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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ITU Chicago, PC Open Race

PC Open Race ITU Chicago

"No matter what the day dishes out to you-no matter what life dishes out to you- you can always put one foot in front of the other, and you keep going and you cross the finish line."

-Chris McDonnell, triathlete whose daughter Grace was one of the students killed by the Sandy Hook shooter.

The World Championship for ITU was held in Chicago this year and I was able to compete as a member of Team USA for Aquathlon.  This race was the kick off race for age group, elite and para triathlon World Championships.

In addition to those races the ITU scheduled a series of open races for age group and para-triathletes on Saturday of race week. These were not World Championship races, but a chance to race on the same course with ITU rules which meant drafting on the bike course was legal.

There were two races for para triathletes, an ITU and a USAT race.  Since I did not make the minimum impairment standards at classification, I would have to race the PC Open race under USAT rules.  I had represented the USA on Wednesday and in this race I would be representing Team CMT.

Rival and CMT athlete Donna DeWyck would be in the ITU race.   Donna is a classified athlete in PT4. There were three athletes. All she had to do was finish to be on the podium.  We spoke briefly and I wished her good luck in her race.

I was in the open category with athletes of all abilities including wheel chair athletes.  These athletes can be really fast. When I raced the Boston Marathon the winning wheelchair  athlete finished the race almost 45 minutes faster than the men's winner. If I had a good day and a good race, a podium finish was possible for me.

Lot's of athletes like to socialize in transition.  I like to get away from all the activity to relax.  I walked up to the swim start to relax and try to stay warm.  It was in the low 50's with a Lake Michigan water temperature of 53 F

There was a small and empty tent pitched near the start and I ducked in there to get out of the wind and try and stay warm.  There was a New Zealander doing the men's Olympic triathlon and a visually impaired athlete Elizabeth from Tennessee that I had met at the New York marathon.  We chatted away and it was time for her wave to start.

The ITU para-triathlon wave was the first to start. Then there was a 5 minute break for the start of my wave. Usually you get a chance to get in the water and do a bit of a swim warm up.  We were told to get in and the starter whistle went off immediately.

I was not very far into the race when I started to have some shortness of breath. That sometimes happens but it usually settles down. Instead it got worse. I just could not breath. For the first time ever in a triathlon I had to stop and hang onto a kayak.  As I breathed out I was making a high pitched sound. I was not sure what was happening.   I started swimming again and again I could not breath. I called a fire rescue boat and hung on. Again I was unsure what was wrong, but I later pieced together that I was having a full blown asthma attack and that high pitched noise when I exhaled was wheezing. The cold water must have triggered my asthma.  I was not getting enough oxygen to process well.

I continued to try and swim, I stopped a few more times and asked the rescue boat to follow me.
The fire fighters encouraged me to go on and looking back, they probably should have pulled me out of the race.

I made it to the dock and had to be lifted out of the water. I was able to walk to transition and saw USAT para triathlon Manager Amanda Duke Boulet cheering us on. I shouted hello and that I was having a bad race.

When I got to transition I had to sit down and rest.  I still was having trouble breathing. One of the other teams handlers asked if I wanted my picture taken and said yes. I look terrible to be quite honest.

I got on my bike for the bike course, still having trouble breathing, but I got through it.
Then it was on to the 5K run. I had to stop several times and was doubled over to catch my breath.
I saw a few friends in the huge crowds of spectators.  I passed CMT athlete Donna D slowly walking on the course.

I struggled but I made it finally to the finish line. The time of  2hr 12 was horrible for me. My asthma attack pushed me off the podium.  I was disappointed because I was primed to have a really good race and this was not the race I wanted to have. Still I finished with a smile on my face.
Even though I was disappointed I did not have much time to dwell on it. I had a National Championship race for Aquathlon in just a few weeks. So I had to shake it off to get ready for the next race.  I felt a little bit like I let down the CMT community, but it took guts to tough it out.
In the scheme of things I don't my performance in a race really maters much.


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 finished 2nd 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 1756 members in 31 states. We also have members in Australia, England,Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France 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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