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

β€œOne 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!

10K Fail (BTN Big 10K) (8/12/18)

“I think I can, I think I can… I knew I could, I knew I could.” – The Little Engine That Could

Five years ago when I receive the e-mail from Rutgers about them joining the Big 10 and the subsequent 5K/10K race announcement, I thought ‘why not’. Having not run a mile in more than 20 years, it was a challenge. But one that I was able to overcome. A couple years later, I tried the 10K race and it was a disaster (especially since the last mile was mostly under McCormick in the dark).

But believing I would need to do a 10 mile run as part of a near-Half Ironman this fall, I was willing to give the 10K race another try. With the growing successes in the 5K distances this spring/summer, I was hopeful that the 10K distance would go okay.

After meeting up with Sarah and Keri, whom were my Achilles guides, we made it to the start. I wish I had known that Bill Murray was going to be the race marshal, as I would have brought a stuffed gopher to toss to him when he offered the bounty for any sheep and the like brought back post run…

As with training, the first mile was faster than it should have been. But unlike the training, I wasn’t feeling the burnout that I normally do after a mile that fast. I was still feeling good at the first water stop (1.5mi) and knowing the time was trying to push for a 35min 5K. I was so close to making it there, but the heat and the faster mile #1 cost me. I don’t have an official 5K split, but 3mi was 36:12. So I would guess 5K at 36:30-36:45 range.

While I had to walk a little bit around/after the 5K mark due to the heat, I was feeling good after the 3.65mi water stop. And with the breeze, shade and extra energy, I was able to do pretty decent until mile 5. At that point, I was a little ahead of the 12:35 pace that’s been overall 5K pace for me. And then the wheels fell off…

At mile 5, I believe I was at 62-63 minutes. During the last 1.2 miles, my left foot tendon started cramping really bad and I had to do run/walk the best I could. That last 1.2 mile took more than 20 minutes because of that, and I was in pain post-race. So much so that at one point when it went from my foot up to the leg I reflexively threw the water bottle that was in my hand from pain.

I’m extremely grateful to both Sarah and Keri for guiding and Achilles for helping me to find guides. While the overall 10K wasn’t great, the 5K part gives me great hope at continuing to decrease the run part of Triathlons. And that’s a big win.

A New Challenge (Blind SUP) (8/5/18)

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Stephen King

I’ve had a conversation with friends and others in the past where they’ve said ‘I’m surprised you did [X], I wouldn’t have thought you would given your vision.’ My response to them has essentially been along the lines of ‘I’d rather try, fall on my face and try again than have regrets about not having tried.’ There have been a lot of successes, which are evidenced all over the walls of my condo because of that attitude. I’m willing to try most anything at least once so long as I feel it’s reasonably safe.

In that vein, when one of my friends brought up Stand Up Paddleboarding, my immediate reaction was ‘absolutely, let’s try it.’ I had tried it once before without any knowledge/instruction and wanted to see how it would go this time with a guide.

So after spending a while in Lake Michigan doing swim practice, we headed over to the SUP place. They do rentals, training and classes from Ohio Street Beach at a reasonable cost. I was given some basic instructions from the company and this most important one from Natalie: ‘Even if you fall, don’t let go of the paddle.’

We spent an hour on Lake Michigan on the SUPs. During that time, I lost sight of her a few times, managed to almost go into boat traffic and fell several times. But I kept with it and it kept getting easier / more natural throughout that hour. Before the end of the hour, I came close to getting it all to come together. Hopefully I can get fully up and paddling next time.

And for those of you who have never done SUP, I would strongly suggest giving it a try. It’s a lot of fun and a good workout. πŸ™‚

Black Flagged (Naperville Sprint) (8/4/18)

“Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people too.” – Jimmy V

While he was talking about his battle with cancer, this seemed an apt quote to start this blog with — Just replace say and said with do and did, and it’ll all tie together. For me, the time clock has been and always will be related to my vision. As I’ve said before, I was told that I’d be completely blind by 30. Coming close to 40 and still having a decent amount of vision sometimes makes me ask the question of ‘when will it run out?’

But the overwhelming majority of the time, I’m able to shove that question back. It’s in line with what I was telling a neighbor earlier today. I can either be disappointed with what I don’t have or make the most of what I do. And I clearly choose the latter.

However, earlier this week, I wasn’t able to do that. I had Naperville on the schedule for tomorrow, and we were doing pre-race fit/practice Tuesday night. As we were going to work on turns, I put on the flat peddals instead of the clips. And as we continued to ride, I was getting more comfortable without the ‘safety blanket’ of the clip there. But as we made one of the final turns towards home, my left side pedal fell out. Initially, I thought it had just come unscrewed. But when Natalie looked at it, she confirmed that the threading was stripped.

At that point, while I was disappointed that it had happened, I was confident that we’d be okay. In my head, I thought ‘it’s just a standard crank; every bike shop should have it.’ But that thought was soon prooved wrong on Wednesday when every bike store, including CoMotion licensed dealers said they had to order it and I wouldn’t get it until after the race.

At this point, I started looking at plans B, C, D and E (as usual). While I really wanted to race, what it ultimately came down to was safety. I’ve got so much left in this season (Triathlon and Running along with other sports) that racing just wasn’t worth the potential risk caused by rushing a fit or being uncomfortable on a quickly borrowed bike. So I scratched it before end of day Wednesday.

What I struggled with most of the day was losing a race and the ever-present uncertainty of length of vision. Long story short, the underlying theme of the interal thoughts as I tried to salvage the race was ‘How many more of these will I get before the vision disappears?’

Not a fun day to say the least, but I did have friends helping me throughout. Even still, it took until after football practice before I finally got perspective. What caused it was the parallel of being upset about missing football games (medical) in the moment that it had happened and seeing things in the larger scheme when I had come back.

If you’ve gotten this far, you may be saying ‘that’s all well and good, but what’s the point?’ Well, there are a few:

1) Regardless of what the endeavor is, you’ve got to keep perspective. And quickly get it back when you lose it. Something’s going to hit the fan periodically; how you deal with it determines success.

2) Being proactive as possible will protect you from yourself. After this happened, I committed to purchasing extra parts. It won’t stop a crank or derailer from wearing out or breaking. But having extras, especially on remote races, will help ensure that it’s a quick fix.

3) It’s okay to keep thoughts like I mentioned at the top in your mind. Just don’t let them control you. Beat the chimp; every time.

I am grateful that I was given a deferral for 2019. That also helped with the entire process, knowing that the race wasn’t fully ‘lost’.

Finally, for those of you wondering why I would share something like this, the answer is simple. When I started the blog, I promised to share openly throughout the journey– warts and all. This definitely falls into the ‘warts’ category…

Hill Hell (Ripon Medical Center Tri) – (7/22/18)

Last year, the timing between when I did a Triathlon and vacation just happened to work out so that I did the former right before the latter. As doing so made me feel less guilty about a week full of beer last year, I wanted to try for the same this year. So this year, Ripon fit in nicely.

Going in, I knew that this was going to be a challenging course. Dave made it very clear that there were a lot of hills. But that didn’t phase me for a couple reasons — one being that hill work makes you stronger and the other being that if you can succeed in a hilly course, you can crush the normal ones. So I was up for and excited to race Ripon.

The race is held around this amazing conference center in Ripon. You swim in the on-site lake, and are on parts of the compound for some of the bike and entire run. There’s an amazing view during the run — but I’ll get to that later.

After setting up transition and making sure that my electronics were protected from the rain, we got ready to race. A week or two prior, one of my friends had told me about a draining workout that they had had to do. It was essentially that the person in front was trying to break away and they were trying to keep in their draft. That essentially happened throughout most of the swim for me from a couple of people that were behind me. I’m still waiting for the Thank You basket from them for the free ‘tow’ at times…

It had been raining throughout the night and was misting/raining through the morning/race. Knowing that, and knowing the hill layout, we made the decision pre-race to go a little slower on the bike. While I would have liked to keep the 20mph I’ve gotten to, I realized that that wasn’t reasonable given the conditions and took Dave’s advice. So after a few minutes in T1, we headed out on the bike. And he wasn’t wrong about the hills… I would estimate about 6 1/2 miles of hills (up/down) and maybe 2.8 miles total of flats. The worst was the initial 1 mile uphill, where it went up for about 1/2 mile and then leveled out. At this point, I thought we were out of the first hill; instead, it went up again for about another 1/2 mile. There was a spot during the bike portion where the hills were so bad that I said ‘down one more’ and Dave’s response was ‘we’re in the lowest gear’. I am glad that we only had to do one loop on that course.

Just like the bike, the run started with a ‘nice’ uphill. This one was a 1/2 mile up instead of a full mile. After an hour of hills on the bike in the hills, I didn’t have the legs to do that much uphill running. So I did have to walk a big chunk of that first 1/2 mile. But once we got over the hump, I was able to run more and the first mile wasn’t too bad given that. As we approached the first aid station, the volunteers mentioned that they had Heed. There’s a good reason Heed has been in my bottles for the past two seasons, and I was extremely grateful to see this lifeline at the stations. After recharging there, we had… you guessed it… more hills. But because of being able to continually recharge (4x – 1, ~1.4, ~1.75, 2), I was able to make it through a VERY hilly run. And even with that first 1/2 mile challenge, the 5K time was only about 45s-1m off from where it usually is.

Remember the view I mentioned to you early on? On the run, that first 1/2 mile is up (or down) a hill/bridge. There’s an amazing scenic overlook about halfway up the hill. It’s a great extra push as you’re making that final push to the finish line.

Even though the bike was longer than normal and the overall time was the longest this season, I still felt really good post race. I know that I couldn’t have completed Ripon last season and that all the work I’ve done since the beginning of the year helped me to have a successful race. And I’m grateful that Dave was there to guide for me.

Two final notes:

1) Post-race as we were loading the bike, this older gentleman came up with one of his daughters (who had raced) and started asking me about how I race and all the normal PT stuff. As we spoke, he shared some amazing stories with us about his family. I hope to run into Tim and his family in 2019 and have a chance to talk more with him.

2) Ripon has been added to my parmanent Tri schedule. It’s a fun, challenging race; and it will only make me stronger in the long run. When I’m able to hit 1:30 times there, I know I’ll be able to hit the benchmarks I need to on ‘normal’ courses.