Blind Triathlete Urging Others to Look Past Appearance

Since we were little, we are reminded to never judge a book by its cover, but we often struggle with this when it comes to sports. We view specific body types and associate them with a certain level of physical fitness or ability. We believe that having big muscles means you’re super strong or having long legs means you are extremely fast. We may think of those with physical disabilities are unable to do certain things, but 19-year-old blind triathlete Ashley Eisenmenger is proving that notion completely wrong.

Einsenmenger, who’s been visually impaired all her life, started running during her freshman year of high school and has continued the sport for a little over 5 years. She felt like she was stuck while transitioning into high school and was looking for something to help make forward progress. She found that running was something she could do and literally gain ground as she went. In the past year, she started participating in triathlons. “I was very successful in my first season and plan to get faster and stronger this season,” said Eisenmenger. She will be racing her first Ironman 70.3 and also competing at Paratriathlon Nationals later this season. Eisenmenger doesn’t have enough vision to race successfully or safely on her own, therefore she trains and races with a sighted guide. They swim and run tethered together and complete the bike portion of the race on a tandem bike. “My vision loss definitely keeps things interesting and can make training and racing a challenge, “ said Eisenmenger. “But, I’m not one to let it prevent me from setting and reaching my goals.”

Einsenmenger uses a Forerunner 910XT to collect all of her data. This watch records swim distance, efficiency, stroke type, stroke count, tracks time, distance pace, and can wirelessly transfer data to Garmin Connect for analysis and sharing. “The amount of data this watch gives makes it a fantastic training tool,” said Eisenmenger. She likes how it can sync up with other apps so that her coach can keep a handle on her progress and make adjustments as needed. Ashley Eisenmenger wants people to realize that they should “never assume what someone is capable of based on how they look, everybody has a story and when we step back and listen to those stories we learn so much about what it means to redefine ability.” It’s a lesson that we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

Ashley is a proud to compete as a member of the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club 2016 Development Team. Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club serves youth, adults, and injured service members of all ability levels from beginner to elite who have a physical disability or visual impairment in the sport of paratriathlon.