Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Check Out "5th Annual Cycle for ALS - Palatine, IL" on Veloist:

5th Annual Cycle for ALS - Palatine, IL

Event Details
Time: February 13, 2010 from 6am to 3pm
Location: Palatine Buehler YMCAStreet: 1400 Northwest Highway
City/Town: Palatine, IL
Event Type: fundraiser
Organized By: Bob Mitera

Event Description
This was the second major battle in the War on ALS. It started in Palatine, IL . We decided to email some folks to raise awareness and a few bucks for ALS research. The first year 200 people showed up and 9 people rode all 16.5 hours. We did it with no support from any sponsors. No budget other than our own pockets. Fast forward to today.We are having a silent auction. Staley the Chicago Bear will appear at 10 am (signing autographs for kids and taking pictures). Peapod will be there giving things away. The man I met in Kona in 2005, Jon Blais has passed away, but, as in the movie Bravehart. The disease took his life, but not his freedom or his fight.

In 2005 Jon Blais was new he was a walking dead man. He finished the Ironman World Triathlon Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii anyway in what is nothing short of a miracle. ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) had disabled him beyond what he would let on but he finished for all the ALS patients who sent him letters saying, "You are our arms and legs. Fight the war for us." Jon vowed to be the first person with ALS to complete an Ironman "if they have to roll my body across the finish line".

Jon completed the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run in 16 hours and 30 minutes. 18 months later, Jon passed away. Like everyone with an ALS diagnosis, Jon has passed away with no treatment. To many his courage and dedication live on through the Blazeman Foundation as "no treatment and no cure" isn't acceptable to us.

The Blazeman Foundation's purpose is to raise money and awareness for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) research. Come out and ride with us in your team kit! Media will be there (great opportunity for sponsorship pictures at a charity event!)

Email me or follow along here for more information.

Our question to you - will you ride and join triathletes who care and support ALS patients who have no voice or will you do nothing?

"This is your life. It is not a dress rehearsal." - Jon Blais

Monday, January 18, 2010

Catching Up on Me

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. day I start with "I have a dream." My dream takes me to Alabama, Myrtle Beach and perhaps even Clearwater. If you have not read much on him yet, I encourage you to read about Dr. King and get some insight on his courage to press on with his leadership in the face of bullets, arrest and fire bombs thrown into his living room while his children slept upstairs. Weight loss, triathlon goals are small potatoes by comparison but lessons can be learned in his heart and leadership. Dr. King was amazing. I suppose that is redundant to say, but I'll say it again. Amazing.

I saw a comedian Steve Byrne (Korean, Irish parents and 100% American.) Steve tells a joke which is more like a story. He talks about America versus other countries dividing up our people. You don't hear about African-Canadians, Indian-Brits, or Italian-Argentinians. All those ethnic groups exist but in their country they are simply Canadians, Brits or Argentinians. In a country that speaks of being united, why then do the people consider themselves their ethnicity? Interesting. For us, it comes from when we got here. Italians "weren't wanted" when we landed on Ellis Island long ago. Czechs claimed to be Pols and vic versa. Perhaps the immigrant growth of our country is a large part of this. These are the things I think about on three hour aerobic trainer rides. Why can't we just be Americans?

It's been a while since I've been training consistently myself. I've been in perpetual rehab it seems. Since I'm back to health just re-establishing a routine has been difficult. I'm into a good routine now. Weight loss has picked up. I gained another belt loop last week and my pants are starting to get annoying as they are moving all around on me.

Swimming has a long way to go, but I'm so happy to be back in the water. I'm swimming with a group I used to long ago and the guys and gals in the group are pretty cool.

Cycling has been solid but I'm taking more steps to improve even more. I'm riding at a level I finished at last spring. Not sure if that is good or bad yet.

Running has been significantly better but let's not have a parade just yet.

Time to knuckle down. February is just over the horizon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Cannot Coach Heart

I can teach you how to swim. I can coach you to great numbers on the bike. I can improve your running to far exceed your wildest aspirations. I can coach your attitude to a point.

Nobody cannot coach your heart.

If you cannot get your booty out of bed and to the gym, trail, pool, bike trainer; I cannot help you. I am up at 4am these days. Coming back to being competitive. Partially because I really want to and partially because I haven't been competitive for well, too long.

Most days my eyes (regardless of fatigue) open at 3:47 am. I get out of bed about 4am. Shave. Brush my teeth. Get dressed and by now my three month golden retriever is ready to go out. She has stretched, yawned a Snoopy-like yawn (full mouth open with a curled tongue) and has been watching me put my socks on. We go outside into the dark, frozen, lifeless morning and take care of business. I tuck Greta back into her doggie bed and say good-bye to Lorrie (first) and then Greta.

Yesterday, after the morning routine, I drove to CompuTrainer class (a brutal assault on my legs, lungs and taint) at 4:20 am and saw a shop in Palatine I had noticed before but never looked that closely. It was a simple shop in a strip mall. The sign said simply "JOBS". Outside in the 2 F weather were 35 men and women hoping to get a one day assignment for a local manual labor job. In a state where 11% unemployment rages, jobs and companies fleeing high taxes and political corruption, and the upcoming election has had less coverage than Conan vs. Leno a touch of perspective.

I have a tremendous opportunity to participate in triathlon and to coach athletes. I choose to do what I can to help myself and others. I choose to get up early and stay up late, because that is what it takes. The folks I saw huddling in the cold seemed to not have many choices. They certainly aren't going to the gym or spending time doing fun activities. Seems more like survival. More about this in a moment.

The heart has to want it. In the case of Ironman, real bad. If you half ass the preparation and diet be fully prepared to half ass the race. For examples, see my last two FL 70.3 race results. In fairness to me, I was hurt with different injuries the last two years. But in all honesty, I didn't swim masters. I didn't do four hour trainer rides. I didn't do what I could have regardless of injury.

One race day you'll see me smiling in transition. Telling dry jokes. Everyone (especially at "big" races) is looks like they are going to a funeral instead of a test of their preparation. Think of it this way, act calm, be calm versus feel tense act tense. I love the look on other competitors when you smile at a friend and shake hands as others look on wondering what you have that they don't.

Simply put, heart and a quiet mind.

This is the difference in my athletes. This is a step toward accessing "the zone". There are several factors and each athlete is different. Once you've found the zone, your coach should know how to get you back to the zone.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Triathlon - 2010 and Beyond

October of 2010 will be 10 years since a naive college swimmer and rookie Ironman finished in Kona. The changes in me and my observation of the sport during the last two aggravating seasons of injury and near recovery have changed my perspective on the sport. I still love to train and race, but I see things a bit clearer now. I can see the not so hidden agendas of people a lot better. Sometimes the agendas are fine and other times not.

Getting into officiating five years ago opened my eyes to race planning and management, a deep understanding of the rules and why the rules were built by each governing federation, and athletes. Let's debunk some of the mystery behind the differences in the rules. The different federations have different rules largely because their race venues and championships have different needs. Methods of enforcement and rules you can call in one federation would be unsafe or unfair in another. After five years of officiating, I feel the rules themselves are pretty close to what we need. Sure, I would change a few things here and there, but as a whole the rules and enforcement are not the sport's problem. Think of the slightly different rules like competing in a different league or competition. American League baseball versus National League baseball. FIFA soccer (or football) versus Olympic soccer. The rules are slightly different, but the game is the same.

So, what has changed? We have. The athletes. Athletes have worked to get better and some have chosen the "win at all costs" mentality. Integrity is the cost of a podium position in many people's opinion. I'm consistently amazed at the ignorance of the rules by athletes and their coaches. Coaches aren't teaching the rules. It's pay your money and I'll show you how to physically prepare for a race. Coaches generally teach everything but the experience, sportsmanship, personal responsibility (charity and pay it forward) and the rules. Imagine what a mess the village Little League would be without someone teaching the rules.

The same people who would tell you that for months on end they endured difficult sets and watched their diet like a Miss Universe contestant (probably closer) are the same athletes that will not know the draft zone or will swim over the top of a blind athlete instead of around. Recently, athletes have started screaming for drug testing in the age group ranks, yet one popular (and powerful) supplement company has yet to speak about their legal woes and seemingly difficulty in manufacturing a clean product. If you're an athlete using those supplements, do you still complain about others "doping"? Interesting double standard. Lastly, compare asthma sufferers in the general population to asthma sufferers in triathlon.

This year I heard a lot of complaining about drafting, but noticed that many of the same people complaining were the same ones after the race saying things like, "I had to play the game." Admitting drafting too. Greg Remaly and Tom Room made some bold statements (I applaud them for saying it. It takes balls to criticize your colleagues openly and demand change.) My only desire is that instead of boycotting the races - Greg and Tom get involved and become part of the solution. These are guys are smart and are needed to help facilitate change. Talk to race management with your suggestions on rule changes, penalties and sanctions for athletes who break the rules. Triathlon is still a young sport that needs guidance and leadership from the people in the front of the field.

Mary Beth Ellis gave her opinion on professionalism in triathlon. I have to say I agree with her. All you have to do is attend one pro meeting and observe a pro triathlon. Perhaps that isn't fair for me to have an opinion as I have raced elite only twice and at the age group level at that. I do race as a mature, responsible person with a professional attitude.

It is our responsibility as an athlete for how WE RACE. I cannot control the way officials interpret and enforce the rules. I cannot control where marshals are on course; either seeing or missing drafting peletons. What I can control is my spacing between myself and the person in front of me relative to the pace I am capable of. That's it. I am accountable. I am the integrity of my race. I affect others in the race by my following of the rules. Going around all the swim buoys on the correct side, keeping the proper difference, not running across the finish line with anyone who didn't do the race, if I "Blazeman role" across the line - I look first so I don't interfere with another athlete's race. What I call "uncommon courtesy" is a disappearing behavior. I control my attitude and my actions.

Speaking of behavior, this year I saw a lot embarrassing behavior from age groupers and professionals. Age groupers who "have been racing for 15 years and never had a penalty" complaining for fouls like cutting the swim course "because it was crowded" or dropping a bike on the ground instead of hanging it on the rack in front of them. Professionals, and I use that term loosely, complaining about penalties on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. These weren't just complaints, but full out attacks on race management, officials and everyone except one person... themselves.

The only way for professionals and amateur athletes to "learn" is to lose the sponsorship money and promotion. Sponsors are part of this too. One particular company sponsors a guy known for drafting and encouraging others to draft with him. The same company sponsors a woman who consistently rides about 10 minutes slower than the pro men but has "struggled" on the swim and run. This sponsor should realize that we do see what is happening at races. We know how they "won". These two athletes may have been first, but they didn't win anything. Least of which, my respect.

In summary, I point the finger of responsibility in the mirror and ask you to do the same. It is the athlete who is responsible for being the watchdog of our sport.