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.

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