Leadership

Over the Hump

Soooo, I’m kind of a huge rom com fan. This week, I rocked Legally Blonde 1 and 2—classics! I had to laugh, though, because in every rom com, there’s a low point where the opposition seems to be too much to overcome. However, that point is short-lived, and before long, some “ah ha” moment kicks in where everything comes together for the happiest of happy endings!

While this feel-good formula is part of what makes the rom com so fabulous, in real life, that forlorn scene before the happy ending can seem to stretch on forever. You’ve been working your butt off, invested so much, received support from so many individuals, overcome obstacle after obstacle, and it feels like on the one hand, that goal is just around the corner, on the other, it is just as far out of reach as ever. It can be easy to find yourself questioning your ability to push that boulder over the top of the hill; to achieve that happy ending.

This is something I have been working through lately. I know I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been, as evidenced by my ability to lay down the second fastest run in the elite women’s race at St. Anthony’s Triathlon last weekend. But I haven’t been able to put everything together, and in the hours between sessions, the self-doubt can creep in. 

Unfortunately this blog post is not one that provides the *magical solution* to breaking through. But many often wait to share what they’ve going through until there is a “happy ending” to report. So I thought it was worth sharing from the trenches! Going through a rough patch? You’re not alone :-P

But as Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” I continue to love what I do, believe that I can win, and commit to doing everything in my power each and every day to make that dream a reality. That is the best advice I can provide for others: continue being true to yourself, putting in the work, and keeping the faith that your time will come.

When it does, through the process of pushing that boulder up the mountain, you’ll come out the other end not only with the result you’ve been working so hard to achieve, but also a greater sense of self and more strength than you ever imagined! This anonymous quote captures it well: “The ‘bad’ things that happen in our lives often put us directly on a  path to the best things that will ever happen.”

My next opportunity to track the progress of my “boulder-pushing” will be next weekend at Gulf Coast 70.3. I can’t wait for another honest look in the mirror that racing always provides! 

P.S. Don’t forget to smile along the way! :D

P.S. Don’t forget to smile along the way! :D

No Regrets

birthdaycake

This past Monday, I turned 29 (AH I'M GETTING OLD!). Birthdays always have a way of making me reflect – what have I achieved since last year? Am I happy? Am I accomplishing my goals (or making steps towards them)? What do I need to do to make the coming year the best one yet?

This year, as I rode through the hills of Bloomington w/ Coach on the afternoon of my birthday, I was grateful to be doing what I love, pursuing a dream that many would shy away from because the rate of failure is so high.

In my 28th year, I made the decision to live regret-free. Since then, it’s been a series of great adventures (some of which are captured in the gallery below, starting most recent back to March 30, 2015! Check em out!). I’m not sure I could count the number of pools/bodies of water I’ve swum in, the cities I’ve trained and raced in, the new amazing people I’ve met and friends I’ve made, the workouts I’ve completed that I never thought I would be able to. I’ve adopted the philosophy of making my life what I want it to be as opposed to doing what others think I should; of taking action and getting to work, not sitting around and talking about it.

In my 29th year, every moment, every day, I am choosing to do what will get me one step closer to my dream of racing at the top of the sport of triathlon, whether that’s passing on dessert, doing that last set of strength exercises that I just reallyyy don’t feel like doing, or turning off my computer mid-show to make sure I get 9 hours of sleep for the next day’s training.

The result is a life free of regret – it’s an incredibly liberating feeling that I wish for every person out there. So, what will you do today to be happier, more accomplished than yesterday? Make the choice for this year to be the best yet and commit to it, one act at a time!

Lessons From a Puppy Dog

Since I will only be home for a couple days over Christmas, I decided to take an extended visit over the Thanksgiving holiday – it was a great opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery and to spend some time with my fam! While I wouldn’t say that my time at home was completely “relaxing” – Greg and I have already begun to build my training in preparation for 2016, and owning my own business, my work follows me wherever I go – it was definitely refreshing to have my Mom around to cook delicious dinners and not have to worry as much about house cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.

The other MAJOR highlight of going home was hanging with my parents’ new puppy, Tessa…. Or as we like to call her, “Trouble Bunny!” Even though Newfies tend to be more mild-mannered than other breeds, (not-so) little Tess is your quintessential high-energy, shoe-stealing, jumpy, nippy, fluffy, lovable, hilarious puppy. She provided loads of entertainment – and maybe a littleee frustration – over my 2 weeks at home.

Little Tessa-Bear at 3 months old!

Little Tessa-Bear at 3 months old!

Photo shoot with my little fluffball! Just a typical interaction between us ;-P

Photo shoot with my little fluffball! Just a typical interaction between us ;-P

As I depart from home and head down to Team IE's Florida camp, I realized that in the process of training Tess with my Mom, she also trained me, providing some valuable lessons and reminders that I am applying to training, work, and life in general. I thought I’d take a minute to share my top three lessons from Ms. Tess:

1. The Power of Living in the Moment

Tessa provided the ultimate example of living in the moment. She would be completely immersed in destroying her favorite pink squeaky ball (see fetch vid below!) until she heard the crinkling of a bag in the kitchen. Then, bam! No interest in the ball anymore. We could almost hear her calling to us, “Food! Food! Food!” That is, until I grabbed her stuffed pig, named “Baby,” when her focus would again turn completely; this time, to playing with Baby.

Tessa and her Baby!!

Tessa and her Baby!!

Of course, I’m not saying to never reflect upon/learn from the past or prepare for the future. In her couple months at home, Tessa learned what it meant when we dropped food in her crate (she’s not the biggest fan of crate time), she’s learned good behaviors that result in rewards, and she’s internalized bad ones that yield negative results (well, sort of!). Similarly, I am a big proponent of making time to reflect on both successes and failures to learn and grow. I am also a big believer in the saying, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” But I am definitely working to channel my inner-Tess by embracing the present and not leting my past experiences or desires/fears for the future hold me back in the here and now.

2. The Cheetah Principle

An extremely common mistake in triathlon training – and, I would argue, in life – is that there is not enough change of pace. In hard workouts, they don’t go hard enough; in easy workouts, they don’t go easy enough. Everything is done in an in-between grey zone, a no-man’s land, which just wears them down and creates a sense of monotony.

Tessa’s days are a roller coaster of energy extremes, alternating between RUNAROUNDANDPLAY and sleeeeep. There is very little middle ground. When she goes, she GOES, and when she rests, the rests hard. Greg, Adam and I call this the Cheetah principle, because they do the same: lounge, lounge, lounge, the SPRINT; repeat. As I seek to develop as a high-performing short-course triathlete and strive to become the fastest triathlete I can be, I am working to be more like the cheetah. More like Tess.

3. A.B.C. (Always Be Curious)

Tessa is exceedingly curious – not one thing evades her gaze. Even running at the speed of light around the yard, she would grab sticks and leaves to take back to her safe spot for inspection. She’s constantly jumping up on the counter just to survey what’s going on up there (… and whether there might be a little treat she could nag! …. We’re admittedly working on that habit). We could almost hear her thinking, “Ooo what’s this? … what’s that? … WHAT’s THAT?!” as she would do a round of even the living room, which I would personally have expected to be kind of boring at this point, since it's where she has presided since she came home with my parents!

 Just seeing what's up at the kitchen table! (Plus a subsequent guilty puppy face since she knows she's not supposed to jump up!)

 Just seeing what's up at the kitchen table! (Plus a subsequent guilty puppy face since she knows she's not supposed to jump up!)

It can be easy to get so caught up checking things off in our daily to-do lists that we don’t take the time to be curious; to stop and ask questions; to wonder “why” something is the way it is and could some change create a better product, situation, result, etc. than the current status quo. But it’s this curiosity that leads to learning, which empowers us to become better athletes, managers, professionals, leaders, and members of the community.  So I’m taking a page out of Tessa’s book and allowing myself to let go of that to-do list/schedule just a bit to make time for questions and curiosity.

On alert - "HEY! What's going on out there?!?"

On alert - "HEY! What's going on out there?!?"

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your furry friend(s)? Would love to hear from you!

Gratitude is an Attitude

As you may have noticed, process and attitude are two central themes in my triathlon story thus far. Conversations between my coach and me continually come back to executing even the smallest details on a daily basis to achieve incremental gain in every training session. I would say this actually applies to professional growth and performance as well as sport.

More recently, one word that has emerged in our discussions about process is: mastery.

In this vein, my coach recently recommended Ariana Kukors’ interview with Michael Gervais in his podcast, “Finding Mastery.” It may appear to be a long interview, but make the time. You won’t regret it. Once I started listening, I couldn’t tear myself away!

In this incredible interview, Kukors defines mastery as:

“A continual advancement in skills. Just a hunger of knowledge, and progression, and moving forward, and taking in all these things but also trusting yourself. Trusting that in my craft, my body knows. My mind knows. I’ve been there before. The certain amount of trust and risk that go into creating that moment. That race."

Kukors’ account of the heartbreak, frustration, determination, meditation, and ultimately, joy associated with her quest to achieve excellence brought memories from my journey to defy boundaries in my own pursuit of greatness at every step of the way, from elite figure skating, to NCAA rowing, to my academic and professional careers, and now in my journey as a professional triathlete.

One thing that struck me was the role that gratitude played in Ariana’s quest for mastery. She constantly comes back to having an “attitude of gratitude,” and appreciating every opportunity, every race, every person who touched her along the way. This was so refreshing to me, because it can be all too easy to get wrapped up in what we don’t have, what we’re missing, where we fall short, etc. etc. I find I’m happier, more focused, and perform better when I’m in the moment, operating in what you might call a “state of grace” … And I’m certainly more pleasant to be around!

Acknowledging that I’m human and we all have bad days, I decided to adopt one of Kukors’ practices to train gratitude just like I train my body and mind in workouts every day: each evening, I’ve begun writing 3 things I’m grateful for. And so far, I’m finding that this practice keeps me centered and focused on all the good in my life, no matter how my day has gone.

With the Thanksgiving coming up this week, it’s the perfect time to start practicing an attitude of gratitude!

Pray For Wind

People often ask me, how have you gotten so far in triathlon? Well, there are a lot of contributing factors, but a big one = attitude. And I would say this is something that has led to not only athletic growth, but also professional success.

But how does this play out on a day-to-day basis? Well, last Saturday I found myself about a third of the way into my 55 mile long ride, cursing as I made my way into what felt like a brick wall – a headwind that I would be facing for at least another 20 miles. Just as I was about to dive into self-pity mode, I remembered Coach Greg’s words, “pray for wind.” Here in South Bend, IN, we don’t quite have topography. Some rollers maybe, but definitely no hills of significance. And forget mountains! But that wind, it can be a secret weapon, a tool to gain both physical and mental strength… if embraced.

Source:  pinterest.com

I couldn’t help but think of that saying - “pray for wind” - as we talk about building my swim. I’m bringing my splits down week by week, but it’s a slow and at times, frustrating process. That being said, if it was easy, everyone would do it!

Same goes with being a professional athlete and striving to race at the top. With each challenge, each ride into the wind, I have faith that persevering through the hardest moments – both mental and physical – are the ones that make us the strongest come race day.

Sometimes the coldest, windiest workouts bring the biggest smiles afterwards!

Sometimes the coldest, windiest workouts bring the biggest smiles afterwards!

The other great thing about wind? It keeps you humble. I still have a longggg way to go to be where I want to be, so I continue to give it my all each day… and to pray for wind!

Practicing Patience

A (wo)man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.
— George Savile

When I was growing up, Cadillac was the brand of grandparents. No one under 70 drove one. As the Harvard Business Review says, by the turn of the century, Cadillac “fell so far some thought it would never return to glory."

However, Cadillac began a decade-long turnaround in 1999/2000 with what Design Chief Mark Adams calls, “A revolution, and a change of internal culture in the company to think about Cadillac in a different way… The only way we could re-establish Cadillac was to do something evocative.” Today, Cadillac’s sales are the highest they’ve been since 1976, according to Fast Company’s How Cadillac Designed A Comeback. But even that revolution took time – it took open-mindedness, determination, but also patience.

This is a lesson that we can apply to our own lives, and that I am applying to my training as we speak. 

Over the past two weeks, I have been launching my own revolution on my swim and run form. I travelled down to Austin, TX to work with renowned swim coach, Kim Brackin, followed by a trip to Boulder to assess and revamp my run form with running guru Bobby McGee. The sessions with these two amazing coaches were so informative (read: brain overload!), and so inspiring. I departed from Austin with a drastically different stroke from when I arrived, and I left Boulder having felt muscles my body almost forgot I had. I couldn't be more grateful to Kim and Bobby for the time they spent with me and the wisdom they imparted to me.

KimBrackinEating

All of this change is exciting, because of the possibilities it opens up in terms of untapped speed! However, I now keep having to catch myself from getting ahead of myself. Both Kim and Bobby’s last instructions to me were, “be patient, change takes time."

BobbyMcGee

I admittedly am one of those people who like to see change instantaneously, and that’s just not how the body works. So while it can be frustrating at times, I am chipping away every day, drilling new movement patterns into my muscle memory with the confidence that keeping the faith, being patient, and refusing to give up will ultimately lead to my own revolution in the sport.

Source:  Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

On that note, I leave you with some pics of my adventures from the East Coast, to the Lone Star State, to the Colorado Mountains over the last two weeks.

How Big Is Your Brave?

NelsonMandela.jpg

Last week, my friend mentioned Alexi Pappas – fellow Dartmouth alum and current professional runner – to me. Reading through some of Alexi’s articles and poetry (which by the way are awesome and you should check out!), a theme emerged: bravery.

After reading some of her pieces yesterday morning, I headed out to do a swim that I was admittedly dreading a bit. I knew it would be challenging; I knew it was designed to find and test my limit. And right at the point where my mind began to insist, “I can't do it!” I remembered a quote from Alexi about running that struck me: “I have to choose to be strong.” I thought about the gap that opened between the main pack and myself two weeks back at Punta Guilarte, a gap I'm determined to eliminate between now and the 2016 season. And I pushed through the point when I had thought I couldn’t push anymore.

Coach is often saying that we always have a choice. We are no longer allowed to say, “my elbow keeps dropping” or “I can’t hit my splits.” He’ll correct us, “You mean, you keep choosing to drop your elbow” and “choosing not to hit your splits.” It really changes the sense of the phrases, don’t you think?

So often I feel like the conversation revolves around being “fearless,” both in sports and in other realms. But is fear really a bad thing?

Reflecting in the shower after my swim (where I do all of my greatest thinking!), I had to wonder if in fact it is fear that actually makes us stronger? I think so. It’s those moments when we force ourselves to push through that discomfort - and at times, paralysis - when we grow. It could be giving a presentation to senior leaders at your company, accepting a stretch project you’re not sure you currently have all the skills for, picking up the phone to make a cold call to a potential customer, tying up your running shoes and stepping out the door when you can't fathom running even a mile, or striving to execute a workout that you’ve been doing for years at a pace faster than you’ve ever gone before.

If we were fearless, we’d never have the opportunity to be brave.  Without the chance to be brave, we would lose the opportunity to grow!

My challenge to myself, and to you: face each fear and use it to become stronger. See just how brave you can be!

Learning to Press Pause

If you ask most of my friends, family, and colleagues to describe me, the words “driven,” “goal-oriented,” “extremely efficient” come up again and again. I’m a hard worker, always trying to go above and beyond expectations, and Adam often marvels (or, is disgusted?) by the number of tasks I tend to be juggling at any given point in time. When my coach advised that we take a week off at the end of this season – my first complete season since I started triathlon – part of me thought “YESSSSSS! Thank goodness!” The other part thought, “Time off? Now? I don’t deserve it – there is too much work to be done!"

I typically do yoga once a week but this week had the chance to do more and really find my "zen" place! My favorite source of routines is  Fiji McAlpine .

I typically do yoga once a week but this week had the chance to do more and really find my "zen" place! My favorite source of routines is Fiji McAlpine.

But I agreed, and so we hit pause on training this week. At first, I thought, “This is great - I’ll take advantage of the week without training to get a lot of work done!” Between training/racing, seeking out sponsors, and running my own consulting practice, it often feels like there’s not enough time in the day. And as I’m sure many people can attest, it’s hard to disconnect and let go when the world around you seems to be spinning faster and faster everyday!

But once I physically slowed down enough to take a breath, I found that my mind was tired too… perhaps more tired than my body! So I gave myself permission to indulge a little; to bake because it makes me happy; to simply sit and enjoy watching “Scandal” with Adam (our latest obsession!) without simultaneously texting, catching up with email, and doing client work; and sometimes to just sit quietly and be!

Baking time! Started with pumpkin bread...

Baking time! Started with pumpkin bread...

Licking the bowl ... can't let anything go to waste ;-)

Licking the bowl ... can't let anything go to waste ;-)

cinnamon ice cream + pumpkin chocolate chip bread = heaven.

cinnamon ice cream + pumpkin chocolate chip bread = heaven.

Local fruit-picking gem -  Lehman's Orchard !

Local fruit-picking gem - Lehman's Orchard!

applepicking
Tasting the goods!

Tasting the goods!

applebread