This morning I was a volunteer on the swim course of the Cap Tex Tri. This race pays big money, so I saw Olympians and pros coming out of the water, all sleek and dolphiny and totally intense as they zipped past on the way to their bikes. Even more exciting, though, was that this race was also the Paratriathlon National Championships. The paratriathletes’ waves came after the pros but before the age-groupers. First in the water was a group composed of sight-impaired folks, who were completing the entire race tethered to a guide. More waves followed, and athletes missing one or both arms or legs began swimming in. Some of them were able to hop on one leg to the wetsuit area where volunteers were helping racers out of their wetsuits; they’d get out of their wetsuit and then sit down to put a leg on before running up the stairs to their bikes. Others, who had either no functionality in their legs or no legs at all, were carried out of the water by volunteers over to the handcycle T1 area; they had their wetsuits stripped off there, their feet placed on the handcycle platforms while they whipped off their swim caps and put on their helmets, and then they hauled ASS, like shot from a dead standstill to full speed in a second, out onto the bike course. IT WAS SO FRICKING COOL. I was trying to do my volunteer duties while also staying out of the way of all the athletes, so I only managed to snap one halfway decent photo of some handcycles. I was walking past the end of the run course later and saw some handcyclers finishing up their bike course; two dudes were dueling to pass each other going around a corner, and it was some impressive handling.
For the run course, the handcyclers use a wheel chair, while folks with a working leg continue on with their prosthetic. Athletes missing arm functionality can use a brace on their bikes. The blind riders use tandems, and then run tethered if they want. My one fuzzy photo can’t do it justice, so here’s an official video.