An unexpected PR

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

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

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.

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

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.


Why my startup would never leave Chicago.

“Please no more California songs…. And fuck New York too.” – Local H.

Ever since I started working on Landlord Advisor and now RentSpek I have been reading articles on Internet startups, app developers and all the other businesses that take root on the coasts to try and make it happen.

I don’t know why, but the coasts have always bothered me. I have no good reason for it either. I’ve only been to New York once. And I think I was too young to remember visiting Cali.

Almost everyday I check out AngelList and I can’t help but feel like Chicago is neglected. It appears that if your not in CA or NY you don’t matter.

The same goes for TV. When I was producing and editing for NBC, our team (the Chicago Bureau) pitched an idea for a story about the Cubs.

Now I’m not a baseball fan, but if I was I’d go Sox.

It was the New York office who approved the stories for our show, and to this date I will never forget their reason for shooting down our pitch…

“The Cubs aren’t a team everyone cares about like the Yankees or even Red Sox.”

Wow, way to shoot down one of the most valuable teams in baseball. Even without a championship in the last 100 years.

I feel that same attitude transcends in to any business. The feeling is Tech and Movies go west, Business and TV go east, and everyone in between can eat it.

Now to be fair. RentSpek is in it’s infancy… Or maybe fetus… Or that awkward stage where you’re thinking about it, but your not sure how your spouse will react.

But the size of your startup shouldn’t matter. RentSpek has gained 22 users in it’s 7 days of life. We got mentioned in blogs by Crain’s Chicago Business and ChicagoNow.

As far as I’m concerned we’re rolling. But l know where I’m from and where I want to be.

At my part-time job (hey I have to fund this startup somehow) I cover Chicago’s Mayor Raham Emanuel a lot. He likes to talk about small business and job growth (and education… 100% college ready, 100% college bound).

And every time I sit in the back of the room and take notes for the TV stations I think about how I want my startup could help create those jobs.

The quote at the top of this post is from the Chicago band Local H, who apparently had the same feeling about music as I do about startups.

So close I can taste it.

No, I’m not talking about a race. And I don’t see my waiter coming from across the restaurant (though that is always exciting).

I’m talking about the Startup I’ve been working on since August 2012. Landlord Advisor was an idea I had sitting on the shelf for a while before I took a run at it.

Building a web start up with no coding experience and no funding was a process of trial and error. Like prepping for an Ironman, Landlord Advisor was a series of ups & downs, hard fought battles, and a few bonks.

But in December 2012 the site went live! I was thrilled. Now all we needed were users. From there would come the ad revenue, then updates and added features.

But the users were few and far between. After 10 months I gained less than 100 users.

And as I tried to figure out ways to bring them in, larger companies with working capital & real staff were offering similar features to their legions of users.

To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

Had I failed? Maybe, but this wasn’t the end.

There was a product I wanted to add to the site that no one else had. It would change the way people look for apartments.

I called it RentSpek. A patent pending method of inspecting a rental before you get locked into a lease. It guides renters through a property and asks simple questions that are calculated into a grade.

It will help renters diagnose potential problems with an apartment or house right away.

It started gaining a little interest, and I realized that RentSpek was more than just a feature of Landlord Advisor… It was THE feature. RentSpek needed to be its own product & brand.

After talking with some associates, I decided RentSpek had to get going quickly.

I began re-branding the companies Twitter & Facebook pages. The freelance developer I was using needed to shift his focus to making RentSpek a standalone product. And we NEEDED an app.

Things moved fast. Mockups were done, graphics were designed and I started soliciting quotes from app development companies to get this app built.

Currently RentSpek is being designed for mobile web. Which means users will need to log on to to use the service on their phone.

A little more tedious than just tapping on an app icon. This NEEDS to be an app.


Because it makes sense. People are always snapping pictures with their iPhones on apartment tours to revisit later when deciding on a place. We’re connected online to “check in” at buildings.

People will use this app because it takes what they’re already doing and adds a free service to it.

The quotes for the app build nearly gave me a heart attack. $50,000 was about average.

So I set up a campaign on IndieGoGo, a crowd funding platform. That gave me 30 days to raise $50,000.

There are 8 days left and we’ve raised a total of $110.

I remembered the same thing happening when I was building Landlord Advisor. With that project I eventually turned to a website called Elance, where freelancers around the world bid your project.

Just for grins I posted the job, and within hours I had proposals. I found one freelancer who had the best quote & an amazing work example to show me.

My faith in getting this app built was restored… Sort of.

The fact that I found a quote 10’s of thousands of dollars less than the big firms quoted doesn’t change the fact that we have only raised $110.

The frame work is there. The site will go live in a week, we have a marketing plan. We just need some capital.

You endurance athletes know the feeling when you’re blocks away from the finishline. You can hear Mike Riley’s voice in the distance, the spectators are giving high fives and everything you trained for matters for this one moment.

That’s where we are now. If you or anyone you know may be interested i helping us out, you can find all the information here on the IndieGogo page.

If you have any questions about anything… Ever, send me an email.

And as always thanks for reading.