It Ain’t No Sin To Be Glad You’re Alive

There are no coincidences. A live version of “Badlands” (I always prefer the live versions of this song) came on the radio this morning as I was on my way to radiation #10 of 20, and it brought back a lot of memories.  I was reminded of all the Ironman races I’ve done, and the words to that song have carried me through.  I usually sing it to myself during the second half of the marathon.  Then I really thought that this is just like an Ironman — I’ve had my surgery and all that’s left is a couple of scars, I’ve finished chemotherapy with no hair and a lot of skin rashes and now I’m in the second half of my radiation treatments.  This is just another kind of badlands.

“For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside,
That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive
I wanna find one face that ain’t looking through me
I wanna find one place,
I wanna spit in the face of these…

Badlands, you gotta live it every day,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep movin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good.”

I’m left with the only choice that I’ve ever had — keep moving, till these badlands start treating me good.   That will only be when I’m out the other side of all of this.  I don’t like a lot about radiation.  My two technicians, Chris and Elena, couldn’t be nicer.  The facility is beautiful and the room is like stepping into the future.  It’s a quick process — 1 minute and 15 seconds to be exact.  A bit over two minutes when I also need x-rays (once a week).  Fortunately, I don’t actually see the bank vault type door which closes during the treatment.  When it was mentioned once and I actually noticed the door it made me feel very claustrophobic although the room is huge.  But radiation, different but in many ways just like chemotherapy, also carries with it a lot of risk.  But, it’s all risks I feel I need to take.  If cancer ever comes back I don’t want any regrets about the choices I made about my treatment.

I finished reading a book this weekend that was part of one of the many thoughtful gifts I have received.  Patty put together a box of books that were recommended by friends.  Aimee recommended a book called November 9, by Colleen Hoover.  Something towards the end of the book also really spoke to me.  It’s something that has been inside me since this journey all started back in March.

“But that’s the thing about cancer.  They call it the fight, as if the stronger ones win and the weaker ones lose, but that’s not what cancer is at all.

Cancer isn’t one of the players in the game.  Cancer is the game.

It doesn’t matter how much endurance you have.  It doesn’t matter how much you’ve practiced.  Cancer is the be-all and end-all of the sport, and the only thing you can do is show up to the game with your jersey on.  Because you never know . . . you might be forced to sit the bench for the entire game.  You may not even be given the chance to compete.”

This doesn’t mean I’m being negative at all.  But, it’s a reality I’ve had to face and there was something reassuring about reading it in black and white.

On the other side of all of this, I spent two days in Chattanooga this past weekend, at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.  I guess I could write about the excitement and pride I felt about being on Women for Tri board that helped shape some of the format surrounding two days of racing, an all-women race on Saturday followed by an all-men race on Sunday.  What was more exciting and really spoke to my soul was the people.  Triathlon has grown so much since I first got involved back in the 90s, and even more so since it’s inception of course.  But what I love about it and what keeps me coming back is the bonds that I’ve made over the years because of the sport.  I loved seeing so many friends.  And I’ll leave it at that, with some pictures from the weekend and a renewed desire to be back on a starting line soon.

 

Ironman World Championship Update

Less than 9 weeks until I line up again in the waters of Kailua Bay for the Ironman World Championship.  I thought I’d take a few minutes to  share some updates with all of you who have offered your support to me and to my fundraising efforts.  10399640_126638800520_3738_n

There has been lots of great press surrounding our campaign.  IRONMAN posted an article announcing our exciting news, and followed up with an FAQ to answer questions as they come up.

Special thanks to Julia Polloreno, Editor-in-Chief of Triathlete Magazine and a fellow Women for Tri Board of Advisors member.  If you are interested in what we have been up to so far, check out “Women For Tri:  An Update“.

On Thursday I attended the USA Triathlon Athlete of the Year and Multisport Awards Banquet in Milwaukee where I received the Spirit of Judy Flannery award from the USA Triathlon Women’s Committee.  I am so honored to have received this recognition from USAT and I had the opportunity to say a few words of thanks.  I’m not much of a public speaker, and being called up after Mark Allen’s keynote speech was quite intimidating but here’s the sentiment I shared:

Thank you, I am humbled and honored to receive this Sprit of Judy Flannery award from USA Triathlon.  Being at the top of my age group this year at 59 doesn’t really allow me to be in the same league athletically as someone like Judy was, but I am looking forward to turning 60 in January and being the baby in my new age group.  I try to embody the spirit of Judy and so many others I’ve met like her by giving my utmost to support and encourage more women to venture into the sport that we are so lucky to be part of, which is why I’m so honored to also serve on a new national initiative to bring more women to our sport, the Women for Tri board. I feel that Judy would be proud of our work!

I am exploring as many possible options for fundraising as I can manage with the time I have available.  One of the most fun events recently was staffing the run course of the Jersey Girl Triathlon with volunteers and water stops.  I co-founded this race back in 2010 with local race director, Doug Rice of Split Second Racing.  While I don’t have hands on involvement with the race any more our Club has always supported this event as one of our main focus races each year.  It was great to be out there supporting all the women on the course, and Doug and the race made a very generous donation in exchange for our time!  Thank you.

Besides training for the race I still have a huge task ahead of me — I need to raise $25,000 for our Women for Tri fundraising campaign.  To date I have just over $4,000 and promises from lots more of my friends, family and fellow athletes, but that means I still need just over $20,000 more.  Sounds like a lot, I agree!  But . . . . . as I broke it down earlier, I only need 147 more of you to support me by donating $1 per mile (more is welcome of course) for a total of $140.60 towards my 140.6 mile journey!   This endeavor is something that I am truly passionate about.  Triathlon has had such a major and positive impact on my life.  It is my mission to share this passion with as many others as I can.  These funds will allow the Women for Tri board to establish programs across the country to bring this healthy lifestyle to more women.  All funds you donate are tax deductible as donations will go through the IRONMAN Foundation, a 501©(3),  and are 100% earmarked for Women for Tri specific initiatives.

More details and a link to donate can be found on my Crowdrise page.  I know most of you have offered to donate, please do so today and help me reach that $25,000 goal!  Thanks for your support!

USAT Sprint National Championship 2015 – A Guest Post

Following is a guest post from Gail Warshaw, a friend and long-time member of the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport Club.  I loved reading Gail’s Facebook post, and since she doesn’t have a blog I wanted to share and save this for her.

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I’ve had a day to reflect on my experience at the USAT National Sprint Championships. When I got to packet pickup Friday, I looked around at all the very fit people and wondered what I was doing here. I convinced myself that they were doing the Olympic Distance on Saturday, while I was doing the Sprint on Sunday. But I saw plenty of red wrist bands, the color for the Sprint. Antje Hennings was by my side, telling me I’d be fine. We drive the bike course – I thought Lincoln Memorial Drive was the hill – but then we drove on 794 – and the bridge seemed to just keep going up – uh oh. On Saturday, we went back to the race site because I needed to rack my bike in transition the day before the race. There were some unbelievable Tri bikes there but I found my race number spot and racked my road bike. The good news for me and my non-existent sense of direction. My spot was in the second row and there were flags around the perimeter and my bike was across from a white flag so I had my landmarks to find my stuff when I came back from the swim & bike the next day. Race morning came. Antje told me to just think about swimming with my father and cycling with the Jersey Girls. And I asked “and running with you?” She made me laugh & relax telling me for the run, I was on my own. The swim started and I jumped in with the other women for a quick warm up as we swam from the warm up area to the start – nothing warm about it – 65 degrees is colder than it sounds. The gun went off and I started swimming – under the bridge, past the row of orange buoys, around the yellow buoys, keeping more orange buoys on my right and I can see the swim finish arch. Out of the water, up the ramp, and I start the run to transition. I hear Antje call me from where she was volunteering near the swim finish. Hearing her voice means the world to me. I can do this. I find my bike, peel off my wetsuit, get on my bike stuff and I’m off. Partway up the on Lincoln Memorial, the fog rolls in and I really can’t see very well. Oh, well. Top of the hill, turn around, back down and then start up the ramp to 794. Up & up and up. Plus more fog. I know why my nieces, Nancy Komisar and Dina Komisar Schachtely looked a little startled when I described the bike course. I reached the crest and still had gears left. Hurray! Oh wait – there is a turnaround and I need to go back up again. I passed a few women from my swim wave. I wasn’t fast but I just kept pedaling and before I know it, I’m at the bike dismount. Back to transition – bike shoes off – socks & running shoes on. I start to see a few more women from my swim wave. One foot in front of the other – just keep moving. I’m just about at the finish. I can see the finisher arch I had seen at packet pickup. This time, rather than from the distance, I was going to run through it – feeling triumphant. I hear music, and realize they are playing Pharrell’s “Happy”. The understatement of the weekend. I hear Antje call me. I get my FINISHER’s medal and a cold USAT towel. I run over to Antje, shout out “I did it”! And then I burst into tears. I arrived at the race site totally inhibited by the other racers – and we were racked in age groups so all the women around me were in their 60s like me, or late 50s. What a great group athletes. Many had raced in Nationals numerous times. I was a first timer. They were excited for me when they found that out. I was excited for my transition neighbors – some of whom placed in the age group, some achieved PRs, some doubled, doing back to back triathlons, racing both the Olympic and the Sprint. I finished the race toward the bottom of the age group and frankly toward the bottom of all the finishers but faster than I had expected. I finished incredibly proud of myself and my achievement. My sister, Barbara Warshaw Komisar, got to see me finish on the live stream. Thank you Antje, for saying I should register and we would drive out to my sister’s with my bike. As always, when you aren’t doing a duathlon when I do a triathlon, you are with me from the moment I take the first stroke in the water until I take the last step across the finish line. You are my everything and my reason for being.

Congratulations, Gail!
Congratulations, Gail!

Putting Myself Out There

I’ve decided to run the New Jersey Marathon this coming Sunday.  I realized a few weeks ago while I was on a training run in Florida that I would be qualifying for Boston 2016 this spring as a 60 year old, which has a time of 4:25.  Given the popularity of Boston, I know I need at least a sub 4:20 and really a sub 4:15 would be most comfortable.  So, I’m going for it.  Finish time at my last half marathon back in January was 1:57, and just run as a training run.  Of course putting my goal out there means that I run the risk of looking like a failure if I don’t reach my goal.   That’s always a bit scary but I’m not one to take the easy way out.

Today’s run was great — hopefully I’ll feel the way I did today on Sunday.

Let’s just hope it’s not as windy and cold as today, but if it is windy I’ll hope for a west wind.

I loved my winter in Florida, I really wish it was warmer here but what a beautiful place I have to run!

I never get tired of the beauty of the ocean.
I never get tired of the beauty of the ocean.
Soft surface, the sounds of the ocean.
Soft surface, the sounds of the ocean.

An Amazing Week – Women For Tri

I’m having a hard time formulating the words to describe the experience at Ironman HQ this past week, as part of the Women for Tri Board of Advisors.

We have been given an amazing mandate . . . how to grow our sport among women.  This is what I have been trying to do for several years, and the benefits for me and so may others have been more than I can describe.

My experiences since becoming part of this board have not been optimal — there is a rabid group that has been trying to hijack the mission of the board.  I don’t quit, but the constant bombardment at times has made me want to walk away.  My reasons for participating are not self-serving, I have no need to add my name to the record books, to headlines, or to “history”.  I want to grow women’s participation in a sport that has changed so much since I first decide to become a triathlete.  There are equal opportunities today for just as many women to enter any race they want to enter as there is for men.  There is equal access to training — we can swim bike and run as often as anyone else if we chose to.   When we have as many female professional and yes even age group triathletes as men in a race then the percent of women earning spots to Kona will be equal to the men.  It’s a privilege to be earned, not something that is just handed to any of us.

Work for it, and you will grow what you want handed to you now.  And then, you will have earned it.

If we grow the base of women in triathlon then the rest will follow.   And it will mean something, because we earned it on a level playing field.

Some of the board at our first meeting.
Some of the board at our first meeting.

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