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The Path Ahead

Posted by [email protected] on May 11, 2017 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)



After another lengthy hiatus, it's time to start writing again. 2017 started off with a lot of questions… mostly due to how 2016 ended. A very lengthy work commitment this year will shorten the length of the competitive season and spending time with my family before that is my top priority. So to quench my thirst for competition, yet still spend time with the family, we have decided to do a couple of YMCA sprint triathlons together. The first will be with my Dad (& maybe a sister) and the second will be with my Wife and Dad. While those two will be my only triathlons of the season, I do have a couple of other goals in mind.


In June I'll have my annual PT test and I'm gunning for a perfect score. Yep, it's official now that I've put it out in the public forum, I am trying hard to get that 100%. What used to be easy (as in 5 times perfect score easy) has been made very difficult due to my on going back issues and focus on distance running. Fortunately I've been working with a very good team on getting that remedied and have retooled my training away from distance running back to short course running. Getting the mile and a half under 9:12 will be the key to a perfect score. Despite the fact I used to run it in 7:45, 9:12 will be a challenge, but one I'm looking forward to conquering.


Other than those three events, Kate and I may pick up a couple of 5K’s together but if not that's OK too. My focus this year is on strengthening the family bonds, not racing hard. I've come to accept and appreciate that I will not turn pro with triathlon and realistically, will not become a national champion either. What I can be is the best husband to my wife, father to my kids, son to my parents and brother to my siblings. Success there is way more important than any award, ranking, or classification.


All that being said, I will clearly not be doing much “Post Race Reporting” this year. I will however keep blogging and am looking forward to writing about the pending topics. . A big thanks to everybody who has encouraged me to begin writing again, to keep my head up and train hard, and for the support as life changes.


The Off-Season and Beyond

Posted by [email protected] on November 23, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, it’s Thanksgiving and most of us endurance athletes are deeply entrenched in the Off-Season. This is that time of the year when we eat a little more, workout a little (or a LOT ) less and evaluate the year that was and the upcoming year we hope to have. As I’ve written about before, 2016 was not the TRI season I had hoped it would be. It’s now a distant memory and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.


As always, there will be a strong emphasis on functional strength training and a renewed focus on functional mobility and balance. Training aside, I have some big projects in the pipeline to be completed over the next few months.


1st- I’m pumped to be doing my first Product review for publication! I am in the process of testing the new Rudy Project Boost 01 aero road helmet and stacking it up against their more traditional aero helmet, the Wing57. This is HUGE because I was the first person in the US to wear this helmet outside of Kona, HI!


2nd – I’ve been selected as a test athlete for the Pre Season Project (PSP) which is being conducted by the world-wide coaching service TriDot. This program is fully measurable and my information will be stored in a data bank used to assess the importance of specific triathlon training during the offseason, or preseason as they call it.


3rd- I’m conducting an extended trial of the TitanFlex boom-bike, the TF-20. This is a semi-customized bike, built exclusively for me to address the issues with my back. I will be conducting a series of tests and will objectively evaluate the companies guarantee to reduce back pain from riding.



Each of these three projects will get individual blogs, but I wanted to share the announcement of them all here first. Stay tuned as this will prove to be the most exciting offseason yet!

 

2016-The Season that Could Have Been...but WASN'T

Posted by [email protected] on October 29, 2016 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)




As I sit here trying to put my thoughts on this past season to paper, I’m hit with how bad it really was. The goals for the season were as follows:


-Defend the Mid-Ohio YMCA Tri series crown

-PR at the New Moon Half Marathon

-Nail my pacing and nutrition strategies at the inaugural IM70.3 Ohio race

-Get my Westernport Wall Brick at SAVAGEMAN

 

Of those four goals, only one was accomplished and that was the strategy work at IM70.3 Ohio. The back injury prevented me from participating the Y series and the New Moon half. Later in the season, the combination of getting rear-ended (& the subsequent back spasms) two weeks before and a death in the family prevented us from traveling to Maryland for SavageMan. Back in January I really thought this was going to be a nearly perfect season. Obviously that wasn’t to be the case. Looking back on things, where did it all go awry and was there anything that could have been done before or while the “wheels were coming off” to salvage the season?

 

As I’ve written about before, I got started three months late with my tri specific training. I always get back to it in January, but this year I held off until March. The reason being, I wanted to spend more time with my wife and baby. Training for Beach2Battlship took a lot of time in 2015 and I was trying to make up for the missed time. Another factor involving the baby most likely contributed to the reoccurrence and severity. Prior to Henry’s birth I participated in four to five yoga/Pilates classes per week. After his birth…ZERO. That massive drop-off in participation led to a decrease in both functional flexibility and core strength.

 

The late start pushed me to train too hard, too quickly, which pushed me right into overtraining. The lack of strength and accumulated fatigued opened the door for the back to re-flair, which caused more missed time. In the end, I think July10-Sept 1 was the only timeframe where my training was on track. Meeting with Lauren Vallee and Jimmy Fryer (check my previous posts) helped, but by then it was just damage control. After Rev3CP we found out about the dying family member and decided it was time to pull the plug on this season. Prior to that news I was still determined to fight through the back spasms and become a SAVAGEMAN.

 

It was a tough year-physically, emotionally and psychologically. I’ve been very fortunate to have a strong family support network and we got through it together. A huge thanks goes out to Kate, Henry, my Sisters, Parents, and Grandparents for getting through this season with me. Stay tuned for the next post as things are looking up for both this off-season and next season.

 

Regaining Shape with The Human Form (Part 3)

Posted by [email protected] on June 27, 2016 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

As we continue in the series of being a professional, I'm going to stick with the theme of strategic partnerships. This week I had the opportunity to team up with James Fryer of The Human Form Fitness (http://humanformfitness.com/). This place is more than just a gym or somewhere for personal training. This is a holistic studio where biomechanical imbalances and issues of all types are corrected. Athletes are always looking for ways to train harder, go longer and get stronger, but few of them truly take a look at what's going on inside the body. Fortunately the staff at THF does that for us.


 

 

I went to THF for two purposes: first to figure out a way to fix my ongoing back issues without surgery and secondly to correct muscular imbalances. Going in to the appointment I was an open slate. Leaving, I was chock-full of knowledge both about my strengths and more importantly my weaknesses. As with everything else; knowledge is power!


 

 

Over the course of our two hour appointment Jimmy put me through a complete battery of tests. Looking at everything from balance and strength to postural alignment and lateral stability, nothing went untested. I thought that I was solid in all of those areas and the back injury was my only weakness. I was dead wrong! As it turns out, my only strength was balance! I failed or only marginally passed all the other assessments. The big shocker was that I have next to no lateral stability and very poor core strength. As James put it “from the outside you look like a Porsche, but on the inside you’re a Prius.” He was saying esthetically I look solid and strong, but with the “inside core” I was very weak. I was reeling, but the tests were hands-on and sure enough, my core was failing. This was the kind of wake-up call I needed.


 

Over the next couple of months I’ll be specifically strength training using the protocols prescribed by Jimmy. He is very confident that the back will be fixed by strengthening my internal core, including my diaphragm and increasing my back and hip flexibility. Another goal we have is to balance my muscles. My quads are fiercely strong, but the hamstrings are wildly underdeveloped. By correcting all these issues I’ll be primed for my late season goals and be in a much better position for long term success.


 

A long term relationship with The Human Form Fitness will take any athlete from GOOD to GREAT and that is why this strategic partnership is vital for continued success.

 

Partnering with Coach LU and Base Tri Fitness (Part 2)

Posted by [email protected] on June 18, 2016 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (1)

To kick this series off, I’m going to talk about a few strategic partnerships that would be necessary in my quest for the podium on the grandest scale. Whoa, wait, what? Are we talking about triathlon or writing a paper on military foreign policy? There are several lengthy and complicated definitions of strategic partnerships, but I’ll break it down in its simplest form: A partnership with great possibilities for mutual gain without being legally bound by contracts. That being said, we will dive into the first one and you’ll quickly understand why these partnerships are needed for any endeavor, but especially in striving for professional results.



 

I’ve written before about Lauren Updyke (pictured below) and her coaching business, Base Tri Fitness (http://basetrifitness.com/). Until recently we’ve never worked together in the paid professional sense. I’ve bounced questions off of her and she has graciously provided answers worth their weight in gold. As this season has been slowed by injury and illness I knew it was time to get help from her again. In addition to her one-on-one coaching, Lauren offers a great hourly consulting service. The latter is what I used because I already had a plan in place… it just required A LOT of tweaking. Having not had a face-to-face conversation since our days of swimming with COTT, I was a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect. As soon as I sat down she put me at ease and we were chatting like old friends.



 

Right away Lauren asked me what my ultimate pie-in-the-sky goal was. To which I replied, “going pro in triathlon.” She quickly followed up with, “to win races or just to say you’re a pro?” That question was exactly what I needed to hear because it should me two things. First; that I needed to not only have a surface goal, but also a well-thought out goal. The second thing this showed me was that Lauren actually cared enough to make me think and to challenge me.


 

As we talked she dove into my racing and more importantly injury history to paint a picture of recovery and one that will result in a strong finish at SavageMan in September. After looking at my existing plan we decided it was most important to put an increased focus on my swim and decrease my weekly runs, both in the number of runs and duration to protect the back. Next she gave me some resources to increase my flexibility and to strengthen the injured area. Additionally we talked about the need to stretch after fire runs at work, lactate threshold testing, race courses that would most suit my style and many other things.


 

In parting,Lauren put things back in perspective by reminding me that all athletes get hurt and experience downtimes and that this injury may have prevented me from causing permanent damage had I continued training without the break. This session was absolutely worth the money and as I continue to grow in the sport and in pursuit of my TRI goals Lauren and Base Tri Fitness will be with me every step of the way.



 

If I were a professional??? (Part 1)

Posted by [email protected] on June 12, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

When I first got in the endurance world, I had visions of grandeur. Seeing professional cyclists and triathletes conquering some of the toughest courses in the world seemed like the ultimate profession to me. Listening to these athletes during interviews talk about how hard work got them to where they are got me thinking about where I could be with that same amount of hard work. Many of them mentioned that they were never the fastest, strongest or most genetically gifted, but years of consistent training with the right support network molded them into the champions they are now. Fast forward six years and I've realized that despite the hard work you do still need a little bit of genetic blessing, good luck, and ideal circumstances to break into a professional ranks.

 

All of that being said, I have not PUT in the amount of training work needed to reach that level nor am I willing to sacrifice my family or careers to attain that level of success. In my heart of hearts however, I still fantasize about what life would be like as a professional endurance athlete. Over the next few weeks I'm going to put out a miniseries about how I envision life as a professional. Topics will include things like my ideal race season, sponsorships, and hopefully I'll be able to score a couple of interviews with professionals and coaches. Stay tuned and we’ll make it happen.


*This is being written as though I would be a pro triathlete in addition to being a firefighter and a member of the Air National Guard.

**The photo is 6x Wildflower Champios Jesse Thomas...not me (rokasports.com)



 

Y I Tri?

Posted by [email protected] on May 24, 2016 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)



Memorial Day weekend is rapidly approaching and that means different things to different people: time for yard work, picnics & family time, parades and of-course remembering our Uniformed Services members who have passed on. Yet to another group of people it signals the start of something…The YMCA’s of Mid-Ohio Triathlon Series!!!


This weekend, the Bucyrus YMCA will kick off the series with their annual triathlon. I believe this is the 23rd year of the race, which makes it one of the longest running in Ohio! It’s always been a great event and I’m bummed that a work conflict will prevent me from defending my title there on Saturday.


After some time off, the series will resume in July with both Galion and Shelby hosting their races. The Galion Y will be offering a shorter swim and a completely redesigned bike course, both of which will make this race even better than last year. This is the first season Shelby will be joining the series and I’m looking forward to racing there after hearing good things about their previous races. August will close out the series in Marion. Last year they changed the bike course, which added a new challenge to the event. Unfortunately I was unable to “3-peat” win there, but am hoping to regain my title in 2016.


Some of my “Tri-Snob” friends ask why I “waste my time at those small Y races” and the answers come easily. (1) I grew up in the Y system and I believe in their mission statements, core values and standards. Each YMCA gives back to their communities through their programs & events and the race entry fees help with that. (2) These races are great for beginners and I LOVE helping new people in this sport. There are a lot of questions for a new triathlete and being able to answer them is worth it to me. (3) I’ve been fortunate to win a few times over the years, but these races bring out some great competition. Last year a great 3-way rivalry was formed between myself and two other guys and it’s awesome pushing each other to be better than the last time we raced.


The list goes on and on, but I’ll stop it there. I encourage everybody, regardless of skill level to come out and “TRI” any or all of these races. The dates and locations are as follows:


28 May – Bucyrus

2 July - Galion

23 July- Shelby

13 August- Marion

Sidelined with an Injury

Posted by [email protected] on April 25, 2016 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)



As mentioned in a previous post, my training started much later than expected this year. The combination of an increased focus on the strength aspects of our sport and the desire to spend more time with the family stopped me from launching myself fully in the endurance field. I didn't really begin my training until the second week of February when I return home from a business trip but once I did, it felt good and I knew I wasn't too far behind. However about two weeks later disaster struck and an old injury flared up, completely derailing my training. After a couple weeks of taking it easy, the injury got worse and I knew it was time to seek medical attention.

 

For this injury I opted to see a new specialist after having gotten several referrals from friends that are both athletes and experts in the field. It was determined that I was in severe spinal compression and the spacing between my sacral and lumbar spine was practically nonexistent. The doctor said the only way to get better was to completely stop lifting, running and doing anything else that resulted in impact on my spine. As devastating as that was, I was still hopeful that my cycling and swimming training would stay on track. However in the pool my back was consistently sore and I couldn’t push myself hard enough for any gains.. I'm not sure if it was the flip turns or pushing off the wall or just maintaining a straight spine. All I could do was cycle.

 

Rather than following my prescribed workouts on the bike I switched to the Spinervals DVD series to fully capitalize on the exclusive cycling time. The workouts were right around an hour apiece (with the exception of the “Have Mercy’ workouts) and I was doing three to four of them per week. This was a great opportunity for me to really focus in on my cycling skills and technique while also allowing Coach Troy to strengthen my heart and lungs immensely. Despite the gains that were made on the bike, the setback with swimming running and strength really caused a devastating blow to my psyche.

 

Injuries of any level are incredibly damaging to an athletes mental state. We can endure hard workouts, tough losses and minor injuries but when we are completely sideline for a period of 3 to 5 weeks it's really tough to bounce back and this was no different.

 

Initially I began to question if this season would happen at all due to the pain and numbness in my legs and back. After a lot of traction and continued treatments with the chiropractor things began to get better I've got my head on straight. That being said, the training that was missed can never be regained. I can build from here and get faster and stronger in all three disciplines, however my fitness level will not be the same as it would have been had the injury not occurred at all.

 

Taking all things into account, it's time to readjust my schedule. Between the races I've signed up for and the timing between them, this was close to being my dream season as an amateur athlete. This injury has caused me to write off the early parts of the season and focus more on my goals in the late-summer, early-fall timeframe. I will still run a half marathon in May, but that will be nothing more than a competitive training day for me. I'll use that to gauge my running fitness, but will not allow my competitive nature to completely take over and potentially caused the injury to inflame.

 

By being smart and focusing on good technique at all times, while continuing to build up the core and seeking regular treatment, the season will not be a total loss. I have a great support network with my friends and family and I know they will be with me every step of the way.

 

Getting Back in the Saddle

Posted by [email protected] on February 15, 2016 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)


The offseason has come and gone. It’s time to dust off the goggles, tri-bike and running shoes. After Beach2Battleship I continued to swim, bike and run for two weeks…at low intensities and with greatly reduced volume. Even though I felt great in the hours and days after the race, I knew continuing movement in those three disciplines would promote healing and recovery; both mental and physical. After those two weeks, TJGribbleRacing went into full-blown R & R mode.


In years past, I’ve taken one to two weeks “off’ before beginning my official off-season training plan. Typically that plan primarily consisted of strength training, road & mountain biking, and trail running; with a declining emphasis on strength (i.e.-more strength training early on and it declines as the off-season closes). Not the case this year. I eased into the strength training around week four, but continued to steer clear of any SBR (Swim, bike, run) activities. There were moments when my heart wanted to ride, but when it came time, the motivation went right out the window. There was NO excitement for any of the triathlon elements…none, zilch, ZERO!!!


Fearing something was wrong, I contacted a very accomplished and educated local expert. Lauren Updyke is the owner and lead coach for Base Tri Fitness and a 10+ year veteran of the sport. Not being a client of hers (Hopefully one day), I felt bad asking for her advice and wasn’t sure if she’d reply. Within minutes of sending the message, she replied and set my mind at ease. She assured me this was normal and urged me to TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS NEEDED to recharge. Lauren is great and I didn’t doubt her sage advice for a second.


Now it’s February and time to get back in the saddle. The strength training has been great with PR’s in both deadlift and front squat (including my time as a football player), but the race season is just around the corner and it’s time to start TRIing again. I’m feeling mentally & physically refreshed and ready to rock!

 

A Dying Breed: Independent Triathlons

Posted by [email protected] on November 19, 2015 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (1)

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. On October 27th Ironman Press released a statement informing the world that they had acquired the iconic and longest running 140.6 tri in the lower 48; VINEMAN. That race had been around since 1990 and was a long-time fan favorite and bucket lister. Due to increasing demand for Ironman branded races and the quest for Kona, Vineman fell from favor and the numbers have dropped dramatically over the past five years. This has been an unfortunate trend for several races and the fall of Vineman just goes to show that no race is safe from being swallowed up (or rescued) by the M-Dot. A couple other races that fell victim to this fate are Silverman and the LEADMAN Epic 250K.


(Logos from LEADMAN Epic 250K, Silverman, and Vineman)


This past October I had the great pleasure of racing the PPD Beach2Battleship 140.6. This race has won several awards including “Best New Race,” “Top 5 U.S. Races,” and “Best Volunteers.” The event itself was comprised of both a half and full iron and 2000 athletes participate annually. The price is great, coming in around $400 for the full and you don’t have a 60 second window to register. The volunteers were great, the course was beautiful, the swag was unique and the total experience was perfect for my first full. Several other races like Wildflower and Savageman offer equally unique experiences, but get over looked because you don’t qualify for Kona by racing there.


I have nothing against the Ironman brand. This year I will be racing IM 70.3 Ohio and have several IM races on my bucket list. The brand has done great things for the sport of triathlon on a global scale and will continue to do so. My fear however, is that if all the independent races fall by the wayside, the quality of races will deteriorate; the more competition between the brands the better. Additionally, new athletes are turned off by the $700 price tag of the big events and won’t dabble in triathlon because they only know of the IM brand. We as athletes need to protect our heritage and secure our future by supporting independent races (Wildflower/Savageman/Beach2Battleship) and smaller brands (Rev3/HFP/Tri Cal) as well as the big boys (IM/Challenge Family).