Monday, August 08, 2016

Life Keeps Marching On

It's been a while....

I read a post my friend Cassie wrote on Facebook last Tuesday that kept referring to her husband in the past tense. He was this, he was that... surely she was battling with grammatical issues. I didn't want to believe that the past tense was referring to his death. It couldn't be true.

And then it hit me sideways - Sol died. Sol, Ryan's childhood friend who became like a brother to me while we grew up together. Sol, who struggled with life as we all do but always had a smile on his face and was quick to make a joke. Sol, who never stayed angry as he battled with relationships and things that challenged him. Sol, the father of Regan and Sawyer and the little miracle baby growing in Cassie's belly. Sol, who's cerebral palsy outwardly appeared a limiter but inwardly seemed to help him blossom and sculpted him into a loving, caring and accepting person.

I last saw Sol in Seattle in May. I was cleaning out my house in Seattle, reckoning with the ghosts of Ryan as we put the house in the market to sell. I came across a funny paper from Sol, chuckled and sent him a text. He insisted we catch up in person so I drove over to his house late one night and we hung out for several hours. He opened the door with a smile on his face, kids laughing in the background, so much love surrounding him. He showed me his house - the house he and Cassie had way more vision for than I did when they bought it years ago. He transformed it - into a design marvel - all with his own hands. Sol had this amazing ability to see the best in everything - to polish edges, to apply varnish, to work with his artistic hands and put in the effort to create something most of us would overlook or give up on long ago.

It'd been a few years since we last connected. We picked up right where we left off - catching up on life, asking the hard questions, seeing what each other were up to, really checking in. Sol had a way of letting you put your guard down, opening up and sharing with him your struggles and offering guidance to get through things. He listened, he didn't judge, he offered advice if you asked and gently guided you toward laughing about whatever troubled you.

In their basement is a small climbing wall. He built it for his kids to play with but partly in homage to Ryan. He asked what I was going to do with the climbing holds and asked for a couple to put on the wall - a symbolic act and a way to remember someone who touched us all.

I cried for hours after the news sunk in. And I know I'm not the only one. As soon as Cassie's post went up she received hundreds of messages about how Sol had touched them, how broken hearted they were to hear the news.

It's been nearly a week as I write this and I'm still tearing up. Losing someone like Sol is like losing a spiritual guide. I am so thankful for the time I shared with him and mourn the loss of such a great soul. I'm sure he and Ryan are having a great time together.

On Thursday friends and family are gathering at the house that Sol built to celebrate his life. I'm going, armed with the climbing holds that Sol asked for and sad but thankful for the time we shared together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Exploring Creativity

I'm fascinated by what makes us creative. What motivates us to change things, create something new and improved? How do we become more creative at work, at play and in life? If we apply that creativity to everything we do - what happens? Does it increase our happiness and sense of fulfillment?

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition or a joke) or an original physical object (such as an invention, a literary work or a painting).

Creativity is something you produce which in turn creates value. Do you create more when you're incentivized? What are those incentives? What motivates you to create something? A pay check? The impact it might have on the world? 

Do you use your right brain, creative more conceptual side of your mind to solve problems or do you find yourself stuck in left brain mode, doing things out of habit?

For fun, google "creativity" images. Look at all of the colorful images that pop up. Does that spark something for you? If not, what sparks your creativity? What gets those juices flowing?

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to lose 37 years of bad habits

I love cycling: the beauty of a exploring the world by your own two legs, feeling the wind in your face, sprinting against good competition, the friends I've made and the community I've built fills me up. What's not to love?

One thing: wearing skin tight spandex. I don't mind exposing my arms and legs, but when it comes to wrestling my big-boned frame into a super tight skin suit, I get bashful.  I've always had a tummy - like wearing an inner tube around my middle - and I've always been self-conscious of it.

Let's be honest - I've struggled with weight all my life. As it turns out, I really like food. But what I didn't learn when I was younger, were the right types of food to eat.

Over the years I'll get to a breaking point and want to shed some pounds, only to try cutting myself off from all sweets, processed foods, and interior-grocery store aisles binges cold turkey. It'll last for a short time and then BAM! I'm right back to where I started, discouraged by not making in progress and succumb to eating more junk food.

I can make cookies at home and resist them, right? WRONG! At least it makes me feel better temporarily, right?

What I've discovered, as well as hundreds of thousands of other people trying to lose weight, is how difficult it is to change old habits. It doesn't have to be about eating. It can be about smoking, drinking, compulsions - whatever. If you've programmed your body and mind into doing one thing over and over, well, it can be hard, if not impossible to alter that behavior.

Needless to say, I knew I needed help. I knew that in order to really lose some weight, I was going to need to change things up. I will say it's not like I have a ton of weight to lose. My body fat is around 22%, which is slightly below average. But I'm not happy with where it is right now.

My boss has a saying: "What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

I'm an action taker. Once I'm ready to do something, I will dive into whatever it is. But this time, I want lasting results. I want long term change. I didn't want to find myself two months later in the middle of the grocery store binging on chocolate bars and ice cream.

So I signed up for a year long nutrition program: Precision Nutrition. Jennie Reed turned me onto the program years ago. And several years ago I bought a couple of their cook books, which jump started some weight loss. But I also started bonking a lot on rides and the next thing I knew, was back to my old habits.

But this time is different.

This time I have a support network of coaches, mentors and community backing my progress. And I am committed (and coughed up $1500!) and am held accountable, everyday with daily checkins and weekly measuring assessments.

I work on one lesson at a time, one workout at a time and one new habit at a time.

We started slow - with just taking a five minute action a day that had nothing to do with food. They were priming me for real change: to get ready to form new habits.

Then we moved onto eating slowly and mindfully and to only 80% full. I started noticing results immediately. And now we've moved onto eating more lean proteins and vegetables.

I've lost 4 kilos in two months and it feels amazing. My clothes fit well, I'm not ashamed to ride in tight fitting spandex and I'm making lasting lifestyle habits. And so far - I've avoided the middle aisles at the grocery store.

I know I'm human and know I'll slip occasionally. But I also know I can fall right back into my new habits and be okay. It's empowering and the simple act of change is starting to trickle into other areas of my life... like writing, creative thinking, starting new habits, etc.

As I continue on this year long journey, I'll continue to update you on my progress. I figure checking in here is also a part of my accountability.

What are you trying to change? And if you have changed something, what advice would you give to others who struggle with change?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm sorry, but sorry doesn't cut it.

Seeing someone respond to a death of a loved one with "I'm sorry" doesn't cut it.

I'm sorry.

What does that mean?

Why does our culture roll over grief and death with an, "I'm sorry" response?

The definition of saying I'm sorry according to Google: Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity, or regret.

Urban Dictionary's definition: A phrase carelessly thrown about by people who want to lessen their guilt. Does not actually show that they care about the person they hurt.

A friend recently posted about the sudden death of their climbing partner and nearly every response said, I'm sorry.

Let's change this rhetoric. If someone you know loses someone, express yourself in a more thoughtful, caring way. It will go a lot further than a careless, "I'm sorry."

Monday, August 03, 2015

Digging Into the Pain Cave

Last week, Alison and I attended the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit held at Colorado University in Boulder. The Summit brought together over 150 coaches, physiologists, psychologists, business and thought leaders based in the field of endurance sports. During the break out sessions, attendees could choose between different lectures, depending on their interest. While there, I attended Carrie Cheadle's The Psychology of Suffering lecture. Carrie is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and is passionate about educating others on sports psychology. The following are my observations from her talk, broken into three parts. (Part 1 is below.)

Pain is complex because it's a subjective experience. Your pain differs from your teammate, from your spouse, from your kids, from the person sitting next to you. Everyone experiences their own unique reaction when it comes to pain.

So what is pain? Pain is a signal from your brain that you're suffering (either a real physical danger or that you're pushing close to that edge) and our brains try to shut down the source of pain. It's a warning signal our brains excrete that as athletes can prevent us from preforming to our potential. But there's a difference between pain and suffering.

If you examine pain in the form of fatigue, it's experienced as a limiter, which affects your brain to make decisions.

When we have expectations of pain, it can change our behavior. How hard or how easy something is will affect what we experience. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think it's going to be hard, then guess what? It's hard. 

When we're afraid and have fear it's often that we're weary of burning all of our matches. And therefore we always hold something back, which can mean not racing to our full potential. 

Think of your pain threshold as a combination of body and mind experience. Your body sends a message to your brain and your brain sends a message back to your body. How you deal with pain is up to you. Some athletes can push their pain thresholds to the extreme, while others struggle with it. And if you struggle with it, you're not alone. 

Ready for the good news? You can increase your pain threshold using mental skills training. 

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for the additional five tools you can use to grow your pain threshold. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Getting down to the why...

Do you know why you do what you do? Do you know why you like to ride your bike, do intervals, work where you work, and live where you live? 

Can you really get to the root of why? What if you could get in touch with the why's? If you could work from the inside out of what and how you do what you do and align yourself with the why? 

I'm assuming most of you are reading this post because you have some connection to cycling - you race, you're thinking about racing, or maybe you just like to pedal your bike. We like to ride our bikes. But why?

I love the wind in my face.

And why do you like the wind in your face? 

Because it symbolizes freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

And why is freedom and the pursuit of happiness important?

Because we have one shot at this life and I want to live it to the fullest.

And why is living life to the fullest important?

So I wake up each day and end each day knowing I am happy, content and inspired.

And why is being happy, content and inspired important? 

Because that's how I choose to live my life. 

Suddenly riding a bike isn't just about riding a bike. It's a way of life, a lifestyle, a choice. When we get in touch with the why's of what we do, we strike a chord into what motivates us, what gets us out of the bed each morning, what keeps us doing what we want to do. It's empowering. And now those intervals have more purpose. I am more in touch with my values of why I do what I do and it inspires me to do more.

So I challenge you - figure out your why's. Whether that be with cycling, racing, life, a job, friendships, relationships, etc - ask the why's. Then ask the why of that, and the why of that, and the why of that, and finally, the why of that. 

Because when we get in touch with the why's, it makes the how's and what's easier. 

Interested in learning more? Watch this TED talk that inspired me to get the the why of why.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Crow Feet Wrinkles and No Regrets

It hit me in waves. A sense of undeniable grief I haven't felt in awhile. I had to lay down. Moonli wagged his tail to console me. After sobbing and feeling the hole in my heart open, I pulled myself up and reached over to dust off the memory book with Ryan's face on its cover. He's been on my mind a lot lately.

I started leafing through its pages, photographs from years gone by. Memories unlocked with the glance of a smile, the curling of lips, the beginnings of my crow feet wrinkles I wouldn't trade for anything. All of those trips, all of those experiences we shared - I don't regret a single one. I don't wonder what if we had done something different. No way. We lived life exactly how we wanted to, rich beyond our wildest dreams.

Ben came to check on me. I had shut my door, something I never do. I just wanted to sit, to be sad, to live, to breath. His hug a welcome oasis in a storm of tears.

The next morning, the storm cleared. I got up, I pinned on a race number. Puffy eyed and a little numb. I had no expectations for the day. Nothing to lose. When I took a corner hot, had a gap from the group my mind eased. I wanted to feel empty. I wanted to put everything out there. I road without emotion, without connection to what my mind was telling my body. I stopped looking at my power meter. I just concentrated on the road and the terrain 10 feet in front of me.

And my gap grew. Miles flew by. I was off the front for 3.5 of 4 laps. I didn't care where I placed. This ride was for me. To feel alive. To feel human. When the group caught me, I was empty. And I loved every minute of it.

Later that night I found out Dean Potter died. I wonder if there's a connection between the two - missing Ryan and feeling the deep sense of loss I haven't felt in a while. We have this one life - and I'm living it to the fullest.

And then the next morning I learned Susie Dillar from work passed away this weekend. When it rains, it pours.