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:


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.

Camp Catapult – 10/3-6/19

“Enjoy every sandwich.” – Warren Zevon

The simple truth is that not every sandwich is going to be great. Some will be burned, some will be missing ingredients, and some will simply be shit sandwiches. But if you’re picky and only enjoy the perfect ones, you’ll miss out on so much of life. When you learn to enjoy every sandwich, you get so much more out of life — especially when things don’t go right.

After landing in Houston and spending time with Uriah, we eventually met up with the rest of the camp group for food. After dinner, we boarded a very nice bus (part of Woodlands Transit’s fleet) and made our way to Camp Olympia in Trinity.

I think that the best way to describe the camp is to start by thinking of whatever summer camp you went to growing up. Then add a lot of facilities and ammentities to ensure campers get the most out of the outdoors WITHOUT making it a hotel/resort. The bottom line is that it’s an amazing facility. If you’re in the Houston area, I strongly recommend looking into it as a camp option for your group!

Remember how I said sometimes you get a shit sandwich? That happened Friday morning… As we went to take the bike out of the case, it was discovered that the lower rear triangle had been crushed during transit. It was frustrating, but after taking the time to start the claim with the airline, I focused on moving forward. Justin was able to find a tandem that fit Eric and me, so we were covered for the weekend. I am still working with that airline and hope to be able to send the frame to CoMotion shortly for repairs.

Before realizing the bike issue, I also found out about one other packing issue. The running game before every event is ‘guess what James forgot to pack’. Usually it’s something simple, and I realize it in enough time to pick it up at a Walmart/Target. However, this time I didn’t realize that I had left my towel on the bed at home until I was grabbing my swim stuff. Thankfully New Wave Swim Buoy’s generosity had me covered! I also received an inflatable swim buoy, goggles and swim caps from them.

Our morning consisted of a strength session and then open water skills (OWS) in the pool. Since there weren’t lane lines, those swim buoys were used as our sighting points. As we finished the swim session, I noticed the deep water and people jumping from a platform. When I asked how tall it was, I was told 12 feet. So my thinking was 12 feet high into 14 feet of water, no sweat (I later learned it was 25 feet). While the first jump was a bit nerve wracking, it was OK since I could see the water down below. I got a second ‘tandem’ jump in with a friend before we had to get ready for lunch and the afternoon sessions.

One thing that I quickly learned during the first afternoon is that it can go from 75 to 90 in a heartbeat. And doing running drills in 90 degree heat is no fun. Especially when I was doing laps at probably a 9:30 pace. That was just how the drill was laid out (slow/moderate/slow/fast/slow/faster/slow/fastest).

While the run wasn’t a lot of fun, getting out on the bike was. After a couple of minor hiccups, things went well with starts/stops. As we became more comfortable, both with the borrowed equipment and with our communication, we were able to pick up speed and have fun on the loops. We finished the day with the ‘oh-so’fun’ Yoga. And yes, I like Yoga as much as I like Poi and Wheatgrass…. 😛

Friday evening was a pool party event. Knowing that I couldn’t reasonably jump in the dark, I snuck a couple more platform jumps in before eating dinner. After dinner, people started going off the platform and slide in the dark. While I wanted to go back up and jump again, I didn’t think it would work. It was one thing to jump in the daylight when I could see the water, but completely blind platform jumping? As I stood near the diving board, I was coaxed into doing it. I don’t remember who talked me into the initial jump, but I’m glad they did.

That first blind platform jump was one of the scariest things that I’ve done in a long time. Especially when at about 5 seconds in flight my mind started asking ‘WTF is the water?’ But it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done — and I’m glad I did it. After that initial jump, I spent about another hour jumping off and going down the slide. A big thank you to a specific Doctor that was my eyes during this crazy fun. 🙂

Day 2 consisted of a XC type session for our run drills, U-turns and other bike drills and OWS in the lake.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so spent during a run session as I was during Saturday’s. Apparently, Burpess aren’t in violation of the Geneva Convention… I guess I was misinformed on that. LOL. Communication was key as we did the different U-turns and other turn drills, and we finished up the bike with several fast loops. I really appreciate them moving the afternoon OWS from the pool to the lake, where we had a chance to do a swim course preview multiple times.

As we were leaving the lake, someone pointed out the zipline into the lake. But since the ladder wasn’t there, it couldn’t be used. Maybe in 2020?

On Sunday, we did a min-triathlon. You had the option for distances (between 400 and 550 for swim, 5mi and 9mi for bike and 1.1mi or 2.5mi for run). We did 400/9/2.25 for our race (more on the difference below).

As with a few other lake swims this season, it seemed like we still had distance to go when Eric signaled me we were done. While I still need to increase my speed, all of that is a good sign. I’d rather be thinking I’ve got distance to go and being done than the reverse. After a solid T1, we headed out for a bike ride full of hills. Being one of the first ones on the bike, it didn’t seem they were ready for us and we missed the inital turn. But after fixing that hiccup, it was a fast, solid bike. After a decent T2, we headed out on the run.

The 2.5 mile run was the bike loop we’d done on Friday/Saturday followed by an out-and-back. The first 1.5 was OK, but hills and lack of hydration made the last mile a bear. To the point that my right thigh was cramping on the way back. When we got to the 2.25mi mark, I was in enough discomfort that I decided to bring it in rather than risking injuring something.

For me, one of the coolest parts of the race was the human finish chute we created for the final participant. Definitely a memory that will stick with me, and I’m sure it will stick with them.

All in all, it was an amazing and memorable weekend. I am extremely grateful to Catapult for a weekend of learning and opportunities to push my own boundaries. Thank you to Eric for guiding for me, and to all the sponsors (including New Wave Swim Buoy and Hammer Nutrition) for their generous support of Camp Catapult! I hope to be back again in 2020!

How not to run a race (The Blacklight Run) – 9/14/19

I understand and accept that no race is going to go off perfectly. As a RO/RD, you can plan for every eventuality, every contingency and even put pre-emptive Darwin Awards measures in place. But it won’t stop [X] from happening — specifically [X] that no one could ever think of happening. When something like that does happen, it really hasn’t been a big deal. They did everything right, and something out of their control just happened. HOWEVER, The Blacklight Run Chicago does not fall into that category.

To begin with, their ‘free’ race was not really free. This ‘free’ race registration required you to make a mandatory donation to a charity in addition to paying a facility fee. Quite odd to mandate this, as well as then charging you the registration percentage on it. But looking at it as a 5K for < $15, I went along with their process.

I had registered for both this race and a similar one that they did in May. I had believed it would be a very simple conversation about my guide, especially since it appeared that they wanted people there. If not, then why do a ‘free’ entry that kept getting pushed? However, it took me having to reach out to the Chicagoland Speedway before this RO got the message that the ADA needs to be followed. I’ve got the e-mail chain to show just how unhelpful their staff was initially. And then within a VERY short time of calling the Speedway, it was all resolved.

The next issue with this event was the parking. I remember seeing something early on from the RO along the lines of ‘Parking is $20 (cash). We have specifically told the tow companies to watch for people parking on side streets. You will be towed if you do.’ IMO, that sort of message smacks of bullying. But we went along with it. I’ll admit that I did get some satisfaction from handing them a bag of change to pay for the $20 BS parking.

As I had to do packet pickup that evening, we arrived in plenty of time. Once it started to get dark, we moved towards the starting area. As usual, we seeded ourselves far enough back to ensure that it could be a safe, good run. As they were sending people off in waves, I thought we’d be even better off.

However, things did not go well throughout the race. I would estimate that at least 90% of the people were walking. There were some others running, but they were having the same issues that we were. You would be able to run for about 150-200 feet and then a pocket of people walking across the ENTIRE path would stop your progress. I don’t have an issue with people walking. But the overwhelming percentage of people go with walk right, run left. So overall, we were able run about 1m total.

The Blacklight zones on the course were interesting, and lived up to what they were supposed to be. On the other hand, the aid station did not. To that point, every single aid station in the 100+ events (Tri and running) that I’ve done have had COLD beverage options, pre-set and ready for people to grab. Hell, even during the Half where I had horrible calf issues and we were beyond the race finish, there were still cold jugs of water for us to self-pour from. Last night, their idea of an ‘aid station’ was to set up empty cups on a table, then have you wait in line. When you got to the front of it, someone filled the cup with warm water from a garden hose. Utter, utter BS.

The final straw of the evening was how their staff acted post-race. I’ll admit that I was beyond pissed with the cummulative BS of the evening. When I talked to the Assistant RD, he said that (a) the RD was out on the course, (b) the RD wasn’t reachable and (c) I’d have to go through their ‘helpful’ CS team. Again, I’ve NEVER seen a situation where the RD is unreachable. I’m quite sure that Marconi didn’t just invent them today…

I have already reached out to their CS for a FULL refund. And I’ve also contacted the SPeedway. I truly hope that the Chicagoland Speedway takes the appropriate actions to ensure that others don’t have to go through this absurdity. It was the Blacklight Walk, NOT the Blacklight Run. Had it been promoted as what it ruly was, I would not have wasted the almost $38 that I did.

Finally, if you want a well organized, fun and TRUE night run, I strongly suggest the GloRuns done by AllCommunityEvents. I believe Amita Health is the title sponsor for these races that are held across the country.

USABA / USAT VI ID Camp (9/4-8/19)

Last August, I was given an amazing opportunity to be at the OPTC for the first Visually Impaired (VI) Talent ID Camp. Even though I struggled during that camp (see last year’s blog post), I still learned a tremendous amount from it.

Even though there have been unexpected and unplanned bumps throughout this season, I’ve seen an upward trend. I had hoped to have the opportunity to be there again this year. While I wasn’t given a spot initially, I was fortunate to be given one off the wait list.

Last year, I suffered from the altitude adjustment and from trying to do a long bike ride in Tri shorts. Going into this year, I intended to do a run in CO pre-camp and had bibs for the longer ride. So after running errands Wednesday morning, Larry and I went to the track and ran 2 miles. As expected, it was absolutely, positively no fun. Even doing 1/2 mile repeats was a challenge since my body wasn’t yet acclimated. However, it was worth it in the long run.

Something that I’ve said before and will say again is that you can’t do this sport without a lot of trust. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, especially on the bike. For me, as long as my guide is an experienced Triathlete and has a good attitude, it’s all going to work out. I’ll always share what I need with a new guide before we do a practice or race. Taking that small amount of time leads to success, even if they’re a first-time guide.

The first full day of camp was packed. We started on the Colorado College track for a strenuous workout. I was glad to have done the warm ups the day before with Larry. Because of that, the first session with Jace went much better. That’s not to say it was easy by any means though. We ended up doing a warmup followed by dynamic stretching work and then 3x 400/200/400/200 (run/walk) with a focus on negative splits. During that last session, one of the coaches showed me a way to improve my run strike/run stride. It was odd and a bit painful at first, but I knew / know it will pay off long-term.

After a strength session and lunch, we were in the OPTC pool for the first time. While the altitude created some struggles for me during the early set, it wasn’t as bad as last year. I would say that I wasn’t feeling it that much by about 500-600 into the set. The main set was full of drills, during which I was trying to watch/focus on the left arm catch. While the right is usually OK, the left has far more drag — and is something that I’ve been working on with a private coach as well.

After the swim and time to finish bike builds, we headed out to do bike skills. For safety reasons, they had the pilots ride over solo while the stokers were in the vans. I’m sure that drivers in Colorado Springs had some interesting comments when they say 10 tandems ride by with just one person on them. After working out some minor issues with starts and stops, Jace and I went through all of the different drills without incident. He was able to successfully maneuver us around those small two legged obstacles. Once done there, the day ended with a Sports Psychology classroom session.

While the next day only had two sessions, it was more challenging than the previous day. It started with 4.8mi Gold Camp repeats. Even with losing 20-30 minutes having to address a tire puncture, we made it up / down almost twice. The van turned us around about 80-85% of the way back up the 2nd time because of time constraints. It’s a long uphill climb, where you feel like you’re going through mud a times. But it’s well worth doing and an amazing hill workout. Oh, and coming down Gold Camp is a tremendous amount of fun. 🙂

The afternoon swim session was an Open Water Skills (OWS) session. It included a warmup, drills and all of the standard things you’d do in open water in a race. We also had the assistance of two coaches (Beck and Kelly) that were there for the PT Coaching Certification Clinic during the session. It ended with us doing two full race simulation laps.

In 2007, when Coach O put us through the paces like we new recruits during the first day of spring ball, I remember walking around the IPF track in a daze post-workout. My brain was fighting my body at that point. I had a similar feeling after these two sessions, and it took a good deal of sugar to get me back to ‘normal’ so that I didn’t fall asleep during the classroom sessions.

The next day included the Triple Brick session and another pool session. Each of the bicks was T1->bike (5K)->T2->run (1mi), with a focus on negative splitting per brick. Throughout our sessions, the transitions kept decreasing, the runs were about constant and the bikes were on target.

The meat of the swim session was a 16×50 workout. These were broken down into 3 ‘active recovery’ and 1 fast. For me, I can do a fast 25 okay. But after that 25, the motor dies a bit. Even still, we made it through the workout, which finished with a coach/guide race.

The final day was an optonial swim workout. It was a good opportunity to practice the drills that we had done throughout the camp. It also had more of the 4×50 drills…

I am truly grateful to have had this amazing opportunity again in 2019. While it’s a short stay, I always learn a LOT at the camps I’ve been at at the OPTC. And what I’ve learned has helped me to improve across all phases of Triathlon.

THANK YOU to everyone that made this possible, all the coaches for their time and sharing their knowledge, Larry for his help in getting to/from Denver and Jace for guiding for me. He did an amazing job as my guide and I hope to work with him again!

Du Chicago (Chicago Triathlon) – 8/25/19

Throughout the summer, I went into the city for Dare2Tri’s bike / swim sessions and Chicago Tri Club’s swim / run sessions.  After the issues in June, the focus behind them was getting ready for Chicago.  Even during the ‘washing machine’ swims, things went well for the most part.  All of this was great practice for what was to be my Tri season finale.

Knowing that traffic / road closures could cause delays Sunday morning, I decided to do packet pickup myself.  IMO, the Expo is set up like a Vegas casino – in that even when you see an exit, it isn’t always an exit.  At least pick up went smoothly once I finally found the right place to start at.  Having gotten all of the race materials, and just as important, the alcohol bracelet, I was set to do the Tri.  And then the water decided not to play nicely…

The first e-mail dropped the swim to 750 for everyone and offered people the option of a Du.  When that happened, I told Eric that I still wanted to do the full Tri.  Unfortunately, early Sunday morning it became a mandatory Du.

Upon making it into the city, we ran into lots of closed streets and delays.  The closest we were able to get at 6:30 was Navy Pier.  So it was a mile walk to transition.  Eric met me at the entrance, and we still had plenty of time to set everything up.  As a Du, the set up was much more simple (just helmet, sunglasses and bottles on/next to bike).

After making sure that everything was properly set and we had the layout for ‘swim out’, bike in/out and run out properly mapped, we made our way to the start.  It’s a 3/4 mile walk that is best done in shoes.  Even if it hadn’t been a Du, I still would have been in shoes pre-swim.  But with it being Run/Bike/Run, I just walked there in my run shoes.

Given the duplicate run leg, I had planned to do the first one more slowly than normal.  I figured that this would save my legs for the second run.  After we started in a time-trial type one, the pace was a little bit faster than I had planned.  We ended up passing a few of my Dare2Tri teammates, making it to T1 in about 8:15.

After a quick T1, we headed out on a challenging 15.8mi bike.  Because one side of Lake Shore Drive was closed, the bike was reversed.  You could tell who didn’t pay attention during the briefings – those were the ones riding right.  They were also the ones serving penalties at mile 1 of the run. 

As with the past several bike legs, we passed a tremendous amount of people during it. We had a tailwind on the way out, which helped us to almost catch Alberto and Justin.  But we paid for that wind ‘help’ on the way back – doing hills into a headwind aren’t fun.  Even still, Eric told me that we topped out at 39.8 and had an average of 21.

We had a solid T2 and left it just seconds behind Alberto and Justin.  The first 1.25 miles went well, and then the hills came into play.  I remembered the first one at about 1.5 from 2017.  However, because of course changes, we had a ‘new’ second one at about 1.8.  With the heat and climbs, I ended up having to walk part of these hills.  As we were at about 2.2, Val and Andrew came past us headed the other way.  While I was starting to struggle, my main thought was ‘I need to finish strong and not let the bike go to waste’. 

Going into the race, I knew that I was giving 5-7 minutes up on the run to Alberto and Val.  With that solid bike, I had probably 12 minutes on Val going into the run.  I would have been distraught for giving up 13 minutes on the run.  Even though the last mile was a moderately painful run/walk, I turned it on when we made the final turn and finished strong.

A huge THANK YOU to Eric and to Dare2Tri for all of their support.  Not just during the race, but also leading up to it.  Eric was my pilot during many of those bike sessions.

Rock the Quarry – 8/17/19

Last year, Rock the Quarry was just ‘some race’ that I happened to find on Running in the USA.  It was simply a replacement race for having lost Naperville.  But after how much I enjoyed it last year, it was a definite race and one I looked forward to.

As well, last year we were in a wave with a single other AWD (Athlete With Disability) participant.  It was amazing that they held the race until we were both out of the water.  This yea, we were part of the normal AG wave.  The M35-39 wave was large, and it wasn’t a ‘normal’ start.  To ensure that we weren’t swum over, Michael had us towards the back.  We probably lost 45-60 seconds on the water entry because of how things were set up.

Once in the water, the swim went okay.  There was one point where swimmers from wave 4 (the next male wave) caught up with us.  When one of the participants from that wave swam right over me, I lost my stroke and then time having to restart in open water.  Once I was able to get re-started, we made our way back to the shore without incident.

There is quite a long run from swim out to the transition racks.  After making it there, T1 went decently and we headed out on the bike.  The 15 miles went by quickly with a couple interesting and one dangerous incident —

1)  As it’s Amish country and there are open roads, you can sometimes run into a horse and buggy.  We did again this year and made the pass around both it and the horses without any incident.  A hoof to the bike can ruin your day…

2)  Seeing the two AWD teams and their support teams on the course.  As a ParaTriathlete, I love seeing other AWDs at these local races. 

3)  One of the most important bike ones is ride right, pass left (unless specifically stated otherwise).  That’s important on any course, but especially on this one where you do an S curve under a railroad trestle.  Coming out of it going out, we had someone pass us on the right-hand side.  The asshat did that to someone else a bit further on as well.  I really wish that Michael or I had gotten his bib number.  People like that should really be Dqed.

Also on the bike, we passed a tremendous number of people.  As in the past several races, we got the smartass ‘you’re cheating’ joke.  If someone wants to trade me their 20/20 eyes, I’ll gladly give up the tandem…  But I won’t hold my breath for that…

T2 went as well as T1, after which we made the long run onto the run course.  Loop 1 went okay.  However, on loop 2, the head and humidity took its toll.  It became a walk/run, with the last 1/2 – 3/4 mile being in pain.

While there were issues on the swim and run, I did still manage to shave about 90 seconds off of my 2018 time. 

Naperville Sprint Tri – 8/4/19

Last year, a broken crank sidelined me from the race.  I tried everything I could to make it work, but had to eventually throw in the towel.  So I was really looking forward to this year’s race.

Upon getting to the race site, I was surprised in the dark.  I thought that I knew where my ‘stalker’ was at that weekend.  But they surprised me by being there.  Their note pre-race was ‘finish faster’. 

In past years, we’ve been immediately behind the elites.  While it’s been a privilege to be that far up-font, it’s come at a price.  Simply because we’d have those able to do 5-6 minute swims swimming over us.  To counteract this, we seeded ourselves towards the back of the pack.  This helped some, but didn’t solve all of the issues.  Especially since it seemed like they went from a lane-line barrier to a more solid one.  Even with a couple of hiccups, it was still a decent swim.

After doing a reasonably quick T1 for the distance, we headed out on the bike.  As in Lake Zurich, we passed a tremendous amount of people on the double loop.  I was hoping to see the Para Relay team while we were on the bike, but we didin’t.  It also got a little hairy towards the turnaround on the 2nd loop.  At this point, the participants of the Kids Tri were on the bike course.  While some weren’t as familiar with the rules, Lee was able to keep us safe and [eventually] get them to ride properly so we could pass.

Arriving back in T2, I drained about half the bottle of Skratch before we headed out on the run.  While I remembered most of the course from 2017, I had forgotten about an important hill on River.  Even still, the portion through the woods and over the bridge was solid.  So were spurts along River.  However, when we hit Aurora in the heat and humidity, things broke down a bit.

While it wasn’t a perfect race, I did end up shaving 14 minutes off my 2017 time.