Preparing for Rio: Q&A with Allysa Seely

Written by Stefanie Peterson


The 2016 Paralympic Games are drawing near, soon to debut the Games’ first Paratriathlon at Rio. Allysa Seely, Paratriathlete, is a two-time world champion for 2016 and 2015. Seely competed in her first tri in 2008 as an able-bodied competitor. However, shortly after her first competition, she began to develop what would later be discovered as neurological symptoms, which started a long, two-year journey to finally get a correct diagnosis. Seely faced the tough decision to have her leg amputated below the knee as her neurological injuries became more problematic. But not long after after her amputation, a mere seven weeks, she was back and competing again.

What has been the biggest positive influence and motivator for you despite all the challenges and curve balls you’ve faced?
My motivation has been completely internal. I loved running, triathlon and being active before my diagnoses and from day one I wanted to get right back out there. Sport is my peace, my calm, my meditation—you may say—everyday I do it for the love of sport and for myself.

In 2010, doctors gave you not one but three diagnoses, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Chiari II malformation, and basilar invagination; did you struggle at all to find the strength to prove to yourself (or the professionals) you were capable of anything you set your mind to?  
Once I finally had a diagnosis—I waited over a year and a half for a correct diagnosis and treatment—I was ready to take my life back. I never doubted I would be participating in or competing in the sport I loved again. I did not get back on the bike, back in the pool or put my running shoes back on to prove anything to anyone, to motivate or inspire anyone. I got up and got out the door to take my own life back… To find my happiness again. To live a life I loved once again.

What are the biggest hurdles you face and how do you overcome or work around it?
I think the biggest hurdle I face, currently, is my neurological condition. It is constantly changing and I am constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the chronic pain, the muscle impairments and the multitude of other symptoms that rear their ugly heads. I have always been a person whom strives for my very best in everything I do. I have always chased my dreams and known that life doesn’t come without bumps in the road. I have adapted to the obstacles put in my path. None of that has changed, except for the size of the obstacles.


How do you feel about representing the US in the debut of Paratriathlon in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio?
I am honored to be one of the first athletes to race triathlon in the Paralympic Games. It is going to be a historical day and to be apart of that is unbelievable. To race under the United States flag is a dream come true.

What are you doing to prepare for the Paralympics mentally and physically?
I am training everyday under two amazing coaches. Over the past two years I have worked to improve my weaknesses. I have also been working with a sport psychologist to make sure I am as prepared mentally as I am physically.

What has been the best piece of training advice?
Listen to your body it knows more than your brain.

Do you have any favorite training gear or tools that you like to use?
My favorite swim training gear is the Finis Tempo Trainer. With guidance from my swim coach it has helped me to reach a new level of fitness in the swim.

What is the hardest training session that you have logged to date?
That is a hard one, I have had one in all disciplines that I can think of, but if I had to choose one it would be 8×800 starting at race pace and descending each interval pace by 20 seconds.


How does nutrition influence your success?
Nutrition is as important as having a good training plan. I learned that early on if I wasn’t eating enough or eating properly, my training and especially my recovery suffered.

How do you get motivated on those days you don’t want to get out of bed?
I always tell myself that I have to get up and get through my warm up and at that point if I am still tired, not feeling well or whatever it is, then I can be done, but by that point I usually feel great and am so glad I got up and got started.

After the Paralympics, what are your next goals?
I will be taking a few weeks off and enjoying some vacation with family. Then I will be running my first half marathon in January and I am looking forward to planning my 2017 season.

Do you have any secret talents?
Yes, but they wouldn’t be a secret if I told you… now would they?!? Okay if you really want to know I can put my feet behind my head.