Change how you see the world…

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.

Working for the Weekend…

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.

How you are making the best of our new normal?

¡Bienvenidos Bogotá!

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

How many people get to travel and teach at international training centers across the world?
And I always try to learn more about the places I go, like learning which artists are native to the area and seeing the popular sites that make the destination unique!
And there is no coffee like Columbian coffee… I fell in love with Juan Valdez coffee that day. I bought awesome coffee cups from that shop that I still use to this day!


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!

¡Bienvenidos Bogotá!

Wake Up Early. Go the Extra Mile. Bring a Friend.

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.

Our destination – Mission Peak Regional Preserve (East Bay Regional Park District Website: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/).

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).

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From step 1 on the trail, you can be within feet of grazing cattle who aren’t even phased by your presence. It was a beautiful start to the day being able to see these cattle and near coyotes waking up in the distance. The howling of the baby coyotes trying to find their pack off in the distance was a a little eerie at first but a pretty cool reminder that we’re visiting – but this is their home.

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”).

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The recent rain made for some amazing lush and green landscapes. The entire trail was framed by green grass as beautiful rolling hills – topped off with soft clouds brushing the tops of the mountains.

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About 1/2 way up, there were a handful of rock formations like these. It was pretty cool to see, but don’t think to deep into it. Hikers were knocking these down and re-stacking them. While they look cool, they aren’t of spiritual or cultural landmarks… just well balanced rocks. And my creative angles caught the top to bottom view of these, but they aren’t more than 18 inches tall. Sorry if you thought it was bigger – it was cold outside, haha.

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Moments like this totally made the morning – just over 3/4 the way up to the top, you turn and realize that you’ve made it to the east side of the mountain. From that point on (and again, based on our start time) we were greeted by the sun – almost as if the sun was on a race with us to meet at the peak of the trail.

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.

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Love this girl! Anyone who willingly wants to meet at 6:00am for an intense outdoor workout in the cold is a “ride or die” personality you want in your life – and the quality time to catch up, laugh and connect is the icing on the cake to any workout or adventure!

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!

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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…

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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.

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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!

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Challenge = Change

“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!

“I am, Giant”

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…

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Photo Credit: Sarah Lau-Braunhut (Ironman Arizona 2020 & IMAZ Alumn: Facebook Group)

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.

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Photo Credit: Julia Reich (Ironman Arizona 2020 and IMAZ Alumn: Facebook Group)

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.

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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…
Or the months of work it took to get there…
Accomplishing something new,
Becoming something more
And finding your own Giant inside yourself

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Work Hard. Play Hard.

“I’m a firm believer in if you work hard, you should play hard. So, I try to keep my life as balanced as possible to keep my sanity.”
– Alicia Sacramone

Today was hard – really hard. But worth every minute.

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Thank you for the love, support and positive vibes – I took them on a 70.3 mile journey today. And they helped get me there faster than even I imagined.

I went from the “back of the pack” triathlete to “somewhere in the middle” – and to see improvements means so much in terms of my work/life balance and also my triathlon training.

I don’t have the words to fully express how today went just yet. But if pictures truly are worth 1,000 words, there are about 3,000 to read over below…

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Don’t forget to come up for air…

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.”

Narcissistic? Maybe. Reinforcing Mental Toughness? Absolutely.

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.

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I like filming my swim workouts for corrections – especially in interval training (which I’m terrible at – Example 5,001 of being a tough critic). But this screenshot mid-300 yard repeats was inspired by one of my favorite triathletes, Cody Beals. He has a blog that I follow and I have found a lot of inspiration and motivation through his story, experiences and the fact that he’s a bad ass triathlete that just won IRONMAN Mont Tremblant with a sub-8 hour finish… His photos are way cooler too: http://www.codybeals.com =)

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..

  • Celebrate Milestones
  • Be Open and Appreciate Praise
  • Find a Community of Support
  • Positive Affirmations
  • 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!

 

Don’t forget what you “get” to do…

When you change your mindset from what you “Have To Do” to what you “Get To Do” you start to really appreciate the big (and little) things!

I drove 45 minutes to work event in Santa Cruz and got lost, was 45 minutes late and didn’t bring sunscreen (ouch). But while trying to focus on the positive, I looked down and caught these random flowers (or pretty weeds). This was a perfect reminder for me to stop and appreciate. And I smiled from ear to ear, got down in the grass and had to capture this moment with the clear blue sky and the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the distance!

I’ve been Coast to Coast this week for work, have had more things on my To-Do list than items crossed off and like most of us – have self induced guilt for wanting to do more and be more for myself and others.

But one thing that really makes me see the glass half full, is waking up every morning and approaching the day with a positive attitude.

My recent affirmation and motivation has been to change the way I think of my schedule and To-Do’s as “Get To Do” items instead of “Have To Do” items.

This isn’t a new revelation for me (and I’m sure you’ve heard of this before) but it really has changed the Minutes, Hours and Days in my Week!

I like to start my day pretty early, usually between 5:00-6:00am… and some days I just do NOT feel it and want to roll over and hit the snooze button. Well, after two missed 6:00am swim workouts – the guilt of the skipped workouts started to weigh on me. So in my workout notebook (yes, I have a notebook – and it’s color coded, has sheet protectors and is glorious) I listed “6:00am Swim.”

Then I wrote “I know how to swim – not everyone can.”

Then I wrote “I get one hour of cell phone and e-mail free time just to think when I’m underwater.”

And then I wrote “After a 3,000 yard swim I can pretty much eat anything I want without regrets that day.”

Needless to say, I made my next swim workout. And rolling out of bed at 5:00am was (a little) less painful and I approached the workout feeling grateful for the opportunity I had to put myself through and hour of swimming hell. 🙂

Now, you don’t have to wake up at 5:00am and splash around a pool while the sunrises to approach the day with gratitude. But it’s working for me, and I wanted to put it out there in hopes that it does the same for you!

If you have any motivational tips, inspiring quotes or things you do to be more productive, efficient or (especially) grateful please comment and let me know!

Cheers to “getting to” it!

Kona, Hawaii – Turtle Time!

Being on the West Coast, we have easy access to a ton of beaches… but sometimes it’s fun to venture farther away from home to explore new beaches and frontiers just hours away.

I’ve always had a love for Hawaii… It could be because of the family I have there, growing up close to my Grandmother who was born and raised on the island or the islands opportunity for adventure. I’ll say it’s a combination of those reasons – either way Hawaii ranks pretty high on my favorite places on earth (including middle-earth for those of you that have experienced Hobbiton).

Recently airlines have been offering new direct flights to the islands, and when we found direct flights to Kona – an island we haven’t been to yet – it was an easy CLICK and we were booked to experience the “Big Island” for the first time.

There was so much to see and share that this post is just going to be my “WOW” post…

“Kona.. WOW…”

That pretty much sums it up.

But my absolute favorite part of our trip was getting to swim with the green sea turtles – natives to Hawaii and a local staple of the island and culture.

Arriving into Kona, you see turtle stickers, turtle stuffed animals, turtle candy, etc… I really thought it was a gimmick… Until I took my first dive into the crystal clear teal waters of the island.

I had read that the island was known for its diving, so I packed my fins and goggles excited to get in some swimming and sight seeing underwater. But my expectations were blown away and diving experiences redefined minutes after I hit the water.

I can’t really even put into words how amazing it was to see these larger than life creatures effortlessly floating through the water and totally at calm and peace while idiots with GoPro’s gawked in awe of them swimming (Hi, I’m that guy), eating and just living their best turtle lives.

Check out the highlight reef from my (many) dives on my Vimeo Channel:

Or check out the Cliff Notes version on Instagram TV (IGTV):

Looking forward to sharing more from this trip with you! And if you’re a Kona expert, please let me know what we can do next or your favorite places to dive on the island! This was our first Kona – and it won’t be our last!

 

Go Outside – The Ruth Bancroft Garden

Our newest Home Improvement project is the front yard – but you’d never know by looking at it.

The abundance or rain this winter brought the grass in the backyard back to life (woo hoo) but it also brought more weeds than we have ever experienced. We can pull 1 but 2 come back overnight. I’ve been referring to them as “Gremlin weeds” – they sprout-up like crazy, reek havoc on the landscaping and the rain only multiplies them.

But the weeds aside, we are planning an entire facelift on the front of the house (more to come on that project). And a big part of a new yard is NEW PLANTS!

So I found the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA which is 3+ acres of “dry” plants and landscaping. We really want a low maintenance yard that is full of plants but is also drought resistant (CA has a ton of rain right now – but that isn’t always the case).

We spent a good hour or so exploring the gardens and loved the different succulents, cacti and various plants and flowers throughout the carved out trails and walkways in the garden.

While this garden put my succulent garden in the garage to shame – it was also really inspiring to see what plants can do when they are well cared for and given the opportunity to grow, bloom and thrive. Not to mention, we got a ton of ideas for our future front yard – and possible back yard projects (but let’s get the front yard done first).

I really enjoyed the field trip and wanted to share some of the pictures with you all here on my blog!

For $10 (for adults) you get access to the gardens and get a small booklet to self-guide yourself through the clearly marked off and labeled garden.

You also get a handout of what is currently in bloom – sounds obvious (is it blooming or not?!?!?) but it was really helpful in identifying the plants that we saw as we explored the garden.

The entrance is very humble, but it’s the plants inside that are the WOW factor. And the new vistors center can be seen to the left in the above picture, I will totally make a trip back to see the new center when it opens later this year.

Near the entrance is a really nice titled wall depicting a lot of the plants that you will see inside. I appreciated the detail in the title wall so much I had to take a few pictures on our way out.

I have seen a lot of the same species of succulents that were on display in the garden – but never ones as big as I saw there! Some of them were literally 6 feet tall.

Reading along in the booklet, it was awesome to read about the different species in the garden that were brought in from around the world – like the fan-looking plant (below) that was brought over all the way from Australia.

Some of the plants were 6+ feet tall – while others were only centimeters big, like these baby succulents (below) that lined the trails near the cactus farm.

I was in constant awe of the different species but also impressed with the variety of colors on display. The brightest oranges and yellows and so many different variations of pink and green.

The flowers shown above had the coolest “watercolor / tie dye” coloring to them. No two flowers were the same and the bleeding of the colors looked almost hand painted.

The symmetry of the plants also impressed me. The way that the plants were shaped gave them so much personality and structure. I can see how their shapes and distinct lines could easily inspire architecture and design.

I want to create a similar feeling in our front yard (or back yard) like we saw at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ideally an effortless blending of varieties of plants, colors and sizes to create a beautiful venue to enjoy the outdoors – a task that sounds simple but clearly takes a great deal of planning and knowledge of the plants and their needs.

Another cool part about the garden, is that they sell a ton of different plants on site! The different species of plants in bloom also have picture indicators in the handouts to let you know if they shop carries similar species to purchase and take home with you.

And even after spending an hour+ roaming the garden, we still found wonder in looking at the different plants for sale.

I hope that we take some of the inspiration from the Ruth Bancroft Garden into our design and plant choices. It was a great trip and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Bay Area looking for something fun to do outside – especially if you have an appreciation for plants (succulents, especially)!

You can learn more about the garden at their website, here:

Ruthbancroftgarden.org

There is a lot of history behind the garden and how Ruth Bancroft started her fascination and appreciation of plants. Definitely worth reading up on!

If you know of any great places or ways to get inspired when designing a new yard, please share it with me! I’d love to hear what you have learned – especially if you have before and after photos to share!

Thanks for reading and I’m excited to share more on our projects as it gets moving forward!

 

 

 

Make the best of the weekend…

When work is part of your career it can take you to some pretty awesome places… and when your spouse travels for work too – you might get lucky and tag along when work takes them to exciting locations!

Recently, we took advantage of a conference in West Palm Beach, FL and made the BEST of our weekend!

If you get the chance to visit Naples, FL – jump on the opportunity! It wont be one you regret!

Our mini-vacation started on Friday afternoon with meeting up with a great friend for a sunset cruise. Our friend knew all of the right things to see, do and pack for the boating experience. She had snacks, wine and everything you needed to kick back, relax and unwind after a crazy work week (like the best grapes I’ve ever had).

Being on the water was the place to be! The pelicans weren’t shy at all and made an aggressive grab for anything that might be a tasting treat.

We were blessed with calm waters and a picture perfect sunset…

And aside from the beautiful sky – touring the local islands and seeing the spectacular homes was a lot of fun – and unreal to see how “the other side” lives, haha.

The next day we were up bright and early for an exciting jet-ski tour of Marco Island where the locals had no problem letting their presence be known…

Our adventure guide gave us a great history lesson on the history of the islands, architecture and community.

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I don’t think I have ever been so close to a dolphin in open water. Our guide was an expert on the territory and took us to all of the best coves and sites to see beautiful birds, interesting plants and even more dolphins!

And to finish the day, we spent the afternoon getting a bite to eat at a locals lunch spot (always trust the locals) before kicking back and enjoying the company of great friends and the beautiful day.

One of my favorites parts of the trip was catching up with this little dude! As adults, we don’t get many chances to play tag on the beach and building race tracks in the sand – so when the opportunity pops up, take it!

And as a millennial I’m required by law to post a picture of my food, post an inspiring quote with every sunset picture I post – or -randomly do a handstand and nag my friends to take the picture… so here’s to getting another stamp on my millennial card!

And I’ll save you the inspiring quote – just appreciate the point of view. It still blows my mind the number of colors and changes that happen in the last minutes we share with the sun before it’s gone forever (…so that was a bit dramatic, but you get it).

Living in California, I love the weather we have and the beauty that surrounds us. But it’s amazing to experience other corners of the world (or the country). Spending time with friends (and each other) is a gift we don’t take for granted – but getting two beautiful sunsets like these is the icing on the cake and a reminder how great life truly is.

Sometimes you get a week off… other times you have a Friday night to Sunday night before you have to get back to work. It’s doesn’t always have to be most amount of time – if you’re lucky, you can make even the smallest period of time special.

Work can be crazy and take a lot of your time, your energy and you away from your loved ones at times – so take advantage of the time you have.

Make time for family. Make time for friends. And make sure you make time for the little things… likes appreciating the sunset.