Shortcomings – Gentleness

I know that it isn’t really ‘vogue’ to focus on our flaws anymore. We live in a very strength based culture nowadays which actually is pretty counter cultural to the way I grew up in. However, as I sit here tonight looking at a blog I haven’t written in in months, I felt pretty challenged to write something about my flaws. I’m not perfect; we all aren’t and to an extent, I accept that. However, I’m beginning to see my flaws as the way in which I fail to be more Christ like which all Christians, myself included, aspire to be more like.

[Side note: before you (may) disregard this because you don’t believe in this particular faith, think about the characteristics Christ has been associated with…are there any characteristics that you think are actually ‘bad’? ]

For myself, it’s specifically with regards to gentleness. When I think of gentle, I think about being emotionally aware and being able to respond in a way that isn’t emotionally hurtful. For those who know me, I don’t think they would describe me as gentle. It doesn’t come naturally. My affection for others is rarely expressed by being gentle or even truly empathetic. I think to a certain extent, I brush this off with understanding that my natural disposition (according to Myers-Briggs) isn’t as a ‘feeler’ but as a ‘thinker’. Let’s just say I scored very far on the ‘thinker’ side. But brushing it off doesn’t do me really any good. Actually, by failing to understand my own emotions, the emotions of others and how to respond and be emotionally supportive places limitations on my relationships. I’ve been very fortunate to be in a relationship with Jon who is most definitely more of a ‘feeler’ than I am. I see how my lack of gentleness affects our relationship and how it hurts him when it emerges. What’s more though is how I see him respond to it – he forgives me. Jon accepts my flaws – note that his response is not the equivalent of accepting a failure to address them or the fact that said flaw leads to particular responses but he doesn’t crucify me for it. The reality is that I do deserve to be crucified for it; for this and all those other negative things I think about and do. They are due to the sinful, man nature of me that that isn’t Christ like but the crazy thing is, Christ was crucified for this sinful nature that has occurred and is to come. He died for me for times like this, in times when I don’t deserve it.

Today, I heard a sermon about Jesus in his role as shepherd. I had the best image of me as a sheep; I was a round, grey, fluffy but most definitely stinky and pretty airhead-like…anyways one of the things that have stuck out the most is the image of how God doesn’t us the big staff he carries as a shepherd to drive us to the direction He wants us to go; rather, He gently guides us in that the direction. The staff is instead used to drive away any dangers along the way.

It’s not to say that there isn’t a time for me to be in high efficiency mode (as Jon likes to call it) and be more focused on executing something as effectively and efficiently as possible. However, there’s most definitely circumstances where approaching the situation in a cold, calculating manner is actually the least effective response. One of the many things that God is teaching me through this relationship is how to be more gentle. As painful as it is to realize that my way of thinking isn’t always the best way to think or do things (pride…other major shortcoming to explore next time?), I’ve been extremely blessed that God has provided me with a safe environment where I can learn to address these shortcomings and with someone who can withstand my mishaps and encourage me to become better or simply put (and yes, enjoy the Christian jargon though there’s really no better way of explaining it), more Christ like. When Christ came to the earth, He was able to simultaneously effectively deliver his message and fulfill his purpose while being gentle. So it’s possible! Yayyy.

I feel that this coming year is a year when I need to be equip myself with the ability to answer the question of: what is God calling me/us to and how are we going to respond? That question was very eloquently posed by Jon when we were discussing the future of our relationship and all the potential challenges that may arise. I feel that ‘gentleness’ is something that is applicable to the ‘how’ or approach to my response to His calling. In one of my devos, they explored the concept of gentleness but they also looked at the synonym of ‘meekness’. The Greek word /praótēs (“strength in gentleness”) avoids unnecessary harshness, yet without compromising or being too slow to use necessary force. So in this understanding, meekness is actually a demonstration of strength. In my case then, do I have the internal strength to be gentle?

 

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In response to ‘Christian, or Feminist’

When I saw the title to of this article published by the Atlantic, ‘Christian, or Feminist’, I was actually really excited. I’m like finally! Conversation opened! …no. Upon reading the first sentence, I was severely disappointed. The particular lens in which the article has taken to reconcile Christianity and feminism was really restricted to sexual freedom and failed to expand itself into the greater conversation of societal understanding of gender and how the church overall understands gender. Yes, one could indeed argue that gender/gender inequality can be closely tied to sexual expression but I also feel like it’s a very limited way to look at it. Let me set up some personal context from where I’m coming from before coming back to this article.

I think as a Christian woman born in the late 20th century and now living in the 21st century, I am constantly grappling about how I should understand the role of women in the context of today’s world/culture. I grew up in a family that valued both son and daughter without discernment (which from a culturally standpoint, is pretty amazing since my family is Chinese and traditionally, patriarchal). I had the greatest privilege of attending good schools and received a solid education first as a secondary and then post-secondary student without any obvious barriers due to my gender. I also currently work in a workplace where a lot of us are women but our expertise and experience is taken into consideration without the lens that hey, this comes from a woman and thus could be questionable. Nope. I grew up and continue to be someone that believes in equal opportunity for both men and women, whether it be in sports, career, education or whatever. Whenever someone challenges my abilities and inserts false limitations of what I can or cannot do because I don’t have that particular appendage, I take it as a personal challenge and go out of my friggin’ way to prove this nincompoop wrong (note, I wanted to insert stronger language there but refrained…trying to curb my swearing ;)). As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with accepting ‘girl’ in who I am because I had for some reason associated being feminine as being weaker than a man especially in the context of sports. However, being surrounded by so many strong female athletes in my tri club (which often has a majority of girls at our workouts…), climbing gym/outdoors and on the ultimate friz field, has really challenged my perceptions. Also, seeing my own athletic abilities grow due to time invested and commitment to training without relinquishing the fact that hey, I was born with certain body parts and still am pushing hard and playing hard. Anyways, mini rant there.

However, I’m also not pretending that men and women were created in the same fashion; it’s that seemingly contradictory phrase of ‘different but equal’. A friend of mine was like I think that sometimes we forget how different we are including via gender lines and that our genders gives us certain inclinations that are stronger in one gender than the other. It’s not say that those inclinations and strengths are any better or less than the others but they are indeed different. To an extent, one could even say that those different inclinations and strengths can complement one another towards a greater outcome. One only has to look at a healthy marriage (to illustrate this particular point, between a man and a woman): I think ideally a husband and wife could say that they work together to make the marriage work and to run as smooth (though…life happens :)) family life as humanly possible. It could be something like husband is stronger at writing and reading so he helps the kids with language arts and social studies homework whereas the wife is stronger at math and science, so she helps out more with subjects.

I remember the first time I heard the bible verse that called women to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22), my hackles totally raised up and I was like what kind of crazy backward way of looking at things is that? There are few ways that I’ve deconstructed and reconciled my understanding of this particular verse. For one, our current understanding of ‘submit’ has some really negative connotations with it. I think often times I look at that verse and forget the verse that follows immediately afterwards: ‘Husbands, love your wives and Christ loved the church…'(Ephesians 5:23). Personally I think that’s an even harder calling. But if one’s husband aspires to instil that kind of love for his wife in his marriage, then it would draw upon and embody those characteristics in Christ that calls Christians to love and trust Him and ultimately, to submit to Him. If that is indeed the case, that an environment of love and trust is created in a marriage or we can even say relationship if you think that this may only pertain to marriage (mm would argue no but this isn’t the main point), can we ladies trust our men to care for us and respect the decisions he makes? Chances are, if there is indeed again that environment of love and trust, decisions aren’t made without a deep consideration for your opinion and discussion to come to whatever conclusion has been drawn. So in this case, for me, submission isn’t so much a call to bring him a damn sandwich when he’s sitting on the couch watching the game, but it’s a call to truly trust the man you love and who loves you (as Christ loved the church!!!) in return.

I point to this particular verse because it’s one of the most obvious ones that people like to pull out when talking about the patriarchal culture of the church and how women are justified to be a second class as a result of what has been written in the Bible. Historically, I cannot deny and vehemently disagree about how the Bible has been interpreted to create different classes of man, whether it be through gender or racial lines; I really don’t think there is much biblical foundation for that. I’m not a theologian so I’m sure someone could come up here and bash this little blog post of mine all around but hey, let’s engage in some dialogue then. Jesus Christ specifically reached out the people who were considered to be second class or of no class during his time. His very birth is an example of his closeness with those who were considered less in this world – the king of heaven, king of kings, was born in a stable…in hay. I know that after years of Christmas carols and stories that we may be desensitized by the imagery of this but really, think about it. Have you been in a barn before? He also didn’t rise up the career ranks to become a formally recognized high priest or a king’s right hand man; nope, he was a carpenter. He also often called for the children during his travels; children during that time (and arguably now…though again not the main point for this particular blog post) had no voice and no status. Also, when we think of Jesus’ followers, I think most of us go directly to his 12 apostles who were men; I know I do. But let us not forget about Mary and Mary – they were to first two people who were told about Jesus’ rise from the dead by the angel. Women during those times were also of little status – for God to decide that these would be the first two people to receive this news when this occurred is pretty momentous. Oh yeah, how could I forget them? Women in the old testament also had an incredibly important role. Esther, Ruth…yeah let’s not forget what amazing things they have done out of faith.

So now that I’ve laid out that I really don’t think women are second class citizens in God’s eyes, I’m going to come back to that article I cited at the beginning and the driver for this post. The article is centred upon a book by Dianne E. Anderson to sought to wrestle with and reconcile her faith and feminist self; this realization came through losing her virginity and then realizing that sex outside of marriage can be holy. Wait, what? Of all the things that could be have been used a launching point, this was chosen? Seriously? The author of the article does make an interesting and arguably true point which does support why perhaps Anderson went in this particular direction: ‘Despite being at odds in their politics, evangelical Christians and feminists share a fixation on sex’. Really true. A quote pulled from Anderson’s book does also resonate with me to an extent: ‘”Sexual purity—rather than a relationship with Jesus, caring for the poor, or loving one’s neighbor—has become the marker of a good Christian,” she writes. Conversely, at times, “sex becomes the god we worship, and we will go to any length to obtain it.” The solution, she writes, is to recognize that “sexuality is not the center of a person’s life, faith, or health.”‘ Fair enough. There has been indeed a deep fixation on sex and I would argue that sex has been elevated to the sin in which we must fight against the most versus ‘do not steal’ even though sin is sin, regardless of what sin it is. There are no levels of sin. Interestingly, the article does go to say that ‘Arguably, the focus on “purity” in evangelical culture arose in response to a secular, sex-obsessed American culture’. Agreed as well. Okay, so what’s my biggest problem with this article since apparently I can relate and even agree to some of the points made in it: the fact that Anderson has decided that sex outside of marriage can be holy. How, seriously, how can you draw that conclusion? I really cannot understand how any interpretation of the Bible can lead you down that rabbit trail. I also fail to truly understand how she can draw upon this conclusion to reconcile feminism and Christianity. As someone that has had sex outside of marriage in a couple different relational context, I cannot relate to her conclusion whatsoever. Sex to let’s say third base was and has been so ingrained in me to be okay that it is only now that I’m really starting to unpack and realize that hey, maybe not so much. It sucks to have a conversation with the Christian man you’re now in a relationship, we’ll call him John Mayer, and be like by the way…yeah, not fun.

The argument made in this article also brings me back to an ongoing conversation with I’ve been having with John Mayer (ha yes! He’s actually a real person, not just an abstract example to illustrate my point). We were talking about the continual strain and difficult balance that must be struck in trying to retain the hard truths we know to be true in our faith and remaining relevant and still being in tune with what is going on in our world. It’s very dangerous to live in our little Christian bubble and pretend the world outside of us doesn’t exist. Differing viewpoints is a blessing especially when there’s room for conversation and discussion; it’s how we grow and understand who we are as people, not just in our faith. The primary approach to the ‘Christian, or Feminist’ article is through my interpretation, a complete disconnect from a hard truth from the Bible. I’m glad it was written though, if anything, so that we can get the wheels churning as to what we really think about this particular topic. I’m a feminist and Christian. I personally don’t undrestand how these two things cannot be reconciled. I’m most disappointed by Anderson’s approach because it’s such a pigeon hole approach to bridge feminism and Christian theory; there’s so much more that she could’ve launched off from. But hey, maybe we can really start digging deep and start talking about this now; at least it was a launching point of sorts.

Freedom

For those of you who have been reading entries from this blog for the past couple of years, I’ve been working through the relationship I had with a guy who I fondly call on here, M, and the aftermath that followed the closure of that relationship. I imagine the path I took is both unique and familiar to others and I hope that my musings have helped some or at the least, instigated some thought. This is my next and perhaps, the final chapter of this particular part in my life.

I attended the winter retreat my church held at the beginning of this month. I’m not usually huge into big church gatherings for some odd reason; I find myself quite socially awkward which in itself is a bit odd because I generally thrive in situations where I get to meet new people. Pretty much any other social gathering I find interesting…but anyways, here we are. I was waffling on attending this conference but I had actually told a friend about it who then told me a few days later that he had gone ahead and registered for it…before I had. So I pretty much couldn’t bail; that would be wrong 😉 the conference was in a camp that was about a 2.5 hour drive outside of Edmonton. It was stunning. We got so lucky on the Saturday when we had continuously falling snow and it was a winter wonderland there. Needless to say, I got more and more antsy as we sat inside…I just wanted to go frolic outside damn it! Well I sure did. I went out for a run and frolicked in the snow like a goofball. It was spectacular. However, this wasn’t the best part of the conference. I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t pick up what the speaker is putting down or it’s not revolutionary for me. Perhaps this because I’m only half listening or I’m snotty and think I know it all. But this time around, God grabbed me in a tight hold and looked directly into the eyes of my soul and told me that it was time to let go and be free.

I knew exactly what He meant. Even though I had come to realize late last year that I didn’t necessarily carry the sole responsibility for the ending of the relationship between M and I, the weight of our relationship, whether it be good and bad memories, the desire to be with him again in the distant future or just reminders of him period, still weighed in my life. God granted me an image of me wiggling out of and dropping a running backpack and springing free. This spoke to me because I often run commute and carry a small red pack with me with all my clothes and such. It’s made for running with and is great but I still prefer to run without a pack; there’s a certain feeling of freedom associated with running without one. There’s also a feeling of not having a sweaty back either…but I digress. This backpack in this image wasn’t necessarily heavy but it was burden. God was like you’re moving forward which is great, but you could be moving forward faster and stronger towards the things I have for your present and future if you let go of this burden; actually, I need you to let go of this stuff so that you can do what I need you to do at your fastest and strongest.

Often times, my faith is associated with rules and conforming one’s life to those set of rules and therefore relinquishing freedom. In this case though, the opposite has occurred. Even beyond the weight of relationship-ending aftermath, I think back now to the relationship between M and I and have come to the conclusion that I wasn’t as free as I thought I was. No there was no bondage or whatever but rather knowing that I was with someone who didn’t share my faith and had no interest in sharing said faith was a source of anxiety. It was a tight clenching of the heart whenever it came to mind, whether it be in my own mind, when we talked about a variety of issues or when it came to what family could look like for us. It was also a thought that I wasn’t being true to the most foundational part of myself that created some anxiety. Even if we talked about topics around faith and he would do his best to understand, M and I were from different puzzles. I know that sometimes I censured myself because I didn’t want to overwhelm his comfort zone with ‘religious talk’.

I know that this post is not necessarily insightful but I thought that it was important for me to post what I imagine to be the final part of this chapter in my life. When we sing songs of the freedom God brings us, it has a bit of a different meaning for me now. The relationships we have with people or God, should not be ones that constrain us but ones that free us and gives us wings to go faster and stronger. In his own way, M did but we were still carrying weights associated with our relationship. I hope that he is free now as well.

It’s time to fly.

Let it go

I may have been super tempted to post the song from ‘Frozen’…but I figured I didn’t want my readers’ ears to bleed from hearing the over played song 🙂 also, my thoughts behind this phrase is a bit different than the situation that the character from ‘Frozen’, Elsa, was facing. It is in a way, about freedom but the confines are in my head and in my head alone. My head, my heart, my conscious and subconscious are held captive by self-imposed constructions within. As much as the confines are held up by me and me alone, it is also up to me to decide and to take action to tear these confines down. Context? Sure 🙂

Yesterday, I ran in the last race for the fall Frank Mac series here in Edmonton. It’s a series of trail runs that span from a 5-8ish km distance. Although I registered (very last minute decision) for the whole series, I was only able to make the first and final race, both of which started/finished in Hawlerak park. I was very apprehensive of running both races: I wasn’t and am not in the best running shape and these races are fast. Don’t let the relatively short distances fool you; there may be a lot of attention and admiration for the longer distances but short distances are a whole other beast. You go all out. Pace? Pft. Yes okay, a bit but more on pftttt side of things. You lay it all out. The people who participate in these races can be people just looking for a good time but there are also many elite runners and triathletes that come to play and compete too. I also knew that M would be there and with the girl I suspected was his new girlfriend. As mentioned before, my girl crazy comes out in being competitive for better or for worse. I refuse to have a really good look at this girl because I didn’t really want to know what she looked like or who she was. She was a painful reminder that whatever was between M and I was a thing of the past and had no bearing or relevance for the present or future. For my first race, I had the best time I’ve ever had; I had hoped to get under 5:00/km and got 4:53/km. I know, those numbers look really small lol and the difference seems incredible insubstantial but seconds count and add up to something a bit bigger. This race, well I wasn’t sure about it all still but again, didn’t really have time to mull over it because the race started, my legs started going and I crossed the start line and activated my timing chip; no turning back now. Funny thing is, M’s new gf and I were pretty much on pace with each other the entire time, especially for the last couple of kms. We took turns pacing each other and really pushed each other at the end. I barely eeked it out for a few seconds ahead but it turns out her time was a bit faster than mine when I looked online. It was at that moment where I couldn’t put her in a negative space because she seemed like a lovely human being and I enjoyed running with her and that push was awesome for both of us I think. I don’t know if she knew who I was but to be honest, it doesn’t matter who I was in M’s former life because that’s what it was: former, the past and no longer relevant to the present reality.

As I sat down at home after the race to get some nerding done but cracked open my prayer journal first. I realized that in my crazy, far farrrr crazy side of things where I thought that if I was patient, played harder, ran faster but really just waited, that M would return to me. Yes, I know, sounds crazy and it is a bit. It’s not so crazy because it’s far more along the lines of wishful thinking but because it’s so selfish. I realized that by desiring this outcome, he would have to endure at least one more break up and heart break to return to me. We spoke briefly earlier this fall before deciding that we couldn’t do that yet but from what I gather, he’s quite happy and I’m sure this lovely girl has something to do with that. This means that indeed a break up from his current relationship would hurt him significantly. If I truly cared about him as I claim to, how could I wish this upon him? The truth is, I cannot.

I have a ‘serenity prayer’ plaque that I think my mum/someone gave me for my baptism a few years ago that says: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can change and the wisdom to know the difference”. For those who know me, I am someone who goes all out when I’ve decided to commit to something but the downside to that is I don’t let go very easily. For a long time, it seems to me that I have placed the fate of M in my life in the category of things I can change when in reality, it is in the category of things I cannot change. The end of our relationship was not the result of infidelity, miscommunication, love that turned to loathing or character flaws that the other could not endure. It was because he had decided that there was no chance of God playing a role of in his life…ever and a by-product of that decision was the end of our relationship. Like anyone else’s choice to believe or not believe, it is a personal decision, one that cannot be decided upon by any external sources. External sources have the ability to influence but are not the decision-makers (thinking of my NGO class and government in these respective roles lol). I think a part of me has been wrongfully bearing the responsibility for this end thinking that hey, maybe if I tried harder, maybe if this or that, things wouldn’t have drawn to the painful close that it did. The thing about choice is that it carries the weight of responsibility when you do chose and in this case, this choice and ultimately, the responsibility, was M’s. I’m not trying to ‘blame’; there is no blame here. The results were a consequence of choices.

So truly, I should relieve myself of the burden I have been carrying and shed the mentality that has had such an impact on my present when it belongs in the past. I had let a false interpretation of past events have a foothold and negative impact into my present and subsequently into my future. Although I now know this, the next move is to actually accept it and by accepting it, it means that I must take action and move forward but in a constructive manner and one rooted in reality of what can be achieved and in what time frame. No, I’m not suddenly break free of my mental/metaphorical shackles (good image there eh? ;)). I have learnt quite a few things through this relationship and the aftermath of it all. The fact that I could actually be part of a relationship that was relatively functional and with someone that I just clicked with was something new and showed me that hey, it is possible despite my family’s past and personal reservations about relationships, love and commitment. It also showed me that as much as I loved M, I still loved God more. That even though I had honestly, one of the most compatible and loving men as my significant other, he couldn’t trump God. And that when it came down to it, God won out even though the cost was so high. I really thought that I had dropped the ball and failed Him (as in God) when I wasn’t the one who called it off. I thought that perhaps my faith wasn’t strong enough or I as a person, wasn’t strong enough. That when my bestie emailed me and told me she was proud of me for sticking to my guns, I thought it wasn’t warranted because I felt like I hadn’t. But it seems that I had actually taken action without realizing it and that the action M took was in response to this subconscious action I had taken: to value God first and to never let Him go, no matter how much I would have to give up. Because my fellow Christians and for those who prescribe to a certain belief, there will be a time when you are tested and when you question whether or not your beliefs are worth keeping in light of gaining something else. That in theory, yes your beliefs are greater but in practice, it can be very difficult to apply. That believing in God comes with a price and cost of its own and we are asked to pay it because the sacrifice that Jesus made was much greater and our gain through Him is also much greater. And it’s okay if we don’t realize it right away, agree with it right away or accept it or take action in response right away. It’s okay to have mixed feelings about these sort of situations or any situation for that matter. We’re human. We are dynamic. It’s a process; it really is. Don’t let anyone tell you what pace you need to be going at or where you should be at xyz. No, that’s completely up to you and up for debate with only one other person: God. So big hugs! my friend and here’s to hoping 🙂

2014 Play Season: ‘Smaller’ Events

The below events weren’t necessarily the big events of the month for me but they were interesting and I learnt little things about myself here and there which contributed towards my pretty happy race season.

St. Patrick’s Day 10K (March 16): this run was the first ‘event’ of the season. Even though most of my mates and perhaps, even myself, see 10k as a nice distance for a casual run with little thought or planning, I was actually pretty intimidated coming into this race. If it wasn’t for my friend Jenn, I may not have signed up for it lol. I had been fighting a nasty cold a couple weeks leading up to the run and thus did not get a lot of running in beforehand. Also, running isn’t exactly my strong suit. However, this race is where I saw the unpressured, short distances I ran for commuting during the winter really come through. That those short runs in the snow where I didn’t have much objective except to make it home through a storm paid off to keep a base foundation for the upcoming season. I borrowed a hipbelt from my friend to carry water since my throat was still feeling a bit raw. I also stuffed in a ton of kleenex…cold or not, I get pretty snotty on rides/runs…oh yeah, feeling sexy. My last preparation was to paint my nail green! Part of it was because it was for St. Patty’s but the other part was that I didn’t want to put undue pressure on myself by painting them the blue I reserve for races. It sounds silly I know but every athlete has their own rituals to prep themselves and I felt that if I had gone with my racing blue, I would be racing and thus pressure! Yes, I just spent a couple sentences explaining my nail colour choice…:) The run course was fairly flat and all on pavement (to my old body’s chagrin). There were a quite a few places where it was incredible icy – cue penguin dance. I felt like I got my negative split in and came in a couple minutes after an hour. Most definitely not my best time but at that point, I was alright with that. I had finished in a decent time with pretty much no preparation. This race was important though because it gave me confidence for the upcoming season. It told me that at my base, this is what I had and that the only way was up from here. Also, it didn’t hurt that they fed us after 😉

Coronation Triathlon (May 25): the first triathlon of the season…dundundun. It was also a distance between sprint and Olympic thus my longest distant to date. Was I intimidated? Oh yeah. I had somewhat stagnated with my swimming at this point and I had also recently returned from Hawaii sooo the amount of time I had swam leading up to this race was minimal. Not so shockingly enough, I struggled in the swim. The upside? It was at my favourite pool in the city and it was a 50m pool. During my swim, I had lost count of my laps and was off by one. Thankfully I just followed one of the ladies who was swimming ahead of me…yeah I suck at counting anything lol. That sort of thing really stresses me out and probably contributed towards the general anxiety I felt in the pool. As soon as I got out, I was like oh thank God! The bike and the run were both up and down Groad Road; for those unfamiliar with Edmonton, Groat Road is a pretty long hill. Leading up to the race, I was pretty worried; I drove up/down the hill before the race though…didn’t seem too bad. Random side note: super thankful that my friend lent me her car that day so I could transport myself easily 🙂 The ride was bomber and I really enjoyed it – inkling that I like hills…The beginning of the run I could really feel the fatigue and was pretty worried but as I made my way towards the end of the first half, I eased into the run and maybe even ran the second half aka the uphill a wee bit faster than the downhill first half…if not, I felt pretty good at least which counts for something. All in all, it was a pretty stellar first race. The rain came in soon after the race finished and the kids race was nearing completions. Thankfully, our club had a tent for all of us to huddle under.

Kids in Action 5k Run w/ Hope Mission (May 31): probably one of my favourite events to be part of as a volunteer. Last year I did this run and it was awesome. This year, it was even bigger! Kids with the Hope Mission (a Christian nonprofit organization that is pretty big into supporting the general Edmonton community especially families and children) train and prepare for this race. Each kid requires an adult to run the entire race with them. Some of these kids are incredible runners, let me tell you. This year, we had more adults than kids on the route which meant that if your child was faster than you, there would be adults available to keep an eye on them. A huge group of police officers and a bunch of people from Andrew Ference’s (Oiler’s captain) came out for this race. It was quite a bit bigger than the one last year. I rode in on my bike and it was gloriously beautiful morning. I had an awesome little man and was super proud of him for pacing himself and getting up some of those crazy hills in Goldbar park. He also dragged me up for the pre-race Zumba warm up…yeah that’s right lol.

Wheels for Wells (June 7): this wasn’t an event I was planning on doing but I receive monthly newsletters from Multisport Canada and this happen to be on there. A great event for many reasons: great cause, well organized and supported and hey, training ride? Up to this point, I hadn’t ridden more than 40 km straight on my bike before and I knew that I was registered and good to go for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in August…a 200+km ride. Time to get some mileage in? Yep. What was awesome though was this 13 or 14 year old kid had organized this event for the past couple of years in partnership with World Vision to fund raise money for clean water/access to water. He was doing a series of rides including one that was done in Dubai (whatttt). Shows what amazing things happen when one follows their faith and pursues those inklings God sends us. I love that he was so candid about the reason(s) as to why he was doing this and that he rode in the ride. I opted to ride in the 60km length though there were 10km, 30km, 90km and 120km options available as well. I tried to get my dad out for 10km…but no dice lol. My mum came with me and chatted with the folks at the start/finish point; I came to know this when people were like ohhh your mum has told us all about you! Awesome lol. I was a bit worried going into this ride especially when I saw the rolling hills. Whoever said Alberta was flat clearly hasn’t been here; it is not flat. I almost didn’t stop at the pit stop set up at the turnaround point but thankfully I did (was nearly a fool!). The hard leg was the second half; there was quite a bit of climbing and we had quite a strong head wind. Another girl and I worked together to give each other but after a few hills, she had dropped back. I realized that when I climbed, I couldn’t go half-assed. The ride took give or take 2 hours so not shabs at all. They fed us some delicious smoothies and sandwiches and even gave my mum, who had been waiting patiently for me to return, a lunch box of her own. Afterwards, my legs felt a bit tired but surprisingly not burnt out. Huzzah! Lesson learnt on this one? A bit on what I need in terms of nutrition and what sort of mental ebbs/flows I’d feel on a longer ride. So note, I like fruit 🙂

 

2014 Play Season: ‘Vegging’/’Off’ Season

I realized that I did a lot of fun things this play season and that it is coming to a close. A bit sad but also, I’m kind of stoked to have a bit of rest. Most of us are usually burnt out around this time and can’t wait to collect some winter fat and hibernate a bit…or at least, the triathlete version of vegging lol. I didn’t do this last year but I really wanted to recap my season. I thought it would be fun to give myself an opportunity to reflect on my season and in future, read about them to see where my ‘athlete’s’ journey has taken me. It would be interesting to see how these experiences compare to future ones especially when it comes to my mental gain and how much (more?) masochism I can endure ;)It’s always interesting for me to read about the thoughts that go through an athlete’s head. There’s a lot of preparation and mental fortitude that goes into preparing for the play season but man, is it ever fun. I hope you enjoy this series. I will be adding more as I go; I’m not sure how I want to organize them just yet. This one just came out as is so maybe I will do it according to sport? Or perhaps, event. I think that I will release these blog excerpts as the season progresses next year. As I started writing up all these recaps, I noticed that I have a lot to write lol. Maybe it’s just me being long-winded…:D

‘Vegging’/’Off’ Season

When one is friends and part of a triathlon club, the new year doesn’t start with hangover from a new years eve party. No sir, it starts off with a spin off and brekkie get together. It also kick starts planning for the upcoming race season. Now this was my first new year as a ‘triathlete’ so it was new experience for me but I found myself scouring the web for races. There were a couple things that were important for me to keep in mind: fun, outdoor time and challenging/pushing my boundaries. However, the most important factor was that I chose most of my races/events based on the fact that they had some sort of altruistic meaning behind them. I think that this year I was really challenged to see beyond my goals as an athlete and to also use these abilities that God had given for something and someone other than myself. However, the race season hasn’t quite begun yet at the point of this particular post…:)

This was my first year that I decided to try out winter running. Don’t worry…this decision was made with much apprehension lol. Those who know me know how much I loathe being cold…I’m just a baby when it comes to being cold. Thankfully, as soon as I start moving, my body is pretty efficient at producing heat. It’s always those first few minutes though…*shudder*…literally. Part of the reason I decided to try out winter running is because running doesn’t come easily to me, as much as I enjoy it. Last year, I started off the season struggling with 3-5km runs. My turning point was running a 10k with my good friend Amy B. Even though I wanted to stop, my body went on auto-pilot and after much self-pep talking and suffering made it through! To run at the level I want run at, I’ve had to work very work and sometimes it ebbs and flows as to how good it feels. I know that I really enjoy trails more than pavement and that every time I’m out in the river valley and just completely surrounded by trees, have that sunlight just filtering through the leaves…man it just brings me to this natural, organic happy place. So instead of hanging up my running shoes and putting away my bike (so sad!), I decided to keep commuting via running. Oh the logistics of how to stuff all my clothes and swimming stuff into a tiny pack. Also, where to get a good running pack?! I borrowed M’s for a while but obviously that came to an abrupt stop when we broke up (though he offered to let me keep it for winter season…thanks but no thanks). Thankfully, I got a good little Camelbak pack that worked well. It was a little big but most definitely an improvement from what I was using before. It was a woman specific pack and just fit so much better. I was slamming the back of my head with M’s pack before. Also, how to layer properly?! As spring rolled in, I finally got a solid grasp on my layering system(s) for the various temperatures and weather conditions that one encounters running in the winter. I bought some awesome wool socks that were bomber for running in the winter. There is nothing like wind chill that brings -15C to -25C (I did draw the line at no running when it hit -20C before windchill)…snow in your face because it’s being blown horizontal rather than falling vertical. But there is also nothing like the feeling of running in a blizzard; I think that during the times that I did, I had a huge and crazy looking grin on my face. Part of me relishes on the idea that people probably think I’m nuts…part of me also thinks I’m nuts so it’s good to know some random strangers and I are in agreement. One other plus was that the trail were much quieter so I didn’t have to be wary of bikes bombing down the path behind me or yelling ‘on your left’ as I pass pedestrians.

Lessons learnt:

  • Pins/Yaktracks can be pretty awesome. But I was lazy and also it’s hard to find things for my shoe size…so I didn’t get any and just ran with my regular shoes. I don’t remember bailing at all during the winter though I did have a scary descent into the river valley on a hill. I had zero control and it was one of the few times where I totally freaked out internally and no choice but to follow momentum.
  • Snow is great. Slush is not. Need to buy some trail shoes for those occasions.
  • Penguin shuffle is a technique one should master running (or really, shuffling) over ice.

I also went of Saturday morning spinning with my AiA mates though this was a bit more sporadic. I do like the push that one can do during spin classes and they are very challenging but it is hard for me to be stationary while doing something and doing it inside. Hamster feeling you know? But it was a blast because we had a good group of people doing it. I took the bus out a couple times to our spin; I did feel a bit odd carting my bike to and fro on a bus…and not riding out. However, I had promised my parents that I wouldn’t ride in the winter and to be honest, I don’t feel too inclined to. I’ve bailed on ice and snow before and didn’t particularly enjoy it; kudos to those who commute in the winter! Again, this whole spinning during the off season was a whole new thing for me. It allowed me to keep some cycling fitness during the off season and as winter running provided for my running fitness, gave me a ‘higher’ starting point to go from when the race/’serious’ training season began. I also succumbed to buying spandex…fineeee bike shorts are amazing even though they look ridiculous 🙂 I tried on a pair of bib shorts and have decided that if a man still loves me and finds me sexy after seeing me in a pair of bib shorts, he’s a keeper.

The colder weather also gave me an excuse/opportunity to get back climbing indoors. After taking half a year off, the first couple of climb sessions were so disheartening. Climbs I used to fly up on for warm up were so difficult; my skin felt raw. Though in my head I could see the movement, I couldn’t execute. I don’t quite remember the exact route, but I know that my turning point was a 5.10- that I did cleanly with my friend. Man, I was soooo stoked. I was surprised that it didn’t take quite as long as I thought it would for climbing to come back though strength building is a continuous struggle for me lol. Always has been even when I was climbing regularly. The off season gave me an opportunity to climb 1-2x a week which is a lot less than it used to be but most certainly an improvement from 0. I saw my climbing progress but more importantly, got plugged back into the climbing community I loved but had left behind to focus on triathlon. These were my mates that I hung out with around the camp fire, camped under the stars with and trekked out to gorgeous crags with. I also met new friends as well that were stoked about climbing; stoke is so contagious. My new friends included a group of girls that climbed hard and would play on the same climbs as I did. There is something awesome about climbing with fellow girls. Depending on the climbing style, I was beginning on onsight or send 5.11- after a couple tries. I sent my first 5.11 after figuring out some short person beta 🙂 Granted, this doesn’t necessarily translate outdoors grade for grade but it really gave me some confidence. As the race season and nicer weather neared, I eased myself out of indoor climbing but resolved that I wouldn’t give climbing this season. As I planned out my races, I made sure that I tentatively marked weekends for climbing trips.

So I guess the question is…is there a really an ‘off’ season for us? 🙂 I imagine that my off season will look a bit different with school and what not but I guess we’ll find out!

2014 Play Season – Ultimate Frisbee

I had initially released this blogpost at the end of the summer but then I registered for Fall League. It didn’t seem right to leave out whatever little tidbits may come up 🙂 hope you enjoy!

Ultimate Frisbee 2014

(Note: I know that there’s quite a bit of jargon involved in this post; the bottom of the post gives a short definition of what some of these terms mean. Hope that helps for my non-ultimate playing readers! :))

Ultimate actually started in the Spring for me this year with my good friend and I joining the women’s league for the six weeks leading up to the summer season. A bit of background here: I played for the last month and a half of last year’s summer season with M’s team which was a fantastic experience. Going into ultimate last season, I was incredibly intimidated because I suck at throwing a frisbee lol. I’m also a bit uncoordinated; however, I apparently had ‘girlfriend duties’ which I was happy to fulfil. Apparently, I also had enough ‘athleticism’ to carry me…I beg to differ but what do? Like almost all co-ed ultimate teams, there are times of girl droughts. Take note girls…if you want to meet boys, play ultimate. Girls are always needed. No joke. I’m so thankful that I got dragged out to play because it’s such a blast and it’s a great reprieve from triathlon and rock climbing which are very individual performance based sports. It also puts my triathlon training to use aka we often don’t have two full lines for girls …or ever…sometimes we don’t get subs at all. My training puts me in decent shape to play ultimate and I absolutely love running around. I feel like a puppy 🙂 a very happy puppy. I think it’s a rare occasion when I’m not grinning ear to ear when I’m playing ultimate. Dear bestie, sorry that it took me this long to understand why this game is so friggin’ awesome. What could be better than sprinting down the field going after a long whipper in the end zone? Well and catching it. Anyways, I digress. Last year, my newb self was told to cover the other girl and that was about it. Sure it worked for that time but post break up, I asked my good friend, Sharon, who played for another team to ask her captain if they could use another girl…I didn’t want to be a complete newb. I wanted to contribute more thus spring league come spring 2014. Admittedly, part of it was driven by the fact that my girl crazy expresses itself in competition…as in, ‘we broke up? May play on the same field? Same game? Bring it on. Let me show you what you’re missing out on.’

Yeah…anyway, locking up that girl crazy for a little bit :). My friend and I really enjoyed our time in the women’s league. There is something very awesome about not playing co-ed and playing with women. The girls we played with were so encouraging and really took their time to get the basics down and to get us into the play. They played hard each game but we also had great fun. I learnt how to throw properly (though to give M some credit, he gave me a good start); although I initially struggled when I was first learning how to throw, it turns out my flick is more natural and stronger than my backhand…must be from badminton? (don’t take my flick away please ;)). It is also where I learnt some basic strategies and how to cut properly; I even got to handle for a couple games…albeit nervously. I also went in thinking that hey, I’m fit, running around won’t be so bad. Oh was I ever wrong lol. Sprinting and cutting is nothing like doing our distance runs. What was awesome about it is that it made me run intervals albeit very short intervals. I never felt like I was really doing so because I was always trying to get in on the play/chasing down the disc. I did register and attended the women’s ultimate challenge league that ran for a few weeks during the summer time but due to scheduling and also a pooped ankle, only made it out to a couple sessions. Note to self: can only play ultimate once a week during race season.

Summer League:

I was apprehensive of playing with a new team but man, I’m so glad that I got onto this team. One of the biggest pluses of playing with the Liver Flukes (new team name) is that I got to see Sharon once a week. Though we are close friends, we don’t see each other that often or at least, as often as we used to so this was really a way for us to get see each other more often. And in the way of how I think and still stand by the idea that playing a team sport with your significant other brings you closer, I think that this opportunity gave us an opportunity to grow our friendship. I don’t think we’ve played any sports together even though we are (or were ;)) very active; Sharon is an amazing player. I learnt so much from her this year and she was always a great encouragement especially when I didn’t know what to do lol. She was also there to give me a big hug/for moral support when I saw M again at the very last game of our season because we ended up playing on the same field as his team was for the first time that season. She and her husband were the ones that let me stay at their apartment without any question for the first couple of weeks when M and I broke up. They saw me at my utter lowest place and loved on me. I cannot repay them for their love. Those were dark times and I wouldn’t have made it out of those times without their and the love of my friends and fam. I digress.

Although our team couldn’t quite run plays as well as we would like to, we did our best. Unlike the time when I played on M’s team, we didn’t establish any plays or really cut into the disc. I think it helps with M’s team that most of them are all good friends and very athletic so they have good synergy. However, athleticism can only take you so far, especially when the other teams you play against are both athletic and understand the game. With the Liver Flukes, most of us were pretty athletically inclined and even if we weren’t, were pretty driven to play well. We had a couple boys that were amazing players but all our boys were very strong players. We had options for handlers which gave our strong players opportunities to play the field more than they would have otherwise. I know that with M, he and a couple of the guys would often be stuck handling the disc when they also had amazing speed and skill to deploy in other roles. During one of the sessions with women’s league, I learnt what ‘zone‘ was. I always thought Sharon was crazy for loving the ‘cup‘ role so much…but I totally get it now. Being in the cup is the way to be. By the end of the season, Sharon, our team mate Joel and I had a pretty awesome cup going. We even had a ‘C’ high5 lol. I was part of the cup a couple times with P and our mighty captain…much less effective there. Sad.

We most certainly didn’t have the best record lol. We started off the season very well but oh man…we didn’t win a lot of games for the latter half even against teams that we had won against earlier. A big reason was that our team struggled a lot with maintaining the minimum numbers of players. Shockingly enough, not just girls but also guys. We had our core players but beyond that, really struggled with people coming out. Even some of those who were registered as full time players didn’t show up for half of the games. I find it odd I guess. I may have commitment issues but when I decide to commit to something, there’s not turning back. In my schedule, I usually have certain things in my week that I would call ‘unmoveables’; for the summer, this included ultimate and small group. Although I love to train with my AiA crew, I most certainly didn’t train with them as much this season. I was on my own a lot or called up a friend or two to train with; I felt that if I wanted to work around these unmoveables, see people still and get my training in, I couldn’t quite fit myself into their established schedule. Unfortunately, people inconsistency really disrupted our flow as a team I think. We scrambled to pull subs from random places, all of whom we were grateful to get; my girl friends would receive a weekly text pleading for a warm body. Our subs were awesome but it was always a challenge to get some team synergy going and quite a few of our subs were fairly new to the game. We did pick up a couple people who were great subs and could play the game, one of which is an acquaintance of mine that I had played against with last year and also climbs/bikes. He’s asked to play on our team as a regular next year and I’m really hoping our captain takes him in. He’d be much more consistent than a lot of the players that we had this year. He’s also a pretty good player so 🙂 Sharon and I were talking after our last game it may be better for us to have a smaller regular roster next year with people that we know will come out since most of us don’t mind running double shifts.

It was kind of funny that the one time we had two full lines for guys and girls that we completely fell apart. It was absolutely the worst game that we played. We didn’t connect at all. I don’t think many of us played particularly well but again, I think the poor performance was due to the fact that our game roster was made up at least half new people/non-regulars. Although we hadn’t been winning a lot of our games leading up to this particular one, at least we had tried our best and played our hardest. But this one…man we just sucked so it was poopy. However, the one time we had 2 girls and 5 guys aka zero subs (thanks to the other team for letting us run this line rather than the regular 3 girls and 5 guys), we played our best. We had an awesome last game and just had good chemistry. I think we saw what our team could’ve been if we had consistent regular players. Also, maybe we can play playoffs next year! The team we played was another team that wasn’t playing in the playoffs and unfortunately for them, had been playing at a lower tier. Despite the fact that we were down people, we dominated but they were great about it and we really tried hard not to rub it in. Near the end, we tried to add in a couple little things to make it harder for us (eg. need to get to everyone before we score). We finished the game with nearly an hour left so the two teams mixed to play a game. Man we created so much confusion lol but we got to cover our own team mates which was a fun and new experience. At one point, Joel was like so…this is what it feels like to receive a huck from Joey. It was great fun just jostling around with each other…seriously, great way to end the season. At the end, Sharon and I gathered our things quickly and left the boys to run to the car because the mosquitoes were so bad. Oh man, the endorphins! We just ran and laughed the entire way to the car…then keeled over because we had been running so hard lol. On a personal note, it was also really good to see P again because we hadn’t see each other for a couple weeks because he had gone to BC for 10 day trip. As mentioned early, it was also a bit awkward because M and his team were playing at the same field. There was no way that I wanted to be a jerk and give P a running jump hug as I had initially planned in front of M. I am convinced that God arranged it so that M and I wouldn’t play at the same field for pretty much the entire season to give us time to heal and to be apart from each other. It was good to see M again as hard as it was, and to see the team again though; I got some hugs from his mates 🙂 so it was really nice. At least I was prepared for it…I kept tabs on the schedule so that I could mentally prepare myself if need be whereas he was completely taken off guard.

As for playoffs, our team didn’t play but Joey and I really wanted to play still. We reached out to the association to see if they could get us hooked up but it turns out one of my friends who had subbed for us once asked her Thursday team on our behalf as to whether or not they could use Joey and I. It was a good fit for us as they were tier 2 team (granted Joey could play in tier 1 and completely own it). Coming into Saturday playoffs, the team had narrowly won their first game by one point. The first few points of both the game we played on Saturday were pretty close but we pulled away in the second half both times. I got let loose a couple times to just book it down the field. Joey connected me with quite a few discs. When we were warming up between the two games, a couple things happened: my throws got better and Joey hucks the disc and without thinking about, I ran down the friggin’ field to get it. When I turned around, I see Joey just chuckling to himself. How do you know me so well?? Just knew that I would automatically go after it. He told me later that he told the guys on our playoff team to ‘just whip it and don’t try to float it, she will book it and will be there to get it’. Love it 🙂 We ended up winning our pool! So it was awesome. Personally a bit rough because M was there…with his new gf. Such is life though. Made me play that much harder…that girl crazy, I’m telling you lol. I was so stoked that I just kept smiling and played hard so what more could a girl want? Heh, at one point, I was allowed to stay on for the next point because I hated the way that we lost our point. Thankfully, our girls were great 🙂 I also learnt a bit more as to how to work offence against a zone defence.

A couple highlights:

  • Seeing Joey lay out all the time. All the freakin’ time.
  • See Joey’s wife and baby come out to cheer us on.
  • Seeing Clay lay out especially during our last game
  • The results of Clay’s encounter with poison ivy…so gross.
  • Seeing Joel vault up like an antelope and get crazy vertical over a guy who was taller than him to get the disc. Sorry ladies, he’s taken.
  • Seeing Clay take out a player on the other team…but then that player taking out Ams 😦
  • Seeing Sharon reach out her hand with her back turned to snatch the flying disc in the end zone
  • Hearing one of the guys from the other team telling our team to ‘stop saying time!’ and then one of his team mates telling him ‘actually…that was our team’ – please insert awkward turtle here
  • Getting completely body checked/taken out by P when we had just started seeing each other. He told me that his immediate thought was: oh crap…she probably doesn’t want to see me any more
  • During playoffs, Dan (handler for our playoff team) got the disc and whispered to me ‘go Bonnie!’ so I started booking it and he whipped it down to the end zone. A team mate of mine tipped it and after a fumble, I managed to curl my body over it and got the point. Like we rehearsed it 😉
  • Getting some grass burns by rolling/trying to lay out. Street cred you know.
  • Going for drinks/food after almost every game – the one time Joel and Gabby came out, they were well dressed and surrounded by tie dye dressed third, fourth, etc. wheels ….13 wheels 🙂
  • Last but not least, meeting P via the introduction of the ‘awkward turtle’

So I’m thinking of joining Fall league…depending on school. If not, I’ll at least put my name forward to be a sub. I’ve joined fall league lol. Despite all the heart ache associated with M, I have to give him the majority of the credit for getting me out. Most definitely have to give some credit to the bestie because she kept ranting about how awesome ultimate was…but she was in Ontario most of the time thus diminished ability to get me roped in 😉 Also credit to Sharon for my in to the Liver Flukes and just being a great friend and team mate. I’m curious as to how I will balance school, work, life and my now three play season activities of triathlon, rock climbing and ultimate…especially since Hoops and I are thinking of tackling our first Half-Ironman next year…that’s for another blog post though.

Definitions

  • Flick – forehand throw
  • Cut – running movement which means you pivot on your dominant foot quickly to change direction; allows you come towards the disc and potentially lose your defender
  • Handle – two to three players are designated as ‘handlers’ and are responsible for making the plays and often the long throws
  • Zone – defence strategy that’s often deployed when its windy; for a 7 people line, there are three people who form the ‘cup’, three mid-fielders and one long (at the far end of the field)
  • Cup – part of the zone strategy; three people follow the disc until the disc reaches a certain point close to the end zone; they try to disrupt the play and prevent the disc from reaching others out in the field
  • Huck – the initial throw to kick off the point