Adios ‘Viva’ the VW Van


Less than two weeks after returning from the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October as World Hand cycling Champion, I was contacted by my Van sponsor, Fogarty Ltd., with the devastating news that they had gone into Receivership and my beloved VW Transporter, ‘Viva’ would be seized as a Company asset, to be sold to the highest bidder… 

The Van was especially fitted out to hold all my adaptive sports equipment, all my camping essentials and even had a special Kennel for my dogs Monty and Smudge to travel safely with me. We all had many adventures in ‘Viva’ travelling as far east as the Czech Republic, south to Italy, north to the Netherlands and throughout the U.K. The Van enabled me to travel cheaply, using the EuroTunnel and Ferries to get to Para-cycling and Ironman competitions in Europe, carrying both my Hand cycle and Racing Wheelchair, plus my race wheels, tools, spares, which meant I wasn’t restricted by weight or worried about damage unlike flying.

Now I am without transport and living in rural Lincolnshire is proving logistically difficult even to get to swim and gym training in my local Town, six miles from where I live. I’m lucky to be able to train on both the Hand bike and racing wheelchair directly from my front door, but travelling abroad is a different challenge altogether because of the sheer size of these two pieces of equipment.

I’m currently looking for a new Sponsor for 2019, who might help supply an adapted Van. I have new goals for next year and there will be lots of foreign travel, trying to gain vital qualifying points for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020. I hope you would like help me on my journey!

VW Van Transporter back view showing fitted bike wheel rack, bed and storage with Hand cycle on ground
‘Viva’ the VW Transporter all fitted out for all my hand cycling racing equipment
Winter camping in Germany with ‘Viva’ 
Advertisements

2018 Ironman World Champion!

IMG_9279

Words can hardly describe how it felt to finally push myself along the finish chute at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, with Mike Reilly announcing my name to the huge crowds, ‘Liz McTernan, you are an Ironman!’ Then to be greeted by my daughter Rebecca, running up the carpeted ramp to kiss & hug me and present me with my shell Lei, was a very special moment in my life.

It’s not my first Ironman of course, having already attempted to finish this iconic race in 2017, and then going on only six weeks later, to complete my first full Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico- just to prove to myself that I could do it. Another long year of tough training, another qualifying race in Luxembourg and I had earnt my slot to ‘The Big Dance’ once again.

What is remarkable is that I’ve just become only the second ever female hand cyclist to finish the race and have set a new course record of 14:21:12 hrs. The course for the Ironman World Championships is tough, without a doubt, with a combination of heat, humidity and hills plus fierce winds to contend with, but the mens field seems to have increased in-depth and performance since Hand cycles were allowed to race in 1997, with Australian John MacLean being the first Physically Challenged athlete to finish. For whatever reason, very few women have attempted the challenging course.

I now know of two other female world-class athletes who are preparing to tackle Kona as Hand cyclists, but not until 2021, after the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Currently, there are five qualifying slots worldwide for men, but only three for women, and only three qualifying races in the world in which to claim a Kona slot. I’m hopeful that in 2021, all three slots will be hard to earn and the standard of performance will be even higher, with more female hand cyclists setting their sights on the Ironman World Championships!

 

“Swim 2.4 Miles. Bike 112 miles. Run 26.2. Brag for the rest of your life.”

John Collins, IRONMAN co-founder

 

Thank-you’s:

HuubDesign for providing my custom wetsuit pants for racing and awesome kick pants for pool training plus an awesome T-shirt for the Parade of Nations

TYR I love my swim skin! And my goggles stayed mist-free the entire 2.4 miles…

Wattie Ink for a stunning Trisuit which made me feel like a Pro Triathlete

Challenged Athlete Foundation for once again supporting my sporting goals and dreams with grants for travel and equipment. Stoked to be part of #TeamCAF

T.Balfe Construction for providing a much-needed cash injection as I booked all the Kona accommodation and flights!

OTE Sports/VivoLife/Gu products which kept my energy up throughout the day

Bill McCarrick, my Mechanic and Emotional Support Human at Endurance Sports Travel who tirelessly worked on my hand bike so that I could rack it for race day

Ken & Christine Glah of Endurance Sports Travel, who were excellent Sherpas in my first week in Kona-thanks for all your help

Tealby Tennis Club whose lovely Ladies put on a fundraiser to help with my travel costs

Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for their Disability grant earlier in the year

All my lovely Facebook friends who raised over £1000 to help me get to Kona

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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!

 

 

Newbie Para-Cyclist

Sophie and I lining up in hand bikes on my path

Sophie and I lining up in hand bikes on my path

Sophie and I have been competing at Disability Swimming competitions as part of the East Midlands Squad for several years now and I have been encouraging her to give ParaTriathlon a go. She attended a British Triathlon Federation Talent Day in March but was keen to try out a hand bike for the first time, since none were available in Loughborough.

Luckily, Sophie is petite like me and she slotted neatly into my race bike with no problems. I decided it would be cruel to put her in my old second hand 20.4kg Force R, so the Force RX at 12kg was the only option.

With Sophie’s mum off on my son’s road bike for a jaunt round Lincolnshire’s lanes, we set off on our own adventure. This was Sophie’s first EVER bike ride, as her severe CP has meant she has not even been able to ride a trike.

It was lovely to be able to introduce Sophie to hand cycling and the smile on her face was wonderful to see. I understood her fears on the road as she has never been on a bike before and has only just passed her driving test. We stuck to a quiet route and she managed over 11km on her first attempt, 7km more than I did 🙂

Now of course, she starts the difficult road to finding funding for all the expensive adaptive equipment she will need to compete in ParaTriathlon, but I have a plan up my sleeve to help her…