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Mary Kate Callahan, 19, has her athletic focus targeted on IRONMAN Louisville in October. As an infant a virus that settled in her spinal cord left Callahan a T8-T10 paraplegic. Her disability hasn’t deterred the University of Arizona psychology student from anything she has put her mind to. She has participated in just about every sport imaginable. In 2014 Callahan notched two wins, in addition to five podium finishes, in para-triathlons.
In high school, Callahan took on an advocacy role and was instrumental in forcing the Illinois High School Association to create opportunities for disabled swimmers to compete at the state championship level. As a result of her efforts, Callahan and six other girls were the first athletes with a disabilities to compete at an Illinois state championship swim meet.
Bitterly disappointed to learn that the women’s para-triathlon event would not be part of the Olympics in 2016, Callahan has turned her sights to IRONMAN racing. “I’m super excited to challenge myself in a whole new way in the sport of triathlon,” Callahan told IRONMAN.com this week. “I think hearing those words, ‘Mary Kate Callahan, you are an IRONMAN’ is what is going to drive me in training leading up to Louisville.”
Another year in the books, wow! I think I say this every year but it’s amazing how fast 365 days go by. As I sit here and look back at the last year, I’m in awe of the things that have happened, the places I have gone, and most importantly— the people that I have been able to share all these memories with.
Over the last year I have been able to learn more about myself than I ever expected. I was able to learn to differentiate between the things in my life that are important to me and the things in life that make me who I am. 2014 was a year where goals were accomplished and where some dreams were forced to be put on the back burner. But this is when you learn to savor the good and put the bad behind and keep on moving forward. Because that’s what life s all about, right?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is that as hard as it to accept it, everything happens for a reason. I know at least in my head I have this idea of how I think everything is going to play out in life. What I don’t take into consideration a lot of the time is that there are some things we just can’t control. However, it’s when those things happen when we realize who we really are as a person. There were things that happened in 2014 that I didn’t have planned and that would change the next few years. Yes, at the time I wished the end result was different but then I realized maybe everything would be okay. Why? Because there are so many more things out there. It’s when you stop and look around that you then realize things don’t go as planned everyday to at least one person in the world. They survived, and so will I. I can already say that I have some pretty great opportunities coming up and met some pretty great people since this all happened. So maybe in the grand scheme of things, life was supposed to happen this way. Maybe there is something I cant see at the moment but will realize it in the next few weeks, months or years. Maybe this was a way of telling me to slow down and enjoy the moment cause you’ll only get this moment once.
I am & always will be a people person. I feed off other people’s energy and ideas. It’s the people in my life who make me want to be a better person, athlete, daughter, and friend. It’s the people in my life who inspire me to set new goals, to keep on pushing forward, and to enjoy each and every moment. It’s the people who catch me when I fall and the people who manage to know exactly what to say. It’s because of all of these people, 2014 was one of the best.
I have learned to love writing but I have also learned to love how other athletes put life, goals, and dreams into perspective through other athletes blogs. Although other athletes may be competing in a different sport, we all seem to have similar beliefs, struggles, and breakthroughs. I came across this blog yesterday and have probably read it 5 times since. It was written by Lauren Fleshman who is a pro runner (click here to view the whole thing) but this was my favorite part: Time fixes nothing. Time is a facilitator but you still have to do the fixing; Dig into the difficult conversations; Look hard at yourself in the mirror and ask if you’re doing everything you can do to get healthy. If you aren’t currently living the life you want, there is no other way to get there. Time won’t make it happen. So you can either adjust the goal, or give yourself a swift kick in the ass. Those are your only two options unless you enjoy the feeling of eternal tug of war.
So thats it, 2015 is up to you. It’s in your hands now. 2015 will only come once so don’t sit around waiting for your dreams and goals to come true. Take chances, because you never know what will be waiting just around the corner.
2015, put on your dancing shoes because its going to be one busy year! It’s going to be another year full of lots of goals, traveling, and fun but I’m ready for whatever is in store. It kicks off next week with the Disney Marathon followed by a Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center…yes & then it’s back to school for another semester in Arizona!
“Magic is when you live your life the way you didn’t picture it and leave nothing behind.”
From Japan to Canada and all the places in between- Here are a few of my favorite 2014 memories.
As triathletes, we all have bucket list races. Some are races we want to do simply just because they are fun and some we want to do to see how much we can challenge ourselves. For me, 2015 is going to be a year to start checking off some of those “bucket list” races.
It began kind of early with the Chicago Marathon. The Chicago Marathon has been a race I’ve been down to watch multiple times as well as had many many friends run it. The timing just never worked out with the other races I was doing. This year was different, my triathlon season ended a month prior to it and we would be anxiously awaiting the IPC decision regarding Rio so what did I do? Sign up to race! It was probably one of my favorite races, the energy throughout the course was unbelievable. Although it was a pretty windy day, I ended up running much faster than I was expecting. For how little time we had to devote to marathon training, the training was executed perfectly (GOOD JOB MARK). I crossed the finish line with a giant smile…. and went right to looking for another marathon. So I’ll be heading to Orlando January 8 to run with Mickey and Minnie at the Disney Marathon. This is the first race my Dad wont be at with me, but my mom and Grandma will be heading down there with me… GIRL POWER! Dont worry Dad, everything will be under control. 🙂
But I’m even more excited to say that …. I’m going to be an Ironman! The biggest race on the 2015 calendar. Yep, I spent the last two years watching these athletes swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles. Something about watching them push their bodies and minds through that long day and watching their emotions fly out as they crossed the finish line made me want to do that race eventually….I told myself I had to put it on the back burner until we knew how Rio would pan out for my classification. When the news came out about our classification being cut you can bet your bottom dollar where my mind headed next….
I’m a goal setter, I need something to be working towards. Yes, Ironman is the ultimate triathlon and some people may question why I want to do it at such a young age? Well the best answer I can give is that I love challenges, I love swimming, I love biking and I love running. I’m lucky to be surrounded my many people who have tackled Ironman already so I was able to question all of them about their experiences (if you know me, you know I love questions). After talking to all of them, I knew this is what I wanted to do. SO with that being said…After watching and volunteering at the race this year, the following day I waited in line from 5:15-8am to secure my spot on the start line. I will admit, when I finally reached the registration tent, I felt like I was signing my life away but at least I’m really excited about it!! So here’s to lots & lots of miles these next 11 months!
What does the rest of 2015 look like as far as racing goes? After kicking off the New Year at the Disney Marathon, I’ll be flying back to Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center for a training camp. I’ll be doing a few races with the TriCats leading up to collegiate nationals (yes, I’m allowed to race at nationals this year). I’ll be racing in 1-2 70.3 (half ironmans) leading up to the big one. Although we are no longer in the running for Rio, I do still want to keep my foot in the door and stay involved in ITU racing.
- Because the short distance stuff is always fun
- I spent last summer racing with some pretty great people and I couldn’t imagine not racing with them at all this summer.
Although my focus is long distance this year, I will try to get on the start list for 1-2 ITU races. ITU World Championships are in Chicago this year, how cool is that?? The goal is to try to accumulate enough points to get me on that start line in Chicago come September.
Being home for break has again made me realize how much I love my friends and family. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the Mary Kate I am today without them. My friends keep me balanced and my family keeps me going. I’ve had so much fun with them this week and I know I’m so proud of all of them. I get to be surrounded by these people and I don’t think there is much more you need. Yes, the finish lines, the traveling, the training are all fun but when it comes down to it…none of this would be possible without them.
You will never influence the world by trying to be like it
This past Monday the announcement all paratriathletes have been anxiously awaiting was made. This decision would determine which classifications would be represented in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. As athletes, we had absolutely no control over this decision. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and The International Triathlon Union (ITU) would be the ones who came to the final conclusion. Since there would only be three medals for men & three medals for women, this meant 2 classifications would be eliminated from the Rio 2016 Games. Unfortunately the women’s wheelchair classification was announced to be one of the classifications that would not be represented in Rio.
We knew this would be a possibility but none of us wanted to think it would be our classification that would get the boot. I tried to avoid thinking about about that possibility as much as possible this season because I wanted my main focus to be on training and racing. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t obsess over the fact we could be eliminated for the Rio Games. I had the season I wanted, I saw a major improvements in my training and racing compared to the season before. Do I regret anything about this journey? Not at all. I have always said I train and race because it truly makes me happy, being able to try to qualify for Rio 2016 was just a bonus! Sure the thought of representing USA on one of the biggest sporting stages fueled my workouts but I believe a true athlete has to have more motivation than that. Athletes need to love everything about their sport, they can’t just train and race for the medals or rankings- if they did, eventually they would no longer enjoy the sport and they would burn out. I’m lucky to sit here and still be able to say, I really do love this sport. I have been able to see how the human body can be pushed, I have been able to meet so many amazing people (both athletes & coaches), and I have been able to travel the world doing something I love so much. As I sit here tonight; yes I’m super upset the women’s wheelchair classification will not be represented in Rio but I do have hope for the future. If ITU & IPC continues their push for Paratriathlon, the likelihood for them to have all 5 classifications in 2020 is extremely high. So whats next….
2020 is kinda far away…. a full 6 years. Luckily for me, age is on my side. I was one of the youngest ones to get into this sport so I will only be 25 (woahh thats scary) when 2020 rolls around. I’m sure there will be a whole different batch of athletes competing by then. I’ll still race in a few ITU races just to keep the women’s PT-1 numbers stable and to keep the possibility of 2020 in the back of my mind. However, I do not want to be making life decisions around 2020 just yet. Over the next year or so I have some different goals in regards to the sport. Since we did know this could be a possibility, I had a few back-up plans that will still allow me to chase after some crazy dreams within the sport of triathlon.…I think I hear some distance stuff calling my name 🙂
When I went out for a run on Tuesday, the day after we got the news it was definitely weird not having the Rio 2016 Games in the back of my head. I can say that when I ended that run I was excited; excited to be looking at the future with a different perspective & excited for the new dreams I want to chase after.
Speaking about goals & dreams, I have always told myself I wanted to do a marathon. Being from Chicago you can probably guess which Marathon I wanted to be my first? Yes, The Chicago Marathon! Early in September I was out on a run and the crazy idea of doing The Chicago Marathon came into my head. I’m known for wanting to race in every race out there but especially this past year I had to hold myself back and focus on the important ones. However my triathlon season ended September 27 & I knew I would be anxiously anticipating the final decision from IPC so to distract my mind, why not sign up to race 26.2 miles through one of the greatest cities? After checking with Mark to assure I wasn’t absolutely crazy for want to transition from short course to long distance in a matter of 3 weeks, we decided we could do it! The last three weeks of training have been some of my favorites, I have really enjoyed my long runs and watching the miles add up over the weeks. While we didn’t stop training on the bike and swim, we definitely scaled back but it’s a nice change being able to focus all your energy on one sport for a few weeks… don’t get me wrong when Monday ( maybe wednesday) rolls around I’ll be ready to get back into the swing of swimming, biking, and running. Lets just hope for no drastic weather in Chicago this weekend for the Marathon considering I haven’t run in weather below 55 in over a year.
I know there are many more finish lines in m future, just maybe not the ones I had planned. So tomorrow begins my new journey and chasing after new dreams and I wouldn’t want to begin it anywhere else than Chicago. So here’s to the first 26.2 miles of that new journey.
“It’s having the possibility of a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
Chicago, IL (August 21, 2014) – Paratriathlon star Mary Kate Callahan has been named Variety the Children’s Charity of Illinois’ first Live to Achieve program ambassador. Callahan, of La Grange, IL is well on her way to achieving her dream of representing the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To help her realize this goal, Variety of Illinois will provide Mary Kate with the financial assistance necessary to train, travel and compete over the next two years leading up to the Paralympics.
“Variety of Illinois has been able to let children continue to chase after their dreams,” said Mary Kate. “I’m so excited to be a part of the Variety family and I’m even more excited to see what’s in the future for Variety. I hope to be able to show other kids that the sky really is the limit as long as they believe in themselves.”
Mary Kate will serve as the first ambassador for Variety of Illinois’ Live to Achieve, a grant program that promotes active, healthy lifestyles for children with disabilities around the state. In this role, Mary Kate will promote Variety’s groundbreaking grant program through public appearances, social media, and sharing the Variety message at competitions, regionally, nationally and worldwide – including the upcoming World Championships in Edmonton on August 30th and the National Championships in Tempe on September 21st. The former Fenwick standout is preparing to begin her sophomore year at University of Arizona, where she has excelled with the collegiate team, the Tricats. More on Mary Kate’s inspirational story is available by clicking here.
“I know firsthand the importance of sport in the lives of young people with disabilities,” said Variety of Illinois president Linda Mastandrea, herself a Paralympic gold medalist. “We welcome Mary Kate to the Variety family and hope she can help inspire the next generation of successful young people with disabilities – both on and off the playing field.”
About Live to Achieve
The Live to Achieve program helps children in Illinois pursue their dreams of sporting excellence by providing grants to eligible applicants for assistance with travel, training and other costs necessary to help pave the way. For children with disabilities who have the potential to become great athletes, the time, training and travel it takes to achieve that level of greatness – from the local, state, national to Paralympic stages – takes resources…resources that many families don’t have. Variety of Illinois launched the Live to Achieve grant program to help fill that gap.
This has been a long, overdue & much needed post…. but sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to a) sit down and b) attempt to put everything into words. So here we go …
Since my last post, I traveled down to Dallas a week after from getting home from Japan to compete in the the Pan- American Championships in a HOT (HOT) race. Our race didn’t start until 10:30 so we would be right in the midst of the Texas heat. Since heat would be an issue on the bike and run, I opted to swim in only my lava pants. For those of you who don’t know, lava pants are pretty much just the bottoms of a full wetsuit. With the heat factor aside, I have become obsessed with these pants. They allow for optimal range of motion and according to the greatest handler out there (my dad) they are easier to whip of in transition. The swim went as expected but coming out of the water I knew I needed to have one heck of a bike to keep myself in a good position. I was able to hold my second place spot through most of the bike but ended up riding the last 3 miles neck and neck with the another PT 1 athlete. I needed this… I needed to be pushed. My favorite races are when you can see your competitors a head of you or when they are right on your heels. It triggers a feeling thats hard to put into words but it drives you. The sun was beating on us the whole 5k run and I think my irish skin was more excited to get into the shade after I finished than I was. I was able to capture second place and with so many points on the table at that race, it was a great finish to help with my overall points.
After Dallas, I was able to come back to Chicago for a solid three week training block before my next race. During this time I was able to discover some really fun places to ride my bike as well as enjoy running on the lakefront down in the city… we really do have the greatest city but I’ll get to that later. I was also able to finally catch up with some friends. As the weeks went by we were getting closer and closer to my next ITU race…. right here in CHICAGO.
The World Triathlon Series made one stop here in the states and lucky us… it was in Chicago. We were able to show some of the fastest elite triathletes around the greatest city. What did I learn during the two weeks leading up to the race? I don’t appreciate Chicago as much as I should. Our city is just….BEAUTIFUL in so many ways.
ITU Chicago race day approached and I was reminded of two great lessons that day:
- Never Give Up
- Keep all negative thoughts out of your mind.
The swim was substandard for me. I have never panicked in a swim before but that morning was different. The gun went off and immedietly my head went somewhere else. I dont know what it was but after that my breathing was abnormal and I knew I just wanted out of that water as quickly as possible. I got out of the water 10 sec behind the leader and knew I needed to get a fast start on the bike. My transition went quick… so quick I dont remember it. As I approached the bike course, I realized I could not switch gears to get my derailleur up. I panicked. I kept trying but nothing seemed to work. I saw the gap getting bigger and bigger but luckily the wheel pit was right there. I pulled in, saw the problem and was able to fix it- losing less than 1:35 min. I needed to keep my head in the game because I knew I had it in me to catch up. The next task was to make sure I counted all 7.5 laps of the bike. Somewhere between my last lap and T2 I was able to get a head and go out to run the 5k. The run was 3 laps so I knew that would be a easier to count so I focused on each stroke of the run. I came into the finish shoot and was able to capture my first 1st place finish in an ITU Race. Thinking about the race now, it’s amazing with what can happen in an hour half but it just reminds me you literally have to be ready for any situation on race day.
I can go on and on about how I have the greatest friends and family but I don’t think my words will ever do it justice. Callahan friends and family literally took over the course for the ITU Chicago race. This was the first time most of them saw me race at this level of competition. They all came wearing matching shirts with the quote that pushes me everyday, “Never Give Up.” After the race, I was walking through the athletes lounge and on of the officials from England came up to me and said, “ Your lucky, your family and friends were going absolutely bonkers for two hours straight. They got me excited to be an official at this race, I can’t even imagine how you felt.” Excited would be an understatement to describe how I felt. But to be honest, I don’t think I heard anything they said specifically out on the course but seeing their face and feeling their presence was enough. They all inspire me everyday to be a better person, athlete, friend, and cousin so having them at this finish line was so special.
After the ITU Chicago race, we headed into one of my favorite weeks of the year. The 4th of July!! I kicked off the weekend on Thursday (July 3) celebrating my birthday. My mom and I spent the morning riding my bike through one of my favorite places, The Morton Arboretum! The rest of the day I got to spend with all of my favorite people and later that night we headed to the Lake! Being at the lake reminds me how important family is. I told myself I wasnt going to obsessed over mileage, speed or any data. Instead, I was going to enjoy the time with my family and just have fun training. And thats exactly what I did. Right now, the water is too high so there is No Wake which means it’s ideal for open water swimming.I embarked on swimming across the lake a few mornings with my dad leading the way in the kayak. I stopped dead center in the lake, looked around took it all in. Not too sound cheesy or anything but the world is a really gorgeous place. The number of laughs we had, stories we told and games we played this weekend are the moments that should be cherished.
42 people +/- a few who may have been already sleeping stood in the kitchen and danced and sang our hearts out to old songs. It was one song in particular that again, I stopped and just took it all in (with a few tears in my eyes) “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood was the lucky one. Not only did it remind me why we are so lucky to live in this country, but I looked at all the people in the room and I’m lucky to be surrounded by some pretty amazing people. People who inspire each other to chase their own dreams. The song inspired me as well, I’ll be honest- that next morning when I swam it pushed me, to made me want to give it everything I had because of that thought thats in the back of so many athletes heads right now… the possibility of representing the USA. Each athlete is training as hard as they can so we know it wont be an easy task, but its how much you want it and how hard your willing to push yourself to be the best you can be. I dare you all to go give it a listen, I promise you’ll be inspired too!
With it being just around 2 years till the start of the 2016 Paralympic Games, there is still some unknown about the sport. The biggest unknown being which classifications will compete in Rio. There are 3 medals for women in Paratriathlon which means only 3 of the 5 classifications will be represented in Rio come 2016. Yes, I want the opportunity to to try to represent my country on the Paralympic level but since this decision is completely out of our control, I try not to let it worry me. I love the sport, I love the people in the sport, I love the places I have the opportunity to travel to and I love pushing myself and so I try to remind myself of all of that. When October rolls around, we will have confirmation as to what classifications will compete in Rio but until then; I’m taking it one day, one workout, one race at a time and enjoying the ride.
Next Stop: Magog, Canada in two weeks for the last ITU Race to try to get points before World Championships. Watch out Canada, the father/daughter duo is coming for ya…
“Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.”
My first ITU race of the 2014 season is under my belt. I’m currently in route back to the USA and I’m smiling from ear to ear. In case your wondering why: 6 days in Japan, 24 total hours on a plane, a few bikes, some great people and fun race is just a few of the reasons why.
After our flight was delayed multiple times, we got to Yokohama on Wednesday night with my bikes safe and sound (phew). Watching them take my bikes out of the oversized luggage room at the airport is always one of the greatest feelings. Even better…. they both made it in one piece 🙂 My dad and I were pretty beat from the traveling so we headed to bed right after we checked into the hotel. Fun fact: Rooms in Japan are TINY, so tiny that until they could get us into a “bigger” room, we had to get another room so we could fit both bikes, my wheelchair, and luggage. Thursday and Friday were spent by the race venue, going for an easy swim, bike , and run, and the 4 other USA Paratriathletes arrived Thursday night. Friday night we all headed the race briefing and we met some of Team RWB, who would help some of us in transition. It worked out perfect connecting with Team RWB in Japan because transition is so crucial in these races so knowing they spoke english was extra helpful. By Friday night, I was feeling good and was just ready to race.
Saturday morning came around and we headed to the race venue. Being me, we arrived with PLENTY of time before athlete check-in even began but I always like using that time to go over the race in my head. Yokohama had pretty great weather while we were there but since the Paratriathlon race was starting at 6:55am there was a bit of wind that was making for some waves out in the water. After we checked in and I set up my transition area, I walked through to make sure I knew exactly where the mount/dismount lines were as well as the bike and run out. My wetsuit was on, hair was braided, and cap and goggles were in hand. Our names were called as we lined up on the pontoon for the deep water start. IT WAS GO TIME.
Swim: No lie, this was probably the hardest open water swim I have endured in the past 4 years. The waves were high and to be honest, I felt like a dead fish in the water being thrown from wave to wave. Overall, I think this was the hardest part of the race for me both mentally and physically. I needed to make sure the waves didn’t carry me off the course so I sighted more than normal. I was in the pack which helped but with the swim normally being my stronger side, I could not let myself get too frustrated. The whole swim I remember telling myself; your a swimmer, you love water, what will a few waves do? As I came into the swim exit and was carried out of the water I remember just being relieved.
T1- We stripped my wetsuit right by my bike. This race they allowed our handlers to push us up and down the ramp from the swim, leading into transition because of how steep it was. Helmet and sunglasses were on but because of the cold water, I had a hard time getting my leg straight to be able to put in the bike. Although that costed me some time, there was nothing I could do about it.
Bike: The bike course was 4 loops. Personally, I love when bike courses loop because I always have an idea where I’m at. Although this bike course was pretty technical with multiple turns and two 180 turns per loop, it was super fun. On the first loop I made sure to take the turns with extra caution but I was super happy with how the bike went.
Run: Over the last month or so we have been doing more brick workouts (bike to run) to get my arms used to transitioning quicker because in previous races my arms would feel so fatigued on the first 1/2 mile or so but I was able to feel a difference in this race. My body seemed like it knew what to and my arms kicked into high gear. The run course was one loop of the bike course for PT1 athletes so it was still a bit technical but it was way less crowded than if we all did the same run course.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have things to work on but I was also really happy coming across the finish line 2nd. They say, “Every great journey starts with the first step.” I’m so happy I was able to see where I stand against some other great athletes because it shows me where I need to direct my focus in the coming months. After the raced finished, I was talking to Alyssa (another USA athlete) and we were saying how we cant wait t get home to jump in the pool or on our bikes. We then concluded we are addicted to the sport. However, this addiction is a good thing. It shows how we are eager to get better and how we will push or own limits to do so. As I have said before, the more you truly love and enjoy doing something, the more you will succeed. All of the other USA Paratriathletes as well as elite racers did great and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of USA Triathlon.
Rewind: Some of you know how my last ITU race before this in New Zealand (2012) ended, if you didn’t – I DNF’ (did not finish). Being 16 years old at the time and not being in control of the situation that happened was not something I brushed off easily. Although it was not the ideal (at all) – I believe with all my heart that it helped me grow as an athlete. Yes, after going to New Zealand and having to pull out of the race due to an equipment problem was hard (really hard) but it left me ready to come back that much stronger. Deciding to take the 2013 season off to build a stronger training base was exactly what my head and body needed. I learned to love the sport first and through that whole year I learned that not every workout it going to be great, but we learn SOMETHING from every workout. From that we are then able to look at the sport so much differently. It really is like a little puzzle; a bunch of little things working together that come together to help you have a great race. Both your head and your heart have to be there first.
Well…. I still have 9 more hours left on this flight but I’m excited to be back in Chicago for a few days. I’ll be back in Chicago for a week before I head to Dallas for the Pan American Championship next week. I hope everyone’s summer is starting off with a bang. Thank you for all the well wishes, every single one means so much.
“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.”
Lots of Love,
This is a long overdue post- time got the best of me. First, holy smokes- how is it April already? I cannot believe I have 1 month (YES ONE MONTH) left of my freshmen year here at Arizona. I feel like I was just saying goodbye to my mom and dad on move in day.
Let me rewind to March when I traveled down to Colorado Springs for a USA Paratriathlon High Performance Camp at the US Olympic Training Center. I was at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center right before we left for World Championships in New Zealand in 2012 but it was so nice to be back. This time our camp had a swim focus and I was so happy about this. The swim is something that requires the most instruction and there are so many techniques involved. I was excited to be spending a week looking at my stroke and swimming with some great friends and Paratriathlon athletes. It was definitely a weird feeling being at the airport without a handcycle OR a racing chair- this was the first time I traveled that light in a long time. I was ready to take in all the information from the coaches: Mark Sortino, John Murray and Stacee Seay. Mark and John work together at Multisport Performance Institute. When I’m in Arizona or Chicago, I normally just have the swim workout Mark provides me so I rarely have a swim coach on the pool deck. Having three coaches looking at my stroke along with doing video analysis throughout the week was a great addition to my normal swim routine. During the week of camp we had 2 swim sessions per day, around 2 workshops a day, and some yoga. The yoga was probably the hardest part of the camp for me, mentally. I have a hard time 1) Being quiet 2) Moving slowly. By the end of the week I actually learned to really love yoga- it took some practice,a few gymnastic moves, and hysterically laughing while we were supposed to be in “Shavasana,” but we did in fact get there,
While I was down there I was able to get a better idea of what my race schedule may look like for the summer. With the change in the ITU rules for Paratriathlon, we wont know until 30 days prior to the race whether or not we will get on the start list for a race. I, myself, think this was a great move on ITU’s end, they are trying to mimic what they do with their elite triathletes and carry it over to Paratriathlon. With that being said, I do not know what my schedule will look like but I know what races I’m going to try to get into and other than that the only thing I can control is my training.
Training over the past month and half has been… so much fun. People sometimes think I’m crazy when I finish a workout with a huge smile on my face and then proceed to say “I loved that.” Yes it may have hurt, yes I’m tired after but I can honestly say I love what I’m doing. If I compared my training this year to the years before I can my mentality has changed 150%. I no longer am doing workouts to just get them done with. I try to go into each workout with a goal and try to only think about that workout- nothing else. I’ll be the first one to say that my mind wanders to a million places throughout the day and I think that was one of my biggest struggles in training in the prior years. Now I try to block out everything else so I can make sure I’m able to leave everything on the table when I’m done. This has especially been noticeable during my bike workouts. I used to never enjoy being on my bike… at all. I am proud to announce that my bike and I have become besties (yes, I did just use the word besties) over the last couple of months. I enjoy when I’m on it because I’m not thinking about everything I have to do when I get off it- its just the my bike and I. When we were at the OTC, I actually missed being on my bike so much and although it may sound pathetic to people who aren’t triathletes, I promise I have been waiting so long to actually miss my bike. I look at this as progress because like I have always said: THE MORE YOU LOVE SOMETHING, THE MORE YOU WILL SUCCEED. So for now, I’m taking one workout, one day, one race at time.
Since I was unable to be home during spring break, I was able to sneak home for a few days at the end of March to see my family and to race the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. I used the race as a training run and again, it was so nice to be able to hang out with my family. My mom and I clearly enjoyed the race expo- while we pretty much forced my dad to like it (see picture). My cousin Carly also surprised me in my kitchen at six in the morning on the day of the race. My Dad, Carly, and my Grandma Cal were all at the finish line. I will always love racing in the city (even if it was a little cold). The race wasn’t terrible but it also wasn’t great. I ran into a little equipment problem around 2.5 miles that costed me about a 1.5 minutes but I was happy with how I was able to recover from it.
So tonight, as I sit watching the sunset on a roof top patio in downtown tempe the night before I’ll put my wetsuit on, jump on my bike, and run like the wind (hopefully) at the Lifetime Marquee Triathlon, I am both hopeful and grateful. Right now there is a bonfire in front of me I think this is a perfect symbol to these words. I am forever grateful for the athletes and coaches that have helped push me through workouts on a daily basis and provided feedback. I’m also sow grateful for the people in my life that have continued to help me become a better person and help me reach for the stars. I am hopeful that this positive attitude will continue to blossom and I hope I’ll be able show people if they smile, life really is a lot better. So my wish for all of you is that the fire inside of you continues to shine so bright , that it will never burn out and if it does I hope you have the strength to relight it and find something new that makes you just as happy.
Well I’m going triple check my transition bag before my race in the morning but sending lots of love to you all.
“May every sunrise hold a promise, and every sunset hold peace.”
1 hand cycle, 1 racer, 1 everyday chair, 9 wheels and a few bags and we were finally off to San Diego for the first race of 2014! No words can describe how happy I am to be back into full racing mode this year! My dad flew into Tucson Thursday night and we rolled out to San Diego early Friday morning! Like I have said before- I’m so lucky to have my dad traveling with me for many of my races not only enjoy having someone else around but also because he may be one of the best handlers in transition 🙂 For those of you who don’t know, in Paratriathlon most classifications are allowed to have handlers in transition with them! SInce I am a Tri-1 classification I am allowed to have two handlers during the race. These people are allowed to help carry me in/out of the water, get me off on the bike, and get me into my racer. It’s a routine we have down to the very last detail. Although I like to think 100% independent in the sport, it’s nearly impossible to get everything done in a safe and quick manner in transition. Though I can get a little “bossy” while in transition I know I can trust him to make sure my feet are securely strapped and that my speed fill is in my mouth before I roll out on the bike. My other handler for this race was my coach, Mark Sortino.
On Saturday, I headed out to Mission Bay to watch the Draft Legal Race. Watching Draft Legal Races is one of my favorite things. The intensity of these races are so high and the energy is unbelievable. Both the men and women had a mixture of collegiate and pro triathletes which made the atmosphere incredible. Being out there for the draft legal race let me get a better idea of the course, especially the bike and run course. After the races wrapped up on Saturday I headed out for a short bike and run on the course to make sure all my equipment was working and I was comfortable with the knowing the course. I’ve never seen so many bikers out riding on a Saturday afternoon until I was in San Diego. After I rode on Saturday, I was so excited for the bike course and was just ready to finally get out and race! My dad and I did a little exploring and of course took “typical tourist photos,” but we had so much fun.
4:15am on Sunday my alarm goes off and I woke up with a smile from ear to ear. Finally- I was going to be able to race! We headed to transition and set it all up…hair braided too! The paratri wave was starting at 6:45…15 minutes before the collegiate men would start their race. I put my bright pink swim cap on and swam out to the start buoy. They had a paddle board and Go Pro next to me as I started the race. I was the only one in my wave so it was me and the jelly fish for the next 15 minutes. I was able to get into a good rhythm realitively quick. I knew that if I saw the men begin their swim, 15 minutes had passed. As I was getting closer and closer to the finish buoy I started to pick up the pace even more because I knew if I was able to get out quick, I could focus on a strong bike. I was about 150m away from the finish and the men began. I came out of the water at 16:07.
This time as I headed out on the bike I felt different. For the first time in a while, I was excited about the bike portion of the race. I was comfortable with where I was in my training and was even more comfortable racing in my new bike. I was both physically and mentally ready to ride. The bike course was fast and super fun! Being on the course with so many collegiate athletes also added a new kind of energy to my ride… I’ll get to that later. The bike course was a 3 looped course which I really liked, as I came into the final loop and into T2- I was feeling good.
Out on the run I went! My shoulders felt a little fatigued for the first 1/4 mile but by the time I hit the first straight away they seemed to be okay. This run course had more grass than I am used to pushing on but I tried to get that out of my mind. I knew I needed to take advantage of the concrete areas because the grass was something I couldn’t avoid. I came into the finish as as one happy girl. A new PR and feeling great.
Having not raced since September – I was so excited about the time of 1:35.16. I know what I need to work in the next few months but starting the season with that race made for one happy triathlete. I think this race will fuel me even more while I’m training and it left me looking forward to the rest of the 2014 race season!
HUGE THANKS TO UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN DIEGO FOR PUTTING ON A GREAT RACE. I had emailed them back in October because I heard how fun this race was last year and it fell at a perfect time for me. Without any hesitation they emailed me right back saying they would love to include a paratriathlon wave. They went through the course in detail with me over the next few months making sure the course would be “para friendly.” They walked through the course with me friday before the race and they made sure there were ramps wherever there was a curb on a run course. Bringing paratriathlon into a big collegiate race was something so neat. I am forever thankful to be able to train and race with a great group of people. They inspire me and training with them has been one of the greatest things. Due to being at the Olympic Training Center for a camp and racing the first LifeTime series race in South Beach- this was my last race with the TriCats for the season. Although I’ll be racing on the other end of the country for Collegiate Nationals, I know the TriCats will rock it! Bear Down my friends!
My Dad and I headed back to Tucson after the race and slept like babies that night. We were able to run a few errands Monday morning before my Dad had to catch his flight back to Chicago. I have two weeks in Arizona before I spend the next month traveling to camps and races. Next Stop: The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a High Performance Camp with 15 other Paratriathletes.
“Positive Things Happen To Positive People.”