Sunday, July 29, 2012

21 Years

With everything set for South Shore Triathlon, I went to bed. I tossed and turned. I spent some time thinking about her. Who? She, whose lack of presence changed my life forever many years ago. I tried not to think of her. As the clock hit midnight, I could not help, but think of her. I think of her daily, but now it was the date of when she left so it was tough. I tried clearing my mind. I tried to think of other things. I tried not to think of anything. I was still awake. Finally, I started to fall asleep. Suddenly, I was shaken back to an awakened state. On this night, sleep was not to be. I checked my clock. 3:10a.m. Except for about ten minutes, I had not slept yet and now it was only one hour away from my wake up call. I laid there waiting for the hour to be complete.

I slowly picked myself up and changed into my race outfit. I grabbed some fruit and gatorade for breakfast. Andrew called to say he was on his way. I was so sleepy. Andrew and his friend, Moe arrived and we were of to the south side of Chicago. We made our way to the race and met up with the folks of Dare2Tri. This being Andrew's first time guiding for a race, it was great to have an experienced guide, Jane, next to us giving him instructions as we prepared. I was not going to do this race because I was not confident with the swim, but Keri Schindler of Dare2Tri, arranged it so I would be part of a relay. As it turns out, I would get to bike and run, but avoid the swim. I would wait for someone to complete the swim, get the timing strap, and hop on the bike. Andrew and I were excited. We were set as swimmers made their way to the start.

As Andrew and I chatted in transition, Melissa Stockwell, current two time defending world champion and co founder of Dare2Tri, came flying out of the swim, made the change, and headed out for the bike portion. she was crushing it! Immediately following her, we saw Mike Wong storming by. After a few, we saw our swimmer who quickly handed the timing strap to Andrew. He pulled the tandem out, we walked it out of transition. We made it on to the course, jumped on, and began to pedal. It was on! For the first few minutes, Andrew played with the gears. He tested out a few of them. We tried finding a comfort zone. We moved on through the course. I felt tilted to the right. I adjusted. A few minutes later, I felt tilted once more. We made a 180 degree turn, I felt the handlebars move. I was worried. I tried adjusting it back. No dice. I felt a bit off, but that was the least of my worries because in came the stiff headwind which would stay with us for the next seven miles until the turn-around. We kept pushing. Andrew seem to get the hang of the bike. I kept pressing. The wind was howling. I kept thinking how I needed to dig deep especially on this day. I owed it to myself to push through anything and everything. We reached the turn-around point. We made it. Time to head for home. there was crosswind with which to contend, but it was not that bad. I kept churning. We were moving. We did not speak much. I was estimating in my head the distance we had left. I figured we were about two miles out so I gave myself a mental pep talk to let it all hang out for the next few miles. Just as I finished the talk, Andrew informed me that we had less than half a mile to go. My estimate was way off, but that was quite alright. We pushed hard and completed the cycling.

We walked the bike to where we would leave it and grab the tether for the run. I had no idea of our time, but I felt that it was the best I had ever done on the bike. We grabbed the tether and took in some liquids and headed out on the 5K run. I was going to crush this. We started to jog. It was narrow. I stayed close to Andrew. Immediately I realized I had nothing left. My legs were weak. I was on the ropes. I could not get them to fire. It usually takes me a while to get my legs back under me, but this was different. I was physically spent. I was not going to hit my target of eight minute per mile pace. It was clear, I had given my best maximum effort performance on the bike and now was not feeling it on the run. Compounding the matter was that we had to constantly make turns. Left. Right. Then again. I was weak. I was getting emotionally tired. I was not comfortable. Andrew was encouraging me to keep moving. This was not my game plan. I was suppose to let it all hang out. I could not perform like this. Not on this day! Andrew informed me we had run the first mile in about nine minutes. We had to make up ground. I pressed on. We picked up the pace. One way to know how I am doing is by listening to my feet. If I am stomping and making plenty of noise each time I land, then I am struggling. If my landings are silent then I am okay. I was stomping. andrew said not to worry. It would come to me. By the end of the second mile, we had picked up the pace. We neared the final mile. We made it. From this point forward, no more turns until the finish shoot. No matter how tired I felt, it was time to hammer this. I owed it to myself. Besides, how would my friend jenny feel if I fade down the stretch? This would be the time when Jenny would be yelling at me. It was time to drive. All those repeats Jenna has me do. this is where they matter. I pushed hard. Andrew noticed we were moving faster. I suddenly realized my steps were silent. I felt like I was gliding. Finally, I feel strong. I raced home. I felt that now I was galloping. We made the final turn, the crowd grew louder. We moved across the timing mat. then another mat. We had crossed the finish. andrew informed me that we had run that final mile one minute faster than mile 1. I knew it was not as fast as I would have wanted, but I was happy with the performance. It did not matter what my time results were because I knew in my heart, I had given it my all on the bike and finished strong on the run. Had my legs allowed I would have been flying much sooner. As it turns out, our bike split was 40:46. Missed my best bike split by three minutes, but again, it was my best effort. It turns out, the run was the best run time I have ever done as part of a triathlon or duathlon so I can claim that I have a PR in that category.

Thank you to Andrew Murray for volunteering to be my guide. thank you to the Dare2Tri group for all their help in getting to the start and finish. Thank you to my friends who encourage me whose words stay with me even when they are not around. thank you to Jenna for her continued work to help me improve. Thank you to Moe for the ride to the race and to Mike and Lauren for the ride home. It was an emotional day. It always is on July 28 because it was on that day in 1991 that I woke up having lost my sight over night. When I say she left me and I miss her, I am speaking of my sight. That is why I kept pushing during the race. I wanted to give it my all in tribute to that little boy who woke up in 1991 only to realize his life was over. What he knew, was, and believed the day before was no longer the case. Unless his sight was restored, he would never be the same. He would never be the man he wanted to be or thought he could be. On this day in this race, I felt I owed it to that little boy to fight and even if for a brief moment, attempt to be the man he wanted to be the man he thought he was destined to be. Each day I wonder who would I be? Where would I be? If I had remained sighted all these years what would I be doing? What I love it? I always felt I would probably gone to law school then politics. I probably would have run for office. Maybe I would have been a priest. I always felt I was going to do something to help the poor, underserved, or underprivileged. On the flip side, I would have never met the amazing friends I have in my life. I most likely would have never run marathons or triathlons. I probably would have never taken as much interest in sports as I did immediately after losing my sight. Sports talk radio and game broadcasts were my escape. I could live out my dreams through the athletes I loved. In fact, I kept that up throughout college. I looked to the athletes whom I befriend as the ones through whom I could live out those athletic fantasies. In many respects, I look back at the boy I was and know I am quite an amazing man. I became a much greater person than I could have ever imagined in those days. I believe who I wanted to be was in fact who I thought would make my teachers, parents, and family happy. Nowadays, I live to be and do what makes me happy. I do not know if I would have ever discovered my own love and passion in life. I believe I would have spent my entire life living for others.

There is no way I will ever know if I am better off as I am or if I would have been better off sighted. I know I would take being sighted in a heartbeat. I have heard some people who are blind say they would never change if given the opportunity because being blind is who they are. I say I have a medical condition which caused me not to have my sight, but blind or blindness is not who I am. It is not my life. Marathons, triathlons, plays, screenplays, brother, friend, lover are all things which I am. I just happened to have misplaced my sight many moons ago. I still hope that one day my sight is restore. For now, I guess I will see by experiencing. This weekend I saw what I could do on a bike and run. I know have many more miles to go to grow and get better. I also saw that I am improving. That little boy who lost his sight twenty-one years back had one tremendous experience on Saturday and will have many more in races to come.


  1. Great job at the race! Regardless of your performance, that is an amazing tribute to an important day in your life. I'm proud of you!

    1. Thank you very much Lauren. It truly was an emotional day. I kept reminding myself how I lost my sight on that day and I did my best to channel those feelings into motivating to keep push and not ease up on the bike nor run. It helped so much just as having the support and encouragement of great individuals like you. Again, thank you so much.