Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Acceptance: Finding Aloha in Grief

Me:  There's a 90 year old guy checking me out.  I'm pretty sure he's jealous of my donut pillow. 

The BFF:  He's jealous because you look so young for 80. 

I was fully in denial.  I arrived at camp with my bike on the back of my car because I'm wasn't willing to let go just yet.  It sat in the casita while my teammates rode all of my favorite routes, laughing, and bonding over the suffering.

There's also been anger, bargaining, and a more than a few moments of complete despair, or depression, if you want to use the correct terminology for the stages of grief.  I cried on the phone as the doctor read my MRI results.  (depression)  It doesn't hurt.  Please can I ride my bike?  And I can run, right?  I pleaded with him over text message later that day.  (denial)  OK no running or biking,  but what about hiking?  I can hike right?  (bargaining)

And then, finally, my last text message to him... I need a letter from my physician stating why I can't race Ironman, for the insurance company.  Can you email that to me?  (acceptance) 

Acute, traumatic fracture of the sacrum at S4-S5.  That's my official diagnosis.  The trauma had nothing to do with swim, bike or run... nothing to do with training or over training...  Once it's healed here in another couple of weeks, I can get back to the business at hand.  Not like a stress fracture or a soft tissue injury. 

It was a tough decision to not race Oceanside.  Knowing what I know now, I'm glad I didn't.  The nerves that come off the spinal cord and travel through the S4-S5 region control bladder and bowel function.  I don't think I need to explain the repercussions if I fuck up recovery.  I still rode my bike and ran that weekend.  Monday morning after the race we drove home and that evening I went in for the MRI.  In fact the morning I got my results I rode my bike for 90 minutes with intervals, and ran 5 miles at race pace.  My doctor called me 2 hours after I finished.  I just couldn't believe that it was even possible that there was a fracture.  I only had the MRI because Hillary insisted. 

And I guess I wasn't going to say anything, because there's nothing TO say.  But there are a couple of reasons why I decided to: 

1.  Because everyone is asking.  Living in my own little world, no one notices what I'm doing.  No one cares.  But when you proclaim that you're going to defend your title at a race and then suddenly don't show up on the start line, people start wondering... and asking.  I've basically just ignored every inquiry, mostly because I just don't feel like talking about it.  But sometimes, the stories that people are willing to make up are so much worse than the actual truth.  So I wanted to put the truth out there so no one feels the need to make shit up. 

2.  Because I am 100% fine.  I'm not in pain.  I can still work.  I can still swim (with open turns), and walk, and even do a bit of strength training (with some limitations).  I believe that everything resolves to good.  And no matter how disappointed I am that I don't get to race Texas or Santa Rosa, I know in my heart that something good will come out of this.  Something better.  Why this happened to me, I may never know.  But it's not my right to know.  For whatever reason, the universe decided that I needed healing and presented that opportunity to me.  I am taking my recovery seriously-- like it's my full time job.   

3.  Because I want my athletes to see this and know that life happens, moment by moment, and we improvise, adapt and overcome.  Sometimes it's injury.  Sometimes work gets in the way of training.  Sometimes it's a family member and you drop everything to be with them in their time if need.  Triathlon is a hobby, and a passion, and a lifeline for a lot of us.  It helps us make friends as adults, and relieve stress from real life, and burn a few extra calories from the beer we like to enjoy at dinner.  But if you can't be flexible, and change the plans when you need to, you will drive the enjoyment right out of the sport and it'll die a slow and painful death.  And I intend to be in this sport for the rest of my life, so 6-8 weeks to heal is a mere pine needle on the trail I'm walking. 

I called Hillary with my MRI results an hour before I was supposed to drive to Tucson for a long weekend training camp.  Come to camp, she said.  It will be good for you to be around your teammates.  And she was right.  It was good to be around people that were in good spirits and hang out and talk to friends I don't see often.  I met one of my athletes from the East coast who has given me so much joy in my coaching job over the last 6 months.  And she made me laugh every single day.  I got to watch her grow in courage and confidence over the 5 days.  And I got to witness another athlete, who had previously struggled with self esteem, tackle workouts with grace and confidence and strength.  So even if I wasn't riding or running next to them, I was still in the presence of greatness.

I walked a lot.  I joined in on swim workouts.  And I sat back as an observer and watched my teammates work hard.  Giving more when they thought the tank was empty.  And my passion grew.  My desire grew.  My willingness to work hard for my dreams grew.  With every step they took. 

I am pulling out of Texas and Santa Rosa.  God-willing, I will be on the start line in Boulder, not racing, but using it as a long training day.  And I am planning a late summer Ironman as the new start to my racing season. 

I am grateful that my best friend is on speed dial and she doesn't let me wallow in my shit.  She makes me laugh and reminds me that I'm 40 going on 80, and that things could be so. much. worse.  And she's already agreed to join me on my next adventure...

I got to walk along a 9 mile section of the Arizona Trail last weekend while everyone was running.  It was so amazingly beautiful.  I stopped to take pictures of all the flowers blooming and the changing landscapes as I traveled along on foot.  Things I never would have noticed had I been running.  And it inspired a new dream, a new desire, a new goal. 

I want to thru-hike the AZT. 



Saturday, March 24, 2018

High Vibe Retreat: BFF Edition

Last month I went to my second High Vibe Retreat in Carlsbad CA.  After my retreat in October I immediately thought it would be a perfect girls weekend for my tribe.  My #bffx2.  My #doubletrouble.  Basically, me and my girls would have an Australia reunion--- in California.  Bonding over plant based nutrition and yoga.  Digging deep into mindfulness and meditation.  Growing, stretching, encouraging, challenging, and supporting each other.  And I have to say my intuition on this paid off.

At first I was a little bit worried about what my bff might think about all this meditation stuff.  She's kind of a no-nonsense, East coast born and raised, no time for bullshit gal.  But she's also funny, and sweet, and introspective, and wants to believe in herself and make all those big dreams come true.  And what better way to encourage that than through mindfulness?

Girls weekend!!

We met up in Phoenix and made the 6 hour road trip to the California coast.  Talking, laughing, catching up.  Though we talk all. the. time, we haven't been together, the 4 of us, since Ultraman Australia last May!  We settled into our hotel room and got some dinner and shared a lot of laughs over a glass of wine.  We had worked with Jess ahead of time to set an itinerary that met all of our desires.  We wanted to focus on yoga and meditation, and incorporate some hard training sessions, but have them be the "breaks" from the real work.

The first morning of our retreat I was scheduled to do a 14 mile steady pace run.  Marsha got up early with me to run before we met with the group for our first mindfulness session.  2 weeks before the retreat I had spoken with Hillary about increasing my run mileage to try to help my run legs come around.  Until that point they had been sluggish and non-responsive in sessions.  So the plan was 2 part-  increase overall mileage to give my legs more base to work from, and work on making my "easy" pace a bit faster, and my "fast" pace a lot faster.  That run was one of our first tests of making my easy pace faster.  It was also my longest run since Ironman Arizona in November so I wasn't sure how it would go!  We headed out into hurricane force winds and ran from our hotel in Carlsbad through downtown and along the bike path into Oceanside.  We ended up on the San Luis Rey bike path heading inland for a few miles before it was time to turn around.  On our way back through Oceanside we ran along the 70.3 course before finishing our run along the Pacific Coast Highway.  I was thrilled to be able to run, conversationally, at a much faster pace than I would have believed possible 2 weeks before.

The meditation circle.

We dove right into the retreat with a meditation session and some discussion on mindfulness.  Already I could tell it was going to be an amazing weekend.  Two of us had been practicing meditation for several months, and were eager and ready to share this with our other halves.  After our morning session we hit the pool for swim session with BJ.  During the session we were challenged to observe our thoughts.  Did we start to put limitations on ourselves when things got tough?  Did we give ourselves an "out"?  Did we worry about how fast we were swimming compared to our lane mates?

Swimming in the sunshine!

After the swim we had a quick lunch at a local favorite, Choice Juicery, and then moved into our afternoon mindfulness sessions.  The bff and I met with BJ for a discussion on mindfulness in training and racing.  I think I can speak for both of us when I say we walked away with a better understanding of how to use our minds and thoughts as tools to enhance our training, rather than let our minds work against us.  That evening we met at Endurance House for yoga, followed by dinner and a discussion on plant based nutrition.

Coffee and mindfulness in racing and training discussion!

Day 2 of the HVR started early with a 5 am meditation session and breakfast followed by a 75 minute run with BJ along the PCH.  We did a handful of hill sprints followed immediately by 20 minutes of tempo work.  I wasn't nearly as fast as BJ and Marsha, but I felt strong and was happy with my tempo pace.  And when BJ asked us afterward what thoughts went through our heads during the hill sprints/ tempo set, I smiled inwardly as I remember thinking to myself as I chased the tall, thin figures of Marsha and BJ ahead of me... I never feel so strong as I do running hills.  I was definitely in my happy place.

After the run we walked into Carlsbad for yoga at Yoga Bound, one of the studios where Jess is a regular instructor.  She is an amazing yoga teacher, one of the most intuitive and best yoga instructors I've taken class from.  I know I'm not a regular yogi right now, but I used to take classes 3 times a week minimum, so I feel like I've had my share of styles for comparison.

YogiTriathlete studio.
After class we indulged in coffee at Steady State Roasting and then brunch prepared by Jess and BJ in their studio apartment.  After brunch I had my one-on-one mindfulness session with Jess while Marsha and Laura met with BJ to discuss mindfulness in training and racing.  We caught up on what I had been doing in meditation since my last HVR, and where I wanted to go in the future.  I was reminded again how intuitive Jess is as she mentioned things that I had noticed but maybe not put a lot of thought into.  And we set goals on how I was going to use my meditation practice in the coming race season.

I swapped out with my bff for her solo session and I headed out on an easy 30 minute afternoon jog to flush the legs.  Then we went back to E-House for my favorite session of the weekend-- the Yoga Roll class.  You guys.  This class was AMAZING.  Honestly, if I lived nearby it would be on my weekly calendar.  Every week.  It was SO good.  We used the Trigger Point Grid to work every muscle group in the body.  And I'm not talking 10 minutes rolling around in front of the television at night which is my usual.  I'm talking 60 minutes.... ONE HOUR... on the TP roller working out all the kinks.  When I ran the next morning, my legs felt the best they've felt in months.

Yoga Roll!!  New favorite class.

The final day of our HVR I ran early with the bff and we shared thoughts on the weekend and the impact we felt it was going to have on our training and racing.  We are both super excited about incorporating this into life, and I was thrilled that she proved all my fears about the weekend unfounded.  We gathered the other bffs and went to Jess and BJ's for a very early meditation session and then drove to Oceanside for one last yoga session.  This class, led by Jess, was more of a yin style, which was exactly what we all needed after the last few days of travel and hard work-- both on and off the meditation cushion.  We sank deep into some restorative poses and just let gravity work on loosening things up.
Restorative yoga at E-House.

After yoga, we entered silence which lasted through breakfast which was back at Jess and BJ's studio.  We shared a final meditation during which, as we sat in our circle, we had to stare into the person's eyes across from us.  First of all, have you ever tried to do this?  Stare into someone's eyes and not shy away from the intensity?  Resist that urge to turn your head or shift your eyes?  Not laugh or make faces to distract them from the discomfort?  I challenge you to do this with someone you trust.  It's very powerful.

As I stared into the eyes across the circle from me, I fell through the black hole of the pupil into the vast darkness behind the iris.  And I felt as though I was looking at myself.  I could see everything that I like and don't like about myself only there was no judgment.  I could see fear and unworthiness, but they weren't negative- they were just there, right beside the joy, and contentment, and passion for life.  And the joy radiated so brightly that even though I was lost in the blackness- it was just space, and not darkness.  And this is how it is inside each of us.  We have all of these things together in one beautiful package, and yet only by removing the judgment can we let our true light shine, unhindered by fear or self doubt.  As Jess brought us out of our "staring contest" I had to fight back tears.  Not of sadness, but of relief.  As though I had let go of all of the baggage that I had been carrying around with me over the last few months that I didn't even realize I had.

I wasn't ready to leave the California coast just yet, but we had a deadline with flights and shuttles out of Phoenix so we hit the road.  We had good discussions and a quiet ride home as we all processed things we learned and where we wanted to go.  We each committed to furthering our meditation practice, whether it was a commitment to take 5 conscious breaths per day, or to sit for longer periods of time without background noise. 

My two HVR experiences have been very different.  With 4 people, it did feel a little more "busy" as we had so many sessions that we wanted to incorporate and different needs that needed to be met.  Everything ran smoothly, but there was not a lot of time to just breathe.  When I came to the first retreat with Rachel, I had more time-- mostly because there were a few hours of time on the bike just cruising and talking and processing.  There is definitely some benefit to both experiences, and I can say that they were each what I needed in that moment.  If I were to do it again I think the itinerary would be different yet again, and a blend of the two experiences.  If you're not ready for an immersion, but want to learn more about meditation, join the M21 Revolution-- a Facebook community committed to living the awake and ready lifestyle through mindfulness and meditation.

Inner badass tapped.  #awakeandready


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Finding Aloha: Easing into 2018

Somehow it's February.  "They say" that as you get older, time seems to go by faster because it's a shorter percentage of your life span.  When you're 5 years old a year is 20% of your lifetime, and it seems like forever for Christmas to arrive.  When you're 41... well, each year just seems to slip by. 

I (mistakenly) thought that by going part time I would have MORE time.  In reality I have the same amount of time and more space to become less efficient with my time.  Isn't it funny how the more stuff you have on your plate, the easier it is to cram it all in?  You are efficient with your time because you have to be.  *sigh*

I truly enjoyed my off season and took advantage of the extra time to spend with H and DB, and getting ahead of tax season at Cadence.  And by the time it was time to train again, I was chomping at the bit.  We started incorporating strength training right away which was definitely lacking from my schedule over the last year. 

I finished off 2017 with a long weekend in Sedona with the #bff.  We drank a lot of coffee, did a little hiking, talked about life and the book we're writing and plans for the future.  Despite my fear of heights H navigated me up the inconspicuous trail to the top of Cathedral Rock for sunrise.  She literally had to hold my hand on several occasions, not because I was going to fall, but because my mind convinced me I *could* fall.  Maybe this will be the next fear I work on in my mindfulness training...

Cathedral Rock:  worth the climb!

DB and I spent a quiet holiday season at home and for new year's eve, we joined a group of my Team HPB athletes for a 10k swim to finish out a 100k month that one of the girls was tackling in December.  She crushed it and we had a lot of fun on NYE, celebrating with a late lunch after our long swim.  

Colleen's 10k swim! #teamwork

January rolled in quickly and we found ourselves at Team HPB's first annual early season bike camp.  True to her word, Hillary had us ride easy over the 3 days racking up 300 miles and 20k ft of climbing, a good launching point to kick off training for the new race season.  Contrary to April training camp, where it's basically attack, attack, attack for 5 days... we eased into camp with a jog and a sprint swim, rolled up a new mountain each day, and by the end of the 4th day we found ourselves in better shape than when we arrived.  Feeling strong, refreshed and ready to train after the long off season.  We capped off the long weekend with a 10k swim, in true Team HPB fashion.  

Smash Dimond FTW!

Mt. Lemmon climb.
After camp I had a couple solid weeks of training then spend a few days at my favorite place:  The Grand Canyon.  Rach and I drove up on a Monday and after we checked in at the lodge, we stopped by the Phantom Ranch desk to see if there were any cancellations.  The attendant told us there were beds available in the women's dorm on Tuesday evening and we quickly signed up!  

Hitting the road to the GC!!

Our hiking plans changed to incorporate the overnight stay at Phantom (a GC must!!) and we stocked our backpacks in preparation for the next morning before having a quick bite to eat.  On Tuesday we got up early to be fed, caffeinated and on the trail shortly after sunrise.  

Plateau Point.  My heart is full.

We took Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden where the Plateau Point Trail branches off and travels, mostly flat, for 1.5 miles out to an overlook where we had a break and a snack.  We set our meditation timers and sat for 10 minutes.  It was the most difficult 10 minute meditation I've ever had as I could hear the Colorado River far below me and I struggled to keep my eyes closed against the beauty of the backdrop.  Refreshed and refueled, we made our way back to Indian Garden and continued down Bright Angel to Phantom Ranch.  

View from the Plateau Point

We got checked in and after claiming our beds in the women's dorm we headed to the Cantina to enjoy a beer and some snacks.  We played a few rounds of checkers and chatted with some fellow hikers who were spending the evening at Phantom.  I love the characters that you meet at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  These are my people.  Adventurous.  Dirty, smelly, hungry.  Full of life and stories to tell.  

Beers taste better after hiking!

The Cantina closed to get ready for the first round of diners and we took a hike back down to the river where we sat and waited for the sunset.  That deep in the canyon, you can't actually see the sunset as the canyon wall to the west blocks the view.  We also discovered that you can't see the moon from the river either-- that night was the super/ blood/ blue moon and we missed it.  A group of hikers we sat with at dinner planned to get up at 2 am to be above the Tonto Plateau in time to see it, but we opted to sleep in and enjoy breakfast before getting on the trail.

I woke up early on Wednesday morning.  The wake up call for the first breakfast is 5 am and I was already lying awake when they came by with a soft knock on the door.  I got dressed quietly, knowing my entire dorm was eating at the second breakfast and slipped out into the chilly morning.  I hiked down to the river and sat in darkness on the beach, just looking up at the stars.  We don't see a lot of stars in the city.  So to appreciate the Milky Way in all of its glory was amazing.  

After a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit and coffee we headed for the South Kaibab Trail and the South Rim.  I LOVE the South Kaibab Trail.  There is something so beautiful in the raw, rugged, exposed terrain.  It is by far my favorite trail and I love to hike it from river to rim.  On rested legs and full bellies, the climb is much easier than at the end of a double crossing.  And it's easier to stop along the way and appreciate the beauty.  

No filter needed.  South Kaibab and the Colorado River.

After about 4 hours of hiking and sight seeing, we reached the South Rim and hopped on a shuttle back to the Grand Canyon Village.  We stopped and had lunch on our way back to the cabin, opting for food over showers.  The hot showers felt great after refueling and we relaxed in our cabin for a few hours before dinner.  Pizza and beers were on the menu for that night at the Maswik Pizza Pub with a sunset walk back to the cabin to help our dinner digest.  

On Thursday morning we were the only 2 hikers on the early shuttle back to the South Kaibab trailhead.  We hopped off the bus and started down the trail just as the sun was beginning to threaten it's arrival.  We secured our spot at Ooh Aah Point where we sat for an hour and watched the sunrise.  The sky went from dark with a thin line of red and orange, to pink and lavender, to full blue all the while casting amazing colors across the canyon walls.  The red-orange of the rocks never looks more beautiful than at sunrise.  

The terrain of the South Kaibab Trail.

By the time we finished watching the sunrise, and got up to hike out others were beginning to make their way down the trail.  But that first hour and the show put on by the canyon at sunrise was all for us.  We grabbed a quick bite and a cup of coffee back at the visitor center before hitting the road and I dropped Rachel in Sedona to spend some time with the #bff on my way back to the valley... and back to work.  

That afternoon wasn't all a let down though... I submitted my application for the Ultraman World Championships in November!  Invitations don't go out until mid-March so I have a few more weeks to wait but I could not be more excited about the prospect.  Fingers crossed!

Tomorrow I'm "racing" a half marathon.  First official race since Ironman in November.  It might not be pretty, but it will be fun.  I look forward to blowing off the cobwebs from the run legs, and kicking off a block of training where we'll be increasing my run mileage.  Bike camp isn't exactly over yet, I hope, but we need to start thinking about April because racing season is rapidly approaching!   

Happy Training!

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Double: Finding Aloha in Owning my Shit

So I raced back to back Ironman triathlons last month.  And it was easier than I thought it was going to be.  And it was harder than I thought it was going to be.  And it confirmed what I knew on November 16, 2015... that 2017 would be a year of adventures.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  And I'm fine with this.  But also... not fine.  Kind of unsettled. 

No one needs a play by play of 281.2 miles.  Here's the ugly truth:  I was mentally weak.  This didn't happen overnight.  The breakdown occurred slowly between July and November.  I came out of Alaska feeling underwhelmed with my performance but I didn't really feel trained going into it.  And then I continued sorta training but not really for another few weeks until I pulled out of Wisconsin.  At that time I had a come-to-Jesus talk with Hillary because I knew I was not in Ironman shape and I knew the double was creeping up.

And then training happened.  And my numbers (according to Hillary) were good-- "as good or better than they've ever been", only I didn't really know this I just knew that training felt "harder" than I feel like it should have felt.  But I kept doing it, and it was fine.  Some days I felt great (mostly swimming), and other days I felt blah (mostly biking). 

And basically, though my body was training-- my mind was totally not on board.  I had zero confidence.  And in a way I could see this coming.  It was almost like I could see it in slow motion, the train zooming down the tracks at me as I stood there, powerless, and I just couldn't jump out of the way.  I didn't know how to pull myself out of this.  Or I did, and do, but I just didn't execute?  Part of me kept thinking, I just need to be training more.  Eventually if I do enough training, I will nail workouts that will give me confidence.  But time ran out before I got to that point.  And I tried to fake it.  I dug out one of my favorite self help books to cram for some last minute confidence.  But it was too late. 

And so I arrived in Cabo.  I had a chat with my mindfulness mentor, Jess, before I left and she said a few things that really stuck with me.  One worth sharing:  "These are not my thoughts."  You know when you're at registration and cruising through IM village in the days leading up to a race and there's so much anxiety in the air?  And people are kinda rude because they're freaking out just a little bit?  And everyone is on edge?  And on race morning when the tension in the air is palpable?  I just had to remind myself that "These are not my thoughts" and stay as calm as possible.  And actually it was the most relaxed I've ever been on race morning.

My favorite kind of swim:  non-wetsuit

And when shit was going south 40 miles into the bike ride when I was already feeling the effects of dehydration and negative self talk wants to creep in?  I reminded myself, these are not my thoughts.  And I kept trouble shooting as best as I could.  And at mile 100 when I felt like I was having an out of body experience secondary to dehydration, I stayed in the moment and kept myself alert as possible.  And when I was dizzy and nearly to the point of blacking out on the run course, I stayed in the moment, and was rational enough to know I needed to stop and regroup. 

Beautiful.... and brutal...

And I wanted to quit, but I also knew there'd be no revenge possible on Cabo and I needed to finish.  Plus, I'm not a quitter.  So I stopped, and laid on the curb, and ate a bit, and drank a bunch until I saw medical personnel starting to circle around me on their motorcycles and then I got up and ran/ walked, faking a smile and cheering everyone on around me lest they think I AM going to pass out and try to pull me off course.  In the end, I got it done and actually 12 hours for a "bad day" is pretty darn good so it's fine. 

Number one done!

Post double, I tried to assess what I could have done differently.  And a friend had warned me about the lack of water on the bike course.  But I didn't really know what this would look like, having never raced outside the USA.  So what was happening was at every aid station they would give you a bottle of water-- the bottle was about a 16 oz size bottle, and contained approximately 4 ounces of water with a lot of ice.  If I was lucky, I was able to grab 2 bottles per aid station... but with only 500 athletes the aid stations were not super spread out (like we're used to seeing), so often it was one little bottle every 10 miles. 

In the moment I kept thinking, I'm racing...I can't stop to grab more water or fill my bottles, or whatever.  Looking back, I wish I had A) worn a camelbak (this it the only thing that would have REALLY made a difference) or B) stopped, physically stopped, at the aid stations and poured the contents of 6 bottles into my 24 ounce bottles and kept going.  Even when I was in a really bad place-- between miles 80 and the finish -- I didn't stop.  I just grabbed water and kept going and this was a huge mistake. 

All that said, every race is a learning experience and I definitely learned something.  After the race, we didn't stick around in Cabo too long because we had to get back to prep for IMAZ.

My husband came down with "Montezuma's revenge" upon our return from Cabo.  And if he was a 10 out of 10 on the "I never want to see Mexico again" scale, I was about a 3.  Nevertheless, it was enough to make me question starting the race on Sunday morning.  I thought there was a very good chance that I'd end up shitting myself if I couldn't get out of my tri-suit in time.  Thankfully I had a 10 hour and 53 minute reprieve from symptoms after ingesting what had to border on a toxic dose of Imodium. 

The swim was lackluster.  The bike was gawd-awful.  And the run... was actually fine.  Not great.  Not spectacular.  But fine.  After giving up at mile 80 of the bike ride (or maybe long before then), I tooled back into transition and just went through the motions.  I ran out of transition and after a couple of miles settled into a 930 pace.  And I worked for the rest of the marathon to keep my pace going.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to walk it in.  I wanted to not hurt so much.  But I also wanted it to be over and the faster you run the sooner it's over.

The finish line should be celebrated NO MATTER WHAT.

And here's the kicker.  Racing back to back was not any harder than just racing.  We were so well prepared to do the double that by the time the second one rolled around I had forgotten that I had just raced a week earlier.  I actually think I was in better shape going into the second race, and that coming out of IMAZ I was in the best shape I'd been in since May.  (This is why racing multiple IM in a season can be beneficial!!!) 

Los Cabos- Arizona Double

In my post race / end of season analysis I told Hillary that I physically I felt about 75% of normal heading into the double.  And that's when she pointed out that my numbers were fine... and that I fell apart mentally.  I *knew* this deep down.  But I didn't want to admit it to myself.  Once it was out in the open, I actually felt relieved.  I AM still capable.  Physically.  Mentally?  I can (and need to!) get my shit together.  But to think that physically I might never be competitive again is a hard pill to swallow.  One I'm not ready to swallow yet.  I still have dreams.  And goals.  And things to do. 

And as tough as it is to look in the mirror and say, girl, you fucking gave up... at least I can own that shit and move on.  If I had to look in the mirror and say, your competitive days are over and you're never going back to Kona no matter what you do... well, that would just plain suck.  And maybe I WON'T ever go back to Kona.  I don't have a lot of actual control over that.  But I believe that I can.  And that's 100% of the battle.

So now here we are in off season.  And I'm working on my weaknesses.  Not just mental weakness.  But physical weaknesses too.  Because I want to be strong the next time I am faced with the choice.       


Friday, October 13, 2017

High Vibe Retreat: Immersion

I sat in the meditation circle listening to Jess talk.  She speaks from a place of knowledge and passion.  She talks about yoga and it's 8 limbs, and how mindfulness and meditation fit into the yogi lifestyle.  She talks about different gurus and their philosophies.  My mind starts to wander and I think, if Dan was hearing this right now I can only imagine what he would say.  I can almost hear him complaining about the new age this and that and just as I'm about to slip down the rabbit hole Jess says something and my mind makes an instant connection to my experience with EMDR 2 years ago.  And in that moment I take a deep breath, and relax, and dive fully into the deep blue waters that are offered 
before me.  I immerse.  

Yoga for athletes!

2 years ago I enrolled myself in therapy.  I was not suicidal but I wanted to hurt myself to make the emotional pain I was experiencing stop.  I didn't want to feel this way and I didn't want to take drugs to numb myself.  As fate would have it I was referred to the best possible match for me at the time and my therapist recommended a type of therapy called EMDR.  Prior to starting EMDR, my therapist took a thorough history and identified multiple events/ times in my life when I felt ashamed... worthless... humiliated.... (all things that I associated with my previous husband and our subsequent divorce which I had not dealt with since our relationship dissolved in 2004).  During the physical process of EMDR, I would follow the movement of lights on a board with my eyes while focusing my thoughts on one particular memory.  After a few moments, she would stop the movement and I would say whatever came to my mind.  Sometimes my thoughts made sense.  Other times my thoughts were completely random and seemingly unrelated to what I was supposed to be focusing on.  It was very, very simple.  Over time, it was almost like watching a movie of my life in reverse.

In the process of this very simple exercise I was able to remove the emotional attachment to the memories that I had, and store them differently in my subconscious.  You don't turn bad memories into good memories, but I don't have to be haunted by them for the rest of my life.  And this is in essence what meditation allows you to do.  Instead of following lights on a board, you sit in stillness with your eyes closed, but by focusing on your breathing or a simple mantra, you are able to clear your mind, remove attachment to various experiences, and CHOOSE how you want to respond to those thoughts.   This is a very simple example but I tend to have a very reactive personality.  If someone cuts me off in traffic or pulls out in front of me I get pissed off and start yelling.  Through the process of meditation and mindfulness, you start to gain awareness, you start to realize that when these events happen it's not about ME, I can pause, take a breath and choose how I want to feel.  If I want to feel angry and scream, then fine.  But if I want to let it go, because it's really NOT about me, then I can do that too.  Crazy, right?

It's not about being fearless, it's about changing your relationship with fear.  

The other thing that my therapist had me do (prior to starting EMDR) was to create a "happy place".  I was to pick a place that I loved.  I chose the top of Snow Valley Peak overlooking Lake Tahoe.  With my eyes closed I could smell the crispness of a mountain summer and scent of trees in the air.  I could feel the chill of the wind whipping against my skin.  I could hear the wind, the only sound in the engulfing silence so high above civilization.  I could see the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe over my right shoulder as I stood looking down the trail in front of me.  I could taste the water from my hydration pack as the icy water slid down the back of my throat.

This is the perfect example of mindfulness.  Being fully aware of something, fully present in a moment.  In every day life, being mindful might mean that in a moment of fear, anger, hurt, or even joy- you take a step back, take in all that is going on including your reaction, and see that experience without judgement.  By removing the desire to judge how you're feeling or responding to something, you can assess what is truly happening and choose how you want to feel/ respond.  I assure you this is not always easy, but it's very simple. 

Yoga on the beach.


Jess:  What are you bringing here this weekend?  

Me:  Well, I'm fine now, because, well, I'm training again and everyone is qualifying for Kona and so I'm, like, super pumped and motivated but, well, after Kona and Australia, I just couldn't connect with a goal.  When I contacted you in June I was feeling a little lost and well, ....

J:  What do you mean lost?  What were you feeling when you were training for Ultraman that you are no longer feeling?  

Me:  Well.... I guess I got to this point in April where I felt so strong.  Like invincible.  And I was so tired, but I could do anything.  And I had this amazing support system that came to Australia and I had to learn to be vulnerable, and rely on them for basically everything.  And it was this amazing experience.  And I guess when I came back from that and jumped back into normal life, only with not a lot of training, and no real goal in mind... I just...

J:  What did you feel?  

Me:  Restless.  Like, everyone is doing stuff because it's summer and everyone is out training and racing and I'm just sitting at home running, like, 10 miles a week, and biking maybe a hundred.  And I get it, I have to let the body heal, blah blah blah, but....

J:  And what's the opposite of restless?

Me:  Contentment.

J:  Mmmmm.  (smiling)  And what else?

Me:  Well, I talked to BJ this morning on our bike ride, but I feel like all my self doubt stems from fear.  Fear of being hit by a car on the bike.  Fear of failure.  Fear that I'm not good enough.

J:  And what's the opposite of fear? 

Me:  Joy.

J:  Mmmmm.  (smiling again)  

Mindfulness session with Jess.

This is not an exact quotation of how our conversation went, but my first mindfulness session with Jess at my High Vibe Retreat was revealing.  Jess guided the conversation, educated me on what it meant to live mindfully and ultimately challenged me to replace fear and restlessness with joy and contentment when I saw them in my thoughts.  

When I entered the High Vibe Retreat (HVR) I had zero experience with meditation, and limited experience with mindfulness.  I had practiced the physical part of yoga, but not the spiritual or mental aspects of yoga.  I tried to go in with an open mind, prepared to be uncomfortable and challenged.  And I was.  On such a deeper level than I expected.  

Between conversations with Jess, often while preparing meals or sitting in our meditation circle, I rode my bike for 4 1/2 hours with BJ and we swam in the local, sun-drenched pool which was heaven and ran along the coastline.  BJ was a good sounding board because it was during our physical activity that my brain would be free of distractions and start to process the things that Jess was teaching.  I would ask him questions and in a safe space was able to explore my issues with fear and restlessness.  The "aha!" moments often occurred hours or sometimes days after information was initially presented.

Heading out to ride bikes!

When we arrived at our hotel at the start of the week, there was a care package waiting for us from BJ and Jess.  We each got a journal and began writing in it that weekend.  One of the activities that we were assigned was something called "Judge Thy Neighbor".  We were supposed to set a timer for 10 minutes and choose one person that we had a beef with and just let it all go in the journal.  Hold nothing back.  We did this exercise one evening before bed.  When we finished, Rachel and I both had this feeling of, well, yuckiness.  Like we didn't want to go to sleep with all that negativity.  We speculated that this was a way for us to get something off our minds without actually confronting that person.

The next day, we were given a second assignment.  To randomly choose 3 statements from our "Judge Thy Neighbor" rant and to answer the questions:  1.  Is this statement true?  2.  How do I feel when I think this?  3.  Who would I be without this thought?  In doing the second part of this exercise you start to realize that often your judgments are unfounded, and based out of fear, jealousy, or hurt.  This lifted a little burden and you begin to see that you really CAN let go of things and it will be for the better.  What IF I didn't feel this way about so-and-so?  Well, it would be pretty darn amazing, actually.

Later we were given part 3 of the assignment.  Turn the statements back around at YOU.  This is where the exercise becomes mind-blowing.  All 3 of the statements, with my name in place of the girl I was judging exposed all of MY fears, self doubts, feelings of unworthiness about myself.  My mouth literally gaped in disbelief as I made this realization.  I didn't have to go on disliking this person because it had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me.

So what do you do with this information?  Well, if you're me, you start to lean into that discomfort zone a little and explore your doubts and fears a little more.  Because by doing so you can process what is real, what is imagined, and what you want to reframe in your subconscious.  Negative is not going to magically become positive, but by removing my attachment I can remain neutral.  Calm, in other words.                


I don't know if this makes you more or less confused about what actually went on at the High Vibe Retreat.  If you're not willing to get uncomfortable and explore your thoughts and feelings, this probably isn't for you (even though it might be exactly what you need!).  But if you're ready to push that boundary I highly recommend it.  

We spent our time learning to sit quietly in meditation, practicing yoga on the beach (or in a studio), biking, swimming, running, preparing meals together, all the while exploring our thoughts, feelings, reactions, emotions.  It was intense, and relaxing, and unhurried, and challenging.  BJ and Jess are living their purpose and their excitement is contagious.  I'm already planning my next High Vibe Retreat. 

If you're interested in exploring meditation and mindfulness further but aren't sure how to get started, check out the YogiTriathlete website HERE.  Even if you're not ready for a retreat of your own, you can start with one-on-one virtual sessions with Jess.  It's not easy, but it's very simple.   

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Finding Kona: Staying the Course

I have been noticeably absent from writing this summer and I think it's combination time is escaping me and I was struggling with the lack of sunshine and rainbows.  Over the last few months I've had multiple conversations/ reminders from Hillary that what I'm feeling is normal and not to lose sight of reality.  So here's the reality check:

1.  I remember nailing my 12 mile run the day after spring camp ends, when everyone else was sleeping in and enjoying a little recovery swim.  What I forget is that when I found out I had a 12 mile progression run after 5 days of destroying myself I threw the biggest pity party known to man.  Complete with tears.  #notsunshineandrainbows

2.  I remember the feeling of pride after completing the Mt. Lemmon double.  I felt invincible.  I forget crying on the side of the road at Palisades 3 hours into the ride because I was sure there was no way I could finish the double.  And if I hadn't seen Hillary and her group heading up as I descended the mountain I likely would have gone back to my car, tucked my tail between my legs, and driven home defeated.  #notsunshineandrainbows

3.  I remember being so so tired in April, but so fucking strong.  No matter what she threw at me, the hardest part of my day was getting out of bed.  I did not nail every single workout.  But I finished every single thing she asked me to do and I believe that I was rewarded with my (tired + strong) happy place because of it.

The other thing that I've struggled with is the connection with my goal.  The spiritual connection.  The "it" factor.  That one little piece of the puzzle that drives you, keeps you engaged.  Pursuing Kona for so long, and then finally being able to make that dream a reality, and then rolling straight into Ultraman, which is like #findingkona on steroids... you can imagine the difficulty coming down from that high.  I have struggled since May to connect with a "normal" goal.  To feel satisfied in doing normal things.  I didn't realize how much I was getting on an emotional and spiritual level chasing these goals for the last 4 years.  I imagine it's like summiting Everest and then getting back to base camp wondering, what's next?  There are no higher mountains left to climb.

Thankfully that's not exactly true with triathlon, there's always another goal.  Another race.  A faster time.  Higher watts.  A faster swim.  But taking a step back from Ultraman has been, well... disappointing.  I crave that strong + tired feeling from 5 months ago.  I crave that little bit of fear of the unknown.  Prior to Ultraman I told Hillary that if I was going to race UM, and then be too burnt out to race another Ironman I didn't want to do it.  What I didn't realize at the time is that while I would feel physically fine after Ultraman, mentally it would be more challenging to toe the line in something LESS that Ultraman.  And thus far I've avoided doing so.  I joined my sister for a 3 day half marathon series.  I raced the inaugural Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon.  But it's nearly October and right now I'm not even close to obtaining All World Athlete status for next year.

But knowing that I DO want to go back to Kona again, I had to do something to change this mindset.  I reached out to a friend of mine, Jess the YogiTriathlete, and asked her if I could come live in her world for a few days.  Jess and her husband, BJ, incorporate yoga, meditation and mindfulness into their daily triathlon and running training.  They coach athletes and Jess does online meditation instruction as part of this, but I hoped that by leaving my world behind for a few days, and immersing myself in their culture that I could learn to connect with my goals in a new way.  Bring some fresh vision and life to my dreams.  Be all in for those few days so that I can be all in when I line up to race my first Ironman of the year in 6 weeks.

So next week I will embark on my High Vibe Retreat.  Aside from swim, bike and run training with BJ, I will have daily meditation sessions and yoga on the beach with Jess.  In addition we will prepare most meals together in their plant based kitchen.  My good friend, Rachel, is flying in from Iowa to join me for this most amazing journey.  I have watched her embrace life's ups and downs over the last year and I thought, who better to join me on this adventure?  It would be my dream to one day take my whole tribe for a High Vibe Retreat weekend, but for now, the one on one attention that Rachel and I will receive is what's needed.

We're heading out a few days early so I can do some training with my fellow Team HPB mate and my coach.  And we'll soak up some salty sea air and sunshine while we're at it.  I'm sure there will be plenty of updates on Instagram and I'll be back to recap after the retreat!  Happy training!