Category Archives: Training

The Lazy Perfectionist

I think an acupuncturist described me as such when I was in college after telling her about myself. I don’t know if I’d call myself a lazy perfectionist anymore. I think perhaps I’m lazy (can you relate?) but have developed habits that urgently push me out of bed in the morning and have learned set goals that keep me on track. And the simpler and shorter my goals and “to-do” list is the better…

Back in March some of you may know I signed up for a half-ironman.Seemed so exciting at the time…and doable!  It’s next Saturday. The training has not been as consistent or as hard-core as I would’ve liked, and I have also had some great moments.

For any of you other Lazy Perfectionists or  Type-A-Wanna Be-Neurotics you might be able to relate. Perhaps you you  don’t always wake up saying,”YESSSSS!!!!!TODAY I’M GOING TOTRAIN!  YESSSS!!!! or even, “TODAY I MUST TRAIN, AND I WON’T COMMIT TO ANYTHING LESS..” By the way, you can substitute work or any other goal (it doesn’t have to be training) and this entry still applies.

This mind of mine gets really excited about doing a large volume of training or a really fast pace.. But then And it gets really upset when I don’t complete that large volume or that really fast pace.

So lately I’ve started training my mind in a different way…instead of telling myself that we are going to train hard (anyone else have multiple personalities, ha!) I tell myself that we are going to train focused.

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Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

I know that sounds strange. One of the delights of longer trainings is letting the thoughts drift. Getting lost! Exploring! And it is! But that’s not necessarily what I need for my day at that time.  And f I let my thoughts drift too much without feeling my body and my brain rooted in the training then I stop…and drift some more…

…..and knowing that sustained focus is something that I consistently  need to practice, why not do it during a time in which a repetitive movement is already built in to my week.

 

 

 

 

Getting Started

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On Biking

The  red-faced, wind-kissed cheeks and the smell of fresh air on your skin ,and knowing that you just came in from a slightly windy morning riding at the beach never really does get old. San Francisco has changed. For sure. But the morning fog still rolls, and and the crazy waves still crash on the shore of Ocean Beach. Still not up to “training pace” but getting out again on Sunday put me back into that infinity circle again of “what have I been missing!”

On Running

Crissy Fields is another one of those magical places. I ride my bike down Market, up Polk Street all the way up to the Marina; gives a real feel of how the city changes from one area to the other (from rags to riches…and all the colors in between). My heart becomes lighter as I climb up that last hill and the ocean comes into view.

20160522_092624Getting started, like with anything, always feels like a big push. And last Monday I drudged myself along for the first mile or so, convinced to keep going only by the ocean breeze and the sway of the grass. By mile 4 I was in a groove when I heard quick-footsteps behind me and then beside me. Realizing that we were basically the same pace, the other set of foot-steps and mine matched each other–first her running slightly faster with me a little behind and then vice-versa (the pains and gains of training with another). Half-way through, I gasped between breaths, “What’s…your…name…” and aside from that the only sounds we exchanged was the  rhythm of our feet and the quick breaths as we continued down the path.

On Swimming

Yesterday, I tried to run on the treadmill. Bad. Idea. Too tired. Too light-headed. Too stifling. Not happening. Didn’t even want to get into the pool after that. But it’s a rooftop outdoor pool. And it was, again, that perfect mix of fog and rain.”One lap,” I whispered to myself, shivering on the side of the pool. I dipped one foot in the water which sent my face into a scrunch.  I felt the whine coming low and fast and before it sent my legs running down into the locker room where a sauna awaited, I dove in, the  water making me forget whatever doubts I had about being here in the first place.

Sprints were on my agenda. Just one length of the pool at a time with a 20 second rest…how to get my time down to just 20 seconds? I put my attention on the pull part of the stroke; where the elbow is bent and the forearm pushes against the water. Could I push any harder? Recover any faster? Focusing on the push and recovery on the seventh of twelve lengths, I glanced up at the clock as my fingertips touched the wall. The clock read 20 seconds…all because of a bit of awareness and effort at one aspect of my stroke.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side…

Many emotions last week as I embarked on training week #2. Old patterns of thinking kept coming up-the pushing, the needing, and feeling like, “I can’t.” I  am also having some pain in my left foot that I want to be mindful of. I’m not going to push through and hurt myself and yet at the same time there’s a need to have a little bit of fire under my butt to keep going. So while I am committed to training in-so-far as it feels like I am taking care of myself I’ll do it. If September comes and I don’t feel ready then I’ll let it go.

Lately, a sickening feeling of rage and frustration around how lost I’ve gotten, after a year of quiet, into the world of consumption have come up for me. And it feels that, a practice that I so carefully cultivated around just being, is dissipating.

The addiction of indulgence has once again returned. It’s obviously natural to want and it’s a beautiful practice to give oneself a treat every once in awhile. But that treat (for me)  turns so easily into a desperate need to have that thing, to complete that goal, to get everything finished….

…I used to feel very much that if I didn’t keep pushing I would lose something vital to who I was. But now I see it as an ingrained habit and the patterns of thinking that say, “See! I told you you weren’t good enough! You just need to keep at it (at what?) and then you will have what you need to be happy.” And as if that thought pattern wasn’t enough of a blow there’s a whole story and judgment that goes along with that too.

I’m angry this morning at another careless act of leaving bike shoes outside my house that are no longer there. It’s not the money. It’s the judgment around, now, making another purchase around my carelessness.

I teach and preach  forgiveness, patience, and self-compassion; fundamental to the “undoing” of ourselves.  I am grateful to have developed and be supported   in a practice of such mindfulness; it reminds me in all these times of feelings, whether frustration or elation, and the judgement and stories that go with them, to just be still with them and if I’m so lucky, to return to a state of just being.

 

 

 

 

 

Three Easy Bits

1487869_579275772167212_307070608_oExhaustion has consumed me this week. Maybe after a week of insomnia I am now swinging the other way.

…I fell asleep before 9pm last night. Maybe it was the kava that did it…yes, kava..a south-pacific drink that tastes like dirt (“an acquired taste…” “people don’t drink it for the taste”) giving the body a high while still being cognitive.  It’s supposed to be a relaxant…I think it worked.

At 6am I woke up with that slow very tired brain mush and pushed myself out of bed contemplating the closest place to get coffee that was open… a cafe that didn’t require a hill. “Mmm…bike ride?” Really? First, coffee. Always first. Coffee.

An hour or so later, reluctantly climbed on the bike and sailed down hill towards the park.This morning was another  moderate ride of 20 miles. The fresh air felt good on the waking up from mush head and I played with the push and pull of my shoes on the pedals.

Discovery #1: My Feet!

While doing a balancing pose in a yoga class recently, a teacher suggested that we focus on the instep of the foot. I noticed immediately my tendency to shift towards the outer parts of my feet (towards the pinky toe) and how much concentration it took to press down with the entire foot.

I noticed the same on my ride this morning. In order to go faster I use the outer edges of my feet; so I practiced pressing down with the whole foot, which although, uncomfortable at first and had me slowing down was neat to realize the difference in the muscle usage and ultimately made for a more comfortable ride.

Discovery #2 Clip-ins!

At stoplights I always clip out with both feet which is incredibly ineffective. It’s pure fear. And so again today I played with clipping in and out and discovered that I could do it with relative ease (and fear).

Discovery #3-No hands!

Not yet….but for sure so much more comfortable in the dug-outs and also finally able to comfortably take my right hand off the bar and take a sip of water.

These are small easy bits that perhaps I should’ve mastered years ago when first starting out. But I didn’t; and it’s fun, now, to these abilities emerge while enjoying the ride.

 

 

 

April Adrenaline brings May…

Mix  adrenaline with  a half a cup of insomnia, and powder on top with a pinch (or two or three) of anxiety for a recipe of signing up for a half-ironman. I mean, also it was a long time coming…

It started with a bike ride in late February. A bike ride on the most perfect late February day. I was just supposed to go to the park and practice but I felt so good that I flew across the Golden Gate Bridge, met a friend and her daughter for lunch and then on the way back, four blocks from my house a flat tire landed me in a bike shop…which then turned into a serendipitous meeting of a man with whom I had practically  a long-term relationship (all of one month!)-that ended when the fairy dust  settled and we realized that we were both human after all.

A year-long business coaching program seemed to also cross my path where my pen gave the signature along with the digits of my credit card number, and I finally re-entered the world of solo performance which was (as I told myself) the reason I returned to San Francisco in the first place.

My Cannondale road bike was stolen (and no it wasn’t as safe as it should’ve been. I’ve done all the grieving, kicking and beating up to myself necessary)….

and I also moved!…well, rooms. And even though the process of moving inside the same house is radically different, it still comes with a rush of excitement and the challenges of well…moving!

So in the midst of all this  last Wednesday while sitting in a café on Valencia my keyboard took me over to the Santa Cruz 70.3 and entered, once again my name and credit card number.

So here we are, first week in May, half ironman training week one, Day #3.So far, so fun! Two moderate bike rides with a very sweet Specialized (emphasis on moderate) and one moderate run (with a stop at 0.42 mile for coffee. See what I mean by moderate?). The soundtrack for this one is just beginning to build, so be sure to get your pick in…

Performance dates for Solo Performance (if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area) will either be June 17th or 19th at Stage Werx on Valencia. Save the dates for some good storytelling…

I Don’t Really Wanna Say Good-bye

So, we left off in Mexico. In San Gil at the Water’s Edge where I swam 1900 meters in 37 minutes!

And then, things started to get hard. Friends came back to Mexico and it was so so wonderful to see them!  But they were all headed back to school. I wanted…I needed something to do and I knew it wasn’t school, but I didn’t know how to start what I wanted to do…and I found myself in that negative cycle of…but if I open door number one then what if door number two won’t open and then I’ll be stuck again and in the same place that I was before, and then there’s no point and… down the rabbit hole. I was completely stuck.

So many wonderful places to go and things to do, and I felt like all the stuff that I had spread all over the room that my friends were kind enough to let me stay were boxing me in.

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All My Bags are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

It’s time to leave, Mexico. I heard the voice over and over again say. No, no. Not yet! Just let me figure this out. I pleaded back.

And it wasn’t until I wrote an email to a friend thatI thought I wrote from the depths of my soul that I got a wake-up call. “Sarah!” he wrote me back. “Stop feeling sorry

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me

Alexa (teammate), Mike (coach), and Me in Veracruz

for yourself. You are an independent smart woman. Do something about this! You are not happy. I tried to justify his statements. “Maybe YOU don’t like what I’m doing, but I’m perfectly FINE!” I snapped at him in defense. But I wasn’t.

I spent the weekend at my ironman partner’s Paloma’s house with her and her family.”Go home.” she encouraged. “You’ll see.” 

Waiting for the Important Guests

Paloma’s children watching for the dinner guests

Indeed it was the only place that came up over and over again…home, I know, ultimately is where the heart is, but in this case home…meant my mom and my dad.

And so I booked my ticket; . It goes without saying I hope, that I savored that time with the good friends and community that I was lucky enough to have in DF. Here’s a short list of activities:

  • got in a couple more walks/talks/and healthy food exchanges with a friend whom I’d been running with since arriving in Mexico three years prior.
  • accompanied a friend wedding dress shopping
  • held a “see you later party”
  • attended one more yoga class, and of course
  •  trained for one more triathlon, Veracruz in August.

It was a wonderful weekend, reminding me of why I had started with the sport in the first place. I spent the weekend, laughing my head off with athletes from both Endurance and Fortia,

Endurance and Forita Together

Endurance and Fortia Together at Veracruz Triathlon

and my coaches, who had become good friends.

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Coach Mike, Me, Coach Luisen, Coach Alejandra in Veracruz

Before my final departure in late August, I visited my acupuncturist one last time. “I can’t believe I’m going home.” I told him. “Well why are you going?” he asked.. “I don’t know. Something in my heart tells me that’s where I need to go.” I responded. “Well,” he said. “Go home. Relax. And you’ll get the email or phone call you need in two weeks.”

I’m sure my eyes widened at his words, hopeful and skeptical at the same time. “Could there really be something to this whole follow your heart thing?”  I thought. And with that I bid him farewell and headed to Massachusetts on the early morning of August 26th.

The Water’s Edge


The weekend of May 23rd was the most fun-disasterous-ego-busting-laughing-learn-my-lesson the-hard-way weekend of the year . My friend Kate and I had planned to do a triathlon on the coast of Ixtapa. It really was one of those everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong types of weekends, but so fun that everything worked out in a wonderful way. Here’s a “Fortunately/Unfortunately” synapsis of our weekend:

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

Start of the race in Ixtapa. Our international crew.

10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find cheap tickets to the beach.

9. Fortunately we decide to take an overnight bus! And then, Kate finds cheap tickets!

8. Unfortunately, she bought them backwards. And so we have to buy a new set of tickets.

7. Fortunately, they have tickets available.

6.Unfortunately, the return flight is for Monday. This means we have to miss a day of work.

5. Fortunately, we have to miss a day of work to stay at the beach another night!

Suffering at the Beach one more day.

Suffering at the beach one more day.

4. Unfortunately, our flight is delayed….and delayed…and deeelaaayyyeed. (we spent more time in the airport than on the plane)

3. Fortunately, they gave us food vouchers so we got to eat a pretty good meal at the airport.

2. Unfortunately, we were going to get in after packet-pick up and registration closed.

1. Fortunately, the owner of the race was on our flight and so they kept registration open and when we got our packets just as they closed the     doors!

On the physical side of things I had hurt my foot pretty badly the week before. “Tendinitis. Stay off of it for two weeks,” were the orthopedic’s recommendations. “MMmmm. Listen. I have a competition in a week. Let me do that and then I will rest for as long as I need to. And um, listen, I’ll just swim and bike if I need to, and will stay off of it for the run.”  I pleaded.

I did realize the ridiculousness of my negotiation. It  was as if I was six and my mom and I were negotiating how many more bites of broccoli before I could have dessert…only, I’m 33 and this is not about dessert this is about recuperating from an injury! What patience doctors must have working with athletes! It’s not like I can say to my foot, “Hey..pssst…just heal for now and then you can hurt afterwards.” [although admittedly, I did].

My most important rule about racing is that I cross the finish line with a smile. Races always have their moments, but I do this for fun.

“I really will just do the swim and the bike, and stop there.”  I thought to myself. Yeah..right.

Unfortunately, I finished that race… with a grimace on my face. I think I came in last.  What a lesson in humility, injury, and letting go. It was a great weekend-cheering on my teammates and spending an extra day at the beach with Kate.

Returning to DF I got a stern lecture from Coach 1, Coach 2, an orthopedic doctor, and my foot might-as-well… in which the message rang clear: OFF YOUR FOOT.

I asked my coach about his thoughts on this race.

“You did an ironman, Sarah. That’s awesome. But your ego made you do this race. And now you want to ride 90km on an injured foot. For what?” [I had just signed a teammate and I up for a ironman in July in which I was going to swim and bike and he was going to run] . Also, cut the bullshit. Start training.”

I was puzzled. “I am training. I’m training every day.”

Still not quite grasping his meaning another coach pointed out to me, “You come here tired and stressed.” Oh ,that’s true.

The thing that no one tells you about the aftermath of an Ironman is how long the let down is going to last and how it manifests itself. I knew that it was going to be hard afterwards. I figured two weeks. Maybe a month at most. And the most obvious part of it probably lasted two months (the first month after everyone wanted to talk about it still, so that was fun!). But then regular life settles in.

Paloma (my partner in Ironman) and I would talk about this periodically. She was able to identify more easily her struggles with the aftermath. “I’m fine.” I told myself. “I don’t have a problem slowing down. I’m still training every day. But I’m good!”  Or so I thought.

But really I wasn’t good. I was pushing at everything I was doing; I was afraid that I stopped pushing then I would lose all my strength, gain weight, and god-forbid, have no purpose! Enjoyment and ease of course did not even enter this conversation. I am an ironman. I am a long-distance triathlete. I must teach all day, tutor twice a week, teach yoga, complete a master’s program, and compete  90 kilometers on a bike because that’s what I do.

And so I pushed. I pushed at everything. And without realizing it I was just kind of physically present to whatever was there but didn’t have my whole being into anything in particular. And as a result: I lost strength, gained weight, and wasn’t sure for what I was training. And what pushed me to go and go and go? This idea that I couldn’t stop or else I’d be a total failure….look at all of the people around me and how fast they swim and their workload! Of course I can keep up…I have to keep up!

I finally hit bottom when I was examining yet another option for the summer and on the brink of taking it, I cried to my mom, How can I know what I want to do next when I have not even submitted grades yet. When my apartment is still a mess and I have to move in a week? My whole life I have been rushing to do the next thing and meet the next goal. I just need to be.

After that race in May I started counting my steps.Training was my godsend in the craziness that was going on and I showed up. Not always my fastest times or my “strongest” moments, but I smiled more. Started to become more conscientious of my body, my breath, my attitude, and the other people around me.

In the pool (where I was spending a lot of time since I couldn’t run) my coach badgered me. Every time I did a long distance work out he would say, Much better than Ixtapa, huh? 1500 meters in 32 minutes-not okay anymore.

Endurance sports are about personal bests for me.  32 minutes is an awesome time. So is 40. So is finishing! So is getting in the water and taking a stroke. . Everyone’s goals are different for them. So the time references here are not a general statement for what everyone should/shouldn’t do. For me I only use time as a reference because I know what I am capable of.  32 minutes is slow especially because I hadn’t been able to break that time in open water.

5:30am waiting to go to the start line for San Gil.

Sunday, July 13th I stood on the edge of the lake at the start of San Gil in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro. My race mate walked down to the start with me. I was freezing. It was 6:30 in the morning and the sun hadn’t risen yet.”Oh yeah, even in Mexico it’s cold when the sun’s not up.” I didn’t have a jacket with me.

Start of the RaceMy job was to swim 1900 meters in under thirty-eight minutes and then cheer on my teammates as they raced 90 km on the bike up a mountain and ran 21km for a strong finish. Nervous. That I’d get the route wrong and get my team disqualified. That I’d be stuck forever with the same speed in open waters even after two months of solid training in the pool practically every day.

Why? I thought. Why do I do this for so much anxiety. I don’t get money for it. Why?  Ni modo. Here I am. My teammate who walked down with me to the start said, “You are so brave to swim in this water so early in the morning!” “The air is colder than the water,” I reassured him. And I knew it to. But still what if I was wrong and it took me the whole swim to warm up?

I stood, at my coach’s suggestion towards the front of the pack, ready to jump in at the sound of the race. What if I get run over?Yellow buoys to the right and green buoys to the left.  Breathe.

The sound went off and so did we. Counting my strokes, listening to my breath, sighting the buoys. This was just like any other race. This was the pool…find the line, push the hand down in in the water, relax the elbow as it comes across…one, two, three…next buoy.

So why? Why do it?  Every time: as I stand on the water’s edge, the stage’s edge, whatever edge…always, why? Am I an adrenaline junkie…? Probably. But then I am there: swimming, acting, being.  And then the question becomes always, why wasn’t I here before?   All I know in that moment is that I forget about what or why and hear only my heart beating strong.

Lou just off the bike!

The cyclist on our team just off the bike

It it only when I pass another colored cap, or when another swimmer passes me does my mind come back and say Yessss! or Shit, what place am I in? …and then it comes back for a split second when the coach is at the water’s finish holding up a 3 and a 7. Panting, slightly dizzy, and disoriented I can only give a thumbs up about ohmygawd37minutes!!!  as I sprint up the cobblestones in bare feet to meet my cyclist who is waiting in the relays tent for me so that she can climb the mountain. With all the spectators clapping and yelling  animo! I am there giving her a big high five send off as I collapse ready to enjoy the sun for the rest of the day.

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Enjoying the sun with teammates.

It is a relief to not climb 90 km up and down a mountain, nor run 21km in the heat of the day.  It is so fun to spend the day in the sun with the other athletes on my team and cheer on the cyclists and the runners. And it is then that finally I see  the results of my strength; the grin from ear to ear is back and it started the minute my teammates arrived the evening before and continued well into the evening of the race day and pretty sure it stuck when I went to bed that evening.

There will continue to  be bad races, annoying training sessions, maybe hopefully no more injuries (please!), internal battles, and ego checks.

Our Awesome Relay!

Our Awesome Relay!

I sometimes worry about my  adrenaline junkie. It’s not very heart-oriented and I worry that because of her I will continue to seek these very highs that then lead to the very lows. But then I think that perhaps actually she is what takes me to that unknown edge even when there is fear and anxiety, and then my heart is what steadies me when I’m there.  I never know what’s going to happen at the start of the race. Can’t control it. And that unknown space is the only thing that is real in this life.