It was race day but I didn’t have to get up at 4am. It almost seemed like I overslept when I rose from the bed at 7:00am. Then I remembered that my race wasn’t until 2:00pm. I had only done a handful of triathlons with start times in the afternoon or evening but I think I was pretty sure I had it figured out. One really has to rearrange their routine when racing so late. You must know when to eat, what to each and how much to eat. Also, waking up your body by some activity but not enough to fatigue your legs to much is also important. With the afternoon start, I eat a big bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter,brown sugar and bananas sometime before 10:00am. About 90min to 2hrs before the start, I eat a PowerBar (preferably Cookie Dough flavor :p ). I also carry an extra Power Gel with me just in case I get hungry again. I like my gels with caffeine to give a little boost and motivate my heart if it isn’t already.
Colin and I would need to head over and check in at the Athlete Lounge at around 11:00am. The weather was once again not looking favorable so we just mentally prepared for a wet one. Colin hadn’t really gotten a chance to ride the tandem in wet condition and since this was a technical course we decided to go out for about 30-minutes that morning and just do turn after turn in the park. It was disappointing that we were never allowed to actually ride on the course to practice the turns we would be doing. I guess this is how the Britt’s figured they would gain that home field advantage. After we had gone in circles at least twenty times and were beginning to get dizzy, we were as ready as we would get.
We began our walk to the race and I had my tunes playing in my headphones and I sang the incredible lyrics of Weezer out loud to my audience (Brittney, Amanda and Colin). Those that know me will attest that the only reason I haven’t won “The Voice” is because I haven’t auditioned. I also serenaded them with some Zach Brown Band along the long jaunt. They were glad when we got there because I would have to turn off my singing. As we entered the athlete lounge and began the scientific-like process of getting checked in to an ITU Paratriathlon race. From size of logos on your jersey, to length of tethers, jersey design and mug shot they do it all. Each item is inspected and referenced with the master book that is about four inches thick or 10.16cm for those metric users.
Weeks before the race, I was told that ITU may have issues with the Champion Systems suit Colin and I would wear because it was different than the TYR suit the other US Athletes would wear. It was ironic because when it was our turn to get inspected and they looked in the master book, our suit and not the TYR suit was depicted as the only approved suit for the USA. This cleared up any issue if our suit would be approved. We then had to get our bike inspected as well before we walked it through the steady rain and muddy grass to the transition area. The transition area was enormous because it also included the thousands age groupers that were racing in the Sprint World Championships that morning. Our next problem was actually getting into the transition center. It was like prison gates with the high fencing and no place to enter. After walking all the way around the thing, we finally spoke with a volunteer who graciously allowed us within the gates.
After placing our bike in the muddy mess of a transition area and walking the exact route we would take to get in and out we headed back to the Athlete Lounge. Before heading over to the start, we did a quick prayer with fellow US T6 athlete Brandon Adame and his dad David. The Adame’s have been so instrumental in helping many blind and visually impaired individuals getting involved that the world is truly blessed that God has put people like them on this Earth.
At 1:30pm, we walked over to the banks of the Serpentine to mentally prepare for the mission that was about to commence. Each of the athletes were introduced with some of their accomplishments and directed to their designated spot on the pontoon. The Tri 6a (completely blind) athletes started at 2:00pm, five minutes before our start. There were 33 Tri 6 athletes competing making it by far the largest blind/visually impaired field ever at the World Championships.
The layout of the course was as follows; 1 lap of 750m in the Serpentine Lake, 3laps adding up to 22km (14miles) on the bike and 2laps adding up to 5km (3.1mi) on the run. The swim was counterclockwise and headed out towards the bridge where spectators like Brittney and Amanda camped out for the best spot to see the athletes round the first two buoys. The swim then took athletes back past the pontoon 100-yds or so before making two turns in towards the finish. From the swim, it was about 200m to the entrance to the transition and then a good 100-yds through the mud to the Tri 6 bike area. The bike was very technical with two 180 degree turn arounds on each of the three laps and a few “S” turns that saw many crashes in the early morning sprint race. The conditions were wet and slick as there was still auto oil that increased the chances of going down. The run was flat and fast and was two laps around the Serpentine Lake. There was one stretch on each lap that plastic flooring was laid down over the grass. This stretch was a little slick but did not create any issues for Colin and I. The course was great for spectators as they were able to see athletes two times on each lap of the bike and once at each lap of the run.
At 2:05pm, “BANG” the gun went off and we were off. We had practiced getting out quick to get away from the traffic and potential tangling with other athletes. We got out in the open very quick but young British Paralympic swimmer also started quick. We remained to his right but as we approached the first buoy they began to pull ahead and rounded the turn ahead of us. On the back stretch they put even more distance into us as we passed swimmers from the wave ahead of us. I of course could not see how far he was so I just put my head down and focused on keeping my form. We made the left hand turn around the last buoy and pushed it hard to the blue exit ramp. As we ran to transition I asked Colin how far he was ahead and he wasn’t sure. We entered the muddy transition area and as we made the right hand turn to run down our aisle, I slipped on the muddy slip and slide and Colin followed suit slipping as well. We quickly got up but this cost us a few more seconds. We had swam a 10:38 and Brit David Ellis swam a 10:02. With our fall in transition area he gained 15 more seconds on us.
We got out on the bike and hit the long straight section very hard. We didn’t have a computer on it but I am sure we reached up to over 35mph. We had to quickly slow many times due to the technical nature of the course and the wet slippery conditions. We wanted to ride aggressive but didn’t want to take ourselves out of the podium picture by doing something to risky. At the start of the bike, it was unclear if we had taken the lead over Ellis in T1 or if he was still in front of us. Brittney and Amanda yelled times as we went by. I heard “44seconds” as we went by the first time but didn’t know if that was our time up or time behind. Regardless, we kept hammering and the next time around it was “39 second” and “35seconds” on the final lap. By the third lap we had figured out that we were down by 35seconds and would have to make it up on the run. On the final flat straight away stretch Colin made a sudden swerve and I figured he was just avoiding a pothole but I later found out that another T6 athlete was lying on the ground across the road with EMS holding him in spinal alignment. Not sure who this athlete is but I hope it was nothing too serious in the end.
We entered T2 knowing that I would have to show my strength on the run. I was wearing the New Balance 5,000’s which may be the lightest shoe out there so I definitely had no extra weight to carry. We exited the transition quickly and began hitting hard. Colin could not see the British athlete until we made the right hand turn onto the long backstretch. We were gaining on him but still had quite the distance to make up. They made the right hand turn onto the plastic flooring and were out of Colin’s sight once again. We passed the CDWA Nation fan section on the bridge and got a little more of a boost. As we ran down the blue carpet for the first lap, I could hear the announcer say, “The American is looking very fast and should catch Ellis at this pace.” Those that watched the race online have told me that we got quite the coverage on the online feed and my publicist Sandy Peddicord even made it a point to Tweet to the announcer to pronounce my name correct (lol).
I knew I had to go on the second lap and as we entered the backstretch Colin told me, “you gotta go now if you want to get him.” I dug down and picked it up for a bit but my old legs just didn’t have another gear. Ellis had also picked it up on the second lap with his guide probably realizing we were making up ground on the first lap. As we entered the blue carpet and ran down the slight down slope Ellis was still too far ahead to catch. As we passed the finish-line before the sharp left hand turn he was just crossing the line. It was a close race but I had been beaten out by a new up and coming star by 42seconds. Ellis finished the race with a time of 1:04:15 and I finished at 1:04:57. I was disappointed that it wasn’t gold for me on this day but I never would have thought that if I ran a 16:27 5K that there would be anyone close. Also, our times were also the 2nd and 4th overall fastest times in the world with respect to the amateur Sprint World Championships. Looking back I know what I need to work on. I need to have the speed to latch on and draft off the faster swimmers in the swim and I need to work on my transitions. Also, I need to ensure that when the course is technical that we put a major focus on the little things. The awards ceremony was the next day in the famous Trafalger Square and the ITU had a pretty large setup with the stage, banners and the largest crowd I have ever seen for paratriathlon awards. It was great to see that Team USA had represented the Paratriathlon world pretty well, picking up many medals amongst the six categories. Despite taking silver and not gold, I was very happy to represent my country and be on the podium. Everyone at USA Triathlon was very supportive and encouraging, knowing that I wanted gold, but being on the podium was the important thing. By the time our category was announced for awards presentation, I was getting pretty sick of hearing that dang British anthem but when I got on stage, I had to listen to it one more time. Hopefully that will be the last time I have to hear it as the next two World Championships are closer to home, Edmonton 2014, Chicago 2015 and then Rio 2016.
Finally, I want to thank all of those that are apart of CDWA Nation. Those that support my cause and my mission of empowering everyone to reach their potential regardless of the challenges and barriers in the way. I also want to thank my great sponsors for all the support. I never could train, eat, recover and perform at the level I do without the great products that you all provide. Thanks PowerBar, RehabCare, Champion Systems, CEP, New Balance, Wahoo Fitness Gold Standard Sports, TrendSide PR and Injinji for all that you do in completing “Team Scheidies.”