I am sorry for those that actually follow this website and blog. I am a horrible blogger and probably should just hire someone, Haley you are the only person on my list as of right now. Haley is my sister who always seems to update the family on what is going on because I never remember to.
I left you last in Newport, Whales. Newport was amazing. Training in Newport was an amazing opportunity and I totally embraced it. I got to ride on the Velodrome there and the roads around the area. I even got face to face with the pavement in the local country side. Yes that means I fell over. I was one of a couple of people that were tangled up on a training ride, no fault to anyone, just bad luck. Everyone healed up just fine to go to compete at the Games.
The 2012 London Paralympic Games that is, started a week or so later. The Games in London were amazing. Those Games marked my 6th consecutive Paralympic Games going back to Salt Lake City in 2002. The opening ceremonies I heard were great. I only got to see a few minutes of the Ceremonies. The walk over to the stadium took almost 3 hours by the time each team was led in. We, a large chunk of the cycling athletes and other athletes, only did one lap around the track and then back to the dorms. I managed to hijack a wheelchair from a friend who did not go and also persuaded someone to push me. I am an athlete, which makes me slightly lazy.
After the opening Ceremonies was my first event, my least favorite, the 3km Pursuit. This race was a combination of three different but comparable disability categories. The three groups raced head to head in the event. Not ideal but at least it raises the bar on the type of effort needed to succeed. I will be 100% frank when I say I had a horrible first ride. I still managed to qualify for a second ride finishing 4th in the qualifier. I knew going into the second ride that all I could do was ride my ride no matter the result. The third place qualifier was almost 5 seconds ahead of me in the first round. Well I will just say that I did what I wanted to do and it worked out just fine. I rode my ride and accomplished what I wanted to do. The accomplishment and bull headed nature let me out ride my competitor, landing me in the Bronze medal. That Bronze medal was not my best overall performance but I stuck to my guns and won the first medal for Team USA at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
After the Pursuit I had the 500m. The 500m is my favorite event that I get to race on the track but still not my favorite. The 500m is just too short. By the time you finish you feel like 10 minutes later you could do it again at the same performance. I was ranked well from previous events and got to go towards the end. I knew that my personal best was a good for a result but I also knew that some of the other ladies have been training just for the 500m. The race was still a combination of the same three disabilities but this time there was a factor involved, sort of a handicap like what is used in golf. The better you are, or in this case the less of a disability, the smaller the help is. The worse you are, or more physically challenged, the larger the help. This factor allows different disabilities to race on an even playing field despite the disability. Back to the racing, after a very talented young lady from Australia set a new world record for her disability group I was just out to race for a personal best. I didn’t achieve that but I still raced to 4th place. I am completely happy with how the 500 turned out. No medal but big applause for the Australia who won a Bronze medal in a combined class.
After the 500m I had a day to relax and get ready for the road event out at Brands Hatch, an F1 driving course north of London proper. The team got to run the course for a couple of hours the two days prior to the Time Trial. I had a lot of fun. The course is the most challenging course that I have raced yet. The course has no straight sections, flat sections, or convenient areas to take in food or water. Big sweeping turning, sharp off camber turns and just not nice hills make this a perfect course for my style of riding. I figured that if I wanted to ride my best I needed to take advantage of my turning and descending skills that I have picked up from skiing.
For the race itself I did what I could. I knew that I couldn’t go out to hard but I didn’t want to not go to easy either. The course had a lot of areas where the line in which you rode could save you seconds. The truly only difficulty I had was the very first critical corner. I was descending fast and at the bottom of the hill there was a 90 degree off camber turn with a grate in the inside corner. Timing was key and carrying momentum back up the next hill was important. I pre-rode that corner at speed multiple times and knew what I needed to do. The only thing I did not account for was other people. I had preconceived that I would pass those in front of me but I didn’t realized how quickly I would do that. At the bottom of this hill was my worst fear. Not only were there two riders but the two cars that were following them. I had to negotiate the cars first which meant a lot of honking by the car following me and taking the more risky line. Good news I stayed up right and so did the others. After passing them I was set and ready to keep riding the way I know how to, hard up the hills and get as small as possible on the down. I took the lines that I saw were the fastest using my skiing knowledge and pedaled as much as possible. Once I did finish all I could do was wait. Several of the riders that I passed were in a different disability group and the same calculation method that was used for the 500m was used again for the Time Trial. It was just a matter of waiting to see if I beat them by enough time to declare the results. I won and with gusto. Not to boast myself but that was the one event that I wanted after winning Silver at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
After only a few short hours of rest I was racing the next day. My last and final event at the 2012 London Paralympic, the road race was the same course as the Time Trial just repeated the loop six times instead of twice, rounding up to 48 km or nearly 30 miles. I was ready for this event. The same disabilities that I had been racing against all week were again lumped together with no calculation system, just head to head racing. I have been racing with this group of riders for a while and I knew what to expect. I knew that it was going to be tough but didn’t realize how much more difficult the race was going to be on that course. When we finally finished there were on three riders together in the final kilometer and I had done everything I could to get there. I finish 3rd but only inches away from second. That finish was amazing and I could not have ridden my bike any further, faster, or harder.
Quick perspective, my first lap in the Time Trail on that course was 14 minutes, second lap was 14 minutes 15 seconds. The first lap in the road race was 14 minutes and 30 seconds and we only got faster after that. I was shocked after that first lap but I also know that they are pushing just as hard as I was and I knew that all I had to do was to continue to pedal.
After the road race I walked away with one Gold, two Bronze, and a fourth. Not bad I must say. In 2008 a couple of teammates and myself got a tattoo together, a cyclist with “1” and “4” in the wheels. The 14 representing the 14 medals the team won with only 12 athletes. On a personal note the “1” and “4” also meant first summer medal and fourth Paralympic medal. Well for the 2012 Paralympic Games the team earned 17 medals, which broken down again the “1” and “7” for me mean my first summer gold medal and my seventh Paralympic medal. Now it is just a manner of figuring out what the tattoo should look like 😉
After the Paralympic Games rest was needed but if anybody knows me knows that I am not good at rest. Preceding the Games I took two days to explore London and then flew straight to Reno, NV to watch my dad fly. After Reno I drove with a friend to Las Vegas for Interbike, the 2012 bike expo for all of the companies to show what they have coming out in 2013. After Vegas and money only lost on adult beverages we drove back to Colorado Springs. Four days later I had all of my personal things packed into boxes and loaded up into my dad’s trailer headed toward Oak Creek, CO, just south of Steamboat Springs, where I moved to. After five years in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs I was ready to move on and get ready for my next adventure, the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Once moved into Oak Creek, didn’t even spend the night, I was off to Rochester, NY to meet the fine folks at Adecco and by chance Chobani. I flew home just in time to fly to Nevis, an island in the West Indies. There is where I did nothing. Locked the passports, phones, and watches into the safe and sat on a beach drinking rum and cokes for five days. Regrettably we had to leave paradise and start another journey home. My journey home was not a straight shot but a drive from Orlando, FL to Marion, NC to pick up my friends life and then the two of us drove an eighteen foot box truck from Marion, NC to Oak Creek, CO where we finally had the majority of our stuff in one location. The only thing that was missing was our cars which we left back in Colorado Springs where we concluded our grand adventure. In one month I drove half the east coast, and coast to coast. My friend nearly finished the whole of the east coast.
Don’t worry, I am now well rested and ready to start all over again. I have already skied for two weeks and look forward to the upcoming skis season!