Hi, I’m Matthew. And I use to run a blog before we “pandemic’d.”
Now that we’ve addressed my awkward absence of the last 16 months, I’m doing my best to get back to what life was like before a bat closed movie theaters and indoor dining around the world (am I making a light hearted joke about a global crisis? Yes – it’s called coping… and thats for another post when I’m ready).
Things are slowly opening up again which mean, triathlons are actually happening – that’s right LIVE and IN-PERSON sporting events (insert mind-blown emoji – tears of joy emoji or pizza emjoi – just because people love pizza).
So the opportunity presented itself recently to return to racing and to get a taste of what life use to be like (and after exploring the COVID protocols, limited participant entry and social distancing efforts) and I made the decision to go for it…
And as you’ll find out (if you have the patience to listen to me talk to myself for 13 minutes) I had less than 3 weeks to train…
The whole vlogging thing is new to me – but makes talking to yourself feel less neurotic when you have a camera. Eager to hear your feedback!
When the world changed (dramatic statement, but it’s the truth), I told myself that I would use this additional time at home to learn something new.
Fast forward to almost 6 months later – and I’m still on that path to learning new things and sharpen (or create) new skill sets. And if you’ve been following my posts (or social media) you’ve been force-fed the new “skills” I’ve been learning on Photoshop.
One of my favorite managers once told me that I “had the ability to see things as they are – and how they could be.” That quote has always stuck with me and I truly feel like it explains how I think and how I react to the world around me. Photoshop has allowed me to fall down that rabbit-hole and really share the things, places and experiences I’ve had and share them in creative new ways as I see/saw them.
Here are some fun ways I’ve been able to share my experiences through pictures, videos and a little bit of magic (aka Photoshop)….
Below was my first “edit” that recapped a year of training for my first full IRONMAN triathlon – and since I said “IRONMAN” I’m obligated to inform you that and IRONMAN triathlon is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run race that has to be completed in under 16 hours (Yes, during one day – and Yes, all back to back). This journey was years in the making and an experience that I’ll never forget – and this edit celebrated a lot of those moments over 12 social media squares.
My next edit was a celebration of the weekend road trips I mentioned in a previous post, some of my favorite places, a few trip down memory lane and some special memories “socially distancing” with friends over FaceTime and Instagram Live. From a technical perspective, this is when I learned how to use overlays and get creative with PNG layers of MP4 files – this means creating images that come to life by adding videos to posts that look like pictures until you click on or scroll to the image. If I had a dollar for every time someone messaged me and said “Woah – I didn’t realize that was a video” I’d have… like $3.00. But the fact that the creativity wasn’t lost on anyone made it worth it.
Discovering Overlays was a game changer for me. Something simple like adding translucent bubbles added magic to my images and helped bridge some of the imagery from one post to the other as the bubbles “floated” across my timeline/edit.
As a subtle tribute to Pride Month, some life lessons and my June travels I used overlays to add a rainbow to one of my posts too. A little transparent background image helped reflect the importance of looking up and looking in – again, not everyone will get it, but I do and that’s what’s important. And there are a few “Easter Eggs” hidden in the posts that make me laugh and I know some of my friends catch/caught.
I’ve also tried to step up my Layering skills by taking elements like splashing water to look as if my images were present during the splashing or existing within in the same moment. Was it perfect? Not even close – but I was so excited when I learned how to do it on my own and can’t wait to find a new opportunity to use this same “skill” in a marketing piece or another project.
And in the same layering fashion, I loved taking moments of exploring new places (like the awesome forests in Maui, HI) and dropping them into the succulents and ::struggling:: green grass in my own backyard. I was trying to create the message that adventure awaits you in your backyard – or where you can find it – but I guess I’m the only one who would know that the background and foreground plants was my backyard (again – “IF” you get it).
And that brings us to my most recent edits. I’ll admit it got a little busy at the bottom – but in my defense I did those edit in the car while on a road trip and REALLY wanted to get some of those awesome moments in there.
I was really excited to work some more of photo/video edits in there – especially since there were so many cool videos to share from #Adventuring in Kentucky and Virginia. Please take a look at my Instagram account (@MatthewCGoto) and see how some of the images come to life (or play video – however engaging as you may find it).
What I’ve found is that while busy is fun – I’m going to start to go with larger images and challenge myself to take higher quality images. The term “visual storyteller” is overused, but as a millennial (another overused term) I’m going to own it and really try to tell a story – which has been what I have wanted to accomplish (in addition to learning new skills).
In my last few posts (at the time of this post) I was really challenging myself to find ways to better blend my images (not that I don’t like a Kodak film role, Polaroid frame or ripped edge). The branches in the images below helped me attempt to blend the images – but there are some dead giveaways and flaws – but I’m looking forward to stepping my game up and being able to look back at these posts and identify ways to make them blend smoother or get even more creative – feedback and expert tips much appreciated!
Thank you for reading this longwinded post and encouraging me on this continued adventure to learn new things – and to share how things are and how they could be.
And I know that I have a lot to learn – and that makes this journey so much more exciting and fun.
I’m spent the entire “adult” portion of my life working weekends. Key weekends like Labor Day weekend, Martin Luther King weekend and Memorial Day weekend have been busy work weekends for as long as I can remember – and I’m not complaining, it has just been my “norm” and part of my career field. But one of the “silver-linings” of COVID is that 1) I haven’t had to travel on weekends and 2) I didn’t/don’t have any place to be.
So after the first few weeks of Shelter-In-Place (or quarantine, however you view it) I decided to start exploring new places in my backyard (AKA Driving Distance) that would take back my weekends – and provide MUCH needed physical and mental relief from the stress of what else was going on in the world. There are a ton of state parks and outdoor recreation areas with enforced social distancing guidelines (and limited parking which helps).
I wake up early on weekdays – but I wake up earlier on the weekend to make sure I get even more time for myself… and time to adventure!
On top of the weekends at home – I was able to take advantage of the “work from home” status to change up my scenery and visit family who had also been sheltering-in-place. (Disclaimer: COVID test were taken before visiting anyone – and I 100% wear a mask and carry hand-sanitizer and disinfectant wipes everywhere I go)
Even though you may think you know where you live, I challenge you to get on TripAdvisor, Yelp and even Google your city to see what other people are seeing and doing. By doing this, I’ve been able to find a lot of hidden treasures minutes away – or within a few hours – from where I live.
One of my favorite things about these newly found weekend adventures, is finding small businesses that are finding ways to operate under the COVID rules and restrictions. Whether it’s ordering a to-go lunch at a small restaurant or buying a small gift from a local mom & pop shop/roadside pop-up, I feel like I’m doing my part to help support small businesses during this chaotic and uncertain time. And I’ve experienced some of the best customer service in years – being nice and courteous never goes out of style… even if a mask covers a natural smile (and yes, “smeyesing” – smiling with your eyes – is a thing).
Not really sure what the point of this post was – but I hope it inspires someone (or anyone) to find the silver lining in situations and finding ways to catch the curve ball thrown at you and to make the best of the situation. The issues happening in the world are 100% real and devastating… I’m not discrediting any of that (lord knows I’ve felt my fair share of setbacks and struggles in the past few months – like all of us have).
But life isn’t just about what happens to you, it’s about how you react and respond to it. I’m using this “opportunity” to be more present, to be a better listener and getting outside for some fresh air – and a fresh perspective.
As I’ve said before, I take A LOT of pictures… and I have really enjoyed the time I’ve had to reorganize, reflect and relive memories through these images lately. While part of this is 100% my need to be organized – it has also helped me focus on the things I’ve had the opportunity to do, give thanks for the people I have in my life and retrace my footsteps as I’ve traveled across the country and the world.
I told myself when we went into Shelter-In-Place (SIP) that I would view it as being given more time in the day (and ultimately in our life). SIP meant that I wouldn’t be traveling, I wouldn’t be going to events and I wouldn’t be leaving my house for site-visits… so my positive spin on this was it meant more time for “Me.” And with this newly found/forced “me” time I wanted to make sure I was using the time productively to better myself. So every week I try to learn something new – and for the purpose of this blog post, I have been learning more about Photoshop and how to use its (never ending list of) tools/features.
Pair my jog down “memory-lane” with my new found love of Photoshop – and you have a recipe for a lot of late night night editing…
Now I am still a Photoshop Novice – but I am really enjoying the (YouTube) training and tutorials. And while my work is very rough, it’s been awesome to share point of views of what is and reimagine the images to what could be.
Here are some of my latest “works” – and I’m hoping that I can look back at these images in weeks to come and see improvements in my Photoshop skills – and creativity!
If any of my Photoshop savvy friends have advice, tips/tricks or shortcuts please send them my way! I’m really eager to learn and add more feathers to my editing cap!
Again, I know I’m a novice editor and there are imperfections in my work. And I’m grateful that I have the opportunity, resources and TIME (Thanks, SIP) to get my editing to where I want it to be one day.
Open and welcome any feedback and I hope everyone else is finding positive, fun and therapeutic things to do while we’re all under the SIP.
I travel a lot with my job. And I’m guilty of taking that for granted every now and then – especially when it feels like I’m spending more time up in the air than on the ground. But being on lock down going on 3-weeks now, I’m really feeling grateful for all of the opportunities and experiences I’ve had “getting” to travel.
Social media reminded me this morning, that while I finally have the domesticated routine of waking up, making breakfast, brewing coffee and starting my very routine and structured (quarantined) day at home… I was bouncing around Bogota, Columbia on this day 11 years ago..
Bogota, Columbia – April 2009
I was so lucky to get to visit Columbia with not just a good friend of mine (and brilliant teacher) Debbie, but also had the best host and friend, Robert who made sure we got a great taste of Bogota and still teach and train coaches and athletes from the area.
The city of Bogota was really pretty. Even on a rainy day the architecture and use of color really made and impact.
I loved that even in a busy city, the luxury of outdoor space was still valued. Courtyards like these were a testament to the wealth of the families and businesses who took residence there.
The city streets of Columbia have a historic charm that we don’t have here in the US. I wish that we had narrower streets that limited the numbers of cars and increased the foot traffic that lends itself to more street food!
I would love to have a courtyard garden like this one day, built around the heart of our home.
While I don’t always understand Picasso, I can always appreciate his unique perspective.
We’re not taking it all in – we’re just sitting because we needed a break from walking…
This installation was haunting – serving Psycho & American Psycho vibes.
There was a series of modern art revolving around street signs and public signage that was really cool – Especially the blend of Spanish & English signage.
I was familiar with the “plump” style of Fernando Botero’s art but didn’t know his name or his history prior to this trip to the Botero Museum. After visiting the museum, I started to notice his influence all over the city in statues, directional signs and accents in architecture – all subtle nods to its local artist.
It was nice to learn more about the history of the country as well.
Learning about the indigenous people and their early ways of living was very interesting.
It was remarkable to learn how quickly technology and science can completely change the day to day lives of a society.
And makes you appreciate that their history and wonder how different things can change in 10, 20 and 30 years…
And in addition to site seeing and really getting the taste and feel of Bogota, Columbia – we had the honor of teaching and sharing our skills/talent (the purpose of the trip).
Like I mentioned above, we were lucky to have such amazing hosts to take care of us – and translate because… Mi español es muy malo!
I’m really grateful for the opportunity I had to travel – and be welcomed into a community to graciously!
And while my Spanish needs work – I nailed “Bienvenidos” and to this day, it’s how I always greet Robert when we get the chance to see eachother!
I’m thankful for these awesome experiences I’ve had and that social media continues to humble me with the opportunities I have been given.
My goal during this period of isolation and “quarantine” is to reflect more on the moments and experiences that we may take for granted. While I’m not allowed to travel right now – it’s a great opportunity to look back at where I’ve been!
I’m sure everyone is spending more time shopping for things online these days – especially now that going outside just isn’t an option. We share our favorite places to eat, places we recommend visiting with friends and family – so why not share what we’re buying/using right now?
I’m currently obsessed with Perfect Bar protein bars… They are only refrigerated protein bars that I’m aware of and they are delicious! I love having one after a long run or as a late night snack before bed.
The dark chocolate chip peanut butter are my favorite so I have been sticking to that flavor. Maybe one day I’ll venture out an try another flavor – but I could happily stick to the CCPB flavor for the rest of my life on this planet with no complaints…
Without the ability to overpay for coffee right now, I’ve perfected my at home barista skills. I drop 1-2 shots from my Nespresso machine into 1/2 a bottle of these chocolate protein shakes and I instantly have an iced coffee to start the day (and to be honest I go back for the other 1/2 of the bottle and add another shot (or 2) later in the day too!
I love these protein shakes, especially after a long endurance workout. But like I mentioned above, pour it over some ice an mix in a few shots of espresso and you’re in business for the day!
And with having to do most of my cycling indoors on the bike trainer, I’ve been keeping the rest of the garage clean by keeping a cover on my bikes gears and tires. This awesome find has been a life saver to keep the garage and my SUV clean when moving and stowing my bike(s)!
I throw my bike(s) in the back of my SUV all the time, and this awesome find keeps the gears covered from getting snagged on my seats and also covers both tires from tracking in dirt/debris. And it’s quick and easy to throw on! There are more expensive options out there, but at $20, this was a killer find!
You can debate the pros and cons of having a digital footprint – but for millions of millennials (like myself) we great up in the age of posting, tagging and sharing. And I’m immune to post-shaming… I love the comments and interactions I get from friends and family on what I post (and if you think I post a lot, be grateful you’re not in any of my group chats)!
Believe it or not, I only share a small amount of the pictures I take. And I take a lot of pictures… A. Lot. Of. Pictures. Everyone who knows me knows that this is something I’m really passionate about. I’m not someone who binge watches show on Netflix or Hulu (or Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc…) but I will spend a lot of time watching old videos I recorded and looking back at pictures of people I’ve spent time with, places I’ve been or things I’ve done – and a very unhealthy amount of pictures of meals I’ve enjoyed.
The additional time on my hands (thank you, Shelter in Place?) has given me the chance to organize some of my media specific to 2019 and merge it together in one video.
2019 was my “Year of Triathlon”as I chased one of my bucket list goals of becoming an IRONMAN triathlete (which I did, DM for my address to send me congratulatory gifts – JK… just send snacks).
Training for two 70.3 miles races and one 140.6 mile race meant that I covered a lot of ground (+water and road) training. And those miles added up – as did the post workout posts I’ve been flooding your newsfeeds with (in addition to what I ate for dinner).
If you’ve got 3 minutes to spare – feel free to follow my digital footprint of my workouts and training from November 2018 when I signed up for IRONMAN Arizona to the week of the big race (SPOILER ALERT – my race specific photos and videos are in another post).
I can’t remember where my car keys are or where I left my cell phone charger – but looking back at this video, I can vividly remember each and every moment.
While I’m grateful for each and every opportunity I had to train (and be outside – damn you, COVID) I am especially thankful for the workouts that sucked… the times I feel short of my training goals and when I just wasn’t feeling it. Because looking back I can say it was worth it and I’m glad that I put in the blood, sweat and tears (yes, there were plenty of tears – I still have PTSD when anyone says “headwind” or “B-Line”).
And I’m grateful to everyone who shared this journey with me…
My parents who constantly reminded me to be safe, my friends who motivated and encouraged me (and sent hilarious texts during long training sessions).
I’m grateful to the trainers & coaches who I grew and learned from – and my fitness community who never missed an opportunity to ask how my training was going.
I’m grateful to the IRONMEN who came before me and gave their constant wisdom, encouragement and support (especially Steven in Australia).
And I have the most appreciation for my husband who found ways to entertain himself for hours and hours between seeing me on race courses and survived the endless 5:00am wake-up calls and the “I can’t I have to train” excuses for the last 16 months.
I’m grateful for this footprint and this experience and can’t wait to see where the miles take me next.
I love California. I could ramble off a long list of reasons why I have called this state home for the last 10 years of my life, but for the purpose of this post – I’ll stick to one main reason – adventure at our fingertips.
As an avid hiker and lover of all things outdoors, a friend of mine and I got the recommendation to journey 30 minutes outside of our current bubble and explore a new hike in the Easy Bay. (For my non-Bay Area friends – the San Francisco is the “Bay” and the 60-75 mile stretch from the “North Bay” (North of San Francisco – Napa, Sonoma, Marin, etc…) and the “South Bay” (San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, etc…) and also the “East Bay” (Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Walnut Creek, etc) and the “Silicon Valley” (essentially, the West of the Bay – Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, etc).
So we woke up extra early for a Saturday morning (ouch) and carpooled out to Fremont at 6:00am – stopping for Starbucks first.
We were advised to get there by 6:30am – which was the goal, but the coffee didn’t kick in soon enough and it took us an additional 15 minutes to find the trail parking lot (off Mission/Stanford Ave – behind the housing developments). And in that extra 15 minutes, the entire trail parking lot was already full (way before the sun came up) and we had to park a few blocks down the hill (appropriate as “hill” was the theme for the day) and down the street once we could find a parking spot. If parking is any indicator of popularity, we could already tell this was going to be worth it.
The bottom of the trail (at least this trail start) has a few porta-potties and picnic benches – so come prepared with your own water (snacks and hand-sanitizer) the trail head is pretty much an invitation to hit the trail – but (very) limited amenities.
Depending on when you start your hike, you’ll definitely want to check the weather temperature. We knew it would be low 50’s and dark when we started, but there was a great deal of dew and moisture in the air – and a fair amount of mist. I had hiking boots in the car, but ended up wearing my running shoes since judging by pictures, the trail looked pretty carved out. There were only a few (2-3) areas with lose gravel that made me wish I had my boots – but nothing smart foot placement and a cautious pace couldn’t handle. I also had gloves and a warm hat which came in handy as we got closer to the top. As the elevation increased, the temperature actually got colder (especially if you plan to make the climb before the sun comes up).
I’m not gonna sugar-coat it – the path to the top is a CLIMB. Based on my GPS watch (Garmin Forerunner 945), it was 2,244 feet of elevation gain on the 3.43 miles to the top of Mission Peak. My suggestion – spot something in the distance (like a park bench or directional post) and commit to walking non-stop from point to point. The smaller goals take your mind off the fact that you could look up at any minute and realize that you still have so much farther to go… Your calves, hamstrings and glutes will be on fire – but think of it this way, you could pay $30+ an hour for a workout class and not work your (literal) booty off this hard – so be grateful for the free burn (your wallet and a$$ will thank you later… just not the next day (like today) where todays theme is “Sore & Hungry”).
While we fancied ourselves of the “more fit” of those attempting the hike that morning, peoples of all abilities made it to the top and there were 4-5 benches along the trail for people to stop and rest if needed. And the incline was hard, but it never got to the point where you would need an arm rail or need to use your upper body to climb.
The top has a unique pole that everyone stops to take a picture with – the true “I did it”badge of honor to show that you’d climbed Mission Peak.
Just as we reached the peak, we heard a large group singing Happy Birthday with plastic cups filled with champagne to toast the birthday girl (Note to Self: Surround yourself with friends like that).
We took photos for the people who made the ascent before us – and the people behind us took our photos – the natural understanding and sense of community that I hope people carry back down the mountain and into their everyday lives. After the 3.4 miles of climbing I loved how strangers made sure they took the perfect picture for you – because they also understand what it took to get to the top (including the shared muscle fatigue and exhaustion).
Our timing – even with the 15 minutes of getting lost looking for the trail head – could not have been better. We got to the top to meet the sunrise – and take some pretty awesome pictures to welcome the sun and celebrate the climb!
For the anyone wondering “How did you get those photos?!?!” (the most popular question I get on my posts) – I use my iPhone for candids up and down the trail and used my GoPro Hero 8 Black to capture these awesome (and high resolution) photos.
I’m sure some people had no idea what we were doing – but we didn’t care. We were going for capturing the moment, excitement and accomplishment… and handstands for the sake of doing handstand!
And if the climb (I have to reiterate CLIMB) to the top wasn’t rewarding enough, we had an equally enjoyable time back down the trail. And to our surprise, with the sun up we got to see more of our surroundings and the breathtaking Jurassic Park-vibes the trail was serving that morning…
And the morning mist I was low-key complaining about when we got started, showcased its true value to us on the way down as we had this beautiful rainbow paint the sky in front of us the entire hike back down to the trail head.
It wasn’t till hours after the hike (and a much needed nap) I took a good look back at these pictures and saw the subtle double-rainbow that wasn’t visible to us in the moment.
Overall, it was another great day to be alive and a beautiful adventure in California. I strongly suggestion Mission Peak for anyone wanting to see the East Bay from a new point of view – and get in a solid leg workout!
Wake Up Early (like at 5:45am on a Saturday)…
Go the Extra Mile (or 3.4 miles each way…)
Bring a Friend (to share the experience with…)
If you know of any other fun Bay Area adventure, please let me know and comment or send me a message! I’m eager to share this trail with friends and excited to see what next adventure is on the horizon!
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” -F.D
2019 was a wild ride filled with new challenges, the unexpected and a few surprises.
Life is like a race in a lot of ways. Most importantly, everyone will run their race differently, has a story and obstacles you can’t always see and the “finish line” looks and means something different to everyone.
Cheers to 2019 and to everyone making forward progress to their finish line!
There is so much I want to say about my IRONMAN experience…
Completing the 140.6 mile triathlon has been a goal of mine for years. And with seven 70.3 mile triathlons (the distance before the 140.6) under my belt, I finally felt ready and prepared to make the jump to the “full” Ironman triathlon in 2019.
At mile 132.6 in the race the sun began to set and I slowed my “casual” pace down to walk to take the entire experience in. It was then, when a particular quote and song from my training profoundly hit me – and that reflection is what I wanted to share in this post…
At the Mile 18 marker of the 26.2 mile run, I looked up to the beautiful, watercolored Arizonan sky and it hit me – that it wasn’t just the day that was coming to a close – but also my journey to becoming an IRONMAN (more IRONMAN specifics in a later post to come).
Like all things in life – there is a start and a finish. But for me, this finish was an actual “finish line” and the difference between the start and the finish was 52 week of physical training, mental toughness and self care/preparation.
I’ve done a ton of endurance races in my life (as most people do in their late 20’s – early 30’s) and I’m generally the person who picks up speed to sprint to the finish. But not today. Not this race. And not this goal. This moment was when a quote and song from my training spoke to me and appeared clear as day, almost as vivid as if the words were etched along the concrete trail in front of me.
Background on the quote…
One of my favorite quotes I had obsessed about during this year of training was –
“It’s Not the Result That’s Important, It’s Who You Become in The Process of Achieving the Result.” – John Canfield
And at mile 16 (or mile 132.6 of 140.6 miles) it hit me that I was definitely going to cross that finish line and I was definitely a different person than I was 52 weeks ago when I committed to this goal.
Background on the song…
Music fueled a great deal of my training, and my “go-to” song was “Giant” by Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man. Here is a cliff notes version of the lyrics –
“I would be nothing Without you holding me up Now I’m strong enough for both of us Both of us, both of us, both of us
I am a giant (ooh) Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see ‘Cause I am a giant (ooh) We’ll be breaking boulders, underneath our feet I am, I am, I am, I am, I am, I am a giant (oh)
Don’t hide your emotions You can throw down your guard And feed from the notion We can be who we are You taught me something, yeah Freedom is ours It was you who taught me living is Togetherness, togetherness, togetherness”
– “Giant” – Calvin Harris & Rag N’Bone Man
When times got tough during training – like mile 56 of a 112 mile bike ride, 2,100 yards of a 4,2000 yard swim or mile 13.1 of a 26.2 mile run knowing I was only doing HALF of what was going to be expected of me on race day, I spoke to myself and asked my “Giant” for help.
Who was this Giant? Well, he was the voice inside my head who reminded me that I was stronger, tougher and worth working hard for. Basketball players may channel Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan or Lebron James – but in the triathlete world, that “Giant” to me was Craig Alexander (2011 IRONMAN 70.3 & 140.6 World Champion), Lionel Sanders (multiple IRONMAN 140.6 & 70.3 Champion) or Tim O’Donnell (2019 IRONMAN World Championship Runner-Up) – all icons and legends in the triathlon world who not only stood out as IRONMAN Champions – but were legends at the largest IRONMAN stage in Kona, Hawaii.
During training I would watch Youtube video of their key races, their training routines and pre/post race interviews. Their dedication to their craft and laser focus in swimming, cycling and running made me want to be a stronger athlete.
Now back to the story…
So as I looked into the sunset and could visually make out the 8 miles ahead of me leading to the finish line, I started to think about how far I had come and how this big, epic, scary, audacious and bucket-list goal of mine was minutes (okay, hour’ish) away from being one of those “breaking boulders (underneath OUR feet).”
I say “our” because I started my training with my “Giants” being my sport specific idols. But my internal thoughts and voice slowly developed into its own person – the “Giant” within me. I was creating and fueling my own driver and motivator.
As my personal fitness and mental toughness improved this year, I didn’t always have to look to my idols content to motivate or push me – I found that push in myself to be better and to naturally want and expect more from myself (don’t get me wrong – watching any of Lionel Sanders workouts will always humble me and leave me in awe). I was becoming my own giant and my own motivating voice inside my head (Did I just admit to talking to my own self in third-person? Yup, A little crazy? Probably. All aboard the crazy train.. Choo Choo).
In my 6th 70.3 race, the first race of the 2019 season – I crushed my Swim, Bike and Run personal records in Santa Cruz – becoming my own giant and identifying that not only was I out performing my previous efforts – but I still had gas in the tank to push harder – and to give it that little extra effort that I didn’t know existed months prior.
Just one month before IRONMAN Arizona at Tempe 70.3, I took my PR time from Santa Cruz and CRUSHED it by 9 minutes – with my BEST bike time (on what is known as a pretty sh*tty bike course). I can vividly recall the conversation in my head during lap 2 of the 3 lap bike course. I had improved my time from lap 1 by minute and could ultimately pull my fastest bike split EVER if I could shave 3 more minutes on lap three – and then I did. That right there is Giant AF, my friends.
And even more important than race timing and personal records, I became my biggest cheerleader and my biggest driving force to step up my own game. The outside voice of “You can do it” turned into the confidence to know and own the statement, “I can do it.”
And there are too many additional voices and faces to name that kept motivating inspiring and holding me accountable to my IRONMAN dream – for them, I will forever be grateful. There wasn’t a single conversation, text or social media message that didn’t positively impact me and leave a lasting impression on me and this amazing experience.
There were many setbacks, injuries, low-points and moments that derailed my training and straight path to this finish line – but the person I became this year made my drive (and Giant mentality) bigger and stronger than the problems and setbacks I faced.
The lyrics of Giant also said “Stand up on my shoulders, tell me what you see.” That view started as a medal, a finish line and even visualizing the social media “I did it” post minutes after completing the race. But as the race got closer, and my personal Giant got bigger, the view was a better and stronger me. Not just athletically – but mentally stronger, emotionally in-touch with the overall experience and (SO) appreciative of every milestone and step it took to get there – and again, grateful for the support system I had cheering me on to accomplish this goal.
These thoughts, memories, quotes and song lyrics got me from mile 132.6 to mile 140.6 in what felt like the blink of an eye – and with the biggest smile on my face when I got there.
Could this just be the rambling of a 35 year old who worked way to hard this weekend and still needs to rest and recovery? Possibly (add dehydrated and sore to the list).
But that home stretch to the finish line is one I don’t ever want to forget…
This year has been challenging. Work has been challenging. Projects with the home renovation have been challenging. And committing and training for a triathlon has been challenging.
Disclaimer:This isn’t intended to be a dark post – if you can make it till the end, you’ll see the marshmallows in this bowl of Lucky Charms.
I could elaborate – but the point is, life will always present challenges. Life will throw you curve balls, disappointments and derail you. But staying focused on the end goal, the overall benefit or the “finish line” helps to keep you going. And to be honest, that isn’t always going to be enough. You’ve got to develop a new level of perseverance and for me, if I’ve had to do any training this year its been on developed my mental toughness.
One of the most common questions I get when people hear that I’ve been training for a race (which some might consider cruel and unusual punishment) for almost a year is “Why?” And frankly, my “why” keeps changing. Some days it’s because I started this whole ordeal because it was a bucket list goal. Then it became a science project to see what my body was capable of. And some days it was because I’ve gotten this far so why stop now… But ten months into this process my answer today would be “to see what else I can learn in the process.”
In this process, I’m learning that mental toughness is a muscle that needs to be exercised, fueled, flexed and also given time to recover.
When the alarm goes off at 5:30am to workout from 6:00am-7:00am, 49% of me says “GO BACK TO SLEEP…” But the 51% says “You’re working towards something bigger.” And some days, its 75-100%“Lets do this”and 25-0%“You’re warm and comfortable – you’d be crazy to jump in a swimming pool… it’s ####### January!”But I’ve had to train myself to see the cost and the benefit and put my faith in the latter.
This same practice comes to play when you’re on a bike for what seems like forever, your butt hurts and your legs are cramping… You have to rely on that toughness to tell you to keep your cadence up, switch to a lower gear and that “little old” hill climb will be over soon.
…and when the hill is greater than your push that day – you walk your bike up the hill next to speeding cars honking at you… and you use the time to hydrate, eat whatever nutrition you packed for the ride and tell yourself every honk is someone who thinks you look damn good in bike shorts.
It’s not the outcome you wanted like powering over a tough climb, but you didn’t stop and made the best use of your time and effort – and that’s still a win.
That mental toughness is telling the voices in your head (and in the outside world) that your smarter, stronger and bigger than the obstacle in your way. Sure, you’ll get knocked down and failure is always a possibility. But toughness means getting back up and continuing to move forward and learning along the way.
There are a million Instagram posts, quotes and stories that reinforce this – but not enough dots to connect you from where you are to where you want to be.
For me, I connect those dots by fueling my mental toughness – and I do that in a lot of different ways.
I try to celebrate the milestones and forward momentum no matter how big or small they might be. I post almost all of my workouts on my Instagram Story (because posts on FB or an actual IG Post would be way more annoying than my posts already are). I do this, because on long rides on my indoor bike trainer, I love watching my IG Story highlights and seeing my times, distances and training that got me to where I am today. I am far from where I’d like to be, but I can 100% celebrate how far I’ve come. Using IG Stories has helped me do that and after 10 months of training, I can smile and laugh at the posts – which burn about 12 minutes (and growing) of time on the bike! (@MattthewCGoto on Instagram)
Selfishly, everyone likes attention – I’m not going to say I don’t like compliments or praise received on social media. But the reason I like the comments (and don’t act like you don’t) is because I’m my hardest critic. I’m the first person to compare the watts from todays workout to yesterdays. I can tell you if I’m getting faster or slower in each discipline down to the second, yard and mile. And I have a laundry list of thing I know I can do better or be better at… But I’m not as quick to give myself a pat on the back or praise – which is worth its weight in gold when someone who you care about, respect and trust leaves you the comment “I’m proud of you” or “You’re killing it.”
Another way to build your mental toughness is by finding a community of support who can hold you accountable and cheer you on. I train mostly by myself because of my travel schedule, but I consider myself to be unbelievably lucky to have a local gym/studio with caring, passionate and supportive people who always ask me how my training is going. Not just to be polite, but because they genuinely care and are cheering me on through this journey. I can’t count the number of times I left a hard workout feeling physically depleted – but fueled spiritually and mentally because of the advice, support and energy my community shares with me.
And I have some amazing friends and mentors who send me random and unexpected messages of encouragement – who I can never truly thank enough for their support. And my Plus+ for life has been more understanding and supportive than I deserve – especially with the 5:00am wake-up calls and the fact that I’m always wearing running shorts in public. #WhoWearsShortShorts #ItsMe
And I also fuel my mental toughness by leaving myself positive affirmations. For me, this comes in the form of post-its (so many post-its) to remind myself how many days I have till my next race – or to be confident with new projects at work or during tough decision making. Sometimes it’s setting a playlist with music that puts me in the best state of mind to crush a workout, relax or sometimes hits so hard I’m ready to go to war. And sometimes it’s as simple as a bag of gummi bears (Haribo – everyone else to the back of the line) waiting for me in my stinky gym bag as a post workout treat. #TreatYoSelf #GummiBears #HashtagsAreStupid
But what I have found to be the one of the best ways to reset, put me in the right mentality to take on challenges and to fill the mental toughness tank in my brain is to take a step back and come up for air… (and unlike everything else in triathlon, air is free)! The “time out” to breathe helps put things into perspective, slows down your heart rate and allows you to re-evaluate the situation.
If you get anything from my 2,000 words of rambling, I hope you can take these traits to build your own mental toughness – or at least gain some understand as to why other people do the things they do..
Be Open and Appreciate Praise
Find a Community of Support
Come up for Air
And if you are one of the lucky ones who have these tools, please help provide these for others. Give the compliment, ask what you can do to help someone else breathe easier and take the 2 seconds to give someone praise – you never how how impactful that can be. Sure, I’m talking about triathlons which most people will never try – but these principles speak to challenges in general – and we can all agree that we appreciate all the help we can get when life gets challenging.
So when things get challenging – like this mornings swim workout that I felt would never end, my neck mobility was non-existent and my coffee wasn’t kind to my stomach – I came up for air (literally – I soooo need to write Dad Jokes). I looked at my mental toughness checklist and appreciated the fact that I’m healthy, spending time on my personal growth and development, and have so much to be grateful for. Then I put my goggles back on my face (and awkwardly smiled at the old dude splitting my lane – he didn’t share my joy… but I’ll win him over eventually) and started playing one of my favorite songs in my head, and got back to swimming with the rhythm of the song in my head keeping my pace – and pushing through the neck cramps by switching lanes and being grateful for clean restrooms conveniently located to near the lap pool.
Once I finished the workout, I took a 6:48am selfie with goggle lines on my face and smiled – not just because the workout was done – but because I dipped into my mental toughness to go head to head with this mornings challenge… and I came out ahead.
I am still learning – every single day I’m learning. And in being open to learning I hope that I am growing in this process.
That you for reading – I hope you were able to cash in on the metaphorical Lucky Charm Marshmallows of positivity I hoped to share in this post.
I’m excited to share more of my triathlon journey with you and all that I’m learning in the process. If you have any training tips, advice or even general feedback – please send it my way – like I said, I’m always learning and would love to learn from your experiences too!