vignettes: 1.31.16

Today seemed like a good day for a vignettes post. For one, I haven’t done one since May. Also, the last day of the first month of a new year seemed like a good time for one. Plus, Caitlin asked how my January has been, and you just can’t leave a blog sister hanging. ;)

Maybe one day I’ll write about it here, but 2016 brought a big fat life reset. In the triathlon realm (because let’s face it, that’s what most of you are probably here to read about), this has resulted in a four-month-long off-season. Maybe not the “world’s longest,” as Jen put it on her lovely post about training for the joy of it, but surely the second longest. The below offers a sampling of the more minor things that took place in My So-Called Off-Season. (Where I am the Claire Danes-esque heroine.)

holiday-ing » Christmas in Winnipeg was everything I wanted—and needed—it to be. I worked (a lot), went to the gym with mom (a lot), and hung out with my parents by the tree (a lot). I skied, saw a handful of close friends, and enjoyed a nice dose of hygge. (The Danish word for an expanded notion of “cozy”—read more on it here.)

Clockwise from top: kutia (Ukranian wheat); charades at the family dinner; one of many nights of wine/cheese by the tree; and a scotch and soda a la Adrian.

Cross country skiing in Grand Beach and Birds Hill Provincial Parks.

Thermea spa in Winnipeg with a dear friend.

letting go » In late November I made a valiant effort to start a half-marathon training plan (for the Vancouver “First Half” race in February). I was apparently not ready for the structure and commitment a training plan needs. The past few months have reminded me of the fact that though life doesn’t have to be perfect to facilitate training, training fits better into a low-drama, highly structured life. (Read: not mine lately.)

Then I stumbled upon this post on letting go of your athletic identity, which made sense as I walked, skied, and savasannaed (if you haven’t discovered yet, get there!) my way through the month of December. Some gems:

  • “In our culture we have made movement synonymous with exercise and athletic performance…into the realms of achievement, quantification, and identity. In so doing we have taken movement away from the realms of pleasure, spontaneity and, ultimately, health.” (I do love almost everything about the all-consuming nature of Ironman training, but this is a good counter balance for us amateurs.)
  • “Too much intense, repetitive exercise is not good for you.” (I’m going to die young.)
  • “Exercise is not my everything. I don’t want it to be. Exercise is just one part of my life, one tool to help me live the kind of existence that I long to live.” (Yep. As everything else should be too.)

I welcomed the first few days of 2016 with many leisurely walks, thanks to a month-long chest cold that put a damper on my running.

jumping back in » As much as I love to muse about living without athletic structure, I can last about as long on that regimen as living without coffee. By the middle of January — once I’d finally kicked my cold and settled into something that more closely resembled routine — it was suddenly time to rebuild the pillars of my life that swim-bike-run provide. (My friend Jordan called them pillars recently and I stole his analogy.) I still have no training plan and no races on the calendar. Right now it’s purely training for training’s sake; getting in a state of readiness so when I decide I want to race, I can just pull the trigger.

After whining about where I was going to swim for far too long, I finally joined the University of British Columbia Masters squad, which is just a 10-minute bike ride away. It’s getting better with every session, but at first, it just made me homesick for my old crew in Encinitas. I’ve also had to get used to swimming at night (we practice Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7-8 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 5-6:30). Our coaches are college-age swimmers—one of whom competed in the Beijing Olympics in freestyle! This means I’m getting frequent and awesome technique feedback. So these days, Masters no longer means seeing 10 of my tri nerd friends and swimming in the sunshine, It means doing streamline jumps in the middle of 50’s and drawing unwanted attention while attempting butterfly. Oh well, “swim with swimmers,” right?

The UBC pool is decrepit, but they’re building a new one. And at least it’s 50m.

On dry land, I’m finding some classic PNW running (Pacific Spirit Park, my new backyard, is every bit as beautiful as it sounds). On the bike, I’m still indulging my inner spin class junkie—except for one outdoor ride with Liz where I wished I had fenders the whole time and only the almond croissants and her company made getting that cold and dirty worth it. I also recently joined a nearby gym with decent spin classes (I have been consoling my sun-starved self by reading this article on why indoor cycling will make me a stronger rider) and a well-stocked weight room. I am starting to feel like myself again.

Almond croissants from Beaucoup sprinkled with icing sugar; two cyclists speckled in mud. This formerly fair-weather cyclists is not used to having to spend 30 minutes cleaning up after a ride!

Canadianizing » I love that here in Vancouver, snow is only a 2-hour drive away. I was so exhilarated by winter in Winnipeg: streets that sparkle in the evenings, and being close to nature’s cycle of death and rebirth—something that’s far more subtle in So Cal. I spent New Year’s with two new friends up in Whistler and tried skate skiing for the first time. Conclusion? I’ll keep my classics, thanks.

Skate skiing is far more difficult than I’d imagined.

I’ve loved being back in Canada, where the buses say “SORRY” across the front when they’re not in service, and I don’t have to be tempted by alcohol when I’m grocery shopping. (Blessing/curse.) Trading miles for km’s and yards for meters means I don’t care as much about pace, because I’m still confused half the time. (I’ve switched back and forth from miles to km’s on my Garmin/Training Peaks settings a thousand times, wanting to be Canadian, but then stubbornly going back to miles.)

These Whistler babies redefined the term snow “flakes.” More like snow leaves.

working » Amy Poehler tells her readers to treat their careers like a bad boyfriend (“…it will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget you birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It’s never going to leave its wife…” etc.) I get what she’s saying, but lately, I have felt much more like my job falls in her opposing camp: creativity: “…it’s that small voice that tells you, ‘I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.'” And while my job is not always like Poehler’s “Hispanic woman who smells nice and loves to hug,” it’s giving me structure, challenge, and a sense of achievement right when I need those things most.

To combat the work-from-home syndrome (that nobody talks about on the pages of Glamour magazine’s “career wear” spreads), I’ve recently declared Mondays my “cafe office” days. I’m three weeks in, and not only is it a great way to kick start the week, it’s a nice way to explore a city known for good coffee. • Platform 7 on Broadway is a new favorite (great work space/amazing food/they serve Stumptown and do every brewing method imaginable); Moja on Commercial (good work space for solos/free drink with bean purchase/mostly just pastries); and JJ Bean on Cambie (one communal work table with plug-ins in the middle/drip/press coffee is OK/milk drinks fantastic/muffins are killer) • Lugging my office around by bike for 3 hours of work may not always be the most productive choice, but sometimes it’s a stab at keeping my sanity.

Platform 7 (top left and bottom); JJ Bean Cambie (top right)

reading »Yes, Please by Amy Poehler (funny and light, but punctuated by a sometimes serious tone (where I think her writing really shines); Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel (fantastic all around), and a bit of The 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferris (yeah, right)

  • Favorite quotes from Poehler: “Crying gets the sad out.” / “Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.” /  “Let’s end by pointing out all the positive ways you can scare yourself and feel alive. You can tell someone you love them first. You can try to speak only the truth for a whole week. You can jump out of an airplane or spend Christmas Day all by your lonesome. You can dance fast or take an improv class or do one of those Ironman things. Adventure and danger can be good for your heart and soul.”
  • And a nice one from Perel, which is more case-study driven and has a more scientific tone: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Take that, rainy city.

On the last day of the first month of 2016, life couldn’t look different. But one thing I do know is that it’s looking up. A new year. So far. So good.


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