Checking in with Connie: a MFJ Grant Recipient, who Competed in the NYC Triathlon
Connie Participated in a Triathlon!
Connie, a Move For Jenn grant recipient, participated in her first NYC Triathlon, which also happened to be her first triathlon ever. Connie is a natural-born athlete who spent most of her life playing soccer, running, riding horses, swimming, surfing, paddling boarding, and participating in karate. In 2017, Connie’s life drastically changed when she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, causing constant and excruciating pain in her right ankle. After many failed attempts to alleviate the pain, Connie decided to move forward with an amputation, which she said, “was the best decision she ever made.”
As a non-profit organization dedicated to helping amputees KEEP MOVING, we were so thrilled to learn that Connie was going to participate in the NYC Triathlon using the running blade the Move For Jenn Foundation was able to grant her! When we asked her about it, Connie said, "I absolutely used the blade. That’s the ONLY reason I was able to run the distance from the swim to transition. So you guys played a major role in my ability to be there." Shout out to our friends at Levitate for connecting us with Connie!
We checked in with Connie post-triathlon to see how she was feeling (and to let her know that we were so proud of her). Connie said, “To be completely transparent, I have always been quite intimidated by the thought of the three back-to-back events included in a triathlon...all while being surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of other athletes. I have a colossal amount of respect for all the athletes that participate in Triathlons and the training that is required to prepare their bodies to handle this feat. With that being said, I had always felt as though Triathlons were out of my physical endurance league, especially now as an amputee.” After hearing this, we already know that we Connie that she can do ANYTHING she sets her mind to!
We also asked Connie what made her want to participate in her first triathlon. Her response was, “it’s not the WHAT, it’s the WHO.” Connie’s inspiration to compete came from Elite Para Triathlete, Kelly Worrell. “In November of 2021, 8 months after my amputation, I felt strong enough to participate in my first event as an amputee. It was a one-mile walk/jog/run event for the Athletes with Disabilities Network NE. When I picked up my race packet, as fate would have it, I met Kelly that day. That one decision; that one moment changed my life forever. Kelly immediately took me under her wing and became my mentor. When she asked me if wanted to participate as a member of a relay team at the NYC Triathlon for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, as their swimmer, I immediately knew this was an opportunity I could not pass up. If it were not for Kelly, her unwavering support, and the grant I received from the Challenged Athletes Foundation to cover my expenses, I would have never had the opportunity or resources to even be there in the first place.”
Knowing Connie and her story, we knew that this had to be an incredibly emotional and inspiring opportunity. When we asked her what the most emotional part of competing in the triathlon was, she said, “Hands down, with zero doubt, the most emotional part of competing in my first ever Triathlon was when I got to my transition point. I had just finished a mile in the Hudson River with no prosthetic, wetsuit, or assistance. There were 1,435 athletes (26 of which were Para Athletes) so I was swimming next to a massive number of able-bodied individuals. While in the water, I had two people swim over top of me, several people unintentionally kick me directly in my stump, and I was waterboarded by a wake big enough to cause me to drink some Hudson River water (ew). But I refused to quit! Once I got out of the River, I had zero time to think about anything. I had to put my leg on as fast as possible (while soaking wet) to start my run to my team’s transition point where the bike leg of the race began. For anyone who has a suction prosthetic, you know how incredibly difficult it is to roll up both your inner and outer liner with wet hands. What felt like an eternity later, my leg was on, and I began my uphill run, still soaking wet with legs trembling from the swim. I finally came around the corner to see my blind teammate, Roosevelt, and his running guide, Rebecca, standing there waiting for me. Their presence gave me the push I needed to finish. I handed off my timing chip to our team’s biker and sobbed like never before. Not only did I make it, but I was also in the presence of some of the most inspirational, incredible, and supportive people I have ever met. That memory will stay with me forever. Our team went on to place 1st in the Para Triathlete Relay Division.”
Connie is incredibly strong in her grit and resilience as well as physically. However, we know how tough a competition like this can be, so we asked Connie what the most difficult part of the triathlon was for her. She said, “Definitely my brain! I went into this being a new amputee with zero experience, being in a group of seasoned athletes and seasoned Para Athletes, doubting myself and my physical abilities paired with feeling so undeserving of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was able to persevere through my negative thoughts by remembering what Jenn said to me, 'You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are worth it.'"
Connie said that crossing the finish line to see her daughter and best friend felt “majestic.” “After years of watching me struggle, seeing me through all my surgeries and hardships, it was incredible to have them by my side for something as positive and monumental as this! It was an achievement for all of us.”
Lastly, we asked Connie what is next for her. We already knew that she was unstoppable, but now with a triathlon under her belt, Connie said she is dedicating the next year to training for the 2023 NYC Triathlon where she will participate in all three events as an individual Para Triathlete.
We cannot wait to cheer you on as you prepare for your next triathlon, Connie! You are strong. You are worthy. You are deserving.
Keep up with Connie on Instagram at @conniebraaps.