Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 In Review

What a busy season!  I cannot believe we are approaching Thanksgiving.  It feels like January.

I'm thankful for many things in 2014:

1) Clients that are open to new training ideas - All of my clients were given training events that were very different and challenging from what they were used to from other coaches.  This opened their eyes to strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that they have ahead.

2) Clients that sent me SIGNIFICANT data.  All of my clients sent me ALL of their power and heart rate files.  I used this with a new analysis methodology which yielded very interesting changes in workloads of my clients.  Ironman athletes in the "big volume days" were taking three FULL DAYS OFF - unheard of.  However, the data proved that this was the right course of action.  Sometimes more is just more.  The personal records and data prove this without any doubt.

"In God we trust.  All others bring data."

3) Sub5 Performance & Coach Janet Smith-Leet - Janet has taught me how to run efficiently, rehabilitated my shoulder and my mind.  Personally, I'm a long way from "competitive".  But that wasn't my goal for 2014.  I work a lot of hours and odd hours at that.  I'm grateful for the group and look forward to training and racing with them more in 2015.

My goals for 2014 were very simple: 
1) Establish good habits in training - even if frequency wasn't something I could control.  - COMPLETE

2) Establish good eating habits regardless of work - COMPLETE

4) USA Masters Swimming Elite Training Camp - this was a week in August that was simply awesome.  Not only did I get to swim with 19 people who were all amazing swimmers AND people, but I realized that I need to swim more competitions.  I really love swimming even if many adults don't.  This will be in my 2015 goal planning.

5) Work, my Team, & Speaking Professionally - 2014 afforded my opportunity I had not seen since 2007 and love of my profession not seen since 1996.  A team that is supportive and working together at mach two speed 24/7/365.  Lastly,  the opportunity to speak in front of a professional audience on several occasions (triathlon business and technology security business).  I love speaking and enjoyed the honor of being a featured speaker backed by several companies.

6) Hanging out with my family - 2014 we did four "trips" where I was with family.  It was glorious.  A cruise in spring.  Vegas during pool season.  A midwestern trip in the summer.  Vegas again to run and just hang out with extended family.  Sure, I may have "missed" some races, but I hung out with my family.

2014 hasn't been all "ponies, rainbows and lollipops", but it has been good.





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Case for Celebrity, Lottery and Legacy Ironman Hawaii Slots

After watching the GoPro Ironman Hawaii World Championship recap broadcast on NBC, I've had multiple conversations with age group Ironman athletes.  Every single one scoffed at the idea of a "celebrity" doing Ironman Hawaii. 

I maintain that Ironman and 70.3 events (and perhaps even International/Olympic distance events) - are considered "fringe" sports by the general public.  Most people won't even do a sprint triathlon with a pool swim because they think it is too hard and requires too much training.  The triathlon community needs to do more to bring that thinking around to a marathon mentality; "You can do it if you train."  We can do better in making training plans less daunting.

Here's why you should want them there:

1) To the general global public - doing exercise regularly is a challenge.  To race, even the local 5k or 10k is a big step.  Sign up for an Ironman?  Damn, you are nuts.  We've all heard those comments.  After my first Ironman, I was told I was "insane" at least 180 times from family to co-workers who knew what I was training for.  There was no shortage of people telling me how nuts Ironman is.  These celebrity slots and "everyman" lottery slots humanize Ironman to people who think only genetic freaks can complete an Ironman.  I'm glad that A guy like Hines Ward- a Super Bowl MVP and exceptional athlete - was humbled by people who have significantly more challenging lives - even with VIP coaching, equipment, training trips and money behind him.  It shows how tough those of us who consider ourselves Ironman athletes, because nearly all of us don't have that kind of backing. 

2) Lottery slots give "everyman" athletes a shot at doing IM Hawaii.  To most of us, Kona always was/is the holy grail of triathlon.  Giving someone a shot to lottery in gives hope to everyone who wants to participate.  The lottery humanizes the Ironman more and allows people to believe when they see these stories.  Come on, admit it, you cried when you heard the story of the dad who lost his little girl at Sandy Hook.  That was a great story in my opinion and that would be lost if we eliminate the lottery.  Luckily, the lottery must stay due to contractual agreements.

3) Legacy lottery is new.  This is the program that rewards people for racing a lot of Ironman races. I think this is great.  We all have friends who have missed "earning it" via qualification by seconds.  Face it - there are people in this world that won't qualify for any number of reasons.  Those folks deserve a shot.  My friend Matt was a legacy guy this year.  He didn't get the mumuku winds, but he did get some wind heat and vog.  (The heat and vog this year were the worst I can remember in the eight times I've been fortunate enough to be a participant or race marshal on the island.)

I need to make a call.
NBC! You want me over here for a better shot?
My own opinion on the NBC recap of Kona?  I thought they did a great job.  Emmy worthy work.  You can find the live broadcast of the ENTIRE race on YouTube and you can also find the NBC recap there too.  My comment for NBC Sports - the marshals and referees are also actors in your "show".  Keep in mind that you wouldn't ask Ed Hochuli to "get out of the shot" with a regulator/producer on a motorcycle.  You also would never ask Peyton Manning to move to a certain side of the field because he was "ruining" a shot.

Happy base training or time away!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Is a Championship a "Championship" without Drug Testing in this Era?

A client of mine called me and posed a question to me.  Is a championship race really a championship without drug testing or is this kinda like the "all drug Olympics" SNL skit?



Mark McGuire before and after.

It was a good question.  Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of drugs in our sport.  Simply because most races don't test.  I would like to see a qualify and test type of program. 

1) If you the event is a qualifier - FOR ANYTHING - and you earn a slot - you get drug tested.  YOU as the qualifier, pays the fee to prove you are clean.  This adds approximately $185 to whatever you qualified for if the prices I read about are accurate, but possibly lower.

2) At the event you qualified for, ALL registered athletes are subject to random drug tests - this would be paid for by the governing body holding the "championship".

3) ALL podium/prime award winners get drug tested. Paid for by the governing body holding the race.

4) ALL athletes who qualified for that race are now part of an out-of-season test program where you can be tested at any time until March 1 of the following year.

That's roughly how I'd do it.

After talking a bit, I said, "No, a championship is NOT a "true" championship unless there is extensive drug testing."

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shouldering a Tough Start to 2013

“Well… that sucked.” - The Penguins, Madagascar 2 upon arriving at Antarctica


I sort of feel like I’m on Antarctica without some of the rides, runs and swims that I normally do.

The injurry - see the divot in the cuff?
The last 18 -24 months has been trying for sure. It’s been like being on a bad stretch in a Las Vegas casino and waiting… and losing… for however long before you start to win (or leave when you run out of money.) The house always wins. So my choice has been to take whatever the “house” throws at me and KEEP GOING. So I did, sweating my way through countless PT and ART sessions, swimming 1,300 yards and then kicking the balance of workouts up to 5,500. I missed swim meets, state meets, indoor triathlons and training camps. For fun, I endured different endurance sessions like holding my arm in one place without moving for 25 minutes stuffed in a tube slightly smaller than a coffin. The last straw was seeing my starting block at US Masters Swimming Nationals (I was planning on swimming three events.) Blocks – EMPTY – knowing the times I did in practice (in a HOT pool, drag suit on, untapered) and then watching the times posted at Nationals on their live web cast was really hard. I age up next year. The guys in that age group are FASTER than my current group. Older and faster huh? No, US Masters Swimming doesn’t need drug testing because why would someone dope in these competitions?  (grr)  I could care less about that right now.  I just want to race again.
I should be on this block.
Seeing these times got me fired up.  I missed 100 BR, 200 BR and 100 IM.  (Qualified for 200 and 400 IM too, but timing (if uninjured) wasn't going to work out.
The first surgeon said it was a tear and gave me no real direction other than “continue to do PT and come back in June or July”. The second surgeon was ready to carve me up like a turkey on Friday. (I saw him on a Wednesday.) So I waited and saw the best guy I could find. I went to Dr. Greg Nicholson. He literally wrote the books (plural) on shoulder rehabilitation, surgery, pre-op, post-op. In his office, I waited with a MLB pitcher, a minor league outfielder and an Olympian. Yep… this is the right place. Dr. Nicholson didn’t dick around. He was fun, smart, engaging and to the point. “Look, if I operate, I operate on you and not some MRI. Go test this shoulder. Keep doing PT rehab, ART, and give this thing more time. Come see me at the end of June or early July. “

Since then, I’ve been getting ART (Active Release Therapy) three times a week for six weeks. ART is helping a great deal. I’ve also been working with Jamie Ginsburg at Body Werks Physical Therapy. Between the ART and the PT with Jamie – I’m much better. I’ve been able to swim 4,700 yards or so the last three workout sessions. It has been fantastic to actually swim a full workout! Additionally, I was able to grab my suitcase and my wife’s suitcase out of the overhead bin on an A320. These bags (loaded) are roughly 25 lbs.. I know I’m getting stronger. Surgery was not the right solution. Seven screws and cutting all the tendons was not a viable solution. I tried something "radical".  I started doing Pilates strengthening exercises for my shoulder and core.  I've learned that this is something now being recommended by some doctors; something I decided to try on my own.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be strong enough to do at least one triathlon in 2013. Looking for the positives, I’ve been able to train a great deal more. There is still a long way to go before I’ll feel I’m ready. That’s ok. There is no pressure to “race” or participate in any event; to do so when being out of shape is just plain stupid. I need to test my fitness in some sessions and plan accordingly with my ‘fitness consigliore’ and BS filter. I’m making time for my own training and executing. I’m doing what I can “control”.

Diet: I’m doing a plan with Isagenix and eating (mostly) a paleo diet. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/#axzz2XLeEBYqL I’ve shed about 15 pounds – what I call a “good start”.

Exercise: Something I touched on above - I’ve added a weekly Pilates session with our friend (and fellow coach) Laurie McFadden of Weight and Tri. This is something that Lorrie(my wife) and I can do together. My core is getting there.

Swim: Swimming three masters sessions a week
Bike: Cycling four times a week – once or twice outside. (work/coaching schedule)
Run: Running four times a week – 100% trail running. This is “slower” but my leg strength is noticeably stronger. I need to add some speed sessions and road sessions.
Weights: I just started back in the weight room.

Nice to be back training.

On a more personal note, Lorrie and I have gone to a concert, LA and Las Vegas and have had a bunch of fun. 


Seven months ago I tore the labrum in the left shoulder going off the blocks for the first time in 12 years without any practice. Tears when the arm is fully extended are the most common, normally, it is from people slipping on the ice and trying to brace themselves and the ligament and tendon pulling apart like a chicken wing on a football Sunday. Only, the chicken wing is your arm.


Seven months of two MRIs, physical therapy three to four times a week, three surgeons – one who wondered what to do, one who wanted to carve me up like a turkey as soon as he could, and the last one who works with professional athletes who is awesome and worth the effort to get to. I contemplated jumping on a plane to go see Dr. Andrews in Alabama (my day job is at an airline). I found Dr. Greg Nicholson who literally wrote the book on shoulder surgery, shoulder recovery and was worth the effort to get in to see as I previously mentioned.

I haven’t had PRP or any other treatment that is “illegal” by the WADA or any other governing body (FINA, USA ___ etc). I know that sounds silly given that I am no athletic threat to anyone except the 75 year old female swimmer after masters. You know, the one who swims with no goggles and comes in smelling like perfume and baby powder. Yeah, she is quaking in her boots on my return.

My conditioning and fitness is just this side of awful. I did a few fitness tests and I’m a good 27 points down from my career best. I plan on turning this all around once cleared to train flat out… or, post surgery and recovery. This is all still up in the air.

In the last three weeks, my training is up 10,000% by the numbers. I just cannot wait any longer. I’ve decided to do what I can, be that walk, ride, swim, lift, run. I’ll do what I can and just establish some consistency.

Sounds depressing, but I am starting over from whatever is less than an “untrained” state. If I have surgery, expect to see me on the treadmill the next day walking with my arm in a sling. The important lesson is that while I’ve listened to my doctors and physical therapists to the letter up until this point; sometimes the patient knows best. I can ride a bike, a bike trainer, kick in the pool, walk, walk up hills. Ever go on a 2 hour long walk? It can be just that simple.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Long Time No Talk!


My intention was to blog weekly in 2013. You see how well that has worked so far. Higher priority has been family, work, clients, workouts and sleep. The hardest thing I’ve had to do is say “no” to a lot of opportunities: to coach more people, events, run special training sessions (sorry Dean). Here is a summary of what has happened thus far and some of my views on things.

Lance Armstrong:
I’ve been warped by doping to believe that anytime you see someone defy what seems impossible, sadly, we now question if that athlete is doping. When it was happening, I thought that it was amazing. Then as the competition got busted for doping I put two and two together. A lot of people made money with this success. That is the issue; follow that trail of money.

Regarding Lance’s punishment, I feel it is too harsh. I used to be a guy who yelled “LIFETIME BAN FOR DOPERS”. Lance could have helped his case if he would have cooperated with officials on figuring out how far the rabbit hole went. I now agree, that a more appropriate penalty would be 8-10 years of suspension. This would mean that LA would be 50+ if he wanted to return to sport. It would also mean, age will have taken any chance of him winning in Kona or being any kind of factor in any race. The Pete Rose of triathlon, cycling and running events; I saw Pete Rose in Las Vegas – just walking by himself. The issue here is that governing bodies have offered other dopers a six month suspension “deal” to narc on LA. Really kind to those men and mean to LA. I’m not sure about the equality in how the cases were treated and sentences carried out. I’m not an insider. Just seems wrong. If people want “lifetime bans for all dopers”, then we need to add a lot more names to that banned list. If it isn’t “life” for everyone – and it clearly isn’t - then we need a better system of punishing these cheats. I would also add some kind of shame that race with them when they do return – a bright red “D” jersey for DOPER perhaps. Those returning from a suspension get to race 2-10 years after their suspension, but get to wear that jersey for LIFE at any event they do and separate them from the results in a different category – because the benefits of doping don’t necessarily “go away”.

Additionally, the governing bodies of races need to then declare a new champion of that year’s race based on the results and the doping results. If your champion was in 27th place because the top 26 guys were doping – so be it Tour de France. Give me the clean champion.

I have to look myself in the mirror. This is how I feel.  I'm not asking you to agree with me.  I feel the sporting community needs to talk about doping. Shine a light on it. Punishments should be harsh, but fair. Over and over, I am hearing amateur athletes say that certain races are not an interest anymore because they are “unattainable” based on doping, wealth and obsessive compulsive behavior of the competition. That is something that race organizers need to pay attention to.

Is triathlon clean? I have my doubts. (Read: Not a chance in the world it is clean.) I’ve seen amazing things from pro and age group triathletes that seem to defy the aging process. Sadly, several pro triathlete friends (guys who raced in the 1980s, 1990s) have told me that they are just hearing from guys about what went on. Additionally, I urge you to pay attention to people who withdraw from competitions when surprise testing has also been announced. Several athletes dropped out of a major race and flew home before the race due to “injury”, but nobody there seemed to believe these individuals were injured.

I’m sure I’ll get comments on these opinions. Consider what supplements you are taking. How much of supplementation is performance enhancing versus health enhancing? Why not just eat your vitamins and eat right? Think about this.

Swimming:
I’ve been swimming (generally) four times a week. I’m still not where I was. This will take at least 18 to 24 months. I am making progress. I qualified for US Masters Swimming Nationals in practice in several events (verified by three watches per the US Masters Swimming rules) back in November. This had me thinking a lot of great thoughts for 2013. Then I hurt my shoulder. Bugger. Since January, I’ve really not swum much at all. I’m kicking the workouts and most of the time, staying with my mates in my lane while only kicking. Safe to say my kick is back.

My doctor told me that it was going to be 8-12 weeks of not swimming. I thought I would be back in 6 weeks. I’m at 11 weeks right now, and I’m still not ready to resume “normal” swim training. Assuming it is another 3 weeks of rehabilitation, I will go into the IL championship with three weeks of training “normally” and nationals with five weeks. Looks like I’ll have to defer some plans.

It isn’t horrible, but very discouraging. I just cannot press with full power (or even 80% power). So 100s freestyle are pedestrian 1:09-1:14 and 100s breaststroke are 1:14-1:24. I’m limited to 1,650 yards in any one session (of swimming) so the balance is kicking (no kickboard). While it sucks, it is part of being an older athlete. I look back and think of all the things I would have done differently. To say I wouldn’t change is ignorant of the results. I get an MRI this week.

Life:
Life in general is good. Please don’t take my frustration about injury as a sign that life is bad. My friends know that I’m doing quite well. Work is cool – both jobs – the day job and coaching. My athletes are achieving great things and less has certainly been more for all of us. I’d like to coach more people and perhaps even go full time – however, there isn’t enough time in the day. Making sure that I’m realistic about my time is the best thing I’ve done in the last year.

Sponsors:
Kokua Multisports is lucky to represent the following companies in 2013:

SRM Power Meters Best power meter in the world
XTERRA Wet Suits Fastest wetsuits in the world
Restwise Smartest use of technology to maximize workout and rest cycles
BodyWerks Physical Therapy Who always put Humpty Dumpty back together again

I’m still waiting to hear from one more company who was with us last year. He has been out of the country and then on vacation. Hope to hear from him today.

I’ll be writing again soon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

8th Annual Cycle for ALS

Long time no talk - I have several draft blogs to post, but like everyone... I'm super busy.

This has to be posted NOW.  :)  Triathlon can be a selfish sport - however, it doesn't have to be.  We can give to multiple causes if we choose.  In 2012, I raised money for ALS, MS, Cancer and Brain Injury foundations.  There are an unlimited amount of great causes.  Here is one that is worth your time...

In 2005, I was a volunteer at Ironman Hawaii.  I had three athletes and eight more friends racing.  I met Bob Blais and then Jon and Mary Ann Blais.  Jon - their son - had ALS and eventually died of ALS.  He is the ONLY ALS patient to attempt Ironman - and he finished.  What I saw that day is nothing short of a miracle.  Arms and legs that didn't work when commanded.  A body in full revolt - BEFORE the race even started.  Jon had a message about the disease and it needed to get out.

Since then, my friends and I have collected money each year for ALS research in Jon's name.  I even had the honor of spreading some of his ashes with his parents.  ALS is a very serious disease and it seems to affect triathletes and long distance athletes in percentages more than the general population.  So, there is a high likelihood that it will affect someone you know. 

ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease:
1) if you get diagnosed today - you get no treatment - NONE EXISTS
2) the disease is like your normal mental state - but being unable to do anything or control your muscles
- a horrible way to die.

The 8th Annual Cycle for ALS will be next Saturday, April 6th beginning at 10am at Village CycleSport at 1346 N Rand Road, Arlington Heights, IL.

Rules are easy and simple:

1) Donations are what you feel you can give.
          a) We've accepted donations of $0.10 to $10,000 (and more) - whatever you feel you can give.
          b) 100% of the donations go to ALS research - we keep NOTHING for managing the event.
2) Ride time - come ride our computrainers on YOUR bike.  If you want to ride 5 hours until we stop at 3pm - no problem! 

If you would like to do an FTP test as your "ride" I'll facilitate it accordingly.

This ride is a great way to hang out and chip in to solve the problem of ALS.

Can't join us but still want to help?  You can donate on this link (and please reference Kokua Multisports in the memo).

http://www.active.com/donate/blazeman

See you on April 6th!




Monday, December 31, 2012

Lessons Learned 2012


When a window cannot be found - look for a door.

Where did 2012 go?  That was something.  I just finished cooking for 18 people and then cleaning up after it.  Wow.

I won't bog you down with a review of my 2012, but I will give you some of the things I learned in hope that you are able to apply them to your life, training and racing endeavors.

1) Refine - distill your goals down to a few.  I've always tried to do too much in order to meet coaches goals.  Now I've picked out my goals and on the surface, they don't sound too competitive.  That's fine.  They are simple and they are all mine.  What makes this easier on me is that the work to meet those goals is now clear.  Do these things and I should be right there.  Don't meet the work requirements of my goals - and just show up and enjoy the day.  Simple.  No pressure.

2) Be willing to change (quickly) - alter your strategy(ies) to meet your goals in the real world that we live in.  Every day will be a challenge.  That's ok.  What can you control?  What decisions can you make that make your strategy work?  Workout insanely early?  Brutally late?  What can you change to make these things happen?  Decide now - not later.  Decide and move on with decisive action.

3) Have the guts to finish what you started - commit to complete the work required to meet your goals.  One of the things I challenge people with all the time, "Don't like the situation?  What are YOU willing to do to make it better?  There are no victims here." 

4) Does it have meaning to ME?  Who gives a carp if someone else wants to do something.  Does it mean anything to ME? 

I posted on Facebook that I'm not racing a local (and hotly contested) 1/2 marathon or any 70.3/half ironman distance race in 2013.  Why?  Mainly because it doesn't mean anything toward my goals for 2013 which tie into my long term goals for 2014 and 2015.  I'm doing the events that I want to do this year with no bucket lists or "must do" pressure. 

First, I planned my life.
Second, I planned my goals.
Third, I planned to do some events that I think I have enough time to train for properly.

We lost my dad in 2012.  While I miss dad, the thing that I remember most is that he would be very upset if I didn't move on mentally.  He will always be in my heart and mind.  Dad is part of me.  One of the conversations that we had wasn't about achieving or doing this or that.  It was about finding what I wanted to do and pursuing it in an all out effort.  I think I'm there.

2012 was very tough.  A lot of positives occured this year as well, so let's not minimize them in the sadness we experienced as a family.  I choose to look at the positives (even if I don't understand why I was given this life experience) and look to the future.  I will not forget where I came from as I honor the past and stride forward.

Lookin' back at the moments, black and white.
I wouldn't change a thing that changed my life. - Kenny Chesney

2013... let's go!