Hello…. Someone asked me why I always look so ridiculously happy on my bike (s). Riding my bike makes me tick, it sorts my head out, it brings me tranquillity and balance. It is where I find peace. I also have a dark side … I like to race.
And so began an adventure for everyone, four blind or visually impaired athletes, (VIs) a guide and two multi-purpose coach/guides.
Five days of a d-i-y coaching course at Club La Santa, Lanzarote, with eleven sessions on offer focusing on technique over the three sports, and the chance to do a couple of fitness tests along the way. Impairments ranged from totally blind athletes to those with almost enough sight to ride a bike solo. But the athletes react differently to different light conditions. One needs funnelled bright light and carries a torch, one has vision reduced even further in bright light. One reacts to flashing lights so spent a sleepless first night – the two tiny red lights on the fire alarm in the bedroom appeared as disco strobe lights to her. One of my first morning jobs was to perch on a stool and cover them with kinesiology tape. The other job was to talk to reception and ask the cleaners not to ‘tidy’ any belongings as the VIs struggle to find them again. Mental mapping, especially in a new place, takes a huge amount of energy and carries high anxiety levels. And at Club La Santa all accommodation looks identical wherever you are, even as a sighted person!
Day one – Swimming in an outdoor 50 metre pool for the first time for everyone was a great experience. One to one coaching was on tap and we had two swimmers per lane, only one crash and everyone received individual input on their own specific points for improvement. Productive session. Any more than two swimmers and the result is carnage. I still don’t know how visually impaired athletes know where the end is, this proved to be difficult due to the pool markings being a faint blue instead of a bold black strip. Bruised fingers and heads all round I guess.
I was inspired by a blog written by a team of 13 year old girls who completed ‘the Strathpuffer’ last year. This is a 24 hr mountain bike race in a forest in the North of Scotland, held in January. My rationale was that if they could do it so can women who are over 50. It will be fun, something different and a bit of a challenge. That was July, in the hottest summer for years.
January 2019 and I have a team of women, and a fear monkey. This is supposed to be a little bit of fun but my head as gone into overdrive and is hiding in a black hole somewhere. It quite often does this before races. Eating gets harder, my head is convinced I’m ill, it’s normally lying. It’s trying to protect me from myself. After a week of this I decided this is ridiculous and we sit down and have a big talk with each other.
What is the issue? There are several – as someone very close to me pointed out I am a lousy mountain biker, I hate being cold and get cold very easily and I can’t function without sleep. Ideal! And all of those mean I might let the team down and that isn’t OK, So how do I get out of this hole? Find the evidence to convince myself these problems aren’t problems….
Rotterdam, what a party, what a blast. Olympic Distance World Championship Triathlon, whooop whooo. I don’t know what it is about the sport. In the days before you complain about all the faff, organising, walking about, difficulty of transport etc. And then you race, and all that tension and pent up energy explodes. Amazing bike course, just screamingly good fun, adrenaline flood. A few weeks later I am still high and still can’t wait to do it again.