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!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

CAMTRI Paratriathlon Championships; a race recap.

Another plane, another blog.
As I head home from Monterrey and the race yesterday I couldn't be happier. A 2nd place finish and happy tears as I crossed that finish line yesterday. Happy tears because I had given it my all, happy tears because I was back out on the race course and happy tears because I had raced a good race and was on my way back home to marry Brian and to see Dallas. It was a good day indeed.
The race venue was beautiful. Our hotel was as close to the venue as it could get and it was in this park that was surrounded by mountains, clean and a flat, fast race course that ran through it.
Most of Team USA got there on Wed and I can't go any further before saying how much I love my teammates. Teammates that I've raced with since 2009 and many new, fresh and fast racers that make up our awesome group. It's always a fun time when we are together and this race was no exception. We had 10 Dare2tri elite team members at this race so a great showing of our #oneinspiresmany group!
We got to preview the course on Thursday and we all knew it would be a fast one. The swim was in this lazy river looking thing that had a few curves but was chlorinated and as close to a pool swim as you could get. The bike was 6 laps around the park in a windy 'S' pattern and completely flat and the run a similar path along the swim course. The female PT2's had seven in our class this race, which is a decent amount. There were 4 Americans; one included a newcomer and a teammate of ours that could add a new dynamic to our class as she is competitive and a great athlete. It was her (Alyssa), Hailey, Sarah R and myself. Then there were 2 athletes from South America and Kim from Canada who we have raced with many times. Remember that this race was only for Canada, US and South American athletes. As I went to bed on Thursday night I had 2 main goals. One was to podium and the other was to Run happy, something I don’t often do. And with the quad issues I had been having I knew that could be more of a challenge than usual. I got to room with my good friend Patty and we gave each other some good words of encouragement the night before the race and promised each other that we would just do our best and remember that when things got tough, that we deserved to be there.

The PT2’s went off at 9am. I had a decent swim and I always work to get out of the water as quick as possible to have the greatest possible lead on the field. The swim felt good, I got out, struggled a bit with my wetsuit but made my way to T1 and was out on the bike pretty quickly. Now, in the past I have had a mental block on the bike where I sit there and pedal, just waiting for someone in my class to pass because in my mind, it’s only a matter of time. I tell myself to go, go, go but usually it’s not until someone passes that a fire is lit and I start going as hard as I can. I talked about this to Coach Chris before the race and she said that every minute I needed to check in with myself to make sure I was giving it my all. So that I did. And I had the best bike ever. I felt so strong and refused to let myself worry about any pain in my leg and how it would affect my run. I went hard from the beginning and wouldn’t let myself give in. At the end of the 4th lap Hailey caught up and I told myself to just keep her in my sight and to keep and was thrilled when I got to T2 just behind Hailey and was in second place. Hailey beat me out of transition and was off. I know she is a fast runner and she was out of sight pretty quick. I wasn’t sure who was in 3rd but my new goal was to not let them catch me. I ran my race, my quad felt remarkably well and I even managed to blurt out a ‘Run Happy’ to Patty when I saw her. My pace was the best it’s been all year and as I got to the finish chute I was overwhelmed with happiness. A second place finish, my first race sub 1:30 (although the course was a little short) and I had truly met my goals and given it my all. Not to mention that this was the last triathlon before I would become a Mrs.

There were happy tears as I hugged Coach Stacee and I was thrilled. Alyssa came in not to far after me and to make the day even sweeter, it was a USA sweep. As we stood on that podium hearing the national anthem with 3 American flags raised high, I stood there with this smile, just thinking about how far I had come and was just really proud of myself. A year ago when I found out I was pregnant, my goal was to have Dallas and to be back on the race course. And there I was a new mom, putting in the training hours to be back out there, on the podium, wearing the USA uniform and just so very happy.

My next race is in 2 short weeks in Yokohama as part of our honeymoon. I earned a good amount of points yesterday at the race and if I do well enough in Japan I could be set up pretty well and move my way many places up in the world rankings. The goal for now is to have enough points to qualify for a race in Rio on Aug 1 that is a test event for the Paralympics next year. That will be a key race that could possibly determine if I make it to the Paralympics next year.
And then in 6 days, I get to wear my wedding 
dress and marry my best friend. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my wedding week.

 But now, I’m on the plane back to Chicago where my whole family will be meeting me at the airport and I can’t wait to squeeze them all. Being away certainly isn’t easy and I can’t wait to hug Brian and hold Dallas’ little head.

And the next time I write, I will be Mrs. Brian Tolsma and a married woman!

Until then,