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’? 😀

Roaring Back – 10/5/18

As I’ve said many times in the past, I could not do what I do without the support network I have in place. This includes family and friends, guides and sponsors, all of whom play their own crucial roles in my success.

The Naperville Noon Lions Club has supported me from the beginning, helping to ensure I could attend my first PT camp. Since that point, they have been in my corner and helped to enable my growth. I am extremely grateful for their continued support for the 2019 season!

I am just one of a long list of people and projects that the Club supports through its fundraising. I will be out on the streets next Friday to help with that as part of their Candy Day. If you are in downtown Naperville near North Central College, please come out and support them. Anything you donate will help so many like me!

USABA Tri Camp (8/21-26/18)

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

And those simple words are THANK YOU. I am extremely grateful for the amazing opportunity that I had in Colorado Springs and to everyone whom made it possible. To Gavin, USABA and USAT for making the camp possible, to OTCOS for hosting us, to Southwest for all their travel related help (including ensuring I had my bike with me), to George for all his help in Colorado, to all of the coaches for everything during the week, to Danny for being an amazing pilot/guide throughout, and to my fellow campers for their insight and help throughout. Also, thank you to Performance Bicycle (Naperville) for all of their help with getting the bike ready and packed so that I could participate.

As some of you may remember, the cranks still hadn’t been repaired. The locktite had held for Goshen, so I wasn’t concerned about it being solid for camp. My bigger concern was about being able to disassemble / transport the bike without (a) something getting broken or (b) the crank fix falling apart. But Dave and James did an awesome job of packing it and going through everything that we needed to do so things would work out.

After landing in Denver and getting luggage, George and I headed to Colorado Springs (COS). The plan was to connect with Danny once he and Tyler made it to COS and stay at the OTC. However, weather delays kept them in Houston. So instead it was dinner and staying with George — with visits by Hank the Tank (bulldog) throughout the night. And yes, the dog thread will be evident throughout this blog…

On Wednesday, I had time to wander through the OTC while waiting for Danny/Tyler to arrive. Once they did, we did the bike build and initial fitting. After that initial part, camp started in full. While I’m not going to go into minute detail about each day, they did all include sessions (like nutrition, communication, rules, etc.) and bike, swim and run each day.

The hilights of Thursday included an almost 2 mi run that we did as a small group prior to the day starting, a ride to/from bike skills, getting used to altitude and getting more comfortable on the bike. The handlebar bottle cage got moved to the pilot’s bar to help with starts, and we worked on speed within turns.

The highlights of Friday included a run/bike brick and a much better swim than Thursday. Lesson learned that Tri kits are for day 1 and bibs are for Day 2 and beyond… I did continue to play with leaning more, and it seemed to be okay for the most part.

The hilights of Saturday included transition training, triple bricks and seeing Danny win a 25m speed race. One of the things from transition that seemed to work really well was running without socks and Yanks on the shoes. It cut about 1:10 off of the time.

With all of the training, the guide dogs spent a lot of time in the dorm rooms. This meant that they were fun to watch playing each night after being ‘freed’. And yes, two of them did fulfill their contractual obligations by coming to say a proper hello on National Dog Day (Sunday). If I had had more time, maybe all of those belly rubs I was giving out might had led to one of them following me hom (*cough* Plum *cough* ;))

It was an amazing week in COS, and I am extremely grateful to have been there. Again, thank you to everyone who helped make it happen!

Rock the Quarry (8/18/18)

After having been accepted for the USABA camp, I decided to add another Tri the weekend before camp. This was my way of ensuring that I didn’t go into the camp ‘cold’. Goshen fit tha bill, and after securing a guide (Michael), I signed up.

One of the biggest concerns going into the race was the tandem. I had practice scheduled for about 10 days after the crank had originally broken. And we were still going in circles in trying to get the part replaced. But James from Performance Bicycle found a solution that he thought would work. After riding on it for 17-18 miles, we were both confident that it would work.

Between traffic and losing an hour going east, we made it to packet pickup literally as they were closing the doors. During pick up, we were asked about where we’d like to start. We selected to start with Team Triumph at the beginning — thinking that it would be the normal ‘first in and swim’ that I’ve had at other races. So I was surprised when I saw in the time layout that they didn’t start the race until that wave was completely out of the water.

While that was a very neat experience, I’ll admit that it made me a little nervous. Simply because there were a few hundred people watching us swim — and waiting on us to get out of the water before they could start. But to run out of the water to that large cheering crowd awa amazing and well worth it. It also ended up being my best 500m swim of the season!

Even with the huge ‘head start’, we weren’t alone for long on the bike course. I was counting bikes, and I believe all of the top 10 passed us before we did the Triangle turn around.

And then the heat came out to play… ‘Perfect timing’ — right as our run started. Things went on pace with the first 1/2 of the 10K the previous weekend though and we finished with a respectable time.

I know that the main thought post-race is ‘I’m done, let me get food and then GTFOOH’ But since all of those people had stood and waited for me, I wanted to be around to cheer them in. We did that for a bit before going to grab food, collect things and leave.

Goshen was a tremendous amount of fun and one that will become part of my annual schedule!