So I wrote yesterday about my start in disability athletics and my first race. But that blog came from a piece I wrote for a newsletter, so it was quite short and missed out some things that have been really important in my journey so far.
1. Paralympic Flame Celebration, Leeds. There was a great event at John Charles Centre for Sport with lots of sports to try. I watched some brutal wheelchair rugby and had a go on the adapted bikes. I got to have my picture taken with the flame and volunteer Hameet.
2. CP Sport training days. I have been to two of these so far, in January and April, having just missed out on the November one when I heard about them. Laura from my previous post and Lisa from my disability athletics sessions on Tuesdays found out about these for me. A couple of months into disability athletics, I realised that I did want to compete after all, but the guys I was training with had the Special Olympics to work towards (and an impressive haul of medals). I, not being learning disabled, wasn’t eligible. I got a bit jealous.
CP Sport have been great for me. On the first training day, I was in the development group, and I enjoyed the morning on the track but not so much the other activities. For the second, I was in the sprints group straight off and began learning a lot from coach (and legend) Lincoln Asquith. He also gave me a target of getting to 18 seconds for my 100m by the end of this summer, my first year in the sport. I will do it!
CP Sport have also given me the chance to compete, despite my current lack of classification (on the waiting list!), and people like Sue Todd have helped me to relax and enjoy training. Having Asperger Syndrome as well as cerebral palsy means I can find new experiences and changes of routine very difficult, but I’m determined to succeed and am so grateful to the people who get why I get stressed or flap about and give me the information I need to get on.
3. Parallel Success. After my first CP Sport training day, I was keen as mustard to do anything. I wanted to find a pathway and find out what I could do and where I could go. I did lots of research online, as is my wont, and I found out that there was a Parallel Success Talent ID event coming up at the EIS in Sheffield. I didn’t manage to score a place at the Classification clinic, but I did find out about it quite late in the day so that’s fair enough. Shelley Holroyd was very helpful and answered all my questions and was a very friendly face on the day.
I had a brilliant time – I may have been one of the older participants and certainly not one of the fastest, but I got to train with Sam Ruddock and meet Hannah Cockroft – that’s two of my favourite Paralympians, right there – and it confirmed for me that I didn’t care how hard it was or how unlikely it seemed, I wanted to train hard and compete. I had a bit of an Aspie wobble at the end of the day and had to get my husband to help me go over to Shelley to ask about getting a proper coach. I needn’t have worried, she understood my anxiety completely and immediately put me at my ease.
We followed up the day via email, and while my first coach Pete didn’t work out just because a move of venue didn’t fit with my work schedule, Pete and Shelley found me Katie, who I work with now in Sheffield. I feel very lucky that these people put time and effort into making it work out for me. I’ve been training properly since May, and my body and my times have completely changed already. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without Shelley and Parallel Success.
4. Paralympic Sports Fest. This was great fun, again at the EIS in Sheffield, and I learned some new drills from Katie Jones that I do to this day.
5. Paralympic Potential. I applied for this event and was invited to Aston University in Birmingham to try a series of tests (20m sprint, static bike, jump, shooting, archery, rowing, lifting etc). I met some great athletes and worked hard. I’ve rarely sweated so much. I just wish I’d run faster on the day – I know I can do better, I do every week in training.
6. Anniversary Games. I went on Sunday for the disability day and saw so many Paralympians performing at the top level, plus world records were broken. I felt inspired by Graeme Ballard, who won gold in the T36 men’s 100m. He’s older than me and affected by CP in all four limbs. just like me. He lost his funding before the 2012 Paralympics because he didn’t get a medal in Beijing, but he went on to win silver in London. His funding has been reinstated for Rio in 2016, so it just goes to show that it’s not just the kids who need the support and you don’t have to be very young to be a medal contender.
I also got to watch Richard Whitehead run like a demon on his golden blades. I didn’t have a go at the agility area in the Spectators Village, as it was aimed at the under-10s. I did however get a bib printed with my name on and have my photo taken holding the replica 1948 Olympic torch.
This is an article I wrote for work’s newsletter – if you want a Paralympics legacy story, this is it. Part 2, which is just as important and has more photos, is HERE.
In Summer 2011, I saw a retweet by Tom Riordan, CEO of Leeds Council, of an LCC Sport tweet. Not that unusual, you may think, I’m on Twitter all the time. However, the content of the tweet itself intrigued me.
It linked to a flyer, inviting women aged 25-40 who did not currently take part in sport to join a 10 week Active Women programme.
At any other time in my life, I would have recoiled in horror. I avoided PE where possible at school and had a miserable experience whenever sport was involved throughout my youth. I was rubbish, and my disabilities hadn’t been diagnosed, so I was the reluctant Wing Defence/deep field/running forever up and down the sides of the hockey pitch/insert position for people who are terrible at team games here.
However, I had recently turned 30, and my body, to my horror had decided to change. I realised I was going to have to get active. I had followed the 30 Day Shred DVD, with adaptations, and that was the first exercise I’d done other than walking quickly as a mode of transport and the odd swim in a hotel pool for pleasure in 15 years. To be fair, I’d done as little as possible before that. Even on a summer holiday tennis week, my sister was playing with gusto and I was relegated to batting a ball against a line on the wall. Or failing to.
I emailed Laura, the lady running the programme, and she set my mind at ease. I found the Active Women programme difficult, but over time I started to really enjoy bits of it and was glad I had done it. I also went to a gym for the very first time, and Matthew at Armley who did my induction also has CP so he knew which machines to recommend.
I was even invited to an Active Women photoshoot for marketing future sessions.
I then had a degree to finish and self-employment to wind up and jobs to apply for, so it all got a bit neglected until I watched the Olympics and Paralympics and felt annoyed that I had never been able to properly take part in sport when I was younger. I loved watching athletics, and attended live events, but all the not-very-good people got to do at school was endless middle distance runs and cross country. No jumps, no throws, no sprints. I never got to have a go.
I contacted Laura and asked about disability athletics in Leeds. She said there were sessions for learning disabled athletes at John Charles Centre for Sport in Middleton, and I was welcome despite not being LD. The first few times I was nervous and she went with me. Then I found I loved sprinting, which is what I love to watch too.
I outgrew those sessions and got my own athletics coach in May, and now I train several times a week.
I ran my first 100m on 20 July, at the CP Sport Manchester Grand Prix at Sport City. Based on my PB in training, I was put with mostly T35 athletes. I only went and won my race! To be fair, when I am classified I will be designated as less impaired than those guys, but I also smashed my previous times and ran 18.91 seconds.
That sounds rubbish next to Usain Bolt, but I have CP and I only started serious training a couple of months ago. I was hoping just to run under 20 seconds, which didn’t feel possible.
Everything feels possible now.
Thanks to Sarra Manning linking to the Mail’s version of the Guardian story on catfishing/Sebastian Pritchard-Jones, and me hooking Sarra up with @C_T_C who features in the story, we both got to find out about this lovely dress Claire Travers Smith wore for the photoshoot. I’m still not giving the DM clicks, though.
Costiness: £42 from ASOS
I know, I know, it has been a long time. I have not had a moment spare for frocks and frivolity, which saddens me. But when I saw this dress, I just had to post. ‘Tis the season for prints and amazing dresses and a hint of kitsch. I’m back on it.
I love Christmas, and holiday-themed clothing. I love the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. I love prints. I love Fifties shapes and fit-and-flare. I want this dress so badly.
Costiness: $155.99 from Modcloth
I blame my friend Igg for this one, as she asked us to choose between two dresses on Twitter, and I just *had* to look at what else was on the website she linked to.
Oh, serious dress envy. I really want this one. No budget for it, like, but it’s stunning (if you wear the belt with it, otherwise it’s an attractively patterned sack). This Japanese Bird Print Drapey Maxi Dress does exactly what it says on the tin. Not for 18andEast the trend of giving frocks girls’ names or whathaveyou. No, full on Ronseal. Gawd bless ‘em.
Costiness:£30 (in the sale, so hurry) from 18andEast
As part of the Writing Squad, I was asked to write a new story that had to begin in Wykebeck Woods for East Leeds FM, and perform it alongside a second story that would act as an introduction to my writing. The two stories were broadcast on ELFM on Tuesday 19th June as part of the Write Place show during their radio festival.
My introductory story, Root Ginger, was recorded in the Artspace at Leeds Art Gallery by ELFM and my Wykebeck story, Cow Parsley Heart, was recorded and produced in my home studio with my sound design incorporating field recordings made by me in the woods.
This is the cow parsley heart:
Photographs I took on my phone in Wykebeck Woods when writing and recording for Cow Parsley Heart:
Full disclosure: I was asked by Aidan at Wahanda to make this post and was given a voucher to use to test the booking system. I was asked specifically to look at Hair Offers & Deals in Leeds City Centre. The questions I answer below come from Wahanda.
What is your initial impression of Wahanda as an online home for health and beauty?
It doesn’t feel like one at all. It looks like a much less attractive version of Groupon or Wish, with a much more restrictive set of deals. The name and the look of the site don’t shout health and beauty, or spa and luxury, or even fun and leisure. It all feels very utilitarian.
Is it a site you would visit for the online community?
No. I did read the reviews when deciding where to book, but most weren’t very helpful (many refer to free events rather than purchases) and there isn’t much of a community aspect going on. Unlike Yelp, Lush forums, Mumsnet, Twitter etc – there’s nothing that makes me want to stick around after I’ve got the basic information I’m after.
Would you recommend your readers to use it as a tool to find the best hair offers and deals in their local area?
No. There are very few deals on the site for my area. Most listings ask you to contact the salon via a button rather than stating an actual deal – why would I do this rather than just ring the salon myself and ask if they had any good deals, bypassing Wahanda? The listings are far from comprehensive, and there aren’t many good city centre or local salons on there. The limits on the deals that are there are fairly extensive – the one provider I had heard of had so many restrictions it made me never want to go back there even outside a deal.
I struggled to find somewhere to spend my voucher, though decided in the end (a bit like when your nan gives you a voucher for some shop you never use) and haven’t yet phoned up to book the actual apppointment. I am less than enthused about it. Most of the deals seem to either include a glass of wine (with no similarly treat-like alternative for non-drinkers) or require you to take a friend for the exact same service or both. The reviews also indicate that, much like Groupon, the savings on the normal salon prices are vastly overstated. None of the reviews are overwhelmingly positive about the salons visited. More along the lines of “well, it was OK for what I paid on a deal”. The salon spaces don’t seem to be that nice, descriptions of being in a busy area or far too small. Obviously none of the leading businesses in this sector in Leeds are on the site, and nor are any of the cool up and coming independents. It seems to be tired old salons or desperate new stylists within them in need of a new customer boost. Not my style.
What hair deals would you like to see more of in your local area?
More deals for people going on their own (I don’t understand why I would want to take a chum with me for a haircut or colour), more deals on colours and treatments without cuts (I’m more likely to take a risk with a new stylist on the former than the latter), less of an emphasis on cheap glasses of wine as a sweetener, more and better salons, more actual deals. Only two salons in the city centre when I tested the site last week actually had current hair deals. It strikes me that I would be more likely to buy e.g. a spa voucher (if the selection was MUCH better) for a present for someone on this site than bag a decent hair and beauty deal for myself. And I wouldn’t right now as things are.
Sorry Wahanda. The concept is good, but the execution is poor in pretty much every way. And my email provider thinks you’re spammers, which is unsurprising given the nature of the mails I have received since signing up to the site. I will write a second review when I have booked and received my treatment.