In our last installment with Hannah Dines, we discovered how she sees her friends as key to achieving elite success as an athlete. In this fourth installment she talks about how she fills the pauses in her career, and how she switches off.
*Animals by Emma-Jane Unsworth
In one of my favourite novels the main character, who is constantly in a kimono and fishnet tights, has spells of the ‘existentials’*. She is an almost-thirty recreational drug user who flatshares with her equally errant best friend and they have misadventures whilst avoiding all adult responsibilities. I am a professional cyclist and whilst some of my edgier friends laugh at the fact I call my endorphin-dependent brain “drugged-up” on physical exertion I really do say cycling is my drug of choice. I am so addicted in fact that I haven’t had a scheduled holiday from sport since October 2015. Coincidentally I read my now favourite novel (see above) during that very holiday.
A day after my last Cycling World Championships race I found out I had did not made the cut for the Athletics World Championships. It was the best reason- an athlete I had coerced into RaceRunning in the first place and lent my RaceRunner to for exactly this reason, had come into her own and flown past me on one too many occasions. Still, I felt the whoosh of yet more spirit leave my body at the news that I couldn’t redeem myself at my second sport. Still, there was a glimmer of something at the edge of my consciousness. I let myself thrash about in the self-indulgent paddling pool of failure for a day or two before tugging at its silvery edge.
As an elite athlete you must protect your body as much as possible so you can continue to train and compete at the highest level. This means passing up opportunities to try disability surfing in Lanzarote last Christmas whilst I was on a cycling camp and leaving adapted canoeing behind after I got my Gold Duke of Edinburgh. I was born in 1993 and zoomed through the newly opened Millennium Dome on an electric scooter aged seven. The older I have become the more accessible my society but since I adopted the athlete lifestyle as I turned twenty I haven’t indulged in the adapted activities now available. I have never tried climbing or skiing or disability-surfing all of which now make room for wobbly, strong people like me.
I’ve just finished my Masters in Sport and Exercise Physiology and the last cycling competition prior to Paralympic year and have to say goodbye to RaceRunning for now. For the first time I am faced with empty space where my student-athlete life should be and am now in full existential crisis. I welcomed this immense pressure into my life after leaving Rio 2016 Paralympic Games without a medal but it is time to set it down for a time. I’m going to go climb some mountains (more likely be winched up them) or poke my nose out above the foamy spray of the ocean (after being rescued by a muscular surfer). Sometimes you need to force a change of perspective even if I’ll rehook the same old engine of gold-medal aspiration onto my back come November. As always,
I’ll let you know how I get on!
Another brilliant insight into a elite paralympians world, have you joined us late? Want to read Hannah’s previous blogs? If so, you can go back to news now, or click to read: Terminating Injury, A Day in the Life of a Paralympian and Life Balance – How friends are key to elite success.