Reasons to Smile

Today’s outdoor run was my first in about three weeks. A few things contributed to the lapse: catching a cold that knocked me down for a bit, the weather changed back to normal Minnesota winter conditions and then just tackling the mental battle to get back to it again. Outside of the week of being sick, I was still able to stay active, but it was in the gym doing cycling classes and general strength training versus running outside. As the weather warms, I hope to get back to running five times per week. I also need to get back into the pool, but that’s another blog post.

Back to today’s run. The sun was shining, making it look warmer than the 34° F air temperature felt. I got a stomach cramp less than a quarter-mile in, but I’m blaming that on the granola bar I shouldn’t have ate just minutes before leaving the house. I also took a slight detour about halfway through the run to descend down a side trail and run straight back up it (200 feet ascent in about a quarter-mile distance). I thought the climb would wear me out for the rest of the run, but it actually felt like it was getting easier after leveling out. It was fun.

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.30 miles
  • Total time: 27:34
  • Average pace: 8:21/mile

The last few days have been humbling. A few more generous donations were made to my Team Save the Children fundraiser, bringing my total to $851. When I signed-up for the team back in December, I was nervous if I’d meet the $500 fundraising minimum before the race in July. Now we’re on pace to double that – making an even bigger impact in the lives of children around the world that urgently need help. The support from friends, family and people who I’ve never even met has been truly amazing. I hope to make them all very proud on race day!

Helping Girls Grow into Bold, Empowered Women

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Today is International Women’s Day – a day to raise awareness and honor the movement for a more inclusive and gender equal world. As I reflected on the day, I was reminded of the amazing work of Save the Children and how they’re helping girls grow into bold, empowered women.

In the photo above, 11-year-old Sarawati from Nepal tells Save the Children she wants to run an NGO when she grows up. She attends a meeting at the children’s club where Save the Children advocates for child rights and against child marriages. With support from the government and local partners, they educate and raise awareness to end child marriages so girls like Sarawati can stay in school and follow their dreams.

Hearing stories like Sarawati’s make me so proud to be a part of Team Save the Children for this summer’s LifeTime Tri Minneapolis Triathlon. I know the funds that we raise are going to help make a positive impact in the lives of children around the world. This has me motivated to keep adding to my fundraising total between now and race day. And when race day comes, I’ll be extra motivated to make my supporters proud, knowing that together we’re making a difference.

To make a donation, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

*Photo and Sarawati’s story provided by Save the Children

Another Warm Winter Run

Warm winter. The two words contradict eachother. But for this Minnesotan, especially in February, they make for a welcome surprise.

I’ve never been a big fan of treadmills. Don’t get me wrong, I like the off-season opportunities they provide for cardio, but the experience just isn’t the same as actually running. Its really just knowing when and how quickly to lift your feet versus actually propelling yourself to a destination.

This morning I woke up to temperatures already pushing 40°F. I had to check my phone twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a great day to lace up the running shoes and hit the pavement. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 2.94 miles
  • Total time: 24:22
  • Average pace: 8:16/mile

I’m thankful to be completing comfortable outdoor runs this early in the year. Last year, I didn’t start running until late April. Looking back through my Nike+ Run Club app, I was at a 9:06/mile average pace on that first run – almost one minute slower than today’s pace. 

Now I’m excited for what this two-month head start on training will bring. It feels good to be ahead of the game.

First Outdoor Run of the Year

Minnesota winters don’t always lend themselves well to running. Well, unless you like running on snow and ice in sometimes sub-zero temps. But today was a different story. With 40°+ temperatures, the conditions were great for a run under a setting sun. 

I jumped at the opportunity for my first non-treadmill run of the year. The ice that once covered the paths and sidewalks was mostly melted away, leaving just a few puddles to dodge, jump over or be a kid again and splash right through. And the fresh air was, well, a breath of fresh air. It was just good to be outside. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.06 miles 
  • Total time: 25:19
  • Average pace: 8:19/mile

I was pleased to see I hadn’t lost too much of a step from where I left off in the fall. For most training runs last year, I had averaged around a 7:45 pace. Certainly some work to do. But hey, it’s only February! 

Oh, and the highlight besides being outside: getting to spend some more time listening to Run the Jewels’ RTJ3 album. They’ll definitely be a part of my running playlists this summer.

My 2017 Triathlon Season Preview

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At this time last year, the idea of doing a triathlon wasn’t much more than a fleeting thought. Almost three more months would pass before registering for my first race of 2016. Things are different this year. My 2017 triathlon schedule is set and I’m pretty excited about it.

I’m kicking-off the season at Trinona, the race where it all began for me. In 2010, my wife and I volunteered on Trinona’s green team, helping sort recyclables and compost. This was my first exposure to the sport and it had me dreaming of tackling the race some day. In 2014, I completed my first triathlon at Trinona. The sense of accomplishment after crossing the finish line was like nothing I’d experienced before, proving to myself that I was capable of something I’d doubted I could do. In 2016, I raced Trinona again, sparking a love for the sport and completions of two more races that summer. This year, I’m looking forward to having two close friends participating in this race too. I’m sure lots of camaraderie and friendly jeering will enjoyed before, during and after the event.

Next up for 2017 is the LifeTime Tri Minneapolis. This one will be special because I’m not just racing racing for myself. I joined Team Save the Children for two reasons: to raise awareness about worldwide hunger and poverty and its affect on children – and to do so while honoring the memory of Olivia Ann Christiano. I get goosebumps just thinking about this race. I pledged to raising at least $500. Thanks to the contributions from family, friends and some very generous people who I’ve never met, I’ve already exceeded that goal. But I’m not stopping there. Between now and race day, I want to keep adding to that fundraising total. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children throughout the world. If you’d like to contribute, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

In August, I’ll be tackling my most adventurous event yet – the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon. Adventurous is open to interpretation, but traveling out of state for a race, and the thought of swimming in Lake Michigan, both say “adventure” to me. This will also be the largest event I’ve competed in. For a comparison, last year’s Minneapolis Tri Sprint race had 641 participants; Chicago’s had 2,237. Biking and running along the lake shore and through downtown Chicago will provide some spectacular views. Plus, celebrating with a slice of deep dish pizza sounds like the perfect prize.

Setting the race schedule felt like an accomplishment in itself. But now the real work of training becomes the focus. I’m just happy that this year, I’ve planned ahead and allowed plenty of time to prepare for the season – a season with a lot to look forward to.

Humbled by Support, Excited for Impact

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Just a few short weeks ago, I joined Team Save the Children for the 2017 Minneapolis Triathlon as a way to raise awareness about worldwide hunger and poverty, and its impact on children — all while honoring the memory of Olivia Ann Christiano. In a very short amount of time, thanks to the contributions from family, friends and some very generous people who I’ve never met, I’ve exceeded my $500 fundraising goal.

The support has been humbling. What started as an idea of making a difference has quickly become reality. The donations will help Save the Children provide clothes, nourishment, health care, education and safety for children in areas of crisis or emergency. Here’s a quick recap of what they accomplished in 2016:

I’m excited about the positive impact we can make together in 2017. Over the next six months, I’ll be working hard, training and preparing for race day –  a day which I hope to make my supporters proud. And while my fundraising goal has been reached, I don’t want it to stop there. I want to keep adding to that fundraising total between now and race day. Each donation will help Save the Children implement programs and provide support to communities around the globe that urgently need help.

To make a contribution, please visit my fundraising page.

Racing For Olivia

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The Life Time Tri Minneapolis Triathlon is going to be extra meaningful to me in 2017. I’ve joined Team Save The Children to raise money to support the amazing work they do around the world — and I’m doing it in memory of Olivia Ann Christiano, who was born a sleeping angel to my good friends Robbie and Alisha.

I remember many conversations over the summer with Robbie before Olivia was to be born, discussing the upcoming joys and challenges of raising a little girl, comparing that to his experiences with his two-year-old son. I remember texting back and forth about the different ways we’d planned to celebrate her birth in the fall. Then I remember finding out that she’d passed away just days before she was supposed to enter the world. My heart ached.

As a friend, it’s often hard to find the words to say during a time of loss. What could I do? Then I realized I could do something that would honor her memory. I decided I could use my triathlon hobby as a platform to raise money in memory of Olivia that will make a positive impact in the lives of children around the globe.

Millions of children throughout the world face chronic malnutrition, die from preventable illnesses, or are vulnerable to exploitation, violence or neglect. Save the Children saves countless lives by providing food assistance, medical care, education and disaster relief assistance. And nearly 90% of expenses goes directly to programs.

I have pledged to raise at least $500, and I need your help to get there. Please contribute whatever you feel comfortable with and share this page with others. Because together, we can make a difference in the world and honor Olivia’s memory.

To donate, click here to visit my fundraising page.

Embracing the Epic

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2016 was a year of challenge, surprise and accomplishment. Looking back, I can see the transformation that occurred from beginning to end. But if you asked me in April if I’d complete three sprint triathlons in one summer, I would’ve said, “You’re crazy, man.”

My first race, and what I thought would be my only race of 2016, was Trinona. I’d completed it once before in 2014. And located in my hometown of Winona, MN, I knew the course well. Nonetheless, I was still nervous. The swim leg had become a mental battle for me. I have this fear of being stuck out in the water, far from shore, and running out of steam. So, to begin getting over that fear, I bought a gym membership and began swimming twice a week for about a month or two before race day. And boy I’m glad I did. Trinona’s sprint swim is only .25 miles, or about 18 laps in the pool. My first few swims at the gym had me feeling tired after 6 laps. I knew this was going to be a battle. But little by little, it got better. Plus, I bought a wetsuit this year, which gave me some mental comfort knowing the buoyancy it would provide. Race day came, I got through the swim, made decent time on the bike (I ride a Trek mountain bike with road tires) and pounded-out the run with what little energy I had left. It felt pretty darn good to finish the race, slap some high-fives with friends and family, and sport a sweet finisher medal for an hour after the race (I beat my 2014 time by more than 4 minutes). I was exhausted, yet energized with a sense of accomplishment.

Within days, I felt a little empty. What do I do now? I had trained for months and now the race was done. I needed to do another race. The MPLS Tri was just a few weeks away, but with a .47 mile swim (standard for a sprint), I was doubting my ability to accomplish almost twice the distance that I’ve swam before. With an extra push from a friend who said he’d do his first triathlon if we could do it together, we registered for the race and I immediately got back into the pool. I eventually worked my way up to 32 laps without pause and felt I was ready as I could be for the race. On race day, I surprised myself, getting through the swim with relative ease in comparison to Trinona, which was only half the swim distance as this MPLS. The bike leg was beautiful, 15 miles of trail and road along the lakes and Mississippi River. Running through the finish line, I had that rush of adrenaline and accomplishment knowing I had achieved what I doubted I could. The feeling was made even more special as I crossed the finish line along side my friend and now fellow racer.

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With another month-and-a-half left of the summer, I thought, what the heck – I could do one more race. I signed up for the Maple Grove Triathlon. This time I was more confident. I had two races under my belt. I knew I could do this. Now I just wanted to be faster than my other race times. It was no longer about finishing, it was about out-doing my own self – continuing to prove to myself that I could be better, that I could do great things. The swim was fairly stress free, only taking a few breaks to tread water and catch my breath along the way. The bike leg was met with a refreshing burst of rain. And the compliments I received from fellow riders along the way about my keeping pace with  many others while using a mountain bike were rewarding, until they kept pedaling and pulled away. I ran through the finish line with a giant smile on my face.

At the beginning of the year, I was just trying to get through one race. By the end of the summer, I had tripled that goal. I proved to myself I could do things I thought I couldn’t. I embraced the epic, and found myself with a new hobby – a hobby that has me motivated for 2017.