For today’s post I thought I’d share part of an interview I recently had with Jeff Schmidt, who is training for the Vineman Ironman Triathlon that will be taking place this Saturday, July 31st. Jeff, who had a below-knee amputation three years ago, has been training with TNT’s IronTeam along with his wife, Jenny. This weekend, they will be swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running 26.2 miles! Read on for Jeff’s thoughts on…
…his decision to join the Team:
I first heard about Team In Training from the radio commercials. However, I didn’t really know what Team In Training was about until my wife, Jenny, participated in the Spring Tri Team in 2009. After she competed in the Honolulu Triathlon, she decided she wanted to join TNT’s IronTeam. She really wanted me to join and train with her, but I had a couple concerns about my ability to train for an Ironman. The biggest concern I had was this spare tire I had acquired over the years. On top of my lack of physical conditioning, I was not a swimmer at all! I mentioned my concerns to the head coach of the South Bay IronTeam. He looked at me and said, “If those are your only concerns, you have nothing to worry about.” I was a bit shocked by his response, but I decided to trust his opinion, and I joined IronTeam a full two months after the team had begun training.
…his missing leg:
Yes, I am 12 inches shorter on my right side than on my left side. I was kicked in the leg in a soccer game in November 1997, and my leg was broken. The orthopedic surgeon, whom I saw in the emergency room, set the bone wrong and casted the leg too soon and too tight. This resulted in serious damage to my foot and ankle. Eventually a different surgeon opened up the side of my leg to relieve pressure, and my leg was also set properly. I then spent the next ten years going through surgery after surgery to try to correct the damage that was done, until I finally decided to have a below-knee amputation on June 4, 2007.
…training with his injury:
Up to the point that I joined IronTeam, I had not tried to do any rigorous physical activity. I was overweight and out of shape. I knew I could run short distances, and I expected that I would be able to bicycle, but I really had no idea if I would be able to achieve the kind of distances required by being a member of IronTeam. Through this process I have experienced some issues with my residual limb. I have developed sores on the end of my stump that seriously hindered my ability to train. More recently I developed some blisters on my knee that cut one of my training runs in half, but I was able to correct that issue rather quickly, and my running ability is better than it has ever been! I do experience a bit of awkwardness when I run, and my pedal stroke is a bit abnormal, but regardless, my prosthesis feels like it is a part of my leg. If it wasn’t for my amputation and my technologically advanced prosthesis, I would not be able to do a fraction of what I can do today! I have no regrets!
…his personal connection to the cause:
Although I never met my paternal Grandfather because he passed away well before I was born, I feel a strong connection with him because of the stories that my Grandmother and my Father have told me. His name was Otto “Scotty” Schmidt, and he was the father of three boys and the husband of an incredible woman, Aurelia. He was a rather simple man, not in the matter of intelligence, but in that he made it his ambition to lead a simple life and take care of his family, and he was loved by all in the small town of Gerald, Missouri. Just as my Dad was entering his teen years, my Grandfather was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, and died shortly afterwards. A lot of heartache was caused by the suffering of a good man with Hodgkin’s Disease, and it is my wish that this never happens again! It is this story that is my main motivation to help LLS find a cure for blood cancers!
…the best part of his training:
The most exciting part about training for the Vineman Ironman was the point when I realized that I really could do this! Although my coaches were telling me that I could do it, it wasn’t until I started making great strides while training for the swim that I really believed them. When I started training, I could not swim across the pool without stopping because I was so winded. There was a point when I went from having to stop to catch my breath every hundred yards or so to being able to swim 1000 yards without stopping. When I realized that I would be able to complete the swim, I knew that I would be able to complete the race (knock on wood)!
…why other people should join the Team:
When I have spoken with people about training for an event with Team In Training, I have frequently heard people say that there is no way they could complete such a long race. For those of you who are thinking the same thing, unless you have some kind of limitation that prohibits you from training, you can train for and complete any kind of race you want to complete! I have never competed in an endurance event. I have never competed in an official triathlon. I joined the team two months after they started training. I am a below-knee amputee. I was seriously out of shape when I joined the team. Even with all of this going against me, I can honestly say that I am physically ready for the Vineman Ironman-distance triathlon! I will complete this event because I am ready! You can do this too! Give the coaches a chance to help you train, and you will soon be completing an endurance event too! Let’s find a cure for blood cancers! Go Team!!!
If you want to learn more about Jeff, visit his page where you can see where he’s at and support his fundraising efforts. Interested in joining IronTeam yourself, or maybe starting off with an olympic-distance triathlon, or a marathon/half-marathon or century? The Fall season is just launching and there’s still time to sign up! Contact us for more information or to join the Team! You can also call (408) 490-2672, or email SJTNTInfo@lls.org for more info.