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.