Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Hard Work Begins

We left Denmark on Tuesday morning and I was lucky enough to have 3 seats to myself, so I was able to curl up and get a few hours sleep during the 12 hours to Singapore.  At Singapore Changi airport we were all going to our respective cities so it was time to say goodbye!  It has been a wonderful two weeks getting to know everyone and I feel that I have made some wonderful friends on this journey.  It has been an amazing team to be part of, with staff second to none and team mates who are amazing athletes!  I have learnt so much on this journey and I look forward to learning so much more.

I have had the last couple of days off to get over the jetlag and it has certainly given me the time to reflect on what is ahead of me.  The hard work now begins!!  I have learned that next year at the Paralympics they have combined the Trike racing so that the men and women are all racing for one set of medals.  It will be factored meaning a sort of handicap so that the men and women are come out equal.  But it still means that I am competing against not only the woman who beat me at this year’s World Championships but all the men who came out on top as well.  So as I said, the hard work now begins!

Next time I'll be in the middle!
I am still bound and determined to be standing on the top of the podium next year and to do this I have to prove it with persistence!  These of course are only words and no matter how much I say it with conviction and passion I have to prove it with persistence.  With persistence I believe the biggest obstacles will fall and even the most ambitious achievements are within my reach.  I know that I can achieve whatever I choose to achieve and the process begins with the decision and commitment to do it!

No achievement is ever easy, I owe it to not only myself, but the people who believe in me to transform that possibility of a gold medal into reality.  The dream I have is in my hands and mine for the taking, all it will take is a little persistence!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tour of Copenhagen

Irene and I

Today was the only day that we had free and the only reason we weren’t leaving was because there were no flights out!  That was good for us.  It was decided that we would head into Copenhagen to have a look around and the best thing was that I have a friend, Irene Koch Pedersen, who lives in Copenhagen and she had agreed to meet us to show us around.

Irene works for MS Denmark and 2 ½ years ago she had been in Melbourne with her boyfriend for a year working with MS Australia, so that is how I met her.  Thank god for mobile phones!!  We were taking the train in to the central station from Ringsted, so via text messages I was able to let her know roughly when we would be at the station.  We arrived after about a 40 minute train ride and as we exited the platform via the escalator there she was!  She hasn’t changed a bit in the last 2 ½ years!  It was great to see her and introductions were made all round.

We decided to walk down to the canal past the National Museum, past the Christiansborg Palace which houses the Danish Parliament and to the Canal Cruises.  This is a one hour cruise through the canals around Copenhagen, touching most of the tourist sites.  We figured since we only really had the afternoon it was probably the best way to see everything.  Once we were on board we headed through the canals passing some amazing buildings, Holmen’s Church, The Old Stock Exchange and out in to a wider body of water, past the Playhouse, the Opera and through an area that is made up of manmade islands.  But these islands were made 300 years ago!  This used to be the naval yards and now house luxury living quarters.  The interesting thing is that they are all flats, no houses.  On one side of the canal is Christianshavn, this area is populated with a mix of business people, artists, eccentrics and families, but are considered to be an entity of their own!

We went through this area then out to see the Little Mermaid statue (thanks to Hans Christian Andersen).  Across from the Little Mermaid is a large gun ship which we were told once had an accidental firing which hit the captains summer house!  Rumour had it that his mother-in-law was staying there!!  I guess that is one way to get rid of a mother-in-law!

Flag on right is Mary's residence
 The cruise then continued past the Amalienborg palace, the royalresidence and in the distance you can see the Marble Church with an amazing huge dome.  The flag was up on Mary and Fred’s part of the palace but we didn’t see them give us a wave when we went by.  It was then back into the narrow canal and we went through the narrowest bridge in Copenhagen and it was narrow, the boat just fit through!\

 Once the canal cruise was finished we did a bit of souvenir shopping then headed to lunch.  Irene had organised a table for us at the Post & Tele Museum.  It was right up top of the building and we were able to overlook all the roof tops of Copenhagen!  It was an amazing view and the food was excellent!  Great choice by Irene!  It was then time for shopping!  So many places to go into and look around but very expensive in most stores!  It was then time to head back to the train station, walking through the many sides streets and past the Tivoli gardens.  If we had more time it would have been great to explore a bit more but we had to be back for our last team dinner!

Team Staff
 The dinner was great and the chef at our hotel made a special cake (banana) with homemade rhubarb ice cream for us!  But all good things must come to an end.  It has been a very successful campaign for the Aussie’s.  I have been amazed at the support provided by all the staff and the friendships built with the other athletes.  It has been a fantastic 2 weeks and I look forward to being part of this team in the future.

I am looking forward to getting home but now the hard work starts!  The next step is in all of our own hands and if we want it bad enough each one of us will make it happen.  We have to learn from where we have been, adapt and adjust our efforts to be even more effective.

Every day, every encounter, and every outcome is a new opportunity to move forward.  We have to keep focused on our goals and continue to strive.  Some of us had disappointments while here but they are just as much a part of the process as successes.

Thank you to all those who have supported me from here and home (both Canada and Australia).  You will never know how much it has meant to know that you were all behind me!  But as I said earlier, the hard stuff is about to begin!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 4 - World Para-cycling Championships - Denmark

Wow what a day!  When I woke up this morning the first thing I did was look out the wind to see what the weather was like.  There are 3 flags flying outside my window and every day the past week them have been flying at full flight.  This morning they were hanging still!  I couldn’t believe my luck, but would it hold out until 10:45 am?

I had breakfast and then made sure that I had everything packed that I needed and we left at 8:30 am to head to the course.  I was nervous as I was worried about some of the very narrow roads and “S” bends that awaited us.  As far as I was concerned they were alright on the time trial but with a number of trikes trying to get through I figured there would be some that would go off the road.

The morning was good I had my race plan all set and followed it, that is until I took the trike out for a quick ride and ended up cutting up the rear right tyre on god knows what.  So our mechanic Peter changed the tyre, not a problem, I had just over 15 minutes until start time.  Once the tyre was changed I headed towards the start line.  Before you can enter the start area you have to stop at the officials and sign against your name that you are there.  As I was sitting on my trike signing the tyre blew!  It is amazing how loud that is when you are sitting on top of it.  It was now 8 minutes to start time.  I think that every person on either side of the road who was there to watch all said at the same time “Oh!”  I must say that is not what I said, I think mine was more like “shit!” I turned around to head back to our tent and saw that Peter was running towards me.  I yelled that I had blown the tyre and he said he had heard it.  Needless to say my heart rate was rising! But Peter is amazing and within about a minute he had the tyre changed and I was off to the start.  It is a great way to get the adrenaline going!

The start was good, I was right beside my Canadian competitor and to the left of me the reigning World Champion from Germany.  In front of me was the men’s reigning World Champion, so I couldn’t be in a better position.  The start sounded and I went with them, with the first corner only a couple of hundred meters ahead you wanted to make sure you were out front.  We got around the corner safely but behind us there was a huge crash and pile up!  Glad I was out front.  My Canadian competitor was bound and determined to stay with the men and I was able to hold on for a couple of kilometres, but then realized that if I tried to stay with them I would blow up.  The one thing that Peter Day (the head coach of the Para-cycling team) had talked about was that if she was too strong, to not try and keep up but stay ahead of the other women.  I ended up working with a couple of the guys for almost the first lap until they too were too fast for me.  The rest of the race I was on my own and unfortunately the wind decided to make an appearance!

I ended up 2nd, but unlike the other day I was VERY happy with my result.  I had done the best that I could do and believe me tonight I know that I did everything I could.  My body is really sore tonight, but I look at the silver medal and know that I have earned it.  The experience was certainly worth it and I now know what I have to work on for next year.  Marie-Eve, my Canadian competitor is now the hunted and I have the luxury of being the hunter!

It is now time to “do the hard stuff”, because it will bring out the best in me.  I can’t merely embrace the challenges, I have to go out and look for the most meaningful and valuable ones.  I believe that if you choose to the hard stuff and find delight in the efforts you are able to make, you’ll enjoy the richest, longest-lasting and most fulfilling rewards!

Results from the rest of the Australian Team today:

Ryan Huges – C4 – Did Not Finish due to equipment failure
Michael Gallagher – C5 – 8th, only 5 secs down on 1st place!
Jayme Paris – C1 – 1st (medal not awarded due to lack of competitors)
Matthew Formston}
Phil Thuaux            } Men’s Tandem – 22nd
Brandie O’Connor }
Kerry Knowles       }Women’s Tandem – 16th
Michael Taylor}
Craig Parsons  }Team Relay Hand cycles – 6th
Nigel Barley    }

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 3 - World Para-cycling Championships - Denmark

I must have crashed last night!  I was so tired after my time trial that I didn’t wake up until 6:50 a.m.  Now most would think that was early but for me who only sleeps about 5 hours a night it was huge!  I slept a whole 8+ hours!  When I woke up my body was extremely tired and my legs felt like they weighed double what they do, time to definitely recover.

First was to head to breakfast but after that it was time to get on the trainer and spin my legs out.  It felt good to get them moving, but I didn’t do it for too long.  I then spent time stretching and then after heading over to the coffee shop with Kerry, Sue and Sean it was time for a rest.  The best thing I did for my legs was to have Anouska our physio massage them this afternoon, just to get the muscle tightness out!  God it hurts sometimes but boy it feels good afterwards!  The rest of the day was spent resting and looking for results from the Aussie’s that were racing today.  Tonight will be hot and cold showers to help even more!

And what a day Australia had in the Road Race.  Sue Powell rode her way to her second Gold medal in the C4 category, becoming a “Dual World Champion”, absolutely amazing!  David Nicholas won a Silver medal in the C3 category to add to his Gold medal from the Time Trial.  Claire McLean was 9th in the C5 category with a number of riders crossing the line in the same time, Melissa Leckie was 7th in the H2 category, Craig Parsons was 11th in the H1 category, Michael Taylor was 17th in the H2 category, Nigel Barley was 6th in the H3 category, Stuart Tripp was 8th in the H4 category.  So overall, not a bad day at the office.

I am just about to hit the sack to get ready for tomorrow’s race and this time I am racing in the morning.  I am looking forward to that because I am always better physically in the morning, so my Canadian competitor had better watch out!  It will be a hard race due to the technical turns and narrow roads and hopefully there will be no crashes as there were this morning in the hand cycle races!

I am looking forward to the race and the adrenaline will be flowing.  As Charles Lindbergh once said “It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you have wanted to do so badly.  You almost feel like you could fly without the plane.”  Well I may not have a plane tomorrow but this is what I have wanted to do so badly for the last couple of months, so hopefully I will be flying!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 2 - World Para-cycling Championships - Denmark

This was the day that I have been working towards for the last few months.  All the hard training had come down to this day and racing the Time Trial.  A race against the clock and yourself.  No tactics just you alone on the trike or bike.  I was the rabbit about to be chased by the dogs! 

As the first of the Trikes to hit the road all I could think of was going out and racing as hard as I possibly could.  After the first corner there was 4km of straight road but a full on headwind!  My legs felt like they were burning as I made the second turn to a downhill run.  I was able to pick up some good speed down this section but then it comes to an S bend, then uphill to another S bend and more uphill.  I was able to take the corner really well (which is good for me as I am not great on the corners with the trike) but seemed to struggle a bit on the uphill sections.  We then had an undulating area that went really well with a few more corners to the last climb.  At this point you know it is the last climb but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.  Then the home straight!  I have to admit that I did a lot of talking to myself on the home straight, urging myself to pull up the cadence, looking at the speed and willing it to go higher.  Then the finish line…what a lovely thing to see, because by the time I had reached the line I had nothing more to give…at all!

Getting off the trike wasn’t the most graceful of movements!  With the help of the Cycling Australia staff, I think I must have looked like a beached whale falling off the trike, I got onto a chair, so I knew that there was no more that I could have given

I eventually was able to get on a bike attached to a trainer and have a warm down (once I could get the legs to work!)  Our Australian tent was right beside the Canadian tent and my biggest competitor.  I had seen her before the race and she looked strong.  While I was doing my warm down I saw some officials enter the Canadian tent and then heard the other competitors clapping.  At that point I realized that I probably had not won, but no one had come to tell us the results.  I must say it took quite a while to find out officially what place I had attained and it certainly wasn’t the colour I had wanted.  But I had won the Silver medal!  I will admit that I was really disappointed at the beginning, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it had just made me hungrier and more determined to do better!

I had to realize that I should be happy with what I had just accomplished, 2nd in the World!  WOW!  There were no excuses for the 31 seconds she beat me by; I had given it my all.  At first that disappointment made me realize that it was bringing me valuable, meaningful and useful experience.  Then when I realized that I had been successful I began to appreciate that the silver medal will give me the confidence to reach even higher.

The medal ceremony was held and I was happy to lead the 3 medallists on to the stage.  Upon receiving our medals and beautiful flowers we turned to listen to the Canadian national anthem!  One of our riders Jayme mouthed to me from the crowd “don’t sing!”  Good thing she said that because it just seemed natural!  But actually it felt alright, not only did I get to look at my birth country flag and listen to the anthem, but I also got to be proud of my adoptive countries flag flying beside it.  But seriously if my competitor Marie-Eve thinks she is going to have it easy on Sunday…she has another thing coming!  I will be out to give it my all again and no matter which way the race may go, life moves forward.  From each and every experience and outcome, there is something of value to be gained.

Results from the other athletes representing Australia:

Mens Tandem – Phil and Matt – 17th
Men’s C4 – Ryan – 16th
Men’s C5 – Michael – Silver (even after having a flat!  Amazing!)
Women’s Tandem – Kerry and Brandie – 16th
Women’s C1 – Jayme – 1st (due to few competitors she was not awarded a medal but had an amazing ride beating a couple of the other riders from higher categories)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 1 – World Para-cycling Championships – Denmark

Well what a fantastic day for Australia!  Today the first round of the Time Trial races and Australia came home with 2 Gold medals.  Sue Powell in the C4 W category won by 8 and 10 seconds over 2nd and 3rd place and David Nicholson in the C3 M category won by 9 and 14 seconds over 2nd and 3rd place! 

Other results today in the 2 wheel categories: Claire McLean in the extremely difficult category of C5 W was 5th which is a fantastic result as well.  The hand cyclists also had a good day – Craig Parsons was 9th in H1, Michael Taylor – 17th in H2, Nigel Barley was 7th in H3, Stuart Tripp was 6th in H4 and Melissa Leckie was 8th in the women’s H2.  A fantastic day all round where everyone did everything in their power to do their best!

As for me I had a good day with 30 minutes of activation on the trainer and beside me was Jing Huang.  Jing is an Australian but she is racing for Chinese Taipei.  So the two of us did our respective workouts while the others, Brandie and Kerry our tandem women went out on the road with the men’s tandem of Phil and Matt, along with Mick and Ryan the other C5 and C4 riders.

Stretching outside Nike!
The afternoon was very relaxing as a few of us went across the road from our hotel to the only Factory Outlet facility in Denmark!!  We sat for well over an hour having coffee and then did a bit of shopping!  I have to admit we did get a few very good deals on things from outlets like Nike and Puma!  It was then back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon with my feet up watching the end of “Underbelly” the series which I had on my computer.

Our daily meeting was a great one as we congratulated the members of the team who had done a stellar job today and then in for dinner.

The start list is now out for tomorrow and I must say the butterflies have started!   I am the first racer off tomorrow in the Trike category and I plan to be so far ahead that no one will be able to see how far ahead of them I am! I honestly believe in the power of positive thinking, but I also know that I am fit, strong, ready and as prepared as I can be.  It is important to give life to your best intentions by giving the power of your thoughts to them.  It is important to make your dreams real by keeping them constantly in your thoughts.  Tomorrow is the first day to make one of my dreams come true and only I have the power to do that!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Little History Lesson

For those of you who don’t know I love history!!  And it always amazes me when I am somewhere where there is history that is so old!  Well here in Ringsted, Denmark there is some amazing history.  So here is your history lesson for this area of Denmark.  I went for a short walk today and headed into town which is less than 1km from where we are staying.

Just across from the town square in Ringsted is a huge church, St. Bendt’s Church.  It is all that is left of Ringsted Kloster, a Benedictine Monastery that burned down in the early 18th century.  But it goes back much further than that.

It dates back to about 1170 when it replaced a travertine church from about 1080. It is considered to be one of Denmark's architecturally finest churches. Furthermore, it is of special historical interest as it is first Royal church in Denmark and it houses the tombs of many of Denmark's earlier monarchs and noblemen.

The church was originally dedicated to St. Mary. In 1157, Saint Canute Lavard's bones were moved into a new chapel in the church with the approval of St. Canute's son, Valdemar the Great. Many miracles were said to have occurred there and the church immediately became a popular site for pilgrimages. With the funds raised from the pilgrims and thanks to Valdemar's royal patronage, the abbey church was expanded and, in 1170, was dedicated with great ceremony to Benedict of Nursia.

Valdemar had from the beginning designed the church for the Danish monarchy. He took advantage of the inaugural celebrations not only to have the relics of his father, St. Canute, enshrined but, also a devil statue erected in his honor and above all, to have his seven-year-old son Canute crowned and appointed by the archbishop in order to ensure the succession.

I could go into the history of Valdemar but it would go on for a while, suffice to say he was King of Denmark from 1146 – 1182 and his tomb is located in this church.

From 1182 to 1341 all Danish Kings and Queens were buried in St. Bendt’s and after 1341 they were then buried at the Roskilde Cathedral.
Part of the painted ceiling

It was amazing walking through this beautiful church, with original carvings on the floor, extremely old artifacts on display in cabinets and the beautifully painted ceilings, you could feel the history and I was actually able to feel like I was part of it for a short time.

Today was my recovery day and it was really nice to take the time by myself to explore some of the amazing history in this town.  But it is now down to the pointy end of the journey.  Racing starts tomorrow, but I don’t race until Friday.  All the Australian riders are ready to do their best, unfortunately we have lost one of the men’s tandem pair due to a crash yesterday, a broken collar bone and bruised hip.  But as the pilot Scott wrote on his Facebook page “Fate doesn't always deal the ideal hand! But some things are just out of our control.  Very wise words from a young man who had an amazing cycling future ahead of him.

Next stop, Roskilde and the Time Trial!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Training Continues

The team has really settled in well in Denmark, but unfortunately there has been a bug going around.  So I have been moved to my own room because my roommate Sue came down with it and the last thing I need with my crappy immune system is to get it too!

We have all been to the course a number of times now and are getting really used to the narrow roads and tight corners.  Unfortunately one of our hand cyclists had a crash yesterday.  He is alright, missing a bit of skin on his forearms and hip but not seriously injured.  If anyone watched the Tour de France and saw the rider who flew into the barbed wire fence, well I think MT did even better!  He rolled his hand cycle and flew between the electrified wire fencing!  Not even touching it.  Unfortunately for his coach, who didn’t realize it was live, touched it and got a little zap!  Locals to the rescue… pulled one of the steaks out of the ground and lifted the wire high enough that they could push and pull MT under the fence.  I think if it had been me that would have been the end of my day!  But these guys are tough, he got back on his hand cycle and finished the session, minus skin, bent axles and all.  There is a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. which epitomizes these cyclists as winners or not: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  The winners will always rise to the challenge!

Phil one of the pilots trying the trike
Photo courtesy of Matt Formston

On a funnier note and lighter side to yesterday, a couple of the men’s tandem riders decided they wanted to have a ride on my trike!  Most did okay considering the car park we were in was flat!  But one of the pilots Scotty was having a really hard time!  He kept saying that it wouldn’t turn left…”Scotty” I said “you just have to turn the handle bars!”  It is very different than riding a two wheeled bike as there is no need to balance it yourself so that can be a bit weird!  Next I will make them ride on the road to see how hard it is when the road isn’t flat!

The weather has been great since we arrived, that is until last night when the rain started.  I knew that we were going to get some rain but it has been raining all night and is still raining.  Because of that and logistics of the day it was best that I do a session on the trainer.  This was alright, except for the mosquitoes that I had to kill while I was spinning away!

I also spoke with my friend Irene, who is from Copenhagen, today and I am really looking forward to catching up with her next Monday for a tour of the city with her!

Racing begins in 3 days and I am getting really excited.  A bit nervous but I like that kind of nervous energy, it gets the adrenaline going…I just have to save it for the day!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Life in Ringsted

We are well and truly settled in Denmark.  We are staying in the small town of Ringsted about an hour’s drive from Copenhagen.  Ringsted is about 30 minutes from where we will be racing in Roskilde. The town of Ringsted is a pretty one with a lot of very old buildings which really isn’t surprising!

We are now on day 4 of our trip and we have been able to go out and have a look at the course that we will be racing on.  We first drove the course and there were a number of comments that the roads were so narrow.  Think of watching the Tour de France and how narrow some of those roads are…yup that’s what I’m talking about.  It will be interesting to see how the trikes and the tandem bikes go around the corners with such narrow roads.  It just means that I will have to be out front, that way no one can try to get by me!

I am surprised at how well I have pulled up in regards to jetlag.  I’ve had a couple of great night’s sleep and I am feeling fantastic.  I’ve had two really easy rides just to adapt to the time change and to be honest I am raring to go!

I am also surprised at how expensive ordinary things are.  We tend to think that we pay a lot for coffee but with the Denmark Kroner at 5 for 1 we went to have a coffee the other day and were charged 35 Kroner a whopping 7 dollars!  Good thing I don’t drink a lot of coffee!

We have other teams staying at the same hotel.  New Zealand arrived today along with one of our Aussie riders, Jing, who is racing for Chinese Taipei.  The Americans should be arriving very soon as well.  So it is starting to get exciting with the other teams arriving and I am sure when we are out on the course tomorrow we will see quite a few more riders!

Friday, September 2, 2011

We've Arrived

Well the last 24 hours was spent sitting on a couple of planes in order to get to Denmark.  We flew Singapore Airlines and the first challenge was getting my trike on board without having to pay extra.  You see it weighs a bit more than you are allowed!  We had sponsorship from Singapore Airlines for an extra 15kgs but my trike alone weighs 22kg and then with the bag I guessing I was definitely over 30kgs!

I had however put disabled signs on the sides of the bag and when I got to the counter was asked if it was a wheelchair.  I didn’t say yes and I didn’t say no, but when the girl saw we had sponsorship she asked her supervisor and he told her to put it through as 14kgs!  Bonus!!!

The flight to Singapore’s Changi Airport felt pretty fast and was uneventful.  We then had 4 hours to wait at the airport and that is where I met up with everyone else on the team.  The second bonus came when I got on the flight to Copenhagen and found that I was down at the back of the plane right where the plane curves, which meant more leg room than any of the other seats!!  Bonus!!!  But this flight was to be much longer, 12 hours in fact.

About half way through the flight I must have finally fallen asleep but woke up with a start.  I have no idea why but when I looked at the flight path on the TV in front of me we were right over top of Afghanistan and the city of Kabul.  It felt really weird…talk about worlds apart.  Here I was heading to the beautiful country of Denmark and right below me, just over 12,000 meters below me, people are fighting for their lives!  It really made me think about how lucky we are to have been born where we were.  I was actually fascinated at that point with looking at that map and all the Middle East countries where there is no peace.  So needless to say sleep did not come easy over the next 6 hours!

We finally made it to Denmark with all our bikes/hand cycles/trike and gear, loaded it all on two trucks, piled into 3 other vehicles and headed to Ringsted where we are staying at the Scandic  Ringsted Hotel which is about 50 km from Copenhagen and about 20 kms from where we will be racing in Roskilde.  The weather has been beautiful today and hopefully it will keep up for the next couple of weeks.  We all then had to put all the bikes/hand cycles and my trike together.

Tomorrow we are heading to Roskilde to have a ride around the course which I am really looking forward to.
I have even become very patriotic in that I had my nails done with a map of Australia on each nail! For someone who doesn’t wear nail polish very often it is a bit “out there” for me, but hey, I’m here to win for Australia!