In Profile: Sarah Reinertsen, USA

In Profile: Sarah Reinertsen, USA

By ITU Admin on 04/09/09 at 12:00 am

One week before the biggest paratriathlon event of the year, the Dextro Energy - ITU Triathlon World Championship Series Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia, we meet Sarah Reinertsen, the winner of the TRI 2 category for severe leg impaired athletes at the Dextro Energy- ITU Triathlon World Championship Series event in London.

What made you decide to compete in triathlon?
I got interested in triathlon after watching the Hawaii Ironman on TV.  I had recently returned from the 1992 Paralympic Games and saw a video of the Ironman race, and was enthralled by these people that were swimming, biking and running these incredible distances.  I decided right then that I would do that race one day.  The only thing was that I didn’t know how to bike and I didn’t really know how to swim.  Since running was my strong suit I started to run in long road races and did 7 marathons before turning my attention to the bike & swim.  It was actually 11 years after seeing my first Ironman on TV that I completed my very first triathlon.  I started off with a sprint race, and have spent the past six years racing in triathlons of all distances.

What is your typical training week?
I train about 10-15 hours a week.  I do each sport at least 3-4 times per week.  Tuesday & Thursdays &  Sunday are my swim and run days.  Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays are my bike days.

Many triathletes use a training log. How meticulous are you in preparation for your training?
I do use a training log, and I’m pretty meticulous about my training.  In fact I transfer my workouts from my log straight into my calender every month, so it’s like an appointment in my book, and it helps me plan my days.

What adaptations have you had to make to accommodate your disability for triathlon?
I have made many changes in my evolution as a triathlete, the biggest hurdle for me was the bike.  Especially being an above-knee amputee I don’t get a lot of power out of my left leg, and I can’t stand up on the bike at all, meaning I can’t stand up to help myself get up those big hills.  I have to sit in the saddle, be patient and just grind up the hills, even if I’m going at a very slow pace.  We have worked hard to get the right gearing and bike set-up.

Can you describe any special equipment that you use for triathlon?
There’s a lot of gear in triathlons, but for me, I have different prosthetic legs that I need to bring with me.  I use one prosthetic for the bike, and a different prosthetic for the run.  My bike leg uses a different foot (Flex Foot Mod III), that has been shaved down a bit, and with a bike cleat bolted directly to the bottom of the foot.  I also use a light prosthetic knee (Total Knee 2000), and the top edges on the socket of the bike leg are trimmed very low so I don’t get chaffing on my hip from the prosthesis with every pedal stroke. As for the run leg, it’s a higher fitting socket, and has a more robust hydraulic knee (Total Knee 2100), and of course a prosthetic foot designed specifically for running, the Flex-Run.

The breakthroughs in prosthetic technology have really helped make it possible for me to even consider doing an Ironman.  Once I got my Flex-Run foot in 2000, I finally got my marathon time below six hours, after that I knew I had a prayer of doing the Ironman marathon in a fast enough time to make the 17-hour race cut-off.

What is the highlight of your involvement competing in triathlon so far?
The biggest highlight was crossing the finish line at the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  I made history as the first woman on an artificial leg to finish the Hawaii Ironman, and it was a goal that took me 13 years to reach, so it was dream come true.  I have also been honored to compete at the ITU world championships in New Zealand, Germany, and soon in Australia.

What are your goals for this season?
My goals this season are always to get faster and stronger, to win my division at the ITU Triathlon World Championships at the Gold Coast, Australia.  However, I’ve had been battling a stress fracture this season, so I haven’t run the splits I’ve wanted to.  The stress fracture is in my foot, and since it’s my only foot I’ve really had to be patient in this healing process.  When I first injured it after a race in Orlando I couldn’t walk for days.

Outside of triathlon, I did reach a very big goal of mine.  I have had my first book published, its is a memoir called, ‘In A Single Bound: Losing My Leg, Finding Myself and Training for Life.’  It is being released in the United States on September 1, 2009 on Globe Pequot Press.  Writing a book was like training for an Ironman, it required endurance and perseverance and I definitely hit the wall at chapter nine, I still pushed through to the final chapter and its is now another proud finish line for me.

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for individuals thinking about competing in paratriathlon?
If you have any interest in doing a triathlon, well get out there and TRI.  If you’re overwhelmed by all three sports, at least get out there and master one, and I think the relay division is a great way to get started in the sport.  You can recruit other friends to do the other two sports, and you can all train and support each other for that first relay triathlon together.  I also recommend joining a local triathlon club, masters swim class or running club to help keep you motivated (and honest) in your training.  Since there are other considerations for athletes with disabilities, the CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation) does offer triathlon workshops to teach amputees, paraplegics, etc.  how to swim, bike, wheel or run.  You can find the schedule for the next sports clinics at www.challengedathletes.org

If you have any additional question about ITU Paratriathlon please contact Thanos Nikopoulos

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