Learning to meet goals

By Dana Stetson

Until a few months ago, I always thought a PC triathlete was one who didn’t call females “chicks”. Now, I know better. PC stands for physically challenged. About three months ago Kathy McDaris, race director for Red Hills Triathlon asked me if I would guide David Bigoney through her event.

We only had a short time to train together. David had contacted other non-sighted triathletes and obtained some ideas about training for these different sports.

The swim is the hardest event to accomplish. At first we trained to swim side by side using just voice to communicate. This works fine, sometimes, but crowds of swimmers and rough water really make this ineffective. Our next step was using a swim tether. This allows more directional control and is a good way to get through groups together. Using both of these methods and lots of practice has resulted in David’s swimming being much faster than even a short time ago.
The bike portion is done on a tandem bike. This is the only area in which a guide can actually improve his triathlete’s time. The tandem required much more adjustments and cooperation than I would have believed. This is an area in which improvement is limited only by your time on the bike.

The run is pretty straightforward. There is a tether, but most of the directions are vocal. All of this practice as put to work on May 21st at the Memphis in May Olympic distance triathlon. This race had over 1100 entrants including pros, relays, age groupers, and three PC triathletes. This race has a time trial start. This means the entrants are started individually every three seconds for as long as it takes.

The swim was in a small lake. It was well marked and manned by kayaks and boats. David handled this course very well in spite of some contact at buoys. The bike course was almost flat with many curves. It was well patrolled for drafters. It had two bottle exchanges. On the way back it was downwind and mighty fast and fun.

The run is where the heat kicked in. For many of the northern triathletes, it was their first blast of summer this year and it showed! David suffered hamstring cramps during the run. It was incredible to see the support he was given throughout this event. Due to an article in the local paper, a lot of people knew about David. He was greeted and cheered all day. When the dust had settled and the day was done, David had beaten his goal by a considerable margin and learned a little more about how to meet his future goals.