Chasing Your Best

Chasing Your Best

Eragon: “I’m doing my best.”

Oromis: “No, this is not your best. We shall recognize your best when it appears.” He paused thoughtfully. “Perhaps it would help if you had a fellow student to compete with. Then we might see your best.”

(Passage from Eldest by Christopher Paolini.)

There’s a plastic shoe box in my closet in my parents house in Carbondale, Colorado. In that box are a bunch of ribbons and medals. Most are finisher/participation medals from triathlons and road races that I’ve completed since 2014. There are also a handful of ribbons from my brief career as a competitive rock climber in 2002 and 2003. A handful of medals hang on a display rack on my bedroom wall—Ironman Boulder 2016; Ironman Arizona 2017 and 2018; Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge 2015; Boston Marathon 2017 and 2018; as well as a few others. In my dorm room at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center I have my ITU medals hanging in front of my bed where I reach to grab my guide dog’s harness or a change of clothes. Every time I reach I hit the medals and they clang together. 2nd Sarasota Paratriathlon World Cup; 2nd CAMTRI American Championships; 3rd World Paratriathlon Series Milan; 2nd Magog Paratriathlon World Cup; 2nd USA Paratriathlon National Championship. In my almost 28 years I’ve never been the best at something… Well, except once. Buried in that shoe box is a crumpled Blue Ribbon from the 2005 James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School History Fair, Research Paper Division. That year’s history fair topic was “Communication in History.” At the urging of my seventh-grade geography teacher I wrote a research paper on Braille and how it contributed to the improvement of the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

Nearly 15 years later I’m fascinated by this 1st place Blue Ribbon. The History Fair topic “Communication” wound up being what I studied in college, it’s what I technically do for a living, and it’s something I’m at once good at as well as terrible at. Another thing that fascinates me is the subject of that research paper—Braille. A system of reading and writing developed by a young French boy who just wanted to read. Once he developed the system he began teaching it to others, and then made it a goal to spread it to as many blind people across the globe as possible. Roughly 176 years after Louis Braille’s death, Braille is seemingly threatened by digital technology such as screenreading softwares and fewer kids than ever are learning to use Braille. However, this isn’t a post lamenting progress. I mention Louis Braille because, in my opinion, he’s possibly the most influential—some might say the greatest—blind person in history.

As people we all want to be great or the best at something. We want to be the greatest employee, boss, co-worker, spouse, sibbling, parent, athlete. As an athlete competing on an international level representing the United States the goal is to stand on top of podiums. It’s spelled out in the agreement/contract I sign as a resident athlete at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. If I fail—i.e., finish off the podium—then I get no funding and am subject to dismissal from the program.

Growing up I chased being the best. I was frustrated at how much easier it was for so many others. In my first year of competitive climbing I consistently placed in the top five or six at competitions even placing as high as second once. The next year, despite increases in strength and experience I struggled in every comp never finishing higher than second to last place. The next year, I was completely out of competitive climbing.

In middle and high school I chased academic and athletic greatness. Despite winning a 1st place ribbon for my research paper on Braille in seventh-grade, I failed to place at Regionals and never went on to the statewide competition. In high school, I always came second to my older sister in grades and test scores. In my chosen sport of wrestling, I drove myself crazy trying to make it to the Florida State Tournament, but never placed higher than third in a tournament and never made it out of the second round of the Regional Tournament.

In college I vowed to wrestle all four years of my eligibility but fell out of love with the sport and quit halfway through my second year because I was sick of the injuries, skin infections, and I just wasn’t any good. A year and a half later I graduated after just three years of study and went into the workforce ready to prove I could be the best at whatever career I chose. A year later I was turned down for a bagboy job at a supermarket. A year after that, the relationship that I’d been in for four years with a girl I thought I was going to marry fell apart as well.

In 2014, I turned to running as a distraction, as a way to chase away my mental demons. That morphed into triathlon, Ironman and eventually chasing representing the USA at the Paralympics in Paratriathlon. So far my chase to represent the US at Tokyo 2020 isn’t going bad, but it’s not going great either. In major races I’ve failed to deliver either by not getting onto the podium or not finishing within the correct time percentage of the winner to earn a spot on the National Team (which is how we receive funding from USA Triathlon). I’ve been passed over several times to represent the US at other major international competitions and now I’m currently battling my biggest physical setback.

I’ve been told I need to have a more positive attitude/mindset, that I need to live more in the moment, spin things more positively. It is something I’ve tried very hard to do, but it’s really hard. When you’ve chased being your best your entire life, and quit more often than not, it’s hard to not look back over your results and question whether they really were successes. Did I really do my best? Did I really give everything I had, or was there a little more that I could have given?

Yes, this post makes it sound like I’m purely chasing medals or outside recognition, but to be truthful I’m chasing something deep inside. An urge, a fire that life continually tries to put out. My friend and mentor, Erik Weihenmayer was once given the advice “Don’t let Everest be the greatest thing you ever do.” Well, I haven’t summited my Everest just yet. Triathlon is that thing that has made me turn my life inside out and up side down. It’s something that I wasn’t particularly talented at, something where I really had to build from the ground up. Right now, chasing those who continue to finish ahead of me on the race course is the closest I’ve been to finding my best, but I’m not there yet.

I’ve had many setbacks, physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Many of them I don’t talk about. Those setbacks, bounce backs, triumphs and failures all define me. There have been many times that I’ve quit and others where I haven’t. Retired Admiral William H. McGraven said in his 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas “If you want to change the world don’t EVER, EVER ring the bell.” Winston Churchill was once asked to give a piece of advice to a group of middle school-aged boys. He stood up and said “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up,” and then sat back down. So when I reach for Skye’s harness, a fresh T-shirt or pair of pants, my hand hits those second and third place ITU medals. When I’m back home and I rummage through that box of participation medals to find that crumpled blue ribbon; when I re-read my previous race reports; when I scroll back through my memories of past successes and failures; I’m reminded to never give up, to never quit, and to never ring the bell.

If you want to be great or be the best, find that passion that makes you sick and satisfied at the same time. Find the thing that reminds you to keep pushing for your best. And whatever you do, do not settle or be satisfied with anything less than your best, no matter how others try to spin it. You’ll know when you find it.

Quality or Quantity

 Quality or Quantity

I hung on the side of the pool my head leaning against my arms. My shoulders burned, my lats screamed in protest, and my mouth felt coated in chemicals from all the chlorine that had passed through it. My goggles were squeezing my face a little tighter than usual and my brain was foggy from both concentrating on the new technique changes in my stroke and from general work out fatigue. I was 2800 meters into a swim set which included a 1200 meter warm up and I’d just completed the fourth 400 meter set of a 2000 meter main set. I’d done ok on the first set—going out a little hard as I’m one to do. Second set was a bit better. Third set I’d fallen off the pace and fourth set I felt was absolutely horrible. Derick stood on deck and a very big part of me wanted him to say “Kyle let’s call it a day. You’re going backwards again.” But I didn’t hear those blessed words. Instead I heard, “10 seconds… 5… 3, 2, 1, Go!” And so began my fifth 400 of the main set.

After the swim was over I sat on the pool deck with my head in my hands, physically and mentally drained. Derick came over and asked me what I did today? Thinking back to some of the themes we’d been working I took a stab at it. “I went out too hard again?”

“Even bigger picture than that,” Derick said, “You paid some dues today.”

For the majority of my life I’ve identified as an athlete. “Push through no matter how hard,” “If I don’t mind it don’t matter,” “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” are mantras that were pounded into my head as a kid.

In recent years the “less is more” philosophy has gained popularity amongst athletes—particularly the endurance community. High intensity interval training (HIIT) and high quality training is all the rage. Athletes who came from the older school mindset of high volume low intensity training, or the Eddy Merckx philosophy of “ride lots,” now rave about low volume high intensity and how they wish they’d switched sooner. It’s only natural that we want to do more with less. We want to go faster by going slower; longer by going shorter; make more money by spending less time in the office. So few people seek out the hard ways of doing something.

For the most part I can agree with this mindset. Quality work and training will trump quantity every day, but sometimes you gotta get the work done. Let’s look at my “real job” as an example. I’m a Marketing Assistant for Hickory Foods, the company that owns Bubba Burger—You’ll never bite a burger better than a Bubba. My primary duty is to expand the Bubba Burger brand through various marketing techniques. These include wearing Bubba Burger apparel, giving away Bubba Burger merchandise (hats, T-shirts, coupons, stress burgers, etc) and posting on social media. There are several of us that have access to the Bubba Burger social media accounts. My boss is incredible at consistent “serial posting.” He’s the guy that travels to hundreds of events across the country and has more opportunities to post a wider variety of content. On the other end of the spectrum, I spend the majority of my time at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center sticking to a pretty strict training schedule. Our 62000 plus Facebook fans would get pretty bored pretty quickly with me posting photos of me in my Bubba Burger gear on the treadmill, bike trainer or lifting weights. So I have to be more strategic with my posts. However, my strategic and targeted posts wouldn’t be as effective without my boss’s consistent wide variety content posts. The two go hand in hand much like HIIT and high volume low intensity training do.

In a previous post I talked about the differences between elites and amateurs and how elites do simple better. One of the ways elites/pros do simple better is knowing when to go hard and when to go easy. Granted, some of us still have issues with that. I probably go too hard on my easy days and not hard enough on my hard days, but I’ve gotten much better at managing that. However, one of the reasons I’ve been able to understand the differences between going easy and going hard is because I have a lot of meters and miles (both from training and racing) in my body and mind.

As I progress in my elite/professional triathlon career I learn how to make more workouts higher quality. A wrestling coach once imparted the wisdom to me that “practice makes perfect, only if you practice perfect.” This means that there’s no such thing as a wasted practice or training session as long as you go in with the right mindset. If you practice poor technique and effort then you will compete with poor technique and effort. For a very long time I was frustrated that I wasn’t swimming faster so I pushed myself hard. However, once I started swimming five days a week it became really hard to keep up that effort output. So I had to make a mental shift. When it was time to go easy I went really easy and spent that time really dialing in my stroke technique. Slowly over the course of this season I’ve swam more than 500 thousand yards and have gotten significantly faster but it wasn’t by doing more with less effort, or more with more effort, or less with more effort. I did it by correctly managing how and when to focus.

So when it comes to the question of “quality or quantity” the answer is really pretty simple. It depends on your goals. For me, and most triathletes who seek to get faster at our chosen distances, one can’t exist without the other. More importantly the path to success lies in understanding that there are no shortcuts. There are going to be days when we have to “pay our dues” and days when we’ll have to check our egos at the door. Find what works for you in your chosen pursuit, whether that be triathlon, running, swimming, cycling, social media, nutrition, etc.

21 Years

Last Friday night

Yeah we danced on tabletops

And we took too many shots

Think we kissed, but I forgot. Last Friday night.

Yeah, we maxed our credit cards

And got kicked out of the bar, so we hit the boulevard

Last Friday night

We went streaking in the park

Sky dipping in the dark, then had a

Menage a trois

Last Friday night

Yeah, I think we broke the law

Always say we’re gonna stop-op, oh whoa

—Last Friday Night (TGIF) by Katie Perry

Ah 21… The age when we in the US can legally drink alcohol, when we think we’re really adults, and think we know absolutely everything. I often cringe, laugh, and shake my head at the things I did around the time I was 21. Seven years removed from that “wild age” I feel significantly older and a touch wiser. But if I want to relive those wild and crazy days I have the opportunity because “Blind Kyle” turns 21 today!

On October 9, 1998 mom and dad drove me to the hospital just like they’d done hundreds of times before. But something was different. Mom had gotten up extra early and instead of her usual sweat pants and ponytail, she’d dressed nicely, done her hair and put on makeup. Dad was extra quiet and the early morning before sunrise appeared extra dark outside the car window. Walking into the hospital everything seemed extra dark as well.

I knew why we were here. I knew our last option to beat the cancer I had was to remove my right eye. After all, Dr. Hered had removed my left eye just the year before.

I was tired. Tired of waking up early to go to the hospital. I was tired of needles being driven into my chest to put me to sleep so the doctors could do whatever they did to my eyes. I was tired of being sick from chemotherapy, having to swallow all different kinds of pills, having radioactive material sown onto my eyeball. I was tired of the smell and sound of the hospital. I was also tired of straining my one eye to see the chalkboard in my first grade teacher’s classroom. I was tired of the lights either being too bright or too dim. I was tired of feeling strange for having to walk around with this long white cane practicing for when I couldn’t see. I was just ready to be done with it all.

Normally only one of my parents was allowed to walk back with me as I was wheeled into the operating room. Today though, both mom and dad accompanied me, one on either side with their hands on my arm or shoulder. I’d already been stuck with the needle and the anesthesia was working it’s way through my system. Mom touched my face and asked me to look at her. I did and that was the most beautiful I’d ever seen her. As I closed my eyes and the crushing crackling haze of the sleep drugs closed in around my mind I do remember saying “It’s going to be ok mommy.”

The next thing I remember was drowsily coming awake in my hospital bed, hooked up to an IV with a massive wad of bandages covering my right eye. There was nothing in front of me, or around me. There were the familiar sounds of my parents voices, the ding of the hospital intercom calling for this doctor or that nurse. The hospital bed felt like hundreds of other hospital beds I’d woken up in after some procedure or another. The smells were all the same and the hospital food was as plain and tasteless as it always was. Could I get a bigger helping this time? Or better yet, could you just bring me a pizza? Do you have any idea how hungry surgery makes me?

The only thing that was different was that I couldn’t see what was around me.

What would happen to me as a totally blind kid, teenager, adult? The answer to that question was as absent as my light perception. I had no idea. My family had no idea. All I knew was that I wanted to somehow still play with my friends, play basketball, and ride my bike. I wanted to watch Disney movies, Star Wars and football games. I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it all, but I mst’ve known that I could, otherwise I wouldn’t have said “It’s going to be ok.”

It was just a short while later that I met world-class blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer. He was a rock climber, sky diver, downhill skier, and did all kinds of stuff I’d never heard of or thought was possible.

Erik’s dad, Ed, lived less than an hour drive from our house in Jacksonville. A family friend heard Ed speak and passed his contact information along to my dad. Ed and dad had both served in the Marine Corps so they instantly hit it off. Erik was coming to town for a series of speaking engagements and Ed arranged time for Erik to talk with me.

My parents told me about this Erik Weihenmayer guy, but come on, who did that crazy stuff. Climb walls? Jump out of airplanes? I imagined this guy to be some kind of super human.

When I met Erik he shook my hand and asked our dads to just step away so the two of us could talk. Erik introduced me to his guide dog. He asked me questions about myself. What I liked to do, my favorite subjects in school. We talked about Braille, computers and eventually he got around to telling me about his adventurous lifestyle.

I was fascinated. The only experience I’d had with other blind people were the handful of blind/visually impaired kids at my elementary school. I’d never really interacted with any adult blind people. Erik wasn’t treating me like a normal adult would either. He was talking to me like I was an equal, like he knew the struggles I was having adapting to a world that was now dark.

When we parted ways Erik told me to not be afraid to live and be a kid. He told me to give rock climbing a try and that he’d always be there if I needed a friend. Less than two years later, my sisters and I were competitive rock climbers. My family was taking long camping and rock climbing trips up into the Appalachian and Smokey Mountains. We then started taking family ski trips. My dad and I began tandem biking a lot.

In 2003, I was a surprise guest to Erik on the Oprah Winfrey Show after he’d climbed the seven summits—tallest peak on each continent. In 2006, I accompanied Erik and a team comprised of visually impaired and sighted students from across the US to hike the Ankascocha Trail into Machu Picchu. In 2007, I joined up with many of those same visually impaired and sighted students to summit Mt Kilimanjaro—tallest mountain in Africa. I climbed some more mountains; became a high school and college wrestler; graduated from an academic magnet high school; and earned my B.A. in Communication from the Comniversity of Central Florida after just three years of study. Then I took on life as an adult blind guy.

Post college I had the millennial mindset of “I’m going to apply for every job CEO and above.” That didn’t work out so well for me. Then I began applying for any and every job. At every turn it seemed I wasn’t getting a fair chance. The low point was not getting a bag boy job at a local supermarket. I was spiraling down fast after having been so positive and optimistic for so long.

I eventually started running as a distraction. That led to meeting my buddy Mike who introduced me to triathlon. Then began an emotional roller coaster.

I began working for a nonprofit about who’s mission I cared deeply. I then developed a cancerous bump on my upper right eyelid which was surgically removed. I was finding success in a sport I loved. My engagement to a girl I’d been dating for four years fell apart. Now I was not in that relationship and I needed a place to live. I struggled with thinking I was in a dead end job. Then I got a raise and changed jobs. I blew all of my money on pizza and craft beer. I lost my faithful guide dog of seven years to a sudden heart attack. Then completed my first Ironman and decided that I wasn’t truly happy with my life. I quit my steady well-paying job and moved to Colorado.

Once ensconced in Colorado, I focused on improving athletically. I went on to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon, twice, and set personal bests at various distances of triathlons and road races. In 2017, I broke the 12 hour barrier at Ironman Arizona. In 2018, I stepped into the world of ITU racing with fourth and second place finishes. Then I broke the 11 hour mark with a 10:59:17 finish at Ironman Arizona. Then I set my sights on qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

In January, 2019, I moved to the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, having been offered a spot through the USA Triathlon Resident Program. I happily submitted myself to the daily routine of wake up, train, eat sleep, repeat. I’ve thrived with the structure and taken my short course racing to a completely new level. In my five triathlon/duathlon starts I hit the podium four times including three seconds, a third, and fourth place finishes. My loan race off the podium came in my last race of the season in Tokyo which was modified to a duathlon due to poor water quality.

Apart from training I’ve slowly become more friendly with my fellow paratriathlon teammates as well as several other resident athletes from other sports. I’ve also made a few friends outside of the training center and am overall enjoying my life in Colorado Springs. So, how does blind Kyle plan on spending his 21st birthday/anniversary? Well, I plan on rounding up a crowd, doing 21 shots of Don Julio, dancing on bar and tabletops, and maxing out multiple creditcards… Or maybe I’ll get together with a few friends around a fire pit and drink a few good craft brews… Or maybe I’ll go out for a decent steak… Or more likely I’ll eat whatever is here at the training center and go to bed around 8 PM ready to get after it tomorrow. But have no fear, I’ll toast 21 years of blindness with a glass of chocolate milk, or a nalgeen of water. Yeah, 21 year old blind Kyle is likes to party hard.

Cover Fire First

Before you become a sniper, learn to lay down cover fire.

In May 2013, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication. In a nutshell that means I can speak to various sized groups of people and write a decent research paper. I initially planned to enroll in a graduate certificate program in Nonprofit Management thinking I wanted a career in the nonprofit sector. To make a long story longer, I enrolled in the program, quickly realized I didn’t have the experience to contribute anything to class discussions, that I don’t do well with online learning, and I was sick and tired of doing school work. I wanted to start doing something, applying myself in the real world, making money, etc. I was a millennial after all, these were the days of young people succeeding early, the days of FIRE (financially independent retire early), and who needs extra education anyway?! So I quit the program and dove into the job search with the very millennial mindset of “I’m going to apply for everything CEO and above” forgetting of course that one of the reasons I cited for quitting grad school was “not enough experience to contribute to online class discussions.”

In my mind I had the experience to at least be a mid-level manager or at least make a decent living. So I figured I’d be able to pick and choose my opportunities. My dad on the otherhand felt differently and continually told me “You can’t be a sniper until you learn to lay down cover fire.” In other words, I couldn’t be a specialist without first learning the basics and building a foundation.

Eventually I learned that I didn’t have as much experience as I thought and I needed to lower my expectations. I applied and interviewed for many different jobs under the sun ranging from grocery store bagboy to in store salesman, to call center agent. I got a job working for a social enterprise nonprofit called Lighthouse Works, worked my way up over the next couple of years before being recruited away by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division. Personal circumstances caused me to decide to leave my comfortable job with the Navy and move out to Colorado. Once in Colorado I filled my time with triathlon training.

My triathlon career has followed much the same arc as my limited professional career with a few exceptions. I began racing triathlon with the goal of becoming the fastest blind Ironman of all time. At the beginning of 2015 the fastest Ironman time posted by a visually impaired athlete was 11:40:27. That time was soon lowered to 11:10:28, then 11:08:30 and 11:03:31. By the time I set foot on the start line of Ironman Arizona in 2018 the fastest visually impaired Ironman time was 10:42:59, and the fastest by a totally blind Ironman was 11:03:31. I did set the fastest time for a totally blind Ironman at 10:59:17 only after four full years of figuring out how to be a triathlete.

Over the course of those four years people kept insisting that Ironman wasn’t where I should be focusing my efforts. Several people said I should go to race on the Paratriathlon ITU circuit. I resisted for several reasons. I initially looked into ITU racing but it was harder than pulling teeth trying to figure out how to get onto the circuit. I’d send emails and get back a generic response with a link to lots of paperwork. I sent Facebook messages to athletes who were on the circuit seeking advice or guidance. I got little of either. So I summized that getting onto the ITU circuit was much like trying to get into an exclusive fraternity or club and I wasn’t about to beg and plead to get into some snobbish club. Not to mention ITU racing is significantly more expensive than Ironman (maybe I’ll get into those specifics in a post down the road). Plus those ITU blind guys were rediculously fast and I decided that I wouldn’t set foot on the same course with them until I had a fighting chance. In order to have a fighting chance I needed to become a better triathlete in general. And Ironman gave me that opportunity to develop as a triathlete more easily than fighting to get into the ITU club.

On the surface people view triathlon as the longer the event the more advanced. Sometimes that’s true. Ablebodied ITU athletes generally race sprint and Olympic distance for a while before stepping up to 70.3 before stepping up to 140.6. The idea is to develop speed and then add distance. But you can’t develop speed without a foundation. I quickly learned that I was not going to be fast at any distance of triathlon if I didn’t first have a tremendous base of swimming, cycling and running under my belt. So I did what I should have done much earlier in my employment search, I put down cover fire, training and racing at all distances.

In 2015 and 2016 I completed 18 races (10 triathlons and 8 foot/road races) ranging from 5k runs, to sprint triathlons, to marathons and an Ironman. If you’re interested here are those races listed out:

Date: Race; Time

01/10/2015: Disney Half Marathon; 2:24:42

01/11/2015: Disney Marathon; 5:49:06

04/26/2015: St. Anthony’s Triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run); 3:25:14

06/07/2015: Pineapple Man Triathlon (0.34 mi swim, 15.4 mi bike, 3.4 mi run); 1:32:27

07/11/2015: Clermont Sprint Triathlon (0.25 mi swim, 10 mi bike, 5k run); 1:21:59

08/08/2015: Clermont Sprint Triathlon; 1:17:21

09/27/2015: Augusta 70.3 (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run); 6:10:24

11/21/2015: Run Nona 5k; 26:59

11/21/2015: Run Nona 15k; 1:43:33

12/06/2015: OUC Half Marathon; 2:17:00

01/10/2016: Disney Marathon; 5:12:29

03/20/2016: Great Clermont Triathlon (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run); 2:55:29

04/10/2016: Florida 70.3; 6:31:01

04/17/2016: Starwars Half Marathon; 2:18:45

04/24/2016: St. Anthony’s Triathlon; 2:50:32

06/05/2016: Pineapple Man Triathlon; 1:28:12

08/07/2016: Ironman Boulder; 15:47:11

12/04/2016: California International Marathon; 4:31:16

Laying down this foundation of racing allowed me to then narrow my focus in 2017 and 2018 to become more of an Ironman specialist. Becoming an Ironman specialist also continued to build a tremendous base for me to pull from when I then turned my whole focus to the ITU circuit at the beginning of 2019. After four years of laying down cover fire I finally felt I was ready to go head-to-head with those really fast blind guys on the ITU circuit. So how can you apply my dad’s advice to your circumstance? “Before you become a sniper, learn to lay down cover fire.”

Consistency

 “You never study for a test. You review for a test. Studying is what you do every day.”  These were just some of the words of wisdom that my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Sciullo, dropped on his classes throughout his career. It’s a common theme throughout life. We hear about the all night study sessions for high school and college final exams. I myself had one or two all-nighters in college, but it wasn’t because I needed to cram in study time for an exam. They were because I ran out of time to write the final draft of a research paper. In short, I got lazy.

Last week I discussed what separates elites from amateurs and that is… Elites “do simple better,” and they “keep it stupid simple.” One of the easiest ways to begin doing simple better is to do the equivalent of studying every day. For my sport of triathlon that means consistent, high quality training in swim, bike and run. (We’ll discuss the “high quality” part of this in a separate post.)

My first triathlon was April of 2015. For the first two years of my triathlon dabbling I was consistently inconsistent. I’d occasionally have big weeks of training where I’d crank out massive yardage in the pool, have a long 70 plus mile bike ride on the weekend and also get in a 10 plus mile run. More often than not though I had many weeks of mediocre inconsistent training. Then in the two weeks leading upto a race I’d crank out some big sessions. In other words I was cramming for the test, not consistently studying every day. Somehow, even with this cram style training plan, I stumble bumbled my way to finishing an Ironman—much like how so many students who cram for their exams and pass.

Sure I was proud of my accomplishment. Finishing an Ironman isn’t easy. I knew I could do better though, but it wasn’t going to happen magically. Triathlon, more than most sports, is a sport that rewards consistent hard work. Beginning in 2017 I began taking steps toward studying every day. The first four months of the year I dedicated to improving my run since my first event of the year was the Boston Marathon. Once I was done with Boston I began consistently spending time on my bike trainer. After nearly every bike ride I spent 15-20 minutes running on the treadmill to get my legs used to that feeling of running off the bike. Then I added swimming back into the mix and began consistently swimming three or four times a week. In 2016, my build up to Ironman Boulder was marked by inconsistency with a long bike ride of more than 80 miles. In 2017, I was more consistent and my longest bike ride was just over 60 miles. However, my overall mileage was up. There was more in the bank from which to pull. At the end of 2017, I completed Ironman Arizona in 11:46:43 (4 hours and 28 seconds faster than I’d completed Ironman Boulder in 2016).

I went into 2018 with the goal of breaking 11 hours in an Ironman. I again chose Ironman Arizona. If I’d become consistent in 2017, then 2018 I became boarderline obsessed. I was very balanced across swim, bike and run training and rarely missed a workout. Because I was consistent in 2017 and 2018, that allowed my coach and I to also increase the volume of key workouts. In my build up to Ironman Arizona 2018 I had several 100 plus mile bike rides and numerous 20 mile runs. As a result of both consistency and big training sessions that allowed me to have an epic result at Ironman Arizona where I went 10:59:17.

Moving to the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs has only reinforced the importance of consistency. The correct balance of consistent hard work with big blocks has resulted in positive results. However, I would not have had a successful 2019 without having had a consistent 2017 and 2018. Yes, it’s sexy and badass to have the massive 100 plus mile bike rides with 10000 ft of elevation gain. But those big days are not the reason behind why I continue to be successful and near the top of the podium at races. They certainly had their place in my training, but consistency above all else was the simplest way to make that jump from average triathlon or Ironman finisher to competing for podium sponts on the Paratriathlon ITU circuit.

I’ve spent a lot of time illustrating the importance of simplicity and consistency in my sport of triathlon, but these principles exist in all areas of our lives. Sure we here about the seemingly big splash successes, of the people winning the lottery, selling a company for millions or billions of dollars. Sometimes we get lucky but more often than not we make our own luck through consistent work. And contrary to what we might think, consistency is not easy. It gets easier especially once you see the success start to pile up, but in the beginning it’s really hard. Whether it’s starting and continuing to take money out of your paycheck and putting it into an investment account; or getting up every morning to workout; or practice a musical instrument; or what have you. The second hardest thing to do is get started, the hardest thing to do is become consistent. The simpler things are the easier it is to become consistent and the better you will become at doing the simple things.

Simplicity leads to consistency, which leads to quantity, which allows you to focus on quality. So for now I’ll leave you to think about how you can “consistently do simple better.” Remember the words of my high school chemistry teacher… “You never study for a test. You review for a test. Studying is what you do every day.”

Thursday Thoughts: Introducing KISS

What’s the biggest difference between elites and amateurs?

In high school, my competitive sport of choice was wrestling. I was a decent wrestler throughout my career. I improved steadily from my freshman to senior year. At the time though it felt like I wasn’t progressing at all. At that time in my life I was much more of a hothead. (I’m still a bit of a hothead but I’ve become better at controlling it.) I also tended to blame others for my problems more readily. I’m not winning matches, it must be the coach’s fault. Coach doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I know way more than everyone else. I and so many of my high school wrestling teammates kept searching for that wrestling move or style that would turn us into winners.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year I attended a camp run by former Olympian Ken Chertow. Some of the camp coaches taught some advanced/fun/flashy techniques and styles that went way over my head. However, at the beginning of every session we started with simple, basic drills and techniques that I thought I mastered. Eventually, I learned though that if I couldn’t hit a double or single leg takedown in a match I hadn’t mastered two of the most basic ways to score points in wrestling. Going into Ken’s camp my biggest weakness in wrestling was being taken down. I was decent and strong once we got to the ground but opposing coaches quickly realized this and began playing what I called “catch and release.” My opponents would take me down, disengage and stand up releasing me to score one point (since they were scoring two points per takedown they’d win easily). Ken’s advice when I told him my problem was remarkably simple and basic

[1] get stronger

[2] don’t get taken down

[3] take the other guy down

It short “don’t over complicate things.” I eventually did what Ken advised me to do. I went on to have a better junior year than sophomore year and a pretty good senior year.

Eventually, I made my way to triathlon a sport that encompasses swim, bike, run, and so much more. Triathletes are known for pushing the envelope on innovation. Triathletes are quick to adopt new techniques and technologies especially if they think it’ll make them faster. My friend and one of my triathlon mentors, Mike Melton, and I often joked that we could make a fortune by turning our old race T-shirts into blankets and marketing them to triathletes saying that if you wrap yourself in this special blanket you will recover better and be faster. But I digress… So often we think more is always better. More gadgets, more information, more distance, more opinions. Sometimes more is better, other times less is better, more often than not we need to find the middle.

One of the biggest barriers to people getting into triathlon is worry over complexity. Triathlon today seems to outsiders to be this immensely complicated sport, especially when you get people talking about their functional threshold power, training stress score, swim drills, single leg pedal drills, bounding drills, and whether functional strength training, HIIT training or olympic lifting is better. Not to mention all the various recovery techniques such as foam rolling, compression boots, dry needling, electrical stimulation, mindfulness… And I won’t even mention the debates that rage around nutrition. Is there any wonder why triathlon seems intimidating and complicated?

The first mistake that 90 plus percent of amateur/age group triathletes make is the same one that my high school wrestling teammates and I did. They look for the magic tool or technique that’s going to make them faster with less effort in the shortest amount of time. Fans, friends, family, and others that I’ve spoken with in passing so often remark “Oh I’d be an elite athlete too if I had all that time, those tools and techniques that you have at your disposal at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.” This is the second mistake that so many people make when distinguishing between elite and amateur athletes. Elites don’t have some secret training program, diet, recovery tool, technique, gadget, gismo, or what have you. The biggest difference between elites and amateurs is something my coach Derick Williamson preaches to everyone and it’s something that has sunk into my being over the length of my athletic career. Elites “Do Simple Better!” Or as my dad taught me throughout childhood, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Or flip it around as my friend and USA Triathlon teammate Jamie Brown does and say “Keep It Stupid Simple!”

There is no secret when it comes to training, racing, recovery, nutrition, etc. The same goes for our general lives as well. Do simple better and you will succeed. True success does take time though and unfortunately my generation appears to be the most impatient generation. My dad often says that today’s kids are significantly smarter than generations past, however we do lack a certain wisdom which only comes through hard work, and time. I’m not immune to impatience but I know that as long as I continue to do simple better and keep it stupid simple I will progress and succeed in triathlon and life.

Tokyo Para-triathlon World Cup/Test Event

Tokyo Para-triathlon World Cup

August 17, 2019

Tokyo, Japan

2.5 km Run, 19.2 km bike, 5 km Run

“National team is on the line.”

“This is like my world championships.”

“You’re running well, so attack early and keep that podium streak alive.”

“You come off the bike with a 90sec or 2min lead on Aaron and/or Ellis then anything can happen.”

I arrived in Tokyo on the evening of Wednesday, August 14. I’d flown from Colorado Springs via Chicago with few hiccups. This was actually the first time I’d traveled completely solo internationally, but fortunately the flight attendants and airport personnel in Japan spoke wonderful English. We located my bike, spare wheels and got me into a cab bound for our team hotel. I fell into bed exhausted but unable to sleep for several hours. I finally fell asleep around 4 AM and got a fitful few hours of sleep before I made my way down to breakfast where I successfully navigated the breakfast options with help from our team nutritionist, Sally. Then it was time to build the bike and get in a swim. Our team mechanic, James, helped me put the Chinook together in record time and he had it shifting and running beautifully. Everything was moving along smoothly.

I accompanied the team to the lap pool where we executed a quick workout. Most of the team had already been in Japan for several days, but we all still complained about the heat and humidity. Every time I stepped outside it was like being engulfed by a wall of warm water. Occasionally a breeze would blow, cooling us off ever so briefly only for the heavy air to envelope us again.


Zack arrived that night having flown directly from San Francisco and having barely slept on the plane. This it turned out worked in our favor as Zack was able to sleep hard through the night and woke refreshed and ready to go on Friday morning for the bike familiarization.

Japan has a law against tandems and hand cycles on the roads which really baffled me. I’d been told that Japan was so incredibly accommodating to people who are blind or visually impaired and in some aspects they were. On every sidewalk a raised line split the sidewalk in half which was meant for a blind person to drag their feet or cane along. At the bends and turns in the sidewalk was a different pavement surface notifying you of a turn. However as soon as we’d step inside, the accessibility seemed to go from wonderful to extremely limited. No hotel room had Braille or even a raised print number on the signs. The elevator buttons were almost like a touch screen in that you just touched the button and the elevator registered your touch and assumed that was the floor you intended to go to. In one elevator a couple of the buttons had Braille next to them, but not next to all of the buttons. The elevators also gave off no indication as to what floor you were on. No voice saying a number in Japanese or English, no beeps to count, nothing. So for this totally blind guy it was very disconcerting. My first morning in Japan I spent riding the elevator up and down a couple times trying to get to the breakfast level so it was a relief when Zack finally arrived and we could go places together.

Despite Japanese law stating we couldn’t ride tandems on the streets we biked over to the race venue just hoping a police officer wouldn’t catch us, We rationalized that anyone would assume we were stupid/ignorant Americans. We performed two laps of the bike course, paying attention to every turn and the condition of the pavement. On the course map provided, the bike course appeared extremely technical. However once we got out and rode the course, Zack and I became excited by the prospect of taking some of the turns aggressively at race pace. The course seemed to suit our punchy quick surge style of riding and, with Zack’s tandem handling abilities, we thought we might have a good ride.

We returned to the hotel for a large breakfast of eggs, fried rice, fruit, bread products and coffee before heading back to the race venue for swim familiarization.

The wind was blowing strong making little waves in the bay where we’d swim. Race officials elected not to set out the swim buoys because it would be too difficult because of the wind. Instead they had lifeguards stationed where the buoys would be. This didn’t work out great either though as the lifeguards kept moving around. Despite everything, Zack and I swam well and I was feeling good and confident. My swim was stronger than it had ever been even with the slight chop in the water. This was going to be my second race in a month without a wetsuit as water temps were hovering above 80 degrees. The saltwater provided a certain amount of buoyancy though that was similar to wearing a wetsuit. We returned to the hotel to rest and prepare for the race briefing.

After the briefing we rested, had a meeting with Derick to strategize our race, and then we met up with Howie and his handler, Sarah, for dinner. We found a conveyer belt sushi restaurant a short walk from the hotel. Not being one for raw fish, I selected only cooked fish as well as a bowl of ramen. It was a delicious meal and we returned to the hotel to sleep and gear up for the next day’s race.


Race Day: Rolling with the Punches

“A meeting took place this morning and it has been determined that the water quality is unsafe therefore the paratriathlon race has been modified to a duathlon.”

“What the fuck!” I exclaimed as I read the email, time stamped 4:32 AM, only 30 minutes before Zack and I’d planned to depart and head to the race venue to check in. Originally our race had been scheduled to start at 6:30 AM but now with the swim canceled the format was drastically changed. The bike course was still the same but the run course was modified from three laps to four for the 5K. Our race would now consist of two laps of 1.25 km (totaling 2.5 km), followed by a five lap bike totaling 19.2 km followed by a four lap run of 1.25 km totaling 5 km. Start times were shifted around as well. Now wheelchair athletes would race first, starting at 6:40 AM and the Visually impaired racing wouldn’t begin until 7:55 AM. More problematic from my point of view was that now the course was going to be much more crowded once we got to the second run as we’d have to dodge around all of the upright para categories on narrow running paths. Temperatures were also supposed to be 10 degrees warmer at 8 AM as opposed to 7 AM. Not to mention, the top guys in the VI class against whom I’d be competing were significantly better runners than I was.

PTVI Men’s Race Outlook

Dave Ellis: 3x World Champion who competed as a Paralympic swimmer and track athlete prior to switching to triathlon. He was being guided by Ironman pro Tim Don (former Ironman 140.6 world record holder and who’s probably best known for surviving a horrific bike crash two days before racing in Kona and then making a comeback which included spending several months in a halo to help heal his broken neck). Ellis is like a dolphin in the water and a gazelle on the run. The chances of Zack and I beating him in a triathlon were slim at this point, but in a duathlon?…We could only hope that we had a ridiculously strong bike and I could run fast enough to hold him off.

Aaron Scheidies: 7x World Champion, possibly considered the greatest Visually impaired triathlete of all time. My USA teammate who was racing his second race post hip surgery. A wicked strong cyclist and runner; but he and his guide had been known to struggle in the heat and Aaron didn’t quite have the running legs he’d had the past few years. Possible? Maybe, after all I did finish 46sec behind him at Paratriathlon Nationals just three weeks ago.

Jonathan Goerlach: An Australian who’s a ridiculously strong runner. This was the guy I was most worried about. Apart from Dave Ellis, Golach was the only one ever to finish ahead of Aaron in a race. I knew that if we’d been competing in a triathlon, I could out swim Golach, our bikes were fairly similar, but he would destroy me in the 5K. Now I needed to have the run of my life and possibly the bike of my life if I wanted to finish on the podium.

Arnaud Grandjean: A frenchman who could also run like the wind and who’s bike was similar to mine. I’d been run down and beaten by his countryman Antoine a month earlier in Magog, and a new French athlete Thibaut had nearly caught me at the line.

Apart from these fine gentlemen, I thought I could hold off the rest of the field. The bright side was that these four were all starting now 3min and 4sec behind me. I didn’t have to be the fastest at run, bike, run, I just had to be fast enough to hold them off. Could I do it? Derick texted me and said “Strategy doesn’t change. Go out hard and go for the win. You’re running strong right now.”


Pre-Race Jitters, Cooling and Warming Up

The night before the race Zack and I’d each swallowed a pill that would lodge itself in our intestines and through radio frequencies would notify our team physiologist, Carwin, of what our core body temperatures were. Carwin would be able to analyze the data after the race and come up with more effective cooling strategies for the future. For the meantime though I wore an ice vest and stuffed a stocking full of ice under my trisuit. Zack and I spun our legs out on the bike trainer, then performed a short 10 min jog with a couple pick-ups to get the jitters out. Then it was time to head to the start line.

Run 1

We lined up with the rest of the B1 men, shoulder to shoulder under the hot sun with the humidity pressing down on us. My heart thumped and I focused on taking slow deep breaths as I listened to the countdown over the loud speaker. When the horn sounded, I launched myself forward, but there was something wrong. The buzzer used to signify the start kept going off. We all faltered and came to a stop. “False start,” Zack said to me. Apparently one of the Ukrainians had jumped early. We were all brought back to the start line and reset. I again focused on breathing and set my feet, right leg back, shoulders and hips down and relaxed ready to spring.

The countdown began again and the horn sounded. We were off.

I launched myself forward, determined to seize an early lead so that Zack could dictate the lines we took around the turns. We opened up a sizable gap on the rest of the field surging up a hill and taking a hard right then left. Even though I was running well, I was a little hesitant around the corners not knowing how aggressive or wide each turn was. On the straight-a-ways I was able to get my legs up to speed, but as soon as I reached a sustainable speed I had to slam on the breaks to go into the next turn. Very quickly this acceleration and deceleration caught up with me. One of the Ukrainians, Anatolii Varfolomieiev, reeled me in and took a slight lead. I knew I was stronger than Anatolii on the bike so I wasn’t overly concerned if he got into T1 before me, but I knew I had to minimize the gap. Plus, I wanted to be the one dictating the race, so I pushed myself a little harder. Anatolii was running at a different level than me though and pulled away little by little.

Zack and I blazed through the transition area which was part of the run course and began our second lap by surging up a steep ramp. Running uphill is not one of my strengths despite living in Colorado. When I’d lived and trained in the Roaring Fork Valley I relished hills because that was what I trained on. Now though Derick and I had focused on pure speed so hills had once again become an achilles heel. Trying to run up a 5 plus percent grade on a slippery vinyl material slick with humidity drained me and as we started the second lap of the run my foot caught on a lip nearly sending me down. I caught myself but a “Fuck!” Flew from my lips and spiked my heart rate. Once again I had to get up to speed and the trip cost me a few seconds. I wasn’t sure what was going on behind me but I knew that guys like Ellis, Scheidies and Golach would be running much harder and faster than I was currently. I did my best to run hard but not to overdo it. I went into what Zack calls the “Maybe Zone” or is it the “Navy Zone?” I’m never sure because the only time he mentions it is when when I’m running at 5K effort. It could be the “maybe zone” because I’m running at a pace that I can “maybe” hold on to. Or it could be “navy zone” because I’m hovering between the black and red zones… But I digress.

We blazed into transition and made it to the bike a little less than 20sec behind Anatolii and his guide, and only a few seconds ahead of Donnacha McCarthy of Ireland. I yanked off my running shoes and put on my helmet and cycling shoes. Then we were running with the bike toward the mount line. We stopped, threw our right legs over the top tube, clipped in, and took off.

Run 1: 9min 9sec

Transition 1: 55sec


The Bike

On the map, the bike course appeared quite technical with multiple turns and several U-turns. When you throw in five laps, intrigue is added. Zack and I powered out of transition and took the first few turns cautiously. We knew we had to reel in the Ukrainians but we weren’t overly concerned. While I wanted to blow by them on the first lap I knew I couldn’t over cook it too early. We took the first lap to get a feeling for the course at race pace. There was one U-turn which had a sketchy portion of pavement, but we handled it with ease. From a pure fun and challenge standpoint, the bike course was incredible. It not only tested our physically ability of throwing down huge power numbers, but also Zack’s decision making on how and when to take turns. What turns could we pedal through, which ones did we need to stand up out of, and how wide or tight could we take each turn?

It wasn’t until the third lap that we finally caught the Ukrainians and passed them. Once we made the pass though we dropped them quickly. We opened a gap and never saw them again. We were now in the lead where I wanted to be and where I was much more comfortable. They say it’s more difficult racing from the front, but I’ve only ever raced from the front so it’s comfortable for me.

On our fourth lap the course was beginning to get more crowded. An athlete from another sport class (not a visually impaired athlete) was riding on the left hand side of the road. This course was a “ride right, pass left” course. This means that cyclists are supposed to ride on the right hand side of the road and only can ride on the left when they’re passing another cyclist. Zack was yelling at the top of his lungs for the cyclist to move to the right by screaming “On your left, on your left!” However the cyclist either ignored him, didn’t speak English, or thought there was plenty of room to the left. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room on the left, so as we entered the “drafting zone” Zack had no choice but to pull hard right and pass. This occurred right in front of an official on a motorbike. We thought for sure we were going to be penalized for passing on the right especially as the official pulled up alongside us. However, he didn’t penalize us but rather just told us that we had only one more lap to go. Our best guess was that the official had heard Zack yelling and saw that he had no choice but to pass on the right because of safety reasons.

Now Zack and I were leading the PTVI race and I had no intention of relinquishing the lead. I hammered at the pedals squeezing every watt I could out of my legs. I drained my bottle of electrolytes less than one minute out from transition. With about 30sec to go Zack gave the command to take off our right shoes, then the left. We hit a ramp and dived down into transition. We leaped off the bike and ran hard toward our rack. Zack quickly racked the bike, I tossed my helmet into the bin, yanked on my shoes and pulled on the run tether. Then we were sprinting toward the run start.

Bike: 28min 40sec

Transition 2: 45sec


The Run

As we exited transition I powered my way up the steep ramp/hill that would begin each lap. My heart rate immediately went through the roof and I felt the heat. “Ignore it,” I told myself, “This is why you spent so much time in the HATC.” I knew I was capable of running close to 19 minutes on this 5K and if I did that, who knew what would happen behind me. I gritted my teeth and took each turn on the run as fast as I could. At every aid station Zack threw water over me and I got as much water into my mouth as possible. Fans were all over the run course clapping and cheering, but I tried to only focus on Zack’s directions. Step left, come right, right turn, now left turn. I tried to keep my forward lean and to kick my legs out behind me. I pumped my arms trying to keep my run cadence high. We entered into the transition area plunging down a steep hill. As we ran toward the start of the second lap I heard a British voice call out “On your left,” and then Tim Don and Dave Ellis went streaking by me like I was standing still.

“Go with them!” Zack encouraged me. “You’ve got it in you, dig deep.” I really tried but Ellis was running like a man possessed. He ran away from me so fast I thought I was running backwards. Now the only thought in my head was to minimize the damage. I had to finish within 3 percent of Ellis’s time to earn a spot on the USA Triathlon National B Team, and with the way Ellis was running, I’d have to have the run of my life to make that time cut off.

With each successive lap my legs seemed to get heavier and heavier. My breathing became more and more labored. I was weaving from side to side and it took immense concentration to keep running in as straight a line as possible. On every lap Derick tossed a stocking full of ice to Zack which we wrapped around my neck to try and keep me cool. But my second and third laps passed in a haze of heat and pain. Despite that I entered the third lap still holding on to second place. About three quarters of the way through lap three, Aaron came up running fast on my left. The path was tight and Zack got us over to the right side as far as he could, but now Zack, Aaron, Ben and I were running four across and the course was crowded with other sport classes not running as fast.

Aaron’s right foot got tangled with my left nearly sending us both crashing to the ground. Fortunately we both stayed up and Aaron moved ahead chasing after Ellis who was already more than a minute up the road. Hot on our heels now was Jonathan Goerlach of Australia. He and his guide passed us chasing Aaron. Now I was desperately clinging on to fourth place. I had no idea who was behind me and I was starting to wonder and think that every person that ran passed on my left was a VI male. I dug deeper going to a place of hurt I hadn’t gone to before.

We began the fourth lap and I was pretty much going on will power alone now. I knew I could survive 1.25 km. There was a scary moment when Zack told me we were passed by the team from Hong Kong and that we’d just passed the Ukrainians. “I thought we’d dropped them far behind,” I wondered. As we approached the final few hundred meters I knew every second was going to count so whatever was left in the tank, I emptied it. I vaguely heard the announcers say something about me coming across the finish line and I heard Zack say we were done, but the next thing I knew I’d sunk to the ground–hot, dripping in sweat and shaking from exhaustion. Zack supported me as he half dragged, half carried me over to the side to allow other runners to come through the shoot. Two thoughts filled my head at that moment. The first was that I was really happy the race was over. The second was, “I’ve got to get better at running.”

Run 2: 20min 13sec

Total Time: 59min 42sec


The Aftermath

As I lay on the ground to the side of the finish line a medical volunteer draped several cold wet towels over me and kept asking if I was okay. I was fine, just exhausted and hot. Zack was able to support me as we walked into the medical tent. I sat on a chair and tried to drink water. I just needed to cool down and stay off my feet a few minutes. Anatolii, who’d crossed the finish line a little more than 20sec behind me had to get taken away on a stretcher because of heat exhaustion.

Eventually I was able to stand and slowly make my way to the recovery area where there were some ice baths set up as well as volunteers plying everyone with food, electrolytes and water. I sank into an ice bath and immediately felt rejuvenated. I didn’t want to run another 5K, but my head cleared and I was able to think and talk coherently. I eventually got more fluid into my body and some food in my stomach.

Zack and I eventually made it back to the athlete lounge where the rest of the team was congregating. I was trying to not be disappointed with myself. Zack and I weren’t really sure where we’d finished. Were we fourth or fifth? I knew we weren’t within the 3 percent time we’d needed to make the National Team. It was the first time Zack and I’d finished off the podium and I wasn’t pleased with myself because of that. At the same time though I don’t think I could’ve gone harder. I tried to rationalize with myself that if there’d been a swim the results could’ve been different, but you have to race the race you’re presented with and today I wasn’t podium worthy.

Our team physiologist, Carwin, downloaded the data from our temperature pills and did a quick scan of the data. Based on what he saw, he said that during the first run my core temperature went up to 102 degrees then came down to about 101.5 on the bike before going straight back up on the second run. My peak temperature was around 104. He wanted to analyze the data more closely before making any conclusions. The good news was that Zack appeared to regulate body temperature a bit better than I did meaning that he still had more to give. Well, no fear in my guide overheating 🙂 We talked briefly about maybe having a more aggressive cooling strategy pre-race for me but ultimately I just wanted to get out of there and get back to the hotel.

We did find out the official results which had Zack and me in fourth place. Ellis had indeed had an incredible race running a 16min 39sec 5K. Aaron had held on to second place 1min and 46sec behind Ellis. Right on Aaron’s heels was Goerlach 6sec back. Then there was me in fourth 2min 41sec back of Ellis, 55sec back of Aaron, and49sec back of Goerlach. Anatolii came in fifth just 23sec behind me. Thank goodness I’d had such a solid bike.

Later on when the splits were published online I actually sat down and analyzed the times. I was pleased with both of my transition times, very pleased with my first run, and so-so on my bike. I was pleased with the bike in the sense that I was only 57sec slower than Aaron who had the fastest bike split of the day, but disappointed because it was the first time in my ITU career that I didn’t have the second fastest bike split of the day. In fact I had the fifth fastest. Ellis, Goerlach and Grandjean all had faster bike splits (Goerlach and Grandjean only out biked me by 7sec and 2sec respectively though). I was disappointed that I hadn’t broken 20min on my 5K and resolved to train smarter and harder to get that 5K to where Derick, Zack and I knew I was capable.

On the walk back to the hotel, Zack and I had a brief chat with Dave Ellis and his guide Tim Don. We congratulated them on a superb race and they said they were looking forward to racing us in Lausanne in a couple weeks. Unfortunately we had to inform them that we hadn’t made the Lausanne start list and we’d have to do battle some other time. They both seemed surprised but wished us luck in whatever races we had coming up.

After showers and a bit of rest, we headed out to find some real food. We wound up hanging out with Howie and his handler, Sarah, for lunch and a bit of exploring. That night we again met up with Howie and Sarah for a sumptuous meal on the 30th floor of a hotel overlooking the Tokyo skyline and the Rainbow Bridge. We ate numerous courses of steak, rice, vegetables, soup and dessert. We occasionally chatted about the race, but for the most part we all just enjoyed the incredible food and even better company. After all, none of us were 100 percent sure if we’d get this opportunity to be in Tokyo again, so we just soaked up the atmosphere and experience.

The next day we all made our way back to the USA. Some of the Team was preparing for the World Championships coming up on September 1, and some of us weren’t sure what we were going to do. I was in the latter category. I’d put in for a race in Banyoles, Spain on September 8 but hadn’t made the start list. Zack suggested maybe racing at the World Cup in Turkey the week before he was due to race Kona, but Derick said for us to hold off on making that decision. So for now it looks like my 2019 triathlon season is on hold until further notice.


My final thoughts on the Tokyo Paratriathlon World Cup? I’m disappointed with fourth place, but I gave it everything I had in a race format that didn’t play to my strengths. I still have reached the podium four times in six ITU starts and have never finished lower than fourth place. This was also the second race in a row in which I finished within 1min of Aaron who is the best VI triathlete in the US. There were many positives mixed in with many areas in which I need to improve. As we went wheels up from Tokyo I vowed to give it everything I had to ensure that I’d be back in Tokyo in August/September of 2020, fighting for a podium spot at the Paralympic Games.

Tokyo Para-triathlon World Cup Results

  1. Dave Ellis, GBR, 57min 1sec
  2. Aaron Scheidies, USA, 58min 47sec
  3. Jonathan Goerlach, AUS, 58min 53sec
  4. Kyle Coon, USA, 59min 42sec