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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Triathlon Season Review- 2014

Cheryl Kearney and Chris Wodke at Boston Marathon 2014

 Don't be concerned with what you can't do. Work on what you can do and then count your blessings." -  Alan Robinson, 56 year old paralyzed runner

 Last year I had the perfect race. They don't happen often for me and when it happens on your home course it makes it even sweeter. It happened at the USAT Age Group Sprint Nationals here in Milwaukee. It wasn't because I was fast, I'm not. It wasn't because I finished high in my age group, I didn't.  It was the perfect race because it all went so well and it was so much fun. It was one of those races that make me realize how blessed I am. I get to do races all over the country raising awareness for CMT.

I really didn't have a race like that this year. It was really a year of struggles and although I finished 1st at many of the races, I struggled and made mistakes for most of the year. Here is a bit of a re-cap.

My coach set an aggressive goal of 4 hr 51 minutes. My guide Cheryl Kearney paced me exactly to reach that goal. I felt great  before, during and after the race, better doing this race than I have in any marathon. My coach had me so ready.  I finished 5th in the Mobility Impaired Division. It was an emotional day, running to support the Boston Marathon supporters.  The fans have loved us as runners and we were able to help take back the marathon for them.  It was a great start to the season.

PATCO  Dallas
I was selected to represent Team USA at the Triathlon Pan American Cup.  The new para-triathlon classification system was making its debut in Dallas.  I gave up a chance to race in Spain as an age group athlete for Team USA to race as paratriathlete in Dallas. Because there were not enough medical appointments I was given provisional permission to compete. I got food poisoning the night before the race and was still sick during the race. The 100 F heat did not help and two athletes collapsed on the course. I finished in 4th, but my bike leg was about 10 minutes slower than normal, a pattern I would fight all season.

Pewaukee Tri
I wasn't going to do the race, but it was the State Championship for the  Wisconsin Senior Games and lots of friends would be doing it. I remember standing at the swim start and seeing how rough the water was. I was not even nervous.  My bike was over 10 minutes slower, but the course was different. I noted it. I took 1st in my age group for the Senior games and qualified for the National games next year in Minnesota.

ITU Chicago
I was accepted to race at the ITU Chicago race and finally went through classification. I was disappointed again by being denied entry. Even more troubling was a CMT affected athlete getting in who had not worked out much all winter. It seems the system was punishing me for working hard to achieve at the elite level.  So far any athletes with CMT that can make the time standard for competing at the U.S. National Championship cannot make it through the classification process. The categories were also re-done. Those with neuro-muscular conditions no longer had their own category. We were now grouped with those with single leg impairments.  The way the categories are structured, even if I classified in there would be no chance of Team USA financial support or gaining points toward Rio in 2016. I saw my hopes for any para competition at the elite level de-railed in Chicago. I was offered a chance in the Physically Challenged Open division, but I declined. It was the low point of my season.

Duathlon Nationals St Paul
I took 1st in the PC Open division. It was cool to be national champion. Even though I am not a classified para-triathlete, USAT told me I could compete as a physically challenged athlete. A male athlete also competed in the PC Open and I was only 7 seconds behind him. It was a challenging and windy bike leg and again my time was slower by 13 minutes.

Age Group Sprint National Championship
I struggled the whole time on the bike portion, I was working as hard as I could and could barely get above 16 mph.  The bike leg was 13 minutes slower than the last year. After the race I noticed my tire was under inflated and my brake had been rubbing. Was that it, was something wrong with me or the bike?

Chicago Triathlon
Finally I had a race I could compare my bike leg against since I had done this race in 2013. I finished 1st in the PC Open division, but again the bike leg was 12 minutes slower on a flat course. I averaged a horrible 15.5 miles per hour. Something was going on.  My coach tested me on a compu trainer and my watts were way lower. So was it me or the bike?  Blood tests showed everything was normal so it was off to Brent Emery former Olympic cyclist for a fitting. $300 dollars later I was ready to test it out/

Senior Games Cycling
I thought this would be a fun low key event. Not on the men's side. There were guys all over in Lycra and fancy bikes warming up.  Competition the men's side was pretty intense. The women not so much. We all talked at the starting line and for all of us it was our first cycling race. We all agreed to have fun and I did. I average 17.7 mph for a 10 K TT and a 20 K road race. It felt so good and my bike problem was solved.  I took 1st in the 20K making me State Champ and 2nd in the 10 K. I qualified for the National Senior Games in Minnesota in July. It felt good to have my bike issue resolved and know my CMT hadn't suddenly accelerated to steal my speed.

Tempe Tri- Para triathlon National Championship
I would be racing in the PC open since I had not passed classification in Chicago. I had to do the swim without a wetsuit because the water was too warm. I have gotten so strong as a swimmer I as able to do the swim easily. The bike went well till I missed the turn off back to transition. It was not well marked.  I then took a wrong turn on the run course, even though I went as directed by the volunteers. The problems cost me 31 minutes extra. I finished 1st in the PC Open division. The best part of the whole experience was Team CMT member Alyson O Connor and her family were in Tempe for the race.  Still a disappointing race. This was my A race for the season and it did not go well. I so much wanted to have a good race at this event.  Still  I got to meet lots of USAT officials and press the CMT case. I also got to lots of para-triathlon acquaintances.

Aquathon National Championship- El Reno, Ok
This was a 1500 meter swim and a 10 K run. This is the longest swim I've ever done in open water. I did it two minutes faster than goal. A swim this distance was a stretch goal and I am proud I was able to achieve it. The run was not great, but I got through it and qualified for the ITU World Championship next year. I will be representing Team USA as an Age Group athlete.

When I was really upset about not passing para triathlon classification, my coach asked me to remember why I do these races.  She asked if I ever considered not working out to try and pass classification since I'm often told I'm too strong.  Doing that never crossed my mind. She knows I do these races to raise awareness for CMT. I also do the races to motivate myself to stay strong and to be a role model for others in the CMT community.  I know that exercise and nutrition are the only things I have right now to fight my CMT.  While there are things like classification that I can't control. I'm going to focus on the things I can control. I'll keep working hard, so that when I do make classification I will be ready to compete at the highest level. I will be ready to do my best. I certainly have lots of mistakes to learn from.

I'll take that motivation and discipline and work to be the best athlete I can be and just maybe next year I'll have another perfect race.


Author at PATCO Dallas May 2014
Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finishe2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.

She has appeared three times at the Paratriathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship. She has qualified to represent Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015.  

 In 2014 she represented  the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.

She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.

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 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; 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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