One week down, 19 to go!

1 Jun

I can’t honestly remember that last time I put in a full week of training. But this past week changed that. With only 20 weeks until Ironman Louisville I knew I had to make some changes.

There were constant mental battles to talk myself into actually doing the workouts. Each session felt like it was the first time I had ever done it, which was probably the most frustrating part. It was only two months ago that I suffered though nearly 8 hours on the Ironman Oceanside 70.3 course. It hurt both physically and emotionally knowing that I was capable of finishing over an hour faster than that… when I had trained.

Weight-loss was a bit of a yo-yo but ended on a good note with me dropping 2.7lbs for the week.

Week One Weigh-in - Withings Dashboard

Week One Weigh-in – Withings Dashboard

I’ve cut out a lot of beer (which is hard when you’re opening a brewery) and been very conscious of what I’m eating and when. I’m opting against calorie counting and instead focusing on the quality of my meals & snacks as well as the portion sizes. I’ve been using my juicer a lot too which is a habit I’m happy to get back into.

Today is a rest day but I plan on doing a LOT of foam rolling with my Trigger Point Therapy tools and a little bit of strength training with the TRX straps.

My body hurts today so I don’t want to over do it, but I am concerned about not training because it’s very easy for me roll a rest day into a rest week.

Tomorrow I’m back in the pool for an easy swim & on the bike for an interval session. While Ironman Louisville is still 19 weeks away, my next race is only 2 weeks away when I’ll see how my body feels on the Lake in the Hills Sprint Triathlon course.

Here is a short (and very rough) 45 second recap of the weeks training.

20 Weeks Week 1 from Phil Castello on Vimeo.

Happy Training.

20 Weeks

26 May

It’s exactly 20 weeks until IM Louisville and the only shape I’m in is round.

So once again it’s time to get my ass in gear. IM Louisville will be my 3rd Ironman and I’m well aware of the work that needs to be done to finish without regretting toeing the line.

For the next 20 week the focus on this blog will be training, weight-loss and prep races.


All of my weight and body fat data will be tracked using the Withings Smart Body Analyzer, Pulse and Withings iPhone app.

Here is where we start:

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 10.02.57 AM

Screenshot of my Withings Dashboard


It’s not pretty.

In all fairness, I haven’t really been trying… at all (am actually eating nachos while I’m writing).

But it’s now or never. I know how bad it feels to suffer through an Ironman or half Ironman. It sucks, hurts, and nothing about the races feels good afterwards.

What is the goal of all this?

To drop 50 lbs and finish IM Louisville in 15:12:00 or better.

Follow along then next 20 weeks for blogs, videos and probably some giveaways as I aim to be #20WeeksFit.

Find my Race Calendar Here.

Southwest & TSA take no responsibility when flying a bike

2 Apr IMG_0565.JPG

In my most recent race report I mentioned how the frame of my bike came home cracked in 2 places thanks to the negligence of Southwest Airlines and TSA.

I know I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but apparently neither company will take any responsibility for the handling & damage of the bike.

Southwest claims that since the bike case itself wasn’t broken, then then they can’t be responsible for what’s inside. They attempted to back up their claim by saying that is was TSA who opened the box, not Southwest.

But who did I turn the box over to when checking in? And who charged me a $75 fee to travel with the case? I understand the fault doesn’t rely solely on Southwest, but you can’t honestly tell me no have NO responsibility.

Unfortunately they most communication I’ve had with either company has been through Twitter. Here is my exchange with Southwest.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.31.32 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.31.42 AM

Thanks, but a voucher will not replace this bike.

I’ve also been trying to deal with TSA. The phone number I was given on the inspection notice they left in the bike box won’t get you to a live person. Instead callers are directed through a series of “informational” recordings. The only option was to file a very lengthy and tedious claim form and submit it via mail, fax or email.

Once sent, the end result is that someone might get back to you in the next 30 days. (Southwest had a similar 30 day response time).

That amount of lag time seems excessive. I guess 30 days would be ok if they had lost my luggage containing my favorite pair of jeans, cause odds are I have other pants. Unfortunately I only have one bike I can train for and race triathlons on. So I’m up shit creek, with three more races scheduled.

I did also tweet the TSA, which is the only reason I’ve gotten any information from them. Their response based on one photo they saw on twitter was that it appeared the damage was done in transit, therefore they were not responsible. Here is my exchange with TSA:

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.31.04 AM

In reality what happened was that Southwest took the box, TSA intercepted, opened and inspected. But when the repacked they box they just shoved all the parts in the box and tightened them down causing the frame to crack.

Who is responsible for this?

IM Oceanside 70.3 didn’t completely backfire. But it was close!

31 Mar

Welp… Once again I decided to start a big race with very little taining. I remember nearly a year ago discussing this race with Adam. He was giving me the usual hard time to register and meet him in San Diego for another 70.3.

While we were arguing about discussing the details I was actully sitting on my bike doing a trainer ride. So I was motiviated to train and race… or so I thought. But somehow I lost that motivation throughout the course of the year and opted to be fat(ter) and lazy(ier). 

I would do the occasional trainer ride, or maybe swim, but I did ver little. I hardly ran at all. Around Christmas I remember saying “I think I might sit this one out.”

Adam wasn’t having it.

I kept that mentality through January, when, the night before I was going to run the Disney Marathon (mostly untrained), I got a text from Adam wishing me good luck. He said he was so confident I was going to do well that he had a surprise for me. The next text was a screen shot of my flight confirmation.

He booked my ticket so I couldn’t back out.

I still didn’t put much effort into training. And as if being out of shae wasn’t enough, I hurt my back two days before flying out there… So this race had the foundation a be a disaster. 

 So here we were in March, and I was flying into San Diego.

I was still excited, becuase, as much as I dislike training, I really do love racing.

I flew in Thursday and met up with Adam who had been there for about a week already. We kept the day pretty low key, just hanging out, eating and drinking.

Friday was a little more serious. We put our bikes together and went for a short ride to make sure everything was in working order. After a few deraluer tweeks and some help from a local bike shop, we were headed to packet-pickup and bike dropoff. 

It was an early call Saturday morning. Our waves were 40 minutes apart with me going first about 7am. Transition seemed to be a mess. But what ever, I was dressed and ready to go.

This was a wet start, meaning you had 3 minutes to swim to the start bouy to wait for you wave to go off. The whole swim course was covered in ver dense fog. You couldn’t see the bouys until you were right on top of them. 

Before I knew it they made the call “30-34 Men get in the water!”

I walked down the ramp, dove in and BOOM it hit me… I had a MAJOR panic attack! I tried to ignore it and just swim to the start, but I couldn’t breathe. I kept turining my head, but couldn’t inhale.

I made it to the start and tried to calm down. While it was happening I knew it was stupid. I kept taking deep breather while treading water.

“90 Seconds!”

It’s going to be fine I kept thinking, once the horn goes off I’ll be ready to go. 


I was off… No I wasn’t… I still couldn’t breathe. I kept trying to justify the issue. Was the water too cold? No it was 70. Am I too fat for this wetsuit and it’s squeezing the life out of me? No… Well maybe, but I don’t think so. Is it the fucking fog? 

I swam (if you want to call it that) to the first bouy to try and get my self together. The look on my face must have been awful because a rescue paddle board came to assit. After a couple minutes of trying to escape y own head, I got back out on the course and did some conglomeration of freestyle breat stroke and god only know what else. 

About half way though the swim I got back to normal and began swimming as if I had done this before. The fog was still very dense and I ended up getting way off course. It was hard to tell where exactly I was on the course. I kept swimming and trying to sight until I nearly swam PAST the swim out ramp. 

Excellent I was out of the water. Now it’s on to the bike!

If you look back at my races, I always do the best on the bike course. My back didn’t seem to be a big issue so I was hoping to make up an signifigant amount of time. 

I hammered away and was holding 17mph. Not flying but good enough for today. About 20ish miles in we cam the the first climb of the ride. I wasn’t terribly long, but it was steep. It wasn’t more that a 1/4th of the way up I got out of the saddle and tried to power up. But once I stood up, my low back injury kicked in. I stopped for about 15 seconds and went at it again. I continued with these little 15 second rests until I got to the top. I refused to join the group who dismounted and walked their bikes up.

It took a bit for the bakc spasm to go away and I definately lost a lot of time becuase of it. I again tried to make up time but It just wasn’t happening. The 2nd and thrid climbs followed the same plan, climb until it hurt too much then rest for 15 seconds. Finally I was approaching mile 50, just 6 more to go before I’m on to the run.

Out of the corner of my eye I see I’m getting passed again. Since my average speed was only 15mph It’s not surprising. What was surprising was that the athlete passing me was Adam. He was flying! I yelled some four letter words of encouragement but he didn’t hear me. And trying to hammer to catch up wasn’t working either. 

Eventually I finished the final 6 miles of the ride and I was off and running… Well jogging. My back didn’t like that run so much either. There were few large inclines up pedestrian ramps that really made me engage my low back and caused a lot of pain. 

Overall the run was pretty un eventful. It was more of a mental game, telling myself that I could push and be done sooner or walk and drag this disaster out for a longer period of time. It was a run/walk combo for most of the run. Adam and I passed each other a few times, which was cool. And I even saw Fireman Rob a couple times. 

Finally I had hit the home stretch. Running along the beach with the finish line off in the distance was excellent. Overall It was a fun race, but I was glad to be done. We hung around the post race party for a bit before getting cleaning up and going back out for more fish tacos and beer.

What is nice about the 70.3 distance is that even after having a very slow race, there is still time to enjoy the rest of the day. We spent the later part of the night packing, dissassembling bikes and ordering late night Domino’s pizza.

I flew back late on Sunday and pretty much had just enough energy to drag my carcas to bed. Monday afternoon I started sorting my gear and re-assembling my bike, which became a huge problem.

When I opened the bike case I found a note from TSA saying they opened my bike box for screening. The issue became that they didn’t repack it correctly. All of the parts were just shoved back inside and tightened down. Becuase of the negligence of Southwest Air and the TSA I have 2 fairly large cracks in the frame of my bike.

Southwest was my first call. Theire customer service person right away said they weren’t responsible, the issue was with TSA. My argument to her was that I released the bike to the Southwest desk, so they have the responsibility to make sure bags are handled correctly. She ended up taking a report and filing a claim. 

Next I called TSA. Who (by recorded message) told me to fill out a very lengthy form online.

In both cases I guess I just have to wait the estimated 30 days to see how they plan on handeling this. Just based off some photos, I was already quoted over $1,000 to repair the bike and that is a best case sceneario because of the location of the cracks.

So now we wait.

I have to say that this does make me think twice about traveling with my bike again.

Disney Marathon Race Report

18 Jan

It’s been a while since I ran, trained, raced or blogged. So this week I attempted to remedy all of that.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.07.28 AMWaaaaaaaay back in April (I think) I registered for the Disney Marathon. Other than making travel and dinner reservations, that was probably the last time I thought about the race.

I was really excited for it, but had no motivation to train. My longest run all year was maybe 7 miles, and that was in the summer. I put on a lot of weight, skipped any type of race prep and just didn’t care.

That is until the race came around.

I had low expectations. Lots of walking was the plan, and according to Disney’s athlete guide, I needed a 16 minute mile to finish the race. That sounded easy enough… Right?

The only nutrition I brought on race day was a package of gummi worms. I was really hoping there would still be some Clif Shots available on course by the time I got that far.

Weather-wise it was perfect. It was about 50 degrees when I got to Epcot and the high was expected to be in the low 70’s. There was an hour+ wait from the race start until my corral started. When the fireworks went off I started at a slow jog.

2015-01-11 06.20.08

I forgot my Garmin, so I was relying on Strava for iPhone to track my run. Essentially I ran nude, since I didn’t really monitor my pace though out the race.

I felt good jogging and kept pushing my “walk” mile back. I was going to run 3 miles and walk one. Instead I ran 11 miles (slowly) until I took a walk break.

2015-01-11 09.15.30Between miles 12 and 13 as the course ran through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I stopped for a bathroom break. As I exited I noticed several runners jogging into the line for The Expedition Everest. After a quick time check and realizing I was well ahead of my schedule, resting my legs on a roller coaster sounded like a great idea.

I partied my way through the next few miles, singing and dancing with the on course entertainment. 

Then the course headed into Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports and it sucked all the momentum out of the run.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.16.19 AM

Maybe it was the little rain shower, or that running through an empty sports campus and around a mostly empty baseball field just wasn’t any fun. But what ever the reason, miles 17-20 were painful.

There was 6 miles and 2 more parks ahead of me and I felt great. I ran another couple of miles before the traffic jams set in. I remember the last few miles of Disney’s Wine & Dine 1/2 being the same way. 25,000 runners are sharing a very narrow walking path through the Disney Resorts and into Epcot. It was frustrating.

Eventually the course opened up on Disney’s Boardwalk and into Epcot’s World Showcase. It was torture to smell all of the food cooking in each country as I ran to the finish. The only answer was to pickup the pace and finish.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 11.16.34 AM

The crowds were great leading up to the finish and running around the iconic Spaceship Earth ball. Then before I knew it thr race was over. With a time of 6:21 I finished another marathon.

It was such a fun day and time to celebrate all of our accomplishments.

My kids ran a 100 & 200 yard dash, my wife & her sister did the 1/2 marathon, so everyone had something to be proud of!

10868120_10153014204063838_1822514820259619739_n 2015-01-11 18.29.49

And what a better way to celebrate than with fried food and beer

After finishing the race I thought about how well I could have done had I actually trained. Oceanside 70.3 is in 10 weeks, so I have a lot of work to do!

This weekend I’m putting my half Ironman training plan together, and I’ll post about it later.

An unexpected PR

29 Jul

A normal person would train diligently, focusing on improving weak spots in their race plan. A normal person knows which discipline has the most flaws, and designs their race in such a way that everything is seamless. 

I’m far from normal. Anyone who knows me (or has ever read this blog) could tell you that. Which is why, after a year of no training, coming off one of the most painful races I could ever imagine, I decided “hey why don’t I register for a race 2 weeks away.”

To be fair, the Wauconda Triathlon starts a mile from my front door… and I registered for a sprint, hoping it would be an extra kick in the ass to get moving and back in shape… And I think it worked.

I’ve only raced two other sprints. They were both in Lake in the Hills, I had been woking with a coach for one and somewhat following a training plan for the other. Needless to say I was in better shape.

Outside of being more rotund and un trained, for this race the only other big difference to me was the bike I was riding. In both of the past sprints I was riding the Felt DA4 tri bike. However this time around I was on my Trek Madone 4.5 road bike, no aero bars.

Like every other tri I focus on finishing the swim… If I finish and feel good thats a bonus, but priority #1 is GET OUT OF THE WATER. Sunday at the Wauconda Sprint tri this was no exception and my time proved that…. just over 19 mins, yeesh!

On to the bike. I had no expectations for this race, which helped I think. It was a 14+ mile loop around Wauconda. Mostly smooth roads with a few hills thrown in for good measure. I was moving along this route! I averaged 18mph though the bike course and it felt like I wasn’t trying!

So good news, my biking fitness hasn’t completely deteriorated!

Bring on the Run!

My legs felt fine, and it was only a 5k so at least it would be over fast…. well, fast enough. The route looped right though my neighborhood, which was great cause my wife and kids could come to the end of the block and cheer me on!

I held a 10:30/pace for the 5k. Not super human speeds, but again not bad for not training. I wasn’t paying any attention to my overall time. That is, until I approached the finish line. I stopped my Garmin and thought to myself… “I’m pretty sure this was a sprint distance PR.”

Nah, it couldn’t be.

While packing up my transition area I looked up past race results, and sure enough it was a PR by 1:22! Hey not bad for a fat guy!

Obviously this was a fluke. I’m not sure if the wind was behind me the whole time or maybe Wauconda is mostly down hill… but what ever it was, I’ll take it!

Now the real work starts. Lets see what else I can PR!

Making lemonade

21 Jul

The pool I go to has the WORST lap swim schedule on the planet.

My plan was to take my kids to the play center while I did a swim workout. But to my surprise, there was no lap swim between the hours of 11 & 2 because of summer camps & swimming lesson.

So there went the swim for today.

However, I figured out a way to sneak ride in.


It’s the “Outdoor Movie Picnic Lunch Ride”

The kids can eat, be outside & have lunch… All while dad sweats his ass off.

It’s not perfect, but it’s done!

The wrong kind of PR

20 Jul

It’s been so long since I’ve been on this site, that I forgot my password to login!

I’ve been busy.

Since when is that a valid excuse for not working out? … It’s not. But that hasn’t stopped me from using it for the last year.

Between working on my startup RentSpek, working part time at CBS2 Chicago and filling my remaining time with my family, I felt too busy. The reality is that I’ve had all that responsibility and sometimes more for every race I’ve ever trained for… What was missing in the personal accountability to actually DO the workouts.

And because of that lack of motivation, I put on about 30lbs. And while we’re at it, let’s be honest… I was about 20lbs overweight before that.

At the tipping point I was 220, a new PR. When I raced Michigan Titanium ’13 I was 199, and I hadn’t trained for that race!

So now it’s time to go backwards, get back into shape and race. I signed up for 2 marathons this fall that I haven’t really been focused on training for. Luckily I still have about 3 months until the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

This will be my third 26.2 mile run through the city. However I think my goal of 5 hours or less is a longshot.

Almost exactly 3 months after CM14, I head to Orlando for the Disney World Marathon in January. This should be a fun race, my wife is going to run the Disney 1/2 Marathon and my kids will be in the 100 & 200 yard dash.

After running with Mickey & Friends I’ll head to California in March for Ironman Oceanside 70.3. This is the biggest event I’ve finalized on my schedule. I’m racing with my buddy Adam again, just like we did at Mooseman 70.3 in 2011 and Ironman Wisconsin in 2012.

Finally I’m looking at Ironman Louisville in August 2015. Sure it’s more than a year away, but I’ll need at least that much time to get my ass in gear.

They’re lofty goals for someone who hasn’t thought about training in a year, but they’re all attainable.

As I get moving toward the Chicago Marathon, the next step is to find a training plan that I can stick with and MAKING the time to fit it all in.

Here we go again.

To 70.3 or not? That is the question.

16 Feb

I was planning on on having an “A” race this year.

After three 70.3’s, a couple Olympics and IMWI in 2012 I was pumped to tackle another big year of races in 2013. The problem was, I wasn’t al that interested in training.

I skated by eventually finishing MiTi 10-15 lbs heavier and with only 20 mins before cutoff, hobbling away from that race feeling like I had been hit by a car. I followed up that race with the Disney Wine & Dine 1/2 Marathon which was a suffer-fest.

I decided to take 2014 off completely. Maybe a break was needed (not that I had worked that hard anyway).

Now for the dilemma.

I found out I’m going be in Sawyer Michigan the weekend of Ironman Steelhead in August. I have wanted to do that race since I started doing Tri. I really pushed Adam to do it as our first race, but ultimately lost our bet & ended up doing Mooseman.

I’m conflicted on registering. On one hand I’ll be RIGHT THERE. On the other I’m worried I won’t stay dedicated enough to train and it’ll be a disaster.

What to do?!

My Pros & Cons list seems more like a conflicting pile of excuses. For example:

PRO: I was going to bring my bike to Michigan that weekend anyway.
CON: I don’t have a Tri bike anymore, so I’ll be riding a Madone 4.5 Road Bike.

PRO: I already have accommodations set up 20 mins from the course.
CON: The house we’re renting is being shared with 5 other families, all with kids 6 years to 4 months old.

While my excuses cons are valid, they’re really not anything worse than I’ve dealt with in the past.

As a precaution I set up a coaching account with Optimized Training Labs again. Regardless on if I race or not, dropping all the weight I’ve put on since last summer is probably a good idea.

Steelhead most likely won’t sellout, so I can register late if I decided to race.

What would you do?

P.S. Adam has been hounding me to do St. George, which I have repeatedly said no to. So Adam, there is no need to answer the question above with anything involving St. George or Las Vegas!

The House That Built RentSpek

15 Jan

About three years ago, my wife and I moved out of the 1 bedroom condo we own in Chicago’s South Loop into a house because we needed more space.

We had 2 big dogs and an 8 month old son, so our 915 sqft wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Searching for a house to rent was harder than I expected. We both worked full time, some odd hours and with the baby it was difficult to get us all out to the suburbs.

We ended up touring houses one at a time. If Tracy had the morning off, she would schedule an early showing. On weekends I would see as many places as I could.

The downside was there just wasn’t much time. There were a couple places we lost because we couldn’t act quick enough. But in the end we found a place that would do.

It was a cute Tudor style house in Des Plaines. The biggest selling point for us was its proximity to the Hospital Tracy worked at and the train I would need to take into the city.

The house itself was ok. It seemed sturdy, but outdated. The key for us was space. There was lots of space. Tracy and seen the house once and I had driven past it once. It was too difficult to arrange another showing with the Landlord.

With time running out because we had a tenant set to move into our condo, we pulled the trigger and rented the house.

In the first month the issues began. Water started pouring out of the ceiling from the bathtub upstairs down into the kitchen. Upon inspection from a plumber it wasn’t the first time this had happened. He pointed out some sagging in the kitchen ceiling. I never would have thought to look for that.

As through the Fall we had rain water coming down the walls where an addition and been put on the house about 20 years ago. Because of the dark wood in the room it was hard to see water stains there if you weren’t looking for them.

The winter was rough. With the thermostat set at 90* we still had to have fires in the fire place and space heaters in all the rooms to even keep the place slightly hot. My gas bill was $700 in the cold months.

By the spring all we kept talking about was wanting to move out of that house. But we hadn’t seen the worst of it yet. There was a raccoon nesting in the attic. It used a window that didn’t have a latch to get in & out.

Tracy developed a cough that was attributed to asthma. It wasn’t until a storm flooded the basement with inches of water that we thought maybe the asthma was from mold.

Sure enough, the whole basement had to be ripped out and mold remediation done.

This house was a nightmare.

I kept thinking, why isn’t there a better way to inspect rental property before you’re locked into a lease!?

That’s where RentSpek came from.Spek Screen

I started to study home inspections, talk to inspectors and researched things like the life of appliances and utilities to determine what is important to someone living in a house or apartment short term.

By using a patent pending method of inspection and a proprietary scoring system, we developed a way for anyone to grade an apartment for rent or rental home the first time they visit the property.

We launched in November 2013. Each month our users grew by well over 50%. We have an iPhone and Android app in development that we plan to launch the end of this month.

We are so close to getting the RentSpek app out to the public. But with our users growing so fast, we’re having a hard time keeping up. In order to meet out demand, we launched a Crowdfunding Campaign on IndieGoGo. If we can raise $2200 in the next 10 days, we can get this app done and into the hands of the people who need it.

RentSpek is a free tool for people to use. It’s designed to offer renters more transparency when searching for a new place. Stop taking the. Landlords word for it. With RentSpek you’ll know the quality of the property in 20 minutes or less.

If we had this app when Tracy and I were looking for out first rental house, we would have avoided all of the problems we had that year.

If you can contribute to our IndieGoGo Campaign click here.


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