Racing Professionally in 2018

As a kid I played most sports but soccer was always my favorite. I played soccer all through high school then played in college. I was a 2x Regional All-American and a 3x All-Conference player in college. When I graduated I did everything I could to try to play professionally. I traveled to Florida, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, pretty much any place I could to try to make it happen. I took 3 years post college to give it everything I had to try to make it. Why? Because I NEVER wanted to look back and wonder “what if”.

After those 3 years I moved on from that goal and kept playing with other teams but it wasn’t the same. I gave it everything and it didn’t work out. But that’s life.

So on to my next chapter! And that next chapter turned out to be the 2010 Chicago Marathon. My dad ran a marathon when he was younger so, of course, I wanted to do the same. In the WAY back of my mind was triathlon. I had seen Kona on TV and thought that would be cool to do someday but never did I think an Ironman was realistically in the cards.

Fast forward 7 years and I am still racing triathlon. When I started racing triathlons in 2011 I never thought I would take it to this level but year after year, race after race, I got better and faster. At 70.3 Steelhead this year I qualified for my Elite License with my 3rd place amateur finish. I know I didn’t win the race, I know I wasn’t the best amateur racing, I know I finished 20th overall but I don’t think I am done getting better at each of these sports.

So for the 2018 season I am going to take a leap and race professionally. Do I have illusions of winning Kona, or any other World or Regional Championship race? No. But what I am going to do is go out everyday and train smart and hard, so that I can race to the best of my ability. What I am also going to do, and more importantly, is do all of that while being, a husband, a new dad, a son, a friend, and a full time teacher.

Why race professionally if I don’t think I am going to win races? Well because if everyone had that mindset we would only have about 10-15 professional athletes racing around the world! I will also race professionally because, like I said above, I don’t want to look back in 2, 5, or 15 years and wonder “what if”. What if I raced a few years professionally? What if I showed my kid(s), my students, and my soccer players that even though I was not winning, I was going out and giving it everything I had and to show them that hard work pays off? That is what I think would make me a successful triathlete, dad, teacher, and person.

I completely understand that I am going to get my butt kicked in every race but I am prepared for that. I am willing to train hard and smart to be the best I can be. That is why I am going to be racing professionally in 2018. Hate it or love it that is my plan!

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My First Triathlon

As I finish up my 7th season as a triathlete my mind sometimes wanders back to 2004 when I completed my first triathlon. And man oh man was that race a disaster! But I guess it sparked my triathlon career 6 years before I even knew it.

I decided to do the Devils Lake Triathlon kind of out of no where. I was home from college for a semester and thought, “what the heck? This looks fun.” My training consisted of riding my mountain bike around, swimming enough laps to get 400 yards, and running every now and then while playing soccer.

Come race weekend I drove up to Wisconsin and camped out at the state park. Ate no dinner or had no plan for breakfast outside of a granola bar I had. That was just one of the mistakes I made. I also thought it was a good idea to change wheels with my dad’s bike. I mean why wouldn’t that work out? It may or may not have the same cassette, may or may not have the same gearing, but it did have thinner tires so why not?!

With those mistakes out-of-the-way things could only go up right? Wrong. I was only equipped with tri shorts for the cold swim so when I tried to put my head in I freaked out. So I hung on the buoy for a little while then somehow made it to the swim exit. I got to my bike, laced up my running shoes, put on a running shirt then started the ride. No tri kit or cycling shoes for me!

It was a hilly bike ride and the wheel change I made would quickly be an issue. I dropped my chain 3-4 times on the ride and it was a struggle most of the way. But the good thing is I had my running shoes and shirt on already so it made for a quick T2! Running was the easy part. I made it through the run and got to the finish.

What is the point I am trying to make in this post? Is that everyone has to start somewhere! Whether it is triathlon, running, a new job, a new school, whatever it is, everyone has to start at step one. Some make it to step 2 a bit faster than others but we all start somewhere. If you work hard and put in the effort then things will go your way!

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…

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!

A New Year and New Opportunities

Well it is 2016! After a very successful 2015 I am very excited and eager to get 2016 under way! This year is going to be amazing. I am excited, first off, to get married in June, go on a honeymoon, race fast and train hard (in that order).

In 2015 I won my first race overall at the Chicago Triathlon, I came 2nd in my age group at the USAT AG National Championships, I won my age group at Ironman 70.3 Racine, PR’d at the Chicago Marathon, and I got engaged! I feel like 2015 was really my coming out party for triathlon. I grew so much as an athlete, I learned to endure different suffering and training stress and race differently so I could compete at the front of the amateur race as best I could.

The new opportunities are not only in my personal life, with my marriage, but I also joined a new triathlon team. I joined EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes team. This is a small group of crazy fast triathletes based out of the Chicagoland area. It was something that I thought hard about because leaving the Snapple Triathlon team was a tough decision. They have been with me since the start of my triathlon career and I don’t think I would be where I am now without their support and confidence in me. But this opportunity was too good to pass up. I will be able to train and race with some of the best triathletes around, I will have a go to bike shop which is HUGE, and I will have the chance to grow more as an athlete. I will be able to continue to develop and be supported by this great group of athletes and the great sponsors we have.

I am very thankful for the new opportunity with my new team but I also feel that I have to prove my worth to them and the sponsors by continuing my 2016 the way 2015 ended. I am eager and very excited to get to work to become the best triathlete I can be so I can race even faster in 2016!

Hard Work is King

Before I get to my actual blog post I wanted to give a super short race report of the Chicago Marathon. Wanted around 2:40. Started off at about 2:45 pace. Felt good until mile 14. Then it hurt. And hurt some more. And then really hurt. Why am I doing this? I will never do another marathon again. Finish race. Disappointed with a PR of 2:44:46. Take a few days to realize I only had a month of true marathon prep. So now not as disappointed. The end.

Now to start the real blog post. In the 4ish years I have been training/racing I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about nutrition, fueling, injuries, bikes, running, aerodynamics. But one of the things that I have come to realize is that there is no one workout that will get you ready for a race. What gets you ready for a race is A LOT of hard work and consistency. I have thought back to what I did the last two years to get to where I am today and realized that it has all been a progression of smart, hard training year after year to get me in this position.

I have had different coaches over the last 4 years and I have been with my current coach for the last 2 years. What have we done differently? Honestly, I am not exactly sure if we have done much differently we have just attacked training with a different mindset. We have changed my swim sets to work on my weaknesses but distances are still around the same. We have focused on the bike a lot to allow me to run better off the bike. We are still doing good volume, like in the past, but we are also working on A LOT of quality, and it is painful, but rewarding quality.

There is no magic to training. Waking up at 5 AM to swim then cycling/running after work when you are tired day after day then again on the weekends is no secret. But it works. It might take 2 years, 4 years, 5 years to get to your potential but it is worth it. I don’t think I have hit my top end yet and I know I can still improve. It is now time to keep up the hard work and consistency to ensure that I keep getting faster. I am looking forward to the 2016, not only for racing, but also because I am getting married in June! I will have a lot going on this year and my life is changing but I will go after it like I have been the last 5 years; with passion and dedication!

Chicago Triatlon: My First Overall Win!!!!

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Just typing that title gave me goosebumps. I am about 48 hours removed from winning the Chicago Triathlon and I am still digesting what that really means. Winning any race is fantastic but thinking that I won a race that is 33 years old and is one of the most attended races in the world, and in my hometown, makes it even better! Even thinking that I am a bit unsure of what it really means. Was the competition good? I am not sure how deep the field was but I know that the second place athlete, Brett Collins, won the race last year and has some FANTASTIC results on his resume. Maybe I am not giving myself enough credit, or maybe I am still figuring out what it means.

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No matter what the field size or depth, no matter what race it is or where it is I was honored and very emotional when I crossed the finish line on Sunday. I am going to do this race recap a little differently because the race was, well, different! I will start at the end. Turning the corner and seeing the finish a few hundred yards away was the first time I really thought I was going to win the race. Up until then I thought I was going to get caught. I kept asking my lead-out cyclist if there was anyone behind me but he couldn’t really turn around because he was directing traffic on the path. I didn’t want to turn around and show weakness if someone was behind me. But I knew that if someone came up and tried to pass me I was going to run with them no matter what.

The emotions I felt running down the finish are indescribable. It was an amazing feeling but I think it was also a bit of relief. My parents were there and my fiancé was there too. I think that result kind of cemented to them that all the hard work and training paid off. I know that my family is happy no matter what place I get and no matter what kind of race I have but to be able to show them that the 12-18 hours of training I do a week on top of a full-time job and coaching soccer is working makes me feel better too. Getting that result is something that is still really hard to describe but emotional is about all I can say.

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As I said above it wasn’t until the finishing stretch that I really thought I had a chance to win even though I was in the lead for basically the last 3 miles. I came out of the water with a swim I would be happy with last year but not this year. For some reason I lost my breath a few times which caused me to slow down to catch it. I came out of the water 6th place and was kind of down on myself. The long run to transition gave me some time to settle down and realize that I have been cycling very well lately so I should be able to make up some ground then hopefully cut the lead to catch people on the run.

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Out on the bike I got into a good groove and started to hammer. My legs felt really good and the weather was basically perfect. Someone from the triple race passed me and I tried to stay with him so he could help pace me and I could LEGALLY ride with him. I was behind him and saw my power drop a lot so I tried to pass him a few times but saw surges up to 300 watts so I figured I might as well save some energy and ride LEGALLY behind him. The bike came to an end with my being in 3rd place. Still a lot of work to do.

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Off the bike I knew I was in 3rd but wasn’t sure how far back I was. I had a good, fast transition then got out onto the run and heard my dad say “2.5 minutes back”. Damn. That is a long time to make up in 10k. That comes out to about 25 seconds a mile. I ran 5:40s at Nationals so I was hoping the leader was going about 6 minutes. I started to push it from the start knowing I had to make up time quickly. Having a cyclist in front of me was pretty cool. They cleared the path to make sure I had a good running lane. I missed seeing my mom and fiancé about a mile in because I was already in some pain but knew if I wanted to make up time I was going to have to go hard. Sorry mom and Jessica! At about the 3 mile mark I made the pass into second. I saw first place and looked at my watch to get an idea of how far ahead he was. About 30 seconds close to the turn around. I knew I was going to be able to catch him but then after the turn I became concerned with the eventual 2nd place finisher because he looked strong. I made an effort to push a bit harder and hope that once he saw he wasn’t gaining time he would pack it in and be good with 2nd place.

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Now I was about a quarter mile from the finish and felt like death. We had to run up a slight incline which felt like a mountain then I made the right turn and saw the finish! And that is when the emotions started! As always thanks to EVERYONE for the support and following my road to my first win! But an even bigger thanks to my parents who come to every race no matter what and HUGE thanks to my fiancé who puts up with my training and my grumpiness during peak weeks when all I want to do is eat and sleep! Now time to focus on the Chicago Marathon!

Swim: 22:26 (1:22 min/100 yards)

Bike: 58:52 (256 NP/26.5 MPH)

Run: 34:42 (5:36 min/mile)