Friday, May 30, 2014

A treatise on confidence

This treatise is a response to James Haycraft's "Sprintitude" post on his blog. I will be honest -and I hope James doesn't kill me- but when you train a lot with the same people you often get a very good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. And if you are paying attention you might even receive some insight into where they are most confidence and where they are not. I often see two very different sides of James. I have seen James attack a sprint hill like a cat stalks his prey. He watches the other cyclists try to position themselves for an easy win - they take off eager to create a breakaway. James stays back pedaling with ease, a slight grin turning up the corners of his mouth. The cyclists are 5 feet away, 10 feet away, 15 feet away, 20 feet away . . . and all I am doing is watching and thinking, he can't do it, there's no way he can bridge that gap, he waited too long, so-and-so is too strong . . . While I am forming this string of negative thoughts, James attacks. He jumps out of his saddle, reels in his prey, and the gap is bridged. Once caught, his prey struggles to grasp the remains of a lead that at one time seemed insurmountable only to become the first loser. I am sorry, sir, but you just got Haycrafted.

And then there is the James that shows up to swim practice. He gets to the pool on time but then dillydallies on deck for another 10-15 minutes before getting in. He swims the 1000+ warm up and starts the "heart-rate" set which is basically another 800-1000 where you are expected to go from warm-up pace to all out sprint pace. [As an aside, this is my favorite part of practice because the whole masters group does this together. Regardless of our abilities, we swim as one. Pretty cool.] Ready or not, it is time for the main set. James starts at the back and steadily moves up the line as the older over-zealous masters swimmers out pace themselves. But then something happens. Instead of making his way to the front and flourishing, James is out of the water and sitting slumped on the bleachers overlooking the rest of us as we struggle to make the interval. He shakes his head slowly when I look at him quizzically and then he is gone. Not every workout is going to be a breakthrough but when this happens more often that not, something is definitely up.

So how does one person oooooze confidence Tuesday night and be completely void of it Wednesday morning? When I asked James this very question the answer came down to what he believes to be true before initiating each action. When sprinting he channels his "sprintitude" but when swimming he enters a downward spiral of doubt and lack of motivation.

Triathlon is a tough sport on the body but it is even a tougher sport on the mind. Everyone looks fit. Everyone trains hard. Everyone has strengths and, believe it or not, everyone has weaknesses. What would happen if everyone approached his/her weaknesses in the same fashion and his/her strengths?

The conversation with James reminded me of a TED talk I watched a long time ago. My short attention span makes watching TED talks an ideal past time. It is a 20 minute talk on the influence of body language on confidence. In a nutshell, when you use body language that portrays confidence you ultimately are more confident.

Let's take athletics out of the equation just because there are too many variables, ie. genetics, coaching, training, time availability, dedication, yada yada yada. Now what if I am preparing to go to a party. Normally I am shy, awkward, and self-conscious of my lack/desire of fashion sense (Why do I drop $80 on a pair of bib shorts but can't bring myself to go shopping real clothes and a decent pair of shoes??) As a consequence I feel intimidated and subsequently less outgoing. What if I take a second and tell myself, "I am going to be the best looking girl at this party." Obviously that is not going to be true - there are some pretty damn good looking people in Charlotte - but what if I tell myself that anyway? I might walk in the door more confident. I might be apt to stand a little taller and make direct eye contact. My body language might just reflect a person who is calm and confident . . . AND approachable so any one of those ridiculously good looking gentlemen I spy over there will come talk to me and not the overly tanned creeper with the gold chain and patchy chest hair.

So I encourage you, all of you, to take a power pose or phrase and "fake it until you make it." Instead of belittling your abilities, embrace them. Go ahead and tell yourself you are unbeatable. Convince yourself you are the prettiest girl at the party, in Charlotte, in NC, in the entire universe. Who cares what you tell yourself but by all means hold your head high and quit beating down everything about you that makes you amazing.

Ahhhhh but there is a caveat! Use your power pose to gain confidence but don't get crushed under its weight. If telling yourself, "I will win this sprint" puts you in a position to perform at your highest potential but you don't actually win, let's not turn to the bottle in defeat.  Don't fill your head with unrealistic expectations and then walk away from your dreams in frustration. Keep perspective of the journey and only be mindful of the destination. Running is my weakness but that does not mean I am a bad runner. You know what it does mean? My potential for improvement is highest in running and this is exactly what I tell myself before every single run.

Which reminds me of a few words I received from a friend last year I keep posted on my wall at work:

Tru. Dat.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Caturnalia: She's not heavy she's my sister

Why Cali does this to poor Mimi is beyond me. She certainly can't do it to Smudge or Coda. They would annihilate her. I guess Mimi really is the low girl on the totem pole. 

And Cali is fat.

You still alive under there?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


As I mentioned last week, I headed to Chattanooga for the weekend to swim in the USMS National Open Water Championships as well as to run and ride the IM Chattanooga course.

James, Tim, and I left the Queen City Friday night and headed west with clear eyes and full hearts. Since there is no direct way to Chattanooga we had two choices, drive through Atlanta or drive through Asheville. The combination of Friday night and rush hour made the choice very easy . . .

We arrived  to Asheville just as the sun was going down. Along with the sun, the temperature was dropping dramatically. Significantly under dressed, we got out of the car and went for a casual jog along the famous Wedge run route which is a flat out-and-back from the Wedge Brewery along the French Broad River. It is pretty spectacular, especially with a sunset.

Starting to feel cold and hungry, we dropped into a local restaurant I found highly recommended on Yelp, The White Duck Taco Shop. I will be the first to admit you just don't know what you're gonna get in Asheville but this place served up some seriously delicious tacos. I had the Banh Mi tofu taco and the special Mushroom and Potato taco. The Banh Mi was incredible.

Damage control not needed
When we finally arrived to Chattanooga it was down right cold. Like 50 degree cold. I was too tired to dwell on this and fell fast asleep with little on my mind except the potential to oversleep in the AM.

Silly. Me.

I got up relatively early considering our late arrival so I could do my regular routine. Coffee - check. Small breakfast for the belly - check. Warm up on course - nope. We drove the one mile to the start very aware the temps had yet to break the 50 degree mark and it was beginning to rain. Luckily I thought to bring my Blueseventy warm ups but I still envied the swimmers walking around in their parkas and wetsuits. Needless to say, getting in the Tennessee River to "warm up" wasn't going to happen. Instead of warming up I sent angry text messages to Jeremy Gregory for convincing me to sign up. Some people were saying the water was hovering around 68 degrees, others claimed it to be a balmy 72. Honestly, at that point it really didn't matter. I put on my brand spankin' new Blueseventy NeroTX. I was given two - an orange and a black one and was very disappointed when the orange one was just a tad too big. {insert sad face}

Getting in the water actually wasn't that bad. Since the water was warmer than the air the river felt comfortable as I swam over to the start line. I was slow getting in so I did not have long to wait before the gun went off and since swimmers have more sense than triathletes there was no real initial sprint to take my breath away. We started our swim against the current and I was pretty happy with my position, near the front and more or less in the middle. Currents are the weakest close to the shore so I slowly made my way in the direction as the swimmers thinned out a bit. Eventually I got to be about a body length behind a woman who was swimming a pace I was pretty comfortable with for the first loop. Then this behemoth of a gentleman came sailing my way throwing his weight around with every stroke. At times I was convinced he alone was going to drown me. He would get about 3 feet away and then some barreling back until he was snuggling in my armpit. He would not go away and hung around through to the second loop until he finally dropped back (ugh, dudes). Even though I never felt cold, I did not feel all that great starting the second loop. I was swimming ok but I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was swimming . . . but . . . I . . . wasn't. The pod in front of me wasn't breaking away but I was just going through the motions. Rounding the last turn, however, I felt like my body was dangling in the water. I suddenly realized I could not feel anything from the knee down and I needed this swim to be over. The competitive fire went out and I just needed to get out. When I finally got to the finish ramp I very gingerly exited the water and awkwardly made my way to the timing mat. All the volunteers were asking me if I was ok but all I could think about was getting to my towel and warm clothes. Once I got to my stuff several volunteers descended on me with hand warmers, hats, and hot chocolate. Before I knew it the race doctor was there and I was being rushed to the changing tent where I was stripped from my suit, placed in several layers of clothing, and ushered to a warm car. It took at least 15 minutes before I could hold a cup pf hot water without burning my hands and I was in the car for 30 minutes before the doctor would release me. For the rest of the day several volunteers stopped to tell me how much better I looked. I apparently I looked pretty awful coming out of the water. I hope there aren't any pictures to document my glamorous exit. It is scary how you can completely lose your sense of reality.

I ended up doing the 2.4 mile swim in 54 mins and getting 3rd in my age group. Since the swim was both with and against the current it was "an honest" swim course. Unfortunately the wind was blowing against the current so I never really felt like I was flying. The IM course is all with the current and a is a straight shot. Like the new Cozumel course it should be fast and easy!

I felt pretty crappy the rest of the day but after downing some hot soup and some more hot liquids I was feeling a ton better and went down to watch the ICE crew get their awards. I then went back to the hotel to take a nap to end all naps. It was fitful and feverish but it got the job done.

That evening we made our way to the Urban Stack, another Yelp recommendation. If the weather had been nicer it would have been pretty awesome to end the day on their patio but we still had an incredible dinner that started off with a nice serving of fried chickpeas and ended with a round of drinks.

This is a stock photo. The sun was NOT shining.

Not a stock photo. This DID happen.
The next morning we woke up to what I would call "a steady rain" and what Tim calls "a drizzle." How ever you want to call it, it was raining which put a huge damper on our plans to ride the entire IM course. We already arrived to Chattanooga under dressed and none of us was prepared to ride in the rain. After loitering around the hotel for way too long we decided to go on a wet run and head back to Charlotte. The run ended up being a lot of fun and gave us a chance to explore what Chattanooga has to offer. We crossed the foot bridge and ran around the arts district and the trails of Coolidge Park. Since we were each armed with a camera we took turns goofing off and filming each other. The physician who treated me at the race told me Chattanooga is the Boulder of the South. While at the time it sounded like an awfully lofty designation, I certainly can see it. Chattanooga really does have a lot to offer the athletically/outdoors inclined. I think an Ironman here will be really successful. Even though Chattanooga reminded me a lot of Louisville, the residents here will be a lot more receptive to the presence of the race and influx of athletes and spectators. I am super excited for all those "Doin' the Choo," especially Mrs. Honey Badger herself.

Rainy day revelry

Chattanooga's parting shot:

Made in Nooga since 1917

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Back at it!

Back to blogging that is!
I took an unintended break from blogging . . . other than Caturnalia because that just doesn't count. For the last month or so I have just been trying to keep up with the pace of life. It is entirely my fault. I want to do everything . . . I think I can do everything. When I realize I can't I get really frustrated. The key, however, is that I do exactly what I want to do all the time.

4/27 - I went up towards the Wilkesboro area and rode the Brushy Mountain loop. I wasn't quite prepared to ride close to 80 miles but I got guilted into it. Guilted . . . yeah that's the ticket.

5/4 - I hitched a ride with the very talented Sebastian Binnemann to compete in the Buck Hurley Sprint Triathlon. Like last year I had a blast. Unlike last year the weather was awesome.

5/4 - I spent the rest of the day lounging alongside Lake Norman tanning my already tan arms and hoping to get the slightest bit of color on my not very tan belly.

(you're welcome)
5/5 - I celebrated Cinco de Mayo at Cabo Fish Taco with these amazing tofu tacos. I was not a fan of CFT until I downed these bad boys. So incredibly good!

5/7 - Since I am no longer taking the time off to compete at Rev3 Knoxville, I decided to sign up for the USMS Open Water National Championships. The race coincides with a course preview of IM Chattanooga. While I am not "DOIN' THE CHOO" as they say, I am still excited about the opportunity to ride and run the course.

5/11 - I went on a mountain ride with some of the guys from ICE as well as some others. It was an amazing day. The sun was out but it was neither too hot nor too cold. It was perfect. Riding in the mountains of NC is such a treat. 

5/13 - I received a reward at work for all of my *cough* hard work and *cough* dedication to my department.

Taxpayers: You. Are. Welcome. 
Other than that is has been business as usual. I have not had any top notch training weeks. I have just been plugging along, smooth and steady. Over the last 5 weeks my swims, bikes, and runs have been consistent which is the best training possible, especially when I am purposely trying not to rock the boat. I need to keep things even keeled if I am going to continue to manage my work, workout, and professional lives. The 1-2 punch I received traveling to New Orleans and returning to a very busy work load had a detrimental effect on both my mind and body. BUT I am back! I have no reason to be anything other than grateful for all the amazing opportunities presented to me daily. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Caturnalia: Good deeds

Yesterday I went to the Charlotte Humane Society and donated a bunch of old feed bowls from my cats and a HUGE bag of donated blankets from Jones Racing Company. It takes so little to give so much!

And then when I was finishing up my bike ride I came across this scene:

There are at least 5 stray cats in this picture but someone was feeding them. Hungry little buggers! They freaked out a little when I showed but quickly assessed me as a sucka. I am surprised one them did not come sashaying my way with please-take-me-home-eyes.

Of course I then went home and lectured my cats on what a bunch of spoiled brats they are. Spoiled! Brats!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Caturnalia: Fishing

So this week I joined the Humane Society of Charlotte's Young Affiliated Professionals group. Upon joining I received an email concerning all of their upcoming social/volunteer gatherings. I can't attend any of them due to my schedule at this time but maybe in the future . . . in the meantime my membership will help fund vaccinations and sterilization services for animals within the Humane Society. Check 'em out! And maybe even consider joining.

I never give a lot of thought to what my cats do when I am not home all day. I figured they just curled up to sleep the day away. I mean that's what they do all weekend. But at some point they wake up and hunt because every now and then I come home to find a random toy laying in the middle of the floor. A toy I have not seen for ages. It's kinda creepy.

I don't think this one made it out alive
I collect what toys I find and place them in a "toy box" aka a cat bed they refuse to use stuffed in a place I won't trip over. Somehow the toys manage to go missing and I am constantly buying more. They are probably all under my refrigerator.  Sometimes I catch the cats fishing for toys out of their toy box which I find really cute.

Coda is the lookout while Smudge goes fishing