2016 Year in Review

Well, now that the 2016 season is over I figured it would be a good time to write up a little recap. Usually I write things up and give a little info on each race but I think this year I will do it all in pictures! 2016 was a great year for me racing but it was an even better year for me personally! So hope you enjoy!

HUGE thanks to my family and friends for supporting me and giving me all the encouragement anyone could ask for during the year.

And thanks to my many amazing sponsors/partners for helping me during the season!

EGO

Sammys Bikes

Jonnyo Coaching

Wattie Ink

Catlike Helmets

Vitargo Nutrition

SLF Motion

ICE Friction Chains

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Started the season with 2nd Overall at the Thunder in the Valley Olympic

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Trying to be as aero and fast as possible

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Beach starts are pretty fun!

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1st Overall at Toughman Indiana!

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Married my sweetheart!

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Dance the night away!

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Donut bar…if you know me this makes PERFECT sense

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Cool sunset in Maui

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Even the rocks are cool!

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Did a bit of training in Kona too.

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Think this was Lake Michigan’s first ever non-wetsuit race!

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Some fun before the start

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1st AG and 2nd Overall at Steelhead 70.3

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That race was TOUGH! Left it all out on course.

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Back to back wins at Chicago Triathlon!

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The shoes make me look fast!

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Head down and run through the pain

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The Cubs won the World Series!!!

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And the parade was so cool…well until we almost got trampled…

Chi Tri…Back to Back!

The few weeks leading up to the Chicago Triathlon went pretty fast. I was coming off of a 2nd overall finish at Steelhead 70.3, I started preseason for soccer, and I was getting in the mode to get back to teaching. The summer was officially over but I took it all in stride. The big question I got a lot of the time from friends and family was “do you feel pressure to repeat”? That question always confused me a bit because even though I won last year and had some good results this year, winning a race overall is still something I am getting used to. But my answer was “not really”. But in reality I felt a bit of pressure. After winning last year my school district got wind of it and honored me at a school board meeting so my co-workers were now behind me! So that meant that I WANTED to win. But I also knew that, like with all races, I do not know who is racing the race so my goal was to race hard and put myself in good position to win the race. If it happened and I won, great!, but if I wasn’t able to pull if off I would be ok with it as long as I left it all out on the course.

Race morning went well, woke up even earlier than normal for my 6:04 start time but I never really sleep well the night before a race because I am always worried that my alarm, well 4 different alarms, won’t go off or I will forget something, or my car won’t work. Got to the race early to set up transition then headed to the swim start with my wife. We waited, and waited, and waited. The weather was nice and the biggest question I had was which goggles to wear…mirrored or a slight tint?! If you were wondering I went slight tint since the sun wasn’t up yet and I would not be looking into the sun. I think I made a good decision on that one…

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The Chicago Triathlon is HUGE so starting in the “Premier” wave is great because we get to start in the second wave and basically have the course open on the bike…but not so much on the swim! The swim starts with an out and back but when you turn back there are only buoys separating the out section to the back section. So if you, or other swimmers, are not sighting the best or not paying attention it is not out of the question to run into someone going the opposite direction as you. And that almost happened a few times. Made it out of the water in 22:01 which was ok for me but wish I could’ve broken 22 minutes. Started the nice LONG run to transition and got my Wattie Ink kit zipped up and tried to go as fast and comfortable as I could.

Got on the bike and started to push immediately. The course was nice and open and the ride on Lake Shore Drive was smooth for the most part because they repaved last year. But once we got down to Lower Wacker and the likes it got rough. The combo of going from sunlight to dark made seeing the potholes, even though they were marked, hard to see. At one point I started riding with another rider and we were taking turns up front which is always a nice break. Pushed a few more miles then I went into a turn and boom! My basebar slipped straight down so that my extensions were pointing to the ground. I was pretty annoyed but also happy that I didn’t crash! I had to stop for a few seconds to fix them which meant I lost the guy I was riding with. Once I got them fixed I wanted to push and see if I could catch back up. Ended up making my way back up to catch one rider but the guy I was riding with was about 45 seconds ahead heading into T2 where I had another adventure!

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Because my basebar slipped and my not so perfect fix didn’t get them straight I dismounted but the combo of sweat and a slight angle of the bar caused me to slip off and land HARD on my toes. I saved myself from falling but had a volunteer yell that my shoe came off me pedal. So I put my bike down, got the shoe, got my bike, then ran to transition to get ready to run. My immediate thought was my toe was going to be all nasty and bloody from the slip. Thankfully no blood but I did something bad to that toe because it is still swollen and bothering me today!

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I headed out on the run and my dad told me I was about 45 seconds back to first. I pushed the pace early to try to close that gap as fast as I could but also pushed it to get a gap on anyone behind me. I knew there were a few people close so I wanted to put some more time in to them early in the run if I could. After about a half mile I could see the leader up ahead and knew that I would pass him shortly. But I wanted to make sure I was racing my race and kept pushing because I had no idea who was behind me and how close people were. Made the pass and now I had my own lead cyclist! It is always a cool feeling having someone lead you out.

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But on I went. I felt I was pushing hard but my pace was not where I wanted it to be. It was kind of disappointing but I knew I was giving it all I had so I wasn’t really worrying about pace. I got to the half turn around and saw I had a nice little gap. I so badly wanted to ease up a bit but I also wanted to run faster and get this race over with! Once I got to the mile mark I figured I had it in the bag so I started singing Drake “Back to Back” in my head for a few seconds. Then the pain came back! Got to the final 200 meters and had the finish area to myself. I saw my wife and mom and waved at them. Zipped up my kit and pushed on through. I grabbed the finisher banner and was ecstatic to repeat. Even though this race does not have a pro race it is still really cool to say I am a 2x winner of the Chicago Triathlon!

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The only bad to come from that race was my toe is still not right. But whatever. Happy to end my triathlon season with a win and now time to get ready for the Chicago Marathon in a few weeks!

2015 Chicago Marathon: A Painful PR

Well I found this in my draft folder from last year. I guess a week away from this year’s marathon is good as any to post it!

My season race season is over. After last week’s Chicago Marathon I have had time to rest, relax, and enjoy some downtime…and a lot of food! I had this race pegged as a great chance to really crush my marathon PR and to end the season on a bang. I was able to lower my PR by 4 minutes and end the season well but I still wish I did better.

After my win at the Chicago Triathlon my coach and I adjusted to A LOT of running. I figured all the miles and runs I had done since USAT Nationals then Chicago Triathlon would get me into the shape needed to run my goal, 2:40. But after about 15 miles my legs were already starting to rebel and told me a 2:40 was not in the cards! I had the lungs for the 2:40 but my legs just didn’t have enough miles in them to go that fast for that long.

Steelhead 70.3 Report: All aboard…Choo Choo!

Starting this season I had a few goals. I wanted to continue to improve my racing and take it to the next level and compete more in the overall racing rather than just my age group. Another goal, the main goal, was to qualify for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga. I raced the 2011 70.3 WC in Vegas by getting a roll down slot and it was a great experience but in reality I had no business being there in my first season of racing. Well the title kind of gives it away but goal accomplished!

Leading up to the race I knew I had some good fitness in my legs. I was coming off two good Olympic distance races and felt that with the proper taper I could race really well and secure my 70.3 WC spot. I drove up Saturday morning with my wife and sister and the ride was pretty easy. We stayed at our family friends house with some other athletes so it was a fun and laid back day before race.

As usually woke up crazy early to eat my pop tart, drink my ensure and espresso, then head over to the race to wait…and wait…and wait…until my wave started. It was nice seeing fellow teammates, Lauren and Chris, before the race start and we joked about what might be the first ever race in Lake Michigan that was a non-wetsuit swim! I heard someone call that out when I was walking in and thought it was a joke. But nope! It was the truth. I wasn’t really that worried because there was nothing to do about it but roll with it and adjust a few time goals. I wanted to try to go sub 4:10 but knew it would be close and with the non wetsuit swim I thought that was not in the cards but I was fine with that.

Got in the water and the water felt really good. As with every race the last few years I had a few thoughts in mind. “find feet” and “push the swim”. Well I started off well and tried to find feet. Found feet, lost feet, found more feet, lost more feet. The swim was pretty uneventful until the last 10 minutes when my hip flexors start to tighten a bit. That was not the feeling I wanted this early in the race. But it’s a long day so nothing to do but look forward! Got out of the water in around 31 minutes and 14th in my AG which was split into two waves.

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Ran through transition and saw Ryan and my family which is always a nice surprise. Got on the bike and my legs felt good! Starting in a late wave meant I would, hopefully, be passing people the whole 56 miles. The course was pretty busy but there were only a few spots that were a bit crazy. Got in a nice groove and stayed on top of nutrition and hydration. Miles were ticking off. I was trying to do mental math on how fast I was going. I was hoping to bike around a 2:18 as Best Bike Split had predicted but because I lap every 10 miles all I saw on my Garmin was 10 miles splits. And trying to add 24 minutes and divide for 10 miles then multiply to get 56 miles was WAY too much for me so I just rolled with it. Pushed the pace until the end and I think this might have been my first 70.3 race where no one passed me on the bike which was pretty cool. There is a little no pass zone right before transition so I clicked over to see my time and saw a 2:12! Wow, better than I thought. So that 4:10 was back in play! Here is my bike file for anyone who wants to check it out. I biked a 2:14:08 and got myself up into 7th in my AG and 16th Overall.

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I did a little math and figured if I could run around a 1:20, which was another season goal, I would be really close to that 4:10. The first mile and a half of the course was mainly up”hill” but nothing steep outside of a punchy one a mile in. Started out a bit too fast but things were feeling good so I went with it. Got in a nice groove and started passing people. I tried to pay attention to age numbers on the calves but most were wiped off from the wetsuit or sweat. I also knew that with the split waves an starting in the 2nd wave I just needed to pass everyone to be safe. I saw Ryan again right before the sucky hill on the loop and asked him if he knew where I was. He couldn’t tell because of the split waves so it was just time to leave it out there.

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Got onto lap 2 and saw Lauren crushing the run. We said “hi” but that is when things started to fall apart. The 2nd lap of the run felt like someone turned the sun way up. It might not have been that hot but the sun made me feel like death. Got to the magical 3 miles to go mark and I tried to pick it up a bit. The course ends the same as it starts so the last mile and a half was mostly downhill which would be great. Well that’s is when it started to get REAL! My hamstrings wanted to cramp and I felt like I wanted to pass out. Looking back at the run file I can see why…my heart rate was above 180 for the last 10 minutes! I don’t think I have seen it that high since a 5k race last year. Got down the finisher chute and about fell on the ground. Ended up with a 1:21:21 run splits good for 2nd best on the day.

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Saw my family shortly after and my dad told me he thought I had won the AG but the tracking wasn’t updating as fast. After a few minutes if was official. I can’t say I was the happiest person in the world because I felt terrible but I was happy I was going to the 70.3 World Championships! Ended up with a time of 4:11:14 good for 2nd Overall and an AG win. Now time to rest up and get ready for my tri season finale at the Chicago Triathlon.

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Big thanks for my wife, parents, and sister for coming to watch me race! It makes things a lot more fun when they are there to watch! Thanks to EGO p/b Sammys Bikes for helping to support me and believe in me! Thanks to Catlike HelmetsWattie InkICE Friction Chains, and SLF Motion for making my bike leg the fastest and most efficient it can be!

Lake Zurich Triathlon: Back to Racing!

I got married on June 10th! I set up my season to have a few races before the wedding because not only did I have my wedding but I also had back to back weddings leading up to mine so those weeks were dedicated to my friends’ weddings! Then we went on our honeymoon the Monday after our wedding. And it was AMAZING! Then when I got home it was back to reality…well sort of reality, I am a teacher so “reality” in the summer is basically training and trying to pretend like I clean our apartment. (sorry Jessica!)

I got back to training but realized I needed a carrot before my next scheduled race, Steelhead 70.3 August 14th. So I signed up for two local Oly races and last Sunday was the first in Lake Zurich. My coach was ok with the races but made sure to let me know we would not be resting for them since our priority is Steelhead and the Chicago Triathlon. I didn’t think much of the no rest part until about mile 3 of the run. But more of that later!

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The Lake Zurich Tri is a great race. Good local feel with a fun course. We started the swim and I tried to get off to a fast start but with a beach start that made it more difficult. Dove in to dolphin dive and my goggles moved and filled with water so I had to turn over to fix them. Not too bad but still annoying. Ended up swimming alone for most of the swim and came out next to someone in 4th place.

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Got on the bike and tried to push it. My Catlike helmet makes thing nice and easy in transition because it is easy to get on and has a visor so no need for glasses! The course was nice and open for the first 10 miles until I caught the tail end of the sprint field. It was around that time someone came up and passed me. It was a nice change since he was going the same speed as me so we rode the rest of the ride together, legally of course! It was also nice that there were marshals out on course giving penalties…take note WTC! Got off the bike in 3rd place and was ready to run the first two down! The Wattie Ink kit still amazes me. Super comfy and seems to be pretty fast as well. Having the ICE Friction chain on the bike makes thing smooth and quiet! And it saves me some watts!

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Got out on the run and tried to quickly catch the first two people. I passed one person about a mile in and tried to keep pushing but just did not have that extra gear. I finished the first loop and my wife and sister told me I was in 1st. I got a bit confused because I only saw one person I passed but then on the second loop the RD told me I was in first. Sorry Jessica and Tess! I tried to stay in control but pick up the pace but still did not have the legs. Oh well. I rounded the final turn and kicked it in as best I could for the win!

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But the finish was not without controversy, or confusion is a better word. The RD came up to congratulate me and asked about the course. We spoke for a few minutes then I went over to get some water and watch my dad, who came in 4th in his AG in his first official Oly race! Then a volunteer came up to apologize because he thought he told me the wrong lap but that was no biggie. He then said I was 2nd and someone came in about a minute ahead of me. That confused all of us because my wife and sister KNEW no one came in ahead of me because they knew who was ahead of me at the start of the run. After a few hours of waiting for the official results we finally realized that I had indeed won! Now time to keep up the training because I have the Wauconda Triathlon next Sunday and hopefully it goes similar to Lake Zurich!

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Two weeks, two races, one win

Well I opened up my triathlon race season last Saturday in Indiana. I raced the 31st Thunder in the Valley Olympic race. It was a pretty good race all in all and a decent start to the season but I still was hoping for better!

Woke up at 5:30 and it was 40 and a bit misty. So not the best weather to do a triathlon in! I got to the start with plenty of time to spare. Racked my bike and got everything in order. The sun was coming out a bit, thankfully, but it was still 45 and starting to get windy. I made the decision to get in the warm 67 degree water to warm up a bit and get out of the cold air temperature. Well the 15 minutes of warm up/floating turned in to about 25 because of a delay in the start. So needless to say I started shivering after a while.

I wanted to really push the swim and get on some feet to see if I could get some good drafting. This race was a 2 loop swim so it felt like an ITU race which was pretty cool. Got off to a good start and just started to swim. Nice and steady. Got done with 1 lap feeling good then ran around the grass to start the 2nd lap. I was able to follow feet for a little while but never got in a groove since people were so spread out. I got out of the water with a time of 19:49, I think the swim was short! I was in 4th place out of the water and had the 8th fastest swim time of the day. It was my first swim with my Xterra Vengeance wetsuit and that thing felt good!

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Got into transition and got my helmet on and put some gloves on. My hands go numb really fast so I didn’t want that to happen. I tried to exit with someone else but lost a bit of time with the gloves. Once we got out on the course I could tell it was very windy. And not just windy but very gusty as well which makes for some nerve wrecking riding! The out section was pretty smooth and fast but coming back was brutal. Very windy and I was getting pretty cold at that point but also VERY happy I had gloves on. Ended up with a 5 minute POSITIVE split because of wind and cold and biked a 1:02:52 which is about 5 minutes slower than I should’ve been. Got off the bike in 2nd place and had the 3rd fastest split of the day. My new Catlike helmet felt great and I LOVED the visor!

My new ICE Friction chain is keeping my ride silky smooth and saving me watts!

Now it was time to run as fast as I could! But first I had to get my shoes on. And that is easier said than done. The first shoe went decently well but I had to kneel down and take a few deep breathes to get the 2nd one on since I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. I also tried to clip my race belt on but that wasn’t working so I had to just put it on over my head. But I guess you have to roll with the punches! I tried not to look at my watch too much because I just wanted to run off feel and see what that did for me. It seemed that every time I looked at my watch it was saying 6 min/mile so that was a bit frustrating since I thought I had enough fitness for 5:45s. But maybe the cold and the bike ride zapped my energy. It wasn’t until I saw the results that I saw I ran the fastest run split of the day by 2 minutes with a 35:08.

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I crossed the finish line second and happy to be done! The winner on the day was fast and executed a good race. Now time to rest up and get ready for Toughman Indiana this coming Saturday!

I was solo at my race so had to wait to get home to get a picture with the 2nd place medal!

Then last Saturday I opened up my long course season at Toughman Indiana. Looking at the course profiles online I thought it could be a PR course. Little did I know weather, wrong turns, and rough roads would spoil that party!

This was a TT swim start and I started 9th so I was hoping the people in front of me would be a bit faster so I could, as you can read above, find feet and conserve some energy. Well that didn’t happen and within a hundred yards I was in the lead! I was feeling pretty good and sighting well so I figured this would be a good swim. Based on my times last season and my pool times this season I thought a 27ish would be in the cards. So when I got out of the water and saw 29 on my watch I wasn’t the happiest I could be! But I was in the lead so was ready to get out on the course and see how my bike legs felt.

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Got out of T1 efficiently and was ready to roll! Got to the first roundabout and I didn’t really see the sign and the cops told me one way so I went with them. BIG MISTAKE. Thankfully about a mile down there was a dead end. I saw no markings on which way to turn so I thought “oh crap, I went the wrong way!” So I booked it back to that intersection and, yup, I was supposed to to 3/4 of the way around the roundabout and not 1/2. Well not the best way to start off a 57 mile, course was advertised as long, bike ride! I had to mentally get myself back in the game but it was tough. With the combo of a headwind, cross winds (which were awful), and missed aid stations because of missed handoffs my mental game was shot to crap! Finished the ride 2nd and my dad told me I was about 1.5 minutes down.

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So doing what I feel like I do way too often, because of my lack of bike prowess, I had to play the catch up game! But the issue was I did not feel very good! But I was determined to just go.it sure is crazy what the mind can do to ones motivation. I was a bit dehydrated and really thirsty and knowing I needed calories and fluids but when I got to the first aid station no one was there! I was able to grab a cup but I did not want to slow down too much because my goal was catching 1st place! The issue was that was the theme of the run. This was a first year event so there were a lot of wrinkles to iron out and the biggest one was lack of volunteers. I was only able to get about 5 SMALL dixie cups of gatorade/water in during the run and I was sure I was going to bonk. About a quarter way through the run I caught 1st place and we both kind of talked about the lack of support on course. But on I go! Make it to the half way point and see my parents. I wanted to tell them that I wanted to quit and I might be in terrible shape at the finish but I didn’t. I have done that before and it was not a good idea! I try to push the pace a bit because I just want to be done. It was easier on the out portion of the run because it was slightly downhill but also a tailwind. So coming back the last 2.5 miles or so was uphill and in the wind which basically zapped my soul dry!

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I manage to make it to the finish and cross the line thinking I won. But with a TT start you never know. My dad took time of the TT start from start to finish so we are watching the clock and see who crosses. After about 12 minutes I had a good idea I won the race. But it wasn’t then best feeling because I did not feel good and I was not happy with how my race turned out. But a win is a win so I can’t complain anymore! It is great to start the season off with a win and a 2nd place finish but also a great way to go on a little “break” and enjoy two of my best friend’s weddings and my own wedding and my honeymoon! But I will be back to racing sometime in July!

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Thanks of EGO p/b Sammy’s bike tri team for allowing me to race with you this year. And thanks for our AMAZING sponsors: ICE Friction Chains, Vitargo, Wattie Ink, Eliel Cycling, and Catlike Helmets!

Winter Training Woes

Chicago winters are dark, dreary, cold, windy, LONG, icy, boring, and did I mention long?! The winters around here can do a few things to training. They can kick start the mental toughness that comes along with endurance sports, and/or it can start a process that saps you mentally so you might not want to train! For me it does both. But if I can keep coming back and waking up to train when I am mentally drained I know that I will be ready to go when the season comes along.

I don’t mind riding on the trainer as long as I have some good music of TV to watch. I don’t mind running outside in the cold. What really gets me is waking up early to go swim and it is pitch black outside! I then have to drive to the pool, get in the “cold” water and swim. But once I am in the water things change, well usually. There are times when I am swimming and I think “man I wish I was a duathlete!” But I feel like this is all a part of the process of becoming mentally strong. Winter training separates the weak from the strong and it is the building block to a solid season.

I do get a bit worn down around this time because I want to get outside and ride my bike! Even during the season when the weather is nice I don’t ride outside all of the time. That is mostly because I live in the city and riding, or driving, to an area that is good to ride take a bit of time. But it is also because I know I can get a lot of great quality training done on the trainer since there are no stop lights, no coasting, nothing but me and the numbers!

I am VERY excited for this upcoming year. There are a lot of things that will be going on and triathlon is only a small portion. 2016 is going to be a great year!