Monday, 30 May 2011

Dressing in the Dark

I have very strong opinions on how visually impaired people should dress despite not being able to see. Reading a post on Jenny’s Guide Dog Blog about Keeping Up Appearances inspired me to write a post on the same topic.

Ok, so it’s very easy to think that just because you can’t see yourself why on earth do you need to make an effort?! People with this perception honestly break my heart and I don’t mean that in a satirical way! Everybody should take pride in their appearance because every man and woman should feel handsome or beautiful when they face the world.

Unfortunately we live in a society where we are judged on everything. The way we speak, move, look and breathe. Would you go to a job interview dressed in a tracksuit? Would you go to the gym in heels or a mini skirt? Would you wear a bikini in the snow? I hope not! These are some of the things we understand and accept to be ridiculous. I suppose when you are unable to comprehend colours then accepting that a rainbow jumper will look absurd with a spotty skirt is more of a challenge. However, it wouldn’t have to be a challenge if visually impaired people were educated, just as we are sub-consciously educated on what is appropriate at a job interview. Everyone should know that lines across make you look wider or if you have a long face like me, then a v neck just makes it look even longer!

I’m not saying we have to dress up to the eyeballs every time we go out, but we should at least been dressed in clothes that fit us properly. I’ve witnessed that lots of visually impaired people wear baggy clothes based on comfort, but I’m telling you straight, as I’m guessing nobody else has had the guts to, you look awful! You either look much fatter than you are, a general scruff or both!

Thankfully, there is a website dedicated to educating and enlightening visually impaired people on what to and what not to wear, useful tips on grooming and it’s not just for the girls! I’d love to write a blinkies guide to looking amazing, but I’m a bit busy trying to make my dreams come true, selfish of me I know! So, until I’m free check out Styleable’s Website

Be blind and beautiful!

May Injuries

Dare I say I’m on the mend?!

Shins – Have been causing the usual pain every time I train, but have been prevented from getting any worse with Ibuprofen Gel applied four times per day. Also, I’ve had my orthotics assessed and the extra arch support seems to have eased the problem.
Calf – Generally not tight, but on my left calf towards the outside of the leg I’ve had a tight spot. It doesn’t hurt to walk, but flairs up in training now and then. I’ve had a massage, but it still doesn’t feel perfect. It’s related to a tight hamstring and glut, but I can only feel the calf.
Hamstring – Never had a problem with my hamstrings until now. When I had the massage a knot was found and it’s felt pretty bruised since, which is a good sign!
Ankles – Seem to be doing ok, occasional ache, but no big deal.
Achilles – Definitely fine now.

All in all not looking too bad!

Dreams are made too big, so we can grow into them!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Doggy Diet

I’ve not blogged about Calvin in a while, mainly because I’ve not felt the need to! Now I’ve had my furry friend for a year and a half, there isn’t much new to blog about. Calvin is Calvin, the naughty little Labrador cross retriever who has the biggest personality and the ability to win everyone’s heart!

Labradors are known for their large appetites and Calvin is no exception to this trait of his breed. He loves to eat anything and everything! Sticks, stones, mud, other animal busies, his toys, wrappers, tissues, human food when he can get his paws on it, oh and doggy treats and doggy food go down nicely too. So, when his weight escalated to over 42kg, his maximum weight is 38kg, I wasn’t too surprised. However, a key contributing factor I believe is that Guide Dogs instructed me to increase his meals, as he lost allot of weight when I first got him.

For the past couple of months Calvin has been on a diet, prompted by me requesting a larger harness strap. I wasn’t too keen to change his food, as you hear about how they can get dodgy stomachs, but I wasn’t given much of a choice. The first food he was put on didn’t work very well, Calvin became a lean mean poohing machine, averaging on ten big busies per day! Calvin has always been clean on walks, partly due to the fact that he won’t spend on concrete for toffee when out, but the food meant he needed a big busy (he held it until we found a grass spot) on a half an hour walk. Logically, he was moved to a different food, which is really embarrassing to call up for. ‘is Calvin still on Obesity’? It always makes me want to say, ‘yeah, but he’s not fat’! The defensive parent!

I can only imagine that Calvin is finding this diet torture! He tries to make up for his lost calories with his instinctive scavenge reflex! It’s also been tough on me, as I have to bribe him with treats to get me to places, which I’ve tried to reduce, meaning we’ve gone on a few detours! So, after nearly two months of starvation, the dustbin on legs has only lost 3kg, meaning he still needs to lose at least one more to be at his maximum weight. Personally, I think he looks in great shape at the min, a really skinny dog would be rubbish for cuddles! Since I’ve been single for so long, Calvin often gets his ribs crushed and turns his head in utter embarrassment, like ‘mum, god get off of me’! It’s his fault for being so adorable!

So the doggy diet continues...

Monday, 23 May 2011

PB DQ -8.1

The title of this post sums up my weekend of racing in a nut shell. I was at the Knowsley Disability Athletics Challenge in Liverpool, my biggest competition of the season so far as there were entries from Brazil who have a wealth of visually impaired sprinting talent.

The six lane mondo track meant that only three athletes could race at any one time in the T11-13 classification, as the guide runners take up the other lanes. I was originally drawn to race the world record holder, but they must have reshuffled the races in order of times, so I went in the B race. This left me with the number three Brazilian and a T13 British athlete.

Before the race began one of the officials were moaning at the Brazilians for not being in their respective lanes. After a few times of listening to them trying to explain in English that T11/12 athletes are given two lanes and it doesn’t matter which one the guide or athlete is in and the official still insisting on forcing them to swap lanes I spoke up in a ratty tone and the official just shut up! I thought they were supposed to know the rules! Anyway, whilst my reaction was satisfactory, I felt I didn’t get off to a great start. I gave my guide instructions to track the T13 athlete who I know has a PB of 14.6secs. Pretty quickly we lost the arm rhythm and after I couldn’t get it back I just drove with my left arm and relaxed my attached one. I finished last, but knew I had run quicker than my previous two races and was the closest to the T13 athlete I had ever been before. The Brazilian number three stormed ahead achieving the A standard for 2012 clocking 14.16secs.

When I went to collect my kit an official approached me and asked if I spoke English. I was like ‘yeah I am English’! He then proceeded to tell me that I had been disqualified as my guide crossed the finish line before me. My response ‘you’re joking?!’ I had half an hour to appeal the decision; I just wanted to know my time! My guide and I went down to see the track official and were shown the photo finish, which apparently pictured the orange guide vest that was absolutely massive on my guide by a millimetre cross the line before me. Because the vest was so big the wind obviously puffed it out and that’s what made it to the finish first. They at least gave me my unofficial time of 15.13secs, just 0.24 off of the B standard for 2012 and a tenth quicker than my PB from last year. However, I won’t get this time put next to my name and will get a big fat DQ instead, which is a bit gutting. It’s funny how the officials knew this rule!

The 200m was on the Sunday and I faced the same athletes. Warming up I knew it was windy and wasn’t looking forward to the race, as I knew it was going to hurt and I had no chance of running a quick time. Again I wasn’t happy with my start and ran into my guide almost immediately. The wind felt ok around the bend, but as soon as I hit the straight it literally gobbled me up! My arms and legs were all over the place and I felt like I was going backwards not forwards. With 30m to go I was actually just going to stop, it felt like torture! I was shocked my time came out sub 40 and I managed 38.63secs over six seconds off of my PB. I didn’t feel too bad, as the Brazilian was six seconds off of her PB too running over 34secs. I wouldn’t have minded a big fat DQ next to that performance and never want to run into a -8.1 head wind ever again!

Positives to take forward:
1. I ran a PB even if it won’t be ratified
2. I’m just 0.24secs away from the B standard
3. I ran nearly a second quicker than my first couple of races
4. I know I can go faster if I get a good start and keep the arm rhythm
5. I know I need to get stronger to run a decent 200m

My next race is on Thursday 9th June, which is just my local club’s open.

In every good is bad and in every bad is good!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Determined or Deluded?

Last weekend was jam packed with competitions, as I sprinted in Liverpool on the Saturday and made my debut in the long jump in London on the Sunday. You may have already established from the title of this post that neither were a great success.

I left home at 7.30am on Saturday in order to arrive in Liverpool in good time for my races. Unusually the 200m was first, but I didn’t really think it would make a huge difference and if anything it was nice to get the leg burner out of the way! Considering we’ve been having pretty good weather for Britain, I was surprised with the swirling wind and ice cold conditions. I felt I got an adequate start in my 200m, but could feel the head wind fighting me around the bend. Nevertheless I felt stronger than my first race and whilst I still died in the home straight, it wasn’t as bad. However, I ran 35.80secs, over 3secs off of my PB and to top it off the wind came out as plus 2, even though in races before and after it was gauged to be -4.5 to -6.3!

It felt like an eternity until my 100m, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the schedule was delayed by half an hour. When I went into the set position, I remember thinking ‘oooh it’s windy’ and the next thing I knew the gun had gone off. So I had a sluggish start and whilst I felt loose and smooth, I knew I wasn’t travelling very fast. I was drawn in lane 1 and what I didn’t realise was that I veered to the left during the race and nearly hit the curb, this wouldn’t have helped my time either. It came out as 16.03secs with a plus 3.5 wind making it an illegal time anyway (the maximum wind behind you can be plus 2). So I ran even slower than my first race over both distances.

Come Sunday I was exhausted, but was feeling really positive about the long jump. Traffic meant it took double the time to get there, meaning I had less time to warm up than I would have liked. The long jump pit was adjacent to the stands meaning it was very noisy at times. They chalked the runway to make the board a metre long, which is supposed to allow a larger take off area for F11/12 athletes. In training, I’ve only been using the regular board though. There wasn’t much time to measure my steps to the board and this is one of the reasons it didn’t go to plan. My first 4 jumps I didn’t even make the chalked area and to this day I’m shocked that I made the sand and didn’t land on the track! Included in one of those jumps I veered off and had to start again when I wasn’t in any state to after crashing into god knows what, but didn’t want to miss a jump. Not that I’m stubborn or anything! On my sixth and final jump I leapt to my furthest distance of 2.78m. I was looking to jump a metre more than that and was fuming all of the way home. In training I’ve easily been jumping over 3m off of 6 strides.

So, am I determined or deluded? I’m sure people looking at my times and distances must think I haven’t got a hope in hell of even being considered for selection for 2012. And do you know what; if I was looking at my data I would presume exactly the same! However, I truly, truly feel that I can do it. I train 5 times per week, I’ve put on 1 and a half stone in muscle since last year and I invest my every last penny into the sport.

My 5 positives to take forward:
1. I won my races
2. I felt stronger in my 200m
3. I long jumped for the first time
4. I now know and understand the take off area better
5. I feel I can progress to 10 strides to the board instead of 6

My next race is this weekend in Liverpool again, where I’ll be racing the world record holder for my classification. I’ll also be racing some other girls from Brazil who are swift too. By far my biggest challenge to date and what better time to step up!

Who says the sky is the limit when there are footsteps on the moon!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

First Race of the Season

Last night was my first race of the 2011 season, my first race with my new guide runner and my first race with starting blocks. Yet I still had a good feeling that I was going to smash it! I suppose when you have such high expectations as I always do, there’s a high chance of failure. Does this mean I’ll lower my expectations in the future? Hell no!

The race was just my local club’s open and therefore whether I ran amazing or not the times are not eligible for Paralympic qualification or UKAs WCPP. However, it was an opportunity to see where I’m at and remember what it’s like to be in race mode.

My 100m was up first and my immediate error was that for some unknown reason I hesitated when coming up into the set position and therefore didn’t raise my hips high enough. The only explanation I can think of is that I might have panicked that the gun would go before I was ready. My reaction was adequate, but because I had already made an error, my drive phase was compromised and I felt the field immediately pull away from me. Instead of relaxing and set on catching them, I completely crumbled. My whole body seized up, I could feel I was running like a robot, but I couldn’t do anything about it. When I eventually strolled across the line in last place, I growled in frustration. I don’t believe I’m mentally weak and yet I allowed myself to be crushed. Unbelievable and let me assure you I won’t be making the same mistake again! I’m so used to chasing my group in training; it normally makes me more determined. My time came out at 16.00 and I actually burst into tears! Don’t worry it was for only about five seconds and then I became my usual hard core self, ready to murder the 200m!

It was a long wait until the 200m, the temperature had dropped somewhat and the wind picked up. Thankfully when you’re as slow as I am, you don’t have to wait too long for your heat as it’s graded in time order. I was down to race in lanes six and seven, but asked in my sweetest, poor little blind girl voice if I could run in lanes 1 and 2, as I didn’t want the pressure of having to chase again, I can feel the bend better on the inside and we had only practised setting the blocks up in those lanes! The stern ice lady nearly choked when she approved it and I was pleased to see my A Level drama hadn’t gone to waste! Anyway, I killed the start and when my guide runner called 30m to indicate to come out of my drive phase I was shocked that I had got there so quickly and it took me a bit of time to register it. I continued to execute the bend, which has been my Achilles heel since time began! Then, something had to go wrong! The transition off of the bend wasn’t smooth and I found myself unable to straighten up causing some co-ordination to be lost between my guide runner and I. In all the mayhem I didn’t hear or my guide runner forgot to call 80m for the kick to the finish and so I didn’t start to kick until it was 50m to go. My legs were completely like jelly at this point, my technique had gone out of the window, I was doing more of a front crawl swimming motion towards the end and the last call I heard was 10m to go. I didn’t feel my guide runner pull back before the end (they aren’t allowed to cross the line first), but guessed I was at the finish and slowed down. As soon as we stopped, I found the energy to ask if I stopped before the line, but was assured I didn’t. However, on reading the results I show as two seconds behind everyone else. That equates to approximately 12metres and I know I wasn’t that distant. My time came out as 34.15 and yet everyone else in my race ran sub 33. I wouldn’t have run a PB because of my poor ending, but I wouldn’t have been miles outside of it. Therefore I’ve learnt never ever to stop running until told, no matter how traumatic it is!

Enough of the negatives, I need to reflect on the positives and what I’ll be taking forward.

1. I came out of starting blocks
2. I made it to the end of both races
3. I ran the best bend of my life
4. I reacted well to the gun
5. I’ve learnt so many valuable lessons
I could be racing next Wednesday, but it’s not confirmed. If not I’ll next be competing on 14 May.

As an iconic song once said ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down’!