Thursday, July 6, 2017

Life, Racing, and a Greater Purpose….

Hey everyone!  It has been some time since I sat down and put some thoughts to paper.  We are already into July and the race season is in full swing, BBQ’s are plentiful, and watching the kids play in the water is one of the greatest joys I have as a parent.  Today is going to be an update on a few different topics that you might find interesting….enjoy the read and talk soon!


I don’t have to tell any of you that being an Athlete after High School/College is a tough gig.  It isn’t an activity, it is a lifestyle.  At least 5 out of 7 days (and yes sometimes on the weekend too) I’m up before 4:30am.  For me, the only “predictable” part of my day is between 4-6am.  After that, all bets are off!  So if you want to compete, train for multisport, or just live this lifestyle…it is hard work! 

My little ones, Lyla and Mason, are 4 and 2 now.  They are so much fun and it has been the absolute joy of my life having these two around.  They keep Ana and I on our toes and they NEVER seem to stop going!  I think some of that might have come from me J  I am really passionate about showing them about hard work, setting goals, and living healthy.  Most mornings Mason comes up and asks “Daddy, you go running today?”  It is so sweet and it makes me happy that he notices that this is happening.

Ana has been doing really well with her Group X career and has been passionately involved in spreading the word on Essential Oils.  That is a topic for another blog, but suffice it to say, I have been surprised at how well they incorporate into the healthy, athletic lifestyle that I have built.  We even had time for a little getaway to Italy in May!  WHAT A TRIP!  I can’t express enough how awesome it was to experience the country with my wife.  Whatever expectations I had, they were blown away.  It was great to get some 1:1 time with Ana for an extended vacation.  Very much needed!

At work, things are NUTS.  I am responsible for a sales team that spans Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana.  I have 10 direct reports and the organization I lead spans to over 75 people.  We will run a business this year close to $80 Million in revenue.  This is no small feat!  I have an absolute blast at my “day job” and we have built a team and culture that I look forward to being a part of every day.  It isn’t without its challenges, we are in the middle of the biggest technology merger in History!  So yeah, work is NUTS. 

I write all this out for one simple reason…life is full of choices.  I choose to be fit.  I choose to get up at 4am to train.  I choose to give 100% every day.  I choose to “get after it!” So if you are reading this and you have aspirations of living a healthier, more active lifestyle…you can.  You just have to choose and commit.  And hopefully, you have a wonderful support crew like I do to share in the journey!


So 2016 was pretty much an epic failure for me by lots of accounts.  I crashed (see previous blog) on the bike in a Triathlon about a year ago and it set off a series of disappointments for the rest of the race season.  I had a choice to make…I could feel sorry for myself and let one tough year derail my goals and ambitions.  Or, I could use it as fuel to get back out there and see what I’m capable of.  I chose the latter. 

On the books for this year is an aggressive schedule.  My 2017 races are as follows:
        Cary Half Marathon
-         Leon’s Olympic Triathlon
-         Madison 70.3 Triathlon
-         Lake Zurich Olympic Triathlon
-         Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon
-         Tri Rock Olympic Triathlon
-         Ironman Louisville

As you can see, there are a lot of chances to redeem myself from 2016!  The first 3 races of the year I had one goal in mind, race and finish strong.  Time, place, competition, speed…none of that mattered.  What I needed was mental victories in these races.  Everything was off last year and I needed to get my mojo back. 

At Cary, it went as well as I could have asked.  I had a good build to the half marathon and executed a very strong race in the hills.  It wasn’t my fastest race I’ve done there (I think I’ve done it 7X), but I passed over 50 people in the last 6 miles…finish strong, that was the goal.  Goal accomplished.

In the Leon’s Tri, the goal was simple…steady effort the whole way.  All of my times were a little slower than previous years, but that was OK!  I was able to work really hard, stay strong the whole time, and finish feeling like I left nothing out there.  If you want a good laugh, you can see me interviewed on the coverage on CSN (you can find air times on the Leon’s website).  Goal accomplished.

At the Madison 70.3, I was racing the very next week after Leon’s.  Conditions were calling for high temps and winds, and it didn’t disappoint.  The swim was solid.  My bike was a major improvement over just a week before…it was a TOUGH course out there too.  My run, it was redemption time.  It was 90 degrees (same as last year) and I had one goal…run every friggin step of the 13.1 miles.  Last year the run ate me up…this year, I smashed it.  Ran every step…and stayed strong the whole way.  It was a HUGE victory as I was just trying to race myself into “shape.”  Goal accomplished.

My mantra for the first 3 races and the rest of the year…”The stronger you are, the faster you will finish.” 
Strength, both physical and mental will win the day in Triathlon, not pure speed.  So that is what I’m concentrating on this year.  I’ve been working for almost a year with Ben at BeWell Fitness in Libertyville and it has been amazing.  I’m “built” so much stronger now.  Posture is night and day.  Power in the hips is explosive.  Form on both the bike and run have improved dramatically.  I knew going into this year that I didn’t have more time to give to the sport, but I could be smarter about the time I did have.  My biggest improvements wouldn’t come from another bike or run.  It would come from a serious dedication to strength and recovery.  So far…SO GOOD. 

Lastly, I’m back being coached by Jen Harrison!  It has been wonderful to put my plan in someone else’s hands again.  One less thing I need to worry about!  And there is no one else I would trust with my plan! I have big goals for the rest of the year and I know Jen will help me achieve them!  Next up is the Lake Zurich Tri (this weekend) and Steelhead…I’d love to see some improvement from Leon’s and Madison….I have no doubts I will. 


Last year before the bike crash, I really started to enjoy riding and running longer distances again.  It has been a few years since I’ve done Ironman and for some reason, which I question often haha, I got the itch to do it again.  While it would be awesome to get back to Kona, the reality is that it will take a perfect day to get there.  Even though it has only been a couple years, the game is faster and stronger.  So we will see. I have a time goal and we can talk about that in a later blog.  But I would be lying if I haven’t struggled with consistent motivation for this race.  Ironman is a monumental effort in all facets of life and you really need to be 100% in to reach your potential. 

While searching inward for the motivation to smash the training, I was very lucky to be introduced to Julie and Elizabeth from the 12 Oaks Foundation. 

For those that have known me for a while, I’ve only run once in the 100+ events I’ve done for a cause.  Running for my sister in the 2014 Chicago Marathon was a humbling experience that I enjoyed immensely. 

When Julie and Elizabeth reached out and asked if I would be interested in being an ambassador for 12 Oaks, I was hesitant at first to be honest.  As you can see, I’m REALLY busy.  Family, work, coaching, and my own training take a tremendous amount of time and effort.  How could I possibly fit one more “obligation” in? 

Then I read Matt’s story.  I was instantly touched.  Being a father of two, giving back to children is something I’ve grown very passionate about and try to help whenever I can.  Matt was a young, energetic athlete full of life at 12 years old.  Involved in team sports, winter sports, and running…Matt was a boy that I hope my Mason and Lyla grow to be as well. 

Unfortunately, Matt lost his battle with cancer at the very young age of 13.  I can’t even imagine the thought.  While there are many phenomenal options to help and donate to the war on cancer, I found 12 Oaks particularly touching in how they help the families that are fighting these circumstances.

The reality is that life stops for the entire family.  As Julie states on the website, they wanted to do more for their other kids, but were financially and emotionally tapped. 

12 Oaks is an organization that helps to defray the costs of sports and community programs for the children of families suffering financial hardship.  A very noble cause and one that I’m proud to be a part of.   Here is a quick note on why I was asked to be a part of this cause:

“Last year our founder, Julie Hupp did an Ironman in honor of what would have been her son Matt’s 21st birthday. Her “Iron Journey” of both training and race day inspired so many people on so many levels, in addition to the $20,000 she raised for the foundation. Our goal is to recruit Ironman triathletes annually to choose 12 Oaks Foundation as their “Charity of Choice” in honor of Matt, and for the children who need our help to stay in their activities while a family member is being treated for cancer. You see, Matt was a budding young triathlete and gifted athletically, and we all knew he would be an Ironman someday.

Julie and Elizabeth asked if I would be their 1st Ironman Ambassador to carry on the “Iron Journey” memory of Matt.  I could not be more proud to do so.

So on October 15th, I will be competing in Ironman Louisville for my family, for myself, for my support crew, and for Matt.  I will be blogging monthly from here on out and expanding on this journey.  In the next week, I’ll have more info out on how you can donate on behalf of myself and Athlete Factory.

I could not be more excited to be racing for something bigger than myself and to help children in need achieve a little bit of happiness and health in trying times. 

As with everything I do, I will be setting a goal (for fundraising) and I hope you choose to help along the way.  More can be found about the 12 Oaks Foundation at the link below. 

Thank you to Julie and Elizabeth for including me on this “Iron Journey.”  I’m proud and humbled to be a part of it. 

Dedication, Passion, Results

Monday, October 10, 2016

I feel like it has been years....because it has. 3 years to be exact...

I feel like it has been years……

That’s because it has since I’ve wrote a blog.  I honestly got away from this because life is just too busy sometimes.  And truthfully, I’m not sure I have tons of new stuff to say all the time.  But after a few years, some life changes, and still trying to compete at a high level…I feel like there some things I’ve learned that everyone can benefit from.  So here we go….

This is not a plug for me to Coach you.  This is a plug for you to figure out if a Coach is right for you.  In my case, I’ve been coaching myself for the past 2 years.  I’ve had wonderful experiences with my previous coaches (Matt and Jen), but I felt with the birth of my son, our 2nd child, I needed to take a break from the responsibility I felt to my Coach (Jen) to get the work done.  Things were changing; life was difficult learning how to parent 2 kids!  Sleep? What the hell is that?  I knew I still wanted to compete, but I needed to take it down a notch.  And man was that refreshing after 8 years of pushing the limits.  The freedom I felt to write whatever workouts I wanted, to experiment with different types of intensities to see what worked, and guiltless pleasure of missing a workout and only having to answer to myself was AWESOME. 

Fast forward 2 years and I’ve learned a few things as well.  My life is a little more stable now and this year was a BIG year of training and race goals.  I saw my mileage ramp up and with it, expectations went the same direction.  The difference (from having a Coach before) was I was in too deep in my own head.  Was I doing enough?  Was I doing too much?  Am I writing workouts that are truly challenging?  It wasn’t on purpose, but it is REALLY hard to write a workout that you know is going to crush you.  So I found myself doing a lot of 90-95% stuff…when maybe I needed to be doing just a little more.  Or as you will see, quite possibly a little less!

That is the benefit of having someone outside your own world to do the Coaching for you.  As a Coach, I can assess my athletes’ body of work, expectations, and life balance to determine what is possible.  Countless times I’ve had an athlete say that they thought there was zero chance they would make it through a workout…but then they smashed it.  That’s what a good Coach does….they see the potential and dial it up at just the right time.   Based on my experience over the past few years, that is almost impossible to do on your own.

So in summary, not everyone wants a Coach.  Some don’t need them.  But for those of us with busy lives, dedication to our sport and high expectations of excellence….this is the only way you will achieve your potential in my opinion.


There is no single magic workout that will help you achieve your goals.  I have athletes all the time get panicked if a workout goes sideways or doesn’t happen at all.  My favorite is when I get a phone call in February from an athlete doing an Ironman in September.  

It goes something like this:

“Oh my God Dave, I’ve missed the last 3 workouts because I was sick.  I couldn’t even get out of bed.  I had to hire a nanny for the week just to make me soup.  I threw up 18 times in 18 minutes.  But, I’m going to try and run 10 miles this afternoon because I know that my Ironman in September is totally ruined.”

My response:

“Go to bed.  It’s only February.”

Yeah, it is about that short :)  For ANYONE getting into Endurance sport…it really is about the body of work, not the individual workouts.  Are there “key” workouts?  Absolutely.  But is it much more important that you put a consistent 10 MONTHS together, not 10 days leading into your taper. 

Personally, I had a really rough year with consistency.  First off, unless I was injured or sick, I never took a day off.  That is HORRIBLE.  I pride myself on the recovery aspect of this sport.  Going back to my coaching topic, I failed myself in this area.  Looking back on the year, I was consistently fatigued.  And that led to a lot more small niggles and injuries than I have ever had in this sport.

Just when I was starting to fire on all cylinders, I hit that motorcycle in the Lake Zurich Triathlon head on.  This was middle of July, Racine was my big triathlon of the year being raced the following weekend, and I smashed into a motorcycle in my lane at 25-30mph.  So I took a month off and healed right?  NOPE.  I took 1 day off and got back at it and tried to race Racine.  While I don’t regret giving it a try, looking back several months later it wasn’t the best thing to do.  I took 1 week off after Racine and started training for the Chicago Marathon. 

During the Chicago Marathon training I was sick for 3 weeks in the middle of it.  That is a massive disruption when you think about what amounted to an 8 week training plan.  More to come on this, but it is no surprise that the Marathon went sideways on me.

So as you can see, the only thing that was consistent this year was fatigue, setbacks, and honestly, some bad choices. 

So as you line up what 2017 is going to look like for you, remember, it’s about the body of work not small snippets of time along the way.  If you can take a big picture look…you might have some better results than I did.  Food for thought.

Big Expectations

“If you do enough of these events, you are bound to lay a turd sometimes.”  That is my new favorite quote that I made up all by myself yesterday after struggling to the finish line of the Chicago Marathon.  There is a lot of truth in it…but under it all, I learned HUGE lessons training and racing for Chicago…I think you can learn a little from them:
    What you did in the past means nothing in the present.  My last two marathons were 3:03 and 3:01.  So it seems very reasonable to set a goal for 2:59 based on past experience.  Here is the problem though; if you base your future goals on what you did…not what is happening now…you are in for epic failure.  I went through my Marathon training STRUGGLING to hold my marathon pace (6:53 per mile).  I had every excuse in the book:  it’s too hot, it’s too humid, I’m sick, I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m sore…..the list goes on and on.  The hard lesson, if you can’t hit your pace in training you WON’T hit it on race day.  

     If I look around at my athlete’s, and others, that crushed it yesterday, they hit their marks in training.  So don’t let your ego guide your goals…be honest with yourself and let the past be the past.  That is how you get the most out of today.  Hindsight is 20/20…but I should have started on a 3:10 pace and built from there.  I probably would have finished 3:04-3:06 and would have been very proud.  Instead, I ended up blowing at mile 16 and had a 10 mile death march to the finish…which I eventually did in 3:25.  Learn from this….it is an important lesson.
     You CAN’T RACE a marathon with 8 weeks of training.  You can finish a marathon respectably on 2 months of training…but you can’t “race” it.  I spent the last 2 months putting in BIG miles for this race….but the body of work I keep talking about was pretty limited.  It had been 2 years since I raced anything longer than a half marathon.  Most marathon training programs are 4-5 months long.  I guess I didn’t respect the race as much as I should have…and I put too much stock in my “Triathlon base” to really go get my marathon goal.  I’m convinced that marathon training and racing is the HARDEST training you can do in this sport.  The simplicity is awesome.  The toll it takes on your body is awful.  It is really hard to get through it.  So in the end, my body said ENOUGH at mile 16….and you know what?  I don’t blame it.  After the year I had and the limited build….it makes sense.  My body was never in 2:59 shape…but my ego was. 
     Gratitude.  This is the lesson I was reminded of yesterday.  I am so thankful I have the opportunity to do this.  To push myself.  To compete with others and to share my passions with a truly awesome network of friends and family around me.  And ultimately, to set a wonderful example of what hard work and reaching for goals means to my kids.   

     I had an athlete remind me yesterday that my last 10 mile “death march” would have been a 10 mile PR for them!  WOW….I needed to hear that.  Perspective is a great thing.  So while I am very disappointed in the result, the journey was great.  I’m grateful in a weird way that I can barely walk today.  I choose to do this, many cannot make that choice.  And for that, gratitude will always be one of my core values in life and sport.

Well, if you hung with me this long, good for you!  You have way too much free time and I’m totally jealous :)  It was nice to get this out of me and on paper.  Recapping a race or a season is a very healthy thing to do.  I have some big ideas for 2017 and I’m looking forward to getting my “mojo” back.  

I am also going to try and blog a little more often this year.  I learn so much through my racing, my coaching, and the feedback of those around me…it would be a shame not to share it.  If even one person is inspired by this…it was well worth the time to put it together. 

So enjoy some time off this fall…I know I will.  While the weather in Chicago is about to turn ugly, it is the perfect time to assess and build the body and mind back up for 2017! 

See you at the races!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Inner Strength....

Happy Ironman World Championship Day!!!

Sitting here on the couch, resting up for the Chicago Marathon tomorrow!  What a great day so far.  Little run and breakfast with my two favorite girls in the whole world, Ana and Lyla :)

Some real mixed emotions for me today watching Kona.  Excitement, jealousy, pride....I can't wait to EARN my way back!  It's starts tomorrow at the Chicago Marathon.  I have a lofty goal of breaking 3 hours and no matter how good the day goes, it is going to HURT!  Its how we deal with this hurt that makes great competitors and PR's!

As I was watching several friends compete in Ironman Wisconsin last month, I got to talking about mental strength with my buddy, Brian.  He had recently read an article that said Endurance Athletes are the WORST quitters of all!  I was shocked.  But upon explanation, it made sense.  Endurance athletes have the most "time" to quit because of the duration in competition.  That aside, it is hard to keep mental focus for 3, 4, 8, 12+ HOURS. 

When things get tough...we naturally want to find the reason why.  And in my opinion, when the body and mind are tired...we gravitate towards the "negative why."  I didn't get enough sleep, stressed from work, I dropped my salt, it's too hot, I'm not at race weight, and the list goes on and on and on....

To test this theory, Brian and I situated ourselves on a large hill at mile 18 of the run in Madison.  At this point in the race, I'd say 90% of the athletes were walking up the hill.  No doubt, their thoughts were "I can't run another step."  So Brian and I cheered...and cheered LOUD.  Guess what, 90% of the walkers ran up the hill.  Why?  I thought they were exhausted?  I thought they dropped their salt?  I thought they needed one more hour of sleep?  I thought they biked too hard?

No, the answer is that their MIND gave up.  They told themselves they couldn't do it anymore.  We witnessed this for the better part of an HOUR.  Athlete after athlete giving up long before their body would give in. 

So what does it mean?  It means find your "switch."  On race day, there are NO excuses.  Unless you can't physically move your legs...keep going.  Turn the brain off...stop thinking negative thoughts...and most importantly....NEVER COUNT THE MILES DOWN!  Stay in your mile...stay in your "comfort" zone and blow past the rough parts. 

After a lot of self reflection...I realized that I had not unleashed my inner strength this year.  Madison changed that....from that day on, my marathon training took off.  No more ipod on the run, no more excuses (too hot, too humid, blah blah blah)...just hit the paces and shut the "F" up :)

Well, I've done that and I'm ready to show my inner strength tomorrow....I don't know when I will need it.  Mile 16? 18? 22? all of the above?  Probably...but I'll tell you this...if my legs are moving, I'm running HARD.  No excuses. 

I saw some tremendous inner strength this past wife giving birth to my daughter, Dan and Scott RUNNING up that hill in Madison without giving in, the end to my marathon training....

So don't give in if you are racing this weekend....I'm not.  Inner strength...tap into HAVE IT.

Dedication, Passion, Results

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I have a Blog?

Oh my...the last post here, Super Bowl Sunday!  My how my life has changed since then!  I've had a lot of random thoughts running through my head for the past few months but finding the time to write them down has been difficult. we go:

Post Kona Hangover

With Kona just a few weeks away, the excitement is starting to bubble again.  I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss Ironman, in some way, this year.  I had several buddies competing...I even trained my first Ironman athlete for IM Wisconsin this year too!  It was a blast and he did unbelievable.  11 hours in his FIRST IM! 

What I didn't miss at all was the loooooong bikes!  Sometimes, it's hard to see just how time consuming it is when you are in the middle of it...but taking a step back this year was GREAT.  I did a lot more intensity and most of my workouts were done in 3 hours or under.  That was amazing. 

What I missed was my "Triathlete Identity."  I'm an Ironman.  I do it pretty well.  So to get out of my comfort zone and try to get after the short course, it felt like something was missing.  I think in the long run, this year away will do me a lot of good though.

So as the World Championships draw closer and the inspiration of Ironman Wisconsin lingers...I'm super excited to be back at it next year!  I am officially signed up for Ironman Chattanooga.  Another assault on Kona?  I guess we will see.....

Baby Lyla

One of the biggest changes this year was the birth of my daughter, Lyla.  What a blessing she has been.  Life has a whole other level of meaning now.  Being a father is the most rewarding thing I've ever experienced in my life.  She is wonderful and I couldn't ask for a better daughter or wife (Love you Ana!)

From an athletic standpoint, Lyla is going to CRUSH it.  She won her first "race."  In the delivery room, our doctor said there was a lady in the next room delivering baby #4.  No way we were going to "beat" her.  Well...not only did we beat her...Lyla came out 15 minutes before the baby next door!  TAKE THAT WORLD!  She came to RACE....and to WIN!

People can tell you how hard it will be to train when you have kids, but until you experience it for yourself you just can't understand.  It was TOUGH.  Long nights....recovery time is a third of what it used to be.  My "couch" time was quickly replaced with diapers, feedings, cleaning an endless supply of BOTTLES, and trying to pitch in wherever possible to help Ana.  Oh...and I still had to go to work too.

But I got it in.  My race season (to date) was a little bit of a disappointment if I were to be honest.  I didn't have many bad races, I just never found the "race gear" that I have come accustomed to in the past.  It was rough.  I felt like I was at 85% all year.  What I'm most proud of...I didn't hang it up.  I made the effort and sacrifice and made ZERO excuses when I had the opportunity to train.  I will be forever proud of the effort I put in...the results will come again.  And truthfully, Lyla doesn't care how fast I go.  She will only care that I have a smile on my face and I'm safe.  At the end of the day, that is what matters...not a podium.  Don't mistake that as me giving in....I will get back to the podium too :)

Short Course Experiment

So with Lyla being born, this was going to be the year of the "short course."  If I just dialed it back and concentrated on speed, I would be fast right?  WRONG.  Looking back, if you want to do short course takes YEARS of commitment.  To "redline" for 2+ HOURS is a whole other animal.  In the past, I've described myself as able to deal with moderate pain for a LONG time...well, MASSIVE pain for a short time SUCKS.  In the end, it was a fun experiment and I look forward to building on this in years to come.  Some regular sleep will help for sure. 

I dealt with all kinds of issues in the races this year.  Leon's I was totally flat.  It was a good race, but not great.  Pleasant Prairie was AWESOME...because I left the watch and power meter at home and just raced on feel.  It was so cool to get back to the "basics" in that race.  It was a good race, but not great.  Racine was a total trainwreck on the run.  The swim and bike were spot on....I started cramping in the legs on mile #1 of the run.  Running 13.1 miles with legs cramps is perhaps the worst feeling in the world.  Looking back, I messed up my nutrition on the bike.  Didn't drink enough.  Idiot.  Racine was humbling.  Nationals was fun!  The leg cramps came back on the run...not sure why this time.  It was a blast of a was a good race, but not great. 

So as the Tri season wrapped up, I was ready to move on from 2013.  I didn't want to bike anymore...I needed a break from swimming...and I needed to put all the leg cramps behind me.  It was a tough full on at 85% is hard.  But like I said before, I'm proud of my year.  I gave it 100% and still did pretty good.  I can't ask for much more as a new "Triathlete Dad."

Chicago Marathon

So what's going on now?  I'm running the marathon in a few weeks!  This has been such a refreshing change from the Triathlon training.  Lots of miles...lots of HARD miles as well.  I was very worried that I wasn't going to hit my goal pacing because it felt like DEATH in training for quite some time.  Were my legs fried out?  Did this year take too much out of me?  NO.  The heat and humidity we had lately SUCKED.  It made it hard to hit the intervals...but I stayed the course. 

The last two weekends I've done 20mi runs and crushed them.  A little break in the weather and low and fitness has been here the entire time!  I still carry the inspiration from Madison IM and the mental toughness I saw on the course by my friends.  These two factors have unlocked my run.  I feel light and snappy.  I ran the fastest 20mi training run in my life today and couldn't be more excited about the race.  As with most marathons, if you have done the work, the rest is up to Mother Nature...let's see what she gives on race day. 

Another inspiration for my Marathon has been the fundraiser that I helped to set up for my Sister and Brother-in-Law.  The outpouring of support has been unreal.  I am humbled by what I have witnessed.  I am sincerely honored to be running "For a Miracle Baby."  It makes it so much more special to run for something bigger than a mile split or place in the age group.

If you have time...check out the fundraiser page...a true inspiration!

What's Next?

Well, the marathon obviously.  An Ironman next September (I'm super excited because Ana's family is finally going to see me race.  I really look forward to making them proud!). 

Most importantly, to continue to set an example for my daughter on how to live an active lifestyle.  How to push for your dreams.  How to follow through on commitments.  How to never give up and never make excuses.  How to be humble with your accomplishments.  How to genuinely care for others accomplishments.  And how to give your best 100% of the matter what circumstances you came to the race with.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful year.  I plan on following up on this blog with more.  Mental toughness....that will be the next one.  I learned a TON watching IM Wisconsin a few weeks ago.  I look forward to sharing that with everyone.

Thank you as always for taking the time to read.  This is a very cool medium for me to express some feelings.  I have had a lot of positive feedback from previous posts, so I hope my next blog isn't 7 months from now :) 

Dedication, Passion, Results

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Random Thoughts....

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  I'm surprised I remembered my password to log in here :)  Time to catch up with a bunch of random thoughts and topics.  I hope your winter is going well and you are getting excited about the upcoming race season!

2013 Schedule:  This year, I'm planning to run more short course.  I'm going to focus on speed and backing down the total hours spent an attempt to raise my speed for the next go around for Ironman (Possibly 2014).  I feel good about getting after it this year and look forward to a slightly different focus and challenge.  Below is what I'm thinking about doing for the year:

Cary Half Marathon
Leon's Olympic Tri
Pleasant Prairie Olympic Tri
Racine Half Ironman
Wauconda Olympic Tri
USA Olympic Nationals
Chicago Marathon

Looking forward to hammering it!

Lance:  It's no secret that Lance Armstrong was a huge hero of mine.  This topic has been talked about so much, it is nauseating.  So here is my take; Lance watched too much Batman growing up.  He is the biggest Two Face that ever lived.  No athlete or celebrity has done more, in my opinion, good with their status than Lance.  For that, I'm hopeful that he continues that part of his legacy and turns this into a positive.  I don't condone PED's, but I can see why he took them.  I don't condone lying, but I can see why he needed to cover it up.  What I can't understand, is why he would ruthlessly attack people for trying to tell the truth.  Lie as much as you want, but there was no need to bring innocent people down.  For that, Lance, you are a true asshole.  I'm hopeful he will fight for something positive, but once an asshole...quite possibly....always an asshole.  But damn can that guy ride a bike.

Super Bowl: My beloved Bears are not it.  Therefore, go Niners.  At least a former Bear quarterback is leading the troops.  And...I really like this new style offense that the Niners are running.  Not sure it is sustainable, the pounding that the QB's will take is no joke.  But for now, it is fun to watch.

Parenthood:  I can't believe I'm going to be a father in less than 2 months.  My blog will probably turn into incoherent ramblings of poop and diapers.  And I can't wait for that!  I am super excited and a little nervous as well.  There are so many unknowns coming...but the journey will be awesome!

Thanks for reading....I'm happy to be back writing and I look forward to chatting soon!

Dedication, Passion, Results

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Post Season.....

Phew....been a while since I've been back from the BIG ISLAND!  It has been a roller coaster of different emotions, so I didn't want to write while I was going through them.  Everyone deals with the off season and "reaching goals" in a different way.  Last year, I took 45 days completely off and gained 12 POUNDS!  Pretty sure it was exclusively beer and burgers. 

This year, I was so pumped from Kona that I wanted to get started again IMMEDIATELY.  I was ready to train the day after Kona.  The excitement from crossing the finish line is pretty much indescribable....see my other posts.  However, there was a tremendous feeling of loss too.

I spent so much time and energy building up to that finish, and now it was over.  I had no plan for the next year.  And I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself (for a little bit).  I forced myself to take two weeks off completely and that was needed physically.  Mentally though, I was struggling with what was next.

After two weeks off, I started to move around a little bit again.  Some short runs....riding my Cross bike out on the trails....little bit of easy swimming.  I was getting over my sad feelings of being home from Kona...but this moved on to another negative feeling....nit picking my race.

I think it is natural to reflect on any race you do and see what you can improve on.  As I was reflecting, I started to feel like I left a little out on the course.  The swim was great...given the swells, I couldn't have swam any faster on that day.  I was totally exposed on the bike.  The lack of power I was feeling all year showed itself in the rawest of forms the last 33 miles back into the headwinds.  And my was a sobering thought to see that I walked 16 aid stations.  Kona finisher, and I have to walk 16 aid stations to cool down?  C'mon....really?

So I felt sorry for myself.  Mostly because I won't have a chance to improve upon that race for a few a minimum...if I'm lucky. 

But then....I went to Madison with my mom and sister to get our Ironman tattoo's!  My mom and sis are both 1st time finishers and it was time to get their ink!  I had always said I would add to mine if I ever finished Kona.  So it was off to Madison to see Corey...the guy that Dan Monahan and I went to 5 years ago!

We had an absolute blast!  We got our Tat's....had dinner....drank a bunch....and crashed at the Hilton(Thank you Brian!).  As we chatted about our races, I was able to tell Mom and Cheryl how I was really feeling about my race.  Sometimes, only fellow athletes that have been through the journey can really understand how you feel.

As I recounted the day (a month had passed)...I was immediately put back in the lava fields.  I think the margarita's helped that too!  I talked about what it felt like out there...the crazy WIND (all the magazines and coverage have been talking about  how crazy it was)...and the HEAT.  I talked about all the highs and lows of the day.  And the complete exhaustion I felt when I crossed the line.

Then my mom told me about what SHE saw at the finish line.  She talked about how excited I was when I found them at the King Kam Hotel after the race.  She talked about how as the hugs and kisses emotions changed.  She saw the exhaustion coming over me...she saw the emotional toll the day had took....she told me how I had explained that this race was the HARDEST thing I've ever done.  She reminded me that I had gotten pretty emotional with my family...anyone that knows me well, knows that I'm not really a "crier."  Well, I couldn't contain the tears on this day.  I was proud, I was exhausted, and I was so thankful to everyone that had supported me.  I realized a dream that day and it was perfect.  I had left it all out is easy to nit pick when you are sitting on a couch watching TV and it is a perfect 70 degrees in your living room!  Pride...that is the emotion I feel now.

My mom helped me remember what it was like IN THAT MOMENT.  

So, learning from a race is healthy.  Even if it is the best race you've ever run.  My time wasn't the fastest Ironman I've done...but it was certainly a PR finish! 

I feel great right now.  I can't wait to get back to some "pre season" training in December.  The things I was sad about a few weeks ago...I've let them go.  BUT....they have motivated me for 2013!  My bike will get mental state on the run will toughen up even more!

It is fun to have new challenges and goals as I move into 2013.  I'll write about those in my next post...

For now, the Kona chapter is done.  I've qualified, I've raced, I've finished, I got my new ink.....and I am more passionate than ever about going back someday!  Kona hasn't seen the last of Team Barto :)

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  I'm truly blessed with all the support I get from all of you.  Enjoy your "post season."  Don't take it too seriously...we have plenty of time to improve.  Today, I'll improve on my Turkey Leftover Eating Capabilities. 

Dedication, Passion, Results

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kona...Race Recap

Holy shyt.  That was INTENSE!  Hands down...yesterday was the most difficult race I've ever been a part of.  People talk about the heat, the winds, the lava...but until you are physically racing in it, you just don't get it 100%. we go:

Pre-Race:  I got up at 3:45am and jumped in the shower and had my usual pre race breakfast.  I was in great spirits....a little nervous, but not too nervous.  I was really excited to get the day started.  We drove down to the start line around 4:40am.  I got my bags checked in and headed over to my bike to get my tires pumped up and my nutrition all set.  While I was getting body marked, the volunteer put one of my number 3's backwards...I took it as a sign of good luck!  After getting done with my transition, I headed out to see Ana and walk back to the sea wall where the crew was hanging out.  The crowds for the swim start were HUGE.  It was such a cool atmosphere.  After leaving them, I headed back to transition to wait until the start of the race.  We heard the gun go off for the Pro's, and then we started filing in. 

Swim:  I got in the water at about 6:40am.  I stood on the beach for a few minutes to take it all in.  I had finally made it to the start of the Ironman World Championships.  A sense of calm came over me as I dove in and headed out to the swim start about 100yds away.  I got out to the start line and found a surfer to hang on his board for a little a bit.  It was so amazing to be there.  I treaded water after the surfer had so go and hold the start line.  I looked around and soaked it all in.  It was surreal. 

Finally, it was time to get started!  The cannon didn't go off for some reason, so Mike Riley just yelled "go, go, go!"  And we were off!  This was the 5th Ironman swim I've competed in...and the first 20 minutes was INSANE.  I got pushed under the water several times....just when I thought I had a little space, a group...yes a group of swimmers would converge and hammer you.  I figure I spent at least 2 minutes on the first leg of the swim just protecting myself.  I didn't want get kicked or having something stupid happen in the water to jeopardize my day.  I got to the turn around and things finally started to thin out.  I really cherished the swim back into shore.  I got in a great rhythm and was able to draft off of several swimmers all the way back in.  With about 10 minutes to go, I could really start to feel the effects of 50min of swimming in the salt water.  Kona's bay is VERY salty.  My arms and neck were chaffed pretty badly.  But, I expected this! 

I reached the shore in just over 1hr 3min....I was very happy with the swim.  The bay was choppy...the competition was fierce...but I managed to put together a very strong swim.  Now it was time to get to the bike!

Bike:  Coming out of transition was so much fun.  TONS of fans and people cheering the first few miles.  It felt like a track meet.  I just remained calm and focused on my effort (watts) and not what everyone around me was doing.  I knew the first 10mi through town would be fast...but I couldn't believe how fast EVERYONE was on the bike.  I was getting passed like I was riding a granny bike with a banana seat!  The turn down Palani hill was AMAZING.  I think I hit 45mph and got to see my crew for the first time.  It was such an amazing boost.  After that, a 2mi climb and turnaround back into town...and then it was on to the Queen K and battling the lava fields!

The first 45 miles were FAST.  We had a bit of a tail wind for the first bit and we were flying.  There were HUGE packs of riders all over the place.  I really try to stay out of them, so at times I had to coast and even brake to make sure I kept the gap.  I give the course marshalls credit though, every time I passed a penalty tent there were no less than 25 guys/girls serving their drafting penalties.  It wasn't until we made the turn at Hawi that the packs started to thin out (mile 60). 

Ok, lets talk about the cross winds.  There was a cross/headwind all the way up the 19mi to Hawi.  It was blowing so times, I felt like I was biking in quick sand.  I kept very steady up the climb and just tried to stay loose through the winds.  Earlier in the week, Dan and I did this climb...but there was ZERO wind that day.  All I could do was laugh....Dan would shyt himself if he knew how different these two days could be!

I got a huge boost of adrenaline about half way up the climb as the Pro's were flying down the other was so AWESOME to see the lead timex car in the distance...helicopters flying overhead....unreal.  I recognized most of the Pros...but where was MACCA?  I guess he dropped out at mile 50. 

I finally reached the top of Hawi and was looking forward to the decent.  It was super FAST...I caught a really nice tailwind for the majority of it.  I was really happy for this because I knew the rest of the bike was going to be challenging.  On one of my Ironman DVD's, one off the Pro's said "when I make the turn at Hawi, I look out over the Ocean and if I see white caps, I know I'm in for a LONG ride home."  Nothing could be more spot on.  The white caps in the Ocean were ominous. 

The last 35 miles was directly into a headwind with the cross winds smashing you at the side from time to time as well.  It was about this time that the heat really CRANKED up too.  Did I mention I was riding through a LAVA field!  I did my best to stay in my zone....stick to my plan...I was passing many.  But at the same time, my power was dropping a bit too.  The heat and wind was starting to take it's tole on me.  I'm a fairly strong biker, but all things considered, it is my weakest part of my Triathlon.  So I just tried to keep positive and keep the pressure on the pedals. 

I made it back to Kona in 5hrs and 35min...about 15 minutes slower than I thought I would bike today.  But I was happy!  I gave it my all out there.  This is a World Championship for a reason....between the terrain, wind, and was the overall toughest bike course I've ridden.  And, I held over 20mph for the 112miles.  I'm proud of that. 

It makes me even more proud today....there were rumblings yesterday that this was one of the toughest days on the bike in terms of conditions EVER.  I was really excited to hear that.  Kona gave me her best....and I made it through!  I was standing in line this morning buying some finisher gear, the person next to me was a 19 time KONA FINISHER.  He said that was the worst wind he has ever faced here.  Crazy.  It was absolutely relentless for the last 2.5 hours. 

Run:  The bike smashed me up pretty good.  I have never felt that horrible getting off the bike before.  My legs were wobbly and I was having a hard time running through transition.  I actually had some thoughts on whether or not I was going to be able to run at all!  With my swim and bike being a little slower than expected...the marathon turned into pride.  I wasn't going to PR today...and that is OK!  But I wanted to follow through on my one true goal...leave it out in the Lava fields.  And I did just that.

The first mile of the run was one of the toughest I've ever run.  My watch showed a 7:40 I was right on my pace despite the horrible feeling in my legs.  I remained calm...sometimes in an Ironman, it can 5 or 6 miles for your legs to get moving on the run....I trusted in that. 

My rhythm started to come together after mile 2.  I had great turnover and the legs were flushing out the pain of the bike nicely.  I was showing 7:30, 7:25...etc...on my watch.  The house we rented is right on Alii drive and was so excited to see my crew at mile 4!  It had been over 6 hours since I saw them and I can't describe the tremendous boost I got when I did.  One of the "other" factors in Kona is that it is fukin LONELY.  No great crowd support like Madison....just you.  Raw.  So to see my crew....was inspirational at that point.  Now, my watch said I was running steady 7:30-7:40's for the first 8 miles....the checkpoints on though say that I was running 6:30's....oops.  :)  Guess I got a little excited. 

It was so stifling on Alii drive.  The humidity was SICK.  At about mile 8, shyt got real.  My hands started to go numb...not good.  I had nailed my nutrition to that point, but that only takes you so far.  At mile 9, I went back to my old friend, Coca Cola.  The coke tasted SO GOOD.  And it gave me the boost I needed.  I could feel my hands again and my rhythm returned just in time to climb up Palani hill.  Palani was NO joke...mile 10.5 and a half mile climb.  The crowds were amazing here...but I felt like I was melting.  One of the highlights of my day, 3X World Champ Craig Alexander was running down Palani when I was running was so cool. 

At the top of Palani, you hang a left....and BANG...Lava.  It was everything that it was cracked up to be....HOT...searing your skin hot.  Feeling the sun on my skin actually a really bad sunburn.  The only option was to keep running and try to stay wet at the aid stations.  Water on the down my back, shirt, and shorts....Ice in my hands.  That was my rhythm throughout the marathon. 

The run to the Energy lab from the top of Palani is roughly 5.5 miles...I swear to God it was all uphill.  A real grind....just keep moving.  I made a promise to myself that I would not stop running (outside of cooling off at the aid stations) unless I physically couldn't.  I trained to RUN this marathon and that was what I intended to do. 

I hung a left into the Energy Lab...where the temperatures hit upwards of 130 degrees.  It was weird though...I didn't notice it too much.  Since my skin was already on fire, a little extra heat didn't bother me too bad.  It was here that I started to dedicate miles to my friends and family.  I wanted to push as hard as I could to the finish...and needed your support to do so.

So, the entire Energy Lab was dedicated to "Baby Barto."  I wanted to make sure that I could tell my child someday about how the thought of my new life gave me strength in the toughest part of the race.  Out of the Energy Lab, mile 20 was dedicated to everyone at home following along.  There was no way I was going to hit a "Wall" with everyone cheering me on in my head!  Mile 21, that was for my crew here on the Big Island.  Mike, Jess, Uncle Phil, Aunt Colleen, and Carrie....thank you so much for your support!  Mile 22, for my parents.  Their unconditional love and support is so inspiring.  Thank you.  Mile 23, Dan and Charles...two of the very best friends anyone could ask for.  I dedicated the "mile" to Charles....and the Dave Scott/Mark Allen Iron War Hill to Dan.  I couldn't think of a better spot to dedicate to my Kona Sherpa!  Mile 24 was for my Coach, Jen Harrison.  She is such an amazing Coach and friend.  I can never truly thank her enough for guiding me to realize this dream.  Thank you so much Jen, a better Coach can not be found.  Mile 25/26....was for Ana.  If you look at my splits...I dropped to a 6:08 pace (with stopping in the finish chute)...I guess she gets me going :)  I am the luckiest guy in the world to have her love and support.  Thank you Ana....

The finish chute....that was for me.  I finally made it.  A dream come true...running down Alii and into the finishing chute is very hard to describe.  I was overcome with extreme adrenaline rush that can only be matched by my 1st Ironman in Wisconsin.  I hammed it up for the crowd a bit....high fived.  I ran past my parents....stopped, turned around to give them a hug.  It was so special.  I high fived the rest of the crew...and was able to spot Dan and give him a huge hug as well.  I will always remember that chute....simply amazing.

When I was like the world stopped for a just a moment.  My moment.  I earned this and I will forever be proud of my first race in Kona.

At the end of the day, I ran a 3hour 33min 59sec the Ironman World Championship.  I felt good for maybe 30 minutes of that run.  The other 3hrs....100% heart.  That's it.  Just the will to finish...smash myself, and leave it all out there.  Mission accomplished.

I finished with an overall time of 10hrs and 19min....that was 10 of the hardest hours of my life.  Not taking anything away from the other Ironman courses I've done, but Kona is on a whole other level.  I finished up 105th in my age group, in the WORLD. 

At least for today, I'm the 525th fastest Ironman athlete on the planet.  That's pretty amazing to think about. 

I will always cherish this week and race.  I truly couldn't ask for anything more.  I told my crew before the race that hoped it would be hard.  I didn't want to race the year it was "easy."  I got my wish...and I saw it through.

Thank you for taking the time to read, respond...and encourage me throughout this journey.  This will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my days.  No more blogs for bit...I'm on vacation now.  I'm hungry...and I think I need a mai tai! 

Aloha....and MAHALO!

Dedication, Passion, Results