123 Days and Counting!
With only 123 days to go until the London 2012 Paralympic Games, I decided to start writing a blog to keep you all in the loop of how things are going and I hope you will all enjoy reading my monthly updates.
2012 has already been quite a year for me having made my international track debut at the Track World Championships in Los Angeles in February. Looking back at it, I have to say it was a very tough and emotional time for me, with my dad falling seriously ill before I went out to LA, and then unfortunately passing away the day before I raced in the final of the 3km Pursuit. I was very close to my dad and I know he wanted me to go to LA and bring back “that Gold” for him, as he knew just how much hard work I had put in over the last 18 months and just how much I wanted to become “World Champion”.
Going into LA, I had two main goals that my coach and I had set out for us to achieve: to win both the Kilo and 3km pursuit. I knew a few weeks before we flew to LA that I was in good shape for the 3km pursuit but really didn’t know if my mind was going to perform as well as my body, with my family issues getting progressively worse every week!
However, my performance in the pursuit went accordingly to plan and I know my coach was very happy with how I coped and performed on the day of the Pursuit. I was expecting to go quickly in Qualifications but never expected to catch and pass Michael Teuber (GER), the world record holder as quickly as I did. I guess this was an unexpected experience for me, which I felt I dealt with very calmly and professionally with, and kept pushing hard to gain a quick time to qualify for the final.
After qualifying, I did actually have a few small issues while trying to get to the 3km Pursuit final, such as another nation protesting against my disability, which I felt might happen due to my very fast improvement over the winter. But once my classification was confirmed as a C1 rider by the UCI, I was able to go into the final with my head held high and focused 100% on my job at hand – becoming a “World Champion”. And in the final, I did just that catching and passing Juan Jose Mendez Fernandez (ESP) after just 6 laps out of 12 to claim my first World Championship Gold medal and rainbow jersey!
The second task was to win the Kilo, but unfortunately I missed out on the sprint discipline by just 0.278 seconds. And whilst I was disappointed not to win Gold, considering that my training programme going into LA was mainly pursuit based, I was happy with a 4 second personal best time and coming away with a Gold and Silver medal from my first Track World Championships!
My dream of becoming a “World Champion” in Para-Cycling started 2 years ago, when I first started to cycle again after my near fatal paragliding accident. Having raced in Triathlon for a few years albeit as a hobby, I knew just how fit and fast I could become on the bike, it was just a matter of time and lots of hard work. So to now be able to say that I have achieved one of my goals makes me very proud of how far I have come – in such a short space of time.
The experience of racing for GB in a Track World Championships was like nothing else I have ever experienced in cycling. The adrenaline buzz that you get when that gun goes on the start line and then it’s just you, the track and the clock to decide who takes the win!
Moving forward into London, I know that if I want to achieve all my goals then I have to mix-up my training almost like a decathlete. I have to increase my sprint workload to help me with the Kilo race, plus, continue to become faster and stronger at the Pursuit, as this will help me with my speed for the Road Time Trial race. I enjoy the challenge of the different disciplines and having gained experience of two major world competitions, I now know how my body copes with racing “back to back” on the track and the road. This means I can adapt my training to cope with the demands of performing in a short space of time to win those Gold medals. Being a Podium Funded athlete since winning Gold in LA, I now get the chance to access the best sporting facilities there are for my Para- Cycling career, which will be absolutely essential moving forward and certainly for the preparations for the 2012 London Paralympics.
Currently I am in an endurance phase of my training block, to where by I train heavily every week on the road and also spend time in the gym doing strength work. My training is going very well after a mixture of road and time trial sessions in Mallorca last month, so I am really excited to see exactly how far I have come in one year since I joined the GB Para-Cycling Team in June 2011, when I start back on the track next month. Training in a warm weather climate for me is essential for my preparations and health. As a spinal injured athlete, I can’t naturally regulate my body temperature, which means that my body and muscles almost shut down in the cold weather. This has been a major factor in my training plan with my coach, and we plan to utilise the warm weather camps in Spain and Italy for our preparations for London.
Before London though, I will be riding in both Para-Cycling World Cup races in Italy in May and then Spain in June. I then move back onto the track and time trial phase full time, for my run up to the 2012 London Games in August/September.
Beside training, I will be promoting and talking at various private functions about Pedal Power in Cardiff, a charity which helps to encourage people of all ages onto the bike and for which I am an official Patron. Cycling is not only a healthy way to exercise but also a way of helping to build people’s confidence and social skills at the same time.
I am also planning to do more motivational talks and appearances to pass on my experiences and hopefully inspire people to greater and better things. I regularly visit various organisations and businesses to give motivational talks, but I also visit schools to help the children see what can be achieved in life even after having a life changing experience. I felt that after my accident 3 years ago I could maybe influence other people in my spare time to overcome adversity in a similar way that I did, plus, maybe even help others to find a passion in life, so they would not give up when times get hard.
So I hope that all the people who read this blog will be able to see what is achievable when you put your mind and body into something 100%. I was told a long time ago, that if you want your life to change, then you have to change! So don’t sit back and let the world pass you by, as “Winners never quit and quitters never win”!
Thank you for reading my blog and watch this space for the next one!