One mile. “Is, if you have a six thirty mile in you, now is the time to run it,” encouraged Don Reichelt, my race guide. I had never met Don until two hours prior to the race. Daniel Tun, my original guide, had been injured one day prior. He posted a Facebook status that an athlete required a last minute replacement guide. His friend, Lore, asked Ironman triathlete, Don Reichelt, working the Newton Running booth at the Chicago Triathlon Expo, if he wished to guide. Don said yes. Don raced me to my first Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championship.
In 2014, the Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Championships moved to the Fox Island Triathlon in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Daniel Tun would guide me. I arrived in Fort Wayne where I had the privilege to meet Amanda, the beautiful young woman working the front desk. She helped me make my way to the eating area for breakfast. Afterwards, I had the joy of spending the rest of the morning and afternoon with her. It was the highlight of my day. In the afternoon, Dan and I went for an easy ride on our racing tandem. We did not push hard staying at about nineteen miles per hour throughout. We did some pickups reaching thirty miles per hour, but we held it for only a bit before slowing back down. That evening, the members of Dare2Tri went out to dinner at a location recommended by lovely Amanda.
A quarter to five o-clock. Time to prepare. Dan and I had breakfast. Based on some of the drills provided by Jenna parker as well as the work I had been doing with Stacee Seay, I was more confident than I had ever been heading into the swim portion of a triathlon. I was nervous since I am never confident about my aquatics, but I knew that the preparation could help me avoid needing to rely on flipping to my back and resorting to the back stroke as I have always done in every triathlon since I began racing many years ago. I was my usual shivering self as we prepared in the race transition area. I put on my XTERRA wet suit and we made our way to the swim start. A heavy fog rolled in. It was impossible for spectators, athletes, and race officials to see beyond a few feet. Altering to a duathlon was considered, however, the fog was so thick that the bike course would not be safe either. We waited. I forced down some food. Word came that the race would soon begin. Dare2Tri athletes would be the first wave. Dan and I put on our tether and walked into the water. One minute away.
Horn sounded. I put my face in the water. I wanted to vomit. Fear combined with expectations. I was better prepared. I could make it without resorting to the back stroke. Yet, my chest muscles tightened, and doubt settled in. Dan had me take deep breaths. I stroked, but my mind wandered to that point when I would want to flip. I tried relaxing. I wanted to flip. I knew I could not. I should not. I stroked my arms and kicked my legs. “You got it. All day buddy. We can do this all day.” I had a long way to go. that frightened me. The first turn. One third of the way done. I smiled. Each time I exhaled I sounded like a little motorboat. I used that sound and rhythm to my advantage. Dan encouraged me. “You’re halfway to the final turn.” Just then, my chest sank. My legs were tired. I was short of breath. My confidence was gone. Dan grabbed me. “You’re fine. Keep breathing. Keep kicking.” I did not think I could do it. “If you need, flip to your back.” I treaded water for a few seconds. I considered turning to my back. I needed to swim on my stomach. I resumed. The next turn. Just a few hundred meters. A burst of energy lifted my legs. With more confidence and strength than I can ever remember, I powered towards shore. Dan grabbed me. “You just killed it, buddy!”
We jumped out of the water and moved to transition. Stacee cheered us as we prepared for the bike. She and Dan agreed I had finished fifteen to twenty minutes faster than at ITU Worlds Chicago. It was my second fastest swim ever. For the first time ever, I had gone the distance on my stomach. We jumped on the bike. We rolled at twenty-four miles per hour. We pressed by the halfway point of the twenty kilometer course. We pushed hard. the sun beat down. Only minutes away from my favorite discipline. I cramped. We reached a turn. As we made the turn, we stopped pedaling. I flexed my leg and foot. We resumed pedaling after the turn. Feeling better, I pressed hard. Dan told me it was time to pull back as we neared transition. We coasted home.
I put on my Brooks Running shoes, tether, and Pinnacle Performance hat. Run course was hot. My legs hurt. Dan and I rolled through the opening mile. We reached the turn-around. We took liquids. A few steps after the aid station, I cramped up very badly. I ran through the pain. I stumbled to a job almost a skip. I walked for about two steps. I ran. Dan said I was on pace for a triathlon personal best. I needed to go. One mile. We raced home. Fans cheered. I was the 2014 Paratriathlon Mideast Regional Champion!
Thank you Daniel Tun. Thank you Jenna Parker for being my friend and coach. Thank you Dare2Tri, Pinnacle Performance, and Base Performance. Thank you Amanda for being the highlight of my weekend. Thank you Fox Island Triathlon.