Saturday, January 2, 2010

The rising

I've never been very good at writing these things. 2009 was not a year that I can sum up in a word, not even 10 words.

In many ways, this was a year of emotional challenges and overcoming them.

Personally & professionally, it was a challenge. It was early this year that my grandfather died. Justin had an accident at school. He was rushed to the emergency room. There was a lot of blood, some broken bones, stitches, and concussion.

Later in the year, I knew of 8 people my age who passed away. Some of these were friends, some friends or spouses of friends, but all were my age. As healthy as I am, those numbers change the way you think about things, especially when they all passed in an 8 week time period.

During this same 8 week time period, Mr. Tea's grandmother suffered a massive heart attack, had surgery, was sent home with internal bleeding and collapsed after being home only a couple of hours.

Of course, on Thanksgiving, my uncle also suffered a massive heart attack. He went into a coma. Because of his weakened state, the surgeons were unable to perform surgery. After two additional heart attacks, he had no brain activity and passed away a week later.

Because all of this happened so recently, it's what's on my mind the most. Death is difficult, but the hardest part has been....not sure how to say a time when you think people will pull together to support each other, they pulled apart---arguing, fighting over decisions made.

Everyone mourns differently, but I don't get it. I don't expect anyone to explain it to me. Why make a hard situation even harder?

From a professional perspective, the company continues to grow. This year our growth rate was 39%. I love it. I love every bit of what I do. It's hard to call it "work" when it's fun. It was a challenge because of the rate of growth. I know we are heading into our high growth stage, and we have to manage that growth.

After working for some horrible unethical companies, I know that it is difficult to maintain the values a company was started with. We have to figure out how to maintain our culture and values as we add people. I know I'm using those terrible business cliches, but it's life. We were ahead of the curve when we started our company. There are more competitors out there now. We were responsible for vendors changing the way they did business. We need to continue to push our comfort zones, find technology that is most suitable for us, and keep moving.

There's no rest in starting a company. We have to be flexible. We adjust quickly to changes.

I started this company with one simple goal: Everyone should have the opportunity to be great. With that as a goal, how can you NOT have fun?

On to athletics:
I started this year with really one goal in mind: to find joy in training by only doing things that I wanted to do.

to have fun

Early in the year, I took off from swimming....for months. Likewise for riding. Ok, you got me, not much running either.

In May, I did a half marathon. It was my first time doing this race, and I didn't like the course. I ran into a few problems during the race and really started crashing the second half.

When I finished, I thought I had PR'd! That was until several days later when I realized that I did not PR and the last time I pr'd at the half marathon, was....2003! wowzer!

Still, I felt great about the race....eventhough it wasn't a PR.

The only problem was that I didn't really like the course. The roads were a disaster. I swore I wouldn't run it again.

Besides, I'm focusing on the bike now.

As it turns out, I got an email from the race director for an entry into next year's race (not free but under $20). I really couldn't turn it down.

Maybe just maybe I could PR in 2010 in the half marathon for the first time in 6 years....

June came along, and I did Elephant Rock once again, but this year instead of the century, it was the 65 mile ride. Unlike the half marathon, where I trained, I did not train for this tour. I thought I could do the climbs, but I wasn't sure if my butt could handle it. After suffering through the cold dark morning and cussing and thinking about how stupid I was for doing the ride, the sun started rising. As I was heading down the valley wall, I stared straight ahead at Pikes Peak. Just then, the sun rose over the valley wall, making Pikes Peak glow like nothing I'd ever seen before. Up until that point, I had wanted to turn around and head back. But staring at the peak, I felt its strength and starting climbing harder, up and out of the valley. We turned to head toward the mountains.

As we climbed, I met several woman along the way. We yo-yo'd and joked about "THIS is the last hill", and I realized that the day was what I made it. For the last 3 miles, we roadies hooked up with the mountain bikers. The last 2 miles, we hooked up with the family riders.

The whole big group of us finished together.

The next few months I spent training for my Half Iron. This was my A race of the year. I was more dedicated and more focused on this race than any in my life. I set easy and aggressive goals. The bike course is known to be challenging. I rode the complete course 5 times and parts of the course repeatedly during my training. I practices my swim starts and finishes in the water. I ran around the run course.

A few weeks before the race, I did the Dip n Dash. It was a full house with about 100 of us "racing". About 25 meters into the swim, I took a tough punch to the jaw. I went under and had two people then swim over me. When I finally surfaced, I was completely shaken. I couldn't calm down. I finished the 1500m swim but I was weak as I head out on the run.

The swim stayed with me.

I was afraid to get back into the open water. I've taken my fair share of hits. I've had my legs cramp so bad, they felt like anchors. But I've never been trapped under the water before, getting kicked.

I knew I had to get back into the water. I TRAINED so hard for this half iron! Early one morning, I packed up my bag and went down to the water. I stood in the water. That morning, the water was very rough. I stood in the water then I allowed myself to float and feel the motion of the water. Another woman walked toward me and said, "No way. I'm not going out in that today." I just looked out at the water. I took off swimming. The motion of the water is what calms me. It's the rocking. It's staring directly into the sun.

The day of the race came.

Train to your weakness, race to your strengths.

But what happens when your strength gives way?

I felt positive I'd pr on the bike. The run would be ok. The swim (my strength)....I had no idea. This would be the first time that I'd be back in a large group.

That morning, I was so calm and pulled the biggest pr I've ever pulled in a race in all 3 events.

A month later, I had a half marathon. This race is my favorite half marathon. It was to be my "set up" race. It was to determine what I would run for my PR attempt in May 2010.

It's where I learned that sometimes we have to step back and let life run its course. It was that weekend that Mr. Tea's grandmother collapsed.

After spending the weekend in the hospital and being unable to sleep. I almost skipped the half. Mr. Tea advised that I do it anyway as a means to clearing my head and getting away from the chaos.

I did. I finished the race, emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

You want times? Times don't mean squat. How about finishing a half marathon in 2:47 with tears running down your face being unable to even run the last 5 miles? Does that make me a better or worse athlete? Do we all need to be categorized as fast or slow? Or used for comparison purposes? It was the culmination of so many things. At the finish, I just sat on the grass for awhile before heading back to the train station.

Good, bad or indifferent, I finished the race.

I will always and forever maintain that finish times do not matter. I remember when I used to hear about people who were so much faster than me. I would get so discouraged. Then, I'd push harder and harder only to get injured.

If I PR, I'll tell you. My bike at the HIM was a HUGE PR. I worked hard for it. I doesn't matter if my time was 4:30 or 3:00.

I just refuse to fuel this competition that exists. Unlike some others (not everyone), when I line up at the start, the only competition I am chasing is my previous time.

I am more than a finish time.

When I finish a race, it's not the race itself that creates all the emotion.

It was the adventure getting there.

A few weeks later, we all did the Turkey Trot: a family "race" that we do every year. Each year, I have a target on my back. So far, no one has caught me. I suspect that next year I will be surrendering my crown to one of the boys.

For 2010, my goals are simple.

I'm doing the 50k with my friend.

My goal for the half marathon is to move closer to a half marathon PR. By next Oct, I hope to shave 5 minutes off my half time. That will put me closer to a pr. Then in 2011, I hope to PR in that distance. (fyi---my half marathon PR was done at sea level....san diego to be exact. Once I PR here at 7000ft, I would love to go back to San Diego and race it again).

I'm also doing the Sunrise Century which is a bike tour that goes through the mountains. It'll be difficult, but it's the next step for me. This is not a race. It's a tour.

I will probably also do Elephant Rock again. I'll do the 65miler. After 5 years, it's become a tradition for me. (Besides the post race bbq is off the HOOK!)

Finally, I hope to the the Aquabike of the Half Iron that I did last year. For the moment, I'm not interested in doing long course tri's. Some extended time off will do me well. The aquabike gives me the opportunity to take part in my two strongest events (swim/bike). I'm excited to see how hard I can push the bike knowing that I don't have to run afterwards.

I'm sorry if this year end summary was not what you were expecting. As I mentioned before, I wrote this for me, so I can always look back and remember what I can do even when faced with things that might seem like obstacles.

Even though we might disagree on some things, you are all people that I respect for many reasons. Most of all, I am impressed by the simple fact that we all manage to balance family, work, training, and in some cases school.

Now, it's time to "break on through to the other side".