Book Tracker 10

Halfway to a Goal

Book Tracking 10

Taking Point
By Brent Gleeson

There’s something satisfying about reaching the halfway point of a goal you set for yourself. I’ll admit I’ve been bad about writing up reports and posting them the last few weeks. You’ll notice though that I through together a few quick reports and observations of books I finished and posted them this weekend. Well, I finished yet another book just last night.

This book was referenced in one of the other books I just read, Embracing the Suck. Brent Gleeson actually wrote Taking Point first. Since I enjoyed Embracing the Suck I figured why not read his first book.

Taking Point is all about helping leaders in companies/organizations lead their employees through change. Gleeson lays out 10 principles that he learned in his time with the Navy Seals and through his own business ventures and guides leaders on some best practices and suggestions on how to navigate change.

A couple things stand out to me. The first is the title of the book. Taking Point, which basically means “Lead!” So this book is focused on people who want to lead. This is reinforced throughout the book as Brent references how leaders are not managers. Leaders have to have a vision but more importantly communicate that vision.

The biggest theme throughout the book that I came away with was communication is key. After that is discipline and then resilience. All of these fall into my own theories of leadership which makes me think I’m on the right path. Granted this is an over simplification, but I do think that clear communication is struggling to surface in today’s environment. I myself struggle communicating clearly with my team members and especially those I’m close with. So this reminds me of an area I need to improve upon. Additionally, I can always become more disciplined and through discipline I can continue to learn resilience. In short, improvise, adapt, overcome… Damn, guess dad’s been right my whole life.

Book Tracking 9

Book Tracking 9

The Perfect Mile
By Neal Bascomb

This was a fascinating read for me being an athlete. Everyone knows that Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier in 1954 and that precipitated many others running under 4 minutes for the mile. Most famously John Landy broke the 4 minute barrier just six or seven weeks after Bannister. This book follows the journeys of Bannister, Landy and a third runner who I’d never heard of (Wes Santee) as they all strove to be the first to go under 4 minutes. It details their different training approaches, how they all competed at the 1952 Olympics and all had very disappointing races which spurred them on to do better in their athletic endeavors.
Bascomb does a masterful job of weaving a tale of each runner’s pursuit of the 4 minute mile culminating with Bannister breaking the barrier first, then Landy doing it just six weeks later. He also describes the struggles that Wes Santee had on his route to trying to go under 4 minutes and how he kept bumping up against outside barriers such as the Amateur Athletic Union, and racing for his University.
What struck me most about this book is how different and similar each man’s approach was. Bannister took an extremely scientific approach to his training and used his own medical studies to test theories on himself to figure out the best methods of training. He eventually did seek a coach’s input but not until five or six months before he broke the 4 minute mile.
Landy started out being coached but moved away from being coached after he learned a ton from observing and having conversations with some of the most famous Finnish runners at the 1952 Olympics. Landy moved toward a volume based approach mixed with lots of interval sets. His approach was run for personal accomplishment.
Santee’s running was entirely guided by his high school and then college coach. Santee was definitely the most outspoken, and dare I say arrogant of the three men. On the other hand he ran on behalf of his college team which didn’t permit him to solely focus on breaking the 4 minute mile until the last couple of months of college when he was embroiled in scandals and legal battles with the AAU. I got the impression that Santee was so full of himself that he failed to communicate clearly with certain competitors who actually tried to help him. In one of his last races when he tried to break the 4 minute mile, a competitor came around him and tried to pull him to the 100m to go mark but Santee thought he was starting his kick and so Santee didn’t want to risk losing so he launched a sprint costing him the 4 minute mile by less than 1sec. If he had just stayed on the shoulder of the competitor and kicked 100m later than he did, he very possibly could’ve broken the 4 minute mile. But I get where Santee’s head was at. It’s really hard to see someone move into the lead and not immediately counter the attack because you’re afraid you won’t have the kick you need.

A story related in this book that I’d never heard before was about how Bannister and Landy had an epic show down at the Empire Games (which I assume are now the Commonwealth Games). Bannister had broken the 4 minute barrier, then Landy, and six weeks after Landy ran sub 4, the two met head-to-head and ran an incredible race against each other. The race showed their contrasting styles of running and displayed the importance of even pacing, tactics, and having extreme fitness. Both men planned their race, raced their plan, and ran what equated to a near perfect mile. Both ran sub 4 at that meet, but you’ll have to google or read the book to find out who won the head-to-head 🙂

Most of all I came away with a deep respect for all three men profiled in this book. It’s really incredible what they all did and tried to do using various methods. They were all certainly naturally gifted but put in tons of hard work in order to achieve what they did. I can take a little of each man/athlete and implement what they did into my own understanding of what it means to be a competitor and to reach my highest potential.

Book Tracking 8

Book Tracking 8

Embrace The Suck
By Brent Gleeson

Hey, another business book written by a navy seal extolling the values of hard work, no pain no gain, and relating lessons from the battlefield to the board room… Bla, bra, bra? Maybe, but I’m a sucker for military guys who translate their military success to business success. Maybe that’s because my biggest mentor, my dad, took what he learned in a short six year military career and translated that to learning under others and then propelled himself to a massive business success.
Navy seals have become so renowned for their exploits, whether we’re talking about David Goggins, or Admiral William McGraven, Jocco Willing, etc. every single one of them has something to teach us and have valuable insights into what it takes to succeed. This book essentially tells us that a path to success exists in embracing the suck, or as my friend and mentor Erik Weihenmayer would put it, embracing adversity.
It’s not a new message and definitely one I embrace, but also one I need to be reminded of regularly especially when my own training is not going so well. Just the other week I had to remind myself of this book’s core message as my guide Andy and I ran hard at or near my 5k race effort on a cold and windy day. As we jogged during the cool down Andy reminded me that I needed to relish every single training condition thrown at me. Hot and humid, awesome; cold, wet and windy, bring it on; the worse the conditions the happier I needed to be because I could thrive in that environment. Anyone can perform in ideal conditions, it’s those who can still perform in the toughest of circumstances that rise to the top.
That’s essentially the core message of Embrace The Suck. Adversity makes us stronger.

Book Tracking 7

Book Tracking 7

Business Made Simple
By Donald Miller

If you need an introduction to how business can work this is a great read. It gives clear, simple, and easy to follow explanations on various ways on how a business works. One of my biggest take aways from this read was Miller’s comparisons between a business and an airplane. His analogy of a business being like an airplane is very powerful and allows you to easily form a picture in your mind on how various aspects of a business work together.
For example, you have the body of the plane, wings, engines, fuel, passengers, and the pilot. The body of the plane is analogous to the overhead of the company (expenses the company has to operate). Then there’s the wings which give the plane lift which is analogous to the company’s products/services. Through in the engines of the plane which are the marketing and sales arms of a business. Sometimes you can have one engine where sales and marketing are under one umbrella, sometimes it’s better to have them as two separate engines working together. Then you have the fuel which is essentially the cashflow of the business, the passengers (customers), and the pilot who flies the plane (the business leadership directing the company where to go).
You can easily see how each one of these components are critical to success. Miller takes you through the entire breakdown of a business and simple ways to implement sales funnels, marketing strategies, product development, etc.
For me, I did get some out of this book, but much of it is stuff I’ve been learning through other books and through learning from businesspeople in my life and through my own experiences. I do enjoy a different way to think about a business though. I’m always interested to see how people compare things, such as a business to an airplane. To me this gives me more tools to my toolbox to think differently.
This book is full of many business and motivational cliches, but what business book isn’t these days.

Sarasota Showdown

Sarasota Showdown
USA Paratriathlon Invitational
March 14, 2021
Sarasota, Fla
750m Swim, 20k Bike, 5K Run

*This Race Report contains strong language.

“Aaron’s the gold standard and I need to measure where I’m at.”
“You’re strong so just go kick some fucking ass!”
“How the fuck did they leave you off the national team?”
“Go fucking throw down and show the world that you’re here.”

One year earlier I was coming off a herniated disk in my low back and was only a month removed from hand surgery after a 25lb dumbbell landed on my hand in the gym. I’d been ready to throw down and earn my spot in the driver’s seat to represent Team USA at the Paralympics for Paratriathlon. Then COVID19 swept across the world and upended life as we knew it.
After months of lockdown and uncertainty we finally returned to full-time training. It took a while to get my groove back and for much of the remainder of 2020 I listlessly plodded through my workouts. Sure I could still throw down some decent bike power and there were some glimpses of speed in the water and on the run.
I went home to spend time with my family over Christmas and New Year’s and returned to the training center the first week of January. I knew my first race of the year would be in Sarasota. Whether that race would count for Paralympic and/or World Ranking points was uncertain, but I knew it would count in my mind and depending on who decided to turn up and race it would count in the minds of everyone watching. So I made a commitment to focus on the process and to throw down. Fortunately for me my fellow resident teammates Howie Sanborn and Jamie Brown had moved on campus and were both committed to getting back to their best. Hailey and Melissa both also seemed hyper focused upon all of our return to training together. A shift seemed to be occurring on the resident team where we were all holding each other more accountable while being incredibly supportive. Every day we each showed up to train and pushed each other. We encouraged each other, and lifted each other a little higher with every swim stroke, pedal revolution and running stride. Before we knew it, it was time to travel to Sarasota to see what each of us was capable of doing.

The St. Pete Shit Show
I stepped out of the shower into an inch of Luke warm water. “What the fuck!” Flew from my mouth. I must be very incompetent at showering. I immediately began mopping up the water that I thought was just by the shower. But as I moved toward the door to the rest of the house we’d rented my concern and frustration grew. The water extended all the way to the door and out into the hall. I began to really worry. What was going on. I called to Howie and Noah who were tinkering with Howie’s hand cycle in the living area. Noah grabbed the rest of the towels we had in the house and tossed them my way. I mopped up and rung out the towels. Mopped up and rung out. Mopped out and rung out. Mopped up and rung out. Then Andy came out of his room and asked what was going on. He peaked into the bathroom. “Oh shit, that’s coming from the toilet.”
Since I had the pleasure of already being drenched in what we now knew as toilet/shit water Andy talked me through shutting off the water to the toilet. Even though I shut the water off it kept on coming. I continued mopping up with sopping wet towels as Howie worked to get hold of our Airbnb host to request a Plummer.

We’d arrived on Wednesday night and as we pulled up to the house Howie received a message from the host letting him know that one of the two toilets was out of order but the second toilet worked great and both showers were working. We walked into the house and while the floors were clean it was pretty evident that this house had been misrepresented on Airbnb. The walls and ceiling weren’t very clean, several outlets were hanging out of the walls, the TV still had a sticker on it, the box for the microwave was stashed behind the couch. Then standing at the kitchen sink we could look directly through a window into the back bedroom. Not exactly the most private for whoever got that room. Oh well, we could make do. Sure only having one toilet for four athletic dudes wasn’t ideal but we’d all stayed in worse before.
We’d chosen to stay in st. Petersburgh, Fla because our fellow teammates had rented a house not far from here and we all wanted to stick together and do some training together and be able to hang out both pre and post race. Sure we’d have to drive 45min to get to Sarasota on Sunday morning but it was worth it to us.
Thursday and Friday passed with little issues except for us occasionally joking about how we didn’t think the Airbnb was worth what we were paying for it. We were also slowly breaking Andy out of his shell. Andy Potts had been training with us for a few months now and while he was a great guy and athlete we really hadn’t cracked through to his personality yet. After two full days with us nutcases we realized the we’d broken Andy and he was flinging insults, making wisecracks, and fitting right in.

Friday afternoon we spent tinkering with bikes, putting on new tubes and tires, and doing general tune ups. Melissa came over to hang out with us for a while and did an excellent job cooking us all up a few Bubba Burgers on the stove. We were bummed that the grilled that had been advertised was nonexistent, but Bubbas still taste great on the stove.
After Melissa left is when the shit hit the fan with the bathroom flooding.

I’d been able to sop up the majority of the water and discovered that the cocking on one side of the base of our one working toilet was gone. So now we had no working toilet. Howie had finally gotten hold of Airbnb who’d gotten hold of the host and we were promised a Plummer would arrive at 1:00 AM. It was going on midnight and Howie offered to wait up. The rest of us went to bed.

I was awoken by the sound of someone hammering on the doorbell at 7:00 AM. I stumbled to the front door making it there the same time Andy did. We greeted the “plummer” (term used extremely loosely) and invited him to come check out the toilet… After of course insisting he return to his truck to put on a mask. He walked in, stepped directly on the bath mat we’d bought and stuck in front of the door of the bathroom to stem the flow. I cringed at the squelch of a thoroughly soaked bathmat of toilet water. The “Plummer flushed the toilet and said he needed to go to Home Depot. Then Andy asked him to come take a look at the second toilet. Hey, this guy was here maybe he’d be able to fix both toilets so we could have two working toilets rather than no working toilets. As soon as Andy and the gentleman stepped into the second bathroom Andy began gagging. Sewage had pushed its way up through the shower and flooded the second shower. Howie immediately jumped online and booked us a hotel. There was no way we were going to stay in this house with sewage backing up into one of the showers.

The Plummer disappeared for a bit to go get his supplies and returned to try and fix everything. Meanwhile, Andy and I took off on an easy spin to loosen our legs, after all we had to race the next day.
When we returned the plummer, who we were now expecting was more of a handyman friend who owed the Airbnb host a favor claimed he’d fixed the first toilet and was now snaking the second bathroom. We began moving our stuff to the cars. The handyman was up on the roof and insisted Andy go check the second bathroom to see how things were progressing. Andy, being a nice guy, did. He came out and let everyone know that the situation was even worse. Sewage was still coming up through the shower. We were all done with this shit show and ready to get away from this house.

Packet Pik Up and Course Preview
We moved our gear into an extended stay hotel and then hit the road to Sarasota so we could pick up our packets and do a quick preview of the run course.

We arrived at Nathan Benderson Park around 3:30 PM. Andy and I immediately bumped into Aaron Scheidies and Greg Billington (2016 Paralympian, who would be guiding Aaron for this race). We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other luck for the next day’s race. As we walked away Andy told me in an undertone, “Aaron looks very fit. He came to race.”
“Bring it on,” I said.

We headed out to jog the run course and talk race strategy. Then we collected our race packets and headed back to St. Pete and our significantly better extended stay hotel.

Race Day
“It’s fucking race day1 It’s game time! Are you ready?”
Andy was practically spitting with excitement as he pummeled my shoulders in transition before the race. As we walked past Howie, Andy got right up in Howie’s face and did the same thing. Then turning around he pumped up Melissa, Hailey and Jamie in turn. What was going on? We were all jazzed but when you’ve got Andy Potts getting in your face pumping you up you can’t help but get even more amped. You’d have thought Andy was about to race in Kona he was so jazzed and excited. And that excitement and “Game On” attitude infected the entire Paratriathlon Resident team. We were all ready to throw down.

The Swim
We stepped out onto the pontoon. The first wave of Paratriathletes went off at 11:00 AM. This wave consisted of the PTS2, PTS 3, PTS 4, and PTS 5 men. One minute later the PTS 2-5 women took off. Then Andy and I lowered ourselves into the cool water. Aaron (guided by Greg) and Owen (guided by Ryan) would begin chasing me 3 minutes and 21 seconds after I started. Small benefit of being totally blind I guess. Even so I’d never beaten Aaron in a race. Aaron had never actually ever lost to a fellow visually impaired American. Could I do the unthinkable? Something that had never been done before?
The horn sounded and I charged ahead. Andy, swimming to my left, was so jazzed he nearly ramped it up too much and was on track to go to his swim race pace before he remembered that despite my progress I can’t swim 1min per 100m… But we corrected and began getting in sync with each other. I’d been swimming well coming into this race but today felt different. Every time my hand entered the water I had no trouble getting a vertical forearm and catching the water. I was able to generate smooth and powerful strokes. I remembered the words of my coach, Derick Williamson, “Smooth, steady and strong.” I didn’t try to hammer the swim, I didn’t try to swim easy, I just swam and focused on breathing and pushing as much water behind me as possible. I felt us pass by one of the women that had started ahead of us. Then on the back half of the swim I felt us come up on the feet of someone else. Then we were past them, and then we passed a third person. WTF, what was going on? Either some people were having really tough swims or I was having the swim of my life. Turns out it was the ladder.
I felt my hands hit the sandy ramp which signified our swim exit. I popper up and Andy immediately ripped off the tether and jumped to my right side. We sprinted up the ramp and into Transition 1.
Swim Time: 11min 6sec

Transition 1
As I ran I yanked down the zipper of my sleeveless wetsuit. Initially I had a bit of trouble getting it down to around my waist but eventually was able to free both arms. Andy led me to the bike and I ripped my wetsuit the rest of the way down to my ankles. Of course, my wetsuit got hung up on my heels and I had to spend a few extra seconds prying the wetsuit off. Then I chucked the wetsuit, swim cap and goggles into the baskets where all of our discarded gear is supposed to go. Then it was on with my blacked out sunglasses, Giro Aerohead helmet, and cycling shoes. We grabbed the bike and ran to the mount line. We threw our right legs over the top tube, clipped in and took off.
Transition 1 Time: 1min 13sec

The Bike
It took a few pedal strokes to get up to speed but once we were up to race power and effort we settled in. We quickly made our way to the only technical part of the bike course, a tight 180 degree lefthand turn. We’d spun easy in the morning prior to the race and ridden around this turn two or three times, but riding easy around a turn and taking it at speed are very different. Andy took our first go at this turn a little cautiously. We came out of the turn and quickly powered up to speed again. I felt so good. I was cruising. My legs felt so fresh and I just wanted to hammer, but I knew I had to keep focused and stay within myself. This race wasn’t going to be decided on the bike. It was going to come down to how fast I could run.
Andy smoothly navigated the course. We kept ramping up our effort on each lap. As we came out of each 180 I consumed a good amount of fluid. I was trying a new drink mix that Andy gave me. It was an Infinite Nutrition Bike Blend with caffeine. It was easy to drink and wasn’t upsetting my stomach, not yet at least.
There were only two hairy moments on the bike. During the second lap the back end became a little squirrelly and Andy had me stop pedaling so he could look back and assess. He was worried we had a flat tire. After a few seconds though we resumed pedaling. We think some debris just made our back end wobble a bit. Then on the third lap we came out of the 180 turn and I began to throw down some power. Maybe a little too much because it caused us to swerve a bit and very nearly eat pavement. Andy kept the bike upright though and we continued.
As we approached the end of the bike we passed my teammate, PTS4 competitor Jamie Brown. Jamie gave us a yell of encouragement, and after giving us the appropriate 10m drafting zone began trying to match our pace. We were flying. Jamie later told me that he was so jazzed and pumped up to see us come past him he couldn’t help but become reinvigorated to race and continue to extend his gap on his competitors.
Before I knew it Andy was telling me “left shoe” signaling to me to unstrap my left shoe and pull my foot out. Then a few pedal strokes more and pull the right foot out. We made the final turn on the bike course and Andy gave me the count down. “3, 2, 1, dismount.” I popped off and we began running with the bike.
Bike time: 26min 25sec

Transition 2
We sprinted to our spot in transition. As of yet we hadn’t seen Aaron or Owen since the very start. I knew I had to be quick in T2 though because both of them could run like the wind. I fumbled with my shoes and had to take a couple deep breaths to center myself. Finally, my shoes slid on to my feet, I grabbed the run tether, yanked it over my head and Andy was there to run next to me as we headed toward the run course.
Transition 2 Time: 58sec

The Run
“Stay focused. Don’t go out too fast. Descend this run,” I told myself. We took a hard right hand turn, then a left and we were out on the run. I took a deep breath in through my nose letting my belly fill up with oxygen. Then I forcefully released it. Andy kept telling me “relax, chin down, show the bottom of your foot, roll with it.”
We made our way onto the first of three little foot bridges we’d have to cross. These bridges would be the only elevation gain on the run. In previous years running up these crushed me. Today I was feeling good. My legs felt lighter than they ever had coming off the bike. It took a ton of self control not to just start sprinting and throwing down the gauntlet. I knew that if I wanted to run the run I was capable of running I had to be patient and execute the plan. And Andy was sticking to the plan. Several times he’d tell me to back it off to pick it up. We wanted to run a conservative first mile. We hit the first mile in 6min 7sec. Then we began to turn up the heat. We made it off the last bridge and onto a flat dead straight stretch that would bring us out to the 5K turnaround point.
At this point we were running into a headwind. We hit the turnaround and the air seemed to just stand still. I went from hearing the wind blasting in my ears and the breeze having a cooling effect to a very hot and humid day where I was trying to run 6min miles. My breathing rate seemed to double, I suddenly felt the sweat pouring off my face and body. My legs felt heavy and I just knew that Aaron would be there when I turned around. In my head I was saying “There’s no way you’ve been running at a 6min pace. Aaron’s got to be just behind you and Andy’s been lying about the run pace.”
Andy had a calm head though and I think he could tell I was beginning to struggle. He reminded me to relax, to let myself flow, to not become mechanical. We ran for 30sec, then a minute. Where was Aaron? Then he was there running toward us with Greg.
“Here they come,” Andy said. “You knew Aaron was going to come to race. So don’t give him anything. Look strong. Stay focused. You’ve got this!”
We passed each other and once we were out of ear shot Andy said, “You’ve got a 2min 40sec gap.” I couldn’t believe it. That knowledge gave me a boost. I began really pushing myself to go even faster. I knew that 2:40 gap could shrink in the blink of an eye if I let off the gas. Aaron’s been racing a long time and is probably the best blind/visually impaired triathlete in history. I knew he could turn the jets on and close a gap to anyone in the world. If I wanted to hold onto this lead I’d have to turn myself inside out to do it.
As we ran we began passing people in the opposite direction. We saw Owen and his guide Ryan looking ridiculously strong as they chased Aaron and Greg. Jamie Brown running strong. Then my teammate Hailey Danz. As we passed Hailey gave her trademark phrase “Fuck yeah Kyle!!!” Hailey and I are swim buddies in the pool. We pace off each other and push each other to dig deeper. We’d both made major jumps in our triathlon fitness the past two years and had both made significant strides in closing the gaps on our competitors. Hailey could see I had a massive lead on Aaron and she was stoked. Just a short 30sec later we saw our teammate Melissa Stockwell who yelled with excitement and encouragement to see our gap not just holding but growing. Then female BVI compatriot Liz Baker and her guide Jillian Elliott. We made it onto one of the bridges and Andy continued to push me.
“Come on Kyle, don’t let off the gas. Bring it up! Bring it up!” He was almost begging me to give a little more. I pumped my arms, kicked my legs behind me and forcibly exhaled. We made the final turn and hit the finisher shoot. Andy yelled at me to sprint and I did. I sprinted hard begging the finish line to come to me faster. Then we were there and I heard the announcer say that I was the first to cross the finish line in the men’s PTVI class. I couldn’t believe my ears. I grabbed Andy in a massive bear hug and held on, yes because I was excited and grateful that Andy had pushed me to my limit and helped me execute the race we knew I was capable of, but also to prevent myself from collapsing and hitting the ground too hard from exhaustion.
Run Time: 18min 38sec
Total Time: 58min 18sec

The Aftermath
I sank to the ground and stayed there on my elbows and knees trying to catch my breath as I listened to the music at the finish line and the excitement of the crowd that was there. After a minute Andy encouraged me to get up. “Don’t let your competitors see you on the ground. Stand up and be strong.”
I got slowly to my feet and we made our way to the side of the finisher shoot. Then we saw Jamie Brown make his final turn and come running into the finish line to claim his first win since July of 2019. He came to us and we bear hugged. “Fucking awesome bro!” He said. We all stepped out of the finish area and waited. Where was Aaron? After a couple of minutes we saw Aaron and Greg make the turn and run into the finish line. Less than two minutes later Owen and Ryan came in to round out the podium.
After a few minutes we were right back at the side of the race course eagerly awaiting our next teammates to cross. Hailey came across to win the PTS2 female race with Melissa hot on her heels to claim Silver. Not long after that Howie blazed across the finish line to claim his first victory since 2017. Across the board the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team dominated, more important than that to each of us though was that we were all just as excited for each others wins as we were for our own.
Each of my teammates came up to me after they’d caught their breath, gave me huge hugs and congratulations and I did the same for them. We’d all jelled as a team and the culture our coach had bred in us and our willingness to embrace that culture of supportiveness, camaraderie, and excellence brought us to these heights. What’s most exciting though is that none of think we’ve even touched our potential. Yes, we all crushed our races. Yes, we all overcame massive obstacles on our way to our first wins in 2021, but we still have a long way to go. We’re keeping an eye on our vision. Our vision is for us all to replicate Sarasota at each race, but especially Tokyo.
We don’t know when we’ll race again, possibly May, possibly later. What we do know is that we will all be there ready to rock and roll.

Thank you to my team for believing in me every step of the way. Thank you to my family for understanding the dedication it takes to compete to be one of the best blind/visually impaired triathletes in the world. Thank you to USA Triathlon for believing in me enough to give me the tools to succeed and for having the vision to develop this USA Paratriathlon Invitational race Series to allow us to compete. Thank you to my coach Derick Williamson for taking me from where I was to where I am, we’re not done yet and he believes we can get even faster. Thank you to my incredible partners, Bubba Burger and Cycles Chinook for your unwavering support on my journey. Thank you Andy Potts for guiding me, pushing me to new heights, for being an incredible mentor and coach as well as my eyes. And thank you to all of you, the #eyeronvision family. I hope you enjoy these race reports. I hope you’re able to make it out to a race some time soon. I hope reading about my adventures reminds you to keep an eye on your own vision and to live your life without limits.

Until the next time.

Remember to always keep an Eye On Your Vision!


USA Paratriathlon Invitational PTVI Men Results:

  1. Kyle Coon/Andy Potts: 58min 18sec
    2.Aaron Scheidies/Greg Billington: 1hr 1min 48sec
    3.Owen Cravens/Ryan Giuliano: 1hr 3min 12sec

Thanks for the great race gentlemen! Can’t wait to toe the start line with you all again!

Kyle Coon

Book Tracking 6

Book Tracking 6

Breathing for Warriors
By Dr. Belisa Vranich and Brian Sabin

Being that it’s crunch time where I need to search the depths of anything and everything that can make me a better all around athlete in my pursuit of excellence manifesting in making it to Tokyo this year, I’ve been diving into areas of athletics that I’ve previously not really payed much attention to but knew were important. I’ve always felt that there’s a process in becoming an elite athlete. You need to learn your sport, then find ways to manage the physical stresses, then you look to improve yourself. Underlying all of this is developing a love and passion for continual improvement. One area that always has been at the back of my mind has been breathing. I can’t see something externally to focus on, I can’t see myself working on technique in a mirror. Quite often I’ve lost my breath overthinking and stressing about messing up or panicking. On the other hand I’ve often cringed when I hear athletes, coaches and sport psychologists talk about “Mindfullness,” and training between the ears is more important than anything. I get frustrated at people who are at the competitive level I am talk about how winning doesn’t mean as much to them. For some select few that have been in competitive sport for so long this is true. I envy those individuals.
To be a high level competitive athlete is so much more than speaking to yourself positively, trying to find some spiritual connection, or just going as hard and fast as possible. Being an athlete at the highest level possible involves a super deep dive into exploring yourself from a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual standpoint. However, to comprehend this is overwhelming to most. It’s overwhelming to me at times. So I seek to improve on every aspect of being an athlete. And one of those areas that is so simple we often overlook it is how we breathe.
For me, breathing is so critical. I’ve found myself the past few years finding myself defaulting to certain breathing patterns while swimming, cycling, running and lifting. About 10 years ago I took a continuing education course for my Spin Instructor Certification that talked about yoga breathing techniques for indoor cycling. Around the same time when I was obtaining a personal training certification the instructor asked us what the one thing we couldn’t survive without was. A few people threw out, water, nutrition, mindset… Then he said “Hold your breath.” The point was clear, oxygen was our biggest necessity. All of this floated around in the back of my mind and in recent months I’ve finally dedicated a bit of time to exploring breathing further.

I started with Wim Hof, and this book “Breathing for Warriors” was a recommended read on Audible once I finished Wim Hod’s book. So I dove right in. I’m not one to say that one thing is the key to success. Breathe properly and you become superhuman with no ailments and with the ability to conquer anything. Not so much. Breathing is a tool in the toolbox, just like proper stroke technique in swimming, pedaling and run mechanics in cycling and running, and proper form in lifting. Throw in how to use positive self talk, negative self talk, hope and anger, now you begin to get the picture.
What interested me most about Breathing for Warriors was the actual mechanics of breathing. What are the best methods to breath for recovery, swimming, cycling, running, lifting? How can I work on breathing diaphragmatically rather than with muscles that fatigue quickly. In short, I want practicality. And for the most part I found that in this book. Actual practical breathing exercises that target primary breathing muscles. The idea is that if we can breath with our diaphragm, abs, obliques, and intercostals, then we will become more efficient at using oxygen and be able to perform at a higher level in our chosen sport. I learned how to engage and strengthen my pelvic floor and incorporate those muscles into breathing. I learned various ways to breathe into my belly, sides and back so that I can perform at a higher level while swimming, cycling and running. One of the most valuable tips I picked up in one of the chapters on breathing for endurance athletes was breathing patterns for running.

A friend who is also a triathlon coach had mentioned to me how elite runners breathe in every two steps and out every two steps. I implemented some of this over the last couple years regulating my effort based on my breathing. I knew that if I could breathe in every four steps and out every four steps that was a marathon or half marathon effort. Three steps, 10K effort and two steps was a 5K effort. I still struggled though and found myself breathing shallowly more often that not. Since beginning to implement Wim Hof breathing techniques back around Christmas and then adding in some belly, side and back breathing exercises over the course of reading this book I’ve seen rapid changes in my breathing patterns while running. And during my runs the last couple of weeks I’ve tried an offset breathing pattern—breathing in for one more step than I exhale. For example, I breathe in for 4 steps and out for 3 steps. This keeps my mind engaged and forces me to forcefully breathe deeply and forcefully exhale while making it appear effortless. Confusing?…Yeah it is to me too, but it seems to be working. Ultimately it’s just a tool in my toolbox that I can reach for at certain times in training and racing. Much like how when I was wrestling I learned as many moves as possible so that I could reach into the toolbox for the right move at the right time. I’m now learning to do the same with triathlon. Swimming especially has been a focus for me when it comes to breathing. Calm, focused breathing enhances my ability to swim fast and fatigue slower.

I know this review didn’t really talk much about the actual structure of the book, that’s because it’s really a pretty straight forward book. Learn the mechanics of breathing, then begin to practice and learn how to apply them to a variety of situations and sports. I definitely recommend anyone who wants to add another toll to the toolbox to read this book. Sure, sometimes I found myself glazing over thinking this book could’ve definitely been shorter and a little more to the point, but overall it’s a solid read and one I’ll probably read parts of again multiple times.

Book Tracker: 6/20

25% to My Book Goal

Book Tracker 05

The Digital Fundraising Blueprint
By Jeremy Haselwood

I mentioned in my last book report that I recently picked up a part time gig with the United States Association of Blind Athletes as the Program and SafeSport Coordinator. The primary duties of my job are to develop and implement Programs and to ensure we as an organization are SafeSport compliant and everyone who takes part in our Programs is SafeSport compliant. If you don’t know what all of that means, don’t worry, it basically means I help in developing the programs USABA puts on both in person and virtually and I make sure our policies align with the U.S. Center for SafeSport which makes sure athletes, coaches, volunteers, etc who are involved with the organization and Olympic/Paralympic movements follow the rules when it comes to physical and mental safety.

The reason I tell you this is because in order to create and implement good programs I need to know about fundraising, which is the nonprofit way of saying “Sales.” This book deals specifically with Fundraising in the Digital space and some strategies on how best to marry digital fundraising efforts with direct mail, and in-person events.

My first job out of college was with a Social Enterprise Nonprofit, Lighthouse Works—a subsidiary of Lighthouse Central Florida. I learned a little bit about fundraising while I was there and a little bit about how important the digital side can be. I of course have been working in the digital space for building my own brand as well as helping to reaffirm the Bubba Burger brand as well for several years. However, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in digital marketing, advertising, sales, or fundraising. So I figured reading a short little 4.5 hour book wouldn’t hurt.

The big thing with this book was that it explained many forms of digital marketing from Search Engine Marketing, to Social Media Marketing, Email campaigns, etc. It focused a lot on explaining all the major forms of awareness, engagement and fundraising done through the digital space and how best to apply it to the nonprofit world. There was a ton of good information and I’ll probably re-read sections of this book in the months to come as I think about and begin to implement programs for USABA, especially as we continue exploring the virtual space.

One of the biggest things I liked least about this book was that the author sped read. There were not a lot of pauses for emphasis or pauses for breath before moving on to the next topic. There was a point near the beginning of the book where it sounded like a bunch of gobledy-gook as the author seemed to have recorded over himself. Seriously did this guy not do a listen through of his book? Or was that a glitch on my part. There were also a few instances where he clearly messed up reading (probably because he was reading too fast) and back tracked and re-read the sentence a couple of times. Usually I like when authors read their own work, but this guy clearly isn’t a voice actor. He just read it to have an audiobook and seemed like he was trying to cram it into 4.5 hours. He has a good voice, just slow down a bit dude and take a breath occasionally.

Like I said, this book has some good information when it comes to digital marketing and how to apply it to a nonprofit. I’ll definitely be referencing this book in the months to come.

Book Tracker: 5/20
Hey I’m already 25% of the way to my goal!

Book Tracker 4

Book Tracker 04

Financial Intelligence
By Karen Berman and Joe Knight

One of the reasons I dedicated myself to reading 20 or so books in 2021 was to challenge myself but more importantly to educate myself in areas where I might be lacking in knowledge. Those who know me think I have my shit together when it comes to knowing business, finance, investing etc. While I do consider myself somewhat financially literate, I do not have the knowledge I would like. As I grow in my career as a professional athlete I recognize the importance that knowing my finances, and how to run the business side of my life is critical. So I’ve challenged myself to make sure that a handful of books I read this year are focused on financial intelligence, business operations, investing, etc.

I came across this book on a list of recommended reading for entrepreneurs. I can’t remember what website it was on, but I think it was shared by Phil M Jones, who I follow and really enjoy learning from through his writings and YouTube videos…But I digress.
This book was touted as a must read for anyone wanting to gain better understanding of finance without needing to learn complicated accounting strategies/techniques.
I’ve always struggled with the abstract way accountants think and put stuff down on paper so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give this a read and try to better understand business finance.

My initial impressions of this book are that I’m definitely going to need to read it multiple times to really get the most out of it. Early on the concepts were very straight forward to understand. I really like how the authors provide definitions of terminology used in the business and accounting worlds throughout the book. I’ll admit I’m still a little flummoxed by balance sheets, accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc. Having studied a little bit about cashflow over the years I’m a little more familiar with that kind of statement. Ultimately though I don’t need to know everything like the back of my hand right this moment. This journey into understanding business is an ongoing process and at the end of the day I want to keep it stupid simple.

I recently picked up a part time job working for the United States Association of Blind Athletes as a Program and SafeSport Coordinator and I feel this Financial Intelligence book has given me a slightly better grasp on budgets, and given me ideas on how to help generate revenue for both USABA, myself and how I can best help Bubba Burger (my primary sponsor and employer). Granted this is not a sales book, but understanding how money works and how things are referred to in the business world gives me a better understanding of my role in the machine.

The authors also touted this book as being “fun” to read. I don’t know if I’d call it “fun.” Yes, compared to a very dry accounting or business textbook this was a good read. Fun though?…Nope. It did take me much longer to read through this book partly because I was trying to digest the information a bit more slowly and for another reason…I kept falling asleep during the really boring parts LOL. Hey, the narrator has a very soothing voice that could knock me out, bravo sir!

At the end of the day, I will definitely be re-reading sections of this book so I can better understand all parts of basic business and finance. And I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is just starting out on their business journey as I am, or anyone who is looking to gain more knowledge about business/finance in general.

Book Tracker: 4/20

Book Tracking Report 3

Book Tracking Report 3

The Power of Choice
By Melissa Stockwell

This book has been on my mental reading list ever since Melissa released it last year. The audiobook version didn’t come out until December though and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I ordered it on Audible.

Melissa is one of my teammates on the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team at the Olympic/Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Of course I knew bits and pieces of Melissa’s story but I’d never heard the entire story. It’s just not something most of us discuss in great detail unless we’re asked about it—our stories that is. In pre-COVID times when we’d gather around the breakfast table for team breakfasts it was normally just a lot of laughing, moaning about the Paratriathlon system, training, racing, and anything else we could think of. Of course I learned little snippets of my teammates stories over the course of the last two years. So diving into Melissa’s book was fascinating as it gave me a further peak into one of my teammates.

Melissa describes her childhood and how she got into athletics and why she has such a strong love of country. She tells the stories of attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, joining ROTC, joining the Army, her first marriage, deploying to Iraq, and of course the story of how she became the first female to lose a limb in the Iraq War.
She describes her rehab and what drove her to work so hard to get back to competitive athletics. How she chose to go back to school for prosthetics and the story of her first Paralympics as a swimmer in Beijing. The story of her marriage falling apart, beginning her work in prosthetics, the forming of her relationship with her now husband and starting a family. Then the stories of how she got into triathlon, competing at the Rio Paralympics and the famous American sweep of the podium and her move to Colorado Springs for one last go at the Paralympics.

What struck me most about this book was how true it was to Melissa. Even though it wasn’t Melissa reading the book, the narrator did a phenomenal job capturing Melissa’s voice. If you ever get the chance to meet and get to know Melissa a little bit, you’ll understand. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when she casually mentioned her “Blue Chapstick.” We’re always teasing her about how she can’t go anywhere without her tube of chapstick. She allowed her true voice to come out. I enjoyed some of the stories about how she met all of the living Presidents, how she danced with President George W Bush and how she mountain biked with him on his ranch. She did not spew politics or her political views at all though. She just respects everyone she comes across.

Melissa is definitely a well-known figure in the ParaSport world and you’ve probably seen her in commercials—the most recent one being a beer commercial which I find funny because Melissa’s definitely more of a cocktail/mixed drink and wine person. Some celebrity figures put out a book to make themselves look good, to boost their credibility, or for some other reasons entirely. I can assure you though, the person Melissa is in her book is exactly who she is in real life. She’s our team mom as well as like an older sister figure. She has some entertaining quirks that make her truly relatable, she works incredibly hard every single day to be the best she can be as an athlete, person, and especially the best mom and wife to her family.

What’s most striking is how delicately Melissa weaves life lessons into her story. I really liked that she told her story and didn’t just schpeil motivational jargon. People relate to stories and she tells and lives her’s to the fullest.

So would I recommend this book? You can bet your bottom dollar I would! And it’s not just because Melissa’s a friend and teammate. Get yourself a copy and read Melissa’s words. And you too will commit to recognizing the Power of Choice in your own life.

Book Tracker: 3/20

Book Tracking Report 2

Book Tracking Report 2

The Language of Sales
By Tom Hopkins and Andrew Eillers

This book was a free download on Audible, and since I’m always looking to improve my communication especially in the realm of selling I downloaded it.
Overall there’s some good content in here if you struggle with knowing where to start or how to move ahead with a position on a sales team. There was a heavy emphasis on first selling to yourself through positivity and affirmations. If you can’t sell to yourself you can’t sell to others. Overall, this is true and a great message.
There were some actionable steps and examples, but they all seem a little rehearsed and not so steeped in reality. Or maybe I just haven’t been in enough sales situations. I only remember a handful of closing scenarios they presented.
I did like that they mention we need to prepare extensively before approaching clients etc.

Would I recommend this book? If you can get it for free absolutely read it especially if you need an introduction to sales and communication. If you’re going to spend money on a book invest your money into anything that Phil M Jones has a hand in. Personally I listened to his “How to Persuade and Get Paid” Audible original and got way more usable information out of that listen. As well as his books Exactly What to Say and Exactly How to Sell. I’d also recommend checking out his Youtube channel. He focuses more on creating conversations and then does a much better job of breaking down the sales process. But I’ve got one of his other books on my reading list for later this year, so I’ll discuss more about his style then.

Book Tracker: 2/20