The beginning of the road

From the desk of the editor: It is as good a time as any to jump back to the beginning of the Olympiad. 2016 may be the year of Rio, but the Road began back in 2013. For the next few months we will jump back and forth from past to present to tell the whole story.

It has been six months since I have run a race. SIX MONTHS. I had not realized how long it had been since I have jumped in my racing chair on a chilly morning with a designated start time, a timing chip secured to my frame, and a field of competitors surrounding me, until I counted my it out on my hand today. The last time I crossed a finish line (literally) was at the Columbus Marathon in the middle of October. That was one-open-hand-and-an-index-finger amount of months ago and the longest stretch of latency in recent memory.

The end is nigh, however. Tomorrow morning I set sail for Boston. After spending the winter turning down opportunities to race in Australia (flights were ungodly expensive), Los Angeles (not enough training on the road yet) and Paris (the hardest of the three to turn down, but another week of travel I couldn't afford physically), I will finally be leaving Champaign in search of marathoning glory in Boston and then London, kicking off a 2013 Spring season that will whisk me through eight races in four countries. This couldn't make me happier.

I must say that the time off has been well spent. Paralympic years take a lot out of a racer. In 2012 I raced a typical racing season while altering my training to maintain a constant underlying focus on the London Paralympics. After nine months of intense build-up and an 11 day period of intense physical and emotional wreckage it takes a bit of time to recover. I still ran the Chicago and Columbus Marathons post-London, and was in New York for the canceled NYC race. Then, however, I spent the entirety of my training time in December and January out of my racing chair. My body, being the well-oiled machine that it is (wink, nudge) had recovered from the rigors, but my mind is a bit slower and I was emotionally drained.

The cold months of this past year were a bit of an anomaly for me. I was in Champaign for extended chunks of time. I went to a gym and trained on a ski ergometer and lifted weights every morning before going to an office to work at a start-up company called IntelliWheels (www.intelliwheels.net). My two partners in the company and I had just landed venture capital funding the week before I left for the Paralympics. While that might have felt like a finish line (figuratively) all it meant was that we got to continue working toward the same goals we already had (developing amazing products that will help people and that they want to pay money for) except now with a group of investors who had (and still have) high expectations of our success.

As a person who has always been completely adverse to routines that involved more than waking up, training, eating, and possibly training again, I fell in love with my winter routine. It was refreshing to have stresses and worries at work that were completely non racing related. Plus, the newfound paycheck that was also non racing related meant that I didn't have to look for races to grab some prize money, could spend months solely focusing on training, and even afford the necessary luxuries of an elite athlete such as bi-weekly massages (gotta treat the body well).

The biggest key to my winter was that I got to hit the reset button. What I have done in the past has been wonderful, but it is the past and should not weigh on what I am doing now. I allowed myself to enjoy new gains in the weight room and on a cross-country ski ergometer, and when I did get back in my racing chair I began focusing on why I loved the sport and the root factors to why I continue to train and race. I had quite a few opportunities to speak about my past with racing and to share stories with rooms filled with energetic and interesting people. I was even invited to be a part of the Easter Seal's new charitable running team, "Team Believe" (http://ci.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ILPR_RunRiverCity).

My training was also very high quality. Because I was in the same place for so long, my coach never had to redesign or alter my training around a busy travel schedule. I was able to train hard when I needed to and sleep in my own bed every night. I am also being pushed even harder than before by my teammates that I train with. Some of my old teammates have made huge strides over the past year and challenge me to my limits in every hard session, while Champaign has adopted another Paralympic medalist, London 1500m bronze medalist Gyu Dae Kim from South Korea, who is an absolute machine.

The combination of amazing coaching, incredible teammates, and a fantastic new work environment outside of racing has left me with a renewed vigor and energy towards the sport I love.

On Monday I will race the Boston Marathon. The following weekend I race the London Marathon, followed by the Illinois Half Marathon the weekend after that and then finally the Seoul International Marathon the weekend after that. That is my next month and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Keep moving fast.