Posted by: pursuingsub17 | May 10, 2017

You never cross the same river twice..

It’s been awhile since I wrote in here. In that time I’ve had a lot of changes. I’ve managed to deal with my Celiac disease. Now that it’s been a year, I’m quite used to what I can and can’t have. I still read labels but I automatically know what I can and can’t have without looking an ingredient up on my phone. There are a lot more options in restaurants and Marc’s been helping out a lot at home – so my time spent on cooking two dinners or making two lunches isn’t additional on top of my other household tasks.

But in the past year, there have been other changes. I’ve been diligently practicing mindfulness and meditation. It’s become part of my daily routine. And with it, I’ve seen changes around me and within. However, I’m dealing with anxiety and I’ve realized a lot of that is what Buddhists would call an attachment to the future. I’m not depressed – but my head is always fast forward into the future rather than present. It’s something I’m trying to work on. I’m also dealing with a mother who is clinically depressed and her husband, who’s physical and mental health is also failing.

So, you’re thinking, where does triathlon fit into all of this? Isn’t what this blog is about? No. Not really. Re-read my “About” page.

After 3 marathons, 4 half ironmans, several half marathons, I’ve realized that I have to shift gears (no pun intended). My life is now about looking after aging parents, my physical and mental health, and letting go of the energy suckers in my life without feeling guilt. My life is also taking a new direction. And this blog has always been about the journey of making myself better – that was the real goal – not the finish line. I seem to be accomplishing that without completing the Ironman. I’ve crossed the finish line well before I got there.

I haven’t given up on triathlon – I’ve just taken a new path for now as part of my personal growth in other aspects of my life. Triathlon was what got me out of a dark place – but it isn’t the end all in my journey. I owe the sport my life – but now it’s time to part ways for awhile.

In addition to my interests in the Buddhist way of life, I’ve rediscovered my interest in pursuing a career in massage therapy because through some introspection, I realized I can’t be an administrative assistant for the next 10-15 years. I don’t have regrets of waiting to start this new career though. To be honest, I’m glad that was put on hold. I don’t think I was ready back in 2009. Again, thanking sport, I have learned more about the human body and have matured immensely, including learning discipline. Self discipline, staying focused, and staying determined were all a part of my triathlon path and with that, I feel I’m ready for some hard core studying to be an RMT.

But with this, I’ve also learned that people don’t like change. People don’t like to hear that you are “giving up”- or at least, that’s how they see it. They want to see their employees as part of an organization’s long term future. They want to know that you’ll be standing next to them on a sandy beach in a wetsuit, nervous as shit, waiting for the gun to go off. They don’t want to see that you’ve changed – or took a temporary off ramp. That’s not part of THEIR plan – and it’s scary for them to see something different because it shakes their foundation.

I saw a great quote about one’s life’s journey. It addresses that not everyone will understand your journey, but that’s fine. It’s not theirs to understand. It’s yours. That helped me when faced with a flurry of responses when I told my friends that I just don’t have the mental energy to do Calgary 70.3. I’ve rolled this race over twice now due to injury and illness – and I thought this year would be it. I haven’t pulled out yet but my heart isn’t in it. I need to focus on my new pursuits and maybe just stick to small races for now. But my comrades didn’t get that. They see it as giving up and that made them angry – probably because the thought crossed their mind as well. But for them, letting go gives them sadness and that’s because they are attached to the past. They need to see that they aren’t giving up – they are just doing what is right for them at the moment. Then again, maybe racing right now is what is right for them at the moment. But that’s their path. It’s time to walk my own.

I guess it’s like an old friend saying goodbye, or a comrade not being by your side in battle. But life is about change. It’s never the same – it’s never meant to be the same. You never cross the same river twice.

I haven’t given up on triathlon – it has just allowed me to grow from it. My present pursuits are just an extension of what triathlon has done for me – what I set out to do when I first started this blog. As far as I’m concerned, I’m already an Ironman – and it’s time for change and move on.

 

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Posted by: pursuingsub17 | July 5, 2016

Closing the curtain on endurance races (for a little while)

I’ve mentioned in this blog before how difficult it’s been to train while trying to adjust to a new diet due to my recent celiac disease diagnosis. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m also going through a very hard time in my life mentally. If it was just a new life change regarding my diet, I would be my old self and say “I can get through this”. Unfortunately, there’s more going on than that. And it’s really hampered my ability to feel mentally focused and motivated to train. Physically, I’m in good shape – despite having to watch carefully what I eat. Mentally, not so much. And they say that endurance racing is part physical and many parts mental. Well, I just lost the second part this year.

I don’t really understand what’s going on with me or why it happened. I’m guessing it’s some type of depression. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe going gluten free has mental side effects??? Maybe after years of being the “fixer” and everyone’s cheerleader, I’m burned out. It’s time to look after myself but I can’t because everyone NEEDS me. I’m an introvert so I don’t unload on others (well, except poor Marc when I’m really losing it). I just don’t talk about it to anyone because that’s not my style. Introverts prefer to be alone when they need to decompress and definitely don’t like chit chat or drawing attention to themselves. It’s equally mentally exhausting.

Regardless, in the end, there’s just been too many mental stressors lately that’s taxed my ability to push forward with long training days. Work is WAY more hectic and I have a lot more responsibilities than I did in the past, back when I could train for even an Ironman – no problem. I have people in my life who are going through a really rough time too and, as extroverts, they tend to want to talk about it a lot…and lean on me a lot – and I am a sponge for people’s emotions. I also feel constant financial stress that sometimes gets so bad, I don’t give a rat’s furry butt and I spend, spend, spend, thinking my retirement plan will be to off myself before I retire so I won’t live in a tin shack and eat cat food at 70. I worry about where I’m going with my life (mid life crisis perhaps?).

It’s all been too much. I’m forgetting important appointments, forgetting to pay bills. Friendships have suddenly become in jeopardy because I make plans and then cancel because I don’t have the energy to go anywhere anymore. I definitely don’t feel excited about training for a big race, competing in one, or even cooking (which I used to love to do). All I want to do is sleep.

But I can’t sleep. I’m having nightmares and anxiety attacks at night so I lay awake, my head spinning and realizing yet again I have to cancel meeting someone for lunch or a social outing because I can’t stop my mind chatter. I feel like I’m going nuts. I told Marc I feel like I’m sitting on a tiny tree branch and rocks keep piling up in my arms and I can hear the branch creaking, knowing it will snap any minute.

Being an introvert, I’m finding I need more time to shut down and do things that are less stressful (I’ve recently took up miniature gardening and suddenly developed an interest in painting!). As much as it’s been therapeutic in the past to go for a long run or a bike ride, there has always been pre-planning and a little stress involved. Biking in particular, as much as I love it, always involved negative thoughts to control and conquer. Such as: “I’m going by myself for a ride for 3 hours – what if I get hit by a car? What if there’s a storm half way through my ride and I’m a long way from home? What if I get a flat and I can’t change it? What if a coyote or rabid dog starts chasing me?” Before, I could just say “shut up. You’ll be fine. Just get on that bike and go” and I would go and enjoy it. Now I don’t have that capacity anymore. Any long training days seems too overwhelming.

So what does this mean? Am I giving up on that dream to one day finish an Ironman? No. I’m sure that day will come…..like, when I’m semi retired! But it does mean I need to take a few years off from any long distance. I want to have fun doing it again.

I still have to contact Calgary 70.3 to tell them I’m dropping out. I doubt if I can get a second rollover for that one – pretty sure “I have to drop out because I’m losing my mind” isn’t really a good excuse! LOL. But I am still looking at a few sprint races to still stay in the game and actually have fun. So I’ll keep you posted as to my new races.

Oh! But I did organize my first team ever! It will be for the River Valley Ultra in Devon. My first race back in 2006 was a 5k trail race in Calgary so it’s fitting that the one race I’m looking forward to is a trail race at the end of race season ten years later J.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on getting better mentally and still find time to stay physically healthy. It’s going to be a challenge. I have to quit feeling guilty for turning off when others lean on me too much or don’t respect my need for my own space and time. I think that was one of my demons I mentioned in my pages in this blog. Meditation has helped but I need more time for that. I may even seek out a retreat to recharge the batteries and get my mojo back.

So the curtain is coming to a close since I started this blog in 2009 – but it will reopen again my friends. And sometimes it might part a bit when inspiration hits to write again and let you know what I’ve been up to.

Take care – look after yourselves – and all the best for those of you still on the goal path to your dream race. It will happen! Just gotta get over the occasional road bumps and detours.

Peace out! 🙂

I’ve been really struggling with the whole “should I or shouldn’t I” question about Challenge Penticton. During the day or while training (whether the training feels successful or not), I feel I can commit. In the evenings before bed and mornings when I’m filled with anxiety and overwhelmed by the fact that I just can’t keep up with everything in my life, I really have doubts that this is “THE year” for a long course triathlon. For the first time ever, I’m afraid to spend a big wad of money for fear I can’t put the training time in dealing with a huge life change. That leads to…I’m not much of a triathlete then if I can’t do this.

I explained what happened to me in a previous blog. I have Celiac disease – diagnosed March 30th. Now the disease in itself isn’t what’s making me tired. It’s all the work involved. In the past I was able to fit in the long training days but I feel like I can’t now. I’m tired a lot – it’s very time consuming, as I explained in the past blog.

On top of that, I feel like I’m on the precipice of a big change in my life. Not just going gluten free but at 48, I think I’m going through a change, mentally and spiritually. Physically, not so much. Still the same weight and pretty healthy, just a few more wrinkles. I’m sure my boss and my mom would like to say it’s hormones but I don’t know. Maybe. But I did study psychology and I know people go through phases of change as they hit certain times in their life. Inner turmoil always happens to me leading up to that change and then it levels out. It’s like the economy or war or environmental changes:  Upheaval, followed by change and a leveling out.

To deal with the mess in my head and process not just the fact that I have this lifelong life changing disease but that there is some other personal growth that I’m experiencing, I’ve returned to the practice of meditation. This time, I am really trying to practice the real Buddhist approach to life and develop a deeper understanding of the faith – if that’s what you call it – maybe doctrine. I’m taking it much more seriously than I did in my 20s. I’m sure, just like a visit to a psychologist or a teenager trying acne medication for the first time, the shit comes to the surface first. I feel both clear headed and anxious at the same time. But it has helped open my mind and receive guidance from the most surprising sources on quite a few things…the “should I or shouldn’t I” question in particular.

When you still the mind, you open your awareness to the present and all the answers you need come forth. I have a guided meditation session I particularly like that teaches one to live life without conditions or expectations. The main goal of Buddhism is to understand that the ego is attached to the past and the future. Any fears, doubts or anxiety about future events is because the ego is afraid that things won’t turn out the way it wants. That’s how I’ve been feeling about this big race. What if I spend this money and can’t do the training? What if I do a half ass job and can’t finish the race – like I did in 2013? If I race and can’t finish, I fail. If I can’t train because right now life is getting in the way, then I fail. I fail being a triathlete. Back when I had the energy and thought I was healthy, I told everyone I was committed to this race. So if I can’t finish or can’t even sign up, I’m done. I’m done as a triathlete.

No – not so. What I learned from my meditations is that I shouldn’t put those expectations on myself. Who I am isn’t in the future – who I am is in the present. And who I am is and always will be a triathlete whether I do this race or not. So the answer is to just let things be and let things unfold naturally – because no matter what, the way the universe works, it will be the right thing for me. If I get the training in, and I will definitely try, I will register then. If I try but life changes prevent getting it all in, I will decide then if I have enough in to at least attempt to finish the race or would be better off being Marc’s sherpa this year. If I decide that I can do it and I am the last one crawling across the finish line, that doesn’t make me any less of who I am. Whatever the outcome, it isn’t because I’m a failure and don’t deserve the title “triathlete”. It’s just the simple fact that I couldn’t make long course happen this year so that I can find the much needed time to adjust to my new lifestyle and eating habits. Maybe this year, the universe wants me to focus on adapting to a big change in my life. But I don’t have to throw in the towel either. I just have to let it be. If this race is meant to be this year, then the means to get the training in will happen.

On an end note, today I received a notice that Jasper Blake posted a blog. Usually I wait until I get home from work but I read it on a break. I learned a lot from the post as it touched on a lot of what I’ve been going through in my indecision to register this year. Sill the mind and the answers will come to you. They say when the student is ready the teacher appears. Mr. Blake has helped me realize that I already am who I am striving to be. I’m a triathlete and if I accept that, the universe will put the wheels in motion. This just reinforces how important it is to turn off the mind chatter, live in the now and be receptive to the universe sending you the answers.

So a month ago I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I accepted it. It certainly explains a lot and to be honest it was a relief to know what was going on with me. I had been suffering for years but in the last two, it’s been really bad. That led to a test for colon cancer of all things last year and then “no cancer so we’re not sure what it is – probably IBS”. That was a previous doctor. Thankfully I had one that asked the right questions in February to find out what’s really wrong with me.

To give a quick explanation of the difference between Celiac and Gluten Allergies, Celiac an
autoimmune disease triggered by the allergic response to gluten (protein found in wheat, rye and barley). Where the body attacks and damages the small intestine. The villi (imagine grass) in the intestine is destroyed, putting the individual at risk of lacking nutrient absorption (imagine a flat, desolate dessert on Mars without plant life, unable to absorb nutrients). There is no cure or pill I can take – I simply can’t have anything with gluten for the rest of my life.

At first I thought – well, no more beer (Dear Heineken, please produce a gluten free beer that tastes just as yummy as your regular stuff!). I can handle gluten free food (really, the products now are much better than in the past – except bread. Still trying to find a good one). So I thought – business as usual. Just need to change my diet. So I didn’t think it would affect me much. However, after a month, I’m starting to see how much this is eating up a lot of time and there are other effects of going gluten free (supplements for fiber, vitamin B…list goes on and on).

Since my doc ordered me off gluten, grocery shopping, throwing out food items in my condo that have gluten (and that Marc doesn’t like eating anyway) and fervently checking ingredients in anything that goes into my mouth has become all consuming. I’ll be seeing a dietitian recommended by the gastroenterologist (sp??) but I haven’t heard from the clinic yet. So for now, I have to educate myself through research in addition to all this grocery shopping and food preparation for lunch and dinner; I clean constantly to watch out for cross contamination.

Anyway, my emotions are all over the board with this one. It’s life changing. One minute I’m joking – then I’m cranky, the next minute I’m overwhelmed and half the time I can’t think straight. I have “gluten ADD” because I stop whatever I’m doing to look up if a food I’m planning on eating or a vitamin I’m taking might have gluten. Then I forgot the task that I was doing before my thoughts were interrupted with “I wonder if (said item) is safe for me to eat?”.  Next thing I know, 2 hours have gone by while I search the internet because it keeps providing me links to other related topics.

What does this mean for training? This was a question one of my Twitter pals posted. To be honest, I thought this is the least bit problematic. I had to get rid of some of my Cliff bars (well, gave them to Marc) but most of the stuff I eat for training is pretty much gluten free. And I seem to have gravitated toward gluten free pre race meals anyway just through trial and error (ie – choosing rice over pasta made me feel less “bulky” race morning). I just realized through experimentation what worked for me and made me less uncomfortable on a long run or bike ride. All the more reason to make those yummy SkratchLabs’ gluten free rice cakes! And especially drinking their all natural sports drink mix.

What I hadn’t realized until lately is how little time I have for anything and I’m really wondering if I have TIME for training. It isn’t the diet. It’s the time consumed. Between a full time job, house chores, grocery shopping, meal planning, prepping and preparing and trying to fit in some social time, training for a big race might be out of the question. At least for this year until I get a handle on this…if ever.

And the diet isn’t cheap. You slap the words “gluten free” on anything and it justifies doubling the price. On the upside, I don’t eat a lot of crap anymore (most instant foods have gluten in them). On the downside, it’s expensive and time consuming. At the end of the day, after buying my own cutting boards, cleaning cloths and utensils as well as the over priced gluten free food, there isn’t a lot left over for new gear or race fees.

I think what I need to do is find other Celiac athletes. Because right now I feel alone and I know others can make it work so I should be able to as well – just need to find out how they make the adjustments. I guess if I look on the bright side, running and triathlon has kept me relatively healthy and sane – I may just have to tone it down a little to fit it all in.

I won’t harp on this issue – it won’t become all-consuming in this blog because that isn’t what my blog is about. If I mention it, it’s because I’m learning how to adjust my life at 48 for this big change and hopefully any information I come across might help other up and coming triathletes make the adjustment as well if they suddenly discover they have Celiac or gluten allergies as well.

And in that…hopefully I won’t feel alone anymore if I can help fellow athletes just diagnosed with the same disease on their journey. Because, kids, that’s what this is all about!

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | March 22, 2016

Running alone on the road not taken

When I was a kid, my mom introduced me to the poetic world of Robert Frost. I was in a girls club (called Job’s Daughters – a young female offshoot of the Masons) and at the time I was elected Librarian, which entailed reading prose and poetry at every meeting.  Mom is a good writer, and has a strong appreciation for the classics. When I had no idea where to start looking for a good poem to recite, she told me to about one of her favorite Frost poems. It was called Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I remember being able to picture the scene in my head, hearing a gentle wind through the trees and seeing the gentle snowfall. It reminded me of the woods our house backed onto and how much I loved cross country skiing by myself through the pine and poplar trees along the snowmobile trails. I decided this would be my first poem to read as the official Librarian that year – thought it was peaceful and a pretty cool poem to share at our meeting. If it touched any of the other girls present at the meeting in any way, I have no idea. I just know that the poem elicited a beautiful vision in my head.

What I hadn’t realized was what it meant to me on a deeper level. Over the years, I realized that this was my first insight into myself – my love of things peaceful, quiet and introverted vs. the loud, hectic buzz of an extroverted society.

Ironically, that same year, my high school English teacher assigned us a project; pick one of 5 poems, analyse what it meant to us personally, and write our own poem using the same title. Again, Robert Frost was able to voice what I couldn’t to others verbally. That poem was The Road Not Taken. To me, it meant choosing my own path without the influence of others – doing something against the grain, against the standard set by society, and not feeling my decision was wrong.

Life is like a poem – subjective. We are all different for different reasons with different needs and goals. The key is to understand yourself, accept that this is who you are, and seek out what best caters to your personality type as well as your spiritual and physical needs.

That’s why I think about these two poems whenever I’m out on a run or a bike ride on my own and wondering if maybe I would be better off to train 7 days a week with a group. Then I see a trail that I’ve never taken before, maybe one that the City just cut along the river valley, and I remember why I’m out here and what those poems meant to me. While I definitely get the need and the benefits to train in a group (especially for newbies who can gain so much from training with others), I know this isn’t always the case for me because my needs are different. Being an introvert, and a lover of all things quiet, I run, bike and swim to block out the noises around me and deal with the internal stress that drains me. I enjoy just heading out and discovering new trails and paths to take (always wary of dangers around me of course!). I heal and re-energize when I’m alone – and right now I need a lot of healing given my health worries. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy being sociable and having two or three workouts a week with others. After all, we’re all creatures that need some level of social interaction. But I do need my alone time as well – and being on my own is my personal, spiritual and physical need.

I know my way isn’t for everyone – and maybe it isn’t for you. Again, it’s being able to gain personal insight that will guide you on what path is the best to take. There’s nothing wrong with a desire to be around others as a social outing, using the competition to push harder, needing the motivation of others to gain a personal best. But there’s also nothing wrong with those of us who sometimes prefer to get lost in the moment, escape stress, decompress, listen to our inner voice, experience that Zen moment when we crest a hill and see this amazing valley open up below us – full of bright green against blue skies and not a soul on the winding road road…except for the odd cow or horse in the field on the edge of the highway!  If you’re like me, you already know that sometimes it’s good to just be on your own once in a while, running the road not taken.

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | March 7, 2016

Get back up on that horse if it throws you off

We’ve had some wonderful weather in Edmonton. On Saturday I actually saw the Canada Geese flying over my condo, heading North. It was a great feeling. I’ve been itching to get on my bike again outside. I’ve been doing the spin classes with my cousin at the gym (who insists I join her – whatever – it’s free and I’m VERY broke right now) as well as the windtrainer at home. But there’s nothing like riding outside.

Sunday…it snowed. Oh well. But it did remind me how badly I want to be riding the bike again, especially after a 1 year hiatus. Well, sort of. I rode twice finally last October once my arm healed a bit but then Old Man Winter came. Still, although I missed being on pavement and smelling exhaust fumes and/or farmer’s fields, there’s that little twinge of always worrying about being out on the road alone. However, you can’t let this get to you – or you’ll never ride.

When I was 5 or 6, I was obsessed with horses. I watched a CBC TV show around that time called The Forest Rangers (all repeats because I think it was over by the time I was 5). I wanted to be a young forest ranger and ride a horse. My dream came true when my parents brought me to a small farm ranch in Manitoba where I could have my chance. The farmer let me choose which one and of course I had to ride “black beauty”. He put me on bareback and I hung onto the horse’s mane while he slowly paraded around the yard and I had a big smile on my face. As my parents chatted with the farmer, the horse noticed a door open to the corral. This was the exit to a short pathway to a pond. You can guess what happened next.

The horse bolted. I was screaming for my life. My mom (and she told me this years later) was chasing after the horse thinking she could grab the tail to get it to stop just like she did with their family dog. The horse was nearing the pond, stopped suddenly, and, as Newton’s First Law of Motion states, an object in motion stays in motion. I went flying off the horse, missing the pond, but doing a belly flop right on the hard ground, knocking the wind out of me.

Once I was able to breath, I began screaming and crying. The farmer told me I better get back up on the horse or I’ll never ride one again. “No!” I screamed. No way was I getting back up on that horse. To this day, I’ve never been on a horse since.

Flash forward to June 2015. I’m sitting propped up by a tree on the side of the road watching Marc put Sarah Lee in the back of our Nissan. My elbow popping in and out of its socket and me trying not to throw up. I immediately thought of that childhood memory of the horse and swore up and down that although I was physically damaged, I could not…and would not…let myself be emotionally, psychologically damaged by this accident.

In October, 2015, it was one of the last few fall Sundays where I still had the opportunity to ride outside – the elbow healing enough that I could hold myself up or be in the aero position. I had been riding my mountain bike on the bike paths – where I felt I was safe – but it was time to get back on the horse. I had decided to avoid the residential street that I had my accident on so my nerves wouldn’t be rattled. I started at a safe point, biking on fresh new pavement that eventually connected to my regular route. I had to do it. If I waited until this year, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it.

I managed a 2.5 hour ride before my arm started feeling weak. But I finished with a smile and most importantly, relief. Now here I am today, watching the geese return, waiting for the ice and snow to melt and the roads to be cleaned of debris and gravel from the winter months to get back up on that horse.

Keep trying friends. Don’t let the boogy man (or zombies or fresh water killer fish) stop you from getting that open water swim done again. Keep doing it. Keep practicing over and over to get over the anxiety. Fall off the bike? Get back on. Bonk on a run? Deal with it. Go out and do it again, only with a little more smarts. What ever you do, don’t stop trying – no matter what it is you want to do. Have faith in yourself. You have to get back on the horse or you’ll never ride again.

 

 

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 24, 2016

#PinkShirtDay and finding inner strength through sport

Today is Pink Shirt Day in Canada. The organization is a national campaign against bullying that started in Nova Scotia when a group of brave young highschool boys stood up for a classmate who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt. You can read the story on the website – it’s inspirational – as well as the many other stories that have been posted on their page and Facebook.

This campaign is close to my heart, being a victim of bullying myself during my school years, particularly junior high. However, I have to say I was lucky. Back then, social media didn’t exist. I can’t even imagine how widespread hurt can damage a victim. It reaches out much further than the confines of school.

Still, bullying affected me in ways I never understood well into my adult years. Social anxiety, depression, anorexia, and ultimately negative coping habits were a big part of my life for two decades as an adult. I never thought for a moment that my behaviour might have been the result of years of enduring bullying as a kid. I just thought I was a lost soul who fell through the cracks. It may have also been why I continued to stay in a mentally abusive relationship for almost 20 years.

Thankfully, my story continues on as a happy one. I’m here to say that, although I do not at all condone bullying, I’m an example of someone who can survive and move beyond bullying. Close to a mid-point in my life, I walked away from a very dark place and also ended the poisonous relationship I was in. I met a great partner, Marc (also known as @ironinnovations on Twitter). I’ve also gained confidence and self acceptance through an amazing support network and getting involved in running and triathlon. These two sports really taught me to dig deep when I felt like I was ready to give up and rewarded me with an incredible sense of accomplishment when I know I did the best I could to get across that finish line, no matter what it took. Through triathlon (and running!!), I also bonded with a great group of healthy individuals across North America who believe in encouraging others.

My only regret is that I didn’t discover triathlon when I was younger. Where I grew up or maybe at the time I was an adolescent, the popularity of triathlon or running simply didn’t exist. And unfortunately, I wasn’t very good (or the popular choice) in team sports. Seeing what running has done for my cousin – who experienced the same kind of bullying as I did – has confirmed even more how important sport is to discover one’s inner strength. I think my goal over the next few years devote more time to promoting the sport to younger people in small town Canada J

So for #PinkShirtDay, to show my gratitude and help put an end to bullying, I’d like to #PinkItForward to both triathlon and all of my fellow athletes that I have met on my journey who helped me become the strong woman that I am today.

Now it’s your turn – Coast Capital Savings donates $1 each time the #pinkitforward hashtag is used up to $45,000 in order to support anti-bullying programs. Use it on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. For more information on how to use this hashtag and get involved, go to http://pinkshirtday.ca/pinkitforward/

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 17, 2016

Good night’s sleep just as critical as a good training session

I think we’ve all seen the Tylenol commercial – the one where the woman lay in bed, wide awake, at 3am, singing childhood tunes that are locked away in memory during the day or wondering why the word “abbreviation” is so long. She looks at the clock. It’s 3am. She looks at her husband. He’s fast asleep.

If there’s one thing that’s going to hamper my training this year, it’s my mind that won’t shut off at night. Sometimes it’s stress (worrying about money for instance), but many times, it’s nonsense. It starts off innocently; gradually waking from a dream and suddenly a song I listen to regularly on my iPod or a commercial jingle plays in a continuous loop while I wonder about a movie or a show I’ve seen. I decide maybe I’m wide awake because I need to go to the bathroom. So I go. I come back to bed and lay on my other side, thinking that maybe my sore shoulder is what’s keeping me up. I try and relax but I can hear my heartbeat. After some time goes by, my hip starts to feel stiff, so I roll over again, wondering if I slept at all in those few moments. Has only a few minutes passed or an hour? I then start doing the math, counting how many times I’ve flipped over. Usually I turn over every couple hours. Okay, then I’ve rolled over twice. So I must have had 4 hours of sleep. But remembering the first time I woke up I felt like I slept longer than that. So maybe I’ve had 5 or 6 hours??? That would mean I have 1-2 hours left before my alarm goes off. Good. I’ll just settle down and relax and sleep for another 2 hours. My mind starts churning again, thinking about something funny that happened on the weekend or something I have to remember to do this week. When was the last time I gave the dog her allergy pill? Was that last night or the night before? Did I pay the cable bill? Crap. That reminds me – my loan payment comes out tomorrow. Must remember to transfer money from my account to cover it. Oh yes, and I have to remember to top up my RRSPs with a loan before the end of the month. Did Marc do his taxes yet? I wonder if it’s going to snow tomorrow morning. I remember hearing something about snow. I have to get gas before I go to work. I’m pretty sure there’s only a quarter tank left. Well, never mind. I can think about that later. I still have 2 hours to sleep. That’s when my alarm goes off.

Sometimes I’m lucky and this doesn’t happen – but there are times that I’ll go 4 days with only 3 hours of sleep per night. And while I LOVE shows like the Walking Dead, I certainly don’t like feeling like a zombie at work. I can usually make it through work but it is one hell of a time trying to convince myself to hit the gym or go for a run after work when I can’t even stay awake at my desk. By 4:00, I’m texting my cousin and my husband that I can’t make it to the gym today. I told my co-worker today I won’t be joining her run group tomorrow – I won’t have the energy.

I’m thankful if I only have one bad night – I can usually bounce back the next day. But if it’s a week of insomnia, like this week seems to be turning into, I have to skip the training. Some people might slug it out. I can’t. And if it is a full week of getting a grand total of 10 hours, I’ve blown a week of training and when the weekend comes, I can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to any morning spin class.

Last year I read an article in Running magazine that if in doubt, sleep is just as important as getting training workouts in. If you have a bad night, you’re better off skipping the early morning training session and get some sleep.

Now here I sit at my computer at work, with eyes that feel like they are about to slip out of their sockets, I remember a blog I wrote about shift workers and what they need to do to ensure they are getting enough sleep. I should re-read it. It would seem I have completely forgotten the tips from that blog on how to get a good night’s sleep.

So if you’re in the same boat as me (and I’m sure a lot of us are – especially as we get older and have to deal with more stress), try these tips (adapted from the “Fatigue” fact sheet found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety):

  1. Determine your personal sleep needs and try to keep that as a regular habit. We’re all different. Some of us only need 6 hours, while others need 8 to 9 and that can change over the years. There are many factors that influence our sleep requirements.
  2. Do not overindulge in food and exercise only a few hours before bed time. Try not to schedule intense workouts late in the evening or you will have a restless sleep. If you need to refuel before bed, try a light snack or protein shake (do not scarf down a burger and fries right before jumping into bed).
  3. Leave any stressful activities for the daytime. Going to bed after looking at your bank account while determining if you can afford another race fee might cause nightmares!
  4. Try not to watch TV, check your phone or look at your tablet within 30 minutes of bed time. It’s been proven that the light emitted from these LED screens messes with your melatonin levels (the hormone that tells you when it’s time to sleep).
  5. Limit coffee, alcohol and other stimulants before bed.
  6. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary! Keep it strictly for sleeping (not doing homework, texting, work projects or scheduling your workouts) and keep it cool, dark and quiet. I wear ear plugs and I cover up all sources of light. It works for Dracula – it will work for you!

Of course my disclaimer is….do as I say, not as I do. Because as much as I already know these things, putting them in place and making them a habit is another thing.  Swimming, biking and running 3 times a week became a much easier habit then looking after my sleep habits. But the best thing to do is keep reminding myself that sleep health is just as important as being fit.

Now…off to make my ONE cup of morning java! Early to bed tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.

One thing about my personality is that I always do research before I completely believe that someone’s advice is the gospel truth, regardless of who they are. Might be the “Jungian” in me (Carl Jung encouraged his students to challenge his and others’ theories in a continuous search for the truth). After all, if we always believed what people told us, we would still think the earth was flat.

That being said, I encourage anyone reading my blogs to do the same. I’ve said this before, what I blog about is strictly what I’ve discovered and what works for me, and is my opinion based on experience and personal research. It’s meant as a guideline.

So – where am I going with this? Well, lately I’ve heard comments regarding hydration that make me scratch my head. There’s a misconception out there that one does not need any hydration during exercise. I’m wondering if this is one of those typical human cognitive errors. Someone hears the valid statement, “you should not take on too much water when running a marathon”, therefore a person interprets that as “hydrating is bad for you. Don’t drink it when doing endurance sports”. You know – when one is told to do something in moderation, it is human to take that as meaning either all or none.

Here are two such statements that I’ve heard recently:

  1. “I never hydrate during a marathon – you don’t really need to.” This was a statement made by a running store salesperson to a personal acquaintance when this individual was enquiring about a hydration pack to use while training for her first marathon.
  2. This one is scary – I actually heard an experienced coach out of the US state, “There is no scientific evidence to prove that you need hydration during training or a race.”

Interesting. And really, as I’ve said before, everyone is different. Perhaps the salesperson and experienced coach have years of experience and have adjusted their hydration needs. Maybe their body mass or sweat ratio affects their needs. Or they are simply human camels (like my cousin). However, they were speaking to individuals who were training for their first endurance sport.

I can’t say I’m an expert on the subject but I do know that personally, I sweat. I sweat a lot. I lose A LOT of fluids and uber amounts of salt, electrolytes, whatever. I would probably die if I didn’t at least start out super hydrated or kept my hydration consistent during a training run…or race. Again, everyone has different needs. You need to find out yours – preferably not the hard way.

Back to my thoughts on doing your own research to get all the information before deciding on a truth…I wrote a blog for the company I work for (health and safety) in 2009 when I was training for my second marathon and first triathlon. I had found some reputable websites that gave the facts on hydration. I wrote it for the industrial worker in mind but it applies to anyone staying active in the outdoors (including cold weather – where you don’t realize how much fluids you are losing due to the cold). I’ve provided the link below. In addition to explaining why humans need water, it provides a source where you can determine your hydration requirements.

Since then, while coaching my cousin last year, I found a few other decent websites that can help you formulate a reasonable opinion about hydration. One of them is the University of Arizona Athletics Sweat Rate and Fluid Replacement Calculations with Recovery Plans. I got my cousin to use it. I use it. I encourage others to use it.

The other is a very good article discussing pre-hydration, and dehydration correlating with a decrease in performance as well as the dangers of hyponatremia. It’s a well-rounded Position Stand that outlines that basically summarizes that everyone’s hydration needs are different depending on factors such as (but not limited to) body type, gender and the environment. It is an online publication by the American College of Sports Medicine’s official journal, Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise, titled “Exercise and Fluid Replacement”.

 I’m sure there is a lot of information out there on the ever controversial subject of hydration needs during exercise. Just make sure that what you are reading is from a reputable site (and not necessarily a blog like mine!). Draw your own conclusions. Test your needs and realize that when someone offers friendly advice, that it is always good to do your homework as well!

For entertainment and an easy read on hydration, check out the blog I wrote for our company back in ’09. I think since then I’ve become even more educated on the subject but I know I still have a lot to learn! #triathlon #ElementAMB

http://ewiworks.com/news/post.php?s=2009-04-24-the-serious-effects-of-dehydration

 

Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 2, 2016

Year of the Monkey – Tear it down, rebuild and back to basics

Okay, my New Years’ Resolution was to get back at this blog again. I’ve been ignoring it. The last few years have been heavy with personal issues that wore me out. I had a good race year in 2014 but 2015 was so-so and with work being super busy, I just didn’t find the time or passion to write. On top of that I had started feeling burnout from training. It got to a point where I did minimal training because I just didn’t care. Somewhere along the line I had lost the whole idea of my pursuit So…let’s start again and see where it takes me.

I found out that as of February 8th, it is the Year of the Monkey. I was born in 1968 – also the Year of the Monkey. So I am taking this as a sign (no pun intended) that this will be a year of bringing it all back to the beginning and aim for great personal accomplishments.

Last year in general

To summarize, the end of 2014 and most of 2015 was riddled with a lot of let downs. I was tested for some frightening health scares that I don’t want to elaborate on but it was scary and enough to drain me for months.

2015 was also the start of the slumping Canadian economy, and subsequently, Marc lost his job in the new housing industry. So money was really tight for quite a few months and we wound up in more debt to cover bills and expenses. I broke my elbow in an early season biking accident and had to cancel all my triathlon races for 2015. The season ended with attempting a 3rd marathon but having to walk it out because my old IT band injury in both legs returned. Then, from about August until now, I have been suffering from some kind of digestive health issue. I’m having lab tests done next week for Celiac disease – but my doctor is pretty sure it’s just all the stress I’ve gone through. Might even have something to do with my decline in training (where my digestive system is usually optimum! Ha ha – to quote a certain doggie food commercial).

But there were positives too so no sense in focusing completely on the negatives. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and all that.

I took my triathlon adult community coaching course in May with the intent to start helping others who were interested in the sport. Over the next several months, I gave a lot of advice and direction to a co-worker who used to be a runner but became very interested in triathlon. I also coached my cousin so that she could run her first marathon. It was a great feeling to see both of these individuals accomplish what they set out to do – to finish their first ever race in both triathlon and marathon running.

Marc bounced back too. He has a great new job and he’s really kicked up the workouts and training. It’s great to see him back at it and his enthusiasm and dedication is wearing off on me!

Oh, and with my broken elbow, I couldn’t swim or bike but the upside is that it allowed me to: 1.  Focus on running – something that had trailed off in the last 2 years when I focused more on the bike and, 2.  Realize that I REALLY missed triathlon. I missed being on my bike and swimming. I missed the art of the transition and testing out different nutritional strategies. So what I thought was a negative turned out to be a positive.

Running more definitely paid off. I got a PR in the 10k Night Race (1:01) and placed 1st in my division at the Veterans Day Heroes’ 5k in Palm Springs, CA. I also got a PR in my 5km on that day – just over 28 minutes!

So what is in store for me for the Year of the Monkey?

Well, January was riddled with anger and depression but after reading my old blog entries, I realized I need to pull up my socks and dive back into the sport that got me through some really rough times in the past and chase away my demons.

Helping and supporting others last year to accomplish their goals was just as rewarding as racing. It gave me so much personal satisfaction that I want to dedicate 2016 to not only improving my time and reducing risk of injury, but continue to help others reach their goals. I plan on doing more self-directed research and education as well as take courses to make sure I’m promoting best practices, while still understanding that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for others – it’s just a guideline. I at least want to share what I learned about “me” in the process and encourage anyone else interested in amateur sports to do the same. It’s a learning process – triathlon (or running a 5k or biking a fundraiser) opens the door to yourself to discover who you are – find out what makes up “you” and what your own needs are.

It’s going to be busy, training and trying to get the word out where I can (social media, volunteering, supporting newcomers to the sport). Right now, I’m in the process of joining Element’s Ambassador Program – dedicated to helping both promote the sport as well as good sportsmanship!

Really – that’s what this blog was originally supposed to be about. That is, sharing my story in the hopes that others can join me on the path to becoming better. So it’s time to get back to basics.

As for races, I’ve chosen two key triathlons: Calgary 70.3 (who I am eternally grateful for allowing me to rollover my 2015 fee to 2016 due to my injury) and Challenge Penticton. This year, Challenge Pen is a new distance and a precursor to the 2017 ITU World Long Course Triathlon. It’s longer than a half iron but a wee bit shorter that a full iron distance. So my goal is to finish this distance in 9.5 hours (you have 12 hours to finish). It’s going to be very exciting for Penticton, Canada and North America and I’m going to be thrilled to participate.

I’m hoping to add a third sprint distance triathlon as a practice race, aim to run a sub 60 minute 10k race. I’m also considering a team entry for an ultra-race in September – the River’s Edge Ultra in Devon, AB. Haven’t seen updates yet on the website but we do have a team of 2 so far (one of them is the friend of ours that I had previously mentioned).

So stay tuned all you Monkeys, Dragons, Tigers, Rabbits, Dogs, and the rest. 2016 is going to be full of great stories for all of us!

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