It was a very good year

Here I am. The last evening of 50.

Approaching 50 felt like moving to the end of something, of what I’m not sure.  Of my youth? Maybe.
Although some might suggest that my youth was left further back in history.
And I would argue that I still don’t feel like a grown up.

It’s been a mix of letting go… Our home of 23 years and dumpsters full of stuff we’d collected and saved for years. Our old town and community and favorite restaurants. The running and cycling routes I’d traveled too many times to count. The quick trip to our closest friends’ houses, the ones who had come to know our stories, as we muddled through whatever, together.

And a flurry of beginnings… New (and significant) triathlon PRs. New sports: mountain biking and rowing. New home. New town. New roads to ride. New business ventures. New colleagues. New friends. New traditions.

Plus some things that are both, like weekend long sleepovers with friends. And riding bikes on new roads with old friends.

Throw in ‘more fun with perimenopause’ and really nothing feels normal anymore. Maybe being unsettled is a gift for growth when you become an uncertain woman of age, dunno.

What I do know is that if, as 50 ends, you’re sitting barefoot on the deck, thinking back on the year, you’re doing all right.

In Frank’s words, it was a very good year.

Not-so-epic update: plastic bags

11 January days completed, imperfectly.

I haven’t arrived at the register with the appropriate number of reusable bags, yet. I’ve run back to the car while a line formed behind me (sorry), I’ve shoved apples, oranges and other items into my pockets, and I’ve piled everything back into the cart and let a variety of groceries roll free in the way-back of the car. (like how we used to ride in the car as kids)

Thank you for the stories of arriving to the checkout counter without your reusable bags. I was able to quickly recall these back-up plans, when needed, and as a result didn’t waiver at all in my not-so-epic conviction. (inconvenience is quite helpful for getting better at remembering on the way into the store)

An expected byproduct of sharing this not-so-epic goal is that what started out as a personal resolution, has become a goal shared with Jason. He’s rocking it! And we’re doing even better by collectively reducing our acceptance of plastic bags. Plus it’s fun to have another human to high-five after you’ve carried handfuls of produce and really cold, frozen tater tots to the car AND it’s a million degrees below zero.

Sadly, we can’t claim 11 days = zero plastic bags. One new bag did make it into the house. It was tied around a paper bag, protecting our Thai take-out. We didn’t have a strategy for this scenario. Doh! Our take out menus now have “ask for no plastic bags” written next to the phone number. We’ll see how this works out. (any other suggestions?)

That’s it. Imperfect and better than hoped!

Another not-so-epic New Year Resolution

This one may possibly seem less epic than the original not-so-epic goal. But I’m thinking it has a more global impact than my tidy room.  And it’s takes up space in my noggin and I catch myself wishing I’d get better about it, so I’m just going to claim it here and hope, that with some luck, support, and preparation I can make myself a new habit in a month or two.

My goal: to stop taking plastic shopping bags at stores. In the big picture, I’d like to reduce all of my plastic consumption, but will start with one discreet activity – accepting plastic bags.

I’m curious to see how many days in a row I can muster.  I don’t remember the existence of plastic bags when I was growing up, so I feel good about the odds of surviving and being able to figure out alternatives when needed.  I’ve got my accumulated reusable bags ready to be loaded into the cars.  I’ve got a back up plan: I’ll take several trips to the car with whatever I can carry when I forget my bags, rather than make “this-one-time” exceptions.

Right now I’ve got motivation, which I’m sure I will resent at least a few times, but here it is in writing. Just not going to take anymore plastic bags. That’s it.

Day 1 is going well. I haven’t left the house.

I’ll keep you posted.

Without inTent

I’m floating on a river somewhere between what I’ve known and something I can’t quite envision, nor articulate.

The tent went with the sale of our house back in August; so I’m without a tent and without intent. I don’t have epic goals. I’m not chasing any PRs.  I’m not signed up for races.
There’s part of me that feels like I need to get something legit on the books ASAP. Races are filling up. My feed is a flutter with New Year goals.
But in my heart I’m more like, “epic…? ”  meh.

It’s a wonky space. I know myself when I’m setting ambitious race goals and ticking off days on a training plan, with a certain degree of intensity. This is just air.

On the personal growth side, living in this adrift / unintentional state, is making me more comfortable with ambiguity, in general, and better at spotting subtle gifts hidden in not knowing. My patience and trust have been exercised a lot more and have grown stronger. I’ve learned that I can pretty quickly alleviate most of my self-induced mental churn stress by taking myself outside and doing almost anything.  And I can now, with some consistency, practice breathing and sitting.  (total badass!)

Amidst these unimposing, very basic things, I feel change rumbling inside. I’m certain it’s germinating and it’s likely to be also quite ordinary, but lovely, too, I hope.

(Oh, and on the topic of change, it feels like time to find a new title for this site…)

On Goals & Owning Them (Patriot Half)

I’ve not been one to share my goals out loud. I’ve been known to not tell friends and family when I race. I’ve long held odd, superstitious thoughts about goals:
…If I say them out loud, I might jinx myself.
  …If I tell someone they might think they’re too big or too small.
      …If I tell people, and then fail, I will be embarrassed.

I usually race with two goals: the ‘ever so reasonable’ one that I can share and the real one, the one I secretly hope for.

At some point last year, after finishing the Patriot Half for the second time, I realized that I wanted to see if I could PR this race as a 50 year old. More specifically, I wanted to complete a sub 5 1/2 hour 70.3 AND be happy on the run. This is what I wanted to give myself for a 50th birthday present. I don’t know why this felt so meaningful, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted it, like a toddler wants a giant, stuffed rainbow unicorn, I wanted it bad.

Owning the goal and being able to speak about it allowed me to find the right coach. Kathleen was the perfect coach for me and this endeavor. Where I waver in confidence about my ability in any given workout, she is confident about where it fits in the bigger picture of my goal. She was able to feed me the right balance of information, education, and support so that even the most craptastic workout was quickly redefined as useful learning.

The first few weeks of training felt really, really awful. I was sluggish. Struggled for energy and felt like I couldn’t get my muscles firing. I thought I was sick or crazy. I thought maybe I needed to accept being old (which was the opposite of what I was going for). I wondered whether the insane hot flashes that kept me from sleeping were to blame. I asked everyone I could find in my new age group for advice and thankfully got my hands on ROAR by Stacy Sims, PhD. Once I changed my fueling to include more protein, things came back together again*.

Even with proper fueling, there were days when I was certain my coach was crazy…the volume was too much…the intensity was too high. I’d never done this before! And I talked to myself, a lot. “Do you still want it?” “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to do any of this. If you want it, this is the path. Your choice. The goal doesn’t matter at all… except that its yours… if you still want it.”

I changed my 5am alarm so this goal was the message I’d see it every morning before I debated getting out of bed. This goal powered me through over 2,000 miles of training (81 swimming, 1707 cycling, 383 running) and countless hours of stretching, strength, and PT.

At the end of April, a hamstring issue severely impeded my running. Injuries and goals are frustrating. Trying to figure out the right balance of pushing through, treatment, and rest without panicking and making bigger problems is awful. It was the mental undoing and second guessing which felt endless and was exhausting. When the last call for switching to AquaBike email came out, I half thought or hoped that Kathleen would just tell me to give up and switch. (thankfully I didn’t tel her this until after the race, she said she would’ve hit me!)

Every workout during the final weeks leading up to race day was “show up, do my best, and trust.”

Race morning, thunderstorms threatened to wreak havoc with the swim and rain was forecast for the bike. These didn’t feel like the ideal conditions for my goal. I was pissed, but didn’t want to stay there. I reassured myself that I had done the training that under the right conditions, would have led to my goal, but I don’t control the conditions. The part that was in my power, I had done faithfully and well. All that was left to do was go out and have the best race in the conditions that the day brought. That’s it. Oh, and I could still try to be happy on the run.

As I pulled out of my parking space at the hotel Best Day of My Life came on the radio. I had a dream so big and loud… This song stuck in my head for the entire race. It was the soundtrack for the day.

The swim wasn’t canceled. I swam strong and reached the wetsuit strippers without feeling dizzy. The bike was drizzly, but not pouring and I mostly kept to plan for pacing and fueling. The transition to the run was the best ever. Better than any previous Patriot or any long training brick. The first half of the run I was moving along in zone 3…and then the hamstring did its thing.

Absolutely I had hoped it was miraculously gone and I felt so disappointed. In an instant, I regretted telling everyone about my stupid goal. I had a huge crowd of family and friends who had driven from all over to cheer me on. What was I thinking?! Ugh. This sucked.

Ok, so what?! If tried as hard as I could and missed my goal… failed… my family would be disappointed??? More likely they’d be proud of me for going for it! And let’s be honest, 5:30 meant nothing to them! They couldn’t care less about a number. Shake that off. And yes, I still wanted it, dammit.

Of course… I had also mistakenly pushed the wrong button on my Garmin and ended the triathlon, so I had no idea where I was in relationship to my goal. No idea at all.  I started to see the absence of timing as a gift from the universe to help me reach my goal of a happy run.

I remembered that when I asked Kathleen before the race about my readiness she had said something like: the swim was good, the bike was good, and the run was the wildcard – but since I’d been running forever, she knew my muscle memory would carry me.
So I believed strongly that as long as I kept running, just didn’t stop, I could still make it.

I did.

5:22:48 – a 10 minute PR… at fn50!

I still feel immense joy just for being brave enough to not abandon my goal when it felt unreachable. I always learn from my athletic endeavors.
What I learned is that abandoning the goal won’t prevent disappointment. I don’t really talk myself out of wanting what I want. It feels incredible to let myself want something, even if I may or may not get it. I will survive disappointment. Just because I do not understand how something can come together, doesn’t mean it won’t.
And of course, when you have a great coach, always trust your coach.

Patriot Finish

*PSA: Women, in perimenopause and menopause your estrogen crashes. Estrogen was used to convert carbohydrates into energy that fuels your muscles. The fueling plan you’ve used successfully may not work anymore. You’re not crazy or getting slow or lame. You may just need different fueling. I did. Why don’t people talk about this?!

Random Thoughts from the Swim

If you didn’t start swimming until you were an adult, you may already know that swimming is an incredibly mysterious thing. There are so many questions in a 35 minute “form-focused” workout…

 

  • Why does my swim cap sometimes fill up with air and start floating off my head?
  • How come I can do a bunch of turns and then just can’t even reach the wall with my tipsiest toes? Did the wall move?
  • What the hell did my right hand just do?!
  • Is this pool hot? I think this pool is hot.
  • Ouch. Why can’t I make it through one swim in this pool without whacking my hand on the lane line?
  • What is that guy doing? Is there such thing as a backward butterfly? I think he’s making that up.
  • Why does water burn when you forget to exhale out your nose during a flipturn?
  • I wonder if foggy goggles can just keep getting foggier.  Or is there is a fog maximum saturation point?…do I really need to see anything?
  • Ouch! Foot cramp! When was the last time I ate a banana? Should I be eating more bananas?
  • Why didn’t I start swimming as a kid?
  • When did I start? I wonder if I’m done. I can’t see my damn watch.
  • Will there ever be a day when I don’t have to think so much?