Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Spectacular Signs

This Christmas morning was one of those morning that make you go “hmmmmm.”  It’s not uncommon for me, or most people for that matter, to think about those we have loved and lost, as well as those who are struggling over the holiday.  I am keenly tuned into the feelings and energy of others, even if they live hundreds of miles away.  When someone’s life of whom I am connected with is weighing heavy on them, it’s not unlike me to absorb that weight.  Sometimes, I feel as if I am right in the boxing ring with them, feeling and fighting their struggle. 

I choose to spend a lot of time alone. No need to pull out the tissue box or start playing your violins. Alone time is not to be confused with me being lonely.  I choose to spend a great amount of my time each day alone, away from “life noise” so that I can process my thoughts, reflect, express silent gratitude for all the positives in my life, and recharge my internal energy battery.  I spend time alone to recharge often so that I can be one hundred percent present with and available to others.  I choose time of solitude so that I am better able to share and radiate positive energy when I am present with and available to others. My hope is that this energy is absorbed and spread – like a bee spreading pollen for germination.

This Christmas morning, I decided to take a long walk on the beach.  The weather was the perfect kind of crisp, clear blue sky winter morning – I felt completely alive being out in the sun, close to the water and the waves. I also felt some form of energy source pulling me to the beach today. Normally, I’d head out for a jog or perhaps hop on my bike trainer to work off the hundreds of calories of Christmas cookies that I’ve been consuming. Today, however I was called by some force, to the beach.  Now, I know what’s happening here. You readers out there are thinking I’ve lost it and that you need to come to the Jersey shore ASAP to save me from going over the total deep end.  No, I didn’t “lose it!”  I actually connected with the spirit of Christmas …. Or frankly, just the spirit and power of energy connection.  Here’s how it went down.

As I veered off of the boardwalk and headed onto the sand towards the ocean, I was thinking deeply about those whom I am connected with and who are struggling right now.  This walk was my alone time for the day – my time to reflect, process and recharge.  On my way to the water’s edge, I decided that I wanted to find some brilliant sea glass as a sign to all of those who are coping with personal battles that they are on my mind.  I wanted it to be a sign that I was connecting with them on a higher level – directing my energy towards them.  I then “asked” to find sea glass colors that I have never found before – specifically a BRILLIANT BLUE (as is dark blue) OR a BRILLIENT RED.  I took it a step further and asked that my mother send me this sign – this piece of brilliant sea glass.  My mother passed away when I was ten years old. I always think of her over the Christmas holiday and she had been on my mind this morning when I woke up.  So, off I went walking down the beach by the water’s edge at a moderate pace (not lollygagging).  My only focus was finding that red or blue piece of sea glass. I actually spoke out loud – asking again for that sea glass to present itself to me (checking over my shoulder to make sure no one was around me).  About a mile or so into my beach walk, I saw something bright red directly in front of me.  It turned out to be a lone rose petal.  I took five or six steps more and found a couple more.  Not ten steps later did two BRILLIANTLY RED ROSES wash up to shore, right in front of me.  I took it as a sign. Despite asking for red sea glass, I was presented with two gorgeous, bright red roses.  You don’t often come across those on the beach.  As I made my way to my turnaround point, I saw the most beautiful, thick piece of BRILLIANT BLUE/GREEN sea glass laying in the wet sand. The water had just washed over it so that it was shimmering right there in front of me.  I’ve never found a combination of blue green glass like this catch.  It wasn’t the dark blue color that I was asking for, however it was certainly a spectacular find.  On my way back, I never gave up hope of finding the red or the dark blue piece, but my time was running out. Just as I was about to turn off the water’s edge and head back to the boardwalk, low and behold,  a piece of a bottle neck sat right in front of me and you guessed it, the color was dark BRILLIANT blue.  My mission was complete. I walked home with my two beautiful red roses, my unique piece of blue sea glass as well as a few other treasures I collected along the way.  I felt as if my request for deeper connection to my mother and those who have been on my mind was granted. Or, perhaps I created that energy force myself through pure thought and will.  I felt like my dog Lulu must feel when she rushes home from the beach with a piece of driftwood or a shell that she’s found on the beach.  I couldn’t wait to get home and take a longer look at my “finds!”   I did just that and then took a couple of pictures so that I could share this story with others.    As I took my coat off, I realized that I had not opened my Christmas gift that was sent to me from my father and his wife.  I unwrapped the gift to find that it was a black and white family photo of my mother, my father and my siblings from 1970.  My eyes were immediately drawn to my beautiful mother.  Today, this Christmas day, we connected.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Allowing for Flexibility within a Structured Training Plan


One of my biggest challenges as a coach is to help athletes trust in their gut instincts of backing off if their body is telling them it’s tired or feeling off.  THIS, in my experience, is the biggest hurdle for highly motivated athletes to clear.  Sticking with the training plan is not the issue, however veering off it slightly and allowing for flexibility can be difficult. Certainly injury, chronic fatigue and potential burnout can be prevented just by listening to that inner voice which says, “I think I need to rest more today.”  That inner voice often will send an SOS signal calling for either a brief physical or mental break. Many athletes ignore these signs and feel that they must, under any circumstance, stick with the plan.  Most surround themselves with other athletes in training and feel pressure to keep up with the workouts, or feel guilty about missing a workout.  I often do my best, when reading athlete logs, to try and pull out those red flags and make adjustments. Often times, I’m pulling the reigns BACK on athletes, suggesting a workout option that is more playful and in line with active rest.  Athletes need to understand and trust that it’s OKAY to back off.  Listening to that inner voice and allowing for that flexibility can mean the difference between having a full, fun season of racing and training versus sitting on the sidelines with an injury.  Often times, the best barometer of feedback is not in watts, heart rate data or fancy graphs. Some of the best feedback comes from our gut instincts.  Finding the joy in training and being opening more flexibility in a training regimen is just as important as all the hard interval work or getting in the volume.



Monday, June 10, 2013

The Power of Paying Attention

Me with my father
Recently, I had the honor of being inducted into my high school athletic hall of fame.  I was asked, as were all the inductees, to give a short speech which caused for a fare amount of reflection on my part. The actual induction was, no doubt, a very special event in my life. The fact, however that I had to spend time thinking about how I went from a shy, somewhat reserved young girl into a confident young adult was what brought greater depth to the occasion for me.  I have decided to post my speech, not as a way to boast about the honor, that's not who I am. I have decided to post my speech in hopes that the message of my story is heard and perhaps a lesson is taken away from any adult who is a part of a child's life.
When I was eight years old, I picked up my mother’s guitar, which sat in the living room, and strummed the low E string over and over.  After a bit of time, I began singing a Halloween song that I had learned in music class to that E note.  I remember sitting for a long time in that living room, playing that guitar. My mother noticed and not too long after that day, I was signed up for group guitar lessons at my elementary school.  We played and sang in several school concerts. Playing the guitar, singing and writing songs became something that brought me a lot of joy when I was a kid. It was something I became pretty good at doing.

When was 10 years old, my mother died.  Around that time, my father began running more.  I would join him for his weekend runs on the beach when we were on summer vacation in Rhode Island. I’d follow his footprints until they washed away, then would turn around and head back to our meeting spot rock and wait for him. We’d do push-up and sit-ups after his run, hit the ocean for some body surfing and then walk back to our little rental cottage for a big breakfast.  I was probably the only kid who anxiously awaited the time of year for the Presidential Fitness Test so I could put sit-ups, push-ups and all that running to good use! I absolutely loved those few days of exercise testing and secretly, I wanted to crush the records. My father and I began running more regularly together on weekends and often entered road races together.  I can’t say that I loved those weekend runs (after-all, I was a teenager), but I knew it was our special way of spending time together.

During Junior High School, I tried to form a cross country team. Two kids showed up and lasted about a week.  So, one of the teachers would stay after school and watch me run around the fields. When I entered Northampton High School, I was the only girl on the cross country team, so I ran with the boy’s team and although I fit right in, I was always envious of my competition - those girls who were part of big teams, cheering at the starting line, painting their faces school colors and laughing a lot!  I struggled in high school. Academically, I was lost, sinking, not able to retain or comprehend a lot of the material.  I was not playing the guitar, and socially, I felt out of place even though no one on the outside would know it.

My father knew that I was struggling – especially with my poor grades.  He took me to Boston where I had some comprehensive tests done to determine my strengths and weaknesses and we came to the conclusion that I might fare better at a private school.  So, I applied to Northfield Mount Hermon, Suffield Academy and Williston.  I was rejected at both Northfield and Suffield, but Williston accepted me. I took my junior year over, which was hard on my pride, and spent two years here as a boarding student.  Boarding was the considered the best option for me because of the structured study time at the end of the day and increased opportunity for tutoring.  It felt a bit strange, considering I only lived a bit less than 7 miles away. The good thing about that was I could literally run home on weekends from time to time.

I thrived here. Williston did exactly what my father and mother did for me as a kid. The community supported and nurtured ALL of my interests. I joined the cross country and track teams, ran with both the boys and the girls teams. Greg Tuleja, my coach, was there to calm me down when I ran away five minutes before the start because I was so nervous.  Al Shaler, the boys coach, was always there at the finish line of every home meet to give me, and everyone else, a big bear hug.  I sang with the A Cappella group, played my guitar in coffee houses, made lots of friends and had teachers who were so dedicated to helping me become a stronger student. Shame on those other schools for not seeing the potential in a young adult.  Williston however, did! I wasn't at Williston out of privileged, I was there because I was a drowning kid who needed some hands to pull me out of water, towel me off, and get me standing securely on my feet.
I went on to have fantastic collegiate running experience with a big, successful, fun women’s team. I also had an amazing eight year journey as a pro triathlete and traveled all over the country and the world. 

Any success that I had was due to these three things:

1)    Support and love from my coaches, family, friends and community – a lot of it! 

2)    Daring to put my foot on the starting line – to take risks and step way out of my comfort zone.

3)    Luck that I had people close to me in my life that knew enough to pay attention and help me find my way.
The lesson that I have learned from my journey is that every child, every young adult has all these little sparks inside them which represent their passions or interests.  It is up to us as adults, parents, coaches and teachers, to help be the catalyst in turning those sparks into big, beautiful, colorful bold flames!  We need to pay attention and nurture those sparks of interest in as many different and creative ways as possible. 

I am so honored to be one of the initial inductees into the Williston Hall of fame. Thank you for considering and choosing me. Thank you for always supporting me.