Sunday, August 07, 2016

7 Tips for Your First TED Talk

In March, I gave my first (and so far only) TED talk at TEDx WayPublicLibrary

I think the talk went pretty well, but I finally got a chance to see the video of my talk, and I have a few tips, in hindsight, that I'd like to share so that your first TED talk is even better.

  1. Wear color. The TEDx background is black. If you wear a black dress like I did, you might look like a floating head and hands. 
  2. Wear something with large pockets. My dress had none, which meant I had to hold the microphone pack in my hand. 
  3. Convince the organizers to light and shoot video from above, rather than below. I don't think the angle in my video was the most flattering -- who looks best shot from under their chin? And the lighting made some weird shadows.
  4. S-l-o-w D-o-w-n. Both my movements and speech were a little too hurried, especially at first. I didn't realize how fast I was talking.
  5. Make the audience laugh early in the talk. I told a joke early on, and it helped me to feel at ease and more connected with the people listening.
  6. Outline your talk ahead of time, but don't script it word-for-word. I think this is one place where I succeeded. I had planned out the points that I wanted to hit and really studied those. I used the images on my slides as a way to remind me of those points. This allowed me to relax and tell my story without the fear that I would ramble on and miss something important.
  7. Be vulnerable. I told a story that was, and is, very painful to me. I had a lot of people tell me that they identified with it and had their own similar experiences. If I had kept things abstract instead of making them personal, I don't think I would have had the same response.

The video of my talk is embedded below. See the other speakers' videos in the TEDx WayPublicLibrary playlist.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Let's get real: Weight regain


I get fascinated with the Facebook feature "On this day," which lets me look back to memories as long ago as about 2008, when I started using the site regularly.  Lately "On this day" has been letting me know that about two years ago, though I was not happy with my weight, I was thinner than I am right now. The picture on the left was taken a few weeks ago, and the right, two years ago.

I haven't quite gained 20 pounds, but close, and that means that instead of trying to lose the last 20, I'm dealing with 40 unwanted pounds. This is what two years of weight gain looks like:


You'll notice it's not all straight up, lots of peaks and valleys. Still, the general trend is up. And what happened in those two years? For one thing, my dad started to go into a rapid decline, eventually leading to a long period of suffering before his death. I was also starting to realize that my "dream job" was no longer what it had been. That started one uptick. Then things leveled off for a while. I even lost a little bit of weight as I was training for my big race last year, not a lot, but a little.

Then, after the race, I decided to see a functional medicine doctor, who told me I was exercising too much and that I should back way off of my workouts, cut out dairy and coffee and go gluten-free. At the time, I didn't realize how sharply my weight was rising. I'm sure that I could have handled all of that better. I had also quit my old job and committed to my new corporate contracting gig. At that time, I liked the work, but I had less time for my old routines, and I'm sure that didn't help.

I'm in a situation now where I want to make a lot of changes. I have a different assignment at work and I don't like it as much as my original one. It involves a lot of administrative tasks and not a lot of human interaction. It's stressful and boring at the same time. I have been really regretting not finding a way to stick it out at my faculty job -- even though I was unhappy with a lot of things that were going on there, I had a role to fill and a lot of people I cared about. Now I spend most of my days alone in a cubicle doing computer work. I feel like I gave up on my dreams trying to chase a higher salary, and I didn't even get the money to show for it.

It has been really hard going through all of this. I don't say that as an excuse -- I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to hold my healthy habits together better than I did. I still am hoping to find better, more satisfying work, preferably in an environment that is more conducive to my mental and physical health. In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to make changes where I can.

Me on the left, with two of my awesome tri friends.

It's not like everything has been failure. I did some of the most challenging races of my life in this two years.  Last Saturday, I did my first century bike ride -- 100 miles in one day. I have some great friends and family members who have been really supportive through all of this. It has just been hard, and I feel like I have been hiding from the truth, so here it is. I am hoping that posting this will help someone, maybe even me.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Introspective in Indy: Fitbloggin' 2016 follow-up

This year's Fitbloggin' was a different kind of conference than the three previous ones I attended. In the past, the focus was definitely on the quirky, accepting community that started with the first conferences in Baltimore, and continued as the convention moved on to Portland, Savannah, and Denver.

In past years, I had always enjoyed the sessions, but the real focus was on the free-for-all of interactions with people I had met in previous years, or with new attendees. There were big social events like the opening mixer and casual activities in the expo hall to facilitate these interactions.

Denver. Sadly, Margo and I are the only ones pictured here who made it this year.

This year was the first year that the conference was handled by Zephyr, and though I think they did a great job of finding speakers, there wasn't as much of the informal social time that helped to provide opportunities for new people to meet up with old-timers. A lot of people decided for one reason or another not to attend this year, a huge Southwest glitch grounded a lot of the West Coasters who were planning to be there. There were also no real group meals, which on the positive side allowed us to explore the city's fantastic food scene, but made it harder for new people to find a foothold.

Great, but not quite enough breakfast for a long day of Fitbloggin'

Brunch later.

I was very happy that my perennial Fitbloggin' roommate Margo was on one of the few Southwest flights that made it. This was her first time in the Midwest, and as an Ohioan, I'm glad it made a good impression (see her video review). We had a lot of fun together, including an excursion to a local bar for a drag show (the bar pointedly displayed signs that they proudly serve everyone) and two trips to the fabulous Eagle's Nest revolving restaurant.

Drag shows don't make for great photos...
This pic does not do the epic Streisand costume justice


Revolving restaurant FTW!

Margo looking fab as always...
Beautiful bird's-eye view of the Capitol

Indianapolis sunset
More important to me was the time for reflection. I have been going through a lot in the last couple of years, from the deaths of loved ones to difficult, ongoing career transition. I don't like to wallow, so I have been struggling to stay positive, but I'm not sure I ever took the time to really feel and come to terms with that grief and loss. I have been really hard on myself about the weight I have put on during that time, but haven't done much reflection on the feelings that have contributed to the gain. I've been avoiding writing about it here, hoping that I could just "fix it" and move on.

The group sessions at Fitbloggin' and the professional speakers helped me to see things in a different light. It always helps to hear from people who have successfully dealt with the same situations, like David, Martinus, and Angie. This year I also found food for thought in keynote speeches by Lisa Delaney and Brooke Randolph. It's not like I needed information on the mechanics of weight loss. As someone who has lost and regained weight, I have all the information I need -- I just need a way to get through the stuff that gets in the way of doing what I know I need to do. I'm not saying I found ready-made answers, but I think I found a few insights that will help me build my own.

I'm going to read this and get all the secrets.
Plus, there was the chance to do my annual Zumba class, which satisfies my Zumba requirement for the rest of the year.

Introspective in Indy: Fitbloggin' 2016 follow-up

This year's Fitbloggin' was a different kind of conference than the three previous ones I attended. In the past, the focus was definitely on the quirky, accepting community that started with the first conferences in Baltimore, and continued as the convention moved on to Portland, Savannah, and Denver.

In past years, I had always enjoyed the sessions, but the real focus was on the free-for-all of interactions with people I had met in previous years, or with new attendees. There were big social events like the opening mixer and casual activities in the expo hall to facilitate these interactions.

Sadly, Margo and I are the only ones pictured here who made it this year.
This year was the first year that the conference was handled by Zephyr, and though I think they did a great job of finding speakers, there wasn't as much of the informal social time that helped to provide opportunities for new people to meet up with old-timers. A lot of people decided for one reason or another not to attend this year, a huge Southwest glitch grounded a lot of the West Coasters who were planning to be there. There were also no real group meals, which on the positive side allowed us to explore the city's fantastic food scene, but made it harder for new people to find a foothold.

Great, but not quite enough breakfast for a long day of Fitbloggin'

Brunch later.
I was very happy that my perennial Fitbloggin' roommate Margo was on one of the few Southwest flights that made it. This was her first time in the Midwest, and as an Ohioan, I'm glad it made a good impression (see her video review). We had a lot of fun together, including an excursion to a local bar for a drag show (the bar pointedly displayed signs that they proudly serve everyone) and two trips to the fabulous Eagle's Nest revolving restaurant.

Drag shows don't make for great photos...
This pic does not do the epic Streisand costume justice


Revolving restaurant FTW!

Margo looking cute as always...
Beautiful bird's-eye view of the Capitol

Indianapolis sunset
More important to me was the time for reflection. I have been going through a lot in the last couple of years, from the deaths of loved ones to difficult, ongoing career transition. I don't like to wallow, so I have been struggling to stay positive, but I'm not sure I ever took the time to really feel and come to terms with that grief and loss. I have been really hard on myself about the weight I have put on during that time, but haven't done much reflection on the feelings that have contributed to the gain. I've been avoiding writing about it here, hoping that I could just "fix it" and move on.

The group sessions at Fitbloggin' and the professional speakers helped me to see things in a different light. It always helps to hear from people who have successfully dealt with the same situations, like David, Martinus, and Angie. This year I also found food for thought in keynote speeches by Lisa Delaney and Brooke Randolph. It's not like I needed information on the mechanics of weight loss. As someone who has lost and regained weight, I have all the information I need -- I just need a way to get through the stuff that gets in the way of doing what I know I need to do. I'm not saying I found ready-made answers, but I think I found a few insights that will help me build my own.

I'm going to read this and get all the secrets.

Plus, there was the chance to do my annual Zumba class, which satisfies my Zumba requirement for the rest of the year.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

ENELL Ambassador Race Review: Quarry Ridge Triathlon

Note: I am an ENELL Ambassador, which means I get free merchandise and sometimes comped race entries. I paid for this race myself, and all opinions here are my own.

This is the second time I have done this race (previous review) and the second time I wondered if the weather would keep me from racing. There are no refunds, and I was also really looking forward to some midweek racing fun, so I was watching the weather report with concern.

Luckily, the weather cooperated, and this time we did not have to race with soaked gear. There was heavy cloud cover but no rain or thunder. Just like in Grand Rapids, I wore my Team Endurance Fusion kit and my Biscay Green ENELL This time, instead of an Olympic Distance Aquabike, I did a sprint triathlon.

With my teammate Michele
I have been doing a lot of swim training, an adequate (barely) amount of bike training and very little run training. I wasn't taking this race very seriously -- I was thinking of it more as a timed workout than as a real race.

These steps are killer!
I killed it on the swim, coming out of the water in just a few seconds over 10 minutes, though my official time includes the run up from the beach. I finished in the top half of the field for the swim.

I did pretty well on the bike, especially considering the wind, and finished just behind the middle of the pack.

Then there was the run. My feet were cramping as I got off the bike and my legs felt tight. I think this is a consequence of doing a midweek race after a day at a desk job where I spend a lot of time sitting. I was having a very hard time because my legs felt stiff and painful. I was toughing it out the best I could until the last half mile, where I must have hyperextended my knee on a downhill -- I felt something pop and was in a lot of pain. I hobbled in the best I could, convinced I had ruined my season. Not surprisingly, I was in the very back of the pack when I finished. It was a sad end to what had started out a fun evening.




After a few days of resting and recuperating, I think it's going to be okay, though I'm going to have to take it easy at first. I don't think I'm out for the season like I feared. I'm proud of myself for finishing despite the challenges.

This look says it all: Pain and determination
Finish line
With my teammates Megan, Michele, and Rebecca

Added my pretty new medal to the collection

Friday, June 17, 2016

Long-overdue mojo reset



It's coming up on one year since I made my leap from my academic faculty position to the corporate world. It hasn't turned out like I had hoped so far.

When I took a job as a contractor, it was with the belief that it wouldn't take me long to find something more permanent in the company, or somewhere even better. I was sure I'd land an important position with a big salary and prove myself right for leaving a position that I once loved, but was starting to change in unacceptable ways. That didn't happen. I've had some great job interviews with other employers that seemed like great places to work, but nothing has panned out so far.

In the last few weeks I had been really second-guessing myself for leaving my faculty position behind without more commitment that I would get a salaried position. This is, after all, what we're all told never to do. I was also focusing on the things I missed about my old career and all the things I'm not liking as much about my new job. I was feeling like a failure and a loser.

Racing this weekend helped me to reset a little. Somehow I gained some new perspective on the situation. Maybe the best thing I can do right now is to stay available until the right thing comes along. I have a paycheck, but I am not tied down to my position. I've learned a lot of new things and have met some great people.

Racing also helped me to remember that there is more to life than just work. I have worth no matter what I do for a living. I really am grateful that I can participate in triathlon. It lets me show that I am determined and focused and gets me out into the beautiful world. I love almost everything about my life, and eventually I'll get that last piece of the puzzle in place. I have a lot to offer, and someone will realize that.

Let us imagine that life is a river. Most people are clinging to the bank, afraid to let go and risk being carried along by the current of the river. At a certain point, each of us must be willing to simply let go, and trust the river to carry us along safely. At this point, we learn to “go with the flow” — and it feels wonderful.

Once we have become accustomed to being in the flow of the river, we can begin to look ahead and guide our course onward, deciding where the course looks best, steering the way around boulders and snags, and choosing which of the many channels and branches of the river we prefer to follow, all the while still “going with the flow.”

This metaphor shows us how we can accept our lives here and now, flowing with what is, and at the same time guiding ourselves consciously toward our goals by taking responsibility for creating our own lives. 
-- Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization

I'm going to let go for a while and see where that takes me, watching along the way for a better path.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Enell Ambassador Review: Olympic Aquabike at The Grand Rapids Triathlon

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

I was originally signed up for the Olympic Distance as part of the Athena National Championship at Grand Rapids, but I didn't feel ready for the run, so I dropped down to the Aquabike, which is the swim and the bike, no run.  
For once, my husband was not able to travel with me and be my sherpa, time cop, photographer and navigator. I am very lucky to have such great support for races most of the time, and I definitely missed him. 

I traveled with my friend Rebecca instead, who was also doing the Aquabike.  Another friend, Angi, was doing the half, and she recommended a hotel a little off the beaten path. It was definitely old-school -- actual keys and exterior room doors -- but it was clean and comfortable for $70 a night.


The night before the race, after a great dinner with some fellow Athena athletes including the impressively accomplished Leslie Battle, (who won the Olympic-distance championship again yesterday), I did the traditional obsessive packing and repacking of the gear until I got into bed exhausted at 11 pm.

My kit matches the Biscay Green ENELL Sport perfectly!

I was sound asleep when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. I was a little crabby about eating a peanut-butter sandwich with a lukewarm bottle of water and crappy hotel-room coffee when I wanted to go back to bed.

But I managed to get a smile on my face for a hotel-room selfie before racking our bikes and driving to the race site at 5 a.m. Getting there early paid off -- I got prime parking while my friend stayed with our bikes and fought off airplane-sized mosquitos.


In transition, Rebecca and I ran into one of our local triathlon celebs, Joyce Donaldson, who co-owns Elite Endeavors, a Toledo-area race management company. She also travels the world as a USAT official, which is why she was there yesterday.

I took the "God Light" in this photo as a sign that we would have a good race.

After this photo, I stowed my camera in my backpack and headed to the beach.  I was not taking this race as seriously as I usually do, but I still wanted to do my best. We missed our friend Angi's start and we had to start swimming ourselves before she got out of the water. Once I was out on the course, I was all on my own, other than the great support from all the volunteers and fellow racers.

I felt strong in the swim, but I knew it wasn't going to be my fastest time.  The water was cold but after I got used to it, fairly pleasant. It felt like there was more room to spread out than usual, so I didn't get kicked and swum over as much as I usually do in these races.

The swim course map
This guy greeted us at the end of the swim.
There were two brawny guys helping people out of the swim. They had to be exhausted at the end of the day. I really appreciated the lift as the steps were a little slippery. There was a fairly long run to transition, which was longer and narrower than most -- it was a tight squeeze for me to get by the athletes who were leaving with their bikes.

The long and narrow transition area. 
There isn't much to say about the bike. As usual, my bike computer decided not to work, so I couldn't figure out how fast I was going or what my cadence was, so I just had to go by feel. I felt like I was going pretty slow -- I hit the 5 mile mark and was really disappointed that I wasn't further. I also felt like I got passed a lot. There was a headwind at times and a few steep hills. Then it felt like I was suddenly at the finish -- and because it was an Aquabike, I was done. My time stopped when I crossed the bike in mat, and I could take a leisurely mosey to the finish to run across the line, get a photo taken, and collect my medal.

I took dozens of selfies to get one I liked.
  I felt a little guilty being done while everyone else was still racing. I went to watch for my friends to come in on the bike. I didn't notice Rebecca until she was right at the finish because she had added a purple tank to her outfit, and then I lost her in the crowd. I got to see Angi come in on the bike and leave for her run. I went in search of Rebecca, couldn't find her, and so returned to take more medal selfies.

You can see my mint-and-white bike in this picture.
Rebecca wasn't as lucky as me -- they had run out of medals by the time she finished. All I can figure is that a lot of people switched from the Half to the Olympic at the last minute.  They apologized and were taking names and phone numbers to get them their medals later, but I know from experience how disappointing that is, so I loaned her my medal so she could make her finish Facebook Official.

Her first race of this distance! It's easy to underestimate the step up it is from a sprint. 

Got Rebecca to take a picture of me in my ENELL gear. Note the excellent support...
We had a long time to wait for Angi. We packed up our stuff, changed clothes, and moved the car.
We were able to get some post-race food and check out the afterparty, which was already starting to wind down.  I found the results and was pleasantly surprised that I had hit 16.6 mph on the bike -- I thought I was going much slower.
The first 12 Aquabike finisher results.
I love these results printers.
 We even got to meet 1988 Olympic Racewalker Gary Morgan, who had brought the torch he carried in the Salt Lake City torch relay for the kids to see and take photos with.  I couldn't resist -- I knew I would never be this close to an Olympic torch again.


Watching my friend Angi finish her first half was very emotional. We got word that she was very close to the cutoff so they let her finish, but that everyone after her got picked up by the sag wagon. She got to run with a police escort. I teared up as she finished. 


Totally staged medal photo. Then they realized they gave her the wrong medal...
The race management was great -- even though she was about 15 minutes past the cutoff time, they didn't rush us. They got things done, but they let her have plenty of time to take photos at the finish and generally made us feel like rockstars. I would definitely do this race again.

With the proper Athena Nationals race medal
This was such an emotional day, plus a physically demanding one. It felt like an extra leg of the triathlon just to drive home, not to mention unloading the car. I was ready for bed at 9.

For the last few weeks I had been letting my as-yet-unsuccessful search for a permanent job get me down, but today I felt content. Permanent marker seems to have mood-lifting qualities. I went into work today, strategically wearing long sleeves and a long skirt to cover my numbers, but I still knew they were there.


"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