Glow On! (G.L.O.W. 5K) – 5/18/19

For those of you who may be new to the blog, I am night blind, which makes night activities a challenge. But as I’ve said in the past, I refuse to be a prisoner of the dark. To that end, I planned 3 5Ks in the dark for 2019. The G.L.O.W. 5K was the first of these races.

As I can see very, very little during these night races, I rely heavily on my guides. It’s about complete faith and trust that they’re going to keep me safe. Not just from cracks and poles, but also small children…

As with any race, there was a bottleneck at the start. However, it was worse that other races because of all the small children around us. Many would run ahead of their parents and stop suddenly. Some would stop with their parents without warning to take pictures. In both cases, it created extra obstacles. Thankfully both Chris and Erjon helped to guide, and to guide me around these two-legged obstacles.

Even though I couldn’t see much, I was still able to keep a decent pace. And it was another 5K where the only walking that I did was through the aid station (at about 1.75mi). I was able to set a new dark PR by about 3 minutes!

Thanks to Chris and Erjon for all their help!

Bicycle Ride (USABA Cycling Camp) – 5/2-5/8/19

“{We’re] not here to fuck spiders.” – Australian saying

After seeing photos and hearing stories from friends last year, I slated the USABA bike camp into my 2019 schedule. I believed that it would be extremely beneficial — not just for improving my cycling skills, but also because it would push me outside my comfort zone.

But before any of that could happen, I had to confirm my pilot. With the Velodrome, mountain climbining and some other things that I knew would be scary the first time, it was a short list. Thankfully, Danny was able to do it and I was able to move forward with the application.

The first day of camp included the bike build and a skills ride. It was a short ride out to the crit course and then several laps around it. It was easier to do the crit course / drills clockwise than it was counter-clockwise. At some point during the first day, one of the coaches noticed the seat was too low, so we raised it prior to day 2.

Day 2 of camp started with skills and ended with a 20mi+ ride. Some of the skills (especially the hip steering ones) were a little unnerving; but we made it through them. The afternoon ride included climbing, a rolling pace line and a couple of dicey stop sign crossings on the way back.

I think the biggest challenge of day 2 was with height. With the higher seat height, I was having problems getting clipped in consistently. As it became more of an issue during the afternoon ride, we decided to try other cleats. Unfortunately, my shoes wouldn’t take the cleats that we planned to use. So we went to plan C — borrowing cleats and using pedals that I had had problems clipping into.

Day 3 was spent entirely at the Velodrome. Because I was having so many issues with clipping in, people had to physically help get my feet into them and I had to stay clipped in at stops. After going through the intro / overview of the Velodrome, it was time to conquer my fear of it. And after the first few laps, it got easier. That changed when we went high and another tandem was underneath us. The ‘people look like ants’ viewpoint was the issue I believe.

The afternoon presented even more stressful moments. We spent it doing standing starts, during which I felt so incredibly unstable and flying starts. The standing starts got a little easier as we kept doing them, but I was never fully comfortable with them. Thankfully, we only did one flying start — that was the worst for me.

Day 4 was ‘race day’ at the Velodrome. It started with pursuits (4K for men and 3K for women), followed by kilos. While we succeeded in not being caught during our pursuit, I didn’t have ‘track hack’ afterwards. That did happen after our kilo though. That and chain ring issues that caused the bike to throw the drive chain. Thankfully the mechanic was able to bend the teeth back.

During the afternoon ride, the pedal issue finally caught up with me. Because of the clipping issues, I was having to hold a position during red lights. This was usually at least 30 seconds, and sometimes longer. So as we rode, my hands continually became more numb. At about 20 miles both my hands and arms were numb enough that I no longer felt safe. I ended up in the van, extremely disappointed that I had dropped Danny.

Day 5 started with climbing and ended with TT recon. Because of the issues the prior day, I was in the van on the way to the base of the mountain. After the first climb up and photos at the top, we came down extremely fast. It was quite a thrill and a little bit nervewracking at the end. After the second climb up, we did group photos and came down at a much more controlled pace.

During the afternoon TT recon, the numbness was back in spades. The TT course had only one small downhill at the very beginning, which meant very little time to get pressue off of them. I wasn’t going to drop Danny again, so I did everything possible to get blood flow back during the last 3-4 miles.

Day 6 was just the TT, and it wasn’t in the best of weather. The out wasn’t that bad, but the back was. There were a couple of points where my struggles on hills made things hard for Danny. I did what I could, finishing the last couple hills with the ‘track hack’.

It was an amazing camp, and I learned a lot during it. I am grateful to all of the staff/coaches for their help during it and to Danny for being such an amazing pilot.

Go Cubs Go! (Race to Wrigley) – 4/27/19

“Now you tell me, if I have a day off during the baseball season, where do you think I’ll spend it? The ballpark. I still love it. Always have; always will.” – Harry Carey

While Harry never got a chance to see the Cubs win it all, he had the right idea. Wrigley is magical. Always has been; always will be. So when Race to Wrigley fit into my schedule, it was an immediate YES.

As we were hanging out at the tent pre-race, I was glad to hear my ‘stalker’ appear. I had thought we had all lost him in the Florida triangle until Mother Nature stopped throwing ‘spring temper tantrums’. While waiting, we were able to get a pre-race photo in front of the marquee and do all the other pre-race stuff.

We were supposed to start 5 minutes ahead of the Elite group. However, that didn’t happen. So we ended up being at the very front of the pack (see above photo). This meant not just trying to run normal, but also trying NOT to get run over by people that can do 6-7 minute miles as their ‘easy’ pace.

After the first main pack cleared us, it calmed down and we were able to settle in. And then the main 2nd corral showed up. As a result of all this, the first mile was at about 11 min (1 min faster than intended). Things went as normal until we made the turn into Wrigley.

While running in the dark is always a challenge, this part of the 5K was moreso than usual. Normally, I’ll be going under a bridge or parking structure. In either case, it’ll be a straight line and I won’t be worried about obstacles. However, in this run, we had poles and other obstacles to contend with. So I had to slow down a bit and have my hand on Matt’s shoulder during this part.

Once we made it back into daylight, it was a short (400yd?) stretch to the finish. As soon as we turned the last corner, I went all out and sprinted to the finish. While I haven’t gone through all my past results, I do believe that it was a 5K PR.

Thanks to Achilles Chicago for their support and for Eva and Matt for guiding for me! #GoAchilles

As Seen on TV (BibBoards) – 4/28/19

Full Disclosure: BibBobards has not provided any sponsorship and has not asked me to write this. They have no advance knowledge of this, and will see it at the same point that all of you do. And they’re free to use it for any marketing, promotional or other purposes without any compensation or sponsorship.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen a LOT of infomercials and bumps. Whether it’s been on YouTube feeds or because I’m up at 3AM, 99%+ of them are just not worth the money. IMHO, if you’re having to resort to ‘skip marketing’ to sell your product, it’s probably not worth it.

So when I caught the BibBoards bump in a YouTube video in late 2018, I went into it with that mentality. I had $20 to burn, and I was willing to take a chance on the pinless technology. I figured if it worked once, I’d come out ahead by having one less set of holes in my athletic clothing.

While there were issues with one of the BibBoards during/after the first race, they rectified it. And to this point, I’ve used them for 5 races. They’ve worked so well that I will continue to use them in ALL of my running races and any Tri where I need to toss a shirt over my Tri Top.

The bottom line here is that BibBoards ARE well worth the money. You won’t put holes into your expensive/nice athletic gear and you most likely will show up in more photos (as their ad states). While it may not be typical, since using them, I’ve gone from 4-5 photos in a 5K (prior) to 15-25 (when using them).

BibBoards #SaveYourShirt #NoMorePins

Lakeshore 5K – 4/13/19

While ‘Chicago Spring’ hasn’t arrived yet (roughly May 1st), it’s at least getting nicer out. Nice enough that the outdoor running season is in full swing! This was my 2nd Chicago race of the spring.

To this point, every race that I’ve done at Montrose Harbor has started from the same place. So that’s where I went when I first showed up. Thankfully, there was plenty of time to get over to where the start actually was.

Once Rob and I met up and did all of the pre-race stuff, we headed over to the starting grid. Apparently someone didn’t get the memo that 2000 – 2500 people running in the street means that you DO NOT drive your car down it. Instead, you wait a couple minutes for people to pass. But since they didn’t, we had to contend with that hazard within the first 100-200 feet.

After we had cleared that, the first mile was still a challenge. This was because I unintentionally kept going far too fast. Even with Rob having to pull me back several times, it was still about an 11 min mile.

From the start of the second mile through the hill, things went well and standard. Mt. Roosevelt is absolutely, positively no fun; but at least it’s on pavement. The hill that was at about 2.6mi was very similar, except entirely on grass. I made it about 1/2-2/3rds of the way up before I had to stop. Rob’s encouragement helped me to re-start the run after 10-15 seconds instead of truly walking.

Once we were over the hill, it was a decent downhill and a lap around the track to finish. Even with the hill challenge, it was still a solid race.

Thanks to Achilles Chicago for their support and Rob for guiding for me!

GoAchilles #AchillesChicago

FREEEEEEEEEEDOM (TIR 2019) – 3/29-3/31/19

For those who know me, or even just quasi-stalk me, you know that I end up doing a lot of ‘crazy’ things. Okay, maybe not as crazy as skydiving or going around a NASCAR track on a ride-along (both on my bucket list), but crazy in the sense that someone would look at me and say ‘you can’t do that’. I’ve ignored that thought, and 95% of the time, things have worked out really well. And my condo walls are covered with memories from those attempts.

So when I saw Catapult ask for people to fill their Texas Indepence Relay (TIR) teams, my immediate thought was ‘okay, let’s go do something else crazy.’ But since it was a team event, I neded to make sure that things would work before I said yes. Several back-and-forth e-mails later, everything was set.

On Friday, we met up as a full group and received gear / packed everything in. And after a stop at Buc-ee’s, we made it to Gonzales. Now if I had known how amazing Buc-ee’s would be, I would have skipped breakfast and waited. Oh well, lesson learned for 2020. 🙂

In Gonzales, we did packet pickup and then the team dinner. Giant Jenga/bags + good people = great fun! And after an appearance at the PJ party/lobby gathering, we called it a reasonably early night.

With teams of 12, the layout for TIR was that we’d all run the Prologue (1.15 mi), 3 legs and the Conclusion (.05 mi). The Prologue and Conclusion were run as a team, and the 3 legs were run individually (or with a guide for VIs). Claudio was my guide throughout all 5 of the legs that I ran.

The story throughout TIR was the weather. Going in, I knew that there was a chance of TStorms throughout both days. As one of my legs was on a dirt road, my biggest concern was getting through that leg before it rained and turned it into mud. In retrospect, I should have been more concerned about 25mph+ headwinds… But more on that later.

After gathering for full team photos in the park, we were off on the Prologue leg. Even in the dark, it was humid enough that I was drenched in sweat after just 1.15 miles. We had about an hour rest before our first individual leg.

As a bit of background, during each of the day legs (1-6 and 12-18) that our van had, the runner would say where they wanted to first ‘aid station’ at. The van would go to that point and wait, provide hydration and then move to the next ‘aid station’. When the runner said they were good to go to the end, we’d go to the exchange point and cheer them in as a team. Once it got dark, we did similar things — just no getting out of the van in full.

So for my first leg, we had (a) an unpacked dirt/stone road, (b) humidity and (c) hills over (a) for a big chunk of 4.68mi. The worst part was the first 1.5mi as sweat kept dropping into my eyes. So it was great to see the van at the first aid station. And while it wasn’t exactly ‘fun’, it was a lot more fun than sitting behind a desk! After about 50 minutes out in the Texas sun, we made the exchange — giving us about 6 hours before the next leg.

Once everyone had run, we took a lunch break and stumbled about the TIR movie location. Even though we didn’t have the greatest team idea, I’ll be interested to see the finished product with all the teams that did stop We also accidentally muffed the exchange point. For 2020, the reference point needs to be meeting at the fainting goats (that wouldn’t faint for us).

Going into the second leg, I knew it would be hills, hills and more hills. Somewhere between 2 and 2 1/2 miles, I started having problems swallowing. Getting hydration helped — but only for a little bit. Thankfully, I was able to make it through and back to the van without a major incident. And after getting a couple of Gatorades in, I was OK.

Remember those TStorms I mentioned earlier? As we were waiting to do our 4th swap, it started pouring. This made it a miserable 5+ mile leg 23 for that runner, and no fun for the rest of the night legs For me, this meant 2.7 miles in the dark with 25mph+ headwinds. Claudio helped immensely with this leg, as all I could see until we hit the exchange was the while line / oncoming headlights.

Once we hit leg 30, we drove back to Houston and waited for the other half of the team to finish their portion. Once they got close, we all went to the park and finished as a team.

I am extremely grateful to Catapult. Not just for everything the did for me the whole time I was in Houston, but also for this opportunity. Doing the TIR pushed me way outside of my comfort zone on several different levels.

As just one CIP, if I had been doing a run on my own, leg 27 would never have happened. The mindset would have been ‘it’s crappy out and I can’t see a thing; I’ll run tomorrow’. But as part of a team, you have others relying on you. It’s not always easy; but it always works out. And with Claudio as my guide, I knew I was in good hands. So leg 27 happened.

Also a huge thank you to all of the sponsors and supporters of Team Catapult whom made this weekend possible. I appreciate everything you did to make this weekend happen, and look forward to being back in 2020!

#teamcatapult #TIR2019 #texasindepencerelay #gonzalestohouston

The Grain Lesson – 3/28/19

“But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.” – Bill Withers

Growing up, I attended Camp Saugatuck several times. It was a Presbyterian Church camp on Lake Michigan, and it was located near Saugatuck, MI. It’s been gone for several years — the Presbytery of Chicago sold the land and a developer has put / is putting mega houses where it once was.

During the summer camp about 30 years ago, none of us were allowed into the dining hall as normal. Instead, they divided us up into 3 groups and let us in for the ‘grain lesson’. One group was given 7 grains, one group was given 3 and the last was given none. You had to trade your grain for food items, and IIRC the lesson was about showing compassion and help for those that were in need (from the group that had more than enough (7) to the other two).

I ended up in the group that got zero grain. I remember being temporarily worried about how I was going to eat, as I had nothing to trade for my food. But within short order, others gave and helped me, and I was able to get dinner.

If you’ve read through all of that, you may be wondering — what’s the point? What does this have to do with Triathlon? Keep reading — I’ll explain.

During the first two full years, I relied extremely heavily on others since I simply didn’t have the resources. I had lost hours and benefits shortly before the 2016 season started, and would have been in a bad spot without that help. As I start my 2019 season, I’m now faced with having to find a new job.

If I hadn’t had that lesson 30 years ago, and the support throughout the challenges of the first 3 full seasons, I would have been MUCH more upset about all these changes and their potential effects. But since I have, I’m able to find ways to make sure I’m ‘salvaging’ workouts during the chaos and trying to stay on the path. I have a tremendously long list of goals, races and camps for 2019. So taking more than a day or two to be upset/feel sorry for myself isn’t going to do anyone any good…

The bottom line, and moral of the story is that you’re NEVER alone. No matter how hard the journey may look or may be, there are always others to help you along it. And there’s always tomorrow…

Shufflin’ (2019 Shamrock Shuffle) – 3/24/19

“He’s a rebel and a runner. He’s a signal turning green.” – RUSH

While I haven’t done it in the past 2 years, the Shamrock Shuffle is a special race for me. This is the race where everything Triathlon-related started for me. And while I know that last sentence sounds odd, it will all make sense in a moment. Keri Serota, who is the Executive Director of Dare2Tri, is also the AWD coordinator for the Shamrock Shuffle. The short version of the story goes I told her I was going to do my first Tri in Aug 2015, she told me about Dare2Tri and invited me to the PT camp; the rest is history.

After Columbus, I felt really good going into Shamrock Shuffle. Instead of 3 loops of hills, I knew I’d only have one major (Roosevelt) hill and that I’d only have to do it once. So going in, I had two real goals: (1) To make it out of the tunnels before the elites caught up to us and (2) to not walk outside of aid station and at most 1/3 of the Roosevelt hill. Having burnt out in mile 1 in 2016, I knew that my pacing had to be better. Lisa kept an eye on this throughout the entire run, and that helped immensely.

Goal #1 was achieved during the 1st mile (I believe they caught us at about .65 or .7). From that point through the first aid station (about 1.6), the pace was fairly consistent and I had two guides with me. Then at close to 2, I unintentially dropped a guide. We tried to keep them in sight as they caught their breath and regrouped, but it just didn’t work for them to re-join. And while it wasn’t intentional, yes, I did still feel bad about it happening. All of the guides I run with give up their time and race to run with and look after me. I try my hardest to return that. Keri (Achilles) joined us about a half mile later so that I had two guides again.

Shortly after the 5K spilt, I started to look for the aid station. Given where the first one had been and the race distance, I expected it at about 3.25. However, it didn’t appear until almost 3.7. I’ve stopped running with a bottle on 5k/8K/10K races, so I was struggling a bit between where I thought it would be and where it was. Mostly in terms of trying to get enough lubrication so I could swallow.

After you make the turn at about 3.9 or 4, it’s a straight shot to the turn at Roosevelt, hill and finish. Having run that stretch several times, I remember it being clear sailing. So I didn’t expect or see the divot that caused me to trip and fall. Luckily I caught myself and really only hit the pad of my palm hard. After taking about a minute to regroup and about a minute to walk, we started off again towards Mt. Roosevelt.

While I didn’t succeed in running it completely, I did succeed with goal #2. In 2015 and 2016, I had to stop after about 100 feet and walk it. This year, I made it about 1/2 way up before I had to stop and walk for 30-45 seconds. Once I got my breath back, we kept running and finished strong (1:03:25).

I look forward to running it again in 2020. Thank you to Achilles for their support and to Lisa, Keri and Jen for guiding for me! Also thank to you Dare2Tri for facilitation the AWD support!

#shamrockshuffle #shamrockshuffle2019 #achilles #achilleschicago #dare2tri #awd #8K #GoAchilles

Take 1 (Arnold Indoor Tri) – 3/2/19

Arnold Indoor Tri Logo

“And the magic music makes your morning mood.” – RUSH

Last year as I was planning out my Nationals qualifying races, I stumbled across an Indoor Tri in Columbus. Having family there, I decided to give it a try. And while the run was a bitch, what sticks in my mind from last year was crushing the bike when good music came on. Even though I can’t remember if it was Welcome to the Jungle or Paradise City, I do remember hitting 28 or 29 on the bike when GNR came on.

So going into this year’s race, I was really hoping for several solid songs together. I knew that that was the only way for me to make it off the bike in 20 minutes and ultimately to having a chance at 1:18. I also knew that facing the hill in practice would make it a little ‘less worse’ on Saturday. We got in a full lap along with some swim and ‘bike fit’ before calling it a night.

Based on how practice went Friday night, I was confident that I could qualify Saturday IF T2 was less of a maze. And as we got into the pool, I was confident that I could come close to a 16/2/20/2/38 split to achieve the 1:18 I needed.

While I felt good on the swim, it did not go as I wanted or needed it to. Results show that my 100s averaged about 45s slower than they should have been. And Robin mentioned that there were a lot of straight arm strokes. Definitely something that needs to be addressed before the next race…

When we made it to the bike, I had no idea that I was 5 minutes off my mark. I honestly believed that I was at worst in a 2 minute hole. In any event, I was ready to try and keep a 30mph pace during the bike. To that end, I had 2 full bottles of Skratch and a Clif bar to eat towards the end. I figured by doing so, I’d keep the mph and have a little more for hill hell.

While that was a great plan, it didn’t fully come to fruition. Even though I was able to spike to 29-30, I wasn’t able to sustain it for more than a minute. There were a couple of really good songs that helped the average. But during a couple, I could definitely feel the mojo draining.

Knowing that I was at about 54 minutes headed out to the run, it became purely about pride. I know I can’t run 7 minute miles on the best days. So there surely wasn’t any way I could run 7 minute miles in hill hell.

I can and will continue to call the run hill hell because of the river -> Premier part. When you come out of T2, you’re in the middle of two hills. The one to the right, where you start up, isn’t that bad. Let’s call it a 1/4 mile gentle uphill. However, the one to the left is a PITA. Let’s call it a 1/4 mile that starts with a ~25 degree uphill for 150-200 feet, followed by a steeper gradual uphill for the rest of it. And to add injury to insult, you have to slow/stop your legs at the bottom of the downhill to turn. Not fun trying to restart your engine AND go up a steep grade.

Lap 1 was okay; lap 2 was meh; lap 3 was a struggle. After 2 laps of struggling with the steep hill, I had little left for the uphills in lap 3. So it turned into staggered run/walk to just get through it. Even though I had to walk in parts, I was able to nail the 5K pace that I wanted.

And while I just spent two paragraphs saying how frustrating the hills are, YES I will be back in 2020 to race it again.

Thanks to Robin for guiding for me again this year! And to #EagleCheerleader and family/friends for coming out to cheer us on!

Southern Exposure (D2T Elite Camp) – 2/14-17/19

2016 Dare2Tri Development Team Jacket

Year #4 as part of the Dare2Tri Development Team started off with a respite from the cold. In the past, the Elite camp has been in Chicago. Not surprisingly, this means treadmill running and lots of COLD. So it was nice to have it at the Lakeshore Foundation in Alabama.

Before I go on with camp #4, I want to go back to camp #1. The header photo for this blog is the jacket that was part of the 2016 Team gear. At that point, I didn’t realize that Triathlon gear wasn’t cut the same as normal clothes and that you usually (well, make that almost always…) need to size up to get the same fit. So when I received the jacket, it wouldn’t fit and has sat in my closet for 3 years. This year it will fit really well and get used pre-race in several races to keep warm!

Day 1 started off with a bike build, ‘paced’ running including sprints and a bike workout (including a bit of off-roading). Even though it was warm, it was really windy and a little rainy, so I was glad to have the L/S bike top to use. I also had an opportunity to play with the Apple watch during the run.

The afternoon consisted of strength, swim and yoga. Because of the group size, this meant circle swimming. This is not one of my most favorite things; simply because I’m swimming ‘blind’ and then having to find an opposite wall. I say ‘blind’ because very rarely am I able to make out markers on the bottom of pools like this where it goes from say 3.5 ft (shallow) to 10+ (deep). But it all worked out without too much issue.

Day 2 was the same format as Day 1, with T2 practice instead of strength. The run was on an outdoor track (mile straight and then relays) and we were able to find a ‘closed’ road path to bike on. I was able to negative split throughout the T2 practice and found a couple of things to help as the race season starts. The afternoon swim was an OWS simulation, with several lane lines having been removed.

Day 3 was a recovery day, with just run and swim sessions put in. Even though the IT band behind my left knee was hurting, I was able to get a decent amount of work in. Even if it’s not perfect, you should never waste a session — you can never get it back.

It was a great camp and I hope that the Elite camp will continue to be in warmer weather so we can bike and run outdoors in Feb.! Thank you to everyone at Lakeshore for their help and hospitality throughout the weekend!