Last weekend I had the privilege of attending and competing at the Australian National Para-Cycling Championships in Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast. Over the past two months I have teamed up with a vision impaired rider, Casey, in Melbourne and we have been busy training to head up to the comp.
Since these competitions are few & fair between, we had no illusions that we were fully fit and ready to race but if we didn’t go, it would be another 11 months until the next event. So we went in to the competition simply for the experience (something that took a bit for my competitive nature to adjust too).
We raced a 24km Time Trial in a torrential downpour on the Saturday but the skies cleared up on Sunday for our 62km Road Race, which consisted of 6 very undulating laps. Note: Tandem bikes are great for descending but not really made for climbing – ouch!
It was a long couple of days but we got through, all better for the experience and the insight into what we need to do and where we need to be at in order to be competitive next year.
However the biggest lesson I took out of the trip, is how truly amazing and determined some people are. I met a fellow female competitor, a lower limb amputee, who also happens to be a very accomplished doctor, who rides using only one leg. Now when I thought climbing up those hills with 2 people and 4 legs was tough, imagine only being able to use one. Amazing!
Another female competitor who suffers from spasms when her body starts to heat up or get put under stress, which started about ½ lap into her 3 lap race. Talk about determination to get to the finish.
Then there are the hand cyclists, some who literally were just concentrating on completing one revolution at a time to avoid rolling back down the hill on the steepest part of the course. Imagine their upper body strength.
I was able to talk candidly to a number of the competitors about their disabilities and how it affects their daily lives and ability to ride their bikes. The thing that struck me the most is that not one of them complained or suggested it was unfair. Each and every one of the competitors were inspirational and I can guarantee that they work just as hard as any able body competitor at the same level.
It is certainly an experience that I will take with me during future training sessions on or off the bike. Next time I am in the box and struggling to continue, I’ll just think of my fellow competitors and I’m sure I’ll suck it up and get on with it.
A few pictures from the weekend’s events –