When I tell people I am a blind triathlete, the
inevitable question is: How does a blind person do triathlon?
The answer is, “Very carefully.”
Every person with sight loss doing a triathlon will have different
methods and techniques for completing their event. Regardless of what
techniques they use, there are three main requirements:
The right guide
A positive attitude
The Right Guide
Once a person with sight loss decides to take on the
challenge of a triathlon, the key question is who will guide them on this great
Choosing a guide is one of the most important decisions a
blind athlete needs to make. The guide must be better than you at all events,
so they can guide at your speed while assessing the environment. Your guide
needs to be able to handle the distance you want to race, to be a great
communicator and—probably most importantly—want to spend a lot of time with you
(which may exclude your spouse from the list).
With your guide in place, it's time to figure out what
equipment will work best for your training and race.
The swim component of a triathlon is usually open water,
so a tether system is needed. My guide and I use belts with a tether rope
connecting us. This way I can’t wander off aimlessly, and if I get too close to
my guide, I may bump into her and adjust accordingly.
Since apologizing uses up valuable race time, we usually
begin the race with, “I am sorry for any damage I may do to you, inappropriate
places I may inadvertently touch, and any unattractive thing that may happen
along the course.”
We use a tandem bike for the cycling component of the
race. This is where good communication with your guide is needed. Tandems can
be a lot of fun, but if you don’t communicate with each other, you can find
yourself on the ground pretty quickly. Having an extra peddler on the bike does
help with speed, especially on the downhill, but uphill is more difficult.
The key job for the Captain in the front seat is to steer
the bike, communicate the environment and say what is coming up ahead. The key
job for the Stoker, sat at the back of the bike, is to balance the bike as much
as possible, peddle hard, and in my case, hand over the food (not a good idea
to have the Captain pass out from hunger).
For the run, I use a hand-over-had method. Some people
use a hand, wrist or waist tether, depending on sight levels and preference.
The run offers the most time for communication. You might want to have a few
interesting things to talk to your guide about!
A Positive Attitude
The most important thing to have as a triathlete with sight
loss is a positive attitude. Training and completing a triathlon takes effort
and dedication for anyone, but doing this sport as a blind person adds even more
challenges. Keeping a positive attitude will help you get across the finish
line and help having your guide still like you for your next race together!
is a proud member of The Tandem Project and Won with One Triathlon team. For
more information, go to www.thetandemproject.org.