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Make Experiences Into Valuable Assets

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I was recently sitting at my favorite hang out in town, Coffee Bar, with my lovely wife and some very dear friends of mine. In the midst of a very chaotic month, and even year, it was a nice relief. It’s so freaking hard to find quiet time these days. Swim here, run there, bike this way, go to work, pack this, move that, eeesh! It’s exhausting. But in the hour and 40 minutes that the four of us had together, it was refreshing to be able to quiet my mind and focus on the things that matter the most in this world – relationships.

It wasn’t about our busy jobs or oppressive deadlines or even the political elections coming up. Instead, it was all about spending quality time together, getting to share fun experiences, chatting about hopes and dreams, and enjoy a good cup of coffee (tea for me). Quiet and relaxing time is rare these days – one could almost say it’s going the way of the dinosaur – but on this particularly chilly night, I found great appreciation in spending time with quality human beings.

I don’t really care for moving. Actually, I pretty much loathe it. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Boxes everywhere. And tape. And all the knick-knacks you didn’t even know you owned. I moved last April for the first time in five years. I also helped my wife (fianceé at the time) move two weeks later, and one year later, here we go again, this time for the long(ish) haul though. April shall be officially renamed THE MONTH THAT WE SHALL NEVER MOVE IN AGAIN. In addition, during my stint at the university, April was always the month of CRAZY OVERWHELMING STRESS between wrapping up grad school coursework, student events, etc. Ironically, May is my second favorite month, so it seems appropriate that April would be insanity in a bottle in order to prime May for the explosive deliciousness of sunshine, warmth, and triathlon happiness.

Thinking back on the years (I’ve known one of these friends since ’98), you can’t help but remember how critical a role certain people played. Some you still talk to, others maybe fell off the map, but so many of the memories are centered around people and those relationships. How you spent your time and who you spent it with is a very powerful and encouraging thing to dwell on. Yes, you can’t recreate those times or those events (I wouldn’t mind being on swim team again but I will never EVER take calculus again), but you can hold onto the memories of the people and experiences.

As I rapidly approach a new decade, I hear those older and wiser and I that all they really want out of life is experiences. I was never overly materialistic in the buying things just because sense, and I love a good experience as much as the next person, but it’s slowly starting to sink in, especially as I now have a wife, an eight year old Captain-American-wanna-be, a dog, and a soon-to-be mortgage.

I don’t know what experiences await, but I know that the people in my life are the ones I want to share them with. A journey to the top of a mountain or the coasts of Greece is so much more fulfilling with someone than as a solo effort. And trust me, I’ve been to a lot of places by myself, but somehow they just aren’t the same. You can’t quite as easily chat with your airplane seat about how cool Machu Picchu was or show off your photographs to your traveling backpack. The core of any great experience is who is there experiencing it with you. Just yesterday I got to see some killer wildflowers, and had I not been out there biking with my buddy, I would never have even known they existed. It was a win for us both.

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As a country that often over-emphasizes the acquisition of material things, I encourage everyone to focus on building experiences and cherishing how great they can be, and maybe they don’t go according to plan or even head south in a hurry, but they will still be remembered. Something as simple as catch or video games with a one of your homies can drastically change the course of your day… the power of something so simple should not be overlooked.

Happy experiencing!

Commence Primary Ignition

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Hello from beautiful Reno, Nevada! We’ve had rainstorms, 75 degree weather, a cold snap, and now we’re gunnin’ for sun this weekend. Just another spring month in the Silver State.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and no, I’m not talking about Christmas, although since you asked, it’s only 253 shopping days until the big shebang. You’re welcome.

No, my friends, get out the big guns because it’s racing season, and we’re starting it off with a bang tomorrow at Granite Beach. I’ve done this race at least six times, with the past two years landing some pretty solid podium finishes (4th and 2nd respectively), and while I can only hope that tomorrow goes well, I’ve got two of my favorite rivals coming out to give it a go. I imagine I’ll be chasing them all the way to the finish line… darn runners.

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Boom. Racing season!

Healthy competition is one of my favorite parts of the sport. You get to go out, crush the course, and at the end of the day you’re the only one who cares how you do. But if there’s a little shoulder rubbing along the way, then all the better for it. I’m also in the old man division now. That should be interesting… I’m dreading them engraving the “30” into my legs with the cold, unforgiving Sharpie, but then I just have to realize that I just have another year of racing experience behind me. Male 30-34 just doesn’t quite have a cool ring to it, hah.

It sounds so horribly stereotypical and awfully stuffy, but truly, the only result of a good race day is if you had fun. There is no other point. Yes, it would be great if the day always went perfectly and nothing bad happened and you were on your “A game,” but it just isn’t practical. Leave that to the pros… I know I have had a successful race if these two things have happened:

  1. I had a freaking blast
  2. I left everything out on the course
  3. I gave my best effort (not necessarily fastest because you can’t always control)
  4. I overcame the mini-obstacles that the day threw at me
  5. I had a freaking blast!!!!

Yea yea, so I shove triathlon down my reader’s throats constantly, but it’s a big part of my life. That doesn’t mean that the same principles don’t apply to your other activities. A very wise man once told me that “you don’t have to like it; you just have to do well.” And yes, that’s true when it comes to geometry or your research paper on carnivorous plants, but once you find the “real you” in life, you should always be doing something you enjoy. It may not be a constant soirée of balloons and ponies and a rainbow fun show, but it should be something that piques your interest, something that you excel at, and certainly something that you don’t see as tedious, chore-like, or a drag.

Yes, when I’m out hauling my ass around Tahoe for six hours at a time, it can get a little bleak emotionally and mentally, but the overarching point of enjoying a complex and fascinating beauty of nature trumps all.  Sure, it hurts physically, but at the end of the day, it’s an activity that you can enjoy with nature lovers, and that is its own reward.

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This will be my new racing helmet!

Looks like Christmas is coming early… see you out on the course! Did anyone catch the Star Wars quote??

Curious Russell and the Enigma of Life

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The weather in Reno is perfect. Perfect for biking, or running, or playing catch, or BBQing, or packing boxes, or moving… Eeesssh.

An outlook of curiosity is a rewarding outlook. If you’ll hearken back to the Golden Era of children’s books, you may remember the many quests of Curious George. What a great role model!

This morning there was a huge truck outside our office containing a ton of brand new, shiny fire extinguishers. Now, I know next to nothing about fire extinguishers other than they handle three types of fires (liquid, paper, and electric) and that they are red. Not exactly an expert. Right away I saw this truck containing at least 150 of these things so I began to wonder: Who manufactures these things? How much does each one cost? Where do they go when they’ve expired? What happens if it doesn’t work when you pull the pin? How much red paint do they buy for these things? Do they incorporate new technology ever? How big is their IT department?

The list goes on and on – and that was just within the first three minutes of being at work.

I am often fascinated with people who just aren’t curious about the world around them, and I’m not talking about anything in particular. How can you not wonder about the world around you? How much snow is truly accumulated on Mt. Rose and who measures that? Is that a career!? Where do your car tires come from and who shipped them across the ocean? What state did the cow you had for dinner live in? How do you manufacture toothpaste? Star Wars or Star Trek? What is Minecraft and do I need to play it? If a jet engine breaks the sound barrier and runs into an orange, what happens? How do you create the carbon fiber that is inside my racing bike and wheels?

The world is an incredibly complicated place, which just begs the option of asking more and more and more and more questions.

I wonder if people who aren’t curious lost their curiosity then they were kids. All the kids I know ask about 10 million questions, and even if they ask too many, at least you can see their brains ticking away, soaking up information like a sponge. It seems as adults that the ability to ponder, dwell, and spend time thinking is utterly discouraged in this modern society. Why don’t adults ask more questions? Are they afraid? Afraid of people thinking they’re foolish or dumb or ignorant? I think that’s part of it. I also think that there’s just a negative connotation around admitting “we” don’t know something. It’s kind of sad really… we can’t all know everything (fortunately) so what’s wrong with admitting when we don’t know an answer? Hmm. Maybe we are too obsessed with Google doing all of the thinking for us.

I was at the doctor’s last week and honestly, I was freaking thrilled when he got out his phone and had to look up an answer to a question I had. Yes, he’s an expert and yes, he went to medical school, but 99.9999% of the time I would much rather have someone admit that they aren’t entirely sure about an answer and then look it up, just to be sure, than to lie to me or give me an answer that is completely off kilter.

I surround myself with people who make me want to ask questions, and it’s not because they speak in a way I don’t understand or because they’re speaking too lofty, but it’s because they’re experts in an area that I’m simply not. Learning something new every day is such a small feat when you think about the grandiose nature and scope of the world in which we live in. Go research underwater monsters. Study the effects of supernovas on the solar system. Learn about the note and structural scale to Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue (best jazz album ever). Ask someone to explain to you how flux is a vector quantity. Ask, learn, grow, and develop your mind. It’s far too impressive of an organ to let go to waste.

Exciting people ask interesting questions. Boring people, well, boring people don’t ask questions. Don’t be the lump on the log who doesn’t ask questions and pretends not to care.

Here’s some secret life advice that was passed on to me… an expert conversationalist is someone who listens and asks good questions. That’s it! Want to be a good listener? Ask questions that show your listening and applying the subject at hand to your own perspective on the world based on your own assumptions and experiences.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

Have a wonderful Tuesday. Eat tacos. Learn things. Ask questions. Take a nap. Be productive.

The Heat is On

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Ah, it’s the most wonderful time of the year… race season! Spring has sprung, or is springing, or even returning to winter depending on who you ask.

I have been racing the tri-scene since ’07, back when I was young, foolish, and barely into my 20’s. Now, for the second time, I will be changing age groups (the five year buckets that athletes are placed into so that they more accurately race their peers). Surprisingly, people only get faster the older they get in the sport. Well, let me rephrase – the hardcore and dedicated get faster. Many others makes excuses for aching knees or tweaked hips.

True, the faster-as-you-get-older phenomenon seems a bit odd, but endurance is a sport of accumulation. You amass swim, bike, and run miles year after year, and theoretically, year after year you either get faster, stronger, or can endure more. In 2011, I spent a monstrous amount of time preparing for a race that was 70.3 miles. In 2014, I trained for two such races in my free time, but that was all in preparation for a race that was twice as long. It didn’t make those half races exactly easy, but it wasn’t nearly as taxing as it was three years prior. You learn and apply those lessons to the next season. A season without improvements, mental or physical, is like letting a day go by without learning something new.

Like muscle memory, the body seems to remember the demands of different race distances. In 2007 I would have passed out thinking about biking 30 miles, and now I can crush 75 without batting an eye. The human body continues to remain one of the most fascinating things on the planet, and its adaptability is truly mind-blowing. Just watch the Olympics sometime and see how many different physiological builds there are and how each is an expert at their own tasks. A power lifter doesn’t look anything like a gymnast or swimmer or ice skater, but they all excel in their own arenas.

This year’s schedule isn’t quite the ordeal that it was back in 2014, when I was at the peak of my training regime, but this year will provide plenty of challenges to keep me laser focused all the way through Colorado in August. It’s going to be a great year, regardless of what happens across these six events.

  • ICE Breaker – April 16th
  • River Run Half Marathon – May 1st
  • Folsom Olympic – May 7th
  • Auburn Half – May 15th
  • Donner Lake – July 24th
  • IRONMAN Boulder – August 7th

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Our minds are just like our bodies. Something to train, to push, to challenge, and to never let grow stagnant. We are the stewards of our minds and the older I get, the more we need to be aware of what we don’t know. Just like I’m responsible for staying in tune with the rigors of training, we must all be responsible for developing and tending to our gray matter. Being able to acknowledge what you don’t know is a far greater feat (feet, heh) than running a 40:00 10k… After all, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Take time this weekend to tend to your body, your mind, and your soul. It’s a time of remembering life conquering death, and it is the greatest holiday of the year. And no, I’m not talking about the flippin’ Easter bunny…

Photo credit.

Seven Easy Steps To Get Your Wife To Follow You on Instagram

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Happy Tuesday, peeps! I hope you have a delicious plan for working some juicy, succulent tacos into your menu for the day. It’s Tuesday after all – we need a moral boost.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything light-hearted, so today’s post is well earned.

My wife recently followed me on Instagram. I know, I know, not a big deal – however, I did find it incredibly hilarious that after two years of being together, plus an additional year of me trying to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life, all topped with six months of being married, I finally got my favorite person in the world as a follower. The best part is I didn’t even know she had an Instragram. And in my defense, I’ve only been Instagraming for a few months myself.

  • Step 1: Meet your future wife
  • Step 2: Marry her
  • Step 3: Buy her a house
  • Step 4: Go salsa dancing with her weekly
  • Step 5: Tell her you love her multiple times a day
  • Step 6: Cook her plenty of tacos
  • Step 7: Bask in your irresistible-ness which is actually just the result of an accidental follower request :-)
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Magic.

 

Can you feel the love tonight?

I can be found on Instragram at raaronman.

An Introspective Look at the Man Who Thought He Had It All Figured Out

Good morning everyone! It’s nearly spring, although the massive snow dump up in the Sierras would have you believe otherwise. Five feet of snow is quite a bit, but no one ever expects the weather in Reno to make sense year round anyways. Oh Memorial Day, how I have a love-hate relationship with your snowy self the past decade.

I’m plowing on in many facets of my life: keeping a great marriage alive and well, moving into a house in 42 days, getting ready for my 10th (tenth!?!?!?) triathlon season, and meeting my professional expectations at work. It’s always a neat time of year when the choking grasp of the holidays has fallen off, and you can feel the fresh flow of oxygen return to your parched body. It’s a time for new-ness, for rebirth, and what more appropriate holiday to remember that with than Easter…

Every other year or so, I reach a place in my life where I like to think I have everything figured out, and I’m always rudely surprised to find that A) that’s just preposterously not even possible and B) I usually get a rude awakening as to what my masked eyes have been hiding from me. I’m not a very humble person, and it often takes many repeated efforts for me to be yanked down out of my delusional cloud to be exposed to the reality around me. It’s a humbling experience to be surrounded by the nasty, evil little creatures that embody the entirety of my bad habits glaring up at me with their sharp teeth snapping away, reminding me that not only am I not perfect but I have a plethora of distasteful habits that annoy and impact others, especially those I live with (a.k.a. my wife).

In the ideal world, of course I wish everyone was more like me. I mean, isn’t that what everyone really wants? Multiple versions of ourselves, with whom we would get along splendidly because, of course, they would eat, think, talk, act, sleep, clean, and behave like us. Oh, but what a lopsided and gross world that would be. The ultimate moment of pride is when I find myself wishing that others were more like me. Who am I to ask for such things? If anything, I should be more like everyone else… what a constant work in progress that is.

We celebrated our six month anniversary yesterday. I’m always a sucker for enjoying the little things, because without those, what is there that’s worth living for? You can only vacation to Disney so many times, but mini celebrations are a thing to be frequent and cherished occasions. Regardless, it was a great day enjoying six months of journeying down the life-long path we both had looked forward to for so long. And that got me thinking – how often do I do things that revolve around my interests, my desires, and the things that I want to do? ALL THE FREAKING TIME! It’s easy from my perspective to be like ‘yeaaa, I’m a super great husband and roommate and companion without any room for blame’, but all that needs to happen is for someone to scratch that fakely pristine surface for me to see myself for who I really am. A selfish human being more interested in taking care of myself than others. No surprise there…

The positive spin to all of this is that these moments of clarity, when the darkness of the heart is exposed for what it really is, is a good thing, even slightly embarrassing and humbling one. It is used to shape and refine us as human beings, and to bring our many, many faults into light. I can only be thankful that my wife is patient and forgiving because there are just too many of my faults to count. And better yet that she doesn’t keep score – it would be very one sided. She already whoops me in basketball…

I’ve learned a lot in six months. How to be less like myself and more like the couple that we’ve become, working on having a less selfish perspective, how to move my ego out of the picture for 10 seconds so that I can humble myself and apologize and ask forgiveness, and mostly trying to remove my pride from the equation of life’s daily tumble in the wrestling ring. It is sooo easy to huff and puff and come up with a list of 200 things that someone did to me that got me riled up, but what good does that do? None. It does nothing. All it is is me feeding my selfish desire to be heard, understood, and who would do that better than my own selfish heart programmed to revolve solely around me?

I always find myself asking for the ability and fortitude to practice being patient, and here I am, practicing patience but the catch is that it isn’t on my own terms – that would be too easy – the terms of growing in patience and grace are not set according to my own will, they’re set by another.  For the next six months, and the (hopefully) 60+ years after, I can only hope that my wife will continue to love me, despite all my faults, and that I can continually be brought to a humble and contrite place to love her how she needs, not how I think she needs.

Happy Tuesday – the tacos await in the crockpot once I get home! Yummy…

How does your pride affect your interactions with others? Do you find that the parable rings true – pride comes before the fall – ?

There Are Only Two Types of People in the World

Good morning, Reno! It’s another gorgeous winter day, although the snow still hasn’t returned and it is wayyyy too warm for January. You can tell it’s political season, because oh my gosh, the TV, radio, and internet media yahoos don’t talk about ANYTHING ELSE. Ugh. Maximum frustration with little benefit to anyone… during the time of such polarization, it made me think of how divided a country (or globe) can be at any point in time. And without further ado, my explanation, albeit graphically, of how there are only types of people in the world…

Disclaimer: I am not the author of any of these images – I simply pieced them together.

 

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Dogs and Cats

 

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Men and Women

Read more…

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