Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Why we do what we do

Why do you get up at 5:00 am to run, ride, swim or hit the gym?  Why do we push ourselves and each other?  Why do we come home and plunge our bodies into a tub of ice to ease the pain?  We are called obsessed, crazy or even selfish.  People say things like, "I don't understand why you have to do it all the time" or my favorite, "Its not healthy to do all that".  The fact is, most people just don't get it.  

We don't do it because its easy.  We certainly don't do it for personal glory.  Most of us will never see the podium at any event we do.  We may do it for fun, we may do it because we can.  We may do it for each other at times, because we promised to be there. We may do it as a way of being spiritual.  There is nothing more awe inspiring than running, and watching the sunrise, especially if you are fortunate enough to share that morning with people you are close to.

There is another reason we do what we do, and that is to help others.  Personally I have had the privilege of meeting many of you, actually most of you at a charity event.  I've had the honor of being a Team In Training coach, and forging amazing friendships in the process. We have worked together raising money, and "doing what we do" together.  Yes, we swim, we bike, and we run together for charity, for people, for people we don't know and sometimes for people that are very close to us.

Miles 4 Hope Sept 2012
In September 2012, during the Miles 4 Hope ride in Clearwater, another rider asked me about the writing on my calf.  As you can see in the photo, I wrote "4 MOM" on my calf (I didn't have the Ironman tattoo yet) as I had done in years passed.  My mom had a debilitating brain tumor removed over 22 years earlier, and fought the effects and side effects of surgery and subsequent radiation treatments.  I told her story, he nodded and told me he had lost his mom to a brain tumor.  He then said:  "spend as much time with her as you can"  then he dropped back to his group.  No one saw my eyes well up with tears behind my dark sunglasses, and I started barking orders, looking for little yellow ride markers and checking to see if everyone was okay.

It was an amazing ride and amazing day.  Its actually the day Kari and I met.  Ask her about it, I'm sure she'll be happy to tell you.

Mom passed away about four months later.  No amount of miles I ride or run will ever erase that pain. I'm not going to be cliche and say I'm racing for her.  Its not about her, and its not about me.

It is about helping people.  I'm teaming up with Brain Tumor Alliance who's mission statement:

"Through our work, we aim to raise awareness and funds for brain cancer research while helping those suffering with a brain tumor have a better quality of life."  

Maybe I can make a small difference.  Maybe I can help raise awareness.  Maybe I can raise enough money to help a family whose still fighting.  Fight with me, and help me.  Please donate, and share this with as many people you know.  You know how to find me, on the road, or in the gym.

The next time someone asks you why you get up before dawn to run, ride or swim, tell them its a way of life.  Tell them, its what you do.

Please, never stop doing what you do!

Friday, January 16, 2015

I have an announcement

Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, but Edison said he never failed, he just learned 10,000 ways that won't work!  That's why we keep going, why we fight, and why we never give up.

Yes,  I know, I've been here, and done this before.  Some might think I'm crazy, and they are probably right to some degree.  I mean really who wants to do it again.  To go through the anguish, the roller coaster of emotions, the day to day grind.  To go to bed and wake up day in, day out and do the same things over and over.

I have been waking up with a renewed sense of urgency, and purpose.  I've been smiling more, that's how I know the time was right.  I know there is a long way to go, and lots of decisions to be made.  Plenty of hard work ahead, but yes its time.


Everyone has been asking, and yes there is a date.  Saturday, October 3rd in Cambridge Maryland, the A-Train and the PB&J crew will take on IRONMAN, Maryland for another 140.6 mile adventure!

PB&J Crew IMFL 2013

There will be pain.  There will be plenty of swearing.  There will be plenty of "goof" updates from Brad.  I am certain Jamie will tell me she hates me plenty of times, although this one was her idea.  There will be plenty of blood sweat and tears as we train together over these next nine months.  I'm ready.


A number of years ago I did my first triathlon at Fort Desoto, I saw a couple crossing paths on the run course.  The age written on his leg was 68, I didn't see hers. They stopped, embraced and kissed, then he smiled and said "I'll see you at the finish line". It was one of the most moving things I've ever seen during a race.

For the last two years, Kari and I have trained together and raced together.   She's been at the finish lines for me and I for her.  I can honestly say, I was more nervous the day she did Ironman than the day I raced it myself.  She's been beside me on the worst day of my life, and the most amazing day.  I sincerely hope that she and I will be that couple, years from now at a race, stopping to kiss or even cross the finish line together. 

The real announcement:  I asked her, and she said YES!  Now we don't have a date set, but stay tuned, the journey continues.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Still Believe

"Victory Belongs To Those Who Believe... And Believe In It The Longest...We're Going To Believe."

The line is from the movie Pearl Harbor and it was Alec Baldwin playing Colonel James Doolittle.  Whether Colonel Doolittle actually spoke those words or it was a product of the Hollywood screenplay, I don't know.  But its become a mantra I've adopted.

First and foremost to become an Ironman, you have to "believe".  Before you ever run a mile, or swim a lap you have to believe you can swim bike and run 140.6 miles.  

They say, your mind will give out before your body, so you have to believe the pain in your leg, your hip, or ankle is going to go away. You have to believe that you will make it across that finish line.  

Belief is so very powerful, it makes us who we are.  It defines us to other people an can propel us to do things others only dream of.  There is a difference between hope and belief.  Never once during my training for Ironman did I ever say I "hope" I can finish.  You can't hope, you have to believe.

Life works much the same way.  People who hope for things rarely achieve them.  But if you believe, I mean really believe, anything becomes possible.  Not only is it possible but it will happen!  If you hope for something, the ultimate result is nothing more than a dream.  But if you believe, it becomes a goal, and it will happen.

The difference is the plan.  Yes, the dreaded training plan.  Weather you use Training Peaks, Garmin or an excel spreadsheet or a series of cocktail napkins, your plan needs to be in front of you.  You need to look at it every day.  Some might consider this obsessive, but Ironman is seemingly impossible, and is only going to happen if you have that plan in place and in front of you every day.

Visualize the finish line.  Visualize the moment that medal is placed around your neck.  Picture your friends and loved ones wrapping their arms around you.  Believe in yourself.  You can do it!  

You can do anything if you truly believe.  How bad do you want it?  What are you hoping for, what are you dreaming about?  Want to make that dream a reality, believe in it!  Can you see it?  Close your eyes and visualize.    Yes you can!  Let's make it happen!  I still believe in you!  Do you?

Monday, March 3, 2014

I Like PIZZA... SO!

When we talk about training, we always get to the subject of food.  What should we eat, before or after a long bike ride.  What should we eat, when we first wake up, or before the gym or after the gym or when we think we might go to the gym.  Yes, food is an integral part of training.

There is always great debates that go on about food especially within the athletic community.  Should I eat, organic, low-fat, low-sugar, no sugar, multi-grain, no-grain, low-carb, low-taste, non-gmo, non-steroidal, well you get the idea.  For most of us, we know what to do, and have all the resources at our fingertips.

We don't need a website or podcast or other would be Guru to tell us that going to Five-Guys or Taco Bell is bad for us! Trust me, we know.  My body knows.  When I strive to eat clean, and then stray and eat something high in fat and or sugar, my body will let me know, that wasn't a wise choice.


I have found that people who have changed their eating habits and now adhere to one of the many dietary philosophies, often become evangelists in their attempts to convert the masses.  My good friend Beth, The Discom-BOB-ulated Runner,  recently posted in jest one of Taco Bell's newest culinary disaster menu items to which  several of us commented and said we wanted one.  None of us actually went there looking to purchase this breakfast monstrosity.  However, according to one group, you would have thought fire and brimstone would rain down on her for her dietary heresy!  LIGHTEN UP people.

If you have ever been to one of my Spin classes, I often comment on how long it will take you to burn off something you ate that day or in the not to distant future, like right after class.  I make it perfectly clear to my class that my ultimate weakness is pizza!  You know what they say about pizza, even when its bad, its not so bad, just like _____ well let's not go there.  I have joked with my classes that I had pizza for lunch, or was ordering one on my way home and everyone was going to have to pedal harder to make up for it.

People do ask me for advice.  People do come to me to help train them, to push them.  They ask me to help them change.  Why do they ask me?  Maybe because I've been there.  I was over 270 pounds at one point in my life.  Yes I decided to make changes in what I ate, but most importantly it was my way of thinking that changed.  I know, I am still over-weight by most weight charts.  I did get to my fighting weight for Ironman Florida.  I have raced as a Clydesdale, but not any longer.  Finishing Ironman, was a signature moment on a very long journey to get healthy again.

I'm not an expert in nutrition.  I don't claim to be, but I know the basics and what works for me, and I know why I put on weight and I don't deceive myself by saying, I don't know what I did wrong.  I usually know exactly why the scale is tipping further than I'd like.

I love food, what can I say.  I really love pizza!


Friday, February 21, 2014

I'm back... did you miss me?

Yes I know, I have been remiss in my blogging duties.  Be honest, most of you did not miss me.  I have gone through my files, and found 4 or 5 half written unedited blog posts all since Ironman Florida.  Maybe I'll do some editing and post them.

But that is not why I'm writing.  I am just %!$$*& off at so many of the self-appointed-pseudo-experts out there that claim they "know what they are talking about"!

First, I had the privilege of talking to a well respected orthopedic surgeon in the area.  From all the degrees on the wall, and signed photos from well respected athletes over the last 30 years I would deem him an "EXPERT"  Anyone care to disagree?  He had one thing to say on the subject of injuries.  "The two things to have the biggest impact my business, (the amount of injuries he sees) are:  minimalist running shoes and/or barefoot running; and two: Cross-fit".  Those two phenomena have exploded over recent years with varying results, but noteworthy is the increase of injuries.

Now I am not going to pick on either, but in the near future, I will talk about both, and have some experts, local interviews for you at which point you can make up your own mind.  There are some really great cross fit gyms out there.  Do your research just like when you are buying a bike or pair of running shoes.

Now, on to the "Self-appointed-pseudo-experts".  Yes we all know one or two.  Having worked in gyms for years I have come across many of these.  I've seen the fads, the supplements, the powders, the gadgets and everything that comes with the above.  Hell, I've tried many of them, and the ones I haven't tried I've researched or seen the results on others in the gym, or out on the road.  What I DO know is this:  What works for me may not work for you?  Ask a pro-triathlete, and they will say the same thing.  Even the married couples who are pros have different race day routines, and race day nutrition plans.  So for anyone to say, "I know what I'm talking about" usually means they do not.

The word Coach by definition, comes from the Latin, French and Italian words that literally mean a wagon to carry people.  The use of the word as a verb, to coach referring to athletics wasn't used until 1861 and was slang for one who would literally help carry their student.  It doesn't mean, I have the whistle, you must listen to me.  Many NFL coaches have learned this lesson the hard way.

For anyone to coach, or help carry someone to their goals, the most important thing is for them to be POSITIVE!!!  There is no place for negativity when trying to help someone, besides who wants to hear it.

When it comes to the sport of TRIathlon, much of what we do is still trial and error.  Its more alchemy than exact science.  Dave Scott talked about the changes in nutrition ideas for an Ironman.  I think he "knows what he's talking about"

I'm switching gears with this blog, yes I will still talk about my feelings, and about my continuing Ironman journey but I will always strive to stay POSITIVE!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Yes I do shave my legs... SO?

Its race week.  so many of my friends are packing up and getting ready to head for Augusta, GA to compete in the Ironman 70.3 there on Sunday.  Everyone has different ways of getting ready.  Maybe a lucky hat, or jersey.  Some go get a new jersey for every race, not wanting to have photos taken in the same jersey as the previous race.  Heaven forbid, if you show up and someone is wearing the same exact Zoot jersey or race suit as you, how embarrassing!  From special nutrition, to pre-race meals, to lucky bracelets, whatever it takes to go 70.3 miles as fast as you can go.

Then comes the age old question for cyclists and and triathletes alike.  To shave or not to shave.  No, I'm not talking about my face.  Yes I know hockey players love to grow their "playoff beards" and not shave until they lose.  I'm talking about the legs.  I used to make fun of guys who shaved their legs.  The first time I saw real cyclists wearing spandex with smooth legs, I laughed and said I would never, ever do that.  Guess what, I do both now.

Yes, I shaved my legs for Augusta as I have for many races and long rides.  I was stretching in the gym weeks back and noticed two ladies talking about my legs.  They felt bad when I noticed, but one asked, are your legs shaved?  When I said yes, they both somewhat giggled.  Actually so did I.  One then said it makes your calves look really big.  I wasn't so sure how to take that.  My calves were once referred to as "baby dinosaur legs"  by my massage therapist Lisa, who also said, if we were flying through the Andes, with a rugby team, I was the one she wanted to sit near, how comforting.

The first time I shaved my leg it was a partial, basically I was taping my lower leg, and ripping the tape off hurt something fierce with my hairy lower extremities.  Then the poll question.  I put out on Facebook, to all my athlete friends, should I shave my legs for Ironman FL, 70.3 in Haines City.  Oh I got quite the responses, and it was funny, which was what I had intended.  The overwhelming margin, 47 - 5 in favor of shaving with several smart remarks.  And thus, a new race tradition was born.

Do I feel more aerodynamic, no, not really.  I'm certainly not fast enough for that to make a difference.  It does help getting the wet suit on and off.  One thing I did find, when I did have a bike crash early this summer during a training ride. Cleaning the cuts and road rash, was a lot easier, and those cuts healed way quicker then my arm and elbow where there was still hair.  No I didn't shave my arms, what am I a freak?

As I pack my gear bag for Augusta, GA, I have to smile.  I know I've come a long way since the first time I organized for a race. I had a great track workout, this week.  I feel strong enough and mentally ready.  I also feel like a little kid, waiting to wake up and go on that trip my parents promised so long ago.  I tired on the wet suit this morning.  I've made my gear list, checked it twice, and off for a few last minutes errands and get ready and pack the car.  

Oh yeah, legs shaved... check.  AUGUSTA OR BUST!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Melee of the Mind

I know its been a while since I last blogged.  I just haven't been able to put thought to paper, or keyboard in this case.  I know I have not been my jovial self this year, and my blog posts aren't as funny as they used to be.  I'll work on it I promise.

Ironman Florida, is now less than eight weeks away.  My body is obviously tired, but my mind seems to be racing.  As I have said before, there have been several "Oh $#!+ moments.

As the month of September rolled in, my mind seemed to explode in a staggering amount of emotion, and anxiety accompanied by doubt.  All of a sudden, Ironman FL, wasn't some distant race, we're registered for, but right there in front of us!  You can count the long rides and runs left.  Looking at the training plan and seeing 80, 100 or more miles to ride is rather intimidating.  Then the runs go from the normal, to quasi insane as they get deeper into double digits.  Even the shorter workouts have a sense of urgency and intensity not felt before.

The great Yogi Bera once said:  "Ninety percent of this game is half mental".  Of course he was referring to baseball, but the quote applies to triathlon and Ironman even more!  Your mind has to tell your body to do something it doesn't want to do, and get the muscles to fire and comply.  If your mind isn't clear it becomes very very difficult.

Mom & Dad Sept 4, 1965
As I said, September has been a bit overwhelming for me.  Remembering, what would have been my parents 48th anniversary hit me in a way I had not anticipated.  I just couldn't get out of my own way that day, or that week.

Sleep was hard to come by, as I just could not shut my brain off.  Waking up and walking downstairs seemed to summon all the old aches and pains, and a few new ones too.  Sure I completed my workouts, my spin classes, my rides and my runs, but my heart was heavy, and so too my legs.

Then this morning, September 11th, made all of us stop and remember.  As most Americans, I recall exactly where I was, and what I was doing that morning.  I was safe in Sarasota, FL, but watching a building fall that I had gone into every day for years was surreal.  I remember feeling complete panic when I wasn't sure if my cousin was in that building that day.  It wasn't until the next morning, I would know for certain that everyone in my family was home and safe.  Then feeling shades of guilt as I knew so many people's families were not.

These anxious moments have caused the "melee of my mind" these past two weeks.  What keeps me moving one leg in front of the other, is the great people I have around me.  My family, my father who is an incredible source of strength, my brother, my insane but wonderful sisters are always there for me even though I know they want to kill me at times.  They think I'm insane too, and well, I guess they are right to a degree.

My training family too is just an awesome group!  I can't tell you the satisfaction that comes when Jamie tells me she "hates me" at least once a workout!  Her new line lately:  "How did I let you talk me into this"?  Whether we are running together, riding together we are a family that is there for each other.  I say in the A-Train credo, that "we learn from each other, and we pick each other up when we are down...sometimes literally" has been so true this year.  You guys have picked me up, and picked me up off the ground literally!

Of course who's been with me through all of this, when most would have run away, is Kari.  She's been there through my moments of doubt and pain.  She's picked me up and been there.  She's been a medic, a masseuse, and a reasonably good sport about training at 5:00 am.  Oh sure she has called me a few choice names and has said "I hate you" almost as much as Jamie, but she has been there.

They say when you get to mile 18 of the marathon portion of Ironman, you need a reason to finish, because its no longer about what your body has left.  Well I have several reasons, and they will be with me on the course, with me in spirit, or waiting at the finish line.

In the "melee of what's left of my mind" I can't help but hear Diana Nyad's words over and over again, "We should never, ever give up..."