Hello consistent readers! Excuse the delay with this post, but there is much to update on. Currently I am in school and taking a class in Personal Relationships at UT here in Austin. It's good to be back on campus again since I took this past semester off for traveling and cycling. And boy, that semester went by quickly.
I know I've blogged on the trips I've done recently in Paris for a meningitis conference and a relay triathlon in La Jolla, CA. But It's been long over due, and I'm going to post about the rare experience I had in Guadalajara where I road in the Para Pan American Games. What an amazing experience. I was very new and definitely intimidated by everything, including the team - The US Paralympic Cycling Team. Who would of thought that in three years from when I got sick, I would be riding with this elite team?! Blows my mind. I never knew this would be in my life?
In early November the Paralympic Committee (I believe) sent my mother and I to LAX where I would go to Carson, CA to have my first practice at the velodromes with my team. When I first walked in, everything was very quiet since the arena gives an echo like affect. First off this place was huge! It's an indoor cycling track 250 meters long and on their turns can bank I think close to 48 degrees. With this steep turn, you must obtain a certain speed in order to maintain steady on the turn, or you can slip and fall. On a side note, I know that the US para cycling team are competing in LA this weekend to participate in the World's track event at the Home Depot Center. I am not competing because in order to go to World's, you must have been at the Nationals track competition, and since I wasn't there I do not compete in World's. Unfortunately, I will not be there this weekend either to support the teammates because I have an exam next week that I must make a good grade and there is much to read still. And on that note, I wish them luck this weekend. I know they really want to beat Canada and I hope they do. Good luck to them!
Back to the track practice. I had never done this before, nor have I seen what a velodrome looked like. But I loved it. Yes, scared at first but with the right speed, the turns are fun to do. The teammates were great to meet, and all had very interesting stories to share. Some are amputees like me, some are partially or close to being completely visually impaired, others may have MS, or others have recovered from a stroke. But all are BEASTS on the track. They are all insanely fast. I had no idea how I was going to catch up with these people. I thought, "Am I going to actually get that fast??" This was just the beginning. Each teammate varied on how long they've been on the team. Some whave been on since the late 90s and some have been on for just two years. But most, if not all, were at the Paralympics in Beijing. Some of my teammates are World Champions, and at practice, they are the ones that giving me advice and are helping me through my first track experience. Unbelievable and I am grateful. You can say, I'm learning from the best.
So to say the least, I had a blast and discovered that the track is my new love when it comes to cycling. You don't have to worry abut hills or bumps on the road or anything. Just go fast and turn left. Ha. Very fun and I can't wait to do it again.
And forgot to mention how much US cycling team"swag' I got. I loved it, and was slightly overwhelmed but couldn't complain. So much Nike gear, and amazing new cycling outfits with USA on it. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
Practice lasted only four days. When meeting my teammates, they had no idea that it was my first time on the track and they said I did really well and that I impressed them. I was relieved. But soon after, maybe just a short week after, I was being flown to Guadalajara for the Para Pan American Games. My first international competition! Very thrilling, exciting and I will remember it all forever. I even walked down with the US Team to celebrate the opening ceremonies! It was crazy! Soo many performances, and soo many athletes! Definitely a proud moment.
The Day after that we were doing the Time Trail on the Road, where I had to ride 24 miles in the middle of the city. The roads in Guadalajara aren't so smooth either. Thank goodness I brought my bike to Bicycle Sports Shop to give my Specialized Allez road bike, that was given to me as a sponsorship, for a checkup. Let me just add that this bike is and has been amazing to me. Such a great fit for me. She does well on the road and she really proved herself on the bumpy brick roads in Mexico. And thank goodness the service crew at BSS were able to sync my bike up to Dillo tires to secure them from dangerous terrain down there. Thanks people at Bicycle Sports Shop. You guys helped me out in my journey through the Para Pan American Games and I appreciate it!
Other than that, I did well on the road and I did great on the track. I competed in two different events on the track; the pursuit (12 laps = 3000 meters) and the sprint (2 laps = 500 meters). Not the fastest one out there, but definitely set my own personal record. I gotta say, it's crazy to think how this is just my 6th or 7th day on the track, and I'm in an international event - pretty cool. Then on the last day we had the road race(our fourth event), and I had to ride 24 miles. I can't believe I was able to experience something unique like this. Not many people can say they have did this, and now I can say that I have.
I can't wait to do it again and for now, that news/information is on standby. When it comes to going to the Paralympics in London this fall, it becomes very tricky. Basically there are only a certain amount of slots for the athlete, that each country and sport can compete for. And with each event (Pan American, World track, World Cup, etc.), the team competes in all the events to medal to earn more points, to get more slots for all the athletes. And in the end, they add the points and determine how many slots are given to each sports, and then the coach decides who goes by filling up the slots with different athletes. So since there are only a certain amount of slots, it will be difficult to say if I will be going. I am very new, and everyone else is not only more experienced than me but they are faster. But who knows, if there are enough points earned for the US cycling team to get more slots for London, then there is a possibility that I can go. I hope I can go. I would love to participate, and I will know after the last event (Road nationals this June in Augusta, GA, like last summer). It's important not only to get many points/slots, but I also must qualify under standard times at the National's Road competition in order to go to London for the Paralympics. So currently I am home taking very minimal credits so I dont fall behind in my training. I just signed up for a new gym and also taking on new coaches. Can't wait to get a new routine going and focus on my training. Can't wait to see what it's going to look like by the end of the semester but I hope to get my Time Trail time down when I am Augusta, GA competing in Nationals in June. For this may determine if I will be in the Paralympics this fall in London. Wish me luck.
On a side note. I am going to be signing up for different local rides here and around Austin. For example, on Feb 19th there's the Barely Hare Ride at 1 pm. It's a flat 24 mile course, and I'm ready and eager to get back on the road to race n' ride. I plan to do more rides and build up my endurance since I really want to do the Shiner GASP ride on Cinco de Mayo where I'll do 100 miles.
Thanks for reading and stay posted!