by Kristine D’Arbelles
When Maricar brought up the notion of participating in a triathlon, I thought it was a terrific idea for her but not necessarily for me. I’m a decent swimmer but not a great athlete. Maricar was my friend though and she needed an SSP so I agreed to support her.
My experience as an SSP goes back nearly 25 years to when I was a 16-year-old volunteer at the Helen Keller National Center. Working mainly with young students around my age, I gained a valuable perspective on what is important in life: connections between people. This experience and destiny, perhaps, brought me to work at the Helen Keller Institute and eventually to meet Maricar and participate in the Seacrest-TOBAY Triathlon.
The 3.1-mile run and 10-mile cycling were simple to coordinate for Maricar; use a human guide and a tandem bicycle. The half-mile swim proved more difficult. How could we guide Maricar out a quarter-mile into Oyster Bay Harbor and back again without putting all of us at risk? We finally decided on the “flank,” which would work like this: Jim and I would swim on either side of Maricar, providing a physical marker so that she could continue swimming in the right direction.
On the morning of the race, I was filled with dread and fear. It was cold and damp outside, and Oyster Bay Harbor looked dark and intimidating. Maricar seemed nervous, yet confident and her positive attitude rubbed off on me; I knew I couldn’t let her down. As we walked toward the water I thought about how cold it looked; when the moment came to dive in, however, I never felt the cold. Jim, Maricar and I swam in a horizontal line out into the bay lifting our heads out of the water to look for the marker. I felt Maricar’s arm or leg touch me and I signaled for her to gently ease her direction toward Jim. As we reached the quarter-mile marker, I reached out for Maricar’s hand to signal our turn-around.
A Newsday photographer snapped photos of us as we exited the water. The newspaper wanted to capture the historical event: a woman who is deaf and blind competing in a triathlon. The photographer took several photos of us in our bathing suits and we joked that they better not choose them for the cover.
There was not much time for reflection immediately following our swim. Maricar had the cycling event and the run ahead of her. She changed gear and was on to the next race, the 15k bike ride. Other SSPs would now takeover in the remaining events to provide fresh energy, giving Maricar optimal opportunity to succeed.
Maricar did reach her goal and became the first deaf-blind woman to participate in and complete the Seacrest-TOBAY Triathlon (not to mention, with a solid time). As she received her award on the podium, I realized that her victory was more important to me than my own would have been. At times you realize that the gratification you get from supporting friends can far exceed the ego boost you get when you achieve your own personal victories.
Note: This is an excerpt from the book Possibilities: Recreational Experiences of Individuals who are Deafblind, edited by Lieberman, Haegele, and Marquez.
Table of Contents
Credits, Introduction, and Preface
Rachel Weeks- Triathlon
Maricar Marquez- Running
Kristine D’Arbelles- SSP—Swimming Triathlon
Heidi Zimmer- Mountain Climbing
Cody Colchado- Power Lifting
Corrina Veesart- Ballet, Cheerleading, Rock Climbing, and Yoga
Emily Desfor- SSP—Outdoor Adventures
Kevin Frost- Speed Skating
Ryan Ollis- Running
Faye Frez-Albrecht- Soccer
Quinn Burch- Dance, Horseback Riding, and Running
Nicholas Abrahamson- Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Bruce Visser- Traveling
Jason Corning- Running
Sarah K. McMillen- Ice Hockey and Taekwondo
Angela Theriault- Running
Scott Keeler Bass- Biking
Maria Marquez Dykman- Wind Chimes
Conclusion & References