Sunday, 3 January 2016

Adventure Awaits...

There's nothing like a New Year to focus the mind. It's a time for reflection and goal setting. So what happened in 2015 and what’s my goal for 2016?  …. Is anything important happening this year ;-) ?

So it’s New Year's Eve and Simon has surprised me yet again with a random final memory for 2015 – Viva Blackpool (How did I find a man as random as I am?)!  And randomly, who would have thought that the printed pillow in our B&B room would predict my 2016 goals so accurately?

profound and random pillow
Looking back, 2015 will be immortalised for me for two reasons - the year I qualified a place for my country at the 2016 Rio Paralympics and the year Simon and I got engaged. Hooray and Whoop!  Planning a wedding alongside training for Rio has proven to be my worst nightmare, so no wedding plans as yet, but it does give me something exciting to plan post Rio - watch this space!

Getting engaged on the beach in South Africa.

In fact qualifying a place at Rio was my only written goal at the beginning of 2015.  On the face of it this sounded like a reasonably modest goal. Modest because I was the current World Champion and world record holder, and all I needed was a top 6 placing at the world championships 2015 in order to qualify that boat for team GB.  But there is never any room for complacency, and this 'simple' goal very nearly didn’t happen.  I end the year as world silver medallist, and reflecting back I see this as a positive because I have learnt far more this year from my obstacles, challenges and failures than I did the previous year when I won gold.
Silver at the worlds and a whole lot of learning!
The first obstacle was the changes to the paracanoe classification system.  I have already written about this, (link) but it was easily possible that due to these changes I would no longer have classified as a para athlete. As it turned out I still do, but I had faced the real threat that my journey to Rio would come to an abrupt end. What I learned from this was how much I wanted to carry on. The commitment required to this journey is considerable and puts a real strain on me and my family, but I really love training and finding out what my body can do and what extraordinary levels I can achieve.  I realised that I love this adventure and it ending through being declassified, rather than because I had reached my potential or through injury, wasn’t the ending I wanted.  Sadly my squad lost 40% of its paddlers through the changes, which was truly horrible, and I feel for each and every one of them. The only positive I take from this time is that it taught me to appreciate and make the most of every single day of my journey.  It's very easy to see the negatives or to moan about life but I now choose to look for, see and savour all the fun things about my training, because who knows when it will end?  I want my memory of this journey, and of this adventure, to be full of the happy memories, rather than anything negative.

Some of the reasons I love paddling
Friendships, catching the sunrise and giving back.
2015 was also the year that my motion sickness got the better of me. I had tried to ignore it and paddle through it, because I and everybody else was convinced it was just mind over matter. However it became obvious through the year that I couldn't override the symptoms and it was affecting my performance. It came to a head at the World Championships in Milan with its strange bumpy water where I almost couldn't paddle.  Luckily I still managed to qualify a place for Rio and because I always try to see the positives I appreciated the experience of loosing this race.  Admittedly my ego took a bit of a bashing but It made me realise that I had to do something about my motion sickness prior to Rio, which being on a lagoon next to the sea is renowned for its wavy water.

The water isn't always flat in kayaking
For those who have never had serious motion sickness, it's horrendous. Imagine trying to stay upright in a wobbly boat whilst feeling like you have the worst hang over ever.  All your body wants to do is to keep absolutely still and sleep it off quietly, preferably with your face on a cold hard floor.  Apparently this isn’t the way to win races, so “operation sort motion sickness” became a priority.

There are two obvious treatments for motion sickness: Avoid being on the water or take medication. As neither of these are acceptable in my elite sport I ended up seeking out a variety of specialists, undergo all sorts of testing, and pulling together a treatment program that is actually re-programming my brain. 
It turns out I have a vestibular disorder (and I thought it was normal to see the world how I see it but apparently not!) This isn’t common at elite level (nobody else with it would be silly enough to take up a water based sport let alone continue with it!?!) So I have had a steep learning curve in pulling together advice from the experts in order lead my own treatment.

Getting my vestibular system tested

Part of this treatment program is a type of acclimatisation therapy, which has been both amazing in its results and horrific to undertake. The progressive exercises I have been prescribed have kept me in varying degrees of nausea since about October, but the progress I have made in coping with motion sickness has been remarkable. Not only has my motion sickness in my boat eased considerably, but yet again my journey has given me wider benefits. For the first time in my life I can now look at stripy shirts, go down escalators, go to loud concerts, watch 3D movies and be a passenger in a car without feeling ill. Apparently my driving has also improved, but we won’t go into that. ;-)

So back to Blackpool and New Year’s Eve.  I sit here looking at the printed pillow in our B&B feeling a sense of excitement for 2016. The pillow says, “Adventure Awaits”, and this is coincidently exactly my goal for 2016 - to continue to see and appreciate the adventure in everything I do - to turn the lessons from the challenges of 2015 into real positives.

2016 is going to be an incredible adventure for me. Wish me luck, but better still, reflect on your 2015, take your positives and plan your own epic adventure!

Seize the day and Enjoy your adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck Anne, and congratulations on your fantastic news xx