Big Ideas: Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my Big Ideas blog. The business is up and running and let me tell you, it is a lot of work! There is something slightly unsettling about working long hours 7-days a week without a paycheck, but that is the risk you take when starting up a business. For those of you that are interested, the company name is Modern Approach and we are boutique customer company that uses data science and advanced analytics to help companies create an awesome customer experience…if you want, you can check us out at www.modernapproach.com !

Okay, so with all of the craziness that comes with plugging your nose and plunging into entrepreneurship, Peter and I thought that we might as well pile on a bunch of other life changes all at once, I mean why not? And that brings me to big change number 2 – Peter’s Voluntary Separation Program application was approved and he will be separating from the military on September 29th of this year! This is a huge answer to a long-time prayer and we are so very thankful to be moving on from our military past. We have had some amazing experiences and opportunities but we are both whole-heartedly ready to experience the normalcy of a more settled life outside of the constant moving and change in the military. I am thankful for the sacrifice and service Peter gave to our country, flying all over the world in the C-17. But now it is his chance to get out there and try something new and we are ready for the adventure!

But, it wouldn’t really be an adventure if we didn’t take advantage of the fact that the military is no longer in charge of where we live. Keeping true to our constant itch for adventure, we both have not only quit our jobs but we are selling our house and moving out to the land of opportunity…California. Okay, hold on all you non-californians who are going to get totally offended here. The Silicon Valley is the center of high-tech development and innovation. So, although we realize it is expensive and that there are lots of other nice inexpensive places to live in the US, there are not many places outside of San Francisco that are more intriguing for a business owner in the advanced analytics industry (me) and a program manager interested in software development (Peter). And, now we have the amazing opportunity to be close to family, something that was never possible before! Oh, and the ocean…and the mountains…and the sunshine…and a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Hawaii. Colorado, I will not miss your frigid winters and your summers of daily thunderstorms. Peter and I recently took a trip out to Lake Tahoe in Northern California to visit my parents and it was exactly the rejuvenating training experience I needed. Long bike rides in the warm sunshine are the cure to any ailment and with the beautiful weather and long undulating roads, I re-kindled my passion for biking. Our 90-mile excursion around Lake Tahoe made into my top-10 all time bike-rides list.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe

And the roads around San Francisco are amazing too: up and down the coast, through Napa Valley, the hills of Santa Cruz…I seriously can’t wait.

With all of the crazy life changes we have going on at the moment, training has remained a constant yet challenging force in my daily life. I am somehow still getting in around 20 hours of training per week chasing after this passion for triathlon.

please don't take me on another run...you run too much!

please don’t take me on another run…you run too much!

Ironman 70.3 Boulder was back in June and since it was a local race for me, it definitely made the experience much less hectic and not so much of a production. That was a nice change. And I made a HUGE breakthrough at this race! I am still in shock, but I swam the 1.2 miles in 30:39…I was 2nd out of the water in my age group and the 21st overall female out of the water! To give you some perspective…last year I was usually around 20th out of the water in my age group and somewhere around 100th overall female. I can’t believe I actually learned how to swim! I was able to keep on the feet of the same girl the entire swim and I am definitely sure that staying in her draft helped me get such a great time. So, thank you whoever you are!! And, my level of fitness out of the water has drastically improved so I did not feel nearly as tired when I got on the bike. I was happy with my strong bike effort, but I did try to hold back a little bit so that I would not blow up on the run like I did in Texas. I completed the 56 miles in 2:31:16, which is good, not great. But then I was still unable to perform on the run. I was pretty disappointed with my 13.1 mile split of 1:38…it seems where I have made gains in my swim I have made losses in my run. IMG_1746 Although, a lot of the run was on a gravely-dirt path and that was NO FUN, making it more difficult to keep a fast pace. If I wanted to run in off-road races, I would sign up for them! But I guess that is part of the challenge…as if the race itself isn’t a challenge enough. The absolute best part of the race though was having my Tribella teammates there cheering me on! It is so fun to race when the people there know you and are supporting you! And when you get to race with your teammates, it is definitely more rewarding. There is comfort in knowing they are out there with you, experiencing the same thing. In the end, I won my age group and was 5th overall amateur female. My first age group win ever!!! IMG_1569

Recovery fuel

..and recovery fuel

Even though I claim to hate biking in Colorado, I have to say that this past month has been quite amazing. This is partly due to my incredible new Ride Blue Triad SL di2 bike. I honestly cannot thank Tribella enough for helping me to get this crazy awesome bike that I hardly feel like I deserve. No really, I am actually quite embarrassed to say that my bike has electronic shifting…but then all of that embarrassment goes away quite quickly once I get on it!! This bike is a lot smaller than my previous one and it fits me much better. And, after getting a professional fit from the Denver Fit Loft, I am finally riding in the correct position on a bike for the first time in my life. The difference is quite amazing. And it could not have been more perfect timing as I am preparing for the full Ironman in Boulder that is now only a week away.

Peter, my fearless photographer

Peter, my fearless photographer

I am actually thinking the 112 miles will not be bad, that is how comfortable this bike is! This race is going to be a wild experience, but I have been training for it for about a year now and I think I am ready to do some damage. I can’t wait to finish up an easy 2.4 miles of swimming, a casual 112 miles of biking and then slip on my running shoes to go and run a marathon, it’s going to be epic!

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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.

Learning the importance of nutrition

Right after the marathon…and where I stayed for the next 7 hours…miserable

When I started training for the Honolulu Marathon last September it was my first introduction to “eating” something during a workout. Even though this food is actually gel that you suck out of a packet (kind of yucky), it was still very stressful for me. I remember my first 12 mile run where I attempted to take a gel at mile 8 and it was very difficult for me to swallow it, while still breathing, still running, and not gagging. In order to get the thing down and breathe in the process, I ended up slowing down significantly and since my body was not used to digesting anything while doing physical activity I almost immediately had a stomach ache. With a little bit of practice (and some water to wash it down) I learned to take gel during my training. I still didn’t like the feeling of the gel in my stomach though so I limited my intake and only took half a packet at a time. I ended up finishing the Honolulu Marathon eating less than 2 gels during the entire race which means I consumed less than 200 calories for 3 ½ hours of running! No wonder I felt so terrible! I had zero energy towards the end of the race, my pace significantly decreased, and when the race was over I was miserable the rest of the day with the worst stomach problems ever.

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HACC stop at Surfer’s Coffee Bar on the North Shore

On my long bike rides, I usually followed the same pattern. Since it is somewhat easier to chew something while riding a bike, I like to eat Clif shot block chews and Clif bars so that I don’t have to suffer through a gel. For a 60-mile bike ride I used to only eat a banana, half of a Clif bar and half a package of shot blocks, which is still not very much considering the number of calories I burn on a long ride. Okay, I can’t forget the espresso and occasional muffin from our HACC coffee stops!  But, to compensate for our lack of nutrition on the ride, Peter and I would get home and chow-down on everything in sight. We were always starving after a bike ride, and a little grumpy.

I recently started working with a coach, which has been awesome, and my first workout was an 80 mile bike ride followed by a 3.5 mile run. For me the most challenging part of this workout was not the miles, it was consuming the 1000 calories I was told to eat while on the ride. That was a lot of work! At some points I didn’t even feel hungry but I was force-feeding bars and chews and drinking calorie packed drinks (by the way, if you need a good recipe for homemade energy bars check out the ones Peter and I really like here). Aside from working hard to continue eating, getting a flat tire on the side of the busiest part of the road, and hitting a large but empty rubber trash can (someone put their trash can in the bike lane and Peter slammed on his brakes in perfect timing with a car coming right up next to us so that I had no room to get over or any time to react), I really enjoyed the ride! The weather was beautiful, riding right along the coastline up the east coast of Oahu from Kailua to the North Shore was very peaceful, and my body felt amazing even at mile 75 which is the point I usually get really grumpy and ravenous. I got home, hopped off the bike and had a great and almost effortless 3.5 mile recovery run.

So what did I learn? I LOVE stuffing my face on the bike!! Okay, I can’t exactly stuff my face with anything – I tried a spelt bagel with Justin’s chocolate almond butter on a recent ride and this did not go over so well. But, I was excited to feel so fresh off of the bike, something I have never felt before. I feel like I made a huge break-through in my training. Getting more nutrition in during this ride not only improved my physical performance off the bike, but it gave me a huge boost of confidence and improved my mental toughness. Now I know it is possible to run my goal pace after the bike and I am no longer worried about the bike destroying me. I learned what I can do when I am properly fueled, and I think this will benefit me more than any other type of training I could do.

New Zealand on my bike

Peter and I have talked about taking a trip to New Zealand and Australia ever since we moved to Hawaii.  It is the perfect time to go because we live so close.  One night this past February, as we began to realize that our time in Hawaii is growing short, we made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to buy tickets to Sydney, Australia.  This sparked a full-blown vacation planning process that was actually pretty exhausting.  We decided to spend the first week in Tasmania, Australia which is a “small” island just off the southern point of the mainland.  I say small because when you look at it on the map in relation to the mainland of Australia, you think you could travel around the island in a day.  Soon we found out that this is not feasible and it is impossible to see the whole island in even a week!
We chose to stick to the southern part of the island to experience the culture and up-and-coming city of Hobart, which is Tasmania’s main port.  We had a great time exploring the area wine tasting in the Coal River Valley, eating fresh oysters from Coles Bay, and hiking in Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.  Of course, when I say hiking, I mean an 8-mile trail run out to Shadow Lake and back.  The National Park suggested hike time: 4 hours.  Our completion time: 1:08…not too bad!

Yes, I'm in a longsleeve...it was cold compared to running in Hawaii!

Yes, I’m in a longsleeve…it was cold compared to running in Hawaii!

We experienced the most depressing part of our trip while sitting at a local coffee shop one morning in the tiny town of Richmond, which sits in the beautiful rolling hills at the base of the Coal River Valley.  Okay, you ask, how is that depressing? We had just finished a 5 mile run through the fields of sheep surrounding the town and were enjoying our coffee in the early morning sun when a small group of cyclists rode up on their nice Trek and Cannondale bikes, out for their morning ride through the countryside of Tasmania.  I wanted to jump up and find any bike I could and go join them.  It was pure jealousy.  See what happens when you become a triathlete? Everything you do starts to revolve around running…swimming…biking…it’s a sickness.  At that moment Peter and I decided that our vacations from now on need to involve bikes.

We flew from Tasmania to Queenstown, New Zealand and this is where the magic of our trip began.  Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed Australia.  But New Zealand is the most spectacular place I have ever been.  Queenstown is a cute little ski-town on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu.  The minute you arrive you are immersed in the outdoorsy atmosphere with cyclists (roadies and mountain bikers), runners, skiers, hikers, you name it.  We dropped our stuff off at the YMCA hostel and immediately started searching for a bike shop.  We ended up renting pretty decent Specialized road bikes from Outdoor Sports, a local sporting goods store, and they were gracious enough to rent us shoes.

Touring the countryside of New Zealand on a bike is an exhilarating experience.  You don’t just see the beauty around you – you are in the beauty and your blood is pumping at the same time. This makes it very rewarding. There are few words that can explain the feeling of making the intense climb up Coronet Peak and then, with sweat on your face and a burn in your legs, be able to look down on what you climbed and the fantastic view of the landscape around you.  But, the absolute best part was to do it with the one person who means the most to me.  I can’t imagine experiencing this any other way.

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We rode back down and continued on into Arrowtown, and even smaller town north of Queenstown.  We stopped for coffee at a cute little shop, ate a banana and bar, and headed back to return the bikes.

IMG_0774Because of the time it took to climb up Coronet Peak, the ride only ended up being 40 miles but we still rewarded ourselves with a few local microbrews on the waterfront that evening…and the worlds largest burger!

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Fergburger!

Fergburger! Yes, I ate the whole thing…

The true magnificence of New Zealand is held in Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, a three-hour drive from Queenstown.  The glaciers have melted away essentially creating huge mountains that jut straight out of the ocean, called Fiords.  It is an area of mostly untouched beauty that is still preserved and difficult for the typical tourist to access. We stayed in the Milford Sound hostel so that we would have more time to hike around.  We really enjoy staying in hostels when we travel because it is much less expensive and you can cook your own food, giving you the option to still eat healthy even while on vacation!

The most memorable part of our trip was the hike/trail run up Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound.  It is rated as a more difficult hike and becomes so steep at points that you have no choice but to climb.  At the top the air was distinctly fresh and crisp and in that moment it was wonderful to take in and stand in awe of God’s amazing creation on this earth.

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Gertrude Saddle suggested hike time: 4-5 hours. Our completion time: 2:27…great workout!

A few years ago, I would have done things much differently on this trip.  There would have been more down-time, sight-seeing from a car or by walking, and definitely no biking.  But, with my new-found love for running and biking, I can’t help but incorporate it into everything I do!