Doubling Down – 6/27/20

Because of my vision, I struggle greatly with meal prep. For the most part, unless I can put it into a microwave or oven, it just doesn’t work well. I’m unable to distinguish the flame on the stovetop, and thus am concerned about ‘playing with fire’.

Because of that, I’m always looking for alternatives. With COVID shortening the 2020 race season, I was even more motivated to find something better than micro-meals. Especially since I’ll probably get 5-6 Tris instead of the 15 I had planned.

I had done NutriSystem in the past with great results. I had stopped doing it at the time because of the cost. When I looked at it again about 5 weeks ago, I was able to find a plan that worked.

Things went well with the first box. So well in fact, that I doubled down. I had originally gone with just M-F meals. The header photo is box #2 and their frozen meals for the weekends.

I am committed to staying with Nutrisystem through at least September. If you’re interested in giving it a try, I can share a $30 coupon with you. Please comment with an e-mail address if you’d like one. These will NOT show up publicly, and I will delete e-mail addresses once the coupon is sent.

nutrisystem #weightloss #trinutrition #triathlonnutrition

Schrödinger’s Packet, Part 2 – 6/25/20

About a month ago, I shared a high-level view of what had happened in Schrödinger’s Packet. At the time, I referred to the Race Organizer as ‘ROX’. After what occurred today, I am providing a much more detailed blog post — including dropping the ‘ROX’ tag.

As many of you know by now, I do a lot of long-range planning. Knowing what the goal races were for 2020, I needed a couple of long May races. When I went through the options, what made sense were a pair run by RAM Racing (formally ‘ROX’). While I was still frustrated with what had happened at Hot Chocolate in late 2019, the Race Director (RD) had always been accomodating. So I decided to set those feelings off to the side and move forward.

[As an aside, what I am referring to is how they did the tear-off fundraising in 2019. From the pre-race announcements, it sounded like THEY were donating all the money. As I found out 3-4 weeks post-race, WE donated all that money. ‘Nice’ surprise to see an extra charge come out of nowhere.]

When I registered for the Cinco de Miler race (pre-COVID), I understood the terms. They are all of the standard ones that racers all sign umpteen times per year. As COVID started to change the landscape, they also changed things.

Towards the end of March, they sent out an e-mail that essentially said ‘We have unilaterially changed the contract that you signed when you registered. This is now a virtual race without refund. We will have packets to you by race day (5/2/20).’ And while I’m not a fan of VIrtual races in general, the story would have ended there IF the packets had arrived by 5/2. I would have used the race gear and tried to make the best of it.

However, the packets were not shipped until AFTER the race weekend. As they (a) breached the modified contract and (b) had not fulfilled paid for goods/services, I asked for a refund. The responses that I received from Pat (speaking for RAM) were essentially ‘we had sunk costs. We’re not doing any refunds.’

While they can say that, I personally don’t believe it. This change was made roughly 5 weeks prior. Most contracts have clauses to cover unforseen issues like this. Or even if this one didn’t, 5 weeks is enough lead time to minimize any city-based fees. If the police aren’t physically out there, maybe you pay 15% of the contract to cover any additional scheduling they put in place. But IMO, you’re certainly not paying 100% of your city-based sunk costs.

I think the best case that illustrates my belief of how laughable their statements are is the Shamrock Shuffle. I believe at about 3 weeks out, they pulled the plug. At a MINIMUM, they refunded $2M in registration fees. That’s on top of whatever minimal sunk costs they had to incur. I can’t remember hearing a single word from them about ‘poor us; COVID caused a cancellation’. In fact, in addition to doing FULL refunds, they will eventually send out 2020 swag.

The other part that IMO makes their statements laughable is just common sense. If you’re any part of the exterior (i.e. police, city services, etc) that generate revenue from the race, you’re not going to say ‘we want 100%; we don’t care about COVID.’ Simply because IF you do that, there’s a very strong likelyhood that the RO will fight you on it, eventually begrudingly pay 100%, and then move every race from 2021 forward to the suburbs.

But since they wouldn’t be reasonable, I disputed the charge. On what was most likely the final day for them to respond, they apparently just brought up the ‘registration said no refunds.’ Now, if they hadn’t materially and unilaterally changed the contract, that would be true. However, this falls under non-performance / non-deliverance of goods/services as promised. That’s been covered by Visa(R)/MasterCard(R) as a valid dispute for years. I spoke with my bank earlier today and shared a synposis view of this blog. Hopefully this will get resolved and I’ll keep the provisional credit.

Regardless, I do not plan to EVER do a RAM Racing event again. When this is their response to what’s happened, I do not have any confidence in doing a future event with them.

And for the record, Cinco de Miler is the ONLY race that this has happened with. EVERY OTHER RD has offered 3 of refund, deferral, transfer or donate as the options. Some of them have just auto-deferred everyone to 2021. So while it’s been a frustrating 2020 season, I know it will be a VERY full 2021 season.

#ramracing #hotchocolate #hotchocolatechicago #hotchocolate5K #hotchocolate15K #cincodemiler #cincodemilerchicago

Schrödinger’s Packet – 5/23/20

I’ll admit it, there are very few things I remember from High School Physics. And I changed majors to avoid it in College, so… But what I do remember is Schrodinger’s cat. The below is from Wikipedia (credit to Wikipedia).

“Schrödinger’s cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor (e.g. Geiger counter) detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison, which kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.” – Wikipedia article on Schrödinger’s cat

Now you may be wondering what the heck a quantum physics principle has to do with racing. The simple answer is that right now, I have a Schrödinger’s Packet.

As I mentioned in a prior blog post, a Race Organizer (‘ROX’) decided to change the race from a physical one to a virtual without any other options. This is the ONLY Race Organizer (RO) or Race Director (RD) that I’ve seen do this. Yes, I have lost about 10 races for 2020. However, every single other one was immediately refunded/deferred or transfer options were provided.

When they materially changed the race contract, I was disappointed. But I said ‘I’ll make the best of improvising with the race gear’ (as they had promised delivery prior to the original race date). That didn’t happen — the packet wasn’t shipped until the Monday afterwards. I did try to resolve this with ROX, but eventually had to file a dispute.

They do have 30 days to dispute the dispute. And I do have another couple of weeks before the virtual race ‘ends’. Given that the dispute could be undone, I’m viewing this as a Schrödinger’s Packet.

And for the record, I am not opening the packet until everything is finalized. Once the credit is final, I will reach out to ROX and ask how they want to receive it back.

It’s disappointing that I had to go through all of this. HOPEFULLY ROX will learn from this and offter better options in the future. But in the immortal words of Burgess Meredith , “You can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which fills up first.”

The COVID Effect – 5/2/20

“I give honesty without regret.” – Unknown senior (from Voices of Old People by Simon & Garfunkel)

And to be honest, the COVID pandemic has created a tremendous amount of frustration for me. This has included cancellations of multiple racees and has impacted my training. I just haven’t had the focus most of the last 6 weeks to get in everything I need to. I know it could be much worse, which is why it’s just temporary frustration instead of anger or just plain giving up on the 2020 season.

While I have lost multiple events, I was fortunate to get a 2nd Indoor Tri in in March before the shutdowns occurred. I truly love doing Coach Joe’s (Experience Triathlon) events, and had hoped to do the April one as well.

As a brief summary of the Feb/March ones, the swims went OK (with March’s going better), the bikes were both solid, and the March run was much better than Feb’s. Thankfully, there are still multiple ET outdoor races for this summer to look at doing. For those of you making schedule readjustments, I would strongly recommend looking at these as options:

6/14 – ET Batavia
7/12 – ET Lake Zurich
8/2 – ET Naperville
9/5 – ET Pleasant Prairie

Once the shut downs had occurred, I expected to see RDs do the right things. Whether this meant cancellations with refunds, rescheduling to the fall or deferring to 2021. And for the overwhelming majority, that’s what has occurred.

As just one example, the Shamrock Shuffle did full refunds in addition to still sending out the swag. Yes, that has and will cost them a lot of money to do. But IMO they’ll make it up in 2021 and beyond. Simply because anyone looking at it from the outside should say ‘that’s a RO that I want to give my money to’ , along with ‘I had X on my 2021 schedule for that same weekend, but I’ll look at doing the Shamrock Shuffle’. If it wasn’t already a permanent fixture on my race schedule, their actions this year would make it so.

So when the order was extended to May 31st, I expected something similar from my May RDs/ROs. One of them (Race Director X (‘RDX’) / Race Organizer X (‘ROX’)) made a 4th decision — turning a physical race into a virtual one without any of the other options mentioned before. I am using RDX/ROX going forward from here, and would ask those who know the real name NOT to Dox them. Frustrating, but that was the choice they made.

Their March e-mail mentioned ‘you will have everything by race day’. So in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, I thought ‘Okay, we’ll make the best of it… and simulate things with the race items.’ A few days prior to the event, I still hadn’t received the items, so I reached out. The response that I received was ‘we’ll send things soon… COVID has impacted our ability to do this.’

I have two issues with this: (1) there was a gap of at least 3 weeks between the two e-mails where they could have shipped items out and (2) from the way the e-mail reads, it sounds like they’re using COVID as a crutch. Yes, social distancing needs to be followed. And yes, COVID may be creating some minor delays. However, I don’t believe these delays can be contributed to it given how long of a lead time there was.

Given all of this, IMO what was supposed to be a physical race has now turned into one of those ‘$x for a charity’ races. You’ve probably seen them — $10-$15 for a medal/bib so you can do a virtual race. Because of this, I have asked ROX for a credit to be used for one of their future races. I know that they couldn’t control the initial change. But IMO, what it’s turned into is NOT what I bought — or what they advertised after it had to become a virtual race.

Hopefully things will reopen at the beginning of June so that I can salvage a big chunk of my 2020 season. Regardless, after 6 weeks of frustration, I am working on getting things in line so that I am ready for whenever it does start…

Houston 5K/Half Weekend – 1/17-19/20

While I am not a long distance runner, I am always willing to keep trying. And with a 70.3 planned for 2020, I need to get there quickly… So when Catapult offered an opportunity to run the Houston Half/Full Marathon as part of their team, I jumped at the chance.

The weekend in Houston included their gala Friday night, a 5K Saturday and then the Half/Full on Sunday. After an amazingly fun night at the gala, it was time to run.

We met as a large group early Saturday morning at Starbucks. After packet pickup and a large group photo, we headed out to the front of the starting grid. It was a warm day, but I felt good through the first 2 1/4 miles. After that point, the humidity started to take its effect on me. So the last mile was more of a run/walk until we got to the chute. Even with the humidity-related struggles, the time was right on par with most of my 5Ks.

Shortly after we had finished, it started raining. While running in the rain adds an additional hazard, I would have really enjoyed that during the last mile. Oh well, at least it should be nicer for the Half, I thought.

During the break between the 5K and packet pickup for the Half, Nicole and I had a chance to go through the Expo. One of the items that I picked up was a running cape from Texas Children’s Hospital. I had intended to run down the chute with it. But plans changed — as I’ll discuss shortly.

On Sunday morning, I was debating on what to wear. While it was cold (40s), I know that you heat up when you run. So I was torn between the singlet and shorts and an Under Armour top plus my running pants in addition. In the end, I went with the colder weather gear — and I’m glad I did.

When I race, I typically do not have jewelry on. Simply because I’m concerned about these small items falling off or getting lost in general. But this weekend, I decided to do so rather than leave them at the AirBNB. Because of that, one of the thoughts that went through my mind as we (Nicole, Sam and I) tried to hide from the wind was ‘I wish Gramps had been able to see me race’. Sadly, both he and his second wife perished in/because of a fire in 2012. As my first races weren’t until 2014, he never did…

As we started running, things felt really good. So much so that I didn’t realize that we were already at almost 2 miles before we hit the first aid station. And while there was some slow down between 2 and 7 at times, things still felt good.

Then at about 7, my calves started to seize. Since we were less than a half mile away from a medical tent, I thought I’d be just fine. As with every race, the waiver includes ‘you will allow us to provide medical attention’. Therefore I believed it would be an easy ask for some Advil or something similar. So I was extremely surprised when I was told that they couldn’t give me anything on the course. When I asked post-race for an explanation, I was given reasoning that I don’t believe to be correct. It was along the lines of ‘too much can cause kidney issues, and race volunteers don’t know how much you’ve taken. So they can’t give you anything unless it’s an emergency.’.

So I was faced with two options. One was to tap out; the other was to gut out the last 5.5+ miles in pain. I chose the latter, and it was a struggle for the remainder of the race. We had to stop multiple times, with it becomming more frequent the further we got into the race. During a couple of the stops as Sam worked out the knots, I was groaning in pain. Even when the race volunteers saw this, they still wouldn’t offer any pain relief. The most I got was some salt at about 9 3/4 or 10.

Even though I was in tremendous pain at 13, I made the decision that I was still going to try and run through the chute. No matter how bad a race has gone, I always want to run through the chute. Not just for pride, but also for the finishing photos.

While I didn’t get a chance to use the Texas CHildren’s Hospital cape this year, I will have it for 2021. I am also going to try and find one for Lurie Children’s Hospital for my longer runs in the Chicago area.

I am grateful to Catapult for all of their help and support throughout the entire weekend. If you’d like to learn more about the organization and/or support their mission, please visit their web site.

2020 Dare2Tri – 1/10/20

In 2016, I was first selected to Dare2Tri’s Development team. Since then, I have been able to grow within and outside of the sport because of all their support.

I am honored and grateful to be part of the Development team for 2020! I have a tremendous amount planned for the season, along with a few specific goals. I know that because of their help and support that I will be able to succeed throughout the season.

To follow my progress throughout the season, please subscribe to the blog. Or follow me on Facebook (fb.me/jgathlete) or Instagram (instagram.com/nocrappyexcuses).

2019 Year in Review

I thought this was the most appropriate photo for the ‘year in review’ blog post. Throughout the season, ALL of my guides put their needs aside and are there to support me. So it was great to be able to return the favor during the season at one point!

Going into the season, I had several distinct goals. 2019 was going to be an incredibly strong season, including my first showing in the PT National wave. And then life happened…

For those of you that haven’t been following me for long, let me just say that 2019 was one of the hardest years of my life. I know that we all have a bad race, a bad week, or even a bad month. For me, 2019 was full of downward cascading dominos — health issues, being downsized and my first DNF among other things.

But that’s not to say there weren’t a lot of successes during the season. These included huge time cuts at Lake Zurich and Naperville, getting invited to two additional camps and a silver at PT Mideast Regionals (VI Male)!

Throughout the struggles of the year, Triathlon and running helped me to ignore the shit. Being able to focus on a practice in the city, an upcoming race or an exciting camp took my focus off of the rest. And I know that that helped in the long run. If I hadn’t had these distractions, the last 8 months would have been 500 times worse…

In addition, those who supported me helped to ensure that things didn’t fall apart. These included the supporters that you saw in my ink kit (Dare2Tri, Team RWB, Achilles Chicago, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Naperville Noon Lions, Team Catapult and Foreseeable Future Foundation), family/friends and so many others. THANK YOU all for ALL of your support!

With 2019 in the books, I am already starting to focus on 2020. The main goals are the same as 2019 — I need to deliver on them in 2020. It’s also going to include new challenges (Olympic/70.3s) and new destinations. I would also LOVE to see a non-triathlon dream get added into the 2020 season mix.

As some of you may know, I have been at several different football camps since 2007. Before my vison makes it impossible, I would love to be at Notre Dame’s week-long camp. It’s not something that I can reasonably afford. I believe that new technology will give me a couple extra years for it to happen (I thought 2019 was my last shot given the vision). Hopefully the generosity of the Notre Dame Football program can make it happen for me in 2020!

To keep up with all of my 2020 exploits, please follow the blog and my social media accounts:

http://fb.me/jgathlete
http://instagram.com/nocrappyexcuses
http://twitter.com/nocrappyexcuses

Santa Rotary Run 5K – 12/7/19

During one of my races last year, Rob mentioned the Santa Rotary Run. As I planned my 2019 schedule, it was how I wanted to end my year.

After doing packet pickup Saturday morning, we hung out and then did a brief warm up. While we tried to seed ourselves ahead of all the walkers/strollers, we didn’t succeed. As a result, we ran faster than the planned pace during the first quarter mile to get around traffic.

Once we cleared the big throngs of walkers, we were able to settle into a good pace. There were a couple of spots before the aid station (halfway point) where I wanted to walk. But because of Natalie’s help with pacing and breathing, I was able to push through. I was able to ‘reset’ at the aid station and refocused on the second half.

Typically by this point in a 5K, I’m headed towards a walk/run finish. It will start out decently (say 6/1) and slowly decline as we head towards the finish. In this race, because of her help, I didn’t really have to walk until about 2.5mi. After that point, I was able to run for about a half mile, walk for 30 seconds, and then finish strong.

This was an amazingly fun race and a great way to end the 2019 season! I will have much more to say about the season as a whole in the next blog. Thanks to Natalie for guiding for me, and to Achilles Chicago for all their support!

Cali Fun (No Sight No Limits 2019) – 11/12-17/19

[Photo courtesy of Amy Dixon]

In 2016, I found out about the No Sight No Limits camp through Social Media. I was fortunate to be there for the first two camps (Jan 17 and Jan 18). When it moved to November (Nov 18), it became more of an advanced camp. The run just wasn’t where it needed to be, so I had to miss last year’s camp. A year and a lot of hard work later, I was headed back to SoCal.

Rather than deal with a 4AM wake up so I could make a 7 or 8AM flight, I flew out to SD the night before. Always fun finding out that your ‘1.8mi away hotel’ is actually 9 miles away at 11:30PM… While the staff at Hotels.com was less than helpful at about midnight PT, they did eventually make things right. 🙂

On Wednesday morning (day 1 of camp), Bob/Scott picked me up and we all headed to Encinitas. After having time to check in and get lunch, we headed over to Amy’s to do bike fit. Mike Jennings helped to get all of my stuff set while I waited for Chris to show up. When he did, Mike got the pilot area all set. Once that was done, we did a couple of laps to ensure everything was OK before doing the shakeout ride.

During this practice, we ended up with our first flat of the evening. It was changed out and we all left on the ride. About 250 – 300 feet from Amy’s house, we ended up with a 2nd flat. That was changed out, and less than a quarter mile later, flat #3 happened. At that point, Amy rode back and got a different front wheel for us to use. The ride went much more smoothly after the wheel swap, and we had a chance to get in some fun hill work as well…

Thursday (day 2 of camp) started out with Woodstock-of-war while breakfast was cooking. Tug-of-war implies that you can win at least 50% of the time. However, I’m moderately convinced that Woodstock covertly applies super-strong adhesive before he brings lamb, pig or gecko over. I believe he beat me 132-3 over the course of the week…

After some fun and breakfast, we headed over to the Y for swim with Chris Huxley. Seeing that the pool was 9 feet deep, I jumped in expecting to sink to the bottom. It was a weird experience when I didn’t really break the surface. We did a whole bunch of drills to help with our stroke / correcting it. It was an extremely helpful session, and I came away with a lot of new knowledge.

After lunch, we headed back to the Y to practice on the basketball court. The session started with bike skills (starts/stops, turns, a slalom and more) and finished with transition practice. I picked up a couple of things that I believe will help dramatically shave T1/T2 times. And that’s with going back to socks in T1.

At some point prior to this, Mike had noted that I should go to SPDs. While the last experiment in Colorado had been a complete cluster (see May Tandem Camp blog), I was willing to give it another shot. We were able to track down a pair of MTB shoes at Ride and they generously put the cleats on as well. Very nice being able to walk out with complete shoes vs. having to mess with the cleats later on.

Day 2 ended with strength at the Y. Let’s just leave it at lots of very uncomfortable positions with results. Using a bar to do push ups, erg rowing and inverted pushups were just part of the ‘fun’.

Friday (day 3 of camp) started with a run along the coast. While I have been working on my run throughout 2019, I still am not where I want to be. There was some ‘hill fun’ during the 3.5 mi run -> run/walk session. Even though it was a bit painful at times, Cindy kept it fun.

The afternoon was devoted to swim. We started at SwimLabs and finished at Moonlight Bay. I had never been in an endless pool, so it was quite an interesting experience. The ‘river’ is about 20×8, and staying within it while we were both there was a challenge. But Monica helped talk us through it and helped with stroke correction throughout. Right before we finished, Chris asked her to turn it all the way up (1:27/100). While it wasn’t perfect, I was able to survive it.

When we got to Moonlight Bay, the ‘washing machine effect’ was in full swing. Combine trying to time breathing with getting rocked around, and it’s a challenge. Add to that that residual salt was in my beard, and it felt like I was getting a salty snack with each breath. It was a challenge, but we made it through the set. Afterwards, I had a little bit of fun playing in the waves.

Saturday (day 4 of camp) started with a Track workout at CSU San Marcos and finished with a long ride. During the track workout, we went out waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too fast on the first 800 (9:15/mi) and I paid for it throughout. On the second 800, we were able to do much better with the pacing. The other pieces that Cindy worked through with us during the track session will be helpful as I continue to try and get the run sorted out.

After lunch and a break, I got on the rainer to get used to the SPDs before we headed out. After about 30 minutes, I was feeling comfortable enough to get on the tandem with them on. We headed out for a 25+ mi ride that eventually led us to the coast and PCH. There were a LOT of hills on this route, and at one point I apparently was mashing too hard to try and get us up one. The net result was that the chain broke. THankfully Mike was able to get it repaired and we were able to finish the ride. There was a lot of great scenery along the back half of the ride, so I’m glade we were able to complete it.

Sunday (day 5 of camp) started with a duathalon at the Y and then a 4mi ride to/from breakfast. And yes, we did end up with a 4th flat (rear this time). We were able to make it back to Amy’s safely though.

Even though there were some hiccups, it was an amazing camp! I learned so much during the time in Cali that I will be able to apply to my 2020 season and beyond. I am extremely grateful to EVERYONE who made this possible, including Amy, all the coaches, Chris (for guiding for me) and Forseeable Future Foundation (for all their assistance).

If you’re able, I strongly recommend that you attend the 2020 camp! Just start stalking Woodstock… um, I mean watch Amy’s page for updates.

Hot Chocolate 15K – 11/3/19

With a half marathon planned in early 2020, I decided to ‘upgrade’ from the 5K to the 15K distance. I knew it might not be pretty, but I didn’t envision what happened occurring.

Because of how early we had to be there pre-race, I stayed with friends Saturday night. But it still meant getting up before 5AM to get there in time. They did a really nice presentation with a Make-A-Wish recipient pre-race, and Dave gave us a shout out prior to starting.

Last year, we were in the dark (Lower Wacker?) for about a 1/2 mile. This year, it seemed like we were down there for at least a mile, if not more. During that dark run, I had to completely rely on Rob to be my eyes since I could see little. As we emerged from the drak and made the first aid station stop, things felt just fine.

As we continued on though, issues started to happen. By about 2.75 (where the 5K / 15K split was), my feet started hurting. Getting hydration and gels in at about 3.25 helped with that though, and I was OK until about 4.5.

After that point, what started in the feet had worked upwards a bit. From about 4.5 to 6, it was a decent walk/run. But after 6, I was having to constantly stop to stretch things out. And by 7.5, I was in so much pain I couldn’t run.

At that point, the main thought in my mind was ‘I don’t care if I have to crawl, I’m finishing the race.’ As we hit 9, the next thought was ‘I don’t care how much pain I’m in, I am running this in so there are decent photos for Achilles.’

While it wasn’t a great day, I’m grateful to Achilles Chicago for all of their support and Rob for guiding / his continual support throughout the race.