Into the Dark (Goalball / Night Races) – 1/17/19

USABA Blackout goggles and knee/elbow pads

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – The Shawshank Redemption

For a very long time, I’ve struggled in the dark and at night because of my vision. So to most of you, it may seen counterintuitive to be doing races and sports where my vision is ‘taken away’. But there is a method to my madness… at least this time.

With the vision changes that I’ve noticed in the last 12 months, I strongly believe that the next radical change will happen at some point within the next 5 years. I wish I had a crystal ball so that I could tell you when and what it would be, but I don’t. And since I don’t, I’ve got two main choices — do everything that I can with that vision during the next 5 years as well as proactively prepare for the future OR go hide in a cave.

Spoiler alert; I’ve chosen the former. To that end, one of the sports that I’m trying to get more involved in is Goalball. For those of you whom have never seen it, go to YouTube and watch a few videos. But as a very small thumbnail, it’s played by teams of 3 (center and 2 wings) with a ball that has a bell in it. Everyone has on blackout goggles and pads, and is on the ground. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, and even more so when you keep the proper form (so the Goalball doesn’t hit you in the nose). Saturday will be the second prectice of the season, and we’ll see how things continue to go.

But Goalball isn’t the only ‘dark’ sport that I will be doing in 2019. Over the last two years, I’ve done the Chicago Glo Run in the dark. If all the timing works, I plan to be doing a minimum of 3 night races. These are ones where I have to put total faith and trust in my guides since I’ll be able to see very little outside of the ‘glow zones’. Two of them will be races similar to the Color Run, so I know going in that I need to have ‘throwaway clothes’ for them.

You may be asking ‘so why the radical change to doing all of this dark stuff now?’ The simple answer is to tell my vision to go screw itself. As I said to several thoughout 2018, I refuse to be a prisoner of the dark. And this part of my 2019 schedule just further proves that.

Sober (2019 Hammer) – 12/12/18

In late 2016 as I was struggling to figure out how to deal with my nutrition needs for 2017, I reached out to Hammer Nutrition. Within a very short time, they said yes. The support that they provided in 2017 and 2018 was greatly appreciated and helped immensely.

When I reached out for support for 2019, I was made aware of a new process. While I had hoped for a yes, I was unfortunately told no. The simple explanation is that a lot of people applied. Even though I made strides forward in 2018, I accept that I’m still behind a LOT of people.

After receiving this e-mail, it would have been easy to completely jump ship. But that wouldn’t have been in my best interests, short or long-term. I KNOW that things went so well during the 2018 season because I had Hammer’s products in my race kit throughout the 2018 season. If you need proof of that, just read back through the camp and race reports (especially Ripon).

What I will do is ensure that at least the core products are in place, along with finding some alternatives to fill in / make Hammer ones last. It won’t be as perfect as I had hoped, but I know it will lead to successes in 2019.

While I never want to lose a sponsorship, I understand that it can happen. In this case, it just adds one more main goal to my 2019 season — doing everything I can to earn a sponsored spot again in 2020!

Season Finale (Jingle Bell Run) – 12/8/18

It has certainly been a long, but extremely fun, season. It started in San Diego in January, had stops in IL, IN, WI, OH and CO, and wrapped up in Chicago. There were a LOT of positives during the season, and I will build on those in 2019.

The final race of the season was the Chicago Jingle Bell 5K. As with the previous 5Ks this fall/winter, a member of Achilles (Kristin) was my guide.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I sometimes forget one item at home when packing for a race. While I didn’t forget anything at home this time, I did almost forget gloves/hat at gear check. It was warm inside, and I had put them into the pockets before doing gear chuck. Thankfully, I realized it in plenty of time to grab them from gear check before we headed outside.

Prior to the start, it was a nice surprise to run into our former RBD. I hadn’t seen him for about 7 years, and it was nice to have a few minutes to talk with him and catch up. After starting, the first 2 miles went really well. There were lots of ice patches on the path, but Kristin ensured that we went around them. After that, the same issues that I had during the final mile last race came up. Even though it was about 90 seconds total slower than I had aimed for, it was still a good race. On advice of one of my friends, I will be working on longer training runs during the offseason so that I’m not hitting a wall at 2 – 2.5.

One other note from the race is that it was nice to see concern for others during the race. At about the 2.1-2.2 mile point, a runner tripped over a stick and fell hard. While they were okay, everyone around them (including us) stopped temporarily and made sure that they were okay.

I also want to make sure that I properly thank everyone who’s helped me throughout the season. It would not have been as successful as it was without all of your help and support! THANK YOU to

  • Dare2Tri
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Hammer Nutrition
  • Naperville Noon Lions Club
  • Achilles Chicago
  • A long list of guides, family & friends

#WhyILoveDare2Tri (#GivingTuesday 2018) – 11/27/18

Five years ago, I had no idea what it would take to do a Triathlon. And four years ago, Triathlon was supposed to be a ‘one and done’ (2015 Naperville Sprint Triathlon). Then a chance meeting changed everything forever….

When I arrived to run the 2015 Shamrock Shuffle, Keri Serota was the AWD Director. She also was, and still is, the Executive Director of Dare2Tri. As we talked for a few minutes prior to the race, she shared a lot of great information with me about Dare2Tri and invited me to their Paratriathlon (PT) camp in June.

When I showed up there, I had very little when it came to proper gear. I believe I had a helmet, a swim suit, goggles and a pair of normal gym shoes. Definitely not all of the tools that you need to be successful in the world of Triathlon. But that didn’t stop me from having a successful camp, as they provided everything else that I needed.

Just as important as the training were all of the people that I met and new friendships that I made. These were people that had the same amount, or even less sight, that were all being successful — both there and in their daily lives. Seeing that helped tremendously from the personal perspective.

More than 4 years later, I have grown so much athletically and personally because of their support and the Dare2Tri family/community. That ‘one and done’ has turned into about 40 so far, with another 17 planned in 2019. And while I can’t honestly say that I’ll accept eventually losing my sight, I can say that I feel better about it than I did in 2015. I know I wouldn’t be able to say that if I hadn’t made the connection with Dare2Tri.

I realize that there are a lot of organizations that are asking for funding today and throughout the rest of the year. But I would ask you to consider making a donation to Dare2Tri. The $150 goal that I’ve set will cover a race entry. And I truly believe that what you’re doing will start a spark in someone else like it did for me. Dare2Tri helped me to cross my first finish line in 2015, and I hope you’ll help someone else to be able to cross theirs in 2019!

Thank you in advance for any support you can provide! You can donate through this link.

Minion Mania (Run to D.C. 5K) – 11/10/18

The Minion police have finally caught up with me. WHo’s got an alibi for me? 😉

This was my 2nd offseason 5K, and it went better than the first. Mainly because there wasn’t Mt. Roosevelt to contend with… But in return for only minor / more reasonable hills, the cold piper had to be paid.

After meeting with Jen, we went outside a few minutes early to acclimate. Having stood on concrete in cold weather for hours in the past, I wasn’t too concerned. Then the wind really kicked up, and my attitude was ‘screw it until it’s about to start’. So once everyone else exited to start, so did we.

For about the first 1/10th of a mile, we had other people around us. And then it was like our own race for 3 miles. Sure, there were lots of other runners out there, but we didn’t see a single one until we went back inside post-race.

A week ago, it was at about the 2 mi mark when things started to fall apart a little. Today, it was close to 2.65mi. And unlike last week, it only took about 30-45 seconds to regroup and get back to running. Overall, it was one of the more complete 5Ks that I’ve run this year.

I’ve got one final 5K to wrap up my 2018 season. And then it’s on to 2019. Did I mention that there’s no real ‘offseason’? 😀

Roaring Back – 10/5/18

As I’ve said many times in the past, I could not do what I do without the support network I have in place. This includes family and friends, guides and sponsors, all of whom play their own crucial roles in my success.

The Naperville Noon Lions Club has supported me from the beginning, helping to ensure I could attend my first PT camp. Since that point, they have been in my corner and helped to enable my growth. I am extremely grateful for their continued support for the 2019 season!

I am just one of a long list of people and projects that the Club supports through its fundraising. I will be out on the streets next Friday to help with that as part of their Candy Day. If you are in downtown Naperville near North Central College, please come out and support them. Anything you donate will help so many like me!

USABA Tri Camp (8/21-26/18)

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

And those simple words are THANK YOU. I am extremely grateful for the amazing opportunity that I had in Colorado Springs and to everyone whom made it possible. To Gavin, USABA and USAT for making the camp possible, to OTCOS for hosting us, to Southwest for all their travel related help (including ensuring I had my bike with me), to George for all his help in Colorado, to all of the coaches for everything during the week, to Danny for being an amazing pilot/guide throughout, and to my fellow campers for their insight and help throughout. Also, thank you to Performance Bicycle (Naperville) for all of their help with getting the bike ready and packed so that I could participate.

As some of you may remember, the cranks still hadn’t been repaired. The locktite had held for Goshen, so I wasn’t concerned about it being solid for camp. My bigger concern was about being able to disassemble / transport the bike without (a) something getting broken or (b) the crank fix falling apart. But Dave and James did an awesome job of packing it and going through everything that we needed to do so things would work out.

After landing in Denver and getting luggage, George and I headed to Colorado Springs (COS). The plan was to connect with Danny once he and Tyler made it to COS and stay at the OTC. However, weather delays kept them in Houston. So instead it was dinner and staying with George — with visits by Hank the Tank (bulldog) throughout the night. And yes, the dog thread will be evident throughout this blog…

On Wednesday, I had time to wander through the OTC while waiting for Danny/Tyler to arrive. Once they did, we did the bike build and initial fitting. After that initial part, camp started in full. While I’m not going to go into minute detail about each day, they did all include sessions (like nutrition, communication, rules, etc.) and bike, swim and run each day.

The hilights of Thursday included an almost 2 mi run that we did as a small group prior to the day starting, a ride to/from bike skills, getting used to altitude and getting more comfortable on the bike. The handlebar bottle cage got moved to the pilot’s bar to help with starts, and we worked on speed within turns.

The highlights of Friday included a run/bike brick and a much better swim than Thursday. Lesson learned that Tri kits are for day 1 and bibs are for Day 2 and beyond… I did continue to play with leaning more, and it seemed to be okay for the most part.

The hilights of Saturday included transition training, triple bricks and seeing Danny win a 25m speed race. One of the things from transition that seemed to work really well was running without socks and Yanks on the shoes. It cut about 1:10 off of the time.

With all of the training, the guide dogs spent a lot of time in the dorm rooms. This meant that they were fun to watch playing each night after being ‘freed’. And yes, two of them did fulfill their contractual obligations by coming to say a proper hello on National Dog Day (Sunday). If I had had more time, maybe all of those belly rubs I was giving out might had led to one of them following me hom (*cough* Plum *cough* ;))

It was an amazing week in COS, and I am extremely grateful to have been there. Again, thank you to everyone who helped make it happen!

Rock the Quarry (8/18/18)

After having been accepted for the USABA camp, I decided to add another Tri the weekend before camp. This was my way of ensuring that I didn’t go into the camp ‘cold’. Goshen fit tha bill, and after securing a guide (Michael), I signed up.

One of the biggest concerns going into the race was the tandem. I had practice scheduled for about 10 days after the crank had originally broken. And we were still going in circles in trying to get the part replaced. But James from Performance Bicycle found a solution that he thought would work. After riding on it for 17-18 miles, we were both confident that it would work.

Between traffic and losing an hour going east, we made it to packet pickup literally as they were closing the doors. During pick up, we were asked about where we’d like to start. We selected to start with Team Triumph at the beginning — thinking that it would be the normal ‘first in and swim’ that I’ve had at other races. So I was surprised when I saw in the time layout that they didn’t start the race until that wave was completely out of the water.

While that was a very neat experience, I’ll admit that it made me a little nervous. Simply because there were a few hundred people watching us swim — and waiting on us to get out of the water before they could start. But to run out of the water to that large cheering crowd awa amazing and well worth it. It also ended up being my best 500m swim of the season!

Even with the huge ‘head start’, we weren’t alone for long on the bike course. I was counting bikes, and I believe all of the top 10 passed us before we did the Triangle turn around.

And then the heat came out to play… ‘Perfect timing’ — right as our run started. Things went on pace with the first 1/2 of the 10K the previous weekend though and we finished with a respectable time.

I know that the main thought post-race is ‘I’m done, let me get food and then GTFOOH’ But since all of those people had stood and waited for me, I wanted to be around to cheer them in. We did that for a bit before going to grab food, collect things and leave.

Goshen was a tremendous amount of fun and one that will become part of my annual schedule!

10K Fail (BTN Big 10K) (8/12/18)

“I think I can, I think I can… I knew I could, I knew I could.” – The Little Engine That Could

Five years ago when I receive the e-mail from Rutgers about them joining the Big 10 and the subsequent 5K/10K race announcement, I thought ‘why not’. Having not run a mile in more than 20 years, it was a challenge. But one that I was able to overcome. A couple years later, I tried the 10K race and it was a disaster (especially since the last mile was mostly under McCormick in the dark).

But believing I would need to do a 10 mile run as part of a near-Half Ironman this fall, I was willing to give the 10K race another try. With the growing successes in the 5K distances this spring/summer, I was hopeful that the 10K distance would go okay.

After meeting up with Sarah and Keri, whom were my Achilles guides, we made it to the start. I wish I had known that Bill Murray was going to be the race marshal, as I would have brought a stuffed gopher to toss to him when he offered the bounty for any sheep and the like brought back post run…

As with training, the first mile was faster than it should have been. But unlike the training, I wasn’t feeling the burnout that I normally do after a mile that fast. I was still feeling good at the first water stop (1.5mi) and knowing the time was trying to push for a 35min 5K. I was so close to making it there, but the heat and the faster mile #1 cost me. I don’t have an official 5K split, but 3mi was 36:12. So I would guess 5K at 36:30-36:45 range.

While I had to walk a little bit around/after the 5K mark due to the heat, I was feeling good after the 3.65mi water stop. And with the breeze, shade and extra energy, I was able to do pretty decent until mile 5. At that point, I was a little ahead of the 12:35 pace that’s been overall 5K pace for me. And then the wheels fell off…

At mile 5, I believe I was at 62-63 minutes. During the last 1.2 miles, my left foot tendon started cramping really bad and I had to do run/walk the best I could. That last 1.2 mile took more than 20 minutes because of that, and I was in pain post-race. So much so that at one point when it went from my foot up to the leg I reflexively threw the water bottle that was in my hand from pain.

I’m extremely grateful to both Sarah and Keri for guiding and Achilles for helping me to find guides. While the overall 10K wasn’t great, the 5K part gives me great hope at continuing to decrease the run part of Triathlons. And that’s a big win.

A New Challenge (Blind SUP) (8/5/18)

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Stephen King

I’ve had a conversation with friends and others in the past where they’ve said ‘I’m surprised you did [X], I wouldn’t have thought you would given your vision.’ My response to them has essentially been along the lines of ‘I’d rather try, fall on my face and try again than have regrets about not having tried.’ There have been a lot of successes, which are evidenced all over the walls of my condo because of that attitude. I’m willing to try most anything at least once so long as I feel it’s reasonably safe.

In that vein, when one of my friends brought up Stand Up Paddleboarding, my immediate reaction was ‘absolutely, let’s try it.’ I had tried it once before without any knowledge/instruction and wanted to see how it would go this time with a guide.

So after spending a while in Lake Michigan doing swim practice, we headed over to the SUP place. They do rentals, training and classes from Ohio Street Beach at a reasonable cost. I was given some basic instructions from the company and this most important one from Natalie: ‘Even if you fall, don’t let go of the paddle.’

We spent an hour on Lake Michigan on the SUPs. During that time, I lost sight of her a few times, managed to almost go into boat traffic and fell several times. But I kept with it and it kept getting easier / more natural throughout that hour. Before the end of the hour, I came close to getting it all to come together. Hopefully I can get fully up and paddling next time.

And for those of you who have never done SUP, I would strongly suggest giving it a try. It’s a lot of fun and a good workout. 🙂