Saturday, 18 October 2014

Mongolia to London the long way... My off season adventure



All aboard The trans Siberian train!!
Travelling overland through 7 time zones by train has never been on my holiday wish list. But after an 'incident' for Simon in Mongolia involving a bike race, an unplanned dismount at speed, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and a doctor's note saying no flying, an overland trip home became the 'obvious' answer ... Yes, it is possible to get all the way home from Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) to our very own doorstep using only 6 trains, 2 weeks holiday, and as it turned out, 2 litres of the finest Mongolian vodka...
Simon guarding his ribs in Ulan Bator

Trans Siberian Railway
2 weeks after the accident, 1 week after Simon had a chest drain removed, 24 hours after I landed from London via Beijing, and 2 hours after we picked up Simon's visa from the Russian embassy in UB, we found ourselves in a train compartment no bigger than a small double bed, which was going to be our home for the next four days. 


As I unpacked (ie squeezed our bags under the 2 bench seats) Simon dashed to the local food kiosk to buy essential supplies. He came back proudly holding 2 litres of vodka, 9 bottles of beer, 2 bottles of champagne, 3 tins of nuts and a bottle of coke. "Perfect" I said with only the merest hint of sarcasm...
our secret stash...

As the train began to chug its way through the incredible Mongolian countryside we were soon overtaken by a car, then a lorry, and then a horse!  A Mongolian passenger in the next compartment suddenly burst into song, then a German man well into his 60s passed our door without his top on (it turns out this is how he would travel the whole way to Moscow). We took all this in... This might be a long few days... Only 1 thing to do... Embrace the experience and crack open the vodka!!! 


Travelling across a continent or two by train and watching the world go by was an incredible adventure.  The train windows made it a bit like being in a huge cinema with 2, no 4 screens in the same room. One either side of the train, then looking both forwards or backwards - each screen showing amazing but different views. The guide book had said bring lots of reading material and be prepared not to finish it. How true!
never bored of looking out of the window...

About midnight we crossed the Russian boarder.  
There is something very Agatha Christie about standing in a dimly lit train carriage, wearing nothing but your pyjamas, with 2 Russian border guards flashing a torch into your face as they check your papers. Next came the security guard who was wearing a military cap, a tight grey boiler suit and knee high laced up black boots, who proceeded to search everywhere - even under the floor, and above the ceiling (I have no idea what she was searching for, the German's shirt perhaps?) Then the customs men came around in equally stern uniforms and searched our carriage again. They tut tutted loudly at all our alcohol (Not sure if they thought it was too much or too little...) 

The scenery in Mongolia had been beautiful, but open and quite sparse, with the occasional, isolated Ger (Yurt) or small settlement. We woke at sunrise to find ourselves winding through beautiful forests in the eastern part of Siberia. Being Autumn, the yellows, reds and golds of the birch trees, with the soft sunlight light peeking through, was spectacular.
Siberian forrests


Our first breakfast in bed consisted of coffee, Jaffa cakes and salami and tasted amazing! In my defence I was still on UK time, so this was more like a midnight snack... This may have been lovely but the novelty would soon wear off. A restaurant car had joined us at the Russian boarder and the food turned out to be ok, but not really special.  We chose to see this as a challenge, and with station stops about every five hours, we used these to forage for supplies. Each stop turned into a race against the clock - anything from 13 to 27 minutes to head out, find a shop or a kiosk and guess what the Cyrillic meant. 
results of our foraging in various Russian stations


As it turned out we mostly chose well and smugly feasted like kings on various pasties, pickled fish, meat, cheeses, bread, fruit and ice-cream washed down with fresh coffee, vodka, beer or champagne. Most passengers tucked into noodles (there were hot water boilers in each carriage) and I also tried out some great instant food samples I had brought with me from Sports Kitchen.  These water boilers also meant we had plenty of hot water to wash with, but with only a small sink in a tiny toilet, washing was 'basic'.

Still not bored of the scenery...

For the next three days the soft low autumn sun flickering through slender birch and conifer trees, across meandering rivers, lakes and fairy-tail like wooden huts. Brilliantly shiny onion-shaped golden church turrets caught the sun beautifully and we felt like voyeurs spying on various aspects of back door Russian life visible from the train window. Watching the world pass by, playing games and reading meant that neither boredom or stress existed for us on the trans-siberian railway. Time became an abstract phenomenon - it existed somewhere else, but it didn't really matter to us (except the small exact chunks of time where we stopped at stations for our foraging expeditions). 
Russia whizzing past..

Moscow
98 hours after leaving Ulaanbaatar we arrived in Moscow, chilled but a bit bedraggled. (The naked German guy was the only passenger to look clean and fresh, newly reunited with his shirt - he might be onto something here! ) We had travelled first class on the train (you don't want to know what 3rd class was) and the theme was to continue. We turned up at the Moscow Savoy looking like a couple of scruffy vagrants. To give them credit the staff were very polite and not overtly put off by our dusty, tatty non-designer luggage (Smon with his race kit bag) and bodily grubbiness. To my absolute delight, not only did we have running water, but a non jiggly toilet that you could sit on without the need to hold on and that didn't blast you with cold Siberian air on flushing! 
Red Square

The only downside was the monotonous view. So showered and slightly more presentable, we headed out to conquer the sights of Moscow in 2 days. A Russian kayaker follower on Twitter, hearing of my return to Moscow a month after the Worlds, had offered her expertise as a virtual tour guide, which we gratefully accepted. We dashed around Moscow following her fabulous recommendations and became pretty adept at negotiating the Metro in Cyrillic, crossing the road (obediently) according to the flashing green man, and ordering coffee and cake in a variety of establishments. 
Compulsory 'oooo' selfie

We saw fabulous buildings, learnt some Russian history, (The Kremlin's Armoury museum was breathtaking, and a Vodka Museum gave great insights into centuries of state control) walked in wonderful parks, and ate in interesting restaurants. Our trip happened to coincide with three notable events: The Moscow marathon; A protest in Red Square against the government's stance in the Ukraine; and the whole of the Bolshoi ballet taking part in the ice bucket challenge....says it all really! 
The Bolshoi Theatre

Warsaw
Two more time zones crossed as we headed into Poland. Simon had chosen the Rialto Hotel, a wonderful arc deco establishment preserved in it's pre war era quirky elegance. It even had an Art Deco lift and air conditioning controls in the room.
Art deco air conditioning controls

Warsaw has a 'refurbished' old town (85% of the city was destroyed in the war) where tourists were expected to go, but Simon experienced an instant allergic reaction to being told by Tourist Information what we should do, so we headed to the other side of the river to Praga, a bohemian and slightly run down suburb. It was full of interesting buildings, shops, caf├ęs and bars - we felt very conspicuous in our red jackets in this earthy area where the brightest colour apart from us was brown. In contrast to Moscow, Warsaw was excellent value and we found ourselves in a local cafes where the dishes were £2! Granted, there were few TripAdvisor stickers or tourists, and one establishment had no menu and a plastic manikin in the corner with a lop sided wig, dressed as a dinner lady/ drag queen - but the plum juice, local dumplings and cabbage were excellent! Yes truly!  Close to our hotel we also found a really top end restaurant with an amazing taster menu at ridiculously cheep prices.  I would definitely go back (to both establishments).

Plum Juice (with plumbs)- surprisingly ok!

Warsaw was a completely fascinating city. We spent our second day with an "alternative Warsaw" guide who said that falling in love with Warsaw was like a good marriage - you don't fall in love on your first 'visit' but as you get to know it more, the love grows.... but I loved it right from the start.  I loved how the pre war, communist era and modern architecture clashed but also managed to sit happily side by side, giving clues to its past, and I found the people forthright, but with a sparkle that gave a glimpse of their survival spirit.


Communist architecture sits next to pre war architecture.
  An alternative city tour in a communist era militia van with Raphael from Warsaw Adventures was a fantastic way to learn about the city, communism and the Ghetto - however I think the Polish Militia must have either been very short or not bothered about looking at the view, as both our eyes fell level with the fluffy maroon interior trim well above the windows. Simon's height meant that he was safely wedged between seat and ceiling, removing the need for a seatbelt or airbag, which was very handy as they were absent anyhow...
Polish Militia van

I had always wanted  to go to the ballet but never been. What better way to round off this memorable first visit to Warsaw than with a performance of Romeo and Julia, a modern take on the classic tale, by the Polish National Ballet.


Berlin
A short 5 hour train hop later (with the most amazing rail car food!) and we arrived in Berlin in time for "street food Thursday", with our friends Martin and Carole. A fabulous night food market with delicious home cooked dishes from around the world. 
The Berlin Wall

We hadn't intended this trip to be educational, but staying right next to Checkpoint Charlie, in the heart of Berlin's "war tourism district", we found ourselves completing a really interesting history tour. Travelling from Moscow to Warsaw to Berlin, with tours and exhibitions in each city, bullet holes in buildings, and stories of courage and unfathomable human suffering, brought military and social struggles to life from three different regimes and cultures perspectives.
Museum Island


Berlin to Paris should have been the next short hop. 
To our immense shock the first German train was delayed - is this even possible!!? - meaning that our connection from Mannheim to Paris wasn't going to happen. The guard on board managed to find an alternative route via Strasbourg. The only problem with this was that we had chosen this leg (where the scenery was less interesting) to play more Quirkle (our favourite game, despite the current tally - Simon 21 Anne 1) and to get back to the Mongolian vodka. This resulted in a very rushed and stumbled train transfer for us and our 40 kg of luggage in Frankfurt, where we managed to mix up Stuttgart for Strasbourg. This resulted in us not arriving in Paris until I had lost a few more games of Quirkle, the vodka bottle had been emptied, and the sun had set. On the plus side, a taxi ride through night-time Paris to our friends apartment enabled us to see all the floodlit tourist hotspots, meaning we were free to go off the tourist route for the next day. 

Anne the packhorse (hurrah for GB canoeing making me strong)

I don't suppose many people go to Paris end up in the Compe du Trios Generals - a rather eclectic bar full of African artefacts, political commentary on France's influence in West Africa, and shabby green velour sofas (complete with tassels). This was our Parisienne friends' recommendation for quirky Paris (are you starting to get the picture that "off the beaten track" is our preferred adventure...?) and after a hibiscus cocktail Paris took on a slightly hazy quality, despite the brilliant sunshine and clear autumn air. Using a map sponsored by Eurostar meant that this 'off the beaten track' corner of Paris was obliterated by a large picture of the Eurostar train which made map reading a bit difficult. We eventually found a fantastic corner cafe and lost a few hours of Sunday afternoon watching the world go by, accompanied by confit duck an carafe of house wine. The purpose of ending up his far out was a walk in this outlying park with a view. The wine must have been stronger than we thought because unbelievably in the Park we stumbled upon a French steel band playing reggae in the glorious afternoon sunshine and a large  group of women spinning wool and knitting it into jumpers! 

This park, apart from/ because of its interesting inhabitants, was an absolute gem. We sat happily at the top of a grassy hill listening to the live music from a steel band and watching the group of ladies spin and knit with with Monmartre and the Paris city skyline as the perfect backdrop. And, of course, we ended our stay with a night time trip u the Eiffel Tower - it would have been rude not to, given our friends lived just round the corner...
compulsory Eiffel Tower picture


And home...
The last big train leg was from Paris to London and Simon had yet again pushed the boat out (if you can do that on a train?). First class on Eurostar with a 3 course lunch was a new experience for me.  Us - with our slightly scruffy, well traveled clothes and day sacks - also seemed a new experience for the rather posh couple who had to share our table (they did ask if they could move). I often think that other people in restaurants have amazing conversations which are really worth listening to, but the best this couple could manage was a very intent conversation about how vital it was for him to have his teeth polished that afternoon when they got back to London. The last two weeks had been an amazing adventure and Simon and I started reminiscing about our trip across seven time zones from Mongolia.  I noted how our companions stopped talking and started listening to our tale of highlights and crazy moments which definitely, without doubt, was the best adventure I have ever had. 
whiling away the time on the trans siberian express..




Thursday, 28 August 2014

Learning to dream...



Dream.....
Last weekend was the anniversary of my back injury and the emergency surgery which left me with a weak leg.  

As I look back over the 3 years - the initial hope I would recover fully, the dark place as I realised what I had lost, and the journey to finding a new me - and it seems incomprehensible that I could have gone from that to this. If anyone had told me, when I couldn't even lift an empty dinner plate, that one day I could become a world champion in an upper body power sport I would not have believed them.  It took the best part of a year to learn to Dream...
Endurance mountain biker to sprint kayaker in 3 years
My situation was far from unique
In my job as a physio I see people every day whose lives have changed in that they are no longer able to participate in activities they did before. Some have had dramatic accidents, but many have simple incidents, like me, that change their lives.  It doesn't matter how dramatic or how severe, the fact that you can't do something you used to take for granted starts to define your existence.  That's the trap... And you are the only one who can get yourself out of it.

Recently I was asked to give a "motivational speech" at a conference.  It made me think through what it was that got me out of the negative spiral and onto a positive one.  I am writing this down in case you know someone who is struggling as I did...


Having a life changing injury is just that - your life stops going in the direction you thought it would go - no one plans for not being able to walk or make coffee - it is a massive shock and your life can come tumbling around about you as the reality sets in that its never going to be the same again. 
Me prior to my injury- free to explore 
So how did I change from a broken endurance mountain biker in to a world champion para canoeist?? 


The acronym I like to use is to DREAM 
You have to have to be able to Dream to get yourself out of the dark place that you have found yourself in. You have to be able to dream because the reality is sometimes too hard. Things happen twice in the world, once in your head then again in real life so once you have dreamt about something you are half way there already! 

But how do you change a dream into reality? 

D - stands for Decision. It's so easy to focus on how much you think has been taken away that you forget about everything you still have. It wasn't until I Decided that even though my legs didn't work the same as they used to I still had my arms (and a whole lot more besides !) and in focusing on the positives there was no reason to stop my enjoyment of life.

There is always a choice on how you define yourself and the Decision about how you see your injury is ultimately yours. You can Decide to be a victim or you can decide you still have lots...


R - stands for Route. once you have decided that you have 'lots' instead of 'nothing' the next step is to find your new Route. If you keep on trying to navigate the path of your old life you will always be reminded of your injury and remain frustrated. I looked for opportunities to change things and embraced new challenges which played to my strengths, rather than those restricted by my weaknesses.  The fact that I found my route whilst volunteering makes me smile, but that's another blog... When I was asked if I wanted to try out for para canoe the obvious answer was no! After all I was 45, I wasn't fit anymore, I hate water, and I had never been in a canoe before. But it wasn't mountain biking, so it was a possible new Route and I said yes. 
as a beginner...
E - stands for Enthusiasm. Once you have decided that you want a new route, add a dollop of enthusiasm.  You can't expect to get good at something new without putting time into it and enthusiasm is infectious... After all, the more you put into something the more you get out and the more others will want to share the journey. When I started canoeing I read bout it, watched u tube videos and talked to knowledgeable people about it. My enthusiasm turned trepidation into genuine excitement as I learnt more, became more capable and began to realise this was the route I had been looking for (it's actually a great social sport as well as the competitive side!)

A - stands for Action. It's all very well reading, watching and talking about something, the next step is to put some real action behind it. You became proficient at your old activity through hours (probably years) of practise and proficiency in your new activity isn't going to happen overnight. I joined my local kayak club and spent hours and hours learning how to paddle. I realised that I needed to get stronger in a different way than I was before and so started going to the gym - again something I had never done on a regular basis. It was exciting seeing how my paddling body, with the correct input, started to change despite my age. My weedy cyclists arms soon bulked up and the empty dinner plate challenge soon became a thing of the past. I am now lifting my body weight with ease. Yes it took perseverance, and also patience, but gradually Action turned into results.!
....to competing at the world championships
M - stands for Mentor. I cant stress enough how important this is. Navigating this journey is hard to get right on your own, so try to find someone you can trust to guide and motivate you through the process.  This is where Enthusiasm and Action are also key.  Your new Mentor(s) are likely to be people who didn't know you before and nobody will want to put time into you if you aren't putting effort in. 
I have been so lucky to find mentors for every aspect of my new sport, but it is two people that stepped in right from the beginning that have been key to my journey. Phil and Claire Gunney are both accomplished ex National paddlers and volunteer coaches at Wey Kayak Club. They took up the challenge of teaching me to paddle and since then they have assisted with every aspect of my training as well as becoming close friends. Their experience and knowledge of the world of kayaking has been invaluable. They have been there 100%of the way and have been there to cheer loudly when I get things right and to hold me up during moments of trauma and doubt.


I am not saying that anyone out there who has an injury should try to become world champion at a different sport, but I hope that you can see that it is possible to be defined by what you can do rather than what you can't - you just have to be able to dream......






Friday, 15 August 2014

GOLD!!


Sorry this is a bit of a long one, grab yourself a cup of tea while I tell you about the Gold that very nearly wasn't!

Moscow regatta lake. (credit to JJ for photo)
I love an adventure, and heading to Moscow for the first time, to compete on the Olympic regatta course, turned out to be exactly that.  It was an impressive and interesting venue to hold the 2014 World Sprint Canoe Championships.  The regatta lake itself has a city skyline, iconic Olympic structures and, given the current political tensions, armed security guards everywhere.  I have to admit to arriving for my first practice paddle with a mixture of awe, apprehension and excitement.

Most of you will hopefully already know I came away with my first World Gold (having taken Silver in my first attempt the year before), but getting that win was some “adventure”.
YAAAAY! Gold!!

Warm up day – time to become a drama queen
The first 'challenge' was during my practice paddle. The start mechanism malfunctioned, thrusting my boat out of the water as I paddled over it. Going for an unplanned swim the day before my heat wasn't good mental preparation.  On the plus side I learnt (the hard way) how to get back in a boat in the middle of a lake (massive thanks to the GB K2 pair Johnny Boynton and Ed Rutherford for rescuing me), and it also proved the theory my coach had been telling me that on capsizing I really could float free from the bindings in my boat!
Warm up paddle

On the downside, it freaked me out a bit and the hull and the rudder were damaged so had to go to be fixed before my heat the next day. This prevented me from further practice before the most important race of my season.

Heats day – back to school…
The next day arrived and Harry (my boat) was back from the menders - polished and fixed, with a new rudder.  As I paddled away from the jetty for my heat something was very wrong. The boat wouldn't go in a straight line and pulled heavily to the right.  Initially I thought it was just me being unsettled after my “drama queen” capsize episode the day before. It wasn't, and there was absolutely no way I could paddle in my race without being disqualified for going into someone else’s lane.  I didn’t ask for this kind of adventure!

Racing my heat
(Because of my wonky leg and foot I paddle with the tiller bar offset. The boat menders had thought the offset was caused by the crash and had mistakenly corrected it.  They had been absolutely amazing getting it fixed for me, and it was my schoolgirl error in that I hadn't checked my boat properly that morning.  I hadn’t been sleeping well and chose a later start rather than getting to the lake early.)

Refusing to panic, I waited for my coach to find me on the lakeside and we spent a frantic (me – he is always calm!) 15 minutes trying to alter the rudder.  It wasn’t perfect but it would have to do and, with a few minutes to spare, I paddled to the start of the heat with no warm up. With more brute force than skill I thankfully managed to keep to my lane and even won my heat, putting me straight through to the final the following day.

Finals day – Take 1 – thunder and lightning
The following day my boat was running straight. I had also managed more than 4 hours sleep, so all was looking up J  That is until I had completed my land warm up, and was just about to get on the water.  Black clouds had been gathering, the wind picked up and suddenly a bolt of lighting shot out of the sky.  The lake was evacuated, leaving me standing there ready to race with no race ...

The storm arrived.. and the boats left
After the storm a new race time was announced.  I decided to eat early and then start the warm up process again.  Just after I finished eating a message came through saying that my race had been bought forward.  I looked down at my empty plate and full belly and instantly regretted eating!

My warm up began again, with more black clouds gathering.  I carried on my warm up, ignoring the howling wind, the marquee falling down around me, and the distant rumble of thunder.  Just as I was about to get on the water there was another bolt of lightening and the announcement came that all racing was cancelled for that day.
Yes it was windy


Finals day - Take 2 – GOLD (but only just)
We didn’t get confirmation of the revised times until the next morning. As I warmed up for the 4th time for my race (I had made the effort to get to the lake early this time for a pre warm up paddle;-)) I was glad of my 24 hour mountain bike race experience, which teaches you to concentrate on just the present. In fact my coach was concerned that I was too laid back, “You have a race today you know?"

I think I was half expecting it not to happen again, so when I finally got onto the lake I was a bit taken aback - its actually going to happen!! I was also suddenly aware of seeing armed guards every 20m or so round the lake - another interesting development. We didnt find out until later about the bomb scares!

The wind kept changing direction, but as I lined up for the start, finally something went my way - it became a “tail cross from the right” which, with my weak right leg, is my preferred direction.
Racing my Final

GO! Argh - what was happening??!! For some reason my right (weaker) leg wasn’t working in its usual way and my timing was completely out. This caused me to do a couple of massive wobbles, letting everyone pull ahead.  I had to draw strength and determination out from every part of my body.  I was so angry and a red mist came down as I kept focusing and refocusing on my leg to bring it back.  After what seemed like an eternity this worked and I could feel my rhythm returning.  The boat leveled out and I knew I was gaining on the boats in front, but I didn't have that far left to bring the race back. I dug deeper and mentally pushed the finish line further away to force me to aim for something in the distance, rather than a few feet away. I didn't hear the beeps as we crossed the line and really didn't have a clue who had won.  To be honest I no longer minded.  My Russian adventure was over.  It had been an exciting race and I had put absolutely everything in to fight right to the finish. I had nothing more I could have given.
pulling ahead just before the finish

After what seemed like hours the results flashed up on the big screen and I had won by a mere tenth of a second!!!!  In fact I had posted a PB (49.7 seconds), become the first woman para-canoeist to break the 50 second barrier in competition, and I had broken the world record that I had set in the Euros a few weeks earlier!!
win, world record, and 1st para woman under 50 seconds!!

Apparently I had also caused a little anxiety in the team GB camp – the coaches were very happy, but in a stressed 'that was mighty close' kind of way! "Great race Anne, but please don’t leave it so long next time, my heart can't take it!!"
National anthem and podium


So what next? - Lots to work on
At this stage last year I was competing with an injury and I was determined to get to this point with no 'excuses'. Clearly I am happy with the result, but Im probably happier that my years training went well. I missed only 1 training session due to 'illness or injury', and I have come on massively in all my targeted areas. A measure of this is that I dropped 5 seconds from last year’s world championships to this and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by super skilled coaches and a great support team.
My Coach Griff

I am really excited about next year.  I have watched the video over and over and know I have lots of room to improve.  But first I’m going on holiday, for a proper old-fashioned cultural adventure, with not a kayak or gym or armed security guard in sight!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

5 Minutes of Fame


If I ever needed a reminder that fame and personal glory were short lived, this was exactly the put down I needed…

Just over a week ago some of you may have logged into your BBC Sport page to find an article on me on their front page right next to the latest headlines for the World Cup.  That was the day before I was due to race 200m in a straight(ish) line to retain my European gold. Apparently I even made the evening news and as a result was inundated with tweets and emails from people who had personal experiences similar to mine and felt moved enough to “find me”, wish me luck, share their personal pain and thank me for inspiring them. The night before a major race this was not the preparation I was supposed to be doing. But those who know me will understand that hearing that I had helped others cope with their personal trauma was perfect for me to go into race day feeling on top of the world.
being filmed doing chin ups
The BBC interview and filming itself had taken place a few weeks prior. It had been an utterly bonkers day – a camera pointed at your grimacing face while you struggle to do chin ups; and a launch boat plus 'film crew' following you for an entire session on the water, forcing you to struggle to keep “looking focused” for the whole time!!

some of the tweets..
I was mildly curious about how the article would turn out, especially when Jenna, the journalist, admitted that the people at BBC liked me because they thought I was inspiring but also a bit bonkers! For those of you who haven’t read it the link is here…

The race lake itself was about as bad as it could have been.  It was rough and windy – in fact if I could have specified a set of weather conditions that I really don’t like, one that plays against my physical weakness and lack of stability, then this was exactly it. I didn’t care. Knowing that so many people were behind me was such a fantastic feeling and I just couldn't stop smiling.  One of my competitors tried to put me off (I do find people playing psych games funny) but what she didn’t know was that my ‘race’ was already won. I did also happen to win the timed event, and was absolutely thrilled to regain my European title in a world record time (woo hoo!!).
result!
 
at the finish line


Again my social media erupted and I wondered how celebrities cope with all of this ... I kept getting stopped by people asking me to sign their shirts or take a selfie with them. I was quite thankful when I was taken into the closed off area to wait for my medal ceremony. The weather was so severe that the ceremony dragged on with regular delays. I was starving and also noticed how pale one of my team mates looked… “I'm just so hungry”, he said.  Looking over at my parents in the stand I suddenly realised I might be able to help.

"Mum do you have any of your home made biscuits?" I knew Mum never travels without her homemade ginger and marmalade shortbreads and, true to form, she handed me a massive tub, full to the brim.

Mums famous biscuits

Back at the medal ceremony I handed out Mums biscuits to all sheltering from the rain.  German Officials in their finery initially refused but little by little more and more people succumbed, "mmmmm wow! These are incredible!!!” The Mayor of Brandenburg, big wigs from the international Paralympic committee and international canoe federation all tucking enthusiastically into Mums biscuits!

podium
The next day, back at the race arena, I was stopped by two men. So what was it to be, I thought, autograph or selfie?  In stilted English one asked, "I have heard about your Mothers biscuits ... is she still here so I could taste zem please?”

I burst out laughing. Front page of BBC Sports, European Gold and world record and to these German men I was just the daughter of the woman who makes amazing biscuits, which is precisely how it should be!
European gold!

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