Account Coordinator, Lysianne Peacock, shared Becky Piper’s story with us about how she went from qualifying for the Xterra extreme off-road triathlon world championships to fighting for her life after becoming a victim of home invasion, to then overcoming her physical barriers and becoming a triathlon coach and 2024 Paralympic cycling hopeful. We were fascinated with her determined spirit, much as Lysianne was, and asked Becky if she’d share what she’s up to these days. For a bit more history on Becky’s experience that left her disabled, visitGet Back Up Today.
Darby: Becky, thank you so much for being a part of Coffee Talk with Darby, let’s start with the basics – can you share with us what you do as your full-time occupation?
BP: I’m Team MPI Endurance Coach and Community Outreach Facilitator at Get Back UP Today
Darby: You’re an endurance, triathlon, paratriathlon, and cycling coach? Can you expand on what inspired you to start coaching and your experience?
BP: The greatest thing that inspired me to become a coach was my struggle to switch over to becoming an adaptive athlete. I used to compete in triathlons as an able-bodied athlete, and I became paralyzed on the right side when I was at the pinnacle of my training. After I became paralyzed, I still had the desire and perseverance to train but I could not figure it out! Through a lot of help and guidance from many friends and trainers, I was able to learn how to compete in triathlons again. In the course of learning how to work my new adaptive body, I realized that we’re all adaptive and we’re all built a little different. That inspired me to become an endurance coach – ultimately to pay it forward and teach others how to find their strength and endurance.
I’ve been a USA Triathlon Certified Triathlon Coach for the past 5 years and a paratriathlon/cycling coach for the past two and a half years. I’ve coached athletes of all abilities, from beginning athletes to those chasing after Paralympic goals. I love the differences and challenges that each athlete brings to the table.
Darby: From talking to various people, it seems that sometimes people with disabilities have to balance two kinds of challenges: the physical challenge of navigating the world and the social challenges of other people’s assumptions about disability. How do you approach those challenges?
BP: It was really, really hard to figure out the physical challenges, but I was able (and continue to be able) to figure out adaptations. I deal with it by breaking each challenge into smaller, more achievable goals.
The social challenges are another beast. Every person who asks about my disability is one more person I have to start my story over with but I also realize that chances are, each person who asks, every person who stares isn’t doing it maliciously. Because of that, I try to educate. I’m not ashamed of my story, and while it still brings up raw and painful memories, if I can help one person, it’s worth it to me. If I can demonstrate to someone how to be respectful of a person with disabilities, that our differences don’t define us, it’ll be more than worth it.
Darby: What assistive technology do you use as an athlete and how do they specifically help you?
BP: Oh my goodness I have braces up the wazoo! First, and most needed, I have a carbon fiber dynamic response AFO (ankle foot orthotic) that I wear EVERYWHERE outside of my home. It’s made by Allard and it’s called the BlueROCKER. I wear it when I run and bike (which gets really strenuous) but also just to do basic chores like grocery shop (which only gets strenuous when I’m hurrying for the last good doughnut). It really is the only way I can walk – it has a plate that goes under my foot so it can stay up and it’s super light so my gait is only inhibited by my paralysis, not my AFO.
I also wear a hyper-extension knee brace called the CROSS. Over time, I accepted that my knee does hyperextend every time I step. and since I do things like a Half Ironman (1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running), I do take quite a lot of steps. I was wearing down the cartilage fast. I accepted the fact that if I wanted to run anymore, I needed to get a knee hyperextension brace.
Finally, I have an SOT resting hand orthosis for everyday wear and a basic – but strong – wrist brace for biking. This is so I can actually grip the bike handlebar and the resting hand orthosis is so I can let go of it.
Darby: We were told that you’re a 2024 Paralympic hopeful. Can you tell us more about your journey?
BP: I actually achieved my HUGE goal and competed in the 2020 Paralympic Cycling Team Trials. I have thought about going for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, but I’ve also developed a love for coaching these past years. So my journey is more of an exploration right now.
Darby: You’re an inspiration to us, but who is inspirational to you?
BP: So many people. In sports, I have great women and friends – like Paralympians Jill Walsh and Jamie Whitmore – that inspire and influence me to be better. My coach is a huge inspiration to me – she keeps me grounded but believes I can achieve high goals. Those that have never doubted my big goals (or never communicated to me that they did) – those people inspire me.
Darby: What advice do you have for women athletes who run into roadblocks such as an injury (big or small) or other circumstances that prohibit them from reaching their goals along the path they had planned?
BP: There are many different roads to an end goal that you may not have imagined before. When I first was paralyzed, my goal was to go to the Paralympic trials. Naturally, I thought it would be in Paratriathlon. It soon became clear that because of my injury, I was not going to have the ability to be fast enough. I went through a time of grief, but then looked at my end goal — to compete in a Paralympic trials event. I never said it had to be in triathlon. I switched to Paralympic Cycling and this year, I met my goal. The path was drastically different than what I intended, but the end goal was the same. So I guess my greatest advice would be to ‘Adjust your path’.
Darby: Tell us what your perfect outdoor day looks like and where we’d find you playing outdoors?
BP: Right now it’s a beautiful fall day and there is a full forest waiting to be explored!
Darby: What song/artist is on replay for you right now?
BP: Fight Song and Stand by You by Rachel Platten
Darby: Lysianne is a proud Wisconsin native. Is Wisconsin all that it’s cracked up to be? Also, what are your thoughts on Spotted Cow?
BP: Wisconsin is TOTALLY all it’s cracked up to be!! How can you go wrong with a state that’s all about beer and cheese?? I’ve had a couple Spotted Cows and they’re pretty good. But you know what I miss? The Kwik Trips! I won’t go anywhere else in WI…
Darby: Are you into podcasts? If so, what podcast should we check out that you’ve been into recently? If not podcasts, what book are you reading right now?
BP: I’m not really into podcasts because I either focus completely on listening to them or completely tune them out. I am reading a couple of good books though. I’m currently reading The Brave Athlete: Calm the F** Down and Rise to the Occasion, as well as The Anatomy of Peace. I do enjoy a good Calvin and Hobbes comic book now and then 🙂
Darby: Let’s pretend you could have an all-expenses-paid trip to anywhere, where would you go?
BP: Oh my goodness, either Alaska or Antarctica. I could have so many adventures there!!!
Darby: Tell us about an upcoming project or adventure you’re excited about?
BP: I’m so excited to be coaching the USA Triathlon Wheelchair Talent and Development Camp. Also, I can’t ski anymore and snowboarding is being difficult, so I may try a sit-ski this winter!
Darby: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
BP: My favorite animal is the moose!
Darby: Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t ask today?
Want to learn even more about Becky, check out this interview with her on Out-Spiration.
Find Becky at: