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HILLS THRILLS AND NO CHILLS ON THE ROAD TO TOKYO 2020

In our latest guest blog by Hannah Dines, the elite athlete, academic and writer, Hannah provides a fascinating insight into her commitment, dedication and challenges on the way to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Well worth a read whilst you contemplate your own goals for 2020.

HILLS AND THRILLS

I can remember days where I was entirely in control of my trike. We were hurtling down the steepest climb of Scotland and Karen, who had just won a gold medal at the Rio Paralympics, remarked upon this. I was in the form of my life and after coming back from the Games glassy eyed and slightly shell-shocked we headed as far north as possible to ride with no purpose other than to escape the midges.

THE BUMPY ROAD TO SUCCESS

Now it’s almost 4 years later, 2019, and I crashed out at the World Championships and had my first ever on-the-trike spasms at Yorkshire 2019. I couldn’t stop my trike veering to the left and I was constantly on the verge of collapse. What had given me so much freedom was quickly taking it away.

The thing with having a physical disability and a balance disorder is that the signals coming from the brain to tell you where you are, is different. They are numbed, distorted, they lie. I get hopelessly lost in shopping centres unable to locate where I am on a map. If I ever enter deep water and lose touch with the ground my head will often tell me to seek air in the wrong direction. When it comes to my light weight racing tricycle, I get a big jolt when it’s about to tip but I can’t feel which direction I need to go to steady myself, if I don’t steady myself my body overreacts, muscles clamp and bounce in all these unhelpful, painful ways.

It turned out that to alleviate saddle pressure my bike fit had put all my weight through my hands and my legs were scrunched up. With my legs scrunched (how I like them) the knees are far forward too and can’t come backwards to compensate. On a racing trike the stability is in the back two wheels and you must keep them grounded at all costs. I should’ve known when I crashed over my handlebars on a steep descent in the Goyt Valley before my World Champs (something I’ve never done before) that my weight distribution was wrong. It’s just that I felt far more relieved saddle pressure wise.

October, programme membership day came and went with the dull reality of surviving another winter without funding and support from the Great British Cycling Team. I hadn’t had updates from my Racing Team, Storey Racing yet about what they would or wouldn’t fund and I was quickly losing concentration for another round of grant hunting to support my ever-more-foolish medal pursuit.

STAYING STRONG

Yet it’s not foolish, my powers are good and I’m hugely powerful in the gym. The transfer to the trike has become more troublesome than I ever thought possible. So, I’m going to need expert help realigning my position on the bike. My team sponsors Backstedt Bikefit have been extraordinarily accommodating and I think my leg splints, which are breaking apart need an overhaul too. I’m still coming back from two surgeries and I have a musculoskeletal disorder which means things often take longer.

TURNING UP THE HEAT ON THE ROAD TO TOKYO

I can race and ride with the best of them and I am intent on qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. I’m currently heat training, to give my muscles a break in warmer climbs. Tokyo is going to be boiling hot and hilly so about every month off I’ll go, sofa surfing, seeking climbs like the summer version of Bealach na Ba. I’m in Brisbane right now visiting a muscle function lab – a bit far-fetched but that’s the point – I intend to reach Tokyo selection day being as fit and a strong as ever and have done everything I have ever wanted to do on my trike. I have an 8-month plan, involving only cycling and the minimum of writing – as focused as you like – and at the end of it, no matter which way the decision goes, I’ll be satisfied.

Another brilliant insight into an elite Paralympians world, have you joined us late? Want to read Hannah’s previous blogs? If so, you can go back to news now.

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