Monthly Archives: November 2014

11/24/2014 Leggo my Ego

Monday. My last post was my one thousandth post to My Journey of Fitness. I started this blog in March of 2005 as I began training for my first Marathon (NYC 2005). 1,000 posts later (one thousand! That’s like a Diana Gabaldon novel) — I am training for another marathon (LA in March) and yesterday was day 1. I can’t count the number of first days of training at this point. Too many races. Start lines and finish lines overlap. 1,000 posts and in March it will be ten years of blogging about workouts, diets, meditation, confidence and motivation (or lack thereof). Even more bizarre is the fact that one or two people have been reading since the beginning. Now THAT’s loyalty (or a need to self-inflict pain)! What a milestone and what a chance to really look back and see how far I have come (or not). Here’s a hint — it’s a spiral.

Here’s my nutshell of the last 10 years. This journey really started in May of 2003 with my first Olympic. (Some might argue it started earlier with Tennis but we have to draw a line somewhere). Two Olympics quickly after the first. Then 2005 is when I upped it and started to train for the NYC Marathon, did a bunch of half Ironmans, trained for Ironman, crashed during Ironman, came back and finish Ironman, did another marathon, ran 150 miles across the Sahara in the Marathon des Sables, got thyroid cancer, did some more triathlons (barely), tended to my parents in their final years, dnf’d a couple of Ironmans, finished another Marathon, dnf’d my second ultra and then basically hung up my shoes. Countless 10k’s, at more than a dozen half marathons (oh yeah more), another half dozen half Ironmans, same number of Olympics, throw in some swims and long rides too. A garage full of finisher medals to show for it. There that’s ten years of my Journey in a nutshell.

So what’s different? I think the biggest difference is I am not longer scared of long distances. I know it will hurt. I know I have to train. But I see that pretty much anything is doable if you are willing to put in the time and effort and not lie to yourself. Most of my changes I feel on the inside. I’m a little kinder and a little more patient with myself. (Underline that “a little”.) I’m not so impressed with my accomplishments and I’m not so hard on my self about my incompletes. We discuss Equanimity a lot in my study group. There is no place better to explore equanimity than in the world of sports. As Rudyard Kipling said it best, “to Meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.”

I decided to do my first workout (which was just a 20 minute foundation run) on my treadmill. I know it sounds silly to be nervous about doing a 20 minute run but I really wasn’t sure if I could do 20 minutes without stopping. (Respect the distance). When I was last training I was always doing the Galloway method and I was doing run 2 minutes walk 1 minute. And it has been over a year since I have done any kind of run training. I was prepared to get on the treadmill and have to walk. Happy to report that was not necessary and in fact it was quite pleasant. I was really pleased that I just got on, started running at an easy even pace for 5 minutes then picked up the pace for 15 and then I just cooled down for another 5. I didn’t do anything over a zone 2. I could comfortably sing along with my songs and nothing, absolutely nothing hurt but I was doing a nice little pace. Psych! Of course I wanted to stay on and run until I couldn’t but the older and wiser me said “get off now and bask in the dellusion for a bit.”

To say I haven’t been running would be a misrepresentation. I take Higgins to the woods most days. I’d say 4-5 out of 7 days we do several miles (2 when we are rushed, 4 when we have time) but my focus is on exercising and engaging Higgins, not myself. So we start out with a short brisk climb up the mountain. That usually gets my heart pumping and I consider that my “workout.” Then we do about 2 miles on the trails and I follow Higgins’ pace. He usually starts out sniffing everything, digs under a rock or two and then takes off for a short spurt (I jog to catch up), he stops, sniffs, digs, spurts — repeat. It can take us about 45 minutes to get 2 miles in. If we have time we go for more. Then I usually haul a few rocks for my labyrinth while he runs around in circles. All in we put in about 90 minutes one way or another.

I would say my real workout these days comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I do my swim workout. Today was particularly hard as the coach tossed my workout plan and set me to kicking. Holy Kickset Batman! I kicked about a half a mile and then some other stuff but really it was all just excuse to kick some more. I kicked so much that I popped my knee out and kept going and it popped back into place. I hate to admit it but by the end I might have improved a smidge. I think the master’s swimming has really given me the jump start on my training that I need. What I lack in speed I make up for with wisecracks. Somethings never change.

I also met my new cycling coach last week. Practice starts Monday Dec. 1st. Practice will be on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7 with possible core workout and stretching afterward. Group outdoor rides will be on the weekends. The good news is my group is about my age range (the younguns are doing the Tuesday/Thursday workouts — the middle-agers are mon/wed.) Although they are my age group I have a feeling I know who some of these people are and they are not in my fitness level — they are much more advanced. They are all on the Biker’s Edge cycling team (which I am nowhere near fit enough to be on — I spent Tuesday nights chasing the back of the Women’s social ride). But these new workouts are on indoor trainers so I can pretend to keep up? I really liked chatting with my new coach. He’s is a competitive cyclist and respected coach and takes this training very seriously (so I got the no missing practice speech and already the Power to Weight ration talk — geesh let me at least let me show you how out of shape I look in spandex before you comment on my muffin rides!).

So that’s going to be my winter training schedule starting Dec 1st (which is Monday holy tomato!)
Monday a.m. short run
p.m. cycling and core
Tuesday master’s swim
Wednesday a.m. short run
p.m. cycling and core
Thursday master’s swim
Friday a.m. short run followed by Yoga class — I really like the yin yoga so hopefully it will be that.
Saturday long run
Sunday Day off (Higgin’s choice)
I will not be counting my walks with Higgins as “workouts”

I think this is going to be a great plan to get ready for the LA Marathon in March. WHEN I complete the marathon, then and only then can I sign up for my next event (which I would love to be the rock the ridge 50 miler). My new rule is I don’t get to sign up for any events until I have successfully completed the current one. And if I miss the deadline, too bad. I have several ideas for my next big event but not until I finish this marathon in March.

The biggest difference between this marathon and my first is I’m not scared. I was really scared back in 2005. It’s funny to look back on those fears. Why? So what if you didn’t finish? It all comes down to being afraid to be embarrassed. AKA Ego. My fear of failing was so great that it spurred me on. I don’t have a fear of failing any more. I am intimate with failing. I’ve failed all over the place. And I know I’ll fail again but I’m okay with that as long as it was while giving the best I had to give. (Sounds like a Hallmark card, I know). Just find some dignity. Had I not set out to try, I would have missed out on seeing a lot of places and meeeting a lot of interesting people from around the world. I know that I actually like the feeling of pushing myself and completing the training whether or not I complete the race. Insert as many platitudes as you wish here.

Ten years later I’m still here. Still signing up for events (events not races). When my cycling coach asked me how old I was my first reaction was “that shouldn’t matter.” He said “but it does, we have to take it into consideration.” So I said “a very determined 55, but it shouldn’t matter.” Then he asked “when did you do your last ultra event?” I had to think about that one. Sure the Grand to Grand would technically be the one a year ago September. But moving from NYC to CT? That was an ultra event. Helping my parents transition? That was an ultra event. Thyroid cancer? That was an ultra. Maybe that’s why I’m not scared of the Marathon anymore. It just isn’t that big of an event. Sure my legs will be killing me and my lungs will be burning and I probably won’t be able to walk for 3 days, but as long as I finish with my ego in check, I’ll consider it a victory. Ha, that sounds like a cop-out. I’ll just train harder and let my ego take a beating like the rest of me! It needs a workout too!

Namaste

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11/17/2004 How to Get to Carnegie Hall

Monday.  Finished a 3-day workshop at The Copper Beach Institute on Kundalini Yoga.  To say I’m overwhelmed with everything I have been learning in the last year is a understatement.  I feel in a constant state of behind.  Instead of feeling like I am making headway along my spiritual path I am simply more aware of how long and twisting that path is.  Drumming, Guitar, Yoga, Dharma, Masters Swimming, the two book groups I am in — I am in a constant state of over-learning.  I would LOVE to be an over-achiever because that would mean I actually master something, I’m just an over-learner — everything is fascinating to me and merits further study.   I blame my mother for this affliction because she had the same one.  Throughout my life I always remember my mother constantly trying new things.  This week we are taking up paddle tennis, the next week we were canoeing, then she was painting, tennis, swimming, golfing and the book group she founded is still going on without her now 50 years!   Classes, letcures, trips — It was non-stop my entire childhood.  I would like to say all of this knowledge-hopping is rewarding but really I want to find a place to settle down and focus on one thing.  I think I have found a path but it has not been without struggle.

Once you open a gate into a new world, many roads appear.  My dharma group found me a year ago because I was meditating online with an app called Insight Meditation Timer (cool app, check it out) that lets you know who is meditating near you and I had just relocated to CT.  Since then they have introduced me to a vast world of Dharma study on the east coast.  At first I was just thrilled to be closer to Kripalu.  Now to find the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and Insight Meditation Society is only an hour fifteen north of here was an added joy.  I can’t say enough about my Dharma Sisters.  They are my teachers.  Though they consider themselves merely students, I am so in awe of how much farther down the path they are than I am.  I learn so much from them and I learn how much I don’t know.

Then three months ago The Copper Beach Institute opened up twenty minutes from my house.  My house is in a kind of spiritual vortex between Omega, Kripalu, IMS, Copper Beach and I haven’t even been to the one in Cambridge which is supposed to be great as well.  But each time I go to a seminar, workshop or study group, I find myself cramming to read up on whatever subject du jour and I’m feeling overwhelmed and overloaded.  I don’t know if it is normal to have recent my youbtube videos include java programming scripts, perfecting your backstroke technique and Kundalini Mantra Meditation. Oh and the first Monday in December I start training indoors with a cycling team two days a week so I’ll be back to all things with wheels — dharma and cycling.  And I have the marathon in March so I have a great new app for training (I’ll post about that next week).

What made me write this post today was trying to figure out if Kundalini Yoga is really even for me.  Backup to two weeks ago to when I found myself in a basement of some stranger’s house (I know that sounds weird but I was with friends.)  The word got around to our Dharma study group that a Chan Zen monk, Chang Wen Fash (the director of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in New York State) was going to be giving a talk at a private home in West Hartford and our little Dharma group was invited to come.  We drove to a condominium complex that looked like a million others and were lead down to a basement that had been converted to the a beautiful meditation room.  Apparently this is where a large group of West Hartford Zen Buddhists all meet.  They are all Chinese and English is definitely their second language.  The monk who was coming to give the Dharma talk was American but fluent in Chinese.  The dharma talk was in English (apparently the group’s time keeper is American so everything is conducted in English for him).

The room was spare but beautiful.  It easily fit twenty of us and they had meditation cushions and chairs for everyone.  Very simple altar with a Buddha statue and a lotus flower — gorgeous in its simplicity and made me immediately vow to go home and throw out more junk.

We settled in to meditate and the monk had to tell us that we are to mediate facing the wall. I am used to either facing one another or all facing toward the altar/shrine.  But I guess in this tradition you face the wall not the others.  So we meditated for about half an hour with our faces right in front of the bare walls.  Nothing that could distract you.  Very interesting.  Then we stood up and the monk led us through some stretches that were really great .  Very Qi Gong like exercises (oh yeah, remember when I was learning Qi Gong in Bryant Park? Just another thing I got pretty good at but never fully mastered). I really enjoyed them. Then we settled in for the Dharma talk (facing the monk).  He proceeded to give his talk on the five skandhas periodically asking questions of the group testing their knowledge.  I was impressed with the knowledge everyone in the room had on the subject matter.  One of the people told me some of them had been studying together for 18 years!!  (Several of the woman looked so young but they told me they had children in college!)  We had a wonderful evening ending with tea.  I left inspired to study even harder and to clear my house out of junk (that will be a life-long project I am sure).

Flash forward two weeks later to my intro to Kundalini Yoga weekend at Copper Beach.  Kundalini (which a word for the energy source at the base of your spine) yoga is an intensive practice.  People don’t do Kundalini Yoga half-heartedly.   It’s not your Tuesday night Vinyassa flow class at the gym.  You also don’t learn it in a weekend.  It’s a serious study of thousands of kryias.  A kryia is a sequence of movements and mantras.  It’s all about moving the kundalini energy through your chakras, up and down your spine and some energy meridians that I can’t remember the names of already. Moving this energy around can promote mental, physical and spiritual healing.  So there is a kryia for just about everything from depression to procrastination (okay, maybe I will be keeping my notes on that one).  There are also mantras (chants) and mudras (hand positions) that go along with the poses that make up each kryia. Everything is done in a certain order that has been developed over centuries. That was definitely is a very weak, weak summary of Kundalini yoga.  But the one thing I walked away from is that people who study Kundalini yoga really study Kundalini yoga.  It is something that takes a lifetime to understand and probably never master.

Our instructor for the weekend was Hari Kirin who is one of the greats.  I’m not aura expert to say the least but let me tell you that the moment she sat down and started to speak, I felt her spirit lift the energy in room.  And then when she laughed I knew she was the real deal.  I have this personal theory that all the great teachers laugh a lot.  They find humor everywhere.  When I come across some spiritual leader who is all serious and never cracks a smile, I think why would I want to study with that person?  The Dali Llama cracks himself up — he’s always laughing at himself.  Pema Chodron is always laughing at herself and the ironies of life.  Even that Shaman I went to study with at Kripalu, Brant Secundo, the real deal — very serious but able to laugh a lot.  And by the way, even that Chan Zen Monk was smiled and laughed a bit.

I’m not sure if I will stay with Kundalini Yoga.  I don’t want to disrespect it by doing it half-assed.  I do think there are parts of it that are very beautiful and I will keep some of the chanting and possibly one or two kyrias.  We are supposed to do a 40 day challenge starting today of one kyria for 40 days.  I picked a very short one (3 minutes).  I figure I could do that. After that we will see.  I don’t think I will be wearing a white turban anytime soon.  I am going to try to listen to my inner guru and follow the path that feels right.

So whether it is my masters swimming, my guitar, my yoga, my meditation my dharma studies there is only one thing I am sure of, it is about the daily practice.  You can’t just sum anything in a blog post or a wikipedia entry.  You discover what it is really about by doing it and practicing.  You find the joy in the actually doing the stroke, the posture, the mantra.  Trying to describe it will never be the same as experiencing it. I may not get to Carnegie Hall and I may not be perfect but I hope I find the pieces that help me fill out my personal puzzle.  As they say, take what you need and leave the rest.

Namaste

“I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul.”  Rumi

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11/1/2012 One Year and 55 seconds.

One year officially.  Not a sip or a swallow of any alcohol of any kind.  I am so grateful I can’t tell you.  A million thanks to my friend who helped me over that initial hump.  I had to tap into my competitive nature to get going but then it just turned into pure relief and after the first month I really didn’t think about it much other to acknowledge the relief I felt.  I can honestly say it is gone from my life.  I’ve quit for a year several times before but always with a time limit on it so I was always looking forward to that day I set whether is was every January for my purple teeth challenge or six months while training for Ironman. I even quit for a year once but only intended for a year.  I always had an end date.  I’ll quit until…  And then I would pick it back up like I never stopped.  I think some people are just able to handle it better.  I used to have a high tolerance for it.  But I think something changed and my body was just rejecting it more and more and as Oprah says “first it will be a whisper and then it will knock you out.”    The last three months or so of wining I could barely drink two or three glasses of wine (believe me I used to be able to rock a full bottle of wine on a night out with the gals easily). When I was young I would take two aspirin and drink a full glass of water before bed and that held off the hangover.  Last year I was really getting sick over just a glass or two.  Then finally puking my guts out over a bottle.  Yeah time to quit and no looking back.  I did need help to get started though and my friend helped me and I’ll forever be indebted.

I have plenty of friends who manage their alcohol just fine.  They drink when they feel like it (I always felt like it).  They stop at one or two (glasses not bottles).  That just wasn’t me.  I was not born with the moderation meter in check. But I also had a high tolerance. I will drink the wine until it is finished. I will still be the one standing.  I will eat the potato chips until the bag is gone.  I never understood the need for a wine stopper, why would you use that?  Or a chip clip?  That means there will be chips left over?  What? You’re crazy.

But life is slowly changing for me.  I just don’t buy chips (oh the occasional sprouted multigrain) but mostely I make Kale Chips.  I occasionally splurge and make organic popcorn using coconut oil and Pink Himalayan sea salt.  I try to avoid sugar as much as humanly possible (although I bought dark chocolate squares for the non-existent trick or treaters, really I bought organic dark chocolate squares for 8 year olds?  c’mon….) The power of the subconscious mind is astounding.

I haven’t lost a ton of weight but I have definitely stopped gaining and I am down a solid 12 pounds from over a year ago and I feel every week I might be losing just a smidge.  Make that a Smidge with a capital S. So imagine if I hadn’t quit I would have still been gaining even more?  Geesh….

I have started Masters Swimming twice a week and I LOVE it, LOVE it!!  I love my coach.  She looks twelve but she is great.  She has really ripped my stroke and kick apart.  The workouts are really hard but really satisfying.  And this week I finally saw an improvement.  One of my goals for years has been to swim 50 yards in 60 seconds flat (repeatedly not just once and hold onto the side sucking wind). And that pace is NOT fast.  In fact, in the Masters Swim that would be considered really slow.  And that’s my goal to get to that!  Just get to the really slow level.  I always did 1:04 as my fast and 1:07 as my medium and if you said recovery I could take all day.  Oh sure on occasion I could pop out 1 minute — usually at the beginning when I had a lot of energy but then it would settle into 1:07. It used to annoy me because I just didn’t know what I was doing wrong.  I would take all kinds of lessons and they would all say “looks good, just practice more.”

When I met Mary Kate (my new coach) she was holding back from making me feel bad but she basically said “we have a lot of work to do and I might have to video tape you to show you everything you are doing wrong.”  We’ve been working I guess 4 weeks now, I kick with a snorkel, I drag a paint bucket through the water.  I use flippers and hand paddles and pull buoys.  I stretch farther even when I feel like I have stretched as far as I could.  I try to alternate breathing.  Keep my head down.  Kick, kick, kick.  (I don’t have other strokes yet so for now she just has me do backstroke on my laps of “other choice.”)

Yesterday one of the sets was 8 x 50 yards on 60 seconds.  For me that doesn’t really work because I can’t swim 50 meters in 60 seconds so she would modify it.  She would stand at the end of my lane and give me an extra 10 or sometimes 15 depending on whatever it was. (No two workouts are ever alike).  But yesterday I took off on my first 50 and did it in 55 seconds.  Wow!  Woo hoo!  I have never done 55 seconds and that wasn’t even a sprint that was just like medium hard swim.  I wanted to party and celebrate and high five everyone but then she shouted “Go!”  So off I went and came back in, yep 55 seconds.  7 of the 8 times only taking the 5 second rest!!  The last one I did 1 minute again but I never even used to get 1 minute so I was still happy. That my made my week with no exaggeration.

The sad part was nobody else seemed impressed with my 55 seconds.  I think that’s because all the other swimmers were doing it in like 30 seconds.  The next set kind of burst my bubble too.  I had to do 8 x 75 yards in 75 seconds.  Yeah well I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  Distance is not my problem. I’ll swim all day, just not fast enough.  That was my reality check.  I was doing the “C” level workout.  They think a “C” level swimmer should be able to do that and catch a breath in there somewhere.  No wonder nobody was impressed with my 55 seconds.  But can you imagine the day that I can do 75 meters in 75 seconds and have a second or two to catch my breath?  We are going to have a party….  Huge party.

One month until indoor training starts with the Biker’s Edge cycling team.  I can’t keep up with them outside so I’m going to do an indoor season with them to get in shape to ride closer to them.

Namaste

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