Thursday, June 12, 2008

Outback Charity Golf Tournament

I had a dream day on Monday. I took a drive down to the Outback Steakhouse Charity Golf Tournament in Pleasanton, CA. The Tournament was a fundraiser for MDA (Muscular Distrophy Association). Friedreich's Ataxia is one of the many diseases under the MDA umbrella. A large portion of the money raised on Monday is going directly to FA research.

Pat Kruk of Outback Steakhouse invited me to attend and I had a blast all day. I arrived at around 10am while the participants were showing up. I chatted with Pat for a while and then the tournament host John Madden showed up, yes the John Madden. I met Coach Madden and Pat told him that I had been riding my bike to raise funds, he said "You are strong." Coach was pulled away for a TV interview but not before I took advantage of the photo op:

Pat got a golf cart for me and I cruised the course with my friend Laurel meeting people and shooting the bull. There was food and drink at every hole so Laurel and I drove around all day eating and drinking Mai Tais, Ribs, Lemonade, Hot Wings, Long Islands, Seared Ahi...

On the course we hung out with Phil Bennet (24, FA) and other celebrities such as Tom Keating former All-Star Oakland Raider

And two-time Pro Bowler and four-time Super Bowl Champion, former San Francisco 49er Eric Wright.

At the end of the day, we had a great dinner Courtesy of Outback Steakhouse and a few words from Coach Madden. One of the goals of the day was to raise money to send kids to MDA Summer Camp. It costs around $500 to send a kid to camp for a week. So a few of the kids got up and told their stories...within about 25 minutes the MDA had collected 65 pledges to send kids to camp, that's over $30,000 in less than half an hour...amazing.

The tournament was a huge success ($150k all together) and we all had a lot of fun. Many thanks to Pat Kruk (Below, Right) and Outback Steakhouse!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Water Skiing

Yesterday I went waterskiing for the first time in about 8 years. My family owned a boat when I was young and we would go skiing, kneeboarding and wakeboarding weekly during the summer. During highschool a close friend of mine got into wakeboarding and we worked as lifeguards at a lake so we went wakeboarding several times a week.

As FA continued to progress I gave up wakeboarding and boating sports. I remember the last time I went wakeboarding, it was a struggle to get up and then I just wobbled like crazy until I went down with a splash.

On Saturday Disabled Sports USA Far West made it possible to experience boating sports again.

I pulled up to the lake at around 9am. This lake is a tiny little puddle made specifically for competition water skiing. It is only like 10 feet deep at the center, just deep enough for the boat. The lake is located at Pleasant Oak Ranch and the owner generously donates the use of the lake several times a year for DSUSA.

I met my instructors and we did a quick diagnosis to see whether I should try stand up skis or not. They asked me to stand on one foot, I could not, so we busted out the sit-ski. To me this thing looked kinda uncomfortable and lame. I soon found out that is actually quite comfortable and it rips! They fit me to a "cage" (the thing that you sit in) and it fit snug around my hips. The cage is bolted to the ski just like wakeboard bindings.

In the water I had an instructor, Brian, help me into the cage and then he helped me stabilize until the boat took off. I had a tough time starting, it took a couple tries and then I got it. I was up, skipping along at about 17mph. The sit-ski that I had was quite stable and the ride was effortless. It all came back to me, like riding a bike. I carved outside the wake then cut back, slowly at first then I started getting comfortable.

I cut out and back hard this time. I caught air on the wake and came down a little sideways. I swerved a bit then went down face first, water up the nose.

I had not realized how much I missed that terrible burning feeling in my nose...WOOHOO! I got up again and repeated the thrill, this time I cut a little harder and got a little higher, awesome...

I am stoked to discover boating sports again and I will definitely be back for more this summer. I am going to try a different ski, a more high performance ski that will allow me to edge a little more and cut harder...stay tuned!

Monday, June 02, 2008

F.A.I.T.H. and Sky Diving

This was a super packed weekend.

On Saturday morning I rode my bike down to Discovery park and went on a ride with some fellow disabled athletes, one of which was one of the fastest hand cyclists in the world Alejandro Albor who is currently training for the Paralympics in Beijing. We had a great ride and introduced many disabled athletes to the world of Cycling. This event was run by Disabled Sports USA Far West. Check out their Summer Programs.

That night part of the Ride Ataxia II Team (Me, Tess, John Lockwood, Sean, Mike M., Mike B.) traveled to Sunnyvale (South Bay Area) to support a teammate (Bart) and his family during their fund raiser, FAITH (FA In The Heart. This was truly a truly first class event. Dinner was courtesy of Outback Steakhouse. There was a great silent auction with some really impressive items. A live auction featuring a Bar-B-Q for 50 friends, a weekend condo in New York City, and a week in Hawaii (all separate items...). Matt Rupel (17, FA) gave a really nice speech. Phil Bennet (23,FA) presented a check for over $7,000. And I was given the opportunity to tell my story to the crowd. The evening's emcee was Sam Van Zandt of KBAY 94.5. Afterward there was an open bar and music by a truly talented cover band, Millenium Funk Party. We all had a great time meeting new friends and enjoying teammates. On top of all that, the event raised a lot of money, >$50K!

The next day (Sunday) I experienced one of the craziest things. I went Sky Diving with my friends Phil (23, FA), Brianne (3?, FA (that's lame, I don't know how old Brianne is)) and Eric. My Dad, Mike, and Brianne's Dad, Paul, Jumped too which was quite amazing, I had no idea they even wanted to.

So as I was saying, this was a crazy ride. Yes, we were strapped to an experienced professional but we still jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet (2.5 miles).

The plane seemed to take forever to reach the right altitude. I was pretty mellow. Phil was sitting on the ground right by the plexiglass door so he got a closeup of what we were about to experience. Phil has now jumped 3 times and Brianne has jumped 18 times so they were cool and calm the whole time, I think Paul and Mike were the most freaked.

We finally reached 13,000 feet and they opened the door. Then it all went down. Loud wind and screams of terror and excitement as Phil took the plunge. That's when I finally started getting pretty excited (completely horrified). Brianne was right in front of me and she flew out into the chilly wind.

My heart is pounding just looking at this picture.

Then it was go time, before I had time to reconsider we did a somersault out of the plane and I watched as the plane got smaller above me, that was the most terrifying 3 seconds of my life.

Then we turned over and started falling at about 100mph. There was a guy in front of me filming and taking still photos, I looked at him and relaxed a bit (what the heck, falling to the earth, looking another human being in the eye, this is wierd). After a couple seconds I got a little more comfortable and truly enjoyed the next 20 seconds.

The chute finally opened and I realized how fast we were going as I saw the photographer fall away at 100mph.

haha, nice out of control chicken legs

I could see forever as we were still at 3,000 feet.

We did some spirals and made it to the ground quickly to help the others land.

Everyone got down safely and we walked away with an amazing experience. Our jump at Parachute Center in Lodi, CA was worth every penny.

As we were sitting around afterward we were already planning our next jump...