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Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Proof, Life is not fair

Finish Line Towel, 2013 National Duathlon Championship, Oro Valley, Arizona
"Eighty percent of success is just showing up."- Woody Allen

Sometimes the key to being successful starts with just showing up. That was true for me on Saturday when I raced at the National Duathlon Sprint Championship in Oro Valley, Arizona.

The race was a late season entry to my racing schedule. A college friend lives in Phoenix and  was home for a wedding this summer, but was unable to stay to visit me. She suggested I come to Phoenix instead. I promised I would soon and a few days later saw an announcement from the USAT about the race. So I signed up since it was a good excuse for a visit and I would extend my season just a bit. What’s not to like about Arizona in late October?
Before I even got to the race I had a couple of decisions to make.

Would I rent?  Have my bike shipped or take it on the plane for the trip? I have a bike bag for taking my bike on the plane and used it to go to Austin this May.  Flying with a bike is a hassle and can be expensive.  Even though my bike bag looks like a suitcase and is fairly small, it can cost as much as $125 each way. Plus it costs around $50 each time the bike is taken apart and assembled, adding another $200 to the cost.  I‘ve taken my bike apart, after a race and assembled it again, but my bike mechanic skills are pretty slim.  I found out in Omaha at a pre-race bike check my handlebars were loose after I had assembled the bike. So I did not want to trust my skills before a big race.

I could use a service like Tri Bike Transport. You drop off your bike at a local participating bike shop and it is shipped fully assembled to the race site for pick-up.  The company was not transporting from my region and the cost for doing this for Iron Man Arizona is $500.  They will ship the bike back, but it can take 7-10 days and I needed my bike a few days after the race for comp trainer class here in Milwaukee. So this was not really an option for this race.

I could’ve had the bike shipped to the race site for Tri Bike Transport to assemble, but that meant finding a box and shipping to the host resort in Arizona. I did not want to chance the bike getting lost or damaged.
Tri Sports the race sponsor was offering high performance bike rentals, but seemed to be sold out of every model in my size.

I called around and was able to find a bike rental at Trek Bikes of Oro Valley. They were only a couple of miles from the race start and were an economical option at $85.   The bike was not entry level, but was not as nice or as fast as the road racing bike I own. I knew I would sacrifice performance for convenience and cost.

The next big decision I had to make was about the race itself. There were four divisions at the event, Standard (Age Group & Elite) and Sprint (Age Group, Para-duathlon).

The Age Group Standard and Sprint races were qualifiers for the World Championship in Pontevedre, Spain.  The top 18 in each age group qualify for Team USA and are eligible for the World Championship.
An email from the USAT asked us to confirm our registration and that we were in the appropriate age group. I was listed with the age group sprinters and  I noticed there were only 13 women in my age group. Because of age up rules only nine would be in contention for the 18 spots.  If I finished the race I would be on the U.S. team and going to Spain.  It was just one of those things. Most of the age groups had well over two dozen participants. When I raced as an age group athlete at the Triathlon Nationals in  Milwaukee this year, there were 44 women in my age group.

I had signed up to race as a para-duathlete.  Based on last year’s times, I was pretty sure I would place in the top three, maybe even first.   There would be no medical classification at the event which meant I had to race the Open Division. While it was possible I could be the Open Division National Champion, there would be no spot on Team USA or eligibility for the World Championship.

I had already won an Open Division Championship in Austin two years ago. What I really wanted was a chance for the US team and a chance to go to the World Championship. Even if I had raced in my category (TRI 3) and won I was not guaranteed a spot.  All Para-athletes have to apply and be selected based on their race resume. While I have an impressive resume from this year, because I am not classified I cannot even apply.

The classification process is being re-done and will be in place for the Para-triathlon National Championship in May, too late for this year’s World Championship.  It is possible I will never classify in. The assessors’ do not seem to understand how to assess for CMT.  The ITU and USAT have not really been interested in talking to our experts, so I don’t’ have much hope. They have been dismissive in emails about my situation and that of other CMT affected athletes.

The ironic thing is there are definitive tests for CMT (genetic) and tests measuring impairment (EMG, Nerve Conduction). So far the assessors have not been interested in seeing those tests. There is no definitive test for MS, yet those athletes seem to have ready acceptance. MS symptoms can accelerate or go into remission. There are treatments to slow progression. That is not the case with CMT, my disease progresses every day.
It was a tough decision but I switched to the age group race. My heart is really in racing as a Para-athlete, but the uncertainty of the classification system sealed the deal for me.

If I had raced Para, I would have been the Open Division Women’s champion, because I would have been the only one racing.  It was tough to see the athletes get their medals and a standing ovation.

I ended up finishing 8th out of 13 women and punched my ticket to Spain.  I raced as hard as I could so I would feel I had earned it. I traded a spot on the podium for a spot on the team. 

When I was not allowed to compete as a classified athlete in Austin this May, the Para-triathlon Manager tried to console me by telling me I was still a triathlete and able to compete in the open division. I was angry and told her I was there to compete for a spot on the U.S. team and to go to the World Championship.
That has been my goal for the last two years. I trained so hard for the Par- triathlon Championships the last two years, only to be denied the chance to compete.  This was one race no one could keep me out of.

When I signed up for Age Group Nationals here in Milwaukee, my coach asked me why. I told her I wanted to have the experience of competing at that level so I would be ready some day for the World Championships.  I always thought it would be as a para-triathlete. 

How ironic that I would qualify as an age group athlete and it was all so easy.  All I had to do was show up and of course finish the race. So at the end of May I will line up with athletes from around the world. I will represent my country and gain some valuable experience.  I will try one more time the week before to compete as a Para-triathlete at the National Championship in Austin.  So someday if I should qualify for the Para-triathlon or Para-duathon TRI 3 division, I will have some really valuable experience at the national and international level.

So once again life is not fair and one more time I’ve gotten the better end of the bargain. I think I’ll take it.

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 137 members in 27 states. We also have members in Australia, 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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