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. 

ET Lake Zurich – 7/14/19

“What do you do when you fall off the horse? You get back on.” – Multiple sources

After Pleasant Prairie, I wanted back on the horse; badly. I had to wait 3 weeks for the opportunity though. Going into Lake Zurich, I also intended to test out a few things and see if they worked. They included ‘racing empty’ (1/2 Powerade for breakfast instead of solid food) and racing without a wet suit.

Lake Zurich is the earliest race that I have during my season. When you’re not fully awake at 3:30AM, you can sometimes forget things. HUGE, HUGE, HUGE thanks to Steve from Village Cyclery for his help. We would not have been able to race without it.

While I had planned to race without a wet suit, I couldn’t have raced for points with it. The water temp was a balmy 83.5 and the air temp was about 68 pre-race and mid-70s when we got out. So it was the perfect water/air temp mix IMO. With the issues in the water the previous race, I gave myself a little bit of a cushion when self-seeding. Even though there was traffic, it was definitely the smoothest OWS I’ve ever had during a race. To the point that I believed we still had one more buoy turn when Lee signaled me we were at the swim exit.

Transition went as planned, and we were out on the bike relatively quickly. The bike went really well even though there were a couple of unexpected obstacles. There are a lot of hills (both rollers and a couple of huge ones) on the bike course, so there weren’t any good places for bottle passes. However, draining half a water bottle of Skratch from dismount into T2 seemed to work out well.

A reasonably smooth T2 led to us headed out onto the run at just over 1 hour. At this point, the heat and humidity had increased from the nicer mid-70s that it was on the bike. While my goal was to run the entire 5K, it just didn’t happen. I knew it would go well because of WI hill hell and hoped I could make it happen. But the huge hills at about 1mi and 2mi, along with the heat and some other minor ones killed that.

Even though the run wasn’t what I wanted, it was still 2+ minutes better than last year. And overall, I PRed the race by almost exactly 12 minutes (1:39:51.66 vs. 1:51:51.59).

As I head into the back-half of my season, I would greatly appreciate your support. You can support me by donating through my Dare2Tri fundraising page. Thank you in advance for any support you can provide!

4th of July Fun (Run for a Vet 5K) – 7/4/19

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” – Christopher Lloyd

Prior to this past week, every race that I had done was on a paved surface. Even if we were going through the forest or along a lake, it was still on some sort of paved surface. The Run for a Vet 5K was my first trail race, and it was an entirely different animal to say the least.

During the past two years, I’ve found an event prior to our week in WI. That way I don’t feel as bad about a week of R&R filled with beer. But since I couldn’t find anything before we left, I found this 5K on July 4th. So R&R turned into ‘active R&R’ that included AM hill runs and afternoon swims.

While those AM hill runs were not fun, I’m glad that I did them. If I hadn’t, Thursday’s race would have been even more of a challenge. The course was a combination of a snowmobile path and a cross-country ski path, so LOTS of hills. I mean, LOTS and LOTS of hills. (Followed by hills…)

Prior to the race, I met up with my guide Paul and his family. After we had a few minutes to talk, Mazie Vincent from the local NBC affiliate interviewed us. You can watch Mazie’s piece here.

As we started off, things seemed really good. The first mile on the path wasn’t that bad. There were some hills, but they were minor or gradual ones. And then we made the turn onto the second half of the trail…

The second half was full of ‘fun’, steep hills. Some of these came in rapid succession; some were long, hard climbs. I did have to walk a couple of these because of length or after doing them because of the difficulty. Regardless, Paul was there to help steer me around the obstacles and help talk me through the hills. I was able to catch my breath during the rare flats and aid station as well.

At about 2.8, someone from the race was giving you your time. They also mentioned ‘only 525 steps to the finish’. Oh, but they didn’t mention that about 490 were in hills. LOL We crossed the finish line to a cheering crowd, and Carrie captured our finish. You can view the video of it here.

Even though it was an extreme challenge, it was a tremendous amount of fun. I am extremely grateful to Paul for being my eyes for the race. THere’s absolutely, positively no way I could have run this race without his help. Also, huge thanks to Rebecca and Dave for all their help and Mazie for interviewing us! I hope to do the race again in the future!

1st Half in Review

[Mr. Miles, aka Feline psychologist extrodinare.]

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

When I planned my 2019 season, I had such great hopes and strong goals for it. However, things have not gone as planned.

The year started out with not-so-fun medical and personal issues. But by mid-March, those were mostly resolved. And then the next shoe dropped — with me getting laid off (downsizing) from a company that I’d been with for almost 14 yeara. That threw a wrench into some plans, but I was able to regroup and tried to focus on qualifying for Nationals. After losing race opportunities to being unable to find guides / an unexpected monsoon, I found myself staring at a very short time frame to qualify for Nationals.

So headed into June, I knew what the score was and what I needed to do. And while I did everything I could to make a NQ time happen, it just didn’t come together.

After the DNF this past weekend, I was extremely disappointed. I lost both of my A races for the 2019 season because of if. Sure, I could have gone and raced PC Open. But after talking with my coach, that just didn’t make sense. What made more sense was to pull back, focus on fixing the issues and on moving forward. Even though these were two imiportant races, there is stilla HUGE chunk on my 2019 schedule. I am also working on trying to add a ‘replacement’ A race (Chicago) to it.

I’ve been able to make it through this frustraing first half of the year because of all of the people and organizations that support me. I am truly grateful to ALL of them, and their support has meant so much during these trying times.

To that point, the ‘pity party’ on Sunday post-race was short-lived (about an hour). What brought me out of it so quickly was realizing these several things (in order):

1) Yes, I lost both A races, but the season is not over.

2) The remainder of the season is an opportunity to fix these issues, and build towards the 2020 season.

3) I owe far too much to everyone who has, does and continues to support me to not push on. Short-term losses for long-term gains.

4) There are always going to be struggles and setbacks. It’s how you deal with them that will define you. And if you can’t deal with something ‘minor’ like this, HTF will you move forward?

The net result of all these conversations (some with the help of Mr. Miles) was that I refocused on the 2nd half of 2019 and did 2020 planning.

A Rocky Weekend (Train2Race / Pleasant Prairie) – 6/21-23/19

[Photo credit – Claudia Ani]

“Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan.” – Warren Zevon

This year, Dare2Tri split the PT Training Camp into two, a beginner and an advanced camp. With all of the racing that I’ve done to this point, I was at the advanced camp.

Day 1 started with triple bricks (3 mi bike/1 mi run/rest x3). The bike felt really good, and more importantly so did the runs. While GPS wasn’t great because of all the trees, I was able to be at and under pace for the first 2 runs and at for the 3rd. The pace that I set for myself for these runs was 30 seconds faster than my current normal run pace. Not just to get faster, but also to get a measuring stick towards the <35 5K I need to hit before summer’s end. After lunch, we were in the water for skills and drills. The day finished up with recovery, during which I had a chance to try an amazing product.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had intermittent pain in my upper right arm. The only thing that’s really helped prior was getting worked on by a PT. But after about 5 minutes in the arm sleeve that’s made by Rapid Reboot and things felt great. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to use their products more in the future.

Day 2 started with swimming the course, and continued with a course overview. After some bike handling skills, the day finished with a breathing session and an ice bath experience. Last year, I had had an opportunity to do the contrast bath course (cold/hot/cold/hot). The cold sessions were in about 40 degree water for a total of 10 minutes, so I thought this 1:15 would be just fine. And outsize of the first 5-10 seconds, it wasn’t that bad. Meditation in 30 degree water is interesting to say the least…

There’s nothing fun about 3A wakeup calls, but that’s what was required for race day. After meeting up with Dave and getting transition set up, I felt really good. We poisitioned ourselves far enough back in the wave to avoid getting run over by people like Jack and Owen, and had a great start. Then at about 175-200, I started to feel the carbon dioxide start to build up. Using a drill that Stacee had taught me the day prior, I was able to get rid of a bit. At about 225 though, it came back and we had to head to the floating podium so I could try and clear it. At about 275, it was back and severe enough that I had to go to the boat. They gave me some water and it felt like the throat cleared. However, less than 10 strokes later, I had to tap out of the water. I felt true distress between when I told Dave I needed to and as we were swimming to the boat.

Because of HIPAA, I won’t go into much of what happened between when I was pulled from the water and when we walked to the finish line to cheer teammates in. All I will say is that too much fluid in the lungs was the culprit behind this. Post-race, I’ve had a chance to talk through this more with coaches and teammates that I trust. As a result of those conversations, I’ve got a few different things to try to help minimize this going forward.

As many of you know, I don’t believe in DNFs. In fact, Pleasant Prairie (2016) was the race where we walked the bike back 3+ miles so that I wouldn’t have to tap out. But this one was unavoidable for safety reasons.

While this was a disappointing day — not just in the water, but also having to scratch both of my A races — it wasn’t all bad. I know that as I continue to move forward, there are going to be bumps and setbacks. While I don’t ever want something like this to happen again, I’m glad it happened at a local race.

I still have a huge chunk of my season left, and I will find ways to work this out. I will also find a ‘replacement’ A race to focus on. And while this is a setback, it will NOT be a permanent one. I WILL find a way to fix all of this prior to the start of 2020’s seaons. And I WILL be in CA next summer.

Catapulted!

I am extremely grateful to Catapult. Not just because of the 2019 grant that they approved, but also for the opportunities that have / will continue to push me outside of my comfort zone. Ultimately, these help me grow as an athlete — even though there may be some crazy / ‘oh shit’ moments along the way.

As I’ve mentioned throughout the blogs this year, the swim has been my weakest discipline. While I’ve been able to improve on the bike and run, the swim has drug me down. The grant they approved will enable me to work with a swim-specific coach. I am confident that their assistance will pay dividends both short and long-term!

I had an amazing time with them at TIR in March, and will start my 2020 season with them in Houston. I had given up doing Half Marathons after the challenges I had. But after how well TIR went, I decided to try another comfortably uncomfortable experience with them. It will be a 5K Saturday and a Half Sunday.

THANK YOU CATAPULT for everything! I look forward to the successes from your support in 2019 and to starting the 2020 season in Houston!

Double Dip (ET Batavia Tri) – 6/9/19

“Let’s play two.” – Ernie Banks

When I planned out my 2019 schedule, I tried extremely hard to give myself a break between Triathlons. However, Indy’s unplanned addition threw a wrench into that.

I had wanted to do Batavia for the past couple years. But the Dare2Tri camp was the same weekend in the past. With it being split into two camps this year, I was finally able to do it.

Having done the Naperville ET race a few times, I have become used to the ‘quarry madness’. Because of this, we seeded ourselves back far enough to minize it. The swim went better than I had hoped, even though it was a little odd. I say that because one side of the rectangle was in water so shallow that it made more sense to get up and walk than it did to try and ‘shallow swim’.

Headed out on the bike, I knew we’d be able to make up time and that it would go well. To that point, I believe we had a net pass of zero. Even after we had to stop and retrieve a dropped water bottle. Sure, people did pass us, but we were able to retake them before T2. It also felt like we were at 30+ several times during the course. And while I’m still not fully comfortable going/being aero for long periods of time, there were a couple of stretches that it paid off in.

Headed into the run, I knew it was going to be a long one. Almost all of the sanctioned Tris I do are a 5K run. This one was a 4.1mi run, which was the longest I had ever done in a Tri. Even though it was a longer run, the shade/overcast weather made it go really well. I was able to keep the normal run -> walk through aid stations that I wanted. The only other time I had to walk was at about mile 3 for another 20-30 seconds to catch my breath.

Also during the run, I misheard Michael. At the time, there was an older gentleman in front of us running at a much slower pace. We were at a point of getting ready to pass him when I heard Michael say ‘watch out for the turtle’. What heard was ‘watch out for the slow runner as we pass him’. What he really meant was to watch out for the snapping turtle that was by the side of the path — and not happy that we (all of us) had woken them up!

Thanks to Michael for guiding for me and to Coach Joe, Suzy and the rest of ET for putting on a great race as always!

Take 2 (Indy Sprint Tri) – 6/8/19

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” – Elbert Hubbard

As I had mentioned in the Leon’s blog post, I had lost all of my spring short course plans. To give myself another NQ opportunity, I added the Indy Sprint to my calendar. Even though this race had been a trying one two years ago (with us doing the bike with just the hardest 4-5 gears), I was still excited to do it again. I was able to find a guide through Tri Loco (Indy) and everything else fell into line.

When I met up with Zach on Friday evening, we had a chance to do a decent amount of bike practice. After riding for about an hours and having a chance to talk through the rest of the signals (swim/run), I felt good. I also was confident that I’d be coming back from Indy qualified for Nationals.

However, the swim did not go as needed. At about 150-200 in, I got something caught in my throat and just couldn’t get it out. So for the rest of the swim, I was surfacing every 50-75 to try and cough it out. It made for a draining, long 500m swim…

But having done a lot of bike practice with him and knowing my run had imiproved, I thought there was still a chance to salvage a NQ time. Even moreso since we had the full 30 gear set to work with.

The bike did go well, even with uneven surfaces in places. These were apparently potholes that hadn’t been properly smoothed. So instead of having a flat path, you’d have stretches akin to highway rumble dots. We were able to pick up some time in the downhills, where I’d estimate we were at 30+.

As I was trying to make up time, I headed out onto the run without remembering to grab my visor. The Indy run course is much more shaded on the way out than on the way back. This meant that the first half (not much sun) went much better than the run back. During the hot sun parts, I had to go down to a run/walk method. And even though Zach told me I was more than 10 minutes behind goal going into the run, I still wanted to give it everything I had on the run.

After finishing, Tri Loco provided great hospitality. Thanks to them for that and Zach for guiding for me! And thanks to Tuxedo Borthers for all their help on race day!

Leon’s Tri – 6/2/19

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

I had such great plans for the spring Tri season. I’d have at least two, possibly three opportunities to qualify for Nationals at short races. Then in June, Leon’s and Pleasant Prairie could be ‘tune up’ full Sprint races. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. I couldn’t find a guide for either IN race and Monsoon Houston killed the other one. I did manage to find a June short course race — more on that in a future blog.

So going into Leon’s, there was a bit more pressure than usual. But I still felt good knowing what my times had been in 2018 and knowing the work I had put in in 2019. Hootie even mentioned that the swim was only 500 during the Athlete Briefing, which made me feel even better.

Heading into the water, I felt confident that I would get close to a NQ time. And then things fell apart… We had a group of 60 for our wave, all with different swim levels. So combine traffic with my normal swerving, along with the swim being 750-800 instead of 500, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster for me.

Even though the swim was not the best, I tried to regroup in T1. During it, my sunglasses fell out of my helmet and I accidentally crashed them with my cleats. Thankfully it was overcast, so I was okay without them. The bike itself went decently — nothing could be done about 15mph headwinds in the worst possible places (uphills/inclines).

This year, they changed the run so that we headed the other way on the lakefront path. I clearly went out too fast in mile #1, as I felt it at about the turnaround. The rest of it ended up being a run/walk pace on this > 5K run.

While it wasn’t the day I had planned or needed, I did still come home with a 2nd (Mideast Regionals) and 3rd (PC Open) for VI Male.

Thank you to Dare2Tri for all of their help and support and to Lee Dunbar for guiding for me!

Glow On! (G.L.O.W. 5K) – 5/18/19

For those of you who may be new to the blog, I am night blind, which makes night activities a challenge. But as I’ve said in the past, I refuse to be a prisoner of the dark. To that end, I planned 3 5Ks in the dark for 2019. The G.L.O.W. 5K was the first of these races.

As I can see very, very little during these night races, I rely heavily on my guides. It’s about complete faith and trust that they’re going to keep me safe. Not just from cracks and poles, but also small children…

As with any race, there was a bottleneck at the start. However, it was worse that other races because of all the small children around us. Many would run ahead of their parents and stop suddenly. Some would stop with their parents without warning to take pictures. In both cases, it created extra obstacles. Thankfully both Chris and Erjon helped to guide, and to guide me around these two-legged obstacles.

Even though I couldn’t see much, I was still able to keep a decent pace. And it was another 5K where the only walking that I did was through the aid station (at about 1.75mi). I was able to set a new dark PR by about 3 minutes!

Thanks to Chris and Erjon for all their help!