Sunday, August 31, 2008

Almost off to China,

Today I got to go off post and I learned some things about the people here on Japan. First, they don't take your money (or CC) with their hand. They have this little silver tray that they put it on. Even when we went through the Starbucks drive through (yes, they have them here) they give you a silver platter thing and bow to you as you put your CC on it. I found that quite strange. They also have a bunch of strange superstitions some might call them. Many of them which are really cool. Everywhere you go they have these two dogs called shi- shi dogs. One has it's mouth open, the other closed. When you pass by the closed on it takes all the good and bad omens away from you. Then when you walk by the open mouthed one, it goves you back your good omens. These dogs are EVERYWHERE and any souvenier shop has these dogs on any item you can imagine. They also have these things that you can hang by your door and you touch it every time you leave to bring you luck, or maybe good omens...I'm not sure, but something good either way. ANother thing, they all seem to be avid scuba divers and when by the ocean (which is everywhere) they go to the seawall and actually jump over the wall into the ocean to dive. ANother thing I have yet to see but can only imagin how hilarious it is, is when kids cross the street they are taught to raise both arms over their head and run acrosss the street. I guess it makes them look bigger?? I haven't seen it but the way my sponsor descibes it, it's got to be hilarious. I'm keeping my eyes peeled until we leave.

We got to go off post today and I went with my sponsor around the island a little bit. We drove to this awesome beach area and walked around a bit. Then we went up to this lighthouse surround by these rocks and it was gorgeous. We could barely see the outline of some of the other islands and on a clear day it's got to be spectacular. Then we went down to this blocked off street area that had all these Japanese stores and restaurants. I got some shi- shi dogs (of course) and we ate at this steak place. I got this hamburger steak that was so so tasty. My sponsor is awesome and she spent the day taking me to all these palces. It was great.

Tonight we had skit night and we all did these skits. Most were pretty funny. Then we got the schedule for the next few days. We have to pack our bags tomorrow. Weird. I got some butterflies in my stomach when they were taling about going to Beijing on Tues. In 48 hours I will be in my room in the Olympic Village. ANd I may have even swam in the water cube by then. Wow is all I have to say.

It's bedtime for me yet again. Here are some pics of my trip around the island. Especially of the shi shi dogs and my sponsor and I with a huge one of them. There is also one of the toilets that were in a shop. Thankfully there was a 'normal' one for handicapped used that I gladly used...
Good night for now.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A good day

Today I swam in the South China Sea. We got the chance to go to the beach and most of us gladly went along. It was beautiful and the weather was perfect. I'm not a huge fan of the ocean so I didn't get in it too much but I sat by the water for quite a while and took it all in. The sunset was beautiful. There was a military type beach BBQ for dinner and they they brought all 4 of us vets along with the swim team. I met some nice people and had a good time. It was great day.

The past few days have been pretty good ones. Yesterday we got to go in a KC135 simulator and take- off and land and fly around a bit. That was real neat. They also had a static display of an F-15. We weren't allowed to go in it but we got to get close and take pictures which was good enough for me.

Tomorrow we get to go off post for a few hours. I think I am going to go with my sponsor and do some shopping and hopefully get some sushi or something. We got to see a little more of the island today when we were driving to the beach but I'm looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow.

We leave for Beijing on Tues. Only 2 more full days here. It has gone by so fast. Swimming is going as planned. We are tapering so doing less yardage and less intensity sets and we are only in for 1.5 hours or so. SInce we are doing less we all have a bit more energy but it is important that we do what we can to rest. It's all part of the taper...the part I struggle with is trying to eat less. Since we aren't swimming as much, we aren't supposed to eat as much but I Really like food and it's so good here. The cookies at lunch are especially tempting.

Opening ceremonies are a week from today. I think I've decided that I am going to go. I think I would be really disappointed if I didn't. I am going to try and use one of my teammates wheelchairs so I can sit down instead of be on my feet the whole time. As much as I would love to walk into the stadium it's a good compromise to staying off my feet. I just can't resist the feeling I know I'm going to get when I walk in the stadium for the first time wearing the USA uniform. I get chills even thinking about it and can't pass it up. It will be fantastic.

Here are some pictures from the pool, the F-15 and the beach.

It's bedtime for me now. I'll probably write once more before we leave for Beijing. Good night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I can't believe it is Thursday already. Our whole team has been together now for over a week now which seems hard to believe. I know we still have the biggest events to come and a few more weeks but it is going to go by fast. I'm trying to soak it all in...

We are pretty much in a routine here in Okinawa. A typical day is like this:
6:30- wake up
7:30- load the bus for the pool
8-10- swim
11- talk to Dick..:)
12-3- lunch and hang out, relax, watch a movie, etc...
3:30- load the bus for the pool
4-6- swim
7-10- dinner, see our sponsor, hang out
10ish- bedtime

I have seen my sponsor a few times and I really like her. We are the same age and have a lot on common. I went to dinner with her 2 nights ago to this Brazilian Steakhouse place where they cook the food in front of you. It's called Teppanyaki. I had some Kobe beef and it was tasty. Last night I met with my sponsor again and had a really cool experience. She is a flight nurse and last night she was helping load a mission that was flying out to Hawaii. I got to go and see them load the plane and get into the cockpit and such. It was a KC135 aircraft and is usually used for re- fueling missions. It was huge. The pictures posted here are of me in the cockpit and one of me in the engine. I asked 5 times to make sure the plane would not be turned on while I was sitting there... It was real neat just seeing how they load for a mission like that and seeing the airfield. It renewed my desire to learn how to fly which I promised myself I will do someday.

Between the track and field team and the swimming team here at Kadena there are 4 wounded vets, 2 of us from Iraq. I am the only one on the swimming team. Yesterday the 5 of us went and had a question and answer session for a few hundered new air force personnel. That was pretty neat too.

I also posted a picture of the pool we train at every day. I am getting more used to the humidity and such, it doesn't seem so bad anymore and the pool is real nice. It is almost pleasant at night. They have these huge fruit bats here that come out at night. They are almost double the size as a bird would be.

I am really enjoying myself here so far. Everyone is so nice and so helpful. I really can't think of anything else I would need. I'll post more pics and write more later.

And if you like, check out these link:

Monday, August 25, 2008


Well, I'm here. Here in Okinawa Japan at Kadena Air Force base. We left on Sat morning and had quite the long flight over here. We flew for 5 hours, stopped to re- fuel in Anchorage, Alaska and then flew the 8.5 hours to Okinawa. The flight wasn't long but wasn't too bad. Since it was a chartered flight there were 300 seats for only 120 of us. I got two seats to myself so I got to stretch out a bit which was nice. As we flew into Okinawa the sun was setting and seeing all the islands with the sun was gorgeous. It was like something you would see in a magazine or on a postcard. It was awesome. As soon as we landed and the doors were opened I could feel the humididty and I think I was sweating before I got off the plane.

From the moment we got off the plane we felt at home with the help of all the soldiers and airmen here. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. We were driven to the Shogun inn where our bags were brought to our room. We each have our own apartment style room with a bedroom, living area, kitchen and bathroom. Then we got assigned to a sponsor who greeted us once we got off the bus, showed us to our room, had some snacks for us and gave us their number to call if we need anything. Mine is an Air Force nurse and I think we are going to go to dinner tomorrow night. Last night after we checked into our rooms we had a dinner at the Officers Club which is right across the street. We were all exhausted and ready for bed long before that but I think I ended up in bed around 10:30ish.

This morning came early as we had to be at dinner at 6:45am. Breakfast and lunch is going to be at the Officers Club every day and dinner is on our own. After breakfast we loaded the bus to go to the pool for the first time. It's about a 15 min drive to the pool on Fosters Marine base. We have to go off the base to get to the pool so we got to see a little of life outside the post. The pool is nice, it's a 50 meter outdoor pool so suntan lotion is a neccessity for sure. SInce it's outside the water gets pretty hot so they have these sprinkler things that shoot cold water to cool down the pool. We swim from 8-10am and the load up to come back for lunch. Then we were back there from 4-6. I think today will be a pretty typical day. ALl the folks here at Kadena are really doing all they can to make us feel at home. Our rooms, the food, the service all really can't be beat.

Being here has really made me miss the Army. From getting off the plane to being back on a post and the lifestyle in general. I couldn't be happier that Dick is going to be back in the Army after medical school. I see the men and women in uniform and a part of me wishes I was still one of them.

I spent a while trying to figure out how to call out from my room and talk to Dick. I finally figured it out so we got to talk for a while. I think we figured out the times so we can talk everyday at about the same time. I miss him. I also have internet in my room but the signal is pretty weak so it's on and off but it works for me.

I have been up all day and can't wait to get to bed tonight. That's where I'm headed now. I'll write more when I can.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One more...

OK, I couldn't resist one last post to put some pictures up. We had our team picture today and these are some of my teammates and I. The jackets that we are wearing are our team jackets and these are the ones we'll be traveling in.

We did just hear some exciting news. There is a rumor that NBC may be broadcasting 3 hours of Paralympic coverage a day including highlights. If this is the case, there will be many emails being sent out and hoepfully word will get to you all as to when that would be shown. This is a huge step for the Paralympic movement and would be awesome. SO, stay tuned...

I am all packed and ready to go. Tomorrow will be an early morning. I'll be up at about 4:30am to get in a quick swim from 5-6 before eating some breakfast and getting on a bus for the airport. I think our flight leaves around 9.

If I am able I will try and post some other pics throughout the time I am away. There are really strict blogging guidelines and I can't post and pics that show a sporting event taking place or opening ceremonies. And when I write, I can only talk of myself and not my teammates. So I'll have to be careful with that.

This is definitely it for now as I have to pack my computer up in a few hours. Thanks for all your support. I am so lucky to have the family and friends that I have.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


Well, this is it. The time has come and as we get ourselves all geared up to leave on Sat there is such a mixture of emotions. The rest of our team flew in yesterday and we processed and got the coolest USA gear EVER. We went from station to station getting our opening and closing ceremony Ralph Lauren uniforms, our podium wear, various workout tops and bottoms, 4 pairs of shoes, sweat pants, rings, luggage, and it kept coming and coming. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. As I came back to my room and laid it all out on my bed I guess you could say it all started to sink in a bit. Then we went to the pool and got all of our Speedo swimsuits and parkas and even more clothes. I’m pretty sure at this point I could be set for a long while wearing only the new clothes that we got. It’s pretty cool.

At the pool yesterday we had to try on our new suits to get them altered as they have to take off the left leg of my suit and sew it up. We were lucky enough to each get the new Speedo suit called the LZR. If you watched any of the swimming these are what most of the swimmers were wearing. It took me a solid 25 min. to get into it and at one point I had 2 people helping me. It was so difficult to get on and once it was on, I can’t say it was easy to breathe…but if it makes me go faster I’ll take the extra time to get it on right. It was pretty funny as I was all red faced and sweaty by the time I got it on. I think that could have been my workout for the day.

Today we had a bunch of meetings all about Beijing and media and other topics. There were a number of speakers that spoke to the fact about how honored we should all be to be representing the USA. It started to sink in a little more at this point. I think all along it’s going to sink in more and more and then once we are in Beijing it’s just going to hit me. I still don’t think I’ve grasped the magnitude of what my teammates and I are about to go do. When I think about it it seems as though I’m thinking of someone else. Then I have to pinch myself and realize that I too, am part of Team USA. How cool is that.

So we leave on Sat for Okinawa, Japan and the Kadena Air Force base. We will be there for about 10 days and on Sep. 2nd we will fly into Beijing. Opening ceremonies are Sep. 6th and my first day of competition is the 7th. Since my first day of competition is the first day I am really torn on whether to go to opening ceremonies or not. I feel like I can’t go to the Paralympics and not go to the opening ceremonies. I can only imagine that walking into the stadium as one USA team wearing the red, white and blue has got to be an amazing, pride filled, unforgettable experience. I have been told by many that it is a highlight not to be missed. On the other hand, I don’t want to jeopardize my race the next day. It will be a big decision for me and I’ll have to wait and see what I feel at the moment.

I can't believe it's here already. The time is NOW!

Monday, August 18, 2008

5 days!!!!

We are REALLY coming down to the wire now. Today is Mon, on Wed the rest of our team comes in and we start processing and then we leave on Sat. And then we are on our way to what is bound to be a fantastic month.

I was in Chicago this weekend and had a great time as usual. Watching Michael Phelps win his gold medals was nothing short of incredible. The greatest Olympian ever...imagine having that title...

It was extra hard to say goodbye since I really won't be seeing Dick again for another month. I will see him in Beijing but how much I will see of him, whether just waving from the stands or perhaps a lunch is yet to be seen. All I know is that it will be small amounts of time we will get to spend together, if any. It made it better knowing that the next time I would be in Chicago would be for good. As much as I have enjoyed the ride here and am looking so so forward to the next month, I am ready to get back to Chicago and see Dick everyday and start a somewhat normal life.

I have decided not to start back up with my work at Scheck and Siress until Jan. There are so many things that are already on the calendar once i get back. Between weddings, visiting long overdue family and friends, speaking engagements, triathlons, marathons, plus some much needed relaxing, it will be a welcomed 3 month break. Plus Dick and I just bought tickets to spend the New Year in Rome with some friends to start the year on a good note.

In practice we have begun a bit of a taper. Our practices are a little shorter and the intensity is down a little. I say a little, because tonight's practice was quite the difficult one. A lot of sprinting with little rest made it challenging but good.

I have been receiving quite a bit of good luck mail and I appreciate all of it. Thanks to all who have sent it along. Especially the one I got today, it made me smile..A LOT. thanks snoop:)

I had dinner with the Stockwell family tonight for the last time until I get back. Dick's parents, grandma, cousins and aunts and uncles have been so supportive since I have been out here. I have been lucky enough to see most of them quite a few times and always enjoy my time with them. Thanks Stockwell family!

We just finished watching the movie Miracle and it's time for bed. I'm going to go to bed dreaming of the impossible, as that seems to be the theme with the Olympics and the movie we just watched...

I'll write again after we start in- processing and get all our cool U.S.A. gear on Wed.

Good night!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

10 days!!!!!

The countdown is at 10 days...10 days until we leave. The rest of our team comes in a week and we begin our busy days of in- processing where we get all the Team USA suits and uniforms and meetings on various things. I have begun to pack my things for the big trip. I've been back and forth to the store a few times and have a good start. I can't wait to get all of our Team USA stuff. For those watching the Olympics (which should be ALL of you) we will be getting similar items as to what you see on TV.

Now for some chat about the Olympics. I have been more inspired, more motivated and so in awe of everything I have seen thus far. From the incredible Michael Phelps among all the other awesome swims, the gymnastics teams taking bronze and silver, beach volleyball, the diving...I think this may be the best Olympic year yet. I am particularly fond of the gymnastics and the swimming (obviously). The swimming is so good to see before we leave as we take note of what we see help someone win (or lose) and can implement it for ourselves in practice. You see what people say is impossible become possible and reality. You see the underdogs touch out their competition, the favorites not even landing a spot on the medal podium...the greatest lesson that anything can happen is so apparent here. Amazing things happen in the Olympics and I can't wait to see what awaits for me.

I have been asked a few times about the prelim/finals process of the Paralympics and I will attempt to explain it here. It is similar to the Olympics except there are no semi- finals. Every event that I swim (which is 3) will start the morning off with a prelim swim. I don't know the exact number of people that will compete in the morning, but it could be into the 20's. The top 8 times from the morning make it into finals in the evening and that is where your morning times place you in a lane assignment. Typically, the fastest morning swim will be in lane 4, then lanes 3 and 5 and so on. As far as medals go, once you make it to finals, other than your lane assignment, your time doesn't count so it's all about how you compete in the evening.
So you know where I stand, my best world ranking right now is the 400 free and I am 8th. In the 100 fly I am 16th and in the 100 free I am 20 something. To make it back to finals I will have to post either my fastest swims or a few seconds faster than my fastest. Making it back to finals would be a huge acheivement for me and I am confident I will drop enough time to make it back to finals. That is goal #1. After that comes the race for the medal and as we've witnessed in these Olympics, anything can happen.

IF you have any other questions about how things work leave me a note and I will make sure to answer them.

I hope, like myself, you are all watching the Olympics and are becoming as inspired as I have been. It seems I am dreaming when I see the water cube and imagining myself swimming there in a little over three weeks. It will be fantastic.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Awe

As I sit here and watch the Olympics I am in awe of what I see. These athletes, so many having trained all their lives for this moment, are so inspiring that I want to go to Beijing now. Watching Michael Phelps win his first gold medal last night almost put me in tears. Here you have a guy that may possibly one of the best athletes of all time and he still gets emotional when winning his first medal in Beijing and wishes he could find his mom in the crowd. He is such an incredible athlete, stretching the limits more than anyone ever has. I am pulling for his 8 gold medal streak...

I woke up this morning and was so excited about everything, watching the Olympics, going to the Paralympics all I could do was sit on my bed and smile. I just didn't know what to do with myself. I finally decided to search the NBC Olympic site for a while, reading all the articles I could find. After running a few errands I am back here in my room anxious to watch them tonight. 36 more minutes...

The opening ceremonies was incredible, I can only imagine the feelings of pride I am going to have when I walk into that stadium. I hope that our opening ceremonies are similar to the Olympic ones. To see all that in person would be amazing.

After watching all this coverage I am beyond ready to start practice this week. I just want to get in the pool and swim. I know our whole team will be even more motivated and excited than ever. Tje Olympic spirit is in the air!

33 min now. I'm going to go sit in front of the TV just in case they start early....I don't want to miss a thing.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Olympic Spirit

I am in quite the Olympic Spirit this week as everyone should be since they start TOMORROW! There are these Olympic brochures lying around the OTC and I read one last night before I went to bed and was so excited I couldn't get to sleep. I can't believe that I am actually going to the Paralympics.

This week's practices have all been going well, especially today's. I was so happy about my times in practice both this morning and tonight that it stretches the imagination to imagine how fast I can and will go in Beijing. I have to admit that I am feeling a bit of 'medal pressure'. People keep telling me how awesome it will be when I medal and I think, well, what if I don't? It seems to be a common theme for people who wish me luck to mention a medal in there as well. I know a lot of times they don't know what else to say but it definitely registers in my mind every time. This is only my 7th post on here and I've think I've mentioned a few times already so it is obviously something that is on my mind a little. I try to take it in stride and take a few breaths and let the nervousness pass over me. I'm going to do my best, no doubt about that. And if a medal is meant to be, so it is meant to be. Only time will tell that one.

I had an interview with a Japanese news crew today. They are so interested in the story that they are planning on flying down to SC to interview my parents as well. Apparently, they are really going for the family angle which is fantastic since the support I've had from my parents has helped get me to this point.

I already packed my bags to go home next weekend. I guess you could say I'm a little excited to go home, even though it's another quick trip. As I did before, I am stuffing 2 bags to 50 pounds to bring back. Southwest still allows the 2 bags at no charge. I've started packing up my room so I at least have a start on it when I get back. It's weird to be thinking of being done and back here but it will come up quick as everything always seems to do.

Hopefully you'll all be as glued to the TV this weekend as I will be. After all, the Olympics are only every 4 years!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Take Pride

My weekend was absolutely fantastic. It was our first time back in Chicago in over 2 months and we walked into an extremely hot house smelling of mustiness. After many hours it cooled off and we were able to clean it up, unpack and organize some things. It was so nice to be back in our house with all of our stuff and be together for a weekend. I have to admit that it is hard to come back to the OTC and my dorm room after being back there. It makes me realize how much I have to come back to after Beijing. First and foremost, Dick, but just the comforts of home and getting back into work and being able to hang out with our Chicago is something I am looking forward to.

Opening ceremonies are a month from the day after tomorrow. I think it set in a little bit how close it was when I was saying goodbye to people and they were wishing me luck since I won't see them again till after the games. It is sooooo close I can't believe it. I am going to be ready. With a good taper I feel I could be ready now. I am just so excited and honored to be there in the first place I can't wait to see what will come of it all. It's bound to be something good.

You should all go to the website and check out the t-shirt labeled 'Stronger' Take Pride is an organization that makes shirts based on stories of soldier's coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They have many shirts that tell some awesome stories through the artwork on the shirts. This last shirt is my own, based on my story and has been in the works for a few weeks. I love the outcome and I, of course, think you should all buy one...:) 20% of the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project which is an organization I am a big part of. I serve on the board if directors and they have helped me significantly in pursuit of my swimming goals. Check it out and let me know what you think, hopefully you like the t-shirt as much as I do.

A funny story from today. I was at the post office, wearing shorts and this older lady came up to me started rubbing my back and asked me how someone as young as me had lost their leg. I was in a bit of a hurry so I used the quick version story...' In Army, In Iraq, roadside bomb, lost leg' She was obviously a bit surprised and moved in for a hug and then kissed my neck. I have to say that the situation was quite awkward and lesson learned: don't go around kissing strangers necks...

I am l0oking forward to the week and hoping it will be a good one. Hope you all have a good one too.