Monday, February 15, 2010

Joining Team Ballou Skies & 2010 Race Schedule

There were some great lessons learned during 2009. I survived things that I didn’t know if I would make it through both physically and emotionally. I continued to work hard on the swim, bike, run portion of my life, while the rest of my life required quite a balancing act on a daily basis. Some lessons were harder than others, and through the most difficult times, I was reminded that my family and friends were the most important things in my life as they supported me, loved me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

I knew 2010 was going to require some evaluating. My time with the Mark Allen Online team was nothing short of exceptional. It was comprised not only of some of the best athletes in the country, but some of the kindest, most compassionate people in the sport. These athletes had the ability to compete with fiery passion and fury, and then turn around and support their competitors with the utmost sportsmanship and character.

Despite enjoying that experience immensely, I knew it was time to move on to other endeavors. I couldn’t be more excited about this year and I will be starting it off with a brand new team, some high hopes, and a new outlook.

This year I will be on an incredible journey by competing for Ballou Skies, a charity designed to raise awareness and provide funds to map the hearts of boys and girls with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is an inherited disorder that involves rapidly-worsening muscle weakness. You may not have heard of this specific type of Muscular Dystrophy previously, because it is not well known at this time. This form of muscular dystrophy has not been studied in depth and doesn’t provide many answers to those searching desperately for a cure.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by a defective gene for dystrophin (a protein in the muscles). However, it often occurs in people without a known family history of the condition. Because of the way the disease is inherited, males are more likely to develop symptoms than women. The sons of females who are carriers of the disease (women with a defective gene but no symptoms themselves) each have a 50% chance of having the disease. The daughters each have a 50% chance of being carriers.

I met Ty Ballou in December, after hearing about his son Ryan’s fight to stay healthy while living with DMD. Ryan is a rare case in that his heart is still functioning relatively well for his age of twenty-two years old. Ryan is full of life and courage as he finds ways to stay positive throughout the days and take advantage of every opportunity he can, all the while knowing that his time with us will be short. After being diagnosed at five years old, his life has been nothing short of a miracle in progress. He strives to be an example for other boys in his same situation by doing the best he can to raise awareness, provide hope and touch the lives of others in his quest to find a cure for this disease. You can read more at Ryan’s Story.

Without a cure, the most important muscle, the heart, will eventually fail those who are diagnosed with DMD. The average lifespan of those affected is only twenty five. The goal of Ballou Skies is to raise funds for Ohio State University Medical Center, where doctors are able to use the latest technology to scan for scarring and other heart problems and then track these problems with future MRIs. These screening techniques allow boys and their families to learn about potential complications before they become untreatable. The more hearts doctors can study and map the progression of scarring and the weakening of this vital muscle, the more lives can be prolonged until there is a cure!

Last year the only member of the Ballou Skies Team was Ryan’s father Ty. This year the team has expanded to include
Jeremy Corman, his wife Jocelyn, myself and possibly a few other athletes. If by drawing attention to the need for research we can extend even one boy’s life by a couple of years, then I can honestly say there isn’t anything else I would rather do. Every last moment spent training, competing and sharing Ryan’s story, and stories of others like him, will be time well spent. I think it’s safe to say no race could be as difficult for me as what he has already lived through.

Please help get this party started people! Let’s join together in supporting this family, this research and boys like Ryan. There are several things you can do to help, and some of them won’t cost you a dime. Here’s where we could use your support:

1. Become a member of the Ballou Skies Facebook Fan Page.

2. Suggest that all of your Facebook friends become fans of the Ballou Skies Facebook Fan Page. This will take less than ten seconds, I promise!! It takes so little time, and you CAN make a difference. It starts right now – with you!!

3. If you do have an extra $5.00 or $10.00, write at check or donate through the Ballou Skies webpage. It’s easy, it’s fast and for heaven’s sake it’s tax deductable! We are very lucky to be able to train, race and have a healthy heart. Please think of how good it will feel to support those who don’t have the same opportunity. It’s a full-fledged 501c charity, and you just hit the button. Thank you in advance for any donations you’re able to make!

4. Eat peanut butter. That’s right, I know you’re already doing it anyway, but now do it with a greater purpose. In March, Ballou Skies will be unveiling its own brand of Natural Peanut Butter and 100% of the proceeds will help fund the Ballou Skies Charity. Check out the label and picture below! It will be available in Pittsburgh at Giant Eagle, but I’m working on Ty to get a mail order program started as well. I will organize a contest when it hits the market and I promise to get you all involved. Who doesn’t love peanut butter…and there are so many wonderful health benefits!!

With all of that said, all of this requires racing too right?! Well, here’s my 2010 Race Schedule where I’ll be sporting my brand new Ballou Skies Race Apparel (while riding my bike “Blue,” I guess it was meant to be!).
Please tell me what you think (if I’m losing my mind, if I’m crazy, if I will see you at any of these races, etc!).

2/27 Spring Thaw 10 miler – North Park, Pittsburgh, PA
3/27 Just A Short Run ½ Marathon – North Park, Pittsburgh, PA
5/8 Kinetic Half Ironman – Spotsylvania, Virginia
5/23 Columbia Olympic Distance Triathlon – Columbia, MD
6/27 Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 – Lubbock, TX
8/1 Pittsburgh Olympic Triathlon OR Whirlpool Steelhead 70.3
9/11 Pacific Grove Olympic Triathlon-Pacific Grove, CA

The rest is TBD my friends! Sometimes you just have to wing it!?!

I hope you’ll stick with me, follow my adventures and show some support for my friends at Ballou Skies. You guys are amazing and have just come through and supported me in such a big way this past year through the ups and downs. Thanks for everything you do…saying I’m lucky to have you doesn’t do it justice. Stay posted my friends, the best is yet to come!

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