Sunday, April 22, 2007

Make Every Second Count

Last week I lost a friend. She was a seasonal friend, one I saw at summer softball games or for an occasional dinner... we'd swap silly emails... you know, one of those friends who you know and really like but just don't find the time to hang out with more often...because you take for granted that they'll always be there and that sometime you'll get together again. Sometime soon...

Only soon rarely happens... because life is busy and friendship takes effort. Let's face it, unless you see someone every day because you work with them or see them at the gym or share lunch, you have to make the effort to schedule time with the people you don't often cross paths with. And all too often, we just don't make the time. Because we just feel like those people will always be there... that there will always be time...

Well folks, I'm here to tell you that our lives are fleeting. That one second, the people you know and love are here, and the next they could be gone forever. My friend was on her way to a spring vacation with her family... her parents, her partner and their 2 year old adopted son. And in a split second their worlds came to a screeching halt. She was 25, she was just beginning her life, and there is no sense in what happened. It's one of those situations where you can find only a shred of comfort thinking that perhaps God, if there really is one, needed her more than we did down here. Because she's not "in a better place now." And it wasn't "for the best" or "a relief and a blessing that she's no longer suffering." She wasn't "at least doing something she loved." She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and a careless driver made a mistake. It was sudden and violent and then it was over. There's just no way to wrap your head around it...

The funeral was Friday and my ex and I went together, I think to find some closure but even more to offer support to her partner, to be sure she knew we were still here even though we were on the periphery of their circle. It was a beautiful service, the church was packed and it was clear that her partner was treated and is loved every bit as much as if she had been Leslie's husband. There wasn't an ounce of homophobia. Les made a huge impact on her world in the short 25 years she was here. Always offering a bright bubbly smile and a positive outlook amid even the most grim situations. One person that spoke about her felt that the only explanation was that she was an angel, sent here for only a short time to bless our lives, and then welcomed home for some bigger purpose. I wish I could believe that. Somehow it makes things feel a little less random.

I've spent the past week thinking about Leslie and all the people she's left behind. And even though I still can't make much sense of it all, I have come away with a sense that we all could live more mindful lives. On this 70˚F Earth Day, it seems appropriate to write of mindfulness, when only 7 short days ago there was a blizzard raging where I now sit in shorts and a tshirt... global warming is real and it's up to us to start making changes...and that starts with being mindful of how we live our lives...

I want to be more mindful of all these little things... and also of things that seem so trivial but could be the one in a million decision that leads to the end... like buckling my seatbelt when only driving a mile to the store, like watching every car that passes me when I ride my bike and always assuming that they don't see me... complacency is dangerous. Like not messing with my iPod or talking on the phone while driving... lose the attitude that "it can't happen to me." It can. And it might. And the more times it doesn't, the more chance that it will... And it might not be me that is the victim of someone's carelessness. It might be me that causes someone else's pain. And that's even more frightening.

I will take that extra few seconds, minutes even, to be mindful. To just slow down long enough to consider the ramifications. We take for granted that we won't drive off a bridge...but every now and then it occurs to me that it's entirely in my power to turn the wheel and in an instant it would be over. Death doesn't feel all that far off when you look at it that way. We are so very fragile. Two hands on the wheel, 5-10 mph slower, easy does it. Small acts of mindfulness could just be the difference behind 50 more years... or 5 more seconds.

As triathletes, I'm venturing a guess that we take more risks than many people in our day to day lives. We ride in traffic on springtime-sandy roads, sometimes with no shoulder, sometimes with pavement cracks and potholes, sometimes on busy highways where 18 wheelers zoom by us. We swim - sometimes in open water, sometimes in unguarded pools, sometimes with 2000 other people trying to claw their way over us. We run at dusk or dawn, when it's dark, when folks aren't likely to be watching for us or are more likely to be drunk, on trails where there might not be anyone there to hear us yell for help... or where there could be mountain lions. We sometimes drive to a training session when we're half asleep... or concussed from a bike crash.

I will be more mindful. I will wear my road ID, I will dress in bright colors with reflective clothing and a headlamp, and wear my helmet, and swim with a buddy or where there is a lifeguard. Somedays, it's just more convenient to skip this stuff. We've all done it. Guys and gals... please don't. Please. Take the extra few seconds or minutes to just make sure you're being as safe and careful as possible. Find a new route to ride with less traffic. Get to work early so you can run at lunchtime instead of in the dark. Don't take the easy or lazy way out. Vigilance could save your life. Complacency or laziness could end it.

And whatever you do, call your family or your friends or anyone who you've been meaning to get in touch with. Tell them you love them. Do it today. Make sure when you leave in the morning, you kiss your kids goodbye and tell your partner you love him or her. Don't be in such a rush that you forget to be mindful. Because we're here on borrowed time, kids. And it could all end in the blink of an eye. Make the most of every second you have.

I remember the last time I saw Leslie. It was at a store or a restaurant and I saw her thru the glass door... she was holding her son and talking to someone else and didn't see me. And even though I hadn't seen her in awhile, I didn't go back in to say hello because she was engaged in conversation and I didn't want to interrupt or I was in a hurry or something... Somehow it would have made all the difference to know that the next time I'd see her would be at her funeral. Take the time. Connect with the people you care about. Make sure you're doing all you can to be safe and keep those around you safe.

Be mindful and love well. Life is a wonderful gift.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dodged another one...

The STORM OF THE CENTURY (CENTURY, Century, century...echoing...) fizzled out in the middle of the night. I have NEVER been so happy to wake up to pouring rain!!! I snowed ALL DAY yesterday and despite the rate of massive snowfall, it didn't all stick and by this morning much of it had melted already. PHEW. The wind is CRAZY - I'm really feeling for all the folks who ran the Boston Marathon's hard to walk across the parking lot let alone run 26.2 miles!! Special congrats to Joe B who ran a great race despite the horrid conditions!!!

Had a fun weekend - ran 9 miles on Friday evening and actually felt pretty good. My new running shoes are too small... :( Same exact shoe I got last time, same year, but a different color and they're just a tad too tight on my bigger right foot. SIGH. Not complaining...just sad that the website didn't encourage me to order a half size up!!! I suppose that's the pennance I get for not staying loyal to Road Runner Sports and their 60 Day Perfect Fit Guarantee. Live and learn...

Saturday swim has become distance day so we did some timed 1500 yard swims. I swam a new PR by 15 seconds at 25:05 so I felt pretty good about that.

AND (drumroll please...) I finally ordered my very first wetsuit!!! This suit will hopefully be for this season only as I continue to stay on the wagon and shrink that backpack (bellypack?) I've been carrying around. I had hoped to hold off and reach my fighting weight before I invested in a suit but I'm just not there yet and my first race on June 2nd will be mighty chilly without one, especially with this weather. I expect ice-out will happen, oh, about the last week in May. Yeah. Chilly.

Anyway, I got the Quintana Roo Ultra John - they still had some 2006 suits on closeout so I saved some cash that way... QR is the only suit I could find that came in a variety of short sizes. I'm built much more like a guy than a woman... kinda like an apple, no hips, and little legs... all my weight is in my tummy (to put it gently/nicely) but I'm only 5'3" so finding a suit that fits around me that isn't going to be WAY too long has been a challenge. This is a good solution for now. I will, however, need to stay on the wagon for the next two months as I've got about 8-10 lbs to go for it to fit well. I'm committed...

The eventual plan is to go with DeSoto and get the Pullover AND the Vest along with the separate bibjohn. This is the ultimate solution for my height/weight ratio problems... Emilio DeSoto III responded to my email by calling me himself to discuss sizing and I was totally impressed with how much he wanted to help me out so when I'm ready to make that big of an investment, he will certainly get the business. Awesome company...

Saturday night I went to my first contradance! I'm, er, a pretty terrible contradancer, I discovered. It was a fun crowd of small town community members - some really great dancers too and people from 8 to 80 years old! I'm good at the Chicken Dance but that's about it!! Hopefully I'll get better with practice...I was starting to get it toward the end of the evening but it's hard to remember what's next!! My eyes/brain can't translate to my feet what someone is doing with their feet. It's practically a miracle that I can swim as well as I can because I have absolutely zero body awareness when it comes to dancing!! But my swimming ability gives me hope that some day I'll be a dancer. Even if it's only at a community contradance... or a gay country bar... Here's hopin' anyway...

Once the snow melts and the ground dries up a bit, I'm gonna try playing some soccer. For now I really need to spend some time on my bike. Or at least spinning. Feels like I'm running out of time!!!!

Train hard!

Friday, April 13, 2007

liveSTRONG and don't complain...

I confess. I complain a lot. Mostly about the weather - something completely out of my control. But I can get in a serious rut where, even though I'm being humorously sarcastic or witty, I'm still complaining. And it definitely has an effect on me and the people around me. It's something I'm not at all proud of... and something that I'd really like to change...

I'm not a religious person at all. I'm not really even a spiritual person...even though I'd like to be. I'm a good person, a kind person, a compassionate person...and I work hard to do good and to be good... but Darwin is my guy. I heard on the radio the other day that something like only 13% of americans actually embrace Darwin's theory of the Origin of the Species...and that the rest, a whopping 77%, think that "GOD" had something, if not a LOT, to do with our existence on earth. Well, if it works for you, great - I'm happy for you and I certainly won't tell you what you should or shouldn't believe. But I'm sticking to the facts... and I think Darwin had it right... I'm already in that 10% minority of gay people...why not join the 13% of Evolutionists too? I'm all about the road less travelled...

Anyway - what's my point, you ask? Well, a few weeks ago I ventured into about the only spiritual realm that I'm likely to go and watched an episode of Oprah. And she had this guy, Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, MO, as a guest. And I think what he had to say warrants some attention - mostly because it made me realize that I could really benefit from listening to him. I'll post it here but if you want to read more, go here.

Did someone cut you off on the freeway this morning? Was your coffee a little too hot? People complain about major and minor things every day. But Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Missouri, is trying to change all that.

In a Sunday morning sermon, Will told his congregation he wanted to make the world a complaint-free place. To prove he was serious, Will passed out purple bracelets to each church member and offered them a challenge.

"If you catch yourself complaining, you take [the bracelet] and you move it to the other wrist," Will says. "The idea is to ultimately keep it [on the same wrist] for 21 days." Will chose this length of time, he says, because scientists believe it takes that long to form a new habit.

Will believes if everyone would stop complaining, the world would be a much better place. "[I think] everybody agrees the world is not the way we would like it to be. I wonder if there's some relation between the two."

The congregation of Christ Church Unity has been handing out these bracelets at an amazing rate - so far they've given away over 4 MILLION. And they're free so the church relies on donations and volunteer help to purchase and mail them all over the world. Kinda like Pay It Forward....

I've decided that instead of a purple bracelet, I can use my LIVESTRONG bracelet in the same way - also because it will remind me that I'm healthy and really don't have anything to complain about... unlike all the folks that Lance has set out to help (my dad, brother, mother, cousin, and aunt included).

If you want to play along with me, here are the rules...and of course feel free to invite others to join you. Mental toughness and a positive attitude are essential in triathlon...and I think this will be a good way for me to work on both.

  1. "If you catch yourself complaining, you take [the bracelet] and you move it to the other wrist," Will says. "The idea is to ultimately keep it [on the same wrist] for 21 days." Will chose this length of time, he says, because scientists believe it takes that long to form a new habit.
  2. No gossiping!
  3. If you see someone wearing the no-complaint bracelet and they start complaining and you point that fact out to them, you've gotta switch your own no-complaint bracelet to your other wrist and start the 21 days over -- because you've just complained about their complaining!
  4. Pay attention to how you're speaking. If you blithely say, "Oh, my leg hurts," that might just be a statement of fact. But if you're droning on about the pain in your calf, that's probably a complaint.
  5. If you want to know the difference between a comment and a complaint, Pastor Will says to pay attention to your feelings about the issue. "If you're putting a lot of energy into it, if you want it changed, you're complaining," he says.

Good luck, train hard, and be strong in mind and body...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

All quiet on the Blogger front...

Either that, or my bloglines isn't working.

It's snowing. Heavily. 8-12" today and tonight. 3-6" more on Saturday. Another storm on the way for Monday. Bliss.

Excuse me while I go gouge my eyes out.

I wish I could enjoy how pretty is, this soft, wet, sticky snow that's clinging to everything as it falls outside my office window. (takes a moment to consider enjoying it... watches it fall fast and furious...thinks: nope, definitely not enjoyable... in fact, this is what my own personal version of hell would be...)

I finally solidified plans to go check out Atlanta. And I'm even going to swim in a swim meet and go to a masters practice with the Atlanta Rainbow Trout! Kewl. I'm looking forward to some warm weather, some green grass and a break from this Siberian-like tundra. Two weeks from today...

My runs are getting faster, my butterfly stroke is getting stronger, and the sun is rising earlier. Guess I'll focus on that stuff and hope the rest melts quickly...

Train hard!

Monday, April 09, 2007


This just brightened my pretty dark Monday...I cannot stop laughing...

Friday, April 06, 2007

OK, what gives?

So running - I need all you runner types to weigh in...

When I run on the treadmill, I tend to focus a lot on my speed and heartrate since it's such a controlled environment. It's helping me to learn my pacing so I know how to handle that better on the road.

I start off at 12 min miles. For about 5 minutes of warmup. Easy peasy. HR is below 60% of my max - not breathing hard, not sweating. Just warming up my muscles...

For the next 5 minutes, I slowly inch the speed up while watching my HR (I haven't done a very accurate HR max test and know that I really need to - the highest number I've EVER seen on my HRM is about 174 but I feel like my max MUST be higher than that based on how I feel at other heart rates).

Anyway, from a few different charts and formulas, I've decided that my AEROBIC MAX is about 151 - the number that I shouldn't go over during long slow distance workouts...the number that will keep me out of "no-man's land" and anaerobic land. So as I inch up the speed on the treadmill, I push until I get to about a HR of 148 and then hold that speed. Over the past few months, I've gone from about an 11:30 min/mile at this HR, to about a 9:50 min mile at this SAME HR... which is HUGE. I'm very psyched about this.

But here's the thing:

I can't seem to HOLD this pace and STAY at this HR for more than two miles at this point. So what's happening? I'd venture a guess that if I started out too FAST, I'd crash and burn and not be able to sustain such a pace. But I'm choosing the pace based on a pretty conservative why can't I hold it? Is it because my legs aren't strong enough yet? Should I be strength training to make them stronger? My HR will slowly creep to 149...151...153...156...starting into no-man's land... and then I have to slowly back off the speed to keep it sub 151...and by mile 4, I'm in the 11:30/12 min mile range.

I realize there's likely a simple answer...that I'm not some mutant runner... but what is it? And should I just keep at it and my body will adapt? Or is it more effective to start out at a lower HR (thus, slower speed) and let it creep up TO 151 instead of starting right around there?

Any advice would be much appreciated. I've got a long run planned this afternoon so I can test out any theories you might have... THANKS!!

One foot in front of the other...

Since August, my world has been a bit of a roller coaster. Actually, a mountain climb would be more apt... one of those mountains with a few dozen false peaks... where you feel like you're making so much progress only to find that when you get to what you thought was the top, there's still a long way to go to the summit. And then you descend for a while, feeling angry that while you're hiking UP the mountain, there are ravines and rivers that require you to go DOWN before you can start gaining elevation again. It's hard to see the big picture - to realize that you're getting closer and closer to the top even though you're on a downward slope. It's still progress. So you keep going, one foot in front of the other, having faith that you'll get there eventually even though all your effort at times seems futile.

I'd say, today, I'm a little more than halfway to the summit of my climb. Just starting to peek above treeline, catching glimpses of the path ahead but still not in sight of the real summit. I'm so so much further along the path than I was 8 months ago. Today, despite the snow and freezing cold that persists up here in the northeast, perspective is is gratitude.

Gratitude is a bit of a new concept for me... Momo posted a passage last week that left me feeling greatful where before I had just felt a little bitter, a little angry, kind of wronged. I wanted to remember it so here's the part that really spoke to me... (but read the whole thing at Mo's site too - it's good):

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong-doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on. – Drew Chalker

Interpersonal relationships can be so hard. But if they were easy, then we wouldn't grow through them. And growing is kind of the whole point, don't you think? Growing toward happiness, growing toward a better you... it's the journey, not the summit where you learn the most. And once you reach the summit - you realize that there are SO many other summits to find. So you start the new journey.

I think that's why triathlon is the one thing I've really been able to stick with... to make a permanent part of my life. I learn so much more about myself during the months and months of training than I do on that one race day.

Pretty cool to look back and see what's behind me...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

You Could Not Pay Me Enough... walk out onto this thing:

Pride and Joy

First, there is cause to be proud today.

I got out of bed at 5:15 to go to dryland and swim practice...only to look out the window, see 8 new inches of snow, and get right back into my warm, cozy bed.

I closed my eyes and settled back in for another hour and a half of sleep...and then just couldn't do it.

"You're missing the bus."
I know, but it's SNOWING and it's APRIL and it's NOT.FAIR.

"There's no other time to work out today."
who cares, I'll work out tomorrow

"You have a half marathon to run in 8 weeks."
UGH. I know. but if it's still winter in 8 weeks, I'm NOT doing it. I.HATE.WINTER.

"Timberman is happening in 20 weeks. TWENTY.WEEKS."
crap, that's a scary thought

"How about you skip the swim, get on your trainer and watch TV?"
(really whining now) ...but bed is so much nicer...

"OK, now it's still have 1.5 hours to get this KNOW you want to..."
NO. no, I really don't.

"Yeeeeeeeessssss you do... yes yes yes yes yes... think how NOT guilty you'll feel once you get it done... "
grumble grumble @#$%^^&&*... WHY can't you just let me go back to sleep!!!???

"Because you're a triathlete and your triathlete friends are already going to wonder why you didn't show up to swim so the least you can tell them is that you did SOMETHING productive..."

It's still snowing. I did 35 minutes on the trainer and 30 mins of abs. and stretching and that was the compromise. I can live with that.

The REAL victory though, came later on the way to work when I bypassed Dunkin Donuts (c'mon just pull in, ONE donut on a snowy day like today won't make a difference...), then bypassed the convenience store where they have my favorite 1500 calorie/cup cappuccino, AND bypassed the bagel place where I'd typically reward myself with a sausage, egg and cheese deal for just getting myself out of bed on a day like this. AND, when the office went out to get muffins just now, I passed.

Holy crap. Miracles do happen.

And now, for the joy (she says, as sarcasm drips from her coffee caffeinated lips...)