|There were many other moments that linger in
my mind, the podium at CIRC indoor rowing National championships,
the races at Nationals for sprint kayaking, and subsequent
World Sprint Trials last Sept.
That race turned out to
be my last serious race. I raced on a Sat. and by Mon. when
I arrived for training the coach brought me to the ER. That
reminds me of the trouble Allison from Rowing Canada went
through, with my concussion and having to wake me every
2 hrs nightly upon bringing me back to the residence at
the National Team Selection camp.
Since Sept. -that event, my health has not been the best,
and despite the upswing I'm experiencing after that death
defying hospitalization, I'm now admitting I'm not the same
person as prior to Sept.
Today, I must plan my life around energy to eat, drink,
and other daily 'musts', along with rest periods, disbursed
within the activities I enjoy. Friends are being recruited
at times to help with errands that are difficult to do or
spare energy for. The wintry sidewalks are enough to stop
me this year. Today for the first time I asked for a friend
to come meet me at the YMCA rather then across the street
at Books & Beans -our usual downtown coffee shop -because
I did not have the energy to go there after my 1 hr workout.
Now, Clee is the main 'trainer', but his duty is not as
Mike and Cal's were -to help me train my body and mind to
race Nationally, or Internationally, but rather to help
me keep my strength to pull my parachute ripcord. Perhaps
comical, but seriously, I laugh when I read it. That is
how I described it to Clee. Showing him the basic muscle
movements I need and the required pound's of pull for the
ripcord, I told Clee that asides from breathing, that is
my only other training goal. It may be simple, but I think
someone once told me the secret to live was to try to keep
it simple. My plan is to try to remember to pull the rip
cord at the right time, despite the altitude awareness spoiling
a perfectly good sky dive. At a certain level, I feel a
sense of ease, a sense of distance and detachment and things
which were important at one point are not now. Now, I look
for peace each day somewhere, and positive dreams of flying
in the skies, of rowing casually with Thomas, my rowing
partner Steve(and soon to be Paralympic champ ion. but don't
tell him that-it's a secret) or others at the club. Kayaking
I have to look forward to as well.
I think my life is now at that stage, where I need to take
time to be with friends, see things, perhaps go to places
or experience something new, but the pace of life has needed
to change for me.
There will not be road races, nor rowing races.
There will not be Nationals, or Masters in kayaking either.
There will be new ways to be involved with rowing, kayaking,
and road racing.
It is time to be there, to support others and share what
ever I can. It is time to reflect, encourage, and participate
in a new way.
I want to thank Vince-Sudbury ROCKS Running Club- for being
the fellow who first opened the doors to racing for me.
It was without hesitation that Vince accepted my request
to join a road running club. He did not question what I
was planning to do when I wanted to race the 1st Sudbury
ROCKS event, he entered me and put up with my insistence
of using my own chip. Then there was Mike Moore-Physical
Trainer. He took on the internship of training me early
in 2006. Mike has been in my support circle since-Thanks
Mike, you proved to me that it is possible to train someone
so out of shape as I was, to rowing over 150 km atop the
rest of my training and sports, in a month last year January-preparing
for rowing. Without a doubt, Mike is an exceptional friend,
he has gone out of his way to transport, store and fix my
racing chair, brought me to LU to see the film festivals,
and driven miles to bring me home from training. Not to
mention learning to deal with my infamous 'bonking out'
regularly, which Donna, Clee and Thomas got initiated with
as well. Mike became so good at detecting my next sudden
drop in energy, he would call me off the Delki Dozzi track
on the last lap I could manage before my lower lip started
to quiver and goose bumps began forming to announce my energy
The YMCA has always been my haven, my refuge. I spent approx.
20-30 hrs/wk there, for almost 2 yrs.
Without getting paid, I do not think anyone else slept there,
ate there, trained there, held meetings there, bathed and
played basketball there as much as I did for those 2 yrs.
The YMCA now holds a place of comfort, a place where I weekly
see how my 'pull cord test' is going (still well above the
limit, I can still safely go skydiving!), and see friends
whom I have made there over the years. The YMCA still is
the place I meet reporters, friends, aide's, and even my
Then there are the therapists, the gems of Sudbury, without
whom I would not have survived past my 1st race.
In fact I met Julie-Massage Therapist- at my first race.
Thanks to Julie's magical hands, I was able to train optimally,
and when ever something was ready to blow, or tear Julie
would detect the problem and send me vacationing with my
over training slip.
I of course complied the best I could. Julie averted many
potential injuries, and nursed me through some others. More
importantly, Julie has always traveled this journey with
me. She has been there to help me focus, to psychologically
prepare for racing. Sharing her wealth of knowledge, her
passion for sport is coupled with a deep sense of compassion
for her friends. Julie came to the hospital daily when I
was ill, and visits me often.
Cal-Athletic trainer- he has helped me immensely in ways
that are difficult to put in words. He has not only been
an excellent trainer, mentor and friend, but his immense
knowledge regarding healthy physical activity, bringing
out the potential in a person and his positive outlook has
kept me going always... even if as a placebo effect. Since
I do not train with him at LU, I enjoy his company too infrequently.
Donna-YMCA has always been fun, supportive of any of my
athletic adventures and exceptionally accommodating with
her sharing her knowledge as well as helping to host a variety
of athletic information or coaching sessions that I dragged
into town in search of starting sport programs for individuals
She immediately shared my enthusiasm when I asked for space
to hold the adaptive rowing coaching session and supported
my rowing machine adaption to make it accessible. In fact,
because of the open and inviting people at the Y, I see
more individuals with disabilities frequenting there now
then ever before.
This brings me to Thomas-Rowing Coach. Thomas came looking
for me. That's awesome! Usually I need to go knocking at
their doors, and sometimes I need to knock persistently.
Thomas arrived with his enthusiasm and dedication. Both
of which have not ran out, and seem to only be on the climb.
Thomas has surpassed any coach I have had. Over the years
I have had many, but none who dedicate such care for the
well being of his athletes, and the program. He truly displays
the qualities a coach must have.
Thomas is my friend and co-founder of the Sudbury Rowing
Club's Adaptive Rowing Program in 2007. We have journeyed
through much this last year.
Now we will enjoy building the adaptive rowing program,
having fun with the athletes and working together to bring
our current Canadian record holder, and Sudbury's newest
competitive adaptive rower -Steve to the National Team selection
camp for a shot at Beijing this summer.
Thomas and I will journey on together until the end of time,
and since my sky diving coach Angus has offered to tow my
butt across the skies in tandem dives when I cannot pull
that cord anymore, I nominate Thomas to row my butt across
Ramsey in The Minna when I cannot pull that oar anymore.
Wendy-Athletic Therapist- stepped into the picture when
I was injured with a rotator cuff and elbow issues that
kept me from lifting cups to drink from, and generally pushing
myself around. Wendy has the unfortunate position of meeting
so many athletes in our worst moments, or after we cannot
struggle with our injured malfunctioning limbs. Being my
athletic therapist Wendy had to give me the stern talk about
resting my injured body. That was my first experience with
reduced activity level. Reduced quality of life -it looked
like to me. Little did I know a year ago, that today I would
be happy to be functioning at that injured level.
Wendy is a gem in Sudbury most do not know of. Having been
the chief athletic therapist at several International events,
including Paralympics she knew exactly how to work with
'wheelies' as well as determined, one track minded athletes
who are driven by an internal dragon to perform outrageous
acts of intense activity at early hours of the day, repeatedly.
Wendy understood my psyche totally. I did not have to try
to explain to her what I was thinking. Yet Wendy knew what
my limitations were, but did not focus on them. She focused
on my goals, and helping me get there with her expertise.
We were able to keep my shoulder stable to race the Nationals,
and the World Sprint trials.
Then I got ill, again.. and again... until in Dec. my body
had enough and it was ready to quit on me. That's when you
all took to action. Mike, Wendy, Clee, Brian, Donna, Jason,
Gergely, and Dan came to the hospital. All people I train
or race with, who coach me, or help me reach my goals. Angus,
my skydiving coach arrived after 5 hrs drive in a blizzard
to my bedside at the critical care unit, to remind me of
the blue skies awaiting me. Wendy reminded me of the lunch
we didn't have yet, and Donna's face was comforting to see
the day she came, I remembered how much I want to be here
still. Julie and Thomas, they took me under their care and
nursed me to health. In and out of the hospital. These are
all people connected through sport.
Today, Blair is the sport psych. who is helping me to "retire"
from competitive rowing and whose support has been immensely
helpful in me being able to accept things and see a future
for me by building myself a life with meaning.
This is the closing of "Minna's Team'' as Wendy so
well put together. The time is coming that our relationship
with each other is shifting to a level outside of the beginnings
we met under. Some of you, I will continue to work with
at some level, such as Clee, whom is trusted with the duties
of helping me keep breathing, keep pushing myself around
a bit at least and to keep pulling the cord on that parachute.
The Y will always be a home to me, and the ROCKS will be
my road race till the end of time. Some things never change,
only the form they take. Our presence in each others lives
is beginning to shift, and as time moves on we will find
a new fit that works for us.
In the meantime, Wendy lets have lunch, Vince and Donna
if you need a volunteer I'm here, Thomas and Julie you will
always be friends with whom I will remain working with sports,
Mike lets go paddling together this summer, and Clee lets
keep working to live!
Thank you all for being a part of my life in such a meaningful
way, and thank you for travelling this future journey with
me to see what live brings around this corner. Stay tuned,
I'm going to the wind tunnel in NH Apr. 21-23 to be the
first test pilot for my "gimp free fly pants"
to get ready for the world premiere of 'drop the gimp from
the plane and see if she can fly' event coming soon to a
drop zone near you. Still breaking new ground, after so
Be well and remain strong,
"The brave may not live forever, but the cautious
do not live at all"
"People living deeply have no fear of death."
"The ground isn't fast, but it's patient, fair
and very hard. It cares not a jot for your reputation
and its a limit that will not be pushed." -tonto
"Up here, above the fog, in the lonely dark emptiness,
there is no Life and Death.
There is infinity and a moment in between,
when we fly so full of life and so close to death that
they become one." -Richard Bach