Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hello, midlife crisis!

It's cliché but...

I've officially decided that, yes, I am in the midst of a midlife crisis (and I started this post, somehow published it without finishing it, so maybe that's enough said, enough proof, do I really need to add other thoughts and/or examples?).

But, I think that this is where I am "at" in my life.  Mid-40s, lots of transitions right now, a healthy dose of uncertainty, and, yes, I'll take that crisis.

To be honest, I probably felt this coming on last year, but triathlon proved to be a fantastic diversion for most of the year, and then the fall is always a busy time with the return to school.  So, right about now - the February doldrums - the stars should align for that crisis moment.

Much of this is provoked by major changes that we are planning - good changes but stressful.  I've alluded to this before, so I should put it out there, although I kind of hate to make a life announcement in the same breath that I'm talking about a crisis.  Oh well, not much to do about that.   Yes, the major change - we finally decided to bite the bullet and move to Colorado this summer!  

Not a bad place to be...  But, at the moment, I don't have a job yet and am kind of/really freaking out, even though it IS still premature.  However, with so many people in my life asking me about said job, it doesn't exactly calm me down.  And there are plenty of other "known unknowns" along with those "unknown unknowns" a la Rumsfeld.  

Before I focus too much on the anxiety that this change is provoking (or is a part of?), I have to say that the move to Colorado is NOT a midlife crisis decision.  It's actually something that we've wanted to do...  probably ever since we married.  Year after year, we return to Colorado at least twice to visit friends and family and to enjoy skiing, biking, hiking, you name it.  We definitely love the opportunities to pursue an active lifestyle there, but that isn't the only motivating factor - after all, we live in CA and there are plenty of opportunities here too!  Being closer to family and friends (we have several friends who have migrated to the Boulder/Denver area over the past few years) is a major factor, and, we feel that long-term, this is where we want to be.  Rather than continuing to delay the plan ("Maybe next year, maybe in five years..."), we decided that we needed to just do it, as Nike recommends.  

All of these changes are unfolding, and I am trying, without much success, to wrap my mind around the complex equation of finishing out my school year in an active and engaged manner, looking for a job (without taking rejection too hard), training for triathlon, and, the big one, picking up and moving - leaving friends, relationships, patterns that have all developed over 10 years.  It's a bit much to handle at times, but I'm trying!  

And to return to the midlife crisis moment - I can't totally separate it from all of the other changes happening in our lives.  It does provoke me, in a good way, to think about what's next and to think about what I want to do, how do I want to live.  These are questions that sprawl, once you pose them to yourself, and once they take up residency, they REALLY take up real estate in your brain.  Or they have for me.  Most days, I enjoy teaching, and on a good day, I *love* teaching, and Ican definitely see myself in the classroom until I retire, whenever that is.  On the other hand, I also think that I would be okay with stepping away from the classroom, or taking some sort of a break and doing something different.  But what that "different" is, I'm not sure.  Not knowing is kind of scary, and leaving a job that has been so rewarding in many ways while also secure does unsettle me quite a bit.  I think that it's a good moment in my life to be unsettled, but it's not easy.  I'm sure that there are about two dozen, if not more, quotes about things that aren't easy being well worth the challenge.  And I agree with that in theory, but living that experience is different.  

However, as much as I'm a bit afraid of the unknown, I'd also like to embrace it.  I used to pick up my life on a more regular basis, but I haven't in a while.  So, maybe I need to get used to the unknown again.  And, maybe I need to do the same for this little crisis -  embrace it, ride through the storm and see where I end up on the other side.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend with the padres - wining, dining and hiking, oh my!

In January, my parents decided to make one last visit to see us in the LA area (more on that 'last visit' soon!), and the only weekend that really worked out was President's Day, so we all quickly made arrangements for their visit this past weekend.  It was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip for them since they arrived Friday afternoon (4:30 - just in time for traffic!) and left early this morning.  We packed in quite a few activities and tried to ensure that they enjoyed this visit as much as possible.  

On Saturday, we drove up to Santa Barbara wine country.  It's a bit of a haul for a one-day visit, but we had a willing driver and a beautiful day to explore the countryside, so we took advantage of those factors.  We started out in the quaint little town of Los Olivos.  The first time we went wine tasting in the Santa Barbara area with my parents was probably 7 years ago, and at that time, it seemed that if you blinked, you'd miss Los Olivos.  That isn't the case anymore, and especially not on Valentine's day (we had sort of forgotten about that detail, but, apparently, wine tasting is a very popular activity on said "holiday").  Fortunately, we were early enough that when we stopped at our first tasting room, Byron, it was still low-key.  That was a fabulous first stop, and, since it wasn't too crowded, we were really able to take our time and enjoy the wine - which was excellent!  Byron specializes in Pinots, like a lot of Santa Barbara wineries, and they were all fantastic.  

Starting out our day

Making decisions - what to drink now?

Perhaps the best thing about Byron, after the wine, was the recommendation to eat lunch in Buellton at Industrial Eats.  It's super casual but the food is fantastic - and we definitely needed something to eat after the visit to Byron.  It's also conveniently located, right next to Alma Rosa, our next stop.  We had visited Alma Rosa with my parents a few years ago when it was in an old farmhouse, which I still prefer, and Michael and I (and Gus - it's a dog-friendly tasting room!) visited Alma Rosa back in October.  So, it's a bit of an old favorite for us, I suppose, and their wine is awfully good!

Some full belly happiness

After all of the eating and drinking and driving on Saturday, we opted for a more active day on Sunday - and set out for Mt. Lowe in the Angeles National Forest.  In the end, we did not summit Mt. Lowe but we did hike San Gabriel Peak!

Looking east

The start of the trail was through a wooded area which was nice and shaded, with lots of manzanita all around!  And then we hit a fire road which led us to this area that was once part of the Nike Ajax Missile Defense Plan (according to  Kind of crazy?!  Hikes in the western part of the Angeles are always so interesting - you feel like you are 'away from it all', and then you are suddenly reminded of the fact that Los Angeles is really right there.  

Fromt his platform, we then headed up to San Gabriel peak.  The final push wasn't technical, but it was steep.  

Ah, success!

We finished off the weekend at Angelini Osteria, another favorite from a previous visit, and we shared some excellent Italian food there.  It's always hard to choose because there are so many option, but I opted for a pasta with black truffles - and then they shaved more truffles on top.  It was kind of ridiculous!



It was a fun-filled weekend with my parents, no doubt, and even though I'm an adult, they still spoil me.  I also feel lucky that we can still do things together, like go on a moderately strenuous hike, which is a wonderful way to spend time with them. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The most expensive bike ride

Sadly, I'm not talking about a fun ride, like a cool century ride or some sponsored event.  No, my expensive ride on Sunday looked like this:

Oh, Baños, Ecuador, what a fun visit we had; Michael snapped this photo of the guardia lecturing this little girl for riding her bike through the plaza rather than around it.  How would I know, 8 years later that I'd totally feel her pain?

Anyway, substitute me in my Smashfest Fly kit and the Bat for the girl and a Sheriff for the guardia and then you would have a more accurate picture.   Yep, I got ticketed on Sunday for not stopping at a stop sign.  I was totally guilty - I didn't stop, and I know that this makes me an irresponsible cyclist.  I could defend myself and say that it's not an intersection where cyclists need to stop unless they are turning left (which is true, but anyway).  What really frustrates me about the ticket is that I knew that the sheriff was there - I passed by him on one street and took note, but then when I cruised down the hill, I just totally forgot that he was there.  I didn't even think about it until I heard him signal me.  And then I was so pissed, I really wanted to tell him to go fuck off, which is irrational because, as I said, I ran through the stop sign, no doubt about it.

Meanwhile, as he gave me my ticket, all of these other bikers totally cruised by us - and I would bet that half of them ran that stop sign too!  They should have at least thanked me!

Anyway, it's not the end of the world, no one was hurt, and, fortunately, the ticket doesn't go on my car insurance.  But, still, it was a total killjoy moment and somewhat humiliating too!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January - It's a wrap (almost!)

Yes - January, despite my sense of lackluster motivation and a slow start, ended up being a good month and has concluded on a positive note.  Returning to work after the holidays is always a bit brutal, but the Jan. schedule at the school where I teach is pretty awesome and allows for much socializing.  Add to that my birthday and some solid training weeks, and the month rounded out quite nicely!

Yes, my birthday - another year older but not necessarily wiser.  I used to hate having a January birthday (mainly when I was a kid because I wanted a pool party which was never possible, not even in South Texas), but I've obviously gotten over that and now embrace getting older.  I think that, once I'm closer to the big 5-0, I might enjoy celebrating it a bit less, but for now, I'll continue to raise a glass to my health and happiness.

Drinking a home-made margarita by the resident mixologist and sporting a great little Smartwool pullover that my parents got me - total win!

With my birthday, I didn't move up an age group, sadly, but hopefully it will be a good year for me in the 40-44 group!  My actual birthday was filled with some star power - I attended a CalTri season kick-off meeting and met the very inspiring Hillary Biscay who talked to the group.  I admit that I didn't know who she was until I got my first Smashfestqueen kit, but then I started reading about her and wow, she's pretty amazing.  And I really do love the kits that her company makes - the designs are awesome and the kits are comfortable.  Anyway, I wavered - to introduce myself as a fan girl or not?  I finally decided that it would be kind of silly to not say anything to her, so I ended up talking about how great the kits are, showing her a picture of me wearing the Fly kit, and then we blabbed about triathlon. I was a little starstruck, I must admit, and she was very nice.

Hillary with Maik Twelsiek - the following photos are courtesy of CalTri (and Harrison Shao)

No pictures with Hillary but Harrison snapped one of me with Maik - he only came in 11th at Kona this year!  He was swiping my credit card so that I could make the following purchase:

I know, I know!  Another kit. But so cute and I love the fish scales on it!  And Maik also talked with me about the St. George course - and the hills!

My "real" birthday celebration followed - Michael and I spent an afternoon hanging out at LA's Grand Central Market , visiting the Hudson River School exhibit at LACMA and eating and drinking quite well.  To be honest, there might have been a bit too much over-indulgence over the course of the month, but how can I complain about *having* to spend time at some of my favorite places - Amigos, the York, Golden Road Brewery and POV (this last place has forever ruined pizza elsewhere for us) with friends.  Also, I had my first ramen experience - since the days of Top Ramen - at Tsujita.  The LA Weekly claims that you can find better ramen, but you have to get on a plane to do so.  I'm not a ramen expert, but I can say that it was one of the most decadent meals I've ever had.

Perhaps my favorite part of the meal (except for the ramen) - Glad that no one died while we were eating the ramen!

I mentioned drink, and I know that serious triathletes and runners eschew alcohol.  Sigh.  Obviously I'm not one of those serious athletes, and I've developed a recent crush on the Old Fashioned and variations of said drink (such as the Claremont).  Also, Golden Road's "Better Weather IPA" is one of the best beers I've had in ages which I would drink on a more regular basis except that it has 9% alcohol or something ridiculous like that.  In other words, it packs a punch.

Despite a month of eating and drinking a bit too much, I would say that the rest of my training regime is on track.  Yes, despite my mid-month groaning and moaning and belly-aching, it's been a solid training period.  I started off the month with a great run in Boulder on New Year's, and I started today with an early morning long, slow distance run.  Many of these have felt like a slog, at least at one moment or another, but I enjoyed every moment of today's run. I feel that some of the training is beginning to click, and I'm looking forward to a more focused month in February.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 - It's happening!

I know, 20 days into the year and I finally decide to embrace it.  Good for me!  It's been somewhat of a low-key start to the year, so maybe that explains my reluctance to exuberantly celebrate the start to the new year.

Or the end to 2014, for that matter, which was a memorable year but wasn't exactly a *fantastic* year.  I think that I declared around this time last year that it would be a 'bold' year which, ultimately, it wasn't.  It's funny, in foresight, I believed that the whole Ironman thing would be an audacious experience, but that wasn't really the case.  As a family friend said to me on this topic, there is something militaristic about training for such an event.  He didn't say that in a negative way but rather matter-of-factly, and he was quite right.  By undertaking IM training, I ended up with a regimented schedule for about 6 months.  Not to say that it was easy - it wasn't - or that it wasn't a fantastic experience - it was -  and I certainly took risks and grew and learned about myself and about the whole swim/bike/running thing.  However, Ironman wasn't THE defining moment of the year, which is okay.  Maybe it's hard to find one moment in any given year, or, if you do, are you reducing all of the other moments that are pretty great?  I can say that 2014 was a year of growth, which came with good times and also harder ones.  Seeing relationships ebb and flow is natural, but it's not always easy, and I experienced some of those growing pains this past year.  Also, I know that it sounds silly to non-pet people, but I still miss Milo, our dog, who passed away last February.

I hope that 2015 is also a year of growth (I suspect that it will be!) and of tackling new challenges.  Despite some of my moaning, groaning and grumbling about lack of fitness, I have committed to another Ironman experience!  My plans in 2015 are Ironman 70.3 St. George and Ironman Boulder!  St. George was a tough choice because it's the same weekend as Wildflower, which will always be near and dear to my heart in terms of triathlon, but after last year's swim, I don't know how the conditions will be better this year (with the continued lack of rain), and Michael, Mr. Sherpa, said that he'd prefer to go to St. George anyway.  The only issue I'm currently experiencing with St. George - mentally at this point - is that it is a harder course than Wildflower.  Gulp.  This means that I need to get in gear, especially on the bike!  The bonus is that it looks like an amazingly beautiful course, so I can't wait for that.

And Ironman Boulder - it was the only 'obvious' choice for different reasons.  Summer plans, for instance, and also for the emotional pull that Boulder has had over the past 9-10 years.  It was my first Ironman experience, at Boulder 70.3 a few years ago, so it will be exciting to tackle the full distance this year.  Plus, we'll be there in June which will give me the chance to train on the course - what a concept!  Even better, I love the idea of seeing friends and family on the day of the event.

My only issue right now, is that... despite working with the same coach as last year (who is awesome) and despite the long off-season that should have reenergized me, I'm feeling...  Oh, a bit 'off'.  I was so excited to begin to train and to focus on 2015 training, and I still am, but I'm also worried that I bit off more than I can chew this year.  Maybe it's just that I'm nervous about the idea of another Ironman and I'm still waiting for things to come into focus.  I was so excited in July, still riding on the post-Ironman high, that I couldn't wait to sign up for another race, but now I feel somewhat intimidated about fully committing to the training program again - but here it is!

In the meantime, I recognize that I have much to look forward to in 2015 and exciting changes are afoot.  But there are also some scary unknowns (the Rumsfeldian "known unknowns" along with the "unknown unknowns").  I hope that I can embrace all of the experiences, good and difficult, and the changes that come my way in 2015.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 2014 Christmas edition

I know, I know, it's 2015 already yet I'm still stuck in 2014.  With the return to work looming (ack, tomorrow!), I want to express gratitude for the fun times that we had over the Christmas break with good friends and family in Colorado.  Although it made for a busier trip, I felt particularly lucky this year that we were able to see both sides of our families, spending time with Michael's family in Boulder and skiing with my family.
Our trip preparations included dressing up Gus in his Christmas costume.  He was a very unhappy doggie as an ice cream sundae.

As usual, we drove from Pasadena to Boulder, however, we stopped in Santa Fe this year rather than Flagstaff.  We arrived late and left early, so we couldn't fully appreciate the sights, but wow, is it a beautiful place at Christmas with the lights! Also, the sunrise to which we were treated as we left town was so beautiful - such pinks and blues!  I sometimes think that Georgia O'Keefe's work is a bit cheesy with all of the pink, but when I saw that sunrise, I thought - "Wow, she didn't make any of it up".

After a few quick days in Boulder (most of which we spent running errands, although we hit some of our favorite places - Salt, Backcountry Pizza which is notable for an outstanding beer list, and Southern Sun), we headed to Keystone, Colorado to meet up with my family.  This was a repeat of our trip two years ago which was fine by me.  We discovered that a ski trip suited everyone - giving us enough freedom yet still allowing us to be together.  One of our first stops was Keystone Village where I posed with the ice sculptures alongside my niece and nephews:

And then we spent the next few days skiing:
Michael, my brother, sister-in-law and I

 Panorama view of the mountains

More posing at the top of the mountain!

Michael taking a break.

The skiing was really great this year thanks to a few days of major snowfall right before we arrived (and the day of our arrival).  I don't ski all-out, super hard-core these days, largely because I'm nervous about injuring myself, but we had several great days out there.  What most surprised us was the lack of lift lines - we rarely had to wait at all, and when we did, the lines were quite short.  It was fun to see my niece and nephews on the slopes too.  We didn't ski too much with them, but they are becoming very good skiers and it's fun to watch them on slopes!

The last day was probably the warmest, so we got in one final morning before returning to Boulder for a New Year's Eve celebration.  We closed out 2014 and brought in 2015 with a competitive game of Cards Against Humanity, plenty of champagne and caps that Michael's mother made for all of us.

A motley crew

Boulder - The Flatirons with snow

We spent New Year's Day in Boulder - going for a walk, visiting family, and I even motivated for a New Year's Day run in the cold (for me, it was freezy!), the perfect way to start 2015.  It was a full Christmas/New Year's break, and while at times I missed the low-key nature that often defines our holidays, it was great to see so many people and share the holidays with them.  We definitely ate and drank and played pretty hard, and I'm now ready to focus on 2015 and all that it will bring!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A "cat" in the house!

I know, there have been plenty of new additions to the house with the Bat.  And now it seems that there is a cat - or a kitten!

For the 2015 year, I'll be training and participating in events as a Vanderkitten VIP, which is basically the Vanderkitten Brand Ambassador-type program.  I admit that I was super surprised.  I'd been looking at VK gear for over a year and was planning on getting a kit.  When I saw that they were soliciting applications for the 2015 VIP program, I thought "Why not apply?  I have nothing to lose."  So, I applied, hit "send" and didn't hear from the company for a while.  Then, last week, I got an email informing me that I had been selected as a VIP.  Whoo-hoo!

The company's slogan is "Clothing for women who kick ass" and it supports women in a variety of sports, but focusing on biking (mountain, cyclocross and road).  It's a bit daunting for me to be included in such a group, but I'll try to rise to the challenge!  I'm definitely excited to connect with other women who are swim/bike/running.  While I lean heavily to the introverted side of things, I do find that meeting up with people, especially for training (serious or not), is energizing, and I'm hoping that I'll find a few more training partners and get to know some cool women.  All while sporting some great gear!