Happy Birthday, Dad!

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Son, engineer, metallurgist, PhD, husband, father, pop-pop.

Cherry-bomber, banana-smusher, pea-smasher, we-gotta-get-outta-this-placer.

Oreo aficionado, pen collector, name-that-tune title holder, keeper of the peace and answer-er to all of our questions.

Devoted family man, caring boss, generous soul and common-sense adviser with a wicked sense of humor.

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From your pre-dawn childhood paper route to dodging melted metal on the foundry floor to logging long hours while leading the charge as an executive, your work ethic and commitment to our family has been something I both admire and appreciate.

And, as I always say, isn’t it a funny thing that the older I get, the smarter you get?!

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Well, we’ve been listening to your advice for years, and although it may not have seemed like much was sinking in (for example, that time I crashed my car into yours…in our driveway), we heard every word.

Thank you for always being there “time after time” — from middle-of-the-night calls to providing a shoulder to cry or lean on before gently guiding us back on track.

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Happy birthday, Dad! I love you! 

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Not a ‘Real’ Runner? Here’s Why I Don’t Believe You

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This is a re-post of my latest Huffington Post article, which went live yesterday. It’s written with love for anyone who has dabbled (or wants to dabble) with running, and I thought it was worth sharing here, as well! 

Running can be a bit of an enigma. And I get it; it’s so simple — lace up, head out the door — yet so… complicated. From finding properly-fitting shoes and figuring out nutrition on long runs to way too much information about bodily functions and finding motivation for mile after mile, I can see how there may be a few barriers to entry when comes to joining the ranks of the fleet of feet.

But when did the world’s most accessible sport become something with which people are apprehensive about owning their affiliation?

Case in point: Each Monday night I coach a group of fantastic ladies through Team LUNA Chix. Our local teams in the program include women of all levels, from beginners to casual competitors. The goal is to bring women together to learn a new sport, stay active and encourage other women in their communities to participate in the fun. We train, compete and support each other, while fundraising for our non-profit partner, the Breast Cancer Fund.

Since we’re in our first year in a new city (Portland!), we’ve been actively recruiting. There’s always a lot of interest as we chat about the need for women to get out, get active and set an example for others. We talk about how they’ll meet new people, break a sweat, share some laughs and, heck, even end each of our workouts with snacks.

I get enthusiastic nods and smiles. Yet, when the rubber running shoe hits the road, those grins fade and are replaced by words I’ve heard countless times now:

But I’m not a runner.

Every time I hear that phrase, it feels like a punch in the gut. I love running, and I so badly want others to experience how empowering it can be. Granted, not everyone wants to run… but if you do want to learn, you should never feel the need to downplay your status until (you think) you’re fast/thin/athletic/whatever enough to be able to engage in it with others.

Do you want to know the secret to being able to call yourself a ‘real’ runner?

Get your butt out there and RUN.

There’s no pill to pop, credential to earn or magic formula to decipher in order to become a “real” runner. You don’t have to hit certain milestones in pace, mileage, events completed or years under your belt to qualify. Also, each runner’s body is unique and will react so differently to running that only YOU can be your own expert — finding the shoes that feel good on your feet, the fuel that won’t upset your gut, which distances are your sweet spots, etc.

The process itself is a simple one: Start at Point A and run to Point B. Even if the distance between the two is a few blocks and you take three walk breaks (true story; that’s how I began). Congratulations; you are now — officially, I might add — a runner.

Why? Because running — and being a runner — is as much a state of mind and an attitude as it is putting one foot in front of the other and moving quickly. It transcends time and space and distance and pace.

Yes, it will downright suck sometimes when you miss your goals, get random injuries or just have an “off” day. You’ll have bad workouts that come out of nowhere, you’ll deal with odd aches and pains and and you’ll be disappointed in yourself every so often.

But you know what sucks even more? Robbing yourself of the opportunity to try it on for size because you’re worried about being judged by others (we’re all up in our own heads anyway).

And as you learn to connect with your body in new ways and become more self-aware and appreciative of the feedback you get from this beautiful machine you’re operating, you’ll also realize that running becomes less about the act and more about your approach towards it. Fast or slow, gracefully or awkwardly, long or short, alone or together — it all counts, as long as you’ve got a good attitude and are willing to give it a go.

Yes, there’s a certain level of comfort that comes only with time, patience and practice. But in the meantime, you should never feel as though you aren’t seasoned enough to be able to embrace the sport and call it your own. That’s the absolute best part about it — the community.

So before you start going down the path of reasons why you shouldn’t do it (starting from scratch never feels great) or can’t do it (there’s so much to learn), just stop. Caving in to the voice in your head only feeds into a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

But if you’re genuinely curious about running and open to a world of new — and rewarding — experiences, there are two things to do immediately: First, recognize that any pain is manageable, fear is irrational and pledge to yourself that neither will stand in your way. Second, lace up those shoes, head out the door and repeat after me:

I’m not a runner… yet.

Happy Birthday, Stacey!

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Daughter, sister, doctor, best friend, mom — single-handedly raising one of the cutest kiddos ever (I’m a tad biased as a #ProudAuntie, but it’s still true).

Role model, natural-born leader, deal-seeker, stylish dresser.

Compassionate caregiver, avid baker, mindful lifestyler and all-around smartypants.

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Not only do you humor me and my harebrained ideas, but you fully commit to anything you put your mind to — not just doing it, but doing it well.

Case in point: A self-professed non-runner who completed not one but two half marathons in Chicago (above) and Detroit (below) in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

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Life may have given you some lemons these past few years, but you’ve certainly made some pretty damn fantastic lemonade.

You’re the strongest person I know, and I’m thrilled to see you flourishing, happy and healthy.

Stacey

Happy birthday, Stacey! I love you! 

The ‘Lazy’ Gal’s (or Guy’s) Guide To Getting Fit

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An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. -Newton’s first law of motion

My girlfriends and I were discussing workout habits while on a group run the other morning, and I joked about being one of the “laziest active people” around. Yes, I work out — probably more than the average person — but I’ve also learned how to make it easy on myself.

Easy? Well, there’s a bit of effort required, but the concept is simple: Make the path of least resistance the one that leads to fitness.

Huh? Ok, allow me to explain.

You see, years ago my workout routine consisted of dragging myself to the gym after work and halfheartedly hitting the elliptical machine for a half hour (while reading a magazine) before calling it a day. I was too tired to cook well, bedtime would get pushed back, I’d sleep in to try to catch up, etc.

Repeat again and again with the exception of a few races. I’d schedule and train for them, but fall off the wagon in between.

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It wasn’t until my fall marathon in 2013 that I finally decided to stop the vicious cycle once and for all. I was sick of training hard into injury, then spending months healing and recovering…only to find myself back at square one.

You can only play Jenga with yourself so many times before the excitement of seeing how high you can stack the pile before everything comes crashing down loses its appeal.

Instead, I vowed to take a new approach, one that would allow me to once and for all create a solid foundation. Step one was deciding to make fitness a lifestyle — something that I live and breathe every day — instead of an option. Step two was to figuring out a game plan. And step three was putting it in action and conservatively building on successes.

So here’s how I started offsetting my sedentary habits for good:

1. Stop thinking, start doing.

Get up! Quite simply, sit less and move more – and once you start, don’t stop. It began with a nightly walk around the block with my dogs, then I started building up my mileage and adding strength training between races to push my fitness threshold.

Weekend runs were no longer just a means to an end (i.e. the same five-mile loop to our farmer’s market for fresh kettle corn); they became part of a bigger plan of slowly building a larger base so I wouldn’t have to start from zero each training cycle.

2. Watch your mouth.

As in, what you put in it. You are what you eat, and it’ll translate into your training, so make it count. Avoid processed foods, practice portion control and aim to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Once I started seeing food as fuel and feeling the impact of my choices — both good and bad — I wanted to give my body what it needed to get stronger and stay healthy. Rather than viewing it as extra work, I got excited when I saw how it was so closely connected to performance.

3. Ask for help. 

It can be intimidating starting a new routine, so seek out people on whom you can rely for advice, motivation and inspiration. Join a local running club or swim team for coaching, or enlist the help of friends who are seasoned athletes and can explain the finer points of various training concepts.

You’ve got to know yourself and what works for you; I get bored easily, so I knew I’d need to mix things up. I started adding cross-training in the form of different classes, which not only challenged my mind, but also made me a stronger runner. My November Project tribe was also immensely helpful when it came to staying motivated; there was always someone doing something — or someone who was game for anything.

4. DIY at home.

You can thank Jane Fonda for this one. After inspiring a home video fitness craze among millions of baby boomers, she paved the way for P90X, Insanity and a host of other DVD-based workout programs in our generation.

Let’s face it, we all get our days when we’d rather hit the couch than the treadmill. So I made a deal with myself that if I didn’t get to the gym for a workout, I’d at least move around at home with one of my workout DVDs (I happen to love Beachbody’s, and they don’t pay me to say that).

5. Sign up for a race.

A mere two months of three 20-30 minute sessions per week stand between you and the finish line, so it’s totally doable. Check out my couch-to-five-miler plan, which takes you step-by-step through the process if you’ve got your eye on an event this season but don’t know where to start.

When all else fails, having a deadline can be very motivating. And once you have that race date in the calendar, the key is to back out from that day and create a training plan (the actual length will depend on your current level of fitness and the race duration).

I put my marathon plans front and center on the fridge and even make check boxes so I can cross off runs as I complete them. Take it one step at a time, one workout at a time and before you know it, you’ll be living — and actually looking forward to — a more active lifestyle.

How do you motivate yourself out of a workout slump?

Happy Birthday, Mom!

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Sister, nurse, wife, mom, grandma.

Chef, shrink, wound-healer, natural soother, story-teller, housekeeper, personal shopper.

Alternative medicine explorer, Jane Fonda devotee (circa 1980), healthy recipe experimenter.

Adult-onset runner to 2000 Somerset Classic 5k age group 2nd place winner.

Limit pusher, dream chaser, cheerleader, eternal optimist.

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You inspire me more than you know.

You may not always understand all my crazy endeavors — “Running 26.2 miles? Why would you want to do that to yourself?!”

But thanks for being there every step of the way.

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Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

Join us Monday Nights for Team LUNA Chix Portland Run Workouts!

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Thanks to social media (i.e. a deluge of Twitter and Instagram posts!), you probably know I was down in Berkeley, Calif., this past weekend for the annual LUNA Chix Summit. This event serves as the official kick-off for the Team LUNA Chix season, which runs from April to October.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Terra Castro, a friend from high school who just happens to be a former professional triathlete and current LUNA sponsored athlete, invited me to check out last year’s Summit. Just one day with these incredible women, and I was hooked. I just knew I had to be a part of what they were doing.

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Why? Well, there a lot of inspiring (read: bad-ass) athletes in this crew. But — more importantly — as much as they’re into challenging themselves, they’re equally as committed to supporting and motivating other women to get active in a non-competitive environment.

So fast forward one year, and we’re launching a team here in Portland. But it’s not about us, even though we do have our own athletic goals that we’ll be striving for throughout the year; rather, our weekly workouts are about YOU, your goals and providing a platform with which women can connect with one another.

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Our goal is to set an example in the community as a running team that supports ALL fitness levels. Regardless of if you’ve never run a step in your life or if you’re a super-seasoned marathoner, we’d love to have you join us and help empower each other to be active, healthy and happy.

Our workouts are Monday evenings from 6:30-7:30 pm, rotating between a few locations (check our Twitter & Facebook pages for details, and — shameless plug — please follow & friend us!). Our first one, though, will take place on April 6 at the Lincoln High School track in Portland. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to share a few highlights from the weekend…

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Team leaders arrived Thursday so we could get down to business first thing Friday morning. We chatted about the brand, our goals for the season and best practices from the more established teams.

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We also heard from ladies at the Breast Cancer Fund, which is our charity partner. Little did I know, they’re not so much about fighting breast cancer as they are about preventing it. They gave a fascinating talk about how you can reduce your risk by reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation.

By early afternoon we were ready to get out into the sun, so we met outside for an easy four-mile shake-out run.

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After we showered up and changed, we headed over to Clif Bar & Company headquarters for a tour and dinner. This company lives and breathes the philosophy that “every day is an opportunity to do something that matters.”

Not only are they working to create a more sustainable food system by being responsible with how they source ingredients for their products, but they also are actively working to reduce their ecological footprint, be it by subsidizing the purchase of hybrid vehicles, using solar power to run the office or incentivizing employees to bike to work.

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The food was also nothing short of amazing. Megan, being a Registered Dietitian with her own nutrition company, was particularly impressed with the spread.

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I, however, was even more excited about the dessert table with treats from Snickerdoodle Sweets. The owner, Tiffany, talked to us about being a female entrepreneur and pursuing your dreams, and then she lead us in a fun cupcake-decorating competition.

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By Saturday morning, our sugar highs had subsided. We started the day with yoga before settling into some more training sessions — this time with the larger group of team leaders and members.

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After learning more about team dynamics and tips for new teams throughout the morning and early afternoon, we broke up into categories by sport and prepped for afternoon activities. Of course, I couldn’t resist another workout with Terra, so I headed to the track for her clinic!

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We had a blast doing 400’s with the LUNA professional and sponsored athletes. We weren’t running close to what I’d imagine their usual pace(s) to be, but it was thrilling running alongside them in the workout…and it’s that same feeling our team hopes to give to everyone who joins us on runs.

Unfortunately my darn SI joint was acting up again, so I opted out of the aqua jog clinic. Instead, I went to San Francisco Run team leader Dr. Heather Maxwell’s clinic on foam rolling and stuck around after to pick her brain for tips on how to keep strengthening my sleepy glutes.

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By then it was time to shower up and head to dinner. Our guest speaker was the President & CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, Jeanne Rizzo.

She’s as entertaining as she is informative, and her talk was one of the most memorable moments of the weekend, as it was last year.

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After Jeanne spoke, we enjoyed watching a series of poignant short films, all of which are featured in this year’s LUNAFEST lineup. LUNAFEST is a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women — and they did not disappoint; I highly recommend checking it out, if it comes to a city near you!

Sunday morning, we had the choice of easing in with yoga, Pilates or a run mechanics clinic. I opted to pick up some more tips from Terra on exercises to help get your body get into better running form (fingers crossed for those SI issues).

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Then it was time for the wrap-up run, so Megan and I decided to sport our new LUNA kits on our six-miler. The  tanks were really comfy, and I’m excited to get the rest of the team decked out for our season!

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About an hour later, we arrived back at the hotel — drenched in sweat, on a runner’s high and slightly sad that our 2015 Summit time was coming to an end. We showered up and ate lunch with the LUNA athletes and our fellow team members out in the sun before bidding each other goodbye until next year.

The good news, though, is that our enthusiasm coming our of Summit is about a 12 on a scale of 1-10. So get ready, Portland, because it’s going to be an exciting inaugural season as we embark on this adventure together!

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Want to join in on the fun? Stay tuned for updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to join us on Monday evenings for workouts and clinics when you’re in the Portland area.

Not in PDX? Don’t despair; there’s a good chance LUNA’s got a local team in a city near you, so click here to check.

Hope to grab some miles with you this season; please help us spread word that LUNA is in Portland — and ready to RUN!

9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Next Season

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Back in November I got pretty fired up after reading blogger friend and fellow Coeur Sports teammate Kecia’s blog post, which talked about evaluating her 2014 triathlon journey in order to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015. It inspired me so much, in fact, that I thought I’d do the same in anticipation of my own fitness planning for the upcoming year.

Using this article in USA Triathlon as her guide, Kecia addressed nine critical, but often overlooked, steps to effectively evaluating her season. As the author says, “Allowing your success to be determined solely by the finish line clock or your ranking is not fair to all the effort and time you invested. You deserve more credit than that.”

I couldn’t agree more. So as we all prepare to spend the next 360-odd days training for something (or a lot of things), take a stab at the questions below and see how your efforts from last year stack up. Be critical, be honest, but — above all — be open to changing tactics in order to see some strategic gains in 2015.

1. In hindsight, were your season goals clear and attainable?
Did you achieve what you set out to do at the start of the year? Knowing what you know now could you have aimed higher, or were you somewhat unrealistic in your expectations of your time, commitments or the physical skills you needed to develop? Use hindsight as a barometer for thinking ahead to next year and create goals that push you and inspire you to go for it.

My main goal was to PR in the marathon and finish in under four hours, which didn’t happen. My secondary goals were to tackle some new events, such as an Olympic triathlon and an ultramarathon in the process. Check and check. Although I was able to maintain a higher level of fitness throughout the year and dial in my nutrition during training and racing, I failed miserably at being able to do it injury-free.

In hindsight, I was overzealous in taking on a high-volume marathon training program after upping my racing frequency and without a proper pre-hab and rehab regimen in place. As a result, a few underlying issues — namely, plantar fasciitis, stiff ankles and weak glutes — caused me to compensate in other areas, and my training was cut short with a pre-stress fracture in my tibia.

2. What were you most proud of this season?
Was it the improvement you saw in your swim, bike and run splits? Or your dedication and ability to balance your other responsibilities around the sport? How you overcame setbacks and still performed at a high level? Think of the big things and the little moments that you look back on with pride and delight in what you accomplished.

Generally? Pushing my limits and being open to trying new things outside of road running.

Specifically? Well, a few things: First off, 2014 was the year I found #bikelove, having progressed from my first clipped-in ride to an Olympic triathlon to a 50-mile solo ride. Second, this year I got onto the trails, moving from the Bay Area’s ocean-side scenery to Portland’s lush green landscape. Off the roads, I was able to push my body farther than ever before (literally) in my first ultramarathon. And, finally, I’m proud that I took the necessary steps to finally discover what might be hindering me from reaching my running goals.

3. What would you like to duplicate next year?
Perhaps it’s working with the same coach or training plan, continuing to do a variety of races and taking on big challenges that excite you and motivate you to train consistently. Of the things that you really enjoyed, what would you like to be sure you experience again?

That statement above hit the nail on the head: Taking on big challenges that excite me and motivate me to train consistently. I love the thrill of accomplishing something I previously didn’t think was possible, plus learning something new in the process is icing on the cake. And in between, I found my sweet spot with varied and frequent cross training, which not only helps keep me functionally fit, but also prevents me from getting bored.

4. What frustrated or disappointed you the most this season?
Did you struggle to see consistent improvement in your speed? Fail to summon your determination when things got hard? Were you unable to overcome nagging injuries? What concerned you and took some of your energy away from the positive things?

The most frustrating part of my season was having to succumb to overuse injury, step back from my training plan and hold myself back from running all-out in my A-race, the Detroit Marathon. After a successful first half of marathon training (including a new 10k PR), I wasn’t able to see how it would ultimately translate to the marathon distance.

At the root of all of this are those underlying weaknesses, which were the most disappointing part. The truth was a hard pill to swallow: As much as I’d been training and (I thought) strengthening my body, I was going about it the hard way — not the smart way.

5. What do you not want to happen again next year?
Were you unprepared for some races and found you performed better in training than in racing? Did you take yourself and the sport too seriously, forgetting to have fun along the way? Look for insights from question four — things that you need to avoid in order to be at your best. Put emphasis and focus on things that you can control or influence.

Physically, I don’t want to ignore my blind spots. Now I know exactly where I need to focus; sure, a 20-mile training run or a mile done at a certain pace help, but I need to seek out the small wins — like ankle flexibility and glute activation — in order to build a strong foundation for success.

Mentally, I don’t ever want to “wing it” in a race. I should have known that I was avoiding open water during training for a reason, and next time I won’t wait for race-day to confirm why.

6. What did you learn by going through these experiences?
We all have good and bad days (and races and seasons) but what you take away from them can make all the difference the next time around. Despite the challenges or painful times, what valuable lessons did you learn? What meaningful lessons can you take forward as you build on your experience as an athlete? How can you catch yourself from slipping backward the next time you hit a rough patch?

I learned three valuable lessons this year: 1) More is not always more; sometimes it’s less about intensity and more about approach. 2) I’ve got a lot of grit from which I can draw, and that stubborn streak can sometimes work in my favor. 3) There’s nothing quite as enjoying or empowering as trying new things and expanding your skill set.

7. What decisions did you make that were empowering for you?
Think about the conscious decisions you made about what you committed to or improved: your nutrition, getting support from a coach or community, your approach to training and recovery, how you managed your life around your workouts, the number or frequency of races, etc. What were some of the most important decisions of the year for you, both related to triathlon and other parts of your life where relevant? And therefore, what decisions must you make for next season to experience even more success?

Pre-injury, the frequency of races allowed me to use some as training runs, which was an ideal means of tracking progress and made the mileage more fun. Post-injury, seeking outside help was a real turning point for my running.

Working with a PT allowed me to rehab correctly, troubleshoot issues and get to the start line of the Detroit Marathon. And although I haven’t had training guidance since high school, working with a run coach and having some frank discussions about goals, possibilities and reality was what got me across the finish line.

8. What habits seemed to hold you back from achieving your potential?
We all have them. Recurring ways of behaving and thinking which sometimes we realize — even when we know it’s not in our best interest — and sometimes we don’t. What causes you to skip training sessions? What do you tend to say to yourself during a race or training session, or when the alarm goes off before sunrise? In which ways has your diet been limiting your body’s potential? Where have you procrastinated or not been as disciplined as you’d like to be? Be really honest and list the items that you must change in order to achieve your goals.

Three habits I’d like to work on in 2015: 1) Not every workout needs to be all-out; don’t let my excitement to try something new or laser focus on a singular goal prevent me from taking time to let my body catch up to my training. 2) Don’t neglect pre-hab and rehab; ’nuff said. 3) Quit taking nutrition for granted; I’ve made progress with better consistency here in 2014, but can delve deeper into how what I eat affects my performance and my health.

9. What decisions should you make in order to have your best year ahead?
Building off your insights from all the previous questions, what will you continue to do, where do you need to get extra help, what will you stop doing? This is a critical step, take your time and identify the key decisions you need to make.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, 2015 needs to be about working smarter…not harder!

I need to work on my running form and strengthen my weak spots, particularly those stiff ankles and sleepy glutes. Before I get injured again. I need to keep challenging myself with Big Hairy Audacious Goals and keep things interesting by experimenting with new pursuits. But not get too overzealous in the process. I need to get my running under control, build on last year’s #bikelove, and tackle that open-water fear once and for all. Then sign up for another triathlon. I need to remain open to tools and/or outside help, which will allow me to train smarter, not harder, this year. And then kick butt. 

Stay tuned for my 2015 goals…

What were your biggest lessons learned from 2014?