Monday, March 28, 2011

Falling In Love Leads To Denver Triathlon

Ever since that Thursday evening in May 2007 when I watched Fit TV's Insider Training featuring Lokelani McMichael, I have truly enjoyed what has resulted from the inspiration I received. It was the fifth time I had watched that very episode. Each time I watched it, I felt more and more inspired to tackle the sport of triathlon. I did not know how to swim, but I wanted the challenge to swim, bike, and run in one event. I did not know if I could achieve my goal. I did not know if it was even possible for me to race triathlons or whether I would even enjoy the experience. After losing my eyesight when I was fourteen years old, I was introduced to sports adapted for the blind and visually impaired. Baseball, basketball, and others. I enjoyed the ability to participate in sports again, but I kept comparing the experience to what it was like playing these sports when I had sight. It was night and day. I was never any good, but I loved being out there. I loved being around my friends and every so often, impressing a girl or two. As I played sports for the blind and visually impaired, I did not find the strategy to be as big a part of the sports experience as I was use to in my sighted days. I could not be a table setter like Bob Dernier, Brett Butler, or Ricky Henderson. The baseball for the blind was not built with the idea of "get 'em on get 'em over get 'em in." When I played basketball for the blind, I could not be Bobby Hurley or Magic Johnson by handling the ball, distributing to my teammates, and driving to the basket to draw defenders in just to kick it out to an open player for an easy bucket. Nor was I able to get out in transition and drain a backbreaking three pointer. If triathlon race officials allowed for accommodations in order for me to participate, would I have the same enriched experience as someone sighted or would the adaptations cause the sport to be vastly different that I would not like it? A greater question was, would I even be allowed to race?

I jumped online and began typing in search terms like blind triathlete and triathlon racing, visually impaired. I found several articles of many athletes who were blind and visually impaired racing triathlons. I also kept coming across the names C Different Foundation, Matt Miller, and Victory Over Darkness. After finding the C Different web site, I spent time reading about the founder, Matt Miller. I read about his time as a triathlete, model, and actor. I read how much he enjoyed his life and lifestyle, but wanted to be judged by the content of his character and not on whether he looked pretty enough on a specific day. Matt decided to start working with the blind and visually impaired to give them an avenue by which they could compete in the sport he loved. As he worked with one, two, then three athletes. More began to reach out to him. Friends began sending other athletes his way and before long, Matt had a steadily growing network of blind and visually impaired triathletes as well as volunteers willing to serve as sighted guides. Another of Matt's passion is telling stories so why not combine the love of triathlons and story telling to inform the world about these athletes? Thus was born, Victory Over A Darkness. A film set to document the courageous attempt by five blind and visually impaired athletes and their guides to train for and complete the Ironman Triathlon.

After reading about all this work, I decided to reach out to Matt and his organization. I introduced myself and my racing goals. Matt welcomed me with open arms and soon others from the C Different Foundation reached out to express a desire to help me in whatever manner they could. Months later, I ran my first 5K for CDF which was soon followed by my first attempt at a half marathon at the AIA Half Marathon/Full Marathon in Fort Lauderdale where Matt introduced me to an amazing race director, Chris Laskey. I had been focussed on my road race training and had just begun to work with some wonderful swim instructors, but was nowhere near ready for a triathlon at any distance. Matt insisted I had plenty of time to work myself into shape and get to New York for the New York city Triathlon. I was not quite ready, but I agreed to be there so I boarded a plane and headed to my date with the Hudson River. Plenty of prayers and a great sighted guide, Brian Pearlman, helped me through the swim and across the finish line in my first ever triathlon! Just over a year after Lokelani's interview, I had completed my first swim, bike, run event. I had always heard that "Once you experience your first, you get hooked." After the race, I was not quite hooked. I loved being out there, but the swim was so daunting. Then my friend, Kelle, walked up and said, "Take what you learned in this one and apply it to the next one." I laughed and said, "I am one and done." Kelle laughed right back and said, "Trust me, there is always a next one." Soon I was invited to Southbeach, but I declined because my swimming was not up to par. Brian Pearlman had agreed to guide me so I know I disappointed him when I chose not to race it. He will never say it publicly, but in my heart, I believe it. So when a second chance to race New York came about, I jumped at it. That experience was so magical mainly because of how proud my guide, Brendan Hermes was for our achievement. I know Matt was proud too. The countless family and friends who remained positive in the weeks leading up to the event lifted my spirits. The nonstop support from Facebook friends was amazing. On that day, I fell in love with triathlons! The moment I realized I had fallen in love, I thought to myself, "Yes, Kelle, there is another and there will be more."

I truly enjoy the experiences which come with triathlon training and racing. I love that the sport of triathlon is not a race, but a lifestyle. An active healthy lifestyle. In just a short time, I have received so much from the sport. I have met so many wonderful athletes and friends. I have been able to travel to other cities. This summer I am adding a new city to that growing list. Denver. I will be racing in the inaugural Denver Triathlon. I will experience John Elway's city. I will compete in the mile high city and push my body to the limits in a new way at a new altitude for me. I thank the race directors, Matt Miller and Chris Laskey, for the opportunity with which I have been presented. I look forward to sharing my experience on race weekend. I am also excited about doing what I can to promote the Denver Triathlon and the sport of triathlon. I am thrilled and hope my readers will come along for the ride over the next few months.

If anyone is looking for a triathlon event, either a sprint or olympic distance, please consider adding the Denver Triathlon to your schedule. Sunday, July 24, 2011. For more information, course details, and registration, please log on to:

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