Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embracing the woo-woo

This IS going to be one of THOSE posts.  A few posts ago I talked about how I was embracing the woo-woo and letting go of pre-conceived notions I have about things like meditation and "soul searching."  I have always thought of these things as "silly" or things that "hippies do" or, to be honest, "older people."  However, I am finding myself embracing introspective activities I previously thought of as silly/fill-in-the-blank judgement.  I am now happily enjoying (almost) daily meditation and have been really trying to get in touch with my inner hopes/dreams/desires.  

Meditation is one of the "woo woos" I am wholeheartedly embracing.  I have never been one of those people who is good at having a "still mind."  I find myself always on the go.  However, unlike many of my friends or even my wonderful hubby, when I'm home alone I don't like to have music on or the TV or a podcast even.  Most of the time, I relish in the silence.  I have always been this way.  Call it the product of being an only child in a divorced parent household where it was always just me and Dad or me and Mom.  I like to think that I have always been wanting to let myself have a still mind but it wasn't until recently that I've actually let myself indulge.  

I found a couple of podcasts and an app to help me get started.  If you're looking for some help and ideas on how to start meditating I highly recommend the following:
Yoga and Meditation App (small fee) (Yoga and Meditation with Janet Stone)
Headspace Meditation Podcast (Free)
Simply Being ($.99 apple and android)

Here is the list I consulted when I went looking for an app.

This weekend Mr. Pi ran a 50k at the coast.  I went for my own mini run in the morning, completely unplugged, mind open.  Later in the afternoon I went for a leisurely walk with Zoey and at one more I found a bench and just sat down for a few minutes.  I'm not sure how long I was there but it was a great meditation session.  I was reminded that once again, meditation isn't about being in the same space every time with your legs crossed a certain way but rather, meditation is about being able to clear your mind and embrace the present moment.

Also along that walk with the dog I was reminded about how much I really belong at the ocean.  Some people are mountain people, some people are city people, I am 100% an ocean girl.  Whether it is a beach-y tropical location or an angry sea coastline, I am always calmed by the waves lapping (or crashing) on the shore and am able to find an introspection that no other place really offers.  Maybe someday I'll find myself in a place where I can wake up to the sea everyday but for now I will absolutely relish in the opportunities I am able to visit.

Angry seas in the morning...

Giving way to a beautiful evening sunset...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Training for...and some workouts that BURN

Yes, yes, this still is a training blog.  As I am gearing up for my 6th marathon, my first standalone since way way back in 2011 Goofy  which technically is a standalone but also not your typical standalone marathon (Part I and Part II race recaps).

I'm excited to see what my body can do and grateful (there is that word again) that I am healthy enough to be considering taking this on and also for my amazing Coach Jen Harrison who kicks my butt and makes me stronger every day--TRUTH.

Let's recap.  So, on July 26th the "foot slam" happened before my self-supported massive PR half ironman.  I didn't run one step until September 4th and that was only 15 minutes.  Here we are in October, roughly a month later and a few days later and I'm up to several runs a week (even a couple of double run days) and feeling good.  Pace-wise I didn't suffer too much and have been doing well at maintaining speed while increasing distance.  I'm not doing any huge mileage yet but  feeling good about where my progress is heading.

I thought it might be fun is to share some of my favorite run workouts.  Like I said, Coach Jen Harrison is doing her best to push me physically and I'm doing my best to push myself on the mental side of running which I think has always been my biggest limiter. Alright, favorite run workouts of late.

*The timed interval.  I love these workouts.  They basically consist of a warm up (15-60 minutes depending on the length of the total workout) and then a set of timed intervals.  For example, 5 "on"/5 "off" or 10 hard, 1 off, repeat, sometimes a ladder of 1 hard/1 easy, 2 hard, 2 easy, on up the ladder.  These workouts are great.  They force me to get outta my head on splits (aka mental training) and focus on time.  For these workouts I switch my Garmin to total time screen or lap time screen and use that as my guide.  I will turn off any mile split notifications and save the splits for review later.  I've found this helps me run FASTER when I don't know what my splits are.  Continuing proof that for me, my biggest hurdle is sometimes my own head. 

*The no-data run.  These workouts are a welcome respite from specific intervals, hill repeats, fartleks and long runs.  These are literally, go out and run X number of minutes.  Have fun.  These runs are all about being social, enjoying the scenery, being grateful to be out there and remembering why I chose to take up this sport in the first place.  While I absolutely love triathlon and I am not planning on hanging up my goggles or bike anytime soon, there is something about running that really neither of the other two sports can bring.  The no-data runs are a great way to reconnect with whatever THAT is about this sport.

*The long run.  Of course being the endurance junkie I am, I do love me a good long run.  At this stage, long is a relative term but they are getting longer every week.  My long runs are also different than any other time I've trained for a marathon.  They are less about just running the distance but rather about training the body to run varying paces during the longer efforts and really getting in tune with how I handle different variables over the course of progressively longer and longer durations.  It used to drive me nuts not to have a set number of miles to go run, now I am embracing the "run for time" mindset. During my long runs I often have a set or two of specific intervals or goal pace miles but also things like leg turnover sets and watch your form sets.  All of these things are making me a better runner.

There you have it, a few of my favorite run workouts that are regularly incorporated into my training.  And, just for fun, a couple of strength exercises that may sound easy but these will make you feel the burn...

*The plank set.  (This workout takes anywhere between 20-45 minutes depending on number of sets.  My core curses Jen during this workouts but thanks her the next day...only curses when I have to laugh or sneeze.)
Straight arm plank 30-60 seconds
Right into pushups (10-20)
Reverse bridge hold 30 seconds
Right into tricep dips (10-20)
Straight arm plank for 15 sec into hover pushup (think chaturanga yoga pose) for 15 sec--repeat 2-4x
Side plank 30-60 seconds
Right into side dips (10-20)
Other side plank 30-60 seconds
Right into other side dips (10-20)
Straight arm to forearm plank (10-20)
Plank right leg hover 30 seconds, then left leg hover 30 seconds

*Scorpion on a stability ball.  (YouTube link)
Sounds easy, it is not easy, at least for me.

*The donkey whip.
Go here for explanation.

*Squats and lunges.
Duh, these burn and are so good for you but ouch.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swim, Bike, Run, Inspired

So, I last left you with a rather wandering post about what's been going on inside my head---this time I'm going to get back to a swim, bike, run post--well, sort of.

Good news is, I'm back to doing all three!  In one of my timed writing sessions (no, this post won't devolve into one of those posts again, well, not entirely) I recently wrote the words "inspired by."  So I'm bringing to you some of the places I've experienced recently through swim, bike, run.  I've been running without music or with podcasts for the last year or so.  One of the podcasts I listen to regularly always ends with an assignment/message--my message today is get outside, embrace the beauty of wherever you are, soak up the sun and the clouds.  Be grateful...

Volunteering at the Portland Triathlon--giving back to a sport that has given me so much

Hiking with a friend

On the way down from said hike with a friend

Exploring the world on two wheels--soaking up the sun

Feeling small next to giants

Experiencing a real life version of Fern Gully

The ocean--my happy place

Traveling for work with views like this makes long days completely 100% worth it

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tap Tap Tap...

Is this thing still on...?!?!

Yes, I guess it is.  Good.  Since I last left you all, I recovered from my freak toe slamming injury, not even really sure what to call it, and am back out on the roads on my two feet and on two wheels.  I never really left the pool but yes, I am still swimming too.  But this post is going to be a lot less about swim, bike and run and a lot more about the me outside of those activities but always influenced by them.

Throughout the summer and really this whole year I have been doing a lot of introspective thinking.  Mostly about gratitude.  The word that my application for coaching from Jen Harrison centered on and the word that I keep coming back to.  I have so much to be grateful for.  

I had originally thought I would just share that I'm grateful about being a triathlete and that when a door closes on one activity it is great that usually two others are available but that didn't seem like enough.  I was then thinking I would talk about how grateful I am for Jen Harrison and while I absolutely am grateful for the experience of working with her this year, that didn't seem like enough either.  So, instead I'm going to share a few words that came from a timed writing session I did the other day. 

When I sat down at the end of a meditation session (yes, you heard that right, I'll get to that in a minute) to do a timed writing session, the first thought that came into my head was, "letting go."  So I went with this thought and wrote down all the things that came to mind...
perceptions, over 30, woo-woo, holding me back, people, what's not important, uptight, anxiety.  Now, during my session I also elaborated on a few of these like, "over 30."  What that really means is that I am letting go of the fact that even though I'm over 30, it's okay that I don't have X,Y, or Z figured out yet.  I think that coincides with "perceptions"--I perceive that I should be at X place in my life, doing X things and well, earth to Alisa, you are on your own journey.  "Woo-woo" refers to, letting go of my preconceived notions about things like meditation and timed journaling-I'm embracing the woo-woo.  "People" was a hard one for me to really examine.  What I wrote down next to "people" was, "limited time, what's important, who is important, what are my priorities."  I'm a people pleaser by nature and I'm someone who really likes to give a lot in relationships and be as supportive of a friend as I can be, what I've had to realize is that I'm the type of person that really likes to have a few close relationships, rather than a lot of superficial ones.  Hence, to me, what I wrote down reinforced that I am choosey about my friends and that's a good thing.  I want to have people in my life (whether I see them a lot or not) that I can share my journey with.  I recently had a long conversation with a friend that I don't see very often and we talked about this very thing.  Meaningful relationships are so important.

What does all of this have to do with being grateful?  I think what I'm learning is that I am so grateful to be in a place in my life where I am really proud that I'm going through this introspection, embracing the woo-woo and spending time being grateful for the relationships I've built.  

I'm comfortable enough with me to reflect, realign and grow.  

A lot of this may sound trite or cliche but it's real and it's me.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Big Sky & Wide Open Spaces

I never really thought of myself as a country/mountain girl, I've always been more of city/ocean girl. However, spending a week in Montana with my husband’s family I may have discovered some country roots. Growing up in CA, my dad, grandma and I would travel once a summer up to Montana to visit my aunt. As a kid, I remember the long hikes, the big mountains, wildlife, picking berries and the bugs (oh the bugs!). When my husband’s family picked Montana (very near where I would go as a kid) I knew it would be a trip down memory lane.  And it definitely has been.

Montana is a beautiful state with lots of wide open spaces, they don’t call it Big Sky country for nothing.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much in the way of hiking but I’ve been able to do a lot of mountain viewing and some hobbling around. Remember that jammed toe, well, the X-rays were inconclusive on a 4th metatarsal break so they booted me up and gave me back my crutches--full non-weight bearing protocol.  I was diligent with the crutches for about a week and have been taking it easy in MT but it doesn't hurt to walk in the boot (as long as I'm not going very far) so I have semi ditched the crutches (shhhh don't tell the doc).  Despite not being as mobile as I'd like, I've still been able to enjoy some amazing views.  Also, given my type-A, super scheduled self, this is probably a good break for my body and mind.  It's tough going but if my year last year taught me anything it taught me that I can overcome an injury and come back just as strong or stronger.

Wide open spaces in Big Sky Country:

Going to the sun road, Glacier Nat'l Park

Going to the sun road, Glacier Nat'l Park

Going to the sun road, Glacier Nat'l Park (Mr. Pi and his brother taking photos)

Going to the sun road, Glacier Nat'l Park (my sister in law at an overlook)

Morning coffee from Montana Coffee Roasting Co. from outside our rental house

Top of Big Mountain (or Whitefish was big mountain when I was there as a kid so it was hard to call it Whitefish Mountain)

Mini walk up top (I took the chair lift up)

Not a bad view...the boot gets around (Top of Big Mountain)

Mr. Pi running UP big mountain (look closely he is there)

Sunset from the rental house

Panorama from the backyard of the rental

Great Northern Brewing, Whitefish, MT

Friday, August 1, 2014

Review of Stitch Fix

I’ve received several comments and questions about StitchFixI think this is worthy of a little blog post. {referral code if you're interested in trying this out for yourself (also found at the bottom of this post): 

What is Stitch Fix?
It’s an online clothing service where the customer (you) fills out a style profile including, clothing item preferences, color choices, sizing and general style.  You can also link to your other social media platforms like Pinterest boards but that is totally optional.  From there, you schedule when you would like your “fix” to arrive.  When your fix arrives, you receive 5 items, a style guide and personal note from your stylist.  It comes neatly packaged in a box complete with your receipt and return shipping envelope if there are items you are sending back.  You have three days to complete your online check out form and send back items you are not keeping.  If you keep all 5 you get a 25% discount on your order.

For me, when my fix arrives, I like to take the pieces out and review the style card.  Then, I pull various items from my own closet, like shoes, jeans, skirts, accessories that might pair well with what’s in my fix.  Then, I proceed to try them all on.  I try to do this when Mr. Pi is around so I can get him to take photos for me and give me his opinion.

Style cards

So what have a received in my three fixes?

Fix #1:

What I kept:
-Coral top. I didn’t love this at first but kept it because of the feedback from my Instagram poll and it has become a staple in both my work and weekend wardrobes.  

-Black top. I loved this top from the moment I put it on.  I’ve worn it to work as well as to a 1920’s party.  I love the back!  It's unique and a bit sexy without really feeling like you're showing a lot of skin.

-Coral capris.  I was absolutely on the fence about these but after my poll on Instagram I decided to keep them and I’m really happy I did!  They have been a really fun work piece.  

What I returned:
-The purple sweater.  It was so cozy but there was just so much material I felt like I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing it.

-Gold necklace, not pictured.  This piece sat funny against my collar bone and I just didn’t feel like I needed another necklace.  Since then, I have asked not to be sent any jewelry.  You can update your style profile at any time…if at some point I want an accessory to show up in my fix, I’ll go back in and add it but for now, I’m good.

Fix #2:

Sadly, no one was around to take my photo so this is all I have plus the style guide (see below).

What I kept:
-Red top. I don’t own a lot of red. It is bold piece but in the end I’m glad I kept it.  Here are a two ways I’ve worn it!

What I returned:
Everything else.  This fix had several items that just weren’t my style, a bit to hipster/edgy.  I conveyed these messages in my comments back to my stylist and did some updating of my style profile.  

While I may not have kept much from this fix what is shocking about this fix is in there, if you can see from the photo of the style guide, was a pair of pants.  Now, if you’re anything like me, I usually take in like 7 pairs of pants into a dressing room and it is a crapshoot on whether ANY of them will fit.  These babies…fit like a glove, they were perfect.  I just didn’t think I would wear black jeans, again, not really my style but I was blown away that a stranger could pick out pants that fit me so well.

Fix #3:

What I kept--EVERYTHING.
-Maxi Skirt.  Again, I adore maxi skirts and don’t have one in anything close to this color.  This item was a little pricey for my liking, which I wrote in my feedback, but knowing how much wear I’ll get out of it, it was worth it to me. I've already worn this item a couple of times!

-Maxi Dress.  I loved this the moment I put it on and knew I’d be keeping it.  In fact, I wore the next day to a casual Friday and also out to dinner!  It is a perfect fit. (I also received a maxi in my last fix but it was a bit too roomy, my stylist sized down for this one and it fits perfectly.)

k, you can't really see it but this is a fun picture of Mr. Pi and I for birthday beers and dinner

-Pink top.  I was skeptical about this top at first but I switched bras and tried it on with the maxi skirt (which my style guide suggested) as well as a pair of my fave jeans.  It grew on me the more I wore it and decided to keep it after my Instagram poll.  Again, I've already worn this item a couple of times as well!

-Short dress.  I can’t wait to wear this to dinner or to work.  I loved it the moment I put it on.  It fits well, isn’t too short and the colors are fun, not too bold or too boring.  Now that I'm back in the boot for my jammed toe (or whatever the injury is), I'll probably hold off on wearing this item; I'm trying to stick with outfits that hide the boot as much as I can.  Also, I wear a running shoe on the other foot for stability and to try to even out the height difference with the boot.

-Jean jacket (not pictured).  I was planning to return this item only b/c I already have a jean jacket that is almost identical to the one that I was sent.  However, with the 25% buy all discount it was cheaper for me to actually purchase all 5 items rather than return the jacket, which was one of the lowest priced items in the fix.  All in all, another jean jacket, slightly more fitted could totally come in handy.

The verdict on Stitch Fix--it's a great service and I highly recommend it.  I’m not ready for monthly fixes or anything but once a quarter or so it is a fun way to spice up my wardrobe!  My advice to new fixers, be specific in your style profile, create a Pinterest page of your favorite looks, set a realistic budget in your profile and give good feedback on each fix.

Here is a referral code if you’re interested, use it, I get credit in my account if you do, wink wink: 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Best laid plans…Race report?...PR!

Sometimes the best planning all goes out the window.  I was signed up to rock n roll my second half iron distance race on Saturday.  Well, last Monday, I got a cancellation from the race company, stating they were canceling the event.  I proceeded to go through the 7 stages of grief or whatever…mostly consisting of frustration, anger and determination.  After my performance at the sprint distance on July 20th I was ready to ROCK 70.3 miles.  The course was my strength, flat and fast.  Someday maybe I’ll go for scenic and hilly but for this race I wanted to hammer.  Sadly I wasn’t going to get to do that, or was I?

I sent Coach Jen a note and then proceeded to send texts to all my close endurance junkie friends venting my frustrating and telling them all about the backup options I was considering.  After my initial rage of an event being cancelled 4 days before the actual event, I calmed down and went into determination mode.  One of my first responses was...well, if unnamed race company isn’t going to put on an event for me, I’ll put one on myself.  Yup, a self-supported long course triathlon. Call me crazy, call me determined but I lived to tell the tale.  While this isn’t an “official” race with chip timing results I’m calling this a major success, a PR and a giant leap forward in my mental training.

Race Report: Inaugural (and probably only) Dunlap Racing Long Course Triathlon

“Race” morning.  Honestly, I was nervous.  I was going to attempt a long course tri, self-supported, by myself.  Could I do the distance?  Sure.  But mentally could I hold it together to complete the distance solo without that race environment?  As I got all my stuff ready and was heading out the door, I gave myself a little pep talk and I was off and ready to get to my start line “aka the pool.”  On my way to getting my things out the door I stubbed my toe.  I thought to myself, crap, just what I need, to break my toe on my way to my race.  I shook it off as best I could and with some soreness building (foreshadow) and went on my merry way.

1.2 M (2100 yd) Swim: 38:05 (1:48/100)
Uneventful swim.  Saturday morning at the gym there is luckily no one around!  Whole lane all to myself.  Settled into the swim and just kept a steady pace going.  I swam this like I knew I would have 56 miles to ride and a half marathon to run, conservative yet not dilly dallying.

T1: 45:55 –ha!  I got out of the pool, quickly rinsed off, because why not I had the time and opportunity too.  Changed into my gear and hit the road.  I drove out to the site of my bike and run.  I did all these things quickly but also used my time efficiently—I fueled while I drove and took the time to dry off my feet, apply sunscreen, etc.

56 M Bike: 3:30:10 (16 MPH avg)
My goal for the race was to hit 3:30 or faster (16 MPH or better).  I’ve been averaging 16 MPH for all my long rides lately but this not being an actual race environment I wasn’t sure I could get my legs moving any faster but figured I could hold steady at my training pace.  I did exactly what I would have done in a race, took the first 15-20 minutes to warm up, keeping a moderately easy gear.  After that I shifted and turned it on…right into a headwind.  I proceeded to oscillate between headwind and tailwind, which is exactly the type of course I was prepped for.  I was feeling good, sticking with my nutrition plan and was excited to know that I would have support for my run.

My run crew vehicle!

T2: 14:15  I did what I normally do in T2 with the addition of loading my bike into the car, instead of racking it and moving the car to a safer running location about 10 minutes down the road.

13.1 M Run: 2:34:06 (11:46 avg)
This is where the rubber was going to meet the road.  Running is always the sport I mentally struggle with and I knew today would probably be the same.  My goal was a 2:30 with an optimistic view of possibly a 2:20 finish but I was going to be thrilled with anything under a 12 min mile avg. My short runs off the bike hover around 10 usually and I have been doing intervals in the 8's.  However, for me and pacing while running, it is ALL MENTAL.  If I could mentally stay strong I was going to have a great run.

I was so lucky to have an awesome race crew in C (and later Mr. Pi arrived as well).  I set off and C proceeded to drive one mile down the road.  During that first mile I actually felt good, minus some throbbing in my toe.  I was warm but NOTHING like the June 106+ degree weather I dealt with.  At mile 1 I pulled up alongside C’s car and out came a silver platter…literally.  It was my own personal aid station on a silver platter…pretty sweet!  It was stocked with everything I could have wanted, ice, water, coke, chews, banana, doubleshot coffee (I used this during the bike portion of my IM), gels, etc.  I am truly so lucky to have friends that understand the crazy head space of an endurance athlete, who would give up a few hours of their Saturday to man “aid stations” on the side of the road.  THANK YOU C and Mr. Pi for your support...not only on "race" day but also during countless hours of training.

Off during mile 2 I realized this run would be both easier and harder than I had thought—I think this hits me during every race no matter the distance.  When I hit my next “aid station” I had a flashback to running with my Rev3 teammates from AZ to TX where we ran in one to two mile increments with a water bottle marking our stopping point.  I remembered how cool that experience was to be running in places I would probably never see again and tried to channel that into this run.  This was probably an experience I would not have again and I was going to relish it.

As the miles ticked on I started to feel better and better (I swear this is from the ice in my sports bra cooling me down and from coke...I don't drink soda, really EVER, but it is like rocket fuel for me during triathlons) by about mile 7 I was really feeling great!  My speed was staying consistent and I knew I would finish and finish STRONG!  Mr. Pi jumped in to run a mile with me from 8-9 and it was great to have the company.  It also made me realize that if I did have “company” or “competition” out on the course maybe I would have run faster, as I picked up the pace considerably with that mile.  When I hit mile 12, I could not have been happier.  C and Mr. Pi drove on another 1.1 miles and set up a finish line for me…I had no idea that was coming.  But as I rounded a small bend in the road, I saw my red ribbon finish line and with nothing but smiles, I crossed the finish line!  

Total (moving) Time: 6:42 
My overall goal had been to break 7 hours.  My previous PR time was 7:56 where I walked the half marathon due to the extreme heat.  This was an improvement by over an hour.  I PR'd all three disciplines from June!  Swim PR of 1:09. Bike PR of 17 minutes. Run PR of 49 minutes. 

My sweet ass medal!  Captain America meets Flava Flave.

This race/event/training experience whatever you want to call it taught me so much about my strength.  Not just my physical strength to complete this distance but my mental tenacity to go this alone.  I was determined and ready.  Coach Jen calls it “grit” I like to channel my Dad and call it perseverance.  

While I was out there I kept having the song/phrase “it’s a great day to be alive” in my head.  I’m not really a country music fan so I had to look up who even sings this, Travis Tritt if you were curious.  But I was really happy to be alive and doing what I love to do!

Couldn't have done it without these two:

On the foreshadowing of the toe jamming incident.  So, Sunday it was pretty sore.  Monday I went to the doc for some x-rays.  Results came back negative for a fracture, hooray!  BUT they are sending me to a specialist.  Of course, I'm terrified of hearing the "c" word (crutches people, get your mind out of the gutter).  I'll be in the boot for a little while to immobilize it and let it heal (I'm hoping this won't be a long time but it is what it is).   While I find it annoying to again be in the presence of this ugly gray accessory, my experience on saturday was amazing and I suppose doing a self supported half iron with a deformed toe makes me even more of a badass (either that or just dumb).  I'm staying positive it'll heal up soon and I'll be ready to rock and roll again for the rest of my year.