Team Zoot Athlete Profile- Rob Balucas

What happened

Hey, i’m rob

This part of my story starts in 2015. That year was shaping up to be a breakout year for my business and me. My business, a boutique creative agency, was on track to grow by 12% annually and double-digits for the third year in a row. I had proven that I could live in San Francisco, a goal I accomplished 3 years ago.

I took up triathlon. I was never considered an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn’t a swimmer, cyclist, or runner. Being someone who never left good enough alone, I sought a physical challenge to find my edge. I wanted to know how far I could push myself.

And let’s be honest, it kept me sexy, sane, and out of trouble.

I joined a group of fellow triathletes in the Golden Gate Triathlon Club and we were training together for what as to be my first Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz, Ca.

My injury | paraplegic at the moment

Then September 5, 2015 – the weekend prior to the race – on a routine training bicycle ride, things took a drastic change. I lost control of my bike on an infamous patch of downhill switchbacks turns, crossed over the oncoming lane and went over the side of a hill. At first, we thought I had just a broken collar bone and I’d be back in a month.

Turns out that I had a broken collar bone, several cracked ribs, a 70% collapsed lung, and worst of all an L1 burst fracture in the lumbar spine. The very next day after my fall, the doctors performed a spinal fusion. The accident left me paralyzed in a wheelchair without any feeling or control of my legs.

Officially, I am a T8 Complete Asia Score A paraplegic.

Since rehab, I’ve gained a little more feeling and control of my core. Whether I’ll walk again is up in the air according to the doctors. However, I believe it is a matter of healing, belief, giving the body what it needs, giving the mind what it needs, and time.

The rally | paratriathlon

After watching my friends race the half IRONMAN that following weekend, I set a goal to race in Santa Cruz the following year, albeit a little differently than I originally envisioned. I began swimming and hand cycling as part of my rehab.

With the help of my tribe, who over-funded my crowdfunding in less than a month, I was able to purchase the handcycle and racing wheelchair I need for the bike and run legs of a triathlon, along with the many miscellaneous expenses of competing. I was also sponsored by Urban BarrelsROKA (wetsuit) and the Challenged Athlete Foundation in the form of a paratriathlete camp.

At the end of it all, I was able to compete in 2 ⅔ triathlons that next year – INCLUDING one in Santa Cruz. I also did the swim & bike of the Oakland Triathlon as well as all 3 legs of the Malibu Triathlon, which I’ve had done 4x prior to being injured.

The why | to continue to inspire

Once that triathlon season was over and I had time to sit still, the thoughts and feelings of being stuck in a wheelchair started to set in. The holidays were a rough time emotionally, though many around me probably didn’t realize how tough it was.

But I realized two things out of that period. One was that that hole of despair and other feelings is natural and inescapable to experience and feel. The other is that you have a choice as to how long to want to wallow in that hole. Because the truth is, it will always be there for you and be ready to swallow you. But if you first make the choice to not wallow; the courage, the gumption, the energy to get out and do something else will always be ready for you too. And the people, resources and encouragement are there if you believe.

And that is true whether you’re wrestling with physical injury or just life and whatever it’s throwing at you.

Really my campaign is not just to race Paratriathlon.

It’s to build an inspirational story. A story of comeback starting less than one year after a devastating and life-changing injury.

A story that proves life is something you choose to create, not something you are a victim too.

So stay tuned. I have my sights set on some big races in the future.

I’ve already qualified for Kona, raced the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France, run the LA Marathon in a racing wheelchair with a flat tire, and gone 2 for 4 with IRONMAN 70.3 finishes.

Why not. I believe we have nothing to lose. But EVERYTHING to gain.

I was introduced to Team Zoot through a buddy on the team, Jeff Lam. Being a designer by trade I’m VERY picky about my kits. I always had a hand in the kit design while on the board at Golden Gate Triathlon Club. So when I looked across brands, I really was drawn to Zoot. Specifically, the Tokyo design is my favorite by far! Joining the team has been one of the highlights of this 2020 year.

 

Follow and support Rob's journey at https://robbalucas.com/

Follow Rob on IG @robbalucas

 

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