Monday, December 28, 2009

Online in 2009

In 2004, my friend, Amy, told me about her blog and said, "You're a writer. You should create one. For as much as you love to write, you need a forum." My friend, Rani, agreed. "With all those email updates you send, you should have an online journal of your thoughts. A central location for your reflections. I would totally read it. I know your friends all would." One of my brother-in-law's said he hoped I was saving all my email updates on sports, politics, pop culture, music, films, and human interests to publish them in a book The Musings Of Israel Antonio. Others joined in to encourage me, but I resisted figuring blogs were for talentless hacks wishing to remain nameless while attacking or resorting to gossip and hearsay. As time went on, I started to buy into Amy and Rani's idea so I began to research the possibilities. Others suggested also joining Facebook and Twitter. Unlike most of my friends, I couldn't simply decide on it and answer a few questions, click the mouse a few times, and be set. I had to research accessibility of of blogging, FB, and tweeting to make sure my third party screen reader software on the PC would work on these sites. If I switched to a Mac, I had to ensure the built-in screen reader would also work. I spent months reading online articles, joining email lists, listening to podcasts, and interviewing others. Finally, I played around on the sites attempting to figure out what I could and couldn't access. With the ever changing nature of technology, what may not work today might be accessible next week. If these sites made changes to include more flash, graphics, and images to make it prettier to the eye, it may make an aspect which is accessible suddenly inaccessible. All factors I had to consider which most of my friends never have to face. I pressed forward and created my blog. Eventually I figured it out and now I'm posting. I can now promote myself and my friends! I only wish I would have listened to Amy and Rani much sooner! I somehow managed to set up my FB account, but needed my friend, Angela's help to set up my profile and get some friends. Before long, I was connecting with family and friends in a new way and reconnecting with friends from college, high school, and grade school! I was making new friends too. I decided to try Twitter and quickly had some followers. Rani did say I needed an online presence. I now have it and it is changing my life for the better! Thank you again to Amy, Rani, and Angela. Also to you, my blog reader, FB friend, and follower on Twitter!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sugar Land Finish Line Sports 30K

Sunday, December 13, 2009 was a windy chilly day. Ross O'Dowd and I made our way to the Sugar Land Finish Line Sports 30K shortly after 6a.m. for a 7a.m. start. I was cold wearing only a short sleeve dry fit shirt with the name and logo of the C Different Foundation and small tight running shorts. Our pre race meal was banana, water, a gel pack, and more water. Ross made sure we had our gel packs and blocks ready for when we'd need them during the race. Up to this point, Ross' longest run was ten miles while my longest was the AIA Half Marathon 13.1 miles when I was guided by Brian Pearlman. Ross said, "There's no one holding a gun to our heads saying we need to finish in a certain amount of time. We don't need to be heroes. We just need to cross the finish line." Nerves turned to excitement as we crossed the starting line and took our first step towards 18.6 miles. The challenge isn't to beat everyone else across the finish line. It is to push yourself to your physical and mental limits along the way hopefully discovering how much toughness you truly possess. Many of the thirty-seven athletes who had run the 5K the day before were CDF athletes who were also running this 30K. Seven CDF athletes are sprinters or short distance runners who were not about to tackle 18.6 miles so they instead chose to run the 30K as a relay. It must have been a sight to watch a blind/visually impaired athlete tethered to his/her guide sprint the designated distance then passing off the tether to the next athlete and so on. Professional Ironman Triathlete, Desiree Ficker guided each of the athletes so it must have been wild to see her sprinting the full 18.6 miles switching partners every so often. Meanwhile, Ross and I were coasting through the streets meeting new people along the course who spoke highly of the CDF athletes who were out there. One woman, Christy, told us how inspirational it was and how she could never undertake such a responsibility as guiding. We ran with her for several miles. By the end, we had her excited and very much interested in joining the CDF family. Talking to Christy made the miles fly by. Before we knew it, we had completed eight miles. Just behind us was a seven year old who was running the 30K! We crossed the ten mile mark. More than halfway done. With each step, Ross was setting a new PR. Mile 12. We're taking energy drinks and water. Feeling tired, but is that time correct? Yes, it is. Then a female voice shouts, "Mile 13. 2:23." Are you serious? I smiled and said to myself, "That's for you Brian Pearlman." I had shatter my PR for 13 miles by thirty-four minutes. Soon after, my legs hit the wall. I started to feel pain. My legs locked up. We pressed on. If I have to I will "Julie Moss it." In 1982, Julie Moss was a twenty-three year old college student who did the Ironman Triathlon as research for a term paper. After swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, she began the 26.2 mile run with a twenty minute lead on the female field, but her body began to shut down and with only meters to go for the most incredible win, she collapsed having to crawl to the finish line and settle for second place. I received a great source of inspiration and pressure as CDF founder, Matt Miller joined Ross and I on the course. Matt is such a wonderful selfless individual who gives so much to others that I feel performing less than my best is not letting myself down it's letting him down. He talked to us kept our mind off the pain and kept encouraging us. He remained positive and was proud of how I was moving through this course faster than I was at the AIA. The pain was too much, but we kept on. Mile 18. Just .6 left. I had nothing left. My body and mind were shot! Ross and Matt kept up the encouragement. The final quarter mile. I could here the finish line. PA announcer, music, screams. Louder. Louder! A bolt of adrenalin and it was on! I sprinted towards the finish line. Ross had carried me 18.4 miles and it was now time to drag him home. He had me pump my fist in the air. I waved my hat around as we dashed across that finish line!! We had done it. 18.6 miles and 21.7 total miles on back-to-back days. Pain and soreness be damned, we had pushed our bodies and minds to the limits and had discovered something about ourselves and each other. Ross then admitted his ten mile run had taken place in junior high. Now, he has a new PR. We are ready for the next challenge!

Sugar Land Christmas C5K

December 12, 2009 was a cold, windy, and dreary day in Sugar Land, Texas. Ross O'Dowd was excited about running in an event as a sighted guide for the first time ever. Music, chatter, and laughter filled the air as the talented individuals in charge had put together a wonderful event benefiting the C Different Foundation which exists to inspire, educate, and change the world. The race began and off we went. It was a narrow out and back course with several obstacles in the way of sharp turns, massive bunching of runners, and footing issues, but not major enough to present any danger. Ross and I who had never met until the day before decided to wear elf hats. This race was about having fun, being in the holiday spirit, and raising money for a wonderful organization. 300 runners raced the course. From a young girl who just started participating in athletics a few months ago to a World Champion Ironman athlete, Desiree Ficker, who was there to guide a blind runner, people of all abilities, ages, and sizes were out enjoying the course. Thirty-seven of the 300 runners were blind/visually impaired athletes of varying eye conditions and visual acuities. Most, not all, used sighted guides whose job it was to call out obstacles, warnings, and directions while talking to their runners and others along the course. This race was about having fun and learning to work together. Finishing time was not a concern. We coasted across the finish line in 31.53. We made sure to go easy because the next day, we'd be running a 30K (18.6 miles). A distance longer than either of us had ever run in our lives.

For more information on the C Different Foundation and to get involved either as an athlete, guide, volunteer log on to