about Balucas | my story
Hi, I’m Rob Balucas. 2015 was a shaping up to be a breakout year for 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.
Personally I took up triathlon. I was never considered an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But I saw triathlon as something to conquer knowing that the secret to such a feat was simply getting out there, putting in the time and training consistently. I liked to say triathlon keeps me sexy, sane, and out of trouble.
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 downhill switch backs, 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 a L1 burst fracture in the lumbar spine. The very next day after my fall, the doctors performed a spinal fusion. It has left me paralyzed in a wheelchair without any feeling or control of my legs.
Through months of intense rehab, I’ve regained sensation that began at the nipple line up and now starts around my waist and up. 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
From the moment after my surgery, I set a goal to race in Santa Cruz in 2016, albeit a little differently than I originally envisioned. I began swimming and handcycling as part of my rehab.
I crowdfunded nearly $23,000 in less than a month and was able to purchase the handcycle and racing wheelchair I need for the bike and run legs of the triathlon, along with the many miscellaneous expenses of competing. I was also sponsored by Urban Barrels, ROKA (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 in they are our there for you.
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 to.
So stay tuned. I have my sights set on IRONMAN 70.3, IRONMAN 140.6, IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Two Cities Marathon, California International Marathon, LA Marathon, Boston Marathon, Century Handcycle rides, and more.
Why not. I believe we have nothing to lose. But EVERYTHING to gain.