The coaching group my coach (the amazing Mark Sortino) started many years ago just revamped their website and the quote on the page for Para Sports reads, “We won’t treat you any different than able-bodied athletes, but we know the difference.” Nowhere is this truth more apparent to me than during Ironman training over the past few months. Coach Mark expects me to work really hard, but also understands the important balance between getting in training hours and not completely destroying my residual limb. It can be a fine line between not getting enough training and putting in so much time that I hurt myself.
This is true for all athletes, but being an amputee adds a certain additional level of unknowns to the mix. For example, I ran 16.4 miles in one day a couple weeks ago and my leg was in agony. I had a huge sore on my residual limb and every step I took was excruciating.
I was extremely nervous about Ironman Boulder because of this, so Coach Mark set up a plan for me to run even longer the following weekend in hopes that I could regain my confidence. Low and behold, the very next weekend I ran 18 miles in one day and although my leg got a small sore by my knee where my prosthesis was rubbing, overall I felt completely fine. It’s hard for me to know heading out on a run how my leg is going to feel that day, but Coach Mark understands how to help find ways to push me appropriately so that I can gain confidence in my own ability even after a tough weekend.
The concept of be treated equally, but with an underlying understanding that sometimes there are legitimate reasons I have to modify what is required of me, has always been important to me. It’s one of the reasons I chose to work with Coach Mark, because I knew that’s how he would treat me as an athlete. It’s also the way my riding instructor, Cindy Burge, treated me when I was riding horses back in high school and college, and is the way my mom has always treated me. I believe this opportunity for equality in treatment and expectation-setting is what has ultimately lead me to pursue my Ironman dream, and I am extremely thankful for all the people in my life who have allowed and continue to allow me to set those high expectations for myself. It’s also why I’m extremely grateful that Coach Mark is the one who is helping to lead my journey to be one of very few female amputees to finish a full Ironman (and perhaps the first female amputee to complete Ironman Boulder).