Duathlon is over! It's the day after, and I am still feeling the afterglow of completing the first of many duathlon events. It was the most wonderful, terrifying, painful, exhilerating and heart stopping thing ever! Had a great 2K sprint, 20 K cycle and an okay 5K run. I totally underestimated the pain caused from jumping off the bike and attempting to run. So I lost a lot of time on the run, and ran way slower than normal. But I kept going, kept smiling, kept feeling positive and enjoying the moment - and I finished. With my cheering section waving their signs, little hands reaching out for a high five and calls of encouragement from those present, and the words and thoughts from many others that I replayed in my head to keep me going. Awesome.
I watched the start of the Iron Man triathlon held at the same event. The first people out of the water wore pink swimming caps, and were connected to each other with a bungee cord. Throughout the day I saw many such pairings - running, on tandem bikes, swimming - and I found out that they were blind athletes, tied to an athlete competing with them as their eyes. I ran a portion of the 5K run behind a pairing like this (until they left me in the dust) and overheard snippets of their conversations as we ran. They conversed much like any other pair of runners, except occasionally a warning or instruction from the guide. "Watch for a dip" or "turn back to the right" to keep her runner on the path and competing safely. I find it so unbelievably inspiring. Not only the athlete who has the impairment, but the athlete who trains and runs with them. How unselfish and caring to aspire to be your best simply so that someone else can excel. There is no rest time - the guides must be at peak fitness to ensure that their blind partner can compete to the best of their ability and in complete safety. Also, the guide must be alert to a plethora of hazards that we take completely for granted as sighted people. I can barely keep my eyes open through a race, let alone stay alert and be responsible for another human being. And the sighted athlete makes sure that their partner crosses the line ahead - this is truly about celebrating the amazing accomplishment of their partner, not about their own performance. The relationship between these two people is incredible. Swimming, biking and running together with just a bungee cord and a whole lot of trust to connect them.
I have seen bungee cords used in many ways - in fact I used two myself to secure my bike to the rack. But this is seriously the best use ever. Connecting people together to make dreams a reality.