Yesterday, along with Mike C., I helped my captain, Lisa, experience the thrill and challenge of an endurance event as part of the Wisconsin chapter of myTEAM Triumph.
“myTEAM TRIUMPH is 501(c)(3) non-profit athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races.”
I first saw myTEAM Triumph at the 2011 Green Bay Cellcom marathon. I passed several of their teams along the route. At the 2011 Bellin Run a myTEAM Triumph captain Jenny Crain and her angel (the runner pushing her stroller) were on my heels for most of the race. Throughout the race I heard cheers from the crowd for Jenny and I knew her story well so I was pleased to be running near her. I was inspired by what Jenny was doing to experience the Bellin and the volunteers from myTEAM Triumph that made it possible.
After the race I read the local news about myTEAM Triumph, joined there Facebook page, and registered as a volunteer. There are several ways to participate in myTEAM Triumph. Team captains are persons with disabilities who would not normally be able to experience an endurance athletic event. Captains are accompanied by angels that push or pull the athlete using specially built rafts, strollers, and trailers. Volunteers support the captains and angels at the start line, finish, and in the transition area.
Volunteers Make Events Great
Every run, duathlon or triathlon requires dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of volunteers to plan, deliver, and clean-up the race. As a frequent racer I am always grateful for the help and encouragement of the volunteers. I know I need to give back and volunteer at events that I enjoy so much. Nonetheless, I don’t see myself being well suited to handing out medals or water, being a marshal at intersection, or riding a sweeper bike. myTEAM Triumph seemed like an awesome way to volunteer while also having a personal connection with a race participant and engaging myself physically in the event.
Captain and Angel Training
I live about two hours away from Green Bay and was not able to match my schedule to the myTEAM Triumph training events. Ideally I would have attended multiple sessions to meet the team captains, learn about the equipment we would be using, and put in some training miles pushing and pulling my captain.
Fortunately on race day I was supported by a great partner/co-angel and awesome team of volunteers. Thus I was able to focus on doing just three things – running, biking, and cheering. If I could do it over again I would definitely take advantage of the training and recommend it to others.
Since Lisa was our registered athlete I did not need to go to a bib pick-up the day before or morning of the race. I went directly the myTEAM Triumph tent in the transition area with my bike and transition bike. There I met Lisa, Mike, and the volunteers that would be supporting us. I also met the two other captains and their angels participating in the Green Bay Duathlon. Angels were matched based on their experience, anticipated paces, and needs of the captains.
My partner, Mike C., was competing in his 6th myTEAM Triumph of the year and 12th overall. Mike C. is young, lean, and fast. Keeping up with him would be a good challenge for me. I also was glad to have his experience and knowledge as we discussed our race strategy, switching the trailer between our bikes, and how to be efficient in the transitions. We both wanted this to be a race for Lisa complete with race pace and rapid transitions.
Volunteers helped Lisa get situated in the trailer, applied placards with her name on the trailer, and readied our bikes with hitches for the custom built trailers. Lisa was padded into the trailer, secured with a harness, and covered with several blankets as it was a cool morning and she would be whisking through the countryside for the next several hours.
The myTEAM Triumph tent was set-up along the north fence inside the transition area. Our teams had ample room for bikes, trailers, transition bags, and other equipment. The volunteers were assigned roles like a NASCAR pit crew for when we would enter the transition area. In a matter of seconds to convert the stroller to trailer they needed to replace the front wheel with a hitch, fit a helmet to the captain, remove the push bar, and make any clothing and positioning changes for the captain. They were ready to push us through the transitions.
The Green Bay Duathlon is presented by Midwest Sports Events. Tip of the hat to MSE for their top notch hosting of a great event and support of myTEAM Triumph. They were top notch.
The duathlon was scheduled to start at 7:30 am in waves of 50 athletes starting every two minutes. I was surprised, excited, and nervous to learn myTEAM Triumph was given wave 1. Our three captains were the fist to start. Before we started our teams were announced and we received a great cheer of support from the crowd. Racers to your marks … get set … go!
3 Mile Run
The first run was 3 miles. We started at the edge of Lambeau Field at the Onieda Nation gate. Facing east we ran to the edge of the parking lot, turned right past the transition area, and then ran west towards the south end of the stadium. After about a quarter mile we turned south into the neighborhood south of the stadium. At about that same time I heard the next wave of runners starting. We had a quarter mile lead.
This was my first ever experience leading a race. It was a surreal feeling to have no other runners to follow. Mike and I kept our eyes open for the cones and arrows that marked the turns
At about three quarters of a mile a race official on a bike came up to us and said the leaders were only a block behind us. We moved to the outside of curve so the other runners could easily pass us. The top runners were running below 6 minute miles and we were moving just below 7 minute pace … pretty good for two guys pushing a stroller uphill. A couple dozen runners from wave one passed us, but not everyone. I don’t think any wave two runners caught us. Remember, our captain wanted a race as much as we did.
The loop south of the stadium returned back to the stadium and then took us clockwise around the stadium on Ridge Rd and Lombardi Avenue. At the corner of Lombardi and Oneida we started towards the transition area. I gave Mike a heads up that I would be using the port-a-potty in the transition area while his bike was attached to the trailer.
Transition 1: Run to Bike
Like a well oiled pit crew the volunteers jumped the wall to covert the stroller to a trailer and ready our bikes. I used the bathroom as quick as I could. Mike was already out of the transition area and was pedaling away. I made my only newbie mistake of the day (this was just my 3rd duathlon) and mounted my bike in the transition area … whoops. A combination of my own awareness and people shouting at me and I quickly dismounted and ran with my bike to the end of the transition area. We were off!
Bike 32 miles
I quickly caught Mike and Lisa and we headed east to the Fox River and then turned south on Broadway. Our route took us south to Wrightstown on the east side of the Fox River and then north on the west side of the river back to Lambeau Field.
The southern leg was into the wind and traveled through an undulating combination of neighborhood roads, town roads, county highways and state highways. I tried my best, using our shadows, to give Mike a wheel to draft off of. I had a hard time adjusting his accelerations on the downhills and decelerations on the uphills.
Our top speed on the flats was about 18 mph and significantly slower on the uphills. Thus lots and lots of bikers passed us. Almost everyone that passed offered words of encouragement to Lisa and praise to us. It was wonderfully uplifting to hear people cheer for Lisa.
The most challenging part of the bike route is the climb up the bridge over the Fox River in Wrightstown. Mike and I had agreed to split the bike into two 16 mile segments. The bridge came into sight just as we passed the mile 16 marker. Mike wanted the challenge of riding the uphill and I wasn’t about to stop him :). Mike really crushed it going up the hill. No one passed us on that uphill ride!
Just after the top of the hill we made a fast switch of the trailer which hitched to my seat post. I started in my smallest chain ring and slowly accelerated away from the curb. Once I got up to speed it was fairly smooth, but every bump in the road or small climb made me aware of the extra weight I was pulling. Mike did a much better job of using our shadows to give me a wheel to draft. I also had the wind behind me and the continued support of other racers passing us and my family came out to cheer us on as well.
As I rode I tried to find the balance between pushing hard and making sure I had enough left for the final one mile run. Over the last couple of miles we had many fewer people pass us and I even thought we might be able to catch a few of the people that were in front of us, but the final mile to the stadium climbs just enough to remind me that I just needed to keep it steady and get us to transition.
Transition 2: Bike to Run
I remembered to dismount when we entered the transition area, but then struggled to pull my bike and the trailer over the double speed bump timing mats. We ran to the myTEAM Triumph tent and the volunteers quickly went to work on converting the trailer to a stroller. By the time I had my shoes changes, helmet off, and gloves off they were ready.
Run 1 mile
The second run and final leg of the event was a one mile run. A shortened version of the previous course out of the south end of stadium parking lot and around a block of houses before running back into the parking lot. In the first quarter mile the route climbs slightly. On the climb I felt some tightness/cramping in my left calf. Mike suggested we switch sides. I was pushing on the right and he was on the left. We switched and the cramping went away.
Then we put the hammer down!
On the one mile run we cruised past at least 15 other athletes. Lisa was cheering with delight as we picked off many runners. And everyone offered a cheer for Lisa as we passed them by. Again the support of the other athletes for Lisa was just tremendous.
The run ends with the same hill we just ran up. Now going down we were chasing the stroller and going all out for the finish line.
At the finish line our volunteers and Lisa’s family were cheering loudly. Lisa was quickly given a finisher’s medal and we all posed for lots of photos.
After the race we enjoyed the fellowship of myTEAM Triumph volunteers, family, and friends. We cheered the other teams through the transition and across the finish line.
Results by the Numbers
Lisa’s official results:
Run 1: 27:16 (7:05 minutes/mile)
Bike: 2:01 (15.8 miles per hour)
Run 2: 6:57 (6:57 minutes/mile)
Results by the Heart
This was an awesome experience. I will definitely be doing more myTEAM Triumph events in 2012. It was great to contribute to someone else’s experience and be part of a true effort to help another athlete achieve success and experience an endurance event.