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!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Travel with a Bicycle

A friend of mine asked me for advice on how to travel with his bike.  Here is my response.

1) Use TSA locks - all TSA managers have the keys - they will not cut those locks. If they do, they buy you new ones.

2) When you check in for a training camp, race, etc (traveling with your bike) - show up at least 1 hr 45 min prior to your boarding time.

3) Make sure connection flights have at least 60 minutes between flights - more is better.

4) When you go to TSA, Stay with your wheels/bike and STAND THERE while they do their security check. In multiple cities, the bike was treated differently because I was standing there and at least twice - I re-directed the re-pack of race wheels and bike box.

5) Look at the type of plane you are flying. People have challenges with this going into small airports. Try to ensure you are going on the biggest plan possible. For example - St. Croix - the airlines will try to fly you to San Juan - but the planes from San Juan to St. Croix are small prop planes (generally) and have a small cargo "pit". Go thru a larger hub a bit further away - IAH (Houston) United Airlines, MIA (Miami) American Airlines will fly 757, 737-900ER or A320 which are better than any of the prop alternatives. This will ensure your bike will meet you.  So if you are flying to STX from ORD - choose your connections - United: ORD - IAH - STX or ORD - EWR - STX.  American ORD - DFW - STX or ORD - MIA - STX.

6) Sign up for the TSA pre-check program. This allows your ticket to be coded differently and helps TSA "process" you. Can help sometimes.

7) Easiest thing to remember - be pleasant. The "front of the house" or "lobby" employees from the airline and TSA get absolutely abused all day long. They didn't set the policies that suck. They have to follow them and help move you on your way. They DO have enough power to help or hinder you.

I can speak to many times when I told a hurried employee that I had 2 hrs to my flight and I can wait while they fix something. Every time they waived the fee for my bike and once I was upgraded to first class. Doesn't work every time, but being overly nice has almost always made the experience easier. Consider using a skycap and tipping him/her. That has gotten me out of bike fees too. Just ask the skycap if they can pass you straight through to TSA - the right tip amount usually works $5-10 depending on the airport.

Write the airline if you have a great or poor customer experience. Most times you just get a standard form letter thanking you for your feedback (or nothing at all). Several times, I've received club passes or first class upgrade stickers when I mentioned the airline employee by name and said that they "made" our trip. Positive feedback almost always gets some kinda swag.

Being pleasant (even when you are stressed flying with your bike) is the key every time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

When Life Pushes Life Changes

We were talking about a spring trip to Las Vegas or a Princess Cruise together and my mother and father flying somewhere from January to March escaping the brutal cold of Chicago winter - a lot of life before us. The next moment stopped us on a dime. I spent most of the next days talking about the x-rays, the options, the doctors and talking about remembering fun times together. That’s when it sank in. This might be the real end. When you get that kind of news you start to re-evaluate what it is that we are doing on a day to day basis. How you eat, exercise, live, love and generally approach anything you are interested in. My dad was my mentor, coach, gambling partner (occasionally, we’d even win) and biggest fan (next to mom, Lorrie, my mother and father in-law and Greta).

That is when it sank in.

“How long have you been a diabetic?” This was the question to my father after his initial (and incorrect) stroke diagnosis that stopped me cold. ‘I’m not a diabetic’ dad retorted. “Yes you are. Look at these numbers” said the nurse. My dad never received treatment for diabetes, but apparently he ate his way there. Dad fell asleep around midnight and I drove home from the hospital. The only sound was the engine and air rushing over the open sun roof on a jet black night with the moon beaming like a spotlight in the face.  The message wasn't lost on me.

It’s time for massive change.

I called my friend Heather Fink longtime friend, Ironman, age group duathlon world champion and nutritionist in Indianapolis. “Hi Heather it is Bob. My dad is in hospice. It won’t be long now. Once we get past the funeral I’m going to call you and we will make real, permanent change in my diet.” Heather helped me get my body weight down to 157 pounds in 2003 for Ironman USA (Lake Placid). Sitting in the hospital waiting room when I called her that afternoon I was 210; lazy eating habits and not exercising. When one of your best friend is in the hospital I think it is normal to get a case of the “fuck its”. As in, I’ve been at the hospital 24 hours straight. I should eat a salad. I want a Wendy’s cheeseburger – fuck it. Every one of those decisions was a bad one - but a normal human reaction.

I got a physical. Not horrible. Fat as I am the numbers where “normal” according to the nurse and my doctor. Then my dad’s saying popped into my head. “Average is failing. Average sucks if you are really trying.” Average, that word drove my dad insane. If you are average, you weren’t trying. “No person was meant to be average.” So if you were average, you weren’t trying in our house growing up. Some of those numbers jumped out at me: blood pressure – 121 or 122 when “average” was 120. Never been that high before. Pulse – 54. Last time I was that high was 1994 when I hadn’t worked out in three years straight. I have to get my act together.

The Diet
When most age group “athletes” talk about diet, most are looking for performance results. I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m changing the diet looking to get healthy. To max out the energy I can achieve and at a chemical level change my life. Performance may change from that, but that isn’t the reason I’m here.

For openers, I’ve eliminated:
Meat (not fish or eggs)

As I was putting this plan to eat better together I started reading Rich Roll's book and it really made sense on a biochemistry level.  What the hell are we doing with our diet? 

The first week Lorrie and I started on a “cleanse” diet of only certain foods and veggies. We’ve worked with Heather to ensure nutritional values of iron (for example) and protein to ensure that we are getting the right food. Funny experience, as soon as I put it on our Facebook pages we started getting objections. “You’ll get an eating disorder”, “You won’t get enough iron”, “You won’t get enough protein”, “You’ll be too weak for training, let alone competition”. Gorillas eat nothing but veggies and fruit and they don’t seem to have a problem with iron and protein. Seem pretty strong too. Is there a need to watch the diet more closely? Of course I will need to watch my protein intake (no problem in the first 21 days), calcium (again… not a problem).

My Future
I will eat meat on rare occasions. I eat fish. I eat eggs. So, I’m not doing this 100% of every minute of every day like an OCD nut case. Balance is good. (No offense to my cousin Sarah who is vegan because she cares very much for animals as a vet. For her, it is an issue of how we (humans) treat animals. I admire her principles very much and she has some really good points.)  What is interesting is that I've had a filet once and I felt awful after it.  After meals I'm not crashing with energy levels.  My mood is level all day.  I don't "need" caffiene.  (I never really did... just got into a habit.)
I am doing this for my health. With health comes the ability to train. The ability to train brings the ability to get fit. Fitness brings results. Three weeks in – I’m down 12 lbs. The weight loss has slowed, but I think that is to be expected.  I’m in to change things like blood pressure and other numbers.  My body will figure out what weight I should be at. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012

Ironman Wisconsin 2012 had my smallest contingent of athletes in three years, however, they made up for it with quality.  Ironman Canada had a lot of friends and one of my athletes for the first time in some time.  My next blog will be dedicated to him.

I worked as a marshal for the pro race.  So my day started by chasing the back of the pro men's pack and the front of the pro women's pack.  My athletes in the race are age groupers, so no conflict of interest.  Not that it would matter in my case - if "my guys" did earn a penalty - they KNOW I wouldn't hesitate to give them a red or yellow card.  Nobody gets a break. A foul is a foul.  I would never do that and I never will.  Ask my friend Jeremy last year who got two penalties from me in Kona last year.  He would also tell you - he earned them both.  1) pinned inside in a group and made no effort to get out = drafting; 2) launched a water bottle = abandoned equipment.  You get the idea.  

Overall, marshaling the race was fairly easy this year.  Very clean in general.  

I had two men who I coached this year.  Both are great guys and were referred from clients.  

The Rookie
He really planned his training like a project.  He had to.  To say he has had a rough year (similar to my own) is an understatement.  He has persevered through a great deal in his first Ironman effort.  (100 hour work weeks with transcontinental flights is less than optimal for training.)

Race week - he had what seemed to be a dislocated shoulder.  We actually experimented with different wetsuits to see which one held his shoulder in place best.  I was sad for him, because he worked his ass off to improve his swimming this off season and season.  He swam a 1:31 in a great deal of pain.

On the bike, he passed 618 people overall on the bike.  The power work we did really paid off.  He was crushing people and very much in control.  The power file looks perfect for his current fitness.  

During the run, Kokua athletes "go to work".  "The Rook" started off under control and running well.  We set a goal of running 4:35 as a realistic definition of a "good race".  He took it out smartly.  Then ran 2:30 seconds FASTER on the second loop!  THAT is getting it done.  Passed another 242 people on the run, coming all the way up to the top 33% of the field.  

Being there at the finish for him was extra special given the year we have shared.  Look for him at the pointy end of the field soon.

The Veteran
This athlete did Ironman last year and was injured for much of the time he was supposed to be training.  He asked me to coach him for this year in October.  This athlete and I have both lost loved ones to lymphoma (cancer); his brother and my dad suffered the same illness and fate - death.  To say that we have become close from those experiences is an understatement.  He is like a brother to me.

Race week he was calm and business like.  Ready to explode with energy like a coiled spring.

His swim was 12:00 faster than last year and still swam a respectable time last year and this year - and we only swim two times a week.

On the bike, we did very focused power sessions all year.  It came out in raw strength while very much in control.  He passed 536 people on the bike and from what I have been told... demolished people on the hills.

For the Vet's run we had ONE definition of success on the marathon - RUN the entire way.  No walking.  Even if it looked like the "Kona shuffle".  Now his best is 2:00 for a 1/2 Marathon... so when I went online and saw he ran the first 1/2 in 2:20... I was a bit concerned.  "Either he is having a magical race or he went out too hard."  The former was the case.  He came back in just over 2:24!  Absolutely MOWING people down on the run.  Finishing an astounding 2 hrs and 5 minutes faster than his previous race.

The absolute best part - both guys were pretty close to each other at the finish AND two of my other athletes were there to be part of their finish and our "team" result.  I'm most proud of their execution on race day - especially on the run.  "Bike for show.  Run for dough."  This has been one of our sayings all year.  

Driving home from Madison that night, I got word that another athlete had WON his division at the full REV3 with a great all-around race.  I nearly had to pull over.  I felt like dancing.

Coaching folks to an Ironman finish is a great deal of effort.  To have the guys work so hard and put it all together on race day really meant a great deal to me this year with my dad's death.  I felt these finishes.

You better believe... your gonna fly with me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Product Review: BioEndurance Bar

If you are from the Chicago area you probably know Meredith Vieceli (Beers). She is now making energy bars. Meredith is a nutritionist and is demanding higher quality from the field of bars available.

You can order her bars at Runner’s High ‘n Tri in Arlington Heights, IL or at her website –

There is a new bar in triathlon.  People will take notice.

As Meredith said, “The energy bar market is crowded with candy bars that are dressed up as “wholesome” sports nutrition bars. I set out to create a bar that I could proudly offer to my clients, athletes and health-conscious individuals who want the best quality, organic ingredients in a raw, energy bar that tastes delicious.”

She really hit a home run with this bar.

EVERY bar manufacturing company should be nervous. Make that very nervous. Especially as athletes realize they can eat real foods versus paying for a prepared food.

Meredith said, she had four goals for the bar – she hit them all.

1) Each ingredient must serve a functional purpose. The ingredients should be easy to digest, slow burning, energy boosting, and help speed recovery.

2) Each ingredient must be of the highest-quality, raw and organic. I will never compromise on quality of ingredients

3) This bar must be free of peanuts, soy and dairy. Since so many people unknowingly have sensitivities and intolerances to these ingredients they’re not part of the recipe.

4) This bar must be delicious. If it doesn’t taste good – no one will eat it.

Look MOM!  Real food ingredients!
When you open the wrapper - you smell lemon and almond.  It is not greasy like a Lara Bar, stiff like a PowerBar, solid like stale oatmeal like a Clif Bar (and I like all those bars a lot).  This is easy to eat and tastes like real food - because it is real food.  (SHOCKING, I KNOW!)

I'm excited about this bar.  My God-daughter Lauren has a minor peanut allergy, but enough to make sure I watch everything we bring her.  Knowing that we can give this bar to her is HUGE for our future trips to the zoo, fishing and her activities. 

Order this bar by the CASE.  I will be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Real Toughness vs. Workout Smack Talk

This blog is inspired by my military friends: Brian (EOD), Ken (Marines Special Forces), Jeff (USN Seals), Nate (Marines), Andy (USN), Justine (Marines) and Tommy (USN UDT).

I'm sure you may have noticed this too.  Read Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails of your friends who train and race.  Who are the real bad ass MFers?  (That's right, I went there.)

The real tough guys and gals are the ones NOT talking about their training or "EPIC" workouts- with a few exceptions.  They are humble. 

You know what I'm talking about if you have friends who "race".  Every day people post that they (fill in exercise here) at (pace).  It is so one dimensional.  Do you really need me to "like" your workout for you to feel good about it?  Someone recently introduced me as "This is Bob the triathlete".  My response was "Oh, I'm so much more than just a triathlete, but thank you."  Honestly, I really don't feel much like a triathlete because I'm so far from where I used to be... and even then I was probably a B+ compared to many.  We all are.  Its one thing to focus on your sport and achievements.  Its another to have life whip past you. 

Case in point: One of our friends (Kara), turned 40 this year.  She isn't doing an Ironman, a marathon or the Cross Fit Games.  However, on her birthday she did this workout:

500 WU
40x 100 on 1:30
300 pull
200 easy
(5000- she couldn't just leave it at 4700... had to be an even number)

Then, biked 40 miles.  No big deal right?  For many, no.  However, Kara went out to "The Wall" in Bull Valley and rode up it 20 times.  TWENTY!  My best is 12 and it wasn't on a day when I did 5.000 yards in the pool.

To finish her day (no, she did not run 40 miles) Kara went to the track... and did 40x 400m.  To be honest, I don't remember what time she ran or what interval she was on.  Who cares?  What a workout! 

After this, did Kara post her workout from her Garmin... no wait... she doesn't have one.  She has a crappy Timex from 1997 that she still wears.  No heart rate monitor.  No SRM.  Just time.  She didn't tell anyone - except those of us who were with her for PARTS of her birthday workout.  Not ALL.  NOBODY did it all with her.  It wasn't until three days later when all of her friends were talking about how sore they were from working out with Kara on her birthday did we realize that we all got a whoopin' from Kara.  I won't even tell you about how she also out drank us all that night because it is well... embarrassing.  My excuse (a good one) is that I was driving and I don't drink anything and get behind the wheel, but even if I had a designated driver... it would have been like the drinking scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

There was an old saying, "The person saying it can't be done is interrupted by the person doing it."  I think we can now say, "The person (Facebooking, Tweeting, etc.) about a workout is passed by a person doubling it." 

Kara is a great example of humbleness, balanced life and hard core, bad ass athlete.

Not ONE of my military friends talks about their workouts.  Not one.  There is a lesson in there if you pay attention.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The single greatest coach in my life has died.  Monday, my dad lost his second battle with lymphoma.  The cancer (almost like it knew) was just out of reach of any possible treatment from the physicians.  Dad went "two for three" against cancer - blood cancers specifically.  I've seen my dad every day of his hospitalization since March, but this day I had to go into the office.  I got the call at 7:40 am as the express train mercilessly whipped through the NW suburbs.  Just hours before, leaving the hospital at 1:00 am (20 hours in the hospital), I told my dad that I'd be back in the afternoon.  I had to meet people who were pretty senior in the airline.  I conducted my meetings, as per normal.  We went through the strategy of my program and it got some pretty solid reviews and excitement was flowing.  Then when the suggestion of a Friday meeting was brought up I had to tell them.  I may not be here on Friday as I lost my dad this morning at 7:40 am.  Immediately, three directors and several VPs stood up (pissed OFF) and said, "WHY ARE YOU HERE?!"  I explained that I wanted to get us going as things that I don't effect were in motion.  I wasn't needed at the moment.  Additionally, 1) My dad worked hard.  He taught us the values of making sure we are not the fly in the ointment when it comes to work.  You get things done and help others get things done.  2) There was NOTHING to do.  The meeting with the funeral home and church were later.  The hospital had taken the appropriate steps to take care of dad.  Mom was napping - finally - after three months of GO GO GO to advocate and care for dad.  Let me tell you that my "real job" at United Airlines has a lot of pretty amazing people.  When I emailed my boss's boss's boss (and all leadership between) to inform them I'd be out for a few days - INSTANTLY had offices emptying out to talk with me and offer support.  I'm on an amazing team of extremely talented and hard working people (easily the best I've ever worked with - even better than Andersen Consulting - and THAT is a statement, because those people were amazing).  I think these guys are even better.

I am wavering from missing my dad: fishing buddy, triathlon fan, coach to being happy that dad is no longer sick.  Without going "off the reservation" on you, I believe that my dad went to heaven and is now with a lot of friends and relatives who went before us.  I'm sad for me and those with me here on this Earth.  Now I'll take the lessons my dad taught me and move on with him in my heart.  

Trying to be positive (and transition back to being a triathlon blog) the only races my father ever saw me race... I was on the podium.  A second (age group).  A third (age group).  A third (overall) and a first (overall) small races all, but dad never saw me do poorly.  I'm grateful for that.  Dad knew me as a champion swimmer, water polo player and great baseball player.  Unknown fact about me... I only started swimming to get stronger for baseball.  True story.  Then a certain baseball coach I played for - who really needed a guy like me on his team - decided he didn't want a guy who was out hustling his more talented players daily.  When I hurt my arm - he cut me.  Probably the best thing that ever happened to me... I went right back to swimming and water polo which paid for my university education at a NCAA Div. I school - the big boys.
Mom & Dad
Meanwhile, in the world of triathlon...  My athletes were kicking ass.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of their hard work and dedication through self doubt.  This weekend we had overall wins by Greg Thompson and (overall amateur) Chris Gilbert at MAJOR races on the east coast.  Chris was first amateur at the Mooseman 70.3 - that is no light task.  Additionally, Mindy and Don Soranno BOTH qualified for the ITU World Championships in Long Course Duathlon in Switzerland.  Mindy was 5th in her age group!! 

When I told my dad this weekend results my dad (who has been unable to speak for nearly four weeks) raised his hand with a #1 sign with his hand.  

The joy of their efforts has really buoyed me emotionally.  I'm so happy for all of them.  When we started, there were doubts, questions, pain (usually in workouts).  They weathered the initial storm and came out smiling.  I suspect I'll do the same.

Choose to be great.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are You Healthy? (No, really healthy)

If you ever are coached by me, the first thing I'll tell you is the number one thing I care about is your health.  Just because you can do an Ironman, marathon, or go very fast doesn't mean you are healthy.  For example, right now I am very fit... and also fat.  Just because I can do certain exercises pretty well (swim and bike right now) doesn't mean I'm healthy. 

Look at any triathlon or running race.  Instead of whole foods we eat manufactured "energy bars" and gels.  Why not take an apple sauce with cinnamon before a race instead of a gel?  That's what I do.  Try it.  It works. 

Look, I'm not saying I'm perfect.  I can put down a Five Guys burger like anyone else and really enjoy it. (I am changing my diet and phasing out red meat completely 99.99% of the time.)  What I'm saying is, THINK about what you are doing. 

We really take our good health for granted until its gone.

I have a very close friend who just had breast cancer surgery, another great friend (and possibly distant in-law) has been forced into early "retirement" from Ironman due to lupus, and my dad has been in ICU for 14 days now with a machine helping him breathe.  The one thing that glares at me every step I take to coach someone one on one or to the day job which pays the bills until I can coach full time - people take shortcuts regarding our health.  What would any of those people do to have their health back?  My guess... a freakin' lot.

TRY.  Just TRY to walk downtown Chicago from the train stations to any office building and it is a "hypoxic" walk.  I hold my breath more walking than I do during hypoxia sets in the pool (cigarette smoke).  Smokers piss me off.  They smell bad, are often cranky and filthy.  Flicking cig butts into the street, river, or anywhere except where they are supposed to be.  Then we see people walking with crappy fast food during lunch - expensive and bad for you - the daily double. 

Please wear sun screen.  I always have and I still have some things on my arm that I'm getting checked again and again as melanoma is a real concern when you are outside as much as we are.  It makes me cringe at the thought of a pro triathlete who I am acquaintances with who looked like raw meat off a grill in Kona last year.  We became acquaintances after I penalized an amateur who was blocking her and she ran into/found me after the race to say 'thank you' for keeping the age group men "off" her on the bike.  I'll never forget the color of her skin - deep red.  Like seared Ahi tuna.  Gives me the willies just thinking about it.  It had to be painful.  She went 9 hours and something in Kona... sunburned so badly... no, not healthy.

Seared Ahi tuna FRESH from the Pacific Ocean... If your skin looks like this... is that healthy? NO!  You are just DUMB.
 What is interesting... is that many of these folks are the person next to you in the gym.  That means "those people" are us.  "Athletes"

What are you doing? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

USA Triathlon Rules, Ironman (and 70.3) Rules: Advice from a Marshal

Somebody pinch me... 1) it's triathlon season in the Midwest, 2) I've been a USAT and WTC marshal for six years.  (Where has the time gone?)

If you are doing an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 race - remember that the rules are basically the same, the penalties are different.  Drafting = red card and 4:00 "rest" for your first and second occurrence.  DON'T urinate or defecate in the penalty tent. (Yes, it happens every year.)  Yellow card is every other violation - you check in at a penalty tent, tell them your name, you got a yellow card, your race number, resume racing.

FYI - I personally don't give a shit if I know you, don't know you, what country you are from, who you are friends with, what your name is... a penalty is a penalty.  Ask my friend Jeremy who got a yellow card from me in Kona last year.  It was a legit call.  No breaks for anyone - this isn't the NBA.

Here are the 10 most violated rules in USA Triathlon races from 2011: 

1. Helmets: Only helmets approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) may be used in USAT sanctioned events. Helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike. This means before, during, and after the event.

Penalty: Disqualification

Story - caught a guy (who races pro now) using a German skateboard helmet guts with homemade aeropanels and fraudulent CPSC stickers.  Fraud will earn you a USAT suspension. The WTC view on helmets is: Your helmet.  Your problem.  So if you crack your skull using some Chinese knockoff - it's your funeral (or paralysis).

2. Chin Straps: Chin straps must be buckled at all times when on a bicycle. DO NOT unbuckle your chin strap unless you are off your bicycle.

Penalty: Disqualification on the course; Variable time penalty in transition area only.

Story - this is the dumbest penalty in history and EVERY YEAR we get guys (mainly) unbuckling their helmet on the road. Don't do it.  Even if you have a bee in your helmet.  Stop first then remove the helmet.  It's very easy to see who has a bee in their helmet BTW, so if you get caught... sell it.

3. Outside Assistance: No assistance other than that offered by race and medical officials may be used. Triathlons and duathlons are individual tests of fitness.

Penalty: Variable time penalty

Story - EVERY year we see "personal aid stations" and most commonly - a spouse or friend running as a pacer. One of my athletes qualified for Kona because one of the women who "beat" her had her husband pacing her through the entire Ironman marathon.  Someone from the north shore of the Chicago area (who doesn't like this person) called the officials and she was disqualified from that race and removed from the start list of Kona that year, the following year and received a one year ban from all Ironman events.  Pretty steep penalty to pay for stupidity.

Story #2 - last year at Ironman Wisconsin a large coaching service was having it's coaches run with people from their program as well as handing up over-the-counter drugs (like psuedephed (sp?), Ibuprofen), food - PowerBars, Clif Bars, fluids.  This group got a personal invitation to a meeting with Ironman brass for Monday morning and several follow up calls.  Additionally, now this group is clearly "on the radar" for marshals who witnessed this (four of us). Dumb move. Every time I see that group I'll check them twice.

4. Transition Area: All equipment must be placed in the properly designated and individually assigned bike corral. The wheel of the bicycle must be down on the side of the assigned space. All participants must return their bicycles to an upright position in their designated bicycle corral. No person shall interfere with another participant’s equipment or impede the progress of another participant. All bar ends must be solidly plugged. No participant shall bring ANY glass containers into the transition area.

Penalty: Variable time penalty

Story - at a race in Wisconsin, I gave a penalty for a woman who didn't want to wait to get to her transition spot as her competition was all around her. So she threw her bike on the fence, got her shoes and ran out of transition without racking her bike.  She was bumped from 1st overall to 4th overall for her 'move'.  Dumb, since she won by :37 seconds and would have been fine if she waited 2-4 seconds. She was really pissed, but the women around her were quite happy that 'justice' was served.

5. Drafting: Drafting--keep at least three bike lengths (four bike lengths in WTC/Ironman/70.3 races) of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds (20 seconds in Ironman/70.3 races). Position--keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing. Blocking--riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass. Overtaken--once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.

Penalty: Variable time penalty

FYI - Once you ENTER a draft zone the only LEGAL way out is from the FRONT.  Pros get nailed on this all the time.  They surge up and then rest a little.

TIP - Regardless of how fast you are - ride on the right side of the road unless you are immediately passing someone.

TIP #2 - It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep a legal distance to the person you are immediately behind.  If a pack swallows you up... if you keep your distance as best you can, I can tell if you are trying versus "pressing on".  Ask the age group men at the pointy end of the field climbing to Hawi about keeping legal space. EVERYONE is trying to get position.  When we start that climb - I look for the guys who are not making ANY effort to ride cleanly.  Pretty easy to pick out those guys/gals really. 
6. Course: All competitors are required to follow the prescribed course and to stay within all coned lanes. Cutting the course is an obvious violation and going outside the course is a safety issue. Cyclists shall not cross a solid yellow center line for ANY reason. Cyclists must obey all applicable traffic laws at all times.

Penalty: Referee's discretion

TIP - don't cut the course - we use timing mats for a reason.  You WILL get nailed.  ALWAYS follow course volunteer instructions as they are in charge of your safety.

Story - had a cyclist go head to head with a full cement truck thinking he is "racing" and the cement truck would yield to him.  News flash to that guy... cement truck drivers working on a Saturday don't give a shit about your stupid triathlon clogging up their roads. In a battle of physics (cyclist vs. fully loaded cement truck) - give me the cement truck and the "over" (as in kill, dead, death, mop you up with a sponge, how would you like your remains displayed?).
7. Unsportsmanlike-Like Conduct: Foul, harsh, argumentative or abusive language or other unsportsmanlike conduct directed at race officials, USA Triathlon officials, volunteers, spectators or fellow athletes is forbidden.

Penalty: Disqualification

Tip: different marshals have different tolerances for language.  I draw the line at "Is this directed toward a person (ANY PERSON)?"  If yes, then penalty.  If I call a penalty on you and you scream, "AW THAT'S BULLSHIT!" (as one pro did) - I won't add on unless you direct it at me.  Say, "YOUR FULL OF SHIT!" and boom... penalty. Call another racer an "asshole" - even if they are - boom, penalty.

8. Headphones: Headphones, iPhones, mobile phones of any type, headsets, walkmans, ipods, mp3 players, or personal audio devices, etc. are not to be carried or worn at any time during the race.

Penalty: Variable time penalty

Tip: We've seen them all - even the flesh colored headphones.  Very easy penalty to call.  Get people every year. 

Busted a woman at Ironman Wisconsin who told me she was "tucking in her kids" when I was behind her and heard her asking whoever was on the other end, "How far back am I from the second qualifying spot?"  Confiscated phone and stand down penalty right there on the spot.  Argue with me and I hold you longer.

The issue is two fold: 1) pacing - easier to run when you have your favorite music pumping into your brain (easier to shut out the pain too), 2) safety - I've loaded too many people into ambulances because someone couldn't run a 10k without their Rhianna and was hit by a Honda mini-van when an impatient mommy had to get through the intersection and clips a race participant.  I've loaded race leaders, MOPers and BOPers. 

No music.

9. Race numbers: All athletes are required to wear race numbers at all times during the run. Numbers must face the front and be clearly visible at all times. Numbers may not be cut or folded or altered in any way. DO NOT transfer your number to any other athlete or take a number from an athlete that is not competing.   **NOTE: Ironman and 70.3 races you need to bike with the number on as well.**

Penalty: Variable time penalty for missing or altered number, Disqualification and one year suspension from membership in USAT for transferring a number without race director permission.

TIP: if you lose your number due to high winds or a crash - tell the marshals you see so we DON'T penalize you.

10. Wetsuits: Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wetsuit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 degrees but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wetsuit at their own discretion, provided, however that participants who wears a wetsuit within such temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Above 84 degrees, wetsuits are prohibited.
**NOTE: IRONMAN / 70.3 races the water temp is 76.0 F**TIP: Yes, we look at EVERY swim exit picture to ensure you didn't cut down a DeSoto T1 wetsuit to look like jammers (men).  Ask the guy who got DQ'd and removed from the Vegas World Championship last year.  Dumbass cracker.
11. Abandonment: All personal equipment and belongings taken out onto the course must stay on the athlete the entire time. No garbage, clothing, etc. shall be thrown on the course.

Penalty: Variable time penalty

TIP: if you brought it with you it must come back with you - or be disposed of at an aid station. Seriously... just drop it at an aid station.  How hard is that?

Variable Time Penalties

Story: My friend Jeff Zematis won a race by 3:58.  He dropped (launched) a water bottle somewhere on the bike course and was unaware he did it.  Got a penalty for 4:00 and lost by :02.  It was a legit call, but it sucks to lose a race that way.  Jeff would have picked up his bottle had he known he lost it. 

Lastly - three penalties in ANY federation gets you a DQ from that race.

Have fun!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Losing a Parent & Florida 70.3 (the streak ends)

For the last eight years this week has been about two things, 1) my dad's birthday, and 2) the Florida 70.3.  Baring a miracle, there is less than 1% chance that I'll be on the starting line Sunday.  Instead, I'll be reading the newspaper to my father in either the ICU or hospice which is far more important. 

I hope for safe/easy travels, perfect weather and great competition to all those going to the Florida 70.3.  "Z" puts on a great race and I will miss seeing my central Florida friends.  Judging from my email inbox, my friends understand.  There will be other races.

While I am extremely sad about the prospect of losing dad, my faith knows that he will be in a better place and he will be home again.  What I am extremely thankful for is the time I've been able to have with him and the lessons he taught me.  Moving forward I have a choice, door 1) live and be happy for the time we had together, or 2) be miserable.  I'll choose door one as hard as it seems right now. 

It's never easy losing a person we love, but I believe those who go before us would want us to live and be great.  Especially my dad.  Before this blog goes even more soft, I give you some principles my father taught me:

1) Nothing pays off like hard work and perseverance.

- When we were kids going to a Bulls or Blackhawks game, my dad would drive us through the ghetto in Chicago to show us what other people had or did not have.  He would tell us to remember what we saw.  From the time we were little, we heard, "You WILL go to college and you WILL graduate in four years." My brother and I both graduated from good schools; Mike - Iowa, me - Missouri and soon Notre Dame.

2) Stay in school. Nobody can ever take away your education, be it in life experience or formal education.

- See #1.

3) You have to like the man you see in the mirror and follow his principles.

4) Pay your bills on time.

5) Save money when you can, but make sure you are getting quality.

6) Mind your own affairs.

- Keep your own nose clean before criticizing others.

7) Be thankful for what you have as there are others who are less fortunate.

- It doesn't take long to hear about what you "don't have".  Make sure not to overlook what you do have.

8) Take responsibility for your own actions.

- Own whatever you do regardless of the results.

9) Have fun where ever you are.  Everything can be a game if you choose.

- I remember "shooting baskets" with garbage in the garage and the "agony of defeat".

10) You can always figure "it" out if you just keep trying.

- I remember one exercise I must have done 15 times before I got it right, but when I did, I did it exceptionally well.  I have an additional memory about math lessons and spelling lessons.

On the lighter side...
11) Getting up early to make breakfast for everyone before they get up... may CAUSE everyone to wake up.

- Here's to the 'busted chainsaw' that is my dad in the kitchen at 5am on vacation.

12) No awesome accomplishment cannot be brought down to Earth - quickly.

- I was fishing with my dad in Wisconsin and he caught a MONSTER largemouth bass.  This thing was about 7 lbs.  It was an awesome fight and we landed the fish fairly quickly.  This meant the fight wasn't over for the bass.  (I guess he didn't understand we were going to take his picture and release him.) The bass ferociously shook his head and buried the hook which had been in the jaw of the bass into the thumb of my dad.  The hook was so deep that it looked like a straight piece of steel - the hook and barb buried in the middle of his thumb.  We took pictures of the fish.  Released him unharmed.  Then took an 18 mile drive to the nearest hospital in Minocqua where the hook removal was a routine and daily occurrence near the heavily fished lakes.

13) Good donuts and coffee are a nutritious breakfast.  Enter, the apple fritter.

Love you dad.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tomorrow is Promised to Nobody

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that my dad had a stroke.  The doctor who nobody likes, Dr. G, the one who wakes his patients up at 3:45, 4:15 and 5:15 am to ask them how they are, told us it was a "minor stroke".  (The nurses tell him to go away daily.)  Dad could walk, feed himself, talk. Looked reasonably ok.

Dad has slowly backslid, which makes me wonder if there are other complications - did the bleeding stop?  Is there something else?  CT scans aren't perfect.  As of right now, dad is in the ICU on a ventilator and several meds coursing into him.  We have changed attending physicians.  Dr. W, the new attending spent 35 minutes with my mother and aunt explaining everything and answering all their questions.  Dr. G, his nurses and 'professional' staff didn't return phone calls, pages, emails and pleas for information.

While I was talking with mom last night among the whir of the ventilator and quiet hum of the various things linked to my dad, I saw a familiar face.  One of the guys from cycling.  His wife, who I ride with "A" was with him in a hospital gown.  She WON a race on Sunday (honestly, I don't remember a race she "lost" - it's been that long in duathlon) and Sunday night had a stroke. She is 37.  They walked with their two year old daughter in the hall.  "A" said, "I'm fine. I want to go home."  She is two rooms over from my dad.  In "A's" race Sunday?  She ran the first two miles averaging 6:29/mile.  Then biked 18 miles at 21.5 mph and finished the next two mile run at 6:52/mile.  Winning her age group by a touchdown and 2-point conversion - 8:00 and change!!! 

Tomorrow is promised to nobody. 

I'm very glad that since returning from working in Madison, WI last year I've been able to hang out with my dad a lot more.  We've had some cool meals together, hit casinos (where lately my dad has won a little more than lost - rare when you go to a casino), walked Greta in the dog park and went fishing multiple times.  I really want him to recover and do more things with him.  That is not in my hands (or his). 

Whatever is ahead, dad did a great job and prepared us well for life.

"Go for it now.  The future is promised to nobody." - Wayne Dyer

Friday, May 4, 2012

Catching Up

A not-so-quick update on what has been going on.

Spraying to all fields to use a baseball term.

Dad Update:
My father had a stroke that was deemed “minor” (anything medical is minor if it isn’t you). So, I did not go to swim Masters State in Wisconsin as planned. Kinda bummed about that. I haven’t done a swim meet in 10 years. Since, he has had brain swelling, a brain biopsy, MERCA, the left side of his body is “busted” as dad told me and his voice/language is barely decipherable from Portuguese. Dad can still throw a ball with his right hand and enjoys messing with medical technicians, nurses and my mother. Doing things such as humming in the same pattern as the CAT scan or MRI machine, deliberately trying to confuse my mother and printing his cardiac strip in the nurses station to “keep them on their toes and get my money’s worth”. I asked my dad if I should cancel my vacation and stay with him. His response (as only my dad can say it), “You gonna hold my hand? Don’t be ridiculous. Go on vacation. I’ll still be here when you get back.” Dad has been in the hospital going on six weeks now. In and out of ICU and rehabilitation. The doctor in my humble opinion sucks rotten eggs. He woke my dad up at 3:15am when he started his rounds to ask him how he was doing. That doc would have been junk punched if I was sleeping in the hospital that night. He has a long way to go in order to get back to “normal”, but in the grand scheme of strokes – he hasn’t been bad. My wife’s uncle Lon and my friend Gina’s brother have literally been to hell and back – (maybe more than once). We are still feeling lucky at this point, but “luck” isn’t what I’d call it.
Who goes on a 12 day cruise vacation and doesn’t gain weight? Me! Didn’t gain 0.1 of a pound. How? I ate off the “spa menu”; plenty of water, fish, fruit, vegetables. No added salt and prepared fresh daily. Nothing processed or preserved.

My in-laws and Lorrie and I are celebrating wedding anniversaries, my fathter-in-law and I are celebrating birthdays.  Should I go on a cruise 28 days before a half Ironman?  No.  Did I?  Yes.  Will I survive?  Yes.  Perspective is firmly in place.  Go on trips when everyone is healthy - not for the ideal moment in your "schedule".  Screw the schedule.  Live.

Workouts were water running, running, 5x 1 hour or so at aerobic pace in the spin classes on board, swimming – 10 days at about 30 minutes of strong intervals after a 5 minute warm up, two open water ocean swims and one 1 hour SUP (stand up paddleboard) session. I really enjoyed the SUP. What a fun workout! I didn’t “dump” myself off the board until I got really hot. Even paddled through some large waves from the ship’s tenders. I’m sure that’s a “mundane sports achievement”, but it was pretty cool. I saw a H-U-G-E barracuda eating smaller fish. This fish had to be 4’ long and REALLY REALLY FAST. Holy crap was this fish fast. I went to get my waterproof camera and proceeded to dump myself right on top of him/her. Boom! Gone like it was shot out of a rifle. I worked extremely hard from October up to this cruise and weathered the physical challenge fairly well. I felt that 12 days of “easy” workouts would be great before my last training push before the Florida 70.3 (my ninth race in a row there). It’s a new location and course. I’m not sure what to expect. I heard Simon Whitfield express this very well recently. I’m going to Florida to “express” my fitness. Nothing more. My fitness is “better”. It is not “good”. Considering what is going on with dad… I’ll be happy just to finish and catch a few rays of sun with my mind off of dad’s situation.

Emerald Princess docked in lovely Grenada. Princess has always treated me like a king.
 The one thing that “training” in the Caribbean on the Emerald Princess (and islands we visited) did for me… it reminded me in no uncertain terms how heat can make a 9:00/mile pace a 9:30 pace very quickly. Before the rest on the cruise, my heel and knee were really bugging me. I think I really needed the rest and massage. Random thought… running with a GPS on a ship – try it and then UPLOAD the course. Enjoy the circles you ran over the ocean. I stopped at x00 laps of the ship – 13 times around is a mile and I ran for a “normal” run week for me (mostly on the running track). 3x around on the Promenade Deck is 1 mile, but I didn’t do a lot there because people were sleeping just below that deck. While I was up at 5:30am running – I’m pretty sure most folks didn’t want to be up then.  xx miles later - cruise running accomplished. Too bad folks didn't get up early! They missed seeing pilot whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and spectacular at sea sunrises which have no equivalent on land. (Readers note: I only saw one sunset. We opted for the early dinner and it was setting when we were eating.) Once we rounded Cuba and were “officially” in the Caribbean and not the North Atlantic I grabbed a rum drink and all I could think about is Johnny Depp saying, “Welcome to the Caribbean!”

Welcome to the Caribbean! Rum?

Princess Cruises
Speaking of… this was my seventh cruise with Princess Cruises (52 days at sea with Princess). Princess has always been really good to me; great food, service, fun and a diverse crowd. I think we only had 18 kids (18 and under) on a 2,800-person passenger load ship. Our service was exceptional – even for Princess. Cannot wait to go on my next cruise! I love the ocean and being out on my balcony just listening to the ship part the ocean at 18 knots (19.1 mph) and starring up at the sky.

The Ocean
I can watch these every morning and evening.  Awesome.

How do you commute?

Avg flower...
 The ocean gives new meaning to daily life for me. It reminds me of how small we are and how unimportant stressors in life really are. The ocean doesn’t care what is on TV or who said what on Facebook or Twitter. While those medium are important for human communication, they are only important to a point that we place on them (which shouldn’t be much in my opinion.)

The other thing I learned on the cruise… women in their 50s really are proud of their breast enhancements. We (Lorrie and I) had a great laugh when a woman around 50 was walking around the market in Bonaire with a TIGHT and SMALL white bikini top and TIGHT and SMALL shorts. Next to her was a 30-40 year old woman and let’s just say parts moved as they should. The 50 year old woman… nothing moved, bounced or shifted. Whatever makes you feel good I guess. Her breasts looked ridiculously hard. Ladies – imagine shoving D sized rocks in your chest that rise up to your collarbone. Like I said, ridiculous. I should point out that its not like I went looking for these. This woman practically ran me over headed for a bar and bruised my back with her fake breastesess. They must be new, because she wore inappropriate attire all week and it looks like they are still “sitting high” on her chest. Like walking around downtown Chicago today… all the 40-55 year old women were wearing short skits, animal prints, snake skin dresses, high heels. Is there something I missed? Age and size inappropriate clothing is great for another blog topic. Ladies… I know that the media says your should be thin like Paris Hilton (no thanks) or slutty like Kim Kardashian (pass), however, the sexiest woman is one who is happy in her own skin and personality. Someone who is confident in her own style and someone who is intelligent.

Speaking of intelligent…

Once you use this product you will never use a different one.
KINeSYS Sunscreen took the BEATING that is the Caribbean sun and did just fine. Matter of fact… I wore KINeSYS 30 spf (from the spray bottle) and didn’t get burned at all and my skin is exceptional. I wore the sunscreen everyday and was one of only a handful of people not to look like a cooked lobster.
Gretski the Great Golden Retriever
When we returned home, we went from airport to Indiana (Macintosh Goldens) where Greta spent her “spring break” being a dog with her sisters. They ran around the farm chasing birds. Got muddy. Sniffed each other’s butts and crap. Slept in a dog pile. Greta even got to see her mom for the first time since she was 8 weeks old. I have no idea if she recognized her relatives, but I’d like to think that they have some kind of familiarity sense there. On the last day Greta got a full “show treatment” – fur and nails. She looks great. When we got there she RAN to us and practically fell down wiggling with excitement. Since returning home she cannot get enough walking, retrieving and dog piling Lorrie and I.
A show ready golden retriever.
See you at the gym or on the road... I'll be the one gasping for air.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Helmets, Sun Sreen and (Un)Common Sense

As we transition into full outdoor training and racing mode, a quick reminder about sun screen and helmets.

SUN SCREEN: My favorite sun screen is KINeSYS.  Oil free.  Alcohol free.  Doesn't hold heat in (like a large brand sunscreen) AND (wait for it...) WORKS!  KINeSYS is such a great product that it literally does it all - green product, blocks the damaging sun rays, family owned company, American company.

I've used KINeSYS since it was first available commercially.  I HIGHLY recommend you use it.  Protect your skin and your health.  You don't want to look like an elephant when you are 50.

Use KINeSYS sun screen and DON'T look like this when you are 50.
HELMETS:  Every year around this time I see parents riding their bike with their kids and it makes me feel good... until I realize that the parents are not wearing a helmet while little Suzie or Johnny is wearing everything but an armored car.  Another scene I see at triathlons are athletes riding their bike up to a transition area with a large bag or backpack of stuff for a triathlon with NO HELMET ON.  Genius!  Had one person with their helmet clipped on their bag last year.  I guess they wanted to make sure that if they take a spill their gels won't break open.

USAT allows marshals to DQ any athlete BEFORE OR AFTER the competition for riding without a helmet.  It is basic risk management at the simplest level.

Risk reduction

Risk reduction or "optimization" involves reducing the severity of the loss or the likelihood of the loss from occurring.

Always wear a helmet.  You have one brain.  Protect it.

As cute as this looks... what would happen if they fell?  
Riding Outside:  Now that we are back outside riding... a public service announcement.

Assume all drivers are drunk, high, texting (distracted), angry, in a rush, have a loaded weapon in the car and HATE cyclists.

They are not LOOKING for you.
They do not EXPECT you.
They DON'T CARE about you.
They don't SEE you.
Assume you are "invisible" to drivers.

This is a very real possibility every time you go for a ride.

Nothing is worth your death.
Take my word for it.  Getting hit by a Chevy Tahoe hurts (drunk, 25 year old woman at 5:38 pm on a Thursday).

Watch out for YOU.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

7th Annual Cycle for ALS

This is the seventh year since I started doing a ride for ALS.  No one in my family has ever had ALS.  Several people in my triathlon family have had ALS.  Things to understand about ALS:

1) No treatment

2) No survivors

3) If affects endurance athletes at an alarmingly high rate

Thank you to Village CycleSport in Arlington Heights, IL, Runner's High 'n Tri in Arlington Heights, IL and all the folks who made the extra effort to drive up and see us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roots (back to my)

Around the holidaze, a lot of the guys I used to swim with were around Chicago visiting family and friends.  I’ve said in previous blog entries that my “new year” begins after Kona in October.  Kona is my end of the year.  My Christmas.  My New Year’s Day.  Whatever you want to call it.  My 2011 “season” (if you could call it a season) really ended with the local races I did in Madison.  You know the kind.  The ones where they control finishing order with recycled popsicle sticks with hand written numbers on them.  We had some conversations on where we are currently, where we are going and of course where we have been. 

Everyone had their plan of action for their particular goals (or at least a buzzed up version of one).  What struck me wasn’t where we each were planning to take our families, career or athletics (in whatever state they currently are in).  Nope, what struck me is how each guy or gal I talked to discussed the mental toughness that they needed to maintain to be successful and how they learned that in our previous years of swimming. 

The most exciting thing that has come out of that is the support and encouragement of each other from whatever corner of the globe the guys are in.  Ironically, this has been over Facebook to the largest extent.  Roughly 90% in the form of instant messages; Ironic because at the beginning of the year I felt Facebook was largely a giant waste of time.  But I was wrong.  It’s a waste if you post crap or take the time to read crap.  (I have a lot of friends and former colleagues who have ‘unique’ causes and opinions.)  I don’t get into those conversations anymore mainly because I’m more focused on my goals and encouraging my closest chums on their goals versus arguing left or right politically or religiously.  To be honest, I don’t care what you believe as long as you don’t kill anyone for your beliefs, obey the law, and you pay your taxes.  That is off topic.

My roots are in swimming and running.  Eat, sleep and breathe the sport.  According to my coach I’m a “runner with a vague interest in triathlon”… well, we have some work to do there. 

What comes into play is how “back in the day” the guys I swam and ran with were “stone cold killers” in competition and workouts.  What many people thought was great we thought was mediocre.  Right there is the difference.  One swim comes to mind when Gregg won the 400 IM by several “touchdowns” (long course meters) and broke the state record.  About five minutes later he was also top seed in the 50.  Gregg won easily, but got out of the water seriously pissed off because he missed his own state record by .03 seconds.  What some will say is that he should be happy with the “win”.  He was.  He was also mad that he didn’t swim his best 50, because EVEN TIRED he felt he could swim better. 

All the guys on the teams I swam on demanded more of each other.  You'd swim a pretty good time and then the guys would give you a hard time for missing a turn or being "left" on the blocks.  You make the all-academic team (not me) and the guys give you shit for getting a B+ in Philosophy.  (One of the guys on my team got all A's and one B+.  The class he got a B+ in was one where several of us (including me) got an A.  The team never let him live that down.  He was the best student on our team.  He probably didn't even study for the B+ where we did for our As.  Still... you can do better.)

Those are the expectations of myself.  Not necessarily to break records and win, but to have higher expectations of myself in my self-discipline, how hard I’m willing to push myself in sets, sessions and weeks of work outs.  The “swimming mentality” has been re-established in me, but I’m applying it across three sports.  The only goal is my fitness and overall health.  The funny thing is realizing that

I remembered how tough we were on ourselves.

Saturday, I protested the main set as “too easy” and everyone in the pool looked at me like I was on drugs; everyone except those who are hard core swimmers/triathletes.  This time of year a “main set” for people who can do 15x 100 on 1:25 and hold 1:15 or better should NOT be 5x 200 on 3:20.  So we changed it to 4x 200 on 6:00.  The idea of the set is to swim at full power.  Zone 5c+.  I wasn’t swimming very well and still went a 2:2x 200 IM, 2:0X 200 Free, 2:3X 200 Breast (2x) from a push (no blocks and at the end of 4,000 yards.)  If you never swim 100%+ in practice you will never swim 100% in races.  (Same goes for cycling and running.  Just ask my computrainer class at Village Cycle.)

The biggest change is how I’m looking at my own workout results and “what my definition of good” is. 

I challenge you to look at your own workouts with an eye on the very best guys/gals you know.  How about the guys/gals in your age group in Kona?  Why not compare yourself against the best and try to achieve more?  When Peter Reid was the Ironman World Champ, he was in my age group.  Sure, he kicked my ass, but I looked for similarities in our workouts and training habits.  Then I tried to improve on what I was doing.  Before you go ape, I know that some folks are just “freaks”.  Super talents and no matter how much effort you put in it is HIGHLY unlikely that any of us mortals will get to that level.  Case in point – Michael Jordan.  It doesn’t mean you can’t compare yourself and try to learn from his training habits and shorten your learning curve.  This is a topic I’ve been beating like a drum with my clients lately.  What CAN you do?  How can you mirror what a champion is doing?  It comes down to this – you may fail to reach the stars, but then you’ll still reach the moon. 

Pro athletes are still just people.  Many have superior talent or skill – but they are still human.  I’ve always believed that hard work can get you in the ballpark if you believe in yourself and have superior fitness.  (Ballpark may be gigantic… but you have to remember where you came from.)

Demand more of yourself.
Do one more.

Nobody ever drown in sweat.