Monday, June 28, 2010

The long road back

I can only imagine how awesome the feeling of standing atop Mt. Everest must be. To be higher than anywhere on this planet must be pretty amazing. I also know that the view from the bottom before beginning the climb must be pretty damn intimidating. To be able to look up and not even see the top hidden up somewhere in the clouds must be a bit overwhelming to people who aspire to climb this mountain. It's a little how I feel now as I begin training again this week. The summit of my journey is so far away it's a little hard to even think of the top right now. In March I was getting close but now I'm starting from the bottom again with hopes of getting back there. I don't consider this a continuation from where I was because I'm so far away from that now. What's done is done and there is nothing I can do over. I have to begin where I'm at, and it starts with accepting where I'm at. I got on the scale today for the first time in 4 weeks and I was 173 lbs. I'll try to put that in perspective with a little history because the purpose of this blog is to inspire people to do things in their life they didn't think were possible. Now I'm right there with many of you starting this journey once again. If you are debating about beginning a journey towards a goal that looks unreachable for yourself I would love to have you begin that journey now with me as I begin mine once again. About 2 and a half years ago I weighed in at an all-time high of 202 lbs. That summer I began training at 196. I whittled my way do to 175 by the end of the summer. That was the point I decided to quit coaching and try to dovote myself to the sport of triathlon. When I began the journey of triathlon on November 3, 2008 I weighed 182. I got down to 164 last summer for my race weight. After taking 2 weeks off at the end of the season I began this year at 168. On March 1st I weighed in at 153 just before this achilles injury flared up. Running was so much easier at 153 than it was even at the 164 I raced at a year ago. Now nearly 4 months has passed since I've been able to run and I've gained 20 lbs. It is here I will begin my journey of climbing this tall mountain. It won't be easy. I need to take it one step at a time and make progress up this thing little by little. I have to stay focused with training which has never been tough but perhaps even more importantly I have to stay focused with what I'm eating which has always been tough for me. If I can do that I'll climb the mountain much faster this time than last. I've been near the top once and it's always easier to get back there the 2nd time. If you're beginning your own journey have faith in your progress. Keep the end in mind but more importantly see each day as a chance to get closer to the end. I'm excited to be back on the bike, back in the pool, and most of all, putting one foot in front of the other as I ease back into running. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vacation and Life as a Spectator...

I've now gone 11 days without a workout out minus lifting weights and doing some core work. I really haven't seen a bit of change in how my tendon is healing so I may go back to some easy bike riding and swimming in a week if I continue to see no change. I had hoped that by stopping workouts entirely it would heal much more quickly but that hasn't been the case. This is the first time in 4 or 5 years that I've been on a summer break from teaching and not been into big training mode. Prior to last year I was spending the summer in a crash course of 10 weeks trying to cut from 195 lbs down to 175. With last year being my first of year round training I was trying to fine tune the fitness I had gained all winter and put in some good race results. I'm trying to find some "projects" to work on to keep my mind off training and racing so this week I started a big one. My goal was to treat our 6' privacy cedar fence with a fresh coat of cedar finish. I put in 2 long days of work and I've got at least one more for the outside. It will be 2 more if I decide to get on my knees and do the bottom 5" of the fence that no one sees but Jen insists is something I must do if I'm going to add the "fence treater" badge to my growing list of home improvement capabilities. I figure if you let the grass grow long enough along the bottom of the fence it is pointless to treat that bottom 5". As you can tell from the photo I did a pretty amazing job on this thing and I am temporarily available for hire if you know anyone who needs a fence treated. I didn't forget to treat that one piece of the fence, I just left it untreated for the picture so all of you could see how awesome my work is. If my achilles heals during a job however I reserve the right to abandon the work and leave it entirely unfinished.

On Wednesday I attended the volunteer meeting for the QC Triathlon. On Thursday I had the Stroke Awareness pasta dinner. Race director Eric Sarno asked me to attend and be available to answer questions about the race. Friday was packet pickup from 4-8 p.m. I arrived at 4 expecting to be a host...showing people around the course and answering questions. The plans had changed and they needed me to put these cool looking body number tattoos on people. It was quite a timely process to put 4 different tattoos on them. 2 race numbers, one age group number, and a Kaminski Pain and Performance logo since he purchased all the tattoos. I would say I messed up about 1 out of every 4 tattoos I put on people. You know they call them tattoos because once they are on they don't wash right off. I would put a number on someone's arm upside down...and realize I messed up, and then have to apologize and explain that the mistake was permanent. After messing up about 5 of those (including 2 on the same person) I decided I would do no more of them and I assumed my job as a host for the rest of the evening. If the woman from Idaho whose numbers I messed up twice happens to be reading this I aplogize deeply. I never wanted that stupid job and won't ever take that job again. Saturday I would work the race. I went to bed about 10:30 Friday night and was awoken by the screams of "Young Warrior" Owen about 10 minutes prior to 1:00 a.m. I tried unsuccessfully to get him to sleep for about 20 minutes and by the time he fell asleep at 1:30 I was awake...wide awake. I did a warm cold contrast bath for the achilles and tried to get back to sleep unsuccessfully at 2 a.m. I laid there until 2:15 and then decided there was no going back. I was excited for the race even though I wasn't racing. I also worried that a late storm was going to have them scrambling to get things together so I decided I would do what most people would...go lift weights at our high school at 3:00 a.m. and then drive to race site. The lift was nice and quiet...weird how no one else bothers you in the weight room at 3:00 a.m.

I arrived at the course at West Lake at 4:30 and helped get things ready to roll. The race went very smoothly. It was great meeting lots of people who follow the blog. I was excited to watch them and other friends and Team Tri-Fit members compete. This is the very first triathlon I've ever watched without competing in and it was a unique experience. I had many people ask me if it was tough to watch. Obviously I would have rather competed but with that not being in the cards I had an awesome time watching the race. Here were my thoughts as a spectator and a few shout outs to some people I watched in no particular order.

1. The lady with the child seat still attached to her bike definitely won my vote for "coolest looking Tri bike"at the race. This isn't a picture of her exact bike but this is the setup she rode. She happened to be racked next to my good friend Jared Dammann who was competing in the Elite division. I know he was thrilled to be racked next to this bike. He said she had an advantage in transition because all the things she needed were tightly packed into the seat. I'm guessing that advantage was negated by the wind this seat would have caught on the actual ride. The only thing making this bike cooler would have been to put a Dora doll in the seat for the ride.
2. Congratulations to Team Tri-Fit member Jessica Imm on winning the overall women's title!!! She is in just her 2nd year of doing triathlons and has a tremendous future in the sport! We were really excited for her.
3. My good friend Shane Peitscher did his first triathlon ever this weekend. He called me last week to ask if he was supposed to bring a towel for transition to cover himself with when he took off his swimsuit and put on his biking shorts...I got a good laugh out of that until I realized he was serious. It was awesome watching him race and hearing his stories afterwards. He had one of the 5 worst bikes I saw in transition out of 700 and said he felt like he was getting passed by cars when he was riding as hard as possible in the hardest gear his mountain bike had. Congratulations on finishing and I'm super glad you enjoyed the first race. Hopefully many more to come for you!
4. It was awesome seeing so many Team Tri-Fit members in action. I know from talking to many of you that you dropped minutes...lots of minutes from last year's race. I hope the group atmosphere that Team Tri-Fit has become has been a small part of those improvements. If nothing else the club has helped the sport grow in the QC as membership is at nearly 90 in just our 2nd year.
5. LeeAnn Herrera is a beast! If you haven't followed her journey through this entire training process you should check out her blog at She is absolutely hilarious. She chronicled her life training for her 1st triathlon and again it is incredibly funny. It is better than the QC Times sports section and Triathlete Magazine which used to be the only 2 things I ever read. LeeAnn completed her first triathlon and looked great doing it. She learned how to shift her bike a week ago and did awesome. Her story is very inspiring to me. Thanks!
6. Congrats to Jared Dammann on being the top Quad Citian. I won this award once when I actually lived in the Quad Cities and it is a really cool award. What makes me feel especially proud and even very old is that I was Jared's 8th grade history teacher back in my 2nd year of teaching. It is pretty cool to watch a former student get into the sport let alone become a stud in the sport! I've had some good rides with Jared and I'd say good swims too but they always hurt like crazy because he kicks my butt all over the pool. You have a tremendous future in the sport!
7. Watching the race unfold was fun. There was a lead pack of 3 swimmers coming out of the water. They are much faster swimmers than I am. I knew while watching that if I want to be great in this sport I need to be fast enough to hang onto the last guys feet. There's a considerable benefit drafting in swimming and the bigger the group you are drafting on the more benefit there is. I need to work on being strong enough to hang onto the last person's feet in a group. As I watched this race the lead guys, the top 10 of them or so looked like machines. They all looked ridiculously fit and you could tell they had been training lots. They carried what looked like no body fat. I had a hard time picturing myself competing against those guys. I wondered if I looked like that when I raced. It was different seeing them as a spectator as opposed to a competitor. I definitely was in awe, and a little jealous of the condition all of them appeared in.
Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More bad news...

It's beyond frustrating at this point. The mental aspect of this injury is 100 times worse than the physical pain in the achilles tendon. I have days where it feels great and I think I'm getting close to resuming training but then out of nowhere it swells up like a "cankle" and my tendon is barely visible under the swelling. I've had no pain biking or swimming but after swimming Wednesday my tendon ballooned out of control again and I decided after talking to my wife that I need to take a complete break from training to let this injury heal. You can easily tell when comparing my good right leg to the one on the left that it is not healing well. If you click on the picture it will make it larger. The toughest part is not knowing. I have no idea how long it will take...I'm already long past the expected healing period I was thinking before surgery. With most injuries like a stress fracture there is a pretty solid timeframe for how much time one needs to take off training to let the injury heal. With this I have no idea if it will be a week or forever. Just a few months ago I woke up every day with a goal of making a professional podium at a race this summer. It was a goal I had convinced myself was realistic through the workouts I was completing. Now I wonder every day if I'll be able to compete again...when that day will be. Will I ever be able to run pain free again...thoughts that are much bigger than triathlon. I don't want to have to tell Payton I can't run with her some day because of an injury that wouldn't heal. It is why I have decided I'm not going to train until I can run pain free. I wish I knew how long that will be. I hope that it will be someday. The Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch ran a story of my injury in the paper today which can be found by clicking the photo or accessing the website at It will be tough to watch the QC Triathlon next week but I'm glad I can help give back to the sport and community that I love. I may not post for awhile if I continue to have bad news. It's wearing me down mentally more than anything and I just wish I could do the things I love to do. I'd like to congratulate my older brother Jason on finishing the Hy-Vee Triathlon with his best race ever today in the pouring rain in Des Moines. I'm excited to watch his progress next year as he continues to commit to living a healthy lifestyle. You've made me more proud than I can express in these words. If my own journey has helped to inspire you it makes every second of it worth it. Thanks for reading. DREAM BIG!

Monday, June 7, 2010

6 weeks post surgery

On Tuesday I will be 6 weeks post surgery. I had hoped for a much quicker recovery but it hasn't worked out like I had hoped. I did my first runs since surgery this week. 1 mile on Tuesday, 2 miles on Thursday, and then 1.7 miles on Saturday. I was allowed to go 3 on Saturday but instead of shuffling along at a painfully slow pace I decided to run a little quicker, about 6:20 pace. After 1.7 miles I could tell it was starting to hurt and my stride was changing so I stopped at that point. It was a sign that I'm not healed yet and I think it will be another week before I run. As for the QC Triathlon on June 19th it looks doubtful that I'll be able to compete as an individual. I really want to race but won't do so unless I can do an interval running workout without pain beforehand which is doubtful. If I don't compete as an individual I've recruited one of the fastest females in the area to run for me and I'll compete as a relay. It didn't take much arm wife Jen will be happy to jump in and run in my place. Enough of the bad news...
I had a very solid week of training on the bike and in the water. I hit 13,400 yards swimming, and 235 miles on the bike. Neither of them bother the achilles tendon at all. I did 2 hard bike interval first since surgery. I nearly puked during my second one...just dry heaves. It let me know I was working hard but also that my fitness is nowhere close to where it was in March. In addition to the swimming, biking, and 5 running miles, I also lifted weights 3 times, did lunges 3 times, and core work 10 times. My total training time was 21 hours. The highlight of my week was volunteering at the Hy-Vee Youth Triathlon held at the Bettendorf YMCA on Saturday morning. It was awesome to see over 200 kids excited about doing a triathlon. The highlights in no particular order were as follows...
1. One kid did the bike section on training wheels!
2. One kid didn't know how to bike so fellow QC Team Tri-Fit member and volunteer Bill Minard literally pushed him on his bike for the 1 mile bike course that the 7 and 8 year olds did
3. One kid had on some cool sunglasses even though it was totally cloudy and raining
4. A handful of kids were wearing awesome Kiwami Triathlon jerseys...the same company that made my race jersey for 2010.
5. Only 1 kid in the 13 and 14 year old division was walking where I stood 100 meters from the finish line...ironically he was wearing a soccer shirt (If I've never told you how I feel about soccer you may be able to infer)
6. No one wiped out at the corner I was working.
It was great to see the future of triathlon is in good hands. This upcoming weekend I'm going to do a bike ride from the QC to Dubuque and back put on by the Quad Cities bike club. Saturday is 106 miles and I'm going to do some intervals on the way to Dubuque. Sunday I'll ride the 90 mile return trip back to the QC so it will make a good weekend of building my bike base back up. On Sunday I missed what was to be my pro debut, a half Ironman in Kansas. It was tough looking at the results thinking I could have been right there with the top 5. It seems like such a long road to get back to where I was but I hope I get to begin trying sooner than later. DREAM BIG!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Coach Olsen "The Journey is the goal"...

videoA friend forwarded me this video of our college track and cross country coach Paul Olsen. Ols' was one of the most influential figures I have ever met. He instilled in me many of the values that drive me to train relentlessly and to believe I can compete with the best triathletes in the world. Ols' is without a doubt the most enthusiastic and positive person I have ever been around. I had the privilage of serving as his assistant cross country coach for two years during the 2005 and 2006 cross country seasons. Coach Ols' instilled in me the belief that "nothing is impossible" and taught me that the power of positive thinking is more powerful than any tool an athlete can possess. He taught me about the "journey" through life and how to deal with adveristy when it stares you straight in the eyes. This year Augustana's track team was heavy underdogs at the conference meet and pulled out a win by 1.5 points after trailing by 70 on the final day of competition. There is no doubt this team embodied the optimistic "glass half full" approach that Ols' carries with him through every day. This video is Ols' in vintage style at the first team practice following the meet. Congratulations to Ols' and the entire Augustana Vikings track and field team. Although he's been coaching for 43 years now and is in his mid-60's you sure can't tell. Thanks Ols' for providing me the tools to believe in myself even when things are tough.

Finally...a run

On Tuesday afternoon I went to Plaza Physical therapy with great anticipation for my first run since surgery on April 27th. After warming up 7 minutes on the bike to get a good sweat going I stretched out and then went outside for a couple strides. The strides did not feel good. I was definitely not ready to go 80-5% of my top speed. I came back in and got on the treadmill and they started me with some walking at an incline. They upped the speed and had me walking up 15% incline which was tough. My lack of conditioning showed as I poured sweat all over the treadmill. After 9 minutes of that my therapist lowered the incline back down and had me begin running at a whopping 10 minute/mile pace. That was easy and he quickly upped it until I was at 7 minutes per mile. I was allowed to go about a mile and it didn't hurt at all. My feelings about the first run were mixed. I was excited to be able to get my mile in but know I have a ways to go since the strides hurt. My conclusion was that I am fine to jog slow but not ready for anything fast yet. I have no swelling or pain today which is good and I'll be back at the treadmill tomorrow in hopes of going a little bit further. DREAM BIG!