Linda dropped me off and parked the van we had to brought to bring the chair back with us, and I saw a person with a name tag I recognized: It was J. the BC wheelchair race series coordinator and another female, who I assumed worked with BC wheelchair sport. Both were standing, able bodied and in late 20’s/early 30’s. I introduced myself to J, who said that they had brought the chair and then talked over my head to the other woman and they went for coffee. (yeah, that's how it went)
There were a lot of people in wheelchairs and I talked to them and they were a team of 8 from Sask, including one racer who wouldn’t be because she was sitting there in her chair with a dislocated hip (she said she was "official cheerleader"). But they seemed very friendly and one guy and I who seemed to have the same seat cushion size (18 inches wide) talked about ‘the shrink factor’ and how after being in the chair you kind of don’t have the same dimensions and how that was happening to me and he was talking about getting a new chair because of it. And I was really sort of awed that all these people from Sask had FLOWN in to Victoria (which cost about as much as going to hawaii, at least $250 for the Vancouver to Victoria part) to participate in this track meet. But these were competitors and this was the competition. Sadly, the entire BC contingent was….two. And I was later to find out that one of those was the coach who also did EVERY race, which almost made me go, “Hey, put me in a race, I don’t know actually how to propel the wheelchair racing thingy but BC should have a better showing than that.”
The track had about three different track meets going on, so there were 8 year olds doing a 1500, and then adults doing a 100 meters and then a wheelchair event. In the wheelchair events, they run everyone of one gender together but then, I believe you are separated according to your classification. So for example, in females two paraplegics might race each other for first and second and then the person coming in third is a quadriplegic so they actually are first in their classification. Of course the able bodied announcers don’t know that and are kind of irritate to hear patronizing the quads who are coming in slower. Then I met N. from team BC who I assumed had CP as he stepped out of his racing chair, stood up and walked over (not to talk to me, to talk to someone else).
Linda and I cheered on James, (the head coach) and N. who was the ENTIRE BC team wearing blue and I cheered for green because there were actually females on the team (like five!). We tried to talk to J. repeatedly about the chair but she had some other reason to be elsewhere and it was much like this week on the phone trying to find out what would happen or when; it was always “later” but she did give us the rental and application form. And then said, “James would deal with it.”
I wheeled around to the finish of the 100 meters so I could see what wheelchair racing looked like as they were doing the 100 meter for men and women. You can see here two of the women who are para’s and are sitting on their legs (I told them on the phone due to the surgery I had on my knees if I try that, my ligaments holding my kneecap will rip - so I don't get THAT kind of chair). It seems the more you are hunched down, and less resistance for wind, the more efficient – also, those 4 spoke carbon wheels cost $1500, so I guess these are serious women racers.
They race well and straight and here is another racer in the same race using aluminum flat wheels and she has drop legs, like my chair but hers are set back (you can see her nail polish on her toes).
After them came the men and here is a BC male racing in his invacare Eliminator racing wheelchair (like I have but the next model up - mine is the older model. And he has expensive spokes, and uniform!).
It was after this that James was going to show me the racing chair they brought for me and how to use it. J. was taking off to lunch it seemed and was going to be back at 3:00. She had actually been in town since Thursday, I think she said. I was going to be sleeping at 3:00 becuase I had been up past 3:00 am. But to put it in the nicest way possible she and the other female and some others were very cliquish and had no real time for me and I felt very much poor cousin asking for a bit of gruel. It turns out that like much of disability world, there is a WAY things are supposed to happen and like when I called up VIHA over a year ago and asked for help and they sort of treated me the same way until an MS nurse FORCED them to intake me. Well, BC wheelchair sports says how they ACTIVELY recruit (it is even in a newspaper article), and how they promote. But what that means is they go to the provincial center for spinal cord injuries, G.H. Strong every Tuesday (in Vancouver). And so they know all people who go through there. And I was promised to be sent there for rehab and wheelchair training…once I am definitely diagnosed (which seems to be when all specialists agree, which is probably 10 years after death). So no, they don’t know me ergo I am not an SCI, ergo, not “one of them” (though their program is supposed to be for “all users from SCI to able bodied” yet they only had classifications for….SCI’s).
So, that part sucked because my hands were actually BLUE, and grey and here the people from Sask. are talking to me more than the people I talked to for two weeks on the phone who are “supposed” to be here to rent me a wheelchair (which since I guess they do a lot at G.H. Strong in Vancouver, but they don’t do a lot or EVER in Victoria>). And not like I was in high school thinking but there was no way I was taking out oxygen in front of what appeared to be the high school equivalent of the “cool crowd.”
But then T. showed up, cool female wheelchair racer. I had talked to T. on the phone about wheelchair racing and she is from Victoria. She and I got on great, maybe because she had hair bright red and I talked about how I wanted pink hair but because of the thyroid it wouldn’t take. And then a female friend of hers in a chair showed up and the three of us bantered back and forth. T and I have the same sort of drive and we both know about training and pushing yourself and talked some sports talk and some “what colour streaks have you put in your hair talk” and it was really cool. So I was much happer when James came over and started getting me into my chair, which is 15 inches wide at the bottom and you have to, as one female racer told me, put in one hip at a time. And T.’s boyfriend Mr. Bad (a sweetie, not bad), came over and helped me and was VERY efficient, I guess because he did it so often for T. (T and I are about the same age). And he was moving my legs and feet and tying things down and the left wheel was rubbing so he PICKED me up AND the chair so they could tighten the wheel if they wanted.
I am sort of embarrassed and saying that Linda can help and Mr. Bad is saying, “no problem.” And T. tells me, with a nod, “he likes to feel manly.”
I say to T., “Yes, but I am over six feet TALL.”
And she says, “Yes, but I am 5’11”” with a “soo!” look so I sat there and had the “guys” take care of it. I did wonder afterward what J. was planning since, well, James, who was helping me into the chair is a quad and I don’t think between the two of us we could have got my legs where they were supposed to be. Anyway. I am in
and James keeps trying to tell me to NOT sit up or sit back. So I try it. That when I find out that I can tip the whole thing over backward. Oh, is THAT what you were trying to say?
They put on gloves, Mr. Bad again, putting them on and thank goodness because at this point I could only move my thumb. So we go out on the track and James is giving me tips which only make sense later when I look at the female races about “stay low” and punch the little wire rubber thing on the tire with your mitts and thumb and off you go. Only I kept veering a little because my left side was making a wee grinding noise so I kept having to hit the little bar to push me a bit one direction or another one or two degrees. As for the main steering bar, I was far too weak to move THAT so I am getting that adjusted this week (in order to take corners). Keep as low as you can is important, I don’t do that very well in these pics (compared to the racers above) as I am busy trying to get some speed on the chair with my gloves. Not so great on that either. Lots of learning to come I think. Of course I get to the end and have NO IDEA how to turn around and T. comes out with James and coaches me on that (wish I could remember?). And I wheeled back with James coaching and it was okay. I was really self conscious about this grinding on my left and they said it needed a “spacer.” And I said to T. “They TOLD me that I needed to squish my hips down in there and now they are implying that I am pushing out METAL!”
And T. told me that “It got bent in transit.”
I said, “Really.”
And she said, “That’s what I always say!” in that tone which means that for all we know it IS our hips pushing the metal out and causing friction but no way WE are saying THAT. So that was nice of her and I really felt like part of “us” for a minute, which is due to her and James.
We came back and everyone was gone to lunch, but we needed to head back to sleep so it was out of the chair (thanks to Mr. Bad again). Linda gave the form and check so I have a rented chair for a year, insured and have a “theoretical” BC athletic race number so I can enter the 5K and 10K as an official “elite” racer (if I can fix the friction and actually train on the thing). Mr. Bad took off my gloves which are blue, grey with streaks of yellow, plus I can't move my fingers at all or bend them so instead I point them at people and make zombie jokes (sort of a if you get lemons make zombie lemonade idea). I start swinging them in hopes they will curl a bit.
Then T. and her friend and I talked about Japan a bit and her friend thought being carried up a flight of stairs by a bunch of men sounded like a dream come true. Not exactly the women’s lib brigade because then they started talking about how being carried is good but you can’t stare at the men’s asses when they do that and Japan men have such get asses (sheesh, the libidos on these girls!). So T said to Mr. Bad, her boyfriend, “Here, you walk in front of us.” And then as we wheel all three of us behind him, she excused his cargo pants for not doing his ass justice.
Well, J. was long gone and it seemed that getting me a classification wasn’t high on their priority. This pissed me off as Janet from Seating at Queen Alexandra has arrived on her bike as she had promised so that TWO registered classifiers could be there to do an assessment for a temporary classification. Diss me, yes, but diss someone who BIKED there to assist wheelchair athletics BC – who it looks like could use a few more people on the track, that is not on.
Anyway, while James (great guy, will be talking to him this week about training and how to and doing 5K’s and stuff) went to get lunch we talked to Janet. She told us to bring in the chair and she would get her techs to redo it so it was all up to spec and not grinding. She does tend to talk about techs as pets since she says things like, “If you don’t feed them regularly they will get grouchy and pout.” So hopefully my new chair and I can start practicing for our first big spill (see the helmet in the pictures) by early this next week. I figure that like my day wheelchair, until you try it out, you can’t find what it can do, and if you don’t push the envelope, you won’t know. And that means you will crash. I just hope that isn’t into oncoming traffic. But I am practicing for a 5K, and the single brake that comes with this thing MIGHT stop a gerbil, not me, going 30 mph downhill. And with the gloves on, and the rims covered in guard rails I can’t even touch the tires. Janet said she has a racing chair sitting around in the “bone yard” and I have decided if it has the $1500 superspokes I am going to get the techs to put them on my racing chair (do I just bring them food?).
She also emphasized that my new indoor chair (the 17 inch seat) she DOES NOT want back as she says, “You turn around and they (wheelchairs) just multiply in the bone-yard.” Okay, not a great chair but does the job indoors. So now I have, wait for it, FOUR manual wheelchairs and one electric wheelchair. Scary! Will I live in my apartment next year or just all my medical equipment?
I did notice a few odd things talking to some of the wheelchair females, one was this idea that “sports” means, “wheelchair sports” and that “wheelchair sports” means “SCI’s.” One said, “Yeah, I’ve tried every sport, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and this.” And I started listing all the sports I did just THIS year and said there was still a lot of stuff. And she was, “Oh, there is a wheelchair boxing group? A wheelchair badminton group?”
I said, “No, there is 22 badminton players and me. And a class of boxers and me, but I tell you, it really teaches you to keep your arms up!”
She seemed confused and I finally got what a few people had said to me, how I amuse them because I don’t seem to REALIZE that I am in a WHEELCHAIR and am supposed to wait for people to organize things for me and other WHEELCHAIR people. Or that I am supposed to do what able bodied organizer people tell me to DO, instead of deciding on my own what I want to do and then tell THEM to make it happen." So I told the females I was planning on taking Judo and dancing this summer (and had to clarify, again, no, no other wheelchairs that I know of). But, when no one will play me at badminton, I challenge the director to a game of singles, when Cheryl comes over we two wheelchairs take on the two able bodied people. I think I might like competiting against people in wheelchairs as well, but for me, after years of training hours because I am NOT an natural athlete; being a chair with oxygen, seizures, spasms and a few other issues just makes it a wee more of a challenge! But the other women seemed kind of in wonder to actually aghast at just signing up for a class at the Y with ABLE BODIED people and showing up going, “Yup, I signed up for Judo, when do we start?”
Janet says that I tend to live life very much in the NOW. I am not sure what that means but I think it was a compliment. Linda said, “Yes, doing things that interest you is good, but I just need to talk you out of a few of them.”
I said, “Was that the Judo?”
She said, “No, it was your announcement yesterday to stand for Mayor in the election in six months.”
“Oh that. Well.....what about being a councilperson?”