Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Throughout my life I have been inspired by some pretty amazing people. It's rarely the person who wins the race, more often than not it is one of the true heroes of life that has the ability to bring me to my knees, make me look up at the sky and truly believe that anything in this world is possible.

Here is our friend Rudy Garcia, as he walked past us at Ironman Arizona. If you have been in this sport long enough you remember when we was on the cover of Road Runner Sports as an 11 or 12 year old kid, promoting the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

If you don't know the story of Rudy, the 2 minute synapses is this: as a kid he was wheelchair bound. Essentially he asked for his legs to be amputated so he could get on with his life....of course there is much more detail, but that's the jist. At five years old he had the foresight to say..... enough of this. Click here for a much better recap of Rudy's life.

At the 2009 Ironman Arizona event Rudy became the first double leg above the knee amputee to complete the Ironman. When he walked by us..... Luc took notice. He was fascinated by this kid who had these amazing legs. We watched as Rudy checked in.

I have had the fortune of being at some events with Rudy, like the 70.3 Ironman World Champs in 2006. I remember watching him run into the water on his stumps and kicking the asses of some of the best swimmers in that field might I add.

I wanted Luc to watch him, to stare at him. Luc is not new to being around wheelchairs and walkers and disabilities. He was in a wheelchair and used a walker himself. He attended a pre school with children who had CP.

What was different..... was that this kid with the amazing legs.... was doing the Ironman. Luc never had seen that before. I watched as that scenario was absorbed by Luc. Luc is no stranger to adversity. If you have been reading long enough you know the struggles we have endured over the past several years with an education system set up that's against children like Luc. You remember the fight and the meetings and the phone calls.

How on earth Luc managed to wake up every single day with a smile on his face, and walked into a school where all he met all day was doom.... is beyond me.

It's now December, and Luc has been in his new school since May of last year. He's an entirely new kid. He has close friends. I have a notebook that he comes home with every single day with a synapses form his teacher of how the day went. Great day, worked hard today, those kinds of comments are on every single page.

Last year we got a phone call every single day. By this time of last year I had been at the "round table" at least four times. Luc faced every school day of 2009 being told by teachers that he would never fit in, that he was bad...... and as you remember we yanked him out and homeschooled him in March.

Luc inspires me. Throughout his nine years he has faced things many adults don't even comprehend. Open heart surgery to name the biggest. He wakes up every single day knowing that it is a brand new day. Excited to go to school.

He's in a wonderful school that understands him. He's in an environment where he is learning, excelling. He goes to tech class and has made a fire truck and a napkin holder....... can you imagine in his previous school .... him handling a saw?

He does in this one.

And no one has gotten hurt.

He won the mile in the pumpkin run that his school held. He joined the chorus, in fact his first concert is next week!

Luc is a member of USA Triathlon, and he's a veteran at the kid's races. Because of balance issues he still bikes on training wheels, but he loves to be in the game. As triathlete parents we don't want to push him into this sport, but when he asks us to race.... we support him. We aren't the parents in transition who scream at their kid to hurry. Luc knows how to change his own shoes, put on his own helmet. Kids need to be encouraged, not hollered at to win.

He's got his own little collection of finisher's medals, T shirts, swim caps. In Arizona he did the mile Iron Kids run, as shown above.

Luc inspires me because he has spent nine years being told by the education system that he can't, while the athletic system has told him he can. That's powerful. Percentage wise he has spent more time in the educational system than he has on the field and still, despite all of that he smiles, he is positive. We are told that as parents we have much to do with that.

I hope so.

In Arizona 1,600 children competed in the Iron Kids mile run. It was the best organized race I have ever seen. Kids were lined up by grade and each grade was a wave that began about 1 minute apart form the next.

As I stood there at the finish line waiting, tears filled my eyes as I watched the children run through the finisher's arch, the same one used for the Ironman. The crowd was gigantic and they were screaming. It was like each child had their day in the sun. Their 15 minutes.

Afterwards Luc told me that as he was runnign down the finisher's chute he was crying. He told me this:

"Mom everyone was cheering for us. I felt so special!"

Because my son you are special. You are very special. You have been given some gifts that other children have not. What some might call special needs I like to call gifts.

As Luc watched Rudy walk around in transition and rack his bike, he was speechless. He asked me how Rudy swims, how Rudy bikes, and how Rudy runs. I explained to him how Rudy did it and he smiled.

"He's my hero mom." He told me.

"Mine too." I told him.

We all face challenges. My father taught me that it's not the challenge that you face, it's what you choose to do with it. You can let it beat you down or you can use it to help you become stronger.

"You have faced your share of challenges Mar...." one of my close friends recently reminded me, "I think that's where Luc learns it from." I thought back to my lifetime of challenges. I guess when you put it into a timeline and a list it seems like a lot. I am no different from any of you.

My inspiration is Luc. I wonder if he will ever understand that.

Below is an incredible video that one of my athletes sent me. She instructed me to grab a Kleenex before I watched this, and I think you should do the same.


Jennifer Hess said...

Loved your post Mary. Thanks for sharing both your story and the video. They are both very moving.

PJ said...

Thanks, Mary. I kinda needed to read that today.

Ange said...

Your boy sounds amazing. you must be so so proud of him. He is so lucky to have suchloving parents. He will go far in life. I am sure.
Love the story about the kids running through the chute and Luc feeling special. It's beautiful.

Jill said...

Awesome post in so many ways. :)