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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Between the Lines

Chris Wodke and Kevin Klein at TriRock Lake Geneva

"I need something- the distraction of another life- to alleviate fear."- Bret Easton Ellis

I've heard professional athletes say they leave behind their problems during the time they are on the field. That time between the lines is when trouble fades and there is only the game or the race. Recently I needed my own time between the lines.

As I stood at on the beach last week waiting for the start of the TriRock triatlon, I honestly did not want to be there. It had nothing to do with the 44 degree temperature and 6:30 a.m. start.  I've been competing since May with a muscle knot on my ankle it's getting worse. Staying home would have been smart. But I told Team CMT member Kevin Klein I would be there. The last time we were in the same race was at Pleasant Prairie in June and I bailed from exhaustion in the swim. I needed to redeem myself.

I'd let some things that happened in Austin at the National Championships really get to me. I honestly almost gave up triathlons. I blew off doing several triathlons this summer because mentally I just didn't feel like it.

I had a bad experience at Pleasant Prairie which did not help. But I bounced back with two really good races at Portage and Fredonia and again qualified for Nationals next May in Austin.  I was back and excited about competing again.

Then life intervened again and I found my mind far away as I stood waiting for the start last week.  My dad who is 81 recently entered the hospital and a nursing home. He was 3 hours away in Iola Wisconsin and that is where I wanted to be. I would be driving there right after the race.

When my dad entered the hospital, my youngest brother  had the responsibility of managing his finances.  My brother soon found out  my dad had virtually no money. Only a year ago he had a healthy savings account balance.  We soon found that all his money had gone to his ex girl friend and her daughter. We think the amount is at least $71,000 maybe more.  My dad has dementia, making him an easy target. On one day in March $6000 in cash was taken from my dad's account.My dad had told investigators he did not want to prosecute.  He thought only $2000 was involved and did not want to make a fuss about it.  After the race my goal was to show my dad the checks made out to the two and get him to understand how much was gone. I wanted to show him the cash withdrawal slips and determine if he had signed them. My dad has consistent in one thing. He has repeatedly said he did not give away all his money. I believed him because my dad is a fugal man, not prone to giving away money. Could I make him understand how much has gone and where it went? Could I make him want to pursue and investigation?

We didn't at this point know how we would pay for my dad's care. Giving away all your money usually renders you unfit for government aid.  It made me sick to think that two people he thought were his friends had taken advantage of him this way.  Would we be able to hold them accountable?

I just wanted to visit my dad and make sure he was OK. Imagine being in a nursing home with no family closer than 3 hours. Most of his friends had passed away. I know he just wants to go home. When I look at my dad I wonder if that is how I will be at 81.I am so genetically like my dad. I have his CMT and asthma. Will I get dementia too? Who will take care of me?  Will someone take advantage of me? I am there to protect him and fight for him. Who will fight for me when I am 81?

So I had lots of thoughts in my mind as I waited.  As much as I did not want to be there I needed the distraction of that time between the lines. It is too easy to get defeated and discouraged by the things that happen.  Not only did I need the distraction of the race, I had to prove to myself that I could race despite all the distractions.

I did race that day and was focused the entire race. I felt so good about even getting to the starting line and finishing strong.  Just like life, I can't control what happens in a race or how well I do compared to other competitors.  What I can control is how I prepare, my focus and determination to finish. None of that matters if I don't show up and race.

The ability to concentrate and lose myself between the lines has paid dividends.  The discipline from the race has carried over to work. I am much more able to concentrate.  I found the relief I needed in the distraction of the race. I won't walk away from that so easily again.  For me racing is about staying mentally and physically strong as I battle the effects of CMT.

My dad's case is now working its' way through the system. I looked at an assisted living place this week so we can bring my dad home to Milwaukee.  His family will make sure he is well taken care of. Knowing he is close and we can visit him often will ease all of our minds and I try not to let the distractions get to me.

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have almost 100 members in 17 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

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