A New Adventure: Why I decided to guide a blind athlete through a triathlon
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
I got a phone call from an old friend on Monday. It was one of those moments when you hear from someone that you haven’t talked with in 5-6 years and you know something great…or terrible… is about to happen.
I grew up with Matt Miller. We were on swim team together as kids and then went to the same high school. Matt eventually moved to the West Coast, took up triathlon, and eventually a modeling career. He is a great triathlete. The sort of guy who almost immediately was traveling the world racing at an elite level.
Somewhere along Matt’s journey he was asked to guide a blind athlete through a triathlon. The experience changed Matt’s life. As he guided Heidi Musser through her triathlon he became determined to change society’s perceptions about blind athletes. And so he started the C-Different Foundation.
C Different pairs visually impaired athletes with sighted guides providing opportunities to improve quality of life through success in athletics.
You can view the trailer for the documentary Victory over Darkness about Matt’s journey with Heidi HERE. (warning, there may be tears)
Heidi and Matt
So, you can probably guess why Matt got in touch with me after all of these years.
He was contacted about a blind athlete in Nashville who needed a guide for the Music City Triathlon this Sunday. He thought of me.
I was honored. But the truth is, I ran through a number of emotions when he asked. I wish I could tell you that my mind shared the same enthusiasm that my heart did immediately. Instead I thought about my own race. It wasn’t going to be the same.
I haven’t been focused on Music City. It was simply going to be “another race” for me. I didn’t have a lot invested emotionally in it. Although I’m convinced that the idea of “A”, “B”, and “C” races is bull. Once the gun goes off you forget the plan and go for it. Like every triathlete, I had ideas about how fast I might go, what place I might get, and how satisfied I would feel afterwards.
Now, Matt was asking me to lead a blind person instead. I thanked Matt for asking, told him that I needed a little while to consider, and hung up. I took a few deep breathes. Tried to listen to my heart. And then I called Mommy. She was excited about it and gently guided me through what it all means. She didn’t tell me what to do. Instead you asked how I felt about it. She asked what the sport meant to me. What it was really about. She wanted to know what my heart was telling me to do.
I called Matt back and told him I would do it.
It’s not a charity thing for me. I’m guiding Jeremy Winters through the race. Jeremy won the National Championship at the Paratriathlon Nationals in Austin, TX a few months ago. The guy is an amazing athlete – sight or no sight. It’s a new adventure. And I’ll be working hard to guide Jeremy at the pace he’s capable of going.
I’m not taking pity on Jeremy. He doesn’t need any. He’s a father of 3 and a National Triathlon champion. Instead I’m partnering with him on the journey. At the end of the day we’ll both have done the miles. Tied to another person. Now, tell me, does that sound like an easy way out?
I’ve written to you before about the chances I wanted to take this year. The new experiences I wanted to uncover. Most importantly, I set out to listen to my heart more often than my head. I set out to be there for people more often. This was an answer to a prayer that I prayed months ago. I just didn’t know that it would come in this way.
I think I’m right. It won’t be the same. And that’s great.
Sunday Jeremy Winters and I will compete in the Music City Sprint distance triathlon – tethered at the waist. I can’t wait to experience the new adventure and to tell you all about it afterwards. I’m keeping this letter short, because I know I’ll have so much more to tell you afterwards.
We’re meeting Jeremy and his family tomorrow to get things ready for race day.
I love you,
Tues: Swam 1000
Wed: Ran 4 miles
Thurs: Swam 1500
Fri: Ran 4 miles