Tuesday, December 25, 2012

New website launched!

This will just be a quick update to let you all know that I have just launched my new website today.  Thanks so much to my good friend Tina for all her help putting it together.  My blog postings will now be via the website at:

www.carolcooke.com.au 

If you have subscribed to this blog you can go to the new website and subscribe to my blog there, would love to have you continue to follow my journey!  Thank you to all those that have followed me and I look forward to having you on the new site.

My first blog on the new site is "The Year That Was", hope you enjoy it.
I would also like to hear from you about what you think of the new site and anything that may not be there that you would like to see.  For now enjoy the Christmas season and the New Year and thanks for your patronage.

Regards
Carol

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Very Sad World Today

Today I was going to sit down and write about how my training has been going, how the camp in Bright was and how I feel like things are back on track.  But then I woke to the news that there was yet another shooting in the United States, in another school, with more deaths and my training, camp and being back on track really don't seem to matter.

In the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, a town of about 2000 people, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, which caters to grades Kindergarten to grade 4, so 5-10 year olds, the morning became one of sheer horror.  I can't imagine what the parents of every student in that school went through when they heard that there was trouble at the school.  What we do know now is that 20 children have lost their lives along with 7 adults.  This is such a sad, horrible incident no matter when it happens, but at this time of year when children are looking forward to the holidays and excited about seeing the fat man in a red suit, it seems to make it even worse!

As adults we all know that life is short, but how many of us ever live life to the fullest.  We are always saying "I'll take care of it tomorrow" or "Tomorrow I'll call my...mom, dad, sister, brother, friend".  These children who have been taken from the world way to early had their whole lives to live for, growing up, graduation, university, work, falling in love, becoming parents themselves and raising their own children.  The adults who were killed  had lots of living to do, most of them being teachers who devoted their lives to the children.

A lot of people want to jump up and down today about the gun law's in the States and no doubt there will be lots of arguments and debates in the coming days.  But today we should just take a moment to mourn the loss of 27 people who all had so much to live for.  We should also learn a huge lesson from today, go home and hug your kids, tell those that you love exactly that, "you love them" and realise that life really is short so it's time to live like it matters and experience the fullness of what life really feels like.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Motivation vs. Commitment

I've been finding it hard to find motivation lately.  I seem to target a date to really get back into the swing of things training wise and then something invariably comes up and gets in the way.  Then I seem to find something to spur me on and then again the motivation is gone.

I subscribe to a motivational speaker's website Craig Harper and the other day received an email, one like I regularly get from him, but this one really hit home.  It was titled "Motivation is Not the Answer", so I read on with great interest!  These following lines certainly made me think " Motivation (on its own) rarely leads to any kind of lasting positive transformation.  Commitment, on the other hand, is a non-negotiable mindset.  It's absolute.  It's a force.  Unwavering. Constant. Powerful. Unlike motivation, it's not a day to day proposition; it's your default setting.  It's not a 'sometimes' emotion but rather, an 'all-the-time' habit.  Committed people make things happen, even in the absence of motivation."

This made me realize that I was looking at my training all wrong.  I started thinking back to last October when I decided that I wanted to get fitter and stronger, it was commitment that kept me going.  So it has made me think about what I need to do now that the new year is approaching.  I am currently in country Victoria in the beautiful town of Bright on a cycling camp with my coach and the Kelly Cycle Coaching group.  I have used this as a starting point for concentrating on my next goal, winning the World Cycling Championships in August 2013.  So I have decided that I am not going to focus on motivation but commitment and I have started that process as of yesterday's ride!

My training partner Hannah and I were told to go for a ride between 3-4 hours, just to start building our endurance, so it was decided that we would ride to the town of Beechworth and back.  There was a method in our madness and that was the famous Beechworth Bakery with all its lovely sandwiches, cakes, pastries and coffee!  About 10 km from Beechworth we hit the biggest bloody hill that I have tackled in a while!  It took almost 40 minutes to ride just over 5km due to the 12-14% grade of hill!  I must say that there were definitely a few times that I kept thinking "this is nuts" and wanting to turn around.  But then that word 'commitment' kept popping into my head, so I kept going.  The reward for this was a lovely lunch at the bakery and then the massive downhill ride back to Bright! 

All in all it was the longest ride I have ever accomplished, 118km for the day.  We backed that ride up with a ride today of 65km and I honestly believe that I am well and truly back on track with my training.  We have a week here of beautiful rides with amazing scenery to go along with them and I am looking forward to the commitment of getting ready to attain my next goal.  So thanks to Craig Harper for his wise words of wisdom, I know that my motivation of attaining the status of "World Champion" is in my heart but without the commitment to the training needed, I will never be able to attain this goal.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life Has Been Busy

Although I am now back in full training my social life has certainly not stopped.  It has amazed me at what I have been asked to do and attend.  I know that my last post was about life after the games and I really did think that it would slow down.  In saying that I have been very honoured to have been asked to take part in some functions that have been amazing!  The problem is that I don't own a lot of good dressy party clothes and for the functions I was invited to I definitely need them!

I did have my friends Deb and Vic visiting and we had headed down to Queenscliff and I love shopping there as I always tend to find something.  This trip was no different, Deb and I headed out and I found a beautiful dress that could be worn for 'Black Tie' (dressed up) or just as a party dress (dressed down).  But the fact that there were a number of functions I figured I needed more than just the one dress, so it was a call for help that I put out to my friend Kirsty!  I went "shopping" in her closet and came home with a number of dresses and a hat!

Melbourne Cup
The hat was needed for the Melbourne Cup.  This, for those not Australian is a horse race.  It is probably the only place in the world where we have a public holiday for a horse race.  Well I was invited to 'Cup Day', so this was the first day that I needed an outfit...Kirsty to the rescue!  I would probably never even try on what Kirsty made me try on and it looked good!  Then she said I needed a hat..I don't do hats, but I was made to put it on and it actually looked quite good, in fact I felt very glamorous that day!



Paralympian Of the Year Awards

On the 8th of November I headed up to Sydney for the Paralympian of the Year Awards.  It was a fantastic night to catch up with all my teammates from London, with everyone dressed up, it was interesting to see people without their training gear on!  I had a great time catching up with the cyclists and to make the night even more special our head coach Peter Day was named as Coach of the Year!

It was a wonderful night with a number of our cyclists nominated for awards.  Simone Kennedy for Junior Paralympian of the Year, Felicity Johnson for Female Paralympian of the Year and Kieran Modra won the Presidents Medal which just shows how strong our cycling team was at these Paralympic Games.


National Welcome Home Day
The next day all of the Paralympians were asked to attend a National Welcome Home Parade at the iconic Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.  What an amazing backdrop.  There were a number of school children in attendance with a small amount of Sydneysiders at the Opera House.  It was wonderful to have the kids there as I think that they were the most affected by the Paralympics!  For this we were wearing our team jeans, polo shirt and green/gold shoes. However I had also been invited to have lunch with HRH the Dutchess of Cornwall (aka Camilla) at Government House which happens to be just behind the Opera House.  I couldn't show up in my jeans and polo shirt so I had to do a quick change in the toilets into dress pants, blouse and jacket!  I really was starting to feel like 'Superwoman' changing in a phone booth!

I did make it to lunch with Camilla and thought I would be with a cast of hundreds, but I wasn't!  There were about 30 women there, 3 other paralympians (all swimmers) and the 4 of us had a great chat with her about London, Brands Hatch where I raced and then she held my medal and pictures were taken.  (Unfortunately I am still trying to track down the photo!)


Cyclist of the Year Awards
 It was then time for the Cycling Australia's Cyclist of the Year Awards.  I was honoured to be nominated for Female Paracyclist of the Year along with Sue Powell, Felicity Johnson and Stephanie Morton.  This was a black tie affair which the dress I bought was going to be used at.  It was a spectacular night with good food and company!  Felicity and Stephanie won the award which I was really happy about.  They are a tandem pair and have been undefeated this year with World Records and a Paralympic Record, so they were well deserving of the award.
I came home on Saturday, the following day, to have a well earned rest, although that didn't last long as I was back training on Sunday.


Starry Starry Night Gala Ball
 The past week has just been as busy as I spoke to a school my girlfriends daughter goes to, to a 150 children in years 5-6, did a rowing race in an 8 in the Melbourne Head Regatta, then was invited to be the celebrity host of a table at the Alannah and Madelaine Foundation's Starry Starry Night Gala Ball, then then next morning did a 75km Charity Ride for the Hanover Connecteast Ride for Home. 

My life upon coming home has been an amazing journey, one that I have enthusiastically embraced because of the positive opportunities they have offered!  I have also been lucky to have a very supportive husband and some amazing friends who have travelled some of this journey with me.  As it is now coming up to the holiday season I am sure that the social life won't stop any time soon, but I will be picking up the training intensity over the next couple of weeks leading into a camp the first week of December with my coach.  At least that week I know there will be only one thing on my mind...riding!




Friday, October 19, 2012

Life After the Games

It has been 5 weeks since I landed at home from the most amazing experience of my life, the 2012 London Paralympic Games and what a whirl wind of a 5 weeks it has been!

I have finally taken the next few days off as I literally haven't stopped since arriving home.  Don't get me wrong, it has been absolutely amazing, but I have been pulled from pillar to post with people wanting me to speak at school's, lunches, dinners and functions that I never thought I would ever be at and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.  But I also been trying to train as well and the two don't really go hand in hand.  However as they say 'strike when the iron is hot because it won't last forever! 'I have actually been so busy that I have had to get myself a manager because I really have a hard time saying no!   I have been able to say no a few times just because it has been impossible to be in a number of different places at the same time.

I have been able to "go back to my roots" in sport, doing a number of swim sessions and actually getting back in my single scull and go out for a row.  That has been fantastic.  The thing I am finding the hardest to is accept all the accolades of what I have accomplished.  I know it is something that very few people ever achieve but I guess it has been a goal of mine for so long that I don't realise how significant it is for others.

It has been amazing to me how one gold medal brings so much happiness to people who are given the opportunity to hold or wear it.  That is the one thing I think has been really important...to share it around.  Even more important to me is interacting with children at the local schools I have gone to. They are amazing with the intelligent questions they ask and the way their faces light up when they get to hold the medal is priceless.  They are our future and if I can make one child believe in themselves and chase their dream then I have really accomplished something! 

These London Paralympic Games have been a major turning point I believe for those in our community who may live with a disability.  The athletes who have competed have shown the world that they are 'able' and much more 'able' than most people.  I just really hope that we can carry this ideal through to everyday normal life especially in the workforce.  However time will tell if this can be accomplished.

I am however disappointed on one front and that is with the Victorian State Government and the City of Melbourne.  I have had so many people ask me why the Victorian Paralympic athletes haven't had a welcome home parade/gathering and I have found out through sources that the two bodies couldn't get together on 1. a date and 2. didn't want to close a road!  We were invited to one of the prelim AFL final games but even Channel 7 didn't televise it.  We have been invited to a 2 hour meet and greet with the politicians but to me the really important people who have supported us are missing out...the public.  The people I don't even know who sent me Telstra Hero messages, the kids I got letters from and other people who Tweeted or Facebooked me messages, what about letting them share in the excitement?  The Victorian Olympic athletes had a huge welcome home at Fed Square with what I understand were hundreds of people there to meet them. 

So has anything really changed?  If we can't even have parity in celebrating our success then how do we ever hope to have parity in everyday life or business.  I certainly don't know what the answer is, but I think we as a community should continue to try and chip away at those road blocks and let our elected politicians know that we won't stand for it.

As for me I will continue to "strike while the iron is hot", train for some local competition and aim to win that World Champion jersey next year!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Journey Home

I've decided that it pays to win a gold medal!  All gold medal winners were treated to Business Class seats all the way from London to Sydney.  It has totally ruined me for flying Economy again so I have to figure out how to make lots of money to always fly Business Class or find a generous sugar daddy! (sorry Russ :-) )

The Australian Paralympic Committee chartered a flight for the entire team.  Just about 400 people, athletes, coaches and staff, so logistically you would think it would be a nightmare.  Getting all that luggage and people from the Paralympic Village, to the airport and making sure that all of it was tagged properly to all the individuals home states.  But I must say I have never been involved in something so big that ran so well!  We were all given times to check our luggage at the village, have it loaded on to a van, have ourselves booked on a bus and then go through the process again once we got to the airport.

And even wearing Qantas PJ's
 The Qantas staff were amazing and so friendly.  And being in Business Class we were treated like royalty!  I think the best part was being able to lie flat and sleep.  The first leg was London to Bangkok, a 10 hour flight and it was the fastest 10 hour flight I have ever been on!  I slept for about 6 hours of it and the rest of the time was taken up eating or watching the entertainment system.  We stopped in Bangkok for a refuel and a change of staff and then it was back up in the sky and head for Sydney and I got another 4-5 hours sleep. We were told there was quite the reception waiting for us in Sydney.

Waiting media

Upon our touch down in Sydney we were greeted with a water cannon welcome by the fire brigade and the gold medallists were asked to exit the plane first, wearing our medals.  At this point we were greeted by Acting Prime Misister Wayne Swan, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, a number of other politicians, Greg Hartung the President of the APC and a number of photographers and tv cameras!  We then headed through Immigration and through the baggage area where we then waited for the rest of the team to assemble.  We were then ushered through a door to waiting media and families with music blaring.  The amount of cameras was amazing and the families and friends waiting for the athletes were cheering and clapping.  All around the walls of the room we were in, were large blown up photos of some of the athletes and a number of tv screens that were showing video footage.  There was a short ceremony hosted by Stephani Brantz and a number of speeches, then more photos and interviews of athletes.

I, along with a number of others left the room to make our way over to another terminal to catch our next flight.  I couldn't wait to get home, I wanted to share my experiences with Russ and all my family and friends.

Upon my arrival in Melbourne my coach, Helen, was there to greet me.  It was great giving her a big hug, showing her my medal and thanking her for being my coach.  Arriving home was even better when I was able to hug my husband!  Boy I certainly missed that!  It was fantastic being home and I have organized a number of social gatherings of friends from different areas of my life in order to celebrate with thme and than them for their support throughout my campaign.  Without their support this dream would have never been fulfilled.

So where to from here?  The World Championships are in Canada next year and I missed out on that World Championship win last year, so I will be out to get that title. 

Then who knows...I've never been to Rio!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Journey Comes to a Close

This amazing experience is coming to an end and what an experience it has been!

There are so many things I would like to tell readers about but I don't think I would be able to do some of them justice.  How do you truly explain the hype and vibe of over 4000 incredibly talented athletes in one village speaking every language you can imagine in the world.  Or of having athletes from nations who are at war with each other actually being on the same sporting ground competing or sitting in the dining hall just meters away from each other without nary a bullet being fired?  I've seen people, with disabilities so severe that not that many years ago would have been locked away and forgotten, up on a podium receiving medals with smiles on their faces brighter than the sun!

How do I explain the feeling of thumping that goes through your entire body while walking into the athletics stadium for the closing ceremonies, when you hear 90,000 people cheering...incredible!  It is all too fantastic for words.  I hope that when I am home to just put a blog together with photos, maybe that will help, but it wont do  the sights or sounds justice.

I think that the one thing that has stood out here is that every athlete whether a podium finisher or not, was happy to be here and share in the joy of knowing that they had done their best to make through these doors.  Yes we all want to be winners but that didn't stop those who didn't win a medal from approaching those that did and congratulating them.  I am sure that there are those that were disappointed at their results but the only tears I saw were tears of joy and that was so refreshing!

I have made some incredible friends here over the last week or so and bonded with teammates and staff, a bond that will last a lifetime.  I have been able to share this experience with family, my mom Phyllis, my sister Cindy and my aunt Marjorie and that has been priceless!  It has been an experience I will take to my grave and who knows maybe even experience it again in Rio!

My sister gave me a card that said "Behind very success is effort...Behind every effort is passion...Behind every passion is someone with the courage to try".  I hope that others who have followed my journey will use these words.  

Thank you London for a truly remarkable experience!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Paralympic Road Race

My Paralympic campaign has come to an end with todays Road Race my last event.  I knew that this was going to be a tough ask to medal as riding against the men without factoring (handicapping) was difficult.  In saying that I was confident going into the race as I absolutely love this course.  It really did suit me and I was really looking forward to racing on it for one last time.

We couldn't have asked for better weather, with not a cloud in the sky and the temperature hovering around 23 for the start.  Today at least I didn't have to wait all day to race as my race was at 10:32 in the morning.  There were 18 trike riders starting and I was lucky enough to be called up to the line early and was able to get a start position right at the front and beside David Stone of GB.  He and I had the best start of everyone probably because no one else really heard the starter as he was standing right beside me!  The two of us took off and we were around the first corner along with Hans-Peter Durst of GER first.  I settled in behind the two of them as we left the Brands Hatch grounds and down the first hill I let two other riders in front of me.  So I was sitting right on the tails of the top 5 male trike rides.

The first downhill finishes at a 100 degree right hand turn, which trikes don't go around very well!  I didn't want to get caught up if the men had problems so hung back a bit.  You go from over 50km/hr down the hill to about 20km/hr so the trike doesn't tip over!  Then you are straight into a climb after the corner.  I held on to the guys for about half the hill and then they got away from me.  I thought I may be able to catch up with them at the next downhill but unfortunately that wasn't to be.

Almost at the end of the 1st lap three other riders caught me so I rode with them for a little while, then they too got away from me.  On my last lap, the last long climb, I passed the Columbian who looked to have mechanical problems and my goal then was to stay in front of the approaching female tandem riders (they had started two minutes before us) as it is really scary trying to navigate corners with tandem bikes flying by you.  I knew they were approaching the circuit inside Brands Hatch because I could hear the helicopter that was filming them very close.

In the end I did stay in front of them and rode down the finishing straight with a HUGE crowd screaming and banging on the side boards!  The noise was amazing and really did spur you on!  I felt like I was flying down that home straight and when I crossed the finish line I was 6:05 minutes behind David Stone of GB, who won.  I was the first woman to cross the line 9 minutes ahead of the 2nd woman.  So I was extremely pleased.

I am just hoping that with more and more women coming on board that the next Paralympic games the women don't have to race the men.  With factoring in place it makes it even, but without it, like today, there is no way a woman will medal.  Kudos however to the medal winners, they all deserved to be there, they had amazing rides!

Tomorrow is the Closing Ceremonies which I am really looking forward to. It will be a celebration of the effort, passion and courage we have all witnessed over the last couple of weeks.  I for one will be honoured to walk amongst all of those amazing athletes!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fronting The Media

Today I was taken over to the ABC's studios which are located in a HUGE massive building the size of two football fields.  This is the same building that housed all the media from around the world for the Olympics. I was escorted by the Australian Media staff to do a live stint on ABC2's evening show.  The panel is hosted by Stephanie Brantz (known as the walking sports encyclopedia) with her side kicks being comedians Lawrence Mooney, Sam Pang and Adam Zwar.

I was taken through enormous security (actually there is enormous security everywhere) to makeup.  For those who know me I don't wear a lot of makeup but it is always nice to have a professional pamper you with makeup and hair.

I was warned that the guys would try to be funny and that they had a lot of background information about me.  To say I had fun is an understatement! I think I gave back as good as they threw!  But in all seriousness they were fantastic and asked about my crash in August and then even showed footage of me racing down one of the biggest hills on the course.  I had never seen this so it was amazing watching me tackle the hill!

Towards the end Stephanie told me to look straight down at the camera and send a message to Russ.  She could have warned me as it took me off guard and my brain ran at 1000miles an hour to think of what to say.  In the end I just waved, said "hi honey, I'm heading out to get one more tomorrow", then gave him the thumbs up.  Sounds kind of dorky right? Well it was!

When I left the studio and grabbed my stuff, my mobile went nuts with text messages and the first one was from Russ, telling me that I had made him cry!  And I thought I was dorky!

It was a lot of fun and my first dealings with the media as a Gold Medallist!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Paralympic Time Trial

The last 24 hours of my life have been surreal!
Just over 14 years ago when I was told I had MS and that my life was over as I knew it, who would have thought that the doctor was right!  After yesterday, my life as I knew was over all those years ago, because a new life with new opportunities was about to begin.  As I have said before I would never change my diagnosis because it has made me who I am today.

And today I can call myself a Paralympic Gold Medallist!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I could feel so overwhelmed, excited and proud all in one moment.  My race went exactly as I had planned it, right from the time I woke up, to getting on the bus to Brands Hatch, to my warm up, then my race time.  There were no hiccups at all.  I was starting 6th last with the faster riders behind me.  As I had to race the men as well (this Time Trial was factored, in other words handicapped) I knew that I had to pass some of the riders in front of me but also stay in front of GB Rider David Stone for as long as possible.  All riders start 60 seconds apart and I knew that if I was only 90 seconds slower then the fastest man then I would win this race.

At the start of the race I managed to pass 3 riders within a very short time and just kept thinking about how much I believed in my ability and myself, but also repeating in my head "stay in front of David, stay in front of David".  Where I expected him to catch me didn't eventuate which was fantastic and spurred me on, then out of no where he caught me but not that far from the finish.  I had two hills to conquer and not let him get too far away from me.  Down the finishing straight the noise was incredible with people cheering and pounding on the side boards and all of a sudden it was over. I knew I had given it my all as I had nothing left in the tank.  Now it was a waiting game.  I had no idea what time David had done and there were still riders to come in and good riders, the Italian, American, French and German, all of who could pip me at the post.

I retreated to our garage and proceeded to do my warm down, with members of our team coming up to say they thought I had won.  To be honest I didn't want to believe any of them until the official results were up.  When I was finally told the results were final I had won the Gold, I still didn't believe until a GB staff member came straight through our garage, held out his hand and said to me " absolutely amazing ride, congratulations", when he walked away I burst into tears!  There were hugs all round from the team who had supported me 100%, Peter D, Tom S, Muz L, Peter G, Anouska , Jenni, everyone!  I was able to call Russ my husband and Helen my coach back in Oz (although it was around 3am, I didn't care!) and tell them the good news.  I don't think either of them were able to get back to sleep!

The presentation seems like a dream!  I met up with the other medal winners Han-Peter Durst (GER) who had won Silver and David Stone (GB) who won Bronze and we all hugged one another.  That is the good thing about Paralympic athletes we were happy for one another.  The three of us are also friends through social media and keep in touch, so it was great that the three of us were standing there.  When it was time to stand behind our podium places I must say I was shaking, but I'm not sure if it was because it was very cold or the nerves had set in, probably a bit of both.  But I must say that it is the most unreal feeling hearing your name and moving forward to receive that medal.  My family was only about 10m away and to be able to share this with them was fantastic!  When the anthem played I sang every word, I figured if I didn't I would cry!

After the presentation I was able to head over to my family and of course that is when the tears started on both sides of the fence I might add. But what a wonderful feeling!

Coming back to the village was amazing as everyone already knew the result and the hugs and congratulations has been never ending.  Being a part of social media has also been overwhelming with hundreds of Facebook messages, tons of Twitter messages (even one from Adam Gilchrist,  that blew me away!) and this morning 65 emails, as well as Telstra Hero Messages!  I have read every one of the messages, responded to all the emails, but have been hard pressed to answer all the other messages, other than the Hero Messages from school kids...those have definitely been answered!  So to those I haven't responded to apologies. Your support has been greatly appreciated.

I now have the Road Race on Saturday, it will be tough to medal as this race is not factored, so it is strictly first across the line.  The men are much stronger over the longer distances, but hell anything can happen!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brands Hatch Training Day

Today we headed out on buses to Brands Hatch where our Time Trial and Road Race will be held.  Now for those of you who don't know, Brands Hatch is  a well known motor racing circuit.  Not one piece of flat road, it either goes up or comes down with a lot of technical corners!  And I LOVE IT!

We were lucky enough to have ridden it back in June after the European tour we did and since then I have been able to view and "ride" the course via video.  That has been the most valuable piece of training along with what is called a computrainer which has the course and the gradients in it.  I honestly now think that the computrainer is harder than the actual course!

Although my Time Trial race is only one lap (8km), I did 3 laps today working on different aspects of the road.  I absolutely loved riding the course today and although there were a number of trike riders on the course I was able to effortlessly ride by them.  Now that could mean a couple of things, 1. They weren't really trying hard, 2. They were doing exactly the same as me or 3. I've gotten much faster!  I would like to think it is the latter!

It has been a long day, but I am really looking forward to racing in 2 days and to be honest I am quietly confident.  I read a great quote the other day from an unknown  author and I think this will be my new mantra:
"Believe in your dreams and they may come true; believe in yourself and they will come true."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Goodbye France, Hello London

While on the road to Bordeaux for our flight to London I penned a few thoughts.  I don't think I can even explain the emotions and feelings in my own head! Excited, nervous, apprehension, fear, confident, happy, humble, inspired...the list could go on!  But one thing I do know is I can't wait to meet up with the rest of the team.  Seems like it has taken forever but on the other hand I'm scared it will be all over so fast!

I'm about to experience something that very few people in the world will ever get to do, experience my lifelong dream and I am humbled by it.

When we arrived at Gatwick airport we were treated like celebrities!  We had a number of official greeters who met us at the plane, took us directly to immigration where even staff were yelling "Go Aussie's", then to the luggage pick up where they got our bags and we even had a woman with her young son come to us and ask for a photo, then out to waiting LOCOG cars.  Each of us had our own vehicle and driver, to take us to the Paralympic Village!  Frieda was my driver, a lovely 64 year old woman who was an Opera singer and even gave a rendition of a song!

Upon our arrival at the village the security was amazing and we eventually got through that and our accreditation process and were then escorted to the Australian main office known as "The Red Centre".  Here we were welcomed as the "last" of the Aussie athletes to arrive and as we were being given our keys the rest of the cycling team came into the foyer.  It was fantastic to finally be with everyone else and there were hugs and kisses all around!  Luckily for us we had arrived just as everyone was heading to dinner, so after dropping off our bags off we went to the Food Hall.

Now what can I say about the Food Hall that hasn't already been said...absolutely amazing.  If you don't know what you want to eat before you walk in it will take you 30 minutes to decide as there is everything imaginable!  Finding a seat if there are more than 4 of you can also be a challenge!  But the Cycling contingent of Aussies have stacked out a claim so at least we know where to find everyone!  So after a good feed it was back to the room to unpack and make my room home for the next 10 days, then hit the sack after a very long day.

Today, the first full day of this amazing journey and I really wanted to experience the sights and sounds of the crowds so headed to the velodrome to see the last day of track racing.  With my accreditation I was able to go right into the pits.  For someone who hasn't really seen a lot of track racing I was standing there in awe.  In fact I was quite overwhelmed by the crowd.  Not just that there were about 6000 in the audience, but the noise that they made!  Yes they were mostly there to cheer for the GB riders but not matter who was out racing the crowd would cheer just as loud.  I don't think I could actually say anything for about an hour, it was just incredible!  God knows how the riders actually focus with the noise.

The rest of my day was spent in appointments with our Physio Anouska, our Recovery specialist Jo, changing clothing sizes, training (yes I did some of that too!) and preparing for tomorrow.  The course we are racing on at Brands Hatch will be open for the first time and we are all heading out there for training.  So it is off to bed for me!

In one last note the Australian team have been doing amazing!  We are currently sitting in 3rd place overall with 14 Gold Medals, how cool is that!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Let The Games Begin!

Today is the Opening Ceremonies of the London Paralympic Games for 2012!  Although I won't be there, hopefully I will be watching them on French television.  It is so exciting to think that 3 days from now I will be in the Paralympic village!

I also get to see my family from Canada, mom, sister and aunt who are coming to watch, again...exciting!

But before I start writing about the next chapter of this experience I want to say a few thank you's.  Cycling Australia and more so our head coach Peter Day saw that it was important that the 3 wheel riders have somewhere good to train in the lead up.  Not to be stuck in the village with no where to go!  It was his fore thinking that has led us to France, the terrain being very similar to Brands Hatch where we will be racing.  No other nation has accommodated their 3 wheel riders like this so we are very lucky.  We have also been removed from all the hoopla and distractions that go with being in the village and been able to just concentrate on the job at hand.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart to Peter and Cycling Australia who have funded this.

Thank you also goes to Jenni Banks the hand cycle coach who found this amazing house to stay in, way back in June and has organized every aspect of our time here.  Without her organizational skills it wouldn't have been as smooth sailing as it has been.

Thanks to Dan Brent, our bike mechanic here in France. Not only has he worked on our cycles but has been a great person to ride with every day.  Most days I train by myself so it has been brilliant having someone around!

Also thanks to Alan Downes, the team massage therapist who Peter Day kindly let come to France for two weeks to treat us.  I haven't made mention, but on the 5th of August I had a nasty crash, coming off the trike at 40km/hr over the handle bars (not a great thing to do...it hurts!). I was very lucky not to have broken anything, but was severely battered and bruised, and if it wasn't for Alan's daily treatments I certainly wouldn't be riding like I am!  I am more than healed and raring to race!

Last but not least, thanks to Nigel and Stuart my teammates, it has been a blast these last few weeks.  I really think we are all ready to take on the world!

Look out London, the last of the Aussies are on their way!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rest Day

Yesterday I had the day off from training so decided to explore St. Jean de Luz.  Not sure if it happens every weekend but the streets blocked off and a band was playing in the rotund with literally hundreds of people standing around listening. There were restaurants all around the square filled to the brim and what to me was a real French look, artists interspersed all around actually painting some really good stuff!

It was a beautiful day, a lovely 25, slight breeze, blue skies with white fluffy clouds, days like this I could handle every day!

I stopped and listened to the music for a little while then made my way through the crowds up some of the side streets out towards their version of a boardwalk.  It was up above the beach and the beach was full of sun worshipper's, people swimming in the ocean and lots of kids activities on the beach.  Feeling a bit peckish I stopped at a small hole in the wall and ordered a freshly made panini and a bottle of water, then sat watching the crowds as I ate my lunch.  I love people watching!  A lot of families getting in their last bit of holiday before the kids go back to school, older couples walking hand in hand and tourists from every nation speaking in their own language.

Of course no trip to the beach would be complete without a Glacé or ice cream as we know it! I figured I would just ride it off today!

I then walked through the little streets trying to partake of some retail therapy.  It's always the way, if you want to buy something you can never find anything!  I had just about given up hope when I saw the perfect shop and after trying on a few things walked out with a beautiful top.  The shops were starting to close up for either siesta or the day (I'm not quite sure), so figured it was time to indulge in a bit of siesta myself, so put in a call to Dan for a ride home.

After a short rest it was then a decision what to do with the rest of the day!  Funny when you are soused to a schedule then all of a sudden you have a day to yourself it becomes a huge decision!

Jenni, Dan and I decided to pay a visit to the Chateau D'Urtibie, which was just down the road.  This was built as a fortified castle in 1341 and still belongs to the same family.  It was originally built as a structure to guard the road to Spain and was commissioned by the English King at the time.  It has been added on to over the years and is a beautiful structure.  Even the chapel located on the grounds which was built in the 17th century is still used for mass, when the elder brother of the owner, who is a priest, comes to visit.  We joined in a tour, which was held in French, but we were given an English translation of the information.  The paintings and tapestries which adorned the walls were from every century, even including photos from now.

It was a really good day and took my mind off of my task at hand for a day.  But it was back on the trike today.  It is only two days until the Opening Ceremonies and although we won't be there we will certainly be watching!  And it is getting exciting!  But my mind is still on the training that I still have to do.  There is certainly no complacency because I know that my competitors will still be giving it their all?

Living with intention, discipline and focus is not hard at all, because it is a way of reminding yourself of the ultimate prize!

Friday, August 24, 2012

First week of Staging Camp

First week of Staging Camp

Well we have well and truly been on our staging camp now for a week in France and have become part of the local community.  We have found some great training ride areas and also our local coffee shop where we stop everyday after our ride for a cuppa!  We have even bought lottery tickets in the hopes of winning the "Big One"!  But unfortunately so far all we have won is $7 euro and that was on  Dan's ticket which he bought for $10 euro!  But I guess you have to be in it to win it.

We have all found houses on our rides which in our dreams we would like to purchase, renovate and live in6 months of the year!  Yup, in my dreams!

But seriously my training has really been coming together.  I have had some great effort pieces and done some great hill climbing, all which will certainly help with the Brands Hatch course.

I think that one of the most important things I have learnt here is to expect the best out of myself each and every training ride, to accept what comes on those rides, learn from the outcomes and then repeat the next day!  I certainly have been living a very blessed existence while here in France as my days have just been about the final outcome.  So I get up, eat breakfast, go for a ride, jump in the pool, have lunch, have an hour and a half massage (yes every day!), have a rest, eat dinner then head to bed!  Not a hard life to get used to!  I know it won't last forever but I a very appreciative that I am being given the opportunity to be at my best for my races and ultimately fulfill my dream!

There is a great quote from Ralph Marsden " Keep expecting the very best, and keep working toward it, especially when circumstances tell you otherwise. Keep expecting the best, no matter what, and you will make it happen."

13 days until my ultimate dream comes true and I give it my very best!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Staging Camp

We arrived at London's Hethrow Airport at 5:10 am and were met by Alan our masseuse with a van.  He took all our gear and Dan, our mechanic and they headed off, driving to meet up with us in France.  We (Jenni, Nigel and myself) then had a car waiting to take us to Gatwick airport to catch our next flight to Bordeaux.  We were a tad bit early and had a 4 hour wait for our Easy Jet flight.

Upon arrival in Bordeaux Jenni had a rental car ordered and we then had a 2 hour drive south to where we are staying in Urrugne, which is only 2km from St. Jean De Luz, which is located right on the ocean in the Payes Basque area in the bottom of the Pyrenees.  It isn't far from where we stayed in June Witt eh while team before the World Cup.  So it kind of feels like home, especially because we know how to get everywhere.

It was a very long trip and I think I travelled for a total of 44 hours, from the time I left home till the time we walKed in the door here, with 5 hours of sleep. So needless to say I was a tad bit tired.  But we had a few things to do when we arrived, like shop for some food for the next days breakfast and then go get ourselves something to eat before sleep.  I think we ended up getting to bed at about 11:30 pm!  But what a great sleep, 10 hours through and felt great the following morning.  Alan and Dan arrived about 1pm with our gear and it was time to put the trike together.

We have now been here 3 full days and had some great training rides.  I have been going out on the road with Dan, which is great to have someone with you.  I'm sure that he has never ridden so slow but I'm enjoying his company.  The weather has been unbelievable, with the temperature today hitting 37 so far!  Needless to say we went out for our ride at 9am this morning!

We are expecting Stuart to arrive tomorrow, the last member of our small group.  It will be great to catch up with him and hear about all his experiences in Europe over the last month or so.

Life certainly isn't very tough right now, get up, eat breakfast, head out for a ride, shower, massage, lunch, pool, stretch, dinner then bed!  What a life!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Journey Begins


As I was packing everything into my suitcase, trike bag and backpack it still seems surreal that I am about to fulfill a life long dream and when I say lifelong I mean it! As I have said in earlier posts this dream has been the culmination of 35 years, through 2 countries and over 3 sports!  So you can understand why it seems surreal.  But it really is happening.


I am writing this post sitting on my Qantas flight #9 on my way to London via Singapore where I will meet up with Nigel (hand cyclist) and Jenni (coach) (Dan our mechanic is on board with me). We will then fly to France from London for 19 days of a training camp before we head back to London and the games village.  I decided to pay for an upgrade to Premium Economy and if I could have afforded Business Class I would have done it.  What a great decision I made.  Larger seat and literally 1 metre of leg room, with only two of us in a row of 3 seats! (Mind you those beds in Business Class look good!). But this adventure is too important not to travel in comfort, I need to be able to get off this plane and be able to train right away.  It is 3 weeks and 2 days to my race and I want to be in the best possible shape ever getting off a long haul flight.

I am so excited I think I could fly this plane myself!  I just want to get over there, if I could wiggle my nose like 'Bewitched' and be there now, I would!  But the one thing I am conscious of is being overwhelmed by the experience.  Yes I want to take it all in, but I also want to be able to race at my best.

Before all the excitement builds I just wanted to say "Thank You" to all those people who have supported me and been there through the good times and the bad! 

My husband Russell who has been my biggest supporter, cooking amazing food, looking after the house and doing the odd massage when required, I couldn't do it without you.

The Victorian Institute of Sport - who for the last 5 years have backed me in my quest to make this dream come true, through my rowing and subsequently my cycling, Crooksy in the gym, Dani in nutrition, Arnaud and Jim in massage, the entire physio and medical departments and finally Nerissa and Paul in the athletes admin area.  Without all of you this wouldn't be possible.

To my coaches Helen and Bob Kelly, you two are amazing and have taken me from a really raw rider to one who knows a little more now!  I still have lots to learn! But you have given me the guidance I have needed.

Cycling Australia - Peter D, Tom, Muz, Anouska, Peter G and little Tom, you have all guided me from start to finish and believed in my ability to get me to where I am now.

MS Australia for supporting me through my rowing career by providing me with a boat and support in the way of friendship (sorry I'm not rowing at the games! :-))

Sponsors - Chris Peters and Jim Morey, CBD Cycles and Xxxxxx, your support has been greatly appreciated.

My family, mom and dad, Cindy, Lea, Chris and extended family, in Canada and Australia, who I am sure worry about my health and am I doing too much! Being so far away is hard for them! 

And last but not least my friends who have had to put up with my training regime, missing out on celebrations, parties or even just every day things because I am either away or training. Thank you Margo, Rosie, Naomi, Heather, Clare, Deidre, Jacqui, Judy, Kirsty, Jenn, Mischa, Carolyn, Lynne, Flick, Annie, Jus, Tina, Emma, Carley and a host of others, your friendship and support means more than you will ever know!

I am more than ready for this challenge and I will give it my all!  I recently received a beautiful bracelet from my friend Jus and inscribed on it is:

" IF YOU CAN DREAM IT....you can achieve it". 
I am about to prove it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Excitement Builds

With one week to go before I head overseas and only 23 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympics the excitement of what is about to transpire has been building!  I think that the fact that I have been watching so much of the Olympic games has made it all that more close.

My training has been going very well, I am trying to stay focused but relaxed.  I have been relaxed so that I can enjoy the hard training and I have been able to give it my best. I have been training on Kew Blvd. which is very similar to Brands Hatch and I feel that I have made large gains, especially in the hill climbing area!  Even my testing in the lab has gone extremely well and I am hitting targets I never dreamed of.  I actually now realize how great it feels to be calm and able to relax into a powerful, authentic focus.

I had a wonderful moment last week when I was asked if I could attend the Coburg West Primary School for their own "Olympic Opening Ceremonies".  The school has 500 children who were divided into 26 different countries.  Each group put together flags, country signs and costumes of their country and walked out onto their school yard to music from that country.  The parents were there to cheer them on and the kids cheered, waved, made noise, blew whistles and enjoyed themselves like any true athletes would walking into an opening ceremony.  They even had their own torch relay where 2 children from each class where chosen to carry the torch half a lap of their track, with the school captains the final torch bearers.  They ran a quarter of the track to where I was with my trike and I followed them in my Aussie gear around the track for a lap!  It was a fantastic feeling having those 500 children cheering and clapping as we passed by them.  A cauldren was then lit and I was asked to say a few words.

As I won't actually be at the opening ceremonies in London I felt like I had my very own private opening and I told them that!  I also told them that it was very exciting to be representing Australia and that if I won a medal that was just icing on the cake.  It was more important that I give it my best shot and that even if I didn't come home with a medal, I would know I did everything in my power to do my best.

I think the way the media has been protraying our Olympic athletes has been abismal!  As far as I am concerned not one of our athletes has not gone and done their best!  I don't believe that winning silver and bronze is a bad thing!  It is amazing how many young children now believe that it is bad to not win!

True success is being able to live with the knowledge that you have given your all in whatever you attempt.  I think that athletes have to stop striving to impress others and do those things that will genuinely impress themselves.  They have to live true to their own highest standards because they are the only thing that matter, to know that you have performed to the best of your own ability, win or lose!

Within a week I will begin the adventure of a lifetime and I intend to push enthusiastically forward every chance I get and to fully live this adventure!










Monday, July 16, 2012

44 Days and Counting!

Wow it is hard to believe that the Paralympics start in just 44 days!  It has really started to hit home to me that I really am part of the Australian team heading over there.

After getting home from our European campaign I was invited to the Prime Ministers Olympic Dinner.  What a night!  Very star studded and at times I had to pinch myself to actually make myself believe that I was really there. 
It didn't matter what table you looked at there was an amazing athlete or star.  I had the chance to meet up with hero's of mine like Dawn Fraser, the Australian Swimming Legend!

The night was incredible and one that I certainly will never forget.  We were all given a gift box when we left with a beautiful gold embossed plate and crystal glass, which I can honestly say now has a place of pride on the mantel.

As I write this blog it is 4 weeks today before I head back overseas.  Which really isn't far away and I know it will fly by!

After having the chance to ride the course that we will be racing on at Brands Hatch just outside of London I realized that the best place for me to train would be Kew Blvd., in Melbourne.  It is very much like the course at Brands Hatch.  I am learning to love the hills, to relax and let the fears of climbing dissolve.  I have decided to focus on what is good, what is right and to look forward to my races with the best outcome that I can envision.

I believe that now so close to racing in the biggest event of my life, it is important to let my attitude be based on my most positive vision and not what may or may not happen.  I took that attitude with me this past weekend racing a Time Trial at Port Phillip Island.  A car race circuit just like Brands Hatch but certainly not as hilly.  The one thing the course did have was wind!  But I looked at it like a hill, learning to love it!  And more importantly I came away happy with how I had raced!

I'm looking forward to the next 4 weeks of training and building on what I have done over the last 8 months!  Then it is on to France for a few weeks of staging camp with the hand cyclists, then into the village!

The quote I will take with me over the next two months is by Ralph Marsden "You can choose your future by what you do with what you have right now."


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brands Hatch - Road Course

Today we all headed out to Brands Hatch, the racing track. It is being used for both the Time Trial and the Road Race in September. They have incorporated not only the track but public roads around it and even built a new piece of road to attach the two.

As we drove on to the course I was sitting in the car thinking...Oh My God! The size of the hills and the camber of the road including a number of tough corners was amazing! There is no bit of flat road and to be honest driving it I was getting really worried about how I was going to ride this on a trike.

We made our way to the pits where each country had been given a garage to set up in. We weren't allowed on the course until 2pm and we had a number of things to do to set up. We were supposed to all be given cameras attached to our bikes/trikes/hand cycles but when our first rider Stuart Tripp went out with the camera on his hand cycle he was stopped by the marshalls and told he couldn't go out on the circuit with a camera. Once this was established by our head coach to be true ideas changed and we were all to be followed on a "hot lap" to video us from the vehicle, as well as having our Garman computers, the data which will be overlayed on the video.

It was then time to head out to warm up. I headed out to the start area and headed onto the course. The start immediately goes uphill and turns to the left. The first downhill ends at a 90 degree turn with an immediate climb, with another downhill into a long slight incline of about 5%. The course then turns back on to the race course where it twists and turns again downhill and uphill. At one point I hit 59.6 km/hr and then came back into the pit area. I found that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and headed out to do another lap to make sure I was completely familiar with the corners and gearing I would need.

I was the last one to do my "hot lap" and I was doing it at about 75-80% effort. At one point I hit 67.6 km/hr, which for me is the fastest I have ever gone. I was really please with this lap and think that I will really like this course when I have to race it at 100%. I have realized that there are a few things to work on, but I am looking forward to it.

After we were all finished, it was time to pull the trike apart, pack it and load it in the truck. We head back to Australia tomorrow night, so we have a whole day of waiting around. We may take the tube from the airport and head into the city to kill some time.

I am ready to head home, but really excited about the next couple of months. We are in the final preparation stages and it is important to remain focused. It is at this point in time that some people become complacent! But you have to find true delight in the challenges of the final training phase. At this point we are all in the same place and the athlete who will succeed will be the one who gives 120% for the next couple of months.

So long London, see you in September!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Goodbye Spain, Hello London

This morning the Australian group split in two and went different directions. Most were heading to Barcelona to head home, but 7 riders and two coaches Peter and Jenni, headed to Madrid where we caught a flight to Gatwick airport in London.

Our mechanic Peter and one of the other coaches, Tom, had left Spain the night before driving all our bikes, trikes and hand cycles along with our luggage to London. We were off to do some testing and filming of the course we will race on in September.

The course is located in Brands Hatch, which car racing fans will know as a racing circuit. But they have incorporated some local roads with the race course and built a new road to attach the two. The total course is 8km in length. Tomorrow along with about 20 other countries the course will be open to Paracyclists in order that we can ride it and at which time cameras and GPS will be installed on our bikes/trikes/hand cycles so that we can use the data and video back at home in order to train. Amazing stuff really!

I must say though that I am really tired with the last 2 weeks really taking it out of me, so I am looking forward to a restful night tonight! It is really exciting though to think that tomorrow I will be riding on the Paralympic course, it is making this journey all so real! I may be tired but I take a moment every day to remind myself that this is what I have dreamed of for years and that I will continue the effort, continue to persist and by doing this will delight in the outstanding rewards that it will bring!

Day 3 - World Cup Road Race, Segovia

I didn't have time to write this blog yesterday after my race as the day and night got away from me.

The day dawned a brilliant beautiful blue sky with not a cloud. But I knew it was going to be a hot one. I was racing at 1pm so it was important for me to employ some strategies to combat the heat if I could. My MS doesn't do well in the heat so I wanted to try and stay as cool as I could before the race.

I went for a warm up ride and about 15 minutes into it got stung by a bee! It hit me square in the upper chest and boy did it hurt! That was where the warm up finished. I went right back to our staging area and got some ice to put on it. The start was about 20 minutes away so by the time of the start the sting had gone out of the area. I made sure my head was completely soaked before I put my helmet on, put ice in the back pockets of my jersey and at the start line staff members were keeping my arms and legs wet.

All the trikes started out together with David Stone (GB) and Hans-Peter Durst (GER)taking control at the front of the group. I went with them along with a Columbian rider and Marie Eve (CAN), with the rest of the field stretched behind us. The pace was fast and furious on the first lap with an average of 38km/hr, at the first corner I was 3rd wheel behind David Stone when there was a huge bang and he hit his breaks fast and hard, I had to swerve to miss him, his seat had come off! I jumped in behind Hans-Peter and we kept going.

We hit the downhill going 49km/hr, but then we hit the hill! I made sure that I was in front going around the corner to the hill as the road was fairly narrow and all cobblestone! The hill almost killed me! We were down to 16km/hr and I got passed on the hill by GER,COL,CAN then near the half way mark Jarrad Langmead from Australia and a French rider passed me.

We were then back on the flats for lap 2 and I thought I would be able to catch Jarrad and FRA. Marie Eve had been dropped from the front two riders and Jarrad and FRA caught her so trying to get back on their wheels was my main goal. Unfortunately at the next corner the heat hit me, it was so hot! I think I put more of my water over me than in me!

I was unable to bridge the gap and when I hit the hill for the second time I was absolutely spent, the heat had robbed me of feeling in my hands and feet. It was all I had to get up that damn hill. But once I did and crossed the line I had Australian support who helped me to our staging area plying me with water, a nice cold wet towel and a bag of ice! It didn't take me long to recover and it was time for the medal presentation. I had won silver and to be honest I was extremely happy with how I raced. I couldn't have given anything more and that was all I asked of myself. It was an end to a great European tour winning 3 of the 5 races I had entered with seconds in the other 2 races and beating the current World Champion in those races!

Bring on London!

The Australians had another very good day:
Sue Powell -1st WC4,
Michael Gallagher - 2nd MC5,
Carol Cooke - 2nd WT2,
Simone Kennedy - 2nd WC3,
Jarrad Langmead - 3rd MT2,
Alex Green - 3rd WC4,
Claire McLean - 5th WC5,
David Nicolas - 10th MC3

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 2 World Cup - Segovia

Today all the single bikes and the trikes had the day off and to be honest...thank god! My legs were absolutely stuffed after yesterday and I was certainly happy not to be racing today. Unfortunately for the tandems and the hand cycles there was no rest as they headed off to Castillo de Cueller (Castle of Cuellar).

The rest of us went out for a leisurely recovery ride all varying in times. I came back and had our masseuse Alan, give my legs a rub, then a shower and a cold as I could stand bath! After that I felt pretty good but tired. We really didn't do anything today...thank god for the Internet!

We did watch the results of the Rowing World Cup in Munich where our compatriots, Erik Horrie won the final of the Arms/Shoulders M1x and Kathryn Ross and Gavin Bellis won the final of the Trunk & Arms 2x! So a great weekend for Australia's Paralympic Athletes.

Tomorrow I race the Road Race and it will be tough. We race at 1pm, hottest time of the day and we have a 750m climb up cobble stones, so it will be interesting.

Australia results today:
Nigel Barley - 4th MH3 (even after dropping his chain),
Stuart Tripp -8th MH4,
Brandie O'Connor/Kerry Knowler -14th WB,
Alex Welsh -16th MH2,
Bryce Lindores/Mark Jamieson - 19th MB,
Harley Quinlan - 20th MH2

Saturday, June 16, 2012

World Cup - Time Trial

Today was one of those days that I have dreamt about, but today my dreams came true. It was the Time Trial today and 2 of the top Trike male riders were in attendance. It was important for me to race well against them even though here they are awarding categories separately. Come September in London I will be racing the men for one set of medals and although the race will be factored (handicapped) I still wanted to be as close to them in raw time as possible.

Today we saw the temperature reach 37 degrees! Not great for someone with MS who is heat intolerant, but luckily I didn't start until 7:13 pm so the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 26 degrees. The wind however did not go away, but shifted slightly! We rode into an amazing headwind with a bit of crosswind thrown in for good measure, but on the way home had an amazing tailwind!

I was the 2nd female to leave, one minute behind the French girl and a minute ahead of Marie Eve! the Canadian. Most people would realize that I came 2nd to Marie Eve at the World Champs last year, so I really wants to have a good showing here. I put everything I had into the headwind section because I knew this was where it would be won or lost and I tried to not worry about what gear I was in but to make sure my cadence stayed high so that I didn't fatigue my legs. But when I turned into the tailwind, I put the gears as high as I could (keeping the same cadence) and hammered home!

I was completely spent at the end, couldn't really talk other than to whisper that I needed water and a cold wet towel, then continued with a warm down. I still had no idea where I had placed. The only thing I knew was that I had caught and passed the French girl about 1km into the race but had no idea where Marie Eve was. To my utter surprise I had WON and not just won but had smashed it beating her by 1 minute 20 seconds and beat the 3rd place male by 20 seconds! So that put me 3rd overall! This has certainly boosted my confidence for London.

The Australians had a very successful day today:
Michael Gallagher - 1st MC5
Sue Powell - 1st WC4,
Nigel Barley -1st MH3,
Carol Cooke (Me) - 1st WT2,
Alexandra Green - 2nd WC4,
Simone Kennedy - 2nd WC3,
Claire McLean - 3rd WC5,
Stuart Tripp - 4th MH4,
Ryan Hughes - 6th MC4,
Jarrad Langmead - 6th MT2,
Bryce Lindores/Mark Jamieson - 10th MB,
Brandie O'Connor/Kerry Knowler - 11th WB,
Alex Welsh - 15th MH2,
Harley Quinlan - 21st MH2

Friday, June 15, 2012

Segovia, A World Heritage Site

With my training on the Time Trial course finished yesterday I decided that it was time to explore. Once racing starts on Friday there will be no time for exploring at all, I will be all business then.

I was able to hitch a ride with coach Paul and the tandem guys Bryce and Jamo into town and I grabbed a bite of lunch with them and then it was into the tourist bureau for me. Armed with an information book and a map of the city I headed off. As I stated in an earlier post I love history. Wish I loved it as a kid because then I might know a bit more!

The other day driving back to Segovia it was a brilliant site, very romantic and something out of ancient times. With the town bordered by a stone wall, the cathedral standing out amongst the other buildings it's steeples reaching to the clouds and the castle behind it almost as if still protecting it, you can almost feel like you have gone back in time. Segovia has a very long history, the magnificent Aqueduct was built when it was part of the Roman Empire. Historians believe the city was abandoned after the Islamic invasion and was repopulated starting in the late 11th century. It is such an amazing place that in 1985, UNESCO included the Old City of Segovia and its Aqueduct in the World Heritage list.

I made my way through some of the small winding streets constantly moving up towards the cathedral. The cathedral is on the edge of the "Plaza Mayor" (main plaza). This area reminded me a lot of Venice with numerous restaurants around the plaza. I continued past the cathedral looking for the the Alcazar (the castle) and the wall that surrounds the city. Almost immediately from out of a small narrow street I came upon this magnificent building.(I am told that Walt Disney designed his castle upon this one.) the deep moat and drawbridge to enter this fortress has existed since the time of the Celts.

I toured through the castle rooms which contained some magnificent original furniture, paintings and carpets, along with an Armoury housing an amazing collection of armaments dating from different times. I made my way down into the foundations of the building which are said to be medieval. Don't know if I would want to be in there during the night!

I then climbed the 152 steps to the top of the tower. What a magnificent view from the top! The tower was used as a state prison and believe me there would be no escaping from this! The number of photos I took will most likely come out alL looking the same but as I said the view was amazing and well worth the climb! Once back on terra firma I made my way along the wall to what was once known as the Jewish quarter and where views of the Jewish necropolis can be seen which lies on the other side of the Clamores Valley. I continued towards the back of the cathedral eventually coming around to the entrance.

The original Cathedral called Santa Maria was of Romanesque style. In 1521 during the Comuneros War, the old church was destroyed and construction of the Cathedral as we see it today was started in 1525 but wasn't consecrated until July 1768, so it took 247 years to build!

After having a look in the cathedral and taking photos which were not supposed to be taken, I headed to the nearest cafe to rest and indulge in a cappacino. It was here that I got the inspiration to call my sister. Had a great conversation with her finding out that she and my mom will be coming to London to watch me race! That was very exciting news!

I then had the urge to shop and bought some gifts to take home. Obviously I can't say what I bought or certain people reading this blog will know!

Then headed back down to the Aqueduct to sit and have a cold drink. I love watching people and what a great place to do it. A mixture of tourists and locals, but probably more tourists. The roundabout right at the Aqueduct is a hive of activity, not quite sure how cars don't hit each other, but move smoothly through it like a choreographed dance. I could hear many languages Spanish, French, Japanese and English just to name a few. There were families, lovers, friends, school groups, old, young and in between, all mixing in the same space almost unaware of each other. It is such a vibrant place.

I then met up with the rest of the team and walked back to the Plaza Mayor, we're we had a drink and then some dinner. It rounded up a fantastic day with some great food, a few good laughs and some wonderful company, my teammates. We have one more day of training in which we are going to look at the Road Race course and the the World Cup begins! I can't wait to race again, Time Trial on Friday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dreams Do Come True

Today was a momentous day in my life probably right up there with the other important dates in my life such as my birth, my wedding and my diagnosis!

Today it was officially announced that I had made the 2012 Australian Paralympic Team to compete in Cycling at the London Paralympics in September.

Now for those of you that don't know a lot about my history I started my sporting career as a swimmer in Canada at the age of 10 and by 15 was swimming at a national level. My goal was always the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Now whether I would have made it to them or not I would never find out because Canada along with the rest of most of the western world boycotted them...Politics got in the way! At this point I was 18 and back then you were basically washed up as a swimmer over the age of 20, so even though I kept swimming it was more because it was a part of me and the real world of becoming an adult in the working world took over. Then my life changing diagnosis of MS! But life can be funny sometimes. I would never go back and change that diagnosis because it had made me who I am and given me opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. One of those opportunities was to take up the sport of rowing with a view to representing Australia in Beijing at the 2008 Paralympics. Unfortunately our crew missed out on a spot by 0.8 of a second.

At that point I was 47 and figured that this dream of mine was definitely over. But I continued to row, taking it a day at a time which turned into a month at a time, the a year at a time. Then circumstances within the rowing community stopped our crew in its tracks, the powers that be weren't interested in supporting our crew, with that I turned to cycling. I had purchased a trike for cross training for my rowing and found that I was pretty good at riding. I was fortunate enough to be included in the Australian team for the World Championships last year with a hope to making the team for London this year.

I realized that if I wanted to make the team I had to go beyond merely being curious about how it would be to live my dream! I would have to commit completely in order to make it happen. I had to do more than just talk about what I wanted to do or what I planned to do. I had to actually be persistent and do those things that needed to be done. I always talk about when one door closes another one opens, but remember that it won't just open on its own, you actually have to look for it and jump through.

So finally after 32 years since that first goal disappeared and 40 years of training, through 2 countries and 3 sports, that goal I had as a 10 year old in Canada of representing my country on the biggest sporting stage in the world is coming true! So believe me if you have a goal or dream, give it the power of focused attention and committed, disciplined effort because only you can make it come true. I have a wonderful life full of fabulous and supportive family and friends have been with me every step of the way and I hope that they will share in this ultimate dream with me.

 Look out London I'm on my way and after 32 years nothing can stop me now!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Heading Back to Spain

What a short night that was! After getting home from the presentations in Urt I decided that I had better finish packing as we were leaving at 8am this morning to head back to Spain, destination Segovia.

This morning dawned very wet so I wasn't unhappy to head south hoping that we would find some sun.  What a convoy, 2 trucks full of bikes, trikes and hand cycles, with mechanics tools, bike bags and boxes and luggage for about 29 people, followed by 4 vehicles carrying the athletes!  We were told to expect at least 5 hours driving with approximately 3 stops on the way, so possibly a 7 hour trip.  Thank goodness I had downloaded a few books on my iPad!

As we have been driving I am in awe at the history in Spain and I am really looking forward to Segovia where I have been assured I can get my fill of it.  I can't wait to explore some of the old buildings in the area during some of my down time.

And as I am sitting in this van for the next few hours it has given me some time to reflect on this past weekend of racing.  I have been so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to race for Australia and to live up to my potential. I know I have set high standards for myself but with this racing experience I can focus on not only achieving those standards but maybe even exceeding them. The disappointment of not winning at the World Championships  last year have begun to fade away as I learn more and more about racing.  I have learnt a lot of lessons this past weekend by making rookie mistakes, but as long as I take those mistakes with me and turn them around I can look forward to success in the future.

Results for the Australians-Day 3 and Overall

Road Race:
Stuart Tripp 1st MH3/4,
Simone Kennedy 1st WC1,2 3 , 
Alex Green 1st WC4/5,
Carol Cooke 1st WT2,
Sue Powell 2nd WC4/5, 
Claire McLean 3rd WC4/5,
Jarrad Langmead 3rd MT2,
Nigel Barley 3rd MH3/4,
Alex Welsh 5th MH2,
Harley Quinlan 7th MH2,
David Nicolas 6th MC1,2,3,
Ryan Hughes DNF (another rider crashed into him - he is okay!)
Kerry Knowler & Brandie O'Connor 3rd WB,
Bryce Lindores & Mark Jamison DNF (pouring rain and as Bryce has been sick they were pulled from the race.)

General Classification (overall placing after 3 races - all times added up, top 3 places awarded):
Stuart Tripp - 1st MH4
Nigel Barley - 2nd MH3
Simone Kennedy - 1st WC3
Sue Powell - 1st WC4
Alex Green - 2nd WC4
 Claire McLean - 1st WC5
Carol Cooke - 2nd WT2
Jarrad Langmead - 2nd MT2
 Brandie O'Connor & Kerry Knowler - 3rd WB

Winners received a Cured Leg of Ham and prize money 2nd place received 2 bottles of wine and prize money 3rd place received 1 bottle of wine and prize money Needless to say we Australians will be eating a lot of ham in the coming week!

Day 3 of Racing - Road Race, Urt

I was really looking forward to this race today.  I think I gained a lot of confidence with my win yesterday even though it was really a short race.  When we got up the day was very overcast but very humid. The hand cycles and trikes headed out first as we were racing at 11am.  We got a great spot to set everything up, warmed up and then it was race time.

The hand cycles were first to head out on the course with the trikes last.  We had 3 laps to do of the course which totaled 29.1 km for our race.  I was very wary of the French guys because of the problems the first day of racing.  The Canadian Marie Eve led out and eventually I took the lead on the downhill.  There was one dodgy turn that I had a problem with each lap but at least I got around without too much of a problem.

We had been warned about the hill we had to climb, it was a sharp right hand turn directly into a climb.  It didn't seem too bad at first because it flattened out slightly then you had to climb again, it did this a couple of times.  One of the French guys took off up the climb so I chased him and caught him, trying to work with him, but no the French don't do that!  You would have thought I would have learnt from the first day.  The bunch ended up catching us but then we hit the downhill section again, now on our 2nd lap.  I tried to get anyone from the group to take the lead and got a curt "no" from everyone!  Talk about pissed off! 

We hit the hill again and I felt like I was spent and ended up dropping off the back of the group.  By the time we got to the top and starting on our 3rd lap I was about 150m off the back.  I didn't think I would be able to chase them down on my own. But then we hit the downhill and I figured I would try catching the here, I put the hammer down put my trike into the hardest gear possible, hit 62.1 km/hr and caught the group!  I stayed at the back trying to give myself time to recover and even stayed at the back, but in touch this time, up the hill. At the end of the lap there was a large blue blow up banner we had to turn left under and head about 1km to the finish.  We were told about this before we headed out. There were about 5 of us rounding the corner at the same time and it was at that moment I saw Marie Eve lean forward and breath out a big sigh and almost stop.  She thought she had finished, with that I decided that this would be the longest sprint ever and took off. 

I wanted to be far enough ahead that when she realized she wouldn't be able to catch me.  The French guys were in front and blocking my way and a few obscenities were yelled as the same one who tried to bump me Friday decided to try and bump me into the gutter, so I swung around him the other way and hammered by him crossing the line just behind the other Frenchman and I front of Marie Eve.  I didn't even look back to see where she was.  I was amazed that I had won!!!! I later saw her on her trike with her head on the handle bars and went over to ask her if she was okay.  She lifted her head and said "well done" and in broken English said she thought the finish was at the corner. 

One big lesson to learn, always know where the finish line is! 9 of us decided to go to the presentation evening which was to take place at 7pm back at the road race course.  This is a 40 minute trip from where we are staying, so we got there about 6:35pm. True to French time the awards didn't start until just after 8pm and took almost 2 hours to get through! We hadn't even had anything to eat, so as soon as we got our awards it was off to the local pizza shop for a bite to eat.  The Australians did very well and I will put the results separately as there are quite a few! Tomorrow we are off to Spain as the 2nd World Cup is next weekend. Au revoir France, hola Spain!