Monday, December 30, 2013

Reviewing 2013 Month By Month

Towards the end of 2012, I started to tell my friends, Jennifer Pfaff and Jenna Parker that I had long passed the point of participating in road races and triathlons being fun. I had long stared at other magnificent athletes standing on the podium wishing I was there. I had long passed the moment where simply receiving a finisher's medal was not good enough. I was burning with a desire to race!

When Jen guiding me for another 20 miler in September 2012, I had my best performance to that point when I kept getting stronger and faster throughout the final ten miles. Usually I would fade and hang on for dear life, but on that day, I was picking up steam at the end. I closed the day with my fastest mile of the day which also happened to be my fastest race mile. Three weeks later, I set a fifty-two minute personal best when Jen and Kimberly Shah helped me break the four hour mark at the Chicago Marathon. I was very happy. I wanted more. The joy I felt when I crossed the finish as a result of how strong I finished was something I wanted to feel all the time. I wanted to push myself and my limits. No regrets no apologies.

In 2012, I had shown improvement. I had shown myself that I could get stronger instead of fading. The major difference between that year and every other year was Jenna Parker! I had been a fan of Jenna the pro triathlete, model, and actress for several years. I had been fortunate enough to send her one of my screenplays. I had been lucky enough to befriend her. Jenna had become my guiding light teaching me to train smarter and race better. The changes had begun to pay off and were only going to pay off even more in 2013.

In January, Jen and I flew to Houston where I managed to run a thirteen minute personal best on a miserable cold and rainy day which saw me get injured less than half a mile into the half marathon, but Jen was not about to let me struggle. Prior to that January day my fastest race mile was eight minutes at Chicago Marathon the previous October. In Houston, starting with the third mile, I began running 7:40 per mile. I maintained 7:40-7:45 through mile nine. Miles ten and eleven were tough against a stiff headwind, but the moment we turned out of that wind, I raced like never before rocking mile twelve in 7:36 and mile thirteen in 7:29 on route to a thirteen minute personal best.

A month later I was offered a chance to go qualify for Paratriathlon US Nationals to be held as part of CapTex Triathlon in Austin, Texas on Memorial Day. I needed to finish a sprint triathlon in under one hour forty-five minutes. I could attempt this at the C Different Triathlon in Sugar land, Texas. I was not certain I could, but Jenna insisted there was no reason to not at least attempt to know for sure. I agreed and headed to Sugar land where I met and befriended Ironman triathlete and TV producer, Justin Sternberg who guided me to a stunning one hour and seventeen minute finish. that was one hour and five minutes faster than I had ever finished a sprint distance triathlon. I was last out of the water, but my strength on the bike and especially the run helped me storm back to win first place in convincing fashion. My first ever top of the podium finish!

In April, I received word that I had been selected to join the Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club's Elite Team. A group of world champions and national champions would welcome me into their club. I had to live up to the selection by doing well at Paratriathlon Nationals at CapTex. Justin agreed to meet me in Austin. I came out of the water in first place by mere seconds and I opened up a lead on the bike. Unfortunately, I faded on the run. It is my favorite and best discipline, but I struggled through the first mile. Then I remembered all the time and effort Jenna had put into making me the athlete I am and I know I owed it to her to not disappoint. I was in a position to win a title and I would not lose it. Not on that day during my favorite discipline. In the final two miles of the run, I seized control to pull away and win my first ever Paratriathlon US Nationals championship as a Tri6A male. This meant I would get the opportunity to represent the United States on a global stage.

In June, I received word from amanda Duke, Program manager for USA Triathlon, that I had been selected to the Team USA Worlds squad which would race at the Grand Finals in London.

One of my goals had always been to break twenty-five minutes in a stand-alone 5K. My best race performance was 25:36 which I achieved in 2010. I wanted to break 25. I needed to break 25. I turned to my friend, Elizabeth Bilitz, one of the fastest women in Chicago to guide me at the Chinatown 5K in July. We started out slow, but managed to kick it into gear the back half of the race as Elizabeth pushed me to run my fastest ever race mile with a 6:47 to close the event with a 22:32. A three minute personal best.

August saw me race in my first ever Chicago Triathlon which hosted the Mideast Regional Championships. Don Reichelt guided me as I took home the first place finish and Mideast Regional Championship for Tri6A males.

In September, I met Justin Sternberg in London where he guided me in my first ever international race as a representative of the United States of America. It was such a wonderful experience spending the week with elite athletes from the USA and other countries. It was such a thrill to be around the Dare2Tri Elite Team athletes during the entire trip. My favorite part of the race was leaving the second transition and beginning the run portion. Usually, it takes me almost a mile to get my run legs under me after the bike portion, but on this day, it took me only a few steps or about twenty meters to find my run legs and crank out my fastest ever 5K in 21:32.

Over the last couple Octobers I have become comfortable with Jen and Kimberly guiding me through the Chicago Marathon. this year, I had to call upon two new individuals. Elizabeth and I worked so well in Chinatown that I turned to her to help run me in at Chicago. I then reached out to Lindsey Cook who had just guided a woman through the Ironman in Louisville. I knew the race would be tough because I had spent the entire season working on my sprint and very few miles were spent preparing for longer distances. With Lindsey and Elizabeth keep me on a steady pace then forcing me to push when it was time, I rolled through my fourth marathon completing it with an eight minute personal best!

That was certainly quite a way to cap off the most successful season for me to date. I can not say enough about the wonderful individuals who are willing to volunteer to be my eyes. I most appreciate that they are my friends. One of the aspects of my friendship with each one of them which I most respect and appreciate is that these wonderful individuals view me as a person first, an athlete second, and never do they view me as a disability. I have always stated, I will never use the word blind as an adjective to describe who I am. I am a person, friend, lover, writer, athlete, but never a disability. Whether Jenna, Jen, Justin, Don, Lindsey, or Elizabeth, I would run through a brick wall for each of them. Another person for which I would do the same is Amanda Marcheschi. She, a long time friend, model, actress, singer, dancer, and teacher has always been so supportive. In fact, before Jenna ever talked me into attempting to qualify for Nationals, amanda had already insisted I should try it because she believed it was a no brainer that I would qualify and I would have a strong possibility to win. She was right! She felt I owed it to myself to win and travel to London. I did and I thank her for believing in me. 2013 was a very special year because Pinnacle Performance Company continued to sponsor and support me too. Dare2Tri Chicago, C Different Foundation, and Imerman Angels showed their support throughout the year too.

I wanted to share my athletic highlights this year and say thank you to every person who helped, cheered, or made it possible for me to race at the elite level for the first time in my life. This year was one of many first time occurrences. It was also a year of many personal best times. With the help of the individuals and companies as well as support from what I hope will be new organizations or companies in 2014, I will continue to improve in order to show that this year was an awakening and an arrival. May your new year bring with it blessings beyond your wildest dreams. I know that because of you my friends and supporters, this coming year will be greater than I could ever dream.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Casey Learns The Names

As we near December 25, I wish to share with you the video of the Aaron Sorkin TV show which inspired me to become a writer. It was this episode of Sorkin's Sports Night which aired on ABC from 1998 to 2000 which moved me to want to write, tell stories, and evoke powerful responses. I am especially inspired by the scene featuring Janel Moloney. I love that the names mentioned in the final scene were not made up names, but in fact those of the actual people who worked in those very positions for the show, Sports Night.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rani In Past Perfect Future Tense

Since September, the Second City stage has been home to a great show performed by some of the funniest individuals in LA. Tonight is the final night of performances for Past Perfect Future Tense at Second City Hollywood. For those who attend the final show, you will have the pleasure of witnessing some hilarious people doing what they do best. One of the people on stage tonight will be my long time friend the beautiful, talented, and amazing, Rani O'Brien!! You do not want to miss this cast especially Rani so get your tickets and enjoy the 8p.m. show.

If you log on to the following site and search for the show, you will find it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving You Thanks 2013

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day. I wish to say thank you for all the wonderful times I have enjoyed this year to this point. I have only you thank for those memories and moments which have been so splendid. I wanted to list each moment and the individual or individuals who made it possible, but then I would be here for hours listing name after name and I would end up forgetting someone who would then be hurt for my lack of mentioning that person. Instead, I wish to offer a general note of appreciation to all who have taken part in my life this year. Do you read my blog entries? Do you follow me on Twitter at @SexyIsra? Are you one who is my friend at or in some way of social media connected to me? Then you are the one I am thanking today. Are you one who takes interest in my writing? Are you one who follows my marathon and triathlon journey as I qualify for Boston Marathon or win the Tri6A National championship in the US? Then, again, this message is to you! Thank you for being my friend and for reading my posts. I hope you find me and my work interesting enough to continue coming back for more and to tell your friends and loved ones about me. May you have a splendid day especially those celebrating with friends, family, and loved ones today. As always, please feel free to reach out to me and introduce yourself. I am always open to meeting new individuals who can enrich my life.

I will say a special thank you to Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me during my 2013 marathon and triathlon season. Special thank you to Dare2Tri Chicago for including me on this season's Elite Team. Thank you to Kimberly Shah for including me on the 2013 NJOY Racing roster. Thank you to Matt Miller for always including me as part of the C Different Foundation family. Thank you to the fabulous Jenna Parker, jen Pfaff, Marrielle Monte, Amanda Marcheschi, Jen Knox, and Michelle Amor for always being there for me during my athletic and artistic ventures. In fact, these women are the reason I strive for greatness. I may not always achieve it, but they are the driving force as I pursue it. Thank you to you for taking the time to read this. May you have a spectacular day!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Katie, Don, Melissa At Ironman Arizona

On Sunday morning, November 17, three friends will take on the challenge of 140.6 miles through the heat of Arizona when they will each swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles at the Ironman triathlon distance in Arizona. Three individuals who will add to their already impressive legacies as athletes and people. Three friends who have been important to the Team Sexy success. Katie Morse and Don Reichelt will each be aiming for completing yet another IM in their careers while Melissa Stockwell will be looking to join the IM club when she crosses the finish line for the first time ever. Each elite, great, and champion athlete will once again make personal and athletic history tomorrow and I wish all best wishes on such amazing races and experiences as they fulfill their dreams while being the spectacular and inspiring people they are at all times.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Katie's Inspirational Entry

Do you live with no regrets no apologies? Talented, amazing, and beautiful, actress, teacher, director, Laura Sturm taught me to do that when I was studying acting and movement with her. I had physical and emotional barriers which I put up, but which Laura helped me break down one brick at a time. Another woman who attempts to live life to the fullest is the beautiful, talented, and gifted Ironman triathlete, Katie Morse. I am so lucky and honored that Katie has been a supportive friend over the last few years. I have enjoyed watching her on her journey to superstardom. Katie is quite simply inspiring! One has a decision to make as to how to live life. One can either embrace the thrills of living or be content with merely existing. Katie is one who goes for it! Katie lives life. Katie is on the verge of racing in yet another Ironman triathlon this weekend. In fact, she is one of many who I know will take on the challenge of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in Arizona.

With Katie's permission, I wish to share one of her recent blog posts with you. It is quite moving and it had me excited to go out and live life. I hope you experience the same type of fulfillment in reading this entry. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Past Perfect Future Tense

For anyone on the west coast looking for a great Saturday night of laughter, entertainment, and fulfillment, please check out Past Perfect Future Tense at Second City. My friend, the talented, beautiful, and amazing, Rani will be part of the show tonight!

For tickets and more information, please log on to the following site. You will enjoy the performances of some wonderful individuals if you opt to attend.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013: Lindsey And Liz Guide Me To Personal Best

Prior to my first ever marathon in 2010, I signed up to do a twenty miler to see if I was ready to run. Elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff volunteered to guide me the second half. In 2011, I reached out to head coach and owner of NJOY Racing, Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah inquiring if I could join the team's Saturday morning runs. Not only did Kimberly welcome me with open arms, she offered to guide me for those runs. After guiding me for a mile, Kimberly volunteered to be my eyes at that year's Chicago Marathon. That year, Kimberly and Jen teamed up to take me 26.2 miles in 4:50:20 which was forty-six minutes faster than I had run the marathon a year prior. Breaking the five hour mark enabled me to qualify for the Boston Marathon in the Visually Impaired/Blind runner category, but I was not too pleased. Sure, I was overly excited that I had finished faster, but I was a bit ashamed of the congratulatory e-mails, voicemails, and Facebook messages. After all, I had run a very slow marathon, but because the standards for blind/visually impaired runners are what they are, I had run my way to a qualification which I did not feel I deserved. In fact, when I see what my friends who have their sight must achieve to earn their way into the field of the famed Boston race, I feel it is an insult that the Boston Athletic Association does not force blind and visually impaired runners to deliver faster times which would be considered elite. I felt that I could run faster the following year. In 2012, Kimberly and Jen once again agreed to be my eyes as I attempted to break four hours at the Chicago Marathon. With their help, I did. My 3:58 was much better and had me feeling more deserving of Boston. Still, I wanted to keep improving. I wanted to run faster in 2013.

When 2013 began, my focus was to run the Chicago Marathon even faster. Each of the last several years, that has been the highlight race. After all Paula Radcliffe had inspired me to run 26.2 miles when she shattered the world record at Chicago in 2002. I have always enjoyed running in Paula's footsteps at Chicago. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that Kimberly and Jen would not be available for a third consecutive year. Who could I ask to guide me? Before I could iron that out, an opportunity to qualify for Paratriathlon US Nationals came along. Not confident in my swim, I decided to pass on it, but pro triathlete, model, actress, Jenna Parker insisted I go for it! After all, it would be better to know for certain if I was or was not good enough instead of sitting around wondering. My race journey took me to Austin, Texas where I won my first ever national title then to London where I raced at Paratriathlon Worlds having the great honor and privilege to represent the United States Of America on Team USA. The focus over those months was Nationals and Worlds preparations. In July, I decided to attempt to break my personal record for a stand-alone 5K. I turned to elite runner, Elizabeth Bilitz to guide me. As we entered the final mile, she screamed, "Come on, Is! You got this! Yeah!" On route to breaking my personal best by three minutes, I had run my fastest ever race mile in under 6:50 all thanks to Elizabeth. The Chicago Marathon was months away and I knew I had found the woman who I wanted to run me in the second half of the race. The only question which remained was who would help me set the tempo the opening half? I spoke to Keri Serota, co-founder of the Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club, who was in charge of Disability Services for the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon. She told me she has an ever-expanding list of men wishing to guide and that she could put me in contact with one or two of them. I knew that within my group of runners and triathletes, I would find someone. I reached out to my first choice. I asked the lovely and talented Ironman triathlete, Lindsey Cook who immediately said yes!

Liz and Lindsey would take me the distance. Would I be ready to go 26.2? After all, from late February to the middle of September the focus has been on sprint distance triathlons. The Chicago Marathon was only weeks away and I did not have the volume of miles which most would consider proper training. Each year I run the marathon, I have always done a twenty miler as a way to gage myself and prepare mentally, but this year I did not do that event. In fact, after returning from London, I was so ill, I would not have been able to run more than a couple very slow miles. Chicago Marathon race week arrived. I was scared. I did the miles I was assigned and kept worrying about those I had not done leading up to this. I knew that the most important thing to do was have fun. I had enjoyed my most successful season in triathlon. I won a national title. I went to London. Along the way, I had deliver my fastest ever bike and run splits in a couple different races. Jenna helped me relax by saying the marathon should be all about fun and celebrating my overall achievements. After all, I had reached higher than I ever had in previous years. for the first time ever, I had been named to the Dare2Tri Elite Team. I had represented the USA in an international race. That did not remove the concern I had for Chicago. I wanted to run well so Lindsey and Liz could be proud of me. I wanted them to enjoy their experience guiding me. If I ran slow, made excuses, or walked during the race, it would not be a good experience for them. It helped that both said they would have fun and help me run my best race. In the end I thought to myself, I have learned so much from Jenna Parker about being mentally tough and racing my heart out. I have learned so much from Kimberly Shah and Jen Pfaff about reaching for excellence. I knew in my heart, I could run my personal best at the marathon distance even without the miles in training because all the work I had done to this point had made me fitter, faster, and stronger.

One day before the race, I stepped out of my front door and there waiting for me was the beautiful, Lindsey. We had lunch then went to marathon expo where we picked up my race packet and her race guide packet. We had the chance to meet up with friends and make new ones. Then we head for dinner. After which, I went home to pull out my race tether and gear from Pinnacle Performance Company whose orange colors I would be sporting for the marathon. I tossed and turned attempting to sleep. I kept telling myself I would run a personal best. I had run 26.2 miles before so this would not be a new experience. I should not be worried for there would be no swimming involved. At one point, I woke up drenched in my own sweat. I was scared.

4:15a.m. was my wake up call, but I was up forty-five minutes before that and I could not sleep. I picked myself up out of bed, checked Facebook and Twitter, and then put on my Pinnacle gear. I had my usual race morning breakfast then received a call from Lindsey that it was time to go.

We reached the race location where we met up with Liz. Together, we walked to the Disability Tent where it was warm. I sat in front of a heater for most of the time. Lindsey and Liz helped me stay relaxed and they assured me all I had to do was run my race and place my trust in them. Lindsey and I made our way to the start corral just in front of the pros. My buddy, Abe Cortez yelled out my name as we walked. I had the joy of seeing Hailey Danisewicz who was running her first marathon. I was shivering. This was the first time in several years where I would not have Kimberly along side. I would not have Jen with me for the second half. How would I run? Will I have the ability to go strong or will I end up disappointing Lindsey, Liz, and Jenna? The gun sounded!

Lindsey and I crossed the start. I was a bit pensive for the first hundred meters, but I kept telling myself to be calm. Lindsey called out as we ran. she informed me of obstacles and our surroundings. Fans were all around. We ran through a tunnel. People were loud. We headed towards a bridge. I thought of Kimberly's joy in past years to see and hear the deafening roar all for us. Lindsey had the same excitement in her voice. Fans yelled out as they would for the entire race. Some screamed, "Go Sexy Isra." Others yelled, "Go Pinnacle!" Lindsey said she would keep me at a steady pace. I slowed a bit then Lindsey would have me speed up. I felt comfortable. I did my best to truly take it one step at a time and not worry about how I will feel at mile ten, sixteen, or twenty. Every so often Lindsey would say, "You're doing great. I'm so proud of you." That filled me up with joy. I was doing well. Then came the helicopters and police. The pros were nearing. Lindsey did a great job to keep me clear of them. A couple of the pros praised her for guiding while a couple encouraged Sexy Isra to run strong. The miles piled up. I was getting a little nervous because I had to use the rest room. It was not a major deal at that point, but as we covered more ground and I drank more liquids, I would have to stop somewhere. Could I hold it? Maybe for a few miles, but not for hours until I crossed the finish. I debated on whether I should say something. I decided to stay quiet and keep running. Some times it would hit me and I needed to go badly. Other times it was as though I did not need to go. Lindsey informed me that the three hour pace group was passing us midway through mile 5. I told her my friends, Jen and Bridget, had to be in the middle of that. If they were not, they would be coming soon. Within thirty seconds, I heard female voices behind me nearing fast. Lindsey and I looked to our left as those women passed. It was Jen and Bridget. We wished each other luck and they ran ahead. As Lindsey kept me at a very steady consistent pace, I heard a man yell out, "Sexy Isra! Hey Israel." He neared from behind and patted me on the back. It was Peter Mullen, one of the men who had guided me in my first ever marathon in 2010. He wished us well and he continued on. As people passed, many gave Lindsey compliments for guiding while others said how inspiring I was for running. One gentleman passed by and said, "Hey Pinnacle, I know you can't see, but your guide is very hot." I smiled thinking, of course I know she is. As Lindsey and I neared an aid station, Andrew Murray ran by on his way to a twelve minute personal best. He cheered us on and wished us well. The miles were flying by. Lindsey kept me at a very consistent pace. Before I knew it, we had passed the tenth mile. All of a sudden, the halfway point neared quickly. Wow. It would almost be time for Liz.

We made it to the halfway point. Lindsey said I was looking strong. I was feeling it too. Liz joined us and took over guiding duties. Lindsey ran with us for a bit before departing. Liz measured my tempo, found my pace, and off we went towards the back end of the marathon. There are some very loud portions of the marathon. Most of which are near the beginning. One loud place is what is known as Charity Mile. All the non profits for which people are running are lined up in a row and their volunteers packs the streets creating what I consider to be the most deafening part of the course. In this section, I have a difficult time hearing my guide. This time was not an exception. Liz called out instructions and I was lucky to hear her. I found myself rattled. I was doing my best to stay focussed on her, but in doing so, my pace slowed and I was feeling anxious of running into people. I ran into the shoulder of one person then stepped on the heel of another. Both were wearing earbuds and would not have heard me anyway. That was tough. Liz helped me make my way through it, but then we had to make up time due to my slowing down. Liz had me pick it up for a bit to get on track. The miles flew by. Before I knew it, we were at mile sixteen. Only ten more to go. I was tired of course, but still felt good. My need to use the rest room would go and come. I was becoming concerned because I knew we were nearing the time in the race when I would usually start to fade. Jen would always get on my case to push harder. Liz might do the same. In past years, I had put in the miles which helped me respond, but this time, I may not be able to do so. The only positive was I had shown all year long that I was much better prepared mentally to dig deep. As we dipped in under single digits in terms of miles remaining, I started calculating the time in which I needed to run to cross the finish. We reached mile nineteen. I heard LMFAO's Sexy And I Know It which made me think of Jen. Any time we hear that in a race, she always tells me, "There's your theme song Sexy Isra. You need to run strong." It was at about the same place last year in this race when we heard the song. For the first time since early in the race, I missed Kimberly and Jen. As Liz and I crossed mile twenty, I smiled. Ten kilometers to go. I was tired yet my legs were still moving. Had I slowed? At different points, but Liz would have me run some pickups to get back on track. I was hurting. I was also happy because I felt I was running my fastest marathon. I kept thinking of those runs I had done in previous years with Kimberly along the Chicago lakefront. I thought of all the work, advice, and guidance Jenna had given me. I did not have the marathon miles, but I had the fitness which I never had before. I was lighter and stronger. With each step I was getting closer and it was time to dig deeper and push harder. Liz kept telling me to pick it up. I would. There were a couple moments where I felt I would slow down which I used to mentally prepare myself for another pickup. I felt tired, but I did not feel like I was fading. In past marathons, I faded for long stretches before gathering myself for the final mile, but on this day, I was remaining steady. Liz said we were nearing a turn where we would come up on her college and sorority sisters so we better pick it up and look strong. she did not want to drag me through those streets. She wanted me to work for and earn my pace. We made the turn. I pushed hard. It hurt. I was not going to let Liz down in front of her sisters and that sign. Yes, there was a sign cheering and encouraging Liz and Is! That was us. We were killing it. Liz told me we had crossed mile twenty-three. Just over five kilometers to go. I was getting more and more tired yet I was still running my fastest marathon ever. I could not fade now. I needed to finish this. There were moments I wanted to slow, but Liz would not let me. Maybe she could see it in my body language or on my face, but at those exact moments, Liz would have me run some pickups. Those helped. I thought to myself, at some point here, I am going to have to pick it up and just keep running hard to the end. I need to finish strong to close out my best race season. As I did on the run portion at Paratriathlon Worlds in London, I started to count down the approximate number of minutes I had before the finish. Knowing it was around twenty minutes, I started to push a little harder. I did not know how much I had left, but I was going to try. We neared mile twenty-four. I started to think of Jenna, Kimberly, and Jen. I played a montage in my head of various moments throughout the year. Jen guiding me to my fastest half marathon in January by having me close with my fastest ever final two miles. Until this day, that run was my longest of the year. I thought of qualifying for Nationals. I thought of how Justin hoped me clinch the US title with a furious final two miles. The end was nearing. I needed to run faster to end it quicker. As we neared the final mile, Lindsey joined Liz and me on the course. With those memories on my mind, Lindsey on my right, and Liz guiding me on my left, it was time to flip my Pinnacle Performance hat backwards and get down to business of closing the marathon. 2,000 meters to the finish. I pushed hard. I could not tell if I was running faster, but I was trying. Loud speakers played ACDC's You Shook Me All Night Long. Lindsey voiced her joy at how consistent my pace looked. Liz screamed, "Come on Is! You got this. Finish this, Is!" I pushed harder. I pumped my fist. I thought if Kimberly and Jen were here they would love how strong I was closing. "800 meters, Is. That's all you got. Finish!" As Liz yelled out, I smiled and pushed on. We were closing in on my fastest ever marathon. I did not have the proper volume, but I had the fitness. I had the toughness. Now I was showing myself that I had the heart. Lindsey and Liz prepared me for a turn. We made it nicely. I was running under control and strong. A quarter mile from the finish. My friend, David Hardin, yelled out my name. I was pumped. Lindsey and Liz were excited. I was closing the show. I raised my fist and pumped one final time as Liz guided me across the finish line. I had crossed in 3:50:28.

I hugged Lindsey and Liz. They had helped me run a steady consistent race. they had just helped me run my fastest marathon by eight minutes. When I crossed the finish line, I had become a three time Boston Marathon qualifier. At the finish, Keri Serota greeted me. She was so happy. She was screaming her congratulations with such excitement, it gave me chills. I laughed and thought about Jenna. I had done it. With no pressure and a mindset to cap off my year by celebrating and having fun, I had run my personal best. This race was a credit to her. I truly am fitter, faster, stronger. I head into the winter months knowing that with proper training next year, I can achieve even more. I know that with continued guidance and training I can get even closer to where my friends who have sight have to be to BQ. I now believe I can do it. I have a support network filled with marathoners and triathletes who will motivate and inspire me to do it. I have a great company in Pinnacle Performance Company whose CEOs, directors, and employees believe in me. Not just those in the US, but those in their UK offices too. I have the support of Dare2Tri Chicago. I have the continued backing from Matt Miller's C different Foundation. I have amazing, talented, beautiful women ready to guide Sexy Isra as I continue to build upon my success to find special things inside of me. Thank you to all. Thank you to Lindsey Cook and Elizabeth Bilitz!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Triathletes Are The Toughest

It may be argued which group is the toughest out there. One may say that triathletes are the toughest. Someone may respond with another answer. Either way, a study now shows that in fact, triathletes are tougher than any other group of people. They can withstand pain longer than anyone else. Here is an article which discusses the study and its findings. The best part is that the lovely and talented pro triathlete, model, and actress Jenna Parker is quoted in the piece. Enjoy!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Kate's 5 Athletes To Watch At Chicago Marathon

On Sunday night, I was made aware of this entry posted on the web site a couple days ago prior to the Chicago Marathon. The five athletes to watch during the race. One of the names listed is that of Israel Antonio. It also contains a blurb of what I have achieved this racing season. Thank you to the wonderful writer and athlete, Kate Bongiovanni for including me in this list. I am honored.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lindsey And Liz Guiding Me To My Chicago Marathon 2013 Destiny

I use to think people who ran marathons were crazy. I use to say I would never do that to my body. Paula Radcliffe ran through the streets of Chicago faster than any woman in history. On that October day in 2002, I fell in love with the marathon distance. When Paula next ran the distance even faster through the streets of London than she did in Chicago, I was inspired to run 26.2 miles.

It took many years, but finally, on 10-10-10 I ran my first ever marathon in Chicago. I needed my first one to be on the streets where Paula set the world record. Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen helped me become a marathoner by guiding me to the finish. In 2011, I turned to Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah and elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff to be my eyes. I improved my time by forty-six minutes and qualified for the Boston Marathon. In 2012, I once again turned to Kimberly and Jen to help me break the four hour barrier. I did. I improved my time by fifty-two minutes on route to a second straight Boston qualifying time.

This Sunday, I will be guided by two amazing women. Ironman triathlete, Lindsey Cook and elite runner, Elizabeth Bilitz. It will be an honor to run through Chicago guided by two amazing, accomplished, beautiful women. In 2013, I have been able to achieve my wildest dreams. I would have never guessed I would win my division in Sugar Land, Texas on route to qualifying for US Paratriathlon Nationals. I would have never believed I would race at the CapTex Triathlon as part of the field racing in the Paratriathlon US National Championships then actually pull off the victory to win my first ever title. I then had the great privilege of representing the USA in London at the World Championships. Now, I return to Chicago to close out my season. As is the case before every race, I am nervous. I have achieved so much this year, but I wish to do more. The truth is, the focus all year long has been on triathlons and not long distance running so I am not quite sure how my body will react to being pushed to 26.2 miles. One can argue, the Chicago Marathon is the capper on a tremendous season and I should view it as a celebration. I certainly will. One can also argue that I wish to do my very best so I must be willing to push through the mental and physical struggles to run my fastest marathon ever and qualify for the Boston Marathon for a third consecutive year. Of course, when I first reached out to Lindsey and Elizabeth, that was the plan. I wanted two talented individuals to help me break my current marathon personal best by at least thirteen minutes and help me capture another BQ. It has been said that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. While I was looking to prepare for the marathon, I won a national title, was named to Team USA, and went to London. While I was not able to put in the volume of miles needed to prepare to run the marathon, I have been training all year long. I find myself running 5Ks and 10Ks faster now than a year ago. In fact, I am running those distances one minute per mile faster if not more. I am lighter than I have ever been entering a marathon weekend. I am as light as I was in high school. I am much stronger too. The marathon distance, while a race to be respected, is one which does not scare me as much as it use to scare me because I have tackled it successfully three times. I have improved my time each time. I am always in better shape and better mentally prepared. I feel both is true in this case even if I do not have the volume under the belt. I have the wisdom of previous attempts. I have the wisdom I learned from Kimberly and Jen. I have the guiding light of the talented, amazing, and beautiful pro triathlete, Jenna Parker. I have the comfort of knowing that this year, unlike any other year, I have displayed the ability to overcome pain late in races to finish with strong sprints to the finish. I have been able to withstand physical, emotional, and mental self doubting to motivate myself and get stronger as I near the end of races. If I trust Lindsey and Elizabeth as I know I will, then I merely have to leave my life in their hands. They will get me through the marathon. If I enjoy the experience and focus on how this is a celebration then before I know it, I will near the end and maybe just maybe, I can throw down one final mad dash sprint to the finish to cap off my most successful year with a personal best and a third consecutive Boston qualifier. If I do that, Lindsey and Elizabeth will be proud beyond belief. Somewhere out there, I believe Kimberly, Jen, and Jenna will enjoy a measure of pride and satisfaction for how they played a role in inspiring, motivating, and preparing me.

For anyone out on the course on Sunday, feel free to say hi to the fella sporting the Pinnacle Performance hat, racing top, and shorts. You may also spot him by noticing the two beautiful women, Lindsey and Elizabeth. Check the back of his top and if it reads: Sexy Isra then you will have found me!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lindsey And Liz To Be My Eyes In Chicago

In just over one week, I will run my fourth consecutive Chicago Marathon. I grew up admiring marathon runners as I was always glued to the television watching Chicago, New York, and Boston. I would also think people who run these races must be crazy. I said that I would never run one. Then, the beautiful and talented Paula Radcliffe broke the world record for female runners in Chicago 2002. Months later, Paula stormed home again to a world record shattering time in London 2003. I was inspired! I wanted to run 26.2 miles. Thanks to her performances. I was hooked. Each of the last two years, I have been guided by my friends, Kimberly Shah and Jennifer Pfaff. Each of the last two years I have shattered personal records. First I set a new personal best by forty-six minutes on route to my first ever Boston Marathon qualifying time. Then Kimberly and Jen joined forces once more to guide me to a fifty-two minute improvement on route to a second Boston qualifying time. Next week, I will turn to two different women to be my eyes. One is a beautiful Ironman triathlete named Lindsey Cook and the other is a beautiful elite runner named Elizabeth Bilitz. Both are excited to be my eyes. Both are ready for the challenge to go fast and keep me on pace. I hope I am ready to deliver a good race.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Paratriathlon Worlds 2013: An Incredible Road To London

I have lost count at the number of amazing individuals who have worked with me to help me get my swimming in order. From the wonderful Kerry and Arica to Erwin, Clive, Todd, Michael, and others. More recent, I have worked with my friend, pro Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah. Even with so many splendid individuals offering to help me and taking time to be with me in the pool, I have never been able to master it. When the opportunity was presented to attempt to qualify for Paratriathlon US Nationals held as part of the CapTex Triathlon in Austin, Texas on Memorial Day, I immediately said no. Yet even before the opportunity, I had been thinking about it for I remember having a conversation with my friend, model, actress, singer, Amanda Grace about the possibility of Nationals. She was firm in her belief that I could and would do it. I was not as sure. Still, Amanda insisted that if I went for it, I would achieve it. As evidence, she used all my past races. Besides, doing well at Nationals would give me a chance at being named to Team USA for Paratriathlon Worlds in London. amanda believed I owed it to myself to go to London. If having one beautiful woman believe in me was not enough, then maybe two would convince me. Pro triathlete, model, actress, Jenna Parker also felt I could qualify for Nationals. She insisted I could manage the swim. In addition to that, my bike and run were strong enough to enable me to cross the finish line with a qualifying time. The only question remained is who would ever be able to take on the challenge of guiding me for a chance at CapTex? Enter ABC Houston TV producer and Ironman triathlete, Justin Sternberg. Justin had gone to the Houston Marathon to do a piece on blind individuals running in the event. Justin had been intrigued by watching the story of a retired professor named Charlie which aired as part of the NBC Ironman World Championship in Kona coverage. Justin's interest in seeking out other blind athletes lead him to the C Different Foundation and its founder Matt Miller. Shortly there after, Justin received a phone call by the very man who had inspired him, Charlie, asking if Justin would guide him for an Ironman. The race was just over a week away, but Justin said yes! Since then, Justin had been a volunteer guide for others. As a strong triathlete and his experience as a guide, Justin was the perfect one to be my eyes.

I met Justin two days before we ever raced together. One day before our first ever race, he took me out to do some open water swimming where he had a chance to see my swim. On race day, he did a tremendous job helping me through the swim. I may not have shown it in my face, but very quickly, I realized how spectacular of a job Justin was doing that I gave myself over to trusting him. I found myself coming out of the water in last place four minutes behind the next closest competitor in my division, but the swim was done and the race was on! By the fourth mile on the bike, Justin informed me we had taken over the lead. We reached the second transition where Justin informed me that we had crushed the bike so much that we could walk the entire run portion and we would still qualify for Nationals. I coasted to the first place finish and had punched my ticket to Austin.

I had never felt more at ease in the swim than I did with Justin so my first choice for my guide was he. Justin agreed to meet me in Austin to help me race the the US National title in Tri6A. Really? Seriously? I would be racing for a national title. Amanda and Jenna had believe in me. All which remained was going out and winning it. At Nationals, Justin and I were out of the water first. We extended our lead on the bike, but in my favorite discipline, I started to fade. It always takes me the first mile on the run to get my legs after the bike. Not only was I fading on the run, but I was doubting my ability to find my run legs. I began to believe I did not want it. I would be happy with second place. As I reached the mile one marker, I thought of Jenna which is when I realized I had not traveled all that distance and spend all that money to fade at my favorite discipline. It was at that moment when I decided it was my national championship. I was going to go take it! By pulling away in the final two miles, I had stated my case for why I belonged on Team USA for the right to race at Paratriathlon Worlds.

Amanda Duke, USA Triathlon Program Manager, informed me that I was named to Team USA. In my wildest dreams I could have never believed I would be on the team. Jenna and Amanda Grace had believed, but I did not. Unfortunately, Justin would not be able to guide me in London. I turned to Daniel Tun, Ironman Triathlete and one of the co-founders of the Dare2Tri Chicago Club. He would guide me in London. As a warmup, Dan and I were set to race the Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championships at the Chicago Triathlon. One day before the race, Dan was injured and was unable to guide me. Don Reichelt, Ironman triathlete and regional instructor for Newton Running, stepped in at the very last minute to help me win the Tri6A Mideast championship. I was in need of a guide for London. With only a few weeks before race day, I turned to Justin once more who agreed to meet me at Worlds to be my eyes.

On a hot September day, I made my way to the airport. I met up with other members of the Dare2Tri Chicago Elite Team with whom I would share the flight to London. It was certainly nice to have so many friends on the plane with me. I felt at ease for the eight hour flight. We arrived on Tuesday morning. After settling in to my hotel room for a bit, I met up with the rest of the group to walk around the city. I had to keep pinching myself and remind myself I was in London. I was in William Shakespeare's homeland. I was in Paula Radcliffe's home country. Paula had first inspired me to run marathons when she set the women's world record in Chicago 2002 then shattered her own record in London 2003. Now, there I was walking her streets. That night, I had the opportunity to run through famed Hyde Park guided by Keri Serota. Keri is one of the Dare2Tri co-founders. In fact, the last time Keri had been my running guide was in 2009 when she offered me a chance to run in the GLASA Twilight 5K. I went to the race, met her for the first time, and minutes later, Keri was guiding me for the race. A couple months later she offered me a chance to join the GLASA Chicago Marathon team. In 2010, I ran my first ever marathon as a member of said team. All these years later, Keri was once again guiding me. This time, we were running through the streets of London. The next day, Keri helped me out again when I joined the Team USA early morning bike ride. Since Justin had not made it to town yet, Keri rode the tandem with me.

One of the more interesting experiences came when I had to walk from the team hotel to another building for my classification appointment. This is where I would have to present a picture of myself as well as medical documentation validating that I in fact was completely blind and eligible to race in the Tri6A male category for Worlds. I walked with USA Triathlon Program Manager, Amanda Duke. It was such a joy to spend time with her. I had always heard people I trust raving about what an amazing woman she is, but this was my first chance to be around her for an extended amount of time. I learned that everyone is 100% correct about how splendid she is. amanda is wonderful, warm, and funny. I do get nervous some times not knowing if my humor and sarcasm are being taken well, but it was clear, Amanda not only "got my humor", but had her moments where I could appreciate her humor and delivery. Like I said, it was such a treat to spend time with her and get to know her a bit outside of my usual triathlon only dealings with her. I practiced some voice warmups preparing to answer some questions. I waited. The ITU officials reviewed my paperwork. What was taking so long? One would think they would read over the information provided by the medical professional, maybe call me before them, ask some questions, and be done with it. Apparently, not. After some time, amanda approached the officials and learned that apparently, there was enough doubt in their minds to whether I was completely blind as instead of confirming me as completely blind, they told amanda that I would continue to be up for review at future events. I guess as officials reviewed my documents, there were others observing me in the room. The best conclusion to which others and I could arrive is that during this period of observation, officials watched me and noted that I did not carry myself like a stereotypical blind person. I did not tilt my head downward. I did not sway back and forth. When I interacted with someone, I would do my best to look them in the face which to the officials must mean that I was making eye contact and what blind person who supposedly can not see would ever make eye contact? Again, these are the best conclusions to which we could arrive. why else would I not be confirmed even with doctor's validation? This is one of those moments where I am left shaking my head in disbelief. I am made to jump through hoops just to be able to race on an elite level and when I jump through those hoops, it is not good enough because I do not fit a mold or some close minded vision of what a so called blind person must act like or be like. As one friend said, it is beyond insulting. "You're blind, but you're not blind enough to be blind. They don't want you to be you." I do not want to be a blind triathlete. I just want to be a triathlete. I am not some special case. I am just a human being wanting to race.

The anti doping meeting, athlete race meeting, and packet pickup were very much standard. It was certainly splendid hearing friends describe the buildings and read the years of construction for each one. Of major concern was the wind, cold, and rain. The rain would make for a slick road and as Justin and I learned prior to race day, it would make the sharp turns on that technical course very tough on a tandem. On race day, as we walked towards check in, I heard about many triathletes bloody and scraped up from taking falls on their bikes. Crashes everywhere. People were going for it and were seeing their chances end in disappointment. Justin said this was not the time to be heroic. We would do our best on the bike, but if conditions were as bad as they appeared, we would play it safe. It would be better to live to fight another day than end up hurt, with a broken bike, or worse. As Justin lead me out to the swim start, we joined the other athletes. I was number twenty. We lined up in chronological order. One by one, the public address announcer called out our name and country. I heard, "Number twenty. Israel Antonio. USA." I teared up. I almost cried. If that would be my highlight for the day, what a highlight it would be. I never imagined I would be hearing that. Justin told me to relax. He would help me through the swim. I was more confident than I had ever been. If I stayed relaxed, I could comfortably front crawl through this swim. Justin said the water was as calm as a pool. Kimberly Shah had recently told me that when I first started working with her on my swim, I was a way back of the pack swimmer, but in recent weeks, I had moved up to middle of the pack. I knew I could manage the swim so long as I did not allow my mind to play tricks on me. I entered the water. Justin told me to relax. It was cold, but I did my best to remain calm. I had done open water swims plenty of times. Kimberly had been working with me exclusively in open water. Even if I had to break it up into manageable meters, I should do so as to not panic. If I had to take pauses to regulate my breathing or heart rate then so be it. After all, this was Paratriathlon Worlds! It took amanda and Jenna to convince me I could qualify for Nationals for me to even attempt that yet there I was seconds away from racing against the fastest Tri6A men in the world. The horn sounded. The race began. I moved through the water. I was smiling. Maybe not outwardly, but inwardly, I was happy. Then like a punch to the gut, I was hit by some panic. I tried to relax. I could not. I yelled out for Justin. He was tethered to me swimming less than one meter away. "I'm here, Israel. I'm here. Relax." I could not. I needed to flip to my back to calm down. I did. With a snap of a finger, my world championship dream was over. I would not be able to recover that time against the fastest men in the world. Even more disappointing was finding out from Justin later on that before I freaked out, I was cruising along in the middle of the pack. I was moving faster than I had ever moved. I could not say how long I lasted before the panic. I know it was early on in the water. Needing to flip to my back and a fear of front crawling again only to endure another anxious moment put me so far behind the field that the next wave, which went off four minutes after my wave, had athletes who were flying by me. It was a long day in the water. It ended up being my second best swim time, but considering how bad my swim is, that is not all that fast.

With the rain and slick conditions combined with a technical course, Justin and I had our work cut out for us. I was so emotionally spent coming out of the water. What kept me going was thinking of Jenna and Amanda and their belief in me. My bike and run were strong. I was not sure how much of that I would be able to show on the bike. I rolled out of transition ready to pounce, but Justin reminded me to play it safe. We needed to ride one loop so he could get a feel for when we could push and when to be conservative. This would give me a chance to gather myself emotionally. When Justin felt we could, he would yell at me to push. I would dig down and push hard. When I started to feel pain in my legs, I would once again think of Jenna and amanda knowing that I was here because they were so firm in their belief of my ability. I would smile and remind myself that I was racing at Paratriathlon Worlds in London. Who would have ever imagined that? Justin said each time he looked, we were rolling at speeds between twenty and twenty-four miles per hour. there were a couple times when we'd push it on a straight away were we were riding at twenty-eight miles per hour. I will never know, but in my heart I believe under better dry conditions, we could have pushed in the low thirties. Again, I will never be able to prove that.

We finished the bike and headed to the run course. It always takes me one mile into the run to find my legs, but this was Worlds. there was not time for that. I needed to go from the moment we left transition. Due to ITU rules demanding my guide and I had to remain within a certain number of centimeters of each other, I was using a new running tether which was created for me just the day before. Justin and I tested it out one time prior to the race and it seemed to work fine. As we made it on to the run course, I noticed our elbows kept hitting. I was annoyed by it. It did not seem to bother him. I guess it did not matter for we were in the midst of the race. I kept telling myself to get moving. If I pushed immediately it would be over in less than twenty-two minutes. I kept repeating that to myself. Justin was happy with my pace, but asked me to push more. Within a few hundred meters of beginning the run, I had reached the pace I would run for most of the 5K. Unlike never before, I had found my running legs almost immediately out of transition. I was running seven minute miles. People from all over yelled out, "Go USA!" Some screamed out, "Go Antonio." The support on both the bike and run were amazing. Hearing people cheer for me, my country, and number motivated me to get under seven minutes and push even more. In the biggest race of my triathlon life, I was delivering my finest run ever! As people yelled and cheered, Justin screamed, "One lap down. One lap to go! Come on, Is, dig." I had hit a physical wall. I figured some water would help me. Justin gave me water. I took a quick sip and resumed. I was moving again. Only, Justin disagreed. To his observation, I had slowed down. I was getting tired and my pace had slowed. Justin yelled at me some more and I knew we were about one mile from the finish. Here I was one mile from completing the biggest race of my life and I was slowing down. Once again, my thoughts turned to the two women who had served as my inspiration all race long. I thought of Jenna's words to me prior to the race. I replayed those words in my mind several times before the race and there I was replaying them in my mind once more. I started to cry, but I knew the best way to show I had been moved and touched by Jenna's support and words was to throw down one final mile. I rolled along knowing I was minutes away from the finish line. I pushed ahead. Justin cheered. Others screamed out. The Dare2Tri crew screamed, whistled, and cheered for us as we ran by them. The other five members of Dare2Tri Elite Team were in transition preparing to go off after my race was over. Hearing them yelling for Justin and me sent chills up and down my body and I knew it was time for the final kick. We had not reached the final turn yet, but it did not matter. I was going to challenge myself to run out until I had nothing left. We made the turn into the final shoot. A couple hundred meters from the finish line. If I had anything left, it was time to go! A look at the numbers later on showed me that Justin and I ran at about 6:58 to 7:01 pace for the first three miles then sprinted at about 5:20 pace in the final stretch. Maybe my math is incorrect, but still, it was by far the fastest 5K I had ever run in a sprint triathlon by over two minutes. In fact, my run time at Worlds was faster than my fastest stand-alone 5K by a minute. I walk away from that experience knowing that by next season I will be able to break twenty minutes in both a stand-alone 5K and a sprint triathlon 5K.

The highlight after the race was having a chance to meet the wonderful people of Pinnacle Performance Company's London office. Special thanks to Clare and Lizzie for opening your hearts to me with a memorable post race dinner. It was such a joy to be in the company of such lovely, talented, and funny women. Of course, those adjectives can also be used when discussing the splendid women of Dare2Tri with whom I then had a chance to dance the night away to close out my London trip. I could not have asked for a group of more amazing individuals to spend time with then the splendid folks of Dare2Tri.

This has been an extraordinary experience. I would have never believed that I would finish 2013 as the tri6A Male US National champion. I could have never imagined I would race at Worlds in London. There are so many wonderful people and and organizations to thank. Thank you Dare2Tri Chicago for putting me on this year's Elite Team. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for your continued support. Thank you to the good folks at C Different Foundation for bringing Justin into my life. Thank you Justin Sternberg for being my eyes at the three best races of my triathlon life. I could not have qualified, won Nationals, or competed at Worlds without help from such a tremendous person, athlete, and friend. Thank you Jenna and Amanda for believing in me well before I ever began to believe in myself. I would have never had the courage to do any of this had it not been for you two insisting there were special things inside of me which the world needed to see. Also, thank you Jenna Parker for always being my guiding light and teaching me to go beyond the limitations I set on myself. I could not ask for a better person and friend to teach me how to race and how to fined those special abilities inside of me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christopher Nolen's Four Seasons

On Valentine's Day 2014, a movie will be released which looks to be a blast. It will have some funny, tender, and touching moments. It will be a wonderful film for all to see. The film is Christopher Nolen's Four Seasons. You can see the plot, a bit of the story, and the talented cast in the trailer which I will post at the end of this entry. I am looking forward to it because it looks like a well written well made movie. I am especially looking forward to it since the beautiful, talented, and amazing, Amanda Marcheschi appears in it. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. To see what I mean, check out the trailer and make sure to check out the piece when it is released.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Prior To Worlds 2013

My friend, Dan Bernstein, afternoon radio personality on Chicago's WSCR, has said many times that the best time to be a fan of a team is when the team is building towards a championship. Those moments as individuals develop into superstars and display growth in the ability to execute at a very high level are the moments which fans experience only as their favorite team is becoming a champion. Once that has been experienced, fans can never capture that until another team develops similarly into a champion.

When I race in London at the Paratriathlon World Championship, it will be a very special experience for me. It is the first time I will compete in an international event. It will be the first time I will represent the United States Of America in any form of competition on any level. It will be the first time ever in which I will race with a world championship on the line. The truth is, I never expected this to happen to me. I did not grow up dreaming of the day I would compete internationally for a Paratriathlon championship. A few short years ago, I was not even dreaming of racing for a US National title. I was not an elite athlete. I could never have imagined I would write this entry as the 2013 Tri6A US National Champion for Totally Blind Male in the sport of Paratriathlon. Yet, here that is exactly what I am doing. I am feeling the pressure of racing in such a major event. I am worried of not performing to the best of my ability. I am worried I will have an aquatics anxiety attack which will make it a long miserable experience for my race guide. I am nervous about failing and disappointing family, friends, and coaches. Yet, I find myself reflecting on this journey. I usually do not reflect on the journey until it is complete, but this time I wanted to make a point of going back to how it is possible that I could find myself on the verge of such a race against the twelve fastest totally blind men in the world.

I believe this journey began almost two years ago when I ran a half marathon with my friend, Jen Pfaff. On that day, Jen was my eyes as I broke my personal best for 13.1 miles by twenty-seven minutes. I had never run a half marathon under two hours, but on that day, Jen had helped me do just that. I started the race faster than I wanted to and found myself doubting whether I could maintain that pace. I became tired late in the race and began to slow down. Jen kept pushing me. I was able to fight through it and regain the speed, but eventually, my fears were realized as I began to labor in the final three miles. As it turns out, I ran the final three miles faster than I thought, however, I did in fact struggle and fade down the stretch. Where the great athletes get stronger and faster, I let my fears get the better of me. I was furious! I started well, but had once again faded at the end. The truth is, I did not know how to train. I did not have a coach. I looked over some online resources, but could never commit to any of them. I had my own way of training. I knew it was not any good. I knew I needed help. That half marathon had proved it to me once and for all. I hated being mentally soft. I hated fading. I hated feeling miserable. I hated falling short of personal expectations. I hated that I was not faster. Almost immediately upon returning home from the race, I reached out to the beautiful, talented, and accomplished pro triathlete, model, and actress, Jenna Parker. I needed help. Who better than an amazing athlete, a gifted triathlete, and a tremendously talented person from a family of athletics royalty. Jenna was an elite who had experienced so much at a very high level for a very long time. I knew that I was not elite, but I wanted to learn from someone who was so that I may improve. I also mentioned to my friends, Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah and elite marathoner, Jen Pfaff that I was done with simply participating in events. I was ready to race.

I still remember some of those very early workouts I did under Jenna's guidance. The memories of those workouts will forever stay with me. I was so out of shape that even what I now consider warmups were extremely tough on me. I was huffing and puffing gasping for air while my legs felt like jello and I experienced side stitches which would not go away. I had a long road to travel. With Jenna show me the way and Kimberly and Jen always being supportive, I found myself slowly improving. The tough workouts became easier as my body adapted. My race performances showed minor improvements. I was on the right path. Where I might struggle on the bike portion of a duathlon or triathlon 20K to be around forty-five minutes, I found myself under forty minutes. I improved my twenty mile runs by fifteen minutes and saw I was fighting through tired legs to push harder down the home stretch. I was amazed that I had shattered my marathon personal best by fifty-two minutes. My physique was changing. I was carving out a lean one.

In 2013, I was scared to attempt to qualify for US Nationals in Paratriathlon, but Jenna, Kimberly, Jen, and others stated their belief in my ability. I wrestled with registering for a race, but ultimately I decided to try. I was not surprised to be last out of the water in my division, however I was stunned at how masterfully I chased down the competition and within a few miles on the bike, I had seized command of the division. When my guide, TV producer and Ironman triathlete, Justin Sternberg told me I was in the lead, I felt so proud. For the first time ever, I was leading my division in a triathlon. I thought, I am truly racing! As I raced on the bike, I thanked Jenna because I knew it was her doing. As I began the run, I felt so confident in my ability. I rolled to the first place finish and qualified for US Nationals. At that race, I was surprised to be out of the swim in the lead. Once again, Justin was my guide and he helped me deliver the fastest bike time in my racing life. With him as my eyes, I ran my second fastest run time. The best part was reaching a point on the run when it looked like I was fading, but instead of folding, I decided it was time to go take the US title with a strong finish. Because of the work Jenna had done with me and the support from Kimberly and Jen, I was ready to race on the biggest stage of my triathlon life.

As I enter the final race of my triathlon season, I realize I have accomplish plenty this season. I also know that this journey did not begin this year. It began on the day I reached out to Jenna to help me. It began on the day I told Kimberly and Jen I wanted to race. Deep down inside I knew I had the ability to be special. I had not a clue that I was good enough to be the fastest Tri6A US male for 2013 nor good enough to race at Worlds, but I knew I could perform better than I had up to that point. On some level, Worlds is a celebration of this journey. It does not symbolize the end of said journey. It is merely another experience along this journey called life. I wanted to simply take the moment to appreciate what I have achieved in a short amount of time. Mainly, I wanted to say thank you to Jenna Parker, Kimberly Shah, and Jen Pfaff for the roles they have played and hopefully, they will continue to play as I achieve more than I ever thought possible. I will do my best to make Jenna, Kimberly, and Jen proud in London. I hope to represent the USA in the best manner possible. I hope the organizations and companies which support me will be proud of my race. Dare2Tri Chicago, C Different Foundation, NJOY Racing, and Pinnacle Performance Company. Thank you to all for standing by me and helping me achieve beyond my greatest dreams.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Megan To Crush 2 Races To Crush Cancer

Megan Brennan is a beautiful, amazing, talented woman who gives of her time to make the world a better place for others. Megan has run several half marathons. This year, she has decided to step up to the challenge of running 26.2 miles when she runs the Chicago Marathon on October 13. She will run the Naperville half Marathon in November too. Megan will do so in the hopes that she can do her part to destroy cancer in the way cancer has attacked so many people. Megan is determined to help find a cure or a way to kill this horrible disease which touches all of us. Megan is raising money and I hope you will consider contributing to her cause by visiting the link which follows. Please, by all means, feel free to pass along the link to others. Megan is a tremendous woman. I am privileged to call this amazing woman my friend.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Justin's Team Refuel Video

In March of this year, I agreed to fly to Houston and spend a week preparing to compete in the second annual C Different Triathlon at Telfair Challenge. If I finished in under 1:45:00, I would qualify for Paratriathlon US Nationals to be held in Austin on Memorial Day as part of the CapTex Triathlon. David Adame, then the Executive Director for the C Different Foundation, insisted I do the race. I was unsure. I turned to pro triathlete, Jenna Parker, for guidance. I explained how my swim was not up to par and would be my weakest link and reason for not doing the race. Jenna all but demanded I put aside my swim fear and insecurity to go do the C Different Triathlon. Almost immediately after hearing that, I called David and told him I would race in the event. He informed me that TV producer and Ironman triathlete, Justin Sternberg would most likely be my guide. It turns out, he was my race guide. I met Justin a few days prior to the race and did a brick workout with him. A few days later, he and I enjoyed a twenty mile bike ride. We did the race. With Justin's help, I made it through the swim, hammered the bike, and coasted to my best run time ever to finish in 1:17. A couple months later, Justin met me in austin as he guided me to a Paratriathlon US National title in the Tri6A category (Male Totally Blind).

Last week, just hours before I was to race in the Paratriathlon Mideast Championships at the Chicago Triathlon, my guide was injured and could not do the race with me. Luckily, an Ironman triathlete working the race expo for Newton Running stepped in at the last minute to take me the distance. With my guide going down, this meant he could not be my eyes when I race at the Paratriathlon World Championships in London. I needed to find someone else. Once more I turned to Justin Sternberg who had to make sure he could go. Once everything checked out, he called me to say, "I'm in!!" In just over a week, I will see him again. In just under two weeks, Justin will guide me for the third time in a triathlon. thank you to Justin for being my eyes at some very special races for me. In fact, Justin is the reason those events have been so special. Whatever happens, I know Justin and I will work together and give the best performance of my triathlon racing career. Looking back on it, had Jenna not insisted I go do the qualifying race, I would have never met Mr. Sternberg, so thank you very much to Jenna for making me go do the race. Of course, Jenna did force me to go do it, but Jenna's confidence and belief in me enabled me to have confidence in myself that I could get out of my comfort zone for a little over an hour to swim, bike, run very fast.

Here is a one minute video featuring the TV producer and Ironman who will be my eyes at Worlds

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chicago Triathlon 2013: Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championship

"Where's Melissa? I hope to meet Melissa.", said my six year old niece as we walked around the Chicago Hilton Hotel on Saturday at the Chicago Triathlon Expo and packet pickup. My niece adores the talented, amazing, and beautiful Melissa Stockwell. I told my niece about Melissa once and it is a story which stayed with her to the point she often asks me to tell it again as her bedtime story. A young woman wrote my wave number on my leg. My niece expressed how she desired to have her body marked too. The young woman marked my niece's leg. My niece was so happy. After getting all my goodies, I headed home to connect with Daniel Tun, Ironman Triathlete, co-founder of Dare2Tri Chicago, and coach, who would guide me in Sunday's triathlon.

Upon arriving home I learned that Dan had unfortunately been injured that morning and would not be able to be my eyes. He was searching for a replacement. I did not have anyone to whom I could turn on such short notice so I had to wait for word. Dan told me a friend reached out to a talented accomplished Ironman triathlete named Don Reichlet who jumped at the chance to step in as my guide. I was so moved. After all, Don had never guided and he did not know me yet he was willing to say yes without hesitation. Don and I spoke on the phone and we planned to meet in the morning.

2:15a.m. came very fast and it was time to get up and prepare for the day. By 3:00a.m. I was ready waiting for Dan to pick me up and head to the Chicago Triathlon. At exactly 4:15a.m. a young woman named Amy walked me into transition. shortly afterwards, Don introduced himself. With help from Lauren Wong and others, Don and I prepared for the race. Shortly after five o'clock we made our way toward the swim start. The race would begin at six o'clock and our wave, the Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championship Wave, would go off four minutes later. Minutes before the race, I put on my wet suit. I was nervous. The main goal heading into the race was to race along side Dan in preparation for when he and I would race along side each other in London at the Paratriathlon World Championships. I was a bit nervous that it was Don's first attempt at guiding. What if he has a bad experience? What if he finds me too difficult of an athlete with whom to deal and it causes him to never wish to guide or help out Dare2Tri? What if my aquatics anxiety is too much for him to handle? After the first wave went off, our wave slid into the water. Don told me to relax. He said he was there for me and would ensure I would be fine. He said not to worry about it as this was my race. The gun sounded. It was time to swim.

I did my best to take deep calming breaths. I moved my arms. I kicked my feet. I thought off all the races I had ever done. New York's Hudson River entered my mind. Denver. Austin. Sugar land. I remembered the nervous feeling prior to and during those races. I remembered how it felt to be done with the swim. I kept moving my arms and legs. I listened for Don's voice. He shouted encouragement. He told me how well I was doing. I thought of his words just before we started when he told me how proud he was of me and how much of an inspiration I was to him for being right there in that moment. I pushed hard through the water wanting to make him proud. I wondered if I was even moving. I asked Don. He said we were moving. I could hear fans cheering. I could hear the public address announcer. As we made our way, Don yelled out, "Hey Israel, we're coming up on some fans of yours." Just then I heard some female voices screaming my name. I had not a clue who they were. I paused for a moment curious who it could be. I knew I had to keep stroking along. In front of these women would not be the best place to struggle. Don kept shouting encouragement. He kept saying how proud he was. I was nervous. My legs were tired. I started bicycle kicking. I told Don how worried I was and he asked, "Do you want me to pull you out?" I assumed that meant out of the race so I quickly said, "No, but please keep an eye on it." He assured me he would. Truthfully, I did not know what exactly I wanted him to do. I just wanted to voice the fear I was feeling in the moment. I took some deep breaths. I straightened out my legs. They floated to the top. I was relaxed. I would be fine. A bit later, I was tired again. My legs were dragging. I relaxed and my legs floated to the top of the water. Don once again told me how proud he was and told me that we were about 125 meters from the finish. That was not long at all. I had already gone 625 meters. I gained confidence. I found myself even more relaxed. I stroked my arms with a purpose. I was on a mission to finish. For the first time all swim long, I felt successful. I felt that I belonged. Less than 100 meters to go. Don was happy. I heard him laugh as he told me I could finish strong. seventy-five meters to go. I kicked with a purpose. About fifty meters left. Swimmers kept gliding by now and Don said we were entering a very crowded area so as to not be alarmed if I were to get buzzed. twenty-five meters left in the swim portion. Then, volunteers grabbed me. It was over. They lifted me out of the water. One discipline was complete.

Don and I headed towards transition. We switched into our bike gear and moved our tandem towards the bike course. I clipped in on my right side after a couple attempts, but struggled for a while with my left. Finally, I was in. Don was ready and off we went for twenty-two kilometers. This was the fun part. I smiled and pushed hard. Don laughed at how quickly we moved. That was just the beginning. Throughout the bike portion Don laughed at how hard we pushed and how fast we moved. In very short time, Don told me we were making a U-turn. Was that the turn-around? Apparently, yes. We were halfway done. Within minutes, he told me we were at mile eight. We were certainly flying. Suddenly, we were at mile ten. Just under four miles to go. I made it a point to push even harder. I wanted to leave it out on the course. I was certainly doing that. Don was doing a great job warning me of bumps or cracks in the road so as the bike crossed over them I would not be surprised. We made one final turn and we coasted into transition.

As I took off my bike shoes and switched into my running shoes, I felt a sharp pain in my right leg. It was cramping. Almost immediately, I felt the same pain in my left. I laid on the ground in pain. "Oh God. Oh God. Please make it stop." I took in fluids. The pain was miserable. I wondered whether it was a case of not taking in enough fluids up to that point or whether I could chalk it up to having pushed so hard on the bike that I had not a thing left in my legs to begin the run portion.

I put on my Newton Running hat and we made the long job out of transition and on to the run course. It usually takes me a mile to get my legs under me, but after those cramps, I wondered how long it would take me. Surprisingly, I had my running legs under me very quickly. Don did a tremendous job navigating the bad footing, narrow course, and mass of humanity to help zig zag me through the 3.1 miles. I wanted to open it up and show Don how fast I could sprint, but we could never find the proper place. Just when we had open space, the footing would change or an obstacle would cause me to have to slow down. An opportunity to truly let it all hang out never materialized. We made our way through the crowds as Don joyously expressed how we kept passing people left and right. We neared the end of the race. I found a chance to push a bit so I did. It was not the kind of mad dash I wanted to test out in preparation for London, but it was enough to speed up and cross the finish line with a nice gallop.

Thank you Don Reichlet for guiding me on such short notice. I will forever have the great privilege of saying that Don was my guide when I won the Tri6A Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championship at Chicago Triathlon 2013. Thank you to the wonderful individuals at Dare2Tri Chicago. Thank you to the good folks at Pinnacle Performance Company for their continued support and sponsorship of my athletic ventures. Thank you Jenna Parker for always supporting and encouraging me. Thank you to the kind folks at the Chicago Triathlon for a splendid event and for the splendid way in which they treated all of us fortunate enough to race in the Paratriathlon Championship Wave.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pre Chicago Triathlon 2013

It is the night before my first ever attempt at the Chicago Triathlon. It will be a 750 meter swim, 22 meter bike, and 5K run. It is the largest triathlon with more triathletes racing in this event than any other. I get to race in front of friends and family. I get to race along side some of the best pros, para-athletes, and age groupers in the world. I was excited to use this as a warmup to London Worlds Championship taking place in a few weeks. I would race along side Ironman triathlete, Daniel Tun, who would also be my eyes in London. This morning, I received word that Dan was injured while volunteering with the kids' dash and super sprint events thus can not line up next to me tomorrow morning. Instead Don Riechlet, accomplished Ironman triathlete, has volunteered to take me the distance. I was so worried about my short coming in the swim that I did not anticipate other possible obstacles. Having to switch guides last minute sure is one, but thankfully, Don and I have spoken so he knows about the challenge which is in store for him during my swim portion. Once I get through the swim, I can crush the bike and the run as I know I can. I am looking forward to that. Again, I just need to make it through the toughest portion for me then let the game begin.

I thank all the wonderful people who have supported me throughout this season. Thank you to those who have helped me as I enter another race. Kimberly shah and Jenna Parker top the list. Thank you to the good folks at Dare2Tri Chicago. Thank you to Pinnacle Performance Company for all their support. thank you to my friends, family, and readers for always encouraging me as I walk on this journey. May I make all of you proud tomorrow!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Kimberly Chief World Explorer

Vacation matchmaker, Juantaroo seeks someone to be their Chief World Explorer. This reminds me of a show I use to watch on TV called The Thirsty Traveller. This seems like a fun job. Someone gets to travel the world bring all the sights and sounds back to us. The best person for this is Kimberly Shah! Kimberly loves to travel. As a professional triathlete, she has plenty of experiences which she has documented on her Iron Insanity site. In picking a race, Kimberly tells people to pick a destination to visit which happens to have a triathlon, marathon, or race taking place. It is always fascinating reading her reflections and experience from visiting various cities and countries. Kimberly is the perfect person to be Juantaroo Chief World Explorer. You can help Kimberly become so by voting for her. I have voted and will continue to do so until the voting period ends. Please do the same. As readers have learned over the years, Kimberly changed my life years ago when she opened her heart to me by volunteering to be my guide for a training run on the very first day we met. Within a mile or two of running with her, I was left speechless when she offered to be my eyes for the Chicago Marathon which was only a couple months away. Since that day, Kimberly has been a wonderful friend. I am so honored to know her. She has sure changed and redefined my life. Please follow this link below and help Kimberly get this wonderful job.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Worlds Welcomes The Thirteen Fastest Tri6A Males

On September 13, there will be thirteen male triathletes lining up at the start line of the Paratriathlon World Championships in London to see who is the fastest Tri6A male athlete in the world. Of those men, two will be representing the United States Of America. One of those individuals is Israel Antonio. I can not begin to express how excited I am to be one of those who will race on the streets of London at Worlds. I am scared, nervous, and excited. Thank you to all those who have supported me along this journey from what I call a triathlon also-rand to a contender for the world title. It feels like a storybook journey. It feels like a dream. Thank you for coming along on this incredible road with me wherever it may lead. If you wish to take a look at the entire list of the thirteen fastest Tri6A males in the world, here is the link.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dare2Tri Fundraising Final Push

When 2013 began, I had not a clue that I would be selected to the Dare2Tri Chicago Elite Team. I had participated in races with and for Dare2Tri, but the Elite Team was far from being a reality. I have admired various members of the squad especially the talented, amazing, and beautiful Iraq War veteran and three time defending world champion, Melissa Stockwell. To receive word that I had been place on the Elite Team for 2013 was overwhelming. I did not expect to break down and cry upon learning of my selection, but that is exactly what I did. Since then, I have experienced quite a ride along side some of the most amazing teammates in the world. Of the twelve athletes who made the team and competed at Paratriathlon Nationals this past May in Austin, Tx, seven of us were fortunate to finish on the podium. Three of us were crowned national champions in our division. We will have the great privilege to represent the United States Of America as members of Team USA at the World Championships in London this coming September.

As a member of Dare2Tri Chicago and Team USA, I am honored to be in a position to race for a world championship. I would have never imagined that I would be in this position. I ask my family members, friends, and readers to this blog to please help me give back to the wonderful individuals of Dare2Tri Chicago through some donations which will assist me in reaching my fundraising goal for the organization. Dare2Tri Chicago has been a splendid group whose coaches, athletes, and volunteers have supported and encouraged me every step of the way along this journey. Dare2Tri Chicago is made up of athletes with different degrees of disabilities who strive to be the best they can be while along the way inspiring countless other athletes who are able bodied and disabled. Please help Dare2Tri Chicago continue their mission of ensuring they can provide services, equipment, and encouragement to various athletes who chase after their individual dreams. Your gift will also help my teammates and I get to London to race on your behalf as we represent this beautiful country at Paratriathlon Worlds.

The deadline to reach my fundraising goal is August 15. Please follow the link to my personal page. Thank you.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Another Anniversary Without Sight

Sunday, July 28. The day I will always remember as the day I woke up in 1991 having lost my eyesight as I was sleeping. The story of how it happened and how my life unfolded over the next several months and years through the positive days and the negative ones is more complicated than a simple statement, but each year, I attempt to reflect on the year which I just completed. I also take a look on a grander scale to my life since that day I lost my sight. Today, as I listened to various songs attempting to find that one which crystalized my feelings, I realized it was more difficult than in years past. I do not know if facing this anniversary this year is in some way easier or why it is, but I do not feel as sad or even as heart broken as I usually do on this day or in days leading up to this date. People may argue that one adjusts and accepts. I do not quite agree with that as I do not believe I have ever adjusted and have never accepted it. For years I use to say that learning to live with a lack of sight or in any way embracing that I do not have use of my eyes would be admitting defeat. It would be my way of saying I have given up on ever seeing again. Anyone who knows me knows I would never give up on hoping that. Every day, I hope that I am one day closer. As my plays, screenplays, short stories, creative nonfiction, marathons, and triathlons show, I have attempted to move forward. I do not want to stay in one place. I may end up in a place in life where I do not want to be, but I do not want it to be because I did not take advantage of living life. I would rather make a bad decision and get burned than not make one and live with the regret. Of course, when I reflect on moments in my life, I do find moments of regret. I find myself apologizing to myself for not giving myself a fighting chance in certain situations. I also see that there have been opportunities I have seized for which I am proud of myself.

Unlike years past where I spend the day knowing I could have achieved so much more had I had my sight for all these years, I have found myself saying thank you to those individuals who have enriched my life over all these years. Listing them here would be a mistake because I would run out of time and would forget so many people who would then be mad at me. If you are my friend on Facebook or in life, then you have heard me rave about you. If you and I follow each other on Twitter then chances are we have exchanged pleasantries over the years where I have told you how much I value your being in my life. If you and I have shared electronic mail, texts, or phone calls over the years then at some point I have told you my feelings for what you mean to me. If I have not, then I will tell you right now, I LOVE YOU!! Thank you for enriching my life. I am grateful you inspire, encourage, and motivate me to get the best out of me in plays, screenplays, stories, blog entries, marathons, duathlons, triathlons, and life. You mean the world to me and I hope you know I will do anything for you.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Queens Of New York

Today, several of my friends took part in the New York City Triathlon. I wish to take this time to congratulate a few of them on their tremendous performances.

As always, Melissa Stockwell put on a show.

For consecutive years now numbering double digits, Caroline Gaynor raced through the streets of New York. As she has many times over, she did so this year as a race guide for an athlete. This year, it was to guide Leona Emberson for the second consecutive year.

Third time is the charm for the talented, amazing, and beautiful, Jenna Parker who flew through the one mile Hudson River swim in just over eleven minutes, rip roared her way through the 24.8 mile bike ride in about 1:07, then was never quite challenged during her 6.2 mile run around Central Park which she completed in just over thirty-seven minutes to storm home as the Queen of New York City winning this race's female pro division for the first time with a time of 2:01:50!!

Congratulations to these fabulous women all of whom I am so lucky and privileged to called friends. Special congratulations to the fabulous Jenna on her victory!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Throw Down In Chinatown

For the first time in a long time, I was able to get a full night's rest prior to a race. There was no pressure on me. Running faster than 25:30 for 3.1 miles would be easy. Of course, in the back of my mind I knew that not everything is as seems. I had to go out and run the 5K distance. Anything could happen out there. Any number of events could work together and against me preventing me from achieving my goal. After eating breakfast, I put on my Pinnacle Performance Company race kit. Shortly there after, Elizabeth Bilitz drove up to get me. We made our way to the Chinatown 5K in Chicago.

Elizabeth and I met up with Jen Buss and the rest of the NJOY Racing team. We took a couple team photos, enjoyed the pre-race fun, then prepared to go run. I made sure to tie my shoelaces so as to not have an issue on the short course. I was ready. Elizabeth and I had done a quick warmup run so my legs were ready to go at gun time. Unfortunately, we could not quite make it to the front of the pack, but Elizabeth said not to worry. she would ensure that we would quickly pass people and find an open space in which to operate. The gun sounded. The race was on.

It took a moment for us to get going. I accidentally stepped on a couple heels. We started to jog. We crossed the start line. I was a bit nervous remembering a couple of races from the past where my guide and I would start in a crowd, but could never shake loose. I felt a bit nervous if that would be the case, but I remembered that the number of participants was small so we should eventually break from the pack. Sure enough, Elizabeth worked her magic to navigate us through and by people very quickly. As we began to move, I checked my body. It felt loose and strong. Probably less than half a mile into the race, I felt that my left shoelaces were becoming untied. Sure enough, they did. I mentioned it to Elizabeth who said to keep running. We would eventually figure out a place to pause. Of course, this meant that in order to reach out goal, we would have to make up the time at different points in the race. I tried picking up the pace knowing I would have to stop soon. Eventually, Elizabeth found a good spot where we stopped. After fixing the problem, it was time to make up the seconds. We started pushing. Elizabeth said we were on target. Even with the stop, we had not missed a beat. Spectator support was nice as people clapped and cheered. There were moments were I did not hear too many runners around us. When I did, I would challenge myself to push harder to leave them in our dust. If I would hear steps ahead of us, I would see how long before we would catch and go by those footsteps.

Elizabeth and I reached the turn-around. It was time to head for home. I heard there was just over 1,000 runners in this event. As Elizabeth and I raced towards home, I wondered if we were moving fast enough to be in the top 100. Could we be higher? Each time I heard us pass someone I would rejoice knowing that was one less person ahead of me. I started to feel a bit tired, but I kept telling myself we were less than ten minutes from the finish line. I kept pushing myself to not ease up. Whatever this pace was, I needed to go faster. As we hit the final mile, I could feel the finish line nearing. I was motivated to finish strong. From time-to-time, I would hear someone nearing so I would pick up the pace. I was not going to let any individual pass us. I wanted to storm home to as high a finish as possible. Elizabeth had me turn it on. We were less than half a mile from the finish. I could hear us passing people. I wanted to make sure they did not pass us. Elizabeth shouted with joy at how well I was running. I knew the end was near. Spectators cheered. I could hear the finish line crowd. We were 250 meters from the end. Elizabeth had me push for one final sprint. She screamed, "Yeah Iz! Yeah Iz! You got this!!!" Of all the screaming fans out on that course, Elizabeth was yelling the loudest. It sounded like the louder she yelled the louder everyone screamed as I roared to the finish line in 22:32 which is a three minute personal record at the 5K distance. In fact, to make up for being in the pack at the start then my shoe becoming untied, we had run sub 6:50 per mile pace down the home stretch.

I have now run a stand-alone 5K faster than I have run a last leg of a triathlon 5K. I feel much better of being able to say what my 5K personal best is. I also know there is more work to do to keep improving at this distance so that it may pay off in both future 5K races and the ones I run as part of triathlons. I have a new time to beat. I am excited that my personal best is now closer to my ultimate goal of breaking twenty minutes for 3.1 miles. I think of my very first 5K and how it took me thirty-four minutes to complete. I have sure come a long way from those days. Thank you to Elizabeth Bilitz for once again agreeing to be my eyes for an event. I look forward to many more opportunities to run with her. Thank you Jen Buss and NJOY Racing. Thank you to James of the Chinatown 5K organizing committee for making sure Elizabeth and I ran in this event. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for the continued support. Thank you for reading this report. Now it is time to focus on the New York City Triathlon which will take place tomorrow. Good luck to all my friends who will be racing. Special shout out to the beautiful, talented, and amazing Jenna Parker for whom I will be cheering the loudest!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pre Chinatown 5K

As I stood at the start, I told Ironman triathlete Brett Petersen, I wanted to break twenty-five minutes in the 5K we were about to run. He was confident we would do just that. When the race began, we bolted out of the pack and were moving at a 7:51 per mile pace. I had never run that fast in a race. It would soon become apparent, I would not keep up that pace for long as we reached the first mile in slightly over eight minutes. the second was a bit tougher and I began to tire. When we crossed the second mile marker in just over sixteen minutes, Brett said my time goal was safely in hand so long as I kept up that pace. Unfortunately, I was struggling. With every step, the race seemed to be getting longer. My legs were jello. My lungs were on fire. Brett kept pushing and encouraging, but I was fading. In fact, since shortly after learning how fast we started, I was on the ropes. I did not have anything left for a final sprint to the finish. Spectators praised me and said I was flying to the finish, but I knew what had happened out there. Brett told me the race was in fact, several hundred meters longer than it should have been so I should be happy that I did break twenty-five minutes. Officially, I finished thirty seconds or so after my goal. Brett was proud of me and we parted ways shortly there after as I joined the festivities.

I have since done other 5K events, but I do not know my times from those races. I believe all were run slower than the one with Brett. I only know that a race I did with Michael Crissie saw us win my division, but it was a slow field that day. I have always wanted to break twenty-five minutes. I have never been able to do so. I have never been in the kind of shape I am in today. This spring, I have done two 5Ks. Both of them have been as the last leg of a sprint distance triathlon. In one, I did a 500 meter swim and ten mile bike before running 5K in 23:51. In the other, I stroked through a 750 meter swim and 12.4 mile bike before racing home with a 24:14 5K run portion. So in both events, I first performed my best in other disciplines before running. I ran faster in those sprint triathlons than in any stand-alone 5K I had ever done. That had me wondering, what could I do if I only had to focus on running 5K on fresh legs? Time to find out. I have registered for the Chinatown 5K which will be held tomorrow morning. The lovely and talented, Elizabeth Bilitz will be my eyes as I attempt to not only finish in under twenty-five minutes, but considering how fast I have run those other races, I will attempt to run 5K in under twenty-three minutes. one never knows, if the conditions are good, maybe I can run even faster than I think possible. There is plenty of pressure because I know how fast I have to run. There is also pressure because now I feel I must perform. After all, I am the Tri 6A Paratriathlon National Champion. I have a responsibility to bring my A game every time I race no matter the distance or event. I am an athlete who will represent the United States in London at the world Championship this year. I can not have a pedestrian time. I must run fast and finish strong. By this time tomorrow, I will hopefully have a new personal best at the 5K distance. If all goes well, I will have broken twenty-five minutes will relative ease.