Sunday, December 23, 2012

May Your Path Be the Sound of Your Feet Upon the Ground

"Though I've never been through hell like that I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back. If you're lost and alone, or you're sinkin' like a stone....carry on. May your path be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on....carry on, carry on."--FUN

Birthdays are an interesting thing, they are a gift in and of themselves. So take a moment to unwrap them, think about all of the challenges you faced, the obstacles you overcame and the mistakes you made. Though some days are harder than others, you've gone through 365 of them and it's made you a stronger person. But it's more than that, birthdays are the gift that keeps on giving. You have in front of you another 365 days to be whoever you want to be, take on new challenges and breathe in new life. So surround yourself with the people you love, eat another slice of cake, and smile a little bit more, because the possibilities ahead of you are endless.

Another birthday come and gone, another page turned, and an end to a chapter of my life that felt like it only just began. Twenty-three was an astounding year, and I experienced more change than in the sum of the last few years. I finished my Master's degree, graduated and started my first real job. The transition from four part-time jobs to one full time one was an interesting one. Although, I do have an attachment to my pool and the swim lesson program I run, so I haven't quite let go of that one yet. I trained for, and successfully completed my first Half Ironman triathlon, which instantaneously invoked in me my new found love for the sport of triathlon that I foresee being a long term commitment. I took on my second marathon and set a PR of an hour and a half. I live on my own and do for myself, and while there are times that I miss being a child, living with my dad and seeing my siblings every day, I look at this as me being grown up and starting my life. This was only reinforced by the end of the grace period on my college loans! I've met a lot of people, some of them grew on me, shaped me, and others faded into the background. I'd say the combination of experiences and relationships over the year have given me insight into the person I am becoming. But even more than this is the motivation I put forth everyday in the tasks that I carry out.

I was on a run about a month ago, listening to my music and sitting with my thoughts...well no part of me was actually sitting, but you know what I mean. I do some of my best thinking on long runs, my knees will tell you otherwise though. It came upon me, however, that my birthday was coming up and I was one year away from my 25th birthday. A whole quarter-century of life! Being me, this signified that I would have 365 days to complete my "quarter centennial list" or things I want to do before I'm 25. This list has been added to, cut, pasted and probably had coffee spilled on it at least twice. So then I kept thinking, had someone told me this is where I would be with my life, five years ago I would have laughed at them, and told them they had it all wrong. But here I am.

So here it is, my plan, that probably won't go as planned. But it's what I will work towards because this is the person I want to be. For starts, in the next year, there are a few things I want to work on.
-- I want to work on being more comfortable in asking for help and letting people do things for me. I'm awful at this, and I will be the first person to admit it.
-- I want to be alright with knowing that it's ok to say goodbye. I have a tendency to try and fix things, mostly in my relationships, but this only leaves me exhausted....and some people are only going to hold you back, and offer you no growth as a person. I want to be able to surround myself with the people who support me, and love me all the time rather than just when it's convenient to them.

And of course the obstacles I will face along the way will be in the heart of the tasks that I take on. In the next year I hope to:
-- Sit for and pass my LSW test
-- Pass the Basic Skills math portion and finish my Type 73
-- Apply for school social work positions
--Set a PR on my Half Ironman distance at Racine
--Train for and complete my first Ironman
--Set a PR for my half marathon time (1:59:02)
-- Get a tattoo
--Write an article and have it published somewhere

Life is a lot like a good, hard, long race. Each mile marker moves you closer, motivates you, and reminds you that the last mile you just completed brought you closer to the finish line :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rain, Sweat && Snot--A Runner's Delight!

Tendencies. I have a tendency to plan, pre-plan, and re-plan. And when things don't go as planned I get a weird, out-of-whack sensation. Call me a control freak, but what's the sense of making a to-do list, putting events in your planner and jotting down your schedule, hour-by-hour if you're not going to follow through with it? Some would argue that there are some things that just can't be helped or the weather. The weather and I, we have one of those relationships that is either off or on. I have yet to give up on running outside, and to be frank, I probably won't because I hate the treadmill even more than freezing temperatures. Yet we've been fortunate, for it being December in Chicago, we haven't seen snow and the temperatures aren't miserable, just finger numbing.

Usually I am fairly good about layering up, after going out too many times under-dressed. But I always end up following through with the run because going back into your apartment when you're 5 feet from the door is blasphemy! You know what's even more insane? Checking the weather on the computer before you go outside....I mean, who does that!? Radicals! Haha. What it all chalks up to is that it's my own fault for being under/over dressed.

But really, I don't think it has as much to do with my anal workout agenda as it does with my stubbornness. God forbid I miss a workout I already wrote down and planned out, because that most certainly is irrational behavior! So this past Saturday I had planned on doing a long run, say 8 to 10 miles. I followed my morning routine, wake up, turn on coffee pot, warm up oatmeal and go through email/social media sites. This is carried out until 1. I have had about two cups of coffee or 2. more than 45 minutes has passed and I have gone through all of the fbook/twitter posts I can handle. Any how! I actually managed to check the weather on my computer because it was still dark-ish at 9am. This meant rain. I have had some of my best runs in the rain, but that was not by choice. More so I would find myself 4 miles deep, out far from where I started, with no choice but to keep running. But I was determined to not deviate from "the plan". I grabbed a few extra layers and told myself there was no looking back.

As I started my run it was barely drizzling but it was chilly. I thought it would be a fair compromise to do 8 miles and then spend some time doing strength in the gym. Well all of that went to hell when I hit the 4 mile mark, I felt a need to go farther.....past 5miles and up to 6. I love running a 13 mile run (6.5 one way) north because it takes me up behind Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium and up by Museum Campus. I felt great at the turn around, and even managed to snap a few pictures. Wish I could say the same for mile 9. At that point it was coming down harder, there was rain dripping off the brim of my hat and the wind was blowing so hard that it was almost like it was mocking my idiocy for being out running. But I couldn't quit even if I wanted to, since I was still 4 miles from home. That is one of the best motivations for a runner, because really there is no choice to and get home faster or stop and walk it out, only to feel how miserable your body is and that there is not one dry spot to you.

I finally made it home and I was quick to put together some warm tea and take some Advil. But nothing came close to being as inviting as stripping off those wet clothes, putting on some warm/dry sweats and hopping back into bed, feeling completely satisfied with my insanity :)

Core Power && Crowie

Have you ever had one of those moments, where you shake someone's hand and you say to yourself, "Ohhhhmyyygawd I'm never washing my hand now that so-and-so shook it!" Yea that's probably not something to own up to BUT the rush and sensation of having been in the presence of someone you look up to and idolize is a thrill unlike any other. I had the opportunity to experience this last Tuesday when Craig Alexander, informally known as 'Crowie' came to Core Power in the West Loop. Which, for anyone who doesn't know, in the triathlete world, Crowie is an unbelievably talented athlete and champion several times over. He recently put out a book, entitled, "As the Crow Flies" and it is a collection of pictures and stories about his last year of training/racing.

So Tuesday afternoon, after work, I drove down to Core Power to stake out a parking spot. But when I say I got there "early" that really is an understatement. I had an hour and forty-five minutes to kill. So I meandered my way over to this little corner coffee shop, pulled out my tablet and started reading one of the books on my kindle. I was quite literally kitty-corner from the building, and I found myself just gazing over now and again, thinking that Crowie was there and I would finally get to meet him! At one point a stranger next to me caught me gawking and asked if I was going to the event. I came to find that his name was Nick and he had come all the way in from Michigan for this. We shared small talk about the sport of triathlon, races we've done, goals we've set and before you knew it, were packing ourselves up to join the line that began to form across the street to enter into Core Power.

While I was standing outside in the line I could see Crowie through the window. The inner school-girl in me instantly lost all control and I grew more and more giddy. They must have gotten tired of seeing me drool because they let us in early. Let me just say Core Power is set up so nicely and the staff were very inviting. Take food, water, try our product and make yourselves at home, they said. While everyone dashed over toward that set up I made a B-line over to Crowie with Nick. As I went to shake his hand I almost forgot my name. He was beyond breath-taking and he shook my hand....but I did end up washing it.

The rest of the evening I mingled with fellow triathletes, networked a tad and listened to Crowie discuss his year in review. There was also a raffle, and yours truly ended up winning a pair of Oakley's! To be honest I still haven't really "worn them"....I took them out of the box once and decided that I didn't want to break them, so back in the case they went. Then Crowie came out.....I have to say, for being such an outstanding athlete he is also an extremely respectable father and male figure. He had a lot of passion for the sport but also for his family. Despite the fact that the man had been in a different city every day that week he was still happy, genuinely friendly and seemed like he really wanted to be there, which I don't think you could say for many people running on that little sleep.

After his Q&A the employees placed Crowie over at a table for book signing and pictures, and you bet I raced over there....might even have set a PR ;) When I got up to the table I felt like I had rehearsed 56 different things I could have said to him but ended up complimenting him on his book, his achievements and mentioned my goal of IM Wisconsin in 2013. He smiled, wished me the best of luck and asked for a picture. Those were the happiest 3 minutes, I can't even begin to explain...

 I left Core Power so bubbly and upbeat. In my possession I had Crowie's book, with a personalized message and a new pair of Oakleys. Tri life is good :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

H.A.L.T. && Check In!

Yesterday evening I was sitting around the table with my grandparents, surrounded by some of the most delicious vegetarian food I have had in weeks. We were immersed in discussion about politics, the current incarceration rate, gang activity,  and my desire to go back for my Ph.D to change all of that. It had to be the tea, vanilla caramel tea will get anyone fired up about political activity and motivate the need for change. But I digress. The important part of this discussion stems from the time frame in which we discussed my current job in the Chicago Public Schools. I made the statement that, "If all of my kids could come to school with clean clothes, having had more than a few hours of sleep, food in their stomachs, and without the fear of being shot or jumped, I guarantee that half of the problems schools face would decrease significantly." I went on to rant about this BUT before I could my grandfather stopped me and chuckled. He said, "So you mean to tell me that triathlete is on her soap box talking about how her kids need to eat and sleep more? Hmm that might be slightly hypocritical."

Well played sir, well played. The irony is that he is 100% right. We go about our daily routines trying to get through this task, that email, (is it lunch time yet?) a meeting, a few too many walks over to the water fountain to check Twitter, (Today will be the day Crowie retweets me, I know it!) All with our eye on the prize: to stand on an over-crowded 'L' train for 35 minutes to get to the gym, work your butt off, go home,  and realize there's nothing in the fridge (or there is everything in the fridge but you have to cook it). Life is tough. Get a helmet....but make it a Giro Advantage 2, so at least then you look professional :)

Throughout all of this, how often do we stop and check in with ourselves? I know that if I don't pack a lunch, and probably dinner too, I won't get to eat until I go home (which on some nights isn't until 10pm). Or I default to Panera, if there is one around, with a mediocre chicken salad, with no chicken and the bbq sauce on the side. I should mention the people at "MY" Panera (yes I have ownership of it) now know my name, face, and order before I get to the register. Well done Sam. Anyways! food and sleep are essential for anyone, but even more so if you are training. One of the most valuable acronyms I learned at my two-week internship at a drug and alcohol facility was: HALT. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. My supervisor at the time told me that more often than not, when we are feeling grumpy or out of balance it's because one of these basic needs is not being met. So she would tell her patients to HALT, and check in with themselves. Obviously her patients are not the only ones that this applies to.

Hungry: I feel like my stomach and I, we are on the same "honda accord", I tell it when it gets to eat and it growls at me if it doesn't like that. But throughout this passive-aggressive relationship I have finally found a good pattern of foods and times to take it in. The one concern I have is being a vegan and training for an Ironman. I have heard that in training you can burn up to 3,000 calories a day. I don't even eat 3,000 claories a day! This will need to be a lifestyle change and something in particular I will need to actively pay attention to. But I am pretty dedicated to my diet so I will have to research ways to supplement my vegan needs through calories that are not found in dead, rotting, animal flesh :)

Angry & Lonely: I grouped these two together. Typically anger is something the bears it's unruly head at you immediately. Yet, it's often disguised, we utilize the emotion of anger to cover up another's like a mystery box surprise. If I am "angry" because I missed a workout it's easier to get angry about it than to admit that I am disappointed and reassure myself that it will be alright, tomorrow is another day. It's kind of like bringing that 'D' on your report card home and having your mom give you the, "I'm disappointed in you" rather than "You're grounded for life".

Which, if you were grounded for life, would probably get pretty lonely. Being a triathlete means that you participate in not one, but three sports that are completely individual. Sure we spend time with our training groups and work with our coaches, but at the end of the day, you will be the one riding that 112 miles and if you have someone there with you, you will probably be called for drafting and have to sit in the dreaded penalty box! That being said, the regimented 4am wake up and workout, the 9 to 5 job, 5:30-7 workout and 8 to 3am sleep leaves, about......0 time for  recreational activity. Which is why I try to remind my friends that I do still exist, and that as long as I can be home by 9pm, I'd love to go out with you, to a bar, drink a diet coke and talk about my training for the week.

Tired: I've been tired my entire life. Who hasn't? The lifestyle I lead often has me running from one thing to another. Honestly it's a really bad enabler, since I have found that one of the most difficult tasks for me is to be able to sit for more than 3 hours at a time, in one space, working on one thing. How funny, I can walk, talk, chew gum, tweet, text, and drive (wait maybe not that last one) but ask me to sit still and focus on one thing, haha, what are you crazy!? Unless of course it's in my bed. Much like your average 5 year old, I have a bed time. And if I try to stay up past 9pm it's not my parents that yell at me, nope. It's my body that just starts shutting down, like a physical message saying, "I don't care if you are reading the last chapter of 'Sex, Lies, and Triathlon' you're going to bed NOW! And like that, it's done. Sometimes I think my body is more of a control freak than I am.

Ok so this post is getting sort of long and I am maxing out on being able to sit in this chair. To the point! Everything takes practice, and practice makes perfect. But you can't be perfect, or even at your best, if your most basic needs aren't being met. As enthusiastic as I am about training there are some things you can't pack in a bag, there are things that aren't in your supplements, and some things you can't get by going for that extra bike ride. Your body can take on a lot of impact but it is still yours and you only get one. So do it a solid. Stop yourself at least once a day and check in. HALT (I am Reptar! Rugrats? 90s? Ok maybe not....) You can't expect to be at your best when you're not giving yourself the best.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Highs && Wetsuit Woes

We are in the midst of what I like to call the "Holiday Block Party", that time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the weather gets cold and when us crazy triathletes head into the "off season". All of the competitive races are done and we all begin to focus on our "core training". I struggle immensely though with this time of year for several reasons: 1) I am, by definition, to a "T" the physical representation of a Type A personality. I crave structure. Looking for a good laugh? Take away my calendar/daily outlook and watch me squirm. Tell me you aren't sure what you are up to later and that you'll let me know in a while if we are hanging out and my erratic self will spend the next 20 minutes thinking out plans B, C, and D to your response. You get the point. I need to know what's going on, when and how it will be done.

As if I'm not enough of a whack job already, winter time means more than snow, hot cocoa and holiday means I need to drag out my heat lamp because I tend to get mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. That's number 2. Number 3: as much as I love the holiday spirit and family time it definitely brings about a lot of unnecessary stress. I usually opt to go out to Boston for Thanksgiving to spend some well needed time with my extended and much missed family. One of the benefits of this is that it changes up my scenery, lets me get away for a little while and, as much as I detest off days, it allows my body to catch up on some rest. I had a great time on the Cape, oyster-ing in the ocean, visiting Plymouth (they have this really great rock there!) and roasting chestnuts on a fire.

Coming back in, at 7:30am on Sunday, was bitter sweet. Here I was with a whole day ahead of me but getting up at 3:30am was no picnic. So I did what most people wouldn't consider doing: A two hour bike ride and an hour run. As I got out of the shower and slipped on my sweats one of my friends reminded me that it was the last day for the "Black Friday/Small Business Saturday" sales (And yes it was Sunday....I didn't get it either). Anyways, I swapped out my sweats for jeans, slapped some makeup on my face and of course dried my hair (since that was one of the 153 valuable lessons I learned from my father growing up) and dashed out the door.

Going into the store had had hopes of finding a wet suit. The funny thing about a wet suit is that last year I only wore it once, the weekend of race day and I rented it. So really, it wasn't a necessity but if I could find it at a reasonable price, why not own one? It didn't take more than 5 minutes for me to find the suit I wanted, try it on and decide we were meant to be. It also didn't take long for me to be let down by the fact that it was late November and that I wouldn't actually get to use the wet suit until next year!

....But leave it to me to find a way around that. Post-13-mile run this past Sunday, in almost 70 degree weather on December 2nd I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to bring out the wet suit and hit up lake Michigan. FACT: 70 degree air temperature does not equate to even remotely 'chilly' lake water. I think it came out to about 44 degrees. But that's still above freezing! So I got in, full body, sleeveless wetsuit and flippers. I thought I was dying! Or at least being stabbed all over my body! I had only gotten out a few feet before I had to turn around because my throat felt tight and I knew this was not a good situation to be in. As I took my walk of shame back to my car a few people stared at me with my suit on. They probably thought I was either a badass or certifiably insane for getting in the lake. Either way I decided this was one decision that would be making my top 10 "What the hell were you thinking" moments, and I would just have to be satisfied with hanging the wetsuit up to dry until April.