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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

World Championship Week Cozumel Race 1

ITU  Physically Challenged Open Race
"Every battle is won before you fight." -Sun Tzu

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I saw an announcement for an open triathlon in Cozumel to kick off a week of racing at the ITU World Championship.

There was no qualification for the race, unlike all the other events for the week.  There would also be a chance to race as a physically challenged athlete.  I thought was important to make the case for greater acceptance of athletes with conditions like CMT.  I had not raced as a PC athlete all season because the local races I did were not USAT sanctioned.

Looking back maybe it was not such a good idea to do this race. The logistics of any away race are always a challenge. I always debate whether to take my bike or rent.  I was arriving on Saturday afternoon and would be racing the next day. The timing was just too tight to put together a bike or get it to a shop to be put together.

I arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon. By the time I cleared customs it was 4 pm. Just my luck that the rental car place I picked was a 1/4 mile walk in the heat away from the airport.  The only cars they had were manual transmission. I had not driven a stick shift in 2 years. That made for a bit of an interesting drive as I stalled the car several times.

I had until 8 pm to get to packet pick up in the town center.  Since my resort was on the north end of the island, I decided to stop on my way.  I could not find a parking spot on the narrow streets.  I could see the outdoor expo but was afraid to just park on any street.

So I got to the resort, dropped my stuff off in my room and immediately went back to the lobby to catch a cab into town.

I was able to quickly get my packet after going through 3 different lines, get back in a cab and get back to the resort.  I was now almost 7 pm and I still had to get my bike delivered for race day.

We connected and he switched out the pedals right in the lobby.  Thankfully the seat seemed about the right height because the bike owner did not seem inclined to customize it at all.

So now it is almost 8 pm and I had not eaten anything since breakfast. I am hot and tired.  I had dinner at the buffet and headed back to my room. I stayed at Iberostar which was a beautiful resort.

The rooms were set up as four to a building all scattered around a garden like setting. Beautiful but a bit hard to find my building in the dark. I had to ask a couple of people to give me directions.

I never sleep well before race day and this was no different. I know I was a bit nervous about the swim. It would not be wet suit legal. The swim was 750 meters. I had only done that distance once in a race without a wetsuit.

Since I did not sleep well I thought I might as well get up at 3:30 am and get ready for the race.  I had not seen the turn off for the race any of times I was back and forth from town. I was worried about not finding the race.

The hotel told me if I stayed on the secondary road I would see the turn. The secondary road is the old road and parallels the new main road. As I drove it I saw signs every few miles of a car with a big red X.  The road is now used as a bike path and just to access the resorts.

I was scared to death of getting caught by the police but kept going.  After about 20 minutes I saw lots of traffic and the well lit area that would serve as transition.  A police officer stopped me at the entrance to the marina that would serve as the race venue. He informed me there was no parking.

I could not believe it. No mention in any of the race or athlete guides. So it was another 20 minute drive back to the hotel.  Then frantically I asked the front desk if they could help me. There were lots of taxis waiting for the athletes and one was big enough to fit my bike.  Twenty minutes and $20 later I arrived at the same spot I had been stopped. Good thing I had emergency money on me.

So I got to transition to set up. It was on the parking lot that had huge stones the size of quarters. There was blue carpet down the middle, the area right next to the racks was all large stones.

I could not find my race number anywhere on the racks. I was directed to resolution table and was informed I did not have a helmet number. There was not one in my race packet. We got both of those problems sorted out.

There were two races that day, an Olympic distance first and then the sprint distance which I was doing. I was in the very last wave of the sprint.   The first race started at 7 am and my race did not start until 9:40.

Most races have a list of waves and wave times posted at the start, not this race. The waves were announced in Spanish. Lots of people kept asking me when I was starting because they were confused.  I just kept telling them I was in the last wave.

I just tried to find some shade and relax. I had a great time hanging out and talking to the other athletes. One of the spouses gave me some food because I mentioned I was hungry. There was not water out and I think I was getting dehydrated because I was getting dizzy. When the first race started official brought out some water for the other athletes.  It came in these little plastic pouches that you had to break open.

Finally the last waves in the sprint race lined up just as I was wondering why I was even doing the race.  There were three of us in the PC race. I had a nice chat with the other female athlete. She was from Mexico and had won the PC Open race in her category in Chicago.

The women in the 55 and older group were lined up ahead of me. One of them started talking with me and asked why I was racing the PC race. Suddenly I remembered why I was racing because I got a chance to talk with her about CMT.

I only saw the other PC athletes at the swim start. They were much faster than me.  I thought the swim was going well.  The water was warm and so clear I could see the bottom. I saw bits of coral and tropical fish.

The nice thing about racing PC is they watch you a bit more closely.  Sometimes that is a two edge sword. I thought I was swimming well. I was catching swimmers in earlier waves. Suddenly one of the kayak guards pulled in front of me and called out "Are you OK?"   I said "Yes, Now get out of my way".  Another kayak guard near by hearing the exchange was laughing like crazy. I turned to him and asked; " Do I look like I am drowning? Now get out of my way."  The rest of the swim was uneventful. I was able do the 750 meter swim easily.

The bike course would be a bit of a challenge as well. It would be my first race on a tri bike. I had rented one for a weekend the week before the race. I was not sure if my CMT would affect my ability to use a tri bike. The bike course went well. I did see athletes drafting which is cheating.

Using a tri bike I felt like a real triathlete and made for a great race picture.

The run did not go as well. I got directed onto the 10 K course and did not realize it right away. It was so hot and humid I walked a bit. I finished the race in 1 hr 51 minutes.

A spectator asked to take my picture at the finish line because I was wearing my Team USA uniform. He was taking picture of everyone wearing the uniform since he was an American living in Cozumel and a triathlete. I felt like a rock star. Good things always happen when I wear the Team USA colors!

I learned later that evening that I had been listed as disqualified.  They had me listed in with the Olympic athletes.  That is why there was not a number for me on the rack in the sprint area and why I was directed to the 10 K course. It took me more than a month to get the race organizers to fix the results.  Because of that I did not get my 2nd place medal.

Still it was a good experience and I am glad I did it. The race helped me to prepare for the ITU World Championship race I would do just a few days later. Like most things I worry about, the realty is allot worse than my fears. The swim and the bike both went well.  Even though doing a race the day after arrival was stressful and had some challenges it was all worth it.


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 represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015 and will represent the US at the World championship in Cozumel in 2016.

 In 2014 she represented  the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  She has won state championships in cycling and triathlon.

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 207 members in 38 states. We also have members in Australia, England,Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France, Poland,Iran and Sweden. 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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