Training? Are you talking about Training? (CAF Grant APPROVED!) – 3/29/18

Last year, I was fortunate to receive a grant from CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) for training. With all of the new disability training pieces in the fall, I wasn’t able to make full use of it. Things having gone back to ‘normal chaos’, I was hopeful to receive support from CAF for training again in 2018.

Earlier this week, I received the confirmation e-mail letting me know my 2018 Grant request had been approved! This will allow me to do a tremendous amount of training, both in the city and suburbs. I am excitedly planning things out to ensure that I get the most out of this wonderful support!

THANK YOU to CAF for their support, and thank you to them for re-upping in 2018! Your continued support is so greatly appreciated!

Hammer Powered Race (ET Indoor Tri) – 3/25/18

As I continue to look for a solution to the running issues, I’m continually trying new things. I know that there’s a full solution out there so that I don’t have numbness during the run. If I could just solve that Rubik’s Cube…

For Sunday’s ET Indoor Tri, I had added a new Hammer Nutrition product (Tissue Rejuvination) along with compression running socks into the mix. And with breakfast being a Hammer Bar with the last dose of Endrolytes and Heed in the bottles, it was a fully Hammer powered race.

As with the last Indoor Tri earlier this month, I had desired benchmarks going into it. While I didn’t hit all of them, and while just the bike improved for the 2017 race, it was still a good day. Not just because I felt more energy throughout it, but because I got to race with one of my Dare2Tri teammates (Val Chavez)!

Like last year, Todd guided for me for the Tri. But unlike last year, 1/2 lengths didn’t count in the pool. Knowing that and knowing where the time was led to me really pushing that last length to make sure it counted.

After changing, we headed to the spin bikes. I was glad that I had changed into my bike bibs, especially at about 26-27 min in when that triangle started hurting. Even more evidence that the saddle upgrade was a really good idea and will pay dividends in 2018 when I don’t have bibs.

My focus for the treadmill was to run the entire 20 minutes without stopping. And if it hadn’t been for spit, I would have made that happen. At about 12:30 in, I couldn’t get the spit in my throat to go back down and started minorly choking on it. As I wasn’t going to spit on the treadmill or floor, I had to walk for about 20-30 seconds to get that taken care of before going back to running.

While the jury’s still out on the new Hammer tool, I will say that the compression socks were a good purchase. A couple times during the run, I could feel the start of tingling that eventually goes to numbness. But the socks helped to stop that in a couple steps. I will of course continue to play with both during the two runs I have coming up.

You Couldn’t Race Without Them (Shamrock Shuffle Prep) – 3/17/18

Over the last 5 years, I have participated in a LOT of races. And I’ve got a LOT planned for 2018. During that time, we (or more correctly my guides since I’ve been focused on running) have done our part to thank the volunteers that are out there.

But those are just one level of volunteers that help to make sure that the race you’re participating in goes smoothly. There’s usually a small army (or a large one for big events) behind the scenes doing every thing imaginable so you have a great race.

During St. Patrick’s Day, I joined that army putting together packets for the Shamrock Shuffle. Now before I even touched them, several other groups had already taken the time to do envelopes, tags onto bibs (timing and name) and labels on the envelopes. My part was to scan the bib tags and double check everything.

After scanning 1200-1500 of them, I’ve got a much better appreciation for just how much work goes into a smooth event. The moral of this story – make sure you thank the volunteers out there as you’re racing. A LOT of people have put in time to make sure you’ll have a great race day!

NRC Pub Run – 3/15/18

Yes, March Madness… the most fun (or agony if you picked Virginia) you can have. Oh wait, I was talking about my March, not anything to do with basketball. And yes, there is a method to my madness…

As I’ve mentioned before, the run portion of the Tri is still a struggle. And since solo runs haven’t worked out well (as I’ll do the 1st mile in < 11:30 and be burnt out), I am trying something new this year. That’s using 5Ks as a way to work out the kinks and also improve. There are several different things that I will be trying between now and my next outdoor Tri. The focus the last two has been on the shoes – going to a thicker pad in the New Balance shoes. While it hasn’t been a magic bullet, it has helped – and I would have been SOL without it for Thursday’s run. This was the second March run that Achilles helped with a guide. I was able to find the other through NCC’s Tri Coach. At Natalie’s suggestion, she and I did a 10-15 minute warmup prior so I wouldn’t be as cold going into the run. The first 2 miles weren’t that bad and were on pace. But the 3rd was a bear between being tired and my feet going numb. This started slightly somewhere around 2.5 miles and got really bad in both feet shortly before the end. Even with all that, I kept going because of the support from Mark and Natalie. It helped me to hold off on fully walking until I felt like my feet would fold under even though I was in pain a lot earlier. The post-party, which was sponsored by Hoka was a lot of fun. And as I’ve said before, beer heals all wounds… 🙂 I’ve got two more races in March, and will be adding in compression socks to one of them. It was suggested to help with the numbness, and I’m willing to try anything within reason. I just want to get the times down.

First Timer Success (St. Paddy’s Day 5K) – 3/10/18

As I’ve said many times in the past, I am not a strong runner. I didn’t really start running until 2014, and that was after almost 20 years of not doing it. But it’s part of the Triathlon, so I can’t just avoid it…

Knowing that I need to get better prior to the main season starts, and knowing that running by myself isn’t always the greatest (mostly because I end up doing a 11 min 1st mile and are drained for the rest), I went looking for a plan B. This was and is to do multiple 5Ks starting in March. I figured that this would not only give me someone to run with but also force me run, hard.

Having not been able to find guides to run with me through my friends, I reached out to Achilles Chicago. They did an amazing job with finding guides for me. I believe that within about 24 hours of my initial e-mail, they had found guides for all 3 March races/runs for me!

My guide for this race (Jen) was just starting out her guiding career. She did an amazing job for her first time! And for those who might be thinking ‘I’d like to do that, but I can’t because I’ve never done it’, I encourage you to still try. If you can run, if you’ve got a good attitude and you’re willing to give up your race to help someone else, you meet all the criteria. If you have an interest in doing it, reach out to your local Achilles chapter or running company for help on getting started!

While Heed was in my bottle as usual, the real help for this race was Endrolytes. During a really bad Half a couple years ago, one of my guides told me about starting them 3 days out to help minimize issues. I’ve been doing that since and it’s worked well.

As we started the race, we were greeted with a nice long uphill. For those of you who are wondering, no I don’t intentionally choose to run hilly races (see Columbus). The hills just know where I live; they stalk me and try to see if they can break me. So far they keep losing… We were able to keep the pace and I was able to keep going throughout the hills (up and down) for about 1.75 miles before I had to walk to catch my breath.

As we made the turn at mile 2, we were greeted with a really nice surprise… more hills! What goes down (into mile 2) must come up (towards mile 3). At about 2.5, the normal numbness that I sometimes get came up and I had to walk for a little bit until it relaxed enough to run. Remember those lovely hills at the start? We got to finish going down them, and I thought the finish was just around the turn. So I was giving it everything. However, it turned out to be around the corner and down a few blocks. Quite an interesting .1 to run when you’ve already kicked it. Even with very little left, we still finished strong and in the right pace area. That happened mainly because Jen’s counting, which I was focusing on during that last .1.

I had such a great time, and am grateful to both Achilles for the connection and Jen for running with me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise!

Eagle Convocation (Arnold Indoor Tri) – 3/3/18

As I started planning my path to qualify in 2018, Columbus seemed like a great place to start. And with family there, I thought it’d be a great double dip of business and pleasure. Having found a guide through Team RWB (Robin) and getting all the logistics set, I was ready to go.

After arriving and doing the course walkthrough, we got in a bit of practice on the swim and spin bike. Things seemed good, and I was confident going into Saturday even with an updated run course (to ensure funeral processions didin’t interfere with us or us with them). Even without being able to fully see the lane markers at the bottom of the pool, it still felt straight.

On Saturday morning, we did the race meeting and then got everything prepped. With how things were set up, lane lines were much easier to see, so I was feeling really good about hitting a qualifying time (1:25:21 or less). Especially since during warmups, I was in the right range for the swim for 50s. I realized post race that we should have done it including walls.

With the wall time, I was about 3 minutes behind where I planned to be on the swim. And the up-and-down staircase route that was T1 was 2 minutes more than anticipated. But getting to the bike, I was confident that I could make up time. Especially since during practice, 20mph had been an ‘active recovery’ speed.

Good music has always helped during workouts, and the race was no exception. Knowing that I was behind my goal by at least 5 minutes going in, I was doing everything I could to get that time back. I believe the overall average was 22-23 mph. But when music like Welcome to the Jungle came on, I was able to just focus on that and pump out 29-30mph. The much larger TYR water bottle from the January camp (filled with Heed) helped tremendously as I was pushing through this. I would have been out of fluid if I had gone with one of the smaller bottles given how hard I was pushing it.

As we left the bike, I knew qualifying was starting to slip away. I believe I had 35 or 36 minutes left when we hit the run course. A stretch, but not impossible if it was a decent run course. And it would have left me collapsed at the finish line. However, the run course was very challenging.

I think the best way to describe it is: Get on a treadmill and set it for 3% grade. Run that for a 1/3 of a mile. Then set it for -1% grade and run that for 1/3 of a mile. Then set it for 6% grade and try to run that for 1/3 of a mile. Repeat 3 times…

While the first part was a challenge, I was still optimistic until the back 1/3 of the lap. At that point, it became about just grinding through as quickly as possible (for rankings). What helped make that happen was the Eagle cheerleader from Cincy (Kris) that appeared during the first lap of our run. Big, big thanks to her for that continual support. Even though that back 1/3 was no fun, knowing that she was up there waiting to cheer us on made it a little easier… And even with the hill issues, it was still a respectible 5K time in the range I expected.

For those of you who are wondering, I missed the NQ cutoff by about 13 minutes. Even though I didn’t qualify, there were a lot of positives out of the race and out of the weekend. It also gave me a ‘starting point’ to work from and work things out for the remaining chances to qualify.

It was great to see family throughout the weekend. Big thanks to my parents, who drove almost 700 miles round-trip in less than 72 hours so I could race.

2018 Dare2Tri Elite Camp (2/23-25/18)

The Dare2Tri Elite Camp is the ‘unofficial’ start of each season. Living in the Chicago area, it’s far too cold for the season to officially start until at least late April. As with last year, camp was held at Fitness Formula Club (FFC) Union Station. Not only do they do a great job with hosting us, but it’s an amazing facility. If you work in the city, I would suggest checking it out as a new or replacement club for yourself!

Prior to every camp and every race, I have anxiety about packing. Simply because I always forget something. Unsually it’s something minor that I can go without, borrow or buy if I really need it. However, this time, it was a biggie. I thought I had packed my Tri kit; I realized at the train station that I didn’t have it. So while I could have borrowed a suit, I went back for it. Simply because I knew it would be bugging me all weekend if I didn’t. I was glad I did it, but this [expensive] mistake also meant I missed out on the video swim analysis prior to camp.

Day 1 of camp consisted of swim drills (a lot of skulling to work on stroke) and run drills. Part of the treadmill run set was a hill repeat set. 4% incline (1 min) -> 5% incline (45sec) -> 6% incline (30 sec) -> 5% incline (45 sec) -> 4% incline (1 min) -> 2% incline (2 min). When the run starts to tax me in general, there are a few songs that I start singing in my head to distract me from thinking about the run. After the hill piece of the set, my mind was so mush that I couldn’t remember the words to songs that I’ve continually sung for the last 15 years. Even with all of that ‘unfun’, the big plus out of the run was that I didn’t notice the numbness in the bottom of my feet until about 45 min in. I should be off the 5K course before then, so the new shoes were worth the investment!

Day 2 of camp was much longer – swim, bike, strength, run, yoga (in that order for Ambulatory). There were some interesting Open Water drills as part of the swim, including trying to draft in diamond formation. During the bike session, the normal triangle issues came back. I know there’s probably a good way to stand up in clips on a CompuTrainer while it’s in motion. I’m just not confident enough to try it. I think I pulled something in one of my quads during strength, so the run was a bit of a challenge. And since I am a man, not a pretzel, you can all imagine how yoga went…

After this very long day, we headed over to the Edge Athlete Lounge for recovery/dinner. They have a 50 degree / 100 degree tub set that you’re in for 8/8/4 minutes (cold/hot/cold) for recovery. While it was fun to do, the first two minutes were brutal. Once your body goes numb, it’s not as bad… Time in the NormaTec boots afterwards completed my recovery cycle. These are a very cool piece of equipment that work quite well – they should though for the $1200+ price tag…

Day 3 was the FFC Indoor Tri. While things weren’t exactly where I wanted them to end up (shooting for 400/11.5-12/1.67), they were encouraging, expecially the bike. Also, in comparison to last year’s race, swim was about the same, bike was +1.8mi and run was -.02.

I noticed that this year’s camp drained me more than last year’s did. I think a part of that was the nutrition pieces I’ve been working on since the start of the year meant I had more to give and thus pushed harder and was spent. In fact, so much so, the beer that I brought down wnet untouched. I was just too tired

I was doing the math throughout the weekend and since. I truly believe that I have a shot to qualify for Nationals at my next race because of where things are at. What it’s really going to come down to is whether or not I can push a couple of 22-23mph miles on the bike to ensure I’ve got enough time for the run. The bar is at 1:25:21 for Male VI.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL[ball] (2/17/18)

When I first heard about Goalball, my initial reaction was ‘absolutely not; never; that just sounds awful’. But over the last year of so, I’ve changed my view on Goalball, wanting to try it.

Since I can’t drive, GLASA’s programs in Lake Forest aren’t feasible. At a minimum, I’d spend 8 hours in transit or $100 in Ubers/cabs. So when I saw the Chicago clinic, I was excited to do it and finally have a chance to try Goalball.

As I was on the way down, I had started listening to Simon & Lesley’s book. One of the points that stuck with me from the first couple chapters was ‘you know you can get through the pain because you’ve experienced it before and it hasn’t killed you’. That point will become key/apparent later.

During the initial drills, the two Dans stressed form. I think the best way to describe it is Superman with bilateral breathing. I know, I know, that’s not an exact representation; but it’s the best I’ve got. And since you can’t see anything, have at most 3-5 seconds to react to the ball coming at you, you just have to work at form until it’s catlike muscle memory strong.

Having never done Goalball before, the form wasn’t always there or perfect. During one of the opponent’s throws, I didn’t get my arms in the right place, so the ball went right into my face – hard, hitting the nose painfully.

All those falls I mentioned during the CA camp sucked, but I think the last one (where the bike was on top of me) just confirmed the fact that a fall won’t kill me. So instead of the reaction being ‘[Explitive, explitive, explitive], walk to the side’, it was ‘Is it broken? No. Okay, give me 10-15 seconds to get blood flow back to it and let’s go.’

It was a tremendous amount of fun, and I really hope that the 2 Dans can get legs under a Chicago program. Even though it’s 90+ min of transportation each way, that’s far better than a minimum of 4 hours.

Dare2Tri Development Team (2/15/18)

At this time 3 years ago, I had no idea that Dare2Tri even existed. As I’ve said in several blogs, the 2015 Naperville Sprint was intended to be a ‘one and done’. And then I ran into Keri Serota (Dare2Tri Executive Director) at the 2015 Shamrock Shuffle; the rest is history.

After Chicago 2017, I thought I’d be on the outside looking in on several fronts for 2018. That was my race to prove a lot of things and to end 2017 strong. And then it all fell apart during mile 11 on the bike when my entire body went numb.

Thankfully, my fears weren’t reality. 🙂 I will be starting my 3rd season as part of the Development Team next weekend. I am extremely grateful to Dare2Tri for all of their support to this point, and for continuing to believe in me.

I am excited for 2018. The goal is to be representing Dare2Tri in the National wave in June. I’ve got a plan and a path to make that happen – follow the blog to learn more as it unfolds.

If you’d like to view the entire Dare2Tri Elite Team, Development Team and Jr. Development Team rosters, please visit Dare2Tri’s site.

No Sight No Limits 2018 (1/16-21/18)

[Photo courtesy of Amy Dixon / Camp No Sight No Limits]

This was my second year going out to San Diego for Amy Dixon’s No Sight No Limits Camp. While it was a challenge to disconnect from everything else for the week, the return for doing so has been immense.

As a blind/VI athlete, trust is essential. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, trusting that they won’t lead you off course, into obsticles or wreck the bike. As I was having problems finding a guide, Amy helped me with that. While I hadn’t met Chris prior to camp, I trusted it would all work out well. And it did – in so many ways!

With both United Airlines and Southwest Airlines generously agreed to waive the bike fees, everything was set. A chance to leave the Chicago cold for a week in the San Diego sun? Absolutely – stop twisting my arm!

During the bike builds, we found out that my tandem wouldn’t work for us. I had thought it was a M/L frame; it’s actually a S/M frame. So we let a team that fit better to it use it and were on one of the Santana had generously loaned for use during camp. Being on a new bike, it sometimes takes a couple of rides to get everything adjusted, so our first group ride was with the seat too low. But it all got worked out.

Day 2 started with us in the pool, followed by bike skills on the grass/pavement and then a run session. During both this day and the following, Chris Huxley was doing individual stroke analysis with everyone. I am anxiously waiting the drills so that I can work on all of that with my coach. While this year the grass was much drier, the bike skills were still a challenge. I didn’t realize that the cover on one of my cleats had come off, so I had bent it while walking. Let’s just leave it at clipping in/out was no fun until Mike helped to switch them out after Day 2. During the run, the entire front piece of both knees started hurting really bad – icing afterwards helped that.

Day 3 started out in the pool again, followed by work on the Criterion course / drills and transition. Like new shoes, new cleats take some time to get broken in. So for Day 3, while the clipping in/out was better, it still wasn’t smooth. The Criterion course in a challenging, hilly course, and when you’re confident on it, is a lot of fun. But since I had fallen several times due to clip issues prior, it was a little bit of white knuckle riding. Thankfully we didn’t have to try and do transition practice in the hail agin this year! 🙂

Day 4 started out with swimming in Ventura Cove followed by a bike/run brick and then strength training. I’m very grateful to Xterra’s help in having a long sleeve wet suit. Trying to swim in the cove in a short sleeve one would have been a bad idea. It had been about 5 years since I’ve swum in salt water, and the salt taste from my mustache kept making it a little hard to consistently swim. But it was still fun, and I was looking forward to doing it again the next day. Going into the Criterion course fresh (no falls) made it much more enjoyable. Still a challenge, but no white knucles!

As we headed to strength training, it started to rain. When it rains hard in San Diego, it backs up into the ocean, and you can’t swim in it for 48-72 hours afterwards. A hard rain at Fiesta Island turned our Triathlon for Day 5 into a Duathalon. And post storm, there was a 20mph+ head wind across most of the bike course. But Chris kept us steady and moving forward on the bike. Both (shortened) runs got completed, and we finished strong.

Throughout camp, there were also lectures on bike maintenance, race prep, sports psychology (presented by Simon and Lesley – their book is available here), recovery (the Normatec boots are amazing), technology (including a really nice presentation by Craig from RunGo) and nutrition. Oh, and most importantly, post-race massages from Amy’s roommate who is a licensed massage therapist. 🙂

While there were hiccups and challenges during the week, I learned a tremendous amount. I have already been applying things learned there to my practices. And Chris Holley, who is a nutrition coach, has started helping me to tackle what’s been an ongoing hurdle. I am excited to see how the season turns out with putting all of this to use and to being back in San Diego in the near future!