Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Currently - May 2015

It's been too long since I've done an update here.  I always enjoy reading this type of post from others so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and do one myself.

Family photo from Mother's Day

Anything by Brene Brown. Back in March a mentor of mine recommended Brown's work and I'm so glad I checked her stuff out. So far I have read Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. I'm about to start reading I Thought It Was Just Me and am excited to see what gems of wisdom and inspiration are sprinkled throughout this book. Also, I'm on a serious reading kick this year so send me any and all book recommendations!

All of the emotions. Since graduating in December things have been pretty boring around here. I wanted to have a few months of downtime before starting grad school but I've been pretty bored lately. I feel like I go back and forth between being super excited about moving in a few months to absolutely terrified. My friends keep telling me this is normal and that they experienced the same thing when making a big change. I'm trying to trust that everything will work out in the end.

Grey's Anatomy. So I'm only like ten years late to the party, but I have recently become obsessed with this show. Lifetime airs old episodes in the afternoons that I've been recording and watching during trainer workouts. Something about this show leaves me inspired to go after all those crazy dreams I have swirling around my head.

Dreaming of...
Getting my career started. I am so truly excited to be going to grad school but right now there are also so many uncertainties. Philadelphia has a lot of incredible opportunities that I plan on taking advantage of but I think because I'm still not completely sure what I want to do I feel overwhelmed with where to start. I've been thinking a lot about what careers get my heart pumping because I am so passionate and excited about them.

Training for...
If you've been around here for a hot minute you know that I am training for my first ironman. Lake Placid quickly approaching, which is both exciting and terrifying. Instead of letting the magnitude of this event get to me, I am focusing on putting in the work day after day. I also have two shorter races coming up shortly that I am giving some attention to. Truthfully, this deserves more than a little paragraph so tune in next week for a training update.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two 5Ks

Somehow April is almost over and I have already done my first race of the year. Actually, I've already done my first two races. I did the Race for Excellence 5K in Columbia, Maryland two weeks ago and then did the Race Against Racism 5K in York on Saturday. I debated writing two separate race recaps but I waited so long to write the first one that I figured I might as well combine them. What the hell, right?

Race for Excellence 5K
I ran this race with my sister and her boyfriend as a part of one of our friend's company team in the corporate challenge. I had no expectations going into this race as my running has been fairly slow lately and I haven't done any speed work all year. Since I paid to do this race I was going to at least run hard. I hoped I could throw down a solid time that would reveal a little about where my run fitness is right now.

Race morning arrived and it was one of the warmest days we've had all year. It was beautiful out but I was not used to running when it's that warm yet. I did a short warm up jog and was greeted with lead-legs. I noted it and then tried to push the negative thoughts out of my head until the race started. I've had some really good races on tired legs so I knew I couldn't count myself out yet.

Turns out, my legs really didn't want to run a 5K. Or at least a hard one. I struggled from the first step to get my legs to turn over. I pleaded with them, trying to will them to run for just a couple more miles. I felt like crap for the entire race but somehow was still enjoying myself. I think it was being back at a race. The last race I did was in November and the last race I really raced was in September. In all those months I think I forgot how much races hurt. I forgot what it feels like to push through pain.

I ended up finishing in 25:57, which I was pretty happy with considering how bad I felt. My 5K PR is 25:31 so only being ~25 seconds off was certainly good enough for me. After I finished the race I was able to check my splits and see I positive split the race like a champ. Oops.

Mile 1- 8:11
Mile 2- 8:34
Mile 3- 8:16
.1- 8:04 pace

Race Against Racism 5K
This past weekend I ran the Race Against Racism with my Girls On the Run team. It was our end of season 5K and going into the race my only goal was to be there for my girls. None of the girls needed me be their running buddy so I decided to go for it and see what kind of time I could do. We were told parking would be pretty scarce so I ran to the race and used it as my warm up.

The weather for this race was perfect, with temps in the high 40's and mostly cloudy. It made it pretty cold waiting around but I would choose racing in the cold over heat any day. When the race started I tried to hold back a little and keep the first mile comfortable. I think with everything going on with my girls I never had time to stress over the race, and so the whole thing felt really comfortable. I never freaked out about what pace I was running, how heavy my legs felt, the annoying guys who kept cutting in front me around every corner.

I wish I had more to say about this race but to be honest I don't remember all that much from it. My mind was quiet- the gremlins never came out to play. What I can say about this race that is far more important than anything I thought or experienced during the race is that I finally broke my 5K PR. And I'm not talking about what I call my 5K PR that I set a year and a half ago. I'm talking about the PR I set back in high school when I was at the height of my swimming career. Breaking this PR was symbolic of so much for me- breaking free from the person who set that PR and everything I went through between then and now.

Mile 1- 8:08
Mile 2- 7:52
Mile 3- 7:50
.1- 6:54 pace

It's funny how one week an 8:11 mile is going out too fast, and another an 8:08 mile is holding back.  It's also funny, I'm sure only to me but since I'm the writer here just play along, how easy this once elusive time was to achieve. I was on such a running high after finishing that I turned around and started running again in search of some of my girls. I think they were the reason I had such a good race. I wasn't worried about myself or my time until the gun went off. This was not my day to shine. It was theirs. They worked so hard for those twelve weeks. This was their day to celebrate and be the stars.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Learning to Trust Myself through Triathlon

I, like so many others, am indecisive. For as long as I can remember I have had trouble making decisions. Sometimes I just genuinely didn't care, other times I was so torn between my choices that I made someone else decide for me. It started off small, in a way I was unable to detect. A friend where I wanted to go for dinner and I would let them choose. It didn't really matter to me so I gave the decision making power over to them. Little did I realize that each time I let someone else make a decision for me I was loosing the ability to make a decision on my own.

The other weekend I thought it would be a good idea to do whatever workouts I wanted. I was going to decide what sounded fun and brought fire into my soul. This plan backfired in a major way. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do because I'm so used to someone else making decisions for me. I have become so dependent on other people that I couldn't even decide between going for a run or to yoga. The amount of anxiety I got while trying to make this decision was my first big clue that something was going on that needed to be fixed.

From talking with friends I think this inability to make decisions is something a lot of us struggle with. And it makes sense. For so long our parents are our primary decision makers. And when our parents aren't making decisions for us, society is. Going to college wasn't a choice I made but rather an expectation that was placed on me. Don't get me wrong, given the choice I still would have gone to college because I have always loved school and quite frankly can't learn enough. Now that I have graduated college I am in this limbo, where my choices and decisions are still influenced by my family and what my professors and advisors expect of me yet I yearn to make them myself.

I've been asking myself the question "why" a lot recently. Why am I training for an ironman, why am I going to grad school, why am I not traveling the world during my time off from school. Some of the things I thought I wanted I am realizing are really things that the people around me want, and I am not okay with that. This is my life and I should be the one to shape it, cultivate it, make it everything I have ever dreamed of.

I've spent the past few days on a quest to find my voice and figure out what I really want in life. Right now that means not doing a half ironman prior to racing Ironman Lake Placid in July. Pretty much as soon as I signed up for Lake Placid I was looking for a 70.3 I could do in late May/early June as a tune-up race. Even though I found a race months ago I had been hesitant to bite the bullet and sign up. After months of putting off signing up it occurred to me that maybe there was a reason for my procrastination. When I really thought about it, I had no desire to do this race. I knew I should but it was giving me more anxiety than necessary.

When I came to endurance sports a few years ago I had no idea what I wanted out of training and racing, other than something to fill my time with. I dabbled with stand alone running races but something was off. It wasn't until I found triathlon that I truly fell in love. And while yes, I do love the training, what I really love about triathlon is the ability to race. To be more than a mere participant and go head-to-head with other competitors. I love the combination of the speed and endurance that is required to truly race these events.

I was lacking motivation to train for my ironman in a way that initially shocked me, but doesn't so much anymore. My entire year is pretty much dedicated to this one race, in which I am more of a participant that a competitor. I have given up so much in order to do this race, and I in no way regret any of it, but it was starting to take a toll on me mentally. When it hit me that what I really wanted to do was race, rather than complete another long distance triathlon I was plagued with anxiety. I was up almost the whole night thinking about how I was supposed to do this one race. I was so torn between what I was supposed to do and what I wanted to do that almost couldn't do anything at all. This decision consumed me because I didn't know how to listen to my own voice and do the thing that makes my heart sing.

In an effort to find this voice, I am on a quest to choose to do something every damn day. That might be sleeping in, or treating myself to a chai tea latte. Maybe it is taking a pit stop of the way to the store to meditate at the park. All I know is that I need to stop letting everyone decide my life for me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bend Before You Break

Sometime in January I woke up with a kink in my neck. The kind where you don't really notice it until you turn your neck just the right amount and suddenly you're screaming in pain. I tried poking around my neck a little to try to ease the tightness and instead discovered that my neck pain was really shoulder pain manifesting itself as neck pain. Why is this important, you might ask. Well, because my shoulder/neck/upper back is still not quite back to normal more than two months later. I don't notice it often-- sometimes at night, when I raise my arms above my head-- definitely not often enough to call the big guns yet. I've debated getting a massage and if they weren't so darn expensive I would have gotten several starting back in January. When it occurred to me that I was still dealing with this same issue all these weeks later I thought maybe going to yoga would provide some relief.

The yoga at my local YMCA is nothing like the hot yoga studios where you leave feeling like you had a great workout. This yoga is gentle, more like a stretching class with some yoga poses thrown in there. And you know what, I love it. I went to class Friday morning and spent the entire class feeling like I couldn't get enough stretching. Suddenly I was realizing how crazy tight my hamstrings were, and how my hips barely let me get into pigeon. I remember thinking during class about how athletes spend so much time beating their bodies up, many until they reach their breaking point. We constantly hear about the importance of recovery but for so many of us this pillar of training is neglected because it isn't as glamorous as running 14 miles and doing an open water swim.

I have dealt with several small nagging injuries and one more serious one in the few years that I have been an endurance athlete. Before that I swam competitively and spent the last three years of my swimming career seriously injured. I'm talking three surgeries in three years. While some of them were accidents, so many of our injuries are unpreventable. Since the start of the year I have been struggling with my run because my IT band has been acting up. I went to yoga on Friday and on Sunday did the longest run since my 70.3 back in September. And it was pain free. Coincidence? Maybe, but I think there's some kind of connection.

I ask so much of my body, constantly taking it through really hard workouts yet I never give it the reward it needs. Don't we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies like temples? Like goddesses? There's this notion in the sports world that our bodies are somehow disconnected from us. All the time we are being told to listen to our bodies. But you know what? Our bodies are a part of us. They are connected to us in every way and deserve as much love and respect as we give our minds. So why wait until our bodies are screaming at us to do something. It doesn't have to be yoga. There are so many things you can do that aren't training to make yourself feel good. For me, movement is a game changer. I'll go to yoga, take the pup for a walk, hike at the local trails.

So go. Go beat yourself up the best way you can and then build yourself back up. Give yourself love and nourishment. I promise you'll feel amazing.

Monday, March 30, 2015

On Numbness and Vulnerability

It's funny how the universe works, right? Earlier last week I was talking to my mom about this numb feeling I've been having, like whether something good or bad happens I'm tuned out to it. Right now I am in this weird in-between period. December was a whirlwind month, with graduation, Christmas and my birthday and within three weeks. So much of the past few years led up to December. All the papers, all the hours studying for exams, all led up to graduating college. And it was exciting, it really was. And then most of January was spent prepping for my grad school interview. By the time February rolled around I was strikingly aware of the lack of things going on in my life.

It felt like everyone was starting the spring semester or getting a new job, and what was I doing? Binge watching Grey's Anatomy and eating too many pierogies, that's what I was doing. I spent countless hours thinking of all the ways my life would be perfect once I moved to Philadelphia, which in turn only made me spiral further. I wanted so badly for things to be different, to be happier, to feel more joy. I felt helpless, but it was in the helplessness that I found joy. You see, for the past few years I have felt this numbness. It swept over me slowly, so that by the time I noticed it I was incapable of feeling any emotion at all.

It was at this moment that it hit me that I no longer recognized myself. Sometime over the last five years I lost myself. I never noticed it because I was slowly chipped away at. I woke up one day, unable to feel excitement over something good happening, terrified of the person I had become. I hadn't thought about this numbness for quite some time, until last week. I had been in such a funk, sabotaging my training, moping around the house, that I was unable to see what was happening.

Friday I watched this TED talk by Brene Brown. I found myself nodding along in agreement, as if she was speaking directly to me and everything I was experiencing. She talked about how we numb ourselves to avoid vulnerability, and quite frankly, truer words have never been spoken. This got me thinking about so, so much. What emotions have I been hiding from? Why? I know for one, I'm afraid of getting hurt. In the span of three months I lost both my dad and my boyfriend, two of the most important people in my life at the time. When you go through a loss like that it is really freaking hard to make yourself vulnerable again. To open yourself up to getting hurt again.

But in hiding and trying to protect myself from experiencing more pain I was preventing myself from experiencing joy. When we numb ourselves from the bad we inevitably numb ourselves from the good too. So where do I go from here? How do I ease this numbness? Honestly, I'm not quite sure. I wish I had an answer but all I can do right now is acknowledge that I am in a period of decrease. I may not have tons of incredible opportunities on my door right now but I also don't have loads of stress to deal with either. Right now I'm acknowledging that I am lost. But you know what, I'm on the way to finding myself. And I know that the universe is on my side because it gave me exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Am Me

Sometimes writing is hard for me. I have so much going on inside my head, so much I want to say, but when it's time to write I don't know where to start. I feel overwhelmed, like what I have to say doesn't matter. I love reading blogs and credit it with helping me discover triathlon and giving me an incredible network of strong, fierce female athletes. But blogging has also put me in this never-ending spiral of comparison. At the beginning of the year I started documenting my weekly training. I wanted to be able to look back at what I had done while training for this goal that I've had for so long. Yet, each week I dreaded writing those posts because I never felt like I had done enough in comparison to everyone else. I was afraid that people would scoff at me or criticize me.

After taking a few weeks off of blogging I realized that while I don't want to write weekly posts about my training, I do still want to share my journey. I have enough training logs that I can look back at and see all that I have done in preparation for this ironman. What those logs don't tell are the stories, though. They are filled with numbers. How far I biked, how fast I ran. I do write comments for most of my workouts in my logs but they are only a snippet of my experience.

In these past few weeks I also realized that only sharing my journey from the perspective of my training does not tell the whole story. Yes, this is a training blog and yes, that is what I will continue to focus on. But there are more parts to me that just triathlon and training. I want to be able to use my little corner of the internet in whatever way I want, which right now means sharing in my journey from all perspectives. I recently read Matt Dixon's The Well Built Triathlete and that's when it really hit me how much our lives outside of triathlon affect our training. I can't change the cards that I have been dealt but I can change how I handle them.

For so much time I felt like I had multiple personas. I felt like I was juggling two different lifestyles, in large part because of some of the people in my life. They took from me, chipping away until I couldn't recognize myself anymore. I tried so hard to be the person they wanted because I thought that was what I wanted too. But it never felt natural. Something always felt off. I felt the most like myself when I was training, running with my dreams. It felt like I would take one step forward toward my authentic self, only to be pulled two steps back by someone who was trying to mold me into what he wanted.

Recently I've had a lot of time to think. And now more than ever has it been made clear to me how important it is for me to honor who I really am and what I truly want for myself. The other night I navigated a potentially dangerous road, imagining what my life would look like had I not broken free when I did. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but I knew it was something I needed to do. What happened next was I was overcome with relief, this feeling of freedom. It's hard to realize someone you care about is not the best thing for you, but boy is that statement true. Someone who was supposed to be building me up was instead tearing me down. Imagining this alternate life made me realize how truly destructive things had been.

In an effort to fully embrace who I am, I'm putting back together the pieces of me that were taken, destroyed. I don't want to feel like part of my life isn't good enough because what it all comes down to is that you cannot choose the things you like about people and discard what you don't like. I am me and I will not change that for anyone. I want this blog to be a place where I can say whatever I want. A place where I can share insights into my life, with the hope of maybe inspiring someone. I have been frequently reminded that I am not alone in my feeling like this and I think it is time that we embrace who we are, instead of trying to hide.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Road to Ironman Week 6

One of my favorite parts about blogging is getting to share my accomplishments with all my internet-friends. When not everyone in your day-to-day life understands or cares about endurance sports or triathlon training it makes it challenging when you have something exciting to share. The downside to this, of course, is sharing the failures, missteps and weaknesses. Nobody likes to admit to defeat, especially in such a public format. But for the sake of being transparent and keeping it real around here, I am admitting defeat this past week. I had a rough few days at the end of the week for no real reason other than I was throwing myself a pity party. I was unhappy with myself for missing a workout, then unhappy about my weight, and before I knew it I had sabotaged two entire days of training. I felt like I was trapped inside myself and everything I did, every thought I had only trapped me further. The good news is that I brought myself out of this spiral and am back on track. We all have down days and weeks but what matters is bringing yourself back and allowing yourself to have good days again.

Monday. Strength

Tuesday. 40 min run + 60 min trainer ride

Wednesday. 40 min run

Thursday. strength + 60 min trainer ride

Friday. Rest

Saturday. Rest

Sunday. 60 min trainer ride

Onwards and upwards. Happy training!