Monday, November 23, 2009

Running, a dog, and a rocking documentary.

Well, I guess you could say I'm a little past overdue. Seems to be the trend.

Where to bout mid- October and the Bucktown 5K. This was a pretty big day for a number of amputees that are patients with me at Scheck and Siress. My boss Dave started this group a few years back called the Blade Runners. Basically, it's a bunch of his patients that get together once a month to run together around a track. We met throughout the summer with the goal of doing a 5K together and the Bucktown 5K was it. We had about 20 total participants with 7 amputees and it was awesome. We had a whole tent, t-shirts, banners and definately raised some amputee awareness that just becasue you're missing a leg doesn't mean you can't get out and run. For a few people it was their very first 5K ever and the goal was to make it to the finish line. I'm happy to report that everybody who crossed the starting line, made it to the finish and it was quite the accomplishment for all of us. My goal was under 30 min but I made it through at 32:00. It was still an improvement so I was happy but still shooting for the 30 min mark.

I've been running a significant amount lately and really really enjoy it. So much that at the annual half- ironman Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon in Oct I swam the 1.2 miles, did a little on the stationary bike and then set off for a 13 mile run. It was my longest attempted run by 5 miles and I'm happy to say I crossed the finish line at all. After running in Chicago I wasn't too prepared for those San Diego hills and it was a bit rough. I ended up having to walk the last bit but I made it to the finish line and can really only improve from there. The event as usual, was a hit. It ranks up there with my favorite weekend of the year and this year there were 190 Challenged athletes competing in the event. Quite inspirational.

To continue with the running bit, I finally ran a 5K fast enough to put me under the 30 min mark, a goal I've had for the past few months. A solid 29:50 at the Veterun 5K to celebrate Veterans Day. It was tough, real tough near the end, but that put me at an 8 minute 5K improvement since April and I am pretty pumped about it. I'll go for the 29 min mark next..

Enough about the running... In other exciting news, the documentary Warrior Champions ( premiered in Austin, TX and then went onto the world theatrical premier in Little Rock. The film is extremely well done and I am so honored to be a part of it. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of seeing myself on the big screen. An admitted self- critic I think I look a bit dorky but hopefully others don't see it that way. The film is planning on being shown in 10 to 15 different cities around the nation but the places and dates are to be determined. There is always a DVD option but I can keep you all posted on the cities it's in. I urge you all to see it. It's a phenomenal film that will leave you inspired. I really am honored to be a part of it.

Now for the best news ever. WE GOT A DOG. Jake, a black lab/ golden retriever mix who has quickly become part of our family. I got Jake through an organization called VetDogs based out of NY. They give service/ companion dogs to Wounded veterans and I was lucky to be paired with Jake. I went to NY for a 4 day class and then a trainer came here to Chicago and worked with Jake and I here. Jake goes everywhere I do, work, the pool, the gym, on planes (yes, he sits at my feet) and anywhere else. He can fetch me my crutches if need be and is the best companion ever. Minus my husband of course..:) Speaking of, it was love at first sight for he and Dick. I can't believe we waited so long to get a dog. They are always happy to see you, and can put a smile on anyone's face. He is just awesome. Pure awesomeness.

I've been working quite a bit when I'm here in town. I am really enjoying it and have some wonderful patients. I am finally feeling like I know how to do a few things on my own and am loving it. Seeing people get back on their feet and get their lives back is incredibly rewarding. Not to mention I have the greatest employer and boss EVER.

Other than the above, I've done a few speaking engagements, a few other smaller races and am looking forward to being home for a little bit.
Can't wait for our fried turkey this Thursday. If you've never try it, try it and you'll never go back. It's delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Triathlons and lobsters

I'm way overdue for an update. I say that every time so I guess it's no surprise but thanks HALEY for the friendly reminder.

If you read my last blog, you read that I was gearing up for the Chicago triathlon. That is almost a month ago now so instead of remembering back to the race, I am going to copy and paste my blog from another website I blog on. This other blog is that of Carmichael Training Systems and as one of their athletes, I write something after my races. So below is my race update from a few days after the race...

For those that didn't read my last post, let me start by saying this was my first Olympic distance tri (1 mile swim, 26m bike, 6.2 mile run). I went into it wanting to just finish and would have been thrilled with a 4 hour time. I am in what's called the PC (Physically Challenged) division and in Chicago there were about 20 others in my category. I compete in the severe leg impairment division against other above the knee amputees. Of those, it was myself and two others. Doesn't seem like many but these were a big 'two others'. One of my competitors was Sarah Reinertsen who was the first Above knee amputee to complete the Hawaii Ironman. She was conquering her Ironman feat as I was at Walter Reed learning to walk again and she became my role-model. I looked to her for complete inspiration in imagining all the things I someday hoped to do. I had met her a few other times and she is such a genuinely nice person which made me look up to her even more. She went on to compete on the Amazing Race and is a key spokesperson of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Needless to say, as a very seasoned triathlete, I was going to to my best to keep up with her.

I got to transition around 4:30am for a 7:30am start. As the PC division we are spoiled and get to start right after the elite level athletes. A smaller wave, less people in the lake... it really is nice. At 7:32 we were off. The water temp was warmer than the air temp and it felt awesome. I had a great swim and jumped out of the water in about 24 min, well ahead of most of the PC pack. I had help getting my wetsuit off and made the 1/4 run to transition getting there in about 28 min.Our bike rack was positioned close to the swim in and run out, but as far as possible from the bike out. This didn't bode well for us amputees because walking in our biking legs is never easy. So I switched to my biking gear, put my biking leg on and slowly made my way to the bike out. 6 min later, with a quick delay to find my lost chapstick, I was on the bike.

My goal for the bike was under 2 hours as I am not a fast biker. As we started there was this enormous headwind and for the first 10 miles I don't think I got above 10 mph which I was not happy about at all. Then we turned around and I shot back at over 20mph and absolutely loved it. We had to 2 two loops which meant that damned headwind again but I also got to see my competition. I could see that Sarah was behind me by a few miles and I really booked it on the way back to try and keep it that way. I got back to T2 in about 1:40 with a 15mph average and I was pumped. I looked at my watch and saw I had a full 1:40 to finish the 10K and was feeling good about it.

Again, the slow transition but I was finally out on the run. Before this race my longest run was 4 miles without the bike, so a 10K after the bike was a bit worrisome. I started to plug along at my snail like pace and told myself to just keep moving regardless of how slow I was going. The first 2 miles were OK and then I started to get a bit tired. I had made the rookie mistake of eating a total of 4 sport beans and 2 sips of gatorade up to that point and started to think how dumb I was. I did my best to stop at the water stops but I was a bit too late on that decision. I made it to the turn around and things were going downhill fast. My snail like pace became even slower (if that was possible), multiple times I had to walk but would get all dizzy so would start up with a jog like shuffle. The passing runners and crowds did their best to keep me motivated and I tried hard to make it work. I had seen Sarah at the turn around and she was about 1/2 mile behind me. With my pitiful attempt at running I kept expecting her to be the next one to pass me. But apparently, Sunday was my day and I made my way to the finish line 2 min ahead of her. It wasn't this glorious fist pump as I crossed the finish line as I was frantically trying to make my way to the side thinking I had to puke. I waited a good few minutes, drank some water and realized that not only did my final time of 3:44 exceed my what I thought to be a lofty 4 hr goal, but I had won my division! I couldn't believe it. Especially knowing how bad my run sucked. I was so unbelievably pumped. I kept imagining what I could do with the proper training and a better run.

We stayed around for awards as the ParaTrathlon sponsor, Accenture, graciously gave out these large silver platters to the winners. See the picture of myself with Sarah and Scout. You'll notice that I tower over them and I am a measly 5 '4'.

So, my first Olympic tri was a huge success. I still can't believe it. My next challenge is the Challenged Athletes Foundation half- ironman in San Diego in Oct. I'm doing the swim and the run. 13 miles of running will be the challenge there but I'm still on my winner's high so I'm up for anything.

So there you go. And a month after the race, I still can't believe it.

So lets see, since then, Ive gotten in many days of work which has been nice. It's always busy but I enjoy it especially when I get out of there in time for an evening workout and to make it home by 7:30 for dinner with Dick.

The half- ironman run is fast approaching and I have been running much more. I have done an hour or more twice now. That doesn't compare too well to the 3 hours it will take me for 13 hours but I know I'll finish. How long it takes me and how bad it will hurt is to be determined.

Dick finished his first 12 week rotation of his 3rd year and had a week off. We took advantage of it and went to Maine as we've both always wanted to go and it was a great opportunity. We ate lots and lots of lobster, saw the gorgeous leaves changing colors,went sailing, hiking and loved every minute of it. We stayed in B&B's in Acadia National Park, Portland and the White Mountains. I could definitely see us living there someday. Every town we drove through just seemed so nice. It was a great time.

We came back home in time to be here for the big 2016 announcement on Friday. I have been a part of the Chicago 2016 team for a few months and have gone to a few events to show my support for having the Olympics and Paralympics here. Leading up to yesterday, I was so convinced that we were a shoe- in. I mean, why wouldn't we get it right? I was even more excited because with all the talk leading up, there had been mention of both the Olympics and the Paralympics. The Paralympics was finally getting some recognition and I truly believed that having it in Chicago would have moved the Paralympic movement forward giving the Paralympic athletes the recognition they deserve. So along with the 10,000 other people at Daley Plaza yesterday, you can imagine the stunned faces and shock when we were out on the first round. I don't get it and at that moment nobody did. I still think we would be the best city for it but unfortunately it's not up to me. But as a good sport, congrats to Rio. Having it for the first time in the southern hemisphere is exciting. I guess.

Lastly, the documentary Warrior Champions is being premiered at the Austin film festival at the end of the month. I am so excited to see it. After the premier, it will be shown in a number of cities, Chicago, Colorado, DC to name a few. To learn more about it go to You can wait and see if it comes near you or you can order a DVD. I think after the premier and showing it may be shown on TV as well. I'll keep you posted.

That's all for now. Until next time, Peace Out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lots of mud and free- falling.

I really don't know where to start. The past 30 days have been filled with all sorts of adventures and I'll do my best to tell you about them.

First, it never felt so good to get home after Alaska. To see Dick, sleep in my own bed and not worry about riding in the rain. As I've said a number of times the trip was well worth it and rewarding, but I was ready to be home.

The following weekend my best friend Tiffany came into town for a fun filled weekend. We did the Muddy Buddy and the LaPorte sprint triathlon two days in a row. The Muddy Buddy is this 5 mile race that is done as partners and one 'buddy' runs while the other 'buddy' bikes through a mtn bike terrain. You leap frog through the race doing obstacles along the way. We managed as Tiffany would hold my running leg as I biked and she ran and then we would switch real quick if there was a hill I couldn't get up. No doubt we were quite the comedy show. It wasn't competitive so w just had fun doing it. At the end you crawl through this mud pit, more like a pool of mud and get absolutely covered in mud. See pictures...

The sprint tri was my first triathlon where I did swim, bike and run on my own. It wasn't easy but I did finish at my turtle like pace. Tiff, my boss Dave and another friend Sara all did it. Dave stayed with me through it all even though he could have lapped me by the time I was done. It was a 3.4 mile run and I finished it all without stopping so I was proud of myself.

The next adventure was the Chicago Air and Water show. I was selected to skydive with the Golden Knights into the show and represent the Wounded Warrior Project. I jumped at the chance and it may have been one of the coolest things I've ever done. I went tandem with a Golden Knight on my back. We jumped at 13,000 feet and had a 30 second free fall. I'm convinced it's called a free fall because you feel so free up there. The feeling of being above the clouds, jumping out of the plane with Lake Michigan below you and landing on the beach of Lake can't really say too much more other than it was the experience of a lifetime. I understand how people can get addicted to the rush of skydiving. It is incredible, I'd do it over and over again...

This weekend will mark another first for me. My first attempt at an Olympic Distance triathlon, the Chicago tri. A 1 mile swim, 26 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. I've been training for the past few weeks but my few weeks of laziness after Alaska won' help me on Sunday. The swim will be fine, the bike I'll finish at my slow pace, but it's the transition from bike to run and the run that I'm a bit nervous about. My furthest to date run is 4 miles. And even though my running has dramatically improved and I'm becoming real fond of it, 6.2 miles after that bike ride, won't be easy. I know I'll get to the finish line. My goal of 4 hours may be a stretch and realistically 4.5 may be a better estimate but I'll just see what I can do. There was a short news piece on last night and follow this link if you'd like to see it. CBS Chicago triathlon

I have been home much more this past month and I've been loving it. I did one quick trip to NJ to speak to the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore which was a good time. Since Ive been home more, I've been at work more, and even though there's never much down time, I really enjoy it. Out patients are awesome and it really is rewarding to work with them.

Dick is well on his way as a 3rd year med student doing hospital rotations. He has completed pediatrics and currently busy delivering babies on his OB/GYN rotation. I don't think he'll choose either of those as a specialty but good to get the exposure.

I'll let you know how this weekend goes. We're still 2 days out and I already couldn't sleep last night. I just want it to get here already.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taking Alaska down, one mile at a time.

Stage 8 and Sadlers Alaska Challenge: Done!!! Today was no joke. We went a total of 30 miles, and 4500 feet of climbing up Hatcher Pass. It may have been one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. The whole race, both physically and mentally, was a challenge but today even more so. For 8 miles it was an extremely steep incline, sometimes 16% grade and at times it was a struggle to keep the bike going forwards, and not start rolling backwards.

Katz and I stayed together up until the start of the climb and then I got ahead by a little bit. I didn't think I was much of a climber before this race but come to find out I actually enjoy it. I think. We both managed to stay pretty positive throughout the race, instead of cursing the hills as we've done in previous days. We were on day #2 with no rain and the scenery was gorgeous. Especially as we kept going up and up, and oh, up some more the views got better and better. We ended at Independence Mine with a decent size crowd to cheer us on. As I passed over the finish line I pulled out my flag for a little wave and the reward of crossing that finish line was awesome. The view for one thing, but knowing that we had overcome the physical and mental challenges of all 250 miles, the rain, the bugs, the little sleep...we had done it and our race motto of 'Taking Alaska Down One mile at a time' was as apparent as ever. I finished in 3rd but after the race today it's so much more apparent that it's not about the place, but about the finish, and that we both did. There was a short awards ceremony after the finish where I got some flowers and a huge check like you see on TV. To be honest, I felt weird standing up there without Katz. She's the one that got me into this crazy insane adventure and I never would have done it without her. She's the one that helped me get up many a hills and the one who rode by me on those sucky, rainy days. We both won, we really did. I know I'll look back on this in a few years and be amazed at what we accomplished here. We rock. We just do.

We drove back to Anchorage and stopped at the first Starbucks we saw. We were deprived after 8 days without Starbucks. How we did it, I don't know. We have an awards banquet tonight and then our journey back home begins at 1:30am. Through Pheonix and then I'll be off to Chicago and Katz back to CO. We are more than ready to get home, bringing our sore muscles with us.

Right now we are back in the same hotel we started out in 8 days ago. Although the days went slow, and the races even slower, it's crazy to look back and have it be over. Just goes to show that life goes by too quick. Good thing I have these crazy adventures and good friends like Katz to share them with.

So, this is the end of my Alaskan adventure. Thanks for tuning in.

Peace Out Alaska!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

There is hope for Alaska yet.

There is hope for Alaska yet. We woke up to sun, blue skies, and a perfect riding day. We wondered if we were really still in Alaska.

Today was a tough ride with 56 miles of what I consider a lot of climbing. 3000 plus feet. From mile 1-45 I was feeling pretty good and then the sore muscles and tired arms started to set in. These long rides are not my favorite and I'm much happier when the rides end before mile 30. Today Katz and I stayed together for the entire race. With the sun out and the perfect riding weather we were having a good time often commenting on how luck we were to be alive and be in Alaska with the ability to ride our bike. It was one of those kind of days.

Other than cursing a few of the hills as they kept coming and coming, we were rocking the race. Around mile 48, the hills stopped being as frequent and there was more rolling hills through to the end. At some point during the race my odometer sensor flew off my bike but Katz said we were going around 40mph, my fastest ever. Since Katz and I had worked together so well, we made a deal that we were going to have a tie for the day. At mile 48 I started to feel a bit off and was struggling to keep up. Katz is able to get more momentum on the downhill so I often fall behind on the descents. I kept us as best I coud and Katz really helped me by pushing me to keep going as hard as I could. We came across the finish line at the same time but Katz held back a little bit so I could catch up to her. A real teammate. So the day's results are Katz and myself: tie for 3rd.
We've got some good laughs as many of the male riders don't like being beat by us girls. TYpically, the men start ahead of us and Katz and I do our best to catch up to them. Today we caught up and passed at least 5 of them. You always get this "ohh, heyy' as you pass on by. Sometimes its a leap frog as they get a little motivation as we cruise by and they pass us a few miles down the road. That's when Katz and I try our hardest to pass them for a 2nd time and stay ahead. It's great fun and us girls rule, obviously.

If you look on the website the results are incorrect. For some reason, the times of Katz and I are switched around on a number of stages. Going into our toughest and last day, tomorrow, I have a few minutes up on Katz. But with 30 miles and a 4500 foot climb up and over Hatcher pass anything can happen and it's really anybody's race at this point.

We are in Palmer, AK for the evening at the Peak Inn Motel. We checked into our room at the China Buffet next door. Turns out it's better than expected with a big room, fast internet and good cell phone reception but we were a little weary at first. We head to dinner at the Palmer Salvation Army soon. Every town we've been through has been so warm and receptive to us. We all come and invade their town for the night and we've got nothing but a great response. It's been fantastic.

Katz and I keep reminding ourselves that the goal is just to finish. This week has been tough, both physically and mentally, and finishing the race tomorrow will be huge for both of us. It's one of those things that we'll look back on and be amazed that we did it. I can't say either of us are eager to sign up for next year, once just may be enough.

As I said before, both of us will be ready to get home. After tomorrow's race, we have an awards dinner and then our flight leaves at 1:30am Alaska time. Back through Pheonix and finally home in CHicago Monday afternoon. Now that will be a good day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What is that big burning ball of gas up there?

Today was a long day. We had an early wake up of 5:45 to be back on the ferry by 7. A 3 hour ferry ride and a short drive landed us in Valdez and to the start of our road race for the day. Before yesterday, today's race was 55 miles up and over Thompson Pass with an elevation gain of 3000 feet. After yesterday's race and the trials that come along with the rain, cold and wind the race was shortened to only 25 miles. We still had to do the 3000 foot climb but that's where we ended. If we would have kept with the original plan we would have descended that same amount and with the rain and cold, it can cause some safety and health concerns, as 2 people got hypothermia yesterday during the race.

So, a shorter course it was. We started at 11am and were told we had 18 miles of a few hills but mostly flat before we got to the real climb. Katz and I started off together and for the first 18 miles we helped each other and switched off drafting every 2 miles. I appreciate drafting more then ever now. You get a few good minutes to rest a little, get some food, and take in the scenery. Today, even with the rain, the scenery was beautiful. We were in this winding canyon and there were waterfalls all around. It was gorgeous. A true Alaska moment.

The climbing started around mile 18 but the real serious climbing began at mile 20. By real climbing I mean a 9% incline for 5 miles. Yes, that is steep for those not versed in the incline %.
I was feeling pretty good so I got ahead of Katz and did my best to climb hard. Rain and wind still present, I felt pretty good throughout the whole climb as I watched the odometer creep up oh so slowly. I finally reached the finish in around 3 hours and did my best to get warm and into some dry clothes. There were some locals that came out to watch the race and one mom and her cute daughter had made an awesome sign that I got a picture with. I'll make sure to post it. I'm also posting a picture of the 9% incline but the picture really doesn't do it justice.

I finished a few minutes ahead of Katz and come to find out it was enough to bring me into 3rd place overall, about 8 minutes ahead of Katz. That's the beauty of a stage race, we can flip flop times every day and just see who comes out ahead at the end. But today was a tough one, and I give props to all that finished.

We have much much more climbing to do in the next 2 days so it's really anybody's race. Tomorrow is the longest day at 54 miles and it has a substantial amount of climbing. Then stage 8, the last day is around 30 miles with a 4000 foot climb in there over Hatcher pass. Something to look forward too (sense the sarcasm)

On a good note, the sun does actually shine in Alaska. Of course it waited until after the race to end and while we were driving to the hotel but the big burning ball of gas actually came out for once. There were even a few blue sky patches in there. It was a miracle. And even more of a miracle is that the forecast for tomorrow is cloudy, but no rain. Hallelujah. Cross your fingers it stays that way.

Onto stage 7 tomorrow. Already. The week is going by fast and as fun and challenging as it is I'll be more than ready to go back home once we're done. I'm missing my lovely husband at home.

Bedtime now.
Peace Out Glennellen!

P.S. The woman in the 2nd picture is Yasuka, our support vehicle driver. The 3rd is me finishing the race and the 4th the female racers lined up before we start. And last, is a picture of the only bear Katz and I hope to hug while we're here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Surprise!! It's still raining!!!

I think I'm going to start off my blog's by saying, see yesterday. For the weather at least. I'm getting sick of writing about how much rain and wind there is because it seems to be the same everyday and today is no exception.

The race started at 10am and we set off into a wet 38 mile road race. I learned yesterday that the town of Cordova is accessible by only boat or plane and in the actual town there are only 38 miles of road. Today, we rode those 38 miles. I started off and was feeling great, in fact, I felt great almost the whole race. There were some gradual climbs at the beginning that led into a long 15 plus mile flat stretch. I was ahead of Katz until the turn around which was close to mile 27. We worked together for the next 8 or so miles, drafting and giving each other a bit of a break. With 3 miles to go, I fell a bit behind and was working frantically to try and keep up with her. I never caught back up and finished about 20 seconds behind her. She did awesome. In fact, we both did. With an average of 14 mph for 38 miles in these rough conditions we are pretty proud of ourselves. I beat my time from two days ago by a good 30 minutes and the course was 2 miles longer. It was a good day. It was cold and wet at the finish so we hurried back for a shower and some lunch and we feel like a million bucks.. or maybe just a nap.

The town of Cordova is so small and much of the town came out to see the race which was awesome. All along the course we had people cheering for us. Near the end there were a group of guys with cowbells that rang them and ran alongside us for a few seconds. We felt like we were in the Tour de France, riding through the Alps. Only we were in wet and windy Alaska instead.

As the rain came down today I was thinking a lot of Jimi. He was looking down on me today and helped me finish strong. With all this rain I tried to keep thinking of his motto, it is what it is. As much as we may try and do rain dances all night, its not going to stop. I've decided that I don't so much mind the rain and being wet, it's more the cold, especially in the hands. ALl the wind and rain can make them go a bit numb. Nothing like riding and changing gears with hands you can't feel. It's lovely.

Now that we are all showered up, we are going to head into town for some shopping. We are staying at an old salmon cannery right on the water and sleeping in what used to be the quarters for the workers. it's pretty neat. Although better cell/ internet reception would help things a little...

Tomorrow is a busy day. We wake up, get on the ferry early and head to Valdez. At 1pm we start the longest day of riding, at 55 miles. But it's not just a flat 55 miles, as there is an extremely difficult pass we have to go up and over and there is actually a time limit in which we have to do it. When I came I had two goals, one not to come in last, and the other to finish every day on my own. So making the time cut off and not getting picked up by the slow rider van is a good goal.

For now, we get to relax. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weathering the storm.

Today was a much much better day. Not so much the weather, but the race. I woke up with a much better attitude than yesterday. Even though the rain was still coming down I’m beginning to just accept and deal with it as we can’t really do much about it. I learned late last night that my old college crew coach, Kate Brandon, was in Girdwood (where we stayed last night) for the summer. So when we got to the course start this morning I saw her smiling face and that started the day off great. Kate is all around awesome and she totally inspired me to get out there and do my best. Thanks to her my weekly motto is ‘Weathering the storm, Alaska style’ Thanks Kate for getting me off to a good start..:)

Today was an 11 mile time trial along a bike path in Girdwood. Since the path was so narrow we started out fastest to slowest to have minimal passing along the route so I started in 4th, 30 seconds behind Katz. I was feeling great and ended catching Katz around mile 2. We are learning pretty quickly that the time trial is my kind of race and not so much hers. Like hills, I have better luck at the shorter races where Katz is the opposite, and she rocks it on the long rides and climbs, where I struggle. (See yesterday’s blog) Being that this race was only 11 miles I knew I couldn’t make up too much time from yesterday but I was gonna give it a good shot. I passed mile 2 and continued on my way to the turn around at a decent pace. Right before the turn around there was this big hill to go down, just to turn around and go right back up it. Halfway up the hill Sherry, the other female racer, and I passed each other and she yells out, “I just saw a bear on the path, be careful” I’m not going to lie, that freaked me out a little. Until that point I was all about seeing a bear but I got a bit nervous to know that there was one lurking nearby. I think it actually made me go a bit faster to try and get off the course. Come to find out it was a baby bear which is even worse, as I’m sure the mom was just waiting to attack. The rain was coming down so hard making it extremely difficult to see so I doubt I would have seen it if it were right in front of me. I kept thinking I was going to run into it with a friendly bump on my part. What a story that would make, bumping a bear with my bike. Thankfully that didn’t happen. So with no bear sightings to report, I kept going strong and finished in about 55 minutes. I’m not sure how many minutes I finished ahead of Katz but after yesterday, I think I closed the overall time gap between us by a few good minutes.

We got to go back to the hotel to shower before leaving Girdwood which was awesome and we made some time for the gift shop as well.
From the hotel we headed for Whittier and got to go through the longest tunnel in North America. I have no clue how long it is.

So now we are sitting on a ferry crossing over to Cordova on the Prince William Sound. We were told we would see some sea life, but the excitement so far has been sea lions. It was thrilling.

We are in Cordova for two nights, which makes us happy. We don’t have the greatest cell/ internet/ anything service while we are there so there won’t be any pictures but hopefully a blog each night.Tomorrow is another road race, this one 38 miles. We were told it was flat but after looking at the course, it’s definitely not. I think I’ve learned to embrace the rain and after yesterday, I think I can handle the elements. Or at least work with them.

So until tomorrow, Peace Out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dear Rain, please go away. Love, Melissa

Today was a tough one.

The race started at 10:30 am in Hope, AK. It was a 37 mile road race that was 17 miles down and then back to the start. On the drive from Seward to the start in Hope it was pouring and we were crossing our fingers that it would end before the race started. No such luck.

We got on the bikes around 10:20 for a 10:30 start. At this time it was raining lightly and quite chilly. But due to a delay in course set up the race didn't start until 11 and we were sitting out in the chilly rain.
At 11am we finally set off and the 1st half of the race was a lot of downhill. Right before we started the rain got real heavy and by mile 2 we were all soaked a literally sitting in a puddle of water. Not to mention it was difficult to see the road. As usual, the kneelers took off pretty quick and Katz and I decided to attempt our first drafting experience. The benefit to drafting is that the person in front blocks the wind and pulls you along a bit while you stay close behind on their wheel and get a little bit of a break. We were switching off every few miles and it was awesome. Around mile 10 the rain even started to let up a bit and we were going good and making some good time. There were a few hills and Katz is a better climber than I am so it seemed like she was pulling me up the hills which I felt a little bad about. We decided that at the turn around we would go at it on our own as I didn't want to ride on her wheel and make her do all the work.
At the 17 mile mark we turned and started heading back. Around mile 19, on a hill, Katz got ahead. I was attempting to keep her in my sight in hopes I could catch her but that didn't work out so well. Things were OK until mile 22 or so and then IT started...the howling winds the rain downpour, the hills... and for much of it I was alone, seeing no riders ahead or behind me. I am the first to say that I'm not a fan of being alone, especially in Alaska on a back road. Not to mention that I love crowds as the cheers motivate me. Luckily the support vehicles came by every so often to make sure all was well. But from mile 23 to 36 I was not a happy camper. It was like I had a split personality, ranging from "This is great, I can do this" to "Melissa, what the f--- are you doing here, this sucks, I should quit" and then back to "Wow, Alaska...this is amazing"...and it went on and on all the while the tornado like winds and the rain kept coming. I think I even hoped for a bear attack at some point.. that must have been my low point.

I finally reached the end in 3:08, 13 minutes after Katz and I was spent. The rain was still coming and it was freezing and windy enough to blow Katz's wheelchair down a hill and into a ravine. Luckily she wasn't in it.
Katz rocked the race coming in in under 3 hours. I'll need to work hard if there's any chance of catching her. But my goal was not to come in last, and I think I can make that happen so I'm happy. After today, just finishing this thing will be a miracle.

We got into the car and changed as quick as we could and moved onto our hotel. The hotel is this awesome resort on the mountain side and the hot tub made it that much better. We went to dinner at the CHallenge Alaska ski lodge and the food was awesome. They did a raffle and the guy missing both legs won socks. It was awesome.

Today was one of the most challenging I've had in a long time. Physically and mentally as I'm feeling pretty sore. Already. And it's is only stage 3. I am really starting to wonder what I've gotten myself into..
I'm not too happy about being so pessimistic today as it typically takes a lot to get me that way. But it is what it is, and it's over. Thankfully. And tomorrow is a new day.

Speaking of tomorrow, although there is no chance of the rain ending, its bound to be better than today. It's only an 11 mile time trial, so it should be fine. After the race we get on a ferry and go to Cordova for the next 2 nights. The ferry is supposed to be awesome and the scenery even better. Hopefully there will be a little break in the rain so we can see some of it.

I have n pictures from today, I wasn't really in the mood, but I'll post some from yesterday.
I'm off to bed now. Tomorrow is a new day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 1.

Today was an awesome day. One of many firsts, beautiful scenery and just an overall great day.
We started off the day with breakfast served at 7am by the Salvation Army in a pkg lot surrounded by the Alaska mtns... can the day start much better than that?

We headed to the race start after bfast which was right underneath a glacier on the mountain side. Glaciers actually look blue if anyone was wondering... I was set to start my time trial at 9:10. This was my fist time trial and for those not in the cycling world here is how it works. Each person starts a minute apart and you go as fast as you can for the set distance, today was 14.5 miles. The goal is to beat the clock and it's even better if you catch the person in front of you. I started first for the women so I had no one to catch but that was OK. I was on my own until about mile 5 when the women kneelers passed me at a pretty speedy pace. Like I said before, they are a bit out of our league... some of the best handcyclist in the world in fact...Katz had started a minute behind me and she passed me around point at mile 6. I kept her in my sight and managed to catch back up and pass her at about mile 10. I held her off until the end but didn't make up the minute I had started ahead of her. The final results were Katz, 3rd and Me, 4th. I had come in 18 seconds slower than her. The 1st and 2nd place kneeling riders were 9 and 12 minutes ahead of us. Um, yeah. They are speedy. The 5th woman Sherry, came in a few minutes behind Katz and I so we were holding a retty respectable 3rd and 4th place. To explain a little further, throughout the week all the riders times are added up and the fastest overall time at the end is the winner. And to add to the course, in true Alaska style we saw a coyote on the course. No bears yet..

We got a quick break for lunch and a little rest before we headed into downtown Seward for the criterium. Like the time trial, this was my first criterium. What it is is a .67 loop that you do 20 times. The top 3 people in each category get bonus pts. For example the 1st place female gets 30 sec taken off of their overall time. The 2nd place, 2o seconds and the 3rd place 10 seconds. Keep reading for better understanding. The clock started and the two kneelers immediately took off leaving us again to 3rd and 4th. The course was a bit hilly with a few good turns in there and I was feeling pretty good. I was having a blast and ended up in 3rd gaining 10 bonus seconds. The 4th and 5th place riders got no bonus. So, this morning I was 18 seconds behind Katz but since I came in 3rd and her 4th, I am now 8 seconds behind her. It's a bit confusing but it works out. The end of the day's results are Katz, 3rd and me 4th, behind by 8 seconds. Its going to be a good race between Katz and I. We are both very competitive people and as much as we want to win on the course, we will both be genuinely happy if the other wins. After all, out goal is to have fun and to finish. So far so good. Plus, we have some pretty sweet looking jerseys. We had some made for the race and love them. Thanks Soldier Ride..:) Look for them in the pictures.

After the criterium we had dinner in the town of Seward and met some of the locals. A town of 3000 located right on the ocean, surrounded by mountains. You can't beat the scenery. The weather was pretty decent all day. A bit wet as it's supposed to be all week but luckily it didn't pour on us, just a little sprinkling and wet roads. Let's hope for no worse tomorrow.

Each of us riders are assigned to a support vehicle. Katz and I were given a team name of Team Diva with our driver Yasuka from Japan. Yasuka doesn't speak much english and we were a bit hesitant at first as she drives us everywhere, helps with our stuff, the course, etc.. and the language barrier was a slight issue. However, she has grown on us and now we LOVE her. She literally runs to get the things we need and helps us with everything and anything and we totally lucked out. We all make quite the team.

We just got back from our nightly 30 min massage. Yes, we learned today that there are massage therapists with us along the trip to work on us every night. We were PUMPED. So to finish the night off, Katz and I went and got outdoor massages, under a canopy, listening to bongo drums, in Alaska. Oh, what a day.

Tomorrow we head to Hope, AK for a 36 mile road race. There is definate climbing but it's not too too bad. If anything today was a bit of a wake up call that this week is going to be a toughy. Today was supposedly the easy day. But what's life without a good challenge...

And lastly, many of the pictures I post will be of Katz and I doing the peace sign. Those are in honor of Jimi in hope that he's smiling down on us. ANd speaking of pictures, the internet connection is a bit spotty, so if there are no pictures it's becasue they wouldn't download.

Time for a shower, then to bed. Good Night.

Love you mom.:)

p.s. Only 1 picture today. I've tried for hours and this is all I get. I'll try more as soon as we get better service..

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Alaska eve.

I'm writing this from Seward, Alaska where stage 1 of the Sadlers Alaska Challenge begins tomorrow. The travel was quite the journey as I traveled from Chicago to Phoenix to Anchorage yesterday. A total of 20 hours from door to door as Katz and I arrived in AK around 2am relieved to see both bikes and bags, finally hitting the sack at 4am. This morning we to to met some of the other riders and drove the 2 hours to Seward, AK with our support vehicle.
Let me just say that Alaska is gorgeous. Even with the rainy, cloudy day, the mountains and the lakes and the green is just beautiful. The weather forecast doesn't look so hot this week but I'm hoping for 1 good day not just for the race, but for the scenery as well.

Katz and I checked into the Seward Lodge and went to our nightly logistics meeting. TOmorrow is both a time trial and a criterium, both which will be a first for me. The time trial is 14 miles starting at 9:10am. Katz starts a minute behind me at 9:11. Then the criterium is 20 .67 laps around the city of Seward starting at 2pm. It will be interesting just given the fact that I've never done either of them. As I've previously written, there are 5 women racers. Two of them are super fast, both Paralympic medalists and ride what's called a kneeler where they kneel as they ride. One is from Germany, the other from the Netherlands. The remaining 3 of us are all from the US and we ride longseats where we ride sitting down with our legs out front. The kneelers are typically much faster but given the experience level, I think they may be faster in either.. My goal is top 4 and for those not so hot with math, that means not last. We'll see how it goes.

Katz and I have been appropriately named Team Diva. There are 39 total racers and all are quite serious as this is a big time handcylcing race for all of us. However, Katz and I are here to have fun and really just to finish. We gave our bikes a kind of once over and called it a night while other are out there meticulously making sure everything is right. We get a good laugh out of ourselves. Makes it more fun.

Tonight at dinner we did learn how to fend off a bear. No joke. Act big and talk to it in a stern voice. "Bear, please don't eat me" Let's hope I don't have to try that.

After dinner we got to get on our bike and make sure everything was A-OK before tomorrow. So far, so good. I was a little worried as my method of traveling with my bike may be a bit, well, ghetto. Instead of a bike case, I use a big roll of saran wrap. But hey, it worked just fine. Hence the Team Diva.

I'll update as much as I can. If you want real results the website is having close to real time results. We aren't guaranteed cell phone reception and internet access everywhere but I'll do my best.

I'm can't believe Im actually here with day 1 tomorrow. I know I am ready. With all that's happened this past week I haven't been on my bike in 6 days. We'll just consider it a heavy taper... But that being said, this week is for Jimi. All 267 miles.

Well, here we go... Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A great loss.

Yesterday the world became a little bit of a smaller place. Jimi Flowers, Paralympic Swim coach, friend, mentor, loving father and husband died after falling while climbing Capitol Peak in Aspen, CO. Jimi was a 47 year old lover of life and the news was tragic and unexpected. It has deeply affected all that knew him as it was impossible for him to meet anyone without leaving a lasting impression. I really met Jimi in 2008 when I moved out to the Olympic Training Center. He believed in me the way not many people could and watched as we swam hundreds and thousands of laps shaping our strokes to make us the best we could be. But beyond the pool, he shaped us in our everyday lives. A dedicated family man who's love for his wife and kids shone through in everything he did. A follower of Christ, a man who is said to be a walking explanation point as anything small or big was the greatest thing ever!!! Peace signs and 'Yo's' a plenty he is a man who was always quick with a smile or a joke. He believed in me and at the Paralympic Trials he was the one I looked to for reassurance. After hearing my name announced as making the Paralympic team, his smile made the moment that much greater. And in Beijing when my performance was not up to par, he was the first to let you know that 'it is what it is' and it was going to be OK. He drove me to be the best I could be and without him, I would not be a Paralympian. Through all my Paralympic experiences I owe who I have become to him. Without him I would only have half my story. His smile and endless energy will be missed. In the short time I've knwn him he had become one of the greatest men Ive ever known and his memory will live on in all that knew him.

After hearing of his death, it makes everything else seem so much less important. Alaska is of course, still on the table, and I leave for that journey this Sat. I know that Jimi would want things to continue and encourage us to keep going. I will ride this race in honor of him and I know he'll be looking down from heaven screaming 'go, go, go' with his trademark shaggy hair and baseball cap. Training has been a plenty and I am ready and will be fine. To all the bear and moose out there; bring it on...

There was a week of backpacking through Olympic National Park. 17 miles of what we thought to be a beginner trail was one of treacherous rock fields, lots of sandy beaches and inclines so steep they needed ladders and ropes. After 17 miles I was amazed by what I had accomplished. My first real hiking experience with a backpack and I had made it. When I got back I wrote to Jimi to tell him of our adventure and I got a one line reply back saying 'Im proud of you'. That made the accomplishment that much sweeter.

Over the 4th of July Dick and I went out to SC to see my family. It's easy to take advantage of what life offers and family and friends until tragedy happens. I knew when I left SC and got to see my new niece and my nephews, my parents and sister that I was a pretty lucky girl. After loosing Jimi, I am beyond lucky to have them here and alive and to have had them around the last 29 years. it is now that I wish I lived closer to see them more and to be more active in their lives.

There have been more 5K's all of which my time has improved. The latest being yesterday in 33 minutes. It was hard. Really hard. I heard the news of Jimi as soon as I finished and was in shock. Yesterday was a day filled with tears and talking to many of my teammates. He is a great man gone much much too soon.

I am heading to CO at some point this week for the memorial service. I think some of the team and I will go out a day early to spend some time together and speak of all the good times we had with him.

To learn more about Jimi follow this link:

I hope you can all thank your lucky stars to be here and to be surrounded by those you love. Call your parents, hug your family and friends. Life is just too short.

As Jimi often said, Peace Out!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Long overdue.

My my am I long overdue for an entry. I have thought about writing multiple times in the past month and never got around to actually doing it. I think my writing may be less and less as time goes on so forgive me if I'm long overdue.

The past month had included much traveling as usual. A big highlight was the DC Soldier Ride where we got to make a trip to the White House and meet President Obama. After meeting him he sounded the horn to start the ride. That along with riding by Walter Reed and the Annapolis Naval Station made it especially memorable along with all the good times that come with it.

I competed in my first swim meet since Beijing. Due to some time constraints I was only able to compete in 2 events, the 50 free and 100 back. My 50 free time was only .5 seconds off my fastest ever and I was pleasantly surprised. My pool time has been lacking due to the amount of bike raiding I've been doing to gear up for Alaska. And I know it was just the 50 free but perhaps the hand cycling is in fact good cross training and there's hope yet. We'll see.
From the swim meet I went down to Orlando to compete in the 70.3 as a swimmer on a relay. It was an all female team and we rocked it. It was awesome. My swim felt fantastic and I was happy with my time. OPen water swimming seems to be growing on me...

For Memorial Day we were out in CO for a friend's wedding. We saw many old friends and it was an awesome time. I got to take part in one day of the Inaugural CO Soldier Ride and we got see Dick's family for an evening which is always a treat. Dick finished his Step 1 medical exam a few weeks ago and he has a whole month until school starts back up. To have him without his books is wonderful and I love all the extra time I am getting to spend with him.

Last weekend I competed in my qualifying race for Alaska. It was a half marathon and we had to average 12.5 mph. I was confident I could do it but still quite nervous before the race knowing I had to make a certain time. There was no need to be nervous as I came out well over the needed mph at 16avg. Even though it was only 13 miles as opposed to the over 50 mile days in Alaska, it gave me some added confidence.

In between all of the traveling I spent a day in NY to be a part of ABC's talk show The View. I got to met Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg and the other three. It was myself and another wounded female to celebrate Memorial Day and represent the Wounded Warrior Project. I can't say it was the most extensive interview ever but it was a fun experience and getting the word out about WWP on any national TV show is always a good thing. Hopefully the viewers realized what an impact WWP has on the lives of wounded veterans and did what they could to help out. It was a quick trip but fun nonetheless.

My training is still on par. With work, training, a few local speeches and the traveling there seams to never be a free day. Most of the time I enjoy it but after Alaska the traveling slows down a bit and I am looking forward to that.

My running is coming along and I love it. My socket has gotten significantly better and even though there are still a few issues it is manageable most of the time. I ran another 1.5 miles without stopping the other week and was super happy. The goal is a 5K without stopping and I'll get my 2nd chance on June 18th.
Alaska is coming quick, a little over a month from now. We had to sign a waiver that talked about the danger of moose and bear. I guess I should have expected that but hopefully they come after me on the downhill as opposed to the uphill. Going up a mountain on a handcrank being chased by a bear would be no good. At all. We'll just hope that doesn't happen.

In a few weeks we are headed to Seattle to check out the area and to go backpacking for a few days. it will be my first backpacking experience with over 5 miles a day with a pack as an amputee. I'm a little nervous but I think I can do it. I'll keep you posted...

Sorry for the delay, hope all is well with everyone.