Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dare2Tri Training Camp (Sean's Reflections)

This last weekend Shari Lynne & I went to Pleasant Prairie, WI, for the Dare2tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club's weekend training camp. Shari Lynne & I were given scholarships which covered most of the costs and we were (and are) so thankful and grateful we were provided the opportunity to participate.

After we arrived on the first day, the first item on the agenda was the meet & greet, which, as many events go, I did not know and was very unfamiliar with most of the people at the training camp and knew, obviously, Shari Lynne and, probably, only a handful of others. In fact, Shari Lynne and I met one person whom we were on the train ride with to the camp, knew about a half-dozen acquaintances before our arrival, and knew a couple of people, whom we count as friends, two people whom I know from the prosthetists' company I'm a client of. Of these two friends, both are certified prosthetists, of which, one is a “nondisabled” person who is my primary prosthetist who teaches and, the other, is an LAK (left above-knee) amputee who's not only a vet from the war in Iraq but is, also, a national para-triathlete champion.

On the first day, the first event/training I had to work on was swimming. The length of the pool was that of an Olympic-size swimming pool, if I'm not mistaken. That Friday, the first event I worked on was swimming, and the techniques involved were not that of the average swimmer as we were to employ the techniques of professional swimmers. Upon going into this practice, I must say that I had no idea what I was in for. I knew I had to build up stamina. I knew the different ways one could swim, even with one leg, but I had no idea how much technique was involved if one were a professional at swimming. For example, its best one knows which side is best for them to breathe in between strokes, that its best for one to only breathe out through their nose while underwater between breathes, and that one should not raise their head up to high while not only breathing but while swimming.

After lunch, the next event on the first day for me was ambulatory biking in the cycling studio. I have to say that this was both easy and difficult. It was easy for me in the sense that there was no set time limit or distance on the odometer which one has to meet. However, it was difficult for me since the stationary bike did not have a pedal which was adapted on the left side which would have made it a lot easier for me to bike. Don't get me wrong, I did not expect there to be... it just made cycling, for me, that much more a pain and difficult. The following day we did not use the stationary bikes which were in the exercise room of the fitness center we used. Instead, we were outside using the bikes which were provided for us, or our own personal bikes. Obviously, I brought and, thus, used my own bike not just because I'm used to it but, also, because the left pedal has been adapted for my prosthetic, so my 'foot' would not come loose from the pedal. (Note: For those who may wish to know, Chicago's Rapid Transit Cycle Shop not just sold me the bike I own but they also provided the adaptive equipment I use to ride my bike.)

The last activity for me on the first day was running in the gym. The group which I was a part of was ambulatory and primarily consisted of different types of leg amps, a visually impaired man, and TAB people. (Note: A TAB person is someone who is temporarily able-bodied, or someone who is commonly referred to as “nondisabled”). We did sprints of various types. Some of these sprints reminded me of some of the types of sprints/exercises football players do in training camp. The easiest for me were straight-forward sprints since I have been getting better and faster at them since I acquired my cheetah leg. The most difficult ones for me were the sprints we did running around cones moving either backwards or side-to-side.

On the second day, the first two exercises my group did before lunch was running and biking in the parking lot of the fitness facility we used. The sprinting we did in pairs. We did a fair amount of these sprints not just to build up speed but, also, to build up our stamina. The latter of which I am more in need of. The biking part for me was easy. It was easy since we were biking outside and not on stationary bikes but, also, because I was able to use my own bike. Sufficed to say, I was very much in my comfort zone during this activity.

After lunch, the two activities which we worked on were swimming in the open water of Lake Andrea, and learning how to transition between the three events for the triathlon. I did not find the open water swim to be too much different from swimming in the Aqua arena at the Recplex (fitness center). In fact, I did not find the transitioning to be greatly difficult either, with exception of ambulating from the lake over to where my prosthetic and bike were. Otherwise, I knew the logistics of getting on and off my bike, putting on my prosthetic, and switching from my c-leg to my cheetah leg, which I use for running.

The final day was, of course, the triathlon. In our case, since many of us are beginners, it was a 'mini-triathlon'. The pros had larger distances to cover in all three areas in the triathlon while the rest of us had smaller distances in each part of the event. It started at 8:30a and began with swimming. I was lucky enough to get out of the lake first but what held me up as far as time after this was trying to put my prosthetic on. I believe the distance we swam was probably around ¼ of a mile.. After spending close to five minutes putting on my leg and walking over to where my bike was at, I started biking, of course. I went around the lake twice and I believe the distance per lap was 2.3 miles, so the distance I covered was 4.6 miles. Finally, there was the running. By that point I was pretty tired but I was able to run about a mile. Looking back, I'm not sure if I could have swam or ran more than I did but I know I could have biked more. However, I know I could have biked more but the distances set were not so much chosen by me but, rather, my trainer. I believe he had picked the distances I did and I believe he did that because I am a beginner and we both were unsure of my endurance level.

Lastly, even though it was a "mini-triathlon" I am both proud that I did it and that I finished (in under an hour!). I am so proud of myself for finishing and even more proud of Shari Lynne for the same reasons. We both plan on keeping these activities up to better our health. However, it must be stated that Shari Lynne and I are not doing these activities to be “super-crips”. We find the idea in itself to be repugnant and offensive if one were to assume we are doing it for that very reason. Along with the health benefits, our other reasons are that it’s something we're both genuinely enjoying doing together and because we've developed an acute interest in para-triathlons.

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