2018 Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Camp (6/8 – 6/10/18)

I don’t remember who told it to me, but this has stuck with me — ‘this is an adaptive sport, as you have to be willing to adapt’. Whether it’s a piece of equipment that breaks druing a warmup, missing a key piece of equipment and having to go to back ups or something else, it will happen. More important that what DID happen is how you handle it and what DOES happen afterwards. Being frozen in a ‘plan A’ only mentality will do more harm to you than having to walk a tandem 3 1/2+ miles back in cleats after it’s double flatted (and yes, I’ve done the latter).

To that point, while it wasn’t planned, I was fortunate to get extra sessions in with my Nationals guide on Friday, to help a newer guide get more comfortable on the tandem on Saturday, and get in some valuable practice with someone who will be guiding me later in the summer. All positives, and all good things both short and long term.

For me, camp started with FUnctional Stregth, followed by time in the pool. Lots of drills and lots of opportunities for Dave and I to work out swim signals, rhythm and other beneficial things prior to Nationals. The afternoon was bike/run, with several important learning lessons coming out of both.

While it has been getting better, I still have some confidence issues when it comes to turns on the bike. Simply because I know basic laws of force, gravity and motion. Even with how well the nutrition stuff has been going, it’s still a concern. But we were able to get more and more comfortable throughout the turns to a point where I didn’t think about it. The initial starts and stops were a little choppy, but got better. As I started to think there might be an issue with the pedals, I talked with Cameron post-session. What I found out is that there are two different types (Zero something and Light Action) and I needed the latter. The former do work, but there are usually clip/unclip issues. I will get that addressed after Nationals. (1)

Coach Judy was back this year for the run, and I’m so glad she was! The first run session was drills, including the incredibly fun ‘pull the guide’ resistance drills. I’m sure that there’s a video of it somewhere; just Google it. Things felt much better this year during the first run session than they did last year. And a refresher on how to properly run hills was a great learning lession. Especially since I’m going to be pushing towards a strong finish when I hit it during Nationals.

Day two for me went bike, run, Open Water Swim and Yoga. Even though she hadn’t done much tandem riding, Canders stepped up to pilot for (and then run with) me. Even with the chain breaking at the end of the workout and my left hand going a little numb at times because of the seat spacing issue, it was still a great session. Thankfully we were essentially at a stop when it did, so no harm and something Cameron was able to fix.

Before going into the run, I had told her that my pace was about 12:30 / mile. That’s what it had been during my last good 5K (5/5), so that seemed like a good ballpark. So when Coach Judy said that we should be doing the 400 intervals a little faster than run pace, I was thinking 2:55. That would have been an 11:40 pace, and a decent drop. And then the 400s went 2:22, 2:23, 2:25 and 2:19. No, those aren’t typos; those are my real 400 times and a roughly 9:25 / mi pace.

Open Water Swim with Natalie went well. We had a chance to work out a lot of things with signals during that practice, all of which helped the following day (and will beyond camp).

During the weekend, there had been on and off rain. And who loves rain — mosquitos of course! While they was moderate during days 1 and 2, they were out in full force for the Triathlon on day 3. It rained hard in the morning, gave us a roughly 90 minute window and then came back in full force. And from how I was post-race, I think a mss message went out on BugBook — “Eat at James, he is delicious!”

Even though there were a couple of issues during the Triathlon, there were also a lot of bright spots. Especially on the run, where pacing and resets led to one of the best runs I’ve had to this point. And all of that will help during Nationals on June 24th.

It was a great weekend, and I came away with a lot of great knowledge and experience. A huge THANK YOU to all of the Coaches, sponsors, volunteers and guides that made the 2018 Dare2Tri PT camp possible!

Final Shot (Leon’s Tri) – 6/3/18

For those of you following my blog or me on social medial, you know that I had to pass on my May race that I planned to use to qualify for Nationals. So Leon’s was my final opportunity to qualify. And even though I was conservatively 3 1/2 minutes off headed in, I still thought I had a chance.

Before I go any further, I want to remind all of you reading that VI Paratriathlon is a team effort. While I’ve heard some refer to the guide as “equipment”, that’s not the whole story. This is someone who’s given up their time, their race and their comfort to ensure you succeed. Yes, it’s “your race” and yes, you put a tremendous amount of trust in them. But that has to be a two way street for success; both short and long term.

Wolf Lake has two very different modes. One is it being calm and you can easily churn out your 100s. The other is wind hitting the lake and it slamming waves into you for the first 150 – 200m until you make the left around the buoy. While I struggled with waves two years ago, bilateral breathing helped out. It was wavy again this year, and my guide ended up with a couple of huge mouthfuls of water early in. It got down into his lungs so for the rest of the swim, we had to stop every 50-75m so he could get breath and try to cough out more water.

Even though the clock was working against me and I wanted to get out of the water ASAHP, I didn’t have an issue with this. For the simple reasons that I knew he needed to stop to try and reset and that he would have done the same if reversed.

We made it out of the water and by the time we were a couple of miles into the bike, he was doing much better. Between the wind and the 4 U-turns (so much ‘fun’), I wasn’t drinking much from my bottle on the bike. I think that this led to some minor dehydration, as I had cramping to the point of pain about 300-400 ft from the dismount line. It all worked out though and we moved onto the run.

With what had happened the previous weekend, I was a little bit concerned about going too fast. But I still wanted to finish strong. Even though qualifying for Nationals was gone, I still wanted to PR. And while it wasn’t a smooth run, it was 100 times better than 2017’s. During that run, at best I was able to run for 1/10th of a mile and then had to walk because of back issues. This year, I was able to run for much longer stretches, finishing with an all out sprint down the finish chute.

I did succeed in setting a new PR by about 10 minute (mostly by shaving 13+ min off from 2017’s run).

Burn Out (Western Springs Tower Trot) – 5/26/18

Over the past several years, I’ve continually battled with going out too fast. Usually it’s meant an unsuccessful practice, as I’ve got little left after mile 1. But I’ve been working on it, and usually in 5Ks themselves, I’ve been okay. Unfortunately, it caught up with me during this race. And I didn’t know that it was going to happen until it was too late.

As Rob and I started out, he noted that I was going too fast. I kept trying to slow it down, and things felt good at a 12:15 or so pace. Then at less than a 1/2 mile in, my right side and back started hurting — bad. Almost like I had pulled something without realizing it. I hoped that a couple minutes of stretching would help, but to no full avail.

So for the rest of the race, I did what I could. This meant running until the pain level got to a 5 or 6, then walking until it was back down to a 2; rinse and repeat. While it’s just antidoctal, I think I may have had some minor dehydration. I say that because post-race as I kept draining cups of water, it kept getting a little better (although I was still in some pain).

While it wasn’t the race that I had hoped for, I still had fun. And I appreciate Rob being able to come out and run with me!

Dolphin Dash 5K (5/5/18)

With a May Tri on the calendar, I went looking for a couple of ‘warm up’ 5Ks early in March. The one that was part of Dare2Tri’s Start the Season event was one I found; another was the Dolphin Dash.

As Chris and I talked prior to the race, I went through guiding basics and the time milestones I was trying to hit with him. With the progress from prior 5Ks, the compression running socks and the new running tether, I was confident that I’d hit them.

There was a nice turnout of students and their parents for the 5K. Knowing my pace, the plan was to start at the back and move forward, continually hitting 13 min miles. The first one was on target, and after walking through the aid station to grab water/brief breather, we focused on mile 2. Until we were about to hit the 2 mile mark, I had no idea that I was waaaaaaaaaay ahead of the pace. I believe mile #2 was at about 11:15.

Given where I was at at 2 miles, I thought I could PR. And I came very close to doing so. But the normal foot numbness at 2.5-2.75 happened. And along with burning too fast during mile #2, I missed it by a bit.

It was still a good race, with the average / mile being 25 seconds below what I was aiming for. I had a lot of fun, and will plan to do the Dolphin Dash again in 2019!

Pleasant Prairie Training (4/27/18)

This year I have added a lot of new and brand new (aka first-time) guides to my guide pool. As I’ve said to them, ‘as long as you can [activity], and have a good attitude, the rest will work itself out’. And to this point, it’s been true.

Today I went up to Pleasnt Prairie to meet with Dave so we could get training in. I had hoped that we could get in an OWS in the lake along with the other training. I knew it would be cold, but supsected mid 50s to high 50s. As the first Dare2Tri OWS of the season is usually high 50s to 60, I would have been fine with that water temp. Especially since I now have a full sleeve wet suit and thermal gear. However, with the water being mid 40s at best, we had to practice the swim indoors.

Throughout the swim, things kept getting better with each 50m length. From working out signals to coordinating turns to getting in rhythm, things were good by the time we got out of the pool.

After changing, we headed outside to get the bike practice in. Because of the longer winter, I hadn’t been on the tandem since being in San Diego. So I was ready for the first lap to be a little bit choppy. What I espected did happen, and things got a little bit dicey around a couple of sharp turns. But because of the nutritional work I’ve been doing with Chris, these weren’t crashes. Having ridden the course at camp and at the Tri, I was very used to the bike being a closed course. It was a much different experience to be dealing with traffic on that same course. I do like the turnaround that they added to the left (used to be a stop sign).

The final leg of training was to do a run around the lake. This is about a 2.5 mile loop, and I was aiming to run the entire thing. While the first half went well, I ran out of energy after that. The next quarter was a run/walk and the last was just a walk.

All told, we did about 3 hours of practice. And thankfully the rain held off until we finished. A really good day of practice and a great building block towards the June tri.

NRC April Fool’s Run (4/2/18)

Since I had started running in 2015, I had continually used a hand tether. It was the most comfortable for me for almost 4 full years. I had tried using my v1.0 swim tether for a run tether, but I chucked that after a couple tries since it kept slipping down. But after several people had suggested the race belt method, I decided to give that a try.

So when Mark and I went out to Wheaton to do the April NRC Pub Run, I decided to give it a try. While it wasn’t perfect, it seemed to work much better than the hand tether. And even though we got stopped by traffic a couple of times, it seemed to be a solid run.

I’ll continue to work with the running puzzle and see if I can find a solution to this Rubik’s Cube before June.

Training? Are you talking about Training? (CAF Grant APPROVED!) – 3/29/18

Last year, I was fortunate to receive a grant from CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) for training. With all of the new disability training pieces in the fall, I wasn’t able to make full use of it. Things having gone back to ‘normal chaos’, I was hopeful to receive support from CAF for training again in 2018.

Earlier this week, I received the confirmation e-mail letting me know my 2018 Grant request had been approved! This will allow me to do a tremendous amount of training, both in the city and suburbs. I am excitedly planning things out to ensure that I get the most out of this wonderful support!

THANK YOU to CAF for their support, and thank you to them for re-upping in 2018! Your continued support is so greatly appreciated!

Hammer Powered Race (ET Indoor Tri) – 3/25/18

As I continue to look for a solution to the running issues, I’m continually trying new things. I know that there’s a full solution out there so that I don’t have numbness during the run. If I could just solve that Rubik’s Cube…

For Sunday’s ET Indoor Tri, I had added a new Hammer Nutrition product (Tissue Rejuvination) along with compression running socks into the mix. And with breakfast being a Hammer Bar with the last dose of Endrolytes and Heed in the bottles, it was a fully Hammer powered race.

As with the last Indoor Tri earlier this month, I had desired benchmarks going into it. While I didn’t hit all of them, and while just the bike improved for the 2017 race, it was still a good day. Not just because I felt more energy throughout it, but because I got to race with one of my Dare2Tri teammates (Val Chavez)!

Like last year, Todd guided for me for the Tri. But unlike last year, 1/2 lengths didn’t count in the pool. Knowing that and knowing where the time was led to me really pushing that last length to make sure it counted.

After changing, we headed to the spin bikes. I was glad that I had changed into my bike bibs, especially at about 26-27 min in when that triangle started hurting. Even more evidence that the saddle upgrade was a really good idea and will pay dividends in 2018 when I don’t have bibs.

My focus for the treadmill was to run the entire 20 minutes without stopping. And if it hadn’t been for spit, I would have made that happen. At about 12:30 in, I couldn’t get the spit in my throat to go back down and started minorly choking on it. As I wasn’t going to spit on the treadmill or floor, I had to walk for about 20-30 seconds to get that taken care of before going back to running.

While the jury’s still out on the new Hammer tool, I will say that the compression socks were a good purchase. A couple times during the run, I could feel the start of tingling that eventually goes to numbness. But the socks helped to stop that in a couple steps. I will of course continue to play with both during the two runs I have coming up.

You Couldn’t Race Without Them (Shamrock Shuffle Prep) – 3/17/18

Over the last 5 years, I have participated in a LOT of races. And I’ve got a LOT planned for 2018. During that time, we (or more correctly my guides since I’ve been focused on running) have done our part to thank the volunteers that are out there.

But those are just one level of volunteers that help to make sure that the race you’re participating in goes smoothly. There’s usually a small army (or a large one for big events) behind the scenes doing every thing imaginable so you have a great race.

During St. Patrick’s Day, I joined that army putting together packets for the Shamrock Shuffle. Now before I even touched them, several other groups had already taken the time to do envelopes, tags onto bibs (timing and name) and labels on the envelopes. My part was to scan the bib tags and double check everything.

After scanning 1200-1500 of them, I’ve got a much better appreciation for just how much work goes into a smooth event. The moral of this story – make sure you thank the volunteers out there as you’re racing. A LOT of people have put in time to make sure you’ll have a great race day!

NRC Pub Run – 3/15/18

Yes, March Madness… the most fun (or agony if you picked Virginia) you can have. Oh wait, I was talking about my March, not anything to do with basketball. And yes, there is a method to my madness…

As I’ve mentioned before, the run portion of the Tri is still a struggle. And since solo runs haven’t worked out well (as I’ll do the 1st mile in < 11:30 and be burnt out), I am trying something new this year. That’s using 5Ks as a way to work out the kinks and also improve. There are several different things that I will be trying between now and my next outdoor Tri. The focus the last two has been on the shoes – going to a thicker pad in the New Balance shoes. While it hasn’t been a magic bullet, it has helped – and I would have been SOL without it for Thursday’s run. This was the second March run that Achilles helped with a guide. I was able to find the other through NCC’s Tri Coach. At Natalie’s suggestion, she and I did a 10-15 minute warmup prior so I wouldn’t be as cold going into the run. The first 2 miles weren’t that bad and were on pace. But the 3rd was a bear between being tired and my feet going numb. This started slightly somewhere around 2.5 miles and got really bad in both feet shortly before the end. Even with all that, I kept going because of the support from Mark and Natalie. It helped me to hold off on fully walking until I felt like my feet would fold under even though I was in pain a lot earlier. The post-party, which was sponsored by Hoka was a lot of fun. And as I’ve said before, beer heals all wounds… 🙂 I’ve got two more races in March, and will be adding in compression socks to one of them. It was suggested to help with the numbness, and I’m willing to try anything within reason. I just want to get the times down.