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!

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!

2016 Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Camp (aka Pleasant Prairie Take 1) – 6/10 – 6/12/16

D2T-Award

(Thanks to Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club for the photo)

For those of you who haven’t read my 2015 Camp blog, please read my 2015 camp blog first. Or if you don’t want to, the thumbnail is this — I had never done a triathlon before, I struggled at camp and managed to cross my first finish line and had some amazing experiences.

Prior to this year’s camp, I had spent about 6 months in the pool, continually getting my ass kicked by one of my coaches. Never fun to wake up at 3:30AM for a 5AM session, but oh so worth it… And there were other times and other ways that both of my main coaches (Coach Stacee Seay and Terri Hayes) pushed me during the last year since camp. If you want details on any of it, just backread through the last year – it’s pretty well chronicled.

Day 0 of camp went pretty much like last year – get to 31st Street Marina, get on the bus to Pleasant Prairie and then crash out early. The slight wrinkle to this year was that I was so spent from the week to that point that I didn’t bother going out to dinner and just crashed.

Day 1 of camp started with the introduction and then led us into the pool with Coach Stacee. Last year I was struggling to do a 50 meter swim and having to stand up at the middle sandbar. This year, while they weren’t as smooth as they should be, I was still churning out 50s, 100s and multiples of 100s. And then I got to do my oh so favorite drill of all time – bilateral breathing. Never a fun one, but oh so useful. Much more on that later on…. When we finished in the pool, we did functional strength drills and then had lunch as a group.

The afternoon of day 1 started out on the bike with Coach Chris. While there were a lot of fundamentals (start/stop, mount/dismount, turns, etc.), it was still great to do. We finished with a run session with Coach Judy that started with the fundamentals (paw and more) and then went to tension running. Last year, I know I struggled on the tension runnings; this year, I was close to beating the camper I was running against. And we got to finish up with the ‘fun’ of running up hill several times, during which I was told I had great arms.

Day 2 started out hot and then only got hotter. I know that I put on full suntan lotion 3 times and had someone else do my legs/face a 4th time. But it was still so hot that I ended up burning in a couple places. Our day started out on the bike doing interval rides up H/88 and lots of turns. For those of you who have never been at Pleasant Prairie, H/88 from Park Place is mostly uphill. Not much fun to do 8 loops of that during training (or 3 loops during the race), but all part of the day. After about 90 minutes on the bike, we went onto the run.

During the run, we did 2 800s and then 4 400s. After the first 800 (5:33), I was tempted to sit out the 2nd (run in 6:04). And the same was true of wanting to sit out parts of the 400 (first 3 run at about 2:55 each, 4th run at 3:17). What kept me from sitting out ANY of those regardless of how much I was hurting was this simple thought – ‘there are a lot of people here with a lot less than me. If they can do it, I’m going to push myself until I at least fall down on the course and someone has to pick me up’. None of the runs were any fun, but I pushed through all of them. What got me through was that thought above and a LOT of ice, water and ice.

Our afternoon ended in the lake. As it was about 7000 degrees out, jumping into a 65-70 degree lake felt really, really, really good. So much so that after 800 meters of practice I joking told a friend that I was just going to stay in the lake until the morning. If you haven’t gotten the point by now, “the sun [was] a mass of incandescence gas. A hot nuclear furnace. A gigantic nuclear furnace. Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees” (Thanks to the 2 Johns for that. And I take no responsibility if that’s now stuck in your head.)

We finished Day 2 with Yoga and then a group dinner, at which I was blindsided. They do camp awards each year, and I was presented with the one for most improvement. I would not have received that had it not been for all of my coaches – especially Coach Stacee and Terri Hayes – continually pushing me forward throughout the last year. I was very proud to receive the award, not just as validation for my effort but also to validate Dare2Tri’s support of me. At the beginning of the year, they selected me to their Development Team, which means a lot of support from them and a lot of investment into me. I am very proud to be able to show that their support and belief in me is starting to pay off. And I meant what I said that night – it’s never going to go perfect, but you just keep pushing forward and it’ll all come together.

Day 3 (race day) started off with a very patriotic salute led by Melissa Stockwell and others. And then it was time to race – 800 meters in the lake, 15 miles on the bile and 3.1 miles on the run (aka Sprint+). For added fun, that meant 3 loops uphill into a 20-25 MPH headwind.

We started out in the lake as a group and the swim went well for the most part. One of the buoy turns took straight into choppy water. This is where the bilateral breathing came into play. And when I forgot to do it, I got a VERY stiff correction to do it right by getting a huge mouthful of water. It was going so well that I was surprised when Lee told me that we were done with the swim. Along the lines of Day 2, if he hadn’t told me that, I probably would have done another loop. We headed out of the water and onto T1 (aka long transition).

Towards the beginning of the bike, I made my first mistake. We were close to the tandem team of Caroline and Ashley and I decided to try and keep pace with them. For those of you who’ve never seen them ride together, just think of that Jim Croche line “You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim” and substitute Caroline/Ashley where it says Jim. Sadly, I will never remember that lesson for the simple reason that as I continue to push forward, I will see them out there a lot. And I’ll continue tor try pushing that envelope. Charlie Brown eventually kicked the football out of Lucy’s hands, right? 😉 😛

The bike portion really was no fun. As I’ve already mentioned, it was 15 miles with big chunks of it uphill into strong headwinds. But we pushed through it and made it back to T2. That was after we listened to the incorrect information from a volunteer and lost a few minutes.

From T2 out onto the run after putting nutrition into my body. To say I was spent at that point would be an understatement. But I was determined to get that 3.1 miles in, even if it was 1/1 intervals. And unfortunately there were a few place where it was like that. But in the end, we made it back to a lot of cheering campers, staff and volunteers.

In summary:

1) THANK YOU to all of the volunteers, staff, coaches and sponsors that made this weekend possible. And a special THANK YOU to Luke Migalla and Lee Dunbar for helping to guide me thoughout the weekend.

2) Even if you struggle, don’t give up. There will always be bad days, bad race and people that continually beat you at a disciple or on the course. If you give up, you’ll never have a chance; if you keep pushing forward, you will eventually get to a point where you can. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen…. Eventually.

3) I am so glad that I did the Shamrock Shuffle last year. If I hadn’t, I would have never have met Keri and NONE of this would have happened.

4) If you want to succeed and push forward, the words don’t, can’t, won’t and will not need to disappear from your vocabulary.

I’m looking forward to being back at Pleasant Prairie in two weeks to race with an even larger field!

And if you would like to support me as I move forward with my season, you can do so through my Race2Raise Page