Tuesday, February 24, 2015

just...different

I posted my last emotional internet missive the day before I left Hawaii.  I thought that I had had some good lightbulb moments, I realized that back home in training I had been coasting a bit, I had a few days of experiencing what it meant to actually bear down and work, to chase a wheel, to swim hard on not enough rest, I thought I knew.  I even had a really nice chat with Michelle after a glass of wine about how I felt like some of the things I thought to be true about myself had been broken a bit after the week of training.  And then I had one more day of swim bike run in the sunny hot sunshine.  We started out with a pretty hard swim.  Coasting on the success of my Monday morning time in the water, I slaughtered it, I felt great, I swam my ass off...and got out of the water so smashed that I had the thought umm I really wish that was the only workout I had to do today because I might have just emptied my tank.

Got home, stuffed some food down, and rolled out.  There were four of us, and Michelle was good about planning our ride, this person rides here and gaps back from this wheel etc, so we would get our work done without tripping all over each other.  It was one of those days where you groan, loudly, when you push the first pedal stroke around because your quads are not particularly interested in waking up.  But we got going, and I started putting calories down (act of desperation), and then it was time to start the work, so I sat up and soft-pedaled so that I could peel off the back and when I was far enough out of the draft I popped down into my bars and hit lap.
The first few minutes of an interval are always chasing power, first it's 700 and then it's 50 and then back to 700 and it takes a moment to dial in the effort.  But once I did, I was inching up on our quarter-mile long pace line, and I didn't really think I was supposed to be, so I stayed glued to the meter and was really careful to not be overly hammering.  As we worked through the first one, I crept around and ended up sucked onto Heidi's wheel who was sitting on Michelle's, and there were four more minutes to go, and my power dropped into the basement and there was a literal shitstorm going down in my head.  Somewhere along the way, I've been taught that going off the front can be taken as a huge sign of disrespect, and I've ridden with people who have felt the need to say fuck the workout I'm going to teach you a lesson for doing so.  But that was crossed with, oh man, my power numbers aren't even close to where they should be and I'm going to get in so much trouble for this (which is also, of course, completely ridiculous, but like I said, shitstorm).  Another minute went by and I finally decided that not hitting numbers was the worse sin so I swung out and pushed past, yelling I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry over my shoulder as I went.  I spent the rest of the interval wanting to jump out of my skin, waiting for I'm not even sure I knew what I thought might be coming but it felt bad.  It ended, I hit lap and sat up into the recovery and a moment later Michelle pulled up next to me and hollered GOOD GIRL!! at just about the top of her voice and I almost burst into confused-and-relieved-head-case tears right there on my bike somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  
But it isn't the breakthrough, exactly, that matters.  The breakthrough is fun, and that day, on the bike, I rode exactly what I supposed to ride and I surprised myself and something broke, something small but definite, shattered.  We got off the bike and ran hard downhill repeats and I surprised myself a bit more, and I'm sure I slobbered all over the place trying to explain to Michelle why I was such a freakin' bag of crazy, but that's not what is actually important.  A breakthrough is just one day.  And there are a shitload of Nike commercials and instagram quotes that say something along the lines of doing work, quietly, where no one can see it, day in and day out is what builds a champion.  What matters is the aftermath.  It's what I do with the breakthrough.  Do I write it down, chalk it up to an awesome experience, and fly back to Colorado and fall back into all my same old patterns?  Because it's easy to shake my sweaty hair out of the bike helmet after a ride like that and declare to myself everything is going to be different now but to come home, to hold myself to that thought, those ideals, day in and day out, when I'm tired and it's cold and snowing (or, all right, 65º in February and perfect sunshine) and I'm not in Hawaii being sparkly in front of my coach anymore, can I still find this feeling?
The first few days, it was easy.  Colorado was graced with a magical slice of spring, and it's not hard to be motivated and at the top of your game when you can be running around outside in shorts.  But I feel, quietly, a little bit different.  My attitude feels different, the work feels different.  I'm not drifting towards the future, I'm not doing much wondering about what this will look like in a few months, I'm simply trying to start every day with the intention of giving 100% to everything I do, including mid-ride pit-stop selfies.  
I read an article just this morning about expectancy theory.  A coach creates expectations about an athlete; expectations influence the coach's behavior towards the athlete; the athlete becomes aware of expectations and adjusts self-perceptions and behaviors; athlete performance falls in line with initial expectations.  I find this kind of thing utterly fascinating.  And to remove the coach-athlete relationship, and replace it with my relationship with myself as an athlete, there's something fun to chew on.  If I believe that I have high expectations for myself, I'm going to be pleased when I perform up to those expectations and unhappy when I don't reach them.  But what if I am actually holding myself back with these expectations?  This is the shift I'm working on.  One of the first hard workouts I had back in Colorado was in the pool, and instead of looking at the send-offs and calculating what I needed to swim to make them, I swam as hard as I thought appropriate and then was startled by the time on the clock.  I continued that way through the workout, to the point where I actually adjusted the send-offs down by 10" because it was more than enough.  I removed the expectations I had placed on myself and my performance and over the course of an hour, surprised myself over and over in the water.  I wonder what in the hell kind of athlete I would be if I could do that day in and day out?



It won't always work out, it won't always be a grand slam.  This past Sunday, I was tired in the water, I had a 1K to descend and the 200 split I caught made me snort, stop, and pull on gear to finish it out.  But then I got pissed off at myself, I spent 300 yards arguing about why I had done that, returned to my coasting behavior, and I ended up taking off the paddles and descending that motherfucker right down.  I had some hard 50s and 25s to swim after that and I know the difference between good enough and the best I can do.  And it's just some 50s at the end of a long day that capped off a long week, it certainly would have been acceptable to swim a bunch of 38s at the end of that session but being able to write in my log :35 :34 :36 :35, it made a difference to ME.  The same thing happened in my long ride on Saturday, the same thing happened during my hill repeats, this tiny weird crazy argument with myself is showing up all over my training and there's no wonder why as I've been giving into it for a long time.
I work hard, I'm a workhorse, it's what I do.  I'll never forget talking to my horn professor in graduate school after a disappointing performance and telling him that I thought I needed to work harder and him telling me, no, you don't, it's what I tell so-and-so, no one works harder than Katie.  But I wonder if sometimes I hide in this work ethic.  I'm checking the boxes, putting in the miles, but I'm holding back in small ways that sure do add up.  When we got off our bikes in Hawaii, Michelle looked at me and said, this is a good thing but now my expectations have gone way up here (imagine holding hand above bike helmet) and that was a little bit scary, but it's what I need.  This is why we have coaches, by the way, because someone else standing outside looking in might be able to figure out the tiny little key to unlocking your bullshit and then pushing you up and over the line.  So I'm back in Colorado, I'm surrounded by friends and training partners alike, and every day I feel a little bit more like something is rumbling, getting ready to turn over.  Different.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

on sunshine & being uncomfortable

I keep half-writing blog posts on planes or buses or in coffee shops, and then a few days pass and I realize it's all totally out of date, that the crap I had to say that seemed so important just gets command-A + deleted.  But I want to get something down, if for no other reason that to remember the things that I keep repeating in my head, ranting or venting or celebrating or just pondering over and over while my body pushes out the miles.  (Seen on the run two hours before departing Colorado).
Backing up a bit.  It's kind of hilarious, I said to the post as he drove me to the airport last Sunday through four inches of fresh snow.  We moved here because Boulder gets 400 sunny days a year, yet every February I pack up and leave to go train in the sunshine.  Three years in a row now I've done this, dismantled the bike and picked a fight with United on social media and headed west with all the running shorts I can current shoehorn myself into.  On the surface, traveling to the sunny days, to riding my bike outside without being layered under every piece of warm gear I own, running without a shirt (sorry) and soaking up the vitamin D, but it's also a few lucky days of laughing, moving, and some good reminders about why I do what I do, and where I want to go from here.
The last two years I've been lucky enough to crash Anabel's training in southern California but this trip around the sun has brought Michelle into my life.  We had a short conversation back in the winter that had me booking a plane ticket not to the palm trees and beaches of Santa Monica but instead a few zillion miles further west to Hawaii where we apparently cannot take selfies with our helmets on straight.
Coming out of the fall, I had some shit to figure out.  The off season helped a ton.  It was a relief to land there with a THUD the day after IMAZ, I needed the downtime to focus on other things.  And by the time January rolled around, the wheels had started to turn again.  Someone posted one of those quizzes on Facebook a while back, about whether you make progress better as an abstainer or a moderator.  Is it better to go cold turkey or to ease out of the mess?  And for me, always, cold turkey.  There is so much less decision fatigue involved in nope I am not doing any of this for X time than the exhaustion that comes daily with am I going to train?  eat?  drink this?  So at the beginning of January, I kicked off another adjusted-for-training-whole30.  The first few days were uncomfortable, but in a way that is familiar, I am doing something good for my body and I am on track and this will pass kind of uncomfortable.  I remember on day eleven, I woke up and felt goddamn amazing.  I floated through my training, I felt good about everything I ate, I was rolling.  The better I ate, the better I felt, the better I slept, the better I trained (and the less my husband wanted to strangle me).  I was in the groove, firing hard, and then there was a tiny blip when my back went out again.  At the time, of course, it felt like the end of the world (so much for not wanting to strangle me).  And even though this is the third time it's happened in my life, I still didn't recognize it right away as my wacky sacrum tilting and rotating and jamming the whole joint up.  (This is the I haven't gotten out of my sweatpants in three days selfie, plus a dog butt). 
Yet again, I rang all the alarm bells I could ring, sent off all the bat signals and the only reason I guess I'm mentioning it is so I can remember, it happens, it goes out but someone can always slam it back in, and all the while, life goes on.  It went out on Monday and I was able to get back in the pool by Friday morning, I went to masters and swam about half my usual yardage and every time I touched the wall, I popped up to the surface of the water bubbling over with the sweet and overwhelming relief that comes along with finally, the absence of pain.  The summary of all of this, I suppose, is that sometimes your body is just a jerk for no reason even if you are doing everything right but maybe (?) the universe was actually helping me out because I landed in Hawaii a bit more rested and motivated and eager to really get after it than I might have been otherwise.
On the plane, on the way here, I was thinking a bit about the last time I shipped myself off to training camp, and how different of a space my brain is in right now.  I was chasing all these carrots, some dangling from ego, from vanity, from shame.  I wanted to run well in ironman, I wanted to be able to ride with the big boys, I wanted to not hate the way I looked in running shorts.  And all of those things were really motivating, for a while.  But now a year has passed and I'm not altogether sure what I am chasing.  I talked a couple weeks ago about working on my run, but I'm not sure that's exactly it.  Thinking about it on the plane, I was a bit unsettled, but now as I've worked through this week that feeling has melted away.  There is so much happiness for me in the here and now of training, I will take a good solid day over a race in a second, sunshine and pedaling and feeling strong, those are my best days, and this week has been full of them (still crooked).
Something I realized, maybe I always get a taste when I train with new people or just remove myself from my tiny bubble of Boulder, is that I love training with people who love to train.  There's no bullshit, no whining, no one wants to talk about how they feel, no it's raining so let's just bail to the treadmill or even any discussion about anything except the how and the when, it gets done, check the box and move along.  On Tuesday, it was pouring and crazy with rain, we swam in it and then we ran in it.  And there was no IF about it, we just changed into run clothes and headed out and you know what, we got the work done and we got a little wet and that was that.  No fuss, no muss, I don't think anyone even posted on twitter about how much of a badass they were.  I love that, and I think it's something that has maybe been a bit lacking in my environment in Boulder, in my circles, and in my own brain.  (The other bike I rode in Hawaii selfie).
We did two long rides while I was here.  I spent some time in the first hour, especially on the second day, with a feeling that I recognize and it's called you guys I am really not sure I can push the pedals like this for the next four hours but both days, I was surprised to find that I could hang.  I was more than fine.  On the second day I chased a paceline that broke away too quickly for me to really be able to latch on but I chased it for 30+ minutes anyway, and I found that could push myself in a way I honestly didn't know that I could do.  But here's the fun.  Now?  I know.  
That feeling, realizing that, it comes with a truckload of emotional garbage.  It's startling, and also I feel a bit silly, but it also opens my eyes super wide to the potential that might be out there for me.  One of my biggest takeaways from this week, I think, is busting through all the crap that I've been thinking about myself as an athlete.  For months, even for years, all these things that I have believed about myself - they are just plain old not true.  It's that simple.  Michelle is strong as fuck and yes, we were doing a nice long aerobic ride and I was saving plenty of watts by glomming on her delicious wheel, but I hung onto that sucker and after the initial oh shit oh shit oh shit faded away, it didn't even hurt that much to do so.  Ceiling, shattered.  (And then there were donuts in the bike-to-swim transition area because Michelle is goddamn amazing).
And I found that feeling again and again.  I didn't swim well the first entire week, I felt out of sorts and the pool was long and slow and I was trying to adjust a few things in my stroke and shit, sometimes the swim simply isn't there and I wasn't all that worried about it but when it did finally decide to show up, just this morning, hot damn did it feel good.  It was uncomfortable, it wasn't nearly as much rest as I wanted and it was effort dialed up to the max, and I had the thought, I wonder if I was doing this session on my own, if I would be pushing myself like this.  And just the fact that I was even thinking that thought tells me, WELP, probably not.  Not all the time.  About a year or so ago I had a realization that I wasn't pushing myself in training, and it was a big AHA moment for me when that happened.  And certainly now, there are some workouts that I bust my ass on (15x1', looking at you), but if I honestly reflect, do I bring that kind of intention to every single session that I do?  Or do I sometimes still coast a bit and then throw on paddles to make the intervals and call it good, because I'm staying out of the place in training where it's not hard, but it's uncomfortable?  The latter, definitely, and that's a tough truth to admit when I consider myself a workhorse.  But turning the boxes green and getting in the miles isn't the same as bringing 100% of my effort and just plain old TRY to training, and I've got one more day here to soak in that feeling before I take my bike apart and return to windy snow breezy snow sunshine snow where I do most of it alone and have only myself to hold me accountable in those moments.  

Swim, bike, run, that was my week by the teeth.  But closer to the core, oh - oh - OH - AHA - those were the things I found in Hawaii.  I'm coming out of this week full of questions.  What would my swim look like if I sought out that uncomfortable feeling more often in the water?  What in the actual hell can I do on the bike if I push myself on aerobic rides like that all the time, instead of believing the same old story I've been telling myself oh Katie just can't get her heart rate up oh well?  And the run, I don't even know what questions I'm supposed to be asking there, but, what could that look like over time?  (I know Garmin pics are obnoxious but I haven't posted one in like four years and it's my longest run since ironman and shit, at least it's not another selfie right?)
Last year, in January, I decided that I wanted certain things in my life to change.  I took a picture of myself squashed into a pair of run shorts and made it the background of my phone, because I wanted to be reminded, often, every day, of what I wanted, what was important, what motivated me.  I wanted to be faced with the thing I no longer wanted so I was making choices through the filter of desire, to change.  And even though I was mortified more than once by someone picking up my phone and asking do you like your ass so much you want to see it all the time?, I kept it there, and it worked.  Little stupid shit, that's what we do, but if it works, who cares?  Who is it hurting?

The background on my phone for the past two months has been this.
Because that's where I am.  That's what I need to be reminded of, that is what I need.  I know that the thing that is holding me back the most in this sport is confidence.  I don't do things on race day because I don't believe I can.  But I also have learned that the breeding ground for confidence in myself is surrounding myself with people who believe in me.  Who see potential, strength, greatness, despite my many and varied flaws as a human wandering this planet.  That's how I finally cracked the nut of the ironman run back in November, and I'm going to finally say, in print, that I think that run is just the beginning.  I think - no, I know - that there is a better run inside me, a better day entirely, and it's a complete 180º from how I felt last July going into IM Boulder, but it's my joy.  And I'm going to chase that motherfucker down.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Polar Prowl 5K: race report

So, this post comes along with a higher-than-usual amount of navel-gazing and vanity reflection.  If that kind of thing makes you want to set your eyeballs on fire, this is your warning to click away.

Last January I raced a 10K in Bear Creek Park.  On the scale of all of the things in the universe, it ranked a relatively awful.  My knee hurt, a lot, it had been hurting for a while and I was rotating through shoes and bike fits and physical therapists and general acts of complete desperation.  I slaughtered myself for a 57:11.  My biggest superfan in the world came along and cheered and took pictures and I spent most of the drive home reviewing them in abject horror.  I never even posted a race report about the race, I was so disgusted with myself, the day I had, the state my body was in.  Frustrated that I've spent so much time and energy and certainly money on this sport that I claim to love and I can't even run 9 minute pace for an hour on a random Sunday morning and I end up facing pictures of myself with four ass cheeks and extra boob hanging out all over the damn place.  
For that reason, yes, vanity indeed, that was the day that I decided, enough.  Enough bitching about how unhappy I am about the way I look and feel and sleep and run and move, enough settling for the body and mind and life I have instead of making the hard choices to seek out the one I want.  The next day was a Monday.  After masters, I dragged a giant bag of shoes into the office of yet another physical therapist who swore up and down he could straighten me out.  I limped home from that appointment and read It Starts With Food in one afternoon, I ordered a pair of running shorts that were a full size smaller, and I replaced my bedtime mixing bowl of ice cream with a cup of tea.  And just like that, in one day, everything changed.  

So. This little 5K.  I have always professed a pretty severe hatred for the distance.  Suffering and I are not friends, I have never understood those who revel in the pain of it, I would much rather cruise along at 75% of what I've got for hours and hours than smash the shit out of myself for 25 minutes.  And the things we hate...are probably the things we should be doing more of in life.  A few weeks ago I ran the Santa Stampede 5K down in Littleton.  I had an athlete racing the 10K so I hopped on board, ran my guts out for a 25:02 and called it good.  That same athlete decided to race an early January half marathon (insanity) and when I learned that the race had a 5K option, I invited myself along for the day.  I managed to drag another one of my athletes into the fun and there we go, it was a party.
I kicked off the day by not getting nearly enough sleep (HUNTER) and then forgetting my Garmin and my sunglasses.  We made a quick stop at WalMart for a cheap Timex and some aviators and then rolled down to Bear Creek.  I didn't realize until we turned off the highway that this was the same park that I ran that 10K last January, the one that will go down in my universe as the race that flipped my switch.  But it was.  And I'm only right now a few weeks back into training and eating properly and not drinking like a fish but the contrast between where I am and where I was a year ago, to me inside my own tiny fluff ball universe, is staggering.
The half marathon left and Emma and I headed out to warm up, I realized three steps into it that I had forgotten both of my inhalers so my warm-up was a weird out-and-back-to-drop-bags-to-the-car-back-to-bags-now-strides-bags-again.  I felt okay, certainly not sparkly and fresh but I've learned that it takes me a good 20+ minutes to be loose enough to race a 5K and that was there.  We lined up, the race was pretty small and there was a tiny girl in racing flats hanging out at the front, I asked her what she was planning on running and then made a mental note not to try and hang, settled myself a couple of rows back and off we went.

Racing without the Garmin was pretty brilliant and I think I'd like to keep doing it for shorter races.  I spent the first mile having no idea how fast I was running, so instead I had to focus on effort and form and control (weird).  I counted five women that went out ahead of me, and another one flew by about 20 yards into the race, so there were six up there.  But as that first mile went by, I started to reel them in, and by the time I split the first mile, I was in fourth.  Mile one, a bit friendly terrain: 7:20, mental check: this is either going to go really well or you are so totally fucked.
Mile two had a short up and then a long down and then a steep up and then we turned around a tiny cone in the middle of the trail and headed back.  By the time we hit the turn-around, I had caught another woman and I counted as I headed up to make sure my math was right, I was in third.  But I watched behind me as I headed back and learned that the next woman was less than 10 seconds behind me.  Laughed at the second mile split, which I knew was going to be slow because of all the climbing on the trail, 8:35 (ouch).
There was one more long up at the start of mile three, I tried to keep form under control although race photos reveal there is still so much work to do here, and every step I was running completely fucking terrified of being caught.  My shoe came untied at some point in the second mile and there was no way in hell I was going to stop and tie it.  I remembered the 5K I ran in PA a few years ago, where my brain cruised in instead of chasing the girl that landed me in fourth overall as opposed to third, and how pissed I was at myself after the race for not going for it.  I caught a couple of men in front of me that were walking, the woman in second place was long gone, I was breathing so hard and my bib was flapping and I couldn't tell if someone was right on my shoulder or if I was just hearing my own noisy racing elephant self stampeding towards the finish.  The mile three marker came into view (8:00) and footsteps came flying up behind me, my angry brain yelled NOOOOO inside my head and I tried to find one more gear, the footsteps passed me with less than 10 feet to go to the finish and I choked out I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE A MAN before staggering across the line and to a stop (24:55). 
I am sure, I am completely 100% positive, that I have never hurt like this in a race before, ever.  The only thing I was thinking about during that last mile was what I could do to not get caught, I don't think I've ever understood quite so clearly the motivating power of fear but it was there and pulled the best race out of me that I was going to find on Saturday.  Not the fastest 5K of my life (although I will tip my hat a little to the difficulty of this course) but certainly the best, cleanest, hardest I have ever run this distance.  And with that, strangely enough, comes a desire to do it again.  
I've never been on an overall run podium before, even at tiny races the best I've done is to place in my age group, and no matter how much I want to qualify this with the size of the race and the time of the year (who runs fast in January?), I haven't and I won't, but I'm also not going to spend a lot of time reveling in it.  I worked hard for that place, I wrecked myself and was lucky enough to land on the box, and I spent a few minutes in the car on the way home smiling a little bit and feeling a bit proud, but that was it.  No pancakes no new running shorts no fancy hot tea, the things that I usually use to treat myself with when I'm feeling particularly up or down.  Instead I went home to my puppies, I realized that the weather was nice enough to ride outside for the first time in several months and I enjoyed a peaceful spin on a quiet afternoon.  Reflecting.  Another day, another opportunity to realize that while I always want to be working, changing, looking ahead, I am at peace with myself right now.  Mind and body.  And there is no greater feeling in the world, than that.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

the off season

Every year, I take the off-season more seriously.
Last year I was forced into it by a yes-I'll-finally-admit-it-was-broken arm, but that combined with an unsatisfying race meant I was itching to get back training by about mid-December.  I think I gave myself about a week or so of rest and then I filled the rest of the month by trying to do things my body wasn't ready for (see: swimming), getting annoyed, saying fuck it and drinking beer, rinse and repeat.  I was thrilled when the colored boxes of January 1 showed back up in my life.
This year was different.  There was absolutely no itch.  And I think that's part of being incredibly grateful for a solid season.  If we're counting, which obviously I am because I'm the boss around here, I PR'd every leg of every distance that I raced this year, and some of those were significant.  But WAY more important than any PRs, I figured out some of my shit.  I made changes.  I tried new things.  I was healthy, credit should be distributed a few places to all the people in my village who worked hard on my often-uncooperative body, but start to finish 2014 was the healthiest and most consistent year I've had.  And when I closed out my season with the best ironman I've been able to put together - so far - it left me at peace.  Content.  No itch to train, no being mad at people jogging because I had to rest, no driving to the gym "just" to swim twenty minutes, nothing.  More than ready for a few weeks of eating and sleeping and cooking and traveling and all the other things that I fill my life with when I'm not happily bouncing along the hamster wheel of training.
Only because I know I'll look back at this in a year and wonder, I'll share.  I took two weeks completely off.  During the second week, I had a minor medical procedure done that prevented me from any activity at all, but even during the first week I had zero desire to do anything.  We traveled home from Arizona the day after the race, and the next day I boarded a plane back east to visit friends and family.  No swim cap, no running shoes, no spandex.  No checking pool schedules and setting alarms so I could run before anyone woke up.  Just, off.  I stopped being horrified by bread baskets, I stopped trying to keep sugar at a reasonable level, I drank wine, there was obviously plenty of tequila, beer, potato chips, I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was sleepy and those two things took up 90% of my time.

And it was good.  I blew back through Colorado and then headed out to California to support several of my athletes that were running the marathon.  I swam a little with them while I was there and I probably ran seven miles in two-minute-sprints doing bottle hand-offs and check-ins all over the course.  There was a gorgeous early morning run right with Ashley before I got on the plane, but none of it was because I had to, it was simply because this is the rhythm of my life.  I flew home Monday night and spent Tuesday getting my shit together to start training again, so of course I woke up Wednesday morning bright and early and ready to head to the pool, with a sore throat.  
My only guess is that my body wasn't ready to be done resting.  I waffled between taking days off and plowing through some training anyway, and after about ten days of that and (shockingly) not getting any better, I ended up in a doctor's office getting a stern lecture and almost a month of antibiotics, which I hate because I believe that antibiotics are creating a world that will one day be wiped out by a super-bug a la The Stand but that is completely beside the point, which is this: one of these years, I will learn.  
I always really enjoy coming back from a training break, at least for about two weeks, and then I'm just annoyed that my fitness doesn't magically spring back and that none of my running shorts fit.  But the first little while is happy, I spend the time laughing to myself about the paces I have to run to keep my heart rate low and checking the batteries in the power meter over and over and at least the swim is somewhat okay because all of the added buoyancy is sorta helpful, those weeks are fun for me and, more importantly, I think they are necessary.  I ran a 5K in there somewhere (seriously, maybe someday I will learn?), a coughing choking hip-collapsing effort that left me wondering when 8-minute pace got so hard.  
The antibiotics kicked in (FINE modern medicine is wonderful) and I got moving again, enough for me to rip off a 10K swim on New Year's Day without too much struggle.  This is the third 10K swim I've done in my life.  The first was way back in 2011 with my good friend Emily in the sketchy basement of the LA Fitness where I trained for ironman number one and I'm really only mentioning it so I can post this amazing photo of our goggle marks.  
The second I did alone, this year, the day after my birthday with an absolutely appalling hangover.  And the third was last week, I had the company of two of my athletes (not to mention two separate master's groups that came and went while we continued to flip, flip, flip) and an awesome and not-that-crazy-at-all set from Michelle.  It was fun (it was long), we all know the pool is my happy place and I do well on anything steady with good intervals, I settle into the clock and counting flip turns and calculating send-offs and all of a sudden 9600 yards has gone by and it's time to cool down.  
One more tiny thing in my long list of random gibberish.  This post doesn't really have a point other than spitting out things I'd like to be able to look back on next year when I am bitching about being fat and slow, and the biggest thing that happened in December is that we brought home another (yes, a fourth) puppy.
After my last blog post, the poet and I had a conversation, maybe the thousandth one, about bringing another love home, and it was finally the right time.  It happened quite quickly, there were some emails and then I went to meet him and the next day we had our foster visit and he was home.  Ours.  His name is Hunter, he has a very sweet personality with just the slightest hint of side-eye.  I know that saying this in a public place is going to bite me in the ass, but out of our four, this is the easiest puppy-transition we've had.  He mostly sleeps through the night, he cries for just a few minutes in his crate, he knows how to sit and wait for his dinner, and there have been not that many potty-training incidents in the three weeks that he has lived here.  Sofie has only tried to kill him twice, Graham is thrilled to have a new playmate and Molly refuses to acknowledge that his existence other than to throw him a look of sheer disdain if he happens to get within eight feet of her.  
I'm not planning on a 2014 recap post (which is good as it's already January sixth and I think that blogging ship has sailed).  Everything that I want to remember is already up in this space and I don't have the desire to rehash it all (other that the video I put together in the days before Christmas because it made me happy to do so).  It was a good year.  Life, relationships, training, friends, dogs, love, travel, races, all of it.  Hundreds of spectacular moments.  
I am looking forward to 2015.  I'm not about to spout off a list of goals as that isn't what gets my fire burning hot, but I am quietly starting to piece together the shape of the year.  Someone on Twitter shared an except from the book Burn Your Goals and I downloaded it to read (although the shared excerpt, so far, is the best piece of the book).  The author says, I want to know what you are committed to doing with your 24 hours a day to close the gap between who you are and where you want to be.  I've been thinking about that a lot lately, about the concept of being in the moment and not worrying too much about what's going to happen in the future, and it helps to ground me.  What can I do today to be the best wife, friend, athlete, coach that I can be?  And, in my athletic space, what are the controllables that I am ready and willing to commit to working on?  That's easy - my weakness in this sport is very clear.  So I've spent the past few weeks asking questions, analyzing, approaching the work with intention instead of just checking off the boxes, picking the brains of anyone who will let me rifle through their personal encyclopedias of knowledge, forcing myself out of my comfort zone, adding to the village I have built.  I am committing to learning more about myself, about my body and what it needs outside of the carousel of swim-bike-run that I ride ten or eleven months out of the year.  And last year I learned a good lesson about the effect that small changes can have, done regularly and consistently and applied to time, I learned that, how after even a few short months, your life can become unrecognizable.  
But along with commitments, thinking about the gap.  I learned last year that I am light of heart in that gap, living, flying, weightless in the space between the two trapezes.  I learned that change is cumulative, I know that there is still a cavernous distance between who I am and where I want to be, but I learned that it is okay to exist, there.  Last spring I spent a week training in southern California with a good friend and it was on that trip that I realized that my happiness comes from the work, the chase, plotting, planning, working, growing.  And the work I did last winter spring-boarded me into one of the most joyful - albeit imperfect - years of my life.  Now it's January.  Simply time to begin, again.