Back In Action, Drew Hunthausen, Blind Motivational Speaker

Hello Friends. This past weekend I got back in the open water for the first time since I broke my foot at the end of August! I participated in the swim portion of the Bay Shore triathlon with numerous friends and tri teammates. In lieu of this, I wanted to share a letter from my acronym, “ANGEL”. The letter I want to focus on is “E” which stands for exercise.

Many of you probably have your own exercise routine, or at least one you have an intention of following. I am always reminded of the old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or in this case, the road to a flabby and out of shape body is paved with good intentions.

Creating an active and healthy lifestyle has the potential to lead to more success in many areas of your life. There are so many forms of exercise out there and each of us need to find what works best for us.

The sport of triathlon found me back in the spring of 2016. My first thought as I started down this path was, ”how the heck can a blind and hearing impaired guy do that”?

How am I going to charge out into the ocean and take on the waves? How would I ride a bike up to 70+ miles, and how would I run in a straight line for any length of time?

I was reminded me of one of the things Zig Ziglar used to say,

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”.

My friends, I was starting!  

Many of you may be trying to visualize how a blind guy does each portion of the event? In the swim my guide and I each wear a harness with about a 4 foot tether between us. It allows me to self-correct either when I run into my guide or feel the pull of the tether. I have swam a full mile before without ever talking to my guide using this method. My longest total swim to date has been 3 miles.

Let me tell you about the first triathlon I competed in. It involved a 750 meter ocean swim, a 12 mi bike ride, and a 5K run.  Little did I know that I would be facing 5 foot ocean waves that morning. Waves this big typically require a special technique just to get out past the breakwater. I know the technique of diving under the waves, but timing is a bit of a problem when you can’t see the waves coming and you haven’t determined a communication system with your guide (which was the case for me). Long story short, a lot of participants didn’t make it out or didn’t even try but we eventually made it out after swallowing half of the Pacific ocean!

It was brutal and I thought about quitting but I persevered.

When the swim was over I had to transition immediately to the biking portion of the race. The biking is done on a tandem bike, with my captain in front and me on the back.  The blind rider is referred to as “the blind stoker”.  My longest ride to date is over 100 miles.

To finish off the triathlon I hopped off my bike and transitioned into the run. For the run my guide and I hold hands so that we can still have full range of motion with our arms. When we came across the finish line, I tripped on the timing mat and did a perfect tuck and roll coming right back up on my feet. Some might say that I did it on purpose because the form was a perfect 10!

Despite the 5 foot waves and the tuck and roll at the end of the race, the feeling of crossing that finish line and accomplishing something that I once thought impossible was exhilarating and fulfilling. It was worth every gulp of sea water and scraped knee.

You don’t have to compete in a triathlon or sign up for 100 mile bike rides or 3 mile swims, but setting some reasonable physical conditioning and health goals can be proactive in taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. And when you are in control of your health, and your life, the best is yet to come!

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