Change, Sameness and the Untaming of My Wild Spirit

I don’t know when the idea first started to percolate in my head, but I realized within the last year (or longer?) that I had started to feel stagnant. The idea of making a big change when you have been married for twenty years with two kids and a house you are not leaving anytime soon – if ever – started to weigh on me. There didn’t seem to be any path to change that I could wrap my arms around. Instead, the days and months unfolded one after the other, with no real differences or excitement.

I’m a believer in the idea that kids need stability. They need predictable adults who aren’t going to uproot them across the country just because the adult has decided they would rather do their daily run on the beach than in the mountains. That didn’t seem like a decision that a mature, dependable adult would make, even though the old me, the single me, would have happily made the choice to move across the country for something seemingly arbitrary like a better view or warmer weather.

In trying to decide what it was about the sameness of my life that bothered me, I thought back on my past and how I had lived when I was younger. Change was a constant for me back then. I loved the idea of fresh starts and new opportunities and those desires led me to transfer high schools and colleges and move across the country to a city where I didn’t know anyone.

One result of pulling up roots easily is that you don’t have a lot of people around you who have known you for a long time. You are constantly reinventing and having to establish new connections. Exciting, yes. But not necessarily the best way to establish a career or raise a family.

As a person who thrives on change and newness, the lack of both in my life started to feel like a drain on my spirit. Mark, on the other hand, is a person who thrives on sameness and stability – he hates change. Yes, I married my polar opposite in so many ways. While it is not uncommon to seek out someone who compliments your weaknesses, it also can lead to some frustration when you are feeling your spirit squelched by the other person’s needs.

I’ll use where we live to illustrate this point.

We live on a breathtaking lot with 180 degree, panoramic views of the mountains and the city. It’s high on the side of a mountain and you can see for about 50 miles in every direction. Deer, elk and fox are almost a daily sight. Despite all of this natural beauty, I often feel a bit isolated and the reality of having to drive at least 20 minutes (in good weather) to get anywhere drains me. I would love to move into town for proximity to everything and warmer weather, but Mark and the kids are completely resistant.

Looking southwest from our deck

With the realization that I will probably live in this house forever (and believe me, I realize there are worse things in life than staring at that view all day long), I’ve tried to figure out ways to satisfy my need for change and newness without actually going anywhere. So, I am trying to figure out some changes I can do to the house, mostly small things like paint and furniture, to give me the invigorating feeling of new that I only recently realized I was missing. This week, for example, I bought a new wreath for our front door for the holidays. A new wreath! Stand back everyone! I know that seems like a completely trivial thing, but trust me, a collection of trivial moments such as this one start to add up to something else.

My athletic and social lives – which, believe it or not, are not actually one in the same – also felt in need of reinvention. Finding new training partners and friends continues to take some effort, but I am hopeful that the connections I am building will help keep life feeling new.

I went to an amazing presentation last night organized by Vela Adventures, a company that organizes adventures for women in the Denver-area. There were three speakers, including our own Sonja Wieck, who was as funny, warm and relatable as you can be when you are a 15-time Ironman and Ironman champion.

L to R: Sonja Wieck (Rising Tide Coaching), Kelly Kocher (Vela Adventure), Carlyn Shaw (Strangers to Friends), Niki Koubourlis (Bold Betties)

One of the speakers, Carlyn Shaw, spoke about overcoming the diagnosis of MS at the age of 19 to live a life of adventure and connecting with others. Carlyn was amazing and I felt like she had lived a life I might have lived had I not gotten married super young and followed everyone else’s rules and expectations. I went up to her at a break and said I wasn’t sure how a person like me – completely tied down in every way – could live a life of adventure. Carlyn responded, “do you have a hula hoop? You need a hula hoop.”

Now, I have no idea if a hula hoop will create a sense of fun and adventure for me or not, but you can bet I am willing to try.

My big takeaway from the evening was that changes do not have to be big to feed an adventurous spirit like mine. The changes can be as small as buying a new type of coffee or running your usual running route backwards. And continuing to make the effort to connect with new friends and strangers who just might turn into friends. These are all things I had been overlooking and didn’t realize I missed until they were mostly gone.

Adventure on friends. If you are up for something fun and different in 2016, call me. I promise I’m game.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Brand Ambassador

I recently wrote about the different tri teams out there, including the companies that have teams of brand ambassadors. With many brands announcing their 2016 teams, it’s a good time to turn to the topic of what makes for a successful relationship between an athlete and an athletic brand.

Here are my Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Brand Ambassador:

DON’T act like a jerk while wearing team gear. Once you put on that kit, realize you are representing the entire team and company while you train and race. A bright kit with logos all over it is also going to be more memorable to people, and you don’t want to give people a reason to say, “wow, that guy in the ___ kit was riding like a jerk in the race today.”

DON’T expect a lot for nothing. The company sponsoring your team is in the business of making money and likely cannot afford to give away a lot of product. Freebies are nice, but I consider them the exception and not the rule.

DON’T publicly disparage the team or brand. Even if you are unhappy with your kit, gear, or some aspect of the team, disputes and grievances should always be addressed privately.

DON’T confuse everyone about your team affiliation by posting lots of pics of yourself in other brands’ gear. Many of us own apparel from different companies or use a variety of products, but you don’t have to go out of your way to advertise that fact. Stick to pics that promote your team’s gear and sponsors.

DO take advantage of your team’s partnerships. Most teams have put together a family of sponsors for the team, and there are usually explicit or implicit rules you will at least try these products.

DO participate in your team’s forum or Facebook group. The more people who contribute, the more everyone gets out of being a part of the team.

DO read your sponsorship/ambassadorship agreement and make sure you understand it.

DO share important news from your company, such as the release of new product lines or sales.

DO something to express your gratitude when you receive a freebie. Throw your company some love on social media if they have done something nice for you.

DO communicate openly and honestly. Ideally, the brand will let you know what they expect from team members, and the athlete will feel comfortable raising any questions or concerns with the company. Keep the lines of communication open!

Have more ideas about a do or don’t? Post them below.