Since my last blog post, the road season has closed and I’ve changed to track cycling. I tried it for the first time only a few days before we were due to race in a track event. My pilot, Hannah, was already experienced, but only on a single bike, so we were both really excited to give track tandem riding a go!
I pretty much fell in love with it straight away and managed to quickly pick up what to do or not to do. For example, as I can’t see out front I get a bit dizzy, so I learned to fix my focus on Hannah’s back. Listening and being able to hear in track cycling is quite important as you need to hear the start beeps and when the coaches give you your lap times and split laps. Hannah and I are strong starters but we realised there was a slight delay between the two of our starts as I would watch her and move when she did. So it was (and still is) critical for me to listen to the countdown myself. With some practice I was soon nailing it and starting on time.
There are two events that we race in, which is the kilo and 3km individual pursuit. In the pursuit, which is 12 laps, one coach tells us how many laps there is to go, and a second coach tells us how long our lap was as we have to aim for a specific time per lap otherwise we might go too fast too soon or too slow. I have had issues with hearing them clearly at times because the aero helmets that we wear covers the microphone of the processors. Wearing the Cochlear™ Wireless Mini Mic is useful – the only issue is distance and static but we will play around with it some more. In the meantime we are looking at the helmet to see if we can adjust the inner shell. No matter the barrier, there is always a way to overcome them.
Anyway back to that first track event! Considering we had not trained specifically for track and with only a few hours of track riding under my belt, we did really well and I loved every moment of it. Half of it was due to knowing I was overcoming challenges not just as a para-athlete but by also having a hearing loss on top of it and being able to do well made me proud of myself.
I then decided to train for the upcoming track Nationals less than two months later with the goal of PBs with the same pilot. It is never easy training over summer when you go away visiting family, or on holiday for Christmas and New Year, but I was determined to get really good at track cycling so I lugged my bike home to my parents and kept up my training. I had a couple of days off while my family and I went camping with friends at the lake. It was relaxing. I even got to try out paddle boarding which was really fun! I don’t have the Cochlear™ Aqua+ accessory covers so I had to take off my processors, which was a little frustrating but the Aqua+ is on my wish list now!
In February, the track Nationals rolled around and Hannah and I competed in the kilo representing Wellington. We were nervous but we shaved two seconds off our previous time and achieved our goal of getting a PB which we’re stoked with. We were going to compete in the pursuit together as well but there was a last minute change so I rode with a different pilot – also named Hannah! We did really well in the pursuit with more PBs.
Fast forward to less than a month later, I’m now at a training camp as I will be part of the team going to track world champs in Italy next week with Hannah #2 as my pilot. The training is going well and I’m really looking forward to racing at a world class level. There are challenges I’m learning to overcome every day and I love every moment of it – remember there is no such word as ‘can’t’.