Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ups, Downs, and Unknowns

It's a blustery winter day here in Idaho.  It's been a very emotional week filled with ups, downs and unknowns.  Please allow me to explain. 

About a week ago I started getting tweets, texts, emails and facebook notifications about one piece of very exciting news, Megan has a family!!!  Last year during Christmas, Andrea and I chose two children to start advocating for, Eli and Megan.  Eli, as many already know, is home for Christmas!  He had a family commit to him very early last year.  Megan on the other hand did not.  For the entire year, Megan has been the topic of many conversations in our family as well as many of our prayers.  Throughout the year, Megan has had over $24,000 in her adoption account and her picture was updated on the Reece's Rainbow page.  Despite these good things going in Megan's favor, she did not have a family commit to her. 

Andrea and I knew in our hearts that when the time was right, her family would find her.  I also think a little bit of Christmas Spirit played a factor.  A few weeks ago, Brynlee was waiting in line to see Santa.  She was stressed because she couldn't think of anything she wanted to ask for Christmas.  (She has since thought of lots of things!)  I mentioned maybe she should ask Santa if he could find Megan a family.  She smiled her big toothless smile and said, "That's a great idea!".  Sure enough, the request was made and less than a week later we found out Megan had a family! 

The good news of Megan's family has quickly been overshadowed by some of the political turmoil that Russia and the United States are experiencing.  This is a good ARTICLE that explains what is taking place.  In a nutshell, Russia has passed legislation banning all adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans.  I don't confess to understand why this is taking place.  The legislation has been passed and is sitting on the desk of Russian President Vladimir Putin.  He has full power to sign the bill or reject it.  The fate of thousands of orphans lie in his hands.  It has been reported that his decision will be made by December 26th. 

My heart goes out to the children.  My heart also goes out to all of the parents who have committed to adopting one of these special children who's fate is in limbo.  Many of these parents have traveled and already met their children.  I can't imagine what they must be experiencing right now. 

As I've gone over the situation in my mind, I can only rely on faith that what is supposed to happen will happen.  I've learned through the years that many times we don't completely understand why things happen.  However, what seems like an unfair circumstance can actually end up being a blessing.  My best example of this is when Nash was born.  It was natural to feel somewhat sorry for myself.  Little did I know that what seemed like a difficult circumstance would actually end up being among my greatest blessings.  Never could I have foreseen the blessings that came from being a father of a son with Down syndrome.  My only comfort with the situation in Russia is that it's in the hands of a higher power and that things will workout for the better in the end. 

In the meantime, I'd like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas.  We have so much to be thankful for.  Let us always remember the reason for the season...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Christmas Car 2013

In 2011 when we first found Reece's Rainbow and started our fundraising efforts a very close friend of mine came up with an idea on how to generate some funding for Orphans with Down syndrome.  He manages an auto auction where auto dealers from the area purchase many of their cars for their lots.  His idea was to pick a car to auction off with all of the proceeds going towards the RODS Orphan.  Last year was a great year.  This year turned out even better!
Check out this year's Christmas Car!  What a beauty!

It's very humbling for me to hear how this process works and the generous individuals that take part in it.  All of the dealers are gathered and the bidding starts in typical fashion.  Each dealer interested in the car participates as the price rises.  Each dealer knows that the proceeds are going to an orphaned child with Down syndrome which brings a special spirit into the room.  Once the car has reached a high point the dealer with the high bid wins the car.  Here's the amazing part.  That dealer once being awarded the car donates it back to the auction for the bidding to start again.  The car is bought, sold, and donated back to be sold again multiple times.  When it was all said and done, this years Christmas car raised $12,000!  This years proceeds will be going to IVAN!
These individuals who have made this possible for Ivan may have no connection to Down syndrome.  It's very possible that they will never meet him or even hear of him in the future.  They did not have to do this and they receive no special recognition for their generosity.  What their selfless act has done though has given a young boy a chance at life.  They also have made it possible for that special family to come forward because the financial burden that international adoption brings has been sufficiently relieved.  Thank you Independent Car Dealers of Treasure Valley for once again giving someone a Christmas Miracle!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Santa Cause 2.0

In the past, I've written about Angela Redding and her ability to put together events. Last night was another great example of that. Angela had the idea to put together a concert that features a few local artists as well as Tyler Stenson, a fantastic artist based out of Portland. She asked if it would be alright if RODS Racing was the featured cause. What a great idea!

The evening was great.  Before the event, Andrea and I went to dinner with our good friends the Tueller's.  We got to know Mike and Aubrey last year when their daughter was born and they found out she has Down syndrome.  The Tueller's were the family that introduced us to Reece's Rainbow.  We had around 200 people in attendance and everyone was very encouraging and supportive.  I took a moment in between artists to share the RODS Racing story and tell about the great year we've had.  I absolutely love getting to share this story.  Every time I do I feel even more committed to making sure that we are doing everything in our power to make sure these kids find a home as soon as possible. 

Tyler was up next and he did what Tyler does best.  Entertain.  I've been to a few of his concerts over the years.  In fact I have a few of his songs on my Ironman training playlist.  In his music he does a great job of telling the story.  It's very genuine and original and I'm thankful he was willing to take some time to come to Boise. 

Special thanks to Howell Orthodontics for the donation to RODS Racing tonight as well.  For each person in attendance, $1 was donated! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pioneer Elementary Assembly

I love public speaking and I love to share the RODS Racing story so when I was asked to be a guest speaker at Pioneer Elementary School in Preston, Idaho I quickly accepted.  After a day or two passed from accepting the invitation I really started to think this through.  There was going to be hundreds of 1st and 2nd graders in attendance.  I thought about my little 1st grader and how small her attention span is.  Then I started to get nervous.  I feel fine speaking to an audience full of adults but how in the world was I going to keep these little guys engaged!

The day quickly arrived and my family and I made our way from Meridian down to Preston.  This was a special opportunity for me.  This was actually the school that I attended throughout grade school.  Driving up and seeing the familiar building brought back so many memories.  Walking into my old gymnasium reminded me of the many dodge ball and basketball games.  It's where I had my first school dance in 5th grade (now that was stressful!), and also where our Idaho History Bee was held.  Never did I think I would be back in that gymnasium as a guest to speak to the students.

The children started filing in and they looked as nervous as I was.  I noticed that many of them were dressed in their Sunday best in preparation for the big day.  I found out that the teachers had been talking with their students and explaining about Down syndrome, Orphans and what a "hero" is.  They were all excited to be there.  So was I.

Before the assembly even started I got a special surprise.  One of the teachers had collected a bunch of photos of me and my family while I was growing up as well as a few from the past year as I was doing Ironman's.  They put them together in a slideshow.  While the slide show was playing the students sang a song for me titled, "That Hero Could Be You".  I was fighting back tears and the assembly hadn't even started. 

Principal Wynn Costley and Mrs. White, my 4th grade teacher (one of my all time favorite teachers) introduced me and just like that I was in front of hundreds of little guys telling the RODS Racing story.  I talked a lot about Nash and even had Nash come up in front of the kids.  It was a lot of fun to see their expressions and their enthusiasm. 

One thing I wanted to do was have the teachers choose a few children who they thought would be good candidates to receive a RODS Racing T Shirt.  At the end of my presentation I made a special announcement that everybody there was going to get an official RODS Racing Card and that a few lucky students were going to get T Shirts.  Seeing the looks on these children's faces when their names were called out was worth it's weight in gold! 

After the assembly the students once again played the slide show they had made for me and sang me the Hero song.  Talk about a tear jerker!  As they were leaving I went into the audience and gave lots of high fives and hugs.  I wish I could have spent 1 on 1 time with every child and encouraged them to keep on going and never give up.  They are all so full of potential and they deserve to meet that potential.

I stopped by one of the classes on the way out and they gave me some goodies.  I also saw a bunch of posters welcoming me.  Kids are great and I'm glad I had this chance to speak.  I always feel like I benefit more than the audience when I get to share the RODS Racing story.  One things for sure, these guys sure made me feel like a hero!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maelie Has a Family!!!

It's day's like today that keeps the fire burning to work on behalf of Orphans with Down syndrome. Five months ago I was fortunate to visit an orphanage in Peru. It is there that I met a very special little girl named Maelie. Maelie is a soon to be 5 year old who has Down syndrome. Since that day, I felt it important to try and be an instrument in helping her find her forever family.

This search took me to the lava fields of Kona where I raced in the Ironman World Championship on Maelie's behalf in hope to find her family. The day before the race I received an email from a family in Tennessee asking me about Maelie. They had been feeling led to adoption for many months, but it wasn't until just the day before that they felt strongly that they should inquire about Maelie. Ironically enough, the very next day I would be racing on her behalf!

Things moved quickly after that. There application was accepted and they were officially matched to Maelie!  I'm excited to announce that Maelie has a loving family committed to adopting her!!!

Meet the Olsen's!

Lisa and Paul have been married for 17 years. They have three biological children. Their boys (ages 7 and 9) are GREAT big brothers to their baby sister (almost 2) who happens to be a princess with Down Syndrome. The Olsen's tried to adopt internationally a few years ago, but the country closed its doors to adoptions with the United States while they were in the process. They were unable to complete their adoption, which was devastating. Lisa’s heart remained tender towards adoption, but they were very reluctant to go down that path again. After the birth of their daughter, they discovered Reece’s Rainbow. Lisa visited the site often, looking at the waiting children and reading about the incredible families who opened their homes and hearts to orphans with special needs. The Olsen's spent months waiting and praying, wondering if God was calling them to step out in faith and begin the adoption process again. One little girl in particular touched Paul’s heart. Even then, Paul said “God would have to hit him over the head with a shovel” to convince him it was time to move forward. Well, Paul’s head is still tingling! God flung the doors wide open for the Olsen's to step forward to adopt Maelie! The Olsen family is humbled and excited to begin their adoption journey and welcome another princess into their home!

This is a picture of Maelie's soon to be little sister.  They are going to be awesome for each other!


In reading the Olsen's bio about their family, I particularly enjoyed the part where they referenced God opening the doors wide open for them to step forward to adopt Maelie.  I feel the same way when thinking of finding Reece's Rainbow almost 1 year ago and the miracles that I have witnessed since then.  I have learned that if we have desires to be part of something that will truly make a difference in someones life, those opportunities will be presented to us.  Whether it's orphans, Down syndrome or some other cause that is close to your heart, I encourage you to seek opportunities to make a difference.  Don't allow doubt or fear to stop you.  Please don't feel that you can't make a difference because that is simply not true.  If you have sincere desires, doors will be opened, hearts will be softened, and lives will be changed. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Welcome Home Eli!

The long awaited day for our dear Eli to be home has finally come!

My introduction to Eli came in December of 2011.  It was the day that I first visited the Reece's Rainbow website and learned of the struggle that so many orphans with Down syndrome were facing.  I remember clearly looking at each one of the children's faces and knowing in my heart that something had to be done.

After a few days, Andrea and I decided that we would each choose a child to start fundraising in hopes that they would soon have a family commit to them.  I scrolled through the literally hundreds of pictures trying to choose the one child that I was suppose to focus on.  At first it was difficult.  Then I saw this picture.  This little boys picture stood out to me and I knew he was the one.  This was on December 4th, 2011.  You can read my blog post HERE.

Through the help of many family and friends, miracles took place and Eli's adoption account quickly grew.  On February 7th, 2012 I received the news that Eli had a family who had committed to adopting him!  That was a monumental day for me.  It was a day that provided proof that a difference can be made for these children!

Since that day I have become good friends with Eli's mom and dad.  They are such good people and I'm so happy for him.  I've watched as they navigated through the mountains of paperwork, background checks, and homestudy's that are required to adopt.  I saw the frustrating times that they went through and I celebrated with them the victories.  Finally the day came that they traveled to Eli's country.  It was the same day that I flew to Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship. 

Which brings us to today.  As I write this, Eli is making his way home from the airport to start the life he so deserves with the family that is so lucky to have him.  Tonight he will be tucked into his own bed by his very own mommy and daddy.  Tomorrow he will get to play with his siblings who have been eagerly waiting for their brother to come home. 

I have expressed this before on my blog, but I want to share it with you again.  There is no doubt that it is an amazing blessing for each of these children who are fortunate enough to be adopted. However, the biggest blessing that will come is not the family to the child, but it is the blessing that this child will be to his family.  Children who have Down syndrome are special in so many ways.  Eli's family will be learning this first hand in the upcoming months and years. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 Ironman NBC Broadcast

Mark your calendars!  This Saturday is the 2012 Ironman NBC Broadcast!  I can't wait!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ironman World Championship Race Report

Race day started at 3:20am when the alarm clock welcomed me into the days activities. The normal race day jitters and nervousness was strangely not there right from the beginning. Instead of nervousness I was feeling excitement! It was time for the big dance and I couldn't wait. I knew I had done everything in my power to prepare for this race and I was ready.

I made my way down to the start. I was among the first athletes to arrive. One of the first things they have us do is get a number stamped on your arms. The energy was huge from the very beginning. With race number 137 successfully tattooed for the day I then stepped on the scales for a weigh in. I've never actually been weighed at a race check in. I wish they would have weighed me after to compare. I bet I lost a few pounds in water weight.

I then put my race nutrition on my bike that had been carefully calculated to give me the correct amount of calories at a the right time of the race. This is such a huge part of the race and cannot be overlooked. Regardless of the amount of hours trained, without enough gas in the tank it doesn't matter how well tuned the engine is.

By now there were a lot of athletes starting to pour in. About this time is when I was introduced to an NBC Sports camera crew. They started filming me prepping my bike. It was a little uncomfortable at first, but then I found it to be kind of fun. The other Kona Inspired athletes started to arrive for the day as well. We have all become very good friends. I feel like I knew them all from their videos. To get to meet them in person was great. To get to race with them was even better.

As the horizon started to brighten I knew it was time. I put on my speed suit from Aqua Sphere and checked in my morning clothes bag and made it back to the start just in time for the pros to start the race. With the pros gone, it was time for all of us to enter the water. 25 minutes until the cannon goes off!

Stepping into the ocean increased the excitement even more. I swam out so I could see if I could see my family sitting on the cement wall that was lining the bay. Sure enough I saw them all there with their RODS Racing shirts on. I got their attention and then made my way out to the starting buoy. I'll never forget looking back at all the spectators lined along the bay. There were also many hundred athletes still filing into the water. Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, started to give us the estimated time before the start. 10 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 1 minute. By this time I was like a 10 year old on Christmas morning waiting to open presents. We were all stacked in there which made it impossible to tread water without having contact with other swimmers. A warm up of things to come. Then the countdown, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BOOM! Instantly the blue ocean water looked like it was boiling. All you could see was white water and arms flying all around. Immediately I started hitting into other swimmers all trying to make forward progress. It was utter chaos! I had never been in a swim start quite like that one. I found myself trying to avoid being kicked but at the same time, not backing off one bit. This lasted for a few minutes before things started to normalize and the rhythm of the swim strokes started to settle.

Within 5 minutes of starting I got behind a swimmer who was going slightly faster than I was. Perfect! I slipped in right behind him and started to draft. Drafting in the swim is perfectly legal and can be a big advantage to conserve energy and pick up a few minutes as well. It's amazing how much it helps having someone break the water in front of you as you focus on staying right on their toes. I stayed so close to this swimmer that I found myself tapping his toes every time my arms came forward in my stroke. I worried that this might be annoying for him, but he just kept on swimming and I kept on following. The other advantage of doing this is you aren't required to site as much. As long as the swimmer you are following is going straight, you can keep your head in the water. This was also nice because I loved looking at all the fish during the race. It was a nice distraction.
The entire way out I stayed right on this swimmers feet. There is a big sailboat at the turnaround which gets pretty congested. I had to work hard to stay behind him, but I managed and before I knew it, we were on our way back after having just swam the first 1.2 miles. Heading back into shore was much faster. The current was pushing us and I think we all were excited to get on the bike. The entire swim seemed fairly congested, but I later found out from Andrea that I was swimming in a group of 15+ swimmers and there weren't any other swimmers in front or behind us when we came in.

Getting through transition was quick. I had a camera man following me which I wasn't necessarily ready for, but it was fun. And just like that I was on the bike riding up the infamous Palani Road. The first 10 or so miles weaves through town where there are hundreds of spectators all cheering. You honestly feel like a rock star in this race with all the fans cheering. My legs felt great and all systems were checking out well. After weaving through the city streets there is a steep climb going up Palani and then on to the Queen K. Once you make it to the highway it settles down and you can get into a groove for the remaining 102 miles.

20 miles into the ride there were a lot of other bikers. Swimming is my weakest discipline which means I typically pass a lot of bikers the first 20-30 miles. It was fun seeing all of the other athletes from around the world. We had a big tailwind heading out which meant that the miles were flying by. Around mile 30 I had another TV crew pull up next to me filming for about 8 miles. I didn't know what amount of filming would be done while I was racing before the day started. One thing I am thankful for is when the camera is on you it helps you go faster.

By about mile 35 I hit my first difficult part of the race. I had a hard time keeping my wattage up and I was going into a big headwind. I decided it was time to have a peanut butter and honey sandwich and some PowerBar Blasts which really hit the spot. Within 5 minutes of finishing my meal I was feeling much better. When you are exercising for this amount of time the food gets into your system almost instantaneously. By the time I started the long climb into Hawi I was feeling great. One thing I did notice though was the wind was really starting to pick up. By the time I got the the last 3 miles of the 18 mile climb the wind was blowing hard. I looked out over the ocean and it was pure whitecaps as far as the eye could see. Right before I started feeling sorry for myself I remembered back to May 5th, the day I raced Ironman St. George. A big smile emerged as I remembered how much worse the wind and conditions were that day. Nothing will compare to St. George wind. I picked up the pace and started to go faster.

The bike course turnaround in Hawi is right at 60 miles. It felt great to get the wind at your back and have a very long downhill heading back to Kona. By this time it was around 11am and it was starting to get hot. On my way back to Kona our route took us back through the lava fields. I remember hearing about how the heat would radiate off the blacktop but it was hard to imagine there being more heat from below than from the sun above. Let me tell you, this is absolutely true. It was like somebody turned on a heater on the road and it was blasting you from all angles. One way to combat the heat was while going through aid stations to fill up every possible water bottle cage with full bottles of water. Not just to drink but to pour it all over your body while you are riding. This provided temporary relief, but the heat would just not quit. The good news is mentally I was still very much where I needed to be. Any time I found any negative thoughts come to mind I found it relatively easy to replace them with the thoughts and feelings of why I was doing this. The cause of racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome allows me to mentally stay positive and stay where I need to be in my mind throughout these races. Without that cause I believe I would find it much more difficult to battle through the hard times and ultimately finish.

Coming into town I felt great. I was going faster than I was expecting, averaging 20.2 MPH over the last 110 miles. My heart rate was good and my legs felt good. Time to go run a marathon. Coming into transition I was met by a camera crew. My feet were all wet as I was trying to get my socks on. My right sock went on perfectly. My left sock was off a little bit and I didn't take the time to adjust it. This would come back and haunt me 3 hours later.

Running out of T2 is always a big test. The test is how do the legs feel? If you go too hard on the bike, you will know immediately. Luckily the legs were feeling fantastic. This was good. I ran out of transition and saw all my family. Their cheers are pure adrenaline and energy. Thank you!
Something different for this race than any other is I had never ran the course before. This was kind of fun, but it was also a little frustrating. Fun in a way because it's all new. It's kind of like going for a drive in an area you've never seen before. Kind of entertaining. The frustrating part is I sometimes felt like a little kid always asking myself "are we there yet" as I look for the next turn or turn around. The first 10 miles of the run took us through town and right next to the ocean. What a great route! I was feeling great and my pace was holding true. I was sticking with Ironman Perform and water to drink and an occasional gel every few miles. I also saw my good friend Mark Wilkerson as well as Alex and Risa Wight during this portion which helped. After 10 miles you have to climb right back up Palani. I wasn't ready for this. I went up this in my bike and it was tough, now I had to run up it. Crazy! Getting to the top is when we once again turn onto the Queen K and leave all the spectators behind. The next 15 miles were going to be lonely.

About the time I hit mile 13 I could feel another mental challenge coming on. By this time I was 10 hours into the day. I had just ran 13 miles and I had to get my arms doing it all over again. The heat was still an ever present factor and I was starting to feel fatigued. This is when the Ironman secret weapon had to be utilized, Coca-Cola. Most people don't realize this, but one of the best sources of nutrition in an Ironman is pure Coca-Cola. Not Coke zero, not caffeine free Coke. Only the good stuff! This stuff is magic! I always wait as long as I can before I start drinking coke when they offer it in the aid stations, but it was definitely time! I was able to keep my pace and continue to progress along the course.

Next up on the run course is the infamous Energy Lab. This is a place where you leave the Queen K highway and take a left into one of the most desolate places on the entire island. It's called the "Energy Lab" because of the huge solar panels and different facilities on the road. What this place does not do is give you any energy. In fact, it sucks it out of you. When I saw the Energy Lab just ahead I decided right then and there that I would pick up my pace when I entered the Energy Lab. I refused to let this 4 mile stretch get me. I went into the energy lab with a chip on my shoulder kind of like a little brother that finally thinks he has a chance at beating his older brother in a foot race. I did pick up the pace. I could feel some deep pain in my quads but I pushed. I knew this was gut check time and I was not letting up. The first 2 miles felt OK. Miles 19-21 were among the toughest faced yet but I lasted and it fueled me when I finally exited having taken on the Energy Lab and won. It was time to take a right back onto Queen K and head back into town.

With only 5 miles to go I kept telling myself, "You got this! 5 more miles! You've ran 5 miles a hundred times this year! Keep pushing!" Things were starting to get tough. I could feel a blister on my left foot start to form. I remembered back to the transition area when I didn't get my sock on right. I demanded that the pain leave my mind and I kept going. My pace was still steady, but my heart rate was increasing rapidly. "Only a few more miles, keep pushing!!" I kept telling myself. The battle that was going on in my head was as intense as it's ever been. The adversity I was facing on whether I could do this or not was real. "Keep going!" I kept reminding myself over and over. Mile 22 passed and I celebrated, 4 more miles. I can do this! Between mile 22-24 was the hardest of the entire day. My quads were smashed, my head hurt and I was spent. Every athlete will face this during an Ironman. This is really the true test in my opinion. It's easy to race when you are feeling good. It's when you are hurting, when you're body tells you that you can't do this, that you find out what you really are made of. All you want to do is walk. You're mind will start to reason with you. It will say things like, "you've done great, just walk a little bit." Then it will get more aggressive. "This is crazy, why are you doing this to yourself!" it screams. The thoughts of "Why am I doing this" and "I can't go on anymore" start flooding your mind. It was here where I had to go back to why I was doing this. I remembered Maelie and I remembered the commitment I made to myself to find her family. If pushing through this temporary physical pain meant that she has a family I would do it. If this meant that Down syndrome as a whole is more widely accepted and that together we can prove that Anything is Possible, I would do it! I kept the pace and pushed harder.

Before I knew it I was on the top of Palani making my way down the big hill I had to run up a few hours earlier. It was here that I knew I had it. Tears started streaming down my face as I thought not just about the day, but this year. Here I was, running the last mile of the Ironman World Championship for these kids that have become such a big part of my life. Last year at this time I didn't even know Reece's Rainbow existed or that there were hundreds of children with Down syndrome withering away in orphanages throughout the world. Now I was getting to represent them at this very moment. I was afforded the opportunity and blessing to be their voice. To stand on their defense and bring hope at that very moment. In this moment I also gave thanks to a loving God. I knew this last year wasn't anything of my own doing, but more a tender mercy from a loving Heavenly Father.

As I turned down Ali'i drive I could see the finish line in the distance. The pain was gone and I was running on pure adrenaline. Thousands of people lined the streets cheering and high fiving. I came into the final hundred yards under the bright lights and everything went to a blur. As I crossed the finish line I saw lots of people and I saw cameras. Then I saw Alex, he had the biggest smile on his face and I bet mine matched it. He gave me a huge hug and I lifted him up off the ground. Then Andrea and Nash came to me and we hugged a very long hug. I looked into Nash's eyes and could see that innocence and look that was the source of so much motivation. I then saw my Dad, my Mom, and my Sister Paige and hugged each of them. Then I gave a huge hug to Rob Wight CEO of myList, David Deschenes, Executive Director of Ironman Foundation and Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman. That's when I saw this huge check made out to RODS Racing. I was in shock. It was for $20,000 and it was for Maelie's adoption. This meant that this little girl has a chance! It was joy in the purest form!


I want to take a moment to recognize and show my appreciation for Andrea. RODS Racing and Ironman is a team effort. There is no possible way that I could serve these children as I have without her. I can't stress this enough. She IS the reason why things have worked out. Her level of contribution is huge, but often goes unnoticed behind the scenes. Thank you Andrea! I love you!
After the race I went in the transition area and had a chocolate milk. The adrenaline quickly dissipated. I sat down on the grass in a corner as far away as I could get and put a towel over my head. Piece of mind came over me. I knew I left it all out on the course and gave it everything I had. I suppose doing this race is a lot like life. We'll face exhilarating highs and extreme lows. Pain always comes but it's how we handle the pain that defines us. There are a lot of people cheering us on at times and at other times we are alone in the lava fields. It takes a team effort. It's never just one person, but in the end, the results are dependant upon the one looking back at you in the mirror. I hope that at the end of my life I can go to a far away corner for a moment, put a towel over my head and know that I left it all out on the course.

Final stats on the day were: Swim 1:19:42; Bike 5:33:48; Run 3:51:11 Total 10:51:32 I was able to beat my Ironman St. George time by 1:35 minutes!

Total Stat's for 2012 are: Swim 152 miles; Bike 5,443 miles; Run 1,194 miles Total Hours 802

At the end of these race reports I always find myself asking the question, so what's next? Well, I can't wait to watch the Ironman Broadcast on October 27th at 2pm MST. I have a feeling that Maelie will have a family very soon. My hope is that we can find Megan and Maggie a family very soon as well. I've already spent time putting together the plan for RODS Racing in 2012. I will continue to race, but my hope is to continue to develop a network of other athletes and advocates who are passionate about racing and passionate about Down syndrome. In the end, our work is not done until every child has a home and until society as a whole has a better understanding of just how much of a positive impact a person with Down syndrome can have. One thing that I have learned this year that I plan on applying next year is this: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!!!

Kona Inspired Winners

Andrew Messick - CEO of Ironman

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RODS Racing Blog

Hello One Step Closer to Home readers.  This week I will be posting all of my blog posts to my RODS Racing blog.  You can access it HERE.  Aloha!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In the Airport

At the moment I'm in the airport waiting to board a plane to Kona. Do you know who else is in an airport today?

Ten months ago, Andrea and I chose a little boy on Reece's Rainbow to fund raise for. This little boy stood out to us above all of the rest. We weren't sure how we were going to raise the money to help offset the adoption costs, but it felt right. Quickly after starting our fundraising efforts, miracles took place and DOORS were OPENED. (I'll come back to why I put these two words in bold in a moment) Eli's account quickly grew to $20,000. Within 30 days, Eli's soon to be parents found him and committed to his adoption.

Eli's parents faced challenges in finding an adoption agency that was approved in his country. In fact, they were told there were none in the US. They would not be deterred. The searched high and low encountering many dead ends. Finally they had a breakthrough. They were introduced to a small agency called, "An Open Door Adoption Agency". This agency was approved in Eli's country and the long process to adopt began.

In finding An Open Door Adoption Agency this actually opened up many more doors that had previously been closed. In particular, this introduced many children in South America to Reece's Rainbow.

The irony continues. Remember the little girl I met while in South America in June, the little girl I am racing Kona for? I was able to find out about Maelie because of An Open Door Adoption Agency.
Now to answer your question about who else is spending time in an airport traveling today...Eli's parents! Eli's family is on their way to his country today to meet their son. The very same day I'm heading to Kona to race for Maelie. Coincidence? Not a chance!

Friday, October 5, 2012

140.6 Miles for MAELIE

Coming down the final stretch to the day I will race the 2012 MyList Ironman World Championship in Kona, I want to introduce you to the little girl that has been the source of much inspiration as I've prepared for this day.  She is also the little girl I will be racing for in hopes of raising funding for her adoption and ultimately finding her forever family.

Meet Maelie!  Maelie is a little girl who lives in an orphanage in a small community in South America.  Please allow me to share our story.
Maelie is 4 years old.  The harsh circumstances she faced upon being born made it so she would be placed in an orphanage at just a few weeks old.  She has lived in that same orphanage ever since.
In June of this year I visited Maelie's country while doing work with The Huntsman School of Business.  I had a desire to seek out any orphanages that may be in the area we were staying in hopes of finding any children who had Down syndrome so that I may be a voice of hope for them to someday be adopted.  After some research and multiple phone calls I was able to find an orphanage in a very small community outside of the city.  I made arrangements to visit them.

The day of my visit finally arrived.  The ride out took about 30 minutes by taxi.  I enjoyed the scenery as I eagerly observed each of the details in the foreign place.  What may have seemed like a normal everyday scene to some was fascinating to me.

As we pulled into town I started asking directions to the orphanage.  After a short walk down the dusty dirt streets we knocked on the big metal doors.  A very small door opened up and I saw a nun peeking through the window.  I felt a little like the misfits from the Wizard of Oz knocking on the door to the Emerald City.  After a moment, the metal door opened where we took a seat in a lobby area.

The nun who I had spoken to was aware that I had a son with Down syndrome from our phone conversation and that I was hoping to meet any of their children who also had Down syndrome.  After a few moments Senora Maria stepped into the lobby area holding a wide eyed little princess.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had a hard time at first, holding back the tears as I looked into this little girls eyes.  She looked at me with much curiosity.  Then came something I will never forget, that smile.

Senora Maria visited with me about Maelie and how all the children adored her.  She was among the favorites in an orphanage of 32 children.  I asked her about what happens to their children as they get older.  "They get adopted" she replied.  She then went on to explain that she did have concern for Maelie however.  Most children are adopted before they are 4 years old.  The orphanage is designated as a 5 and under orphanage.  They have never had a child stay there much longer than that.  Senora Maria told me that because of Maelie's disability, she feared she would never be adopted and wasn't sure what would take place as she got older.  She mentioned that she may be transferred to the city possibly but she just wasn't sure.  In that moment I felt a weight of responsibility be placed on my shoulders.  I knew that I needed to find this little girl a family.

After a few minutes Senora Maria asked if I'd like to hold Maelie.  Of course I would.  Maelie smiled that big grin as she looked at me and touched my face.  She was such a beautiful little girl.  We sat down and I wanted to see if she could stand so I put her towards the floor.  Not only did she stand but she took off running with Senora Maria right behind her!  It was hilarious!  She explained to me that Maelie is a very active little girl full of life and energy.  She would be such a blessing to a family I thought to myself.

My visit was short, but the impact this little girl had on me was tremendous.  As I look towards race day on October 13th I am filled with anticipation.  Completing a full Ironman is something that few ever get to do, especially in Kona.  It is the most difficult single day endurance race on the face of the planet.  I don't think there is any way to fully prepare for what the day will bring or what rigors my mind and body will face.  With that being said, there is nothing that I am not willing to face on race day for Maelie if it means that she and the thousands of other Orphans with Down Syndrome are given a chance at life and a family to call their own.  My hope is that somehow her story will be heard.  That we can raise enough funding to offset the incredibly high costs of international adoption and most importantly, that through these efforts, her family will find her.

In closing I want to say a few words about those who have Down syndrome.  What is perceived as a disability is remarkably a wonderful blessing.  When I was told that my newborn son had Down syndrome I was scared to say the least.  However, what I didn't realize at the time is Nash would be the source of pure joy, insight and inspiration in my life.  Nash has talents and abilities to accomplish things that I can only hope to do as do all who have Down syndrome.

I recognize that a family will be the biggest blessing an orphan with Down syndrome could ever ask for.  I also know that the biggest blessing that will come will not be for the orphan, but to the family who adopts this child.
The time has come my friends to take on the ultimate test, the Ironman World Championship in Kona for ORPHANS with DOWN SYNDROME!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ever swim with Whales??

Last week was a new adventure. Earlier this year a few friends that I work with made plans to travel to Canada for a fishing trip in September. It would be perfect, cool temperatures, remote wilderness, and tons of silver salmon! The perfect “man” trip! Little did I know when I made these plans that I would be right smack in the middle of intense Ironman training.

With the plane tickets booked already, there was no way of backing out of this trip. In addition, I REALLY wanted to go fishing so off to Canada we go. My trip started early on Sunday morning. Up to Portland, then to Vancouver, B.C., then a short plane ride to Campbell River. From Campbell river we had a 2 and a half hour drive up and over a mountain, literally. The road was dirt most of the way. Around 9:30pm that night we finally made it to Tahsis, our new home away from home.

Fishing started early as it usually does so no room for training before heading out on the water. The scenery was incredible! Fishing was a little slow, but we were catching enough fish to keep a smile on my face. Water temperature was 58 degrees, plenty warm for a swim with a wetsuit. Around noon I decided that I should probably slip on my wetsuit and go for a little open water swim. We were trolling in a remote bay that had timber right down to the waters edge. My plan was to swim back and forth from one side of the bay to the other, about a 200 yard lap. Then something crazy happened. As I was planning my swim and exactly where I would be swimming a huge whale came barreling out of the water, EXACTLY WHERE I WAS GOING TO BE SWIMMING! After seeing this enormous creature hogging my “lane” I decided against any open water swimming as you can imagine. I was a little bummed because I really wanted to use my new Aqua Sphere wetsuit but it just wasn’t meant to be. Can you imagine swimming and having a giant whale swim by? Or better yet, bump into you! That’s just crazy talk!

After fishing 10 hours we made our way back to Tahsis. We cleaned the boat, cleaned the fish and headed to the cabin. The sun was setting and I knew if I was going to run, I would have to do it right now. I was tired, hungry and I’ll be honest, running was the last thing I wanted to do. I ate a few PowerGels to give me a little pick me up and laced up the shoes. Man was I sluggish. It seemed like I wasn’t really running, but more of a speed walk. I went a few miles and looked at my pace, it was official snail pace. The challenge is my heart rate was as high as it is when I do intervals. Not a good combo. I ran up the road we came in on 4 miles before realizing I had to run back down this same road to make it back home and it was almost dark. The streets were lined with brush and trees. The sky was barely visible in the thick canopy of trees. As I made my way back it seemed like a tunnel was formed and it was closing in with darkness. Needless to say my pace picked up a bit since I didn’t want to get eaten by a bear. Once I made it back to the house I was glad to be home, but very glad that I pushed through the workout.

The next day we had a great day of fishing. If you ever have the chance to catch silvers, these fish are amazing. Fishing was so good that we didn’t make it back to the dock until it was dark. Same situation as the day before, tired, hungry and knowing that I needed to run. I quickly did my chores and laced up my shoes again. This time I didn’t venture outside of the little village but did 2 mile loops. My pace an heart rate were much better this night. I think it was because fishing was so good!

The next day was our last day and I knew if I was going to get a run in that it would have to be before we got on the boat. The only challenge with this was I was already getting to bed late and my two friends (and I) wanted to get an extra early start back on the water because we didn’t have a lot of time before we had to leave and our optimism towards the amount of fish we were going to catch was high. The next morning came fast and once again I found myself running the 2 mile loop through the village. As I ran I realized that not a soul was awake which was kind of cool. I got my run in and quickly got ready for some more fishing.

Unfortunately we had slow day and like that we were making our way back over the mountain to Campbell River. Sleep came quickly that night.

The next day was a full day of travel. I made it to Boise around 5:30 and was greeted by smiles from my kids and wife. I love it when they get to pick me up from the airport. Unfortunately as soon as I got home, I knew I had to get on the bike. It had been 5 days since I last rode and the countdown to Kona is not slowing down. I was on the trainer by 6:30pm and rode the first 60 miles of the Kona course. 3 hours total ride time. It felt good to be back in the saddle and I had a special little training partner for part of the ride.

The next morning I rode another 30 miles of high cadence spinning in the early morning then headed to pool. No fear of giant whales or sea creatures at the YMCA. I swam surprisingly good. I have to imagine the rest was good for me. I then went into the office for a few hours before heading home for my long run. I ended up going 20.5 miles and it was a little tough. I was pretty tired from the previous workouts and the travel but got the long run in which is always nice. That night Andrea and I went to Les Mis with some friends. It was good, but a little long. 3 hours with it ending at 11pm is way past my bedtime. It was nice to spend the evening with Andrea though.

The next morning came quickly once again and before I knew it I was back in the pool. I swam the full Ironman distance straight. Swim time was 1 hour 17 minutes. Swimming is not my strongest of the 3 disciplines but it’s still fun to do. After my swim I was back on my bike only this time it was outside. The air was filled with smoke from the surrounding forest fires in the Boise area but it didn’t seem to bother me too much. I rode 92 miles and called it a day. By the time I finished it was 4:00pm and I really wanted to spend some time with my family.

This week was a good example of just how patient and supportive that Andrea is. I felt guilty each time I had to hit the road to train instead of being with her and the kids. Each time though she always showed me her support and encouraged me to keep going. I don’t take this lightly and recognize that her sacrifice to make this possible is just as big or bigger than the sacrifice an athlete takes to train for an Ironman. Such a key component!

For the week I swam 7400 yards, biked 182 miles and ran 41.5 miles. Not as much mileage as I’ve had the last few weeks, but I had to dig as deep as I’ve ever had to this week to get it done. In the end though, it will all be worth it if I can cross the finish line in Kona for my precious ORPHANS WITH DOWN SYNDROME!!