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Friday, June 20, 2014

Minding the Gap

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."- John Wooden

I've been to London a number of times. as the doors close on the sub-way car, a voice tells you to mind the gap.  I still have the key chain I bought years ago with the saying.  It's good advise to watch the gap between the car and the platform as the door closes.

I'm well aware of gaps, at least gaps in athletic performance. The past two years I've done an indoor bike class. I do it to improve my biking so I can be competitive as a para-triathlete.  Our bikes (compu-trainers) are hooked up to TV's in the front of the room, so you can see not just your progress on the course we are riding but everyone else. For most of the class I was the slowest in the class by allot. The gap was huge.

But slowly and with lots of hard work I have closed the gap quite a bit. The last few weeks of class I was no longer the slowest athlete.  I actually was faster than two of the guys in the class.

Last weekend I did a brick workout with my coaches training group.  We biked on trainers next to a track and then did laps after riding the bike. We repeated a the bike/ run cycle a number of times. I cannot tell you how many times I was lapped by all the other athletes. The gap was huge and I minded. It bothers me a lot.  I hate always being the slowest one.  It reminds me of grade school gym class.

In an email my coach sent to all her athletes a few weeks ago she told all of us not to compare ourselves to anyone else. We should just worry about our performance. I know she is right but I can't help myself. I'm an engineer and we live by numbers.  She told me today not to compare myself to the other women. I cannot help it. It is what I do as an athlete. I want to be the best and right now the gap between me and the top women is huge. It seems insurmountable.

At the National Championship last year, even if I had classified in the National Champion would have beat me by 4 minutes. The gap used to be 30 seconds. I have been working all winter to bridge that  4 minute gap. So minding the gap in this case has motivated me to workout.  When I don't feel like working out I ask myself what the champ is doing. I always say... I bet she is swimming laps, or biking or running... whatever I am supposed to be doing. So minding the gap has motivated me. At a tri in Verona in February I improved more than that 4 minutes on my bike alone. So by minding the gap, I closed the gap.  I thought I was on track for Nationals in September.

Now a new gap has appeared.  At PATCO in Dallas the best para-triathletes in North and South America competed and I was totally out of my league. There are women in my class that can do a triathlon in 1 hr 25 minutes. I was hoping to get to 1 hr 35 minutes this year. I don't think I can ever close this gap and I am discouraged.  The athletes competing now are so good and my chances at a paratriathlon National Championship do not look bright even if I now classify in under the new system.

So I am a little discouraged and I shared this with my coach today in our bi-weekly meeting.  It is no fun to once again find myself in the position with a large gap to close.  I am not sure I can do it this time. All the hard work I am going to put in may not be enough and I am struggling a bit with my motivation. It seems so out of reach.

But my coach asked me what I was doing all this. I did want to win a National Championship. But what started all of this was my love of competition. I knew long distance running was getting more difficult so I started the switch to triathlon so I could keep competing. I still have that. I compete because it motivates me to keep working out. Working out is my best bet for keeping as much function as long as possible with CMT.

So even though it may not be fun getting beat by so much I will line up in the ITU race next weekend in Chicago. I don't know yet if it will be the elite race because I made classification or in the Physically Challenged Open Division.  I have to remind myself I am doing this to raise awareness.of CMT.  My dream was to make the US Team for Rio in 2016.  A goal that seemed possible only a short time ago, is now slowly slipping away as the performance gap between me and the other athletes grows and I mind very much. But I have to remember even though Rio may be gone, there is a lot left for me in this sport.

I know also I have to be patient, that I am doing really well for an athlete with CMT. It is just that I also remember the athlete I used to be. I used to be able to do a 21 minute 5 K.  It now takes me 29 minutes on a good day. Another big gap and I mind.

So I have some work to do to get myself mentally adjusted. I still have para-duation if I classify in. There is still the Senior Olympics. Age group events are still there. After all I qualifed as an age group athlete in duathlon. There is lots out there for me as a CMT affected athlete. I know how much fun triathlons can be.  So I have a bit of a mental gap to bridge. Don't worry I will get there. I'm staying calm and minding the gap!

Wodke competing at the PATCO race in Dallas for Team USA 1014

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  She was the 2012 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division. In 2013 she qualified as a member of the Team USA Duathlon Team. And was eligible to compete in 2014 at the Age Group World Duathlon Sprint Championship in Pontevedre Spain.  She chose instead to represent the U.S. at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 150 members in 29 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

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.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

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