Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm a liebster?

The fantastically-abbed, incredbly warm-hearted treadmill runner extraordinaire Emz tagged me.  And where Emz goes I follow.  At some distance behind her, but still..

Emz and I in Boston 2011.  Yes I was starstruck. 

The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. (Upcoming blogger? Not sure about that  - I think I have been at this thing so long that all my followers have dropped me.  But I'll take all the help I can get). 

The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. (I'm a sucker for being called these things so here's me jumping off a cliff for an award).

Rules for receiving this award:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Notify the people you have tagged.
5. No tag backs. ;)

So here goes - 11 things about me:

1.  I love reading.  I devour novels.  I read while I was in labour, I balanced books on my babies' heads while I fed them, I read in cars, in the bath, on the toilet, in bed.  Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow - it's the oxygen for my life.
2. I'm finding the cycling bit of triathlon surprisingly tough.  I can ride a bike, I can clip in (and out, most of the time), I can handle myself in traffic - but I find it hard to really push myself.  If I don't commit to my ride and to really go for it, I find my heart rate dropping to a corpse-like pace.  I'm beginning to realise that all of those who have been riding bikes well and hard for some time have a bit of head start on me.
3. I'm a sucker for a dare.  It's very immature but I just cannot help myself.  This weekend we were in the lake district and climbed a mountain near the Honister Pass.  To quote from Wikipedia, " [it] reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet (356 m), making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4 (25%)".  We saw some crazy-ass professional looking cyclists heaving their way up this pass and the idea burned into my head that I should try this.  I discussed this stupid idea with a couple of my friends who I was there with, most of whom are experienced cyclists.  They all said it was "in the mind" and I figured I have a mind like a steel trap, so why not have a go?  I had a 3 hour bikeride on the books on Sunday and so, hey presto, Sunday morning saw me cycling to the Honister Pass.  It's pretty up and downy on the way there and I was fine with that.  After a while there is less vegetation and this is where I started to talk to myself ("it's all in the mind, you're strong, you can do this, imagine how great you'll feel, yadda yadda yadda").  And then I hit the first bit where the gradient is 25%.  OH MY LORD!  I was hanging on for dear life, terrified the bike would flip backwards with the pressure I was exerting on the handlebars, I was in my smallest gear and could barely get my pedals round and all I was thinking was "[insert swearword] I won't be able to clip out if I get into trouble".  I couldn't stop myself all I could think of was clipping out.  And I managed.  So there I was on this )(*(*&*&^*&% incline out of the saddle.  And then all I could think was "man the [insert swearword] up Petra!  What the )(*(*&*&^ is going on here? Get back on your )(*(&^*%^ bike!".  So I managed to get back on which was no mean feat on that incline.  And I pushed on and up.  And then, I was nearly at the top and I was going so slowly (and grinding my pedals SO hard, and my heart rate was off the chart) and then I hit a pothole.  And fell.  Not very hard, as I was going so slowly.  And then I could not get back on again, it was just too steep.  So I walked my bike the last minute or so to the top.  Where I was faced with my next dilemma - how in the (*(*& was I going to get down this pass?  It was absolutely hideous.  I squeezed my brakes with everything I had and slowly made my way down, imagining all the while what would happen if I came off the road (not impossible as it was v narrow and the cars were wedging past me) and just hoping and praying I'd make it to the bottom and telling myself I was fool to take on the dare.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill my spirit was broken.  I was berating myself for being such a fool, for even trying this dumb thing, for ALWAYS rising to a dare.  Even if I'm daring myself.  My legs and arms were broken too - it was all I could do to get back to our holiday cottage....  I'm okay today.  Going for a very flat run this evening...
4. I'm Dutch but have been living in England for longer than I've lived anywhere else and the Olympics have proven to me that I now feel culturally British.  I'm going to get that passport sorted!
5. I'd like to be organised but am not.  I read Real Simple instead of organising my paperwork and photos.
6. I hate - absolutely loathe - board games.  And card games.  On the very rare occasions that I play a game with my kids I feel I should be given a free pass straight into Mother heaven as I feel I am making the most enormous sacrifice.
7. On the other hand, I love building Lego.
8. My go-to Karaoke song is "Don't Rain on my Parade".
9. My favourite food is mexican food.  I love Wahaca
10. I also adore Sushi.  Japan is the next country I'd like to visit.
11. I'm so not done with goals and challenges.  In the next 10 years I'd like to learn how to surf, improve my skiing, learn Japanese, improve my handling of personal finances and find a good yoga teacher.  Among other things.

Okay - my questions from Emz are:

1. Favorite social media? Facebook.  I have too much to say for Twitter.
2.  Favorite post workout meal? Big salad with chicken and avacado and nuts and seeds and all sorts of delicious stuff thrown in.
3.  Clean the house or do yard work? Clean the house.
4.  Favorite gift you've ever received? Beautiful painting from Adam for my 40th.
5.  Do you look most like your mom or dad? Like my mother, I think, though I don't really think I look that much like either of them. 
6.  If you could go any where in the world - where would you go? Japan - see above.  But I'm also desperate to go back to the US to see friends.  Do I have to choose? 
7.  Workout alone or with a group? Alone... 
8.  Favorite song at the moment? Call Me Maybe. I know, I know.  I've never been very edgy. 
9.  Three qualities of your best friend.  Honest, funny, loyal. 
10.  Favorite Olympic event?  10000m.  Strategy.  And seeing Tirunesh Dibaba win with such joy was great.
11.  Why did you start blogging? Because I was the only person I knew who wanted to talk and hear about running, and I wanted to hear about others who loved it.  It's changed my life, brought me new friends and a new career.  I'm not stopping!

My questions for the tagged ones?  I'm sorry this makes me feel like I'm writing an article in some teen magazine but go for it..

1. What is your next big goal / challenge?
2. What language would you like to learn to speak?
3. Which book has most inspired you?
4. What is the one thing you'd like to do but are afraid to try?
5. Best moment in the 2012 Olympics?
6. Favourite cuisine?
7. To what extent is your lifestyle shaped by the exercise / sport you do?
8. Has your exercise / sport affected your diet?
9. What is your favourite post-race treat - food or otherwise?
10. Which bloggers inspire you?
11. If you're not my FB friend, will you friend me now?

And here's my tagged ones.  Oh man - I hate this - it's like picking your favourite child - but this is just a sampling.  And some of you have way more than 200 followers - I know that.  But do it if you can - it's bound to be fun reading...

Good lord that took a while!  Hope you all have fun doing it!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Suck it up sunshine and do your job!

Crazy times!  The past few weeks have been crazy times!  Kids are still home from school (another 4 weeks of summer holidays to go) and we've had big birthday parties, sleepovers, a few days at the beach in Wales, the purchase of piglets and a trip to London to see the Olympics (more later).

Training has been a challenge.  Focus - what I was looking for in my last post - has not been easy to come by.  As always, I learn things slowly and by having truths pounded into my head repeatedly.  One morning I was on my trainer struggling to complete a 90 minute trainer ride.  I was constantly thinking of excuses to get off my bike and end this thing.  I thought of emailing my trainer and whining that I couldn't do this ride. When it struck me I couldn't, because my trainer was out doing an Ironman.  So she was not going to be available to pat my hand and tell me I was fine for not doing what I set out to do (which, incidentally, she wouldn't have done.  And I knew that.)  I sucked it up and finished the ride - without much conviction but with an inkling of understanding seeping in that sometimes I just need to suck it up.  The next week or so after that I struggled through my training - in my heart of hearts feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to do all this hard work. 

At the beginning of the week I wrote to my coach and told her how I was feeling.  Her response was an incredible email with various points I'd like to share:
  • the first year of triathlon it is hard to learn to fit all the different things in.  Certainly true - having a coach is making it much easier but I would still say the sheer logistics and planning that go into fitting it in are a challenge. 
  • It is hard. But if I want do this, I need to just do it.  Prioritise it.  And be brave about it. 
In this respect I am not a terribly brave person.  I like to make decisions that others approve of.  One of the things I am struggling with is right now is that in order to make my training work and my business work I think I need to make some lifestyle changes that others around me will not approve of. Training for marathons has been something I have been to fit alongside my existing lifestyle and I have been able to do it without it impacting much on those around me.  My lifestyle has changed in the past 9 years but not in a way that, I think, has had a great impact on others.  I eat well, generally, but there's also plenty of not so good food choices.  A lot of socialising around me involves alcohol and while I don't tend to drink too much, I will certainly go along with that.  Although I love my early nights and early mornings, I  will also stay up later occasionally to fit in with the bigger social schedule.

To fit in half ironman training, to fit in the amount of training I want to do with my clients, to learn the new skills I need to learn as a personal trainer - I need to make some bigger changes.  This may sound sappy, but it came home to me on a bikeride this week. I was trying very hesitantly to turn my bike 180 degrees in a narrow lane.  I was going at it slowly and hesitantly and it suddenly struck me that in my mind I was willing the bike to turn but my body was not doing enough to actually make it happen - I had to be brave enough to turn the wheel and follow through.  And in Oprah-like sychnchronicity, this is what needs to happen in my life - if I want to make a change, I need to actually turn my wheels in the direction I want to go in. 

At 40, I cannot burn the candle at both ends.  I need to take my training seriously, and adapt my lifestyle accordingly.  Improve my diet. Prioritise my sleep.  Get my training in every day.  And not feel - like I have been feeling - all apologetic about it.  I need to treat my own training like my job - part of my appeal, if I have any, as a trainer and a coach is my credentials as an athlete.  And while I'm no winner of awards and don't expect to podium, ever, my achievements are credible and I need to treat them like that.  To get them, I need to train.  So if I need to, I will get childcare in to get my training in.  If I need to, I will leave a social occasion earlier so I can get to bed and get up in the morning at 5am and train.  Most of the time, I will leave the wine to others.  (As an aside, despite years of practise, I am not much of a drinker and my sleep and mood improve massively when I don't drink).  And I need to believe that it is legitimate of me to do this.  And I need to be brave enough to stand up for this choice when people challenge me on it.  I am not surrounded by other athletes, many of my friends make very different choices.  And I respect that completely.  I now need to respect my own choices.

Herewith endeth the sermon.

And I leave you with some photos of an Olympic weekend of inspiration - my son Felix and I started off Saturday morning by spectating the triathlon in Hyde Park (and getting friendly with Gwen Jorgenson's family who were wonderful and inspiring, despite her disappointing race due to a puncture).

Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen

After that race we made our way across London - which is alive, alive, alive! in a way I have never seen it - to the Olympic park to watch women's hockey and just soak up the atmosphere, before coming home for an amazing night of British medals - gold for lovely lovely Jessica Ennis, wonderful Mo Farah and the great ginger long jumping chap.
Running the Olympic marathon course early in the morning
Shalane Flanagan
Kara Goucher in the red hat behind the green chick
And then yesterday I ran my prescribed 90 minute run partially on the marathon course (cheered on by funny volunteers who all rated my chances of winning the thing!) before heading out to spectate the women's marathon.  The weather was, at times, diabolical but what a view and what a sight they were - amazing!  We cheered EVERYONE and got quite a few glances from the athletes (my voice is gone today).  It's been so fantastic to have the Olympics here - so exciting to travel to London to actually see it. And the games are not over yet..

So inspired by what I've seen, I'm on my way to realigning my life and priorities.