Category: positive thinking

Trust, the Process

My parents will vouch for me, since I was little, I’ve always hated running out.

m&m'sAs a kid, I strictly rationed Halloween candy to myself, so I could make it last until the following Halloween. I could make a small bag of m & m’s last a month. And I was often teased about the pride I felt for my stashes of whatever, while everyone else, especially my younger brother, had enthusiastically consumed their shares. My pride was often misunderstood as gloating for others’ loss, but it was never about anyone else’s shares. It was always about conserving mine.

These are the realizations that pop into my head on a long run.

This morning,  a 1 hour 40 minute run was in my training plan; the first hour in HR zone 2, the last 40 min in zone 3. This was different from the usually prescribed zone 2, negative split long run. Not drastically different, but enough that I got to learn about myself (again).

Starting out, I gave myself the first 15 minutes to work up to zone 2. And then I was on a decline, so I enjoyed a few more minutes in high zone 1 before reluctantly venturing in low zone 2. It wasn’t the effort that felt daunting, it was the pace. As I continued along in the low 2s, my pace started dropping to a pace I was afraid I couldn’t sustain for the full workout. After a little mental wrestling, I decided I trusted my coach. She wasn’t going to just put a workout on the plan that I couldn’t do. Pace didn’t matter, just time and effort. So, I’d carry. And trust.

My stomach flipped a little each time I looked at my watch and saw the pace. And then I’d think,”trust.” This happened every few minutes of the run; like Groundhog Day. And it got me thinking about what I was so afraid of: bonking. I’d never bonked before. But of course not, I conserve and save my energy, just in case. I’d hate to run out. And as I repeated my new mantra, “trust”, I had a premonition of how useful it might be to have this trust in my coach, especially if I was heading out of my conservation comfort zone.

Of course, kicking things up to zone 3 for the last 40 min only heightened my fear of running out. But I did trust my coach. And I imagined that she saw that I was capable of more than I was afraid I wasn’t capable of. (I also imagined that she had no idea that this was going to be such a mental challenge for me and that it wasn’t actually a big deal to her at all) In any case, I kicked it up to zone 3. OK, just barely…maybe 3.1, but technically in zone 3.

So, my results: 1. I didn’t run out of anything or bonk; 2. My pace was faster than I would have let myself run; 3. After the run, I spent several minutes worrying this was too fast for a long run and something bad was going to happen; 4. I returned to the mental state of trusting my coach; and 5. I feel certain that this trust will be useful and will require a lot of practice.

My Dad

Me & my dadFor years I believed that my dad was the strongest man in the universe. And if not the strongest, at least invincible.

Right now he’s in a hospital treating a very dangerous infection. He’s exhausted. He’s got crazy fevers. He’s got a good prognosis and he’s got a long road ahead of him. His physically depleted state is hard to see and the past several days have been really rough.

We were talking this morning about his night and his new hospital room. There was another fever spike, there were new nurses, and breakfast was on it’s way. There were lots of details to report, but he also had a story to share.

Because of all the testing, blood work, scans, and the bouts of fever spikes, he’d barely slept for days. He was exhausted. And in the middle of the night, at midnight, after he had finally fallen asleep, they woke him to bring him to a different section of the hospital for a CT Scan.  They woke him. At midnight. It was ridiculous.

He wasn’t happy. He was frustrated and pissed that they couldn’t just let him sleep and do it another time. He felt bad for himself, rightly so. They wheeled him down to the basement and through the hallways to the CT scan area where he was met by a polite young technician. He was still frustrated. The man was very pleasant. But he wasn’t up for making a new friend.

But he saw this young guy. Doing his job. Being polite. Awake at midnight to do CT scans.

And suddenly he had this realization. his attitude wasn’t going to do anything. He wasn’t a victim. This man wasn’t a bad guy. And on the spot, he shifted and reengaged with the young man and got on with the business of having the best CT Scan experience possible. (and making another new friend)

I’ve thought about this story all day. I’m back to being pretty sure about my dad’s invincibility…his invincible spirit. Somehow he’s learned to look at how he engages in his own life – even in really awful, stressful moments. He’s practiced a lot. And he still enjoys how much he learns from his experiences. Even a miserable midnight wake-up can’t keep my dad from making a new friend with the next stranger he meets.

I love this about my dad.



Graham Moore’s gave the best acceptance speech at the 2015 Oscars. His message was personal, authentic, beautiful…and clear.

“…what I wanted to do was say this: When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong.”

“And now I’m standing here, and so I would like this moment to be for this kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. I promise you do. Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

(If you missed it click here.)

Thank you for standing up there on the most glamorous stage in Hollywood and saying those words.

“I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I didn’t belong.”  Most of us have felt this, but we don’t say it out loud, because we think we’re the only one. The resounding praise that Moore’s receiving today shows that this sentiment hit us in our guts. We all get it…because we all know it.

16 is a particularly difficult time to have these feelings.* Remember middle school and high school? A majority of us resorted to trying to be “normal” and fit in. Which really just made us feel weirder because we no longer felt like ourselves. The ones who didn’t master “normal” got picked on. It was awful.

So what if we all stand on our own stages, whatever they are, and pass the message to the next person who comes along?

Many, many years ago, my teenage sister (much younger than me) came to stay with us for a while in the summer. At some point during her stay she asked me how I can just talk to everyone, everywhere we go. It was a great question that I hadn’t really asked myself before. I told her that at some point I I had realized that I was different, a geek, and rather than trying to blend in I had given up and embraced my geekiness. I just didn’t have to worry about being found out, anymore. I was cool with being my own nerdy self.

It was like a light bulb went off for her. She took to this notion naturally and embraced her own geekiness and has been unabashedly her own different, wonderful self.

My own children need my support to just be themselves. The cookie cutter phase of middle school & high school is the worst, and sometimes it’s hard to hear about their hurts.  I find this with my adult friends, as well. We all suffer from trying to fit in and feel normal at some point.

stau weird, stay different, belongOne of the nicest byproducts of accepting my weirdness has been finding others who share theirs with me. I have a wonderful group of supportive friends who are incredibly different from me and one another. And we appreciate this about each other. We celebrate our weirdness.

“Stay weird, stay different” and you might find where you do belong.  If you’re looking for a place where weird and different belong, you might try cyclocross. 🙂 (or running, or triathlon…)

“Stay weird, stay different and then, when it’s your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.” tweet that!

*One of my children wrestles with depression; this is very scary as a parent. When the feelings of not belonging get strong they can be overwhelming, and the options can get fewer and more dangerous when depression is part of the mix. Our schools are filled with kids who might not make it their own stage. Moore’s message is a gift to these kids. We can amplify it with our own messages. There is hope. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Letting Go of the Perfect Workout

inTent on VacationWhat’s wrong with this picture? It’s a beautiful day. No rain, no snow, mild temperatures in the mid-70s…and I’m on a fluid trainer. While I spin away at least ten other “riders” cycle past me…on my fluid trainer.

As they pass, I think about how I “should” be on the road today. I try to rework the day’s schedule in my head. I should’ve gotten up earlier so I could’ve done both my swim and my ride. I should’ve done the ride in the early morning and then squeezed the pool into the afternoon plans, somehow. I sure Kelsey would be on the road today.  Ugh, if I was really as committed to my training…

What you can’t see in this picture are my kids, but they’re there. They’re on the other side of the screen door, mostly getting along nicely. In addition to training, I have the secondary task of refereeing. Will bonked Hannah on the head. Hannah’s not letting Will see the screen and he can’t see the video. Will’s turn is longer than Hannah’s.

The whining and peace-keeping adds an interesting dimension to intervals. For sure it isn’t perfect.  It is damn good, though.

So why do I do this to myself? I was in the pool at 6:00am and had a great workout. I’m here on my trainer, working hard and focusing on my goal to improve my cycling strength. And I’m beating myself up by comparing myself to stories that I’m making up about other people. Contrary to some competitive thinking – this isn’t motivating me to dig in and train harder. I’m just feeling badly about the good work that I’m doing, right now.

No one likes feeling this way. I don’t want to ruin the workout. It’s time to “cough up that hairball” of crappy thinking and refocus.

 1. I’m an amateur athlete. I compete against other amateur athletes. We all have lives and responsibilities outside of triathlon. I like this about my fellow tri peeps.
2. I have other options. I could add more childcare, but I really don’t want to. I choose to mash-up my training with my family life. It makes me happy.
3. It’s called a PR. Personal Record. It’s not a record for training in someone else’s life or anyone else’s body. It’s doing my best with my own life, my own training, my own ability, and my own circumstances.

Hairball gone, I focus on pushing through the burning in my legs. I enjoy the view of the salt marshes across the road and the occasional cyclist and runner passing. I smile at the complaints about the slow internet and stalled videos as they sail through the screen door.  I take extra special pleasure in my 10 year old daughter’s warning that people are going look at me funny in the driveway. I’m letting go of perfect, and it’s damn good.

As a sports performance coach, I know this stuff. As a human being, I forget, I’m human.


Pinch me. Is it really the end of May, already? Time since January has evaporated. My words and posts must have evaporated, too.

This break from writing for inTent, was unplanned and has felt beyond my control. My training didn’t come to an end, but it often didn’t match my training plans during the 2nd half of the off-season. What happened?    My life.Triathalife

Triathlon training is a juggling act – the natural state of training in three different sports. And sometimes life throws in more, additional (curve) balls than it’s possible to juggle without something dropping.  This has been my 2014.

While managing family challenges this winter and spring, I missed workouts. Frequently, I easily blamed our ridiculous winter, pool closings, etc. But a good deal of time, my body felt fatigued and I just didn’t “have it” that day. I was in my head a lot, trying to figure out how to get re-inspired and questioning my motivation and my commitment to my goals. I was always hoping the worst was behind us and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But 2014 just continued like a roller coaster ride.

About a month ago, I changed tactics and decided to accept my circumstances as my new norm. I looked at the big picture of my life and my personal values.  Understanding my intentions as a parent, provider, and athlete helped.  I went through my calendar and emails that were waiting for replies and started pulling back from the number of things I was trying to do. It wasn’t easy; I like to help people. But being halfway involved wasn’t really helping anyone. Being realistic about the time I have available for my whole life, has helped a lot.

I grabbed a Triathlete magazine on a recent flight to visit my 94 year old grandmother. The Performance Paradox, by Matt Dixon was the perfect read for me to put all of my 2014 experience with stress into a healthy perspective.

[For amateurs]…the goal is to maximize sporting performance within the restrictions imposed by the need to maintain a balanced and successful life. After all, if you win your local Olympic-distance triathlon but  you get fired, or your spouse leaves you, or your house is repossessed, it would be hard to argue that the win represents “success.” Thus, for most of us, success can be more broadly defined as improving in the sport, performing at work, thriving socially, and nurturing positive relationships (with spouse, partner, children and friends).  With this outlook, the goal of the amateur triathlete should be to maximize training load as one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.  …the full picture of your life inside and outside sport [is] your global stress environment.  The amount of training you undertake needs to fit within the constraints of that environment in order for you to be successful.

Unintentionally, I’d been balancing my global stress.  There were simply periods where my recovery was slower and where non-training stress was enough to create fatigue. This is my triathalife. My training is just “one part of a vibrant, passionate and engaged life.”

The Performance Paradox article was based on elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon's forthcoming book, The Well-Built Triathlete.


plan B: mental conditioning

Power of thoughtsI read an article last week about mental conditioning and competitive athletes. The inspiration in this piece was a 2008 Olympic swimmer who missed the wall on her turn during a medal race.  This cost her important time, but she recovered and made the podium.  The author described how she was not just physically, but mentally prepared for this moment.  She had missed the wall in trainings before, had practice working through the experience, and had trained herself mentally to overcome the negative thoughts that typically come with such a mistake.

About 200 yards into my  warm up, this morning, my left shoulder came out of its proper track and I was in pain. I tried another couple of strokes to see if it was just a random tweak, but it wasn’t.  The shoulder wouldn’t stay in track and the pain was enough that I knew working through it wasn’t the best choice for my long term goal.

My immediate response was implosion.  I was mad and could only see all the time I had invested as a waste.  With this stupid shoulder, I’d probably never be able to swim fast enough to be competitive at the level I was trying for.  I felt cursed and like there was no longer any point.  I was going home.

Falling apart in the deep end was a good thing;  I needed to swim back to the other end, anyway.  I went slow, slow, slow. And in the quiet, defeated 25 yards, it occurred to me that I may not be the fastest, but I still could swim.  And even if I needed to stay at my previous speed, with my crappy old stroke, it wasn’t the end of the world or my goal. There are lots of people (Kayla Wheeler came to mind) who swim competitively with fewer limbs than I’m lucky to have.

I fretted in the shallow end for a while.  Mid-fret, I started to massage the muscles in my back, down my arm, and around my shoulder.  Everything was tight and the pain was sort of radiating.  I stretched and massaged my left side for 5 minutes or so.  Optimistically, I decided to try again and just see what happened. It pulled out of the track with sharp pain right away.  So, I flipped on to my back and fretted some more.

The article about the mental recovery of the Olympic swimmer came to mind.  My situation was probably more mental than physical – even though I could identify my shoulder and the pain as the problem.  This is my shoulder.  It just has structural issues that aren’t going to be fixed without surgery and it’s not really bad enough to warrant surgery.  It’s gotten stronger with 6 months of physical therapy, but it’s not cured. It’s possible, actually likely that this will happen again and during a race. It is the only left shoulder that I have to work with, so what did I want to get out of this training-this practice? I need to stop fretting about what I can’t do. I need to figure out what I can do.  What can I do,  when this happens, to finish as strongly as I can.   I need to figure out my strategy and practice it. During a race, I won’t have the shallow end for a 5 minute fret and massage. How do I want to respond when / if this happens mid-race? And then I’m going to start practicing my answer, so I can be able to respond more competitively in the future.

My new intents for this training became: 1. to figure out what I can do when this happens, 2. to start talking myself through the strategy, and 3. to practice the combination of the adapted swim and a new mental message.  Each stroke was very deliberate as I paid close attention to my shoulder and to trying to understand what the limits were today.

I realized that my  torso rotation had a significant relationship to the pain in the shoulder when the left arm was out of the water.  I also realized that I experienced no pain or dislocation when rotated fully and took a breath on the left side.  I could reduce the pain with more rotation when my right arm was out of the water, but not when I took a breath on my right side.  I experimented and tried as many things as I know to try (which isn’t that much), but today breathing on my right side wasn’t going to work.  So I swam breathing every four breaths on the left and every two when I got winded. After a short period of time, I felt able to maintain this rhythm without straining my brain too hard.

For the last set, I decided I wanted to glimpse what I could accomplish with the back-up strategy.

8 x 50 @ 1:05 (descend 1-4 and 5-8)
1 -4:
 :50, :49, :47, :45
5-8:   :45, :44, :42, :40

Trepidation is the best word I can come up with to describe what I felt in the first few 50s. Once I hit  :45, I knew I had a little more, without risk of additional injury or pain.  I was right.

Does this session mean I won’t shut down and throw my pool toys if this happens again? Doubtful.  I’m just hoping the practice of the stroke and the new mental strategy gets me back in the game sooner. And un/fortunately I’m sure there will be other opportunities to practice this.

There was one other thought that probably helped me get back in the game and deal with this.  I thought, if I can’t be a strong swimmer, then the bike is going to be even more critical to my time. Oh, crap, I’ve got to figure this out.  (I still hate the bike.)