Potential: Pick Me!

pictures L to R: My mom and I stretch pre-jog. My dad is teaching me how to run.
My sisters and I model personalized sweatsuits at Christmas. In this picture I'm about the same age as my oldest son is now in the basketball picture. In second grade I was taller than all the boys.

Recently I got to watch my oldest son play basketball. Normally I take most of the soccer practices and my husband Ken takes basketball (though I'd love to hog all of the sports time!)

I loved watching Truitt dribble, pass and shoot. Of course, as his mom, I felt he was one of the advanced players. As a coach (soccer & triathlon) one of the things I love to do is pick out natural athletes. My dad loves to do this too.

I also love looking for the underdog athlete, that probably drives me more. It's my job as a coach to help each athlete find a sport-specific skill he or she can excel in and then add on from there. Help an athlete find meaningful success and you'll change a life. Help an underdog athlete and change his or her world.

So as I sat picking out the future High School boys' basketball team during Truitt's second-grade practice, I wondered, "would someone have picked me in second grade?" I don't think so. I was an excellent rollerskater (shoot-the-duck champion) and held the grade record in headstands and handstands, but I wasn't outwardly aggressive. I started playing soccer in third grade and have played ever since. But if my middle sister hadn't been playing soccer already, who knows.

Recently I drove along with my middle sister to watch her adult coed indoor soccer game. While sitting in the stands I got recruited twice to play, business cards included! I was dressed normally. I didn't have any soccer gear with me. But coed leagues are often looking for pickup players, so I could have gotten on the field.

I thought about my experiences with triathlon. How many times do you as a spectator get recruited to be a triathlete? Have you asked someone to give this sport a go? Why or why not?

More questions for you:
- As a kid, were you an underdog or a MVP?
- As an triathlete, have you overlooked recruiting a potential training buddy?
- If triathlon is for "normal athletes" too why don't we recruit more aggressively?

high school soccer photo: me left, Susan right

DIY: Agility Ladder Project

photos by me: L-While I worked on the ladders, our toddler destroyed his kitchen area.
C- the rope bundle. R- tools required!

Last summer I created and then led a weekly outdoor bootcamp-style workout. Village Bootcamp attracted between 10 and 30 athletes each session ranging from their early 20s to 60+. Read more about our group here.

I'm planning combinations for this summer's workouts. I do mostly bodyweight exercises, but use some tools. I thought agility ladder exercises would be great so I decided to build my own ladder. To get some ideas, I started a thread within active.com's triathlon community where I serve as a moderator. (Please come & say hello!)

Some DIY instructions & exercise suggestions:

An athlete named Alexander responded & suggested I check out the rope at Home Depot & use zip ties to secure the corners.

My update on active.com:
"OK, I was able to make 2 agility ladders with the 100 feet of rope. Here are the nonprecise details:
- rope Diamond-Braid poly rope 3/8" x 100' Home Depot on sale ~$10
- zip ties: I bought the neon 8-inch ties because I liked the brighter colors, other lengths available. 100/~$3
- tape: to put over the cut rope ends
- scissor
- marker
- something to measure with

Ladder 1: ~14 ft 10 inches long with 17x16 inch boxes
Ladder 2: 12 ft 2 inches long with boxes 18x 16 w & extra cross sections on sides of ~10 inches right & left

Things I'm not sure about:
- If it'll move too much & annoy me when the boxes lose their boxy shape.
- Which type will work best with my group.
- Other ways to improve it: attach thin flat slats underneath the cross-rungs? I don't know.

photos by me: I made two types of ladders. When our toddler ran out of things to destroy he stopped by to test my ladder.

Questions for You:
- Do you like agility ladders/exercises?
- Have you made a ladder or something else fitness related? *Find out how to make hurdles within the active.com thread.

James Peterson – A New Tri-Life

James Peterson woke up in jail with no memory of how he got there. Alone and terrified Peterson experienced the triple sting of his addictions (smoking, drinking and abusing drugs.) To start over, he’d need new, lasting strength, but where to find it?

Help came via a phone call nearly two years later but not until Peterson lost both his father (lung cancer) and his mother (broken heart). Peterson’s cousins Sean Murray and Bob Harazin found Peterson during a time of soul searching and challenged him to train for an Olympic distance triathlon.

Enter tri-therapy. Ask new triathletes and they’ll often confess they’re hooked on this simple sport of swimming, biking and running. And for athletes like Peterson, triathlon training could potentially help him handle present stress and past addictions. But could he finish?

Peterson hesitantly said he would sign up. But hearing his cousins’ and friends’ wager on his chances of sticking with it sealed his decision. Peterson was in and knew he’d later finish the 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run. He booked sessions with a trainer (Tony Designer) at a local gym and began spinning, running, doing core work and circuit training. As his body became lean and strong Peterson felt more confident and found his sobriety easier to manage.

Nine months of hard work later Peterson arrived on race site prepared but also sick with anxiety. It’s common to be intimidated on race morning. Every athlete seems fast, fit and more prepared.

“At first I didn’t feel like I belonged there,” says Peterson. It helped having his cousins with him. “I was intimidated for sure but I met a few nice people. The mental aspect of your first race is unlike anything you can imagine.” As is the finish line!

Once Peterson crossed his first finish he wanted more. He met again with his trainer and decided to train for Ironman Louisville the following year. A new plan combining weight lifting, core, hi-intensity cardio, swimming, biking and running, kept Peterson busy. He also tightened his diet and improved his nutrition.

Peterson calls Ironman Louisville astonishing, and says he learned much about himself on race day. For example, due to his past failures and low self-esteem Peterson says “I never thought for a million years that I would accomplish anything like the Ironman.” But, in the end he found anything is possible with hard work, dedication, passion, a lot of sweat and a few tears. You can make your dreams come true, he says.

Peterson finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in 13:17. Bob Harazin, Peterson’s cousin, was so inspired watching Peterson race in Louisville that he decided to sign up for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.

“Bob is the reason I started triathlon,” says Peterson. “I can’t wait to see him finish his first Ironman with me this September.”

Peterson’s life has changed in many ways since becoming a triathlete. Physically he lost over 25 pounds and reduced his body fat to less than nine percent. “I feel amazing,” he says. “Nothing better than taking your suits in to get fitted and having the tailor say “was this your suit?” Peterson kept one old suit to try on when he needs reinforcement and to realize how far he’s come in the past two years.

“It’s so rewarding to know that a person can make a change if you make up your mind,” he says. “The human spirit is an amazing gift that God has given and if we channel it we can do anything.”

Emotionally Peterson feels closer to God and to his parents who passed away. He says he’s now able to manage his sobriety with a constructive outlet that gives him an avenue to deal with the stress of life.

For others currently struggling with depression or addiction Peterson says triathlon training can help people deal with anger, sadness and pain by fighting back with physical activity. He says first you must acknowledge addiction is hurting your life and also ask for help. Finally Peterson realizes triathlon alone won’t cure depression or addiction. And like anything triathlon can become an unhealthy addiction if training and life choices become unbalanced.

“The one thing I want people to know about my story is that you don’t have to be on thin ice in life or have a tragedy to find a reason to get involved with triathlon” says Peterson. “It was and has been and will be a great way for me to meet friends, to live a healthy and meaningful life. I’m no different than anyone else. I’m not a pro-triathlete and will never become one. I love to compete and triathlon is a way I can deal with life on life’s terms.”

Peterson’s friends and family were proud and surprised to learn that Peterson became an Ironman triathlete. “I still get the introduction of ‘hey, this is my friend, cousin, brother, nephew, grandson, or sales manager Jimmy, he’s an Ironman.’ I don’t think that will ever get old for me to hear!”

On Topic:
- Read about Todd Crandell’s program Racing for Recovery. And learn about Crandell's upcoming documentary Running With Demons.
- Learn about other athletes' experiences with addiction and endurance sports in this CNN article "Former Drug Addicts Find New Fixation on Triathlons."

I discovered Mr. Peterson’s story in this article on X8 -- an active lifestyle network in South Florida. Its mission is to motivate people to eXceed their limits and to take their lives to the next level and to provide the #1 local active lifestyle network.

Photos submitted by Mr. Peterson via his friends and family.

New Year: Head to Toe!

We celebrated the New Year while in Florida on a family escape! Our drive from Wisconsin to Florida and back was 3,000+miles. We love to road trip and thankfully beat the ice storm on the way down.

I opened a present early and was able to test them out on the long drive and after a marathon-like day trip to the Magic Kingdom. Hubby bought me my first compression-type item. (Picture: My calf likes its De Soto Compression Recovery socks.) I'm excited to test them out with different variables. So far, I like the squeeze!

I bought a few more things to try in the New Year:
2 beautiful tops from SkirtSports.

For me, it's the year of the bike, so my new pink cycling jersey will get good use! And the blue top has cool tattoo detailing that I am soft for, I had to buy it. I can wear it while leading my weekly Village Bootcamp workout or while picking up the kids from school.

And from SUGOI, I bought this incredible Brand Champions hat! It's called the BC Rocket Cap. I love the colors, design and material. I was surprised how perfectly it came out of the bubble-mailer. For me, the bill was exactly right, no bending necessary. I also like the reflective strip. I have a few other items in mind, but some are sold out, so I'll have to wait.

Questions for You:
- What's new in your New Year?
- Do you have a main tri focus for 2010?

photo credits: by me

Family Escape!

photos:left- sandpipers on Sanibel. center- me right- Cinderella's Castle New Year's Eve

photos: left- Burrowing Owl. Center- pink hibiscus. Right- the boys entering Sanibel.

In addition to triathlon, our family loves many things: including Legos, Star Wars and road trips!
In late December we decided to drive to Florida to see my in-laws and to take a surprise trip to the Magic Kingdom. (3,000+miles RT). The trip started off a bit sour (vomit + car seat.) Ew. But we made it and we eventually purged the nasty flu bug as well.
While it was chilly for Florida, we hit the beach, built sandcastles and enjoyed wearing shorts! And, New Year's Eve at Disney was wonderful! The trip wasn't perfect, but it was memorable.

Questions for You:
- Where is your favorite family escape?
- Are you a hot or cold weather person?
- Road trip or flight?

photo credits: by me

A Bike in Flight! Up Up & Away!

Two years ago triathlete & USAT Coach Lani Diemicke noticed a tiny ad on the fold of Bicycling Magazine’s calendar page.

“The word balloon caught my eye,” says Diemicke. The bicycle and balloon race
held as part of the Warren County Farmers’ Fair in Phillipsburg, N.J., cost each bicyclist $100 with all entry fees donated to charity. The first-place team earned $600. See a slideshow of balloon photos here.

Teams launched out of the Warren County Fair and bicyclists raced back to the Fair. Unless athletes already knew a balloonist, bicyclists were randomly assigned a pilot.

On race morning Diemicke located her pilot then helped the ground crew inflate the balloon. “First the ground crew unfurls the balloon from the storage bag and then spreads it out on the ground,” she says. Then the pilot attaches the balloon to the basket and preps a giant fan to fill the balloon with air.

“Once the balloon is laid out, you hold up part of the balloon so the fan can blow air into the balloon to inflate it,” says Diemicke. “Once the balloon has enough air the pilot uses the burner to heat the air and the balloon goes upright,” she says. The entire process takes 20-30 minutes.

In 2008 the teams raced to inflate, launch, land and return via bike. But in 2009, the FAA revised the rules. The new winning time was the shortest amount from launch until return. “This ensured the pilots didn’t rush during the inflation and launch,” says Diemicke.

With her bike strapped to the outside of the balloon basket (bungee around the handlebars and around the seat post), Diemicke was ready to soar.

“Honestly, I was a little shaky for the first few minutes, probably a combination of the excitement and the adrenaline!” says Diemicke. “I thoroughly enjoyed the flight, took a ton of pictures, and of course kept watching the road.”

The teams had to fly past a certain road before landing. And there were red zones that were off limits for landing (farmers who wouldn’t let you land in their land, corn fields, and soy bean fields.) Wind speed, passenger weight and flying height would determine each balloon’s travel speed.

“After landing, I had to get my bike off the basket, me out of the basket (4.5-feet high walls), get on the road and race back,” she says. “We descended quickly, bounced twice and Tom yelled to get my bike off the basket.”

Unfortunately Diemicke set down in a scrub field. “The bushes were up to my armpits and so thick I could barely push through,” she says. “I hoisted my bike up over my head and trudged through the field not unscathed!”

Scrapes, blood & all Diemicke hit the road. For the remaining miles, Diemicke and another athlete played leapfrog while also juggling flats and dropped chains.

The balloon-bike experience was one of her most fun moments as an athlete. “You can do anything if you want to,” says Diemicke. “I was so excited, but as we lifted off, I suddenly realized I had a fear of heights, or at least a healthy fear of dying. It’s surreal to realize you’re a mile off the ground without a parachute!”

But overall, the ride was a blast she says. “It was beautiful not just to be in the air, but to see so many balloons around you at the same time, to see the lake from the air, people, etc.,” she says.

The balloon race taught Diemicke that pushing herself outside her comfort zone isn’t always something intentional, but sometimes it happens. “I thought this race would be fun, not stressful, but it was both!”

She doesn’t see herself bungee jumping or parachuting in the near future, but says she’s learned to read Bicycling Magazine cover to cover as well as Runner’s World and Triathlete Magazine looking for new tiny blurbs of cool things she doesn’t want to miss.
You may contact Lani Diemicke at wwlani at hotmail dot com.

Questions for You:
- What's something new you'll try in 2010 (Happy New Year!!)?
- Would you go up in a balloon? Heights = good or bad?
- Have you seen the movie Up in the Air? (hello George Clooney!!)

photo credits: Lani Diemicke