Friday, 31 December 2010

Meccano set!

Well, a meccano set arrived this morning and is in my hallway. I'm not quite sure how all the bits go together...but have emailed some friends who may be able to help me. Of course, it is New Year's Eve, so I'm not expecting anyone until next year...but I really, really want to go for a cycle on New Year's day as that will set the tone for the rest of the year perfectly!
Despite having labels all over the outside stating, 'Goods for disabled person, relief claimed' my handbike was kept at Stanstead when it arrived from the U.S. on Wednesday and FedEx phoned to say VAT was due. I'd made at least six phonecalls to various departments at HMRC before it was shipped and was assured that I would not need a declaration as the tariff code meant the handbike was definitely exempt. Perhaps those government cuts will mean more efficiency at HMRC...
I got hold of Ian at FedEx, downloaded an app on my iphone to scan the declaration form and emailed it to the three people he suggested. Bingo! Cleared within a day and a welcome knock on the door this morning. Now, where is my spanner set?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

First Triathlon booked!

Today I booked my daughter and I on our first Triathlon competition. We are competing at Woodhall Spa on May 29th 2011. It is Sprint distance and consists of:

400m swim in outdoor pool
24km cycle
5km run

The swim will not be in a wetsuit as it is a heated pool so I am worried about my legs dragging on the swim. This will slow me down considerably and use a lot more energy. Most triathlon swims are open water where I can use a wetsuit for buoyancy, which will be easier for me. I have to bind my legs together for the swim as this is a new rule for paratriathlon, but am not sure what to use yet.
I am itching to get training again, but have to wait until 5th January to see the Consultant and hopefully get the all clear. I cant believe that my five weeks of training before my op are now going to waste, but I know I can build up quite quickly again.

Novice Triathlon training

Lincoln Tri Club, British Triathlon and One Step Beyond are currently offering novice triathlon training once a month at Yarborough, in Lincoln.
I was able to take my borrowed racing chair to the first session and even practice 'transitions' from normal wheelchair to racing wheelchair, which I cut down from one minute to 41 seconds!!
All the able bodied athletes (AB's) had to run and jump on their bikes while still moving, so I have a distinct advantage. I am also allowed two helpers with me on race day to get me out of the water, into my handcycle and into the racing chair. Shame they can't do that last bit for me...
Unfortunately, due to major surgery on 24th November, I was not able to participate in the session last weekend at all, but went along by taxi to watch the others sweat over the turbo session Doug had in store for them. Boy was I glad to be sitting on the side lines for that one!
It looked tough.
On a bright note, I have found a second hand bike in America and have just managed to scrape the money together to buy it and have it shipped over. The kids and I may be eating bread and water for a few months, but I can't wait to get outside in the fresh air (or wind and rain) when it arrives in January. I will be able to start my training again and I hope I haven't lost too much fitness. I am also hopeful that an application for a racing chair from Aspire, a charity for people with sci, may be successful, so that I can order a chair that is suitable for me. Fingers crossed!

Training at Cleethorpes A.C.

I am very fortunate to have my son's sprint coach, Pete, to help me train at Cleethorpes track every Tuesday and Thursday, plus a beginners training session kindly given to me by Pete Wyman. There are two young athletes who are keen to participate in wheelchair racing and showing great potential for the sport and I am supervising the session at the moment. They both certainly keep me on my toes and whilst they may have speed, I am concentrating on endurance, as the race portion of paratriathlon comes after the swim and cycle.
I am trying to get funding for a roller to train with for speed and technique and will be sending off application in the new year. We need £900 to purchase one roller. Ouch! Luckily, the manager of the track, Maggie, has agreed a space where we might store and use the equipment and is also keen to help with coaching.
Unbelievably, this small group is the first wheelchair sport in the whole of Lincolnshire, which is shameful really. I'm hoping to set up a handcycling club too, so perhaps things will slowly improve for those with disabilities in our area.
I've also been in talks with staff at the Meridian Leisure Centre in Louth about starting up a Triathlon Club and a disability forum group which aims to make sporting opportunities more inclusive. They have kindly done a strength and conditioning programme for me focusing on key areas I need for all three sports.

More wheels!!

Early November I was sent some information about wheelchair clinics in Leeds by Rebecca at British Triathlon, so I duly booked on and Judith from Lincoln Tri Club kindly drove me there. The clinics are at John Charles Sports Centre which has both an indoor and outdoor track-what a luxury!
Run by UK Athletics and organised by Leeds Athletics Network and Leeds City Council, the sessions are three hours of track work plus using static rollers to improve technique. Everyone was very welcoming and I even got to chat to Hannah Cockcroft, a rising paralympic star in wheelchair racing.
The best bit of the day was being given a racing wheelchair and a pair of gloves ( these are £120 a pair!!) on loan until February next year. It was an interesting exercise getting it into Judith's car though.
The very next day, I was off to Sheffield's English Institute of Sport to be classified in wheelchair racing and be coached by Pete Wyman, Shelly Holdroyd's coach. Although I only got to sit in a racing chair for the last half hour, Pete from Cleethorpes A.C. and I picked up a lot of tips by listening and watching. I also came home with a T54 classification for wheelchair athletics and 'completely normal from the waist up' ringing in my ears! Thank goodness they didn't test my brain...

Lincoln Tri Club and wheels!!

I found a Triathlon club in Lincolnshire and much to my amazement, they even had a disability club mark and a coach, Judith, more than willing to help me out. She put me in touch with British Triathlon for the open day and has encouraged me since day one. We met at Cranwell for a swim session in late October where I was coached by Doug for the evening. I must have looked like a floundering idiot as some of the drills had me swinging onto my back as my lower trunk control is not good. I could see that I still had lots of improvement to make to improve my self taught technique.
By chance, there was an evening wheelchair coaching session at Cleethorpes Athletics Club the next day run by England Athletics, so I got my second chance to sit in a racing wheelchair after the open day at Loughborough. Only trouble was, the chair was about 11" and it was a pretty painful experience to squeeze my child bearing hips in for the night...The bruises didnt go for weeks. When I tried to get out, I ended up on my back with the chair above my head...
Next day, I visited Draft Wheelchairs and tried a Top End handcycle for the very first time. I fell in love there and then. What an amazing feeling cornering at speed was! Unfortunately, the price tag of £4,400 is prohibitive. We also discussed a racing chair, but they have to be custom built from scatch and cost £2,100. I left feeling demoralised and understanding why there were only three Tri1 female athletes in the World Championships in Budapest.


It may seem strange to some people that you have to 'classified' to compete in Paratriathlon, but the process is relatively pain free and means that you should be competing against others with similar functional ability or impairments. In theory, at least.
Paratriathlon is a new sport within the Paralympic movement and there are currently only six categories to squeeze everyone into:
I believe that in the future, there will be more subdivisions to each class, so that more people can compete and classification is fairer.
I attended an open day at Loughborough University in October 2010 for athletes interested in Paratriathlon and was able to be classified by Penny and Sam, who mulled over me for some time. I was completely honest and open, but left it up to them to decide. As a sci incomplete I sit in both camps, being a spastic paraplegic but also a wobbly walker who uses two sticks for balance and a lightweight wheelchair out and about.
The relief to finally be told where I stood as regards competing was immense! I could now think about doing a whole event, not just the swim as part of a team. But what I hadn't realised was the huge financial burden which was heading my way.

It started with swimming...

In an effort to keep fit after my spinal cord injury (SCI), I taught myself to swim again. I dutifully went twice a week, doing ten lengths doggy paddle, some breast stroke and a lot of trying to stay afloat. Pete, the lifeguard, would regularly scoff at my feeble efforts and tell me to do more before I got out. Someone introduced me to a pull buoy and I got a chance to try front crawl using just my arms. I built up by adding two lengths per session and within a year I was swimming three times a week and really reaping the benefits. My back was less stiff and painful, I lost some weight and I no longer suffered from depression.
A brand new Leisure Centre opened in February 2010 with lunch time lane swimming and I started building up my endurance so that I could swim a mile three times a week. The thing is, although I enjoyed my swimming, I needed a reason for doing it all, a purpose, aside from the health benefits. When Layla, a seasoned Triathlete, suggested that I should have a go at triathlon, I knew cycling and running were never going to happen. We thought about a team event and I'd heard about the Liverpool Triathlon through The Back-Up Trust as it was an inclusive event. A search on the net revealed One Step Beyond and tons of events in the Midlands! I also found Lincoln tri Club and my journey had begun...