Life remains exceedingly busy with trying to sell our house, purchase another house, and sort out the details for getting hand-controls so I can return to the land of the driving. As such, it has been an embarrassingly long time since the Challenged Athletes Foundation Paratriathlon Camp in San Diego and I’ve yet to do the experience justice on my little blog of life. So let me try to move the rusty hinges of writing and drop some knowledge on you, covering one of the highlighted efforts of our weekend.
There were 15 (I think) of us athletes participating at the event, split about 50/50 between ambulatory and wheelchair athletes. Leading all of us, we had 2 head coaches (Mark and John), 2 athlete mentors/coaches (Justin and Patty), and 2 more triathlon coaches/athletes (Beth and Jay). For the running portion of a paratriathlon, the ambulatory athletes, well, they run, and the wheelchair athletes push a race wheelchair. Anyways, we were divided into two groups for break-out sessions to focus more individually on techniques, rules, and advice for our particular mode of running. On Friday (the first full day of our weekend), for us wheelchair athletes, this involved setting up our race chairs on the trainer/roller (our Athlete Mentor/Coach Justin Meeders engineered and constructed this, by the way) which provided a perfect opportunity to address race chair fit and really home in on our push rim strike.
I captured some video (sorry for the poor quality, on account of my video skills, not the phone camera) from most of our sessions (sorry Kerry, I somehow didn’t get yours) and just finished posting up on my YouTube Channel, a few of them may be a bit long-winded and dull (mine in particular), but there’s some great information and advice on pushing.
If you made it through the videos, you may have noticed my retro ride. The Purple People Eater, as I like to call her, is a bit dated and so short, that we had a little difficulty getting setup on the rollers so she wouldn’t take off. Having a shorter race chair helps with maneuverability and enables you to perform hip-check line adjustments with more ease, but I’m after something longer to smooth the road out and hold a straighter line. When I’m really beating on the push rims, I feel like I’m actually lifting the front wheel a bit on every stroke and loosing some of that power transfer, not to mention having to constantly play with the compensator to keep the thing going straight. Race wheel chairs, as with most anything in the adaptive sports world, are expensive and I am forever grateful to World Wheelchair Sports for loaning this one to me. It works for now and will likely see me through at least one triathlon before I can afford to get one ordered and custom sized to me. World Wheelchair Sports and Oregon Disability Sports are both helping with my CAF Grant application and recommendation letters (almost complete) and I’m crossing my fingers that I will be awarded an equipment grant from the Challenged Athletes Foundation this next spring to help with the expense.
Saturday afternoon we made our way to UC San Diego to try out our skills on the track with some sprints, longer pushes, and finishing up with a relay bringing both ambulatory and wheelchair athletes together.
Starting out this endeavor of becoming a paratriathlete, I’ll be honest, I sort of figured that the race chair/run would be my least favorite of the three activities, and the most challenging. After receiving more instruction at the paratriathlon camp this summer and putting in more sessions back here in Portland, I absolutely love the race chair! Since returning, I’ve had a few opportunities to get the chair out on Portland International Raceway during our PDX Summer Handcycling Series (Sponsored by Oregon Disability Sports and Incight) and feel very accomplished to be pushing a 10k at a pace under 6 minutes per mile.
So this next year I plan to knock out at least a couple of sprint (maybe even olympic) triathlons, and, if I can manage to carve out the time for more training and competition, I’d like to get into wheelchair racing, while hosting a regular practice locally, here in Portland. And after all that, new bucket list people (I may even be able to do this next October), I want to push a marathon in the race chair, besides, these new arm badges just look silly if I’m not out there earning them!