On August 1st, 2010, I competed alongside Joe Dowling as an Achilles Guide. Joe competes in all distances of wheelchair, handcycle, and triathlons (both in the U.S and international level). In short, he’s a rockstar and still going strong at 71 years old.
My job was simple: to make sure no one gets in the way of Joe in the swim, guide Joe around potholes on the bike course, and assist with any mechanical issues.
I woke up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 AM, met Team Achilles at 5 AM, and was setting up transition at 6 AM.
The swim took place at the Flushing Meadows Aquatic Center, which is an indoor facility I use to train. Starting promptly at 7 AM, we lined up into our respective 9 minute corral and watched as the other athletes start their swim in every 10 second intervals.
The triathlon attracted well over 400 athletes and waited a good 30 minutes before we were up. The other athletes in 11,12,13 minute corrals waited well over an hour!
Joe lined up and was greeted with loud applause from the supportive crowd.
The first 200 meters were at a comfortable pace and Joe passed several athletes. Before you know it, we completed the swim in around 9:xx.
Quickly exiting the swim, Joe got on his wheelchair and we took the elevator to get to the transition outside. NYRR was great in accommodating Team Achilles, even providing a separate transition area for more space and convenience.
Joe got into his hand-cycle and we embarked on the 13 mile ride. The bike course could’ve been better as there were around 6-7 speed-bumps and several potholes. It was two loops on flat terrain and circled around Meadow Lake.
The run course was also flat with less potholes. At mile 2, the tire came off the rim of Joe’s wheelchair (I have no idea how that happened). An athlete on the run course stopped and helped us get the tire back on (we lost about 10 minutes). I can’t recall his name but his energy was incredible! Joe insisted he finish his race but said he’s racing the triathlon for fun and didn’t mind lending a hand. It took two guys to put the tire back on and I’m not sure if I could’ve done it alone. Once I inflated the tire, he helped push Joe and yelled “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU MAN – KEEP GOING!” So thanks random athlete for your help!
Joe finished strong as well as our other team mates. Afterwards, we celebrated at a beer garden in Astoria. GO ACHILLES!