Monday, May 30, 2011

To Begin Again

Lately, I have been spending plenty of time rewriting my autobiographical theater piece while simultaneously writing the screenplay version. I found that tackling the screenplay has forced me to attempt to tell the story using less words and more pictures. This has in turn helped me with immagining the play in a different way. The original piece which was first produced in 2006 was a one act play with a running time of one hour and twenty minutes. It was forty-five pages and was overwhelmingly reliant on my breaking the fourth wall to convey my thoughts and ideas of a given scene or person within a scene. As I told a friend, it was very much like Zach Morris in the Saved By The Bell program. That is something I only noticed within the last few months. My initial intension was to craft it in my own voice, but it was clear to many that there was a heavy influence from John Leguizamo's award winning Broadway shows. I was tickled when my friend, Rani, pointed out that it was very clear to see how my piece was influenced by Woody Allen's Annie Hall. At the point she made this comment, I had not yet seen Annie Hall. As a result, I made it a point to watch it and instantly, I knew what she meant. At the end of 2010 I began to rewrite the piece. I was most excited that I was willing to share new stories. These were stories I was not yet comfortable to share involving deep intimate moments especially with women. I shared many involving me and women in those 2006 performances which spoke to my insecurities, fears, and rejections, but I had not been ready to share ones which exposed even greater vulnearability. After those performances, I began to perform at schools, churches, and conferences where I tested out some of these. My friend and castmate, Madelon was so tremendous in helping me find my voice and comfort level to share these parts of my life and we both knew eventually, I would need to find a balance within to share these in my autobiographical piece. Another big shift in my telling my story was to not rely on breaking the fourth wall so much. I concluded that I needed to take my audience to a desired point in a scene and keep them there. I also needed to keep myself there so that my castmates could feel my emotions and play off of them. By turning to the audience to make a comment or share my feelings, I was taking myself out of the scene and doing a disservice to everyone especially my fellow actors. I was not quite sure how I could share my feelings with the audience without resorting to telling them directly. When I worked on the screenplay, I discovered how to do so. I was so excited that I rewrote the play. then after a few weeks, I went back into the play yet again and continued to carve out another draft until I had completed a two act 108 page draft.

I am so grateful to Facebook, twitter, and the internet because I have been able to find inspiration through other writers who have become my friends and whose work serve as wonderful resources on what greatness is and can be. One of those talented writers is Jen Knox! Having a chance to breathe again in between starting on my next writing project, I have been catching up on her blog posts and she is simply amazing. It is so wonderful to see how she communicates her honesty and truth through her creativity. I have read a few of her short stories and look forward to finally getting the chance to read her books. One is Musical Chairs and the other, which was recently released, is To Begin Again. That title speaks to me as I feel that I have begun again as I return to the piece which made me a produced playwright and an actor in a male lead for the first time. I hope everyone gets a chance to check out Jen's two books. You will be blown away by her talent.

Here is a link to the To Begin Again Amazon page:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2011 Soldier Field 10

After the false start from a couple weeks ago when I was set to kick off my 2011 season with a half marathon, but could not due to my guide injuring himself days before the race then reinjuring himself an hour prior to the race, I was able to cross the start line on Saturday morning at the Soldier Field 10. On friday, I was able to get in one final workout in the morning and spent the rest of the day relaxing and drinking liquids. My hope was to have everything set by 9p.m. so I could go to bed around that time. Of course, it did not quite work out that way and I did not get to put my head on my pillow until 10:30p.m. I could not sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about almost everything else, but the race. I did not feel I was nervous or anxious, but maybe I was a little bit. I thought about some edits with a couple theater pieces and screenplays. I thought about some friends I have not spoken to or seen recently as well as a few with whom I have recently been in contact and have discussed getting together. My alarm was set for 4:20a.m. It was midnight and I was still awake.

Just as I was wondering, will I get any sleep tonight, my alarm went off and I realized that apparently, at some point, I had indeed fallen asleep. This morning's breakfast was peanut butter and jelly sandwich accompanied by a twenty ounce bottle of Powerade. The weather called for some possible rain and chillier temperatures so I grabbed my jacket and headed for the door just as the doorbell rang at 5:30a.m. Michael Crissie, my sighted guide for the event, had arrived and it was time to roll. We arrived at Soldier Field at 6a.m. and made our way to gear check. I put on my SF10 dry fit shirt, took off my running pants since I planned to run in my trusty triathlon shorts, and grabbed my tether which Michael would hold on to to navigate me through the course. By 6:05a.m. we were ready, but the race would not start until 7:30a.m. We walked around for a bit and it was cold. I spent most of the next hour shivering and blowing on my hands. Eventually, we worked our way to a grassy part just outside the stadium for the start. Michael was excited and feeling strong. I was a bit nervous as this would be my first double digit mile run since the Chicago Marathon last October. For the last month, I have been working mostly on my speed as I have been running at a 6:40 to 7:00 minutes per mile pace. I have not been able to run for distance and find myself averaging just under three miles at those paces. The race begins and we wait for our turn to go in the midst of a record turnout of 15,000 in the eighth year of this event which is organized to pay back the men and women of all branches of the US armed forces. The charities associated with this event work with veterans and their families as well as those currently serving around the world. We eased through the first two miles. We slowed up a bit in the third, but kept coasting along as Michael told me some stories, computed what was happening around him and relayed it to me in real time, attempted to clear a path for me as we zigged and zagged by many people. Most annoying were the ones listening to their MP3 players and unaware that Michael was attempting to get their attention. We reached the five mile turn around and we headed for home. By this point, the chillier weather was not to be found. I am sure it was still present, but with the folks around us and us moving steadily, I could no longer feel any cold. Along the way plenty of people came up to us to congratulate us for being out there. Some patted me on the back while others just offered encouragement. One older gentleman ran up and said, "I'll run with you guys for a bit. I'll clear a path for you guys." He was one of the volunteer pace setters so it was fun to run with him for a bit before he sprinted ahead and left us in his dust. One woman came up and said, "You're my hero." I said thank you. then Michael chimed in with, "She means me." She laughed and responded with, "Well, both of you." Michael is my hero. As i mentioned to my long time friend, Alison, who is Mmichael's fiance, I think people are too quick to call the blind or visually impaired a heroic person for having the courage to get out and race and they tend to forget that without the sighted guide, it would be impossible for a blind or visually impaired person to race. I have observed all that my guides do each race to prepare and to guide within the race and to be honest, I do not believe I could ever pull it off as wonderfully as the men and women who have guided me. It is a tough task keeping up with a certain pace, watching everything going on, and still have the ability to share all that information in time for he or she who is being guided to react. Suddenly, in the midst of mile six, I began to struggle. My pace slowed and I started to doubt myself. I kept plugging along as Michael noticed and began to up the encouragement. By the time we reached mile eight, I was tired, but feeling good. I heard footsteps and having breathing all around me and was pleasantly surprised that I still had not begun to breathe heavily nor stomp my feet when I landed. I was still fine. My steps were light and respiration was measured. With two miles to go, I started mentally telling myself, 3200 meters left. As we moved along, I kept estimating in meters. Then I heard 1.3 miles left. Michael prepared me for the final mile push. We arrived at the final mile and I thought, 1600 meters left. I kept speaking to myself mentally subtracting distance, but Michael noticed that I was becoming heavy and dragging. "Where's that speed work? Come on!", he shouted. Yes, I thought. This is where those seven minute miles must pay off. I can run half a mile in three to four minutes in training so let us try that now. I reached inside and began picking up the pace. Michael shouted out that we had forty feet until a turn and I would make that my goal to speed up for that distance. then he informed me we were fifty feet from the stadium entrance so that distance became my new goal. We reached the stadium and entered a tunnel. Just a few hundred meters to go. We made a turn and I heard the Chicago Bears fight song as we ran through the players' tunnel. Just a bit more and we will have made it to the field. We popped out of the famed tunnel and on to the playing surface. Just then, I heard the public address announcer call out that Israel and Michael had come on to the field. this is the first time ever I have ever the PA announcer say my name at a race. Apparently, my name is often called as I near the finish, but I never hear it. Michael urges me to sprint and I do. Of course, just then a woman in front of us slows down to record her finish with her phone, but Michael pushes her out of the way and we gallop the final fifty yards across the field and through the finish line on the Bears logo.

It was such a joy to experience this event once again. The excitement of being on that surface was like brand new today. It was such a privilege to run with Michael once more. He is such a great guide. Special thanks to Elizabeth Vincenty of Fleet Feet who I contacted about registering for this event and she ended up taking care of the entire process for me. She is so wonderful. The pictures should be up by tuesday and in the coming weeks they will probably find their way to Facebook for all my friends to enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Night Before Soldier Field 10

After a good week of weight lifting and running, I decided to close the week with another lifting session and a run at at a slower pace than what I have become use to in recent weeks. I was attempting to balance between wanting to push my body and not pushing to hard as I will be running in the Soldier Field 10 on Saturday morning. I ran this race for the first time last year and truly enjoyed the experience. I met a wonderful woman, Justine Boney, who helped me through the registration process and has become a good friend. I was guided by Michael Crissie and we had fun rolling through the streets of Chicago and finishing at Soldier Field through the Chicago Bears players' tunnel, over the end zone then racing the last short distance on the field to finish at the fifty yard line. We are excited to get the opportunity again and hope to improve on last year's finish time. This year, another wonderful woman helped me through the process. Elizabeth Vincenty. I look forward to a wonderful run with Michael and hope the weather will be just right for all 15,000 runners in the event.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Denver Triathlon Charity

Last week, I read an article discussing how so many celebrities are turning to triathlons as a way to achieve and maintain a great physique as well as to raise money for great causes near and dear to their hearts. Many of the names listed in the piece were the same names I had read about over several years, but a few were ones I had not known about who are now heavily involved in racing. Two of the favorite events seem to be in Malibu and South Beach. I would like to one day race in both events simply to say I did. Of course, this would mean I must spend many more hours in the pool working on my swim stroke and feeling comfortable in water. An event which is near and dear to my heart is the Denver Triathlon which takes place this year on Sunday, July 24. The organizers continue to work hard to put together a race which all participants will enjoy. From the newcomer who may be a youth to the athlete who has been racing for a couple decades, this race promises to have something for everyone. Another aspect of the Denver Triathlon which I love is the event's association with a wonderful cause, The C Different Foundation. This organization was created to inspire, educate, and change the world. C Different partners blind and visually impaired athletes with sighted volunteers who then race together in triathlons and road races all over the world. This past Saturday, C Different had five blind and visually impaired athletes who along with their guides competed in and all successfully completed the inaugural Ironman Texas. For those unaware of what an Ironman triathlon is, an athlete must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles. These races usually start about 7a.m. and each participant must be done with the course before midnight. Many of the athletes often have a charity tie-in to their training and racing to offer even greater meaning to their commitment.

The C Different Foundation is the reason I was able to race in my first triathlon in July 2008. They provided me encouragement, a sighted guide, and knowledge to get me through the process. With two months to go before the event this summer, anyone who wishes can raise funds for the C Different Foundation, race on the C Different team, or volunteer to be a sighted guide for a blind or visually impaired athlete as many will be traveling to Denver for this race.

The two sites to check out for more information are listed below:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

False Start At Chicago Spring Half

After posting my thoughts on Saturday night, I took it easy spending plenty of time with my little niece. For one of the rare times prior to a race, I was relaxed. I was confident and not nervous at all. I gathered my tether and race day outfit before going to bed. I set the alarm for 4:20a.m. to give myself almost an hour before Michael, the young man who would guide me for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, would be by to pick me up. Like any other night prior to a race, I could not sleep. Maybe I was more nervous than I thought. Eventually, I fell asleep only to wake up early in the two o'clock hour. The rain tapped on my window. I thought to myself, good thing I have a race in the morning so I can get away from this rain. Then it dawned on me that if it was still raining, I would have to run in it. This was the moment at which I began to worry. I have run in cold and rainy conditions either in training or race day, but I never get use to it mainly because I do not like it. I was even more anxious for my guide, Michael, who experienced a tear in his right quad earlier this week while preparing for this race. Would his quad remain cold and tight under these conditions? Will he run the risk of doing more damage? Finally, I was able to fall asleep again. I kept waking up every so often until finally hearing my alarm go off at 4:20a.m. I put on my race day gear, tossed on some pants and jacket for the pre race fun, then had some breakfast. For today, it was a bottle of Powerade and an energy bar. The doorbell sounded and off I went.

It is always fun spending time with Michael so the ride to the race was filled with plenty of good conversation. He expressed some concern about his injury, but he was willing to give it a go and hoped he could gut it out. Of course, maybe one could gut out a 5K or 10K, but 13.1 miles would be a different story. We arrived and he decided to warm up with a quick run of a couple hundred yards. Upon his return, he informed me that he felt he caused yet another tear with his attempt. Clearly, he would not be able to run today. I was disappointed. I wanted to get out and run, but if he could not go, then it would not be worth risking especially considering he and I are scheduled to race in the Soldier Field 10 later this month. The wonderful race organizers especially, Colin, have been great to me the last couple of years. The wonderful people at Universal Sole in Chicago made this race possible for me by giving me a complimentary entry. I felt bad that I would be letting those individuals down, but felt there is a reason we were unable to run in this event. I could be mad or sad at not getting a chance to kick off my 2011 season or I could simply chalk this up to the fact that some times, it just is not meant to be. The more I register for races or keep looking to the next one, the sooner the disappointment for this one will be forgotten. If this was one of only a few races I would do this year, then it would bother me, but since this is one of what hopefully be so many, I chose to smile and say, I hope Michael heals quickly so we can romp and stomp through ten miles in two weeks as we gallop through the players' tunnel and across the 50 yard line on the turf of Soldier Field!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 starts at Chicago Spring Half

Saturday night, May 14. A year ago tonight, I was sitting here preparing to run in the Magellan Development Chicago Spring Half Marathon the following morning. I was nervous for various reasons. It was going to be my first race at the half marathon distance since I ran in the AIA Half Marathon in February 2008. It was the first race I would be running guiding by Michael Crissie whose only experience at guiding an athlete had been weeks before when I met him for the first time and we did a quick six mile run along the Chicago lakefront. As it turned out, all went well. My favorite highlight was when I had to stop to use the rest room. Michael made a mental note of all the runners passing by so that when I was ready to resume, we turned it into a game of catch-up. It took us about one mile to catch and go by all the runners who had passed us up by the rest room. As we made the final turn to home, I stepped on it and rolled through the final couple hundred meters. It was such a thrill to hear Michael's brother, Brian, call my final sprint across the finish line, the greatest final kick he had ever seen. Michael and I are set to make another attempt at the Magellan Development Chicago Spring Half Marathon which will be held tomorrow morning at 7:00a.m. I am excited about racing in the event again. It was a fun flat fast course last year and I expect the same tomorrow. Last year, I ended up breaking my personal best time at the 13.1 mile distance by thirty-three minutes and I hope to achieve a similar performance this time.

This time, I am relaxed and confident. I know Michael will be a great guide. Just as it was last year, this race will be the first of the year for me so I hope to kick off my season with a wonderful showing. I know it will be fun as I add another finisher's medal to my growing pile of medals. Last year started with this event and concluded with my debut at the marathon distance in October. Along the way I ran through the players' tunnel at Soldier Field, shocked myself with an amazing performance at the New York City Triathlon, and went the distance in my first ever attempt at 26.2. I met and befriended some tremendous people who volunteered to be my guides for each event. In several cases, I met these individuals for the first time on race day yet in very short order, we built such a quick bond that they were comfortable guiding me and I was comfortable entrusting them with my life. In 2011, so many wonderful memories await me in the water, on the bike, and on the road. It is time to go meet my 2011 destiny!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Denver Triathlon Club Challenge

For years, health, weight loss, and supplements have been billion dollars a year businesses as people choose to become more aware of their lifestyle choices. In my youth, I struggled to gain weight. I was always the smallest person in my classes. Then I reached college and I put on more weight than I even imagined I could. Around that time, I became very much involved with weight lifting so I fooled myself into believing I was simply bulking up. For a couple summers I spent my time lifting plenty of weights, performing thousands of sit ups a day, and jumping rope. I would lose about fifteen pounds only to put it on again over the next school year. Eventually, it was out of control. I put on so much weight that I could no longer run fast. I remember one time insisting I was still as lightning quick as I was in my youth that I felt confident I would easily run a mile in under ten minutes. After all, throughout my childhood and as late as my senior year of high school, I was a sprinter. Yet, with all my mental toughness, pumping myself up, and believing in my abilities, I could only manage a 10:21 time for one mile. I tried it again, but could only complete it in 10:06. Clearly, I was out of shape. As I have written previously, two friends further opened my eyes to my lack of fitness when my friend, Sunshine, told me that she felt my bodybuilding physique was disgusting around the same time that my friend, Rani, asked in a very surprised voiced, "You work out?" after I commented that my body was sore on that specific day due to a tough work out session. These moments served as inspiration for me to go get back my physique. I dedicated myself to losing as much weight as possible while increasing my strength and carving out a lean sexy physique. I fully understand that some individuals must rely on pills or surgery to help them reach their fitness goals. I understand there may be physical or medical limitations which prevent them from fully engaging in difficult and challenging fitness sessions. I did not have such issues so I had to push my body beyond its limits, make smarter eating decisions, and realize that I was not going to go through a fad to achieve my goals, I needed to alter my lifestyle. It more than paid off for me!

I achieved my fitness goals and discovered a desire to show off my physique. As a playwright and screenwriter, I could ensure my physique being on display by writing roles for myself where my character would be shirtless like Matthew McConaughey. As I started meeting more artists especially actors, actresses, and models, I learned that besides taking classes to work on their craft, they were heavily involved with yoga, pilates, running, biking, and swimming. Some even participated in some triathlon or road race events. I remember competing in my first triathlon in 2008 at the New York City Triathlon and Sunshine saying to me that it was quite overwhelmingbeing around so many hard bodies that weekend. I am so thrilled that I have been racing in so many events because it forces me to remain focussed on maintaining a solid physique. By having goals such as a pending race, I must keep running, biking, and lifting weights otherwise I will suffer on race day. Another benefit is being able to always be in good health. Still another benefit is the opportunity to travel the country seeing different cities and meeting new athletes of all levels. I have befriended so many people and it is a much more enriching experience racing with and amongst friends. If you wish to experience that feeling then please consider getting some friends together, training, then traveling to Denver for the Denver Triathlon on July 24, 2011. If you and your friends belong to a triathlon club, you might even consider being a part of the triathlon club challenge aspect of this race. For more information and to register, please log on to the following site:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

A very happy and healthy Mother's Day to my mother and sisters who are raising tremendous young men and women poised to be the next generation in my family. Also, a very special wish to my dear friends who are mothers. Along with my mom and sisters, my friends teach me plenty about being an amazing parent able to balance parental duties with personal individual dreams and achievements. I thank the amazing women currently in my life and those who shared a brief moment in time with me over the years. All of you teach or have taught me so many wonderful lessons which I hope to apply in my life eventually, if I do not already do so. May today be set aside to praise the women who make me and all of us the wonderful individuals we are. May today be one where I can say thank you to the mothers of some of my dearest closest friends. Who these friends are to me and how they shape my life is a result of the amazing jobs you as their mother did in raising them to be such spectacular people. Who my friends have become is a direct reflection on the mothers who taught them to love. Thank you always!!