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!

Rolling Starts are Fun! 70.3 Steelhead

In the 4 weeks between Racine and Steelhead I put in A LOT of work on the bike. The week before Steelhead was 15 hours of training so even with a week to recover I was still a bit worried my legs wouldn’t make the turn around and be ready. But no matter how my legs felt I was going to make sure I got everything out of them as I could!

Steelhead would be my first rolling swim start. Racine was going to be a rolling start but with the cancelled swim it became a TT start. I was really looking forward to the start because I wouldn’t have to wait around waiting for my wave to start and I was hoping that I could find some others to swim with since we are self seeded into groups based on time. Another plus is I thought I would be able to find a few other races to legally ride with which my coach and I thought would help a lot too.

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I seeded myself in the 27-30 minute group hoping to swim at the lower end of that time if all went well. I started with my teammate, and 70.3 World Champion and hopefully Kona champ!, Ryan Giuliano and we swam together for a bit but soon I lost him. The swim had some chop to it, although it was hard to figure out if there was a current or it was just chop. I was in a good rhythm and was passing a fair amount of people so I was thinking I might be swimming close to a 26 based on how many others I was passing. But come the final stretch to shore we would get some of the “waves” we were up against on the first section but I felt like we would also get pushed back a bit when the water returned from shore. According to my Garmin I was going steady at 1:19 min/100y the first two legs then 1:26 the last section. This might not be accurate since it isn’t great at getting satellites when in the water but the line seems pretty straight. Ended up swimming a 28:59 which was the top in my AG and 11th amateur. Swim data

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Ran through the long transition area to get to my bike and get ready to ride. My goal was to ride at the watts I knew I could hold but also to hop on the back of a group and push harder for a while if that meant getting in with a group. About 5 miles into the ride I got passed and tried to stay with that rider but after a bit he was gone. Then a little later Ryan passed me and yelled at me to get going. Well I tried but he was pushing way above what my legs wanted to give out at that time. Most of the ride was pretty lonely but for a good 10-15 mile stretch I was able to ride with a group of 4. I sat in the back for most of it so I could save some energy. The group broke up after a while and it was back to riding alone again. I kept looking at my watts, which were spot on, but looking at my speed and time and was getting a bit discouraged. I ended up riding a 2:17:42. I was pretty disappointed that day but after looking at all the results I realized that the times were that fast across the board so that made me feel better. I had the 3rd top split in my AG and came off the bike 10th amateur. Bike data

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Well now it was time for run. They say “bike for show, run for dough” and I think that sums up most of my races. Well except my bike splits usually aren’t that much “show”, they’re pretty much just go. The first few miles I passed a few guys on the road but had no clue where I was overall. I was hoping for a top 3 amateur finish in this race so I wanted to push it. I knew I was fighting for 3rd since the top two amateurs being World Champions so 3rd would have to be good enough on the day. I hit a rough patch about 5 miles in and a few miles were a struggle. This run course is very deceptive. Looking at the elevation it probably doesn’t look too bad but there is one hill out of transition then one hill we run twice during the loops. But there are also many tight turns, false flats, and not many straightaways to get in a groove. So I was getting discouraged by my splits and was thinking the worst about my placing.

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Looking at the tracker I made it to 3rd between mile 5-7.5 but I couldn’t tell that because I had no clue how many were in front after the bike and starting the second loop we get mixed up with those starting their first lap. So all I was doing every aid station was taking in cola and water and hoping it would keep me fueled until the finish. I got around to the split for the finish and the second lap and was VERY happy to head down hill to the finish. But for some reason the last 1.5 miles seemed like they took forever! I was crazy tired and ready to be done but the road just kept going and going and going. I got a lot of encouragement from the racers coming out on their first loop and that helped a lot. I finally got to the final turn and made a last-ditch effort to see if the legs had anything left in them. Ended with a 1:19:39 for 4th best split in my AG and 15th overall. Run data

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I crossed the finish line and saw Ryan and we started to chat and he said he thought I might be 3rd amateur but wasn’t sure. My wife found me and we checked and sure enough I was. I was happy but still pissed about my bike split and also annoyed because I wanted to break 4:10 and I was 4:10:29. My dad was racing his first 70.3 so I was wondering how he was doing. My mom and wife said he had a good swim and we were waiting for him to come in off the bike so I grabbed a beer and waited a bit to see him rack his bike. Pretty cool racing with my dad!

All in all the race went well. Ended up 2nd AG, 3rd amateur, and 20th overall. Now I have to hope my legs bounce back because I need them once more this season before they get a little rest. Chicago Triathlon in less than two weeks!

I know the end of these posts are repetitive but without these people and companies I would have a much harder time doing all of this! So thanks to my wife (and the baby in her belly), my parents, and my friends for giving my all the encouragement I could ever need. Thanks EGO, Sammys Bikes, SLF Motion, ICE Friction Chains, Greater Than Sports Drink, and my newly found recovery boots made by Air Relax.

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…

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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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!