In My Wife’s Honor

By Rod Corpuz

This past September, for Ironman NY 70.3, I partnered with the SRNA for a second time to fundraise towards their mission. While covering 70.3 miles (swimming, biking, and running) is hard enough, the race happened during Tropical Storm Ophelia!  

Leading up to the race, the forecast was that a storm was brewing. Speaking to other triathletes, some were unwilling to take on those dangerous conditions. I debated the risk, too. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about my wife Erin, whom I was racing in honor of, and her everyday battle with Transverse Myelitis.   

She’s a warrior. From the day she was diagnosed to 2+ years later, she has remained steadfast in doing whatever it takes to improve her condition. She endures regular pain but still finds the strength for ongoing doctor visits, seeing the neurologist, doing physical therapy, etc. She regularly meditates, and she is always fine-tuning her diet to address her condition. She prioritizes all this while being a mother to our kids, my wife, and my partner in managing our family and home. If she shows up every day to battle through her symptoms, I could get through this one hard day.  

I also thought of the people who supported my fundraiser. Many of those same people were very helpful when our family was first navigating through Erin’s diagnosis and her early rehabilitation/hospital stay. Finishing the race was also an ode to them.   

Tropical Storm Ophelia did not disappoint. The wind and the rain were relentless. The conditions were so bad that they shortened the swim portion of the race. The swim portion of a half Ironman is supposed to be 1.2 miles. Because of the choppy water conditions, they shortened it to less than half that distance. I was partially relieved because the swells in the water were intimidating!   

The buzzer went off, as it was my turn during the rolling swim start. The majority of the swim felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washer. My body bobbed with the waves. The rain added more difficulty to breathe on top of the splashing water from the waves and other swimmers. I would eventually settle into a rhythm despite the chaos. Coming out of the water, I felt relieved, thinking, “Well, I’m glad I survived that!” (Swim time: 22:12).  

Moving on to the bike, it was comical with the amount of rain and wind. The storm did not let up. The rain and wind felt like it a coming from every direction. I was concerned about how soaked I would get since I only wore a triathlon kit. My approach was to maintain a high effort to keep my body temperature up. Another concern was the slippery conditions. I witnessed a crash happen right in front of me. The triathlete must have lost control of his bike due to the wet road. I would find out later that there were MANY accidents and crashes. I did my best to push my pace when I could but with caution. After getting pummeled with rain and wind for hours, I finished the bike portion of the race. (56-mile bike time: 3:14:52).  

At this point of the day, the transition area, where we stored all of our racing gear, was completely flooded. Once I racked my bike, I moved to my running gear, which I realized was completely soaked. My shoes were wet. I went with the same mentality as the bike: keep my effort on the run so my body temperature would be higher.  

I’ve had a history of “bonking” during the run portion of half Ironman races. Bonking means when your body is begging you to stop. In previous races, I’ve had to settle into a run/walk cycle. At the start of this run, I felt I had more gas in the tank. I felt more fire underneath me, especially thinking of Erin and the fundraiser supporters. I thought about how Erin approaches every day and how she powers through. I thought about how I’d do anything to support my wife. Like the prior two parts of the race, Tropical Storm Ophelia kept the rain and wind coming. Striding through the weather and the many puddles, I kept moving forward. I kept thinking about Erin’s approach. She doesn’t focus on perfection or getting back 100% to where she was. She focuses on progress. I did not want to stop or slow down unless I was past the finish line.   

As I made that last turn toward the finish line, I felt a surge of energy. I made my best effort to sprint to the finish line, knowing despite the storm, I could finish what I set out to do: raise $3k for Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association and complete the inaugural Ironman NY 70.3.   

(13.1-mile run time: 2:17:02. Total Half Ironman Triathlon: 6:07:42).  

It felt amazing to finish the race, given the circumstances. I was so grateful for all the supporters who donated to my fundraiser. I was so thankful to partner with the SRNA again to fundraise in honor of my wife. I was able to surpass my last fundraising effort by $1k. However, while this was an incredible milestone and cause, it never feels “enough.”   

The reality is, currently, there is no cure for Transverse Myelitis. No medication will eliminate it from Erin’s body. She can only TREAT the symptoms of Transverse Myelitis. The symptoms are a daily battle. As her husband, it’s so difficult to see her go through pain every single day. I would do anything to take that pain away. But like I said earlier, Erin is a WARRIOR. She inspires me, and as her husband, I will continue to do whatever it takes to support her in any way possible. Ultimately, that is why I continue to support the SRNA and all their work towards helping people with neuroimmune conditions.  

Our “In Their Own Words” blog posts represent the views of the author of the blog post and do not necessarily represent the views of SRNA.