Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In his words--the Desert Challenge

I wanted to post Matt's thoughts on his recent adventure in Mesa.  As much as he tells me about his experiences it is hard to capture his perspective, so here you go!  (I also threw in pictures of two of our kids trying on daddy's medals!) 

As you may all have read, the Desert Challenge games were a great experience. Here are some of my thoughts post races. Being my first IPC event, I had no clue what to expect. Wheelchair and amputee athletes were the majority. There were only a few visually impaired athletes. For the event being in the USA, it was a very international event. From the first night there, I made some friends with the Canadian  team.

I didn’t know what to expect in the classification process. I was asked to come in racing gear, so I came in running clothes (minus the short shorts), talking watch and Oakley’s.  After 20 mins of testing my range of vision, I was classified as a T12. From the descriptions, I thought I was a T12. Thursday night was the practice night. I got on the track and ran 4 miles plus some striders. I wanted to test out my spikes because they were still very new. After doing my work, I just wondered around seeing all the different types of disabled athletes.  I found out how the wheelchair races and draft. Those racing chairs can be very expensive. I found out that Nike makes a special spike for leg amputee runners. After many schedule changes, I found out the 5k was moved to Friday. All the schedule changes were just posted to a wall, which was hard to keep track of being visually impaired. 

So finally after 2 days of just sitting around, I was going to race. Early in the week, I found out that another blind runner dropped the 5k due to some medical issues. But I didn’t find out until 20 mins before the race that I was the only runner in the race. So the first event of the entire meet was just me. No spotlight or anything. Even though it was just me racing on the track, the meet kept it very official. My first mile was little slow, but the next two were even. I was hanging around a 5:40-5:50 pace. I was happy to have a KICK in the last lap. For my current level of fitness, a 17:52 wasn’t bad, but I still have a lot of improvement to go. After finishing, the US Paralympic coaches were already giving me form advice and telling me to ice bath afterwards. So I went back to the hotel got a very cold ice bath and a chicken burger. Saturday was the big day for the meet. Most races were in the evening so I did something I have not done since the twins were born, went to the movies. My race was the 1500, which wasn’t until 9 pm. But I still went over to the meet to see all the sprinting races. Most of the athletes seem to be sprinters. There is one blind sprinter which can give the pros a good race. There were two heats, one heat of wheel chair athletes and a second with anyone on two feet. I finished second in my heat, but first of the visually impaired runner. I was getting close to the first place in my heat but there was just not enough time to get him. I enjoyed getting back on the track but forgot how much waiting time there is for an event. For a road race, there isn’t much waiting time.

So over all I enjoyed the experience in Mesa.   The hardest part wasn’t the racing but being away from home for so long. Now it is time to get ready for the next step of this adventure!

Matt gave the girls his race medals, but clearly Emily wanted them for herself!

Zachary decided he needed a photo, too.

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