Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Be Brave Enough to Unite

by Trish, Ryan, Hannah, & Carrie

Team AWE kicked off its first official event at the inaugural Denver Triathlon last Sunday, July 24th.

Four women. Three sports. One and a half teams. One purpose.

We competed in the relay event, in which each member took on portions of swimming, cycling, and running. However, our teamwork began long before the actual race. After weeks of not planning, entering the race ended up as a last minute endeavor and was finalized late into the night before the triathlon.
"Carrie, my dog ate my handlebar tape. Do you have any??"
"Do you have any sunscreen, Hannah?"
"Ryan, do you know that we can't park at the lake in the morning and have to take a shuttle?"
"Is the shuttle accessible, Trish?"

Ironically, after all of the lack of planning we ended up at the same spot just before dawn. In the parking lot of Invesco Field, under the Colfax bridge,getting geared up and ready to go--a perfect spot to meet a team ready to rally for the competition to come. Most of our concerns seemed to resolve themselves as we sat in the parking lot.  With one able bodied guy from the race staff and Carrie running through the median between the cars, we came up with a game plan for the day.
One of the more difficult aspects to this particular triathlon was that it had 2 transition areas at 2 different locations.  In order to make it work for us; Trish and Ryan convinced the race officials to let Ryan park at the lake, so they loaded Hannah's bike & Ryan's wheelchair into the car and headed to the swim start and transition 1 at Sloan's Lake. Carrie hoped on the shuttle with her pilot for the day and also went to the lake. While waiting Trish took a nap in her car after being exhausted from a tough week of training in Oklahoma City and a delayed a flight the night before. She awoke to a text from Ryan saying she was out of the water and couldn't find Hannah on her bike. Finally Hannah found Ryan in the transition area and was on her way. During this whole process Carrie had completed a 13 minute swim and was well into her bike ride. Ryan loaded back up into the car and met up with Trish in transition 2  preparing  for her run. Trish crushed the run in a short time of  just over 16 minutes!  Job well done ladies!!

For something that started with such uncertainty, we came together and united at the finish line.  We took all of our individual strengths and made them work for one common effort.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brave enough to Move Forward

by Trish

It has been said that variety is the spice of life. That’s why I thought I had it so good as a triathlete. Always something different. There was swimming, handcycling, pushing. Tons of workouts to choose from, different distances of races. It was so much fun for so long. But eventually I began to feel like I was in a rut. After nearly ten years of competing in triathlon, I found that I was ready for a new adventure. It was hard to convince myself that moving forward was the right thing to do. I’m a triathlete, I thought. How could I do something else, something new? Oftentimes, I think, to realize how you feel about different elements in your life, whether it be a job, relationship, possession or passion, you have to step away and take a breather. And that’s exactly what I have done. This year triathlon has taken a back seat and I’ve become a rower. Well, I’m not entirely ready to drop my former identity, so I’ll call myself a triathlete with a rowing habit. I love the breath of fresh air it’s given me, the new perspective and the challenge of trying something different. I’m not saying goodbye to triathlon forever. In fact, I have one on the schedule in September, but here goes something new. If it can open a new door or window in my life, or make me see something different, then let it be. Time to be brave enough to move forward and see where it takes me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Be Brave enough to be EMPTIED

By Carrie

  I have done sports for the majority of my life. Each sport at different times served as an outlet. Either I was trying to go have fun or I had a goal in mind to achieve. Whether gymnastics,dance, swimming diving volleyball, basketball, track, or cycling. They have all had a profound impact on how I go about my life. Like any other skill we learn as a child, the skill becomes used and manipulated to serve the purpose in the moment. We learn to walk with one foot in front of the other and then we dance. We learn to bend over backwards and then we learn to tumble.  For every sport I gave every thing I had towards my goal at the time. There is a true peace of mind when you leave the court of play knowing that there was nothing left to give. Almost three years ago I started the sport of tandem cycling. I ride on the back of a two person bicycle and pedal until my legs fall off and then pedal harder and faster.   I am forced to put my goals and faith in a shared apparatus. Last July I was fortunate to compete at the US Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships. We earned a spot to represent the United States at the World Championship to be held in Montichiari, Italy in March of 2011. While in Italy I learned a g great deal about the sport and a great deal about myself. In all of the years I have swam I can remember a hand full of races that I felt there was nothing left to give.   Swimming is a little different than cycling. Technique is more important in swimming than in cycling, generally speaking. I suppose in my subconcious I reserved just enough to deal with life after the workout or after the race.   

My nerves were pretty good before our first race at the ParaCycling Track World Championships. I was use to the pressure from past experiences as a swimmer. I was ready to GO!!! After 4 laps all out and a great start lap I was EMPTIED. I was physically unable to put feet on the ground and walk with any sort of normal muscle connection. As hard as that race was I was never more proud of my race than at that moment.All of my teammates had cheered and I felt a part of something so AMAZING!!  Shelby and I dropped 5 seconds off our best time. I have always been a  person to see how I could improve even on my best performances.  This time I walked away with a big smile knowing that even at 13th It was a good race. 

This new sport has tapped into a new realm of maturity as a person and as an athlete. I still want to be the best. I still want that perfect race. I still want that medal around my neck. Because of Para Cycling and the tandem experience, I have a new appreciation for what "sport" means to me.  It means to be absolutely emptied physically, mentally, and emotionally towards what you love. I do my job because I want to prove something to others but I do my sport to prove sonething to myself . To be emptied and yet so fulfilled, What a complexity but yet AMAZING. Being brave enough to be EMPTIED

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Brave Enough to Be Different

by Carrie

I remember several moments when growing up that my pale skin and white hair were an attraction for questions.  They came from children in the most truthful form and with hesitation from adults. Both were curious and all questions were an attempt to erase ignorance. 

I was born with albinism and the directly related visual impairment. Though the visual impairment plays a part in how I do things the white hair and pale skin become the symbol of something different.  As a child with a difference it was hard to blend in but as an adult conforming or blending in is not as important. I still get questions but they are not as harsh or challenging as they once felt. 

The other AWE ladies are not so different. At least I see more in common than different. If anything was to be pointed out I suppose it would be the lack of eyesight and the ability to drive. All four of us have a very similar mindset towards life and our passion. The way in which we go about our lives is no more different than that of any other group of individuals. We all are sportswomen. 

My life in sports and in everyday tasks have been molded and reshaped by a creativity in order to adapt and adjust with my disability.  

While growing up many are taught to believe that different is something negative. I did not realize that different could be positive until high school. I am artist and did not realize the scope of my skill until my peers saw my work.  They were very receptive and then they asked more questions that usually started with “HOW?”   

Now, fifteen years later, I have learned many lessons because of my disability and the challenges I face. I try to express by my experience as an artist proves following your dreams or reaching for a goal requires creativity. As an athlete I must continue to dig deep within myself to find something unfamiliar and redefining of my potential. Both art and sports share in this respect for the rules and guidelines but exude that the exceptional soon become the norm.    

Friday, July 8, 2011

Brave Enough to Change Your Mindset

by Ryan

A year ago I would have never thought that I would be here today with the fierceness and fire to swim and sacrifice so much simply for the sake to do so. However, now sitting here in this position, I couldn't imagine it any other way.

My world has turned into something I could have barely dreamed before. Somehow I have pushed myself to become someone like the swimmer I have always dreamed of being; but I am not sure if my psyche knows exactly how to keep up.

Last week, I sat among Olympians and Paralympians eating their lunches and going about their days just as "real" people do. Some kept under a strict diet of fruits and veggies. Some consumed upwards of 5,000 calories in that meal alone. And some just sat in the dining hall to enjoy the company of their teammates.

After being named a part of the ParaPan American Games Team, part of the requirements were to join the rest of the team in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center for a meet and training camp for a few days over the summer. 

In the manner that I always seem to work myself up, I spent countless days and nights fretting about both meet and camp to the point where I think it actually affected my meet performance. Granted, I still swam my very best... but I couldn't help but feel that something extremely daunting and uncomfortable was holding me back. As always, it was myself. 

This training camp has taught me a lot, mostly about things that don't fit into a pool or sports complex of any kind. This camp taught me about how my mindset has to be as practiced and trained as the rest of my body. So for now, I will be spending extra attention and strength to get those things as fine-tuned as I am capable of so that the next time I spend a meal at the OTC, I won't feel like I have to question the invitation to do so.