Please enjoy this article from our Guest Blogger, Brian Wacik, a Paralympic hopeful for the Rio Games in 2016. He found us recently and after immediately placing his first order, provided invaluable feedback about product design that we’ll definitely use as we go forward with our plans for the 2016 line. We may be half a world away, but we are connected by a common passion! You can check out his blog and website here: www.paracyclist.com
Talent ID Camp at the Chula Vista, CA Olympic Training Center
Ever notice how life has a way of saying, ‘Hey man, you up for this?’ Seems to me that our responsibility is to respond with a resounding ‘YES’ as often as possible. The stories and adventures that result can be life altering.
In late January, I received an email from the High Performance Cycling Coach at the USOC inviting me as one of a small, select group for a week of training, testing and observation in deep southern California (you can see Tijuana….oh, and hear the gunfire most mornings also). Obstacles were: short notice (camp was 2/14-2/20), money, and only one vacation day available. After being ‘gently’ directed by my coach that this was one of those opportunities one does everything possible to bring to fruition, I took action. It’s amazing what happens when you make a decision, you know? A supportive boss who advanced vacation days, an anonymous financial sponsor, and a quickly revised training schedule to deliver me ready to perform, materialized within 1 week of the decision to go, leaving me 2 weeks of anticipation. And the experience sure didn’t disappoint!
Day 1 was bike assembly, a light road ride, and orientation. But from there on we had 3 things to do daily: eat, train and rest. Two training sessions daily, incredible food, informative meetings and the some of the best athletes I’ve ever met. Very cool not to worry about anything extraneous; gives one a glimpse into the life of a full time athlete….and it’s demanding!
The following days saw Ramp Testing to exhaustion, a rolling Time Trial through the Southern California canyons into a 20+mph ‘breeze’ with no aero equipment. There were cornering, downhill and stopping drills; the high speed ‘attack & gap’ drill; an 8 mile uphill TT, a 3-man Team TT (we dropped one of our team and picked up a handcyclist….kinda hard to catch a draft from them!). On the walk to the evening wrap up meeting, we’d stop and watch the young kids on the BMX track. In the morning, we’d watch the lizards emerge to warm up.
And the people….outta sight! Shawn, a recently blind new athlete, being shepherded around by her sighted pilot, Jennifer; likewise there was Larry – also blind – teasing his Pilot (Greg): ‘I’d like a steak & vegetable omelet…c’mon yo…you my blind bitch, you dig!’; Ryan (who just beat the world champion trike rider a week ago) and whose nerve/muscle injury makes him unsteady & unpredictable on his feet, is frequently asked ‘Drunk again, Ryan?’ No one’s disability is anything but an opportunity for good natured ribbing. Jordan had a shattered hip from a gunshot wound, Zack is a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), Noah had CP…..man, I can tell you, when we rolled out in the morning – upright bikes, trikes, handcycles – we made a hell of a paceline!
One afternoon our training was bumping/shouldering practice. For anyone who’s never ridden a criterium (a ‘crit’) or on the track, you may not know that cycling is a full contact sport. We did these drills in the grass, culminating with all of us (handcycles excepted) in a 20’X20’ square, and the goal was to be the last one upright, and not leaving the square. Track stands, shoulder bumps, intimidation….glad we were in the grass. Made it as far as 3rd from the end when Cody got me and I went down (see the video here)… a soft, slow motion tumble. Oh, and next time you want some handling practice, set your water bottle upright on the ground and slowly ride by and try to pick it up while riding….never thought I could do it!
When asked (frequently) how my trip was, I’ve answered that this was one of the peak experiences of my life. And life just keeps getting better. While I may want big gains in speed, ability, aerobic capacity, they come – like most things in life – in the time they’re supposed to, completely disregarding my desired schedule. And sometimes you get surprised. I’ve achieved competition weight (no small feat if you’ve ever seen me around a plate of cookies), and made the first ‘standard’ the USOC considers for Olympic Team selection, called ‘Emerging Athlete Standard.’ Cool. Do I want more? Well now, naturally…..