Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Forgot to post this during the US Open

Day 1 of the Main Draw

I think everyone in New York was on my train this morning headed to the US Open. I could barely get a seat on my way out to the Willets Point/Shea Stadium stop on the 7 train. But knowing that I would be standing for most of the day spurred me to push a little harder to take up that one remaining seat. Plus, I wanted to eat my breakfast sitting down.

I was surprised to find that even more people had already shown up at the Tennis Center. I knew it was going to be packed, but my imagination had failed in comparison to reality. I was both nervous and excited that this was the first day of the Main Draw and although it was no different than any of the qualifying round days, I still had a hard time pushing down the nerves. My team of six relieved the morning crew on Court 8 at around 1:00 PM and started off with a women’s match. I was sore from my 10 mile run the day before and my shoulder was a little tight (so my throws to the backs weren’t perfect), but I warmed up quickly and felt good by the end of the match.

While Nadal, Federer, Yankovic, and Blake won matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium, I fielded balls on the outer courts that skirt the main stadiums. Being assigned to a stadium court is a real honor and veterans put in many years to work their way up to those spots. Although my efforts might be in vain, I will continue to work my butt off, put in the hours, and hustle on my courts for a chance to do one stadium match this year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Back to IM training

After 3 weeks in NY I am still trying to get back on track for the IM I've signed up for in November. When I signed up in January the race just seemed so far off, but now it's creeping up on my quickly and I need to get my butt in gear. It was tough to get all of my workouts in while living it up in the Hyatt in New York City with no bike, no running trails, and no swimming pool. The substitutes: stationary bike (with TV), treadmill (also with a TV), and ummm...upper body workouts. I got in a fair amount of mileage without ever moving an inch. Now the quality of those workouts is being put to the test as I continue to increase the volume of training. I logged a 19 mile run over the weekend followed by a 60 mile bike on Sunday. So far, the good news is that I am still relatively injury free (just some nagging knee pain that I hope will fade as I get back on the trail instead of concrete) and I am able to recover from one workout to the next quicker than ever. I am looking to put another long bike and run in this weekend as long as I can get all of my work done too. I have to be careful to avoid getting too rundown because I'm walking a fine line with overtraining.

Monday, September 8, 2008

US Open Ballgirl Wrap-Up

At this time last night I was waiting patiently outside Arthur Ashe Stadium waiting for the finish of the Women's US Open Finals because I was given the honor of carrying a flag for the closing ceremony. Although there was no tv easily viewed from our location we were sent frequent updates about the status of the match. And when the uproar of the crowd penetrated the large double doors we all knew that it was over, Serena had won.

Along with 18 other ballpersons, I quickly made my way to center court, carrying my American flag high and proud. The crowd was still going wild, flashes were going off in every direction, and to top it all off, I nearly bumped into Serena as I walked onto the court. Her family had been seated in the bleachers just above the doors we had entered through so she had immediately raced over there to shake their hands, just as we were walking out. I was so caught up in making sure that my flag didn't touch the ground that I barely noticed her until she was about 3 feet away. Her excitement was so palpable at that distance. It was incredible.

We then lined up behind the net, and I lowered the butt of my flagpole onto my right foot. I don't think there was a better seat in the house to watch the presentation of the trophies. I was about as close to the excitement as you could get. A couple of people even saw me on TV (CBS) standing directly behind Serena and Jelena while they received their Tiffany and Co. trophies and very nice checks. My favorite part was when the presenter announced that Serena had won $1.5 million. Jelena then asked how much she would get. The most important question of course.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rafael Nadal at the US Open

I had the pleasure of joining the USTA Florida section in the President's Suite today for lunch and got a couple of shots of Rafael Nadal against Sammy Querrey. A little more on lunch: it was an incredible experience. Everyone was absolutely fantastic and supportive. I met David Denkins, the former mayor of New York City, Pancho Seguro, Tony Trabert, Andy Everett to name a few, and had lunch with a number of USTA members and volunteers. Another wonderful experience.

Photos from US Open

Photos from Top to Bottom
(1) Jelena Jankovic [2] - Practicing
(2) Roger Federer [2] - Practicing
(3) Roger Federer [2] - Practicing
(4) John Isner [81] - Practicing
(5) Donald Young [73] - Mixed Doubles

New York Times

So although I am doing the same thing as the other ballkids, it seems that my black carbon fiber leg catches most people's eye. The New York Times approached me last week and asked if they could do a story on the US Open from my angle. I told them of course, but would never have guessed it would make front page of the sports page. I have never had someone tell my story as well as Josh did. The article was posted on the internet Thursday and came out nationwide in the New York Times on Friday. The New York Post must have seen the Times article online because they found me on Thursday and asked to do a story on me too, which came out Friday with a number of photos and a video online. This has been both an interesting and incredible experience. Strangers walking down the streets of New York approach me now to shake my hand and congratulate me on a job well done. For me, this is just something I do. I wouldn't know how to live my life any other way. But it has been interesting to have players and chair umps approach me before a match to thank me for being there. I also learned after the fact that one of the tennis players even requested that I be one of the ballpersons on his court during his doubles match. That was pretty cool. It has been a pleasure to work for the USTA and their support has been encouraging. Thanks for everything.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More fun at the US Open

I don't know where to begin considering everything that's gone on here at the US Open. It's been an incredible experience with many fun matches, great plays, and bloopers. For the most part we all just do our job as expected, but sometimes the unexpected happens and we have to improv as possible. Like the other day when I was working a doubles match. Now, most ballkids agree that the net positions have it easy in doubles matches because the front player normally hits us the ball after it's hit the net. But every once and awhile I'd rather race out and pick up a dead ball than go chasing after a bouncing ball that seems to go in every direction. Yesterdat during a match the player hit me the ball and my hands were out ready to scoop it up so I could race back to my spot next to the chair umpire. But the ball had other plans as it sliced between my hands and wedged itself between my legs. Awkward? Yes, but I thought to myself "hey, maybe nobody saw that." No such luck. As we ran off the court after the match, the other ballkids agreed that the best catch of theday was the one between my legs! great! I guess everyone saw.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More on the US Open

First of all, how did we ever manage before internet? The hotel I've been in for 1.5 weeks (and will be in for that amount of time still) charges $9.99 for 24 hours of internet access. Really, it's T-mobile that's ripping us off, but regardless the matter-of-the fact is we are struggling to keep current with the news, email, and of course, for me, this blog. Thank goodness for the technology of new phones these days. Not ideal, but the best I've got! I have a great blog drafted on my computer that I will post soon. Oooh and more pictures. I watched Donald Young playing mixed doubles yesterday. If you don't know (and I certainly didnt) Young is one of the youngest pro-tennis players although he's still not highl ranked. Fun to watch nonetheless. Alright I will end this blog before I trip. Blogging while walking down a wood-pannelled bridge (bridges the subway terminal with the Tennis Center) has proved hazardous. More soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Qualifying Rounds of the US Open

There unfortunately hasn't been much time to post since I have spent most of my days on the US Open courts, pulling 9 to 12 hour shifts so that all of the matches are covered. This past week has been demanding since too many ballpersons were hired this year and we are all fighting for a limited number of spots available for the main draw. But on Friday I received word that I had made it and I was thrilled.

So, what exactly will I be doing for the next 2 weeks while tennis pros battle for the US Open title? Basically, we are called out to a court in teams of 6 for 2 hour shifts at a time. I was hired for the net position, which means I stand at one end of the net until a player slams a ball into it and then I run after and retrieve it. 90% standing there watching the net, 10% sprinting after a ball to clear it so that the player can set up for his next serve. I do other things too, like throw the ball to the backs (who stand either of the court) who then feed the balls to the players. And during change overs I am supposed to politely ask the player on my side of the net if he/she needs any water or Gatorade. Most of the time the players are very focused so I tend to stand back and let them just ask me if they need anything.

Another great perk of my job is that I have access to the back hallways of the stadiums and free seats at what we call The Perch between the Grand Stand and Louis Armstrong stadiums. The second day I rolled in to find what court I was assigned to I had the pleasure of sitting back and watching Jelena Yankovic and Andy Roddick practicing, one on each of the 2 courts I could see. The following day the courts were bustling even more with famous tennis players and their coaches. Roger Federer warmed up with a couple serves and volleys while practicing in the Grand Stand (pictures to come once I can upload them to my computer). The Williams sisters were on a court nearby doing much the same thing. The best run in so far though was on my way back to the ballpersons lounge after a 2.5 hour shift on morning. High pitched squeals and giggling could be heard coming from down the hall far before we could identify the source. Then security guys were blocking our path and asked us to move up against the wall. Rafael Nadal then appeared, flashing us an amused smile as he walked past followed by an entourage of 12 year old girls asking for his autograph. Even in the presence of such a phenomenal athlete, I couldn't help but laugh.

These experiences so far have gotten me even more excited about what is to come. To be in the presence and on the courts with such talent and athletic ability is a real thrill. I have a real appreciation for these guys' competitive spirit and drive to win. I look forward to the continued interaction with these men and women and will hopefully be motivated even more to continue the pursuit of my own goals.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The start of the US Open

The beginning of 3 weeks as a ballgirl at the US Open. The reality of living out of a hotel for 3 weeks set in when I walked into the very nice, but very small room on the 24th floor. My roommate, Scout, arrived later in the evening and moved in as well. Every drawer, shelf, and hangar is in use and still some of my clothes are still in my suitcase. And I even tried to pack light.

Today at 2 pm I will head out to the Tennis Center to really begin. I will write more about that when I return.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to the long stuff...

I had a chance to take about a week off after New York. I wonder if I should've taken off more time, but I was also getting antsy about beginning my training for Ironman. So Week 1 of my training began with a long 12 hour week, which felt like a lot on top of work and completing medical school applications. I am now going into my 3rd week of Ironman workouts and the volume continues to increase. And as the volume increases my free time decreases. You'll notice that my blogs are made less frequently these days. I'm looking forward to taper week!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reminiscing on Swimming

It's easy to tell people my story. I've said it so many times that I have it rehearsed to the T. I lost my leg when I was six months to a congenital defect...etc. (If you want the rest of the story check out my biography at the bottom of this page. I really don't want to tell it again.) But one detail rarely shared is that when I moved back to the States from Germany I wanted to join the swim team. I was a good swimmer, even as a seven year old. I loved the water and the water seemed to love me. I could float like a buoy in the middle of a lake. I was doing back flips off the diving board with one leg when I was six. I can't do them anymore, but I could then. But the coach...well, I won't give you my real feelings about the coach, but basically he was a real piece of work. "Kelly will never be a good swimmer," he told my mom. That's what you get when someone doesn't want to take on a challenge or is afraid of the unknown. I was full of potential and everyone knew it.

But you know what? All I can say is thank you now. I set out to prove him wrong. Rather than kill my taste for swimming he fueled my drive to succeed. My goal is never to meet expectations, but rather to exceed expectations and then some.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New York City Triathlon

I don't even know where to begin. With the heat, or the jellyfish, or the lack of current in the Hudson. Okay, let's start at the beginning. The night before the race my team got hotel rooms at the Beacon Hotel on Broadway a couple of blocks from the transition zone. First off, I'm still trying to figure out who's brilliant idea it was to put hotel rooms along Broadway. Great location maybe, but not exactly quiet nor dark at any hour of the night. I know this because I laid awake staring at the ceiling (yes, I could see the ceiling with the lights off it was so bright in the room) and listening to the shouts and catcalls of club-goers and partiers. It may have quieted down around 2:00 am so by 4:00 am I'd at least snuck in a couple of hours of sleep.

We started our walk over to the transition zone at 4:30 am in a heat that was not much cooler than it'd been before the sun went down. I didn't really feel ready for this race like I'd been for Worlds, but I also was less anxious than I'd been during previous years. I was just going to have to go out there and run my race. I was looking forward to the fast course, but to my surprise I had to work harder on the swim that I anticipated.

While we sat on the floating dock on the Hudson River waiting to be told to hop into the water for the official race start, a jellyfish popped out from under the dock, got stuck on the start rope, and floated off ahead of us. Wait, what? Yes, I know. I looked at Kati and she confirmed that I wasn't seeing things. It was indeed a jellyfish and it turned out that there was definitely more than one in the water. Not long after that the race horn went off and after a few seconds of confusion about whether or not the race had actually started (normally we do an in water start, but we were still sitting on the dock when the horn sounded) I started the swim.

This was not one of my better swims. The usual Hudson current was practically non-existent and the water was surprisingly choppy for so early in the morning. My goggles filled up with water twice forcing me to stop and rearrange them. My swim cap even started to slide up over my ears, pulling my goggles off with it. I had to stop for a third time. All in all, I should be thrilled that I was fifth overall and the second female out of the water.

The race was supposed to get easier after that, but the heat and humidity failed to cooperate causing performance levels to suffer. All I can say is that I left everything I had on the course. I was tanked as I crossed the finish line and couldn't down enough water and Gatorade fast enough to replenish the stores I'd sweated out. Not my best race, but I am content with the title 2008 National Champion for my category of disability. Oh, and I got a large pewter plate. And the largest Tiffany and Co. box I'm sure I'll ever get in my entire life (see pic above).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Riding through Central Park

I don't normally arrive at a race early enough to ride any of the course, but it was different this time. I'm in New York today (3 days before the New York City Triathlon) with nothing that I have to do so I put my bike together early and went out to ride the run course in Central Park. My sister warned me that there is a specific direction that you're supposed to the run/bike/rollerblade around the Park and unfortunately it's in the opposite direction to our race day course. Nonetheless, I heeded her advice and proceeded counter-clockwise around the Park. I was expecting a nice easy ride through the park, but within seconds I realized that there would be nothing relaxing about my ride today. I was dodging bikes, runners, baby strollers, and rollerbladers that were all coming at me not to mention cars, which, according to one sign, weren't allowed in the park today anyway. But after 3 taxis passed me, it was obvious that the sign either didn't apply or the drivers didn't care. The most interesting object in my path that forced me to swerve quickly off course was a cute little turtle crossing the street. Another rider dodged on my left and we both looked back as we passed the brave (or stupid) little turtle who was slowly making his way across the pavement. He reminded me of the true nature of Central Park and the little oasis it represents in the middle of New York City; a small refuge of protection for many little animals. For the remainder of my ride I paid more attention to the nature on either side of the road and noticed everything else a little less. Nearly missed the ramp back to 72nd street too.

Monday, June 30, 2008

US Open Ballperson Tryouts

The morning started before dawn even though the US Open Ballperson tryouts didn't begin until 4:00 PM. At 6:45 AM we pulled into the parking lot outside the National Tennis Center to meet some of the veteran ballpersons and a news crew. CW 11 was on site to cover the tryouts bright and early. I had practiced chasing tennis balls around my home courts a bit, but was immediately aware that I hadn't practiced the few skills that I would need that day. For the live tv coverage, the host set us up with a veteran ballgirl (who had been doing this for 16 years) and asked her to give us tips and then had us show her (and all of New York) what we had learned. We raced back and forth across the court picking up loose balls that some other kids were hitting into the net. Our first shot out there on the courts went smoothly enough, but it was obvious that I still had a lot to learn.

To be very honest, being a ballperson is harder than it looks. I know this because before I headed up to New York, I watched a good deal of the French Open and Wimbeldon and thought it looked pretty easy. What I realize now is that it looks easy because the men and women and boys and girls know what they're doing and are good at it. You have to know when to run out and grab the ball, where to go, and who to throw to, all the while moving quickly and efficiently around the court so as not to be noticed. I also didn't know that in the US Open you have to be able to throw the tennis ball at least half the length of the court (about 80 ft) in one bounce with exact precision to a ballperson standing at the far end of the court. That's one thing I will definitely have to work on.

I am still quite thankful for the tips and suggestions offered that morning by some of the best veterans. At 3:00 PM we headed back out to the National Tennis Center for the official tryouts. We stood in a very long registration line for some time and I think that's when it hit me. Me and the other girl with me were the only disabled athletes in line. Although a whole range of people showed up to tryout, from young kids to older professionals, there was definitely no one else like me. I was both excited and nervous about what this meant and having this opportunity to represent disable athletes. I was pretty certain it wouldn't be my leg that would hold me back.

Finally, my turn came to tryout for a US Open ballperson spot. Although I have great endurance from triathlon training, I have not recently done much sprinting at all. I wanted to clear the balls off the court as quickly as possible so I sprinted across the court each time a tennis ball was hit into the net. I was breathing a little hard after a couple times across the court, but just kept doing my best. I was a little nervous about accidentally kicking a ball when trying to pick it up or just flat out missing it, but with the two hand scoop that I'd learned earlier that morning, I am happy to report that I got every ball. My throws to the far end of the court were not quite as spot-on, but I hope they were good enough.

I will find out soon whether or not I will be called back for the second round of tryouts. Regardless though, it was an experience I will never forget and would be an incredible opportunity for all disabled athletes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

ITU World Triathlon Championships - Thank yous

I couldn't have had such a success without the unwavering support of some many. I would like to thank:

Alex - for putting up with me after every good (and bad) workout during my training
Mom - lending an hear for all of my complaints and bad days
Dad - for checking in on how the training is coming
Team A Step Ahead and ASPIRE - for making all this possible - I couldn't race on any other legs
Amy - for being my surrogate mom and taking such good care of us
Sandy - for inspiring me to be even better
Tommy - for being such a good sport in a female run suite
Lauren - helping me kill time at the airport talking about MCAT stuff (I'm sure it wasn't a very interesting conversation for her) :)

If I missed anyone, I'm sorry and let me know! It's late and I'm tired.

Friday, June 20, 2008

ITU World Triathlon Championships - Race

It wasn't as cold as I expected the morning of the race. Probably about 50 degrees, but with all of the excitement and walk to the transition zone I was comfortable. We were to meet our handlers in the transition zone at 5:00 AM so it was an early morning for us. Unlike the night before most races I actually slept. In general, I was more calm that I've ever been before a race. I can think of two reasons for this:
(1) I've been training harder this season than ever before and was therefore more confident about how I'd do than I have been in the past
(2) I finally believed that my "best" was good enough and that all I could do was leave everything I had on the race course.

Either way, I was calm as I laid my stuff out in the transition, listened to some music, and met with my handler. My handler was a fabulous lady from Vancouver who had given up her Saturday morning to shuttle my legs from place to place and take the heat from people like me who get tunnel vision when racing. I apologized in advance for any quips or harsh words that might be thrown her way during my race. I even went so far as to tell her about my experience at my first Ironman in Arizona the year before. I had asked my mom to be my handler during the race. I gave her my running show and running leg at the start of the swim and told her that I'd need them in the transition zone when I got off the bike. So I get off my bike and my mom hands me my running leg. Then I ask for me running shoe and my mom says, "Oh, the one I put in the car?" "Yeah, that one." And I digress.

Back to the race. I was telling this story to my handler during our walk from the transition zone to the race start line. By the way, it seemed like an awful long walk and considering that it was a point-to-point swim (and we were walking from one point to the other point) the distance we walked would also be the distance we'd swim. The water temperature registered in at 55 degrees, which even with a wetsuit, is cold enough to cause hypothermia issues. I had a sleeveless wetsuit and a polar cap so I was thrilled when the announcer explained over the loudspeaker that after a long deliberation the race organizers had decided to shorten the swim to 1100m. Regardless, I was definitely coldest during the first 5 minutes in that water.

I got in the water at the last minute. I was fine until the water started to seep into my wetsuit through the ankle and arm holes. My hands were numb within minutes. The last bit of advice I got before the gun went off was to pull my swim cap as far down over my forehead as I could (thanks Tommy). That was the best advice I could've asked for even though with my swim cap and polar cap pulled down over my eyebrows I still felt that brain freeze feeling as I submerged my head under that icy water. I warmed up a bit once I got moving and tried to focus on my breathing; breathing out underwater and taking short, full breaths when I turned my head for air.

The water was like glass at 6:45 am when we pushed off from shore, but 900 meters later it was choppy. Turning for air to the right was pretty much negated by the mouthfuls of water I took in when a wave would crash over my face. The current also seemed stronger during the final stretch into the beach. Too bad it was going out to sea, which was not helpful at all. Having lost sight of a group of swimmers in front of me, I assumed I was pretty far back in the pack. I had no idea that I was the second female out of the water and first to get out on the bike.

The transition from the swim to bike was rather uneventful. I couldn't speak or rather I couldn't very well form a sentence as my handler ran down to help me out of the water. I couldn't much hop for that matter either. My foot was numb, my hands were numb, and it seemed that my brain was numb too. I was out in that water in a wetsuit for 19 minutes and that was about all I could stand. Jon, our team leader, had to shuck my wetsuit for me because I had lost all dexterity and strength in my fingers. I somehow managed to pull my liner up over my stump and then change into my bike gear for the bike leg of the race.

The bike leg went extremely well, which I learned after the fact. The bike portion of the race consisted of 4 loops around Stanley Park with rolling hills for the first 3.5 miles, followed by a 1 mile slow, steady, climb, and finishing with a 1.5 mile segment of downhills/flats. During the first loop I just tried to warm up, which didn't take long once I hit that 1 mile steady, climb. I tried a different tactic each time I came around and hit the hill - one time I tried to stand and push up the hill (didn't go well because my legs were still numb and I nearly fell over), the next time I tried to push a hard gear for as long as I could (too much lactic acid build up drained my legs though), and finally I took the advice of most cycling coaches out there and dropped into my lowest gear keeping my rpms as high as I could (by far the most rewarding tactic). By that time I was going on my fourth loop and was nearly done. What learned after the race (because I don't look at my bike computer while I race) is that I average 19 mph for 24 miles, which is 2 mph faster than my average during any previous race I've done. And this was by far a harder course. Also, what I didn't know at the time that I was the first female amputee off the bike going into the run.

By the time I got to the run I was warmed up. One short loop and two long loops would take me to the finish line. I kept my pace just past comfortable. I was breathing hard, but not too hard since I still had 6 miles to go. I saw a couple of girls on the course from my local triathlon team and there were other members of the team on the sidelines cheering for us. The team has been great. I dug deep during the last loop, trying to pass as many people as I could before I got to the finish line. It was by far my best race and I was completely satisfied when I finished. Well, looking back, I probably could've finished that run a little faster. A guy interviewed me as I finished. He asked me what I thought about the race. All I could say at that point (mind you, I was still trying to catch my breath since I wasn't exactly jogging across the finish line) was "cold". Then he goes, "Well, you seem to have an awful lot of energy left". "Okay, yeah, I don't think I left all of it out there on the course". So even though I had raced my fastest race to date, I still had something left and probably could've done it faster. Encouraging, I'd say.

And so there you have it. My third ITU World Triathlon Championships. Another silver medal. Another great race.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ITU World Triathlon Championships - Registration

I would've preferred that the following day start a bit later than it did. 9:00 AM would've been nice, but I would've even been happy with 8:00 AM. Anything but 6:30 AM when the Juniors' Sprint Triathlon started not too far from our hotel. The race finally ended at about the same time I could no longer force the sleep so it was time to get up and face the day considering there was a lot to do. Amy, Sandy, and Tommy had gotten to the hotel awhile after I'd fallen asleep so it was another hour or so before they were ready to get up, but the day was short and we still had to register, be classified (this is where an "official" verifies that we are indeed disabled), put our bikes together, and get our bikes to the transition zone.

We started with registration. According to the hotel concierge the registration tent was no more than a mile from the hotel. We caught a cab that cost $10 then walked as far as the distance the cab had driven us and still no white tent. After following directions from a motorcart official, a poor triathlete who was running and didn't speak much English, and finally an American who didn't know the area much better than us we at long last stumbled upon it.

The disabled athletes were sent to a special section of the tent to be classified first. For other disabilties the classification process may be more worthwhile. For us amputees it really just seems a little silly. I'm missing my leg below the knee. There's really not much more to it. Sandy's missing her leg above the knee. Kind of hard to fake that. However, the fun part was the classification titles they've designated to the different degrees of disabilities. I was not in the "below knee amputee" category, but rather the "slightly disabled" category. Sandy, on the other hand, was classified as "severely disabled". I can't tell you about someone less disabled than Sandy. She lost her leg to a birth defect (like me) and has adapted very well with her prosthesis. She is an accomplished skier and athlete and can probably put most people to shame on the slopes. Uh, and she's "severely disabled". Really?

I guess the other label that is worth noting here is AWAD. What the hell does that mean? Yeah, I know, most people at the ITU Worlds Championship didn't even know. That label is to identify each of us as an Athlete With a Disability. Since I've been in disabled athletics the political correctness of the label has always been in question. Sometimes race officials use "PC (Physically Challenged) Athletes". I've heard other ones, but can't remember them off the top of my head. Sometimes though it's nice to just be called an athlete. I train like every other athlete out there. I put in the same number of hours on the road or in the gym with the same intensity and determination as any other athlete there. I just hope that sometimes that is considered too.

ITU World Triathlon Championships - The Beginning

A recap and synopsis of my adventures to Vancouver and back. What an experience. This was actually my third World Championships so the scale and eliteness of the event was initially lost on me. Until I watched the pros race. But that will come later.

In the beginning, I started to wonder if I would ever see my hotel. It was 5:30 pm when I left the east coast US state where I live and 1 am before I even made it to the Vancouver airport. Mind you that's in Pacific time so for me it was already 4:00 am. After 11 hours of traveling I really had no desire to "fight" for a cab, which was a silly thought anyways considering the row of cabs lined up outside the airport. But my bike case won't fit in a Toyota Camry. Nor a Prius. It wasn't like New York where most of the cabs make my Dodge Ram look small. No, no. It appeared Vancouver was quite the Earth-friendly city and so I was told to wait until a van cab could be dispatched to the airport. "Wait," I thought. All I've been doing all damn day is wait.

Lucky for me, there was another poor soul who had lugged his bike box across country and understood my misery. He had actually begun his travels at noon the day before from Costa Rica and was more than happy to share his oversized van cab (he had just beat me out of the airport and got in the cab line just before me) with me. I was so gracious and ecstatic that my mood was immediately lightened and we chatted the whole way to my hotel. This was his first Worlds event and he was very excited to be representing Costa Rica at the Championships. I told him about my past experiences at these races, the huge turn out, watching the pros, taking it all in. We parted ways when the cab pulled up to the Coast Plaza Inn and rest was finally in sight.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

First Triathlon Volunteer Experience

As a member of the Inside Out Sports/Team Multisport Triathlon Team I am required to participate in two volunteer activities each season. I helped clean up a highway at the beginning of the year, which counted as my first activity. With a couple of options for my second activity I finally settled for volunteering at the Swim for Smiles Youth Triathlon. The kids were up to 18 years old and there were two distances. I can't recall the numbers for longer distance, but the shorter distance was a 100m swim, 2.5 mile bike, and 1k run. I received my designated volunteer assignment a couple days before the race and was asked to arrive at the event at 8:30 am race morning.

Race morning I arrived at the Chapel Hill Country Club at 8:30 am. The clubhouse was already a madhouse with people running around everywhere. I had been assigned to finish line duty, but when I checked out the finish line there already to be way too many volunteers standing around so I offered to help with keeping kids away from the food until they'd finished the race. Oh, and parents too. And brothers and sisters who weren't racing, and just wanted the food. It was a tough job and suited me well as it was in the shade (under an veranda type thing with fans and everything). The air temperature was already up to 75 even though it was still early and the sun was strong. Just as I was getting comfortable though a bunch of the finish line volunteers left for Church (arghhhhh...) and I was moved over to my original assignment.

It wasn't bad at first. One or two kids would come in at a time. I'd tear their number off and put it in a bowl (to be used for a prize drawing later), while another volunteer cut off the chip that was around their ankle. Again, fine at first. But it kept getting hotter. I was drenched after just 15 minutes standing out there with no shade nearby. Kids kept trickling in. Then one came across the line and just as I was about to grab his number he got sick everywhere. Ugh. Then another kid got sick. There must have been about 10 pukers throughout the course of the race. You could tell sometimes, but other times they looked fine and then all of a sudden...

It was quite the experience. Started to think that it's probably easier to race than to volunteer at a race. I've taken volunteers for granted the 6 years I've been racing so I'd like to thank everyone who has volunteered in the past. It's not easy work. And I was helping out a very short, kids triathlon. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to volunteer at an Ironman. Thank you to everyone who has. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A few more good workouts

A few more workouts closer to Worlds and I'm feeling good. I actually took Monday off since it was a holiday and I wasn't on my normal schedule. Considering the pool's flakiness in being open on holidays I decided not to waste the time and gas to even go see if it was open. Instead I enjoyed the warm, sunny day and packed in a little extra MCAT studying.

Which brings us to Tuesday. I had Monday's workout to make up and Tuesday's usual workout to fit in. My swim was fairly strong, especially now that I'm trying to practice breathing out under water. Surprisingly, swimming is a whole lot easier when you don't try to hold your breath. For a long time I didn't even realize I did this. When I would come up for air I'd try to breath out really quickly and then suck in as much air as possible before submerging my face under water again. I would usually be wheezing after 200m and I really don't think much oxygen was making it around my body. Breathing out through my nose underwater seems to be helping with this.

So that was Monday's workout that I pushed to Tuesday. And then I got right out of the pool, quickly dried off, and changed for my usual Tuesday run. 10 min warm up, 30 min tempo run, 10 min cool down. I didn't have any water, Gatorade, or food in between so I started feeling weak about half way through this workout. Not exactly what I wanted, but my body will be subjected to this state in the future so no matter, I pushed through it as I would in a race and finished out the 30 min tempo run as best I could. The cool down brought me right back to the place I started so my pace hadn't dropped off much from the beginning of my run despite feeling like I was running in jello.

Wednesday is normally a recovering day for me, but this week I decided to play off the exhaustion from yesterday and went out for a (fairly) hard bike and short run. My brick was surprisingly better than expected considering the run I did on Tuesday and the condition of my legs. I think I'll have to start getting used to putting in 2 hard workouts in a row and hope that my legs adapt accordingly. And my 20 min run after my 20 mile bike felt a whole lot better than expected. All good stuff.

Monday, May 26, 2008


This weekend was one of my hardest (highest intensity at race distance) training weekends yet and I have to admit that I am quite happy with how it went. I deviated a bit from my training plan because I just didn't feel like I have enough bricks included in the weeks prior to Worlds. So Saturday I went out for a 30 mile bike followed by a 2 mile run. It went well. I was a bit weak on the run, but that's what happens when you don't hydrate well on the bike (nor the morning of your workout). So it was no surprise that I wasn't sweating after being out in the 80 weather for 2.5 hours. The sun can act like an energy theif on those kinds of days so I didn't argue with it and threw in the towel early, went home, and recovered.

Sunday came around and I was feeling recovered. Off I went on a 10 mile bike and then a 6 mile run near race pace. I thought that I'd have been more affected by my bike the day before. But the run went well despite the heat, blazing sun, and lack of water on the run loop that I picked (I picked it because of the relative shadiness compared to other loops around my house). And so I am thrilled to say that my workouts seem to be paying off and I might just be ready for Worlds in 2 weeks with the goal of PRing significantly. It's just not always easy to get everything in while holding down a 45 hr/week job, studying for the MCAT, and applying to medical schools. I sure hope it all pays off in the end!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Braving the open water...again

Yesterday was the second Monday this season that the Elite Triangle Triathlon Team has scheduled an open water swim practice. It was also my second open water swim practice of my entire triathlon career, and perhaps one of the better workouts I've had in the past month. Since my swim last week in Jordan Lake was a bit abbreviated (I arrived late and missed going out in the water with the majority of people), I made sure to get in a solid swim at the pool on Sunday.

Stacey, Nasrin, Monett, Danny, Duncan, Paul, Alysia and 4 team friends also showed up for the open water swim, making a total of 12 of us. The guys fishing down by the water were amused as we wiggled our way into our wetsuits and took off across the lake. The slow kids started first so I was sure to get out at the front of the pack with a nice headstart. The first swim was about 600m across the lake to a tree that was slightly bent (there were many trees making sighting a real b$*@h). I kept an eye out for brightly colored swim caps and splashing. That was how I sighted my way across the lake.

We treaded water there until everyone had caught up (namely, until I reached the point where everyone else was already waiting) and then picked another point along the shore to swim too. This time my distance calculation was way off and with the way the sun reflected off the water I could barely see the swimmers in front of me. I was giving it everything I had and the other swimmers were still steadily getting further away. I tried long, powerful strokes and quick, speedy strokes, neither of which seemed to get me any closer to the rest of the group. I kept picked different trees along the shore to sight; all of which must've been the wrong one since we just kept swimming and swimming. Finally, when I was nearly out of breath, I caught up to the others who were treading water in the middle of the lake. They were ready to start the next part of the swim out to the bridge. I was not.

My arms were still sore from the day before and I was breathing hard. Swimming is my weakest of the 3 legs, but thankfully it is also the shortest leg of the triathlon and so I make out okay. Also, thankfully, another girl wanted to swim back to shore and so we rested another minute and then took off in the opposite direction from the bridge, back towards the little beach, the fishermen, and our stuff. Nasrin was way ahead on the 1000m swim back to shore, but I kept her green swim cap in view and I felt pretty safe the whole time. I normally panic in open water, wondering what else is in there with me, but the more exposure I get, the more comfortable I seem to get as well.

Maybe I'll even go again next week.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Wow, tired. Two things I've been trying to do in my workouts. (1) Push the intensity much higher and (2) lift more. The effects: I'm sore, exhausted, and fatigued.

So today I made it to the gym for a lift and a 2500m swim. I haven't lifted legs in ages, but I've been wanting to get back into it so I figured why not start today.

Set 1: 6 X 95
Set 2: 4 X 115
Set 3: 3 X 1 X 145

Felt good, felt easy.

WU: 400m
Drills: 3X100m (one arm, deep swim, breathing)
Set: 3X500m (8:58 - 9:05 - 9:12)
CD: 300m

Breathing hard. Intensity was where I wanted it to be.

Need to work on hydration, diet, and sleep.

Friday, May 2, 2008

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

Another typical soldier ride morning. Up too early, head still hurting from the night before. It was a beautiful day though and once we got outside I felt a lot better. We were headed out for a 26 mile ride around Annapolis, the route chosen by the owner of a local bike shop. Our group was a little larger this day with the addition of Navy cycling team who were doing a recovery ride anyway.

I had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of the guys during the ride, all of whom had gone straight to college after high school graduation. They had a ton of respect for these soldiers and, like me, were honored to have this opportunity to ride with them. The wounded warriors had done what they themselves were preparing to do.

The day went as usual with frequent stops and lots of food. We had a nice stop at a small beach that looked across at the lighthouse and then we road downtown to celebrate the ride. I was even honored with the receipt of 2 navy jerseys, which I will proudly wear (even if the Army guys don't like it)!

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

The day started way too early. Breakfast was at 7:30, but since Fox news was doing a special on the soldier ride at 8:00 I lucked out since we hung around to see what they said. The news coverage was well done although the focus was mostly on the president rather than on the soldiers. But we got airtime and they posted the WWP URL at the bottom of the screen. By the way, it's

We started the ride at the Baltimore Harbor, probably the nicest part of Baltimore I've ever seen. Another day of riding took us along the Greenway (some of it very nice and other parts going through neighborhoods that were a little questionable). The local Park Rangers and some cops were leading the way, although it wasn't the escort service we had experienced the day before. They did their best and we filled in where needed to to block the road and keep all of our guys together. I again stayed near the back of the pack talking to a Sergeant Major with the National Guard. I have met all kinds of people on these rides and each person has a unique and interesting story. This particular guy travelled regularly and, like me, enjoyed the exposure to other cultures. We compared the places we'd both been and made suggestions to each other about other "must-see" destinations.

We hit our first stop around 11:00 in a beautiful wooded area with a large gazebo. There were people handing out snacks and Gatorade, and it was situated right by an old folks assisted living facility, where the residents had made "Thank you soldiers" signs. A group had congregated outside to wave and cheer as we road past on to our next destination, which was not far down the road. No, really, not far down the road at all. I had practically just clipped into my pedals when we came to another halting stop just down the street. Another community group had prepared a substantial lunch for all of us. It was already our 3rd meal of the day, but we were gracious and ate as much as we could.

The coolest part of this stop was talking to one of the soldiers about his experience in the handcycle. I really hadn't had a chance to try it out before so he let me take his around the parking lot a couple of times after lunch. My arms were burning, my shirt was covered in chain grease, and I swear I still have bruises on my hips where the handles would hit if you tried to turn to hard. It was rather difficult to maneuver, and just as hard to power. I can say that it was definitely a good upper body workout.

After lunch we continued our ride. I gave my arms a break and let my legs do all of the work since they're used to it. I moved up to the front of the group in response to some heckling from the some of the soldiers who seemed to think I was making a poor showing as a triathlete at this event. I was socializing, not racing, but they didn't see it that way. To some people, everything is a competition. So I road up towards the front and hung around these guys, dodging their antics (ie: squirting me with their water bottle and throwing leaves in my face) until I finally dropped back to socialize some more. I finished yet another ride at the back of the pack.

Exhaustion struck when we got to our final stop for the day. It was a nice little park off the highway in Annapolis and it was hard not to lie down and pass out. But we weren't there long and in no time the support staff had loaded up the bikes and we were headed to our hotel downtown. Again, another tempting place to lie down and pass out. My hotel bed was calling my name. Instead, I showered and dressed for the Officers Club, which was hosting the WWP guys that evening.

Although dinner came out really slowly, we passed the time with pitcher after pitcher coming to our table from some of the veterans at the club. It was an appreciated gesture although when the 4th pitcher was set down on our 6 person table we were started to lose interest. Hence, the picture below.

That picture says it all for the rest of the night really!

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

We were getting an early start to the day so I woke up at around 6:00 to pack up my things before heading down to the lobby. Once I got down there it was pretty much a complete anti-climatic scence since I seemed to be the only one down there. Plus, since we were all dressed up for the White House ceremony, I couldn't tell who was with WWP and who was not (we were at the Hilton, everyone was dressed up)!

I had been to Walter Reed once before, but it's like a maze from hell so I knew my way around no better than if I'd never been there before. If you take a wrong turn, you can count on there being a dead end ahead. Not just a dead-end though. A dead-end with so many cars parked on each side of the street that you have to back down the entire road just so you can turn around. Then once you've turned around you're no better off because there is still no parking. I watched as my gas gauge dropped an 1/8 of a tank (3 gallons) just looking for parking. That's about $12 these days in gas. And I didn't even go anywhere. But once I'd parked, I turned over the driving to someone else and didn't have to set foot in front of a steering wheel for the next 4 days.

We hit the usual traffic driving down to DC on a weekday morning, but we got to the Capitol in time for a decent tour. It was rather uneventful and my thoughts had quickly skipped past the tour and on to lunch since I had missed (chosen not to pay $12 for) breakfast that morning. Lunch was finally served out of the back of one of the vans on the lawn behind the Capitol building. A delicious boxed lunch with the typical tasteless sandwich, greasy chips, and tempting cookie. Yum.

At this point it was still only noon and time to head to the White House. Security was tight although compared to what I'd been expecting it was like walking into a public museum in New York. I have a harder time getting through security at most airports.

Once into the north wing we were escorted to Mr. President's private tennis courts where our bikes were waiting. We were asked to change quickly so that we could get the ceremony rehearsal underway, which was relaly just another way to ask us to hurry up so that we could then sit and wait. We did a lot of waiting. And rehearsing. By about 2:00 they were ready to begin the event. Condolezza Rice gave a very nice speech. Then there was more waiting. Then President Bush went up on stage to give a speech and shake each of the soldier's hands. I took pictures. Lots of them! Then the horn was tooted and we started the 2008 White House to Lighthouse Challenge.

The first ride took us through downtown DC with a police escort that stopped traffic in all directions. There were a lot of unhappy drivers, but it was pleasant enough. I hung out in the back and got to know a couple people as we road along through DC to our first stop, which ironically enough was back at Walter Reed. One of the guys was having real problems with his stumps, so unfortunately he decided to stop riding at that point. I tried to persuade him otherwise, but he was done. Everyone else was doing well even though, for most of these guys, this was their first time back on a bike since their limb loss. They had been unfazed by the hills we tackled just 20 minutes into the ride. One of the guy's handcycle's handle broke, but he managed to climb the hill with the only handle left and still stay near the front of the pack.

After our relaxing break at Walter Reed we started our ride again, making our way towards Baltimore. We kept up a decent pace and hit the final stop (at the top of a massive hill) just in time for dinner. Perfect timing since the U-Haul facility there was throwing us a huge BBQ party. I finally got to sit down and talk to a couple of the guys, hear their stories, and tell them why I had joined them on this ride. Yes, I am an amputee, yes, I have done Ironman (2X), and yes, I am still completely awe-struck at the resiliency of most of these guys who are ready to get back out on the front line even though they aren't even out of their check-sockets yet.

Not all of the guys were amputees. Some of them were in wheelchairs. Other guys had lost function in a limb although it was still intact and semi-functional. Although I couldn't provide them same resources and advice to them, there was still an understanding there, a connection, that we were coming from the same place. Every day they woke up they had to face the same challenges again; the same pain and the same limitations. Brian joked that he'd never been a runner before and after losing function in his leg he'd never be a runner in the future. But he had a passion for handcycling after just one day in the chair and was already talking about competitive handcycle events. One door may close, but another will open. Go find the open door and walk through it.

I was exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, but some of the guys were going out for a beer. I couldn't pass that up. That's soldier ride. Too much beer and too little sleep. So we headed out to a bar, pulling up in the wrapped WWP van. Who would've thought that would initiate a night of free pitchers and shots on the bar owner who wanted to show his support for the event. Thanks Pickles. You're the reason I drank a lot more than I planned on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2008 White House to Lighthouse Soldier Ride

I left Durham at 5:00 PM to begin the drive to DC. I was excited and also a little nervous about this soldier ride - my third one. Who knew who I'd know, if anyone, or how my presence at the ride would be perceived. I'd been invited again as a guest rider because, having been an amputee my entire life, I've had a lot of experience dealing with prosthetics and making connections in the industry. Let's just say, I know people. Well, kind of.

A quick stop in DC to meet up with some old college buddies and then I was off to Silver Springs, MD. Having just missed the last call at the bar, which meant everyone had headed to their rooms already, and I was left alone to check in. I started to pull under the overhang at the Hilton, which led to the parking garage, mostly just to get off the street so that I wouldn't hold up any traffic. I was met by a rather obstinate, little man who waved his hands and pointed me back out to the road. Unfazed, I kept pulling forward.

My truck was bigger than him and since it was a fairly questionable neighborhood I had no plans of leaving my nice Sampson bike in my truck overnight. He didn't care that I was disabled, or that I'd had a really long day, having spent the last 6 hours in the car (I exaggerated just a tad), or that I was with the Wounded Warrior Project. He had his orders. But I sure didn't make it easy for him. I was going to unload all of my stuff by the lobby whether he liked it or not.

Monday, April 7, 2008


The alarm went off at 6:30 AM. It was another early morning on a Saturday and I again wondered why I keep doing this to myself. Why do I race? Why do I give up my weekend mornings to sleep in and instead go pound the road for X number of hours in a race? I pondered the thought briefly then moved on and got ready to go.

I was up in New York for the week having all of my prostheses worked on by my prosthetist, Erik Schaffer. He had outfitted me with a new type of suspension system and I was looking forward to trying it out in my first race. I had picked this particular weekend to go up and see him because the ASPIRE 10k was being held on that Saturday.

The race is one that is held every year in Plainview, NY to raise money for ASPIRE, a non-profit that provides money to disabled athleltes like me. A lot of amputees who have received grants from ASPIRE turn out for it to show their support so I knew a bunch of people there.

The race went off at 9:00 and took off at a comfortable pace. I wanted to run about a 7:30 pace, but this was a training run (I did not taper prior to the race) so I wasn't going to push it. I felt comfortable the whole run, cruising well below my pain threshold. My leg went numb from mile 3 on, but that was about the only discomfort I noticed. When I hit the last mile marker I picked it up a bit and cruised in. I guess the speedwork I've been doing has paid off because I ran a 46:47 (7:38 min/mile) practically without sweating. And that is why I run. What a great feeling.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cary Duathlon

It's only a week later, but the Cary Duathlon already feels like it was ages ago. I think it's all due to having too much to do in too short a time. Everything just seems to go by so fast. Before I knew it, it was the night before the race and I was still recovering from a hard workout that I'd had on Wednesday. I thought about just not going, but that's not my style so I set the alarm for 6:30 and went to bed. No special preparation or anything. I went into like it was just another training day.

When I got to the race site I noticed that there were really only a handful of athletes. This was going to be a small race making it even harder to get motivated for it. The race went off at nine, starting with a 5 mile run through the Thomas Brooks Park in Cary. It was a 2-loop out and back with a couple of steap hills. Since we all went off together my efforts to stay at the front of the pack were ineffective and after about a mile I fell back to about the top 1/3. I wanted to save something in my legs so I pushed it, but not too hard. I haven't done many bricks yet this season so I didn't know what my legs could handle.

The first leg of the race went well. When I looked at my watch as I entered the transition zone I realized that I'd run a sub-8 mile for 5 miles. Oh crap, was my first thought. Had I gone out too fast? Getting on the bike felt good though and I quickly got into a rhythm and pushed out the 30 miles with little sweat, while averaging 17 mph. It was great. I passed a couple of women who had passed me on the run although I can't say that I was too optimistic about the final 5 mile run that was coming up.

My legs felt sore getting off the bike and it took me a little while to find my running legs again. I had a lot of teammates from the Elite Triangle Triathlon team cheering me on so I kept pushing myself despite the difficulty breathing and complete lack of energy. I started picking off girls one by one as quickly as I could, making it through the final loop on pure adrenaline. I had estimated about a 3:20 finish considering my shape at the time and preparation so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw 3:08 on the clock as I crossed the finish.

Great race, great day, and I met some great people! Thanks guys!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Azalea Triathlon

I know my race report for Azalea Triathlon comes a little late, but better late than never, right? Well, with a race that short there isn't too much to report unless you end up having a race like Paul with a flat and a re-start. I can't say my race was quite that eventful. I finally fet warmed up about 45 minutes into it, and finished about 15 minutes later. Overall the race went well. Good points: (1) it was over in an hour (the whole thing was shorter than the swim of my last race) and (2) it was great for gauging my speed development so far this season. I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sick and tired...

I had to drag myself out of bed and to work yesterday. Initially I blamed it on the fact that it was Monday. The Monday blues always hit harder after a beautiful weekend that involves little more than fitting in workouts between sleeping in late and meeting friends for a cup of coffee. It was no wonder I didn't really want to go to work.

But as the day wore on it was evident that something more was at play. My coworker had been out of the office for 3 days after having come down with the flu. No amount of caffeine or water seemed to make my headache subside and if my phone would just stop ringing I could easily curl up under my desk and fall asleep. This was definitely more than Monday blues.

It's that time of year when the viruses make their attack on already compromised immune systems. But you've got a workout in the evening - the same one that you skipped last week - so what are you going to do? It's often tough to balance work, health, life, and training. There has to be a happy medium between all of the forces at play in order to maintain overall happiness and health, which will result in a better athlete anyway.

After 5 years of balancing training and life I've come to find that you just have to get your health back before the training can continue. For those highly competitive athletes out there, I realize that it's not always easy to leave the running shoes in the closet and pick up the remote instead. But you've taken off just one workout and can hopefully fight off whatever you've got before it gets worse. Imagine if you did go out on the run and compromised your health even more. Then you end up bed-ridden with the flu. There's goes a week of training and another one will be used just to get back to where you used to be. Sometimes taking off one day is just what the doctor (or coach) ordered.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coach Bubba 20k - training run...

Friday morning and my legs were still reminding me that they moved an entire apartment of furniture and "stuff" (it's amazing how much stuff can accumulate over a year - and how well I can hide it so that I don't even realize how much stuff I have) the weekend before. I had skipped my long run that weekend in place of carrying boxes up and down stairs and loading my car up with all of my precious treasures that I hadn't seen since I put them away and probably wouldn't see again until I moved once more. Nonetheless, it was like the workout of workouts and 5 days later I was still sore.

So the Coach Bubba 20k on Saturday was going to be a training run. Just a nice relaxing run to get my long run in for the weeekend. I got to the Durham Bulls Stadium nice and early to pick up my race packet, which contained my number and my chip (and some nice coupons for local restaurants that I probably wouldn't go to otherwise). Normally at this point I have the pre-race jitters that come from not knowing what to expect in a race. But they hadn't kicked in yet. I headed to the start line and still nothing.

Then the gun went off and the whole hoard of runners surrounding me surged forward. I took off at a comfortable pace. My legs still felt heavy so I took it easy to give them plenty of time to warm up. I knew there were hills ahead.

At the 5k marker I was still at a nice comfortable pace. That was about the last time I was still at that nice comfortable pace. Because a race is a race and although I'd been telling myself all morning that this was just a training run, I knew in the back of my mind that these times would be posted and I wanted to do well. I picked up the pace for awhile despite the feedback from my legs. I hit the hills harder than I planned because I knew 6 miles of flats were ahead. Hahah. Right! By the time I got to the flats, it felt like one long uphill battle.

It was a good run though. All in all, I had a great time. Met some really nice people. Enjoyed my morning. And posted a time that was respectable although not close to where I'd like to be. Now I know where I'm at though, so I'll know what I need to do to get to where I'd like to be!

Monday, February 11, 2008

First Elite Triangle Triathlon Team Group Ride

Being the newest member to the Elite Triangle Triathlon Team has already been a very exciting experience for me! Not only did I get to join in on my first group ride (an experience in and of itself), I also had the wonderful opportunity to pick up trash by the side of the road. But, first thing's first...the group ride.

I pulled into an unmarked gas station/convenience store on a background out by Jordan Lake. When I say unmarked, what I really mean is that it wasn't a Hess or an Exxon or a BP. It was more like a mom and pop shop that had a couple of old-time gas pumps and convenience store that sold bait and tackle for fishing on the lake. Two of the girls from the team were already there setting up their bikes and more members of the team were showing up. They all seemed to know who I was since I was the only one they didn't know...or maybe it was because I was the only one there with one leg. Regardless, it was a warm introduction to everyone and I was looking forward to going out on a nice easy ride with them.

When I say nice easy ride, I really did think it would be nice and easy. We only had about 2 hours before the trash pick-up event so it couldn't be that long. I got into a comfortable pace behind one of the other riders and enjoyed the crisp wind at my face. After a while I pulled up alongside another girl and we chatted for a bit about triathlons, Ironmans and general tidbits about ourselves. We'd been riding for about 30 minutes. I felt pretty good. Then I found that it was harder and harder to chit chat with this girl. I dropped back behind her again to take advantage of the draft and to catch my breath. For the first time I looked down at my bike computer. We'd now been riding for about 45 min. We'd gone about 14 miles. And we'd been averaging about 18 mph. No wonder I was a bit winded. On my own, I normally average about 15.5 mph over a 40 mile bike. By the end of this group ride I kept up the avg of 18 mph, finishing almost 40 miles in just over 2 hours. I guess I'm just going to have to keep riding with a group!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Eating Healthy

You're trying so hard to eat healthy. Tofu, salads, low-fat cottage cheese. Sound familiar? But it doesn't have to be a drag to fit some healthy meals into your day. I have always been a proponent of moderation. That double chocolate chunk cookie can still fit into your diet. I guess I was fortunate enough to grow up around good food. My parents never restricted what I could eat, but I always seemed to gravitate towards the healthier options like fresh fruit, grilled chicken, steamed veggies. Eating healthier doesn't have to be a chore. On the whole, choose grilled over fried, veggie sauces over cream sauces, leave the mayo off the sandwich and ask for the dressing on the side. Enjoy what you eat; just make sure you're fueling your body with the nutrients it needs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Working and Racing

Juggling a full class schedule in high school while racing on the varsity cross country team always seemed like a tough act back then. Practice would go until 6 or 6:30 and by the time I got home and ate dinner I'd have just enough time to squeeze in a little homework before heading to bed.

Then college. I took a full load at Duke each semester so that I could graduate early (why didn't someone talk me out of that?) while also trying to race competitively in road races. It seemed like a lot then too, but I realize now how I didn't appreciate the flexibility of school work. I could go for a run in the middle of the afternoon, or whenever I felt like if for that matter. It was great.

Maybe the grass is just greener when I look back on the good ol' days. Now I work 9-5 and am happy if I get to the gym before 6:00 on most days. Squeezing in the workout isn't nearly as easy as it used to be, but training is progressive so I force myself to go. And usually once I get to the gym and start my workout I can muster up a little more energy than I thought I had and put in a good, solid workout. So I train 4 weekdays every week and do my long workouts on the weekend. The only way to do it though is to commit the time to training and put in every workout that you or your coach lays out. It's possible, I promise...although it might not always be easy.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another ride...another run

There is something about riding with numb hands and feet that really makes you respect the outdoors, the winter, and all of the slightly crazy triathletes who are out there training anyways. I ran into at least 12 other riders on Saturday while on a 35 mile ride near my home. Most of them may have had on one more layer than me, but I don't know how much that would have helped. Cold is cold and it manages to penetrate every layer when riding downhill at 35 mph. The more cyclists I passed though, the easier it was to accept my situation, suck it up, and gut it out. Even if I couldn't feel my fingers to change gears. Training must go on...and you'll see us all out there anyways!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to Reality

It's been a week since soldier ride and I honestly feel like it's been at least year since I've seen warm weather. My hands feel like pin cushions when I walk outside and my hair turns to icicles if I don't dry it before going out. I'm excited to be working on getting sponsors for racing this season, but I don't really know where to fit that in - between my 9-5 job and and my 6-9 mcat class or between my mcat class and my workouts. Right now I usually get to it about 10 PM, but I got to bed at 11 PM so that doesn't really leave much time to spend on it. I'm doing what I can and then crossing my fingers and hoping that everything falls into place.

As for workouts...well, do you remember the part about how cold it's been. Well, I barely want to walk out to my car to go get coffee during the work day let alone go out for a 2 hour bike ride on the weekend. Can I go back to Florida...and stay? Okay, another treadmill run it is...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soldier Ride - Sunshine State Challenge

Last ride through Key West

I headed down to Florida on Thursday evening for another Soldier Ride event sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). And it was another incredible weekend with some very cool people. Not to mention that it was in Florida, which was awesome since it was practically snowing in North Carolina when I left!

We started out in Miami and then drove rode/drove down to finish the ride in Key West. I was honored with a high quality, fancy schmancy Raleigh rental to use during the ride. I think my pedals cost more than the bike! But I didn't care that it only had 3 gears. Thank God we were in Florida and the biggest hill we hit was going over a bridge.

The most memorable experience was probably riding over the 7 mile bridge. The police shut down all traffic crossing the bridge while about 30 wounded soldiers and some volunteers rode across. I was expecting glares and honks (and possibly inappropriate finger gestures) from the stopped motorists, but instead just about all of them got out of their vehicles to cheer us on. It was very cool.

The turnout for the Soldier Ride included about 30 soldiers and 30 volunteers/special guests (I was one of the (or maybe the only) special guest) so there were a lot of new people to meet. And the events were packed in. I think we stopped to eat just about every 2 hours because so many groups were interested in sponsoring a meal. Again, there was just such incredible support for the whole event.

Two of the guys who joined us are working on a documentary that they hope to air on A&E or HBO. They filmed and interviewed the soldiers for 3 days to capture footage of these men and women who sacrificed a lot to protect our country. I will certainly post more when I know when it might be aired.

I am just thankful that I was given another opportunity to show my support for these men and women. Having been an amputee my entire life I have a lot of experiences to draw from and have a lot of resources to share with others.