Letting it all sink in:
I must admit when I was first informed I had been named to the USA Paralympic Team it was all a bit surreal. Surreal in many ways because of just how long and complex the journey to get to this point in my cycling career had become. For the better part of 6 years, my life and its corresponding daily choices have all been weighed against the potential effects such choice would have on my making the London Paralympic Team. Alas when the day came to be named, it seemed nearly unfathomable that we had made it.
I recall, at hearing the words of my selection, breathing a deep sigh of relief as if a large weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Those simple words of “you made it” affirmed all the unyielding support and belief in my abilities that everyone had bestowed on me for so many years. In addition, it was an exhale of relief to know that on many levels, all of the hard work was coming to a close.
This is not to say I did not understand that the intensity of my training and commitment to racing my bike would not reach new heights in the remaining weeks to the London Paralympics. Instead, I misjudged the behind-the-scenes work that would be involved in assuring I arrived in London 100% prepared to compete at my ultimate best.
In the past several weeks, the reality of my misguided assumptions has come crashing in. In my six years of para-cycling racing, I have participated in multiple World Championships that up until now represented the pinnacle of cycling to me. However, the magnitude of what the Paralympics is to me and the rest of the World, has ushered in a new respect and humbleness in what it means to be one of a select few that has the honor to represent his/her country on the World’s largest sporting stage. This being the case I quickly found myself overwhelmed with a sense of urgency to make sure that I am prepared on levels well beyond physical prowess to represent the United States to the best of my ability.
Training marches on as if little has changed but it is the once less significant details that I now find demanding my utmost attention. Meditating on the grandness of the Paralympic Games I find myself surveying my entire surroundings in order to assure I have left nothing to chance. Thus, it has been a bit of rude awakening to see how many details while small, can so often be overlooked.
I reflect on my fleet of bikes and race equipment which has served me well over the years but not without moments of failure. In the past, failures have been lessons learned and recoverable, but now they are questions of unpreparedness and inexcusable fault. To that end I have been scrambling to replace well worn equipment and assure that all is running smoothly.
Where once having my family cheering thousands of miles away waiting on baited breath for internet updates and emails was an expectable sacrifice, I find myself focusing my attention on assuring they are there on the sidelines to infuse me with there unquantifiable energy and love that has driven me on these past six years.
Mental stillness and confidence in my athletic abilities have reached new importance. Now is not the time to reflect on could haves and what ifs; now is the time to find solace in my abilities and instincts as a bike racer. My performances in the races will not be product of my fellow competitor’s actions, but rather my resolve and faith in my own potential.
In short, representing our country at the Paralympic Games has given me a new sense of awareness for what it takes to be my best. I humbly accept this increased work load and feel honored to be muddled in the details of making this the most memorable sporting achievement of my life… and to imagine the starting gun has yet to sound…