Sunday, 31 July 2011

July Injuries

I don’t want to jinx things, but I think I’m pretty much injury free!

Shins – Get slightly inflamed after a tough session, but are generally perfectly fine
Ankles – Ache from time to time, but no big deal
Achilles– Marginal stiff heel, but doesn’t affect training

After a hurricane, comes a rainbow!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

400 Days To Go!

Today marks 400 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Paralympics. Instead of harping on about my aspiration to be there, I thought I would write a short post on why YOU should be there as a spectator!

Many of the Paralympic sports are the same as the Olympic ones, such as athletics, swimming and cycling, but may have slight modifications including a guide runner for visually impaired athletes, no diving into the pool for some physical disabilities and hand cycles for wheelchair users in order to make the sport accessible. There are also some events, which are exclusive to the Paralympics, such as goalball, boccia and the club throw. Likewise there are some sports, which are excluded for obvious reasons like the pole vault, synchronised swimming and wrestling!

If you are a fan of a sport that has a Paralympic equivalent, then there is no reason why you wouldn’t find it fulfilling to watch. You may not know the athletes by name, but you know who you’re supporting, Great Britain! Surely it would be fascinating to watch the blind football team’s amazing spacial awareness, as well as their advanced football skills. Imagine watching an athlete that can’t walk, but can glide through the pool at exceptional speed. Perhaps wheelchair basketball would take your fancy, as they can dribble as well as control their wheelchair at the same time. Then there are the amputee cyclists who are so fast that they have represented their country in the able bodied version. Wouldn’t it be spectacular to watch a bunch of totally blind athletes run full pelt in the direction of a sand pit and leap to massive distances?The list is endless!

Disability sport is just as competitive as able bodied sport and the standard exceptionally high. Athletes train just as hard as their able bodied peers and don’t allow their disability to hold them back in any way. Whether visually impaired, have CP,missing a limb, is a wheelchair user or have any other physical disability, one thing is for certain they all have the same hunger to succeed, pride to represent their country and self-determination to push their body beyond its limits!

Paralympic sport is unique!

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I hate odd numbers and now I have a whole year of being 23 years old! What an awkward age to be, not quite in your mid twenties, your twenty-first seems a million years ago, but your thirtieth seems trillions of years away! In athletics terms you’re considered to be a ‘senior’ athlete, a label given until you hit thirty-five when they decide you’re over the hill! I think the time between twenty-one and thirty will be the forgotten years, the early adult years, the years where you don’t really meet new people, the time in which you just get on with things. Or maybe that’s just true for me!

Yesterday I woke up feeling the same as any other day, only by the power of time I had aged a year. I had a quite low key birthday really, I can’t actually remember the last time I had a birthday party. I saw the final Harry Potter film at the cinema with my family, had tapas for lunch and saw The Sound of Music at the theatre in the evening, again with my family. Harry Potter was a great film, but I hate the ending when they jump forward so many years, it’s all just too final! Since The Sound of Music is one of my favourite musicals of all time, I had very high expectations and was disappointed in places. They muddled the songs up compared to the film, added in new songs, altered the storyline and well you just can’t beat Julie Andrews can you!

I got six cards, three from my immediate family, parents, brother and Calvin, one from my aunt and uncle, one from my aunt’s parents who I have never met and one from my neighbour. None from friends. None from all my other uncles, aunts and cousins, let me tell you there are allot of them too, as my dad is one of eight. I did however get lots of Face Book messages and made the effort to reply to every single one individually. It just seems no fun getting older!

Oh well, climb every mountain, follow every rainbow until you find your dreams!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

One Vision, 2012!

Three days of racing in one week and thankfully some positive results, but lack of consistency and qualification standards is frustrating.

Last Wednesday was my local club’s open and I did both sprint events. I was pretty disappointed to only get 15.72secs over 100m, as I had been working on my drive phase and managed to stay down for the full 30m. However, my stride length lacked length! It was such a long wait until the 200m and it wasn’t until 9.45pm that I ended up racing. Because I am eternally jinxed, on the first stride my new guide rope snapped! I wasn’t actually aware of this until my guide runner told me to stop, as it was her side that had broken. I was allowed to run in the next heat, but had to use my old guide rope that just let’s me run in the wrong direction. Surprisingly I ran a season’s best of 33.67secs.

At the weekend it was the English and Parallel Success Championships held in Bedford. I had never raced there before, but had heard about the windy conditions that hovered over the track! Long jump was up first and it was absolutely pouring it down with rain. Feeling cold, wet and miserable in my vest and shorts I couldn’t wait for it to be over. My practice jumps were a disaster; I found it impossible to concentrate with the weather and commentator talking about the track events. To be fair, the officials acknowledged that this was an issue for me and a flag system was used, so when the flag was up the commentator had to stop speaking for my jump. They also had to move the board forward, as it was 2m from the pit and effectively I could jump from 3m away and not even make the pit, this wasn’t just for me though, as the other disabled jumpers would have also had a similar problem. After my awful warm-up jumps, I really went for it on my first jump, just to commit and definitely get one in, though it petrifies me every time jumping into the obis! I veered left and only one foot made the pit, with the other leg hitting the safety mat and grazing my knee. This was still measured, as I made the sand and because I was a little shaken afterwards and trying to regain my focus for the next five jumps, I didn’t hear the distance. I wish I did hear the distance, as it turned out to be my best jump and I would have gone in straight away! My next 3 jumps were no jumps; getting more confident and stretching out my stride length I went over the board marginally on 2 and just ran through one, as I felt rushed with a race about to start on the track and commentator waiting for me. My final two jumps were around the 2 and a half metre mark and I was utterly disgusted with my performance! Then the results came up and it turns out my first jump was 3.21m 9cm short of the B standard for the Paralympics next year. I was awarded a shiny good quality gold medal, as I was the closest to my classification’s world record.

Thankfully, the rain stopped for my 100m where I was faced with a pretty strong field. The number one Great Britain T11 sprinter, Tracey Hinton was drawn in the lane to my left and double world junior champion in the T37 category was drawn in the lane to my right. Sandwiched by world class athletes, my aim was to try and keep with Tracey for as long as possible, as I’m only able to gage athletes to my left with my guide runner being on my right. However, I was a little star struck when the gun went off and Tracey was gone within the first stride. I maintained my composure and raced on with no idea where I was in the race and was pleased to discover that I finished third behind the two world class athletes and beat the other three athletes, two of which have run around the 15.5secs mark this year. To demonstrate the difference between Tracey and me, her being the number one Brit and I number two, she ran a phenomenal 13.43secs and I ran 15.30secs! After the points were worked out I remained in third place and got a nice quality bronze medal to accompany my gold. I really don’t know where I’m going to find half a second from by the end of August though!

The 200m took place on the Sunday and I was up against the same athletes. This time I knew I would struggle to finish third, as four out of the five other athletes had run quicker than me over the distance this year. Drawn in lanes one and two, I had no chance of knowing where I was in the race. I knew I had taken the bend far too slowly, but for once we sustained a good arm rhythm and I desperately didn’t want to mess that up, as it feels so awkward when it goes wrong. Coming off of the bend I picked up the speed and the arm rhythm was lost for a couple of strides, but regained again and I stormed down the home straight, knowing that I must be a million miles behind. My guide runner confirmed to me afterwards that I was dead last coming on to the home straight, but I made up two places and was quickly closing down for third place, but ran out of metres. I clocked 32.93secs a good seven tenths quicker than the Wednesday before and creeping closer towards my PB of 32.35secs. I’m pleased I’m progressing in the event, but know much more improvement is needed.

Good points to take forward:
1. I’m only 9cm short of the B standard in the long jump
2. My 200m time is rapidly improving
3. I am now able to sustain a longer drive phase
4. I’m getting better at running around the bend
5. I didn’t let the fact that I was left for dead by Tracey impact on my performance
My next race is in Stoke Mandevil on 30/31 July.

Who needs 20:20 vision when you’ve got 2012 vision!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Sight Village 2011

QAC Sight Village is held annually and is a large exhibition of products and services for the visually impaired. I attended the Birmingham event, but it is also held in Manchester and London. This was my second time going, as I last went in 2009. There is a blog post about that buried in this blog somewhere with no useful label to locate it!

The first time I went I got a little bored, but this time, I wish I had more time to explore and absorb. The place was packed with people and Calvin successfully found every single Guide Dog in the building to greet, but I have to say, I didn’t come across a single friendly GDO, as they all seemed really narked by Calvin’s bright eyed, helicopter tail hello. I know Calvin is easily distracted, but surely he’s not the only Guide Dog to be attracted to other dogs in harness!

Anyway, here’s my opinion on some of the products and services I came across...

Vibrating Glasses:
I can’t remember the proper name of these glasses, but they are RNIB’s new favourite gadget to flog. The glasses are supposed to detect over head objects and should be used in conjunction with a cane or dog. Priced around £80 they are reasonable for a visually impaired product. However, they made me cringe, as they look like the stereotypical blacked out, dark glasses some visually impaired people choose to wear. The vibration on your face isn’t the most comfortable and whilst they vibrated I found I moved my face to avoid the object, but my body didn’t follow, so effectively I was still in danger. Testing them in such a busy environment probably wasn’t the best idea, but they don’t get my vote.

Ultra Cane:
All new and improved, oh and double the price too, now costing £635. The electronics have been moved to the inside of the cane for protection and any previous folding issues have been resolved. It practically appears to be like a normal white cane, but the handle is a little bulkier with two vibrating pods. The top pod is for over head objects and the bottom for obstacles directly in your path. I found that after a couple of minutes I was able to walk freely without bumping into anything by responding to the vibrations. It is much more specific and accurate than the glasses and less obvious that you are using specialist equipment. If I was still a cane user, I would look at investing in one. They can be loaned or paid for in instalments and even better come in pink, blue or yellow, as well as the traditional white. I love my pink cane!

Offer free audio books on a memory stick or mp3 cd. Previously, I paid for a Talking Books membership with RNIB to get some of my literature books for uni, but will no longer be doing this, as there is a free service.

Vision Hotels:
I’ve been to the ones in Bognor and Teignmouth. A group of us want to go to Bognor again, but the hotels are no longer just for the visually impaired and there seem to be less discounts too. I was trying to find out how we could get a good deal, but all they could offer was 10% off if you have a RNIB membership or if you book 3 months in advance. This would still cost quite a lot. Previously, we paid £99 for 3 nights half board. I find it strange that they are not encouraging the visually impaired to go.

Are a pretty good charity, I went to Berlin with them in 2006 on the International Computer Camp, which was a week of activities with other countries from mainly Europe. They had a kids zone and Calvin and I got our picture taken on a green screen. I wanted it to be him on his own, but he didn’t sit still. We chose a beach backdrop, which gets super imposed on afterwards. Check out Look’s Outlook Youth Project for people aged 9 to 25 years old, I keep meaning to get involved!

Guide Dogs:
I went to there stand, but nobody spoke to us, they all just stayed sitting at their table not doing a whole lot! I saw Delphie doing a demo in the sports arena, he was the dog I had a demo walk with two years ago. I watched the demo for a little while, thinking what a false advert that they were giving. The crowd were all commenting on how amazing Delphie was, but I was so tempted to try Calvin on the obstacle course and show more realistically what type of dog you’re likely to get! I’m not sure it’s very convincing when a sighted person is demonstrating too.

Overall, it is a great exhibition to attend, to get in the know. I’d definitely recommend it.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I was in London for the weekend. Time is flying by lately! It was great being back in London for an extended period of time other than for a MoorfieldsEye Hospital appointment. At one stage in my life, London was like a second home to me. Getting off of the train with Calvin, I quickly realised this was the first time we had travelled there solo. I didn’t have any assistance booked and spent a while trying to figure out which way the mass crowd were going for the exit. When you’re in London, you don’t feel like you stick out like a sore thumb, as everyone is so interested in getting to places than stopping to stroke your dog or ask if you’re ok. I love that! Once through the barriers I met Beth and her new Guide Dog Connie who is a German shepherd and a little bigger than my BFG. Oh yeah and Connie is classified as a ‘fast’ dog, the quickest walking speed a Guide Dog can be, Calvin is a ‘quick mod plus’, but this meant we had to get our skates on a little. I’ve met Connie once before, so had a chance to practice my power walk before hitting the capital.

On the Saturday we went to watch the afternoon performance of Wicked in the West End. I was supposed to go the year before, but cancelled at the last minute so I could go to an athletics competition instead, surprise, surprise! I was concerned that because our seats were up in the heavens that I would find it difficult to concentrate with not being able to see the lights and thought the sound wouldn’t be very good, but in fact I could see glimmers of light and the sound was amazing. There was certainly no room for the dogs to join us, I could hardly fit my legs in the gap and I’m 5ft 2”! The dogs were left in a good sized room to relax/run around like wild animals! The musical overall was enjoyable, although I could see where they were trying to be funny and I didn’t always crack a smile. The storyline was also a little confusing, probably because I didn’t realise the Wicked Witch wasn’t really wicked!

On the Sunday we went to watch Glee Live at the O2. Again the dogs were left with staff members, but we didn’t get to see the room and apparently they were taken on a walk by the river, which I’m not sure they should have done, as there are so many rules you’re supposed to follow even when a Guide Dog is not working, such as walking on the left of a person, stopping at curbs and steps etc. Prior to Glee coming on stage there was a dance act for the support. I’ve never found something so dull in my life, the music wasn’t even great that they were jigging to! However, I realised how close our seats were to the stage, as without microphones I could hear them speaking. When Glee came on the atmosphere was electric, singing just as good as on the show and character roles sustained. There were video clips of Shooster and Sue on the big screen, which were amusing and The Warblers were there too and sang a few songs. The actress who plays Mercedes stole the show for me, I know she has a massive diva voice, but honestly listening to her hit the most complicated notes at the end of songs left me spell bound. I’ve been to a hell of a lot of concerts and I’ve never heard anything so incredible! The downside to the show was it was just over an hour long, so pretty short and sweet.

The next musical I’m seeing is The Sound of Music for my birthday. I’ve wanted to see this for years, as have watched the video and DVD a million times growing up!

Don’t stop believing!

Monday, 4 July 2011

I'll Get There...

So it’s now July and I honestly thought by now I’d have at least a PB over 100m. Looks like I will have to wait just that little bit longer.

Yesterday I was racing in Birmingham, as part of the Midland League for Charnwood, so a mainstream event. I knew I had no chance of being in the mix, but it was nice to be in quick races. The 200m was first and haven’t done one since May. I’ve got a new guide rope to try and prevent my veering and aid my general running. From start to finish the race was a disaster. The arm co-ordination was lost and I physically couldn’t run properly, I apparently stepped out of my lane, which doesn’t surprise me, as I was certainly not going around the bend smoothly and to top it off my guide crossed the line first. Despite all of this I wasn’t disqualified, as they lacked electronic timing, wind gages and photo finishes. The time came out as 34.7secs, the most shocking thing of that is I’ve run two slower times this year when I was actually trying! However, it’s a good two seconds off of my PB and a further four seconds off of the B standard for 2012.

I was more confident going into the 100m, but appear to have some issues with positioning my hands on the start line. The new guide rope means I have to make a fist shape, as opposed to the usual going up on to your finger tips. When I went into the set position, I found myself balancing on my knuckles on one hand and thought to myself what an idiot! The race was one of my best this year, feeling smooth and quick. I seem to have my strength sorted over the short sprint and certainly don’t fade towards the end. Therefore I was hoping for a nice time, but was given 15.3secs. This isn’t awful since my official season’s best this year is 15.29secs, but I still need to find a half second from somewhere to get to the B standard of 14.8secs.

Positives to take forward-
1. Hand timing is not accurate
2. I wasn’t out of breath at the end of the 200m
3. I felt strong over 100m
4. The new guide rope prevented me from veering over 100m
5. I didn’t allow the faster athletes to intimidate me
Going forward, as going backwards is not an option!