HAVE YOU EVER RUN WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED?
Have you gone a day without relying on sight? Sounds easy until you try. I put my shirt on inside out and pants on backward. While my comedic attempt to dress wasn’t important, imagine how the rest of my day could have been. When the hubby and I got involved with Southeastern Guide Dogs (SEGD) we became aware of how valuable our eyes really are to us. We’ve also been lucky enough to meet numerous downright awesome people through the organization. One of those people is a graduate of SEGD (recipient of a guide dog).
At a party for one of the puppies (yes we do those kinds of things) I was asked if I wanted to start running with a blind woman named Kathy. I actually thought she was kidding….well she wasn’t. After talking more she let me know she wanted to complete a triathlon. Long story short, hubby and I were her guides for a triathlon here in St. Petersburg. Hubby took on the tandem bike and I was the swim and run guide.
All three of us knew we were in for a unique adventure. Every time I went running I’d be looking out for things that I would have to verbalize for my new running partner: the surface, explaining a curb, or how to describe if we are turning right or left. Next time you are walking or running, take notice of everything you would have to describe to someone if they couldn’t see.
The day before the race we headed to packet pickup to make sure we had everything we needed. While there, we were able to scope out the transition area and get the bike checked in. We all went back to the house and packed our transition bags and laid out our clothes. I may have a little of my mother’s type A organization but I can guarantee that it helped on race day.
We got to the park, set up our stuff and I started my wetsuit dance. Do you know how hard it is to put on that darn wetsuit? Oh my goodness I look like a fool trying to wrangle my body into that suit. Once it’s on I’m fine and taking it off is easy. I digress….
READY AND WAITING AT THE SWIM START
Walking over from the transition to the swim start my nerves all hit…..holy crap what am I doing? What is wrong with me? Why did I think this was a good idea? Why didn’t anyone try to stop me… what if I can’t do it? What if I lead her into a pole, or pothole, or another swimmer?
Luckily, a friend started chatting with Kathy and kept her distracted from how nervous I really was. As we walked into the water I was numb, not from the “cold” water but from the sheer terror that was running through me. As we waited for the horn, treading water (a deep water start) I remember looking around and seeing other nervous smiles, then all of a sudden everyone was swimming. Combine my nerves with the fact that I wear earplugs while swimming and I never heard the start horn. I just yelled GOOOO!!!
I had this great plan to swim on the left side of the crowd so that she was on the outside….that went out the window so fast. The swim was a little bit of a blur but I remember the lifeguards being amazing and it seeming like we would never finish. Finally, we could stand and we started the barefoot, soaking wet run to transition. It’s one thing to guide a visually impaired runner when they have shoes on, but barefoot I was hyper-aware of everything on the ground. Jeff was waiting and ready for us the second we ran into the transition. I ran out with them to make sure they were on the bike and set and then I went numb again. We did it, we actually swam and survived, part one complete.
COMING OUT OF THE WATER
Jeff and Kathy headed out on the bike while I managed to get myself changed and refueled and mentally re-prepared for the 10k run. I knew she would be tired from swimming and biking so I would have to be extra vigilant and on my own game to make sure she finished. Seeing friends who came out to cheer us on definitely helped get me pumped up again. If you’ve ever gone from biking to running, you know your legs have a dead feeling that doesn’t make running very easy. We ran out through the crowd of cheering people and got going. It was a run/walk morning and there were times when I didn’t know what to say to keep her motivated. I was paranoid that I would miss a bump or dip in the road and being that she was already tired, I was so scared of her getting hurt on my watch.
Finally, we got close to the end of the run. As we hit the last stretch of the run the crowd got louder and louder. Hubby met us with .2 miles left and the three of us ran into the finish line as a group.
My friend Kathy crossed the finish line at the St. Anthony’s Triathlon and is now a triathlete. I am so proud of all her hard work and perseverance. She pushed through so much to get that medal and to be able to call herself a triathlete. There may be a lot of other triathletes out there, but I don’t think anyone can deny that completing an Olympic Triathlon is not easy.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to guide someone through a race. Like anything, I’m sure it gets easier with practice.
Written by Katie Morrow, Siren Luminary
Follow Katie on Instagram @triathlemom