Ciao Italia

Teammates –

As usual, there is a huge amount going on with Team RWB – we have members participating in the Race Across America (RAAM), good luck Maj. Dan Gade and to all the riders participating this year.  Special shout out to Team 4Mil, a two squad team racing to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.  One of their two teams is made up entirely of Wounded Warriors.  Last year their 4Mil Warrior squad came in second in the very tough 8-man team division. Best of luck to USNA grad and prior Marine Officer Kyle Pittman and the rest of the guys.  There is also the usual compliment of summer weekend races, so best of luck to everyone who is clipping in, lacing them up, or poised for that in-water start.     

On a personal note, this week also marks the week that my wife and I leave Italy to move back to the East Coast.  It is impossible to sum up what Italy meant to us, and the experiences we have had over the past year.  I had the chance to ride some of the most well-known and respected rides in the Dolomites, swim some of the hardest practices of my life, and eat some of the best food. 

Of course, one of the other things Italy meant for me was a chance to ogle at amazing bicycles – from Willier to Bianchi, Pinarello to Colnago, the Italians simply know how to make quality bikes.  My dream, despite my wife’s frequent protestations about the number of bikes that already clutter our house, was to somehow come home with a Pinarello Dogma.  Granted, the frame alone costs about $7,000 and we were on a graduate student budget, but that’s the thing about dreams – those are free.  Instead, I ended up with a, probably once-stolen, 50 Euro (about $65) commuter bike.  It weighed approximately 80 pounds, had one gear, and the seat was about a foot too low.  It was also clearly originally black, but it had been poorly re-painted yellow, earning it the nickname “The Bumbo” – the bumblebee.  What the Bumbo lacked in speed, aerodynamics, or state of the art engineering, it made up for with character.  Its thick, wide tires allowed me to work on my track stands, the step-through (yes, it was cut like an old fashioned girls’ bike) was amazing for transitions, and no one would have been at all interested in stealing it.  The only time it went fast was if it was going downhill, especially since the brakes were often loose. 

Italy was hit with a particularly hard winter this year, and the area we lived in was hammered with snow.  On days when I would never have dared to ride my road bike, the Bumbo was there.  I rode it to swim practice over four inches of slushy snow and then again a couple days later when that snow had turned to ice.  The Bumbo was indestructible – I think it was probably built in 1923 – and I rode it in the worst conditions I have ever taken a bike in.  And the best part?  I didn’t even bother to clean it afterward – snow, sand, ice, salt – it all added not only to the character, but probably the workings of the Bumbo.  After the snow melted, the Bumbo was still in great working order, and it was my main means of transportation through the spring.  Riding the Bumbo was freedom, pure and simple.  The ridiculousness of the low seat, paint job, and sheer weight of the machine reminded me of the thing we as triathletes can often forget – that riding a bike should first and foremost be fun.  It was fun in the way riding a bike as a child was fun – carefree and with no training intentions at all (though I am pretty sure the weight of the bike allowed me to work on my leg strength).  There was a pure joy to riding the Bumbo that is often lost when grinding out miles at threshold on my tri bike.    
The Bumbo stands ready at swim practice

Over the past three weeks, we have said goodbye to friends, places we have come to love, and Italy itself – as I type, it is fading behind us as we wing our way to Baltimore.  Last week, we also sold the Bumbo, which in so many ways had in my mind come to epitomize our experiences in Italy – ridiculous and inefficient and cumbersome.  But also exhilarating and just plain fun.  So if you are riding a Dogma this year, or a Willier, I’ll probably shoot you an envious glance, but it isn’t because I want your bike any more, it’s because I am missing the Bumbo.
Happy trails.         


Wear It

Teammates - 

There is a huge slate of racing going on this weekend - in the 70.3 series, there is Eagleman, Boise, Kansas, and the one nearest and dearest to my heart, Italy.  There is also Escape from Alcatraz, a bucket list staple for many triathletes.  In the bigger triathlon world, most countries have selected their Olympic triathlon teams, with the ITU race in Madrid being the last qualifier for most teams.  As usual, there is some consternation about the selection criteria for some countries.  Most importantly, this past week also marked the anniversary of D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944.  To those who served then and who have in the conflicts since, thank you.  

For those who are racing this weekend, best of luck to you all.  And as someone who can still see the remnants of a sunburn suffered at IM Cozumel in 2009, may I suggest ample amounts of sunscreen.  According to recent information released by NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center, this past spring has been the hottest in the US since data was first collected in 1895.  The sun is out and it is hot - make sure you hydrate both going into the race and on the course.  For sunscreen, I would highly recommend Bullfrog's Surfer Formula - it comes in a 36 SPF and works as well as anything I have tried in terms of lasting through the swim.  Due to its waterproofing properties, you may want to get someone else to put it on for you, otherwise you end up with water-repelling hands.  If you are racing a longer event, make sure you get some reapplication on your way out of transition.  

On a personal note, I will be racing at the FINA World Masters Championships swim meet here in Italy.  I would personally like to petition for Team RWB Speedos, though I doubt those would be a big hit with the rest of the team...  Wherever you find yourself racing or supporting this weekend, race well and hard, and make sure to wear the Eagle - and the sunscreen.  

Happy trails.   



Memorial Day Run

Teammates - 

As members of Team RWB, this weekend likely means a little more to you than a day off of work.  It is a chance for us to reflect on our gratitude to the men and women who serve, remember friends or family members who have been lost, and be thankful for the freedoms we are so privileged to live with.  For many of us, the long weekend may mean racing, or the chance to spend a little extra time with the ones who mean the most to us, or both.  However, if you are looking for something extra this weekend, consider the following: http://www.wearblueruntoremember.org/wear-blue-runs-for-the-fallen.html.  

From the website, the event is described as: 

This Memorial Day, we are asking members of our worldwide community to hit the streets and run in honor of the fallen.  A long run, or short walk, the distance doesn't matter.  But we are asking members to go online and pledge miles in honor of the Fallen so that together we can create a community dedicated to honoring the ultimate sacrifice.

While Americans may pause to reflect, for many, Memorial Day represents a long 
weekend typically filled with backyard celebrations and sunshine.  For members of wear blue: run to remember, it is a day to remember each life sacrificed in a positive, 
life-affirming way.  

It is not about pledging money, it's about pledging miles so that together we can create a living memorial.  How many miles should you run?  What number is meaningful to you?
    3 miles for the 3 years you have been deployed?
    5 miles for the 5 branches of the American Military?
    9 miles for the 9 times you moved while in the military?
    11 miles for the 11 years since September 11, 2001?

As a member of Team RWB, you are already involved, and that is a wonderful thing - wearing the Eagle with blue would make a powerful statement this Memorial Day and, as the website suggests, be a life-affirming way to remember those who have sacrificed for us all.  

Happy Memorial Day and happy trails.  


West Point Tri for Team RWB

Hey Team RWB'ers! The 23rd Annual West Point Sprint Triathlon is supporting Team RWB this year! Team RWB members get a discount for using the code "RWB."  Come out and join members of the local community, West Point cadets, staff, faculty, and MANY of your Team RWB teammates as they swim, bike, and run in the Hudson Highlands.  Supporting both the West Point Tri and Team RWB, this race is sure to be a lot of fun. As a MAJOR bonus, if you race or come to cheer, you can see Team RWB Founder Mike Erwin take on his VERY FIRST triathlon! We know he can run, but now is your chance to see how he fairs in the swim and the bike! Come on out, it's going to be great! Just click below to go to the registration page!
23rd Annual West Point Tri


Team RWB Austin Tri Camp Featured in LAVA Magazine

LAVA, an up and coming tri magazine, has a great article on Team RWB's Austin based tri camp that was held  April 12-15.  Special thanks to Coach Derick Williamson and professional triathletes Jessica Jacobs and Jessica Meyers, and of course to all of the wonderful volunteers who helped make the event possible.  By all accounts, it was a wonderful three days and a great intro to triathlon to our veterans.  Read the full LAVA article here:  http://lavamagazine.com/features/team-rwb-training-camp-unites-range-of-triathletes/#axzz1silpZCxh


Team RWB Pro Ambassador Tim O'Donnell Wins Another One!

Huge congrats to Team RWB Pro Ambassador on winning his second Ironman 70.3 race of the season.  This time Tim overcame both a very deep pro field, a slow start, and a hard run to win the US Pro Championship in Galveston, Texas.  Combined with his win earlier in the season at the San Juan 70.3 Tim is starting 2012 off in stellar fashion.  Read Ironman.com's interview with Tim after this past weekend's race here:  http://ironman.com/events/ironman70.3/lonestar70.3/kevin-mackinnon-catches-up-with-todays-mens-champion-in-galveston#axzz1qzZv6cMe

And the recap of the race here: http://ironman.com/events/ironman70.3/lonestar70.3/tim-odonnell-and-kelly-williamson-celebrate-victories-at-the-memorial-hermann-ironman-texas-70.3#axzz1qzZv6cMe

Congratulations Tim from all of us here at the Team RWB Blog.  Your season is off to a great start and we look forward to following the rest of your races.


When the Wheels Fall Off

If you have raced long enough, you know what I speak of - whether it's a training day or an A-race, there are just days that don't go right.  It can happen for a multitude of reasons, from gear failure to tough conditions to poor preparation.  For me, that race was the Barcelona marathon last weekend.  I went in thinking of Barcelona as a training day - my intent was to run it easy, get the stimulus in, and then really race the Paris marathon three weeks later.  In part, the goals were achieved.  I ran the race, got the stimulus in, but it was far from easy.  I buried myself in the last six miles trying to run a time that, at the end of the day, I wasn't that pleased with.  It was not the confidence boost I was looking for going into the Paris race, which is now two weeks out.

A friend of mine did the same race, except he followed a slightly different training plan.  He signed up for Barcelona, his first marathon (also what would end up being his first 5K, 10K, or half marathon) about 40 days out.  Early on, we discussed the need for running shoes (he's a big tennis player and thought he could get by with his tennis shoes), proper clothing, and the training that he could do to make his marathon dream a reality.  Two days after that talk, I went for a walk late at night and ran into him eating a pizza.  He proudly told me that he had just finished training - a 5 mile walk around the city - and was waiting for a friend to go get ice cream.  Despite being all for pizza and ice cream, which I am, it spoke volumes about what my friend's training regiment would likely consist of - that ended up being the longest training he did.

Unsurprisingly, race day for him was what many of us would consider to be a disaster.  I heard from my wife, who had agreed to run the last half with him, that when he made it to the halfway point, they were literally closing the course down behind him.  There was a van trailing him, pleading for him to get in and that his day was over.  He walked on.  About one mile after linking up with my wife, he stopped and sat down on a Vespa in order to do some stretching.  At his behest, my wife bought him a pastry (aid station food is so bland, after all).  Shortly after that, he decided to take a cab to where his girlfriend was waiting for him - about the 25 mile mark.  He made it to the finish line ten minutes after the official race end - 6:10 with a cab ride and a pastry.  When we met for dinner later though, I heard none of this from him.  He was unfailingly positive about the experience, how much he had learned from it, and how it had lit a curiosity about what running a full would be like.  He was telling me this as he massaged anti-inflammatory cream into his foot at the dinner table.

At the end of the day, it really is all about managing expectations and perspectives.  While I was hugely disappointed in my own race and effort, my friend was amazed by it and excited for me.  Conversely, while I was dismayed by all he had gone through (in part because I felt somewhat responsible), he was upbeat and positive.  I don't know if Paris will go better - spraining my ankle yesterday doing that all-important cross-training I was lauding earlier in the year certainly didn't help - but I hope to have learned more from my friend's attitude than I did from my own race.  Sometimes the wheels fall off and that's okay - there's always something that can be learned and, at the end of the day, it's such a privilege to be able to race at all.

There is a lot of racing going on this weekend - good luck to all Team RWBers, pros and age groupers alike, who are heading out to toe the line.  Please send us your race reports so we can get them up on the web page!

Happy trails.



Welcome to Miami

Teammates -

If you are following the Team RWB Triathlon Team Facebook page, then you are already aware that Miami 70.3 has reached out to Team RWB with a special discount.  The race, which will be held on 28 October, features a beautiful swim course just off Bayfront Park, a fairly unique out and back style bike leg through some of Miami's quiet residential areas, and a fast run that keeps racers close to the beach front.  For more information on the race, check out the official race site: http://ironmanmiami.com/.  For more information on how to register for the Special Team RWB discount, please email Dean (dean@teamrwb.com).

Last year, this race allocated 50 slots for the 70.3 World Championships, now held in Las Vegas - while the numbers are likely to be adjusted this year, this flat, fast course offers a great chance to punch your ticket to the World Champs (for 2013).  This is a great event and Team RWB would like to extend special thanks to Miami 70.3 for their support.


Rev3 and Team RWB

Teammates -

This weekend, we are very excited to bring you an interview with Ashley Quinn, one of Revolution3 (Rev3's) great employees.  Ashley was kind enough to give us a great deal of her time and address a number of questions regarding Rev3, their races, and the very exciting partnership between Rev3 and Team RWB.  As many of you know, Rev3 puts on a number of great races across the US and into the Caribbean (click here for their race schedule: http://rev3tri.com/events/ -- note that their first race for 2012 is just about a month out in beautiful Costa Rica), and with races ranging from Olympic to full distance and even an adventure race, it's easy to see that Rev3 has something for every athlete.  Rev3 also partnered with Team RWB last year at a very special and moving tribute to the ten year anniversary of September 11 at their very popular Cedar Point event.  Going into this season, Team RWB is extremely honored and grateful for Rev3's commitment to partner together and help support our wounded warriors.  Here is our interview with Ashley as Rev3 looks forward to another exciting season that features some new events and the return of some extremely popular races.  

Team RWB: First off, I would love to get some background on you - how long have you been with Rev3, your official title, and how you got started with the company.  Additionally, some additional background on Rev3 would be great.   

AQ: I have been with Rev3 for almost a year now. I will be celebrating my one year anniversary with the company in Costa Rica in March this year, not a bad gig :) I started with Rev3 as the Volunteer Coordinator in Knoxville in 2009 (Rev3's first year in Knoxville) I lived in Knoxville at the time and I helped recruit volunteers from around the area. They thought they were done with me when I accepted a job in Miami for the following year but when things did not work out I graciously accepted the position at Rev3. I guess you could say my official title is Director of Operations but we have such a great team that is so well rounded I would say we all do a little bit of everything.
Revoultion3 is going into it's fourth year as a company this year, which is really exciting. We have added three new venues to our 2012 series and we are watching our old races like Quassy take off and become a force of their own. Revolution3 started when our President, Charlie Patten, did his first Ironman and was waiting in line to sign up for next year. He thought it was crazy that he had to sign up a year in advance for a race he MIGHT be able to compete in if everything worked out. He thought there had to be a better way and Rev3 was born. We spend every day striving to make ourselves the most family and athlete friendly race company there is.

Team RWB:  Last year, Rev3 partnered with Team RWB for the Cedar Point event, which fell on the weekend of September 11.  Your partnership and support of all the athletes was very much appreciated by the Team - what can we look forward to from a Rev3/Team RWB partnership in 2012?   

AQ: Oh of course! We actually felt we stretched ourselves a little too thin with charity partners in 2011. We wanted to help EVERYONE and because of that we felt we did not give enough attention to any specific charities. So for 2012 we picked two charities we really want to focus and put all of our effort into and Team Red, White, and Blue was on top of that list.

Team RWB:  Toward the end of last season, Rev3 announced three new races location, Maine, Florida, and Wisconsin, joining an already impressive and fun (Costa Rica!) list of existing race sites.  From Quassy, you now have nine tri venues with events ranging from Olympic/International Distance to full Rev (140.6).  What's next for Rev3 in terms of expansion?  Of the new race sites, is there one you are particularly excited for?   

AQ: We also added Half Full in MD, we have hit double digits! It is exciting to be growing as fast as we are. We already have even more venues up our sleeves for 2013 and definitely another Full to add to the mix. I am really excited for this year, to go to our new venues and naturally Costa Rica since I have never been.

Team RWB: I noticed that you also have tentative plans for an adventure race in Luray, VA in April - is that an avenue that Rev3 will be pursuing more in the future?  

AQ: Yes, Rev3 has an adventure side that we partner with. Our race in Luray is awesome. It is a 24 hour adventure race, combined with a family sprint adventure race, and a sprint adventure race. Last year it rained the entire time and turned into a giant mud bath but everyone had an amazing time. Our Adventure side will be expanding by adding their own races and added family adventure races along with our triathlons, for example we are doing a Urban Challenge in Knoxville on race weekend this year. It is going to be a city wide scavenger hunt, should be great.

Team RWB:  As a race organization, what are some of the challenges you face in putting on the quality events that Rev3 is quickly gaining a well-deserved reputation for having?  How can we, as athletes, make your jobs and lives easier?  

AQ: Great question, honestly, feedback is the number one thing we can use to make our events better and make our athletes happier. At a race I don't get to see everything that is going on, so sometimes an athlete can catch something I  missed, if I know about it we can have a plan to make it change and make it better for next year. We love compliments and listen to criticism, it is what helps us grow.

Team RWB: Of all the races on the Rev3 docket, is there any one that is particularly special to you?  Conversely, do you have a particularly funny story to share from an event?  

AQ: I am from Knoxville, Tennessee so I have an attachment to that race. The first year in Knoxville everyone was concerned about the railroad tracks. I assured everyone that the tracks were fine, you would pretty much have to be an idiot to wreck your bike on these tracks. So, naturally on race day I was biking from aid station to aid station and I hit the tracks and ate it hard. I had to get checked out by the EMT on site and then they had to put a bandage on my face that when from my ear all the way down to my chin and I had to walk around with it for the rest of the day. My first day back to Rev3 I was still referred to as "the girl who fell on the train tracks."

Team RWB: As racers, some of us may at times fall into the trap of thinking we have this spectacle all figured out.  From your perspective as a race organizer who has no doubt seen countless athletes in all states of disorganization, do you have any race tips?  

AQ:  Plan ahead and don't stress. I have seen people about to hit the roof during a situation that has a super easy fix, there is always a solution. Just enjoy the day! 

Team RWB would like to thank Ashley for her generosity with her time and her great responses.  We would also like to thank Rev3 for their support and partnership and wish them all the best for the 2012 season - it certainly looks like it will be another great one.  If you are new to the sport and are looking for a great package deal, check out Rev3's wetsuit and a race (http://rev3tri.com/news/blueseventy-helix-wetsuit-free-registration/).  Finally, we would like to encourage all of our teammates to consider racing a Rev3 event this season - you'd be hard pressed to find a more professionally run or athlete (and family) friendly endeavor.  

As a closing note, the blog team would like to pass along shout outs to Team RWB ambassador and Army Veteran Steven Holcomb, who has been having a great weekend at the Bobsled World Championships in Lake Placid, winning the gold medal - the first for any American in the WC's two-man event.  Also to Stephen Armes, who raced the Okinawa Marathon, finishing as the 1st American and 16th overall (out of approximately 30,000).  And finally, congratulations to everyone who raced/is racing this weekend - Austin half and full, and anyone who joined our great friends at the Emerald Coast Tri Club for the inaugural Bluewater Bay Duathlon.  Race season is truly upon us.  

Happy Trails.  


Team RWB Austin Tri Camp

Teammates -

If you follow Team RWB on Twitter, then you are already aware of a great team announcement - the Austin Tri Camp being held this April.  Focused primarily on introducing wounded veterans to triathlon, this camp will be hosted by Coach Derick Williamson and Team RWB Pro Ambassador Jessica Jacobs, giving our wounded veterans amazing access to two of the best in the business.

If you are interested, or know a wounded veteran who might be interested, please check out the website for all the details:  http://www.austintricamp.com/.  We have a great team of RWB members responsible for putting this together and from the blog team, we thank each of you for the efforts you are making to help introduce our wounded veterans to this great sport.

On a different note, if you are looking for some added motivation for your run tomorrow, please consider joining the virtual run in memory of Sherry Arnold, a wife, sister, teacher, and runner who was abducted and killed on her morning run.  For the full story, please see this link: http://othervoices.runnersworld.com/2012/01/a-virtual-run-in-memory-of-sherry-arnold-2-11-12/?cm_mmc=Twitter-_-RunnersWorld-_-Content-Blog-_-OtherVoicesSherry 

As we train, we all know that there are inherent risks involved, but it is appalling and saddening to know that these kinds of things happen.  As always, we can only remind everyone to train smart - take an ID with you when you run and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you should be home.  As we all know from being in or around the military, the buddy system - as ridiculous as it sometimes seems - serves a valuable purpose that can benefit us all here at home as well.  While what happened to Sherry is as rare as it is horrific, we all deal with the common realities of distracted drivers, accidents, and equipment malfunctions.  Please stay safe out there.

Happy trails.


Gopher Soles

Teammates - 

As you may have heard by now, the damn gopher that predicts winter is saying we'll have six more weeks of it.  Here in Italy, we have just been through two straight days of snow, which has effectively been dubbed the storm of the decade, so I am hoping the winter-predicting wombat is wrong.  My training (even the gym was closed today for the weather) is suffering from all the snow and Bologna's worse-than-DC ability to deal with it.  Or is it all that bad?  In the last few days, between traveling and now the storm, my early season marathon training plan has had more gaps in it than a six year old's smile.  However, the runs that I have been able to get in, running on well-rested, fresh legs have been of much better quality than they might have been otherwise.  Perhaps there is something to be said for additional rest, especially in the early months of the year.  

Separately, this very interesting video was just posted to YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTMe_Q2e70.  It shows some amazing advances being made by existing companies (in this case Nike) that can really help athletes who use prosthetics perform better.  As Sarah Reinersten, herself an above the knee amputee, Ironman World Championship finisher, and World Record holder says at the end, "anyone who has a body has the potential to be an athlete."  Watching Sarah run in the video certainly shows that she is making full use of her potential, and mainstream companies are responding to that.  Developments like these, both in terms of the science and the attitude toward challenged athletes of all kinds will hopefully also benefit our Wounded Warriors, especially as they look to rehabilitate through racing - a Team RWB goal.  

Finally, for those of you who are looking to prove Phil the marsupial wrong, don't forget the Emerald Coast Tri Club's Bluewater Bay Duathlon (3K run, 15K bike, 5K run) is just over three weeks away - February 25, 2012 (http://www.ectriclub.org/Duathlon.php).  The EC Tri Club, part of the large Eglin AFB community, has partnered with Team RWB for 2012.  

Happy trails. 


Reminder: HOMH Spin-athon

Teammates - 

Just a quick reminder that Help Our Military Heroes is having their annual fund-raiser/spin-athon this weekend. As a Team RWB member, we hope that even if you can't get to the actual fund-raiser, you throw your Eagle on and train today with HOMH in mind.  Please drop them a line on their website and let them know how you did today: http://www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org/.  Drop a note in our comments section too - we'd love to hear from you. 

For something a little bit off-beat, I am currently in England and on my way to Tough Guy tomorrow.  It may not fall into traditional triathlon training, but it's an unconventionally good time: http://www.toughguy.co.uk/.  This one is for you Laurie and the rest of your HOMH team.  

For more information on HOMH, check out their website and make sure you read our two-part article on HOMH President, Team RWB member, and all-around impressive woman Laurie Hollander.  


Tri'ing it Out

Tri’ing it Out
Many of you are new to Team RWB. Some of you are new to triathlon all together. Welcome to the sport! The following will be more of a pep talk and not so much of a how-to. You already know you need to do some swimming, cycling, and running, and put it all together on race day. Your first race will be very exciting, but it also may be kinda scary.

You have an idea in your head about how you will set up your transition, maybe you even set it up at home to see how it looks. Once you get to the race site, stand in line to get body marked, and enter  transition, you will find yourself looking at everyone else’s transition. You ask yourself if you should change your plan, if you should set up your transition more like the other athletes' transitions. That is a decision you can only make for yourself. You are the one doing the race. Set it up once and go with it, your first instinct is usually the best.

You look around at all the other athletes. Wow, they look fit. You may ask yourself “what am I doing  here?” No matter what, always know that you belong there just as much as any other athlete who is present.

More often than not, swimming is the sport new triathletes typically struggle with when they are starting out. At this point you have trained enough to get through the swim portion, have confidence in that. The swim will be over before you know it and you will be rolling out of T1.
In transition 1, you will go through the routine you have been through in your head 100 times, only now it is for real. During this short period of time you will probably triple check to make sure you have everything. You will still be dripping wet from the swim. This is the point too you might be regretting the way you set up transition, its okay, you will fix it in the next race.

On the bike you will be tempted to start out fast. If you want to start out fast go ahead. Have fun with it. If you are concerned you might not have enough left in the tank for the run go ahead and slow down. Don’t forget to take a few sips from your bike bottle, the race is very exciting, and for this reason it is very easy to forget to drink. Always pass on the left. 

Transition 2 can be exciting. It’s the last time you will be in transition, and only one more segment separates you and the title of triathlete. You may have had a plan to put on socks, but now you are abandoning that plan, it’s okay, your feet won’t fall off. Most people get caught up in the excitement of the race. Maybe you are too; this is one of the really fun aspects of triathlon. Leave transition with a smile on your face, only a few miles and you will be a triathlete.

Maybe you started out as a runner, many triathletes do. Maybe running comes natural to you, maybe it doesn’t. No matter at this point, all the other athletes, just like you, want to get through this run and get to the finish line, some faster than others. If you need you pace yourself, go ahead and pace yourself. If you can run the first few miles easy and gut it out in the last mile that’s good too. Whatever method gets you to the finish line, use it. You see the finish line, pick up the pace for your final hard effort, you are almost finished! Cross the finish line with a smile and sense of achievement, you did it!

After the race, don’t immediately pack up and go home. You probably can’t anyway since transition will most likely not be open. Grab some post race food, and start chatting it up with your fellow triathletes. You can make some new friends, and pick up some tips. Stay for the awards so you can hear the times of the people in your age group who finished top 3, so you have a time goal to work toward.

Whether you go home with an award or not, remember, you are now officially a triathlete, and nobody can take that away from you. You have earned this title. Talk up triathlon to your friends, see if you can get them to try one out, they might just like it. If not, it’s okay, this sport isn’t for everyone.  As for you, after you get home and celebrate your achievement, you will be looking for your next race!

Happy Tri’ing!

Team RWB article on Financial Times

See how Team RWB is helping vets in this Financial Times article!
Financial times Article


Laurie Hollander and HOMH -- Part 2

Teammates - 

Here is the second half of the interview with Laurie Hollander: 

Team RWB: You have a lot on your plate already, how did you decide to get involved with Team RWB?  How has your time with the Team complimented your work with HOMH?  

LH: Tiffany and Mark Holbert are my introduction to Team RWB and Maj. Mike Erwin!  Apparently the Holberts felt Mike and I share a "HIGH ENERGY" vibe.  Seriously, I met the Holberts while Mark was still on the ward at Walter Reed and Tiffany instructed me to #1 Get HOMH on Facebook and #2 Run a 200 mile Relay from Gettysburg to DC with Team Red, White and Blue So, Mark's lying in a hospital bed all beat up and I'm going to say no?  

A few months later I get to meet THE MAN in person!  Mike, Genevive and a great big group of awesome TRWB athletes, family and support crew met at the starting line and my team, including Mark's awesome sister, Teresa spent 24+ hours riding in vans and running through the night to the finish line with the Awesome ODA 3132 that had just reunited with Mark for the first time since he was injured.  AWESOME doesn't come close to describing the feeling.
I then did Reach the Beach, SuperFrog with 3 awesome West Point Cadets from this graduating class of 2012,  Marine Corps Marathon and the 2011 Olympic triathlon National Championships all in Team RWB colors and the awesome Eagle flying!  2011 was incredible... and kind of a blur.

Team RWB: Last year you competed in Vermont at Age Group National Championships, just one of many accomplishments for you last year alone.  What does this year look like for you, and how do you balance your training with everything else you have going on?  

LH:  I spent about 13 years surviving a back surgery gone bad experience from a drunk driver rear-ending me at the ripe old age of 19... So, once I got my life back on track in my late 30s I swore I wasn't ever going to stop moving again (I know, be careful what you ask for!).  I was released from a pain management program in 1999.  I found this class of indoor spin bikes.  I rode like Miss Gulch from the Wiz of Oz, sitting upright for the first year because of the old back.  The crazy (in a good way) folks at this Spinning Gym took me under their wing and I ended up completing a Sprint Triathlon.  Picture this - never a swimmer, rode my kids Hard-Rock bike with nubby tires (who knew???) and dear lord don't even call what I was doing, running.  But my sons were there at the FINISH LINE and their mom wasn't on 30 meds a day and crabby anymore!

Fast forward to 2003 when I completed Ironman Lake Placid.  Why?  Because I wanted to be an example to my sons;  do things that scare the crap out of you and FINISH what you START...

I made a promise to myself to race Lake Placid again for my 50th, 60th, etc birthdays.  July 2012 - Lake Placid here momma comes!  Happy Birthday to me!  TRWB and HOMH on my back, front, sides and most importantly across the FINISH LINE!

As a closing question, I asked Laurie what her goals for HOMH are for 2012, and in what had already been a rather emotional interview, her answer to that question may have been the most poignant of all.  She said that every year she prays it is the year that HOMH goes out of business, that there is no further need for modified vehicles, and that our wounded warriors and their families have had all their needs met.  Here’s to hoping that she is right this year.  Of course, being the person she is, she quickly clarified that she would just re-write HOMH’s mission statement and focus on a different aspect of assisting our wounded warriors and their families. 

The blog team cannot thank Laurie enough for her time, her candor, but most especially, her efforts with HOMH.  We wish her all the best in her personal endeavors for 2012 – get after it at Lake Placid – and to HOMH.  

Laurie was also kind enough to send these pictures and captions from the van presentation on 18 January: 
HOMH van recipient, US Army Cpl. Adam Keys with his mom Julie and mobility consultant, Maureen Pepe in background. Injured 14 July 2010, Adam spent 520 days in seated, supine or prone position until he could be supported to go vertical.  Here Adam ensures that the gift bow doesn't get too far away - we are so humbled by his Warrior Spirit!  Can we even imagine?

Adam and Laurie in Adam's awesome new conversion 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan RT

Previous HOMH van recipients SSgt Tim Brown, USMC, and SSG Chaz Allen, US Army also attended the presentation and welcomed the new van recipients into the family.  Here they pose with Team RWB member and HOMH President Laurie Hollander.


Laurie Hollander and HOMH -- Part 1

Teammates - 

Over the next two posts, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing Laurie Hollander to the broader Team RWB community.  For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Laurie, when and if you do, it will not an experience you will soon forget and you will come away with a new sense of what is possible, given the right amount of dedication and desire.  Laurie is not only a proud Team RWB member, but a mother of two servicemen, and the President of Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH), a non-profit whose mission is to provide modified vehicles for injured military personnel.  Talking to Laurie, it does not take long to understand how much she cares about her work and making a difference in the lives of our wounded warriors.  She calls herself the cheerleader of HOMH, and her passion is evident, and a large part of why HOMH has been so successful to date.  Her philosophy is borne out of the belief that each of us, regardless of our lot in life, needs a hand from time to time.  Today, January 18, HOMH presented the keys to two new vans to two of our military heroes – a young Army Corporal and an Army Sergeant First Class.  Laurie was kind enough to conduct the following interview over email and Skype and we cannot express how much we appreciate her time.  Here in her own words is the story behind HOMH, its goals, and one incredible lady that we are lucky to call a teammate and a friend to Team RWB. 

Team RWB: Laurie, you and Marybeth came up with the idea for what would become Help Our Military Heroes at a West Point football game in 2006 - what did you envision for it at the time? When and how did you decide that adaptive vehicles were the avenue that you wanted to pursue?  

LH: I had been fundraising for Western CT Hospice for 2 years where I teach spinning classes.  When my younger son, Matthew was accepted to West Point and in the same year my older son stepped away from his junior year in college to enlist in the Marine Corps I was drawn to the West Point campus and football games for the best chance to see my Plebe (empty nest hit me hard!) as his opportunities to take Pass are little to none the first year.  At one of the home games we were all witness to a modified van being donated to a severely injured soldier... pretty much instantly I turned to Marybeth and said "Game changer!"

Monday morning in my spin class, I announced and took a hand-count of who would support the opportunity to spin and take other fitness classes to raise money to contribute to the van charity I had seen at the West Point football game.  That was in 2007 and we raised $67,000 with 6 hours of exercise, in 2008 it became $100,000, in 2009 we were up to $120,000. This is when I met my now-husband Ted.  He is the financial and legal side of our HOMH Triangle.  Marybeth is the marketing and I am a cheerleader!  Ted took a look at what our spin-athon was raising and asked Marybeth and I to incorporate and apply for a Non-Profit status to take responsibility for our communities contributions.

We applied for our 501c3 in 2009 and received our IRS approval in June 2010.  We are very fortunate to have a '68 West Point grad take interest in what HOMH was hoping to accomplish.  Mainly, we want to RAISE money and have 100% of the donations go to serving our most severely wounded as well as making a yearly contribution to a CT area Veterans Cause.  We have met our Mission!  Since our founding we have raised more than $450,000 and have helped 20 severely wounded veterans experience their independence again by helping them regain their mobility.

The vans are the most amazing thing!  A wheelchair can roll in, Lock Down-Tie In, Passenger or Driver-Can transfer to a car seat and off you go!  We take this for granted.  Everyone I know grabs their keys and drives away but I can share stories of our van recipients re-telling their daily experience using the old family SUV or car.  It will make you cry!

Team RWB: In the first 16 months, you have been able to donate 13 vans with another 3 on the way - tell me more about that process.  How do you find the recipients, where do your vans come from?  How long does it take from the identification of a recipient to the presentation of the van?  

LH: Our process is another one of the "MIRACLES" that has fallen our way.  With the assistance in navigating the military world we connected with another Grad of West Point that had recently been called back to active Duty from Retirement to work on the transition of Walter Reed to Bethesda.  HOMH packed up the car and met our new friend and several Officers in the MATC or Military Advanced Training Center.  Once our interviews were over this particular day a very sly Captain in the Occupational Therapy unit literally rolled in a triple amputee and told us she thought we might enjoy meeting this warrior.

Dear Lord!  This beautiful marine with his teenie tiny wife and their 9 month old daughter began to tell the story of his injuries.  He cried, we cried and the team of Medical and Administrative officers that quite possibly heard this story once or twice before, cried.

Our new friend told how he used his "GOOD" arm to swing himself up into their Ford Explorer while his wife (5 ft tall and 90 lbs) loaded their baby and 4 yr old daughter.  One Day he slipped and fell to the ground.  No legs, one Arm and he slipped.  His wife picked up his body and he swore that he would talk to the Captain to find out what type of car he should have his family driving to avoid this scenario ever again.  So, HOMH was trial by fire!  We had this family fill out our application, our process for interviewing was already complete (sneaky Captain) and we made our decision to Award this marine our very first van!

I'd like to say our process has changed and none of our meetings are any less emotional.  They're not!  I wouldn't change a thing.  It's important to get emotional and know who you are helping.  I just do.  It keeps me motivated to do more!

So - the main "what we do" is we bridge the gap.  A one-time vehicle grant (4502) is awarded an injured service person – this currently is $18,900.  Most appropriate vans are minimally $30,000 up to $60,000.  The Medical staff works with our applicant on all the necessary prescribed equipment for safety, driving, etc.  When all is said and done, a driver (versus passenger only) van modified and fully Rx can value over $90,000.  HOMH makes sure that the injured service man or woman pays NO OUT OF POCKET COSTS.  The vehicle is their color, their style, their choice... they are handed their keys and off they go... free and mobile... independent in their new life!

Team RWB: You have your annual fund-raiser coming up, what kind of event is it going to be?  

LH: Ah!  Spinathon It’s a 4 ring circus of FITNESS! 

Beginning at 0600 wrapping up at 1430 we spin, kick, box, yoga, dance and Cross-Fit in Danbury, CT at the gym I have worked at for over 10 years now.  We ask for a suggested donation of $15.00/hour and average $50.00 per participant in spite of the minimal donation.  Participants began collected sponsors year back and we just kept that great idea rolling...

We have participants that work for some large companies like Coke, GE, Goodrich, CARTUS, American Express, Praxair, etc. which have employee matching programs and foundations.  But the great news is over $75% of our donations are purely individuals making a huge difference a few dollars at a time.  That's part of what fires me up!   Every day people doing this AWESOME thing... Saying thank you to those who voluntarily give of themselves to defend and protect us.
We have local businesses donated coffee, bagels, sandwiches, desserts, sports drinks, water and more.  Other businesses donate goods and services for a very popular raffle.

All in all, the event comes together on the Saturday in January (28 January) between the end of the playoffs and Super Bowl!  BOOM!  No football, so SPINATHON!  God has blessed our event with a snow-date that has never had to be used.  I continue to pray that this is the 2012 plan, as well!  Snow date is Sunday, Jan 29, just in case God's sense of humor is rockin' and rollin'

This year Team RWB and HOMH HERO is SFC Mark Holbert, along with his wife Tiffany (and Isabelle, too of course!)

Team RWB:  Is there any way that those of us not in the area can get involved in the spin-athon?  

LH: Hit our website at http://www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org/ and donate on line.  Leave us a message when you do and let us know how we are doing! 

Team RWB note:  The blog team at Team RWB would like to encourage all team members, if you can’t make it to CT, to do your workout for the day with Laurie and HOMH in mind.  Throw on your Eagle while you are training and bike, run, go to the gym with a little extra pride for what this great organization is doing – no matter where you are, we can all participate in this great cause.  Then as Laurie says, drop a line on their website about what you did – leave a note in our comments section as well.  Saturday, 28 January, Team RWB shadow training day in honor to HOMH.   


Makin' it look easy

If you have ever trained with, been around, or watched a world class athlete there is undoubtedly one thing that stands out – how easy they make it look.  By and large their mechanics, even late in the game, are so honed over years of practice that they look effortless, even as we know that they are red-lining it.  If you watched the Olympic Marathon trials this weekend, Ryan Hall is a great example of this.  He was crushing the early miles, as he often does – running sub 5s and aggressively pushing the pace.  Even at the end, after over two hours of running at and below 5 minute per mile pace, Hall had the same strong, efficient stride – and was still pushing a pace that many of us can only dream of.  Similarly, in Kona this year, you may have noticed the same thing as Craig Alexander ran a 2:42 marathon in his typical stoic fashion, form perfect until the last miles.  Watching him collapse just after the finish line was one of the few indications of how hard he had pushed all day, but on the run his shoulders were relaxed, turnover was high, and his form generally indicated that he was out for an easy 5 mile training run.   Ryan Hall and Craig Alexander are two absolutely top-tier athletes, and while most of us will never reach that level of performance, we can still benefit from just having seen it – and taking a few minutes to learn.    
In the book, The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle discusses just how those of us who don’t fall in the world class athlete category can benefit.  Coyle proposes a type of visualization, but not the kind you have likely read about or been taught where you visualize yourself.  In the latter type of visualization, we are told to picture ourselves as we race, thinking of every component part, imagining our perfect selves as we visualize the race that we wish to have.   Coyle instead suggests the concept of deep practice, part of which can entail watching elite performers – in our particular case, triathletes – and examining the way they move, the way they carry themselves, and the way they flow through their chosen art.  We are lucky to live in this digital age where world class performances are merely a click away.  Before your next practice session, spend a few minutes (you need no more than 5-10) watching some clips of your favorite athlete as they train or race.  Study their form, watch their seemingly effortless fluidity, and when you go out for your training session, keep those images in your mind and emulate them as best you can.  And as inspiring as they are, this means staying far away from the clips of Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham (it is worth watching once though – just not before training: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTn1v5TGK_w)!  As an aside, if you want to see and emulate that fourth discipline of triathlon, the transition, check out this lightning fast performance by Team RWB’s own Tim O’Donnell (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkYCsFpaWW0).   

Coyle goes so far as to say that watching someone that looks like you can actually be better, and from my own experience, it’s true.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a 120 lbs. elite Kenyan marathoner like Geoffrey Muttai, crushing the courses in Boston and New York, but I can picture myself as Normann Stadler on his bike or with Faris al-Sultan’s loping running style (save the Speedo and headband – I am only looking to emulate his racing ability, not his wardrobe).   As triathletes, we are fortunate to have three sports, and the elites from each, to watch and learn from – I personally love watching clips of Ryan Hall before my runs.  He runs with an amazingly smooth style that I try to focus on when my own is going out the window.  For swimming, Michael Phelps is the obvious choice, though I really can’t imagine what it’s like to be him either – I need at least zoomer fins to get to size 14 feet.

If you have the time and ability, take it a step further and have someone video tape you.  Juxtapose watching yourself against watching an elite.  Watch for differences in form and how you can make corrections.  If you are so inclined, find a coach who can help you with a video analysis.  For Christmas two years ago, my wife got me a one hour session with an Austin-based tri coach who did a video analysis of my swim stroke.  As a life-long swimmer, I was slightly skeptical, but it was the best hour I have ever spent training.  I learned more from being able to see my form and understand my weaknesses than I have in any other training session before or since. 

As a final note, in The Talent Code Coyle also postulates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill – so while I may never be Ryan Hall or Normann Stadler, I know that every hour I am out there, I am that much closer to reaching my level of mastery, whatever that may be.

For more information on The Talent Code, visit http://thetalentcode.com/.    

Happy trails    


The Running Man

Teammates –

As you know, I am very new to the blog team and having the chance to write for you.  With that in mind, I understand that I am asking for wide latitude in writing the following post about a friend of mine who is neither a member of Team RWB (yet) nor a triathlete (again, yet, but I for one am okay with that for now).  I am writing today to recognize my friend John and wish him the very best as he transitions from Active Duty (today) to his career in the Foreign Service (Monday). 

I met John in the summer of 2010 through my wife after he was her replacement at her last office.   At the time, John was training for his second 100 mile ultramarathon while I was training for Ironman Louisville, and my wife thought we could train together.  The second time we talked, John was preparing to do a 30 mile run the next day – I was not invited, nor did I ask to join in. To be frank, it sounded more than a little crazy.  Looking back on it, that seems like one of the few times we didn’t run together.  Over the next few months, miles, and hours training on the road, I heard about his exploits, though he would never call them that.  We talked about how his athletic background was in cycling, first on the junior then on the National Team, his time as a Marine fighter pilot, and his passion for ultra-running.  My wife and I also got to know John’s family, his very lovely wife and their wonderful young son.  I think our wives were both glad that John and I could talk to each other instead of them about the benefits of wearing compression pants to sleep in, lactate thresholds, and the latest products we were trying. 

Last spring John paced me to a marathon PR on what was a training day for him, prepping for a 50 miler he had two weeks later.  A few months later, I paced him through 20 miles of his third 100 mile race, where he both dropped me (excellent pacing on my part, I would have to say), and ran an amazing 19:30 PR.  In the lead-up to that race, he ran a 15:24 3 mile run for his PFT, while “not pushing it at all.”  Is it any wonder that between being a national level cyclist and that kind of runner that I am okay with him staying away from triathlon for now?  He’ll get to our sport eventually, and when he does, I am sure he will excel at it as he has done with his life’s other pursuits. 

John and me at the start of Western States

For many of us, our time running is our time to think.  It’s when we get to machinate over all the things that are going on in our heads.  Some days are better than others – we solve not only all of the world’s problems, but if we are truly lucky, some of our own as well.  To run with a friend is to be invited into that semi-sacred space, to share in those thoughts, and to be a sounding board for ideas that somehow seem much more plausible at mile 15.  Running, especially over distance, has a way of allowing us to lay bare our soul.  The early runs, where we talk to fill what might otherwise be uncomfortable silence are replaced over miles covered together by insight into one another and ourselves.  Some days that insight comes from simply enjoying the complete silence of the perfect, lulling rhythm of a long run.     

Living in Italy now, I don’t get the chance to run with John very often, though he just recently came to visit us and we got some runs in – him bouncing ahead, exclaiming about the amazing terrain I am so lucky to train in, me laboring progressively farther behind, cursing said terrain.  With him moving on to the Foreign Service, I would imagine that will likely be the extent of our training for a while, and I will miss running with my friend.  I do know though, that no matter where he and his family end up, eventually we will get out there to see them and John and I will run, and fall into step seamlessly.  So here’s to you John.  Thank you for your service – as anyone who has been on the ground in any capacity can attest, the sound of an F-18 overhead is both distinctive and reassuring – and for your continued willingness to work for the betterment of our country.  May this next year be exciting, and if you are lucky, filled with good coffee, gelato, and many, many miles. 

Happy trails. 

Do you have a military member you would like to recognize through Team RWB?  If so, please email me at mdpiet@aol.com.  

For another inspirational profile, make sure to check out the main Team RWB blog page (http://teamrwb.com/blog/2012/01/) for the story of our blog team's own Jillian O'Malley.  Great article by Greg about one of our own!  


The Off? Season

Teammates - 

With the 2011 race season in the books and the winter months (if you live in the northern hemisphere) upon us, there has been a lot of talk about off-season training.  Many recent magazines, be they tri focused or otherwise, have advocated making time for other activities - from weight training to yoga to cross-training.  With race seasons now stretching from March through the end of November, taking a training break is an excellent idea to recharge your body, recover from the season, and go into the next year fresh and ready to race.  But with all the options out there, what should you be doing?  

There are probably as many answers as there are people reading this blog.  Ultra-running legend and 7-time Western States winner Scott Jurek recently wrote a magazine piece where he exhorts the benefits of a true break - in his case 4-6 weeks at the end of his season where he doesn't run at all - not a single step.  That article was published in the November issue of Competitor Magazine - in this month's issue, the same Mr. Jurek is talking about how the New Year is the time to start building a base.  It seems the off-season can be very short indeed!  

But let's be realistic, very few of us are Scott Jurek, and if you're reading this blog, you're likely a triathlete first, maybe a trail runner second.  And unless you have grown up in the sport, you probably prefer one discipline over the others.  The off-season offers a perfect chance to work on your weaknesses.  If it's running, try signing up for an early season half or full marathon to keep you honest and help build the base you can use all season long.  The winter, with it's shorter days and colder temperatures is also a great time to stay inside perfecting your swim technique.  The off-season is also a perfect time to integrate strength training - an aspect of training that often falls out when we are already juggling swimming, biking, running, and things like jobs, families, deployments, etc.  I have been trying this program to build strength without unwanted mass - it's a simple plan and is relatively short, and Dan John is a font of knowledge (http://danjohn.net/2011/06/even-easier-strength-perform-better-notes/).  Alternatively, the off-season is a perfect time to get into that yoga class that you see at the gym, try pilates, or take a core strengthening class. As a final suggestion, this is a great time to review how last year went with the addition of the perspective of time - be honest with the way your races went, and more importantly, your preparation.  As you review the last year, start to think about your goals for 2012 and commit them to paper - while I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions, I am a firm believer in goals - share yours in the comment section!  

However you decide to spend this off-season, make sure to enjoy it and, as Scott Jurek says, take a true break. The 2012 season will be here before we know it and with it, plenty of chances to race (stay tuned for some exciting race announcements) and time to train.  If you are looking for an early season tune-up race, check out the Emerald Coast Tri Club's Bluewater Bay Duathlon (3K run, 15K bike, 5K run) February 25, 2012.  The EC Tri Club, part of the large Eglin AFB community, has partnered with Team RWB for 2012! http://www.ectriclub.org/Duathlon.php.  We at Team RWB are so excited about this partnership and look forward to many good things to come.     

As a parting thought, regardless of when you get back to it or where you train, train smart - always carry some form of ID and an emergency contact number. If you train outside of the States, even if it's on a base, make sure your emergency info is also in the local language.  

Happy trails.