How to Live a Life that Matters

I'm stealing a post today from Michael Hyatt's site.

The desire to create lasting transformation in the world is what really drives us as leaders, right? Since the news of her death, I’ve been thinking a lot about Maya Angelou. Her legacy offers several valuable insights for living a life of true significance.
Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou speaking at Burns Library, Boston College. Creative Commons.
The odds were against Angelou in her early years. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she spent several years under the care of her grandparents.

Then, when she finally moved back with her mother at age eight, she was sexually abused by her mom’s boyfriend. Within hours of his conviction the abuser was murdered.

Angelou blamed herself for the man’s death. Can you imagine the trauma? It was so overwhelming she became a mute and wouldn’t speak for years. But somehow writing gave her a road out.
She wrote poems as a teen, moved to New York as a young woman and joined the Harlem Writers Guild, and then traveled abroad as a journalist, working in Egypt and Ghana.
At home in the States she was active in the Civil Rights movement and also worked as a singer, actor, and screenwriter. She’s best remembered as a poet and the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first of five best-selling memoirs.
Sure, people will debate the merits of her work, disagree with her politics, and criticize her literary contribution. But whatever your opinion, Maya Angelou has a lot to teach us.
I’m sure others could come up with their own lists, but here are five lessons from Angelou’s story that resonate with me as important for living a life of lasting significance:

Lesson #1: Faith Is a Source of Courage

A foundation of faith can give us the confidence we need to act boldly.
“When I found that … I was a child of God,” Angelou told an interviewer about her faith, “when I understood that, when I comprehended that … when I internalized that, I became courageous. I dared to do anything that was a good thing.”
Look at the long list of Angelou’s accomplishments, and ask what we could do if we could take courage in our faith. I bet it’s more—and better—than we dream.

Lesson #2: Excellence Pays Big Dividends

Everyone today says we should follow our passions, that we should do what we love. I agree. But that’s only a recipe for significance if people care about what we love.
I like how Angelou put it: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
Whatever our passion and drive, we have to contribute to others for our lives to matter to them. We need to offer something they really need, something they just can’t let go of.

Lesson #3: Success Takes Work

Angelou’s writing is so graceful it can seem effortless. But it’s not.
“Being a natural writer is like being a natural concert pianist who specializes in Prokofiev!” she said during a talk at Johns Hopkins. “To write well one works hard at understanding the language. I believe it’s almost impossible to say what you mean and make someone else understand.”
It takes practice, training, and cultivation for talent to become more than potential. A life that matters requires work.

Lesson #4: Optimism Puts Us in Control

Speaking about the South, Angelou said it’s easy to see it as “a repository of all bad things,” but she decided to see it differently.
“It’s beautiful!” she said. “That’s why people have fought for it. The place where I live is lovely.”
Why be so upbeat? I think the key is in a line from her book, Letter to My Daughter: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Optimism puts us in control of negative events. Sometimes the only thing we can control is our reaction. And refusing to let the tragic and unfortunate get the upper hand is the best response if we want to rise above.

Lesson #5: It’s Worth Taking a Few Dares

Sometimes others know us better than we do. A challenge from the outside can be just what we need to trigger excellence.

Initially, Angelou didn’t want to write I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, but a friend, James Baldwin, conspired with Angelou’s editor Robert Loomis.
“If you want Maya Angelou to do something,” Baldwin said, “tell her she can’t do it.”

Loomis followed Baldwin’s advice, called Angelou, and told her to forget it—writing the memoir didn’t make any sense. “It’s nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature,” he said. She took the bait.

“I’ll start tomorrow.” And the rest is history.

And thank goodness. Maya Angelou has had a global impact for these and many other reasons. Perhaps the best way to honor her accomplishments is to take what was best in her life and let it fuel our own.


Battleship to Beach

I've taken a few days off this week. Honestly, I've been processing all that happened last weekend in 208 miles for the Tour de Cure. I'll write more about that in the next few days, but I wanted to give a quick update on today.

I think I'm considering today's ride the start of my Beach to Battleship Ironman training. It had all the markers of a new beginning: connection. It felt like ironman from the start - the alarm goes off at 4:30am and I begin all the preparations for a long ride. Coffee, calories, coconut water. I left the house with six bottles: four for my bike, one for a breakfast smoothie and one for coffee.

Downtown from Battleship Park: Sunrise and Moon Set
I met a group at the Battleship that included Falcon Spice and some VERY fast boys. I was able to keep up and even chat with a few of the other cyclists (including fellow blogger Matt Ham) for about thirty minutes. We rode two-by-two for the first ten miles which was AWESOME because headwinds roared at ten to fifteen miles per hour. My Garmin bike computer beeped at the 30 minute mark and I think the boys heard it - suddenly they sped up, moved to a single file pace line and took off. My heart rate also took off and after only five minutes I fell off the back of the line. 

I chased Falcon Spice for the rest of the ride.  We headed out on HWY 421 to Blueberry Road and then Malpass Corner in gusty winds. The flood of memories fueled me. The last time I traveled this road: October 26, 2013 and I began to retrace my bike steps all along the way. It was fun and kept my mind occupied. For the rest of the miles, I was entertained by my aforementioned bike computer. I realized that it was doubling my speed. I was hitting every mile in 1minute and 45 seconds - essentially 36mph! It was fun. I imagined that my coach wouldn't believe me - that she would accuse me of hitching my bike to the back of a car and driving the distance (which was 45 miles - not 73 as indicated on my Garmin 500).

The best thing about headwinds on the way out means tailwinds on the way back. My wonky computer read 43 mph! I chased Erica and grinned as we hit the mile markers that I know and love: the turn at Blueberry road, the 110 B2B mile marker and even the Battleship (no longer the race finish but still an amazing sight for sore eyes and a reminder of my first half iron). We wheeled into Battleship Park amid Memorial Day traffic. We ran for ten minutes down to the Memorial bridge and back and stretched - chatting like we did last summer.  It was all a connection to last season and it excited and scared me all at once.

Memorial Day Flags at Full Salute
After the ride, I hit the beach with Ace. We spent the day relaxing on the shore: watching the Lazer sailors out on the Atlantic, the pilots on the east coast skyway and the tourists and locals on the shore of Wrightsville Beach.




I heard a great joke today: 
A seven year old boy and his four year old brother are upstairs in their bedroom. The seven year old is explaining that it is high time that the two of them begin swearing. When his little brother responds enthusiastically, the seven year old says, "When we go down stairs for breakfast this morning, I'll say "Hell" and you say "ass." The four year old happily agrees.

As the two boys are seating themselves at the breakfast table, their Mother walks in and asks her older son what he would like to eat for breakfast. 

The seven year old replies, "Ah hell, mom, I'll just have some Cheerios."

Pop! The surprised mother reacts quickly with a reprimand. The boy runs upstairs, bawling and rubbing his behind. 

With a sterner voice, the mother then asks the younger son, "And what would YOU like for breakfast?" 

"I don't know," the four year old blubbers, "but you can bet your ass it's not gonna be Cheerios."

Triathlon Pro

Who says you can't get paid for triathlons? Technically, pros are athletes who meet these criteria: 
Pro: Tim O'Donnell
  • Finish within 8% of the winning elite time on the same course as the elites
    (distance and format) in three USAT sanctioned events that offered a prize purse of
    $5,000 or greater. All three results must be from the same calendar year. 
  • Finish top-10 overall and within 8% of the winner’s time at the ITU Age Group
    Olympic Distance World Championships.   
  • Finish top-10 overall in the amateur field at Ironman 140.6 World
    Championships in Kona.
  • Finish top-5 overall and within 8% of the winner’s time at USAT Age Group
    Olympic Distance National Championships. 
  • Finish top-5 overall and within 8% of the winner’s time at USAT Collegiate
    Olympic Distance National Championships. 
  • Finish top-3 overall in the amateur field at an Elite Qualifying Race.

Elites/Pros (used interchangeably by USAT) are top notch athletes who earn sponsorships from a pro triathlete is paid by sponsors. They may receive bikes, apparel, entry into races, living expenses, lifetime supply of chocolate milk, etc.

Pro: Tim O'Donnell & Mirinda Carfrae
Pro: Crowie

There are ways to be an everyday pro. I'm so lucky to have a nutrition sponsor - Amino Vital. I'm one of their everyday athletes and they send me everything I need to fuel my workouts and recovery. 

Plus, I'm paid, too! Okay, I make mere pennies each year from my triathlon training. And I do it by scrounging up loose change at my swims, bikes or runs. You may remember that last year I beat Jenni Sunshine Dirty Spice on the last day of the year with a .52 cent find on the last run of the year. In 2014 I've made a dollar! And I'm looking forward to the next three months when hurried tourist drop change by the parking meters at the beach. 

Here are my latest finds. I like to write where I found them and who I was with. I found one this past Friday, half-buried in the sand at a pre-race workout at Carolina Beach.

P.S. This was just an excuse to put Craig Alexander and Tim O'Donnell on my blog. 


CB Sprint Race Review

The day started early. Dirty Spice arrived with a pot of coffee at 5:15 and we headed to Carolina Beach. Because she brought said coffee, I granted her coach status for two hours. She could bark at me to HTFU for free. It also meant that she carried my gear and pumped my tires (best coach ever).

I toed the line surrounded by friends. There were Spice Girls beside me (Jen and Beth). Plus, Renee and Ben and Brian were in the starting chute with me and we joked about how to race: swim fast that way,  run fast that way, bike fast back and forth and come back even faster. We talked about paces and this is where I boldly claimed: if I run like I've been training, then I can hold sevens. I loved the first swim. It was so fast that I barely got cold.  I did it without  a wetsuit and was able to draft off the hip of someone who was wearing a suit. It was crowded and I had to kick a few people off my feet, but I got into a rhythm and even bilaterally breathed - for a few strokes (for my real coach).

Off We Go!

My first run was killer. I barely looked at my watch, but I felt strong and fast. I was first in my age-group on this run and I ran a 7:27/mile average! [Not at 7:00 - but close!] I was careful on this run (and the next) to not look ahead or behind. Sometimes when I do, I get disheartened when I see I have farther to go or that someone is coming up fast behind me.

The bike was sweet and fun. I'm pretty sure I looked like Chrissie Wellington. I'm not as fast as she is - but I can smile brighter. I was passed by a woman in my age-group near the first turn-around. I kept her in my sights and we played leap frog throughout the ride - I knew I was second or third. In the last loop, we were both passed by a woman who screamed by in all pink. I was still in the chase. 

Most of the bike, I focused on riding my own ride. There is a tendancy to want to change the game when you watch women scream by in their biggest gears. In a way, I wanted to CHARGE! But, I had watched SECRETARIAT the night before and knew to run my own race. My song for the ride was OH, HAPPY DAY and I'd written that and OH, GLORY on my arm that morning.

I also had a longer time finding my groove on the bike. My quads were sore and my legs felt a little wonky. It wasn't until the turn-around that I remembered why: I ran 1.5 miles to transition.   

I jumped off Luci and headed into the second run. It was hot - but the sun was hiding. I saw one my leap-frog woman come out of T80 but she was a transformer. She morphed from that frog into a gazelle. But, my second run was amazing. I relaxed for a minute and then started picking it up.  I heard Jen's voice halfway around the lake: keep it up! you get to ice on the next leg of the race!  I hit the quarter mile and started looking for people to pass. I passed a 19-year-old (score!) and two men my age and rounded the corner for the beach. I heard Jen again near the beach. She yelled something like make it hurt for eight more minutes.  I took off my shoes and tossed them at my stake in the beach transition. 

The next eight minutes were brutal. In order to "swim with the current", we had to run 400 yards down the beach to get to the swim start. I started by trotting, but then I spied the girl who had screamed past me on the bike - the one in pink. I picked up my pace and I caught her at the buoy. BUT, when I waded in and started to swim, I couldn't catch my breath. Going from hot to cold, vertical to prone, threshold breathing to threshold not-breathing hurts. I had to tarzan swim and side stroke and doggie paddle. And I stopped. Meanwhile, Pinky was pulling away. I made it to the first turn buoy and some back-stroking dude passed me. Wait! What? I rolled over for two or three back strokes then rolled back around and drafted off Mister BackStroke. 

Did I mention that the surf was rougher by then? And that by "swim with the current" I meant: NOT. I felt like I was being sucked out to sea, especially on the 100 yard swim into the beach. I kept hoping I could touch the bottom and run out of the ocean, but that didn't happen until I was three feet from the shoreline. From there, I stood up and trotted up a dune to the finish! 

I was only forty seconds off the podium! I finished in 1:15:24.  In my age-group, I was first in on Run No. 1 and second on Run No. 2. More importantly, my second run was a faster split than the first.  My transitions rocked and I made it back to town in time to teach my spin class.  Here are some highlights:


Carolina Beach Double Sprint

I had an awesome race yesterday. I'm still excited about it. I think the main reason I loved it so much was because it was so out of my comfort zone. I love and hate doing new races. I'm a girl who likes routine. I like to do a race, and then do it again even better. For a triathlon, this was something completely different for me. The format of swim-to-run-to-bike-to-run-to-swim was weird, but there were other factors that were out of my routine. Here's what was so different about this race for me:
I got out of my head.  I didn't prepare the usual way. I didn't worry (about sea creatures, pr's or outcomes). I didn't write a race plan (with the logistics and schedule on paper). I didn't wear a heart rate monitor.  I didn't scope out the competition. I didn't even have my watch set correctly! I'm a techie and a nerd - this is what I do. I just went with the flow and what I know.

I got dirty. Before I was named Queen All Spice, Duchess of Spiceland, my first spice girl name was Posh. I like to be clean. I prefer to be pretty and perfect before, during and after all swim, bike and runs.  As much as I like feeling like a kid - I don't like to feel dirty. I was covered in sweat and no-see-ums (the Carolina Beach school mascot?) by 6:00am. I had sand down on my left arm on the first run. I ran without a headband. I had dirt in my shoes on the ride and the second run.

I raced unafraid. Oh, I was scared. I was scared of the cold and the unknown and the hurt.  But lately I've been racing with the same confidence I feel when I train. It helped at the start of the race to hear myself say (out loud): if I race like I've been training, I can hold seven minutes on the run. It wasn't boastful, but it was bold. I thought that all for each leg. If I race like I trained, I can hold 1:30s in the swim, seven minutes on the run, 19mph on the bike, and get faster on the second run.  I was unafraid to say it and I was unafraid to do it. 

MORE TO COME........


Saturday Shake-Out

Tomorrow I'm attempting the Carolina Beach Double Sprint Tri - a swim-run-bike-run-swim. This morning I headed down to CB for a pre-race shake-out. I met Renee G and Beth G. at the elementary school. We warmed up with a bike ride, jumped in the car, rode down to the beach, jumped in the water, swam for five minutes and then ran half of the run course - including a jaunt around the lake. 


We had a great time casing the joint and I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. This race is billed as the very first Formula One style sprint on the east coast. At 14-years-old, it's one of the longest-running tri events in N.C. This is the first year at CB. Here's how a formula one race works

The beautiful thing about non-traditional triathlons is that race organizers are free to design innovative swim/bike/run combinations that best suit their community. In a Formula One triathlon, the race is divided up into multiple legs -- as many as six or eight -- in different swim/bike/run combinations. Formula One races are also called "super sprints" because they combine several short, fast legs instead of the longer endurance challenges of a traditional triathlon.

Aside from the 375yard swim + 1.5 mile run + 12(ish) mile bike + 1.5 mile run + 375 yard swim, I'm facing a few daunting details. 

FIRST:  Instead of two transitions, this one has FIVE. After the swim, I'll squeeze through the beach transition where I'll slide on my run shoes and head for the elementary school. From there, I'll grab my helmet and bike and head out on the bike course. I'll do two 5+ mile loops, head back to transition, rack my bike and slide back into my run shoes. I'll head east on the same run course and at the beach transition, toss my shoes, don swim cap and goggles and jump back in the ocean. 

This might be what it looks like.

SECOND: Did I mention it's an ocean swim? Did I mention that said ocean is currently 65 degrees? Did I mention I'm not wearing a wetsuit? I tried it this morning and the first 30 seconds were not pretty. I strung together more cuss words than I ever have before.  I couldn't catch my breath and so fortunately, no one could understand said curses. I do plan on a "warm-up" in the water to diminish the shock of the first swim - but I imagine the second swim will be another expletive-laden entry from hot run to cold swim.

Practice Your Cornering. Don't Have Cone? Use a Water Bottle
THIRD:  It's a technical, short course. There is a dune to run up after the first and last swim. The run is a curvy out and back with a few right angles and the bike has at least four sharp left turns (including the turn-arounds at the cones)!