Monday, October 7, 2013

Inspirational Role Models

Once upon a time it was easy to pick a cycling role model…but that was a time before doping controls. These days they need to come with an expiry date. Perhaps, as cyclists, we need to start looking to other sports. I've always said that I’d give up on cycling altogether if it's ever revealed that Jens Voigt was a doper...but at least this would free up some time to focus on my other main passion, World Championship Chess Boxing.

A positive dope test from this man would add to growing list of reasons to give up on cycling and focus on the untainted sport of Chess Boxing

I’ve been inspired by the writing of David Thorne and in particular this blog post titled Missing Missy which is probably the funniest thing you will ever read on the Internet.

Motivational workout videos can also help and there are a number of other great reads out there. One of them is Sydney’s Shona Stephenson – ultra-endurance trail runner, personal trainer, mother of two…and asthmatic.

Reading her website, inspirational is a word that quickly comes to mind, although not when it comes to the spelling and grammar:

Both her personal and business websites are laden with testimonials from people that she has inspired to achieve things they initially thought impossible. Her race reports are dramatic blow-by-blow accounts of the physical, mental and grammatical hurdles that she faces so often.

Her incredible gift is for motivating, inspiring and helping us, the regular people, to achieve greatness, or at least just feel better about being mediocre.
“It’s amazing that I can do what do.”
But why a story about this Sydney trail-runner on a cycling blog? The answer is multi-dimensional and a little abstract, much like Shona’s command of the English language.

Some of her favourite quotes are actually her own:
“Pain does not last forever……only a little while”. 
This is a fantastic take on a quote made famous by Lance Armstrong: “Pain is temporary…Quitting lasts forever.” Unfortunately for Lance, so do the results of those annoying lab tests.

Shona also uses cycling as part of her cross-training (but not Backgammon from what I have read so far) and lists as one of her inspirations:
“Cadel Evans, well just because he is Cadel! ... He is all guts and determination. Again he proves that hard work will paid off.” 
If you need any further proof that hard work will paid off, then Shona’s elegantly crafted blog posts are definitely worth a read.

Race reports are a staple of amateur cycling’s literary world and cyclists could learn a lot from the way she captures the drama of her events. A stirring piece on the 2013 Skyrunning – Ice Trail Tarentaise event in Val d’Isère, France tips the scales at an impressive 7,200 words – so it’s probably best to block out some time in your calendar before embarking on that one.

You will be immediately captivated by the elegant prose, magical storytelling, incredible challenges and improper use of punctuation:

There are a couple of very disoriented apostrophes in that paragraph confusedly asking “where am I?”

Battling injuries and medical conditions is something that most cyclists can resonate with. Shona is unfortunately afflicted with a very serious case of asthma:
“My asthma kicks in and my trachea narrows from 3.5cm to 2.6cm almost 1cm smaller than “Normal” peoples trachea when I am effected by asthma…”
She’s also had to deal with a broken toenail out on course:
“I repaired a broken toe nail on the track and fight off 2 leech attacks and I just managed to stay ahead of the next male by 2 minutes meaning that I finished in 2nd position Overall, just awesome!”
And then there was the time she thought she had cancer:

Along with the asthma, cancer scare and being an “Aussie that had never seen snow before,” the Ice Trail race also included “the added degree of difficulty of running in a country that I did not speak the language.” Not to be deterred, Shona wished all the volunteers a “Happy Bastille Day and Via La France.” Hopefully they at least appreciated the sentiment.

Nutrition, hydration and bouts of gastro are common themes in Shona’s race reports:
“I filled with Coke yet again, but I was getting concerned that it would not be dehydrating me.”
Cyclists take note: If you find Coke is not adequately delivering your sports nutrition dehydration requirements, it might be worthwhile combining it with coffee or beer as the diuretic effect of these should be enough to bring your dehydration up to a more suitably debilitating level.
“In hind site I should have grabbed the chocolate on offer…”
No Shona, in hindsight you should have used a thesaurus, dictionary or spellchecker – but it’s too late for that now.

Bodily functions are also examined in uncomfortable detail:

Go on…
“I hoped that peeing would give my diaphragm more room to suck in more oxygen.”

In this particular race, things start to go a bit pear-shaped and stomach problems eventually caused her to pull out. But keep in mind that:
“No one else with asthma was attempting what I was doing up the front of the field.”
“I was extremely ballsy taking on such a mammoth race. Especially since I am an asthmatic.”
“Most runner just have to worry about their legs. I also have to worry about my lung function too.”
Please, tell us more...

Amazing to think she even attempted that with asthma and it “...probably did not help that I happen to have my period too! Far out man!”

Her writing is at times edgy, always confronting and often just downright weird:
“Tragically Shona’s youngest daughter swallowed a battery in August 2009…”
So, if you are looking for a way to boost your performance athletically, or even just in everyday life, Shona’s gripping opus is definitely worth the time – you will need a fair bit of it though.

For now, I'm waiting in keen anticipation of the movie.

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