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.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Emma Lazarus Wrote It Best

Amid the fireworks, food, and fun, there is a pause to acknowledge those men and women who have sacrificed so much so that this country may live free. Thank you to the men and women who serve this country by defending freedom and rights. There are millions who served and millions who continue to serve on a daily basis. These individuals give of their time and effort in city, state, or federal government. There are those who offer protection by running towards danger while the rest of us run away from it. These first responders take an oath to serve and protect which they do without question and often with little praise until a major disaster which thrusts their heroism into the spotlight.

There are those who may not serve in any public capacity, but they serve by honoring the declaration of independence given two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. They get up each day and go to work to provide for their families. They sacrifice their desires to ensure their children are educated, safe, and fed. They are living free pursuing a higher calling, education, or employment. Some are parents juggling work and children's extracurricular activities. Some are students chasing a dream, working several jobs, and paying their way through higher education. All are immigrants generations of families who long uprooted comfort and tradition for an opportunity for better in the foreign land of the new world known as the United States Of America.

Whatever their stories, background, and dreams, all are Americans living their version of the American Dream. All are striving for better. All working together to achieve bigger, better, or different than generations past. All realize that it was the promise of those who cam before which they are fulfilling today. A promise to which they will add and those who take the torch from them will then be entrusted to add to it from that point. Amid the firework, food, and fun, may all those individuals all those Americans take the time to appreciate all who surround them for together, this is a magnificent nation filled with stories, dreams, and wishes which are only made possible by working as one. May we take a cue from Emma Lazarus whose words can be found on the Statue Of Liberty. - Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -

Happy Independence Day!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kristine's Indiegogo Campaign

A few years ago, I had the wonderful privilege of meeting Army veteran, Kristine White. She is a beautiful, amazing, and lovely woman who has a zest for life, a willingness to challenge herself, and a desire to inspire others. Discharged from the army after suffering injuries which prevented her from continuing her service to this country, Kristine has found different ways to help veterans of the United States. She has found ways to push her physical and mental limits through athletics. In order to chase some of her dreams, Kristine has set up an Indiegogo campaign page about which you can read at the following link. It is a piece on Kristine and the various activities and programs with which she is involved. Please read about Kristine then visit her fundraising page or pass it along to others in the hopes they may contribute to Kristine's goals.