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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Season Opener, You Can Go Home Again

" The only person you are destined to be is the person you decide to become." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I graduated from high school in June of 1976. I went back for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I participated in the Wisconsin Indoor Triathlon Championship.

The race would start with an 800 meter swim in my alma mater, Milwaukee Lutheran High School.

I don't have great memories of gym class or the pool.    We had to wear school issued uniforms for gym. They were scratchy white polyester tops with cardinal trim which was our school color. This hot and uncomfortable top was paired with cardinal polyester shorts.  The material did not breath at all and no one looked good in them. For swim class we wore school issued swim suits as well. We called them the Miss America swim suits because they looked like the one piece swim suits the contestants wore in the 50's.  They were navy blue with color coded stitching on the seams for the size. I think my size which was small was red. You had to dig through a big pile in one of those rolling laundry carts to find your size. Then you got suited up, took a shower and put on your swim cap. No one looked good.  We had coed class so you had to be seen by all the boys in the class.

We had a pretty wide assortment of things we could sign up for in gym class, but to take any of the fun stuff you had to pass the Red Cross certification for intermediate swimmer.  I grew up around my grandma's lake cottage, so I could swim like a fish even though I was self taught. Problem was the gym teachers spent all their time on the pool deck gossiping and no time in the water testing us.

So when I had a choice about taking gym and swimming I opted out. I was not athlete in high school and had a rather undistinguished career in all respects. I've had more than one guy at reunions ask me if I was in the class. I guess I was pretty unmemorable.  I am glad lots has changed in the 40 years since I left. I would like to think I have had a fairly successful and eventful life. I think I have changed and grown quite a bit since my shy high school days.

So there I was back at the old school. I cannot believe how small the pool and locker room looked.  The race like my high school career was fairly undistinguished. An indoor tri early in the season is a good way to measure your fitness.   I like to use it as a workout. I thought there would be just two in our age group. The other woman was someone I have raced against several times last summer.  I would use beating her as my motivation.

I had my own lane for the pool swim and finished in about 19:36.
It was then on to a 12.4 mile compu trainer on a hilly course.  There were seven athletes in my wave. I was in 4th for much of the race until the bike mechanic adjusted the bike seat of the 6 ft tall woman next to me. She was then able to pull away. I averaged 17 mph. So not too bad for early in season.

Last was the 5 K run in 42 F weather and heavy rain. I knew my rival would beat me on the bike and swim which she did by a bit, but I would have her on the run. I finished last in my wave in the run, but did beat my rival.  Too bad the age group was a 10 year on and I finished 5th out of six athletes. If the age group had been 55-59 I would have won.

Still it was good to visit a place where I had spent so much time and I had a good if not a remarkable race. Kind of like my life in high school. Not a bad way to open up the season.

Author at World Championship in Cozumel 2016

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 and at the Aqua bike National Championship in 2016. She represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015 and 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 as a senior Olympian.

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 210 members in 38 states. We also have members in Australia, England, Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France, Poland, Iran, Norway 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

Follow CMT Author Chris Steinke

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