It's not every day that you get asked how big your chest is by a man 20 years your junior. In this instance it was neither cheeky or pervy, Colin my coach was simply ordering my GB kit and as such didn't receive a slap!
Despite being on a team GB winter training camp It was only at this moment, when uniform was being ordered, that it dawned on me I was actually part of 'team GB'.
The winter training camp was the first camp for the new para canoe squad and I was suitably nervous. I had only been kayaking for 3 months and here I was amongst the best para canoeists in the country- in fact the world. In this squad of 20 there were 4 athletes who had won medals at last years world championships. Just a little daunted doesn't even come close to how I was feeling!
Looking around I was struck by the diversity of the group. Almost every demographic box had been ticked. All so different and yet united by some event in our past which had changed our bodies and our lives. We all sat there- some in wheelchairs, some with prosthetic legs, some with wiggling stumps, some with crutches but all athletes with an incredible mindset that anything is possible. We could all have decided after our injury that we were a victim of circumstance and put our 'glass half empty' down on the table. In contrast, everyone had raised their 'glass half full' up high, in celebration of what we yet could achieve.
The week was divided up into water sessions, seminars, gym sessions and testing.
I'm now getting used to the fact that I am constantly going to be tested to make sure I am improving. The first time I went to this gym was 3 months ago I couldn't even lift the bar without any weights on it - what a total wimp!
I have spent considerable time down the 'other' end of the gym at home- No more am I at the end full of ladies in matching gym kit who check the mirrors regularly to ensure there is no makeup slippage or VPL. I'm now pumping iron in the smelly end of the gym. I am surrounded by men in baggy sweat shorts who's arms no longer hang vertically. The sleeves are torn off their t shirts and they gaze into the mirror to ensure that their shiny biceps are getting bigger.
My hard work has paid off, I manage a new personal best both in the gym and on the water!
My ethos is black and white, do it or don't. So when the coaches say give it 100 % -I do just that. By day 4, I couldn't even take my t shirt off as my arms were so stiff and sore- my core was exhausted and it felt more like wet pasta than muscles of a 'finely tuned' athlete.
Despite being in shreds, I had a brilliant week! My highlights were having a training session alongside the face of GB para-canoe and treble world champion. I had a - "ooo crickey, this is surreal! " moment as we paddled down the lake together.
The bigger highlight however was getting to know my team mates. What a fantastically brilliant, uplifting bunch of people. Everyone should spend time with a squad of para athletes in the hope that some of their spirit, determination and irreverent sense of humour might possibly rub off on them.