Following the Super Sprint 2nd place finish at the ParaTriathlon race I was on a mission to win the overall age group sprint race. The venue was again Hyde Park and my guide would again be Dion Harrison. I met up with Dion and found out that transition areas are a little different in England. In the transition were thousands of boxes and the transition did not close. This meant the transition became a virtual war zone. Supposedly, there was a flow pattern through transition but when you’re running with a bus like we are you just yell and hope that people move. The other issue came when Dion forgot to bring his wetsuit. The water temperature was not the problem. Rather my swimming has gone to a new level and I worried that we may end up having a tugboat competition. After snapping a few pics with Dion’s girlfriend Caroline it was time to head to the line. When the gun went off I began hydroplaning through the water. Dion had reviewed the swim course with me pre-race so I had an image in my head of the route but this doesn’t transfer to the actual image that vision provides. We rounded the first buoy and I began feeling the tether pulling back. I was pulling ahead of Dion and the tether was getting caught in his arm. I made a quick decision to rip off the tether midstroke and hope that Dion would recognize this and jump on my feet to draft. I kept powering forward and assumed that if I went the wrong direction Dion would just tap my feet. This probably wasn’t the smartest of decisions because it wasn’t long that I was in the lead with nobody near me. I could not see anyone or any buoy so I just stopped and yelled out, “is there anyone near me?” Luckily a few kayakers heard me and said, “nah, there miles behind mate.” Exactly what I did not want to hear. I can only imagine what the spectators on land were thinking. Probably something like this, “what is wrong with that guy? He is in the lead and just stopped dead in his tracks to let everyone catch up.” The kayakers directed me to keep going straight and so I did. I finally got within my visual range of the next white Dextro Energy buoy towering 10ft tall from the water. I knew this was the last buoy and Dion had told me that at this buoy we would turn straight towards shore. I did what I was told but before long I heard shouting from the land. I picked my head up like a lost duck. The people were yelling, “Over here, you’re going the wrong way!” I followed the voices and somehow made my way back to the mainland. As I came to shore I shouted back, “I lost my guide and I’m blind. Do you see him coming?” Before I got a response Dion came from behind me and we were off to T1. He felt so bad but I told him to shake it off.
The swim was over and there was no looking back. We jumped on the bike and put the hammer down. The course was a two loop course with two 180⁰ turns on each lap. It was literally a NASCAR course with “S” turns and barrier walls. By the second lap we had made up the time we lost in the swim and then some. Just as I say that, Dion switched gears to hammer harder and the chain came off. The Gods of racing had a bone to pick with us because crap was hitting the fan. We popped the chain back on and adjusted the timing chain and sped off with rage. I wouldn’t let these hick ups ruin my race but I was not happy.
As we came into T2, it was on. I had my running legs ready and we hit the track hard for the 5K. Luckily, we had a lead biker to clear the path for the entire run. We needed this biker because we were hauling and I was not slowing down for anything. The run was a great winding course through Hyde Park finishing right along the river with Grand Stands on both sides. When we hit the blue carpet we picked up the pace and joined hands across the line. We had put a great 5K run of 16:40 to finish the sprint race hard. We didn’t win the overall race but despite all of the mishaps and blunders of racing while blind we took 3rd place overall and never let the obstacles detour us from our mission. Our time was a 1:03.
Following the race, I immediately could tell there was something bothering Dion and I knew what it was. Dion felt so bad about what happened in the swim that it was eating him inside. I told him that it was fine but the competitor in him said no way. About an hour later as we were chatting with some people from race management one of them threw out the question, “So are you guys gonna do the Olympic distance race too?” We responded “nah, I don’t think so.” It was Dion’s birthday and he needed to go celebrate. The swim still ate away at him and out of the blue he said, “Do you want to do the swim of the Olympic? I will borrow a wetsuit and we can just do the swim.” I thought to myself, I came all the way to London so I might as well get everything out of the trip. Another swim couldn’t hurt and that race was so short that my body was eager for more.
Next thing you know we were back at the swim start ready to blast another swim. I knew in the back of my head that the first swim incident only occurred because I had a wetsuit and Dion didn’t but Dion needed to prove this to himself. When the gun sounded we blasted out into the lead pack. There were a few other fast fish that didn’t want to let us go. For the first 750m we went back and forth with two other people but in the back of my head I knew I had another gear. I figured I would just toy with these guys until 1,000m and then change into blaster mode. Dion was doing great and there was no tug boating going on this time. For the last 500m I focused on long powerful strokes, grabbing the water and throwing it behind me. This time there was no getting lost as we came to shore in a time of 18:40. As we got out of the water and ran to the nearest vacant area to stop, the spectators cheered as though we were going on to the bike. As the next swimmer exited the water and ran past us she muttered, “You bastards.” I didn’t know how to respond and didn’t know if she was joking or was actually angry that we stopped after the swim. To tell the truth I didn’t really care what she thought because I had just done 3 races in less than a day and came out of the water first. It was a great way to end, what seemed like a bad day to race while blind.