On the Wings of Angels

How far would you go to make your child feel whole? Happy?

Ricky Hoyt has cerebral palsy. Rick asked his father if they could run a race together to raise money to benefit a paralyzed lacrosse player. Dick Hoyt pushed his son in that race. After their first race Rick said, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” according to Wikipedia. In 1977 Team Hoyt was born. This would be the start of a lifelong love of racing between father and son. In 1988, they made their first attempt at the legendary Kona Ironman Triathlon. It is a grueling distance of 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles of cycling followed by a full marathon 26.2 miles. Dick pulled Ricky in a boat for the swim, carries him on his bike via a special seat in the front of his bike and pushes him in a special wheelchair for the run. The undertaking is immense. Resolve brought the super duo back to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1989 where they finished to the cheers and adoration of 1000s. They were rightfully inducted into the Ironman Triathlon Hall Of Fame.

This is an interview with Robert Cass. He is the founder of LocalTrVibe, an incredible athlete and gives selflessly to Ainsley’s Angels.  He competes in triathlons with the Angels, puling and pushing them with him, inspired and driven by the power of love.

Can you tell me what inspires you?

Regular people, or anyone really, who make a decision to make a difference and base their choices out of love and not ego. Whether they achieve greatness or not is not the point…it’s that they were inspired by love but fear to push themselves beyond what they ever thought possible. It’s the Triathletes with regular lives and day jobs, kids, meetings and bills that I am inspired by. People who make time to chase down their dreams and push heir personal limits.

Tell me a bit about Ainsley’s Angels?

Ainsley’s Angels is one of the few organizations that is surrounded with positive vibes from the bottom to the top. They share their gift of fitness with special needs children…positive vibes from everyone, rider, athlete, sherpa, crowd, parents…it’s a way to get a 10X return on your race day effort.

How difficult is it to swim/run/bike while pulling a person?

This may sound strange, but I have never been asked or really consider “how difficult” it is to be an inclusion athlete…it’s not part of the decision tree to become one. In my case, I was inspired by the mission and that was it. There is a thought process among the athletes that we are not actually doing the work, but we are being “pulled” or “pushed” by our riders. In layman’s terms…we are inspired when we are in the moment, in pink, racing with purpose. For what it is worth, my 5k, 1/2 marathon and sprint tri swim as an inclusion athlete, are my personal records. Swimming for me is the least physically taxing…cycling is the real test, it’s very difficult to get a good spin, so you are forced to use your “big leg” muscles while you mash the pedals at a much slower cadence. It can be demoralizing to be working so hard, but to be going so slow, knowing that you are draining your legs for the run.

The run is a true test of your will to finish what you’ve started…and the greatest motivation the child in the chair whose name everyone is cheering…you dissolve into your resolve and put your head down and keep driving forward. The crowd will cheer you through the finish…

How rewarding is racing on the wings of an Ainsley’s Angel?

I don’t know that I can put a number or a value on being a part of something so much bigger than myself. To have the ability to give another human being feel the wind in their hair, the crowd cheering their name and the exhilaration of crossing the finish with a medal around their neck, there is nothing like it. The parents of those children get a moment of peace in a life that is spent tending to the love of their lives. They get to see their children smile and respond in a way that would not happen any other way. It’s humbling to be a part of that experience. 

What is your favorite of three disciplines? Why?

Swimming by far. I only started swimming 4 years ago, so it is still new to me…I have accidentally found that I am most at home when I am in the open water…preferably the ocean. It’s like no place on earth. It’s quiet, peaceful, rhythmic…it’s home. I am not fast, but I am strong and comfortable, even when the water is rough, I can relax into the chaos of the waves and become a part of it…

Favorite swim set? Track or interval workout? 

Streetlight wind-sprints. I do the majority of my running when everyone else is sleeping. I love the thought that the rest of the world is sleeping while I am pushing myself toward a goal. Most of the time, that means I am running outside after 9:30 pm with a headlamp. My favorite thing to do is to push as hard as I can from one streetlight, passed the next two…then slow my pace until the next streetlight…wash, rinse, repeat…increase the distance and intensity as I go…then go to bed…completely satisfied.

Favorite post race/training splurge food? 

Sheesh, I have a wicked sweet tooth…and I love a huge glass of chocolate milk after training…and Oreos.

I know you train/race with your wife. How does that go? Does it bring you closer or cause friction? 

It’s not for the faint of heart. Most training sessions that we start together, we don’t finish together…our fitness journey, goals and philosophy are at 2 different places and they don’t always mix well. The one thing that works for me is to focus on what the goal is. In the case of the past year, she asked me to train her so that she could complete her first marathon…I “coached” her and she did the work and completed her first marathon as an inclusion athlete for Ainsley’s Angels and I could not be more proud of her….and we are still married, but following different fitness paths.

Favorite quote? 

If it hurts me, it’s killing them.

Tell me about LocalTriVibe? 

LocalTriVibe is my way of connecting with the middle of the pack…of telling their story and relating to them. Sharing their success, the failures and laughing at some of the stupid things we do in between, in a way that only Triathletes understand. It’s my way of putting the resources I wish I had, in one place, in one media outlet.

What do you hope to accomplish with LocalTriVibe? How will this help our community? 

My hope is that it will resonate with enough people and grow in a way where it becomes a part of the middle of the pack conversation….that it becomes a place where triathlete can go to get answers in print, video, audio…and they can start conversations and be a part of the media instead of participating in a sport, but only reading about the elite athletes in glossy magazines. My goal is to shift the national media conversation from the few to the many.

I think, or at least I hope, even more people will challenge themselves after seeing regular people like their brothers, sisters, neighbors and coworkers accomplish truly amazing things.

What’s the biggest piece of advice to newbies starting to do triathlons? 

Work on the engine (your heart and body) before you spend any money… the original Triathletes didn’t have all the gadgets or even the nicest bikes… keep it basic, work on the engine…

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If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the incredible work of Ainsley’s Angels, here is the link to their website.

ainsleysangels.org

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