Blind triathlete prepares for Ironman

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ironman Arizona is set for Sunday. Thousands of athletes from around the world will take part in the full-day race. Among them, there will be a handful of disabled athletes including Michael Somsan.

We caught up with Somsan at Faster in North Scottsdale, where he was meeting with his new guide, Karleen Dirmantas, for a bike fitting.

Somsan has two triathlons under his belt since we first met him in September and feels ready for the Ironman.

“The swim has gotten a lot better,” he said. “Of course, the mileage is going to be a little bit more."

His training ran into a speed bump two weeks ago when his guide for the bike and run portions of the race injured a shoulder in a motorcycle crash.

“It literally fell in my lap a week and a half ago,” Dirmantas said, “but it's something that I've always wanted to do.”

The two had never met, but Dirmantas has completed three Ironmans and was ready to step in.

Of course, this setback is nothing compared to the night Somsan lost his sight.
 
“The person I was fighting eventually went and got a gun,” he said, “and came back and shot me in the head.”
 
He was a first lieutenant in the Army 20 years ago and off duty when the fight started. Somsan had a military career ahead of him but would never see again.
 
“I felt in some ways like I failed,” he told 3TV's Fields Moseley in September. “I should have been stronger, you know, in terms of not letting this happen to me.”
 
Somsan has been getting stronger ever since. His shooter skipped bail all those years ago, inspiring him to get his law degree.
 
Sunday, he will need all his strength to finish the greatest of endurance races.
 
“This is Ironman,” Dirmantas said with a gleam in her eye. “This is the big race.”
 
“I don't think I could've done this race without good people around me,” Somsan added.