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Sunday, September 8, 2013

How a Tri Newbie Group Saved my Season

Tri Wisconsin Tri Newbie Group at Pewaukee Triathlon

"I've failed over and over in my life, that is why I succeed.'"- Michael Jordan

I almost quit doing triathlons early this season after my first race. I was denied access in the National Championship wave of the Paratriathlon National Championship. I had genetic proof  of my CMT and tests that showed I had impairment to meet the standard. The assessor says I was clearly impaired, but that I would not be allowed into the wave.

The USAT blamed the ITU standards, the ITU points the finger back at the USAT.  The standards really assess for MS. Athletes with MS have great challenges and I think they should be competing. CMT is much like MS and those of us with CMT deserve to compete. It was so frustrating to go to Austin and be rejected again. I was angry. Comments made to me after the assessment by the USAT Paratriathon Manager also did not help. In the weeks following the race, I got no good answer why CMT affected athletes were not classifying in and what the USAT was going to do about it.

I also did not have a good race in Austin. It is a long story, but I was over 7 minutes late starting my race. I still would have placed in the top three and would have been eligible for the ITU World Paratriathlon Championship in London this month.  But I was competing in the Open Wave. I took 2nd in the wave, but it was a bitter sweet result. I had worked so hard all off season to be ready for the National Championship. I wondered why I was putting myself through this.  I had come so close to competing for a National Championship, I did not know if I wanted to continue. Twice I was treated like a scammer by the assessor and I later found out the assessor was not even ITU certified. So it is possible if I presented myself at an ITU event I would be accepted.

I was angry and frustrated and had decided to quit. I told my team I was done competing in triathlons because I was so frustrated and angry....but the sport was not done with me yet. Before I left I had signed up for a Tri Newbie group with the local triathlon club here in Milwaukee.

The class is for new or beginner triathletes. The class was going to end with us doing the Pewaukee Sprint Triathlon.   Even though I had done triathlons I was self taught and felt I had a lot to learn. I kept making mistakes in races.  I cleared my entry with our coach Scott Stauske.

Another reason I wanted to take the course is I had dropped out of the class the year before. I was physically exhausted after the National Championship the year before. The temperature during the race was 103 F. It took two hours to find my family after the race. I did not bounce back well after the race and was unable to train with the class.

So I was back to finish what I started and see if I could find some joy in competing again.

At our first meeting our coach Scott talked about his experience as a triathlete with the swim. This three time Ironman related how he had baled out of a swim in a race and that he still struggled with this part of the race.
I had baled out of swim the year before and it still bothered me.  I learned from Scott that bad races happen to everyone, even Ironman finishers. You learn from it and you go on.  It felt good to hear someone so accomplished say they sometimes struggled in races. It made it OK for me to fail sometimes as well.

The best part of the class was meeting my fellow athletes and training with them.  I mostly train on my own, so being in a group was a real treat.  Training became fun again. We had a number of swim workouts together and I picked up great swim pointers from Scott and some of the guest coaches he arranged.

Before I knew it, it was time for race day.  Scott was there to get a group photo before the race and was there to cheer us on.  Two of my group cheered as I crossed the finish line. We watched as the rest of our team came in. Then Scott broke out the champagne and toasted our accomplishment. Every race should be like that.

Post Race
I had so much fun because of the members of this group. They made doing a race fun again. I found the joy of racing and not worrying about time and placement. It was just fun to be out there and be part of  this group.  I have since completed 6 races this season and enjoying everyone of them.

One of the group started a facebook page and we still stay in touch.  Our coach even planned a graduation party complete with cake.

Graduation Day

I know many of us will continue to stay in touch.  Several of us are doing a triathlon this weekend.  When I did age group nationals, team mates, Tiffany, Mary and Ann were all working as volunteers on the bridge.
So thanks guys, you helped me find the joy in competing again.  I even had my first mistake free race at age group nationals.   Thanks for the fun your all brought to this group and your determination to reach your goals.  Thanks to Scott our coach who is doing Ironman number four today in Madison. I don't know how he found time to do his training and coach us!  Thanks again to Scott and my team members.

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 127 members in 27 states. We also have members in Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. 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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