At the end of May we got the chance to take a trip together to Illinois and Indiana for Scott to participate in a triathlon training camp and then participate in a triathlon at the end of it.
Scott was sponsored by a non-profit called Semper Fi Fund that provides resources and support to Veterans from all branches of the military. They were able to send 10+ Veterans to this event and Scott was lucky enough to be one of them! Scott has participated in events hosted by Semper Fi Fund in the past, and this was going to be his first since we got married so they were kind enough to invite me.
For this camp Semper Fi Fund partnered with another non-profit that is based in Chicago called Dare2Tri. Their mission is, “to positively impact the lives of athletes with physical disabilities and visual impairments by developing their skills in paratriathlon.” They host various camps for different ages of athletes and this camp was designed for injured Veterans.
DAY 1– OUR FIRST FLIGHT TOGETHER
The trip started by Scott and I waking up at 3am to make a 6:30am flight out of San Diego. This was our first time flying together and my first time flying with someone who has visual impairment so I learned a lot! When I worked at the Blind Center at the VA some of the O&M’s got to do O&M lessons at the airport and although I hadn’t had the experience of doing this, I did remember some of tips I learned about through their experiences.
Since we got to the airport so early going through security was uneventful. I knew Scott could keep his long cane with him through the security process, but I also informed the agents he was legally blind and they let me stay closer to him and guide him through the body scanner. Then when we reached the gate, Scott taught me that if we let the gate agent know he was visually impaired we could board first. At first I felt awkward because people tend to crowd the area when they know boarding time is near and we had to wiggle our way through them to board, but it was really helpful to have the extra time and space to find our seats and store our carry-ons.
We landed safely in Chicago and met up with the leaders for Semper Fi Fund and Dare2Tri as well as some of the other Veterans that were participating. We then took an hour drive together to Hammond, Indiana where we would be staying and the camp would take place.
DAY 2- STARTING CAMP AND MEETING EVERYONE
The first day of the camp was so jam packed and I was so exhausted at the end of it, but I couldn’t complain because I wasn’t even doing the training! The day consisted of swim practice, strength training, tandem practice, and some running drills. Scott met Eric who would be his guide during the triathlon and participated in the camp with him. The two of them ended up being an awesome team together and we wish we lived closer to each other so they could do other events together.
As Scott trained I got the chance to take a bike ride around Hammond and see some of Indiana. I rode with another volunteer named Molly who shared that Dare2Tri changed her life after she lost her left leg and she learned that she could still swim, bike, and run, but just in a different way.
We also got to meet the amazing people who founded Dare2Tri, including a Veteran named Melissa Stockwell who is the first woman I have ever met with a Purple Heart. She lost her left leg as a result of being injured in Iraq and has become a Paralympian and won a bronze medal in 2016! I thought she was just the coolest and toughest woman ever and I was in awe of her all weekend.
The first day of camp ended with a yoga session and going to a restaurant that hosted a dinner for the entire group where everyone got some time to get to know each other better. We met so many great people I wish I could do a little highlight on them all. At the end of the weekend everyone was exchanging contact info and finding each other on social media to stay in contact.
DAY 3– CAMP CONTINUED
The last day of camp before the triathlon was held at the park where the event was going to take place. Scott got to be a part of a group of Veterans who helped unfold a giant American flag that was attached to a crane that could be seen no matter where in the park you were! He and Eric then had another tandem ride practice, a strength training/cardio workout, and a swim in the lake to prepare for the next day. There was also a session that taught tips and tricks for a smooth and faster transition between each event during race day. The weather forecast warned for a storm heading our way and all day everyone was wondering how much time we had before it started raining. It ended up being one of those things that works out so perfectly because it started thundering and lightning as everyone was finishing up a bbq dinner we had at the park and it was time to go home.
DAY 4– LEON’S TRIATHLON
What made this entire trip extra special was that the triathlon the Veterans participated in at the end of the camp was created to support our military and Veterans. Leon’s Triathlon takes place at Wolf Lake in Indiana and is, “is 100% dedicated to the support and empowerment of the US military and our veterans, especially those injured veterans in need of the most help.
Most of the Veterans participated in the Sprint Tri which is a 750 meter swim (about .5 miles) , 20km bike (12.5 miles) , and 5k run (3.1 miles).
One Veteran we met at camp that I have to mention was Veronica. Everyone needs a Veronica in their life. She had such a big heart, really, she drove us to our hotel after the triathlon so we didn’t have to take a bus and shuttle, and she had such a positive attitude that could put anyone around her in a better mood. She is retired from the Army and this was going to be her first triathlon since loosing one of her legs. We met her the night we arrived in Indiana and we got to know her better as the days went by. She has been the only person I have met who can think of ways to tease Scott and have quick funny comebacks to his jokes as fast as he comes up with them.
The weather that morning was breezy but it didn’t seem to slow Scott and Eric down. They had a great race together and finished strong!
Scott and I are so thankful for Semper Fi Fund and Dare2Tri for the camp and to Leon’s Triathlon for the patriotic triathlon event.