An inspiration at the Nation’s Triathlon

Featured, My Story, Race Reviews

2014 Nation's Triathlon - Highlights

(Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo)

It’s not every day off I am so inspired by my morning run I decide to work. But Sunday was different.

Sunday I got to run in the Nation’s Triathlon relay team with the incredible Scott Rigsby – the first double amputee to complete the Ironman World Championships. To say that Scott is an inspiration is an understatement.

I showed up in West Potomac Park on Sunday morning very excited. I had never been to a triathlon before and since summer is quiet time for road races, I was missing the bustling race atmosphere. The Nation’s Triathlon is one of the best races I’ve ever been to in terms of energy at the start. It was a beautiful day, everyone was excited to be there and the race was wonderfully organized. Unfortunately, due to a rainstorm the night before (and Washington, D.C.’s combined sewer system) the swim leg of the triathlon had to be canceled. This was a smart move on the organizer’s part and not at all their fault. Luckily, people seemed to understand that. This sewage overflow problem will continue until D.C. completes it’s current project to create an area for overflow. A little background, more than 700 cities in the United States were built using a combined sewer system, in which wastewater — that’s toilet water, shower water, whatever goes down the drain — and runoff from storms flow into a single pipe. Most of the time, that pipe can transport all of it, but when it rains, raw sewage often overflows into streets, basements, rivers and streams. Saturday night was one of those times.

Anyway, despite the storm the night before, race morning was glorious. I quickly found Emily, who works for Competitor, and she brought me over to meet my teammates. From the start, I was impressed by Scott. “Hang on, I’m between heights right now,” he joked as I reached out my hand to shake. He was transitioning from his walking legs to his cycling legs for his part of a relay. He would be biking, I would be running. I’ve always wanted to be interested in triathlons, but I’ve been stifled by the cycling. I am just not into it. “Maybe your bike isn’t the right fit,” Scott said. “Maybe,” I responded. “But how do you get into tris if you have to drop hundreds of dollars on a bike just to find out if you like it?” I responded. “Well – a few hundred dollars for a new bike sure beats $60,000 for a few extra pairs of legs,” Scott said with a laugh. That’s it. Conversation over. No excuses. I am going to try a tri.

That was just one of the moment’s Scott made me think twice about my doubts and complaints. He took the time to tell me all about how he “grows into an Ironman” – quite literally.

“I swim without my legs, so then I am about hobbit height,” he said. “I put on my biking legs and I am about 5-6. I put on my running legs and I am about 5-11, and then I put on my walking legs and I am 6-1.” As soon as Scott started telling me how he handles the triathlon as a double amputee, I realized I wanted others to hear what he was telling me. A phone call to my editor later, I started shooting video on my iPhone of our relay time together. It might have been my day off, but Scott taught me so much in the few hours I was with him – I had no choice but to share it.

Finally it was time to start the race. Unfortunately, because the swim was canceled, Michael, our swimmer only got to run a few hundred yards for the first handoff. He came running in to the transition area, ready to hand off the timing chip to Scott for the cycle. Off Scott went, all smiles. I had about an hour and a half before Scott came back from his bike route. The route was flat and fast, along the Potomac River, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, and the Kennedy Center. He came into the transition time – again with a smile. He handed off the chip and I was off for the final bit – the run.

2014 Nation's Triathlon - Highlights

(Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo)

It was a gorgeous loop around the monuments and Haines Point with roaring spectators at the beginning and end. I felt like I was flying. My morning had been so inspirational and because Scott and I started our relay with the triathletes, I was surrounded by folks running with one or two prosthetic limbs. It was incredible. It taught me that participating in a tri requires SO much more than two legs.

2014 Nation's Triathlon - Highlights

(Photo: Brian W. Knight/Swim Bike Run Photo)

As I wound around Haines Point the breeze off of the Potomac hit me. It slowed me down a bit but it felt great to cool down. There were waters stops every other mile – well stocked, with cheering supporters. As I came down the final stretch I could hear the roar of the crowd growing. Usually, with about a mile and a half to go in a 10K, I start to get tired. Usually, I have to fight my brain to not slow down. Usually, I can’t think of a reason to speed up. But today was not a usual day.  Today, I was part of a team. Today, I was surrounded by people who had to work harder than I had to get on the course this morning. Today, I was speeding up.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 3.19.05 PM

As I crossed the finish line I heard the announcer say “Here comes the relay team 4 Legs between Us!” – a team name Scott had thought up. I laughed as a volunteer placed my medal around my neck.

The race was absolutely fabulous, the day was beautiful and my experience running with Scott Rigsby was life changing. I recommend checking out his foundation here. The Scott Rigsby Foundation is dedicated to inspiring and enabling individuals with loss of limb or mobility to live an active lifestyle.

“Our primary goal is to promote the health and fitness of individuals with physical challenges by improving access to Prosthetic and Orthotic care and resources, while supporting programs that advance prosthetic technology and empower individual lifestyle change,” the website states.

In the mean time, I am looking up some beginner Ironman training plans.. suggestions welcome!


One thought on “An inspiration at the Nation’s Triathlon

  1. What a great and inspiring story. Hearing stories like this helped me get past my excuses when I had yet to try a triathlon. This is proof that you can do it if you set your mind to it.

    The bike portion is my weakness as well. You can always try a sprint triathlon first to see what you think. You can certainly tolerate the bike for that distance and can easily get away with using a cheap mountain bike if you’re not ready to invest. After covering this story, it’s hard to come up with valid excuses. 😉


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