I Won’t Let My Blindness Limit Me

Testimonial by Fitdigits User Terry G.

I saw February’s newsletter and read Tim W.’s story, the blind athlete who is shooting for the Paralympics using Fitdigits technology. Well, I would love to add to his story, and increase the number of us who are blind and have found Fitdigits to be a lifesaver to track our fitness performance.

I am a totally blind 25-year-old living in Aurora Colorado. I lost all my sight at age ten due to 22 eye surgeries that filled my eyes with scar tissue, leaving me completely blind. However, ask anybody who knows me, and they will tell you that I don’t let my blindness limit me. Back in 2011 I decided to do my first sprint triathlon…I nearly drowned! I had running and biking experience, but hardly any swimming experience. It took me 41 minutes to do the swim. I had a great time and I got a swim coach in 2012 and I was determined to do better. I not only improved my swim time from 41 minutes to 16 minutes in the same race, but I completed 3 triathlons in 2012, including my first Olympic distance.

However, I am still looking to get better. I got a professional coach at the end of 2012 that was giving me very tailored workouts, mostly dependent on heart rate training, distance, power, etc. I had never monitored any of this data before and was seeking a way to figure out how. Then I found Fitdigits, and it has been the best tool I have ever used to tailor my workouts.

When I want to train on my bike I put my phone into the Fitdigits Connect Bike Case that is mounted on my CompuTrainer bike for my cycling work outs. My bike has a speed and cadence sensor installed, I put on my Heart Rate Monitor and am ready to go. Or I slap in an ANT+ Adapter, put on my foot pod and heart rate monitor, and I am ready for tracking my runs either outside with my guide or on the treadmill.

During my CompuTrainer work outs on the bike, the CompuTrainer software doesn’t communicate my data to me, but Fitdigits does with the amazing and very customizable voice output, which is the selling mark for Fitdigits to the blind. I can know my speed, distance, power, and heart rate. Also, it uploads straight to Training Peaks, alongside my CompuTrainer data, and my coach can clearly see what I am doing. I have used Fitdigits for functional threshold power tests, and heart zone/power workouts, and my cycling has greatly improved.

For the running, I regularly perform long distance runs, and for these I have intervals organized around heart rate zones. Fitdigits helps me stay right where I need to, and either outside or inside, I know what I am doing. I have even used Fitdigits Assessments to determine max heart rate with amazing results.

I have completed 1 half marathon so far in 2013, and have 6 triathlons including the Boulder 70.3 half ironman, a full marathon, and a swim meet where I will be swimming long distance. Fitdigits is helping me to become a better triathlete and is playing a vital part in my ultimate goal; I am going to do my first ironman race in 2014 in Cozumel.

Blind Ambition

Testimonial by Fitdigits User Tim W.

I have known that my eyes were going to fail since I was very young. I was born with an eye disease called “Retinitis Pigmentosas”. This disease slowly destroys the retina and causes blindness. There is no known cure yet. The disease went into dormancy when I was young, but kicked into high gear when I turned thirty years of age. As I lost my eye sight, I lost the ability to do some of my favorite things. I loved riding motorcycles, bicycles, running, lifting weights and so much more.

I learned to find my way around the gym, so weight lifting was still an option. I couldn’t drive, so motor sports were out. I rode my bicycle as long as I could still see something. I finally had to give it up. I really thought I’d never ride a bicycle again. Then one day about five years ago I was sitting at my desk and a thought came to me: “What about Tandem bikes”? I began to do research and found out that many blind people use tandems for recreation and racing. My wife and I went out and bought a cheap tandem to try it out. It didn’t take long before we were hooked on riding! We began riding daily. At this point we decided to invest in a good tandem bike. In the winter time I wanted to keep riding, so I bought an indoor trainer and trained every day. I increased my training to three hours a day. One of our friends heard about this and challenged me to try out for the Olympics. I thought that was a crazy idea and laughed at her.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to dream of winning a gold medal for the USA. I did some more research and found out that Tandem racing is only available in the Paralympics. Since I’m blind I qualify as a Para-athlete. I began training on a indoor trainer to get in top shape. I then got accepted to a race development camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Before I attended the camp I was using the iBiker application and the Fitdigits Connect Bike Case> on my iPhone. I purchased a cadence sensor for the indoor trainer. I used the iBiker application, because it was able to talk to me and tell me my speed and RPMs every five minutes. As a blind athlete this was like having a coach. The iBiker application tracked my workouts, created charts and summarized all my stats. My training was going great! While I was at the camp I was able to make the “Merging Standard Time” for the National Team. This meant that they would watch and monitor my races in 2013.

After attending the race camp, I realized I needed to step up my workouts. I needed to track my heart rate along with my calories, speed and cadence. I found the Scosche Rhythm Heart Rate Monitor that works with the iBiker application. This heart monitor is worn on my forearm. This is a lot more comfortable than the ones that you wear around your chest. The monitor sends information to my iBiker application, so that iBiker will tell me what is happening. iBiker allows me to set up my heart rate zones and my fitness level. This gives me a customized workout. The application has charts that show me how long I was in each zone during my workout. This is like having a doctor at each workout.

iBiker has made my workouts more focused and more accurate. My hard work along with iBiker’s stats has got me to the level that it takes to get that gold medal. I plan on going to Nationals in July 2013 and qualifying for the National Cycling Team. Then I plan to be on Team USA in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. I will continue to use the iBiker applications and devices to accomplish these goals.

***Update: I had my first Tandem race of 2013 on Saturday, 2/24 in Little Rock, Arkansas. I won the Gold Medal and I’m currently ranked #1 with USA Cycling! I owe my success to hard work and the technology available to me from companies like Fitdigits!