That’s done!

It’s been almost a month since I met my goal of completing a triathlon.  Yes, I did it!

Me, gooey, but triumphant.  : )

kpr.tri2

In the final week leading up to my planned event, I did decide to register for the “alternative” triathlon — the one with the pool swim and somewhat shorter distances.  This was good!  The triathlon I did was a perfect first event.  I now know what to expect (when I felt beforehand like I was going into a great unknown), and I can build on the experience if I decide to do more tri’s in the future.

So, what did I learn?  I learned that I need to be more assertive during the swim and speed up my transitions (skip the banana next time and have my number already pinned on my shirt!).  I learned that competing in the rain isn’t bad, as long as it’s not cold (which it wasn’t).  I learned that living and biking in Boone has taught me not to freak out on the uphills (gotta say, quite a few people were complaining about the one “really big hill” on the route, which just did not seem that big to me!).  I learned that it’s possible to run a “personal best” 5K time after swimming and biking.  (How weird is that?!)  I learned that lots of the people who compete in triathlons are nervous or scared or have a “weak event” (i.e. everyone is not an uber-confident pro!).  Mainly, I learned that you don’t really know what something is going to be like until you do it.  As much as you prepare and envision and psych yourself up (or psych yourself out), you can’t know the experience — how it will feel, what you will like and not like about it, what you will be capable of — until you experience it.  You just gotta do it. 

It was good for me to go outside my comfort zone and push myself to do something that was unusual and challenging.  I was happy and proud when I finished.  I’m still on the fence as to whether I’ll compete in more triathlons or other crazy feats of physical endurance or whether I’ll say to myself, “OK, it’s over!  I never need to do that again!”  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, my big 50 birthday, which inspired all this, is just a few weeks away.  Does meeting my goal (set almost a year ago) make me feel differently about turning 50?  Have I made peace with all my demons and let go of my regrets?  Am I at ease with the aging process and what it means physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Am I completely satisfied with where I am in my life?  Do I feel financially secure?  Are all my relationships in order?  Is the path forward clear and free of obstacles?  Well, actually…no.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could give an unequivocal yes to all those questions (and the myriad more that are unvoiced or unformulated)?  But I can’t.  As those who know me will attest, I’m a bit of an over-thinker, and I do ascribe to the idea that the unexamined life is not worth living.  But sometimes all the examining in the world won’t give you the answers.  You just gotta do it.  So here I go — moving forward to 50 and beyond with all the imperfections and uncertainties of my life still knocking around — with all the grace and integrity, physical and emotional health, and joy and kindness that I can muster.

For others who have had “big birthdays” (which ones feel the biggest probably varies from person to person), how did you mark the event?  What did you do?  How did you feel?  Please feel free to share below!  : )

Down to the wire…

Once again, it’s been awhile since I’ve written.  It’s been a busy summer.  But, truth be told, I’ve been reluctant to write about my goals because well…  I’ve been having doubts about whether I can accomplish them.  Doubts, tickling my toes, like little baby waves lapping at the edge of a lake.  lap lap lap.  slap slap slap.  death by a thousand kitten licks.

Still, I’ve soldiered on with my triathlon training, hoping that continued activity will resolve the uncertainty.  And, in so many ways, it’s been great.  I’ve scored a wealth of amazing, perfect moments over these past few months.  Feeling, as always, so lucky to live in this beautiful place where the opportunities to be inspired occur daily.

pasture

And, without a doubt, I’ve gotten stronger.  It’s cool to hardly notice hills on my bike that I labored to get up a few months ago.  I like the feeling of just itching to get outside and exercise and knowing it will be fun and satisfying because I’m in better shape.

Yet, there remain a few elephants in the room.  The running — still slow.  But, more significantly, the lake swim.  Around mid-July I began to think seriously about the lake swim.  I knew I had to practice.  But this was easier said than done.  There’s a small local lake that I jumped into a few times, but you can only swim in the roped off area, not further out into the lake so, although it gave me a small taste of swimming in the cold, somewhat murky water without lane lines to follow, it was still a far cry from the big lake swim that’s part of the triathlon.

Finally, last week, I asked a friend to go to the triathlon site at Watauga Lake to swim with me.  He had done the triathlon before and was planning to do it this year, and was also interested in practicing the swim.  We got up early and drove 45 minutes to the lake.  I was excited and not sure what to expect.  Other than a little trepidation about crossing past the “Private Property” signs, everything was perfect — beautiful summer morning, lovely peaceful setting, no boats or activity of any sort in sight…  And, the kicker… the water was incredibly warm!  We started swimming and it felt great, very easy and relaxed, in a “Look, Ma, no hands!” kind of way.  But then something weird happened.  At a certain point, I suddenly felt like I was way too far out in the lake and I started to get scared.  I decided to swim back to shore.  Feeling a bit anxious, I even flipped over on my back for awhile to relax.  Everything was fine, and we were both glad we had done the swim.  But those few minutes of fear have made me think seriously about whether I’m up for the .6 mile open water swim.  I’m sure it will feel more secure with lots of support kayaks in the water, and I think I probably would have been fine if I had stayed closer to shore, but…  Is this an obstacle I can overcome in the next week and a half?

watauga.lake  (big lake!)

For some people, I’m sure the answer would be an easy yes:  conquer fear, gut it out, push through the obstacles.  But I’m not one of those people.  Earlier in the spring, I started to write, but never finished, a blog post titled, “How Hard Should a Hard Goal Be?”  The answer to that question is probably different for everyone.  There’s a thin line between “enough” (enough to be different and exciting and truly challenging) and “too much” (too hard, too scary, maybe just not feasible).  My aim in all this, after all, is to feel celebratory and accomplished, not demoralized.

The upshot…?  I’m hoping to swim in the big lake one more time in the next few days to see if the second time’s a charm.  But the weather is not looking good, and it may not happen.  Either way, I need to make a decision.  In the meantime, I’ve been looking for other triathlons that are coming up soon.  I found one scheduled for the same weekend as the Watauga Lake Triathlon.  It’s near Asheville — still Western North Carolina, still mountainous biking and a scenic running route, but with the swim in a pool.  Back-up plan?  Check.  One way or the other, I’m going to get to the celebrating part!

One week, two weeks — who’s counting?!

OK, I’m back to report on what I’ve done to work towards my goals since my last post. I didn’t post in one week, as promised — but I did accomplish a few things.

Training for a triathlon:

A) Swimming: 3x = 54 laps = 2,700 yards = 1.53 miles.

Swimming was great — relaxing, peaceful, and invigorating, all at the same time — a perfect exercise — except for the part where it may tend to get boring. I felt really good in the pool, but I have a long way to go before I’m comfortable and confident swimming .6 miles in open water. I’m hoping that putting in a decent amount of pool time and building stamina will move me forward to where the lake swim doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I’ll also need to practice in the lake once the weather gets warmer.

B) Running: 2x = 3.81 miles.

Trying it out and not pushing for much distance — felt good — weirdly ran faster than usual. This may be because the gps on my iPhone app wasn’t working right. It seemed to be recording everything, but the run was in an area without much signal, so wondering… However, for now, will go with the theory that I’m stronger and faster than I realize! : )

C) Biking: 0 (i.e. big fat goose egg). : (

Cycling is the least intimidating — the thing I know I can do (and probably not be last!), so I guess I’m not as worried about that as the running and swimming. Nevertheless, I need to get on it! Literally. The bike.

Things I need to get better at:

Seizing the moment when there’s an opportunity to exercise. We had a spring snow storm this past week, so that was a set-back. (The kids even missed three days of school — groan!) But right now it’s actually pretty nice out (though still snow on the ground). A real runner would probably be out on the trails sloshing through the slush, but I’m lolling around the house with the kids. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that I could get outside until it seemed too late. It’s true what they say about making yourself go [running, biking, etc.] being the hardest part. I can’t wait around for the perfect convergence of convenience and motivation before I exercise!

Recognizing that friends can help. I’m a self-conscious athlete who generally feels silly (even ridiculous) while athleticizing (silly made-up word). This stuff just does not come naturally to me! However, I think I need to realize that friends can provide motivation and inspiration — try that out — let go of feeling dorky and inferior and exercise with buddies from time-to-time!

Well, I had a few more things to add to this — and was even going to give an update on my other goal (aka “the poetry project”). But my son is agitating to use the computer so, for the sake of posting something, I’m going to cut it short. Will try to come back soon. I hope you all are enjoying the spring! I love the changing of seasons and always find each turn in the yearly cycle exciting, as well as being a natural time for contemplation and new (or renewed) visions. What about you? What is this spring bringing for you?

Does anyone really “just want to finish”? Really???

March is here.  It’s been months since I’ve written anything on this blog.  I feel guilty.  Not just because I haven’t followed through on my commitments to myself but because, as ridiculous as this might sound, I feel as though I’m letting down “my readers”.   I mean I said I was going to pursue these goals and write about it along the way.  Unfortunately, there just has not been much to write about in the way of goal fulfillment.

Triathlon training has, so far, been pretty non-existent.  These first few months of the new year have been busy and stressful in ways that have just not been conducive to exercise for me.  Add to that the whole winter thing, and there you go.  I have been downhill skiing quite a lot with the kids (probably close to 30 times this season), which has been great, but I can’t kid myself that this has done anything for my cardiovascular fitness. Bottom line (i.e. confession):  I’ve run outside twice since the start of the year; “worked out” in a gym (stationary bike or elliptical) eight times, and swum not at all.

As the days and weeks have passed by, I’ve vacillated between feeling panicky (the triathlon I’m hoping to do is now only five months away) and reassuring myself that there is still plenty of time to make this happen.  As my once distant goal grows closer, images of swimming in the open water of a large lake, surrounded by other swimmers, flash through my mind, and I know with cold hard certainty that this will be an incredibly scary and challenging event for me, mentally as well as physically.  Then I think about coming out of the water and hopping onto a bicycle to ride 22 miles.  And then getting off the bike and, groan, running for 5 miles.   Riding a bike and running are not frightening in the same way as swimming in a lake is.  But, at this point, it’s still a pretty huge leap for me to think about doing these things in quick succession and in any way competitively.  Somewhere along the line, in my hazy vision of how this may all go down, the concept of “just finishing” the event creeps in.  “I’ll be happy if I just finish it.”  I’ve heard people say this a lot when preparing to participate in an athletic endeavor.  Sometimes these people are fairly good athletes (fitter and more experienced than I am, at least).  I’ve never really bought the idea that people want to “just finish”.  In my mind, this is kind of a face-saving statement used to lower expectations and pressure.  Not that there is anything wrong with that!  But I think most of the time people, in their heart of hearts, want to do more than “just finish”.  However, what that means to them (which they may want to keep to themselves) is going to vary a lot from person to person.  The individual, perhaps unspoken, goal may be based on past performance, looking at other people’s times in similar events or, perhaps, just some arbitrary bench mark that seems suitable to strive for. I’m more likely to think in terms of finishing in a “respectable” time than “just finishing”.  Of course, what’s “respectable” is also going to vary widely from person to person based on their abilities and expectations for themselves.

For me, respectability has often hovered around the magic number 12.  For running, this means an average time of less than 12 minutes per mile .  For biking, it means averaging more than 12 miles per hour.  I realize that these are terribly humble goals and, at times, in the handful of organized biking and running events I’ve participated in over the years, I’ve thrillingly exceeded these benchmarks.  But still, the baseline of my personal “respectable” time, hovers in the back of my head as something achievable that I will be satisfied with — and which, based on past experience, will probably not put me at the very back of the pack in a mixed field of participants.  Because, let’s face it, being last is something that nobody wants to be.

This brings me back to the idea of “just finishing”.  Could this be a helpful concept?  Right now, “just finishing” paints a picture of literally crawling across the finish line, like Wile E. Coyote after he gets blown up and then falls off a cliff and then smashes into a rock wall and is flattened.  But could the image of “just finishing” or simply “finishing” be transformed into something more triumphant?  Could I really let go of ego and expectations and comparing myself to others and feeling embarrassed and just do it?  Whatever that might mean.  And finish.  And feel good about it.  Hmm…  Interesting questions to ask.  I don’t think I have the answers yet.  But I do know one thing:  If I don’t get my ass in gear and start doing something, even “just finishing” may  be a lofty goal!  With that in mind, I plan to report back, no matter how mundane the report may be, in a week, to detail what I’ve done.  Hold me to it, OK?

Let me know what you think.  What’s your approach to motivation, finding a finish that makes you happy, and the mind game of meeting hard goals?

My life as a goddess of self-actualization: Do one thing. Finish it. Repeat.

To pick up where I left off…  but first a meme and three truths:

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization while looking at your phone.

Somewhere along the way, much to my horror and embarrassment (and I’m still battling denial on this), I became one of those people who is constantly (or at least frequently) interacting with her phone.

Feeling bored, anxious, stressed?  Got a spare moment in the car or between meetings?  Check email, read a movie review on Flixster, finish an online crossword, check the New York Times headlines, look at Facebook, check the weather, check email, look at Facebook, play a few turns in Words with Friends.

All of these things can be fun, useful and interesting.  But they have the potential to become mind-numbing, habit forming, and immobilizing.  At least for me.

Today is Day 5 of my internet/ iPhone detox.  It’s hard!  But it’s going well.

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization while multi-tasking.                       (Closely related to truth #1, above)

My new mantra:  Do one thing.  Finish it.  Repeat.

This works well both at work and at home.

You can’t be a goddess of self-actualization without engaging in basic activities that help you stay healthy and happy.

Thus, as a starting point, a return to my simple daily goals.

Yoga                                                                                                                                 Meditate                                                                                                                                   Use Positive Discipline                                                                                                      Journal                                                                                                                                    20 minutes of exercise                                                                                                      Floss teeth                                                                                                                Something creative                                                                                                            Write

And so, I begin to lay the foundation for my year-before-turning-50 goals.  Which will be revealed.  Soon.  On this very blog.  : )

If you are working on goals — short-term or long-term, tangible or abstract — what are they?  How is it going?  What are your strategies for preparing to achieve your goals and for achieving them?

After the election or “My life as a goddess of self-actualization”

So, months have passed while this blog lies dormant.  I’ve had a few twinges of regret about not writing, but I’ve successfully squelched them by letting myself become consumed with election season angst and devoting an increasing amount of time to online media and social media, interspersed with other fragmented or mindless pursuits.  Exercise has pretty much fallen by the wayside.  My daily goals, so modest, yet so pleasing, have been neglected for weeks.  We’ve been dealing with some pretty major financial stress, and the “homework wars” still rage on.  These personal challenges, combined with my unease about the election, created the perfect conditions for just kind of letting things slide.  But now the election is over, and I have no excuse not to get my act together.  And so, I begin.  Tonight.

To begin, I need to go back a bit.  Back to June, when I reflected on the school year that had been the original source for this blog and floated the idea of, “what next?”  I had an inkling of what I might write about, but I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.  The topic was more personal and probably less interesting than writing about parenting.  So I pushed it off.  I hee-hawed and ho-hummed.  Time passed, and a critical date came and went.  I didn’t broach the topic that was on my mind.

The significant date was my birthday in October.  I turned (gulp) forty-nine.  Crazy, right?  How can this be?!  As several friends who are a year ahead of me turned 50 over the past year, I watched.  I took note of what they did and said, and how they said they felt.  I began to formulate some thoughts on what I wanted for myself from this milestone.  A few ideas began to emerge.  First, that the day itself needed to include some serious pampering  (for which I better start saving my money now!).  Probably not a party.  And definitely not a surprise party.  You heard me, people.  I am not a suprise party kind of gal. The last thing I want on my big day is to feel self-conscious, embarassed and silly.   Which is how I think a surprise party would make me feel.  No, I’m thinking spa day, healthy hike, intimate meal somewhere relaxed but elegant with incredible food.  You get the picture.  But this is just the superficial stuff.  And there’s plenty of time to figure out the details.

The trickier part of my birthday plan was an idea I had about accomplishing something great in the year before I turned 50.  I wanted the whole year to be a project — a fun, interesting, challenging, worthwhile project that would have me feeling satisfied, invigorated and accomplished when I turned 50.

But what would it be???  I pretty quickly had some ideas, but I found that I was afraid to say them outloud.  I’ve talked before about setting goals.  My formula for the short-term goal:  1) pick a goal that is reasonable to accomplish in a finite period of time; 2) announce your goal; 3) break it into parts; 4) write about it; 5) stick to your plan.  I felt quite smug when I wrote those words.  Easy-peasy.

But were my year-before-turning-50 goals “reasonable to accomplish”?  What if I said them outloud and then I didn’t do them?  What if people thought my goals were weird or silly?  What if I lost interest, was lazy or afraid?  What if factors beyond my control interfered with my plan and kept me from my objectives?  Did I really have it in me to stick to a year long project?

Hmm… getting late…  on that note, I leave you for tonight.  (on the edge of your seat, I’m sure!)  Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), more about these so-called goals and how I will accomplish them.