Kyle Coon gettin’ Real with This Entertaining Race Report, Guided by Andy Potts

By Kyle Coon

This Race Report contains strong language.

“Aaron’s the gold standard and I need to measure where I’m at.”
“You’re strong so just go kick some fucking ass!”
“How the fuck did they leave you off the national team?”
“Go fucking throw down and show the world that you’re here.”

One year earlier I was coming off a herniated disk in my low back and was only a month removed from hand surgery after a 25lb dumbbell landed on my hand in the gym. I’d been ready to throw down and earn my spot in the driver’s seat to represent Team USA at the Paralympics for Paratriathlon. Then COVID19 swept across the world and upended life as we knew it.

After months of lockdown and uncertainty we finally returned to full-time training. It took a while to get my groove back and for much of the remainder of 2020 I listlessly plodded through my workouts. Sure I could still throw down some decent bike power and there were some glimpses of speed in the water and on the run.
I went home to spend time with my family over Christmas and New Year’s and returned to the training center the first week of January. I knew my first race of the year would be in Sarasota. Whether that race would count for Paralympic and/or World Ranking points was uncertain, but I knew it would count in my mind and depending on who decided to turn up and race it would count in the minds of everyone watching. So I made a commitment to focus on the process and to throw down. Fortunately for me my fellow resident teammates Howie Sanborn and Jamie Brown had moved on campus and were both committed to getting back to their best. Hailey and Melissa both also seemed hyper focused upon all of our return to training together. A shift seemed to be occurring on the resident team where we were all holding each other more accountable while being incredibly supportive. Every day we each showed up to train and pushed each other. We encouraged each other, and lifted each other a little higher with every swim stroke, pedal revolution and running stride. Before we knew it, it was time to travel to Sarasota to see what each of us was capable of doing.

The St. Pete Shit Show
I stepped out of the shower into an inch of Luke warm water. “What the fuck!” Flew from my mouth. I must be very incompetent at showering. I immediately began mopping up the water that I thought was just by the shower. But as I moved toward the door to the rest of the house we’d rented my concern and frustration grew. The water extended all the way to the door and out into the hall. I began to really worry. What was going on. I called to Howie and Noah who were tinkering with Howie’s hand cycle in the living area. Noah grabbed the rest of the towels we had in the house and tossed them my way. I mopped up and rung out the towels. Mopped up and rung out. Mopped out and rung out. Mopped up and rung out. Then Andy came out of his room and asked what was going on. He peaked into the bathroom. “Oh shit, that’s coming from the toilet.”
Since I had the pleasure of already being drenched in what we now knew as toilet/shit water Andy talked me through shutting off the water to the toilet. Even though I shut the water off it kept on coming. I continued mopping up with sopping wet towels as Howie worked to get hold of our Airbnb host to request a Plummer.

We’d arrived on Wednesday night and as we pulled up to the house Howie received a message from the host letting him know that one of the two toilets was out of order but the second toilet worked great and both showers were working. We walked into the house and while the floors were clean it was pretty evident that this house had been misrepresented on Airbnb. The walls and ceiling weren’t very clean, several outlets were hanging out of the walls, the TV still had a sticker on it, the box for the microwave was stashed behind the couch. Then standing at the kitchen sink we could look directly through a window into the back bedroom. Not exactly the most private for whoever got that room. Oh well, we could make do. Sure only having one toilet for four athletic dudes wasn’t ideal but we’d all stayed in worse before.

We’d chosen to stay in st. Petersburgh, Fla because our fellow teammates had rented a house not far from here and we all wanted to stick together and do some training together and be able to hang out both pre and post race. Sure we’d have to drive 45min to get to Sarasota on Sunday morning but it was worth it to us.
Thursday and Friday passed with little issues except for us occasionally joking about how we didn’t think the Airbnb was worth what we were paying for it. We were also slowly breaking Andy out of his shell. Andy Potts had been training with us for a few months now and while he was a great guy and athlete we really hadn’t cracked through to his personality yet. After two full days with us nutcases we realized the we’d broken Andy and he was flinging insults, making wisecracks, and fitting right in.

Friday afternoon we spent tinkering with bikes, putting on new tubes and tires, and doing general tune ups. Melissa came over to hang out with us for a while and did an excellent job cooking us all up a few Bubba Burgers on the stove. We were bummed that the grilled that had been advertised was nonexistent, but Bubbas still taste great on the stove.

After Melissa left is when the shit hit the fan with the bathroom flooding.

I’d been able to sop up the majority of the water and discovered that the cocking on one side of the base of our one working toilet was gone. So now we had no working toilet. Howie had finally gotten hold of Airbnb who’d gotten hold of the host and we were promised a Plummer would arrive at 1:00 AM. It was going on midnight and Howie offered to wait up. The rest of us went to bed.

I was awoken by the sound of someone hammering on the doorbell at 7:00 AM. I stumbled to the front door making it there the same time Andy did. We greeted the “plummer” (term used extremely loosely) and invited him to come check out the toilet… After of course insisting he return to his truck to put on a mask. He walked in, stepped directly on the bath mat we’d bought and stuck in front of the door of the bathroom to stem the flow. I cringed at the squelch of a thoroughly soaked bathmat of toilet water. The “Plummer flushed the toilet and said he needed to go to Home Depot. Then Andy asked him to come take a look at the second toilet. Hey, this guy was here maybe he’d be able to fix both toilets so we could have two working toilets rather than no working toilets. As soon as Andy and the gentleman stepped into the second bathroom Andy began gagging. Sewage had pushed its way up through the shower and flooded the second shower. Howie immediately jumped online and booked us a hotel. There was no way we were going to stay in this house with sewage backing up into one of the showers.

The Plummer disappeared for a bit to go get his supplies and returned to try and fix everything. Meanwhile, Andy and I took off on an easy spin to loosen our legs, after all we had to race the next day.
When we returned the plummer, who we were now expecting was more of a handyman friend who owed the Airbnb host a favor claimed he’d fixed the first toilet and was now snaking the second bathroom. We began moving our stuff to the cars. The handyman was up on the roof and insisted Andy go check the second bathroom to see how things were progressing. Andy, being a nice guy, did. He came out and let everyone know that the situation was even worse. Sewage was still coming up through the shower. We were all done with this shit show and ready to get away from this house.

Packet Pik Up and Course Preview
We moved our gear into an extended stay hotel and then hit the road to Sarasota so we could pick up our packets and do a quick preview of the run course.

We arrived at Nathan Benderson Park around 3:30 PM. Andy and I immediately bumped into Aaron Scheidies and Greg Billington (2016 Paralympian, who would be guiding Aaron for this race). We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other luck for the next day’s race. As we walked away Andy told me in an undertone, “Aaron looks very fit. He came to race.”
“Bring it on,” I said.

We headed out to jog the run course and talk race strategy. Then we collected our race packets and headed back to St. Pete and our significantly better extended stay hotel.

Race Day
“It’s fucking race day1 It’s game time! Are you ready?”

Andy was practically spitting with excitement as he pummeled my shoulders in transition before the race. As we walked past Howie, Andy got right up in Howie’s face and did the same thing. Then turning around he pumped up Melissa, Hailey and Jamie in turn. What was going on? We were all jazzed but when you’ve got Andy Potts getting in your face pumping you up you can’t help but get even more amped. You’d have thought Andy was about to race in Kona he was so jazzed and excited. And that excitement and “Game On” attitude infected the entire Paratriathlon Resident team. We were all ready to throw down.

The Swim
We stepped out onto the pontoon. The first wave of Paratriathletes went off at 11:00 AM. This wave consisted of the PTS2, PTS 3, PTS 4, and PTS 5 men. One minute later the PTS 2-5 women took off. Then Andy and I lowered ourselves into the cool water. Aaron (guided by Greg) and Owen (guided by Ryan) would begin chasing me 3 minutes and 21 seconds after I started. Small benefit of being totally blind I guess. Even so I’d never beaten Aaron in a race. Aaron had never actually ever lost to a fellow visually impaired American. Could I do the unthinkable? Something that had never been done before?

The horn sounded and I charged ahead. Andy, swimming to my left, was so jazzed he nearly ramped it up too much and was on track to go to his swim race pace before he remembered that despite my progress I can’t swim 1min per 100m… But we corrected and began getting in sync with each other. I’d been swimming well coming into this race but today felt different. Every time my hand entered the water I had no trouble getting a vertical forearm and catching the water. I was able to generate smooth and powerful strokes. I remembered the words of my coach, Derick Williamson, “Smooth, steady and strong.” I didn’t try to hammer the swim, I didn’t try to swim easy, I just swam and focused on breathing and pushing as much water behind me as possible. I felt us pass by one of the women that had started ahead of us. Then on the back half of the swim I felt us come up on the feet of someone else. Then we were past them, and then we passed a third person. WTF, what was going on? Either some people were having really tough swims or I was having the swim of my life. Turns out it was the ladder.
I felt my hands hit the sandy ramp which signified our swim exit. I popper up and Andy immediately ripped off the tether and jumped to my right side. We sprinted up the ramp and into Transition 1.
Swim Time: 11min 6sec

Transition 1
As I ran I yanked down the zipper of my sleeveless wetsuit. Initially I had a bit of trouble getting it down to around my waist but eventually was able to free both arms. Andy led me to the bike and I ripped my wetsuit the rest of the way down to my ankles. Of course, my wetsuit got hung up on my heels and I had to spend a few extra seconds prying the wetsuit off. Then I chucked the wetsuit, swim cap and goggles into the baskets where all of our discarded gear is supposed to go. Then it was on with my blacked out sunglasses, Giro Aerohead helmet, and cycling shoes. We grabbed the bike and ran to the mount line. We threw our right legs over the top tube, clipped in and took off.
Transition 1 Time: 1min 13sec

The Bike
It took a few pedal strokes to get up to speed but once we were up to race power and effort we settled in. We quickly made our way to the only technical part of the bike course, a tight 180 degree lefthand turn. We’d spun easy in the morning prior to the race and ridden around this turn two or three times, but riding easy around a turn and taking it at speed are very different. Andy took our first go at this turn a little cautiously. We came out of the turn and quickly powered up to speed again. I felt so good. I was cruising. My legs felt so fresh and I just wanted to hammer, but I knew I had to keep focused and stay within myself. This race wasn’t going to be decided on the bike. It was going to come down to how fast I could run.

Andy smoothly navigated the course. We kept ramping up our effort on each lap. As we came out of each 180 I consumed a good amount of fluid. I was trying a new drink mix that Andy gave me. It was an Infinite Nutrition Bike Blend with caffeine. It was easy to drink and wasn’t upsetting my stomach, not yet at least.

There were only two hairy moments on the bike. During the second lap the back end became a little squirrelly and Andy had me stop pedaling so he could look back and assess. He was worried we had a flat tire. After a few seconds though we resumed pedaling. We think some debris just made our back end wobble a bit. Then on the third lap we came out of the 180 turn and I began to throw down some power. Maybe a little too much because it caused us to swerve a bit and very nearly eat pavement. Andy kept the bike upright though and we continued.
As we approached the end of the bike we passed my teammate, PTS4 competitor Jamie Brown. Jamie gave us a yell of encouragement, and after giving us the appropriate 10m drafting zone began trying to match our pace. We were flying. Jamie later told me that he was so jazzed and pumped up to see us come past him he couldn’t help but become reinvigorated to race and continue to extend his gap on his competitors.

Before I knew it Andy was telling me “left shoe” signaling to me to unstrap my left shoe and pull my foot out. Then a few pedal strokes more and pull the right foot out. We made the final turn on the bike course and Andy gave me the count down. “3, 2, 1, dismount.” I popped off and we began running with the bike.
Bike time: 26min 25sec

Transition 2
We sprinted to our spot in transition. As of yet we hadn’t seen Aaron or Owen since the very start. I knew I had to be quick in T2 though because both of them could run like the wind. I fumbled with my shoes and had to take a couple deep breaths to center myself. Finally, my shoes slid on to my feet, I grabbed the run tether, yanked it over my head and Andy was there to run next to me as we headed toward the run course.
Transition 2 Time: 58sec

The Run
“Stay focused. Don’t go out too fast. Descend this run,” I told myself. We took a hard right hand turn, then a left and we were out on the run. I took a deep breath in through my nose letting my belly fill up with oxygen. Then I forcefully released it. Andy kept telling me “relax, chin down, show the bottom of your foot, roll with it.”

We made our way onto the first of three little foot bridges we’d have to cross. These bridges would be the only elevation gain on the run. In previous years running up these crushed me. Today I was feeling good. My legs felt lighter than they ever had coming off the bike. It took a ton of self control not to just start sprinting and throwing down the gauntlet. I knew that if I wanted to run the run I was capable of running I had to be patient and execute the plan. And Andy was sticking to the plan. Several times he’d tell me to back it off to pick it up. We wanted to run a conservative first mile. We hit the first mile in 6min 7sec. Then we began to turn up the heat. We made it off the last bridge and onto a flat dead straight stretch that would bring us out to the 5K turnaround point.

At this point we were running into a headwind. We hit the turnaround and the air seemed to just stand still. I went from hearing the wind blasting in my ears and the breeze having a cooling effect to a very hot and humid day where I was trying to run 6min miles. My breathing rate seemed to double, I suddenly felt the sweat pouring off my face and body. My legs felt heavy and I just knew that Aaron would be there when I turned around. In my head I was saying “There’s no way you’ve been running at a 6min pace. Aaron’s got to be just behind you and Andy’s been lying about the run pace.”

Andy had a calm head though and I think he could tell I was beginning to struggle. He reminded me to relax, to let myself flow, to not become mechanical. We ran for 30sec, then a minute. Where was Aaron? Then he was there running toward us with Greg.

“Here they come,” Andy said. “You knew Aaron was going to come to race. So don’t give him anything. Look strong. Stay focused. You’ve got this!”

We passed each other and once we were out of ear shot Andy said, “You’ve got a 2min 40sec gap.” I couldn’t believe it. That knowledge gave me a boost. I began really pushing myself to go even faster. I knew that 2:40 gap could shrink in the blink of an eye if I let off the gas. Aaron’s been racing a long time and is probably the best blind/visually impaired triathlete in history. I knew he could turn the jets on and close a gap to anyone in the world. If I wanted to hold onto this lead I’d have to turn myself inside out to do it.

As we ran we began passing people in the opposite direction. We saw Owen and his guide Ryan looking ridiculously strong as they chased Aaron and Greg. Jamie Brown running strong. Then my teammate Hailey Danz. As we passed Hailey gave her trademark phrase “Fuck yeah Kyle!!!” Hailey and I are swim buddies in the pool. We pace off each other and push each other to dig deeper. We’d both made major jumps in our triathlon fitness the past two years and had both made significant strides in closing the gaps on our competitors. Hailey could see I had a massive lead on Aaron and she was stoked. Just a short 30sec later we saw our teammate Melissa Stockwell who yelled with excitement and encouragement to see our gap not just holding but growing. Then female BVI compatriot Liz Baker and her guide Jillian Elliott. We made it onto one of the bridges and Andy continued to push me.

“Come on Kyle, don’t let off the gas. Bring it up! Bring it up!” He was almost begging me to give a little more. I pumped my arms, kicked my legs behind me and forcibly exhaled. We made the final turn and hit the finisher shoot. Andy yelled at me to sprint and I did. I sprinted hard begging the finish line to come to me faster. Then we were there and I heard the announcer say that I was the first to cross the finish line in the men’s PTVI class. I couldn’t believe my ears. I grabbed Andy in a massive bear hug and held on, yes because I was excited and grateful that Andy had pushed me to my limit and helped me execute the race we knew I was capable of, but also to prevent myself from collapsing and hitting the ground too hard from exhaustion.

Run Time: 18min 38sec
Total Time: 58min 18sec

The Aftermath
I sank to the ground and stayed there on my elbows and knees trying to catch my breath as I listened to the music at the finish line and the excitement of the crowd that was there. After a minute Andy encouraged me to get up. “Don’t let your competitors see you on the ground. Stand up and be strong.”

I got slowly to my feet and we made our way to the side of the finisher shoot. Then we saw Jamie Brown make his final turn and come running into the finish line to claim his first win since July of 2019. He came to us and we bear hugged. “Fucking awesome bro!” He said. We all stepped out of the finish area and waited. Where was Aaron? After a couple of minutes we saw Aaron and Greg make the turn and run into the finish line. Less than two minutes later Owen and Ryan came in to round out the podium.

After a few minutes we were right back at the side of the race course eagerly awaiting our next teammates to cross. Hailey came across to win the PTS2 female race with Melissa hot on her heels to claim Silver. Not long after that Howie blazed across the finish line to claim his first victory since 2017. Across the board the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team dominated, more important than that to each of us though was that we were all just as excited for each others wins as we were for our own.

Each of my teammates came up to me after they’d caught their breath, gave me huge hugs and congratulations and I did the same for them. We’d all jelled as a team and the culture our coach had bred in us and our willingness to embrace that culture of supportiveness, camaraderie, and excellence brought us to these heights. What’s most exciting though is that none of think we’ve even touched our potential. Yes, we all crushed our races. Yes, we all overcame massive obstacles on our way to our first wins in 2021, but we still have a long way to go. We’re keeping an eye on our vision. Our vision is for us all to replicate Sarasota at each race, but especially Tokyo.
We don’t know when we’ll race again, possibly May, possibly later. What we do know is that we will all be there ready to rock and roll.

Thank you to my team for believing in me every step of the way. Thank you to my family for understanding the dedication it takes to compete to be one of the best blind/visually impaired triathletes in the world. Thank you to USA Triathlon for believing in me enough to give me the tools to succeed and for having the vision to develop this USA Paratriathlon Invitational race Series to allow us to compete. Thank you to my coach Derick Williamson for taking me from where I was to where I am, we’re not done yet and he believes we can get even faster. Thank you to my incredible partners, Bubba Burger and Cycles Chinook for your unwavering support on my journey. Thank you Andy Potts for guiding me, pushing me to new heights, for being an incredible mentor and coach as well as my eyes. And thank you to all of you, the #eyeronvision family. I hope you enjoy these race reports. I hope you’re able to make it out to a race some time soon. I hope reading about my adventures reminds you to keep an eye on your own vision and to live your life without limits.

Until the next time.

Remember to always keep an Eye On Your Vision!


USA Paratriathlon Invitational PTVI Men Results:
1. Kyle Coon/Andy Potts: 58min 18sec
2.Aaron Scheidies/Greg Billington: 1hr 1min 48sec
3.Owen Cravens/Ryan Giuliano: 1hr 3min 12sec

Thanks for the great race gentlemen! Can’t wait to toe the start line with you all again!

Kyle Coon

“We Latched Onto the Draft of a Motorbike Going Somewhere in the Neighborhood of 55mph….” USAT Race across Colorado

By Kyle Coon

Kyle Coon lost his sight at the age of six  after a battle with Retinoblastoma—cancer of the eye. However, not having sight has not stopped him from pursuing vision. Since then he has become a competitive rock climber, downhill skier, runner and triathlete. He was planning to compete in Tokyo at the 2020 Para-Olympics

photo by Khem Suthiwan

I was in my tuck behind Alex doing my best to be as small as possible to slice through the air bombing down Highway 24 from Woodland Park towards Colorado Springs. We were alternating coasting and spinning in our biggest gear but we were going so fast that pedaling was doing little to nothing. We’d latched onto the draft of a motorbike going somewhere in the neighborhood of 55mph/88kmph and he began to pull away. We put down just a little power to try and stay in the draft and suddenly I felt the timing chain pop off. “F*ck!” I’m pretty sure I screamed. (The timing chain is what connects the pilot and stoker pedals and is how the pilot generates power back to the drive chain which turns the gears attached to the rear wheel.) Alex briefly unclipped thinking he could kick the chain back on with his shoe, but we did the smart and safe thing by pulling over to the side of the road and fixing the chain.

Barely three minutes after we got back up to around 50mph/80kmph though I felt the thing that I really hate feeling on a bike—the snapping of a chain. This time I’m positive I screamed “F*ck!” Along with some other four letter words and invoking the name of multiple deities. I really thought our race against the sun was over.

The Start
It was our coach, Derick Williamson, who dreamed up Operation Colorado Over COVID. We were roughly seven weeks into our new normal of self isolated COVID life. The Olympic/Paralympic Training Center was nonoperational except for feeding the handful of athletes who’d chosen to remain living on campus in hopes that we’d be able to resume something resembling training in the near future. There was no word from the USOPC or any International Governing Bodies on projections for getting things back up and running. I’d come off a pretty solid block where I’d again increased my 20 min power and I was now finally pushing better than 3.5 to 1 watts per kilo but had pushed myself so hard that I was now nursing a very tender IT band.

I lived in this limbo of wanting to stay on top of my training and wanting to just curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself. The times I looked forward to the most came when I could talk to my girlfriend over FaceTime audio, and the three times a day I went to collect meals from the cafeteria when I had some form of human contact when I interacted with the cafeteria workers who made it their mission to keep our spirits up and bellies full to the best of their ability. They have no idea how much I looked forward to conversing with them and how sane they kept me.

I knew my fellow Paratriathlon Resident teammates had to also being feeling something similar so I was beyond stoked when Derick proposed a relay style bike ride across the State of Colorado. Not only would we have something to set our minds on to train for, but we could use this opportunity to raise money for those who weren’t as lucky as we were during COVID. The triathlon/endurance community has been hit pretty hard and the USA Triathlon Foundation had set up a relief fund to try and help race directors, coaches, and athletes who had lost their primary sources of income due to the cancellation of so many events across the world. We also recognized that with the massive loss of jobs across Colorado, food was critical to peoples survival. We were lucky that we had so much food prepared for us and we would never go hungry, but there are so many who rely on food banks for mere fractions of what we had available. So we wanted to do our best to help both causes. We set a goal of raising $20,210 and splitting the proceeds between the USA Triathlon Foundation’s COVID Relief Fund and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.

And so we set our sights on preparing for and completing our own race.
Having taken part in the ultimate bike relay race just two years earlier (Race Across America) I did my best to help square away some of the logistics of actually getting us from Utah to Kansas. I recruited Paul Majors, who’d been our head mechanic for RAAM and was a general logistics guru having been on multiple RAAM crews, to help as well. The plan was to begin at sunset on June 19 and finish by sunset June 20. Our reason was that June 20 was the summer solstice and therefore gave us the most daylight in which to ride. I recruited my primary training guide in Colorado springs—former pro triathlete—Alex Libin to be my pilot and we were able to get permission for Alex to come on complex once a week to collect me so we could ride the tandem together. We dubbed our ride Operation Colorado Over (>) COVID and it gave me in particular something to focus on besides how incredibly bored and miserable I could become just sitting around my room all day. Finally, the day arrived.

Listen to 303’s exclusive podcast interview with CEO of USA Triathlon Rocky Harris about his experience being part of this team.

Race Day
“Race week!” My strength and conditioning coach, Sam, emailed me the morning of June 19 in response to my email announcing the beginning of the race against the sun that evening. Sam had been in Florida with us eager to watch us race when our Tokyo Selection event was canceled due to COVID. All week he’d been amped up and every time he saw any of us on campus he’d yell “Race week!” It was a reminder to me that we as athletes weren’t the only ones eager to get out and compete. Those people who’s jobs it was to train us, and keep us as strong and healthy as possible were eager to see us compete again, even if it was just against the sun.
Our team of cyclists were as follows:

  • Hailey Danz: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo hopeful
  • Melissa stockwell: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist, and Tokyo hopeful
  • Kendall Gretsch: Paratriathlete, 2x 2018 Paralympic Nordic skiing Gold Medalist, and Tokyo hopeful
  • Kevin McDowell: ITU able-bodied pro, and 2020 Tokyo hopeful
  • Jack Oneal: Paratriathlete, future Paralympic hopeful and our youngest teammate (only 17, but strong as an ox)
  • Renee Tomlin: ITU able-bodied pro and 2020 Tokyo hopeful
  • Rocky Harris: USA Triathlon CEO
  • Allysa Seely: Paratriathlete, 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist, 2020 Tokyo hopeful

We also had tons of help from volunteer crew as drivers and navigators and mechanics. Derick and Joseph (one of our mechanics) stuck behind or right around each rider when we were out on the road acting as our follow van/support wagon while the rest of the riders were shuttled up the road. Just like we’d done with Team Sea to See in 2018, riders were put on teams of two or three bikes to maximize speed with short pulls ranging from 20-40 minutes in duration. Hailey, Melissa and Kendall got us rolling beginning at 6:30 PM at the Utah/Colorado border and trading off pulls for 93 miles until they reached Montrose, where the rest of us had congregated to wait. Then it was up to Alex, Kevin and myself to get us through the middle of the night over some gnarly technical terrain.

Team 2, shift 1
Alex and I stood by my Chinook Time Trial Tandem as Hailey and Kendall seemed to bounce out of the shuttle van with excitement. Melissa was out on the road finishing up the last pull of the shift. Then it would be mine and Alex’s turn to ride. Melissa came cruising into the parking lot of the Toyota Dealership we’d posted up in and enthusiastically screamed “Go Kyle and Alex! Go! Go! Go!”

Photo by Khem Suthiwan

Alex and I clipped in and pushed off. I had that old bubbly excitement that comes with the first real steps of an adventure. Our first pull was longer than I would’ve liked for speed purposes, but logistically there weren’t any safe places to pull over to do an exchange with Kevin. So Alex and I started off pedaling easy but ramped it up the steeper the road got. We wound up climbing the majority of the first 12 miles (20km) or so. All the while Derick was in my ear giving encouragement and updates as what to expect coming up ahead. Our shuttle van manned by Joseph L, Sev, and Tracy were also in contact with our follow van and us via radio letting us know where they were located and staging Kevin. Alex and I finally ground our way up over the top of a particularly long steep ascent that topped out around 8000 ft in elevation and bombed downhill for the next 5 mi (8km) or so. It had taken us more than 50 minutes to go just a hair over 20K and a fraction of that time to cover the next 8k. We averaged better than 40mph downhill and briefly touched 50mph before having to lay on the breaks as we slid to a stop and sent Kevin on his way. Kevin attacked the next 25K section with gusto and then handed it off to us again.

It was by now the coldest part of the night and I’d put on both arm and leg warmers to stave off the chill. We time trialed for about 25K holding about 42 mph on average as we only had a couple of little steep kickers. For the most part this section was flat or rolling allowing us to hold quite a bit of speed. Plus we didn’t want to get cold so we had to pedal hard to keep warm. We handed it back off to Kevin to pull into Gunnison and leap frogged ahead to Gunnison where we met up with the RV that Hailey had secured for the team. Kevin rolled in and turned duties over to the team comprising Jack, Renee, and Rocky. This team had a tough slog of a shift as they began riding around 3:00 AM and climbed up and over Monarch pass which at over 11000 ft would be the highest elevation point on the route. According to some projections Derick and Paul had drawn up prior to the start of the race we were ahead of schedule. Kevin, Alex and I started playing a little game looking at the projected time for our next shift and seeing if we could beat it. Our first shift was to have taken 3 hours 48 minutes. Kevin challenged Alex and I that we three could complete it in 3 hours 28 minutes. So we tried and I’m pretty sure we beat that goal. But now it was time to fuel up and rest. Knowing the importance of rest in 24 hour relays I quickly changed out of my sweaty kit, grabbed a quick bite and curled up in an RV bunk doing my best to nap.

We drove to our next Vehicle Meet Point to wait for Team 3 to finish their shift. I think I napped around an hour but as I expected it was just enough to get me through the rest of the race.

We’d parked in a gas station parking lot and when the gas station opened for business a few people went in to get coffee. I was in desperate need of caffein, so Mark (our volunteer RV driver) brought me a large steaming cup of jo. Mark, I owe you a massive thank you and look forward to returning the favor as soon as I can. That cup of coffee kept me well caffeinated for the next 12 hours or so.

Team 3 rolled in right on time and we sent Team 1 back out on the road to tackle the stretch that would take us up and over Wilkerson Pass. This shift in my opinion was the most challenging. There was a lot of elevation gain, it was at a tough time of day and there were some pretty tricky descents. Nevertheless Hailey, Melissa and Kendall handled it like the champs they are.

Team 2, Shift 2

Alex, Kevin and I waited with Team 3 at the RV while Team 1 ground their way through the terrain. We expected them to arrive around 10:00 AM, but that came and went and no one could get cell service to contact Derick or Joseph in the follow van. Radios weren’t picking anything up except the occasional direction or instruction from Derick so we kept having to guess at the girls location. They finally rolled in after Kendall did a screaming fast descent of Wilkerson Pass holding better than 40mph in her hand cycle. And people think I’m crazy for riding 50mph on a tandem. 40mph on a piece of equipment that low to the ground where car tires are taller than you?… That’s crazy!

Alex and I rolled out just before noon. We had now fallen just a bit behind our goal of 24 hours and had to push to close that gap. Alex and I rode hard but had a long climb with little descending. We still maintained a 30Kmph pace to our first exchange with Kevin who bombed downhill hitting better than 80Kmph weaving in and out of traffic as our shuttle van raced to stay ahead of him. Then Alex and I hammered away at a small climb and got into our arrow tucks for what we’d been anticipating since we’d finalized the route we’d take—the screaming descent down Highway 24 from Woodland Park to the outskirts of Colorado Springs. For a good while we were crushing the descent flying at more than 50mph (80kmph) and had even tucked into the draft of a motorbike. And that’s when near disaster struck as the timing chain came off. Alex kept the bike upright and we were able to descend a bit further while making our way to the shoulder of the road. We had to disconnect the quick link on the timing chain and with Joseph (our mechanic) helping us, we got the chain back on. Shortly after we got rolling again though the quick link failed and the chain broke apart and flew off the cranks landing somewhere on the Highway. Alex again got us to the shoulder and we stood there wondering if our ride was over. I seriously thought we either wouldn’t be able to retrieve the chain and if we did that it would be unsalvageable. Zack and I’d been having issues with the timing chain coming off numerous times in the early part of 2020 and I figured it was time to replace the chain in general. Joseph was able to retrieve the chain and had a spare quick link in his bag of tools. He tightened the bottom bracket much tighter than we generally would and we prayed another quick link wouldn’t fail. We made it down the rest of the descent and linked up with Allysa Seely who’d ride through Colorado Springs, circumstances not allowing her to be in constant rotation with us the entire time.

Alex and I were bummed that our chain had decided to fail us twice as we were really looking forward to chasing some of the best known times down 24. We knew we probably wouldn’t get the overall time, but it would’ve been fun to see how close we could safely get. I made a mental note to get new chains and maybe a bigger chain ring for downhill KOM (King of the Mountains) chasing attempts.

Allysa road from our exchange point to Colorado Springs City Hall where the entire team took a knee on the steps for 8min 46 seconds before continuing on. We shuttled up ahead to an exchange point where Kevin took back over from Allysa and then Alex and I time trialed the last pull of the shift. At around 25K and slightly uphill into a headwind this particular pull hurt quite a bit. Not to mention I was tense constantly expecting the chain to snap again. It held though and Alex and I were able to hold around 42kmph for that particular pull before handing it off to Team 3.
Now the exchanges and shift change overs were coming fast and furious.

The Final Push

Photo by Khem Suthiwan

We were more than 350 miles into our race against the sun with less than 150 miles to go. We all knew we had to push the pace in order to beat the sunset. We weren’t going to make it in 24 hours, but we could still finish before the sun sank below the horizon at 8:30 PM. Jack, Renee and Rocky hammered their shift as we got further and further east in Colorado. Then Hailey, Melissa and Kendall had one more very short shift totaling around 20 miles. And then it was back to Alex, Kevin and I for our last shift which was one pull each of about 25K.

Both Alex and I were feeling the effects of the last 24 hours. Alex had been up since 5 AM the day before as he had to get a full day of work in before heading to Montrose to start the ride. Then he only got a brief nap between shifts. Plus, he hadn’t time trialed like this in a couple of years since retiring from full time triathlon. I was also fatigued, my legs were feeling heavy and my confidence was shaky. I trusted Alex on the front of the bike but this 25K pull was on a super busy road with lots of truck traffic and the wind had rarely been in Alex’s and my favor. Additionally, we had the suspect timing chain. Nevertheless we clipped in and pedalled. We didn’t have the strength to time trial like we would in a sprint triathlon, so we settled into a strong tempo effort, something we’d hold for an Ironman and were able to roll into our final exchange with Kevin holding around 41kmph for that final hard 25K pull. Kevin went out and hammered his 25K stretch clawing back a bit of time averaging nearly 45kmph. Then it was back to Team 3 for one last fast shift.

The rest of us shuttled up to a point a little less than a mile from the Kansas State line and cheered as Jack road in on his final pull. Then we all got on our bikes and soft pedaled the final stretch to Kansas.

A little more than 25 hours after Team 1 took the first pedal strokes we reached the eastern edge of Colorado. 483 miles averaging around 20-21mph and climbing more than 22000 ft with a motley crew of triathletes with different strengths and weaknesses we accomplished something we could be proud of. What was great was that it wasn’t about us as individual athletes. It took each team doing their part to get us across the state. Even better, just hours before we started riding on June 19 we’d reached our primary fundraising goal of $20210 and had surpassed it by the end of the ride.

Some Parting Thoughts:
There is a concept that was popularized by British Cycling over the last 15 or so years. That concept is “Marginal Gains.” The thought is that small changes or actions yield big results and differences. Funnily enough athletes and people in general know this. When we were brainstorming hashtag and fundraising ideas I proposed 1 penny per mile or $4.83, what seems very small, but multiply that out by 10, 20, 30 people it becomes a big number very quickly. I took the idea from doubling a penny 64 times. Start with and double it 64 times you wind ups with $180 quadrillion. A small change can make a big difference. The same went for what we did in the race itself. Originally the plan was to just use 15 passenger vans and for each team to sleep in those vans at each VMP. However, an RV would allow us to socialize better as well as stretch out. A little thing that went a long way. Renting radios for each rider seems like a big expense but when riders are out there cycling up a hill, tired unsure if they have 1 mile, or 5 miles left an encouraging voice in their ear helps them through. Small changes over time yield big differences.

I think that’s one of things I love most about ultra distance racing as a team. Small pieces come together and each piece plays it’s roll. I am not the strongest cyclist or triathlete on our team but brought a certain skill set that aided in us getting across Colorado in time to beat the sun. Rocky constantly joked that he was our weakest cyclist and he hoped he wouldn’t hold us back. However, Rocky was sandbagging as the combination of him, Jack and Renee blasting up Monarch Pass and time trialing their legs off on the eastern plains kept us on and ahead of schedule.

Originally we had a sprinter van that was going to act as a floater and media vehicle but they quickly jumped in to help become a shuttle van because they were the only vehicle large enough to quickly load and unload my tandem to keep us on pace. Also, Joseph L (who’s owned said sprinter van) hopped out on his bike and rode with Kendall as she tore down Wilkerson Pass down amongst the tires of speeding traffic. Everyone plays their part and collectively work together to make the team a success. We didn’t focus on any one cyclist, group or issue. We saw problems and did the best we could to fix them quickly and efficiently. Everyone who lent a hand played an important role and we can’t thank every single one of you enough. From those who helped us as volunteer drivers, to those who donated, to those of you who just virtually cheered us on, you all were part of Operation Colorado > COVID. We thank you! And if you missed out on this round, I heard some rumblings among the team that they want to do it again someday. So keep an eye out 🙂

Until then always keep an “Eye On Your Vision!”

To read more from Kyle about his quest for Tokyo and seeing life through his vision, go to


USA Triathlon Operation CO>COVID-19 a Success!

By Khem Suthiwan

Their journey began the evening of Friday, June 19th at 6:30pm MT, at the Utah-Colorado border just west of Grand Junction. Their goal, to complete a 483-mile relay ride across the state of Colorado while raising money for the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

Over the course of 483 miles, the riders averaged 20 mph, climbed nearly 23,000 feet of elevation with their highest point at Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation. Just before 8:00pm and beating the sunset, all nine riders joined together for the final mile to the Kansas-Colorado state line.

We were able to catch up to them within a few hours of the finish. All the athletes and crew were in great spirits, looking forward to seeing the state line.

At a rider exchange spot with about 20 miles to go, a deputy from the Sheriff of Cheyenne County pulled over with flashing lights. His first words were “You guys are obviously part of some sort of bike team.” The crew immediately jumped in to tell the deputy about the relay ride, and that if he wanted to talk to someone in charge, the CEO (Rocky Harris) is coming down the road about to finish his current leg of the relay. Many laughs were exchanged and his handcuffs made an appearance for fun. At the next rider exchange stop, the deputy offered up a donation to the crew. A great gesture to an already amazing day.

The participating riders included:

• Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
• Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Nordic Skiing Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
• Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
• Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
• Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer

The team had set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021. At the time of their finish, $21,568 had been raised with donations still rolling in. Donations are still being accepted at

Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team to Ride Across Colorado to Benefit COVID-19 Relief, Care & Share Food Bank

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – MAY 27: Paralympian and former U.S. Army Officer Melissa Stockwell cycles during a training session on May 27, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Athletes across the globe are now training in isolation under strict policies in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

From USA Triathlon

Nine U.S. elite triathletes training for the postponed Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic Games, along with USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris, will cycle a combined 483 miles across the state of Colorado starting Friday, June 19, in a 24-hour relay challenge dubbed “Operation CO>COVID.” 

The ride, which is supported by Toyota vehicles, was fully planned and executed by members of the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team including Kyle Coon, Hailey Danz, Kendall Gretsch, Allysa Seely, Melissa Stockwell and Howie Sanborn (Sanborn will not participate in the ride due to injury). The squad normally trains out of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but the training center’s athletic facilities have been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19. 

The event is designed to drive awareness and donations for the USA Triathlon Foundation, which will then distribute proceeds equally between two causes: the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides grants to members of the multisport community impacted by the pandemic, and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Donations are being accepted at The team has set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021.

In addition to the paratriathlon resident team and Harris, participants in the challenge also include U.S. Olympic hopefuls Kevin McDowell and Renée Tomlin; up-and-coming 17-year-old paratriathlete Jack O’Neil; and elite triathlete Alex Libin. Libin will serve as a sighted guide for Kyle Coon, who is visually impaired.

“The Tokyo postponement left us all wanting to do something to both test ourselves physically and to give back to the community,” said Stockwell, a U.S. Army veteran and Team Toyota athlete who won a bronze medal in paratriathlon’s debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “The idea to ride our bikes 483 miles across the state of Colorado accomplished both. Instead of racing in Tokyo, we will be racing the sun to finish our ride before sundown and raising money to give back to the community for COVID-19 relief. We look forward to completing these miles as a team and making a small difference.”

“Our paratriathlon resident team came up with Operation CO>COVID as a unique challenge for themselves, but more importantly, because they wanted to give back to our community during this unprecedented time,” Harris, CEO of USA Triathlon, said. “I am incredibly proud to ride alongside this group of individuals who, even when faced with the disappointment and uncertainty of an Olympic and Paralympic Games postponement, are still motivated to support others whose livelihoods have been threatened due to COVID-19.”

“It’s incredible to see the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team come together for such a great cause,” said Dedra DeLilli, group manager, Toyota Olympic and Paralympic Marketing. “We’re inspired by the athletes’ motivation to go above and beyond to create a positive impact for both the multisport community and the local community where they train. We can’t wait to follow the team’s ride, and our Toyota employees all over the country will be cheering them on.”

The ride will cover 483 miles in total distance, gaining nearly 23,000 feet of elevation as it extends from the Utah-Colorado state line in Montrose, Colorado, to the Colorado-Kansas state line at U.S. 40 and CR 57 (near the town of Arapahoe, Colorado). The route travels from the Western Slope up into the Rocky Mountains, cresting Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation before descending into the Front Range via Colorado Springs and into the Eastern Plains. To view the complete route, click here.

Athletes will be divided into three teams of three, with each person covering up to four different segments ranging from 3-15 miles at a time. The first riders will begin cycling from the Utah-Colorado state line in the evening (exact time TBD) on Friday, June 19, with a goal to be at the Colorado-Kansas state line 24 hours later on Saturday, June 20. 

Toyota support vehicles will transport the rest of the athletes and their gear along the route, stopping to swap riders after each segment. The athletes must collectively maintain an average of 21 miles per hour in order to successfully cross the state within 24 hours. 

The participating athletes include:

  • Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
  • Allysa Seely, Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
  • Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
  • Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer


  • All riders are available for interviews leading up to the event date, and photos and video b-roll of athletes are available upon request.
  • Interviews, video and photo opportunities are possible during the ride itself but must be requested and coordinated in advance, as the relay is continuous and transport vans will be in motion throughout the day.
  • For all in-person coverage, members of the media must wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from athletes and support staff.
  • To request interviews or media materials, please contact Caryn Maconi, USA Triathlon Communications Manager, at or 443-534-5954.

To learn more about Operation CO>COVID, or to make a donation to the USA Triathlon Foundation, visit

About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $3 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit to learn more and donate today.

About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
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Catching Up With ParaTriathlete, Kyle Coon

By Kyle Coon (July 1)

“Who wants it more? You or Brad?!” Derick yelled. My brain was foggy, sweat poured off me like I was my own personal rain cloud. I could feel the sweat pooling in my shoes and the shoe inserts beginning to bunch up at my toes. But Derick had said the magic words. I was already running at a sub 6 minute per mile pace but I knew that if I wanted there to be no doubt that I belonged on the Team that USA Triathlon selected for Tokyo next year I needed to push even harder. So with my heart thundering in my ears, my muscles screaming and my lungs burning, I cranked the treadmill speed up again. 5:30/mi, 5:15/mi, 5:00/mi, 4:52/mi…

“The Elite Paratriathlon Selection Committee can not decide who the better athlete is at this time and so they’ve elected to go with the athlete who’s points allow easier access into the top 12 in the world.”

“Bull shit!” I wanted to scream, but couldn’t since I was sitting on a bus riding back from Denver to Colorado Springs after having run a successful BolderBoulder 10K. I’d literally sat down in my seat and opened up my email and had gone from an immediate high to a crushing low.

Currently there are three of us in the American Male Visually Impaired Ranks who are battling it out for the opportunity to represent the United States in Tokyo 2020. Our top Male VI athlete—Aaron Scheidies–is recovering from injury and therefore it’s up to myself and Brad Snyder to pick up as many points as possible and get as highly ranked as possible in the world to ensure multiple slots at the world championship and multiple slots in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings. Given my performance at the CAMTRI American Championship where I’d taken 2nd to Aaron Scheidies by just 1 min 37 seconds, and where I finished 2 minutes and 34 seconds ahead of Brad it was decided that I would get the first World Paratriathlon Series start in Milan, Italy. I went to Italy and raced to a 3rd place finish—it turns out much to the surprise of everyone except myself and my coach. The only two guys to finish ahead of me were the guys who’d taken 1st and 3rd at the 2018 World Championship. So the only people to beat me in the 2019 season was the podium from 2018 Worlds—Dave Ellis, Aaron Scheidies, Hector Catala Laparra… I was feeling pretty good.

Brad was given the opportunity to race at the next World Paratriathlon Series Event in Yokohama, Japan. Brad was able to race to a 3rd place finish as well against a field that lacked anyone from the 2018 World Championship Podium. So I felt that I’d raced better against a stronger field so was confident I’d get the call to toe the start line in Montreal for the third installment of the World Paratriathlon Series. Not only that but I was on a very steep trajectory and if everything played out right I could improve on my 3rd place finish and begin collecting points for the Paralympic rankings which would open up on June 28, the same day as Montreal. Those hopes were crushed when USA Triathlon decided to send Brad Snyder to Montreal instead.

I was frustrated and bewildered. How could USA Triathlon say they didn’t know who the better athlete was? I’d decisively beaten Brad in consecutive races and had made the 2018 World Championship Podium finishers work their butts off to catch me thereby making them really earn their places ahead of me. After 48 hours of stewing over the “decision” and meeting with my coach and a USA Triathlon official who explained the decision further, I decided to just put my head down and train even harder. It wasn’t the first time I’d been doubted and it won’t be the last.

The Decision Explained

To the best of my knowledge here’s how to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the sport of Paratriathlon. Beginning on June 28, 2019, races will begin counting toward a separate Paralympic Ranking. The races that are eligible to be used as points collectors are the World Championship (valued at 700 points for 1st place), the World Paratriathlon Series Events (valued at 550 points for 1st place), the Continental Championships (valued at 500 points for 1st place) and the Paratriathlon World Cups (valued at 450 points for 1st place). How you get into each of these races is based on your World Ranking. The Paralympic Rankings will close on June 28, 2020. In the span of that 12 months we have the chance to race at these various races. Our top three races will be added together to get our Paralympic Ranking. The top 9 in the Paralympic Rankings will qualify slots for their country but no country can receive more than two qualifying slots. So even if the United States had three athletes ranked in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings, the US would only be allotted two slots. The USA can then decide to whom those two slots go.

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) has decided to have a 12 man field at the World Championships this year for the Visually Impaired category. Since World Championships are worth the most points in the Paralympic Rankings, USA Triathlon decided to try and get either Brad or myself into the top 12 in the world so we’d be assured two slots at Worlds and therefore have a good chance at finishing the 2019 season with two athletes ranked in the top 9 of the Paralympic Rankings. Then in early 2020 USA Triathlon will ensure that the best Visually Impaired Triathletes face off in a race and at that point it will be mano-e-mano and the top two athletes at that point will get the full support of USAT to ensure we both go to the games.

So how do I make sure I’m one of those two that goes to the games? Train hard, race harder, and rise to the occasion.

Six Months into this journey of being a full time ITU Paratriathlete, living and training at the Olympic/Paralympic Training Center, I’ve experienced some extreme highs (including two podium finishes and some truly unbelievable workouts where I pushed myself to new levels) and crushing lows (being left off the team that traveled to Montreal for the first opportunity to collect points toward Tokyo Qualification as well as some truly horrific workouts that left me broken and questioning why I’m doing this to myself).

It has been a learning experience managing the load and stress of training, knowing when to push hard and when to throttle back. When I need a break and when I need to just suck it up.

It was barely two weeks after USAT had made their decision regarding Montreal that I needed a mental break. I’d been hammering away for five months doing nothing but eat, sleep and train. I’d done little else but think about triathlon, run calculations on what it would take for me to get into the top 12 in the World Ranking; what paces I’d need to hold to ensure I finish ahead of the best triathletes in the world… And that stress was beginning to catch up with me. I struggled and fought through every workout trying to complete them perfectly only to fall short. My swimming in particular seemed to be reverting back to beginner level. Immediately after racing in Milan I was effortlessly gliding through the water at speeds I would’ve considered impossible a year before, now I struggled to hold the paces I’d held when I first moved to the training center in January.

I needed to get away and not think about triathlon for a couple of days, even just 24 hours would be a big relief. Fortunately the opportunity presented itself. A friend invited me for a weekend camping trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Having heard that the dunes were an amazing experience and not having camped in about six years I leaped at the chance. And I got my wish. While triathlon lingered at the back of my mind for about 36 hours I blissfully focused on running barefoot through hot sand, splashing in icy cold river water and enjoying a camp stove cup of coffee early in the morning. Tension that had gathered seemed to slowly melt away as I finally realized that my 2020 hopes weren’t over. I knew in my soul that I’m one of the two best triathletes in the country and when given the opportunity I’ll prove that I’m one of the best in the world.

Granted it’s not just me on this journey. I’ve received nothing but support from my friends and family as I pursue what really amounts to a very selfish pursuit. In particular I have to give my guide, Zack Goodman, some mad props for being so incredibly patient with me as I struggle with the highs and lows of this profession. Zack has been at times motivator, voice of reason, frustration sounding board, and ultimately a friend. Whereas I’ve just primarily been a premadonna pain in the ass ITU triathlete 

Between Zack and my coach, Derick Williamson, I’ve reached heights in the triathlon world I’d only fantasized about before now. And as they both continually remind me, the hard work is just getting started. I may be six months into this journey, but we have a long way to go on this road to Tokyo. So stay tuned because if there have been highs and lows in these first six months I can’t wait to see what the next six months bring!

2019 Six Month Statistics

Swim: 369762 yards (338100 meters)

Bike: 2250 miles (3620 kilometers)

Run: 526 miles (846.5 kilometers)

Races: 2

Podiums: 2 (2nd Place at American Continental Championships; 3rd at World Paratriathlon Series Milan)

Next Race: July 13, 2019 Magog Paratriathlon World Cup, Magog, Canada

Kyle Coon’s March Madness

The Madness of March, by Kyle Coon

Getting ready for the KHMTT last week

“1:33, keep it there,” Derick yelled on deck as I hit the wall on my 12th or 13th 100 meter repeat. I had just a couple more measured efforts before it was time to dig deep for the 16th 100 which we were to perform at the “edge of our ability.” I executed that 16th 100 meter sprint right around 1 min 30 sec, maybe just a touch faster. In short it was one of the greatest swim sets I’d had since moving to the training center at the beginning of January. But there was something not quite right either. While I was pleased I was also frustrated. I’d had my best performance at a sprint triathlon only a few days before setting personal bests in my 750 meter open water swim, 20 km bike time and a new overall 5 km run personal best. Despite these metrics I’d only taken second and had finished 37 seconds short of finishing within 2 percent of the winners time. This 2 percent metric is key because that is one of the metrics USA Triathlon uses to determine which athletes receive actual monetary support. I’d finished within 2 percent of the winner’s time at my previous race back in October and would need to do so in two more races to receive the lowest level of funding that USA Triathlon allocates to Paratriathletes. I’d missed out on that margin by a mere 37 seconds and it soured my outlook. I also tend to put a high demand of pressure on myself to perform and I felt I’d lost an opportunity to win while the guy who won, Aaron Scheidies, was nursing a long time hip injury and was preparing to go under the knife to repair it. If I couldn’t beat Aaron while he was at best 75 percent then how on earth was I going to be competitive against the dominant Europeans? The following two weeks post CAMTRI didn’t inspire much hope in me either.

Brought Low

After my race in Sarasota, Fla I went back to the training center ready to slay every workout Derick could conceivably think to throw my way. I was going to push so hard that my numbers in Sarasota would seem like a beginners. And in the first couple of swim practices it looked like that was going to be the case. Then Derick assigned us a 2 mile all out time trial on the treadmill which I demolished in 11 min 50 sec including my second mile being at 5 min 17 sec. Much of the second half of that last mile I somehow ran at a sub 5 min per mile pace. So I was feeling good about my fitness. But for some reason I was feeling more drained than usual.

I took several naps a day lasting at least an hour or two in addition to sleeping a solid six to eight hours at night. My appetite was also slowing vanishing. It was a struggle to eat breakfast, lunch and by dinner I couldn’t stand the thought of food. It culminated on the evening of March 18.

That morning our entire paratriathlon team had struggled to hit our slowest times in the pool during a 4400 meter day. I was able to choke down some breakfast and then head to the bike trainer to spin my legs easy. I struggled through my strength and conditioning session and then took a very hot bath to try and loosen up. My stomach felt funny and when I walked into the cafeteria determined to at least eat something I felt extremely nauseous. I took a few sips of orange juice hoping that would give me some hydration, a couple calories and maybe calm my stomach down. I then walked back to my room and promptly started praying to the porcelain goddess. I did that off and on through the night praying that it would all be out of my system in time to swim. It wasn’t.

I had to miss an entire day of training, most of which I slept. I was able to drag myself to the pool Wednesday morning and get through a modified swim set. That only served to piss me off more because I was already one of the weakest swimmers on the team and I felt I was sliding even further backwards.

I struggled physically and mentally trying to hit my sets in the pool, on the bike trainer and treadmill. The Friday after my being sick I cracked for the first time on a bike workout. I managed to push through until the fifth set, but half way through my legs gave out and no amount of coaxing or cursing brought them back to life. I was stressed and frustrated. If I couldn’t get through a bike workout how could I get through the following week’s workouts when my guide, Zack would be flying in to do some intense training with me? I could only hope that whatever sickness was in my system made it’s way out.

The Zack Attack

As it’s been told before, by myself and other blind/visually impaired athletes, one of the most difficult aspects of trying to be an elite blind endurance athlete is that you have to find guides to both train and race with. The guide needs to be borderline elite athlete themself, or at least a much better athlete than you yourself. My general rule of thumb is that my guide must be 10-15 percent faster than me when I am having my best day and they are having their worst. So if I run a 5k at a 6:30/mi pace on my best day, my guide must be able to easily run a 5k at a 5:51/mi pace on their worst day. If I run 2 miles in 11:50 (5:55/mi) my guide must be able to run that same distance in 10:39 (5:20ish/mi). Through in the complications of work, school, different training schedules and it makes it very difficult to find consistent training and racing guides. That doesn’t even include the fact that we have to jell as people and be on the same page in terms of communication. Most of the time, those people fast enough to meet these rule of thumb requirements are professional or elite athletes themselves, have their own training and racing to do and don’t have the time or desire to guide. Fortunately for me I was able to at least find a guide to race with who meets just about all of the requirements of speed, time availability (mostly) and temperament.

I met Zack in January of 2018 when I attended Camp No Sight No Limits hosted by Elite Visually Impaired Triathlete Amy Dixon. Zack was guiding another blind athlete but we hit it off as friends. Later that year I was in a bit of a pickle as I was in need of a guide for my second ITU race of 2018. My first ITU race guide didn’t have the running speed to guide me at the pace I wanted to hold, plus he was tied up with work obligations. My buddy Alan who would be guiding me for Ironman Arizona didn’t have the top end speed for a sprint triathlon, although he could seemingly run forever at a slower pace. And all of the other guides I could think of were busy with work or racing. So I shot Amy a text asking if she knew of anyone and she immediately recommended Zack. I jumped on the phone with Zack. I admit I’d thought of asking him before but I’d known that he was attempting to qualify for Kona at Ironman Maryland which was only a week or two before my race in Sarasota and I wondered if he’d be ready. Amy assured me he would be so I gave him a shot. Zack scored major points with me when he said “I’m happy to do it if I’m feeling good, but if you can find someone faster kick me to the side.”

Zack went on to take sixth overall at Ironman Maryland including having one of the top swim and bike splits of the day and earning his slot to Kona for 2019. Two weeks later he guided me to a 2nd place finish at the Sarasota World Cup which had been modified to a duathlon. We threw down the fastest bike split of the day and one of the faster runs and Zack didn’t appear to be tired at all whereas I was wiped out.

When I moved to the Olympic Training Center in January, Derick immediately mentioned the possibility of having Zack come out to do some training with me from time to time. Since Zack lives in San Diego we don’t get many opportunities to train together. So we arranged it so that Zack would come out during his spring break. I didn’t like it that I was coming off of a week of sickness and struggling but maybe Zack being here would give me a motivational boost. Fortunately it did.

Our week kicked off with a nearly 4000 meter swim followed by a two hour spin on the tandem during which we did a bit of climbing. Then we cranked out a lifting session. After Tuesday’s 4400 meter swim set we headed to Memorial Park to do 1.5 mi repeats at 5k race effort. It was during runs like this where having Zack was invaluable. Instead of cranking out the session on the treadmill I was able to join the rest of the team outside. The running path we followed was winding and being a beautiful spring day in Colorado it was crowded with people. So Zack and I got some good practice weaving in and around people while moving at a sub 6:40/mi pace.

Wednesday was another tough swim followed by a gnarly strength session. Then that evening the entire paratriathlon team headed up to Denver to take part in the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series. This 9 mile bike time trial was a good time for Zack and I to really go all out on the tandem. We, along with the rest of the Paratriathlon team, crushed the race riding strong despite some windy conditions. Zack and I rode the 9 miles in 20 min 34 sec averaging just over 26 mph and taking top 20 in the overall standings. I slowly felt like my legs were starting to come back, but my lungs were still hurting and I felt like I was still operating at an overall calorie deficit. I just couldn’t seem to get ahead.

The following day was great as Zack and I joined the rest of the team for an easy coffee ride and then Zack and I enjoyed an easy hour run. So many of my workouts have been so carefully constructed that it was nice to just get out and run on some dirt roads.

Friday, Zack, Allysa and I headed to Gold Camp road for some grueling race effort hill repeats. The day was cold and windy and by the time we got back to the training center our extremities were rather chilled.

Saturday was Zack’s last day in the Springs so Derick assigned us a 3 mile run at 5k effort. So being who we are, Zack and I just tacked on an extra 0.1 mi onto the effort to make it a 5k. The day was chilly but thankfully there were fewer people out so Zack and I only had the winding sidewalk to contend with. Zack pushed me hard as we attempted to hold the pace we’d held at sea level a couple of weeks before. Ultimately we fell just short of that pace, but it was still a very solid and consistent 5k effort. And even though my lungs were burning and I was spitting up flem, I was relatively pleased.

I still didn’t feel full strength, but I was beginning to calm down and trust that my body wanted to heal and it would come around back to full strength. I’d had a maddening couple of weeks, but despite the frustrations of failing to meet my lofty expectations I still saw some marginal improvements in my swimming, biking and running. And the first couple days of April have been showing even more promise.

The Three Month Look Back

I’ve essentially been living and training full time at the Olympic Training Center for three months now. Early on I was fueled by adrenaline and excitement. Then I struggled through physical fatigue and broke through to make some massive fitness gains. The third month has been a mental battle for sure. Learning to manage my expectations and trust the process of training rather than obsessing on outcome goals has been a learning process.

Early on in my professional career—immediately upon graduating from college—I wanted a job so desperately and I wanted to be making and earning money. When I eventually did find a job I worked my tail off attempting to get promoted or catch the eye of another company that would pay me more. That eventually did happen but it turned out not to be the right fit for me.

My triathlon career has eerily mirrored my professional career. Early on I thought busting out sub 12 hour Ironmans would be a walk in the park. World records would fall before the outstanding athlete that was Kyle Coon. Fortunately for me though that didn’t happen. It turned out I wasn’t so good at triathlon early on and had to learn to struggle and scrap and fight my way to near the top. I somehow managed to learn to be patient with my Ironman racing and I’m learning the same lesson in my transition to sprint triathlon.

My last two coaches Lesley Paterson and now Derick Williamson, aren’t all that dissimilar. They both have stressed the importance of trusting the process to me. And while I generally have considered myself to be a patient person, I have not been patient when it comes to my athletic career. Little by little though, if there’s anything that this past month of madness has emphasized to me it’s the value of patience and trusting my fitness and my mental game. Sometimes it’s ok to let go of the big picture and to let go of the tiny details and find the middle where we just enjoy being triathletes.

So my personal goal for the month of April is focus less on the result that I’m going to post in my next race—April 27 at the Milan World Paratriathlon Series—and more on steady improvement day by day and workout by workout. Yes, I must keep an “eye on my vision” but I can’t obsess on outcomes.


Check out more of Kyles writings here:

Meet Kyle Coon! Learn more about his journey to the Olympics and amazing story of courage!

By Kyle Coon

Greetings 303 friends, fans and family! My name is Kyle Coon and I’m a totally blind Professional Triathlete. (Wow, no matter how many times I say or write that I still have a hard time believing that I somehow managed to make my hobby and passion into something resembling a career.)
While not a Colorado native, Colorado has been my permanent home since 2016 and it’s been where my heart calls home since I first visited to learn to ski in the early to mid 2000s. From 2016-2018 I lived in Carbondale, just down valley from Aspen, but at the beginning of 2019 I made the move to Colorado Springs for the opportunity to better pursue my Pro Triathlete lifestyle/career. But before we get into that let’s back up a moment, because some of you are probably wondering “Who is this guy?”

When I was ten months old I was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood eye cancer called Bilateral Sporadic Retinoblastoma. Essentially I had cancer in both eyes with no family history. I underwent an intense treatment plan—consisting of chemo and radiation therapies, and other various clinical and experimental trials—which would go on to last several years as the cancer would regress and then come roaring back with a vengeance. Eventually the cancer, and the effects of the treatment, damaged my eyes beyond repair. So my family made the decision to remove my eyes which was really the only sure-fire way to beat the cancer once and for all. My left eye was removed when I was five and my right when I was six leaving me totally blind.

I went through a rough time as a newly blind kid. I didn’t understand “why” this had happened to me. Fortunately though my parents did their best to treat me no differently than they would have if I could see. Yes, I still had chores and was expected to bring home good grades from school. I was also very fortunate to meet a world-class blind athlete just a few months after I lost my sight. His name? Erik Weihenmayer—most well known for becoming the first blind man to climb Mt Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits. (At the time I met Erik he hadn’t yet climbed Everest and had only climbed three of the Seven Summits.)

Erik and I met and Erik encouraged me that just because I was blind didn’t mean I had to stop doing things I loved. It didn’t mean I had to give up being a kid. I just needed to become a bit more creative in how I went about my life. He suggested something to help me focus and be active at the same time—rock climbing. I’d go on to become a competitive rock climber, along with two of my sisters, and along the way get into numerous other activities.

In 2004, I learned to downhill ski. In 2006, I hiked the Ancascocha Trail into Machu Picchu. In 2007, I climbed and summited Mt Kilimanjaro. I also went on to climb a few Colorado 14ers and some Cascade volcanoes. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2013 with a degree in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication and was ready to take on the world.

I went into the post college workforce with the excellent millennial mentality of “I’m going to apply for every job CEO and above.” When that didn’t work I lowered my expectation to “Upper level Management and above.” When that still didn’t work I made my way down the corporate ladder until I applied for a batboy job at a grocery store and didn’t get the job.

I was frustrated, unemployed, several thousand dollars in debt and felt awful since I’d packed on 25ish lbs post college. I was a year removed from graduating and I’d just about lost hope. I knew I needed to do something to distract myself so I decided I’d start running, an activity I normally associated with punishment and agony. But running was exactly what I needed. It was a problem to solve and a way to reach out to the community to make new friends.

My first running guide was an ER doctor whom I connected with through a website that partnered sighted guides with blind runners. Funnily enough though he’d never actually guided a blind guy before so we both went into it as an experiment. Mike and I started running together once or twice a week experimenting with various guiding methods. We entered some short 5ks, 10ks and half marathons and then took on the Disney World Goofy Challenge—Disney Half Marathon on Saturday and Marathon on Sunday. After that Mike mentioned that he thought I could do a triathlon, maybe even an Ironman some day. Mike had just completed Kona a couple of months after we’d started running together so I saw how cool the sport was.

This was the beginning of 2015 when I decided that I’d become a triathlete. Mike taught me to swim, we did thousands of miles on my tandem bike and we continued running together. In 2016, Mike and I took on my first Ironman in Boulder because I love Colorado and my family had recently moved to the Roaring Fork Valley so Boulder was an easy race for them to travel to to spectate. Mike and I somehow stumble bumbled our way to a 15:47:11 finish on Pearl Street and despite being more tired and sore than I’d ever been in my life I was hooked.

My personal life was a mess at the time and I wasn’t particularly happy with my desk job (yes I did eventually find my way into the world of the employed) so I picked up my life and moved to Carbondale and rented a room in my parents house. I got plugged into the local running community and worked on my run. I even found some people willing/crazy enough to pilot my tandem. And so I set my sights on doing another Ironman, this time Ironman Arizona 2017.

I completed Ironman Arizona 2017 in 11:46:43 becoming only the ninth person who is blind or visually impaired to break the 12 hour mark at the 140.6 distance. But that wasn’t good enough I set my sights higher and began pushing myself to do better. Along the way I hired a coach and started attending training and skills camps. I was recruited to be a member of the first all blind/visually impaired stoker tandem relay team to take part in the infamous “Race Across America” racing from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, MD in less than nine days. I even dipped my toe into the waters of the International Triathlon Union circuit competing in a couple races including taking a Silver Medal at a World Cup.

Then in November 2018, my guide—Alan Greening—and I set out to do something that hadn’t been done before. We raced to a finish of 10:59:17 at Ironman Arizona becoming only the third person with a visual impairment to break the 11 hour mark in an Ironman, but becoming the first person who is totally blind to do so.

I’ve certainly come a long way from that scared seven year old newly blind kid and some might say that I’ve reached almost as high as you can as a totally blind triathlete. But in August 2018 the International Paralympic Committee announced that male Visually Impaired Triathlon would become part of the slate of events at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. And in October I was accepted to become an official member of the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team. So on January 7, 2019 I made the move to Colorado Springs and took up residence at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 Paralympics in the sport of Paratriathlon and I can think of no better audience to want to share my journey with than you, the 303 Triathlon/endurance community.

So will you join me in following my progress on the #roadtotokyo as I #trifortokyo?

Blind Colorado athlete sets Ironman record

From 9News
by Bryan Wendland

Kyle Coon has been totally blind since age 6. That hasn’t kept him from rock climbing at 9, climbing Kilimanjaro at 15, and, oh yeah, becoming the fastest totally blind person to ever finish an Ironman race.

KUSA — When Kyle Coon lost his sight at age 6, he says he got depressed.

But that didn’t last long.

“I actually became a competitive rock climber when I was 8 or 9-years-old,” he said.

He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro when he was 15, captained his high school wrestling team for two years and started doing triathlons a few years ago.

“It’s definitely become a passion and a real lifestyle, and just because I’m doing it blind, it’s just, you know – I’m just any other, any other athlete out there trying to have fun and compete against myself and fellow athletes,” he said.

Then, in 2016, he did his first Ironman race: 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running. It all has to be finished under 17 hours.

“It took me just under 16 hours to complete the full thing, and I think I walked the entire marathon,” Coon said.

Read the full article

Kyle Coon Continues to Excel

Kyle Coon has had quite a 2018 season.

In October he won the Silver medal and the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup Race.

Article here


In November he was named as one of three Parathletes to be added to the USA Resident Team at the Colorado Springs OTC.

Article here


And, just this past weekend, Kyle and guide Alan Greening, finish IMAZ in under 11 hours!

Video from in Phoenix, AZ  here




U.S. Athletes Earn Three Golds at Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup

SARASOTA, Fla. — Three U.S. paratriathletes collected gold medals Sunday morning at the Sarasota-Bradenton ITU Paratriathlon World Cup, an elite race held as part of the two-day Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon Festival at Nathan Benderson Park. U.S. athletes earned nine total medals on the day, standing out among a field of competitors from 17 countries.

The race was shifted from a triathlon (swim-bike-run) to a duathlon (run-bike-run) after heightened algae levels in the lake due to recent weather conditions forced a cancellation of the swim leg. The adjusted course featured a 2.5-kilometer run, 18.3-kilometer bike and another 5-kilometer run.

Elizabeth Baker (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) claimed the win in the women’s PTVI class, crossing the line with a time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 12 seconds. It was a close finish with U.S. teammate Amy Dixon (Encinitas, Calif.), who took silver in 1:07:40. Completing the all-American podium was Eliza Cooper (New York, N.Y.) in 1:10:23.

“I’m proud of the race. I had nothing left,” Baker said. “Amy gave me a run for my money on that one. And it was fun having Eliza, a great newbie, in the race. It’s just really nice to see the sport growing and people getting faster, and newbies coming in in the United States.”

Kyle Coon (Carbondale, Colo.) collected his first international paratriathlon medal with a silver in the men’s PTVI division. Coon’s time of 58:47 was less than a minute behind the division winner, Yuichi Takahashi of Japan. Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.) was just 33 seconds off the podium for the PTVI men, finishing fourth in 1:00:28.

Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.) stormed to the win in the men’s PTS2 division with a time of 1:15:05. While Popp earned two ITU World Cup medals last season, including a bronze here in Sarasota, Sunday’s race marked his first gold. Cahin Perez (Christiana, Tenn.) also reached the podium for the PTS2 men, taking bronze with a time of 1:22:57.

“This was a good capper to the season,” Popp said. “It went well, and it was an improvement from last year. I’m happy with my first win on the ITU circuit.”


Complete article and full results here