Mission

It is my belief that we can become better, happier, and more fulfilled human beings when we give the best of ourselves, and we give of ourselves joyfully. The more we honestly share our experiences of what we are doing to be in service to others, how we are improving our own lives, and how this experience can benefit others, the more we can inspire others to do the same. An upward spiral.

To that end, it is my intent to share my training and racing experience as it happens - from unhealthy, injured, and addicted, to competitive amateur athlete - so that others who can relate may become inspired. Additionally, I want to provide a positive and motivating place where others can share their inspiring personal journeys and promote their cause. If you would like to share your story, please email your story to team@trifundracing.com.

Monday, January 19, 2015

During the Offseason...

This post may be mistitled, since I am now back in the full swing of training for the 2015 season. However, I wanted to give an update on all that has happened in my first offseason. Even though I've technically raced two seasons, I didn't really have the luxury of an offseason last year. I went straight from racing all the way through December to racing in March and then beyond. This year, I was able to give myself a few good months off. And wouldn't you know it, they happened to fall right within the holiday season.

October, November, and December were great months because I didn't have to focus on serious volume training. I could relax and spend a lot more time with the family, sleep in, and generally enjoy the holidays. Not that training isn't enjoyable, in fact I began to miss it a lot, but I learned to appreciate the off time more without having to fit in 20 hour training weeks. Additionally, I was able to do more focused work on areas I needed to improve, and improve my arsenal for the coming year. So here's what happened during the offseason...

I Became a Part of the Smart Triathlon Training Elite Team - For the past couple years, since I began my triathlon training, Luis Vargas and Smart Triathlon Training have coached me through great improvements, and have made the process highly enjoyable. When Luis asked me to be a part of this great team, I was honored and jumped at the opportunity. The guidence and support provided at Smart Triathlon Training is amazing for beginner and veteran triathletes alike. I am privilaged to be joining some amazing athletes on this team, especially since I likely have the shortest resume out of the group. I am certain to learn a lot, and up my game for this year.

I Started Riding a Dimond
I have been so impressed by performance of the Dimond bike this past year, and its respective riders. With only about 100 bikes on the road (and surely growing), Dimond Bikes was represented by 21 athletes at Kona. That's one in five bikes, an impressive rate. That's not to say that the bike is wholly responsible for this result, but it does say something for the company and the class of athlete it attracts. The service and support provided by the guys at Dimond is absolutely terrific, and the community of athletes is awesome. The bike itself rides like a dream, and I will post a separate product feature at some point. I feel faster and fresher, which is an important psychological boost. Plus, it just looks incredible. My only dissatisfaction with the bike is that I can't look at it while I'm riding it. Plus, I do get distracted by the envious stares of other cyclists.


I am stoked about the color scheme I chose for this bike because it looks like a bike that Darth Vader would ride if he was a triathlete. Why is that a big deal? Well, when I thought about it, triathlon has been a conduit for positive life change for me, an overcoming of "the dark side". This bike reminds me of this, and only serves to increase my gratitude. I may even call this baby "The Dark Side." Okay, done nerding out... after one last picture...



I Became a Faster Swimmer
Any of you who have followed this blog have known that I am a terrible swimmer. Even in a sport where most of the athletes call their swim their worst event, I am horrendous. I know that if I can be competitive, I have to be closer to the front of the swim pack. A few small adjustments, thanks to the advice of my coaches and my wife, along with tons of yardage, and I am now about 20 seconds faster per hundred. I've also been working a lot on my turnover rate so that I am doing more strokes per minute. As I begin to increase my volume, I hope that I can maintain this pace and hopefully continue improving.

Bottom line is, I am prepared to race strong and it is my season to lose. Everything feels great. My run and bike are improving as well. And as I begin building my fitness for 2015, here is what I'm training for:

Ironman 70.3 Oceanside
Ironman Texas
Ironman 70.3 Boulder
Ironman Boulder
Ironman World Championship (pending qualification)

I will likely throw a few shorter races in there for fun in the summer, but really the two full distance Ironmans will be my A races.

Every day I stare at a post it note on my computer and my refrigerator that list three times: 1:00, 4:45, and 3:15. These are the times that I want to complete each portion - swim, bike, and run - of the Ironman. Including transitions, this would result in a little over 9 hour Ironman. With history as a guide, this is good enough for a top age group spot, and a Kona qualification. These are lofty goals, and I'm not there yet, but they are goals that I feel are achievable if everything goes well. I'll be the first to admit that reaching these goals may be unlikely, but as I've learned over the past couple years, if you reach high enough, you'd be surprised with what you can grab. And the fact is that I am getting closer to this every day. As long as I continue to put in the work and take the next necessary steps, I will make it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giving

'Tis the season

'Tis the season to be a little more liberal on my diet, to gain a little weight, to indulge, and to simply "think" about stuff.

Some of the stuff I've been thinking about lately as we head into the season of goodwill is how to be a good steward of the abundance we have been blessed with. So, we've learned to be grateful instead of "expecting", and to appreciate what we have instead of being envious and angry for what we don't. That's half the equation for joy, right?

What's the other half? I tend to think the other half comes from our willingness and practice of giving freely of ourselves. While this includes volunteering our time, energy and resources, for the purpose of this post, I'm talking about money.

It's not that I am proposing we part with money because it is the root of all evil. Money is not the root of all evil. As Paul said in his letter to Timothy, it's the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. For sure, the love of money can bring out the worst in people, from "Black Friday" to Bernie Madoff. But money, when deployed in a loving way, can be a catalyst for all kinds of good.

So how do we "give"? Surprisingly, this is not an easy question to answer. The first part of this question would be "how much?", and that's a very personal decision. The word "tithe" means "tenth", and is one such appropriate rate. I personally think this is a good number because it is enough that you "feel" it, but not so much that it becomes the main cause of financial hardship. As Dave Ramsey said, "If you can't live off of 90% of your income, then you can't live off of 100%.

The next question is "where?". As good stewards of our own finances, we would hope that to those we give would be good stewards as well. But that is not always the case. It is not easy to sort through all the charities to find the best cause. Some may appear to be very worthwhile, but operate at high inefficiencies so that the bulk of your donations go not to those who need it, but the continuing operation of the charity itself, or worse yet the pockets of those in the ivory tower. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the charity that's right for your well earned giving fund.

Fund Your Passion:

One of the greatest challenges is determining where to give your hard earned money. The beauty of giving in the internet age is that you have the ability to simply click through to a charity you are passionate about and give away. Whether you wish to help others out of poverty, are inspired by challenged athletes, or are a champion for animal rights, there is something out there for you. However, sifting through the enormous amounts of information can be overwhelming. Even once you do identify what you are passionate about, there are potentially dozens of charities that fit your giving profile. Which leads to the next tip.

Do Your Research

If only there was a free service which could sift through all of the many charities which fit a giving profile. Well, there is! Charity Navigator does just what its name implies. It helps you to navigate through the charities you may be considering, and even find one that may fit your profile. The site is very user friendly, helping you to filter through information by category, providing basic information about the mission and financial statements of the organization, and an overall score based on a series of metrics.

Treat Charities Like Your Investment Portfolio

If you were to invest in a company, one of the primary considerations for your decision would be the value you are receiving for the dollars you are putting in. You want the investment to provide a significant return on your investment that far outweighs the dollar you put in. You should think the same way about charitable giving. How far can your charitable giving go? If the answer is "not much farther than the front door", then perhaps you should move on. However, if a charity provides your dollar has the opportunity to "compound" the good it does in the world, it's worth a hard look.

For example, Charity:Water, a four star Charity Navigator charity, provides clean water solutions to communities all over the world. They are funded by people like you to build the clean water infrastructure in areas that do not have that luxury. On the surface it appears that that's how far your dollar goes. But that is not correct. The secondary benefits to that investment in infrastructure contribute to a vast number of other benefits to the community. The people no longer have to spend hours obtaining water from local ponds, lakes, or rivers (an often dangerous journey for many people), there is less sickness caused by contaminated water, and greater resources become available to the community. All of this leads to greater productivity, longevity, and opportunity. Perhaps even an escape from poverty. All from the simple act of providing clean water. Your dollar can have a deep impact in cases such as these. This is why I support Charity:Water, and other charities like it.

I won't lie, money is a very sensitive issue, and I am walking a fine line even making suggestions as to what people should do with their hard earned money. Money, or lack thereof, leads to very real issues, including family trouble, poverty, anger, obsession, addiction, the list goes on. I'll offer this disclaimer, just as financial advisers do, which is to say that these are only my opinions, which are worth the paper they're printed on. But the best advice I can offer on this subject is to follow your heart. Give joyfully, freely, and thoughtfully - the best way for money to buy happiness.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

That Thanksgiving Post

"Now, let's go around the table and tell everyone what we're thankful for," says the family patriarch as he begins carving the 18lb turkey. You can see in the faces of the entire family, including the one who asked the question, the look of dread and obligation as they desperately try to come up with something that doesn't stink of malarkey.

Is this the way to demonstrate thankfulness? As some obligatory affirmation before we get back to food and football? Maybe sorta. But the day of thanks should be more of an opportunity to really explore our perspective and our priorities, beyond just saying "I'm thankful for family, now let's eat".

I know what you're thinking. Why am I putting down a glorious family tradition? After all, it's all in good fun. I'm not putting it down, I'm just saying don't be surprised if you don't have a good answer when put on the spot. Instead (or in addition), try taking a personal inventory before hand to get a little perspective.

I know it sounds like a strange question to ask around Thanksgiving, but what have been your biggest complaints recently? What has really driven you crazy, created stress, wore you down? Now breaking it down further, for each of those problem areas, are there opportunities to be thankful? Perhaps on the first pass you're inclined to say "no", but think really hard about it. If you look hard enough you can find a bright spot. And the better you are able to find an opportunity, gratitude, or joy in the most challenging of situations, the more thankful you will be with life in general.

As an example, I'll provide a few of the "complaints" I've had in the past and my related gratitude.


  1. Complaint: I have no time. Gratitude: I'm thankful that I have a full life, and that people depend on me. It's a good idea to really look at how you're using your time. If it's just busywork or things that don't make you happy, then perhaps it's time to quit a few things and fill your time with things that do truly make you grateful. 
  2. Complaint: I'm spending too much money, and I'm worried about finances. Gratitude: I'm thankful that I am blessed with an abundance that can support my family, our basic needs, and some of our joys. Finances are always a point of stress for people, and we always tend to spend more than we make. It's important to remember to be grateful for what we have rather than to stress out about what we don't.
  3. Complaint: I hate waking up early every day. Gratitude: I'm thankful that I get to see a different sunrise everyday, that I get to start my day with meditation and exercise rather than stress, and that I get more hours in the day to appreciate life to the fullest. It's easy to get up in the morning and have your first thought be "man, I do not want to wake up right now." But that will set a negative attitude for the day. Instead, I give myself time to wake up by meditating and exercising. It gets my attitude straight to start the day.
There are of course more, but these are just a few examples. My list is lengthy and personal, and some are more difficult than others to find the gratitude. But there can be thankfulness in everything. Thankfulness for lessons, for joys, for mercies, for graces, for pains, and for sorrows. It's all about what we choose to take from it. 



Every few weeks or so, I get a letter from a child we sponsor through Compassion, and it helps me to put things into perspective. She is about 8 years old, and lives in a small village in Burkina Faso. In her life, she has not seen an iPhone, does not have working plumbing, and threats of violence are always a possibility in this unstable region. Yet her letters are never full of despair, fear, or heartache. But instead, I read about the joy she feels in learning new subjects in school. Or her optimism about one day wanting to become a nurse or teacher. Despite her present situation, her letters are filled with gratitude.

My complaints are puny in comparison to what many others in the world may experience. In that respect, it's easy to turn these into gratitude. For me it's a good exercise in humility and growth. If I can avoid pole vaulting over potholes and instead find gratitude in every situation, I can be a more joyous person. And in turn I can be a better person to others, and the world will be just a little bit better. That is the power of gratitude.

This Thanksgiving, remember to be truly grateful, even when you're sitting in traffic, or your team doesn't win, or if the food is overcooked. This time of year is a good time to get your perspective in the right place in preparation for the season of giving. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ironman Silverman 70.3 Race Report

"The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride."  - Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas



Okay, I promise that will be the last direct reference to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... but I can't promise that I won't break into fits of gonzo made famous by the good doctor. After all, Silverman is a race around the area of Las Vegas, deep in the heart of the American Dream. And "fear and loathing" were ever present during our weekend trip to the desert.

Of course, in order to participate in this race we never even had to set foot in the casino ridden lizard tank called "The Strip". Instead, we swam at beautiful and desolate Lake Mead, biked the hilly surrounding park, and ran around the suburbs of Henderson, Nevada.

The gods were adamant on me not participating in this race. Days before we were slated to make the drive through the desert, my skin began to feel like it was being eaten by a million tiny parasites. My entire body from my face to my legs was covered in welts which felt like a horrendous sunburn. The bearded doctor that I visited made the brilliant proclamation that I had an adverse reaction to something. Mind blown, I went home and tried desperately to figure out what was wrong.

I chose not to take the medications that the doc provided, knowing full well that the antibiotics and steroids prescribed to me were meant as a placebo only, but would not address the main cause, which is what caused the reaction. I was hoping that whatever it was would go away over night, as we were set to go early the next morning.

I felt much better that evening as I went to bed, but soon began to toss and turn, itch like crazy, and feel nauseous. Not a good start, since a bad night of sleep two days before the race would not reflect well on race day.

The 3 am alarm went off and I was feeling terrible. Every time I got up I got light headed and felt like I was going to puke. At that time I made the difficult decision to forego the race and end my season rolled up in the fetal position feeling sorry for myself. So back to bed I went with a combination of guilt and relief.

Around 9 am, true to form, I changed my mind again. While I still felt like an addict in the grips of withdrawl, I decided to get out to Vegas in a hurry and try to make it to the race. So before we knew it we were on the road driving through the old familiar desert.

It turns out that vinegar was the culprit for my skin rash. It's common that vinegar is used in cleaning and laundry products. It appears as though the use of one of these products in our laundry affected my skin and got worse as I tried to sleep in my bed. Needless to say, all of our laundry has been resoaked thoroughly.

We made it out to Henderson in the late afternoon just in time for check in. It is a surreal trip for an out of towner like myself, who used to frequent Las Vegas in the past for all its charm and revelry, to jump on the 215 and turn away from this despicable temptress, and land myself in a seemingly hospitable suburb. Something seemed not right about that, but that's my problem. I recognize full well that my presupposition is part of my own prejudice, brought about by years of experience visiting a small and unreal subsection of Las Vegas called "The Strip". In reality, the Strip is the exception, not the rule. There is lot's more to see and do in this area besides lock yourself to a blackjack table and drink yourself into oblivion.

Check in was a breeze, as I assume everyone had already done so. It was very nice to have the run gear drop off right next to check in, but we had to head out to Lake Mead to drop off my bike. That process too was very easy. Once we got to the lake it was not crowded at all, and racking the bike was a very easy process.

The sun was still out, and the water looked inviting, so I decided to take a practice swim. This was an important thing for me, since this was looking to be the first non-wetsuit swim for me. While I was on edge about this, it was important for me to get through it as I continue to obsess about it. I won't have a chance to do a non-wetsuit open water swim until Ironman Texas, which will likely not be wetsuit legal. I knew I needed to conquer that fear. So I had a nice little dip in the water, which was very nice and helpful to my confidence. But I was still frustrated with my swim time. Dang, I'm slow.

Sarah got to enjoy the water as well!
After enjoying our tradition of pre-race dinner sushi, we went to bed. I was still feeling the effects of the rash, and my heart was still racing trying to fight whatever it had to. I pretty much resigned myself that this race was not going to be my best. I decided that if worst came to worst, I would jog it in and focus on next year.

Race morning I was still pretty itchy, but feeling okay. Once we arrived to the swim start, we were shocked to learn that it was going to be wetsuit legal. We thought a glacier must have melted overnight nearby. It certainly didn't feel like it would be legal the day before, but something magical must have happened during the course of the night. So I donned my wetsuit and got in the start line. Official water temperature was stated at 75 F.

Swim: 39:50; 101st in 35-39, 704th Overall... Ugh

Rockin' my lucky Vegas horseshoe mustache. (Quickly shaved shortly after this race due to creepiness factor)

Fortunately, my age group was one of the first to begin the swim, after the pros, the AWA wave, and the 35-39 women, so I wouldn't have to make a ton of passes on the bike like I did in Boise. Once they let our group into the water, I noticed that the temperature still seemed pretty warm. But this was in the mucky shoreline area, surely it would cool down once we got out into the depths. After the gun went off and we began hacking away at the water, I realized within 100 yards that there is no way this race should be wetsuit legal. I was swimming in a hot tub with a quarter inch of neoprene to hold in even more heat. Immediately I regretted wearing the wetsuit and had to allow water into my collar every few hundred yards.

Otherwise, the swim was very comfortable. With the wave starts, it's easy to avoid being pummeled. Plus, when you're a weak swimmer like me you tend to avoid all of the aggression. Despite that, the only physical issues I was having was my burning rash under my wetsuit. I had fits of scratching at it, only to realize that I couldn't effectively provide any relief.

On the back half of the swim, it felt like we were facing a current going outward. It just felt like forever getting back to the beach, but finally I made it back in under 40 minutes.Not fast, but adequate to end this year. I allowed myself this last race to swim poorly. This off season is the time to really improve my swim.

But now out of the swim and into transition, this would be the time for me to shine if I could.


Transition 1: 2:54

Nothing exciting here, ran to the bike, got the helmet on, got on the bike, and went.

Bike: 2:52:27; 20th in 35-39, 145th Overall

This was where my race really started. Fortunately, my bike split was still within the top 10 or 11 in my age group despite not feeling my best. I took it very easy on the bike to start because I knew it would be hilly and hot. Not only would it be hilly throughout the national park, but then we would climb all the way out of Lake Mead and all the way to Henderson.

I didn't begin making passes on the bike until we were about 5-10 miles in. At that point I found a rhythm (albeit a conservative rhythm), and gained some ground. This was definitely a climbing cyclist's course, and it was filled with some aggressive riders. I chose not to push it as I didn't want to risk injury or burnout to move from 20th place to 15th. I have had a tough recovery since Boulder, and I'm ready for some off season rest.

Obligatory pirated race pic. Me riding the Vincent Black Shadow (so named for the sake of this report)

The bike around the national park was pretty amazing, but at times a little sketchy, since we were sharing the two lane road with trucks and trailers. At times, a car would pass me only to settle in behind a bike in front of me. I am glad that some of the cars were playing it safe in this way, but it made passing difficult. At one point I pulled up next to a car who was following a cyclist and told them that I was going to make a pass. Fortunately they were courteous enough to let me by. You couldn't ask for a better day though. Perfect weather and not much wind. The rolling hills were challenging, but fun.

After the turnaround, we did get our first dose of wind, and it would be in our faces all the way to the finish. Fortunately, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been. This race could be made much harder with a stronger wind and hotter temps. All in all it was fairly mild.

Once we got out of the park and started toward Henderson, the climbing started to become annoying. With about 15 miles to go it started to "flatten" out. But these were false, steady climbs which burned down the legs even more.

Transition finally came, and I was grateful to be off the bike and done climbing. Total climbing was about 4,000 ft by my Garmin's estimates, which is about as much as the Boulder full. Here's the Garmin File.

Transition 2: 3:53

No big story to tell here either. Almost ran out with my helmet on, and then stopped at a porta potty. Ran out feeling pretty good.

Run: 1:50:22

Running out of transition I felt great, which was odd to me. My run had really been poor since Boulder, and I was having a tough time getting it back. But out of transition I began running in the high 6 minute miles to start. Granted, it was downhill for the first half mile or so, but it still felt good.

Essentially, the course is never flat. It resembled an old Nintendo cheat code. Down, up, up, down down, up, up, down, down, up, up, down. Then you get an extra life (or in reality, the exact opposite). As we made the turnaround to start heading uphill the first time, I still felt great, and was able to cruise the uphills at around 8:30 miles. Heading back downhill to complete the first lap and start the second, I could already feel myself slowing. I was able to run at sub 8, but fatigue was setting in.



By the halfway point of the run, my fatigue and sickness was starting to catch up with me. I was starting to struggle to keep pace, and the heat and hills were getting to me. I walked the last few aid stations and shuffled my way through the rest of the second lap and third. My goal became to get to the top of the hill at mile 12.5 and then coast downhill to the finish (without puking). Finally at the top of the hill, I was able to run downhill at a low 7 minute pace and finish "strong". While I didn't have a specific goal for this race because I didn't know what to expect, given the hills, heat, and my general fatigue, I wanted to beat 5:30. I ended up at 5:29. Mission complete.

I was so relieved at that point to be done with this absolutely great season. This training season was long, with two seasons tied together in one, and so it is absolutely necessary for me to take a break for a few weeks before getting back into training. This will be hard for me, as I'm conditioned to keep working, and I'll likely be climbing the walls until I can start training again.

Silverman, while still not the original race it once was, is not a race to be taken lightly. This is not just a end of season jog around the park. If this race is treated as anything other than an "A" race, you're setting yourself up for a lot of pain. I made that mistake this year, feeling a general amount of apathy prior to the race and not being fully prepared, but fortunately I was still able to finish strong-ish. If I do this race again (which, due to it's beauty and challenge is likely to be the case), I will certainly treat it with the respect it deserves. Every other time I have made the trip home from Vegas, I had left feeling exhausted and defeated. This was no exception. But unlike the other times, I was actually pleased with how I performed on the trip.

But now it's time to enjoy a few weeks off, and then begin a maintenance program prior to my build up to IM Texas 2015!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ironman Silverman 70.3 Pre Race

There's this incredible feeling you get when you approach the end of a fantastic season. It's a feeling that may be compared to the finishing of any major project in life and is almost unfitting for such a major event or achievement, I can describe it in one simple word.

Meh.

It bothers me that I feel this way, but I can't escape it. I'm like a student at the end of a school year just phoning it in until the last bell rings. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing all the training, and I think I'm prepared, but I'm not giving Ironman Silverman 70.3 the consideration it so rightly deserves. Due to the scale of this event, I should not be so careless. However, I am so ready for an off season, and have had such a tough recovery since Ironman Boulder that I can't help but be a little apathetic toward this race.

That said, I know that as we drive out toward Vegas, my attitude will change. It better, or I will be in for a heavy dose of ass handing by this potentially brutal course. One thing is for certain. No matter how much apathy I show toward this race going in, I'm going to be absolutely humbled by the time I cross the finish. I will need to have a lot more respect for this course. Here are the reasons.


  1. This is a harsh landscape. Every time I have been to Vegas, when I would poke my head out of the comfort of whatever smoke filled casino I happened to be occupying, I would immediately be punched in the face with whatever weather extreme happened to be happening that day, whether it be extreme cold, extreme hot, etc. Get away from the strip, and I am guessing that those extremes are amplified. The temperature is for this weekend is supposed to peak at 95, feeling like 99. I haven't been mentally preparing myself enough for that.
  2. This will likely be my first non-wetsuit swim. I'm okay with that, but I've never done it before, so I should be a little more considerate of that. Additionally, I don't do well in the cold. While the weather is going to be hot later in the day, We're looking at low 60's as we begin the race. I'm a wuss, so 76 degrees in the water is still not super warm for me. I'll be freezing my but off around the turn buoy, and trying to stay relaxed.
  3. The bike course will be hilly. While not as hilly as the original Silverman, it's going to be at least as bad as Cabo, which was a constant up and down. I'll need to be solid on my bike in order to be fresh for the run, and there is a lot of potential to over-bike. Not to mention potential wind gusts in the desert along the course.
  4. Did I mention that it will be hot? Well, it's going to be hot. Super hot. Especially on the run. My run has been suffering a bit lately, and this won't help.
Ok, just writing that out started to build up my anticipation a bit. Now I'm starting to have the respect for this thing! But alas, while I love racing, I can't wait for this one to be over so that I can begin to enjoy the off season. I am in desperate need of rest and recovery!

I hesitate to set any expectations for my race because there will be so many variables, including my first non-wetsuit swim, a hilly bike course, and questionable weather and wind. I will say that I hope to finish strong, healthy and uninjured. Unlike Boise, I hope to get off the bike with zero stomach issues. My nutrition plan seemed to work in Boulder, so I'm going to use that to get me to a place where I can get off the bike and run strong. Ideally, I want to finish this race ready to focus on recovery and off season fitness maintenance. I won't win any prizes at this one, except to say that I will have faced another fear (non-wetsuit open water swimming), and finished yet another 70.3. I'll be happy looking back on this race season, and looking forward to the next!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What I Learned About Myself Through Meditation

It's no secret that I've got serious anxiety issues. That's been established for a long time, which is why I've been a chronic self medicator up until very recently (and it can be argued that I still am, only my medication is hours of low effort exercise). I suppose everybody self medicates with something, but to what extent and whether or not it's healthy is debatable. There's no debate with my self medication. It was pure insanity.

But back to my anxiety. I tried every imaginable remedy to "cure" my ailment, and my anxiety was debilitating, paranoid, "can't get out of bed" type of anxiety. Nothing really worked until I worked to improve my mind and spirit. Part of this improvement included (among a lot of outside help) the incorporation of meditation into my daily life.

I had tried meditation in the past, and what I couldn't overcome was the fact that I couldn't fully rest my mind. I felt I was a failure at it, and so I quit, like many of us do. Here were some of the reasons I didn't "get" meditation.

  1. I couldn't find that true enlightenment that you think a Buddhist monk at the top of a mountain must have from years of practice. The inner peace that acts as a brick wall between you and your problems. 
  2. I couldn't get my mind to shut up! I felt that if I could accomplish this, I would be able to have control over my thoughts. 
  3. I thought I could have some out of body experience where I would be able to look at myself meditating from above myself. I don't know why I wanted this to happen, but I'd read it in a book once and I thought it would be pretty cool. Needless to say it never did.
  4. After a while of being frustrated with the actual practice of failing to shut down my mind, it became more of a burden to meditate.
  5. I wasn't comfortable sitting cross legged on the floor with my back straight.
  6. I wasn't a hippie
  7. I didn't have my own room specially designed for meditation, complete with a picture of Buddha, a bunch of candles, and some Enya music in the background.
  8. I got really bored.
  9. I didn't want to wake up early
  10. I felt like a failure because of all of the above.
Aside from most of this list being silly, it is clear that I didn't understand what I wanted out of meditation, or rather, I set my expectations to high for it to work. Thus I stopped doing it and said it didn't work for me. 

Within the last couple years I revisited meditation with the intent of being open minded to what I would get from it. First, I set it up as an exercise in failure and adaptation. Every day meditation would be different. Some days I would be fully energized, some days I would be antsy, others I would be calm, etc. I simply accepted this and moved on. The important thing was that I immediately intended to give up control of my thoughts. Let them flow, and let them be what they may. 

Second, I approached meditation with the new intent that I would listen rather than participate. My only job was to listen to my thoughts, not become a part of them. This is an important concept because I learned that you can't (nor should you want to) shut down your mind. That would essentially kill you. Shutting down your mind implies that you have some control over that action. Once you let go of that control you begin to accept things that are out of your control. At that point you can become a spectator as thoughts float through your mind. This acceptance begins to lead to a better understanding of how you think, and thus you learn to find peace with yourself (inner peace).

There is a guided meditation app called Headspace, which I learned about from the Tim Ferris Podcast (Author of  The 4 Hour Workweek, The 4 Hour Body), which actually describes part of this concept very well. It tells us that our mind acts like a highway, with cars (thoughts) constantly speeding by. We are simply on the side of the road watching the cars drive past. Our job in this exercise is to simply watch the cars drive past without jumping into a car and going for a ride (or trying to drive the car).

When I first heard this, I immediately related and knew that's how my brain worked. So I got to meditating and waited for the cars to pass by. I initially thought that my mind would be the equivalent of LA traffic during the apocalypse. What I realized instead was that the traffic in my head was actually very light, but the traffic that did come by were over sized tractor trailers hell bent on running me down. Thus for every thought that came my way it was hard for me not to jump on board. Some days the traffic of tractor trailers was light, and some days it was heavy, but the common theme was that I would have to work hard not to get run down by the semi. 

I tend to think that because I am prone to jump on every thought that comes through my head, even when the traffic is light, this translates into obsession in the real world. These thoughts become obsessions, and the heavier the traffic becomes in my head, the greater anxiety I have (mental overload).

Once I learned this about myself, meditation became much easier. Since I discovered the real way my brain worked (which was different from what I originally thought), I could accept that and sit on the sidelines more easily. I could learn to gradually allow the tractor trailers to drive by without me jumping on. This was a great revelation to me, and really helped me enjoy meditation and get the most out of it.

I put aside all of my preconceptions about meditation as laid out in the above list, and focused on what worked for me, since everyone is different.

In the greatest sense, what I learned from meditation was a lot about how my mind worked. And once I knew how my mind worked, it became easier to let go and allow the mind to quiet itself as I sat on the sidelines. That mediation is not a perfect exercise, it is a practice in failure, something, I am proud to say, I am pretty good at.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflection and Downtime

As this season draws to a close, I look forward to a few weeks of recovery and a few months of base-level maintenance training as I gear up for 2015. It's also a time to reflect on this last year of racing, which has really been two seasons rolled into one. When I first began training, I was overly optimistic about my season. I began training in February, 2013 on the heels of a major shoulder surgery, started racing my first triathlons in July, did my first 70.3 in December, and then immediately started my build to my first Ironman in Cabo in March, 2014. The fun didn't stop there, as I quickly began setting my sights on Ironman Boulder in August, with a handful of races in between.

I proceeded to race an Olympic triathlon in San Diego a month later, and definitely felt the effects of my recovery from Boulder. My final race of the season(s) is Ironman Silverman 70.3, which takes place on October 5, and should not be taken lightly. Unpredictable weather (likely heat), no wetsuits, and endless climbing await me there. But after that? Recovery.

That's a year and a half of constant high volume training, which isn't necessarily the smartest thing for an elite athlete, let alone an amateur starting from zero. But I wouldn't have done it any other way. I set out to accomplish something I had no business participating in while in my particular state of physical health and injury. But huge transformations can happen quickly with the right motivation, willingness, and care.

Right: After my surgery, right before my decision to race in an Ironman
Left: During my second Ironman in Boulder a year and a half later

From there I became an Ironman finisher 2 times over, both in under 11 hours. The ridiculous "dream" of becoming a qualifier for the Ironman World Championship suddenly became a realistic "goal". With the guidance of top coaches at MarkAllenOnline (now doing business as Smart Triathlon Training), I was able to exceed my expectations and turn distant dreams into realistic goals. Below I am posting a picture of a trendline from 2013 when I first started this training. I was so happy that my paces were improving, but they were still slow at my aerobic heart rate. With patience, I was able to bring my paces down even more, and hold those paces for over 20 miles of running (all at a relatively easy pace). On a good day, my long runs can be between 7:45 and 8:00 miles.



So now the question becomes "why stop now? You have the momentum to continue pushing to even greater results?" First of all, I'm not stopping after Silverman. I have goals to exceed for 2015. But before 2014 is out, I am going to spend the bulk of my training time maintaining my fitness, recovering from a year and a half of racing, and focusing on techniques I'd previously rushed through so that when I reach the time that I have to build for my next event, I am prepared to crush it.

All of this is to avoid burnout. It is possible to overtrain to the point that you are doing more harm than good, and then you are under prepared for a race. The results start to suffer, the frustration sets in, and the motivation wanes. Mark Allen drives the point home, "Over prepare, under train".

As I sit here writing this post about my own need to step back my training, I am feeling less and less anxious about other decisions my family has made recently. For example, our daughter has become burned out on piano, and we have really struggled with trying to rekindle her passion. Finally, we decided that maybe it is best for her to take a break, a very difficult decision for us. Our daughter's teacher was not happy with this at all, and pleaded with us to reconsider, making us feel tremendously more guilty for our decision. But as I think about my own training, I remember that, like my training, we are not quitting, we are simply maintaining a "base" level of fitness for when the time comes to rebuild. Then the passion will be rekindled. Secondly, it is literally a marathon, not a sprint. Healthy habits are sparked by a healthy body, mind, and soul. If you push one too hard, the others will suffer. But all three in balance will produce tremendous results.

This season is nearly done, and I am looking forward to the break, to recover my body, mind, and soul. These last couple years have been about becoming healthier, finding passion in life, and inspiring others to do the same, while writing about my experience as it happens. I am tremendously joyful for what I have accomplished during this time, and my life is much better for it. Furthermore, I look forward to the coming year, where I take these steps to the next level, to achieve goals that were once dreams, and to dream bigger for the future!

To see my race schedule for next year, please visit my new website at www.adamhilltri.com