Ahhhhhh, it’s official, I need there to be more hours in every day with my growing list of interests and involved tasks. I have several posts leading up to this content, most significantly, this is carrying forward from trying to figure out where to start with this whole adaptive sports business and “Some Acronyms I’ve been discovering“, as well as my post back on the 20th (“That was a week.“), laying out my discovery of Oregon Disability Sports.
After connecting with Trisha and Carly of Oregon Disability Sports, I attended their first Track and Field Practice session of the season. This venue is geared toward younger athletes and potential athletes (grade school and high school), but they were happy to have me join in, to get an idea of everything they have going on. My primary goal was to be able to try out a race wheelchair, which I would use for the running portion of a triathlon, if I make it that far. Well, as it turned out, I was too big for any of the three chairs they had available that day, but it was still a extremely beneficial event for me, to become more familiar with the chairs, and network with more people in this adaptive sports world. Also, I enjoyed seeing the young kids in wheelchairs, walkers, and forearm crutches, lots of excitement all around! Not being able to fit in a race chair, I took a lap in my everyday chair (actually, this one is a loaner while Tilite/Permobile and NuMotion sort out a frame issue on my chair). If you are, or know of anybody who might be interested in what’s available via adaptive sports, I strongly encourage you to check out ODS and come one out to one of the Track and Field Practices!
Carly, who is the ODS organizer for this Track and Field Practice provided me with several pieces of information in my exploration of getting into triathlons as a paratriathlete. As they don’t have any chairs that would fit me, Carly connected me with another local person (Darren Smith) who competes as a sponsored paratriathlete, told me about Kevin and his World WheelChair Sports non-profit in Eugene, OR, and gave me a flyer about a Swim Clinic put on by CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) and hosted by Nike, happening May 16. The great thing about these CAF clinics, is that, through generous contributions from donors, they are completely free to those involved, or wanting to get involved with adaptive sports needs.
Hey, I like to swim, can swim, and have never had any sort of formal technique instruction, so I checked out the event first thing when arriving home and am now officially registered to join on May, 16th at the Nike campus in Beaverton! Thursday afternoon, once released from my Jury Service obligation for the day, I gave World WheelChair Sports a call and had my first introductory talk with Coach Kevin. We went over some basic information, and Kevin explained to me that their loan program was limited to high school students, but he might be able to put together a chair that I could buy, and I was welcome to head down to Eugene to join them for their practice, and try out a chair. Turns out, they had a practice scheduled in Eugene for Saturday, and after tasking Greta to help me with a couple measurements needed in sizing out a chair, we made the last minute drive down to the Sheldon High School Track in Eugene.
Coach Kevin and Matt (who works with Kevin, helping out with all of the equipment work), arrived, and through a great chair shuffle, were able to set me up with a race chair to join the others for the day’s drills. The race chairs are definitely more tippy than your every day wheel chair, and it was interesting to learn that you aren’t suppose to grip the push rims as with the regular chair, but can be far more efficient with striking (hitting) the push rim to drive your wheels around. Well, there’s special gloves for this, and lacking these, I had to make do with a pair of my bike gloves and earned myself a blister by the end of the day trying to get by with somewhat of a grip/push. I’ve got to go through the budget tonight and see if I can manage to order a pair of proper gloves, unfortunately, as with any of this adaptive sports equipment, they are pricey at $160 a pair.
After some warm up, Coach Kevin had us work on race starts. One of the big differences between running via a race chair, and running as a two legged runner, is that the latter are able to shoot off the line more easily. In a race chair, you have to be able to develop your starting burst, so you don’t fall behind the pack, and are able to get up to your tempo pushing for the race. The tricky part about this, can be compared to drag racing. Applying a lot of wheel power from a dead stop, tends to want to pop your front end up off the ground and you run the risk of turtling over backwards, or veering off course, lacking your front wheel(s) to maintain your straight line. Following the start line practice, we moved on to drafting, falling in an out of line, everyone taking a turn as leader around the track. The first chair (pictured here) I started with had a foot plate setup, and I was struggling with the steering and track compensator (a lever you set specific to the track turns that lets you easily engage the appropriate steer needed when you reach the corner), so we were able to piece together a little different chair that allowed me to place my feet in more of a kneeling position (underneath my seat), and all around, felt better.
At the end of the practice, after signing up for my yearly membership with his World WheelChair Sports organization, Coach Kevin, being the extremely generous person that he is, sent me home with the race chair so I can get in some training/practice on my own between trips to Eugene. It’s not an ideal fit, and not the exact chair I ultimately need, but after I get some new rubber and the push rims installed on the wheels, acquire some strike gloves, and do some better fitting with foam, it’ll give me a chance to get some miles in around the track, and hopefully Kevin will be able to help me put together a more fitting race chair down the road. Also, turns out Coach Kevin is big into sailing and puts on adaptive sports sailing clinics on a regular basis, having taught sailing at Big Lake Youth Camp in my former years, this is highly interesting to me and I look forward to heading back down to Eugene to join his program for some sailing this summer!
For now, looks like I have some work to do, getting this race chair ready to go, and then some miles to log around the track. Eventually, I’ll need to dig further into obtaining my Paralympic Classification in order to compete and apply for one of the CAF grants this next year to potentially help in getting a race wheel chair. And, having just found out that CAF is putting on a Paratriathlete Clinic in San Diego, end of August, I need to figure out if I can make that happen between my work/life schedule, and whether it can be financially feasible for us to drive down with my trike and a race chair.
Next up, I acquired a dreaded blister/wound on my small toe and need to modify some hippy bike sandals so I can get back to pedaling my recumbent trike while my toe heals up and I can get those little piggies back in my regular bike shoes.