Mind / Over Matter Alphas (2021)

Prior to the Indy Sprint Tri in June, I had an opprtunity to see the Mind / Matter community from the outside. Our Sherpa happened to spot a few Alphas while we were walking to the port-a-potties. Even though she hadn’t ever met them in person, it was still an immediate connection.

So as I started to look at the Tri puzzle for 2022, M/M Alphas was one of the edge pieces that I wanted as part of it. I am honored and excited to be part of Mind / Matter Alphas for 2022!

On IR (Naperville Sprint) – 8/1/21

While I look forward to racing Naperville each year, I was unfortunately on IR this year. It took until Wednesday before I could fully walk without pain, and it was Saturday before I was back to light training. It just wasn’t going to be feasible — or smart — to try and race.

I was able to defer to 2022, and look forward to being out there in early August!

Cypress Triathlon (7/25/21)

After the challenges in La Porte in May, I wanted a ‘do over’ in Texas in 2021. So I registered for Cypress and headed back into the land of humidity.

The day before the race, all of the Paras gathered (by chance) as Paul helped to make sure things were set for everyone. We also had a chance to get used to the tandem that Catapult had secured for us. Things went really well, and I was feeling great for the following day.

On race morning, the ‘Para Guide Sherpas’ showed up and helped to ensure that we had everything and that proper documentation (photos/videos) occurred. As the Para wave, we were in the water first. However, none of us heard the initial start (see Para Guide’s Instagram page for the video).

Even though there were some struggles on the swim, with my right arm hitting the tether, it seemed to go OK. What went even better was the bike — with us averaging 20.7 and spiking at 24 or 25. I saw just how solid a pilot Paul is when someone decided to try to pass us on the right going into a curve at 19-20 mph. He was able to properly and safely get us through it and then accelerate out of it as needed.

While the swim was OK and the bike was great, the run was not. At less than 1/4 mile in, I felt something go in my lower back. When it did, I started doing the normal things that I’ve done in the past (run/walk, stretching). However, before even 1/2 mile, it was so painful that all I could do was walk. And there were times when it even hurt to walk. Even still, I did find a way to run the last 1/10th of a mile into the chute.

It defintely wasn’t the Texas redo that I was looking for. However, I’m extremely grateful to Linda for all her help throughout the weekend and to Paul for flying in from Charlotte to guide for me.

EndureIt! Team 10K – 7/18/21

A few years ago, I saw something that I thought would be fun. This was the EndureIt! 2 person 10K Team Relay.

The first time round, I made mistakes. Prior to that race, I had been doing consistent 2-2:15 quarter mile repeats at camp. I thought that if I had one of my faster Dare2Tri teammates as the other half, we’d have a decent time and I’d still be able to recover. What I didn’t factor into that equation was that it took about 25-30 seconds to get off the track, get water and get back to the exchange point. This meant that I would typically get about 40 seconds to recover, which was never enough.

Knowing that, for 2021, I looked to find a parter whose 1/4 mile splits were closer to mine. The original person had schedule conflicts, but we were able to find another on short notice.

While the recovery part went better this time around, the actual race part did not. I was struggling on the laps after about the 4th or 5th one and they were almost all walk/run laps.

Even though it was a struggle, it was still a great and fun event. Thanks to John for guiding and Jeff for being the other half of the team!

The Race That Wasn’t (Lake Zurich Tri) – 7/11/21

** Yes, I realize that there is a more formal name to the event.  For reasons that you’ll see later on, I am referring to it just as the Lake Zurich Triathalon. **

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the Lake Zurich Triathalon is one of my favorite races.  And that’s with having to wake up at 4AM to do packet pickup and the first part of transition set up in the dark.  It’s a great setting, and is typically a great course.  It’s also an opportunity to get some massive speed on the downhills that are on the backside of the bike loop.

During the 1:1 portion of the Injured Military Camp, Lee had fallen and injured his wrist.  So a few weeks out, there was a concern that he wouldn’t be able to race.  Thankfully, it wasn’t as serious as originally thought, and he was all set to go.  And while we were ready to go, the reace apparently was not. 

About 9 days prior to the race, an e-mail was sent out that essentially said ‘IDOT didn’t finish as we thought they would, we don’t have an alternative, so it’s now an Aquathon.  Oh, and there are no refunds.’  Less than 24 hours later, a second e-mail was sent out offering more reasonable options, including deferrals to 2022.

While I realize that part of triathalon is adapting to changes, I have a huge issue with the ‘it’s now an Aquathon, no refunds’ from the intial e-mail.  IMO, the first e-mail shouldn’t have ever come out.  If it had just been the second e-mail, I would be feeling a lot different.  However, there was an initial thought of ‘let’s make OUR lack of contingencies YOUR problem.’  I also believe that it was a HUGE slap in the face to their sponsors, as things like this can drive people away. 

It would have taken almost 2 hours in transit to race an Aquathon. So I did not race; I also did not take the deferral.  The main reason for that is that I wanted the swag.  The Tri backpack that I have is slowly wearing out, and I would be receiving a new one for being one of the first 500 to register for 2020 in late 2019.

While I have truly loved doing this race, I am done with it until it’s under new management.  I won’t go into everything publicly, but just re-read the last few paragraphs and you’ll get a sense of why.  I truly, truly, truly hope that someone buys this race from the current RO.  I would gladly come back under different management. 

**UPDATE: After about 2 months, I did finally receive the backpack and additional swag.

Welcoming Archie – 7/4/21

Earlier this year, I was presented with an opportunity to obtain a new piece of equipment.  While it took a month before I was able to get assistance with putting it together, I wanted to introduce everyone to Archie (formally Archie L.).

I am extremely grateful to Challenged Athletes Foundation and ElliptiGO USA for providing the equipment for me!  I look forward to getting used to it first on the stand and then taking it on the road.

I am visually impaired, and I realize that the last part of the prior paragraph will make my family nervous.  But one of the biggest things that I was looking forward to when the ElliptiGO aarived was getting my independence back.  It’s been about 30 years since I’ve had the confidence (and vision) to be out on a single bike by myself.  But I look forward to the challenge — and the freedom.

Much, much more to come as I get used to Archie.

Steelhead 70.3 Relay (6/27/21)

During the 2019 season, a few of my teammates talked me into doing a 70.3.  The original plan for 2020 was to do a relay in the summer and then for all of us to do one sole (with guides) in the fall.  However, even before the Pandemic hit, the others decided that the fall 70.3 wouldn’t work for them.  While I had to tap out of doing the solo 70.3 in the fall, I was still on board for the relay.

The weather on Saturday created some changes, but everything worked out.  I am extremely grateful to Mara and the rest of the Athlete Services staff for all of their assistance not just during packet pickup, but throughout the entire event. 

There were some pretty fierce storms throughout the day / night, and the swim ended up being cancelled.  This mean that Eric didn’t get to swim, and it also led to a time-trial type bike start based on bike finish times.  As we were waiting to start, we heard that someone had wiped out on the bridge and heard the ambulances going by.

So when we started about 40-45 minutes after the cannon start, we took that first mile a extremely cautiously.  After that first mile, things went smoothly on the first half of the bike leg.  There was one gigantic hill that was a challenge, but the overwhelming majority were rollers.  Although I don’t have an exact speed, I would guess that we were averaging between 23 and 24 mph on the way out.

The second half was unfortunately an entirely different story…  At that point, I started having issues with IT bands and sit bones.  It essentially turned into a walk/run, but on a bike.  We had to continually stop so that I could try and stretch things out.  Thankfully, our starts and stops were solid, so even though we did a total of about a dozen during the bike, there weren’t any issues.  There were a couple of points that I was in so much pain (especially after that gigantic hill) that I was in tears.  However, there wasn’t any way that I was going to tap out or ask for the SAG.

When we did finally make it back to transition, Sarah was ready to go.  Our plan was to walk up to where the loops ended so that we could cheer her on.  After having some time to recuperate, we started walking there with Eric.  Because the road was active, we had to walk on the shoulder.  And while we were able to get about 3/4 of a mile in, it just wasn’t possible to get to the loop splits.  So we ended up in a restaurant while waiting for her to run by.

Just looking at the tracker, it seemed like the heat and humidity was taking a toll on her  — but she was still having a solid run.  We did all manage to make it out to cheer her on when she passed by.  After she finished, I found out that we had won the PC Open category! 

While it was a struggle on the bike, it was still a lot of fun.  I am grateful to everyone who made the weekend a success and to Billy for guiding and Eric/Sarah for being the other parts of the team.  I look forward to doing another 70.3 Realy in 2022!

Indianapolis Sprint Tri – 6/12/21

With the season in full swing, I knew that there would be some short turnarounds. As a case in point, I was in Indiana (Hammond) on Sunday and then headed back again (to Indy) less than 5 days later.

While in Texas, I had connected with a guide (Nelson) that I hope to work with on a consistant, long-term basis. The Indy Sprint Tri was our first race on that journey.

When we met at Eagle Creek Park on Friday afternoon, the main focus was to get the bike adjusted and get in a quick course preview. There were a couple of close calls early on, but no crashes. As we did the park portion of the loop, there seemed to be a bit of wobble with the bike and gear issues. When we got back to the car, we saw that the shifting cable had frayed. This meant that we were without the three lowest climbing gears for a bike course that’s full of hills. While we weren’t able to get it repaired prior to the race, Carmel Bicycles was able to help stretch it so that we got back 1 or 2 of those gears.

For most every race, the game is ‘what will James forget to pack’. Usually, it’s something insignficat that I can easily buy or borrow. However, this time it almost cost me… I unintentionally left my race bib on the hotel desk. I didn’t realize this until we were getting everything set up and it was too late to go back for it. Thankfully our support crew (Linda) was able to get a replacement one for me from the race staff (hand written on the back of another bib).

For the swim, you were seeded by bib number and could drop back if needed. To help minimize people running into us, we dropped back towards the end. While people didn’t run into us, we did have a couple of unexpected tangles. The tether got caught up on the sighting buoys a few different times, with the most severe being before the first turn.

As we headed out onto the bike, I cut the corner too tight and tripped over the cones. Everything was OK, and we headed into ‘hill fun’. With the missing gears, there were challenges at several points of the bike. I also know that I had to push it a lot harder, as we were at least 2 gears higher than we should have been.

When the run started, we walked up the big hill and then started running. The first mile wasn’t bad, but by the second, my back was really starting to tighten up. Because of this, mile 3 was mostly a walk/run. Even with those challenges, the run in Indy was far better than the prior 2.

It was great to see the TriLoco guys post-race. TriLoco helped with guides in prior years. I am grateful to everyone who helped make the weekend possible, and look forward to working more with Nelson in the future.