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.

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.

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!!!

Camp #NoSightNoLimits – 1/20 – 1/25/17

This all happened because I didn’t understand the rules. Yes, I know that’s an odd way to start a blog post, especially when I know a USAT/ITU official will most likely read it. But it’s the honest truth.

As a brief explanation for those of you who haven’t read the historical Triathlon blogs, what I mean is this. When I decided to do Triathlons, Terri was my intended guide. I thought the USAT rules about guide gender would throw a wrench into all sorts of plans, so I went looking for male guides. This eventually led me to several wonderful Facebook groups. What I found in the long-run was that I didn’t entirely know the rules. Meaning that for Regionals and above, the USAT set is inflexible; but for the smaller races there are some rules that Race Directors have latitude on (guide gender being one).

So even though it was unnecessary to have gone through all that at that point, it was good for the long-run. If I hadn’t expended the effort, I wouldn’t have met Amy Dixon, I wouldn’t have known about Camp #NoSightNoLimits, and I would have missed out on an AMAZING opportunity.

Since receiving my Golden Ticket the day before Thanksgiving, I had been getting things together for camp. Not just the material things (gear, nutrition, etc.), but also the physical base. Several workout sessions on the bike with clips proved to be frustrating but still a good step forward. And after scrambling around the week prior to camp, I left for San Diego ready to learn and get stronger, faster and better.

To say that there were bumps getting to San Diego would be an understatement. It started with my dad severely bruising or tearing a tendon in his arm as we tried to get the bike box in the car. The next hiccup was when I got to O’Hare and was told the bike fee wasn’t waived. Apparently the reservations people didn’t put their notes in. Once that was fixed by the supervisor, I made my way to the gate. I have been traveling alone for many years as my sight declined and have never seen a terminal so dark or struggled so much because of it. The best analogy I can give is that the power’s gone out and you’re powering things at 40% off of generators.

Having finally found the gate, I was able to get help with pre-boarding and thought it was smooth sailing ahead to San Diego. Unfortunately, I was wrong again. While I don’t know this as a fact, I am pretty sure that two of the engines momentarily cut out somewhere over Oklahoma. I say that because I felt the plane going downwards and then heard noises like a helicopter starting up. I was only a couple rows in front of the wings which is why I was able to hear it so well. Coming down out of the clouds in San Diego wasn’t much fun either. In turbulent weather, it was like the huge roller coaster drops.

While the trip to San Diego didn’t go as smoothly as planned, things did once I arrived. United’s ground crew helped to make sure that I got from the plane to a taxi with my bike/bags, and I made it to the hotel without incident.

As we didn’t need to be at camp until noon the next day, Luke and I went swimming at a local YMCA. In the outdoor pool, I did a little more than a mile before we heded back to get breakfast and get ready to head to Chula Vista. Upon arriving at the Olympic Training Center (OTC), we had a chance to meet other campers during lunch and then unpack while bikes were built by Mike.

The first workout was a 16 mile bike ride (8 out and 8 back). I had spent time working on clipping in/out and pedaling while clipped, so I was looking forward to getting out on the bike. Unfortunately things didn’t go as well as I had hoped – clipping in was a struggle and a real safety issue. The shoe/clip issue is one of the many tweaks that came out of camp and will make things better in the long run. Because of the safety concerns, I was on flat pedals for the rest of the camp.

After an entertaining evening in the room, the second day started in the pool. After doing warm ups and some open water drills, Coach Ray spent time helping me with stroke and breathing mechanics. That was a huge help, and something that I was very grateful for. We also figured out a better way to tether at the leg instead of the waist. This will help going forward so that I’m not hitting one of my arms during the stroke.

The afternoon found us on the lawn, on bikes and ready for an interesting bike skills workout. It had been raining for two days before and throughout. There was wet grass and mud – I’ll let you use your imagination as to how things worked out. We did get in a lot of good control drills, and I found something else to tweak on the bike. The seat seems to be too long and at one point it caught and tore the outer layer of the kit. We finished up the day on the track with all sorts of different running drills.

The next day started in the pool again since it had been raining. We were told that you have to wait 72 hours after it rains before you can go into the ocean. Knowing that there was a small window before leaving and a long bus ride, I packed my bag the night before. I was certain that I put my tri kit into the bag, but when we got there I couldn’t find it. Thankfully, Luke had an extra pair of shorts and I was able to be in the pool. Coach Ray helped more with the technique and breathing throughout the session, and it went well. Ending the session in a hot tub was a nice benefit.

Once back, we did some work on the track and then a transition clinic. Up to this point, it had been raining pretty much every time we’d been outside. This time Mother Nature decided to add insult to injury and added hail during it. We had to run for cover, but still did the clinic once it let up. I learned several things that will help going forward.

The fourth day started like the previous two in the pool. While it was a familiar place to start the day, the drills, format and focus were different. Doing hypoxic drills when you know it’s X strokes to a breath is bad enough. Doing them where you’re focused on not breathing for yards/meters is even worse. There were a couple of other drills that worked really well and will get incorporated as I continue training.

In the afternoon, we were out on the Criterion course. It’s a course built with hills, curves, ups-and-downs and more to test your skills. After several loops around, we did different drills (180s, starts/stops, and more), finishing with the slowest race on earth. At some point during the drills, I cut up my leg. I saw it and that was bleeding but just kept going. Minor injuries / hurdles will happen during a race; you deal with what’s an emergency and push through the rest. The evening finished with an opportunity to thank those who had helped make this experience possible after time in the weight room.

While I’ve talked about the workouts, that was only one piece of camp. Another was getting to meet and talk with the other athletes and their guides. Take a look at the NBC video to see and learn a little about some of them. Yet another was learning sessions. We learned about nutrition, guiding, rules and so much more from amazing and spectacular coaches. I learned a tremendous amount during these sessions that will help as I go forward. I’m not going to go into detail about these though – you had to be there.

Even though there were a few challenges, it was an amazing experience. Five days of being pushed to and then beyond your limits to continue getting better and stronger. I am so extremely grateful to everyone who made this possible – family, friends & CAF for providing support, Amy, Debbie and all of the coaches for camp and all of the amazing experiences/learning; Luke for being my guide/pilot and United for all of their assistance.

You can see a small snapshot of camp by viewing the NBC video!

I had an opportunity to spend time with a friend that I hadn’t seen in 20 years before heading home and family during a stopover. I was glad to make it back home, and am focusing on the next steps towards improvement for 2017!