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running through the blah-ness

As you can probably tell from my last post and the ridiculous length of time that has passed since then, I’ve been struggling with motivation.

Apparently, this is not an issue for Cardi B.

The blah-ness is usually at its worst on my long runs, so I’ve had to employ some strategies to keep things interesting. A few ideas that have worked for me:

Podcasts. Until very recently, I never ran with headphones (or earbuds or whatever the hell you want to call them – I’m old) because I was convinced I was going to get abducted and murdered or run over by a hybrid. Then I bought a pair of these guys, which allow me to listen to podcasts while still being able to hear my surroundings. Life-changing!

Current favorite podcasts include “Women Who Travel” (love the interview with Jessica Nabongo, who is currently on track to become the first Black woman to travel to every country in the world), “Work Play Love” (retired pro runner Lauren Fleshman and her pro triathlete husband, Jesse Thomas, talk about motivation in sport, work-life-training balance, and self-acceptance as an athlete – all wonderful, positive topics for a long run), “This Filipino American Life” (the episodes cover so much of what growing up was like for me), and “Game of Thrones” fan theory podcasts (no shame for my inner geek – love me some Bald Move and Binge Mode, but ugh with the way Season 8 went).

Finding new routes. I tend to run the same two routes over and over again, which is incredibly boring and tedious. So I’m trying to mix it up, even if this means simply running one block over from the street I usually run on. It’s a small change, but at least there’s something new to look at. (Side note: You know you’re old when you enjoy checking out people’s yards, taking mental notes about which perennials you should incorporate into your own landscape.)

Spotted these on a recent run. Aren't they pretty?

Signing up for races. I’ve been using local races for my long runs – instead of competitions, I view them as supported long runs where I’m surrounded by people, can practice my nutrition/hydration plan, and not get distracted and spend 20 minutes shooting an Instagram story about a random cat on the sidewalk. I did the Hot Chocolate 15K in April and the Birdtown 13.1 this past weekend and had a great time. No PRs were set (that wasn’t the point), but they were both successful training runs.

Races are also a great way to make friends, dead or otherwise.

bad days

There are those people on social media who are happy and smiling and always motivated to “do hard things” and “get after it.” And they end up on podiums and qualify for championships and have legit abs and triceps and glutes so powerful they could probably crack an acorn with their buttcheeks.

And then there is me.

This photo sums up this entire blog post.

I often feel like I suck so hard at triathlon that it’s comedy. You’d think that since I’ve been doing this shit since 2011 I would have actually developed – oh, I don’t know – some remote level of skill, or even just basic coordination. But I am the person who somehow manages to totally faceplant simply trying to get on my bike. (And no it wasn’t moving. I just fell for no reason and then bled in public and passersby were concerned and it was horribly embarrassing.)

I would also like to point out that my half marathon PR is from 2011 – yes, that is eight years ago – and since then I just seem to be running slower and getting injured more frequently. (I’m also really good at tripping on absolutely nothing while running. Maybe my true calling in life is to be a professional faller. Is there a Kona for clumsiness? Because I would crush that shit.)

And I cannot even tell you how frustrated I am with swimming right now (yes, this is like a complete 180 from how I felt in November). It's like no matter how hard I work and how many hours I spend in the pool and how early I get up for masters (seriously, why are all masters swim programs at like 6 a.m.?), I still can’t consistently break 2 minutes/100 yards. Yeah, every once in awhile I’ll surprise myself, but for the most part, nothing has changed speed-wise. (And I guarantee you it will be even worse in open water because once I am in that tight-ass wetsuit in a murky lake thinking of sea monsters and submerged disembodied limbs, all semblance of form is completely and totally forgotten.)

I went to a stroke correction clinic in January and spent half a day getting my stroke filmed and then subsequently picked apart by a classroom of people (now that was a humbling experience and I will be forever haunted by horrible images of myself executing what can only be described as the flop-flail of desperation). I am now constantly doing endless painful drills to attempt to correct everything I have spent my entire life doing wrong in the pool (and believe me, there is a lot).

A screenshot from the stroke analysis: I immediately see five things that are wrong. There are probably more. This is like a Highlights game for bad swimmers!

Honestly, sometimes I just want to cry into my goggles and give away my spandex and move to the mountains and stop talking to anyone who isn't a cat.

Except that knowing my luck, I’ll find a way to fall and crack my head open but no one will know so then I'll just lie there until I get eaten by my cats because that actually is a thing that happens in real life.

allez allez

Last month I ran my first race in France.

My aunt (who is also my godmother and the visionary individual who introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien, inspiring my life-long love of Middle-earth and a somewhat unfortunate dwarf rune tramp stamp) and I took advantage of a fare sale and escaped to Paris for a long weekend.

Coincidentally, our weekend away was also the same weekend of the Course de la Saint-Valentin, a 10K organized by the Paris Frontrunners, an LGBT running club. The race is four hilly loops through the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which is one of my favorite places in Paris and also happens to be where I rolled my ankle and ended up with a cuboid stress fracture six years ago. I took this as my opportunity for a do-over and signed up immediately.

C'est magnifique!

One thing to know about racing in France: There is a mandatory medical release form for every race. It must be signed by a doctor, and you will get e-mails in French every few days until you upload the completed form. Luckily, I had my annual physical in January, so timing worked out for me to have my doctor complete it. (Also, my aunt – in addition to being a book binding artist, owner of a massive stamp collection, and mother to a crazy cockatiel named Gershwin – is a doctor. So I was doubly covered.)

And then there was the race swag.

Yes, that is a condom. When I showed it to my aunt, her immediate comment was, “So is that French sizing?” (She was also quite thrilled by the sexual health literature that accompanied said condom. Best French vocabulary lesson ever.)

Race day was equally awesome. Many runners were in costume. (My favorite: Gay Ninja turtles, complete with green body paint.) And the active warm-up was a riot – I couldn’t stop laughing! (Picture Mario and Luigi joyfully doing squats.) And crowd support was on point too. (There were drag queen cheerleaders who swatted you on the butt with a leather whip as you ran past.)

Post-race yoga with your favorite Nintendo characters.

 This was a slow race for me (much hillier than I’m used to – finished in 1:00:59), but I had a blast!

arctic blast

So up until recently, I thought "arctic blast" was just a cute name for really, really minty gum. I have since learned it is an actual weather phenomenon that involves life-threatening cold and record-shattering low temperatures.

Also, it is currently a very real thing here in Minnesota.

It was -18 with a -41 wind chill when I left the pool yesterday. My hair froze in the minute it took to walk from the gym to the car. 

When I went to bed last night, the wind chill was -50 degrees. No, that is not a typo.

Work was closed today because of the weather, and I just got a text telling me it will be closed again tomorrow.

I cough the second I step outside and inhale. Touching the metal handle on the storm door hurts. A friend in Washington wants me to blow bubbles and see if they turn into ice.

I have heard that skin can freeze in less than five minutes, that boiling water thrown from a pot will immediately evaporate, that you shouldn't fart because ice crystals will form on the seat of your pants. 

It makes me very grateful to have a warm, safe place to cozy up in. With cats. Because always cats.

the big picture

As part of the planning process for 2019, my coach started a conversation about vision. And by vision, she means something bigger than a to-do list or a New Year’s resolution, something audacious and scary and possibly even requiring many years of work and commitment.

From our trip to Japan in April 2018: Origami cranes in Kyoto -- they symbolize wishes and intentions.

 Oddly, my long-term, pie-in-the-sky goal has nothing to do with triathlon or anything remotely athletic. I don’t want to go to Kona (racing in heat, humidity, and wind isn’t my thing), unless it’s to volunteer and cheer for my friends and teammates until I lose my voice. I don’t dream about Boston (honestly, I don’t even think I like running stand-alone marathons very much – for some reason, a marathon seems so much easier when it’s at the end of an Ironman – yeah, I am probably insane but whatever). I don’t fantasize about RAAM or swimming the English Channel or running a race on every continent (although all of these sound fun, as long as no drowning is involved).

What I really want to do is live abroad.

Kilkenny last November -- I tagged along on one of Big Gingers businessman trips.

Big Ginger and I have been discussing this for awhile – it’s something we both dream about. I don’t know if this means saving up and taking a year off to travel, or finding a job in another country, but the thought of going somewhere totally different sounds incredibly liberating and challenging and so exciting. (Also: Adopting cats of multiple nationalities, sort of like the Jolie-Pitts, but with more floof and a happier ending.)

We know people who’ve done this (not the cat herd part, but the living abroad part), so we know it’s possible. We have friends who have careers that transferred them abroad, and friends who sold everything, quit their jobs, and are currently traveling (and no, they aren’t recent college graduates with a trust fund – they’re responsible, grown-ass adults who are brave enough to live in a way that brings them joy). But what seems so daunting is how. How do you find these opportunities? How do you get to a place where you're financially comfortable enough to make the leap?

So I’m going to put it out there. Going abroad for an extended period of time is my vision. I don’t know how long it will take to make it into reality, but I can start working on it. I can ask questions and do research and open myself to possibility. I can trim my budget and save money and cut down on possessions. I can brush up on my Spanish and learn French. (Big Ginger is really good at German drinking songs – does this count?) And I can keep traveling and exploring new places, even if I can’t stay for as long as I’d like.

Sunset at Playa Avellanas in Costa Rica, February 2016.