doing things solo – a new take on adventures

For the past several years I have been learning to love and honor myself by taking time to recharge – by myself. My first solo trip was in 2015 when I decided keep a reservation I had made for me and Jerome when he ended up having a conflict and couldn’t go with me. Since then I have realized that I need (and crave) time alone. For a long while that time alone was hiking and bicycling. Just being able to move at my pace, stop and smell the flowers or hug the trees without thinking about someone else was freeing. There are times I need to have nature to myself.

Recently I’ve begun being a little more adventurous. We’ve had kayaks for years and we do kayak together, but there are times we are not together and I want to kayak. So now I do that. Alone.

Last month there was the girls’ weekend at my friend’s cabin on a lake. I brought my kayak knowing that I wanted to practice my roll – oh, in case you are NOT fluent in kayak, rolling is when you flip the kayak over and get yourself back up without getting out of the kayak.

I am not keen on practicing rolling without a spotter – I mean, what if I don’t get back up? So I was hesitant and stalled most of the weekend. Until there was no denying that I was avoiding it in the name of “being a good friend” and my friend asked when I was going to kayak.

So I unstrapped the kayak from the car and carried down to the dock. Between me and the open lake there was a lily pad and wild rice strip to paddle through. At least a football field away. In the deep(er) water. I knew what I needed to do – gear up and paddle out. And that’s what I did. I paddled out, paddled around, and sat. Thinking. Gathering my courage. And over I went and up I came. I rolled about a dozen times – successfully if not elegantly. I could do it. Alone.

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend. I decided late in the game that I wanted to practice rolling on the big lake (Lake Superior, for those of you who don’t know) and Jerome had alternate plans. So I made a reservation for myself and headed up – alone, with my sea kayak.

I woke up on Saturday morning in Grand Marais, MN, drank my leisurely cup of coffee (ok, CUPS of coffee) and thought about the day ahead. I could go kayaking right away in the morning and feel accomplished all day, or a I could explore Artist’s Point and maybe go hiking and kayak on Sunday or… I must have had half a dozen options, all postponing kayaking. Why? Wasn’t that why I came up here? To kayak? To practice? So…

I decided to enjoy Artists’ Point in the morning and go kayaking in the afternoon. Saturday was a bright, sunshiny day. And much warmer than I expected so by the time I finally got on the water (about 3:45 pm) I was ready to get wet.

Grand Marais has a great Harbor and several natural bays. The harbor is shielded from the lake and is always calmer with small or no waves. I had decided to paddle around Artist’s Point so off I went. I went left around the east breakwall and WHAM! Bigger waves. I felt unstable and uncertain. I decided to abandon this idea and head into the harbor to practice rolls. I headed to the west breakwall and followed the harbor around until I found the spot.

 

And I practiced my roll. Sure, I had to talk myself into it, but I did it. Each and every time I went over I came up. Sometimes better than others, but I came up. I know I need a lot more practice and I know what I need to work on. But I did it. I practiced my roll. And after that I tackled the water outside the east breakwall, inspired by April Seifert’s Women Inspired Podcast Episode 78 which I had listened to on the drive to Grand Marais, MN. If you haven’t heard of the Women Inspired podcast, I highly recommend it. In fact, I was interviewed long ago and you can listen to that episode here.

Yup, I paddled back around the harbor and out around the east breakwall and Artists’ Point. It was exhilarating – the waves really weren’t that big and I knew I could roll if needed. So around the point I went. And I loved it. I had worked through my fears and took my solo adventures to a new level.

 

Sunday had the potential for afternoon rains so I as I was enjoying breakfast I realized I needed to get out on the water so I could be off before the rains hit. What I didn’t  think about or check was the waves report. Because as you may have guessed, as rain approaches the wind picks up and as the wind picks up the waves increase. Hmm…

Anyway, I got out on the water thinking I would work my way around the harbor and then go west out the breakwall, follow the shoreline until I found a good natural bay to turn around in, then work my way around the east breakwall and hit the same path around Artists’ Point I had done on Saturday. Easy peasy.

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Actual Route

Only those waves. Yea, they were just a smidge bigger than Saturday. Maybe 2 feet – which is significant when you think that the kayak is about a foot deep. As I rounded Artist’s Point I had a decision to make: continue with my original plan OR screw it and get to shore and portage my kayak back to my car.

As a sane person I decided that the portage route was the best route for me. I overcame my fear of kayaking alone BUT I still knew I had to kayak within my limits and comfort level. So, it was a win – not only am I capable of conquering my fear and getting better I am also capable of listening to my fears and knowing I should take heed and stop.

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Training Days

How long does one train for a powerlifting meet, anyway? Well, in the case of me and my 2017 Twin Ports Raw Open training cycle it was 45 days spent in the gym. Forty-five days of ups. Forty-five days of downs. 

I know I’ve written it somewhere but this is a special meet for me. It’s the third anniversary of my very first powerlifting meet. The one that started this whole journey. So while it took me 45 days in the gym and three calendar months of active training for this meet I’ve actually been training for it for over three years. 

What am I talking about? you may be asking. I’ll tell you: my current training cycle was built on my last training cycle which built on the previous training cycle and so on and so on until you reach March of 2015 and my very first training day of my very first official powerlifting training cycle. 

Ah, the memories. Ok, I don’t really remember it but I do know (because data trails) that it was a squat day. And the 4 x8 squats were performed at an average of 123 pounds (not quite sure how – maybe it was supposed to be 125?). Which is amazing when you consider that my first training set of back squats this cycle was at 245 for 10×2 and my last set of training squats was at 280 for 3×3. 

First squat session 2015

First squat session 2017

In the day to day training I often forget how far I have come. As with most people I focus on the next goal and forget the intermediate goals I reached and surpassed that got me where I am today. I focus so intently on the now that I forget that this is a journey and every day I train is bringing me one step closer to a new goal and every training day passed has helped me surpass my old goals. 

I went into this training cycle with the biggest goal of making this a fun meet. I already qualified for Nationals in my chosen weight class so no pressure there. I was just going to have fun and enjoy my third meet-a-versary with Team Green at my side. 

Until my training cycle didn’t produce the gains I thought it should.  Even though I had no expectations (HA!) to beat my last performance. Because contradictions are an athletes best friend. 

It wasn’t the programming. In fact I kind of love my programming (even when I’m cursing JVB and her ideas of fun). It was me. My previous meet (Minnesota State Women’s Championship) was so good that I wanted my training to keep the feeling alive. But it didn’t. I felt weak. I missed or didn’t attempt lifts because I got in my head. And I did the unthinkable: I compared myself to others and their progress. And my progress stalled. 

I think I’ve beat that feeling but let me tell you it’s been brutal. Weeks of feeling weak. Weeks of being ok with feeling weak. Weeks of NOT being ok with feeling weak. And the. This week. I’m not sure if it was the weekend break of whitewater kayaking or my head finally settling, but I feel strong. I feel more confident about my training days. I’m content. 

Day 45 was working up to my opening attempts. And I did it. Just fine, thank you very much. I’m resting and recovering this week, looking forward to lifting again on Saturday, my meet-a-versary. 

Opening attempts

Where in the world is Donna the Destroyer?

I admit it. I’ve been neglecting you. Not with intention, just with a lack of things to say. I’ve regaled you with my stories of strength, overcoming mindeset obstacles and achieving my goal. And then I stopped. Or at least that may be how you are feeling right now.  After months of training with a singular goal in mind and bringing you along in that journey I needed to take a short break. It’s time for the Destroyer to regenerate and drink from the fountain of life for a while. 

It’s been a good few weeks for that. Actually, the first two weeks were kind of hard – that was in between trips to Atlanta for Nationals and Paris for my soul. It was a time to focus on recovery and a little rehab (pesky shoulders) and to wait. No hard training, no real goals. But it was a time to plan. Always planning. 

There was/is much to plan for: Paris, building strength, building muscles, figuring out how to eat for that, my next competition, Nationals in 2017 – maybe the Arnold in 2018? And then there is the rest of my life – social outings, family gatherings, weekend adventures. I get pretty busy when I let myself. So I’ve been quiet here. Maybe too quiet for some but I think it’s been just right. 

I’m sitting here in Paris, listening to the traffic, feeling the warm sun on my back thinking about my return and what it means. Back to a routine for one. With all this walking, sight seeing, sleeping in and eating all the food it’s been hard to want to do my rehab work while traveling. I started strong and then my travel companion (look – a second Doctor Who reference in just a few paragraphs) arrived and we’ve been going pretty much non stop for the last three days. 

It’s been good but I’m glad I opted for this rest day. We’ve got two more days of Paris and I’ll live them to the fullest and enjoy every minute but I’m also thinking of my return. I’m excited to discuss the first leg of my new journey with my coaches JVB and Julia Ladewski. I am refreshed, reinvigorated and will be ready to go. 

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more adventures to discuss in the coming year. Until then, here are some photos to make up for my absence.

It’s been ONE WEEK

So, it’s been one week since the USAPL Raw Nationals and I haven’t posted anything at all? What’s up with that? Seems kind of odd, what with the premise of this blog and all. Well, let me tell you a little story, starting and ending with the results below.

Summary: Weigh In: 82.8 kg (182.54) Squat 125 kg (275.58 lb); Bench 75 kg (165.35 lb), Deadlift 152.5 kg (336.20 lb); Total 352.5 kg (777.13 lb); Wilks 316.65

  • I came in 6th out of 10 lifters in my age/weight class.
  • I broke 3 of the 5 MN state records (Squat, Deadlift, Total)
  • I am currently ranked 12th in my age/weight class – IN THE COUNTRY
  • Pound for pound I lifted more weight here than I have in the past

In my first EVER national competition I did a few new things: I cut weight from 90.8 kg to 82.8 kg (8 kg or 17.6 lb). I finished with a respectable total. I increased my Wilks score by 4.5 points. And I didn’t let mishaps get me down (for too long).

BUT, it has taken me TIME to gain this perspective. Precious, precious time. You see, I was slightly disappointed with myself during competition, letting things like raw numbers and previous meets and results get to me. I mean, since most of you have followed my journey here for the past seven months you know what I’ve done to get here.

In my qualifying meet (2016 Twin Ports Raw Open) my weights were impressive at a bodyweight of 90.8 kg (200.18 lb): Squat 140 kg (308.65 lb), Bench 72.5 kg (159.83 lb), Deadlift 150 kg (330.69 lb), Total 362.5 (799.18 lb), Wilks 312.08. And then two weeks post-Twin Ports I pulled my gym PR deadlift of 350 pounds. And all I wanted when I started training for Raw Nationals was to best ALL my personal records. Even if it was just by 2.5 kg (the smallest incremental increase).

The two numbers that scared me the most were the Squat (who the hell can lift 308 pounds?) and the Deadlift. I love both of these lifts and I think I’m pretty good at them. But those numbers freaked me out. I wanted to make sure I could hit them repeatedly at the gym – and I’m pretty sure I messed up at least some of my training by trying (and not talking to Coach JVB about my feelings – stoopid feelings).

So, when it came time to lift at nationals I was already feeling the burden of hitting those numbers. The RAW numbers. My attempts were aggressive in the sense that I knew I could lift the first two, with the third being just beyond what I had done before. And instead of focusing on the lift at hand I think I was focusing on the LAST lift a little too much.

My squats were my weakest lift this round: I hit my 275 opener pretty easy. It really felt good. So going up to 297 was not such a big deal. Really. But in my head I was thinking about what my last attempt should be – 308 to tie or 314 to beat my PR. So I bombed that attempt. I lost my focus and my tightness and couldn’t stand out of the bottom. I knew what had happened – I was lifting my last attempt rather than my current attempt. So I sat down and breathed, calmed myself, texted JVB and worked on getting mentally set for my next attempt at the same weight. And you know what, I was able to squat that 297, albeit with a technical call so it didn’t count. But mentally my head was back in the game.

My bench press went exactly as planned. No, really. See what I can do when I focus? Have things go exactly as planned – 148, 160, 165. I probably had something left in the tank and could have pushed for more but I went into the meet just wanting to beat that damn 160 that had been haunting me for over a year. And I did.

My deadlift. This is where I was going to shine. I was going to get that 350 pound deadlift and be so proud. I was going to make up for the technical call on my squat. Because this is my lift. My first attempt at 308 was good – a little heavier than I wanted but it moved quick. Yup, let’s go up and get this party started! And then I missed that second attempt. At 336. I have hit this in the gym many times – and especially on my way to 350. What happened? Concentration. I was concentrating on the wrong thing (when I put my belt on the tongue was not flush with the rest of the belt so it was digging uncomfortably into my side). I couldn’t get past my thoughts. And here is where things took a turn: I decided I needed to change my perspective.

And how does one do this at a powerlifting meet? The only way one knows how: find a piece of carpet and do a tripod. Get upside down, let the blood rush to your head and see the world (and competition) from a new angle. And you know what, it worked. Just like it always does for me. My third attempt (still at 336) went up. I had to fight a little for it but I had cleared my head, straightened my belt and gone out to do what I had to: I lifted the barbell that weighed 336 pounds.

 

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The ultimate change in perspective

This still left me feeling a little disappointed – I mean, I had just completed a National meet so I was happy. But I hadn’t met all my goals going into the meet. I missed what should have been easy lifts and didn’t come out with the total I wanted.

BUT, and here’s that perspective thing again, I DID come out ahead. I did all of the above (including setting TWO meet PRs) at a LOWER BODYWEIGHT than ever before. So, pound for pound I actually lifted MORE based on my bodyweight than I had ever lifted before. And that Wilks score of 316.65 is proof. Even without the 297 pound squat I increased my score by 4.5 points. So, for raw numbers I may not have hit my goal but I certainly hit them based on percentages. And for that I am grateful. Perspective is a good thing.

Check out this link to see video, scroll down to: Sunday 1A | Sunday, October 16th | Session 1 | Stream A (Platforms 1-2) | 9:00AM | Women’s 84 & 84+ kg & Men’s 120 & 120+ kg weight classes

http://www.bodybuilding.com/ fun/usa-powerlifting.html

  • Squat: My first two squats weren’t captured, my 3rd: 37:13 for 297 (I actually didn’t get credit for this because of my knee bounce at the beginning of the lift); I was credited for my first squat 275 squat
  • Bench: 2:11 for 148; 2:22 for 160; 2:32 for 165
  • Deadlift: 3:58 for 308; 4:05 for 336 (missed); 4:13 for 336

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But what do you do for fun?

I’d like to say a lot of things but lately I’ve been working more than funning. And between work and training there isn’t a lot of energy left for funning. But on the weekends I can be a little looser with my time and tackle some of those fun things. 

This long weekend I’m tackling things like enjoying nature, bicycling, and painting my garage door trim. Yup, that’s the kind of funning I do. But I do them with gusto and enjoy every minute!

Saturday was a blast – spent most of the day at the Minnesota Landsacpe Arboretum and didn’t see enough. I visited some old friends and made some new. There are so many wonderful plants to explore within 100 yards of the main building that you get absorbed and don’t wander into the excitement that is the 3-mile loop. And once you get to the 3-mile loop you can spend time getting lost in the trails and looking for that certain “Norwegian” maple tree. And then there is the sculpture garden. I know, right?!?! A sculpture garden – art at the arboretum. Not to mention the carnivorous plant and giant bugs exhibits! So.Much.Fun. 


Sunday was full of activities. I have an awesome recumbent bicycle and went for a long for me bicycle ride – 23 miles. It started and ended at a regional park (Coon Rapids Dam for those of you in the know), along a nice regional trail (Rush Creek Trail) and then around another regional park (Elm Creek Park). It was good to stretch my legs in a way I normally don’t – sadly this was the first bicycle ride I’ve been on this season. I really have to remedy that! 

Then it was home to a 45 minute nap. It wasn’t so much a nap as lying down quietly with my eye closed. And it was so refreshing. Sometimes that just needs to be done. 

After my nap it time to sand and paint the garage door trim – both the car doors and the people door. And while we were at it we sanded and painted the (small) front porch railings. It was a long, hot job but so satisfying. Everything is so fresh looking it makes me feel good. Now if only I felt up to washing the deck…



And finally we end up on Monday. Today I woke up early – 6 am for those keeping track. Instead of going back to bed (as I am wont to do on days I don’t have to work) I got up, checked some news, made coffee and headed for the deck (yes, the one that is in need of washing). And here I sit, planning my day in the cool morning shade listening to the birds and enjoying my coffee. 

There is nothing that says a person has to be perpetually busy to be happy and that busy is the only way to have fun. Sometimes the most fun I have is sitting quietly on my deck, listening. Mourning doves. Crows. Jays. Chickadees. Cars in the distance. Nature in the ‘burbs. This is going to be a good day, whatever I end up doing.