In this series, Coach Tim Myers chronicles his year of racing for others in 2016. Tim took a break from solo racing to join forces with the Kyle Pease Foundation and a number of their athletes. Follow his journey from training to racing and lessons learned along the way! Check out part 1 and part 2 for more background. Part 3 chronicles Tim and Jdude testing themselves on race day.
Time to Race
After months of preparation and training, it was time to test ourselves with some racing. It started with the commitment of doing MCM. You still had to do a few warmup races, right! My dog (Capone) and I started the season with the Shamrock ‘N Roll 5k taking first dog overall. Next up was the Virginia Highlands 5K with John and I pushing Curtis. This was a very tough race and an eye opener. After that race, I knew I needed to get serious and start putting in some work. After a good training block, Curtis and I took on the The Lekotek 4 mile taking first in my age group that included all non-pushers.I could really feel the difference in Curtis and his weight from his eating discipline, and all my training was starting to pay off.
With the practice runs now behind us, It was now tri Season with JDude. Our first race up was John Tanner Sprint #2. The goal was to finish and build more confidence in all three phases. Although we didn’t take home any medals that day, we did finished only 30” behind the superstar duo of Brent and Kyle Pease, beating them on both the run and bike…Success! With our practice race behind us, the next race was to be Augusta 70.3. As the year went, plans changed and I adapted. We were informed only a few weeks before the big race at Augusta that I had to validate my entry with a completion of an Olympic distance race. No stress, right! We quickly weighed our options and decided to validate at The Callaway Gardens Olympic Triathlon. JDude and I had a great day finishing with the 7th fastest run overall and validation completed. Yes, that included all able bodied and superstar runners Ed Crossman and Bethany Rutledge…Gotcha! We were now validated and ready to take on Augusta 70.3, or so I thought.
The Hardest Challenge of My Athletic Career
With all the preparation and training behind us it was now time to take on the two “A” races. First up was Augusta 70.3 with JDude. This would prove to be the biggest challenge of my athletic career thus far. To start off, they changed the course due to construction on one of the bridges. No big deal, right? I didn’t think so at the time, but it it did double the elevation. Next challenge was the record temperature that day. I knew going in I needed stay hydrated, but didn’t know I needed to be attached to an IV all day. These things tested competitor’s will and desire to accomplish something bigger than themselves. I was up for this challenge, or at least I thought I was.
JDude and I started in the last swim wave with our escort, Ted, swimming beside us. Ted would swim, bike and run along side of us all day. I truly believe if he were not out there, especially with all the demons we encountered, we may not have accomplished our goal of finishing. The 1.2 mile river swim went great! JDude didn’t fall out of the boat…success! We nearly ended up with a PR for my swim here.. Even better, we left Ted in the dust on the swim and he wasn’t pulling a boat…Ha!
The JDude Team consisting of Jerome, Jess, John, Willie, Teresa, Jen, Rogue and Allison were incredible all day as they took care of JDude and myself. They helped T1 go off without a hitch and sent us off on the Trike for 56 miles. The first 10 miles went as planned as I kept my power numbers in check and JDude and I stayed hydrated. After that initial stretch the wheels started to come off both literally and figuratively. I started to get really bad cramping issues and that continued for the duration of the ride. If that wasn’t enough, we had a tire that kept losing air. It slowed us down considerably until we could get Bike Support to come and help. They were truly amazing taking care of the tire change and keeping us hydrated. Once we had the tire issue fixed, I still had the major cramping issue along with the bike cutoff to contend with.
There was nothing that was going to stop me from getting us through this 56 miles though. I wish we had a video of this, at one point Ted knowing how I was struggling jumped off is bike threw it in the grass and pushed JDude and I up the biggest hill on the course with his bike cleats on. On this day, It was truly a TEAM effort and lots of defining moments that I will take with me going forward.
The biggest challenge on the bike course came at the last aid station. I was told I needed to average 18mph the last ten miles in order to beat the bike cutoff. At this point we had been averaging 12-13 mph and I knew I would need a miracle to get this done. This wasn’t the biggest problem though. It was my inability to keep my legs from cramping and get back on the bike. I did managed to get back on the bike, and lets just say I was in a zone for the last ten miles and averaged 22mph and made the cutoff with time to spare. Miracle you say, or maybe Paul was the angel on my shoulders that helped me dig deeper than I possibly could.
As we entered T2, the volunteers told us to take our time and we didn’t have to hurry to get out and onto the run. With the cramping frustratingly not subsiding, I took my time to mentally prepare for the run. 20’ or so later we left T2 for a 13.1 mile run. The run is my strength and I had some big time goals for this run, but all the issues I had with leg cramping put this goal on the back burner and our focus was now on just finishing. JDude, Ted and I started off running before being stopped by a volunteer half mile into the run. She said we missed the cutoff and couldn’t continue. After pleading with her she let us continue, even though we were confused by what we were told at T2 that we had plenty of time. This would not be the last time we would be confronted on the run. You see, when you are the only one pushing a wheelchair in the race you stand out and get noticed.
We continued on until about a mile in the run when I knew this was going to be a challenge to finish before the perceived cutoff time. It was a scorcher and I was still cramping severely, unable to get enough liquids and salt into my system to knock them out. Again, the support team on the course was phenomenal. Ted, Rogue, Carrie and Jerome kept me going under the toughest conditions I have ever faced. After doing some walk/run throughout the first loop we were making progress and knew we would finish. This was until we met the barricade that was blocking anyone for continuing on the 2nd loop. This was confrontation #2 with a volunteer. They said we missed the cutoff and took our timing chip. I was devastated and wouldn’t be denied a finish for both JDude and Paul. With Team JDude by my side we continued on without a timing chip. This race was never about time, it was about completing what you started and doing it for others. This was always in my head, and I would have had to pass out or be dragged off the course before I would let my Team JDude down.
The challenges kept coming as we ran into confrontation #3. This time it was the Race Director and he would not let us continue and stopped our race. I was in shock and almost lost it! Devastation, disappointment, and failure were just a few things that filled my head. We were forced to turn around and walk back to the finish line. As we started to walk back, I felt awful about letting down JDude and family, Paul, KPF and Ted.
A few ATC teammates came by consoled me after they heard the news. I got really emotional thinking about how I failed Team JDude. As I have learned from the KPF Organization, “Where there is a wheel, there is a way”, and on this day we would find a way. I decided I was going run 13.1 miles with JDude to finish what we started, even if it wasn’t on the course. After starting off again to complete our journey, there was light that drew us back to the course. Although, ill-advised we jumped back on the course to complete what we came here to do. We had 4 miles to go to get JDude his medal. It wasn’t without its challenges and such was the whole process on this day. I would continue walk/run with severe cramping along the way. With Team JDude along my side keeping me hydrated and motivated we would not be denied on this day. I remember saying “I can’t” to Rogue, a cancer survivor, and he kept me in check the rest of the way telling me what I could do. Carrie was out there speeding ahead going from store to store buying me coke and salted food just to get me to the next aid station. I’m not much of a potato chips eater, but boy did that taste good on this day!
The support I had from Team JDude and ATC gets me a bit emotional as I think back. These are my families and I’m honored to associated with such great people. We were able to pick it up to a run for the last mile before approaching the finish. At the last turn before the finish line, I was passed by the Race Director going the other way on his bike. Earlier he had stopped our race and I knew he had saw us on the course. We were too close the finish, so I just buried myself to finish strong. Finishing this race was the hardest thing I have done athletically in my life, and I have been playing sports since I was 5.
The finish was full of hugs, high fives and tears. This was an emotional day and a physical test of who I am as a person. We didn’t finish 70.3 miles, nor did we have an official time this day. We did cross the finish line and JDude and I earned that medal that I later gave to Paul. This was not my race, this was for JDude and Paul and we finished the race for them.
I had the support of everyone that day and they said that is what KPF is all about. Too many times people with Cerebral Palsy are told “No”. On this day, that was not going to be part of our vocabulary. I talked to Brent Pease on the phone after the race and he asked me one question. “What would Paul have done?” Enough said!