Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Challenged Athletes Inspire

Sunday I had the privilege of standing on one of the steepest hills of the San Diego Triathlon Challenge race and cheering the athletes up the hill. We showed up prepared with a cowbell. If you are not familiar with the Challenged Athlete's Foundation (CAF), it's a program that helps war veterans, kids, adults - basically anyone who might not otherwise be able to participate in sports, be able to do so. And these athletes do it all - triathlon, basketball, swimming, you name it - the fact that they are missing a limb or might be blind does not stop them at all!

The hill we were standing on was STEEP - I'm a good athlete and it hurts me to ride my bike up it. We had athletes with one arm riding their bikes up this hill no problem - and then waving at us to top it off! Some of the triathletes with prosthetic legs were going up the hill faster than those with two legs.

But the highlight of the day that I will never forget is when a gentleman came through who was missing most of his hip and leg and was therefore riding with only one leg - no prosthetic. He was a very big, strong guy - all muscle. I got tears in my eyes as he went by - he powered up that hill with a determination that I will always remember. On the steepest section of the hill he had to do a bit of slow zig-zagging because it was so steep. He had a graceful balance the entire time. I can only imagine how many times he must have gone down while learning to master his art of riding.

I often have trouble staying upright on my bike with two good legs. I really have no excuses now. And next time I whine about how my legs hurt or how I was worked over on some ride would someone please smack me and remind me of this post!