09/14/14

Ending sooner than later

Things don’t always go as planned.  But the way our lives go always has a purpose and reason to it.  My plans for getting one more race in before the end of the 2014 season ended 5 steps after crossing the finish line at Ironman Louisville.

My right leg seized up so bad, I couldn’t walk for 24 hours.  I was in a wheelchair until about noon the day after the race.  And I was in the worst pain of my life for about 36 hours.  I barely slept, I didn’t have an appetite, and almost had to use PTO time at work because I could barely walk on my own (safely) to make visits at patient’s homes, but I was determined to get one more race in before the end of the season.  I had made plans (but no plane ticket purchased yet) to go to Challenge Rancho Cordova for the 70.3 outside of Sacramento, CA.  In order to try to make the plan work, I visited Occupational Kinetics about 3 times a week for 3 weeks to get treatment and massages.  Every time I made a trip to them, I noticed an immediate improvement.  I can’t thank them enough for all the treatments they gave with the ultrasound and massage therapy, etc.  I know that I healed much faster with them.  The crew there is absolutely amazing.

I told myself that if I made a full improvement by this weekend, I would try to go out to CA and race.  However, I’m not quite there yet and have decided to throw in the towel a bit early this year.  But, oddly, I’m really okay with it.  I have a lot on my plate right now.  The biggest thing is getting the house I was living in before getting married that has since been rented out, ready to sell.  I know that I would have done what was needed to get it on the market by early October whether going to CA or not to race, but I would have been training and doing the house improvements half heartedly.  I hate doing things like that.  I’m either all in or not at all.  With the injury happening, I was able to find some really good deals on things like tile and granite counter tops at places that sell remnant peices… some of which had EXACTLY the correct amount of product for what I wanted to do… that just doesn’t happen by coincidence!  I hope by getting it on the market a little sooner will save us from paying a mortgage on an empty home. 

Also, I had promised to get my wife a dog after the season was over, so I surprised her by taking her to the Kentucky Humane Society last week and found  a great dog.  A puppy that behaves like an older dog… no chewing on everything in site, house trained after about 4 days, and really cute.  So getting a 3 month old like that is like one in a million… so I’m glad that we were blessed with that dog (he was in the human society for less than 8 hours when we got him).

I also have more time to spend with my loving and supporting wife and enjoy the nice fall like weather s (that started the week after IM Louisville – figures!). 

All these things have helped me realize that God let this happen for a reason… to shift my focus what is more important: family, promises, and work.

Thanks to everyone that supported me this season.  I made some huge improvements this year and can’t wait to get started up again when the timing is right for the 2015 season!

 

02/26/14

All Things in Due Time

It’s almost March… and that means only about a month and half until I head to New Orleans for the 70.3.  It will be my first time racing at that venue, so I’m really looking forward to it.  It happens to be the weekend after my birthday, so I’m hoping to have good reason to celebrate while I’m there!  The first race of reason season always brings with it a lot of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and, of course, a little bit of pressure to see what the training over the winter months has done and how this race performance stacks up to races last year.

These winter months have been… for lack of a better word, “stressful.”  But not for the reasons someone might think a professional athlete stresses about.  It had little to do with performance in races, or how well I’m going to represent my sponsors for 2014.  It had to do with something much more basic than that.  My (real) job.

To make a very long story as short as possible (so I don’t lose people half way through this blog), I started a new job with nursing company that places people in the homes to take care of patients.  After being at the job for about 6 weeks, the person’s insurance decided to stop making payments.  So, as a result, we were force out of the house until that whole situation got straightened out.  Essentially, I was laid off.  I was able to get a few hours here and there, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough.  I started to panic.

Thankfully, my coaching business and rental property had really started picking up since it was January when this happened.  However, I could see that if things didn’t change by the time September rolled around and coaching clients began falling off due to their seasons wrapping up, things would be difficult.  With lots of changes going on in the healthcare scene, nursing jobs aren’t as prevalent as they used to be in Louisville.  I began thinking about going after a job that wasn’t even related to my nursing degree.  It had to be a part-time job because of the coaching clients I had were paying for me to do a good job at looking at their data and giving them workouts that were specifically selected for them.  Plus, if I wanted to get to races, a full time mon-fri job would make it very hard to travel the distances required to get to a lot of the big races.

I spent hours submitting applications for anything I could find.  Meanwhile, my motivation to train was lacking.  I was still doing it, but my heart wasn’t in it.

I found a job posting on-line for a home health job.  Part-time!  I almost didn’t apply for it because I figured I wouldn’t even get an interview since it said in the description that prior experience was preferred.  But I figured I give it a shot… what did I have to lose?

Skipping a lot of unimportant details, after 3 interviews for that job, I was offered the position.  It will be a lot more flexible than any other nursing  jobs out there that I’m aware of at this point.  It fits my needs and desires perfectly.  That same week I signed 2 more athletes for my coaching business (and hit the cap of 15 athletes that I set for myself), resigned FCA Endurance as a sponsor for next year, and got an email from USA Triathlon saying that I had been named Pro Rookie of the Year.

After walking through a valley for such a long time, I learned a lot of things that I think God really wanted to me (re)learn:

1.  He promises to provide all our needs – God gave us the money we needed to pay the bills and make ends meet while I was laid off with income coming in from self-employed ventures and my wife’s nursing job.

2.  God is more concerned about our relationship with him than our comfort – sometimes, the only way we can get back on track with God is by going through a tough season that brings about a lot of growth.  If other things take priority in our life, God will do whatever it takes to reclaim that position.

3.  All things happen in God’s timing, not ours – I had been offered a job at long term care facility as a PRN RN.  It wasn’t anything what I wanted, but I was going to settle on it for the sake of having a job.  Thankfully, God had better plans and I was offered the home health job just two days before starting orientation at the long term care facility.  Ironically, I got that email from USAT just hours after all this happened.  It was like God saying, “now that I’m back on top, you are free to race for my glory again.”

Looking back on all this, I can see why I went through all of this.  I learned a lot, and ended up in a much better place than before this whole situation happened.

With all this in mind, it doesn’t change my desire to do well in the sport of triathlon, represent Maverick Multisport and the rest of my sponsors well, or my motivation to push myself to new heights.  I believe that I’m supposed to do everything with 100% effort, whether that’s racing, spending time with family/friends, my coaching business, my job, or anything else in life.

So, if you see me at races with the FCA Endurance logo tattooed to my body somewhere, it’s not only a because I’m trying to be an ambassador for them/Christ, but it’s also a reminder to me of why I race and where my abilities come from.

12/27/13

2013 Lessons learned and season recap

When a season of life is completed, it’s only natural to look back on it and reflect to pull some lessons from the past to figure out what worked and didn’t work.  Where you could have done more.  When you gave it your all. When you accomplished your goals.  When your goals were set higher than you landed.  When you were surrounded by those that you love.  Where you hit rock bottom.  When you were on cloud nine.  It’s amazing to think that all of these highs and lows can happen in such a short period of time, but everything happens for a reason so that we can learn from it and end up smarter and stronger.

Here are just a few things that I learned in 2013, my rookie season of racing professionally:

1.  Don’t let others intimidate me – My first race of the season was Panama 70.3 in February.  I went to the race with very little confidence.  The pro start list had been mailed out and there was a power house of athletes there.  I immediately ruined my chances for a good race by comparing myself to people that have been very successful triathletes for several years.  I remember sitting in the pro meeting looking around and asking myself, “Why am I even here?  This is ridiculous!”  When that thought entered my mind, I lost all hope for a good race.  At the swim start, I had the thought enter my head again.  Long story short, I didn’t perform well.  My mind had over powered my body and it was a long day on the race course.

It wasn’t until June when I raced the 70.3 in Raleigh that I realized the perhaps one of the reasons I wasn’t hitting my goals this year wasn’t a physical issue (since I was hitting the numbers in training) but a mental issue.  The night before the race, my home stay (Brooks Doughtie, a local coach in Raleigh) wrote me a letter before going off to the NCS triathlon practice and left it on the dining room table.  He wrote several things in that letter that I will always remember.  Some of the things I took to heart that he suggested I do is get a mantra to repeat in my head when negative thoughts creep into my head.  He also told me to race til the finish.  You never know what is going to happen to the people in front of you.

That night before falling asleep, I had a mind shift.  I was going to whisper a mantra that would promote positive thinking and race as if I was on the cusp of being in or out of the money.  Long story short, it worked.  I landed my first podium and pay check as a professional triathlete.

2.  Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules – Up until this year, I was focused on racing and training.  I wanted to minimize my stress.  So that meant no girlfriend.  I also had a rule of never to date anyone that I worked with.  Well, both those rules were broken.  The added support that Leslie gave me on top of what was already there from my family and friends pushed me to train harder and race better.  She came to 4 of my races, and three of them I ended up on the podium.  As cliche as it sounds, having her there made a big difference.  After all, I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  Next year, however, I won’t have a girlfriend waiting for me at the finish line.  We got married on Nov. 3rd!

3.  Never take anything for granted – This summer was incredible.  Everything was falling into place perfectly.  Training and racing was going well, I got engaged in July, my coaching business was doing well for it’s first year, and I was already getting calls for next season without spending a dime on advertising.  Then the unthinkable happened.  I lost my real job.  A lot of uncertainty followed.  How will I be able to race?  Will I have to give it up?  How will I pay bills?  What will people think?

I went through a lot of growth.  I did a lot praying and reading of the Bible.  God made me realize that everything was going so perfectly because of Him.  When I stood back and looked at what was going on, I remember thinking that I was invincible and nothing could bring me down.  Well, I was wrong.  Everything I knew was falling apart around me.  Thankfully, God gave me a different job that is less stressful, a consistent schedule, and doesn’t take up an entire day when I work it.  Since my two work days now start at noon and work til 10 pm, I have all morning to get a long training block in if I want before going into to work.  And since my second day is always right after the first, I just take that day as a recovery day and sleep in and do some work on my coaching or something before going into work.

Even though it was a tough situation, God worked it out for the best

4.  Sometimes Less is More – I have written a few blogs on this subject recently, but I am now a believer in high intensity strength training programs.  This year I saw the biggest gains I ever have.  My coach had me doing frequent high intensity training up until the last few weeks before IM Louisville.  I also was doing high intensity boot camps at a local gym, Pure Fit.  A balance of these two things, I believe, was another key to the success I had this season.

5.  Sometime More is More – After looking back on my races, I realized that one of the biggest things I needed work was my swimming.  The swim is of utmost importance in the professional field.  If you have to fight all by yourself in a 56 mile bike to catch the pack and then expect to run well.  So, I started swimming about 3 times a week with a local swim team called Lakeside.  They have kids from elementary all the way up to high school.  Over the years, they have produced some Olympic Athletes… so you know that the coaching is good.  Since I started swimming there, my workouts went from ranging from 3000-4500 meters up to about 5500-6000 meters.  The extra time in the water has helped, but the coach has also helped with my technique.  So far, after a couple months of work, I’m swimming my 100 meters about 4 seconds faster!   This should be a game changer in 2014

6. Listen to the body – In the past, I would be so strict with the training program, that I would drive myself into the ground by the time my A race came around.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  This year, I took a different approach.  I listened to my body.  If I felt overtrained, I skipped the workout.  If I couldn’t hit the intervals because of  fatigue, I canned it and rested.  Instead of digging a hole and being tired all the time, I would take the down time to eat and rest.  Usually by the next day I was feeling better and back at it.

 

This, of course isn’t an exhaustive list of things learned, but I think I hit the major ones.  I hope everyone can learn from mistakes and successes and have an even better 2014 season!

07/28/13

Progressive Endurance Helps Tri4Okipe

A couple weeks ago, a old high school friend of mine, Daniel Roberts, contacted me about helping him and another friend of his, Randy Lash, train for their first triathlon.  I knew that both of these guys were dedicated athletes and were willing to put in the work.  So I jumped at the opportunity.

The opportunity to volunteer my time to help raise money for an orphanage, Okipe.

Randy’s dad gave the Daniel and Randy a challenge.  Place at least in the top 10 at the Cane Creek Sprint Triathlon and he will donate a specific amount of money depending on where they place within the top 10.  They both took Randy’s dad up on the challenge and have set their goals high to raise as much money as possible for the orphanage.

They have a facebook page to give people updates on their training, the orphanage, and various other things as well.  Be sure to “like” the page and spread the word about this endeavor.

You can also donate to the cause by clicking here.

                                     

 

03/12/13

Forgetting Where I Came From

Last week was a bit of a rough week for me mentally.  Since getting back from Panama a little over a month ago, I’ve had several “tweaks” of my achilles tendon on my right leg.  It happened again last week Tuesday when I started picking up the intensity for 70.3 Texas in April.  I felt the slight twinge for the first time about 4 miles into my run, which was just under half way through the run.  I ignored it thinking it was just in my head and kept pushing it.  I’ve taught myself to push through discomfort, and figured this was just another test.  By the end of the last interval, I knew that twinge wasn’t just in my head, because even though I ignored it, the sharp pain was more than just a little twinge.

Later that day I realized that my achilles probably never got fully healed when I aggravated it a month ago.  The thought of having to sit this entire season crossed my mind.  It scared me… no, it paralyzed me.  I didn’t know what I would do… or who I would be.

Fast forward to Saturday night when I attended church at Destiny Church.  That night the Youth Pastor, Steve, spoke on the topic of pride in a series called “Kingdom of Me.”  This series has been about how we as humans try to build our own kingdom with earthly things only to have it come crashing down on us.  The saying “pride comes before fall” is a well known phrase, and is probably no stranger in our lives.  The example Pastor Steve used came from 2 Chronicles where King Uzziah was blessed tremendously with a large army, riches, and peace.  However, it didn’t take long for him to forget where all these blessings came from and how blessed he was.

Near the beginning of the sermon, Pastor Steve gave the example of how football players dance or show off in some other way after nearly every play they are involved in to let people know how awesome they are.  However, pride doesn’t always show outwardly.  Pride manifest itself inwardly when we start looking at our accomplishments and thinking “man… I’m so great.  Look at everything that I have done and build up for myself.”  Or maybe for public figures, such as athletes, they think that the world owes it to them and they should be given everything  for free.  Or it could be even as simple as liking the attention that he/she receives from being able to do what they do well.

I began analyzing my thoughts swirling in my head that dealt with “who would I be if I can’t race,” and “without racing, people won’t care who I am.”

In the past, I’ve told people that I don’t really like the limelight much.  Sometimes I just want to go somewhere and hang out with people and not be introduced as Mike the professional triathlete.  At times I just want to blend in and be “normal.”  But what may not be public knowledge about me is that I like marching to my beat and blazing my own path.  I like working hard and reaping the rewards of the time and effort that I put it.  I enjoy looking back on where I came from and where I am now.  Then the secret I was keeping from myself surface… I crave the attention from people.  I realized that I was harboring pride in my life.  Ouch! For someone that likes to think that he doesn’t struggle with this issue, this was a harsh reality.

Has this whole achilles issue been a way to get my attention… it’s very likely.  It made me realize again where I came from as a freshman in high school struggling with an eating disorder and the desire to be notice and how God provided friends/family to get me through that time and eventually introduced endurance sports to me as an outlet.

I was reminded of who I am.  A person that’s been given grace/mercy and a gift to share with others.

12/26/12

Sweaty Sheep Merry Christmas 5K

This post is a bit late in coming, but last weekend on the 22nd of December, Sweaty Sheep put on a 5K.  The race was organized by my friend, Ryan Althaus and the timing done by Headfirst Performance.  The race went from a brain baby to an actual event only a little over a month before the race date.  With a little bit of marketing and telling people about the event by word of mouth, Sweaty Sheep pulled of an amazing event.

For the brave-hearted, there was an option to drink a 4 ounce glass of eggnog at the start line and then at every mile marker.  I decided to take part in the challenge and have some fun while wearing my ugly Christmas attire.  The eggnog tasted so good as it hit the lips, but as soon as it got to my stomach, I felt my stomach starting to turn.  If only I were able to stomach this stuff in a real race… talk about the calorie replacement!  As for now, I’ll stick with Infinit!

The purpose behind the event was to help raise awareness of the homeless shelters in the area.  Ryan worked with several of them, including Wayside Mission, Exit Zero, and Jefferson Street Shelter just to name a few.  After the race, Little Ceasars and Chic-fil-a donated a bunch of food for the athletes.  But there weren’t just athletes at the dinner.  The homeless people were invited too.  We all gathered in the Presbyterian Center downtown and had a little Christmas service.  During this whole time, the homeless people gathered up supplies they needed, such as toiletries  coats, clothes, shoes, non-perishable goods, etc. in sling bags that many of us athletes donated from our overwhelming supply we have from getting one from each race.

It was a truly a blessed time for athletes and the homeless to come together and share a meal together.  And in case you missed it, be sure you’re there next year as this will become an annual tradition in Louisville!

Merry Christmas!

11/15/12

Bullitt County FCA

This week I had another opportunity to speak about triathlon.  However, this time it was a totally different crowd than I had ever talked to previously.  Before today I had only talked in church settings and to other triathletes that have at least a slight grasp of what triathlon is in my life.  This week I was speaking to high school students at Bullitt Central that are involved in FCA.

I knew from my dabbling in FCA while I was in high school that many of the students probably weren’t Christians.  I also knew that at least a good number of them wouldn’t even be athletes.  So basically all that was left in common for the students is the “F” in FCA (Fellowship).

A good friend of mine that I met during my first summer in Louisville, Mallory Reid, is a teacher involved in FCA and asked me to speak to the students.  I agreed to do so thinking that I could maybe use the talents that God had given me to maybe inspire some of the students to be more bold for Christ at school and on the sport team, pursue their dreams, and maybe even pick up some form of endurance sports later on down the road.

I started with an abbreviated version of my story of how I got involved in racing.  If you haven’t heard my story, click here.  I could tell that some of them were a little shocked from certain parts of the story, but without the background given, my involvement in triathlon would have no backbone or any significance to FCA.

Once I finished the story, I showed the a video on youtube that would help give a visual of what a triathlon is and an idea of what people wear during the race.  Thankfully, we were able to locate a projector so the whole group, about 60 to 75 in number, could see it.

I then talked about how I believe God has given me the ability to race and do what I love to reach a very unique subculture and challenged them to look in the areas of their lives where they could possibly be the only one able to reach a certain person or people group.

I talked a little bit about my training… not going into too much detail so I wouldn’t bore them to death.  After all, talking about swimming, biking, and running to most people tends to get blank stares.  From there we entered a Q & A.

I was prepared for pretty much any question, since I think I’ve been asked most every question several times in the past.  However, the one that I was hoping someone would ask came towards the end of the Q & A:  “What do you do if you have to go to the bathroom?”

I told them I just pee while moving… by choice.  That got a good response.  Some people started laughing, others grimaced, and others, I’m sure, didn’t believe me.  It sparked a lot of conversation between friends in the crowd of students.

To wrap things up, one of the teachers did a little devotional and a prayer.  On the way out, several students thanked me for coming and a few talked to me afterwards for a few more questions.  I have to admit, I didn’t expect the kids to act so well.  Let’s just say that I’ve heard several horror stories from teachers in both Jefferson and Bullitt County school districts… and I feared the worst!  Some times surprises are good!

I hope to have more opportunity like this in the future; reaching people that are athletes (but not always endurance athletes), talking to youth to inspire them about the future, and hopefully bringing glory to God, which is much more meaningful than swimming, biking, and running as fast as I can.  Ultimately, no sport, experience, and adventures in life will fill the void that many are trying to fill.