Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just the two of us.

Three months already, wow. Based on the title of this post, ‘Just the two of us’, you can hopefully realize the past few months have been a little rough and forgive me for taking so long. In case you are still confused, the ‘two’ of us in the title is pertaining to Jake and I. Jake, as in my dog Jake. I’m not going to go into much detail other to say that it’s been three months of many mixed emotions and many ups and downs that I imagine will go on for months to come. If you are still confused, let me be blunt in that Dick and I are getting a divorce. I can truly say that our marriage of almost 8 years was wonderful up until the very end. I’ll never forget or underplay all that Dick did for me in my recovery and in my life and ultimately getting me to where I am today. I can never underestimate the love he gave me in the times I needed it most. Unfortunately in this life we live, people change, for the good or bad and in our case we grew apart and ultimately decided we wanted different things out of life. It’s a hard concept to grasp and with a few other added factors in there I’d by lying if I said it hasn’t been rough. But three months later I am beginning to see the light on the other side. I realize that I can and will be better off either on my own or with whoever else is out there. I feel lucky to have had someone I could call my best friend by my side for so long and I hope in the future that friendship can be re- kindled and continued. To any of our friends and family that may read this, know that I truly appreciate all you have done for me and there is a hole in my life where you once were. And don’t think this blog is the last you’ll hear from me (hopefully I’m not totally of key by even putting this in here) but I’ll be sending more your way eventually, once the wounds have healed a little more.


If someone were to ask me which was easier, loosing a leg or going through a divorce, I’d go back and loose my leg 10 times over. But as we all know, life is all about the curve balls and different paths we find, and I am confident I’ll move on with my life and be happy. It’s too short not to be right?


So, aside from all of that jazz, I’ve had a few pretty exciting adventures these past months. Guatemala, Ecuador, TX, GA, SC and of course, the ever great Colorado to name a few.


I throw Colorado in there because not only is it one of my favorite places in the entire world with all it has to offer and all my friends out there, but it’s got 52 of these gorgeous mountains that rise over 14,000 feet. In college I climbed a few of them, maybe 6, but since I lost my leg I’ve wanted so badly to get to the summit of another one. I got my chance in late Sep with my bff Tiffany and my incredibly awesome cousin Katie. The mountain, of choice, Mt Bierstadt, which is known to be one of the easiest ones. We were told it was 7 miles roundtrip and 5 hours would be a good time. Putting in some extra ‘leg’ time, I predicted we’d be down and back in about 6. We didn’t start until around 10am but we were off, Katie, Tiff, Jake and I, hiking poles in hand. It started great as the terrain isn’t to steep but the further we got, the steeper it got and we slowed quite a bit. Since I’m unable to propel myself over my left leg on steep inclines I have to do double the work with the right leg and do the occasional side step. Up and up we went above treeline and to the boulder fields. The boulders were a challenge and Jake was awesome, he would come down and hang out by the boulder with a frantic look on his face, trying to help, but not real sure what to do, and then run off once I got on top of it. As always, he proved to be the best and most loyal dog ever that day. Hours later we hit the summit and felt like we were on top of the world. Above the clouds and nothing but miles of mountain tops against the blue sky. It was incredible and a huge sense of accomplishment not to mention that mountain air is good for the soul. It ended up taking almost 7.5 hours but was well worth it. Climbing a mountain with the good weather, spectacular scenery, good conversation, even better friends and the world’s best dog seems like a cakewalk once we were done. I plan on that being the first of many I climb in my future days, but it was a special moment as we stood on that mountaintop. After the loss of my leg, I did always tell people I would climb mountains, I now I can actually live up to it.


My next stop was Guatemala. A 10 day trip with an organization called the Range of Motion project (ROMP) whose mission is to fit the people of Guatemala with prosthetic limbs that cannot afford them. This is a group that was started by a guy who used to work at the company I currently work at, Scheck and Siress prosthetics. ROMP has been around for the past 7 or 8 years and every October there is a big trip down there where a week is spent making limb after limb. I signed up months ago for the trip and when the time came I was more than ready to get away from all that was happening here, gain a little perspective on life and help a few people out along the way. ROMP is a sub group of another organization called Hearts in Motion and there were about 50 total volunteers with 8 of us that would be working with ROMP. We all met at various airports with the ultimate destination of Guatemela City and then a short bus trip to the town of Zacapa where we would be for the next 8 days. Every morning after a wonderful breakfast of beans and eggs, the 8 of us ‘ROMPsters’ would hop into this little micro bus and head to the prosthetic clinic which was located next to the main hospital. Keep in mind that this is a fully functioning, full time prosthetic clinic with full time employees. They see patients year round but during the weeks of these particular trips, the patient volume triples. The first day we pulled up at the clinic it was a little overwhelming as patients and their families were out the door waiting to see us. Over the next few days, we took a cast, modified and fit a total of 25 prosthetic patients. It was beyond incredible and as I am still a resident myself, the experience is unmatched. We typically stayed in the lab until 6 pm, once as late as 8:30 to finish all the work we had. All the work and long hours pays off when you see these guys and girls get up and walk out the door. The mentality there is so different. Someone comes in on crutches to get cast for a new leg. Within days they are walking out crutches in hand, with no complaints. Are they the best components, no. The latest and greatest materials, no. But it doesn’t matter. What matters to them is that we are helping give them back a life they may have thought was lost. My favorite patient was a man named Sabatino (I probably spelled that wrong) but it means, young one. This man was 86 years old and lost his arm in a sugar cane accident when he was 7. He had gone 79 years without an arm but he heard of the program and came into check us out. He was old, and wrinkled and looked a bit like Gandhi. He patiently sat there all day waiting his turn and when it finally came, at 4pm that day he slowly got up and walked over in his cowboy boots and hat. We helped him get his arm on and showed him how to open the hook. The smile he had when he opened it for the first time was priceless and I had to walk away as the tears came. 79 years without a hand and here he was learning about what he could do. That’s just one of many incredible stories from that week. And the team we had that week was just as incredible. I met some awesome people that I’ve continued to be in touch with and there couldn’t have been a more fun, inspiring atmosphere. My plan is to take a Spanish class and go back every year if I am able to.


When the week is over, the whole group went to Antigua for two days of sightseeing and R&R. Antigua is this modern, almost American like town in Guatemala. Cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, awesome

food, markets with the most colorful purses and scarves I have ever seen, awesome coffee and of course good people. It was a great end to my week as a ROMPster and I can’t wait until next year.


We said goodbye on a Sunday and my next stop was Ecuador. You’d think there would be a quick flight

from Guatemela to Ecuador but it turns out I had to go back north through TX only to go back south again. I

was going to Ecuador for a week vacation with my friend Dani and her husband Dave. Dani is from Ecuador and I met her when she did her Orthotic residency as Scheck and Siress. Her husband Dave is the one that started ROMP all those years back and they got married and now live in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, working at their own O&P shop. To sum it all up in one word, Quito= awesome. First the town itself. It’s set in the middle of these mountains so anywhere you look you get the most gorgeous view. Second, the surroundings. Dani was so kind to take off of work the whole week and hang out with me to make sure I got the most out of my trip. It was beyond cool. We went 2 hours one way and were way up in the mountains driving on the most gorgeous roads ever, passing the indigenous people of Ecuador in their almost bare feet, walking towards their mud homes with who knows how many pounds of grass or plants or food on their hunched over backs. Talk about an eye opener. That particular trip we went to this big crater that you were able to walk down into. We hiked about 40 min down and then took a mule back up. I loved every minute of it. The next day we drove 2 hours a different direction to the rainforest where we went zip lining through the forest. 6 zip lines, a small hike from one to the next and fresh lemonade at the end. FOR ONLY $15! Can you believe that? Then the next day we drove and shopped in the markets, the next day a trip to Old Town and climb the ladders to the top of the cathedral and I could go on and on and on. Overall it was such an incredible trip and both Dani and her husband Dave are two of the most wonderful, good- hearted people I have ever met. Not only do I hope to make it back to Guatemela, but Ecudaor too.


Back in Chicago now and back to work. Well work and a move into Chicago to my very own apartment ever. Talk about a big change which I’m learning to

embrace.


Thanksgiving has already come and gone. I got to go to my parents and see my sister and her newest daughter, Charis. In times like these, I realize how important family and friends are and I realize that I have one of the most wonderful families ever. My sister Amanda, her husband Gavin, their 4 kids and my parents. I truly am a lucky girl.


Most recently, I was in TX for my second ever ½ marathon. This one was a little different, as I didn’t train, well, at all. I had big plans to train and be prepared but with all that was going on I did a cumulative 2.5 miles in the two months leading up to the race. Maybe I shouldn’t even admit that but who needs to train for 13.1 miles anyways? It actually ended up going great. They allowed Jake to run with me and he and I completed all 13.1 miles. I am learning that slow and steady is the way to go. In my first ½ in July I started out fast, finished extremely slow, lost two toenails and couldn’t walk for two days after. This one I went in with the attitude just to finish. Slow and steady, no lost toenails and I could even walk the next day. Success! It was no PR but I was happy with my time and gave me a much-needed renewed love of running. Even at mile 12 I was thinking, wow, I really like this. So of course I’m looking for the next one and hoping for a full marathon sometime next year.


As we end out the year I have learned once again that life is always full of surprises. As when I lost my leg, I look back and am so thankful for all that I’ve had and continue to have. I wouldn’t be where I am today with all the people and my soon to be ex husband by my side through the hardest of times. I will forever be thankful for him and my family and friends that are always at my side. Soon a new year will be among us. New year, new beginning right? And the more time that passes, the more I am looking forward to what it will bring. I say goodbye for now as a soon to be single, still strong and confident woman. Life can be tough but it’s how you persevere through the hard times that define who you are. And I’m as determined as ever to get through this bump in the road and come out better on the other side.


So until next time, until next year, PEACE OUT!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

World Champ!


I'm way overdue. It's been over two weeks since Worlds and I haven't even shared the good the news yet. Brace yourself... I WON! I came home with a gold medal around my neck and a new title of World Champion. How sweet is that you may ask? Very.

My plan was to tell you all about the trip to Budapest, the details of both the trip and the race. Since it's been a few weeks I will keep it to what I remember most when I look back. The first being, of course, the race.

As I mentioned before, the race was a sprint distance triathlon. There was a total of 88 paratriathletes which was a record and very exciting. My category had a total of 4 above the knee amputees. Compared to last year's 1, that was pretty exciting too. The race was on Saturday Sep 11th and the days before were wet and rainy and we all braced ourselves for a rainy race day. The day before the race we (meaning me and my other 15+ teammates) went down to check out the transition area. We were required to drop our bikes off the day before the race and a few of us opted to ride down to transition from our hotel instead of jumping in a cab with our bike. Now let me tell you, riding a bike through the streets of Budapest = precarious, dangerous and thrilling all at the same time. Somehow, we all made it down there alive and began the process of setting up our bikes. Did I mention the rain? Um, yeah, trying to keep our bikes dry then and overnight was almost a joke, but we put plastic bags on the seat and the gears and headed back to the hotel. Unlike the previous nights of 2+ hour dinners with 20 people, we had a quick dinner and was back in the room by 8pm to get ready for the race the next day.

Trying to sleep before a big race is always a struggle. I was kept awake by ideas of how I could be just seconds faster, and the idea of finishing first and the meaning behind doing it on Sep. 11th. So when the alarm went off at 3:30am, it wasn't a big surprise as I had been watching the minutes tick by throughout the night.

Dick and I met my teammates in the lobby and we were off to the races. Let me throw in here that my teammates are beyond awesome, all 20 of them. And awesome is an understatement. I got to know so many wonderful people on this trip and really, really enjoyed hanging out with everyone. Jon Beeson and Justin Model acted as our honrary team managers and we couldn't have been there without them. They helped us in every aspect, from getting to Budapest, figuring out what to do once we got there, the race itself, etc, etc. Two very kind and incredible people and a big thanks to them. As a team we were together constantly and shared many laughs and good memories. I really felt honored and proud to be a part of the team.

Back to the race. We got to transition and got set up. There seemed no hope that the rain would let up and everything was so soaked that it really didn't matter anymore. Instead of trying to keep dry, i just put it all out there. This race was going to happen, rain or not.

The swim was an in water start and we started promptly at 6:30am. The water was, um, cold. Like take your breath away kind of cold. When the gun went off to start, it was a struggle to keep my face in the water and keep moving. As usual, people were kicking each other in the madness that occurs at the start. I eventually got moving and tried to keep a pace. It was a 750 meter swim that I believe I did in about 15 min. Coming out of the water is always somewhat confusing as you're not sure where to go, or where your handlers will be. But I was assisted out of the water, carried up to Dick, Justin Model and Jon Beeson (the fabulous 3) and they helped me strip my wetsuit, get on my running leg and I was off to T1.

In T1 I saw that of the other 3 above the knee amputees, I was the first out of the water. This is always a huge mental advantage and I felt confident as I got onto the bike. The bike was a 2 loop, 13 mile course. It was set up in a way where you could see your competition 5 times depending on where you were on the course. I picked a good pace, a high rpm as not to wear my leg out for the run, and went on my way. On the first turn around I took not that I was a few miles ahead of my nearest competitor and I was thrilled. I was feeling great and was confident I could keep it up to post a good, final bike time.
Let me mention here that one of my favorite competitors, Sarah Reinersten, had gotten sick during the swim and had pulled out of the race. I knew that something must have gone wrong when I didn't see her, as she was the one I was keeping my eye on. When I pulled into T2 and was told she wasn't going to finish I was heartbroken. Knowing the training, time, money and effort to get to Budapest in the first place, and to be stopped early on by getting sick is not a happy thing. I wished more than anything that she was out on the course with the rest of us. Especially knowing that she was not only my best competition, but her actions throughout the years had motivated me to be there in the first place. I owed and owe a lot to her and I would have love to be finishing the race out with her.

The 3.1 mile run course was on a path along the Danube river. All along I'd hear spectators with their thick accents from around the world, yelling go USA, go Stockwell. Talk about awe inspiring. Here I was running in the World Championship, down the Danube, passing gorgeous bridge after gorgeous bridge, it was almost like a dream. Thankfully, the rain had stopped at this point and the damp air, the meaning of the moment and the race itself took over. I felt like I was running on air not to mention I was making great time.
The race finish was across the Chain bridge which is this huge bridge with lion statues on each end. If you've ever seen pictures of a bridge in Budapest, it is probably this one. As I neared the bridge, I knew that the race was mine, and I would cross that finish line first. It was my time to shine. I stepped onto the bridge and was flooded with emotion. Here, on Sep 11, wearing the USA uniform, and I was going to be a world champions. A freakin' world champion! Could it get any better? Yes, in fact it could. Halfway across the bridge I saw a man handing out American flags. He handed me one and as I took it, held it high and sprinted what was left of the race with tears in my eyes finishing first with a 1:39. It was one of those moments that was so meaningful and so full of emotion that I know I will look back on it frequently and remember all that came with it. What a great day it was.

I stayed at the finish as my teammates came in one by one. We talked and laughed with our stories of the race and tried to keep warm huddled together in our space blankets. I had a permanent smile on my face and it was a moment I will never forget. Me, World Champion, really? Ha. Life really is good.

After that excitement the trip ended on another good note. The next day the rain stopped and it was beautiful. Much of the team went up to the castle overlooking the city and attended a wine and jazz festival on the castle grounds. We could look down
into the city and see the pro athletes competing. Match that with good company, good wine, good weather, overlooking the city of Budapest and it was almost perfect.
To top off the day and make it perfect we went to the awards ceremony and I got to stand on top of the podium and raise my hands and flag high as they called my name out. A gold medal! Nice, of course, but mix that with the red, white and blue and once again, things were perfect. It was a glorious moment and a glorious end to what had been a fantastic, memory making trip.

A huge heartfelt thanks to all that believed in me and helped me get there. My friends and family, the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project, CTS and many others. I realize now more than ever that surrounding myself with people that believe in me is the only way I can live my life. So thank you.

We got home over two weeks ago now and I've been on the road since. Working out a little, but really wondering what is next for me athletically. I haven't signed up for anything yet and am taking some time to just sit back and figure out what I want to do next. In the meantime, I've been to Seattle, Atlanta, Colorado and Maryland for various things. In a few weeks I'll head off to Guatemala and Ecuador for a prosthetic mission trip with the Range of Motion Project. But not before I head out to CA next week and get to see the wonderful Mrs. Stephanie Doan among others. Jake has become an expert traveler.
On a high point when I was in CO, I climbed my first 14er (14,000 foot mountain for those non- Coloradans) with one leg. It was tough, tougher than I thought, but getting to the top and looking out at what seems like the top of the world made it all worth it. It was awesome and even more awesome that I got to do it with my bff Tiffany and my cousin Katie. I swear the mountain air is good for the soul.

As of now, there doesn't seem to be much slowing down. As far as races, you're guess is as good as mine. The last Blade Runner 5K of the year is this weekend and I'm looking forward to that. But after that, maybe I'll take a break, maybe I'll pick some crazy race to do next year, maybe a half- ironman, maybe an Ironman, who knows. But whatever comes along, I'll be sure to keep you posted along the way.

Peace Out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Budapest or bust.

Apparently I do my best blog updates on the plane so here we go again…this time I am headed over to Budapest, Hungary for the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships. Today is Wednesday Sep 8 and the big race is this Saturday Sep 11. More on that later…

Let’s see, I last left off after the NYC triathlon where I qualified for this weekend’s race. So we’ll get the race briefings out of the way first. I’ve had a few races since NY, a sprint triathlon in LaPorte, IN with a few friends and the Chicago triathlon just two weekends ago. The sprint one was a good gauge for how this weekend will go as it was also a sprint tri. I felt pretty good and have a goal time in mind for Saturday that I’ll shoot for. I did this same race last yar and it’s so easygoing compared to the madness of the bigger NYC/ Chicago type races and it’s very enjoyable. You can actually get to the transition area 30 min before the race starts and still make the start of the race instead of the 5am transition time and a 9am start time for the Chicago tri which is pure craziness.

Unfortunately, the Chicago tri was a different story and it turned out to just not be my day. As an Olympic distance race, I was trying to better my time from NYC by going sub 3:30. The swim started off great, the bike was a whole mph faster than last year and I felt OK going into the run until I hit mile 1. Yes, ONE. Then I sucked, just pure and simple suckiness. The heat had much to do with it as it was easily in the 90’s that day and I walked more than I ran on the run wondering why on earth I subjected myself to the misery of the day. Luckily I had an early start time as the race ran out of water and the later waves were stuck with none, which may have been enough for me to end it early. I finished at a 3:42, 12 min over my goal time of a 3:30. I was told over and over not to let that discourage me from Worlds and it honestly hasn’t. I’d rather I have an off day in Chicago and save the stellar performance for Budapest so I’m perfectly fine with how it went. Plus, I’m learning that I can’t get a personal best at every race and that’s just how it is. I do have to give a shout out to Susan Katz, who totally rocked the race, to Keri for coming back and finding me after she finished and motivating me to get to the finish line and of course, my bff Tiffany who finished her first full Olympic triathlon with no water and blisters on her feet the size of Texas.

I’ve been doing some decent training in between the races and really trying to prepare for this weekend. I threw in my first 1/2 marathon and managed to cross the finish line a little over 2:30. It was a last minute decision to get in and at mile 10 I was wishing my goals weren't so ambitious at times. But I crossed the finish line and can check my first 1/2 marathon of the bucket list.
I have a new bike setup that I absolutely love. For a weekend before the Chicago tri I was out in San Diego at an all amputee triathlon camp put on by the Challenged Athletes Foundation. It was a great weekend with top-notch coaches and being able to train alongside fellow Paratriathletes. If you ever need some motivation, go on a ride with 10 above the knee amputees through the rolling hills of San Diego. You’ll push yourself harder that you have in a long time when you watch these athletes grind their way up a hill. It’s incredible, it really is. While I was out there we adjusted my bike for a more efficient set up and pair that with a new biking leg that Dave and I worked on and viola, I actually feel like I move now when I’m on the bike. It’s quite nice. Add that in with a good amount of swimming and biking and I’d say I’m ready for Saturday. Of course there is always more training that could have been done. The mornings I turned off my alarm and stayed to bed, the evenings when there was something better to do, but as Jimi Flowers would say, it is what is it, and ready or not, here I come.

In other non- athletic news, Dick was out in Washington DC for a month doing an away
rotation in radiology. After many months of wondering what specialty is for him, it’s come down to radiology and we’re both pretty excited about it. As a 4th year medical student, it is common to rotate for a full month at the programs you hope to match into for residency training. As a radiologist in the Army, Dick will have 4 possible programs he can go to. Walter Reed in DC, Madigan Army hospital outside of Seattle, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Tripler in Hawaii. In Oct we will rank our top choices and in Dec the Army will tell us where we will be going. Dick enjoyed his month at Walter Reed and after Budapest he’ll head out to Madigan in Seattle to see which program he prefers. Keep in mind this is a 5 year residency so wherever we go it will be for a substantial amount of time. So for all you wondering why not Hawaii, that is why. Plus, we’re scared of sharks.

I got the chance to go out to DC for almost 10 days while Dick was out there. I made a few visits to Walter Reed to see my old PT’s and others around the hospital. A highlight of the trip was meeting a recent female who is also an above the knee amputee like myself. We have a good amount in common and she was highly motivated and ready to get back into life, which was great to see. She will be at a military sports camp later this year that I’m helping with and I can’t wait to see her again and see how much she’s progressed. I fully enjoyed my time there and seeing all the old and new friends we have in the DC area. An early morning run on the national mall one morning reminded us just how awesome DC can be. The monuments, the history, the running and biking trails...I think it will be up pretty high on the rankings list.

In early August I took my first 2 board exams on my way to being a certified prosthetist. There are 2 written exams and a practical exam. The written tests are offered in Chicago several times a year but the practical test is only offered twice a year in FL or TX. So I’ll be traveling to TX early next year for that one. I’ve never been a stellar standardized test taker and I can’t say I felt overly confident on both of the written tests. They are each 4 hours long and I chose to take them on separate days back to back. I knew some of the material, but some I didn’t know at all and was guessing blindly. I walked out pretty unsure of what the results would be. They make you wait about 4 weeks for the results and...drum roll please…I passed them both. I actually passed! I had to look at my score sheet about 20 times to make sure it was really my name and really a passing score, but I am now 2/3 towards becoming a certified prosthetist. I still can’t really believe I passed my first go around but the results are in, and I’m thrilled. Hopefully it’s similar results for the last practical exam and I’ll be Melissa Stockwell, CP by early next year. Yeah yeah!

I think that leads me to this weekend’s race. To recap, this weekend is the ITU World Championship. ITU stands for the International Triathlon Union. All the big name triathletes from around the country are headed to Budapest to compete this weekend. The pros, age groupers, elite athletes, and of course, the best group of all, the Paratriathletes. I am told there will be approximately 70 Paratriathletes competing, which would be a record in terms of numbers. That encompasses all 6 of the paratri groups and both male and female. As far as above the knee women, I know of 4 others at this point but there could be more. This is a huge step in the Paratriathlon movement as last year there was only 1 above the knee female and many less overall. In Dec of this year we will find out if Paratriathlon will be a Paralympic sport in 2016 but it seems we are already moving towards that direction.

This weekend’s race is a sprint triathlon for us Paratriathletes. It will be a 750 meter swim, a 12 mile bike and a 5K or 3.1 mile run. For me, this is both good and bad. Bad, because the swim is shorter and I usually get my best lead with the longer swims. The shorter the swim, the less of an advantage I have. Good, because I usually hurt at mile 3 of the run and for this race, I’ll be finishing at mile 3 of the run. It is a much different race than an Olympic distance as there is a big focus on speed and transition times as opposed to the slow and steady mentality. I’d be lying it I said I didn’t have high hopes for myself here. I really think I can do well and surprise myself with the results. It is that much more important as we race on September 11th. There is no better way to honor those that have lost their lives, on and since Sep 11, 2001 than racing to my fullest potential with USA on my back. On Sat, my race is dedicated to all those that are no longer here with us and as I cross that finish line, regardless of the results, I’ll be thankfull that I can represent this great country.
I am flying on my own now as Dick had to work until Thursday. On Thursday, he’ll fly over for the race on Sat and then we’ll both leave on Monday. It will be a quick trip for him and once again, his support in all that I do is incredible. A 12+ hour flight, for a 3 day visit, only to turn around an head back to Chicago for less than 24 hours before heading to Seattle for a month…I truly am a lucky girl.

So, for now, that is all. I will update with results as soon as I am able to get some time to sit down and write it out. Until then, remember the troops on Sep 11th, Go USA and God Bless America!

Peace Out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The NYC triathlon.


Yesterday was a great day. The NYC triathlon, also known as the National Championships for the sport of Paratriathlon was the qualifying race for Paratriathlon Worlds taking place in Budapest later this year. With a total of 70, this was a record year for the number of paratriathletes that competed in the race and hopefully a great continuation of the ever-populating sport of paratriathlon. These athletes include amputees, paraplegics, visually impaired and any other disability out there.
For a little background, Paratriathlon is currently not a Paralympic sport but is working towards inclusion in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, and perhaps as an exhibition sport in London 2012. The more athletes we have, the better chance we have to get that spot and 70 was a great start.

I got to NYC on Friday and had to be classified into my Paratri classification. Similar to swimming, each athlete is classified based on their disability. There are a total of 6 classifications, instead of the 13 with swimming, and they try to make the competition as fair as possible. As an above the knee amputee, my classification is pretty cut and dry (my leg s not growing back) and I was classified into the Tri 2 category to compete against other above the knee amputees. There were 5 of us that would be competing against each other in NY and there was some pretty decent competition among all of us.

This was my second full Olympic distance triathlon with Chicago being my first last August. If you need a reminder an Olympic distance tri includes a 1500m swim, a 40K (26 mile) bike and a 10K (6.2 mile) run. The golden time needed to qualify for Worlds was 4 hours. Complete all 3 events in under 4 hours, and you’d earn a spot to Budapest. So going into the race, that was my goal. Or one of them at least. I also wanted to get under a 3:44, which was my time from Chicago last year and would give me a personal best. A time of 3:30 was going to make me a very very happy girl. Some say it’s unfair to compare race times from race to race as no course is the same. For example, Chicago is completely flat, where NY can be quite hilly so the bike and run times can vary considerably. However, the swim in NY is known to be one of the fastest since we swim in the crystal clear Hudson river (that’s a joke) and with the current. In my mind, this meant everything evened out and since I’m a numbers girl and always way more concerned about my times than I should be, I wanted to beat my Chicago time pretty bad.

I was once again lucky enough to have an awesome support crew at the race. My boss, prosthetist and good friend, Dave Rotter had come to NY to cheer us on with his girlfriend and of course, my lovely husband had flown in for a combined total of 18 hours to be there for the race. Yes, I’m a lucky girl. Not to mention the awesome Susan Katz, who was also competing, and her family who would be cheering us on along the way. The night before the race we all went to dinner and to say I was pumped for the race when I went to bed would be an understatement.

Transition opened at 4:30am and I tend to be a little paranoid about getting there on time and getting my things set up so the alarm was set for 3:15. It came early, but I wasn’t sleeping much anyways so I guess the time didn’t really matter. We got to transition around 4:45 and I met up with my handler Jen who was helping me with my equipment and really anything I needed before, during and after the race. Jen is well, awesome, and I was honored to have her help. The high of the day was a solid 94 degrees (barf) with way too much humidity so she made sure I stayed hydrated before the race as it was going to be quite hot by the time the run came along.

I left transition about 5:20 to get on a boat that brought us down to the start. The swim is a point-to-point swim so you have to get down a mile to the start before you jump in. As I mentioned before, this was a swim in none other than the Hudson River. Imagine some of the dirtiest, nastiest water you can and that’s the Hudson. Trash is a frequent sighting and it’s not unusual to come out of the swim with dirt all over your face and 1 or 2 random pieces of trash stuck to you. Trash and all, our wave was set to go off at 7am sharp. It’s an in water start and before you jump in everyone lines the dock to get their place in the group. The Hudson is known for its especially strong current, which is much stronger the further you get from the sea wall. It was visibly stronger on Sunday and as we lined up, we were all crowded by the outer dock hoping to get that extra push from the current.
7 came around, the horn started and we were off. My attempt at staying away from the sea wall and with the current failed early on and I soon found myself right next to the sea wall in the ‘calm’ area of the river. I could see swimmers to my right with the current but at that point it was too late and I just swam as hard as I could. I was the 2nd female out of the water in a time of 19 min. I had help getting my wetsuit off, Jen handed me my running leg and I was off to T1. T1 went smoothly as I put my biking leg on and as I left transition I was right on track.

I was told the bike course could be pretty hilly and had many areas of false flats, where it looks like it’s flat but it’s actually uphill. The majority of my training was in Chicago so any slight rise in the road felt like a hill. The course started with some good uphill but then gave into some good downhill. Overall, I think it’s a pretty even course, both up and down with a couple of really steep hills. For many of the hills I was in my lowest gear wishing I had a smaller one. I’m double thinking the granny gear for next time. It is an out and back course on the Henry Hudson highway that is very scenic. We were along the river for much of the course, got to ride through a toll way, over a few bridges and other than the real steep hills it was pretty enjoyable. My goal was to average over 15mp but with the hills in there, I only got to a 13.8mph avg making an overall time of 1:48ish. I pulled into transition knowing I was currently second in my category, not really knowing how far ahead or behind me my competitors were. I switched from my biking to running leg and got out of T2 in less than 3 minutes, which is my fast transition time ever. At this time things were heating up a bit and I was anxious to get out on the run course and across the finish line.

The run took us out of transition and into Central Park where we did a 5-mile loop and ended up in the park on Dead Road (ironic). As I ran out of T2 and was making my way into Central Park we ran down a street where the crowd was just awesome. I’m one that benefits significantly from the crowd and those New Yorkers really know how to cheer a girl on. It helped that I was wearing my fancy new tri suit that has my name on it. So I got many many, ‘Go Stockwell’s’ or ‘Go USA’s’, which was very encouraging. I also saw Dave and Dick in the crowd and Dave was going wild cheering me on which was awesome. I gave he and Dick a good thumbs up, as I was feeling great. I had been a little nervous about the run as it’s the last event so you’re obviously tired but I’m also still not fully comfortable running that far. But as I started out and got to mile 1, I was feeling incredibly confident and relaxed. I was right on track with my time and settled into a pace I felt like I could hold for a while. Before I knew it I was at mile 2, mile 3 and still feeling pretty good. Central Park has some decent hills but the benefit to a hill is that there’s always a downhill, so I tried to use those as much as I could. Again, the crowds were awesome. There were thousands of people in the park on a run or bike or walk, and they would stop to cheer as we went by. By mile 4, I was starting to feel the heat a bit and that is usually where things start to go bad. I slowed down and kept telling myself to just keep moving. I was dumping water on my head to try and stay cool as much as I could but was really just ready to be done at mile 4. I kept shuffling along and mile 5 came up slowly. As I kept moving, the crowds were increasing and I knew I had to be close. For the last mile there was a crowd 10 or more people deep and as hot as it was, I got chills as I ran through because I was so inspired by their cheers, their ringing cowbells and all their enthusiasm. I saw Dave and Dick again 100 feet from the finish and decided to sprint it in. I crossed the finish line with a total time of 3:32 with my arms held high and a big smile across my face. I was a happy girl.

Overall, I got 2nd place, behind Sandy Dukat, a phenomenal athlete and person, who I can only hope to someday be as fast as. Since I reached my goal time of under 4 hours, I’ll be headed to Budapest in September to represent the USA in hopes of it someday being a Paralympic sport. This will be my first Worlds competition ever and I’m pretty pumped about it.

So overall, the weekend was a huge success. Not only was it great athletically, but being there with my other teammates and seeing the new faces and the potential of the sport was awesome. The people of New York put on a great race and the crowds and spectators there are like no other. As usual I wouldn’t have been there had it not been for a few certain people. CAF of course with getting me to the starting line. But WWP, CTS, Jen (the best handler ever), Accenture, Dave, Dick, my family and the countless others that have helped my dreams become reality. Thank you.

Until next time, Peace Out!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A board eligible Paratriathlete.

Wow, It's been almost 3 months. I think that's a record.

So. let's see, there's been some exciting happenings over the past 3 months. Let's start with the most exciting being that I made the Paratriathlon National team! Last year was the first year there was such a team and I applied for the team not really thinking I would actually make it. It is a team comprised of 15 para athletes that will represent the US at various triathlons this summer. It was thought that only 1 female and one male from each classification would make the team so I was going up against my hero, Sarah Reinertsen, among other above the knee amputees. As it turns out, 3 female above the knee amputees made the team and I was proud to be one of them. Check out this link for more info. http://www.usatriathlon.org/news/2010/04/30/usat-names-2010-usa-paratriathlon-national-team/35703
The first race is the NYC triathlon on July 18 which is also the national
championship. If I do well enough in NY I will qualify for Paratri worlds which are in Budapest this September. The short term goal is to make it to Worlds and we'll see what happens from there. An additional race in there is the Chicago triathlon which is at the end of August. Since triathlon is not yet a Paralympic sport, this is one of the highest competitive levels you can get to as a paratriathlete. I am proud to say I'll be representing the US again at these races. So as I've said numerous times, GO USA!
With all this excitement, I have stepped up the training again. I bike and run considerably more than I ever have. I joined the Oak Park runners club and am loving the weekly track workouts I do. This week was mile repeats around the track. Never though I'd actually do those! But with the help of my coach Mike Durner at CTS the running group, the computrainer classes with the awesome Stacee Seay, and swimming with the Chicago Masters team I feel like I'll be ready for NY which is amazingly, only one month from today.
I'm finding that running races are becoming my best training and have done a number of them so far.


I did my first 10K a few weeks back in 1:02 and was extremely happy with my time. I also completed the Soldier Field 10 miler on memorial day and was extremely happy just to finish that one. My awesome friend Keri is typically my 'guide' for all these races and she paces and encourages me along the way. I even competed at a track meet with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. Brought me back to my high school track days and the good times we all had there.
Tomorrow is out first Blade Runner 5K of the season. We have 2 new amputees who are doing a 5K for the first time and is should be a great race.

On another note, and as equally exciting, I have officially finished my prosthetic residency. The usually 1 year residency took a solid 3 years but I am now a Board eligible resident and continue to work at Scheck and Siress prosthetics. There is a 3 step board exam and the first two, the written and written simulation, I'll take this August. The practical is only offered twice a year and I'll take that in TX next Jan. As excited as I am to be finished this means I need to hit the books and study up again. I'll be happy when they are over and I'm officially certified.

The Chicago Warrior Champions premier was earlier this week and it was a wonderful evening. Pam Redding did a phenomenal job putting it together and I think we had a total of 200-300 people show up. It was nice to have a local showing and a big thank you to the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame for hosting us all for the evening. If you are interested in purchasing the movie you can go to www.warriorchampions.com and you can order on there.

I participated in the Chicago Soldier Ride this past weekend and as usual I had a blast. I have forgotten how powerful the ride can be and as we were escorted through downtown Chicago on our bikes (I know, rough huh) I was continually inspired by the riders encouraging each other up the hills. One rider in particular who was thought he wasn't going to complete 1 mile on his bike, completed over 100 miles throughout the ride. Talk about inspiration. And as usual, the community support and cheers through the city as we went through were awesome. I wish I could take the time to go on all the rides. I was also lucky to attend the Wounded Warrior Projects annual gala in NYC. It was such a great evening honoring the men and women who have been injured and their families. Big timers like country singer Trace Adtkins, Bob Costas, Bill O'Reilly and country top 40 Bob Kingsley all came out to support the cause.


Dick and I made our way up to Door County, WI over a long weekend. If you've never
been I highly recommend it. The roads are a bikers dream and if I hadn't of been so sore from the 10 mile run we would have ridden around all weekend. Instead we drove around taking in the gorgeous sights. We even made our way over to Washington Island on a ferry and became a part of the Bitters club in the longest standing pub in the US. That's success right there! We stayed in this tiny cabin by the water and I wish we would have had a few more days to explore. Hopefully we'll make it up that way again before we leave IL for good.

And how could I forget that Little Leg's 6th birthday was in there! 6 years, can you believe the girl is SIX YEARS OLD? It was another great turnout held as a local bar this year instead of the home. This helped significantly with the cleanup time and even better that they allowed Jake to roam the reserved room and behind the bar all night. When we went back the following weekend, the staffers kept saying hi to Jake. Apparently he was a hit. But yes, LL is officially 6. She'll be a teenager before we know it.


In other exciting news, Dick is one week away from being done with his 3rd year of medical school! To me it seems as though the time has flown but I'm guessing he would would beg to differ.
In his 4th year he will head to Walter Reed for a one month away rotation and work with some of the doctors that worked with me when I was there. Oh what a full circle it has come. And it is highly possible that come next May we'll be moving back that way for the following 4 years. We'll find all that out in December.


I think that's all there is to report for now. Jake is still the best dog ever and still loves his ball more than life itself. I'll try to keep everyone posted on the NYC tri results before to many months go by. Until then we'll be at my parents house for the 4th of July and I'll make a brief trip to CO for the Jimi Flowers swim meet.

Until next time,

PEACE OUT!

Monday, March 29, 2010

I am a HALF- ironwoman. Barely.

As I sit down to write this I'm sitting on the 14th floor of the Hale Koa hotel in Waikiki overlooking the gorgeous Pacific on an 80 degree perfect day. After Saturday's race I couldn't think of a better place to be to relax and enjoy the accomplishments of last weekend.

So, yes, I did finish the Oceanside 70.3. A day mixed with multiple emotions, physical and mental challenges, got me to that finish line a mere 3 minutes before the official race cutoff. So when I say 'barely' that's no joke.

Transition opened at 4:45 and being the somewhat paranoid person that I am about being places on time, I arrived at the transition at precisely 4:45. I think I was one of the first 10 to the racks which resulted in a pretty sweet spot for me to set all my stuff up. CAF and Operation Rebound had a few racks reserved right at the front of the transition area which always helps immensely.

My wetsuit was on and I was ready by the 6:40 pro start time. Jill Prichard from CAF had graciously volunteered to help me after the swim and she had crutches in hand and a chair set up for me to sit on once I got out. Our wave was to go off at 6:47 and at 6:45 I was set to get in and head to the in- water start. I put my goggles on before I entered the water and of course, the goggle strap broke. I started to freak out a little and frantically called for Jill. She ran over, attempts to calm me down and ties my strap together saving the day. All was good and I was at the start by the time the horn blows. The swim felt fantastic. I told myself not to go too hard to save myself for the rest of the race and I did just that. I finished the 1.2 mile swim in about 34 minutes when Jill ran down to hand me my crutches when I got out of the water. It is preferable to have the wetsuit off before heading to transition so I sat down in the pre- arranged chair and as Jill helped pull it off she proceeded to pull me and the chair both over and we toppled to the ground. We all got a good laugh about it before I got up and headed to T1.

I tend to take my time in transition. On Sat I wasn't at all in a hurry as I knew I was just doing it to finish and not trying to beat anyone. I think my T1 was somewhere around 6 min. Yes, that is very slow.

I finally get on my bike which is the first time I had actually been on the bike outside since last summer. The day before my front tire randomly popped while my bike was in the back of Jill's car. Other than another slight freak out, that prevented me from getting on the bike the day before the race as I also found out I had the wrong size tube. I used the first few miles to get accustomed to the gears and riding on the road again. By mile 6 I was thinking, these next 50 miles are really going to suck. But as I kept going my legs warmed up and by mile 10 I was chuckling to myself about the post- swim events, talking to people and really just having a great time. The first 28 miles were relatively easy. A few hills here and there, a little wind but I was pumped to get to the halfway in around 2 hours as I initially thought I was going to need all 5 hours to complete the bike. Then at mile 28.5 came the first large hill. I say large but it was huge. Not horribly long but incredibly steep. I tried to get a good head start but got not even 1/6 of the way up when I stopped and had to step off quick to avoid falling. This means I had to walk the rest of the way up the hill as there was no way I'd be able to get back on without falling. It was a little consolation that a large number of other people were walking too. This was no little hill. I got to the top, clicked back in and started off only to get back off the bike a few moments later when I realized my leg was about to come off. So again, I dismounted, re- applied my leg and I was back on. The next 28 miles had a number of other hills and major crosswinds that made me feel unsteady. None of the hills were as steep at the first one, but large gradual hills that weren't that fun. I passed absolutely no one except those that stopped to change their flat tires so I was continually being passed. Not that I minded as I would often get a 'keep it up' or 'good job', which raised my spirits. On one of the hills I was excited as I saw two people walking the hill and I made it all the way up without walking. So I consider that beating them. Well, at least on that hill. At mile 45 things got better again and it was a fast flat finish to T2. At mile 47 I did get stung by a bee on my right thigh. I haven't been stung by a bee in like 20 years so I wasn't sure what to do. I hurt quite a bit but I figured unless my throat started closing up I wasn't allergic. Thankfully it didn't and when I get to T2 I pulled the stinger out and that was that.

I finished the bike in 4:32 I think which I was still pretty happy about. I again took my sweet time at T2 but was feeling pretty good after the bike and was excited to get the run over with.

I headed out of T2 and started running and immediately thought, 'Uh oh'. It wasn't quite as easy as I was hoping it would be. The run was 2 loops, so 3.25 miles out, 3.25 miles back, times 2. Dick was going to meet me at the halfway point for a new running liner and I assumed I would get to him in 1.5 hours making my total run time about 3 hours. That wasn't the case. I started out and ran the first mile. A solid 17:30 pace. (Yes, you can barf now since that is so slow. Especially for the 1st mile) After the 1st mile I started to run from one point to the next, walk a bit, run some more, etc.. But I really wasn't feeling so hot and exhaustion started to set in. By mile 3 I was at a straight walk and ran a minimal part of the 3 miles back to Dick. As I got closer to the turn- around people would yell out a Congrats that I was almost done. Little did they know I was on my first lap and still had SEVEN miles to go. I hit the turn around, saw Dick and got a towel from him to wipe off my leg. It had taken me 1:50 to do 6.5 miles. I turned around slightly demoralized since I could see the finish line but I still had 6.5 miles to go. I really thought at this point I was going to be the last one on the course. But I turned and kept going. Only walking at this point with a somewhat bouncy pattern when I could get the energy up. Everything ached. My back, my legs, Little Leg and as I tend to do, I wasn't eating or drinking enough to keep me going. But I walked and I walked and I walked. And at the turn around, with 3.2 miles to go, I saw a few others still walking behind me surprising me that I wasn't the very last one. Many of them soon passed me as walking with my running leg is not the easiest thing to do and I don't move too fast. I don't have a knee on my running leg so I was circumducting it to the side step after step. With 3 miles to go I briefly stopped which was an immediate mistake when I started to cramp. So I vowed not to stop again ans kept going and I'm sure I looked horrible and worn out and defeated. With 1.5 miles to go I saw Dick ahead of me who was coming to make sure I was OK. At this point there were so few people on the course, he was able to walk with me. We kept walking in silence, step after step. Then a few minutes later I saw Nico, head of Operation Rebound, with the OR flag and his dog Tally who were coming to walk with me also. So the three of us walked on, Dick on one side, Nico and Tally on the other. At some point a group gathered behind us and started clapping, following us for a few minutes. Even in all the pain, it was incredibly motivating and I wish I could thank them. At a mile to go someone called out that I had 20 min to finish before the course was going to close. I had been averaging 21 mph and knew to make it I was going to have to (gasp) jog a little. I started the little bouncy thing, made it to this bridge and I knew the end was close. Dick told me to run across the bridge. And he ran with me. Across the bridge I could see the finish line and I kept going. As I neared the end, the cheers were incredible. Across the finish line I could see the whole CAF and the Operation Rebound team cheering me on. I crossed that line with my arms raised, 3 min before the official cut off.


I couldn't help but get a little emotional seeing all these people that had waited a full 9 and a half hours to see my finish standing at the finish line. I got my finishers medal from Cody and felt such a sense of relief. I had done it. Never did I think I would be cutting it that close to the official cut off time. And as disappointed as I am with my run time, I can now say I finished a half- ironman. It's even official.:) The victory was that much sweeter having all those people there with me and having Dick right there to hug and thank for his support. If he and Nico wouldn't have come to to meet me, I don't know if I would have finished. I do believe I was the last person to make the time cutoff which puts me in dead last and makes me chuckle a little bit.


The only place to go from here is up and to improve. As I ran the race my respect doubled for those that have completed the full Ironman, especially for a specific one- legged woman. It is an accomplishment that only the strongest can brag about and if I'll ever be one of them is left to be decided. As I finished the run I thought there was no way I would ever do a half again. But given some time, and this awesome Hawaiian vacation to recover, I may be convinced to change my mind..
I do plan on doing a few Olympic distance triathlons for the rest of the year. New York, Chicago, and maybe a few others in there.

So for now, I say goodbye. Time for me to shower after my beach side cabana massage and get ready for tonight's Luau. Rough life huh:)

But really, thanks for all the support and believing I can make it to the end. After 70.3 miles and one bee sting, it's official. I am a HALF- Ironman. Thanks CAF and Operation Rebound for getting me to the starting line!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The only way to finish, is to start.

Well, I’m sitting on the plane headed to one of my biggest races yet. The Oceanside 70.3. On Sat I will be a part of a group of 5 disabled athletes, and 1000’s of able-bodied athletes that will attempt this 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run with the goal of making it to the finish line. No time goals are needed here; making it to the finish line will be an accomplishment in itself.


I am representing the Challenged Athletes Foundation and their subset called Operation Rebound. It is a group of athletes that were wounded either in Iraq or Afghanistan or as a police officer of fire fighter. I have done a number of races with them throughout the year, but I am usually part of a relay team, and most often the swimmer. I’ve felt for a while now that I needed to step up and do the entire race, being my own team. Just doing the swim is great, but while I sit around and wait for my teammates to complete the race, I always wish I was doing more. So one day last summer, when I was no doubt in a great mood, wondering what my next big challenge could be, this race came up, and I jumped on it. And here I am, 7 months later, wondering what on earth I was thinking. At the time I wasn’t thinking of the dreaded Chicago winter and that much of my training would be done inside, either on a treadmill or on a stationary bike. Because of that, my training has suffered a bit and I really only have myself to blame. I have this awesome coach, Coach Mike, from Carmichael Training Systems that has been giving me my weekly workout schedules in preparation for the race. I’d be lying if I said I completed them all, and I too often used the excuse of being too tired, or it’s too cold, or really just preferring to sit on the couch with my husband. But whatever the reason, it was pure laziness on my part and I’m sure I will feel it on Sat. I am confident that I have done enough training to finish the race, it just won’t be pretty and I probably won’t look all that happy at mile 10 of the run.


We’ll start with a lovely 1.2 mile ocean swim with the first dip being at 6:45am. From there we start on the 56 mile bike course that I’m told can be a bit hilly. I’m not a huge fan of hills, the only having one leg thing, makes them a little difficult. If I go to slow, I’ll actually start rolling backwards. No joke. But the one thing I have done over the past few months is really step up my bike training. And thanks to my rocking computrainer coach, Stacee, I feel as prepared as I can be at this point. After I get off the bike, I’ll start the 13 mile run course, which is a 2 lap course with periods of sand you have to run through. Again, not too much a fan of the sand especially after the bike. BUT, at the end of it all there will be a glorious finish line where I will run, or crawl, through in my moment of glory of having completed the race. My motto of the race is, The only way to finish it to start, and start I will bright and early on Sat morning. Please pray to the wind gods that they take it easy on us.


There are some cutoffs that have to be made throughout the race that allow you to stay on the course. We have the fortune of being the very first swim wave, which will give us the maximum time available to make those cutoffs. Once I make the bike cutoff I will make it to the finish, even if the finish shoot is torn down by then.


I’m lucky that I’ll have my husband, the awesome CAF peeps and many other athletes and supporters there for the support. I’m a sucker for people cheering for me, and I’m told there’s a crowd at this race with some loud cheers along the way. Plus, my husband is going to meet me halfway on the run with a towel and a fresh liner for my running leg and there’s nothing like a sweaty hug and a kiss to keep me going for 7 more miles. Oh and did I mention that Dick and I will be flying to Hawaii the following day for a week of R&R. So as I become near the point of exhaustion it will be thoughts of hula skirts, and mai tai’s on the beach that will get me through those last miles.


But really, as much as I talk about how long it is and how much it’s going to hurt, the bottom line is, I’m thrilled. Thrilled, really, to have the opportunity to compete in such a race. To have the people behind me who believe I can do it, and to prove to myself that I really can.


So. Wish me luck. I’ll send a race update as soon as I’m able to move my fingers long enough to type it out.


Peace Out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A new decade.

3 months later and I'm back again.
Lets see since I last wrote there's been lots of turkey, lots of snow, a great Christmas, the beginning of a new year, some skiing, a 30th birthday (yes, mine) and some pretty freaking good days mixed in there.

Christmas brought us to CO with Dick's family and it was a good time as always. We drove up to Breckenridge for the New Year and rented a condo with about eight other people. If you've never been to Breckenridge, it's awesome. The town, the mountains, the food, and spending our time up there with good friends made it even better. We only skied 1 day due to the overly spendy lift tickets but walking around the town, eating too much and spending time in the hot tub filled our time just fine. As we rang in 2010 it was hard to believe we were about to enter into our 4th decade.

A few weeks later, that's exactly what I did. The big 3-0. Only instead of acting my age, a bunch of us went to play laser tag and have a pizza party. It was like I was turning 13 instead of 30 but I wouldn't have had it any other way. For a suprise, Dick brought me up to Grand Haven, MI where I was born. I had never been back for a visit and had been wanting to make the trip. He contacted my parents and found out the first house I lived in, where I was born, where I was baptized. We went to each place and took pictures as I stood outside with a sign reading what each place was. It was incredibly thoughtful and was super cool to go back 30 years and be in the exact place at the exact moment I was born. It made it one of my best birthdays ever and I've entered into my 4th decade with style. Determined that I've yet to hit my prime, I'm ready for whatever comes my way.

My Brother in laws wedding brought us back to CO where I gained a new sister in law. Yuiko from Japan is the lucky lady and she is great. They make a great couple. We realized just how much we miss CO. Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Breckenridge...I think we'd be happy just about anywhere in the state and am pretty sure we'll end up back that way eventually.

I've been home an unusual amount over the past few months and have loved it. Since I've been home more, I've been working more and learning more and am finally feeling more comfortable with what I do. I have the best patients and love working with all of them. Jake is with me at work everyday and my patients are getting to know him as well. He even had his first patient on Friday. This adorable little girl whose family requested that Jake be there for her appt. as he takes her mind off of her prosthetic legs that we are fitting her with. I think he enjoys the work almost as much as I do.. I am done with my residency in May but will have to wait until Dec to take my board exams since they are only offered twice a year. I am hoping to be able to work at Scheck and Siress until we move in Spring of 2011 but that is to be determined.

My big half ironman race is coming up in a little over a month and I've been slacking on my training a bit. I've been a bit un- motivated and as much as I like to blame it on the old weather and the snow, I think it's pure laziness. For my birthday, Dick surprised me with a treadmill and having that at home has helped. It's pretty awesome actually, even Jake runs on it a few times a week. I know the triathlon is going to hurt regardless of how much I train. I mean who wouldn't hurt after a 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on a bike and a 13 mile run. But I'll survive. And the goal is to finish, I'm not really too concerned with my time. I average 8 to 9 hours of working out a week when for a race this big I should be up in the 11 to 12 hours a week. After this half ironman I'm going to stick with the sprint and olympic distance triathlons for the rest of the summer. I just need to cross the line in this one first... Knowing that we leave for a Hawaiian vacation the day after the race should help.
Running has become my favorite activity of the three lately. In my running high I've signed up for two 10 mile running races and am debating a half- marathon. But I'll wait and see how long this running excitement lasts before I get to that one.

The traveling picks up more than I would like in a few weeks but there's some cool things in there. A speaking engagement in TX, a board meeting, the half ironman, the Hawaiian vacation and the excitement of attending the Paralympic opening ceremonies as part of the Presidential delegation. I got a call a few weeks from the White House asking if I'd like to be part of the delegation and attend the opening ceremonies for the paralympics. I was not only honored to be asked, but absolutely ecstatic that I'll get to be there. The delegation includes three other Olympic/ Paralympic athletes, a few heads of state (think Eric Shinseki) and myself. I'm pretty pumped about it. Unfortunately, I won't get to stay to see any of the events but I'm happy to be there at all.

As I sit here right now writing this and watching the Vancouver Olympics I can't beleive it's been a year and a half since I was in Beijing. Seeing the athletes and hearing their stories is motivating me to put down the cookies and get on the treadmill imagining that perhaps I can be the Apolo Ohno of a sport someday.
I hope you can all get that motivation and get out there and enjoy the days ahead. Until next time, Go Team USA!