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!

#eyeronvision

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
http://www.kylecoon.com
http://www.facebook.com/kylecoonspeaks
http://www.instagram.com/eyeronkyle

A Weight Lifted: Paratriathlete Hailey Danz Shares Her Coming Out Story

From USA Triathlon
By Hailey Danz

In November, 2020, I did one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. In this social media post, I came out as gay.

I think I’ve known I was gay since college, but I fought it for a long time. I already fell into one minority group having lost my leg to cancer, and I guess I didn’t want there to be one more thing to make me different. Even as I began to accept this piece of my identity, I was ambivalent toward the idea of coming out publicly. On the one hand, it felt like something I shouldn’t be obligated to do. While my sexuality is a part of me, it’s certainly not the most significant part. I didn’t want to make a big deal about being gay because in the grand scheme of who I am, it’s not a big deal. 

(It’s my hope that one day people won’t feel like they have to “come out” as we know it, because acceptance of differences in sexuality is the norm. And for the record, I think we’re close to this being the case.)

But the reality is, we’re not there yet. And in our current world, if you’re a gay professional athlete who’s not publicly out, you’re hiding something. 

And let me tell you, hiding a part of yourself is exhausting. The weight of that burden is not unlike the weight of a chronically high training load. When you carry it around long enough, fatigue becomes your baseline, and you stop noticing how much effort you’re using just to stay afloat. You get really good at convincing yourself that everything is fine, ignoring that extra edge of irritability or the racing mind that keeps you up at night. And so you power through, believing you’re doing what’s best, until one day you wake up and realize you can’t possibly spend one more second pedaling your bike … or pretending to be someone you’re not. 

This is where I found myself in November. It had been months in the making, but I was finally able to admit to myself that the weight of hiding was too heavy to continue carrying. I decided I had too much to offer this world, and the energy I was using to filter myself needed to be devoted to greater things.

That was when I decided to share the most difficult — and most liberating — thing I had ever written.

Read the rest of the entire article here

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.

#eyeronvision

Check out more of Kyles writings here: https://kylecooncom.wordpress.com

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?

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 12news.com 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

 

Denver Paratriathlete Emily Harvey On Her Workout Routine, How It Compares To Other Athletes

uSports.org recently interviewed Para-triathlete Emily Harvey regarding her typical workouts, last year’s half-Ironman effort, and her upcoming full Ironman in Boulder this June.

Emily Harvey is not only a paratriathlete: she is also a disability rights attorney and non-profit founder, and seems to have a strong training routine for competitions.

The 33-year-old Denver athlete and lawyer explained her typical workout sequence in an exclusive interview with uSports.

WATCH THE VIDEO

You can learn more about Harvey by visiting her blog at amptrilife.wordpress.com.