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…

Doubling Down – 6/27/20

Because of my vision, I struggle greatly with meal prep. For the most part, unless I can put it into a microwave or oven, it just doesn’t work well. I’m unable to distinguish the flame on the stovetop, and thus am concerned about ‘playing with fire’.

Because of that, I’m always looking for alternatives. With COVID shortening the 2020 race season, I was even more motivated to find something better than micro-meals. Especially since I’ll probably get 5-6 Tris instead of the 15 I had planned.

I had done NutriSystem in the past with great results. I had stopped doing it at the time because of the cost. When I looked at it again about 5 weeks ago, I was able to find a plan that worked.

Things went well with the first box. So well in fact, that I doubled down. I had originally gone with just M-F meals. The header photo is box #2 and their frozen meals for the weekends.

I am committed to staying with Nutrisystem through at least September. If you’re interested in giving it a try, I can share a $30 coupon with you. Please comment with an e-mail address if you’d like one. These will NOT show up publicly, and I will delete e-mail addresses once the coupon is sent.

nutrisystem #weightloss #trinutrition #triathlonnutrition

Schrödinger’s Packet, Part 2 – 6/25/20

About a month ago, I shared a high-level view of what had happened in Schrödinger’s Packet. At the time, I referred to the Race Organizer as ‘ROX’. After what occurred today, I am providing a much more detailed blog post — including dropping the ‘ROX’ tag.

As many of you know by now, I do a lot of long-range planning. Knowing what the goal races were for 2020, I needed a couple of long May races. When I went through the options, what made sense were a pair run by RAM Racing (formally ‘ROX’). While I was still frustrated with what had happened at Hot Chocolate in late 2019, the Race Director (RD) had always been accomodating. So I decided to set those feelings off to the side and move forward.

[As an aside, what I am referring to is how they did the tear-off fundraising in 2019. From the pre-race announcements, it sounded like THEY were donating all the money. As I found out 3-4 weeks post-race, WE donated all that money. ‘Nice’ surprise to see an extra charge come out of nowhere.]

When I registered for the Cinco de Miler race (pre-COVID), I understood the terms. They are all of the standard ones that racers all sign umpteen times per year. As COVID started to change the landscape, they also changed things.

Towards the end of March, they sent out an e-mail that essentially said ‘We have unilaterially changed the contract that you signed when you registered. This is now a virtual race without refund. We will have packets to you by race day (5/2/20).’ And while I’m not a fan of VIrtual races in general, the story would have ended there IF the packets had arrived by 5/2. I would have used the race gear and tried to make the best of it.

However, the packets were not shipped until AFTER the race weekend. As they (a) breached the modified contract and (b) had not fulfilled paid for goods/services, I asked for a refund. The responses that I received from Pat (speaking for RAM) were essentially ‘we had sunk costs. We’re not doing any refunds.’

While they can say that, I personally don’t believe it. This change was made roughly 5 weeks prior. Most contracts have clauses to cover unforseen issues like this. Or even if this one didn’t, 5 weeks is enough lead time to minimize any city-based fees. If the police aren’t physically out there, maybe you pay 15% of the contract to cover any additional scheduling they put in place. But IMO, you’re certainly not paying 100% of your city-based sunk costs.

I think the best case that illustrates my belief of how laughable their statements are is the Shamrock Shuffle. I believe at about 3 weeks out, they pulled the plug. At a MINIMUM, they refunded $2M in registration fees. That’s on top of whatever minimal sunk costs they had to incur. I can’t remember hearing a single word from them about ‘poor us; COVID caused a cancellation’. In fact, in addition to doing FULL refunds, they will eventually send out 2020 swag.

The other part that IMO makes their statements laughable is just common sense. If you’re any part of the exterior (i.e. police, city services, etc) that generate revenue from the race, you’re not going to say ‘we want 100%; we don’t care about COVID.’ Simply because IF you do that, there’s a very strong likelyhood that the RO will fight you on it, eventually begrudingly pay 100%, and then move every race from 2021 forward to the suburbs.

But since they wouldn’t be reasonable, I disputed the charge. On what was most likely the final day for them to respond, they apparently just brought up the ‘registration said no refunds.’ Now, if they hadn’t materially and unilaterally changed the contract, that would be true. However, this falls under non-performance / non-deliverance of goods/services as promised. That’s been covered by Visa(R)/MasterCard(R) as a valid dispute for years. I spoke with my bank earlier today and shared a synposis view of this blog. Hopefully this will get resolved and I’ll keep the provisional credit.

Regardless, I do not plan to EVER do a RAM Racing event again. When this is their response to what’s happened, I do not have any confidence in doing a future event with them.

And for the record, Cinco de Miler is the ONLY race that this has happened with. EVERY OTHER RD has offered 3 of refund, deferral, transfer or donate as the options. Some of them have just auto-deferred everyone to 2021. So while it’s been a frustrating 2020 season, I know it will be a VERY full 2021 season.

#ramracing #hotchocolate #hotchocolatechicago #hotchocolate5K #hotchocolate15K #cincodemiler #cincodemilerchicago

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.”

The COVID Effect – 5/2/20

“I give honesty without regret.” – Unknown senior (from Voices of Old People by Simon & Garfunkel)

And to be honest, the COVID pandemic has created a tremendous amount of frustration for me. This has included cancellations of multiple racees and has impacted my training. I just haven’t had the focus most of the last 6 weeks to get in everything I need to. I know it could be much worse, which is why it’s just temporary frustration instead of anger or just plain giving up on the 2020 season.

While I have lost multiple events, I was fortunate to get a 2nd Indoor Tri in in March before the shutdowns occurred. I truly love doing Coach Joe’s (Experience Triathlon) events, and had hoped to do the April one as well.

As a brief summary of the Feb/March ones, the swims went OK (with March’s going better), the bikes were both solid, and the March run was much better than Feb’s. Thankfully, there are still multiple ET outdoor races for this summer to look at doing. For those of you making schedule readjustments, I would strongly recommend looking at these as options:

6/14 – ET Batavia
7/12 – ET Lake Zurich
8/2 – ET Naperville
9/5 – ET Pleasant Prairie

Once the shut downs had occurred, I expected to see RDs do the right things. Whether this meant cancellations with refunds, rescheduling to the fall or deferring to 2021. And for the overwhelming majority, that’s what has occurred.

As just one example, the Shamrock Shuffle did full refunds in addition to still sending out the swag. Yes, that has and will cost them a lot of money to do. But IMO they’ll make it up in 2021 and beyond. Simply because anyone looking at it from the outside should say ‘that’s a RO that I want to give my money to’ , along with ‘I had X on my 2021 schedule for that same weekend, but I’ll look at doing the Shamrock Shuffle’. If it wasn’t already a permanent fixture on my race schedule, their actions this year would make it so.

So when the order was extended to May 31st, I expected something similar from my May RDs/ROs. One of them (Race Director X (‘RDX’) / Race Organizer X (‘ROX’)) made a 4th decision — turning a physical race into a virtual one without any of the other options mentioned before. I am using RDX/ROX going forward from here, and would ask those who know the real name NOT to Dox them. Frustrating, but that was the choice they made.

Their March e-mail mentioned ‘you will have everything by race day’. So in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, I thought ‘Okay, we’ll make the best of it… and simulate things with the race items.’ A few days prior to the event, I still hadn’t received the items, so I reached out. The response that I received was ‘we’ll send things soon… COVID has impacted our ability to do this.’

I have two issues with this: (1) there was a gap of at least 3 weeks between the two e-mails where they could have shipped items out and (2) from the way the e-mail reads, it sounds like they’re using COVID as a crutch. Yes, social distancing needs to be followed. And yes, COVID may be creating some minor delays. However, I don’t believe these delays can be contributed to it given how long of a lead time there was.

Given all of this, IMO what was supposed to be a physical race has now turned into one of those ‘$x for a charity’ races. You’ve probably seen them — $10-$15 for a medal/bib so you can do a virtual race. Because of this, I have asked ROX for a credit to be used for one of their future races. I know that they couldn’t control the initial change. But IMO, what it’s turned into is NOT what I bought — or what they advertised after it had to become a virtual race.

Hopefully things will reopen at the beginning of June so that I can salvage a big chunk of my 2020 season. Regardless, after 6 weeks of frustration, I am working on getting things in line so that I am ready for whenever it does start…

Houston 5K/Half Weekend – 1/17-19/20

While I am not a long distance runner, I am always willing to keep trying. And with a 70.3 planned for 2020, I need to get there quickly… So when Catapult offered an opportunity to run the Houston Half/Full Marathon as part of their team, I jumped at the chance.

The weekend in Houston included their gala Friday night, a 5K Saturday and then the Half/Full on Sunday. After an amazingly fun night at the gala, it was time to run.

We met as a large group early Saturday morning at Starbucks. After packet pickup and a large group photo, we headed out to the front of the starting grid. It was a warm day, but I felt good through the first 2 1/4 miles. After that point, the humidity started to take its effect on me. So the last mile was more of a run/walk until we got to the chute. Even with the humidity-related struggles, the time was right on par with most of my 5Ks.

Shortly after we had finished, it started raining. While running in the rain adds an additional hazard, I would have really enjoyed that during the last mile. Oh well, at least it should be nicer for the Half, I thought.

During the break between the 5K and packet pickup for the Half, Nicole and I had a chance to go through the Expo. One of the items that I picked up was a running cape from Texas Children’s Hospital. I had intended to run down the chute with it. But plans changed — as I’ll discuss shortly.

On Sunday morning, I was debating on what to wear. While it was cold (40s), I know that you heat up when you run. So I was torn between the singlet and shorts and an Under Armour top plus my running pants in addition. In the end, I went with the colder weather gear — and I’m glad I did.

When I race, I typically do not have jewelry on. Simply because I’m concerned about these small items falling off or getting lost in general. But this weekend, I decided to do so rather than leave them at the AirBNB. Because of that, one of the thoughts that went through my mind as we (Nicole, Sam and I) tried to hide from the wind was ‘I wish Gramps had been able to see me race’. Sadly, both he and his second wife perished in/because of a fire in 2012. As my first races weren’t until 2014, he never did…

As we started running, things felt really good. So much so that I didn’t realize that we were already at almost 2 miles before we hit the first aid station. And while there was some slow down between 2 and 7 at times, things still felt good.

Then at about 7, my calves started to seize. Since we were less than a half mile away from a medical tent, I thought I’d be just fine. As with every race, the waiver includes ‘you will allow us to provide medical attention’. Therefore I believed it would be an easy ask for some Advil or something similar. So I was extremely surprised when I was told that they couldn’t give me anything on the course. When I asked post-race for an explanation, I was given reasoning that I don’t believe to be correct. It was along the lines of ‘too much can cause kidney issues, and race volunteers don’t know how much you’ve taken. So they can’t give you anything unless it’s an emergency.’.

So I was faced with two options. One was to tap out; the other was to gut out the last 5.5+ miles in pain. I chose the latter, and it was a struggle for the remainder of the race. We had to stop multiple times, with it becomming more frequent the further we got into the race. During a couple of the stops as Sam worked out the knots, I was groaning in pain. Even when the race volunteers saw this, they still wouldn’t offer any pain relief. The most I got was some salt at about 9 3/4 or 10.

Even though I was in tremendous pain at 13, I made the decision that I was still going to try and run through the chute. No matter how bad a race has gone, I always want to run through the chute. Not just for pride, but also for the finishing photos.

While I didn’t get a chance to use the Texas CHildren’s Hospital cape this year, I will have it for 2021. I am also going to try and find one for Lurie Children’s Hospital for my longer runs in the Chicago area.

I am grateful to Catapult for all of their help and support throughout the entire weekend. If you’d like to learn more about the organization and/or support their mission, please visit their web site.