Monday, May 26, 2014

A birthday, a President, a mountain bike and America.

How to even begins this one, it's been a jam packed two months and of course, I'm behind in writing any of it down. To avoid anything too lengthy, I'll do a highlight of some of the top events and fill in the rest as I go.

But first, before I go any further, I must start with a Happy Memorial Day to you all. I hope among the BBQ's and picnics and friends, you all took some time to reflect on what this day is all about. It's about giving thanks to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, that allow us to enjoy those BBQ's and good times we continue to have. Freedom is not free. We should remember that everyday, but today we give some extra thanks. America is the best country in the world and life is good. To that I cheers to you all, in a debt of gratitude for those who gave their lives for our
freedom. Always remember those that gave all.

All right, where to begin. How about with one of the most important events of the year, LITTLE LEG TURNED 10! Can you believe it? 10 whole years since I lost my leg. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other days I think back on all that's happened since then, and it feels like 10 years. Like every year, a big bash was to be had to celebrate Little Leg's life and all of us. It's a day of being thankful for what we have instead of mourning what we no longer have. A day of celebrating life and all it has to offer. This years slogan was an appropriate, 'A Decade to Remember' and that it's been. When I think back and reflect on the past 10 years I can hardly believe all that's happened. There's been ups and downs, there's been some serious highs and athletic accomplishments and being able to travel all over the world. I've met some of my very best friends that have only known me with one leg and their friendship is as true as they come. I've been able to give back with the Wounded Warrior Project and Dare2tri, hoping that this next generation of wounded warriors or athletes with disabilities can be inspired to dream big and to follow their dreams, whatever they are. I've found a home in Chicago with my trusty 4 legged best friend Jake by my side, and now a fiance that I am beyond thankful to have found and to have in my life. To say life has been good is an understatement, it's amazing. And this year's party reflected just how amazing it's been. It was extra special this year as my parents and my sister Amanda and her husband Gavin came into town. This was a rare weekend for Amanda and Gavin to get away from their family of 5 kids and I know getting here was no easy feat. My faithful Little Leg fans Brandi, Molly, Joe and Lauren came from out of town along with my cousins Tim and Annette who all have made the trip countless years to help celebrate. All of them along
with so many others, at 6 degrees,
our favorite neighborhood bar. Think lots of drinks, lots of dancing on the bar (dad too!), lots of laughs, some serious drinks out of the socket and a good time had by all. I am so thankful. If this next decade is half of what this one is, then I'm in for a treat. And Little Leg, 10 already?! She's growing up fast..  

Next was a trip to Florida with Brian's family.
The whole family. Mom dad, both brothers, grandma and both nieces. A day at Disney World, one at Sea World and then a few back at Brian's mom's spent by the pool. Now we have been to Disney 3 times in the past year and a half and it's safe to say we are Disney'd out. But to be there with Maddie and Laney, and to see their faces when seeing all the characters and the fireworks show, and to watch them on Dumbo,  and seeing Shamu, it really does put Disney in a whole new light. I feel so lucky that I will have in-laws that I truly enjoy being around. Brian's family is so warm and inviting and included me in everything from the start. Once again, a lucky girl I am.

Now the third main event, but a highlight of the year. The W100. 3 days of mountain biking with President Bush and 20 other wounded veterans. I did this ride 2 years ago with Keri, and this year was just as amazing. To have Brian with me and to show him off to the President and all the staff and volunteers that we knew from the years past.. what a week it was. The trip started out the first morning with all of us ready and the President showing up and saying his hellos. He shakes all of our hands, he gets to me and says, 'Melissa I hear your fiance is with you'  I said, 'yes, sir, he's right back there'. At this point Brian waves and says 'Hi sir'. The President didn't skip a beat and yelled out, 'hey Big Bri, stay in the back would ya!' A fun moment and a new nickname that Brian was affectionately called the rest of the weekend.
Once again, there was a dedicated Team
Melissa, that rode in front and behind me and
helped he up the hills if I needed it. Brian was there and always a bike behind and jumped in to help me more than once. Trek was beyond generous and gave all of us wounded veterans sweet new mountain bikes that we got to bring home with us. The trails of his ranch are amazing and even
more so to think that it is his backyard. There were some good falls and road rash to be had, but what's a mountain bike trip without a few bruises. This was a trip to re-enforce that President Bush is a great man. Here, he brings 20 wounded veterans and invites them to his backyard and his home. Literally. He  shows up and eats dinner with us, he makes sure he spends time and talks with all of us, and he tells us that he feels he is the one with the most responsibility to make sure we are all taken care of. A man and a President that is acutely aware of the decisions he made and the impact they had. A great man, always quick with a witty comment, a quick laugh and a stud of a mountain biker. Not to mention a dog lover and now a new friend for Jake. We are still on a high from the trip. The teamwork and camaraderie of the warriors, staff and volunteers. The generosity of the President and Mrs. Bush allowing us to ride our bikes through their backyard and inviting us into their home. A trip I feel so fortunate to be a part of and once again, a proud American. Thank you Mr. President for your continued support and belief in all of us. Oh happy days.

 And last, but certainly not least, a trip to Washington DC for some sightseeing and a wedding of Jen and Jen, some friends we have met through the small world of triathlon and CAF. This was Brian's first time DC and I was anxious to show him around a city I loved. We walked 7 miles the first day, all over that city, and saw almost everything. The whole mall, Thomas Jefferson, MLK, Iwo Jima and Arlington Cemetery. The next morning we got up for an early morning run on the mall. One I had talked about for months and how peaceful it was to run among the monuments as the sun came up. We didn't know it but we were joined by thousands of other walkers and runners doing the Susan Koman 5K, so not quite like I planned, but still an experience. And then a quick drive to Oxford, MD where we got to be a part of the great love of Jen and Jenn and dancing the night away.  

An eventful couple of months it's been. Our new 
home has come together so well and we love it and calling it home. All the generosity from everyone after the fire helped make it home faster than we ever thought it would. Our home, for our new life together. As usual, things always work out.

My 6 month old post- Ironman blues are still there some days but going away slowly. There or not, I have my first race in Dallas this Sunday. Admittedly, I started getting back into things and hard training a solid 2 months later than I should have. Trying to get back up to par and happy with my workouts has been tough. I'm not sure Dallas will be my best race but I'll do the best I can and be happy with it. At least it will be a good benchmark to see how much work I need to do. 
This year is a little different in the triathlon world as we are moving to a new system of elite athletics and an attempt to make it a fair system. While all new systems always have issues, the basic idea is that we all have to acquire points, which we get by racing in certain races and the better we do, the more points we get. Those points will qualify us for Worlds this year and then half of our points carry over to next year on the path to Rio. While there is still a lot to be decided on, you could say the Road to Rio starts this year. An exciting venture and crazy to think it can be so close. So Dallas will be whatever it is, and then a race in Chicago a month later which I hope to be fully back for. 

Wedding plans have yet to start, but they will soon enough. Can't someone just plan it for us and we can show up and it's amazing?
And as always, Jake always makes our days better. A young six and a half years old with multiple promises by him that he's never going to get old. Or have bad hips. And why would he lie?

I think that's it for now. A busy, exciting life it is. Until next time,