Monday, May 31, 2010

Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 Presented By Adidas

Saturday, May 29, 2010. A picture perfect morning on Memorial Day weekend to honor the memories of those fallen soldiers who sacrificed to ensure we have our freedom. The Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 Presented by Adidas. A ten mile race which would begin just outside Soldier Field, run south on Lake Shore Drive, then return back towards the stadium ending up on the field with the finish line at the fifty yard line over the Chicago Bears logo. This was the third straight weekend I would be racing in an event and the second one I would be guided by Michael Crissie who gained plenty of confidence for this race by guiding me for the half marathon on May 16. It was another 4:30a.m. wake up call for a 7:30a.m. start time. Michael and I arrived at the stadium one hour and a half before the race. We walked around. He described some of the booths set up by the various sponsors. We looked for Justine Boney of Fleet Feet Chicago, the race organizer with whom I had worked to ensure Michael and I could run in this event. Frequent readers may have already figured out that a regular theme is my having to first reach out to race organizers of all the events I wish to race to explain how I lost my eyesight as a teenager, was active prior to that life changing moment, have remained active since, and how I wish to race in these events, but I must find out what restrictions and accommodations may allow my participation to take place. Where most people can read about a race, have a desire to race it, then register, I do not have that luxury. At least, not presently. After reaching out to Fleet Feet with my story and questions, Justine graciously responded and worked to ensure I and a guide would run in this event. Michael and I walked around, but could not find her. Accelerated Rehabilitation had a booth set up where runners could go for a pre race stretch. Michael and I took advantage of this. I had my quads and hamstrings stretched out by Amanda who when she realized I could not see then began asking about how I am able to participate in road races and triathlons. I explained about using a guide and how there are different options of how one could lead and she was amazed at the difficulty yet simplicity of making this happen. After the stretching, Michael and I walked over to the start line. We took our place, listened to the pre race ceremonies, then waited for our time to run. It took a while to get going as there were 10,000 runners in the event. To my best recollection, this is the largest field of any race I have done to this point. The one concern I had was how long before Michael and I would be able to find some running lanes or space to operate without having to worry about clusters of runners boxing us in for long periods. I assumed it would probably be about the third mile before we would be comfortably running. By mile three, we could not break loose. Michael did his best to weave us through people constantly guiding me to the left then quickly right then left again. Some seemed annoyed by this as they shot Michael dirty looks upon us passing them. This is yet another difficult aspect of guiding. Most people can see an opening and sprint to take it. Guides must find an opening big enough for two or figure out ways to maneuver in single file formation through a possible opening without getting hurt or in any way upsetting other runners. I would accidentally hit people with my leg or arm as we passed, but I would quickly apologize. Some were understanding once they saw Michael and the tether guiding me, but others did not realize that I could not see or did not care and simply shot us angry or disgusted stares. We made it to mile five, the turn around. We needed a quick break. A woman, Amy saw us and laughed as she asked, "What's the rope for? Is it so you don't lose each other?" Well, kind of. I explained that I could not see and she began to joke around with us. She mentioned that she will be racing the Rock N' Roll Marathon on August 1 and maybe we will see her out there if we do the race. After the quick stop to take care of business, it was time to head home to the fifty yard line. Refreshed and ready to rumble we picked up the run once more. At some point in the seventh mile, Michael was continuing to work his magic of weaving us through the crowd when I did not quite clear passing a woman on my right. I stepped on her heel, hit her on the back of the leg, and put my arm into her back. She let out a startled shout and I quickly apologized various times. At first she was clearly angry, but when she turned and realized I could not see, she quickly informed me that she was okay. As Michael and I passed her, one of her friends made a comment to which she said, "It's not his fault. He can't see." The friend then remarked, "That's amazing. I'd like to get into good enough shape to do that. It must be so rewarding to guide a blind person through a race." She went on, but her voice trailed off as Michael and I sped away. When we reached the ninth mile, we heard an announcement that the organizers had canceled the event due to severe weather. It had become too hot so we were asked to walk the rest of the way. We slowed down to a job, but while many listened, others kept racing so Michael and I picked up the pace too. Along that final mile, officials and police instructed us to stop running, but we were so close that we pressed on. We reached the tunnel only a couple hundred meters from the Soldier Field playing surface and once more, we were told to walk, but we kept running. We reached the field and Michael voiced a concern that they might not let us sprint to the finish line. Sure enough, we pretty much had to job it in. With the final straight away on the field and broadcasted on the stadium jumbotron, we had hoped to close the show with a dead sprint. We crossed the finish and received our finishers' medals. Even if we could not sprint to the finish, we were on the field where Dan Hampton and Walter Payton once shine. We met Steve Blair of Stewart's Coffee. I joked around with him about Bob T and after all these years of hearing Terry Bores and Dan Bernstein on WSCR 670 The Score talk about the brand, I finally tried a cup of Stewart's. It was delicious! We walked back to Accelerated's booth and this time, Noel, gave my quads and hamstring a sweet stretching. We had a solid run and I credit Amanda's pre race stretching that for the first time that I can remember, my quads and hamstrings were loose and did not tighten up all race long. In fact, for the first time ever, I did not feel any soreness or tightness in my quads and hamstrings all day long and even the next day. Again, it is a credit to the stretching. I will have to do that before every race from here on out. This was the first time I had run the Soldier Field 10 and I so enjoyed the experience that I hope to be back every year. Again a special thanks to Michael Crissie for guiding me and Justine Boney of Fleet Feet for helping me through the process to ensure I was there on race day. Three races in three weeks seemed a bit challenging, but now that they have come and gone, I am hooked on the idea of scheduling as many long distance and challenging races on consecutive weekends. I am a bit sad I do not have another race next weekend. It is so much fun to be out there with others. It is so wonderful when organizers step up and are willing to work with me so I can run in their events. It is so great when friends or boyfriends of friends volunteer to guide me and assist in giving me some special memories.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arica And I Warriors For Life

Sunday, May 23, 2010 was a hot day in Athens, GA and it was only 9a.m. How hot would the sun beat down on us by 3p.m. which is when Arica Ebersold and I would be meeting our destiny competing in Warrior Dash Southeast. Arica drove to Mountain City, GA. We arrived in plenty of time. Plenty of time to allow nerves to truly kick in. Whatever nerves were left. We walked to the bus which was shuttling people from the parking area to the location of Warrior Dash. As I sat next to Arica pensive about the situation staring me in the face, she informed me that there was a line of medical personnel, ambulances, and helicopters along the route. Once again, what were we thinking tackling this event? We arrived and walked around for a bit. Arica described the area, layout, and some of the stranger outfits participants were sporting. We signed in and received our bib numbers. Now, time to play the old time favorite waiting game for our wave to begin at 3p.m. We had almost two hours to kill before we would get killed. There were some pretty buff men and women which served to dishearten me. There were also some individuals who clearly had not pushed themselves away from a meal nor have pounded any pavement to get into another shape other than round or pear. These people gave me hope. Now we were under an hour. Then less than thirty minutes. Every few minutes, Arica would ask, "Are you ready?" I would shake my head. Neither was she. Arica attempted to look out over the course to ease her and my mind, but other than a flat opening path, she could not see much.. As we joined the others set to go off as part of our wave, the public address announcer mentioned that we were standing just ten miles away from where the movie Deliverance was filmed. That was not a good thing for "a yankee" like me. The man said, if I heard banjo music start running. In fact, as Arica and I were walking to the Warrior Dash grounds after jumping off the bus, she told me of a very old man sitting on his front porch with a sign which read "You Better Run I hear Banjo Music." A minute away! Then ten seconds away. Time to go. The opening stretch was a flat winding path. We ran for a bit before coming to the first of many obstacles. My best description is that it was a muddy pool across which we had to walk, but if we hesitated, our shoes would get stuck and would sink. A few feet into it, I hit a wooden divider and I fell back hitting my ankle and cutting it or so I thought. It began to sting. We made it through and ran for a bit more before coming across muddy slippery tires. I hit my ankle and with water still dripping from the previous obstacle, I felt a stinging sensation as mud entered my eyes. Oh great. As we pressed on, I relied heavily on Arica's instructions and encouragement. I also found myself holding on to her for support when I was losing my footing, but it hit me, what if she loses her balance or footing? I felt it was not right for me to rely on her to support my weight so I tried to avoid having her do so, but some times, I could not help, but cling tightly to her. We ran through uneven terrain. Up hills then down hills. We crossed logs, climbed over walls, used ropes to climb other walls, went up then down rope ladders, ran through a junkyard of old broken cars, crawled through a shallow tunnel, and did our best to not get hurt. Every step of the way, volunteers also shouted support and instructions. While Arica was the only one with whom I maintained physical contact and from whom I received help, the volunteers and course officials were helpful verbally. There were other difficult obstacles which we overcame, but the two which jump out as we neared the home stretch were the event where we crawled through muddy waters while just a few inches from our heads were real live barbed wires and the final event which was the fire pit over which we needed to leap prior to racing to the finish line. Arica said, "This is the last one. Do you want to do it?" She said all we had to do was leap. How far? How high? As far and as high as possible. What were we doing here again? Living. Then let's live! We jumped. High and far then I heard her gasp, say no, and felt Arica grab me. We had cleared the fire, but there was another hotter larger one and my momentum had carried to me towards it. I spun on a dime and was able to hold on to Arica. That is it. We had completed Warrior Dash. We slipped over the finish line to make it official. There we were. Arica and Israel. Warriors!! We had stared down the unknown and had conquered it. Bruises, cuts, and blood, but we had lived. I would have never dreamt in a million years I would ever do such an event, but Arica had motivated me and had been there every step of the way. I will never forget that. We walked around meeting some wonderful people then departed from Atlanta the next day. I was happy to be home as I looked towards the next weekend's race, but I can not get rid of a smile which appears on my face each time I think of how the Warrior Dash gang was right that it was the best freaking weekend of my life. I had spent time with Arica and had done the once impossible. Again, a special thanks to all who played a part in making this happen. Laura Colvin, the crews of United and Delta, Adriana who first posted a link about WD, Patti who sent me a message saying WD was something she thought I would try, the folks at Red Frog Events especially Courtney and Ali who answered all my questions and concerns while encouraging me to give it a try, and of course, Arica!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As I walked into the airport to take my flight down to Atlanta on Saturday morning May 22, I was excited, but nervous. Excited that I would spend the weekend with my dear friend, Arica Ebersold, but nervous that she and I would have to endure the unknown of the Warrior Dash Southeast presented by Chicago based Red Frog Events. Warrior Dash is an obstacle course in muddy, wet, wilderness conditions. Beyond that, Arica and I did not know what awaited us. A special thanks to Laura Colvin for getting me a great deal on airfare to Atlanta on Delta and the return flight on United. Laura is the best travel agent in the business!! Atlanta was hot. I met Arica at the airport as she made the long seven hour drive from her home. It was such a pleasant experience to see her again after over two years of not. We spent Saturday afternoon and evening reconnecting as she drove to Athens. In the morning we would make the trip to Mountain City where as the Warrior Dash gang kept informing us in their frequent emails, "The greatest freaking weekend of our lives" awaited us. The great news was that Arica is a military veteran so whatever was out there on the course would be made easier through the calming influence of someone who had been through military training and experience. Since Arica had never been through Warrior Dash, she was nervous. What would be the most difficult event of the course? The one where we'd have to leap over fire, crawl through muddy waters under barbed wire, the log jumping? I tried losing myself in Arica's stories as I listened to her pretty voice, but in the back of my mind, I kept asking myself, what are we doing here? Over a month ago when Arica volunteered to guide in this event, she insisted we should not concern ourselves with how we perform, but focus on simply completing the course as best we could. After all, even if we came in last, we still would have come in and that beats never having the guts to try. At one point, I told Arica about an interview I read where David Mamet said that he believes the quality of writing has suffered because so called writers stopped living. He insisted that young people call themselves writers, but then sit in coffee houses all day drinking and pretending to write, but at the last minute they churn out the same type of script about an abusive mother or upbringing. The reason they can not create an original story is that they do not live and experience life. Mamet said the reason Hemingway and other great writers were so is that they lived then wrote what they lived. So to answer my question of what are we doing here? Arica said we're living. One thing I did not do on Saturday night was sleep. Too nervouse. Unfortunately, time does not stand still and soon we would have to face our destiny. Ready or not Warrior Dash is coming.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Magellan Development Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Sunday, May 16, 2010. The Magellan Development Chicago Spring half Marathon, 10K, 2 Mile Walk, and Kids Dash. The first event to begin was the half marathon portion. 13.1 miles. The gun went off at 7a.m. My wake up call was 4:30a.m. The truth was I could not sleep all night. I was like a little boy excited for the first day of school unable to sleep champing to get my 2010 race season started. Michael Crissie volunteered to guide me for this race. He was an accomplished gymnast and runner in high school, but he hadn't race competitively in years. Still, he has a heart of gold and an amazing girlfriend, Alison, who is the one who brought us together. Michael's brother, Brian, also decided to run with us. I had on my race big, the timing sticker was in place, and we were ready to get the party started. Soon we were off and running. Michael and I had only met one other time prior to this race when we did a six mile training run weeks before. I was confident Michael would find his groove as a guide, but each guide is different so there was no way to tell how long into the race before he would find it. It turned out to be almost immediately. A few uphills and quick turns met us in the opening mile as did small clusters of runners through which we had to weave. Within minutes we had reached the first mile mark. It was important to remember that we needed to pace ourselves and make sure we didn't burn out too fast early in the race. Luckily, there were three of us to keep the pace and encouragement flowing. In total, there were 3,500 runners and this kept the atmosphere lively throughout the course. Fans were supportive cheering on all the runners and the volunteers at the aid stations were offering plenty of water and gatorade as well as positive energy. Before we knew it, we had reached the turn-around at the 6.5 mile mark. We were about halfway home and the legs were still fresh. Soon we had hit the ten mile mark. From that point, it was just a 5K. My lungs were strong, but my legs were weakening. We remained hydrated and positive. Then we hit the twelfth mile. One more to go! Throughout the entire run, Brian kept informing us about our mile splits. With a few exceptions, we were consistently running each mile within a ten second window. At the rate we were pounding the pavement, I would break my half marathon personal record which I set at the AIA Half Marathon on February 17, 2008 when Brian Pearlman and I ran 13.1 miles in 2:57:08. In fact, at the rate we were going, Michael, Brian, and I would shatter it by over thirty minutes. About a quarter mile into our final mile, I missed clearing a crack in the sidewalk and I stumbled forward and ate pavement. My left leg took the punishment. On impact, my leg cramped up and a sharp pain raced up my leg and to the rest of my body including a sharp pain in my right ribs. Other runners asked if I was a okay and a race volunteer offered me some ice for my leg as Michael and Brian helped me to my feet. I did not want to stop, but all insisted I needed to put ice on my leg immediately. So I did, but I kept thinking, it is less than a mile, just suck it up and go! While I was still hurting, I said I was fine and we picked up the run and headed home. Then I heard, "150 feet from the final left turn. What do you have left?" We reached the final turn and the straight-away. I heard fans near the finish line and it was time to give the traditional Israel Antonio end of race performance. I took off! Michael fell in behind me as he attempted to guide me away from the spectators and other runners as we began to pass up many others. By the end, he was holding on to my shirt pushing me in the correct direction as I kept digging for an extra kick. Then, we crossed the finish line and someone placed a finisher's medal around my neck. My first race of the season was over. We had shattered my PR by thirty-three minutes and had passed over ten people in just the final 100 meters. Brian said Myfinal kick was the greatest he had ever witnessed. It was a great time with some wonderful new friends. This was the first time we had run this race and we plan to be back. It was well organized by the great individuals at CAPRI Events. Now, on to the next race.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sexy Isra's 2010 Season Begins

I entered the 2010 calendar year with anticipation, excitement, and expectations of finally meeting my destiny with completion, productions, and submissions for my theatre pieces, short films, and full length features as well as living up to the promise of which my talent would allow on the courses for road races and triathlons. Early on, I faced disappointment with a previously successful and well received theatre piecenot receiving its much deserved recognition by a theatre group, but I turned the disappointment into opportunities to display my abilities to friends and industry folks who are not only talented, but can spot talent when they see it which have since opened more doors for networking and production possibilities. As I took aim on my targeted races for 2010, I was dealt a blow which interrupted my training when on a Friday in January, I began experiencing severe lower back pain which increased in severity with each passing day until I could not find a comfortable position to sit, stand, or lay down. I could not train nor write for seven weeks. Just as suddenly as the pain arrived, it left in mid March. I have been trying to make up for seven weeks of not training or writing. As I now complete theatre pieces, short films, and features and get them into the hands of my friends for feedback, I continue to prepare for the athletic season which for me finally begins on Sunday, May 16, 2010 with the Magellan Development Chicago Spring Half Marathon at The Park At Lake Shore East. A special thanks to Colin of CAPRI Events with whom I worked to ensure I was complying with all the rules in order to race in this event. Also, special recognition to Michael Crissie who volunteered to guide me in this event even though at the time he offered we had never met. His girlfriend, Alison Keilty, is a dear friend of eleven years since our days as classmates in college. Simply being out on the course competing and finishing a race is victory enough. Yet, I am driven by a determination to be special in art, athletics, and life so I wish to successfully compete at an elite level. I am starting my race season much later than all my friends, but I believe it can be a special one. Combine that with the success I believe will come of my theatre and film scripts and I am on the precipice of an incredible year filled with accomplishments achieved and expectations surpassed!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making My Marathon Debut As Member Of Team GLASA

I have previously posted my intension to make my marathon debut this year with the Chicago Marathon and that I want to do it as part of a fundraising effort for a charity. A few months back, I officially joined 45,000 other runners, from the professionals whom I watch on TV each marathon coverage to the weekend warrior with a fitness or charity goal, when I registered for the Chicago Marathon taking place on Sunday, October 10, 2010. After deciding on a charity for which I would race, I was approached with an opportunity to race and fundraise for the Special Olympics Chicago Children's Charities. I believe very strongly in the mission of the Special Olympics and have a dear friend, Kimberly, whose family has personally benefited from the wonderful work the organization does. As I have received plenty from my friendship with Kimberly, I truly wanted to give of myself for an organization which she holds near and dear to her heart for how her family especially her brother have benefited. I wrestled with the decision for many months, but in the end, I decided to turn to the woman to whom I had expressed an interest in raising awareness and funds as early as November 2009. So, today, I filled out and sent in my papers declaring my intensions to join Team GLASA so I may race the Chicago Marathon while raising funds and awareness for the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association which works to organize events and functions for blind and visually impaired military veterans, adults, and children. It will be a true honor to experience the training and race day festivities as a member of Team GLASA. A special thanks to Keri Schindler, Program Supervisor for GLASA, and to Elvia for assisting me with troubleshooting my attempts to fill out the forms. Of course, I will have many more opportunities to give back to Kimberly and more important to the wonderful people of the Special Olympics. The days may move forward my athletic days may be numbered, but I do not intend to go away for a very long time! I dedicate my life to helping those who help others.