This past Sunday, I raced in the Accenture USA Paratriathlon National Championships in New York City. When I crossed the finish line and was told I had won the T5 female division and was a National Champion, I was shocked. I can’t help but reflect on how far I have come to get to that finish line. It was not just a physical mountain I conquered during the National Championship race but also a mental mountain I was able to conquer throughout the past year of my life and especially during the training that began 7 weeks ago.
I will be the first to admit that I did not cope well with having cancer or my foot amputated so near to the beginning of high school and my 18th birthday. Quite often I thought “Why me?” I made it through my senior year of high school and all 4 years of college at UC Davis thanks to my amazing family and encouraging and patient friends. However, I still felt that I was an athlete that couldn’t be athletic! I felt something was missing.
After I graduated and moved to Los Angeles, I made a commitment to myself to get healthy and focus on exercise. I took one Spin class and was hooked! I felt great when I was in class! One thing led to another and I began to push myself to start running again. Keep in mind I was running on a leg that was made for walking, but I didn’t care- I WANTED TO RUN!
When I met Stacie, she couldn’t believe I was not yet involved with the Challenged Athletes Foundation. She encouraged me to get involved and to apply for the a grant for a running prosthesis. I am so thankful she encouraged me!
I’m very goal oriented and I knew CAF was very involved with triathlons so when New Year’s 2010 rolled around, my resolution was to race in my first triathlon by June. Well, I did it in April and loved it! When I saw that my time wasn’t half bad, I knew I would keep racing if I had a running leg.
When I received that wonderful call from CAF in April of this year, I knew receiving the grant for a running prosthesis would be life changing but I never expected this! CAF sent me to a wonderful paratriathlon clinic in Pensacola, Florida where I was mentored by some of the best paratriathletes out there (Amy Dodson, Paul Martin, Sarah Reinertsen). They mentioned Nationals, which I had never heard of, and I was intrigued. I decided if I had my running leg for the National Championships I would race and the rest is history!
Well, not really. Thankfully, I am a member of an AWESOME gym called TriFit Club and Studios and owners (and USAT coaches), Bernard & Gina Baski, were kind enough to train me and mentor me through my first Olympic distance race. It took a great deal of time and dedication but I loved every second of it!
When I left for NYC, I was panicked but I reminded myself that my training had prepared me for this. It also put me at ease to be around other CAF athletes pre-race.
On race morning, I was nervous but once I started the race, I went into competitive mode. Throughout the race if I felt something was going wrong I reminded myself how much I had already been through in my life and that the race was only an itty-bitty part of life. I also heard my dad’s voice saying, “Just have fun.” And I did!
So, I am now a national champ and qualified for Beijing! I am fundraising to get there because it is a pretty pricey trip that I had no clue I would be taking. It feels like it is a trip and a race I can’t pass up and I would love to bring everyone with me on my journey. So if I haven’t bored you already and you continue to read this blog, I will keep you posted on my training and fundraising progress!
Life is funny, but it seems to work out. These days, I don’t wonder, “Why me?” but instead think about how driven this experience has made me. It also helps that there are so many incredible female amputee role models out there that have shown me what I am capable of.
Side note: my mentor through CAF, Tara Butcher, has been an incredibly positive influence in my life. She has encouraged me every step of the way!
If you are interested in helping me participate in this LIFECHANGING event, please visit: http://RaceforaReason2011.kintera.org/DaniellegoestoWorlds
You can also read more about the road to my diagnosis at: http://www.childrenscause.org/survivor-danielle
Tomorrow: I blog about my training. Back to the grind and hoping for the podium in Beijing. Let the countdown begin!