Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tough Racing Season Concludes At Chicago Marathon

In 2013, I set my marathon personal best of 3:50. In 2014, I wanted to break 3:30:00. Bruised ribs prevented me. In 2015, I took aim at 3:30 again. Illness which knocked me out of a couple early season races hampered my training and racing performance. For every 2015 race, but one, Ryan Nord volunteered to guide me. In 2014, Wendy Jaehn guided me for the marathon and we landed on Chicago Athlete Magazine October cover. Fitting that Ryan and Wendy would be my eyes for 2015 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.

We entered the Athletes With Disability tent before 6a.m. At 7a.m., we walked to the start line. At 7:22, we started. Wendy guided me for the opening half. Due to my health issues throughout 2015, I started at a 9:30 pace. At times I would run at 9:10 pace, but Wendy would pull me back. I eased into 9:15-9:25 pace. I wore my Pinnacle Performance Company race gear. People yelled, “Go Pinnacle!” Some read the back of my top yelling, “Go Sexy Isra!” Three miles in Ali Engin snapped many photos of us. Universal Sole’s owner, Joel Feinberg screamed out to us as he rolled by ahead of the pro field. Mile five. A young woman leaped out in front of us and pointed to me and waved her sign which read: “I’d swipe right.” Another woman called out. It was Christine Bell, Jen Pfaff’s friend. Just then, a woman screamed my name. It was Jen Pfaff and her friend, Skittles, on route to a three hour marathon. Between miles eight and ten, Wendy kept me from pushing too early. I felt strong.

Midway point. Wendy handed my running tether to Ryan. Crowd roared. Mile sixteen. Ten left. Start pushing? If I go too early, I will regret it late. Runners all around us walked. People complained about the 60° and 70° weather. Sun beat down. I debated if I should join the walkers. Then I thought, is that what Jenna Parker coached me to do? How disappointed would Jenna, Ryan, and Wendy be in me? I kept running. Urge to walk remained. Sun is hotter. Confidence in myself and desire to keep running waned. I hit a wall. Ryan, “right there. Mile nineteen.” I came alive. Band played. Crowd roared.

Mile twenty-one. Wendy, “Pick it up, Is. Five to go.” I waited. 35K mark. Friends, todd Smith and Mike Casey should be cheering nearby. Must run strong. Wendy and Ryan both spotted Ali. I pumped my fist. I wave to him. Michigan Avenue. I had slowed to 10:30 pace. time to push. 40K. My buddy, todd nelson yelled out. Wendy and Ryan cheered. 8:45 pace. We weaved around people. We flew by them. I charged up a final hill. Quarter mile left. As we crossed Wendy and Ryan lifted my arms.

Twenty minutes off my personal best. I was satisfied with my strong finish. Thank you Ryan Nord and Wendy Jaehn for embracing me as your friend. Thank you Jenna Parker for being my coach, friend, and inspiration. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Saucony for helping me find my strong. Thank you Bank Of America and Keri Schindler of AWD for a well organized event.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dealing With Wind, Cold, And…Pants? Universal Sole Twilight 10K

In August, I learned Chicago Athlete Magazine selected three photos as finalists for the October issue cover. One of those was of Wendy Jaehn guiding me through the 2014 Chicago Marathon. In September, I learned the picture of us was the runaway winner. To celebrate, Wendy and I took part in Universal Sole’s Twilight 10K on October 2. I registered with the intention of breaking forty minutes not realizing the challenges I would encounter in training nor considering a 7p.m. race on an October evening along a not so well lit lakefront would present problems for Wendy navigating me through the course.

Race night was cold and windy. I worn my Pinnacle Performance Company race top over my Pinnacle Performance jacket. I opted to wear my pants over my Pinnacle Performance shorts. As Wendy lead me to the start line, a man approached. “You’re Antonio. You’re on the Chicago Athlete cover, right? both of you are. You’re inspiring.” The 10K was my second run of the day. Jenna parker said to run strong, but do not be a hero. It was dark. Wendy planned to ease us into the run to finish strong.

Gun sounded. Wendy found some space for us. I ran out fast. Wendy had me slow down. Footing was bad. We ran by the lake. Wind howled. Waves crashed down. Sand piled up on the course. Wendy masterfully moved me through the sand. Screaming wind made it colder. three fourths into the opening mile I reached behind my back. Wendy, “Are you okay?” In disbelief, “My pants are falling down.” she laughed. My warmups were looser than I realized. One more challenge with which to deal. The opening mile was the fastest mile Wendy and I had run together in a race or training. Miles two and three. I hated the cold, but I ran strong. My pants slipped down again. I raised it on the fly. It was so dark Wendy could not inform me of our pace as frequently as she would otherwise do. I felt a side stitch starting. I felt winded. Wendy had me increase the speed. I stepped in crack almost twisting my ankle. I caught my other foot in a tree branch laying on the path. I shook it off within a few steps. Final mile. Wendy estimated we were in the top third of runners. Cold, wind, and pants bothered me. Wendy could see the finish area. We veered off the path on to grass. One final hill. It was steep. Wendy encouraged me to power through. Apex. Time to fly down hill. It was steep. I almost fell over. I clutched to Wendy’s elbow. My pants slipped down. Wendy’s elbow in one hand back of my pants in the other. Flat ground. Finish shoot. Race announcer called our name. I could no longer keep my pants up. Final sprint. Finish! Wendy and I finished in the top third.

Thank you Wendy Jaehn for guiding me. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Joel Feinberg, Universal sole owner for ensuring I ran in this event. Thank you to Universal Sole social media manager and store employees for always engaging with me when I reach out.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Negative Split At Chicago half marathon

Originally, I planned to run the Chicago Half Marathon on September 27 with an eye towards breaking 1:40:00 and threaten 1:30. Due to illness throughout the summer, I had to run slower.

Ironman triathlete, Dan Tun volunteered to guide me. It was chilly when he and his sister, Erin, picked me up, but it had warmed up by gun time. We made our way across the start line. Dan yelled out to fabulous photographer Ali Engin, but Ali did not hear him. I hanged on to Dan’s elbow for all of the opening mile. He was confident the course would eventually open up. I ran this event with Todd Smith four years ago when he too felt it would eventually open up only to run 13.1 miles of misery never breaking free of the bottleneck.

Jenna Parker wanted me to ease into it and negative split the race. I ran the first mile faster than I wanted. At the start of mile two, I let go of Dan’s elbow. I slowed my pace. Runners yelled to us, “You’re running strong” and “You’re an inspiration.” Having slowed to 9:45-9:50 pace, I was not running strong. I did not feel like an inspiration. At mile four, I heard two female pace leaders chatting. “Look at his shirt. It reads Sexy Isra.” They laughed. One said, “You’re looking great Sexy Isra!” The group cruised by us. At mile six, a fella called out, “Antonio, I’m with the Chicago road Runners. I’ll take pictures of you, okay?” I smiled. He snapped some photos. Off to my right I heard a male runner ask his friend, “Did you see that? I photobombed Antonio’s pictures. I’m awesome.” At mile seven I picked up the pace to 9:30.

Seven miles in the books. Time to go to work. Dan, “This is the turn-around. Less than six left.” During miles eight and nine, I ran 8:45 pace. I went for the negative split. 8:25 pace. “You’re flying by all those who passed us in the early miles. It’s like they’re standing still.” Footsteps ahead. I raced to catch and fly by them. Runners huffing and puffing. I reeled them in then drop them quickly.

Final mile. 8:20 pace. Could I hit 8:00? Dan, “There’s a pace group about 400 meters ahead. Let’s catch them.” I pushed. Half a mile left. We caught them. One of the pace leaders, Cynthia, spotted me. “Hey, it’s Sexy Isra!” We crossed the finish line.

Afterwards I saw friends, Lisa, Dana, and Mike. Ali Engin came up to me. “Isra, you ran today? I didn’t see you.” Turns out, he heard Dan at the start, but did not turn around in time. I had a wonderful conversation with the Chicago Half Marathon race director. Thank you Dan Tun for guiding me. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born. Merry Christmas! If you recognize and celebrate the birth of The Son, I hope you have enjoyed a splendid day with family and friends opening presents and making memories. If you do not celebrate the religious significance, I hope your day has equally been a splendid one with loved ones.

Thank you for reading my blog entries. Your taking the time to read my reflections and recaps means plenty. Your readership is a great present. As we near the end of 2015, I hope you will read my final posts of the year and you will be ready to dive into the ones to start 2016.

Merry Christmas and to you, a good night.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Caroline Combines Passion And Purpose For Others

I first met the beautiful and talented, Caroline Gaynor in July of 2008 in New york city. I have always been a runner, especially a sprinter, at heart, but Lokelani McMichael becoming the youngest person to complete an Ironman triathlon at age eighteen inspired me to do triathlons. Besides spending a weekend in NYC with my long time dear friend, sexy, Sunshine, I walked away from that weekend excited from finishing a triathlon and meeting the fabulous, Caroline Gaynor. A month later, I saw Caroline in Chicago during the Chicago Triathlon. Caroline was and remains so beautiful, sweet, funny, kind, and magnificent. Over the years, I have posted and raved about how magnificent Caroline is, so permit me to step aside and allow someone else to sing her praises.

Please take some time to visit the following link where Kelly Krause, Camille Styles’ Contributing Editor, praises lovely, Caroline as well as providing a Q and A section.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Katie-Do At Funny Women Festival

The sketch comedy group, Cake Batter, puts on a fabulous festival called Funny Women Fest which spotlights and celebrates strong, independent, funny women. Today, December 5 at 7p.m. at the Del Close theater in Hollywood is another chance for audiences to witness funny talented women showcasing their abilities. Best of all, there is a competition taking place and those who attend can vote on their favorites. Among the categories is Video Shorts in which one of the finalists is Katie-Do written, produced, and starring my friend, Kate Bergeron.

If you attend the festival, please vote for Kate's Katie-Do entry. For more information, please visit the beautiful and talented, Kate Bergeron's site at the following link:

Monday, November 2, 2015

GLASA Twilight 5K 2015

I lost some much training time to illness this summer which makes me nervous as Chicago Marathon nears. I have three races prior to Chicago which will be glorified training runs. Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association’s Twilight 5K is first.

Ryan Nord was set to guide me. Ten days prior to the race, he suffered an injury. Realizing he could not guide, Ryan reached out to best friend, Phil Jones. Phil is a sprinter who looked forward to the moment in the race when I would lay the hammer. At Rock The Night 5K in July, this was when I topped out at 5:55 pace.

Saturday, September 12. Phil and I met hours before the race. We did a two mile warmup. Ryan wished us well. We walked to the start. Gun sounded. Almost immediately, we hit 7:30 pace. We raced up a hill then down. I realized I did not remember this course as I thought. I remembered a hill late in the race near the finish, but I did not recall that most of the course was up and down hills. I pulled back for a bit. On flat ground, I picked it up to 7:00 pace. Hills again. I slowed. I could not find a consistent pace. Phil and I reached mile one in 7:55. We reached mile two in 16:02. My paced slowed. I was winded. My mind wandered. If I am struggling and stressing out now, what will happen when I have to run 26.2? Phil encouraged me to finish strong. My quads were on fire. My stomach hurt. A side stitch. I tried to get rid of it. Half a mile left. I have run 800 meters in less than 3:30 during track sessions. I could do that here. I turned over my legs. Phil sprinted. My quads and hamstrings burned. I ran strong yet I felt out of control as though my form was off. I heard the PA announcer, “Here comes Israel Antonio. Our first sight impaired male and first sight impaired athlete overall.”

Phil and I finished in twenty-four minutes and change. I believe it was a personal best for this race and course, but a couple minutes behind my overall 5K personal best. We ran a two mile cool down. Thank you Phil Jones for stepping in last minute, Ryan Nord for cheering us on, Jenna Parker for being my friend and coach, Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me, and Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association for another great experience in the annual Twilight 5K.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

I Need Training Run Guides: Fast, Slow Experienced, Novice

When I toe the start line for GLASA Twilight 5K on Saturday, September 12, it will be the first of four races I plan to run in five weeks culminating with my sixth consecutive Chicago Marathon on October 11. Over the years, I have done about ninety-eight percent of my runs on a treadmill. Every so often, a friend volunteers to guide me for an outdoor run, but due to schedules, that does not happen as often as I would like so I gut out runs, even long ones, on the treadmill. Friends have thankfully stepped up this year offering to guide me for easy runs and track workouts. Special thanks to Mike Casey, Ryan Nord, and Wendy Jaehn. Recently, I have been having problems with my treadmill which frequently turns itself off while I am in the mist of a run. Some times, it happens thirty seconds into my session. Other times, it happens ten minutes in. It has become unreliable. Unfortunately, I probably will not be able to get it fixed until my 2015 season is complete.

I turn to you my blog reader, Twitter follower, and Facebook friend asking for volunteers to guide me for training runs. I need runners of all abilities.

• Speedy rabbits for track sessions or faster runs
• endurance experts for my long/easy runs where goal is simply time on my feet/miles under my belt

I need guides of all levels.

• If you have guided me before and are interested again
• If you have always wanted to try guiding, but were scared to volunteer

I am going to have to put in many miles on an almost daily basis so the more volunteers, the better. You may try it once and not like guiding. You may love it, but your schedule does not permit anything beyond a couple runs. I might get four volunteers able to get together once a week. I might get two runners who can run a couple times a week. Whatever your availability, interest, pace, and experience, please reach out immediately because I can not afford to miss my sessions.

Please feel free to reach out to other runners you know who might have the time or interest. Thank you very much!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Vote Wendy/Israel For Chicago Athlete Magazine Cover

Last Thursday, lovely, Jen Pfaff tagged me in a Facebook post requesting people vote for Wendy and Israel. Unbeknownst to me, Chicago Athlete Magazine was running a contest on their Facebook page asking people to “like” the one picture from the three under consideration to end up on the Chicago Athlete magazine October issue cover. One of the options was Ali Engin’s photo of Wendy Jaehn guiding me at last year’s Chicago Marathon.

For anyone interested in viewing and voting, please follow the URL below and scroll down to a post from last Thursday. Press “like” on the photo of your choice. Voting ends today.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

RAM Racing Cinco De Miler: My First Experience

A cold and windy day greeted me on the day of the RAM Racing Cinco De Miler. Thanks to Keri Serota of Dare2Tri who introduced me to Brandon and Debbie at RAM Racing who took care of my race guide, Ironman Triathlete and marathoner, Ryan Nord.

We were disappointed that we were placed in corral D, but we hoped it would be a fast field. Having run the Shamrock Shuffle 8K five weeks prior and finishing in forty-one minutes, I was confident I would break forty minutes at Cinco De Miler. If all went well, I could push thirty-seven minutes.

Ryan and I waited for our wave to go off. I was excited to put Jenna Parker’s plan into action. Gun sounded. We crossed the start. We planned to take it easy in the opening mile. Not even six hundred meters into the race, we found ourselves behind a cluster of runners who were already walking. We ran through a tunnel filled with puddles. More runners slowed down. Ryan told me not to worry. We would make up the time once out of the tunnel. Once out, we tried to find our stride. Too many slower runners surrounded us. Ryan and I sat back knowing this was only one mile. To our surprise, we ran the opening mile just slightly behind our desired pace. We tried pushing the pace from the 8:20 we were running. We managed to drop it to 7:30, but that did not last long as we hit another group. Ryan decided to guide me to the far right side of the course in order to race pass a large group. We neared seven minute pace during this stretch. We reached mile two marker. I was disappointed we had not been able to sustain a strong pace. Unfortunately, the third mile was our slowest of the day. During the first couple miles, Ryan and I managed to fly by runners from the corrals ahead of us. I figured once we reached the faster runners, the course would open. Not so. Frustrated at how the race unfolded, I told myself to not be bothered by it. Midway through the fourth mile, Ryan said, “We have an opening. Let’s go for it!” We had been hanging around the eight minute pace. With this opening, we dropped it to 7:30. 7:15. 7:10. We raced up a hill. I took out my anger on it. It felt good to push. Ryan said we were about to start the final mile.

I decided to just run fast and let Ryan do his best to zig zag other runners. Ryan said we were under seven minute pace. 6:56. 6:52. Three quarters of a mile remained. I could hear runners struggling. I felt strong. Ryan insisted I push. “Holy crap. 6:40!” Half mile remained. I was having fun. I wanted to get under 6:30. If I had to run people over, so be it. Ryan and I raced to the finish line.

Ryan helped me break forty minutes. We averaged slightly under seven minutes during the final two miles. I was pleased that I was able to race the back end of the race. I was able to give Jenna Parker something about which to be proud. Thank you Ryan Nord for guiding me, Jenna Parker for coaching me, and Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Special thanks to RAM Racing for the opportunity to run in this event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When I Won Paratriathlon USA Nationals

Two years ago today, I had the great privilege of racing for the Paratriathlon USA National Championships in Austin, Tx as part of the CapTex Triathlon. The experience was made possible thanks to my friend and coach, Jenna Parker. The C Different Foundation offered me a slot in the C Different Triathlon in March 2013 for a chance to qualify for USA Nationals. I leaned towards saying no, but Jenna insisted it was better to attempt to qualify and fail as oppose to never even giving myself a chance to see if I was good enough. Although I am not a strong swimmer, I used my strength on the bike and run to storm back from last place out of the swim to coast to a first place finish by double digit minutes thus qualifying for Paratriathlon Nationals. Two months later, I took my spot on the start line with a national title on the line.

Here is a look back to my experience at CapTex Triathlon and Paratriathlon USA Nationals. Thank you Jenna Parker. Thank you to Justin Sternberg for guiding me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club for putting me on the Elite Team. Thank you to my friends and readers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Personal Best at Live Grit Lakefront 10

My last ten mile race was the 2012 Soldier Field 10. I finished in 1:39:55. I planned to return in 2013 to set a new personal best, but in the spring of 2013, I qualified for the Paratriathlon USA National Championships held the same weekend as Soldier Field 10. I won the National Championship for Paratriathlon Tri6A Males. Entering 2015, I still had not set a new ten mile best. I chose the Live Grit Lakefront 10 on April 18. Ironman triathlete/elite marathoner, Ryan Nord offered to guide me. I contacted Chicago Area Runners Association’s Road Race/Volunteer Service Coordinator, Matthew Perez, who worked with Ryan and me to ensure we would run Live Grit Lakefront 10.

Race day. Jenna Parker had given me my race instructions and it was time for Ryan and I to execute it. We arrived an hour before the event. We chatted with Ryan’s friend, Jeremy.. Minutes before the race, Gillian Fealy, Live Grit owner made an announcement. Starting gun sounded. We crossed the line.

I planned to take it easy during the opening half then push to negative split the race. I used the first mile to warm up and loosen my legs. Ryan said we were on pace for an 8:15 opening mile. We reached mile one in 8:26. I hoped to maintain 8:30 through the first five miles. Mile two was slower. Mile three even slower. I took deep breaths. I was concerned that my pace had slowed to 8:50. On the bright side, it would be easier to negative split the race. Ryan said to enjoy the easy pace because we would start pushing at the midway point building to a mad dash final few miles.

We reached the halfway mark in forty-four minutes plus. On pace for an eleven minute best. Ryan had me push gently. 8:30 for mile six. Jenna Parker would want me to crush these final four miles. I mentally prepared to embrace the pain and run through it. Mile seven complete. Ryan said, “Whatever you’ve got left, I want you to leave it out here.”” I ran strong. The wind howled in my face. My heart sank. Then I remembered running the Houston half Marathon with Jen Pfaff a few years ago on a cold, rainy, windy day. I smashed my 13.1 mile personal best by cutting through that wind. Time for the same. I turned over my legs. I opened my stride. Race on!

Mile eight complete. Time to close the show. Halfway through mile nine on a 7:45 pace. We finished that mile in 8:07. Final mile. Back to 7:45. 7:30. 7:15. We hit 7:04. Could I get under seven? “6:58. You’re crushing this!” We turned into a tunnel. I slowed down. Out of the tunnel. I ran hard. Ryan rejoiced, “6:50!” A few hundred meters remained. One last charge.

After crossing the finish, a beautiful woman asked, “Are you Sexy Isra?” I said yes. I asked her name, but she walked away. Ryan and I thanked Gillian Fealy of Live Grit. I spoke to my favorite public address announcer, Dave Kappas. My official time was 1:25:22. Thank you Ryan Nord for being my eyes. Thank you Matthew Perez at Chicago Area Runners Association. Thank you Gillian Fealy of Live Grit. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you to my friend and coach, Jenna Parker.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle 8K 2015

I am not a fan of the cold. That is why I have never run the Bank Of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K. It is the start to the running season in Chicago. Over 30,000 runners take part in the event annually. This year, I would finally run it.

The lovely, Caroline Gaynor introduced me to Ryan Nord. Caroline has wanted me to meet Ryan for some time. Inspired by Caroline’s tireless volunteering as a race guide for blind/visually impaired runners, Ryan wanted to try it. Caroline felt Ryan and I would match perfectly. My friends and blog readers know that I am most comfortable being guided by beautiful, fast, talented elite women. Unless, national or international rules dictate I must use a male guide, I always prefer women friends to be my eyes. I reached out to Ryan. He agreed to guide me for the Shamrock Shuffle. After a few training runs, we were set for race day.

March 29 was cold. Ryan and I made our way to Chicago’s Grant Park. My last race was 2014 Chicago Marathon so I was nervous to toe the start line again. I wanted to run strong to make Ryan, Caroline, and Jenna Parker proud. We spent time in the elite tent which housed those in the Athletes With Disability Wave. I spent time with Keri Serota, head of AWD and Executive Director of Dare2Tri. I saw Lisa Krejcik and Wendy Jaehn. Ryan and I walked to the start. Starting gun sounded. Time to start 2015.

We started minutes ahead of the pros just behind the wheelchair racers. After a slow start, adrenalin kicked in and we started to move. Ryan called out, “7:45 pace.” Faster than I wanted. I slowed a bit. I could hear he was having fun. Fans cheered. I slowed to over eight minute pace, but upon hearing the cheers I pushed. “7:30. You’re running strong.” I held it for a bit then pulled back. If I can help it, I always want to start slow, build, then close the show with a mad dash final mile. We reached mile one. I kept a steady pace through mile two. By the third mile, my legs felt tired. Less than two miles to go, I was worried I would not have the ability to push. Ryan kept telling me I was running strong. I did not feel it.

As we neared mile four, I heard a woman yell, “You’re almost there. One more mile!” I thought of Jenna parker. She trains me to finish strong. Ryan said he was ready to go anytime. I started turning over my legs faster. Ryan called out my pace and the distance remaining. I gained confidence as the distance between us and the finish line shortened. We were back under eight minute pace. half a mile remained. 7:30 pace. 7:20. A third of a mile remained. We were running at about a seven minute pace. My legs felt strong. I was galloping. I could feel my stride open. My body was relaxed.

Ryan and I finished. I average 8:20 per mile finishing in forty-one minutes. My first race of 2015 was done. Thanks Caroline Gaynor for introducing me to Ryan. Thanks Ryan Nord for guiding me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for being my sponsor, Jenna Parker for being my friend and coach, and Reliv International for my nutrition.

Friday, April 17, 2015

My First 10 Miler Since 2012

In 2012, I ran the Soldier Field 10 for the third consecutive year. It was a wonderful experience as I lowered my personal best for the ten mile distance. Unfortunately, it was not until later that I learned my official time was not as fast as I had guessed. My guide was not wearing a watch so I was not sure of my mile splits or overall time. I just knew I had run faster than the two previous attempts at the distance. I discovered that my official time was 1:39:55. Since that day, I have improved my training and race day performances. The credit goes to the lovely and talented, Jenna Parker who taught me to run to and through pain. With Jenna’s help I have qualified for the Boston Marathon each of the last five times I have run 26.2 miles. I have been able to call myself the Mideast Regional Champion each of the last two years. I have had the great honor of winning the USA National Championship for Paratriathlon and representing the United States at the Grand Finals in London.

Tomorrow, I will toe the start line at the Live Grit Lakefront Ten Miler. It will be the first time I will run in this event while being my first ten mile race since 2012. I am looking forward to the opportunity to smash through that personal best time in order to set a new standard for myself. I do not know by how much faster I will finish, but I know I have the training, ability, and confidence to run ten miles faster than I ever have.

Jenna has prepared me as only she can. Ryan Nord, who guided me at the Bank Of America Shamrock Shuffle at the end of March, has agreed to be my eyes once more. I am excited to run along side Ryan again. I will be wearing the orange racing kit provided by Gary Mills and Dave Lewis‘ Pinnacle Performance Company. I look forward to building upon the experience from the Shamrock Shuffle as I race myself into tip top fighting shape for the 2015 season.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Starting 2015 By Shuffling

It was a wild up and down season in 2014 which began with my running the Boston Marathon along side the beautiful and talented, Jen Pfaff. 2014 concluded with my running my fifth consecutive Chicago Marathon. This time along side two beautiful fast women, Wendy Jaehn and Erica Alansari.

On Sunday, March 29, I will toe the start for my first race of 2015. It will be my first since October’s 26.2. Once again, it will be a Bank Of America event. The Shamrock Shuffle 8K. Special thanks to the beautiful and fabulous, Caroline Gaynor for introducing me to a wonderful elite marathoner and Ironman triathlete, Ryan Nord, who will be my eyes for the 8K. Ryan and I managed to get a couple training runs in together. I feel confident trusting him with my life. I believe he is confident for the challenge of guiding.

I spent most of last season training and racing through injuries. I am excited to be toeing the start line tomorrow in good health. Thank you to my friend, the amazing, lovely, wonderful, Jenna Parker for once again preparing me for my race. I am happy to enter another season with her as my coach. She is simply, the best! After all, she took a back of the pack finisher and turned me into a multiple Boston Marathon qualifier, a USA National Champion in Paratriathlon, and a member of Team USA World squad.

Thank you to the great folks at Pinnacle Performance Company for agreeing to once again sponsor me for the 2015 marathon and triathlon season. I am so grateful to Gary Mills who provided the steady hand when I wrote my first four plays as a student in his Playwright For The Actor class and who, as cofounder/co-CEO believed so much in me that he offered me the opportunity to offer Pinnacle sponsorship.

There is a long and fun season awaiting me. I am looking forward to getting started along side Ryan Nord. I do not know how fast I can run or how the weather will be, but I know when I run that course, I will be happy to be doing what I love. Running.

Pinnacle Performance believes in me, Jenna Parker has prepared me, Reliv International fuels my nutrition, and now it is time to take my spot along side a fabulous person to guide me. Good luck to my friends racing in the event. I am looking forward to see if the magnificent, Tera Moody will once again shine while running faster than everyone else. Good luck to the inspiring, Michelle Mirzoian, into whom I ran today. I hope you, my reader, will join me on this season’s journey to where it may lead me. Together, we can make memories to last a lifetime.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dare2Tri Presents Paratriathlon Development Series

This week, USA Triathlon announced a partnership between USA Paratriathlon and Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club. USA Paratriathlon is a program which is a part of the overall USA Triathlon family. Dare2Tri is a Chicago based club which serves to promote and provide opportunities for injured military veterans, adults and children with physical disabilities, and those with visual impairments to compete in the sport of triathlon while inspiring people in their communities and abroad. The announced partnership is for a development race series which will be made up of four triathlon events during the 2015 season. Up and coming paratriathletes will have a chance to compete for monetary prizes to be offered by Dare2Tri.

For the official press release as well as more information on the organizations presenting this development series, please log on to the following site.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Laura Sturm In Same Time, Next Year

Several years after graduating college, I researched acting schools. I found one in Chicago in which I was interested because one of the instructors had recently received her MFA from the same university from which I graduated. Although that was not the ultimate reason to attend that school, I thought it fun to have that kind of a connection as I prepared to throw myself into a world with which I had very little to no experience. I made an appointment to meet with one of the artistic directors and instructors, Ted Hoerl, but before the date arrived, I happened to attend a party where I had a conversation with one of the then CEOs of the school, Dave Lewis. Dave said he noticed I was to have an interview with Ted the following week and wanted to talk to me about my goals, ideas, and questions. Knowing I was inexperienced with acting classes, he suggested I meet with instructor, director, and actress, Laura Sturm. If Laura felt comfortable working with me, I could sign up for her Beginning Scene Study class. Dave figured Laura and I could bond over having attended the same university at about the same time. Sure enough, Laura was magnificent. She taught me so much and was exactly what I needed to help me grow as a person and artist. I can not begin to say how much work and effort Laura put into tearing down my emotional and physical defense walls one brick at a time. She fully understood all the barriers I placed to defend myself from the world after losing my sight. She made sure to provide me a safe environment in which to experiment and learn. She knew when to be understanding and go easy on me as well as knowing when to push me and demand more from me. As I made more and more breakthroughs as I advanced through the program, others took notice. By the time I completed my time at the school, Ted Hoerl praised me for being willing to stick it out and challenge myself. He said that by the time I had finished, I had put myself in a position to be on the verge of being an artist. All I had to do was take the leap and dive into the water. Ted said it was obvious that the work Laura did with me was making a difference. Three years after I first met Laura Sturm to see if she would want me in her class, she attended a performance of a play I had written and in which I was starring at Chicago's Prop THTR. It was such an emotional night for both of us. I finally had the opportunity to show Laura what I could do on a professional theater stage. She finally had a chance to watch her effort pay off by watching me "go for it" in front of a live audience and critics.

Laura has remained one of my dear friends. This beautiful, talented, amazing woman will always have a place in my heart. I will always cheer for her continued success. I will always find myself learning and growing as an artist and person through knowing and observing Laura. She is currently starring in a production of Bernard Slade's award winning Same Time, Next Year at the Skokie Theater. Performances run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through February 22. General admission tickets are $28. Discounts are available for students and seniors.

Here is a theater review from Evanston Now:

You can get tickets at the following site:

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Perpetual State Of Awe

Growing up, I loved allowing my mind to take me to lands and worlds beyond that which I had experienced. I enjoyed putting pen or pencil to paper and writing allowing my creativity to control my hand. In high school then college, I was able to continue writing stories. Some times, I would do it for an assignment. Other times, it was merely for my own pleasure. After I wrote a few plays and screenplays, I tried to write a novel. For some reason it did not feel comfortable to me. I had always enjoyed creating short stories, but those too did not flow out of me as easily as they previously had. A few years ago, I rediscovered the ability and pleasure of crafting short pros. I credit the lovely and talented, Jen Knox. I have been beyond lucky that a talented writer and instructor has become my friend. She has so graciously offered me advice and critique which meant so much to me that I have written several additional pieces as a result of her feedback.

Jen Knox has a piece entitled A Perpetual State Of Awe which you can read by activating the following link. If you do not know her work, please take the time to familiarize yourself with her work. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dare2Tri Athlete Profile: Israel Antonio

After running my first marathon in 2010, I was told of a new paratriathlon club set to begin operating in the Chicagoland area in 2011. At the time, I had competed in two triathlons, both in New York, and I wanted to race in more. After reading about one of the founders, army veteran, Melissa Stockwell who has the distinction of being the first US woman in history to be wounded in combat, I immediately informed Keri Serota that I wanted to be involved especially because this would mean I could meet Melissa. Never did I dream she would become a great friend. I have met some great athletes who have gone on to be some very special individuals in my life. Many of those individuals are mentioned in this blog post which appears on the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club site today. Please take a moment to read Dare2Tri's Athlete Profile on Israel Antonio. I hope you will learn something new, fun, or interesting about me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dancing With Boulder Stars

In August 2013, I was set to race at the Chicago Triathlon which was hosting the Mideast Regional Championships in the sport of Paratriathlon. One day prior to the race, my friend, Ironman triathlete, set to guide me informed me he was injured and would not be able to guide me for the race. He posted a note on Facebook where one of his friends, Lore Ambrose, who was working the Chicago Triathlon expo read it and immediately walked over to the Newton Running Booth to ask the Ironman triathlete, Don Reichelt, if he could step in to help a gentleman named Israel Antonio. Although he had never guided, he said yes. The next day, he helped me to my first Mideast East Regional title and since then, Don has remained one of my dearest friends.

On Tuesday, January, 27, Don Reichelt will take part in a charity event, Dancing with Boulder Stars to benefit YWCA of Boulder, Co. Just as the TV show, dance instructors are paired with local celebrities to entertain, compete, and fundraise. The event benefits You Women Children All of us, an organization working for human rights, empowering women and girls, and eliminating racism.

I hope you, my reader, will take the time to visit the following links and donate to Don's worthy cause and to learn more about YWCA. If you are in the Boulder area, purchase tickets and attend this wonderful function. Vote for Don who is a great representative for Newton Running, a splendid athlete, and a fantastic person.

To donate to Don, please log on to:

For more on the organization, please visit: