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.

Kids PT Camp (7/11-12/17)

As part of the Dare2Tri Development Team, one of my commitments is to give back by volunteering at at least one of their camps. Last year, the Kids Paratriathlon (PT) Camp worked best. I had so much fun last year that I decided to volunteer again this year. And this year, my mom also joined in.

Day 1 started out with several of us getting equipment ready for the kids – a lot of tire examination and pumping. And by a lot, I mean about 40 bikes/racers/racing chairs. After introductions/stretching, the groups were broken up and people went in different directions.

While I’m always moderately serious about it, since no one would let me pilot for them, I spent most of Day 1 in Lake Michigan with the groups. I went through how I swim with my guides and gear I have used/do use in the water with one of the blind groups. Day One ended with transition information for the campers.

Even though I’d been in Lake Michigan for about 2 hours, I still needed to get my normal Open Water Swim practice in after camp. That ½ mile at Ohio Street beach was quite the struggle. I was tired from the previous swims, but still managed to get it in.

Day Two was predicted to be hot and muggy with a chance of rain. Well make that a 100% chance of rain. All of the campers got to learn two very important additional lessons because of the rain —

1) That in adaptive sports, you need to be willing and able to adapt. Things won’t always go as planned, but they’ll always work out. Just don’t let the unexpected throw you off track.

2) That Triathletes don’t melt. You’ll race as long as there isn’t thunder/lightning. It may not be the most comfortable to bike/run in the rain (or the standing water a storm can leave), it’ll still happen.

Thunder and lightning kept us under the beach shelter for about 2 hours, during which the campers did relays and other practice while waiting it out. During that time, I also did an impromptu interview (Facebook Live) related to why I Dare2Tri. You can view this on Dare2Tri’s Facebook Page.

Once the bulk of the storm had passed, the campers got ready to race. Because there were so many Blind/VI athletes, that group had to be split to ensure there were enough tandems. So there were supposed to be 3 races; but the weather changed that again. I ended up on the course helping to direct people onto the bike course and cheering as they came into the finish.

This gave me a great opportunity to see everyone finish, including my mom finishing her first Triathlon. While I haven’t been successful in talking her into doing a Super Sprint or being part of a relay, I’ll continue trying…

For those of you who are interested in volunteering for 2018, please keep an eye on the Calendar that’s on Dare2Tri’s web site. Kids PT Camp has been in July the last 2 years, and will probably be July 2018.

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 Elite Camp – 2/17 – 2/19/17

While my Triathlon season started in California last month, it started in earnest this weekend. For those of you who haven’t read last year’s post, a 30 second synposis of Elite camp is ‘see that line where you want to give up? Ok, that’s your starting lin. Let’s do 5 sets beyond that…’ And that’s how you get better, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you.

This year’s camp was a FFC Union Station, which is an amazing facility. If I worked in the city, I would be there every night after work. Not just because it’s a great location, but also a way to work out the frustrations of the day instead of fighting the absurdity that is rush hour in Union Station. The entire staff did a great job throughout the weekend; much appreciated!

One drawback was that the lane markers were light blue on another shade of light blue or white instead of the normal dark blue on white/light blue. So the normal ‘drunk swimming’ was pronounced to say the least. But I was still able to get in a lot of good work in the pool, both solo and when we went to team drills.

On the bike, the pedal and saddle issues still need to be worked out. After the issues in Chula Vista, I went with a set of bike shorts to try and make it hurt less. It helped for a while, but the fit or calluses still aren’t right enough to stay stable in the saddle for the ~30 – 35 minutes I’ll need to for a Sprint Triathlon. That all needs to be worked out still.

On the run, I made some surprising leaps forwards. When I had done the FTP testing a couple weeks prior, I believe I was tapping out at 5. During the first day of camp, it was 5.5. While that was a good step forward, it also meant a good deal of non-fun day 2. Quarter mile repeats at 5.5 after you’ve already run 2 full miles is no fun. But that’s how you get better.

Camp wasn’t just training on the three disciplines. We also had functional strength, yoga and several lectures. All good stuff to help compliment the swim/bike/run training.

After two days of being tortur… um, I mean trained, we finished camp with FFC’s Indoor Triathlon. A great way to finish camp and to put into practice what we had worked on and learned from the previous two days. However, as we weren’t using the locker room, I knew the bike was going to be painful since I’d have less padding. The swim was about 15 seconds behind my CSS pace, the bike hurt like hell (standing up every 4 – 5 minutes to get feeling back), but the run was better than expected. From the last indoor Tri (3/20/16), all 3 increased, with the run being the largest (1/3 mile increase).

While the weekend helped tremendously and I saw improvement, there’s still a LONG way to go and the clock is looming large. Before the end of May, I’ve got to hit a 1:13 mark to qualify for Nationals. I know I can do it, it’s just going to take a lot of hard work.

Looking Both Ways – 12/31/16

I realize that it’s been more than a month since I posted last. It hasn’t been that there’s been nothing going on; far from it. Rather, I’ve been focused on laying down a foundation for 2017. This has included grant applications, fundraising and handling personal items. But as it’s New Year’s Eve, I wanted to look back on my 2nd year (and first full year) in Triathlon.

2016 had several high points, most notably being named to Dare2Tri’s Development Team for 2016 and receiving funding for a tandem (Erik). There were many times that I was pushed to and then past my limits, and saw improvements. But there were also some low points, including the double flat race and the double Half troubles.

As frustrating as those were, it both taught and tested the ‘bend don’t break’ mentality that I believe you need to have to succeed in any sport. It’s never going to go perfect 100% of the time; it’s how you deal with it that defines yhour outcome. It would have been VERY easy to tap out of Pleasant Prairie or either of the Halfs. But if I had, I don’t think I could have looked myself in the mirror or my coaches in the face. It’s just not in my DNA to give up unless you’re physically carrying me off the course because I can’t do so myself.

Even though I was focused on my own training and season, it was great to have diversions and build / strengthen friendships. The running joke of the blind leading the blind (me being legally blind leading my completely blind teammate) continued, and I had an opportunity to help the next generation at the PT Kids Camp.

All in all, a great year. I believe the total was 6 indoor tris, 6 outdoor tris, 1 8K, 1 5K, 2 Halfs and 1 50 mile bike ride. NONE of that would have beeen possible though without all of the help and support I received throughout the year. A HUGE thank you to everyone who has and continues to support me in my endeavors — Dare2Tri, coaches, guides, family & friends. And I’m also grateful to all of the RDs/ROs for their help throughout the year!

So now that I’m done looking back, it’s time to look forward. I’ve got several things in the works for 2017. As I get responses on them, I will share. But two things I can share now are:

1) I will start 2017 with my first ride on Erik on an indoor trainer. It will be in bike shoes clipped into pedals. Outside of the fittings, I’ve never ridden this way. And I had a tremendously hard time getting into the clips. But I’ve got less than 3 weeks to get more comfortable with that.

2) I will start my 2017 Triathlon season at Camp #NoSightNoLimits in Chula Vista in January. If you would like to help support me and my guide, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year!

The 3rd Child (Erik) – 10/29/16

erik

Over the last 6 weeks, I’ve kept posts to a minimum because we were in the final stages and I didn’t want to let the cat out of bag before it was done. This project started in March, and Erik finally came home today!

The extreme generosity of Art Black and Oswego Cyclery made practice possible over the past two years. Having it locally now means the hour plus commute times round trip to practice will be cut down to about 2 – 3 minutes. There’s a path by me that through a couple of connections goes into the Great American Trail if you go North, and a long set of trails if you go South.

And the practice part is just one of the many huge benefits I’ll get from having my own tandem. I am looking forward to getting in a few practices before winter hits and an amazing 2017 with it! And as soon as the pilot’s pedals come in (most common type so they were out of stock), we’ll do just that.

I would not have my tandem without the help of Dare2Tri and the generous support of the Evanston Bike Club. I am extremely grateful to both of them!

No word in English – 9/2/16

D2T High Res

On a daily basis, we use all types of language. Whether it’s in our native tongue or a foreign language, there are always words that we’re searching for. But there’s no word in English for ‘season break’; although I’ve heard the Eskimos have a lot of words for ice.

Yes, the Triathlon season is over for me. But that doesn’t mean I can or will just sit around until next spring when the season resumes. That would be a bad idea for far too many reasons to mention (including coaches yelling at me… 😉 :P). So in addition to several training opportunities between then and now, I’ve got a 50 mile bike ride and a Half Marathon scheduled before year’s end.

While it would be nice to take a chunk of time off, I know that doing so will derail my progress. I have several goals set for 2017, and the only way to reach them is to keep pushing forward. I realize it won’t always be perfect, but I will keep pushing forward. Nothing good ever comes easy.

And while I’m looking forward, I still wanted to reflect back on the season. During 2016, I did a total of 12 triathlons (6 indoor and 6 outdoor). I was able to cut significant time off of my swim and improve on the bike/run. I had to push through some obstacles, including 3 flats during 2 races, and work through some of the mental pieces (see 8/26 blog). All in all, I consider it a successful 1st full season, and a starting point to improve from for 2017.

Even though it was a success, I wouldn’t have made it this far without support from my coaches and Dare2Tri. The amount of support on so many different levels has helped to push me, to motivate me and to help make races possible. As well, because of their support, I will soon have a tandem to use. That will make a HUGE difference as we practice for / during the 2017 season. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that I am extremely grateful to both my coaches and Dare2Tri. If you would like to help support Dare2Tri, please click here It will take you to my fundraising page.