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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Was I Tough Enough? Toughman Half Iron Aquabike

"I would rather die of passion than of boredom." - Vincent Van Gogh

My youngest brother once told me that I was going to wear out my knees running. I told him I would rather wear out than rust out.

It can be easy to get discouraged about being active.  That is even more true because I have CMT.  Doctors used to discourage those with CMT from exercising. The thinking was it would accelerate CMT. We know now that is not true, but that idea is still strong in the CMT community.

I hope my example and that of our Team CMT members will encourage others to be active. I want to show those with CMT that you can take on really big challenges in your life.  I work very hard to lead as full a life as I can.

That includes challenging myself through running and triathlons.  I had a big challenge on the race schedule on June 17th with the Toughman 1/2 Iron Aqua bike in Sherwood Wisconsin. The 1.2 mile swim in open water and 56 mile bike ride would start in High Cliff State Park.

This year the race was USAT sanctioned so I would be racing as a Physically Challenged athlete.
The first challenge I had to overcome was the rainy and cold spring weather in Wisconsin. I did most of my bike miles on a trainer in my home office. I hardly got outside to bike and felt a little under trained.  I really had no gauge of my fitness since I had ridden so little outside.

I had trained for 16 weeks to be ready for race day and I would just have to trust my training.

I arrived on Friday night to camp in the park since there are not any hotels very close. Plus it is nice to have about a five minute drive to get to the race start. While I was unpacking my tent I discovered I had left all the tent poles and stakes at home. Well every race needs a glitch. I ended up sleeping in my car. I had to put my bike outside of the car and covered it with part of the tent. That was a good decision since we had thunderstorms most of the night.

The swim was on Lake Winnebago which is a very shallow lake. Any wind can create pretty big waves. Last year the lake was like glass. This year it was windy.  The waves always seem worse when you are on the water.  I went out to do my warm up and found it was tough to make any progress.  I also cut up my feet pretty bad on some rocks as I came out of the water. My feet were all bloody. So I had two reasons to bail, the foot high waves and my cut out feet.

There was a sprint race also run as part of the event and I had a fleeting thought about dropping down to the sprint. Then I remembered all the swimming I did to practice and thought about the half dozen times I had done this distance. I decided to give the race a go.

So I lined up with everyone else to swim the course. I would start going into the wind for the first third, have a cross wind for a third and then if I made it that far the wind push me into shore for the last leg.

It was a tough first leg. I felt like I was not making any progress. It is a good thing I can breath from either side when I swim because as a wave washed over me at least I was not getting a face full of water.  I just plodded along. Usually I do 100 strokes fast, then rest for 100. The wind was so strong, I had to work hard just to make progress. I made the first turn and the cross wind was much better. I just had to work a bit to stay on course.  Then it was on to the last leg and out of the water. My time was terrible at 58 minutes.

Lake Winnebago is the largest lake entirely within Wisconsin. It is 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.  The bike course keeps the lake in view for most of the course, making it a beautiful ride.

The first hill is steep and comes just out of transition.  The course has lots of rolling hills which keeps things challenging. It was 82 F and windy. There was little shade so it was hot. The ride went well and before I knew it I was back in transition. I averaged 16 mph due to the wind.  Total race time of 4 hr 46 minutes. I was scored 3rd in my age group, when I should have been scored as a PC athlete.

I had to fix that one I got home.  Still for a rough start it was a good day. I am glad I met the challenges that weekend head on. It made all the training worthwhile.


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. In 2017 she placed 2nd in her age group at the Winter Triathlon National Championship, earning a spot on Team USA for the World Champsionship.

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 213 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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