I am an athletic middle-aged woman: wife, mother of three teenagers, and a retired New York State Trooper. I have always been very active and have been running for what seems like forever. Several years ago, however, I got the triathlon bug, which provided me with an introduction to cycling.
This is where my story gets less ordinary. Several years ago while training for my first ½ IRONMAN distance race, I started to suffer from vertigo, dizziness, and balance issues, which I attributed to over-training. Fast forward to today, I still have bouts of vertigo, dizziness and balance issues, but now also have foot drop and left arm weakness due to Multiple Sclerosis.
With the new medical diagnosis in hand as well as with my first leg brace, in 2012, I signed up for IRONMAN Lake Placid. The reasons that I shouldn’t have been able to make it to the finish line far outnumbered the reasons I should have. Truthfully, I couldn’t walk part of December, January, and part of February that year, but on that July race day the triathlon stars aligned and 16 hours and 16 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line to hear “The first time for Jill – Jill you are an IRONMAN.”
On to my next adventure in 2013, where I signed up to participate in a bike ride down the coast of California. Well, for that event, my bike riding stars did not align. My disease is very unpredictable and let’s just say that I was not at my best during that ride. Disappointment can take you two ways….. at first I came home and wallowed in my pool of self-pity, visiting that dark place for several weeks.
Fortunately, I have never really been one to stay there long, especially when I realize that I can only change what I have control over, and I knew that I would need to find a more effective brace for my cycling and my running. In addition to addressing my brace needs, on that California ride, I had the pleasure (actually a blessing) to meet an amazing young man who had suffered a stroke and he now rode a trike. Not like your grandmother in Florida’s trike with a basket and bell on it; one that’s built for speed. He represented the USA in the 2012 Paralympics games.
So I jumped in with both feet and I sent him an email. He has turned out to be a wonderful mentor. In fact, he sent me one of his conversion axles (converts a 2-wheeled racing bike to 3-wheeled) to try out, while I waited to get one of my own. That trike addressed my balance issues and gave me a new desire to continue cycling. I still needed to address my own personal mobility issues for cycling and running (and walking) though.
I now walk, and bike with two Allard BlueROCKER’s and run with two Allard ToeOFF AFO’s. It took a long time to get there and I lost my confidence during the journey because I didn’t know if I had what it took to ride the way that I used too. After a long winter in training, I went up to Lake Placid and rode the IRONMAN course and totally rocked it on that three wheeled bike. In fact, I found myself again! With my Allard brace, and me on my trike, I was back!
Following this time, 2014 was an amazing year for me. I completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, in San Francisco, in June and in July I became the US National Para-Cycling Champion in the trike division. I was then selected to represent the United States at the Para-Cycling World Championship in August, where I obtained the silver medal in the road race along with the bronze in the time trail. The best part, Allard was along for the ride in each of those events.
In 2015, I received even more exciting news after being named to the US Paralympic cycling A Team! I can’t wait for 2016 because as I always say, “whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re probably right.”