If you don’t follow me on social media or get the gist from the title, I made the team! Not only that, but I am in Rio 3 short days away from competing here. In Rio. On Sep 11.
The whole process of the team announcement should have been a blog entry on its own. But imagine this.. Late morning on July 8 at my parents’ house in SC with my entire family. I get a phone call from our team manager and know this is the one I’ve been waiting for. I pick it up, and she says, ‘I just got the email a few minutes ago…You’re in’. Then came a few questions, making sure she was looking at the right list. As it slowly kind of set in, I got to hang up and go share the good news. Walking into our kitchen with everyone waiting in anticipation. And then seeing the joy on my mom and dad’s and sisters face. The hugs from Brian, telling Dallas I was going to Rio. A moment I will NEVER forget and one I love being able to spend with my biggest supporters. Then the overwhelming day of sharing the news with the world, a surprise Rio cake made by my sister and letting it all sink in.
It took a few weeks for it to actually sink in. The workouts continued towards Rio as they had been all along. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I was at the gym and someone asked me if I was competing in Rio. When I got to say yes, yes I was a Paralympian competing in Rio, I actually started to believe it. I left the gym on a huge high. I WAS A PARALYMPIAN.
The days and weeks continued at a slow yet fast pace. Before I knew it is was the day before I was leaving and the emotions were high as I packed up all of my things. All along, I was telling Dallas that momma was going to be gone for a little bit in Rio. And every time he would see my bike, or running leg, we would say ‘Rio’ and ‘fast’. It got to the point where I said, How does momma run? And he said fast. And then ‘Where is Momma gonna run? And he said Rio. And then: What color medal does momma want? And he says gold. When I put him down to bed that last night I didn’t want to let go. I said I would be back soon and he responded with ‘Bike’, ‘Rio’, ‘fast’. So I think in his tiny little head there is some understanding of where I am. And even know when we face time, he says Rio and gold. But how I miss him..
Our triathlon team is consisted of 12 total athletes. 2 of our teammates are visually impaired so 2 of the 10 are guides. Then we have our team leader Amanda, 3 coaches (Mark, Wes and Chris) and our bike mechanic.
On Aug 30th, all 17 of us traveled to Pensacola, FL for a 5 day training camp. It was incredibly hot but great training leading into Rio. We were able to do our own independent workouts in allotted times, spend time on our own or with the team, have team dinners and just get focused on the task ahead.
From FL, we all went to Houston for in- processing and it was incredible. The amount of logistics that go into having SO many US athletes come through is pretty daunting. The team behind the team for Team USA is the best team around and we have them to thank for making us all feel like REAL athletes. And in- processing! All the gear we get! Ralph Lauren, the Omega watch, Oakley, etc… It’s so overwhelming and wonderful. And then getting a police escort to the airport as I silently thanked everyone who got me to that point. I was completely overwhelmed with the moment. WE WERE GOING TO RIO!
We landed and got to the Olympic Village a few hours later and quickly realized how huge it was as we walked to our USA dorms with our stuff. A huge perk to this trip has been that we don’t have to lug our luggage everywhere and somehow it just shows up in our room after we travel. A huge testament to the team behind the team and them helping us do as little work as possible. The village was quite a sight. Every kind of disability, every country and all sporting their nations colors. Talk about bringing the world together! Our village rooms were suites with 2 people in a room and a common area. I’d be lying if I said they were spacious and luxurious but they did the job. And the dining hall is massive! Food from all over the world and so much of it. Seriously guys, it was huge. Team USA had a great setup with a lounge, sports med, a recovery room and made us feel at home for the 3 days we were there. There was an awesome training pool and we used trainers on site to get in a ride and people could run along a path in the village. This week is about the taper, doing less and less to get our bodies ready for race day. Brian and his dad got in before most of my family and were able to come to the Village to see me there. Seeing Brian was just what I needed and a calming sight. His hugs are the best. We got to FaceTime Dallas which I’ve luckily gotten to do every day. I think he’s grown a foot but is as handsome as ever. Obviously.
Last night was opening ceremonies and it was freaking amazing. We all dressed up in our Ralph Lauren gear and looked super sharp. We took a bus to the arena and got to hang out with all the other countries while we waited to march in. The big thing here is pin trading and we went around taking pictures and trading pins with other countries. We were the 52nd country out of 152 and as we all stood in the tunnel waiting to march in, seeing the American flag up front..it is a moment to remember. Marching in chanting ‘USA, USA’ as a team and seeing the packed stadium. Looking up into the area where Brian said they were sitting the big American flag and seeing my parents and Brian. Knowing that somewhere in that stadium were all my other friends that made the trip. It. Was. Amazing. And being there with my teammates that often feel like family and dancing in the back of the delegation with Hailey, showing off our moves to the World. Oh what a night it was.
And then this morning. An early one as we got on the bus to head to our race site at Copacabana. Walking into our hotel room and seeing that it had been decorated with so many notes from friends and family, a good luck flag, and stuff on the walls. An overwhelming feeling as I read through all the notes and felt all the love from afar. I say it often, but I am a lucky girl.
We also had our race briefing today and got to check in our bike as we often do before a race. And a great finish for the day with a family and friend’s dinner here at the hotel where I got to see my family and 17 of the 19 Team Melissa crew. A hug from my mom and dad are always reassuring.
My family and I are so lucky to be part of the BP family program. With BP as a sponsor, they are generously taking care of my family while they are here in Rio. Having the reassurance that they are taken care of takes so much stress off of my side of things and a thank you to BP will never be enough. BP talks about the EnergyWithin, but they are the ones giving me more energy to go race as best I can.
Now that we are here it is really real. Like, really, really real. I mean, 3 days until race day. It’s just so crazy. So much lead up time and then it’s here. And then it comes and happens so fast. As I write, I have been gone for 9 days and will be home in 6. Crazy.
I am feeling pretty good and anxious to kind of get going with it all. I have a slight worry and am trying to be positive knowing all will be fine, but I’ve had a quad/adductor issue for the past many weeks. Unfortunately, it has kept me from doing any speed work on my runs as when I do try and run fast, it’s a feeling that I can’t ignore. Almost like a spasm of sorts, where if I don’t stop and stretch that I will collapse and fall to the ground. I’ve battled this on and off since Dallas was born but I never thought I would be dealing with this day before my race. I tried a speed workout in FL and it aggravated it again and I’ve been trying to rest it since. And rest means, no running. So I will be going into the biggest race of my life having not run the 10 days prior. While this might not seem ideal, I am choosing to see the good side. I will be extra rested. My leg will (hopefully) be completely healed. And I have that running itch because I haven’t run in so long and am ready to just attack that course. And it will be race day. Whatever pain I do feel, I will be able to push through it. Caught in the moment. Caught up in a dream.
And on an extra good note, the minimal running has led to more time on the bike and my bike is the best it’s ever been. For the first time, I love and crave that saddle time. And believe it or not, it might be my favorite of the three. Oh how things have changed!
I have been extremely active in all the care for my leg. At home I was doing dry needling, ART, cupping, massage, KT tape and managing it the best I could. I am confident it will be ok on race day. I’ve come this far and my leg won’t let me down.
I know this is getting long but I have to finish by mentioning that race day is on Sep 11th, a day that changed the world and directly, changed my life. Since my injury, I have proudly lived a life of sport and I have chosen to race in honor of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Every year on Sep 11th, I reflect on how lucky we all are to be Americans and thank those that serve. So this year, as I put on my USA uniform and get to that starting line, it will be even more powerful. Racing for those that no longer can. Racing to represent a nation filled with people that ran towards a falling tower and not away from it. Racing to honor myself and to honor others and to never forget.
So there you go! Rio is here and as real as ever. And next time you hear from me, it will be about my Paralympic experience, having the race of my life and writing about how hard I worked to get on that podium.
READY. SET. RIO.