Patricia Walsh: A Blind Microsoft Employee Crushes Ironman Records

Walsh (center) - Michelle Ford (left) and Sonja Wieck from Denver.Patricia Walsh, a Microsoft emplyoee recently broke both the women's and men's world records for blind Ironman competitors. Walsh, lost her vision as a child when doctors removed a brain tumor, is all too happy to shake people's perceptions of her limits.“At the recent Memorial […]

Walsh (center) - Michelle Ford (left) and Sonja Wieck from Denver.
Patricia Walsh, a Microsoft emplyoee recently broke both the women's and men's world records for blind Ironman competitors. Walsh, lost her vision as a child when doctors removed a brain tumor, is all too happy to shake people's perceptions of her limits.

“At the recent Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas in Woodlands, Texas, Walsh swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles in 11 hours and 50 minutes.

That's four hours faster than the previous Ironman record held by a blind woman. That time also beat the Ironman record held by the fastest blind man in history—not by seconds, but by 55 minutes,” announced Microsoft.

Walsh remembers having eyesight. She had it until kindergarten, when doctors discovered a pediatric craniopharyngioma brain tumor above her pituitary gland and below her optic nerve. When the tumor was removed at Children's Hospital in October 1986, the surgery damaged her optic nerve. She lost vision in her right eye and eventually lost all but a "pinhole of light" in her left eye.

Walsh races with the help of guides. She is tethered to an athlete guide for the swim and the run, and for the cycling portion of the race, a guide joins her on her custom titanium tandem bike. About a month before the race, the guide Walsh had been training with for months—a professional triathlete—had to back out because of a sponsorship conflict.

Walsh didn't have much hope for finding another guide so soon before the race. Ironman athletes train 25 to 30 hours a week, and Walsh couldn't imagine there was a finely tuned athlete out there who was available and wanted to try for a 12-hour triathlon.

"Anyone capable of doing a 12-hour Ironman is training for their own; people don't just happen to be in that good of shape," Walsh said. "I honestly didn't think it was going to happen. I thought all my training was in vain."

[Source: Microsoft Press]