As i waited in the holding tent, my stomach did its final flipflop. The announcer shouted, “and from the United States- Amy Dixon!”
The crowd gathered against the barriers formed a chute, and my guide Lindsey and I marched proudly down the blue carpet. I stuck my hand out, and high fived the outstretched hand of my coach and several spectators. We made our way down the slippery steep dock to the water. We said “LETS DO THIS” as we lowered ourselves into the water, making our final goggle adjustments. We swam a few hard strokes in our tight long-sleeve wetsuits, and readied for the starting gun.
About 3 minutes into my swim, I began to smile. Our pace was rhythmical, and our strokes were smooth and powerful, perfectly matched to my partner swimming tethered to my waist off to my right. We were swimming along the seawall, when I looked up to the sidewalk running parallel to us, and saw Debbie, my Team Red White and Blue teammate and volunteer, walking along with us, leading my beautiful Labrador Guide Dog Elvis. I began to relax and smile, and settled into a fast and easy swim despite the slightly choppy water of Lake Michigan
We ran out of the water and got onto the bike quickly after a fairly fast transition. We were almost positive we were the First Ladies out of the water, but there were a few tandems kicking about. We headed out for our first bike lap. As we hit the first straightaway on the T-Shaped course, we went to switch from the middle ring to the big ring on the bike, only to discover that it wouldn’t shift. I begged Lindsey to keep trying. Finally, before we made our first 90 degree turn, it mirculously cooperate3d and we patted the bike and said “good Girl Palomino”
The team manager, the night before had gone over each specific lap of the bike course with us. It was a very very technical course and several athletes were confused, ourselves included. After my Guide Lindsey had stood up during the athletes briefing, and directly asked the technical delegate of the race about the number of laps on the bike course we were more confused than ever. Our team manager took us aside and explained each individual lap to us and encouraged us to cut seven pieces of electrical duct tape and tape them to the bike, one for each lap. He explained that we needed to take the first piece of tape off when the fountain was to our right on the course. This seemed confusing to us but we deferred to his expertise and went home to sleep.
Our bike split time was fast and furious. The bike course was very technical with three 180° turns, no easy feat on a tandem bike. My neck was beginning to cramp up from turning my head sharply to the right and laying my forehead down on Lindsey’s back. I tore the final piece of tape off of the bike and discovered that we were keeping pace with some of the men! Both of the ladies teams were behind us and we were well on our way to victory!
we ran out of transition in the blistering heat next to Buckingham fountain to the screams of “Go Dixon! Go team USA!” Lindsay pointed out to me almost immediately that I was running way too fast given my plan for my race. She and I both knew that I could not hold that pace for the entire 3 miles. I worked on slowing down and slowing my breathing and grabbed a water from the first aid station. Lindsay gave me the rundown on where the other two teams were in relation to our race. We were a full lap ahead of both the Canadians and about half a lap ahead of Patricia the current reigning national champion. I settled in and knew I had tough work ahead.
The heat went from uncomfortable to absolutely insufferable in mere minutes. I did my best to manage my heat exchange by dumping water on my head at Each aid station. The water was uncomfortably warm and did little to cool my head. On the second half around final lap Patricia breezed easily by us. We pushed into our final lap and saw the finish line as we rounded Buckingham fountain for the third time. I would be taking home the silver medal and my second international race! We hugged and smiled as we crossed the finish line and jumped for sheer joy and excitement.
As we grabbed ice and cold towels in the athlete recovery area we were so utterly excited and in sheer disbelief. I called my mom immediately to share the good news. Current reigning world and national champion male blind triathlete Aaron Scheidies gave us a huge hug and congratulations. Then we saw the white board up on the wall of the tent. “why is our number three up there?” Lindsey and I both asked our coach. “Did you do the correct number of laps on the bike course?” “Yes absolutely!” We replied at once. “We followed your plan to a T!”
We stepped into the tent where the international triathlon union officials were gathered. Both our coach and team manager located the timing director for the race. We waited nervously while he grabbed our results from the computer. Our hearts sank as he showed us that we did not cross the timing mat for an eighth time. We were speechless. There was no arguing with the official. We had indeed not done enough laps. It was not seven laps, but in fact eight laps that we were supposed to do. We were told the wrong plan.
We spent the rest of the day trying to focus on all the good things that happened leading up to that huge disappointment. We ran an incredible race despite the disqualification. We learned to make sure we are the only ones responsible for knowing the course properly going forward. Our teamwork was impeccable, our paces were exceptional, and our communication was flawless. Given the tough result, I couldn’t be happier with my race and with my wonderful guide Lindsey. We learned a very difficult lesson and that was to trust our gut.
So next we are onto USA paracycling national championships in two days in Madison Wisconsin. We will have a chance at redemption. We need to trust our training and put our faith in our strength as a team. I couldn’t be more proud of that day. My next race with team USA is in Magog Canada on July 19. Nothing but the podium will be acceptable! Go USA!
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