Category Archives: exercise

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 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.

 

Free-Rollin to Karaoke

I heard a car door shut and my coach’s voice, “Sarah, solo es tu y tu camino!”  and then it was just me….well, me, my bike and a highway of roaring cars. This was back in November. The last long ride before the Ironman. I stared ahead of me and felt the beating sun on my face. I looked up at the green rolling hills and thought, “This is how I fell in love with Mexico.” And when I looked down at the white line that I was tracking I thought, “Oh hell, this road needs some song!” And assuming that no one could hear me busted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the top of my lungs.

When I was little my grandparents’ house in San Francisco was my magical kingdom: besides being spoiled rotten with sugar cereals for breakfast, jelly donuts on Sundays,  two ice cream sundaes for dessert  I was also the ever- gorgeous and willing model for my grandmother’s continuous clicking camera.

Upon arrival to the castle from Boston, I dropped my bags at the door, and raced up the winding carpeted staircase, where to the immediate left was the king and queen’s bedroom (my grandparents).My grandfather lay in his the big comfy bed with a breakfast tray lying on his belly and the crossword puzzle in his hand. Upon seeing him, I shouted “PAPA!” and he in his gruntling papa way would say, “Eyyyy, Sarahla, good to see ya.” Black and white photos taken and developed my grandma lined the walls with my mom, aunts and uncles, me and all my cousins.

But the best part…the real reason that I raced up those stairs so quickly was the Royal Closet. A three part door with mirrors on each one. When you closed the two doors it became a hall of mirrors…I spent hours in there making up songs and plays and conversations with the millions of mes so engrossed in my own imaginary play not giving a care in the world what adult might be laughing hysterically on the other side of that closet.

Fast forward twenty-five years, a little more hesitation and reserve has settled in. But on that hot November morning on the roaring highway, after 100 kilometers of riding, I really was not thinking about who might be on the lookout (well, except for maybe that broadway producer who just happened to pass by).

At lunch later that afternoon of the bike ride one of my coaches looked at me and said, “So in the car all the sudden I heard, ‘And IIII will always love you.” And everyone busted out laughing. So much for solitude. Another coach reprimanded me not for singing, but for my choice of song. And so began Sarah’s reputation for singing during whatever she does. (to this day, there are certain songs I am not “allowed’ to sing).

Around the same time, I was introduced to the rodillo libre

the-free- roller

the-do-you-love-me-today- roller

the-wash-your-lycra-out-with-sweat roller

the panic-and -run roller….

…a bike trainer in which the only way to keep yourself from falling is to breathe,  pedal, balance, and relax.  The first time I got on, my coach said, “Sing to me.” HA. I couldn’t tell him he was crazy, I couldn’t say anything but whimper and cry out “WOAAAAHHH!! AND DON’T YOU DARE LET GO!”  nonetheless, not a single lyric would come out of my mouth.

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My coach is in front of me saying “Relax!”

Rodillo and I have almost a year together. As much as I panicked (and still panic) over it, it has also been the best meditation. Letting go of the stresses of the day,  focusing on just rhythm and breathing (cuz if not, the damn thing will throw me overboard),and allowing myself to be okay with not having a good moment. It has taught me what it means to  to fall out and come back, to let go of disappointment, and know that no matter what happens I am loved…

as well of course  balance, cadence, and hand position.

The rodillo libre is just me and my road…with the distractions of people moving around, coaches bumping into me as a lesson to keep pedaling and balanced,  heavy rain falling on the tin roof, music blasting with coaches and my panicked mind saying “REEEELLLAAAAX.”

Thursday  I had come a little late and so everyone else had finished their rodillo libre and went to swim. It was just me, the rodillo, and the wall. The music had stopped. “Coach! Please put on the music!” (I could finally say a few words that weren’t “Shit, I’m going to fall!”)

“What’s that one song that you always sing?” my coach asked me.

Oh how the coaches spoil me! Just me and my road, mirrors of myself all around. My choice of song  and the echo of my own voice at the top of my lungs (well as much as my breath would allow)…my very own American Idol Diva Moment….all on tape.  And  I was not about to pass that up.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you… free-rollin to karaoke.

 

Nine Days…

I’ve been talking to my aunt (an ironwoman) a lot lately making sure that my ups and downs during this thing are somewhat in check. I mentioned to her some time ago  that I find myself super weepy in every way when it comes to kindness and athletics. (or just kindness in general).  “I wonder why?” she responded.

“Well, anyone who shows such interest simply because they love what they do and they see that you are trying so hard to accomplish something and they really and truly want to help you get there make me cry. They are examples of I guess what one might call pure intentions. A friend gave me a  framed  poem  the other day and put her own artistic spin on it, and I started tearing up. So it doesn’t take much…”

She wrote, “So exciting to be soooo out there taking risks with folks supporting and cheering you.”

Yes. So amazing to be supported and cheered for. I feel so lucky to be a part of an international community that include  friends, writers, yoga teachers, directors,massage therapists, actors, teachers, students, athletes, coaches, teammates, family members, taxi drivers, tamale ladies, empathetic strangers,cleaning ladies, to name a few…all of these people have at some point (or multiple points) gone out of their way to help or to support me in some way.

I have no idea what the outcome of this crazy race will be in 9 days..(9 DAYS)!! But it is  goofy moments,  big hugs, long walks, meeting your families (parents, children, nieces, nephews), staying in your homes, long car or bus rides, running, walking, kind reprimands, impromptu dancing in front of youtube videos, long and short bike rides,brunch, watching you on stage,teacher talks, flying into crazy ocean waves, coffee dates,  sharing the stage with you, training with you,getting an email from you, hanging out with your cats and dogs, cycling with you, laughing and laughing and laughing, your random acts of kindness, that I end up focusing on when the winds start blowing hard, and my legs don’t wanna move anymore.

So here’s the bottom line:   Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for taking a risk.

So You Want to Do An Ironman

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At the Panamerican Duathlon in Toluca.

I knew a couple things when I embarked on this “Ironman” journey. I knew it would be more mentally than physically tough. I knew that I would have to grapple with comparing myself and fears of not finishing, and good and bad training sessions. I didn’t know how much mindspace it would take up, conversations, grapplings, etc. I vowed never to be the person who could only talk about my training. I am that person right now.

It seems that all people ask me are “How’s your training going?” (because that’s all I can think about right now)And I either fiercely want to or don’t want to talk about it depending on how my training session was. And I find myself fiercely annoyed when people do or don’t ask me about it. Or putting up and taking down photos of myself at athletic events, and fiercely annoyed at people when they do or do not like the picture. I wonder if this is how famous actors feel (and there is a fair amount of drama that lives inside of me.). “How dare you talk to me…I’m out to dinner with my family.” “How come you’re not talking to me…don’t you know I’m famous?” I shouldn’t do it. Too much mind space.

I went out for lunch with two type A personality friends on Friday afternoon who also happen to be very competitive triathletes.They are in love with spreadsheets. That’s how I know that they are Type A.

I’m not Type A, but I’m collecting friends who are. They come in handy for spreadsheet making(and planning my life).  A recent article was describing that the “ironman” are type A personalities sitting on the edge of their couch just in case something is about to happen. Right now I am sitting back in a chair with my feet up drinking a cup of coffee. I have no problem sitting back on my couch gazing at facebook for hours thinking how “I should go grocery shopping,” or grade some papers. Maybe I shouldn’t do it. I don’t have the right personality type.

And then there’s my friend who has done two Ironmans. Both of which she laughed and smiled throughout the trainings, doing it with her best friend, and without a care about time or pace, just having the time of her life with her friend (what?? you’re allowed to have fun???). Sometimes it’s hard. I shouldn’t do it because it’s not always fun.

Triathlons are trendy now I’m told. I don’t want to be trendy. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.

I am tired. Enough said.

“I cry when buying bread,” a new friend who is also doing her first ironman, confessed.

I cried for two hours on the bike yesterday, and cried some more when I came home before taking a nap. I’m crying too much. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.A dear friend, who has nothing to do with sports at all, commented to me yesterday, “Yeah, you know maybe do what you enjoy without this stress.”

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I’m not going! I’m too busy hiding in my kitchen cabinet!

But there’s always been a level of stress in completing whatever goal I have at the time. Applying for a new job. Creating a piece for the stage (oh my gosh, a week before every performance I told my director, “I’m not doing it. And I mean it this time!!!) and she would nod her head and smile and say, “I’ll see you backstage!” And predictably I would show up and have the time of my life.

I wrote the above at 7:30 this morning. It is now 3:40 in the afternoon and I’ve just returned from a bike race that swore I wouldn’t do (after I picked up my packet yesterday) and then a run with a friend. A teammate who I met yesterday and I’m sure gave her an ugly stare as I frustratedly rounded corner after corner at the concrete jungle of a 4km track, found me lost (shockingly)  trying to find the team this morning, pointed me in the right direction.  Before the race started, my coaches said to me, “Today, I don’t want to see you riding alone. As a triathlete, yes, you go alone. But today I want to see you as a cyclist, working in a team.” I nodded solemnly.

“Smile!” my coach yelled at me.

Teammates.

Teammates.

During the race, that same teammate found me.”Vamos juntos!” she shouted, almost out of breath. We rode together, in front of a pack, and  as we rounded the curve on the third round she whooped and hollered and from the sidelines we heard a blur of cheers meant for us.

And so it was that I cried for the thousandth time in the past two months.

I finished that race with my teammate. We howled and hooted through the finish
line. Me: faster than I had ever ridden, wanting to throw up… and smiling. Greeted by friends’ congratulations and by coaches’  hugs and approvals.

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Teaching in the classroom



So ironman, job, the stage…how about waking up each morning? The butterflies in the stomach, the excitement that today I’m going to make a difference!…and the fear…what if I don’t?

What Did I Do Today?

At the end of Nicasio Valley Road in Nicasio, California is Old Ranchera Road. For me, this road has been the joyest of joys to be at as it has meant 40 miles of riding and the home-stretch to my final destination. It means that I have just ridden through “the enchanted forest” up and down the hill of Nicasio Valley Road and now I get to reward myself with a little goodie to get me through the final bit.

I looked in my bag to find 85 cents. Snickers bars cost $1.25. I glanced at the mini york peppermint patties on the counter, and said to the clerk, “I’ll just take this.” “That’s it?!?! Go get your snickers bar! Do you want something to drink? Might as well fill up!” I gave her my water bottle and she very kindly filled it to the top with tap water (well-water as I found out) and we struck up a conversation that began with me saying: “Sooooo is the road to Petaluma veeeryyy hilly?” (That and how much further usually have unhelpful answers, but nonetheless I still ask them). “I’m jsut so impressed with all of you cyclists,” she said. “There are people that roll in here that have gone 70-80 miles and they just shrug it off. I mean I used to ride 4 miles to pick up my son from school and that was a lot. And I guess you just can’t think about how far you have to go or you get overwhelmed. You just think one mile by one mile. And it just makes me think, what have I done today? I mean just in life, you know?”

The night before I  had visited a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She relayed a story of a friend of hers who had been in the hospital recently. Nachshon, a slave under Pharoah’s rule was considered the brave one. However, he did not know how to swim. When the Red Sea parted, he walked into the water and for all intents and purposes should have probably drowned. But he didn’t. He just kept swimming.” On bad days, these two will text each other and say, “Just keep swimming.”

I told this story to the clerk at the general store. As I was telling it, her eyes were darting around the store and I thought that perhaps she thought that I was a religious zealot trying to convert her…however when I finished, she looked down at her arms and said, “I just got goose-bumps, wow.” And then, “Yeah, so I just ask myself every day…what have I done today?”

“Well,” you talk to cyclists every day and (others I’m sure) and offer words of encouragement and let them have snicker bars for 40 cents less than they are worth!” She shrugged and said, “Yeah, I guess.”

Now, fully fueled with my well-water and snickers bar I got on my bike and headed out for the “homestretch” of my journey. It was…considerably hilly (um, duh, Northern California) and as I spun my pedals trying to make my feet go at 100rpms a minute, I focused on the ground ahead of me, gathered up the kind words of the woman at the general store, and chanted, “Just keep swimming… Inch by inch. Mile by mile.”

Thanks for doing something today, General Store Lady.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

I was lunging with 8 pound weights at a bootcamp that I decided to join this summer. The trainer I’ve been working with (who is Doug Jones and amazing on so many levels) looked at me and said, “Those are too light for you, huh?” I gave him a sheepish grin, squinted my eyes and said, “But I’m comfortable?” knowing too well that that question/statement was inviting challenge and perhaps even a snarky comment..DJ just looked at me and pointed to the weights. “Go get yourself two 10 pound weights.” A kid who overheard my statement mumbled mischievously, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” and kinda laughed. He was obviously repeating Doug Jones’ words from an earlier time.

I was thinking about “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” later when I was walking into town (I am living in the woods this summer which is a whole other incredible story). “How true that phrase is” I didn’t want to admit to myself, “both inside and outside a gym. “Grrr.” I am a walking cliche in that regard. Physical exercise  gives me a certain amount of incredible humility, patience, and mental clarity (among many other virtues).

So the “outside gym” application that I came to was that  “I am uncomfortable being imperfect.” I didn’t like that at first. Yuck. I don’t like being uncomfortable and I don’t like being imperfect. I liked my 8 pound weights. I was graceful with them. We were successful together. What if I make faces in the mirror because 10 pound weights are harder? What if (God forbid) I make a complete fool of myself and those 10 pound weights show all of my vulnerabilities and failures? What if I can’t do it? What will everybody think?

But then I chose to risk being uncomfortable. Outside the gym that discomfort with imperfection just leads to a horrible internal beating that turns into judgment of others whether it be “I am better than that person because…” or “I am worse than that person because…” and that leads to a whole set of unhealthy, resentful, self-righteous thoughts. As I was walking, I suddenly realized that it’s okay to be uncomfortable! (Dang it, Doug!).And actually if I don’t get comfortable in discomfort I just get more uncomfortable.  So then maybe it’s easier just to sit it in it and take that risk. And then maybe that acceptance of my own discomfort in my imperfections  frees me up to see and love others’ with more clarity which then I can turn towards myself…

and maybe next time make faces in the mirror as I lunge with 12 pound weights.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

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Running in La Pila, Mexico City

is a phrase that I often find myself saying. It’s how I got into a Cage Fight last Fall, and how I found myself mountain biking over rivers in Chiapas, and really what has provided me with some of the most beautiful, adventurous, and (sometimes) stupid things that I have done.

Sometimes when I see a child doing something that as an adult, I see has clear negative consequences, I ask the child in a frustrated moment, “Why did you do that?” He or she usually stares at me blankly, and at the moment the shoulders shrug I realize the stupidity of that question. I think if I had thought about some of the “consequences” of my actions that have gotten me to the place of “What Have I Gotten Myself Into” I wouldn’t have experienced the incredibleness of those adventures (to be completely cliché!).

I have friends who will research every possibility of every action that they are about to take (I admire this greatly! I don’t have the patience for that) which is another reason I find myself asking the question that is the title of this entry..frequently. So, my latest action (which I have thought about and whose consequences I can only see as wonder and far away) is that I signed up for an Ironman…yeah. It is not until November 2013, too far away at this moment to even imagine doing…still, I think, from participating in  previous endurance events and enviously (and not so enviously) hearing friends’ and family’s comments about the race, it’s a good idea to train for it. i guess my point is anyone can sign up for anything, and not necessarily commit. So, I’m not at the stage YET (read back in May and then we’ll see) of feeling the “burn” from that.

No, I thought about it today because I went with a triathlon team to a place called Las Aztacas which is a gorgeous park located outside of Cuernavaca that is known for the crystal clear natural springs.  Not knowing the “plan” having been with this group for very little time and only having heard about this little slice of heaven, I had no idea what to expect or what the consequences of my decision to join, might be. The plan, simple enough, was to start by swimming downstream (a warm-up) and then up-stream twice. Sure. Not a problem until one is swimming upstream against the current and wonders if there is a Buddhist proverb somewhere that says something about the silliness of swimming upstream. And then as I let go of any dramatic stories of drowning or getting carried away with the current (it’s quite shallow and the shore is always near) I kinda realized that What I Have Gotten Myself Into was a split moment’s understanding of the idea of doing something that one is more than uncomfortable with so that one can surrender and just relax and be there.

The other objective of this entry is to point out how GORRRGEEEOUUUS Mexico is and not even have to go that far! I think training for an event is 1/4 challenge, 1/4 fitness, and half (well if the numbers added up, more than half) getting out into the most beautiful places in the entire world that I’m not sure (maybe sadly) I would push myself to go if I didn’t have a goal.

I mean yesterday running I started giggling…like I was on a swing in a park because the sun was shining as I ran down and looked out into almost a canyon type beauty. There wasn’t quite giggling today, but enjoyment yes…and little by little  finding ease while going upstream.

The Cage Fight

The Cage Fight

Ten years ago when I studied abroad in Brazil, I found myself unknowingly (until too late)  in line for a flying trapeze. Unwilling to show defeat among new friends, I climbed the tiny ladder, refusing to look down and mounted the trapeze. When telling this story to family members by email my aunt commented, “All that’s left for you to do is climb into a Lion’s cage!”

 Well, Aunt H, this is for you: Refusing to let my passion for kickboxing die, I found a gym (I think I’ve told you all this) that not only teaches, but has an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) team. At first being the only gringa (oh, there are Mexican women and American men) was extremely intimidating (still is), especially when the teacher talks at a pace that he jumps and kicks (fast!). However, the adrenaline rush is so addictive that I continue to go. 

One Wednesday not so long ago, a “Cage” was up. There was a tournament the following weekend and the entire gym was preparing for it. At the end of the class, the teacher divided us up into two groups and told us to number off. “When I call your number, you are going to enter into the cage and have two minutes to fight!” Well, since I was last, I had much time to feel the anxiety rise from my feet to my throat, attempt to plan an escape, and pray that we would run out of time before it was my turn. Whimpering in the corner, praying that somehow the invisible powers that I wanted so badly as a child would finally become real, I expressed my incredible fear to my gringo friend that I also worked with. “Is there anyway out of this? Will you go twice? I don’twannago!” “Sarah, you’re going to be fine! (as someone stumbled out with a bloody nose).” “No, really,Idon’twannadothis!” “Sarah, if you don’t go, I’m going to tell everyone at work that you chickened out.” “Tell them! I don’tcare! I don’twannago!” “Really, you’re not going to get hurt!” (one man down cause he was hit in the balls).” My anxiety was mounting as a crowd was gathering around the Cage and people were yelling out directions. Now it was turning into a performance. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Finally, my number was called. My friend gave me a push and said, “LET’S GO!’ And I reluctantly climbed the steps of the cage and entered. The teacher yelled, “TIEMPO!” And I, infuriated, at having to enter into such a incredibly display of embarrassment decided to defy him by simply standing in my guard. After probably 20 seconds of a crowd wanting a show, and me realizing that it was my poor opponent’s first class, I followed the directions of the voice of a friend of mine. “One, two!” “Jab, cross!” “Ya??” I looked pleadingly at the ref (also my teacher). “No, no, sigue! Sigue!” I continued jabbing and crossing and kicking the poor guy, and finally when our teacher yelled “TIEMPO!” we descended the steps, and I suddenly felt a surge of adrenaline rush over me. “See, I told you you would be fine!” My gringo friend told me. And maybe not so strangely to you, but against every moral grain in my body,  I was grinning ear-to-ear, wanting, unbelievably, to do it again.