“It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” ~ Stephen Hawking
VICKY: Opinionated. Feisty. Brutally honest. Decisive. Confident. Those are some of the adjectives that come to mind when I think of Sarah Reinertsen. In the first part of her book, it was all about her family challenges and her journey to the Paralympics. Both were disappointing experiences for her and clearly helped define her as a person and an athlete.
GRANT: Really? What made you think that?
VICKY: Well, she had the following thoughts at page 73:
“I also kept thinking, Screw running. The disappointment of failing at the Paralympics still raged, and whenever I thought about track, I felt defeated.” Then at page 74: “Dad wasn’t interested in helping with my tuition. How did I know? He flat out said, ‘I am not paying for college.’ That blew me away. I’d been a great daughter, and had decent grades, played sports, did all kinds of extracurricular activities, busted my ass to get into a good college, and he was backing out of the deal.”
GRANT: Holy crap. That’s a lot to deal with on top of everything else.
VICKY: Page 75:
“Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best head space for my first solo sojourn into the world.”
GRANT: No doubt.
VICKY: So despite all of this weight on her shoulders. She still managed to set out and achieve new athletic goals. Once she got back into running, she felt the urge to try something new: the marathon. As she says, it’s the holy grail of running goals.
GRANT: Yes it is! Although I would argue that running an ultramarathon is pretty up there in terms of ultimate running goals and achievements. So what was her time? Which marathon did she run?
VICKY: You’ll be jealous.
GRANT: She ran the New York Marathon didn’t she?
VICKY: Yup. In 6:32. But she was disqualified.
GRANT: Because she finished in under 7 hours and started at 8:30 a.m. right?
VICKY: Correct sir. At page 111 she describes it as follows:
“The next morning I learned that if you take the early 8:30 race start, and you finish in under seven hours, you’re disqualified, because they don’t want the masses taking unfair advantage of the jump on the crowd. So, technically, I had disqualified myself by completing the race in under seven hours. It was a small bummer, but I knew what I had accomplished. (…) According to the official scorekeeper, I didn’t finish the New York Marathon. But if you’re scoring in the real world I definitely finished, and definitely kicked ass.”
GRANT: Woah! She is feisty eh?
VICKY: Yes. She is.
GRANT: Did she run another one after that?
VICKY: Yes, she ran the L.A. Marathon in 6:15 and did New York again. In fact, at one point she was hired to interview runners at the back of the pack at the New York Marathon as she was running it herself!
GRANT: Sounds like something you and I would do.
VICKY: Which part? Running at the back of the pack? Or doing the interviews? LOL. I’m just kidding. So now let’s talk about triathlons.
GRANT: Ok wait a minute. Didn’t she do an Ironman?
VICKY: Oh yeah! Go big or go home was her motto my friend! It all started in 1992, she’s waiting at the shop where she gets her artificial leg. The Ironman World Championship in Hawaii is on television. She sees Jim MacLaren, a racer with a prosthetic leg. At page 130 she describes it:
“He smashed the seemingly unsmashable eleven-hour barrier and set a new world record. It blew me away. I thought, Wow, the Paralympics are cool, but if you could do that, that’s over-the-moon extraordinary. That’s the bomb. I want to do that one day. No, I’m going to do that one day. I’m going to make Hawaii mine.”
GRANT: Did she even know how to swim or ride a bike at that point?
VICKY: In the book she says she signed up for a pool membership in 2002 to learn how to swim. So, I guess not. It took her 6 months from the day she signed up to actually get in the water because she was so freaked out about what to do with her leg.
GRANT: This really puts it into perspective doesn’t it? I mean she not only had the fear of looking stupid which we all had the first time we went to a public swimming pool but on top of that, the logistics of her prosthetic leg! Where do you leave it? When do you take it off?
VICKY: Once she got over that hurdle, she needed to learn how to ride a bike. Heck she needed to find a bike! So off to the sidewalk sales she went.
VICKY: Oh yes my friend. She found a little white bike for $75. Now the challenge was learning how to ride a bicycle in New York City! You know, the city where you can barely cross the streets without a taxi taking you down?
GRANT: Wait a second. What kind of little white bike?
VICKY: A mountain bike.
GRANT: She wanted to complete the Hawaii Ironman on a mountain bike? Was she nuts?
VICKY: No. She was not nuts. She was a motivated person who didn’t have all the information. So anyways, the guy at the bike shop recommended she spin so she bought an indoor stationary bike. By 2004, she felt she was ready to complete her first Ironman.
GRANT: Wow. That’s crazy Vic!
VICKY: I know! I loved her sense of humour when she was writing about this because of course it’s crazy talk but at the same time it’s absolutely inspiring. It’s all about setting your mind to it and then just putting in the work.
GRANT: So what happened at her first Ironman? Did she finish?
VICKY: Well, here’s a funny excerpt from page 151:
“Step one of Ironman is the body marking. (…) I was number 187, which, it so happens, is Los Angeles police code for a homicide.”
This made me laugh so hard when I read it.
GRANT: So did she finish?
VICKY: Unfortunately, they took her timing chip away after the bike portion because she was at 5:35.
GRANT: Ah yes. The rules. Each course closes after a certain time.
VICKY: Exactly. So she bounces back by participating in the Amazing Race television adventure show, which ends up motivating her to finish her unfinished Ironman business. So she gets a custom bike that actually works with her prosthetic as opposed to against it like the last time.
GRANT: I can’t believe she tried it again. I would just be crushed and scared to try it again. I mean you invest so much time, energy and money that it would be devastating to not finish.
VICKY: Yes but this girl is fiesty and competitive. Remember, she’s been facing challenges all her life and this race is just another obstacle. Her mind is strong and as long as she has that, she can do anything.
GRANT: You’re right.
VICKY: So she finished.
GRANT: Did she really?!
VICKY: She did. In her words at page 212:
“In the months leading up to the race, I told my friends that if I made it, I was going to walk across the finish line so I could savor every second of it, so I could bask in the moment. But I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t jog. I couldn’t trot. All I could do was sprint. It was a moment I had dreamed of for twelve years, and now I was in it, achieving it, and I felt like I was actually floating. The collective screaming, and clapping, and chanting of ‘Go Sarah, go!’ from the spectators was deafening. (…)”
Her final time was 15:05.
GRANT: Unbelievable accomplishment after all that she has been through.
VICKY: It certainly was. On top of doing this for herself, she also made history by becoming the first woman to finish an Ironman on a prosthetic leg. You should read the book 🙂 In the meantime, check out this video about her: oLdi0hMkinM