1. Could you please tell me a little about your background - How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up living a fairly active life. I started running during the summer between my eighth grade year and freshman year of high school. I ran my first 5k in the fall of my freshman year of high school and by the time I walked the stage at graduation I had multiple 5k and 10k races under my belt as well as two half marathons. During the summer between high school and college a friend of mine who was filling in as a running guide mentioned triathlon to me. I had always been intrigued; I had ridden a tandem bike a few times and absolutely loved it so I was willing to do just about anything to get back on a bike even if that meant it had to be sandwiched between a swim and a run. Once I did my first race I was hooked and spent a lot of time looking into how blind athletes compete in this sport. I reached out to a woman who pretty much exclusively guides blind triathletes and she basically acted as the catalyst that helped get me to where I am now.
2. What attracted you to the sport? What do you love about triathlon now having done a number of races?
I was a runner before I started doing triathlon, but I love speed and that’s what attracted me to the tandem. I would say that one of my biggest motivations to continue racing was that I would get to ride more. Nothing compares to the happiness I feel while on a tandem bike. I’m also a big fan of challenging my own limits, and for me, triathlon does that. Every race challenges me in its own way and I think that unpredictable nature is what brings me back day after day.
3. How did you hear about Dare2Tri, and how has Dare2Tri helped you to achieve your goals?
The woman I mentioned above is a woman by the name of Caroline Gaynor. When I initially reached out to her she connected me to all sorts of athletes and organizations. One of which happened to be Dare2Tri. Caroline gave me the information, but I had to choose to do something with it; I jumped in feet first, and I’m happy to say that Dare2Tri has been a huge part of my growth within this sport. I’m currently on their development team. I have attended three of their paratriathlon camps and have had some great race opportunities because of them.
4. With a visual impairment, what kinds of adaptation(s) to the sport have you made to make it possible?
I complete the entire race with the assistance of a sighted guide. We swim tethered at the thigh with a piece of bungee cord, ride a tandem bike, and run tethered at the waist with a bungee cord. My guide is responsible for making sure I get from start to finish safely. I also have my guides keep track of things that I may not be able to such as running pace, cycling speed, etc.
5. Your first competition - what kinds of thoughts were racing through your head? Were you calm or nervous?
I was extremely nervous – I still get nervous to this day. You’re putting a lot of trust in another human being and for me that’s a scary thing sometimes. I wondered how transition would work, I was afraid we would have a hard time with starts and stops on the tandem, I was afraid our tether would break. The list goes on and on. I think that these fears have diminished, but there’s always going to be a small question of “what if?” I’ve just gotten better at dealing with the what if’s as they come up.
6. Now, with a season under your belt, what kinds of thoughts go through your head while in the race?
I’m a big believer in communication. Without it, my guide and I would not be able to do what we do. I spend a lot of time going through the course with my guide, talking through the plan, and running through whatever “what if” scenarios pop into either of our heads. A few weeks ago at a race my swim tether broke in the middle of the swim, but we both stayed calm, fixed it, and carried on with our race. I also think about what I’m there to do, why I’m there to do it – because I absolutely love this sport and the people that I get to compete with, and I reflect on how far I’ve come to get to where I am.
7. What is it that motivates you?
I’m motivated by a lot of different things. I’m motivated by my potential and wanting to maximize it. I’m motivated by my guides who selflessly give their time, effort, and training so that I can have the race I want to have. I’m motivated by the possibility of things that once did, and sometimes still do, seem impossible; like Ironman finish lines and the Paralympics.
I’m motivated by the fact that I’m a better person now than I was before triathlon, and I’m motivated by the ability that I have to continue to strive towards my greatest potential knowing that that brings with it things that are bigger than me.
8. What are your thoughts on conquering the half ironman? Did you always know you would find yourself facing this type of challenge or is it more of a "I never thought I would do something like this" moment?
If you would have asked me two years ago, probably even a year ago, if I’d be doing a half ironman weeks after celebrating my 20th birthday, I’d think you were crazy. This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was exposed to iron distance racing when I first got into triathlon, but I never thought I would be doing it so soon.
9. Do you have a favorite race moment or race blooper?
Every race is full of special moments, but for me, one of the most memorable moments was finishing the Chicago Triathlon last year. It was my first Olympic distance triathlon. For me, that was a big deal. I had never thought I’d be there racing that kind of race and it hit me all at once. I surprised myself that day and really fell in love with the sport.
The same thing above can be said about race bloopers. I had a tether break during the swim of a recent triathlon and apparently when it broke, I stopped my guide, held up the end of the tether and had a priceless look on my face. My guide and I still laugh about it today. I’ve also almost left T2 still wearing my bike helmet…thank goodness for a guide that can see and caught me before we left our area!