Let me begin by saying, I am half the man I used to be. Eight years ago, at the age of 26, I weighed 300 pounds and had a blood pressure of 140/98. Although I was an athlete in college, once I graduated, I stopped being active and just ballooned up. I ate a diet that consisted of fried foods, red meat, and sweets. My father, an ER doctor, sat me down and told me that there was no way I was going to avoid getting sick. To help hammer the point home, he had me come to the ER with him to meet some of the “regulars”. These were people who were consistently coming in due to issues secondary to heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. After sitting and chatting with these folks, I truly began to understand that death is not the tough thing…..sick is the tough thing. One gentleman told me, “when you become sick, it changes every single thing in your life”. Everything you do, whether it be going to the store, sitting down to watch television, going on vacation, to the movies, etc, etc, all of it becomes less enjoyable because, in the back of your mind, you are worried about your health.” That statement had a profound effect on me. I decided to change. Over the course of the next year and a half, I lost over 120 pounds.
After losing about 50 pounds I started to exercise. I went to the local Planet Fitness and signed up. They give you the free consultation when you sign up and the trainer asked me how I like to exercise. I told him that the paperwork winded me so I really don’t know how to answer the question. Over the next several months, I would go five days a week to the gym and use the elliptical machine. Each day I went, I increased either the intensity or the duration just a little bit. I then began doing high intensity interval workouts on the elliptical. After about a year, I mixed in some weight training three times per week.
In November of 2010, I moved from the area I grew up in (upstate, NY) to northern Virginia. A spokesperson for Team In Training came into the office where I worked to give a presentation. I almost decided not to attend. I was swamped with work but said to myself, “maybe this will be something I’d be interested in and it will keep me working out”. I had been thinking of getting involved in a triathlon for a long time, but honestly I was afraid of the idea. I wasn’t much of a swimmer and I had never even been on a road bike before. My running was limited to one half marathon and a few 10K races. But I made it to the meeting that day. I learned that I could not only get to the finish line, regardless of my level of expertise coming in, but that I would also be helping those affected by Leukemia & Lymphoma. Having worked for several years in a school with a little girl named Audrey who had Leukemia, this touched a very important place in my heart. So, I signed up for the Nation’s Triathlon. The “kickoff” for the season was held in a large hotel in DC and I immediately fell in love with the people. Every single person seemed so energetic and kind. They all told me not to worry about my lack of experience. They said, “we are experts at getting you to the finish line.” My fears melted away.
To make a long story short (too late), I qualified for the national championships in my first race with Team In Training. Since then, I have completed two Olympic distance races and two half Ironman distance races. Now, I am training for my first full Ironman, IM Lake Placid – 2014. Eric Casper became the coach for the half Ironman team when I signed up to do Beach to Battleship in 2013. His approach brought a whole new element to my training. He taught us how to really improve our individual performance by testing ourselves periodically, examining the feedback, and making a plan for how to improve. I am honored to say that I am now using Eric to privately coach me for IMLP. With his expertise and eight months to train, I am confident that I will make it to the finish line with a smile on my face! To think I would be able to go from 300 pounds to doing an Ironman is almost unbelievable to me. Words can not describe how excited I am to complete this journey. After that…….the sky is the limit!
RYAN “RY” SILER
THE FIRE WITHIN
Have you ever asked the question, “Why dedicate so much of my life to the sport of triathlon?”
Why go through all the early morning trainings, the alone time spent out on a trail, or a road, the injuries, and the self-inflicted suffering?
For the past nine years, I served in the Marine Corps in many different capacities, all of which had their unique challenges and rewards. I was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in February 2013 after two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and five others in remote locations around the world, either aboard a ship or as a Marine Security Guard protecting U.S. embassies.
After the Marine Corps, I chose to challenge myself by training for a triathlon because I wanted to test myself both physically and mentally in a different way and take on challenges different from those I faced in the military and those I am facing by going back to school at The George Washington University.
I’m used to hard work. I faced it in the military. And I’m facing it in college. I knew that training for a triathlon would be more hard work. But boy was I surprised at just how hard! There are workouts at five in the morning, and sometimes two or three in a day. This isn’t exactly the relaxing life I had in mind after leaving the military, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have loved my journey from active duty Marine to full-time triathlete.
While I was already a strong all-around athlete, I wanted a coach, because I felt that there was much more to triathlon than just swimming, biking, and running as hard and far as you can. I needed an expert eye to show me a more disciplined approach to the sport in order to reach my goal – a pro card and a slot at the World Championship. I went through two coaches before Eric. He has a passion and knowledge for the sport that none of the other coaches had. He cares about his athletes and isn’t just oriented to the monetary value of clients. He wants his athletes to do well and achieve their goals, whether for their first triathlons or KONA.
The workouts Eric has designed for me are focused on all three disciplines and are adjusted in order to identify and correct weak areas from previous races or workouts. Training methods are also a customized part of becoming an elite triathlete. Eric takes the time to address my mental stress, fatigue, and life commitments outside of triathlon. He then adjusts the program accordingly. This is not to say that he gives me a break whenever I have a long day, but he gives and takes as any good coach who cares about his athletes would. I have learned a lot from Eric; from swim stroke efficiency to understanding the mental preparation necessary for a race. It’s all a very detailed matrix. I have learned that as an athlete, I have to step back and say, “OK, yesterday I felt a little tired on that long run. So today on the bike, I have to really know when it is time to listen to my mind as it shouts ‘GO NOW’ or wait just a little longer and sit back until the workout requires me to push myself.”
There are mornings when every muscle in my body screams in unison to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, but then I remember, “today is another day to build myself as an athlete and, more importantly, as someone who encourages others to put their feet on the ground each day and go get it.” Under Eric’s watchful eye, and with a few strong races on my calendar, I hope to push harder than before and obtain my place as an Elite triathlete.
Join me as I train with Eric Casper and pursue something that I once thought was impossible… KONA!
Ryan “RY” Siler
Hi, my name is Patti and I am a 53-year-old runner.
Throughout my life, I have enjoyed running as a means to maintain fitness and for the powerful, stress-relieving benefits it provides. I was also required to maintain a certain level of physical fitness in my former profession of law enforcement.
My running usually consisted of no more than two miles at a 10-minute-per-mile pace. Even though I was in what most people consider their prime, I had to overcome knee issues and other minor injuries. The stress relief alone was enough to justify the discomfort in my knees. In reality, they ache whether I run or not.
Enter life and retirement, and by the time 40 hit, running fell to the wayside. I assumed that I would always someday get back to it, but forty then slipped into 50, and all the good intentions in the world failed to make me get up and go run.
Then at 52, the tide turned. I am quite a bit older than my youngest brother, 16 years older to be exact. I was excited when Eric took up the triathlete life, it gave me pause to remember how much I missed running, but I remained content to live vicariously through his exciting accomplishments. Until the night I happened upon a broadcast of an Ironman competition. I was hypnotized. Not by the elite athletes who are superhuman, but the older ones like myself, the ones overcoming disease or those that did not fit the mold. The ones who struggled, walked, and even crawled to make the time cutoff stirred my heart and captivated me as they crossed the finish.
So, as we were planning the family vacation to Disney World to watch Eric run a marathon, our brother, John, decided he would try a marathon. Eric, now training runners himself, would train John for his first race. Not wanting to be left out, I suggested to another brother, Bill, that we try the half-marathon and Eric could train us as well. After, the initial mutterings — this is crazy talk, do you know how far that is, blah, blah, blah — we decided to go all in.
After, the first week of trying to jump start my body, I, too, began to think this was crazy. Not only had I been practically sedentary, as far as aerobic fitness, I had a 30-year smoking habit I needed to overcome. I would not have done that without the running to replace the smoking as my stress relief. However, since failure has never been an option for me, I plodded on with Eric’s very patient training and encouragement.
Just as I was beginning to feel like I was making some progress, even entertaining the idea that I would accomplish my mission, I would pull up lame when one or more of my tendons rebelled. I was crushed. I thought there would be no way to recover and still have time to train for the race. Yet Coach Eric, as I lovingly call him, would be right there with proper therapy and, most importantly, to reassure me, telling me not to panic, that we would overcome, and convincingly talk me off the ledge.
Coach Eric always had detailed training plans that kept me on track and compensated for my injury du jour. However, the most important thing he did was to make me believe that I could do it. Having a coach/trainer really made me accountable to keep up with my training, as did the race registration itself. I had made a commitment and that meant I would honor it.
Race day arrived and I did not sleep the night before. I was nervous, but with the kind of nerves that would translate into energy. It was thrilling: waiting for the gun, the tremendous crowd right there with you, all pursuing the same goal, and I had the added comfort of Coach Eric as my wingman through the race to keep me on pace. I was very happy to find that I was running with so much more ease than most of my training runs. The excitement seems to carry you along. As we neared the three-miles-to-go marker, I almost began to weep. I was overcome with the realization that I was really going to finish the race.
I am now hooked and Coach Eric is preparing me for a full marathon this year and I have every confidence in him and in myself. I feel as if I have awakened from a deep sleep and have become alive and growing stronger each day.
This month Eric Casper joined the Atlas Fitness team in Washington, D.C., and has been tasked with building an elite endurance racing and training program. Cadenza Multisport will continue to grow and offer personalized coaching programs for endurance athletes through his efforts while Team Atlas will provide a community for multisport and strength training.
Eric is a triathlete, personal trainer, and USA Triathlon Certified Coach. While he spent 12 years working for the Defense Department on a series of overseas projects, triathlons and fitness now represent the primary focus of his career. Ever the busy athlete, while working to help build the Atlas Fitness elite endurance racing and training programs, Eric is also training for his second Ironman distance race, the Beach2Battleship, in Wilmington, N.C., and coaching a team of 20 from Team in Training for the Beach2Battleship Half-Ironman. Despite his busy schedule, Eric and Cadenza continue to help endurance athletes reach their goals through proper training.
Partnering with Atlas Fitness has allowed Eric to see a personal goal come to fruition. Together, Eric and Atlas will build a multisport program with a strong foundation in strength. Tim Bruffy and his team have created an excellent functional fitness program already and, along with Eric, plans to integrate this with their triathlon and multisport programs. Eric and Atlas will provide training plans, weekly strength training, online trainingpeaks.com accounts, and team sport training. Team Atlas will be taking on many sporting challenges including triathlons, marathons, cycling, and open water swimming. Eric and the Atlas Fitness team will provide video analysis, bike fit, race nutrition, field-based testing, and injury prevention.
We reached an agreement yesterday, I will be coaching the Fall Season of the National Capital Area Team in Training 70.3 triathlon team. I am very excited, because this is the first year that the team will be racing the Beach to Battleship in Wilmington, NC.
My friend and coaching colleague, Todd Lawless, will be the head coach for the season. Team in Training was my introduction to the world of triathlon and will continue to be my philanthropy for years to come. I have a personal connection to the cause and the more time I work with the team, the stronger I feel about the mission.
Todd and I have a lot of details to work out for the season, but I think we are going to create something special for this season. So I am calling on all TNT alumni to get your registration in and come support this great cause by racing SetUp Events’ wonderful B2B in one of my favorite spots in the world – Wilmington, NC.
A destination race at the biggest tourist site in the world with mostly first-time runners… what could go wrong? Nothing, actually. The entire weekend went as planned. We had six friends and family in one house and three more staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The four runners were all first-timers with some respect to the race – two new to racing and two new to this 39.3 idea.
What can be said other than Disney knows how to run events. There are a few issues that one can have with any race and this one is no different – it isn’t particularly walker friendly and there are stretches that are too crowded. I think many of the walkers know to put down an expected finish time that will get them an early corral, because I didn’t put anything down and found myself running past walkers all day. That’s fine by me, because this isn’t a race for a PR unless you are going to put blinders on and enjoy a mostly flat course. There is too much to see and do to worry about your best race. I didn’t stop and take photos with the characters (the lines were usually 20 people deep), but it was fun to slow down and see everyone having fun.
You do start out very early in the morning – a 3:00 am wake-up to be at Epcot by 4:00 am and running by 5:30-6:00 am if you are lucky. The Marathon was a little better organized than the half, which doesn’t make much sense, but it was much easier to get to your corral on Sunday. Even though it is dark out when you start, there is enough light and entertainment to get you going. By the time you get to the Magic Kingdom you can take in the sights and enjoy it (because you are walking down
Main Street USA due to the crowds).
The race is headphone/earbud friendly, but you don’t really need them, because there aren’t too many quiet spots on the course. There are plenty of water stops, fuel and first aid along the way, and enough spectator spots to see people too. There was some good comic relief on the course. My favorite was the course liar. I met him at Mile 16 on Sunday and he basically would offer words of encouragement like “the finish is just around the corner”, “it’s all downhill from here, man”, and of course, “there’s beer at the finish line”. He pretty much nailed it! I may have to steal his idea for my next spectating event.
I was proud of all my racers. Both first timers had wonderful races and I was very pleased with their commitment to the training and good attitude on race day. Liz and I both decided that finishing was a good goal for first timers at 39.3. The group ran together for the half marathon, but separately for the full. This was probably good, because the wheels fell off for me at mile 20. I came running out of the Wide World of Sports thinking I was going to kill the next 10k only to start really feeling the pain in my legs and eventually having to mostly shut it down for the day. Oh well, it was still fun even if I wasn’t completely ready for all 26.2 miles.
Monday was filled with hobbling through Epcot Center and trying to remember the route we took when we were running through at the end. We chose Epcot for Monday on purpose, because they serve alcohol. It made for a long, fun day as we started our recovery process.
I don’t know if I will do this particular race again, but Disney has lots of other options and it may be fun to try another one at a different time in the year. However, I recommend this for anyone that is planning a trip to Disney. You might as well squeeze in some exercise too…
Venturing into the world of coaching means that you have to start with the people that know and trust you most – friends, family, and athletes you have worked with previously. After our race at Disney World, I sat down and asked Liz Sidoti some questions about working together and her experience in the sport.
Q (Eric): What level of fitness were you when you started training with Cadenza?
A (Liz Sidoti): I’m a veteran athlete, though a recreational one. I don’t anticipate getting on the podium in any race. I train and race simply to keep my life in balance and to keep challenging my body and particularly in long-distance endurance spots _ my mind. So I had done a slew of triathlons at all levels over the past 10 years or so. But I always simply raced to finish _ and enjoy the day _ and was looking for a way to take my training to the next level and start setting personal bests.
Q: So what was your specific goal?
A: I wanted to improve my run. So, at Eric’s encouragement, I signed up for the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. I had six months to train for a half marathon on Saturday, followed the next day by a full marathon. Yes, it was a crazy idea! I had never run a full marathon that wasn’t a part of an Ironman triathlon. And running was by far my weakest event. But I was determined to at least improve my run, if not learn to enjoy it.
Q: Why did you choose Cadenza?
A: I’ve known its founder, Eric Casper, as a training partner and friend, and he has always tailored his advice to the individual so I suspected that Cadenza would tailor a training program to my needs. For example, when work got too busy for a set plan, Cadenza gave me options _ a menu of workouts to choose from to make it easier and more convenient for me to train when my work schedule was sporadic. Like many endurance athletes, I also have various shoulder, hip, knee, and arch issues. Eric didn’t hesitate to change up my routine to ensure that I stayed healthy. For me, the personalized attention _ and his flexibility _ was crucial.
Q: How did Cadenza help you accomplish your goal?
A: Eric created a training plan that allowed for me to focus on my run. I learned new run drills _ and actually did them! I tend to get bored easily in my training. So he never hesitated to mix it up, giving me different workouts that would challenge me and keep me entertained. Eric was a big proponent of making fitness fun, so there were lots of strenuous hikes and trail runs to break up the monotony of running. And, although we were focused on my run, Eric built me a full-body training plan. I was doing various types of yoga, as well as weight training and cross training.
Q: When you hit a snag in your training, how did Cadenza help you get back on your plan?
A: It wasn’t that I just hit a snag, but I hit a major wall. I’m a busy professional who tries to train in between my work life. But in the fall, work was very stressful and slammed. That in part led me to getting very sick during my training. Cadenza encouraged me to do as much as I felt up to, but told me to put my health first. When I suggested bailing on the Goofy Challenge and starting fresh in the new year, Eric encouraged me to simply alter my race plan. We decided that I would run the half marathon _ as I had successfully completed 13 miles in my training _ and I would walk the full marathon.
Q: How did your races go?
A: I ended up running the half marathon and spending the rest of the day recovering in accordance with Eric’s prescriptions. Then, I felt so good the next day, I started to run the full marathon. I anticipated that I would walk much of it, but the reverse was true. I ran the entire thing, with the exception of walking through the crowded water stops. The result: I finished my first marathon in 5:29:31. It was much faster than I expected considering the 13.1 miles that I had just run the previous day.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m working with Eric to lay out a yearlong race schedule with the goal of completing my second 140.6 distance triathlon in October in under 13 hours. If I did the Goofy Challenge on limited training, and did this well, I’m excited to see how much I can achieve over the next 10 months with Cadenza’s help.
2012 was a year of transition for me. I transitioned out of my steady federal government career and moved into something more personally meaningful. Annapolis became my new home after selling my condo in DC. Downtown DC was my life for six years and I had lived around the beltway for twelve years. I also had to step away from endurance sports racing to let my injuries heal (at least one required surgery).
I built this webpage, a facebook page, and a twitter account in October, but then I stepped away for much of November and all of December in order to help my mom out with some projects at home. It is great to have the freedom to do that, but now that I am home, I am completely focused on Cadenza and coaching.
January was the start of Ironman training for my two Lake Placid clients. I think we are all very excited about this goal and I can’t wait to enjoy this journey with them. Since I was only able to race in the Rev3 Epic Adventure Race last year, I plan to add a lot more racing to my calendar. Currently I have the Epic Race and Beach to Battleship 140.6 on my schedule. My plan is to race a lot of the local races this year, so please let me know if you have plans to race something exciting.
My goal is to post at least two articles a week. I will write some of them myself, summarize good information that I find on the Internet or in books, and hope to have some guest contributors. I plan to be mentoring under a few of the best coaches in the US this year and will definitely share what I learn.
Happy New Year and if there is anything that I can do to help you reach your endurance training resolutions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
I believe that endurance sports have a powerful effect on people. I have witnessed it in myself, in my friends, and with those I have coached. Training and racing brings structure to life, the mind and body begin to heal from the stress of modern life, and you become part of an amazing community.
Endurance sports are most often considered individual sports, but most of us train with others. This might be for social reasons or for competition that can push us beyond our solo motivation. But we don’t have to train and race at the same level to enjoy the sport together; we can start a training session together and meet up afterwards to socialize. The community of endurance sport is accommodating and welcomes everyone regardless of ability.
The business’s name reflects my belief that community is important for fostering individual success. Cadenza is the moment in a symphony when a musician emerges from the orchestra and takes a solo role in the same manner that an athlete in our community will train with others, but race on his/her own. Cadenza is also the origin for the word cadence: the critical training concept of all endurance sports.
In order to build a subset of the endurance community called Cadenza, I have started by creating this webpage and a corresponding facebook page. I plan to post articles, videos, and pictures as well as try to capture the stories of the athletes amongst us.