Sr. Judo Nationals Day 2

Day 2: Saturday, May 3

I woke up several times throughout the night. I guess the excitement of the weekend is getting to me. However, I did get an adequate amount of sleep to function. My body rejected more sleep around 7 AM PST.

I went to breakfast with two of my teammates. My face was stuffed full of a biscuit, gravy, eggs, potatoes, strawberries, bacon, sausage, and a waffle. It was all washed down with iced tea and cranberry juice. Of course, I would’ve eaten better, but having a full buffet breakfast was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.

After breakfast, I returned to my room and showered. Considering there is limited hot water at my house, the shower at the hotel was incredible. Although, I would’ve liked the water pressure to be a bit more intense. The hot water was nice though.

Team Wolfpack registered for the tournament without too much incident. I didn’t need my birth certificate, but I’m glad I brought it with me nonetheless. We had some down time after registration. During that time, I met several Paralympians. That in itself was a really cool experience.

The first athlete I had the pleasure of meeting was Myles Porter, silver medalist of the 2012 London Paralympics in 100K division of Judo. My sensei introduced us. I was a little starstruck. We may be seeing Myles this summer at one of our training camps. I also met Cynthia Simon, another athlete who competed in the quarterfinals in the 2012 London Paralympics. I was able to catch Kayla Harrison giving her speech. She is the first ever US judoka to win gold in London. Hopefully I get to meet her at some point before I leave Reno.

I got to hang out with one of my teammates and another athlete I met after registration. We explored the competition site (HUGE place) and I purchased my first piece of judo merch. The T-shirt is black and has custom printing on both sides. On the front there is a phrase: I do Judo. What do you do? Each “do” is highlighted. On the back, there is a graphic that reads JUDO in English and Japanese with a belt tied to the word. I am going to wear this T-shirt A LOT. Not bad for $20! The T-shirt purchase led me to take a trip to Walmart. I needed water and Gatorade for my fights. However, I purchased 2 boxes of Kind Bars as well as a pair of shades along with my beverages. My favorite Aviators have been squashed by items in my bag. 😦 It’s OK though. I’m slowly trying to bend them back into their original shape.

Once back at the hotel, we had more time to kill. I explored the hotel after putting my things back in my room. I went downstairs to find the fitness center. That was simple enough. There was another interesting event going on in the basement. It was a bunny show. I guess bunny shows are similar to dog shows. Apparently there were 2500 bunnies. All of them were in separate enclosures. LOL wut?! Admission was free, so I took a peek inside. The smell was overwhelming which led me to stay for only a few minutes. Once I left, I continued to explore the basement of the resort. There was a nice assortment of shops and restaurants.

I returned to my room at around 3:30 PM and hung out. Teammate R and I talked about our competition the next day. He retired to his room to take a nap. Weigh-ins were at 7 PM. We had to be downstairs by 6:45 PM. My friend M who I met at a judo seminar back in February invited me up to his room to hang out before weigh-ins. We talked about judo. He’s a really nice, down-to-earth person. I’m glad we are friends.

I managed to make it downstairs by 6:45 PM. We walked over to weigh-ins at around 6:55 PM. Basically, weigh-ins are exactly what they sound like. If you didn’t know, there are separate weigh-ins for men and women. I stepped into the little room with 20 other women. I found this experience to be one of the more interesting ones. For the first time, I didn’t really feel self-conscious about my body. Usually scales make me highly uncomfortable and I feel like everyone is staring. Some of the girls had stripped down to make sure they had as little on as possible to make their weight. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to worry about that because I am fighting in the highest weight division. My weight was 91.0 kilograms which equates to 200.2 pounds. I dropped weight since fighting my first shiai in April. Like I said, it’s weird, but I’m suddenly not as focused on my weight. I used to be one of those people who would silently obsess over my body image. That is slowly going away as I continue my journey as a judoka.

After weigh-ins, I learned that I would be fighting Katie Davis, bronze medalist in the 2012 Paralympics in my weight division. My heart leapt because it was different competition and a new challenge. It will be a great honor fighting her. I spoke to Katie for a bit after weigh-ins. It wasn’t for long because I was called back over to the team. As soon as I was in sight, I heard a voice say, “I heard you wanted to meet me.” Some guy came over and said, “Hey Sarah! What’s up? I’m Dartanyon.” Whoa – Um…. WHAT?! Dartanyon Crocket, bronze medalist in London… I, uh… *stammer* Starstruck, Uh hi… Tiny blush. After the initial shock, I was able to talk like a normal human being. Dartanyon was so nice. We’ve been friends on Facebook for several months. To finally meet him was a really cool experience. If you’re reading this, Dartanyon. It was awesome to meet you finally.

So that happened….. Freakin’ WOW.

After the guys weighed in, Myles came over and said hello to the team. He left and we had a short team meeting. Sensei gave us a pep talk and a briefing of what will come the next day. Then we were released to do what we wanted. I talked to both senseis about my fears. They encouraged me to have fun and just do my best regardless of who I was fighting and what was being said. I hung out with them for a while before heading up to my room. I wasn’t really hungry, but I came back downstairs later for a slice of pizza and a bag of chips. Probably not the best thing to eat for dinner, but my body was craving some comfort food for my nerves. I passed out around 10 PM.

Overall, the day was jam-packed with so much goodness. I met new friends and influential people who have shaped me in this journey.

As I write this, I am mentally preparing for what is to come the next day. Let’s do this!


Sr. Judo Nationals Day 1

I can’t seem to figure out how to put my posts on the DeFYary page of my blog. I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, here it is on my main page.

I decided to write about my experiences at the Senior National Judo tournament that’s currently taking place in Reno, Nevada. Why not document one of my first defining moments in judo? I want to share this with everyone!

Day 1 was a travel day, but it was a lot of fun. I am so proud to be representing my dojo and surrounded by the people who have become not only my teammates, but my second family.

Day 1: Friday, May 2

Let me just begin by saying that I already have pretty severe issues with sleep, but my insomnia only gets worse the night before a flight. So, the end result is absolutely no sleep before leaving for the train. I was up for a good 29 hours. At least I got a lot done. 🙂

Prior to leaving for work, my mother was awesome enough to a) make me an amazing farewell breakfast which consisted of an egg and cheese bagel, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and sliced avocado and tomatoes, b) hem my blue judogi pants, and c) help me locate my birth certificate. I love you, mom. Thank you!

I left for O’Hare Airport on the 12:10 train. My friend J gave me a ride to the train station. (Thanks J!) After an hour and a very good nap, I arrived in Jefferson Park, transferred to the CTA blue line, and took it all the way to O’Hare. Checking in was painless. Surprisingly, going through security was equally as painless. Because I had a significant amount of time before my teammates and coaches arrived, I opted to hang out in the lounge designated for travelers who wanted some privacy and quiet to themselves. The area was sectioned into 2 rooms: a lounge and a small dining area with vending machines. I decided to hang out in the vending machine room which had some comfortable seating. I ended up taking another 1.5 hour nap completely sprawled out on the comfy couch. It was awesome.

At about 4:30 PM, I made my way to the gate in search of my teammates and my coaches. Everyone was assembled and we boarded the aircraft. I touched the outside of the plane for good luck. Sounds kind of stupid, but I got the idea from a YouTuber named Shay Carl who does the same thing before flying. If you think about it, it’s kind of neat to know that you touched the outside of an aircraft that will carry you thousands of feet in the air and hundreds of miles to your destination. The flight was around 3 hours and 40 minutes long. I napped through it all. That’s the price one must pay if they don’t sleep before flying. It was nice to zonk out and awaken in Reno.

We took the shuttle to our hotel and competition site, the Grand Sierra Casino and Resort. The ride was 5 minutes.

We checked in and found our room. It is so nice! Two queen size beds. I got my own bed! Ahhh, bliss…

My bed in Reno - A place to call home for the next few days.

My bed in Reno – A place to call home for the next few days.

We had dinner at 10 PM PST which is midnight Chicago time. No big – I had a tasty pesto chicken sandwich made fresh by 2nd Street Express, a small 24 hour eatery within the hotel. Admittedly, I got strawberry cheesecake gelato for dessert. My teammate, coach, and I talked for a bit before retiring to back to our rooms.

A little later, I got a chance to hang out with my teammate (AKA my roomie) and another teammate. We talked about the upcoming competition on Sunday and our futures in judo.

I went to bed close to 1 AM PST. It was that time to say goodnight to Friday and hello to Saturday in a couple hours.

Needless to say, Day 1 was exhausting, but overall a great day. The only downside is that my guide dog W is not here. As soon as I maneuver through this weekend and figure out the swing of judo tournaments is when I’ll feel comfortable having W there without me worrying about her. She will definitely accompany me to the next one!

I am incredibly thankful for this experience. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the weekend has in store for me!

Different Pages, Different Paths

I write these posts as often as I can. Sometimes I have so many thoughts that I can’t get them all down before I start ignoring the desire to write anything at all. Confession: I am easily overwhelmed.

Life has always been hard. It’s like that for everyone… Each of us are on our own path. We choose which directions to go and we choose which efforts will lead us to success. For the longest time, I thought that many of my life’s decisions were impossible to make. I was and still am always scared to make a decision that will create a change that I may not be able to handle.

I’m going against my demons and create more and worry less. Here’s to another change. I have added a section of my blog titled “DeFYary.”

DeFYary = Defy+Diary

This section of the blog is dedicated to my journey in the sport of Judo. I have SO much to catch up on, but I can’t wait to share my experiences with you.

My Dearest W

Why I love my W, a spontaneous short piece of gratitude dedicated to my guide dog: 

A dog, a friend, a member of the family, and a guardian angel. Couldn’t ask for someone better. 
At first, we didn’t get along, but time passed and now we are inseparable. 
Here’s why.  
W is for her willingness to please, no matter what the cost. She lives to make those around her happy. It doesn’t take much to please this dog. She’s happy when you’re happy. 
O is for her Oh, so excellent guide work. I see us being together for a long time. She doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon. 
N is for her need to share, whether it be toys or a hug, W will always share something with you. All she requires in return is a smile. 
Z is for her zesty personality. She prides herself in her brisk pace and ability to be on target. You can see it in the way she carries herself. (I can’t help but smile sometimes.)
I is for her incredible endurance. Whether there is rain, snow, ice, and the danger of frostbite, she is always chugging right along. Once I forgot her booties, a handler’s mistake, and she guided me on 3 feet for a block. As soon as we were safe, I took her inside, warmed her feet, and thanked her for her effort. Most dogs would probably say “Screw it, I’m not going any further…” This wasn’t the case for my W. 
E is for effort and enthusiasm, her jingling ears as she guides, and her always happy constantly wagging tail. 
I love you, W. It took us a bit to get to this point, but today I can’t see myself without you.

Vegan for 2 Weeks

Yesterday [Wednesday, 12/11] marked the beginning of my 14 day journey as a newbie vegan. At the moment, I am simply testing the waters of this lifestyle. I know I’ll make mistakes… Hopefully if I get the hang of it, I can make some major changes to my life. Some may say I’m being extreme, but if that is the truth, then wouldn’t all of the world’s vegans have returned to omnivorism?

So here’s how it all began.

In the last few weeks, I have discovered that I have a sensitivity to dairy. Damn it, but I LOVE cheese… I won’t survive without it. *sigh* Well, after several agonizing excursions in the restroom, eating more dairy products out of denial, some intense research, and watching a lot of YouTube videos/food related documentaries on Netflix, I soon realized that something had to change.

Day 1 was yesterday [Wednesday] and I managed to survive without epically messing up too bad. My starting weight was 211. Ew – this number is going to change by Christmas!!! Aaaaaaaannnnnd…. Oh snap, I gave my weight away to the Interwebs.

Admittedly, the day wasn’t a total failure because I didn’t have much of the day to begin with. I awoke from my slumber at 3:30 PM after going to bed around 5 AM. After rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I stepped on the scale. After that, I ate some rather tasty food. Unfortunately, not long after eating, I got a migraine. Several Aleve and a short nap later, I went to the gym.

Here’s what I consumed for 12/11:

  • 2 cups Quinoa with garbanzo beans
  • Kimchee
  • Bean sprouts
  • Lightly salted seaweed wrap (Nori)
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 tsp flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. Almond milk
  • Blueberries
  • Almonds
  • Mushroom, onion, red pepper & light oil stir fry
  • Small slice of homemade pumpkin bread (I couldn’t help myself, but at least I didn’t eat a large amount.)
  • 1 Pickle spear

These posts will be more structured, but this is where I’m going to leave it. I want to try my best until Christmas. That’s my goal. 13 days remain.

Bring it on.

Rewind: Fears of a Legally Blind Sales Associate

I began my very first retail job at the end of September of this year. My role was that of a sales associate at a Halloween store which only opens its doors every fall. Believe me when I tell you that this is the PERFECT retail job to start with.. Why? Because this particular individual loves Halloween. Fortunately for me, my friend and fellow blogger was the store manager and she was awesome enough to hire me so I could get my feet wet with retail experience. There was a mix of emotions as I began this journey, but none of them had amounted to intense fear at first.

Setting up the store had it’s hurdles. A gesture in the general direction and the phrase “That goes over there.” were frequently used. There is no one else to blame but myself when frustrations hit. Admittedly, I had not told any of my fellow associates that I was legally blind up until the very last minute. I didn’t want to be treated differently and I refused to let my blindness define who I was or my work ethic. Although I am hesitant to talk about my condition upfront, no one seemed to notice it upon working with me. If they did notice, nothing was said. What was I holding back? Why did I have to hold it back? Why was it so different to talking about my needs as a student in college? The honest answer is “I don’t know.” I just need to be more confident in my abilities. I survived the season.

I often worked my shifts wondering when I would be fired. Negative as this may seem, I never knew if I was performing as well as the other associates. I had expressed my concerns and paranoia to my friend and she has assured me time and time again that I was doing just fine. Silently, I continued doubting. This in itself was unfair to my friend and to my fellow coworkers. Hopefully my concerns were safely hidden from the customers I assisted.

Patience had not been on my side as I assisted customers looking for their items. I refrained from talking about me and focused on searching for accessories and costumes, sometimes it would take a good chunk of time which was annoying because the item would often be right in front of my face. Furthermore, I had to find a way to contain my anxiety when I couldn’t find a particular costume or gave the incorrect information because the customer had seen that particular item and I had not. In these moments, I requested the help of my fellow associates and the managers. Best. Solution. Ever. Obviously, I’m going to try to solve the problem myself, but if I haven’t figured it out in a few minutes, it’s not going to ruin me if I ask for help.

Another huge concern were potential shoplifters. I was a dressing room attendant for the majority of my shifts and if people were stealing in front of me, I never know. Unless they make some sort of auditory indication that they are shoving an accessory into their pocket, how would I know? Paranoia shook me to my core pretty much all the time. Again, senseless paranoia did not do good things to me while working.

The season went surprisingly fast and before I knew it, the store was closed. We tore everything down and the unit was empty. Just. Like. That.

I am happy I had this experience and even happier that I didn’t quit. The what-if’s plagued me a lot, but I conquered them in the end. What did I learn? Grit your teeth and work with what you’ve been given. It all works out.

Keep The Big Rocks

My dog has constantly been checking on me by pushing her nose into my hands, always making sure I look her in the eye before she goes back to sleep. She’s worried because I haven’t really spoken to her all day or made an attempt to do obedience. Today is one of those days when I don’t feel the need to do anything.

It’s OK to be dramatic and let flow the haywire thoughts and emotions that rage inside you. When I was younger, I was teased for trying to express myself, for trying to tell people that I needed support. “Attention whore” is not a label I want to wear proudly on my chest, nor has it ever been. Guess that’s why silence has always been a default, an easy void to fall into.

Today, I have chosen to write, instead of speak because words are powerful and a healer in my world. I’ve been holding these thoughts to myself for so long. Frankly, I’m really tired of letting them run my life and overwhelm me. Maybe I will feel better after composing this letter, maybe I wont. The last few months have been hell – not gonna lie. This is a rather personal matter, but if I continue to lock it up, it won’t get better, only worse. -breathe-

Dear Big Rock,
I really miss you. Not only that, but I really need you in my life right now. You probably have no idea how much I miss you and I guess that’s OK because you’re out there living your life. That’s all I ever wanted… It’s entirely OK. I just… miss you. Being here alone doesn’t make me feel better about where I am in my life and who I’ve lost. We shared so much and I feel like I’m the only one who remembers. Maybe you can prove me wrong by spontaneously texting me telling me how awesome you’re doing? Perhaps that’s selfish of me to ask, but I express myself better in words, not by actions. You know this because you helped me knock down many walls when we were together. Without you there, I feel like I forget who I am, how I feel, and how life is not meant to be lived entirely alone. Being alone is agonizing…
You’ve made me a better person, one who doesn’t always hide behind words, one who isn’t afraid of receiving a hug and in giving one in return. All dramatics aside, here’s the truth: You don’t need me like I need you. I think I knew that all along. Maybe that’s why I tried to keep to myself when all I wanted was to be held by someone who knew me better than I knew myself. You’re one of those rare people who can truly be there for someone else without even realizing how much you’re actually helping just by being there. I need you here… I am completely lost without you.
Please – just once, don’t hold back. Fight to maintain communication… Anything would be better than this silence. /End

I sound rather pathetic – I feel pathetic and alone… I haven’t felt the warmth of someone else’s body caressing my own in a long time. They won’t return… But I will try to stay as hopeful as I can…

It’s going to be a very long night and an even longer holiday season.