Thursday, January 26, 2012

Training With a Cause: An Introduction

Besides training for triathlons, there is something else that is very near and dear to my heart:
Glacier (My current guide dog).

That's right: I'm a crazy dog lover; especially Labrador Retrievers. From the age of six, I have always had at least one Labrador in my life. Granted, two of them have been guide dogs, and another is my husband's guide dog, but Labradors are always around. So, that is why I thought it fitting that the cause I trained for was a Labrador Retriever Rescue.
is a non-profit organisation that re-homes Labradors all over Scotland. The organisation is quite active and even has a very busy and welcoming Facebook page.
With the current economy, and many other reasons, dogs are being re-homed on a regular basis. Labrador Retriever Rescue  Scotland (LRRS), works in conjunction with current owners in attempting to rectify issues before re-homing is considered. If a Labrador does need to be re-homed, LRRS works very hard to find the dog the perfect forever home. New owners are required to stay in contact with LRRS throughout the adopted dog's life and in return receives advice on a myriad of topics, including but not limited to: health, training and diet. Where possible LRRS likes to find homes for Labs where they can work: some have gone on to be great  scent dogs. The bottom line for LRRS is, that a dog is placed in a loving, safe home whether it is to be a pet or a working dog. With my affinity for Labs and my great appreciation for working dogs, I have chosen Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland as the organisation that I want to raise funds for while attempting to attain my triathlon goals.
How will I  go about this?
As of right now, a "donation" button will be added to a page I will create with all of the information pertaining to LRRS and my training goals. The donations that come in will be split between myself and Labrador Retriever Rescue  Scotland, with LRRS receiving 80 percent of the funds raised. The other 20 percent I will keep to pay for the necessary expenses of training as a blind triathlete. Triathlon training is expensive, but if you double those costs-blind athletes often have to purchase adaptive equipment and pay double for travel/race entry fees Etc for his/her guide-training in an already expensive sport becomes nearly impossible without a sponsorship. Labrador Retriever Rescue Scotland has agreed to the split and was more than generous.
So, today when I hit the treadmill, sweating my way through intervals, I will be thinking of all of the Labradors out there that still need rescuing, re-homing or vet bills paid for. If that isn't motivating, then I don't know what is. :)

Guide dogs need a break too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2.1 K

Last night I had the opportunity to join the Edinburgh Road Club for one of their evening swim sessions. It felt so good to be a part of a club atmosphere and it definitely helped me to push myself. To be honest, I haven't been swimming as often as I should the last month, but last night's session made me realise that I actually like swimming and that I need to do it if I want to be ready to compete in a triathlon this summer.
My lane had three other swimmers in it, and for most of the workout, I swam in the second position. It felt good to know that I was fast enough to be second, but it also made me push myself. I didn't want to be caught by the other two behind me: that's the competitiveness in me. We all worked hard and I was able to take a lot away from that practice. For example, I have always known that my arms are my weakness in the water, but last night I realised just how badly my arms need work. We did a pull set, which means that we only used our arms to swim through the water. I stayed in the second spot, but by the time the  first 25 metres were done, the two behind me had caught up. I let them pass as I didn't want to interrupt someone else's practice, but my arms are going to definitely need some work.
I fought with the lane ropes as I always do and came out with the bruises to prove it. My left elbow is a glorious shade of green this morning and I have, what we like to call, "lane rope burn" on my upper arm, just below my shoulder. I had forgotten how much that stuff hurts. That said, I've dealt with worse. Once, while training in Brazil, I sliced my pinky finger open to the bone because the insides of the lane ropes were so sharp. I constantly opened the finger back up for the whole two weeks we were there. A little bruising is nothing in comparison. :)
From everything that triathletes have told me, you use your arms for the most part in the swim portion of the race in order to save your legs for the cycle and run portions. If that is the case, I better start lifting more weights and doing a lot of pull during my water practices.
I realised that my legs are a lot stronger than I thought. Maybe it's from all of the running I've been doing, but whatever the cause, if we did just kick, I blew everyone out of the water. Both of these things are good to know.
I also realised that I am faster than I thought when swimming full stroke. Part of our workout was to do 4 200 metres on 3.30. This means, that we had to swim 200 metres faster than 3 minutes and 30 seconds, four times through. My 200 metres were well below the 3.30 mark, which excited me a lot. The best part was that I was able to maintain that time all the way through the 800 metres; very encouraging.
After the practice I sat down with L, the coach I've spoken about before, and M, another coach. We discussed our options for finding me a guide, or more precisely, a pool of guides. With a pool of guides, the time commitments would be spread out amongst people, which would mean that I would probably have a guide for most days of the week and I could stop primarily training in the gym. I still don't have a problem supplementing workouts by  training in the gym, but if I could get some time out on the road running and cycling, my times, technique and endurance would improve very quickly.
M sent me a bunch of questions that people have asked about training with me and I sent an email back with my answers this morning. He will circulate my answers, we'll have a social gathering for those people interested and then hopefully have a few different guides after that.
I felt like last night was very productive both during practice and in finding me a guide or two. I've run into a few road blocks, but I think eventually things will get worked out.
Scratch that.
Things WILL get worked out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My First 6 K

Today was a milestone. Okay, perhaps not a milestone as it was six kilometre stones, but you get the point. It was the first time I broke the six kilometre mark and was very excited about it. I took the pace easy, focusing only on reaching six kilometres. A couple of times the personal trainer checked in and asked how I was doing. Those times, I considered picking up the pace, but held back because I was more concerned with the distance than how fast I was going. It wasn't a particularly fast run, but I completed the six kilometres in 45 minutes or so. It was slow, but steady and incredibly controlled. I could feel myself working for sure, but it was not  until the last 1.5 kilometres that I started losing control of my breathing and even at that, I was able to get it back under control with a few deep, deliberate breaths.
I find I'm saying this a lot, but it is amazing to me that in just two months, I have managed to go from not running at all, to being able to hold a steady, comfortable pace all of the way to six kilometres. Who would have thought I'd call running comfortable.
Tomorrow I am back on the treadmill with the intention of running a shorter, but much faster set. It felt good reaching my "destination" of sorts-it is difficult to have a destination when running on a stationary machine-but I really need to be able to do that faster. So, tomorrow will be my "push" day; my "do it even if it hurts" day. It's supposed to be uncomfortable tomorrow.
It is important to take the little victories as they come-I.E., running six kilometres non-stop for the first time-but, if you want to get better, you need to take that momentum and "run" with it. Let it push you into the next thing and embrace it; even if it is a bit uncomfortable. :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Sore Bum

I ran today. Not particularly far, but a bit quicker than I have been. It was a good run. I tried pushing myself and it felt good. My heart rate averaged around 146, but by the time I was nearing the end of my run, it was up around 166. But it's not my legs, or my heart for that matter, that is sore. It's not my arms or my core muscles.
It's not even my back; not the muscles that work at holding me upright. They're called "erectors" for a reason. But my back feels fine.
It's my butt.
Isn't it strange how that works?
...My butt muscles hurt!
I mean, I know why that is. I went to massage therapy college  for 2200 very,  long hours. If I didn't know how muscles worked together and all that I wouldn't have, or at least shouldn't have, graduated. But, it's still funny to me to see my schooling be related to my real life.
Muscles work in sets, or at least that is the easiest way to explain it without going into a whole bunch of anatomical jibber jabber. They work to counter balance each other, to support whatever muscle needs supporting. Actually, the human body is an interesting and wonderful thing, but it doesn't change that my butt hurts.
I know it's probably that there are certain muscle groups that need stretching; more specifically my glutes. Realistically, my hamstrings could probably use a good stretching as well. Hamstrings are a huge muscle group and actually attach right to the bones that you sit on. In massage college those bones were nicknamed your "sit" bones, but in reality they're called your "ishiel tuberocities.""
You make sure you remember that, K?  ? Especially since I spelled it wrong.
 If my  hamstrings are working hard and pulling on my "sit" bones with every step, then it's no wonder my butt is sore. I guess I was just taken aback when I started walking around today after my run, only to discover that it was my bum that was giving me grief and not other areas.
When I was training for swimming, I had some pretty sore muscles; upper traps, Lats, Pecs. Most of which were shoulder/back related. I got that, but not once did my butt hurt or an area that I hadn't directly worked. This is all new to me, but I guess I am training in a way I haven't before. I'm sure there will be some other surprises down the road. It's just really inconvenient when your butt hurts! Do you know how much you use those muscles to do every day tasks?!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


From everything that I've read, transitions can trip up even the most experienced triathlete. Somehow, you have to swap out your gear from each sport at the transitions and get the next set of muscles ready for what's coming up. A lot of the equipment that is available to triathletes now, is designed to make transitions smoother and some of the gear is even multi-functional. I won't get into that here, as I really don't know much about it-not yet anyway-but moving muscles from one sport to another is definitely something I can work on. Today, I did just that.
Judging by the break down of the times of the blind and visually impaired women's results at the World Championships held in Beijing in September of 2011, transitions may make or break the race. The woman who won the race completed her transitions in less than a minute, whereas, the women who took second and third, respectively, had transitions times that sometimes neared the two minute mark. Every little bit of time you can save, will make a difference. Of course there is the question of whether the woman who won was low vision as opposed to totally blind because that vision difference will inevitably make a difference, but competing against someone who can see more than I can is not something I can control. Preparing my body to handle transitions the best that it can, is definitely within my control. So, that is whatI will focus on.
Yesterday, an email was sent out to the Won With One group from the Development coach, outlining benchmarks that we should be thinking about in the next couple of weeks. As I suspected, my swimming distance is fine, if not a bit slow, but I was surprised to find that my running was slightly ahead of where it needs to be right now. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since the run portion of the race is what I've been focusing on in the last two months. My cycling is right around where it should be, but could use a bit more work. I figured working on a transition from the bike to a run, focusing on some of the times/distances that were outline for us would be a good place to start today.
Upon arriving at the gym, and having Glacier taken off to be "puppy sat" in the office, I hopped on to an upright bike. My goal was to try to reach as close to the 8 K mark as possible in fifteen minutes. I haven't really been focusing on cycling and so I wasn't expecting anything too impressive. The first five minutes were a bit of a struggle, but I soon settled into a good rhythm. When I've cycled in the past, my quads have given me the most grief, burning and complaining the longer I was on the bike. Today though, my quads didn't really burn, but I fought to keep control of my breathing the whole time. I think the weird flu/cold/plague thing I had hasn't quite relinquished its hold. At the fifteen minute mark, I had cycled 7.40 kilometres and I hopped off and moved as quickly as I could over to the treadmills. I was very happy with that result. I know I definitely have work to do, but it is a good reference point for future training sessions.
My goal on the treadmill was to run at a quicker pace than is comfortable and hang on for two kilometres. I've gotten really good at slipping into a comfortable pace and staying there for five K or so, but today I wanted it to be uncomfortable. After the cycle, I figured that it wouldn't take much to push me over the edge. I was right about that, but what surprised me was how well my legs held up.
The personal trainer I worked with today was someone I haven't worked with before and although I told him the speed I wanted the treadmill at, he suggested bumping it up a half kilometre than I had requested. That sort of thing can be a pro and a con when you are blind and a captive audience to your personal trainer. I decided he could be on to something and let him move the treadmill up faster than I thought originally would be a good pace. Today was my day to make things uncomfortable right?
I thought that after getting off the bike, having gone almost 8 K, and then immediately hitting the treadmill, my legs would give out. There wasn't even a hint of burning or fatiguing. Perhaps my legs are stronger than I thought. My breathing was difficult to control though and I often found myself singing the "alphabet Song" in my head to refocus my attention. It was a trick a swim coach told me to try once.
We had been working hard, pushing through a tough kick set and all I wanted to do was throw my kickboard at him and get out of the water. I remember my thighs had gone numb and my throat had rasped with the effort to breathe. We were almost done and I'm sure he could see the fatigue on my face. He told me to hang in there and to sing "The Alphabet Song" in my head when the pain got really bad. I did, and was amazed at how it worked. Making yourself think methodically, changes your thought pattern and makes some really hard sets doable. I've never forgot that and it shocked me when I automatically started singing "A, B, C D," Etc, in my head, while trying to ignore the stitch in my left side.
The singing must have worked because I made it through, despite the run feeling as if it was  out of control. It wasn't so much so that I completely fell off the wagon, but breathing was not fluid and my foot falls were becoming quite heavy the closer I got to two kilometres. I finished the run in just over 12.5 minutes and I am more than happy with that result. The personal trainer also told me that I had my heart rate up to 174 towards the end of the   run, which would explain my lungs feeling like they wanted to burst. Not every practice needs to be like today's, pushing yourself hard and out of your comfort zone, but you also don't get faster if you do only what is comfortable.
I finished the day's workout with a session on the Gravity Pull-down machine, which the trainer decided to increase the resistance on. He said something about me being a strong swimmer.
 Wait! What?
I haven't been a strong swimmer in three years! Oh well. I really enjoyed working with him and really appreciated him pushing me that little bit further. I can see working with him in the future is going to be very beneficial.
  It's nice to work hard, and to know you've worked hard, but that even though it was a bit shaky, you still accomplished your goals. It's also nice to know that someone else sees that potential in you and gently encourages you to dig even deeper.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Tenie's aunt put this on my Facebook wall:
‎"Runners just do it. They run for the finish line even if someone else has reached it first." –- Unknown
The simplicity of it shocked me the first time I read it. Upon reading it a second time, I had to laugh, but of course we keep running. Even if ten people have crossed in front of you, even if you are number 195 out of 200, for some reason you just keep running for the finish line.
When I ran my first 5 K race at the beginning of December, I never once stopped running for the finish line. In fact, when my body wanted to quit, my mind kept thinking about that finish line drawing nearer with every step. What is it about running that keeps you driving to cross that line even when you're sweating buckets, your lungs burn and your legs have gone numb? What makes you stagger over that line and think to yourself "Wow. I did it! I want to do that again!"
It's slightly crazy, don't you think?
Then again, maybe it's because you have reached a goal. Maybe it's the satisfaction you get out of beating your own body, the elements and, if you're lucky, another runner or two. Even if you aren't that lucky and you cross it last, for what ever reason, we runners just keep running. And yes, I have finally called myself a runner.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Off to The Pool I Go

Today is the first swim of the year that I'll be doing with the Edinburgh Road Club. I had two practices with them in December to see whether or not I wanted to join and was quite happy with the club and the set up of the practices. Even though my coach from when I was swimming has agreed to give me workouts, it will be nice to practice at least once a week in a team environment. Sometimes training on your own is really nice, but I find that it's also beneficial to have days where you have other like-minded people surrounding you. It's motivating in a way and tends to keep me on track. The only glitch is getting there.
I'm battling another cold thingy I am pretty sure I picked up from the gym. Because of that, I thought I might not make it, but I'm feeling quite a bit better this morning and so will be going. It seems every time I turn around, I've been sick this winter season. I think part of it is the unpredictable weather and also that I'm in a new country with various strains of bugs that I am assuming my system has never had to fight off before. Despite my clogged head, I'll definitely be going tonight. I had a solid 12 hour sleep last night and feel quite a bit better. Not 100 percent by any stretch, but much better.
I think it's really important I go tonight for a few reasons. One of them being that L and I are going to be chatting about potential guides for me. I really need to find a guide or two in order for this whole training thing to work. Besides, when racing season rolls around, how am I suppose to race without a guide?
Aside from the cold, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get to the pool because I have no idea where it is. I'm really thankful to Tenie, my best friend, who is going to teach me how to get to the pool. The two times I've been before now, I've alwys went with a sighted person and without my guide dog, Glacier. I wasn't paying attention to the route because I assumed Emily would be coming with me every week and that would mean I wouldn't have to worry about getting there on my own. Now, though, being able to get to this particular practice independently is the only way I'll get to train with ERC on Mondays. So, Tenie has generously given up her evening tonight to teach me how to get from the bus stop to the swim centre itself.
It's these little things that make training for a sport slightly complicated and ever interesting as a blind person. You can't just look up the pool on a map and drive yourself there. Getting there has to be learned, memorized and practised. Wen learning new routes, especially longer ones like this one, there is great potential for getting lost or turned around. This could mean not making the practice at all. Thankfully, from what I remember, the route is pretty straight forward once you hop off the bus, so I think Glacier and I will get it the first time. At least, let's hope. I'd hate to have to drag Tenie out another night next week. She'd probably do it because she's awesome like that, but I'd rather not have her sitting, sweating her butt off on a pool deck for an hour if she doesn't have to. I'd also rather not get lost the next time Glacier and I venture there on our own. :)
Regardless of cold and transportation issues-now sorted out-I'll make it tonight and hopefully have a decent practice and a productive chat with L. With every little obstacle overcome, such as learning how to get to a practice venue independently, my goal to race in a triathlon this summer becomes more and more of a  reality and for that I am grateful.
I read on a friend's Facebook page the other day:
"failure is not falling down, but rather failure is staying down." I couldn't agree more.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The First Run of 2012

So, I finally managed it: I made it to the gym and had a really good run. It sounds funny to me, me saying "I had a good run" because two months ago, I never would have used "good" and "run" in the same sentence. I hated running and thought that it would take me an eternity to, if not enjoy it, at least tolerate it. The strange thing is, I actually missed running the last few days when I wasn't able to get to the gym due to 41 miles per hour winds and the gym's Holiday hours. What a foreign concept.
The other foreign concept is that a good, comfortable run was a 5.5 K workout. That's what I ran for my first run of the year and it felt good. In fact, the first three and a half K or so felt easy. That in and of itself just blows my mind. I used to run about 400 metres and want to quit; even when I was at my fitness peak as an elite swimmer. I had resolved to "just get through" the run portion of the triathlon, as I love swimming and cycling and, used to, hate running. I still wouldn't say it's my favourite, but knowing that it's a bit more manageable and that my body will adjust to it, is very encouraging. Despite breathing hard and sweating like a fiend,  I recovered quickly and was pleasantly surprised that 5.5 kilometres isn't really that bad. Now, the key is to do 5 K after a 20 KM bike and 750 metre swim, but I'll tackle that when it comes.
The other challenge is to get my time faster. I may have run 5.5 K, but it was probably just above most people's jogging speed. However, I think for today, I'll be happy with how far I ran, get another good workout in this afternoon-probably working on transitions from the bike to the run-and worry about times later. It really has only been two months and I think I've made huge strides in that short time period; if I do say so myself. :)
On a different and exciting note: one of my coaches who trained me to my first Paralympic Games has agreed to write me swim workouts. I asked him on the off chance that he would and he sent an email back, complete with two 2 K workouts already written out for me. It is so exciting that he's willing to help me and words seem inadequate in thanking him. My swimming has been coming along, but most workouts I was making up as I went along and was starting to run out of ideas. I have an idea as how to train as a swimming sprinter, but as a triathlon is not a sprint in comparison to some of the 50 metre races I used to do, I really needed some direction. I've looked at both workouts and they are both challenging, but I feel better knowing someone with coaching knowledge is providing me with practices. He is an excellent coach and I trust his abilities and judgment.
Despite 2012 having a bit of a "rocky start," things have definitely improved in the last couple of days. I feel like I am moving in the right direction and now that I have guidance, at least in the swimming department, I know things will just continue to improve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Great Opportunity

A little while back I posted that I had been welcomed to the ranks of Won With One, a national triathlon team dedicated to blind and visually impaired athletes; regardless of  fitness levels. Won With One welcomes Canadian blind and visually impaired triathletes, whether the person wants to improve his/her fitness or he/she has dreams of representing Canada in 2016. Have I mentioned I have an inkling to go to the 2016 Games? ;)
 One of the  goals of Won With One is to break down barriers to sport for blind and visually impaired individuals and make fitness a more realistic endeavor. Jan Ditchfield, the Executive Director has been working tirelessly with others to put together a series of workshops directed at furthering blind and Visually impaired people's participation, not only in sport, but life in general. I think these workshops are a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to become involved or who is involved in sport with blind and visually impaired athletes. Of course, these workshops are incredibly beneficial to athletes themselves and I intend on listening to the workshop on triathlon guiding via Skype. Obviously I don't guide myself-that would be very bad-but knowing how to direct my guides will definitely be beneficial to my training and racing in the future. Below you will find the details about all six workshops and information about registration. You can decide how many workshops you attend, or you may pay a flat rate to attend all six.

Won with One is proud to host our dynamic learning series Eye on You; taking place over six weeks and focusing on proactive solutions and educational resources from leaders in the blind/visually impaired community in Canada. All proceeds from this series will go to assist Won with One’s charitable program for blind and visually impaired triathletes.

Cost: $15 per workshop OR $75 for the series (6)
Location: Ottawa City Hall
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30pm
Dates: See below per workshop
To register for the complete series (6) click here.
To register for individual workshops click here.
**Please note Skype participation is now available for people who do not reside in Ottawa 
Workshop Topics:
#1 - From the Couch to Well-being

Thursday, February 2nd
Ottawa City Hall, Honeywell Room
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

To register for this workshop click here
**Please note that registration for this event is capped at 30 participants.**

Fitness expert, Wendall Hughes has designed an innovative and fully accessible exercise program for B/VI persons introducing them to simple exercise routines that can be done in the home. This workshop will be focused on providing resources and information to persons who are new to living active lifestyles, with tips, tools and support that will aid in developing healthier lifestyles.

#2 - Your Life. Your Voice.

Thursday, February 9th
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Ottawa City Hall, Colonel By Room

To register for this workshop click here. 
**Please note that registration for this event is capped at 30 participants.

Leaders in Human Rights in Canada will present in this exciting workshop on self-advocacy. Focusing on how to make your voice heard, understanding your rights and working within challenging systems. This topic will be directly focused on providing the B/VI community with resources, ideas and an understanding of the laws in Canada which are designed to protect the rights of all persons living with disabilities.
#3 - Equality in Employment

Thursday, February 16th
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Ottawa City Hall, Honeywell Room

To register for this workshop click here.
**Please note that registration for this event is capped at 30 participants.

This dynamic round table discussion will focus on resume writing tips, interview preparation, how to turn a volunteer role into a permanent position, as well as overcoming barriers which stand in the way of employment as a B/VI person. With a panel of knowledgeable and experienced leaders in employment, this topic will aid in taking the right steps in your career search.
#4 - Your Financial Future 101

Thursday, February 23rd
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Ottawa City Hall, Colonel By Room

To register click here.
**Please note that registration for this event is capped at 30 participants.

Ryan Ricci, an Investment Fund Advisor with Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc., will assist with his wealth of knowledge on how to prepare for your financial future with a workshop that has been designed for the blind/visually impaired community. Dealing with financial preparations from beginning to end, RDSP contributions and the importance of preparing for your tomorrow; this topic will bring real answers to real questions about financial security and independence.
#5 - The 20/200 Project

Thursday, March 1st
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Ottawa City Hall

To register click here.
***Please note that registration for this event is capped at 12 participants.

From accessible mobile technology to independence; Co-Founders of The 20/200 ProjectChris Maley and Jan Ditchfield, will lead a workshop exploring how accessible mobile technology will lead to independence. With hands-on applications and teaching aids, this powerful and innovative workshop will provide participants with an understanding of the power of mobile devices and how they can be used in work, life and play.
#6 - From the Tether to the T-Zone

Thursday, March 8th
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Ottawa City Hall

To register for this workshop click here.
**Please note that registration for this event is capped at 30 participants.

Rick Hellard of Zone3sports and Jan Ditchfield, Executive Director of Won with One, will host this hands-on learning opportunity for guides and race directors. Covering everything from Guiding 101 practices to assisting race directors in making their events blind friendly, this workshop will focus on educating the sighted community on accessibility needs and equality for B/VI athletes on and off the race course.

To register for the complete series (6) click here.
We look froward to having you join us and for more information, please email us Full information for this series can be found online at    

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Rocky Start

You know when you have good intentions and for whatever reason they just go out the window? That seems to be the training season of 2012 so far  for me. For numerous reasons, such as the gym being closed longer than I thought due to the Holidays and horrible weather, I have not managed to get to the gym in 2012. I find that a bit frustrating and a little disconcerting. Every day that I sit on my butt is a day where I am not getting faster and it's a day when my competition is. However, that strain of thought won't do much for me except frustrate me further; at least not until I am able to get to the gym.
Today is the day I break the cycle and start my 2012 year of training off with a good, solid workout. Drawing on  my frustration, I will be able to run it all off this afternoon. I've talked about how important it is to be flexible as an athlete with a disability and I think that is applicable here. That sentiment could probably be applied to any kind of athleticism but definitely to disabled athletes. I think this may be a part of my adaptability lesson and to teach me not to take for granted the workouts I do get in.
A lot of good things have come out of the past few days that aren't necessarily workout related, but definitely enrich my triathlon experience. Great discussions have been occurring between the athletes of Won With One and L, the coach from Edinburgh Road Club, is going to sit down with me next Monday after the swim practice and have a chat. I've also re-connected with a coach who had a great influence on my swimming career and have asked for his help. So, it's not all bad. I'm just itching to get moving.
I never did sit still well.

Monday, January 2, 2012


When training for any sport as a blind athlete, there are a lot of extra logistics that you have to figure out in order to ensure you are training optimally. Yesterday I talked about my greatest need; having a guide. However, finding willing guides is not an easy task and so I have to get my workouts in at a gym. Even at the gym though, there are certain logistics I have to work out before I am able to train. Some of these include having a way to move from machine to machine, having my heart rate read to me, knowing how far I've run/cycled Etc.
My greatest concern, since I've started my practices entirely indoors, is how to run on a treadmill hands free. The only way I'm going to get even a little bit close to being competitive is to conduct my practices as close to real racing as possible and one part of that is using my arms when running. For the longest time I couldn't figure out how it would be possible. Being totally blind and also being deaf in one ear, my balance isn't so fantastic. I have a tendency to zig-zag and that probably isn't something I should be doing while on a moving machine. I know for sure that if I tried to run hands free on a treadmill without any kind of modifications I would most certainly go zinging across the gym floor. Definitely comical, but not helpful for training. I thought that perhaps I could tie a rope around my waist, tie the other end to the bar on the treadmill and the tension would keep me in place. A good thought, but it would be easy to zig-zag since the pull would only be coming from one direction. The trainer and I discussed it a bit, but he really had no idea either. He was willing to have a think on it, but neither of us were entirely sure how to make a contraption that  would keep me safe while giving me the opportunity to use my arms.
After joining Won With One, I found an article that interviewed one of its athletes and she spoke of how she had learned to run hands free on a treadmill. Knowing that it was possible made me very excited and I contacted her as soon as I got a hold of her email address. She told me that another athlete had advised her to wear a race belt with two criss-crossed strings running from the belt to the treadmill's bar. The two attachment points, one on the right and one on the left, worked to indicate the location of the bar and whether or not she was running straight. She said that sometimes the rigged up tether does not always work as the ends tied to the treadmill bar can migrate to the centre, changing the double reference point, but that it usually worked. She also said sometimes it could be a bit intimidating, only being held in place by two strings; sometimes she thinks they may break, but they haven't and she's able to utilize her arms.
I am so excited that someone thought this contraption up. I suppose I was on the right track with the belt around the waist and the rope going to the treadmill's bar, but having reference points on the left and right side of my waist improves my idea ten fold. Now, there are two more things I must work out before I will be able to utilize this tether/harness thing:
1. First I must buy a race belt and perhaps some rope or something string-like. Something that does not have any give; otherwise, I'll be wobbling all over the place.
2. I have to convince the people at the gym that it's safe. People in Scotland are incredibly hyper vigilant about "health and safety." So much so that it is a bit redundant and slightly insulting. With this in mind, I wonder if some weird health and safety thing will disallow me to use my home made harness. Maybe I can sign a contract that states I take full responsibility for myself if I go flying off the treadmill or get tangled or something ridiculous?
Either way, I figure I'll buy the materials first and build it so that I can demonstrate its use.
"It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission..."
That phrase doesn't exactly apply, but you get my gist. I've learned throughout my life that as a blind person, you do not ask for permission, you just do it and then deal with protests when they occur. Asking, more often than not, leads people to saying no based on ignorance and lack of understanding. If I am going to be a competitive triathlete, I am going to need to use my arms in practice and a home made body harness will be the only way I can do that; at least until I find a guide, which is a whole other story. :)
For now, I will be happy with the knowledge that a modification to running on a treadmill can be made to allow a blind athlete to  use his/her arms. And, I won't bother asking for permission either. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It Has Arrived

It is now 2012. Can you believe it? I am not entirely sure where 2011 went, but 2012 promises to be filled with just as much excitement.
The funny thing is that I would have loved to start the year off with a run this morning, but being a blind athlete means you either rely on someone else to guide you when out running, or, you run on a treadmill. Since the gym is closed for the Holiday, that eliminates that option and there is not a soul around to run outside with. There is no snow on the ground here, and although it's a bit chilly, it would have been a great day for a run; a good start to the year.
However, if I can't run, I suppose I'll have to do something and so, I will probably get in a good 45 minute core workout later this evening. I've learned over the years that in order to be a successful blind athlete, one must be flexible and be willing to change plans; at least to a certain degree. Adaptability will be the one skill that will serve me well in the upcoming year.
Just because I can't run today, does not mean I should sit on my rear end and think about how I want to be running. It means that I need to be creative and find a different way to get some kind of physical conditioning in. There will be other days like this, where I will not be able to train in the manner I would prefer, and so learning to adapt and creatively think early on in this process will be beneficial.
Tomorrow is another day, the gym will be open and the treadmills will be there. Today, crunches, planks and other forms of torture will be my poison. :)