One year ago, I was contacted through a network of people, and asked if I would be interested in racing as a guide for a visually impaired triathlete. Something I had long contemplated, I jumped at the opportunity. After a lengthy phone conversation gleaning tips from the amazing Caroline Gaynor, I traveled to Florida and met the incredible Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt who patiently taught me what I needed to know to help guide her though a swim/bike/run. Hands down one of the most terrifying, and rewarding things I have ever done - and I remain absolutely passionate about today.
A few short months later I was able to fill in as a guide for Amy Dixon, another incredibly talented visually impaired paratriathlete, and we hit it off fantastically. I ended up guiding for her in Yokohama, Edmonton, and Rotterdam in 2017. Although I am very much at the lower end of the totem pole compared to the caliber of guides these athletes have, I offered to continue guiding for her in 2018 - making her races my number one priority - if she needed me.
So, one year later, I am back at the Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships, this time guiding for Amy Dixon. Thankfully a little more experienced and prepared - but no less nervous, humbled, and inspired by the athletes that surround me.
Amy had overcome even more challenges since we last raced in September 2017; she had a hernia repaired, and continued to battle her progressive eye disease which had resulted in further deterioration of her vision over the winter. Non deterred, she had already been back in serious training mode, and even put together a camp helping teach guides and visually impaired athletes how to swim/bike/run together. Her biggest goal of this early season race was to finish within the qualifying standards to make the national team. There was a strong women’s field - the competition was going to be tough.
While the days leading up to the race were warm and sunny, race day brought cool temps and drizzle. We had a solid swim and exited the water in 3rd. Amy’s coach, Jim Vance, was out on the course giving us stats on the bike - which was awesome. The bike happens to be both of our favorite part of the race. And - Amy has the most incredible tandem (named Bomber) that you can imagine. The course was perfect to just settle in and go - which we did. However, the competition was strong - and we came in off the bike still in 3rd position. Out on the run, a 5k, and the goal was to run negative splits. We passed Jim, “You wanted a race, well you’ve got one!” he called to us.
And - Amy ran such a great race. She was able to dig deep and negative split her run. She held her 3rd place spot, and best of all - she made the cutoff and qualified for the national team. And - I think she might have even smiled out on that course somewhere!
It never ceases to put life/training/racing into perspective for me, to spend a few days surrounded by such amazing athletes. The challenges they overcome on a daily basis, the things they accept and refuse to be limited by, the dedication, the determination, the grit that they all possess - it just puts so much of life into perspective. Thank you, Ivonne, for trusting me that first race, and thank you to Amy Dixon for continuing to trust me, and allowing me to be your guide. It somehow makes all my years of training and racing mean something a little more to me - and I am so incredibly honored and humbled.