Category Archives: Triathlon

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Janet

I was five when Janet Jackson broke through to global superstardom with the single “What have you done for me lately?”

Oooo oo oooo yeah

At five, I wasn’t doing much for others. In fact, I was just learning how to do a lot of things for myself – make my bed, clean the fish bowl, put away my bat and ball, stand up on my own two skis.

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So…I didn’t really understand the song.

But today, with many more years of life on earth, I get it.

And I hear it--or slight variations of this sentiment–all too often.

What’s in it for me?

What will I get out of it?

Will that look good on my resume?

The sport of triathlon does a lot for its participants.

In the three years I have been a triathlete, swim-bike-run has enriched my life with friends and goals and confidence and opportunity. When triathlon asks what I have done in return, I want to make sure my answer is as rich as the community and experiences my sport has given me.

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Credit: Mindy Ko

This post contains some of the small ways I have found to give back to the sport. It’s not an exhaustive list; it’s designed to jump start your own thinking about ways that you can do the same and to encourage you to share in the comments below ways that you already have.

Arlington Kids Triathlon - Dasha Rosato - Kids Swim

Credit: Dasha Rosato

1. Lending a hand at youth triathlons.

Or any triathlons. Or swim meets. Or bike events. Or running races. Kids (and newbies in general) are the future of triathlon. Even if you are just filling water cups or directing course traffic, you are doing a lot for them – and for our sport.

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2. Supporting your local non-profit triathlon club.

Many cities have triathlon clubs that operate on a not-for-profit basis (as a 501 c 7) with a volunteer board of directors.  As a result, they have very low annual fees. More importantly, they offer specialized programs to equip newbies with the knowledge/skills/support they need to finish their first tri. In the case of DC Tri Club, members pay just $50 a year (yes, per year!). With your dues, DC Tri Club creates a community of triathletes of all performance levels in which newbies can gain the practice, tools and knowledge they need to become first-time (and life-time) triathletes.

DC Tri Club

Credit: Lindy Smith

3. Mentoring a newbie triathlete.

It is easy to forget how much intimidation I faced in becoming a triathlete. Until I start thinking about it. And then I want to curl up into fetal position.

Fetal Position

I was afraid of my clipping into pedals – or actually, of not being able to clip out. I was terrified to put my face into the water and breathe. And buying a bike was perhaps the scariest part of all. But a handful of people along the way clued me in on everything from chamois cream to changing a flat…and even peeing while racing.

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Credit: Jimmy Lutz

You don’t have to know everything to mentor someone. If you have ever raced a triathlon, you know heaps more than a newbie. Just be open, exercise a bit of patience and share your love for the sport.

4. Gifting last year’s gear to newbie triathletes.

We all know the financial barriers to triathlon entry are high. In addition to race fees, triathlon and cycling gear are expensive. And if you are like most triathletes, you have upgraded something (or everything?) since you began in the sport. Instead of collecting dust in your closet or making you a few dollars on eBay, find a dedicated newbie who could really use that old bike computer, or last year’s tri kit, or your first heart rate monitor. My rule: If I haven’t used in in the past 6 months, then it deserves a better home. Avoid triathlete hoarding. Share the love with a newbie.

Pay It Forward

Producer: Sarita Larios

Surely, our 35th president would agree, “Ask not what your sport can do for you, but what you can do for your sport.”

Newbie Triathlete Trevor Albert

Credit: Lindy Smith; Producer: Trevor

 

 

Ironman Texas 2014 – More than a Feeling

Beats per minute. Carbs per hour. Pace per mile.

Time trials, weigh-ins, sweat tests, fueling windows.

In October, I started working with QT2 Systems — the BEST of triathlon’s data dudes — with the purpose of learning how to use data to up my training and racing game.

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Here is an example of the type of data analysis that Coach performs for each leg of a race:

Half IM Data

Before working with QT2, I trained mainly by feel. In my first Ironman, during which I ran a 3:21 marathon and qualified for Kona, the only data I had were mile splits. No heart rate monitor. No power meter.

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Under QT2, every swim, bike, run is driven by data. Every gel, bar, bottle consumed by fueling plan. And then carefully recorded. And  then commented on by Coach.

By the time April rolled around, I had been staring so long and so intently at the numbers on my watch, that I had forgotten how pools and roads and trails looked. Even worse, I had forgotten how they feel.

I was drowning in my own data.

Drowning in Lake Anna

I’ve noticed that most triathletes love numbers.  Love what numbers tell them. Normalized power, power-to-weight ratio, average heart rate, yards per week, race weight.

But I love how those things feel.

Life is not a Rehearsal_Jenny Holzer_How does it feel2

And I can’t feel them when the metrics are monopolizing my other senses.

And without that feeling, I had forgotten why I love triathlon.

Luckily, as a former teacher, Coach respects that each of his students learn differently.

So we ditched the data in the final month of preparation for Ironman Texas and instead of sending in my weigh-ins, or beats per minutes, or mile splits, I only told Coach how it felt. And it started to feel good again.

IRONMAN TEXAS Race Report

SWIM – 1:04

Credit: Nick Morales

I heard a lot of complaints about dirty water, but at 71 degrees, Lake Woodlands felt so good. The water and air temp combo meant that I could get in early for a good warm-up swim without any Raynaud’s concerns.

The officials allowed us to line up across the entire lake and to swim the first leg inside the sighting buoys. This wide start (unlike, for example, Lake Placid’s start) and my position to the far left minimized kicks and punches to the face and panic to the heart. (Those don’t feel good.)

Cred: Nick Morales

After the cannon, I eased into a strong pace with Caroline and some burly men. I jumped on a few pairs of feet here and there during the 2.4 mile swim, but still find it a great challenge to stay in someone’s draft.

IMTX Swim

I was surprised by how much chop I encountered in the lake, and even more in the canal. Still, my favorite part of the swim was through that narrow waterway. Because it is so narrow, and with so many spectators standing above, cruising through the canal creates the illusion of swimming very fast. That’s a new feeling for me. And I liked it.

Aerial View of the Canal

Despite a winter of never reaching time trial goals in the pool, I emerged from the canal with a new Ironman swim PR of 1:04:30. Of course, I didn’t know that until nine hours later because I wasn’t wearing a watch.

BIKE – 5:18

IMTX T1

That’s me grabbing my bike. I usually don’t see this many other bikes still racked. Good sign!

Like the swim, the bike plan was to ease into a pace. I opted to wear a heart rate monitor for the bike leg as a data point to complement, but not override, how I felt. I knew the heart rate indicators could be particularly helpful in stabilizing effort through high winds.

IMTX Bike Side

Ironman Texas is a single loop course, which is my least favorite kind because I only see my parents at the start and finish, and no where in between. Luckily, the course was carved through the front yards of some fantastic Texans, many of whom made a day of cheering for us. Awesome.

IMTX Bike

Thanks to easing into it, I biked pretty even on the front half and back half, averaging 21.1 MPH over the 112 miles. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time because I had stopped monitoring the data. My beats per minute were uncharacteristically low for how hard my legs were pushing, so I switched back over to feel. And focused instead on throwing sports drink down the hatch and water on my head. It was starting to feel warm.

IMTX Bike 2

The last 15 miles were lonely, but the loneliness allowed me to feel the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my legs. And to be grateful that I know how biking 112 miles feels.

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RUN – 3:26

Though this was my seventh Ironman, I still can’t believe that I — that anyone — can run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, but in that moment, when the b/f yelled that I was in 3rd place and 5 minutes out of first place, I was thankful I had all those miles left. I knew I would need all of them to crawl out of that deficit and claim the top spot.

IMTX Run

Ironman Texas offers a three-loop run course, so I saw my parents, my coach, Aimee, and the b/f tons of lovely times. Though the out-and-backs were too short to get a quality reading on the rate at which I was closing the gap (compared to Ironman Lake Placid, for example) the b/f updated me as he ran from point to point along the loop.

The course was flat, but not as fast as it could have been. So many turns and paths and roads and curves to navigate. After the first loop, I had moved into 2nd, but only gained about 30 seconds on #1.

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Kgo and Brian

Thankfully, and for the first time in my Ironman history, I found a running mate going the exact same speed. We became fast friends, stride for stride, and stuck together for over half (!!!) of the run. It felt amazing to work together.

IMTX Brian and Kgo

My running buddy, Brian McKinney

I pulled into the age group lead with just three miles to go, marking a 3:26 marathon.

And a 9:56 total time for the day.

IMTX Finish

First place age group.

Third amateur.

But I didn’t need a watch or a place to tell me what I already knew: When the pain is as deep as the joy is pure, then it’s been a good day on the Ironman course.


IMTX Finish Line Kendra Goffredo

And like every other battle I’ve faced in my life, I felt my parents’ presence every step of the way.

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Congratulations to Meredith, Helle, Christy, and the boyz!

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Team Poppy Tony gives HUGE thanks to:

  • All of you in your corners of the world, for tracking us, supporting us, and sending us love! Together, we are 140.6 miles closer to a cure.
  • The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (the MMRF), for giving me the ultimate reason to race.
  • ZootSports, for a wetsuit, kit, and shoes that feel as good as they look.
  • SmartWool, for socks that feel good in 26.2 miles of water-logged shoes.
  • Nalgene, for keeping me hydrated enough to feel my best on a warm day.
  • Coach Tim of QT2 Systems, for his patience in letting me feel my way back.
  • My fantastic support crew of Aimee, Lonnie, my parents, and my most handsome sherpa.

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And just for fun:

 

 

Creating Social Value: Team Poppy Fest 2014

Social Value Creation

What does it mean to create social value?

I had to ask a University of Maryland professor this question when she invited me to guest lecture at the school’s Center for Social Value Creation. Professor Aelion said her students would be interested in learning how I use sport to create social value.

After a few more conversations with Professor Aelion, I developed a lecture on the components of social value creation, at the heart of which are three things present in all of our lives: adversity, hobby, and community.

AdversityHobbyCommunity

1. Adversity, I explained, are the tragedies we encounter in life. The injustices that we, as thinking people, have the choice to fight. These are the causes we choose to take up.

2. Hobby, I told her students, is synonymous with passion. What moves you? What do you love to do?

3. Community, I explained, is comprised of the people who support you through adversity and within your hobby.

And then I used Team Poppy Fest to illustrate this construct.

Team Poppy Fest 2014v5

1. Adversity. While there are countless injustices in this world, finding a cure for myeloma (a rare blood cancer) is my cause. Since my father’s diagnosis in 2003, I have poured my heart into raising awareness and funds in this fight.

2. Hobby. To target this adversity, I leverage my passion of triathlon and my involvement in the triathlon community, which leads us to the final leg of the tripod.

3. Community. I could not fight this injustice without the help of my family, my colleagues, my triathlon mates, my sponsors, and my blog followers. These people are my community.

CreatingSocialValue1

With an incredible array of auction prizes from the sponsors, together with the support of all those who attended Team Poppy Fest, we raised $15,500 in a single night, 100% of which goes directly to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (the MMRF).

Volunteers

What the MMRF does with these donations is incredible. In the 15 years since its inception, the foundation has been instrumental in bringing SIX new myeloma drugs to market. Such success is unprecedented in oncology, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that myeloma is a RARE cancer, and lacks much of the funding that more prevalent cancers receive.

Thanks to the tireless work of the MMRF, my father–like a growing number of myeloma patients–has maintained a high quality of life throughout his ongoing fight and outlived the stark prognosis he faced in 2003.

Team Poppy Tony in Green Cropped

But this post is more about the 3rd component of the social value creation triad: community.

My community has been instrumental in my quest to create social value.

A HUGE thanks to my community of sponsors for making Team Poppy Fest 2014 a reality:

Kate and Blaine of Tri360

Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill

Dr. Paul Shin, MD

Jake of Zoot Sports

Chrissie and Tim of QT2 Systems

Ryan of Oakley

Brad of Velocio cycling apparel

Eric of Nalgene

Jeff of SmartWool

Adela of Lululemon

Tim of BikeArlington

Miles of Perfect Fuel Chocolate

Oiselle

Setup Events

Rev3 Triathlon

Yoga Heights

Tranquil Space

FitPro Massage

Potomac River Running (PRR)

GU Energy Labs

Affinia Manhattan Hotel

Captain Cookie of DC

Airrosti Rehab Centers of Northern Virginia

Professor Mark Mhley of United States Naval Academy

Ed Moser, Lafayette Square Tour of Scandal, Assassination, & Intrigue

Coach AJ Morrison

Coach Katie Tobin

Coach Nichole (“Nikki”) Allem

Coach and Registered Dietitian Marni Sumbal 

Michelle Egorin Photography

Gillian McNally, Mary Kay Consultant

Kate Morse, Arbonne consultant

Evan and The Feed Zone

Thomas of BonChon

Great American Restaurants

Cheesecake Factory

Enjoy these great pics of the event, and to see more, visit these pages:

Click to view Photographer Beth’s photos

Click to view Photographer Val’s photos

Kate Raffle Bags Tickets and Zoot   Zoot_Models

Winner

Team Poppy

Janet Wins

Whatcha Got TPF Crew TPF Crowd

TPF hanging out TPF Mega TPF Micaela TPF Vasectomy

TPF yoga

 

ChiTo’s Racing Retirement: Oceanside 70.3 Race Report

ChiTo P3 Tattoo

Some races begin long before the cannon fires. Such was the 2013 Oceanside 70.3 for me.

A week before race day, I flew out to visit the fam and train in some warmer weather. Out on a short interval ride with ChiTo, my one and only bike, I mashed aggressively and blissfully on the pedals. In the zone, breath quickening, I shifted to maximize power, and then lost it all at once. ChiTo’s crank arm stopped dead in its tracks, the chain wedging itself mid-mash between the frame and chain ring before forcing its way through the tight spot and ripping open the carbon. (And with it, my heart).

ChiTo damage

Ouch

Within hours, my dad and I were at the carbon doctor who diagnosed a four-week repair time for ChiTo.  Only a few days separated me from the season opener for which I had traveled across the country to race. I was equal parts devastated and distraught.

Trashcanned

But ChiTo’s un-race-able verdict was handed down just hours before I learned that my parents’ best man, a friend to my dad for 60 years, had lost his noble battle with cancer.

The death of my father’s friend and thoughts of the wife and five kids he left behind were poignant reminders that none of us will ever have enough time with our parents. That too much distance separates my home on the East Coast from my parents’ home out West. That our visits are too few and far between.

Because of my dad’s hot chemo dates with the oncology nurses, he is not able to travel to most of my races. I chose Oceanside 70.3 because he, my mom, and my whole family would be there. Not racing was not an option.

But dropping a few thousand dollars on a bike didn’t seem like much of an option either, so I searched for a bicycle to rent for race day.

AeroBike

Not aero enough

Biker Steve Makes Noise

No room for a hydration kit

Bike Too Orange

Too Orange

Thankfully, Bike Bling of Escondido not only had a Cervelo P3 in my size, they helped me afford it. Their generosity means so much more than they will ever know; replacing ChiTo with the new racing machine means that once ChiTo’s carbon integrity is fully restored, he can remain in San Diego for me to ride as trips home grow more frequent.

Bo at Bike Bling with Baabu the new P3

Thank you, Bo! Thank you, Bike Bling.

I wish the pre-race story ended there.

For obvious reasons, the fit was hurried and imperfect. The aero bars on this new bike weren’t quite right. And 24 hours before the race, I was still making adjustments in my parents’ garage with a ruler and a multi-tool.  I feared what Saturday would bring on a bike not yet ready to race.

Biking without Bikes

Race Day

Freezing in the Harbor

Oceanside 70.3 Swim

I entered the cold waters of Oceanside Harbor and glided through the swim. The waters were smooth, the course straightforward, and the times fast. I hear the course was even short. But all I was thinking about was the stranger of a bike awaiting me in transition.

Climbing the Hills

Anxiety over racing a bike without a proper fit and with just 15 miles to its name freed me from concerns over the course’s hills and headwinds. I had been too busy driving to and from the bike store and carbon doctor to study the bike course’s elevation chart.

Oceanside 70.3 Bike

But I LOVED it. Moving north along the Pacific Ocean with the tailwinds, then into the climbers of Camp Pendleton, and finally through the headwinds all the way back to Oceanside pier. I had the second fastest amateur bike split of the day (2:38:04), behind the very strong Sonja Wieck (2:37:40).

Running Around

Out of T2, I spotted Jocelyn Cornman on her second and final loop of the run course. We exchanged words of encouragement and I pushed myself to maintain her rhythm. Jocelyn is a pro, and a very strong runner—I remember clearly when she blazed past me at Kona last year on her way to a World Championship podium finish. 

Oceanside 70.3 Run

Though out-and-backs can be momentum-busting on tired legs, the layout of this course gave me the opportunity to share cheers with some of the friends I made last year traveling across the country racing triathlon.  I am so thankful for the words, smiles, and thumbs up from Cathleen, Sydnie, James, Mustafa, Rene, and my new teammate, Hana.

I ran a patient race, which is all I could do. With just six miles to go,  I was still in fourth place, still 5 minutes behind the leader. But I worked to keep the risky pace from my first loop and grabbed a new Half-IRONMAN personal best (4:46), an IRONMAN half marathon personal best (1:29), and a place atop the amateur podium.

Hana, Chuck, Kgo Oceanside 70.3 V2

My Zoot mates, Chuck (amateur male champ) and Hana (Czech beauty queen)

Last season, in the days leading up to Kona, I had dreamt of carbon damage so extensive that it sidelined me from competition. So it was truly empowering this week when, after my great fear was realized, I realized everything would still be okay.

Everything is Better than You Thought

In memory of Don Lynn. Sending hugs to the Lynn Family.

HUGE thanks:

To Rybop, Katie, Jenbop, BrotherD, Godmother and Sherpa mother and father:

Oceanside 70.3 Sherpa Parents v2

To my champion nephews:

Podium Nephews Oceanside 70.3 v2

To my new teammate Hana:

Hana and Kgo 2

To my Coach, the German Sage.

To Zoot. Hot new kits! Tons of support. Love this team!

To Smartwool. 25,000 more steps. Zero blisters.

Zoot Shoes at Oceanside 70.3

The #1 reason to race Oceanside 70.3

What Would You Write?

Feared Erased

Sporting success rests, in part, with having the mental fortitude necessary to overcome our fears. –Chrissie Wellington, on winning Ironman World Championships two weeks after a serious bike crash

As the first big race of the season rapidly approaches, race goals begin to congeal in our minds or on our Type-A spreadsheets. Some will set a goal to complete their first marathon. Others will work to break the 6-hour or 5-hour barrier in a Half Ironman. And a few will dream of ending their season on a certain island in the Pacific.

Though logging miles and pushing paces will bring us all closer to our goals, we will never reach our true potential if we are remiss in acknowledging and eliminating our greatest limiters.

Those limited in the past by nagging injuries may decide to get real about stretching or strength training. Those limited by diet may opt for larger helpings of veggies or smaller slices of cheesecake.  And whose with a hate-hate relationship with the alarm, may spend less time in front of the tube and more time asleep.

For most of us, though, our greatest limiter is our own fear. Fear of open water. Fear of the pain that precedes personal records. Fear of going out too hard. Fear of holding back. Fear that we overestimated our own abilities. Fear that we underestimated them.

So as you set your goals and face your greatest limiter, I ask: What would you write on this wall?

Bringing Sexy Back

First short sleeve day of the spring M-Ko and K-go

Kgo and Ko Celebrate the Sun

This weekend’s 60-degree weather brought the first short-sleeved run of 2013! I wanted to feel every ounce of sun possible, so I left the hat and sunglasses at home.  Rocking the bare arms felt soooo right.

SkateBoarding

But it can be so wrong.

It’s spring now. And before we know it, it’ll be summer. The sun will shine brighter, the mercury will rise, and the layers will come off.

Kara Goucher Rocking the Sports Bra

Abs for days (Olympian Kara Goucher)

not all sexy

Well, not everyone can be as sexy as a shirtless Kara Goucher

Running and cycling are about to get sexy again. Very sexy.

But before they do, and before you do, please watch this video. It could save your life. Or your training partner’s life. Or your child’s life.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is its leading cause. It’s NOT the kind that can be simply “cut out.” It’s the kind that spreads to your liver and your lungs. It’s the kind that takes lives. Young lives.

But there is a lot that you can do to prevent melanoma.

Below, find a list of tips for melanoma prevention, modified for the endurance athlete.

  • Avoid midday sun. The doctors recommend avoiding midday sun. Whenever possible, get in your long ride or run on the early side to avoid exposure when the sun’s rays are strongest (10am-4pm), even when the sky is cloudy. (Clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.) For those training for ultra-marathons or IRONMAN-distance events, rides/runs/bricks will inevitably spill into that sun window. Simply minimize the spillage by starting as early as possible.
Sunset Run

Luckily, sunrise/sunset runs in VA and CA happen outside of the 10am-4pm window. Great running/riding scenery.

  • Choose shade.  For those really long rides that spill heavily into or entirely span that 10am-4pm midday sun window, choose shady routes whenever possible. 
Kevin and Kgo Laughing SmartWool

We can’t all run under the Redwoods, but search locally for a Redwood substitute

  • Wear protective gear. Clothes don’t wash off like sunscreen. Look for gear that provides an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40-50+. As sexy as a tank top or sportbra may be, opt for the running shirt or cycling jersey that covers your shoulders in that 10am-4pm window. Choose sleeves such as the Zoot Ultra Icefill Arm Coolers and, in addition to blocking UV rays, you’ll cool off with Zoot’s moisture-activated technology. Sunglasses are also an essential part of protective gear. Melanoma can develop on the eye as well.
Andy Lipscomb at Kona Arm Sleeves

All-American Andy Lipscomb protecting those guns with arm sleeves in the Kona sun

  • Apply Legit Sunblock. Sunscreen should be used in addition to, and not instead of the tips above. And it should be applied year-round. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. (I’d go for 50+.) Apply it generously, and reapply throughout periods of heavy perspiration.  (If you sweat like I do, reapply it every hour.) Use a generous amount; this is not the place to trim triathlon expenses. Big white sunblock streaks are sexyOwn it. 
Andy Lipscomb Sunburn

Can you guess which of the anti-melanoma rules this stud violated?

  • Avoid tanning beds. Obvio. Even if you want to look sexy in a strapless dress. Melanoma is not sexy. Pick a different dress.
Bike Sting Ray

Shoulders covered…still sexy

  • Become familiar with your skin so you’ll notice changes. Yep, I am recommending that you look at yourself naked in the mirror. Frequently. If you have a naked partner, work a skin examination into your alone time. Become familiar with what your skin (or your partner’s skin) normally looks like. This way, you are more likely to notice any skin changes. Examine your face, neck, ears, scalp, chest, trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks. (There are a small number of melanoma cases that are not caused by UV exposure.) If you notice any moles that are asymmetrical or evolving or ones with notched or scalloped borders, show your doctor.
Life is Brutal

Catch Melanoma Early

Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.

Please protect yourself and please share this with your training partners.

Stay sexy.

Your Skin is Rooting For You

How Perfunctory Becomes Fierce

Head in Breakfast Bowl_Csilla Klenyanszki

As part of my training to become a high school English teacher, my university assigned me to tutor in a remedial reading class in a low-performing school. Think tenth graders reading at fifth grade levels. Each day for a semester, I would arrive on time, be present the entire period, and then leave. But I was never really “present.”  My mind was on the sleep I didn’t get the night before, the breakfast I should have had, or the studying I still needed to do for my own courses.

At the end of the semester, on an evaluation form still sitting in my university file, the master teacher described my involvement in her classroom as “perfunctory.”

Perfunctory

Upon finding “perfunctory” in the dictionary, I was ashamed. But I knew it was a fair assessment. I had done the minimum possible to get by, and that in itself shamed me.

That was over ten years ago.

Last month, my friend Maja invited me to her yoga studio. I found all that OM-ing and “centering” to be more along the lines of hippie nonsense than a portal to zen. And, as a result, I adopted a rather perfunctory yoga practice.

Naked Yoga

Slumped over my knees in “child’s pose,” I heard the instructor suggest that we “set an intention” for that day’s practice. An intention, she explained, is not quite a goal. It is a way to help the yogi connect the “what I’m doing” with the “why I’m doing it.” An intention is a promise the yogi makes to herself about what she intends to do or be in that moment.

I quickly lumped this “intention-setting” exercise with all of the other granola-asana business, until days later I found myself after dark in the cold, pouring rain on a water-logged track.

Swimming-in-the-Rain_-Camila-Massu

Six miles of intervals, and some major wind gusts, stood between me and the end of my workout. I ran my first lap in the same perfunctory fashion that I had tutored remedial readers and stretched into down dogs. I was physically moving my body around the track, but my mind was not there with it.

The Rain Room

And my splits showed it.

But then I heard my yoga instructor’s voice like a whisper in my ear. Set an intention, she said.

Be fierce, I decided.

Tiger

Be fierce now, so I can be fierce on race day.

By setting an intention at the beginning of my “practice,” I had a mantra to which to return when my quads and glutes started burning from the extra pounds of water I carried in my shoes.

Be fierce.

The more it poured, the fiercer I could be.

Ellie by Nicholas Claridge

I wonder how setting such an intention could have made the difference in my work as a remedial reading tutor. I wonder how fierce of a tutor I could have been with an intention that aligned my mind with my body’s physical presence in the classroom. I wonder how setting an intention before each training session might increase my fierce quotient on the race course. But most importantly, I wonder how beginning each day, each conversation, each human interaction with a silent intention can enrich my life by aligning the “what I am doing” with the “why I am doing it.”

Woah. Did I just say that? Who’s the hippie now?

Hippie Solo