Part 1 – Tokyo Olympic Test Event
Unfortunately my plans were altered at the beginning of the trip due to a typhoon in Japan. I wasn’t able to travel to the Triathlon Australia training camp on the island of Miyokojima in the south of Japan.
Instead I left Newcastle a week later on the 26th August to fly straight to Tokyo to prepare for the Paralympic Test Event race.
With my race set for Saturday 31st August, it gave me a few days to continue acclimatizing via training and exploring the area of Ariake and Odaiba.
Friday we had the usual bike and swim familiarization before race briefing and bike/chair check-in. It was great to get the first look up close of the course we will be racing on in a year’s time at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Up super early on race day and onto the bus to take us to the race precinct. It was on the short bus trip that I learnt that our race would now be a duathlon (run, bike, run) and not a triathlon. The swim leg had been cancelled due to high levels of bacteria in the water.
In the lead up to the race there had been lots of talk about the water quality in Tokyo Bay but we’d be assured at the race briefing it was fine.
This was disappointing for me as I really needed the swim in order to get the result that I wanted. It’s wasn’t ideal for me to start and finish with my weakest leg. But I just had to get on with it and prepare for the adjusted event. I had to refocus and think that it’s just a benefit race to get to know the course that will be at the Paralympics.
I ended up with a 3dr place podium finish which was better than I expected with it being a duathlon. I was especially pleased to have the fastest bike leg split but I know I need to keep improving across all 3 disciplines if want to consistently beat the best in this very competitive women’s PTWC category.
To experience the course under race conditions was invaluable. I’m happy with how I handled the heat and humidity and look forward to racing that course again next year, hopefully not as a duathlon!
Part 2 – My World Tour Continues… World Championships!
Following the Paralympic Test Event in Tokyo the travel to Europe was pretty long, 2 flights, with a stopover at Abu Dhabi.
We touched down in Geneva early Sunday morning (18th Aug), then got transported to the Triathlon Australia pre-World Champs training base nearby in the French town of Divonne-les-Bains.
It’s a pretty spot nestled at the foot of the Jura Mountains with views across to the Alps, including Mont Blanc.
We settled in pretty well here making use of the local pool for swim training, plus surrounding paths and roads for bike and race chair training.
I recovered well after the Tokyo race and with 2 weeks before the World Champs race I was able to put in a solid week of training before easing off to freshen up before the big one.
On the Tuesday of race week, we made the short trip to Lausanne, back over the border in Switzerland. Here we were lucky enough to stay in the 5-star Hotel, the Royal Savoy.
World Champs is a massive week with multiple races taking place not just for Para-triathlon but the Elite Able-bodied races plus thousands of Age Group athletes taking part also.
The Bike course familiarization was a good chance to suss out the hilly and technical hand-cycle course. There is significantly more climbing and descending on this course compared to the other events on the calendar and as this suits my racing style I’m looking forward to ripping in on race day.
The Swim familiarization goes well also, testing out the course which takes place in the beautiful Lake Geneva, a big feature of this part of the world.
It’s time then to rest up and focus on the day to come. My race is a later than normal start, 2:31pm local time. This is both good and bad...good to have a bit more time to get organised, but also a challenge to wait so long to get underway.
There’s also a chance of rain later in the day which I’m hoping stays away.
With a couple of hours to go, I’m well underway with the pre-race process of bike/chair check-in, registration and warming up.
It’s great to have such a big crew of supporters over here, including my Mum.
It’s time to move over to the swim start. Still 30mins to go. The waiting is hard but luckily the time passes pretty quickly.
Pretty soon I’m in the water ready to go. This is it...time to rip in.
On your marks....’BEEP’. We’re off. I’m comfortable early on and settle into a good rhythm tucked in just behind Dutch athlete Margret Idjemma who generally always has a strong swim.
Things go really well in the swim and I come out only a few seconds behind Margret. The is the best swim I’ve ever had.
The push in the day chair to transition is unusually long, about 400m, with a few inclines just to keep the arms ticking over. I’m happy to reach the transition box where Robbo (Dave Robertson), my Handler helps me get changed over to the hand cycle as quick as possible. It goes swiftly and smoothly and I’m then out on the bike course ready to attack!
I really enjoyed the challenging bike course, warming into the climbs and attacking hard on the tight corners and downhills. My aim is to get the lead on the bike then extend it by as much as I can. This works perfectly, with the gap to 2nd getting out to over 4 minutes by the time I’m back in transition.
The job’s not done yet though. We have another super quick change in T2 and I’m out for the final leg, the run. In previous races I’ve been gunned down on the run but I’m determined for this not to happen today.
On the 3 lap run course I can get a good idea of where I am in the race, and how far away the chasers are. Still a good lead ahead over 2nd which is American Kendall Gretsch. I find myself passing some of the competitors in the Men’s PTWC race who started 1 minute before me. That’s a fair sign I’m having a good day.
I get to the final lap of the 5km run leg and having maintained my lead, I allow myself to start thinking about the significance of this result, and even begin celebrating a little.
Not there yet...take it easy on the last few turns. Finally, I pull into the finishing chute, onto the blue carpet. I can hear the cheers. I cross the line.... I’ve done it!
Almost 3 minutes back to 2nd place Kendall Gretsch (USA) and another 3 minutes back to 3rd place Christiane Reppe (GER).
Overwhelmed in that moment I can’t stop smiling. The race I had been working so hard towards, for over a year, had panned out perfectly on the day.
It’s a thrill to share the moment with friends and family shortly after.
The medal ceremony marks the final official duty of the day. An amazing feeling to be announced as ‘World Champion’...I think it will take a bit for that to sink in. As well as hear your national anthem played out in a foreign country, on a stage like that.
So that was that. World Champs 2019...job done!
Part 3 – Banyoles World Cup, Spain
Next, I’m lining up for the Para-triathlon World Cup event in Banyoles, Spain.
The next day (Monday) I left for a road to trip to Banyoles with Brad and some friends that came over from Australia to support me. But first, our road trip took us to Nice, France for a couple of nights. I was able to relax a little at the beach (drinking a couple of cocktails of celebration) and swimming in the Mediterranean…beautiful. The 70.3 Ironman was on next weekend here in Nice and I knew quite a few people that were here for it. I was able to catch up with a good friend Bob Babbitt for an interview on his breakfast show before leaving for the next part of our road trip.
We were on the road again and next stop was Montpelier for a night and then arriving in Banyoles, Spain on Thursday although we stayed in the town of Girona only 10km from Banyoles. Friday was bike and swim course familiarization in beautiful lake Banyoles.
Although, I had a week of celebration and not much training, I felt pretty good after going over the course for this Sunday’s race.
Race day was here once again but this time an early start of 9am.
The gun goes and we’re off. I felt a great in the swim and got a lead of over 1min. This time, Robbo wasn’t my handler as he went back to Australia after Worlds. Brad was my handler for this one and he was pretty nervous not to make mistakes. Although a much slower transition than with Robbo it was still great and I was out onto the bike, I didn’t have a great bike leg like I normally do. I pretty much just kept the lead that I had. The course wasn’t as hilly as World’s it was more on a flat to undulating country road. But I was out onto the 5km run leg which was a 3 lap course. Each lap I was being told how much I was ahead of 2nd place aussie, Emily Tapp. I was able to keep the distance and coming into the finish chute for another time in 1st place was a relief. I crossed the line and won the World Cup. Again, I was so happy that I could back up my win from World’s with another win in Banyoles.
So this was the new website I was designing before my accident specifically for my triathlon blogs and updates of races and my travels. I thought I would continue this website as a blog for my rehab because hopefully I can one day race in a triathlon again.
Just about my accident for those who don't know. I race as a professional triathlete and I was training for Ironman Australia at Port Macquarie. I was the fittest and strongest I'd ever been. I trained so hard because my year of racing in 2016 wasn't so good and I really wanted to succeed at this race and get a podium. I felt so ready and excited to see what I could do. I was also going for points for Kona. Kona, the Ironman World championship was my ultimate goal above anything else in life. I just wanted it so bad and my goal was to podium one day. Back to Ironman Australia, I had my friends and family booked in and they were all going to watch me for the very first time which made it even more special.
So I was 2.5 weeks out from Ironman Australia (which will be held on 7th May) and was Tuesday 18th April. I was going for my normal cycling session with my two main training buddies Brad and Dasher. We call ourselves The Good The Bad and The Ugly so we are very close. It was a session that included a 4 x15min hard efforts and 4x 10min hard efforts. About 1hr10min into an effort where I was riding at 45km/h, both my front and rear tyres exploded at the same time causing me to come off and go straight into the guard rail that runs along the side of the road. I hit it at 45km/h. Brad was right next to me when this happened. He came over to me lying on the ground and knew it was severe because my body was in a real bad position. He said he kept talking to me and I was replying but I don't remember anything. He waved down some cars. 2 cars stopped and they called the ambulance, Thank God one of the ladies in the car was a nurse. She held my neck as I lay on the ground waiting for the ambulance to arrive. This is the only part that I remember from. I don't remember anything before this. So I was lying on the ground in so much pain, I couldn't breathe and the lady who was holding my neck and brad were both there saying stay calm, stay calm. I kept saying I could not breathe (this was because I had a punctured lung) and I also kept saying I can't feel my legs, I can't feel my legs. The police arrived before the ambulance. They were searching the area with Brad trying to find what might have caused my tyres to explode. But there was absolutely nothing on the road and nothing in my tyres. It felt like it was taking so long for the ambulance to arrive but apparently they were quite quick. The Ambulance arrived and transferred me on the bed and straight into the ambulance. The police took Brad back to his car and Dasher rode back. The paramedic that took control and who was in the back of the ambulance looking after me was really nice and calming. I got to the hospital and first they did an x-ray of my back and chest. They found my back was broken T12 vertebrae and I had severe spinal cord damage, a punctured lung, broken ribs, fractured scapula and fractured pelvis. I had to go in for an operation straight away for them to put metal plates and screws in place of my broken vertebrae and straighten it up to protect my spinal cord from further damage. The operation had to be done within 6 hours of my accident so that the blood could flow though my spinal cord. I got it done within 4 hours of my accident. I came out of it and was in ICU at John Hunter Hospital. My back was so sore but they got me onto the morphine. I couldn't feel my legs. The day after the surgeon came to speak to me and this is when he told me the news. He said my spinal cord was severely damaged and I would have a 1% chance of ever walking again. I was paralyzed from my waist/navel right down to my toes. This made me angry, upset, confused. I was thinking why did this have to happen to me. It's the last thing I would have thought would happen. I'm such an active person. I trained 35 hours a week for triathlon because it was my life. Even if I wasn't a triathlete I would be getting up early and going for a run every morning to watch the sun rise and I'd be so active and healthy because thats who I am. I feel like I've lost everything about who I am. I've gone from being so active, fit and healthy to nothing.
I got so many beautiful visitors straight away to see how I was. I spent 3 days in ICU at Newcastle John Hunter Hospital before being flown by helicopter to Sydney Royal North Shore Hospital. I spent 5 days in ICU at RNSH then they took me up to the Spinal Ward which is where I am now. The first week in ICU i was so sick because they were pumping me with so many drugs. I couldn't eat anything for the whole week. The second week was better. They got the medication under control and I got some appetite back. I lost so much weight during this week. I was 54kg and I'm now 47kg.
I started my rehab session last week and was able to get transferred into an electric chair for the first time. This was hard because it made me very dizzy being upright as I'd been laying down for so long. I can only do light rehab sessions because of my broken scapula/shoulder blade and ribs. When my injuries are better I can get stuck into the gym and rehab. Here are a few photos and videos of some rehab sessions that I've done. One of the sessions I do is called Sitting Balance. This is where I try and stay sitting up without any hands or help. This is hard because I have no feeling underneath my waist. It feels like I'm sitting on jelly. The first time I did it I held it for 7 seconds. The next time was 1min3seconds. Then the next time was a big 10min. I was really happy after this.