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.