Grace-Filled Events

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Tri-ing Experience

Life gives us opportunities. When Grace was diagnosed with Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD) in November 2014, life gave us the opportunity to make a difference in this world through our quest to cure this terrible disease which may someday take her from us. Life has also given us the opportunity to share our faith and to show a positive outlook, as hard as that may be some times. There are days that aren't 100 percent perfect, but we do our best to try to realize how blessed we are to have Grace in our lives.

On Friday night, March 25, we had the chance to meet Lisa Roberts, someone else who has had opportunities showed to her, albeit a different kind. Lisa is a Gillespie grad who then went to SIU-E, before setting in Tucson, AZ after getting her masters from the University of Arizona. She's also a professional Ironman triathlete and one of the top female competitors in the world. For those of you not familiar with triathlons, that's the race that you swim, bike and run further than I usually like to go in a car. It's a grueling test of mental and physical toughness that only a select few even attempt, let alone finish. And Lisa's one of the best at it.

Family photo op getting to meet Lisa Roberts the night before Dualthon.
She was in town for the Litchfield Duathlon, a run-bike-run event that benefits the Litchfield High School cross country teams. When I got the press release for the race, it mentioned that Lisa would be doing a question and answer session on Friday night during registration pick-up for the event the next day. I immediately thought that this would be a great opportunity for us to give Grace another experience. We like to introduce her to people who have done extraordinary things, especially those with connections to our area. It's a way to get our story out to a new audience, but it also serves as a source of inspiration to me. It reminds me that great things can come if you take chances and take advantage of the opportunities that God gives us.

Lisa gave Grace won of her Timex Ironman visors as well!
So we made our way over to Litchfield to hear Lisa speak. It was an awesome experience for runners and non-runners alike. Her dedication to her sport is awe inspiring and it makes me want to continue to do what we do with Grace, which can be just as daunting as the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run that comes with every Ironman. What also struck both Mary and I was her willingness and enthusiasm to answer any and all questions. Whether it was a novice looking for a challenge or an experienced triathlete, Lisa seemed to really care about the question and did her best to help out, something not everyone would do.

After the Q&A, Mary and I went up to introduce her to Grace. After waiting our turn, I introduced myself (we had briefly corresponded by email when I was doing up some publicity for the race) and Grace. Mary and I told her a little bit about our daughter and our quest to give her as many experiences as possible. We also spoke about Ainsley's Angels of America, which Lisa said she had heard of, and how the group's namesake had INAD just like Grace. Following a photo with Lisa and her bike (which is nicer than about half of the cars I've owned), we gave her a Gracelet and she gave Grace a visor from her sponsor, Timex. It was an awesome evening and one we won't forget.

Lisa posed for a photo with us after she was the first to cross the finish line!
We kind of thought that would be the end of this particular opportunity, but like many things in life, plans change. With two Easter Egg hunts on our assignment list Saturday, we weren't sure that we would make it to see the race itself, but after Friday night, we made it a priority. We got up early (for us) and made it to Litchfield in plenty of time to see the competitors take off. Again, it was awe inspiring. These athletes weren't doing this for money or stardom. They were doing it to push themselves, to be the best they could be.

While we weren't able to stay until the very last person crossed the finish line, we did get to see my Aunt Kim make the transition from the first run to the bike, and we got to see the top finishers stop the clocks. Lisa would be the first one to cross the finish line, beating another racer by less than a few feet, and after she caught her breath, we brought Grace over for another hello. We were touched beyond words when she rolled up her sleeve and showed us that she was wearing her Gracelet for the race.

Lisa shared this photo wearing her Gracelet after the race.
I'm not sure if we'll get too many more chances to meet up with Lisa, but she'll always part of our Journey now. One of the coolest things about these opportunities for local experiences that reverberate on a national level is that we are able to follow our new friends, even if we may not cross paths again. It's like how we watched Dylan Miller and North Dakota State this basketball season after getting a chance to go down to the Bison locker room. Or how we'll probably watch more Vikings games this year than in every previous year combined after meeting Minnesota lineman Zac Kerin at the Moonlight Y. I've watched the Kona Ironman a handful of times over the years, but I'm sure this year will be different. This year, we will definitely have somebody to root for.

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