Rossenau, France

Sometimes, things are not meant to be…

I met Chris Furber, former Para-cycling Lead Coach at British Cycling’s base in Manchester, after making a tentative application to the BC Talent Squad over the winter. The meeting was fruitful and informative and got exciting when I bumped into Jody Cundy in the corridor under the Velodrome. I was a little star struck, and it was lovely of Chris to introduce us.

I travelled to Rossenau in France for the first Para-cycling race of the European Handcycle Circuit (EHC) early in March, where Chis would watch me race and see if I could possibly be funded for the UCI World Cup in Sergovia in June, depending on my performance.

The weather on race day was appalling, with the temperature barely above freezing and steady rain. I find it hard to race in the cold as it has such an adverse affect on my tone and spasticity and I have problems with temperature control. I couldn’t stop the violent shivering on the start line despite a warm-up lap.

Chris Peterson from Top End was watching the race, having become a major sponsor of the EHC series of races in 2013. He had pointed me out to a colleague before the race “Watch this girl, this should be a good race”.

I pushed down hard on the cranks in a heavy gear, wanting to keep with Rachel Morris who had told me to stick behind her to draft for the race. There was a loud noise and my seat back collapsed underneath me as soon as I set off, rendering me unable to either see over the cranks or reach to pedal. I coasted to a halt barely 50m from the start line and instantly knew my race was over before I’d even started.

Some Marshalls and spectators ran over to help, but without allan keys to fix the seat brackets, there was nothing they could do. A mechanical on the first race of the year and my first ever DNF was not how I had hoped to start my racing season.

Silverstone Half Marathon

The first wheelchair race of the season, preparation for one of the bigger goal of 2013, the London Marathon, came after a winter of hail, snow, freezing temperatures and ice and yet more snow. My long training runs outside in thin lycra trousers, thick ski socks and three thermal layers on top plus snood under my helmet, were over, as I aimed to qualify for the Marathon with the help of Rick Hoskins, a wheelchair racing coach at Stockport Harriers.

Mid run Silverstone

The course at Silverstone is convoluted and challenging for wheelies and doubly so when Able Bodied runners (‘AB’s’) do their little dance as shown in the photo above in response to shouts of ‘Wheelchair! On your right!’ (Sorry number 2367!) when approached from behind.

Racing wheelchairs are silent machines, dependent entirely on the occupants upper body strength to strike the push rims attached to each back wheel and propel the user forwards. Stopping or slowing down means losing speed and having to overcome inertia again. There is only one brake attached to the 20″ front wheel, ineffective at high speed as it locks and skids and burns a hole in the expensive tub tyre. Another option is to use the gloved hands to scrub speed off directly on the back wheels, but replacements are £120 a pair…

Despite the dancing, I managed second place, with a time of 92:55, and was asked by Michelle Weltman if I wanted to do the London Marathon in March.