A 750 meter swim, 20 kilometer bike, and 5 kilometer run- sounds intimidating for any athlete. Now take away 99 percent of your eye sight. That's how Amy Dixon completes a triathlon.
"My eye disease started 16 years ago. It's called uveitis, which is an inflammatory disease of the retina caused by an underlying auto-immune disease. It caused scar tissue to form all around the peripheral of my retina, which block out all of my peripheral vision, leaving me with tunnel vision," Dixon said.
Dixon does not let that stop her. She has completed nine triathlons in the past year, working with a partner that guids her through each course.
"She'll call out verbal commands to me. She will say, 'stay left, stay right', or encouragement, 'hey, you're doing great, keep it up'. Basically for the swim, I'm tethered to another swimmer. I have an elastic cord that goes around my waist that legally has to be no more than one meter in length. The bike is a tandem bike, so it's a bicycle built for two. On the run, I'm tethered by my wrist by a shoelace, and that's no more than two feet in length," Dixon explains.
Dixon trains for her races at the Greenwich YMCA and Elite Health Services in Old Greenwich. She uses a computer that maps out courses to bike, a treadmill to run, and a lap pool to swim. It's hard work for the Greenwich resident, but it isn't going unnoticed.
"I have sort of been tagged by USA paracycling. I was sent out to a camp in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center a few weeks ago to go train with their coaches. In preparation for the 2016 Paralympic games, they are looking for more blind female cyclists," Dixon said.
Rio 2016 will be the first time the triathlon is raced at the Paralympics. Dixon is racing for points at international competitions to try and make team USA.
"The next one is in Chicago, which is the Chicago ITU race, which is the International Triathlon Union. All the ITU races for paratriathlon count for points towards World Championships, and then later Rio in 2016," Dixon said.
Whether Dixon chooses her first love, triathlons, or her new found skill of cycling, she is keeping a positive attitude.
"I know I'm losing the rest of my vision and it's only a matter of time. It's fine because I've been exposed to so many completely blind athletes who are extremely successful in their careers and in their athletics. I'm having a heck of a lot of fun doing triathlons, traveling around the country, and doing all kinds of awesome things with my guide dog," Dixon said.