How not to run a race (The Blacklight Run) – 9/14/19

I understand and accept that no race is going to go off perfectly. As a RO/RD, you can plan for every eventuality, every contingency and even put pre-emptive Darwin Awards measures in place. But it won’t stop [X] from happening — specifically [X] that no one could ever think of happening. When something like that does happen, it really hasn’t been a big deal. They did everything right, and something out of their control just happened. HOWEVER, The Blacklight Run Chicago does not fall into that category.

To begin with, their ‘free’ race was not really free. This ‘free’ race registration required you to make a mandatory donation to a charity in addition to paying a facility fee. Quite odd to mandate this, as well as then charging you the registration percentage on it. But looking at it as a 5K for < $15, I went along with their process.

I had registered for both this race and a similar one that they did in May. I had believed it would be a very simple conversation about my guide, especially since it appeared that they wanted people there. If not, then why do a ‘free’ entry that kept getting pushed? However, it took me having to reach out to the Chicagoland Speedway before this RO got the message that the ADA needs to be followed. I’ve got the e-mail chain to show just how unhelpful their staff was initially. And then within a VERY short time of calling the Speedway, it was all resolved.

The next issue with this event was the parking. I remember seeing something early on from the RO along the lines of ‘Parking is $20 (cash). We have specifically told the tow companies to watch for people parking on side streets. You will be towed if you do.’ IMO, that sort of message smacks of bullying. But we went along with it. I’ll admit that I did get some satisfaction from handing them a bag of change to pay for the $20 BS parking.

As I had to do packet pickup that evening, we arrived in plenty of time. Once it started to get dark, we moved towards the starting area. As usual, we seeded ourselves far enough back to ensure that it could be a safe, good run. As they were sending people off in waves, I thought we’d be even better off.

However, things did not go well throughout the race. I would estimate that at least 90% of the people were walking. There were some others running, but they were having the same issues that we were. You would be able to run for about 150-200 feet and then a pocket of people walking across the ENTIRE path would stop your progress. I don’t have an issue with people walking. But the overwhelming percentage of people go with walk right, run left. So overall, we were able run about 1m total.

The Blacklight zones on the course were interesting, and lived up to what they were supposed to be. On the other hand, the aid station did not. To that point, every single aid station in the 100+ events (Tri and running) that I’ve done have had COLD beverage options, pre-set and ready for people to grab. Hell, even during the Half where I had horrible calf issues and we were beyond the race finish, there were still cold jugs of water for us to self-pour from. Last night, their idea of an ‘aid station’ was to set up empty cups on a table, then have you wait in line. When you got to the front of it, someone filled the cup with warm water from a garden hose. Utter, utter BS.

The final straw of the evening was how their staff acted post-race. I’ll admit that I was beyond pissed with the cummulative BS of the evening. When I talked to the Assistant RD, he said that (a) the RD was out on the course, (b) the RD wasn’t reachable and (c) I’d have to go through their ‘helpful’ CS team. Again, I’ve NEVER seen a situation where the RD is unreachable. I’m quite sure that Marconi didn’t just invent them today…

I have already reached out to their CS for a FULL refund. And I’ve also contacted the SPeedway. I truly hope that the Chicagoland Speedway takes the appropriate actions to ensure that others don’t have to go through this absurdity. It was the Blacklight Walk, NOT the Blacklight Run. Had it been promoted as what it ruly was, I would not have wasted the almost $38 that I did.

Finally, if you want a well organized, fun and TRUE night run, I strongly suggest the GloRuns done by AllCommunityEvents. I believe Amita Health is the title sponsor for these races that are held across the country.

USABA / USAT VI ID Camp (9/4-8/19)

Last August, I was given an amazing opportunity to be at the OPTC for the first Visually Impaired (VI) Talent ID Camp. Even though I struggled during that camp (see last year’s blog post), I still learned a tremendous amount from it.

Even though there have been unexpected and unplanned bumps throughout this season, I’ve seen an upward trend. I had hoped to have the opportunity to be there again this year. While I wasn’t given a spot initially, I was fortunate to be given one off the wait list.

Last year, I suffered from the altitude adjustment and from trying to do a long bike ride in Tri shorts. Going into this year, I intended to do a run in CO pre-camp and had bibs for the longer ride. So after running errands Wednesday morning, Larry and I went to the track and ran 2 miles. As expected, it was absolutely, positively no fun. Even doing 1/2 mile repeats was a challenge since my body wasn’t yet acclimated. However, it was worth it in the long run.

Something that I’ve said before and will say again is that you can’t do this sport without a lot of trust. You’re putting your life in someone else’s hands, especially on the bike. For me, as long as my guide is an experienced Triathlete and has a good attitude, it’s all going to work out. I’ll always share what I need with a new guide before we do a practice or race. Taking that small amount of time leads to success, even if they’re a first-time guide.

The first full day of camp was packed. We started on the Colorado College track for a strenuous workout. I was glad to have done the warm ups the day before with Larry. Because of that, the first session with Jace went much better. That’s not to say it was easy by any means though. We ended up doing a warmup followed by dynamic stretching work and then 3x 400/200/400/200 (run/walk) with a focus on negative splits. During that last session, one of the coaches showed me a way to improve my run strike/run stride. It was odd and a bit painful at first, but I knew / know it will pay off long-term.

After a strength session and lunch, we were in the OPTC pool for the first time. While the altitude created some struggles for me during the early set, it wasn’t as bad as last year. I would say that I wasn’t feeling it that much by about 500-600 into the set. The main set was full of drills, during which I was trying to watch/focus on the left arm catch. While the right is usually OK, the left has far more drag — and is something that I’ve been working on with a private coach as well.

After the swim and time to finish bike builds, we headed out to do bike skills. For safety reasons, they had the pilots ride over solo while the stokers were in the vans. I’m sure that drivers in Colorado Springs had some interesting comments when they say 10 tandems ride by with just one person on them. After working out some minor issues with starts and stops, Jace and I went through all of the different drills without incident. He was able to successfully maneuver us around those small two legged obstacles. Once done there, the day ended with a Sports Psychology classroom session.

While the next day only had two sessions, it was more challenging than the previous day. It started with 4.8mi Gold Camp repeats. Even with losing 20-30 minutes having to address a tire puncture, we made it up / down almost twice. The van turned us around about 80-85% of the way back up the 2nd time because of time constraints. It’s a long uphill climb, where you feel like you’re going through mud a times. But it’s well worth doing and an amazing hill workout. Oh, and coming down Gold Camp is a tremendous amount of fun. 🙂

The afternoon swim session was an Open Water Skills (OWS) session. It included a warmup, drills and all of the standard things you’d do in open water in a race. We also had the assistance of two coaches (Beck and Kelly) that were there for the PT Coaching Certification Clinic during the session. It ended with us doing two full race simulation laps.

In 2007, when Coach O put us through the paces like we new recruits during the first day of spring ball, I remember walking around the IPF track in a daze post-workout. My brain was fighting my body at that point. I had a similar feeling after these two sessions, and it took a good deal of sugar to get me back to ‘normal’ so that I didn’t fall asleep during the classroom sessions.

The next day included the Triple Brick session and another pool session. Each of the bicks was T1->bike (5K)->T2->run (1mi), with a focus on negative splitting per brick. Throughout our sessions, the transitions kept decreasing, the runs were about constant and the bikes were on target.

The meat of the swim session was a 16×50 workout. These were broken down into 3 ‘active recovery’ and 1 fast. For me, I can do a fast 25 okay. But after that 25, the motor dies a bit. Even still, we made it through the workout, which finished with a coach/guide race.

The final day was an optonial swim workout. It was a good opportunity to practice the drills that we had done throughout the camp. It also had more of the 4×50 drills…

I am truly grateful to have had this amazing opportunity again in 2019. While it’s a short stay, I always learn a LOT at the camps I’ve been at at the OPTC. And what I’ve learned has helped me to improve across all phases of Triathlon.

THANK YOU to everyone that made this possible, all the coaches for their time and sharing their knowledge, Larry for his help in getting to/from Denver and Jace for guiding for me. He did an amazing job as my guide and I hope to work with him again!

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. 

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.

Shufflin’ (2019 Shamrock Shuffle) – 3/24/19

“He’s a rebel and a runner. He’s a signal turning green.” – RUSH

While I haven’t done it in the past 2 years, the Shamrock Shuffle is a special race for me. This is the race where everything Triathlon-related started for me. And while I know that last sentence sounds odd, it will all make sense in a moment. Keri Serota, who is the Executive Director of Dare2Tri, is also the AWD coordinator for the Shamrock Shuffle. The short version of the story goes I told her I was going to do my first Tri in Aug 2015, she told me about Dare2Tri and invited me to the PT camp; the rest is history.

After Columbus, I felt really good going into Shamrock Shuffle. Instead of 3 loops of hills, I knew I’d only have one major (Roosevelt) hill and that I’d only have to do it once. So going in, I had two real goals: (1) To make it out of the tunnels before the elites caught up to us and (2) to not walk outside of aid station and at most 1/3 of the Roosevelt hill. Having burnt out in mile 1 in 2016, I knew that my pacing had to be better. Lisa kept an eye on this throughout the entire run, and that helped immensely.

Goal #1 was achieved during the 1st mile (I believe they caught us at about .65 or .7). From that point through the first aid station (about 1.6), the pace was fairly consistent and I had two guides with me. Then at close to 2, I unintentially dropped a guide. We tried to keep them in sight as they caught their breath and regrouped, but it just didn’t work for them to re-join. And while it wasn’t intentional, yes, I did still feel bad about it happening. All of the guides I run with give up their time and race to run with and look after me. I try my hardest to return that. Keri (Achilles) joined us about a half mile later so that I had two guides again.

Shortly after the 5K spilt, I started to look for the aid station. Given where the first one had been and the race distance, I expected it at about 3.25. However, it didn’t appear until almost 3.7. I’ve stopped running with a bottle on 5k/8K/10K races, so I was struggling a bit between where I thought it would be and where it was. Mostly in terms of trying to get enough lubrication so I could swallow.

After you make the turn at about 3.9 or 4, it’s a straight shot to the turn at Roosevelt, hill and finish. Having run that stretch several times, I remember it being clear sailing. So I didn’t expect or see the divot that caused me to trip and fall. Luckily I caught myself and really only hit the pad of my palm hard. After taking about a minute to regroup and about a minute to walk, we started off again towards Mt. Roosevelt.

While I didn’t succeed in running it completely, I did succeed with goal #2. In 2015 and 2016, I had to stop after about 100 feet and walk it. This year, I made it about 1/2 way up before I had to stop and walk for 30-45 seconds. Once I got my breath back, we kept running and finished strong (1:03:25).

I look forward to running it again in 2020. Thank you to Achilles for their support and to Lisa, Keri and Jen for guiding for me! Also thank to you Dare2Tri for facilitation the AWD support!

#shamrockshuffle #shamrockshuffle2019 #achilles #achilleschicago #dare2tri #awd #8K #GoAchilles

Take 1 (Arnold Indoor Tri) – 3/2/19

Arnold Indoor Tri Logo

“And the magic music makes your morning mood.” – RUSH

Last year as I was planning out my Nationals qualifying races, I stumbled across an Indoor Tri in Columbus. Having family there, I decided to give it a try. And while the run was a bitch, what sticks in my mind from last year was crushing the bike when good music came on. Even though I can’t remember if it was Welcome to the Jungle or Paradise City, I do remember hitting 28 or 29 on the bike when GNR came on.

So going into this year’s race, I was really hoping for several solid songs together. I knew that that was the only way for me to make it off the bike in 20 minutes and ultimately to having a chance at 1:18. I also knew that facing the hill in practice would make it a little ‘less worse’ on Saturday. We got in a full lap along with some swim and ‘bike fit’ before calling it a night.

Based on how practice went Friday night, I was confident that I could qualify Saturday IF T2 was less of a maze. And as we got into the pool, I was confident that I could come close to a 16/2/20/2/38 split to achieve the 1:18 I needed.

While I felt good on the swim, it did not go as I wanted or needed it to. Results show that my 100s averaged about 45s slower than they should have been. And Robin mentioned that there were a lot of straight arm strokes. Definitely something that needs to be addressed before the next race…

When we made it to the bike, I had no idea that I was 5 minutes off my mark. I honestly believed that I was at worst in a 2 minute hole. In any event, I was ready to try and keep a 30mph pace during the bike. To that end, I had 2 full bottles of Skratch and a Clif bar to eat towards the end. I figured by doing so, I’d keep the mph and have a little more for hill hell.

While that was a great plan, it didn’t fully come to fruition. Even though I was able to spike to 29-30, I wasn’t able to sustain it for more than a minute. There were a couple of really good songs that helped the average. But during a couple, I could definitely feel the mojo draining.

Knowing that I was at about 54 minutes headed out to the run, it became purely about pride. I know I can’t run 7 minute miles on the best days. So there surely wasn’t any way I could run 7 minute miles in hill hell.

I can and will continue to call the run hill hell because of the river -> Premier part. When you come out of T2, you’re in the middle of two hills. The one to the right, where you start up, isn’t that bad. Let’s call it a 1/4 mile gentle uphill. However, the one to the left is a PITA. Let’s call it a 1/4 mile that starts with a ~25 degree uphill for 150-200 feet, followed by a steeper gradual uphill for the rest of it. And to add injury to insult, you have to slow/stop your legs at the bottom of the downhill to turn. Not fun trying to restart your engine AND go up a steep grade.

Lap 1 was okay; lap 2 was meh; lap 3 was a struggle. After 2 laps of struggling with the steep hill, I had little left for the uphills in lap 3. So it turned into staggered run/walk to just get through it. Even though I had to walk in parts, I was able to nail the 5K pace that I wanted.

And while I just spent two paragraphs saying how frustrating the hills are, YES I will be back in 2020 to race it again.

Thanks to Robin for guiding for me again this year! And to #EagleCheerleader and family/friends for coming out to cheer us on!

Sober (2019 Hammer) – 12/12/18

In late 2016 as I was struggling to figure out how to deal with my nutrition needs for 2017, I reached out to Hammer Nutrition. Within a very short time, they said yes. The support that they provided in 2017 and 2018 was greatly appreciated and helped immensely.

When I reached out for support for 2019, I was made aware of a new process. While I had hoped for a yes, I was unfortunately told no. The simple explanation is that a lot of people applied. Even though I made strides forward in 2018, I accept that I’m still behind a LOT of people.

After receiving this e-mail, it would have been easy to completely jump ship. But that wouldn’t have been in my best interests, short or long-term. I KNOW that things went so well during the 2018 season because I had Hammer’s products in my race kit throughout the 2018 season. If you need proof of that, just read back through the camp and race reports (especially Ripon).

What I will do is ensure that at least the core products are in place, along with finding some alternatives to fill in / make Hammer ones last. It won’t be as perfect as I had hoped, but I know it will lead to successes in 2019.

While I never want to lose a sponsorship, I understand that it can happen. In this case, it just adds one more main goal to my 2019 season — doing everything I can to earn a sponsored spot again in 2020!

Season Finale (Jingle Bell Run) – 12/8/18

It has certainly been a long, but extremely fun, season. It started in San Diego in January, had stops in IL, IN, WI, OH and CO, and wrapped up in Chicago. There were a LOT of positives during the season, and I will build on those in 2019.

The final race of the season was the Chicago Jingle Bell 5K. As with the previous 5Ks this fall/winter, a member of Achilles (Kristin) was my guide.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I sometimes forget one item at home when packing for a race. While I didn’t forget anything at home this time, I did almost forget gloves/hat at gear check. It was warm inside, and I had put them into the pockets before doing gear chuck. Thankfully, I realized it in plenty of time to grab them from gear check before we headed outside.

Prior to the start, it was a nice surprise to run into our former RBD. I hadn’t seen him for about 7 years, and it was nice to have a few minutes to talk with him and catch up. After starting, the first 2 miles went really well. There were lots of ice patches on the path, but Kristin ensured that we went around them. After that, the same issues that I had during the final mile last race came up. Even though it was about 90 seconds total slower than I had aimed for, it was still a good race. On advice of one of my friends, I will be working on longer training runs during the offseason so that I’m not hitting a wall at 2 – 2.5.

One other note from the race is that it was nice to see concern for others during the race. At about the 2.1-2.2 mile point, a runner tripped over a stick and fell hard. While they were okay, everyone around them (including us) stopped temporarily and made sure that they were okay.

I also want to make sure that I properly thank everyone who’s helped me throughout the season. It would not have been as successful as it was without all of your help and support! THANK YOU to

  • Dare2Tri
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • Hammer Nutrition
  • Naperville Noon Lions Club
  • Achilles Chicago
  • A long list of guides, family & friends

#WhyILoveDare2Tri (#GivingTuesday 2018) – 11/27/18

Five years ago, I had no idea what it would take to do a Triathlon. And four years ago, Triathlon was supposed to be a ‘one and done’ (2015 Naperville Sprint Triathlon). Then a chance meeting changed everything forever….

When I arrived to run the 2015 Shamrock Shuffle, Keri Serota was the AWD Director. She also was, and still is, the Executive Director of Dare2Tri. As we talked for a few minutes prior to the race, she shared a lot of great information with me about Dare2Tri and invited me to their Paratriathlon (PT) camp in June.

When I showed up there, I had very little when it came to proper gear. I believe I had a helmet, a swim suit, goggles and a pair of normal gym shoes. Definitely not all of the tools that you need to be successful in the world of Triathlon. But that didn’t stop me from having a successful camp, as they provided everything else that I needed.

Just as important as the training were all of the people that I met and new friendships that I made. These were people that had the same amount, or even less sight, that were all being successful — both there and in their daily lives. Seeing that helped tremendously from the personal perspective.

More than 4 years later, I have grown so much athletically and personally because of their support and the Dare2Tri family/community. That ‘one and done’ has turned into about 40 so far, with another 17 planned in 2019. And while I can’t honestly say that I’ll accept eventually losing my sight, I can say that I feel better about it than I did in 2015. I know I wouldn’t be able to say that if I hadn’t made the connection with Dare2Tri.

I realize that there are a lot of organizations that are asking for funding today and throughout the rest of the year. But I would ask you to consider making a donation to Dare2Tri. The $150 goal that I’ve set will cover a race entry. And I truly believe that what you’re doing will start a spark in someone else like it did for me. Dare2Tri helped me to cross my first finish line in 2015, and I hope you’ll help someone else to be able to cross theirs in 2019!

Thank you in advance for any support you can provide! You can donate through this link.

Minion Mania (Run to D.C. 5K) – 11/10/18

The Minion police have finally caught up with me. WHo’s got an alibi for me? 😉

This was my 2nd offseason 5K, and it went better than the first. Mainly because there wasn’t Mt. Roosevelt to contend with… But in return for only minor / more reasonable hills, the cold piper had to be paid.

After meeting with Jen, we went outside a few minutes early to acclimate. Having stood on concrete in cold weather for hours in the past, I wasn’t too concerned. Then the wind really kicked up, and my attitude was ‘screw it until it’s about to start’. So once everyone else exited to start, so did we.

For about the first 1/10th of a mile, we had other people around us. And then it was like our own race for 3 miles. Sure, there were lots of other runners out there, but we didn’t see a single one until we went back inside post-race.

A week ago, it was at about the 2 mi mark when things started to fall apart a little. Today, it was close to 2.65mi. And unlike last week, it only took about 30-45 seconds to regroup and get back to running. Overall, it was one of the more complete 5Ks that I’ve run this year.

I’ve got one final 5K to wrap up my 2018 season. And then it’s on to 2019. Did I mention that there’s no real ‘offseason’? 😀