Game plans, banana bread and the Mojave Desert.

Between packing up my short-lived California life into my mighty Volkswagen Rabbit and trekking across America to rekindle my Hoosier roots, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Here are some highlights of the road trip:

– The car didn’t overheat in the Mojave Desert.

– Going for a run in my favorite place on Earth (Boulder, Colo.) along with a plateful of the greatest gluten-free pancakes I’ve ever had (Reason No. 5463 I love Colorado).

– Reporting a brush fire along the highway in Colorado, essentially saving the entire state from sheer mayhem.

– Starting and finishing Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight and Matt Dixon’s The Well-Built Triathlete, complete with notes and diagrams.

– Reuniting with my mom and having four 15-hour days of driving to catch her up on every minute of every day I spent in California.

I had a fantastic time in California. My internship with Triathlete Magazine exceeded my expectations, and I made memories, friendships and professional connections to last a lifetime; however, I learned far more than I bargained for outside of the office. Between my first bike crash, first professional byline and first series of anxiety attacks, it’s been an exciting summer to say the least. I’ve learned more about mental toughness than I thought possible, and with it have come some valuable lessons and difficult decisions. I am gradually learning that living a healthy, happy and fulfilling life is an emotional investment, and I am finally making some deposits in the bank. I’ve spent the last few months placing my efforts, time and energy into making others happy, into satisfying their demands, interests and needs, leaving myself vacant. I lost sight of what is important to me, as I was blinded by what I had presumed to be important by others’ agendas. This lifestyle led to anxiety, injury and a lot of bloating. And no one likes bloating. I became dull, mentally, emotionally and physically. I lost sight of my dreams and aspirations – I handed the pen I once gripped so tightly my knuckles turned white to others, letting them write my life by their standards. I lost trust in myself. I lost my emotional compass and my abilities as a student and athlete. And, now, the pen is back in my hands.

A lot has happened since April and as I grip this pen, a bit more relaxed and at ease now, I have noticed that with the good, the bad and the ugly have come tremendous lessons and leaps toward happiness. This time, on my terms. Everything that has happened was with good intent; there was no malice or ill will, but it just wasn’t right for me. And if I’ve learned anything these last five months, it’s that I have to listen to my heart, head and gut. If any one of the three speaks out, it’s time to reassess. I’m never letting go of that pen again.

So, what’s the game plan now? A series of things, integrated in hopes of leading to a healthier and happier me. Here’s the plan.

– Tackle my perfectionism and practice acceptance. Reorganize my toolbox of mental toughness and dust off the forgotten tools I once handled so well.

– Coach myself and learn as much as I can about triathlon, training and my strengths and weaknesses. While this is a bit of a risk, the benefits far outweigh the costs at this stage in my athletic development. I have had to back out of five of the six races I registered for this year due to injury, and I feel out of synch with my body and training. Now is the time to experiment – I am young, motivated and have plentiful resources.

– Run with the Run Club at IU. Buy a singlet and race. Ditch the Garmin for a while. Have fun running again.

– Work with a qualified physical therapist and strength coach to become bullet proof. Lift heavy and get strong. Do a pull up.

– Stick with my current commitments and find peace in simplicity.

– Train more with the IU Triathlon Club. Make new friends with compression socks. Discuss bike porn.

– Schedule meal times into my calendar. Make them a priority. Cook a couple times a week, because it’s fun. Make banana bread.

– Foster my connections from the summer and beyond. Ask for advice. Freelance. Treat every door that is slightly cracked as though it were open with a welcome mat. Do what I love with passion.

Shavasana weekly.

– Blog regularly.

– Smile often.

If anyone has any advice on how to make delicious gluten-free banana bread, or on how to do a pull up, please let me know. Both would be appreciated.

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