Run With the Lion 5K – 9/13/20

As I’ve said many times in the past, I am not a fan of virtual races. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I hate them. However, I will gladly do them to help support organizations that have supported me.

Thankfully, this was an in-person race. It was my first in-person event since March, and my first in-person running race since January. I am grateful that PDC found a way to keep it as one.

Going into the race, one of the key objectives was to keep the pacing slow for the first mile so that we could finish strong. Kathy helped with ensuring that the pacing stayed in line, and mile 1 went well for the most part. There was a hill at about the 1 mile mark, and a long bridge shortly afterwards that gave me some difficulty.

But because we had kept the pacing for the first mile, the last 2.1 went smoother than it had during this year. I did have to walk in a couple of places on the way back (at about 2.25 and 2.75), but we still finished strong. And while I’m still about 4 minutes off of where I was during the 2019 season, this 5K was about 2 minutes faster than my last one (done as part of the Virtual Chicago Triathlon).

Even though it was an entirely different feel from 2019 races, it was still an EXTREMELY fun day! As I said earlier, I am extremely grateful that PDC kept this as a physical race, and to Kathy for guiding for me!

To view the post-race photo, please click here!

Virtual Chicago Triathlon – 8/30/20

As I’ve said in prior blogs, I am not a fan of virtual races. In general, I will just do them in support of organizations that I want to support or that have supported me. To this point, they’ve all been 5Ks. However, last weekend I did my first virtual Triathlon.

While I’ll go into the details from each of the legs below, I want to say two things — (1) A virtual triathlon is nothing like the actual thing and (2) I look forward to seeing a substancial crowd at the Ron Jon Tri (SE Regionals) next weekend so we can have a ‘normal’ 2021 season.

While I’ve done running since the Pandemic occurred, I haven’t done much on the other two physical legs. I was able to get back in the pool about a month ago, but the last time I was on a tandem was in November 2019 in southen CA.

Leg 1 (Swim)
Since getting back in the pool, the longest sets prior were 200s. It was a planned build back to doing longer sets. But this needed to be a 750, and I found a way to do it.

Looking at the data afterwards, I went out too fast (-27s of CSS) and paid for it midway through. I do remember having to take extra time on the wall at 15, 17 and 19. But by about 21, I felt the rhythm again and was able to finish strong. Overall, the total was only about a minute off of the 2019 CSS paces. Not bad for being out of the pool for 5 months.

Leg 2, Take 1 (Bike)
As with every new pilot, we’ll do fitting and then ride around the parking lot to ensure that everything’s solid before we go out. During those test rides, we kept hearing an odd noise only when we were both on. As he went through all the checks, we found that it was spoke tension on the rear wheel.

As neither of us had the tools to address it, we had to temporarily scrub the bike. I then took a nap before what would have been the final leg.

Leg 2, take 2 (Run)
When I went out to get ready for the bike, it was a cool and cloudy morning — the perfect weather for a run. Thankfully by the time we were supposed to run, it was still overcast.

In the past, I have paid dearly for going out too fast. And a lot of the time it’s not even conscious action. So for this run, I told my guide to make sure that we kept mile 1 fairly slow.

While it wasn’t the run that I had hoped, the pacing did help. Mile 1 was still faster than I wanted, but slow enough that I had gas for most of the race. The overall time was about 5 minutes slower than 2019 times, but 3 minutes faster than 2020 races.

Leg 3 (Bike)
When my pilot returned, he brought a working tandem with him. After doing the proper fit, we went out on a 15 mile, mostly hilly ride.

At about mile 7 or 8, I felt my left leg sieze up as we were in the middle of an intersection. We were able to make it through, and after about 1-2 minutes, the cramps passed. We made it back to my condo without any other incidents.

I’m grateful to everyone who helped so I could complete the virtual Tri. I’m definitely looking forward to physical reacing in 2021…

Tethered for Life – 8/25/20

[Photo Description: Paracord Tether at top, SP1belt swim tether below, race belt run tether below, key card swim tether and hand run tether at the bottom.]

Because of my vision, I rely on others’ eyes when I train and compete.  For both the swim and run, we’re tethered together.  I thought it would be helpful to others to discuss that evolution and what currently works best for me.

During the first few runs, I believe that I did them untethered.  I had more sight at that point, and I believed the very visible vests were enough.  While they were early on, I knew that the vision would eventually necessitate tethers. 

The first iteration of the running tethers were hand carried.  While it wasn’t a perfect system, what I found worked best was one of the ‘child leashes’.  I found that it was easiest for the guide to hold the handle.  And while they worked for a bit, I quickly learned that I needed something else.  Simply put, too much focus ended up being put on arm stroke or worrying about losing the tether.

On the swim side, the first tether I used was built by Dare2Tri’s staff.  It was a waist tether consisting of a piece of bungee and 2 hotel key cards.  Early on, this worked great, and I was able to feel the responsive tug as the guide maneuvered us through the course/around traffic.  However, after about a year, they got to a point where the swim tether would continually slip during the race.  Because of that concern, I started looking at other swim options.

While the initial swim waist tether wasn’t perfect, it did lead to solutions on the run side.  What I found worked best was two of the Triathlon race belts with a piece of bungee connecting them.  That has been my run tether since, and it led to the next iteration of the swim tethers.

Prior to Leon’s Triathlon that summer, I overheard someone from SP1belt talking about creating a swim tether using two of their belts.  I was intrigued and looked into it more.  As a result, before the race started, I had a new swim tether that didn’t slip.

I continued to use that tether for about 2 years.  During that time, it became clear that the current tether wasn’t responsive enough.  Meaning that I would be too far from my guide before I would feel it go taut and correct.  At that point, I was introduced to the Paracord tethers. 

These have a two part connection point (waist and thigh), and are connected by a length of paracord.  Because of the double connection point, I stopped having stroke interruption on whichever side the guide was on.  It worked well during the 2019 season, and I’ll be looking at another version for 2021’s season.

So to review, what I’ll be using for the 2021 season is a run tether that consists of 2 tri belts connected by bungee and a Paracord constructed swim tether.  I will be going to smaller paracard so that I’ll have a lighter swim tether.

If you’re interested in being my eyes for training or racing in 2021, please reach out.  The projected schedule includes Indoor Triathlons, Sprint Triathlons, an Olympic Triathlon, Sprint Duathalons, Sprint Aquathons, 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and 70.3s.  If you are, I only ask these two things:

The first is that you’re extremely proficient in the discipline(s) that you’re going to guide for me in.  Typically, your worst speed should equal 90% of my estimated best.

The other is that you have a good attitude and are willing to learn.  Before the first time out, we’ll spend at least 10-15 minutes talking to ensure that we’re both on the same page.

Double Catapult

Since beginning this journey 6+ years ago, I have become part of many different organizations. They all play a different and important part towards helping me succeed.

Catapult has provided me with opportunities to push my own boundaries while still being safe. They have also provided support so that I could improve in the swim discipline.

I am extremely grateful for their support, especially in this chaotic 2020 season. I am also extremely grateful for the opportunities that they provided for me in 2019. Feeling normal as I went night platform jumping has and will always stick with me.

This is just one of many reasons that I’m honored and proud to be part of their 2020 Ambassador team! And while I haven’t been able to be back in Houston yet, you WILL see me in Catapult gear during the fall/winter 5Ks that I have planned.

Moving Forward – 8/22/20

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” – Robert Burns

It has been a challenging year from a lot of perspectives. I’ve discussed my frustrations in previous blogs. However, the focus now is moving forward.

Now that doesn’t mean being reckless. I had struggles during the early part of the 2019 season due to medical issues. And the incident in Pleasant Prairie later that summer (having to be pulled from the water) magnified how important it is to be physically sound when racing. What it DOES mean is being careful, smart and not living in fear.

I do realize that there’s a pandemic going on, and that ROs, RDs and many others are going to err on the side of caution. To this point, this has mean cancellations and deferrals of umpteen events of all sizes. But I believe that there are ways to have races while ensuring everyone’s safety.

I also believe that the only way that we’re going to have athletic events in general is if they happen and the sky doesn’t fall. For them to happen though, people have to be willing to show up and race. To that point, while the Ron Jon Tri is no longer the Toyota Paratriathlon Nationals, I truly and sincerely hope that it’s a sizable and successful event. When it is, I believe we’ll have a full 2021 Triathlon season.

While I won’t make the trip for a Regional event, I am focused on local events. I will do the virtual Chicago Triathlon and several in-person 5Ks this fall.

The bigger picture for me though is 2021. I have sent a proposed schedule to my coach that has 10 packed months of racing on it. To the point of being smart — the overwhelming majority of it is planned in the midwest, where we can drive to the events. We’ll see what of that planned schedule actually happens. But all I can do is properly plan and be ready to race.

One other part of moving forward is working on communication. This includes social media, e-mail and the web site.

I realize that the blog -> e-mail piece has not worked in approximately a year. I appreciate everyone’s patience with the tests over the last week as I tested it. If you are no longer interested in receiving the e-mails, please just reply with an unsubscribe request. I will honor those ASAHP once received.

And stay tuned for a new web site late this year / early 2021…

Schrödinger’s Packet – 5/23/20

I’ll admit it, there are very few things I remember from High School Physics. And I changed majors to avoid it in College, so… But what I do remember is Schrodinger’s cat. The below is from Wikipedia (credit to Wikipedia).

“Schrödinger’s cat: a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor (e.g. Geiger counter) detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison, which kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.” – Wikipedia article on Schrödinger’s cat

Now you may be wondering what the heck a quantum physics principle has to do with racing. The simple answer is that right now, I have a Schrödinger’s Packet.

As I mentioned in a prior blog post, a Race Organizer (‘ROX’) decided to change the race from a physical one to a virtual without any other options. This is the ONLY Race Organizer (RO) or Race Director (RD) that I’ve seen do this. Yes, I have lost about 10 races for 2020. However, every single other one was immediately refunded/deferred or transfer options were provided.

When they materially changed the race contract, I was disappointed. But I said ‘I’ll make the best of improvising with the race gear’ (as they had promised delivery prior to the original race date). That didn’t happen — the packet wasn’t shipped until the Monday afterwards. I did try to resolve this with ROX, but eventually had to file a dispute.

They do have 30 days to dispute the dispute. And I do have another couple of weeks before the virtual race ‘ends’. Given that the dispute could be undone, I’m viewing this as a Schrödinger’s Packet.

And for the record, I am not opening the packet until everything is finalized. Once the credit is final, I will reach out to ROX and ask how they want to receive it back.

It’s disappointing that I had to go through all of this. HOPEFULLY ROX will learn from this and offter better options in the future. But in the immortal words of Burgess Meredith , “You can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which fills up first.”

Contined Roar (2020 Naperville Lions Support) – 10/26/19

Since 2015, the Naperville Noon Lions Club has generously supported my Triathlon endeavors. I am extremely graeful for all of their support in that time. I am also extremely grateful for their support of my 2020 season!

My planned 2020 season includes 37 events across 10 states, including 19 Triathlolns. Their support will help me to cover many race entries and some travel costs.

THANK YOU to the Naperville Lions for their continued support and continued belief in me!

1st Half in Review

[Mr. Miles, aka Feline psychologist extrodinare.]

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

When I planned my 2019 season, I had such great hopes and strong goals for it. However, things have not gone as planned.

The year started out with not-so-fun medical and personal issues. But by mid-March, those were mostly resolved. And then the next shoe dropped — with me getting laid off (downsizing) from a company that I’d been with for almost 14 yeara. That threw a wrench into some plans, but I was able to regroup and tried to focus on qualifying for Nationals. After losing race opportunities to being unable to find guides / an unexpected monsoon, I found myself staring at a very short time frame to qualify for Nationals.

So headed into June, I knew what the score was and what I needed to do. And while I did everything I could to make a NQ time happen, it just didn’t come together.

After the DNF this past weekend, I was extremely disappointed. I lost both of my A races for the 2019 season because of if. Sure, I could have gone and raced PC Open. But after talking with my coach, that just didn’t make sense. What made more sense was to pull back, focus on fixing the issues and on moving forward. Even though these were two imiportant races, there is stilla HUGE chunk on my 2019 schedule. I am also working on trying to add a ‘replacement’ A race (Chicago) to it.

I’ve been able to make it through this frustraing first half of the year because of all of the people and organizations that support me. I am truly grateful to ALL of them, and their support has meant so much during these trying times.

To that point, the ‘pity party’ on Sunday post-race was short-lived (about an hour). What brought me out of it so quickly was realizing these several things (in order):

1) Yes, I lost both A races, but the season is not over.

2) The remainder of the season is an opportunity to fix these issues, and build towards the 2020 season.

3) I owe far too much to everyone who has, does and continues to support me to not push on. Short-term losses for long-term gains.

4) There are always going to be struggles and setbacks. It’s how you deal with them that will define you. And if you can’t deal with something ‘minor’ like this, HTF will you move forward?

The net result of all these conversations (some with the help of Mr. Miles) was that I refocused on the 2nd half of 2019 and did 2020 planning.

Glow On! (G.L.O.W. 5K) – 5/18/19

For those of you who may be new to the blog, I am night blind, which makes night activities a challenge. But as I’ve said in the past, I refuse to be a prisoner of the dark. To that end, I planned 3 5Ks in the dark for 2019. The G.L.O.W. 5K was the first of these races.

As I can see very, very little during these night races, I rely heavily on my guides. It’s about complete faith and trust that they’re going to keep me safe. Not just from cracks and poles, but also small children…

As with any race, there was a bottleneck at the start. However, it was worse that other races because of all the small children around us. Many would run ahead of their parents and stop suddenly. Some would stop with their parents without warning to take pictures. In both cases, it created extra obstacles. Thankfully both Chris and Erjon helped to guide, and to guide me around these two-legged obstacles.

Even though I couldn’t see much, I was still able to keep a decent pace. And it was another 5K where the only walking that I did was through the aid station (at about 1.75mi). I was able to set a new dark PR by about 3 minutes!

Thanks to Chris and Erjon for all their help!

Bicycle Ride (USABA Cycling Camp) – 5/2-5/8/19

“{We’re] not here to fuck spiders.” – Australian saying

After seeing photos and hearing stories from friends last year, I slated the USABA bike camp into my 2019 schedule. I believed that it would be extremely beneficial — not just for improving my cycling skills, but also because it would push me outside my comfort zone.

But before any of that could happen, I had to confirm my pilot. With the Velodrome, mountain climbining and some other things that I knew would be scary the first time, it was a short list. Thankfully, Danny was able to do it and I was able to move forward with the application.

The first day of camp included the bike build and a skills ride. It was a short ride out to the crit course and then several laps around it. It was easier to do the crit course / drills clockwise than it was counter-clockwise. At some point during the first day, one of the coaches noticed the seat was too low, so we raised it prior to day 2.

Day 2 of camp started with skills and ended with a 20mi+ ride. Some of the skills (especially the hip steering ones) were a little unnerving; but we made it through them. The afternoon ride included climbing, a rolling pace line and a couple of dicey stop sign crossings on the way back.

I think the biggest challenge of day 2 was with height. With the higher seat height, I was having problems getting clipped in consistently. As it became more of an issue during the afternoon ride, we decided to try other cleats. Unfortunately, my shoes wouldn’t take the cleats that we planned to use. So we went to plan C — borrowing cleats and using pedals that I had had problems clipping into.

Day 3 was spent entirely at the Velodrome. Because I was having so many issues with clipping in, people had to physically help get my feet into them and I had to stay clipped in at stops. After going through the intro / overview of the Velodrome, it was time to conquer my fear of it. And after the first few laps, it got easier. That changed when we went high and another tandem was underneath us. The ‘people look like ants’ viewpoint was the issue I believe.

The afternoon presented even more stressful moments. We spent it doing standing starts, during which I felt so incredibly unstable and flying starts. The standing starts got a little easier as we kept doing them, but I was never fully comfortable with them. Thankfully, we only did one flying start — that was the worst for me.

Day 4 was ‘race day’ at the Velodrome. It started with pursuits (4K for men and 3K for women), followed by kilos. While we succeeded in not being caught during our pursuit, I didn’t have ‘track hack’ afterwards. That did happen after our kilo though. That and chain ring issues that caused the bike to throw the drive chain. Thankfully the mechanic was able to bend the teeth back.

During the afternoon ride, the pedal issue finally caught up with me. Because of the clipping issues, I was having to hold a position during red lights. This was usually at least 30 seconds, and sometimes longer. So as we rode, my hands continually became more numb. At about 20 miles both my hands and arms were numb enough that I no longer felt safe. I ended up in the van, extremely disappointed that I had dropped Danny.

Day 5 started with climbing and ended with TT recon. Because of the issues the prior day, I was in the van on the way to the base of the mountain. After the first climb up and photos at the top, we came down extremely fast. It was quite a thrill and a little bit nervewracking at the end. After the second climb up, we did group photos and came down at a much more controlled pace.

During the afternoon TT recon, the numbness was back in spades. The TT course had only one small downhill at the very beginning, which meant very little time to get pressue off of them. I wasn’t going to drop Danny again, so I did everything possible to get blood flow back during the last 3-4 miles.

Day 6 was just the TT, and it wasn’t in the best of weather. The out wasn’t that bad, but the back was. There were a couple of points where my struggles on hills made things hard for Danny. I did what I could, finishing the last couple hills with the ‘track hack’.

It was an amazing camp, and I learned a lot during it. I am grateful to all of the staff/coaches for their help during it and to Danny for being such an amazing pilot.