Water slide

Josh and I went swimming on the weekend. It’s partly to have some “mommy and Josh” time, and partly getting me more comfortable in the water.

We were merrily going along, trying different stroke in the pool, playing games in the water, and having a good time. Half way down the 50 metre lane, where the pool is the deepest, Josh notices a slide on the side of the pool. His eyes lit up.

“Mommy, I want to try the slide!”

“Sure, go ahead.”

The slide was maybe only 6 feet high, and the bottom of the slide was maybe a foot above the water. I knew Josh can handle it. He quickly climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, and came down like a cannon ball. Splash! He surfaced with a big smile on his face a few seconds later. (This whole time I’m clinging onto the edge of the pool for dear life.)

“Mommy, I want to do it again!”

“Sure.”

This time, he wanted to come down without his goggles. Splash! He surfaced again with a smile. I was so proud of him. He is such a great swimmer, and so brave.

Then, he asked me the deadly question.

“Mommy, do you want to try the slide?”

Instantly, I thought about 100 reasons I could give him why I should not try the slide, ranging from my ass is too big for the narrow slide, to I’m too full from lunch. Oh, I know, how about I’d rather not die?

It took me maybe eternity to answer him with a whisper, “No, I’m too scared.”

You read that right. I’m 41 years old and too scared to come down a kids’ water slide. I am much happier to jump out of an airplane, or bungee jump off a bridge, ride a motorcycle solo across North America, or hike up Kilimanjaro. But no, no water slide into a swimming pool.

Let me just take a second to remind you the fact that I am struggling to learn to swim. Each time I have my lesson or go practice swimming, I drink so much pool water that I can taste the chlorine in my mouth all day. Choking on water half way down a lane and then panicking to grab the pool edge is my specialty. To willingly go down a steep slide, and throwing myself into the deep end of the pool is just asking for trouble.

With all the wisdom he has accumulated in his 7 years, 2 months, and 14 days of life, Josh said in the most gentle and non-judgmental voice, “Remember last time you were scared of that tree run at Whistler? You tried it, you had fun and liked it. Maybe you will like the slide too if you tried it.”

Bam!

May this moment always serve to remind me that despite my irrational fears and parental failings, Josh is turning out pretty freaking awesome.

Sigh. “You’re right,” I said.

I climbed out of the pool, up the ladder, sat at the top of the slide, hoped I don’t drown in front of my kid. I cursed the “setting an example for your child” thing. I took a deep breath, pinched my nose hard, and slid down towards my death. Splash!

I recall lots and lots of bubbles, then I surfaced. OMG, I survived! Somehow I did not die. In fact, I had so much fun that I did it two more times.

Josh, one day when you’re old enough for swear words and scarcasm, I’ll let you read my blog. I want you to know that when I finally conquer my fear of water, you are a large part of that process, and I will always be grateful for that January Saturday afternoon when you encouraged me to try the slide.

Swimming

Me and Josh at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre

Swimming 2

Guess which one of us the better swimmer?

The fear of water

26154995_1582172691873309_7902964687652782080_n(1)Water is my nemesis.

My mom put Grant and I in swimming lessons when we were kids. She had a lifetime of regret for not learning to swim, so she made sure her kids learned to swim. (BTW, my mom did eventually learn to swim as an adult. More on this later.)

As a kid, I learned breast stroke and stopped there. It was good enough. In any event, I didn’t love swimming. I didn’t love anything that required practice. Like the piano. Anyway, Grant and I probably spent more time splashing around than actually swimming. All this took place in a swimming pool at a fancy health club where my dad had a membership. I did enjoy the cool water on hot summer days, and ate countless sandwiches at the poolside restaurant.

For the next 10-12 years, I was never required to swim. Since I didn’t love it, I don’t tend to want to go swimming.

I’ll spare you the details on how I almost drowned in a lake when I was 20, because, you know, my mom will read this and freak out.

My fear of water kept me away from water for the next 20 years. I could swim laps (with badly done breast stroke) in a pool if I know I can reach out and grab the edge of the pool and be able to see the bottom. But I never went swimming. Why would I? The fear-induced shiver each time I get in the water is just too much for me to handle.

I decided that this needs to change.

I was inspired by a small human–Josh. It’s not just his capability of swimming that inspires me; it’s his comfort level in the water. When we went swimming with whale sharks in the middle of the ocean in Mexico, he jumped into the water without hesitation. When his mask/snorkel fell off and he sucked in some water, he was not fazed at all. He got the guide to help put his mask/snorkel back on, blew the water out of his nose, and just went on his merry way to see the whale sharks.

Pride oozed out of my pores, and I was so inspired to be more like him.

I was inspired by another person–my mom. As a child, she was traumatized by old school jackass gym teachers and never learned to swim properly. When she saw Grant and I learn to swim, she was inspired to learn as well. So in her 40’s, she took lessons and learned to swim, and swam a lot in the following years.

I was also inspired by a bunch of strangers. When I did that duathlon race (run-bike-run) last summer, I longingly looked into the swimming pool at the athletes who were on the swimming leg of the triathlon. I was envious of their abilities, even if they were slow swimmers. I thought to myself, maybe one day. Maybe one day I will overcome the impossible, and learn to swim. Maybe one day I will be able to swim well enough to participate in a triathlon. Maybe one day.

The one day started last week. I signed up for 5 private lessons, and committed to going for 5 swims on my own. In 5 weeks (10 times in the water), if I make absolutely no improvement, I will concede defeat and remain a land animal forever. I am really hoping that I will make some improvements, regardless of how slight.

I’ll report back in 5 weeks on how I’m doing. Fingers crossed!

A moment in time

*Warning: very long post with many bad selfies*

About a year and a half ago, I set out to lose 15 lbs. I had no desire to be skinny; I just wanted to be less chubby. I figured 15 lbs is do-able.

 

Somewhere in this process, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can learn a new trick. I learned that it’s not just about the weight. I learned that I will always be learning. And I learned that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination.

Fat Angela

I have so few photos of myself, so I stole this from Sherry. This is taken in June 2016 when we were in Morocco. It was after this trip that I decided I needed a change.

Fat Angela 2

I was having the time of my life. The kids were growing bigger, my career was stable, I was having fun traveling and skiing. It’s not like I looked myself in the mirror everyday and hated my life.

I can learn a new trick

For 15 months, I kept a detailed record of everything I ate and every exercise I performed. I weighed how many grams of chicken breast I was eating, and used a heart rate monitor for every workout for an accurate count of calories burnt. I used a combination of Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app to help me track everything. Everyday I aimed for a caloric deficit. I had to do this. You know how people say, “Listen to your body”? I can’t. I can’t listen to my body, because I can’t hear it.

I remember years ago, one time I had lunch with my BFF Karen. She ordered a burger, as did I. (Karen, I think that may have been the first and last time I saw you eat a burger!) I wolfed my burger down whole, barely listening to what she was saying. By the time I looked up to take a breath, she had set half her burger down. She was done. No longer hungry. She left half her burger and never ate the rest of it.

I was amazed. How does she do that? If there’s food on my plate, I finish it. That’s just how it is. But this woman did not finish her food!!!!

The difference is, Karen listened to her body. I, on the other hand, only know to eat whatever is put in front of me, and eat it quickly. She controlled her food. My food controlled me.

Anyway, Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app tell me how many calories I have left for the day. The more I exercised, the more I could eat. Otherwise, 1200 calories is all I get for the day. I did not have to “listen to my body”, since I could not hear it anyway.

After diligently tracking everything I ate for 15 months, I was finally getting the hang of it. I was starting to get a feel of what I should eat and how much. I was finally starting to hear a whisper of a voice when I am satiated. I learned that I can be trained to listen to my body.

Less Fat Angela

Doing the P90X3 agility workout in November 2016. 6 am everyday was my “me time” in the gym. 20 lbs down.

It’s not just about the weight

I started with a goal to lose weight. I was 40, and have a less-than-perfect family health history of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, etc. My heart valve doesn’t close completely. I sit on my butt all day at a stressful job. It’s only a matter of time before shitty health problems took over my life.

I look at these two small human beings that I am beyond blessed to have, and damn, I want to be here for a good long time to embarrass them and watch them grow.

The first thing I did was increase my running volume, and starting spin classes at a studio. I often run early in the morning, and come home as the kids are just waking up. Savanna got savvy quickly to check if I was sweaty before she would give me a morning kiss. I loved that the first thing they see in the morning is mommy coming home from a run.

Then I started following some workouts from Beachbody, streamed over the internet. The kids sometimes watched me go through Fix Extreme or P90X3. Then one day, they joined me during my workout. Now if I work out at home, I’m bound to have one of them jump in with me.

When I bought a road bike and started cycling more, Josh told me he is crazy about cycling and he wanted to ride everyday with me. He is always asking how many kilometres we have done, so he can do just a bit more to beat his last record.

I learned that it’s not all just about losing weight. It’s about influencing my kids through action to live an active life, and do better than yesterday.

Josh working out

Josh doing Fix Extreme workout with me.

Josh cycling

One of many bike rides with Josh.

back

May 2017. 25 lbs down. Lots of strength training in the gym, before the cycling addiction started.

The learning never stops

When I first started with working out regularly, I ate a very high protein, low fat, and low carb diet. I cut out all rice, bread, pasta, and noodles. The only carbs I would eat is a small amount of fruit, and baked sweet potato. Mostly I ate a lot of chicken breast and low fat cottage cheese. No avocado, no nuts, very little cooking oil–the fat content scared me.

That worked, along with the workouts. Weight came off. I was happy.

Then I started cycling. Then I was told to eat carbs on long rides.

Wait, what? Carbs? Isn’t that bad for me?

I learned that on a long ride, I need carbs that will quickly convert to energy. If all I eat is protein, I won’t be able to handle a long ride. Well, damn, ok, I’ll eat some carbs.

That worked. I was still losing weight.

I read 6 different books on sports nutrition, from one end of the spectrum (body building) to the other end (vegan Ironman racing). I got 6 difference sets of advice.

I learned that the sport you train for may dictate some of what you eat. I learned that I need to eat a balanced diet to keep the rest of me happy. Mostly, I learned that I will never stop learning about the theories and sciences of what works and what does not.

Books

How much of what am I eating today?

Angela running

September 2017. Going for a run while on a business trip.

It’s a journey

When I lost the 15 lbs I set out to lose, I was happy. I was having so much fun with my workout routine, I just continued.

Today, I don’t feel like “I’m done”. I feel like I am just beginning to learn certain sports, and there are so many other things I want to learn. I took a cycling clinic last summer, and met some incredible women who inspire me to ride more, ride faster, run, and try different sports. I joined a bunch of rides with a local bike shop and met some kickass ladies who eats hills for breakfast and run at speeds I can only dream of. I just signed up for swimming again, because damn it, I’m gonna learn this!

When I signed up for the 122 km Whistler fondo 7 months ago, I thought to myself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” That’s how huge and unreachable the fondo was to me. And guess what? I did it.

So what else is so huge and unreachable for me today? Maybe I can do that a few months from now. Who knows?

Angela dressed

November 2017. 32 lbs down.

Today is just a moment in time in my journey. I wanted to document these thoughts, because some days are harder than others to be motivated. Like this morning when I had to get my butt out of bed for a run–that was brutal. But then tomorrow morning I scheduled myself to ride my bike on the rollers, which I am really looking forward to!

 

 

 

 

Jumping into 2018

2017 was awesome. The kids are growing like weeds. They are doing more (biking, skiing, swimming), and they wipe their own butts. Big win.

I have ran and pedal biked more than I ever have in my life. Towards the end of the year, Cliff also got into cycling. We changed our family eating habits to incorporate more whole foods and less processed crap. Another big win.

I have no plans to make 2018 “better”, because I don’t think of a year in terms of good or bad. I am fortunate enough to have my family, my health and my career, so I already feel like a million bucks right out the gate. I do plan to have as much fun as I can fit into 24 hours a day.

In keeping with the same tradition of the past 5 years, we spent a week in Whistler to end 2017 and welcome 2018. And of course that means jumping from the dresser to the king size bed for photos. Back when the kids were little, Cliff would toss them onto the bed. But now that they are both heavier and bigger, they get to use their own legs to jump.

Jump-2Jump-4Jump-5Jump-3Jump-6Jump

A real medal

I have a few “finisher medals” stashed away in a drawer, for having enough grit to finish a sporting event. Even then, I don’t have many of those, since I have spent most of my life “not into sports”. Translation: I am too slow and discouraged to participate in competitive events.

However, I have never had a REAL medal for placing top 3 in anything. Until last week.

A padded envelope showed up in our mailbox from Mountain Equipment Co-op. It was a third place finish medal from the duathlon I did back in August! I was third in my age group. I had no idea, but hey I’ll take it!

Back in 2001, when I was 25, I did the Crescent Beach duathlon. Even with my missed mileage, my time was:

5 km run: 47:48

20 km bike: 1:06:58

5 km run: 58:19

Total: 2:52:44

As you can see from above–this is not very good. At all. Most people can walk 5 km in 1 hour, and that was pretty much my running speed. Almost 3 hours of agony, with the officials closing the course right behind me.

16 years later, I quietly signed up for the MEC Langley Duathlon. I really didn’t tell very many people about it. Knowing my history of how slow I was in 2001, I was not going to advertise my slowness again.

The difference this time, is that I actually have been training pretty consistently, following a schedule. Also, I’m now a few pounds lighter. That always helps.

My time for the MEC duathlon was:

5 km run: 27:27

20 km bike: 44:48

5 km run: 28:34

Total: 1:40:49

I shaved almost 72 minutes off my 2001 time. 72 minutes!! Yeehaw!

I was very happy with the results. Just knowing that I did better than 16 years ago was a huge victory for me. I didn’t really care about how it compared to other people. These kind of victories are pretty private for me to savour. I am happy that I am stronger and faster as I age, and being an example to my kids for being active and loving it.

Then to get this 3rd place medal in the mail, it’s just icing on the cake.

My mom happened to be in town visiting, so I dragged her to the race with me. That was the best part for me. I will forever remember her cheering for me loudly every time I looped back to the transition area, holding her phone in front of her face to take pictures of me. She is so cute and she just warms my heart.

Look, Mom, we got a medal!

 

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Midlife crisis

mid·life cri·sis
noun
an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age
When I think of “midlife crisis”, I think of balding middle aged men driving convertible sports cars. Since I’m not balding, not a man, and don’t have a sports car, I have to figure out for myself what midlife crisis means to me.
I certainly don’t feel like I have a crisis of identity or self-confidence. If anything, I have only grown to be more comfortable with who I am inside over time. Regardless of how unhappy I was with myself through my younger years, I have come to accept myself more and more as I age.
All the deep and philosophical thoughts aside, I am loving my 40’s. I feel stronger and healthier than I ever have in my whole life. The kids are now old enough to be active with me. Last winter, all of us skied, and Josh was leaving me in the dust by the end of the season. This summer, we have put on more mileage on our bikes than ever. For the first time I bought new running shoes because I wore out the previous pair with running mileage. I get grumpy if I miss a workout or a run or a bike ride. I crave wholesome and simple foods. Tonight, we had a visit from this really lovely nutritionist who is going to help our family eat better and more wholesome foods.
So if anything, my midlife is pretty damn awesome. I’d like to call it midlife adventure, or maybe midlife party!
midlife crisis

Shit show bike ride

One evening last week, I took Josh on a bike ride down to Spanish Banks. He was determined to make it all the way to the anchor and back home. It would be a 14-km round trip, with some decent hills on the way back. Since he was so determined, I was happy to oblige.

It was a beautiful evening with the perfect temperature for riding. We stopped along the way a few times to play at a playground, throw rocks in the ocean, and climb some logs on the beach. All was well.

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On our return leg home, we had about 4 or 5 km to ride along the ocean, mostly on gravel. Josh wanted to lead the way back, and I was happy for him to set the pace. I’m not very good with gravel riding, but I didn’t expect him to go too fast anyway. I trailed behind him about 7 or 8 feet at a leisurely pace.

There was one narrow part of the trail that was occupied by some pedestrians. Josh went off the trail, riding between some trees, bumping along over some roots. He did great. Just at that time, another cyclist came up from behind us and past us at a pace much faster than ours. Josh let him past. Shortly after that, Josh started speeding up his pace. I thought he was just having fun, so I started riding quicker too. After a kilometre or so, I can tell he was straining to maintain the fast pace. I was starting to struggle with keeping up.

Firstly, I’m lousy on gravel. Secondly, I couldn’t figure out why he was riding so fast. I called out for him to slow down, but he kept flying down the gravel path, mashing down hard on his pedals. He nearly took out a few pedestrians, but he didn’t hear me yelling for him to slow down. WTF?

Finally, we got close to the Jericho Sailing Club, as the trail cuts through the edge of the parking lot. He slowed down before entering the roundabout. I was finally able to catch up to him, riding up beside him. I barely finished my sentence of, “Hey buddy, why are you riding so fast?…” His face was all twisted up, showing all sorts of emotions all at the same time within a fraction of a moment, and he started bawling. I quickly scanned him from head to toe–no blood anywhere–ok, what can be the problem? He was crying so hard that he couldn’t say a word.

I made him pull over. I asked him what was wrong. He was sobbing and snot was flying. He said, “I thought you left me.”

My mind was going at 100 miles an hour. Left you? Left you for what? Dude, you’re the one who left me behind! I was smiling and trying to figure out what the hell he was talking about. I said, “Hey, buddy, I was behind you. I never left you.”

He said, “I thought you went so fast that you left me.” He was still sobbing.

The light bulb went off in my head. I stopped smiling. That other cyclist that past us a few kilometers back! Josh thought that was me passing him, riding fast and leaving him behind! That makes sense now. No wonder Josh was riding so fast all of a sudden, trying to catch up to that other cyclist this whole time!

Oh, my little guy!

We sat down on a log, while Josh finished crying and riding through his feelings. I felt so bad for him. I held him, and repeated told him that I would never leave him behind.

We slowly made the rest of the way home. We had to walk the last kilometer uphill, because he just had no energy left to ride the hills. He fell asleep in record time that night.

Me, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep that night. The scene of what happened played repeatedly in my head. I looked for any crack in the logic of what happened, but I couldn’t find any fault. I couldn’t have guessed that he had mistaken the other cyclist for me. Once I decided no one is really at fault, and I couldn’t have prevented this, I let myself go through all the feelings that came with the event. I cried and cried and cried.

My heart broke in a million pieces, just thinking that my son thought I left him behind. What a horrible feeling for him to go through! He was straining so much to keep up, and the person he thought was his mommy just rode faster and faster until she was out of sight.

Life is kind of funny sometimes. It turns a perfectly great bike ride into a shit show. But what other occasion will allow me to look my son in the eye and say, “I will never leave you, ever!”?

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Day 127-129/365

Day 128 of 365 Angela Chang Photography

The principal at Josh’s school has been away for a few weeks for health reasons. Josh decided one night that he was going to write Mr. Evans a card. It said, “I hope you are orite (alright)”. I thought it was very sweet of him.

Day 129 of 365 Angela Chang Photography

The tube in my bike’s back tire bursted one night without warning. I had the bike turned upside down and snapped this photo of my gear while I waited for Cliff to come home with new tubes.

Day 127 of 365 Angela Chang Photography

The sun rises earlier and earlier everyday now. I am starting to forget what it’s like to wake up in the dark, go to the gym in the dark, and go to work in the dark. This photo was the sun casting shadows on the fire escape door in my building at 5:30 am while I was on my way to the gym.

Day 130/365 {Ivory}

14 years ago today, it was hot and sunny. I remember it well. I had to raise my arms to keep my armpits cool, while the rest of me sweated under the heavy wedding dress. Later, when I was walking down the isle, I can see Cliff standing at the alter, a sweaty mess as well.

Fast forward 14 years. I came home from work, soaking wet from riding my bike home in the rain. I opened the door to our apartment, and was welcomed by the two little humans I gave birth to, the fur baby we recently adopted, and the same sweaty sweet guy I married 14 years ago. Ah, how life has changed. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything else in the world.

Babe, thank you for being you, and letting me be me.

Day 130 of 365 Angela Chang Photography

Slow and steady does not win the race

Fiori bike

I’d like to think I am fast–a fast runner, a fast biker, a fast swimmer.

When I do these things by myself, and there’s no one to race against, I can feel the wind in my hair, and I think I’m fast.

Then, there’s reality.

The reality is, I am one of the slowest runner/biker, and one of the worst swimmers I know. Anytime I go hiking with friends, I’m always dead last. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great time. I am just…slow. Very slow.

Back in the college days (back in 2001), when I was young and stupid, I bought a road bike so I can train for a duathlon. A duathlon (instead of a triathlon) is a race of cycling and running, made for swimming flunkies like me. Rather than swim-bike-run, you do run-bike-run. The bike I had enough money for is the Fiori Roma. I think I paid $180 at Sports Junkies. I don’t have a picture of it, but it’s the exact same bike as the above photo I stole off the internet. Except mine didn’t have a cool paint job like this one.

I lived by the foothill of SFU at that time, and would ride the bike on Barnett Highway as training. I would ride that highway to Port Moody and back, and pat myself on my back for how fast I thought I was. I would run around the track at school to train for the running portion, and again doing it by myself while being completely oblivious to my slowness.

My friend Ryan joined me for the duathlon. Race day came, he took off at the start line, wishing me good luck. I started running hard, giving the race all my might. I felt like a champion, running with good form with my chest up. A few kilometers later, I noticed I am being passed by everybody and their dog. Literally. By the end of the run, I was exhausted.

Then I started with the cycling portion. I peddled hard. Other bikes started passing me. Still more other bikes continued to pass me. I kept telling myself that’s because these real athletes are riding the super lightweight race bikes, and I’m riding a vintage clunker. Then I noticed people riding their mountain bikes with fat knobby tires passing me. WTF?

By the time I got off the bike, my legs felt like jello. I left my bike and started the last running portion. I felt like shit. I had no idea how to train for a run other than a few laps around the track. And even though I thought I was pretty decent at running, at an event like this, I realized how lousy I was. I had to try really hard to pass a lady at least 3 times my age and twice my weight. I nearly vomited multiple times.

Still, I pushed on, running as hard as I could.

Either the cycling or the running course–I don’t really remember which one now–for the duathlon makes you go around the same route twice to make up enough distance. And for whatever reason, this fact completely escaped me. Essentially, I only completed half the distance required for one of the legs.

As I struggled along the last few km of the run (after already missing half the distance), the organizer van was picking up the cones and closing the course right behind me. I was gasping for air and my lungs felt like they were going to explode. I finally finished the race, and got my “finisher” medal.

When I saw my friend Ryan after the race, he was saying how going around the course twice was really hard on him. I was like, “Uh, what do you mean twice?” That’s when I realized I didn’t even really finish the race, since I totally took a wrong turn and missed half the course. And even then, I finished dead last in my age group.

I never participated in another duathlon again. I swore I would never do another one, or a marathon or half marathon or anything silly like that.

Now, in 2017, I am old and stupid. A friend was talking about doing a half marathon as a mean to push her limits. Something possessed me to put up my hand and say, “Oh, I’ll do it with you.” Then I am pretty sure she held a gun to my head and make me type in the registration details online. So apparently on October 1 this year, I’ll be running my first half marathon.

The half marathon training starts next Monday. If you are looking for me this weekend, I’ll be at home, drinking away my sorrows, and toasting the vintage Fiori Roma for all the times she made me feel fast.