Monday, May 28, 2012

Active MSers Feature: David Gillikin

As some of you may know, Multiple Sclerosis is something which is close to me and I have tried to help raise awareness and funds over the years. A few months ago, I came across a website called ActiveMSers. It was started by Dave Bexfield who was diagnosed in early 2006 with MS, in his late 30's. A writer at heart, he is also an avid traveler and an adventure seeker. His MS, as he said, 'burbled merrily along' for the first few years, but in 2009 it became very aggressive. He started taking part in a clinical research trial called Halt-MS (an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant using his own stem cells from his bone marrow, paired with high-dose chemotherapy). Since his transplant he has had zero progression physically. In Dave's words: "I'm on no daily medication for MS or for anything else, and the only supplement I take is Vitamin D. I'm still gimpy, using one or two forearm crutches or a walker when the legs get too stubborn. And for those wondering, yes I still exercise hard every day for 1.5 hours: cardio, strength, and stretching. And I still travel. What does the future hold? I'm as excited as you are to find out. Be active, stay fit, and keep exploring."

His story and the community he has created through ActiveMSers fascinated me. It is a place whereby those living with MS or recently diagnosed can communicate with one another and gain useful information on living with and more importantly staying active with MS. I contacted Dave and told him that I was intrigued and impressed with what he has done, and I am honored to be able to help raise awareness for ActiveMSers, Can Do MS and also funds to help Multiple Sclerosis.

I have started a fundraising effort which will culminate in my Ironman Hawaii World Championship race on October 13th. Leading up to the race, I would like to feature various people's stories on my blog; people who have been helpful in telling me their personal story with MS, and ultimately how they are striving to stay active in the face of it.
Any donations are much appreciated, and absolutely no donation is too small.
My fundraising site is here on MS Can Do
Please feel free to share it with others!

An with that said, I would like introduce you to David Gillikin and his personal story with MS.


I just wanted to tell a little bit about my story. I was diagnosed with MS in 2004, and at the time, I lived in Michigan. A new job took me to Colorado, and the fact that I have MS, and moving to Colorado, probably saved my life. Shortly after moving there, my girlfriend and I signed up for the 5K MS Walk/Run, and we raised money and did the walk together. While we were there, we observed the runners doing the 5K Run, and I said to Diane (my girlfriend), "I'm going to do that next year. At the time, no one would have guessed that I'd be able to do it. I was 50 pounds overweight, a smoker, and I drank vodka like it was water. Add the MS to the mix, and I was a mess.

But I did it. I lost about 30 pounds, stopped smoking, and stopped the drinking (now I'll have some beer, but I don't drink liquor anymore). Diane and I took up hiking, and we joined a gym where I would go to the treadmill and walk some, run some. It then came time for the MS 5K Walk/Run, and I signed up for the run part of it. Not only did I finish, but it inspired me so much that I've since run 7 marathons, about 28 half marathons, and many other 10K's and 5K's. I did all this after I turned 50 years old too.

So I can surely say that finding out that I have MS, may have saved my life. Well at least added a few more years to it!
I am now a RRCA certified running coach too so I am looking for others to inspire them to try and do what I did. It's not easy, but it is worth it.


David's personal website is MS Runner, take a peek.
Thanks David for your submission, & thank you for inspiring!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

St. Anthony's 5150 & Rev 3 Knoxville: Race + Race = Vacation

I have had a few questions about my recent choices of races, those being St. Anthony’s 5150 and Rev 3 Knoxville, both Olympic distance events (on consecutive weekends). Seeing that the past two years have been focused ‘around’ Ironman events, the most common question has been “So what is your best event; what do you like most?” After trying to explain why I race what I race and why my schedule is as it is, I finally come back to the simple statement…I just love to race. Ultimately, I feel like I can span the three distances well, so I figure…if I love to race, then…why not? The first of my two Olympic distance events was St. Anthony’s 5150 on April 29. I had not raced this distance since about 14 months prior, but that made it all the more exciting…it would feel so short! I had raced this event back in 2004, so I was vaguely familiar with the course, location, etc. I chose this specific race because it was a 5150, and I needed to race at least one of these events to ‘qualify’ for HyVee 5150 Champs in Des Moines, Iowa. I had the points from 70.3 events, but I needed to ‘validate’ so to speak by doing a 5150. This was also a higher points event (1500) so I figured if I could just finish strong here, then it would take care of getting me to HyVee in the most efficient manner. Derick stayed home for this one, and when I told my mom I’d just do it solo, she of course decided she should come and be with me for it.  It didn’t take much coercing when it was in a beautiful and convenient locale like St. Petersburg, FL. We met there Friday, enjoyed a great dinner on the water, and Saturday I slept in and spent some time with sponsors; at the ISM Booth in the morning, and doing a short interview for Recovery Pump (along with pro meeting, yada yada yada). It was great to feel such light pressure on my shoulders going into this, knowing it was not ‘my distance’, however I did still want to do very well; but I knew that the intensity would be a shock to my system come race day. I really wanted to be a factor here, knowing that on paper, I’d be a bit overlooked on such a stellar start list. We kicked off right at 6:55AM, and I swam simply awful. It was humorous, really. I think I had taken myself out of the swim before we even started. I knew there would be fast ITU women here and they start would be quick and a little ‘messier’ (more aggressive) than I preferred. Therefore, I stayed to the side and before I knew it, a huge swarm of women just swam alongside me, drifting up ahead. Idiot, Kelly, you are absolutely stupid, I told myself! We turned into a good bit of chop when, of course, having lost the group made it even tougher. I stopped at one point to clear my goggles because they were filled with water and kept plugging along. Luckily the finish came a few minutes sooner than I am accustomed to, and when I ran into T1 and heard “2 minutes to the lead!” I actually laughed out loud. OK, moving on.  It can’t get much worse, right? I hopped up on my new Quintana Roo Illicito and was off for the 24 mile bike. I tried to hit the gas from the gun and dang did it hurt! It was fun, but it was definitely a gear that I had not had to use in a few months and I could feel it. I just pushed as hard as I possibly could and overall it felt fairly good, but I knew there were many women up ahead of me and I just had to minimize any time lost to them and put myself back into contention for the run. I took two Powergels throughout the bike and barely finished one small bottle of water! It almost felt like nutrition was useless at this distance compared to a 70.3 or an Ironman, where it is essentially the ‘fourth discipline’!
The bike came to an end and I was excited to get out there and see what my run legs had in them. Only 6 miles! What a treat! I threw on the Zoot Ultra Race 3.0’s and was out of there. I heard someone yell what sounded like “40th place Kelly!” and of course I said “What the HELL?” to myself…did some quick math and realized… “There are not 40 women here. That must have been 14th. Still. That ain’t so great.” I bombed out of there, probably a bit too fast on the first mile, and managed to pass women fairly steadily throughout the 10k run. I felt strong, but I never once looked at my watch, and I also took about 1.5 Powergels through the 30+ minute effort. I didn’t feel I needed it, but I knew it would not hurt me. As I closed in on the final ½ mile, I passed one more person and the final 400 or so, I could see another in my sights. I was told I was in 4th or 5th at this point, and I was working really hard…I ‘maybe’ could have kicked it up a notch to catch 4th, however, I didn’t…I knew I had another race the next weekend, and truth be told, I was very pleased to run into 5th place. I will not be so over-confident as to say “I didn’t care about catching her!”…it was a race after all! But, I had dug extremely deep to get to the end and I was pretty tapped out. I wound up 5th place with a very strong 34:26 run split, so all in all, it was an extremely successful day for me, and I was proud to have gone out and mixed it up with the speedsters. It felt good to see that I still have this gear in me, and it also made vividly clear what I need to work on to be a bit more competitive at HyVee. I won’t say that I did not have any expectations for this event, but, I knew that it was a bit of a crapshoot and I needed to be realistic with myself. All in all I had a great time, found that extra ‘gear’ when I needed it and it reminded me that it really is fun to go shorter, as it entails so many less details! Less thinking, more RACING. To top it off, my mom and I had an awesome weekend together. It was nice to punch the ticket for HyVee, which is an event that will kick off my streak of a big finish to my season with HyVee, Vegas & Kona come September. In the shorter term, it was time to head back to Austin, train a bit, and rest again for Knoxville in just one week. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I had raced this event (Rev 3 Knoxville) its inaugural year in 2010, and I had great memories of the event. It was extremely convenient with the hotel backing right up to the expo and finish chute, and you could walk to transition in about 5-10 minutes on race morning. I used to think I wanted to stay as far away from the race site as possible to ‘stay relaxed’… no more! I try to be as close as possible and if I need to hide away, I just stay in my room as much as needed. The event is near the University of Tennessee campus and the Tennessee River, and the setting is hilly and beautiful. Additionally it is so central that my family was able to drive to the event from both Southern Indiana and South Carolina. It’s always a bonus when I can race and see family and/or friends at the same time.
Derick and I arrived on Thursday and headed to Chattanooga so I could visit Quintana Roo, who has now been my bike sponsor for 3 years. I spoke with the Chattanooga Tri Club that evening, at HUB Endurance, which was a nice informal Q&A; a great group of people with awesome questions. I love doing this kind of stuff! I forget how much I have learned over the years of doing triathlon! Friday, HUB hooked us up with a tour guide (fellow triathlete, David, who knew the area) who took us out on a 1.5 hr ride, which was incredible. If I had not had to race Sunday, I could have easily kept riding; beautiful country roads, rolling terrain, tucked in the mountains of Tennessee. HUB then helped me get the QR Illicito race-ready for Sunday (a HUGE thanks to Andy and the gang there!) and sent us on our way. We swung by American Bicycle Group in Ooltewah to see where they make all of the titanium Litespeeds (where all the ‘magic happens’) and check out the factory and then moseyed on up to Knoxville that afternoon. We met my sister and brother-in-law and my new niece Avery that evening for dinner and settled in. Saturday family arrived, I did a signing with Reynolds (my wheel sponsor), a quick pro panel and it was off for an early dinner… the usual. Sunday morning I felt very relaxed…it was a nice change from the previous nervous energy that say Texas 70.3 and even Panama 70.3 (my season opener) carried with it. I almost felt a bit too relaxed! But for me, that is a good thing. I knew that I had a lot of huge races to come throughout the year, so the less emotional and mental energy I had to expend here, the better…I knew that once the gun went off, I would go right into race mode and do my thing. It was a gorgeous morning and I was very excited to tackle the hilly course.
We got into the water at about 6:55 for the 7:03 start, and it was a brisk 66 degrees. I had on a Zoot sleeveless suit, and I was definitely the only one with a sleeveless…and I would have been just fine in a full suit, as I was pretty dang cold! Not sure what I was thinking when I packed it, except that maybe I think I am tougher than I really am?! But, I didn’t notice the cold after about 5 minutes of swimming; I always like the more natural feeling of my arms in a sleeveless suit if possible in the swim. That said, the first few minutes, I felt awful. Sara McClarty dropped us all like a bad habit so that never makes you feel too great about your speed. I also could see a large swarm of women right alongside me, which I didn’t like! I wanted to try to stay as close to Sara as possible, but alas, that was not even remotely possible. I think being a little cold added to that lack of ‘feel’ from the start. I tried to keep my head down, keep flailing away and try to move up. As we turned around (about 1/3 into the swim), I could see Becky Lavelle up ahead (in a yellow cap) and I slowly made my way back up to Becky. She is not only a great person but a smart, experienced racer and she was taking the most direct line. By the swim finish, I had gotten near her feet and she, myself and a few others exited onto the swim ramp together. Into T1 and out onto the bike, I was angry and driven which you could tell by the look on my face! I felt like I had swum pretty mediocre and I was anxious to see what the legs had in them for the hilly bike course. I attacked it from the start and absolutely loved this course! Hilly, green, winding and a little bit of technical to it. I felt strong, especially on the shorter steeper climbs, and when we descended or it flattened out I tried to just stay on the gas. The ‘stagger rule’ is interesting because it results in you passing people on both sides, which can get dicey given half of a country road into some winding turns. I find you just do the best you can do to keep distance from the other ladies and ‘stay staggered’. I tried to break away from a few women but while I would pass on the hills, they would pass me back on the descents. Needless to say it was a fun bike course and I put all I had into it; but I realized by the final 5 miles or so, there was no point in expending a huge amount of energy over what I was doing to try to make a gap (which I was seemingly very unsuccessful at, even if I wanted to!), better to bike strong but smart and have some run legs left in me.
I exited into T2 and was excited for the 10k run to come…I was all ready to tackle the hills we had run back in 2010. We started out on a road out from the parking garage where T2 was when Derick said “1 minutes to first Kel, just settle in”, at which point I pulled back the throttle a bit and told myself to just ‘let myself catch women’ but not to force it. We then headed out onto a running path about 1 mile in, when I realized “Hmm. This is a different run course.” Goes to show you how much homework I do on the course. Not enough! The course was pretty flat the entire time compared to 2 years ago, an out and back on a nice paved path but no major hills. Huh. Whaddya know. (I was expecting bigger hills!) Anyhoo, I continued running and managed to move into 1st about 2 miles into it. I told myself “Chill out and run strong until you take the lead, and once you turn back halfway in, then you can try to pick it up.” This was a good strategy as it just prevented me from digging too deep too soon. I always want to post as fast a run time as I can, however, I also know that the bigger goal is to WIN THE RACE and I try to be smart about my approach to make that happen, without getting greedy and stupid, risking a huge blow up! I finally hit the road which told me I had about 1 mile left. I made my way to the winding path, which was precisely where I passed Sam Warriner in 2010 (into 2nd) and she then re-passed me with about 300 meters to go! So, I tried to actually pick up my pace from here on in, knowing that it ain’t over until you cross the line!! It was an awesome sight to see as I made the final turn, the typical Rev 3 colorful finish chute and my family and friends there alongside to throw out High 5’s!
It felt really good to come back here and manage the win at this event. Coming into it, I knew this was my 6th ‘major’ race of the season (3M Half Marathon, Panama 70.3, San Juan 70.3, Texas 70.3, and St. Anthony’s 5150). Everyone was asking me how it felt to be the race favorite…I was hearing a lot about how ‘on fire’ I was…and while I did not so much feel pressure, it is easy to think ‘ah, this is just fun and it won’t be ‘as hard’ as my previous races.’ The minute I let that thought enter my head, I counter it with ‘Every race is a race, and when we toe the line, it is anyone’s game…NOTHING is EVER handed to you…’ I have total respect for my fellow competitors, and I know that the minute you get comfortable or think that it’s in the bag, there is someone right there on your shoulder ready to take the win…rightfully so, that’s racing! So I knew it would be a tough race, which it was; and I am extremely appreciative of not only a solid result, but to top it off, a win here in Knoxville. It feels good to know that I still have that ‘speed gear’ in my body, despite two years of Ironman racing. A huge thanks to my sponsors, Memorial Hermann, Zoot, PowerBar, Quintana Roo, Reynolds, Recovery Pump, ISM, Road ID, Vision, Katalyst Multisport, Durata Training, Jack & Adams, Oakley, Giro, BMW of Austin, SRM, and Hill Country Running; and to HUB Endurance for helping get my bike ready to go. And to my husband Derick, who without his support and guidance, I would absolutely not be where I am today. The best part of these two back to back races is the 4 days we have gotten to spend in Indiana with my parents this week. It is quite possibly the most relaxing place we can go for downtime; a cabin in the woods with a huge deck overlooking a small private lake, where my only exercise entails a 20 min lake swims in the evening or a walk down the driveway with my mom!
Thanks so much for your support…next up is Rev 3 Quassy, June 3…’til then, train safe and enjoy the journey... ~Kelly