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.

Dolomites Trip Days 1 and 2

Hello from Italy! We are in the Dolomites in Northern Italy for a 10-day cycling trip. Mark likes to tell people we are on this trip as a 20th anniversary celebration, but the trip was actually coordinated by our friend Mike to celebrate his 50th birthday and it was organized by Mike and Emily Kloser from Vail, who are awesome.

Mark had to twist my arm pretty hard to agree to the trip. A European cycling trip has been a long-time dream of his, but it wasn’t really a dream I shared. He refused to take the trip alone, so I finally agreed to go with him, and here we are.

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Dolomites view – different from the Rockies for sure

Sonja is currently blogging about our recent cycling adventure in Colorado, which was my main preparation for the trip. Other than three long days in the mountains near Denver, Vail and Aspen, I spent the spring primarily on the trainer or riding the flats. I did a few rides on Lookout too, but I really didn’t do much training specific to this trip. The smart thing I did do to get ready was to swap my rear cassette to a 12-32. This was no easy task and involved a derailer change as well, but it has been well worth it.

So what are the Dolomites like so far? They are steep. Much steeper than the mountains in Colorado. I’m not sure I could have done much training to prepare, since we don’t have 10-15% grades anywhere near us, so I focused on preparing my bike instead, which was definitely the right call.

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Right now we are based in a town called Canazei and yesterday and today we did ride of about 45 miles each day with around 6K of climbing per ride. It’s pretty much only up, up, up, or down, down, down. No flats, which is a little sad for me because I excel on flats, relatively speaking. But I am really trying to embrace the challenge and attack my weakness. And maybe, just maybe, after these 10 days are up, I will finally feel like a “real” cyclist.

The past two days have been filled with crushing climbs, unbelievable scenery, new friends, and…a lot of rain. Apologies to the people of Northern Italy for bringing our wet, cool weather with us, but that’s exactly what it feels like happened. The trip is a collection of friends and acquaintances from Denver and Vail, so we all feel right at home in the damp, cool weather, but I am fervently hoping it warms up soon since I didn’t pack the right clothes.

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Day 1 group: Mark, Jen M, me, Dylan, Roy

Tomorrow we are off to Merona. The steeper rides are later in the week and I am hoping I get stronger as the week goes on.

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Mark riding out of town on Day 1

100 Things About Me

100 things about me

I enjoyed reading Erin’s list so much that I thought I would create my own.

Here goes:

1. I’m the middle child in my family.

2. I helped raise my younger sister and we are really close.

3. My younger sister has always emulated me and went to University of Michigan like I did and followed me into the practice of law even though I tried to get her to become a doctor.

4. I went to law school because my dad (who was a lawyer) told me not to.

5. I went to law school because I wanted to impress my future in-laws.

6. I was raised Jewish but did not go to Hebrew school or have a Bat Mitzvah because my parents thought it was a waste of time.

7. I am raising my kids Christian.

8. I have been with my husband since I was 19 and had only one serious relationship prior to meeting him.

9. We got engaged at the base of Aspen Mountain when I was 22.

10. I have been married for almost 20 years.

11. The day we moved to Colorado was probably the happiest day of my life.

12. I used to have a prestigious legal career but now practice law from my dining room table which I have many conflicted feelings about.

13. I want to be a writer.

14. Sometimes I wish I was a doctor and I actually dole out quite a bit of medical advice to friends.

15. Twins don’t run in my family.

16. Motherhood does not always come easily to me.

17. If I do one thing right in my life, I hope to be a good mother.

18. I always think the grass is greener and I transferred high schools (just for one semester), colleges, and law schools.

19. I started college at DePauw University in Indiana.

20. I met my husband on a 40-foot racing sailboat in a resort town in Northern Michigan.

21. I wanted to be a WASP growing up.

22. My husband is from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, which is a WASP enclave.

23. I often feel out of place there.

24. I feel most “myself” in the Vail Valley.

25. Going to camp in the summers as a kid was the highlight of my childhood.

26. My first real job was working as a camp counselor.

25. I also worked as a waitress during college and law school.

27. I worked in retail between undergrad and law school at Ann Taylor.

28. My grandma passed away in 2009 at the age of 95 and I think about her almost every day.

29. My parents were both only children so I have no aunts, uncles or first cousins.

30. Neither of my sisters has ever been married.

31. We were one of the only families in my hometown that had an in-ground swimming pool.

32. Despite that, I am a terrible swimmer and don’t enjoy getting wet.

33. I dream about buying the house I grew up in.

34. When people ask me where I grew up, I tell them St. Charles (Illinois) which is a nice town that a lot of people have heard of, but we actually lived in Elgin until I was 15.

35. I went to a small, private high school from 6th through 12th grade.

36. My big sport in high school was tennis.

37. I was also a cheerleader despite not knowing how to do any gymnastics.

38. I briefly played the violin in elementary school, but wasn’t very good.

39. I have never eaten a banana.

40. Or cottage cheese.

41. I feel like I haven’t achieved my full potential athletically or professionally.

42. I am very hard on myself.

43. I hate cooking.

44. I’ve never watched a full episode of a soap opera.

45. “Venus & Serena” is my favorite documentary.

46. I am terrible with numbers and math and can’t remember how much I paid for something 10 minutes after leaving the store.

47. I attribute my inability to do math to a serious seizure I had in 4th grade, although I have no idea if there is any connection.

48. My greatest fear in life is that something will happen to one of my kids.

49. I dream of living in a warm climate.

50. I finally started to feel like an adult when my husband began to plan his retirement.

51. He will never retire because he likes working too much.

52. My husband is an emergency physician.

53. We can do a lot of things together because of his schedule, but I am frequently on my own on nights, weekends, and holidays.

54. I spend too much time on the Internet.

55. I worry I have undiagnosed attention deficit disorder.

56. I wasn’t the “smart one” in our family.

57. I was “social” and “athletic.”

58. I went to prom in Colorado my sophomore year with a kid I met on Spring Break in the Bahamas.

59. His last name was “Coors.”

60. It sounds scandalous, but he didn’t even try to kiss me.

61. I am both proud and humiliated by my splits at Kona last year.

62. I want to race Kona again.

63. I’m not sure I would keep doing Ironman if I didn’t have the carrot of trying to qualify for Kona.

64. I am very sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily.

65. Because of #64, litigation was probably a bad choice for me.

66. I pretend to like a lot of things to set a good example for my kids.

67. Examples of things I pretend to like include downhill skiing and camping.

68. My son can beat me at checkers.

69. He would also beat me at chess but I don’t know how to play.

70. I read the Wall Street Journal every day.

71. I don’t feel guilty when I don’t work out, but I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.

72. I’m a night owl.

73. I hate being a night owl because it seems like all of the go getters in society are morning people.

74. I am easily awed by other people’s accomplishments but tend to downplay my own accomplishments.

75. I pride myself on being upfront and honest with people.

76. I love playing Scrabble.

77. My mom was on Jeopardy when I was young, but it was before VHS, so we don’t have a copy of her shows.

78. She won several days in a row and came home with Turtle Wax and Rice a Roni.

79. I am the IT person in our household.

80. My husband just asked what I was working on and I wouldn’t tell him.

81. He has never read my blog.

82. My ideal day in Colorado would be to run around the neighborhood with my dog, take my kids for a hike, and spend the evening at Glenwood Springs in the hot springs.

83. My favorite season is summer.

84. I can barely make it through winter.

85. We live above 7000 feet.

86. I want to visit the Himalayas someday.

87. We rarely take a vacation that isn’t triathlon-related or to visit our families.

88. I always hated running trails until I got a dog.

89. Now I sometimes run trails so she can run off leash and engage in her favorite activity, which is chasing wildlife.

90. Popcorn is my favorite food.

91. I wish I spoke Spanish.

92. I do 90% of my training by myself, but I am trying to change that.

93. Because of my son, I am finally learning the rules of football.

94. I have asthma and didn’t run growing up because I would get asthma attacks.

95. I drink too much coffee.

96. I love shopping at consignment stores.

97. I almost never wear make-up.

98. I tried Botox a few years ago and hated it.

99. I never “reply all” unless it is absolutely necessary.

100. I typed this list in under one hour.

Coming back

As soon as the calendar flips over into January, I am ready to pack Christmas back into a box and move forward into all of the promise that the new year holds. Some of the crazy thoughts I was having before the holidays (like how I was going to return to the practice of law full time and quit doing triathlon), have subsided a bit and I feel more like myself.  Like most people, I have thought of ways to be a new and improved version of myself in 2015.

Athletically, I am finally trying to address my two greatest weaknesses: the fact I can barely swim, and my lack of strength. On the swimming front, I enlisted the help of tri coach and Olympian, Susan Williams, to film my stroke and give me some feedback. She invited me to join her masters group one day and it was such a good workout that I actually returned! Between the time Susan analyzed my stroke (early December) and my second swim practice (yesterday), I had not gotten in the pool a single time, which is not how it is supposed to work. Ideally, if you are going to take the time and pay to have someone film you, you would spend some time working on the stroke flaws identified and hopefully come back a little bit better. I still need to work on that part, but I am committed to trying something a little different – attending masters with someone on deck who is looking at my stroke. An added benefit is that I have met a new group of women triathletes and maybe gained a new training partner or two.

On the strength front, it was clear to me that I lacked the discipline to go to the weight room on my own and lift more regularly than once or twice per year. Instead, I decided to try out Cross Fit, which I realize is a favorite target of scorn for triathletes, myself included. My main reason for going to All Pro Cross Fit is that is it co-owned by my longtime friend and triathlete Kathy Waite, who is the type of person I will endure some silliness to be around because she is so energetic and positive. Kathy did not care at all that I lifted the baby “triathlete weights” while all of the meat heads were grunting and groaning. For some reason, Cross Fit involves lifting weights fast, while timing yourself, but I ignored this part of it. Instead I just tried to learn some of the moves and, ideally, not injure myself in the process.

The only downside to starting a strength program is that I am incredibly sore after each session and rather than feeling like I am getting stronger, I feel like someone has beat me with a baseball bat, which is a disincentive to returning. I don’t have much interest in replacing triathlon with Cross Fit, but it’s been a fun way for me to lift a few weights and maybe strengthen a few areas.

Almost like a switch was flipped, when the kids returned to school this week, I started to think about training again. I haven’t done anything crazy, like put my bike on the trainer or strap on my heart rate monitor, but I felt like after all of the soul-seaching I had done this fall about me, my place in the sport and whether I still wanted or needed Ironman, I decided that I was ready to move forward with some athletic goals.

You know how sometimes someone asks you about a goal and you have never thought about it before or said it out loud, but then something comes out of your mouth and you realize it was there all along? That happened this week. I told a room full of strangers that I was hoping to PR in the Ironman at Louisville this year. And just like that, I realized I was ready.

Some introspection and a look ahead to 2015

After stringing together five triathlon racing seasons without much break in between, I decided to take a BIG break after Kona. The kind of break I had been dreaming about for a while. I took such a long break (I am actually still taking it), that I wasn’t sure I would ever do another workout again. It felt so good to do what I wanted, when I wanted and let go of the things that had become a mental drain – like riding the trainer or swimming. Instead, I’ve been running (or walking) around the neighborhood with the dog sans watch or heart rate monitor. That’s about it. Part of me feels like I have gotten accustomed to being “lazy,” but part of me also realizes that this break was necessary if I want to push myself hard again next season.

I sometimes joke that I don’t know why I do triathlon because I don’t really like to swim or bike. The truth is, while I don’t like some aspects of the individual sports, I love racing Ironman and trying to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle of swim/bike/run on race day. But once you have raced 140.6 once, twice, nine times, you have to ask yourself, “what keeps me coming back to this?” Something keeps me signing up for race after race after race, but what is it? Why do I feel like I have to keep doing it?

I thought about that question a lot this fall. It didn’t take an advanced degree in psychology for me to figure out part of the reason I kept training for Ironman after Ironman. Ironman training takes quite a bit of mental and physical energy. So much energy that I didn’t have time to think about many other things in my life. And that was the point. When I was exhausted from training or planning the next season, I didn’t have time to focus on the things I preferred not to focus on. These were smallish things (“my storeroom and closet are a mess”) and big things (“I’m worried about my kids”). I knew after my big race was over that I would have time to think about the other, non-triathlon things in my life, and I wasn’t looking forward to that. But this time around, it felt like it was time to face some of these things. It was, literally and figuratively, time to get my house in order. While I was out training for nine Ironmans, a few things fell by the wayside and slipped through the cracks. It was time to address them, or at least let them into my head and try to process some of those thoughts.

In that way, this off-season has been hard not just from the standpoint of the “post race blues,” but the letting of things back into my head that I have shoved deep down for several years. It was time to face issues about whether I should be doing more with my career (yes), and think long and hard about whether I am doing the best job I can parenting my kids (probably not). I tried to expand my shrunken circle a bit and make time to see friends and do some non-training related activities with Mark (still working on that one as Mark doesn’t believe in an off-season). I cleaned out the closet, the storeroom, the kids’ rooms, and most of the drawers and cabinets in the house. I got rid of all of the junk.

I thought about whether there are more dreams to achieve in triathlon and whether I should l find something new to do with my time. I decided the answers to those questions were “yes” and “maybe.”

So, I head into 2015 with a slightly different perspective on things. Without the Kona qualifying goal, I can focus on what I really want from the sport and what fits into my life and our family. The old pressure has been lifted (I think), but new goals have been set, both inside and outside of sport.

Another development for 2015 that I’m excited to announce is that I will be racing on Team Coeur as an ambassador for Coeur Sports! I couldn’t be more excited to join this talented and inspiring group of women. When I thought about what I was missing in my tri life, I decided it was the camaraderie and support of other active women. In my day-to-day life, I don’t have too many friends who are involved in triathlon, although more are giving it a go, which is fun to see. I also train by myself about 90% of the time. Those factors make life kind of lonely sometimes, and I decided that this year, I wanted to be part of a community. I had a pretty good idea I would find this family as a member of Team Coeur, a company that seems to be much more interested in growing the sport and encouraging women’s participation in sport than just making stylish clothes. When I read Coeur’s blog, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what they had to say about the hot issues in the tri world right now, and I loved the way the team members all supported each other’s racing. I’m also impressed by the quality of the clothes, which are all designed and made in the USA.

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I am also back for another season as a Nuun Ambassador, which is lucky because I drink so.much.Nuun.

Many thanks to Kompetitive Edge for seeing me through three seasons and helping me develop from a newbie to a more seasoned racer. I’ll always be grateful for the support I received from Jared, Ryan, Brandon, Drew and Rich. Always support your local tri shop, folks!

I hope everyone who is taking an off-season enjoys it as much as I have and arrives in 2015 fully recharged and ready to rock. That is what I am hoping for myself. Have a great holiday season!

My first Stitch Fix

I wanted to share photos and feedback from my first Stitch Fix order, which came late last week. A few of my tri-friends had tried out Stitch Fix, an on-line personal shopping site, and I was eager to give it a try. I enjoy shopping and buying new clothes, but between working from home and having limited time to shop (not to mention the fact we live 30 minutes away from any stores I would want to shop at), my wardrobe was getting a bit limited. I have tons of jeans and about a dozen pairs of black yoga pants and hoodies, but other than that, I was starting to feel like I didn’t have many clothing options. Certainly nothing cute to wear out on a weekend (assuming I actually made it out somewhere on the weekend).

Enter Stitch Fix! The concept is that you fill out an on-line profile answering all kinds of questions about your personal style, your likes and dislikes, your lifestyle, and how much you want to spend on clothes, and then your stylist chooses 5 pieces for you and sends them to you.

Here’s the box the items come in, with instructions for giving feedback and sending back in 3 business days.

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If you like your items, great! You keep all of them and you check out on-line and give feedback to improve the picks for next time. If you don’t like something, you give feedback on it and send it back at no cost. It’s simple, convenient and fun because there will probably be something in your Fix that you wouldn’t have picked for yourself but you end up loving.

My pick came last week and I brought the box with me to a dinner with friends who have known me a really long time and wouldn’t be afraid to tell me what they thought. Thanks to the girls for putting up with my fashion show and for the feedback!

Kendall and I got around to taking some pics yesterday so I could show what I got. Pretend I am wearing cute shoes or boots in each picture with coordinating accessories.

Here’s what I got:

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Item 1: knit striped top with leather detailing at the pockets. I like the color and style of this piece, but the fit was a little too loose/boxy. The girls weren’t wild about it and I planned to send it back but ended up keeping it (which I will explain below).

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Item 2: heathered v-neck dolman top. I liked the fit and style of this top, but was skeptical of the color, which is pinker than it looks in this photo. I don’t wear pink or light colors because they generally don’t look good on me. Thought about sending this back too, but ended up keeping it, too.

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Items 3 and 4: Daniel Rainn swiss dot cross front top and skinny jeans in dark wash. The top is my favorite piece in the fix. I love the style and it fills the gap in my wardrobe for versatile pieces that can be worn out at night or layered with a blazer for a business event. You can’t really see the jeans well in this photo, but they are form-fitting and would go with just about anything. The girls convinced me to keep the jeans.

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Item 5: 41Hawthorn contrast detail blazer. A winner! Super versatile piece that layers well with anything. I ended up wearing this out to dinner with my husband last night to dress up a casual top.

Here are the important details on pricing: If you keep all five pieces in your Fix, you get a 25% discount on the whole order. When I went on the Stitch Fix site to check out, I played with the cost if I sent back one or two pieces, and decided that it made more sense to keep everything than just send back one or two things. If I sent back two pieces (the longer top and the striped top), the cost was $210. But it was only $252 to keep all five pieces, so it was like getting two additional tops for only $40. There is also a $20 styling fee which is applied to anything you end up purchasing in your order, so you don’t pay the styling fee if you keep any of the items in your fix.

Another thing I like about Stitch Fix is the personalized styling card that comes with your Fix that shows the different pieces and how they can be accessorized and paired with other items. This is a little detail that makes you feel like someone took the time to think about what you might like and wants you to enjoy it. I can tell that because my stylist, Randall, signed my note with “XO” – clearly he cares about me, right?

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Stitch Fix is relying on word-of-mouth to spread the news about their service and in order to bolster referrals, they give you a referral code to share with friends on social media or email. If people sign up for Stitch Fix with your referral code and end up buying something, you get a $25 credit.

If you want to try it out for yourself – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t since there is no risk and you can send it all back, but I doubt you will need to – here’s my referral code:

https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3425152

Check it out and let me know what you think!