Here I am before the race, I have my MP3 on my arm (one ear bud in very low, just to give me a back beat, but not enough so I can’t hear everything) and you can see my timing chip is UNDER the footplate for my foot (Footplates are thanks to an unnamed Victoria sponsor who refitted the chair which was not only unusable but had chips of paint fly off at every wheel turn, very dramatic, not great for racing – they refitted the chair including footplates, cushions to stop my legs from breaking/bruising and my sling for oxygen, while leaving room for the Gatorade!).
My entire plan for the start was, “Wait until THEY go,” because a) I didn’t want to have to stay in a fixed line and try to compete with people who had chairs that could go straight (mine can’t, it needs constant adjustment) and b) I knew that road was bumpy and I wanted to get into my Rhythm, plus it was uphill for the first 1.5 km. The rest of them flew off (including the guy who ended up only 10 minutes ahead of me….?), the para’s as you see are using some sort of Billo Pad device (?), while I have to think the flat wheels are going to be a grip advantage to the para gloves that the three of us in the back are wearing (I don't have them, they cost like $1000, I have plain old spokes! - in fact my chair radiated 'poor relation').
We get a 5 minutes head start. The paralympian who kicked ass finished in 29 minutes. The fastest runner in 30. There was NO question I was going to be passed, just by how many hundred, thousands before the BIG downhill. As this is a course that goes down a big hill then just reverses itself you get to see the people coming back. 15,000 registered, over 10,000 ran, and THESE are the ‘elites’ meaning under 35-37 minutes. I am got passed about the time of the petting zoo!
Okay, in the brilliant thinking of the race planners, the most important thing is marking the 10K, so the turn around point is HALF WAY up a steep hill, a simple cone and no race people. You go down a hill, you pass the cemetery (nice view!) and you go UP a steep hill where there is a cone. You may notice big long 6 foot arrow doesn’t turn well. People would not give me space, I got it half way by leaning back so the front wheel was above the ground then pushing one wheel, however other runners, to gain that extra .01 of a second, I had runners were HITTING me to avoid going around me (thus a bit more time), literally bouncing off me to go INSIDE the cone. No place to stop to put on oxygen here.
Thanks to Laura who came up with the “Girl’s gotta Fly” bright t-shirts (later pics), as it was the only way I could see through a mass of humanity, pick Linda out easily and shout for her (or hoarsely shout as going, “CLEAR! CLEAR! For the love of God and your hamstring, CLEAR!” about 100 times tends to rip up the old voice. Plus darting into the oncoming lane, I saw James (the coach) taking on and trying to pass two of the elite runners going UPHILL. Dang that guy must train. For me, uphill was so bad, I ended up jamming my entire fists into the wheels and scratched up my arms but I wasn’t giving up an inch, just “One, two, one, two” sometimes a ‘one’ every second to get up that HILL. Here I am drinking from the gatorade that is in the camelpack under my chair. It uses clips all the way up to keep it stable (Cheryl’s idea), so I can drink when I want. Also you can see a note which give the cell phone and blackberry number of Cheryl and Linda in case I am slumped over. There are two ‘break packs’ which turn instantly freezing taped with medical paper tape to my chair on the long front part in order to deal with the heat. So yeah, with the oxygen I am hauling another 10-12 lbs or so.
Here I am crossing the finish line after the “seven hills” – there is a long downhill, where I almost ran a guy over who was totally into his I-pod and two people picked him up and moved him after about 10+ of us were yelling at him in unison, “Wheelchair, CLEAR!” And he was humming and grooving away. Another guy said, not realizing I was directly beside him, when told a wheelchair was coming through, that he couldn’t see the da*n things. I said, “Yeah, me either!” and then let off the brake and accelerated away, found a long stretch where cars are normally parked and went up to about 15-17 mph on that last bit. Do ya see me NOW? Sorry. Then back into the pack. They say, “It is all down hill from here” – LIE – there are seven major turns, each with a hill and some are very, very steep, like stop you dead and just do it by inches steep. Never the less, I made the turns, I got to the flat bit at the end and I made the course. I almost ran over the official photographer, sorry, bad steering.
(if you click on this picture you can see my earrings: running shoes - given to me by a reader - seemed ironic!) Here is the Team medic at the end of the race, she tried to educate the First Aid tent, the head guy was like, “I know all about her from last year.” - yeah, but since I now have seizure disorders and Cheryl was trying to tell them WHY it might be important to get someone who has grand mals out of a chair that you have to get into a hip at a time and were your legs are jammed against steel, golly I guess we will go with last year’s, “Lets pour lawn killer over her to cool her down.” So when offered the first aid tent I opted for Cheryl and Linda’s wonder pack of cooling devices and a spray bottle instead.
P.S. - the reason I look so completely rested is because I am not sweating....because I don't...at all. So it is me looking like this, me green or me exploded with bits all over the course.
I will try to come back when I can use both arms and give a full account, along with the rest of the pictures…including the AFTER pictures!
Oh, none of us saw a single wheelchair toilet: not the start, not during, not after. Nor was there a map we could find which located them. But then, with hundreds of people over 75 and 80 running (I kid you not), having a bathroom with pull bars would be of no interest, right?
Still, 10K and still alive..pretty cool!
11 hours ago