My First Olympic Distance Triathlon: PH Patient Kathleen Richardson
What do you include in a race report? The highs, the lows, the doubts, the fears? On March 18, I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (my second tri ever)! I’m not sure what ever possessed me to try a triathlon. I thought my friends who did triathlons were a little on the crazy side, and I thought I’d never do that, especially with a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension. But, after years of riding my bike and getting stronger, after years of taking the first ever oral medication to treat PH, after the miracle of my pulmonary pressure lowering into the normal range, I decided I might just be able to try running and swimming.
As my feet hit the 66 degree water, and rubber clad bodies plunged into the water all around me, I thought, “I don’t want to do this, it’s too far, it’s too cold,” but I went ahead anyway, knowing that I would be glad I did. The water felt icy on my face and the dark water seemed to pull me in. I struggled to find my rhythm. How fast should I swim? How far can I make it? Am I ever going to finish this swim? Each buoy is so far from the next!
All these other people are swimming by. I flipped over on my back to do the back stroke and catch my breath. The sky was a blue gray, a bird flew by. And I’m still in a race! I flipped back over to see if I was still on track. I tried swimming freestyle again, my face in water, breathe, 1,2,3, breathe, peek up, sight the next buoy, 1,2,3, breathe, flip over on my back, do the back stroke. It took me a little over 40 minutes, but I made it, and was so happy when my feet felt the sand.
On to the next leg, the bike! It was foggy and cool. Riding is my comfort zone, so the 24.8 miles on the bike were my favorite part. Keeping the droplets of water off of my glasses was another challenge- I wish I had windshield wipers on my lenses! The ride took us on familiar roads out in the country surrounding Clermont, Fl. Rolling hills gave us a challenge, but also gave us the delight of zooming down after a slow climb up! I was almost back when I saw that many people were already well on their way through the run. I thought, “What?!”
The run was another challenge, six miles. So far, that’s the farthest I’ve run. I’m not a runner, but am growing in that area. I ran and walked the distance. One of the great delights of being toward the back of the pack is how encouraging we all are to each other. There are smiles, “way to go’s,” and “keep it going,” and the funniest comment was from a guy behind me saying, “I’m drafting off of you!”
The physical demands of the race are equal to the psychological demands. All the way through there is this mental conversation going on. “Keep it going, one stroke at a time, one mile at a time, one step at a time,” and, “work hard, but enjoy the journey.” The battle of daily living with PH for many is much like that. What keeps me going is the camaraderie and encouragement of my friends who train and race with me. What keeps me encouraged in the battle against PH is knowing that I am not alone. None of us are alone. We have each other, and we have family members, friends, doctors, nurses, researchers, health professionals. We have a strong and encouraging community. We are all in this battle together and we are all hopeful together.
I am grateful for the fellow PH patients who have been encouraging to me, I am grateful for the doctors that I’ve met who are caring for PH patients and working hard to find ways to improve treatment and daily life for PH patients. I am grateful for the drug reps and drug companies that work tirelessly to develop more effective medications and make sure that they reach those who need them.
I am grateful for the fun, the love, the strength, the encouragement, the hard work of Team PHenomenal Hope. I am grateful to be blessed to be a part of the team, and to be able to contribute to the mission of Team PH.