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.

Falling Short (Chicago Tri) – 8/27/17

Going into Chicago this past weekend, I felt really good. Even though I had gotten sick after them, the final two Open Water Swim (OWS)es of the season were extremely helpful. They were both choppy and moderately warm (mid 70s), which I believed would help for race day. Tthe pre-race 20/20/20 with Kyle went well, and I had a plan for both sides of the extremely long transitions (3/4 mile to swim out, ½ mile from swim in). So everything should have gone perfect with me setting a PR at Chicago, right? No, not really….

After getting everything set up, our group headed towards race start, and our Sprint wave started at 8:45. Once in the water, things felt really good; and from what I mentioned about OWS earlier, I anticipated a 25-26 min swim. When exiting, I ended up knee planting on the huge step. Even with that, T1 ended up being quicker than last year.

Making it out onto the bike, we picked up a tremendous amount of places. Throughout almost the entire bike, we were passing people continuously. Well, except for when people like one of my teammates (David Kuhn) blazed past us at almost 30mph. And even with a couple hiccups (hairpin turns and having to stop for a bit because my lower body went numb), the delta was almost 1000 people.

With the nutrition plan that I had been using, I felt good going into the run. Unfortunately, my knees kept cramping up throughout the run. It was so frustrating, as I had enough breath / stamina to keep going, but I couldn’t keep the pressure on without a lot of pain. I have no idea exactly what caused it, but I managed to make it through the run.

As I’ve already told some people privately, this day was full of frustration for me. I knew that I had put in the work to get the time down, but it didn’t show in the results (+10 min from 2016). While it would be easy to let that frustration make me say ‘screw it – I put in the work and it just got worse’, that’s just not in my DNA. Honestly, the last few days have been a struggle as I continue to try and ignore those feelings.

What will help to silence those voices is continuing to keep perspective and getting back into the pool on Friday to start the off-season workouts. A couple years ago, the struggles with bike mounting almost got the better of me. This year, with the exception of the first race, I’ve been in clips with very minimal issues. The bottom line being that I just have to remember that while it won’t be immediate, things will continue to get better if I keep pushing forward. And that’s the message I’ve got to keep feeding myself the entire off season.

There are several things that I’ll be discussing with coaches and other athletes over the next several months. There will also be several different sets of experiments as I try to find a way to get the numbers to where I need them to be. I am watching the clock and know that my first shot to qualify for 2018 Nationals is about 6 months from today. Even though that’s a lot of time, it’s really not…

One of the other main things that I need to get addressed in the off-season is aaddle fit. Every race this season, the current saddle has caused my lower regions to go numb and lose power during adjustment. On Sunday, this wasn’t noticeable until it was a real issue, causing us to stop for about 60-90 sec at mile 11 or 12. If I want to be able to keep a constant 20mph+, I can’t have that happening.

Even though my 2017 racing season is over, things aren’t completely done for the year. In addition to off-season training, I’ve got two long bike rides and potentially a Tri camp before the end of the year. I’ll have an end of year reflective post once I’m down to just off-season training.

Naperville Tri – 8/6/17

Since I started competing in races in 2014, a beer has always followed the race. Whether it’s included with part of the post-race party or it’s the first thing I grab when I get home, I’m celebrating the finish pretty quickly after the race. This routine changed after Naperville though – more on that at the end.

Naperville was the first official Triathlon that I did, and has become my favorite since. Not just because it’s done really well (between PEM and ET), but also because it gives me an opportunity to publicly thank the local businesses that help / have helped to support me. I would not be at this point without the support from ALL of them, and I’m extremely grateful to them.

As in years past, everything got set up so Terri could guide for me. We got some practice in on the ‘new’ tandem and with the new gear, and were set to go for the race. On race morning, when we set up in transition, Terri noticed someone had majorly misracked (it goes 17, 18; not 17, xxxx). We headed to the beach start believing that an official would notice it and handle.

We started after the elite racers and got into the ‘full contact’ swim melee. So many people trying to climb over / swim over us like every year in Naperville so far. And I could swear that near the final buoy that another athlete physically pulled me upright out of the water. This is a perfect example of where rule K.48 would have been very helpful. Even with these extra obstacles, the swim / 100 was right on target.

After transition, we headed out onto the tandem for 12.4 miles (two loops). Things went well, although it’s apparent that I need to get the saddle addressed before 2018. My lower region keeps falling asleep / getting uncomfortable mid race. And for a sprint race, I’m not going to add another 10 minutes for on/off of bike bibs.

Up until we headed out on the run, it had been cloudy and cool. But as we started out, the sun broke through and it heated up. The first 1.5 miles wasn’t too bad, but I did have to stop at about that point to stretch out. I also had the same feet tightening up issue I’ve had all year. Even though it wasn’t a great run, still better than several from this season. We finished about 5 minutes faster than 2016.

A few notes from / post race —
1) The new nutrition program worked out well, including the ‘emergency’ capsules. I will continue to use that going forward.

2) That the Karma Police always gets their man (or woman). Looking at the results, it appears the person who grossly misracked was DQed. Moral of the story is play by the rules…

3) I’m not sure which part of the race did it to me, but for the rest of Sunday my body was in pain. When we made stops headed north, I think my limping shuffle probably imitated that of an 80+ year old…

So back to where I started this blog – post-race beer. The timing just happened to work that we were headed up to WI that afternoon where a pony keg of local beer (Tribute Brewing Company) was waiting. So instead of having the standard PBR at home, I waited a long time for the Tribute pint. Yes, the beer is that good, and yes, the wait was well worth it!

Early bird registration is open for 2018 if you’d like to join us next year! Register on web site.

Look Ma – No Eyes! (Chicago GloRun) – 7/15/17

Over the past few years, my friends have told me about different versions of Glo Runs. They’ve always sounded like a lot of fun, but the timing hasn’t worked; until this year. Even though it meant a Tri into a 5K, I was still up for it. Especially since I was doing this as a fundraiser race for Challenged Athletes Foundation.

I knew that I’d be able to recover from the Tri in time between a 4 hour ride back and the assortment of Hammer Nutrition products I had with me. I was correct on that part, and headed downtown after a brief break for a shower/food.

For those of you who don’t know, a GloRun is done in the dark with the majority of the lighting come from glow sticks, necklaces and other things like that. There are also other well lit zones at random points throughout the course. Being unable to see well in the dark because of my vision, I knew that this was going to be quite the challenge. However, I knew it would all go well, as I was surrounded by a convocation of Eagles (Jen, Martha and Julian (JuJu)).

Once it was dark, the race started and we were off. In past races, the McCormick tunnel has always been a challenge. But this night, it was just one more dark area. Having Julian to run ahead of us with a light shining backwards really helped, and we were able to keep a steady pace until about 1.5 miles in when we got to the aide station. After that point, I had the ‘foot sleep’ issue I’ve had in past 5Ks and ended up having to do a modified run/walk after that point.

Even with that, it was still a great race. And something that I’m very glad that I did. 🙂 I plan on doing it again in 2018 if the timing works out!

While this wasn’t a triathlon, I still wouldn’t have done this without the previous support from Dare2Tri. I know that may sound odd, but the reality is that because I knew from experience that things had gone well in the dark (read as 4A transition fun…), that this would as well.