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Guest Column: An inside look into my journey to the 2016 Paralympics

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Erin Scala shown using a handcycle at the Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Courtesy of Erin Scala

Each day we had different tasks and destinations to bike to. We biked on the Air Force Academy Base, The Garden of the Gods, and around Colorado Springs. We worked on our skills, which included doing figure eights, tight turns, reaching for our water bottles, navigating a course with scattered cones, and other skill workouts to feel as comfortable as possible on the bike. We had three races throughout the camp. Two of these races were on the velodrome. We biked a kilo, which is three times around as fast as you possibly could. A 3K, was nine times around the track. In the 3K, the objective is to shave time off of each lap. It is very difficult to do, but Sarah and I managed to do exactly that, and each lap out of nine was faster than the previous.

Prior to coming to this camp, I had no idea what a veladrome was. Sarah had explained it to me, but I was still unsure of what it looked like. Before our race, our head coach had us walk the track, to give the visually impaired or blind athletes a feel for what they would be racing on. I had no idea how steep the track was. It felt like we were going 60 mph, but we were probably in the 30’s.

Our last race was a 20K time trial. This was 12.4 miles as fast as you could on a road course. After completing these races, besides being exhausted, I felt accomplished, proud, and happy.

I thought Sarah was insane when she told me that we had to warm up for about an hour before each of our races. “Why would anyone want to work out before doing a race?” We put our bike on a trainer, which is a mechanism that hooks to the back wheel to stabilize the bike. We both hopped on and did a long workout. We had moments where we would pedal softly and just get our legs used to the movement, but other times we were pushing hard and sweating. Before the 20K time trial, we must have done three out of the four laps that we would have done on the race. I was exhausted and thought to myself, “There is no way I can do this race, I am already tired, and my legs are killing me.” All of those thoughts left my mind as soon as we were on the course, giving it our absolute best.

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