Monday, December 31, 2012

To You Who Made My 2012 memorable

People like to say, "If it ain't broke don't fix it." I am of the belief, if it is good make it great. If it is great do what you can to sustain excellence. There is not a reason to wait until something is broken. Waiting until then makes one reactive as oppose to proactive. I say this because there have been times in my life where I was reactive instead of proactive. There have been times I wait until something is not going my way to change. As everyone else, I also use the end of the year to reflect on that which is concluding as well as look towards the next year while determine my goals and dreams which I wish to realize.

Many of my resolutions will carry over from 2012 as I improved from 2011 and wish to build on that this next year. Some of my resolutions are meant for me to dig a bit deeper in my soul and finally decide to take a risk on myself. Each year, I have a few of those. Some of them do take place while others I find myself putting it on the list yearly.

Before I begin 2013, I take a step back to say thank you to the men and women who made this year memorable. Because of you, I achieved more than I ever thought. Because of you I aimed higher than I ever dreamed possible.

Thank you to you who follow my blog. I always try to name you individually, but as the list of followers and readers grow, I find it almost impossible to memorize each of you so as you read this, please know I am talking about YOU! I hope you continue to read my work in the future.

When I began this year, the first race I did was Houston Half Marathon. The fabulous, Jennifer Pfaff, agree to fly to Houston to guide me for what turned out to be a twenty-seven minute personal record as I crossed the finish in 1:57:23. Almost immediately, I wanted the challenge of running faster. Before I ran another event, I reached out to the amazing, Jenna Parker, to ask this tremendous pro triathlete, model, and actress to prepare me to race. Truthfully, I had never learned to train or race. Whatever I do, I attempt to become a student of that arena, but there is only so much one can learn by reading and asking questions. If I will ask for help from someone, it might as well be one of the best athletes, competitors, and women out there who has achieved at the highest level. By my next race, I was doing better. I improved my ten mile personal record by six minutes when I crossed the finish of the Soldier Field 10 for the third consecutive year, but there was more to do especially now with Jenna steering the Sexy Isra ship in the correct direction.

The month of June saw me return to Pleasant Prairie Duathlon where I improved my overall time by three minutes, but the story of the day was learning that I had finished number two in my division which gave me my first ever podium as I raced on the Dare2Tri chicago paratriathlon Club which was founded by my friends, Keri Schindler, Melissa Stockwell, and others. My first ever podium all thanks to Jenna!

My friend, Andrew was champing to guide me for a race so we agreed to race the Southshore Tri together. Part of a relay, I ended up doing the 20K bike leg and the 5K run leg. The first eight miles on the bike were directly into a headwind. The rest of the route took us into a stiff crosswind. I pedaled like never before. By the time I dismounted in transition, I was not sure of my bike split or whether it was good enough to be my best ever 20K bike time, but I knew I had given it my all like never before. there are races where afterwards, I reflect on it and wish I could have certain portions to do over again, but I knew in my heart, there was nothing about the bike I would change. As it turns out, it was only the third fastest bike split I had ever delivered, but it does not change my feeling that I gave it everything I had and I would not change anything. Within a few hundred meters of the run, I could tell I was physically and emotionally spent. I was turning my legs, but they felt like stones. I did not even feel like I was running. Everything hurt. At one point, I opened my mouth prepared to tell Andrew that I wanted to walk to the side of the road, find a grassy area, and sit down. I wanted the quickest way to end this pain. I have never felt like this in a race. I have been tired and spent, but this was different. I felt empty. When we reached the first mile marker, Andrew informed me we had run that mile in nine minutes. I was shocked! There have been races where I am fresh and I can not run nine minute miles yet there I was ready to fold up my tent yet running faster than I realized. I pushed ahead and by the final mile along the famed Chicago Lakeshore Drive, Andrew was guiding me to the strongest finish I had ever experienced as we ran the last mile one minute faster than the first one.

That finish was Jenna's work shining through my performance. The next time it shined through was September's Ready To Run 20 Miler when Andrew guided me for the first half were we eased to a comfortable ten miles before Jennifer Pfaff took over. Jenna had give me a game plan which Jen and I were poised to follow, but as she took over guiding duties, there was a part of me which wanted to show her that I was in better shape than I had ever been. I wanted to show her that the work with Jenna was paying off. Within a quarter mile, I turned it on. As Jen told me our pace, I grew in confidence. Usually, I get scared, but on this day, I was up for the challenge. We kept pushing the pace until about 1.5 miles from the finish when I was truly tired and wanting to slow down. Jen was not going to let me. she insisted I was training to run not jog or walk. She also told me to consider the disappointment Jenna would feel. I did not want to cause that disappointment so I pushed my way passed so many people down the stretch to run my fastest race mile ever!

Jenna helped me podium and set PRs in every race. How about helping me prepare so that I could follow up last year's Chicago Marathon with an even better performance? Last year, I ran it in 4:50:20 which was thirty-six minutes faster than my previous marathon. It was also good enough to qualify me for the Boston Marathon in the Blind/Visually Impaired category where one need only run a certified marathon in under five hours. Still, I wanted to BQ again with a faster time. I would love under four hours. Joining elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff, as my guide was Ironman Triathlete, Kimberly Shah. Kim and Jen had helped me in 2011 so I wanted them again for this attempt. The first half was a breeze, the second was much tougher, but I managed to gut out a splendid personal best by running what then became my fastest ever race mile in my final mile to cross the finish line in 3:58.

Without Jenna or any of my guides, I would never accomplish any of my athletic achievements. Similarly, without those friends who believe in my writing, I would never move forward in that arena. For many years, I have turned to a fabulous writer, actress, and singer, Marrielle for help. She provides me such wonderful critical feedback on my plays and screenplays which help me write better drafts. One of my favorite memories took place several years ago when talented screenwriter, Michelle Amor who wrote Of Boys And Men, Playin' for Love, and other films requested to read a copy of my In the Dark play. She said she puts all scripts through a one line test. If the piece does not grab her in the first line, she knows it is not worth her time. A story does not suddenly get good because a writer does not suddenly find talent. She read my play's first line and ended up reading the entire script in one sitting. She insisted I turn the theater piece into a film. I had considered it, but it was not until such a respected writer demanded it did I finally sit down to do so. Marrielle and Michelle were the ones to whom I always turned for feedback on the script. I finally decided to step outside my comfort zone after rewriting the film script in the hopes of attracting Jenna Parker to it. I sent it to her and she enjoyed the piece. Around the same time I reached out to my dear friend, NYC based TV and film producer, Brendan Hermes in the hopes he would read it. He did and raved about it. I hear people compare their work to other famous established work. I never do that, but when Brendan told me it reminded him of a certain Oscar winning film which people love, I knew that maybe just maybe, Michelle, Marrielle, Jenna, and Brendan were correct about this script. I then remembered a comment I received from Jim Czarnecki, producer of Fahrenheit 911, Capitalism: A Love Story, and other such films who said about my In The Dark film, "You have a story you need to tell and Hollywood needs to make." Because of my friends especially, Brendan and Jenna, I decided to submit the script to Zoetrope as part of the annual competition put on by Francis Coppola and George Lucas' Zoetrope Studios. I do not know its fate and will not know until six weeks from now, but the belief by these individuals gave me the confidence to take a risk. I am so thrilled that I even went that far with it. It does warm my heart to read a comment from a friend, energy alignment healer, Dr. therese Rowley who wrote she is excited about finally seeing Jenna on the big screen helping bring my story to life. Is that her being supportive or could that be a sign from the universe of what might be in stored in 2013? My fingers are crossed.

One of my favorite people in the world is author, Jen Knox whose work is simply amazing. I have often posted links to her published work here. I find her to be a fascinating woman with a tremendous talent. Recently, she inspired me to try my hand at Flash Fiction. Although I have not yet done so, I plan to submit some of my work for feedback to Jen. she was the one who inspired me and it would only be fitting that she be the first to read my work to determine where I stand in that field. I am so grateful that Jen not only introduced me to the rules of flash fiction, but has been encouraging and supportive pushing me to write them. I can not wait to send her what I have and hopefully she will like my work. It would crush me if someone whom I respect tremendously does not like my work. I am doing my best to give my best possible work so at the very least, she will see that there is something there which can be published to the world. That is definitely something I would like to attempt in 2013. That is to get some work published. I use to try writing novels, but after writing plays and screenplays, I just could no longer be disciplined enough to write them. Jen has me inspired to attempt once more. Maybe these short pieces will be the springboard to longer work. If so, I will have Jen Knox to thank!

Thank you again to all of you for making 2012 a very special one. I can not express my appreciation enough for the way each of you has changed my life. I hope you know I will forever love you! I am inspired and moved by you. I am driven to become a better athlete and artist because of you. Thank you for what you have done to make me a better person, brother, friend, lover, son, and uncle. I look forward to more.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

C Different Race For A Reason

In 2007, thanks to Gina Lombardi of Fit TV's Fit Nation and Lokelani McMichael, the youngest person to complete the Ironman Triathlon at eighteen years old, I was inspired to try my hands at triathlons. I did not know if race organizers would let me. After losing my sight, I was not sure if I could or would be allowed to participate in athletics with everyone else instead of those adapted for the blind and visually impaired to which I never grew accustomed. I learned via the trusty internet that there was an organization called the C Different Foundation which was founded to inspired, educate, and change the world. C Different wished to inspire blind and visually impaired people to lead active lives in athletics. The organization wanted to show blind and visually impaired folks what could be possible. CDF wanted to show the world that there was a growing percentage of people who had a disability, but they were not disabled. they were not defined by their eye condition. The founder of this non profit was a man named Matt Miller. I read about Matt and his many experiences. He raced triathlons at an elite level, he was a model who travelled the globe, he appeared in many daytime soaps, he had produced a film called victory Over Darkness as he helped five individuals become the first ever blind triathletes to complete an Ironman, and he had a daytime job as a roofer. I reached out to him and within an hour, he responded to me. In those five years, I have had the great privilege to be friends with this magnificent man. I have raced on his Team CDF for various races in several different cities. Matt has always been supportive of my athletics, theater, and film ventures. He has always pushed me to strive. I always enjoy the times on the course where Matt spots me then joins my guide and I for a bit. In one race, he even decided to join my guide and I for the final four miles of a 30K to help me run it in on a very tough day.

Matt Miller has opened doors for many people. He has provided opportunities for many who are blind and visually impaired. He has opened the eyes of regular folks, media members, and pro athletes. Any number of people from any of the three categories which I just mentioned have seen or read about Matt's C Different athletes and have been moved to volunteer their time. I can not begin to count the number of times I go to a function for the C Different Foundation only to see someone from the media who has volunteered to guide a CDF athlete. I have also shown up to a race to learn that one of the CDF athletes will be guided by a professional Ironman Triathlete who appreciates Matt's work so much that he or she said "I want to be a part of this." Matt's group has enabled so many people to have their lives changed. I do not only mean the blind athletes, but also those individuals who volunteer to guide. I can not remember the number of times I have heard from those who have guided who can not stop talking about how rewarding the experience of racing and being the eyes for a blind athlete has been for those athletes. C Different helps blind athletes achieve, but it does so much more than that for everyone else who takes the time to get involved with Matt.

In a few weeks, I will race in the Houston half Marathon as my first event of 2013. As part of the race's charity program, there are many organizations for which people can race and fundraise as part of the Race For A Reason program. One of those non profits is C Different Foundation. Now and for the next few weeks, you can log on to the following site and vote for your favorite charity. The one with the most votes at the conclusion of the voting period will receive $50,000 from Houston race organizers. How many more lives will Matt be able to influence if his CDF could win this award? How many more lives can be impacted in a positive way? Please take the time to log on and have your voice heard for CDF. Thank you!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

To you who celebrate the birth of Jesus, Merry Christmas. I remember how special this day use to be for me when I was a boy. I remember how much I looked forward to the presents, lights, snow, cheer, music, and shopping. All of it combined for a magnificent season on a yearly basis. In those days, I loved Christmas because of the significance of Jesus had in my life. Nowadays, the joy and excitement I had as a boy has been replaced by that which I feel for my nieces and nephews anticipating their gifts from Santa. My own joy is not there as it use to be, but I always find happiness in reflecting what wonders I have experienced or enjoyed. One of those wonders is happiness for you who follow my blog. Thank you for taking an interest in my artistic and athletic ventures. I am so grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing individuals who push their limits on a daily basis in athletics. I am grateful to those who do what they do in theater, film, and TV. You push boundaries and evoke responses. I do my best to highlight those friends as often as I can. I hope you read and check out their work whether in person or via the internet. I hope all of those who are connected to me in some way have enjoyed today. For those who do not celebrate this holiday, I hope you have found bliss in the season and on those religious holidays you celebrate. I look forward to continuing to provide my thoughts on my races, plays, and films as well as continuing to shine a light on the races and projects of my friends and those who inspire me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Review Of Kate In Marry, F***, Or Kill

My friend, the beautiful and talented, Kate Bergeron can be seen in the Magic Mirror Theater's Marry, F***, Or Kill running now through January 20. If you have an opportunity to see her and her fellow cast members be magical on stage, please take advantage of it. I would argue the number one reason to attend is to watch the amazingly gifted Kate perform at the top of her game as the character named Jean. The counterargument is that I am bias. Yes, I am. I believe Kate is the best talent in the show. Kate is not the only one who shines, though. As previously mentioned, Kate's other cast mates dazzle in this play. If you wish to read about what one critic calls a powerful and robust show, then please take the time to log on to the following site to read a review for a can not be missed play.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Melissa Stockwell Inspires

Melissa Stockwell was the first woman to lose a limb while fighting for the USA in Iraq. After becoming an above the knee amputee, Stockwell has gone on to inspire countless people by becoming the current three time world champion in the sport of paratriathlon as well as by starting the Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club on which I have competed for the last two years. Melissa is one of my very special friends. I am so blessed to know her. Please take the time to read this piece written by Julie Deardorf which appeared in today's Chicago Tribune about the very talented and inspiring American treasure.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Prior to registering for my first ever acting class, I spent plenty of time researching various schools and their staff. I cam across a talented and accomplished actress, director, and instructor who I knew could teach me more than I could ever hope. I had a feeling that taking the class with this instructor would be life changing. Just prior to the first day of class, I received the information on who would be my scene partner for the course. She was a beautiful and talented up and coming artist named Rani. As it turned out, the instructor did in fact change my life as she remains one of the most influential and supportive friends in my life. Along the way, Rani redefined my life too. Life is what happens when you are busy looking the other way.

The beautiful and talented Rani has gone on to compile a tremendous list of success as a writer, director, and actress. Her latest project is one which can be seen tonight if you are in the Los Angeles area. Hollywood Second City will host a reading of Rani's TV pilot entitled Coupledom. Tonight at 6:30p.m. Go and enjoy a fun thirty minute pilot which is sure to make you laugh. You will be treated to some amazing artists on stage who will bring to life the work of the amazing Rani. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. You will be fully satisfied.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Houston Half Marathon Start Corral

One month from today, I will be in Houston, Texas racing in the Houston Half Marathon for the second consecutive year. Last year, I broke my half marathon personal record by twenty-seven minutes at this event. It was the first time I ran a half marathon in under two hours. One disappointing part of the race is how I struggled in the final few miles. I slowed down towards the end. The best part of the Houston Half Marathon experience was going the distance with the talented and beautiful, Jennifer Pfaff. She is one of the most amazing talented elite marathoners in the world. I am so lucky that she has guided me for so many races. Jen pushes me like few people do. Over the years, I have posted about some of my favorite friends who have guided me me for races such as; Brendan Hermes, Michael Crissie, Todd Smith, Andrew Murray, and Liz Bilitz. There is something so special when I am guided by friends like Jen and Kimberly Shah. People can spot me at races easily because I am usually wearing a top marked with the name, Sexy Isra. People an also spot me along side beautiful women like Jen, Kimberly,and Liz

Knowing that Jen will be my eyes for Houston Half Marathon has me thrilled because she will push me beyond my mental limits on race day. Unlike a year ago, the amazing Jenna Parker is preparing me for 2013 so I will be stronger down the stretch. For evidence of that, one merely needs to see how I performed in each race after Jenna began preparing me during this season which reached its climax with the Chicago Marathon in October. Jenna has taught me to be stronger late in races. That comes in handy when Jen wishes to lay the hammer as we head to the finish line.

Yesterday, I received my notice from Houston Half Marathon race officials that I will start in corral A which is the first corral of the race. I can not remember where Jen and I began last year, but I am so excited that I will get the chance to get out and run from the opening gun. I am also nervous, but I have two amazing women on my side. Jen, who will be my eyes. Jenna, who is getting me ready to meet my destiny. With a month to go, I will continue to monitor my progress, but as I write this tonight, my goal is to shatter my personal record by at least another twelve minutes. It should be possible. I know it will be fun.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kate In Mary F**k Or Kill

I am lucky to say that the beautiful model, actress, singer, director, teacher, Kate Bergeron is a friend. I learned so much from Kate by observing her work her magic in class all those years ago. She is now a star on stage and screen. For those of you in the North Hollywood area, you can see Kate displaying her talent in Mary F**k Or Kill. For the next few weekends, including this one, you can see her amaze audiences with her ability to play various characters in this production. She is simply tremendous so do yourself a favor and check out a performance. In fact, if you log on to the following site, you can get tickets for fifty percent off. That is two tickets for the price of one, if you think about it. Take your favorite someone to a show. The person will love you forever.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Man Of the Cloth Film

Everyone has dreams. some are short term dreams while others are long term. For the team behind Man Of the Cloth, they wish to see their passion film reach completion. They have locked in a ninety-six minute documentary, but are seeking funding for post production work which may enable them to get this film into festivals so audiences may enjoy a look at three master Italian tailors in the twilight of their careers who have seen their industry change over all these decades. Man Of The Cloth, produced and directed by Vicki Vasilopoulos is a touching piece about three individuals who personalized every piece of clothing they ever produced. This was the way of the old country. This is not how business is done today. These individuals adapt to the changes while still remaining who they are and continuing to produce the way they know.

If you wish to read more about this documentary, see a video, and contribute to this production, please log on to the following site:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

See Jenna At Bike Effect

I hope you, my readers, are having a tremendous week. If Thursday has been challenging and you wish to turn it around or if you are having a splendid day and wish to add a sweet cherry on top of an already wonderful day, then please take the time to experience a great treat. If you are in the Santa Monica area tonight, please stop by Bike Effect. The wonderful, amazing, and talented Jenna Parker will be there. This tremendous pro triathlete, model, and actress will be engaging attendees in a question and answer section which promises to be informative and fun. Again, that is the lovely, Jenna Parker at Bike Effect in Santa Monica starting at 7p.m. and running until 8:30p.m. You can have all your questions answered and get some great wisdom from a pro triathlete who year in year out is amongst the best American women and one of the best in the world. Who better to answer your questions as you prepare for next racing season.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mentor Angel: Khitam Masoud

When Kimberly Shah and I attended the Chicago Marathon expo earlier this year, we stopped by the booth for the Imerman Angels non profit organization. For the last two years, I have been running races and fundraising for this organization which helps to ensure that no one fights cancer alone. Cancer fighters are matched with cancer survivors known as mentor angels who act as a guiding light to those in need of someone who has experienced the same type of cancer battle previously. While visiting the good folks at the booth this year, I met a beautiful and talented young woman who has quickly become a dear special friend. Khitam Masoud is a cancer survivor. She is a warrior. Khit is a mentor angel for all of us! Please take the time to read her story at the following link. It is a true privilege to know this amazing woman.

Monday, November 26, 2012

An Eye Towards Houston

In January of this year, I flew down to Houston, TX to participate in the Houston Half Marathon. It was the first time I had ever run that race. I had participated in a 5K and 30K in one weekend in nearby, Sugar Land, but I had never run in Houston. It was a splendid time. What made it most thrilling was that it took place the weekend of the Olympic Trials. I have the chance to see the best US men and women running as fast as can be to earn spots to the London Games. I was excited that the amazing and talented elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff, had volunteered to fly to Houston to run in the event with me. We had the opportunity to see the best in the country on one day, then run the Houston streets the next day. I am so lucky to have become friends with Jen. Readers to this blog have read various race reports and entries on the spectacular Jen. I have learned so much from her. I have achieved so much because of her. It was such a joy to hear Jen say that she was interested in returning to Houston in 2013. Truth be told, I was not sure if I wanted to return to run in the event. That January weekend was so special as I experienced breaking my half marathon personal record by twenty-seven minutes on route to my first ever under two hours race. I was in awe of how I not only improved my personal record, but my finish time was one hour faster than my finish time in my first ever 13.1 miles race in 2008 at the AIA Half Marathon. Jen and I had the great privilege to spend a few days in Houston with a tremendous person, Christopher, who opened his home and heart to us. Within hours, it was as though the three of us were life long friends. Here and there I would hear questions about whether I was returning to Houston, but was not sure because I was not certain Jen would be able to do so. If I would go back, I would love to run the Houston Half and break my personal record, but only if I could do so with Jen. She is on that short list of wonderful individuals whom I am lucky to know who are great friends and tremendous athletes and just happen to know how to push the proper buttons to get the best out of me. Running Houston with someone else especially someone not on that short list, would be tough. There would be a sense of emptiness in some ways. Then came the day when Jen and I were asked if we would return to Houston. I did not commit immediately waiting to hear Jen's response. She said yes almost instantly. Without hesitation, I knew that meant she and I would return to race the Houston Half Marathon in January 2013. The icing on the cake is when Christopher insisted he would open his home and heart to us again.

Today, I received my confirmation that I am officially registered to race the Houston Half Marathon. Jen will fly to Houston to be my guide. We have a goal to break my personal record by at least thirteen minutes. I would have to take one minute off each mile in order to achieve this. I believe that is possible. The work, my coach, Jenna Parker has me doing in recent weeks in preparations for 2013 has me confident that Jen and I will achieve my goal. I must continue to dedicate myself to Jenna's plan and let the chips fall where they will on race day. I am just so over the moon knowing I will once again run along side Jen Pfaff!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank You 2012

Thank you!! To you who follow my blog, thank you. There are seventeen of you who follow me. For that I am grateful. I look forward to your comments and feedback. As always, I hope you take the time to reach out to me to express any thoughts you ever have on any of my entries. Thank you to those who will drop in from time-to-time and catch up on my posts.

I am grateful that so many individuals have come into my life as a result of Facebook, Twitter, and social media. In fact, I believe every single person who has been my guide for the marathons, half marathons, triathlons, ten milers, and duathlons I have done came into my life as a result of Facebook and Twitter. I thank those who have volunteered to be my guides. Without you, I can not do what I do. I have experienced very special moments because of each of you.

Thank you to the tremendously talented screenwriters, authors, actors, actresses, directors, and producers who are my friends. There are many of you who have provided me such valuable feedback on my plays and screenplays. I have been able to use your advice to improve my work which I put out into the world. I will continue to improve as an artist because of you. I also have to express special thanks to the amazing Jen Knox who motivated and inspired me to recently take on the challenge of writing short stories. It has been a while since I last wrote them, but I am finding them to be fun. A bit challenging, but exciting. Before I ever started sharing my plays and screenplays with people, I wrote several short films. I figured I could become a filmmaker by writing these scripts then getting them made. I would use them as a way to gain experience. Those scripts never went anywhere, but they enabled me to get experience in writing and telling stories. Some days, I do attempt to write shorts just as an exercise. In many respects, I can argue that when writing shorts, it is similar to writing short stories. I must develop characters and story immediately and tell my audience and reader what I want in a short period. In some respects, while I have not written short stories in a while, I guess I can say that in some way that is not completely true since I have been writing short stories all along. I just happen to be doing so as short films. Either way, thanks to Jen for encouraging me. I will keep you updated on my progress.

I hope your day has been a splendid one. I thank you for reading this post. As always, please know that you have an open invite to reach out to me any day or time you wish.

I hope the rest of your week is a wonderful one. I hope this holiday season is a joyous one for you and all your loved ones. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Erupted Love Video

A month ago, Chicago celebrated Fashion Week. This is the annual celebration where up and coming fashion designers, established designers, and students get a chance to network, learn, and teach each other about the industry. Many talented individuals get the opportunity to show off their skills. One such person was my friend, the lovely and talented, Wanda Cobar. Her latest clothing line was unveiled last month in Chicago. If you missed it, but want a look at Wanda's latest work, please take the time to watch the video featuring Cobar Collection's Erupted Love. As always, you too can order these outfits from her directly. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to this blog as I will do my best to provide you updates and links on what she is selling.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Black And White Art Nouveau Inspired Boned Corsets

If you enjoy handmade or vintage items then you will love the following link to my friend, Wanda Cobar's page. Made to order Black and White Art Nouveau Inspired Boned Corsets. If you wish, this is an item you can purchase and have in two to three weeks in time for any holiday parties you wish to attend. It will go well with several outfits. Wanda explains which ones go well with the corset. She also offers some modifications or additions to personalize your request. Feel free to buy from such a tremendous and beautiful designer.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sarah To Join Marathon Club

The week leading up to my first ever attempt at the marathon distance, I spent plenty of time watching the documentary film, The Spirit Of The Marathon. I watched the film at least once day each day of the week. A couple times, I made sure to check it out twice. There were so many wonderful moments. I think the one which sticks with me most is a line from the legend, Dick Beardsley who stated, "When you cross the finish line of the marathon, no matter how fast or slow, it will change your life forever." I found that to be the case after completing my first event. People, from family to friends, to strangers, viewed me differently. They treated me differently when they heard I made the 26,2 mile journey across that finish line. , For some, I earned their respect when they learned I had run the final twenty-two miles on a severely sprained ankle which took almost six months to finally heal. I have since run a couple more marathons. That first one remains quite special. You only have one chance to make it your first. Is that not the case? Tomorrow, in the city of brotherly love, a friend will step to the start line with the goal of going the distance in her first ever 26.2 mile race. I wish Sarah Koenig all the love and best wishes in the world as she stares down the challenge. I hope she will enjoy the experience and take it all in because she will never have another chance to experience her first one. The long journey and whatever demons she has had to face down along the way now take a back seat to the celebration of arriving to that point in time. When Sarah completes the race, she will join the exclusive club of marathoners! I wish I could be at the end to cheer her home to her personal victory. I wish I could be there to say, Welcome to the club, Sarah. From this moment forward no one can ever take away the fact that you are forever a marathoner! It was a year ago that my friend, the elite marathon champion, Jen P, took aim at a personal best in Philadelphia. What resulted from her race was to elevate her standing even more as a champion with plenty of heart who proved why she is one of the best runners in the world. Now on that exact same course, another pal will prove why she is one of the most inspiring people in the world. Go get it, Sarah. Become a marathoner forever! Sarah, you are a rock star.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

If Tonight: Four Years Later

Today, people have expressed their voices by voting in this year's presidential election. Many have also spoken on a local and state level. I am excited about the coverage which I will find on TV, radio, and internet. This is one of those days where I am so excited to be in a country where this process unfolds before our eyes. I get such joy over evaluating the information being shared by some of the best journalists in the world. The thrill of breaking news and covering breaking news is something over which I will never get. This promises to be a special night. As I prepare to fully take in the election night returns, I wish to take time to look back to the presidential election of four years ago. It was a historical night. I was so moved at what transpired four years ago. Hearing that Barack Obama had been elected then watching the way people who had gathered in Chicago's Grant Park reacted to the news was one of the moments I will never forget. I was in awe of this country. I was in tears as I watched history unfold. Tonight, this country may decide to close the chapter on Barack Obama's term and elect Mitt Romney. This country might decide four more years of President Obama is what is needed. Either way, I hope you will enjoy the following essay which I wrote four years ago prior to the results being reported.

Tuesday November 4, 2008

"In Barack Obama, we get more than a president like Bill Clinton, we get a statesman like Abraham Lincoln." - Cornel West

Where is it born? The vision of a pioneer. The heart of a champion. For Joe, it comes from being a public servant over forty years. For Sara, it is leading the state of Alaska. For John, it is from fighting for his country even as a prisoner of war. For Barack, from being the voice of the under served mostly African American and latino population of Chicago. From the ashes of the primaries come these four ready to take their place in history. This country decides whether it wishes to elect its first African American president or first female vice president.

For a country which says it's one of the leaders of the globe, it has taken a long time to get here. Instead of praising our pioneers, we shut them up. John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. Often, we read about them in our history books. Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Susan B Anthony, and Cesar Chavez. Now, we are trusted to make history.

If the polls can be trusted then tonight is the night Barack Obama steps forward to take his place in history. As Isaac Newton once stated, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Obama will stand on the shoulders of generations past. He will also stand along side those giants. If tonight is the night as most expect then his mother and grandmother, both who died of cancer, will smile for they had major influences on him to make history. If tonight is the night, then all hands on deck as more than five million people are believed to travel from all parts of the country to converge on Grant Park to celebrate with Barack. If tonight is the night, then we will finally have someone in charge who is an expert in constitutional law so we can once again be a free nation. If tonight is the night then maybe our next challenge is to find a woman to elect down the line. If tonight is the night this country makes history and elects its first African American president, then those past pioneers; JFK, RFK, MLK, and Abe will enjoy a measure of satisfaction as well.

Thank you for lending me your readership. What gets lost on the conservative right is that being American and loving your country is the ability to agree, disagree, support, and criticize. You and I, we are the real America! There is only one. It is all real.

Israel Antonio

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Treat: Racing Pics

Happy Halloween to you!! May you receive more treats than tricks on this day. For anyone who may not be friends with me on Facebook, I wish to provide you this treat. This is a link to my pictures from the Chicago Marathon held on October 7. Hope you will not be frightened by seeing my mug. I know for a fact you will enjoy seeing the faces of the very beautiful women who were my guides on that day. Kimberly and Jen. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Videos From Chicago Marathon 2012

Recently, I shared these videos with my little niece. she was so excited that she was screaming and yelling as she cheered for me. She screamed, "I see you. Go Israel! You can win the race." I decided to share it with you, my readers. This gives you a chance to see me at the Chicago Marathon from earlier this month. Sunday, October 7. There is one video of me and Kimberly Shah while the next one includes me guided by Jennifer Pfaff as well as Kimberly. Two of the most amazing women in the world and I am so privileged to call them my friends. As I mentioned on Facebook recently, for the last few years, I have had the privilege to run with Kimberly and Jen several times during training and races. As a result, I can forever say that I know what it feels like to run along side and in between greatness!! Thank you to those two outstanding women, athletes, and friends. With special thanks to Jenna Parker for helping get me into the best shape of my life and teaching me how to train and race.

Mile 1

Second Half Of Marathon

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Melissa Stockwell: 3 Time World Champion

In early 2011, Keri Schindler asked me if I wish to join a new triathlon club she and a few friends had put together in the Chicago area. I said yes. Besides having the chance to work closely with Keri, a person with whom I worked closely when I ran my first Chicago Marathon on the GLASA Team, I would also have the opportunity to meet and race along side Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq War veteran and above the knee amputee who was officially the first woman wounded in the war three weeks after she arrived. Melissa returned to the USA after her injury and began the long journey back to reclaiming her life. She did plenty of swimming. she was a natural in the water. She was introduced to the sport of triathlon. Swim, bike, run came easy to her. It was so easy she competed in her first event at the Chicago Triathlon and won her division. She flew to New York and competed in the National Championship in the Physically Challenged division and she won! As a result, Melissa competed at the World Championships. My favorite part of reading her race report was nearing the finish line as the locals who lined the streets cheered "USA USA!" Melissa was handed an American flag which she carried and waved proudly as she stormed to the first place finish. Melissa was the world champion. The thing is, Melissa never stopped being that. In 2011, Melissa defended both her national and international titles. After winning for a third consecutive year at the US Nationals, Melissa made her way to Auckland New Zealand this past weekend to compete and defend her title for a third consecutive year. She rolled to a gold medal victory completing the 3-peat! Another member of her Dare2Tri Chicago paratriathlon Club rolled in second as a third American woman raced home giving the US a sweep of the top three spots at the podium. Congratulations to my friend and teammate, Melissa Stockwell on her tremendous accomplishment. The motto of the organization, Dare2Tri, which she co-founded is "One inspires many." She certainly does that and so much more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cobar Erupted Love

For the last couple of years I have had the privilege to know the amazing, talented, and beautiful Wanda Cobar. She is a tremendous fashion designer whose latest collection will be unveiled to the public this coming Saturday as part of Fashion Focus 2012. FF is a week long celebration of various talented designers in Chicago. The web site, Chicago Now, published a piece on the fabulous Wanda and the inspiration behind her latest line. Please visit the following link to read the piece. I hope to see you on Saturday night as Cobar Collection unveils some new clothes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012: Breaking 4:00:00

As marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff, grabbed the tether leading me towards the finish line, Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah, was demanding I give it my all. The finish line was within striking distance. I needed to go after it. I struggled with all my might to move forward. I used every last bit of energy and made it across the finish line in my second consecutive Chicago Marathon. I had improved my time by forty-six minutes. I had finished in 4:50:20 which was good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon 2013 in the visually impaired/ blind category. People congratulated me. That morning, I just wanted to improve my finish time from the previous year, but a comment to Kimberly as we made our way to the race had planted the seed and these amazing women were going to make sure I earned a trip to Boston. As I heard from people on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, there was a part of me which was already looking to 2012. I was going to return to Chicago Marathon start line and I wanted to do better. As a blind/visually impaired person, one need only to run a marathon in under five hours to qualify for Boston. Sure it is a tough task, but many of my friends who have their sight must struggle mightily to run a 3:05, 3:28, 3:332 marathon to BQ. I feel they earn their way, but me? I want to feel as though I did too. I wish the standards were a bit tougher. Then again, it took everything I had to make it in the first place so what made me think I could do better and run faster? I just knew I could. Within hours of crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line, I was already telling Jen that I planned to break my personal record by another forty-six minutes in 2012. Jen felt I could do better than that. Truthfully, I did too. I told Kimberly that I wanted to work hard enough to break four hours. She said she would hold me to that.

When 2012 began, I knew I would need to train smarter. I needed to understand so much if I wanted to improve my race times. Whether it was the Soldier Field 10, Pleasant Prairie Duathlon, or Chicago Marathon, I needed to understand how to race. I needed to learn how to prepare to race. I reached out to the talented and amazing pro triathlete, model, and actress, Jenna Parker to guide me. She was willing to help me. Over several months, she pushed me to improve. One year I worked on mostly long runs. Another year I did plenty of speed work. Jenna made sure I combined both. I had never learned to combine both. I had never learned how to do a tempo run, long run, or interval nor how to structure my training to ensure I benefited from these sessions. Jenna taught me how to do that. Although I did not realize it during my training sessions, a great benefit to training under Jenna was I was learning to get stronger. In races, my plan was always to start slow, build, and finish strong. Unfortunately, I would always start slow, get worse, and completely fall apart by the end. With Jenna's help, that would not be the case any longer.

As I continued to work with Jenna, I needed to finalized my Chicago Marathon guides. My first choices were Kimberly and Jen. I reached out to them and both accepted my request to guide me. As was the case in 2011, Kimberly would start with me as Jen would come in at the midway point and take me across the finish as Kimberly would run along side continuing to help even if not guiding. Jenna was my guiding light, Kimberly and Jen were in the system as my guides, and now all which remained was to set a goal and go after it. Well, the goal was set. Break four hours.

Race week was here. I worked on the plan which Jenna laid out and I was confident because I was in the best shape of my life. I met up with Kimberly on a Saturday morning for a run and I had my strongest run ever with her. The marathon expo arrived. Kimberly and I picked up our packet from Keri Schindler who was in charge of the Disability Wave. We walked around tried some samples and spent time with Jonny Imerman, cancer survivor and founder of Imerman Angels, the non profit for whom I was fundraising and running the marathon. Kimberly and I met up for one final easy run one day before the race and I was anxious. For several days, my legs felt sluggish. During most of this easy run, my legs felt tired. If I was struggled today, what will happen tomorrow? In the afternoon, I made sure my race outfit, tether, and bib were set. I was not a fan of the predicted cold weather for the race. I wished it would be warmer. I did not want to run in cold temperatures. As I tossed and turned in bed, I remained nervous that my legs felt weak. I was scared because I knew Jenna had helped me get into the best shape of my life. I knew I was ready for this marathon. I had the training to break four hours. Would I have the mental toughness to do so?

Race day arrived. I could not sleep. By 3a.m. I was awake. I was alone with my thoughts until 4a.m. when I stood up for the first time and discovered my legs were still weak. I shivered as I prepared. Shortly after 5a.m. Kimberly called to say she was on her way. She picked me up and we headed out. The Chicago morning was cold. I mentioned my weak legs to Kimberly who promptly put my mind at ease explaining why I had felt that all along. I felt better. As the morning went along, my legs felt stronger. We made our way to the race. We entered the disability tent waiting for the moment when we could walk to the start corral. I told Kimberly how the plan was to go out slower, build to a steady pace then at mile 20 let it all go. She agreed and was ready. She reminded me to stay relaxed. On Saturday morning, during our run, Kimberly had me practice the race start a couple times. She has noticed how I am nervous to start out. I will either clutch on to my guide's elbow until I feel comfortable or clutch on to the tether around my waist as a security blanket. She insisted we practice the start so that I could get comfortable not grabbing her elbow nor the tether. She wanted me to run free and easy from the opening gun. We tried it a few times and she was satisfied that I could pull it off and it would save us a couple minutes which she insisted could be the difference between breaking four hours or just missing it. As we stood in the corral, I took deep breaths. Kimberly assured me I would do better this year. I was in much better shape. I knew she was right. I had worked harder than ever before. Jenna had prepared me like never before. The starting gun sounded and we crossed the start line. I ran free and easy. Fans cheered. We made our way. Kimberly was thrilled at how easy I adapted to this new way of starting and soon enough, I was flowing through the Chicago streets.

The miles flew by. Kimberly was excited. She would ask how I was feeling. I felt great. I figured as long as I stayed at about nine minutes per mile at the start and gradually increased my speed then maybe by the time I reached mile 20 with Jen, I'd be around the three hour mark at which point I would run my heart out confident that I would break four hours. Again, Kimberly asked how I felt. I felt great. From time-to-time I would speed up, but Kimberly would quickly remind me to slow down and follow the plan. I would slow down. At about mile eight, my friend, Michael Crissie, jumped out of the crowd and expressed how happy he was to see me running free and strong. He ran with us a bit as he informed me his brother Brian would be at mile 25 ready to cheer me on to the finish. A couple miles later, we were met by Kimberly's friend, LT Dan. He was running strong. After chatting for a bit, he moved ahead. At about mile twelve, my friend, Randy, cruised by, said hello, and headed towards what turned out to be a five minute PR of 3:23. Kimberly mentioned that halfway through that mile was when I had told her last year that I did not think I could finish. Back then, I was scared that I was running to fast. At that time, I had been running at a nine minute per mile pace. This year was about the same only I was running free and easy. I was not scared this time.

At the halfway point, Jennifer stepped in and took over guiding duties from Kimberly. Jen was now on my left and Kimberly shifted to my right as they both ran with me. Kimberly was excited at how strong I was running. In fact, what I did not know at the time, but learned after the race, was that I was running much faster than my planned nine minutes per mile pace. I was actually running the miles thirty to forty seconds faster. At the point of the guide exchange, I was running my fastest marathon ever! As the miles piled up, I started to wear down. I received a boost when I heard a familiar voice in the crowd cheering for me. My brother-in-law and a couple of my sisters had come to yell not only for me, but for my seventeen year old nephew who was making his marathon debut. After about seventeen or eighteen miles, Kimberly decided to drop off, loop around, and meet us at mile twenty-five. Slowly, I was starting to get worried. It did not seem like I was running as fast. This is when I was suppose to get stronger. Instead I was getting tired. Jen kept insisting I join her by running next to her instead of a stride or two behind. I tried, but could not. She kept encouraging me. I kept fighting. At about mile twenty, I started to labor. I felt a sharp pain in my left hamstring. I wanted to stop and walk it off, but I also did not want to break my stride. I stumbled a bit confused on whether to ask Jen to stop or to just run through it. The cramp grew worse. I needed to stop, but I knew I should not stop so I pressed on. Jen asked what hurt and I explained it to her. She said at the next aid station, we could get Gatorade, but stopping right now was not an option. I agreed and we kept running. It took a while, but the cramp went away. I felt pain in both shins, but was so happy from not stopping earlier that these shin issues were not going to slow me down either. I was grateful for the hamstring cramp for it showed me how much pain I was willing to run through on this day. My pace had slowed. Jen was demanding I fight through any issues because the slower I ran, the faster the four hour mark approached. I tried to use the crowd and music to get me moving. I was fading. At about mile twenty-two, someone yelled out, "Hey Israel!" It was Abby Reese. Her sister, Amanda has been a tremendous friend and one of my favorite athletes since I had the privilege to cover her legendary college basketball career. Abby made her way passed us on route to what was a five minute PR as well finishing in 3:43. Her stopping for a bit to say hello gave me a nice boost as I headed towards the next mile. Still, I was not able to sustain the pace and I started dropping back. Jen kept asking me how much I wanted to break four hours. She insisted, "You have to start moving. I can't want this more than you. This is your race." She was right. I wanted this, but the pain was too much. She asked again, "Do you really want this." I did not answer. I was too busy doubting myself. "Or we could just drop out. Is that what you want? I don't think so because we're not quitters." I was in so much pain. As she told me how much time remained before the clock hit four hours, I found myself saying, "At least I have a new PR. I'm shattering last year's time." Of course, I only said that mentally. I would not dare say it to Jen. We reached mile twenty-four. We were inching our way. The clock was ticking. Twenty-one minutes left. What was 8:20 to 8:30 pace with Kimberly had steadily fallen to over ten minutes with Jen. This was not how I wanted this race to go. I needed to start picking it up. I started to believe my heart is not in it. I do not want this as much as I thought. Even if I do, I do not have the ability to pick up the pace and run my race. Jen suggested we start running twenty second pickups. We did. After a couple, I started questioning myself as to why I could not take those twenty seconds and extend them into many more seconds or minutes. Jen told me we were still moving too slow.. We kept with the pickups. They helped a bit. We crossed over a mat. It was the 40K mark. 2,000 and few hundred yards remained. Ten minutes to go. I needed to start running fast. I thought of my friend who lost her life to cancer a year ago. She was the reason I joined Imerman Angels. I asked her to help me from heaven. I kept telling myself this was so close and I must push. I heard Brian Crissie's voice. "Israel, you're a mile from the finish. You're an inspiration, buddy! I'm proud of you. You've got this." I respect him so much so hearing him say those words almost reduced me to tears. I thought about Jenna. Confident that at this point in the race I would be running strong, I had planned to run my fastest mile right now as a way to say thank you for all the wonderful ways she has enriched my life both athletically and artistically. I needed to dig deep. What if this is all I had left? That could not be. Just then I heard Kimberly's voice. "We have to go. Come on!" I started to run faster. Not fast enough. Time is running out. Jen picked up the speed. If I was going to stay with her, I needed to push like never before. Clock is ticking. I picked up the pace for a bit, but started slowing down again. Kimberly yelled, "No! Not now. Faster." I could not go faster. I leaned back. Kimberly reached behind me and pushed me forward. "Lean forward!", she yelled. I tried to use her push as a way to spring ahead. After some time, I slowed up again. Jen screamed, "Run with me, Is! You got to run with me!" I tried, but my legs were not firing. Kimberly screamed that we only had five minutes to break four hours. I figured we were about 1,000 meters from the finish. I could do this. I have run 800 meters in 3:45 to 4:00. It would be close, but I could do this. I tried pushing ahead, but my legs were jello. I leaned back. Kimberly yelled once more, "No! Faster! I know it hurts. It's suppose to hurt. Now come on, go!" A fast charging Jen yells, "Help me, Is. Work with me!" I tried driving forward. Jen tells me we are about to turn. Kimberly instructs me to not hesitate and make that turn aggressively. I stagger. Kimberly grabs me to make the turn. We make it. She tells me it's one final straight-away. I figure we are a quarter mile from the finish. I push hard. Jen and Kimberly work hard to keep me moving. Time is running out. We are flying by people. Kimberly screams that we have 100 meters to go. I think to myself, that is about twelve seconds. I can make this hurt for that length of time. I start to sprint as best I can. Halfway there I start to slow down. I yell at myself. This is not the time to ease up. Now is the time to go all out. Just a few more seconds. We cross one mat. I keep running. There is one more. Kimberly and Jen slow down. I am confused. Is there not one more mat? I turn to Kimberly. "Is it over?" She turns to me. "Yeah" she hugs me, "It's over." Jen hugs me. She is not sure if we made it. Kimberly insists we did. Jen believes we missed it by sixteen seconds. Kimberly said we made it by one minute. We are not sure. Until further notice, I will go with Kimberly's estimated time. We walk around. Eventually, Kimberly departs and heads home. Jen walks me to the Imerman Angels ten where the first person I see is Jonny followed by Jemma who points out that not only did I run another PR, but is qualifies me for Boston as a blind/visually impaired runner.

I see my nephew. He completed his first marathon in 3:35. I ask how was it? He responds, "I always knew it was tough, but I didn't understand how much until today. I have more respect for what you do than I ever have before." Still unsure of my time, I head home. I get home and take off my race clothes. Before showering, I check Facebook. Almost immediately after logging on, my friend, Kristine, sends me a note congratulating me on my 3:58 finish. What? I did it? I broke four hours! Later, Jen confirmed it and I was so thrilled. My quest was complete. Thanks to Jenna, Kimberly, and Jen I had broken four hours. I also learned after the race that my final mile was an eight minute mile which was my fastest of the day. In fact, since losing my sight, my fastest mile in a race was 8:05 a month ago so this final mile has now in fact become my fastest race mile ever. While I have run faster in training, I have yet to run a faster mile in race. Again, all thanks to Kimberly and Jen who would not let me give up and settle for falling short. With special thanks to Jenna for not only preparing me throughout this season, but was my motivation to run the mile of my life to break four hours.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicago Marathon: 10 Years Journey

What is your dream? We all have them. What about those who do not? You may think it is not possible to not have dreams. I can assure you that it can certainly be the case. After I lost my sight, I stopped dreaming. There was no longer a reason to do so. Then I discovered radio and I was filled with dreams of being an on air talk personality. Full of life and in love, I was ready to be a radio superstar. The only problem, the person with whom I was in love nor radio agreed with me. Before long, I had neither. Once more, my dreams were over. I thought the best thing to do was bulk up. Women love that. Well, not my female friends. When several of them told me a Bruce Lee sexy physique is what turns them on, it was time to change my focus. I returned to my childhood. I never had size, height, or talent, but I had speed. I began to work on getting lean and fast I would get excited for a short while then lose interest. After all, there was no one around to take notice of said physique. Around that time, I started taking acting classes and now there were plenty of young actresses to take notice. None of them did. I was slowly running out of options as I tried to find myself. One of my escapes was watching the Chicago Marathon on TV. Growing up, my family would sit around the TV checking out Chicago, New York, and Boston. I was amazed at what these runners could achieve. I also thought they were crazy. I did not understand how they could do that to their body. I said to myself that I will never do that. Then came along the amazing Paula Radcliffe storming to a world record time at the 2002 Chicago Marathon. The way she took command of that race was quite special. I was in awe! Six months later, she dominated to another world shattering performance in her home country's race. In case, you were not sure, Paula proved that she was the best and the fastest. There was no way I was ever going to be as fast as her, but now, for the first time in my life, I had a dream of completing a marathon. I needed to do one. I wanted it to be my home town race so that I could run the same streets as Paula. It took many years, but on 10-10-10, I stood at the start line ready to live my dream. The crowd was amazing. The run was moving along until, I sprained my ankle at mile 3.5. I was not to be denied as I hung on for dear life crossing the finish in about 5:35. It hurt, but I had finished. Still, I wanted to return to try it once more. Last year, I joined Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support and took to the Chicago streets once more. The amazing Kimberly Shah and Jennifer Pfaff agreed to guide me. Each would guide for half the race. It too was a struggle, but these amazing accomplished athletes made sure I would cross that finish in 4:50:20. That was an improvement of forty-six minutes while also being good enough to qualify me for the Boston Marathon as a Blind/Visually Impaired runner. I knew that my goal was to improve this year so my first choice was to ask Kimberly and Jennifer to guide me again. I wanted the two spectacular women who helped me achieve something special to take me the distance as I run Chicago on the ten year anniversary of when Paula Radcliffe inspired me to do this race. They both agreed to return and I then reached out to the fabulous Jenna Parker to help get me prepared for the race. In fact, she has been my coach this entire season. The most important thing for me was to improve my performance so that I am not fading down the stretch in races. My goal has always been to start slow, build, and crush it at the end. I have never been successful in doing that. I always start slow, get worse, then hang on for dear life in the waning part of the race. This was the case in all my races until I started working with Jenna. Now, in every race, I seem to get strong. I find myself negative splitting my races. Three weeks ago, I was able to run the entire twenty miles of the Ready To Run 20 Miler for the first time ever. I am always having to resort to a run/walk plan late in that race, but not this time!! I am so comfortable with the work Jenna has done that I have set my sights on breaking four hours for the first time in my life at the marathon distance. I wish to run well, fast, and strong to make myself proud. Of course, I am scared and anxious as I am before each race, but I know that Jenna has prepared me by helping me toe that start line in the best shape of my life. As most have told me, I merely need to believe in my training and ability. My last few training runs had me confident that I could reach my goal. Today's light run were I felt tired for most of it has me worried. My legs continue to feel tight and tired even as I write this so I am concern, but I hope a good night's rest and the excitement of the crowd will help me in the opening stages so that my desire can take over and hopefully finish with the strongest finish I have ever delivered. I wish to break four and know I can do it. Kimberly and Jennifer will guide. Jenna has prepared me so now it is up to me to perform. I need to embrace the pain and run through it. I need to trust that Kimberly, Jennifer, and Jenna have done all they can, it is up to me to take it the rest of the way. A few months ago, I wrote about my trinity which is Kimberly, Jennifer and Jenna. Now is the time to give the race of my life as a way to say thank you to those women for what they have given me. In the same way, I now must do all that I can as a way to say thank you to Paula who inspired me to run the distance. I know I will run my fastest marathon on Sunday. The only question is whether I will reach my goal. Training was tough, but now it is time to enjoy the moment and run free to make Kimberly, Jennifer, Jenna, Paula, and myself proud!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Race For Imerman Angels

When I tell people that I was more scared jumping into the Hudson River the second time or that I was more anxious running Chicago Marathon a second time, they ask why? Fear of the known. It is one thing to fear the unknown, but it is different to live through a struggle then be willing to live through it again. Midway through last year's marathon, Kimberly informed me of the pace at which we were running and I started freaking it out. I was not suppose to run that fast. I was not going to have enough to finish this race. I doubted myself. When Jennifer took over the responsibilities of guiding, I received a boost from her as well as the screaming fans along charity mile including the folks from Imerman Angels who were yelling for Sexy Isra. Still, a few miles down the road, I could no longer fight off my doubts. I started to walk. The pain was too much. Eventually, I was able to run for a bit then walk. I kept that going for many miles. Kimberly and Jen pushed me along encouraging me to keep running. They insisted I not walk. At one point at about mile twenty-two when I wanted to slow down and even walk, neither woman would allow me. They insisted I keep running. I shut my eyes and wondered to myself, "Why am I doing this?" I had already completed one marathon. I knew the pain and misery it brought so why again? With my eyes still shut, I looked to the heavens and in my mind, I heard her laugh and her voice. A dear friend from college with whom I had some very special fond memories. Cancer made a home inside her body. With courage, toughness, and smiles she fended off cancer. Entering 2011, I heard she was doing much better. she was in great spirits. Suddenly, by the spring, I learned that cancer refused to go away and had not been defeated. In fact, my friend would probably only live another fourteen days. I reached out to her to say thank you for all the memories and to wish her the best as she moved to the next chapter of her spirit's journey. I would never forget her and I would always carry her in my heart. Less than three days later, she was gone. I turned to my friend who first introduced me to her all those many years ago and asked, "What can I do? How can I pay my respects?" All he said was to keep her memory alive forever. As I looked for a way to pay tribute to her, a woman whom I did not know at the time reached out to me and ask if I would run the Chicago Marathon. It was June and I had missed registration. She suggested I join the non profit for which she was running. I thanked her and tweeted that it looks like I was running the marathon for a non profit. I did not mention which one, but I was just thrilled at the chance to run the race for a charity. Then another woman I did not know reached out via Twitter to suggest Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support. Imerman Angels pairs up cancer fighters with cancer survivors who are mentor angels. These Angels are of the same gender, age, background who have survived the exact same cancer as the person with whom they are pair currently fighting the disease. IA believes No One Should Face Cancer Alone. I have seen family members and friends overcome cancer. I have seen how a community of loved ones join together to support them. I also realize that I can provide all the support in the world to these family members and loved ones, but what I can not give them is a true understanding of their feelings as they deal with the disease and possibly stare death in the face. Sure, I have stared death in the face a couple times in my life, bit it was not due to cancer. Thankfully, I do not know what that feels like. Unfortunately, many others do. I do know how helpless I felt not being able to do more for those with cancer. I know the empty feeling of not being able to save my friend as cancer ate her body and took her from all of us at such a young age. There are people in the world who can assist during these times. Other cancer survivors can provide that insight I can not. I can help that happen by raising funds for Imerman so that a mentor angel can help someone through the process of fighting cancer. I could not help my friend directly, but I can run 26.2 miles while raising money and awareness for the work Imerman Angels does so that my efforts will result in someone's friend, wife, mother, sister, brother, husband,, or father receive a mentor angel who could then give wisdom and most important of all, hope! I could not save my friend, but I can honor her by running mile after mile so others will be helped. So in that moment at around mile twenty-two when everything hurt on my body, I thought of my friend and realized all the pain I am enduring to run 26.2 does not even begin to compare to the pain she endured as cancer destroyed her body. I thought of the words of my friend, Ironman triathlete and race director, Patty G, "Suck it up, cupcake." So I did. With the help of Kimberly and Jenny I then pressed on and made my way across that Chicago Marathon finish line for the second consecutive year. Now ready for my third marathon, I am scared, but I know I am prepared. I also know that so long as I do my best I will be fine for I carry my friend's voice, laughter, and memory in my heart. As I did last year I have been racing and fundraising for Imerman Angels in 2012. In order for Imerman Angels to provide a cancer fighter and mentor angel connection, it costs about $350. For me to raise $750 would mean I could help bring four people together or help Imerman make two connections. The work Imerman does is truly special. I am honored they have allowed me the chance to run and raise funds for them the last two years. I know the individuals who have cancer and are given hope and the motivation to fight through their struggle are grateful for the services IA provides. Once again, I will run for my friend on Sunday. I will run while being grateful that I was privileged to know her for fifteen years. I will run for Imerman. I have my sights set on another marathon personal best which will shatter the marathon best I set last year. If you believe in my ability at the marathon distance and especially, if you believe in my cause, please visit my page and donate. Thank you!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Marathon For Imerman Angels

On Sunday, I will run in my third consecutive Chicago Marathon. I will be running it for Imerman Angels for the second straight year. Last year, a dear friend passed away at the hands of cancer. She was so talented, beautiful, and amazing. She was too young. I have had several family members and friends who have faced cancer and each one survived. When my friend did not, I wanted to pay my respect. I would think about how I could do so, but an opportunity never materialized until I was approached on Twitter by a woman who was a part of Imerman Angels. IA provides one-on-one cancer support by pairing up a cancer sufferer with a mentor angel who has survived the exact same type of cancer. The mentor angel is of the same gender, age, and background too. From what cancer sufferers have stated, this helps tremendously with identification, understanding, and support. When someone of the same age or gender can speak to the exact same experience of cancer, it gives the current sufferer hope and potential glimpse into his or her future post cancer. The work IA does is so important and I feel is at the very least, a small way in which I can help honor my friend who passed away while also reminding my other friends who survived that you are also always in my heart.

If you would be so kind as to visit my fundraising page and making a small donation, I would be grateful for your support of my effort. It may be just that extra motivation I will need come Sunday in those late miles through the streets of Chicago.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mapping A New Reality

Seven years ago, my dear friend, Angela insisted I read a book by Caroline Myss. It took me a while to agree to do so, but when I did, I raced through the book Anatomy Of The Spirit within days. It was a profound read. Then Angela insisted I meet Therese Rowley PHD. After some time, I agreed to do so. Since the moment I walked into Therese's office, I have never been the same. She is an amazing energy alignment healer who has taught me so much. She helps me figure out aspects of my life whether it be writing screenplays or racing in marathons. Dr. rowley has helped me face some demons while assisting me in growing to be a better person. Apparently, I have left an impression on her over the years. She has always supported my ventures in theater, film, and athletics. I have learned that while I may have dreams and goals which I wish to achieve, there may just be other forces at work which drive me to succeed. It may just be that what I am attempting to do will not only result in my benefiting, but in some way, healing someone or a group of people. I use to wonder how could I leave that sort of impression on people? How would people be guided by my work? A shining example is when award winning journalist, author, and actress, Jenniffer Weigel attended a performance of my first play. I performed my heart out. Jen watched me on stage and was so moved by my sharing of my life story that she instantly knew how she wanted to structure her book which she would turn into a theater piece. I was stunned to learn that I had inspired the great Jen Weigel. I grew up watching her dad, Tim, a famous celebrated sports anchor in Chicago. I use to listen to Jen on the radio and watch her on TV. I admired her work as well as that of her dad and mom. I wanted to be successful the way Jen was. Yet here I was being a light to her for her next project as she took on the task of turning her award winning book, Stay Tuned: Conversations With Dad From The Other Side into a one woman show. My telling my story to an audience had helped Jen find her voice. In some small way, I had helped Jen make a major mark on the world. All I ever dreamed of doing is telling my story yet for a person I respected tremendously, I had done more without ever knowing it. As Therese had said, I had healed. I guess I can heal in my own way.

Therese has helped so many people heal. I am blessed to know Therese and feel even luckier that she has decided to include my story in her book which will be available for purchase on October 1. Therese discusses her meeting me and how I impacted her life and work. You can read all about Therese Rowley at her web site. Starting on Monday, you will also be able to order a copy of her book, Mapping A New Reality in which you will be able to read about some wonderful individuals who are changing the world. If you wish, you can check out what she wrote about me too. Please visit the following site for more information:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Julia In AfterPlay

Have you ever wondered what happened to Sonya of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya?  How about Andrey from his Three Sisters?  Brian Friel did too so he wrote this play called, AfterPlay.  This Thursday in Chicago, people can watch a performance featuring my friend, the fabulous, Julia Kessler. It will take place at the Irish American Heritage Center.  Tickets range from $5 to $35.  You can get more information at the following link.  Please check out the show and watch the beautiful Julia do what she does best.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Romping And Stomping Through 20 Miles

I tried playing with my race belt, but was unsuccessful in figuring it out so I decided I would just use safety pins to keep my Ready To Run 20 Miler bib in place. Everything else was set. I jumped into bed at 9:22p.m. and attempted to sleep. I tossed and turned for about an hour before I fell asleep. I woke up at 4:30a.m. and slowly began to move around. Of course, before getting dressed, I checked Facebook. Eventually, I put on my race outfit, had some breakfast, then made my way out the door at about a quarter to six. I met up with Andrew Murray who would guide me for the first ten miles. We made our way to our wave a few minutes before it went off and we were set. I was excited to follow Jenna's instructions on how to handle this run. Both Andrew and Jenny were excited to follow the plan for a successful run. From the moment we started, Andrew and I found a comfortable spot in the back of our group. If there were going to be sudden turns or footing issues, we did not want to cause problems for other runners. We started slow as our group went out, but every so often, we would work our way back to the back of the group. We sat there perfectly as the next wave caught up to us. At one point, their runners merged with us. We kept running smoothly as both Andrew and I felt very comfortable with the pace. Eventually, we started getting boxed in and found some difficult spots as only five miles into the run, people were starting to slow down or walk. Andrew navigated us around and soon we found ourselves pushing away from the group which had caught up to us. We charged ahead and even found ourselves back with our original group. Soon we were almost at the front of that group. The miles kept going. Andrew and I were excited. Little-by-little, Andrew had us push. We were moving swiftly as we crossed mile eight then nine. Before reaching the tenth mile, Jenny Pfaff greeted us and ran with us for a bit. Jenny would take over the guiding duties at the midway point. Andrew said our time was 1:37 for the opening ten miles. We started slow, but picked it up the last couple miles. When Jenny and I started running, the pace quickened that much more. I knew I had to stay steady to have enough to finish strong, but I also knew Jenny would want me to push a bit harder. Sure enough, we were doing just that. Jenny told me my pace and I was a bit worried that I was pressing too fast too early, but I kept going. The miles were flying now. I had a wonderful experience at one of the aid stations when Jemma Lotzer of imerman angels greeted me. So cool! Jenny and I would slow down through the aid stations, but then push hard out of them to get back on track.

Two years ago, I reached mile seventeen before I had to start walking. I jogged then walked before fighting through the final mile where Jenny would not let me walk at all. Last year, it was much worse as I reached mile twelve and started to walk. The final eight miles were tough. In both years, I was running about one minute slower than I was today. I was worried, but I kept trying to tell myself that because of Jenna's coaching, I am much better prepared. I kept feeling strong. I kept trying to dig deeper. We had reached mile eighteen. Suddenly, my left calf gave me problems. I wanted to slow down and shake it out. Jenny would not let me. No walking! I had trained to hard to walk. I pressed on. The more we moved, the closer we were to the end. Traditionally, this is when I would be fading yet here I was still romping. We entered the final mile. Jenny wanted me to push like I had not done before. I wanted to do so too. I kept telling myself, I can do this. Jenna has given me the tools to achieve this. This is a training run. No pain. I kept digging. Jenny informed me of the distance left. I knew this was my best performance in any 20 miler and I had to finish strong. That is what Jenna had taught me. I was doing it. As we reached the final hundred meters which were uphill, I pressed on and crossed the finish line. I had done it. I had run the entire twenty miles for the first time ever. I had not faded. I had run the fastest mile of the day in my final mile of the day. I was so proud of myself.

Thank you Andrew Murray for guiding me the first half and Jenny Pfaff for taking me the second half. I love this trend of getting faster in races. I love negative splitting these long runs. Thank you Jenna Parker for helping me achieve those.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Am I Ready To Run 2012?

People like to say, If it ain't broke don't fix it. I believe if it is not broken, then tweak it, improve it, build on the success to make it better so it never breaks. I know most people believe wait to fix it, but by then it may be too late. When I find something which works, I am grateful, but I also look to improve on it. One thing I enjoy tremendously is having the lovely Jennifer Pfaff guide me in events. For the last three years, I have run the Chicago Marathon. Before I do, I have always run the Ready To Run 20 Miler. I will do so tomorrow. As it has worked out, each year I am able to find a different person to guide me the first ten miles. Rich Karnia, Liz Bilitz, and Andrew Murray. They are my eyes the first half then Jennifer picks me up at the halfway point and takes me the distance to the finish line. I always find the footing and turns of the first eight miles or so to be tough, but after that point, it seems to become a straight shot all the way until the end shoot. As I have mentioned before, I love how Jen knows when to go easy on me and when to push me. The times when she refuses to accept my excuses and pushes me beyond the pain are always difficult, but ultimately rewarding. Each year, I look to improve by being faster, stronger, better. Often, I find parts of my run game which do get better while other parts of it which take a step back. This year, I am excited because I believe I am in the best shape I have been heading into any of these 20 Milers. Usually, my longest runs prior to RTR is a seven or eight mile run. This time, my longest was thirteen miles. I do feel a bit chubby, but the way my clothes fit and the way people have been responding to my physique of late, I believe I have so slimmed down that I look like a high school kid. I will see how that translate into a better run tomorrow especially during the late miles. I feel more prepared than at any point over the last three years. The credit for that goes to the amazing Jenna Parker who continues to work with me and push me while also teaching me how to finally train with a sense of purpose and clear cut direction. A quick loud shout out to the lovely Jenna who as I write this post is in the midst of racing at the Beijing Triathlon against some of the best pros in the world. Good luck JP!!

For anyone who will be running the 20 Miler on Sunday, I hope to see you out there. Feel free to say hello. I will be sporting my Imerman Angels top with the name Sexy Isra printed on the back. I will have a tether around my waist and a bandana on my head. I hope to see many other runners out there. Please make sure to take a moment and visit my Imerman Angels fundraising page as I race and raise funds so no one faces cancer alone. A dear friend would have celebrated another birthday yesterday had cancer not taken her life a year ago. I run knowing that each time I do, she is watching me and I carry her laughter, smile, and memory in my heart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 Twilight 5K And Chicago Half

On Saturday, Michael Crissie and I headed out to the Twilight 5K benefiting the Great lakes Adaptive Sports Association. It was on Team GLASA that I made my debut at the marathon distance in 2010. Everyone with whom I have ever been in contact from the organization has always been wonderful. Michael is my guide for the Soldier Field 10 on a yearly basis. I reached out to him figuring he may want to try his hand at a short fast race which is not as packed as SF10. This would allow us to really open it up on the course.

We arrived, received our bibs and made our way to the start line. I kept debating how to approach this 5K event. Should I go out at a blistering pace for the first two miles then shut it down and coast through the final mile knowing I would be running a half marathon the next day? Should I start out slow and gradually build up my pace in order to finish strong and get some confidence heading into the next day's race? The gun sounded and we were off and running. It took a while to find a comfort level. Soon enough, Michael and I were starting to move quickly. I felt that we were boxed in initially, but at about the halfway point of the first mile, it seemed to open up for us. I felt great. Unlike SF10, we would have a great time pushing it. I kept telling myself to not go crazy. Do not press so hard. there is still a race tomorrow. Yet, the excitement hit me and when Michael informed me of our opening mile split and that he thought we could go faster, I took the challenge. We rolled through the second mile even faster then were cooking in the final mile before coasting across the finish line. Okay, the first of two races was complete. Although, we pushed it, I felt very fresh after the 5K. In fact, there were several long hills which honestly, I did not feel at all. Usually, when Michael or any guide warms me of a hill, I wait for it then when I feel it, I dig a bit more yet on this day, I kept waiting for the inclines to become evident, but they never materialized. That made me that much more confident heading into the Chicago Half Marathon.

Saturday evening witness the best sleep I have had prior to a race in a long time. Some readers may remember that the night before the South Shore Tri, I slept all of ten minutes. I usually only manage three hours before a race. On this night, I was able to get over five hours. Todd Smith and I made our way to the Chicago half Marathon. I had the great privilege of meeting Jen so in fact, the three of us headed down to the race together. Not only would my guide be one of the fastest triathletes in the world, but thanks to the amazing Jemma Lotzer of Imerman Angels and Linsey Baillys of US Road Sports, I would have an opportunity to begin the race in Corral A! Wow, I get to run with the elites. Perfect. My mission was clear. I would build on the success Jenny Pfaff and Stu Evans helped me achieve in January at the Houston Half Marathon when I ran a personal best, 1:57:23. I would run faster today. Of course, breaking that time by one second or one minute would be great. I had my sight set on a time closer to 1:44:00. If conditions were in my favor and everything fell into place, mainly if I could embrace the pain and run through it, then I would go all out to break 1:40. First thing first, get all prerace activities out of the way and work my way to the Corral A start. We hit the rest room. While in line, I heard the national anthem. Fifteen minutes until the start. We waited. Finally we used the rest room then made our way to the Imerman Angels tent to get Todd his IA racing top and to put our gear aside. Unfortunately, it was clear, we would not make it in time to go off with my wave. Todd kept laughing observing how intense my face would get. I tried to relax, but I was worried that missing the start meant spending all day boxed in by other runners. The gun sounded! The race began. Todd and I were still making our way to and from the IA tent. We worked our way to the start and ended up by the runners projected to finish in two hours and forty-five minutes. If we were going to get my goal time, we would truly have to earn it. We were not only going to race the clock, we were going to have to fight through a mass of humanity to get to the open spaces before we could turn it on. Sixteen minutes after the gun, we crossed the start line. We jogged through the crowd. The mass starts always make me uncomfortable. I held on to Todd tightly. I would wait for us to find open real estate before I would let go and flow. We bumped into people. We crawled along. I heard someone say he was running a ten minute pace. I figured maybe we were too. A bit later I heard a woman say she was running close to twelve minutes per mile. Was that us too? My heart sank. Frustration steadily rose. We needed to find open space. We needed to get by all these people. One mile was complete. Eventually, so was another. Frustration mixed with sadness. I wanted to walk off the course and cry. I would rather DNF than to cross the finish in two hours and thirty minutes. Not that I would ever quit or drop out, but I was so upset and sad that doing so seemed like the better option. Todd continued to do a masterful job keeping me company. He lead me through this insisting it will get better. He kept the faith for both of us. By mile four, I was mentally tired. Physically, I was fine, but mentally, I wanted to just check out and call it a day. I was not sure where I would find the strength to keep my sanity. I had big goals for today. Jenna has been wonderful in preparing me for this race. I have been pushing myself to get ready. Now, it is not happening. Just before the fifth mile, Todd and I took a quick break to gather ourselves. This was wearing down both of us. I started observing other runners. They were laughing and singing as they encouraged each other. At that moment, I remembered Jenna telling me to make sure I had fun. However this race would turn out, it was important that I take in the experience and atmosphere. I thought, Jenna was right. that is what I need to do. Do not give up mentally. Maybe the goal time is not in the cards for me. Maybe a personal best is not meant for me, but I can still push and press on and give myself a chance. I might surprise myself towards the end and learn I will have a shot at a record, so keep moving. Suddenly, my attitude changed. Shortly after that, Todd found an opening and we started moving. Finally, I could let go of Todd's arm and turn it on. Almost immediately, we were boxed in again. We made our way through the crowd and Todd found another opening. He told me to push. I knew we had a long way to go so instead of laying the hammer, I decided to merely float. I was not going to spend my energy tensing up and pounding the ground. I was going to attempt to gallop and glide through the air. We ran for a few hundred meters before running into another crowd. I mentioned to Todd how that short burst felt effortless. We were galloping. The next time we found an opening, we opened it up and Todd laughed agreeing that it felt like we were gliding effortlessly. We kept finding pockets of short bursts, but nothing long enough to make us happy. Todd said that he felt like a jockey and I was a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby. He said he could feel the energy of my strength and power ready to explode, but we just could not find the room to operate. He expressed disappointment in not having the chance to cut me loose and watch me destroy my half marathon time. Still, we pressed on and reached the turn-around point. Five more miles. We made our way and finally had a chance to push hard at about mile nine. As we reached the tenth mile, I thought of how this is where I started to struggle in Houston. I would fight hard to not let that happen. Todd said he did not want me to save anything for a final sprint. There would be no final sprint on this day since Todd wanted me to sprint the final few miles and not just the last few hundred meters. Todd kept encouraging me. I felt that I was beginning to fade as we headed to the final two miles. I kept pushing. With 1600 meters left, it was time to just let it all hang out! The only problem with that was we instantly ran into a wall of people many of whom were hanging on for dear life heading into the final mile. This final mile was all heart as runners moved towards the finish line. I wanted to burst through, but I could not find room. As Todd zigged and zagged his way, he tried finding us room to operate, but it was clear, it was not going to be a spectacular sprint to the finish. We would finish strong, but not quite as strong as I was hoping. We crossed with a time of 2:05:11.

At the start of 2012, if you would have told me I would run a 2:05:11 I would probably have hugged and kissed you because I had never run that fast for 13.1 miles. Having performed as I did in Houston, I found myself disappointed at Sunday's Chicago half. Todd was better than spectacular. He was amazing in the way he guided me through such a difficult experience. I can not say thank you enough to Todd. In fact, I was not disappointed at our performance. We did the best we could. On that day, that was the result. I will never know whether starting with my corral would have enabled me to hit my target. Maybe I would have folded down the stretch. Maybe I would have left even myself speechless by running even faster than my goal. Maybe this or that. In truth, all I know is what is. On this day, I felt short of my expectations. I fell short of my goal and I am going to have to be okay with it because I can not change it. I can only ask, what is the lesson I must learn from this? If everything happens in perfect order with the universe then what is the growth which must happen within me to make this experience benefit me in the future?

I was proud to represent Imerman Angels once again on the race course. thank you to Jemma for helping me get to the start line for this event. Thank you Todd for guiding me. Thank you Jenna for preparing me mentally and physically and always supporting and encouraging me. Thank you Michael for guiding me for the 5K on Saturday of which I learned on Sunday, from my friend, Lauren, that Michael and I finished first in our division! So in the end, it was a tremendous weekend of racing with tremendous friends helping light the way for me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Twilight 5K and Chicago half Preparations

After an exciting week of a major step in risk taking, I am preparing for this weekend. The big day is Sunday as I will run in my next half marathon. I will run the Chicago Half. It will be my first 13.1 mile event since Houston during Olympic Trials weekend in January. On that day, the fabulous, Jenny Paff, and Stu Evans escorted me to a personal best 1:57:23. On Sunday, I hope to shatter that and bring my personal best time down by a solid margin. Todd Smith volunteered to be my eyes for this event. Todd and I first met on June 24, 2011 on the day he guided me for the Pleasant Prairie Duathlon. The two highlights I take with me from that day are pushing 30MPH on the bike in stretches for the first time ever and closing with such a strong kick the final couple hundred meters that Todd turned to me and said, "If you have enough to finish that strongly, you weren't going all out before then." It was a major lesson in truly examining myself and whether I do in fact stop myself from going all out early in races until the end so I will look strong heading to the finish.

A couple months ago at the New York City Triathlon, Todd romped and stomped to such a tremendous finish time that not only did he win his age group, but he was the king of the age groupers as he had the fastest time of an age grouper in the entire field. He can fly. Because he has guided me before and he has learned a little bit more about me over the past year, I am confident I must bring my A game since Todd will push me. Hopefully, I will be pushing myself so he will not have to do much of it. Before I go any further, I wish to thank Todd for volunteering as he did back in February of this year. After learning of what I had achieved in my previous half marathon, he reached out to me and suggested I pick a race for this year that we could "go out and win." Within minutes of seeing his note, Jemma of Imerman Angels sent me a note stating US Road Sports had formed a partnership with Imerman Angels for the Chicago Marathon. As a result of being a major featured charity, IA athletes would be spotlighted so US Road Sports was looking for IA members to highlight. Jemma said she instantly thought of me so would I be interested in running? Of course. Here was the race for Todd and I to run. I asked him and he immediately jumped at it. I contacted Jemma and within minutes of the original note, I had agreed to run Chicago Half.

I am so looking forward to this as it will be the first time I will run in this event. I hope to perform well. I hope to shatter my PR along the way shining brightly for IA. It will be easy to spot Todd guiding me due to the tether around my waist. You will also be able to pick me out of the crowd if you spot the Imerman top with the name Sexy Isra on the back. Before I reach the Sunday race, I will have a chance to run in another event. I will run in the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association Twilight 5K on Saturday. This is the fourth consecutive year I will participate in this event. I debated whether to run in it considering I have a 13.1 mission the next day, but since my plan for this week calls for a twenty-five minute run on Saturday, I figured I might as well do it at the Twilight 5K. I am debating what the game plan should be going into the event. I have considered attempting to break my 5K best. I have also considered merely getting my miles in without concern for time. There is a part of me which wants to just push in the opening miles and then shut it down in the last mile to coast to the end. I guess I will see how my guide, Michael Crissie feels. He has been my eyes each year I have run Soldier Field 10. It can be frustrating attempting to make our way through all those runners at SF10 so I was excited to have Michael agree to run in this event where the field is capped at 500 people. With it being a small race, it allows for some open space through the streets of Lake Forest so we could turn it on so he and I can experience that feeling together. It will be a fun time.