Thursday, September 24, 2015

A World Championships race recap.

Well, it's been a week since the big race and I am just now getting my voice back. That means that it was a jam packed week full of racing, cheering, talking way too much and being excited about, well, everything!

The week got real when Team USA started to arrive on Wednesday. As I've said many time, I love my teammates. We are a tight group that not only have a good time together but truly want everyone to do their best. We love to joke around, we love to eat and we love to talk triathlon. My teammates and coaches are the best teammates and coaches. Duh.

The days leading into a race can always be a little packed but when it's a World Championship race in your hometown, they are jam packed! Press conferences, sponsor and media obligations and the usual team briefings, course recons and Team USA meetings. As the race got closer I decided to stay in a hotel with the rest of the team the night before the race. My parents had come into town along with Brians dad and some friends and our house was a little tight. Plus, staying in my own bed the night before my biggest race of the year would have been a little weird.

The morning of the race, we woke up to rain, thunder and lightening and I was nervous the swim might be canceled. Luckily, the heavy rain gradually got lighter and as we went through athlete check in and found our spots in transition, it turned out to be a pretty decent day for a race.

Originally, my PT2 category had 9 competitors. But the day prior, 2 of the competitors had been re- classified into different classifications leaving us with 7 athletes. There were 2 athletes I had never raced that I knew could be competitive and then my own teammates Allysa and Hailey, who I had raced with multiple times that year. When I looked at all of our times the day before I knew it was going to be a good race. I was feeling great and ready to give it my all hoping my months of preparation would pay off. It was after all, World Championships and everyone out there was racing to win.

As we got down to the swim start I got to see my parents, Brian, Dallas and so many other friends that had come down to watch the race. The huge benefit to a hometown race, is having so many people cheering for you on the sidelines. I got to give Dallas and Brian multiple hugs and as we took our place in the water, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed at the thought of so many people there supporting this dream of mine. There was just so much energy and it was pretty dang amazing.

The horn went off at 7:15am and we were off. Soon after we started I had a brief moment of panic when I was grabbed from behind and swam over. This was the first time this had ever happened and not being able to surface and get that breath was a little scary. It was only a few short seconds and I was back up able to regain my breathing get back into my rhythm. The rest of my swim felt great and I came out of the water
with a 13 second lead in front of a girl from Finland in one of my best swims of the year.

I got on my bike and set off on the 4.5 lap course. As I've said before, the bike is my weakest of the 3 and whatever gap I get on the swim, is typically lost on the bike and I am often passed at mile 8 or 9. As I started off, the girl from Finland was close behind and she ended up passing me in the first few miles. Since the course was loops, I could easily see how much time she was gaining and how far behind my other competition was. As the bike course went on, I did my best to keep Finland in my sight and to keep the gap as wide as possible from those behind me. The cheers from everyone on the course was incredible and everytime I heard my name or heard USA, I gave 10 hard pedal strokes, trying my best to keep my speed up. As we got to the last lap, I knew the gap was narrowing from  behind but I was still in 2nd and only 35 seconds behind Finland. I came into T2 and was able to get my running leg on and headed out towards the run before Finland meaning that for the first time this year, I was out on that running course first! Hailey came into T2 not long after I did and I knew that Allysa wasn't far behind. I had the lead but I needed a good run to hold them off.

I left T2 and went to hook my running belt on my prosthetic leg that keeps my leg from rotating. I went to hook it, tried to run, and it came apart. I stopped 2 more times, tried to hook it and every time it came apart as I started to run. Now, I used to use a running leg with no belt but have become pretty dependent on it over the past year. Even more so in races, as my running socket is looser and without the running belt, my leg rotates in every 3rd step and I have to stop to turn it back out before I continue running. The strap doesn't keep my leg on, but is a crucial piece on my prosthetic. So when it wasn't hooking correctly I had 2 options. First, to run without it but to stop every few steps to rotate it back out. Or I could run while holding it tight in my right hand, pulling it around my backside so it didn't rotate. This seemed like the best option and even though it was going to be a 5k running while holding my belt, at least I could run without stopping. Not anything you ever want to happen in a World Championship race, but I had to work with what I had. 

I started out and was actually pretty impressed at the pace I was holding with this little setback. It was a 3 lap course and as I rounded the first turn, I could see Finland and Hailey not far behind, and Allysa not far behind them. I managed to hold the lead for the first lap and then on the second lap I got passed by Allysa. I think Allysa would agree that this was a big, unexpected turn of events. And she didn't just casually run by, but she ran by looking as strong as I have ever seen her and running at a pace I knew I couldn't keep. As much as I wanted to keep up, I was impressed by her strength and look of ease as I saw her get further and further away.

I held onto 2nd place for a little further and at the end of the 2nd lap, I could hear the cheers for both Hailey and I and I knew that she was getting close. She caught up and as we rounded Buckingham Fountain, we were neck and neck, literally running in exact unison. In a moment I won't soon forget the announcer announced that here we were, Danisewicz and Stockwell, friends, training partners and Dare2tri teammates shoulder to shoulder in our hometown of Chicago. It still gives me chills thinking about it. Hailey and I are both fierce competitors. I have had the joy of seeing Hailey get her first running leg, run her first 5K, see her through her first triathlon, and being next to her on that podium when she won in 2013. I am incredibly proud of her and how far she has come and sharing this moment with her was a special one. We continued like that for about 1/2 a mile, hearing the cheers of the crowd and then she gradually started to pull away. As we neared the finish, she was about 400 meters in front of me and I knew that I was going to come in with a bronze medal finish. I
finished a happy finish knowing that I had given it my all. I heard the crowd, I saw Brian and Dallas and my parents and couldn't help but have a smile on my face. My hometown. A bronze medal and for the 3rd time this year, a USA SWEEP!

Awards happened soon after and I can honestly say that there is no one I would rather stand on the
podium with than Allysa and Hailey. Great friends, incredible athletes and competitors and I feel so lucky to call them my teammates. With this being our 3rd USA Sweep this year, it is apparent that we are dominating the PT2 category and I am so proud to be a part of it. As we stood up on that podium, we all got our medals and Allysa invited us up to the top with her as we saw 3 American flags raised and our national anthem played. The magnitude of the moment was apparent and there was so much emotion there. And as much as I wanted that gold around my neck, I couldn't help but be so happy for Allysa and so proud of Hailey for racing such a close race. When it came down to it, we all finished within 1:03 of each other, the closest it has ever been.

We all go into each race wanting our race to be the perfect one. Wanting the months of training and preparation to pay off when it matters most. The belt on my running leg is not an excuse and there is no telling what would have happened had it not broke. Allysa was on fire and had the race of her life and Hailey can kick it into another gear when she needs to and the results could have been the exact same. Especially when you are dealing with prosthetics, it's anybody's race and anything can happen out there. That's really the beauty of the sport.

After the race, I proudly made my way into the BP tent that was filled with all sorts of Dare2tri youth athletes that had been invited to the tent to watch the race. BP has been such a great company supporting both Dare2tri and athletes like myself. I got to hug Dallas and my parents, I got to recount the race and I got to see so many friendly faces that gave me a quick hug and a congrats.

The weekend didn't end there as we had our inaugural Dare2tri Evening2Inspire that night at the Willis Tower. An event that both inspired anyone that attended and raised money for Dare2tri. And then the next day Keri, Dan and I raced in a co-founders relay and proudly crossed the finish line as a team in first place. We got to stand there and watch so many other Dare2tri teammates and other Dare2tri supporters cross that finish line. A moment where the three of us sat back and thought about how far we have come as an organization and proud of all the lives we have and will continue to impact.

So, now what? Well, I get a few weeks of rest and no scheduled workouts. For a little bit I am going to eat what I want, I might even have a glass of wine or two (gasp!) A short off off season before the off season training starts back up again.

In the all to confusing qualification process for Rio, I have not yet secured my spot for the games next year. Since the three of us U.S. athletes finished in the top 3, we will be ranked as the top 3 for the through next year based on the amount of points we earned at Worlds. Since Allysa won, she secured our very first team slot for Rio, but since Hailey won at the test event in Rio earlier this year, she has secured her individual spot on the team next year, becoming the first US athletes to do so. (woot, woot!) The second slot will be earned by Allysa or I at a race early next year that is yet to be determined. There is a slight possibility that the 3rd one of us could get an invite slot to the Paralympics which would be the best case scenario. I'm going to stay optimistic that it will happen because how freaking cool would it be to have a USA sweep on the Worlds biggest athletic stage. That would be a dream

A quick thank you to everyone that made this season a success and continues to believe in me as I continue down this #road2rio. Brian, Dallas, 
my parents, Coach Stacee, Dare2tri, Deloitte, BP, USG and any of you that cheer me on along the way. They say it takes a village to make dreams come true and I have the best village around.

Until next time,


Monday, September 14, 2015

A hometown, a World Championship and my boy.

Whelp, here we are, the week of World Championships! Here. In Chicago. Can you say EPIC?!

The past month has been a great one. Not a lot of travel, some solid training, a great family reunion with Brian's family up in Michigan, some Ironman Madison spectating and my first triathlon win of the year at ITU Detroit. Now, I need to follow up that 'win' statement with the fact that not all my competition was at this race. My PT2 classification has gotten pretty competitive and exciting over the past year, and only a few of my competitors were in Detroit. But it was a win, it gave me the maximum number of points for that type of race and it felt amazing to be on top of that podium, with that gold medal, regardless of who was and wasn't there. Not to mention that this was the first race that Dallas has been at. Brian, Dallas and Jake, all made the trip with me and I got to see all their smiling faces as I went by on both the bike and the run. Plus, that feeling of being on top has stuck with me, and as we head into World Championships in 4 short days it is thought of often.

So, yes, World Championships is here, in my town, in my backyard, in the sweet sweet city of Chicago. When they announced this two years ago it seemed forever away, but here it is only days away, and I couldn't be more pumped. This is the biggest race of the year for more reasons than one. First, it is World Championships. The winner can call themselves the PT2 World Champion and going into a Paralympic Year that is a pretty big deal. Second, at this race we earn significantly more points than any other race we will race in. At an ITU race like Detroit, the max # of points you can get is 300. This week, its 750! To qualify for Rio next year points are critical. In order to get 2 country qualification slots for Rio, you need 2 US athletes in the top 6 in the world which is determined by points. To avoid getting back into the all too confusing Paralympic qualification just know that the higher we place, the more points we get. And we all need points. I will say that this race will not qualify me for Rio next year. That race will come early next year in March. But I need the points regardless.  Third, this is the most competitive my classification has ever been and it is so exciting. We have 9 competitors in the PT2 class and most of us are pretty competitive with each other. There are athletes from all over the world and a few that I have never raced. I have, of course, stalked their times from other races and I know that this will be a good race. Some are faster swimmers, other faster bikers or runners and the added excitement that anything can happen on race day. It is going to be a good race, I can promise you that. Fourth, this is my city. I have my parents and some of Brian's family and friends making the trip in to watch the race. I have friends, and co- workers, and sponsors that will all be out on that race course cheering me and all the other Team USA athletes on. They believe in me, they have supported me through all my adventures and seeing (and hearing) them out on the course will be pretty dang amazing. To say I'm excited is an understatement.

Last year at this time, I was 7.5 months pregnant hoping that I would have a healthy boy and be able to get back on track on the #road2rio. My healthy (and extremely handsome) little boy is going to be 9.5 months in a few days but the road from then till now has not been an easy one.
If any other mothers out there are reading this, you can attest to the fact, that getting back into well, anything, after having a baby can be a little challenging. It changes your life, your body, your priorities and things are never the same. When I was in labor and was told I needed a c-section, my first thought was that it meant more recovery and more time away from training. I wanted a family, my boy, but I also wanted this life of an athlete on the Road2Rio. It was a challenging waiting period, but I finally ran my first mile 6 weeks after having Dallas. It had been months since I had run and it was a slow, 16 minute mile. 1 mile. 16 minutes. As happy as I was to have my running leg back on, I remember thinking that this wasn't what it was supposed to be like. I was supposed to bounce back, I was supposed to be back at things weeks after I gave birth and I started having doubts about this whole Rio thing. Maybe it wasn't meant to be.
However, something I didn't expect after having Dallas, was an added level of patience. I went home after that slow mile, saw my baby boy and suddenly a 16m mile didn't seem so bad. Maybe I could do this.  Days, weeks, months and some slow progress later, I could see my body changing, getting back into the shape it was in before I got pregnant. My times were dropping. Slowly, yes, but they were dropping. And the impatient Melissa I once was, of wanting to be back to where I was yesterday had turned into a patient, taking it day by day Melissa. The realization that Rome wasn't built in a day, and I wouldn't bounce back in a day. And every time I had a bad run, a bad bike or wondered if I could really do this, all I had to do was come home, see my boy and make the decision to keep on going the next day.
9.5 months later I can proudly say that my times are faster than they have ever been and I am back on the Road to Rio. My swim feels amazing, my bike (although always needing improvement) has never felt better and recently, I am surprised at my own run times and seeing my pace on my watch. As I go into Fridays race, I know it's going to be a good one. My training is on point, my mindset is where it should be. I'm confident, I'm honored to race for the USA and a huge bonus to be here in Chicago. When the going gets tough and when I hurt, all I need to do is think about why I race in the first place. For my country, for my family, for those that believe in me and for myself. And I truly feel that when you race in honor of others, you honor yourself. And that is exactly what I will do.

So. Friday at 715am, when that horn goes off, I am racing to show a certain 9.5 month old boy that dreams can come true. And for Brian who sacrifices things in his own life to help make my dream become a reality.  And like everyone else out on that course, I am racing to win.

If you live in Chicago, come on down to Buckingham Fountain to see all of us in action. This race? It's going to be epic. I can promise you that.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rio take 1. (a race recap)

Rio! We went, we saw, we raced, and now are all back home after the excitement of hopefully being back next year. Makes the reality and possibilities of it that much more real to be there and see the course, the country and get a feel for what could be.

We got to Rio early Wed morning after a 10 hour flight from Houston. Myself, coach Stacee, 4 other Dare2tri athletes, my bff (and Dare2tri Executive Director) Keri and a good number of other Team USA athletes. It was a nice sight to get to our hotel and see that it was literally right on the famous beach in Copacabana.
We met up with the rest of Team USA and started the preparation for the race that Saturday. We did runs up and down the path along the beach, we swam in this amazing outdoor pool where we could see the Christ the Redeemer statue, got our bikes tuned up and started
to mentally prepare for the race.

If you have never been to Rio, it is beautiful! The ocean surrounded by these huge, gorgeous mountains. Everyone we encountered was friendly, the food was delicious (think rice, beans and meat. lots of meat.) and we didn't have any run ins with the locals trying to steal anything from us. It was so cool to have the city bustling with all these triathletes, to see the blue carpet and the race course go up and to have the USA on our backs. In the days leading up to the race, many of you may have read about the water quality in Rio. Being over in Rio, we would read the news articles, look out at the ocean we would be swimming in, and they were nothing alike. The water that was shown in the many articles is not the water that we swam in. The water had been tested multiple times, it was deemed safe to swim in by the ITU and by the US Olympic Committee and we really didn't think much of it. Plus, we were there to race and had enough on our mind.

Race morning came and I was pretty pumped. I was feeling good in training and I knew I had the potential for a great race. The course was flat and it was going to be fast.  My competitors from Japan and Spain were there, a woman from Brazil and then my fellow US teammates Hailey and Alyssa. My realistic goal going into the race was a 2nd place finish. I had been beaten by Japan back in May and wanted to take that title back. If you read my last blog you may remember that the all too confusing points system starts over from now until next June. So this was my first chance to get some much needed points leading into next year.

The gun went off at 930am and we were off. I did my best to find the feet of the girl from Japan, hoping to draft off of her but in the mass of people that didn't work. I ended up out of the water 2nd in my category, about 50 sec behind Japan. Japan and I came out of T1 together and I passed her early on in the bike taking over the 1st place spot. I kept expecting her to pass me again but that never happened. The bike was three laps so I could see my competition and eventually saw where everyone was. The bike is still my weakest part of the race and has room for much improvement. With my strength in the swim I get on the bike and just do my best to try and hold everyone off as long as possible. I could see that a few were slowly gaining on me and at mile 8 Hailey passed by. I stayed in 2nd, trying to keep her in my sights but Hailey is a speedy one on that bike! I came into T2 and she was on her way out for the run and I knew that 3rd wasn't all that far behind me. I changed into my running leg and set off for that I hoped would be a good run. The week before, at a local triathlon, I had the run of my life, and was hoping for that same feeling. I knew early on that was not the case but trucked on as best I could. I saw Stacee, Keri and the other Team USA coaches. The crowd cheered USA as I went by and it kept me going. I was there, in Rio, racing and representing the USA. How cool was that?! With 2 loops of the run, I could see my other competition and knew that I was
holding a solid 2nd place. As I neared the finish I was pretty pumped to claim that 2nd place slot, about 1:48 behind Hailey and a total time of 1:26.25 and one of my fastest times to date. Perhaps one of the best parts of the day was seeing our teammate Allysa come across 3rd meaning that just like in May, back in Mexico, we had a USA sweep! Pumped was an understatement!

Team USA finished out the day strong with a total of 8 medals which is pretty incredible. 6 athletes got what they call their 'provisional' slots for the Paralympics next year. If you were the first USA athlete and within 5% of the winners time, you earned a personal, provisional slot. So basically as long as your classification earns a country slot, which is done by either winning worlds or being ranked in the top 6 by next June, then you make the Paralympic Team. I still get a headache when I think about the process but I am understanding it more and more. This does not mean that I cannot get my slot, I just need to make sure I am in the top 6 and the top two US athletes next June. This means doing well in the rest of the races I race in, especially World Championships where we can earn the most points.

So the race went well and as I had hoped. It was a cool moment at awards to see all of Team USA get their medals and think about how I was a part of the best team in the World. And as much as I wanted my name on that list of 'provisional spots' for Rio next year, I am remaining optimistic and just taking it race to race. That was my plan from the beginning and I'm sticking to it!
Since our race was over we got to enjoy the next day and a half in Rio. We got to cheer on the pros and eat at a Brazilian steakhouse. Like, a real one. We got to do a little sightseeing at Sugarloaf mountain and ride up a gondola to see the beautiful city we were in. 

One of the absolute favorite parts of being a part of Team USA and Paratriathlon is the people that are a part of it. The coaches, the athletes and some of the greatest people I've ever met. When that gun goes off in a race, we all want to win and we are all fierce competitors. But off the course, we are all friends, we enjoy each others company and have many laughs as we travel around the world togethers. I truly do love my team. 

We got home on Monday and I couldn't wait to see my boys. As much as I hate being away, seeing the smile and excitement in Dallas when I see him again is always a reassuring sight. Face time is great and all but being able to hug my biggest fans in person is always the best part of getting home. 

On Monday night I went to bed thinking about the rest of the races this year. ITU Detroit which was a short 2 weeks away and World Championships here in Chicago on Sep 18th. Two more races that I needed to do well in and I was ready and up for the challenge to see how much faster I could get at each race. 

On Tuesday morning i woke up not feeling so well. I took it as a day or rest and was in bed most of the day with a fever that seemed to be on the rise. By that night it got so high that Brian and I went to the ER. They ran some tests, gave me an IV and sent me home. I wish I could say that was the end of it but after 6 days in bed (I'll spare you the details) and another trip to the ER I am writing this in hopes that I am finally on my way up! The full results have yet to come back but we do know that it was some sort of virus that meds won't help and I have to let it run it's course. And of course everyone seems to be speculating that it was the water in Rio. Although that is a possibility, i'm not sure we will ever know for sure. And the facts are that we were told the water was safe, it was my choice to swim in it and that I did. 

So while I'm slightly concerned about racing Detroit after being in bed for 6 days, I will do what I can do. And hopefully I can get 5 solid training days in this week. 

So, there you go. Rio take 1! And still on that #road2rio in hopes there is a take 2 next year. Think healthy thoughts for the rest of the week and fast thoughts for Detroit next Sunday. I know I can do this and that's half the battle right? And of course a huge thank you to everyone who has helped get me on my path. My family, my friends, Coach Stacee, Dare2tri, USA Paratriathlon and some pretty great sponsors that I feel lucky to have on my side. THANK YOU!

Until next time. 


And ps. I may or may not have tried to fit Dallas in my bike box. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The #Road2Rio; it's a family affair.

As I fly back from a week of some good training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, I figure this is a good time to write about training and racing...and all that jazz.

This past month has been wonderful. Since our honeymoon, (and other than this camp) we have only traveled to see family and other than that, I have been home! It's been amazing. Getting into a routine with Dallas, with training and with everything else has been good for both the mind and body.

After the honeymoon race in Japan, I knew it would be a few months before the next big race and a good block of time for training. As you may know from previous posts, the Road2Rio is very much a road and the process to making it to the games next year is somewhat complicated. It combines a points system, world rankings and key races that can potentially earn you a slot on the team. But only if you have already earned a country slot. It's confusing to say the least. But basically, starting now through next June, if I am ranked in the top 6 in the World AND 1st or 2nd in the US, AND do well at these key races (that I need current points to get into) AND if we've earned a country slot for our classification, then I get on the team for Rio. Get it? Me either.
What I do know, is that there are 2 key races coming up still this year that I need to well in. A race in Rio on Aug 1st that is a test event for the Paralympics and a preview for the course. It doesn't give us more points than any other race, but seeing the actual race course for next year is invaluable. This is a race that not everyone gets into, and I'm thrilled that I am on the start list.
Perhaps the biggest race of the year is World Championships this Sep in Chicago. It's the biggest becasue you can earn you the most points, which can help determine your world ranking and set you up nicely for next year. The more points you have, the higher world ranking you have.

I set off for two solid months of training after our honeymoon and I'm happy to say they have gone pretty well. My quad issue from March seems to have gone away as long as I maintain my recovery and give it some extra love. The older I get, the more recovery I need. Each discipline has been steadily improving and although I'm still not where I want to be, I am happy with my progress.

I really think that having Dallas has given me some added patience in both life and this Road2Rio. Before I had him, I dreamed of all my fitness coming back overnight and my speed faster than ever. While I do think I have the potential to be my fastest ever, I realized many months ago that it wasn't going to happen overnight; but I was OK with it. Knowing that if I truck along day by day, week by week, I would eventually get there. And seeing the progress and the times continue to drop, I am confident that that will be the case. I keep telling myself that Rome wasn't built in a day, and my fitness can't be built back in a day either. This is a huge year for all of us vying for Rio next year and as the races come and go, I need to be fast and work my way towards (and up) the podium. Over the past few months I've learned that I need to focus on my times, and my workouts and be happy with how far I've come. It's so easy to compare yourself to everyone else and question your abilities, when I can just look at myself and be happy. So while this is a make and break year on the Road to Rio, I'm taking it day by day. Slow and steady. With the goal this year to make the team for Rio and then take it from there.
Perhaps most importantly, I believe. In myself, in my training and that any sacrifices made along the way will be worth it in the end. And thankfully I've got a pretty great family behind me every step of the way.

Speaking of family, we have a crawler! It's pretty cool to get home and see him look up, smile and then crawl towards you. He also loves the water, had his first boat ride, loves bananas, eats sand and likes to chew on his brothers toys. His brother, who may (gasp) be taking on the big brother role a little bit more...
He's a happy boy most of the time and we just love him so very much. Still a growing boy, tall and lean, like his dad, but the cutest baby ever. I know I'm biased, but seriously, he is. We've brought him to a few of the triathlons we've done and it's fun to see him hanging out in transition with the athletes. I know Brian is hoping for a hockey player, but maybe if he hangs around triathlons, I can sway him that way. Plus the doctor said he was impressed he was sitting up in his crib a few months back, so he basically said he's going to be a pro athlete.
Brian and I really are so lucky.

We went out to South Carolina to see my parents and my sister's family. Always a great time and some serious cousin love. I so wish we lived closer. 

It's somehow been over 2 months since we got married and we've settled into the married life. Not that it's much different than before, everyone asks us that. I truly am a lucky girl to have Brian's support, always doing whatever he can to make sure I get in my workout. Watching Dallas on the weekends I'm away for training, or a race and just being my biggest cheerleader. It's not just the #road2rio, it's the #mommyroad2rio AND the #familyroad2rio. I'm a lucky girl.

Peace Out!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Honey (swim, bike, run) moon.

Somehow it's been almost a month since we've gotten home from our glorious 12 day honeymoon,
but as usual, better late than never right?

The trip started (after a long goodbye to Dallas) in luxury as we boarded our plane and made our way into first class for the long trip to Tokyo. Turns out there was a benefit to racking up some serious United miles over the years and using them all for this one flight. This made for a happy 6 '4' husband, a happy me, and a pretty great way to start the big trip.

We landed in Tokyo somewhat rested and eventually made our way to our hotel. Working our way through the masses of people and the Tokyo subway system with our luggage and my bike box, was not the highlight of our trip. But we got there and started our short 2 day stint in Tokyo early the next morning.
We had a list of the top 10 things to do in Tokyo and had a solid 5 that we were hoping to knock out in 1 day. One of them was the Tsukiji fish market where everyday the public can line up at 430am, and they let the first 120 people into this tuna auction which is apparently a pretty cool sight to see. Jetlag was on our side as we were up already at 330am the next morning so we jumped in a cab, only to get to the fish market and find that it was closed. Apparently it closes on some random Wednesdays, and that was the random one. The cab driver still dropped us off and we found ourselves wandering in a random Tokyo neighborhood at 430am trying to figure out what to do. Naturally, we found an open convenience store, got some coffee and candy and sat on a bench at 445am eating our Japanese candy. Pretty amusing at the time. And still now.
We made our way back to the hotel and got the day started...again. We went on this awesome run through this park to this temple that was incredibly peaceful. We got back to the hotel just in time for a for real earthquake. Like, for real. Where the hangers in the closet shake and everything. A unnerving, yet slightly cool experience but one I'd be happy about not re-living anytime soon.
We continued the day with the Tokyo tower, some tasty Ramen noodles, seeing some Sumo wrestling which is just what you would imagine it to be. These huge guys wearing small pieces of 'cloth' trying to push eachother out of the sumo ring. A really cool thing to see and learn about. Plus, it made Brian feel better about all the pizza he ate the night after the wedding... That night we tried one of the local restaaurants. All which seat a whopping 12-15 people, filled with smoke (they still smoke inside, blah) and a pretty tough language barrier. I still don't really know what we ordered, something about a shrimp ball, but everyone was friendly enough, we got to try some sake and the food was decent.
The next morning we got back to the fish market, missed the tuna auction again but had some pretty fresh and delicious sushi for breakfast at 6am.
All in all, Tokyo was a cool place but nowhere I would run back to. A tough language barrier, commerce and people everywhere (think 10 Manhattans) and just a much different culture. Glad to have gone but no rush to go back.

From Tokyo we made our way to Yokohama where I was to race ITU Yokohama with some other Team USA athletes. This race was built into the trip long ago and the reason Japan was added to the trip. Everyone kept commenting on how great it was that our honeymoon included a triathlon but really, it was only fitting. And Brian was such a trooper and supporter to agree to making this a dual purpose trip. A little honeymoon, a little race. No biggie right!  And this was another chance for me to get my precious points I needed on my Road2Rio.
The race went pretty well, even with the downpour that accompanied it. I was hoping to take first (aren't we all) but ended up with second. I improved from the previous race and as long as I continue to do that at each race, I can't complain. Plus I got the points i needed to keep myself where I needed to be in the world rankings for the next big race. And of course, any time spent with Team USA is a good time by me.

From Japan we flew to Hawaii, crossed the International Date Line and the world turned twice and went backwards. That didn't actually happen but the time change was brutal. Leaving Japan at midnight, getting to Hawaii at noon and all turned around.
We got off the plane a little dazed, woke up a bit from the breeze in our convertible and made our way directly to Pearl Harbor. Where even in our sleepy state were amazed at the history and the meaning behind the memorial. A sight to see and a way to remember how lucky we all are. Just like so many other days, a day to never forget.
After we got some sleep, the next 5 days were pretty dang amazing. Hiking up Diamonds Head crater, a Luau, where I learned to hula, Brian learned to spear throw and we got to show off our dance moves up on stage.
A luxurious stay at Turtle Bay resort on the North shore where we spent the days relaxing by the pool with a drink in hand but also taking advantage of all the island had to offer. Think horseback riding on the beach, snorkeling, helicopter tours, picnics on the beach, morning coffee on our balcony, surfing (yes, I got up!), drinking coconut water directly from the coconut, sunrises, sunsets..this was a honeymoon!
Not to mention that we had a brief run in with Dog the Bounty Hunter. If you don't know who that is (don't worry I didn't either) Brian can tell you all about him.
We got to facetime with Dallas often and knew that the grandmas were taking great care of him. Thank you Grandma Deb and Nana! It wasn't until the second to last night when the majority of the conversation revolved around Dallas and we realized we were probably ready to get back home and see our little man.

We left Hawaii as a sun- kissed happily married couple ready to get back home and see our boys. 12 amazing days and a trip that we will never, ever forget. The craziness of Tokyo, some swim bike and run action and the relaxing days of Hawaii.

Like I said, it's somehow been a whole month since we've been back and we've gotten back into our routine. Brian is back at work after his shoulder surgery. Back to playing golf and as of this Friday, hockey. We did a local triathlon last weekend and I'm back training and getting ready for my next big race at a test event in Rio on Aug 1st.
Dare2tri has had a busy few weeks with our life changing 3 day camp, an inaugural military camp and getting ready for some upcoming races. Our motto 'one inspires many' is as accurate as it gets.

Dallas continues to be as cute as can be. Seriously. I know I am biased, but he really is like, the cutest most handsome, sweetest boy ever. And already 6.5 months old! We've started swim lessons, he eats bananas, he laughs, he smiles all day long and he'll be crawling in the next few weeks. He stares at Jake and just giggles. Jake however, does not feel the same, and still has not returned the giggles. Once Dallas starts crawling he's not going to have much of a choice. Dallas has already chosen Jake as his bff with 4 legs. Benji, Keri's son, is his chosen 2 legged bff.

So, life continues. A wedding, a honeymoon and now back to it.
I'll get into more of the training and the racing and all that jazz next time, this is long enough.

But there you are. A honey (swim, bike, run) moon.
Until next time,


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Announcing Mrs. Melissa Stockwell Tolsma; a race (I mean wedding) recap.

That's me, that's me!!! I'm officially a Tolsma and officially have a husband. And it couldn't of been
better. It truly was, the best night of my life.

Things started to get real a few days before the wedding when family and friends stated to get into town. By Thursday, and the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, the euphoria of what was happening really set in as I looked around on Thursday night to my very best friends and family all together to celebrate us. A feeling I can't even explain.

I said goodnight to Brian on Thursday knowing that the next time I would see him would be at our first look the next day. I went back to the hotel room with a few of my bridesmaids and we stayed up chatting and laughing as they had written some 'words of wisdom' down for me as a soon to
be married lady.  I know I say it often, but I have some of the very best friends. With me through thick and thin and always there with a hug, a smile, an ear and always up for anything. The older we get, the closer we get and absolutely, friends for life.

Friday morning was an early one as we woke up for a wedding day run around beautiful Lincoln Park and a beautiful morning. My good friend from my ROTC and Army days, Missy, joined in and we ran around singing cadences like we did
back in the day. I'm sure anyone we passed thought we were crazy but we were loving it.
A coffee and a shower later and all the bridesmaids and my mom started with hair and makeup in the hotel bridal suite. The stylists and make up artists were fabulous and everyone looked stunning.
I was feeling pretty calm the whole day except for a few moments of stress when we had to decide if the ceremony was inside or outside. We had originally planned an outdoor ceremony (although a beautiful inside venue as well) but chances of rain were not good and the radar was showing a huge green patch coming our way. It was a tough decision when we finally decided inside, becasue I had images of an outdoor ceremony in beautiful, 60 degree, low humidity weather. But alas, that was not meant to be.

The weather held for pictures and I saw Brian for the first time on this bridge with the city in the background. He was standing there and I walked up unable to contain my excitement and my smiles. I tapped him on the shoulder, he turned and it was a moment to forever remember. A few tears, many hugs, many was I lucky enough to marry this handsome man? Dallas looked equally as handsome in his own 3 piece gray suit, I mean seriously people, my heart about stopped when I saw him. He's already breaking the hearts of women around the world with all his cuteness. Many pictures were taken and in a stroke of luck, an ice cream truck came by as we were finishing up and we got to get some pictures with the truck and the ice cream. It was

We made our way back to the hotel for a few minutes before boarding a trolley to head back over to the ceremony. My dad and I had our own trolley and it was a special moment as we chatted about life and about love and saying everything that should be said before walking down the aisle. My dad has been there with me through it all, always steady like a rock and it was a special moment for the two of us.
By this time the rain had started and I felt better about my decision to have things indoors.

The ceremony was perfect. Seeing all my family and friends as I walked down the aisle towards Brian, seeing Dallas ride his way down in a wagon, Jake as the ring bearer, hugging our parents, a great sermon by friend and officiant Gary,
honoring America with the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and a flag folding ceremony with the help from fellow veterans Dan and Jen, our own personal vows, some thunder from the storm outside,  and finally becoming Brian's wife as we were announced for the first time. A ceremony full of laughs and some tears and a love that could be felt from everyone in the room. A permanent smile as it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Marrying my best friend and entering into a family that had welcomed me into theirs from day one. Have I mentioned yet that I'm a lucky girl?

The ceremony turned into a reception and a party that I will never forget. Dancing the night away
with my new husband, with family and friends and so much love. Hearing the MSU fight song, our song, Hold On by Wilson Philips and the memorable God Bless the USA, in a tribute to America that was one of my wedding highlights. The Hoffman family even got Brian down on the floor for a Gator dance and initiation into our family.
And becasue a night of dancing just wasn't enough, 40 of us boarded a trolley from 12-2am to continue the party around Chicago. It's a night you just don't want to end.
When we got back to the hotel a little after 2am we went to bed so happy, so exhausted and just so very thankful. Memories made that will last a lifetime.

The next day was spent with family and a tasty brunch and then writing instructions for our moms who were watching the house, the dog and
Dallas while we are gone for 11 whole days on our honeymoon.

Then on Monday, we packed up our things, said a tough goodbye to Dallas and Jake and headed off to the airport in our post wedding, newly married bliss.

A honeymoon recap will be for another blog along with a race recap of a race I just did in Yokohama, Japan. Mixing pleasure with a little business as we spend part of our honeymoon with Team USA. It only seems fitting.

So there you go, a newly married Mrs. Melissa Stockwell Tolsma. To answer your question on if I'm changing my name (I get it a lot), I think I
eventually will. At least on the personal side. But while I may be a Tolsma now, don't worry dad, I'll always be your little girl.

Coming next is a honeymoon/race recap blog. Until then, love to you all, we're off to Hawaii!