Can’t hold her down: Diaz completes Red Bull 400
When adaptive athlete Misty Diaz, a California native, woke up on Saturday morning, the morning of the Red Bull 400 event at Olympic Park, she was ready to go. She had been training for the 400-meter event that shoots directly up an Olympic-sized ski jump for the last year and felt prepared for the task at hand.
She was scheduled to take off at 9 a.m., but then, she got a text from the Red Bull representatives.
“Red Bull messaged me and said, ‘yeah, it’s not gonna happen.’ I looked outside my window and I was like okay, good call,” Diaz said.
Diaz’ race was pushed back because of heavy rains in the hours leading up to her original start time, making the already-difficult course even harder. It would have been easy for Diaz, who was born with spina bifida and would become the first adaptive athlete to complete the Red Bull 400 event, to call it quits; no one would question her decision.
But if you know Diaz at all, you know that’s not the type of person she is. In fact, she’s the opposite.
When Diaz first reached out to Red Bull, she got a response that she became familiar with throughout her life: “Are you sure that she can do this?”
In Diaz’ mind, there is no such thing as impossible. She’s run everything from a 5-kilometer race to a half-marathon to the beast Spartan race, all exhausting events for any athlete, let alone one with spina bifida. After browsing through Facebook and coming across a video of the event in Whistler, Canada last year, Diaz knew she wanted to add the Red Bull 400 event to her list.
“I was just super excited. I kept it in the forefront of my mind and I just kept referring back to it,” Diaz said of the event this last year.
During that time, Diaz trained for the event daily. She would do everything that she could in order to be prepared with her workout regime, which would put most routines to shame.
Some days, she would do laps on the streets near where she lived. Two laps was roughly a mile, and Diaz would increase intensity as she went. First, she started off with just one lap. Then, it was four. Finally, she was able to complete the lap eight times, which was approximately four miles.
Other days, Diaz would hit the gym where she recently adopted the rowing machine to help with her upper-body strength. When this exercise was originally suggested to her, the adaptive athlete wasn’t sure what she would do with her legs throughout. Due to her spine curve, Diaz thought that she would need some sort of backboard to help her with the rowing, but just like any of the other challenges she’s tackled, she wasn’t going to be stopped.
“I would just lean as far back as I could on the rowing machine and keeping my legs planted on the ground and I would just row, for like 25 minutes just to start,” Diaz said.
Throw that in with the rope-climbing exercise she would do every week, which included climbing not just up and down the rope, but back up it to learn how to carry her own weight while tired, and Diaz was ready to become the first adaptive athlete to complete the Red Bull 400 event on Saturday.
Though the poor weather conditions delayed her start, Diaz was still determined to complete what she set out to do over a year ago. She got to Olympic Park nearly two hours before she was to embark on her task, catching some of the heats prior to hers. In her mind, there was a brief moment of doubt.
“I was seeing people starting off really strong and then right when it inclined to a certain degree, they just stopped. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’” Diaz said.
Her plan was like most of the athletes there — make it as far as you can upright and then proceed to bear crawl the remainder of the way. Diaz didn’t want to shy away from the plan she had going in, and luckily she didn’t have to. After making it to the jump, and a little bit up it, with her crutches, she ditched those and began her bear crawl.
There were times where it got hard, times where again, no one would blame Diaz for giving up. But that’s just not in her DNA.
“I was on a mission. I had this goal for over a year,” Diaz said. “I wanted so badly to be the first adaptive athlete to accomplish this in hopes that other people who are adaptive can be able to maybe take on the challenge. I think it just takes one person to kind of show people that anything is possible.”
Lungs on fire and arms feeling like jello, Diaz finally made it to the top of the jump, completing her mission. At the start of the race, the Red Bull representatives, who were fully supportive, said it didn’t matter how long it took her to finish, even if that meant an hour.
Luckily for Diaz, who had no intentions of being on the ramp for that long, she crushed that mark by finishing in 32:26.7. While the days of training were long and the actual event was painful, all of that pain went away when Diaz reached the top, overlooking the beauty that is Park City.
“I wasn’t in any physical pain, I was more of just like I can’t believe I just did this,” Diaz said. “It was the most rewarding view. The most beautiful, breathtaking view. It was so worth it.”
It won’t be long before she moves on to her next challenge, the Spartan Race World Championship sprint race in Lake Tahoe. While the rainy, cold conditions on Saturday in high elevation weren’t ideal for what she was trying to do, Diaz feels more prepared for her next challenge because of it.
As for Park City, a place Diaz has never been before this event, it made a lasting impression on the athlete moving forward.
“Park City, in general, is very beautiful,” Diaz said. “[The] people are friendly, it’s a different type of town; more natural air quality than what I’m used to. It was a very beautiful area, town-friendly, people-friendly.”
The Park City High School girls golf team took second in the Class 4A state championship tournament on Thursday. It was the team’s fifth consecutive time as runner-up.