Monday, May 25, 2015

Top 10 Triathlon Race Week Tips

With a little extra time on her hands thanks to her taper for Ironman Texas, Kristen Lodge (Arizona) graciously gathered some Triple Threat Triathlon race week tips for this post. There's really no order to these, but in the spirit of recently retired David Letterman, I figured arranging them as a Top 10 list was more than appropriate.


10) “Develop a checklist over time so you don't have to re-invent the wheel (no pun intended) every race. This will reduce your stress on what to pack, how to prepare, and a nutrition plan for that distance.” Collin (Utah)

9) “Take a deep breath. For Ironman, the IM Village can be intimidating. Repeat to yourself. I belong here. I belong here.” Gina (Virginia)

don't let race week stress make you forget your goggles
8) “Don't do anything new race week. Your work, preparation and body isn't going to make any gains during race week. Keep it in tune and start to mentally prepare for race weekend.” - Chad (now repping North Carolina)

7) “Three things: 1) For race week, you can't build fitness. Trust in the fitness you built in your training and trust in your taper. 2) Get your bike ready the weekend beforehand. This means putting on your race wheels and finishing any last tweeks. By readying bike the weekend beforehand, you'll eliminate that stress from your race week and allow time to fix any last minute snafus. 3) You can save a decent chunk of watts by racing on a new chain. Still, remove the slow factory lube, apply your own (I like wax), and give it a few rides to break in.” Nick (Washington)

let's hope you've got bike/run clothes on under that wetsuit
6) “Do not eat anything crazy that can mess up your stomach for lunch or supper the week of the race. Do not wait until the night before to pack.” Mark (South Carolina)

5) “Create a list for the night before and day of, including the absolute latest time you can leave. Include e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g - Body numbered? Body Glide on? Sunscreen on? etc.. Make sure you double check that shuttle schedule so you aren't trying to find a cab at 4AM to get to the race start.” Sean (now repping New Jersey)

4) “I start by making a timeline of the entire race day starting with waking up and then writing down the time of every activity that will be done pre race and post race. I also write out my race plan and highlight what my goal pace/power is. Once that’s laid out I spend the week visualizing that and then execute it on race day!” Rob (Massachusetts)

you've prepared for this, now let it rip!


3) “I usually watch my nutrition closely, but especially during race week when I have more free time and may feel tempted to eat more to feel the void. Also, I'm a perfectionist/focused person, but contrary to many triathletes, I am laid back during race week. I know I've done the work, so I take advantage to relax, enjoy time with my wife, and to prepare myself mentally for race day.” David (Florida)

2) “As much as it's possible I like to plan to drive the course the day before to get a sense of road conditions, climate, landmarks, etc., even if I've been on the course before. Having that extra bit of familiarity is extra comfort on race day that keeps me focused on executing and not worried about unknowns.” Dave (Connecticut)

1) “My tip is to rest!” Jeff (Oregon)







Friday, May 22, 2015

Watts Up, Karin?? - Wattie Ink's Karin Langer

Karin Langer is a swimmer turned elite triathlete who has raced at both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Karin represented Wattie Ink as part of our recent Rudy Project article, but we wanted to showcase her more with this separate interview. Thanks for the time, Karin, and best of luck to you and your team this season!

What’s your background, and how did you get into triathlon?

I‘m a marine mammal; I swam my entire life. I never did any field/ball/land sports for long, but in high school I met a couple friends who were getting into triathlon. I loved looking at their bikes and their cool gear. I bounced around, living in Minnesota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, then swam at Carleton College in MN. My coach there came from triathlon, and he painted tri as a logical step after jumping off the competitive sports cliff of college swimming. I didn’t take to triathlon right away when I graduated, but in the back of my head it was a fun sport I could do as an “adult.”

Collegiate swimming seems incredibly brutal to me. Did you enjoy it?

Swimming in college is basically the more hours the better, so 7-9 sessions a week and competing on weekends. Managing my time as a student athlete was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done (editor’s note: you may not have heard of it, but Carleton is not for dummies). Also, morning practices were pretty difficult in those Minnesota winters. I thought about quitting, but the camaraderie of the team made me stay around. I loved spending time with them and I stuck with it. I’m glad I did.

So that explains how you swim so well... I was going to ask after I saw your ~60 min split at Kona a couple years ago.

Swimming is a lot of hard work for marginal gains. It frustrates a lot of people. I spent hours and hours staring at that black line in the pool, so it seems perfectly fair to me that I have an "advantage!" Finding the right balance and prescription in training is such an individual process. For my part, I need to figure out how to put more time into running without injuring myself. Everyone has a strength and a weakness.

When did you finally take the triathlon plunge, and did you have success right away?

Following a several year period in which I wasn’t really doing anything active, I decided that wasn’t for me anymore and that I needed to challenge myself. I started competing, and was pretty flabbergasted at how I took to the 3 sports, not just swimming. I had never really ran or biked before. It’s not like I was on the podium right away, but to finish something like 22nd at my first small race, I was totally pleased. I didn’t need any accolades, I was just happy to be competing. The swimming engine has helped me out.

You're now living in CA, correct?

Yeah, I moved here from Chicago ~2 years ago. I moved here for a dude (and current boyfriend). We actually met through Wattie Ink, and I decided I was done with Chicago. I miss the city but for what we do as triathletes, it’s great being outside all year.

You recently met and rode with defending Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle... what was that like?

Kienle came to do a photoshoot with his sponsors for a Men’s Health type magazine in Germany. Pro triathlete Jordan Rapp put out a call saying if you want to spend the day with Kienle, this is your chance. It was a really cool afternoon. It’s funny because people can be intimidated by pro triathletes, but they’re just like us with their own fears, quirks, and personalities. Kienle was really nice, super goofy, and making jokes all day with a cute little accent.

What’s the history of the Wattie Ink team and brand?

So the name comes from Sean Watkins, who started Wattie Ink as a company in 2009 to basically be the Jerry McGuire of triathletes. He represented a number of up and coming pros, using connections to get them sponsors and to be successful. You can’t be great at this sport without great support. He’s really creative and a natural at marketing, and came up with the concept that he could help age group athletes get sponsorships and that they in turn would help sponsors and bolster his stable of pros. So we as amateurs got to know pros such as Heather Jackson and others who he repped, and we created a reputation around them by talking about them and building name recognition. It’s really a symbiotic relationship between pros and amateurs.

The Wattie Ink team began in 2012, and it’s grown from 50 in 2012 to ~150 now. Initially it was a national team with a heavy SoCal concentration, but as people moved, recommended friends, etc, we are now more geographically diverse as a team.

Sean always wanted to turn Wattie into an apparel brand as well, and that’s what he’s eventually done. He found partners and investors, bought a factory in San Diego County and started manufacturing gear. They're fantastic, high quality kits, all made in the US, so it's awesome to be a part of. Wattie casual gear is also really nice.

So this picture sums up my first exposure to the Wattie Ink team… is there some kind of requirement to be on the team?

That is funny. They had a bikini team in 2011 in Kona as a marketing campaign. Everyone was taking pics of the W, wondering what it was. It got some name recognition for the brand for sure. A month later team applications came out, but I was like “dude I don’t look like those girls, it’s a long shot, but let’s go for it.” The team is about family and fun relationships whereas that was marketing. It's mutually exclusive.

I love your site, wattsupkarin… how did that come to be?

I’ve had the blog since 2012 when I joined Wattie and when I was preparing to head to Kona. I qualified at Ironman Wisconsin in 2011 for 2012, so I had 13 months to prepare. I kinda wanted to document that process and have a forum for thanking Wattie and the people who supported me. Trying to make people laugh at me makes me happy, too.

How has the season gone so far?

My biggest race so far was Oceanside 70.3. I was really nervous for it, as it’s kind of the unofficial kick off race in North America. Big names are there, lots of brand ambassadors, the expo is huge, etc. In some ways it feels like a mini Kona. The race went way better than I expected, so that was great. I put my head down on the bike and powered through without any idea where stood. Ultimately I got nipped at the line for the AG win by 22 sec. There was a little heartache from that but overall I was stoked with the result.

What are your goals for this year and the future?

I’m going back to the full-Ironman distance and am hoping for the best. I would love to go back to Kona, repping Wattie and showing off my hard work since the last time I was there. That said it’s not easy to get there, and I’m not counting any chickens in advance. It’s getting harder and harder to qualify; it’s just a different game every year. I actually spectated the last 2 years, and it was a lot more fun to enjoy Hawaii and watch everyone else suffer. Every triathlete should experience Kona at some point whether racing or spectating. I’m doing 2 IMs this year, Lake Placid (in July) and Wisconsin (in Sep). I’m looking forward to both for different reasons. At IMLP there will be many teammates racing, whereas Wisconsin is where I KQ’d (Kona Qualified) in the past. It is an awesome venue.


Karin's hilarious blog: wattsupkarin

Wattie Ink

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ironman Texas Race Report - Kristen Lodge

My friend Mark picked me up from the Houston airport and we stayed one night in Houston. We had a great carbo loading dinner- chicken parm at Collina’s Italian Cafe. Delicious.

Triple Threat teammate Amy Fletcher
In the morning we headed up to The Woodlands to scope out the area and figure out a race day plan. We attended the Athlete Banquet with Mark's brother Pat and sat at the same table as Sister Madonna Buder, the 84 year-old nun who holds the current world record as the oldest person to ever finish an Ironman. The meal was fantastic and every year the inspirational video Ironman creates for this event makes me cry; so emotional.

Day Before Race Day

I met Triple Threat teammate Amy Fletcher, who had planned to race but her gall bladder had other plans. However, she came down to Texas from Indiana to cheer on friends who were racing.

I also met teammate Gina Shand (Virginia) at Gear Bag Drop Off where she was volunteering.



Iron Gina Shand
She brought a friend with her, a friend who enjoys her passion for racing triathlons all over the place. Everyone needs a friend like that. They were so excited to be volunteering at the race. Gina was also psyched to be able to volunteer again, the next day as a finisher catcher. What an amazing person!

Mark, Pat and I attended the Athlete Briefing and learned that the water was too warm for wetsuits. 

Athletes could wear wetsuits but they would be last to enter the water and wouldn’t be considered for a Kona spot. This forced me to change my race clothing considerably. My TTT top had too much drag to swim in it but it was perfect under a wetsuit. I decided to wear my swim suit on race day and completely change into different clothes in transition. It made me nervous since I’ve never changed like that before nor had I trained or raced in open water without a wetsuit. But sometimes you just have to adapt. So I did.

We drove to the park for a practice swim. The water temperature was perfect at about 81 degrees. We swam for a half hour then had to bring our bikes to transition. 
I picked my bike up from TriBike Transport in Ironman Village. I decided to pay the extra $40 for the valet service after the race so I didn’t have to worry about bringing my bike back to the Village from transition; it was worth the additional cost. 

Race Day

We relaxed before the swim start at the playground. Stretching, relaxing, taking pictures.

The age group race began at 6:40 am. Since it was a rolling start it was organized by swim finish times so we could line up and enter the water with similar abilities. Mark and I started at the 1:20 group. I like the “toughness” of the traditional Ironman mass start however, the rolling start was much less stressful. It was awesome swimming with triathletes at my level however I did get beat up a bit. But that is expected. Mark’s friends Amy and Paul told us no one here at The Woodlands swims in this water and I understand why. I couldn’t see a thing in the dark water but I got through it.


I felt good during the swim and felt somewhat fast despite no wetsuit. When a swimmer pulled me down, not on purpose, it was okay and I recovered. The main thing, I didn’t drown. It was my slowest 2.4 mile swim but I felt strong getting out of the water at the end.

Swim - 1:40

I swam fairly straight. Suunto Ambit3 data.

The muddiest transition ever. The periods of rain leading up to race day made the ground in bike transition smelly and muddy. I should have carried my bike the entire time through transition but walked in through some grassier areas. I paid for it because the first 50 miles of the bike I heard a rubbing noise, I think caused by the mud. After drinking my 2 bottles of Perpetuem I alternated drinking water and Gatorade at every aid station keeping only one water bottle at a time on the bike.

At Mile 50 I was on strange pavement and my back tire felt like a possible flat. I stopped. Felt the tire pressure and it was FLAT! My first flat at an Ironman race. I changed the flat and had troubles with my CO2 so it took much longer. Then I didn’t fill it up right and had to stop a few times to get it right. Once I had full pressure I was so nervous I was going to flat again. I only brought one replacement tube.

I continued the rest of the race in survival mode. I rode as fast and safely as I could. I prayed and prayed. I repeated the mantra “I’m going to make it today, I’m going to make it today.” I wasn’t really sure I was going to make it but I kept saying it out loud. The bike course was beautiful. It was hot and I was glad for the five minute rain shower about Mile 70 to cool off. The rolling hills were tough and I tried to stand during many of them.

From mile 80 on I also repeated “almost there, almost there” a hundred times. I used Endurolytes despite never used them in training. I know, this is a no-no, but since I don’t have a sensitive stomach and I only had 4 of them, I swallowed one every half hour until I ran out. I actually felt a surge of energy about 5 minutes after taking each one. Not sure if it was related but I felt strong on the bike. I wore my Rudy Project Wingspan helmet and just loved it. So comfortable and light.

When I saw the Mile 100 sign I fist pumped and got some cheers. Happy Happy Happy. It was going to be a miracle if I made it back to transition. I knew that once I got there, I would finish Ironman even if I had a slow marathon. I dismounted at the transition. The awesome volunteer took my bike. I ran through the mud and into the changing tent. I made it. I am going to make it today.

Bike - 6:42








On the run the temperature felt like it was in the high 80s with only a few clouds in the sky. Where were those dark clouds we saw the last two days? The humidity and sun exposure made the first mile a walk/run. It was tough to stay running the entire time. The run was 3 grueling loops around the waterway. The spectators and locals who sat outside their home and cheered were amazing. The aid stations that lined the canal made me smile. Since my flat on the bike I vowed to smile at everyone and be the happiest triathlete on the course. I felt fast while running with a strong pace but the walking at aid stations slowed my overall time.

My run plan was to a) alternate Gel, Gatorade, Water at each aid station b) put ice down my top and down my tri shorts to cool my quads c) when walking count to 200 then run if feeling good – 500 if I feel terrible d) smile e) not drink and eat too much to prevent over hydration which happened at Ironman Wisconsin. It all pretty much worked. 

My favorite spectator sign was the one with a woman holding up a sign that said “Single and Supportive”. Trying to pick up athletic men on race day. Smart. LOL

The Ironman Finish is the best thing about the race. The spectators cheered and I tried not to cry as I fist pumped over the finish line. I was caught by Gina, my Triple Threat Triathlon teammate. Down the line was Mark and his support crew cheering!

I’m proud of my effort. I feel thankful to be able to compete in this sport. So much can go wrong on the days leading up to the race and on the course. I am worse-case-scenario-girl in my head, but positive mantras, praying and being thankful got me to the end.

Run - 4:59 


Overall - 13:37

I promised myself when I finished the bike course that I would be happy with my time no matter what. My time wasn’t a PR even though I arrived at the start with the best training to date. Now, it’s time for me to work on speed. This is not my last Ironman.

I am so happy that I got to race with my friend Mark. It was fun to ride with him for a bit at the beginning. I was thrilled to see him at the end with his friends who came to cheer us on.

Race Weekend Highlights:

  • Being “caught” at the finish line by volunteer and Triple Threat team member Gina. 
  • My sister tracking me from Maine and getting me on video crossing the finish like she has done for most my finishes. 
  • Spending the days leading up to race day with Mark and Pat who came out from New York State to be a sherpa. 
  • Adapting to no wetsuit and getting through the swim without my ROKA wetsuit that I trained in.
  • Biking with my space aged-looking Rudy Project aero helmet. I am thankful that I got to feel fast on the bike and I'm thankful for the company’s sponsorship of Triple Threat Triathlon. 
  • I’ve never really believed in a product so much that I would wear a bike jersey advertising their product while using their race day nutrition. Hammer Nutrition is perfect for me. I love their Perpetuem, gels and bars. They made me strong on the bike and ready for the run. 
  • Best Way to Spend the Day After the Race: Brunch at Cyclone Anaya's on the Waterway with Mark, Paul, and Amy. Then watching the amazing pros win awards and age grouper get their Kona spots. And, to see my Pro Triathlete crush in person: Ben Hoffman.


Related Reading:





Friday, May 15, 2015

Race Shirts: An Investigative Report

The other day I was going through my drawer and realized that I have an abundance of t-shirts from races. I’ve thrown many away over the years, but with those currently in my possession I decided to do an investigative report. I went through them one by one, breaking them down into the following three categories: 1) Shirts that I like and wear. 2) Shirts that are wearable, but only for working out or mowing the lawn. 3) Shirts that are unwearable in public, no matter the circumstance.

Side note: Let me be clear that I’m not the type of guy who thinks much about clothes. I never buy clothes. Virtually everything in my possession I’ve either had for 15+ years and/or received as a gift. This test was done with my low levels of caring about what I wear. In hindsight, I think that makes the results even more significant!

My hypothesis going in was that the categories would be somewhat evenly split. As shirt after shirt fell into the “unwearable in public” pile, I realized my hypothesis was dead wrong. I discovered that entry into this category could be attributed to a variety of reasons:

Color: several of my race shirts had absolutely terrible color schemes. Yo race directors, don’t overthink it! You may think white is boring, but it’s much better than burnt orange, lime green, or neon anything to name a few. Also, there’s no need to re-create the Wonder bread look on a race shirt. It’s not a great look.

not my style
Wording: there were a few cases where I deemed a shirt unwearable due to something tacky on it. I’m not the type of person that needs/likes to “show off” that I’m a triathlete to the general public. In my mind, the more simple and classy the shirt, the better. Shirts that had sayings like “I Tri Harder” or TRIATHLETE in a huge font were tossed in the unwearable pile. Also, if you’re spelling triathlon as “triathalon,” I just can’t take you seriously… I’m sorry, but you’re cut. Also, we don’t need words covering the entire front of the shirt. Cover the back with sponsors, but keep the front simple.

Fit: a couple of shirts were decent looking, but simply didn’t fit at all. I’m not just talking size here… I literally could barely pull one of them over my head. Once it was on it felt like Hulk Hogan had me in a chokehold.

The Verdict: 24 out of 50. In other words, for me it’s virtually a coin flip if a race shirt will be wearable in any circumstance without enduring ridicule and shame.

The next category consisted of shirts that I classified as acceptable only for working out or for yard work. Many of them have been worn hundreds of times, and some are hanging by a thread. Most are slightly unpleasant to look at, but are comfortable as well as expendable… a great workout shirt.

The Verdict: 15 out of 50 (30%)

The last category to discuss consisted of shirts that I like. They’re wearable in public, either on a run or “out on the town.” They don’t scream “LOOK AT ME I’M A TRIATHLETE, DON’T YOU THINK I’M COOL?!?”, but are a little more subtle and dare I say stylish.

Unfortunately this category was the lowest of the three, at ~20%.

The Verdict
: 11 out of 50

In closing, I think I’ll be saying goodbye to the “unwearable” pile very soon. If you’re not a triathlete but want people to think you are, let me know… I’ve got an ugly race shirt with your name on it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Incredible Patricia Walsh

Patricia Walsh is a graduate of Oregon State University, a former Microsoft engineer, an author, entrepreneur, and extraordinary triathlete who competes at the international level. She works hard, has achieved a lot, and has ambitious goals for the future. 

All of this (and much more), without the sense of sight.

Patricia lost much of her vision due to a brain tumor at age 5, and the rest due to complications at age 14. Through sports, Patricia found an outlet to cope with and overcome her challenges, and she has become a source of inspiration to both the blind community and the general public. At Ironman Lake Placid in 2010 at age 29, Patricia became the first blind female (accompanied with a guide) to do an Ironman. At Ironman Texas in 2011, she crushed both the women's and men's record for blind triathletes at the Ironman distance with a time of 11:40.

We featured this awesome girl as part of our recent Rudy Project article, but wanted to share more of her story with this separate interview. Thanks for the time, Patricia!


You're obviously someone who's overcome a tremendous amount of adversity. What are you most proud of in your journey both as an athlete and a person?

As an athlete I am most proud of the transformation from feeling "lessor" compared to today where I have an overwhelming feeling of capability. My feeling of lesser had less to do with my vision and more to do with my learned helplessness and resultant poor health.

I am most proud of the first step I took to reclaim my health and quality of life. The accomplishments along the way are just icing on the cake with consideration for my improved quality of life. As a person I am most proud when my friends and family confide in me. I’m proud they find me loyal and trustworthy. Last September I saw a cousin of mine I had not seen in a decade or more. She expressed to me that of all of the grandkids I am the one most like my Nana. I take that as the best compliment I have ever received. She was trustworthy, warm, and always thoughtful, and as a person I’m very proud to live up to her legacy.

Where would you be today without sports in your life? How has being an athlete helped you deal with challenges?


Before I discovered athletics I felt the world was full of closed doors. I felt defeated every day. Sports helped me reclaim a sense of self by giving me some small wins along the way that built into ever increasing challenges and victories. Sports provided an outlet for me to cultivate a sense of self rooted in all that I was capable of doing. I started to see myself in a world full of opportunity and open doors. Sports gave me confidence that overflowed into my education, career, and personal life. With the improved confidence instilled in me from my origin as a marathon runner, I have been featured on NPR, Success magazine, CEO magazine, SlowTwitch, and the Huffington Post among others. I thrived in my industry as I had learned through athletics how to develop a solution to any problem.

What advice do you have for kids, or anyone for that matter, who may feel "broken" by a handicap they're living with?


I am no psychologist, but I have noticed this; everyone feels isolated in their suffering. If you’re adapting to a disability, your struggle may be tangible and visible. If you are struggling with self doubt, your struggle may be more hidden and make you feel isolated. The truth of the matter is everyone is having struggles. You are not alone in this open sea. My advice is to be honest with yourself as to where you are today, figure out something you enjoy and can stick with, and start taking baby steps in that direction. Through incremental victories you may be able to build some momentum and exceed your own wildest dreams and conquer your own worst fears in the process.

The feedback I get from speaking is that what really resonates is my transition from a broken child without a support system to a happy person with a well rounded life. Not so much my success at school, work and athletics.

Tell us about your company, Blind Ambition Speaking. Who are your typical audiences? What are some general messages you share?

Blind Ambition is a company whose mission is to help individuals and organizations exceed their perceived limitations. My typical audiences are state agencies, engineering conferences, and corporations. My book (editor's note: pic to left) can be found on the general business category shelves of your local book store. This is now required reading for MBA students as well as NBA players if you can believe that. Blind Ambition teaches a goal achievement strategy that maps highest level intrinsic motivation to day to day tasks.

This helps answer the question “Why are we doing what we are doing?” Using this strategy your motivation becomes your own accountability. This is a way of infusing purpose to your otherwise mundane tasks.

What are the highlights of your athletic career and goals for the future?


For now I only see one goal for the future; that is gold at the Paralympics in Rio in 2016. People are often asking me what will be next. I am trying to stay focused on one thing completely. I do not see myself coming back for the 2020 games based on opportunity cost in my engineering career. For that reason I am looking at this as being my one and only chance.

Highlights up to this point were my first marathon in 2001. My first marathon was life changing as it was the first time I felt capable as an athlete. For my very first attempts at running, I went to a trail. There was a border where the gravel met the concrete and also where the gravel met the grass. I could feel that with my feet and I’d run along that edge. When I came home after that first run, I had fallen several times and I looked all beaten up. The attitude of friends and family was, "OK. She is going to learn her lesson. Thank God she is going to get over this quick." But I continued. Pretty soon I got a team of five friends to run a half marathon with me. I left all of them behind by the 4th mile, finishing around 1:40. That’s when I realized I had some potential, and I was able to get my marathon time down to 3:30.






My Ironman world record in 2011 was another highlight. I got a call telling me that a professional triathlete wanted to do Ironman Texas with me and I said OK! We finished in 11:40. I was really touched when Charlie Plaskon, the guy who had set the blind men’s Ironman record, hugged me and said he was happy I was the one to break his mark. I got a lot of national press, which was exciting. As a result, I was added to the USA Triathlon national team.

I love the distance races and am proud of holding my own against sighted able bodied competitors. The transition in this race was seeing myself not only as a capable athlete but as a competitive athlete. I also have received 2 bronze medals at ITU races. These of course are highlights, but truthfully I feel that it is more just a taste of what I hope to accomplish in 2015 and 2016.

What advances in technology have been most beneficial to the blind over your lifetime thus far?


Apple has accessibility built into all machines and devices. I could not live without my iPhone! Thank God for technology. One thing that has changed in the world that I HATE are the beeping traffic lights. I’m fairly certain no blind person was involved in the design. They beep to say ‘go’, with no regard to what direction. They are hard to ignore and they distract from the existing traffic patterns you can follow. If a person is left to their own devices they can hear when traffic is moving parallel to them, and following traffic surges they can cross safely. Following the ‘go’ signal is probably how I’m going to die. I hope you receive this message before the inevitable accident happens…

In your opinion how can society improve in assisting the blind community?


I think blind or not it is hard to ask for and receive help. As a blind person I feel people help you with what they want to help you with and almost never help you with what you really need help with. When you are approaching anyone, blind or not, and you want to offer that person help, the first step is to ask them if they need help and then listen to their response. I get swarmed with people trying to help me who don’t listen to me almost every day. It makes me ever more guarded in asking for help when I do need help. When people don’t listen, they are creating a harder situation when it would be best to either leave that person alone or listen.

Also, society should expect more of their blind participants. With advances in technology, gone are the days of dependence and struggle. I recently was on a plane and a fellow passenger was telling me all about how AMAZING his blind daughter was for getting to and from the swings by herself. I assumed he meant a child. When I asked how old she was he told me she was 34. That is my age. I asked a few more questions. My vision is actually worse than hers. If you treat someone like they are developmentally disabled they will learn to act the part. Do not treat people with disabilities like children. Expect more of them. Do not shelter them until they are further disabled. In my mind it is a form of child abuse to undermine their sense of capability to such a degree.

You probably get sick of this question, but from a practical standpoint, how do you train for swimming, biking, and running as a blind athlete?


In a race I swim with a tether tied around my mid-thigh. I then communicate through either a slight pull toward my guide or a push in the other direction from my guide. It is important that our hands not be too close or touch. If our hands touch, like a three legged race, we both lose momentum. This leaves us with a vocabulary of 2 words: left or right. It is hard to swim straight. I have only recently overcome my panic in the swim. To me it is total sensory deprivation. I just feel lost and anxious not knowing what way the shore is.

I bike on a tandem bike. I read a book recently entitled “The Boys in the Boat.” It is all about the 1936 Olympic crew team. In the book they mention having to work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses.











Tandem cycling is the same. Neither athlete gets to work with their own strengths. You can only go as fast as your slowest athlete. Sometimes this is the athlete, but sometimes this is the guide. I once in a while hear someone say they think the tandem bike is an advantage. I know immediately those people haven’t spent much time on one. Tandem bikes are called "divorce makers" for a reason! It is not easy to work with each other’s strength, yet each party is limited by the other’s weaknesses. The run is a free for all. The weather does what it can. Cones and curbs appear out of nowhere!

For training I swim with both the University of Texas masters team as well as Rolling Wood masters. I swim in a lane with everyone else. My lanemates get used to watching out for me. So long as everyone is doing the same set and is somewhat predictable, I can circle swim. There have been some accidents. This past December I gave myself a concussion on a backstroke bar. Everyone rushed to explain to me the shape of the bar. The shape was never the problem… the fact that I completely forgot it was there was the problem!

For the bike I do almost all my training on my trainer with a Wahoo kicker. I focus on cadence and on power output for every workout. I spend hours on that thing. We have a love/hate relationship.

For the run I have an army of helpers. I have a dear friend who runs with me twice a week and guides the occasional 5k. I also have 2 coach’s sessions per week on the track. I do some treadmill work and some easy runs on the track. I can run on the track by myself by feeling the inside lane with my foot. Everyone thinks I can see the line but actually I just run on the edge. It breaks down a bit when the track gets crowded.









Do you usually have the same guides each time or does it vary?

It varies based on time to prep for race, injury, and previous commitments. That being said as we get closer to the Paralympics I am training with the same guide.

From a practical standpoint how were you able to be so successful with your education and career in engineering at Microsoft?

I spend a fare bit of my life completely terrified. I think if you’re taking something on that is worthwhile, something big, it will be terrifying. The one skill that I’ve learned that I also teach through my business is to first map your goals to something you care about today that you will still care about in 6 months to a year, and then use that motivation to employ some purpose into every baby step it takes to get you toward your goal. Every step of the way has been hard and even demoralizing at times, but every step has been wholeheartedly worthwhile.


Tell us a bit about team CAF. What is the history of the team and how does it operate?

I believe the team is in its 2nd year. The team exists to help cultivate the US Paralympic team for 2016. We have amazing sponsorships including Rudy Project, Nike, and Powerbar among others. For athletes they provide equipment and funds to travel. The funds to travel have made it possible for me to compete all over. As a blind athlete I am responsible for my guide’s expenses. This would be untenable if not for the help provided by the CAF team and sponsors.









Follow Patricia's Olympic journey, watch videos, and learn more at Patricia's site



Thursday, May 7, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Leah Duby - Michigan

When she’s not swimming, biking, or running, this time of year you can usually find Leah Duby burning up the streets of Michigan on her motorcycle. This year is a bit different, as she’s currently exploring her new stomping grounds of Frankfurt, Germany. Among other things, here she reports on her adventures both working and training overseas.



What's your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I'm a lifelong runner. My last few years of college, I struggled with some injuries (editor's note: Leah ran collegiate track as runner & pole vaulter!) and I took some time off to let my body heal. A few years and a few added pounds later I realized that I missed the daily routine of training and the camaraderie of sport. I was worried that daily running would take its toll and looked toward multisport to fill the gap.

I know you dealt with a shoulder injury last season... how has the recovery process been?

The recovery has been slower than expected. I’m not exactly the best patient when it comes to rehab. I’ve had a few setbacks since I’m not a person to ask for help and wind up over doing it. Most recently lugging 3 large bags + a bike box thru the Frankfurt airport. However, I’ll say it’s amazing how much stuff can fit into a little Opel hatchback. I’ve been pretty diligent about doing my rehab since then and I’m getting much closer to 100%.

How has your experience been so far in Germany, and how long will you be there? What city are you based in?

Germany has been great. I’m here until the end of June, so about 2.5 months. I have an apartment in Rodelheim, a district of Frankfurt. Even speaking no German, I have yet to find a place where I haven’t been able to communicate. While this isn’t my first time here, it is my longest stay, which is why I brought my bike and wetsuit with me.

Due in part to reigning Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle, as well as many other famous pros (Jan Frodeno, Raelert brothers, etc.) I know triathlon is huge in Germany. Have you been able to meet/train with any locals? How is training there in general, have you found good places to swim, bike, run?

Triathlon and cycling are huge over here. There are millions of cycling commuters here so their infrastructure is very bike accommodating. Children ride to school in the morning and adults ride to work. There are bike lanes nearly everywhere and bike paths following several of the rivers and scenic routes in the area. Within 30 sec of leaving my apartment, I can be on the Nidda Route, which stretches nearly 84km. It is a multi-use path, but people are so used to cyclists that they stay to the right and are very aware of them.

Run training has been absolutely gorgeous. What a great way to get out and explore the area. Morning and night the river routes are beautiful. There are also several large tri teams in the area, the Eintracht team has nearly 800 members and on any given ride or run, you come across a few wearing their kits out on training runs or rides. There are several people at the office that are involved in the sport so we have some training sessions planned. But for the immediate, I’m still trying to settle into a day to day routine which has made group training a little difficult.



I haven’t been in the pool yet since I’ve been here, but I have been doing a lot of cord training as a substitute. There is an outdoor pool within a quarter mile of my apartment that should be opening in the next week or so. I have plans to get over there as soon as it does.

What are your goals for 2015? Will you be able to race while overseas?

My goals for 2015 are to maintain consistent training and aim for a late season half iron distance “A” race. I’m hoping to at least participate in a few 5ks and maybe even a tri or two while over here.

You used some derivation of the word "compete" 7 times in your application. Were you the kid who goes ballistic when losing birthday party games, or was your competitive nature cultivated over time through sports?

Yeah, about that, I am fiercely competitive, although in the last several years I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the view. I grew up racing sailboats, and running track so pushing myself has been something I have done ever since I was young. I sometimes struggle with consistent training, but I love the rush of competition.

At the same time you mentioned your love of helping others and seeing people succeed, while also bringing some family members into the sport. In what ways do you try to be an ambassador of the sport in your state?

It's great watching someone smile as they come out of the water their first time with that big grin on their face making their way to up transition. Or helping a newcomer setup their transition area for the first time. Or even just talking shop with the guy on the treadmill wearing a shirt from one of the local tris. That’s the great thing about the tri community. Everyone is welcome regardless of their ability. I love bringing people into the sport. I brought my dad over to the dark side not long after I caught the tri bug. He’d recently retired and needed something to focus his extra time on.

I’ve convinced a few people at work to take up the sport and am always willing to setup a group run or ride if they’d like a training partner. We’ve got a pretty decent multisport base here in Michigan that regularly trains at one of the local state parks. I try to be the cheerleader of the group, making sure everyone is having a good time.

Tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I am an engineering supervisor at Continental Automotive; we are responsible for Anti Lock Brake systems in my group. It keeps me pretty busy, but I love my job and love the company. They are really shifting their focus to wellness and work life balance. For the last several years we’ve entered 300+ runners at the Detroit Free Press Marathon via relay teams, standalone half or full marathoners.

Beside triathlons, I ride motorcycles, both on the street and on the track. Again fueling my competitive spirit, it’s an addiction for sure.





You're on the auto side, but from your point of view why does Continental make such popular bike tires as well?

Continental was initially founded as a German rubber manufacturer. Their original bread and butter was tires. They take constant feedback from the professionals and everyday warriors that use their product and put that back into their design. They also take pride in being able to say their tires are handmade in Germany.


What are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in the great state of Michigan?

Michigan is a great state for any type of outdoor sport, especially triathlon. The Great Lakes State has over 100 state parks and hundreds of county and city parks. This makes cycling, running, and swimming accessible nearly anywhere in the state. While some would say our winters are a con for training in Michigan, that can be a great time to get some cross training in. Bundle up and you can enjoy cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and even running.