Adventure Racing!

With my triathlon season coming to a close at the end of August (thanks to not having a car and living in the middle of Chicago), my focus switched to obstacle racing! As soon as I made the decision to move to Chicago, I immediately signed up for my 4th Men's Health Urbanathlon. I had done this race 3 times previously, here in Chicago, and it's by far one of my favorite races. Plus, it's in downtown Chicago, so I can get there. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was doing this race and he told me he was doing a Spartan Race two weeks before the Urbanathlon. I desperately wanted to do this Spartan Race, but even though it was in "Chicago", it was over an hour away and I didn't have a way to get there. Luckily, my awesome friend wasn't doing the race with anyone, so we were able to carpool and get a hotel.

The race was a Spartan Super: 8+ miles of trail running and obstacles! Our wave got pushed back to 1:45 pm, which actually turned out perfect for me because I hate morning races. My body doesn't really wake up till 1 pm or so, and therefore I was able to really feel awake and ready to rock.

Within half a mile of starting the race, we were submerged in chest deep mud and water. There was no avoiding it. The keys to this race were being a strong runner, being agile and swift, being strong, and being alright with getting hurt. Also, being able to run in soaked and muddy shoes.

For every obstacle you weren't able to complete, the punishment was 30 burpees.  I ended up doing somewhere between 90-150 burpees, but mostly for avoidable reasons (messed up the spear throw by having the cord wrapped around my leg, falling off a 6-inch high balance beam, and slipping off the monkey bars, to name a few). I was really pleased with ability on a number of the obstacles though, mainly the rope climb. For this obstacle, you started in chest-deep water, then had to grab a rope above you, climb 20 feet into the air and ring a bell at the top, then climb down.  I'm very grateful now that I taught myself to climb a rope back at my old gym in Tampa.

I finished the race in just over 2 hours. I was really happy with this time, but was frustrated because I would have at least 20 minutes faster were it not for a huge jam up where at least 100 people were all trying to get up an impossible mudbank. It's all good, but I'll remember that for next time!

Rock the W!

A while later, I saw my friend making his way toward the finish line, but he was struggling by this point after a long day. I knew how hard the last obstacle were and that he wouldn't be able to (as I wasn't) get over the last couple without someone to help.  So I asked the staff if I could go back in, which they let me do! Together, we pulled him over the last hurdle (which was a slippery, sloped wall, covered in water and mud) and crossed the finish line together! It was such a great finish and amazing race!

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I can't wait for my next race and am already planning a lot of obstacle racing for next year. With my strength being running, plus my willingness to suffer and my love of lifting, this type of race caters much more to me. Here are some tips that I will remember for my next race and hopefully will help you in you in your next race:

  1. Know your strengths! I knew that some of the strength obstacles would take me longer, but that I could make up ground with my running. Therefore, every time I got the chance, I would run hard.
  2. Learn how to run downhill. I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of trail running and have had some good friends who've taught me to run downhill well.  You basically swing your arms out wide and take big steps and just barrel down the hill. It looks super dangerous, but its safe if you know how to do it right.
  3. Lift! You have to be strong to be competitive in these races. Lifting strengthens your both physically and mentally and those are key factors in this race.
  4. Help other racers and allow yourself to receive help. The only reason I made it up that mudbank I mentioned above was due to working with a few other guys and basically making a ladder out of ourselves to take turns climbing up. When we reached the top, we each instinctively turned around and started pulling other people up who were struggling. While I wanted to do well, the camaraderie is more rewarding than the podium in a race like this.
  5. However, if you do want the podium, like I would like to see in the future, chose the right wave. I'd like to go elite at obstacle racing next year and will be signing up for races to be in the first pack of elite racers who are the first on the course.

Fire Jump

Two weeks after the Spartan was the Men's Health Urbanathlon, which takes place right in downtown Chicago. I had absolutely no expectation going into this race since i had no idea where my fitness level would be. I always train hard, but had been doing less running mileage.

The race, as always, was fantastic. The obstacles weren't nearly as hard as the Spartan, but this race was 10.6 miles, colder, and had the added "fun" of Chicago winds. In fact, I don't know if I've ever felt like I was going "with" the wind since I've moved to this city... The obstacles in this race were more of crawling under obstacles, jumping over obstacles, and some more challenging tasks like 5 foot military hurdles, which aren't difficult if you approach them correctly.

The killer in this race, though, is the 1-mile worth of stairs you climb inside Soldier Field! (The Bears stadium). The portion consisted of running up, over, and down, the top tier of the stadium over and over. Talk about a quad burner.

The race ran North up Lake Shore, around Navy Pier, and back down Lake Shore past the Museum Campus, through Soldier Field, then around the Convention Center, before finishing in the parking lot of Soldier Field (If you've read Divergent, I know you're picturing this...)

The last obstacle of the race is what has killed me each previous year--the 9 foot wall. In past years, I've been so close to getting over, but having someone grab a leg and help me at the end. Feeling much stronger this year, I took a much more aggressive approach and flung myself up the wall! One of the race staff started to reach for my leg to help me out and I just remember screaming "NOOOOO! Don't touch me!" to make sure I got over all on my own : )

As for results, I finished 37th of 1,500, 8th in my age group of 227, and had the 13th fastest split overall on the Stairs! I was really happy with this!

I'm looking forward to writing again soon about a ton of other fun stuff that's been going on mixed with plenty of personal things I've been working on. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

The Minimalists

How much stuff do you really need? When it really comes down to it, how many T-shirts, old books, shot glasses, or old shoes do you really use? As you think about it, the question is harder to answer than you would initially imagine. Every piece of clothing has a memory, every shoe ran a mile or a race that was special, and every book you might want to read again someday… A few weeks a go, my friend Conor and I went to an event held at the Apple Store here in Chicago. Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists were giving a talk about their lifestyle and thought methodology on the concept of “minimalism”. The tenets of minimalism are in its simplest form:

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.

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Getting started is as simple as asking yourself one question: How might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions?”

Minimalism endures on the doctrine of Deliberate Consumption—Intentional Living. When every choice you make leads to an end as opposed to frivolity, life takes a more purposeful turn. Instead of things happening to you, you make things happen. It’s thinking 5 steps ahead whilst simultaneously being in the moment. If I decided to buy a new material item, what value will it bring me in this moment and, consequently, what value will it bring in a day, month, year from now?

Having less physical objects and mental obligations in your life allows you to pursue what you are passionate about. And that’s the key. Everyone’s minimalism will have it’s own spin.

As I write this, I am looking at my collection of baseball hats organized in a shelf on my room. Do I need twenty hats? No. (Well, possibly, if it completes an ensemble and matches the shoes I have on...) But these hats each mean something to me. I’ve narrowed them down and only kept the ones that are special, but they are a keepsake of places I’ve lived, events I’ve been to, or unique times with people who I care about.

But what if Minimalism keeps me from missing out on a new experience? That is not the point. Minimalism isn’t saying “I’ve never been snowboarding and I don’t know that it will bring me value, so it’s better that I don’t go at all”. In my instance, Minimalism would say “I’ve never been snowboarding and I don’t know if I’ll like it, but adventure is something that makes me incredibly happy, as does spending time with friends, so I think I’ll go!”

There are 5 main areas of minimalism:

  1. Health—Emotional and physical
  2. Relationships—You can’t change another person, but you can change the people around you
  3. Passions—Cultivating a passion and mission
  4. Growth—Doing what scares the shit out of you
  5. Contribution—Adding value to your life and the lives of others and establishing deeper connections with people

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Image Credit: @DavesInk

I’ve just moved (again) to a new apartment in Chicago. Over the past 4 years, my travels have progressed as follows:

  • Moving from Cincinnati to Tampa: Full SUV + Moving Truck full of stuff
  • Moving from Tampa to San Diego: Full SUV + Mailed boxes of stuff
  • Moving from San Diego to Chicago: Full SUV + Full rooftop carrier
  • Moving apartments in Chicago: Half SUV full

Loaded up

So what have I gotten rid of? Not enough. But I have gotten rid of many items that just don’t add any value to my life. All my race shirts and awards are no longer in my closet and on my walls, but instead in boxes at my parent’s house (my Mom has promised to make me a quilt out of the shirts… someday.) The awards I’d like to hang on a wall someday when I have a house, but I don’t need them now. I’ve gotten rid of tons of clothes and need to get rid of even more. And I still have way too many shoes, but that it’s one of those items that I really do find some value in so I can have the perfect shoe to complete a look. That might be something that another person would find ridiculous, but I enjoy it.

I’m also in the process of my “packing party”. In the move I put everything in boxes. Everything that I haven’t unboxed within a month of moving into the apartment, I plan to donate, trash, or give away. Right now, I have a feeling that I’m not going to be using the 10 or so drawstring-backpacks that every triathlon gives away…

My next goal is to streamline my wardrobe. I want to find a bunch of shirts that fit me really well and buy a bunch in different styles. Can anyone recommend a shirt brand that actually makes a quality, (truly) slim-fitting shirt?

But those are physical objects. What am I doing to cultivate passion and better connect with people? That’s always harder (in fact it scares the shit out of me… and what scares me even more is not being able to cultivate those connections.) I approached my moved to both San Diego and Chicago with a mindset of being more open to experience and getting more involved in things I wasn’t comfortable with. But the more I pursued these different avenues, the more I realize that sticking with what makes me the most happy is more important than checking the most boxes that says “I’m involved with this”.

Rather, instead of attending every “MeetUp” event that I’ve signed up for online, I’ve narrowed my focus to just a few things: Improv/comedy/acting, exercise/triathlon, and personal betterment and my career. This allows me the flexibility to go randomly listen to the founder of Redbox give a talk on a Wednesday night or to go see a comedy show on a Tuesday night with a bunch of friends in addition to my regular class on Thursdays.

Life is meant to be lived with intent. When we spread ourselves too thin and amass too much junk, we let that get in the way of what makes us the most happy and spending time with those who mean the most to us.

I encourage you to try one of these. What is one thing you can get rid of this week that will allow you to bring more joy and value into

Trip to Virginia Beach and The Unbreakable Body

I just got back from a great trip to Virginia Beach where I got to spend an awesome long weekend with my whole family! It was great to get a little break from the big city and get some “real summer”. The weather cooperated most of the time we were there and the Atlantic Ocean gave us waves for at least one of the days… and then acted like a lake for the rest of the weekend… 2014-08-15 20.10.56 2014-08-16 15.53.13We went to some great restaurants and got some fantastic local seafood. My brother has a sweet little house in Norfolk and it was nice to have everyone in one place. It was really weird to be back honestly. If you recall, I used to live there and it wasn’t my favorite of the places I’ve lived. But the trip was great…  Saw a Norfolk Tides game, plus we did the traditional Feerick men trip to see a Super Hero movie! We saw Guardians of the Galaxy and, if you haven’t seen it, it was awesome! I highly recommend it. Also got some great workouts in with my dad in little brother's "garage gym".

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Today I wanted to bring you guys a post from someone else whom I highly recommend! Kate Galliet is a good friend of mine and I’ve know her for a while via Twitter and both being personal trainers. She lives here in the Chicago area and she and I have hung out a few times; including walking across the city to get great coffee in negative 10 degree weather as well as going to awesome EDM concerts.

If you weren’t already aware, I am a huge proponent of strength and mobility work to compliment endurance training and I make all my clients do it. In my last post I mentioned the shoulder pain I was having in my wetsuit during my last race. Kate read that and immediately called me and we got down to the root cause of the issue and how to fix it! I’ve been putting into place everything she said and hopefully I will be pain free this coming weekend at the Chicago Triathlon!

Kate has just launched a brand new product called The Unbreakable Body! It is an all-inclusive solution to fixing yourself, maintaining mobility, and preventing injury to be a stronger athlete. While the program is for everyone, it has a strong bent towards endurance athletes who (myself included!) largely neglect mobility and recovery work. And no guys, using a foam roller doesn’t cut it! I asked Kate if she would be willing to share more about how she diagnosed my shoulder and more about her program! If you have any questions let me know and I’ll do another post later this week to answer more questions about the program.

Enter Kate!

500 Hours - Are You Ready To Handle That?

For most triathletes, the focus in training is on volume; run more miles, swim more laps, ride further routes. Did you know the average Ironman training plan adds up to around 500 hours?

This places an immense amount of pressure on your body, from your joints to your muscles. And as that pressure increases, your body begins to compensate in strange and damaging ways.

And when your injury happens, it likely won't be a freak coincidence. It will be because up until the moment of your injury, your body's durability was being worn away one day at a time.

Then, finally, it reached breaking point.

The saddest part about this isn't the pain and emotional grief of suffering an injury while you're training your heart out.

It's that it could've been prevented in the first place.

Sexy Comes Second, Foundation Comes First.

Yes, you want to hit the pool straight away, or hop on the bike. But that's the sexy stuff. And it’s also the stuff that, if sub-optimal movement patterns exist, will be the demise of your body. Before beginning any workout, it's important to ensure your foundational movements  are correct. If you don't, you not only run the risk of encouraging weak movements, but setting yourself up for injury. Whenever I work with an athlete, they are not allowed to start their workout until after we've done muscle activation work. We do this at every single workout, so that when we reach race day, doing pre-race movement activators are second nature (and protect them from mid-race injuries, too).

99% Of The Time, Your Injury Was Preventable

People hate me for saying this. But it's the cold hard truth. If you get injured, 99% of the time it could have been avoided.

Yes, there was an unexpected bump in the road and your ankle rolled, and it caused a sprain... But would your ankle have rolled if you did ankle strengthening drills every day for 60 seconds?

And yes, your arm was pulled awkwardly by the current as you reached the 1/3 mile mark and impaired your pull...But if you'd been doing daily mobility work on your shoulder, would you not have had greater margin to absorb the awkward movement in the swim?

The reality is that nearly all injuries are simply the punctuation mark at the end of a long string of poor decisions. But it’s ok. You’re ok. We’re gonna be ok. We learn. We get better. We get stronger and more durable.

You Aren't Alone: Preventable Injury Happens At Every Level Of Performance

I’m gonna put Chuck on the hot-seat now. ;-) When I first met Chuck, it was over a coffee at La Colombe in Chicago. He hit me up over Twitter, I obliged, and the friendship began.Then, not long ago, I read Chuck’s blog about his race and saw that he was noticing something strange.

Every time he swam in his wetsuit, his shoulder would go numb and start to ache. This was to the point where if he didn't stop every few strokes to shake it out, it would get worse. But it was more than an uncomfortable feeling. It cut into his performance. Imagine doing a swim and every few strokes you gotta stop to address your arm — annoying and time-consuming!

Chuck’s an Elite Team Member of Wattie Ink, he couldn’t be getting held up by something stupid like a numb shoulder!

After a quick assessment of how he felt, and his current training regimen, I had a solid idea of what was causing his issue but was straight up with him - if this didn’t help him, or anything got worse, I wanted him to seek out a medical professional.

Chuck had tissue that wasn’t moving as it should, and it was compressing the nerves around his shoulder that led to his hand. Without a wet suit, this wasn't noticeable. But when he put on the skintight suit for the swim, the added compression of the suit seemed to magnify what was going on already in his shoulder. My hope was that with proper, consistent, mobility work that we’d unglue the area and get everything that supports the shoulder girdle moving well again and working in a harmonious way that allowed him to swim, and do so without that numb aching feeling in his shoulder.

So with a lacrosse ball, some basic mobility drills and specific area targeting, Chuck was able to begin unlocking the tissue that seemed to be compressing the nerve. And happiness ensued in Chuck’s and my worlds.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure: Prehabbing The Pain Points

With the compressed nerve now unlocked, Chuck's got a new mission. To ensure that he never has to stop mid race and shake out his fingers again. To do this, he's continuing to perform regular drills with a lacrosse ball. These drills don't just prevent the nerves from being clenched tightly beneath his skin, though. They put his tissue into a more optimal state for every movement he is going to ask his body to do.

In turn, this will help Chuck to move faster, take greater advantage of his strength training, and see better performance across the board.


Thanks again Kate! If you guys want to learn more about the Unbreakable Body, click here! Let me know if you have any other strength training or mobility questions for myself or Kate and we will be sure to get them answered!

Lake Zurich Triathlon Race Report

A few weeks ago I finally got to race my first triathlon of this year! After seeing a bunch of my teammates at the Chicago ITU race a few weeks before, I was itching to race. That night, I signed up for the Lake Zurich Triathlon, a nearby triathlon. I didn't know how I was going to get there, just simply that I was going to race. Getting to the race was no easy task. My plan was to take the train to my aunt's house, sleep over there, borrow her car the next morning and drive to the race, then drive back to her house, and take the train back home. Turns out I chose the ONE weekend of the year that you can't take bikes on the train (due to the Taste of Chicago)... After lugging all my tri gear to the train station with me (and managing to not crash on my bike there) I was crushed when the conductor told me I couldn't board. After pleading my case for the next 15 minutes, he decided to break the rules and be a decent guy and let me on. Thanks conductor--you're awesome.

The rest was pretty simple--except that they didn't have my registration when I got to the race site that morning. Turns out I had just signed up late but there were no issues with me racing.

The water temperature was awesome; wetsuit legal but not too cold. I wore my Wattie Ink exclusive BlueSeventy wetsuit and got off well with the age group pack I was in. My swim was feeling strong but, as has happened in many races before (only is open-water, wetsuit races), my left shoulder started aching. I don't know how to describe the feeling except that it felt like there were only so many strokes I could take in a row, or only so much power I could put behind the stroke before I had to give that arm a second of rest. I gave my shoulders a ton of warming up before the race in fear of this, but it still happened. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it!

I came out of the water in a time I was pleased with given the circumstance. My bike was ready to go, but after scratching the visor on my helmet, I had opted to remove it and race with sun glasses instead. My Rudy Project glasses look sick anyway, so it was a good move.

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H/T teammate Cate Demet for this image (these are her glasses and picture but I have the same pair)! Image source: Rudy Project

The bike was a 2 loop rolling course so you had the benefit of learning the course during the first lap and attacking more aggressively on the second lap. The course had enough hills that it was fun but not so many that you couldn't still go consistently fast. I was caught by a few of the strong older guys, but spent of the time passing earlier waves.

I much preferred riding without the visor on my helmet as I could see a lot clearer and didn't have to worry about to the visor fogging up, especially early on during the bike. Nor did I have to worry when trying to wipe away any sweat or water that would collect on the visor.

I decided to really push hard on the bike and had one of my fastest bike splits to date on an olympic course. This left me more tired for the run, respectively, but I still felt good. It was my first run of that distance in a while--my training as of late has been much more focused on short intervals and tempo work, so I was happy to be able to keep the pace I did.

The run was 2 laps as well. On the first lap I felt strong, but knew I would be hurting by the end (but that's supposed to be the case!) I started running alongside a guy in an older age group and paced with him for most of the race. He actually was passing me and I wasn't going to let that happen, so I filed in immediately behind him and basically drafted off him. Whether drafting during a run is mental or there really is some benefit, it seemed to work! At one point I ran up next to him said "Just to let you know, I'm not trying to be a dick, just trying to keep up!" His response was something like "Fuck you kid, you're 20 years younger than me!"  To which I just gave a grin... While there was nothing memorable about the run course, I would rate it as "difficult". It was all pavement and only partially shaded with small rolling hills.

I finished with a time I was happy with! I placed 3rd in my age group and in the top 10% overall. It felt really, really good to medal in my first race in 7 months. I'd really like to figure out this shoulder issue and see how well I could do in the swim if I could really give it my all.


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A fun start to the season and I'm looking forward to a few more races I have planed for this year! Let me know if anyone has insight on my shoulder issue!

- Rock the W -


Resistance--And how to beat it

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying” --Steven Pressfield

I want to do a lot of things. A lot of different things that seem to have no connection with one another, but there seems to be something that keeps getting in the way.  I’d love to write more… but I “don’t have time.” I want to start taking improv classes… but it might “get in the way of my workouts”. I’d like to start taking gymnastics classes and combining it with my current training to get my walking handstands perfected… but it’s “too far away and too expensive.”


What’s really getting in the way? Resistance

Enter Coffee with Kate

A few weeks ago I met up with another trainer and incredibly awesome friend of mine, Kate Galliet of Fit For Real Life. Kate isn’t only an awesome trainer who owns her own gym where she trains endurance and everyday athletes, but she is wickedly smart and has awesome insight and a positive and practical outlook on life. And she bought me an awesome cup of coffee.

She and I talked about a lot of things but namely about plans we had and things we were working on. There was a big difference I noticed though—Kate was doing these things while I was till thinking about them. Sure, I’ve started a new job which I’m loving and is keeping me crazy busy, but I can make time to explore new ventures. Kate told me exactly what that problem was: Resistance. She recommended that I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

The book was fantastic. In it, Pressfield defines everything that Resistance is: Invisible, Internal, Insidious, Implacable, and Impersonal. Resistance is what keeps us from reaching our full potential and accomplishing the things that we are in fact capable of achieving. To overcome Resistance, you’ve got to choose whatever it is you are striving to achieve and become a professional at it. It must become like a job—something you do because you are excellent at it and something you can separate yourself from.

How to beat resistance:

Just start: Just write. Just run. Just do handstands against a wall. Want to read more? Start with magazines or websites, but just start and create a habit of it. Your results don’t matter, but you are doing it and with practice comes getting better.

The next step is to create a routine. I’ve finally started mediating every day. I’ve put this off for ever and ever, even though it’s been something I’ve wanted to do. Now, every night, I finish getting ready for the next day, then I read for a few minutes, then I turn off all the lights, sit quietly, and go through a programmed meditation practice from an app on my phone. Then I watch a few minutes of Breaking Bad, if time allows, and go to bed. By keeping this pattern, when I get ready to meditate, I know that is all I’m setting out to do.

The same can work if you want to write more—Create a routine. For me, it would be to go to a nearby Starbucks (have to be out of my house), catch up on Twitter so I won’t have it on my mind, end all text conversations and put my phone on silent, and then finally, my mind is free of obligations and I can begin to write.

The next step is committing. You’ve got a routine, you’ve made the pledge to just start, but now you can’t give up. Just keep doing it. Over and over and over.

So far, I’ve been able to use the lessons I learned from Kate and this book to start meditating, do more personal journaling, and commit to a lifting program I’ve been on for the last month. My next steps are to apply these to finding a cause to volunteer at and to begin improv classes or a sport league—Chicago just needs to get warm enough so I can ride my bike to these commitments.

What about accountability? Can I do recruit someone else to do this with me? I would say yes and no. Sure, it nice to have someone to keep you accountable, but you’ve still got to do the work.  You have to be a professional. J.K. Rowling didn’t say to another author, “I’ll write a book if you write one too”. No, she was broke and took on the commitment to become a professional and commit herself to writing. You just need to look at what you’re doing and ask “is this something that is short term with a defined outcome, or is this something I want to become a part of me and continue long-term.

Now you tell me, what things does Resistance get in the way of in your life that prevent you from achieving something you want?

Good luck and when you encounter that Resistance, call it out and make note of it! Once you start looking you’ll start seeing it a lot more… and finding more ways to overcome it!