GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL[ball] (2/17/18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dare2Tri Development Team (2/15/18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roaring Back (1/6/18)

The Lions Clubs do a tremendous amount to help people with visual disabilities, both directly and indirectly. One of those direct impacts, is the support that they have provided to me to pursue my Triathlon endeavours.

They helped to support the very first Triathlon related experience (2015 Dare2Tri Paratriathalon Camp), and provided generous support again in 2016 and 2017. I was hopeful that they would do so again for 2018. And to my delight, they did!

A huge THANK YOU to the Naperville Noon Lions, not just for continuing to support me, but also for having been there since the start! If you would like to support their worthy endeavors, please visit their web site!

A Cold Run (1/6/18)

With camp a few weks later, I wanted to find a 5K to prep for the run part of it. Fortunately, Team Ortho had an event (Polar Dash) that fit my schedule. So Racheal, Anna and I signed up to run it.

During the previous couple weeks, it had been decent. Sure a couple of super windy or super cold days. But not the typical brutal Chicago December cold. And while it had been cold earlier that week, I thought it would warm up a bit (as the day after was going to be high 30s). Nope; a nice 10 degree day for the run.

The first cabbie dropped me off in the entirely wrong spot, but a second got me to where I needed to be. We all met up at gear check and got ready to brave the cold. Having read all of the race updates posted on the Facebook page, even with the cold, I expected aid stations out there. They didn’t say those were scrapped, so I ran without my bottle.

The first 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 miles went great. But then not having any water out there became an issue. The back half of the race bacame more of a walk/run, bolstered by Racheal and Anna’s freestyle raps. 🙂

Even though it was a cold day, I will look to do the race again next year. Team Ortho always does great events. Their next race is the Get Lucky 7K/14K/21K on March 17th — check it out!

Thank You! – 1/1/18

As I’ve said before, I could never do this alone. Not just from the guides that I depend on to compete, but also the support of sponsors, teammates, family and friends are necessary to succeed.

During 2017, there were both successes and ‘fall flat of my face’ experiences. During those latter times, that support helped to push me on and pull through the dark times. Without it, I would never have made it through the 8 month season which started in San Diego and ended in Fort Wayne.

As I start my 3rd full year, I have an even longer season planned. I know it will be a tremendous amount of fun, and I believe I’ll be able to take another step towards the long-term goals. Hammer Nutrition has already renewed their support, and I am waiting to hear on several other exciting things.

And as I look forward to 2018, I want to make sure that I thank everyone who helped to support me in 2017. Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club, Challenged Athletes Foundsation, Naperville Noon Lions Club, Hammer Nutrition, and a long list of family and friends. THANK YOU all!

Hammered Again (11/30/17)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, because of the cost of this sport, you need sponsors to succeed. And it’s not just the financial cost that they help with, they also help you when you’re physically/emotionally spent and need to re-buy.

Since beginning this journey in 2015, I’ve been fortunate to have a wide network of supporters and sponsors. They’ve been in my corner, and helped to ensure that I’m able to push forward. Some have come to me, others I’ve gone out and found myself.

Earlier this year, I was overjoyed to get a yes from Hammer Nutrition when I asked them for their support. Since starting, I had tried many different gels but always came back to Hammer’s. And other products like Endrolytes were already part of my race kit. Because of their generosity, not only was I able to have everything I knew I needed but also to try new product like Heed. That was in my bottles throughout the 2017 season and will be again in 2018.

While I’m grateful for any support, I’m even more so when someone sticks with me. There are umpteen different places that everyone (individual or company) can put their support. So when someone re-ups, that means a LOT.

Earlier this week, Hammer said yes to sponsoring my nutrition needs in 2018! That will help IMMENSELY during the extremely long 2018 season I have in store!

THANK YOU Hammer Nutrition!

You vs. You vs. You (11/30/17)

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

After an extremely long season, which started at Amy Dixon’s No Sight No Limits camp in Chula Vista and ended at Turnstone Dare2Tri’s camp in Fort Wayne, I had a plan for 2018. It involved having a little bit of a break and then hitting things hard. Having planned out an equally long 2018, I saw this as the best route for success.

But then a thunderstorm of personal stuff started and derailed that plan. It will all be great stuff in the long-term, but it derailed what I had planned. When this happens, you can either say ‘screw it, focus on X’ or you can come up with a Plan B (and in my case usually a C, D, … X) and move forward. This is the first half of the title of the blog, and the first battle.

I know it’s sometimes very easy to say ‘this sucks, I’m out’, but that’s not the right attitude. Even if you have to temporarily back away or radically move things around, there shouldn’t be a reason to sit on the sidelines forever. Not only will you miss out on a lot in life, but you owe it to yourself and those who’ve supported you to get back out there. See my Leaning Tower blog for an example of this. Things would have gone radically different for 2017 if I hadn’t won out in that you vs. you battle.

But once you win that first battle, it’s not over. It’s onto round two for you. It’s very easy to find ways to backslide, legitimate or not. You’ve managed to refocus, now it’s just staying on that new path. And I’ll be honest, that’s not always easy. But when you falter, all you can do is pick yourself back up and keep moving forward.

The most important piece of all this is to remember that while it’s an internal fight at times, it’s not fought on your own. You’ve got a tremendous support network that can help you (coaches, friends, family, etc.) when you need it. They’re there to support, encourage and drive you.

When December starts tomorrow, things will kick into high gear for me. My 2018 season starts early, and I need to be ready for it. While I know that the second part of the fight will continue all month, I know I’ve got the support to win it. And the motivation to keep moving forward through a challenge with friends.

Giving Back (10/12/17)

“We’re happy to get the kind of money that jingles… [or] the kind that folds.” (from Coming to America)

Some of you may have had family tell you to go play in traffic. Some of them may have been frustrated; some of them may have been serious. But that’s exactly what I did yesterday and will do again tomorrow.

No, no, I’m not crazy [no comments from the peanut gallery….]. I’m out in traffic helping to collect money for the Lions Club Candy Day. The local Club helped to support me in my very first Triathlon event in 2015, and have helped to support me since. I also know that everything collected helps to support other people with visual disabilities, so I’m extremely happy to go out and play in traffic.

Throughout the rest of the weekend, you may see Lions out on the street in your neighborhood. Even if it’s just spare change, PLEASE give what you can. Every little bit helps, and helps those who need it.

And again,a huge THANK YOU to the Naperville Noon Lions Club, who continue to support me in my Triathlon endeavors!

Turnstone Dare2Tri Camp (Fort Wayne, IN) – 9/15-17/17

 

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” – Al Pacino

I thought Chicago was the end of my season. I’d have a little time off and then move into off-season training indoors. But then I was presented with another camp opportunity in Fort Wayne. This meant getting up at pre-dark:30 to get into the city with help from my parents so we could leave at dark:30.

Dan, Stacee, Kristen and I loaded up and then headed for a 3[plus] hour tour. And just like Gilligan’s Island, some very odd things happened during it. Like the place where we stopped for breakfast in farm country. Having the ‘sandwich artist’ being able to recite (in some seriousness) the names of some of the animals that had led to the meet in the trays was a bit odd. But we had fun with it and him..

Arriving at Turnstone, we were treated to a quick tour of their amazing facility before setting up out back. As people were getting fitted for equipment, I had a chance to talk with others (and play with Kahara).

One of the constants of adaptive sports is that you have to be able to adapt. As I’ve said before, something will not go as planned. You just need to figure out how to deal with it and move forward. This started with us losing lights in half of the pool and locker room. And for me continued with working with a brand new guide/pilot. Not only was this his first time doing Triathlon stuff, but also his first time on a tandem.

While that may sound like a disaster waiting to happen, that isn’t how I saw it. Because I realize that my guide/pilot won’t always be the same, I’ve gotten used to training new ones. Even though knowing what works best from experience helps, always remembering what one of my frist quides told me (“uise your words”) helps even more. If I can’t fully describe everything to my set of borrowed eyes, then we’re both going to fail. And I trust every one of my pilots/guides – things will work out right even if they don’t turn out perfect.

Robert continued to prove that rule. Within a few times of start/stops and turns, things were going really well. The first run session did as well, even though the last 90 seconds turned into many minutes… And he continued to do so throughout the entire camp, seeming to get more comfortable each day.

The second day of the camp started out with an incredibly technical bike loop. Just like someone carved up Xs in Megg’s Field in the dark, I could believe that the Fort Wayne Light & Power department just erected poles in the dead of night. What I mean by that is instead of the light poles being on the grass, or sidewalks going around them, light poles were on the sidewalk. In addition to those fun obstacles, the other part of the course was through dens foliage, through a dark covered tunnel and then over a laminate bridge/around a blind corner. Did I mention yet how key trust is?

After some functional stretch, we had ‘fun’ with the run. Yes, I realize that that sounds like an oxymoron… But it was fun with the 15/45 drills. In these, you run fast for 15 seconds and then do active recovery for 45 seconds, with each set of 15 getting faster. During one of the final two, I saw someone in a wheelchair about to pass me. I had it in my mind that I was going to keep pace with them and pass them, which I did before the 15 seconds ended. Like I said, fun while running…

The final day of the camp was a mini-triathlon – swim in the pool, loops on the bike and running on the HS track. This was the first triathlon for several, as well as the start of their addiction. Things went well with Robert as my guide/pilot, as I knew they would from how things had gone the previous two days. One of the camper’s family coming out and cheering both them and then us all on really helped.

While these camps provide an opportunity to build skills, they also provide some great social opportunities. Throughout the weekend, I had a chance to talk with everyone, and learn more about them. And I believe I picked up a new guide for 2018 Indy races. I hope to see many of them at camps in 2018!

Thank you to Turnstone for hosting us and to Dare2Tri for putting on the 3 day camp! It was a great ‘Overtime’ session, and I hope it’s an option next September. I would strongly suggest watching out for opportunities like this. Unless you can do a sub 1 hour Sprint Tri consistently, there’s always room to continue improving!

Even though my season is officially over now, there’s no rest for the weary. Off-season training is in full swing, and I’m starting to plan for my 2018 season. If any of you would like to help support me for it, you can do so through my USABA page.