Wednesday List #24 – Rediscovering Austin Continued

My weekend of rediscovering Austin really got me thinking about things to do in Austin. It’s a great town, and I know I haven’t taken advantage of all that it has to offer. I’ve been forming a list of things I’d like to experience in the near future. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Do a trail run at Pedernales Falls State Park, which I’m scheduled to do on Saturday with Trailhead Running!
  2. Hike or run through McKinney Falls State Park.
  3. Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and have lunch in their cafe.
  4. Spend a Thursday night (or two or three) at the Broken Spoke.
  5. Visit the Dripping Springs Public Library and get a library card.
  6. Visit the Blanton Museum of Art.
  7. Visit the Harry Ransom Center.
  8. Visit Donn’s Depot on a Monday night. (Mac? Join me?)
  9. Watch some improv at New Movement or the Hideout or both.
  10. Try a session at the Hot Lava Obstacle Course.  (Valerie, this one is all you.)
  11. Try stand up paddle-boarding on Lady Bird Lake.
  12. Go back to Uchiko. (Erin and Joe, I’m counting on you to do this with me when Erin visits!)
  13. Go to a show at the One World Theatre.
  14. Join Ride Like a Girl for some mountain biking. (The one and only time I’ve tried mountain biking about ten years ago, I looked terribly battered afterwards but had a great time. I need to get my bike tuned up.)
  15. Visit Travaasa, a cool-looking spa, preferably on a weekday as a reprieve from the regular work week.
  16. Participate in the activity that I’m still code-naming “Pedicures With Poppe.”

These are ideas. I’m always game for more. Feel free to pass along your suggestions!

Partners.

I arrived at the Austin airport ridiculously early this morning and ran into Alicyn, my doubles partners from my days of junior tennis. What are the chances that I would run into Alicyn on my way to New Haven, where I am going to visit my doubles partner from my boarding school days? Those sorts of coincidences make me think I’m doing the right things with my life these days.

Heading out to see Sarah and running into Alicyn totally got me thinking about my days of playing tennis. I spent hours and hours, both before and after school on the tennis court. I was living in Corpus Christi at the time, and Mom and I travelled constantly on the weekends for tournaments in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Wichita Falls and eventually to California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and elsewhere, as I became a national player. We were always on the go. I regularly packed and unpacked, always hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything important, like my tennis racket, shoes or bloomers. (Yes, I wore skirts and, therefore, had to wear bloomers. Tennis clothes weren’t terribly cool back in the day.)

I realized that, in many ways, I’m still living that life. I workout before and after work. I travel lots across the country, and many times, Mom still travels with me. I’m constantly making lists so I don’t forget my bike shoes, gloves, race belt, lucky hat, or lucky socks. The differences are that I’m doing triathlons and running, rather than playing tennis. I’m making the plans instead of playing whatever tournaments Mom signed me up for. And I’m competing only with myself. (The clothes are still pretty uncool, except for the finishers’ clothes. Those are super cool.)

I wonder if I would have embraced the races I do now if I hadn’t been an athlete as a little kid. I’ve always juggled my activities. I’ve always loved being physical in some way. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and then putting my feet up with a good book. As a kid, I put my feet up in the back of the car while Mom drove me home from tournaments. These days, I’m putting my feet up in hotels.

Then and now, I’ve made incredible friends through my sports.  In my youth, tennis was about Alicyn, Sarah, Michelle, Teri, Anne, Heather, Jennifer, Tina, Ericca, David, and others. Today, triathlons and runs are about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin, Catherine, Kerry, Poppe, Jenny, Fred, MJ,  Judy, Betsy, and so many more. My tennis trophies are in boxes in my garage. I suspect some day, my race medals will be too. (Maybe not the Ironman medals!) But the people I met along the way remain in my heart as the best part of what I did then and what I do now.

I remember being in Hurst-Euless-Bedford are playing a match with Alicyn. I had just screwed up a point, and we stood at the back fence trying to rally one another’s spirits. I stood with my back to the fence, and I got so angry at myself that I banged the edge of my racket against the fence behind me. Little did I know that we stood right by a pole. I heard the crack of my racket when it hit the pool. Oops. That broken racket would be a tough one to explain to my mother. At that point we laughed so hard. I don’t remember if we won or lost the match, but I remember that we laughed.

That I recall laughter that took place more than twenty-five years ago tells me that I was doing something right then. And that I see my friend today and still feel the same warmth towards her that I did when we were kids trying to find our way on the tennis court tells me that what came out of tennis for me was not a skill or a drive to athleticism. I ended up with sweet and wonderful friendships. Lots of sweet and wonderful friendships.

I remember the day Jeanie called me in 2007 and told me to log onto ironman.com. I remember the cheerleading she did. When I reminded her about the size of my ass, she quickly assured me that it was the size of my heart that mattered. I remember the shock and the joy of registering for that first Ironman, and I remember all of the laughter and the occasional tears shed along the way as we trained that first year. I remember the race, but mostly, when I think about Coeur d’Alene in 2008, I think about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda and Robin and the friendships that grew out of that race.

I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met along the way. I’m so grateful for each and every partner through my adventures. Then and now.

A Whole Night’s Sleep.

Sleep has been escaping me lately. My body doesn’t seem to understand that the hours between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. are meant for sleep. Currently, it thinks they are for staring at the back of my eyelids, reading, watching television, doing dishes, and otherwise thinking about the one thing I want most right now. Last night, in my wide-awake state, I noticed that my children were oddly quiet during those hours. I think even they feel compassion for my lack of sleep right now.

So what’s going on? I’m training lots. I’m eating well. I’m not stressing about work. I’m in the comfort of my own space. So what’s the problem?

To answer that question, I started thinking about the last times that I slept especially well. Most recently, I crashed hard the night after running Hood to Coast. I slept so hard that my right eye crusted shut. It was wonderful, but I’m not about to stay up all night and run in an effort to get one good night’s sleep. Before that, I think the last time I slept easily and well was last December on Whidbey Island where I did a Peerspirit writing workshop called “The Self as the Source of the Story.” Each night, I went to bed relatively early, usually before 10, and I woke with ease around 5 in the morning without even needing an alarm. The one morning that I “slept in” was the morning that we had the entire day to write on our own in silence. I think I was a little intimidated to start that effort.

I slept well on Whidbey Island because I was spending day and night doing things that meant everything to me. I went for walks, read, spent days in sessions with women I adore, and wrote. That was it. It was simple on the outside, though I was struggling with and writing about things that were anything but simple for me on the inside. What that tells me is that I don’t need things to be easy, but I do need them to be meaningful.

Right now, I’m trying to fill a void. I’m filling it with good things, like movies, travel and dance lessons, but even good fillers are fillers. And I don’t want my life to be about fillers.

My big boss at a law firm where I sometimes work likes to say that there are three choices every person needs to make: who you love, what you do, and what community you live in. According to him, some people only get one or maybe two of those right, and the people who experience the most satisfaction in life get all three of them right.

A year ago, I thought I had the love piece down. Now, I have an incredible community, and I’m mostly doing work I love. There hasn’t been a time when I had all three at the same time.

I want all three. I can’t control the love piece, and I think the community is, at least in part, something you build with the person you love, so, for me right now, that means focusing on the piece about what I do. That’s part of why I’ve been writing so much. Writing is definitely therapeutic for me, but it’s also what I love most, whether I’m writing in my journal, this blog, an essay, an article, or content for someone else’s business. I enjoy it with my whole heart.

I’m going to continue doing what I enjoy and trust that I eventually will find a person I can love with my whole heart who will love me and who will join me in building a community we can love together with our whole hearts.

I want a whole heart, and I think it feeling far away is what’s keeping me up at night. But I’m hopeful. With each passing day and each passing (sleepless) night, I’m more and more hopeful.

Changing Images.

My Hood to Coast team has been sharing photos since we got home from the event. One of the photos I saw was this:

Finish with friendsI loved it immediately for two reasons. First, I love these girls. They embody so much of what I want for my own life – kindness, determination, humor, courage, and ability. I could go on and on about them. I just love them. Second, I like how I look in this photo. I don’t often taken full body photos of myself because I’ve never been one to love my body. I especially have never loved my legs. They are thick and stocky and have been since I was a little kid. I even remember kids in middle school joking about how my thighs connected when I walked – something that wasn’t true about most of the string beans I grew up with. But when I saw this photo, it occurred to me that my legs don’t look all that different from my friends’ legs – and I think my friends are both gorgeous girls with amazing bodies. My legs aren’t as defined, but I actually kind of like how they look, and I’m encouraged that they will only look better and better as my training continues.

Y’all, that’s huge for me. To like how I look? That’s practically unheard of.

I started my TriDot training program in January with the goal of getting faster. Weight loss has been a nice by-product, but it was never the goal. I’m down fifteen pounds, which is just ten pounds above high school weight, and I think my weight will continue to drop. That’s all well and good, but what means the most to me is that I see the beginnings of a shift in my confidence level.

When my friend Rey was in town about two months ago, we went shopping because my pants were so big that I could pull them down even when they were zipped and buttoned. On that spree, we bought skirts, and I’ve actually worn those skirts. In Germany, again I bought skirts. To feel comfortable in my skin to the point of wearing skirts is a new place for me. And it’s a place I enjoy.

I love this picture. And I love that I love this picture. I can’t wait to see how it feels to find more definition in my legs. I’m approaching forty and liking how I look? How exciting.

Hood to Coast 2013.

This weekend rocked. I had a ridiculous amount of fun doing a nearly 200-mile running relay from Mt. Hood, east of Portland, to the Oregon coast. My team of twelve consisted of Catherine, Lucinda, Jenn, Eily, Paul, Elizabeth, Eric, Jake, Fred, Mike, Jeanne and me. Catherine and I flew out Wednesday night. The rest of the team arrived on Thursday. We raced Friday and Saturday – as in we raced through the night. Then we flew home on Sunday.  This van decor from another team’s van captured the experience:

Hood to Comatose

Hood to Comatose indeed! I’m equal parts exhausted and exhilarated. And I learned so much.

  1. We had six people in each van, and everyone agreed that the vans reeked about mid-way through the 30-hour event. We had changes of clothes, but still, the stench was awful. And it didn’t bother us one bit because we were having so much fun. Turns out even a cramped and smelly car can be wonderful with the right people.
  2. Each member of the team ran three legs of varying distances and levels of difficulty. My first two were around 6 miles long and hilly. My third was four miles long and relatively flat. I ran my first leg early Friday afternoon, my second leg at 11 at night, and my third leg at 8:30 on Saturday morning. I could handle the running and actually did quite well on each leg. The biggest physical challenge for me was the being up all night aspect of the race. When I had moments to sleep, even 15 minutes here and there, I took them. And when we had over an hour to sleep on a high school gym floor, I passed out cold.
  3. After sleeping on the gym floor, we had the option to shower at the high school before heading back out on the road for our third legs. I took the option and paused momentarily when I realized that the showers were not stalls, but community showers – a pole with multiple spouts. I think I can safely say that never in my nearly forty years have I been willing to shower publicly. But in my exhausted and sleep-deprived state, I showered, and it felt damn good to be clean and feel somewhat awake for a bit.
  4. Oregon is beautiful. I’ve spent quite a bit of time there these past few years, but I hadn’t been since last October, and I caught myself in awe of the place once again. The rental house on the lake, the course through the country, and the beach were all incredibly beautiful. I love Portland and Oregon. They hold a very special place in my heart.
  5. I love hard efforts. This was a hard effort. Our team pulled together, powered through the night, and came out laughing and celebrating on the beach. No tension. No drama. Nothing but smiles and laughter the entire way. When we were done, we were celebrating, not just the effort, but our sheer enjoyment of the company along the way, despite the challenges of the event. There’s really nothing better than doing great things with great people.

Though it may take me a few days to recover, I loved this event. I loved the racing. I loved the company. I loved the environment. I would do this race again in a heartbeat. For sure.

Post-Race Activity.

How do you spend the first weekend after an Ironman event? With no eight-hour bike ride on the schedule and no need to be home particularly early on Friday night, I made a point of having some fun.

Last night, Erin, Jeanie and I went back to trapeze. The idea was that we would do a release move – that we would do exactly what we did last time but that we’d be caught in the air by another person. The thought of that terrified me, but I agreed to try. When we Trapezearrived at the new location, we saw that the trapeze was set up outdoors rather than indoors under a tent like last time. We also had a different group of instructors and six other people who were there as part of our class. They walked us over to the low hanging bar to practice our moves before heading up to the apparatus, and I froze. I could not for the life of me convince myself to get back up there, so I didn’t. I sat in the bleachers and took photos and videos of Jeanie and Erin while they and others performed. That felt right to me. I felt calm as soon as I made that decision, and since I’m trying to trust myself these days, I went with that feeling of calm. But Jeanie and Erin did the new moves and did beautifully. I’m so proud of these girls and in awe of their bravery and ability. As for me, maybe next time I’ll give it another try.

Trails

Then this morning, Jeanie and I met on Lady Bird Lake to walk. Yes, walk. I had my coffee and camera in hand, and we walked and talked and toured the newish boat house and took pictures and had a wonderful morning. Then we went to Austin Java for breakfast and more conversation. I love running and working hard, but I also love just being. This morning was exactly what I needed, and it was a treat to spend that time with my friend. Thank you, Jeanie, for spending the morning with me.

After my morning with Jeanie, I came to the office. I’m working a bit and then hope to catch up with another friend or two this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll gather with my Ironman crew for a post-race celebration poolside. All of this is good stuff for a first post-race weekend.

But I’m not just thinking about the weekend. I’m looking ahead now. That’s something I haven’t really done or wanted to do in a while, but I’m finally ready to think about what’s to come and how to make the most of it all.

I’ve mentioned before that I turn 40 this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to mark the occasion. My original plan had been a trip to Vienna, but I’ve decided to put that off for a bit. Instead, I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro. I’ve never been to Africa, and I’ve honestly never even had a desire to go to Africa. But I do love challenges, and I’m all for having new experiences and listening to my heart. Almost out of nowhere, my heart is telling me to go to Africa, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to spend my new years on the mountain, and after the climb, I’ll do a brief safari before returning home.

To say that I’m excited doesn’t adequately capture what I’m feeling. For the first time in months, I sit in joyful anticipation of the time ahead and the experiences it will bring. That, my friends, is a lovely place to be.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013.

What can I say? It was incredible. In terms of time, it was my personal best – 15 hours and 58 minutes. Though it rained on us the first few days we were there, the rain broke, and the weather ended up being perfect for race day. My body both held up during the race and recovered incredibly quickly afterwards. And mentally, I felt like myself again.

That’s the short version.  Here’s a little more detail for those who want it.

The water was in the low 60s for the swim. For the first time ever, they did a rolling start instead of a mass start, which means we got started with the race a bit before 7 in the morning and a 100 or so people entered the water at a time in a constant stream. I think the rolling start gave us more space overall, but I still got whacked a time or two. Once in particular, I thought I had a bloody nose from  getting hit in the face, but I didn’t. I had a really good swim and got out of the water feeling strong.

The bike was tough. It was a two-loop course with very few turns. Much of it takes place on a rolling highway that has some challenging long, gradual climbs. I had a strong first loop. By the second loop, I could feel the hills more, and I had moments of desperately wanting to be off the bike. But by the time I rolled back into town to finish the bike, I felt good again. I felt strong and fast and chipper, which is a good way to finish the bike and get started on the run.

My goal for the run had been to run the whole thing. I almost accomplished that. I ran most of the run, but I walked up the one really big hill on the run. Overall, the run was the hardest part for me. About five or six miles into the run, I felt a little off. The folks who had applied my sunscreen for me when I was starting my run told me that my skin felt too cold. I decided to start anyway and to just be aware of my skin and body temperature as I went. There were medics all over the course, so I knew I could find help later if I needed it. Eventually, I could tell something wasn’t quite right with me, but I kept going. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel well. Thankfully, I saw my friends out on the run. One of them (Jeanie) even lapped me. She finished the race as I was starting the second loop. I was very proud of her and incredibly jealous. But I started the second loop and got to visit with my mom and my coach for a bit as I did so. Both of them helped me to stay motivated, and I pushed. I pushed myself hard, particularly given that I didn’t feel quite right.

The best part of the run was the last seven blocks leading up to the finish. People were cheering and congratulating me. I knew I had a chance of having a finish time that started with a 15, which had been my goal. I could feel the tears coming on. I could hear the folks in the grandstand long before I could see them. I felt proud, and I felt grateful.

This was my fourth Ironman finish. Every race is special in its own way, but this race felt personal. I turn 40 this year. It’s been an emotionally challenging first half of the year knowing that I’m aging and that I’m doing so alone. I never expected to be single at 40. I certainly didn’t expect it over the last few years. This year, I have had moments of sadness unlike any that I’ve experienced in the past – moments when I couldn’t see past the sadness – but I kept seeing this race. I knew it was on my calendar. I knew I was committed to doing it with Jeanie and Malinda. And I knew it had the potential to lift me up like nothing else can.  It did just that.

There is something magical about an Ironman finish line. There’s something magical about deciding to do something challenging and sticking with it day after day, hour after hour, and moment after moment. The intensity, the struggle, the pain, and the thoughts that clutter the mind at the start evaporate at the finish. All that’s left is joy. Pure joy.

Finish

Goodbye For Now, Bike.

My bike is out of my hands. I dropped it and my gear bag off tonight with Tri Team Transport for a safe journey to Coeur d’Alene. This race is happening!

Last time I went to Coeur d’Alene, I was super nervous dropping off my bike. I remember that my hands were shaking as I tried to fill out the tags that would be attached to my stuff. Today, I wasn’t nervous. I calmly packed my stuff, loaded my car, and headed to the drop off point. I could feel my energy rising on my way there. And as with St. George, I forgot to give my bike a good luck kiss. But that’s okay. My bike and I understand one another. I know we’ll be fine.

Something has happened to my energy today. I think it has everything to do with my lunch with my friend Ginger.

I got a text from her this morning inviting me to lunch. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go because of work, but it worked out. I started out updating her on me. In other words, I started out complaining a bit. But eventually the conversation turned to her and the wonderful things happening in her life. As we spoke, my spirits just lifted.

I can’t really explain it except to say that it felt good to be in the company of a dear friend. It felt good to be heard and understood. It felt good to listen. It felt good to laugh. Time with Ginger was exactly what I needed.

After lunch, I went back to work in a much better mood – a much better place mentally. And then tonight, I got to prep my stuff for my race, which just excited me more. I can’t wait to get to Coeur d’Alene. I’m ready for it.

Be safe, speedy bike. I’ll see you next week.

Time is Flying By!

I’m amazed that it’s January 29. I could have sworn I was fretting about New Years just yesterday, and suddenly we are at the end of January? How did that happen?

I have to admit that it’s been a good month. I’ve been working, but not too much. I’ve be training well. I’ve also had a bit of fun.

For example, this weekend I went to Trapeze Austin with the Coeur d’Alene girls. Erin talked us into the group outing, and I had my doubts about whether I would be able to do anything at all associated with trapeze. More than that, I was certain I would not be able to participate. I have a fear of heights. I don’t like rides or roller coasters or anything that takes me up in the air. I prefer my feet to be planted firmly on the ground, though I make exceptions for cycling. It’s all scary stuff – being high up and not having control.  But I did it. I did it quite well actually. And I had a ridiculous amount of fun trying something new and proving myself wrong.

I have two videos of my performance. The first is of my first attempt, which was by no means perfect, but I love the video because I can hear my friends cheering for me. Unfortunately, I had some difficulty getting the first one to load, so I can’t share it with you.

This video is of my second attempt. It’s not perfect in that I let go of my arms a bit late, but it’s pretty darn good, and again, I can hear my friends rooting for me.

It means a great deal to me to have my friends believe in me. I’m so grateful that these girls believed I could do this and rallied behind me until I did.

Out With The Old.

After a long day at work – yes, I worked today – I went by my parents’ place to hang out with them for a bit before coming home. I had a nice time. I played Backgammon with my dad while my mom watched. Then I came home and did the things I wanted to do to get my house and my heart ready for 2013.

I want the new year to be about joy. I think I’m a pretty joyful person most of the time. I try not to be angry and bitter. I try not to bring anyone down when I’m down. I try to surround myself with love and light and hope and joy. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I want to be joyful all the time, regardless of my circumstances

To that end, my theme for 2013 is joy. Everything I do needs to be about joy. The decisions I make, the way I spend my time, the people I welcome into my world — they all need to point me towards joy. Out with the old, and in with the joyful new. Do you hear me, 2013? That’s where you and I are headed.

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful new year. Much love – and joy – to you.