ON WITH THE IRONMAN QUEST, OR, LIFE AS AN ADVOCATE by Doug Powell

Since I wrote my October article, much has happened and I wanted to bring you up to date on my “Long Haul” Ironman quest.

In September, I went out to Madison, Wis. to check out the course and to sign up for the 2010 Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon (I chose this one because my team had decided to have it be its official Ironman focus for the year). So I’m committed!

On Oct. 4, I did my second half-Ironman distance triathlon of this season. The Bassman Triathlon was in New Jersey. I had been working hard, and hoped to take a lot of time off my previous result from the June race. I did take 12 minutes off – not as much as I was hoping, but definitely in the right direction.

Here’s the advocacy part: As I usually do, a couple of weeks prior to the race, I wrote to the race director telling him I was coming, who my guide was, and that I was bringing a tandem bike that wouldn’t fit in the regular bike racks. I find that it makes things easier if I give race officials time to think about how they need to support me and their administrative processes and I don’t just show up and surprise them.

Here’s the rub: Right now, the USA Triathlon organization, the governing body for the sport, has competitive rules including rules for physically challenged athletes. The rules currently state that a visually impaired athlete have one guide for all three events, and that that guide be of the same sex as the participant. I was aware of these rules, and had asked that they be waived in previous events. The race officials were happy to do so, so I was excluded from the age group competition and won the Challenged Athlete category since I was the only one – for which there was no award or recognition. On one hand, I’m just happy to be able to do the event. On the other, it feels like the rules make it almost impossible for us to compete on anywhere near a level playing field with our sighted peers. So, as well as training, and trying to find guides of either sex, etc., my coach and I are working on advocating for rules that help people compete – not stand in their way. If you know visually impaired athletes who have run into these issues, please have them get in contact with me at oldjock1@cox.net.

Since two of the people who have already said they would guide me at Wisconsin are women, it would be great to find some better resolution to the rules issue now, because it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Sometimes I’d like to do something that doesn’t require advocacy. Oh well, such is life.

So, during this winter, I’ll be working on that as well as continuing my training for the 2010 season. I’ve already signed up for a marathon run in March to keep me on my toes (slightly frozen at times). And soon, I’ll be developing my race calendar for the rest of the spring and summer.

And, if you’ve forgotten, I’m reminding you again that I’d love for you to sign up for the Monthly Monetary Support program that supports ACB’s and its affiliates’ ability to develop their programs and services for you in the coming year by giving them a monthly financial base they can count on. The avalanche of new enrollments hasn’t hit yet, but I know you’re out there, and if you forgot in October, it’s not too late to get “in it for the long haul” with me. Enrollment information is near the beginning of this Forum, so please enroll now so you don’t forget! Thank you for your support of me and ACB.