Did I mention I've been reading a lot? I've read somewhere around 30 books since the beginning of June. (If you're on Goodreads,...

Did I mention I've been reading a lot? I've read somewhere around 30 books since the beginning of June. (If you're on Goodreads, find me here.) And I'm learning so much.

I had been doing a lot of thinking over the past few years about the kind of person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to support, how I hoped to act and more. When I read these books, it's like somebody just polished my own thoughts. My brain is becoming so much more useful as I read and start to use it better. It's been great.

My most recent read was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I'd seen the author give an interview and heard a lot of good stuff about the book. I walked into the library last week and the first book that caught my eye was the bright yellow Power of Habit, so I grabbed it and brought it home. It felt like reading Harry Potter for the first time: I was up well past midnight, unable to put the book down.

The book is very fun, light and easy to read, but also just brimming with information. It's not prescriptive, just descriptive, until the very last chapter. Nonetheless, there are a lot of important pieces of information.

The one that struck me most was the idea of a keystone habit: a small habit that helped create reinforce other good habits. For example, making the bed in the morning can be a keystone habit that leads to more general tidiness. Likewise, writing down your food intake once a week can be a keystone habit for a whole host of healthy living changes.

The hard part, I think, is identifying those keystone habits. I've recently gotten in the habit of checking Facebook and Twitter more often than necessary (or even pleasurable), in lieu of getting things done (like donating our old clothing). I'm also trying to redevelop healthy eating and double workout days into habits. I'm starting my quest by making the bed every morning. Even if it's not a keystone habit, it's a good habit to acquire.

Other things I'd like to try: brushing my teeth after breakfast, putting on my workout clothes before breakfast, keeping a workout log, meditating and stretching, drinking green tea.

Who knows which one of these will lead to the others. Or perhaps all of these habits need individual cultivation. Only time will tell, but at least I now feel I have the tools to create those good habits.

One concern: losing mindfulness and presence by cultivating too many habits. I read an article about US Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin in which she describes how training mindfully instead of on automatic made a huge difference in her ability to improve quickly. There are certainly advantages to habits: they save your willpower for training rather than using it up getting you to the training session.

Still, by cultivating too many habits, I think we risk going through life on automatic. According to Duhigg, the more you repeat a habitual action, the less brain power it takes to complete it. I think that is why, if you let a habit loop take over, filing paper, making coffee, weeding the garden or waiting in traffic can all be mind-numbing.

Mindfulness is the art of breaking habits, which is why mindful eating helps people lose weight. Instead of automatically eating the whole donut without noticing, you become aware of eating and can choose to stop. I really enjoy being mindful. It's a skill I've developed a lot in my training and key to my improvements. So while I'm hoping to develop a number of good habits, I also want to maintain my presence--like a constant battle between The Power of Now and The Power of Habit.

A while ago, I was really into the idea of minimalism. As it turns out, thinking and doing are very different things. One of the challenges ...

A while ago, I was really into the idea of minimalism. As it turns out, thinking and doing are very different things. One of the challenges floating around the blogosphere is to pare down to 100 items. There are a variety of different asterisks and footnotes about clothing, shared household items, etc.

But, I decided to give it a go and made a list of 100 things I considered absolutely essential. (I didn't include clothing.) I made it to 75. And yet when I walk through our house of just a year, the shelves are cluttered, the drawers and cabinets reaching maximum capacity.

Much of this has been due to the generosity of family members who made sure our kitchen was well stocked with hand-me-down pots, pans and utensils. And when we had the perfect pan for frying our own french fries last week, I was very happy I didn't need to own just 100 things. But many of our things are not well used, like our once broken and now superseded French press, or our collection of sports physiology books that I've already read through multiple times.

And our worst collection? The piles of clothes we've been meaning to sell and donate since we moved here last November. And so we are getting serious. Last week, I took our first round of clothing out to sell. I have my panniers loaded with a donation for Goodwill, which I plan to bike down sometime this week. I've made some listings on Craigslist and eBay. And this time, we will actually follow through.

Of course, the next trick is to get out of the habit of buying things. At this point, I don't need anything that we don't own or can't borrow. Except then I go to the store and see the sprouting jar and think, oooo, I've always loved sprouts! And then, we have a sprouting jar. Do I need it? No. Would I be happy and healthy and productive without it? Yes.

Perhaps I need to start asking myself a better question when I consider a purchase--would this make my list of 100 things? That sprouting jar would never have made it to the cart. I'd take my KitchenAid instead any day.

Last I wrote, I was prepping for World Championship Trials . Focus on the goal has kept me quiet for quite some time, but now that all of th...

Last I wrote, I was prepping for World Championship Trials. Focus on the goal has kept me quiet for quite some time, but now that all of the adventures have wrapped up, it's time for an update!

As I mentioned, I got in a lot of really productive training while in Connecticut. I function really well in focused team environments. And spending the time reading and reflecting allowed me to learn a lot about myself as an athlete. For example, I learned that spending a lot of time socializing drains my energy. Since the days leading up to a race are often spent in close quarters with boatmates, I made sure to go on solo runs and secured some alone time to recharge.

This was also one of the first races where I managed to effectively control my nerves. The day before the final, I made a list of 10 reasons not to be nervous—which was super helpful. Everytime I got nervous, I simply drew on the list and used one of my reasons to calm my nerves.

But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.

After all that great training and reflection, we drove down to New Jersey on August 3rd. Our coach was in Lithuania at the Junior World Championships (several of his boats had qualified and were racing), so the four quadruplets headed down along with two heavyweight men from GMS.

Me, Sarah, Mary and Laurissa -- the quad

We spent Saturday and Sunday practicing and acclimating to a new environment. We had the opportunity to practice on the course. Our hotel also had a small kitchen, so we went grocery shopping and were trying to keep our food intake as controlled as possible to prepare for weigh-ins.

Our first race was Monday, August 5th. It was a race for lanes between two boats, so the results had no impact on future racing. We did have to weigh-in, which was good practice, since it was our first weigh-in as a boat.

After the first race, we had another opportunity to practice and went on a few runs, but mostly were laying low and counting down the hours to the final on Wednesday. We were up against some formidable opponents: many of them had been on the national team previously, and they were mostly more experienced than us.

Although we'd hoped to be closer to them at the finish line, we were relatively happy with our final margin. They beat us by about 10 seconds. It will be interesting to see how they perform at the World Championships at the end of this month.

There were four people, a lot of suitcases, toolbags, two riggers and a hula hoop all stuff into
a Subaru hatchback—squishy! Did I mention the three boats strapped on top?

Almost immediately after we finished racing, we headed to the hotel, shoved our stuff in bags, showered and hit the road. Because I couldn't book a flight until after trials, I had a few days to kill before I could head home. One of my boatmates, Sarah, was catching a ride up to Buffalo, NY to visit family.

After seven hours in close quarters, we stopped briefly in Canada, ate dinner and then headed back to Buffalo for the night. I had a blast in Buffalo! From playing tennis, sipping coffee, going out to a bar and playing board games, it was just about everything you could ask for in a vacation. If my husband had been there, I would have stayed a lot longer, but I was ready to be home. 

I managed to use my United miles to book a flight home and flew back to the best coast on Friday. By Saturday, Dan and I were back in the car! Dan picked me up from the airport using my grandparent's car, and we borrowed it on Saturday as well. He had planned to go scuba diving, but plans fell through so we went on a road trip up the coast.

The driving was tough, but the views were well worth it. We headed up to Bolinas and had lunch in a cute little diner. We stopped at a plant nursery and a roadside farm stand and then headed back south to Sausalito. We found a nice cafe and sat, sipped, read and sketched for a few hours.

My schedule since then has been packed with fun stuff: a family party by the pool, a 3-hour foraging walk, a run in the hills with our housemate, a trip to the city with coffee, cake and lunch with Dan in the park, the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, gardening, baking and more!

Phew! Thanks for reading about my adventures. Hopefully I can update a bit more often in the coming months as I start my next year of training and racing. Lots of fun to come!
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