Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kindness

This week has been pretty awesome. I have had solid workouts, and the sun has appeared on more than one occasion. Vitamin D anyone? I'd advise going out and getting some, while it lasts.

Sue and I went out for a 4 mile race on Saturday morning. It was at a metropark that basically sucks the life out of me, every time I run there. People love it for the hills while I dislike it for the hills. I approached yesterday's race kind of like I do every run at Sharron woods, with dread...

So, here is the thing about life in general. I preach that every morning, we wake up and make a choice. Our choice is to decide whether we are going to have a good or bad day. I would say 9 times out of 10, I make the choice that my day will be great. Well, OK, let's be honest here, once I come out of my morning fog, I make that decision. BUT, life may have very different plans for me. Again, I have to make another choice. Do I let the flat tire, bum breaks, long grocery store line, fall down the stairs, etc., define my day? I like to think that I don't (most of the time).

Most recently, I knew I needed new breaks on my car, but had no idea how bad the problem was until my breaks clamped down and wouldn't release. Next thing I know, I am sitting in a Midas (not my first choice for car maintenance), wallowing in a very expensive fix. And then several events happened. I decided to walk to my bank. I stood in line, and then got up to the counter. I told the teller my entire saga, much to her amusement, and I got one of the most wonderful compliments from a couple of people in line. Basically, one of the women told me that I have the best personality. I laughed. Not quite how I thought I presented myself at the bank, my hair a mess, my shirt wrinkled... But none of that mattered, what mattered was how I treated the people in the bank.

I walked out of the bank perplexed and headed back to Midas, my home for the afternoon... A new woman was sitting there with her three kids. She was getting unexpected new breaks, too. We talked and all of a sudden we were both laughing about our Friday afternoon misfortune. She actually thanked me for the chuckle? I don't want to go into detail, but we basically talked about how we were looking forward to meeting again, in the hospital, with broken arms or something, because that is how you meet new and interesting people.

Anyway, amidst my terrible grammar and misspelling, I do have a point here... Like my car woes, last week, the Sharron Woods 4 miler was nothing what I had dreaded. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. We headed out for our run to the tune of a steady, LSD pace. We continued that pace into mile 2, at which point we sped up a little bit. Mile 3 was a significant negative split, followed by mile 4, which is basically unheard of for us this year. I'm a talker when we run and the 'watch'man (I carry the watch), and I remember looking over to Sue, letting her know that I would tell her what happened during this race when we were done. She responded with a 'are we slow'? I wouldn't answer. After collapsing in the grass when the run was over, we celebrated what we thought was the impossible. Mind you, this wasn't a PR by any stretch, but based on where we have been this year, it was a mental PR for running.

Basically, what I am saying is this: Never underestimate the power of your attitude, be kind to yourself rather than dread a moment for what you THINK you can do, enjoy a moment for what you CAN do. You may have one plan, but your brain/body may have a completely different plan. Embrace it, enjoy it, celebrate it... And then go for a bike ride...

My picture from my ride yesterday.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Happy

I know I use these pictures ALL the time, but they are perfect for this post!!!

I found myself watching a documentary about happiness this weekend, called Happy. As I was watching this documentary, it made me reflect pretty significantly on my life and athleticism for so many reasons. I believe I am a very happy person. I have moments of sadness, but who doesn't? The movie confirmed why, although I have my moments, in my core, I am a truly happy person. Although, I think my mom wins the happiness prize!!!

I have to admit, as I write this post, I am all 'doped' up on dopamine, from my 11 mile run yesterday and 36 mile bike ride today. Aerobic exercise is the best way to release dopamine. I'm sure you knew that...

Anyway, back to the movie. In this movie, I basically relearned what I already knew. First, money and happiness do not have a correlation. Psychologists all agree that basic needs have to be met (food, shelter, etc.) to live with true happiness, but the reality is, your state of mind is based on your experiences.

I could go into a discussion about how your socioeconomic class impacts your happiness but then you might have to read, at great length, about how people with different incomes experience love differently. Trust me when I say, you don't want me to write about this, because it might be a 100 page blog.

So here is where I start talking about the difference between joy and happiness, and my athleticism...

First of all, joy and happiness are two very different things. I knew this, but the movie just confirmed my theory. Basically, happiness is a state of being, while joy is an experience. Take for example, crossing the finish line of your first 5k, half marathon, full marathon, half iron-man, basically whatever is your thing. You probably felt elated, right? And then you come down from that elation over the next couple of weeks, and to go through the post 'event' blues or back into your original state of being. That state of being may have been either happy or sad. The reason for this, is that the feeling of joy only lasts for a short period of time. In the movie, they also talk about the exact opposite. OK Cubs fans, this is when I start talking directly to you... You might have your special team and they lose that pivotal game. Cubs fans, game 7 of the National League Championships in 2003 ring a bell? You were sad, disheartened, and whatever other emotions went along with that... And then? Two days later, your life moved on and you were back to normal.

All of this is important because, just because you have moments of joy, doesn't mean you are a happy person, it simply means you had a moment of joy. I wrap those little gifts up and hold on tight because they are all memories that are worth remembering. But what is more important for becoming a truly happy person, is this... Doing things because you want to, or you can. Compassionate people, people who run for fun, cycle for fun, play dungeons and dragons for fun (OK so not fun for me), garden for fun, or do any of these things, simply because they want to, truly are giving themselves a better opportunity to reaching the state of happiness.

Another thing that really struck a cord for me in the movie 'Happy' is that, often, when people have a traumatic experience in their life, depending on how they deal with that experience, the outcome could be fantastic. I was diagnosed with MS in the last year. My family and friends have listened to me wallow in my sadness over the unpredictability of the disease, but the greatness that came out of the diagnosis has been pretty phenomenal (one of my friends might chuckle at this because I do think I cried for about 2 miles of our 11 mile run yesterday). I have the best friends, I'm closer with my family, I enjoy every second with my nieces and nephews, every time I run I am excited because I can do it! These are simple joys that I may have skimmed over in the past. Even more pivotal is that I still seek out those new experiences and stretch myself, my mind, my body to the core. Why do I do these things? Simply because I can.

So remember that post from a couple of weeks ago, entitled 'Why Bother'? This is why I bother. I get to spend time with people that I truly appreciate and love. I get to do something simply because it feels good and there are no strings attached. It all helps me to reach the ultimate state of happy.

And now, for those Pharrell Williams fans, I'll let him take it away:


Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Training Plan

What does my training plan look like for the summer? Quite frankly, it is terrifying... I thought training for the half iron man was tough, and it was, but I would say this schedule rivals the half marathon schedule I followed. Why you might ask? I'm only training for a 175 mile 2 day bike ride, right? Wrong... Sure, the bike ride is the highlight of the summer events, and what I am focusing most of my energies on, but I also want to stay 10k ready through the summer, and I'm doing the swimming leg of an Olympic distance triathlon with a couple of friends as a relay.  I'm not guaranteeing I'll be able to hit EVERY workout, but I plan to try!

I have been accused of not sharing the training schedule with my friend/training buddy because I don't want her to see what she signed up for, and there might be some truth to that, but I'll tell you what, we are going to feel so accomplished at the end of this summer!

You might ask, what is truly in a training schedule, and for every person it is totally different. For some, it may include speed, endurance and cross training, along with a nutrition plan and strength training. For me, on the other hand, it includes running, cycling and swimming. My nutrition plan is very simple, eat when I'm hungry, and enjoy my Sunday ice cream. The strength training includes lugging my laundry to my bedroom from the basement. I'm simply not as structured as some folks, but that is OK.

Here is an example of what can happen even if you do the training thing right... This week I fueled properly for my 11 mile, turned 9 mile run. I ate the pasta, I drank the water. I did my midweek runs and got a lot of rest prior to Saturday. Basically, I did everything 'right'... And then I woke up to pouring rain and 100% humidity... No nutrition or training can prepare you for that type of running misery. Now, I admittedly am being totally dramatic, but my point is, nothing can truly prepare you for event day. All you can do is follow your schedule and hope to god, it all works out.

So, what exactly does this first full week of training look like for me? Here is the schedule:

Monday: Swim 1500 m, run 3 miles
Tuesday: Rest Day
Wednesday: Bike 1 1/2 hour, run 3 miles
Thursday: Bike 1 hour, run 3 miles
Friday: Bike 1 hour, swim 1500 meters
Saturday: Run 11 miles, Bike 20 miles
Sunday: Bike 35 miles

As I said, that schedule about makes me sick to my stomach, and it will lighten up once the half marathon is over... But the goal is to make Pedal to the Point a much more pleasant experience than the run I stumbled through on Friday. The only way I can adequately prepare, is to get on my bike and start peddling!

To donate to one of my team mates, find their donation links on this blog post: http://couchtoathlete-sarah.blogspot.com/2014/02/introducing-team-were-mess.html.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why Bother?

So, people have asked me why I bother with this whole athletic thing! I sometimes wonder that myself especially when considering this:

1) Being athletic is NOT cheap. If you are a runner, you need a good pair of running shoes (unless you are a barefoot runner), insoles (if you have my feet), good socks, the right clothing, a good sports bra and nutrition if you are running long distances. And then there are the races, oh the cost of races! I have a rule, I will not pay more than 10 dollars per mile for a race... If you are a cyclist, there is the bike, bike clothes and shoes, helmet, nutrition, cost of rides, tubes, tools, and so on. Then swimming? Oh boy, the swim suit, gym membership, locks for your locker, towel, goggles. My guess is that my athletic wardrobe alone is worth a couple thousand dollars, and then the bikes and swim suits. It makes me want to get sick when I think about all of the money that went into this hobby...

2) Your heart only has so many beats. This is one of my uncle's favorite sayings. He asks why would I waste my heart beats on intense exercise? Kind of a good point if you believe this philosophy (hint: I don't).

3) And then you have your knees if you are a cyclist and/or runner. So many people wonder why you would make the choice to damage your legs by running so much!

4) And who could forget the laundry. So, at the peak of my training this summer, I anticipate being on my bike 4-5 days a week, running 3-4 days a week and swimming 2-3 days a week. That basically means a towel, swim suit, 4 cycling outfits and 3 running outfits that need to be washed every week. Probably two loads of laundry, on top of work clothes 5 days a week and casual weekend clothes twice a week, and sheets.

5) Oh, and then you have the possible injuries. I had a stress fracture and PF that was so bad I ended up having to doctor and do PT. Those doctor's appointments and PT appointments were enough to break the bank!

Just reading all of that back exhausts me and makes me think twice about my decision to be an athlete, and then I remember this:

1) I have met the most amazing people and the most solid friends as an athlete.

2) Crossing the finish line of your first 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, half iron man, marathon, etc. is the most exhilarating experience.

3) Needing workout clothes on a daily basis actually makes me think about the need to do all of my laundry. If there wasn't a need for my favorite running shorts on Saturday, I might choose to not do laundry for a couple of weeks.

4) The bonding I have with my siblings (or nephew, or cousin) over these events is a gift. I mean, seriously, my sister and I have done race after race together... My other sister got me to even enjoy using my body to propel myself forward and my brother has made me love cycling! Not to mention, we are all going to come together for two days to ride our bikes 150 miles. I mean, how many families can say that they met all of their siblings in Ohio to take a bike ride. Again, an awesome gift.

5) The most important reason I embrace my athleticism is this, I can do it... I refuse to take for granted the days I wake up and can move my arms, my legs, my body! Not everyone can run a block, let alone 13 miles... and some day I might not be able to do these events, so I may as well go all out and do it while I can.

I think this is really me talking myself into re-entering the world of the half iron man next year... Why not, right?