Thursday, September 22, 2011

VERY LONG Race Report

Park City Mossman Olympic Triathlon
August 21, 2011
.9 mile swim
25 mile bike
10k run

2011 was supposed to be the year I did a half Ironman. I had one in mind. August 21, 2011, I would do the Timberman half Ironman in New Hampshire. It would give me about a month after my move to do the race, but I had decided due to my health and my move it was not the year to do a Half.

Before I even moved I talked to Darlene about coming out to the East Coast to cheer me on at my half. She talked to work and arranged a week off to come on out and cheer me on. This was before I decided that a half was not going to happen. She was still coming even though I decided not to do the half.

Once I decided that I wasn’t going to do a half I knew that I had to put a race on my calendar, so I did some looking around on the web and found the Park City Mossman Olympic Distance Triathlon and it was also on August 21, 2011, so Dar would still be able to cheer me on. It was in Bridgeport, CT, which would not be too far from my new house, so I signed up without hesitation, let my coach know and then continued to get ready for my July Half Marathon and my move at the end of July. Life was busy. I had never really read the details of the race until after I moved. That’s when the panic set in.

The swim would be in the Long Island Sound. Um, that sounds like the ocean. The bike was 5 loops, and the run was 2 loops,very flat. I liked that part, but I didn’t like the part about SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN. I brought this up to Keith and he said, “Um what part of East Coast didn’t you understand? That’s the ocean.” HAHA.

So I tried to push this out of my mind and continued to train, run a half marathon, and then move. I asked people after moving about the Long Island Sound and they reassured me, that although it is ocean water, the sound makes it very calm. Also, people told me that I would love swimming in salt water because of the buoyancy. I still wasn’t convinced about swimming in the ocean, but there was no turning back now. Before this race the only swims I had done in triathlons were in a manmade reservoir in Naperville and swimming in Lake Zurich, once. I was determined to put my fear out of my mind and take this challenge head on.

The best part about this race is that I would have my best friend, Darlene, there with me. Darlene is the one back in 2005 that told me we should do a Sprint triathlon in 2006 and we did and I’ve been hooked every since. Thanks Darlene. It was also great to have her here because I was really missing home. We hit the road and got to our hotel to begin our girls weekend of triathloning.

We got to our hotel and then headed out to packet pick up for the race. I got there and found out there were only 300 participants. I started to feel anxious because the last Olympic Distance Triathlon I had done had about the same number participants and they wanted to close the finish line and no one basically besides my family, my coach, and my friends were at the finish line that I had to beg them to keep up. I was having flashbacks to that race, but I had emailed this race director before the race letting them know my estimated time to finish and talked to them. They assured me I would have a finish line and that they never shut down until every participant finishes.

Here I am in line waiting to pick up my packet.

Here I am talking to the race directors and getting all the details worked out. I was also finding out where I could go to get a swim in the day before, so I wouldn’t have so much anxiety about swimming in the ocean.

Once I was all checked in Darlene and I went for a swim in the ocean. I was a little nervous, but then just went for it. I had her bump into me, grab my legs, and then we just had fun swimming in the ocean. It was great. Here is a shot of the ocean where I would swim for the race.

Here I am about to go in the ocean.

Here I am in the ocean. It went really well and in about 5 minutes of swimming all my anxiety was gone. I’m so glad that we did this.

We headed out to dinner and then I got to bed early to get well rested for my race.

Race Morning was here before I knew it. I had everything I needed, so we loaded up the car and headed out.

Here I am in in transition, all set up and ready to go. This would be my first race on my new Road Bike. I couldn’t wait.

Here I am getting body marked.

Well setting up transition and getting body marked I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. It was horrible. I could not wait to get in that water. I now know for next year to pack bug spray. Somebody working the race had some and I was able to get some relief, so I headed to the beach.

The sun was just rising. It was so beautiful.

We listened to the worst rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. When the lady messed up the words she said, “Oh My God, I just messed up. Let me start over.” I wanted to yell, “Noooooooooooooo!!”

Here is a pic of me and Darlene before the race.

Then it was time to line up and start racing. Here I am right before the race started.

The swim waves were starting every 2 minutes and before I knew it it was my turn to line up. I got in the water, which was VERY warm and we were off. There was a little big of bumping, but nothing major. Darlene had grabbed and bumped me worse in our practice swim than anything that had happened in the race.

I was keeping a steady pace and pretty proud of myself at this point. At last years Olympic Distance, I was dead last out of the water. My goal this year was to do my swim in under an hour and to not be the last one out of the water.

I kept going and out of the corner of my eye I could see a young girl, maybe early 20’s, having a hard time and panicking. I swam up to her and asked her if she was ok? She told me this was her first triathlon and that she was really panicking in the swim. I told her to take some deep breaths. I knew that the next wave would be coming up behind us, so I told her to stay on the outer edge and also told her that it was ok to use any stroke. She thought you could only do freestyle. I told her she could grab onto a kayak if she needed to. She didn’t know any of this. She thanked me and told me she was ok and that I could keep going. It made me so happy that I have come far enough that I am able to help someone.

I made my way around the first buoy and that’s when I noticed a man every time I breathed to my left. He was really having a hard time. In fact a kayak was keeping tabs on him pretty close. It was at this point I knew I had at least two people behind me and it was just the boost I needed. I didn’t slow down at all. I knew I wouldn’t be the last one out of the water. I’m not saying I’m happy they were struggling, but I sure was happy they were slower than me.

I turned around the last buoy and I just had to make it to shore now. I picked up my pace a little, but was feeling a little tired at this point. I could hear Darlene on her air horn and other people cheering us in. I had finally made it.

One thing that really bothered me is that just in front of me is that there was a guy (not the same one as before) who had grabbed onto a kayak so he could take a break. This is fine to do as long as the kayak is not making any forward motion. I noticed that the young girl on the kayak was still paddling forward. I thought to myself, maybe the guy was dropping out of the race, but no, as he got closer she said, "Ok, you can stand up here now." He stood up, ran to shore and continued the race. He should have gotten a penalty for that, but I let it go and was just proud of myself that I NEVER had to hold onto a kayak for assistance and that I was not the last person out of the water. :)

Here I am coming out of the water.

Here I am in transition getting ready to head out on the bike. I don’t know if it was the salt water or what, but it was hard to get on my biking stuff while being wet. I really struggled. I had a new biking jersey that I was wearing for the first time in a race. I had trained in it, but never did a brick from swim to bike while wet, so I learned that I need to practice even things like that. I use every triathlon and experience as a learning experience and this is one thing I took away from my slow T1 time. It was frustrating. I’m thinking of biking with no socks as well, so I don’t have to deal with them after the swim. What do you all think about biking with no socks?

Here I am in Transition.

I headed out on the bike. It was right along the coast line and was beautiful. The course consisted of five 5-mile loops. I loved that it was a looping course because you don’t feel so alone even though you are last. Everyone was very encouraging.

This was the first race on my road bike and man could I tell a difference in speed. I love my new bike, however, I had not had it long enough at this point to have spent a lot of time in the saddle, so after about 15 miles certain areas were hurting very badly and also at this point my lower back was starting to hurt.

The last 10 miles were very hard and by the last lap my back was spasming and I was crying for almost the whole lap. I just couldn’t NOT cry, but I knew I was ok to keep going. There was no way this far into the race that I would quit. My back hurt, but not enough to stop. I kept going and everyone was cheering me on.

Something I learned out on the bike course is that it was time to start working on strengthening my core, so my back can handle being in the aero position and just in the road bike position in general. I also need to keep focused on my weight loss as this will help in all areas of my racing.

Darlene was there for me all 5 laps cheering me on with her air horn and words of encouragement. It really helped me stay focused and really encouraged me to keep going at times when I didn’t think I could. Thanks Darlene.

As I headed into T2 I fell over trying to dismount, between my back giving me issues, being tired and still learning to clip in and out of my new pedals I was quite the sight. HAHA. At least everyone else was out on the run course at that point. I scraped up my elbow pretty good and hurt my right hip. Great, just what I needed before a long run. You should have seen the bruise the next day on my hip. It was EPIC.

My transition from the bike to the run went a little faster, but at this point I was in some pain and needing some nutrition. I had lost a water bottle out on the bike. I drank some, ate a gel, and headed out on the run while eating a banana.

The run was a two 3-mile loops. I was heading out on my first loop, jogging and walking and not feeling well, when this young, in her early 20’s, girl ran with me for a minute. She said, “Hey, it’s you. I just wanted you to know that because of you I’m finishing this race. I’m the one that was panicking in the water. Thank you so much. Stay strong, you can finish this.” I told her no problem and then she headed off to finish her second loop. It was a great feeling to know that I had helped her, so she could finish her first triathlon ever. It's all part of my journey. Help others in the process of helping myself.

There were a few people out there finishing up there second loops and then there was me. All alone with just my thoughts and at this point they were not good. No matter how hard I tried I could not run. I got to the aid station, downed some Gatorade, and headed back it was then that this guy appeared, out of nowhere it seemed. He asked if I wanted company. I said sure. Hi name is Eugene and he said to just do what I needed to do and he would just be there for me. He was racing and doing well when he had a bike malfunction, so he couldn’t finish the race. He decided to stay and cheer people on to the finish line. I really don't remember much of what he said or I said, but it really did help me keep my mind off of the difficulties I was having at the time.

We got to the point for the turn around to start the second loop and there was Darlene and other people cheering me on. It was amazing that so many people were still there to see me to the finish line and I still probably had an hour left at this point.

Darlene snapped this picture of me and Eugene coming into the turnaround.

Someone handed me a cold rag for my neck. It was quite warm at that time. Eugene grabbed a few extra and we headed out for loop two. I told him he didn’t have to, but he did. At some point another guy joined us telling me that I inspired him ALL DAY and he wanted to walk with me for awhile. I would jog at some points, but mainly just walked.

The first Olympic Distance I did in Illinois I finished in over 5 hours. My goal for this race was to do it in 4:30. As that time came and went my goal was to just finish in under 5 hours. We got to the aid station and Eugene and I stuck our heads in the coolers of water and we had some Gatorade and we were back on our way. Only 1.5 miles to go.

At that point the other guy had to go. I thought I was getting close to the finish line and picked up my pace and realized it was a BBQ and I still had a ways to go. It smelled so good I was ready to quit right then and there and join the BBQ. HAHA.

I had to stop a couple times and sit down because of how I was feeling, but I knew that if I did that too much I wouldn’t be able to get up and go, so I just pushed forward jogging as much as I could.

I told Eugene at this point that I didn’t want to talk anymore. He could talk all he wanted, but I was just going to finish and finish strong. He did keep talking and honestly I don’t remember much of what we talked about.

I didn’t think I would ever finish and I was mentally not caring anymore about whether or not I finished, but in the fashion that I have become accoustumed to I pushed on and FINALLY could see the finish line.

At this point I had no idea how long I had been out there, but I pushed as much as I could. Eugene told me he was going to let me have the finish line to myself and he disappeared for a few minutes.

Here I am crossing the finish line in 4:55:20. It’s not the time I wanted, but it was under 5 hours and for that I was and am happy.

Darlene was there and about a dozen people to cheer me in and celebrate with me.

Here is a pic of me and Eugene. I was not expecting him to put his leg up. He is a really fun guy.

After that pic he went and got a trashcan of VERY COLD ice water and dumped it on me. It was so cold. I have never felt anything that COLD ever, but it was fun and probably helped with my recovery. I still get chills when I think of this or look at these pictures.

After we were done at the race, we went and took some pics with the lighthouse in the background. Enjoy.

Here are my times:

Swim: 45 minutes and 55 seconds. In my first Olympic Distance my swim was just over an hour. I really improved here and had 3 people come out of the water after me.

T1: 5:55. It felt a lot longer.

Bike: 1 hour 54 minutes. First race was just over 2 hours.

T2: 4:17

Run: 2 hours and 14 minutes. I am not happy with this.

Total time: 4:55:20

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Race Reports to come.

I am behind on my race reports for the summer. I did a sprint triathlon in June. It was the one that I always do in Naperville. In July I did the half marathon from Napa to Sonoma for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America as part of Team Challenge. In August I did my first triathlon after moving and my second Olympic Distance ever. I am going to start with the most recent race and work my way back. I will be getting to these reports in the next week. I have not forgotten. I've been a little busy with this thing called life. :) In each race there were positives and negatives. I learn every race and just strive to get better in the next.
I will write about these things in my reports.

I have some races coming up. I am possibly going to do a Duathlon on October 15th. It is a 2 mile run, 8 mile bike, and a 1 mile run. Then as most of you know December 4th, I will be running the Rock-n-roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas. Again, I am running to raise awareness and money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. I am not trying to raise a specific amount, but if you want to give you can at This is still the page that I had set up for my Napa race. They are letting me keep it up until the end of the year to keep collecting donations.

Stay tuned for some pretty cool race reports and pictures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts on Ironman Wisconsin

I wrote this on Saturday the day before Ironman Wisconsin 2011.

For the last three years I have been in Madison, Wisconsin volunteering and cheering on my friends at Ironman Wisconsin. It is there, in 2008, I knew I had to lose my weight, so that someday I could hear the words, “Melissa Black, You are an Ironman.” I was supposed to be there this weekend. I was supposed to be checking in gear bags today, handing out water at a water station tomorrow, and writing down people’s times at the finish line. The most exciting part is that I was supposed to wake up early Monday and sign up so that I could do the race in 2012.

As you can tell by the title of my blog I am now doing Ironman Wisonsin in 2013. This time last year I was in and out of the hospital 5 times with a final diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. With medication, not being able to eat a lot of the healthy things I used to be able to eat and just getting comfortable I gained back 60 pounds. As hard as it was I decided that it was not in my best interest to do IMWI in 2012. I called my coach and we talked it over and he agreed. I needed to get my weight back down, learn what I need to do as an endurance athlete with Crohn’s, and get in the best shape of my life before attempting a full Ironman, so with a heavy heart I decided this was the best thing to do.

I will be doing a half Ironman in 2012 and then I will finally fulfill my dream of becoming an Ironman in 2013 with my family, my coach, and my friends by my side. They will either be cheering me on, racing with me, or volunteering and cheering me on while volunteering.

I was still planning on coming out to Wisconsin to cheer my friends on this weekend. I had a place all lined up to stay and had all my volunteer shifts all planned out. Things were all set, but originally the whole reason I was coming out and volunteering is so that I could sign up for next year. Volunteers get first dibs after athletes. Since I wasn’t going to sign up I had to decide whether or not I would make the trip.

This was a very hard decision as I have not missed a year of IMWI since 2008, but I also had another opportunity arise and I had to decide which opportunity to take. I could go to Madison, volunteer, and cheer my friends to the finish line, or in December I could run the Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon, whose main charity is the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

Keith said it would be easier for me to pick one or the other. Again, this was another tough decision. I knew that we could not afford for me to do both. I really wanted to be in Madison especially since this race would be on 9/11/11 and I have lots of friends doing it, but I also want to do what I can to help raise awareness and money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

I found out that Team Challenge Illinois is going to the race and lots of my fellow teammates, from the Napa race I raced in July, would be there. My coach, Bob Mitera, will be there running it, some of my triathlon friends will be there, and my friend, Sue, said she would come with me, to cheer me on. I still took a couple days to decide and in the end I decided to do the Las Vegas Half Marathon.

So this weekend has been filled with very mixed emotions. I should be at Ironman Wisconsin tomorrow and signing up on Monday, but I’m not. I have shed a few tears, but this weekend has remotivated me again to get my butt in gear to reach my goals.

Tomorrow I will be following 7 athletes in Wisconsin. Two of them I will be following closely. My friend, Bill Wangard. He will doing his 2nd Ironman tomorrow. I was there for him last year when he did his first and this will be his last Ironman distance. I’ll also be following Mike Wimmer. He has lost a lot of weight and has tried two other times to finish Ironman Wisconsin. I cannot wait to see him reach his Ironman dream. Good luck guys.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lots going on in my noggin'

This morning I am sitting in a quiet house thinking, thinking about a lot of stuff, so I decided to write.

The house I am sitting in is not my own house. I am homeless for the time being. As most of you know we are moving to Massachusetts. July 10th, the movers came and emptied our entire home in one day. The power was out, we packed and moved the basement by flashlight. It was quite the experience. It was crazy, but it's done. We are moving on to the next phase of life.

Keith and Parker left the next day for Massachusetts and are already there. Tricia and I are still in Illinois at Darlene's house, but we are not here much longer. I leave tomorrow for my 1/2 marathon for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Tricia leaves Sunday for Camp Electric. I get back, she gets back, and then on the 22nd we leave for Massachusetts. My head spins just thinking of my life since last August when we found out we would be moving.

At the end of our trip to Massachusetts, in August, is when I got violently ill. That led to the next couple of months of being in and out of the hospital and finding out I had Crohn's. When something happens to me in life I use it as a chance to help others. I am living by the saying, "I may have Crohn's, but I refuse to let Crohn's have me." Not long after my diagnosis I found the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America and joined forces with them to talk about my Crohn's to people thinking of joining Team Challenge.

Team Challenge is a 1/2 marathon training program, where you train and fundraise to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure for these diseases. Eventually I knew that I could join the team and not only inspire them to run, but I could also run along side them. With the help of many gernerous people and businesses I was able to raise over $3000 for the cause and am now heading out to Napa, California to run a half marathon. I have very mixed emotions about this run.

Through my whole Crohn's journey I have allowed myself to gain back 50 pounds of the 106 I had lost before getting sick. The reason I say "I have allowed myself to gain back" the weight is because Crohn's has now become an excuse. At the beginning of my Crohn's journey it was a legit gain due to medication I was on. Also, I was not allowed to eat anything with Fiber over 2 grams. I was basically living on potatoes, white rice, white pasta, white bread, pretty much anything that wasn't good for you.

I started gaining the weight and getting back into old habits. I was told not to eat popcorn, but that chips were ok. Popcorn was always my fall back snack on Weight Watchers, Chips were a trigger food that caused me to overeat. Old habits were creeping back in and quickly.

I leave tomorrow for the Napa to Sonoma 1/2 marathon and I am the heaviest I have been since my diagnosis. I have not gained back all my weight, but I have gained back a lot and it has affected my working out and my motivation. I am not as trained as I would like to be. The move really put a damper on that, but I know that walking/jogging it I will finish.

There is an option to start the race 30 minutes early if your pace is like 16 minutes a mile of higher. I am between 16-18 minutes per mile right now. I did not want to start early, but if I have that option then I might as well take advantage of it. That was a very hard decision for me as I felt like I had failed somehow. I really wanted the excitement of the mass start with everyone else. I really was down about my pace, but then I realized I have had a lot going against me the last 11 months and I realized just how awesome it is that I'm doing a 1/2 marathon despite it all and that it's ok if I have to start early. There is nothing wrong with that and now I REALLY am ok with the early start.

We had our final team meeting this past Tuesday night and it was great to finally meet my team members as I was not able to do team training with them. There are several people starting early and that made me even more at peace with my decision. It made me realize that everyone is doing what they need to do to get this race done and there is no shame in starting early.

I look forward to this race and will let you know how it goes.

After I get to Massachusetts I will be getting back into training full force. I have an Olympic Triathlon on August 21 in Connecticut. I'm a little nervous about biking around my new house. I have this major fear of getting lost. HAHA. I think I need a GPS for my bike. I'm excited about the tri in August, but a little nervous as well because the swim is in the ocean. I only did my first OWS in a lake last summer and now I'm jumping into the ocean. Should be interesting. I'm excited, but nervous as well. I have never liked swimming in salt water as a kid, so maybe it will be ok now that I'm a grown up. :)

THere has been a lot going on in my brain regarding the move to Massachusetts. My husband, Keith, loves his new job and the people he works with. He was getting so stressed at his old job. It was affecting his health, our family, and he just wasn't happy. Since leaving his old job I can see such a change in him and he has lost 10 pounds since not being so stressed.

I am very excited to move yet nervous at the same time. I have been in Illinois for 25 years. I have had some of the same friends for 25 years, especially my best friend, Darlene. We have been there through thick and thin and I'm not sure how to process us being a part. I know, I know, I have heard a million times, "Well, you have facebook and Skype." I know I do and I'm very grateful for that, but it's not the same as the real person.

She is coming to see us in August and will be at my Oly to cheer me on, so saying goodbye on the 22nd won't be so hard, but come August it will be real for me.

I haven't enjoyed saying goodbye to my Weight Watchers family, my church family, neighbors, gym friends, and my dear girl friends, but I've had to and it sucks. Someone at my Weight Watchers going away dinner said, "Melissa, Massachusetts needs you now." That's how I have to look at it. I will have new doors to open. I will have new people to inspire. I will have new people to help. I will have many new opportunities that I wouldn't have if I stay in Illinois. For these things I am excited, but for saying goodbye I am not.

Excitement plus sadness is what I am dealing with right now. When I feel happy and excited about the move, then I feel bad like I am hurting the people I have to say goodbye too. I know that's not true, but that's how I feel. The excitement about new adventures ahead is what keeps me from getting to sad, so it is a crazy cycle that my emotions are going through.

Emotions are a crazy thing and something that I am dealing with in a very real way lately. Not only am I dealing with trying to navigate my own emotions, but trying to help my kids figure out how they are feeling. We will all be ok. I think we just need to get to Massachusetts and get our lives settled. I think part of all this uneasiness is just feeling like we are in limbo. Right now I am homeless and until I get home I will have to work through how I am feeling.

Right now I feel better having written about what was floating around in my head. I haven't been blogging as much and I am going to get blogging again. It really does help me deal with this crazy thing we call life.

Here are some pics from the move:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Friend Christian Stilwell

I am pushing to get some final packing done tonight before the moving truck comes and I ran across some papers. They are the notes that I took at my dear, sweet, 17 year old friend, Christian Stilwell's funeral. That's right he was only 17 years old, but had so much more impact on others than I could ever hope to have. I wanted to take a minute to get these notes on my blog for all to read, but more importantly for me to have to look back on and remember what a great kid Christian was and to read to remember what kind of person I should be.

Christian Died April 15, 2011. Between his visitation and funeral over 2500 people were in attendance. That in and of itself should be testimony to you about how many people this young man touched.

Several people spoke at his funeral. One person spoke that knew him from school, church, and CYT his theater group. I just took notes the whole time, not sure who said what, but like I said it should give you a glimpse into the kind of life Christian lived.

Christian lived his life according to Psalm 100:2-Serve the Lord with gladness, with singing.

Christian was always serving and always singing.

Legacy of a servant- He was always asking someone, "What can I do to help?"

Christian was into theater, but to him there was more to theater than the spotlight. He lived by the saying, "Its better to give than to receive."

Matthew 5:14-16 says let my light shine. That is exactly what Christian did. His light was always shining.

Christian was into theater and planning events. When he was a little boy someone asked a group of little boys what they wanted to be when they grew up. There were the typical reponses of police man, firefighter, etc. It was Christian's turn and he said, "I'm going to be an event planner." In his room there was a printer, office supplies, lanyards, binders, playbills.

When visiting a college recently they started telling him all about their sports program. Christian replied, "I have yet to figure out why anyone gets excited about a ball."

The reason that Christian planned and did events was because he knew that someone's ife could be impacted by that event.

He was a Joy filled kid. He was not filled with joy for himself, but for others.

He could not NOT serve.

He showed love by touch by giving hugs. At this point in the funeral service the speaker asked, "How many of you ever received a hug from Christian?" In an instant every hand went up. It was amazing to see how one young man could touch that many people's lives.

He was an encourager. He walked up to anyone and everyone and would encourage them. He knew when people needed to be encouraged.

He was a Dreamer. He imagined and dreamed.

He didn't stop at the dream, he acted upon his dreams.

One thing that stood out to me that I learned about Christian is that on his clipboard that he always carried he had written down his initiatives to change the world and he was creating a plan to reach those initiatives. He dreamed big and knew that his dreams would come true.

Live a life integrating these traits.

Do not neglect expressing more love to others.


Why Did Christian Live?

He truly lived, not just existed.
He lived life to the fullest.
Christian had faith in the Lord.

1 Thess. 1:3- Love the Lord, had hope.

Faith is more than belief, it is trusting in Him.

He had true faith because he lived faithfully.
He loved God and people well.
He expressed love Lavishly.
He did them as acts of Faith.
Love compelled him. It was a love from within.

When things were hard on Christian he still had a positive attitude. Recently he had gotten news that he didn't get into a program he wanted. He was disappointed, but then said, "Smile and move on."

He was compelled by his love and his love of God.

Christian had hope. He believed God was going to fix all that was broken.

He had hope that all he was doing was not in vain.

Why did Christian Die? What is the reason.

God sometimes chooses not to intervene.

This does not prove that God doesn't care just that the world is in a bad way.

God intends to use this circumstance for good!!

Romans 8:28-In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Sorrow = hope, love, new life.

How do I go on?

Sadness is appropriate, tears are ok.
Laughing and sharing memories will help.

Sadness without hope turns into depression.
We have hope!!
We will grieve, but not a hopeless grief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cleveland Half Marathon Race Report

Today is Tuesday. It is two days since my first 1/2 marathon ever. Today is has really hit me. I ran a 1/2 marathon. Me, someone who once weighed 306 pounds. Me, someone who was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease not that long ago. Me, someone who gained back 47 pounds of the 106 lost due to Crohn's. Someone who has decided she may have this disease, but this disease does not have her. I am so proud of myself. Thirteen point 1 miles. Who really does that? Well, now I can say me.

I chose to do the Cleveland Half Marathon because my brother, Jordan, and his awesome wife, Kelly live there. He was planning on originally doing the full marathon and I was going to drive out there to cheer him on with his wife and son, Hayden. Then one day when we were talking he said, "You know Melissa, there is a half marathon. You should sign up." Talked to my coach and before I knew what was happening I had signed up. Then I freaked out. Then I was excited and then freaked out again.

Leading up to the race I did everything that my great coach, Robert Mitera, told me to do and when race day finally approaced I felt prepared. In my long runs leading up to the race I tried different nutrition options, so when race day came my stomach would be ready. I mapped out where all the bathrooms were, so if my stomach issues did arise I was ready.

I drove to Cleveland the day before the race. Got there and met my bro, Kelly, and Hayden for dinner at Olive Garden.

This is me and Hayden waiting for our table. He was so excited to see me when I walked up to the restaurant. He just lit up and so did I.

I layed out all my race stuff for the next morning and headed to bed. I slept very well. I woke up around 430 because we had to be there before 6 to get Parking. The cool thing about riding in with my brother is that he has Media Parking at the baseball stadium where he works for covering the Indians, so we had a great parking spot. We headed over to the Cleveland Browns stadium where they had bathrooms you could use and we checked gear there. It was cool to be inside the stadium.

After hitting the bathrooms we checked in our gear. Here I am and Jordan and I before the race and checking the camera. The note I wrote on the back of my team challenge jersey, so people would know that I had Crohn's and I was running the 1/2 marathon. I wanted people to know that no matter what they have going on in their life they can do whatever they put their mind to. I had lots of people tell me during the race that they appreciated the encouragement that my shirt gave them. I may be on a crazy journey in my life, but I feel part of that journey is being public with it and being able to touch as many people's lives in the process.

After checking our gear we headed to the starting line. This is where Jordan and I parted ways. He was originally going to run the full marathon, but due to a knee injury was only able to do a half. He headed up to the faster paced 1/2 marathoners and I headed back to around the 15:00 minute mile pace. I took time to stretch and deep breath as the nerves were getting to me. I deep breathed, focused, and then we were off.

In most of my training runs my miles were between 16:30-17:30 minute miles. The first few miles I did in under 16. I was very happy. I had started out a little bit too fast, so slowed my pace down a little to a pace I knew I could keep up. In practice I would run to the mile marker, walk a minute, then run to the next mile marker, walk a minute etc. I got to the first mile marker and then realized I didn't need to walk, smiled, kept running, made it to the next mile marker, and realized, again, that I didn't need to walk, smiled, kept going. Made to mile 4 and the only reason I stopped was I HAD to go to the bathroom. Was very happy with 4 miles with no walking.

My coach had broken the race up for me in this way, "Remember, Melissa this race is only 4 5k's and a victory lap." For those of you who don't know a 5k is 3.1 miles and a half marathon is 13.1 miles. So there were points when I was jogging and was just repeating that to the beat and when I would hit another 5k done. I would change my mantra to 3 5k's and a victory lap. There were a couple people struggling along the way and I would say, "Hey you only have 2 5k's left and a victory lap" and they would thank me. I've done a lot of 5k's, so it was a great way to break down the race.

As far as the weather was concerned leading up to the race the weather reports said 80% chance of thunderstorms. High of 60 low of 45. Race day it was 70% chance of rain. I believe the high was still supposed to be 60, but it never got that high. Right before the race started it was decent, a little chilly, but not bad, and just drizzling. Almost like a mister on you the whole time. I had on shorts, a dri tech shirt, and my TEAM CHALLNGE, jersey and a visor. Never needed my sunglasses. I had running tights at Jordan's house and decided that I wasn't going to wear them because I didn't want to overheat.

I was fine as far as my body temp until around mile 9. My legs just got this deep chill that I could not shake. My upper body and hands were fine. Usually it's my hands that are cold. It was just my legs. I had to just get them out of my mind. If I thought about it too much it became unbearable. Around mile 10, the cramping started. I was hydrated and staying right on track with my nutrition, so I am thinking it was just the cold that was affecting my legs, but since I am new at this I will talk to my coach and make any adjustments for my next race.

Mile 11 I had to stop and go to the bathroom. I knew I had to stop because it was the last bathroom before the finish line. As someone who is racing with Crohn's disease you have to be aware of where the bathrooms are at all times. I had mapped out the bathrooms before the race, so I would be prepared if anything happened on the race course. I was even aware of what restaurants are in the area, so if need be I could run into those as well.

I stopped, and really didn't want to because I was afraid of what my legs would do once I sat down and had to get back up. I am happy to say I was able to do my business and get going relatively well. That was my longest mile as far as time goes. It was just over 20 minutes, but I was able to get the next mile to just over 18. Once I got out of the bathroom and headed out I realized I was at the start of a VERRRRY long bridge.

During races I always act like a hunter out to get some prey. I will focus on someone in front of me until I pass them. I had been focused on two men and I was almost ready for the kill when I had to stop at the bathroom. I was very determined to pass them on the bridge. When I came out of the bathroom I could see them off in the distance and my mission became beat the old guy and the fat guy (before you say anything I know that is mean to describe them that way, so please don't say anything). When your legs are cramping and your cold you do whatever it takes to get er done.

I was chanting in my head to the beat of my feet, "Beat the old guy. Beat the fat guy" over and over. I was getting into a great rhythm. I started passing more and more people. A lot of people had to walk up the bridge, so I know I was close. I knew I only had about 2 1/2 miles left, so I just kicked it up a notch. It was windy, cold, and did a mention a very long bridge. My quads were killing me, but I knew I could beat the old guy and the fat guy. I passed the old guy before hitting the top of the bridge and there was the fat guy, towards the bottom. His red shorts taunting me the whole time. I kicked it up even more and knew I could take him. I took advantage of the downhill on the bridge and passed him at the bottom. As I passed him I said, "good job." He was doing a good job. We had encouraged each other all day. As I passed him he said, "Go get 'em."

I knew I was getting close to the finish line cause there were more spectators. I was pushing as hard as I could. People would cheer for me by name and I would just have to give them a thumbs up cause I couldn't talk. The finish line was in sight. I started giving it all I had, my legs were screaming at me, but I wouldn't listen. I was high-fiving people and then I heard this voice saying, "Here comes Melissa. Finishing strong. Melissa has Crohn's disease and she won't let that stop her from competing. Way to go Melissa." Then he said, "Hey Melissa Beat that guy." I look over there is a guy about 3 feet behind me. I pushed with all I had and beat him. Then I hear over the loud speaker, "Hey Melissa just chicked that guy." Here is a picture of me coming into the finish line and then me chicking that guy. :)

Jordan had finished his half marathon in 1:41 a Personal Record for him in a half marathon. He was able to go to gear check and get the camera to capture the pictures of me at the finish line. Thanks Jordan for getting those.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I got my medal and then my legs had had enough. I had to have help to the medical tent. They felt like they were ready to give out and then I felt a little light headed, so I wanted to go the tent to make sure I was ok. On the way to the tent I remember saying, " I want my brother. Where is he?" Like medical would know where he is. Then Jordan showed up. We went in there and I had the nicest doctor, Dr. Waters. He got me all bundled up to get me warm. Gave me ice, took my stats, which were all good. I had a banana, pretzels, and some water and then they wanted me to get up and walk around the medical tent. I couldn't even move my legs. It was crazy. It was if someone had poured cement in my legs. Once I got up and walking they felt much better.

Jordan picked up my stuff from gear check and was able to go and get the car and pick me up at the medical tent. We had a great ride home talking about the race and it made me feel better to know that Jordan, my fast brother, hated that bridge as much as I did. What's funny is he can see that bridge from work and he says that he has always thought it would be fun to run across it. Now he has and didn't think it was that fun. :)

Jordan and I did not get any pictures taken after the race, so we took them when we got back to his house. I am so proud of Jordan's PR and of course proud of myself for running 13.1 freaking miles. Wahooooo to both of us. Here we are after the race.

Kelly and Hayden did not make it to the race due to the horrible weather, but when we got home we were greeted with these awesome posters. Thanks so much Kelly. I love mine.

Here is my medal and my bib. The medal is really cool because the guitar actually spins around. I also am the proud new owner of a 13.1 magnet that was put on my car as soon as I finished the race. It's the little things in life that make me happy.

I know that I have come a long way in my journey, but I still have a lot more to learn and do before getting to my ultimate dream of doing an Ironman. Each step I take forward is getting me one step closer to my dream. One thing I learned during this race is that I can do anything I want to do. Crohn's is just something I have, I refuse to let Crohn's have me. I will continue to educate myself on my disease and help others along the way. No matter what your challenge is, there are ways to overcome them and do what you want to do.

I want to thank my wonderful husband Keith and my two amazing kids. There are lot of days I skip doing stuff with them to train and run races. They are so supportive and loving through this all. I love you all very much. I want to thank my brother Jordan and his wife Kelly for their constant support and encouragement. Thanks for housing me this past weekend and being part of my latest adventure. I want to thank my coach for sticking by me through all the ups and downs and helping me reach this current goal. I look forward to many years to come working together. I also want to thank all my friends and family that are there for me day in and day out. I could not do this as easily if it weren't for you all.