Friday, October 31, 2014

Team One Step Camp Fundraising Deadline

Happy Halloween!! I hope your costume was a smash hit. I hope the tricks and treats you received were to your liking. As you sort through the fun or before you set out for the night's festivities, I turn to you, my reader, to request help so that together, we may send a boy or girl with cancer to the One Step Camp. Children's Oncology yearly summer camp is a place where a boy or girl with cancer can be a child. Doctors cure the disease. Children's Oncology cures the spirit! As part of my running the Chicago Marathon this year, I registered as a charity runner in the hopes I could make a difference for this splendid organization. The deadline to reach my $1,000 minimum is tonight. I am still in need of a large amount to help me achieve the desired goal. Would you be so kind as to donate? Would you please pass along to others who may have interest in offering a donation to assist this amazing non profit?

To donate or to read more, please log on to the following website. Thank you for your time.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wauconda Triathlon 2014

This is the first of a couple overdue posts recapping a few races from this past season. This is my experience at the Wauconda Triathlon.

There was a chill in the air for the last weekend in July. The sun had not yet risen. The mosquitos were out in force. Left side of my body still hurt from falling down the stairs days prior. Hours later, I met up with my guide-to-be, Todd Nelson. When Todd and I made our way out of the parking lot at the Dare2Tri Thursday afternoon practice to test out our racing tandem for the Wauconda Triathlon, Todd cleared the gate, but I smashed my already injured left forearm into it.

Todd arrived. Sun illuminated the sky. I stripped down to my Pinnacle Performance gear. Todd insisted I relax for the swim. He would get me through it. I knew I had the ability to crush the bike and run. Time to trek over to the swim start. We would be in the first wave.

Starting gun sounded. Todd was excited. I tried to feed off that. Spectators cheered. I took deep breaths. I was nervous. I flipped to my back and started to settle down in the back crawl. It settles me down when my guides give me praise during the swim. Trying to talk, sight, and swim can be tough, but I appreciate that my guides always do this. Todd was not speaking. I tried to remain calm. Why was he not speaking? I needed to hear his voice. After some time, I noticed Todd was side stroking while having one hand on my leg holding on to the tether which was around my thigh. I realized I did not need to hear him constantly talk so long as I found comfort in feeling his hand. Every so often, Todd would express his joy. Todd estimated I was about one hundred fifty meters from the finish. My legs were tired. My arms were too. Because it always takes me so long to get through the 750 meter swim, I usually experience anxiety at some point late in the swim. My legs drag. I question whether I can finish. My guides settle me down. With about one hundred meters to go, I was thrilled that for one of the few times, I had not yet experienced a late swim anxiety.

Volunteers tapped me. Swim was done. We transitioned from swim to bike gear. Energized that the swim was over, I pushed hard. I did not realize the course had so many rolling hills. It hurt. I thought of my friend, pro Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah, who once yelled at me late during one of the Chicago Marathons in which she guided me, “I know it hurts. It’s suppose to hurt! Now, run!” I could feel the hills hurting my quads. I thought, “This is why I race.” We hit the midway point. The hills kept coming. Todd laughed, “Is, you’re like the little engine that could back there. You just keep coming and coming pumping those legs. You just don’t quit.” Just then, Todd said to pull back because it was time to coast into transition.

A few days prior to the race, Todd warned me, due to injury, he might not be able to keep up with my running pace. Daniel Tun said he could step in for the run. Todd and I switched into our run gear. “Is, I’m here if you need,” said Daniel. I had mulled it over while on the bike. Todd was enjoying this experience. He kept me calm in the water. We just crushed the bike. I owed it to him to finish what we started.

Hills had done a number on my legs. I started cramping. I had taken fluids while in T2, but that did not help. I ran through it. The cramping soon stopped. I tried pushing through this unexpectedly hilly run course. The sun beat down. We reached the first mile marker. People were passing me. I tried using that as motivation, but my legs did not respond. Finally, I heard someone nearing fast. I decided I would not let that person pass. I picked it up. He kept coming. I pulled away. He kept it up. I did too. We reached the second mile marker. One more to go. Todd and I pushed. That other runner found an opening and raced by me. I tried to respond. We reached a hill. I could not go. I was moving faster than at any point in the run, but it was not enough to make up the gap. Todd said, “Half a mile left. I want to experience your famous speed. Sprint to the finish.” Do I have anything left? It was time to find out. I pressed the pace. todd rejoiced. I kept pressing. I slowed down to make the final turn. Once we straightened out, I resumed turning it on. Todd cheered. We sprinted at a sub six minute pace down the home stretch across the finish line.

Wauconda Triathlon was fun. Thank you Dare2Tri for connecting me with Todd Nelson. Thank you Todd for guiding. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. thank you Base Performance for the nutrition. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chicago Marathon 2014

Jen Pfaff and I turned on to fame Boylston Street. It took every last bit of energy to churn my legs to cross that finish line. Two months prior, I suffered an injury which put my Boston Marathon debut performance in doubt. I was overwhelmed by the hills. Jen was physically beaten from having to drag me twenty-six miles. As pro triathletes Jenna Parker, Jake Shoemaker, and others tracked my run on this day, I had delivered an underwhelming performance. In six months I would run a stronger race at the Chicago Marathon. Having set my personal record at 3:50, I wanted to beat that time in Boston. It did not pan out, however in October, I would run a sub 3:30:00.

My triathlon season never fell into place. My highlight was the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Camp during the first weekend in June. My swim was good. My bike was so strong, people’s eyes bugged out to see how fast I raced into T2. Less than a mile from the finish line, my friend, Dan Tun voiced his joy that I might actually cross the finish line first. A few weeks later at ITU Worlds Chicago, ITU forced me to wear ridiculous Blackout Goggles for the run portion of the sprint triathlon causing my equilibrium to be off the entire time. In July I was injured again. By the time I defended my Mideast Regional Championship in Fort Wayne, I was more confident in the swim, but my run legs still did not show up on race day. I won my division for the second consecutive year, but I was searching for the performance I knew I could deliver. At a warmup race one week before Paratriathlon USA National Championships, I took a fall bruising my ribs and arm just a few hundred meters from the finish line. The pain so hurt my ribs, I literally could not run for a week. I had to pull out preventing me from defending my USA Nationals title.

A season of heartbreaks came down to one final race. One final marathon. A sub 3:30:00 would be a perfect coda to my marathon career. Erica Alansari, one of Jen Pfaff’s friends, agreed to be one of my guides. My second guide backed out. Jen reached out to another of her friends, Wendy Jaehn, who said yes. When Wendy and Erica agreed to guide me, my goal was a sub 3:30. Yet due to my injury, that would not be a possibility. They deserved me being at my best racing my heart out during my favorite athletic discipline. I was worried that what awaited Wendy and Erica was a performance like the one Jen had to endure from me in Boston.

At race expo, I spent time with Wendy and Jen. I met the lovely Meg Sullivan. I saw friends from Newton Running, Don Reichelt and TJ Luby.

Sunday, october 12. Adding to the chill in the air was my lack of sleep heading into race day. Four o’clock. Time to awake. Five o’clock. Wendy arrived and he drove to the race. The first person we saw was Randy Egge. I enjoyed meeting many of Wendy’s friends. Wendy lead me to the Athletes With Disabilities tent where I ran into friends such as; Mike Casey, Daniel Tun, Lisa Krejcik, and Tommy Cornille. The highlight was seeing the beautiful and talented, Caroline Gaynor. I first met Caroline six years ago. She is one of the most intelligent, wonderful, and inspiring people I know. Almost time. Wendy sounded excited. We were about to go off minutes ahead of the pros.

Wendy lead me across the start line. 26.2 miles to go. She was in awe. We were leading the Chicago Marathon. How many people get to say that? Fans were loud. Six, seven, and ten deep. All for us. I promised to live in the moment. Listen to the fans, embrace other runners’ comments, and take note of how happy Wendy and Erica were. Miles one, two, and three. Here come the pros. The police escort. The helicopters. The TV trucks. Wendy had a front row seat as the pros flew by.

Mile five. Then seven and eight. We reached mile ten. We were slightly under ninety minutes. I would hold 8:40 pace then drop to nine minute pace. Just before Erica joined us, I was swept away by the fans that I ran at an eight minute pace. I pulled back. The midway point. The exchange.

Wendy moved to my right. Erica slid in on my left. It is always tough for me at this point of the race. Charity mile comes quickly and the noise is so deafening that I can never hear my guide even if she is shouting. Mile fourteen. I settled in with Erica. Mile sixteen. Ten more to go. I slowed down. I was leery of running faster. I did not want to find myself miles from the finish with nothing left. I did not want to ruin Erica’s and Wendy’s experience. Mile marker twenty. The beautiful world champion triathlete and marathoner, Hailey Danisewicz spotted me and yelled out my legs were looking sexy. Last year, I went for it at mile twenty-four. Could I do that again. Could I go sooner? I tried. I could not sustain. Only two miles remained.

The buildings were getting bigger. We were getting closer. Timing mat. Two kilometers from the finish. Erica kept me informed at the number of people we were passing throughout this backend of the race. It was time to now start sprinting by them. Wendy said I pushed significantly. Less than one mile. Fans grew louder. Erica and Wendy rejoiced. A half mile left. I kept digging. We turned for home. One final straight-away. Erica and Wendy demanded I push till I had nothing left. As we crossed the finish, the three of us lifted our arms triumphantly. I hugged both women. I was honored that two fast and beautiful women had just taken me through Chicago.

It was my third fastest time fast enough to be a Boston qualifying time for the Blind/Visually Impaired category making me a five time Boston qualifier. I owe Wendy and Erica a better performance. I hope they will guide me when I am healthy so I can show them of what I am capable. Not only do I want a sub 3:30, but now, I want to smash it.

Thank you Jen Pfaff, Wendy Jaehn, and Erica Alansari. Thank you Children’s Oncology Team One Step Camp for allowing me to fundraise to send a child with cancer to camp. Thank you to my sponsor, Pinnacle Performance Company. Thank you nutrition provider, Base Performance. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me and for your friendship.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Night Before Chicago Marathon 2014

There were so many words I wanted to write the night before the Chicago Marathon, but in the end, the best I can do is to say thank you to my friends who have supported me throughout this year. Whatever I do on the course tomorrow, I want you to know I will be thinking of you.

Special thank you to pro triathlete, model, actress, Jenna Parker for being a rock star coach, amazing friend, and superstar human being. Than you to the men and women who have guided me on training runs, practice tandem rides, and races throughout the year. As I prepare to toe the start line at my fifth Chicago Marathon, I express all forms of gratitude to Jen Pfaff who stepped up to ensure I had race guides for this 26.2 mile experience by volunteering her friends. I am beyond lucky and privileged that two rock star, beautiful, and fast women will be my eyes. Wendy Jaen and Erica Alansari. Over the years, I have heard so much about both women and their greatness. I would have been thrilled just to meet them eventually, but to think that they will guide me is out of this world spectacular.

For this marathon, I have been lucky enough to be a member of Children's Oncology Team One Step Camp as I have been raising funds to send a boy or girl with cancer to summer camp where he or she can forget about the disease and just be a kid. I have to raise $1,000 to meet my goal and hope others consider donating or passing along the link for others who may wish to donate. I am proud to have been a part of this team and hope to make everyone associated with Children's Oncology proud tomorrow.

Big thanks to Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me this season as well as Base Performance for the nutrition I was able to enjoy throughout the year when training and racing.

It began in 2002 for me when Paula Radcliffe raced into the world record books in Chicago only to step up her game by shattering her own record months later in London. She inspired me to run my first 26.2 and now I am set to run my fifth Chicago and sixth overall.