by Doug Powell

Yes, I completed Ironman Wisconsin in 16 hours, 7 minutes -- not as fast as I wanted, but still a tremendous accomplishment. I put in a lot of hard work, and it paid off. But it wasn't all rainbows and lollipops.

As a matter of fact, I had been really frustrated the last couple of months. I joined the triathlon team with the hope that finding guides for critical workouts during my Ironman quest would be easy. The reasoning went: There are 65 or so of my teammates doing the same race, so we will be doing the same training and it should be easy to find people to run and ride the bike with. Very logical, but in reality, very wrong.

Another line of thinking was that people were not riding with me because my tandem was 17 years old, kind of worn out, and far from the leading edge in technology, so if I bought a new tandem, people would be much more willing to ride with me. The new bike sat on my porch unused for over three weeks.

I climbed on my old single bike mounted on a stationary trainer on my back porch, and rode from four to seven and a half hours. Thank goodness for my Victor Reader Stream!

Where were my teammates? Most of the non-Ironman folks were afraid of trying to pilot a tandem and the long distances were beyond their skills and training goals. My guess about the Ironman registrants is that they were as scared of the race (and not finishing) as I was and couldn't get over their fear enough to see that they could get their training in as well on the front of my bike as they could on their own. So in the long run, their fears outweighed their hearts and the blind guy was left behind. If something similar has happened to you, raise your hand ... yeah, everyone can put their hand down now. But let's be honest: how many times have we had fears that got in the way of our reaching out to help others in a way they really needed?

Getting back to me and my stationary bike, why did I do such a crazy thing week after week? Why didn't I just say, "Well, if they're not going to help, I can't/won't bother"? Because I didn't sign up for the Ironman with the condition that I have people to train with. I promised myself that when I jumped in the water the morning of Sept.12, 2010, I would have put in the preparation to be able to cross the finish line, regardless of the circumstances. If it was hot, I'd trained for it. If it rained, I'd trained for it. They may have run out of nutrition at the aid stops; I'd planned for it. And I'd done my very best to prepare for the long bike ride and run. The bottom line was that when I crossed the finish line, there would be no doubt in my mind that, when the announcer said, "Doug Powell ... You Are An Ironman!", regardless of whatever support I had needed to get me there, I deserved the title Ironman. Applying this to everyday life, when all of us can walk into our jobs (or a job interview, or a politician's office, or anywhere we are challenged) with a "you can count on me no matter what" attitude, and follow through on that promise, there will be a new reality around how society thinks of blind and visually impaired people.

By the way, speaking of challenges ... probably the hardest one of all ... forgive those folks who didn't step up when it was important. It takes something extra to acknowledge all of our frailties and be able to celebrate our successful finishes together, and empathize with their hidden "disabilities" that prevented them from helping when I needed it. How can we apply these lessons to ACB as an organization?

We in ACB (and I mean all of us) support each other to give everything we have to make life better for blind and visually impaired people in the world. We'll do the best we can -- and we'll be able to do more, better and easier, with your contribution to the Monthly Monetary Support program. So call the Minnesota office today at 1-800-866-3242 to enroll. What you get out of ACB is what you put into it. Become a proud sustaining member of your organization. And thank you for your support of my Ironman quest, and my quest to help ACB have a strong, continuous financial base to enrich blind people's lives in the world!

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