Mad World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

There sure are some crazy things happening around the world now. It seems like drugs and cartel have taken over South and Central America and their children are fleeing from there to here. As if North America is any better. We’re the ones who are using all those drugs. Greed and extreme religion has taken over the Middle East. For any human being to think that beheading someone is the right thing to do is completely beyond me. The Ebola virus has taken over Africa. And bad design has taken over the stages of New York’s Fashion Week this week!!! Ok, that last comment was sarcastic… but really.

Way too much craziness. We’ve become mad!

So in the middle of it all, I’m trying to raise a family, make a living, be a loud mouth against cancer, advocate for safer roads, and train for silly events to keep me living a healthy lifestyle. The world isn’t making this easy for me. How YOU doing?

It was about this time last year that I changed my training around to make it more “fun” so that I didn’t burn out. So when I got a note asking me to participate in the McAllen Stair Challenge in honor of the fire fighters who lost their lives and those who survived and continued to give of themselves for us… I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been training well. I feel good, strong, healthy… why not? I can climb stairs!

Oh boy… sure, I’ll give you permission to rub this one in my face. I deserve it.

Alright, let’s begin. Remember how I had briefly talked about hurting my hamstrings right before TriRock triathlon? Well, Coach W said that hamstring injuries occur pretty often when the leg muscles around the hamstrings become more developed and start to take up the slack that your weaker hamstrings can’t handle. Guess what I did? I started doing lots of hamstring strength exercises!!! AND GOT SORE.

So I went to Kefah. Kefah is this wicked fast runner who the locals pay to have him torture our legs so that we may run faster. He has this way of “massaging” your legs while making you hold your breath and turn various shades of red, purple and blue, dig your head into the bed and pound your hands into anything near by in excruciating agony and then still give him a tip. Aaaaannnnddd yes, I did that. And boy did he get after me!!! Telling me that I knew better than to do this. That I should have been coming in way before the event and two or three times a week. He was right. Life caught up to me and I’m trying hard to balance priorities. I always feel guilty doing things for myself like massages or mani/pedis or shopping or getting my hair done. In the end, I either don’t do them at all or I do it myself… and I don’t do any of that stuff like a professional does.

My legs were tight. Tighter than they have ever been before for any event. I was worried. The last thing I needed was for my hammies to pop just when I decided to do a full marathon later this year. All Friday night and all day Saturday, I was stretching, massaging, rolling, stretching, massaging, rolling, etc…

Sunday morning comes around and I jump into my gear. It’s been raining a lot so I packed some additions into my bag … you know.. just in case… and I zoomed over to Chase Tower. I put on a little mascara and liner while in the car really as an excuse to see if anyone was in the cars next to me or around me to see… and when I saw that the coast was clear, I used the rest of that whole big old bottle of that Perform/Bio Freeze spray I loved at TriRock all over my legs. I went from my butt down to my ankles. I wanted to make sure there was going to be as little pain as possible. Whew! No one saw!

BUT THEY SURE CAN SMELL ME!!!

There was no hiding my secret.

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I checked in. Got my badge and was scurried over to the East parking lot where the most incredible prayer, song and music played.

And then the Bagpipes led us to the stairwell… oh but first… a selfie

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And off we went…

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By chance, I was placed behind the first group of fire fighters. I didn’t think of it at the time about how important this was…

One of the men apologized within the first few steps for how badly his gear smelled. “Are you kidding me? We’re all runners and triathletes here. We smell like this all the time. It’s me that should be apologizing!” I smirked back.

I had just started on the stairs and was at the second and a half floor when I felt my heart start to go berserk. OMG! Already? I thought I was more fit than this!!! Myssie, there is NO way you’re going to be able to do 110 flights of stairs if you’re winded on the second floor. GIVE UP before you make a fool of yourself.

Y’all remember her? I don’t think she needs an introduction anymore.

Ok, I’m just going to slow down a bit. That’s all. Not gonna stop. Not gonna stop. Oh! There’s a leak in here!

I look up and it’s not a leak. At least not from the roof – of which I had expected it to be coming from with all the rain. It was from a fireman sweating profusely and spilling over on to me from the flight above me. Eww.

Don’t you DARE say anything! I don’t want a face on you or your nose stuck up in the air. Don’t you be that girl! Suck it up. THEY ARE! And so should you!

We were at about the fifth floor and the group of firemen that were around me were struggling. Already drenched in sweat and their pace declining, I saw them look around at the walls. Unlike marathons where family, friends and nearby residents crowd by the streets with posters filled with encouragement and cheers… we had art work drawn on manilla paper from the students of McAllen. We all had to smile. Some were just jaw dropping spectacular and some clearly were not meant for the Art profession but what radiated through each piece was heart and good intentions. As each of us wobbled through the next flight, we eagerly looked to the walls to see what the next one would say to us. We loved them… misspellings and all!

Gaspy conversations kept us busy. I got to know a few of these brave souls who selflessly risk their lives trying to save strangers they’ll likely never know and the material possessions the strangers value. One of them told me about his visit to New York’s Ground Zero just six months ago and got to listen to the recordings of the communication transmissions for one of the stations on September 11th. How heart wrecking is that???? And he still shows up to work after hearing this!!!

McAllen Stair Climb challenge fire fighters

Another spoke of how just yesterday he worked a crazy long shift and got out just in time to do this event.

Another responded to a compliment given by a civilian about how well their city’s fire crew works so well with each other… “Oh we are all from different cities but these guys are like brothers. Sometimes I see them more than I see my own family.”

Another spoke about how he was watching the special on Remembering 9/11 on the fire station’s television when the alarm sounded and there was a huge structural fire that he now needed to tend to. And he did. On September 11 of this year.

Story after story of heroism, selflessness, strength, challenges, fear and compassion all poured out of them on those stairs and into my ears and heart. These were a different breed of humans. They are silent, humble, jolly, helpful, courteous people who know what to do, how to do it and know who to do it with to get the job done safely and quickly so that the least amount of God’s creation is harmed.

These were not the type of people who would make children from their country flee in terror because of the illegal business they were trying to bully into their country. These were not the type of people who would behead another human being to illicit fear and power to gain territory or that their religion is above all else’s. These are also not the people that we would normally associate power and greatness with. You don’t see these guys at the head table of galas nor are they given special treatment by politicians. They are not elected. They aren’t given front row tickets to concerts, fly first class to exotic vacations or drive fancy schmancy cars. And that’s such a shame because when we feel like we are in danger, we call on them… the powerful ones who can control fire, who can combat destruction, who can save our loved ones. When did we become so backwards?

So many of my friends and teammates were at the Tri for Education at UTPA this morning and I felt odd that I wasn’t there either competing or volunteering – they all seemed to have done exceptionally well – but I really enjoyed this unusual event and off track workout (it really was THE toughest workout I’ve ever done to date). I have never felt my cardio levels pushed this far, my legs become this strong and still be in such control of my body to demand even more from it.

When I looked down on my bracelet, I realized that I was on my last “loop”. I took the service elevator down and the crowd on the first floor applauded and led me to the bell. As I stood in front of the bell, dressed in my Edinburg Fire Chief Johnny Economedes tee shirt and baseball cap (given to me to wear by his daughter, DeAnne), I showed my climber badge to the officer. It had a laminated photo of Martin DeMeo on it. He was the fire fighter that I was climbing for. He was just a few years older than me. He died on September 11, 2001, at the Twin Towers while trying to save those trapped in the buildings. He left behind a wife and two teenaged children. As I lifted the badge up, the officer saluted me. I felt awkward and unworthy. I just climbed some stairs and came out sweaty. Martin DeMeo never came out. My head fell. The officer told me to go ring the bell for Martin.

And I did. For him and for all of those who did this for us and those who bravely continue to.

There was a sense of invigoration that was planted in me. Not having my usual suspects around me gave the opportunity to observe more, listen more, feel more. And I liked it. In fact, I loved what I saw. I realize that there are bad people who will likely never change, there are good people who make mistakes, good people who make bad choices and good people who do mostly good. And even in this mad mad world… the good still outweigh the bad.

Martin DeMeo Martin DeMeo, 47, of Farmingville, was a 16-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, working in the hazardous materials unit in Maspeth. Remains were recovered. Martin DeMeo used to be disappointed if he wasn't working when a "big job" occurred, his wife, Joanie DeMeo, said. "He always wanted to be out there helping in a big job. It's ironic, he died in what was the biggest job there could be." But, early in their 18-year marriage, "he talked about death. He felt he wouldn't live a long life," said his wife, now 58. "He felt if he could envision how he would pass, it would be doing something he loved, and that was firefighting. Almost like this." His other passion was baseball - as a Yankees fan, memorabilia collector, and father of a Little Leaguer. Their son, Nicholas, 14 when his father died, pitched a game the Sunday after 9/11. His father stressed discipline and persistence, and "it kept his focus in the right place during a very difficult time," DeMeo said. "My son was very angry, and if he didn't have that focus I'm not quite sure what direction we'd be heading in right now. In late December, Nicholas DeMeo will graduate from the New York City Police Academy. The DeMeos' daughter, Kristen, 26, is "quite happy," working as a Suffolk County probation officer, married to a NYPD officer, her mother said. DeMeo is now in a relationship with a retired firefighter, and they are close friends with her late husband's best friend, Frank Virga, and his family. Virga, also of Farmingville, helped get a ballfield in Morris Avenue Park named in DeMeo's honor. "He was a true friend; if you needed him for something, he wouldn't ask questions. He'd just show up," Virga said. "I think about him often. It's a little bit easier now, and sometimes more difficult." DeMeo "was just a regular guy, but he was my hero and my children's hero," his wife said. "He was fun-loving and an incredible father and I miss him every day." - Carol Polsky

Martin DeMeo
Martin DeMeo, 47, of Farmingville, was a 16-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, working in the hazardous materials unit in Maspeth. Remains were recovered.
Martin DeMeo used to be disappointed if he wasn’t working when a “big job” occurred, his wife, Joanie DeMeo, said. “He always wanted to be out there helping in a big job. It’s ironic, he died in what was the biggest job there could be.”
But, early in their 18-year marriage, “he talked about death. He felt he wouldn’t live a long life,” said his wife, now 58. “He felt if he could envision how he would pass, it would be doing something he loved, and that was firefighting. Almost like this.”
His other passion was baseball – as a Yankees fan, memorabilia collector, and father of a Little Leaguer. Their son, Nicholas, 14 when his father died, pitched a game the Sunday after 9/11.
His father stressed discipline and persistence, and “it kept his focus in the right place during a very difficult time,” DeMeo said. “My son was very angry, and if he didn’t have that focus I’m not quite sure what direction we’d be heading in right now.
In late December, Nicholas DeMeo will graduate from the New York City Police Academy. The DeMeos’ daughter, Kristen, 26, is “quite happy,” working as a Suffolk County probation officer, married to a NYPD officer, her mother said.
DeMeo is now in a relationship with a retired firefighter, and they are close friends with her late husband’s best friend, Frank Virga, and his family. Virga, also of Farmingville, helped get a ballfield in Morris Avenue Park named in DeMeo’s honor.
“He was a true friend; if you needed him for something, he wouldn’t ask questions. He’d just show up,” Virga said. “I think about him often. It’s a little bit easier now, and sometimes more difficult.”
DeMeo “was just a regular guy, but he was my hero and my children’s hero,” his wife said. “He was fun-loving and an incredible father and I miss him every day.” – Carol Polsky

Hundreds of climbers participated in the inaugural McAllen Stair Climb. Each climber carried a lanyard with the picture of one of the 343 firefighters who perished in the Twin Towers. Participants climbed the 17 floors of the Neuhaus Tower 6 1/2 times to complete the challenge.

Hundreds of climbers participated in the inaugural McAllen Stair Climb. Each climber carried a lanyard with the picture of one of the 343 firefighters who perished in the Twin Towers. Participants climbed the 17 floors of the Neuhaus Tower 6 1/2 times to complete the challenge.

What’s the right thing to say?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas
Funeral visitation for John Zess will be at Rudy Garza Funeral Home. They are located at 1702 E. Harrison Avenue in Harlingen, TX 78550. Visitation will be on Saturday, September 13 from 12noon – 9pm. A private viewing for the family will be on Friday

Funeral visitation for John Zess will be at Rudy Garza Funeral Home. They are located at 1702 E. Harrison Avenue in Harlingen, TX 78550. Visitation will be on Saturday, September 13 from 12noon – 9pm. A private viewing for the family will be on Friday

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“You’re the first person I thought to call,” he said. (I won’t disclose his name)

I had some serious thought provoking conversations regarding the safety of cyclists in South Texas. A close friend of John Zess called me this morning. Clearly he was having a tough time dealing with the loss of his cycling buddy of many years. He admitted bursting out into a loud cry shortly before he called. He knew I had just recently experienced those exact same feelings not too long ago with Eddie Arguelles’ tragic cycling death.

“People don’t understand until it happens to them,” he said while his normally booming, strong voice cracked with emotion.

And he is so right. People really DON’T understand until it happens to them. Sadly, that means that many more will die on our streets before our community will get it. And then it will take something incredibly awful – I’m talking dreadfully, unspeakable awfulness – to happen to THEM in order for them to change their bad habits.

“What’s the right thing to say?” he asked me. “Do you tell people not to ride in the dark?”

We delved into a conversation that led us further into a confusing mess similar to the chicken and the egg. What do you address first? Who do you address first? What do you tell the other party in the meanwhile?

We have become so fixated on blame that we have become blind to the solution that is actually quite simple. But of course, us humans seem to complicate that solution. What is the solution?

Simple. Follow the law.

If we just didn’t drink all night long during the football game – over the limit of the law = All 50 states have now set .08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) as the legal limit for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or commercial drivers, a BAC of .04% can result in a DUI conviction nationwide – then we wouldn’t have drunk drivers hitting cyclists or pedestrians or other cars. Simple, right? Put the drink down. And if you can’t put the drink down… give your keys to someone who didn’t drink (or smoke or snort or dope up)… AT ALL.

Simple, right?

Put the phone down. Simple, right?

Don’t speed. Simple, right?

Pay attention. Simple, right?

But let’s face it… life isn’t that simple. Even if cyclists do EVERYTHING possible to follow the law and EVERYTHING possible to be safe and visible, a black and white law that seems to simply state what should be legal and what should be illegal can be interpreted a completely different way by a good attorney or jury or a judge. And while we’re at it, let’s face it again… the life of the cyclist lost can never truly be given justice nor can a monetary value be given to their worth nor will their loss ever be felt as deeply as it should by that judge nor the person who took it away.

In fact, since you and I are being blunt with each other, let’s talk about the attitudes that we have towards cyclists on the road, cyclists who are hit and cyclists who are killed.

Now, let me be clear about this – THIS IS MY OPINION and it comes from what I have witnessed personally – I love my community and proud of how well it has overcome many of it’s growing pains because we really have grown quickly in a few number of years. The news headlines gets it’s ratings from talking about political leaders abusing power and going to jail but the political leaders that I’ve associated with have actually become a PART of the community and have kicked the ivory tower to the curb, joined its citizens on bike rides or runs and even marathons and have become active in pursuing infrastructure improvements for encouraging physical activity in our community. Our local police have protected my run group along the trail and have stopped alongside the road several times to render aid to a fellow cyclist who didn’t go over the tracks correctly or simply got a flat tire.

My friends, neighbors and friends I have yet to meet have become inspired with our community health kick and have cautiously joined the wave. They watch with wide eyes as people in big trucks or SUVs zoom by cyclists honking, cussing, throwing half empty beer bottles at them and even worse… intentionally swerving their way to knock them down. They see the local news anchors skim through the auto/ped fatality so that we can have time to discuss the NFL game this coming weekend or car that was abandoned in La Joya with the load of pot in the back seat. Everywhere we look, we see validation that the life of a cyclist seems less valuable than that of any other human.

It has become almost a daily ritual that someone tells me that I should not be riding my bike on the road.

“Roads are for cars not bikes.”
“Go ride your bike in a park where you’re supposed to be.”
“Why do you ride on 2nd street when there’s a side walk there?”
“You shouldn’t ride that early in the day. It’s too dark.”
“You shouldn’t ride at night. It’s too dark.”
“You shouldn’t ride in the day. It’s too hot.”
“You shouldn’t ride around Mission Trails. There are too many illegals crossing.”

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So back to our thought provoking conversations…

The following was sent via Facebook private message (I won’t disclose her name)

“Myssie, I saw all you did and you inspired me to get up and do something good, too. I want to become healthy. I’m tired of being fat and not being able to play with my kids. I want to live a long healthy life but what’s the point if I’m supposed to sit here and accept that most likely I’m going to get hit and killed by a drunk driver way before a heart attack has the time to get me?”

What am I supposed to say? What’s the right thing to say?

I want to encourage people to be healthy and have fun doing it and do good for others and continue to push the healthy wave to others…

But what if I encourage someone to go out there and their life is taken away?

What if mine is taken away?

Since the age of six, I’ve had a recurring nightmare about the way I die. Those who are very close to me have heard the story several times. Even my husband knows how serious I am about this dream and will never drive down Hobbs Drive because of it… but I ride by it on my 5am ride. It is by far the biggest fear I have.

I am not going to pretend I have the answer to it all. I’ve even questioned my own sudden desire to go back to running marathons and leaving cycling. I won’t lie and say I’m not scared. But I also cannot, after all I have learned about overcoming fear and challenges these last few years, be bullied by fear to abandon the sport of cycling… a sport that led me to emotional and physical healing. I cannot let go of it.

What’s the right thing to say?

What’s the right thing to do?

Why is this so complicated now? If that answer just popped up in your head right now… do you believe your own answer?

P.S. The Ghost Ride planned for John Zess on Saturday morning at 7:00a.m. has been postponed due to expected thunderstorms on Saturday morning. Please find more details on the rescheduling of the ride on John’s facebook page, Bicycle World’s FB page or Lone Star Pacesetter’s FB page.

More media links on the latest regarding John Zess: http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=1095044#.VBJtjvldV8F

We can not let fear deter us from doing the things we love. Cycling is a rather safe activity to partake here in the RGV as hundreds of cyclists were out and about yesterday and every day without incident. Unfortunately, we do have a *BIG* problem with drinking and driving in the area, and this is what is causing the majority, if not all, of the fatalities. I am a big believer that bicycles belong on the road. However, I am also realistic and practical when it comes to finding a solution to a complex problem. That is why we are advocating hard to have a dedicated, separated, region-wide bicycle trail. I am hopeful that this can happen in the next couple of years. ~ Ramon Hermida

Another cyclist hit and run tragedy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

Just as I was about to get my notes out about the Girl’s Tri in Harlingen yesterday and shout out to the world about my very first and probably only time on the podium’s first place block with a “what a way to celebrate my momma’s birthday!”…

I’m going to save that scheduled post and stay back for a while because of the man that I met yesterday at the Girl’s Tri that was joking about how he should have volunteered to do the body marking instead of helping with the bike course. And then went onto say that all these girl’s tri shorts are way too long!

He had a sense of humor that challenged mine. I liked that. After a few short minutes, he took a double take with me and then said “Hey, you’re the cancer girl, right? We need to talk after this race.”

I then went on to the pool to the athletes orientation meeting… and had a great race (that I’ll post about later)

This morning, I found out that John, the same man I just met yesterday was fatally hit and run while on his 5am ride.

I went to his facebook page to take a closer look. He had posted that he had just recently been diagnosed with colon cancer and was preparing to do a race next weekend for cancer while raising funds and awareness — just like I do.

Now I can’t stop thinking if this was what he wanted to talk to me about.

John Zess… all it took was a minute and a giggle. I’m glad I met you. I wish I had known you longer. I hope that someone else out there knows what you intended to talk to me about so that if there was something you wanted to organize for cancer, I could help. In fact, I sure am tempted to do next weeks race FOR you. I wonder…

http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=1093399#.VA0K4fldV8E

John Zess Fatally hit and run on September 7, 2014 Harlingen, Texas

John Zess
Fatally hit and run on September 7, 2014
Harlingen, Texas

Ironically, he has posted several times on his facebook page a simple black and white graphic with a saying “Don’t run me over”

Media & news updates:

http://www.kurv.com/local/6371

http://www.krgv.com/news/driver-turns-himself-in-after-allegedly-striking-a-bicyclist/

http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=1093981

Redemption at TRIROCK Austin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

“Run your race.
Stay in your lane.
Don’t look left or right and wonder.
Your journey is perfectly yours.”
~Angelah Johnson

7 seconds!!! 7 more seconds and I would have been DEAD LAST in my age group division at Trirock on Monday and I’ve never been more happy or proud of myself. Out of 2100 people who competed at Trirock on Labor Day, only 19 women aged 40-45 dared to do the full triathlon. I placed 18th!!!! Why am I so happy???

TRIROCK austin triathlon Myssie Cardenas-Barajas Felt Bicycle Mimi's Miles

Because I got MY GOAL. Not yours. I reached MY goal. This age group consisted of THE most competitive women of all age groups considering experience and speed. In fact, the person who won the whole entire enchilada of the event was a 42 year old woman, a mother of two and yes, in this age group.

Did I let these women, these facts, this event intimidate me from doing this event or MY very best?

No way Jose!!!

And because I never compared myself to these women (or you), I was able to keep focused on my goal. REDEMPTION

I just wanted to prove to myself that all that training, all those workouts, all those sacrifices I made, all those times I could have slept in, all those times I could have hung out with friends late night with drinks, all those times I pushed away the pizza, cup cakes, chocolate, all my effort wasn’t in vain.

I NEEDED TO FINISH THIS RACE FOR ME.

The self punishment I endured from the DNF (Did Not Finish) at the Capital of Texas Triathlon on Memorial Day earlier this year was harsher than you could ever imagine. I’m very hard on myself. All my life, I’ve done everything at %110. I cannot allow myself to be less than my best. I just can’t. I understand that sometimes my best isn’t good enough and sometimes I make mistakes…. But those mistakes are made with me giving my all and I learn from each failure.

I am no longer a beginner marathoner, cyclist or triathlete. It is no longer cute for me to continue on this journey. In fact, it’s actually become quite “in” to dismiss and ridicule me within the circle that I once used to train with. People now perceive me as a competitive athlete. They are so very wrong.

I’m still just Myssie.

People forget that the only race I ever did as a child was in Kindergarten and I got a white participant ribbon as I came in last. I wasn’t in track or volleyball or swim team or basket ball in high school. I was VP of Home Ec, costume coordinator for drama, a non-officer Sergeanette… And a prissy Miss Edinburg.

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So if it makes you feel better about yourself to compare yourself to me, go right ahead and scrutinize my times, my photos with cellulite and extra tires around my waist. My game is not with you. My medal holder is completely full of all new white kindergarten participant ribbons that shouldn’t mean much to anyone else but me. They are not first place trophies that contain State or Region records. They simply symbolize a challenge outside of my comfort zone that I didn’t give up on – something truly difficult TO ME, physically and mentally, that I accomplished not just for me but for a few people that I love that can never do something like this… Ever.

So let’s get down to business and talk about the TRI.

I roomed with the Ericas at a hotel close by. It was by far the WORST hotel I have EVER stayed at!!! Even though I reserved a room with TWO double beds, they put us in a room with only one double (not even a King) bed. There were more friendlier cockroaches scurrying around than there were friendly hotel desk clerks willing to accommodate us.
“Could you move us to another room with two beds?”
“NO”
“Could you provide us with a roll away cot then?”
“NO”

It didn’t matter what we asked for. The answer was NO.

Fast forward to race morning: I was surprisingly calm and organized. I walked over to transition while the Ericas slept in. (I was doing the Olympic distance and they were doing Sprint so we had different transition set up and start times)

As I made my way over, a young woman asked if I had ever done a TRI before. “Yes, but this ones special.”
“Why?” She asked.
“Because I never finished the last one. I have to prove to myself that I can do it now before I can do anything else.”
“Whoa…. And I thought I was high pressured.” She said softly. “This is my first time. I’ve done sprints before but never this distance..”
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“Good! Let it fuel you. If you weren’t nervous, I wouldn’t think you’re normal.” And she smiled.

I entered transition as if I was a pro. My bag over one shoulder and my helmet in the opposite hand with my stickers correctly placed on all items, I stuck out my legs for body marking and announced my race number like a drill sergeant and my age with pride and marched directly to my Mimi.

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There she was, sparkling in the moonlight waiting patiently for me like a good steed. I set up my area quickly, took some pictures with my phone, re-read the text from Xman, sent him back a text and then made my way out. I rubbed the seat of my bike lovingly and told her I’d be right back.

Lisa grabbed me as I was exiting transition. “Come on! We’re going to be interviewed on live TV!”

This motley gang of weekend warriors that I have found myself surrounded by these last couple of years are amazing. Trirock triathlon was NOT a TNT event but they all trained with me and showed up because of what this meant to me… and to them now. All donned in purple kits, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my orange sunflower triflare outfit. But I was still part of the team. The reporter did an excellent job and I wish I had the link to the video to show you how well Cat did!!!

Normally Jeanice leads me in a little prayer before all our events together but I couldn’t find her. She must have gone to the portapotties and got stuck in line. So I quickly grabbed Cats hands, looked up at her and blurted out “I can’t find Jeanice for prayer so you’re my Jeanice now.”

I said a short prayer, gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek and lined up to Jump off the dock. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and opened them to Ben standing beside me with a big hug.

“I know today means a lot to you. You’re going to be fine. Have fun.”

And as I get closer moving like cattle to the dock, I see Anita with her camera. I wave her down making it impossible for her to get a good shot and I jump the barrier to give her the biggest hug ever. Anita was the first person I saw when I was dragged out of the water at CapTex. I sobbed uncontrollably that day on her shoulder. This morning was no different. The entire crowd saw the emotion between us and cheered me on. It must have been a sight because a photographer from a trade magazine asked if I always get this emotional before triathlons.
I responded with “Her daughter has cancer. I lost my mom to cancer. I’m doing this for them. I can’t fail.” And then he started crying!!!

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And there I was at edge of the dock awaiting my turn quickly trying to figure out if I need to have my hand on my goggles or on my Garmin start button….

JUMP!

I should have had my hand on my goggles. I plunged into the warm murky water and went deep… so deep I swear I must have been inches away from the center of the Earth. It seemed like an eternity!!! What in the world??? Seriously, it cannot be THIS deep!!!

Calm down Myssie. Its just your nerves. Grab your goggles. You’re fine. You’re just fine. Wait. Wait.

There.

My head broke the water’s surface and I took a deep breath, adjusted my goggles and calmly began to swim. My strokes were perfectly timed. Slow and steady and strong. I kept my head up and out of the water. Coach W’s superman drills had helped tremendously and I was confidently going straight. My neck was hurting but I didn’t want to risk going a stray on my course and adding more distance than what was needed. 100. Turn right.

“You’re going too slow Myssie! Come on! Speed it up! You can go faster than this!” my evil inner voice yells at me. Hoards of swimmers skim past me and my “no wake zone” filling me with anxiety.

No! Stop it! Shut up! I don’t care who’s watching my time right now, who’s swimming past me nor who’s making fun of how much faster they are than I am. This is MY race and I am going to do everything possible to make sure I finish strong.. not fast. STRONG! YOU HEAR ME?!?!?

Ha! I put her in her place didn’t I? 200. Keep going.

BLAM! Seriously??? A swimmer slams into me.

Stroke. Stroke. Keep those knees tight and ankles light. Stroke. Stroke. 300.

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With my head still up and out of the water, I felt my legs drift down. I knew I was creating drag but still too scared to trust myself with my head down and drifting off course with my drunk swerving swimming habits. My neck was really killing me at this time but I wouldn’t dare allow myself to stop.

“If you stop now, you’ll keep stopping throughout the race. Whatever you do, DO NOT STOP. DON’T YOU DARE STOP!” my inner voice keeps yelling.

500.

Ok, this is where it happened. I was at the 500 mark at CapTexTri when I had my first cough attack. I’m fine now. Keep going. Keep going.

600.

Yes! You’re doing it Myssie! You are doing this!!!

Arghhh!!! Stop it! Stop thinking about this so much! Ok…. then what am I supposed to think about?

700 meters. This is the point where I was removed from the last triathlon I did… on this exact same course.

THATSWHATIMTALKINGABOUT!!!!

As I take my breaths off to my left side, I can see from the corner of my eye people cheering from the bridge. I hear my name being yelled out. What??? Who in the world is that?

DON’T YOU DARE LOOK! Stay focused! You’re doing so well!!!! 800!!!! Right turn.

I felt the change in the current as I made my turn. I saw the 900 right in front of me. It seemed so close!

Come on Myssie! Push it hard now! Yes! Yes! Yes! 900!!! Right turn!!!

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Oh my God! God! Momma! MOMMA!!! DID YOU SEE THAT??? DID YOU SEE ME??? DID YOU SEE??? I felt like a six year old girl making it across the monkey bars for the first time on the playground making sure that Mom saw while she was sitting on the bench nearby.

And just then… right that moment… the sun came out in such a glorious manner that each wave shimmered around me in ripples of gold glitter. I had surpassed my own personal moment of doubt and conquered it… and Momma was there to see me.

“Don’t get all happy now. You’ve still got half way to swim yet you silly girl!” My cocky inner voice never seems to let me win.

Alright, let’s speed things up a bit. BLAM! Dangit! Who are these guys in the silver caps that keep swimming into me?!?!?

I duck my head in and pick up my pace… finally! I sight every third stroke, keeping my form and finally resting my neck a little better. BLAM!!! Ok, seriously. This really needs to stop now. *I’ll bet I rolled my eyes in the water.

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I didn’t even see any of the other marker buoys after that. I only saw the screaming crowd by the finish and all the kayaks blocking me from it!!! What? Why are there so many kayaks there? Ugh! Why don’t they get out of the way??? Don’t they know…..

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ARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! LAKE WEEEEEEEDDDDDD!!!!! LAKE WEED! LAKE WEED! IT’S EVERYWHERE! OMG! IT’S ATTACKING ME! Grabbing my arms! my hands! crawling around my neck! OMG! It’s trying to get into my mouth! OMG OMG OMG!!!

Yes, I screamed like a little girl. I admit it. There.

And so did everyone else.

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The hydrilla infestation was so thick that you could not swim through it. I sloshed through the icky slimy vicious floating jungle for what seemed like the equivalent of the time I spent in high school and climbed out of Lady Bird Lake looking like the swamp monster. A man came up to me and immediately asked if I was ok.

Yes, I think so.

And that’s when I felt the ickies attack. All those weed leaves that were left on my were moving on my skin!!! Ewwww!!! I must have jumped up and around trying to brush off the ickies when the man tries to unzip my sunflower tri suit.

NOOOOO!!!! It’s a trisuit NOT a wet suit!!!

It suddenly dawned on him that there was nothing underneath it but my birthday suit!!! Good thing I took off towards T1 so that the photographer couldn’t catch him blushing!!!

Ahhhhhh finally! I ran barefoot almost a mile to T1 where I knew my Mimi was eager to get going. And so was I!!!

As I removed my Mimi from her rack and trotted her to the mount line, the volunteers began buzzing about the matchy matchy orange kit and bike ensemble I had.

“Nice Kit!”

“You are styling girl!”

“Wow! I love your trisuit!”

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The compliments were endless the whole time I was riding. But shortly after I was on the course, going South on Congress, I noticed my bike feeling heavy. I couldn’t pin point it. Was it because I had missed so many 5am rides that I lost my mojo? Was it that I hadn’t been to Austin in a while and needed more hill training? Was it the new tires I had put on and just wasn’t used to the new treads? What ever it was, I decided, I was just going to push through it. I didn’t stop in the swim so I certainly wasn’t going to stop in the bike!

Going North on Congress was a blast!!! I messed up my Garmin… AGAIN… by hitting the wrong button so I didn’t know how fast I was going. And again… I reminded myself… today is not about speed. It’s about finishing something I started.

After my first loop, a young female volunteer yelled out for me to stay to the right. I made a wrong turn. I should have continued straight. She apologized the next time I went around but by that time, I had already done an extra loop on my bike route.

Eh, it’s ok. It’s not like I have to worry about someone accusing me of skipping a loop, right?

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After my ride, I jumped off and trotted my Mimi back to her parking space. I plopped down on my towel to spray my hamstrings with biofreeze and looked up. THATs when I noticed that her tire was completely FLAT!!! No wonder she felt heavy!!! (these photos were taken at the beginning of the course… it must have been a slow leak or caused by a little pot hole I bumped along the way)

Eh, nothing I can do about it now. Go run!

I sprayed so much biofreeze that Zilcher park will not have to be fumigated all year long!!! But it made my legs feel AWWWWEEEEEESOME!!! Boom! I took off! Holy Moly! This stuff is great! My pace hasn’t been like this in forever! Goodness I feel great! I feel fabulous!!! I feel…. hot. Holy Moly… I shoulda paced myself. Oh my… I need water.

I stopped. I walked. Oh man… I think I just bonked. Come on. Come on. Get yourself together. Push it! Push yourself.

I grabbed a paper cup of water and dumped it on my head. I had goosebumps everywhere. I was dehydrated. It was almost noon time and it was triple digit heat. I stuffed ice cubes in my baseball cap and poured more water down my back and face.

Ok… let’s do this! Vroom Vrooom!!! Nope. Not gonna happen. I ran/walked intervals for the remainder of the last loop and then cramped up yards away from the finish.

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but I pushed through and I FINISHED. I FINISHED WHAT I STARTED AND THAT’S ALL I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO PROVE TO MYSELF.

As I crossed the finish line, my teammates were all waiting and so were the volunteers who awarded me “best dressed” and gave me my finisher medal.

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I did it. I did it Momma! Did you see me?? Did you see me do it??

And now that I know I can do this… I can continue on to what I set out to do in the first place.

 

*So if you find yourself now at the end of this entry wondering if you can do that thing you’ve been wanting to do, accomplish, discover, create – whatever that thing is – trust in yourself and keep trying. YOU CAN DO IT. YOU WILL!!! Even if you don’t succeed the first time or the second or the hundredth… you’ll get there. You really will. Just don’t give up.

And don’t let what those others say about you stop you either. It hurts, I know. But it’s because in your strength they clearly see their own weaknesses. Let it fuel you.

 

Throw Back Thursday

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 29, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

I haven’t had time to post this week. Soo busy!!! Considering this is taper week, you’d think I’d have a little extra time but it’s also the first week of school for my little and a busy week at work and as always… New adventures!!!

Last weekend though I made it out to the beach for a mini TRI with open water swim. I felt good. Strong. Both physically and mentally.

The swim in the bay was picture perfect! The water was like glass but was so stagnant, murky and extra salty!!! My head was on straight and I’m proud of myself for beating my demons. I didn’t allow for anything to take me off focus.

I showed up. Did what I needed to do. And that’s it. All business!!!

The bike was wow!!! Again, it was like Mimi was ready to go play. We kept a good pace — not like I was going full blast but it was a really good ride. Just as I made it to the turn around, I noticed a shell on the side of the road. I looped around again and HAD to pick it up.

It was a sand dollar.

It was broken around the outside and stained as if it had been run over and gone through some messes.

It was a little bit like me.

I grew up on the island as a kid. Momma and Dad would walk with me along the beach to collect sand dollars. So ya… That was my sign.

She was with me.

My life is coming back together again — and she’s not here but she is.

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Don’t Stop Believing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

So remember that busy week I was telling you about a few posts ago??? Yep, it happened!

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Fabulous fixie with orange wheels donated by Wally's Bike Shop for our auction!!!

Fabulous fixie with orange wheels donated by Wally’s Bike Shop for our auction!!!

We hosted a fabulous mixer at Cimarron Country Club last Thursday. Auctioned off a wicked awesome fixie donated by my trusty and generous bicycle guru, Wally’s Bike Shop, and some ticket concerts to a great show coming up and honored a great local gastro doctor who jumped on board to help with the cause.  RGV CAP board members even jumped in on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge!!!

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Friday was packet pick up.

And Saturday was our RGV CAP 10k race!!!

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Monies generated from these events go to Rio Grande Valley residents who are at high risk of colon cancer and are unable to afford a colonoscopy. Since colon cancer is one of the MOST curable cancers if found in it’s early stages, many understand and empathize with the passion we have to this cause and supported it with all that they could. I’m so grateful for the amount of support we have received!!!!

Oh how I wish Momma would have found her cancer in an earlier stage.

But I know.. I know..

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This was peak week for my training and I’m pretty pleased. I’ve swam more than I ever have and feel very comfortable at the pace that I’m at and my form seems to be improving each time I practice – thanks to Coach W’s drills every Wednesday.  I still wish I didn’t have my crazy reactions in the ocean water but am reassured that Town Lake in Austin won’t make me swell up like that with the ictchies or wheezies. My running was probably the sport that I needed the MOST improvement in. It sure is humbling to see me go from where I was to where I am now. But again, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. So long as I am moving forward, I know I’ll get there. I’m feeling healthy and strong and mentally… I’ve put that sarcastic, doubting voice in my head securely in place… with some duct tape ;)

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I sure miss riding my bike as often as I did. But I had to work on my weaknesses. Cycling to me is FUN so I know that on game day, I won’t be riding with my legs, I’ll be riding with my heart. As I should be.

Getting over my personal disappointment on my swim at CapTexTri will be an adventure. But I’m confident I’ll beat my demons. Lets watch and see!!! My story is yet unwritten and only me and my coach have my goals.

Self improvement has lessons every day and on various subjects.

I am a forever student.

I am still quite a distance from my finish line.

 

 

 

My Mother Before Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

I’m going to take you back with me to the year 1997. It was the Saturday before my first Mother’s Day and my Momma and I were sitting together at a Mother/Daughter workshop held in one of the ballrooms at Embassy Suites.

My Mother Before Me by Julie Kettle Gundlach

My grandma passed away in my mother’s arms when I was 12 years old. The love and respect they had for each other was evident to me even as a pre-teen. Now, as an adult, I was able to recognize that look on her face when she realized some of the motherly advice she was giving me was something quite meaningful to her as it triggered memories from when she was a young, clueless mother… like me.

I had forgotten about this experience because since the age of 10, I was given a little 110 camera and a diary from Momma to record all the happenings of my daily life (which probably explains my habitual over posting of photos on facebook and instagram).  And of course, if she said to do something… it had to be done and done well. That meant perfect grammar, complete sentences and nice handwriting. My journal was kept safe and hidden at home and written on at the end of the day. My camera was in my pocket all day long for moments that would help describe my story later on. Oh! And back then… we used film. It was about $7 to buy and about $20 to process and it took two weeks to get them back so all my allowance was used for this. I’m rambling….

Long story short… after giving birth to an almost 11 pound baby boy, I had some baby weight issues. My vanity kept me from taking photos of us that day. God, I regret that sooooo much! How I wish I could remember what she was wearing that day. Which glasses did she have on? How did she style her hair?  Why can’t I remember this? Because I was too insecure of my own appearance to take a picture of myself with my mother on my first Mother’s Day weekend and HER first Mother’s Day weekend as a GRANDMOTHER!!! How selfish of me to have vanity and insecurity steal this memory away from me.

Lesson: Take pictures and journal as many fabulous moments from now until you can’t any longer… no matter who it makes feel uncomfortable or annoys. These pictures and postings are for ME and MY memory so that I don’t forget my good times.

So what DID I walk away with on that special day with Momma?

We got the book My Mother Before Me – When Daughters Discover Mothers by Julie Kettle Gundlach. I believe it was the author who conducted the workshop that day with us. We were given little exercises to perform… like a series of questions to see how much we knew about our mothers and then a series of interview questions to ask our mothers. I don’t remember the questions but I believe I did much better than the rest of the daughters in the room with us that day. Even better… that day marked a unique metamorphosis of our relationship. We no longer saw each other as the Mother/Child or Superior/Inferior. We now saw each other as Mother/Mother and confidants.

As a teen, I am sure I tested her patience with my feelings of entitlement and complete inconsiderate actions like staying out too late and not telling her where I was or who I was with, announcing to her on a Thursday night that we were supposed to be on a float in a parade in San Antonio that Saturday, or saying “I have NOTHING to wear!!!!” and two hours and one Simplicity pattern later… a new dress is in my closet. She knew… she knew it all suddenly clicked because now I was a mother and would do anything for this child of mine.  Because by her example, I now knew what it took to be a good mother.

What I do remember clearly is from that day on, our conversations changed. I was no longer just her child. She saw me as an equal. I was no longer a bratty teen. I saw her as the instruction book to the baby who was allergic to every single formula except that $80/can kind!!! The purpose of that workshop was to reunite Mothers and Daughters and instigate curiosity. Momma and I already had a good relationship…but this made it better.

Soooooo… here’s the kicker. I never read the book after that workshop. I kept it. It’s been in my library all these years but I never cracked it open. I’ve had a TON of garage sales over the last 18 years but I never got rid of this one book. The last few months, I’ve been re-reading old books of mine that I forgot I had so this one popped out.

As I flipped through the pages, all the letters blurred together and the memory of that day popped up like photographs in my head. I read the back of book…. slumped down on the floor and knew I had to read it. (I’ve posted the picture of the book cover so you can understand why)

Lesson: Life is short. What is given to you is a gift.  It’s human nature to remember the bad stuff and it takes effort to remember the good stuff. Many of us take the good stuff for granted. For that reason, ask your elders and loved ones how they met the loves of their lives, what they wanted to be when they grew up, what their dreams were, who their role models were, what they did when they got tipsy (I loved that question!), how were they courted, what they regretted, what they feared, what was their proudest moment… Take pictures, record them, video them, save their voice mails, ask them to write about their lives to you. And do it yourself, too, for your children and grandchildren.

We all have a story to tell.

Who cares if you take too many pictures of yourself and your family and your friends (and my bike and my shoes) doing silly frivolous stuff or insist on video recording every single t-ball game, swim meet, piano recital, half time show, etc. It is in those moments that you find the little gems of the stuff of life.. your life…. MY LIFE.

This is my life and I will not allow anyone to edit my story any longer. If you don’t like it… don’t read it. If you DO like it.. I welcome you to become part of a chapter of it.  It is in constant edit so that even if it doesn’t have a happy ending, lessons are learned, legends are born and the mystical fable of a cancer cure may jump genres into the nonfiction section.

"During a conversation with her cancer-stricken mother just three month before her death on Mother's Day 1983, Ms. Gundlach realized how little she knew about her mother's personal history....  Sadly, her mother became too ill and died before she could fulfill her plan to discuss her life."

“During a conversation with her cancer-stricken mother just three month before her death on Mother’s Day 1983, Ms. Gundlach realized how little she knew about her mother’s personal history…. Sadly, her mother became too ill and died before she could fulfill her plan to discuss her life.”

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