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

Book Tracking Report 1

2021 Book Tracking Report

On January 1, I sent out an email to my #Eyeronvision Newsletter outlining some of my Objectives and Goals for the year. One of those Goals was to read 20 new books—books that I haven’t previously read. I don’t have a specific list or order in which to read but I have quite a few titles in my Audible Library so that’s where I started.

Wim Hof Method
Technically I started reading this book in the last couple days of 2020 so I’m hesitant to count it, but I read the majority of it the past three days, so I’m counting it!
This book details the method and philosophies of Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete who is best known as the “Ice Man” for his feats in the cold. Some things he’s done include swimming under a sheet of ice, climbing on Mt. Everest in shorts, staying packed in ice without his core body temperature dropping, and much more. He’s very into the mind-body connection and strongly believes in the power of the mind to overcome most things that ail us.
I chose to read this particular book because as an athlete I’m always looking for something that could potentially help me perform better. When I saw that Apollo Ono was the voice of the audiobook I figured it was at least worth a read. I don’t think a multi-time gold medalist in speed skating and a sub 10 hour Ironman would put his name to something that he didn’t believe in and didn’t dabble in himself. So I got the book and started reading.
What I liked about this read was that the Wim Hof Method is really quite simple. It combines Yoga breathing techniques with gradual cold exposure to enhance the mind-body connection and therefore allow you to harness the power of the mind at will. I also really liked the scientific explanations behind some of the techniques. The book was endorsed and co-authored by a doctor who researches stress hormones and how humans can adapt to the environment through gradual exposure to stress.
It’s well documented and known that gradual exposure to stressors make us better able to deal with larger stressors down the road. So the theory and practice behind the Wim Hof Method is combining breathing and cold exposure through taking cold showers and ice baths to promote growth hormones and essentially toughen us up as humans. At the same time we’re deepening our mind-body connection which allows us to be present in the moment and lower unnecessary stress levels.

I’ve always known the importance of breathing when it comes to managing stress, whether that be in normal day to day life or during exercise. As an endurance athlete my heart and lungs are extremely important to say the least. Conscious breathing helps to strengthen and improve heart and lung function which in turn improves the circulatory and respiratory systems. So it was interesting reading about some of the physiological effects doing the breathing techniques and cold exposure have. Within the first couple of chapters I decided to try out the breathing. I found a 10min video on Youtube where Wim guides you through three rounds of the breathing exercise. It took a few tries to get used to but by the second or third time watching the video I got the breathing pattern and breath holds down and I’ve been doing the breathing first thing when I wake up in the morning (usually about 20min worth of conscious breathing) and right before I go to sleep (about 10min of conscious breathing).
Am I changing my body chemistry? I don’t know. The breathing certainly feels good and my last few rides on the trainer have been pretty strong. We’ll see if I can keep improving.
Wim speaks directly to athletes in some parts of the book harping on the importance of these methods for recovery as well as performance. So as I continue with the breathing exercises and a little bit of the cold showers we’ll see how my performance and recovery are affected. (Oh yeah, I’ve been doing a little bit of the cold showers and they definitely aren’t pleasant at first. However, I’ve felt remarkably refreshed afterword, so maybe there’s something to them.)

There is certainly some stuff I didn’t like about the book. I am a skeptic when anyone makes such bold claims as Wim does. Science certainly backs up some of what he lays out in the book but a ton of research and time is still needed. I also think books like this tend to prattle on way too long about how great this makes every single person has felt doing this method. On the one hand I get it because you need to promote the good and having tons of testimonials certainly does that, but there are always times I wonder if people are just trying to fill up space. Maybe that’s what you all think of my writing though… Hmm… Something to think about…
Anyway, I think the same ideas and concepts could have been discussed in the book with much less fluff.

I think the thing I liked most about the book is that Wim says that he doesn’t want this to be a dogma or for him to be seen as a guru. He doesn’t really harp on this until near the end of the book and after calling himself a missionary multiple times. No worries though. I do like many of the ideas and concepts especially as it relates to improving stress, athletic performance and mental health. Could I do without some of the waxing on and on about the spiritual aspect of it, yes.

Last year I read “The Mindful athlete” by George Mumford who became famous through his work with professional athletes, particular the 1990s Chicago Bulls and 2000s L.A. Lakers. At the end of that book I had the feeling that Mumford was just beating his chest saying look at me I did great with all these athletes, but there wasn’t much actionable things that I took away except to be more mindful and be in the moment… Thanks dude. Mindfulness has become a word thrown around in the athletic world in recent years and I’ve heard athletes claim it’s what helps them do incredible feats. I’ve sat in on some “Mindfulness” sessions previously and tried out some of the techniques that sere supposed to help me be in the moment and be more calm. One such session was led by a Sports Psychologist at the OPTC immediately prior to a hard swim workout. I proceeded to swim horribly. Ok, that was one experience. But I’d also participated in a mindfulness session led by that Psychologist two days before the Tokyo Test Event and I had a very shitty race… Maybe that particular Psychologist’s methods don’t jive with mine.

As someone who is totally blind I have to be aware of my surroundings to the extreme. So essentially being in the moment is something I’ve been working on my entire life. I’ve always struggled practicing or participating in organized religion as I feel that’s an extremely personal experience. For me, my church/temple is being outside in nature connecting through movement and challenge.

I’m a very practical person, but can throw in the occasional philosophical thought in there. I took much more actionable steps to improving my breathing and some ideas on how I can potentially deal with environmental stressors (heat/cold) when I’m training and racing. At the end of the day, if all I get out of this book is that I do some breathing exercises, that’s fine with me. The mindfulness, mind-body connection, the spiritual parts… That will all come with time and when I’m ready for that part in my athletic and life journey. I’m not one to try and force that stuff.

So, in short, if you want to pick up and read this book, go for it! You can definitely get something out of it.

Book Tracker: 1/20


Challenge Daytona

Challenge Daytona Race Report
December 6, 2020
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla
0.5mi Swim, 12.4mi Bike, 3.1mi Run

And the rockets red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free
And the home of the brave

Fireworks began exploding overhead and all around us as the national anthem was sung. Who would’ve thunk that my first time to the epicenter of Nascar would be for a triathlon. I only grew up an hour and a half away, our family business advertised with stock cars, and tons of my friends had been to the Daytona 500 multiple times in their lives. Me though, I’d never appreciated Nascar. Now that I race in a sport that not everyone understands and appreciates though I understand Nascar better. It’s all about positioning, drafting, calculating when to make your move etc. But here I was, standing on the edge of a manmade lake in the middle of Daytona International Speedway getting ready to swim, bike and run my way in one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world. This was Challenge Daytona!

The Swim
The Paratriathlon/Physically Challenged wave was set to go off at 7:00 AM with the age groupers to follow at 7:02. A 2min head start wasn’t a lot, but it would have to do. We had some of the top Paratriathlon swimmers in the world in our little group. Reo Bronze Medalist, Melissa Stockwell, Silver Medalist Hailey Danz, and Gold Medalist Grace Norman. Throw in Jamie Brown and Eric McElvenny and we had a pretty strong crew. A 2min head start through still meant that the fastest age group swimmers would catch and run over us. We were given the go ahead and Zack and I let our teammates slide down the bank, into the water and go. Then it was our turn. We hit the water and I immediately started swimming hard.

I focused on staying out front with my stroke and trying to pull and push the water straight back behind me. Swim straight, swim smooth, swim strong. The water was a balmy 65 degrees, so perfectly comfortable in a wetsuit. I didn’t feel my strongest but I kept pressing and pushing the effort. I felt a foot just at the edge of my reach and wondered if I could possibly be on Hailey’s foot. In the pool I can out swim Hailey in almost anything under 200 meters. Anything over that she kicks my ass. I tried to just stay as close to her as possible. I knew though that by March I’d need to be out swimming Hailey in a 750 meter open water swim if I wanted to have a chance at beating Aaron at the Continental championship.

When I’m swimming in open water time seems to stand still. I tried singing a song in my head to find my race cadence but no matter how many times I heard the refrain in my head I didn’t feel time passing. Then all of a sudden I felt someone’s hands on my feet and someone almost coming up in between Zack and me. Then they were gone and I felt someone grabbing at my feet. I kicked out hard to let them know that was not ok with me. Then someone came by on my right and I accidentally grabbed a handful of heel. Welcome back to age group racing where the swim is more or less an all out brawl. Damn we’re spoiled racing at the World Triathlon level where 99% of the time it’s a civil swim and there aren’t that many of us.

Finally, I felt the sandy bottom under my fingers. I popped up and Zack swung around to my right. We were out of practice and it took me a minute to get my bearings, get hold of Zack and start running. We ran up out of the water and into transition. Having not had a ton of time before the race start I wasn’t sure about the run into transition so I struggled moving fast and peeling my wetsuit down at the same time. We got to the bike and I fumbled with my wetsuit before Zack was able to grab it and help me strip it off. I grabbed my shoes, helmet and glasses, got them on, got to my feet, unpacked the bike and we started running. We ran for what seemed like forever until we got to the mount line. I heard us running up on someone and them clip clopping in there bike shoes. We stopped, threw our legs over the bike, clipped in and took off.

Swim Time: 13min 5sec
Transition 1: 3min 19sec

The Bike
Left turn, right turn, through a little tunnel, then out onto the track.
Once we were out on the speedway I relaxed a little bit. Zack and I know how to time trial on the bike. We know how to just put our heads down and go hard. We’d been stalking the Strava profiles of mean of the pros that would be at the professional race later today and we felt we could challenge a top 10 overall time on the Daytona International Speedway Strava segment. So once we were out on the track we started to push the pace. We held back just enough because we wanted to really be able to run well off the bike. The track was buttery smooth and the turns were so gentle I didn’t even notice us coming around them. For our first lap we passed a few people but had the majority of the track to ourselves. Then the second lap got more crowded and we started yelling “on your left,” or “on your right.” Typically on a course like this we’d ride on the left and pass on the right. However, there were bikes strewn across the track. Zack steered us up onto the banking to try and get around some people. Having never ridden together on a velodrome though we didn’t quite have enough lean to avoid almost pedal striking against the 31 degree banking. So our time up on the wall was brief. We’d go up on the banking quickly just to get around someone lower down. We were still moving fast though.
By the third lap the track was very crowded. Zack and I were constantly easing off the pedals, hitting the breaks and slaloming through age groupers. A couple of the faster cyclists had hooked onto our wheel and were following us and trying to help us out a bit in yelling out that we were coming. Nevertheless we’re pretty sure we freaked out more than a few age groupers as the Chinook came flying past them.
After our third lap on the track we did a little curvy loop out by the Daytona Airport. However, this section of the course was horribly marked. There were no course marshalls, only one traffic cone and a bunch of people on bikes going every which way. We followed someone that looked like they knew what they were doing, did some kind of crazy little loop, and later found out that we rode a little extra. Eric had latched onto our wheel by then as well and followed us. After our crazy little extra loop, Eric pulled up alongside and just behind of us and we all exchanged some puzzled remarks as we soft pedaled through a little technical section before getting back on what we were confident was the right course.

We came around a corner and dove into a pedestrian tunnel. I couldn’t help but tense up and clench the bars a little tighter as I heard walls rushing by me. All I could think was, “Don’t crash!” We came out of the tunnel and back onto the track. We hammered for a short stretch then made the turn to head into T2. Zack was looking down the road for a good place to slip our feet out of our shoes. Then a woman started pointing at the ground indicating to us that the dismount line was just ahead. We’d gotten our right feet out but didn’t have time to get our left feet out. So we dismounted still wearing our left cycling shoes. Then someone came screaming by us on a bike and Zack saw the actual dismount line about 50 meters ahead. We were ticked.
I clod hopped my way running with one cycling shoe and one barefoot. We again were very out of practice and messed up turning our bike to rack it. Finally, I got around and removed my helmet and left shoe. I got my running shoes on, grabbed the run tether, stepped into it and we were off. Transition 2 seemed to take forever though. I held back just a bit on the run through T2 using that time to let my legs lose the jelly feeling so that I could really open it up on the run.

Bike Time: 29min 25sec
Transition 2: 2min 31sec

The Run
“Narrow path. Hard left, hard right. We’re a little more open. Plenty of space. 6:35 pace, bring it up a bit.”
I ran with a tight upper body for the first few hundred meters as we navigated through a tight space to get out to the smooth wide open track. Once we were out on the track though I forced my shoulders to relax, my arms to swing, and my feet to kick up behind me. “High hands, relax the shoulders, show the bottom of your shoe, lean,” I kept telling myself. I felt myself beginning to flow. There were a couple times when I had to step toward Zack and I’d tighten up, but for the most part I felt in control. I found a gear that I thought I could hold but I couldn’t go past it. I tried upping the effort a few times but couldn’t find that little extra kick. My breathing was hard but not out of control.
Zack passed me a water bottle at two aid stations and I was able to wet my mouth and splash a little on my head. I continued running hard. Zack giving me constant pace updates. 6:20, 6:10, 6:05, 5:55, 6:00. I tried to stay consistent.
“I can still see Eric, let’s try to reign him in,” Zack said. I tried upping the pace. Then Grace came up to my left shoulder and passed me. I tried matching her pace, I couldn’t let Grace beat me! Grace was running out of her mind though and dropped me fast. I refocused and tried to chip away at the gap Grace had opened up on me little by little. But the gap kept growing and I wasn’t getting any faster.
I tried imagining Thibaud, or Antoine, or Brad, or Aaron running up behind me. I tried every mental trick I knew but the extra gear just wasn’t there. Zack kept reminding me to lean. I leaned and my pace would improve, but then I’d lose concentration and struggle.
We entered the finishing shoot and I sprinted with everything I had. We hit the finish line with no fan fair, and very few people in front or behind us. I almost wondered if we’d actually crossed the finish line because it was so empty. Guess that’s how a finish line during a pandemic is… Quiet.

Run Time: 19min 14sec

The Aftermath
We collected our finisher medals, grabbed a bottle of water and headed toward transition. My watch had dinged 3 miles right around the start of the finishing shoot and Zack had started his run watch in transition. So we weren’t really sure what my exact run time was until we went back and looked at the results online later. Checking out Strava it looked like Eric’s run was just short of an official 3.1mi/5km run, and mine was as well. But on the other hand the race organization told us it was 5km. At the end of the day we can only run the distance we’re provided and if the race is listed as a 5k then that’s what we run and that’s our time. So I ran a 5k personal best of 19:14. For not having done any speed work since February, I was pretty darn happy with that. I was disappointed in my swim as I felt I should’ve been faster. The bike was fun although crowding prevented us from really seeing what we could do Finally, regardless of the run distance I paced it very well. Looking back at our run data on our watches and Strava later, I had only a 4sec spread from mile 1 to mile 3. Meaning my slowest mile was only 4sec slower than my fastest mile. Maybe there’s something to this pacing thing.

We collected our gear and headed back to the car to load up. Then we wandered around for a few minutes to find a place to take a couple good photos. Along the way we ran into several of my old Central Florida Triathlon teammates. Zack was quite surprised at how many people kept calling out to me by name. It was good to see a few familiar faces and to witness the excitement of a race. We unfortunately couldn’t stick around for very long though. We had to drive up to Charlotte for another week of bike fit and wind tunnel testing. So after grabbing a quick pic next to a race car we headed back to the van, got in, found some breakfast along the way and started our drive to North Carolina.

Thank you to Challenge Daytona for putting on a fun and safe race. It was great to close out this crazy 2020 with something that felt close to normal.

Thank you to USA Triathlon’s Amanda Duke and our coaches Derick, Chris and greg for helping us have a fun and safe training camp and race experience. Thanks to our dietician Sally for coming along and cheering hard, making sure we all ate right, and for helping look after Skye a few times when he needed to get out a little extra energy. And thanks to all my teammates—Zack, Howie, Hailey, Melissa, Grace, Eric and Jamie—for a great training camp week and race day. It was great to be around you all again and share so many miles, laughs and smiles again. Here’s to much more successful racing in 2021.


Kyle Coon

Clermont Training Camp Day 6

Clermont Training Camp Day 6
The Road to Tokyo Journal

Apologies for posting this late. I had it typed up and ready to go but then fell asleep before I could post it. Then it slid to the back burner. But I’m doing my best to get back on track.

Just a Splash Around
Today kicked off with a pretty mellow swim. Our standard Soy Latte Warm Up (400 swim, 300 pull, 200 kick, 100 swim) then 4×100 build or locomotive 400. I chose to do the locomotive just to change it up. Then the main set was 3 times through 100, 75, 50, 25 with 50% rest between reps and full recovery between sets. We were supposed to go race effort to start the 100 and increase intensity for the 75, 50 and 25. This helped open us up to go nice and hard tomorrow.
I felt pretty sluggish during the warm up but really opened up and felt stronger as the swim went on. I finished with an easy 150 to cool down which brought me to an even 2300yd for the day. Then it was back to the hotel where I met with Sally—our dietician—to do some skin fold and tape measurements to see where I was in regards to lean body mass. In short, I could lean out quite a bit. My weight was 187lb (85kg). My 8 point skin fold measurements totaled 61.6, up from 59 when I last measured in August. I need to get more disciplined with food choices and portion control.

After finishing up with body measurements I took it easy and started reading Killian Jornet’s book, Above the Clouds. Jornet’s considered the greatest mountain runner of this generation. He’s set numerous records for speed ascents and distance runs. I love the mountains and love endurance racing and training. I have tons to learn and reading Jornet’s experiences can certainly help me in that learning process.

Zack came by the room to swap out the stem and adjust his bike position. So much for not doing anything new on race day. Somehow in the midst of doing all this a wire got messed up and in the midst of trying to fix it a band that held the receiver for the electronic shifting to the bike snapped, then the other band snapped. I was definitely frustrated. What was wrong with the previous bike position? Mess with the bike position when we’re in the wind tunnel next week. We’re riding fast with the current position. Now because we tried to tamper we have to find a temporary fix.

Fortunately we found a temporary solution and everything seemed to work just fine.

We finally finished everything up, packed the van and hit the hay.

Tomorrow was race day!


Clermont Training Camp Day 5

Clermont Training Camp Day 5
The Road to Tokyo Journal

“600 for time… as a relay,” Derick told us as he, Greg and Chris stood on deck.
We were 2800yd into a swim that involved 4 rounds of 6×50 at threshold. The first two 50s we’d do on a 45sec base, 2nd and 3rd on a 50sec base and 5th and 6th on a 55sec base. Some confusion was among the team however, which spread to the coaches, so sometimes we were on a 45sec base, sometimes on a 50sec, there were one or two rounds where I swore we did 7×50. Add on top of that I didn’t feel like I had the swim power I’d been having the last four days. I was a little cranky.
We were split into two teams of three. Zack, Hailey and me racing against Melissa, Jamie and Eric. We could divide our 600yd relay up as we saw fit as long as each swimmer did 200yd. So Zack started off with 100yd, then I took off for 100. Then Hailey went for 100, Zack for 50, me for 100, Zack for 50 and Hailey for 100. Our team got smoked. Sorry, guys I just didn’t have my best 100 speed today. Then the coaches switched up the teams. They split us into three teams. Zack and Hailey, Melissa and me, Jamie and Eric. We now had to race a 200 relay. Melissa and I decided to split it up by 50s. I started, then Melissa would go, then me, and Melissa would close. Since we were in a 25yd pool we figured Melissa would gain a little bit of time since she can flip turn.
I apparently threw down a pretty fast first 50, then Melissa took off. Then one thing Melissa and I failed to do was communicate how she’d let me know to go. I think Melissa assumed one of the coaches would let me know, my plan was to listen for Melissa to come into the wall. Problem was, Melissa is a very quiet swimmer. So there was a little delay and I heard Melissa gasping for breath and I knew I had to take off. Unfortunately everyone gave Melissa grief for not letting me know to go. It’s all good Melissa 🙂
I swam as hard as I could but put Melissa in a tough spot to try and make up ground on the other two teams. Zack of course closed with a sub 30sec 50 to bring home the win for him and Hailey. It made for some good laughs and fun at the near end of a tough training week.

The Classic Camp Triple Brick
We met at the same bike path we’d done our tempo and threshold work on Tuesday. The path was flat and straight as an arrow. Today was a triple BRick—Bike/run, bike/run, bike/run.
After a 35min warmup or so we did a 2mi ride at goal race effort/power/pace. We then handed off our bikes to the coaches at a mock transition area, pulled on our running shoes and ran a straight 400 meters at goal race pace. Then we’d return to the start and do it again.
On Zack’s and my first effort we rode strong but failed to realize that we were in the small chainring. We still held better than 25mph and it felt strong, but we knew we could do better. We also mistimed how long it would take to slide our feet out of our shoes for transition, so we cleaned that up for rounds 2 and 3. Then I went out way too hard on the 400 meter run starting out at around a 5:15 pace and yo-yoing back to a 6:10.
On our easy spin back to the beginning of the bike start we switched to the big ring and that brought our speed up considerably while we were able to maintain the same high cadence. We also timed the removal of our shoes better and executed our first flying dismount since March. We pulled on our shoes, the run tether and I tightened up the discipline on the run. Zack tightened up his communication in giving me run pace checks and we kept the run pace at a consistent 6:00-6:05 for the 400.
Finally, on our 3rd round we put it all together and held our best mph on the bike, executed a nice dismount, and held a strong 6:00 pace on the run. Then we spun easy and debriefed with the team.
Everyone had successful workouts and everyone was just so happy to back in a modified team training environment. Derick complimented everyone on the team for not making the same mistake twice. At some point each of us had a hiccup but we corrected it and learned from that mistake or tried something different that worked better.
Zack and I were a bit hungry, so we ordered some Sonny’s BBQ for take out. Healthiest option, heck no! But sometimes you gotta have some baby back ribs, Mac and cheese, greenbeans/bacon, and bread. Yum, yum, yum!!!

I finished out the day by heading to the gym and making use of a foam roller. It was nice to get some shoulder mobility done as well. Then it was back to the room, shower, shave, fuel up and hydrate. Tomorrow we’re just swimming, then Zack and I might spin easy for 30min or so and pack the car for an early morning Sunday.


Clermont Training Camp Day 4

Clermont Training Camp Day 4
The Road to Tokyo Journal

PRs For Breakfast
Today started out with a 7:30 AM track session. The workout?, 1 mile all out followed by 6×200 at 1 mile pace. I’d never done an all out 1 mile time trial on the track before, Zack and I were pretty sure my best mile time came in a duathlon we’d done at some point in the last couple of years. According to my watch I’d set my best mile time ever on Monday during the 3K, so who really knows. I knew that whatever happened this morning it would probably be a new personal record for me unless I really spectacularly blew up.

I had a yogurt, muffin, coffee and ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast and filled my bottle with lemon lime gatorade to bring down to the track. I put on my warm up jacket and pants for the walk down to the track. When we got to the track though it was decently warm so I shed the layers immediately. We did an easy 14-15min warm up before opening up with a few strides. I like to run a hard 100 meters on two curves, then run a hard two 100s on the straight aways just to get my footing and feel out how the legs are turning over on curves and straights. There was some moisture on the track so that was slightly concerning and maybe affected my confidence a bit. There is also a metal rail along the inside of lane one so I had to trust that Zack would keep me away from tripping on that. He’d done a great job on Monday so now we just had to do it again a little faster.

Yesterday I chatted with Derick about a strategy for the mile. He encouraged me to go for a 5:30. Open with a 1:24 400 and try to descend from there. That was certainly my intention.

Derick gave us the countdown from five. Then we were off. I heard Eric running ahead of me and I tried to stay focused on my form, using my arms to drive my leg turn over. I tried to keep my stride long. I took a little bit of gas in the turns so that I wouldn’t waste too much energy pin balling off of Zack and trying to reaccelerate on the straight aways. I knew my toughest 400 was going to be the 3rd 400. I heard Derick yell out my first 400 split at 1:19. I was definitely going at a sub 5:30 pace, but this was probably a bit too hot of a start. Typical Kyle MO.
I blew through the 800 in 2:42 and that’s when I really started hurting. My left shin which had been bothering me before heading home for a week started to tighten up a bit. I tried pushing it from my mind. I tried trusting my form and footing. My feet hadn’t slid out from under me yet. Don’t give into the pain, stay on it. Keep driving. Keep pushing.
I came through the 1200 in 4:11, a massive slowdown. I’d have to close with a blistering last 400. I pushed myself as hard as I dared. Zack kept encouraging me. “200 meters, 100 meters, open it up!”
I hit the line in 5:37. Definitely a mile PR by a long way. My lungs were burning and my legs screamed in protest. While I was happy with the overall time, I was disappointed in my pacing. On the other hand though I took a risk which is what Derick also wanted me to do.

I’m pretty sure all of us on the track this morning set mile PRs… well except for Zack. His best is a 4:38. He briefly thought about doing his own mile TT, but decided against it.

After a 10min easy recovery jog, we lined up for 6x200m at the pace we’d just run our mile in. I had to run 200s in 42sec. We’d then jog easy for 200 and repeat. My first was a little hot at 40.7, but then we settled in for the next 4 between 41.5 and 41.9. We closed with a 40.4 before doing an easy cool down jog. Then it was back to the hotel for coffee and a second small breakfast. I grabbed a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and a small container of coco crisps with milk, as well as a cup of coffee. Then it was time to gear up for the swim.

Coach Chris Palmquist led the swim today. It was 10min choice warm up mixing in freestyle and paddles/pulling. Or as Hailey called it “IOa,” meaning “Illusion of Autonomy.” I did 200 swim, 200 with paddles, 100 swim. After which coach Chris had us do what she calls the locomotive 500. This means every 25yd you take one more harder stroke building up to race effort. So on the first 25 you take 1 hard stroke then cruise the remainder of the 25, then you take 2 hard strokes on the second 25 and easy cruise the rest of the 25, then 3 hard strokes, and so on and so forth until you get to 20 hard strokes on the 20th 25. When I hit the wall I felt good and warm and like I’d built into the 500 very nicely. Hailey, in the lane next to me, echoed my thoughts and Derick made a note to add that into our warm up routines for certain swims when we’re back at the training center.
We then did 5×100 as 50 drill, 50 build to race pace. Then it was time for the main set.

The main set was 3×300 working on starting fast and settling into race pace. The goal was to go out hard for 25-50yd activating our various energy systems. Between each 300 we’d cruise for 100 and get plenty of rest so we could replicate our effort for each 300. I went out strong on the first 25 and then tried settling down into race pace. I hit the wall in 4:20 for the first 300. Then tried pressing for 50 on the second 300 but fell off a little bit coming in at 4:24. On the third and final 300 I pressed for 25, then pressed a little more but not for the whole 50. Then I settled into race pace, but tried to not drop my race effort too much. Additionally, I tried closing a little faster which resulted in me swimming 4:17. I then did 200 easy and 200 with paddles to round out for a nice 300yd swim. I felt good, and returned to the hotel for a lunch of a chicken sandwich with cheese, ham and spinach. I also snacked on some pita chips and hummus, and some watermelon. Then it was time to gear up for the afternoon ride.

Munching On Sugarloaf
When ever Mike and I would come to Clermont to do a long ride during my first couple years figuring out how to be a triathlete, Sugarloaf Mountain was my nemesis. This short punchy little climb only gains about 190 ft in elevation and kicks up to about 8.5% grade. The last time I’d ridden Sugarloaf was my birthday 2015. I didn’t even have a GPS watch yet, but fortunately Mike had recorded our ride that day and I was able to track down our time up Sugarloaf thanks to Strava. I knew I was a significantly stronger athlete now and was curious to see how challenging Sugarloaf would be for me now.

We casually pedaled from the hotel as a team and cruised out to the backside of Sugarloaf. We rode to the top, congregated and then Derick led us down to our starting point down the steep side. Our goal today was just to do two repeats of Sugarloaf as openers for our hard bike ride tomorrow. So Zack and I set off ready to rip up Sugarloaf, but barely part way up we had a bad shift and the chain seemed to come off the rocky wheels. So we pulled over to doublecheck it. Then we cruised up the remainder of the climb. First rep fail, but even with the stop we climbed the hill in 3:59, only 31sec short of my PR.
We cruised back down the steep side hitting better than 54mph without pedaling. Then it was right back up. We chose better gearing this time and cruised up catching and passing several of our teammates who’d started ahead of us. After we returned to the hotel from the ride and I had the chance to upload the ride to Strava I got the good news that I’d obliterated my PR by over 1min. According to my Strava I climbed Sugarloaf in 2:19. According to Zack’s we climbed it in 2:17. All around, pretty solid. It certainly was nostalgic to ride up a hill that had given me so many fits as a beginner triathlete so long ago.

We finished off the evening having a socially distanced team dinner on the patio. Hailey found an Asian/Sushi restaurant that looked delicious so many of us ordered from it. It was nice to enjoy a meal with teammates, cracking jokes, trading insults, and laughing like old times.

Finally it was back to the room and off to bed for one more big training day tomorrow.