Saturday, July 6, 2024

Not the Race I Planned- Pleasant Prairie Duathlon


" Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground."  Rosa Parks

Sometimes the biggest drama happens well before the actual race, making race day a bit anticlimactic. I signed up for the 2024 Paratriathlon National Championship for two reasons.

First, it was being held in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin a 35-minute drive from my house. There would be little travel or expense to complete.  I've done this event in Texas and Arizona winning the Physically Challenged (PC) division multiple times.

Second I was hoping to finally be classified so  I can compete as a PC athlete at an age group world championship. I first started this process in my first year at the National Championship in 2012 in Austin.

I believe the system really does not know how to access those with conditions like mine. An athlete is examined by two accessors.  I do not know how we are graded. It is not a very transparent process. The exam is similar to the one given by my neurologist. I have never been successful always being told I am too strong.

I applied to get a classification appointment. The problem is I no longer have a qualifying race time.  I need to complete a qualifying triathlon in about 1 hour 22 minutes. That is not possible at my age and with my condition.  Divisions in parat-triathlon are arranged by impairment.  There used to be a division just for those with neuromuscular conditions.  We are now grouped with single-limb impairment amputees and have the fastest requirement time. I could make the qualifying time from any of the other groups.

I applied for an appointment and at first was accepted. Then an email exchange started. I was told I could not get an appointment for classification.  This happened twice. I explained my goals and that I was not trying to break into the elite ranks.

There are a limited number of appointments, but I hoped for an exception due to my goals and my years in the sport.  I also requested the appointment to make USAT aware of my situation and to push for change.  I am hoping the neuromuscular category will be restored to promote the inclusion of my athletes with neuromuscular conditions.

I have been a good soldier and competed in the open division for years.  I decided not to do that this time because I feel it supports a system that excludes athletes like me. I appreciate the progress made in the sport and the support I have gotten from USAT.  There is still work to be done.  I was told USAT is asking for a PC open division at age group World Championships. That would be wonderful, but I have heard this before. 

So instead I transferred to the duathlon.  I asked to be scored as a para-athlete.  Instead, I was placed in an age group division. Racing in the duathlon would help me reach some of my goals this year.

The race itself was pretty routine since I have raced at this venue almost a dozen times.  I decided to use the event and training and just have fun.  

I was able to have a mistake-free race and had a good time visiting with the other athletes at the start.  Because I took it easy my time of 2:08: 30 was not great.  I did not stay for the award ceremony since I had a meeting I needed to attend.

I ended up finishing 1st out of 4 women in my age group. I finished 50 minutes faster than the 2nd place woman.  So not the race I wanted, but still a good result.  I will continue to work for the great inclusion of athletes like myself in para-triathlon.  It is so important for both physical and mental health with my condition to stay active. Racing keeps me motivated to do the training needed to race.

Next up in the Pan American Master's Game duathlon in Cleveland where I will be racing as a para-athlete.


Chris Wodke

Founder & Manager Team CMT


Chris is a triathlete Nordic skier and long-distance runner. She is a three-time participant in 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 Para triathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Para triathlon Open Division Champion.

She has won national championships as a physically challenged athlete in Aqualon, Duathlon, Aqua bike, and Winter Triathlon. She was the national champion in her age group in 2023 for gravel duathlon.


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


She was the 2023 Gravel Duathlon National Champion in the 65-69 age group.


She has won state championships as an age-group athlete in cycling and triathlon. She has represented America as an age group athlete at world championships in Chicago, Denmark, Cozumel, and Norway. She earned a bronze medal at the Winter Duathlon World Championship in 2023 in Norway.


In 2020 she was named a National Ski Patrol Subaru Ambassador and a USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador.


She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.


She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” which details her experience as a CMT-affected athlete, and the book “Soup Sundays, A Journey Toward Healthy Eating”.


You may visit her author page at:


Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and find a cure for CMT. We currently have 257 athletes in 43 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Vietnam, Iran, Scotland, France, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Mexico, Wales, Ireland, and Sweden! If you wish to join us visit our website; 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.


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