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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

National Aquathon Championship- No Limits


Finisher Medals National Aquathon Championship El Reno, Oklahoma 2014

A goal is just a really awesome way to force growth on yourself.”  -Deena Kastor, 4 time Olympic runner


My "coach is crazy" was my thought. When I saw my coach’s workout for my first open water swim this summer I laughed.  She had me scheduled to do six laps on the course set up on Pewaukee Lake.   The course is one dozens of athletes swim every Monday night in the summer.  Most are getting ready for Ironman or half Ironman events. Me, I’m just a middle aged sprint athlete. Not in their league at all. I just try to stay away from them on the course as they speed by me. Six laps seemed impossible. I don’t even know how long the course is, but I do know I’d never done more than one lap. I thought "I can't do it, it's too much.

Last year I would do a bit of biking or running, then do one lap on the course and call it a night.
I thought there was no way I can do six laps on this course.  Each lap had to be at least 500 meters and the longest swim I’d ever done was 750 meters in a few triathlons.  Six laps would just be too far over what I thought I could manage. I didn’t really think I could swim much farther than 750 meters.
With CMT, I’m tired all the time and after a day of work a run or bike and a lap swim seemed like plenty. Where would I get the energy to do six laps?

I felt good about being able to do 750 meters in a race. There was a time when the swim was an anxiety producing experience.  I’ve worked through those issues and I’m able to swim even in a big rough crowd. I’ve mixed it up with the best of them at last year’s age group national championship in a wave of 150 athletes.

I only did one lap that night, but it got me thinking.
My goal was still there to improve my swim times.  I knew from my pool workouts when I was self coached that I hadn’t been swimming nearly enough to improve.  So it was time to challenge myself in open water as well.

I did some one on one swim training with my coach to work on technique. I’m a self-taught swimmer, so my technique needed work.    We went back to square one on the number of laps for the open water session.

Right about that time I saw the Aquathon National Champions in El Reno, Oklahoma advertised on the USAT website. It was a 1500 meter swim and 10 K run.  After nine marathons, a 10 K run is usually cinchy.  But could I do the 1500 meter swim?  So now I had my carrot. I promised myself that if I could swim 5 laps at Open Water practice I would sign up for the race.  The top finishers would be eligible to go to the ITU World Championship in Chicago which is practically my own backyard. I know the swim course there well, having done the Chicago Triathlon twice.

My coach broke the goal down for me.   It always helps when I have a big goal to break it into smaller pieces. That way it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
To start I did two laps, took a break and did two more.
Sometimes that was not easy. Many nights it was windy and the waves were high. Pretty much every night some swimmer ran into me and often over me. Still I kept at it. The number of laps increased a bit every week.

As I did more and more laps my confidence grew.  The night I did five laps I signed up for the race.
I was thrilled, not just to be going to the race, but because I had set a tough goal and met it. It took some guts and faith in myself to push through the mental barrier I’d set up.

On Sunday I found myself in the water of Lake El Reno waiting for the starting cannon. We’d be swimming a clockwise triangle course. The short leg was first, then a very long leg to right before the dam, then the last leg to shore marked by a huge red inflated arch.  Nice swim markers along the way.  The lake was huge so there would be lots of room to spread out.  The race director said the water temperature was 70F, but it felt much colder. I would guess 65 F would be more accurate.  I had on a shorty wetsuit, but many racers had full suits.

I said to the women next to me that the buoys looked far away. Not a statement made in fear, just a casual observation.  I’d been swimming distances almost twice my race distance in practice. I’d just done a non-stop 1500 meter workout in the pool, so I knew I was ready.
Early in the race, one of the racers kept trying to go over me. I repeatedly pushed her away. I was not bothered by it at all since I’d been run over so many times in practice. The water was brown and murky. I could not see the bottom, although we were told on many parts of the course it was shallow enough to stand and take a rest.

Even though the buoy was far away it got closer with every stroke.  I would use a moderate pace for 20 strokes and then a fast hard effort for 20 strokes.    I passed stragglers from the previous two waves that I could identify by their green and blue swim caps.  I saw swimmers resting on kayaks. Not me, I was strong and steady.
On the last leg my hands started to go numb from the cold water.  Before I knew it I was swimming right into the arms of one of the race volunteers. He helped me up the ramp. I checked my watch and my swim time was 40 minutes, 2 minutes faster than my goal time.  I was thrilled.

The run was uneventful. I’ve done so many running races in my life, that it’s second nature.  I had not trained hard for this part due to an ankle injury. The goal was to hang on and finish. I was also having abdominal pain for no reason. It was really all a minor distraction.  It’s been like that all season.
I could tell my body was tired, it had been a long season.  As usual for me I did not really sleep the night before this race. This was the last race, I just had to hang on. Two loops of a flat course.  Perfect weather for the race, overcast and in the low 70’s.    It was not my best 10 K but I finished with a total race time of 1 hr. 48 minutes, three minutes over my goal time.

I finished 11th in my age group. The top 20 in each age group move onto the ITU World Championship in Chicago on September 16th.  I will once again race for Team U.S. A.  I had hoped to race as a para-triathlete at this event. Since I did not make it through medical classification that won’t be possible, but no one can keep me out of the Age Group race!

When I was on the trip I was reading the book, “The Perfect Mile”. It is about the quest to break the 4 minute mile. In the book Roger Bannister, the first runner to break the mark, talks about how once the barrier was broken, that many runners would achieve it.  The barrier to performance was partly physical, you had to be well trained and have the talent. Many runners had those, but they did not have the mental mindset to break the barrier. Once someone else did it, the mental barrier would be broken and many would follow.

Many of the limitations we have are self- imposed.  I know I laughed when my coach set a goal of a 4:51 race time at Boston and then I hit it exactly. So what else do we cheat ourselves out of that is within our reach if we would just set it for a goal?  What are you telling yourself you can’t do or are afraid to do?

When you stretch yourself, what will be possible, what will you achieve, what personal barrier will you break?  What will you inspire someone else to do?


I know for me it means because I stretched myself, I will be going to a World Championship. Something I would not have imagined doing only a few years ago.  So maybe I should stop laughing when my coach sets goals. She knows something.

*******************
Chris Wodke after National Duathlon Championship 2014

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT
www.run4cmt.com

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. as a paratriathlete 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:
http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Wodke/e/B00IJ02HX6


Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 159 members in 30 states. We also have members in Australia, Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; www.run4cmt.com or www.hnf-cure.org


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
http://cmtamputee.wordpress.com/

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