1.29.2015

don't give up on the year 'till it's over

2015 is the year I have been the most excited for. Ever.

And it’s not because I am doing new things or am making big life changes. It’s just because I am So. Very. Ecstatic. That 2014 is over.

Looking back, I wanted 2014 to be over a long time ago--seven months ago, to be more specific.

To be less specific, there are a number of reasons I was ready to be shot of the year, and I won’t go into them all here. A big one, though, was that I had an exceptionally disappointing first season as a pro triathlete. I’ve been told it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it’s not that I don’t believe that, rationally, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. And I’m not here to lie to you.


It’s not that I couldn’t find things to learn from in each race, and it certainly was not that I was going backwards in swimming, biking, and running. There was some “bad luck” at the wrong times (dropped chains and a bruised rib), but, more so, it was self-inflicted pressure, and mental stress, and emotional stress, and just straight up STRESS--and other aggravating intangibles that can get in the way of even the most talented and fit athletes.


The result of the buildup of all the blockages--both tangible and intangible--was such discouragement and self-doubt that I wanted to give up. Not on the sport, per sé, but on the year for sure. At the end of July I was ready to throw in the towel, shut down for the season, and wait for 2015--which couldn’t come quickly enough.


I didn’t, though, or couldn’t. As a pro, I knew I couldn’t make decisions based entirely on feelings of disappointment. I had to get some manner of progress from the season, even if it wasn’t the progress I had hoped for. So I changed gears.


I went to Luray, a local race where I knew I could make some money but that was low pressure. I stretched myself in a way I had never done before and raced on back-to-back days--the Olympic-distance race on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. I won both, but, more importantly and regardless of the win, had the best races I had all season--compared to myself. I also had fun. I enjoyed racing and socializing. I regained a huge ounce of confidence and re-considered getting ready for a fall race.


Then, as I was planning for my little comeback, I got sick for the first time since I had dengue fever while I was in ‘Nam (though thankfully no hospital stays or hair loss this time). Not a big deal, but enough to make a fall triathlon questionable. Once again, I contemplated just being done.  Maybe this was my body telling me that the year had been full of too much stress--tangible and intangible alike--and that it was throwing in the towel on 2014.


But I pressed on, once again changing my approach (with the help of my coach). Instead of gearing up for a fall tri, I picked a late-fall 10k road race and started into a run-focused block of training. Our rationale was that I could still achieve one of the goals I had set for the year--to improve some of my run times.


The run block was fun. It gave me a little break from swimming and biking and took me back to my roots, so to speak. I think I got above 50 miles/week for the first time since college, which felt like a big deal (even though it wouldn’t have back then!).


It totally paid off. I broke my 10k PR by a minute and improved my 5k PR from my sophomore year of college--within the 10k. I won’t say I was satisfied, but I was appeased. The 10k time didn’t make up for my season, but it was proof that, frustrating season or not, I was still making progress--something I desperately needed to know.


Moral of the story? Sometimes it is tempting to want a “new start.” And sometimes, a new start is in order. (Thank God for 2015!) But sometimes opting out for a new start is a lot more like giving up. You never know what you might gain from persevering through a tough time.


That being said, perseverance might take a different form than what you had expected. Sometimes it’s not so much about a new start as it is about forging a new trail--thinking outside the box to try an unexpected approach or looking at the situation from an unfamiliar perspective.


Join me in welcoming 2015 (yeah, I’m a little behind) and committing to not giving up on it for at least eleven more months!


Thanks to my sponsors @Tri360, my coach @MZaneCastro, my parents, and all my friends who supported me through a rough year. You know who you are.

11.07.2013

London 2013

 
Here is a little glimpse of my race at the ITU Age Group World Championship in London:
 
 
Pre-race swim on Saturday at the Lido in the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

 
Suiting up! (It is very cold.)

 
Pre-race staging with my age group.
 
 
Running from the Serpentine to transition. Please don't zoom in on this photo too closely, as it is rather frightening.

 
After the race, my mom asked me, "How was riding by Buckingham palace?" I responded, "I don't know. I don't remember it." But here's proof that I did, in fact, pass it.

My feet started to warm up about half-way through the run.
 
 
Age 25-29 World Champs!
 
 
For a more detailed glimpse, see the post I wrote on the Post Calvin, here.
 
 
Huge thanks to my mom for raising money for me to go to London with her "London Series" of gourd art. Thanks to everyone who purchased London Series gourds and/or supported me in other ways!


 

10.05.2013

the post calvin

So, based on this site, one might think that I have not blogged in a very long time. However, one would be wrong. I have committed to a year of once-a-month blogs at a Calvin College alumni blog site. You can find my posts (3 so far) here:

http://calvinwritersonline.org/author/calah-schlabach/

My post is published the 20th of each month. I recommend checking out other peoples' posts as well!

Also, coming soon, an update featuring my recent trip to London!

 

3.10.2013

London Series

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What with the whirlwind of moving to DC right afterwards, I may have neglected to mention that I competed at USAT Age Group Nationals at the end of August. It wasn't my best race, but was a good learning and humbling experience. And even without the best race, I still qualified for Age Group Worlds, which will take place in London in September (on the Olympic course!).

Competing at Worlds would be great racing experience, but I really can't afford to go. So my mom generously offered to create a series of gourd art that she will sell as a fundraiser for my trip!

You can buy a gourd or make a donation here on my parents' website. Even if you're not looking to buy, you should still go check out my mom's gourds--they're pretty cool. :)

Here is the story (short version) of how I got into triathlon:

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In May of 2011, I did my first triathlon. My mom convinced me to do it. We were practically the only two participants who didn’t wear wetsuits in the 68-degree lake—not because we were extra-tough—because we didn’t have them. I rode a borrowed bike and I was in terrible running shape, but the first thing I thought when I was finished was, “that was so fun.” The second thought? “I bet I could be pretty good at this!”

That’s where the wondering started. How good could I be at this crazy sport? After all, I have a strong running back ground, I was quite a fish as a child, and how could I not love to ride a bike?! Could I be a professional triathlete someday? Could I make a living as a pro? The difficult thing about the pondering was that, like with most things, you don’t know ‘till you try. So I decided to try.

The first thing I learned about trying to be a professional triathlete is that you have to “go pro” in action and mentality even before you actually get your elite license and have a shot at making money. Translation: In order to become a professional triathlete, I first have to live like I am one already. Part of the “pro mentality” was my recent move to Arlington, Virginia to work more closely with my coach. I would love to be able to support myself doing this sport that I love doing, and I think it is a realistic goal. However, I need some help during this in-between time.

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Last year, I raced at the Age Group National Championship in Burlington, Vermont. There I qualified for the World Championship in London. I would like to once again get a chance to compete against the best amateur triathletes in the nation (this year in Milwaukee) and the world (in London)—a step towards someday getting the chance to compete against the best pro triathletes in the nation and world! However, in order to take advantage of these opportunities and gain valuable racing experience and credentials, I need some financial help.

My mom has been kind enough to offer her artwork up as a fundraiser to support me in my dream. She has used some artwork I created as a high schooler as an inspiration for her “London Series” of gourd art, the proceeds of which will go to support my racing this summer. You can also make a direct donation if you wish. Thanks for supporting me as I pursue this dream!

11.27.2012

dumpster diving


You may have heard of Sandy, the “super storm” that hit the East Coast recently. In an action opposite evacuating, Matt came from NC to keep me company during the storm. It wasn’t bad at all in my area, only about as bad as an average thunderstorm in Texas—a few downed trees, a couple flooded bridges, 24 hours without power—NBD. (Do not mistake me; I am not trying to downplay the effects of the storm elsewhere. My dad spent two weeks in New York doing emergency medical work on Long Island.)

Anyways, school was shut down for two days due to the storm, so after taking a jog in the storm, Matt and I had some time to chill and watch lots of old TV episodes, as well as the Simpsons’ Movie (this being part of Matt’s plan to convert me to thinking the Simpsons is the greatest TV show ever). We even had some time to talk to each other!

The morning after the storm, everyone in the house was scared to go out, but as we were already developing splitting headaches when it was 8am and we had not yet had our morning coffee, we ventured out. What did we find? That it was really only our neighborhood that was out of electricity. That we could drive everywhere no problem because there was no traffic! So, after our truly terrible cups of coffee (still better than none!) we took a little tour of downtown DC because I wanted to look at the Potomac (it wasn’t nearly as interesting as I had expected).

Later that evening, when we were getting really bored, we went grocery shopping. Matt is always kind enough to take me grocery shopping via car when he is here so I can buy more than two bags of food at once and don’t have to carry them over the hill with my stick arms. (Speaking of my stick arms, though, I think the swimming might finally be paying off. How can I tell? My size-small arm warmers no longer slide hopelessly down my arms while I ride.)

So, we went everywhere—Trader Joe’s (our favorite), Whole Foods (highly disappointing in size and lack of ANY samples in comparison to the Austin, TX model), and finally, Safeway. The only reason for the final stop at Safeway was that I needed lunch meat. When I got to the lunch meat section, I found that all the lunch meat was missing. All of it. Just… gone. Turns out that, since the electricity in the store had gone out the night before, Safeway was forced to throw out tons and tons of food.

I was disappointed—the only reason I had come to this store was to buy some flingin’ flangin’ lunch meat! Matt, however, was elated. He drove me around to the back of the store and we embarked on our inaugural dumpster-diving experience.

What this actually looked/sounded like was me pacing around at the foot of the dumpster saying:

“Are you sure this isn’t illegal?!”

“Don’t slip!”

“Eww, it’s wet.”

“Don’t you think that’s enough? It isn’t all going to fit into my fridge!”

And again,

“Are you sure this isn’t illegal?!”

Meanwhile, Matt dug around exclaiming,

“Look at all this turkey!”

“Ice cream!”

“Can you get me a bag for all this?”

and

 “I’ll make it fit!”

 …and generally sounding like a little kid on Christmas morning.

Matt spent the rest of the evening texting his buddies about how amazing he was… while simultaneously crying about the large bag of donuts that some dingbat had left open to get rained on (seriously, it took him hours to get over that loss).

Well, I got my flingin’ flangin’ lunch meat. 15 packages of turkey and one of ham. Three weeks later, I officially never want to see turkey again. Perfect timing, as Thanksgiving is four days away. (Yes, I know that is it now actually five days after Thanksgiving. However, after Matt insisted that we write his/hers posts on this subject, he neglected to write his version for quite some time. Now that he has written his version, you can read it here.)

We laughed a little later, though, thinking about how, when we tell people we want to be pro triathletes, they seem to think we are superstars living the life. (This is, of course, the people who don’t think we are officially insane.) Really, a better perception of the life of an aspiring pro triathlete is in the story I just related—feeling like you’ve hit a gold mine when you find a month’s-worth of turkey in the dumpster.

And did I mention the Klondike bars?!!!

10.10.2012

touring dc

Well, I should probably start this post with an apology for not posting in....forever and a promise to do better. But since I haven't proven very trustworthy the last time(s) I made such apologies/promises, I will just write my post. I would not want to risk further marring my trustworthy name.

So! I moved! About a month and a half ago, to be inexact, I moved to the Washington DC area. Some of you might be surprised by both the "what" and the "where," others only by the "where." You are rightfully confused, as I had been thinking of moving to various other places at various points in time, including but not limited to Tucson, Arizona; Sevilla, Spain; and Berlin, Germany.
Long story short, I am in Arlington, Virginia. Here, I have some wonderful opportunities, including: a) performing the role of assistant cross country and triathlon coach at Marymount University, b) working more closely with my triathlon coach, and c) partaking in the plethora of "things to do in DC" (for lack of a better vague all-purpose phrase).

I jumped right into the first two things the day after I arrived, but hadn't blogged yet for a number of reasons. Anyone who has moved will understand some of those reasons without me going into detail. For the rest of you, I will use another vague all-purpose phrase, namely: craziness.

But on Monday I got to participate in the last of the opportunties listed, and in doing so thought, "Aha! A perfect first blog post! What else should I write about than the one thing that will probably be the smallest part of my life here in DC?"

And by "write about," I obviously mean "post pictures with a limited number of explanatory captions," so here goes:

 
Matt came up from NC to do a race on Sunday. The Rev3 Half-Full was a charity race for the Ulman Cancer Fund. Matt entered the cancer-survivor wave and insisted on looking the part. The race was wet, cold, and miserable, but Matt excelled, placing 3rd Overall Amateur and kicking the other cancer survivors butts by over an hour*.
 
*Lance Armstrong also competed as a cancer survivor at this race, but in a different distance than Matt. So we will never know what might have happened there.

 
On Monday, we went to the National Mall to check out the giant map they have there. Pretty cool, but it could have been more detailed regarding the food options. Whoever designed the map was really hung up on the monuments and Smithsonian museums. (Speaking of the Smithsonian(s) am I the only person who always thought that title was singular?)

 
There was also a large, pointed pillar that appeared to have lost whatever roof it was supposed to be supporting. It did, however, have some creepy red eyes that light up whenever a plane might be passing overhead--which is, of course, all the time

 
I don't know what the name of this monument is, but it was in front of the Air and Space Museum, which we definitely need to go back to. We also visited the American History Museum, which we feel less urgency to revisit. Although when we get a female president, I will have to go back to check out what they do with the exhibit on First Ladies. They may have to change the emphasis from "For One Night There Is Only One Dress That Matters."

 
We got to see one of only 5 remaining bicycles made by the Wright Brothers! (In the background you can also see their first successful plane.)

 
Capitol and Calah. We didn't get to see nearly everything, but figured there was no need to try and squeeze it all in--we'll just go back over Thanksgiving Break! This stuff is open every day except Christmas. And even better, it's all free (except for the coolest stuff, like the rides and 3D movies, obviously)!
 
 
 



 

1.17.2012

Fear of Success

I was randomly looking at a friend's facebook profile and I ran across this quote, which I found to be both beautiful and true:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we ...are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


- Nelson Mandela
 
Right away, I emailed it to Zane, my triathlon coach, because it touches right on something we have discussed a lot: fear of success. I think a lot of people would say that they fear failure, but few would claim to fear success. I wonder, though, if it isn't more often the opposite.
 
Most of us want--or say we want--to be successful. But how many of us balk when we are confronted with the many obstacles that line the path to success? (Please note that when I talk about success, I do not necessarily mean financial or career success! What I mean is success in whatever dreams and goals one might have--success in being the best one can be in any realm and, ultimately, success at being a human being.)
 
And if we are not afraid of the obstacles, don't many of us fear the unknown that lies beyond the pinnacle? Don't we secretly know that the peak of success we imagine in our minds is not really the highest point, because beyond each mountain is another, higher one? Possibly the scariest part about success is that it is a never-ending pursuit.
 
It is easier to not even begin to climb the mountain, deluding ourselves with the idea that we like the plains better, than to face the unknown beyond the mountain, because the unknown might be the greatest of all human fears.
 
Mandela talks about the way children shine. They not only want to succeed, but they know they can. Children rarely show any bashfulness about basking in the light of their success. But not only do they love to tell the world about their own successes, they also genuinely delight in the successes of others.
 
I think the child-like faith that Jesus encourages in us is more than we usually make of it. Jesus certainly wants us to have a child-like faith and trust in him; but moreover, I believe we would all do well to have a more child-like faith in ourselves and in the power we have as humans who are made in God's image, who are giving unique gifts and passions for a reason.