Addicted? No…OK, Well, Maybe…Yes, Yes, I Am

By Debbie
November 18, 2014 on 3:04 pm | In Community, Random Musings | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Tom Golden and Team athlete Leo Carrillo. They are partners in triathlon and, apparently, enable each other. Hey guys, we can probably find you some help! (Editor’s note – In no way is this blog post meant to bring lightness to the serious problems of addiction…it is meant only to make fun of ourselves).

[Scene]  I’m on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Kona for a vacation with my family. I’m feeling super pumped to be going to the home of triathlon’s biggest event. In the plane, I am waiting in that peculiar line for the bathroom and some guy says to me, “You do triathlons?” I’m thinking, “Why would he ask that? Is it my shaved legs, my year round tan, my Zoot shoes or possibly my fit triathlete looking physique?” “I do,” I replied, beaming with pride, “how did you know?” “Your Oceanside 70.3 shirt,” he says. “Ohhhh, right my shirt,” I reply. “You do triathlons?” I ask. “I did, most addicting sport ever,” he says. How great is this, a fellow triathlete to chat with on my way to Kona, this is great! He then goes on to say, “My wife divorced me and my kids hate me because of triathlon and it nearly ruined my life. It’s a selfish sport,” he says. I was speechless. You would have thought I was talking to a recovering addict. The nerve of this guy! Well, for the next few hours, I started to think about what he said. Addicting, could one be addicted to triathlon? Maybe? So I started thinking what the similarities between a Triathlete guy and an Addict guy might be, just to check his theory. My training partner, Leo, and I came up with the following:

  1. Addict guy usually has a partner that he uses with; Triathlete guy has a training partner.
  2. The lean physique of Addict guy and race ready Triathlete guy could be confused for one another.
  3. Addict guy gets cranky and agitated when he can’t get his fix, whatever that may be; Triathlete guy also gets cranky and agitated when he can’t train.
  4. Addict guy has a dealer or supplier; Triathlon guy has TriSports, run by the one they call Seton.
  5. Willingness to spend top dollar on the best stuff, interchangeable.
  6. “I can do more, I can handle it.”  Interchangeable.
  7. Despite the amount of pain and suffering, you continue to do it anyway, interchangeable again.
  8. Addict guy craving a six and a half hour high sounds like awesome, normal fun (for him). Triathlon guy craving a six and half hour workout also sounds like awesome, normal fun.
  9. Addict guy pushing the limits, teetering on the edge; much like Triathlon guy pushing the limits on a long training session, risking injury. Both would say totally worth the gains.
  10. Addict guy swearing he’ll give up his addiction after being caught/busted/found out, even as he’s planning how to do it again.  Triathlete guy 20 miles into the run during an iron distance race swears never again and tells himself this was a stupid idea, yet he finds himself standing in a long line with stiff, sore legs the next day, credit card tightly in hand, ready to sign up again.

Well, there you have it. I may have been stretching on a few of those, but let’s face it…this is an addicting sport. I admit it has a grip on me and my fellow triathletes. Just call me Triathlon addict guy, I’m OK with that, I guess. Maybe the airplane guy had a point, but for me, it’s a good addiction. Triathlon has taken me to some really cool places to race. It’s transformed my health and physical condition. I’ve learned to push myself and juggle a loaded work/family/training schedule. Most importantly, I’ve met some really unique and great people over the years. After being a triathlete, anything in life will be a piece of cake. Yup, I’m OK with the thought of being a Triathlon addict! OK, gotta go…need to get to TriSports now!

Tom & Leo share the podium

After the Finish Line

By Debbie
October 28, 2014 on 9:30 am | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Martin Soole. We all know what we do leading up to a race…train, train, train! But what about after? Check out Martin’s blog or follow him on Twitter – martin.soole.

There are many points in life when one must reevaluate and refocus.  I’ve recently found myself at one of those points. I spent all of last year training and racing toward an Ironman finish. It was a rather simple, lovely existence.  I woke up every morning and knew I had to train.  I put in hours and hours of work.  I bought the best gear available from TriSports.com, I learned from the best; I was the best physical version of myself capable of the world’s most challenging one day endurance race.

Before Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

If you followed my blogs last year, you know that my Ironman debut in Lake Tahoe in 2013 did not go as planned. Read that article here.

The hundreds of training hours couldn’t prepare me for a bike mechanical failure that ended my day prematurely.  I mourned that defeat for a long time. I had so many questions.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of it all and come to terms with an event that was ultimately out of my hands. I had done everything in my power to be prepared for that race.  I even trained with my coach on the course the previous month. But the Universe had other plans.  It turns out that I gained more from that defeat than I would have if I had finished.

When I was training on a daily basis I didn’t make room in my life for anything else.  I felt like a monk at times.  I stopped socializing with friends, I only ate a strict diet, I let my business dealings lag, and fell out of touch with the artistic reasons for my move to LA in the first place.  Many athletes can find balance during their Ironman journey.  I was obsessed and I could not.

I moved to LA to work in film and TV. Here I am (far right) on the Showtime show “Shameless”.

It turns out that I needed a big let down to allow me the breathing room to refocus my energy and begin anew. If I had finished the race, I would have probably gone right into the next and the next and the next and been swept up in the sport and only the sport. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but I would not have been able to walk down that path in a healthy way. I could have further alienated my friends and family and lost sight of my career goals. I can’t stress enough how obsessed and out of balance I was. But there were lessons to be learned here if I was willing to take note.

All that time spent training and racing was not lost. Ultimately, I learned what I was capable of, I found my limits, and learned how to push past them. This could not have been learned in any other way. Triathlon has many transferable life skills. Self reliance, resilience in the face of challenges, and mental toughness are just a few that come to mind. These skills have come into play in my professional life, as I am now producing a feature film called “#Speedball.”  It’s an action sports drama, think; “Fast and the Furious” meets the sport of paintball. If you think triathlon is hard, try producing a multi-million dollar movie franchise.

Despite the Heartbreak at Ironman Lake Tahoe, I knew I needed some redemption and wanted to release the pain of that event from my life.  I fulfilled that at Ironman California 70.3.  It wasn’t the full Ironman finish I had striven for, but this victory was in some ways better. I looked back at the previous year and decided to do things differently as I prepared this time. While training, I started dating a wonderful girl, I kept my relationships strong, and moved forward with all areas of my life. I was able to balance my entertainment career, my personal life, and my training.  I had learned the lesson I was meant to and found closure with the event in Lake Tahoe.

A victory kiss from my girlfriend

I still swim, bike, and run. I moved to the beach with that wonderful girl I started dating and I’ve picked up surfing. My life is more full and vibrant than it has ever been.  From my greatest disappointment came the opportunity to live the balanced life I was meant to live.

Surfing Soole

So, in the midst of heartbreak and setbacks, take a moment to stop and reevaluate. One area of your life may be out of balance.  That situation is there for a very specific purpose.  Once you’re able to release the hurt, look for the gift in the ashes. There is a lesson to be learned. Don’t mourn the failure; it might be just what you needed. Most of all, don’t forget to keep moving forward.

The Urban Triathlete

By Debbie
September 8, 2014 on 3:34 pm | In Community, Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Anthony Bagnetto. Pay attention all you city-folk! Check out Anthony’s blog or follow him on Twitter – anthonybagnetto.

Being a triathlete is difficult.  Let’s face it, it’s a huge reason we all do it. ‘Easy’ bores us, only one discipline bores us (what, no transitions!?). Early mornings, inclement weather, technical and nutritional failures are all par for our course. But there is yet another subset of us who face an additional challenge in preparing for races which, time wise, is 95% of being a triathlete.

I’m speaking of us inner city dwellers. No, not the townhouse owners on the city’s edge with driveways and parking but us brave-hearted souls who dream of a second bedroom so we can not have bikes hanging precariously from the wall over our beds as we sleep. The barriers we face on top of the difficulties inherent in our endeavors require a lot of creativity and close intimacy with repetition.

The concrete jungle

I live in the heart of New York City, and happily, there is a strong, thriving triathlete community here with no fewer than 8 solid Tri teams, organizations, and countless cycling and running teams. The community is strong, the will is there–the space isn’t. We are up against each other every morning, runners darting out into cyclists, cyclists swerving into running paths. And, of course, the tens of thousands of tourists that descend, making going fast dangerous and nearly impossible.

This all happens on a 6 mile circle between the hours of 5-7:30am every weekday morning in our training ground, THE ONLY training ground, Central Park. OK, that’s not totally true. There are several spacious parks in the other boroughs, but if you’re centrally located, the commuting time might take longer than your workout time.

Central Park - triathlete training grounds

I’ve broken down challenges and clever ways we city-folk create to overcome them by discipline.

Swimming:

Being in the northeast and surrounded by concrete, the idea of an outdoor 8-lane Olympic sized pool is a pipe dream. Access to a 25 yard or a 25 or 50 meter pool is supremely hard, or at least very expensive, as they come with mandatory gyms fees attached (by my count, there are 3 Olympic lane swimming pools in Manhattan, none of them easy to reach). One way triathletes get around this is through those tri teams that we belong to. They often have relationships with different facilities, so if you are going to do mostly group workouts, you are allowed to use the pool with the group as part of your membership. Some private triathlon coaches, like myself, have these relationships, as well, and can get you in for private lessons.

Some are lucky/rich enough to have a pool in their doorman building, and I’ve had clients in a lot of them. While this sounds awesome, it really isn’t. I haven’t found one yet that’s actually 25 yards long. So being good at both math and flip turns is essential.

As for open water practice, you can head way out to one of the Brooklyn beaches and brave the waves but as for anywhere else, as they say there, “fuggedaboutit”

Biking:

Here in Manhattan there are 3 options, and only 2 of them really useful for any kind of speed work. The West Side Highway has a very nice bike/running path but therein lies the problem. Runners, walkers and aerobar’d speedster triathletes competing for space within 5 feet of each other isn’t ideal for anything other than slow recovery rides. Which leaves that 6 mile loop of Central Park I mentioned and that’s only useful during non-tourist hours before 8:30am. If you are a long course triathlete, it’s off to Jersey, along the well-ridden 9W route. While this option is great (wide shoulders, frequent cyclist-friendly coffee shops and bathrooms) it can become mind-numbingly repetitive. Plus, depending on where you live in NYC, the commute to get out over the George Washington bridge (read: warmup) can be over a half hour each way.

Want to really bike? Then get out of town!

There are a handful of growing indoor cycling studios with computrainers and flatscreens that welcome both teams and individuals for different workouts, and they become very popular in the winter offseason. Even these are cramped, though, and few have shower or changing facilities.

Running:

This is really where my city (or really any other city) shines for triathletes as it is much easier to lace up some shoes and be running just outside your door in only minutes. On foot there is no need to stick to the boring 6 mile drive in Central Park since you can veer onto any number of the hundreds of trails that crisscross the many iconic acres. Running with traffic can be challenging, but it’s a skill easily learned and, unless you are doing speed work, you can generally work the traffic lights so that there is minimal stopping. The people-watching is unrivaled and, with each neighborhood sometimes seeming like a separate country, boredom is never an issue.

Endless possibilities for run training

No matter which leg of a triathlon you are training for, in a city it’s difficult to escape the glass, steel and concrete bearing down on you every day. So when you are at those races in the country and you see a few of us looking up at the clear wide open sky in astonishment, just remember, this is our escape both figuratively and literally. We won’t let it slow us down, though, we just take it in faster.

Life (and Training) on the Road

By Debbie
August 28, 2014 on 11:14 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Don Quinn. He’s the guy who rolls up to the race in the RV, and you’re jealous because he gets to sleep in later than you. Follow Don’s blog or on Twitter – donpquinn3.

“It must be tough to train while traveling all the time.” I hear that a lot. You see, this family of six just happens to live in an RV, and travel the country full-time. Going on four years now. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty sweet way to live! It can be very challenging, however, to commit to a training plan while going from point A to point B. Finding places to swim is especially difficult, but we do get to run and bike in some amazing places.

So, how can you get an effective workout while juggling the different needs of your spouse and kids, whether you’re on the road or not? I’ll give you some examples of what works for us, and you may find they work for your family, or training group.

The Yo-Yo Run

After a warm-up together, we each run at our own pace. When the lead runners reach the next trail intersection (or sign, or really any predetermined distance or time) they “turn-n-burn,” high-tailing  it to the back of the pack, while exchanging fives and words of encouragement with fellow runners, naturally. Then, after a brief recovery, regular pace is resumed until the next turnaround point. This pattern continues until the end of the run. We start together and finish together, and in the middle we all do our own thing.

The Yo-Yo allows each runner to reach his or her own distance and speed goals, while simultaneously enjoying some of that vital “alone with my thoughts” time so many of us crave while running. As a husband and father, it provides some peace of mind knowing I will have regular check-ins with the family. The level of peace of mind is directly proportional to the number of man-eating predators roaming the woods. There are times when the predators are just too numerous, so we stick to the family hike and call it cross-training.

The Yo-Yo can also be applied to a family hike, with some members running ahead while the hikers (aka “mules” because they carry the extra supplies) keep a steady pace. And on a point-to-point hike, one of us will drop the others at the trailhead, drive to the other end and start running to meet up with the rest of the group, and then the Yo-Yo begins.

The Yo-Yo can also be done on the bike, but the turnarounds can be a bit more dangerous on busy roads, so be careful.

The Yo-Yo Run

The Playground (PG) Run

Some of our favorite workouts involve playgrounds. When there are multiple PGs within our running distance, we stop at each one for a variety of exercises, or hit the same one multiple times. Ever since our kids were in backpacks and strollers, I’ve scanned playground equipment for exercise possibilities; now I’m rewarded with seeing my kids do the same thing: “Hey Dad, that looks like a good spot for pullups.”

A fan favorite is the “Spartan Around.” We start at one end of the equipment and have to climb all the way around the absolute outside and back to the start without falling in the “lava” (touching the ground). It’s an excellent full-body workout for everyone, and you’ll never hear the kids ask if we’re done yet. Plus, you’ll be ready for your next obstacle race, or whatever life throws at you. Give it a try, whether you have kids or not, and you’ll be hooked.

Before or after your near-death lava experience, find a convenient pull-up spot and get ready for a fun challenge. This can be done individually, as a single team, or as teams going head-to-head. We’ll pick a goal, say, 100 pull-ups total for the six of us. Then, we each go to failure one at a time in quick succession until we reach our team goal. The one goal for the whole team enables each person to do what he or she feels comfortable with, without the pressure of direct competition with others.

And now, scan the equipment to discover what else is possible. Prove to your kids that you do actually have a creative bone in your body. Really, anything involving body weight and grip strength will serve you well. Think outside the box. Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ll find a spot for box jumps. How about split box runs? Start with one foot on top of the bench or box (the other on the ground) and quickly switch feet like you’re running up stairs, pumping your arms in time. It won’t take much to get your heart rate up.

Some other exercises to consider: dips; rows; push-ups (of course, but try a variety of hand placements); Bulgarian split-squats; and ab curl-ups. For the ab curl-ups, grab the set of rings and get inverted (throw in some upside-down pull-ups, while you’re at it), then curl back down with your knees tucked to your chest as slowly as you can. Feel that? Oh yeah! Now do five more.

Amazing what you can do with playground equipment!

Walmart (aka “Make Do With What You Have”)

That’s right. As full-time RVers we occasionally stay overnight in Walmart parking lots, and other odd spots. With the right attitude, it can be a fun adventure, and you can still get a workout. A recent stay at a Walmart in Minnesota had us doing burpees and then sprinting up and down a hill. A little friendly competition. A couple days later (at another Walmart), we chose a plyo workout that included: power skips, for height and then distance; two-footed hops, again, for height and then distance; and multi-directional “jops” (jump off two feet onto one, and back, in four directions).

And we have a full set of resistance bands that sees regular use; a great way to keep the swimming muscles in shape when you can’t get to a pool. When all else fails, we have our “Hundreds,” so called because they started as four sets of twenty-five repetitions of squats, push-ups, and ab work. Any number of exercises can be substituted, such as, step-back lunges, or one-legged squats and deadlifts. And rotating a variety of exercises will help keep it fresh. Most times, we work one side of the body at a time, forcing us to engage the core to balance.

Resistance bands, benches and RVs, oh my!

The bottom line: Whether you travel a lot, have kids or not, life tends to throw speed bumps and potholes at all of us along the way. Stay flexible in your training, and you will weather the bumps more easily. Do what you can, when you can, and don’t sweat the rest. And if your training includes a spouse, kids, or anyone else really, always try to stay positive, supportive, and considerate. It’s a fine line between motivating and discouraging. With a little creativity, you can get a decent workout anywhere and anytime.

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received…

By Debbie
March 17, 2014 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Scott Bradley, reminding all of us why we started our endurance sports habits in the first place. Check out Scott’s blog and follow him on Twitter – scottbradley11.

Trying to be a competitive triathlete is not easy. It requires a pretty large commitment to be putting your name towards the top of the results sheet race after race. There are countless hours spent training, sleeping, eating, reading about the newest training techniques and equipment, studying competitors and everything else we spend time on. If you let it, the whole thing can become one big grind.

I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that when anyone started multisport they said, “I want to get involved in a sport that will take time away from my family and friends, cost me thousands of dollars in equipment and race fees (not to mention the larger than normal grocery bills), and beat the crap out of my body day after day so I’m exhausted almost all the time. That sounds fun.”  It’s much more likely that people said something like, “I want to challenge myself to be the healthiest, fittest person I can possibly be” or “that looks like it would be a lot of fun,” which leads me to the best advice I’ve ever received as a triathlete: Make sure it’s still fun.

When I started triathlon I had no clue what I was doing. My first season was nothing short of a disaster and if I hadn’t just purchased a really expensive bike toward the end of it, I would have thrown in the towel. I kept at it, however, and was fortunate enough to have a colleague who had been doing this stuff for years, and had been tearing up courses since way back when I was still wearing pull-ups, take me under his wing. He gave me training structure and taught me about how to prepare for races properly. We rode and ran together all the time, often with a bunch of his other friends who were also veterans of the sport.

Sharing the fun with family & friends

When it was time for a big ride, there were often interesting destinations. Usually it was some sort of annual trip for these guys, but to me these were all new experiences. One day we were riding to the Maple Tree Inn, which was about a 75 mile round trip ride with lots of climbing on an annual ride they called “The Easter Bunny Ride” because it always happened in late March or early April when the restaurant was open, which is only for about eight weeks a year (as a side note, this place has the best buckwheat pancakes and syrup anywhere and I highly recommend anyone in upstate New York going if you’ve never been). I was riding next to Carl and he said “Make sure this is always fun. If it stops being fun, don’t do it anymore.” That’s why they had all these destinations for rides and took so many crazy trips. It made it fun and every year they would go back to places together and enjoy each others’ company and share memories.

There are days when we have to rise early to train before work or winter months where we have to grind out hours on the trainer in order to maximize our potential (we don’t all live in sunny Tucson!). Every session isn’t going to be about fun, but if none of them are, what’s the point? I’ve found ways to make the 5am pool sessions fun by swimming with a great group of people (and I don’t even really like swimming to begin with). In the winter, a few friends will bring their bikes over and we will set up shop in my basement to watch movies while we grind away on the trainers.

Group Trainer Session

A little creativity and a few friends can make almost any session more enjoyable. It is a piece of advice I will never forget and hopefully I can continue to have fun with this sport until I’m old and gray so I can share it with some up and coming triathlete who’s just getting into it. If I do, it’ll probably be the best advice I ever give, too.

Exercise as Medicine – Fighting Arthritis with Triathlon

By Debbie
February 24, 2014 on 4:56 pm | In Athlete Profile, Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Helgi Spencer Olafson, Amateur Triathlete and Arthritis Warrior with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Check out Helgi’s website, join his Race For a Cure team, donate and follow him on Twitter – @HelgiOlafson.

I often ask myself… “why do I keep adding more and more to my plate?”…and then I think to myself, “if only there were more hours in a day… yeah, that would be awesome!”

But this is reality!!

The earth will always turn at a pace which conducts time.  We have no control over time.  What we DO have is control over how we spend that time.  YOU have the power of CHOICE.

Is it selfish to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or is it something that can be used as an example for others to follow with the hopes of getting this world out of the rut that we are in where everyone is searching for the magic pill?

The "Magic Pill"

Here is the bottom line:  EVERYONE suffers from hardship and challenges at one point or another in their lives.  Some people have it easy and some don’t.  It is likely that each of us can’t know exactly how it feels to be in another person’s shoes.  We are genetically different from one another and it’s just not the way genealogy works.

What is important is that we continue to use the lessons from our personal experiences and education, as well as the history recorded by countless visionaries over the many centuries that humans have roamed this earth.  Believe it or not, “Visionaries” are people just like you and me.  I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and I AM a visionary for many.  For them I carry a torch, which also stays lit in my heart.  I will lead the way, while learning, teaching, growing, and respecting the knowledge that history and experience has provided.

Harness the thoughts that you produce in your mind.  They can move mountains!

Triathlon as Medicine for #Arthritis

Since competing as a runner for a relay team in my first ever triathlon, which was the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic distance triathlon, I was hooked.  I knew that this was the answer.  I was tired of living my days with a back, bones, and joints that hurt because I wasn’t taking the best possible care of myself.  “But I have autoimmune arthritis, and it makes it hard for me!”  No, Helgi!! THAT is even MORE the reason why you should be held accountable for your health.  No more giving the jet plane regular unleaded for fuel. It was time to figure out how to manage my arthritis, and help others by leading the way.

I found that if I maintain a good combination of swimming, biking and running, as well as functional strength, core work, and a proper stretching routine to maintain flexibility, I am currently almost invulnerable, aside from the common daily creaks and cracks, to the autoimmune disease that may eventually cause my spine, hips and other joints to fuse together.  This fusion, or ankylosis, is caused by severe inflammation and pain.  The autoimmune arthritis I have is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.  40% of the world’s population will suffer from one or more of the over 200 types of arthritis at least once in their lifetime.

I Have Ankylosing Spondylitis

Triathlon is great for arthritis!  I am not a Rhuematologist, or even a doctor, but I am my own maker, and I know that triathlon training works for me.  It can also work for others, but those of us who have arthritis know that our bodies and bones don’t really react very well to sudden changes.  This is why it is important to ease into triathlon and be sure to use each discipline regularly to improve overall fitness and core strength, while maintaining a proper plan with the help of a coach that understands your personal limitations from arthritis.  A strong core helps maintain the integrity of my joints.

Of course it hurts!  I AM human…but I think I am on to something here.

I put my music on and run the trails of the lava fields, valley-laden coastline, or the rain forests of Hawai’i.  Give me a day cycling the hills in the Pacific Northwest, or the flats of Florida.  There is nothing like jumping into the water for a training swim at the pier in Kailua Kona, which also happens to be the start-line for the Ironman World Championship event that takes place each year to crown the best Ironman  triathletes in the world.

Talk about motivation all around me.  Here is the deal.  There is no “Magic Pill.”  There may never be a “Cure.”  What does exist is #Hope.  Raising awareness by word of mouth and through networking is a key element in reaching the extremely large number of arthritis patients, doctors and interested parties all over the world.

Spreading the word

If you support arthritis and exercise as medicine, and you would like to help this cause, please support our mission and consider a donation. Perhaps you would like to join our team and race with us in support of arthritis research and programs to help people with arthritis?  All levels welcome! You can learn more about our team here, and learn more about me here.

TriSports.com supports the Helgi Olafson Foundation…use coupon code HOF14 to donate 15% of your purchase directly to the Helgi Olafson Foundation. Code cannot be combined with any other offers. Sale items and items designated as non-discountable will not be included.

Who are YOU Tri-ing for?

By Debbie
January 21, 2014 on 4:03 pm | In CAF, Charity, Community, Giving Back, Random Musings | No Comments

Races use to be just that…races. But training for races is a lot of hard work, and quite some time back, some one (not sure when, not sure who) came up with the idea that as long as people are training, why not train for a cause? In my mind, Team-in-Training was the one that really put this kind of racing on the map and, since it was founded in 1988, they and untold other charities have benefited from people racing for dollars. What has been amazing are the people from all walks of life who are brought together for a cause, people who may never have even run a 5K, let alone a marathon; never done a sprint triathlon, let alone an Ironman, yet they are willing to toe the line to raise money for research to beat down the disease that took their brother, their mother, their daughter, their best friend. The causes are numerous, but the goal the same…raise as much as possible for the cause that speaks to you.

The popularity of racing for a cause has skyrocketed

I have done this before, raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that does amazing things for people with disabilities – they give them the freedom to get out and participate in athletics by providing prosthetics, training, travel and more. I did my first event with them in 2003 and have participated most years since then (a fire in SD, a couple of pregnancies and our store grand opening had me miss a few), and I don’t even know at this point how much money we’ve raised for them doing their San Diego Triathlon Challenge, Million Dollar Challenge and Race For a Reason over the years. I’ve made great friends and memories to last a lifetime!  I’ll always continue to race for CAF because I truly believe in what they do, and the people who run it are amazing!

Top Corporate Challenge fundraisers for CAF back in 2004

We have become involved with another amazing organization, this one local to our Tucson community, called Tu Nidito (means “Your Little Nest”).  Over 19 years ago, some incredible people saw a hole in the support system for children who had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition (and the adults who care for them) or who had suffered the loss of a loved one, and so they created Tu Nidito to fill that hole. Today, Tu Nidito serves around 900 children and their families, providing ongoing support for grieving children, and helping families who have a seriously ill child all the way from diagnosis to either recovery or the bleak alternative. Just visiting and touring the facility brings tears to my eyes. The staff there is so strong to face these families and the losses they suffer on a daily basis. They do all of this at absolutely no cost to the families, and so fundraising is super important for them. They have had their “Ride for a Child” program for years, pairing a cyclist competing in El Tour de Tucson with a child. The cyclist rides for that child and raises funds for Tu Nidito.  This year, they are launching their “Tri for a Child” program, and have partnered with us to try to help get the word out. They have spots for sold out IRONMAN Boulder, as well as the challenging IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Sure, you could go get an entry for Tahoe at regular price, but by racing for Tu Nidito, you’ll get so much more, and I’m not talking about the tangibles, though those are pretty cool (ever heard of Jimmy Riccitello? He’ll be your coach). You don’t need to be a local Tucsonan to believe in what they do, so check it out, and consider racing for them…there are many children who will be very glad that you did!

Projects at Tu Nidito

The Hardest Race Ever Run

By Debbie
December 13, 2013 on 12:06 pm | In Charity, Community | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. As we approach the anniversary of this very tragic event, we thought Jake’s blog (written earlier this year) was the perfect one to share. We all hope that the people of Sandy Hook are finding joy this holiday season in the memories of those lost to them. Follow Jake on Twitter – gwoodjcg.

This blog is not about Leadville or Kona.  This blog is about a 5K.  That’s right, 3.1 miles.  Most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Recently I participated in a 5K that was far more grueling than any other endurance event I’ve encountered in my life.

I live a mere 12 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School and have seen my community and my schools changed forever.  The innocence my children once had hopping on the school bus each morning has been stripped from them.  In return we have been given fear, frustration, and a deep, deep hole in our souls.

On March 23rd I participated in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families in Hartford, Connecticut.  Along with 12,000 other participants, I ran the 3.1-mile loop through Bushnell Park to raise money for the families.

Sandy Hook Run for the Families

Again, most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race.  Your countless hours of training have fine-tuned your bodies to view a 5K as a warm up to the next 20 miles you’ll run.  But make no mistake; this was a grueling 3.1 miles.  Far more grueling than the hours you will spend on the road this weekend.

Prior to the run, 26 bells were rung one at a time to symbolize the lost lives of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The sound of 12,000 silent people in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. was deafening.  As we wound through the course not a word was uttered.  All that could be heard was heavy breathing and the whimpers of adults fighting back tears.

With a heavy heart, I proudly pushed my 4 year old daughter and 1 year old daughter in the stroller while holding my 8 year old son’s hand through the course.  No course record was to be set.  No medals were given out.  No post race barbeques were held.  No tales of trials and triumph were shared.  The crowd simply ran the course and slowly, sadly made their way back to their cars and drove home.

Family run

When I wake up early and fill my water bottles for a long day of biking and running, I often think of that morning.  I can still see the pain in so many of the adult’s eyes and the lack of understanding in my children’s faces.  The pain I will feel as I embark on hour 4 in the tri-position is no match for the pain in all of our hearts over the recent tragic events of Sandy Hook and now Boston.

The Sandy Hook Run for the Families was not about running.  It was about life: honoring the memory of precious lives lost through tragedy and celebrating the gift of life.  It was about uniting in hope for the future.

Hope

Live.  That is what we must do.  Embrace new challenges.  Push your body beyond its limits. Spoil your family.  Because, in the end, life is finite and today will too soon be yesterday.

A Step at a Time

By Debbie
December 3, 2013 on 4:22 pm | In Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Polly Jansen. Although this took place earlier this year, we thought it a good one to share during this time of thanks and giving. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter – pjansen!

As a member of an athletic community, I have learned from some amazingly gifted people, but the thing I appreciate most in my friends and fellow competitors is their eager willingness to give back to the sport.  One such example recently popped up when I attended a training class for my new job.  As participants, we were asked to introduce and tell something about ourselves.  One of my new colleagues, Awolu, shared how he had come from a war-torn area of Ghana and never owned a pair of sneakers until he graduated from high school because his village didn’t have access to them.  Awolu went on to explain that he has been in the United States for nine years and periodically purchases used sneakers to ship back to his village in Ghana.  He is taking a trip there to work with a middle school in July and plans to send a shipment of shoes at the end of June.

Students in Ghana

Intrigued, I had to meet him afterwards.  “Awolu,” I said, “do you really PURCHASE the used sneakers?”  He assured me that he did, but confirmed that he would also take donations.  I said, “Don’t purchase anymore shoes right now.  You will have your whole shipment by mid-June!”

That evening I messaged Dan Gordon, founder of the Wissahickon Wanderers, a trail running club in Philadelphia that I have been a part of since 2004, and pitched the idea of collecting shoe donations from club members.  We decided that since the Wanderers are holding informal trail races each Thursday in May and also helping to put on the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10k on June 8, that we would encourage the runners and volunteers to bring their used shoes to go to the students in Ghana.

This past Thursday we collected our first round of donations and will continue to do so through June 8.  I really appreciate the support so far from the athletes in my community and it’s refreshing to see everyone come together when there is a need and they have the capacity to help.  It seems like such a small thing because everyone has used running shoes laying around, and we are so happy to be able to share something of ourselves that we often take for granted.  I thank Awolu for this opportunity and hope the students feel renewed energy as they lace up these kicks and put their best feet forward!

First box of donations

Slow Down and Try Some Yoga!

By Debbie
October 7, 2013 on 10:57 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels, who wrote this much earlier this season and who has, now, completed that first Ironman she mentions. As the off-season begins for many, we thought this a fitting blog to get you strong during the winter months.

Ommmm….. yes, we’ve all heard it, the ever popular meditation sounds that so often accompany a just as stimulating yoga class. Runners and triathletes alike have heard it for years, “try yoga, it will help with your injuries.”  But most of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush of zipping through the trails in our newest and coolest trail shoes, or racing down a hill in our aerobars hoping to hit a new high speed, cringe at the thought of placing our feet (or our head or our hands, or all 3 at once) on the mat and inhaling and exhaling to a count of 8! While the benefits are well documented: stress relief, improved mood and well being, improved flexibility, improved digestion, improved sleep… the list goes on and on… for some reason, it is still tough to convince us cardio-junkies to forgo a one hour brick workout where our legs will feel like lead for an hour of gentle relaxation and meditation.  We are conditioned to believe that in order to set a new PR or achieve that highly sought after age group place, we must push harder, put in more hours, do more hill work or add speed work.  While there is no compromise for hard work (you get what you put in), it is time to re-condition our minds when it comes to how we think of yoga.  What if we had the mindset that the more yoga we practiced, the better we could bike, or the faster we could swim? Well, fellow tri-geeks, it’s true! Yoga really can make you into a “warrior.”  I was the first to stake my claim against it, I thought, “Who has time for one more activity?” And who wants to sit around with their legs twisted like a pretzel becoming one with the universe? That is, until I tried it!

Looks easy, but it's not!

Tired of the long winter full of indoor bike rides and treadmill runs, I headed to the group fitness studio for a Yoga Fusion class. This sounded at least a little more fitness based and not as meditative. To my surprise, I struggled through most of the class! I am an 8 time 70.3 veteran, run more marathons than I care to count, and I am training for my first full Ironman. I had been putting in about 7-8 hours a week of base training and thought the yoga class might be a nice stretching break for my sore, tired muscles. Instead, I found myself in plank, pigeon and half moon, shaking to hold the poses.  Shocked at my lack of apparent strength and balance, I began attending 2 yoga classes a week.  Within 2 weeks I noticed remarkable improvements and had to admit to its benefits. As my IM training progressed, I entered a 70.3. It was very early in the season when you come from Michigan and have only had a month of outdoor riding. To add to that, the bike course was the hilliest and toughest of any I have done.

St George bike elevation...ouch!

As I started on the course and climbed the hills, I felt very strong and quickly passed people. Hill after hill, the same result, I was strong and pushed with ease to the top of them. My bike split was faster than on most courses, despite its difficulty.  What’s more, my legs recovered quickly after the ride and my run (hills, again) split was consistent with my others. Yoga has not only improved my strength and balance, which no doubt helped me climb those hills, it has given me a sense of control over my body.  It has taught me how to breathe deep and remain calm amidst chaos.  Now, triathletes, hear me when I say: this is worth far more than it sounds! In mile 90 out of 112, when your neck and shoulders ache and your legs are burning, if you can put your mind into that place where you feel calm and in control, your focus shifts from the here and now (“I still have to run 26.2 miles..”) to a place where you have a greater awareness of just you moving through space, in a world much bigger than just you pedaling on a bike.  If that is what it takes to get you to T2, and ultimately, the finish line, isn’t it worth considering?

Yoga teaches you to become aware of your surroundings and to feel weightless as if you were part of those surroundings.  This is achieved by challenging yourself to complete the strength and balance poses, breathing through them, and accomplishing a little more with each session. Yoga practice can mean different things to different people. For me, it was at first the humbling experience of inadequacy that convinced me to continue, but eventually the benefits carried over into my first passion, triathlon. Once I began to feel the strength and control of my body, and my race times improved, I knew yoga was for me.  While I may never feel the meditative power many achieve from yoga practice, knowing I am stronger and more aware of my body I will continue to practice. I urge all of you cardio-junkies that can’t get enough of the wind whipping past your face and feel the need to be in your target heart rate zone for hours at a time, give yoga a try and see how it can improve all aspects of your life, not just your athletic performance.

Learn more about the benefits, and different types of yoga.

Beauty and balance

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