Colorado Bound

It’s official, we finally made it to Colorado! Coming down off the high of the Hawaii 70.3 race and immediately stepping back into reality was tough. After spending a few days tying up all of the loose ends in Hawaii, we caravanned to the airport with our 5 over-stuffed and extremely heavy suitcases, 3 bike boxes, and our dog with his extra-large crate. The check-in process was relatively smooth and we took off on the 5 hour red-eye flight direct to L.A. with no drama. This is when the fun started.

I have a hard time sleeping on planes especially on red-eye flights. It’s a mental thing. I know I need to sleep or else I will be in pain when I land. So I keep telling myself to relax and fall asleep. This only makes it worse. I stress about needing to sleep instead of actually sleeping and then before you know it we have landed. Well, this made the 16 hour drive to Colorado interesting.

We got off the airplane at 6am (3am Hawaii time) and headed down to baggage claim to start corralling our mass of luggage. They brought out Tucker in his crate and I could tell he had a rough plane ride. A puddle of drool pooled around him inside his crate and he was shaking. I hurried over to comfort him and he smelled terrible. If you don’t have a dog this might sound really gross. He must have been so nervous during the flight that somehow he popped his anal gland inside the crate. It was the most disgusting smell ever! We had all 5 bags but no bikes so we decided to cart all of our stuff and Tucker (still in his nasty crate) outside to the shuttle stop so that I could wait while Peter went for the bikes. Good thing I had my package of anti-bacterial wipes! I took Tucker out of his crate, took out my wipes, and started wiping him down. I know people were looking at me strangely. Here I am outside of LAX, one of the busiest airports in the country, with a million bags, bent over smelling my dog’s butt and back legs to make sure I got all of the nasty smell off. And, he must have rubbed it all over the inside of his crate because that thing was terrible. I took Tucker’s leash in one hand and while he stood on the sidewalk, I was literally inside his crate wiping it down with the wipes. I swear the smell was even on the ceiling of that thing…nasty.

Once Tucker was taken care of we waited for Peter with the bikes. 20 minutes went by, still no bikes. Finally Peter came walking around the corner, no bikes. Somehow, Delta had lost our bikes between Hawaii and L.A.; a simple direct flight. Seriously?!? This is the one piece of luggage that I cared about the most (besides Tucker of course!) I would rather they lost all of our luggage. Once the shuttle arrived and we loaded it with all of our suitcases and the dog crate, the bikes would never have fit…maybe not having them was a blessing in disguise. No, I was still upset.

We shuttled over to the car port in Compton, great part of town by the way, picked up both of the cars we had shipped over from Hawaii, and loaded the bags. Once again, the bikes would never have fit…huh maybe its a good thing we didn’t have them. Nope, I was still mad. I would have felt better if Delta actually knew where the bikes were but they had no idea. They were scanned onto the plane but never made it…not good.

After desperately searching for a Starbucks (outside of Compton) we started the long drive to Colorado. I completely underestimated how difficult it would be to drive across country after a sleepless red-eye flight and 3 hours of jet lag. Tucker slept like a baby for most of the day and I started to struggle at the 4 hour mark.

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At least I was driving the nice air-conditioned 4-Runner. Peter battled the 112 degree drive through Vegas with a broken air-conditioner in the ’94 Jeep Wrangler. And to top it off, we sat in an hour of stop-and-go traffic because of a bad accident across the road. Poor Peter had the windows down because the air outside was cooler than the air inside the jeep. At 6 hours I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and we deliriously rolled into St. George, Utah.

I followed Peter into the parking lot of a nice hotel (I won’t say the name) and I was so tired, I did not even think about Tucker sleeping in the back seat. Peter got the room and at that point it dawned on me that we needed a place that allowed dogs. Too late. Peter scoped out our room and luckily it was right near the stairs. As I brought the bags up the elevator, Peter snuck Tucker into our room. We were so tired we forgot about dinner. Luckily we had rolled oats that I had packed into one of our bags so I made oatmeal in the coffee pot.

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I think Tucker enjoyed sleeping on the comfortable bed in such a nice hotel room!

After a few hours of sleep, the dreaded alarm went off and I felt in no shape to get up and drive. It was 3:30am! But, Peter had to report in to his unit by 6pm that day so we had to get going. Desperate for coffee, we stopped at a gas station since it was the only thing open at that hour. With truck-stop burnt coffee and a granola bar, we were on the road. We made it to somewhere in the middle of nowhere Utah and I started to die. I felt myself not remembering driving the past stretch of road and my eyes were involuntarily closing. I called Peter. We have to stop. Can’t you make it to the next rest stop? No, I can’t even make it three more minutes! So, we pulled over at some desolate exit with only a dirt road. I got in the back seat and fell asleep the minute I laid my head down. I slept for 30 minutes while Peter took Tucker for a walk.

Mildly refreshed, I woke up and we got back on the road. Despite the setback we still made it to Colorado Springs just in time for Peter to check in. The hardest part about moving and traveling is that your normal routine no longer exists. It has been a frustrating struggle to fit in even the shortest workouts. We have been all over the place trying to find a place to live, looking for a new car, figuring out our surroundings, even finding a pool to swim in. We are trying to do as much as we can before Peter and I start our first day of work next week. But our friends Doug and Dee graciously opened their home to us so that we had a place to stay during this transition. It has been such a blessing to have their help.

My new car!!

My new car!!

Oh and remember the bike ordeal? Delta finally found our bikes in Minnesota (what?!?) and delivered them right to Doug and Dee’s door. Okay, I will admit that front-door delivery of three huge bike boxes was extremely convenient. But, waiting to get my bike and unpack it was painful. I was extremely itchy to start exploring Colorado on my bike.

Bikes arrived in one piece

Bikes arrived in one piece

The few workouts I have fit in so far have not been the most enjoyable. The altitude change is a killer and I hate sucking air and feeling light-headed while climbing even the smallest hills. I am anxious to feel normal again so that I can actually start pushing myself. Right now I am struggling to bike and run at paces that were easy in Hawaii. And flip turns in the pool nearly put me in cardiac arrest. But I know it will take time so for now I will just have to slow down, let my body adapt, and enjoy Colorado’s beautiful landscape.

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My New Adventure

Today is the first day on the start of my new life adventure. Yesterday, May 28, 2013, was officially my last day as an Officer in the United States Air Force. After spending four years at the Air Force Academy and then serving five years on active duty, it is finally time for me to pack away my uniform and start my new journey. It has been amazing to watch the many facets of this journey meld together and form into something that is starting to make a lot of sense. I am so excited for the new direction I am heading in. True to the theme of my blog and my motivation for writing, it is amazing how my future plans have been influenced by my triathlon training lifestyle.

Last time in my uniform!

Last time in my uniform!

For starters, Peter and I are leaving Hawaii June 5th and are headed back to Colorado. We can’t wait to get there. The most exciting part about going to Colorado for me is the huge triathlon community. Not only is Colorado the home of the USA Triathlon headquarters, but it is considered the Mecca of the sport. There are a lot of professional triathletes who live and train in Colorado and a ton of training teams and clubs. I cannot wait to get plugged into the community. Colorado also has some amazing biking with its long and mountainous roads and trails at 7,000+ feet of elevation. The altitude will take some getting used to but I am definitely looking forward to the gains I will eventually make in my training and fitness.

But, leaving Hawaii will be very sad and it stirs a lot of mixed emotions. I love the never-ending sunshine, perfect temperature and our five-minute walk to the beautiful lanikai beach. Training outdoors year-round is partially why I fell in love with this sport. I love swimming outside in the sun and you cannot beat having the ocean right at your fingertips to train in at any time. Swimming in an indoor pool will be very strange although I have heard that there are pools where you can swim outdoors all year round. I don’t think I am crazy enough to do that! There is also no match to biking outdoors every day; it is hard to imitate the wind, the feel of a road, climbing up hills of varying grade, learning to handle your bike on a descent or through steep turns. I will have a hard time riding my bike indoors on a trainer during the snowy or freezing cold days. And, I am not sure how to run wearing more than running shorts and a sports bra! I can actually say that out of the hundreds of miles I have logged on this island, I have gone for only a handful of runs with a tank top and I have never run wearing a t-shirt. Now I will have to wear pants and long sleeves and a headband. Worse yet, I may have to even run on a treadmill! I have been spoiled with amazing weather to train in and with an amazing community of people who have patiently coached and nurtured me. I would not be where I am without that. I developed into the cyclist I am today because of the awesome people in the Hickam Area Cycling Club.

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And, as it usually happens, I finally feel like I am getting more deeply connected into the triathlete community in Hawaii and have made some awesome new friends who I greatly respect as athletes and people, and now it is time to go.

The awesome group I swam with out to the Mokes.  So happy someone brought a camera out there!

The awesome group I swam with out to the Mokes. So happy someone brought a camera out there!

And these are the Mokes.  We swam out to the one on the left.

And these are the Mokes. We swam out to the one on the left.

I only have a few more chances to sit out on my lanai and watch the beautiful sunset and as my time here comes to an end I am amazed at how the direction of my life has changed since I moved to Hawaii and fell in love with the triathlon sport. After working as a data analyst in the Air Force, I was almost convinced that I wanted to completely change my career path. Even though I had conquered the most difficult and challenging academic feat of my life by surviving the graduate program at MIT, I thought I would never find anything I loved to do using that degree. I felt that my interests and passions no longer aligned with my education or expertise. But, God has placed an amazing opportunity in my life and He has found a way for me to use my analytical brain while also pursuing my passion for athletics. I recently accepted a job as a Data Scientist in the Marketing Analytics department of The Sports Authority headquarters in Denver. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could use my mathematic and analytic skills and apply them to fitness and sports! I start in mid June, shortly after we arrive in Colorado. One of the most exciting parts of this job is the supportive culture the company has for the many competitive athletes it employs.

Sunset from my lanai

Sunset from my lanai

I now have only a few days until my first ever half-ironman. I consider it the culmination of my time in Hawaii and everything I have learned about the sport and myself, a way to celebrate the end of my Air Force career, and the kick-off of my new adventure as an endurance triathlete. As you can probably tell, I have poured a lot of emotion into this race and I am ready to put my whole heart into it. It is very special for me because Peter will be right there racing with me and my parents will be there to support us and cheer us on from the sidelines. And don’t worry, I have already had a few freak out moments and thankfully my coach has talked me down. She helped me write a smooth and systematic race plan which works well for my logical and analytical brain and helps to keep me calm. I am prepped and ready to go and now I just need to relax and rest so my body is prepared to compete for 5 hours on Saturday!

Biking is healing

I think everyone goes through a rough patch with family at some point and I can say I have gone through that with my brother over the past few years.  And it doesn’t matter what caused that difficult time or what kinds of things happened along the way.  The most important part is when you both decide that life is too short and you want to work to restore your relationship, coming together once again as a family.  It’s not an automatic switch either, it still takes time and it still requires a choice.  I had the wonderful opportunity to make that choice and put in that work when Ryan came to visit over this past Christmas.

Ryan got into biking long before I did, kind of out of necessity.  He had no money, he was young and fit, and he needed to get to work.  So, he bought a tri bike off eBay (a really nice cannondale actually) and he started commuting to work.  Now, when I say commuting I know all of you are picturing him in casual clothes with his right pant-leg rolled up and a messenger bag draped over his shoulder riding nice and easy on city streets to his office job.  That is far from it.  Where we grew up in the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California, not only is the terrain mountainous, but our house is at an elevation that is close to 1500′ higher than the closest small city.  To give you perspective, we live in a gated community where it could be spitting sleet at the gate and by the time you drive up the 5 miles to our house it is a heavy snow.  So, Ryan learned to bike the nearly 20 miles to work where he spent hours performing manual labor cutting down trees and digging up plants for a landscaping company, and then rode back home.  He had the whole biking get-up, which I thought looked silly at the time, and he got into biking shape fast.

Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and I am now the one who has fallen for biking.  I have that understanding of how the bike makes you feel.  Peter and I suggested Ryan go on a shorter bike ride with us along the southern tip of the island and we were excited when he jumped at the opportunity.  We rented a pretty decent Specialized road bike from the Kailua Bike Shop, got up early the next morning, and headed out towards Makapu’u.  These are the rides that you capture and will always remember.  Our pace was steady and Ryan rode well considering he hadn’t been on a bike in a few years.  But, it wasn’t about the workout or even showing him the beauty of riding in Hawaii.  It was about re-kindling a relationship with my brother and I can tell you, those few hours of biking were the closest I have felt to him in years.

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We rounded the corner at Sandy Beach, close to 15 miles from my house and I suggested we turn back.  30 miles would be plenty for him on the first ride, I didn’t want his legs to kill him the next day.  But he asked what we would normally do on this ride.  Normally we would continue around the island through Hawaii Kai and Diamond Head before heading back up over the Pali Highway to go home.  This is close to a 60 mile ride and the Pali is a pretty strenuous climb, especially since it starts around mile 45 and your legs are tired.  I will never forget his next words: “Let’s go.  I can take the Pali…Pali wanna cracker?”  I ended up giving him all of my chews and the rest of my bar and even though he struggled and cursed the Pali the whole way up, we slowly made it back home.  He now denies that he ever mocked the Pali but I still make fun of him for it.

As I predicted, he wasted his legs and was pretty much immobile the rest of the day.  The next day he had a stiff-legged walk and ate exorbitant amounts of food.  But he was so happy.  I witnessed rejuvenation.  There was a different kind of sparkle in his eyes and I saw the Ryan I always knew, joking, laughing, being competitive.  He asked when we were riding again.  So, we decided to ride with the HACC group the very next weekend and this time we let Ryan borrow Peter’s bike so he had something less clunky to ride.  Peter borrowed the “HACCdaddy” John’s awesome Trek bike so everyone was excited for this ride.

We rode up on the North Shore this time riding up the Kolekole Pass and then out to Ka’ena Point, which is a beautiful ride out to the northern most point of the island where the paved road ends at a breathtaking view of the ocean and you need a mountain bike to continue on.

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It was awesome to have him riding in the group with us and to experience the camaraderie and pure enjoyment of spending time riding with others that love to bike just as much as you do.  Not much is said during the thick of a ride like that and you spend most of the time struggling and working hard on your bike – fighting the inner voice inside that says you’re too tired.  But when you triumph over a difficult climb or you work together through a strong headwind, you feel a connection with those around you.  You know everyone just struggled through the same thing and it is very satisfying.  We stopped at The Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa for espresso and a muffin and then climbed Pineapple Hill out.

Flat tire stop…yes those are arm warmers in Hawaii!

After another great ride with my brother, sharing something we both love to do, it sparked a new conversation.  He felt the enjoyment of spending time with a bike group and saw the fun we had – whether it was challenging someone up a hill, stopping to help when one person got a flat, or spending time talking over a cup of espresso and a muffin.  After being off the bike for so long, he now wanted to get back into it a maybe find a group to join.  His excitement and motivation flowed over into other awesome and memorable activities like the strenuous and technical climb up to the third peak of the Three Peaks Olomana hike.

I can’t explain how I developed my passion for biking or where the motivation to keep biking comes from.  But, I have been earnestly praying for God to give me a way to re-connect and heal my relationship with my brother and if He gave me this passion as a means to re-kindle that relationship, then that has made this journey of training and biking worthwhile.