You know you’re a [female] triathlete when…

I stumbled across this thread on the Slowtwitch women’s forum recently and laughed out loud enough times to find it share-worthy. Certainly more than a handful of these apply to the gentlemen as well.

Enjoy!

2008 Solana Beach Triathlon

You know you’re a [female] triathlete when…

1. You hit the drugstore cosmetics aisle to find the perfect shade of nail polish–to fix a chip on your bike.

2. You own more sports bras than everyday bras.

3. You own five one-piece swimsuits, and no two-piece suits.

4. Your chosen hairstyle has more to do with what fits easily under an aero helmet or swim cap than what’s fashionable.

5. You refuse to wear high heels, because they’re bad for your calves.

6. You turn down dates because they interfere with training.

7. Your biggest motive behind getting a dog was to have a new running partner.

8. You use hair ties to hold things (GPS, spare tubes) to your bike.

9. You are a complete pro at changing into and out of workout clothes while sitting in the front seat of your car.

10. You bring sports magazines with you to waiting rooms, because you can’t stand any of that Vogue/Cosmo crap.

11. You’d rather sleep with your heart rate monitor than a guy.

12. When you hear “bling,” you think “medals.”

13. Eau de Chlorine: it’s the newest, hottest fragrance for women.

14. When someone says, “size matters,” you automatically think of your bike, fit, wheels, and race weight.

15. When your kitchen is a mess, there’s laundry to be done, and mail is piling up on the counter, your bike is–and will always be–sparkly clean.

16. You have given up on trying to hide those pesky “goggle marks” around your eyes before heading in to work.

17. You didn’t cry over “The Notebook,” but you sniffled and sobbed while watching the Ironman World Championships.

18. A running coach would cringe over your form…but you’re still faster than most guys you know.

19. Your idea of a great birthday party is to run your age in miles with a bunch of friends.

20. You spend more time on cyclingnews.com or slowtwitch.com than Facebook.

21. You consider work a “recovery period” between sessions.

22. Your family is not worried if you left for your run 2 hours ago.

23. You’re up every day by 5 am, but never in to work before 9 am.

24. You can’t change the oil in your car, but you can completely rebuild your bike in 45 minutes or less.

25. Your car smells like a locker room.

26. Your idea of shopping is a trip to the Sports Authority.

27. You’re the only lady you (personally) know who uses Strava.

28. You have more pairs of shoes than any of your girlfriends–but they’re all running shoes.

29. You shave your legs religiously, but it has absolutely nothing to do with aesthetic.

30. You talk about taking “LSD and speed” daily without realizing that it weirds people out.

31. You have a special “secret spot” for stashing  jewelry last-minute.

32. You don’t wear leggings, you wear Spandex.

33. You frequently wear pants to work to hide your compression socks.

34. You’re actually stoked to gain a few pounds, because you know it’s increased glycogen storage.

35. You don’t take bubble baths, you take ice baths.

36. Your girlfriends are jealous of your killer tan…until they realize it only extends to mid-thigh.

37. Your only motive for doing yoga is to stretch out chronically tight hamstrings.

38. “Little Pink Kit” is your version of the “Little Black Dress.”

39. You choose beer over wine because it’s a more effective glycogen replenisher.

And my favorite, so far:

40. You would prefer carbon that has been spun into fibers and molded into aero forms over carbon that has been compressed for millions of years and carved with many facets.

wyndy-milla

Wyndy Milla rockin’ the Little Pink Kit.

What sort of quirks confirm that you’re a female triathlete? Or triathlete in general?

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How to date a triathlete/marathon runner/endurance junkie.

1. Don’t.

Just kidding. In fact, endurance junkies are some of the most quality people around. All of those hours spent alone with ourselves in the meditative realm of Zone 2 really forces us to think about things like who we are, what we believe in, the meaning of life, what we’re going to eat immediately when we get home, and other critical themes.

But it’s not as simple as run, rinse, repeat. Being a true endurance junkie is a lifestyle. It’s a state of mind. For many of us, training makes us better people every day. It serves us in ways other people or experiences have not or cannot. And so we find ourselves caught up in a committed relationship, legs intertwined with the goddess of multisport.

As I once (perhaps mistakenly) told a past boyfriend: “You may be my boyfriend, but triathlon is my husband.”

Needless to say, this did not go over very well. I was mostly kidding, but I think we both knew it to largely be true. He replied with some snarky comment about “time spent in the saddle,” which I actually recall being quite clever and pun-ny.

This past summer and fall, in an attempt to unearth just what it is that makes us endurance junkies so “un-datable,” I conducted a rather unscientific social experiment: I went on 21 dates in 21 weeks, with 21 non-endurance athletes (a.k.a. “normal people”). Here’s what I discovered to be the top most misunderstood aspects of the endurance junkie’s lifestyle.

1. Most of us are introverts. Sure, we may be the life of the party on the rare occasions we are out socializing. We may seem extroverted because of our tendency to be outgoing when others are around. But don’t be fooled. Usually that’s just the endorphins talking. Or the fact that eventually, we need to balance out our 90% alone time with some human contact. Either way, just be prepared for someone who likes to be a bit of a lone wolf. It takes a certain type to spend hours alone running and cycling, and that certain type usually has a penchant for solitude that may be disturbing to others.

2. Please, please, please don’t make us stay out late with you. Our idea of “going out” involves literally going outdoors on foot or bicycle, preferably in the wee hours of Saturday morning when the rest of the world is sleeping off an impending hangover. If you make us stay out late with you at some sub-par Mexican restaurant, and hence compromise the quality or timing of our planned weekend long run/ride, we will resent you. And eat all the chips and salsa without regard for the others at the table. Consider yourself warned.

3. We WILL spend more time swimming, biking, and running, than with you. Sorry. It’s not that we don’t like you, it’s just that, well, we like SBR better.

4. Vacations, dates, and trips centered around doing something physical and rugged are incredibly hot. Especially if you can keep up/only if you can keep up.

5. Please don’t make comments about our choice of dress. We got up at 3:30 am and ran 54 miles today, so yes, it’s gonna be another sweatpants day.

6. Please don’t make comments about the state of our feet, or the strange rashes on our backs and butts. Listen, I’ve been working on those calluses for years. And brush burn can happen to the best of us. It’s a badge of honor. Now hand me my body butter.

7. It’s really, honestly, seriously not about the bike. Some multisport “hobbyists”, as I like to call them, are really just into gear: flashy bikes, fancy moisture-wicking apparel, gravity-defying running shoes. I think those folks are in the minority though. Really, for most of us, it’s about the process. The bike is just a vehicle for personal growth and change.

8. …but if you HAVE to give us a gift, give us a bike! Okay, maybe not a bike (has anyone looked at the price tags on those things these days? Insane!), but something we can use to make ourselves more comfortable, efficient, and/or entertained while slogging it out there. As they say, carbon fiber is a girl’s best friend. Or is it only me who says that? Meh.

9. We probably finished off that entire box of cereal. SORRY. It takes a lot of fuel to power through several hours of cardio exercise every day. Or at least, so we tell ourselves. If you bring it to our attention that downing an entire box of Product 19 in a day is gross, we will feel sad, misunderstood and self conscious. So just don’t go there.

10. No run = cranky + moody. I once saw a t-shirt at a local running shop that had the words “NO RUN = CRANKY + MOODY” printed on it in large block print. I felt relieved that clearly, I was not the only one to have experienced this phenomenon. Now where can I find a cute guy sporting said shirt?

11. We’re geeks for numbers. A lot of triathlon lingo is centered around numbers, figures, and calculations. Do we expect you to understand when we toss around terms like “max cadence,” “wattage,” “millimeter offset,” and “Yasso 800s“? Yes, yes we do.

12. Yes, we are capable of love. We just show it differently. Here’s my theory, which is loosely based on my associations with triathlete and marathoning friends over the years: we just have a different sense of relativity, slightly different tolerance for solitude and independence, and frequently a radically different neurohormonal profile, than the general populous. We like our friends to be people who understand the value of setting personal goals and doggedly going after them, with perhaps seeming disregard for other aspects of life. Needless to say, this typically isn’t considered very socially acceptable; women especially are deemed neglectful if they choose to pursue “hobbies” outside of family and even career. 

BWbTlR7CIAADcHr_jpg_large

Does anyone else find this photo incredibly hot?

The thing about triathletes and endurance athletes is that many of us have rediscovered the power of positive motivation, encouragement, and coaching in our adult lives. The paradigm of pushing through personal boundaries to shatter past records and achieve new, previously unattainable goals is something many of us move away from after we graduate from high school sports teams. This lens–one of encouragement, big dreaming, and distinctive goal-setting–is the one through which we understand how to show love and affection. If one of my friends mentions a goal she’s been entertaining, you sure as hell bet I’ll be on her case about realizing that goal and surpassing it. This comes off as annoying to some, but more often than not I’ve been met with appreciation.

Perhaps most people don’t get enough of this on a regular basis. When was the last time you heard someone say something like, “I believe in you,” “You can do anything you set your mind to,” or “Dream big”? These are things we were liberally showered with as children, but such encouragement and belief in oneself falls by the wayside as we grow up and hide away behind our desk jobs. This makes me sad.

I think people who are drawn to things like endurance sports are people who have recognized that realistically, only a finite amount of achievement and goal realization is possible in the “real world”. The concept of the entirely self-made man or woman is a thing of the past, as our careers and personal lives function more at the whim of the economy, our happenstance social network, and random obstacles that arise than our education and persistence. No longer does good, honest hard work necessarily translate into getting where one wants to be.

With triathlon, the payback is reliably and predictably related to the amount of work that’s put into it. Working hard = progress, and progress = personal growth and improvement. We crazy endurance junkies have found an arena in which one of the most basic human needs is not only attainable, it’s incredibly accessible. Maybe we’re not so crazy, after all?

In summary: how to date a triathlete:

-Dream big

-Stock up on Product 19.

The end.

That time I ran 40 laps in front of a hotel and amassed a small following of local runners.

On Monday, December 16th–a mere three days after my unplanned 21-mile Tour-de-Boston–I was met with the opposite challenge: I was confined to a single quarter-mile stretch of pavement a few blocks from my apartment. Apparently, following Friday’s fiasco, the fates didn’t want me playing far from home.

This time, ironically, I was uber-prepared. Metro card: check. House key: check. Cell phone: check. Debit card: check. Extra warm gear: check. Fool me twice, Boston, shame on me.

Over the weekend, we had received a few inches of snow. It was quite lovely for the first eighteen or so hours…and then it insidiously turned to ice. Black ice. I slipped and skidded out of my apartment on Monday morning, hoping to get a few miles in before work. I instantly regretted leaving my Yaktrax in Connecticut.

Determined to make the best of the situation, I waddled around the relatively quiet city streets that surround my apartment building and abut the river, desperately seeking out areas devoid of that characteristic sheen that signals slippery danger. The boardwalk leading out to the main river had been transformed into a slip-n-slide overnight: completely covered by a thin sheet of ice, it was devoid of all foot traffic.

So, quite naturally, I decided to be the first to explore.

I ambled along the boardwalk, much like I imagine a penguin would, until I got to the end. I had some close calls–this is the kind of ice that can rip a hole in the crotch of your pants in an instant. I decided to ignore the severity of my underfoot environment and charged forward. Anxious to scope out the situation with the bike path along the river, I bounded out into the street and made a beeline for the water’s edge.

Everything was covered in ice. Everything. The bike path had been poorly and pathetically plowed; salt was saved for the streets. Even the snow itself was covered in a thick crust of impenetrable ice. I was doomed.

Suddenly, as if to test my reserve, a smiling, rosy-cheeked, athletic-looking young woman bounded my way across the snow. She looked magical, as if running on air. I almost immediately looked down at her feet. Yaktrax. Son of a—

I stopped in my tracks to gather myself and figure out a game plan. I had carved out about 90 minutes to get a run in; at this point I didn’t have time to waste going back to my home, changing, and heading to the local gym for a cycling session. Forget the pool–it was sub-30 this morning and the mere thought of icicle hair was enough to shun the thought from my mind indefinitely.

I looked ahead, and was un-pleasantly surprised to find a decently long, boring stretch of quiet, undisturbed pavement, perfectly plowed and salted, stretching out ahead of me. The road is one of those underutilized accessory streets that loops off the main parkway to accommodate a small handful of immediate riverside businesses, including the locally famous Royal Sonesta Hotel. Cars rarely use it. It’s a little over a quarter-mile long.

Sigh. I guess this is it.

I took off at an easy pace, running from one end of the stretch to the next. I checked my GPS: 0.23 miles. Just about the same distance as one lap around a track. I can do this. You can do this, Carrie.

I looped back around and ran back. 0.46 miles.

Only 40 more laps to go.

Suddenly, I was thrust back into the throes of my often-suppressed high school memories of indoor track and field: running countless laps on the snow-covered track in cotton t-shirts and Umbro shorts; doing striders on a 1/4-mile stretch of blacktop behind the high school; ditching runs for snowball fights with the boys’ team at the local golf course. The main difference was that I was maxing out at about 5 miles back then. Today, I had twice the distance of drudgery.

I turned autopilot on full-force and ticked off the laps. As I went, I noticed several other joggers make the same moves I had at the beginning of my run: bounding out to the riverbank, only to appear dismayed at the sight of the bike path. A few looked over toward me, running in parallel with the river on this deserted stretch of road. Before I knew it, there were three or four of us circling around the only hospitable stretch of pavement in East Cambridge. I nodded to the other runners as we passed one another. I got some smiles, some waves, a few comments (“GREAT CONDITIONS, EH??”). There we were, running in tandem–four of us….six of us….eight of us. I was amazed at what had amassed. Suddenly, a small but sizable cohort of Cantabrigians had all but staked their claim on this small stretch of land.

I am not exactly sure how many laps I ran today, but it was somewhere between 40-42, as I finished my run at about 10 1/4 miles. For the most monotonous run I have ever done in my twelve years as a runner, it actually ended up being far from monotonous. The last eight miles flew by.

As we plodded along,  the nods and smiles became routine. Eventually, a few high-fives emerged. We were a bunch of lone wolves who had found our pack. We were runners. Crazy, addicted, nothing-will-get-in-my-way runners. No excuses runners. Weatherproof runners. Dedicated runners. What began as an icy, unpleasant, bore of a solo run suddenly became an inspiring lesson in making the best of any situation, and the power of camaraderie.

Here’s to no excuses, to always seeking out adventure, and to inspiring others–and being inspired–along the way.

Picture 1

That thick red line represents somewhere around 40 back-and-forths.

 

 

That time I got lost in Boston and ended up running 21 miles instead of 9.

Written at 2:26 am on Saturday, December 14th, 2013.

It was Friday the 13th. Something was bound to go awry.

I woke up later than usual, with plans to make the morning’s workout a quickie 9-10 mile jog along the Charles River. I would be out and back in my apartment, blending up green smoothies, within 90 minutes.

Such was the plan. But Friday the 13th had other plans for me.

Okay, okay, I freely admit that this morning’s snafu had less to do with the Friday the 13th status and more to do with my still relative noob status here in Boston. In either case, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum this morning.

I took off along my usual starting point, down Broad Canal Way in Cambridge and west along the Cambridge Parkway. It was a cold 30 degrees or so, but warmer than other days this week. I celebrated this fact until about a quarter of a mile into my run, at which point the path I was running on rounded a bend and became flush with the river. Almost immediately, a powerful, icy wind began to buffet me from head-on.

I was stunned. Normally, inclement weather doesn’t really bother me–I like to see myself as being rather “weatherproof.” However, something about that wind caught me seriously off guard. Ironically, the freezing gusts of air quite literally took the wind out of me–and I found myself with an uncharacteristic running demeanor for me: head down, driving forward, gasping for breath less than a half a mile in.

I was humbled. At least temporarily.

As if by default, I started to quicken my pace and charge forward–perhaps in an attempt to overcome my adversary. I felt like I was running through molasses. I felt like someone was slapping me in the face with a slightly damp, freezing cold bed sheet. I felt like mother nature was mad at me–so I got mad back.

I hurdled forward (“hurdled” only in the best sense of my mind’s eye; to onlookers I probably looked more a floppy, flailing mess of arms and legs akimbo) stubbornly, determined to power through until I had the chance to re-orient to a new cardinal direction. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until somewhere between 3 and 4 miles into my run, at which point the Charles makes an abrupt turn north near Harvard’s campus. At that point, I had already exhausted a good portion of my gas tank, and I still had quite a few miles left to go. Battered and weary, I plodded along to the turnaround point, an inconspicuous bridge not far from Harvard’s boathouse.

My plan was to cross the bridge and stick to the river on the Boston side, following it back in the opposite direction from whence I came. I’ve run this route at least three or four times before, so I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. What I didn’t realize is that the Charles River branches out into all sorts of neat and fun little tributaries and trajectories, which meander throughout the entire MetroWest area if one isn’t careful to stay to the main river. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I crossed my inconspicuous bridge, oriented myself toward the water, and followed a paved bike path along the embankment. I figured that as long as I was following a path, and that the river was to my left, I’d be fine. Right?

It wasn’t long before I recognized that I didn’t in fact recognize a thing about my surroundings. Yes, there was some sort of river to my left, but it definitely wasn’t the Charles. Praying that this small detour would eventually feed back into the Charles, I stuck to my path. The miles ticked away…5 miles, 6 miles, 8 miles…until I reached a nondescript shopping plaza and all signs of paved running and bike paths vanished. That’s when I realized I was probably screwed.

As if an angel from the heavens, a sprightly blonde teenage female runner began to approach from the opposite direction. I waved her down and asked for directions toward the Esplanade, a popular riverside park not too far from my apartment. She laughed and looked at me like I was insane. “That’s, like, REALLY far away. Like, CRAZY far! You probably won’t want to run all the way there.” I told her I really had no choice–which was the truth: I’d left my metro card at home, and all I had with me was a key to my apartment and my phone.

As perky blonde girl flitted happily away on her 5K, I made peace with the fact that today was going to be a long, long day. I pulled out my phone and searched for the most direct route back to my apartment. I was shocked to find that I had somehow ended up on the outskirts of Roxbury; the Charles River had bifurcated and formed a small, southbound channel which I had picked up some four or five miles earlier, and which ultimately plunged me into the heart of southwest Boston neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the most direct route back involved passing through some fairly sketchy, non-pedestrian-friendly portions of concrete jungle, so I opted to backtrack a bit until I could get back onto a solid riverside path. However, first I had to call my boss.

Thankfully, my boss is an incredibly cool guy. Put simply, he himself is very active, so he “gets it.” When I outlined my predicament, his first response was to offer to come pick me up. I refused, under the condition that it was okay that I show up an hour, or two, or two-and-a-half, late today. Needless to say, this was not a problem–and I heard him chuckle to himself as the line clicked and he hung up.

Endurance junkie problems.

keep-running

Time to dig deep. I knew I had at least 8 or 9 miles left to get back, and that was a conservative estimate. It was at this point that I wondered: would it have been more difficult if I had known I had this longer distance to run all along, or is it more psychologically traumatic to be slammed with a 20 miler suddenly after doing 10? I’m not sure, but regardless, changing my Pandora station from Elliott Smith to Ratatat helped a lot (sorry Elliott, I still love you more).

I meandered through Chestnut Hill and Brighton, eventually finding myself back on track with the main river. I put my head down, shortened my stride, slowed down a little, and focused entirely on being as efficient as possible in propelling my body forward. The predictable downbeat of electronic music lulled me into an automatic, mechanical rhythm. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. Run to that tree. Run to that bush. Run to that crosswalk. I lapsed into the triathlon shuffle. I soldiered on. I ticked away miles.

The miles passed–slowly at first, and then seemingly faster. When confronted with the fact that I’d have to turn my 9 mile run into a 20 mile run, I panicked. I stopped, checked a map, and freaked out a little. When I embraced the reality, it sucked. But once I found a rhythm, it started to become easy again. Before I knew it, I had burst into the Esplanade, a mere 2.5 miles from home. I was ecstatic.

At this point my legs felt like lead pistons, yet somehow I also paradoxically felt like I was running on air. Looking back, it was probably owing to the fact that my legs were outright numb from the exertion and the extreme cold. But at the time, the endorphins convinced me that I was soaring a la Prefontaine. Delusions of grandeur have been known to strike runners during inevitable “running highs”; thankfully, they are almost invariably promptly knocked off their pedestal with a subsequent low. Running: it’s an abusive relationship.

I coasted across the Harvard Bridge and turned right onto Memorial Drive, this time re-encountering the same stretch from the beginning of my run–the stretch where the wind and I met for the first time. Only this time, the wind was at my back. And it was a very sweet wind, indeed.

I landed in a heap at my apartment door some three hours after I had left. I checked my GPS: 20.66 miles. I laughed. All I could do was laugh.

Completely, utterly exhausted, I was in a daze. Did that really just happen? I made my way up to my apartment and collapsed on the trundle bed. I contemplated my morning: it was not yet 10 am and I had already lived what felt like an entire day.

Endurance junkie problems.

My fatigue soon passed and was quickly replaced with the elation that comes with the combination of endorphins and an extreme sense of accomplishment. Friday the 13th, you may have tried to trip me up, but that curveball actually ended up making my day. Even if it meant walking like a duck up and down the metro stairs when I was hanging out with my friends tonight.

I got into work at an embarrassingly tardy 11am to the applause of my lab mates. My lab is full of runners; I am lucky in that regard. “I heard you took a little tour of Boston this morning!” one of my coworkers chided; to which my boss replied, “I believe she took a tour of her spirit.”

Well played, boss, well played. And yes, I most certainly did.

 

15 invaluable lessons triathlon has taught me about life.

Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without triathlon and endurance sport.

Wait, yes I do: bored, depressed, directionless, and a heck of a lot less resilient.

Here are 15 invaluable lessons the multisport lifestyle has taught me about life.

woman-running

1. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Triathlon forces me to work on three disciplines simultaneously. Some, admittedly, I enjoy more than others. But no matter what happens, I always have something to fall back on. Battling a running-related injury? Not to worry–the low impact of swimming and cycling are there to coddle my angry joints. Traveling and without access to a pool? The hotel stationary bike works just swimmingly! In the past, I’ve made the mistake of trying to define myself as just a runner, and when injury sidelined me for six months, I felt like my identity had been stolen away. In life, I’ve also made the mistake of placing too much trust in a single person, or too much value in my career–and when they have disappointed me, I felt lost and let down. Triathlon has taught me that by spreading my interests out just a little, I can develop into a far more well-rounded person with a future full of both security and variety. The end result: passion spread out evenly among multiple arenas, several places to focus my energy and attention, and plenty of room for fun and variety.

In a similar vein, I’m still working on making it appear socially acceptable to have three boyfriends.

Just kidding. Kind of.

2. We will inevitably have to do things that we don’t want to do and aren’t very good at. But embracing the challenge is actually a lot easier than running away or harboring resentment. I am an okay runner, and cycling is by far my strongest discipline. But throw me in the pool and ask me to swim, and I look more like a goldfish cracker than a goldfish. Swimming is hard for me; I am not a natural. I have to work really hard at it, and every swim is a challenge. But instead of flogging myself day in and out by choosing to perceive swimming as some masochistic struggle or necessary evil, I have found ways to make it more tolerable, and even engaging. Swimming with Masters groups has distracted me from my demons by providing me with ample amounts of camaraderie, support, and variability. And whenever I find myself in self-critical berating mode regarding my lack of speed or imperfect technique, I respond by either actively trying to improve, or just relaxing, ignoring those thoughts, and cultivating radical self-acceptance. It’s taken me close to ten years to get to this mindset in the water, but the lesson has easily carried over into other areas of “weakness” in life outside the pool.

3. If you focus on enjoying the process, rather than the product, you’ll be a heck of a lot happier. The other morning I found myself struggling, pouring sweat, and completely alone on the bike at my gym. It was 5:30 am, and the sun wouldn’t rise for another hour. I was having one of those (now rare) days where my head started to chatter: “What the f**k are you doing? You should be sleeping! What the heck is the point of all this? You sweat too much. No other 26 year old is up doing this at this hour.” Thankfully the moment was fleeting, and within minutes I was back to my usual motivated, elated self. What caused the shift? During rough patches like these, I like to step outside of myself momentarily and take a look at the big picture. On that day it wasn’t about being up at an ungodly hour, or being alone, or feeling “different” compared to other twenty-somethings–suddenly it became about being disciplined, committed, passionate, and completely free with something that ultimately makes me a better person in the day-to-day. Gaining perspective in such a way has helped me both on the bike and off–and it’s ultimately the reason why I’ve been able to find beauty in the processes of medical school, romantic relationships, and other long-term journeys, no matter the outcome.

4. …but focus on the product every so often, because it’s fun to dream. While stepping outside of myself allows me to gain perspective and savor the process no matter how painful it may be, sometimes occasionally eying the prize can provide an equally powerful boost–albeit in a very different way. Fantasizing about that light at the end of the tunnel is just really freaking fun, and keeps me centered and reminded of my long-term goals. Right now, as I prepare for my first 70.3 race, I imagine myself crossing the finish line after a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. I’ve never experienced that before, but based on past experiences with finish lines, I know it’s going to be absolutely epic. The mere thought of how elated I’ll feel at the end of the race gets me so excited I can hardly sit still. Thinking about it while running suddenly puts me at tempo speed; if I’m on the bike I’ll have switched over into pushing some serious wattage without even noticing it.

When I was pulling long shifts in the hospital during my third year of medical school, sometimes the mere thought of myself practicing independently as a physician osteopath in the future was enough to completely transform my interactions with patients in the moment. I believe fully in living in the moment and embracing the process 99% of the time, but there’s always that 1% in which indulging in drooling over the prize can give you a good, solid kick in the rear.

5. Pace yourself. There is no better example of where triathlon has taught me to pace myself than in college and medical school. College was a breeze for me; I worked consistently every day, kept a tight schedule over my classes, work, and training, and found a rhythm that eventually felt effortless, much like autopilot. Medical school has been a very similar experience. With an inherently faster pace, though, my experience in medical school told me that I needed to slow down so that I wouldn’t bonk later on in life. My decision to take a year out between my third and fourth years of medical school for a research fellowship was completely founded upon the wisdom of pacing that I learned from endurance sport. Sometimes we need to put our egos aside and take a moment to slow down, refuel, and transition mindfully if we want to succeed in the long run. This is precisely why I stink at 5Ks.

6. Training for something you definitely won’t win, and probably won’t be recognized for by anyone other than yourself, is an unparalleled way to build character. Us “age-groupers” receive no fame, little recognition, and negative money for our training and participation in triathlon and marathon. We doggedly pound the pavement day in and day out, with little more than perplexed glances from passers-by, wondering what the heck that crazy girl is doing out jogging in 20-degree weather. No one else really cares, but we do it for ourselves. We do it for a sense of accomplishment and heightened self-respect. We do it as a cathartic outlet for feeling, thought, creativity, and physical energy. We do it as a way to test ourselves, to learn ourselves, and to ultimately come to know ourselves. Working hard at something that receives little to no external validation is humbling yet incredibly rewarding. How can this be applied to other things in life? I can easily think of a dozen ways.

7. Breathe. A good, solid, deep breath can quickly turn a lung-burner into a epiphany on the bike or run. Something about a nourishing breath is incredibly calming and can transform your perspective in a matter of seconds.

8. If you can sprint to the finish, you probably didn’t give enough earlier on. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Also, see #5.

9. Working hard most of the time feels better than relaxing most of the time.
When I was working 12-14 hour days in the hospital last year and chasing my shifts with an hour (or three) of sbr, yes, I felt crunched for time. But when I imagined my colleagues going straight home and passing out on the couch in front of their computers or televisions, I realized that I’d much rather be living the busy, active lifestyle than either the busy, stressed lifestyle or the too-relaxed lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, every now and then a relaxing day is called for–but too many relaxing days strung together call for sloth and laziness. I am definitely much happier getting my ass up at 4:30 am and having a wicked demanding day than sleeping in and having a mediocre, “just another” day.

10. Waking up early isn’t so bad after all.
See #9.

11. Your body is a heck of a lot stronger than you think. I mentioned in my first post that I’m not naturally athletic. I truly and earnestly believe this to be true. Perhaps that is why training and pushing myself physically every day is so rewarding–every day I build upon a base I never thought I’d achieve.

I grew up dabbling in Irish step dancing, TKD, and MarioKart. Running the mile in gym class was my biggest fear. Riding bikes and swimming were lazy summertime activities. But with consistency and a whole, plant-based diet, I have been able to develop an athletic side to myself. Through triathlon, I have come to realize that, after a certain degree of base fitness is achieved, it is the flesh that is willing but the mind that is weak–and not the other way around.

I ran my first marathon on very little training and on a whim. Certainly, this is not advised, but it truly served as a testament to the untapped strength and resiliency of my body. On race days, I have no idea what I’m capable of, but I know that I can dig deep and surrender fully to this deep trust I’ve placed within my uncharted physical capabilities. And that feels wicked awesome.

12. Mind over matter is totally real. And powerful. This is really my favorite thing, and perhaps the reason I got into endurance sport to begin with. Endurance sport is a head game. With increasing distance and time comes increasing contributions of the mind-spirit to our ability to hang on. Training for triathlon is brain training just as much as, if not more than, physical conditioning.

13. Nutrition is king. Training is useless if I’m not fueling well for optimal energy and recovery. Interestingly, the diet that has worked best at supporting my athletic performance has also worked best for my general physical and mental well being. Being incredibly active places stresses on the body that make the obvious impact of nutrition much more apparent, and it’s been through endurance exercise that I have discovered tiny nuances about how certain foods affect the way I feel on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. I would never have come to a whole foods, plant-based diet had I not been actively exerting myself on a daily basis.

14. Don’t underestimate the power of company. Triathletes and runners have a tendency to be lone wolves, both in their training and on a social level. However, every so often camaraderie is not only a good thing–it can be crucial. This year marked the first time in close to ten years that I started running with other people. At first I was wary of this–would this new company slow me down and hold me back? Or even worse, would I fail to keep up? Would I be expected to maintain chit-chat during long runs, which usually serve as a meditative placeholder within my otherwise hectic days? Turns out all of the above came to pass, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d envisioned. In fact, quite the contrary–I’ve made some amazing new friends (twenty- and thirty-somethings I finally feel I can relate to–yay!) who pushed me to make me stronger, held me back to get me to relax, and chatted my ear off to remind me that even the lonest of lone wolves needs to fulfill a certain quota of socialization.

15. …but never forget that only you can bring yourself happiness. At the end of the day we can have our buddies, our pack, our crew, our family–but the contributions they make to our true, deep-seeded happiness are finite. We are the ones truly at the helm of our fate and happiness. By owning my goals and dreams, taking charge of them, and actively pursuing them–mostly solo–on a daily basis, I have come to discover the power and potency of self-sufficiency and a bordering-on-extreme level of independence in unraveling and actualizing those dreams. Countless hours alone in the trails and in the saddle have granted me a level of comfort and contentedness with strictly my own company, and also shown me that I can be completely happy–ecstatic, in fact–without the company of others, as long as I am progressing toward realizing a dream. And when progress happens a little bit every day, it makes for quite a happy existence.

This is what a vegan endurance junkie’s Thanksgiving looks like.

“Thanksgiving must be hell for vegans!” I hear this all the time. To which I coyly reply: ah no, contrare, you are sorely mistaken! In actuality, Thanksgiving happens to be extremely plant-powered—most people just don’t realize it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—but even so, how could a vegan possibly enjoy a day centered around carving up a poor, helpless hunk of poultry? Again, my rebuttal: everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes anyway. Come on, be honest. It’s all about that green bean casserole, those marshmallowed sweet potatoes, and roasted root vegetables galore. Heck, even the carnivorous in my family freely admit that the turkey is just a vehicle for gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. I used to be an omnivore and an avid white meat eater—I know the truth.

Thankfully, all of these side dishes can easily be made without animal products, and without losing a hint of flavor. I’m even more thankful for my kickass mom who, per usual, did most of the Thanksgiving cooking and performed a secret vegan guerrilla attack on all of the desserts and side dishes.

 roasted-root-veg2  pie-med

This year, Thanksgiving also happened to coincide with my birthday. This only happens once every 4-11 years, but I love when it does. Thanksgiving is the best birthday party ever, and it really makes me feel like I have a ton of friends (next year’s going to be such a downer…).

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Vegan, gluten-free birthday cake from a beloved friend and cross-country teammate.

 As it was my 26th birthday, my plan was to run 26 miles. I figured, heck, I have until 3pm, when guests arrive, so this should be easy-peasy. Hah. Yeah. Right. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything over 20 miles—heck, 18 miles, to be honest—so I knew I’d be in for Epsom salts baths the following day. But—YOLO, right?

 I headed out around 9:30a and ran up the street to a large reservoir that abuts the back of our house…successfully churned out a few miles on the trails there, and then ran out and back down toward our house. At that point, I had ticked off about 8 miles, and stopped briefly to pick up Breezy. I love running with my dog. Her companionship is comforting, and at the same time, something about running with a canine feels more primal. I like to imagine I look something like this:

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The British sport of Cani-Cross.

At the point at which I picked up my four-legged friend, I was feeling great—all I had to do was double the distance I’d just done, plus add a couple more victory miles. The pup and I slogged it down toward the other end of town and back, but around mile 16 Breezy started to limp a bit (side note: she had ACL reconstruction about a year ago, and has some definite weakness in one of her hind legs). Seeing as she is the only thing on the earth that I love more than escaping my life on a run or bike ride, of course she took precedence. We were only about 2 miles from home at that point, so we took our victory miles then. Admittedly, I was starting to hit a wall at that point, and the thought of pumping out ten more miles felt daunting. So, in essence, Breezy saved me from embarrassing myself. Thanks, dog, for always teaching me the important lessons in life.

Me being the stubborn, far-reaching dreamer that I am, I almost immediately cooked up a miraculous plan in my head to bust out a quickie 8 miler later that night after our guests left, so that I could hit my 26-mile quota. Bahahaha. What a terrible idea. No one—not even this frenzied endurance junkie—has any desire to leave the house, let alone the couch, after eating a Thanksgiving feast.

Thus, I have relegated my numerical nerdery to my 26.2nd birthday, which is February 9, 2014. Yes, I will hit the streets of Boston and run a marathon by myself on that day. Luckily it’s a Sunday, so I can lollygag as much as I want. I wonder though—if I actually do complete this goal, can I say I ran a Boston Marathon?