2020 Year End — and looking forward

[Image from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y23ur1rHInw ]

Like many, I was happy to see the calendar roll over Friday morning. As I mentioned throughout 2020, it was a struggle for me at times. However, I did what I could — and I made it through.

While I don’t want to dwell on the year that wasn’t, there are a few things I did want to say about it before looking forward to 2021.

First and foremost, THANK YOU to all of those who supported me throughout the year. This includes teams, supporters, guides and a long list of others. Even though 2020 didn’t turn out as planned, your assistance and support helped me to succeed during what opportunities there were.

Secondly, a huge thank you to a local business. In the stress that came from all the changes, having ‘safety release valves’ were key. One of these was ordering from the local Dominos. Yes, I realize that constant pizza isn’t on the normal training menu. However, 2020 was far from ‘normal’. Knowing that I would have a hot, delicious and well made pizza because of Ray Montez and his team made it easier to get through the challenges of the week.

Finally, I realized that while I couldn’t control what I lost in 2020, I could get ready for 2021. To that end, I focused on getting additional training in where I could. I also looked at putting in a base so that I would be ready for 2021 — whenever it started.

Now that I’ve gotten through that, I want to look forward. As a summary, here’s what I’m focusing on:

  • A projected schedule of more than 30 races (5Ks, 10Ks, Sprints, Olympic, 70.3s, Aquathons, Duathalons) and camps throughout the country. While there won’t be an Indoor Triathlon season, I believe that things will start to come back in early April when my outdoor season would start.
  • Focusing on strength and recovery. As the training and racing have increased, so have the minor aches. And with a long season for 2021, I know they’ll be there again. To deal with that, I’ve purchased a full compression kit — more on that in a future blog post. I also have other strength tools (exercise bands, weighted ball, etc.) that I’ll be using to address the strength issues.
  • Focusing on a year-long training challenge. With a minimal amount of racing opportunities (running only) right now, I need to be focusing on training. In the past, it’s been easy to get distracted and lose focus in the off-season. This year, I’ve signed up for the VirtuALL Distance Challenge to help keep the focus. I’m currently working towards completing American Samoa, and will see how much I can complete during the year. If you want to join me, you can register here.
  • Completing my 2021 season goals. The first step is to qualify for Paratriathlon Nationals and we’ll go from there. I’m also nervously excited to do my first 70.3s (relay first and then full).

I am looking forward to 2021. Follow the blog and my Facebook/Instagram posts to see how it all unfolds!

Roaring Back (for a 7th year!)


I am extremely grateful to have the continued support of the Naperville Noon Lions Club for my 2021 season!

They have supported my Triathlon endeavors since the very beginning in 2015. Their continued support will enable me to race throughout the country in 2021.

While there’s still uncertainty about what the 2021 season will look like, their support will enable me to make the most of it. I look forward to proudly having Lions ink at every race to show my gratitude. And I hope to have a very strong showing at the hometown race (Naperville Sprint Tri – estimated 8/1/21).

FraidyCat 5K – 10/25/20

As I’ve said in the past, I finish most races with a beer — even if it’s just at home. So the IL Brewery Running Series race I was going to do was the perfect fit. However, the particular brewery (Jolly Pumpkin) still hadn’t reopened, and thus the race was cancelled. When I went looking for a replacement in-person race, I found the FraidyCat 5K.

I had run this race in the past, and it was a lot of fun. Well, except for that climb when you went around the back of the building (school?) and up the hill at about 2.75mi.

At some point earlier in the week, I had done something to my left knee. It wasn’t serious enough where it hurt all the time. But it hurt enough that I kept off of it most of the week. I also did a lot of extra stretching that morning to try and get it as loose as possible. I thought it would lead to the best possible outcome.

And then about 20 feet into the race, my left leg went down into a minor pothole and jarred the knee. This would become an issue later in the race.

During the first mile, things went OK. The pacing was a little too fast early on, but we managed to get it more in line before the end of the first mile. For most of mile 2, things were OK with the knee. But by the time we made the turn into the neighborhoods, it started to act up.

During the last mile, it became a run/walk scenario. I’d run until it got to about a 6, and then would walk until it was down to about a 2.

Even with all of the knee challenges throughout the race, I did still shave 6 seconds off of the last race time. And I’m closing in on being down 5 full minutes since getting back to more consistent running.

Race For Abilities (Naperville Healthy Driven Half/5K) – 10/18/20

While I am not a fan of virtual races, I will always do them to help support those that have supported me. Having received extensive JAWS (screen readins software) training from Donka, I was happy to run with them when asked.

As I am Visually Impaired, I need at least 1 guide when I race. I am ALWAYS looking for new ‘eyes’, so a guide-In-training also ran with me on Sunday. For the race, Kathy was my main guide and Dave was the guide-in-training. Kathy and I have run multiple times over the last couple months, which gave her a good idea of how to pace me for the race.

Sunday’s virtual 5K was my first Naperville Half/5K race. I had attempted to run the Half in 2016, but was unable to do so. I believe that unreasonable hurdles were put in place by the Race Director, so I ended up finding another race to run that fall.

We met as a group in Veterans Park in Naperville to run. We had 8 people of Team Donka show up to race together, in a socially distanced manner. Myself, Kathy, Dave and Jodi all ran while the rest of the group walked.

Over the last 5 years, I had run this section of the trail many times, so I was familiar with the course. We did have one minor ‘obstacle’ along the way in the form of a stop light. This added about a minute round trip as we waited for traffic.

In the past, my issues have been with pacing. In that I will end up running an extremently fast first mile and then be spent, positive splitting 2, 3 and 3.1. Over the last month, I have been focused on starting off slower and then negative splitting. While I don’t have the exact split times, I believe that I did accomplish that.

The route itself was mostly flat during the first section (start to first stop light) and then a lot of hills (first stoplight to second stpolight / turnaround point). Knowing that, I focused on keeping a steady pace out, knowing that a small part of the back would be a run/walk due to the hills. This is essentially how it all played out.

It was a really fun day, and we were fortunate to finish before it started raining. After the 5K, we added on another .4mi to satisfy a 3.5mi race I needed to do. I look forward to running with Team Donka again in 2021!

If you’d like to donate to Team Donka, you can do so here!

Six Months In

Six months ago, I decided to use Nutrisystem as a ‘temporary’ solution through the summer. I had thought we’d be back in an office by the fall, and I’d be able to be back on the more ‘normal’ nutritional path from earlier in 2020. At this point, I’ve seen enough of the benefits from it to strongly consider keeping it in place even when I’m back in an office.

Now that’s not to say that I do things perfectly. I’ll admit to adding in meals that may not be perfect ‘flex’ meals — including the weekly ‘safety valve’ pizza from the local Domino’s. But even with all that, I am still seeing results because the number of times I’m on track outweigh the times I’m not. And once I’m back in an office, I believe that I’ll see even better results.

If you’re interested in giving Nutrisystem a try while saving $30, please comment with your e-mail. These comments will not be seen publicly, and I will send you the $30 coupon directly through Nutrisystem’s site.

Playing in Traffic (2020 Lions Candy Day) – 10/9-10/20

“Why don’t you go play in traffic?”

I’m sure you’ve all heard that in the past. And you’ve probably said to others. But that’s exactly what I was doing the last two days. All to help support the local Lions Club!

I became a Lion in 2015, and volunteered to help with their Candy Day for the first time in 2015 or 2016. Because of my vision, the prospect of being out in traffic was a little bit scary that first year. But because most were respectful (not trying to run into me or push me into oncoming traffic), it worked out well and I was hooked.

This year was at least my 5th year out on the streets near North Central College (NCC) in downtown Naperville. As in the past, I was able to volunteer for both days because of community service initatives that my current employer supports. I am extremely grateful for and appreciative of that!

Because of the current conditions, we were all in full PPE (masks and gloves) throughout the collection period. I believe that helped people in their cars feel more comfortable about rolling down their windows to donate. And with the lower numbers overall, I’m sure that that decision helped out overall.

Prior to this year, Friday was an almost constant stream of cars and people. Whether it was students going to NNHS/NCC, the commercial traffic or people going about their normal tasks, I would say a vehicle would come through the intersection every 3-5 seconds. And there was also the pedestrian traffic as NCC students walked to / from classes and dorms. Past Saturdays were roughly the same, but without as much commercial traffic. There would be even more pedestrian traffic on Saturday if there was a home football game. But of course, this year was different.

On Friday, the early morning was slower than in years past. But it did start to pick up to normal levels by about 10AM. And starting at about 2PM it was back to ‘normal’ Friday levels. On Saturday, after a couple of brief spurts in the late morning, things really seemed to slow down. Even though traffic wasn’t as heavy throughout the two days I was out there, I did notice people being more generous. So it may have evened out overall. We’ll see in the next couple weeks what the final numbers show.

One of the downsides of it being much slower on Saturday was that I ended up standing in one place for long stretches of time. This meant that by about 1:30 PM, my back was starting to spasm. From that point through about 3:30, I did what I could to try and stretch it every 30-40 cars. But by 3:30, it was painful enough that I had to take a walk to try and relieve it. Even though I was in a great deal of pain, I wasn’t going to tap out. Thankfully, the walk helped and I was able to make it through the last part of the day.

While there were a lot of generous people (including the two who said ‘this [large bill] is all I have, so that’s what you’re going to get.’, there were still the normal share of assholes. This included an 18 wheel truck that seemed to want to play chicken with me in the road on Friday. I get it, not everyone wants to donate. No one is forcing you to, and in fact there’s enough space to where you can just stay right to go past us. However, to try and push me into oncoming lanes of traffic is just absurd. And while I deal with this BS every year, I will still be out there year after year.

I am grateful to everyone who came out and donated throughout the past two days. I believe Lions will be at Casey’s today if you want to donate in person. You can also donate online here. Or if you’d prefer to support the Naperville Noon Lions Club in other ways, you can do so by:

Registering for their Virtual Turkey Trot.
Purchasing Raffle Tickets for their annual raffle.
Purchasing Poinsettias and Amaryllis bulbs.

** For the Poinsettias and Amaryllis bulbs, delivery is only available within the Naperville area. **

I will be doing the virtual 5K to support them. Read more by clicking here (Gobble Virtually blog)!

The Fall Color 5K – 10/4/20

Because of my vision, I am never able to make out the course maps. I depend on my guides to let me know where we need to go, and at times what type of elevation to expect. And while I knew that there would be some hills, I didn’t realize that there would be that many. But I guess that’s why it’s a good Boston training course.

Given all those hills, what John suggested was power walking up them and running the downhills/flats. I’m extremely glad that he did, or I wouldn’t have made it through mile 1; let alone the first hill. And this was a plan to success!

As I’ve metioned in many past blogs, one of my issues is pacing. I’ll have a good 1st mile, and then it will positive split. That’s definitely NOT what I want, and something that I’ve been working hard on. For this race, I was able to achieve negative splits for at least the main 3 mile portion — I don’t remember the pacing for the last .1. This meant that I was able to shave 11 seconds off my 2020 PB, even with all of those hills!

I am extremely grateful to The Morton Arboretum for keeping this an in-person race! Even with all those hills, it was an extremely fun race. Maybe I’ll be crazy enough to do it again in 2021… 😉 🙂

David Kuhn Camp Olympia (where Camp Catapult was last year) has a 25ft platform for jumping off of. Someone got me up there in the daylight by telling me it was only 10 feet… LOL So night platform jumping was jumping off it in the pitch dark, not being able to see a single thing. The first time, it was scary, as at about the 8-10 second mark, my mind asked ‘WTF is the water’ — and then I hit it a second or two later.

I was essentially on what would be the lane divider. Several times, vehicles would try to push me out of the way and into traffic coming from the other way. I will be looking for distintive markings today, and may follow up with NPD if something like yesterdy does today. Think of it as an 18 wheeler trying to play chicken with me, and then continuing to do so even as I moved out of the way for the asshat…

Gobble Virtually – 10/3/20

As fall starts to turn to winter, it’s obvious that the overwhelming majority of my outdoor races will be virtual. As I’ve said in the past, I’m OK with doing them to support those and organizations that have supported me.

After the BTN Big10K race in July 2014, I was looking for other 5Ks to do in the fall. One of them that I found and did was the Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot. At the time, I viewed it as just another 5K. In fact, it turned out to be an EXTREMELY imiportant event.

in 2014, I did not have a guide pool. It was essentially reaching out to friends and trying to see whom was crazy enough to run with me… So, when I decided to do the Turkey Trot, I still needed 1 guide. The Lions Club found someone for me, and I thought I was all set. Then about 2-3 weeks prior, I was told that they had broken their ankle.

They did help to find another guide, Terri. At that time, I did not know how crucial that connection would be. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that she was my first Triathlon guide, and helped to guide umpteen times for me during the first few years. And without her help, I wouldn’t have been able to do races during the early days when Art Black (of Oswego Cyclery) generously let us use his tandem.

While I had done the Turkey Trot a couple of times after the 2014 race, it was just too hard to get up that early on Thanksgiving. So I am happy to be able to do it virtually in 2020! I hope that you will join me this November! Your support will help people (like me) with visual disabilities.

You can register online here! Or if you’re not a runner but still want to support the Lions, this coming weekend is the Candy Day weekend! Look for Lions throughout Naperville Fri-Sun!

Run With the Lion 5K – 9/13/20

As I’ve said many times in the past, I am not a fan of virtual races. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I hate them. However, I will gladly do them to help support organizations that have supported me.

Thankfully, this was an in-person race. It was my first in-person event since March, and my first in-person running race since January. I am grateful that PDC found a way to keep it as one.

Going into the race, one of the key objectives was to keep the pacing slow for the first mile so that we could finish strong. Kathy helped with ensuring that the pacing stayed in line, and mile 1 went well for the most part. There was a hill at about the 1 mile mark, and a long bridge shortly afterwards that gave me some difficulty.

But because we had kept the pacing for the first mile, the last 2.1 went smoother than it had during this year. I did have to walk in a couple of places on the way back (at about 2.25 and 2.75), but we still finished strong. And while I’m still about 4 minutes off of where I was during the 2019 season, this 5K was about 2 minutes faster than my last one (done as part of the Virtual Chicago Triathlon).

Even though it was an entirely different feel from 2019 races, it was still an EXTREMELY fun day! As I said earlier, I am extremely grateful that PDC kept this as a physical race, and to Kathy for guiding for me!

To view the post-race photo, please click here!

Virtual Chicago Triathlon – 8/30/20

As I’ve said in prior blogs, I am not a fan of virtual races. In general, I will just do them in support of organizations that I want to support or that have supported me. To this point, they’ve all been 5Ks. However, last weekend I did my first virtual Triathlon.

While I’ll go into the details from each of the legs below, I want to say two things — (1) A virtual triathlon is nothing like the actual thing and (2) I look forward to seeing a substancial crowd at the Ron Jon Tri (SE Regionals) next weekend so we can have a ‘normal’ 2021 season.

While I’ve done running since the Pandemic occurred, I haven’t done much on the other two physical legs. I was able to get back in the pool about a month ago, but the last time I was on a tandem was in November 2019 in southen CA.

Leg 1 (Swim)
Since getting back in the pool, the longest sets prior were 200s. It was a planned build back to doing longer sets. But this needed to be a 750, and I found a way to do it.

Looking at the data afterwards, I went out too fast (-27s of CSS) and paid for it midway through. I do remember having to take extra time on the wall at 15, 17 and 19. But by about 21, I felt the rhythm again and was able to finish strong. Overall, the total was only about a minute off of the 2019 CSS paces. Not bad for being out of the pool for 5 months.

Leg 2, Take 1 (Bike)
As with every new pilot, we’ll do fitting and then ride around the parking lot to ensure that everything’s solid before we go out. During those test rides, we kept hearing an odd noise only when we were both on. As he went through all the checks, we found that it was spoke tension on the rear wheel.

As neither of us had the tools to address it, we had to temporarily scrub the bike. I then took a nap before what would have been the final leg.

Leg 2, take 2 (Run)
When I went out to get ready for the bike, it was a cool and cloudy morning — the perfect weather for a run. Thankfully by the time we were supposed to run, it was still overcast.

In the past, I have paid dearly for going out too fast. And a lot of the time it’s not even conscious action. So for this run, I told my guide to make sure that we kept mile 1 fairly slow.

While it wasn’t the run that I had hoped, the pacing did help. Mile 1 was still faster than I wanted, but slow enough that I had gas for most of the race. The overall time was about 5 minutes slower than 2019 times, but 3 minutes faster than 2020 races.

Leg 3 (Bike)
When my pilot returned, he brought a working tandem with him. After doing the proper fit, we went out on a 15 mile, mostly hilly ride.

At about mile 7 or 8, I felt my left leg sieze up as we were in the middle of an intersection. We were able to make it through, and after about 1-2 minutes, the cramps passed. We made it back to my condo without any other incidents.

I’m grateful to everyone who helped so I could complete the virtual Tri. I’m definitely looking forward to physical reacing in 2021…