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Wheelchair moments from the Longmont Triathlon

I did the Longmont Triathlon this weekend as part of a relay team with two of my children. My daughter swam, my son biked, and I ran (pushed). It was more or less the sprint distance triathlon – the run was 5K. The Longmont Triathlon seeds competitors in reverse order of swim times – slowest swimmers first. I was convinced I was going to be the last person on the run course because my daughter is a very fast swimmer.

Moments from the event:

It’s a fairly small event, only 400 participants. I was passed by maybe 8-10 runners, and was alone on the course most of the time – a huge contrast with the Bolder Boulder, with 50,000 participants! Every runner who passed me (and they all passed me) said something encouraging (“Good job!”, “You’re doing great!”).

There were only two street crossings – one was controlled by police. It was on an uphill, and I think the officer didn’t realize how long it would take me to get up the hill and to the crossing. He held traffic there for what must have seemed like forever until I managed to actually get to the crossing.

The other crossing was not actually at an intersection – the runners were supposed to go up a sharply uphill grassy slope and cross the street at an angle following a line of orange traffic cones. There were a couple of enthusiastic kids at the grassy slope directing runners, and adult volunteers on the other side of the street. All of them started yelling at me as I skipped the grassy slope, went 10 yards down the sidewalk to the traffic light, waited for the light to change (thinking “I’m in a race, here – why am I waiting for a traffic light?”), crossed the street, and pushed 20 yards uphill to the bike path. I just kept waving and smiling at them and hollering “No curb cut!” After about the 5th repetition of this, the light dawned, and they all said, “Oh! No curb cut!”

One of my son’s friends passed me at mile 3, saying, “Keep going, Mrs. Stokley! We’re not last!”

The run course ends (alas) with about a 30 yard uphill section to the finish over grass. My kids and husband ran out to meet me about 100 yards from the finish, and accompanied me in. My daughter was just saying, “I think you’re going to break 35 minutes!” as I hit the grassy section. “Or maybe not.” After 5K of hard pushing on pavement, the grass was almost impossible to navigate. My kids kept trying to point out flatter sections. “Over here, it’s flattened out over here!” A spectator said, “Gee, that looks hard,” and we all started laughing. Gee, it was hard.

And I wasn’t last.

Katja

8 Comments

  1. kellie

    You are amazing. Truly. You make me feel embarrassed for being such a slug!

    Reply
  2. Katja

    Well, there was the part where after the race I had a shower and fell asleep for five hours with the towel wrapped around my head…

    Reply
  3. weeble

    Once again, congratulations and amazing job.

    “Keep going, Mrs. Stokley! We’re not last!”, what a sweetie :D

    Perhaps you could consult them to avoid “over grass” sections for next year’s event?

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth

    Wow, doing the 5K with the wheelchair by yourself, that’s pretty hard. I know even in training sessions I try to have routes where there are people because basically I am so vain that I will push harder if people are around – but to be a lone competitor, really the long distance wheeler – kudo’s to you, and then to have the grass finish? Have you practiced wheeling just on your back tires yet? Often it can get over what are difficult obstacles but requires practice, my PT was going to help me in a room with foam behind me but each chair has its ‘tip point’ and you just put forward FAST until casters are in the air, and then push yourself with short stiff pushes with the casters in the air (falling over backwards takes a lot of the joy out of this method). If you can’t get your casters in the air, your axle is not far back enough, if your casters go in the air when you push to go through a cross walk, your axle is too far back (I am sure you know this, I apologize, I just thought in case). Anyway, the fact is, you did it! And I didn’t! So now I got to find another race to do so I can catch up with your race season! Hmmmm, a 5K – I think you are on! I think it is really cool that it was a family event AND seemed open to wheelchair participation. Was it over grass AND on the uphill? Just curious as sometimes I wonder if they go, “Gee, let’s make this one impossible for wheelchairs!” Like finishes half way up a big hill and stuff.

    Reply
  5. Katja (Post author)

    Thanks, weeble!

    Elizabeth, despite trying on my own, I haven’t mastered moving forward in a wheelie. I’m sure it would make it much easier over the goofy grass. My youngest has mastered it, but that’s not much help. Have you seen the FreeWheel? I’m thinking about that for camping and stuff – but why is it that every single piece of equipment for a wheelchair has to cost so much?

    Competition – I’m just like you – when somebody’s around, I go much faster. The Longmont Triathlon is pretty small and local – there are lots of families and kids from the high school and so on. It’s a nice event. I’m sure they weren’t thinking anything of the kind, they weren’t thinking about wheelchairs at all.

    I was interested in finding out where/how you got your racing chair – I think that would be the next fun thing (although my husband’s response was “Not until you sell the handcycle,” – but then how would I do a whole triathlon by myself?).

    Reply
  6. Diane J Standiford

    Very inspiring. You are a wonder woman.

    Reply
  7. Katja

    Hi, Diane – thanks! I’m hoping to enjoy myself doing this stuff until the karma wheel turns again.

    Reply
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