Anxious. Excited. Scared. those are just a few of the words which describe my feelings at this moment. This weekend, Austin, Texas and the Capitol Of Texas Triathlon (CapTex Triathlon) hosts the Paratriathlon National Championship race. As pros and age groupers take to the water and streets, the best paratriathletes will do so too. The best paratriathletes from the US, Canada, and Mexico will race against each other and the clock on route to determining which of these amazing athletes will earn a spot at the start line of the World Championship in London this coming September. So why am I anxious, excited, and scared? This is the very first time I will ever race in this event. I have been at PC Nationals. I have taken part in the Open Wave for those who wanted to participate, but did not qualify for National Championship Wave. I have never qualified for Nationals. I have never come close. I have never been good enough to even dream about attempting to qualify. Yet, I will be at the start line this weekend ready to race at the National Championship!!
Since I began to dream of participating in triathlons, I have been excited about finally learning to swim. Over the years, I have worked with some wonderful instructors who have gone on to become dear special friends. Kerry, Arica, Erwin, Clive, and Todd have at some point over the years worked with me to get this swim thing down. I have never been able to get it. More recently, my friend, Michael, has been helping me me too by going with me to be my security blanket in the water as I practice. these and other friends have offered up advice, suggestions, and ideas to help me improve, but I have never been able to translate those into successful swimming. I have great days where I feel I make wonderful progress. By the next session, I feel as though I have regressed. I have another solid session where something becomes clear, but within a couple more attempts, things are gloomy again. Before every triathlon, I wonder why I put myself through the mental strain of concern for the water. Yet, I love race day. I love the feeling of crossing the finish. I want to be good enough to be a solid swimmer and I know eventually I will be. I have friends who will make sure of that. I have a willingness to improve and become that swimmer I have always wanted to be.
At the award ceremony for the C Different Triathlon at Telfair, co race director, Patty Godfrey, told the audience, "Israel hates the swim. I mean hates it! So what did he do? He went out and became very strong on the bike and run." On the strength of my bike and run, I finished first in my division at the C Different Triathlon. I also finished twenty-eight minutes ahead of the cutoff time for Paratriathlon Nationals qualification. I thought it would take a mad dash sprint to the finish for me to make it, but it turns out that I needed a strong guide and an amazing woman teaching me to prepare. Writer, producer, Ironman triathlete, Justin Sternberg was the man who guided me and made sure I made it through the swim in splendid fashion. From then, it was up to me to trust in pro triathlete, model, actress, Jenna Parker's leadership and guidance in how she prepared me to have the race of my life. Ever since the spring of 2012, I feel like I write that after every race, but it is true. With each next race, Jenna has me racing faster and faster. I can not begin to thank her enough for her guidance and friendship in helping me achieve greater than I ever imagined.
When I had my sight, I could run as fast or faster than most of my friends. Since losing my sight, I have never been able to reclaim that speed until some wonderful people entered my life. Mainly, Jenna, Kimberly Shah, and Jennifer Pfaff. These are the individuals who have pushed me beyond my mental and physical walls to go beyond anything I ever achieved since losing my sight. Truthfully, I can make a longer list which would include others such as; Brendan Hermes, Matt Miller, Caroline Gaynor, Todd Smith, Kelle Burke, and Andrew Murray. I have been inspired by some of the best pros in the world such as; Paula Radcliffe, Tera Moody, and Shalane Flanagan. I have seen my pace improve steadily. I have also found myself falling in love with cycling to the point that I have become stronger on the bike in the last couple years. I notice that I have done just as Patty said. I have become stronger on the bike and run to make up for my swimming.
As I prepare to head to Paratriathlon Nationals to witness where I stack up against some of the best in the world, I am thrilled that I have become as fit, lean, and fast as I have ever been in my life. I am excited that Justin Sternberg has agreed to meet me in Austin to guide me for the race. I thank C Different Foundation for introducing me to him. I thank CDF for allowing me to use one of their racing tandems for the bike portion. I am grateful for Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club for naming me to their Elite Team for this season. Congratulations to them on the wonderful gift from the Katie Couric Show! I say thank you to the wonderful people at Pinnacle Performance Company for offering to sponsor me for the 2013 season. I am looking forward to a very special weekend with some splendid people. I know it is suppose to be hot, but hopefully, the water will be cool enough to be wetsuit legal as my Xterra wetsuit is my security blanket to help me through the swim along with the great Justin being along side. As before every triathlon, I am nervous about the swim. I am also thrilled at the prospects of jumping on that bike and truly letting it all hang out on the bike then on the run as I hope to podium at the race. Ultimately, whether I make it to Worlds is not as important as doing what I learned from the beautiful and talented, Laura Sturm and Eileen Vorbach when they were my acting instructors. I must race with "no regrets no apologies." If I live in the moment and perform to the best of my ability then I will be fine. I know I am in the best shape of my life and can rock the bike and run. I know Mr. Sternberg will be supportive as I make it through the water. I have made it this far so now all that remains is for me to go enjoy the weekend and race to the best of my ability! In the words of Judge Mills Lane, "Let's get it on!"