Tonight's training involves violent video games. Actually, I’m terrible at playing video games. I really don’t like them that much either. Truthfully, I’m not even playing. But my almost-15-year-old son, Micah, loves them. And he narrates every move. Since I was able to compete in an open water swim race yesterday, and go on a beautiful tempo run tonight on my way home, I’m fine that my training tonight is resting with Micah.
Micah is my favorite person. He has no interest in triathlons. We took him out of all sports in 5th grade, and he’s never ridden a bike without training wheels.
When he swims he’s towed around by whoever is assigned to him at the YMCA. He has never run.
It takes about a half hour to get him out of bed. So he is not the least bit interested in watching me compete at races that take an hour drive from our Gig Harbor home and start at 7 am. He prefers a few more hours of sleep, and getting up and talking mom into letting him play…. video games. Or do a puzzle. Or watch YouTube videos. Or even go to a museum.
It does not bother me in the least that Micah would rather “snipe a ghoul” in his video game than run a mile, swim a lap, or bike around the block.
That is because he can’t.
Yet, Micah is why I tri.
Micah has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He was diagnosed at 3 years old. He took his last self propelled steps at 10. And, he’s been in a wheelchair for nearly five years. It’s the disease many of us noticed during Jerry Lewis’s MD telethon.
Some time ago, one of my amazing business partners at the Hester Law Group and RTB triathlete, Brett Purtzer, challenged fellow partner and triathlete Casey Arbenz and me to join him to see if we could complete a sprint tri.
We did. And we all somehow found ourselves on the podium in our age groups. And we haven’t quit. It’s been 6 years. We were inspired for more. Our bodies slimmed. Our energy improved. And our enthusiasm and goal setting took off as athletes and it rubbed off professionally as well.
At the end of that first tri season, while attending a conference, another dad with a son living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy challenged me to run the New York City Marathon as a fund raising event, raising funds for muscular dystrophy research and advocacy. I didn’t quite get why people would donate money to a non-profit in honor of my run. But they did, and quite generously. I was shocked by the outpouring of love and interest others had in partnering with me seeking a cure and researching optimal care for Micah and boys like him.
Six weeks later I ran my first marathon. Crossing the finish line in Central Park was one of the proudest moments of my life. The final 10 miles were painful, and it was especially brutal and beyond my expectations from the “wall” at 18 miles on.
I had run out of coping methods by mile 20. I refused to walk. The unbelievable cheering crowd helped. But suddenly I was struck by a conviction to focus on the real reason I was there - finding a cure, slowing Micah’s disease, and optimizing his care. Soon my thoughts were on the generous people behind the thousands of dollars I had raised. I thanked God for every one of their generous gifts and compassion for Micah. I prayed my thank-you notes back to the donors would include reporting that I actually finished the race.
I also thought about the privilege of being Micah’s dad - of the closeness that comes from helping Micah brush his teeth every night, putting on his orthotic night boots, and laying with him for a minute while he reports the days Sponge Bob antics.
My drifting thoughts and prayers consumed me until suddenly I noticed I was at mile 24, and I miraculously ran my fastest split. People were stopping dead in their tracks from cramping. I saw medics cart off three people within one mile. Yet I was smiling.
During the final 2.6 miles I had an epiphany. I realized Micah deserved to live as full of a life as me, and that fullness relies on my strength to be in optimal health for as long as possible. Although I was only running that day, at that moment I realized tri-ing was my new normal. It was my key to well-rounded workouts. To optimizing my health, and to maintaining the strength I need for caring for Micah for as long as I can.
Lifting Micah’s well-over 100 pound body takes strength and technique several times a day. My tri-strength gives me and my wife the ongoing energy and optimism to given him the same opportunities “normal” kids and families have. It looks a bit chaotic, but my wife Janelle, older son, Brayden, and I can get Micah loaded and his chair parts packed up and onto an airplane in less than 10 minutes. We might ask for a little help from a friends dad or mom, but we see to it he goes to all the birthday parties, sleepovers, and activities he’s invited to. He’s going to his second summer camp this year in mid-August. I’ll be there, keeping my distance when that’s what he wants, but getting him into the pool with his friends, helping him eat, and laying him down in his bunk each night. These things take energy and fitness that frankly I don’t think I’d have if it weren’t for being a triathlete.
His camp won’t include violent video games. It will be filled with the girls he has crushes on, his crazy friends, sunshine, pools, and loud stuff. i know it will be the time of his life - so far.
And that’s why I tri.
Raise the Bar
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