It’s Not Just About You – 6/28/17

Yes, I realize that ultimately, the race is run by you and the accomplishments get credited to you. But in the end, it’s not just about you. The only way that it could be is if you’re not a PT athlete, have a genetic background of a mix along the lines of Michael Phelps/Lance Armstrong (without the doping)/Apolo Ohno and are independently wealthy. That probably covers .00001% of all Triathletes out thre.

For the rest of the Triathlon universe, there’s someone else helping you to succeed. Whether it’s a coach making sure you’re on track, sponsors making sure you’ve got everything you need to succeed, or a guide helping you if you’re a PT athlete, others have your back and are helping. Because of that, there are two-way streets to ensure that you succeed.

As a visually impaired athlete that’s part of Dare2Tri’s Development Team, there’s a long list of people that are helping me. I couldn’t do any of this without it. As such, I need to make sure that I’ve got several different pieces in line before the gun/horn goes off – training/race prep, guide and proper branding.

While I know there are hurdles, I’m doing everything that I can to get the training in. I’ll admit that the running is the biggest ‘fail’ at this point. But I’m still trying to push forward with it – even if it’s sometimes at a snail’s pace. And it isn’t just for personal pride or the desire to continue moving forward, it’s also to have a good end result for those that have put their support and resources behind me.

Early on, one of my guides told me ‘it’s not about me, it’s about you and your race’. At the time, I understood and agreed with them. However, experiences over the last two years make me disagree with that sentiment. As I said at the beginning, what gets publicly reflected/recorded is the athlete (and not the guide). Even still, the guide is giving up their time and their race to help ensure that you have a successful one. Both through the time you spend practing and training, as well as race day. In return for that, I believe that you need to ensure not only that you’re ready to race but that you’re both on the same page for the expected and unexpected throughout. If my mindset was ‘I’m running this race, just be equipment’, not only would I fail, but I’d also lose guides quickly. It needs to be a two-way street of communication, respect and commitment for everything to work.

As I mentioned earlier, I could not be doing any of the Triathlon stuff (practices, races, etc.) without a lot of support from a long list of people. For the organizations/companies that have provided this support, not only do I want to make sure that I’ve got the branding appropriately displayed (especially given if it’s a supported race or not), but I want to have a good ‘end product’ for them. I can’t always control what happens in a race (more on that in the next post), but I do need to be doing everything possible to have a good race and deal with whatever adversity happens.

They could have given that support or those resources to others; but they chose to give it to me. This is one of many reasons that I do not believe in DNF (Did Not Finish). The best example of this being last year where I chose to walk the bike back 3-4 miles after double-flatting and finish the run rather than pulling out As I said, you can’t control everything that happens on the course, but you can control yourself. You can let a situation break you (whether it’s mental or physical), or you can push through it. And quite honestly, I believe that you owe it to everyone supporting you to give it your all every time. That’s the only way to push forward.

The Race That Wasn’t – 6/25/17

While I did not qualify for Nationals, I was still excited for Pleasant Prairie and racing in the PC Open wave. Having been there two weeks prior for PT camp, and having had a good day of practice on Saturday, I was extremely optimistic for Sunday. Specifically, I thought I’d set a PR by 10-12 minutes.

That was a good thought going in, but unfortunately belief and reality separated Sunday morning…

In the last two weeks, I had swum more than a mile in Lake Andrea. Even with it being choppy on Saturday, I was able to make it through the 750m swim without issue. However, at some point in the first 150-200m, I started to have problems with breathing. Long story short, I think it was a combindation of CO2 buildup and a little bit of panic about not getting enough air when the buildup started. My guide was able to help get me calmed down and doing other strokes to get back to normal breathing. While it all worked out, the breathing issue added an extra 8-10 minutes to my normal swim time.

T1 went well, and so did the actual bike ride. However, when we got to the dismount line, I didn’t realize that my left foot had clipped back in. This meant that when I went to plant my left foot, the bike tipped over with me still on it. I was able to catch myself with my hand, so it wasn’t anything major. But I still lost at least 5 minutes between having to stretch out my leg and shaking out my hand.

T2 went well, and so did the run. This was the bright spot of the race. In each of the previous outdoor races this season, there’s been an issue during the run (tight leg, tight back, etc.) that’s ultimately made it a mess. With Eric’s help, I was able to run throughout the 5K outside of about 60-80 seconds for aide stations and a few seconds during a steep uphill.

While it wasn’t the outcome that I wanted for the race, three main points came out of it:

1) That the T1/T2 times are continuing to decrease. While they’re down dramatically from last year since I’ve taken some gear out of the mix, they’ve also been decreasing throughout this year.

2) That I’ve found a way to make running a 5K possible as part of a triathlon. I’ve talked with my coach about ways to not only continue to make that happen but also to increase the pace. That will be implimentated throughout the rest of the year.

3) That I’ve finally got the first fall out of the way, and that it didn’t lead to injury. And even more to that point that I’m able to have a ‘if it isn’t broken, worry about it later’ mentality rather than an ‘oh shit’ (I just fell, let’s quit) one.

I had a chance to meet Aaron prior to the race, and he was coming back from his bike as we were going out. An amazing athlete, and we’ll see what USAT decides to do with the math for Men’s PTVI QTs for 2018. There was only one other athlete able to qualify with a 12+ minute decrease from 2016 to 2017. As a side note, they did not show up to compete, so the category was just Aaron (who rocked it at less than 65 min.)

2017 Dare2Tri PT Camp (6/9-6/11/17)

When I showed up at camp two years ago, it was my first Triathlon experience. That weekend got me hooked and provided a wealth of experiences / knowledge – including that I needed so much additional gear to succeed.

Earlier this month, I showed up for my 3rd Paratriathlon (PT) camp. Much better armed and geared than I was in 2015, I was excited for the weekend. It was great to see new faces as well as many familiar ones.

As in the past, the weekend included strength training, yoga, transition work and two sessions (drills and workouts) for bike, swim & run. An added benefit for 2017 was getting to practice on parts of what will be the PT Nationals Course this coming weekend.

Throughout the weekend, the coaches helped to increase skills, regardless of what the level of the participant was. For me, a couple of the big improvements were on the bike. This is the first season that I’ve been using clips, and it’s been a hard learning process at times. But during the weekend, I was able to get in/out and do starts/stops with a lot more confidence than I had prior. It wasn’t always perfect, but it worked well. While the bike (and swim) were big pluses, the run is still a struggle. I know that I need to get more runs in, and I will continue working on that throughout the rest of the year.

After two days of being beat up… um, I mean, training ;), it was time for the Tri It Triathlon. As you can probably predict from the above paragraph, Swim/T1/Bike/T2 went well; Run was a disaster. Even still, great to see a lot of people cross their first finish line as I did in 2015!

Even with the issues with the run, it was still a great weekend. IMO it’s all about continuing to move forward. It won’t always be perfect, but you can’t let the frustrations break you or make you give up.

If you are disabled and want to get involved in or improve your Triathlon skills, look at attending the 2018 PT Camp! www.dare2tri.org

Dare2Tri Injuried Military Camp / Leon’s Triathlon (6/3-6/4/17)

“’Children, it was the most single, wonderful outpouring of generosity that this school has ever seen. More cans of food feeding a hundred and ninety-three families came to this school than ever before. We only have one problem and we’re gonna deal with it this coming week. We’re gonna cancel our regular classes and what we’re gonna talk about is: what are those people gonna eat next week?” (Harry Chapin)

Far too often, Veterans get forgotten. Sure, you think about them on the major Military holidays. But what about the rest of the year? The above quote came to mind when I started writing this blog, and I think it’s pretty apt.

Having formed connections with Team RWB, I was excited to turn a one-day race (Leon’s) into a two-day weekend. There were reporters and camera crews throughout, and their stories will do much better justice than I can. Let’s leave it at – these people were amazing to sacrifice their lives on the battlefield and they continue to amaze even after being wounded.

While volunteering for the second day of the camp, I got a chance to talk with several of the veterans and learn from them. I also had a chance to help them during the day with things such as fireman carries out of the water. An incredible day, which ended with the race crew raising the gigantic American flag and taps being played.

Help is a two way street though, and during breaks at camp, I got some help myself. Some came from a teammate helping us with better bike starts; other came from a vendor coming up with a better swim tether. Both helped on race day, and will continue to help going forward.

While Leon’s Triathlon is a great course, that’s not the only reason I love doing it. Leon himself is always out there doing EVERYTHING to make sure that not only do things go smoothly according to USAT rules, but that it’s an amazing experience. I STRONGLY recommend that you pencil it in on your 2018 calendar NOW. Figure first Sunday of June 2018 and then wait for an official announcement in early Feb 2018 for the actual date.

Going into this race, I felt more confident than I did ending Leaning Tower. With the new swim tether, I had gotten back full arm extension on whichever side the guide is on. And with the bike starts and going to clips, I had gotten more power/speed than with flat pedals/’skateboard’ start. Now if only the run would be okay…

Long story short – the swim was great, the bike was great and the transitions went better than before. But the run is still my Achilles heel. While my back was tight during the run, at least it was a little better than the last race. I still had to do a fair amount of walking / stopping to stretch it out on a tree/pole. Even though the run was a mess, there was no way I was walking it in. Even though my body was killing me, seeing the finish line gave me that extra push I needed and I made it through.

Even though it wasn’t the end result I wanted, I made strides forward on several pieces. I’m confident that when I can get everything straightened out with the run that I’ll be a lot more satisfied. Until then, it’s just continuing to push forward and not letting the frustrations derail anything.

Bubble Burst – 5/21/17

As a Cubs fan for a long time, the slogan has been ‘wait until next year’. It eventually happened for the Cubs this past year after 108. I know it won’t take that long for me to push to the next level; if just has to be a ‘next year’ view.

Even though I won’t get to race in the Nationals wave, I will still be at Nationals (PC Open). That’s a step in the right direction and towards that goal. And it’s better than where I was at for last PT Nationals. Since it was in Santa Cruz, I couldn’t even race PC Open due to it being cost prohibitive.

With the qualifying changes, this race was my last chance to qualify for 2017 PT Nationals. Unfortunately, it went as bad as it could have. Between losing time on wall turns, gear issues/torn pavement slowing us down on the bike and my lower back becoming one huge pretzel knot on the run, it was a loss. I think I was over qualifying time by the time we were ½ a mile into the run.

Disappointing to say the least, but it could have been worse. As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I almost didn’t have this chance. Thanks to an amazing guide that stepped up in the 11th hour, I was able to get there and race. While I am disappointed in not qualifying, I would have been even more so if I had not had the chance.

This is just the first outdoor race of the season. I am focusing on rocking the PC Open wave and towards qualifying for 2018 PT Nationals (among other things). If you’re at Pleasant Prairie, feel free to stop by and say hi.

National Beatings – Breaking Point (5/13/17)

[Still not me. But Sunday should give me an opportunity to have a similar photo.]

“Fill up your head and fill up your heart and take your shot” (Dave Matthews)

Sunday is the day – my shot to qualify for PT Nationals. And while I’m a little nervous going into it because of how quickly I need to do the run, I’m grateful to have the shot.

Last Saturday, what was supposed to be the ‘put together’ session did not go well. While I was glad that my guide was honest about it not going to work, it was a hard blow. To be honest, I came very close to just tapping out and focusing on June’s races. I wasn’t upset or frustrated with my guide, just with the situation it put me in. But Mr. Miles refused to let me dwell in the bleh of the situation.

I believe his exact words were “Meow Mrrrow Mrrrrrrrrow Meow Yowl.” Loosely translated, it means “Pull your head out of your ass and find another plan.” And so I did, and it should all work out.

One of the givens of this sport is that there’s going to be adversity. Whether it’s a double flat, unknown dehydration or something else, you have to be strong enough to fight through it. Rely on those in your inner circle when you need that extra boost. Don’t ever let it break you.

For those of you who want to come out and watch, the race starts at about 8A on Sunday in Niles (Leaning Tower YMCA) for our group. Looking forward to writing the blog on Monday sharing how I qualified!

Grant Approved! – 4/20/17

In 2016, I had to pass on a lot of very good training opportunities. Not being able to drive, it was either an issue with not having someone to help with transportation or shoulder the high transportation costs. Knowing that I needed to take advantage of more of these opportunties in 2017, I looked at options.

What looked to be the best fit was to apply for a grant with Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). Their grant process takes several months from application to announcement, so all I could do was wait, plan and train.

Last week, I received an e-mail that my grant had been approved! This means that I’ll be able to attend a long list of swim, bike and run sessions in the Chicagoland area starting in early June. This will help tremendously not just for the 2nd half of my 2017 season, but as I continue to push forward after it.

THANK YOU to CAF for approving my training grant!!!

Lifetime Lifeline – 4/19/17

While I love living in the Chicago suburbs because we get actual seasons, the downside is the winters. What that means from the Triathlon perspective is getting chased indoors for at least the swim for a good 6 months.

Earlier this year, I joined the Y so that I’d have a place to swim and train indoors. The guide that I’m working with for two of my 2017 races is a member at Lifetime. When we first met, it seemed like we would be able to work out all the logistics. But then after the first swiim at Lifetime, I was informed that I could only go as a guest once every 60 days.

But after we explained the situation to several people within the Warrenville location, they allowed me to come as her guest through race day so we can train. I am grateful for their generosity, as it will help with our training! It will help immensely as I push towards qualifying for PT Nationals!

National Beatings – Weeks 5 & 6 (4/10 – 4/23/17)

[Still not me, but getting closer to qualifying opportunities so I can be there…]

Like weeks 3 & 4, there were struggles with getting workouts in. While I’m not hitting every one, I still believe I’m on track to qualify. I hope to get two bites at the apple in May, but need a guide for the 1st one at this point.

While there were struggles, there were several very bright spots. These included:

1) A local facility helping to make sure we’re comfortable in the pool (next post).

2) Another organization putting their support behind me (2nd post).

3) Finding a solid alternative to having to go to St. Charles every time. I will still do that for major issues, but it’s really nice to have them close.

The story of the last month has been ‘it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s that you get up one more time…’

Stray CAT[s] strut… I mean spin – 4/8/17

As I continue on this Triathlon process, I am continuing to find more and more great resources. CATS is just one more, and I will be doing a few rides with them this year. If you’re a tandem owner in the Chicago area, check them out!