Finding a New Way hOMe

I started off March with the 5th Anniversary OMember Challenge at OM Power last week. Deal is that you take as many classes as you can and whoever makes the most classes wins prizes. What a lot of my studiomates didn’t know is that my regular workout schedule already includes 2 – 3 hours of exercise a day (more when I’m actually training or going on long bike rides) so something like this is right up my alley.

I mapped out how many classes I could make in 7 days with maintaining my previous commitments like work and social events. I would have to give up almost my entire week’s swim schedule but everything more or less would stay the same. I could make 19 classes in 7 days and I’d only keep 1 swim on my schedule. What many people there didn’t know is what my regular workout routine actually is as I don’t usually do it all in one place between swimming, OM, and 2 gyms. 2+ hours exercising a day doesn’t sound too bad until you add it up to 14+ hours a week.  I’m used to doing multiple hours of cardio at a time ( up to 10+hours on the bike and of course my 17.5 hours Catalina Channel marathon swim crossing).  I’m used to mainly cardio with some resistance training, not the other way around. The reverse would be the challenge for me. Just the weekend before I’d done the Row HIIT, Spinning, and TRX classes on Saturday (all before noon!) and the Row TRX and a Bay swim on Sunday then going into my usual weekday schedule that starts off with Spinning on Monday mornings. What’s a “rest day”?

My workout class schedule for the OMember Challenge 2017. 19 classes in 7 days.

The week also coincided with the anniversary of my hospital stay for my first pelvic surgery. I’d been checking out Facebook’s “On This Day” feature and saw the posts from 2011 that I made while in the hospital and shortly after getting home. I think about that time a lot but I’d never gone back to what I wrote during that time and had forgotten some of the details. It was strange yet familiar, like reading someone else’s writings even though it was yourself who wrote them. I wish I’d written more back then as it already seems like a lifetime ago. I’d never had major surgery before and never broken a bone before 2011 so I really had no idea what I was in for. I also didn’t know that it’d give me the new way to look at life and simple things like walking (and stairs!!) that people take for granted.

For someone who works out at a place mostly known for yoga, I rarely do yoga. Like 5 times in my entire life. I mostly take TRX and spinning classes here with the rowing classes thrown in when I can make them. So my 19 classes were made up of 9 TRX, 5 Spinning, 2 yoga, 1 rowing, 1 rowing HIIT, and 1 Row TRX combination classes. Actually the yoga classes were to get Enrique off my back (more or less) about me not doing yoga to balance out everything else that I do. I’d have done more rowing classes if I didn’t have that thing called “a job” and unfortunately many of those classes aren’t at times that I can make it. I didn’t even think about 9 TRX classes being hard for me to do in 7 days. I was excited to try out a few instructors whose classes I don’t normally make it to like April (TRX), Kara (rowing), or Megan (yoga). April’s class would be the first female-led TRX class I’d ever take! Kara won the bronze medal in the quadruple sculls in the London Olympics! Jennifer, OM Power’s owner, and Enrique said that I’d love Megan’s class which I was still a little skeptical about but ’tis the week to try her out.

I made it through the first few days without any issues since 8 classes (hours) in 3 days is normal for me. Tuesday (Day 4), I was starting to hurt a little in April’s TRX class. Not painful hurt but just the muscle fatigue wasn’t something I experience except immediately after a 80+ mile ride with lots of climbing or a 6+ hour swim. April’s class is definitely different than “the boys”‘ classes. A lot of aerobic energy and a “keep moving / active recovery” motto that Duncan has in his Rowing (HIIT) classes. Every time I think of it, I just see her blonde ponytail bouncing all around. The woman LOVES jumping jacks!

After work I power through Enrique’s TRX Strength and Kara’s Rowing classes. Kara looks like she’s still training for the Olympics. Super tall, broad shoulders, no body fat, bright smile. During the “nice and easy” warm-up, I see her splits are about 2:08 / 500 m for a 22 strokes per minute. My splits are about 30 seconds slower and I’m booking it if I’m hitting 2:08. She isn’t even breaking a sweat! There’s no way that I’m going to be able to come close to her splits so I’m not even going to try. It’s not a competition though and I’m focusing on what I can do. Love her class as like Duncan, she’s going through all the proper technique first then focusing on maximum power while maintaining your form. I decide right then and there to start incorporating her rowing class into my schedule when I can do it. Rowing is primarily about legs then torso and finally the arms which makes sense since your leg muscles are bigger than your little arm and upper back muscles.

One of my cans of OSMO Acute Recovery catches my eye in my pantry on Tuesday night. It’s an exercise recovery drink that I haven’t taken in months because I haven’t been in any kind of real training mode in months. I usually have it in my car for after long rides and usually forget to take it after the ride. The thoughts of getting out of my cycling kit, changing clothes, showering, and eating (as I run my body on the bare minimum during rides like many cyclists to avoid indigestion, cramps, and nausea) take precedence over remembering that I have a recovery drink waiting for me in the car. Why haven’t I been taking this stuff all week? I throw it into my backpack to use the next day.

I’m sore and looking forward to my usual Wednesday (Day #5) morning Bay swim with Cathy. I need the cryotherapy to soothe my muscles. Cathy and I have been swimming on Wednesdays for the last 2.5 years (basically since I moved back to SF after the 15 months in Pasadena). I don’t like not showing up for our Wednesday morning swim dates and the OM Challenge isn’t a good enough reason to cancel on her. The cold water does some good on alleviating my muscle fatigue but not all of it. I’d liked to have stayed in longer but I had to get to work!

Best swim buddy Cathy Harrington and me swimming in Aquatic Park on Wednesday, 8 March 2017.

I make it through a triple workout Wednesday night with both of Kevin’s TRX classes and Enrique’s Spinning class. I’ve never looked so forward to a Spinning class in my life since cardio is my bread & butter (yum..bread..yum…butter..what we were walking about?) and easier for me to drag my sorry carcass through. I take some of the OSMO Acute Recovery right after the Spinning class.

The recovery drink turned out to be a total game changer for me. Usually after long rides or swims I’ll take a day or two off afterwards to recovery and get back to normal. I’ve never had to do a multi-day endurance event like this OMember Challenge that combined cardio with strength training. When I swam in a pool every day I was swimming about 3 hours / 6+ KM a day every day with no rest days without issues. The combination of resistance training with cardio isn’t something my body is used to and it was suffering. I woke up Thursday (Day #6) morning completely refreshed with NO muscle fatigue at all!! It’s a miracle!

I bust through April’s TRX class before work and Enrique’s TRX class after work. I tell him about what I learned about the importance of the recovery drink. He tells me that unlike other people doing the challenge, I’m learning about how to improve my training and get my body to recover faster so I can push my body harder. I’ve been training with Enrique for the last few years and as a triathlete, he understands what I’m putting myself through with endurance sports. I remember my first Spinning class with him which was the first one that I’ve ever had a RPM meter. I was trying to ignore the pain my legs were in and focus on hitting the RPM that he would say to be at during every part of the workout. Even though I was living in Pasadena at the time, I knew then that I wanted to hit up as many of his classes as I could when I was home. I started going to his Spinning classes regularly when I moved back home in October 2014.

It’s Day #6 so the challenge week is winding down. I can’t do Kara’s class that night because I’ve got dinner with friends in Oakland and again, I hate canceling on people for non-health reasons. Time with my friends is priceless anyway since there’ll be a day where we all can’t get together since we’re not immortal. I know a couple of other OM members have declared that they’re going to beat me in the challenge which they can have it as far as I’m concerned. I was just seeing how many classes that *I* could make regardless of what anyone else was doing. It’s the same thing I have with cycling and marathon swimming. You’ll get frustrated if you are trying to compete against anyone else’s times and in the long run it all comes down to YOU. The most important thing really is to finish since there are a lot of people who DNF and even more who never even started. Do what’s right for you though and find out what you’re capable of for yourself. Ego boosts from winning a challenge isn’t necessarily going to turn into a lifelong change for better health.

Enrique’s TRX Strength classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 PM. He loves single arm/leg exercises!

Day #7 and the last day of the challenge arrives. Yah! Rob is off at Spring Training so Katie is covering his Friday morning Spinning class. Katie’s new to OM and I’d taken her class the previous Sunday and given my feedback to EJ and Jennifer. I’ll give her another shot though and my second class with her is definitely better. I do really like her energy and personality. Thanks to combining my recovery drink even once a day after the multiple-hour workouts, I find that I have zero muscle fatigue and feel like I could keep doing this intensive workout for several more days. Friday evening yoga arrives and April is also telling me that I’m going to love it. Still a little skeptical.

I only know two positions in yoga : child pose and downward dog. Everything else I’m completely lost on. I grab a spot next to Jay, who has done many classes as me during the week. I’m really glad I’m next to him instead of an unfamiliar face or someone I know who is a die-hard yoga expert. Jay is a leukemia survivor and we’d bonded earlier in the week over our medical histories and our past experiences with leukemia (as my uncle passed away from it in October 2015 and I donate platelets almost weekly and am in the national bone marrow donor registry). I’ve got a clear view of Sarah who is a yoga addict so I look at her every time we’re supposed to change position so I can see what we’re supposed to be doing. Why don’t most yoga instructors demo what the position is before you have to get into it? My friend Rebecca is the only yoga instructor I know who does this! Megan’s Hatha & Alignment class is slow enough for me though that I’m not feeling like a total bafoon during it and watching Jay struggle with some of the moves right next to me is also comforting. I stick around for Megan’s Restorative Yoga class afterwards. I’m confused on why we need pillows and blankets for this class at first. It’s not an exercise or yoga class at all but more of a relaxation class. You get into certain positions for several minutes with the lights really low and just lay there. Megan goes around and presses on a certain part of your body. I like this class because it gets me to really do nothing for an hour. I decide to incorporate one or both of these classes into my schedule with time permitting. Hopefully the Hatha & Alignment will help me stretch out the areas that get built up from swimming and TRX along with regaining a lot of the flexibility that I lost from my surgeries. The restorative class would be good just to get me to actually relax.

The week was a learning experience on what it takes to get my body to recovery quickly and keep going. I can bring that into my training schedule when I start training for my big swim later this year and future ones. I’d started coming to OM Power 3 years ago strictly for spinning classes and it’s become much more important to my fitness and training than that. Each class instructor has really been more of a coach in different areas of my learning about myself and enabling to push myself farther. Enrique has been a great mentor for my endurance training and offering advice on how to listen to and respond to my body. He also calls me out when I’m slacking off as he can tell instantly like any good coach. Unconsciously every time I’m on a bike there is at least one time where I hear his voice in my head saying “Push! Pull! Push! Pull!” This is especially true when I’m coming off a descent or trying to quickly cover distance on a flat. Rob has taught me a lot about cycling especially about controlling my breath. Jennifer introduced us over email when I’d asked for help training for my first endurance ride. Rob and I exchanged several emails before I’d ever met him in person or taken his class. He recently shared some of Jim Karanas’ old articles which got me into thinking and researching what exactly my body is going through biologically during exercise. Kevin has taught me an incredible amount about nutrition and weight management. I think I’ve annoyed him the most with all my questions! He’s a TRX Master Trainer so you seriously won’t find anyone who knows more about making your body your machine in the Bay Area who is better than him. Elliot’s enthusiasm has gotten me to try new things because, as he always insists, I’m going to love it (even if I don’t, at least I tried). Duncan manages to kick my butt with his workouts no matter what and I always come out of his classes feeling stronger (eventually, after I recover). He’s the energizer bunny when it comes to fitness! Kara makes rowing look effortless and while she’s got the aura of the Olympic champion that she is, she’s approachable too. I love her constant encouragement and positive feedback even though I feel like a fat slug next to her. April has limitless energy and always getting me to keep moving. I’ve never met anyone so positive and absolutely has your back 100% of the time. I look forward to attending her classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings that I’m not swimming. Jennifer, the owner, did a great job recruiting the right people to make up her team. She hired people who shared the same level of passion for their respective areas of fitness that she has for her own. They get to know all of the members on a first name basis and make the effort to get to know you as a person and athlete. OM isn’t just a type of gym for me as it’s become a place where I make new discoveries about myself and become a stronger athlete. More importantly, they’ve become people I consider to be more than just friends and are part of my extended family.

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Conversation With My 18-year-old Self

You’re not comfortable in your own skin and you pretty much know that. A lot of it has to do with your weight and a neurosis that your mom implanted in you back when you were 14. There’s a diary entry from the start of your freshman year of high school where you wrote about getting your body fat measured in high school PE class and despite you being 11% body fat, your mom “still calls [you] fat.” It isn’t ever right to tell anyone that they’re fat. Do yourself a favor and don’t let this carry on the rest of your life. It’s behind in its rent so evict it NOW.

Figure out and focus on what makes you happy for you. Find what makes you feel good and keep doing it every day. You’ll try and fail numerous times to get on a gym schedule with the sole intent of losing weight and it’ll never stick because that isn’t the right reason to do it. That’s just about burning calories and your heart isn’t ever going to be into that. There’s no joy being on a treadmill. Even with the pool you’ll go maybe a few times a week every now and then and I know you already find that boring. You respond well to challenges though and they’re always just to see what you can do. You hate competition and the only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday. Take it one day at a time and stop being so hard on yourself.

You really aren’t focused on your health of any kind and running around a bit like a burnout at the tender age of 18. Learn how to cook already. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. Ithaca has awesome farmer’s markets so take advantage of it. Take a nutrition class at Cornell or something to learn that a lot of what you are eating is total crap. It’s basically college comfort food that isn’t serving you well. And worse off is that you’re eating way too much of it. Listen how your body responds to what you eat as you may notice that you really don’t feel good afterwards. It’s not your fault though since you don’t know better and popular belief is that the “college diet” is what you’re supposed to be eating. They’re wrong. You didn’t need to eat that much in high school either and again, that was all crap that you were eating and unfortunately lots of it. Try some kale as it’ll practically be your best friend one day. Start your plant-based diet now and ditch the white carbs that really aren’t fueling your body.

You don’t recognize yourself in the mirror and you hate photos of yourself because of that. This is exactly why you need to start taking better care of yourself. Do it for you. It’ll be 90% diet and 10% exercise so start making smarter choices about what you eat and just as importantly, how much of it you eat. You’ll lose almost all the weight you put on in high school and go back to a normal weight just by changing your diet. Take it one meal and one day at a time. You didn’t put on that weight overnight and it’s not going to go off overnight either. It’ll do wonders for your self-esteem though and help you get more comfortable with who you are.

One day you’ll get really into being physically active and it’s not about exercise at all. It’s more about pushing yourself to see what your body can do. You’ll make friends along the way who also share that passion and drive to join you on that journey. You support each other and it’ll become very social, almost to the point where you forget that you’re burning calories also. Cardio will become a big part of it and no, you still don’t like running. You’ll accomplish some incredible feats that’ll teach you just how emotionally and mentally strong you truly are. If you’re not mentally and emotionally there then you won’t be able to physically get through it which is why the gym routine isn’t going to work for you. Change your diet first to lose a lot of the weight and then start exercising as it’ll be a lot easier without the excess baggage. It may be laborious at first but you’ll get more energy eventually. In fact people will become impressed with how much energy you have one day. For you though, it’s just your normal daily routine as it’s part of your lifestyle.

You’ll learn that it’s a privilege to move because you’ll have it all taken away from you. Head’s up…you have hip dysplasia in both hips. Your pelvis is slightly deformed to where there’s not adequate coverage of the femur on either side which is causing undue stress on your hip joints. It won’t cause any problems until just after your 34th birthday when you’ll lose the ability to move your right leg while being in the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life. Go straight to your cousin Denise as she’ll help you with getting the proper diagnosis sooner. Go to the Center for Sports Medicine at St. Francis anyway for the cortisone shot and pain meds so you can at least sit down without crying. A extremely gifted surgeon at Stanford, Dr. Michael Bellino, will surgically break your pelvis to save your hip joints and stop the arthritis that started forming literally overnight. You’re going to be bedridden and using a walker and wheelchair for 6+ months over 2 years while you get your pelvis fixed. Your Aunt Marge told you that your golden years are when you’re younger and can still move. She knew what she was talking about. So stop complaining about the walk back to Akwe:kon from class / the lab / COE because other people don’t have the option to walk, including you and luckily yours was temporary. Take advantage of the beauty of Upstate New York as you’ll look back fondly on these days.

Having your periacetabular osteotomy will be one of the best things that will happen to you. The new lease on life will guide you to you accomplishing feats beyond your wildest imagination. Next time you’re home, go to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square (I know, trust me on this one though). You’ll see between them a nondescript white building with red trim that you’ve never noticed before even though it’s been there since the 1930s. That’ll be like your second home one day and the people there will become part of your family. It’s an amazing experience there and you’ll only possibly regret that it didn’t enter your life sooner. However, you’ll cross paths with the people there at the right time in the right place.

Your mom is going to always be who she is and she doesn’t know any better. You really do take after your dad more and he will teach you that he never doubted that she loves you and Stephanie and she just never learns how to show it. You’ll grow pretty close to your dad and even when you’re almost 40 he will be there for you. How awesome is that? One caveat though is that he will badly hurt you one day and he’ll regret it. You already know your parents’ marriage has been over for about a good 5 years now. He’s sticking around to make sure you girls get through school and that’s something you’ll never be able to repay him for. He doesn’t have many regrets in his life and not telling you before he moved out of the house is one of them. Understand that he gave up 10 years of his own happiness for you and your sister. He’s human and he made a mistake. Don’t be so hard on him for it. There’s a lot of love between you two. He got you that far and finally made the first move for himself in decades. He’ll continue being there for you the rest of his life in every way that he can without asking for anything in return.

Stop thinking that everything will be fixed tomorrow. You’ll always end up playing “catch up” if you do that. You’ll never feel like an adult until you stop playing that mental game. Tomorrow’s never guaranteed and you don’t want to live in the past. This is the hardest lesson that you’re going to learn. Live one day at a time.

This goes for your time with people also. Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today. You regret not talking to your grandma on the phone what turned out to be two days before she died. You’ll have others die before you and you’ll regret that you didn’t spend more time with them. Make the most of what you’ve got today. Be present.

You’ll have a great attitude for all of your failed relationships as seeing them as “learning opportunities” instead of “failures.” Each one will help teach you what’s important and not important in life which you’ll find surprising. Stay away from this guy Mike that you’ll meet shortly after graduation though. He’ll just waste 2 years of your life otherwise. Don’t sell yourself short though in them as otherwise people, even friends, will walk all over you. You’ve already learned that despite Robin saying that she wanted to keep in touch with you after high school graduation, she couldn’t bother to return a phone call or email since then. She never will either and you don’t need false promises and friends like that. Hold onto and learn how to vocalize your standards to yourself and others. Not everyone is going to appreciate your heart. Focus on those who appreciate you since they are your people. There’s no sense in giving it to those who don’t care. If you’re not getting at least as much effort back then walk away from those people are they’re poison to your spirit. Many others are worth your time and energy who will help enrich your life and pick you up when you get knocked down. You’ll do the same for them too without any questions asked.

Drop the expectations on yourself and other people. People get too wrapped into expectations of how others, including themselves, are going to behave. Accept them for who they are and this goes for yourself. You can’t change who you are deep down. People get angry at others because the other person’s behaviour didn’t match up to expectations. The sooner you realize this, the better. It’s good to have goals for yourself and make them realistic. You’re a planner so make a plan for goals that suit you best that ensure you’re taking care of yourself and then run with it. Everything needs to be broken down into smaller manageable chunks as then it’s all easy.

The biggest secret that you don’t know is that you’re an incredible person. You’ve got a big heart that you’ll throw into your career, activities, and relationships. Your career will take you on a weird path but it’ll all make sense in the end as you’ll end up exactly where you are supposed to be. You give a lot of yourself to others, including those who don’t deserve it. You can’t change who you are though. Some people are going to try and take advantage of that though. Figure out what your standards are for your relationships with others and then stick to them. Yes I repeated that to get it through your thick skull. Do your heart a favor on that one! It’ll never feel like work because you’ll figure out what is worth your effort and what is not.

A lot of things aren’t going to make sense and you’ll always spend too much time overthinking just about everything. You’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be. It just may not look like how you expect but it’ll eventually feel right. You’ll know it when it is right for you as you’ll finally start feeling settled and at peace. Everything will fall into place.

Housemate Alex and myself on our housemate Holly’s bed in Akwe:kon (Native American Residential Program House) at Cornell University in Spring 1996.

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The Educated Free Thinker

I usually reserve this blog for entries about swimming, cycling, and philosophical musings related to my motivation within the “athletic” (as I wouldn’t define myself as an “athlete” despite riding centuries and marathon swimming across channels in open ocean) endeavors. Too much has been circling around my head though in the last 10 days that has affected me greatly and brings a huge concern to me mentally and emotionally as I go through the next 4 – 8 (heaven forbid) years.

Like many, I cried a lot on Wednesday, 9th November. I woke up at 2:00 AM, looked at my phone, and saw the worst news I think our country could possibly ever receive. Now mind you that I do not think anyone in politics is an angel as a former director of mine taught me that no one is pure evil or pure good as we’re all somewhere in between. However at 2:00 AM that morning I saw the closest thing to the beginning of the Apocalypse that I’ve seen in my 39+ years on this planet. I cried no less than 4 times that day. It wasn’t because “my candidate” lost. It was because I knew that the country was going to change in the wrong direction. There is good change and bad change and there is no way that the outcome of the election said that bad changes were coming our direction.

The Facebook posts by my friends and those in Pantsuit Nation were absolutely heartbreaking and made my disappointment and sadness even worse. Yes I was upset when Gore loss to W (and I still remember my dad saying “That idiot didn’t even win his home state!”) but that was different. W came across as a simpleton and how much harm could he do really? This time though..oh my word…here was someone that the KKK supported openly and has made such insensitive and condescending remarks about almost everyone. Forget about undoing everything Obama did, this guy was about to do everything that Lincoln did even.

The argument of “We survived Obama. You’ll survive this.” is total BS. Why? Because Obama wasn’t seeking to take anyone’s rights away. He wasn’t looking to strike fear into anyone. He was charismatic and diplomatic. He wanted to work with everyone to come to a solution. He never viciously attacked anyone. He never came across as drunk with power. He thought carefully about the results of his actions. He never wanted to hurt any of the people he represented. He was selfless. He didn’t let anyone get the best of him, or at least he never dared show it publicly. He took the job seriously. I greatly admire him.

Spurred by a hair-pulling experience by a total stranger’s experience with her therapist on Pantsuit Nation, I also feel like I should clarify some things about myself:

  • I’m not a Democrat.
  • I’m not a feminist.
  • I’m not gay.
  • I’ve never had an abortion.
  • I’ve never been married or divorced.
  • I was raised Catholic.

It’s worse. Much worse. I’m an educated free thinker.

I don’t belong to any political party. In California I’m registered as “Decline to State”, which is our version of “Independent”. As I told my 7th Grade teacher when I was thinking of not considering myself Catholic anymore as I saw a lot of their contradictions, I don’t need anyone telling me how to think. I’ve never voted for a Republican and it wasn’t because the candidate is identified with that party. It’s because I don’t agree with them on the policies that they want to enact in office as individuals. I happily voted for Bernie in the primaries as I thought and still do think he was the best choice for our next President. I voted for Hillary in the general election because even though I agree more with Jill Stein’s views, I don’t agree with her action methods sometimes and feel like she can be a bit of a loose cannon. She’s the Green Party version in Trump in a lot of ways of just coming across as an angry person a lot of the time and I think to be a world leader, you need to be a lot calmer and more diplomatic than that. For the general election, Hillary was the only one on the ballot who I saw as having the grace, professionalism, level-headedness, and “down to earth” persona to carry out her plans without getting hot-headed and angry about it. Above all, I felt like she generally cared about the country and making it better across the board. I trusted her to do the job and be able to focus.

I support equal rights for everyone to be treated fairly and under the same laws. Why should anyone be treated differently? You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with, for better or worse. I’ve never understood how what someone is doing in their own personal life affects anyone else’s. I have friends with open marriages and I remember telling one that hey, as long as it’s all out in the open and no one is getting hurt, then what’s wrong with that? How is it that we live in a country where people having multiple partners is seen by some as acceptable but two people madly in love who happen to be the same sex is seen as unacceptable? How come straight people can get married for 55 hours and somehow that preserves the meaning of marriage but two people who have loved each other and been there for each other for decades somehow is an abomination? Whoever said that a gay couple wants to get married in your church?

My dad and I ended up a lot alike. He was born in 1943 and grew up in Southern Illinois. He remembers segregation and didn’t understand the point of it. I was raised pretty blind to differences between people. I didn’t realize until looking back that my grade school class only had two black children, a handful of Asians, and predominantly white. I never thought of it. When I was a sophomore or junior in high school, my history teacher brought in two gay men to speak to us. I think it was her way of introducing “sensitivity training.” I remember when they said that they were gay I thought “And your point is….??” I really didn’t care as it made no difference to me.

A longtime friend of mine used to play “the pronoun game” when telling me anything about his dating life. I remember when he finally told me that he was talking about a guy as he hesitated and finally said “him” and looked at me for a reaction. I had none so he continued talking. Since then he’s been very open to me when talking about his relationships and I even met one of his boyfriends when they were dating. My mom recently asked me why I had never dated him and I had to tell her why. I had a good laugh about it with my friend afterwards.

I dated a guy for 2.5 years who when I’d tell people that I was the first woman that he’d dated in 20 years, they were confused. “How could he not have dated anyone for 20 years if his libido is that high?” I would then have to point out the obvious that he had been dating men those 20 years. Some were horrified and asked how could I date him. I’d jokingly say that I’m sure he’s showered since then. I didn’t care and it was actually flattering in the beginning as it was obvious that we liked each other for who we were. Our relationship didn’t work out for other reasons. One of my closest cousins is married to a man who identifies as gay apart from the fact that he fell in love with my cousin, a woman. You really don’t choose who you fall in love with.


Mississippi? Actually this woman’s car was vandalized last week in Denver, Colorado.

In college I had a housemate who asked me when we first met on how I felt about interracial marriages. We were living in Akwe:kon, the Native American Residential Program House at Cornell University. She was white as snow and from Michigan. I just blankly looked at her and said “Well as the product of one, I’d have to say that I’m okay with it!” She was weird. I’ve never been asked again.

I actually didn’t know what my ethnic background was for a long time until I was asked to put it down for some reason in 5th grade by my homeroom teacher. I knew my mom was from Peru and we had a lot of family there as we went to visit once or twice a year to stay with my grandparents. I didn’t know that that side of the family was ethnically Chinese. I didn’t know that most families I knew weren’t eating the same food at home as my mom cooked a lot of Peruvian food. We went to dim sum on the weekends. One of my sister and my favorite restaurants was Mifune in Burlingame. Mifune was a Japanese restaurant that was usually empty when we went and we didn’t know why (or care quite frankly as we just wanted to eat). We ate all sorts of different cuisines without realizing that it was all from different countries. I didn’t know that we were “different.” I didn’t know what my dad’s family’s background was (Answer: Slovenian and Croatian). All I knew was that “Grandparent’s Day” at my Catholic school sucked because it was an entire day dedicated to activities with your grandparents and the closest mine were was in Arkansas where my paternal grandparents had retired. Family friends used to attend as surrogate grandparents so I wouldn’t be one of the only kids in the entire school without a grandparent that day. It was usually around their annual Mexican vacation though so my mom started letting me stay at home that day on the years that Joe and Jackie couldn’t come with me. I was too embarrassed to go alone and am thankful that my mom accommodated me.


My mom when she was in grade school.

I was filling out a form this morning that asked me what my Ethnic background was. I hesitated as now I don’t know if that would really help or hurt me. Having seen the open racism towards others in the last 10 days gives me reason to pause. I’ve always been proud of where my family has come from and now I’m afraid of how other people are going to react. I’ve heard some people say that it’s good to have this racism out in the open. WTF? That didn’t come with a “so now we can resolve it.” It was common belief that racism and prejudice were wrong before and now there are those who think that it’s acceptable and almost (shudder) American to act like that. I can’t believe those who idly stand by and ignore it saying things like our fears of treating others as sub-human from a government level and/or having a government that will allow it to happen. It’s already happening. They’re not the ones affected by it. Unfortunately it reminds me of the starts of WWII with the Jews except now it’s everyone that is not Caucasian, not “straight”, and/or not male. There were a lot of Germans who didn’t think that anything was going to happen in their country either when Hitler came to power and look at what happened. When you’ve got the KKK throwing the winner a victory parade, red flags should go off that THIS IS NOT GOOD. The KKK wasn’t throwing a victory parade when Bush won in 2000. Ignoring what is going on is saying that you don’t care what happens to your friends who are already affected by it because you don’t really care about them. If your friend gets hauled off to an internment camp or the victim of a hate crime, are you going to sit there and say “Gee, I didn’t think that would happen” and then be sorry? How many Germans watched their friends get hauled off to concentration camps by the Nazis thinking that there was no way that Hitler’s government would really round up all the Jews and perform genocide. What about what happened in Cambodia with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge back in the 1970s? How can our country be putting a government into place that has no real interest in protecting the very people that these civil servants are supposed to represent and work for? The American Dream where we were a melting pot where people could come from all over the world and be whatever they wanted to be has been killed 10 days ago. When Europeans immigrated here starting in the 15th Century, they were escaping religious persecution. Ironic now that a right wing nut job is now starting to put a cabinet together that seeks to either directly persecute others for nothing more than their sexual orientation, color of their skin, and/or religion and staging a war on immigrants ignoring the fact that ALL of us have immigrated from another country in our family tree.


Alabama? Why no…this is Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn, New York and vandalized yesterday. Yauch was Jewish.

A good friend of mine is Muslim from Iran. One of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Muslim registry? Please. The federal government knows exactly where she is and who she is. She and her husband have to submit documentation (photos, statements, etc.) every single year to show that their marriage is not a sham, she has not had any access to weapons-grade Plutonium, etc. He converted to Islam when they got married. They are two of the most peaceful people. The husband is actually more of a hippie with long hair who is completely against violence of any nature than someone who has sinister plans to destroy the world as we know it. Besides, our world is going to be destroyed by ugh..I can’t even say it and refuse to say it ever but you know who.

I was talking to a friend the other day about divisions. I never look at my friends as “my gay friend” or “my black friend” or “my Muslim friend” or “my Jewish friend” or “my female friend.” They’re just my friends. I look at more of how they love and what’s in their heart and soul than anything else that can be defined on a form. Isn’t that what should matter when we look at each other?

I believe in a women’s right to choose even though I’ve never had an abortion. I can see where pro-lifers say “that’s a child and it has rights!” What about the woman though? That’s a lifetime commitment there. If she didn’t want to have it and still did, the options then are give it up for adoption or treat the kid like she didn’t want it. Whoever wants to grow up in an unloving household? There are enough kids that are up for adoption and need loving homes. It’s not so simple. I don’t think it should be used as a regular means of birth control but I understand that accidents happen. They’re not all teenagers going “hey, we’ll risk it and always abort in case she gets pregnant.” And if anything I think history teaches us that women will go out and get an abortion anyway. My view is that with abortion legal, at least the woman is safer having it done by medical professionals instead of in a dirty bathroom with a coat hanger or drugs obtained illegally by someone in an alley. Remember from “Dirty Dancing” when Penny had hers from a guy with a dirty knife and a folding table? That’s what happens when abortion is illegal. Most women getting abortions aren’t waiting until the last trimester to decide “oh hey, I don’t want this after all.” Again, how does her having an abortion affect your personal life? I used to say when W was President that that’s fine if he took away abortion as long as he was willing to adopt every single one of those kids himself. And really there are some people who should not be reproducing at all.

I look at the hate towards them from others and during my lifetime I’ve become convinced that hate is taught. My parents never taught me that. It wasn’t the “San Francisco Bubble” that is why I turned out the way I did about this or any other issues. It’s because my parents overall never taught me to hate someone based on the color of their skin or sexual orientation. They’ve never even talked to me about it so I grew up never thinking that it mattered. People were just people.


Me at 6 years old in 1983.

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The Pains of Marathon Swimming

“It is going to hurt. It is going to burn. It is going to be hard. If it isn’t hard, you aren’t trying hard enough.” — Mike Thornton, my friend Steve Walker’s 8th grade math teacher and LMYA swim coach.

Four hours into my Catalina Channel swim, my right shoulder started feeling a little sore. The pain increased over the next 4 hours until it became a serious problem. I knew that the best thing to do when a body part is hurting during a marathon swim is to switch to another stroke. I snuggled up close to Neil’s Hobie so I could sight off of it and switched to backstroke during the 8th hour. Backstroke was my preferred stroke in high school. After three hours of backstroke, my crew chief Peter jumped in and convinced me to switch back to crawl “for awhile.” I’d end up swimming crawl for the rest of my swim (6.5 more hours). My shoulders were so flared up by the end of my swim that I needed help to take my swimsuit off. I needed help changing clothes for the next couple of days as I couldn’t rotate my right shoulder to lift my arm. My best friend Susie had Diclofenac that I took for the next few days. My shoulder felt like it was on fire so I iced it as much as possible.

Backstroking across the Catalina Channel

My sinuses also got severely inflammed around my 13th hour and I was begging for more ibuprofen. My crew said that they’d already maxed out the 8 that they could give me within a 24 hour period. I really didn’t care what happened to my liver tomorrow as I was in so much pain today. (Note: I later learned from Gracie van der Byl that she has antihistamines in her swim pack for moments like this).

I still do not know how I was able to swim with that much pain for so many hours.

Neil van der Byl watching over me on kayak while crew Howard Burns and Cathy Harrington swap out buddy swimming with me (legal in 2015).

I was having dinner with my friend Romy and her husband one evening several days later. Romy is a fellow swimmer and a physical therapist. She had me lie down and was able to fit her entire hand under my shoulder blade. She said “I’m not supposed to be able to do this.” She taped up my shoulder and gave me some physical therapy exercises to do to help stretch my right shoulder back into position. I did the exercises for several days and as most people do when they don’t have a medical professional watching them like a hawk, I stopped doing them when my shoulder started feeling okay.

My friend Romy taped my shoulder to help support the impingement.

I finally saw my sports physician, Dr. Van Pelt, at the Center for Sports Medicine at St. Francis Hospital about my shoulder last Wednesday (better late than never?). I could still feel that it was pitched forward and tight over a year after my Catalina swim. There are certain upper body exercises that I do that cause discomfort and wanted his input. Dr. Van Pelt said that I have “shoulder impingement syndrome” and luckily there is no rotator cuff tear. His best guess given the situation is that the coracoacromial ligament thickened which narrowed the subacromial space in my shoulder, which impinges the supraspinatus tendon right there. Of course the first thing I asked him was how long would it take to snap my shoulder back into place and he said 3 to 6 months (ugh). He gave me a couple of exercises to do to help stretch it back out again and told me what to avoid (bench presses, butterfly stroke which I can’t do anyway, and anything else that involves pressing away/down with your arms out). He told me to do his recommended exercises as often as I can. One involves leaning into a corner and he said I can stop doing them when I can touch that corner with my nose. I have my work cut out for me!

I plan on putting traditional Pilates back into my exercise routine regularly since one of its focuses is strengthening posture and opening up the chest and shoulders. Pilates also works on strengthening the core muscles which will help with both my swimming and cycling.

Recently I started reading my friend Steve’s book Where the Crazy People Swim. Why do a sport that is so demanding of the body with the additional factors of sharks, boats, currents, hypothermia, hyperthermia, salinity, wind, jellyfish, etc.? Can’t we do something safer like rugby? Artists suffer for their art and marathon swimmers suffer for the love of being in the water. If any of us die during it, at least we died doing what made us happy (as painful as it may look or be). It’s a calling though which is also why one may gravitate towards one path and not others. I have no interest in doing the English Channel. There are others that call me though that I want to try which are of the same caliber or harder (longer and/or colder) than EC. I don’t know how my shoulders or the rest of my body will hold up and I won’t know unless I try. I learn something from each swim though and take it into the training and attempt of the next swim. I’d rather be doing physical therapy exercises as a result of a marathon swim than 100% healthy for not even trying. It’s just not staying true to my spirit.

I understand now what exactly I did to my shoulder on 15 August 2015 and how long of a recovery is really involved. I’m not going to stop marathon swimming and need to take care of my body more. I could have done more damage to my shoulder if I had decided to just jump into doing another marathon swim this year. I’m lucky that I didn’t damage my rotator cuff. I know that I need to focus on the health and strength of my shoulders during my training. I can use the next several months to finally fully recovery from my Catalina swim, just in time to start training for the next one. 🙂

Neil van der Byl watching over me and my buddy swimmer Cathy Harrington.

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Stronger

I was lying on my side with my feet in the TRX strap cradles when Kevin, the instructor, told us to get into a side plank. I just laid there as I felt my lower half paralyzed for the first time in 4 years. I couldn’t remember how to lift my hips into the air. I struggled slowly like a seal to get into a side plank position. I realized that I still had a long way to go as my hip muscles are still weak 4 years later.

Five have passed since my life was changed forever. Four years since I was in a wheelchair for hopefully the last time for the rest of my life. A lot has changed since then and there have been some real highs and some real lows. There is one real important outcome though.

Every day I get a little bit stronger.

I’d been battling with getting my health back on track by my standards all year. I struggled with losing the pre-Catalina and post-Catalina weight last Fall/Winter. Nothing was really working too well for me and it was downright depressing. In December I met someone who radically changed my outlook on my health.

Her name is Ryen.

Ryen and me riding in Riverside, California

Ryen is a fellow cyclist who I knew of through mutual friends but hadn’t met her in person. I met her late last year on a bike ride. She was really cool and we chatted a lot. She exercises WAY more than me. I could never figure out why she posted on Facebook about multiple surgeries as she seemed perfectly healthy to me. I also noticed that she used a handcycle sometimes and wasn’t sure what that was about. I mentioned Ryen to our mutual friend Erika one day over lunch and Erika went off about how awesome Ryen was. I asked about the surgery posts and handcycle and Erika gave a simple explanation.

Ryen has Cerebal Palsy.

Holy f***. I had no idea. You couldn’t tell by looking at her or how she behaved. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and she works every day to get closer to her goal of qualifying for the paralympics in triathalon. She’s also vegan.

Ryen told me that she was lucky that her parents never conditioned her to be defined by CP. They treated her as a normal girl. She does not carry an ounce of negativity of what many may see as a weakness or resent. I think she looked at it as more of an additional challenge to overcome. She does some combination of swimming, cycling, handcycle, and strength training every day with a smile on her face the entire time.

Her dedication to her goal has caused me to being smarter about how I use my time working out. I started switching up my routine to not be exercising as frequently and balancing cardio and strength training. I started working out with weights at the gym again and incorporating TRX classes after work into my schedule along with swimming, cycling, and spinning when I can. I spent most of my lunch breaks at the gym 1.5 blocks from my work just to get some stationary bike cardio in to keep my legs moving.

Ryen’s veganism hasn’t influenced me to become vegan just like her triathalon goals haven’t convinced me to ever start running (exceptions for being chased and hearing “Last Boarding Call” for my flight). I read the Whole 30 book recently and while I never did the 30 days “reboot”, I did start thinking about what I eat differently again. I have been eating a lot less dairy. I switched my usual breakfast from plain Greek yogurt to being rolled oats, unsweetened coconut milk, cinnamon, and whatever fruit I have around. I find it more satisfying and with the fruit changes, there is some variety. I don’t really keep cheese at home and if given a choice, I go with a vegan cheese option. I also figured out that I can’t eat sweets after mid-afternoon because I’ll wake up bloated the next morning. I’ve started paying attention to how certain foods make me feel and how well I digest them. I can make changes to my diet based on the feedback my body gives me. All I needed to do was start listening to it.

I was never a “I NEED MEAT!” person and have switched back to smaller amounts of animal protein in general. I’ve been eating more seafood and chicken if I do eat meat. I can’t remember the last time I ate bacon. I haven’t gotten any cravings for any kind of meat actually in months. I do still eat it though.

I don’t have any snacks, even healthy ones, at work as it was too tempting before to eat when I really wasn’t hungry because of the “it’s healthy though!” excuse.

Did I give up cookies? No. I eat truly healthy ones though that are 4 ingredients only: rolled oats, bananas, sunflower butter, dark chocolate chips (although the ones I made this morning have raisins instead of chocolate). I find that eating a few of these half-dollar sized cookies leave me feeling satisfied for a cookie craving. I made some of my oatmeal-raisin-dark chocolate chip cookies for the first time in months a few weeks ago for a kayaking clinic that I was running and they tasted weird to me. I hadn’t made them in so long that I wasn’t even sure if I had the flour or two kinds of sugar or any of the other ingredients at home. I definitely prefer the 4-ingredient vegan ones though!

The combination has had an outstanding and surprising effect that I lost 10 pounds in the last few months without counting calories or jumping on a scale on a regular basis. I didn’t give up alcohol either. I made a lifestyle change that had a greater effect than exercising for hours on end or severely restricting my diet. I have gone back to wearing my belt that I gave up wearing last year as I didn’t like how I’d gone up a notch. Now I’m back to my “regular” notch and feel a lot better about myself. I recognize myself more now in the mirror. I’m slowly becoming the person that I recognize.

Last weekend I had an even bigger surprise last weekend when I went on two bike rides. The first up was with my friends Linda and Jaime (and a bunch of Linda’s other friends). Linda knew that this was my only weekend before Levi’s Gran Fondo that I was available to ride so we went up to the Oakland Hills for some climbing. I hadn’t been there in months and had little trouble on any of them. Afterwards Linda asked me if that was enough climbing for me. My legs weren’t sore at all. We had done just under 1000 feet / 10 miles which is actually a pretty decent amount of climbing.

Death Ride Course Map.

The week before she had told me that there are a lot of people who ask about doing the Death Ride and that I was the only one that she’d really recommend doing it next year. I thought she was kidding at the time as I didn’t think I could handle that much climbing. After this past weekend though, I think I may be up for the challenge. 129 miles and 15,000′ of climbing over 5 Passes. 08 July 2017. Holy crap.

The next day I was out riding in the North Bay with my friend Len in the North Bay. He proposed Alpine Dam which has been on my bucket list for several months. I had heard from others that it was a beast of a climb and when we got to the dam, I asked him where was this big climb that I’d been hearing about and he said that we just did it. Oh. Oops. We continued on to the top of the ridge and Patollah Road (aka the road that leads to the top of Mount Tam) and started making our way back down. I saw on Strava later that we’d done some 31 miles and 3200′ of climbing. My legs still weren’t sore and like the Oakland Hills ride, I could have easily kept going.

I also hit a new PR for my fastest ascent of Camino Alto.

New PR for Camino Alto at the end of a lot of climbing.

So even though I couldn’t make it on the bike every day and go on long rides, I was now riding faster and having an easy time on the climbs than when I was doing 1 – 2 long rides a week with my beloved Turkey Tuesday rides. Wow.

I’d lost 10 pounds and become a stronger and faster rider by making little changes. Most importantly is that I’m feeling better about myself. I feel healthier and getting confidence in my physical abilities back. Sold.

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Today is Sandi’s Birthday

Today is Sandi’s birthday. She would have been 42 today. I woke up at 12:07 AM and my first thought after the usual “What time is it?” was the fact that it was her birthday today. We’d been friends since out college days in the late 1990s after meeting in the online fan community for the Wallflowers, one of our favorite bands at the time.

I can’t think of her anymore without thinking of Thanksgiving 2016 when I found out the news from her sister that Sandi had died, leaving behind two small children who she had wanted her entire life. I knew that she’d been having a very difficult time as the man she was deeply in love with had broken up with her a few weeks earlier. I hadn’t talked to her since the previous Wednesday and had emailed her that Friday, but she hadn’t responded. I remember sitting at the airport in San Francisco on my way to Peru and wanting to check in with how she was doing, but stopped myself since it was late in North Carolina, where she lived. I never would have guessed that Sandi would be dead less than 48 hours later.

I regret that when I saw her in 2011, she had offered to let me stay the night with her, her then-husband, and the kids. If I had known that was the last time I’d ever see her, I’d have stayed. She was also in SoCal about a year ago and asked me about possibly meeting up with her there. It was a last minute trip for her and I look at flight prices, but at $400+ for a day, I thought it was too expensive at the time and we agreed that we’d meet up the next time she was on the West Coast.

That day will never happen.

I’d gladly pay that $400 now just to see her for an hour.


Sandi with her children, Andy and Annie, in August 2015.

I’ve thought of her every day since Jenni told me that Sandi was dead. Angry for what she did to her own children who needed her more than anything in the world and able to forgive as I know she was not in the right frame of mind during the last moments of her life. She wasn’t the Sandi that I’d gotten to know and love for the last 17 or so years. I’ve had some pretty low moments in the last 7 months and Sandi has helped me through that as I know it’s not worth it to go through the path she ultimately chose.

It’s not completely unfamiliar either. My grandmother was a severe schizophrenic and took her own life on 23 February 1993. I’ve thought of that day too every day for the last 23+ years. It’s been worse when I’ve heard my mother lie to people on how my grandma died. She sees it at shameful whereas I’ll fully admit it because it’s a scar that I don’t want to hide from the world. Like the 6 inch scars that run across my hip joints, the emotional scars show what I’ve survived. Life hasn’t always been easy for me and I’d be a lot weaker if it had been.


My grandma and me in November 1977.

I grew up thinking that my grandma was just my grandma. I loved her. I was always excited to see her and spend time with her and treasured the couple of weeks a year that I’d get with her since she lived back in Peru, where my mom is from. I couldn’t understand why she killed herself. I didn’t know that she was severe schizophrenic until after she died and my cousins told me some weird stuff she’d say or do. I happened to be reading a book about mental illnesses and saw her symptoms under the “severe schizophrenic” description. It turned out too that my relatives knew about my grandma, but it was kept from the grandchildren. I’m thankful for that in a way because I saw her nothing more than just my grandma. I only regret that it may have softened the blow when my uncle called my mom to tell him that their mother was gone.

During my time at Panda Restaurant Group’s headquarters in SoCal, I grew a lot as a person. I learned the importance of personal relationships. I learned the importance of telling people how you feel about them because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Combined with my surgeries, I learned to live today like it’s your last day. Live today like it’s their last day. I’m glad that I told Sandi that I loved her when she was alive. I just wish I’d spent more time with her when I had the chance. Don’t waste time and chances to be with people you love.

At Sandi’s funeral, her father told me “Thank you for being her friend.” I replied “That was easy.”

Happy birthday sweet girl. I miss you.


Sandi in August 2015. Sent to me by her mother Karen after the funeral.
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Let Them Feel Your Heartbeat

“When it’s closing time and the night is young, do you need a friend to help you on?
You can lean on me and I’ll carry our bones home
As the stars explode in the sky above and the pieces fall back down to earth
If you lean on me then I’ll let you feel my heartbeat beat, let you feel my heartbeat”
— “Let Them Feel Your Heartbeat” by A Silent Film

A friend who is a life coach has started me on a new way of thinking. We originally were talking about external relationships as we’ve both made the past mistakes of falling for guys who were emotionally unavailable and/or narcissistic. She saw what I was going through lately and knew exactly what I was going through, down to the same exact bull**** moves that I hadn’t even told her about. It was like something out of Groundhog Day except what she experienced yesterday is what I experienced today. And going through our dating pasts, she’s put me on the path to be able to break the cycle and finally get what I want: a lifelong meaningful relationship with a true 50/50 partner. Don’t expect results if you don’t do the work though. As she said, I just need a bit of polishing.

So this is going to take a little bit of work in order to get myself ready to be in that kind of relationship. I’ve started doing some reading on relationships that has expanded my mind in how to think about them. Looking around at how we go about trying to find a partner, most people have it all wrong. I’ve had it wrong all this time. Online dating sites try to match people based on profiles and statistics and in person most people try to find someone based on personality fits. The rates of break-ups and divorce are extremely high though. Why is finding the right one so hard? Well, you can’t find the right one if you’re looking in the wrong direction. One of my favorite quotes is “Our soulmates seldom appeal to our personality — our ego. That’s why they are called soulmates rather than egomates.” by Carolyn G. Miller. The most successful relationships I’ve seen are the ones where couples love each other not because of their partner’s talent, creativity, athleticism, success, artistry, determination, goals, etc. but because of their partner’s heart. The heart is the base of everything that we do. Loving someone’s heart is loving why they do what they do, not what they actually do. Two people can volunteer to help make dinner. One does it because s/he wants recognition and people to like him/her while the other does it because s/he wants to help out others and contribute thanks or no thanks. Both look the same on the outside (helping to make dinner) yet the reasons behind why they are doing it are completely different. The former is for selfish reasons while the latter is coming from love for others.

As Carrie Bradshaw once said “I pick the wrong men.” There is some truth to that. We focus on the wrong aspects of looking for a partner. We have all these ideals of what our partner should look like. I had to write a list of partner’s qualities years ago that I thought would make me happy. I’ve realized since then that all of that was complete and utter crap. I’ve dated men who fit some of those and realized that those qualities weren’t really that important and learned there were other deeper qualities that I needed more that weren’t as tangible. Personalities are what you see on the surface of someone when you meet them. What makes them tick though? That’s the heart and requires knowing someone much more intimately. While some still commend an ex-boyfriend for taking care of me after my surgeries, what many don’t know is that it wasn’t genuine love. He held that against me in every way imaginable and tried to make me feel guilty for not meeting HIS needs during my recovery process. He was abusive saying that if I really loved him then I’d have figured out a way to meet his needs also while I laid in bed with a broken pelvis. This horrified several of my closest male friends who said that if their partner was recovering from surgery, their own needs were last on the list of things to attend to no matter how long the recovery process was. So even though in the surface we looked like a good match, our hearts and souls were completely different. When we broke up, I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and knew that I wasn’t 100% of the problem in our relationship like he claimed. I was 100% responsible for staying in that relationship longer than I should have though.

One fellow cyclist I dated (after of course saying “never again”) and I appeared on paper like we were a good match and had similar interests. The heart behind our activities were extremely different. With cycling, he was happy with 90 minutes of cycling per day as it was just exercise to him. Me? Completely different. It was very social for me as I did it with friends and we downright enjoyed cycling for hours on end and sincerely loved being on the bike. Like the time that my friend Liz and I said “f*** it” and turned a 50-ish mile ride into a 95 mile ride when we got close to Livermore (after starting in Oakland). We’re looking at doing a double century in March. The guy I had dated asked once why would anyone ever want to do a double century. It wasn’t a personality mismatch, it was a heart mismatch and what drove us to do a on-the-surface activity like “cycling” was completely different.

When people talk about my Catalina swim or my swimming general, very few ask why I do it. Why do I swim? Why do I swim open water? Why did I swim Anacapa Island to Oxnard? Why did I swim from Catalina Island to San Pedro? All swimmers swim for different reasons. Many assume it’s for exercise and/or we’re nuts. It’s not exercise to me. I never think afterwards “damn that was a great workout!” For me it’s about the journey and the experience and what I’m going to learn about myself by going through it. When people told me after my Catalina swim that they don’t think they could swim 17+ hours, I always respond with “I didn’t either!” Why do I swim in the bay? Because I feel connected to the Bay and the city I love when I swim in it. It’s another connection to “home” for me. I don’t feel a connection to a pool therefore have little to no drive to swim in one. My heart isn’t into it. That’s not who I am.

So while I am working on reprogramming my brain on how to look and feel about relationships that I have with people I’m choosing to start with the most important one: myself. I’ve flailed a lot in things I promised to myself in terms of my own health and household. I’ve said that I’m going to lose X pounds (or fat), eat better/healthier, exercise more, get my finances back on track, remodel my place, etc. over the years. I don’t feel like much has changed though. Like the typical midnight snack scenario, I get weak moments and say “ah screw it” and let myself go. Bad idea and why I’m not getting anywhere. So I’ve decided to recommit to myself for everything I promised myself that I’d do for me in the past. My friend Brandon has recommitted to his own nutritional health which inspired me to do the same of preplanning my meals and deciding to stick to them. I’ve decided this past weekend after a week in the lovely Midwest with the “omg..people eat like this??” Midwestern diet to go to a total whole foods diet for the next 2 months. So far I’ve survived 7 days on it and haven’t been regretting it, aside from when I eat celery. It’ll help me get through the holidays also with avoiding all the cookies and cakes and pies that’ll start parading and congregating around town. In the process, I’ll be rebooting my physical body.

Rebooting my mental and emotional bodies will take some work also. I had a very long talk with my friend Erika a couple of weeks ago while we were out riding. I was having a hard time as I was slower than usual since I haven’t been riding on a regular basis and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me as my heart wasn’t into it. I had an easier time dragging myself up Mounts Tam and Diablo last winter when I was first learning how to ride because I didn’t have any expectations. It was just one pedal stroke at a time and who cares how long it took me to get up that mountain as long as I made it up there. Now after almost a year of riding I had expectations on how I was going to perform on the bike. Expectations were attacking my soul. I had to step back and reboot how I approached this in my head. I’ve started hitting the gym and spinning classes more with the mentality that I’m going to get myself back in cycling shape no matter what. My quads, glutes, hamstrings, and lungs will burn and hate me in the process yet thank me later. I need to accept the fact that I’m a slower cyclist now and the important thing is that I’m still a cyclist. I am not going to get any faster again by not being on the bike. The girls will wait for me and it’ll be one ride at a time to get myself back up to speed (pun intended). Drop the expectations as that’s setting oneself up for disappointment.

Here’s to rebuilding a bigger and better heart and soul. No way back from here (cue Dave Grohl).

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