Christian uses Zwift and the support of his DIRT mates to touch the lives of many.
In the words of Christian himself.
I’ve always despised indoor training as part of the preparation for early season races or IRONMAN events. I’ve dragged my bike on the trainer and counted down how many Netflix shows I needed to watch to get through my training.
As an avid Zwifter since 2017, there’s much I discovered to love about the platform. It’s fun, challenging, and most importantly, social. I believe connection is an essential benefit to sports, especially a very individual sport like cycling or running.
Like most, my love for endurance sports developed later in life. I was a track and field thrower in college but picked up running and cycling to stay fit and deal with stress. In 2008, my “why” as an athlete changed.
While working in Physical Therapy, I met a client named Mary who has Muscular Dystrophy. Living with MD, Mary has developed a strong self-advocacy “skillset.” In short, she’s a real fireball! Mary loves to live life.
However, physical ability is limited to being able to move her fingers and toes. As a teen, Mary was very active. She was constantly outside playing with friends, riding her bike. She began to notice she was tripping and falling a lot but didn’t think anything of it.
The mobility struggles progressed for Mary, and eventually, she was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. MD is a disease that brings about the degeneration of muscles. Mary came to me looking for help to regain her functioning.
I started to work with Mary regularly, and we saw some improvements; however, these were mainly due to a modification of her adaptations rather than a reversal of her MD. I was beginning to feel like the progression of our sessions was coming to an end.
One day at church, my wife and I saw a video of Team Hoyt that would change everything for us. I showed Mary the footage of Dick and Rick participating in the Hawaii Ironman in our next session. Her response was, “when can we do that.”
I laughed as I was not anywhere near IRONMAN ability. I had only done one sprint triathlon in my life. However, I did tell Mary I would do a 10k road race. She was pumped!
Our first race was utilizing a child running stroller in the last wave with a few dozen moms, dads, and kids. Mary’s legs were hanging over the end of the stroller, which she was 20 lbs above the weight limit.
The race was electric. Mary wasn’t used to people cheering for her. Most of the time, in public, people would be scared to talk to her.
When we crossed the finish line, Mary told us that she felt free when we ran. It was all the inspiration we needed!
We continued racing to do cycling events and then eventually a Marathon in 2009. We began to get noticed, and people wanted to join in on our efforts. We didn’t start racing with the goal to create something more significant, but the more we contemplated the idea, the more we knew it was right.
Knowing very little about the process, we did a lot of research about starting a non-profit. We came across a young organization called myTEAM TRIUMPH (mTT), based in Michigan, and created because of the same inspiration. mTT was formed so they could eventually form chapters. We really loved the direction of the organization and felt a strong connection.
We formed the Wisconsin Chapter of myTEAM TRIUMPH in 2010. The organization’s goal is not solely to help people with disabilities experience road races and triathlons but, more broadly, to address social isolation for a population often kept on the sidelines.
We do this by creating a teamwork approach to endurance athletics, facilitating positive relationships with race directors, and providing specialized race equipment for people with diverse abilities.
There are two prominent roles in mTT; the “Captains” are the differently-abled athletes. They are paired with a team of able-bodied athletes called Angels. Together, the teams train for and participate in road races and triathlons of all distances.
The experience is fun, challenging and builds impactful relationships that go beyond the race! We see our members become friends outside of racing, commit to race new adventures together.
Annually, we participate in 60+ events and serve 1600 athletes with diverse abilities. We also offer weekly social training runs and rides for our community to connect. myTEAM TRIUMPH has grown to be a widespread international organization with 15 Chapters around the US and Canada.
I discovered DIRT in 2018, just after I had my first child. I loved the camaraderie between men. You don’t find many places where men can get together and lift each other with encouragement, humor, and healthy habits.
The group was a massive motivation for me to stay fit while struggling with a lack of sleep! I’m an enormous fan of Zwift. It’s something I incorporate into my training nearly every day!
At mTT we’ve begun to integrate Zwift into our fundraising and programs. We put on an annual everlasting challenge that participants can do solo or as a team. We’ve also launched group rides incorporating people with diverse abilities.
We raise funds to provide portable handcycles, an Apple TV box, and a three-month subscription to Zwift for our Captains. We organize weekly “keep everyone together” rides to stay together as a group regardless of ability. During these rides, we often have zoom calls so we can connect and cheer each other!
The biggest inspiration from Zwift came as we started an IRL event called 12 Hours of Road America. This event is essentially an overnight cycling and running party on the historic car race track called Road America.
The track is a 4-mile “road course” with 14 turns and lots of elevation. Cyclists and runners can go as far as they want and take part in numerous challenges. We have a .10 mile sprint section, a 1/4 mile 10% KOM/QOM, and an overall distance champion.
Each of these challenges affords the winners to take home the green, polka dot, and yellow IRL jerseys awarded at the closing ceremony. While people aren’t riding, we have live bands, play movies on the big screen, offer food trucks, a beer garden, and pancake breakfast for the athletes.
Our ultimate vision is to create a four-day endurance festival with a criterium race, mountain bike, road race, all to compliment the 12-hour endurance ride. Athletes and their families can spend multiple days at the track camping and enjoying the racing action!
I’m very grateful for the DIRT brotherhood. Invite you all to join mTT in your local chapter or even at our 12 Hours of Road America event. How cool would it be to see DIRT take home the team trophy!?!
Silent Auction Announcement
For a chance to own this one-of-a-kind DIRT tumbler and help Christian help others, email your bid to Chris@thezommunique.com.
All proceeds go to myTeam Triumph!
The silent auction will close at 5pm on Sunday, October 10th!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!