You Can’t Read Them All

For a while I was going through a bit of a block and struggling with both writing and keeping up with reading blogs.  I could not figure out what the problem was- it wasn’t that I was uninterested and it definitely wasn’t a lack of material…but I just couldn’t find the motivation to complete a post.  Or to keep up with my reader.

And then it hit me. 

I was reading WAY too many blogs.  And because of that, my own writing was suffering.  As I began to look at the blogs I was reading I found they fell into four different categories.

Blogs with connections- In the almost two years that I have been writing this blog, I have made some amazing connections with people from all over the world.  It has brought so much to my life and I am thankful for these friendships in the same way I am the ones in my “real” life.  I love reading your posts, I get excited when something great happens for you and sad when you have a disappointment.  I look forward to your comments and appreciate your responses to mine.  I think about you when you are going through a rough time, channel your energies when I am racing and lean on you for support.  I am grateful for this group of wonderful bloggers.

Informational Blogs- These blogs are written mostly for informational purposes.  I read them to gather information and to be a continuous learner.  I don’t typically leave comments on these blogs, although when I do they are almost always returned.  I don’t expect or anticipate forming relationships with the writers behind these blogs but genuinely enjoy their posts.

The “Popular” Blogs- The epiphany that started this whole post happened actually while I was reading a blog I don’t actually visit much but happened to be reading.  The post had a lot to do with how many followers the writer had, how many visits their blog gets and was basically a self-love fest.  I found myself extremely annoyed by the post but then remembered that the reason I hardly ever read this specific blog is for that exact reason.  But then why was it still on my reader?  Why was I still reading a blog that clearly irritated me?  I hate to admit it but part of the reason was because I wanted to be acknowledged.  So even though my questions went unanswered and they never bothered to visit my blog, I kept going back.  Less and less over time but nonetheless, I was still going back.  And it wasn’t just this blog either- my reader was clogged with blogs that I spent time reading/commenting with nothing in return.  It was like high school all over again- you know, like when you try to be part of some group and they just won’t let you in no matter how hard  you try.  (I won’t mention the blog [so don’t ask] but every person who reads blogs knows the kind of blog I am talking about.  There are many of them out there.)

Blogs I’m not very interested in- In just the same way that some people aren’t interested in my blog, there are ones that do not interest me.  I make a valiant effort to visit every blogger that comments and check out their blogs.  Usually, I will put them on my reader and then over a matter of weeks determine if it is a blog I want to keep with or not.  Just like in “real life” either a connection gets made, or it doesn’t.  For quite a few months though, I was keeping all of the blogs on my reader even though I genuinely wasn’t interested in them all.

Only days after I came to these conclusions, Rick passed away.  Rick truly was one of my favorite bloggers.  He was sincere, kind, supportive and responsive to all commentors.  He valued his readers and genuinely cared about their well-being.  I miss Rick and I miss his blog.  But his passing has already taught me about being a better blogger.  I took a look back at some of our email exchanges (wherein we talked about some of these issues) and decided to make some changes. 

What it all boils down to is this- I don’t care if I have 12 or 200 followers.  But I want them all to be genuine.  I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to read my blog.  I don’t just want 300 followers just to have them.  Likewise, I don’t have to follow every blog.  And I shouldn’t feel bad about it.  So I went ahead and took my blogroll off my blog.  And I cleared out all the blogs on my reader that gave me anxiety, irritated me or did not personally interest me.  It was like cleaning out a closet of clothes I never wear or don’t like…it took some time to get it done but now that I did, I feel so much better!

I feel like now I can be the blogger I really want to be- the one that devotes time to the blogs that genuinely interest her with the writers with whom I have formed connections or feel like I will connect with down the line.  And along the way if I find new, inspiring and amazing blogs then that is a great thing.  And if at some point a blog I currently read finds its way into one of the last two categories above, than I will remember that it is okay to stop reading.  At the end of the day, you can’t read them all!   

A Message For All

 

I know I just said yesterday that this was not a political blog.  And it isn’t.  This isn’t about politics.  It is about human life.  Regardless of which side of politics you are on or your personal beliefs system- a human is a human.  This past week a student at Rutgers, the University I attend, killed himself after a tape of him in a sexual act was streamlined by his roomate on the internet.  Here is one of many articles.  It has drawn worldwide attention- but he isn’t the first kid to be bullied to the point of suicide and sadly, he won’t be the last. 

As Americans, as humans…we MUST strive to do better.  

Too Far Left And Too Far Right

(After writing my title, I realize it sounds very political.  It is not.  I prefer to keep politics out of my blog.)

Sunday morning I woke up ready to run.  I was excited; the weather was perfect, I had a new route picked out and my legs were feeling good!  The route was around my new neighborhood, out onto the main road for an out and back and then back around my neighborhood.  The out and back was on a fairly busy road but there is a clearly marked, decent sized shoulder to run.  The out part of my run was uneventful but the back part was a bit much more dangerous…

Just as I began to head back, a car coming towards me (I was running against traffic, as it should be) veered all the way into the opposite lane.  I can only suppose this exaggerated veering was to make a point that this driver did not like runners on the road.  I running as far over to the left of the shoulder as I could and he had plenty of room to keep driving without veering at all.  Instead, he got into the other lane where he almost hit the driver on the other side head-on.  Since he had begun his veering before he even got to me, he was actually back in his own lane by the time he went by– and he gave me the finger.  REALLY?  I was stunned- but it wasn’t long before another driver was coming at me and this one was driving seriously close to the shoulder.  And as I moved over all the way left, he got over too…his tire was actually crossing the shoulder line.  I jumped into the grass as he went by and noticed him and his buddy were cracking up. 

This lead me to the conclusion that PEOPLE ARE FUCKING CRAZY!

Obviously both of these situations were dangerous.  But what bothered me even more is how deliberate both of them were.  These easily could have caused major accidents because they wanted to make a point or be funny.  And what would have been the result?  Likely, dead bodies.  Luckily, I stay constantly aware of my surroundings…and if I am running alone, in the dark or on busy roads, I never take my IPOD.  It can be difficult enough to avoid unintentional problems on the road while running, but runners also have to worry about people who are in a rush, out to make a point or being just plain stupid while driving.

In the time since Sunday’s run, I have been thinking a lot about run saftety.  We hear a lot about staying safe from crime while running; running in groups, running while it is light out and not using an IPOD if alone or when it is dark.  But what about staying safe in general?  Wearing refelctive gear, running against traffic and staying out of traffic all goes without saying…but what else can we do as runner to keep ourselves safe on the road?

What measures do you take when running to make you safer?  I am looking to compile a list for a future post, so any and all information/advice is helpful. 

Triathlon Etiquette- Some Advice For a Happier Race!

(Originally, I was going to title this post “Boys Are Mean” because in my experience, boys do not like women on “their” race course and many of the behaviors I listed below, I witness by males.  However, I can admit women are bitches too I have a decent male readership and did not want my virtual face ripped off.) 

Throughout this summer while racing, I have been observing some behaviors that I feel are both unnecessary and at times down right rude.  Triathlon is supposed to be fun (and it is- I swear!) but some people take their racing WAY too seriously and often at the expense of one or more other racers.  Let’s face it…every race is not Kona.  And no race is life or death.  

Here are a few things I have come up with while compiling my list this summer of ways in which you can make a race happy for yourself and for all!   

  • Know the course.  Be informed and if possible, attend the pre-race meetings.  In most cases this will answer any questions you may have and get you even more ready for race day.
  • Plan to arrive early.  And if you don’t want to arrive early, don’t bitch about rack spots or worse expect people to move all around so you can rack.  Your failure to prepare is not the concern of any other racer. 
  • Don’t touch other bikes.  Rack spots are FIRST come FIRST serve.  This does not mean that you can just move some bikes down for the coveted end spot.  You take what you get or you arrive before everyone else!
  • Respect other transition spots.  Your transition area should not take up to much space.  Know what you need and bring it.  Every accessory you own is not necessary on race day.  And please don’t be the jerk who brings their trainer and rides it while others are setting up in transition.
  • Respect other transition spots. Part Two.  When you return to T1 and T2, re-rack your bike where it belongs.  There is nothing worse than coming back to your spot to find someone else’s bike there, leaving you to find another place to rack (which will be someone else’s spot and so on and so on with the domino effect).  Take the extra 20 seconds to be respectful.  And if you accidentally knock over a bike while re-racking, pick.it.up! 
  • Be fair at the bathrooms.  When there are long lines just before start time, it is simply courteous manners to allow those starting before you to go ahead in line.  There is no reason while someone in waves 1,2 or 3 should be stressing out behind those in waves 9, 10 and 11.  And spectators…seriously, hold it until the racers have begun and then you can have the potties all to yourselves! 
  • Know how to swim.  I covered this here.
  • Stay to the right if you are slower on the bike.  As a slow biker myself, I know the importance of not getting in another cyclists way while riding.  Too often slower bikers (or those unaware of how slow they really are) are in the middle of the bike lanes.  This leaves the faster bikers coming behind you having to weave around you on both sides to pass.  This is extremely dangerous to both you and them.
  • Say “on your left” as you pass.  Look, I get passed all the time.  I know for some people they would be saying “on your left” for the entire ride if they did it everytime they passed someone.  And I imagine how old that would get after a while.  Still, saying “on your left” is the right thing to do.  And I don’t expect one to say it for every single person they pass, but in a crowded situation or on a narrow path, letting someone know you are coming helps keep them out of your way.  I am pretty sure it doesn’t take any time off your split to extend a little kindness on the road.
  • Don’t walk in the middle of the run course.  I have been known to take walk breaks.  I do not feel that makes me any less of a competitor.  But it does mean I need to be respectful of those who will be passing me.  If you need to stop or walk, get over to the side of the course to avoid any collisions. 
  • Pick one friend.  If you want to walk or run with a friend, great.  But just pick one.  Nothing is more annoying than having to dodge around friends 3-5 people wide on the race course.  You can talk to them in the food tent, I promise.
  • Don’t stop for water.  Being that I walk through almost every water stop, I have seen some crazy stuff happen!  Water stops are congested as it is and they are the worst place to stop.  Oh, and it is plain rude.  Don’t just grab your water and completely stop and drink in front of the area.  Get out-of-the-way!  Jog through the actual water area, move over the side away from the stop and stop/walk/drink from there. 
  • Name calling is unnecessary.  If you successfully graduated the pre-school program you should know better.  Unfortunately, some people are shitheads and some shitheads like to race triathlon.  If this does happen, rise above.  And then write about it in your blog. 🙂
  • Try not to litter.  I get it-  sometimes despite your best efforts, the wrappers just hit the ground.  But if you can avoid it, don’t trash the race course.  Nothing burns me up more than going through a water stop, watching someone take a GU and then as they pass the designated trash can they throw the packet to the ground.  Unless you invited your mom to come clean up after you, do your best to throw the trash where it belongs. 
  • Be nice to volunteers.  Here are a few words racers tend to forget while racing: please and thank you.  Volunteers do not have to be there- they do not have to hand you water, fight the cold/heat/rain etc or pick up after you.  They do not have to cheer you on, make sure you are okay or care if your bike gets stolen.  But they do.  Volunteers make or break a race.  Giving them a hardtime is a surefire way to make sure they never help again.  As someone who both races and volunteers, I can tell you how nice it is to hear a simple thank you on the course. 
  • Have patience.  Patience is a virtue.  If you go into a race understanding that things happen, you will be much better off in the long run.  Knowing that you may have the above things happen to you will help you deal with them if they do occur.  It is more than likely that you will at one time or another be held up whether by a zig-zagging swimmer, a walker in transition, on a narrow road and etc.  Expect the unexpected and train yourself to deal properly.

And one for the spectators:  If you are going to bring your double stroller, four kids and three dogs to the race…you better have a plan to keep them in control.  This is a race, not the playground.  All too often I see kids running into the middle of bike/run courses or worse…families who expect the race to stop so they can cross the path.  Look, I love spectators and appreciate their presence at my race, but not at the expense of someone (especially myself) getting injured.  Pay attention to your kids or call a babysitter.

What do you think?  Fair list?  Have anything to add?

Full Disclosure

Having written this blog now for just about a year and a half, I feel like I have gotten to know some of my readers pretty well.  And in turn, you have all gotten to know me.  But the thing about blogging is this- you only get from someone what they are willing to put out to you.  I feel like this blog is an honest reflection of who I am and that I write both freely and truthfully.  What you see is what you get; I am as honest with all of you as I am with the people in my day-to-day “real” life. 

But there is one thing I have held back on because it is something I have struggled with for a long time.  Before this week, I haven’t really felt the need to write about it…but it has now affected my life in a way that is interceding with my sport.  And if I want to keep this blog honest, then now is the time to write about it.

I suffer from anxiety and depression.

That is the first time I have ever written those words out.  And as I look at them staring me back in the face, I already feel better about putting it out there.  Before I hit publish, roughly 10 people knew about this (family, boss and a few close friends) and now I have potentially put it out to the entire world.  (Ok, so the entire world doesn’t read my blog.)  Everyday I take a small pill that I have learned is pretty important to my well-being.  When I was younger, I would take the medication until I felt better…I would feel better…and I would stop.  (ps- that doesn’t work!) In my adult years I have learned that taking a pill doesn’t make me a different person, but rather a better version of myself.  But there is, no matter what anyone says, a stigma attached to those who have to take medication.  But I do.  And it doesn’t make everything okay; I still go through ups and downs and I still have anxiety.  However, the medication does regulate the intensity of both. 

So why post this now?  Well, you may remember this post from when I had to make the tough decision to drop from the Full Marathon at Philly to the Half-Marathon.  At that time, I just knew I was not going to be able to fit the proper training in; between work and school and family things that were going on, something had to budge.  I wanted it, the timing was just off.  Dropping left me feeling disappointed in myself but I was okay with it because I still knew the decision was the right one to make.  And by the time the half rolled around, I had accepted the fact that variables occurred that were out of my control.  I accepted the fact that sometimes, doing what is right, still sucks.  And in the end, I was happy with my decision to have only run thirteen.

So again, why this post now?  Well, as you all know, I was signed up to race in the NJ State Olympic Tri this weekend.  My first Olympic.  A big friggen deal.  A first should be fun and exciting.  And me…I was freaking out.  With more than a week before the race to still go, I was already not sleeping and having stomach issues.  My anxiety levels were so high, no amount of medication would have helped.  I talked this race up- this was MY race this summer.  The big one for me.  Just an Olympic to some, but THE Olympic to me.  What my training was all about and what I had been talking about for over a year.  And suddenly, I wanted out.  Bad.  The anxiety was leaving me feeling like a failure, depressed and I was fighting with myself over wanting to drop down to the sprint or drop out of the race altogether.  I would consider the drop but then I would feel so bad about myself for even feeling that way that I would tell myself I wasn’t dropping but then feel all anxious again.  The thought of actually admitting I might not be ready…of telling my friends, teammates…my readers. 

I couldn’t stand the thought of going through with the race and I couldn’t stand the thought of not doing the race.  That’s the thing about anxiety- it begins with one thought and then just continues into a million thoughts.  It’s back and forth, yes and no and I don’t know; its cyclical.

For days, I was crying at the drop of a hat…stupid things getting to me because of the bigger issue at hand.  If anyone has experience with anxiety, you know and understand that you simply cannot stop the thoughts.  And you absoultely cannot be rational during an attack.  And they were coming on so frequently that I was having a hard time keeping it together.  I kept thinking about how under trained I was, my fears of the bike, how I haven’t run more than 5 miles at a time since February (almost six months!) but then I would think of this blog and how many people tell me I inspire them.  Just the other day I was writing about the need to live fearlessly.  But I am fearful.  I think about the title of this blog and how I  preach to everyone that Finishing is Winning.  But that I didn’t even want to start.  I was feeling like if I dropped, I would be letting everyone down.  Like it would give people a reason to say I am not a “real” triathlete.  I would give people a reason to say I am weak.  Totally irrational…and I know that, but when the anxiety comes on there is no way to tell yourself how irrational those feelings are or how okay it is to feel like that. 

All the while I was freaking out inside, I pretty much shared it with no one outside of my mom.  And even then, I casually just mentioned my anxiety was high leading up to this race.  I never mentioned dropping out although I did mention trying to put a relay together instead after my ankle incident last weekend.  My thoughts were swirling…drop out completely?  Do the Sprint instead?  Do the Oly, but with a relay?  The internal conversation was endless and without reprieve.  I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I couldn’t keep up with my own spinning thoughts.  I could no longer separate my thoughts.  But still, I made no decisions…I just let the fear fester. And fester. And fester.  You get the point, right?

Yeah, so why this post now, right??  Right. 

Well, Tuesday was the first time I set up to go on a bike ride with my team.  First time ever.  I have been with Team Triumph since May 2008, yet this was the first time I even had the guts to show up for a group ride.  And as if showing up wasn’t already hard enough, I decided since I was early to drive the course we would be riding.  And that is all it took to send my anxiety from bad to worse.  All those thoughts that had been going on in my head for days were in full force.  All I could see was narrow streets, dead animals (seriously, there was a chicken in the road…oh, the jokes we could tell) and live deer, lots of traffic and no bike lanes.  I drove back to the lot where some other members had already arrived and proceeded to lose it.  I was trying to calm down and text my friend but I was too far gone at that point.  Totally lost it.  Full on shaking and crying anxiety attack.  Luckily I had hidden myself behind my friend’s car, so even though people knew something was up, I wasn’t all out in the open with the craziness.  I went back and forth about riding…everytime I thought about it I would get worked up again.  I did not want to re-rack my bike and drive away in front of all my teammates.  I did not want to give up.  But the fear had taken over.  How would I keep up?  What if I got hit?  Or fell?  Or fell and then got hit?  What if, what if, what if????

(For the record, I once jumped out of an airplane.  I trusted my life to a parachute 13,000 feet in the air.  Minimal anxiety that day.  Minimal.  Just saying.)

In the end, I rode.  My friend Kurt offered to ride with me and he stayed by my side the entire ride.  We were gone from the rest of the group…keeping a pace of 14-18mph, but Kurt never made me feel stupid for my fears and every time I would get nervous he simply talked me through it.  We chatted as we rode and ended up clocking almost 14 miles.  My first open road bike ride outside of the town I live in and closed race courses.  Yes, it is true…all my riding has in fact been closed courses, loops around my town, spin classes and on the stationary bike.  Until last night.  Last night, I fought my fear.

But what about NJ State?

After a really good chat with a few of my teammates (ones I know will be honest with me and not patronize my fears) I decided I am just not ready for that distance yet.  I have dealt with injuries this year that are still holding me back, my training has suffered and some of my friends warned me gently that the course for NJState is tricky and at times bumpy.  I appreciate that my friend Michelle told me straight up that she thought it might be better if I did the sprint.  Not because she thought I couldn’t do it, but because she thought I shouldn’t do it.

So instead of the Olympic on Sunday, I will be racing the Sprint on Saturday.  As it turns out…going through all of that Tuesday on the bike ride, is what finally gave me clairity about the race.  Fighting my fear is what gave me the strength to figure out what to do. 

How do I feel?  Amazing! I’ve slept through the night, my stomach feels fine and I am cool as a cucumber.  I feel much more balanced.  My mom (of course!!) totally supports any decision I make and I know she is proud of me.  My friend Brian whose opinion I regard highly, admitted to me yesterday when I told him, that he too thought I might be pushing it by doing the Oly.  Of course there are those who think I am weak- and they have made their opinions known and that’s okay…cause I can truly and honestly say that I do not care what they say.  I am not cop’ing out…I am not making excuses…I AM NOT WEAK. 

I have made the exact right decision for myself.

Here’s the thing: I could have raced the Olympic on Sunday.  And I would have finished.  There would have been anxiety and tears and more tears and etc, but I would have finished no doubt.  I know that I can complete those distances.  But at what cost to my mental state would it have been at, let alone my physical state?  What if pushing myself through it re-injured me?  What if it upset me so much I never did another tri?  It never would have been worth it.  I would have finished but probably not in a good way. 

Races should be fun.  The sprint is going to be fun.  I know I am going to do great.  I am excited and looking forward to racing.  I like sprints.  It is hard not to get caught up in the hype of doing a more challenging distance.  The thing is, for me, a sprint still is a challenge.  How about I get a few more under my belt and then perhaps I will feel more confident (and hopefully be fully recovered) for next year.  Cause next year…oh NJ STATE, I will be back to claim the Oly race!

Does changing my race magically make me better?  Well, yes and no.  I will always have anxiety and I will always be faced with the depression that comes from feeling anxious.  But I have learned how to control my life in a way where neither of them often come into play.  Sometimes they still will no matter how hard I try to block them out- mostly when it is triggered by something as intense as what I went through over the last few days.  It happens.  I do what I can.  I am human.  And I am learning to forgive myself, give myself and break and move on.  I feel better because I made the right decision.  I feel better because I chose to do what is right for me. 

I am learning that this blog  holds me accountable to myself.  And only myself.  I love my readers dearly and without you this blog would not be everything that it is, but at the end of the day, I am accountable only to myself.  I am not a failure for dropping to a shorter distance; I am a success for knowing it was the right decision to make and doing it even if I had to swallow my pride in the process.

Come Saturday, watch out.  I’m going to kick ass and take names 🙂

And by the way, if you made it through this post and you are still reading…now you really know me. ♥ 

What A Fraud!

(UGHHHHH!!! I just wrote a long, detailed post, and (how, I don’t even know..) it deleted.  It is gone!  Poof. UGH!!!   There is no way I could recreate my post, nor do I even want to at this point.  So what you are getting is a much more condensed version (perhaps that is a good thing) of what I origionally set out to write.)

I watched The Biggest Loser for many seasons; I understand the inspiration part…I really do, and I like seeing the transformation.  And I think it is great that people change their lives through hard work.   However, I also think it gives the public a disturbed view of weight loss.  Much of what they do is unhealthy and unrealistic.  And it is pretty much one big commercial for their endorsement deals.  And don’t even get me started on the marathon bs they pull (if you want to read about that, go here for a good post). 

But this is not about the Biggest Loser.  It is about their trainer, Jillian Michaels.  Jillian constantly preaches about “there not being a magic pill” but low and behold….whatta ya know…Jillian Michaels has a line of calorie control, fat burner and weight loss pills. 

 

I am confused.   I thought Jillian promoted 100% natural way to weight loss.  I thought Jillian believed in doing it 100% on your own.  I guess when you are making bank on endorsements, you change your song and dance.  Sounds like a sell-out to me…

(I found a high volume of articles that advise against taking any of her pills and also found a bunch of articles in reference to law suits being filed on her by people who have had problems with the pills, but I didnt want to clog up my post with links.  If you are interested, simply google Jillian Michaels pills.)

What are your thoughts on a certified trainer (especially one that people look up to nationally) promoting diet pills?  What are your thoughts on BL, Jillian Michaels and diet pills in general?

Not A Fan Of This Kind Of Rice…

I have made serious efforts not to become political on my blog.  And I hardly, if ever, talk about work.  Today both of those things are going to change (but don’t worry, only for this post) because yesterday…

…I got my RICE letter.

RICE letter:  A letter informing employees that their names and positions within the school will be discussed for demotion or termination.

As of February 2007, the statute requires that the public be notified in advance of and be allowed the right to attend meetings of public bodies, and that all discussions and official actions, unless specifically exempted, take place in public.  The intent of the Legislature, in enacting this law, was to eliminate secrecy in public affairs which would undermine the faith of the public in government. The statute allows the public to witness the deliberation, policy formation, and decision-making of public bodies.

So basically, all I know right now is that my name is in the hat.  Along with many others at my work (eleven in my building) who are teachers.  We have already cut five employees (which is low in comparison to many schools) and now we have to cut more.  The BOE meeting is next Thursday but they don’t have to give us answers until May 15th.  Normally our administration is really good about not making us sweat things out, so hopefully we will know by next Friday or the following Monday at the latest. 

And get this…in my district, we presented a zero tax increase.  ZERO!!!  And the voters still said no.  And you know why they said no???  Because Chris Christie told people that if their districts weren’t taking a pay freeze, do not pass the budget.  And without bothering to educate themselves or even READ the notice that went home talking about their zero tax increase they came and voted no.  Because they are convinced that by voting no, they are helping Chris Christie stick it to the man.  What they do not realize, is that the wrong people are being punished.  Bigger class sizes, lack of individual attention, no after school activities or sports and music & arts all taken away.  You know who gets punished?  The kids.

This is happening all over NJ.  In every school.

I would like to send a big F.U. to Chris Christie!

I really do not want this to be an open forum for any political battles.  I respect both sides of the political spectrum when parties are informed and educated (this does not mean regurgitating FoxsNews) but this is not the place for those arguments. 

 

  

All I ask is that you keep your fingers crossed for me, my co-workers and the hundreds of others who are up against this same wall.

Oh, and if you can read this…thank a teacher.