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!

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Mental Game

Note: a not so introspective post this one but still very important to me. I like to think I’m multidimensional 😉

On Monday night, I had a plan: go for a run (~10km) from work to home, shower/nom and then meet up with my friend to check out the Fringe festival. Making sure that I have a fully active but also fully social life is something that I constantly strive for, especially during the busy racing/training season aka the ~5 months before the weather goes to the poo. However, my plan didn’t quite go as planned. As soon as I started my run, I didn’t want to be there. Things got a bit better when I found myself running on a trail amongst the trees but I couldn’t mentally focus. When it comes to athletics, I view myself as two separate but connected entities: mind and body. Usually one kind of waffles a bit but the other pushes through. It is amazing when both are like boooooyah! let’s play!! Which actually happens more often than not. But when are both like uh no; screw you, I know that I’m done. So 5km into my run, that’s exactly what happened. Not because my body couldn’t push forward; it didn’t want to and nor did my brain. So I had to ask myself: what do I have to prove? Nothing. Then why do I still feel the need to train my tired, sodden and uninterested mind and body into oblivion? I had always told my mates that as soon as you’re no longer having fun whatever activity it is that you’re doing, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of ‘suffering’ when it comes to training, racing or just pushing your limit but there’s still a strong element of having fun. After a tough whatever, I’m usually still all smiles.

Case in point (aka story time): we had our last ultimate frisbee game yesterday but man, we were down people. As in, we didn’t have the minimum number of girls and had 5 boys. Thankfully the other team was awesome and let us play a 5man-2women line but that did mean that we would be playing the entire game. But, I love it. I love playing ultimate even though half the time I feel like I’m not exactly sure what’s going on lol so I just try to make good cuts and anticipate where the disc may be going 🙂 We were so pumped that we were finally syncing and playing well. There’s a defensive strategy called ‘zone’ where there is a ‘cup’ made up of three people that follow the disc and try to prevent/channel passes to a very limited area where your mids are covering. However, being part of the cup means that as soon as the disc is initially hucked, the cup has to book it down the field. So partially because I suck at mid lol but also because I just love to run and have a decent handle on what to do in the cup, I often volunteer to be part of the cup. Despite our shortage of (wo)man power, I was only out of the cup for a couple shifts but man I loved it. I always feel like a puppy when I play ultimate, just so happy to run all out and chase this plastic disc thing. So…I’ve totally digressed but the moral of the story is that though we were soooo tired aka keeled over at the end of each point, we were having such a blast. Mind and body were like boo-friggin’-yeah; well, maybe mind a bit more than body but you know lol.

So I guess for me, this post is about checking in on yourself – both your physical and mental well-being. The mental game is arguably more important than the physical. You will hear endurance athletes often say that they’ve gotten very good at tuning out the body’s moans and groans to push forward. Granted, there’s also a limit to that too…body combustion is bad. But when you know your body is still good to go, it is all up to your mental fortitude to make it. But when you can’t figure out why it is that you want to keep pushing, going forward or if your brain and body is like eff you; we’ve hit the limit (wo)man, it may be time to, I don’t know, rest like a sane person 🙂 …I’m still struggling with it lol. I’m taking an unprecedented two whole days in a row off :O who wuhhhh. Stoked lol. But there’s a little part of me that’s like we could still go climbing indoors today since it’s cloudy/rainy outside. No self! Rest! Rest is not just for the body, but mind and soul. To be successful at anything, including our chosen play time activities, rest is that integral piece that we often seem to overlook because we think more more more! training will lead to our success. We need to know our limits and adhere to them. It’s hard, make no mistake about it. It is difficult to strike that continually moving balance point between pushing our limits but pushing past our limit. It doesn’t matter where yours is compared to the balance point of others even though it can be difficult not to compare ourselves to where others are. Last year, I did two sprint triathlons and pretty much zero climbing for 6 months. That was my max point. This year, it’s very different because I’ve built up a base and went back to climbing during the off (race) season; all the events I had chosen to be part of/compete in all pushed my limits. I’m also really happy that I spaced them out accordingly to allow for maximum training but also necessary taper and recovery time. But now, I’m done. Reached my limit. So even though that Banff triathlon would be a blast, I need to say no…even though it would  fit so nicely before my friend’s wedding in the mountains (pretty sure sane people don’t think like this!). After my body somewhat failed to hold up to a half marathon, part of me wants to see if I could do the distance better but no…There’s a part of me that still wants to test my mettle but I’m learning how to be mature (sigh) and in my case, understand where to push and where to not.

Infectious Laughter/Fitness Junkie

I’ve always been a relatively active kid; my awesome mom and dad saw to that by enrolling my brother and I into a multitude of sports when we were kids. Before I started rock climbing, I was dedicated to badminton; swimming came after in spurts after I came back from HK. But really, it was rock climbing that opened up the world of the ‘fitness junkie’ for me. A lot of people who are involved in an outdoor sport are also involved in other outdoorsy activities or at the very least, are open to trying something new as long as whatever their doing gets them to the natural playground they love so dearly. In addition to rock climbing, I do a multitude of other things. It’s not so much for the pursuit of getting lean and mean or performance training although those are secondary reasons but mainly because I have a blast at doing whatever I’m doing. I love pushing my body and seeing the improvement and I love the people that I get to meet through the avenue of sport. There’s also a sort of freedom that comes from cutting through the trees on your own two feet, on a  bike or being one with a mountain.

Recently, I began swimming again with a local triathlon club called Athletes in Action (AiA). Although the particular group I swim with is geared towards triathletes, AiA is an international organization that sees and values the avenue of sport and the community it cultivates as a way to share God’s love with others. It makes complete sense in my mind especially in consideration of the fact that you do build deep bonds with the people/team mates you train with. The triathletes I know/have met spend a lot of their ‘free time’ (outside of work) training so ultimately, you also end up spending a lot of time with the people you train with. It’s like having what we Christians call fellowship…but without calling it fellowship. So since I’ve been hanging with AiA, it’s hard not to get excited/consider doing at least a sprint triathlon. I played with the idea a couple years ago but decided against it because I wasn’t sure if I was really up for it and to be honest, a couple years ago I probably wouldn’t have been fit enough to consider a sprint tri. Even now, it’s going to take some time to really pull myself up to a level where I would feel comfortable (but not really…I can only imagine the pre-race jitters) to register for a race even if my goal (which it most certainly would be) to finish the damn thing. Another major factor that held me back from triathlons or the like is the time commitment I knew that would come with training for races. I wasn’t sure and still am not sure as to whether or not I want to commit so much time to it. Or perhaps, the better question is, if I am, what am I willing to sacrifice to run, swim, bike and strength train? Looking at my summer schedule punctuated with a couple runs and sprint tri, my climbing time has been nibbled at. But perhaps even more telling is the schedule I’ve developed for the next couple of weeks. A few months ago, I realized that it was hard to keep all the different activities I pursued in line in my head as I used to so I started mapping them out on my calendar. Holy batman, my entire calendar turned green (green being the colour code for ‘outdoor/activity’ on my calendar). And here I was, looking at my triathlete buddies and thinking that they were nuts and hyper version of myself…maybe not so much. Granted, they are much more fitter than I am (I am newb sauce in comparison).

I was talking with one of my new AiA friends about the cross fit training he dragged me to the day before (and the day right after a long swim/core workout) and he told me that I was ‘intense’ just like the rest of them. Oddly, I didn’t take this as a compliment…it actually got me thinking a bit worried. The general sentiment I get nowadays is that people in general don’t exercise enough and that is most likely very true but I have the opposite problem. You must wonder, what could be so bad about getting super active? The biggest concern for me is that I would begin once again to skew my priorities to all the activities I am involved in instead of the other more important things in my life such as my faith and people in my life. That I would begin idolizing rock climbing (again) or running/biking/swimming and have those things as my main priority. It is always a fight to pursue the delicate balance between these things and the rest of my life.

Then, it makes me wonder about the characteristic I would look for in a potential partner. I’ve always imagined or knew that I would like to be with someone who was (hyper) active in addition to being a man of God. I could not imagine myself being the ranting spouse about how much time he would be spending running or whatever just because I would probably be doing the same thing. But then, is that  healthy for a relationship? Sure, you can train together and that’s awesome but is that all there would be to the relationship? I immensely treasure the time when I can just lounge in the sun be it alone or with someone else. I’m terribly at ‘being still’ but when I manage to do it even if it’s just for 10 minutes, it’s amazing. Would being with someone who was just as, if not more, inclined to be hyper active disrupt the balance I’m constantly trying to pursue and achieve? An immense amount of self-discipline and leadership would be needed to be that voice that says: ‘relax and be still, seriously’.

So not to end this post on a seemingly serious note because after all, going out and play is really about having fun..you must be wondering what the connection is between laughter and fitness. There is one! Kind of. Not really but the common theme I find between them is that if someone is genuinely excited (or stoked in everyday lingo), that excitement infects others. I love it. I was doing yoga yesterday with a friend of mine that climbs and he started going off about how awesome the sport was. I must admit, even though I wrote an entire post about the awesomeness of climbing a while back, I wasn’t quite feeling it yet. There is a slight apprehension associated with my return to the sport…but that was before talking with my friend. His excitement has most certainly been passed onto me. I think it’s the same deal with triathlon; again, I have reservations about trying it out but the enthusiasm that my friends have for it is just so real.