(Photo courtesy of Paul)
As you may remember, Mother Nature was NOT kind to me the last time I visited the Carolinas to race. Apparently she didn’t get the memo that just because I was from the Chicago area didn’t mean that she needed to provide Chicago-style weather (32 degrees) for the race start… And the hits [almost] kept on coming for this trip…
Before heading down to Charleston for the race Sunday, Paul helped me to do the USAT Para Combine. Two weeks out from the crash, my knee was maybe 80% at best. And that missing 20% was the crucial hinging part. If I had to guess, I was only able to get about a 25-30 degree lift instead of the normal 90. Even still, the first ~550 of the 800 runs was OK. As we came to the back half of the 2nd lap, a gentleman joined us and ran in the rest with us. It was extremely helpful to have that distraction, especially during the end 20-40 yards when I didn’t think I could finish without falling down. All in all, it was on par with where I was prior to the Pandemic (11:40 / mi).
Having finished the run, we headed to the pool for the 300yd swim. As with the run, the hinging motion reared its head. This time, it caused real problems getting into and out of the pool. But as I kept warming up, I got a little more flexibility each time. We started the actual test as soon as I could get a full extension/push off the wall, and the times were a little better than when I was pre-Pandemic (2:24/100).
One other piece that we addressed before heading down was the new swim tether. It had been about a year of struggles since most of the similar tether had gotten lost in the Gulf of Mexico. The key feature of the new tether is that I’m not having to either shorten the stroke OR hit the connection.
As I mentioned, Mother Nature did not play nicely in April. With all of the rain on the way down to Charleston (including a couple of points where it was like a faucet had been turned on full blast), I was concerned that we’d be racing in the rain. Thankfully, we got a clear window Sunday morning to race in.
On race morning, packet pickup and set up went extremely smoothly. The only hiccup was that the bottom part of the tether kept slipping. Paul helped to triage it, and we got ready to race.
While the tether did come partially off a couple of times during the swim due to these issues, it felt to be a much smoother swim. I did find an unintended fix after the 2nd time, and it stayed in place after that.
T1 took a little longer, but we made it out onto the bike with a strong mount. As this was my next race after the crash in TX, there were a lot of nerves early on. Paul helped with that, and we did take the corners a lot slower than normal. As a comparison, I know that we were taking corners at 22+ last year in Cypress. If we took any at greater than 15 in Charleston, I’d be surprised. But it was all about being safe. I know that I’ll get back to being comfortable again in the near future. And even with the slower corners, it was still a strong (~19mph) bike.
Coming off the bike, we had a solid T2 and then headed out onto the run. Given the knee issues, Paul had come up with a plan of a 60s/90s-120s run/walk pattern. Even though the overall time was about 8 minutes slower than where I would like to be, going this route ensured that we finished with a respectable time. I truly believe that if we had tried for a normal run that mile 1 would have been about 13, and then I would have been in so much pain that we would have had to walk the rest.
As I can never make out the course maps, I rely on my guides. So I had no idea that we would loop through the area near the transition between loops 1 and 2. That energy, and all of the people cheering for us, helped so much.
Post-race, Nick front the Charleston County Parks took the time to interview us. I really appreciate everything that Allison had done pre-race and race morning to help things go smoothly, and we were glad to talk with him.
While there were a lot of positives from this race, there were also several things I need to focus on improving. One of those is going back to wearing gloves on the bike. About 5 years ago, I went away from those for Sprint races. However, I believe it’s once again worth the extra 30 seconds between T1 and T2 to have that comfort in the bike.
Thanks to Paul for guiding and all of his help throughout the weekend. And thanks to Para Guide for all of their help and support! If you’d like to support what they’re doing, please visit https://www.paraguide.org/how-to-help