Monday, December 16, 2013

Living Clean

From Holy Spokes! by Rob Coppolillo:


So you did your first race - congrats! Well, did you like it? I trust you survived with all your limbs
in tact and you got a good night's rest after the race. Ready for another one, maybe in a week or
a month, or two?

Chances are you'll want to improve a bit, so start riding more and getting comfortable with the
speed and physical demands. Bike racing asks a lot of your bod, so you'll need to be focused on
your diet, staying hydrated, and sleeping well (seven to nine hours a night) consistently - not just
the night before your races.

Competition develops great habits that will follow you through life. If you're paying attention, it
teaches you a bunch about your body, mind, and self. To get the most out of your racing, you'll
need to eat wholesome, clean food. You can still indulge once in a while (or a few times a week if
you're a weakling like me!), but in general, you need lean proteins like salmon and chicken, healthy
fats like olive oil, and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole-grain breads. Combine
those with some training, be in bed by 10pm, and you're good to go.


I read this while I was home for Thanksgiving. On the seven-hour drive back to school, which ended
up being a ten-hour trip due to stopping for dinner and driving with heavy traffic, I reflected upon
this portion of Holy Spokes! in relation to my own journey to better health and fitness.

I thought about my first event, a sprint triathlon on September 2, and how nothing has ever tasted as
good as that fruit did after I crossed the finish line and settled my heart rate. I thought about my second
event, a bookend duathlon (run-bike-run) on November 10, and how I binged on bananas after the
second 5k run made me question every ounce of willpower I had. I thought about friends of mine who
have had similar recent journeys: religiously commuting to work via bike, entering the world of cyclocross,
going to spin classes, going for walks.

I thought about my own personal progress of struggling to bike a mile and a half and giving up after
three blocks of running to being able to bike 28 miles with a 15mph average and run 3 miles with an
11-minute mile average. I thought about where I continue to struggle. I thought about additional areas
for improvement, especially in light of the book excerpt above.

As I thought about all of this during my ten-hour trip, I experienced a significant cognitive shift. It was
so significant that I could feel it throughout my body.

I need to live clean in more areas of my life.

No more soda. Minimal sugar. Only enough wheat products to keep my love of pasta and bread satisfied.
Sleeping well. Eating fresh. Daily workouts. More water. More fruit. More of what is good for me.

I got back to school, went to the grocery store the very next day, and did incredibly well for a few days.
That weekend, I realized a significant area of struggle for me continues to be willpower. Living alone and
being responsible for purchasing all of my food allows me to eliminate junk food and most sources of sugar
from my diet through simple avoidance. The struggle arises when I am in other environments (friend's
homes, office, etc.) where junk food is available and offered. This is where my willpower fails.

And herein lies my new goal: to bolster my willpower in order to resist junk food in any environment.

I'm proud of my gains. I'm proud of how I feel.

I want to make more gains and feel more proud. I want to continue to feel better and feel more proud.

In addition to increasing willpower, living clean will incorporate other aspects, such as taking more time for
me to become better. Less Reddit, more reading. Less drama, more quality time with quality friends. Less
television, more art.

Fewer excuses, more commitment.

For me, health and fitness is not about getting skinny or going further. It used to be and a part of it still is,
but this mindset has only gotten me so far. I believe that my recent wall in regards to running is largely
related to impatience, which I believe stems from this mindset.

I simply want to be better, in all ways.

To paraphrase Holy Spokes!:

To get the most out of life, LIVE CLEAN.

In the future, I will write about how I want everyone to be better.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In Memoriam

While visiting my alma mater a few weekends ago for Homecoming, I visited the library, as I had spent 4-6 hours per week there as a circulation desk assistant through my student work study program. While visiting with one of the full-time staff members, she told me that another full-time staff member had passed away over the summer. He was diagnosed with cancer in April and died in June. We reminisced that he was not a fighter.

Last weekend, I was reading through old blogs to review unresolved topics and I found a post that mentioned him and the positive impact he had on me during my college career. And so, this blog is my memorial to him.


When I was first hired to work at the library, I chose to work two nights per week so that my job would not interrupt my days and I would be able to utilize this time to complete assignments for the following days. My supervisor would be the reference librarian, RT, as he worked the evening shift. I was warned by a coworker that he was "somewhat difficult to get along with" and so I entered my job with this preconception in mind. Other students told me that they found RT intimidating, thought he was always grumpy, and so on. I quickly learned that these preconceptions were misconceptions.

When taking a smoke break, he would tell me that I was in charge in a playful tone, sometimes adding a comment about not letting the kids get rowdy.

On the rare occasion I went into the library when I was not working, he would smile and wave to me from across the large sitting area.

He would sometimes find me writing on this very site during my shift and we would talk about my chosen topic.

Other students who also knew the real RT would agree with me about his sweet nature and vast knowledge for the world of reference librarian-ing.

During one of my shifts during the next to last week of the Fall semester of my senior year, he found me making a variety of origami creations. This interaction struck me so much that I wrote about it in a blog that I published on December 6, 2011. That semester was particularly difficult for me. My emotionally abusive fiance-at-the-time was so controlling to the point that I believed that I hated my roommates, I discovered that he was a pathological liar in October, I had to work to rebuild friendships that had been damaged due to this unhealthy relationship, and I was taking 21.5 credits. In my post from December 6, 2011, I wrote about learning to be able to establish genuine empathic connections with others without being exploited (as had occurred with my ex-fiance). Two particular interactions on the same day (December 5, 2011) had prompted this lesson, the second of which was with RT, as mentioned above. I was making origami creations (modular boxes, kangaroos, elephants, and so on) and RT came to tell me that he was going outside for a smoke break. He commented on my origami and told me a story about a previous student worker who made hundreds of tiny paper cranes and placed them throughout the library as he re-shelved books. RT said that he probably still had at least one somewhere in his desk and that he liked mine before going outside. While he was outside, I finished making another one (I forget what it was), which I gave to him to keep after he came back inside. He smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen from him. My heart swelled. After that interaction, in addition to another interaction earlier that same day, I realized that I was still capable of establishing genuine empathic connections with others without being exploited.

RT was such an important part of my college career that I wrote him a thank you card when I graduated the following May. I told him that I enjoyed the brief conversations we had had over those three years and that I appreciated the connection we had, evidenced by brief interactions like smiling and waving from across the large sitting area.


What breaks my heart and makes me elated at the same time is that my origami creation and my thank you card were found in his desk when it was cleaned out after he passed away.

RT, you already know that you meant a lot to me, but I wish I could tell you again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Long Distance Relationships

I met my first serious boyfriend in late January of my first year of college. He was the cousin of a friend of mine from back home, so we struck up a conversation via Facebook, then email, and later texting and calling. We met for the first time when I went home for Spring Break in March and spent time together again in April when I went home for Easter. I went home for a day and a half in May after finals, before taking him along to attend Commencement. I remember he slept most of the way there and back. I was home for the summer. I worked a lot and later helped my parents move into a much smaller home. He and I did not see each other much over the summer. He and I did not talk much over the summer. We went to Ocean City for a night with some friends, but that was too chaotic for my then strict planner-personality. My last hurrah of the summer was a local music festival and that was the tipping point for some reason. I remember laying awake at my friend's house thinking about how tired I was from the relationship. I broke up with him a few days later before returning to school. I called, he didn't answer, and I left a message. I emailed him with more specific thoughts. His first reply was in-depth and meaningful. His last reply was one sentence of incoherent nonsense.

I met my fiancé in May during the summer between my second and third (and last) years of college. I worked a lot at the same convenience store job and he was a regular customer. We dated over the summer and became engaged at some point in time. I returned to school in August and he visited probably more than every other weekend. The truth came out over Homecoming weekend in October and it was over.

I met my most recent boyfriend in April of my last year of college. My car's battery had died and AAA recommended getting it fully recharged at Advance Auto Parts. It took him longer than it should have to uninstall my battery and we discovered that we both attended the same college. I later realized that he visited my freshman residence hall frequently to visit his girlfriend at the time. We had our first date three days later. We were exclusive about a month later. In May, I returned home for another summer and I visited him occasionally. He built me a bike. I spent the last weekend in July with him before moving even further away for graduate school. I visited him about once a month and we spent Christmas break together in bed with the most terrible fevers you can imagine. I lived with him the following summer and we both worked too much and exercised too little. We went to Bonnaroo. I returned to graduate school in early August and he visited shortly after, following a huge fight. I reached a tipping point, prompted by the realization that I was happier being back at school than I had been, on average, all summer. We broke up.

I've spent the past two and a half months in a great deal of self-reflection about relationships: my patterns, what I've experienced, what I want, and so on. I have no conclusive answers. One aspect of patterns that I have noticed is that the significant majority of my intimate relationship experience occurred within three different long distance relationships. With my first boyfriend, we started as a LDR and ended up being emotionally further apart when I lived locally. With my fiancé, we started as local and then transitioned to a LDR, which is when the unhealthy enmeshment really started to show its face. And with my most recent boyfriend, we were briefly local and then in a LDR for an entire year before living together for a summer and then going back to a LDR for a short time. Three different timelines, but three relationships that were primarily LD. At this point in time, the only real conclusion I have reached is that I have no idea what I'm doing. What I mean by this is that I have no first-hand archetype or schema for a healthy, local relationship. In fact, I have only bits and pieces of a first-hand archetype for a healthy LDR.

There is only one way to rationalize this panicky feeling of having zero reliable knowledge.

No one knows what they're doing.

There's no archetype. There's no schema. This is a big reason that I am passionately opposed to creating a list of ideal traits to look for in a partner. People don't work that way. People are not simply a list of traits. There is so much more complexity that occurs through the interaction of two or more traits. Even more than that, an objective list of my traits is insufficient in predicting how I may interact with Person A, an introvert, versus Person B, an extrovert. Social interactions are not predictable like those of chemicals. Social interactions are a messy experiment with zero controlled conditions.

That's all for now, kids. I don't have a more uplifting conclusion just yet.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Physical Health and Wellness

Four years to nineteen months too late, I am now prepared to write about the physical health pillar for my undergraduate reflective writing assignment. During college, other than getting enough sleep and maybe eating some fruit every once in a while, I really did not care. I was relatively sedentary, but that worked for me. My diet was not as atrocious as the average college student, I walked a lot on a daily basis, and job-related duties provided some strength workouts. Oh yeah, and there was that one semester of ultimate frisbee for my physical activity credit. Needless to say, writing reflectively about my physical health, my goals for it, and how it had changed during college was a pretty difficult task for me, in spite of my love for reflective writing.

But I'm ready now.

As addressed above, I was not very active during college. Earlier in my life, I had been an active soccer player - from peewee league at age four to the oldest sector of the recreational youth league when I was sixteen. Throughout those years, I also participated in a gym co-op group for homeschoolers, so I played a lot of kickball and capture the flag, as well as other more traditional sports like basketball, soccer, handball, and so on. I also swam in pools over the summers and swam in the ocean almost every other year. Somewhere along the way - probably when I stopped running and started playing only goalie in my soccer league and definitely when I no longer played soccer - I got chubby and fairly out of shape. I grew to hate running and avoided it whenever possible. I tried playing tennis during the summer, but I also grew to hate the heat and I regularly used this as an excuse. I also started to dislike the competitive nature of most physical activity - even though I enjoyed competition in and of itself, I hated losing. Later on, thanks to the job I had during high school and college summers, I gained some muscle from stocking shelves and taking out the trash. I considered myself relatively strong.

Then I began biking. It started as a necessity that I did not take seriously. During the late summer of 2011, I biked to work a few times (on my mom's ill-fitted mountain bike), which was about a 3 mile round trip. A mile and a half in one direction was a struggle. I have always enjoyed biking. I biked a lot on my culdesac when I was much younger (prior to age six) and biked a few times on the local rail trail. I even had every intention of biking during my freshman year of college, but my mountain bike sat outside for eight months and instead died from an irreparable rust infection. Even so, I did not bike more after that.

That is, until the May 2012, immediately after I graduated from college. My boyfriend at the time was super into bikes and training for a Half Ironman and he encouraged me to be active and advised me to start with biking. So, I went back home, dug out my mom's ill-fitted mountain bike, and started riding on a fairly daily basis. I was back at my job working close to thirty hours per week, so I would ride in the mornings before work or ride to and from work. I started with three miles for a few weeks. My mom got worried because I slept all the time, but clearly, my body was not used to this unbearable amount of physical exertion. I started to do four or five miles, then six. Around the end of June, I visited my boyfriend and received the Surly Pacer road bike he had put together for me. I kept riding six miles on a regular basis.

On August 1, I moved for graduate school and began conquering ridiculous hills. I bonked SO many times. I biked eight miles nearly every afternoon and I could clearly remember when a mile and a half seemed impossible. Once classes started, I was fortunately able to keep up with my biking because the first semester of graduate school was incredibly easy. Toward the end of September, I found a weekly group ride to participate in and I did my first twenty mile ride. I was spent. Sometime in October, I got my SPD clipless pedals and shoes to match. Not accustomed to being attached to my bike, I fell on my first few rides with clipless, did one group ride without falling, and then fell a few more times. That, in combination with the increasingly cold weather, I quit biking. I was mad at my bike - she had betrayed me and let me fall. It was less about the falling and more about the feeling of incompetency. I was not a cyclist and I never would be a cyclist.

Over the winter, thanks to some encouragement from those close to me, I spun every once in a while at the gym. And then I started running. I may never understand what possessed me to try to run, but I will always be glad that it did, whatever it was. Sometime during the middle of the previous summer, I had attempted to run and barely made it a quarter of a mile before turning around, feeling extremely discouraged at how unfit I still was. Since then, I have learned that morning runs are not my thing. Anyway, I ran during the winter months, starting with a mile or a little more and sometimes running more than two and almost three. One day, at the gym, I ran a solid three miles on the indoor track. How far I had come!

After getting back into my routine for spring semester, I rejoined the weekly group rides. The first twenty mile ride of that season kicked my butt. How much progress I had lost! Thankfully, it was easily regained, thanks primarily, in my opinion, to the fact that I maintained my cardio health and some of my endurance by running. My boyfriend, still interested in the sport of traithlon in spite of his Half Ironman DNF, encouraged me to consider doing a sprint triathlon. I held it as a theoretical goal, but never really took it seriously. One of my last group rides of the semester was twenty-six miles, my longest bike ride up to that point. Twenty-six miles!

Over the summer, I lost a lot of progress and ran or biked only occasionally. I did some long rides and had some good runs, but was frustrated with the backsliding of progress I experienced.

On August 1, I again moved for graduate school and quickly got back into a routine of running about five times per week and doing some long bike rides with new biking friends. Then my parents visited and my mom showed me this cool booklet she got of activities to do in the surrounding area. Under the section for sports and competitions... under the section for September... there it was...

Sprint Triathlon.

I quickly grabbed my computer and tried to find details about this event - when and where it was, how much it costed, and if I could register. The only information I found was for 2012. Disappointed, I gave up. On August 27, I contacted a woman I knew through the group rides to ask if she knew anything about the event. She pointed me to the event website for the 2013 Sprint Triathlon and I registered immediately.

I registered on August 27. The event was on September 2. A mere six days away. What had I done?

The next day was my first ride of the semester with the weekly group, due to the previous weeks being cancelled due to rain. I was the only female and most likely the youngest. All the boys wanted to do the twenty-eight mile loop, so I tagged along. I struggled through the most incredibly painful foot cramp I had ever had and forced my willpower to not let me bonk on the long, steep hills. It was an excruciatingly taxing ride, but I managed to achieve a 15 mph average pace. I was frustrated and again felt like I would never be a cyclist, but I was also encouraged and felt that I would always cycle. The boys also offered some good advice on preparing for the triathlon, as far as when to rest and when to warm up.

The following day, I went to the gym to estimate how terrible of a swimmer I was. The swim portion of the triathlon was listed as 250 meters, so I swam two sets of 250 meters, the first in five and a half minutes and the second in six minutes. I stayed in the pool for forty-five minutes - getting used to my new goggles and practicing different strokes and breathing rhythms.

On Friday, I was spent, I had been planning to do a short run that evening, but I had wasted far too much of my energy in the pool. I also took Saturday off, although both days were filled with a fair amount of hiking. On Saturday night, I got a sore throat. Now I would have to do my first triathlon sick! On Sunday, I biked for thirty minutes to loosen my muscles in preparation for the following morning. I got my race packet that evening, went to the park where the event would be held, and studied the routes as much as possible. The lake for the swim route looked disgusting, the bike route was hilly, and the running route seemed extremely long.

I will write fully about the experience of triathlon as a whole at a later time, but for now, I just want to talk about the fact that I did it. With the listed distances of a 250 meter swim, an 8 mile bike ride, and a 4 kilometer run, I was estimating my finishing time as an hour an a half without transitions. After the race, the participants discovered that the actual distances were closer to a 400 meter swim, an 8 mile bike ride, and a 5 kilometer run. Including transitions, I finished at an hour and twenty-three minutes (1:23:09, to be exact) - third in my age group and sixty-fifth overall.

And I still remember when biking three miles took me nearly thirty minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spring 2013 Classes

Wednesdays and Thursdays 8:00-4:00

I'm getting to do more independent case management (i.e., leading intake sessions with parents) and
am applying practice skills (i.e., clinical questioning and activities like the social network grid) in one
on one settings with the students at the alternative school who I help with college applications and
preparation. I'm going to start applying practice skills (i.e., structure activities) in group settings through
the life skills classes of college/career readiness and social skills.

Mondays 1:30-3:30

We talk about our internships and make sure we're meeting our learning objectives. It's usually more
of an unstructured venting session, which I have mixed feelings about. I think students should be able
to have a safe place to vent, but I also think they should be respectful of others' time and patience.
Reflexivity, right?

Research I
Mondays 4:00-6:50

We're doing a group project, the workload of which is fairly equal to (or less than) the workload of
the individual project I did in Quantitative Methods at Bridgewater. Our topic is how level of prejudice
toward immigrants predicts views on current/proposed immigration legislation. Our control variables
include SES, religious affiliation, political opinions, and active voter status. I have very low expectations
for how much we will be taught and even lower expectations for how much I will learn (you know,
since this is all old-hat to me). So we have that project, which includes a normal research paper (lit
review, methods, results, discussion), plus one test and two discussion boards throughout the semester.

Foundation Practice II
Mondays 7:00-9:50

We're doing a group project, which is actually pretty interesting. We had to pick a community (ours is
International Students at ETSU) and we have to assess this community (similar to a psychosocial
assessment of an individual) for our first paper and then we have to develop a plan to meet an identified
need or solve an identified problem for our second paper. That's it, plus weekly quizzes.

Tuesdays 4:00-6:50

My expectations were too high for this class. I need to catch up on the reading because I think that's
the only way I'll get anything out of the course. Class consists of lectures and lectures consist of:
relevant information, story, story, story, story, story, relevant information, story, story, story. We have
two tests and two papers and I think that's it. I could be wrong.

Tuesdays 7:00-9:50

This is the second theory course in the program and is about macro theory, similar to how the second
foundation practice class is about macro practice, whereas the first of these classes were about micro
theory and micro practice, respectively. We watch a movie every night, which is a good change of
pace from lecture, lecture, silly discussion, lecture, lecture. We have weekly response papers, a book
report on The Working Poor, a reflection paper on the activity at, a paper about
privilege, and a paper about theory. This sounds like disproportionately more work now that I think
about it.

RD Job
Things are good, so long as I keep focusing on the interpersonal aspects and worry less about the
bureaucracy aspects (i.e., paperwork).

Bell Choir/Church
Good, good. Went to a church sponsored dinner last night, which was actually really good.

I'm making efforts to become more integrated here through becoming more invested in ETSU. For
example, I'm making a deliberate effort to attend baseball games this semester. Next year, I want to
join Buccaneer Brass. More about integration/investment in a future blog.

I'M GOING TO BE PUBLISHED. My honors project research, Solidarity and Its Mechanisms, for
which I received a grad school scholarship from Alpha Chi Honor Society, was chosen to be included
in the Alpha Chi Recorder, which is their annual publication of undergraduate research. I worked with
the editor over the past few weeks to get my 15,000+ word original paper down to 5,049, including
the abstract, headings, and references. It will be published sometime in April and will be available
online. "Each author will be mailed a few copies."