New Passion

Somewhere along the way, I lost my love, my drive, for triathlons. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy and really like triathlons. However, wanting to swim, bike, and run every day is not quite there anymore.

I’m not sure when, where, why, or how it happened. Maybe it was during the training for my first full iron race? Maybe after the race? Did I get burned out? Is it because I have no goals set? Is it because I’m not being coached anymore? I don’t know.

I do know that sometime during the past few months, I came across something I truly am enjoying: trail running. I didn’t expect at all to find a passion for trail running. In fact, I swore off running trails because of a minor injury when I first started trying to get back into shape.

When I first started working out three years ago, I would reward myself on my “long” runs (at the time it was 5-6 miles). I would run the nature trail in our neighborhood which was 0.5-1 miles. I did that until I was running along and had a stupid twig got caught between my feet and tweaked my knee.   For weeks I had a persisting knee pain which would not go away. Fortunately, it went away but my “reward” was sworn off. I vowed I would never run a trail ever again. I stuck with road running for three years until I tried trails again.

A friend of mine had posted she was contemplated running a 50k trail run on Facebook. In a stupid instance, I replied, “I will, if you.” Then I saw the “deal” after my comment. I thought, “holy, cr**, what did I just do?!” I am in serious trouble.

I trained horribly for this event. I barely ran more than 120 miles in preparation for the race. Training for my 140.6, I had run more than 500 miles from January to the date of the race during the prior year. Talk about lack of motivation.

Well, race day came and we ended up not finishing the race. That day was not really about me. I was simply trying to find my passion again. I went out for friendship, trying to help a friend, and to find my passion I had lost. Well, I managed to do that.

See, having not finished the 50k, it gave me a goal to achieve: Finish a 50k on my own. Apparently, as much as I think I’m not very goal/deadline oriented, that is exactly what I need in my personal life. I became obsessed with/passionate in finishing a 50k. I began running again. Running so much that I could care less about the pool. In the two months, I hit the pool just three times. Why do I still have my pool membership? I don’t know.

I went on and completed my first 50k. While it was overwhelmingly disappointing in finishing time, I did complete. This wasn’t good enough so what did I do? I signed up for another race.

This past weekend, I entered a 25k. Interestingly enough, the course was much tougher than the 50k I had completed. My body feels like I did the previous 50k race instead. I’m sure it didn’t help having a medical procedure completed 12 days prior which pretty much left me lying on my back the entire time. I do know, however, that any workouts within those 12 days would not have really impacted my performance.

So I completed the 25k. It was a two loop race. The first loop was great. I was 2nd overall male nearly the entire loop. I stopped quick enough to top off my bottle and keep going. For whatever reason, something in my brain set a trigger off. It was almost as if something told my body, “you crossed the finish line, dummy, quit running!” I began the need to start walking even though I had a great 15 mile pace in the previous race. At about 7.5 miles I didn’t see anyone at all near me. Then it happened I got passed by the next male, who was also in my age group, at 8.5 miles. I learned something valuable by that. I learned I have a fatalistic view when that happens. I had given up hope on catching him.

Looking back, I know I was only 12 minutes behind him. Had I kept the faith and kept trying to run versus giving in to running, I’m pretty sure I could have possibly caught back up to him. Unfortunately, I gave in and never caught him.

From everything though, I try and learn from it. I learned many valuable lessons.

The most important thing, though, was I ENJOYED IT. I found my passion for working out. How much so?

Well, I think about it all the time. I lay in bed wondering how I can make it last forever. I think about it work. I think about it in church. I think about it all the time. How I can improve on it? How I can make it more enjoyable?

You see, it seems to have become a blessing in disguise. It gives me hope and something to look forward to. It’s something that makes me happen and I pray every day that I don’t lose it. How do you keep passion alive for a lifetime? I really don’t know. I just hope the passion lasts a lifetime but only time will tell…

Run for Your Life!

Every once in a while, somebody will ask me what made me get into triathlons.  Sometimes it seems quite clear, other times it’s not so clear.  The short answer: I fear the numbers 45 and 49.

So what’s in a number?

The number is the age my father was when he had a heart attack.  I was fifteen years old and had the unfortunate experience to witness every physical struggle my father went through during his heart attack.

It was a summer day and we were at my grandmother’s summer house at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.  It was warm and the sun was still out but he and I went down to cover up our speed boat on the dock.  As he and I worked to get the boat covered, he backed off and said that he thought I could handle the rest on my own.

As we walked the dock to get back to shore, he began to wring his arm and massage it.  He began complaining about it hurting more and more.  Then he softly and quite modestly told me to get help, sat down on the massive rock sitting on the shoreline, and began to weep.  In the 15 years prior, I only saw my father cry once.  That was when my grandfather, my mom’s dad, passed away.  Seeing the man who you idolize weep like a small child is heartbreaking and devastating.  Being a child and not having a clue how to make it better is even tougher.

(And as a type this, it breaks my heart to realize that I’ve cried in front of my children and made them feel the exact same way.  I won’t go into the “why” details but I am sentimental sap.  God bless, my oldest daughter.  When I have done it in front her, she has simply walked up to me, rubbed my back with her head on my arm, and has a silent tear of her own rolling down her cheek.)

After getting my mother and grandmother to help, we all jumped in the car and went to the hospital.  I remember sitting in the back seat with him and watching him cry.  I always thought, knowing how he is, he was crying in shame.  Since I now have kids, I know that was not at the case.  His crying was simply to live.  It’s not the selfish kind of wanting to live.  He didn’t want to live because of himself.  He wanted to live for his family.  He wanted to live for his wife and kids.  He wanted to live… for me.

The stay at the hospital in Maryland is very blurry now.  However, I do remember riding in the ambulance with him going around 90 mph with the lights and sirens blazing.  I got to ride in the ambulance, not because of support of my father, not for fun, but I was actually responsible for giving the directions to the ambulance driver.  Keep in mind, in 1990 there weren’t GPS like there is now.  Looking back, I’m sure they could have used a map but for whatever reason, they didn’t have one.  Yep, at 15, I was responsible for giving directions to the ambulance driver to get my father who was in Intensive Care to a hospital as quickly as possible.

The stay in Johnstown, PA is even more of a blur.  Those few days, I spent living with a friend.  I do remember, the whole reason I had to stay with his family was because we had soccer practices starting up for school.  After a stress test, they decided my father needed to have bypass surgery.  They gave him the option of having it done in Johnstown but he decided he preferred to be operated on by the world renowned McGovern team.  So they transferred him there.

After he transferred to Pittsburgh, they began tests on him again.  They had to do a heart cath on him.  I vividly remember the surgeon explaining all the details of the operation and saying there was a one in 7,000 chance of something going wrong and he’s never had anything happen before.  Well, lucky for everyone else, my dad set the odds for 6,999 other people.  He ended up having a mini stroke.  Once again, I got to witness the man I admire more than anyone in the world weep due to his embarrassment of not being able to speak properly and drooling on himself.  Thankfully, it was very mild and temporary but a moment I will never forget.

My dad ended up having the bypass completed and recovered fully.

I always joked and said that my dad would die before he quit teaching.  Well, he almost did just that.  In 2005, my father was three days away from retiring from 32 years of teaching.  He began suffering the shortness of breath, tiredness, and other symptoms that come with a heart attack but recognize them before it occurred.  Once again, he went to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and had stints put in.

When I got the news that he was admitted, I jumped on a plane and flew from Orlando to Pittsburgh.  I essentially took over the “manly” duties of the house and drove my mom to and from the hospital.

Coincidentally, I had just quit smoking that week.  I had just started taking Wellbutrin to assist in the smoking cessation.  You see, when my daughter was born, the doctor would never scold me about it, but it would just give me interesting facts about babies exposures to smoke.   In amazing moment of will power, I was able to not smoke the entire week that my father was in the hospital.  It was a sign to me that if I was able to not smoke with all that stress, I could stop smoking for good.  May 5th, 2014 will be nine years since I quit smoking.  Not once have I have picked one up…

The other number, 49, is the age that my mom’s dad had a heart attack that destroyed the majority of his heart.  Sadly, my grandfather passed away on a cold January night the same year of my father’s heart attack.  Looking back it must have been horrible for my mother.  I was blessed to even have met him since it did so much damage.

So…  Why do I swim, bike, and run crazy amounts every day of the year?  Because I want to live.  I want to live for my three kids.  If they never have to go through what I did as a child, I have done well.  When I run, I don’t say I’m running for health.  I tell people I’m running for life…

What got me into doing triathlons?  Trying to save my life…

There’s No “P” in Ool, Let’s Keep It That Way

Ok, so this is the month of January.  It’s the beginning of a new year, right?  Yay!  You know what that means?  New Year Resolutions!  Whoopee!

Unfortunately that means something else too.  Come on, you know what it is…  It’s all the people heading to the gym, in my case, the YMCA, and setting out to fulfill that resolution!  Don’t worry though.  In February it will be back to normal.

I haven’t drank any “Hater-ade” but I do find it quite amusing what you see when you go to the local pool.  There’s everything from the sidestroker to the families in one lane to the guy who doesn’t work there but who’s always there 24-7 to the aquacize ladies.

My first favorite character is the “Sidestroker.”  Yes, its that person who insists on doing the sidestroke.  Really?  I get it, I really do.  You find it really fun to do.  However, you really need not move to one side of the lane and insist on kicking over into the next lane.  I nearly make the Caddyshack pool scene become a reality every time I see your foot come across my vision.  Thanks I do plenty of triathlons to get kicked in the face, I don’t need you doing it to me in the pool.

The next character is the guy who’s always at the Y, 24-7 but doesn’t work there.  Really?  Do you have no life?  In this case, the man’s nickname is “Sarge.”  You always hear, “Hey, Sarge” this and “Hey, Sarge” that…  Dude.  Go home.  I really don’t care here to hear your opinion on last night’s basketball game, who you thinks going to be traded by that football team, nothing.  Oh yeah.  And those Under Armor are NOT jammers or Speedos.  Those are compression underwear.  I wish you’d realize you’re strutting around in your underwear…

The next characters I love are the aquacize ladies.  Ah yes.  Getting down to the top 40 hits of 2014.   Thank you.  I appreciate you constantly complaining about the water temps so the Y cranks up the temperature.  Those temps are really enjoyed when my face is burning up and my calves are beginning to cramp because it’s so bloody hot.  And, indeed, the five of you definitely need the five lanes that you close down for your class.  I realize you need space but I can assure you that you’d all fit into one lane if you really want to.  And one more thing, which is not your fault ladies, why do you have to have class at 5:30?  It’s when everyone is getting off of work.  I’m pretty confident none of you are working anymore.  Can’t you give us working parents a break and do your class around 3:00 pm?

There’s another guy at my pool that cracks me up.  Let’s call him the Karate Kid.  It seems like every time I take my kids with me, this guy is there.  Maybe because I usually take them on the weekends or just Facebook friends?  I don’t.  Anyways, every time I see him, he has a 2 liter bottle half full of water with him.  It’s for drinking right?  Wrong.  This guy takes the bottle and sets in on the edge of the pool.  Not weird, right?  Wait, there’s more.  He then proceeds to do karate moves being the crap out of this bottle for nearly an hour.  Really?  You need to get a new hobby.  After seeing this for four years, I think he should be able to have good enough balance to do it outside of the pool.  Maybe it’s just me…

The last characters are the ones that I just saw recently.  It was a family of snorkelers.  No not the Snorkels but a family of three wearing snorkels in the water.  Look, I have kids.  I love enjoying time with them in the water.  However, if you’re gonna just hang out on the sides and swim 25 yards every five minutes, move to the family swim area.  Please don’t take up a lane.  I do have to give you mad props for finding matching snorkels though.  Right on! 😉

Well, I think I’ve gone on long enough.  I pray that none of you get sidestroke kicked in the lane and may the snorkels stay out of your lane…

NOLA or bust….

Way back in October or so, I decided if I wanted to be the best head coach for my kids’ Dream Team Youth Tri Club, I needed to become a certified youth coach.  That’s awesome but how do I do it?  Well, first, I had to somehow get into the competitive USA Triathlon Coaching Clinic Level I.
You see, USAT recently changed the process of attending these clinics from an “open” registration to an application process.  In the past, the people with the fasting typing/mouse clicks got into a clinic, not necessarily those who were more qualified or deserving.
Why did the change occur?  Many people began using the coaching clinic as, well, their own “coaching” clinic.  They were going solely for the purpose of personal enrichment, not to become a coach.  Nobody would do that, right?  Wrong.  Many Age Groupers were taking the course and not taking the exam to become certified.  Therefore, people like me, who have been coaches and intend to continue coaching were being left out simply because they had slower internet speeds or weren’t fast enough with their mouse clicks.  With that said, I’m glad they made the change because I may not have been in the class at all last week!
So, anywho (as my mom would say), I applied.  I had to create a coaching resume.  A coaching resume?  What?  I’ve coached soccer, hockey, etc for years but I haven’t coached triathlon that long.  Pfew!  Don’t panic!  There’s a sample on the application website!  Oh thank you, Jesus!
So I went and typed up a resume and filled out the online form to get my application submitted.  Done… wrong!  Ugh!  I need a reference from an athlete!  “Hey kids?  Can you write your coach a reference?”  No.  I had an athlete’s mother write a reference for me.  Done!
Then I had to wait.  Wait, wait, and wait. Finally!  I got the email accepting I got into the class! Woohoo!  I then went and paid for the class.  The class was $555.  Crap!  We just started making a car payment we haven’t had in four years, Christmas was around the corner, and the girls birthdays are both in December as well!  Ugh.  Somehow, we made it happen.
December rolled around and everything was going great.  Then, the dreaded check engine light came on in the Minivan.  (Yeah, minvan. Sue me.  With a family of five, did you expect a two seater?)  Nearly $800 to get the darn check engine light to turn off.  Lucky me.  Just when I am about to travel to New Orleans I get to spend a ridiculous amount of money for such a stupid car problem.
The week of Christmas rolls around and I take my leave slip to my supervisor so I can get the time off for the clinic.  She replied, “You can’t have that off, we have annual training that week!”  Little did I know, in the 10 years of my career, my job has decided to move up our training date a MONTH!”  Ugh.  Well, who in the world would ever expect the date to change?  Nobody!  Thankfully, I was able to show her that I would be losing close to $1,000 if I didn’t go to the course and she approved it.
I was off for two weeks and everything was going great.   Then what happened?  “Ding” Check engine light!  Ugh.  Seriously?  All that money for nothing?  It kept coming off and on and putting the van in “limp” mode the week before the training.  Why now?!  I was supposed to drive over to Montgomery and meet up with some guys to carpool the rest of the way to NOLA!  Ok, time to bite the bullet.  I ended up cashing in skymiles that I had saved up from a previous life (my corporate career).  It sucked cashing those in because I had every intention of using them to visit Europe again but with my family.  I guess going back to Germany simply was not meant to be…
I made it to the week of the clinic.  I had to sit through the first two of four days of Annual Refresher Training and then I was off.  Oh, and I got to teach some of the training as well.  It’s always fun to teach the same presentation you’ve taught for the past ten years.
I made the flight without any issues at all.  That’s right.  No check engine light.  I hate you, little light…

Oh When the Saints Go Marchin’ In

Well, its been forever since I’ve written anything but if you’re reading this I have great news… I’m on my way to New Orleans to become a certified triathlon coach!

The first round of this happens this week.  Second round is passing the exam.  Third round is applying and getting accepted for the Youth certification.  Fourth round is going to Boston for the youth course.  The last phase is passing the youth exam.

So there you have it!  The world knows now!  I’ve been keeping it quiet since October but its out now.

I’m not the fastest triathlon on the earth but I love the sport and know I can help kids love the sport that I love so much.

I just pray that my friends and family support me through this journey to enriching the lives of the children in this great area we call our home….

Great to Give Back

I know, I know, I’m getting horrible at updating the blog, but…

Today I didn’t race, but it was a great day for races.

You see, my kids got to race their first race of the season and joining their youth triathlon club.  This was my seven year old’s third triathlon and my four year old’s first triathlon.

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My seven year old got cold feet last night and was adamant that she did not want to race.  She said she didn’t want to race because of a crash last year at the same course.  The year prior, she had smacked her hand on the wall during the swim and wanted to quit.  I had to run the entire course with her.

The second year, she was going down the bike course that had its own natural pitch to the left.  Unfortunately, as she claimed, “I wanted the bike to go straight.  It just wouldn’t listen to me!” She went down to the left and followed the bank down and crashed in the ditch just before pavement.  Again, I had to run with her the rest of the way.

She still wanted to back out this morning.  Mommy promised her that she would stand will she crashed last year so it woupdnt happen again.  I asked her to simply start the race.  If at any time she didn’t want to do it anymore, she didn’t have to.

Well, she did start.  She also came in 3rd in her age group.  It was amazing to see her overcome her fears.  It’s awesome to see the pride in her face overcoming the challenge as well as placing third.

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My son was the youngest competitor of the day at four year olds.  He was both impressive for his age and funny.  If he didn’t spend so much time seeing the scenes and watching the race of others, I promise you he had won his age group.  That little powerhouse doesn’t stop!  I was baffled that he was able to run as fast as he did after the swim and bike.

Seeing him in his tri kit was awesome.  He had his own papparazi at the finish line.  Total strangers were taking pictures of him all decked out in his gear from visor to kinvaras to his bib belt.

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It was so cool to give back.  If you’re into running, cycling, swimming, or triathlons, get involved with the youth.  Today was such a blast.  I even volunteered giving out medals since I was one of the few adults that didn’t race.

What a day.  Ok, now I gotta get back to training.  My coach is gonna kick my butt…

PS, a special shout out to a friend, Julie, for finishing her first half marathon today!  Woohoo!!!!