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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lessons from Ski School

I had my first ski lesson when I was four years old. It was a disaster. I remember that one ski boot kept unbuckling from my ski every time that I tried to move. I cried lots and lots of tears. After about a hour or so, my instructor lifted me up, hoisted me over his shoulder and skied down to the bottom of the bunny hill and returned me to my parents. Despite that first experience, I agreed to try again and ended up falling in love with skiing. 

My brother, sister and I grew up skiing in the mountains of Vermont and then Lake Tahoe. After we each had kids, we started talking about when we could get our kids up on skis. We questioned other parents and ski instructors. How early was too early? 18 months? 2 years? 4 years old? 

I have been so excited to share this sport with my sons and desperately want them to love it as much as I do. Since my husband doesn't downhill ski, I needed the boys on my side. Otherwise, how could I convince three non-skiers to head up to the mountains so that Mommy could ski while they hung out and waited for me in the lodge? At the same time, I was scared that my kids would have a first experience similar to my own and walk away hating the sport and never getting to experience the thrill of skiing down a mountain.

In particular, I was worried about my five year old son J. He has always been a cautious child, more comfortable sitting on the sidelines watching as his friends would dive head first into any new situation that presented itself. It takes him a while to warm up to new people and situations; he doesn't like to try things that he's not familiar with or good at. (No, it's not lost on me that he will not know if he is good at something until he actually tries it. I try this argument all the time. It doesn't work.) I signed him up for a tumbling class at 18 months and for 45 minutes for the first 4-5 weeks of class, he screamed and cried through the entire class while I held him and tried to pretend that crawling up and over different obstacles was SO MUCH FUN! 

Once we planned this trip to Lake Tahoe, I would occasionally mention the idea of skiing to which his response would be, "Never. I don't want to ski." When I brought up the topic again, I received the same response. I didn't have high hopes that he would try skiing on this trip but I resolved to let him make his own decision. I didn't want to push him to try it and then get upset with him when he would ultimately choose not to ski or worse, refuse to participate after I shelled out a $100+ for a lesson. Truthfully, I didn't want this to ruin our trip or my week of skiing.

Well, funny things happened on the way to Lake Tahoe. First, I injured myself which meant no skiing for me. Second, J decided that he wanted to try skiing. I tried really hard to play it cool and not to jump up and down with excitement when he delivered his decision. We agreed that he would try once. If he didn't like it, he didn't have to try again. I worried that while he agreed to these terms, he would balk when he saw the equipment and had to put on the big heavy ski boots. But he didn't. He went along with his cousins and ski instructor Marcel and learned to ski. 

As parents, it's often hard to disentangle our children's experience from our own expectations. We want so many things for our kids. But, do we end up pushing our kids to play certain sports because it makes us happy or offers a chance to live vicariously through them rather than because it's something that they truly enjoy? 

I asked J a couple times if he was having fun. He nodded yes. He had a blank look on his face so I wasn't sure if he was being completely honest with me. But then he turned around and told me how Marcel told him he "ripped." The biggest smile spread across his face. He then told me that it wasn't so hard - all he had to do was make french fries with his skis and then gently make a pizza, and then french fries and then gently make a pizza. He wanted to keep skiing after his lesson ended as well as that afternoon. Then I knew, he really did like it. 

At the end of his two-hour lesson, Marcel took J on the chair lift. Watching J ski down the beginner trail, all by himself made my heart swell. It was one of the proudest moments I've experienced as a parent. It made up for the fact that I couldn't ski. Almost. Of course, my two-year old son wasn't one to be left out of all the action. He got his own pair of skis and raced down some gentle slopes. We couldn't get him off the mountain at the end of the day.

I learned a couple of things over the last two days. 
  • It's a fine balance between encouraging children to try new things and allowing them to make their own decision. As they get older, it's important that it is their own decision.
  • Introduce the new activity and let it be that - an introduction. They don't have to love it right away or commit to joining a team. If they enjoy it, great. If they don't, you can try again another time. Maybe the circumstances weren't right this time around.
  • Different kids take to different activities and sports at different ages. Like I said, J is more reserved. There is no way I would have tried to get him on skis at 2.5 years like his younger brother.
  • As hard as it is, don't push. We all know that kids have a sixth sense when it comes to things that Mom or Dad really want them to do. They will do the complete opposite.
I'm going to try my hardest to remember these lessons when I try to convince J to give surfing a go.

{This post is linked up to Pour Your Heart Out at Things I Can't Say and Wordful Wednesday}

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Scenes From My Weekend - Lake Tahoe

Four of the five rascals

After spending the week in San Francisco, we headed up to Lake Tahoe on Saturday with my Sister and her daughter, my Brother and his family and my Mom. When we planned this trip months ago, we wanted the cousins - 5 of them between the ages of 1.5 years to 5 years old - to have some quality time together and to learn to ski! Typically, in February, there's a solid base of snow on the mountain and the ski conditions are great. However, there hasn't been as much snow in Tahoe this winter. I think that this is the first time that I remember seeing bare patches of dirt while riding up the gondola. Yet, the poor conditions didn't stop the kids from running around, ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, bouncing on the giant trampoline-bungee-jump-contraption, and learning to ski. More on that later.

I really love being in Tahoe. I used to come up here a couple times a year to ski with family and friends or to celebrate 4th of July or to go hiking. There really isn't anything like being in the mountains and I've been looking forward to sharing it with my kids. I'm excited that they are now getting to an age where they can remember and appreciate these experiences. We had so much fun on the mountain yesterday. The day was filled with giggles and belly laughs and silly faces and triumphs (and tears and tantrums too).

Here are some pictures from the weekend. What did you all do this weekend?

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Friday, February 24, 2012

My Leg Makeover with FITNESS Magazine

Back in December, I saw a tweet from an Editorial Assistant at FITNESS Magazine saying that they were still looking for women in the NYC area who wanted to participate in a leg makeover project with the magazine. I sent a reply figuring, why not? I went home, had my husband take some pictures of me in workout clothes and sent my information in to the magazine. A few days letter, I found out that I was selected as one of the leg makeover participants! It's the second installment of FITNESS Magazine's Body Lab project where they take a deeper look at a different "trouble zone" each month - the anatomy behind the muscles, influences muscle shape and how we can work to reshape those areas. 

So why do this? I will admit that having access and the services of a personal trainer for free was a factor. But the truth is that I have never loved my legs. I consider my legs to be "thick" and athletic. My sister and I would always joke about how hard it was to find a good pair of boots that would comfortably zip up over our calves or how our ski boots would pinch our legs. Over the years, despite running and swimming and cycling and lifting weights, my legs wouldn't show much increase in definition. I've worked with personal trainers in the past and haven't seen the results I was looking for. I could focus on my upper body for a week and see a definite change but my legs are a different story. They are stubborn but, then again, I also don't like working my legs all that much. After all, aren't women predisposed to storing fat in their thighs and hips?

When I walked into my first session at an unassuming New York Sports Club in Times Square, I was expecting a hard workout. Probably plyometrics, maybe some high intensity intervals, maybe medicine balls or kettle bells. I walked downstairs and met my trainer Monica along with the other women who would be participating in the project. As we got to know each other, Monica showed us the exercises that we would be doing over the next four weeks. 9 exercises. One set of 12 reps. 20 minutes. We would meet with Monica twice a week and then complete the exercises on our own once a week. That's it?!? Are you kidding me? How would completing one set of 9 exercises, three times a week over four weeks "transform" my legs? Many of the exercises were ones that I was already doing like walking lunges, split squats, squats. I was skeptical. Clearly there would be airbrushing involved. 

However, after the second session, I was sore. As we progressed, we added more reps (topping out at 20 reps per leg) and added weights to increase the impact of the exercises. It was a lot of fun working with the other women and Monica kept us honest - correcting our form to make sure that we were getting the greatest impact from each exercise. While I didn't necessarily diet during the four weeks, I did pay closer attention to what I was eating and incorporated more lean protein into my diet. There was an after photo shoot to think about after all!

It's easy to start accumulating fat in our legs without knowing it which in turn causes our legs to look bulky - not by strength training the lower body like I know many women fear. Changing the strength and endurance of our legs, like we had been doing over the past month, can change how your legs look. After completing the program, I definitely feel like my legs are firmer/tighter and stronger. I lost half an inch in the circumference of my left thigh and three-quarters of an inch in my right thigh. I am also starting to see a bit more definition on my legs and calves. I also feel more confident about my legs.

Before and After shots - Kind of a nerve-wracking experience. I admit, I'm a little self-conscious about the fact that they chose an ass shot for me. By the way, those numbers at the bottom aren't the circumference of my calves, thank goodness. They are my thighs.
You can now read about our little makeover project in the March issue of FITNESS Magazine. The print edition has the full article and exercises while the online and iPad versions have the profiles of each of our "success stories." The "Before" and "After" photo shoots were also a funny experience. Nothing like parading through the lobby of a big midtown office building in booty shorts and bright purple sneakers.

Thanks so much to FITNESS Magazine for letting me participate in this project and Samantha for coordinating everything. Of course, thanks to Monica Vazquez for kicking each of our asses into shape - no joke. #myassthanksyou

Sexy Leg Exercises
You can see a full explanation of each exercise in FITNESS but here are the exercises that we did:

1. Walking lunges
We started with 12 reps per leg (24 lunges total) and ended with 20 reps per leg (40 lunges total) with 10 lb dumbbells in each hand.

2. Three-way lunges 
Um, probably my least favorite of the nine exercises. Forward lunge, forward lunge at a 45 degree angle, side lunge = 1 rep. I dislike side lunges with a passion. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 15 reps per leg with 10 lb dumbbells in each hand. Switch sides.

3. Single-leg dead lift
These were fun and challenged your balance along with your legs. Basically, hinging forward at the hips while extending your right leg behind you until your body - from head to right heel - are parallel to the floor, like your body is making a T and your arms hang down. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg with 10 lbs dumbbells in each hand. Switch sides.

4. Good mornings
Deceptively simple. With feet slight closer than shoulder-width apart, hold a single dumbbell at your chest with elbows bent and at the side of your body. With legs straight, press butt backwards and hinge forward at the hips until back is parallel to the floor. Squeeze butt and hinge back up. We started with 12 reps with a 10 lb dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps with a 20 lb dumbbell.

5. Goblet squats
I LOVED the goblet squats. Hold a single dumbbell with both hands with elbows bent and pointing slightly outwards. Squat down until your elbows touch the inside of your knees. We started with 12 reps with a 10 lb dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps with a 25 lb dumbbell.

6. Hamstring curls on swiss ball
We started with 12 reps and progressed to 20 reps. As you pull the ball in towards you butt, make sure to hold it for one second. Yeah, that burns.

7. Split leg squat on Swiss ball or bench
Also a favorite of mine because the exercise recruited your core muscles to balance and stabilize you. With the toes of one leg on a bench or a Swiss ball, do a single leg squat. We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg.

8. Calf raises on step
We started with 12 reps per leg and progressed to 20 reps per leg.

9. Calf raise on ball
Sitting on a swiss ball, hold a dumbbell on right knee do a calf raise by lifting up onto your right toes and lower back down. Switch sides. We started with 12 reps per leg with a 20 lbs dumbbell and progressed to 20 reps per leg with a 25 lb dumbbell.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scenes from My Weekend - San Francisco

It's hard not to laugh when I see this in my rear view mirror. He loves his cousins polka dot sunglasses and his "new" hat. And yes, that is a denim car seat cover. Don't judge.

The past week has been crazy. It's been a flurry of meetings and project plans for work projects that are starting to ramp up. As luck would have it, each of these projects seem to have the same deadline - roughly March 15. As a freelancer, it's often hard to turn down work when it's offered to you since you never know what the future holds - if work will continue to come your way or completely dry up. Oh, and we had contractors in our house for the better part of the past two weeks. Of course, the contractors originally said that they would be done in three to four days so when they returned for another week, I was sent to out of the house to find alternate places to work. When the contractors finally finished their job, they left a nice thick coat of dust across just about every surface in our house. 

It was also my younger son's half birthday. While we normally don't celebrate half birthdays, since his birthday is over the summer and he won't get to celebrate with his classmates then, his teachers asked that we celebrate his half birthday instead. That meant baking a batch of cupcakes, scrounging up some pictures to bring in and show his class and spending part of the afternoon with his class. Did I also mention that we were also traveling to California? Perfect timing...

We finally made it out to California on Saturday and have been enjoying the long weekend with my family. The boys love spending time with their cousins, Aunts, Uncle and Grandmother. The weather has been splendid. Minus some issues with jetlag i.e. 4am-5am wake-up calls from the boys, we're having a good time. I wanted to share some of the scenes from our weekend.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Vacations Reconsidered

Beachside on the Gold Coast.

If you had asked me a few years ago what my ideal vacation was, I would probably say something about hiking in South America or exploring cities in Europe or skiing. I would not have mentioned the beach. I don't like sitting on a beach and relaxing all day and getting sandy. OK, I could probably do it for one day but then I need to do something more. Plus, I get all hot and sweaty and my sensitive, eczema-prone skin starts to flair up. Not exactly a pretty sight. However, since I've started surfing, I've started to reconsider my vacations. Vacation decisions now largely hinge on one question, "Can we surf?"

This made me think back on some of the vacations that Ed and I have taken in the past. I realized something. We have traveled quite a bit over the last ten years and we have been to some of the world's premier surf destinations but didn't even know it - weren't even interested in surfing. If we saw someone surfing, it was just another sight to see and a fact duly noted -"Oh look, someone's surfing out there." Most of the time we didn't even mention it.

Surfers in the San Jose Bay of Los Cabos

For example, a few years back, we traveled to a friend's wedding in Cabo San Lucas. The wedding was held at the Cabo Surf Hotel! As my friends got married on the beach, there was a good number of surfers in the water. As we were enjoying cocktails and snacks, surfers were coming out of the water, rinsing off and talking about the amazing surf session they just had.

Matt Wilkinson at the Rip Curl Pro Search contest in Ocean Beach, SF

We've traveled along the Gold Coast in Australia, in Mexico and around Hawaii. Ed went with a couple of friends to Nicaragua and hung out in San Juan del Sur, a popular surf destination. And California and New York!! Rockaway Beach is a 40 minute drive from our house and there are numerous surf spots on Long Island from Montauk to Long Beach. We travel to California a couple times a year. Mavericks - one of the most famous big waves - is a half mile off the coast of Half Moon Bay which is less than an hour from where my family now lives (and much closer to where I grew up). Not to mention the surf at Ocean Beach in San Francisco where the Rip Curl Pro Search contest was held last fall.

Long Beach, New York - a 40 minute train ride from Penn Station in New York City

All of this time, surfing has been right under our noses and we didn't even realize it. Isn't it funny how your perspective can change? How it can change how your view, your decision calculus and your priorities? Now, every time I catch a glimpse of the ocean, I scan the water for the beautiful, organized lines of swell in the water making their steady roll towards the shore. Every time I see a wave, I begin to wonder if it's surfable whereas before, I would look for calm ocean water. Vacation planning has definitely taken a distinctive turn. It means that I get to go back to some of these places, right?

Your Turn!
What's your ideal vacation spot? Has this changed over the years? Has your perspective on something changed in a way that's surprised you?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine drawing from my older son. Clearly Mommy likes hearts...and ice cream.

I used to like Valentine's Day as a kid. I remember being so excited to receive those silly paper Valentines from my friends at school with messages like "I'm nuts for  you" (with a picture of a squirrel carrying an armful of acorns) or "You make my heart flutter" (with a picture of a butterfly) or "You make my heart go vrrrooom!" (with a picture of a race car whizzing by). As a kid, everything was about love and hearts. As I grew older, Valentine's Day lost its novelty. Or maybe it was my inner cynic that started to take over. But, having kids has made Valentine's Day fun all over again.

The title page inside my "special" book.

I woke up this morning to my two little boys scampering into our room to wish Ed and I "Happy Valentine's Day." The little one was so excited to give me the card that he made for me yesterday. They gave me my "Special Book" and showed me all their drawings.

I can't remember where I got the idea. I'm sure that I read about it on a blog. Instead of buying me presents for my birthday, Mother's Day or any of the other million holidays, I asked the boys to draw pictures for me instead. They went out with Ed and picked out a special notebook for me. Since then, they've proceeded to fill it with big and colorful drawings, always signing them with an outline of their hand.

My younger son's Valentine drawing for me this year. 

I adore this book and all the effort the boys put into it. They take it very seriously and shut me out of their room while they are working on it. I like the idea of having a visual chronicle of the boys' art work over the years. Yes, we still do have a growing file cabinet drawer full of their art work from school but this is different. These are drawings that they've made especially for me. I also hope that they see that presents don't always have to be material things - that their drawings make me happier than any gift that they could buy.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Learning to Live in Limbo

Tunnel Vision

It's been just about a week since I hurt my knee. I'm finally starting to walk without a limp (sort of) but I can't really do much. Just walking around the neighborhood a few blocks leaves my knee throbbing when I get home. Single-plane movement seems to be OK i.e. I can bend my knee back and forth without pain, but side to side movement and stabilization, not so much. Sometimes it feels like my bones are rubbing against each other if I move too fast.

I went to see my Orthopaedist last week. It helps when he's a friend of your sister and she can call and leave him a message saying, "Please call my sister back so she will stop calling me and freaking out." He examined my knee and checked my recent MRI. His verdict was no verdict. In his words, "Christine, I don't know what to do about you." My ACL is in tact - not perfect but in tact.. My knee isn't swollen and hasn't swelled since I injured it (swelling is usually the first big sign that there's some sort of trauma going on inside). Could he operate on my ACL? Sure but he isn't confident that it would make things better and would I really want to spend the next year trying to recover and figure that out? Not really. Is it my meniscus? Probably.

We decided that I would rest, wait and see. If I was still limping in 2-3 weeks, then we would revisit the idea of surgery. So, here I am, in limbo-land, waiting and hoping that my knee will return to its normal self just as mysteriously as I seem to have injured myself.

Deep down, I was really hoping for a concrete answer from my doctor. I don't like ambiguity very much. If I had a concrete answer, then I could come up with a plan. I like plans. I was bummed that I didn't have a plan. As I made my way home, I decided to stop for some ramen - serious comfort food for me - and figure things out.

It seems like there are a lot of people out there who are sick or injured. Friends and fellow bloggers who are frustrated because they can't run or because they are stuck in bed with the flu.  It's so easy for me to say to them - listen to your body, respect your body, just rest - rest is important to keep your body healthy and strong. But when it comes to me? Can't take my own advice.

When it comes down to it, when you yourself are injured, it just plain sucks. You might be hating your running schedule or normal fitness regime but as soon as you can't do something, all you want it to go out on that run or hit that spin class or lift some weights or get in the water and surf. Grass is always greener…

So I'm trying to figure out how to keep myself sane over the next couple of weeks until I have some more answers. I admit, that I've been moping around the house a bit, complaining about the pain, the inconvenience, the poor timing. I'm pretty sure my husband would like me to stop. I read a great post on The Daily Love that gave me a kick in the pants. Specifically, this part:

Sometimes we have crisis in our lives – but the MEANING we GIVE the crisis is everything. Is this a breakdown or a breakthrough? Shit happens, but it’s what you do about it that matters...This means that we have the power to choose to respond in an empowered way to our circumstances, rather than just look for reasons why we are wrong, why we are not good enough or why we should quit. 

So here's my plan for surviving limbo-land:

1. Rest: As much as I want to run, spin, go to my regular TRX class, I'm not going to. I'm going to give my body the time to heal. This is probably my body's way of telling me to knock it off and stop running it into the ground. Fine. I'm listening.a

2. Strength Training - Upper Body and Core: OK, I just said I will rest and really I will but I also know that for my own sanity and well-being, I would like to do some activity. Since I can't really walk, bike or use the elliptical, I'm going to focus on strengthening my upper body and core. I might try to slip in some lower body work if I can tolerate it...maybe.

3. Swim: I said that I wanted to work on my swimming, right? Now I have the chance without being distracted by all that silly running. I promise to take it slow, especially pushing off the wall on my turns. I'll focus on pulling and not strain my leg again kicking.

4. Stretch/Foam Roll: I think that I have this fear that if I stop being active for any period of time, my muscles and ligaments will freeze into place. To prevent this from happening, I will continue to stretch and use my foam roller. 

5. Stop Eating Like I'm Still Training for a Half Marathon: Plain and simple, I can't keep eating the way that I have been given the reduction in my activity level. Simple equation right? Calories in > calories expended = new pants. So, bye bye pie and ice cream and scones and "recovery" meals.

6. Don't Stress: Really, I will not stress about this. At least, I promise to try.

So, that's the plan. Wait and see and hope for the best for running the More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Half Marathon in April

Here are some great recent posts related to injury and recovery from Whitney at Live, Run, Love, Yoga on the cumulative injury cycle and marathon training when sick and Brigid from Live, Breathe, Huzzah. They offer some great perspective.

Your Turn!
Have you ever been sidelined by injury? How do you manage illness and injury during training or in life in general? Do you need to have a plan or are you OK with limbo-land? How do you typically respond to crises or an unexpected turn of events in your life?

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Ode to Kelly Slater

When I was 12 years old, my Mom and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. My brother and sister were attending college there and my Mom wanted to have the family closer together. As a East Coast transplant, I quickly became mesmerized by the ocean, at least the idea of the ocean. It wasn't that I hadn't spent time near the water growing up - we often spent part of our school vacations on Sanibel Island in Florida - but I guess it was the whole idea and image that's associated with California - the beaches, the bikinis, the surfers. I would often rummage through Surfer and Surfing magazines at the local bookstore and tear out pictures of waves and surfers. Oftentimes, those pictures would include Kelly Slater.

So you can imagine how excited I was when, 20+ years later I had the chance to watch Kelly surf in person at the Quiksilver Pro New York event in Long Beach, NY. Giddy would be one way to describe it.

In between heats, I went for a walk to check out the other happenings around the contest site. As I passed the main Quiksilver tent, I saw Kelly standing there, taking pictures with fans and signing autographs. I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought briefly about running back to get Ed and the boys but there was no way that I was going to miss my chance to meet Kelly and have my picture taken with him. So I stood in line with everyone else, handed my iPhone to the guy behind me, held my breath and smiled. I also gave Kelly my Yankees baseball cap to sign. It was the only thing that I had with me!

My hands were literally shaking. What was I? A 12 year old girl? It was embarrassing. I wanted to tell Kelly congratulations on winning his heat, how great it was that the surfers were in NYC, etc. but I couldn't form any words. I just smiled and chuckled. He must have thought that I was a Japanese tourist who didn't speak any English. 

As I walked back to find Ed and the boys, I was still shaking but I had the biggest grin on my face. I showed Ed the picture and he immediately gathered up the boys so that they could have their picture taken with Kelly too. It's no secret that we want our boys to surf. How cool would it be for them to look back and see that they have a picture with one of the best surfers of all time? When we got back to the tent, Kelly was still standing there even though his heat ended over an hour ago. He could have been long gone but instead, he made the time for his fans.

I said before here, what I appreciate the most is the fact that he's been doing this for 20 years professionally and has ability to adapt to basically any ocean condition and to his competitors in order to take his game to a higher level. As his competitors get younger, Kelly gets better. 

In honor of Kelly's birthday tomorrow, I've composed a silly little poem

Here's to the best and the greatest there is. 
Eleven times over - World Champion that is.

You've elevated your game when it's counted the most. 
The fiercest competitor on every coast.

Power carves and aerials in all types of break.
There isn't a trick that you cannot make.

You've kept the young ones guessing and wondering too.
Is there anything that this bald guy can't do?

You're nimble.
You're quick.
You're adaptable too.
Flying through the air like all those younger dudes

Kobe + Jordan don't have your number.
Even despite the ASP's blunder.

So here's to one of the greatest sportsman of all time.
Watching you surf is truly sublime.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Set Backs

It started off as a beautiful morning at the track...

I've always considered myself a 10-minute miler. That seems to be the pace that I've consistently run forever so when I set off on this half marathon adventure, I set a somewhat ambitious goal for myself - a 2-hour half marathon. Preferably sub-2 hours but I will take 2 hours on the dot. As I've been running over the past month, I've felt really strong. I've been running closer to a 9-minute mile pace pretty consistently and comfortably which has surprised me. At the same time, it has given me confidence that my goal wasn't totally out of reach and that I am capable of more than I often give myself credit for.

This week officially marks the start of my half marathon training. I can honestly say that I have been so excited to start training - challenging myself physically and mentally and really seeing where I am with my running. Enter today's speed work at the track. It was a fairly easy workout - running 4 times around the track (400 meters) with a warm-up and cool-down easy jog. My goal was to run each lap around 2-minutes.

I don't think that I've ever really done speed work at the track before. Maybe in high school? I wasn't sure how hard to run each repeat or how to pace myself. I went out too fast on my first 400 but adjusted my pace for the next two but still ran them hard. I was breathing hard and my chest burned a little. I knew that if I wanted to run faster, i would have to run my workouts as they were intended. Speed workouts = run fast.

On my last 400, about a quarter of the way into it, I felt my right knee pop or click. The only way that I can describe it is that it felt like I cracked my knee like how it feels when you crack your fingers. I took a few more steps but had to stop immediately. I couldn't put any weight on my right leg. I started limping my way across the field and called my husband to pick me up.

As I sat there waiting for him, a huge amount of frustration and anger swelled up in me (and is still sitting in the pit of my stomach) and tears were building up behind my eyes. I couldn't believe that I was going to start crying about this. I was being smart about my training, building my mileage slowly and strengthening my legs and core along the way. But it's the same knee that I had repaired about 14 years ago (ACL and medial meniscus tear) and I know my knee well enough to know that it doesn't feel right. Aside from not being able to bear weight, my side-to-side stabilization feels off. My head immediately filled with worst case scenarios - that I re-tore something and that I will have to have surgery or my knee scoped which will mean that I can't run and I can't train and that I will have to pull out of the half marathon in April. And what would it mean for surfing down the line? I also might have sent off some freak-out texts to my sister (an Orthopaedist) and my Orthopaedist for re-assurance.

I know that it's not the end of the world. There are many bigger problems and issues that I/family/friends could be facing. But I think that it's the fact that since I've rediscovered running, I've felt really happy and strong and confident and purposeful. Weird and silly, I know. I don't know why running necessarily gave me that but now that I'm facing the possibility that I might not be able to run (or do anything active for a while), I'm freaking out. I'm scared of losing that happy, strong, confident, purposeful feeling. My workouts and runs are a big part of who I am and what I do. I don't feel complete without them. It's my time to focus on making myself healthy and strong and provides much needed head space during my day.

I'm trying really really hard to think positively since this happened all of an hour or two ago. After all, it may very well just be a small set back. And set backs are good sometimes, right? They help us refocus and reprioritize and re-energize. I'm icing my knee, taking some anti-inflamatories, elevating it and going to wait to see how it feels.

BTW - I was rocking my 400 repeats:  1.33.85, 1.39.8, and 1.40.51.

How do you deal with set-backs? Injuries? I'd love to hear your thoughts, advice and reassurance!

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

11 Random Things

Recently, I was tagged by Michele in her 11 Random Things post. It's been fun to get to know different bloggers a little more through these "random things" posts.

So, here are the rules of the game:
1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in their pot.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Select 11 people and tag them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this.  You have to legitimately tag them on twitter, facebook or on their blog.

11 Random Things About Me
1. My family and family friends (along with the majority of my brother and sister's friends) call me Say. My sister gave me this nickname when I was a baby because it means "small" in Cantonese and I'm the youngest of three children.

2. I have an irrational fear of open water swimming and waves yet I have completed an Olympic distance triathlon (NYC in 2005) and have taken up surfing. Go figure.

3. I also dislocated my shoulder while swimming. Don't ask. I have no idea how. I thought swimming was a no/low impact sport?

4. I tore my ACL and medial meniscus in my right knee skiing in Switzerland while I was studying abroad in college. (Wow, I sound injury prone) The best part was trying to communicate with the German ski patrol in my broken Italian and his heavily-accented Italian. Finally, he gave up and shoved a brandy-soaked sugar cube in my mouth and strapped me in to the ski patrol sled. Guess they do things a little bit differently in Europe. But, it was after this injury that I really started running and completed 3 marathons and 1 triathlon after this injury.

Yup, that's me riding in the back of the ski patrol sled. I even got to ride down on a special ski patrol gondola. But aren't the Alps pretty?

5. I have a ridiculous and out of control magnet collection. It started out as a joke between me, my sister and our two cousins and now it's really gotten out of hand to the point where every magnetic surface in my house is covered.

6. I never would have thought that I would be living in New York City and raising a family here. I grew up in the suburbs in Connecticut and imagined that I would eventually settle down in a similar place. But I've fallen in love with the city and all that it has to offer, especially Brooklyn. 

7. At the same time, I would love to live in Sydney, Australia or Portland, Oregon. 

8. I have several food allergies since I was a kid - peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish. As I've grown older, I've developed additional allergies including lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, green peas, and fava beans. It makes me super sad because it pretty much means that I can't eat Indian, Middle Eastern or Ethiopian food anymore. The worst part is that my kids have food allergies too.

9. If I could do anything career-wise, I would like to be an architect. It's not just about the engineering or look of a building but it's about creating space - the connection between culture, community, aesthetics, utility into one form. P.S. I studied Art History in college.

10. We're trying to teach my sons three languages (English, Chinese and Polish). My husband is Polish. So far so good. Their English and Polish are strongest and they understand Chinese but don't really speak it. I think it's because my Chinese vocab and ability tops off at about the level of a 3 year old, which is how old my youngest son is right now. Oh well. Right now, I'm just happy that they aren't mute!

11. I'm a Bon Jovi fan.

Michele's Questions
1. What was the first race signed up for?  When was it? Where was it?  How did you do?
I honestly can't remember the first race that I signed up for.  I think that it might have been a Race for the Cure 5K in Central Park - kind of ironic now after all the hullabaloo the past couple of days. I have no idea what my time was but I'm assuming it was somewhere around 30 minutes. The earliest official time that I have a record of was for the Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K in March 2002 in Manhattan. My time was 27:12.

2. What is your favorite color? 
I'm partial to purple and blue.

3. Do you prefer to read stories and the training of elite runners or every day runners? Why?
Generally I prefer to read stories and the training of every day runners because that's me and it's something that I can relate to. I find that I can get tips and ideas from people that are at a similar place/experience level and I can relate to their challenges and successes. I do read stories about elite runners and how they train from time to time because I am AMAZED at how hard they train and what their bodies are capable of doing.

4. Treadmill or dreadmill?
DREADMILL but I use it when I have to i.e. weather conditions, not feeling 100%, etc.

5. Gear junkie or Run Naked?
I lean more towards the run naked side of things. I do like to run with my iPod and that's about it. I am debating getting a Garmin though...

6. Is there an era of music that you prefer? Oldies? Classic Rock? 90s?
I listen to all kinds of music but if I had to pick one, I would say 90s.

7. Coffee or Tea?
These days, it's all coffee.

8. What is a childhood secret you never told your mom?
Um...nothing of course. I told my mom everything :-)

9. Favorite Olympic Summer sport to watch?
Hands down swimming. I get really into it like screaming at the TV excited. It's embarrassing sometimes. Really. I used to swim and have always liked watching swim meets. 

10. Favorite movie of all time?
That's like picking a favorite child! If I had to pick one right now it would be Dirty Dancing.

11. Cake or Pie?
Pie please! But only fruit-based pies. I don't like custardy pies. 

OK, so here are My Questions:
1. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
2. What was the last movie that you saw in the theater?
3. What music do you have on your iPod that you don't want anyone to know about?
4. Salty or sweet?
5. What's your favorite book?
6. What's your perfect Sunday morning?
7. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
8. What's your current obsession?
9. What's your favorite weather?
10. What would you like to learn to do?
11. If you could go anywhere in the world today, where would you go?

I'm tagging...I think that most people have been tagged already? But some bloggers that I'd love to get to know better:
Erika at This Spartan Will!
Meredith at Swim, Bike, Mom
Rad Surfing Mom at Moms Who Surf are Rad
Surf Mama at Eat, Surf, Love

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Even Pro Football Players Surf

When you think of a surfer, the image that comes to mind is of a tan, lean blond guy with sinewy muscles and salt in his bleached out blond hair. You don't typically think of a football player.

Well, last week, while in town for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, a bunch of NFL players took to the beach for some surf lessons. It's like the movie Blue Crush (yes, I admit to watching this movie) when Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) meets Matt, a quarterback in town for the Pro Bowl and wants to surf. Except this time, it was 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater and Reed McIntosh teaching the players to surf, not Kate Bosworth. They took Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons, and Doug Flutie out on the water and taught them a few things. You can see some video here.

Seems like an odd combination, right? But apparently, the friendships between the pro surfers and pro footballers is no joke. The rest of the week, members of the San Diego Chargers, including Eric Weddle, Scott Mruczkowski, Steve Gregory, and Jimmy Graham of the Saints hung out at the Quiksilver House overlooking Pipeline. I remember that some San Francisco 49ers came out to watch the Rip Curl Pro Search event in San Francisco back in November.

I am not a big football fan but with the New York Giants playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl this weekend, I'm definitely watching. Plus, I have a little wager on the line. I'm taking part in the Super Bowl Challenge, organized by Michele from NYC Running Mama and Samantha from Running and Cupcakes. Losers must run the point differential in miles. Adds a little excited to the game, no? Over 60 people are participating so come on! Join in the on the fun! 

Can you guess which team I'm rooting for? Do you have any Super Bowl wagers on the line? 

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