At age eight while playing baseball, my mother noticed something wrong.
She said that one particular play made her concerned about my vision. A fly ball hit the bill of my hat and knocked it off. I did not even flinch. She said it was as if I never saw it. And, I didn’t. That year, I was diagnosed with a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa called Cone-Rod Dystrophy. In high school, I was still able to compete in sports playing for the high school football, baseball, and track teams. As the years went by, certain sports became more difficult. Eventually, I began to focus more on running. I won the state championship at 400 meters, and went to college on a track scholarship. At Harding University, I was a two-time Academic All-American and a one time All-American. I competed at the National Indoor and Outdoor Championships for the NAIA division. After college, I continued to run in various races and still do to this day. I have long left the 400 meters race since college, but now have run races ranging from the 5K distance to the full marathon.
Until I was 28, I was able to drive. I knew when it was time to stop driving. I also have recently determined that it is time to stop doing particular things by myself. I hate to ask for help, but have realized that this does not mean lack of independence, but in some cases the chance to do things I normally could not. One is riding a bike. Being able to ride at speeds to compete in a race is impossible with my vision. The first time I borrowed a tandem bike and went on a 25 mile ride and reached speeds of up to 30+ mph, I knew this was not dependence but freedom for me.
In 2009, my sister agreed to lead me in a triathlon in our hometown of Tullahoma, TN. She agreed to let me follow her in the swim, follow her in the bike, and I would run on my own. It was that race where the race directors first introduced me to the idea of a paratriathlon. I had never heard the term or knew it existed. At that race and three more after that, I either fell or ran the wrong way. These events plus the awareness of my ability to qualify as a paratriathlete is when my current endeavor began. I have since competed several times as a paratriatlete. At first I was not sure if I would like swimming tethered to someone else, riding tandem, or running tethered, but I loved it! With the help of several guides (thanks Jason, Justin, Chad, and David!), friends, family, and TNABA I have been able to compete in many races, including two national championships. By competing, my hopes are to show other low vision and blind individuals, as well as my three children, that through God all things are possible.