Monday, August 03, 2015

Digging Into the Pain Cave

Last week, Alison and I attended the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit held at Colorado University in Boulder. The Summit brought together over 150 coaches, physiologists, psychologists, business and thought leaders based in the field of endurance sports. During the break out sessions, attendees could choose between different lectures, depending on their interest. While there, I attended Carrie Cheadle's The Psychology of Suffering lecture. Carrie is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and is passionate about educating others on sports psychology. The following are my observations from her talk, broken into three parts. (Part 1 is below.)

Pain is complex because it's a subjective experience. Your pain differs from your teammate, from your spouse, from your kids, from the person sitting next to you. Everyone experiences their own unique reaction when it comes to pain.

So what is pain? Pain is a signal from your brain that you're suffering (either a real physical danger or that you're pushing close to that edge) and our brains try to shut down the source of pain. It's a warning signal our brains excrete that as athletes can prevent us from preforming to our potential. But there's a difference between pain and suffering.

If you examine pain in the form of fatigue, it's experienced as a limiter, which affects your brain to make decisions.

When we have expectations of pain, it can change our behavior. How hard or how easy something is will affect what we experience. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think it's going to be hard, then guess what? It's hard. 

When we're afraid and have fear it's often that we're weary of burning all of our matches. And therefore we always hold something back, which can mean not racing to our full potential. 

Think of your pain threshold as a combination of body and mind experience. Your body sends a message to your brain and your brain sends a message back to your body. How you deal with pain is up to you. Some athletes can push their pain thresholds to the extreme, while others struggle with it. And if you struggle with it, you're not alone. 

Ready for the good news? You can increase your pain threshold using mental skills training. 

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for the additional five tools you can use to grow your pain threshold. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Getting down to the why...

Do you know why you do what you do? Do you know why you like to ride your bike, do intervals, work where you work, and live where you live? 

Can you really get to the root of why? What if you could get in touch with the why's? If you could work from the inside out of what and how you do what you do and align yourself with the why? 

I'm assuming most of you are reading this post because you have some connection to cycling - you race, you're thinking about racing, or maybe you just like to pedal your bike. We like to ride our bikes. But why?

I love the wind in my face.

And why do you like the wind in your face? 

Because it symbolizes freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

And why is freedom and the pursuit of happiness important?

Because we have one shot at this life and I want to live it to the fullest.

And why is living life to the fullest important?

So I wake up each day and end each day knowing I am happy, content and inspired.

And why is being happy, content and inspired important? 

Because that's how I choose to live my life. 

Suddenly riding a bike isn't just about riding a bike. It's a way of life, a lifestyle, a choice. When we get in touch with the why's of what we do, we strike a chord into what motivates us, what gets us out of the bed each morning, what keeps us doing what we want to do. It's empowering. And now those intervals have more purpose. I am more in touch with my values of why I do what I do and it inspires me to do more.

So I challenge you - figure out your why's. Whether that be with cycling, racing, life, a job, friendships, relationships, etc - ask the why's. Then ask the why of that, and the why of that, and the why of that, and finally, the why of that. 

Because when we get in touch with the why's, it makes the how's and what's easier. 

Interested in learning more? Watch this TED talk that inspired me to get the the why of why.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Crow Feet Wrinkles and No Regrets

It hit me in waves. A sense of undeniable grief I haven't felt in awhile. I had to lay down. Moonli wagged his tail to console me. After sobbing and feeling the hole in my heart open, I pulled myself up and reached over to dust off the memory book with Ryan's face on its cover. He's been on my mind a lot lately.

I started leafing through its pages, photographs from years gone by. Memories unlocked with the glance of a smile, the curling of lips, the beginnings of my crow feet wrinkles I wouldn't trade for anything. All of those trips, all of those experiences we shared - I don't regret a single one. I don't wonder what if we had done something different. No way. We lived life exactly how we wanted to, rich beyond our wildest dreams.



Ben came to check on me. I had shut my door, something I never do. I just wanted to sit, to be sad, to live, to breath. His hug a welcome oasis in a storm of tears.

The next morning, the storm cleared. I got up, I pinned on a race number. Puffy eyed and a little numb. I had no expectations for the day. Nothing to lose. When I took a corner hot, had a gap from the group my mind eased. I wanted to feel empty. I wanted to put everything out there. I road without emotion, without connection to what my mind was telling my body. I stopped looking at my power meter. I just concentrated on the road and the terrain 10 feet in front of me.

And my gap grew. Miles flew by. I was off the front for 3.5 of 4 laps. I didn't care where I placed. This ride was for me. To feel alive. To feel human. When the group caught me, I was empty. And I loved every minute of it.

Later that night I found out Dean Potter died. I wonder if there's a connection between the two - missing Ryan and feeling the deep sense of loss I haven't felt in a while. We have this one life - and I'm living it to the fullest.

And then the next morning I learned Susie Dillar from work passed away this weekend. When it rains, it pours.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happiness Watts

Snapshot from my TrainingPeaks account....
3/30/15 - TSS - 228.6 (Rode the Parkway in Tennessee Smoky Mountains) Acute Training Load: 195.4 Chronic Training Load: 113.9 Training Stress Balance: -78.8.

That's called a training hole, ladies and gentleman. Benjamin and I put in some solid riding over the past five days - tallying 360 miles with 10,468 meters of climbing. That's 34,343 feet. Whoa. That's higher than Mt. Everest. Dang.

So, what are you doing next March? Want to come to Tennessee and get your butt kicked? We're planning on doing the big daddy ride (120 miles with 11,000 feet of elevation gain) twice. Go big or go home. An excellent way to bring in another birthday and kick off a new year.

What's next? A little rest, some speed work and we'll be FLYING!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dealing with lemons since 1978.

Sometimes life gives you lemons.

Working in the coaching industry, my job is reliant on people. They come in all shapes and sizes - not just physically but mentally too.  I advise them on certain workouts to set them on a path to obtain their goals. And I help them carve out a balanced life approach, listening to their dreams and goals and encourage them to stretch and reach. I use a progressive periodized coaching principle - where successful completion of workouts means a little bump in load each week. Each workout builds on the previous one. Fitness is gained from week to week, day to day, interval to interval.

And then life gives you lemons.

Injuries happen. Accidents happen. Life happens. Shit happens. Whatever you call it - happens.

So we adjust plans, we move things around and calmly talk to clients letting them know what no matter what - we will deal with it together. A coach is a champion for their clients, holding their best interests in mind. Letting them know you really care about their success happens on many levels. Whether that's from day to day, week to week, race to race. No matter what, as your coach, I applaud your efforts because through each effort, each intention you set and complete or attempt to complete means that you are growing. And that is some cool shit.

I love my job.

Dealing with lemons since 1978. :) 


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What's your bliss?

A woman from the car dealership picked me up today so I could retrieve my car from the shop. She was in her mid-fifties and had a ginger red bob haircut with pink lipstick. We started talking about cars and how nice it would be to know how to fix them.

"Guys have it easier, usually their fathers will teach them," she told me.

"Huh, that's interesting. My dad was a car salesman. And the only thing he taught me was how to wreck them," I responded. It's true. By the time my dad was 21 years old, he had totaled a handful of cars by reckless driving. I have him to thank for my love of speed and pushing the edge on rubber wheels.

Our conversation drifted from there. At one point I told her I could work on bikes.

"Well that's easier. Bikes are more unisex," she said. Are they?

Our conversation drifted further, and I told her about my cycling background and riding down by the river in Eugene as a kid. How sports were ingrained in my being from very young and how I enjoyed school and studying, but what I really lived for was recess. Dodgeball and basketball with the boys? You bet. I was often the last one in once the bell rang.

"Your dad must have taught you all of that," she assumed.

"Actually, I credit my older brother. I had to keep up with whatever he was doing," I said.

"Let me ask you this, did you always know? When you were little did you know you wanted to be an athlete?" she asked.

"I didn't think I had a choice."

She admitted to me she was curious about people who are passionate about what they do and figure out how to make a living from it. She had recently divorced and was now on her own, forging her own way. Except now she has no idea what that looks like.

"How do you follow your bliss?" she asked.

"That's an interesting question. I've been doing it so long, I don't know what it's like not to," I said.

I didn't tell her that I experienced tragedy and that it made me not want to live another minute not doing what I loved. Life is short. We have one shot so we better live it to the fullest. Bucket lists, dream goals, living it up and enjoying each moment is a top priority for me.

"I will say that you should surround yourself by people who are doing what you want to be doing," I mused. "Don't settle. Take little steps and set a goal, always striving toward. Until one day you wake up and realize you're doing exact what you want to be doing."

"Thanks, Jennifer," she said.

"Thank you - and follow your bliss!"


Monday, March 02, 2015

New name, new life.

I'm getting used to my new name: Jennifer Sharp.

And there are things I miss, things I long for and things I said good bye to when I decided to make the change.

An identity, a connection to someone, a previous life.

Triplett was my married name. Ryan and I met when we were teenagers. We grew up together, navigating through life and experiencing more than most. Mountains, rocks, trees, hikes, wandering the western United States, National parks, getting stuck on 7,000 foot granite faces, outdoor playgrounds... a life I miss when I see photos of climbers with their torn skin and strong hands.

To love someone that much and then lose them was a gift I was given. One that cut a deep, deep scar. One that made me see the true beauty in life and appreciate more, love more, smile more.

I embrace my new name, my new loving husband, my new life. My passions are still strong, though evolved from before.

Last week I ventured into the mountains with the puppies in the backseat of the Subaru. I left in the afternoon as big snow flakes covered the road. I escaped the Denver metro area an hour before it shut down, before white snow encased it. The roads looked foreign - unrecognizable from the storm. The freeway shut near Copper Mountain and traffic diverted through Leadville. I sensed danger, I could feel the mountains reclaiming their passes. The Subaru fishtailed down a slick road, causing mild alarm and yet I drove on until I couldn't anymore. Traffic stopped.

And it reminded me of a time when I was by myself. When I had to forge my own way. When I rediscovered my own identity. In some strange way, I loved every minute of it. I needed to feel, I needed to process, I needed to be alone in the middle of a blizzard on a 11,000' mountain pass.

I called Benjamin to let him know I was alright. He was thankful to hear from me as he had seen photos of the jack knifed semi trailer that blocked west-bound lanes. I was more than alright - I felt alive.

Ryan's dad passed a little over a month ago. The original Triplett. He death was painful and somewhat quick. He died within a few months of his diagnosis. I went to his memorial service last weekend and gave a heart felt eulogy. He was like a father to me. And I miss him.

Standing in the middle of the storm made me shout, "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?!?"

And I wonder if the storm was, in its own way, screaming back at me, "YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!"

So then I played the next four days in its snow covered mountains. They're good for the soul, you know.