This past weekend was an amazing experience! My first international race and my first time in Portugal. It was a short trip but one to remember.
Of Course, no travel would be complete without some chaos to get things started. The day we were scheduled to leave, our youngest woke at 2 am with a fever of 103.6. She had been sick for about three days and it was only getting worse. After a couple of tests and an x-ray, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor had suggested we test her for COVID and if she came back positive it was advised we stay and get her to the ER. If her test came back negative, it was bacterial and an antibiotic would clear things us.
While we waited to hear the results of her COVID test, we continued packing, and worse come to worse we would just have to unpack it all. A very emotional morning, but we found out it was bacterial and got her on an antibiotic.
With the help of family to support us and care for our children, we were able to feel confident to leave and continue with the trip.
The forecast for the weekend in Portugal was rain all day every day we were there. Each day the rain held off. We were very thankful for this. With the pushrim, I have rubber gloves. My concern with the rain would be that the rubber would slide along my wheel and I would not have as much control of my speed. After watching this year's Paralympics, I saw the wheelchair athletes used sandpaper gloves. I had just purchased these and brought them along this trip. Although I had not trained with them, that would be our backup plan if it rained. The morning of the race there were a few sprinkles but the rain continued to hold off as it had the day before.
The start of the race consisted of the wheelchair athletes being taxied to the swim start by boat. While our handlers and wheelchairs waited at the swim finish. The horn blew and the H1 division took off while myself and other H2 athletes waited the delayed start time. After our 3 minutes and 8 seconds were up, we were off.
The water was a little rough, I did have to stop 3 or 4 times to catch my breath. By the time I finally made it to the swim finish I was the last of 8 athletes to exit the water. The volunteers grabbed me out of the water and ran me to my chair where Tes waited to push me up the ramp. This first transition was smooth. A little room for some minor improvements, but overall I was happy with the time and overall flow of how this transition went. During this transition, I was able to get out quickly and move up one spot.
Now that I was out on the course in the handcycle I had three laps to complete. This was a course that allowed me to see the other athletes through the laps. I enjoyed being able to see the other athletes and how far ahead they were. This allowed me to keep my eyes on gaining ground between us. Slowly I gained, one after the other, and passed each one. I was able to take the lead.
As I hustled into the transition ready to get onto the pushrim I knew they were right behind me. Tes was there waiting with everything ready for the pushrim and the final leg of the race. I quickly transitioned from handcycle to pushrim and hustled onto the course. Keeping lead for the remainder of the race. I find that leading a race is more stressful than the chasing of the race. It's nice to have your eyes on something and chase it. But not knowing how far they are behind you and trying to create distance is a more uncomfortable feeling. Shortly after crossing the finish line, within minutes, it down-poured and continued to do so the remainder of the day.
At the awards ceremony, the National Anthem of the country of the first place winner is played. It is an honor to still be able to stand for my country, but the feeling of the National Anthem being played in a foreign country to represent you is a feeling I would fail to properly explain here. I am beyond words for what an honor that was. An amazing way to end the season.
Traveling Back Home
Sunday morning came quick, we woke up at 4 am to travel to the airport only to find an extremely long line at the rental car drop-off. Someone had abandoned their rental car in the single lane rather than in a parking space. This created an extremely long line of others who had no choice but to do the same. By the time we had arrived, there were roughly 100 cars that had done this, now to include us. Ourselves and others grabbed our luggage and parked our car and headed into the airport.
Once we had that all under control we found ourselves searching through the airport trying to figure out where we needed to check-in. The language barrier was an obstacle, but after several attempts up and down the elevator, we were finally able to figure out where we needed to be.
We were able to check-in and get almost through security. Security would not allow us to check the pushrim at the gate (like we have done every single time before). So we had to go back downstairs to check it in, and then go back upstairs to go back through security.
When this day began, we arrived four hours before our flight. Now we had made it to the terminal about ten minutes before they began boarding the plane.
The feeling of landing in America was amazing. To be back on our soil. Understanding the language and being able to read road signs brings so much comfort. Although we are still catching up on our sleep, we are so very happy to be home and with our girls. Who are feeling much better now.