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Coaches Blog

Handlers: My Experience with the Unsung and Amazing Paratriathlon Volunteers Part 2

In part 1 of this series about my personal experience with having a handler to help with transitions in triathlon, we looked at the swim and how influential and needed my handler was, both before and after my swim. Now let's look at the bike and the run.


My particular type of paralysis (right-side hemiplegia, meaning paralyzed on the right side) requires my handler to be very involved in the swim entry and exit. However, I am much more independent on the bike and run. Read below to hear how!


The transition from Swim to Bike in Paratriathlon:

Once in the transition area, my handler must stretch out my wrist quite a bit before I can put on my wrist brace for the bike. This is because my wrist quickly and easily becomes contractured.


(Contracture definition: a shortening (as of muscle, tendon, or scar tissue) producing deformity or distortion)


The mid-triathlon stretch for this involves gently pushing my wrist back while supporting the thumb. In the following picture, my husband, who is my handler, is stretching my wrist while I am simultaneously taking in nutrition.

Because I already have my bike shoes on, while my handler stretches out my wrist with one hand, he also assists me with opening any other nutrition packages I need.


Once my wrist is relaxed, I put on my helmet. My handler then clips it on. I unhook my bike from the rack and make my way out of the transition to the mount line.


My handler stays beside me while I mount my bike because I have poor balance. He cannot push me forward or move my bike in any capacity. He can hold it steady and ensure it (and I!) don't fall over while I clip in my right foot and get ready to take off. Finally, when I'm ready, I go!

The transition from Bike to Run in Paratriathlon:

As I come into transition again, my handler is standing a few feet in front of the dismount line. His most crucial duty during this transition is to help me get off my bike without falling! Once this is finished, we get my bike back to its transition rack, I take off my bike shoes, and my handler assists me in switching my brace (or AFO) from my bike shoes into my running shoes. Meanwhile, I put on my knee brace for running. Once my running shoes are ready, I put them on, take any nutrition/hydration I need, and proceed to the last leg of the triathlon!


Stay tuned for the next installment about finishing the triathlon and FAQs about having a handler!

 

Coach Becky Piper is a USAT Certified LII Paratriathlon and Triathlon Coach living in Michigan with her husband Sam and her dog named Moose. She is a paratriathlete, and paracyclist, and has plans to try her hand at para- dog sled racing. Her true passion is coaching athletes to reach their best selves - both in endurance sports and beyond! Coach Becky can be reached at becky@teammpi.com.

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