Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Leaning In: Growing a Family and a Career

As someone who believes strongly in women’s rights, I’m embarrassingly late to the Lean In party.

But finally, and thankfully, I finished Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg’s sometimes polarizing personal perspective on women in the workplace.  It outlines what she sees as ways women are held back (oftentimes by ourselves), a personal call to change the conversation around equality, to stay in the workforce, and to “lean in” when we are tempted most to “lean back.”

I was struck by how connected I felt to Sandberg, sometimes laughing aloud at the similarities. Like her, I’ve been called Bossy.  Still today, my family’s nickname for me is Little Miss Bossy.

I love my career and the personal and professional satisfaction it brings me. I have a loving and supportive partner who encourages me in all ways possible. It was almost too coincidental that, like her, my favorite childhood book was Are You My Mother?

Of course, we have plenty of differences, too.  I’m not a high-level executive at Facebook or Google, after all.  But I am a working woman – one with a Career (with a capital C, as Laura Vanderkam described in 168 Hours). More importantly, I’m a mom.

For anyone who knows me, it’s probably not surprising to know that I take being a mom really seriously. I mean, let’s face it, I take everything really seriously. Anything I take on, I do fully. So when it comes to what I see as the most important thing I’ll ever do – being someone’s mother – don’t get in my way.

Perhaps that’s why, despite my pro-women, statement-making pink-hat tendencies, even I have internal debate on whether to lean in or lean back.

Thankfully, I’ve had a few people in my corner to give me the nudge I needed, just when I needed it most.

Two days after returning to work from my first maternity leave in 2015, I received an email from a senior vice president in our group. It was picking up on a conversation we had 12 weeks earlier, when he floated the idea of me joining his team – in a way that only a man would suggest a job change to a woman just days away from giving birth to her first child.  

I was interested, for sure, but in no way was ready to even think about a new job. I knew my whole life would be changing. And I didn’t want another thing to think about while I tried to navigate the challenging and exhausting days of new motherhood.  I answered with the non-committal, “I’d be interested in learning more.”

Honestly, I barely thought about that conversation in the 12 whirlwind weeks that was maternity leave. As I re-entered the working world – thankful to be using my brain for things other than baby feeding schedules – I was ready to dive back into my routine.

But he didn’t forget about following up. Yes, he wanted to touch base at the end of my first week to continue the conversation. The meeting invite popped up on my calendar for three days after my return, as he described, again in only a way a man would, “to give me time to settle back” into work. That comment still makes me laugh, since three years into working motherhood, I’m still not sure I’m “settled back in” … or ever will be.

Despite every fiber of my being telling me to lean back – why would I add another new and challenging thing to my already challenging life?? – I moved forward and accepted the new role, one that didn’t come with a set of instructions or a clearly outlined path to success.

But that’s what I loved about it. It was a blank slate. Something I could create and shape and grow.  And I grew along with it.

It took time. A lot of time. And so, so much mind-space. It took so much leaning in. At times, I wondered if it would have been better to have settled back into my old role, which was becoming increasingly comfortable and routine with time.  But I jumped in with both feet, not surprisingly both at work and at home. I worked hard to become the best mom I could be, and worked hard to bring value to my new role.

Less than two years later, a similar scene played out. I was just a few weeks from Baby #2’s birth, when a role on the team was opening, one that would mean expanded responsibility, managing a team and some regional travel.

Of course I was interested, but like last time my instinct was to lean back. I knew from experience how hard taking on something new at work would be while adding something (or someone!) new at home. And, this time I’d have two kids under two. I was downright scared about how I’d balance and manage (and maybe survive) it all.

Yet I forged ahead, leaning in and accepting the new challenge, working to fill three vacancies on my new team before the little one’s arrival. (Baby reminded me not to be lulled into believing I’m in control and can plan life out, making her surprise appearance five weeks early – leaving me scrambling to tie up loose ends at work  and relinquishing control of the hiring process from my hospital bed while my teeny baby was being cared for in the adjacent NICU.)

Once again, I returned to work. Once again, in a bit of a daze, facing new challenges, unchartered territory, and a road ahead that I knew would require a lot of thought and effort to navigate and pave effectively. (Effectively = the way I wanted it.)

I dug in. No, I leaned in – before I even knew what it meant to lean in. And again, I embraced and loved the challenge.

Last year, I joked with my manager that I wanted 2017 to be a Year of Nothing – no big life changes, no big work changes. I kind of meant it. In the past four years, I’ve gotten married, moved to a new state, bought a house, had two children. I am on my third role in five years at the firm, increasing responsibility and visibility (and, thankfully, job satisfaction and Engagement with a Capital E) with each step. 

As quickly as I joked with my manager about the Year of Nothing, I followed up with assurances that I’m open to new things and to doing whatever the team needs to move forward successfully. It probably didn’t need to be said, but I said it anyway. Lean in, explicitly, friends.

Six months ago, despite my best effort toward a Year of Nothing, responsibilities shifted yet again – and again I faced new responsibilities and new work challenges. At times it can seem overwhelming, and at times my mind wonders if it’s time to lean back.  Am I trying to do too much? Can I build a career and build a family at the same time? Should I?

But, I find myself continually energized by new and interesting work. I'm want to see and move toward the possibilities ahead - and to show my daughters what strong, independent women look like (even if it's not always pretty!). I know that I was right to lean in. Again and again.

Without mentors and my champions encouraging me, knowingly or not, to lean in – when all I wanted to do is lean back – I never would taken on these challenges, to push myself and to learn so much about myself. And I would have missed out on some of my best professional experiences … so far... 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Different Path

If there’s one thing that motherhood has shown me – especially working motherhood –  it is to protect and cherish time. Sure, I mean cherish the moments, like when Lily is making Sadie laugh like only she can. Or the quiet snuggles and hugs.

But mostly I mean, don’t waste a single minute. I’ve become fiercely protective (like, really stingy) with my time since the girls were born. I seriously weigh and analyze every invitation, meeting, get-together, and those rare (very rare!) moments of free time.

I recently found myself with a whole day of free time, on Martin Luther King Day, when Jeff’s office and the girls’ daycare were open but I had a work holiday. I weighed my options. Should I keep the girls home for quality time? Should I send them off to daycare and tackle some of the house projects that can only be done sans kids?  Should I treat myself to a massage or pedicure? Call a long-lost friend to meet for lunch?

How would I have used a day off in my pre-kids life? I meant that, what would I have done? Sadly and surprisingly, in just three short years I’ve completely forgotten what I would have done – although I’m confident it would have included a lot more leisurely time-wasting than my current life.
I thought hard about what is important to me – which was easy, since I mapped out the things most important to me at the beginning of the year as a way to keep me focused on the bigger “me” picture – and asked myself what I wished I could do more of in life.
Get outside.
There’s something about being outside that I love. Fresh air, quiet (or at least a different kind of noise), the beauty of nature.
I decided I would tackle a winter solo hike. It was both a combination of things I love (being outside, hiking) and things that scare me (hiking alone, winter hiking, going somewhere new solo).
Thanks to the suggestions of friends, I decided I would hike Wachusett Mountain, which is about an hour away. I didn’t know anything about the hike, other than the photos my friends had posted online from their hikes and that catchy jingle for the ski-side of the mountain.
I was excited about my adventure. And then I was scared. How prepared would I need to be? Flashlight? Poles? Crampons? The temperatures for forecasted for single-digits, and I’m definitely prone to a worst-case, what-if mindset.  Plus, I’d be alone.
Do things that scare you, I tried to convince myself. This is a safe hike, I told myself. I’ve never heard of anyone needing to be rescued from Wachusett Mountain. Had I?
Despite the back-and-forth in my head, I suited up in wicking layers and my hiking boots that frigid Monday morning and made my way to the mountain. I chose what looked like a moderate path to the summit, long enough to make it worth the trip, but short enough to give the trail enough steepness to challenge me. I consulted the trail map again and stepped into the trees.
It was icy and cold. Really icy and really, really cold. Just a few hundred yards in, the trail pitched and headed directly to the summit. A thick layer of frosty white ice coated the trail. There’s no way I’ll make this up without crampons or poles, I thought. I had neither. I debated turning around, disappointed that my solo adventure may be coming to a very quick end.
I checked the trail map on my phone, and saw a perpendicular path that would connect with a longer, less-steep way to the summit. I decided to give it a try.
Navigating patches of ice, I made my way to the upward trail and climbed up, stepping cautiously on ascending rocks and keeping a close eye on trail markers on the trees.  It was quiet. (And so, so cold. I’ve mentioned that, right?)
It took me a little less than an hour to get to the summit. It wasn’t a summit like the 4,000-footers Jeff and I had climbed in the New Hampshire White Mountains, where the payoff is big in terms of the view of the surrounding mountains and a silence only found atop those peaks.
Near the summit of Wachusett, hikers literally cross an auto-road (closed to traffic in the winter) and walk across a parking lot. The view is nice, not spectacular, looking down on the towns below. The whir of the nearby chairlift can be heard from the ski-side of the mountain.  I would have liked to plop down on a rock at the edge and spend a few quiet-ish moments at the top, but the wind whipped at my face and the single-digit temps cut the visit short.
The descent was quick, except for a short pause as I navigated a tricky and particularly ice-covered rocky section that was clearly harder on the way down than the way up.

A helicopter circled above. I looked up, trying to see if it was a recreational helicopter or one from law enforcement or a news station. Was someone actually being rescued from Wachusett? Or, were they looking for a deranged killer who was hiding in the woods? (Told you I have worst-case, what-if tendencies.)
I laughed my own wandering mind and refocused on the trail ahead of me. I made it back to the trail I originally planned to take to the top – the one caked in thick ice that had me contemplating scraping my winter hike adventure.
I’m sure glad I’d pushed on. It was great to get outside, to have some solo time and to be reminded of some of life's important lessons.
Sometimes there is a different way to the same destination. Sometimes it’s best to adjust your plans. And sometimes – most times – it’s good to do things that scare you a bit.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018: The Whole Me

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Here I am, in January, setting my intentions and goals for the year  – a full three years since I last posted on my long-neglected blog. It’s funny to me that just two posts ago I was reflecting on all the big changes of 2013:

“I’ve never been happier – and had probably the biggest year of my life (so far). I became a wife, an auntie, debt-free, an American citizen and moved to a new state.”

When I added “(so far)” three years ago, I must have had an inkling, or hope, that the big and happy things would continue to fill my life.  

My life of three years ago is barely recognizable. I’ve been challenged to try new and exciting things in my corporate job, and have grown professionally in ways that I never expected. I’ve almost (almost!) fully adapted to living the corporate work-life. My marriage and partnership with Jeff is so perfectly perfect that it feels as if it’s always been part of who I am.  We bought a house in a great community north of Boston, and somehow we’ve transformed into poster-children for the suburban professional family. 

Together, we’re the parents two of the greatest little girls who keep us laughing (and, yes, sometimes crying) nearly every minute of our jam-packed lives.

I love being a mom in ways I never thought possible. It is both the most natural and the most difficult thing I have ever done.

Just a few weeks after I wrote the January 2014 post, we found out we were expecting our first baby. We were happy. We were scared. We had no idea how this would change our lives. 

Gone are the leisurely day-long bike rides, exploring the New Hampshire countryside, and the impromptu Vacations With No Destination adventures in the convertible. But they’ve been replaced by heart-bursting family dance parties, endless cups of pretend coffee, trips to the farm to look at animals, story-times, picking up toys, playgrounds, and the most genuine hugs you’ve ever gotten.

What hasn’t changed is my love of looking at January as a new beginning, a blank slate.  (I’m noticing a pattern in my January posts from years past.) What do I want my year to look like? What great, big, happy things do I want to be reflecting on next January? 

My goals used to revolve around mileage and pace, running and riding. As my life has expanded, so have my goals. I look at my life more wholeistically. I look at me more wholeistically. 

With that, here’s what I’m setting out to do in 2018:

  • Run a Half Marathon
  • Log 500 running miles this year
  • A not-to-be-revealed-online “weight goal” that lines up with my birthday in July

  • Read/listen to 30 books
  • Disconnect from social media for at least two full weeks 
  • Write 25 blog posts

  • 10 date-nights
  • Complete family photo books

That’s my checklist for the year – in addition to the less-checkable things like prioritizing hugs, family dinners, meditating, journaling, working hard, and being mindful of how I spend my time. Most importantly, just BEING PRESENT.

For what it’s worth, I totally missed the mark on my 2014 goals.

Nope, not even close to logging 2,000 running and cycling miles. Not a chance that I hit a sub-25 5K. No race-a-month-plan.  I did really, really hit one of them out of the park, though: One “big” adventure. 

At the time, I pondered that it might an overnight hike in the mountains or a multi-day cycling ride. I had no idea that life had a much, much bigger adventure in store for me that year. And, I’m forever thankful that it did.

Looking forward to connecting and sharing again, my friends. (At least 25 times this year, right?) Here’s to more big adventures (but no more kids!) in 2018…

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013 Dailymile Summary

I love the day that the year-end dailymile summary lands in my inbox. Usually just a few days after the new year, it's almost like Christmas all over again. 

It gives a nice snapshot of my running and riding year - from miles to "streaks" to pounds burned. No surprise, I like looking back on the year and picking apart the numbers. And comparing it to the previous year. And now, with a few years on the site under my belt, the year before that.

Usually, there are fewer surprises than there are confirmations of what I already know. There's something comforting in that.

So, here we go. My thoughts on the 2013 summary. And, for reference, here's the 2012 summary and the 2011 summary.

  • I logged a total of 1,543 miles in 2013, up a bit (222 miles or 17 percent) from the previous year. I'm definitely happy with the upward trend, after having a complete free-fall (1,200+ fewer miles!) from 2011 to 2012.  But I'm still about 500 miles short of where I need to be to feel really accomplished... whatever that means. Since my goal is to log 2,000 run/ride miles this year, I'm aiming for that "accomplished" benchmark. That means adding more than 450 miles - almost 30 percent more miles! - during the next 12 months. An extra 37.5 miles per month. Or, if I'm on two wheels, an extra long(ish) ride per week. Seems do-able.

  • I logged 10 fewer workouts in 2013 compared to 2012, but increased my per-week miles by four to 29 miles per week. So, fewer workouts, more miles. I credit more bike miles.

  • Speaking of that, 2013 was the first year that cycling overtook running as my "most popular" activity. I spent only 43 percent of my workouts running. It's also the year that I finally decided to change my profile description to read "athlete" instead of "runner." Is is possible I'm just moving away from running?

  • My month-by-month graph is a little more consistent this year, with six months with 100+ miles (including two with 200+), and several in the 60-80 range. What's most noticeable is the glaring blank in September, reminding me that I let "life" get the better of me. Granted, I was putting the finishing touches on my October wedding and finding a new place to live, but I rarely let life push running and riding that much to the side. Plus, my 40-miles in October are a single ride on a tandem bike during my honeymoon. Essentially, that's two whole months (!?) off from running and riding.

  • Like the past three years, I seemed to fade a bit during the last few months of the year. I can't promise that won't happen again this year, but I'll give it a good shot to stay consistent throughout the entire year.

As always, big kudos to dailymile for compiling this report and feeding the insatiable need for stats, trends, facts and figures that us runner-types need. I'm already looking forward to seeing 2014's report.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Four Things for 2014

Normally, I have my goals for the year set in stone, more or less, by the time the calendar flips. This year, despite the fact that I've given them a lot of thought, they've seemed a bit murky until now. 

Perhaps it's because I've done a rather poor job of sticking to my goals - or rather, keeping them in the forefront for the entire year. 

So, what happened? It's probably a combination of things. Big life changes, shifting focus (and sometimes complete lack of focus), declining obsession about miles, tracking and recording less and less. 

Oh, I actually just run and ride less. A lot less.

Despite the fact that I rounded out 2013 with more than 1,500 miles and topped 8,000 miles since I joined dailymile in January 2010, I still only went a fraction of the miles of what I did in years leading up to 2012. I kinda fell apart - mileage-wise - that year and haven't quite gotten back on track. 

In many ways, this year and last, running and riding just became something I casually did, when I found time or when the feeling hit. It wasn't something that the daily routine. It wasn't a given. Gone are weekly long runs with friends, bunches of races on the calendar and cycling adventures, big and small, to fill our weekends.

That said, I've still never been happier - and had probably the biggest year of my life (so far). I became a wife, an auntie, debt-free, an American citizen and moved to a new state. That's a lot for one year, miles or no miles.

But when it comes to running and riding, it seems like 2013 just wasn't enough. It wasn't satisfying for me.

I've been thinking a lot about my goals (still avoiding that r-word) for the upcoming year. My problem, I think, it that I want to do too many things.

So, I've spent the last few days whittling down the list to something tangible, do-able and something I can really focus on for the long-term. Most importantly, I need to keep the list short. Sometimes I just want to do too much. So I'm limiting myself to four things. 

My Four Things for 2014
  • Log 2,000 run/ride miles. That will put me at 10,000 miles since joining daily mile in January 2010, and since that's my main way of tracking, it seems like a wonderfully perfect round number to shoot for. Oh, how I love round numbers. I think, though, I'll probably also go back to good old-fashioned pen-and-paper tracking, too. I did best, I think, when my log/calendar was posted on the fridge, reminding me when I started to slack or had too many "rest" days.

  • Do a race/event each month. I only did two - TWO!? - races in 2013, one on New Year's (a mile!) and the other on Thanksgiving. Somehow I'd become that person who only does holiday races. The Thanksgiving race, the Feaster Five, gave me a bit of the racing bug again --- the vibe, the crowds, everything. I miss it and need more of it. So my plan is to do one organized event -- running or riding, any distance, any format -- each month of the year. It will be fun to plan out a calendar and explore all of the new race options in my new home state. 

  • Run a sub-25 5K. This one might scare me the most and is the biggest question mark on the list. For most of my running "career" (I use that very, very loosely), I've focused only on distance. I've tackled and completed two marathons and countless half marathons, so I know I can log long, slow miles. I think it's time for a change - and a challenge. Shaving this much time off my 5K time (based on my New Year's race time, I have about 4 minutes to go!) will certainly be a stretch. I've signed up for a coaching/track program through the local running club that I hope will get me well on my way. The good thing is that there are so many 5Ks, I can just keep trying. And trying. And trying.

  • One "big" adventure! I'm not sure yet what this will be, but I want to do something big, fun and adventuresome. Something that scares me just a bit. It might be an overnight hike in the mountains or a multi-day cycling adventure or something like Reach The Beach. I'm still looking and planning and weighing the options. Suggestions welcome.

So there you have it. Short and sweet. That doesn't mean I might not still come up with mini "30-day goals" - things like, no sugar, all a.m. workouts, something like that.  And, of course, I'll still have my own personal goals for health, finances, career and life. Lucky for me, I seem to have those under control.

Stay tuned, friends. Here's to 2014!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Riding A Tandem Taught Me About Life

I'm married. Yep, officially a Mrs. 

Ten days also, I held the hand of that trusty fellow who first won my heart by leaving me a scribbled good luck note and CD at my work the day before the Hampton Half Marathon in 2009, and said, "I do."

Yes, that trusty fellow who's followed me around on his bike while I plodded my way through marathon training, who acted as Head Sherpa for long runs, who never failed to be on the sidelines or the finish line with a smile, hug and a cowbell. 

That same trusty fellow who's challenged me to get onto two wheels, to tackle the climbs I don't think I can do, to take far-fetched bicycle adventures through new parts of the country and to think it's totally normal to walk into a restaurant clad head-to-toe in spandex.

I've never been happier and more at peace with my life. Things are just so right.

Four days into our new marriage, while on our honeymoon, we decided to put things to the ultimate test by renting a tandem bike. Yep, that thing known as a "marriage wrecker" in some circles.

But it just seemed so perfect, so metaphorical - joining together, literally, after joining together, figuratively (and legally).  Yes, yes, the bicycle-built-for-two challenge would be a fitting way to celebrate our union, our partnership and test our ability to work as a team.

We both feel confident on our individual bikes, pedaling thousands and thousands of miles over the years. Riding has become second-nature, no longer having to think about balancing or pedaling or steering or any of the mechanics that consume you when you first start riding. I suppose that's why we were only mildly worried about the tandem bike.

We probably should have been more worried.

After a quick intro to the tandem road bike by the bike shop guys and, of course, signing the liability waiver, we were off. Or at least we tried.

We walked the tandem to the side of main street in Calistoga, the northern part of Napa Valley, and jumped on - totally ready to roll. Jeff rode in front with the brakes, shifting and steering. I was in back, facing my fear of not being in control in a very real, very scary way.

We pushed off, like we normally would when starting a ride, and lasted about, oh, 2 seconds before harshly slamming our feet back on the ground and tipping the bike, pretty much uncontrollably, to the side. Hmmm, this would be harder than we thought.

Almost immediately, and probably not surprisingly, we started coming up with systems and processes. Count to three when "launching" or stopping, communicating when Jeff planned a shift in gears. Everything required a plan. Everything required us to be in sync. Everything, everything required communication.

I won't lie. That first 10 minutes was killer. I felt like we would topple at any moment. The bike seemed absurdly heavy and hard to handle. I was tense. I was afraid of falling. I thought we'd never make it all the way to Yountville, about 20 miles away.

We continued to tweak our riding methods and, bit by bit, improved. Sure, we only rode in a straight line for the first 20 miles - yes, we walked our bike across the street to avoid turning -  and sure, we took breaks every five miles or so give our brains a break from concentrating so much. But slowly, very slowly, we got the hang of it. 

As we rode, and as I relaxed enough to think about anything other than the fact that we might completely wipe out on this thing, I started to think about all of the things that riding a tandem bike can teach you about life. And marriage.

COMMUNICATE. Every little thing had to be communicated. Everything. We first found this out the hard way when Jeff, up front, decided to stop pedaling momentarily. I, in the back, continued to pedal at my regular cadence - or tried to. You know that feeling when your chain jams and you're suddenly met with extreme resistance when you try to push forward. Yeah, like that. As we rode, we got into a rhythm, communicating the most comfortable pace, when to stop and start, how to lean into turns. When we communicated everything, it was smooth sailing.

IT'S OK TO RELINQUISH CONTROL. Okay, this is a hard one for me. Really, really hard. As the backseat passenger, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be steering, shifting or braking. I had to completely trust someone else, trust that they would take care of me, do the right thing and get us where we needed to go. 

YOU DON'T HAVE TO SEE WHERE YOU'RE GOING. I love a plan. I like to know what's in front of us, what's around the corner. With everything - work, life, training - I like to know and see where I'm going. I spent the first few miles trying to peek around Jeff's shoulders, to alert him of road hazards up ahead (like he couldn't see them) and to see where we were going. It was an exercise in futility, and if anything, just continued to throw us off balance as I bobbed side to side around his shoulders. Once I realized I didn't need to see where I was going, I could relax and enjoy the moment, to enjoy the blue Napa sky, the rows of grape vines and the peaks of mountains in the distance. 

TAKE BREAKS. The tandem was way, way harder than any regular bike ride - especially mentally. We took far more breaks than we normally would on any ride to give our brains a rest from concentrating so intently. It also gave us a chance to stretch a bit and recap what we'd learned along the way.

KEEP GOING. Yes, keep going even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard. A few miles in, both Jeff and I were ready to head back to the bike shop - not ready to commit to the full-day rental we signed up for. Solo bikes would have been a lot easier, a lot more relaxing and, perhaps overall, more fun. But conquering a new challenge, especially doing it with someone, is particularly satisfying and well worth it in the end.

DO THINGS THAT SCARE YOU. Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt was right. Do one thing every day that scares you. Riding this tandem qualified for a week's worth of scary things. It pushed us way outside our comfort zones and made us question our ability. Sometimes we need that.

EVERYTHING'S EASIER WITH WINE. It might just be coincidence, but we got notably better after our lunch break in Yountville that included a glass of wine. (Hey, we were in Wine Country!) 

We wrapped up the ride with a lot more smiles - and confidence - than we started, gliding to a stop in front of the bike shop and congratulating each other with hugs and high-fives. Heck, we finished the ride with 40 miles under our belts. Tandem riding, I think, has some dog-year conversion chart, so surely that was the equivalent riding a century or so.

We'd done it. We'd taken on a new challenge together and figured it out ourselves. We'd worked together and we didn't give up, even when we both wanted to.

I think we'll do just fine together. Forever.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Case Of The "Too's"

Yep, I started 2013 with a bang. All the good personal and career stuff aside, I was really hitting my stride - and my mileage goals - when it came to running and riding.

Each month, I pushed myself a little harder. Each month, I worried about whether I'd be able to hit the marks. Each month, I did.

Until now.

I guess, five months into the year, one month of not hitting the goal isn't the end of the world.  As someone told me, if you hit your goals every month, they're not really challenging you. Point taken.

I know the month isn't over yet. But it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out I won't hit the May Monthly Challenge to log 300 miles, 250 of them bike miles and 50 run miles. I'd have to somehow pull out, uh, 150 or so miles. Um, not happening.

That's not to say I'm not having a decent month. My miles are still climbing, overall, as the year progresses. And longer daylight hours and warmer (sometimes!) weather means more time on my bike.

So what happened to May?

Simply put, I'm suffered a case of the "too's."

You know, too tired. Too busy. Too hot. Too rainy. Too cold. Too early. Too late. Too dark. You get the idea.

I've said this a million times: There's always a reason not to run or ride. This month, I seemed to find a lot of excuses.

I mean two times this month, I came home from work, changed into my running clothes  - then totally lost my motivation, changed back into regular clothes and went out to eat. Twice. 

And now, just too many miles left to go to hit the mark.

I spent today's run trying to convince myself not to give up entirely on the goal, even if it's a re-adjusted one. There's still several days left in the month, so I've decided to push myself a bit. Some quick math shows me that I'll have to log more than 100 miles by Friday to hit it. 

That's going to be a stretch. But I'll give it my best shot.

And, I'll come out swinging for June's goal. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Starting 2013 With A Bang

Just before 2012 came to a close, I predicted that 2013 would be a "mighty fine" year. A quarter into the year, I can confidently say it totally is.

And then some.

Although I've been working hard on being more focused on my running and riding goals (more on that later), it's really my "real life" that's come out of the gate with some gusto.

Most notably, the focus of the year took a turn on Jan. 13 when, at the summit of my first winter 4,000-footer, I turned around to see Jeff, smiling, holding a tiny box. Inside, was the most beautiful, unique engagement ring. 

In case there was any doubt, I said yes. (Actually, I'm pretty sure I said, "Of course.")  

The details of the hike and the day are a post for another time, a post I've had on my mental to-do list for a while. It's sufficient to say that that moment changed the focus for the year.

Suddenly, in an instant, I turned into a girl. Like, an honest-to-goodness girly-girl - the kind that joined Pinterest and planned out wedding colors and invitation designs and hair-styles. 

If wedding planning didn't solidify my girly-ness, two weeks ago I became an auntie for the first time. My brother and sister-in-law welcomed the most precious, sweet girl into their lives (and ours) - and I'm completely hooked on her. So tiny and peaceful and unbelievably cute.  I just can't get enough.

Yes, there's been so much "life" going on this year, that it seems like it can't possibly only be three months in to 2013. On the other hand, I can hardly believe that it's already time for my "quarterly" check-in on my goals (per my New Year's post). 

But here it goes...

HEALTH AND FITNESS. The turn of the calendar to the new year also lit a fire under me to get my butt back in gear. I've been meeting weekly with a personal trainer, whose helped me focus on strength training and kept me accountable. The training sessions, combined with laser-focus on meeting my monthly mileage goals, is paying off. I've dropped about 7 pounds and am noticing my pants are fitting a little looser. Yes, a far cry from checking the box on my 26.2 challenge, but with much-improved endurance and strength, I'm chalking this up in the positive column. And I'm not done yet. Each month brings higher and higher mileage. And, to my delight, I've found the desire to do more - to keep pushing, to keep reaching. I'm not quite ready to declare that I'm back to my "old self," but I'm getting there. For the second quarter goal, I'll continue to lay out concrete monthly mileage goals, clearly broken down into running and riding miles, and tracked along the way. I'm thinking 200 miles for April, 300 for May and, yikes, 400 for June? Get ready, bike.

BE IN THE MOMENT. Oh, I really liked this goal. And I really needed this goal. I did pretty well ... for a while. I left the cell phone at home during dinner-dates. I chose between watching television and surfing the web. On conference calls, I actually just listened and participated in the call. But then I fell back into my multi-tasking habits. (Case in point, I'm typing this on the couch while half-watching The Voice in the background.) For the second quarter, I'm leaving this one on the list. Clearly I need some work here.

DOLLARS AND CENTS. I'm *thisclose* to being debt-free. In fact, I thought I might get there before the end of first quarter of the year. By the end of the second quarter, I'll be totally debt-free. Just in time to plan - and pay for - a wedding. 

LOVE LIFE. If there's one thing that this first quarter of the year has taught me, it's to just embrace all of the good things - no, great things - that life has to offer. It's okay to be a girly-girl and spend pointless time browsing ideas for the wedding. It's okay to just totally love my little niece sleeping on my chest. It's time well-spent to just hang at my parents house watching The Biggest Loser. For the second quarter, I will do whole lot more of those "life" things. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

26.2 Update: Using The Buddy System

Not an accurate reflection of my personal training experience.

I pride myself of being pretty independent, not afraid to do thing by myself. The downside of that is that asking for help is sometimes really hard. And scary.

At the end of last year, I shared my latest goal to shed some of the pounds I've built up over the past year or so - 26.2 of them, to be exact. I likened the challenge to training for a marathon, knowing it was going to take time and effort and focus. Within the first week or so, I dropped about five pounds, mostly by watching my portion sizes and passing on a drink with dinner.

Then I got a bit stuck. Facing my virtual "marathon," I'd only gotten to a  point of being able to run five miles. 

That certainly wasn't going to cut it.

So I enlisted some help. I sought out a personal training program we have through my employer. Over the years, I'd toyed with the idea of hiring a personal trainer to help keep me on track and push me outside my comfort zone. But the cheapskate in me wouldn't pull the trigger to write the check. 

Realizing having an ally for the weight loss journey could be advantageous, I started asking about the personal training program. I'm still a bit of a penny-pincher so the money part still irked me. When a deal came up at the end of the year to get three free sessions with the purchase of 10, I seized the opportunity. 

I wasn't sure what to expect - something like the photo above or Jillian Michaels, in my face yelling? Definitely not what I got.

My trainer and I met to talk about my goals and fitness level, and take the dreaded measurements and weight. I did a food journal for a week, logging every thing I ate and drank, and what time I did so.  

I must admit a really dislike the food log exercise. I've avoided it for years now, despite knowing that the people who have the most success with weight loss and maintenance track what they eat. When I went in for my consultation about my food log, I dreaded the conversation. I mean, I eat relatively healthy (no soda, no fast food, minimal processed food), but I do like to eat out and I do like my glass(es!) of wine with dinner.

I didn't want to be told to change. But, I told myself, that's what this process is all about. If I stay the same, I will, well, stay the same.

Interestingly, the two people I met with about my food log didn't chastise me or tell me to cut this or that. Instead, they praised me for having a really good base. The problem, they said, is that I wasn't fueling my body enough. I had to eat more - more often, to be more precise.

My homework was to eat every two to three hours, which sounds like an easy task. I really struggled with it. I was shocked at how quickly a couple of hours went by, especially on busy work days filled with meetings and running around. I was also told to incorporate a bit of protein with each meal/snack. I've made some good progress with this, working in Greek yogurt, homemade hummus and other protein-rich foods.

I know this because I've kept up with the food log - and even suggested that I send a copy to the trainer each week. Just to keep me focused and on track. (I cannot believe I offered - and asked - to keep a food log and email it to someone.)

Over the weeks, it's been about four now, my trainer has asked the right questions to figure out what motivates me, and now that he understands more about what makes me tick. I think we've come up with a winning strategy.

I'm motivated by numbers, tracking and accountability. I like to see the progress. I like charts and graphs. I like to analyze what works and what doesn't. (It doesn't take a genius to figure this out - just look at my last post, cutting my stats this way and that.)

In addition to the weekly training sessions, monthly weigh-ins and measurements, we've agreed to have other numbers-based challenges. For the next two months, I'll log 100 miles of biking or running each month. Of that, 50 miles will be running. (There was a time when those numbers were the norm or even easy for me, but this will be a stretch given my recent history.) Two months from now, we'll come up with the next challenge. 

It would kill me to turn in a monthly report that didn't hit these numbers, and I've already found myself in the gym more. As much as I hated the exercise, I also  suggested that I submit a weekly food log - partly to just keep me honest and accountable, but also to keep nutrition in the forefront.

My trainer, while he whole-heartedly supports my goal and loves the personal nature of it, isn't as concerned about the pounds as I am. He's looking more at the other measurements, like body fat percentage and inches. He's looking to see how I improve my stamina and strength. 

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous at my first appointment. I didn't quite know what to expect. The trainer works me hard, focusing one session on upper body, then lower body the next. Each session involves some core work and, often, plyometrics (think lots of jumping and sweating). 

Having someone next to you, pushing you farther than you think you can do, definitely helps. When I think I can't do one more rep, he asks for two more. Sometimes three. Being a good student, I oblige. 

I also joined a Biggest Loser-style challenge at work. Participants are divided into teams (we don't know who else is participating) and given weekly challenges. This week's challenge was to ride 20 miles, cumulatively, during the week on the stationary bike, attend two spin classes, or ride 10 miles and attend one spin class.

For someone who's relatively active, it's not a far-reaching challenge. But it's still a good way to focus on getting the workouts in and stay motivated. That's probably why I found myself squeezing in my last five miles on the bike between meetings on Thursday before the snow.

I've often said that running is easier with a buddy. Seems like this 26.2 weight loss challenge will be easier - and more successful - with buddies, too.

Will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Diving Into The 2012 Numbers

Ah, it's that time of year again. No, not the time to face and lay out New Year's resolutions. It's time to dive into my dailymile summary.

I admit I anxiously await this report at the start of each year, with its bright colors, fun graphics and all sorts of analysis of my running and riding life (at least as recorded on dailymile) way beyond what I keep track of during the year.

This year, however, I had an itty-bitty bit of dread as I awaited the report. I knew it was going to show me what I already knew. This past year hasn't measured up to the past two, when it comes to running and riding.

I looked back at my thoughts on my 2011 report. Then I turned my thoughts to how 2012 compared. Wow.

  • I logged 1,321 miles in 2012, compared to 2,529 in 2011. That's 1,208 fewer miles this year. 1,208! 1,208? 1,208!? That's 100 miles a month fewer miles than last year. It almost seems impossible to me. But I know it's right. I knew I dropped back in miles. I guess I just  didn't realize how much my mileage dropped off this year. Certainly my Boston Marathon training miles gave a huge boost to the start of 2011 that I didn't have this year. But, more than that, the fact that my bike spent much more time in my front hallway than on the road contributes to the paltry number of miles I logged this year. 

  • Surprisingly, I logged 10 more workouts (192) than I did last year (182). Obviously, these were much shorter workouts.

  • The average number of miles I logged each week took a deep dive, from 48 miles per week in 2011 to 25 miles per week in 2012.

  • Also taking a nose-dive was the stat showing the number of pounds I burned through logged activities, from 41 pounds burned in 2011 to 26 pounds burned in 2012. That means, all other things being equal, I gained 15 pounds this year. Yup, sounds about right. (Ugh.) What's most interesting about this is that, as I take on this 26.2-pound weight loss journey, I'm struggling with changing my eating habits - or, I should say, struggling with wanting to change. Certainly there's enough there for a whole other post, so I'll jump into more of that at another time. 

  • I had six months of the year in which I logged more than 100 miles (running and riding combined). But 100+ miles a month when you're using two wheels, rather than just two feet, isn't that hard. Even still, it wasn't long ago that I set the standard to run 100 miles a month. What happened? In 2011, I had only three sub-100 months. Interestingly, they were the last three months of the year - which I could credibly argue were just the lead-up to 2012.

  • When I reviewed my 2011 report at this time last year, I noted it was a year of the highest-highs and lowest-lows - with one month topping 700+ miles and one barely reaching 20 miles. This year, I seemed to be more consistent (but consistently low?) and avoided the extreme peaks and valleys. I was surprised to see that my lowest mileage month, December at 31 miles, was higher than 2011's lowest month, also December. 

  • Speaking of consistency, this is what might stand out to me the most on this year's report (aside from 1,208 fewer miles this year?! I mentioned that, right?). Last year, one of the things I wanted to work on was balance. I wasn't talking about balance in running and riding; I wanted to work on the balance between work and life, between running and riding and life. Just general life balance. I think I did that. What's interesting, however, is that it resulted in a huge imbalance in my running and riding. I went from a 56/44  run/bike split last year to a 67/37 run/bike breakdown this year. 

  • When it comes to "Karma"- how much I interacted with my dailymile community - the imbalance is even more stark. In 2011, the split was nearly even. This year, I sent 332 comments, compared to the 1,672 I received. It may be hard to realize why this is important, but the motivation that the dailymile community has given me in previous years is notable - and perhaps a reason that my mileage slacked? I don't know for sure. But I do know that I started to use the site this year more as a place just to log workouts, rather than a place to connect, learn and be inspired.

I give a lot of credit (and thanks) to dailymile for pulling together this report. I've been struggling a lot to figure out the motivation behind these numbers, but being able to see these stats and compare to previous years is a step in the right direction to figure out what happened. But more importantly, to figure out what I want to happen in 2013.