St. George Prep.

Just last week, I was unsure if I would be racing St. George. Since right after my Barcelona trip, I’ve had a bit of a hip issue that’s caused some pain and put me in an unfamiliar place both physically and mentally. I’m not injury prone and don’t know how to deal with these sorts of setbacks. But my coach, whom I continue to adore, has been helping me by pointing me to people who deal with these issues all the time. After therapy and injections and more doctor visits in three weeks than I’ve probably ever had in my life, I think I’m ready to race.

This weekend, I spent my Sunday morning packing my gear bag. Then that afternoon, I dropped my bike and gear bag off with Tri Team Transport so that I can pick them up hassle-free in St. George. I forgot to kiss the seat for luck, but I’m hopeful the bike will accept a post-arrival pickup kiss in lieu of my traditional send off kiss. My bike and I have been deepening our relationship over the past year. I think we will survive my oversight, and I’m hopeful we might even thrive on this trip.

This trip is about me and the course. I’m making the journey to St. George alone. I know it’s going to be a tough course, but the Rev 3 Half Ironman that I did in Portland last summer was tough too. I survived it, challenged mostly by a nutritional meltdown, which shouldn’t be an issue in this race. I’m excited and nervous to see how I do. I also plan to spend some time taking in the beauty of the area before I head home.

Until I head out of town, I’m tasking myself with getting my work done, getting packed, and getting my head in the game. I’m still a bit uneasy about things generally, so I’m definitely practicing the art of faking it until I make it, but I’m hopeful. And that, my friends, is what these races are all about – hope that I will overcome the bits of doubt in my own mind and accomplish what I have set out to do.

Happy race week to you and to me.

"How Are You?" Matters

It hit me today that “How are you?” is an important question. When someone asks, do they really want to know? And when I answer, am I being genuine with them?

I’ve been studying my relationships to identify the people in my life who ask a real question and get a real answer. I don’t expect everyone to have that level of intimacy with me, as I’m not capable of having that level of intimacy with everyone. I see value in acquaintances, in relationships that involve mutual cheerleading, and in relationships from childhood that remind us of the kids we once were. Those are all good relationships. But I want some relationships that demand truth. I want some relationships that regularly ask the question “How are you?” and always insist on a real answer.

For a long time, I thought I wanted only one person in that role, but I’ve learned that I need more than one because sometimes people exit your life unexpectedly. Sometimes they want to go. Sometimes you show them the door. Either way, the end result is the same: a once trusted person is gone and what remains is a hole of doubt and uncertainty. Who will care about me now? Who will trust me to love them? When something exceedingly good or bad happens, who will I call? Who will call me? Will I have confidence in my ability to identify the permanent connections from the temporary ones? It’s hard not knowing how to answer those questions.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in the last six months trying to answer those questions for myself. Today, I realized that I’ve been limiting myself in trying to come up with a single answer. For me, there is no one answer. There are answers. There are the people who call and text and email to ask how I am and to tell me they’ve been thinking about me. Some want to make dinner plans. Some want to make workout plans. Some want to make vacation plans. Some just want to talk. There are also people I reach out to because I know they’ll understand why something is incredible or awful. I’ve been overwhelmed by these people this week.

I crave real connections. I am desperate to understand and be understood. And I’m so grateful when someone in my life – whether they are a new friend, an old friend or a downright ancient friend – reaches out and asks me, “How are you?” and gives me the freedom to say, “I’m a mixed bag right now.” Because the truth is, I am a mixed bag. Thank you for asking. Tell me, how are you?

Wednesday List #15 – Good Things About This Morning

Yesterday was a rough day. It started with a nice run and my typical morning at the gym, cleaning up and having breakfast before entering my day. But as soon as I left the gym, I felt off. Driving to the office, I got overwhelmed by my to do list. All day long, whether in person or by email or text, I wasn’t connecting well with people. I was rushing from one thing to the next. I felt like I’d left my ability to think and breathe at home. The day shifted though when one of my partners came into my office late in the afternoon to touch base on some work and just talk. That half hour of easy connection with another person helped me to relax a little. Then on my drive home, I spoke to a friend with whom I’d butted heads earlier in the day, and that process of listening, being heard and moving on helped me recover more fully from the awkwardness of the day. By the time I got off the phone, I felt a calm.

This morning, particularly because yesterday felt wrong, I made a conscious effort to start the day well. I’ve had a delightful morning as a result.

  1. I woke early to spin. I didn’t rush out the door to the gym like I normally do. I decided today to spin at home and make some headway on catching up with The Voice.
  2. After my workout, I got cleaned up and went to my chiropractor. I love my chiropractor and had gotten out of the habit of going each week, but I made a decision a couple of weeks ago to re-enter that practice. I’m so glad I did. He worked his magic today, and I walked out of the office feeling stronger than I did when I walked in.
  3. After going to the chiropractor, I went to my favorite little bakery near my house. I was early for my breakfast date, so I had time to journal. Fifteen minutes of writing down my thoughts did a great deal to clear my head.
  4. Just as I was wrapping up a thought, my friend Bobbi showed up, and we had a wonderful time of reconnecting. I’d run into her at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, and we were quick to set up a time to meet up to catch up for real. It felt good to sit down with her. Something about her manner both grounds me and lifts me up.
  5. After breakfast, I gave myself a few minutes to run by an office store. I love office supplies and needed some folders for a surge of new clients I’ve experienced recently with my writing business. It felt indulgent to take a few minutes of the working day to get that errand done.
  6. After my errand, I went to my favorite bike shop to drop off my bike for a race tune-up. I have a race next week. I wasn’t sure a few days ago if my body would be well enough to race, as I’ve been having a bit of a hip issue, but I think my doctors have helped me, and I’m hopeful the race will happen. The act of dropping my bike off in preparation for the race made the race just a bit more real for me.
  7. At the bike shop, I asked about bike shoes. Since my last Ironman, I’ve had some issues with my feet getting numb after long rides, and I’ve been meaning to ask whether I needed new shoes. Today, as I left the house, I thought to grab my shoes. I was expecting to have to buy new shoes, but the super helpful (and quite handsome) guy at the shop encouraged me to try inserts as a first step. He fitted me and sent me on my way. I won’t get to ride again until Saturday, but I’m excited to try my shoes.
  8. Now I am at the office, easing into my work day.

All of that happened before 11 this morning.  Wednesday is proving to be much nicer than Tuesday was, for me anyway. I hope the same is true for you.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Writing/Speaking From Experience.

I’ve been reading a book called The Ledge by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughn.  In 1992, Davidson and his friend and climbing partner, Mike Price, were climbing Mt. Rainer when they fell into an 80-foot crevasse. Price died as a result of the fall. Davidson survived and returned to climbing and now is a professional speaker.

I read this book for one of my book clubs that is attended by what some might call excessively active women. We all run, ride, race or do something along those lines. I’m new to the club and thrilled to be a part of it because they are not a typical club. The vast majority of the club had read the book, which makes sense given we are all endurance athletes who share a distaste for the term DNF – did not finish. But they were also quite vocal and lively. I’m a bit of a wallflower, so time around vocal and lively women will do me some good.

Since I left the meeting, I’ve been thinking about one issue we discussed. Some of the women in the group were troubled by Davidson’s building a speaking career around his friend’s death. They were interested in the story, but did not appreciate the book’s shift from what happened to the portion that felt to them as though Davidson was saying, “I’ve since become a professional speaker, and let me tell you what I teach.” I understand their view, but I don’t share it. I see value in Davidson using this experience that left his friend dead to teach and speak.

I read memoir – and have for as long as I can remember – because I think we learn from each other. I will likely never go ice climbing, and I may never use the technical skills Davidson describes in this book, but I will remember and appreciate his discussion of how climbing brings out his best and how he had to peak in those initial moments down in the crevasse to save his own life. I do agree with the women in my club that the last portion of the book, in particular the epilogue, could have been written in a more subtle manner, but I believe the telling and re-telling of Davidson’s story – what happened, what he learned, and how he has been able to use that experience to learn about himself and to help others learn potentially life-saving skills, including coping skills – has value.

I’ve learned some useful things myself just reading the book. When faced with a challenge, I hope I will recognize whatever situation I am in as my crevasse of sorts. I hope I will recognize that my situation is not nearly so dire as what Davidson faced and take some comfort in that. I hope I will ask myself some questions. What are my skills? What are my tools? What is the right next step to take? I hope that I will act, not half-heartedly, but fully invested in whatever I’m doing. And I hope I will keep in my mind and on my heart the people I met along the way who helped me nurture the truest form of myself.

I recommend the book. And given the opportunity, I would eagerly go hear Davidson speak. I think I have more to learn from him.

Running Towards Boston.

Yesterday’s Boston Marathon was not the experience the runners, the fans, or the city deserved. I went to bed last night thinking that the death toll was astonishingly low given the crowds. This morning, I was relieved to see that the death toll had not multiplied but saddened to see that the number of injuries reported had. This morning CNN is reporting 154 injured. Three dead and 154 injured that we know of so far.

I echo my friend Sarah’s sentiment, “What kind of monster blows up a marathon?”

Right now, I’m nowhere near fast enough to qualify for Boston and had never seriously considered the possibility that I might be able to run it one day. I may have even referred to someone I used to date, who was very cute and very fast, as “my ticket to Boston” a time or two, intended in humor but reflecting a core belief I held that Boston was not within my reach. Even yesterday, as countless friends called to make sure I wasn’t in Boston, I repeated the words, “Oh no, I’m not fast enough for Boston” again and again.

The qualifying time for a woman my age is 3 hours and 45 minutes. I have yet to break a 5 hour marathon. Out of reach? No. Not as long as I’m alive.

I’ve been running really well lately and cut twenty-four minutes off my marathon time between February and March of this year. I ran the Austin Marathon in 5:43 and the Barcelona Marathon in 5:19. I aim to break five hours later this year, as I have two more marathons scheduled for 2013.  If I can continue to improve and break four hours at any point in my 40s, then I can run Boston. It’s a lofty goal, perhaps even a little absurd, but my mind keeps going to my favorite Einstein saying, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

This morning, my friend Sarah also said, “I ran this morning. What else can we do?”

I don’t know how to respond to yesterday’s events. My anger, my sadness, my fear – those emotions are of no use to me or anyone else right now. But I can choose to run. And in honor of the people who were killed and hurt in Boston and because I respect that race and love the town, I choose to run towards Boston.

Exhausted in a Good Way.

Between my late afternoon track workout and my evening writing session for my personal essay class taught by Saundra Goldman, I’m pooped. I need to tend to my beggar children, get my stuff organized for tomorrow, and crawl into bed, but moving even a little sounds exhausting right now. So I sink a bit deeper into my couch.

It’s a good tired that I’m feeling. It’s the tired that comes with the satisfaction of time well spent and energy well exerted. I poured myself out on the track and on the page in the best way I know how. I love this feeling. I’d love it more if there was someone here who would get me a glass of water, feed my children, put my stuff in my work bag for me, and carry me to my bed. Any volunteers?

A Shift.

On Wednesday night, after a lovely mental health day, I went to a book club gathering of some really great girls. (It’s not relevant to this posting, but we discussed The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which I inhaled in one sitting.) During the meeting, one of the girls mentioned that the word “shift” was on her vision board for the year. That word has stayed with me. I think things are shifting for me somehow.

I’m experiencing a tremendous shift in my triathlon training because I’m improving. About a month ago, I noted some significant improvement. Last week, I retested the swim and the run and again noted big improvement. My 10K time in early March was 30 minutes and 13 seconds. Last week, it was 29 minutes and 10 seconds, which I did a couple of hours after running the Capital 10K last weekend. I love that I improved so much even though my legs were not fresh. Also, my 800 meter swim time improved from 15 minutes and 50 seconds to 15 minutes and 27 seconds. (On a side note, my friend Jamie posted an 18 minute 36 second time for a 1600 meter swim. Admittedly that burst my bubble a bit, but I let it go – sort of – because he is a pro triathlete and a really nice guy.) I’m thrilled with how my training is going. I’ve always been one to say that I do triathlon for fun, but I’m becoming someone who really cares about speed. My coach told me today that I’m becoming a “bad ass triathlete.” Me, a bad ass triathlete? Physicality aside, that’s an entirely new mindset for me.

That’s not the only way my inner self is changing. About six months ago, I simplified my schedule quite a lot and made a conscious effort to focus on work, writing, training and people, not necessarily in that order. I’ve been doing that pretty well, and I’ve gotten better about guarding my time. I’m leaving events when I need to so that I can get home reasonably and get up early the next day. I’m not returning calls and spending every minute of my time in the car on the phone. Instead, I’m driving in silence or listening to the radio, depending on what’s on my mind. Last weekend, I even spent an entire day at home. I exercised, read, cleaned, did laundry and just enjoyed being in my space with my children, and I didn’t feel guilty about going from pajamas to workout clothes to pajamas and passing up a number of invitations. I’m making decisions that are good for me. I like the person I can feel myself becoming.

It feels like I’m making room in my life for…something. I don’t know if that’s a person, a job, an experience, or what. But I feel like something is on its way. Sometime in my life is about to shift.

Wednesday List #14 – Things That Make Me Grateful

Since my Barcelona adventure, I’ve been an irregular writer. I’ve missed some Wednesday lists, but I’m back to them now. Today, my list is all about gratitude.

  1. My Work: I woke up this morning to the sound of rain and, after a hectic couple of weeks at work and two big projects coming to a close yesterday, I felt in need of a day off, so I took one. I met a friend at the bakery near my house for breakfast. I had coffee with my mom. I went to my chiropractor for the first time in almost six months. I reviewed my tax paperwork. I went to a Toastmasters meeting. I had lunch with my favorite guys from my Toastmasters club. I made a quick trip to my accountant’s office. I went to the post office to mail my franchise tax report. I went to Whole Foods to buy some snacks for book club tonight. Then I decided to make a brief appearance at work. That was my day, and it was lovely. It could only happen because I work for myself and have for nearly two years now. As that change was happening two years ago, I struggled with it. I could not have known then that all would be so well.
  2. My Mom: When I realized I had time this morning, I called my mom to come to my house for some coffee. She did, and it was wonderful. There’s not a lot that I can give my mother because she is not into things, but she does value time, and she rarely declines an invitation to spend time with any of her kids. Mom and I don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but we do know that we love one another always. I’m incredibly lucky to have her.
  3. My Health: Since I got back from Barcelona, I’ve had a bit of a hip issue. Apparently, I tweaked something in my hip the first time I ran after the long flight home. I didn’t stretch well enough beforehand, and now I have a limp. I’ve been seeing a wonderful rehab doctor that my coach recommended, and today I went to the chiropractor to see if he could help me. He did. Tremendously. I used to see him once a week, but I’d gotten out of the habit of going since about October. I’m back on track now, as he reminded me today what a difference regular adjustments make for my body.
  4. My Friendships: This morning, I sat down for breakfast with a dear old friend. We have both been so busy that we hadn’t connected since around the holidays. But after the exchange of a few text messages, we found ourselves face-to-face in conversation, and that just felt right to me today. We picked up where we had left off. She gave me solid advice, as she always has. And I left her grateful that our paths crossed so many years ago and that she chose to move to my little town when she did.
  5. My Toastmasters Club: This morning, I saw an email from my club saying that two speakers had dropped out for today’s meeting, so I decided to see if I could give a semi-impromptu speech.  I say “semi-impromptu” because I had actually written the speech back in March and had been mulling it over for a while, but I hadn’t practiced it the way I usually practice. Lately, I have shied away from Toastmasters meetings because it’s hard for me to stand up in front of a room full of people when my confidence is compromised. I’ve been rebuilding my confidence ever so slowly over the last few months. Normally, I would have waited until I felt at my best to reappear, but I made the decision to trust my club to receive me today as I am, and they didn’t let me down. My speech wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, and it gave me an opportunity to dive back into something I’ve loved for a long time.

I feel refreshed after my day. Thank you to everyone who played a part in making today so full of gratitude and joy. You did my heart good today.

Barcelona Completed.

I came home from Barcelona and promptly fell into work and routine mode. Here is a wrap up to the Barcelona experience, which was amazing thanks to Erin.

Day 5: I woke up the day after the marathon feeling great. Much to my surprise, I was walking like a normal person, which made me wonder if I hadn’t worked hard enough during the race! Erin and I hit the gym for a swim and spin to loosen up from the race. (If it hasn’t been clear from my posts, let me stress that Erin was a gem about my training while I was there. She got me passes to her gym so that I could keep up with every bit of my training. That meant so much to me and reminded me what a supportive friend she is.) After working out, we got ready for school! This day was Erin’s last day at her MBA program in Barcelona, and I got to go to class with her. I loved loved loved it. I loved being on a campus again and thinking about media, art and love in the context of developing truths about life. After an incredible class, we had dinner with her philosophy professors and classmates.

Day 6: After a late night out with her professors and classmates, Erin and I got up ridiculously early to catch a plane to Seville. We flew Ryanair, which was an experience, and arrived in Seville around 7:30 in the morning. We checked into our adorable bed and breakfast, the B&B Naranjo, drank an obscene amount of coffee, and then set out to the incredible Museo de Bellas Artes where I saw some of my favorite art.

After the museum, we went to the Casa de Pilatos and saw strange combinations of Christian and Moorish influences.

We wandered Seville in the rain, which we discovered is somewhat hard to do with the narrow and slick roads. Then, because we were exhausted, we called it an early night.

Day 7:  The next morning, we got up early for a run. We ran along the water and, thanks to Erin’s sense of adventure and direction, we entered a park that led us to Plaza de Espana. I didn’t have my camera on me, unfortunately, but it was stunning. After our run, we lunched near the Seville Cathedral and then went on a three or more hour tour of the Cathedral. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the third largest Christian cathedral, after St. Peter’s in Vatican City and St. Paul’s in London. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is there (pictured below), and it houses the third most important art collection in Spain. I loved it, and I loved the view we had from the bell tower.

After touring the cathedral, we wandered the Jewish Quarter, saw a flamenco show – which was incredible – and had a late dinner at Choco Y Late before putting this amazing day to bed.

Day 8: The next morning, I went for a short run before we hit Alcazar’s Palace. It’s an enormous structure, but I was most taken by the gardens.

I could have wandered those gardens for hours. Hours and hours. But we didn’t have a lot of time, so we wandered through and then visited the General Archives of the Indies and walked by the bullfighting arena before heading back to the airport to catch our flight back to Barcelona.

Day 9:  The next morning, we hit the gym again one last time for a swim and a spin. Then we visited the Barcelona Cathedral, the Santa Maria de la Pi (another church), Las Rambles (a big shopping area where I might have indulged in some gelato), La Boqueria (an enormous market of fish and fresh foods), and the most amazing part of the day – La Pedrera, one of the apartment buildings designed by Gaudi, who also did the Sagrada Familia.  At La Padrera, I learned that, for Gaudi, interior and exterior walls are not part of the support system for his designs. They are fascades, curtains, decoration – nothing more. He was such an imaginative architect. I loved seeing his work. Here are photos of the exterior and the rooftop.

The next morning, I flew home.

I loved Spain. I loved running in Spain. I loved touring Spain. I loved hanging out with my dear friend in Spain. I’m so grateful for every opportunity I had there. I cannot thank Erin, Joe and Jen enough for welcoming me into their home in Barcelona and allowing me this incredible adventure.