Let your light shine!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

“Is that you Myssie?”

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I had just gotten out of the pool and finished my run/swim brick when I saw an old friend and greeted him with a big, wet, sopping hug. It had been a few years since we had talked and caught up quickly under the beating sun by the pool.

“I was worried for you for a while. Just a few years ago you were on top of the world in Real Estate and at Rotary Club.” He beamed a huge smile when he said that.

“But then it was like the weight of the world was on your shoulders. And you bounced back. I see it every day but you probably don’t. You have touched so many people with what you have done. Don’t ever forget that.”

He went on to tell me that he’s heard of so many women who had similarly taken a back seat to their family once they reached a certain age or pivotal point in their lives. He also said that those same women saw what I was doing and challenged themselves to attempt their own similar goals regardless of their age or athletic background. His words were so validating to the laps I had just finished and the goal that swam around in my head. THANK YOU PATRICK!!!

Most of my life (with the exception of my pageantry years), I sat on the side lines in the stadium stands cheering on those I loved and taking photographs of them doing awesome physical feats. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be doing what I’m doing today. I am lucky – seriously lucky – that I entered this journey with some highly experienced athletes that had incredibly generous, patient hearts. They understood my personal goals. They respected them and never once tried to alter them. They were MY goals.

I had a goal many years ago to become Miss Texas and then Miss America. I was fixated on it. In four years, I entered 22 pageants and won or placed finalist in 20 of them. The only 2 that I didn’t place or win was Miss Texas. I was really really good at winning. I was uber competitive. So much that I became another person. I was constantly checking out the other competition, reviewing their stats and videos, finding their weakness and making that my strong point. I became that wicked evil girl that pageant reality tv shows spotlight for the drama and ratings.

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And that really wasn’t who I was but it was quickly who I was becoming. Thank goodness for Julie and Noe who both sat me down and opened my eyes about their friend they missed inside of me. Noe’s words in the courthouse parking lot will forever echo in my head… “Why are you ALWAYS comparing yourself to them?”

I aged out of pageantry, retired and hung up my heels but went on to “train” countless winners successfully with that lesson in mind. “Don’t compete against the others. Compete against yourself. Make yourself a better person.” And that’s exactly how my pageant trainees won.

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These women didn’t find a characteristic about another contestant to make fun of while saying it was all fun and games. They didn’t use passive aggressive antics to play with the minds of other contestants nor spread gossip and innuendo around the contestants. They won on their own merit… not by trying to dim the light of the others.

Your light does not shine brighter by dimming the light of others.

Long story short(er)… I understand that some people thrive on competition. I, however, DO NOT. I do not like who I become when my ruthless, competitive spirit emerges. It takes great effort to muffle that person that I did not like within myself (nor did anyone else like).  I am a goal oriented person. My focus is on MY finish line… not someone elses. My goals are measured by me, internally, by small incremental babysteps that go in one direction… FORWARD. So that when I fall, when I fail to achieve that step I was planning on, I know how to get back up and keep moving because I’ve been there already.

Larisa, my Matron of Honor, at my wedding almost 20 years ago!!!

Larisa, my Matron of Honor, at my wedding almost 20 years ago!!!

On Tuesday, I was able to put those mental blinders on my Matron of Honor, Larisa, as she ran two miles with me for the first time. She was inundated with the same fears we all have.

  • I’m too old to run this fast
  • I’m too old to run this far
  • I’m too fat to run this fast
  • I’m too fat to run this far
  • I’m too out of shape to run
  • I haven’t run since high school
  • My knees hurt
  • My ankles hurt
  • My hip hurts

I stayed by her side the entire time and put my iPhone on my arm with the speaker towards her. “Keep the pace of the music and we’ll be just fine. Pump your arms and keep your hands above your waist at all times otherwise you’ll get chorizo fingers at the end of the first mile.”

“YES!!! I do get chorizo fingers!!!” she exclaimed. That’s when the light bulb turned on and she gained faith in that I knew a little bit about what I was talking about.

“Ok, we’re going to jog from here to the light pole and then walk to the next but still keep our hands relaxed and up. You’re going to feel yourself losing your breath. That’s ok. Sing or whisper Mary had a little lamb. Trust me. I know it sounds crazy but it will get your breathing back to normal.” Ya, I think I lost her trust on that one.

I kept her stride short like the marathon shuffle and the conversation shorter so she didn’t feel pressured to talk and show the embarrassment of losing her breath to me because I know I am embarrassed to hear my own gasping breath. I needed her to finish this with strength and confidence to come back and double what she did today the following week.

Those last two light poles she hit the fastest pace she ran the whole time! She ended her two miles strong and fast and our conversation ended with the topics of glide and sports bras. SHE DID IT! SHE DID IT! And then she joined the rest of the gang for a beer. *I went home :(

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It doesn’t matter what your limitations are. With the right people around you who understand and share and/or respect your goals, anything is possible. A few people can do this all by themselves. I am not one.

Like I said before, some people thrive off of competition. I do not. I thrive off of the positive energy and enthusiasm of those around me who also have big goals. There is a BIG difference.

If you are considered a friend of mine, please, know that I will never compete against you. If you try to force me to compete, I will either distance myself from you or let you beat me by not putting forth effort… or both. Beating you is not my goal. Beating CANCER is. 

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So to clarify, my next event is not including fundraising for a cancer organization. It is to make myself a better person inside. I am still healing and thankful that I have found a healthy outlet to do so for myself and my family. I have to do this one for myself so that I can know that I can keep moving forward. I fell off the horse at CapTexTri. This is me getting back on the saddle again. I gave my goals to my coach. In a nutshell, my goal is just to finish it.

That’s all I need to make me happy with myself again. Just finish it.

And then I’ll get back to my promise to Sissy and Momma in the right state of mind, love in my heart and surrounded by good, supportive people.

 

Patients’ Access to Treatment Act

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by runmyssierun

I got this email today regarding my lobbying efforts in Washington DC earlier in May of this year. :)

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Dear Myssie,

Great news: thanks to advocates like you,there are now 133 Congressional Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act!

That’s a 23 percent increase in support in the two months since our efforts on Advocacy Day – and a huge step toward legislation that could change the lives of cancer patients across the country.

Every day, our elected officials hear from constituents about competing causes. These new co-sponsors received thousands of phone calls and letters from LLS supporters and listened to your personal stories in our face-to-face meetings on Advocacy Day. The sheer passion of our community inspired them to join this movement – to have them standing with us on this issue shows that they’ve made cancer patients a top priority.

This bill is critical for helping blood cancer patients who are struggling with astronomical fees from “specialty tier” drug pricing. Essential medications are out of reach for many who need them to stay alive. The Patients’ Access to Treatments Act would require private health plans to limit patient costs for “specialty tier” drugs, and ensure access to vital cancer medications. Thanks to you, it’s one step closer to becoming a reality.

I want to thank you for standing with us on this issue. Together, we are making a difference for cancer patients and their loved ones.

Sincerely,
Brian Rosen
Brian Rosen
Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

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Superstitions and behaviors

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

Right before my races and any tough practices, I blast AC/DC’s Thunderstruck into my ears.

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An odd thing happened recently to me. It was the realization that we all have quirks about us. It is these odd things that push us, that make us who we are, that no one else does BUT you (or just me)…, And it’s accepted by you, (or just me) welcomed by you (or just me) but hardly by anyone else.

I love my music, my workouts, my team mates and my journey and my cause.

I see things and feel things that I know no one else sees or feels. And it’s pointless to try to explain those feelings to people who have not experienced them.

There is an enormous push in media now to spread awareness about bike safety, distracted driving and being aware while running along our local trails. The commercials are fabulous and so are the people behind the campaigns. Unfortunately, like cancer, or the discovery of benefits of health and fitness, unless it happens to you and hits you personally… Few people really care nor want to do something about it.

I miss my momma and Sissy and Donny a lot but today it hit me that I miss how I saw the world when they were here with us.

The world seemed so much kinder when they were here.

Thank you

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas
Sissy painting a craft at the Hospitality Apartments that she would later give to my son. A few days later, she lost the use of her fingers due to neuropathy.

Sissy painting a craft at the Hospitality Apartments that she would later give to my son. A few days later, she lost the use of her fingers due to neuropathy.

It was September 3, 2011, when I had the “talk” with Sissy in her hospital room at MD Anderson. My brother had passed away April 11, just five months before, and my mother was a few floors down having Gamma ray surgery for tumors in her brain. Sissy’s neuropathy in her fingers had limited her hand functions so I was her hands that day feeding her tacos. (She didn’t like the hospital food and demanded breakfast tacos from the corner store)

“You should take up running” she said.

She saw my health deteriorating and I was the only one who didn’t have cancer and had absolutely no excuse to be as unhealthy as I was. She knew I would have to deal with the stress of losing three of my family members in a very short period of time. And it didn’t look like I was on my way towards handling it very well. For that, she worried.

A few weeks after she passed away, I started running.

She was right.

Running, combined with all the other great positive factors of my life, became the perfect therapy that was necessary to not go down the depression rabbit hole that consumes so many.

After a year of running marathons, I took up the sport of triathlon. The world of marathons and triathlons both became lifesaving tools for my physical and mental health. But even more important, let me be clear about WHY I DID THIS: 

Sissy wanted me to do this so that I could save myself. I agreed to do this so that I could help save others. The reality of it is that both occurred and continue to do so.

When I ran, I struggled tremendously. I was the heaviest I had been in my life (aside from being pregnant with my first born) and I was never an athlete in high school or college. Running with the extra weight on my body was really really difficult. It was a constant self defeating battle when I felt myself jiggle up and down and every which way and I wondered if everyone around me could see my boobs, belly and back fat try to do the macarena. I wondered if the world could hear me heaving up the trail gasping for breath. Could they hear the water slosh around in my stomach? Am I chaffing? My thighs would NOT let go of each other!!! My shorts would crumple up between my legs and it was sooooo embarrassing!!!

After a while, the vanity diminished. Every photograph of me had been posted for public scrutiny on social media. My sports bra had smushed my boobs into flat blobby pancakes that looked like they were trying to greet my belly button with a big bear hug. My lonja and cellulite made every effort to let the world know it was there all around me. And trust me… the community I live in is still small enough for everything to come back around to me. I won’t lie. All the hazing hurt and knowing who it came from hurt even more. But rather than focus on what I looked like or who was saying what, I focused on my accomplishment. THE FINISH LINE!!! THE MONEY I RAISED!!! THE AWARENESS I BROUGHT!!!

The life I may have helped save. :)

The level of local cancer awareness skyrocketed over the last few years. I would love to think my actions were a part of it. As a result, I think that this was the first part of the promise that was fulfilled. Awareness, prevention, detection and fundraising conversations were buzzing all around me. I was invited to attend this function and that fundraiser and begged to promote this organization and that event… and I did all that I could to attend and promote each and every one. It’s impossible to measure the level of success or how big of an impact these strides were. In my heart, this is what I am most proud of… especially when I was in Washington DC for LLS. If I could, I would love to do this full time for the rest of my life.

So when someone snickered about how I should be so much skinnier and so much faster with all the marathons that I did, I smiled and turned the other cheek.  Of course it hurt. That was their intention. But I realized that it was also their problem. My intention was different.

After an injury in my last marathon, I took up triathlon and learned how to swim and ride a bike. I also learned to look even more ridiculous than a middle aged chubby marathoner. Here’s a term that gives shivers down the spine of other women like me: TRI SUIT

ya… it’s like a horror story in seven letters.

Can it get worse? Absolutely! Try THIS term:  WET SUIT!!!

So why did I continue? Because, honestly, that was just about it for all the bad stuff. My cause was much bigger than the vanity of the above mentioned horrors.

Running 26.2 miles was physically one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Why? Because it was painful on my legs? No. Because I was forced to deal with the doubt in my head for 5 hours. I learned more about myself in the last four miles than I did my whole life.

The woman who starts the race is NOT the same woman who finishes the race.

The woman who starts the race is NOT the same woman who finishes the race.

Cycling 108 miles up the mountains of Nevada was the most thrilling and sobering experience of my life. Climbing up that mountain on two wheels in the blistering desert heat in the dead of summer was physically taxing but the three sisters… wow… what a rush!!!

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And the biggest lesson I learned was in failure.. not being able to swim CapTexTri. It is through failure that you learn the most. I do think that my ego got involved and I should have dropped out of the race because of my health (I really did know better) so that this wouldn’t have happened. I became wrapped up in other people’s goals and lost sight of why I was doing what I was doing. I am grateful now for the feeling of defeat I experienced. It will make my triumph much sweeter at my next tri. For me.

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This may not be something that others experience but I am grateful I did. I had a spiritual awakening from within me while doing all of this. I connected to a silent and vital part of me that impacted my emotional well being.

Once you conquer the fear, see past the vanity, tame the ego and allow yourself the opportunity to experience genuine happiness at the same time helping someone else without expectation of that person doing anything in return for you or even knowing who you are… that right there is living life to it’s fullestat least it is for me.

The above was all about the cause (cancer) and the physical sports (marathon and triathlon). But let’s be honest… most everyone out here is still most interested in WEIGHT LOSS and “thinspiration”…. you know.. looking like a Victoria Secret Angel. How much weight can I lose? What’s the secret to losing weight overnight?

There is no secret. It is consistent hard work with an awesome playlist and great friends by your side.

ME Before and After

ME
Before and After

So it’s pictures like THIS that garner more attention than anything else. I understand. Believe me I do. I was never obese when I was young nor was I an athletic jock. I was a regular kid that, because of the times, was out the door at sunrise and was expected to be home at the dinner table at 5:30pm every day. I walked the senderos at the ranch, played on the beach, rode around for hours on my “Miss Daisy” banana seat bike around our hood, I was in ballet and girl scouts and in high school I joined the dance team… I did stuff. I was active. And that kept me healthy enough to be …. average.

My family didn’t have a lot of money and never really went to lavish vacations or gave each other grand gifts. We celebrated each other and holidays with feasts of food. Over time, I guess it made an impact on my mental state and I associated food with happiness and family.

So when I learned that my baby brother was depressed and miles away from me, my mother was battling cancer and miles away from me getting treatment and Sissy was with her doing the same thing, and I was having terrible issues with a woman at work and my husband was either working over time or was in another State for work… Worried, sad and lonely, I turned to food to fill the void of happiness with family.

I gained an incredible amount of weight. I hid from society and feared it’s rejection. I promise you, you’ve never seen more elastic waistbands in your life than what was in my closet. It was velour yoga track suit heaven that never saw the inside of a gym.

All this changed quickly while on my quest to fulfill Sissy’s promise. I didn’t lose 45 pounds over night but in three months of consecutive walk/jog workouts, a visible difference was blatantly obvious. And not just in the way my clothes fit. The smile came back on my face as well. My attitude became more positive. Everything about me was… nicer. My confidence in myself was restored. But caution: there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. And unless you conquer the demons that control your desire to look a certain way, be a certain size, weigh a certain number… and you achieve it… what then? When you step back and take a look at what unhealed insecurities, greed and jealousy do to a mind, you see poison. Be careful of the wolf that you feed. We all have both within us.

One year and a half after running and triathlon training allowed me to mix things up in my workouts. My body got used to doing the same thing over and over again and began to plateau easily. I got used to the incredible shrinking Myssie and the compliments that came with it. Intensifying the workout by increasing speed or distance was a quick fix for that plateau.. but it also took the fun out of all that I was doing and began to feed the green monster of competition that lives inside me and those I was close to at the time. My green monster is a powerful creature. It took my focus away from my goal, away from my promise… and for this, I am so very very sorry Sissy.

This is not what she wanted for me.

Certainly, this was not what Momma wanted for me either.

I came to a time in my life where I was able to see all my mistakes, all that I could have been, all that I could be.. and the cost associated with each. I am now at a very sobering moment where I can accept that I cannot change my past but I can still mold my future and the future of my priorities.

I watched a movie recently about a man who was able to travel back in time. He used that gift not to make him rich but to go back and spend more time with his dad who died of cancer. Even though in present time, his father had passed away, he could go back and ask him for guidance and advice or just play a game of ping pong or walk the beach with him.

So there I was, laying down sprawled across the couch with “About Time” playing on the big screen TV above me, blubbering like a fool as memories raced across my head trying desperately to figure out which point to go back to. Would it be the time we were coloring Easter eggs around the kitchen table? Would it be hearing her sing “The Girl from Ipanema” while Daddy played the song on the piano? Would it be the time when she was driving me home at midnight from Fiesta’s night parade in San Antonio and we were talking, laughing and singing all the way home until I threw up because of all the lollipops I ate that day? Would it be the afternoon of my wedding day, getting dressed in her bedroom? Would it be making s’mores with the girl scouts while camping at Bentsen Park? Or just cuddling up with her on the bed while she read her book night after night? Would it be the time we went to watch Eric Clapton in concert and she reached over to hold my hand when he sang this song?

And whatever moment I chose to go back to, what would she have advised me to do when asking her about how to deal with those people who were always so mean, vindictive, jealous, etc? Am I a good mom? Am I giving people good advice? Is what I’m doing making the difference I intended? Do I keep the job I love or take the one that pays more? I’m worried about Dad. What can I do? How do I know if I’m doing the right thing?

“Oh baby, all I can tell you is that when I had those questions and my mother wasn’t there anymore, I prayed and gave it to God” she said.

I’m really trying.
I’m really trying.
Get down low.
Total defeat.
I’m tired.
Thanks, Dad.
So I’m almost
up-to-date with my story.
As all families do,
we got used to life after death.
And it was still fine.
And things settled back into their
traditional rhythms season after season,
and are much as they have always been.
And we’ve got used to
Kit Kat being happy again.
And then we got used to her being a mum.
Albeit not a very good or even safe one.
And in the end,
I think I’ve learned the final
lesson from my travels in time.
And I’ve even gone one step
further than my father did.
Okay, I’ll do the kids.
No, don’t worry. I’ll do them.
Yeah, you do them, you lazy bum.
The truth is, I now don’t
travel back at all.
Not even for the day.
I just try to live every day as if
I’ve deliberately come back to this one day
to enjoy it as if it was the full final day
of my extraordinary, ordinary life.
Hello, you’re down already. That’s great.
Thank you so much for that.
And in we go.
Posy? Posy!
That’s fine.
We’re all travelling through time together
every day of our lives.
All we can do is do our best
to relish this remarkable ride.
Yes, yes, yes…
Okay, I’ll see you then.
Bye-bye.
See you later. (quoted from the script of About Time – 2013)

Thank you Momma and Sissy.

Thank you Donny via Foo Fighters. Thank you Xavie for more reasons than you’ll ever know. Thank you to my sons for cheering me on and teaching me to swim and joining me in so many local 5ks. Thank you sponsors, your funds went to help someone struggling to make a co-payment, get gas money to drive to MD Anderson, catch a flight for emergency treatment, hide a bald spot and best of all, give hope. Thank you to my team members, fellow athletes and all my coaches for the time pounding the pavement, donated gear, words of advice and free tire changing services. I am forever grateful.

Thank you.

Eddie’s Hell of the South

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas

Shortly after the tragic death of Eddie Arguelles, Wally announced that the Hell of the South would officially be re-named Eddie’s Hell of the South in remembrance of him since it was his favorite race to do. I had been looking forward to this race this year from the moment I finished it last year.

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The difference this year was that Eddie was not riding by my side. What remained the same was that Monette, his wife, and their children were.

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There is an incredibly high degree of honor and pride in being a part of this underground, not-so-talked-about, super secret squirrel race. There’s even more pride in taking first place! The bragging rights hold the utmost prestige among the riders not only because of the degree of difficulty of the course but because of the camaraderie that surpasses competitiveness… it is the ultimate example of good sportsmanship that I have ever experienced. Which makes my experience last year with Eddie, Javi, Kelly, Ramon and Wally that much more special because everyone made us feel as if we came in first even though we were the “back of the pack”.

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Finishing HOTS made us winners.

This year, as I had hoped last year, I was not the only girl. Everyone knows I adore a good love story and this year love was in full bloom! This was all my blessing because the better halves rode the course with us this year and made for some excellent company!

When you are out for hours at a time on a bike ride, you begin to pass the time with some pretty deep conversations and trusted friendships between cyclists are often formed. At least this is what I experienced this year. So hearing their stories of new love or enduring love fed into my romantic side and I looked forward to each new ride.

Ok… lets get this story started!!

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At 6:00 a.m. a huddled mass of eager cyclists circled around Wally. He gave a sweet, short talk about how Eddie loved this ride and it was enough to move several of us to tears. Clearly this was not the crowd to break down in front of so we all quickly manned up and wiped away any trace of emotional liquid escaping from our eyes and we tried to disguise our actions by adjusting our glasses and/or wiping lens. He quickly went over the rules and course description and then called for a group photo.

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I have to admit… I did get a little nervous when he did the head count. Did he think some of us wouldn’t come back? (Wally, if you’re reading this, please don’t answer that if you thought I was going to be one of the lost heads)

The girls stuck together as we all ventured off into the rolling start. Lisa was clearly the most nervous of us all. Laura was her chipper self and completely unphased of the challenge ahead of her. But at this point, what I’ve learned about Laura is that she really CAN do anything she sets out to do. This would be papitas for her. Irma, like her husband, was a quiet force. Without a word, I could see the intensity of her desire to conquer this challenge. And then Velisa… the supreme wonder woman who had finished the SB250 just days before. How she convinced her sit bones and legs to ride 250 miles from McAllen to San Antonio and then another 56 from McAllen to Sullivan City and back in the roughest toughest terrain ever imaginable is completely beyond me.

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So the rolling start was nice paced. It gave me time to catch up with Ironman Billy who updated me on his new puppy and field questions from the girls on what to expect in the next coming miles. The troops of SAGs were vigilant in keeping us safe and photographing us every split second of the ride. They were certainly the most cheerful paparazzi I’ve ever encountered!!

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The expressions on our faces should say it all!!!

And before I knew it, the pavement ended and the games began!!! The pros hit it hard and zoomed off as if the Tour de France started with them. Where’s the cloud of dust? What happened to the tree branches slapping me with thorns? What happened to all the guys who had flats in the first segment???? Ohhhhhhhhh yaaaaaaa…. nice job Border Patrol for making the trail wider and for flattening out the road and for adding more gravel and caliche to the pot holes!!!

The increase of illegal border traffic had clearly pushed our Federal system to make changes to these little dirt trails so that their jobs could be done easier. Nice! It made for a much better and easier ride than last years!!!

Well… except for THAT pot hole! Oh! and that one there!!!! Oops! Oh God! Velisa! Watch out for that one! ugh! Whew! Ok, that first part was a lot easier than I expected it to be. We had already reached the overpass by the Butterfly park and my confidence was starting to sky rocket. If the rest of this trail was taken care of like this first part… maybe this was going to be papitas after all for me, too!!! And then I remembered… Hey, didn’t I start thinking like this at this very point last year? And then I vocalized it…

“This is where I got fooled last year.”

Velisa caught on and immediately warned the rest of the girls… “Myssie just said that this was where she got fooled… that must mean there’s something coming up!!!” She deciphered my coy smile very well.

The pavement ended once again but not before Ramon forewarned us “Keep some distance between us.” Ahhh yes, the gravel!

My eyes immediately went to try to identify tire tracks of trucks that had compacted the gravel trail the most and the bike tires that followed them. All I saw were fishtailed bike tracks swerving from one to the other. Oh NO! Which ones do I follow???

Stay to your right Myssie!! Go right!!!

Oh thank God! She’s back! My sarcastic inner voice has returned and seemed to offer some helpful… demands. I go right and although I fishtailed like the rest, I was able to keep my Mimi steady enough to not fall. The additional gravel, I thought, would help with the road. I was wrong. It seemed to make the fishtailing even worse.

Don’t you let go! Don’t let go! Keep her steady. Come on! You got this. You did it last year. Don’t you dare DNF this one. That’ll surely put you at the top of XXXX’s hater stories if you mess this one up.. and this one will finally be true! Do you want that to happen?

No! No! I don’t! I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen! Nor will I let those stories and gossip limit or define me. No! No!!! I WILL FINISH THIS! And I’m going to do it to the best of my ability and I’m going to have the most fun doing it, too!!! So there!!!

Suddenly I was filled with a quest. BEST. FEELING. EVER.

I looked up. The sun was shining. It was beautiful! I looked down. My hands weren’t in their “death grip”. In fact, I had two fingers sticking out. I was loose. I was in control. I was having fun!!! Lisa yells out “I think I feel my brain rattling.”

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Hahahahaha!!! Yep! That’s the feeling!!! That’s what I like about her… she’s exactly the way I was last year with my fears and she’s gutsy enough to vocalize them genuinely to the world. Javi, her husband was right by her side. I knew he would take great care of her. There was absolutely nothing to worry about with those two. Onward I went passed the rail road tracks and the gravel ended. Then I heard the woes from the other girls… “What is that? Is that a… “

Yes, it’s a field. A field where they grow crops like sugar cane, grain sorghum, cotton, etc. Without looking I could still see their heads wonder.. “Oh my God, are we riding through a field???”

But then I hear Laura say “What’s that sound?”

Every couple of seconds I’d hear a squish. Was it a bird? There were a lot of chachalacas. Is that what a chachalaca sounds like?

“Wait, it sounds like it’s coming from my bike,” I say.

“Do you have a flat?” Laura asks.

I look down. “Yes… oh no!!!”

The whole back of the pack stops and I dismount Mimi. Ugh! I have to change my tire. Last time I tried to change a tire, I ended up ripping the tube apart. And just like that… it was almost like the heavens parted and the angels sang… and Fernando walked up as if he was the love child of Chuck Norris and McGyver.

“Ill take care of that for you.”

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And faster than you can say Speedy Gonzalez… it was all over with. Done. Papitas! Flat fixed.

Lisa counted this as a blessing for her to catch up with the group and Laura took this time to go potty behind the SAG truck.

Zoom zoom… we’re off. Brrrrriing brrrrrriiinnggggg….

“It’s Wally,” says Laura. “He’s probably calling to see where we are.”

Guilt overwhelms me. Because of my flat, we broke off from the rest of the group and he was worried about the love of his life. Awwwwww!!! :)

“I’m sorry Wally,”  I cried out as we rolled past him now at this point since he stopped during his freak out session. “I had a flat and they stayed behind with me.”

I could tell he was a little upset. Ok, a lot upset. I felt bad.

But that feeling didn’t last long because just ahead of us was the steepest caliche hill of the course. This is the one where my sarcastic voice let me have it when I got off.

Ok Myssie. This is a tough hill girl. You know what to expect. You know you can do it. You conquered Nevada. You can do this. *See, last year, I didn’t make this hill. I had to unclip and walk up.

I saw the rest of the gang slowly climb the hill. Lisa was right in front of me. Yay!!! She did it!!! Oh you should have heard her voice when she got to the top!!!

Argh!!! But I didn’t!!! Again. I lost hope in myself and got off. I walked it just like last year. My sarcastic voice had it with me. She gave me the silent treatment and I think that was probably the harshest thing to do to me at that point.

I hopped back onto Mimi and mashed it hard. We were riding along the Border Fence. The feeling was surreal again. The pot holes were deeper and scattered all over the place but that didn’t seem to phase us one bit. My Garmin marked us at 23 mph on that caliche.

I knew what I was feeling was exactly the same thrill that the others had in their hearts. We were all concentrating so hard on not falling victim to the caliche pot holes that all our problems were nonexistent. The hot humid wind was blowing in our faces and as we kept fighting the circumstances, the border wall kept getting higher. Yes!!! We’re doing it! We’re doing it!!!

But first… lets take a selfie.

The back of the pack took formation. I walked over to the Border Patrolman sitting in his SUV and simply said – I did not ask – I said…

“Excuse me, this day last year, we took a picture like this with Eddie Arguelles”

As soon as I said that he responded “I understand. It’s my pleasure to do so.”

Wow! Wow! Wow! He took my phone and took the photo. No questions asked.

Can you imagine??? That is respect! All I had to do was say his name. That was awesome! That was the sign. He was right there with us.

“Andale Myssie! Take the selfie!!!” I heard his voice in my head…. and my heart.

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And we all rode off once again. It didn’t seem to take as long as I had remembered it from last year so when the descent of the caliche hill approached, I warned Velisa, “Hold on!”

The downhill ended in polka dots of three foot deep potholes. At the speed we were doing, it was extremely difficult to maneuver our steeds. But we all did it!!! Yay!!! We all did it and didn’t fall!!!

Ohhhhhhhh except for Laura who didn’t unclip in time. Sassss

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I swear to you, she had THE most graceful fall I’ve ever seen in my life!!! It was like animated blue birds and rainbows exploded around her. Her hand shot straight up in jazz hand formation – spirit fingers for you 90’s kids – as if she was going to pop up and yell out “Ta-daaaaa!!!”

A scrawny little stray mutt that looked a little like my Woo-Woo but taller and skinnier came over to check us out. I remembered that a couple of girls were afraid of dogs so I did my best dog whisperer act. It worked. His tail wagged as he circled us. He was harmless. Thank goodness because I wouldn’t want this experience to go sour on them with a pack of rabid pit bulls!!!

Another short part of pavement came up. Ahhhh yes, I remember this part very well. This was the peaceful pavement by Walker Lake. The pavement is fresh and solid – except for the part right by the rail road tracks and that wicked sharp turn. It’s lined with tons and tons of sunflowers and scenic farms. Along the fenceline I saw a birdhouse with a boot hanging below it. Birds were singing the most melodious tunes. Two rabbits with poufy white cotton tails ran across us. One scared Velisa thinking she was close to running over it!!! A coyote crossed as well. It was the best of Mother Nature coming out to greet us and cheer us on!

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And this part zoomed by quickly, too! Way too quickly… for the next part was the dreaded sand pits. This was the part that I feared the most. Thankfully the rains had blessed us for a few days before packing down some of that loose sand. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard to manage but certainly not as hard as last year. The sand was way more compact than last year and I was way more grateful, too! My conversations with Velisa, who was by my side almost the entire time, was light and colorful… and then just like that I was reminded of the real dangers that surrounded us. I red laser beam held it’s grasp on her and then me for a couple of seconds each. We stayed quiet until we got to the half way point where we saw Mike, Wally and Kelly waiting for us.

You know, it’s a great feeling to be a tough independent woman who can conquer a physically challenging endurance race… but it’s another thing to be a defenseless woman with another defenseless woman when a red laser beam shines on you. It was really really really awesome to see the three tough guys there.

I took the opportunity to wait for the rest of the girl gang to come in..YAY!!!! Laura, Lisa and Javi roll in. Wally jokingly says “It looks like a kid and her parents riding” poking fun at Laura’s petiteness…. and she falls a second time and even more gracefully than the first!!!

“You know there are expectations to being Wally’s girlfriend,” The guys teased. “This IS THE Wally after all.”

“Did I embarrass you babe?” Laura looked up to Wally.

We all knew that answer. He is soooooo in love.

Of course, we took a group picture! yay!!! 50%!!! Yan Yan is seriously the coolest photographer in the world!!

A random cyclist rode by us.

“Suuuup?” she yelled out to him.

Instant smiles on all of us!!!

Monette and the kids all get down from the truck. Cheese!!! *I’m going to take my time photoshopping that picture. COOLEST PICTURE EVER… ok, well in a long time!

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And then we return the same way we came.

Half way through the sand pits, a man in a white truck with a Hidalgo County logo on the door driving head on to us locks eyes with me. I see his smile. It wasn’t a nice smile. It was an evil grimace kind of smile. Fear filled me. I knew exactly what he was going to do and so did everyone else. Immediately, Velisa swerved to try to avoid him but the sand was too thick to move that fast. She fishtailed and lost control and fell. She landed perpendicular to me causing me to run over her back wheel and in my fear I lost control and fell. It was a chain reaction and another rider who was behind me did the same thing just missing me by inches.

The driver stopped and opened his door laughing at us.

“Don’t you laugh at us!!!” I screamed at him. “Velisa, are you ok? Are you ok Velisa?” She didn’t answer at first so I repeated until she did.

The driver’s face then turned white. He realized quickly that in all his bravado… he took down two GIRLS!!! How cool is that?!?!? What a man!!! (that is sarcasm)

“Just leave man! Just leave!” Wally snapped at him. By this time, all the surrounding cyclists had seen what had happened and gathered around in support. Still on the ground propped up on one elbow, I glared at driver. They unclipped me and warned me to take control of my temper.

I do not understand how people can be so mean. He really thought he was doing something funny. He could have hit us! All three of us have families. We have children. We could have died! What was so funny about that? Does that not enter their head???

I dusted myself off and charged back. I felt really really bad about running over Velisa’s bike. At my speed and my weight, I could only imagine the impact that put on her body and bike as I rolled over. I looked up and the others were gaining speed. They must have been just as angry as well.

Wait, no… They’re just fast naturally.

By the time we got to the short paved portion, I had calmed down a bit. I had asked Irma where the big huge tree was. She said it was at the first Levy entrance. Maybe it was the result of my brain jiggling around during the ride but I seemed to have asked her “Is this where? Is this where?” at every single levy entrance and hill. Poor thing was so intense in her concentration, I am sure my questions got on her nerves.

Kelly and I hadn’t ridden together in ages so we took this chance to catch up on everything. He gushed and gushed about his new found love. Let me paint this mental picture for you. Kelly is probably the palest human being in the Rio Grande Valley. So the combination of flushed red cheeks due to this wicked bike ride and his love blush during the conversation turned him completely tomato red!!! He was absolutely adorable!! Clearly his heartbeat was working overtime after bragging about his girlfriend’s love of running and fine food that he said “You go on ahead.” He needed a break from the speed.

Not to worry. Just a few minutes later, the oasis appeared. Mr. Alaniz, Wally’s dad, had parked his truck by the side of the road with tons of ice cold bottled water and endless boxes of honey buns!!! His dogs, Pee-Wee and Herman, herded us all like lost sheep and stood guard over us and we hydrated our worn, limp bodies. Mel passed out Sport Beans and a few laughs later… we were good as new.

Onward!!!

As Laura and I gained on Wally (who was obviously slowing down for a reason), he grabbed his leg and yelled out to Laura “Want some of this?” She giggled back to him in a flirtatious way. I was literally the third wheel. I zoomed off so they could continue their love games in private but not before I yelled out to them “Oh go get a room! This is a family show!”

I caught up to Ramon who was also slowing down. He said “I’m waiting for my beloved.”

Awwwww.

I looked back and Javi was by Lisa’s side the entire time. The examples of love they showed here are reflections of how they live their lives everyday, not just in cycling. They truly truly adore each other. And it wasn’t just the men who openly displayed their affection. The posts afterwards that Cheryl had of Mike was evidence that the adoration matched equally.

These are really great people.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to be that lucky and share this experience with my hubby. Maybe, one day.

Ok…. you don’t wanna hear about all that mushy gushy stuff, eh?

So, here we go. It was getting close to noon time. We had been on this trail for almost four hours and the sun was beating down on us hard. I found myself entering the “bite me zone”. *For running marathoners, this is the mile 23 mark for 26.2. So close yet so far away.

I climbed up the caliche hill and didn’t get off. I made it. Yes!!! The SAGs called out to me if I needed anything. I gave them the thumbs up. From this point forward, the SAG cars were not allowed to come up to the Border Wall. I was on my own for a while. I was up a good distance from all the love birds behind me and I kept Mike at about a block ahead of me. I felt comfortable but also needed some distraction from the heat and jiggle brain syndrome.

Time to SING!

What do I sing?

I don’t know why this song entered my head… maybe it was my love of pizza… maybe it was because this song was sung by Ramon last year on a similar hot ride. All I know is that this song got stuck in my head and it wasn’t going out… so I sang.

I probably scared the heebeegeebees out of all the creatures that Mother Nature had surrounded me with earlier. But I had fun.

As I recognized the part of the fence that matched last years photo with Eddie, I slowed down. All the memories flashed at once. I’m going to keep this part sacred but I will tell you that it was more powerful than expected. Yes, he was certainly there with us.

"Was it here that we took the picture?" The heat and fatigue had eaten up all our senses.

“Was it here that we took the picture?”
The heat and fatigue had eaten up all our senses.

There we were. The 5am Riders at the top of the levy.

“Andale Myssie. Take the selfie.” he told me.

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Invigorated with his memory… we all blasted off. Probably faster than we expected. Mike shrieked like a little girl as he zoomed down the last caliche hill.

I wanted to get out of the heat as soon as possible. I was beat. Those last few miles on Military Highway were the absolute hardest. The rider in front of me yelled out “Gravel!!” and did his hand sign… I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Are you serious? After what we just rode through, you’re gonna call ‘gravel’ on THAT?!?!?”

We both burst out laughing.

As we rolled into the finish line, we saw no one was there. It took all of two seconds to decide to ride back to Wally’s shop as fast as we could so we could eat some burgers!!! Again, my legs had other plans. I struggled going up the 2nd street turn. I saw him look back and I had to apologize. “I’m sorry. My legs are burning!!!”

“We’re almost there. We’re almost there,” he said trying to comfort me.

As we crossed Old 83 and entered the parking lot, the cheers exploded.

YES!!! YES!!! I MADE IT! I did not give up. I did not fail. My inner sarcastic voice softly said “I knew you would.”

Best feeling ever: a few minutes later the back of the pack shows up. Lisa wobbled up and gave me a huge hug. The smile on her face was priceless. “I am so proud of myself! I feel like I can do anything now!”

And you know what? I think she can, too.

Eddie convinced me of that of myself and of those around us.

Thank you Wally from the bottom of my heart.

It’s been a tradition that every 4th of July I wait at this very spot to cheer on our superhero!! Today was no different!!! I know you were there today and will be there every year!!! Congratulations to all who finished ‘Eddie’s Hell of the South’!!Much love to you all!!!! You made my day!!! ~Monette Escaname-Arguelles

 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.778259165528281.1073741888.119119181442286&type=3

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.778277025526495.1073741889.119119181442286&type=1

 

 

 

 

 

Just Du It already!!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by Myssie Cardenas-Barajas
Me riding my "Mimi" custom Felt bike from Wally's Bike Shop and wearing my sunflower trisuit from http://triflare.com/

Me riding my “Mimi” custom Felt bike from Wally’s Bike Shop and wearing my sunflower trisuit from http://triflare.com/

After last weekend’s disappointing DNF at CapTexTri, I entered the Duathlon last minute with the promise to myself to just finish it.. not for time… not for anyone… not for any cause… not for glory or “I told you so” or “I knew you could do it” or even the whispers of “I knew she wouldn’t beat me.”

I needed to finish this so that I could prove to myself that I was not going to give up. Still sick, I pushed through.

My legs felt heavy during the run. I hadn’t run like I was supposed to so I expected this to hurt… but I didn’t give up. Didn’t stop once. But boy oh boy all that mucus that had accumulated over the last few weeks all of a sudden wanted to come out… and it did!!!

I wore my brand new beautiful Triflare sunflower one piece triathlon suit. I got so many compliments (although I wish I was 20 years younger and had the body of Alex when she wore her Triflare trisuit in Brownsville). I loved it!!! Well, until I tried to figure out how to get OUT of it in a hurry while running straight past T1 and onto the bathrooms while asking the race volunteers to unzip me!!!

What happened in the bathroom is seriously TMI. Don’t even ask. All you need is a good imagination.

I spent a good 10-15 minutes in there.

I walked out and found another fellow runner who was relaying and asked her to zip me back up.

I looked over to transition and saw just three bikes left racked… including mine. “Eh… might as well be the last one out and enjoy this one.”

What????? Is my inner sarcastic voice having a nice day????

Well, alright then! Let’s go have a great time!!!

I gently took Mimi off the bike rack and maneuvered her to the mount line. Stroked her seat, said “You ready Momma? Let’s go!” Jumped on and the fun began!!!

That feeling came back and boy did I need it!

I remember Sissy saying that she wanted me to find a way to deal with stress in a healthy way because she knew things were only going to get harder on me. She was right and I did.

I remember every single person’s advice along the way. I remember every helping hand and loving gesture from supporters, donors, sponsors, coaches, friends and family. Best of all… when I’m riding my Mimi, I forget all the pain, sorrow and anger I hold inside and feel more alive and happy than I’ve ever felt before.

So I understand what Mike Padgett said a few weeks ago about how if he died riding his bike, he’d die happy. As much as it hurt to think that it could happen like that, I understand that feeling. I hope it doesn’t happen like this but if it does… I’ll die happy.

And as promised… the latest from the media regarding Eddie Arguelles

http://www.krgv.com/videos/driver-indicted-in-cyclist-s-death/

 

 

Capital of Texas Triathlon

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

Been there. Done that. It’s no biggie.

WRONG

So here’s the brutal truth. In essence, I have been training for the Capital of Texas Triathlon for a year and a half. I did the Sprint distance last year. I had trained with THE best triathlon team coach in the area for 10 weeks. I trained with Coach Sandy Overly and the Multi-Sport Maniacs all year until the South Padre Island Triathlon in October. I trained with virtual coaches all over the great State of Texas. I trained with some of the most incredible Ironmen in the area. Over the course of this last year, my run pace went down but my swim improved a bunch and my unexpected love for cycling jumped me up tremendously on the bike. My determination to do well at CapTexTri this year was unwavering and my training was consistent and challenging me to the next level.

And then I got sick one month before game day. And never really got the chance to heal 100%. I don’t want you to think that this is an excuse but understand that I KNEW what my body could do and I KNEW that my body was not healthy and I KNEW that I could make a decision to pull out, go back to the Sprint level or continue on and do the best that I could at the toughest level that I had never done before. Ultimately, I chose to do my best. Today, hindsight is 20/20.

I was told never to write when I am angry so I purposely didn’t update the blog immediately after the triathlon. I’ve calmed down a bit and wanted to do this while the memories are still fresh in my mind.

FRIDAY

Things were hectic in the homefront. The decision to leave Friday morning officially came Thursday evening. I’m scatter brained to begin with so I expected myself to forget SOMETHING… like all the whites in the dryer, including ALL my Balega socks and my white triple crown baseball cap that I washed the night before. Lucky for me, I usually have an extra of everything in the trunk of my car.

I wanted to join the 5AM group for a last bike ride and also wanted to join a few of the girls at 5AM for some laps at Municipal Pool… but my eyes had other plans. I was woken up by Jeanice via telephone shortly after 7am. Clearly snoozing was a priority for my body.

Hindsight: My body was in dire need of rest. I ignored the signs.

Never show up to a party empty handed in Austin!!!

Never show up to a party empty handed in Austin!!!

The bestest and most quietest back seat driver ever :)

The bestest and most quietest back seat driver ever :)

Jeanice and "Cowboy" escorted me on the drive up.

Jeanice and “Cowboy” escorted me on the drive up.

I am so lucky to have such great true friends by my side throughout this journey. No hidden agenda. Just genuine honest selfless support. What a ride this has been!!! I'm the luckiest girl ever!!!

I am so lucky to have such great true friends by my side throughout this journey. No hidden agenda. Just genuine honest selfless support. What a ride this has been!!! I’m the luckiest girl ever!!!

Donny let me know he was with me every single day of this event!!! I miss him so much!

Donny let me know he was with me every single day of this event!!! I miss him so much!

I packed up and picked up some goodies for my Austin hostess with the mostess and caravaned with Jeanice to our destination. Spending a couple of days with my life-long best friend is the BEST way to de-compress… no, wait… spending a couple of days with the my best friends 6-month old twins who are both drop dead gorgeous Gerber babies that immediately stole my heart and wrapped me around their little fingers was the BEST way to de-compress!!! While I was there with them, I managed to sneak in a short little run, ride and swim of about 20-minutes each. I was feeling pretty good.

Double Love!!! Fiona and Jake have my heart forever!!!

Double Love!!! Fiona and Jake have my heart forever!!!

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I’ll skip to SUNDAY. Packet Pick Up and Bike Check in.

I arrived at packet pick up at about 10:30am on Sunday. Yes, I am certainly an eager beaver! It opened just 30 minutes before I arrived. So I figured I would take the chance to first walk the course and get acquainted with the changes that were being buzzed about. Seems the organizers decided to flip the swim route and go counter clockwise instead of jumping off and going left first.

I walked over and searched for the transition area… uh oh. It’s not where it was last year. BUT I see fences and white tents nearby so that must be where the action is at… but first.. the swim. Where’s the dock that we jump off from? I don’t see it. Panic sets in.

Oh. My. God.

Are we supposed to walk in from the Dog Park entry???? Sarcastic voice in my head is freaking out now. Surely this can’t be!

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I continue to walk… a little faster now… and I see an artificial green grass turf ramp leading up from the lake to the running trail. I peer out and see two men swimming. LAW BREAKERS!!! yes!!! I love when I get to meet people like this!!! Not that I want to break the law but I know people like this are SERIOUS about training and they want to get as comfortable as possible with the race course before the actual race. Which is really what I was doing, too, but I knew it was illegal to swim in the lake.

Hindsight: They knew it was illegal to swim in it, too.

So I stick around and watch them for a while. They were amazing swimmers. As they finish their swim, they come up from the water and walk onto the ramp. The shorter one seemed a bit startled with my questions.

“Is this where the swim exit really is?” I ask.

“Ummmm I’m not sure. It was here like this but I’m sure it could move.” He began to dry off a bit while continuing to answer my questions.

“So, does that mean that there isn’t a dock for us to jump off of this year? I don’t see a dock!! Only the dog steps.” I begin to ramble as I realize this guy really really looks like Justin Timberlake drying off!!!

This is the REAL Justin Timberlake getting out of a lake. Bad quality photo but it should help your imagination get to what I'm talking about.

This is the REAL Justin Timberlake getting out of a lake. Bad quality photo but it should help your imagination get to what I’m talking about.

He smirked and clearly realized he was speaking to a super nervous freaked out rookie way out of her league and calmly looked over in the direction of the dog park stone steps nearby and said that the swim entry would likely be there. I snapped a picture of it and zoomed in frantically searching for dog poo. I knew they were secretly giggling inside about me but I didn’t care. Outwardly, the Justin Timberlake guy was a true gentleman and wished me luck as I did him and went on my way to measure the distance from swim exit to transition.

0.31 of a mile!!!

Holy cow!!! Are they serious?!?!?!

I look to the left and look to the right. Which transition exit goes to bike and which one goes to run? It’s better to get the facts than to waste time here guessing. Frustrated, I decided to just go to packet pickup and get my answers.

I was still there early enough to not have to mess with crowds. No lines at all! I just walked in like I owned the joint. Nice!!!!!

Remembering the drama I endured last year with the registration mix up, I was delighted to quickly speed through without any problems whatsoever!!! The cool volunteer even did a “selfie” with me!

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After running into a few fellow Maniac teammates and numerous “Wally” clad fans and chit chatting with them for a while, I browsed the isles of the expo.  I saw Wally and Laura at the Jack and Adams booth. I walked up just as the owner was asking Wally how they met and we all giggled.

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Something pulled me away though… I gravitated towards the “Please be Kind to Cyclists” booth. I think the same power that pulled me there was the same power that made Al Bastidas practically jump over the table to hug me. You know when you meet someone and you get that feeling that this person is going to be a big part of your life from this point forward? That was the feeling I had. Over the course of the next few minutes as I continued to walk the isles of the expo in the convention center, Al would end up hunting me down three more times with ideas and questions and suggestions and letting me know he’d be in the area the following week.

The quest to continue Eddie’s dream may just have made an ally. This is Al’s story. He is a lucky one. 

I also got to meet face to face with the staff of LifeTime Triathlon that day. They showered me with gifts and goodies. A tri suit, a race belt, some gift cards and yes… a selfie!!! :) I know… I’m a dork.

Lifetime Fitness Triathlon chose me to be one of this year's Ambassadors. I am very grateful for their support and hope to continue our journey together!

Lifetime Fitness Triathlon chose me to be one of this year’s Ambassadors. I am very grateful for their support and hope to continue our journey together!

After all this, I was able to meet up with the TEAM and get my bike, Mimi, checked in and racked up. I get so nervous leaving her on a rack like that, alone, in a park… without me. She’s like my baby. An expensive baby!!! But thems the rules… and she was being guarded. I took one last look over her. Checked her brakes, her gears and spun her tires… and that’s when I saw it. Oh no!!! Her rear tire is punctured!!! All the way through!!! It was small but big enough to do some major damage. And too late to and too expensive to find a replacement. Could I chance it? I have no choice.

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Hindsight: I did have a choice. I should have called Wally to look at it and see if he could find me another tire at Jack and Adams to safely replace that afternoon.

Then I heard it again…. Hero by Foo Fighters. And my team was right there with me to witness. I can’t describe the feeling I have to know that those around me, those who truly have my back, can feel what I feel and share the joy of it with me.

Hero blasted from the speakers and my girls all huddled around me insisting that the moment be captured. I really really love these girls!!!

Hero blasted from the speakers and my girls all huddled around me insisting that the moment be captured. I really really love these girls!!!

I left my bike at transition and walked with the TEAM to Chuy’s, an Austin foodie favorite, to grab some lunch. I was starving!! We ate and went over some details like athlete tracking aps for our friends and family and carbed up. We all returned back to the hotel together in Rolando’s massive Mercedes Benz party bus!!! Woo Whooo!!!! Guess who rode in the back seat?!?!?!

Welcoming my teammates to Inspiration Dinner. Clearly I was having a bad hair day ;)

Welcoming my teammates to Inspiration Dinner. Clearly I was having a bad hair day ;)

We got all dressed up for the occasion.

We got all dressed up for the occasion.

I think the ERICAS stole my Soul Glo!!!

I think the ERICAS stole my Soul Glo!!!

Christa Emig taking the podium... and our hearts. I finally got to witness her Key Note Speech.

Christa Emig taking the podium… and our hearts. I finally got to witness her Key Note Speech.

My TNT Super Heros!!! Christa Emig and Eric Cooper (*I tweeted this pic to MK who I later sneaked up on the next day)

My TNT Super Heros!!! Christa Emig and Eric Cooper (*I tweeted this pic to MK who I later sneaked up on the next day)

After some shenanigans and lost key drama, I eagerly dressed up for the Inspiration Dinner. My regret from last year was not attending the dinner and listening to my roommates speech that night. When I heard that my roommate from last year was going to be keynote speaker once again this year, I made sure I wasn’t going to miss out.

Good thing, too. SHE WAS AWESOME!!! I wish now that I had recorded her so that YOU could witness her incredible positive attitude and outlook on life. There is clearly an innate indicative trait that all the successful people I admire have and that is a positive attitude bursting with a great sense of humor. She, Christa Emig, rocks that trait.

I sat there at the table with Coach W two seats down from me. It was the first time I had ever seen her really choked up. Inspiration Dinner really is that… inspirational. It was Coach’s first dinner with us as a TEAM. Being a cancer survivor herself, I knew she had more connection to what was being said a million times more than I ever could imagine.

After dinner, we all met once again to go over last minute course changes, tips and rules. And of course… pictures!!!

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Up to my room I went with my trusted and familiar roommate, Jeanice. Jeanice and I had been roommates for almost all of my TNT marathon events. I love rooming with her because after all the chaos, worry, and anxiety passes and we sit on our beds waiting those last five minutes before we go downstairs to leave to the race, she says the most amazing prayer with me. We bow our heads, hold hands and sanctified poetry spills from her lips every single time.

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And she didn’t fail me this time either. Her prayer brought tears to my eyes. It was powerful. Powerful.

We both grabbed our bags and made our way to the elevators to go down to the lobby and met up with the rest of the TEAM. Just when the elevator door opens, I see Justin Timberlake again… but this time with his bike. OMG! His BIKE!!!!

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See, take note… if I were like any other normal girl and saw Justin Timberlake in an elevator, I would jump in and hug and kiss him and get autographs and selfies, etc… but noooooooo, not me. I salivate over his BIKE!!!!! *Note: this is NOT Justin Timberlake but a guy who looks just like him.

Justin gives me a familiar smirk and a nod as Jeanice and I enter the elevator. Its just the three of us in there. So I say oh so matter of factly “When my bike grows up, I hope it’s just like that one. Clearly I need to feed it the right stuff.” There… he laughed, wished me well and exited.

Oh noooooo!!!! It’s raining!!! No… It’s STORMING!!! It’s raining cats and dogs and I have no jacket and it’s freezing!!! Please Momma make it stop. Please make it stop.

And it did. :)

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The Team took more pictures and poof! We’re off! Like a magnet, I was drawn straight towards Mimi. There she was. Sparkling with rain drops waiting patiently for me on the rack. #920 under the big shady umbrella of a tree. Dang! She’s beautiful! Three thousand people there and all around me are triathletes from the Valley. It was awesome! The sun was peeking over the horizon and transition area was humming with excitement. What a surreal sight! I mentally went over my transition area and double, triple, quadruple checked everything…. everything… ohhhhhh… Wally!!! Wally! Look at my tire!!!

I showed him the hole that I had discovered the day before. I saw the look on his face. It wasn’t good. He knew I saw and said “You want me to get you a new tire?”

How does he do that???? There’s no way he can do that… oh wait… this is Wally. He can do anything. Knowing him, he probably had an extra special orange tire in his back pocket as we were speaking. But no. We had 15 minutes left before transition closes and there’s no way I could do that to him. I’ll just have to take my chances.

With that, I made my way to the lake, wet suit draped over my shoulder, goggles around my neck and coffee with a straw in my hand and swim cap stuffed in my back pocket. Blur. Blur. Blur… How I got from transition to the lake (approximately 1/3 of a mile) I have no idea. The next thing I remember was Coach Luis looking at me and asking me “You done with that?” and grabs my coffee and throws it away.  What???? Zombie mode turned off. I’m awake! I’m awake! Seriously! Does he not realize how dangerous it is for someone to grab my coffee??? And live to tell the tale????

Ok, lets get serious. The pros and parolympians are in the water swimming. They’re awesome! I’m awestruck. Each one of them are gliding through the water effortlessly. And then, just like that… just like last year… out of the water and zooming right past me is Aaron Scheidies!!!! I was starstruck!!! And in that moment… the excitement got me. WOW!!!

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Time flew by much faster than last year. I have NO idea how that went so fast. Over the loud speaker, the announcer says that it’s time for the time trial start and things should be moving along much faster. Just as I begin to squeeze into my wet suit, the inevitable happens. Crap! I gotta go.

The porta-potty line was a gazillion people long. sigh. No choice. I had to wait but made it just in time for me to do my business and make it over in time. I zipped up my wet suit, pulled and tugged a bit more… a bit more… and just a bit more again… and there… like clock work… HERO by FOO FIGHTERS is blasting on the speakers. Tears well up in my eyes as I see Laura in the distance. I point to my ears and she recognizes the song and comes over to hug me and then she begins to cry with me.

Every single race I’ve done with TNT and LiveSTRONG has had the FOO in it somewhere somehow. That’s how I know Donny is still with me. He surprises me like that.

And so Laura is off to walk the plank. And there goes Alex and Roy and Ben and Ronnie and Vero and… the whole team went by. Suddenly it clicks… wait! I need to go too!!! I jump into line. Old school cut in the cafeteria line way, too!!!

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“Ok, if it’s cold, it’ll be cold for just a few seconds. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard. Just don’t give up. You can do this. It’ll be 3… 3 1/2 hours tops before you can finish. You can do this. Just don’t give up. Don’t give up,” the voice in my head says to me.

“Grab your goggles. Don’t let them fly off when you jump in the water,” she continues.

“Must you always lecture me???”

“Focus!!!! Its your turn to jump!” she yells

I remembered to jump closest to the land so that Anita (Sarah’s mom) could get a photo of me going into the water but the girl in front of me panicked and was struggling. “Just go! Just go! Jump!” my inner voice yells at me. And I jump.

Argh! Water rushed up my nose and down my throat. My eyes opened and there’s that same yellow brownish murky water I remember from last year. It’s not cold. The water is perfect. But I feel the burn the back of my nose and throat. It’s stinging bad.

No complaining! Go Go Go!!! Swim! I hear the man on the dock yell out “You’re on the clock!” I knew he was talking to the girls that were struggling by me but I took heed and shot out like an Austin Bat. Wow! Ok, this feels good. Water isn’t cold. My heart rate is good. I’m taking a good pace… all is well. All is well. First yellow buoy gone by. Second buoy gone by. Stroke stroke sight. Stroke stroke sight. Ugh! That sting in my throat! It’s burning.

SHUT UP WILL YA??? No complaining! You can do this. Your swim has become your biggest asset lately. Use this time! Focus!

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Ya, ok. You’re right. Nice pace. Ok, lets keep my mind busy while I swim. What do I think about… what do I think about… hmmm this water stinks. No really. It smells like dog poo. Really really bad dog poo. I’m so thirsty. Don’t drink the dog poo Myssie. Would ya stop complaining??? Geez! Do I have to be so negative throughout this whole swim??? Good lord!

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This was the beginning of my demise. The cough begins. And this is like no other cough before. This is foamy green thick mucus littered kind of coughs coming out. It echoed over the lake it was so loud and ugly. Embarrassed and scared it wouldn’t stop, I searched for a kayak to hold on to. It was a matter of seconds for the rescue kayak to come save the lake from my lung toxins and the loogies I was ready to purge.

“Are you ok?” the kayaker asked me.

“Yes, I just breathed in some water and need to cough it out is all. Let me have just a few minutes and I’ll get back to the line.” I calmly responded. I was at the first orange buoy. Ok, the first hard part int he water is over with. Just a bit more and I get to swim WITH the current. The swim will be easier then. I coughed up a lung, gathered my breath, settled my heart rate down, said “Thanks!” to the kayaker and went on my way. Okay, Okay. Okay, Okay. Stroke, Stroke, sight. Stroke, Stroke, sight, COUGH COUGH COUGH.

No way!!! Okay. Let’s float. Catch your breath, cough out all that crap from your lungs and do this again. It’s ok. It’s ok. Get it together Myssie! Just don’t give up! Don’t give up.

No! It’s not okay! I can’t afford to stop and mess up on this time. I have too many people counting on me. Hundreds of people have given thousands of dollars to me because they believed in me. Even more have convinced themselves that if I can do it, they can too! And what’s worse, there’s frenemies tracking me right now chomping at the bit waiting for me to be slower than they are so they can rub it in my face. They’ll publicly wish me luck but secretly hope I never make it. I have to do this! I HAVE TO DO THIS!!! I PROMISED THAT I WOULD NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Okay, fine. Don’t give up. But just take your time!!!! Go on and cough it all out so you can get the rest of this swim in!!!

A second kayaker comes up to me. I grabbed onto the kayak. “We’re taking you in. Are you ok? You’re coughing and wheezing. Do you have asthma?”

“No, I just breathed in water is all and I have a cough. I’ll be fine.” COUGH COUGH COUGH

And that’s when I saw it. The red flag went up. My head went down. Tears gushed from my eyes and filled my goggles. I stopped my Garmin. “I’m not supposed to give up.” I said. “I’m not supposed to give up.”

I heard the jet ski zoom over and someone told me to hold on tight to the stretcher.

A stretcher??? Oh you gotta be kidding me!!! I’m so embarrassed. They’re going to think I’m hurt! The’re going to think I’m weak! They think I can’t do this!!!! Humiliated, my head goes down and the sobbing is now uncontrollable.

YOU GAVE UP!!! YOU GAVE UP AND YOU SAID YOU’D NEVER GIVE UP!!! YOU GAVE UP MYSSIE! YOU GAVE UP!

I gave it my all and my all wasn’t good enough.

I’m not going to go into my personal war in my head. I beat myself up pretty bad. So bad that I feel it is detrimental to post here publicly. The scars I gave myself will likely last a lifetime. Will I ever be able to forgive myself? Knowing me, forgiveness will likely come only after redemption and that, to me, isn’t really true forgiveness. 

Ashamed, coughing and crying, I ran straight to Anita. I wrapped my arms around her, dug my head into her shoulder and cried out “I didn’t make it. I didn’t make it” and then did the same thing to Kat and Coach Luis and Jackie Swanson. It was when I was crying to Jackie that I saw Alex run by.

“Get it together Myssie! Alex is doing this because you coaxed her into this! Look at her! She’s doing it! Pull up your big girl panties and cheer her and everyone else on like a good sport!” Damn! My inner voice was yelling at me again and was right. AGAIN.

I jogged into transition like a ruined girl’s Sunday morning walk of shame. I went straight to Mimi and sat in front of her saddened that she wouldn’t ride that morning with me. I grabbed my phone out of the ziplock sandwich bag tucked under the towel and called the first person I thought of. Xavie.

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After a few rings he answered. “I didn’t make it. I got pulled from the swim.” The speakers were blasting music so loudly that I couldn’t hear anything he was saying and again in shame and frustration, I began to sob.

“There. Pity party is over. You let it all out. Now go do the right thing. Go cheer everyone on,” my inner voice sternly commanded.

I dried off and put on some dry clothes over my sopping wet tri suit, grabbed my orange towel and a fig newton and perched myself on a stone wall by the beginning of the run course. Two fellow TNT running mates from a prior marathon that I had run with two years ago came over and sat with me. They gave me a few minutes of silence to console my soul, asked if I was ok and then just like old times… we began shouting “GO TEAM” to all the purple people that passed by. The faces of agony quickly turned into ear to ear smiles when they heard us and gave us waves and hugs. It felt soooooo good to see everyone do what they never thought they could. It felt sooooo good to be a part of this chapter in THEIR journey. It felt sooooo good… even after my own personal disappointment.

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After the majority of the team had made their way by us, we decided to make our way to the finish line to welcome them all in and also get a chance to find a porta-potty. FAIL!!! Over the loud speaker we hear “THIS IS NOT A JOKE. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER NOW!!!” The entire crowd quickly squeezes into the covered porch area of the convention center as barricades, tents and signs fly around as if they were auditioning for the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz!!!

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The fresh smell of rain was overpowered by the overwhelming strength of body odor and lake stench. The sudden drop in temperature made all of us that were still wet from the swim or sweaty from cheering and biking and running begin to shake uncontrollably and pop out into goosebumps. That’s when it hits me… I DNF’d because I was coughing and the safety crew thought I was having an anxiety attack (It wasn’t an anxiety attack. It was a cough attack.) but the rest of these people were pulled from the course because of weather!!! I have never ever seen this happen!!! Over three thousand people entered this race and less than a quarter of them got to experience the thrill of crossing the finish line which is in my opinion the absolute biggest rush of emotion you can ever experience in a race. Rain, hail and tornado force winds stole this feeling from all my teammates and most of my RGV triathlete friends!!!

Now the feeling that I had a few minutes earlier was the feeling that most everyone there had as well. The difference was that every single one of them knew they weren’t going to be allowed to finish this race so we all immediately began talking about how to get closure and redemption at our NEXT race!!!

THESE ATHLETES ARE SOMETHING ELSE!!! How lucky am I to be around so many positive, humble, selfless, unstoppable cancer crushers?!?!?!?

So after collecting my bags in my room later that afternoon, and quite honestly in a sour mood about my personal defeat, I get into the elevator and guess who’s there??? Yep, Mr. Justin Timberlake look a like!!!! But he’s all cleaned up and dressed nicely and it’s just us two in the elevator this time. With his back up against the glass of the elevator, he coyly looks up with his little smirk and asks “How’d you do?”

I sighed and responded “I didn’t make it,” sighed and shrugged. I then asked him “How’d YOU do? Are you happy with your results?”

“Ya, I’m happy. I did well. See ya next year?” He asked.

“You betcha.”

As I drove by myself on the long way home, I got a much needed phone call from my old friend and spiritual coach, Dr. Derek DelaPena (You can buy his book here on this link

Scripture and Sport Psychology: Mental-Game Techniques for the Christian Athlete

Scripture and Sport Psychology: Mental-Game Techniques for the Christian Athlete

Buy from Amazon

). Few people that I know knows what it feels like to DNF. He is one. In fact, that feeling is very real and recent for him since he was unable to finish the Texas Ironman last weekend. We had a good long talk. I loved his perspective on our experience and as bitter as the feeling was, I am glad that it happened and look forward to getting back up on that horse again with him.

As the sun was setting, I correctly predicted the haters who would gloat and write FB postings that were intended to add salt to my wound. I also correctly predicted those who would give me genuine words of wisdom, encouragement and the strength to overcome my personal defeat. What I don’t know yet is if this admission of defeat will affect those who looked to me for hope in their own personal challenges. All I can do is hope that they continue to seek within themselves, just as I seek in myself, the ability to overcome, endure and get up again until I can, until they can… until WE can. Because what I think people have forgotten is that I look to so many others for my own inspiration.

Derek was right. DNF means Did Not Fail. Don’t get me wrong… this feeling hurts like nothing else. But it’s NOT “devastating”. Success is what happens after you get up from falling down. All I’ve done is fallen down.

I’ve fallen down a lot. This isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last. Well, I hope it won’t be the last!!! Because THIS is where the lessons are learned :)

Oh! By the way… Justin Timberlake’s twin… he got second place overall. He’s a pro. Check out his time!!!

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