I can see it! I had just finished mile No. 13 and I could see the finish line approaching. I was in a tremendous amount of pain, but, when I saw my son extend his hand to greet mine, with a smile on his face, I had a sudden sense of wellbeing overwhelm my abused body. I realized at that moment why I love to run, race and push my body beyond what is was structurally born to do. Ironman 70.3 California was a challenge, but understanding the impact on my son makes it worth my struggles living and training as a disabled, long-course triathlete.
I was born with bi-lateral clubfoot, which means that my feet were completely backwards and upside down at birth. My son, now 6, was born with the same condition. He endured years of corrective casting on both feet. My case was an extreme case that required many experimental and painful surgeries. I had two major surgeries before I had turned 2, and was in casts and braces for several years after that. The doctors removed all of my bones, reshaped them, placed them back underneath the skin and stretched all the ligaments in both feet. But the procedure only served to make the foot look cosmetically appealing rather than correct the structure of the foot itself. I am missing several muscle fibers in my lower calves, which means my body has to work extra hard to compensate for the imbalances. This results in a significant amount of pain in both feet and my lower legs.
I was told my whole life that I would be wheelchair-bound with severe arthritis by the time I was 20. I would not be able to participate in normal activities. I used that as an excuse for many years to be lazy and gained a significant amount of weight. At my heaviest, I was 250 pounds at 5-foot, 8-inches. After Eli was born, I decided to prove the doctors wrong by losing 90 pounds and becoming a competitive triathlete at the age of 37.
I have raced at all distances of triathlon as well as several half marathons. I am currently training for Ironman Arizona 2012. After each race my feet are in severe pain, but it is worth it in hopes that I may inspire my son, Eli. He was given the same grim outlook as I was given. Well, guess what? My son is following in my footsteps. Eli finished his first triathlon two months ago, taking fourth place in his age division. I have told him that regardless of our physical limitations we can accomplish any physical task set before us, including Ironman. Eli’s determination, smiles, and playful youthful drive are why I love to run.