Team Work

By Carrie Barrett – June 1, 2013

My heartstrings still sing when I see images of Dick and Rick Hoyt ( competing in marathons and triathlons together. This powerful father-and-son image is burned on any poster or billboard with captions that read, “Inspiration,” “Love,” and “Determination.” For over 35 years now, 73-year-old Dick has been pushing his 51-year-old paralyzed son Rick in his wheelchair at races of all distances and disciplines. In full Ironman-distance triathlons, Dick swims, pulling Rick in a boat behind him by means of a strap around his waist. He then carries his son to transition and places him in a specially equipped tandem bike for the 112-mile bike portion, carrying him back to transition at the end. Finally, Dick pushes Rick in a special racing wheelchair for the entire marathon distance while he runs. Team Hoyt is from Boston and has run the storied marathon 30 times; the city recently erected a statue in their honor on the Boston Marathon course. Dick and Rick were less than a mile from the finish of their 31st Boston Marathon when the bombs went off this April. Diverted from the finish, Team Hoyt was unhurt and later quoted by President Obama in his memorial to the victims: “In the words of Dick Hoyt, who’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, in 31 Boston Marathons–‘We can’t let something like this stop us.’ This doesn’t stop us.” The father and son team is still at it and are living proof that love will always outweigh evil.

Stories like this provide shining examples of the power of support and teamwork. They make you think, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Fortunately, kindness like this exists throughout sport, and Austin is blessed to have its very own dynamic duo. I like to call them “Team Work.”

Since 2009, Minda Work (aka Joey) and her sister, Ann, have been a visible pair both on and off race courses in and around Central Texas. In 1989, at age 14, Joey was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. This form of muscular dystrophy affects the nerve pathways, resulting in a progressive loss of muscle tissue. Extremities such as the hands and feet are most affected, and patients quickly lose the sensation of touch in their feet, ankles, and legs, as well as their hands, wrists, and arms. Joey is intimately familiar with the disease's devastating progression, as she’s watched her father experience these symptoms before her; he, too, has Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. Even so, Joey says her father is one of her biggest supporters.

Joey was an avid skateboarder and BMX rider when she started showing symptoms in junior high. “A former coach called me lazy because I was having severe fatigue issues,” she recalled. “That's when my self-doubt started.” After her diagnosis, the young teenager didn't participate in sports again until she was 27. During those inactive years, she headed down a path of self-destruction and depression.

The multisport light came on through a series of serendipitous events. In 2006, Joey went to cheer for a friend at the Danskin Triathlon; “I was that person who was smoking at the race,” she laughed. Then, two years later, she saw a paratriathlete at Danskin and that's when she said, “If she can do this, so can I.” She rallied her sister, co-workers, and other friends, and completed the Danskin Triathlon in 2009 on her brand new hybrid bike, a birthday gift from those who believed in and supported her.

Since then, her sister has been Joey’s partner, ally, best friend, and biggest cheerleader. “She literally has become my hands in transition,” said Joey. “I'm like a NASCAR pit stop. I just sit down and Ann takes care of everything for me: my shoes, my leg braces, my helmet, and my bike. I just have to race.” She gives credit to race producers, such as High Five Events, who have accommodated her needs without hesitation. Ann also stressed the value this partnership has held for her. “Being able to help Joey has made our relationship as sisters grow stronger than ever,” she said. “We have learned how to work together to be the most amazing team in the world.”

And what a team they are! In addition to racing in triathlons of varying distances, they have done other events together, such as the Warrior Dash, Urban Assault Race, Capt'n Karl’s Night Trail Series, and numerous other charity rides and runs.

Joey said she and her sister are like Siamese twins who are separated by five years. Sometimes, no words need to be spoken: They simply know what the other needs. “It sounds ironic, but her assistance has given me independence and I've found a part of myself that I didn't know existed,” explained Joey. Ann shares the same admiration for her sister; “It has given me great insight [into] how strong Joey is. She doesn't let anything hold her back, and she does it with a smile on her face.”

When they're not racing together, Ann and Joey often volunteer at packet pickup and on race day. It's their way of living in daily gratitude, which they both credit for their happiness and continued success. They've literally shown each other that you can do anything that you put your heart and mind to—it's just sweeter when you have your sister and best friend by your side.

Both Ann and Joey will be participating in the Couples Triathlon on Sunday, July 14. The name given for race registration? TEAM WORK. How appropriate. Are you inspired by their story and interested in participating on a team? It's not too late to register for the Couple's Triathlon at Find a friend, spouse, family member, or stranger to pair with for this annual event celebrating health, sport, and—naturally—teamwork and you, too, can.

Countdown to Couples Tri Weeks 10-15 (06/03/13 – 07/13/13)
Download the entire Couples Tri training program on Training Peaks


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