IM 70.3 Luxembourg

IMG_0418

IMG_0377

 

 

 

 

 

My second Ironman 70.3 competition took place in Luxembourg on June 18th. After discussions with my Coach, Dr. Ralf Lindschulten, I had the new and exciting aim of  trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 14th, and this race was one of only three qualifying races worldwide for Handcyclists. I loaded up ‘Viva’ the VW Van with all my race kit and camping gear but sadly my two elderly dogs had to be put into Kennels. We have had many adventures in Europe the last two summers, but both are well past retirement age now. It felt very odd to be boarding the EuroTunnel without them, by-passing the Pet Control, but it’s certainly quicker to be traveling solo!

 

I stopped overnight at my favorite campsite outside Calais and travelled the next day to Port de Schwebsange, where I set-up base camp close to the river, only 5 km away from the race start in Remich. I always find campsites in Europe incredibly accessible, with great toilet facilities, ramps everywhere and helpful staff, but this particular one turned out to be absolutely stellar, especially in relation to my race preparations.

As usual, there are a few harder, but shorter sessions to be done before Race day on both the bike and racing chair, so I trained on the wide bike path between a quiet road, and the Moselle River. Then it was off to the race Expo for Registration, packet pick-up and race briefing, where I met the other Handcyclists competing.

 

I didn’t want to have to detach the awning from my VW Van to drive to the race venue as it was so close, but it’s impossible to move both racing wheelchair and hand bike by myself whilst self-propelling a manual wheelchair. Luckily for me, Rent-a-Bike, Miserland, were right next to my camping spot and had offered mechanical assistance when they saw me setting up. They arranged for me to have use of their long wheelbase van and we loaded up all my equipment and dropped it into transition. The race directors had arranged two helpers for me, but they were not available until race day morning.

 

I always worry that I will oversleep on race day morning, but the weather was so hot that it was difficult to sleep in the van at night anyway, plus our actual race start was scheduled for a very leisurely 9:05am! Arriving in transition at 7:00 am I met my two handlers and ran through what was required in helping me transition from one piece of adaptive equipment to another. They helped pump tyres, attach nutrition, fill bottles and got me into my wetsuit, then we rolled over to the swim start.

 

This Ironman race had the newly introduced swim ‘rolling start’ but the Handcyclists and Physically Challenged categories had a glorious 10 minute head start on the Age Grouper Athletes, as we were straight after the Elite Men and Women. This meant that only the quickest swimmers caught us up and I had a lovely relaxed swim without being hit, swum over or kicked! And it was a massive PB!

T1 was unhurried as there is no need for super quick transitions at 70.3 IM level. My Coach had given me a race plan in Watts for the bike, as although the first 35km are very flat, the course then winds through both France and Germany with plenty of hills to climb. Plenty of support at the roadside kept me motivated on the 90km ride, and I was able to help a man struggling, walking up a hill, who had obviously ‘bonked’ (run out of energy), giving him a Clip bar that I didn’t need. He soon peddled past me, shouting his thanks.

I came into T2 a little later than I had predicted, and wasn’t surprised to see Jetze Platz, a Dutch Paralympic Handcyclist had already finished his race! It transpired he was 8th overall male, beating some pros! Off onto the run with the heat rising, lots of other athletes on the course, paper cups and sponges strewn all over the road.

The run was a four lap course, each athlete having to collect a different colored band at each checkpoint. This turned into quite a game, with me approaching at speed on the racing wheelchair, sticking my arm out and the young volunteers snapping it over my pushing gloves and onto my wrist-they scored every time!

To my amazement, I did a new stand-a-lone Half-Marathon PB, despite people dodging, cups and sponges. The good thing about a four lap course is that you pass the same athletes again and again, so they are then aware of a wheelchair racer coming up behind. Of course, in an ideal world, we would have a separate lane for safety and to avoid any accidents, as they do in Sprint Paratriathlon.

 

fullsizeoutput_110f.jpegHowever, everyone without question, was accommodating and encouraging, which I am thankful for.

When I finally rolled along the Ironman red and black carpet, I had to hold my competitive side back from sprinting for the line, and instead, savor the moment, and contemplate the journey that has got me to the finish line in the first place, and earning my qualifying slot to the World Championships!

There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits.” —Michael Phelps

 

Advertisements

UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup, Segovia

Segovia Road Race start

Segovia Road Race start

After the World Cup in Italy in May, my Coach Bryan Steel and I reviewed my training with an emphasis on improving my performance specifically in the Time Trial. Coming from a background of competing Internationally in Paratriathlon, which only involves a 20km bike section in the Sprint distance, my speed endurance was not sufficient for up to 48km of fast racing in this World Cup.

I had to negotiate getting down to London with all my equipment as I had no car, plan where to stay and also how to get to the race venue, as the UCI decided this year to only provide transportation to and from the official race Hotel for National Teams. I also needed to get to the official Hotel to register, collect my numbers and timing chip. I faced yet another complicated solo journey, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the adventure that followed!

I caught a National Express Coach down to Heathrow having used my accumulated Airmiles from the past four years of competing around the world for a free Business flight with British Airways to Madrid. I arrived to find my race bike had been left in London, despite having been marked ‘Priority’ when checking in, due to Baggage Handlers disputes. By the time I had put in a claim, I had missed the last train to Segovia, so had to book a Hotel for the night. Normally, I put all my clothes and medical supplies in with my bike, but had the luxury of two free bags with my flight-my bike and a double wheel bag-so had opted for hand luggage which fortunately contained overnight things!

I had time to research my options to get to the official Hotel in time for race registration and briefing the next day so sent an urgent email to the UCI organisers in case everything didn’t work out. I took a Taxi from the Hotel to a Coach station in Madrid the next morning and helped by the kind driver, found the bus to Los Angeles de San Rafael. I was lucky to discover a fellow passenger Diego was a race volunteer and his wife was picking him up from the station and she kindly offered me a lift to the Hotel. I made it just in time for registration, and was given dispensation for not being able to show my race uniform, which was still in my missing bike bag. The afternoon was spent frantically trying to contact British Airways and praying that my bike would be delivered in time for me to build it for the Time Trial in the morning.

The race venue was a further 86km from the Hotel in Cuellar, near to Segovia. Diego picked me up in a van full of race equipment after chip allocation in the evening. I was all registered and ready for my second World Cup, but my bike was not. It was worrying having spent money getting to Spain and time training. An enforced rest of three days had not been part of my plan either.

It was a lovely surprise to find friends from the Italy at the my small Hotel in Cuellar, but I was overjoyed to find my bike had been delivered! I worked late into the night to rebuild and race prep it, with the Italians helping out when they returned from their meal. I would have to ride and check my bike just before my race the next morning, not ideal as there was no time to fix anything that might be wrong.

The hotel was a short, but steep, ride away from the race start. I set off up a hill at some lights and suddenly stopped with my right leg going into severe spasms. Looking down, I could see my shoe was caught in the front cassette. An Italian friend came running to help me remove it, as I was stuck in the middle of traffic. I had no time to stop and look at my foot as I had to warm up on the road, ready for my Time Trial. The TT went well, with a new PB and hitting my goal average speed, but my leg continued to spasm throughout, making it hard to concentrate and keep the bike straight. I found the race Doctor whilst still in my bike, who strapped up my foot and gave me painkillers, which I found amusing as I have no pain or temperature sensation from the knees down. I knew it must hurt from the amount of spasms I was getting.

The next day my foot, ankle and leg were black and blue, and the swelling was so severe I could not get my race shoes on. I also could not bear any weight on my leg, which made transferring in and out of my bike and wheelchair extremely difficult. I was plagued by severe spasms throughout the Road Race and despite initially staying with the leaders, I soon fell back. The TT had only been 22 minutes in the 38 degree heat, but the RR was 36km- thankfully reduced by the organisers from 48km due to the tmperature-but with a steep, cobbled hill in each lap. I have a limited sweat response due to my C7 sci and I was lucky to have kind members of rival competitor teams douse me with water on each of three climbs which made it more bearable.

I was taken under the wing of the Italian Independent Team staying at my Hotel, taken for meals out and all the way back to a Hotel near Madrid Airport, ready for my flight home the next day. The flight back was delayed and I missed the only Coach home, but British Airways came up trumps, arranging a door-to-door Taxi at their expense. I then got a local Taxi straight to A&E to have my foot and lower leg x-rayed in case anything was broken, but lucky it was just a bad sprain. I got an ambulance ride home at 2am!

I’m so lucky to have the support and friendship of so many people in the Para-cycling community and blessed by Guardian Angels who seem to appear at just the right moments to sort my logistical nightmares out!Segovia Italians

Kona: My Nemesis

Bex plaiting my hair

My Ironman journey has been without doubt, arduous. The long months of training outdoors, on the hand bike and race chair, over the last year, in all British weathers, tested my resolve to carry on, at times. Frequently, I have had to fight for the right to space in a public swimming pool lane, when people assumed I was not a ‘proper’ swimmer as I do not use my legs…I’ve followed a strict LCHF diet for six months, training low and aiming to race high, to tap into my fat reserves and not rely on a constant carbohydrate/sugar intake come race day. I lost 4.5kg of body fat in the process, something I’ve struggled with post-menopause.

I’ve also tapped into every resource that I possibly could, for those ‘marginal gains’ and more, that are so important to success. My lovely sponsor Huub Design adapted a 3mm wetsuit into a pair of ‘kick pants’ for me, and TYR donated a top-of-the-range swimskin, plus goggles to use come race day. Duncan and Topliss supplied a brand-new Zone 3 long course Tri-Suit. The University of Lincoln did my Lactate Threshold testing for me, which saved expensive trips to Hannover to see my Coach, Dr. Ralf Lindschulten. I was also able to be tested in my racing wheelchair for the first time on a treadmill, so Ralf could dictate my training better. Sheffield Hallam University Lab For Living, 3-D scanned my wetsuit clad legs and 3-D printed a pair of knee splints for my open water Kona swim. I contacted Ingenium in Illinois who make 3-D printed push gloves for the racing chair to improve my power transfer on the push rims. Sugru offered me more free supplies to mould some new hand cycle grips, so I could avoid blisters cycling 112 miles in the heat of the Queen K Highway, and avoid having to put on cycling gloves in T1. VivoLife sponsored me with Vegan protein and Electrolyte products as I wanted the cleanest products possible that would not affect my sci impaired digestion. I used my Fogarty Products sponsored VW Van to travel to Luxembourg and camp to compete in my qualifying race.

I spent weeks and months exploring avenues for sponsorship, setting up a CrowdFunding campaign, sending out letters to local Companies, applying to Charities, doing talks at Schools and Companies. I did attract new sponsors, but I still relied too heavily on my credit card, getting into serious debt, all to fulfill the dream of competing at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

After all this preparation, I failed to meet the combined Able-bodied swim/T1/bike cut-off of 10:30 hours by less than 1:30 mins. This frustrating and disappointing result was because of my inability to do simple maths due to a neurological impairment acquired during my sci accident in 2005. I’d also not set up my PC8 computer to show the correct time in Hawaii-it was still set on UK time. I simply thought that I had more time. It was a NBC TV crew who first alerted me to the chance that I might not make the cut-off, but I was still about 27.2 km from the finish. I went into TT mode, making a promise to myself that I would bury myself on the bike to meet the cut-off. Everyone I passed shouted, ‘You’re going to make it’ and I rolled into T2 with a smile on my face, only to meet a blockage of officials, camera crews, my Coach and my daughter, Bex. She hugged me, and Ralf held my limp hand as the race official told me I’d missed the cut-off. I simply couldn’t believe that I’d disappointed so many people who had helped me on my Ironman journey. I was devastated that I couldn’t carry on, knowing that my run in my racing wheelchair would have been faster than most of the Age Groupers currently out on the course.

I was very fortunate to have my Coach Ralf over in Kona and he was given permission to do a scientific study of my blood Lactate after each discipline. My actual swim time for 2.4 miles was 01:15: 28 (from my borrowed Garmin 920xt) but my chip had not registered when Ralf and volunteer Nathan had carried me up the steps into the shower and across the timing mat, so they had to carry me back over it… My official time was therefore 01:18:56 and my Lactate suggested that I had gone a little too hard. However, my Lactate after the bike showed I had merely done a long endurance ride, despite my hard effort at the end.

Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I should have pushed harder on the bike, which I was more than capable of. I kicked myself for virtually stopping at every aid station on the bike course, one every six miles, to douse myself in water to keep cool, as the temperature rose to 39 degrees Celsius and the legendary winds battered me from every direction throughout the course of the day. I’d stopped at Special Needs after the turnaround to ask a volunteer to top up my camelbak, replace one of my drink bottles and pick up my spare nutrition, most of which was not consumed. I didn’t want to throw away my drink tube, so I wound it up and stuffed it under my lap belt. I perhaps stupidly, made sure to give a Shaka sign every time I was given one by volunteers and spectators. I was staying in the moment, but not focusing fully on my race.

Unfortunately, the build-up to race day had not been ideal as both my hand bike and racing wheelchair arrived damaged via American Airlines from Florida, where I’d spent a week acclimatizing to the heat and humidity, in preparation for Kona. The wheel guards on both sides of the race chair were bent and split making it impossible to mount my disk wheels. They were temporarily fixed with a hammer, a block of wood and a metal file. The front mech on my new bike was bent and the Di2 would not shift from large to small chain ring, which I needed to tackle the 1138m of elevation. It took two days to eventually have this repaired after trying numerous bike stores and Exhibitors stands. Ceepo, a sponsor of Laura Siddall, a Pro Athlete who used to reside in Lincolnshire, kindly helped out.

interspersed with tackling bike and race chair repairs, was a keen Media interest in both my back story and my attempt to be only the second woman to complete the Kona course. I attended three interviews in one day, having already given more than four before I’d even left the U.K. I was also keen to represent the Challenged Athlete Foundation as much as possible and took to the stage in the Athlete Village on a Charity Panel and completed a practice swim and photo shoot with other challenged athletes. I’d only arrived in Kona late Monday evening, and race registration, bike racking and a meeting with my Coach needed to be done, as well as some training! Plus my Parents had traveled out to Kona to watch me race and my daughter Bex had come as my carer and support, so some time had to be made to accommodate their wishes too.

Next year, I aim to tackle Kona again-with a good watch and a more consistent effort on the bike! And a Media black-out, if it can be managed. I’d also like to ship all my equipment out to Hawaii, hopeful that this would avoid damage to my adaptive equipment. I’d also like to arrive a week or two earlier, stay in an air-conditioned Condo close to the race start, but away from the melee of Ironman. Of course, I will need new sponsors, and I will need to work hard on retaining my good relationship with my current ones. Just now, I’m not really looking forward to another year of training for Ironman at the moment, but I have unfinished business…

 

New York City Triathlon

DFH2Ix-WsAEq_mu.jpg-large

It might seem strange that I would choose to do an Olympic distance Triathlon when I am training for a full distance Ironman, but I love competing in the NYC Triathlon! It hosts the Accenture Challenged Athlete Foundation International Championships, which is the only race, worldwide, that provides a prize purse for Para Triathletes. CAF also provide travel stipends for International athletes to attend, which makes traveling to New York in the summer from the U.K. a little more attractive!

I’ve competed at this race twice before, and been on the Podium both times, being overall female winner in 2016, based on a ‘par’ system for all categories. My friend Carolynn, from Washington State, travelled up on the overnight bus to do crowd support as usual and I had been allocated volunteers Carrie and Brian as PT Handlers for the race.

Everything about the race is superbly organised, from the briefings, road closures and volunteers. However, transition, as always, is a logistical nightmare, with two pieces of adaptive equipment to juggle in a small allocated space, grass with bumpy matting, steep inclines out, gravel, tight corners and lots of people!

They say knowledge is power, however, and since I’m already aware of potential problems, I knew what to expect on race day. I’d also had a chance to cycle and do a practice run in Central Park having arrived a few days earlier this year and staying at a more central Hotel. The weather had been unexpectedly wet and windy though, and I had to wash, plus try to dry, my hand cycle cushion in my tiny Hotel bathroom the day before my race!

I really enjoyed my race, I had lots of support for me as a CAF athlete-I’m proud to have their logo on both my bike and my Tri-suit-from both spectators and other athletes. I managed the fastest swim of all the challenged athletes in my wonderful Huub Design 3mm wetsuit, ‘chick’d’ another male hand cyclist out on the bike course, and had an incident free run in Central Park, thanks to a superb lead cyclist clearing the way.

I was really pleased to set a new course record for PT1 female athletes, and come overall first place female for the second year running! My road to Kona seemed to be heading in the right direction…

 

 

Image

Race day! IM 70.3 Florida

I was incredibly fortunate to stay at a fantastic AirBnB the day before my race in Haines City as Bernie, my host, was able to transport all my race equipment in his truck to the race venue. I met my volunteer Handler, Devin, at registration and with my friend Carolyn who’d come down from Washington D.C., we ran through what I needed them to do in T1 and T2. We then attended the race briefing, grabbed some food and I went to bed early!

Race day dawned horribly early at 3am, as I needed to attend to my sci bowel routine as usual and put in place an indwelling catheter for the race-I would not have time to stop and catheterize and cannot use a Portapotti. We also needed to be in transition before it shut at 6am to put nutrition on the bike and racing chair, get body marked and put on my wetsuit, ready for a 6:50am race start.

I was carried onto the sandy beach by Devin and felt quite nervous. Most lakes in Florida have alligators and I didn’t fancy becoming an amputee! The swim course was also a rather weird ‘M’ shape marked with small buoys and it was barely light before the gun went off. Swimming with the 50-54 year old men was an interesting experience, as was wave after wave of swimmers cramped into a tight course. I tried drafting but was constantly swum over by swimmers crossing my bows, with no idea on sighting. I felt tired at the halfway point and knew that I was off my ideal race pace.

Devin was at the water exit up to his knees, scooped me up and ran up the sandy beach to deposit me in my waiting wheelchair. Pushing into T1, I felt really dizzy, having been swimming horizontal for what felt like forever. I was into my hand bike and out onto the open roads soon enough though.

For the first hour on the bike, I struggled to get warm, my right hand, which operates my Di2, completely numb and my cycling top dripping wet. Florida has a huge temperature range, dropping to single figures overnight and climbing rapidly during the day. It was 11 degrees celsius at the start of my race and climbed to 34 degrees later…

The first 45km were fairly flat and fast, with a good tailwind most of the way, and I was making good time, then we hit the first of a series of 10% climbs over the next 25km, with increasing headwind from the north. I was aware that I still had a Half-Marathon to complete and stuck to my race plan, perhaps a little too rigidly. Out on the bike for hours, I experienced my first-and hopefully last-‘golden shower’, when a woman overtook me, lifted her bottom off the saddle and proceeded to pee all over me. I’d known most triathletes don’t stop at designated Portapotti, but I didn’t expect to be the actual toilet stop!

I nearly missed my transition spot coming into T2 and had to back my hand bike up with my hands on the back wheels. A quick blast of suncream and transfer to my racing chair and I set off on the penultimate leg which I had been dreading since we drove round the day before. The run course was a pretty horrendous mix of ‘sidewalk’ running, sharp technical turns, 8% and 10% hills, flat fast sections, traffic cones, litter, and people oblivious to a fast moving racing chair. My biggest fear was another crash like in NYC Olympic Triathlon in 2012, where I split my Spiuck helmet in two places having landed upside down on it trying to avoid a runner oblivious to the Marshall shouting to him.

Fortunately, by the time I had dashed past most runners on lap 1, most people were well aware of me, giving me plenty of space. The most difficult challenge was the hill from transition with a 90 degree uphill turn to a 10% hill but on the ‘sidewalk’ or pavement. Without any momentum to carry me, I had no option but to turn the wheelchair backwards up the hill and crawl slowly up three times. I got plenty of lovely encouragement from everyone, but I was barely able to mutter ‘Thank-you’ to them.

Crossing the grassy finish line was, however, amazing! I’d done it! The highlight of the day was a fellow competitor who came up to me afterwards to thank me personally. He said seeing me struggle up the hills and not giving up inspired him to carry on despite suffering cramp. And the post race beer-the first in months-was pretty awesome!IMG_1076.JPG

Fe=Iron Male=Ironman Training

With the disappointments of 2016 behind me, I decided to have a ‘Gap Year’ from Para-cycling in 2017, and pursue the goal of completing a 70.3 Ironman in Haines City, Florida. My racing wheelchair ‘Chameleon’ was dusted off after a three year hiatus, and I started swimming regularly again, relying on my Coach Dr.Ralf Lindschulten http://www.lindschulten.de to juggle my workouts and schedule.
I was lucky to be invited to Florida with my Coach and other European hand cyclists to join a training camp run by Paralysed Veterans of America (PVA Team ) in Brooksville, Florida, in February. The Withacoochee State Trail, 46 miles of paved trail, was ideal for doing my long 4:30 hr endurance rides on my hand cycle, and I clocked up an incredible amount of training over two weeks, as well as being Lactacte Threshhold tested by Ralf in ‘Das Pain Cave’ whilst there!
The next warm weather training was in Portugal in March, where I stayed with friends of Mark Rohan, the Irish Paralympic Handcyclist, for two weeks. I had access to the City public pool and 1.6km park path, so was able to train in all three disciplines for two weeks.
A friend, Luke Delahunty, an Invictus Games competitor, was very fortunate to win a weeks cycling holiday to Greece offered by greekcycleholidays.com on the Island of Evia, and asked if I’d come. It was two weeks before my Ironman race and involved taking all of my race equipment with me, including spares and race wheels for both my hand cycle and race chair, as my flight to the U.S. was the day after we returned. But sorting difficult logistics for races are my speciality after years of solo competing!
Steve Frost, the owner of @GCHols, and assistant Lilian Pitsa were amazingly helpful-from the delicious ‘athlete food’ served daily, the lifts down to the seafront for my ‘brick’ sessions, and making the Villa completely accessible with hand-built ramps- I was able to put the finishing touches to my Ironman preparations, with lots of great riding, scenery, food and weather.
I arrived in Orlando, Florida, a week before my race, to high temperatures and humidity. Luckily, all my specialized equipment arrived intact thanks to my specially constructed box: http://www.dssmith.com/plastics/about/newsroom/2017/2/handcycle-box-for-world-ranked-para-cyclist. Unfortunately, I had to get my hand bike fixed at http://bikeshopofwinterhaven.com after my previous flight had caused damage. The mechanics were amazing, staying late to sort my gearing and Di2 so that my bike was race ready. I was kindly taken out to the Fraser Trail by Kris who works at the shop, to do my final hard interval training just days before Ironman 70.3 Haines City.

Six months of hard training were over, the rest was up to me…

 

Training by the sea in Portugal

Bittersweet 2016

img_1537

‘Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other’  Walter Elliot

In my 7th UCI World Cup in Bilbao, Spain, I finally made it onto the Podium-twice! Bilbao has always been one of my favorite places to race due to the excellent organization by the Fundazioa Saiatu Foundacion, who have amazing volunteers doing transport, catering and race marshaling, therefore making an unsupported self-funded trip there easy for me. I also love the people of the Basque Country-open, amazingly friendly and always helpful.

I knew that despite my double Bronze medal success, my high world ranking, the absence of Russian athletes in Rio (which opened up further slots for para-cyclists, which were subsequently allocated to specific riders by the UCI) and the points I had earnt over the past two years competing (which were enough to gain a slot for one WH4) meant nothing. If Jess Varnish could not gain a slot to Rio, there was not much hope for me. It seems that glass ceilings still exist…

I was hopeful that the Rio Paralympics would have plenty of opportunities for my para-cycling hand cyclist friends, and would be televised. I was shocked to read results from just one combined road race medal event for FOUR very different categories, totaling 15 riders, whereas the six H5 women-there are only seven on the UCI world ranking list-competed in an entirely separate road race (all were ring-fenced slots). There were also only two time trial medal events, H1-3 with factoring, H4/5 with none, which was totally unfair to higher categories. There was no female Team Relay Team medal event either. I learnt from Sarah Storey, our UCI Athlete Representative, that two medal events had to be dropped to accommodate the Trike event splitting to separate male/females races, as there are only 50 medal events shared between Track cycling and Road cycling.

Unfortunately, hand cyclists cannot compete on the Track, so it is not possible to do the varied and numerous short medal events offered there. In my dreams, I’m doing a World Record attempt behind the Dernyman, sprinting the final 250m to a new Guinness World Record…but that’s the subject of another Blog post!

 

 

On top of the World!

UCI World rankingScreen Shot 2016-06-05 at 6.14.18 PM

Imagine my surprise on my return home after a five week trip to Europe to discover that I am top of the UCI Elite Women world rankings! And yes, that really is my age-I have good genes- although you can see that as a whole, female hand cyclists tend to be in their early forties before excelling at hand cycling. This is primarily because most women acquire their sci in mid-life and it sometimes sadly takes many years to discover hand cycling due to lack of promotion, costs involved and appropriate coaching being available. It also takes several years to develop the musculature required to propel a 12kg bike plus bodyweight over a 42km course at 31km/h! As there are even older male hand cyclists than me still winning gold medals in our sport, I don’t think the desire to win fades with age…

It’s only with the financial support from various sponsors and charities that I am able to compete Internationally, as I am not supported by my NGB British Cycling either financially or logistically. So, a big THANK-YOU to The Challenged Athlete Foundation: http://www.challengedathletes.org/site/c.4nJHJQPqEiKUE/b.6449023/k.BD6D/Home.htm The Arctic One Foundation: http://www.arctic1.co.uk, Centrica and my local Church, St. Ediths, Grimoldby, for supporting me financially on my latest trip. Also thanks to OTE Sports: http://www.otesports.co.uk/products/ for giving me a generous discount on their fab products, which keep me going before, during and after racing.

Without ‘Viva’ the VW, I would not be able to travel to races with all the necessary equipment to be my own support staff: Driver, Bike Mechanic, Physio, Dietician, Masseuse-I’ve learnt to do it all!  V’Viva’ is kindly sponsored by Fogarty: http://www.fogarty.co.uk/blog/fridays-news

Lastly, I appreciate all the wonderful help and offers of support which I received at each and every competition I attended as an Independent, self-sufficient athlete over April/May this year, which included; loans of vital equipment, Physio before race day, coffee, offers of meals, a Hotel room, insecticide for an ant infestation (!), fun days out, a new flag, training partners and the unending words of encouragement to boost my morale.

THANK-YOU!

 

 

Image

Gratitude

Whilst 2105 has been a pretty successful sporting year for me as you can see from all the trophies and medals below, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many individuals, friends and supporters, sponsors and businesses, who have supported me on my journey in para-sport.

Medals and trophies 2015.jpgThanks go to:

Fogarty, Master Quilt and Pillow Makers, http://www.fogarty.co.uk/blog/fridays-news who provided ‘Viva’ the VW, fully customized to fit my hand bike, plus two dogs and camping gear for my two month trek around Europe this summer. I’m still getting used to seeing my name on the side of her and am looking forward to more adventures!

Mammoth Mattress http://mammothmattress.co.uk/category/elite-athletes/ who kindly supplied a custom made memory foam mattress for ‘Viva’ to make sure I had adequate sleep recovery in-between my races.

Alfred Bekker http://alfredbekker.com/product-range/hand-controls-for-disabled-drivers/# who converted the van with hand controls that allowed me to cruise along the Autobahns and motorways of Europe in comfort.

KitBrix http://www.kitbrix.co.uk whose bags do a sterling job of keeping all my cycling stuff well organized in the confines of ‘Viva’.

The Arctic One Foundation http://www.arctic1.co.uk who provided me with a small cash grant which paid for my EuroTunnel fare to Europe to compete this year.

Challenged Athlete Foundation http://www.challengedathletes.org/site/c.4nJHJQPqEiKUE/b.6449023/k.BD6D/Home.htm whose training grant allowed me to pay for a cycling coach so I could train and prepare better.

The University of Lincoln http://lincoln.ac.uk/home/media/universityoflincoln/schoolofsportandexercisescience/UoL-Sport-2015.pdf for providing Sports Science support-it’s been an interesting journey so far!

My 5,000+ Twitter followers! The support, jokes, concern, sympathy, friendship and valuable contacts has been unending and I thank you.

To all the people I met in Europe who helped me with dog-sitting, tent erecting, laundry, food, meals, campsites, shopping, doctors, friendship, swimming, directions, training and more!

To my children, George and Rebecca, who helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel after my sci accident and are my most steadfast supporters, I love you more than…

And lastly, to my late best friend Micky Greenwood, who taught me so much about how to live life well and enjoy every moment you are given x
I wish you all have a peaceful, happy and prosperous 2016