31 Aug An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 5
An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athlete themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.
Relentless Forward Progress
By: Laurie Allen
Say it out loud. Commit. Put in the work. Be accountable. If you do these things, it will happen – whatever “it” is for you. For me, it was a return to triathlon. Not just the race itself, but everything it embodies. Training, being strong and healthy, being with my tribe. The tribe who carry me through the darkest and scariest time of my life.
On February 27, 2015, my life changed forever when a fall rendered me a quadriplegic. I began the long journey back to a new life. I had not even left rehab when I said I would return to triathlon. I had no idea how it would happen or what it would look like, I just knew it had to be. I have amazing friends who were willing to do whatever it took to help me achieve this goal, friends who held a fundraiser to get my bike and racing chair, friends who took me out every week to train. I have an entire community cheering me on.
Fast-forward to August 6, 2017, at Jack’s Generic Triathlon. Race day. It was a weirdly cool morning with cloud cover which is fortunate given that I can’t manage temperature, and I overheat easily without knowing it. I have my own “Para Athlete” rack for my hand cycle and racing chair. In previous races, I could pack my gear for a sprint distance in minutes without even thinking about it. Shifting gears to pack my gear now was challenging. Running shoes? Umm…no. Wrist guards for hand cycle? Yes. A crew of 10 people to get me through this race? You bet.
I had my own swim wave and began at 7:25 a.m., just ahead of the open wave. I used a modified backstroke with pull buoys strapped to my legs to keep them from sinking. Andrea Fisher guided me along since I couldn’t see the buoys and Kelly Green made sure I didn’t flip over on my belly. We got through the swim faster than expected, then my transition team took over.
The one and only Matt Allen carried me across the beach to my chair where Vicki Ford, Judy Melchor, and Lesa Zimmerman got me to T1. Transitioning into a hand cycle is a bit more involved than jumping onto a regular bike. Two people pick me up and put me on the bike. We tape my hands to prevent blisters, wrap wrist guards around my hands and wrists, strap me onto the bike, and finally, put on helmet and glasses. Since I don’t have control of my trunk muscles, strapping me onto the bike prevents me from falling over if I hit a bump or make a turn. The one thing I don’t need? Shoes 🙂
After a speedy transition, we were off on the bike. I had my trusty crew of Kent Snead, Marla Briley, and Shay Webb with me for the ride led by Rusty Myers providing motorcycle support/traffic control. Who gets their own motorcycle on the race course? This quad. I was concerned about impeding other cyclists on the course, and I wasn’t quite ready to do the entire 12 hilly miles, so we made a route through the neighborhood just north of Lake Pflugerville. It was a glorious day to be on a bike with friends, and it seemed to go by really fast. Before I knew it, we were heading back into T2 with lots of cheers from friends who had come out to see the race.
I barely even remember T2 because it happened so fast. Off the bike and into the racing chair. Off with the cycling wrist guards and on with the racing chair gloves. You know what I still don’t need? Shoes 🙂 Jennifer Sanders and Erin Truslow had me moving so quickly onto the run course, I had to pause for a moment to gather myself. I didn’t have the opportunity in training to do a brick work out, so this was my first transition run, and boy were my arms tired! It was so great to be back out on the course with friends running by.
We turn for home, and soon, I can hear the finish line. I get a bit weepy even now just thinking about it. Logan is on the mic welcoming me back. Jack is at the finish line to give me my medal. Matt and all my friends are around me. There has never been a better finish line or a sweeter victory.
We don’t always get to live the life we imagined, but we have the opportunity to live the life we have been given. We owe it to ourselves, and to those who love us, to make it the best life it can be. For me, it had to include the sport I have loved for a very long time.