Hey there to all fellow RF team members!
Now that another year has begun i thought I would take the time to give a bit more of a formal intro for myself and let you know what myself and my guide are up to this year.
Many of you may know me as “that blind guy Syd Trefiak was dragging around Peterborough last year…” My name is Ryan Van Praet, I’m 30 years old from Chatham ON (west of London), I was a bit of a late addition to the RF team last year (thanks so much to RF for helping me out)…..and oh yes…i’m legally blind.
I was born with a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which over the years has been slowly robbing me of vision (or should i say sight, as vision is a mindset i believe). For most who say “aww man that sucks..”, to them I say “not really”. You see this is not new news to me, as i’ve known about this since i was 4 years old, have known i will most likely go blind by the time i am mid 30’s, known there is no treatment/cure, and figured it was just what life has dealt me. I’ve enjoyed a fairly long (10 year) triathlon career solo, which saw me finish 5 Ironman’s, several tri’s of varying distances, numerous road races and a few marathons. In 2008 I decided that it would be my final year, as my vision loss was making it unsafe for me to race, and after a very dissapointing end to my solo career (my one and only DNF, which happened to be at the Hawaii Ironman), i knew my storybook ending to my solo career was not to be; there were bigger/better things out there for me. Fast forward to last July and a tall, goofy looking guy named Syd (just kiddin’ buddy) kindly volunteeered (via facebook) to give the “leading a blind guy” a shot. We had never met, but he took the ultimate unselfish act and decided to help me out, when i after a lifetime of being positive, was feeling less than. Syd picked me back up, gave me my sport back, and decided to give up his solo races for 2009, to help me regain my freedom. We finished Peterborough 1/2 IM, what a great way to give the tandem thing a shot, we finished 2nd at the USA National Paratriathlon Champs in NYC, we finished 2nd at the Ironman World Champs. 70.2 and now we are gunning for 2010.
This year will be 6 yrs. to the day i finished my first IM, in Lake Placid, and this year i will try it for the first time as a Paratriathlete (tethered and on a tandem). It should be fun, but a bit nerve wracking. Once again Syd has stepped up to the plate, took on the challenge and said yes to helping me do the things i felt i was meant to do. I am still trying to convince Syd of this, as i think i am more sentimental then he, but I definately feel he and I are racing for a far greater purpose; I believe that he and I are meant to shatter barriers and pre-concieved notions about physically challenged athletes. I am ever so grateful for the support the Team Running Free has shown me…pretty much none of you know me personally, but I feel such a great team spirit already.
It is sad that I do not live very close, and have trouble getting to all the RF functions, however i STILL feel included, and i thank you all so much for the support you have shown Syd and I. As Syd has pointed out, taking a chance every now and then may just be the best thing you’ve ever done.
I look forward to representing team RF this year in Lake Placid, hopefully at the ITU worlds in Budapest, at every local race (flying the RF flag in the southwest), and at every opportunity i can.
So, thank you for having me on the team, thanks for showing me the support you have (Peterborough was my first race as part of team RF and i felt like i had been on the team for years)… Keep an eye out for Syd and I, with our fundraising attempts for the Cdifferent Foundation (HUGE financial supporters of mine), and keep your eyes peeled to the TV, as Syd and I should be featured in the coverage of the 2009 Ironman 70.3 World’s to be airing on NBC in a few months.
The year will hopefully be a great one for all of you, and i personally look forward to meeting many of you.
Ryan Van Praet….your friendly face to the southwest.