Monday, December 31, 2007

Voices In Your Head

I’ve spent a lot of time in these past few weeks talking with athletes. All different types of athletes – beginner to advanced, man, woman, marathoner, sprint triathlon, duathlete, Ironman. And with each we talked about their goals.

Confessions of victorious, strong visions were made. It didn’t matter their background, their age, their size – they all had big goals. They were dreaming big, in their heart they wanted big things for themselves; I want to win my age group, I want to break this time, I want to one day turn pro.

These are admirable, beautiful goals.

But then a funny thing happened. The athlete would often censor themselves. Tell me a reason why they wouldn’t achieve that goal or why they couldn’t say it to anyone else. Often, the fear was in how others would perceive their goal. They feared their critics would hear or read their goals and say:

Who do they think they are?

A few weeks ago, that question came up on one of my blogs. Someone wrote a comment about how they were reluctant to tell others their bigger goals because they feared someone would see their goals and say who does this girl think she is.

The question alone is one that holds many of us back. Fearful you are aiming too high or out of your bounds, you censor yourself, hold back, and limit your goals. But what if you opened yourself up? What if you turned off the critics and spoke louder instead? Have an answer waiting for them in which you confidently explain yourself.

What would you say?

It is worthwhile to come up with an answer about yourself. It’s not a defense, it’s an affirmation. A reminder of who you are and who you want to be. It’s a validation of yourself, the values you possess, the goals you embrace, your attitude, your behavior, your motivations and beliefs.

And so when someone asks who does she/he think she/he is you will say:

She is confident, she is strong. She is willing to sacrifice to improve herself. She is willing to work hard to achieve her goal. She lets nothing stand in her way. She does what it takes. She doesn’t make excuses, she just makes the interval. She does not let people keep her from pursuing her dreams because she values herself. She sees herself as something else and sees herself as confident and worthy of reaching those goals. She is not shaken by obstacles along the way because she knows these make her stronger in working towards her goal. She turns negative into positives and no matter what – she keeps moving forward and believing in herself. She is driven first from within. She wants things for herself. She puts aside what others think and say and knows only herself. When she shows up at a practice or a race she knows most importantly she is there to prove it to herself. She silences the voices of critics because she has learned to listen to the louder voice in her head. She listens closely to that voice as it fills her head with confidence in herself. She is a threat – not because of her speed or physical attributes but because she knows what she wants for and from herself. She is confident, she is strong.


That is one example of an answer, what would be yours? What do you have to say about yourself?

Go ahead and give your answer. Answer the critic again and again. Actually you are just answering yourself because the only critic is really yourself. And you’ve known that all along. You are the critical voice keeping you from your best self. And up until this point you just didn’t know how to silence yourself. You didn’t know how to give yourself permission to stop holding yourself back. How to take a step of faith to become your next big thing; win your race, set a personal best, allow yourself to one day dream of becoming a pro, give yourself the faith to pursue your goals.

Faith is believing in yourself. There is no shame in seeing yourself as something else or believing you can be some place bigger than where you are. You deserve it and you are worth it. When you believe in yourself you no longer listen to critic even within yourself. You learn to talk louder with strong words. You learn to always listen to your confident, bold voice. Let your voice affirm that you are who you think you are. Turn off the critic, answer your own question, and be the bigger voice in your own head.

Here it is, the new year. Commit to no longer being the critic that keeps you from becoming victorious with your goals. Stop listening to that doubtful, unconfident version of yourself. Affirm yourself with a new answer, tell yourself this is who she thinks she is. Decide who you want to be and grow confidently in the direction of your goals.

Cheers!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Energy Flows

You may remember something about a pain in my foot.

It has been 6 months and it has *slowly* gone away. The podiatrist says it’s nothing but each day when I take a step I think to myself it can’t be nothing if it’s something. Clearly it is tendonitis – which is really code for will hurt for very very long time no matter how much you want it to go away.

And I have tried everything to help it go away. Stretching, resting, icing, heating, sitting, standing, walking, new shoes, old shoes, orthotics, fins, no fins, anything you think might be remotely related to my foot I have either changed, massaged, actively released, tried or stopped. In this quest to alleviate the foot pain I have been very open to ideas. And the other day when Ibbe suggested acupuncture I said let’s give it a try.

The good news is that Ibbe is a certified acupuncturist. The bad news it that Elizabeth is not a big fan of needles. And this week has been full of needles to say the least. Soon I will be teaching children’s swim lessons and in order to get hired not only did I have to pee in a cup with a man holding the keys to a locked cabinet standing outside the door but I also had to have about 300 needles stuck in my arm. First for blood, then for more blood, then to prove I did not have TB, then to prove I also did not have rabies, polio, mumps, or even the clap. Apparently to stand in a pool where 99 percent of the children will be urinating it is me they need to make sure is clean.

Anyways, back to the acupuncture on Saturday. Ibbe props my foot on a chair and does some poking around. Heel pain is painful to treat, she says. It’s also painful to live with, may I add. She brings out a series of needles and gets ready to stick them into my hand.

My hand?

Yes, hand – apparently that is part of the heel treatment protocol. Ok, fine, the hand. DAMN! That hurt like a sharp son of a bitch. And oh dear goodness there are two needles stuck in my hand. Look away, look away….when I was getting blood drawn the other day in addition to telling me you have great veins the physician assistant said oh so you’re one of those that looks away. As opposed to what – watching with giddy fascination as you stick something sharp into me and take away my lifeline of blood to see if I have contagious clap? Needles are not for me and I prefer not to be stuck with them let alone look at them so that is why when I realized there were two stuck in my hand I decided I would look away.

Needles in hand, now on to the heel. Above the heel to the left of the pain. The hand wasn’t so bad how bad could the heel be? Ibbe taps the needle into the fleshy part of my lower ankle and BAM! OW! Whoa. WHOA. There is pain. PAIN! Is this normal pain? A warm rush, a throb, and there is a needle sticking out of my heel. HELP!

That’s totally normal she says – that means it’s working to move the energy around. She sticks about 8 more needles in assorted places in my leg, ankle, and finally calf. I sit with little pin pricks pulsing with moving blood and energy while she tells me now to just rest.

Rest. Ok. Rest, I can rest. Feet up, rest. WITH TEN NEEDLES IN MY LEG AND HAND – rest! OK?

Ibbe then explains to me about ancient Chinese medicine. How it was believed that heel pain is a symptom of kidney drain. And kidney drain is a result of too much – too much exercise, work, stress. Too much.

I am not guilty of any of that.

I listen to her and I think to myself there may be something to Chinese medicine after all. I need to cleanse my kidneys and replenish my qi (chi). Qi is energy and energy must flow. The needles help to regulate my energy flow – to bring energy back to my heel and promote healing from within.

I listen and oddly enough I believe. I believe there is energy moving through us that needs to flow. And sometimes parts of our bodies and lives get overworked disrupting our flow. I believe to some extent that Ironman interferes with your life force and your flow. I see this now after doing two of them. Sometimes wish I had stopped at one, evened out my energy flow and returned to a balanced life instead.

But I didn’t, so now I have this disruption of energy flow. And about ten needles stuck in foot and hand. Which by the way you never stop feeling. Not like socks. No, you still realize the needles are there. I keep telling myself to think healing thoughts and think of nothing but warm, good pain.

As I sit there, I start thinking about the use of needles for pain. Is it effective or does the pain from the needles just distract us long enough that we forget our original pain. Or, do the needles signify an enemy to our body which then responds by moving blood to that area – thus increasing energy and flow. Whatever it is Ibbe tells me it will work. It might feel more painful for a day but then it will start to go away.

And I want to believe. For the past eight years with my husband I have believed what he has embraced of the Chinese way. No mirrors in the bedroom, no television in the bedroom, no doors facing east, sleep facing north, no staircases pointing towards the door, bed positioned so you can see the door, don’t a buy a house where you can see through the house from the front door to the back door. I have celebrated the Chinese New Year and accepted my husband as an Ox (born in 1973). When I told my mother in law I did not want to be a rabbit (born in 1975) but a monkey instead she said it doesn’t work that way. The list could go on and even though I realized it would just be easier to walk around my house with a compass or live in a van down by the river with my monkey and rabbit – as long as I take out the mirrors and point the van a certain direction – I still want to believe in the ancient Chinese way.

And as I believe I hope it improves my energy flow. I hope to rebalance and reroute my qi. Along the way hopefully reduce the heel pain. But I realize it’s more systemic than that. I hope with the changes I have recently made in my life that I will redistribute my energy overall – even outside of myself. I believe at times this sport is a great consumer of energy, requiring our qi to flow to one thing over and over again – our heart pumping blood to our muscles to give us energy every day.

But what about energy to do the other things? The things that really count. What about not just the blood in our heart but the connections we make with our heart? Or time away from our own goals and self? Time with family, time with friends, time to do just sit and reflect on our place in the world. Will we have any energy left?

There is, if you stay in balance. If you relax and share yourself. The day after day I have to do this workout or hit these times, bike 6 hours, swim five times a week is a strenuous use of your life force, your qi. At some point your energy has to be used for something other than yourself. Connect to and share your energy with others – whether family, friends, or the community as a whole. Replenish your energy from your connections with them and get back in balance with yourself.

It has taken 6 months of a dull ache to realize that the ache is not necessarily in my foot but perhaps just in myself. An aching for balance and connection to something other than myself. I have reconnected in many ways in the past few months and feel more balanced every day.
Unfortunately, I ignored the ache in my foot for so long that it is going to take awhile to go away. Until then I may go back to the needle – but in a good way. To remind myself that energy has potential and needs to move - within and from myself. I see now it is my task to share this energy with others, to flow outside myself. And in doing so find a more balanced use of my life foce, my qi.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If I Had A Hammer

Friday night, we were heading into the basement to ride our bikes when I had a brilliant idea.

Let’s hang pictures on the wall.

After painting the basement walls, we had about a dozen frames filled with assorted Ironman and triathlon glory that needed to be hung. Now, if you are married to an engineer you know that hanging a picture is not an easy task. And after attempting to hang pictures on my own only to be lectured in the proper way to prepare and then hang a picture I just gave up and said fine from now on you hang things on the walls.

So there the pictures have sat.

Friday night seemed like the perfect time. Finally we were both in the basement together. Finally we both had nowhere to go. Unless you count 20 stationary miles on the bike. And how long could it take to hang pictures after all?

Long. It can take very, very long. Please take my word.

And for some reason Chris is game. Let’s hang pictures, he said. Immediately Chris gets to work. He gets out all of the tools for hanging pictures on the wall. I know what you’re thinking. There are only two tools you need. But you are wrong. There is actually an entire toolbox containing - a plastic divided box filled with nails of at least ten dozen sizes, hooks, a ruler, a level, a pencil, a laser level beam, and an electric drill.

What ever happened to just a hammer and a nail?

Not with an engineer. No, when an engineer takes on a house project you might as well call a contractor in because it’s going to be a very, very long time. Besides, you’re going to need someone to talk to and to pass time.

But back to the pictures. First, Chris had me show him where I wanted all of the pictures. Easy enough. Then he marked the spots with a pencil. Fine. Then he got out the laser level beam. Ok, I’m done. That’s it. Anything that involves a laser is way above my head and I would rather not be involved.

So I checked out. Went upstairs, played with the dog. About 20 minutes later, I hear my husband call my name. Call it a miracle but the picture has finally been hung. And it took less than a day. I go downstairs to take a look and then I notice something about the picture on the wall.

“It looks great - except that it’s crooked.”

Chris stares at the picture hanging (crookedly) on the wall. He looks, he studies, in his mind he is performing complex paper science algorithms and angles requiring at least a four year degree in engineering which prepares someone to look at a problem like that and very intelligently say…......huh.


It was more than obvious that the picture slanted down to the left side. No level necessary to figure that one out. But never trust a woman or never trust anything but your level if you’re an engineer. So out comes the level and it goes on the picture frame.

There is a silent pause.

“It is crooked. DAMMIT!” he says.

Immediately he scrambles because this couldn’t be right. I mean, how can a leveled level be wrong? How? To an engineer the level is one of the few trusted things in the world. It can’t possibly not be right. If the level isn’t level than how can you trust anything at all? How do you know you’re mom is really your mom or your wife really your wife…..if the level is not level HOW CAN YOU HAVE FAITH IN THE WORLD AT ALL!

He sets off on his sleuth work to find an answer – any answer proving that it is not the level that is wrong. It’s the picture frame, it’s the screws, it’s….the wall.

The wall?

I’m not buying it. It’s the level and it’s off. And because of that we have unleveled screws and a bileveled crooked Ironman picture on our wall. To prove my point, I show him how. I take the level, I put it on top of the screws and show him that the level doesn’t level out at all. Sure, I don’t have the letters B.S. behind my name but I do have a B.A. and if it was good enough for B.A. Baracus than my skills have to be worth something with this picture on the wall.


But B.A. is not good enough. From behind me, Chris has the laser beam going to show me that I was probably most definitely 100 percent….

Correct.

“DAMMIT!”


He is stumped. But wants to figure it out. Because that picture is going on the wall straight no matter what. It might be 10 pm before it happens but it will.

Meanwhile, I am e-mailing my coach. Actually she is more like my friend. She listens to me for better or for worse in sickness and in health so honestly she is more like my wife. We talk a lot and she also coaches my husband and she also married an engineer. So she understands. When I told her that I just told Chris his level might not be level and he got that look on this face like I just told him there was no Santa Claus she said that’s nothing, she has me topped.


Because her husband would have just rebuilt the entire wall.

Let me just say – touché. Because my husband was ready to rebuild an entire nine dollar picture frame. For all this time and effort we could have just driven the 10 miles to buy a new one for double the cost and still come out ahead. But still he set off to rebuild the picture frame because he has an *idea* for how to do it with a few little hooks, screws, fasteners, and…

Things I really don’t care about at all. Give me a hammer and a few nails and I’ll get that thing on the wall. With a tried and true method called "eyeball it" if you will. Realizing this is not an option I go back upstairs. Another 20 minutes later, a voice breaks from the basement.

“ALL RIGHT, IT’S ON THE WALL.”

If I know anything about my husband, I know that just might be his angry voice. Deep breath. Go down there and make him feel like a million dollar rock star for hanging that picture on the wall.

“WOW,” I say – I am beaming, gushing, I am full of let’s just forget I ever asked you to hang anything on the wall, “You did it! You got it straight on the wall.”

He tells me how he did it – I really didn’t understand – and then admits that the picture frame almost got beaten off the wall with a hammer because he was so aggravated by the lack of precise engineering skill in its shoddy at best design. All I know is that all of this could have been solved with two things – hammer and nail. And a few (mostly) incorrect holes in the wall (but who’s counting).

But honestly the picture did look great and the pictures next to it looked great as well. So after complimenting his work I pick up the next thing – a large metal bicycle to be hung on the wall. We choose a place (actually I tell him it will go here) and he says ok and then says “I just need to figure out how to hang it on the wall.”

Again, my bad. I should have stopped at the pictures and left the walls. Because you know this involved more computation, angles, levels,
and a laser beam. Which I watched from atop my bike for the next 20 miles. But let me tell you one thing - if I had a hammer, this task would have been finished long ago – and you don’t need a level to prove that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Athletic Accomplishments

HONORS + AWARDS

*Named one of USA Triathlon’s 2007 Female Amateur Triathlete of the Year Honorable Mention

*USA Triathlon National Long Course Champion (2005, 2006, 2007)
*Inside Triathlon All American Triathlete (2007)
*Inside Triathlete All American Duathlete (2006)
*USA Triathlon National Long Course Champion, F25 – 29, F30 – 34 (2002, 2004)
*USA Triathlon All American Triathlete and Duathlete (2002 – 2007, 2011)

2015 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS


3/15/15
San Juan 70.3
3rd in AG (qualified for 70.3 World Championship)

5/16/15
Ironman Texas
1st in AG & 2nd overall
Ironman PR - 10:06
W40-44 North American Ironman Champion

6/14/15
Naperville Women's Sprint
2nd overall

7/10/15
Muncie 70.3
1st in AG

8/8/15
USA Triathlon National Championship
2nd in AG

10/10/15
Ironman World Championship
10th in AG
         
2014 ACCOMPLISHMENT

Welcomed my daughter, Mackenzie Hope
   
2013 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1/19/13
Frosty 5K
3rd overall

2/9/13
Cupid's Dash 5K
2nd overall

2/24/13
MATTS Indoor 10K TT
2nd overall 

4/28/13
JayHawk Triathlon
1st overall

5/18/13
Galena Triathlon
1st in AG/4th overall

6/9/13
Eagleman 70.3
3rd in AG/4th overall
Qualified for 70.3 World Championship

7/15/13
Evergreen Triathlon
4th elite overall

8/4/13
Naperville Sprint Triathlon
2nd overall 

8/10/13
USA Triathlon Short Course National Championship
7th in AG

9/7/13
Ironman  70.3 World Championship
5th in AG

2012 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

3/17/12
St. Paddy's 5K
1st AG

5/18/12
Galena Triathlon
1st AG

6/9/12
Naperville Women's Triathlon
2nd elite overall

6/23/12
South Beach Triathlon
3rd overall

7/4/12
Firecracker 5K
2nd overall 

2011 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

2/20/11
Desert Classic Duathlon
2nd AG, 4th overall


3/27/11
Powerman Alabama - National Long Course Duathlon Championship
2nd AG, 4th overall

4/16/11

Bloom and Zoom 10K
1st overall


4/30/11
USAT Duathlon National Championship
5th AG

5/30/11
Seahorse Challenge Sprint Triathlon
1st overall

6/11/12
Eagleman 70.3
1st AG, 10th overall
Qualified for Ironman World Championship


7/16/11

Evergreen Triathlon
2nd elite/3rd overall

8/14/11
Naperville Sprint Triathlon
1st overall

9/11/11
70.3 World Championship
7th in AG

10/8/11
Ironman World Championship
9th in AG
10:22 finishing time


12/11/11
Rudolph Ramble 8K
4th overall/2nd AG

2010 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

9/26/10
Peregrine Charities Triathlon
1st overall

10/17/10
Rotary Run Charity Classic 5K
1st AG, 5th overall

11/7/10
Cantigny Veteran's Day Run 5K
1st overall

11/25/10
Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot 5K
1st AG

2009 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS


3/23/09
Run for Education 5K
2nd overall

4/19/09
Pioneer Sprint Triathlon
1st overall

5/3/09
Mizzou Triathlon
3rd overall

6/14/09
Subaru Women's Triathlon
3rd overall

9/5/09
Mattoon Man Triathlon
2nd overall

10/03/09
Fall Color 5K
1st overall

10/24/09

Trick Or Treat Trot
2nd overall

2008 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1/6/08

MATTS Indoor Time Trial 10K
2nd overall

2/23/08

Desert Classic Duathlon
4th elite overall

4/10/08

John Fraser Memorial 10 Mile TT
1st in category

4/26/08

Kingdom 5K
1st overall

5/5/08
St. Croix 70.3
10th elite overall

6/8/08
Eagleman 70.3
8th elite overall


6/23/08
Subaru Women's Triathlon
4th elite overall

7/13/08
Rhode Island 70.3
6th elite overall
Qualified for 70.3 World Championship


8/30/08
Nike Human Race 10K
1st in AG, 11th overall

9/5/08
Big Shoulders 2.5K Swim
1st overall

9/22/08
Nutmegman Half Ironman
1st overall

2007 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

2/24/07

Desert Classic Duathlon
2nd overall

4/23/07

Striders Duathlon
1st overall


5/5/07
Race For Sight Triathlon
2nd elite overall

5/20/07

Memphis in May Triathlon
3rd amateur overall

6/9/07

Eagleman 70.3
2nd amateur overall, 1st in age group, Kona qualifier

6/29/07

USA Triathlon Short Course National Championship
6th in age group

8/4/07
Steelhead 70.3
1st amateur overall

9/15/07

USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
1st overall

10/13/07
Ironman Hawaii World Championship
9th in age group, 18th amateur overall

2007
USA Triathlon All American Triathlon
8th F30 – 34, top ranked woman in Illinois

2006 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

2/26/06
Desert Classic Duathlon
3rd overall

4/7/06
Powerman Alabama
6th overall, 2nd in age group

5/7/06
USAT Duathlon National Championship
6th overall, 2nd in age group

6/11/06
Quartermax Triathlon
1st overall

6/26/06
Buffalo Springs 70.3
4th amateur overall, 1st in age group, Kona qualifier

7/27/06
ITU Short Course Duathlon World Championship
5th overall, 2nd in age group, ITU Silver Medalist, F30 – 34

8/19/06
Pigman Half Ironman
1st amateur overall

9/15/06
USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
1st overall

10/21/06
Ironman Hawaii World Championship
12th in age group, 29th amateur overall

12/10/06
Rudolph Ramble 8K
2nd overall

2006
USA Triathlon All American Triathlete
15th F30 – 34, top ranked woman in Illinois

USA Triathlon All American Duathlete
3rd F30 – 34, top ranked woman in Illinois

2005 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

4/16/05
Max Trax Duathlon
2nd overall

5/1/05
Race For Sight
4th elite overall

5/15/05
Powerman Ohio
1st amateur overall
USA Triathlon Regional Long Course Duathlon Champion

6/5/05
Half Max Half Ironman
1st overall

6/26/05
Wendy’s International Duathlon
1st overall (set new course record)

7/16/05
Lifetime Fitness Triathlon
2nd amateur overall, 1st in age group

8/20/05
USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
2nd overall, 1st in age group

9/3/05
Lake St. Louis Triathlon
3rd ovearll

9/17/05
MATTS 34K Time Trial
1st overall

9/25/05
US Half Iron Championship
1st overall

10/16/05
Rotary Run for Wellness 5K
1st overall (set new course record, 18:15)

10/23/05
Frank Lloyd Wright 5K
6th overall, 1st in age group

11/6/05
Westchester Veterun 10K
2nd overall

2005
UltraMax Series Champion

USA Triathlon All American Triathlete
7th in F30 – 34, top ranked woman in Illinois

USA Triathlon All American Duathlete
4th in F30 – 34, top ranked woman in Illinois

USA Triathlon Mideast All Regional Duathlete
1st overall female

2004 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

4/18/04
Tellabs Spring Ahead 5K
5th overall, 1st AG

5/2/04
Race For Sight
5th overall

5/29/04
Western Springs Tower Trot 10K
3rd overall

6/6/04
Seahorse Challenge Triathlon
3rd overall

6/20/04
Half Max Half Ironman
3rd overall

7/17/04
Lifetime Fitness Triathlon
9th overall elite

8/14/04
Iron Mountain Man Half Ironman
USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
3rd overall, 1st in age group

8/31/04
Chicago Triathlon
12th overall, 4th in age group

10/03/04
Fall Color 5K
1st overall

10/31/04
Trick or Treat Trot
4th overall, 3rd in age group

12/12/04
Rudolph Ramble 8K
4th overall, 1st in age group

2004 USA Triathlon All American Triathlete
2004 Ultra Max Series F25-29 Champion

2003 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

6/7/03
Elkhart Lake Triathlon
3rd in age group

6/14/03
Menomonie Tinman Triathlon
1st overall, set new course record by 3 minutes

6/22/03
River's Edge Triathlon
4th overall, 2nd in age group

7/12/03
Muncie Endurathon
USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
3rd in age group

8/9/03
Sylvania Triathlon
10th overall, 4th in age group

8/17/03
Pleasant Prairie Triathlon
8th overall, 3rd in age group

8/24/03
Chicago Triathlon
7th in age group

8/31/03
St. Croix Valley Triathlon
3rd overall, 2nd in age group

9/7/03
USA Triathlon Mideast Regional Championship
5th overall, 2nd in age group

9/20/03
USA Triathlon World's Qualifier
13th in age group, qualified for ITU World Championship

9/28/03
Muddy Buddy
1st place in division

2002 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1/27/02
Midwest Indoor Triathlon Series
1st in age group

2/22/02
Desert Classic Duathlon
3rd in age group

5/2/02
Naperville 10K Classic
2nd overall, 1st in age group

5/19/02
Memphis in May Triathlon
10th in age group

6/1/02
Elkhart Lake Triathlon
3rd in age group

6/16/02
Ironhorse Triathlon
6th overall, 1st in age group

6/23/02
River's Edge Triathlon
4th overall, 1st in age group

6/30/02
Starved Rock Triathlon
6th overall, 2nd in age group

7/7/02
Seahorse Triathlon
3rd overall, 1st in age group

7/14/02
Muncie Endurathlon
USA Triathlon National Long Course Championship
9th overall, 1st in age group

8/4/02
ABR State Criterium Championship
Silver medalist, Women's Cat 4

8/12/02
Big Creek Triathlon
3rd overall, 1st in age group

8/18/02
Great Buckeye Half Ironman
2nd overall

8/25/02
Mrs. T's Chicago Triathlon
11th overall, 1st in age group

9/7/02
ABR World Championship 50K Team TT
3rd overall

9/8/02
Fox River Duathlon
2nd overall

9/22/02
Deer Creek Half Ironman
3rd overall

USA Triathlon All American triathlete, top ranked woman in Illinois

2001 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

2/22/01
Hustle Up The Hancock Stair Climb
3rd overall, 1st in age group

5/19/01
Memphis in May Triathlon
14th in age group

6/17/01
Ironhorse Triathlon
2nd in age group

7/8/01
Seahorse Triathlon
3rd overall, 1st in age group

7/14/01
Muncie Endurathon
3rd overall, 1st in age group

8/12/01
Charger Challenge 10K
1st overall

8/18/01
Three Rivers Triathlon
4th overall, 2nd in age group

8/26/01
Mrs. T's Chicago Triathlon
5th in age group

9/15/01
Mohican Pineman Half Ironman
1st overall, set course record by 22 minutes

9/23/01
Indian Hills Mountain Bike Race
1st overall

10/6/01
LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon Finisher

USA Triathlon All-American Triathlete

2000 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

5/6/00
Naperville 10K Classic
3rd overall, 1st in age group

5/20/00
Galena Triathlon
3rd in age group

6/11/00
Seahorse Triathlon
1st in age group

6/17/00
Lake Macatawa Triathlon
5th overall, 1st in age group

7/25/00
Danskin Women's Triathlon
2nd in age group

10/29/00
Sycamore Pumpkin Festival 10K
2nd in age group

1999 ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS

11/24/99
Naperville Turkey Trot
3rd in age group

12/5/99
Cross Country Challenge
3rd in age group




Monday, December 24, 2007

Holding Back

It’s that time of the year when the greatest resistance training we must do as triathletes is holding back.

Holding back as in getting passed, going slow, losing a workout, maybe even getting lapped.

There comes a point where you have to very honestly ask yourself – do I want to win winter workouts or do I want to win a summer race? Do I want to leave your best performance in January or peak in July? You have to ask yourself and if you decide the latter you have to hold back.

Here’s a secret that I’m going to tell. Right now the nation’s top age groupers are not ripping out 5:50 miles on the track nor pushing out 20 minute intervals above their LT or suffering through V02 max repeats or completing bricks entirely in Zone 4. It’s not that they don’t train hard or push themselves – they just do it at the right time of the year.

Which is not now.

Hard workouts are like salt – used sparingly and in moderation it can make something taste great. Hard workouts are so damn fun because they are so damn effective. When used right they make you fast. Spend eight weeks, once a week on the track and I bet you’ll get fast. But it won’t last that long. It can’t. At some point you have to step back. Your body can’t do that week after week without breaking down. Like salt, when used too much hard workouts make you unhealthy. And that’s why they must be done at the right time.

Which again is not now. You see at this time of year those that are committed to training (and ultimately racing) smart are becoming friendly, quite friendly, with Zones 1 – 2. Where do you find this Zones 1 – 2? About 70 – 80 percent of your maximal heart rate. And you’re right – it’s not that hard. That’s the point. In fact, at times to keep your HR there you need to go slow. Walk a hill, back off into the wind, lighten your step up.

It seems like most of us know this, we’ve heard it all before but to actually follow it is where it gets hard. Because it requires holding back. And most athletes have this Pavlovian response to a clock, a group run, a bell, a whistle, a power output on a computer screen – they see a number, they see a competitor and they want to go fast. Doesn’t matter the workout, the time, or what’s in their plan. They want to go fast and they want to go NOW.

And what often happens is you get people spending week after week doing the same runs and rides in Zone 3. The dead zone, the feel good zone, the not easy enough to be easy nor hard enough to be hard zone. The zone in between. The zone that really doesn’t do you much good. This is the core problem of many age groupers out there – they spend all of their time training in this zone and as a result do not make much progress from year to year.

Why?

When you train easily in Zones 1 and 2, you train aerobically with much oxygen and burn fuel mostly from your fat stores. Training at lower intensities increases your fat burning ability and decreases your carbohydrate burning ability. Since carbohydrate is the energy required for longer workouts, teaching your body to conserve carbohydrates by way of burning fat for fuel is a very important thing.

Let’s say you were prescribed an “easy” run on Friday maintaining heart rate Zones 1 – 2. Well, you were feeling good and the group was pulling away so you decided to pick up the pace and found yourself in Zone 3. Zone 3 is that feel good zone – the tempo zone, the zone that is not easy enough to be easy but not hard enough to be hard. Now it is true that Zone 3 is mostly an aerobic zone however it is too hard to recruit slow twitch muscle fibers and burn fat. In Zone 3, the body needs more oxygen quicker – and since it takes more oxygen to burn fat rather than carbohydrate, carbohydrate becomes the body’s main fuel source.

Not a big deal, right? Wrong. The problem is that training in Zone 3 actually depletes your carbohydrate stores which consequently requires more time for recovery. If you had stayed in Zones 1 – 2, your body would have actually burned mostly fat, recruited mostly slow twitch fibers and required little recovery time at all. Since your body can only store so much carbohydrate, once it’s gone it needs to be built back up – and that takes time. Not only that but training in Zone 3 recruits some fast twitch muscle fibers. And it takes time for these to recover those to recover as well.

So now what? Well, your easy day just become hard. It became yet another workout for your body to recover from – and we all know that one of the major factors that limits us or holds us back is recovery time. The better you recover the more you can perform key workouts and gain benefit from them. The more time you need to recover, the less time you have for quality workouts required to breakthrough.

While it may have felt “good” to go fast on your easy day, by blowing your zones on your easy day you actually set yourself up for failure on the next hard workout day. Let’s say you blew your zones on Friday before Saturday’s hard run with Zones 4 – 5 intervals. You see, to go hard in Zones 4 – 5, you need to have 100 percent of your carbohydrate stores. Your fast twitch muscle fibers must be rested and ready to go. But when you train in Zone 3 you deplete these stores and fatigue these fibers. So when it’s time to go hard and fast – you can’t. Or you can’t very well.

You can easily see how spending too much time in Zone 3 means you reach a plateau. You are never recovered enough to breakthrough and you don’t recover well over time. Consequently, if spend too much time training there you’ll likely end up injured, overtrained, stale, or turning out the same times year after year - which is probably not on anyone’s 2008 season goals.


I know what you’re thinking – how can you train in Zones 1 – 2 when it’s so slow? Because to get fast you have to slow. To take steps forward you have to step back. You have to forget about pace and let it go. Stop obsessing over the average pace on your Garmin, stop pushing yourself to keep up, quit comparing your times on routes from day to day and for Personal Best’s sake – just follow your zones.

Of course, this is all much easier said than done. Holding back is very hard. It requires complete trust in your training plan, it requires patience, it requires athletic maturity, and vision for what lies ahead. It requires you to control your aggression and override your competitive nature in hopes of being at your best….very far away.

Unfortunately, most athletes never reach their athletic potential because they leave their best workouts in the wrong part of the year. They want to be fast and they want to be fast now. But it doesn’t work that way. If it did, we’d all be fast. But we’re not. The secret is those that are fast exercise patience and self-control. They hold back to get ahead. They do the appropriate work at the appropriate time. They don’t try to get ahead before they are ready. They realize in training there is no such thing as extra credit – or even free speed(work); just poor choices that end up leaving you behind rather than getting you ahead.

Right now you have a choice. It’s the new year. It’s the new you. It’s going to be your best year yet. You’ll never know until you try. And isn’t it worth taking a risk on yourself? Do you want to be good next year or do you want to be great? Do you want to put all of your effort into breaking through or just break down? Do you want to leave your best race on the Saturday fun run or set a personal best later in the year?

It’s really your choice.

Will you come under fire from your friends? Probably. Will you get lapped in your lane? Most likely so. Will you at times feel slower than ever and see now way this approach could make you fast? Yes. And that’s why very few in sport find success. Because it takes a hell of a lot of holding back to get ahead. It means losing about one-hundred workouts in the winter in order for that one summer win. It means accepting delayed gratification instead of instant success.

It’s just a matter of how much it’s worth. Can you hold back for a few months, trust your training and believe in yourself? That is the work that’s hard. That is what it takes for success. Bolting on the track right now – that takes nothing at all - just a bit of foolishness and no common sense. But to be mindful, patient, timely and hold back….now that’s the hard work you need to be doing towards becoming your best.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Food As Fuel

I spent some time on Saturday with friends, Keith and Ibbe, talking about food.

Keith and Ibbe are visiting from Seattle where they attend Bastyr University, a school devoted to teaching the methods of naturopathic, herbal, and alternative treatments. Together, they work with adults in different modalities to promote holistic wellness and health by way of counseling, chiropractic manipulation, herbal remedies, teas, dietary improvements, acupuncture – and that’s just to name a few.

We started talking about our experiences in working with adults and how the conversation often turns to food. Let’s be honest, most adults spend a good amount of time thinking, talking, preparing, planning or waiting for food. We spend a lot of time on food.

To some extent, I have often wondered if this is just a by product of our very convenient and accessible lives. Food is no longer something to hunt for and find. Food is there. It is always there. It is more than there. You can’t walk into most buildings nowadays without seeing some type of beverage or food. You would think we were the most hungry nation in the world because of the surplus and availability of food.

And so I wonder if our brains short circuit, in a sense, because we no longer have to work to find our food. It becomes almost the opposite effect. I would imagine having to hunt for food and being hungry you always think about food – I need it, I have to find it, I want it now. So when we are bombarded with advertisements, availability, pictures, television, messages about food do we become primed to think the same? Do we make it almost impossible for our brains to forget about food? The more we surround ourselves with visual images and printed material about food do we set ourselves up for failure with food?

It doesn’t take much of a look into social psychology to figure some of this out. Studies have shown that if you prime someone with a printed or visual message about putting on sunscreen they are more likely then to go and put on sunscreen before being in the sun. Can this also be correlated to food? If you show someone images of food (advertisements), visual reminders of food (restaurants), and printed material about food (magazines) will then they go and eat more….food?

It is therefore no wonder why many adults have such a distorted relationship with food. In a sense I think our brains are confused. We should be hunting food – our drive is to find food to stay alive. Now that we no longer have to hunt – what do we do with our drive for food and the energy we ancestrally have for hunting for food? We are primed for this drive for food – but without the hunting we don’t expend the energy and we don’t have such a need for (as much) food. But with all the food messages, images, and media around it’s hard not to be confused. What the hell should we think about food?

Then there is our upbringing and the way our society addresses children and food. How many of us were treated with a cookie if we finished our vegetables? Or ice cream if we were good? Food is not just nourishment it becomes currency and one we crave for proof that we are comforted, worthy, and good. It becomes not our survival but our reward – food means we are good.

So what, then, is the purpose of food? How should we feel about food? How should we relate to food? Is it currency, reward, biological need or fuel? Just what is food?

I think many of us would say food is our friend. We have a relationship with food. And that’s because it is always there. Friends, spouses, self-confidence may come and go but food – it’s always there. Think about your favorite food. Mine is ice cream. Now think about all of the places and times you have enjoyed that food. After a long ride, on a date, when you were away at college, when you were stressed or sad. It was a comfort and a reward. You have always been friend with the food.

But how did you feel afterwards no matter what the precursor was? Chances are you felt guilty, shameful, or annoyed by yourself and the food. How could you have eaten that “bad” food? Did you really deserve it or was the situation really that bad? Did you feel any better after you had it? Even if you ate that ice cream after a long ride, and you really earned it – did you feel that great about yourself and that food? And there it is again – do you really have to earn your food?

What you realize, then, is that food is no friend at all. And it shouldn’t be. Ibbe said it best when she said we should not have a relationship with food. That is not food’s purpose. Food is not supposed to be your friend – it’s purpose is nourishment and fuel. If you feel like eating ice cream do it because you crave it and will selflessly enjoy it. Don’t become friends with your food and certainly don’t use it to feel more good and full about yourself. Expect nothing from food other than fuel.

I thought this was an interesting view – food as nourishment and fuel which puts the purpose of food into perspective. If we spent less time hoping to fill ourselves up by eating a cookie or ice cream we might spend more time finding what we really need. And chances are it isn’t that cookie or food. What do we need to nourish ourselves? It is friendship? Understanding? Self-worth, validation or just feeling good about ourselves? And what makes us think we can find that in food?


When talking with adults you sometimes hear the term “emotional eater” when they describe themselves with food. In other words, sadness sets in, stress levels increase, frustration comes up and they turn to food. Interesting, because it’s probably one of the most self-destructive ways to deal with some very destructive emotions. And it’s not very effective for very long. Sure, you can eat some ice cream when you are feeling sad but that still doesn’t fix the fact that you are sad, something is wrong. There’s more to it than that. And think about sadness or feeling empty – now quantify the number of calories that will make that better. Better get out a big spoon, right?

And that’s why it doesn’t work. Food as a friend and not fuel. I think, then, the serving we really need is some reflection. Time with ourselves, for ourselves. When you find yourself reaching for that food or looking for food to fill you up, go sit some place, quiet your mind, and talk with yourself. Ask yourself what you really need. Or what you’re really missing. Be patient and honest with yourself.

One of food’s greatest features is that again it is here, now, fast. It requires no time or self-reflection. It’s a quick fix and that’s also why it really doesn’t work. To sit and ask yourself what you really need would take time, pain, maybe tears, and just being honest with yourself. I think of all the times I have myself been an emotional eater and it’s not because I wanted or needed the food. It’s that I needed to distract my mind away from myself.

Chances are what you’ll find is that you need nourishment, too. You need to feel more full and satisfied by yourself. Ibbe suggested we find better ways to nourish ourselves – to treat ourselves with things that make us truly feel good (without the food). Maybe it is something you say or something you do. Sometimes I think it is helping people to believe they are worth a better decision for themselves. It is ok to take the time to nourish yourself with something other than food – you are worth it. You are worthy for yourself.

Beyond that maybe it is something you say. When you feel like filling up with food insert a key phrase or behavior – maybe it is just sitting down and visualizing the best version of yourself as a strong, confident capable worthy person to remind yourself that you don’t need to fill “yourself” up with food. Or maybe it is doing something else, replacing the food. Make a list of the things you simply love to do – is it reading a book, walking in a park, reading a magazine, sharing time with friends, painting your nails, playing an instrument, building something, painting, dancing – it could be anything just as long as it isn’t food.


And this is hard to swallow, per se - food as not a reward but fuel. Again the media with magazines, visuals, messages try to convince us otherwise, convince us to have a relationship with food. Food is fun, friends, good feelings, good times. Look around - you need this food. It is the romanticization of food. But come, on it's food. Calories, nutrients, fiber, FOOD. You need it to survive. It's like air. What if we romanticized water or air? Would we want a relationship with that too?

The conversation ended and I realized it was time to change my own relationship with food. My self-worth is not linked to how much I eat or what I eat or how much I do. I cannot afford a strained relationship with food. I cannot afford to find self-worth, happiness, or comfort in food. As an athlete I need something more. I am expecting my body to do things – big things – which will require a different view of food. Food is my fuel, and I need strong, nutritious, and wholesome food.

And I hope you can see this too. Whether it’s by not taking the time to feed yourself well, emotionally eating, starving yourself, binging, or not taking the time to stock the house with wholesome food – spend some time soon to breaking off this dysfunctional relationship with food. We cannot afford to look for a friend or feelings in food. We are athletes. We need fuel. Food is….fuel.

Consider that today's food for thought – though you really shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about food...

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Hire

I’ve gotten a request for another update of my dog. I will protect the identity of the person that requested but let’s just say I hear y’all and I don’t blame you. He is a very entertaining dog.

On Thursday, Boss had career shadow day. He went to work with Chris to find out just what an accounting consultant does all day long. Apparently they all canoodle together in an office with their dogs while eating things like pineapple upside down cake, fried chicken and dim sum. Three things I hope to never have to eat together or say in a sentence together again.

But accounting consulting is hard work – especially during holiday time. Especially when it is bring your dog to work day. Which means the normally quiet office filled with those who dream in numbers, add numbers, and talk numbers all day long was filled with the little yips and barks of count ‘em (possibly the only counting they did all day long) ... 6 dogs.

Boss, Chewie, IChi, Skipper, Peanut, and Piccolino. As you can imagine, these are all dogs that collectively weigh as much as most dog’s left rear paw. Maltese, Yorkie, Bichon, and Chihuahua. All of the best dog but not really dog breeds.

I’m not sure what happened all day because I wasn’t there. All that I do know is around noon I got a very suspicious picture of Boss wearing some other dog’s shirt. I guess this is also what accounting consultants do for holiday fun – they dress up their dog in other dog’s clothes and send photos to everyone else.

Off the record, Boss came home smelling like stripper. Not that I would know but you spend enough time on Ragbrai and you just hear about these things. His fur reeked of a strange combination of women’s perfumes, hand sweat, and fried chicken that didn’t mix very well. I’m wondering if the office party included a show from one of Big Earl’s Girls but I learn that they just brought in fried chicken and that he just kept getting passed from lap to lap.

I understand that Boss and Piccolino made good friends. What did they do, I asked Chris. They sniffed each other a lot, he said. I guess that is dogspeak for hello will you be my friend. And good friends they were but I suspect little dogs band together in unity no matter what.

After work, Boss had to go to the vet. He got his rabies shot. When he finally returned home after nearly a 12 hour day, he was beat. Merely the shell of a dog that just wanted to cuddle in his crate. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I heard something from his way. It was a gurgling, a squeak, it was Boss. Something was going on in his stomach.

I went downstairs. “What did Boss eat today?” I asked Chris.

“You don’t want to know.”

Actually, I do. Because from the sound of it, in less than 5 minutes that stomach is going to explode in a mess somewhere in this house and I’d like to at least be prepared.

So I got closer to Boss. Closer. Gurgle, gurgle. Wait, what? Forget the gurgle. What the heck is he wearing? He was initially covered under blankets in his crate and I didn’t realize he had a new shirt. I looked closer.

Well I’ll be damned. That dog is wearing a shirt that costs more money than my entire outfit. Know why? He was wearing a Juicy Couture shirt. I kid you not. A shirt that cost almost 40 dollars. On my dog. In a dog size. That says Dog School Dropout.

Where does a little dog get this kind of shirt?

His grandmother in law. Apparently she came into the office with this new shirt, dressed Boss and then he ran around like a bad ass humping Piccolino for the rest of the day.

Poor Piccolino. He’s a boy.

Boss did not get much work done at the office. Wow, someone should put him in charge, eh? I’m just kidding. But I’m not sure accounting is the right field for him. He didn’t do anything with numbers or addition or calculating unless you consider his calculating behavior when while maximizing the most lap time of any of the dogs.


Chris got many compliments that Boss is very well socialized. Well, we do try. He has puppy playgroup with Chewie and IChi and soon he will attend puppy play time in Downers Grove. He will learn to love and play with other dogs – because he’s a lover not a hater and will change the world one lap at a time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

GOAL!

It’s that time of year to set goals. Setting goals is one of the most important parts of your season or any goal-related task. Your goals are driven by your desire, what you really want. Your goals keep you moving in the right direction on the right path.

Since it is so important, how, then, do you know what to choose as a goal? You can’t find the answer in a book. You can’t ask your friends. Your spouse doesn’t know and neither do your friends. And especially don’t expect your coach to tell you what to do. Because it has to come from within. The answer is in you.

The question then becomes: how do you find your desire to set your goals?

1. Set aside the time.
2. Find a quiet, undistracted place.
3. Quiet your mind.
4. Ask the question, what does ________want?
5. Listen for the answer(s).

Listen to the first thing that enters your mind resisting the urge to censor yourself. And don’t be afraid to think big. In fact, think HUGE. And you will define what is huge (it might be turn pro, finish an Ironman, break 4:00 in the marathon, swim a 10K open water race). These are big things that will require big work.

Often this means opening up the realm of possibility to yourself. The realm of possibility is a place where anything can happen. It’s a place that you create. To get there requires nothing more than asking yourself: If you took away concerns for your athletic abilities (strengths, limiters), age, life factors (work, finances, family) what would you want to do?

Enter______________________(your BIG THING).

Keep in mind this is the ‘big thing’ you likely will not achieve in a year – maybe not even in your lifetime. But there is no risk in dreaming big. You have to validate these thoughts. Give yourself permission to feel them, think them, and hear them out loud. When you verbalize these big goals you put them into that realm of possibility, you hear yourself becoming something else. You open yourself up to the chance.

Now, once you have your big lifetime goal it’s time to narrow your focus and set yourself up for manageable and timely success. In other words, work backwards from your BIG goal. Take the big picture and make it small. Make it small by setting smaller goals that would guide you towards that big lifetime goal.

Let’s take an example. Your big goal is to qualify for Kona. What do you need to do?

Qualify.

How do you qualify?

Choose a race. Let’s say you choose Eagleman 70.3.

How do you qualify at that race to achieve your big goal (qualify for Kona)?

Win your age group.

Work backwards, what do you need to do to win your age group at Eagleman.

Complete the race in 4:35 or better (if female).

Work backwards, how do you complete the race in 4:35 or better:

Swim 30, bike 2:30, run 1:30

Work backwards, how do you achieve these times:

Let’s say to swim 30 minutes it roughly takes -

Meet with a skilled swim coach to evaluate form
Swim consistently this winter (4x per week with 1 session form focus)
Swim in open water 1x per week leading up to race


Now taking all the backwards steps, work forward again and put the confounding factors in your plan. Can you realistically work towards all of the steps above considering your athletic abilities (strengths, limiters), age, life factors (work, finances, family)? If yes, then you have set a realistic goal. If no, then it’s time to reassess; set a smaller, more attainable goal for the season ahead that will help you further yourself towards your big thing.

In this process you realize that even the most intangible goal comes closer to you as you go through these steps. You look at something so far away and think to yourself how would I ever get there. When you set smaller goals you start to see more frequent accomplishment en route to your goal.

Depending on how detailed you want to get, you could set goals like this each week. Every Sunday night I sit down and think of my big thing. Then I think of ways I can work towards it each week. Of course every workout I do each way is leading towards that goal – but goal achievement is more than just checking the workouts off (JH is right). It’s mindful and engaging. A weekly goal might be to hold xxx watts for 10 minutes. Or nailing all of your flip turns in a hard set.

There is a way, there is a logical progression you can take towards your goals no matter how big they seem. It just takes time. It takes calculated steps and planning – success is never an accident and is never a direct result of luck.

So, decide where you want to go. And then find the best way to get there. Often it takes just a quieting of the mind to find your year’s desire and planning how to turn it into an attainable goal.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We Have A Winner

The other day my husband said something I really didn’t want to hear.

“Liz, I need you to go to Wal-Mart.”

What. WHAT? Wal-Mart? As in the mart in which I have sworn I will not step foot into for the next 10 years to end a career in working with children over the past decade each year in which I could not avoid weekly – sometimes biweekly – trips to the Wal-Mart to buy things, little things, big things, tax exempt things at always the worst time of the day?

No. NO. You don't understand. You don't know my pain. You don't know what it's like to walk into Wal-Mart with over a dozen lists from over a dozen staff that need things from all corners of the store. You've never stood there reading a list while shouting to yourself I don't know I DON'T KNOW what they mean by paper plates. Big plates or little plates white plates designer plates I don't know and I don't know how to decide! And after you finally decide knowing you have probably decided wrong and will have to again return to the store you realize you still 99 more items left to go.


So, that Wal-Mart?

Yes.

At first he asked me to go on Sunday. He said we’d go early before all the crowds arrived. It would be a good time. It had to be a good time. I told him there is no good time at Wal-Mart. Go at 8 pm. Go at 2 pm. Go at 7 am. There is always a crowd. I dare you, go.

And honestly it’s not the crowds that scare me. It’s the cashiers. Prompting me to answer “was your cashier friendly today” on the credit card machine is always a good way to remind me – NO. NO! Were they friendly? What kind of friend scowls at you and acts like you are the problem – you for shopping there, you for walking into their line, you with your tax exempt letter and 50 boxes of crayons, 40 pieces of colored felt, 30 bottles of glue, 20 feet of ribbon, 10 containers of Dixie cups – you. YOU!

You could say I’m not really looking forward to going to the Wal-Mart. Not on Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, or Monday morning. But put it off long enough and watch Chris trip one too many times of the makeshift Boss prison grotto in our kitchen and you get one unfriendly (have you considered a career in cashiering at Wal-Mart?) Chris commanding me to go to Wal-Mart (NOW) to buy new pet gates.

Fine.

Monday morning, I pull myself away from mounds of work on the kitchen table, change out of the monkey pajama pants uniform, put on my arctic winter weather gear and brave the cold (cashiers, that is) to go to Wal-Mart.

May I start by saying any time you walk in the Wal-Mart and see that they have run out of shopping carts that is a bad sign. A very bad sign. A sign signifying you should leave and drive the other way. It’s between me and another woman and what she lacks in agility, youth, and nimbleness I actually possess, make my way to a cart, and victorious wheel it away.

Little did I know it had the gimpy wheel. The rear left wheel, moaning in pain and agony of please stop wheeling me around this store overloading me with your rollback deals, squirrely children, and bags of chips at a low low price.

Pet gates. If I was a pet gate where would I be. In the pet section of course. The store is a minefield of holiday shoppers, senior citizens, moms, and me. I finally make it over to the pet section wheeling up and down the aisles looking for the pet gates.

None.

Time to distract, do something else. Find toothpaste, file separators, glass cleaner, lotion, and again back to the pet gates. I go back to the section and look up and down the aisles. Still no gates. At first I consider leaving the store without the gates. But then I considered that I still want to be married tomorrow. Then I blamed it on Chris. What makes him think Wal-Mart has pet gates? What? And why did I believe him? I was just in the PetsMart buying Boss a new collar and a new squeaky monkey so why didn’t I look there?

Because the man said Wal-Mart and I am following his command. So I stop. The rear wheel stops crying for a minute. And I think. Again, if I was a pet gate in Wal-Mart where would I be? Think harder.

In the baby section.

Yes, yes because people like to gate their children in! It’s not a pet gate, silly, it’s a child gate to keep the toddler from toddling into something dangerous or down the stairs. So I hightail it over to the baby section and look for baby gates. At first I didn’t see them and considered asking the parents in the section.

Hello I am looking for those gates serving the purpose of imprisoning your child in its bedroom while you go about your normal life. Do you know those gates I speak of? Maybe they heard me because there they were! Right there, lower shelf I find exactly two left. Two left? Must be a popular time of the year to imprison your child behind a wooden gate.

I choose two and my trip is complete. Now all that is left is….

The checkout.

This is where things could go wrong. Very wrong. Trust me, I’ve seen it before. You make it through the store in record time only to be trapped at the register by someone that insists the friendly cashier has overrung their All-Bran and hair-color-in-a-box. At this point you confirm once again that Wal-Mart is literally a black hole for time. We wonder where time goes and why it flies by so fast ask Wal-Mart because secretly they are harboring the freetime of unknowingly patrons that just went in for a few pet gates.

But, my friends, today - this is where I win.

I WIN.

You see, no more tax exempt letter. No more purchases for work. And so, I am free to go to the self checkout line. Brilliant. I am self checking out when I nearly get to the end, ready to pull the receipt and I have encountered a glitch in the system. The machine freezes.

I am not winning. I am waiting. And I wait. The woman behind me with her gum and red sweatshirt also waits. But not nearly as patiently. But what do I care. I’ve already conceded that this store will steal my time, my hope for a friendly world, and make me wait.

Apparently when you spend over $50 at the self checkout line they assume you are using someone else’s credit card to purchase things like toothpaste or glass cleaner or pet gates. All of the things I would rush out and buy if I had someone else’s credit card for sure.

I make it free from the store and return home to assemble the newly remodeled Boss prison grotto in the kitchen equipped with two pet gates now resting between the doors. And later that night Chris tripped on them. But I’ve decided I am not going back to that store. I’m not returning the gates and we will just have to make do. Because I have once again sworn off Wal-Mart for at least the next 10 years. If not for any reason other than I am reclaiming my freetime and sitting here friendly and smiling at myself.

I win!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Under New Management

Good morning.

I’m writing to you from my new office.

Gone are the days of getting up at 6 am in the morning to force myself into a shower to stand in front of a closet full of clothes that never beg me to get in them to just sit at a desk all day.

Gone. G – O – N – E. No more.

I’m in a new office. Under new management. Enacting a new policy that I’m going to need everyone to sign. We’re having a staff meeting and first on the agenda is the very important announcement that as of today I am working from home.


Home?

Home. As in my house, as in my commute is now a trip down the stairs from the bedroom to the kitchen, not 10 miles just 1 floor.

Home.

DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING

We have a winner here…………………..HOME.

And working from home there are new rules. As the CEO, President, Manager, The Chief, Large and In Charge, I’m putting myself in the position of office manager and I feel we should have a talk. There are policies you need to be made aware of or else you risk disciplinary action for not listening to those in charge.

(me)

First in the new policies. The dress code. No buttons, no belts, no matching jewelry, no boots, no tights, no collars, no coats. And nothing – absolutely nothing – that requires an iron. That’s right, you’re going to need a whole new wardrobe for this workplace. Because you are only considered an employee around here when working in pajamas - preferably with monkeys or cupcake designs. Underwear – totally optional. We don’t care how your hair looks or what you put on your face. And shoes – none. You’ve been sitting with your feet under the desk, shoes off and a bag of ice attached to something for so many years that about the shoes – we just don’t care.

Company policy on use of cell phones, e-mail, and general surfing of the net. Highly encouraged and not a waste of your time. File under “things you do when it takes you half the time to do twice the work as the chucklebucket next to you still figuring out how to return their calls.” And blogging while working – “creative expression of innermost thoughts.” Very important for company mental health.

There is no penalty for being highly productive, effective, smart, and fast. There is no magical numbers of hours per week enslavement that you must undergo because somebody thought I wonder how long it would take a monkey to do this job to determine how many hours we need to work each week, rounded up to the nearest tenth and decided 40 hours is what it takes. Yes, if you spend 8 hours talking to your co-workers, 7 hours looking for things in piles on your desk, 6 hours on smoke or office food breaks, 5 hours on unjamming the copier, 4 hours on answering phone calls that you are paying someone else to answer in the first place, 3 hours looking at e-mails trying to convince you to join the 401K, 2 hours walking really slow to the bathroom just to see if you can kill more time that leaves 1 hour each week where you can actually get your entire job done. If you work really fast.

And to get all of your work done really fast you’re going to need a desk with top notch design. Your new desk – the kitchen table. Or the living room floor. The bed, the toilet, who cares just as long as you work. Forget the cubicle it’s just a corporate tool to promote intra-employee disgruntlement and justify an employee assistance program. And to learn too much about your co-worker’s personal life. I don’t want to hear any more stories about incorrigible children or what’s for dinner tonight. If I’m not invited I don’t care and unless it has a healthy serving of work in it you shouldn’t be talking about it in the first place. And if you happen to get the an office with a door – don’t bother closing it because it is just fly paper for employees standing outside trying to figure out if you are actually in the office with the door closed or if the door is just closed.

Psssst…listen closer, closer, do you know what the door is saying? CLOSED.

Management. We are under new management and it’s about time. Around here to manage you actually have to have skills in management. Imagine that? We’ve been looking over resumes and we feel there has been some confusion on what has been called “management skills” up to this time. And so we regret to inform you that if you have been in the company for 20+ years, if you work six days a week, if you have been promoted to a level of incompetence you are no longer a manager at this time.


But fear not, the severance package is great - a healthy package filled with eight weeks worth of HTFU and get over yourself.

Being under new management we are also cracking down on company sloths. You know, those with cars filled with happy meal buckets and cigarette ashes. Those without placards that park in the handicap spot. New company policy - sloth is not a handicap. It’s an animal that lives in the jungle and comes down from a tree once a week to take a crap. So I guess if we’re talking about working styles there are similarities but nonetheless it is still not a handicap.

And this just in...after careful review of resumes that have come flooding in, we have selected a new boss. Complex calculations of combined years of experience, innate talent, boyishly good looks, agility, tact, speed and general furriness – we have chosen my dog. Yes, that’s right, the only boss we need to answer to around here is….my dog.

And of course all of those resumes first came through Human Resources. But since I am the HR Director we got through those resumes in no time. Which is very unusual considering HR is usually the quickest way to engage yourself in some of the slowest processes in the world (almost as slow as sloth on way to crap). And that's because HR is mostly filled with girls that majored in liberal arts and didn’t go to their high school prom and now spend their days sending snippy e-mails and sipping from a McDonald's cup (note: this does not apply to AP other friends). Well around here to work in HR you had to go to 3 high school proms. So take a frosty sip of your diet coke sister and hush up.

Now for office supplies and pens. I guess you can’t call it stealing when it you take it from your own home. I guess you don’t have to hide all of your good pens unless you are hiding them from yourself. Or keep a secret stash of assorted post-it notes. Or hide your pencil sharpener because you had to snag it off someone else’s desk because when you asked for your own someone actually came back to you and asked “why”.

Seriously?

And if something breaks you can fix it right away. Because you’re not only the Office Manager, the HR Department, the Admin Assistant, you are also your own Facilities staff. You don’t need to fill out a form to submit a form to someone that collects forms and sends them on to the person that reads the forms and then assigns the tasks on the form to someone that won’t do it anyways. In the end you just end up doing it yourself so just screw the forms, put on your Schneider tool belt and fix it yourself.

The benefits of all of this working from home? No, it’s not a discount you’ll never use or a free coupon to a local eatery you would never set foot in anyways. It’s not a gym membership because you already have one of those. Nor is it getting your birthday off every year (gee thanks!). It’s not a company non-denominational non-holiday party or an engraved pen.

No, we’re under new management around here and the benefit is that you can think, act, and manage for yourself. And perhaps the biggest benefit of all – you get to do what you have known how to do all along – lead yourself, be yourself, and work towards something entirely of your own.

And we're sorry but we're no longer accepting applications at this time. Besides the kitchen table is full. However we'd be happy to keep your resume on file. Just drop it in File 13 and we'll get around to it. In time.