Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Have I Become?

Growing up, I was involved in a lot of sports. Mainly soccer, baseball and pick up games of football which we played on asphalt. Yes tackling each other. The joys of growing up in a lower income area, we had to make do with what we had. When I wasn't pretending I was Cal Ripken Jr or any random soccer star, we were the typical kids, playing in the creek throwing rocks, playing guns we fashioned out of sticks. Times were different back then and we had a blast using our imaginations.

Eventually, I would discover skateboarding and punk culture. This would change my whole outlook on sports. My interests in organized team sports would fade and my focus would be geared towards skating and listening to loud angry music. I was a teenager, so of course I was misunderstood and frustrated with not being noticed by anyone or everyone.

For years, the only "sport" I was interested in was skateboarding, but for those who skate, it's more of a lifestyle than it is a sport. In fact, competition was, for the most part, frowned upon. Music and skating went hand in hand. If we were skating street, doing lines(not drugs), I would flow listening to Digable Planets, but when we were killing a mini or skating a pool something like Slayer or Cro Mags were the go to sounds to drive us to go big or go home. Mind you, most of my time was spent skating street. And let me tell you, there's nothign that's going to replace the memories of skating the spots in SF that are now something of an urban legend to those up and coming skaters. The Gonz, Hubba Hideout, China Banks, EMB....I could go on, but you get the idea. I think China Banks is still there.

Milwaukee was a monumental place in my personal history. This is where I found my love for coffee, would eventually get married(and have my daughter), and started to enjoy watching sports all over again. I would also be active in local bands, toured with one group a couple of times and got arrested for skateboarding(4 cop cars, 6 cops, guns drawn). I learned a lot living there and Wisconsin still holds a huge part of my heart. I made some of the best friends there(Stevsie, miss you buddy, Jamie..though you're on the east coast now, John Grant...)

Somehow, through sheer luck or however you want to explain it, I end up in Arizona. My life would take some sharp turns and in my head I would be totally alone with no family around me aside from my children. Something had to be done. I looked deep within and made a promise to myself that I wouldn't let depression consume me, though it felt like it would. So I picked up running, and the rest is history.

Surviving my battle with depression, I was able to find out who I was and who I wanted to be. And through the run, I was introduced to some of my closest friends I have ever met. People I care deeply about, family. They have been a huge inspiration and motivation for my self discovery, constantly pushing me to continue on and to never ever ever give up. I love you all.

So ten years ago, had you met me then, you would have never thought or pictured me to be the person I am today, confident in my self worth, content with who I am, open to spirituality and determined to succeed and reach my goals. My dreams are right there for the taking, I just have to put in the hard work to grab them. And I will, I can do it.

Triathlon, running, and now my desire to do ultras are ways I cope with whatever mental struggles I am dealing with at that given moment. They are tools that I use to challenge myself both physically and mentally, using my new found "never say die" mentality. When I'm out there on a trail, I lose myself in thought and forget, basically, what is bothering me. I am able to just live. Hard to explain unless you've experienced the same feeling. It's something I need, I want, I do. Before, and I still feel this way, music saved me in my younger years. Had it not been for the punk and hardcore scene(s), I would be dead. I need running like life needs air to breath. It drives me to succeed at life, gives me tools that I can use in every day life. I feel at peace, healthy, happy with who I am.

What have I become? Well, it's simple really. I have become me. This is who I am, this is who I will be. I will only improve who I am, but I will never ever change me. I am a loving dad of two wonderful children. I run, I swim, I bike. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ramblings of a Vegan Triathlete

Word of caution:

Sometimes I just rant about random things. My thoughts come out and I try to formulate coherent sentences, but that's not always the case with the way I think. So bare with me as I try to relay my ramblings.

Lately, I've been listening to conversations about healthy eating. Funny how easily influenced people can be. They read it on the internet and automatically assume that it's fact. I'm a firm believer that everyone has different results when it comes to their diet. For me, I find eating a strict plant based diet really works. Mind you, I started out primarily worrying about animal welfare, but it would later blossom into something much bigger.

Let me talk about that for a second. My experience with people is that they assume that because I'm vegan that automatically I'm eating healthy or better yet that all vegans are healthy. Come on now, so not true. I can remember being on tour with a band living off of wheat thins and top ramen and occasionally eating at chinese buffets. That is a horrible way to live, but at the time there was little information out there on a healthy way of being vegan. Come to think of it, I'm sure that's why so many people who tried being vegan got sick and stopped living that way.

There are plenty of vegan options out there these days and more than half of them are cruelty free, but are loaded with processed garbage. I've said it before and I will keep saying it, if you can't pronounce the word or even read it for that matter, why are you putting it in your body? No really, I challenge everyone to go read the label and tell me when each ingredient is and where it comes from WITHOUT using Google. I promise you that most of you will fail. So again, why put it in your body if you don't know what it is?

It's easy for me to live a plant based lifestyle because of my devotion to the animals. I wasn't always this way. In fact, I stopped being vegan for some time while I was married. I can look back now and say that I was using food to cope with my onslaught of mood swings, good and bad. People often use drugs, alcohol or other self destructive addictions to deal with things going on in their lives. Me, it was food.

When I got into the sport of triathlon and began eating extremely clean, there was a ton more information out there on a clean plant based life. There were more vegan athletes out there, performing at the top of their class. So started researching more and more, educating myself and in a sense, relearning a ton of material I learned years before when I was more active in animal rights/welfare.

I started eating clean, losing weight, improving my mood, gaining sustainable energy and ultimately gaining self respect and love for me as a person. Yes, my mental stability really improved because I wasn't eating to cope, I was eating to live. Let me say that again, "I was eating to live." I'm not saying I was killing myself, but the food I was putting into my body wasn't helping live a healthy life.

I can see my potential as a person and as an athlete.

Here's the point of my post:

Educate yourself before you make any abrupt, on the spot decisions regarding a change in your life. Know that everyone's body is different and you may not have the same results as the person next to you. Any time someone says "You should be eating this," I urge you to question that statement and really really really educate yourself!!!

There's more I wanted to say, but my thoughts still aren't coming out the way I want them too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Improve

Changing the way you talk can directly impact the way you think and in turn improve not only your quality of life, but those around you.

For instance:

You and your significant other are going out to eat. You're asked, "where do you want to go?" The common response is "I don't care." Truth is, you do care. Maybe not about the situation, but as a whole you do care. Change the words you use to describe how you feel towards where you eat and you'll be surprised the results.

We are all on a journey of self discovery, improving with every interaction. Let's make life beautiful.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Mom

First off, this isn't my normal triathlon running story. It's mom day, so here's my story.

Growing up, we didn't have much as far as finances. My mom worked graveyard to make ends meet. She provided what little we had through hard work and determination. We waited in line for government cheese and help with food more times than I would like to remember. My jeans had holes and patches on them and were probably hand me downs from my older brother.

What we lacked in the financial department, we flourished in love. I learned early on the importance of the family circle. Though she worked her ass off to provide for us and I can't recall her really sleeping except for the times she said she wanted to watch a movie with me, she some how ALWAYS had dinner ready, got us to school on time (we mostly walked by ourselves), took us to our sports, and she was always there when we needed mom.

Growing up poor and seeing other kids with the newest stuff on Christmas, I constantly wished I had their "stuff." So that year that our house was broken into and our presents were stolen was a huge hit to my self confidence. My mom worked her magic.

She made me a blanket, bought me a 6 pack of root beer and had my uncle Jeff compile a vhs tape of the incredible hulk show. Her and I cuddled on the couch and she probably fell asleep while o watched the hulk. That is still the most amazing Christmas I've ever had. It didn't matter about the presents, but that my mom made it special with what she had.

Point is, my mom is the strongest person I've ever known. She did something wonderful and she's the reason I'm the man I am today. I'm so thankful for the life I was given and for the mom I have. She means so much to me. So mom, if you're reading this, I love you more than you'll ever know. Thank you for reading me stories at night, thank you for teaching me the importance of family, thank you for making me give back that toy I accidentally stole when I was around 7 and trelling the clerk what I did. Thank you for everything mom.

As I finish this post with tears in my eyes, I urge you all to hug your mom, treat her like a queen because she's the only mom you have.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Just Run

It's common and actually a good tool to track your progress. In fact, I hope to score myself a Garmin in the near future. Those cost money. Next best thing is my phone but it's too bulky to fit in my hip pouch. So I've often left it behind as I don't like running with anything in my hands. This is probably the best thing ever because I've been able to focus on my run without worrying about tracking my run, posting the results to some form of social media or getting down on myself for having a slower time than before. I do strive for improvement, but I'm not out there to win any titles, I'm not the next big thing. The reason why I took up running was to find myself, a form of spiritual discovery. Entering races give you a goal or a final destination that forces you to take training seriously, but you don't need those big races to still "race." Why not create your own grassroots race you've come up with? So I've been able to enjoy the run, enjoy the training and yes I have entered my share of races, but the end results I'm looking for isn't the podium, it's mediation, spirituality, joy, the wind, nature, being outside and cheering the stranger struggling on during that hard stretch. I'm there to encourage my fellow athlete to achieve their goals. I'm out there running to show people a possible way to improve their overall life through the joy of running. You've read my posts and know I often talk about the sense of community within the running.... Community (sorry for the over use of the word). You'll get the uber competitive runner within those communities, but I have been fortunate and extremely lucky to have positive roll models and friends that I've met who have overcome adversity to get where they are and they're just out there running, helping people out, being kind to their fellow human. These are the people I surround myself with, the kind, huge hearts amazing friends that I've grown to love. They've taught me that triathlon and running is so much more than the race. I hope you'll find that community and sense of pure nirvana. It's what I love to do. Take that first step to a spiritual awakening, go for a run.

Love

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Changing Your Way Of Thinking

Posting from my mobile a lot lately so excuse the occasional punctuation mistake or grammatical error. Let's all be honest here, auto correct isn't always friendly and when my thoughts are flowing, I tend to forget to look over and proof read my post. I'm human, I make mistakes.

Sadness is a part of life. For the most part, all of us have experienced sadness at one point in time. And it's extremely easy to focus on what's making you sad, eventually setting you up for a battle with depression. We need to learn how to truck our minds to think differently.

I love human interaction. It allows you to absorb oodles of information that could possibly benefit you in your life.

Talking with my friend Lauren recently, the topic of self improvement came up. And my first reply was "I feel I've come do far, but I can't get past the fact that I love my kids and I miss them terribly. I'm having a hard time living apart from them." Her advice and tips were so monumental and have had almost immediate effects on my overall quality of life.

First off, just because I don't live with my kids anymore doesn't mean I don't love them or I can't love them just the same every day. What it means is, I have to figure out ways to love them every day. So one thing Lauren proposed was to wake up and think to myself "how am I going to love my kids today?" Now this isn't implying that I could wake up and NOT love them, it's just giving me the opportunity to make that love flourish and strengthen. Living apart is hard for any parent, but it's just a challenge to find a new way to express your love.

Asking myself "how" is great. Then what I do with that is answer my question. This can be anything from writing them a letter, to drawing them a picture, buying them new toothbrushes, building a cardboard fort, coloring then a picture. It doesn't have to be buying them a new game system or really spending money, but it's important that it come from the heart.

The few days that I've been practicing this new way of thinking, my mood has not only improved, but people have started to notice that I'm different. I'm smiling, not dwelling on being away from them. I feel as if they are right here with me.

There are so many ways for us to train ourselves to think differently that will improve our quality of lives. You don't have money, and you're constantly saying "I don't have any money." Well, you're not going to get money by complaining about it. "I'm always alone, I wish I had someone to be with." Well that's negative thinking and it's not going to improve. These are just a few examples, but I think you get the point.

Instead of filling your conversations with "I can't," "I never," or something along those lines, try saying "good things happen to me." Say this right when you start feeling down.

For me, I was thinking about my kids and then I got depressed and started thinking about struggling with money or being lonely and then I would spiral downward into a rut that would affect my training, my personal life and my work. Truth is, I have a lot of good around me. I have amazing friends, I just bought my first car, I have an amazing job, and I get to run, bike and swim as often as I want. Let's not forget about my coach who has been a godsend. Being apart of S3 is like being apart of a family.

I'm working on changing the way I think, and I can already see the benefits. I've thought of some simple ways that can help you on your way to improving your life that could also help in your training.

1. Wake up and say to yourself "today is going to be awesome."
2. Think to yourself throughout the day "good things happen to me"
3. Smile often
4. Turn off the negative thoughts
5. Close your eyes and breath

Remember, happiness is a choice. Life can be as good as you want it to be or as bad as you let it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Knowledge

First off, events wouldn't be able to happen without the help of you volunteers out there. Whether it is body marking, helping number my bike, or working at an aid station, every single one of you volunteering is what makes the races safe and enjoyable. Also, thanks for the cheers, they really help us athletes smile when it's needed and to continue on.

My coach, Frank, has always said "stay with me and trust me," when it comes to training. Drills drills drills, and I've always believed him and always have so much trust and respect for his his way of coaching me. A few months ago, I'd struggle to swim even 5 minutes straight. With his directions and constant positive reinforcement, I'm becoming more and more confident with what I do. And I'm not just talking about swimming, biking or running, I'm talking about life in general. Now I'm getting off topic, but really, Frank has been a godsend to me and my life.

I attended an Iron Care Splash & Dash event, helping with body marking. My favorite part of the race is watching people swim from start to finish. I was paying close attention to the head of the 1500m swim. There were 2 athletes in particular that were serious learning tools to watch. Both had a completely different technique. One was fluent and graceful, relaxed with his approach, gliding through the water with ease. The athlete behind him was feverishly swimming trying to keep up and possibly drafting, but was aggressively swimming, almost looking as if he was struggling. I posted about it on the good ol FB and Frank replies "EXACTLY! Stay with me and I won't mislead you."

Watching this guy swim was a great experience and seeing first hand what my coach has been preaching this whole time....wow. I was a firm believer before technique over strength, but my faith in technique just grew astronomically.