This is a first for me…a race report from a race that I didn’t participate in. Despite not wearing a bib number or crossing the finish line, the 2016 Landsharks Triathlon will be a race that I will always remember. It was the first race where I was able to pair up a special needs athlete with three able-bodied athletes to do a triathlon in tandem! After doing a few of these races on my own, I wanted to give others the opportunity to experience what I have been so blessed to be a part of. This post will be the stories of Julia, Stephen and Emily. They volunteered to be part of something special and as you will read, it was a day they will never forget either…
SWIM – Julia Pritchett
Going into this, I imagined I would be giving to Levi and making his day… But it was quite the opposite. His sweet smile and calm demeanor made my day. People said “it’s so nice of you to give back.” As cliche as it sounds, Levi gave more to me. It was beautiful to see everyone unite, participants and spectators alike. It was a beautiful and inspiring experience and I am so grateful that God has blessed me with the ability to be able to triathlons in tandem. Can’t wait to do it again!
BIKE – Stephen Heitz
I have ridden over 2,000 miles this year and climbed over 106,000 feet in elevation. I have had some pretty memorable moments and seen amazing views climbing to the top of Clingmans Dome or finishing the grueling final climb in mountains of misery, or racing short track with my kids. The one ride that put the biggest smile on my face was the Landshark Triathlon with Julia, Emily and Levi.
My cycling hobby started out years ago as a way to loose weight, then it became an outlet to help push me forward in my own life’s struggles personally and professionally. In these sports you need people that support you, that get you out of bed to ride, force you to train in the rain and the dark, keep you riding when you are depressed. We all need a bit of Levi to keep the smiles on our faces. I asked his mom what her end goal for Levi was and she said for him to walk across that finish line one day. I want to be there when it happens. He will have become the greatest champion, overcome more obstacles than you or I.
I realized several years ago while finishing my first mini marathon at 250lbs, as I saw a dozen or so kids being pushed in wheel chairs across the finish line that “You can do anything in life, if you get the right people behind you!”.
I was glad to have Levi behind me on Sunday, and would do it again tomorrow.
RUN – Emily Wright
On Sunday I had the pleasure of completing the run portion of Levi’s race at the ProRehab/Louisville Landsharks sprint triathlon. It was my first time participating in a relay and my first experience racing with athletes in tandem. I was excited to meet Levi and talk to him about our race. Prior to the start we joked about passing people and he practiced his “beep-beep” with gusto. Levi’s enthusiasm was evident in the huge grin that spread across his face and his mom warned him against flirting before we rolled out. Oddly enough I felt more pressure to perform well during this race, and not just because Julia and Stephen set the bar so high with their performance! I wasn’t just racing for myself, I was running for Levi. I was his legs that day. I felt a sense of duty to power up those hills with all I had. It felt so wrong to slow down. Walking would be giving in to the difficulty, and this little guy had pushed past such bigger barriers than this… How could I possibly let him down? With the help of awesome, cheering friends, lots of Gatorade and water, and a few smarties :) we made it to the finish line with smiles on our faces. Levi gave me a big high five and agreed that we could race again in the future, hopefully next time in cooler weather!
Reading these reports fills my heart. I’m so happy that Levi was able to participate and that Julia, Stephen and Emily saw the joy that they brought to Levi and his family. Levi even became a little bit of a celebrity thanks to a local TV station. WAVE3 send out a reporter and air the story below at the top of the 6:00 and 11:00 news the night of the race!
I can’t end this post without telling you more about where Levi goes for his therapy. The Kids Center for pediatric therapies is one of the most special places in Louisville. They are a non-profit organization that will never turn a child in need away. The provide care to every child who needs physical, occupational, or speech therapy regardless of their family’s ability to pay. They rely on donations to keep the doors open. If you would like to make a tax-deductable donation to The Kids Center, you do do so here.
My plan is to do more if these tandem races in the future and pair up other amazing kids with amazing triathletes. If you are interested in being a part of this, please let me know.
Be sure and visit all of my sponsor’s websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.
Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,