By Sasha Underwood
Several years ago Becky Piper was attacked while living in Guam by would be armed robbers, severely beaten with a gun and left to die. Local naval doctors immediately evacuated her to San Diego for treatment. She is now partially paralyzed. Yesterday she completed Xterra Lory. What happened in between is remarkable and brought tears to my eyes watching her finish knowing all that she went through to even compete. You can read about her account HERE.
Prior to the attack, Becky was an ultra-marathon runner. A friend of hers had mentioned the Xterra in Guam and essentially challenged her by saying because he was a guy he would be faster than her and would beat her time – which ignited a small fire in her. She trained and completed the 2013 Xterra Guam, finishing 2nd in her age group and qualified for the Xterra National Championships. Oh, and her friend, did not even start because he didn’t train.
Shortly after that she was attacked. When she finally emerged from her coma weeks later and barely started talking, she asked the doctors if she could resume racing. They explained that her paralysis may be permanent – to which she replied, “Ok, well that’s why there’s a Para Athlete division!” After spending some time with her I can only imagine her saying that in a matter-of-fact, upbeat, genuine way with that huge Becky smile of hers!
She is now paralyzed on her right side and uses a brace to walk. Within the past three years, she has become a USAT Coach with Team MPI, and she completed two sprint triathlons last year. Check out her accomplishments on her Facebook page!
When we met last year, I asked if she would be doing Xterra’s again. She explained that she would like to but wasn’t sure of which one would be suitable for her. I immediately thought of Xterra Lory – it’s such a great course for beginners and experts alike. A flowy bike course with a great climb of a run.
She signed up for Xterra Lory at the beginning of this year. I mentioned how I love that race but I can’t run anymore since my hip surgery in November, to which she replied, “then walk! I’m doing it!” Of course I signed up after that. Originally I was going to race the swim and bike portion and have my mom do the run.
Becky was nervous about the bike portion. She pre-rode the course a couple times and a few days before the race I asked her if she would feel more confident if I rode behind her on the bike course. She loved that idea so I planned to stay with her the entire race.
We put on our wetsuits to go do a quick practice swim. It was the first open water swim of the year for both of us – nothing like waiting until race day! Anna, Becky’s transition handler, and Sam, Becky’s husband, helped Becky into her wetsuit. The best part was watching them lift Becky up by either side and try to shake her into her wetsuit! I REALLY wish I had taken a picture of that!
The entrance to the lake was slick and muddy and several athletes slipped while entering. It was a good time to discuss a strategy for Anna to help Becky out of the water when she finished. The water was chilly and both Becky and I had a little cold water shock panic when we put our face in the water. We were in wave seven so we had plenty of time to practice. By the second wave we were comfortable and I tried to stay slightly to her right and in front of her so she could follow me.
We finished faster than her projected time in under 30minutes!
Sam modified Becky’s bike so all of the shifters and brakes are on the left side. In addition, her bike is a full suspension, more of a down-hill, slack geometry and has a 27.5 wheel on the front with a 26 wheel on the back. Becky can’t stand up to get over obstacles or downhill sections so the wheels and geometry of the bike help put her in a better position to ride that type of terrain.
I had so much fun riding with her! Becky had named many sections of the bike course from pre-riding it. The first section she named ‘Bridges Galore’ (but later renamed it to ‘Why Will Becky’s Foot Not Stay On the Pedal’). Next came ‘Where Becky Endo’d’. Then ‘Holy Crap! Look At All the Uphill!’ And last but not least, ‘The Part I Only Saw Once Because the Other Time I got a Flat Tire.’
This girl would fall over, get back up, and do it again. Over, and over, and over again. I was so impressed with her tenacity and perseverance – all the while with a ginormous smile on her face. At one point she fell over, threw her arm up and with a grin from ear to ear said, “ta-dah!” I’m so glad I was there to help out when I could and put her foot back into her unruly pedal. By the end of the bike we pretty much had that down to a science.
Her family and friends were waiting for her at the bike finish cheering with excitement. Anna and Sam helped her transition, changing her biking brace to her running brace made with carbon fiber which is more comfortable and allows better mobility for hiking.
I originally was going to do the run with Becky but I forgot my running shoes. Fortunately my mom, who was already planning to run, ran with her instead. Becky described her run as an attempt to get over rocks. She fell a few times, ended up with a mysterious scrape down her entire length of her arm, and has a bruised and skinned knee… but she did it. She explained that my mom gasped the first time she fell but by the 5th time she was unphased. That’s just what happens. You fall, and then you just get back up.
Becky’s friends and family ran with her through the last 200 yards leading up to the finisher’s chute. I personally could not hold back the tears of joy, knowing what I know about Becky, knowing how meaningful it is to train and overcome obstacles and push through no matter the odds or what life throws at you… knowing what it feels like to cross the finish line of my first 5k, 10k, Marathon and Ironman… the feeling is the same and I couldn’t help the tears from flowing. Looking around there was not a dry eye among us.
Becky is incredibly motivating, inspiring and her up-beat, nothing-can-get-me-down attitude is infectious. I am honored to have raced with her and call her my friend. I look forward to watching her race the Boulder Half Ironman in August!