Chasing a Dream, Act IV (Notre Dame FFC) – April 2023

Football has always been a big part of my life.  At a couple of crucial junctures, I allowed my vision issues to weigh too heavily on decisions related to football.  Those are decisions that I will always regret.

After graduating from college, I made the decision to get in as much football as possible prior to the projected blindness at 30.  When I first started looking for football camps, I found the Global Football ones (Notre Dame and Penn State). 

At that time, it wasn’t feasible to do the Notre Dame one, so I took a different path.  More than 17 years later, I’ve finally found a way to make it work.

I’m going to be honest about two things:

(1)  When it came to registering for camp, it was a ‘pull of the bandaid’ type of thing.  Meaning that you complete it and hit submit before giving yourself an opportunity to second guess the correct decision.

(2)  That there are going to be a lot of emotions leading up to and during the camp.  I’ll be upfront that there’s a strong chance that this could be my last camp.  It will have been 12 years since the last time I was in full pads / helmet and the vision has decreased since then.  I don’t want to just be a mascot…

One thing that I learned during the prior round of camps was to be upfront about the vision.  I know that I was losing footballs in the roof of the IPF before I was legally blind.  And I was at the point of not telling the coaches… oops.

I am working on a couple of other tactics to make this a success.  The fact of how well the IrisVision has worked gives me confidence that I’ll be able to see the film sessions.

If you want to get an idea of what I’ll be doing, please check out Mike Drosieko’s YouTube videos.  He did a great job chronicling his 2022 experience.  I would suggest subscribing to his channel so that you can get a view of the 2023 camp in relative real-time. 

Out of respect for what he’s done / is doing, I’m going to wait until post-camp for any major updates.  There may be one-off photos on social media during camp though (@nocrappyexcuses).

Challenged Athletes Foundation – 3/30/23

I am extremely grateful to Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) for their continued support of my athletic endeavors!

Their support helps ensure that I can get to practice, trainings and races.  As I’m unable to drive, all of those costs add up quickly.  I look forward to all of the opportunities that this year’s grant will provide!

ET Indoor Tri – 2/26/23

During the January Indoor Tri, I felt that things had gone well.  Unfortunately, that did not repeat during the Feb race.  This time, my mom joined me and raced her first Indoor Tri!

In the swim, I physically about 5 yards shorter.  But because I didn’t hit the wall before the whistle blew, it counted as one less length.  Even still, I was able to hold the bilateral breathing for a little longer this time round.  But that was where the good ended… 

I lost at least 3 minutes on the bike.  When I realized just how much time I had lost, I tried to make up for it — probably hitting 23 or 24 on a stationary bike.  But I also paid for it, as I was limping a little after the bike.

Things just got worse on the treadmill.  While I tried to run, I just couldn’t hold a consistent pace until the very end.  So it was mostly a walk.

While it was not the race I wanted, I’m still glad that I did it.

The Next Musical Step (REVERB) – February 2023

As I’ve mentioned in the past (see 18 Years Later), music has played a huge role in how I’ve gotten to this point. This past year, volunteering with REVERB became the next chapter in that journey forward.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve looked at going to Lollapalooza. Even when there have been bands that I’ve really wanted to see, I’ve opted out. I just didn’t want to deal with the insanity of tens of thousands of people. But in 2022, wanting to see Metallica without having to give up a body part to afford the tickets won out over those crowd concerns. So I decided to give volunteering with REVERB a chance. And I’m glad I did…

The volunteering part at Lolla was a lot of fun, and Metallica delivered. Go and find the video of One that’s on YouTube. As good as that is, IMO it was 10x better in person.

With those successes, I decided to try my first truly solo trip in almost 20 years to volunteer at the My Morning Jacket shows at Red Rocks. The last time I did one truly solo led to roadies having to help me out of Camden when I had gotten lost in the dark…

The cocerts in CO went well, and I was hooked. I ended up doing a couple more shows in the Chicago area before the end of 2022.

While I enjoyed helping to support REVERB’s mission and getting to see a lot of great music, I also gained a lot of stability and personal growth because of these opportunities. I can confidently say that if I hadn’t volunteered at Lolla, the Naperville race would have been a mess. I also ended up finding out a lot of useful things as I went through the ‘Rubix Cube’ of planning a solo trip.

During the 2022 volunteering, I stayed at the REVERB table instead of trying to rove. For 2023 (and beyond), I wanted to give myself the opportunity to rove.

So I had the shirt/vest shown in the header image created by RUseeN Reflective Apparel, and I plan to start using it this year. One thing that I want to make clear is that this is simply for safety so that others can see me. I look at myself as a REVERB volunteer that just happens to be visually impaired.

Hopefully, things will go well as I start to use it. 20 years of going to concerts has taught me that there is a small percentage of people that will be jerks (either natually or because of intoxicants). But I’m not going to let that stop me from trying.

I am extremely grateful to REVERB for providing all of these opportunities to this point. If you’d like to volunteer with them, check out their site.

Super Shuffle 5K – 2/12/23

In 2021, I found what looked to be a really fun 5K that was held on the morning of ‘the Big Game’.  Because of the constantly changing COVID precautions, it just didn’t work in 2021.  In 2022, we had an ‘interesting’ course with the ice and snow.

In 2023, Mother Nature cooperated and it was a beautiful morning for a run.  The course has a lot of steep hills, so we would run the flats and downhills and walk the steeper hills.  All-in-all, it worked out well and I felt it was a solid race.

While there wasn’t ice or snow this year, there still was snow melt on part of the course.  I had to stop a couple of times and run my shoes in the grass to get it off so I didn’t slip. 

This was a fun race, and one that I will continue to do! 

ET Indoor Tri – 1/22/23

While I’ve said it in the past, I will say it again — and continue to say it.  I love doing races put on by Coach Joe (Experience Triathlon). 

As always, my triathlon season starts with the ET Indoor Tris.  I was excited to see how the training with Ryan would pay off in the pool.

Prior to the race, while I was waiting for my ‘eyes’, someone that had been a volunteer the prior year found me in the locker room.  He told me how the prior year he had been nervous about the swim.  But because of seeing me compete, he had gone from struggles in a 10 min swim (Feb 2022) to doing at least 3 Halfs before the end of 2022.  I’ve forgotten exactly what his race schedule was for 2023, but I believe it included at least 5 half/full Ironman races in total. 

For the swim (10m), I had intended to go with bilateral breathing for the entire time.  However, I was only able to keep it going for 100 yd.  Even still, I did manage to add 2 lengths to my best distance.

For the bike, I lost at least a minute because of how long it takes to get up->change->get down to bikes.  Even still, it was a strong bike, and I could have gotten close to 10 mi if I hadn’t lost that time.

As always, the treadmill run is the hardest for me.  While it wasn’t a great run, it also wasn’t the ‘choppy’ run that it has been in the past.  I believe that part of that was I had changed to water for the run (vs. Skratch/Gatorade as in the past). 

Destination… Crazy? (Spartan Training) – January 2023

After having committed to the Dallas Spartan in October, I needed to start the training.  Luckily, there is a Ninja Gym close to where I live.

The first session was an extreme challenge.  The only ‘success’ was getting up the shortest curved wall (I believe it’s 8ft).  The ‘challenges’ included almost falling off the cargo net, multiple slips off of the bars and an ‘interesting’ attempt in the plexiglass wall.

The second visit a couple of weeks later went better.  I was able to make some progress on the bars and balance beam, along with getting up the wall again. 

I will be working on building sandbag weights to train for the carries in the near future.  I may also look at doing some Crossfit as part of the prep.  We’ll see how things have improved when we’re there next.

I’m extremely grateful to Jesse and all of the staff at Ultimate Ninjas Naperville for all of their help and support as I do the training with a guide.

Arramco Half Marathon – 1/15/23

As I mentioned in the 2020 blog post, the Half marathon was painful and frustrating…  3 years later, I had such high hopes for it.

Going into race morning, I had a thorough plan with Amanda and Taylor.  It involved proper hydration and nutrition, along with watching the pacing.  Amanda had a hydration vest as part of that plan, which helped tremendously in so many ways.

Because of the walk from the expo center to the start line, and that wheelies start so early, I had an extra base layer on top.  While I followed that part of the plan properly (knowing we’d be standing for an hour), I had forgotten the Tylenol in the car.  I didn’t realize this until it was far too late…

As we started, the sun started coming up and it started warming up.  By about mile 2, I was starting to get hot enough that I needed to peel the base layer off.  While I had hoped for a port-a-potty, I had to settle for a ‘quick change’.  Thankfully the hydration vest’s pouch ensured that I didn’t have to choose between carrying it for 11+ m or fighting with pitching an expensive UA top.

Things went well and on plan through at least mile 4.  But by 5, it was a run/walk and run mix.  By mile 7, I was feeling the same pain that I had at about mile 5 the prior year.  I know that I tried to run at some point in mile 7, but I just couldn’t.

So at least the last 6 miles were mostly a walk.  Both Amanda and Taylor helped me to soldier through it, especially when the pain got really bad between miles 11 and 12.  Even though I was in so much pain, I decided that I was still going to try to run through the chute.

While I was concerned that I would tear something in the last 25 yd (I could feel it), it all held together.  I was in so much pain walking back to the expo center.  All I wanted to do was sit.

Thank you to Team Catapult for their support and all of my guides / support staff throughout the weekend.  Also, I really appreciated one of my friends that was running the full seeing me struggling and encouraging me on.  That was somewhere around mile 12 (Half) and 25 (Full) where the full goes under the Half goes over the overpass.

While the Half was still a struggle, I do intend to be back in 2024.  I will continue training, and continue working towards a successful Half!

We Are Houston 5K – 1/14/23

(Photo courtesy of Blake)

When I ran the We Are Houston 5K with Nicole in 2020, it was a hot and humid day.  I remember it starting to pour within 10 minutes of us finishing the race. 

In 2023, the conditions were a bit more favorable.  The guide that I had did a great job with the pacing, and Blake helped with clearing. 

Things were going so well at ~2.25 that I almost didn’t stop for hydration.  I almost talked myself into ‘it’s only 10 minutes; you can go without for that long’  I wish I had…

I grabbed whatever electrolyte drink was on course.  And unfortunately things went downhill from there.  What had been a strong, solid run to that point became a choppy walk/run as I tried to clear my throat so I could swallow.  I managed to get things ‘settled’ by 3 so that I could sprint in the chute as normal, but it was disappointing.

As frustrating as that was, I did learn a lesson (from the convesation with my coach).  Going forward, I will be sticking to just water on the shorter run races.  Looking back, anything else during a 5K has just led to similar issues.

Unbreakable Challenge… Accepted (Spartan) – January 2023

During the Welcome 2 Running camp, we were told about an AWD (Athletes with Disabilities) initative that Spartan was focusing on.  While I had never done an Obstacle Course Race (OCR), I decided why not?  I mean, to this point all of the ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ things that I’ve done with or through Team Catapult have worked out well.  So I believed that this would as well.

My first Spartan Sprint will be in Dallas in the fall of 2023.  While I am a bit concerned about it (mostly in regards to finding the right handholds / other supports on the climbing obstacles), I’m also excited about it.  We’ll see how things go as I start the training…  And yes, the contingency plans (meaning updated will and medical POA) are in place…

I am extremely grateful to Joe De Sena for putting this program together and Dan McDonald for helping with everything logistical so far.  Hopefully I’ll know more in August 2023 about potential adaptations once the RDs are in place.