Saturday, January 3, 2015
25-year-old Sarnia man to become one of the first disabled Ontario residents to compete in swim/bike/run event
by Terry Bridge from Sarnia Observer:
Several years ago, Wes Harding was inspired to run a road race with a partner who had a disability but wasn't sure who would be the proper fit until one fateful day at a local gas station.
Harding had known Cody Daye since he was around the age of six when he taught him Sunday School at Temple Baptist Church.
But he hadn't seen Daye for a couple of years and, when looking for his first captain – a person with a disability who partners in an endurance race with an able-bodied 'angel' – he just happened to cross paths with the Daye family while refueling his vehicle.
“Cody's eyes just lit right up, and I said to my wife, 'That's going to be my first captain,'” Harding recalled.
Since then, Daye, a 25-year-old former Bright's Grove resident who now lives in Sarnia, has come along for the ride with Harding.
They've competed in road races, a triathlon, and now they have their sights set on competing in an Ironman triathlon together this summer.
The pair will enter into a 70.3-mile Ironman event in Benton Harbor, Mich. in August.
Harding said Daye, who has Down syndrome, will be one of the first disabled individuals from Ontario to compete in an Ironman.
“It's an awesome opportunity that we have,” Harding said. “When I first approached Cody about this, he said, 'Yes, that would be awesome.'”
Harding, a 47-year-old accomplished Sarnia athlete, is the founder and CEO of myTeam Triumph Canada. The organization's goal is to allow people with disabilities to compete in endurance events alongside angels with the help of specialized equipment.
Harding and Daye competed in the Bluewater Triathlon in Bright's Grove last summer, obtaining approval from the World Triathlon Corporation.
The organization limits the number of individuals who participate in triathlons, and a group similar to myTeam in Western Canada was actually turned down, Harding noted.
As partners competing in an individual sport, Harding compares Daye to the heart and himself to the legs.
“Cody's arms going up and the smile on his face and the laughter, that's what propels me to the finish line,” Harding said. “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to make a difference, go together.”
As for the upcoming Ironman, Daye is unable to swim, so Harding has a specialized rubber dinghy with a harness in order to tow his captain for the almost two-kilometre swim.
Daye also cannot ride a bike, but they have a customized trailer that Harding will guide for the 90-kilometre ride.
The 21.1-kilometre run will be done together with Daye set to get out of his specialized chair several times during the race.
“He's going to be cheering me every step of the way,” Harding said.
In the last two years, Harding has entered five Ironman triathlons. He recently received a bronze all-world athlete award for being in the top 10% in his Ironman age bracket.
“That's quite an honour,” he noted. “It's quite amazing because just seven years ago, I'm sitting on the couch watching Ironman. I never ran a day in my life.”
Harding credited race directors in the local community for embracing myTeam.
Close to 50 captains and 80 angels participated in myTeam events last year.
“The enthusiasm from our community, they have really embraced this whole idea of inclusion in endurance sports,” he said.
myTeam has expanded to Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, with plans for Wallaceburg and Chatham chapters soon, he added.
Harding's initial inspiration came from Team Hoyt, an American father-son duo who compete in triathlons together.
Rick Hoyt, who has cerebral palsy, has noted that when he is running alongside his father, he feels as though his disabilities have disappeared.
“Disability doesn't mean inability,” Harding noted.
Disabilities can include developmental, physical, a war veteran or a senior citizen.
myTeam recently received a $15,000 boast from The Order of Alhambra from Grand Bend. Th Catholic organization is now partnering with myTeam for the next three years, offering to pay for any captains who want to participate in a road race.
As for Daye and Harding, a future goal of theirs is to compete in the 140.6-mile Muskoka Ironman in 2016.
Harding plans to participate individually in the 70.3-mile Muskoka Ironman only four weeks prior to the upcoming Benton Harbor Ironman.
But before that, Harding is off to San Diego for a marathon where he has partnered with a member of Team Hoyt.
He will then head off to his fourth Boston Marathon in April, before he returns to partner with Daye in the Benton Harbour event.