of bath cooking when I’m motivated to do so.
  • Salads for my mid-afternoon snack so I get in ALL THE VEGGIES (since the prepared meals are small portions, they’re not very veggie heavy).
  • Watch the booze calorie creep – but this is the year I’ve accepted that if I am to only allow myself one splurge overall, it’s probably going to be whiskey.  I just need to make sure it fits in my plan 1-2 times a week.

I know that my weight is collectively what I have done in the last month, and I haven’t been kind to myself.  I’ve been eating things I shouldn’t (and slacking on eating the things I should like those mid-afternoon salads), and probably more importantly, I haven’t been a good sleeper.  I *think* life is starting to calm down a little bit, and I’m hoping that my idiot nights of laying awake thinking about (mostly good exciting but still) stuff will be fewer and further between.

Between lifting and REALLY BUCKLING DOWN FOR REALS in February, I think the scale and I might start being BFFs again.

Life/Deep Thoughts:

Over the last few months, work has provided me a great growth opportunity (sadly without the title, YET, but let’s focus on the good parts).  Essentially, this is the thing I’ve wanted to do since I started here almost twelve years ago, and have gotten to do in smaller quantities as I’ve scratched and fought for it, but finally it’s all happening.  Sort of.  However, I really have to fight for this one since I have to forge my own path here and it takes ALL THE CONFIDENCE AND COURAGE I have built up thus far.

At a crossroads.  Literally.

The self-study I’ve done and have continued to do in the background on these ideals has helped me immensely with this.  I feel like I’m walking a tightrope with no net, one hundred feet above a pit full of hungry sharks, but instead of terrifying it’s exhilarating and exciting and I love the way it makes my emotions swirl, but I also recognize that it is indeed DANGEROUS and RISKY.  This time last year I might have shied away from this, but I spent the 2018 seeking out the dark places, and believing in myself enough to take what I wanted with the tip of my sword.  It’s a different me situation right now, and I’m quite good with dangerous.  It’s miles above boring.

I have about 2031537 essays I want to write about Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and I’m 25% through the book.  I knew this would be a game changer, but I didn’t realize to what degree.  It’s definitely contributing to my sleepless nights but in a way that’s starting to connect and codify a lot of disparate thought fragments, so it’s worth it.  It’s made me feel a lot less weird about some of the things I’ve been cranking on in the old noggin’ lately. 

I will never think about vulnerability and shame the same way.  Her writing shows me the reasons why I have turned away from putting my full heart and soul into racing in the past.  It makes sense why I can say “I want to be a published author” and fully believe it, while simultaneously spending almost a year ignoring the draft I’ve written and spinning up other projects instead. 

I’m terrified of being vulnerable.  I’m not a weak person, and I believe in myself, but for things I really care about, I tend to keep them close to my vest.  My writing is good if no one else can read it and cut me to pieces with criticism.  My singing voice is great if no one else can hear it.  I explored that feeling a lot HERE before I actually knew what it was.  As I wrote the words it sounded super stupid, but now I know that’s the shame monster coming out to attack.

The shame monster says “who are you to dress like this”, and I give it this look.

Fear of shame dictates how I hold back sometimes.  If I share that I’m really going for it during a race, and then I blow up or just mentally fizzle out miles from the finish, what will people think of me?  “Oh, there she goes, talking big about her racing and then just failing again and again, yawn.”  If I share the deeper, more vulnerable thoughts I have on social media, what if it gets no attention?  Even worse, what if someone posts a haterade comment?  What if people wordlessly think I’m weird and unlovable?

The crazy thing is that I LOVE other people’s deep thoughts and long, personal posts conveying who they really are.  I value people that share themselves more freely.  However, as it is with most everyone, vulnerability is AWESOME in others and TERRIBLE in ourselves.

So, I’m working on being the courage and confidence I see and want to see in other people.  It’s heavy work, but each time I push myself further into the danger zone which is vulnerability, it feels REFRESHING and REAL and EXCITING and I think I’m even ready to combat my first haters if they show up outside of my own head. Maybe. 🙂

In the wake of all of that noise, I ignored most of the way-too-large to do list I wanted to do in January.  I needed much more downtime than I expected, and it’s okay.  The organizational projects will be there when I’m motivated to do so.  At some point, my book will come back into focus, when I’ve done the sidework I need to do to be ready for it.  I’m thoroughly enjoying tooling around with some different writing styles and it’s all towards the good and betterment of my command of the written word. 

I think my February focus will be to take the stress off myself here.  I would really, really, really like to complete one small organizational project, it will make me feel like a better human.  However, I’m going to leave my hobbies up to my own whims.  If little writing projects and reading and photography take up most of my time, that’s totally fine with me.  I need a lack of clutter in the To Do List and some freedom to focus on whatever it is that brings me down the unclear and unpredictable path I need to walk right now.

Indoor Tri – #fasterasamaster

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse. Seven days removed from giving everything in my pursuit of the finish line at 3M, I was ready to rip it all up once more at maximum effort.

I’ve raced two, even three weeks in a row at times, so I know how to do this. Very little training during the week, check. Lots of rest, and a nice low stress work week, errr, big NOPE there. Proper nutrition, uhmmm, well, okay, I know HOW to do this well, even if maybe I didn’t follow my own advice in this particular instance.  I crashed into Friday feeling a little worn, but I knew I had most of the weekend to do myself well, as well as the benefit of racing in the last wave of the day at 11am (sleep, precious sleeeeep!).

Saturday was fantastic regardless of my sins and failures previous. I slept well until I woke naturally around 9:15, ate a bagel, and spent the morning lazing around until I finally hopped on the trainer.  The plan was twenty minutes with spinups every two minutes directly into a one mile run, easy with strides. In both instances, I had to keep telling myself, “slow down slow down SLOW DOWN, you need to save it for tomorrow.”

The leg beasts felt ready to roar the next day, which was encouraging, considering the week I’d had. I have some pretty steep goals: PR every leg from every single time I’ve done this race, even the crazy 8:30/mile pace I held many years ago when I was more of a runner. Should I achieve all of my lofty goals, I stashed a nice bottle of Baby Blue waiting in the cupboard for me to break my January resolution for one day only (whiskey and I decided it was best that we see other people after spending too much time together this fall).  Well, again, because I made the deal with myself for 3M.  Whatever motivates, right?

Power food!!!

For posterity, I ate half a club sandwich + some brussels sprouts + some french fries for lunch, and chicken, potatoes, and a greek side salad for dinner.  I slept fantastically, 9 hours with over 4 hours of deep sleep.  While the days leading up may not have been stellar, I did Saturday right.

I woke around 8:30 (suuuuuch a luxury for a race day), and did things similarly to the week before.  Morning included a mini bagel with bacon and cream cheese (and everything bagel seasoning!), two cups of earl grey tea, two caff beans, a quick trainer ride, a quick foam roll, a short drive to Lifetime Fitness, and we were off to the races, literally.

I felt almost jittery from caffeine already (it doesn’t take much), but Zliten convinced me to take my watermelon rocket fuel anyway.  Wheeee! I planned to push the swim harder than I normally would due to the format. Typically, I like to use the first leg as a warmup and then go chase on the bike, but since you get points for your rankings for each sport and not just a finish time there’s a different strategy to employ.

I swam a consistent pace that kept me slightly out of breath and my comfort zone, but not too far (I wasn’t shattered at the end).  19.5 lengths has been my best so far, and I smashed my record by hitting the wall at 21 right as the clock hit 10 minutes.  This is kind of surprising as I have been in the pool very few times since Waco in October, and I also had to deal with some rando dude hopping in my lane late and smacking me repeatedly while he did the breaststroke the entire time. It’s okay, I’m used combat in open water, it was annoying but didn’t shake me up too much.

Unicorns, rainbows, stars, and SO MUCH CAFFEINE!

The transition was fairly uneventful, ten minutes sounds like a long time, but it’s always JUST ENOUGH, as it was this time as I started spinning while loading up my playlist as they counted down from 10, 9, 8…

This level of effort on the bike was unfamiliar as I’ve spent the last few months riding smiley pace with the only exception being the FTP test I took earlier this month. I tried to tap into that effort, willing my speed to stay where it needed to be (21 mph) to beat my best of 10.4 miles. It was really challenging, and I had to take a quick jog out of the saddle every few minutes to recover, but I hid inside my carefully cultivated playlist and worked through the pain of my lungs and legs burning and ended at 10.5 miles in 30 minutes.

Two legs down, two PRs, but diggity DANG I was already dusted and only had 5 minutes to transition (up and down some stairs and across the building), which got me to my treadmill with like 90 seconds to go and not feeling very ready to run, let alone run fast.

It would have been easy to back off on the run, but I decided to ride this wave of confidence I’ve been feeling and tell my brain to suck it up, buttercup because I COULD DO THIS.  I set the treadmill at the exact pace (7.0 with a wee sprint at the end) I needed to beat my best of 2.33 miles in 20 minutes. Through the first five minutes it felt oddly doable. The next three minutes felt like a long, painful hour. I actually took a itty bitty breather in the middle, stepping back to a more comfortable pace (6.5), letting my heart rate settle a bit, but quickly returned to where I needed to be within a few minutes and tucked in to the effort. With about five minutes to go, I started the increasing my speed to get to true puke pace to meet my goal. Doing some fuzzy math, I knew I was close.

So I gave it everything I had for the last few minutes and hung on as I crested 8, then 8.5 miles an hour. And when the clock ticked from 19:59 to 20:00, my mileage changed from 2.33 to 2.34.  For reference, 8:30 per mile is my standalone 5k PR pace from 10 years ago, which I also haven’t been able to beat since.  I jumped onto the sides of the treadmill as I hit pause and tucked my head between my knees for a minute because I. was. spent.

Victory whiskey!  Can’t lie that this popped in my head a few times when things got tough on the run...

I’ve done this race over five or six different years and I performed better on Sunday in each leg than I ever have before. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, except I am probably the LEAST trained I’ve been going into this race, ever, and I’ve had some pretty bright moments before, especially that one run many many years ago.  I had ZERO EFFING CLUE how I was going to surpass than and  I DID IT, it just took some friggin’ mental fortitude.

I was incredibly excited to tick every ambitious box I set in front of myself.  I’m proud of what my body was able to do, but even more than that, I’m proud of my mind.  Confidence and courage are pretty magical things, along with stars and unicorns, and I have carried all those things with me through the last two weeks.  That’s all that really mattered to me that day.  

However, I was also pleasantly surprised that my first race as a master (40+, even though I’m still 39, I’ll be 40 at the end of the year so it counts), I came out first in that division.  Even better, I was 3rd female overall, and 9th overall, and with 80+ people, that means I almost crested the top 10% of the entire race.  It was the cherry on the top of an amazing err… Sunday!

Now, it’s time to start getting real.  I have no idea where these last two weeks have come from, but it’s been a pleasant surprise that’s buoyed my already budding confidence.  If I can pull these results out of an untrained body but strong and confident mind, who knows what I can do with the same mental state and a few months of SPECIFIC training.  It’s time to eat the foods I should eat and not the ones I shouldn’t, lift the heavy things, and train short and fast for sprint triathlons this spring!

3M Half Marathon – when the stars align

Life has been whirlwhind-ly hectic this week/month/year, and I feel like I used a lot of words on social media to talk during the days around the race, but I still always like to put together these reports for posterity. So, let’s do this!

This is the first year I haven’t had any high hopes for this race.  3M has fooled me enough times already.  I’ll sign up really early in the year, purporting that THIS IS MY YEAR TO PR and then when winter comes around I’ll train halfheartedly or start training really late after a triathlon offseason, or maybe even train seriously and be dedicated to a plan and then I perform somewhere between OKAY and TERRIBLY –  like last year.  I always want to love this race, but it’s never loved me back.  I decided I wouldn’t get fooled again (no no), and I was running this one purely for funsies.

Saturday went fairly normally, but not *quite* to pre-race spec.  I had a giant club and soup for lunch instead of a turkey sub on wheat and had turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, and some tater tots vs my normal grilled chicken potatoes and salad.  Similar but not the same.  Instead of swimming, I rode the trainer for 20 minutes.  Packet pickup saw my legs and back and neck start to ache.  We were rear ended while driving home Friday, and apparently, it was not one hundred percent without bodily consequences.  

I wore stars all week as I could because stars have just felt right lately, so I kept that clothing trend going. Perhaps in the attempt to influence them to align the next day?

The headspace is always different staring down a starting line so early in the season. There were the nerves and doubts stemming from the utter lack of preparedness. On one hand, my thoughts rang with self deprecation – the eff am I doing out there on a literal handful of runs in the last three months? But… there was also some budding excitement after the killer twelve I ran the weekend previous. I was an unknown quantity and there’s a lightness that correlates with the lack of expectations.  That was neat after driving myself batty this fall under the weight of them.

I planned to run this one pretty much solely on perceived effort. I watched Dune that afternoon, and they constantly quoted, “fear is the mind killer”. I aimed to go out there the next day unafraid to put my hand in the pain box and then let the chips fall where they may, no judgies. Ok, maybe very little judgies, I’m not really good at rationalizing not being good, but I honestly was just so happy about the run the weekend before, even if I choked at the race, I had showed promise.  That was good enough for me to feel optimistic about the season to come.

I did my best to spend the rest of the day relaxing, actually sleeping rather decently.  All the thoughts rattling around in my head didn’t perturb me as they had earlier in the week, probably due to the fact that I mentally reserved the two hours of the race to ponder and let my thoughts distract me from the effort. Oddly enough, I didn’t need distractions the next day, I was happy to be present and inside the effort, but it was a nice balm to put me to sleep the night before.

I woke up race morning at 2am with my glutes and lower back seizing up. More fender bender after effects. I fell back asleep on an ice pack and woke up two hours later and it felt kinda touchy but OKAY. I would start.

I hopped on the trainer for 15 minutes to spin up my legs.  I ate a mini bagel with bacon and cream cheese and two caffeine beans.  I drank my earl grey tea, hot.  I was up early enough to use the bathroom about 3 times before we drove to the race start, but of course I STILL needed to hit the porta potties, which continued my tradition heading out on the course almost at the back of the field (about 11 minutes after the race started), but let’s just say it was worth it.

At the outset of the race I was freezing (the feels like was in the 20s) but less than a mile on the course and I was like, ” why the eff do I have all these things on my body” and while I fixed that by ditching my Goodwill sweatshirt and wrapping my buff around my wrist and pushing up my sleeves, I dropped my phone and took about twenty seconds on the side of the road situating myself.

That’s the last of my complaints. My stride felt awesome, better even than last week’s magical run, and the mid 30s temperature that irked me so much before felt absolutely perfect. Derezzed came on and I pretended I was a Tron light cycle avoiding all the slower runners. Blah blah blah came on and I dedicated that to the haters in my head saying I was going too fast while I continued to tick off consistent splits right around 9:20/mile.

I passed 10k, with my fastest time running THAT distance in almost 10 years and I still felt freaking amazing. I kept waiting for the darkness to descend, as it has every year moving down Shoal Creek, yet somehow this time I kept outrunning it with those consistent splits far outpacing my current personal record from years and years ago.

Around mile 9 it was no longer playtime, the hills began to appear, but I was ready for some pain.  Four more miles like this, I said.  Starboy came on (stars!), which is a terrible song if you listen to the lyrics but for some reason makes me MOVE and I found another gear to power up the hills that usually defeat me.  Then mile 10 was roooooough with another longer hill, but my random playlist struck back with Devil Went Down to Georgia (metal cover), and while that was my worst split of the day at 9:37/mile, it was still highly below PR pace.  As I did the math all I had to do was just hang the eff on.  I was so close I could taste it.  I hurt, but not insurmountably, and I was not going to let this slip through my fingers, not this time, no way in hell.

2:08 is my personal best. As I made the last turn and saw the finishing arch in the distance, I was on track to hit 2:04. I decided that I wanted 2:03 because this is how we do. I found a little something left in my belly and put everything I had into the last few minutes and crossed the line at 2:03:48. I almost both cried and horked at the finish (seriously, y’all, I gagged RIGHT NEXT TO A BUNCH OF SPECTATORS) but I held it together in both regards.

I can’t tell you how much this one means to me. More than finishing Ironman, more than qualifying for Nationals, this was not months but something I’ve been trying to crack for over EIGHT YEARS. From no hopes to almost a FIVE MINUTE PR in a matter of days after dozens of cracks at it over the years.  What a banner start to 2019!  I’m over the moon about this one.  It was awesome to go out with confidence even though I’m not a proven entity right now, and I had the courage to believe in myself, that I had the capability to push through when it started to get dark, and persevere right through the finish line.

I will note that this was probably one of the roughest recoveries for a half marathon yet.  I did have brief thoughts mid-race about really going for it and descending my pace another 10-15 second/mile and trying for a sub-2 hour half, but I decided that I didn’t want to jeopardize my PR and played it a *little* cautious so I didn’t fall down on the side of the road at mile 11.  It was a good decision.  My bodily conditions post-race told me that I had absolutely drained the tank.  I could barely walk the next day, staring down curbs like they were mountains to climb.  I took a few days off simply because I was tiiiiiired, yo.  I had some serious meetings on Monday and they. took. everything.  Today is the first day I’ve felt like a normal human.  I’ve felt better after a half ironman, maybe even some of my marathons.

And now, I have the opportunity in few more days to toe the line once more.  I’ll be racing the Indoor Tri on Sunday, and since I’ve done this one on multiple years, it’s a good offseason benchmark.  Hoping to PR all my legs, which would be 19.5 lengths in the pool in 10 minutes (I swam 21 today at a lesser effort so here’s hoping!), 10.4 miles on the bike in 30 minutes, and 2.33 miles in 20 minutes on the run (this one will be the toughest, I haven’t run this fast in FOREVER but with what I did last weekend… anything is possible).  Also excited to finish this little racing block and then move into for reals #preseason training with a plan and heightened attention to nutrition and a little more seriousness.  If this is playtime, I can’t wait to see what a little hunkering down will bring…

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