Upper Limits

Well this corner of the internet certainly has some cobwebs on it and they’re not decorations for Halloween! According to WordPress my last post was 5 months ago when I was trying to be a “coach”. Anyways, I’m glad to be back and writing again. Hope you’re all still on board.

For the past couple of weeks I have been taking part in Swim Bike Mom’s (or Meredith Atwood as she’s normally referred to) Swim Bike Fuel Program. She’s done two other rounds since launching last year and each time I said, “Maybe I should try this but what I am really going to get out of it? Eat more veggies and cut out sugar? Duh.” But then I started to read the comments of those who had gone through it and of Meredith herself who admittedly has always been a work in progress (just like myself) and has really changed things around for the better. I finally committed both financially and mentally to doing this and am very happy I did.

Since Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August of 2015, I’ve struggled…with a lot of things. But most importantly, at the root of these struggles, has been my lack of mental fortitude and strength. I became soft, lazy and unaccountable – to myself. I told myself that it was ok to eat donuts for breakfast for whatever reason, I said I didn’t need to go run because I was tired, I explained away the things I knew I should and deep down wanted to do which has led me to gain weight, lose muscle and lower the expectation of myself as an athlete and professional.

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As I’ve worked through this journey over the past couple of months, I’ve realized a couple of things as it relates to mental tenacity:

  1. I’ve been treating myself with kid gloves as it relates to sports, almost as if I was going to break if I pushed myself or that I would injure myself. If I injured myself, I wouldn’t be able to do anything so I did the bare minimum.
  2. My mental image of myself as an athlete since IMMT changed significantly (and even from Ironman Lake Placid). I’ve never been the athlete to “just finish or just get through it.” No, I’ve scouted the competition, set goals, had coaches push me, etc. But when I signed up for the two Ironmans, my approach changed for some reason, I didn’t attack the goal of the Ironman because it was “just to finish” (which completing an Ironman despite a specific time is a tremendous achievement, I have yet to do it). By setting the goal of just finishing, I admittedly did the bare minimum and therefore failed.
  3. By lowering my standard recently, I ultimately was making certain I didn’t fail. Because lets face it, failure sucks and no one wants to fail but ultimately we need to fail in order to appreciate the process and achievement it takes to succeed.
    1. Side note: this is a lesson first taught to me by my mentor and now friend Trip Durham. He specifically wanted me to fail at something the year I was the team leader in college for our game ops group. I didn’t fully understand it then and I didn’t really experience failure the way he was expecting it until I tried Ironman. Trip writes on his own blog and I highly encourage you to follow him.

So back to Swim Bike Fuel. One of our lessons has been on self-sabotage. This program is not just nutrition focused but rather focuses on why we make the choices we do and how we mentally go about things. In the self-sabotage lesson, our leaders referenced the book The Big Leap and Gay Hendrick’s term “Upper Limits”. As I read the lesson I found myself agreeing with a lot of it but honestly its taken me about a week and a half to truly put all of the pieces together and understand the picture fully.

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I’ll try my best at explaining Upper Limit as I understand it: when things are going well and good things are happening to you, you also may recognize that the other shoe must drop and something must go wrong because really its too good to be true. So if you don’t achieve so much, not having those achievements won’t hurt so bad. Essentially, we lower our bar to reach, making it easier on ourselves. I also take it to mean that we lessen our resiliency and don’t exercise that muscle as often. We don’t fight to keep the good things going or we allow the “bad” things to counteract or outweigh the good things.

Here’s an excerpt from Gay Hendrick in DailyOM “Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.

Unfortunately, our thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood, before we can think for ourselves. Once programmed, our Upper Limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance, and creativity that’s rightfully ours. It keeps us in our Zone of Competence or at best our Zone of Excellence.”

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Gay goes on to talk about relationships, money and the like and how we can use tools to change our outlook as to where we stand currently. He sums all of this up with, “Because few people understand how the Upper Limit Problem works, many of us believe we are flawed, not destined for greatness, or simply not good enough to deserve the dreams we want to achieve. Others miss out on big-time success and chalk it up to bad luck or bad timing. Millions of people are stuck on the verge of reaching their goals, can’t seem to scale the wall, and are struggling under a glass ceiling that is completely within their control, waiting to be removed. But here’s the good news: You’re not flawed or unlucky or anything of the sort. You’ve got the Upper Limit Problem, and it can be transcended in the wink of an eye—if you’re equipped with the right tools and a willing heart.”

So at the end of the day, I’m working on changing my internal dialogue about how I feel regarding different situations in my life. As it relates to running and triathlon, I’m learning that I am a runner and I am a triathlete, a competitive one, I’m just on the path to getting back to that and so I must be patient with myself but also push myself to keep forward progress going.

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In 2 weeks I will be on the Verazzano Bridge in New York City ready to tackle my first marathon ever with 50,000 of my closest friends. When my credit card showed I had a charge from NYRR, I was filled with dread. Dread because I knew I would have to train and push myself and do things that were going to mentally and physically tough. I wanted to quit many times this season while training for this race and it took me a long time before I even got serious about training but ultimately, I made the decision that I need to do this no matter what and to get it done.

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Last weekend I did my longest run ever of 20 miles. I planned out my Sunday as I was already registered for the local Marine Corps Half Marathon that was re-scheduled due to Hurricane Matthew so I just needed to tack on some more miles and knock them out. When the new race course was announced, it was the least exciting course possible but one that will ultimately benefit me on November 6. The course was four loops around the Jaguars stadium and their empty tailgating lots. There weren’t many supporters, nothing in the terms of scenery and the weather was ridiculously humid (as it has been all Summer) but as I went into the race, I knew that if I could knock out the 20 miles with this race as the majority of the miles, I could do the marathon in NYC.

That training run probably deserves its own post and maybe I’ll do one but I had a big mental win that day when I made the decision to leave the post-race area (after dry heaving into a trash can for a bit), head back to my car for more fuel and complete four more miles to make it an even 20.

I’m tired of setting my bar low and not really achieving anything in the process, only not liking where I’m at. So I’ve decided to “let go” of comparing myself to pre and post Ironman situations and just move forward with being the athlete that I am and to stoke that internal competitive fire because really I’ve missed it.

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When I do find success, it may hit when that medal goes around my neck in NYC or in another form, I will remember that I put in the work and deserve to enjoy the moment and not to self-sabotage with something else. Its all about balance and knowing when to push and when to ease up.

I hope you identify your own Upper Limit and find some meaning for yourself in my long over due ramblings.

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Bucket List Races: Running in the USA

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When thinking about my bucket list races for running races, I thought it best to split them up into domestic and abroad categories as there are simply too many races! So without further a do….

1. Boston Marathon-Boston, MA

Boston is where I first learned about endurance sports and how perfectly sane people woke up at 5am to run along the Charles River and called it fun! I ran my first true race there, the Boston Run to Remember, 5 miler. My friend Jenny did the half marathon as a “training run” and I thought that was just insane. Little did I know about myself!

Of course, Boston is a globally recognized event worldwide and I would love to qualify for it one day…ahh one day. Here’s to Heartbreak Hill!

2. Mountain 2 Beach Marathon-Ojai to Ventura, CA

This marathon is ranked #2 of all Boston Qualifiers to most likely qualify you for the big dance. It starts in Ojai, CA and has a negative net altitude gain as it runs from the mountains to the beach. Sweet! I may have a shot at Boston! Bonus: limited to 1500 registrants

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3. Rock n Roll Las Vegas-Las Vegas, NV

Run the Strip at night, with all of the lights, drunks and no cars, yes please! What’s even better are your choices for two distances: 13.1 or 26.2. (depends on how much partying your’e planning on doing). While this race had a terrible first year, no medals for a lot of people, people throwing up, and congestion, these issues seem to be resolved and I’ve heard only good things since. Who doesn’t want to run with multiple Elvis’s and see people get hitched while running?!

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4. The Krispy Kreme Challenge-Raleigh, NC

The name says it all! In 2004, several NC State guys got together and challenged themselves to running and eating doughnuts at the same time, yup sounds like something college guys would do! I remember knowing some people going to Raleigh to do this race when I was in school at Elon and thought it was a great idea minus the running! Since then, the race has grown exponentially, capping itself at 8,100 people! The Challenge: 5 miles, 1 hour, 12 doughnuts and 2400 calories! Will probably need to “warm up” before hand to truly earn 12 doughnuts! Stop, The Sign is On!

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5. BolderBoulder 10k-Boulder, CO

Having earned the title “Best 10k”, BolderBOULDER, is a large 10k, over 50,000 people in fact. Held every year on Memorial Day, this is a favorite race amongst many people due to the energy, long standing tradition and organization. Wave start and you finish in UC-Boulder’s football stadium

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6. Big Sur International Marathon-Carmel, CA

Held on the weekend following the Boston Marathon, Big Sur is challenging but has beautiful scenery to take away the pain (hopefully). The ocean is on your left and the mountains on your right. This race always makes lists for best marathons and destination races. I think it would be a great way to see California!

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7. TCS New York City Marathon-New York, NY

Iconic, point-to-point race going through all five New York City Burroughs certainly put this race on the domestic bucket list. Similar to the Boston Marathon, NYC gets fully behind this event which was even bigger this year due to Superstorm Sandy’s cancellation in 2012.

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8. Grandma’s Marathon-Duluth, MN

Grandma’s is a must-do for most marathoners. Its the 13th largest marathon in the US and has been around since 1977 when a couple of guys wanted a scenic road race. Its grown since 150 people first did Grandma’s into a prominent, nationally recognized road race. Probably the only reason I’ll ever go to Minnesota.

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9. Marine Corps Marathon-Washington, DC

Running along side strong Marines, check. Given your medal by a handsome Marine, check. History and support for the armed forces, check. The Marine Corps Marathon was in jeopardy this year of not happening when our lovely government was shut down but fortunately, some DC politicians who also are runners, helped get things moving and the race was on as scheduled. Like most large races, the MCM has a lottery to get into but its worth trying for.

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10. Charleston Marathon and 1/2 Marathon-Charleston, SC

I’ve always loved Charleston, SC for its history, low-country setting and food. This 4th year race is in January (I love cold running!) and features free shrimp and grits and beer post-race! Its a scenic run that has several distances which makes it easier for friends and family members to get on board as well. Plus, the fees for the race are very reasonable even as you get close to race date.

View of Mile 2.5

View of Mile 2.5

11. Portland Marathon-Portland, OR

With a long standing history of over 40 years, the Portland Marathon has racked up awards such as “Top 10 First Timers Marathon” Runners World and “Best in the NorthWest” by City Sports. It was also one of the first eco-friendly races, something that more and more races are becoming aware of now. Produced with the help of 4500 volunteers in October every year, Portland in the Fall season is supposed to be just spectacular. This race also has a 1/2 marathon, 10k, and kid’s race.

Portland Marathon

12. Bay to Breakers 12k-San Francisco, CA

San Francisco has always been known for its colorful residents and this certainly rings true during the longest-standing continuously ran foot race in the world. This 102 year old race was recently bought by Wasserman Media Group and promises to retain its uniqueness with costumes and party-vibe. Its a point to point 12k that starts by the San Francisco Bay and heads west through the Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway where you reach the ocean. Sounds awesome and scenic (costumes and all).

Bay to Breakers

13. Runner’s World Half and Festival-Bethlehem, PA

This year was the 2nd Annual Runner’s World Half and Festival hosted at their HQ in Bethlehem, PA. From what I heard read, participants loved this race as it was more than just a race but allowed people to learn about running, Runner’s World Magazine and enjoy the community of runners. Hosted by the editors of the popular magazine, you can be sure that the running community was catered to.

Runner's World Half

14. Disney Wine and Dine Half-Orlando, FL

I felt I needed a Disney race on the list as they are popular for a reason despite the hefty price tags that always accompany Disney races. I’ve already done the Princess Half (1st 13.1!) and really don’t want to do the Disney Marathon so I chose the Disney Wine and Dine because it features night time running, food and wine afterwards and coincides with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival which is amazing. When they first announced this race, I really didn’t get the idea of running at night to have food afterwards because I never used to eat after running, now the story is a little different. Cheers!

Main Street features "snow" for us Floridians

Main Street features “snow” for us Floridians

15. Harpoon Fest and Shipyard Old Port Half-Boston, MA and Portland, ME

When I first met my long time friends from Boston, they were just returning from a run hosted by Harpoon Brewery and were getting ready to go back for the festival, which I enjoyed with them. It was certainly an interesting concept at the time but one that I couldn’t wrap my head around at that time. Well Northeastern-ers know what makes a good event! Running and Beer! Harpoon Brewery in Boston and Shipyard Brewery in Portland, Maine both host running events with a great after party. Harpoon hosts several running events throughout the year including one for Oktoberfest while Shipyard is the title sponsor for the Old Port Half Marathon in July.

This was a hard list to narrow down to just 15 events as there are so many races to choose from! Now I want to know, what makes your Bucket List?!