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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

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I’ve gotten so caught up (and by that I mean obsessed) with finding more 5Ks to run that I have given swimming a backseat in my triathlon training. I’m a strong swimmer and I’m confident in my ability, but I also know that by focusing solely on running, for the mere fact that it sucks and I hate it, therefore I need to overcome it, I am weakening my biking and swimming strengths. Or so they say. I’ve been swimming since I could walk. I swam every day, every summer when I was at camp as a kid and I was became a lifeguard by the age of 16. I think I’m good in that department. 

Nonethless, I decided to brush up by doing some swimming drills. I have never in my life done swimming drills. I’ve always just done laps, treading, brick tests, etc. So I took the plunge (pun intended) and did some drills, which included thumb to thigh, touch and go, swimming with closed fists and swimming with one arm. Seriously. If you ever want to mess with someone while you’re swimming and make them think you’re drowning, try swimming with your fists closed. You will flail around like an idiot, while literally punching the water, trying to stay afloat. After I started that drill, I noticed the lifeguard started watching me a little more closely, with a lot more concern. Right after that, I started the one arm drills. More people stared. One girl arrived just as I was starting the one arm drills and she was sitting in the hot tub, just watching me in horror. I started laughing while I was swimming, because I realized that she really thought I only had one arm. It’s also hard to swim and laugh at the same time. That added more flailing.

The good thing about the drills, though, was I lost track of time completely because I was concentrating on form (and trying not to drown) and not just swimming laps. It gets pretty boring in the pool just swimming laps. There’s no music to listen to, no one to talk to, nothing at all except random thoughts. And if you’re swimming for distance, you have to count laps. I’ve lost count many times. So I’ve gotten in the habit of making up songs while swimming laps as a way to count my laps. Not kidding. “The laps go swimming one by one, hurrah, hurrah. The laps go swimming one by one, hurrah, hurrah. This lap was swam one time, just one, and I’m the one not sucking my thumb and I keep one swimming until the end of the lane, of the lane boom, boom, boom. The laps go swimming two by two hurrah, hurrah....” and so on and so forth. I also tend to slack on the kicking part so I have to remind myself every one in a while with a bit of perfectly placed “Just keep kicking, just keep kicking”, as Dory in Finding Nemo might say. I get weird while swimming. It’s the truth.

I swam for an hour yesterday and I’m exhausted today. I always forget how much swimming laps (or in this case drills) tires me out. It’s a good workout though you use your whole body to keep yourself from drowning. There’s good motivation right there!

Tomorrow, I have another 5K. It’s in Exeter, NH and it’s the Margarita 5K. Meaning there will be a margarita party at the end of the race. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not too sure that they’ve classified margaritas as a good post race recovery drink. 

Plus, I don’t like tequila anyway. I’m just in it for the shirt.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stonyfield Earth Day 5K 2011 Race Report

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It was a dark and stormy night. Wait, this isn't a murder mystery. It's a 5K.

It was a raining, snowing, sleeting, 36-degree morning in Londonderry, NH. Perfect. That sounds much more like a 5K-race set up. Eye roll. Good thing I found my long lost waterproof jacket last night. I definitely needed it today.

I carpooled the hour and some change ride to the Stonyfield Earth Day 5K in Londonderry, NH with two people from our group and we got there around 8am. Race time was 10am. It was 36-degrees. We got our race numbers, grabbed a free yogurt and ran back to sit in the car and keep warm. Since we had gotten there so early, we were parked right next to the registration tent and all of the vendor tents. We watched the vendors set up their giveaways and chatted about the best types of sneakers to wear, how people run barefoot (and how strange it is) and sneakers that have toes on them to mimic barefoot running. Interesting stuff.

I had my eye on the pretzel lady because she parked next to us and looked to be unloading some fancy stuff out of her car. I took a break from staring her down and conversed with my comrades. All of a sudden, I see people milling around her tent, holding BAGS. I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but there was yelling, rushing, and clambering out of the car. I don’t mess around when it comes to free stuff. We each got a bag and then walked around to the other tents to check out what they had. We filled up our new pretzel bags with lots of other cool free stuff.


Then it was back to the car again to keep warm. Because it was still 36-degrees. By this time, we realized there was snow mixed in with the sleet. Awesome.
About 15 minutes before race time, we used the stylish port-o-potties and headed over to the start line. I spotted a guy warming up near the start line and he was barefoot. Weird, we had just been discussing that. Also, he was crazy. It was 36-god-damn-degrees. My feet were cold and I had wool socks on. I tried to pay attention to the announcer, but I was a little to far away from the line to really hear him well. This was my view:

As we kind of stretched, kind of danced around to keep warm, a woman came up next to me and asked me if I was running or walking. I responded, "I don't know yet. I guess we'll find out". We then compared Garmin watches. She had on the 205 and I had the 305.

Let’s backtrack. About a week ago, I was looking for a GPS/heart-rate monitor watch to help me keep track of my running activities. I figure I need to see how I’m doing in order to keep getting better. I discovered the Garmin Forerunner 305. It was way too expensive for my paycheck, but after looking around for cheaper models, I found the 305 on amazon for $128. Almost $275 cheaper than what it retails for on the Garmin site. Sold.

As I'm chatting with this woman about our watches, I glance down and see her shoes. They have toes. I'm floored that not only was this the second thing for us to see that we had been talking about, but that she was actually wearing them! They look like slippers. Weird, toe slippers. But I'm not gonna lie. I'm curious
In the distance I hear, "GO". Everyone lurches forward, then stops. Then we all lurch forward again, but this time it's for real. I’m in the middle of a big crowd and I have no choice but to start off running, which I’m not used to. I usually do a warm up walk of about 5 minutes before I start running, but not today! Today, I pretended to be a runner. For at least 500 feet!

I knew I had to keep myself entertained throughout the race so I played a game of leapfrog with some people around me. I’d run past them, take a break to walk, wait for them to run past me, wait for them to take a break to walk, then run again. It worked out pretty well until I got distracted by the front-runners of the race. They were coming back from the first loop and passed all of us going the other way. Everyone was cheering them on, but all I noticed were three or four of them really giving it their all trying to pass each other. I thought to myself, "Jeez, calm down. It's not a race". Oh wait.

I saw a few people from our group while on the race. We waved at each other and cheered each other on, but for the most part, I was by myself. I expected to be because I'm a slower runner than the people I went with.
At one point, I passed a girl and her mother who were jogging along and I thought to myself, "Hey, at least I'm faster than somebody!" until I realized that they had stopped for the girl to tie her shoe. Whatever.

Towards the end of the race, right near the last loop, I started a conversation with a woman (Hi Marguerite!!) who I had been playing leapfrog with almost the whole race. We talked for the last half-mile and it absolutely flew by. Next time I'm definitely sticking with someone for conversation!

Of course, me being me, I had to run the last bit to the finish line. Someone said that they were announcing names as people crossed the finish line, but I didn't hear them say my name. Probably because I was pumping my fists up in the air like a fool, trying not to trip over the mats on the finish line. I’m classy like that.

And finishing right before me is the girl and her mother who I passed. They must have cut the last mile loop short, because I KNOW they didn't pass me again. I would have recognized her shoes.

My finish time was 52:07 making my average page 16:31 minutes per mile. An even better time that the other night’s dreadmill run. Things are looking up. I didn't even mind that I came in last among the group I went with, or that I was 840/882. That’s a lie. It’s a little depressing. But, at least I wasn't last! And then Amanda sent me this picture/quote, which really put things into perspective and made it a little bit better.

It was still freezing cold so we headed back to the car to go home almost immediately. Thankfully I brought along a change of clothes in case I got wet because all four layers of my clothes were soaked.

My waterproof jacket? Not waterproof.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I hate running.

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Today, I was planning on going on a 12-mile bike ride along the Assabet River Rail Trail. I haven't been on it yet, but it looks to be downhill one way and uphill the other way. Fantastic. If it's challenging enough then I can do it regularly and not have to bike on roads with cars, which is preferable, seeing as I'd rather not get hit by some idiot who is texting and driving.

Unfortunately, it was supposed to rain tonight and when I left work, it was spitting and cold and miserable out. My biking friend and I decided not to go because we didn't want to get caught in a downpour. So we postponed. That's not the bad part. The bad part was that if I wasn't biking, I was running. On the treadmill. So I had a date with my treadmill tonight. It wasn't the worst date I've been on, but it was pretty damn close. At one point, I muttered "I hate my life right now". Wouldn't you?

I planned to do 3.1 miles in honor of an upcoming 5K (in 3 days!), but as I started, I knew it wasn't going to happen. I bargained with myself that if I did at least 1 mile, I’d feel good about myself. Then I fought with myself, saying, "No, you said you were going to do a 5K tonight, and you’re going to do it". Then I rationalized that "Two miles is pretty good, right?" And again, I yelled at myself, "No! You did 2 miles the other day, you're going to do 3.1 miles, like we discussed earlier. It's what you get for being a pansy and not biking in the rain. Do it." And so I listened and started another running interval.
At about 2 miles, I decided that I needed to man up and finish the 3.1 miles. It was only 1 mile more and for God’s sake, it’s not that hard. "Oh yeah?" I said to myself, "Not that hard? Then why do you hate running so much?"
"Because it’s too hard and I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this." It became a chant of sorts.

That's when I realized that chanting, "I hate this" while running wasn't a good way to keep my pace. So I tried a new tactic. I challenged myself to concentrate on distance running and not timed running. Before I knew it, I was at 3.1 miles. And done. It took me 54:55. With a pace of 17:43/mile. A personal best. Fistpump

Then, I realized that I had been running at 5 mph for all my intervals. The fastest I’ve ever done on the treadmill. And I hadn't even noticed it. Fistpump.

I’m still not looking forward to the running portion of the triathlon or the training for running, but at least I'm seeing progress.

Also. It didn't rain after all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

First stop: sprint triathlon. After that: a half marathon??

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My best friend, Emily, recently said to me "I do not find the need to run unless something is chasing me that has to potential to kill me." I normally don't run unless something is chasing me either, in fact I think the last time I ran, I was being chased by a dog when I was in elementary school. Apparently he didn't want me cutting across his lawn as a shortcut on the way home from school. But unfortunately, it's part of this horrific triathlon I signed up for. And the duathlon isn't much better, it's running and biking, then MORE running. Seriously? Where’s the swimming and biking only race? Isn't that a duathlon too? I'd like to hop on board that train.
Here's where it gets weird: Yesterday two of my friends ambushed me on twitter with the premise of doing the Disney Half marathon next February. My first thought? "I can't take a vacation to Florida in February and March!" March is my Red Sox Spring Training month. I can't miss that. I can't. Don't give me excuses, or a way out, I'll rephrase it for you, I won't.
My second thought was "I'm only doing a 5K as part of this sprint triathlon in September. That’s only 3.1 miles of running. A half marathon is 13.1. miles. That extra 10 miles to run with only 5 months of training, is highly daunting." And now that I reminisce about yesterday and my thoughts, it means training during the winter. I hate winter. I try not to go outside if possible. This is not looking good.
Yesterday was a great day though, although cold, and I frown upon that. My co-worker, and great friend, Alyson and I headed down to Rhode Island to bike along the Easy Bay bike path. It was very flat and a very easy path. It was nice for a leisurely ride without any purpose of training. But, man, was it cold.

Before we rode, we went into a store to use the bathroom and I was on the lookout for the Runner's World magazine. See, even though I don't like to run, I'm constantly reading articles online, flipping through magazines and reading blogs by other runners to get ideas on how to become a runner, or advice for my poor form, or to find to why they do it and how far they've come. If they can do it, why can't I? I seem to spend more time researching running than actually running. Works for me.
I found one lone copy of Runner's World and decided it must be fate. While normally this running business wouldn't interest me, I've become obsessed lately. Probably because I can't do it and I have an obsessive compulsive need to fix that. This issue of Runner’s World has a SPECIAL BEGINNER’S GUIDE. See?

I most definitely need a special beginner's guide. Because I’m sure it's different from the 47 other beginner's guides I've read. I haven't read this one yet, but I have started looking through the magazine. That's when I found this:

And I thought "Oh, how cool, I want to do that". WHAT?? Who am I? And why am I having these thoughts. Reminder: I can't run.
So, I Googled the Disney Princess Half Marathon for 2012. It’s Feb 24-26, and it will probably take me that long to complete it. They key about that though; it's over a weekend in February. I can still take my week-long March vacation. Score. And then I Googled "Half Marathon Training Schedules". Dammit.
Well girls, I guess that made my decision for me about the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I'm in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does anyone actually like running? I'm serious.

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As I was driving to the bike store the the other day, I noticed a few runners along the road. It made me realize why I hate running, and the thought of running so much. It’s a depressing thing to do. Every single person I saw running looked like they hated their life in that moment. I know I do when I’m running. I've never seen anyone smiling, peaceful, zen-like, or even in deep thought while running. Just pure utter hatred for life. So why is it so popular? There are more fun ways to exercise right? Especially since there is so much talk out there about people having "bad runs". Isn't exercise supposed to make you feel good?
I had a "bad run" about a week ago. My legs felt like blocks, my hamstrings were tight and my knees were making strange noises. It was depressing. I tried to get myself back into the game by doing 10 and 20 second sprints at 5 and 6 miles per hour, respectively. It didn't really make me feel any better about myself though. I was already spiraling down, and fast.
I've read about bad runs before. Seems that everyone has them. The advice is to just get over it and do it again the next time. The problem there, is I’m a self-sabotager. I’ll remember this the next time it’s a run day and I’ll tell myself that I can’t do it all over again. I had planned to bump up my intervals to 3 minutes running, 3 minutes walking. Before I even got started, I actually said, "I won't be able to do it". But I still tried. Or maybe not. I got to 2 minutes and just couldn't do it. Then I was pissed at myself and couldn't even do 2 minutes on the next interval. This is why I don’t like running. Because I can’t do it well and I don’t like that weakness.
Who invented this running business, and why?
I was sick for 2 days this week and wasn't able to work out, so I knew I had to do something today. A co-worker stopped by my classroom before going for a walk at lunchtime and I convinced her to walk with me after work instead. I need that motivation. I was afraid I’d get home after work and veg out and not get back into a routine, because it’s so easy to slack off once you've done it for a few days in a row.
She said yes, and tonight I did running intervals OUTSIDE! I know! It was exactly as people had told me it would be. Hell Hard. I used the SportyPal app on my phone to track time, distance, speed, etc. At first glance, my stats sucked, but they weren't just lacking a little bit from the change to outside vs. being inside on my treadmill; they were downright depressing. They were embarrassing, sad, pathetic, poor, and any other negative adjective you can think of. I was mad and discouraged, and upset, and even more adjectives. It showed my fastest speed running as 3.6mph and my average speed over all as 2.9mph. Seriously? I walk 3.0 easily on the treadmill. How is my average slower than that? I know I can do better than that. It pissed me off.

I don’t care if it was outside.
But then as I was looking for a picture to showcase my first attempt at outside “running”, I went to the SportyPal website and saw my stats in a new light. Apparently the app didn't show me everything. My fastest speed actually was 6.75. WHAT? I must admit, I also doubt that one, because the velocity box at the bottom only shows the fastest speed as 5.8. But still…5.8. I’ll take that!
I feel a little bit better about my first attempt at outside running. Only emotionally though. Physically, I already hurt. I hope to be able to move tomorrow.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My bike seat is out to kill me. Or at the very least maim me.

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Oh My God. Payback is a bitch. Never again will I keep score with my bike seat again. Except for now. Bike seat 1, Sara -1.
When people warn you that the first ride of the season will result in a sore butt, they are lying. My butt is fine. I have enough padding on it for an Iron Man race. It’s the lady parts that are hurting. I think I have chafing in places no one should ever have chafing. I haven't checked, nor do I plan to. I don’t want to know. I feel like my bike seat made an arrangement with my future children and have now made it easier for them to escape at the end of their term. Only, of course, if I am able to have children after today’s bike ride.
I didn't have just a bike ride planned, no that would be too easy. I also had plans for a morning trampoline dodge ball event, as well as an interval run training session this evening. I’m quite glad I doubted my ability last night when I decided that, not only would I probably not make it back from Rhode Island in time, but after biking at least 14 miles, my legs might be too tired for interval running. I was right. The legs are tired, but in a good way. The lady parts, bad.
Today's bike trail was the Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island. Apparently this bikeway also extends all the way up to Worcester, it's just not completely off road the entire way. I might check it out sometime. Maybe. Probably not. We biked from Lincoln to Woonsocket. Although the competed trail for that section is 10 miles, we started part way up and biked 7 miles to the end of the trail, and back. We had the option to bike the remaining 3 miles the other way, if we wanted to. I waved the white flag and headed into Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin' Robbins instead, like any normal person would.
I met a lot of great people today, who I will see again next week for another bike trail ride. It was nice to be surrounded by people of varying levels who all just want to have fun riding. Lately, my mentality has been so focused on training and how to train better that I've been missing out on the fun aspect. I've also been psyching myself out. I needed today to settle myself down and just enjoy the ride.
Next week is the East Bay Bike Path, a mere 14.5 miles. One way.
Someone on the ride today had a split seat on their bike. When someone commented on it by saying "Oh, you have a split seat, that must be really comfortable", I thought, "Split seat? I have splits all up in MY seat". I felt every bump on the car ride home.
This is obviously a "before" picture.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Biking is such drama.

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I got a new bike last weekend.
My previous bike was 15 years old with cracking tires, a broken braking system, and something about the wires. I glazed over at that point. I did perk up when they mentioned the price of fixing it up for my needs of training. $325. Not kidding. New bikes started at $349. It was pretty easy to make a decision.

I took it out for a test run today. Everything was fine until I left the complex and went out onto the street. I switched gears and heard a clunk. My first thought "I’m gonna die out here, all alone, except for that one car that’s about to hit me". After I realized I was still alive, I noticed that the cadence on my bike computer wasn't registering. So then I thought, "Awesome, I just broke my new bike computer". Maybe that’s what the clunk was.
I did a 3-mile loop in about 16 minutes, about a minute and a half slower per mile than my usual pace. I can’t decide if I was slower because I was only doing a test run to check out the bike, if I just need to get used to the bike and the gears and the gadgets and stuff, or if riding on the road is really a huge difference from riding a stationary bike.
I called the bike shop when I got back and told them the cadence was broken. Then as I mounted my bike onto my car, I moved the cadence sensor into the correct position, since it had slipped, and fixed it. But I still wanted to bring it in to see if they could tighten the sensor so it wouldn't slip again. Oh, they fixed it alright. They used electrical tape. Seriously, from the girl who "fixed" a leaky faucet earlier this year with a maxi pad and duct tape, I could have done that myself and saved the bike shop kid in skinny jeans some time.
The biggest surprise of the evening though; my butt doesn't hurt. New bike 0, Sara 1.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I almost fell off the treadmill today. Almost.

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This running business; its not for beginners. Trust me, I know. In the go hard or go home mentality, I'd rather go home. I don't know why people do this, just to do it and not have a goal to achieve...like "don't be last". Those 3 words, along with the singsong voice in my head whose one hit wonder is "you're gonna be last" are the only two things that are getting me on that treadmill. Who's idea was this anyway?
At present day, I can "run" 2-minute intervals. While that is pretty impressive for me, it’s really not that presentable for a triathlon. Or a handful of 5Ks. Okay now, really, let's be honest. My version of running is really a slow jog. I "run" at a 4.2 pace on the treadmill. I've seen people at the gym walking a 4.5 pace, with a 15% incline. Okay, it was really only this one lady, but I'm more scared of her than I am impressed.
Here’s my hang-up. I can't run at the gym. Two big reasons why.
One, the treadmills are at the front of the gym. In my mind, everyone in the gym is watching me and wondering why the fat girl is attempting to run in a triathlon (apparently in my mind, I'm also holding a sign that says, "Look at me! I'm doing a triathlon!"). Reason number two, and probably the most important; I’m afraid I’m going to fall off and go flying across the gym. This fear isn't irrational. I almost fell off the treadmill today. Almost.
At the end of a running interval, I was so excited that it was over and I planned to jump off, onto the sidebars. I guess I was a little too excited. My foot slid off the side of the sidebar and as I tried to catch myself my other foot went onto the running treadmill. My leg flew up into the air and I did some kind of Tae Kwon Do kick before landing on the tips of my toes on the sidebar. So, again, let me stress. I almost fell off the treadmill. Imagine if I had done that at the gym?
It only makes sense that I have confined myself to my treadmill at home. But that won't last long. According to research, and by that I mean my own web surfing, running on a treadmill and running outside are very different. Since this triathlon is not going to be in my basement, I'm going to have to run outside. Sure, it won't be as open and inviting as a front row of treadmills at the gym, but you know people drive on roads.
And they are going to see my sign.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Laying it out on the table. Or pavement.

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About 3 months ago, I decided I was going to become a triathlete. About a week ago, I learned that the word "triathlon" was NOT spelled "triathAlon". Apparently I've got a lot to learn. And I only have until September 11, 2011 to do it.

It really wasn't my idea to do a triathlon. I'm a member of meetup.com and heard about it through one of the groups on there, "The Discovery Group". I don't know who would want to "discover" a triathlon, but for some reason, I was feeling frisky and I signed up. It took me about 3 minutes total to decide to do this, register myself and pay $94.10 to torture myself with exercise.

Let me make one thing clear. This is not a regular triathlon. It's a sprint. Normally, the only thing I sprint to is the Doritos aisle in the grocery store, but a "sprint triathlon" is actually the shortest version of a triathlon. It's 1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike and 5K run. Not that it will be any easier for someone who can't even run to the end of the driveway without getting winded, but it's a start. And I'm actually excited about it.

After I signed up, I spent 3 days talking excitedly about it, researching gyms, fitness centers, swim and racquet clubs, and Jewish community centers to find the cheapest place I could swim, bike and
run walk fast. I finally signed up at the YMCA on a senior citizen discount using my mother as bait.

I then spent many hours surfing the web for newbie info on triathlons. Max Performance has lots of great links for newbies, which I, of course, dived right into.
Man, if only I applied myself like this in high school!
I found a 22-week program on beginnertriathlete.com and painstakingly put each daily workout into my Google calendar, which synced with my cell phone. This of course meant, I had absolutely no way of forgetting when I was working out and what I would be doing.
For my first scheduled "workout", I walked for 20 minutes and swam 2 laps. I thought, "this is so easy. I am SO ready for a triathlon".
Unfortunately, a non-brisk 20-minute walk and a float in the pool isn't exactly triathlon material.
Since then, I've worked my way up to swimming 600 yards (about 1/3 mile), biking 10 miles and running for 2 minute intervals. It may not seem like much, but I'm pretty impressed with myself.
I already feel confident in the swimming and biking. It's the running that's killing me. In order to keep myself on pace with the running I've signed up for three 5K's in April and May. I'm an idiot.
After "training" too hard, too fast (6 days a week for the first 3 weeks), I slowed down fast. I felt tired and sluggish all the time. But I didn't want to give up. I actually felt bad about missing the workouts. But I didn't do them. I kept researching workout routines, but it didn't get me moving. In fact, I didn't get back on the horse again until I went on vacation to Florida and was able to swim outside. I worked out five days that week. I realized that training for this triathlon inside a gym was what was hindering me.
Once I get some training outside and not in a gym, I'll have a better feel of where I am and what I need to work on more (running, running, running, ew).
I will do this. I have a big goal in front of me and I'm way too competitive to let myself fail. My new motto is: I'm not in it to compete, I'm in it to complete. And not be last doing it.
I also bought a new bike today. But that's a story for another day.