Thursday, September 22, 2011

World Champion. x 2.



Based on the title of this post, you may have already assumed this next statement. But I won, I won! Yes, making me a two time World Champion which is still a little surreal at the moment.
The race went as well as it could have. We woke up to the first actually clear day we’d had in China. We could actually see the sun, and the humidity was down. The race wasn’t until 3pm so the morning was spent with my roommate Danielle, sitting around going over and over our race, packing and re- packing our transition bags and trying not to be too nervous. We got to the race site around 1 to check in, get our equipment checked and set up transition. There was a big question of whether to wear a wetsuit or not. The water temp was 80 degrees so it wasn’t needed. And trying to figure out if the extra minute I would gain by wearing it would accommodate for the time it took to get it off. I decided to wear it which, in the end, proved to be the right decision and possibly got me that top podium spot.

The swim felt great and I was out of the water in 12:30. As I moved to transition my handler Caroline helped me strip the wetsuit and I got my biking leg on and was off on the bike. Now the bike course was no easy feat. A two loop course which was probably the hilliest and most technical course I’d ever been on. It started with this killer hill that went up, and up, and steep, and gradual and then steep again, and for most of it I was sub 5 mph which isn’t the best confident booster. But the benefit of being out first on the swim and out on the bike has an extreme mental advantage. I knew that the bike was my weak point so I pumped my legs as fast and as strong as they would let me with a keen eye out on who was passing me. I knew I was doing OK, as I didn’t get passed by some of my faster teammates until mile 9 or 10 when this usually happens much earlier on. As I got into transition I was pumped that I was still the lead Tri 2 female. But that quickly faded as I put on my running leg and saw my competition come into transition. After a quick panic, I made the decision that this was my race and set off on the run. The run was unique as it was 4 laps in front of the spectator stands and the announcer so you could hear the crowd, the announcer and more importantly see your competition the whole time. My plan of descending each lap quickly passed as I sprinted the first lap to try and get a good lead. Around every turn I would gauge where she was in hopes that she wasn’t closing the gap. At one point the announcer called out that I was only 2 min ahead of her and this caused a noticeable increase in cadence as the gap slightly closed. But as I rounded the corner to the finish, with a new 5K PR,  I knew that this race was mine. I pumped my arms a bit before the finish and threw 2 big peace signs up as I crossed the finish. I could feel the love from Jimi showering down knowing I had made him proud.
Team USA sweep!

Turns out I won by a mere 59 seconds making it quite the race and I couldn’t have been prouder. I was beaming with pride knowing I had won, and not only that, but my teammates came in 2nd and 3rd making it a 1-2-3 sweep by USA. It can’t get much sweeter than that. And as we stood on that podium, watching 3 American flags go up hearing the national anthem, it was a moment I had long dreamed of. Back to my days as a gymnast and dreaming of the 1996 Olympics, to the Paralympics in 2008 and now back in Beijing, finally achieving something I’d dreamed of since I was a child. Oh what a moment it was. A proud American once again.

Team USA won a total of 8 medals. Danielle won her category as well so we went back to our room after the race, the room of World Champions, as proud as ever of each other and representing the USA.

The remainder of the trip in Beijing was spent with my teammates enjoying our accomplishments and each others company. Some sights, some tasty Peking duck, lots of walking, lots of laughing and good times that won’t soon be forgotten. After Beijing 5 of us made the trip to Shanghai for a few days. We stayed in a hostel and spent a few days exploring the much more modern city. Lots of shopping, bartering, taxi rides, cheap massages and good laughs made for another memorable trip. My favorite place was this beautiful park that had old, cute Chinese men sitting on every bench, and women dancing and doing Tai- Chi and playing cards. The looks we got being a group of 5 Americans, 3 of us with 1 leg, was pretty hilarious. The language barrier would make us laugh as they would come up to us, gesture to our legs and talk to us like we understood. We would respond with a friendly ‘Ne- how’, meaning hello, and they would look up, smile and continue chatting like we understood as we said Ne’how over and over again because we didn’t know how to say anything else.
After 6 days in Beijing and 4 in Shanghai, I was ready to go home and after some logistical trouble making that happen, I’d never been happier to touch down on American soil and sleep in my bed. Of course made even better with my new purses, sunglasses, watches and scarves that I brought with me from the silk market…
Keri the Iroman, coach Stacee and a World Champ. What a team.

My homecoming was made that much sweeter as my boyfriend (yes, I have a boyfriend) Brian planned a welcome home congratulatory surprise party. So he led me by the hand to our local pizza place where 20 friends were waiting to celebrate with me. Such a thoughtful and memorable way to come home. And once again, as I laid in bed that night, exhausted from the travel I thought about what a lucky girl I was.

Things haven’t slowed much since then. Dare2tri put on our own triathlon last weekend and ABC was there to film it, which took up most of the weekend. The following day I flew to Vegas to be the keynote speaker at the Prosthetic AOPA conference and now, I’m finally flying home. Again. It’s only been a week since returning from China but it feels like it was months ago. 

The next couple months don’t slow down too much either. I’m in and out a few random days for some speaking, a week in Guatemala for the Prosthetic Humanitarian trip with the Range of Motion Project and a little thing called the NYC marathon. I say this and I don’t think people realize the extent of that statement as never have I run over 13 miles, even with 2 legs and here I am signed up to run 26 in a little over a month. I was focused on training for the sprint tri in Worlds so my focus was short and fast training. Now that that’s over, I’m attempting my 1st longer than 13 mile run this weekend. My friend Becca is going to be my guide in NYC so she’ll be doing it with me but I think I might be crazy for signing up for this one. In 2004 and 2005, I did the NYC marathon on a handcycle and always told myself I’d go back and run that as my first marathon. And apparently this is the year.. I’m doing it with the group Achilles, as they supported me on my days on the handcycle and want to show them my thanks back.
As my coach Stacee told me, it’s gonna hurt and it may take you 8 hours, but you’ll get to that finish line. And so it goes. But if I get through this, and am still alive to talk about it, I may, just may, think about an Ironman in the near future. There, I said it.

And I can’t sign out until I brag that Brian is competing in his very 1st triathlon this weekend. This time I’ll be the one cheering at the finish line, thankful that he is in my life.

Until then, life goes on. A charmed life that I am proud to live.

My awesome boyfriend Brian.
Peace Out!

Melissa

4 comments:

Benchmark said...

Congratulations on all of it!
You're such a Rock Star for many of us......

Sarah said...

Congrats on your World Championship win! I'm so happy for you and your amazing, incredible, busy-busy life!

Stephanie said...

I'm so proud of you!!! Congrats on all of your accomplishments...there are SOOO many of them! I'm so glad that you have someone(well, many people, but one really special one) there in Chicago to make sure you are taken care of! We miss you. Love you!!!

Paul_G said...

Love reading your stories champ!! 3/4 of getting through a marathon is mental... I'd put $ on you finishing in well under 5 hours.

Keep on keepin' on Champ!