Congrats to Austin triathlete Patricia Walsh, who defended her title in the PT5 category of the 2015 CAMTRI Paratriathlon American Championships this past weekend in Monterrey, Mexico.
Walsh, who is blind, competes in the PT5 category for athletes with a visual impairment. Athletes in the division compete alongside a sighted guide during the race, which consists of a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike and a 5-kilometer run. They use a tandem bicycle during the cycling stage.
Walsh’s time was 1 hour, 13 minutes and 32 seconds. Amy Dixon of Greenwich, Conn., came in second in 1:14:35.
In all, Americans hauled in 16 medals at the championships, held at Fundidora Park. U.S. paratriathletes are vying for spots on the first-ever U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team, which will be announced by July 26, 2016.
Walsh is the author of a book titled “Blind Ambition,” which recounts her experience.
Austin triathlete Laurie Allen is back at the track.
Allen, who was paralyzed in a fall earlier this year, has made several trips to the oval track at Anderson High School, where she is already working on whittling the time it takes her to make a lap in a wheelchair.
She’s competitive that way.
“Rolling onto the track for the first time was really hard. Really hard,” she says. “But it was amazing to be doing something active, to accomplish something. That’s where I used to do track workouts, so it’s nice to be on home turf.”
Allen fell off an icy deck at a friend’s house on Feb. 27, injuring her spine. She has use of her biceps but not her triceps, and can’t use her legs, trunk or fingers. She’s hopeful she may gain some of that function back eventually, possibly through experimental stem cell treatments.
In the meantime she’s working to settle into what she calls her “new normal.” This week, doctors removed a protective neck brace, dubbed Ned, that she’s worn since having surgery immediately after the accident.
Allen has been an athlete all her life – a high school swimmer, then a ballet dancer before injuring her Achilles tendon. In recent years she’s become a triathlete. Her husband Matt is now her main caregiver, spending about two hours each morning to bathe and dress her, and shifting her every 30 minutes during the day to prevent pressure sores.
They moved back to their Northwest Austin home in mid-April, and she started working part-time from home a few days later. She straps styluses to her hands and uses voice-activated software to work on her computer.
“It’s frustrating, but at least I’m connected,” she says.
The couple is settling into a routine, and has kept a sense of humor in the face of the challenges. They go to a gym when they can, socialize with friends and go out to dinner, but it’s a rough adjustment for someone used to a strong body and muscular arms, legs and shoulders.
“I look like I just survived a concentration camp, and I was a swimmer,” Allen says. “My arms are bone thin. It’s horrifying.”
The triathlon community has rallied around her, organizing fund-raisers, cooking meals and spending time at the Allen home, to give Matt Allen a break.
“She gets better every day,” Matt Allen says. “Every day there’s something she can do a little bit better.”
Next on Laurie’s agenda comes more outpatient physical therapy, more in-patient rehabilitation and then, if she can master a few more skills, a license to drive a specially-adapted car.
Fitness doesn’t have to cost a lot – or anything, really. You can go for a walk, or find one of the free fitness sessions that pops up around town now and then.
The latest? A free community workout at 9 a.m. Saturday to celebrate the fifth birthday of Austin Simply Fit, a personal training studio at 5134 Burnet Road.
Mark Rogers, a powerlifter and fitness trainer, founded the gym, known for its high-intensity, 30-minute workouts. The company now operates three studios – the one on Burnet Road, one on South Lamar Boulevard, and one in Leander, which opened last month.