Monday, August 31, 2015

Book review: Leap by Tess Vigeland

I have been anxiously awaiting Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want (link to order through the author's website) ever since  Plus, since I have explained that I recently went through my own leap, I figured it couldn't hurt to see what advice she had to offer someone else. I wanted it so much that I forgot I had pre-ordered the text and also pre-ordered the version.

I didn't get any how-tos on what to do next, as much as I feel like I could use them, but I did get some validation that I am not the only one who dreads the question, "So what do you do?" because I don't know if I should say what I am doing now, what I used to do, or cobble together a combination of the two.

Like the author, I had what I felt like was a "cool job," one that other people thought they wanted to have too. I say thought they wanted, because everyone sees the fun part of being a faculty member, teaching classes and having a (somewhat) more flexible schedule. They don't see the long hours grading papers, the boring committee meetings, the campus machinations that made me feel like a cog in a wheel, or the ever-diminishing resources and the increasing responsibilities. Still, I liked that saying I was a college professor gave me an instant credibility to some people, and now, I feel like I am in a much less impressive-sounding role. I also, like Vigeland, feel icky for wanting people's approval enough to care that my job doesn't sound cool anymore.

There is also the common thread of loss, of feeling like I have given up part of my identity, one I worked very hard to achieve. The constant self-doubt that caused her to name her second chapter "Oh Sh!t" is all too familiar to me.

Reading the book did make me glad that my leap had a little more of a safety net, though, because I didn't have the big salary Vigeland had at her own job (even though she admits that she didn't take her own great advice and save before taking her leap), and I really could not have afforded to have no income while I figured out what to do next. Some of the people in her book had stories that were not so bright and hopeful, and I appreciated that she covered that side of the story. "Leap and the net will appear!" is a lovely thought, but you can't take it to the bank. I also know that I would have felt depressed and guilty if I took a risk and didn't immediately find a new opportunity. She admits that taking a leap is a luxury that is reserved for people with a certain level of resources, and I think some of the existential crises that she went through were a function of being from the kind of background where people take that kind of money somewhat for granted.

I felt like Vigeland's tone rang a little hollow when she said, when protesting the need to go do something amazing, "What if I decide to work at Starbucks?" and then backpedaled saying of course working at Starbucks is a respectable job. I'm not sure that she would really understand what it would be like to live off that kind of money, or what it would be like to do that kind of job. I haven't worked at Starbucks, but I have waited tables, and it's exhausting and hard and at the same time, low-status. There is nothing relaxing or fun about that kind of work.

Overall, though, the book had a fun, quirky tone. If anything, I think she oversold the value of taking a leap -- I think that for most people, looking for the next job while you can still sort of tolerate the current one is the better path. I don't regret leaving my job, I'm happy I did, but only because I have a comparable income while I look for the next thing. One thing that is amazing is that despite my uncertain position, I still have faith in myself and my skills and talents, and I think something better will come along. Leap is good company while I wait.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gluten-free and (mostly) dairy-free

After my last visit with my traditional endocrinologist, I resolved to try something different. I looked around for another endocrinologist, but all the ones around here follow the same protocol -- I was never able to connect with my old friend from the gym to find out who she was working with.  Traditional endocrinologists treat Hashimoto's with Synthroid, increasing the dose as the patient's thyroid starts to die off.

I decided to go more woo-woo. I got the name of an MD/acupuncturist/functional medicine doctor. I decided I would do what she suggested even if I didn't think it would work. I had tried the traditional way and wanted to try something different.

I wasn't surprised when she suggested I go gluten- and dairy-free. I had read enough blog posts and listened to enough podcasts to know that this is pretty standard. She did a bunch of tests and it turned out that my Synthroid dose was so high that it completely suppressed my thyroid, so we lowered it a bit. I'm also taking Vitamin D because even in the summer, with all my outdoor training, I had a sub-optimal D level. I can't imagine how low it gets in the winter.

She also wanted me to give up coffee for three months, which I am doing. I thought that would be harder than it is. I can have tea, and sometimes I do, but it doesn't hype me up like coffee, so I don't really care if I have it or not. I have also been getting acupuncture once a week.

The only thing I notice, but it's a big thing, is that after a hard training session I don't feel a lot of aches and pains the next day. I might have sore muscles, but my joints don't hurt.

I haven't really been tempted to cheat on the gluten -- gluten-free stuff is not that hard to find. I miss the dairy more, and did ask -- and get the go-ahead -- to try some non-cow milk. Traditional Romano cheese is made with sheep's milk, so when I have gluten-free pasta, I can have some cheese on it.

Mostly, though, going gluten-free has changed the way I eat. Most junk food has either gluten or dairy in it, so I skip a lot of things that I didn't need to eat anyway. I have lost about 5 pounds in the few weeks without making any other major changes to my eating habits. Just eliminating those two things has helped me feel a lot better. That makes it easy to say no to those foods. I never felt like I had a lot of willpower, but this is relatively easy for me.

I'm not anxious to add a lot of other restrictions. My current lifestyle doesn't make it easy for me to plan all of my food ahead, and it's hard enough to find food out that fits these limitations.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Another race report: Swim to the Moon 5K

Are you tired of race reports yet? This one, I promise, is something different. It was the Swim to the Moon 5K, a swim through five lakes. I have been wanting to do this race for years and I finally entered. Until today, my longest open-water swim was a little less than two miles, so this was a huge step up for me. I had to indicate my predicted time on the entry, but I had no idea. I guessed 2 hours, which put me in the last wave of swimmers. The swim was from the Northstar Reach camp to Halfmoon Beach.

There was also a 10K swim, which started at Halfmoon Beach, went to our starting point, and then returned to Halfmoon Beach. My husband, who generously was my one-man support crew and cheering section, said that people had come from all over the country for that race. We got to see them stop for their special-needs bags (only necessary for the 10K), then dive back in to swim back. They had started so early that many had glow sticks tied to their suits in the back. That would have been scary to me. 

As it was, I felt a little tightness in the pit of my stomach as we pulled into the park. I hadn't felt consciously scared, but there are always the race-day jitters. Body making, though, seemed to counteract it. As soon as someone writes all over me with a permanent marker, I suddenly feel ready to kick butt.

I wasn't totally sure that I could swim 5K, but I figured as long as I kept the pace reasonable and just kept swimming, I would be fine. I was relieved to find out this morning that there were two swim-up aid stations on the course, with water, sports drink, and GU. I thought I was going to have to swim for twoish hours without anything to drink. 
I started with the last wave because of my predicted time. The cutoff time was three hours, so there was a bigger range of abilities in my wave than in the others. The people who opted to wear wetsuits or use "Safer Swimmer" buoys also had to start in our wave.

The beginning was challenging with so many bodies in the water. I got (and gave) lots of body-checks. It's not easy to see who is around when you're swimming, and everyone is aiming for the same general path, so things get tight. I was happier when the crowd thinned out a bit.

Other than that, it was great. The water was about 78-80 degrees, a very comfortable temperature.  I found a good pace that I maintained throughout, and other than stopping at the two aid stations (once for just water and once for water and a GU pack), I kept going fairly steadily. The water was beautiful, and there were some cool sections where we had to swim through a tunnel and through the channels that connected the lakes. Once I got to Halfmoon Lake, the largest lake, I had about a mile to go. There were some small waves on this lake, which made it a little harder to stay on course and to breathe properly. I also had some foot cramps on and off. I was able to make them go away by switching to breaststroke for a little while. I also used breaststroke when I needed to figure out where the next buoy was. 

When I past the second mile marker and realized I only had a little over a mile to go, I pushed the pace. The cramps got a little worse, and then, when I was 100 feet from the beach, my whole right foot and calf cramped so much that I had to stop and flip over on my back, letting the people I had passed pass me by. I actually thought I was going to get pulled out by a lifeguard if I didn't get it together, so I tried to slow my breathing and relax, and it finally passed. I wasn't going to get that far and not finish! I was able to swim the rest of the way in and collect my medal -- this race made the late entrants go without medals on race day, not the late finishers. I finished in 2:05:53, which put me near the back of the pack -- the cutoff time was 3 hours -- but I was happy with what I had done. 

Since I hadn't gotten to get that medal picture on race day last time around, I had Jesse take a lot of pictures of me with this one. This was a really great medal, too. 

When I got home, I also wanted a picture with my new t-shirt and the medal. You can tell I got a lot of sun during this race. 

One more for my basement medal rack. I had to rearrange things to give this one an honorary middle position.

I also added a new sticker to my car. I am guessing there are less people who have done a 5K swim than who have done a marathon, even though I think a marathon would be much more difficult for me.

I loved this race, and plan to do it again next year. In the meantime, I want to get faster so that I can start with the middle wave instead of having to fight it out with the big pack at the end. I really felt great after I finished, though I can feel that my back muscles will be a little sore tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

One perfect moment from the Sylvania Triathlon

One thing I forgot in my race report: Ever since I have been doing triathlons, each event begins with the U.S. national anthem. (This didn't happen when I did road races before September 11, 2001.)

I have learned to associate the anthem with being slightly on edge and concurrently impatient to start and a little scared. No matter how many races I do, there is always a little anxiety at the start.

At Sylvania, they typically have canned music played over a loudspeaker while someone holds a flag from the lifeguard stand. This year, though, the music wouldn't play. As the race officials fumbled and tried to get it to start, the crowd of racers started to sing the anthem, and immediately we were all in sync. It was one of the most moving things I have ever seen as we all sang together, with the sun coming up over the lake.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Enell Ambassador Race Report: The Sylvania Triathlon

Note: I did not ask Enell to pay my entry to this race because I wanted to wear my Team Toledo shirt, but I was still well supported through the entire triathlon by my Raspberry Zest bra.

Hi! It has been a while since I posted. In between starting a new job and leaving my old one, training hard for triathlons, and working on my Hashimoto's with a new doctor (more on that later), I have been pretty busy.

I did the Sylvania Triathlon on August 9. This is the big race that went by my house every year starting when I was about 10 years old, the one that made me want to be a triathlete.

I had done the race once before, a dozen years ago. I had high hopes of matching my former time from those days, when I was obviously much younger and also about 20 pounds thinner. I knew it wasn't likely, but I had hoped that all of my hard training would result in a new PR.

At the very least, I told myself, it would be my master's PR for this race, because the last time I did it I was under 40.

Instead of wearing my Team Endurance Fusion kit, which chafed me quite a bit during my last race, I decided to go back to my old one-piece trisuit. No all-spandex outfit would be completely flattering on my body, but at least with this one, I didn't have to worry about the top riding up. I added a technical t-shirt for the run, both so I didn't have to pin my number to my trisuit and to make me feel a little less self-conscious during the run. Also, wearing the Team Toledo red during this race meant that a lot more people would be cheering for me.

It has been fun having a team to train with this year. I felt a lot less nervous before the race because I could meet up with my friends and know we were all wishing each other well. In this photo, we actually have the overall duathlon winner (on my left), the master's duathlon winner (far left), and an age-group award winner (far right).

My mom put this sign out for me and my friend

I had a good swim (just under 31 minutes in the water), a great bike leg (averaging more than 17 mph), and then... I finished the run. I haven't really been doing a lot of run training, so I knew the run would be rough, and the day was hot and humid. I started out completely out of gas from my killer bike leg, and things got worse from there.

There were cones along the course, so I played a game where I would walk for a certain number of cones and then set a goal to run a certain number of cones. I added rules to my game to require me to run when I passed certain markers (a fire hydrant, a red arrow marking the course, a stop sign). I was really struggling just to make it through the last few miles.

Two things brightened my otherwise dreary run leg -- one of my Team Endurance Fusion friends had set up a dunk tank on the course, and was letting the runners dunk him on the way by. I got to see him and some other friends and get some much-needed encouragement, and got some splashes from the dunk tank.

Another guy I know from my early days of Team Toledo (he doesn't train with them anymore) was out on the run course under a highway overpass, playing his drum. I gave him a big, sweaty hug.  That helped raise my energy level for a little while too.

Other than that, I had a couple of gel packs, and was doling them out little by little at the water stops. I had my JumpSport headband from Fitbloggin, which I got wet and put around my neck to help cool me, and refreshed at the water stops. And I had my sheer determination that I was going to finish. That was pretty much it.

A lot of people I had beaten in the swim and the bike passed me during this long, hot slog. I clocked in just over a 14-minute mile pace. But I finished.

I waited to write this post because I was waiting for my medal. I was one of the last twenty or so people to finish the race, and they had run out of medals by the time I crossed the finish line. I was a disappointed that I didn't get a medal on race day because one of the big-deal things for me is that race-medal photo. Most of my friends had finished way before me and were getting their awards when I finished.  I borrowed a medal from a stranger to get a race-day medal picture, but Jesse didn't check it before I gave the medal back, and my eyes were closed with a ridiculous expression on my face. I deleted it. I'm very happy to have the medal now to add to my growing collection.

I'm not fast, especially on the run, but I think this race proved my determination. I was actually most proud of the run, because it was the hardest part. I wanted to quit about a million times, especially when I realized I had blown not only my PR goal but my secondary goal of beating 3:30, but I knew I wouldn't forgive myself if I gave up.  I was going to get across that finish line if I had to crawl across it.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Enell Ambassador Race Report: Women's Only Triathlon

Note: Enell paid my race entry for this race as part of their Ambassador program. 

I have a race tomorrow, so I think it's about time that I write my race report for the Women's Only Triathlon in Sylvania on July 26. This is a well-orgainzed race -- the same race management company that puts on the much larger and longer Sylvania Triathlon (which I am racing tomorrow) also does this race. I appreciate this after attending some other all-women's races that were not as well-managed.

Speaking of management, my husband, who usually helps me get ready for my races, was at a cross-country camp, so I had to do everything myself. It really made me appreciate what he does for me. Since I was solo, I made the command decision to leave early for the race site so I could get a closer parking spot, and do all of my organization in the parking lot. It worked out well -- I probably spent half an hour fussing with my stuff, and if I had done all of that at home, I would have been parking in the boonies. My car hood worked just as well as the living room floor for laying things out.

This year racing has been so much more fun because I have a whole team of people to train with and visit with before races. It really helps take away some of those pre-race jitters.

I felt very strong for this race, and it was a PR for me on this course. I had a pretty good swim, went faster than I expected on the bike, and had a pretty good run for me. For once, my bike place in my age group was better than my swim place. 

The best thing was that I felt good after the race -- in other races, I have felt really sick, but my new sports drink has been helping, I think, and I have also trained harder and more consistently this year than I ever had. 

I had a lot of fun and a great experience. Several of my team members placed in their age group and one (second from the right) was the master's duathlon winner. 

Another longer race tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I want to be just like Tess Vigeland when I grow up

Several months ago, I listened to Tess Vigeland being interviewed on "How She Really Does It" about life after leaving the dream job. Then I listened to her World Domination Talk. I really wanted to do the same thing. I'm looking forward to her book.

I have been feeling the way she described for a while. I worked hard to get my PhD and felt very lucky to find a full-time faculty job less than three miles from my house. For the first five years, I loved it. Then, for reasons I won't detail here, I started to love it less and less. I still loved the students but the other stuff was wearing me down. I tried hard to make the best of it because it was my dream job.  My intuition, though, was pushing me toward the door.

I had a lot of ups and downs this spring when searching for a new job. Very much like Tess described, I made it all the way to the final round of a new job that I thought was my real dream job. "This was why it all happened," I thought, especially when they called my references. I made the mistake of telling too many people that it was going to happen, and then it didn't. I came in a strong second to an internal candidate.  From start to finish, the application to phone interview to on-campus interview to hopes raised to hopes dashed took six full months.

I thought, "I'm going to have to go back next year unless a job drops out of the sky that is offered to only me." And then that's what happened, sort of. Through a friend of a friend I got a summer opportunity at a Fortune 500 company that might (or might not) turn into something permanent. I started the job looking hard for the permanent position that would let me leave my job gracefully, for a much better job, but it was coming down to the wire and I still didn't have it.

I was doing one of our Team Toledo swims at Olander Park, almost a mile around. I did two laps that day for the first time. I realized during the second lap that if I could swim like this, something many people find scary, I could be braver in other things too.

So I leapt. I have a contract through the end of the year. I'm finishing my project instead of going back. It made leaving more awkward, but I still left. I cleaned out my office and turned in my keys yesterday. I felt a huge weight lifted when I drove away.

"Leap and the net will appear," they say. Either I will find something inside the company, or I'll have a great reference for the next job. I know I should be worried, but I'm not. I'm sure it's going to be just fine somehow.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07