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Coaching

Focus Pocus

By | Coaching | 2 Comments

Have you ever felt that you would be so much more productive, efficient, successful, if you were able to focus better? I have been thinking about what “focus” really is, why it might be important, and how it is cultivated. I wrote a draft of this post on Halloween, hence the themed blog title.

What does it mean to be focused? I think that a person who is focused on something is able to block out distractions–to turn on their tunnel vision–during critical moments in pursuit of the object of said focus. The technical definition of the noun focus is “the center of interest or activity” while as a verb, to focus means to “adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.”

The verb “to focus” as described by the above definition involves adaptation. To focus is something that is done on purpose, not at random or by accident. I also like that focus involves the unveiling of our object as it becomes increasingly clear to us. If we want to make something our focus, we have to choose to fix our eyes on it, and to adjust our eyes to see all of the finer details. 

How can this focus be applied to athletic pursuits? I liken my focus to a goal. I want to purposely keep my eyes on my goal. At first my goal may seem vague, but as I take each step to sharpen my line of vision and cut out the peripheral distractions, it comes increasingly into focus. Eventually it is perfectly clear to me. I must keep it in focus or risk getting off track.

The geometrical definition is equally cool: the focus is “one of the fixed points from which the distances to any point of a given curve, such as an ellipse or parabola, are connected by a linear relation.” If the focus is an athletic goal, it becomes a goal toward which every aspect of your life must draw a line to. To me this means that if I proclaim something to be my goal I must align everything in my life toward that ultimate goal. For example, if my goal is to finish an Ironman triathlon, I have to train my body and mind, sleep well, eat well, have a plan, sign up for a race, etc.

I believe that we are all focused on something at some point, whether it be ourselves, others, possessions, power, politics, problems, gratitude, wonder, dreams, etc, our mind is focused on something. I admit that most of the time I am in a state of mental ambiguity and distraction. My mind often wanders and things that I want to focus on become blurred by random imposters. Focus takes a lot of mental energy! But, when done right, we can enter the gloriously productive and creative “flow state” where we become so purely present with our work that we seemingly become the work itself.

I like sport because it allows us to put away other life things to be purely present with our physical task. Breathe. Step. Kick. Pedal. I like the simplicity of it. Athletic goals challenge me to improve my ability to stay in the moment even when my mind wants to run off and consider how nice it would be to be back in bed. They challenge me to make the small and seemingly insignificant decisions everyday that are connected by a linear relation to my goal: Pack your bag. Wake up. Put on your socks. Walk out the door. Dive into the pool. Drink. Eat. Go to bed. Believe in yourself.

Now that we have a working definition…why is the ability to focus important…?

If we can’t see our goal clearly, how will we know what our goal looks like–let alone how to arrive at it? Without the ability to focus on our goal, all of the distractions of life (and there are many!) are going to get in our way. We are going to get off track. We will end up in the wrong place and not even know where the right place was to begin with. We will be shooting at an ambiguous, ever-moving, target.

…and how can we improve our ability to focus?

By practicing it. We don’t suddenly end up in the most critical moments with magical laser-focusing capabilities. If the goal is clear and in focus in all of the small things everyday, it is more likely to be in focus in defining moments. If it is out-of-focus more often than not, we may walk off the course and straight to the hamburger stand in the middle of our next Ironman (not to mention any names…). Focus takes practice! When things get blurry, look again. Change your angle. Squint your eyelids. Adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.

Life Stuff with Mariel David

By | Coaching, Fitness, Life Stuff, Triathlon | No Comments

I dig real stories of real people doing real things (hard things). Thanks to my friend Mariel for sharing one of those stories– her “life stuff”– with us. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Mariel since 2013 when she took on Ironman at Arizona (and gave all of her everything, and crossed that finish line!). I could go on, but she tells her story better than I could…

“The Imperfect Athlete” by Mariel David

If you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever find myself being endurance athlete, I would say that you (1) are joking, (2) are crazy, or (3) have lost your marbles. I was a single mom of three – two of which had medical challenges (one being a leukemia patient and another being a special needs child), a working professional putting at least 50 hours per week in the office and traveling around the globe up to 60% of the time, and a student trying to finish her master’s degree. When I received a postcard in the mail advertising a fundraising event for leukemia research, I had no idea how much this event would change my life–it sparked my journey as an endurance athlete.

For years, I found myself busy, slow, emotionally drained, and not looking like the typical triathlete. It’s difficult but it is also through this sport that I found the ‘true’ me – an athlete who will perform with her heart no matter what. I held on to this identity as my children became my inspiration and sources of strength through the years. During a particularly memorable triathlon season, I incorporated one of my daughters – “Rochelle”- my special child who had been terminally ill with multiple needs. It’s amazing what you can do when you run with your heart; I found myself realizing this as we crossed our first finish line together at Rock n Roll Marathon LA in 2014. It was my vision that one day we would be the next “Hoyts”. Unfortunately, that dream will never be realized as she passed in March 2017.

Rochelle’s memory will continue as I race in her memory and in honor of my children. As imperfect as my training schedule is, I will always find my strength through the heart that connects me to them. This is “my why”. I hope inspires those who think that they are too busy, too slow, too fat/skinny, etc. that your someday can be today.

Ray Charles & Santa Cruz 70.3

By | Coaching, Race Reports | No Comments

“Learning to read music in braille and play by ear helped me develop a damn good memory.” -Ray Charles

I admire Ray Charles as a man who chose to make the most of the hand of cards he was dealt. Growing up in an impoverished family, Charles contracted glaucoma which (untreated) left him blind at age 7. He witnessed the drowning death of his younger brother (prior to losing his sight) and lost his mother when he was just 15. A student of music at a state school for deaf and blind children, he grew up to become a legendary singer, songwriter, and composer. He is considered one of the pioneers of soul music.

While most of us will never know the same roadblocks which Ray faced in his life, I think that we can all learn from the way in which he chose to interpret obstacles–whether our obstacles are seemingly insignificant (e.g. “first world problems”, inconveniences, etc) or insurmountable (e.g. grief, loss, addiction, illness, etc). Ray Charles did not see obstacles (pun intended); he saw opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this concept with regards to racing. In close proximity to race day, athletes tend to be extra aware of things–obstacles– that may hinder performance. When in this “high alert” mode, it is easy to allow a less-than-ideal situation or “sign” trip you up and cause you to doubt or descend into a spiral of negativity. This might include thoughts like “I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store to buy a banana for before the race. I always eat a banana pre-race, so now I can’t possibly race well!” or “I have been feeling really stiff and tired this week. I think I’m out of shape. This is going to be a bad race!”…

Something that has been helpful for me is to only look at the positive “signs”. I either ignore the negative ones (i.e. obstacles) entirely, or else turn them into something positive/helpful (i.e. opportunities). When race day is in sight, I have a very selective tunnel of vision/hearing/thinking. I filter out any little bugs that may pollute my positivity. If it appears that it might help me, I keep it. If it appears that it might not, I reconfigure it or toss it out. For example, if I find a heads-up penny on my run, I pick it up for “good luck”. If I find a heads-down nickel on my run, I decide that nickels are the new penny and heads-down is the new heads-up! When things are going as planned, I think “this is just what I need to have a great race!” If everything is going wrong, I think “I train when things are not ideal, so I can race when things are not ideal. Imperfect conditions are to my advantage.”

This filter is extremely biased towards positivity. Regardless of the situation, it works in my favor. I’ve found that this is the best approach to fend off doubt and fear heading into a race. Recently, at Santa Cruz 70.3, the swim course was cut very short and our start was delayed by about an hour due to heavy fog. I had already eaten my pre-race snack and consumed my electrolytes. I had timed it “perfectly” so that I would be well topped-off and hydrated for the race. Then, we were delayed and my snack/drink plan was derailed. I also felt well-prepared for the full swim distance and knew that it would probably be my strength of the 3 disciplines. While the negative thoughts tried to pry their way in, I chose to think “I will be fine. I am used to performing in imperfect situations. Everyone is in the same boat. I will give my best and see what happens.” Additionally, when I was on the bike  course being passed by every single woman in my division, I was tempted to panic and go harder than planned, but I chose to stay within my power range, thinking “It’s okay. Let them go. I will race my own race.” Then, I was able to feel strong on the run and gain back some lost ground–I even ran my half marathon PR. Not that the race was perfectly executed, but I’m improving!

Thanks, Dean, for finding this pic of me at the Santa Cruz 70.3 finish!

Continuing with the Ray Charles theme, I recently dug up some wise words of his:

“The notes are right underneath your fingers. All you gotta do is take the time to find the right note. That’s what life is, we all got notes underneath our fingers and we gotta take the time to find the right notes, to come up with our own music.”

Triathlon/sport is one of the things in my life that music was in Ray’s. I want to keep learning and improving– searching for the right notes. I want to find the notes to the song that God has put inside me. I want to express it fully and beautifully.

Meet the Athlete: Josh

By | Coaching, Fitness, Meet the Athlete, Triathlon | No Comments

When Brice and I got married, we were able to include many of our good friends in various aspects of the ceremony/celebration including the photography, the ceremony music, the readings, the cake, the table decor, and even the refreshments. We also asked pastor Josh Santin, a triathlete and member of my swim class in Ventura, to be our officiant. It was an honor to have him be part of this special moment in our lives, and it is an honor to continue working with him as he pursues his athletic goals. Read more about those goals, why he tris, and other random facts about Josh below. If you are trying to figure out what to get Josh for his next birthday, scroll down to the bottom for some of his favorites…

Athlete: Josh Santin

Current residence: Oxnard, CA

Place of birth: Hollywood, CA

Day job: Pastor

Dream job: I’m living it.

Favorite sports or hobbies: Football, Basketball, Board Games

When/how/why did you become an endurance athlete? Originally to get fit again. I began by accepting a challenge in 1996 to do the next year’s Steamboat sprint triathlon. Only one person finished after me that year. The passion of challenging myself to do better became too strong for me to ignore after that point.

Favorite endurance athletic accomplishment(s): My first Ironman at Arizona 2010 was a great experience. But my favorite has been and continues to be the Carpinteria Triathlon, because of so many friends on the course.

Hardest endurance race and/or workout you’ve ever completed: Hits Ironman distance Lake Havasu. Got dark at 5:30 pm. Most of the athletes who were in this race finished in 13 hours or less. The last 20 of us finished the marathon in the dark. Very tough when you’re running/walking alone. Pulled my hamstring at mile 14, but continued to walk/limp to the finish line.

Most memorable endurance training and/or race moment(s): Vineman 2011. Temperature was over 100 and my whole body was cramping up at mile 85 of the bike. Somehow made it to T2. Did the first two loops of 3 of the run. At the beginning of the third loop, I quit mentally. I walked over to the lunch trunk and ordered a double cheese with bacon and a large Diet Mountain Dew. As I sat there and ate, I was amazed as these athletes, many older then I, some hurting more than I was, who had the mental strength to finish.

Current 2016-2017 training/competition goals: Granite Man in September 2016, Oregon Double Anvil July 2017.

Why do you want to accomplish this goal? Because God made me this way. I’ve tried to walk away from triathlon and endurance racing many times. Believe me when I say I have tried, but I can’t. And it’s because God made me to enjoy the mental, physical and yes PAINFUL, experience of challenging myself to do better and go longer. So now as I race and the mental, physical and painful reality begins to challenge me to quit, I thank God for allowing me to be who He made me to be.

Training tips: Make sure you try out all your racing fuel during training.

Training pet peeve: Flat tire!

Post-race/workout treat: DIET MOUNTAIN DEW

Ideal training “camp” location: Disney Grand Floridian Resort

What motivates you to keep going when it gets tough?  I try to remember that I chose to do this, so enjoy it. I also tell myself to remember how I felt when I gave up and quit.

Something you’ve learned about yourself through endurance athletics: I can’t be afraid of failure. Failure is a part of getting better, and that includes me.

Best encouragement you’ve ever been given: It takes incredible courage to put your toes on the starting line of any endurance distance race.

Athlete hero: Shigy Suzuki

Words of wisdom to aspiring endurance athletes: Your dream is just as important than anyone else’s. So don’t let anyone discourage you from striving to achieve your dream.

What does “Fuel” mean to you?: The octane that is going to make my motor work and run best. (Now if I could only remember that!)

What does being “Fit” mean to you?: Taking the best care of my heart, soul, strength, and mind, that was given to me.

Pick one:

Swim, bike, or run? Bike

Open water or pool? Open water

Trail or track? Track

Solo or group training? Solo

Chocolate or cheese? Cheese

Watch on your left wrist or right? Left

Morning or evening workout? Morning

Hat, visor or headband?  Neither, only need Sunglasses to look cool.

Swim cap or no cap? No cap

Cheerios or Wheaties? Cocoa Pebbles 😀

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate? None

Crocs or Birkenstocks? Bare foot

Good N Plenty or Mountain Dew? Good N Plenty’s inside my 20oz Diet Mountain Dew. HA!

View More: http://driverphoto.pass.us/oliverwedding

Thanks, Josh! Keep Doin what you Dew!