A triathlon can be an arduous task for one person, but when Michigan dad Rick Van Beek competes, he doesn’t do it alone.

Crossing the finish line during a Sanford, Mich., race on Saturday, he cradled his daughter in his arms. He couldn’t have imagined doing it without her.

That’s because Van Beek, 39, enters almost every triathalon or race with his 13-year-old, Maddy, who was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy after she was born. The duo has reached a milestone, competing in more than 75 events since 2008, Van Beek told the Daily News on Tuesday.

In all of those contests, it wasn’t about where they came in or how fast they finished. They are simply Team Maddy.

“I’ve never been disappointed crossing the finish line,” Van Beek said, “because I’m doing it with my daughter.”

During the swimming portion of the triathalon, Van Beek tows Maddy in a kayak. He then scoops up his girl, who weighs about 80 pounds, and carries her to the biking leg, where he hitches up a special cart that he built for Maddy to ride in.

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Rick Van Beek via Facebook

Finally, during the run portion, Van Beek pushes a stroller as they stride toward the finish line.

“She’s very docile, she doesn’t move around a lot,” Van Beek, of Byron Center, said.

Maddy functions as if she were a 3-month-old, he added. She doesn’t talk or walk, and is also blind.

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Rick Van Beek via Facebook

Her physical disabilities aside, the girl is full of expression, giving sideways smiles to her father and bursting out in a joyful laugh.

“If she’s not having fun, we stop,” said Van Beek, adding that he’s pulled her out of races when she wasn’t feeling well or the weather was too hot.

Van Beek tries not to strain himself during races.

“The hardest part for me is the transition from the swim to the bike because I carry her,” he said. “She has a fused spine, so it’s like carrying a board.”

Van Beek said he decided to start racing after Maddy took part in the Grand Rapids Marathon about four years ago through the Ride of their Lives program, which pairs able-bodied athletes and kids with special needs.

At the time, the father of three was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and had to make a serious lifestyle change. Maddy was his inspiration — and their races became a way to bond.

Team Maddy has another race this weekend. They’ve previously raised money for charities and they even have a sponsor, 3 Disciplines Racing, which helps shoulder the registration cost of the competitions.

Racers often tell Van Beek that they’re amazed by his commitment and endurance with Maddy.

“They’re such an inspiration,” triathalon organizer Misty Angle told The Allegan County News earlier this month after a competition.

Van Beek has his own advice for people who think about giving up in the face of roadblocks.

“It’s about putting one foot in front of the other,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the finish line, it’s about you and that you got there.”

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/team-maddy-father-severely-disabled-daughter-compete-triathlons-article-1.1136579