Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting On 2011

As this year comes to a close, I wanted to say thank you to all who have read this blog in 2011. A special thank you to those who follow my blog. Jori, Kimberly, Robert, Jen, Brendan, Todd, Michele, Denver Triathlon, Courtney, Elvia, Marrielle, Sara, and Jani. If I could I would send individual expressions of gratitude to each of you. My hope is that you will read this and know how grateful I am that you follow me.

This year was filled with fun memories running Soldier Field 10 again with Michael Crissie. There was the joy of flying to Denver for the first time to participate in the Denver Triathlon. I had the great thrill of racing the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon doing the duathlon portion where Todd Smith and I pounded out the bike. It was the first time I went about thirty miles per hour on a bike. Ensuring that speed was not a fluke, I raced through Denver with Clark Bishop. Matt Miller drove up in his car and timed us. He said we were pushing thirty-two miles per hour based on his gage. I enjoyed meeting and running with Liz Bilitz for the first half of the CARA 20 Miler. Jennifer Pfaff took me the second half in cold rainy conditions. Then of course, my crowning moment when it comes to athletics. Chicago Marathon! Kimberly Shah and Jenny Pfaff took me the 26.2 distance in an emotionally charged experience which saw Kimberly and I start the race ten minutes before the pro elites, Kimberly and I reached the ten mile mark in what to me was a stunning one hour and thirty minutes, Jenny and I receive a thunderous ovation from the Imerman Angels cheering section at mile fourteen, I hit the physical wall with nine miles to go, but found the strength to push myself down the the home stretch, and of course, cross the finish line live on NBC 5 Chicago in a time fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon for 2013!

I had the privilege to represent C Different Foundation, Dare2TriChicago, and imerman Angels. I look forward to representing all three again in the coming year as well as hopefully racing on behalf of some other organizations. One of my favorite moments came during a training run with Kimberly Shah one week prior to the marathon. We were running along the lakefront in Chicago when she suggested we run on the beach in the sand. I had never done that so I was excited to try. Once I got the hang of it, we started moving. Usually, the person who guides me tells me about my surroundings. The person informs me of any obstacles in the path of travel or warns me of others. On this day at this moment, Kimberly did not say a word. At first I was nervous, but I quickly became comfortable with it. Soon we picked up speed and the only sounds I heard were of the waves crashing in from Lake Michigan. All barking dogs, birds, or people went silent. The more we ran the more I embraced it. The only other sound I would hear would be Kimberly breathing from time to time. That experience was so powerful and moving because neither of us spoke yet the entire time it felt as though she and I were communicating! It was better than a runner's high. It was other worldly.

Another great thrill was flipping on TNT to watch NBA playoffs and then see a commercial featuring my dear friend, actress, model, Amanda Grace. My friend Michelle Amor's film, Of Boys And Men was released on Warner Bros Home Video and recently aired on BET. Several film festivals featured World's Largest: A Documentary About Small Towns With Big Things which one of the filmmakers, Lizzy Donius, happens to be a tremendous woman who came into my life six years ago when she was Executive Director of Chicago IFP. She was the number one reason I joined the group. I have met some amazing people and have been able to get my screenplays in front of industry people because of my involvement with IFP. All thanks to Lizzy. Some of the other talented actors, actresses, models, producers, and directors I have been able to highlight this year on this site were Brendan Hermes, Matt Miller, Laura Shatkus, Kate Bergeron, Julia Kessler, and Laura Sturm. More recently, I wrote about Wanda Cobar. I have written about one of my favorite writers, Jen Knox. She is simply amazing and I am so privileged to know her. A great thrill for me has been to follow the career of pro triathlete Jenna Parker as she attempts to become the first person to ever win Olympic gold medal and Academy Award. Besides being one of the top three triathletes in the US and top fifty in the world, she is also a wonderful actress and model. One of my goals and hopes is that one day I can write a character and screenplay which is so powerful and evokes such a strong response that it not only gets produced, but possibly stars Jenna. If she does not have her Oscar by then, maybe the role I write can at the very least be so great that it gets her a nomination if not even the award.

It has been a tremendous year filled with joyous memories and achievements far beyond my wildest dreams. It has also been a year filled with disappointment, goals unfulfilled, and broken hearts forced to mend on the fly to move on to the next experience. I could play the what if game or I can simply embrace what is and move on to the next year knowing that I am better prepared for the challenges which are ahead in the new year. I have had a small tasted of athletic greatness and a small sampling of Hollywood interest this year. The best way to approach 2012 is to place myself in a position to fully take advantage of what comes next with both athletics and artistic ventures. By this time next year I will have new stories and friends about whom I will reflect. I am excited about what I do not even know and who I do not even know. I hope you will continue to read my thoughts as I give you a glimpse into my life. People often tell me I am inspirational. I do not live my life to be inspiring. I merely try to make the best of a situation in front of me. I also do my best to be honest to myself and to you, my audience. For example, this year was the twenty year anniversary of when I lost my eyesight over night when I was a teenager. I shared my successes, disappointments, and regrets with you. I felt it was important for me to be real and express reasons I am still hurt that I do not have my sight while also sharing reasons I am so lucky that such amazing people surround me in this journey. I try to express those very emotions with every post, screenplay, theater piece I give the world. I hope you will continue to receive it.

Happy New Year!! Sexy Isra!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cobar Collections Site

A few years ago, my friend raved about one of her long time friends. I was intrigued. the more she told me the more I wanted to hear about the woman she described. She was raving about a beautiful talented artist who designed clothes. Wanda Cobar! Wanda had designed clothes which were worn by models on the runways of Chicago, New York, and Paris. More recently, Wanda designed an outfit for Steven Tyler. Yes, that Steven Tyler. Wanda is a tremendous artist who designs outfits for high school dance teams, theater wardrobes, and celebrities. She is simply spectacular. Her designs are wonderful. Of course, you are probably reading this and asking, where can I view Wanda's designs for myself? Well, I am glad you asked. You can see Wanda, read her story, and view her designs at the web site listed below. Her clothes are frequently featured for purchase so women, feel free to browse and buy Wanda's outfits. You will look smashing in them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

Every so often, I will come across a web site, blog, or link which fascinates me. While this blog has always been about promoting my athletic and artistic ventures as well as those of my friends, I get so moved when I see a video like the one I have decided to post today. I came across it this morning by accident. I know that the Ironman Triathlon channel has the broadcast of this year's World Championship available for viewing for the entire week. I have watched it several times already, but wanted to do so again. Instead of logging on to the page, I simply went to the main youtube page and typed my search. What popped as one of the results was a link to this. I watched since it stated it was a motivating piece. I was so touched by it. Later in the day, someone did describe the images to me, but what struck me were the lines from various films used as voiceover. This may have to become my go-to viewing when preparing to write a screenplay or theater piece or when I am getting ready for a race.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jenny Raising Funds For CDF

There are about three weeks left to prepare for my first event of 2012. Usually, I am not able to find a sighted guide or race in which to participate until May, but this year worked out well as an opportunity came about to race in the Houston Half Marathon as a member of Team CDF, the organization started by my friend, Matt Miller. The C Different Foundation works to help blind and visually impaired individuals race in triathlons and road races by partnering them up with sighted guides for the events. For Houston, my friend, the talented and amazing Jennifer Pfaff has volunteered to be my eyes. Jenny has set up a fundraising page on behalf of C Different Foundation so that many others will get to experience what I will in January while many others will get the chance to do what she is doing.

Please visit the page at:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jen Knox

I love to write. I love when friends and strangers tell me how my words touched their lives. I love to make people think and feel. In fact, one of my friends, Dan Bernstein, the host of the afternoon show on WSCR 670 AM in Chicago, once stated that it is my responsibility to push the boundaries of accepted societal norms while forcing people to face issues they otherwise sweep under the rug. He said it is the job of any writer or standup comic who is good at their job. I enjoy when I read the work of others and it makes me think and feel. One woman who does that is the talented author, Jen Knox. I have enjoyed reading her short stories, blog posts, and other pieces. I have enjoyed the opportunities to express my gratitude for what she does. It tickles me that I can use this site to do just that. I am even more amused that I can contact her directly through Twitter, Facebook, and other avenues to say thank you for a piece which she has written. I feel lucky that Jen Knox first came into my life when she took an interest in my writing, marathon, and triathlon adventures. I have learned so much by reading her work. I have gained a wonderful friend who inspires me daily.

Jen is an amazing writer with an interesting life story. What most inspires me is how she is willing to share her story with the world. Many people have done so over the years, but as a friend pointed out to me when I was first writing my autobiographical theater piece prior to my debut as a writer and actor in Chicago theater, most people write themselves as the good person or victim, but never shine the light on who they truly are as individuals. In truth, many people like the idea of telling their stories, but few have the guts to truly examine who they are. I took pride in being honest with my readers and audiences. For those who have read or will read Jen's book, you see that Jen is honest with who she is. She makes readers feel. Please take a look at the links I provide to familiarize yourself with the talented Jen Knox. You will find links to her book, Musical Chairs. You will also read information about her second book, To Begin Again. You will learn that a third book by Jen is coming in the new year! I can not wait. I am so excited at what 2012 has in store for the talented Jen Knox. I thank you Jen for allowing us to get a look into your world and for sharing your gift of writing with the world so that someone like me can learn from you and get inspired as I work on my theater pieces or screenplays. Jen, you do a great job making me feel. I hope others will get a chance to experience what I have been lucky to experience. Thank you Jen for being my friend!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Amanda Grace

One of my dearest friends is the lovely and talented Amanda Grace. She is an actress, model, and singer. She is a tremendous woman, friend, and person whom I am privileged to know. Recently, the Chicago tribune's well respected theater critic, Chris Jones named his top twenty shows of 2011. Amanda Grace appeared in two of them. She is an amazing talent whose web site is a must see for all. Please follow the link below and check out her blog, videos, and pictures.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nina Teaches Me To Run Dance Love

It is always fun to make new friends on Facebook and follow people on Twitter. I use to say that I met some of my dearest closest friends in high school, college, or acting class. Now I am including Facebook and Twitter in that list. I get a kick out of being recognized as Sexy Isra from twitter. I enjoy using social media to keep up with friends who are all over the country and world. I get happy when I realize that I am tweeting back and forth with a writer, actor, or athlete. I find it endlessly fascinating when I am able to post on those people's walls on FB. What I most enjoy is being inspired by these individuals. Whether it is communicating on Twitter with Paula Radcliffe, Jenna Parker, and others or doing the same on FB, I am thrilled that I can keep track of their accomplishments and achievements. I am also tickled when someone who inspires me mentions me in a tweet. This was the case the day of the Chicago Marathon two months ago. I spent that evening and following day catching up on Twitter and FB so I was thrilled to read that one of the women I follow tweeted how wonderful it was to see the amazing Kimberly Shah guiding a blind runner in the marathon. I laughed out loud. I screamed, "That's me!" I immediately sent a tweet to that woman. She is running_nina on Twitter. I had been following her tweets for a while and was often moved by her tweets and blog. It turns out, she apparently knew Kimberly.

I read Nina's blog frequently and I always get motivated by her experiences of running the lakefront path and in races. Often, I am so pumped I go get in some miles when I had not been planning on doing so, but her words move me. Her blog reminds me I should Run after my dreams, dance to feel good, and love my life. Recently, she posted about winter outdoor running. I have only run outdoors in the winter probably two or three times in my life. Reading Nina's post made me want to arm myself properly with warm layers and go out to tackle the cold. I hope I can work it out with friends this winter so I can try it more frequently. My desire came from Nina's post and for that I am grateful. Not being one who can handle the cold, I will probably complain initially, but I am sure I will get the hang of it. After all, being able to get outside for long runs will benefit me as I do as Nina instructs, run after my dreams!

Please check out Nina's Run Dance Love site:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

C Different Foundation: For Whom I Will Race

Four years ago, I reached out to Matt Miller, founder of the C Different Foundation. C Different was created by Matt to help inspire blind and visually impaired people to lead active healthy lifestyles. It was designed to help educate the world that those who are blind or visually impaired are not disabled even if they have a disability. C Different was founded to change the outlook blind and visually impaired people may have about themselves and what others may have of them. Matt began with one blind/visually impaired athlete. Then a couple more were sent his way. Before long, a few more were reaching out to Matt. With the internet and social media, it is easier to reach as many people as possible. A decade ago, it was quite different. The best way Matt could get the word out to blind and visually impaired potential athletes while getting out the word for what these blind and visually impaired individuals were doing was to document it. As the famous saying states, Go big or go home! Matt went big by taking five blind and visually impaired people to the Ironman triathlon. The first five blind and visually impaired people to ever attempt the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in under seventeen hours. A film crew caught it all in a documentary called Victory Over Darkness. The C Different Foundation has grown leaps and bounds since Matt put together this amazing group with a spectacular dream. I have been lucky to call Matt a friend for the last four years. I have gone miles and miles as a member of Team CDF. The friendships I have made will last a lifetime. I am so proud to once again represent the C Different Foundation when I travel to Houston for the Aramco Half Marathon on January 15, 2012. I am so excited that elite marathoner, Jenny Pfaff will guide me through the streets of Houston. If you have never seen Matt, C Different Foundation, or any of their people, please take a few minutes to watch this video. This inspires me to one day cross the finish line at an Ironman.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Johnny Imerman Video

A link which I noticed today is one which I wish to share with my readers. It gives you insight and information on Johnny Imerman, the wonderful individual who created Imerman Angels. As you may recall, Imerman Angels is the organization for which I ran this year's Chicago Marathon. For anyone interested in donating to the organization or wishing to be a part of the group, please take the time to watch this video. I am part of the Imerman Active crew and I look forward to ways in which I may be able to serve IA in the future. Maybe, I will take part in a few more races. Maybe the Chicago Marathon is one in which I will run again next year on behalf of the group.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Of Boys And Men On BET

In 2007, I had the great privilege to meet screenwriter and filmmaker, Michelle Amor. Since then, she has been a wonderful friend and influence on my writing career. In fact, it was Michelle who insisted I turn my autobiographical theater piece into a screenplay. The very first piece I ever sent Michelle was that theater piece. I figured it was a great way for her to learn about Israel the person while learning about Israel the writer. She loved the play and demanded I write a film version. She has stood by supporting me ever since. She offers me advice and a guiding hand. I am so grateful for her. Today, all of you can see her writing talent on display. The film, Of Boys And Men written by Michelle Amor which stars Robert Townsend, Angela Bassett, and others will air on BET. Please check your local listing for air time in your area. Make sure to check out Michelle's film. Michelle is a wonderful person who told a fantastic story.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks To You

This is as good a time as any to say thank you to all of you, my followers, readers, and friends! In this 2011 year I have experienced so many uplifting moments as a result of all of you. Over these months and years people who are family, friends, and strangers have raved about what an inspiration I am. Why? Because I lost my sight over night, but did not allow that to prevent me from picking myself up off the floor? I truly believe anyone in my situation would have done the same. In fact, I believe there are plenty of others who would have aimed higher and achieved more in life than I have done. Of course, none of us will ever know if in fact that is the case since only I can live this very life. I do know that since I lost my sight so many moons ago, I have been blessed to have such wonderful people come in and out of my life. Every writer, actor, director, marathoner, triathlete in my life, thank you! You are a great friend and an inspiration. There are too many of you to list. On this day and every day, I do my best to highlight your influence on me through this platform, Twitter, and Facebook. I thank all the writing and athletic organizations who have embraced me throughout this year. I hope I make you proud and will continue to do so in the years to come should you find me worthy to represent you and your organization. I hope today has been a wonderful day for you, my friends and followers. I am so lucky to count you as important individuals in my life. As always, feel free to reach out to me via any avenue you feel comfortable. I will do my best to always be available and open to you. I hope you keep visiting and reading my work on this platform. I will do my best to keep spreading the word for my friends' projects and events.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jenny To Guide Me For Aramco Half Marathon

Today, I received a call from David Adame, the director of the Texas chapter for the C Different Foundation to confirm my entry into the Aramco Houston Half Marathon to be held on January 15, 2012. It is the same weekend as the Olympic trials held on the marathon course in Houston. Because the Olympic trials are on Saturday and the Half in which I will be running will take place on Sunday, I will have a chance to watch the elite and maybe walk around meeting some of them. While in the midst of running the CARA 20 Miler this past September, Jennifer Pfaff asked about my heading to Texas. She said that it would be fun to be around all those amazing athletes. If it could ever work out, she would love the chance to guide me for that. I always kept her words in the back of my mind so when David called to get my information for the January event. I asked for an update on possible guides and home stays. He said he was working on it, but time was quickly running out. Although I had not asked Jennifer about her interest nor availability since she first mentioned it in September, I told Mr. Adame that there was always the option of Jen guiding me. He was excited to hear that and asked me to please follow up with her to inquire about her interest. I did. As it turned out, Jen was still interested. She needed to check on some details on her end, but after she did, Jen informed me that she in fact had volunteered to guide me for the Half Marathon! Fresh off her being one of the fabulous women guiding me for this year's Chicago Marathon, Jen is going to lead me through the streets of Houston. What a fun time it will be. I am most excited that Jen will get to experience guiding me when I am fresh and full of life. In the three events in which she has guided me, she has always been picking me up at the midway point of the race. she has met me at the ten or thirteen mile mark. Usually, within a short amount of time, I begin to struggle so she must drag and will me to the finish. This time, it will be different. I can not wait.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brotherly Love For Jenny

You can make all the right decisions with your nutrition, training plan, and mindset, yet when you reach race day, most of it will not matter. Of course, preparing properly to put yourself in the best position to achieve is the intelligent thing to do. Often, how the race plays out is beyond your control. What you can control is the heart and courage you display. Even if it is not your day to shine with your greatest performance, it may be your day to display how much fire and passion you have within your heart, body, and mind. On Sunday at the Philadelphia Marathon, the amazing Jennifer Pfaff put on a show. Maybe it was not her best performance. Maybe she struggled to stay in it during miles 15-20. One thing is for certain. She is an amazing talented woman and athlete who came into my life over a year ago and I have learned so much about being a great athlete and person by having her in my life. In the sixth installment of the Rocky movies, Rocky tells his son that "Life ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you get hit and still keep moving forward. How much you can take and still keep moving forward." Jenny kept fighting and crossed that finish line of another race in her successful accomplished career. Champions shine when it matters most. Jenny is a champion who shined when the chips were down and it was not her day yet she showed her heart and that carried the day! She was my guide for the second half of the CARA 20 Miler in 2010 and 2011. She also was my guide the second half of this year's Chicago Marathon. I am so lucky and privileged to know such a tremendous person.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Congratulations Caroline

In 2008, I met an amazing successful, intelligent, beautiful woman named Caroline Gaynor. She could swim, bike, run circles around most people. She often did. Caroline also would often swim, bike, run along side people. She frequently volunteered to guide blind/visually impaired triathletes. I met her in New York when I went to race in my first ever triathlon. Caroline has an amazing resume of personal athletic achievements while having a wonderful resume of helping other reach their goals. Last year, she became the first woman to ever lead a blind woman through the Ironman Triathlon. The women who had completed the Ironman distance did so with male guides. When Caroline guided Patricia Walsh across the start line and through to the finish, they made history. This past weekend, Caroline added to her legend by guiding Tina Ament through the IM Arizona course in about fourteen hours. Congratulations to Caroline and Tina on the accomplishment. Congratulations to Caroline, one of the most spectacular individuals I have ever met. Caroline is someone who inspires me. She has a heart of gold and never ending talent.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running Without Time

A few weeks ago, I noticed my stopwatch was not working as it usually does. I figured it was time to change the battery. I did, but the issue remained. I was hoping to get some more use out of it since I mostly use it to keep track of my miles for the run portion of my workouts. From time-to-time, I would use it to know how long my bike riding session lasted. Again, I mostly used it to keep track of my distance for running. Based on distance per run, I would add up my weekly miles to see my progress as a race neared. Unfortunately, when altering the batteries did not work, my stopwatch died shortly there after. This week, I decided to get back into the swing of running. I could not figure out how I would keep track of my miles. Eventually, I decided to use my iPod by simply picking out a play list which would last about thirty minutes or so and just run for as long as I could, if not for the entire time. As I started out, I was annoyed because I had not a clue what distance I had run. I wanted to know. One song finished. Then the next one. I soon found myself simply running. I was listening and enjoying the songs. By the time I ended my run session, I was still a bit annoyed that I did not know my distance yet there was also a part of me which felt so free! I had run free of concern upon hearing my watch give the time then calculating the distance during my run as I always do. I find myself frequently getting lost in calculations to the point I do not realize how much time had gone by until I hear my watch inform me minutes later. This time, I found myself lost in the music. My legs felt strong. They felt good running at a 7:30 pace the entire time until the end when I could no longer keep the pace and had to stop, but I had been able to run and not focus on a watch. I was not running to meet a time goal or even a distance goal. I did not have to hear my watch tell me my time. I was merely running to get in shape, because I love it, and for the enjoyment. If I continue this method, I guess I will gage my progress on at which point in my play list I stop. I am excited about running this way. I will try it for a couple weeks and see how much I enjoy it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

SF10 For 2012 Opens

Two years ago, I kept running across links on Facebook for a race called Soldier Field 10 where participants start just outside the famed stadium, run 10 miles, and end up going through the Chicago Bears players' tunnel ending up on the playing surface to cross the finish line on the fifty yard line. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it. I reached out to the organizers eventually receiving a response from Justine Boney then of Fleet Feet. Justine was amazing throughout the process answering my questions and doing all she could to ensure I had the opportunity to run in the event in May 2010. My friend, Alison Keilty helped find me a guide. Her boyfriend. Now husband, Michael Crissie. He had never guided a runner so weeks before, we met to run about five miles along the Chicago lakefront. It was so much fun that he volunteered to guide me again were I to do SF10 in 2011. I did. He did. We beat our finish time from the first year by over ten minutes. Today, registration opens for the Soldier Field 10 scheduled for May 26, 2012. Remembering that it opens each year on Veteran's Day, I reached out to Michael wondering if he wishes to guide me for a third consecutive year. He said yes. I will sign us up soon and look forward to breaking our best time by another ten minutes if not more.

For those interested in this race, please log on to:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Julia In MacBeth

I enjoy dinner and a show. Do you? If so, you will get a thrill out of attending Accidental Shakespeare's Dinner And Staged Reading on Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 7p.m. For the low price of $25, you will enjoy dinner and a staged reading of William Shakespeare's MacBeth. The Titzal Cafe in Chicago will be home to this event. You will get to see my friend, Julia Kessler, play Lady MacDuff, Malcolm, and a couple other characters. Please make sure to attend. Again, it is at Titzal Cafe located at 4631 N. Clark St in Chicago. The talented, amazing, and beautiful Julia is just one reason to go. Great food, show, and price are a few more.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Matt's Cologne Commercial

For those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook nor my followers on Twitter, you may have missed this. Some of of you who are my friends or followers may have also missed this due to busy schedules so I offer the following link for your entertainment too. My friend, Matt Miller, who as many of you know is one of the most amazing individuals I am lucky to call a friend is a spokesperson for Avon's Ironman Cologne. Here is the latest commercial which I believe is either airing in or was filmed in Columbia. I hope you enjoy!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cycle For Survival

I have enjoyed trying out various new adventures over the last few years since I began participating in triathlons and road races. Just tonight, I was speaking to a man to whom I was introduced by my friend, Jemma. I first met Jemma a few months back as a result of joining the Imerman Active and Imerman Angels team for this year's Chicago Marathon. She then reached out to me informing me that a friend of hers expressed interest in meeting and guiding me for training runs or races. He had never guided before, but thought it would be a wonderful experience to give it a try. We met tonight for the first time as we went out for a nice seven mile run. We exchanged stories of various races and people we have met. I discussed how far I have come in three short years in terms of the individuals I have met. I could have never imagined the people and places. I know even greater experiences are coming as I continue to build these friendships and connections across the globe. One of the events I had not heard of until recently is the Cycle For Survival. An event organized to raise awareness and funds for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. There are certain types of cancer classified as rare since few people have them. The unfortunate reality is that because so few people have them, there is no money to be made off of treatment for those who suffer from these cancers therefore, there is not any medication. I heard about this Cycle For Survival when Njoy Racing posted a link to registration on its Facebook page. The founder and CEO of Njoy is Kimberly Shah, one of my guides from this year's Chicago Marathon. When my training buddy, guide, and friend, Kimberly, posted it, I was interested in donating. After reading about the event, I decided to join the team! I will be one of the ones riding in this great event. I will be raising funds for the team 100% of which will go to the Center. There are still plenty of open slots so please consider joining us. This event takes place on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at various locations in different cities. If you are in Chicago, you can ride with Njoy at the Equinox Loop location. You will enjoy being a part of Njoy. I would love it if you joined me on Njoy so please visit the following link to be a part of a wonderful event and cause. As time progresses, I will have other links for donations and other information. I am excited to once again be a teammate of the amazing, Kimberly. I am thrilled to be taking part in my first bike only event. It will be a blast. I am sure Kimberly will ensure I will be ready to go. I look forward to training through the winter months with Kimberly and the various individuals whom I am so blessed to have in my life.

Please read more about CFS event at:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Houston Half Marathon

I am very excited that in January 2012, I will travel to Houston to participate in the Houston Marathon. I was given the option of either the half or the full distance. I decided to use the Chicago Marathon to gage whether I would want to run 26.2 miles once more in three months or whether I would rather ease up and only run 13.1 miles. The mere fact that I would consider 13.1 as easier may on some level be obvious as it is half the distance. However, I view it from the point of view of where I was mentally just three years ago. I reached out to the C Different Foundation by speaking to CDF founder, triathlete, model, actor, film producer, roofer, Matt Miller about joining his organization. After seeing Lokelani McMichael's story of being the youngest person to complete the Ironman Triathlon, I wanted to compete in triathlons. I did not know how to swim. I did not know if race organizers would even let me race, but when I found C Different on the internet, I asked Matt Miller. He immediately welcomed me to his CDF family and expressed his excitement to work with me. I believe his interest level grew when he learned of my interest and involvement in theater, film, and writing. He too had a love for using film to tell stories. Matt invited me to fly to Fort Lauderdale to run in the AIA Half Marathon. It was six weeks away and I was not sure I would be ready. Looking back on it, of course, that was more than enough time. I did not properly train for the event. I spent more time worrying about how I would complete the distance than actually going out and preparing for it. In my youth when I had my sight, I was a sprinter. I was not big, strong, or talented, but I had desire. If I wanted to go faster, I simply made up my mind I wanted to and I did. I never practiced. I just tensed up my face and moved my legs faster. I would race short distances. I do not think I ever ran one complete mile. I probably ran half a mile in gym class. I was by no means a distance runner. I went to see Matt and run in the AIA event. Brian Pearlman guided me. My longest run prior to the event was 4.7 miles at a ten minute per mile pace. My only goals were to run the entire distance and to in fact, go the distance. If I had any energy left, I would close the show with a great sprint. As it turned out, I was able to run the entire distance, go the 13.1, and still have enough to close the show. Brian and I ended up having our finish line sprint photo appear on the front page of the local newspaper. At the end of the day, it took me almost three hours to run 13.1 miles. A year later I was able to improve my 13.1 personal best by thirty-three minutes in a Chicago Half Marathon event. With each ten mile, half marathon, or full marathon, I get stronger and faster. It is clear that as long as I continue improving, I will be able to break two hours very soon. In fact, I believe that I can get to the point where in my next event I will cross the finish line one hour and ten minutes faster than I did at the AIA. I am starting to believe in my abilities. Matt has always believed in me. I appreciate Matt's high standards for me. I often feel, I have disappointed him for not reaching my potential as we both know I can. I know that I have disappointed myself because if I were to dedicate myself more during training then I would be achieving greater results. Each race and new friend I make in the athletic world teaches me how to go about becoming greater. I believe that in 2012 the friendships I have made over the last three years will pay off because I have a network of talented athletes who have achieved on a national and international stage in front of television audiences. If I truly have learned from them, now is the time to display it. Three years ago, 13.1 seemed like such a mountain. Now I believe I can prove to myself how much talent and heart I truly do have within this sexy physique. That is why I decided on the half. I will race as a member of the CDF team. I will also use the event in Houston as my jumping off point to embrace myself. I will run for myself. I will begin to believe in Israel. I am facing this next phase of training as a way to prepare for greatness. I hope that does not come off as arrogant. I simply want to reclaim the kind of swagger I use to have in my youth. The confidence which motivated and pushed me to be better. In many respects, the fear of failure drove me to success after losing my sight. In the coming year, I will have higher standards for Israel. I will begin to train and race with a purpose. I will begin my quest in January!

For more information on the C Different Foundation, please visit:

Friday, October 14, 2011

World's Largest Now Available

One of my favorite people in the world is Elizabeth Donius. I first met Lizzy about five years ago when she was the Executive Director of Independent Film Project Chicago. I called the offices of IFP Chicago to inquire about membership, services, and programs. She took my call, answered all my questions, and enrolled me as a member. Every time I had any questions or attended an event, Lizzy always took time for me. One of her films, World's Largest: A Documentary About Small Towns With Big Things has been screened at various festivals all across the country. This doc, which she made with her childhood friend, Amy Elliott, is now available for your enjoyment. You can either buy a DVD of this film or you can download it from the following web site.

You can also visit the doc's site to get up to date information at:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Most Memorable Marathon: Chicago 2011

On Saturday night, I set out my Imerman Angels top, triathlon short, and tether. I debated on whether to set out a hat or bandana, but friend, Alison, suggested I go with the bandana so I did. After some pasta and a day with plenty of liquids, I hopped into bed shortly before 10p.m. I would get up at 4:30a.m. to get my marathon day started. I laid in bed tossing and turning. I could not sleep. What did I do? Why am I running another marathon? Then I would take deep breaths and tell myself, you can do this. Tomorrow, you will hurt, but you will fight. I have never dropped out of a race I started so of course the Chicago Marathon will become another event I complete. I started to fall asleep, but was shaken awake. I tossed and turned even more. By Sunday afternoon, I would be sore and in plenty of pain, but this would all be over. I tried filling my mind with positive thoughts. Thanks to a late push from family and friends, I achieved my goal of raising at least $1,000 for Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support. Two outstanding women will be my eyes on the course. Professional triathlete and coach, Kimberly Shah and elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff. I will be in great hands. Still, I could not sleep. When I did, I would dream about the marathon then wake up again. Finally, 4:30 rolled around and I dragged myself out of bed. I always have a bagel with peanut butter washed by an energy drink, but today, I was nervous, I could not quite finish my breakfast. At 5:30a.m., Kimberly arrived to take me to the race.

After some pre race preparations, we arrived to the race site. I was nervous and scared. Being with Kimberly relaxed me a little. We made our way towards the start as she described how the pro runners were running along side doing their warmups. Shortly aft 7 o'clock we made our way towards the start line. Last year, I was in the open corral way in the back and I did not get going until twenty minutes after the pros. This time, I would go off nine minutes in front of the pros. When we were allowed to file into our corral, Kimberly described our surroundings telling me how the pros were getting into their start behind us. It was clear, she was in awe and excited. I was so happy for her to have the opportunity to enjoy this. As a pro triathlete and champion Kimberly has experienced so much success. To hear how excited and nervous she was was on some level very comforting for me. A few minutes before the race, Jim Cornelison delivered his usual stirring version of the national anthem. At 7:20a.m. the wheelchair division started. We would go at 7:21. Kimberly instructed me to start moving. I did. In a blink of an eye she said "Okay, we're moving." I asked, "What? It started?" She responded with, "Yes, we've crossed the start line. We're running the marathon." Thirteen miles away from meeting up with my second guide and 26.2 miles from the finish line. It was so exciting to get moving and have almost no one in our way. We moved freely. Fans cheered loudly. Cowbells rang out. One of my favorite moments was making a left turn and being greeted by a giant roar from the crowd lined up on both sides and hanging over a bridge. As would happen several times during the race, the roar was so thunderous, I could not hear Kimberly clearly. Then she tells me that that excitement from the crowd was all for us. There was no one else on the road with us at that point. Honestly, it took plenty of strength to not break down and start crying at that moment. Even now, as I am remembering it to write this, I am choking up from the memory. We made our way and people yelled out, "Go Sexy Isra!" Thank you to Jemma of Imerman Angels who I believe was the one who wrote Sexy Isra on the back of my top. As we neared a gentleman to our left, he screamed, "Go Israel. You've got this." I did not know who he was. Before I knew it, Kimberly was telling me we were at mile two. The pros would be coming by any moment. We rolled on enjoying the crowd support. Then Kimberly said, "Here they come." The police, TV trucks, and pros made their way towards us. I heard them run by no more than three feet to my right. Just a few feet over from me were fifteen of the fastest human beings on the planet including the great Ryan Hall. As they flew by at about a four minutes and thirty seconds per mile pace, more elite runners made their way towards us. As many of them passed by, they offered me encouragement, congratulations, and back slaps while saying, "Go Sexy." "Keep going Isra!" The crowd continued to pump me up and Kimberly kept expressing her excitement. I would get very happy and want to sprint out faster, but I knew I had to hold off because there was still a long journey ahead. At one point, Kimberly had to tell me to pull back because I was beginning to push the pace a little too much. I kept thinking of my friend, Michelle, who passed away from cancer this spring. She was the reason I wanted to get involved with Imerman Angels. I have some family members and friends who have survived cancer, but Michelle's death was what pushed me to truly set this goal and go after it. I felt fluid and very relaxed. Kimberly described the crowd, signs, and area around us. Music blasted. Fans cheered. Other runners continued to back slap me. The miles rolled by. In fact, I felt comfortable at our steady pace, but was not aware of our pace until we reached the tenth mile when Kimberly informed me that we had done so in one hour and thirty-two minutes. I believe that is the fastest I've ever run ten miles. At that pace, I could finish in under four hours. Yet, shortly after that, I started to doubt myself. Could I do it? I began to fear how my body would feel in ten more miles. I started to wear down mentally. This can not be. Not this early in the race. By mile twelve, I found myself very concerned and I even told Kimberly that I was getting tired. I started to slow down. With the crowd cheering, I tried to feed off of that and press forward. We reached the thirteenth mile and the exchanged point where Kimberly would hand off guiding duties to Jennifer.

There was Jenny. Ready and excited to take on the responsibility to get me to the finish. We moved along. The crowd pumped me up. Jenny's excitement gave me a boost and we moved along. We reached the fourteenth mile. Suddenly, I heard a thunderous boom from the fans. Yells of "Sexy Isra!" One woman yells out, "Isra, you're the sexiest!!" It was the Imerman Angels cheering section. It was so loud, I could not hear Jenny. I could feel my body getting weaker. I did not want to slow down or walk, but I knew it was coming. I tried my best to fight it and for a while I was successful, but before long, I was beginning to give into my fear and doubt. Our pace had slowed, but we were still making good time. By mile seventeen, I knew I had hit a wall. Even last year, when I sprained my ankle in the third mile, I did not hit a wall until exactly the twenty mile marker, but now it came sooner. This could not be happening. I made it to mile eighteen. In my mind, I was so close yet so far away. It was only eight more miles. I struggled over the next several miles. My pace was very slow. Jenny held on to the tether on my left side as Kimberly ran along my right side. Both women encouraged me. It helped that they would tell me how far away to certain landmarks or aid stations. I tried running to those landmarks. Then we reached mile twenty-one. I said to myself, five more miles. In the last few weeks of training I had been running five to six miles at an eight minute per mile pace. I would lift weights or ride a bike with the purpose of tiring my legs out before trying to run five miles to toughen me up mentally. Now is when those have to matter and pay off. Now is when I have to go after it. I started pushing through the pain. For a while I found some heart and toughness. Jenny kept telling me how I was picking up the speed. I was starting to flow. I was moving again. I pressed on. As soon as I felt I was rolling, I would want to walk or slow down. Jenny and Kimberly kept driving me to fight those urges. They screamed and yelled at me to run. I am sure they received dirty looks from the crowd and other runners for pushing me so much. There were times I wish they would stop and let me walk, but for the most part, I was so thrilled that they were motivating me. I knew that deep down inside, this is why they were my guides on this day. If I were to achieve something special on this day, it would be because two very special women would know how to get the best out of me even when I did not think I had anything left or even when others may have let me rest. These women have achieved great personal athletic success because they know when to push and how to dig. to the best of their abilities, they were going to press the correct buttons to ensure I did the same. The distance to the finish line kept getting shorter. Before long I was down to under two miles. Then just a mile and a half. It was so close yet again, so far away. I wanted to dig deeper, but I could not. I had reached my limit and whatever guts or heart I had, I had to display right then. One mile to go. Finishing was never a question. It was just a matter of how much time it would take me and if I would go after it by sprinting to the end, hang on for dear life, or get dragged to the line. As I made my way with Jenny and Kimberly continuing to drive and inspire me, I moved forward to the best of my abilities. I struggled up one final hill. Later jenny would inform me that I was moving at an eight minutes and fifty second pace at that point which was around the same pace as I was moving in the very early stages of the marathon. I was amazed that I had that in me at that point. We reached the twenty-six mile marker. Just over 300 meters to go. As with every race, I wanted to lay the hammer one last time and burst across that line. As I made my way, I could not tell if I was moving my legs or at what speed. I could not feel anything. Then Jenny and Kimberly informed me that we had crossed the finish. At that moment, I finally felt something. Cramps. Relief. Love. Love for these two amazing women who had given up their Sunday morning to get me through the streets of Chicago. As painful as the back half of that marathon was for me, I would not change anything about that experience. Well, my performance could have been better, but otherwise, to be able to now say I ran the Chicago Marathon forty-six minutes faster in 2011 than in 2010 is as a result of having two tremendous women supporting me every step of the way. Every race, I want to do well as a way to show my gratitude for my sighted guide. In this case, I was able to push myself because of my guides. Every race is special. This one is made even more special because Kimberly Shah and Jennifer Pfaff forced me to dig deep and aim for being special.

I thank Kimberly and Jenny for forever being a part of my life and a part of some very special memories. Thank you to Imerman Angels for allowing me to fundraise and run on the team this year. The great people such as Kat, Jemma, Jessica, David, Rachel, and of course, Mr. Johnny Imerman. All of you have been so wonderful and kind to me. Last year, I was just another runner in the open corral. This year, I was categorized as a visually impaired runner in the disability corral. According to the Boston Athletic Association web site, a blind/visually impaired participant can qualify for the Boston Marathon by finishing a certified marathon in under five hours. Chicago is one and I did. I do not know how events will play out from this point, but if it does turn out that I can now go race in Boston, then I will gladly accept that experience. If there is more I need to do or achieve before having that opportunity, then I will gladly put in the work and effort to do what is needed of me. For now, I am grateful for Kimberly, Jenny, and Imerman Angels. Thank you to my friends and family as well as strangers who donated to my fundraising cause, who cheered me on the streets of Chicago, and who showed an outpouring of love after I crossed the finish line.

To all who read this, it is my privilege to live then share it with you. I thank you for having an interest in my athletics and artistic ventures. Thank you for being a follower to this blog. As always, please feel free to reach out to me. I do my best to be available to you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kimberly and Jen To Take Me 26.2 Distance

Saturday night. In a few hours, I will wake up to Sunday morning. The day of the 2011 Chicago Marathon. I have been taking in plenty of fluids, fruit, and pasta today. My back issues should not present a problem tomorrow. I hope to stay comfortable, relaxed, and fluid throughout the my run. After registration closed early this year, I was disappointed I would not get a chance to run the marathon for the second straight year, but a woman named Adriana on Twitter asked if I would run it and do so for a chairy. Of course. Charity slots! After tweeting my interest in finding a non profit, Jessica Hiltner reached out to me also via Twitter and suggested Imerman Angels. A group which provides one-on-one support for cancer fighters and their loved ones. I have family members and friends who have survived cancer. I have a dear friend from college who lost her life in April. I felt this was my chance to run 26.2 in her memory. I jumped at the opportunity. Within days Kat and Jemma of Imerman Angels were in touch with me. Shortly afterwards, I was officially signed up and ready to train. The summer brought other races in various cities. Finally, I had the chance to meet with a Saturday morning run group. Thanks to IA, I was put in touch with Kimberly Shah of Njoy Racing. She offered to be my guide for a ten mile training run. This run was the very first time she had ever guided and our initial meeting. Midway through the run, Kimberly stated she would like to guide me for the marathon. As luck would have it, I was in need of a guide. My friend, Jen Pfaff had just volunteered to guide me for half of the race, but I needed someone for the other half. There it was. Two amazing spectacular athletes offering to guide me on October 9. It has been quite a ride. I admit, I am not the best at fundraising. In fact, it is a struggle for me. Family and friends are supportive and willing to give, but I have a difficult time with it. Knowing my goal was $1,000 stressed me out. Like I just wrote, family and friends are always there. As of today, I did reach my goal! Thank you to all who donated. I am nervous about tomorrow. The distance scares me. I have run it before, but it is still tough. Luckily, I have Kimberly and Jen, two amazing women who are amongst the best athletes in the world to get me through the run. I know they will push me. I know they will motivate me to dig deep and push my own limits. Above all, I look forward to the experience of running with these women.

I wish to take this time to wish best of luck to some of the individuals who will be running tomorrow. Ruben, Mark, Randy Egge, Abby Reese, Kate Zimmer, Molly Conway, Heather K. Williams, and Adriana without whom I would not have made it to the start line. If I missed others, I am sorry. Time for bed. Thank you for reading this week and for helping me reach my fundraising goal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicago Marathon Expo

Today was a tremendous day! I woke up feeling a bit sore and I was concerned. Really? Yesterday's run with Kimberly is making me feel like this? What will the marathon cause me to feel on Monday? Within a couple hours, the soreness was gone. Earlier this week, I had discomfort, but it has gone away for the most part. It was in my lower back and kidney area. It still lingers, but not enough to be too painful to handle. In the afternoon, I drove to the Chicago Marathon expo. Well, it was more like Kimberly drove and I tried to entertain. In the short time I have known Kimberly, I have discovered so many wonderful traits in her. Hearing her stories inspires me. Training, racing, living life! She is great at spinning yarn. She has a heart of gold and a strong willingness to help others. She also has a great laugh. Of course, now I try to make her laugh. I do not always succeed, but when I do, I am so thrilled because then it makes me laugh. We reached the expo and made our way around the place. We picked up my bib, shirt, and other items. We headed over to meet Howard Kambara of Chicago Events Management and the Chicago Marathon. Kimberly received her runner guide bib and other items. For the first time, she became nervous as she realized how real this was. Her excitement and anticipation shown through and I was excited too. For most of this week I have been anxious, but hearing Kimberly's reaction and laugh at that very moment put me at ease. I started to laugh. Howard mentioned how we would go off in a wave nine minutes before the pro wave and what Kimberly should do on the course when the TV cameras, course vehicles, and pro runners approached us. I kept saying to myself, this is real! Of course, the reality of the moment will not truly take place until we are crossing the start then when we are running side-by-side the elite. Of course, with Kimberly and Jennifer being my sighted guides, I will be lucky to have two elite athletes along side the entire time.

We also made sure to pick up Jen's bib and other items before walking around some more and meeting some of Kimberly's friends. then we walked to the Imerman Angels booth where we were greeted by Kate who I first met when I attended an IA function in August. After a few moments, Kimberly and I spent some time with cancer survivor and founder, Johnny Imerman. What a joy it is to be around him. He is so amazing. What a gift to the world. Shortly after that, we headed home. The more Kimberly shared stories the more I was getting pumped for Sunday. It was certainly a tremendous day. Topping the day was discovering I had a friend request from a young woman named Abby who is the sister of Amanda R, one of the most amazing women in my life. I met Amanda when she was a star on the women's basketball team in college. I had the joy to watch her career and interview her in press conferences and on my weekly radio show. She always gave me her time. Even after she graduated, I would see her at games. I lost touch with her for a while, but when I reconnected with her, it was as though time had not gone by. I have since followed her coaching career and I remain a big fan of her accomplishments. She truly is one of the nicest people I know who is always very supportive. Of course, it is a joy to be friends with her sister now. I look forward to getting to know her. I also noticed that as of this afternoon, I have come just seven dollars shy of my $1,000 goal for money raised. I am stunned at how my family and friends have once again banned together to back my cause. Plus, I received some wonderful mentions on Twitter from some RunNerds who I respect plenty. Molly, Kate, and Adriana. One more day of resting and taking in fluids before 26.2 miles to cross the finish line of another wonderful year.

If you wish to donate, please log on to:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Final Run Prior To CM11

Today, I went for a five mile run with Kimberly Shah. Kimberly will be one of my sighted guides for Sunday's Chicago Marathon. I am so excited! Of course, there is still plenty of anxiety as I wonder how could I have trained better? In what manner should my training have been better than it was? It is too late for that now. Maybe I can reflect on that after the race. Or, maybe I should embrace that feeling, but not dwell on it. With each race, I am improving. With each new sighted guide, training partner, or athlete I meet, I can grow and learn. I am very thrilled at the late push I have received from family and friends as they donate to my Imerman Angels cause for the marathon. So many people have been touched by cancer so it is easy for all to identify or understand what this disgusting disease does to family, friends, and loved ones. No one is immune to it. Maybe one day cancer will die and no one will endure the struggles which come with it. For now, organizations like Imerman Angels will do their best to pair up current fighters with those who have survived so that together, those individuals can be there for each other. One of my cousins, who just finished yet another tour in the Middle East said that one of the most difficult things for him to experience was watching his wife go through cancer and not be able to help her because he could not understand what she was experiencing. He wishes he knew of IA or someone who had survived her type of cancer so that she could have had a person mentoring her and maybe another person helping him in order to help her. She passed away earlier this year and it sickens him to know that she passed away alone without someone to simply say, "I know what you're going through." He is a hero. He has spent his entire adult life serving our country. He has faced the challenges of cancer. My cousin and his wife are two individuals for whom I am running this race. Please, help myy cause so that no one faces cancer alone. Please help me help others. With the recent donations of today, I am only $150 shy of my goal amount.

As I spend the next few days resting and taking in plenty of fluids, I hope you log on or pass this link to others who can give even just a small amount:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs Opens Doors For Me

Wednesday. As my anxiety for the marathon turns to excitement with some recent developments, I pause to appreciate Mr. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, who passed away today at the age of fifty-six years old. While I never met the man, I have read a bit about him over the last few years and found his story to be fascinating. There are so many quotes of his which I could write here, but what I am most appreciative for is that he and his company have given me the opportunity to write this entry so that you may read it. Ever since I lost my eyesight twenty years ago, I have used computers. In fact, prior to losing my sight, I was always in awe of computers, but rarely had a chance to use them. I would have the chance every week or so in school, but not very many opportunities outside of school. I would look at computer store catalogues just dreaming of owning one and writing stories or typing random thoughts as in a journal. My parents could never afford one so I had to dream and hope one day I could buy one. Then I lost my sight. I was introduced to adaptive technology for the blind and visually impaired. Mainly, computers like the one you may have been using with the only difference being, the ones I used had screen reader software installed into them. I learned basic key commands to enable me to type assignments. The internet was still an unknown and not accessible. I was given a laptop with so much software on it that it was probably worth $50,000, but within a few years, it's value was probably less than $1,000. Eventually, with the help of state agencies, I received a desktop which I could not use. The agencies purchased the computer for me and paid an adaptive tech person to train me, but they only paid for a few hours worth of training so all I learned were very basic commands. I did not even learn how to search for information which would enable me to teach myself anything beyond what I was taught. I spent plenty of time asking others if a command existed so that I may do this or that. Otherwise, I just had to cope with the fact that maybe whatever I wanted to perform on my computer was in fact not accessible. Over time, I realized that in order to keep up with tech advancements, I had to constantly upgrade my system. Adaptive technology is very expensive. Whatever the cost for a computer, I would have to shell out that amount then spend to upgrade my screen reader which for PC means having to buy a third party software costing anywhere between $750 to $2,000. Just having this software on my machine did not mean that all aspects of MS Word, e-mail clients, or web sites would be accessible. In fact, I found them to not be more often than not. Even as friends kept insisting I should have a blog or join Facebook and Twitter, I could not. Just signing up or setting up initial profiles were difficult. One friend, Angela, insisted it was not as hard as I claimed so she came over and set up my Facebook account. After just one minute, she asked how to turn off my speech because not only was it annoying, but she noticed that most of the time, it was not reading what was on the screen. I did my best to use these social networking sites for which I had accounts, but I struggled mightily. For a year, I spoke to people, read online articles, and listened to podcasts about the advancements Apple Inc had made for people with disabilities. I recalled how a friend from college was a Mac nerd and insisted Mac would rule the world. We made fun of him so much. Yet, years later, I was looking into buying one. Then I read how screen reader software was built-in on every Mac. There was an Accessibility Department at Apple. Any of my family members or friends who had a Mac could turn on the screen reader on their machine and help me troubleshoot any issues. Pretty soon, Apple's MP3 players, phones, and other items would come with screen readers built-in for FREE! Instead of having to pay thousands of dollars and not know if I could even use MS Word, e-mail, or web sites, I could buy a Mac or any other Apple product and be confident that the company would work to ensure their products met my needs. I bought a Mac and instantly discovered that I could access Twitter, Facebook, and this blog in ways I never could before. The best part is going to my local Apple Store and testing out these products then buying them. The salesperson who sold me these products was in fact the friend from college of who we made fun for his "Apple love." By the way, he now works at Apple headquarters and is quite a star in the company. There are still some issues which I have with Apple products which I did not quite have using Windows, but for the most part, Apple products have been a life changing experience for me. There are so many events and people in my life as a result of me being more involved with social networking sites. In fact, I missed out on the Chicago Marathon registration prior to it being closed. Then a young woman, Adriana, who had recently begun to follow me on Twitter asked if I would run the marathon again this year. She then suggested a non profit for which I could run. I looked into the organization and posted a tweet about the new development. Another young woman, Jessica, then replied to my tweet suggesting Imerman Angels as a non profit to consider. Within days, I had spoken or contacted several people at Imerman Angels and I signed up to run for IA. I have met some amazing individuals via the internet before I ever met them in person and I credit Apple Inc for making products which allow me to be more connected to this world more than ever before. It was because of Twitter that I joined IA and as a result, learned about Njoy Racing and its CEO, Kimberly Shah who will be one of my sighted guides on Sunday. Through my friend, Rob, who I met in acting class seven years ago, I was introduced to one of his friends, Jennifer Pfaff who volunteered to guide me for half of the CARA 20 Miler in 2010 then stepped up to guide me for half of the marathon this coming Sunday. I have found friendships which have grown with authors, actors, triathletes, screenwriters, marathoners, and filmmakers all because of Steve Jobs and Apple. The amount of joy and richness which has entered my life in the last two years can not be measured. That is why I wish to share this speech from Mr. Jobs. I found it very inspiring and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chicago Marathon For Imerman Angels

Tuesday. One day closer to the Chicago Marathon. Today, I received word that I will officially be in the Disability corral. Last year, I was in the Open corral. I had received an e-mail a few days ago stating I would begin in the Disability category, but I was not sure how it would work. Wheelchairs begin at 7:20a.m. Hand cycles begin one minute later. The elite professionals start at 7:30a.m. The rest of the field falls in behind them. This should be very interesting since the pro elite will probably come flying by with the helicopters, TV cameras, police escorts, pacers, and trucks three miles into my run as they head towards potential world record times. The paperwork will still need to be handled for my two sighted guides, but by this time tomorrow, all should be set. It is quite a joureny as I prepare to run my second 26.2 distance in the greatest city in the world. I am so thrilled at the fact that I will have two tremendously talented and accomplished female athletes escorting me on the course! I remain excited with all which will unfold this weekend surrounding the race. All the joy of racing combined with what will come of my association with Imerman Angels non profit organization created by Johnny Imerman after he overcame testicular cancer during which he learned a national database for cancer sufferers and survivors to network did not exist. He set out to create one so that future sufferers would always have someone who is approximately the same age of the same gender and who is experiencing the same type of cancer to help mentor them through the journey of overcoming cancer. IA is constantly connecting people in various cities and countries on a daily basis. Cancer is a difficult battle, but with IA, cancer does not need to be battled alone.

I hope you will consider donating to my fundraising effort as I am days aways from running the marathon. If you wish, please pass along the link to others so that together we can help many more people in this world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Week Begins

Chicago Marathon race week is here!! Can you hear it? Excitement. Can you feel it? Fear! Yes, I am thrilled that my marathon journey for 2011 has reached raced week, but I am nervous about the distance. 26.2 miles is not easy any way one slices it. As I posted on Facebook this afternoon, last year in attempting my first ever marathon, I faced fear of the unknown. This year, I face the fear of the known and of elevated expectations. Having overcome spraining my ankle at mile 3.5 to still finish, I am confident that so long as I stay healthy this year, I will finish in a much faster time. Last year was about going the distance. This year is about pushing my physical and mental limits to overwhelmingly beat 2010's time. As the week goes on, I will post more about my excitement and anxiety, but for today, I want to reflect back on one year ago when I stepped to the start line of my first ever 26.2 in my home town race. It was a thrill to be guided by two amazing gentlemen who volunteered to be my eyes well before either had ever met me. In fact, the first man, Rich, met me three weeks prior to the marathon when he guided me for ten of the twenty miles which makes up the CARA Ready To Run 20 Miler. The second man, Peter, met me one week prior to the marathon when he guided me for the Buck Town 5K. If you have never seen this, here is video of me at last year's Chicago Marathon. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to pass it along.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Buy Book Help National Runaway Switchboard

In sports, announcers, talk show hosts, and fans will often discuss a trade in terms of which team won the trade. Of course, the best trades are the ones where all the teams involved benefit so that it can be called a "win win" situation. In life, we are often presented with similar situations where our decisions will benefit our own interest while helping others. A great way to do just that is to purchase the book, Musical Chairs by Jen Knox. You will enjoy the mastery with which Jen discusses her life experiences. You will be intrigued by such a talented author. Purchasing the book prior to the end of September will also help out the National Runaway Switchboard, an organization which works with runaways and their families during difficult times in life. Jen Knox is donating 100% of her royalties from September sales of Musical Chairs to the National Runaway Switchboard. So please buy the book and consider passing along the information and link to others to also make a purchase.

Please visit Jen's site to read more about her book as well as to see the link to Amazon to buy it:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Imerman Angels Video

On October 9, I will be running my second marathon. For the second straight year, I will take on the challenge of the Chicago Marathon. I am excited and nervous about what is in front of me. 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago. I am prepared to take on the miles. I know I can conquer. Mainly, I want to be able to call my experience a success. Away from the running, I want to call my involvement with the non profit of my choice a success. Similar to last year, I am running the marathon for a charity which does tremendous work. If you have read my past posts, you have read my thoughts on Imerman angels. I also plan to discuss my thoughts on the race and non profit next week as the race nears. For now, I wish to direct you to the following link which is a three minute video on Imerman Angels. In a future post, I will provide my fundraising page link so people can donate and help me reach my goal of $1,000. I am very close to achieving said goal and hope that this video will allow you to see for whom I am raising and racing so that you may consider contributing to my cause. Thank you very much.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Independent Ink

One of the most exciting times was also filled with plenty of anxiety. It was writing my life story as an autobiographical theater piece. I had no idea where it would lead me or whether any theater group would even be interested in my story, but I wrote it because screenwriters and directors who were much more accomplished and whom I respected, insisted the play would open doors for me. Sure enough, months after writing my initial draft, a theater group in Chicago named the piece a New Play Fest winner. A year later, I was starring a production of the play. So many individuals from the theater and film world have been praising the theater piece and now the screenplay which I have also written. One of the people whose words I take with me always is writer, actor, director, monologist, author, and teacher, Robyn Okrant, who read a draft and said that she loved that I did not fall into the trap so many new young writers do when writing their life story especially when it is one of their early works. That is, painting themselves as a victim and heroic figure while not showing their many other sides. Robyn said there were times in my play where she felt I was heading down the road of an After School Special, but just as characters tossed praise my way and I painted myself as a victim, I'd pull the rug from under the reader and other characters and show a dark, mean, angry side to myself. It was quite a ride of emotions as just when people would fall in love with me, I would give them reasons to hate me. Another person who shared similar feelings was media personality and author, Jenniffer Weigel who attended one of my performances and talked about my ability to blind people from tears due to a heart wrenching moment while having them hold their sides which are hurting from laughing so hard all within the same scene. I find it a fun challenge to tell my story through play and film because while I am attempting to be true to the story, I am also allowing for the possibility that like in any other story, I can take some liberties to heighten tension and give actors plenty of material with which to play. I do the same thing with another of my theater pieces and films called Touch Of Rain. It too is based on my life. In fact, I like to call it, a fictional account of factual events. I do my best to tell this story of love, appreciation, and awakening brought into my life when a pulchritudinous princess walked in and brought me back to life! I respect the real life woman who inspired this story while realizing I have an opportunity to shape the story in a way to make it a wonderful experience for an audience. Since I rely heavily on my life experience, I am often amazed and impressed by those who also embrace their story and are willing to share it with the world. One such woman is Jen Knox. If Aaron Sorkin can work on rewrites for A Few Good Men twenty years after the play premiered on Broadway, then surely, I can continue to refine my story six years after it first made a splash in Chicago. Keeping this in mind, I am always fascinated at what I learn from Jen telling her story and her truth. I learned so much from reading this article in Independent Ink Magazine. I hope you will read it too. I hope you will take the time to also check out her blog.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Liz And Jen Guide Me For 20 Miles

On Saturday night, I set my alarm for 4:45a.m. for the following morning. I pinned my bib number to my Imerman Angels top, put out my tether, laid out my Denver Triathlon jacket, and made sure my shorts and socks were set too. At 9:51p.m. I hopped into bed. I could not sleep. I tossed and turned until about thirty minutes to midnight. I woke up suddenly to discover I had another hour of sleep to go. Finally, at a quarter to five, I dragged myself out of bed and dressed for the day ahead.

Dressed and with breakfast in my belly, I headed to the Newton 20 Miler along the Chicago lakefront. I arrived at about 6:20a.m., walked to gear check, and loaded my bag into the bus which would take the gear twenty miles south to the finish line. I waited as I heard the first few waves go off. Before I knew it, wave twenty-three had gone off and I was still waiting by the bus for my guide. I heard a voice call out my name. She walked up to me. It was the lovely, Liz Bilitz. She volunteered to take me the first ten miles of this event. We walked over to the start. Within a few minutes, we were crossing the starting line on route to heading twenty miles. It was a slow pace to start out. We were going at a twelve minute per mile pace. I was nervous. I am sure so was Liz. Being that it was her first time meeting me and guiding a person who does not have sight, I am sure she had butterflies in her stomach. Soon enough, I found myself feeling comfortable with her instructions. We crossed the first mile. She was getting the hang of it. I was much more relaxed. The footing was a bit tough, but we continued. Pretty soon, Liz told me me were under a ten minute pace. We made it to the second mile marker. Now we were starting to find a groove. There were times we were pushing closer to nine minute pace, but for the most part we stayed at about 9:30. Liz was sharing her observations describing our surroundings. Time was passing quickly. We were moving.

The miles rolled by on this Sunday morning. It was suppose to be in the low seventies, but it was much colder. Plus, it was raining. Other runners remarked that they had heard it would not rain until early to late afternoon yet other than the rainbow Liz mentioned she saw just as we had started to run, there was not a bright sun in the sky as I had hoped. The wind picked up in some spots. At about mile seven, I took a step and landed funny, but luckily, I righted my step and did not sprain my ankle. Memories of the Chicago Marathon of 2010 entered my mind. Liz kept guiding. Shortly after, I stepped funny again. My right ankle shook a bit, but once more, I righted my step avoiding a twisted ankle yet again. Before long, Liz was telling me we were within sight of the aid station of mile ten were she would hand off the tether to her friend and mine, Jennifer Pfaff. I heard Jen's voice. We had reached the aid station. After a quick break, Jen took over the guiding.

The first mile with Jen was an adjustment for me. Although I had run this same event with Jen last year, I needed to rediscover a comfort level with her calling out information. It was taking her a while to adjust to guiding again too. It was nice because it allowed me to take a break at pushing my speed by slowing down and reaching a good zone. Soon enough, we were feeling it and picked up the pace. The rain kept coming. In some spots, the wind was howling. We reached the aid station at mile twelve when I heard the voice of a beautiful woman call out for Sexy Isra. It was Jemma who I met through my association with Imerman Angels. She is a professional Board Member. As the miles piled up, many more people would yell out "Go Sexy Isra!" At one point, a young woman runs up to us and asks, "Are you Sexy Isra from Twitter?" Yes, I am. It was Adriana. A young woman who I follow and who follows me. It was so great to finally meet her. Others expressed encouragement as they passed or as we passed them. Jen kept sharing her excitement for how well we were doing. With every step and every mile marker, we were nearing the end. At one point, I was shocked to find out that midway through mile seventeen, we were moving at a 8:48 pace for a stretch. I felt good, but I found myself needing to walk in short stretches. Finally, Jen insisted no more walking until we get to an aid station. I wanted to walk. She insisted I had it in me not to resort to that. Sure enough, she was right. I kept running until the aid station which was half a mile away. We arrived at mile nineteen. One more left! I walked for a short distance then Jen made me start running again. At that point she said no more walking. Run through to the finish. I said to myself, "No more." We rolled and kept going all the way across the finish line. Twenty miles after I had begun running with Liz, I had crossed the end with Jen.

We walked around finding my bag and taking free samples of various products. We made our way to the buses which would eventually take us back to the start line way back on the north side. From there I headed home. The last big run prior to the marathon complete. I hope to get in a few more double digit runs outside with friends, but it is time to begin to focus on the Chicago Marathon in three weeks. Thank you to Jen and Liz for guiding me for the twenty miler and I look forward to the opportunity to run with them again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Am I Ready To Run?

By this time tomorrow, the question will be answered. Tomorrow will be the second straight year I will participate in the Ready To Run 20 Miler, the last long distance training run prior to the Chicago Marathon on October 9, 2011. This year, I am running the 26.2 distance as a member of Imerman Active of Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support so that no one faces cancer alone. After tomorrow, it will be time to work down the mileage to remain fresh come marathon day. I hope to be able to maintain a 9:30 pace the entire twenty miles. Last year, I started slow picked up the pace, and found a second wind at the twelve mile mark which carried me through the seventeenth mile where I finally began to truly struggle. Of course, my guide, Jennifer Pfaff was not about to let me fade as she pushed me through beyond the finish line. I am excited that Jen has returned to guide me once again at this 20 Miler. She will guide me the final ten miles while her friend, a woman whom I am anxious and excited to meet, Liz Bilitz, will guide me for the first ten miles. I am nervous about running twenty miles, but I am also thrilled to spend time with Jen while getting to know Liz. I have been training putting in the running and hope it will help me through the distance tomorrow and the miles will not take much out of me so I can resume my running within a few days and continue until the date with 26.2.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Fair Lady, Amanda Grace

She may be the hardest working woman in showbiz. She truly is one of the most talented, amazing, and beautiful women whom I am privileged to call a friend. You can see the reasons when you see her in her next role. The lovely Amanda Grace will be seen in My Fair Lady at the Paramount Theater in Aurora, Il. This is a big time production featuring a big ensemble and orchestra. You will be entertained and get your money's worth. My Fair Lady runs from September 16 at 8:00p.m. with a media opening through October 2, 2011. Do not miss this great production and especially, the amazing, lovely, and beautiful Amanda Grace!!

For more information and to reserve your tickets, please visit the following site:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ready To Run 20 Miler 2011

It is less than one month before I take on the challenge of the Chicago Marathon for the second consecutive year. Also for the second straight year, I will gage my fitness level and readiness by participating in the CARA Ready To Run 20 Miler three weeks before the marathon. This year it will be on Sunday September 18. In order for me to complete this task, I will need to find someone willing to run twenty miles with me. If I can not, I must find a couple individuals who want to each guide me for half of the miles. That is where the amazing Jennifer Pfaff comes in to help me. Jen, who received her first taste of the guiding thing last year at this very event, offered to once again be my guide for at least ten of the miles. I then needed to find another person to volunteer for the other ten miles. As the event neared I began to wonder where I would find someone, but once again, Jen provided a solution by offering to ask her friends. A day or so later, Liz Bilitz reached out to me and offered to guide me for the first half of the run then hand me off to Jen to take me the rest of the way. I am looking forward to meeting Liz for the first time on Sunday morning. I will meet her in the same way I first met Jen in person. I truly love participating in these events and the way in which so many wonderful people come into my life as a result of me needing guides to be my eyes for training runs, marathons, and triathlons. Some of the individuals who have gone on to be very important influential friends in my life were men and women I first met because they volunteered to guide me. In some of those cases, they would introduce themselves via phone or email, but I would not meet them until they picked me up at the airport when I would travel to their city or I would first meet them when I would pull up to their front door after flying halfway across the country to race in an event. I look forward to meeting Liz. I already know she is a spectacular woman. I hope she and I get along because I have a very good feeling she is also a spectacular athlete from whom I could learn so much. The only question which now remains is am I ready to run?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011 GLASA Twilight 5K

I was excited to return to the GLASA Twilight 5K on Saturday evening. Last year, I was able to finish second in my division while completing the 3.1 mile run in 27:30. This year, I hoped to break 25:00. Sharon Bielski, a young woman who had never guided a runner who is blind, was my guide for the event in Lake Forest. I met Sharon for the first time an hour before the event. One of my favorite parts about this race is that it is the only one which my parents have attended each time I have run it. So on a yearly basis, it is the only race in which they see me run. This year, my dad decided to run in it too. He does not train. He is not use to running, but he insisted he could complete it along the way, he could beat me. Although my dad does not train, he use to be a running, cyclying, and basketball star in his home town when he was a teen. When I was too young to remember or participate, he would take the kids to the park each Saturday morning to engage in various athletic activities. Mostly, my siblings ran. Over the years, my siblings competed in various sports and more recently, each one of them has done at least one 5K race. A couple of them have done many more. In addition, my nieces and nephews have started gaining interest in running with a couple of the younger kids wanting to follow in uncle Israel's footsteps and race triathlons.

I was excited for my dad, but also a bit nervous. I was worried whether his body could handle 3.1 miles. I was worried that he could indeed beat me. After all, on any given day with the right conditions or chain of events, the best "team" may lose. What if the conditions, footing, or destiny smiled on him and he did stun me by crossing the finish first? The Twilight 5K had what felt like its largest field. In fact, the race was delayed by ten minutes as there was a huge race day registeration walk-up crowd. After the military tribute and the moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 in NYC, DC, and outside of Pittsburgh, it was time to go. The horn sounded. Sharon and I made our way through a field which included World War II vets, high school track teams, and five year old boys and girls. As I remember the course, it is a fast flat course. Only, this year it was not. It was filled with uphills and long inclines. Still, we moved. By the first mile, we were rolling at a 8:30 pace. My dad who planted himself behind us prepared to have me set the pace all the way through until bolting out ahead in the final sprint, was not around. Fairly early in this race, we had been moving at a pace which he found comfortable and he stayed with us a short distance behind, but by the time we reached the first mile, Sharon and I had stepped on the gas and opened up a gap which he could never close. We coasted by the second mile marker at 17:10 and we were on our way to the final mile. At this pace, we would not break twenty-five minutes. Sharon asked if I wanted to push it a bit, but we maintained our speed. At times, we would, but for the most part, we reamined very calculated throughout the race. In fact, we only truly picked it up for a longer than normal stretch as we entered the final shoot sprinting and high stepping across the finish line. As of this, I do not know our official time, but although we probably did not break twenty-five minutes, I was very happy with our run. I truly enjoyed running with Sharon. Thank you Sharon for the opportunity and experience to run with you at this race. I hope we will get a chance to run more races together. She is a ture guiding pro!

Congratulations to my dad who pushed his body and completed the 5K with a nice sprint to the finish. He probably finished in about thirty minutes. He was spectacular. Now, he has stated that he plans to train some in the future so that he will run the GLASA 5K next year and that time he promises to go all out and beat me and any other family member who wishes to register and challenge him.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Amy Lee's Hello Opens Israel's Career

In grade school and high school, I was in several plays. I experienced the excitement and anxiety of Opening Night. Five years ago on September 8, I experienced an Opening Night unlike any other. That is because it was "real." All the other times I was in a school play or musical. I was simply another cast member. Even in the shows where I was the star, they were one time performances for family and friends. I was merely memorizing classic pieces previously performed by many others written by established amazing writers. In this case, I was the star expected to carry a show and production for two months for a theater piece written by previously unproduced playwright, Israel Antonio. I was performing at the famed Prop THTR in Chicago in a show directed by one of Prop's co-founders and artistic Directors, Scott Vehill. Not only would friends and family see me, but so would complete strangers. Well respected individuals from all levels of the theater world. From small storefront theater group representatives to influential people at the world famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company would all see me perform words and scenes written by me. On top of that, media members, theater critics, and reporters would check out this show which unbeknownst to me was receiving plenty of attention within the theater world. Word had been spreading since the show's successful appearance in Prop THTR'S New Play Fest a year prior.

I arrived at Prop about an hour before show time. As my luck would have it, I had started to come down with a cold. Clearly, the pressure of expectations and a desire to fully shine had begun to break my body down. A young woman came up to me. It was my dear friend, Lisa, who I knew from college, but whom I had not seen in a very long time. The next person to walk up to me was the lovely, Sunshine. A former college classmate who had finished her work day and immediately jumped in her car and stepped on the gas to make the four hour drive to Chicago to watch me. I was then introduced to Nina Metz who was there to review my play for the Chicago Tribune. At this time, HizZoner, a play about Richard J. Daley written by and starring Neil Giuntoli was the smash hit of Prop and Chicago. As the talented cast finished another awe inspiring performance, I waited for people to strike the set and prepare the stage for my show. A long line had formed in the lobby and there was a buzz in there air. Ivan Ortega and the lovely, Madelon Guinazzo were along side ready to begin this two month journey of performances with me. I was scared. I tried remembering all my lines. Of course, ever the writer, I had been rewriting and trying out new lines as late as that afternoon's run-through. At one point, Madelon had to tell me, "You need to stop being the playwright and start focusing on being the actor." The great Neil Giuntoli, a man whose television and film work I had enjoyed and respected for years, approached me and gave me a wonderfully big embrace. He could see how scared I was and he assured me all would be fine. He offered some words of encouragement and a prayer. He told me how much he believed in me and how I too could go as far as he had in his Hollywood career. It was a great thrill to not only receive these kind words from him, but then, he decided to stick around and watch the show!

People filed in. A final announcement was made to the crowd. The opening music began. As this was my debut as a produced playwright and professional actor, I wanted the opening song to be one which captured my feelings about life. After all, the piece people had paid to watch was my autobiographical theater piece so I wanted to set the mood immediately. I selected a song written by Amy Lee in memory of her little sister who died at a very young age. Amy's lyrics, the piano, and the overall tone of the song spoke to me. I hoped it would speak too the audience. Based on the feedback I would receive, the song accomplished what I had wanted as there was not a dry eye in the house by the time it ends and I walk out to deliver the opening lines of my play and career.

The play and now screenplay have changed over the years. I have changed both as an actor and a playwright. I wanted to ensure that this five year anniversary did not pass by without me thanking all the wonderful people who made the show and experience a spectacular one for me.

For anyone interested, I am including a link to the song entitled HELLO by Evanescence so you may listen to the song which played at the start of my career: