In our third installment of My Story – Vancouver we hear from Tracy and Priscilla, two Age Group athletes who share their road to Vancouver. Stay tuned for more motivational tales as My Story - Vancouver continues.
Tracy Harris - GBR - Olympic World Championships - M45-49
My name is Tracy Harris (Mr). I am 45 years old, live in Brighton, England. I was once a GB elite triathlete back in the late 80’s early 90’s. Glandular fever ended my pro career prematurely. In 1995 I settled down with an amazing girl, Viv, in 1995 who became my fiancee. We bought a little place in Rottingdean, Brighton.
In 1999, I started to train again in order to compete seriously in the World triathlon and duathlon championships for when I would turn veteran in 2003. Incredibly, I got back to a fitness that was even higher than when training full time years before. I PB’d for a 10km in 2001 running 31’25” and felt that there was even more in the bank.
In 2002, whilst riding to work, a car did not see me at a junction and did not give way. It ran me and my bike over, leaving me horrendously injured in the road. Consultants said that I would never train or race again. I did not want to accept this and was determined to try anything to help myself get back to some kind of exercise that would not cause pain. After a year I was beginning to think that the consultants had got it right as whenever I tried, my back felt like someone had stabbed it repeatedly.
Viv suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, a terrible illness that deteriorates the lungs. In 2001 Viv had to go onto the heart and lung transplant waiting list as her lungs were so scarred from years of infections. In 2003, Viv was called in for her operation. The operation went ok but an infection set in. Viv rapidly declined and eventually died in intensive care 7 days later.
My life seemed to have totally ended.
I had several months of reclusiveness, not seeing anyone except my mum and my dog, Dave (an italian Spinone who suffered from bad epileptic attacks).Dave helped pull me through the really bad times. It is so true about a man’s best friend. I began to focus again on trying to get back to exercise. I just wanted to go for a gentle bike ride or swim and for it not to hurt my back. I tracked down a Belgian consultant, Yohan, who specialised in the area of damage that I had. He gave me many many exercises to perform throughout everyday that concentrated on inner core strength and stability. I did these day, in day out for 4 years.
Eventually, I was able to ride gently for 10 mins without pain. I then introduced sea swimming in a wet suit which helped with support. This went ok. I upped the cycling and then started going out for 5 minute very slow jogs. All was going ok but I would soon know when I had done too much and would have to go back to just inner core exercises. I increased the intensity of the sessions and at the end of 2006 decided to enter a little local triathlon. It went ok. I did a couple of duathlons too but pain was coming back again. I thought that 1 more year out just doing core strength would get me back to full training without pain so I took 2007 out.
In November 07, Dave, my bestest buddy in the World, had to be put down due to the epilepsy and he also had an in operable knee injury and couldn’t walk properly anymore. He was 11and a half years old. I miss him terribly.
I focussed again on triathlon training. The winter was tough but I was improving rapidly. So rapidly that I was blown away with my results.I was having to train very little but intensely. By Christmas I looked at the top times in the 07 World champs in triathlon and duathlon in my age group and thought that they would be my within grasp should I keep on improving the way I was. It was then that I decided to focus on both triathlon and duathlon World Championships and raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis along the way. I qualified for the World Duathlon champs by winning my age group by several minutes.
However, having not followed the qualification itinerary in 2007 due to not even thinking that I would be fit enough, I did not realise that the World triathlon championship qualifiers had already gone. I had missed them and my age group was now full and so too was the reserve list. I mentioned to the GB team manager that if a space did become available, even with a week or so to go, then please please consider me. Just 3 weeks ago, I received a call saying that so many athletes in my age group had pulled out, that if I still wanted a place it was mine. I jumped at it despite having gone down with bronchitis and was on antibiotics. My chest infection has now nearly cleared and I have booked my flights and paid for my place. As money is tight, I have had a fantastic offer to stay 8km away from the start with a couple that I have never met before but have heard of my story. I have never been to Canada so I am really looking forward to my two week stay in Vancouver and having my first vacation since 1995.
Priscilla - CRC - Olympic World Championships - W25-29
My name is Priscilla Madrigal, I´m from Costa Rica. I´ll be competing in the Olympic Distance Age Group (25-29) category and this is my story.
It all started 3 years ago when I decided that I wanted to compete in a triathlon. I had been involved in sports all my life and thought that this would be a good challenge for me, but I never thought it would become the challenge of my life. I started by taking swimming lessons since I didn´t know how to swim at all. When I felt comfortable enough in the pool I bought my first road bike. I immediately felt in love with cycling, but 2 weeks later I noticed that sometimes I felt a bit dizzy and didn´t have enough air. I thought it was normal because I was probably working out too hard but anyway I decided to go to the doctor.
The doctor found that something was wrong with me and that visit ended up lasting a week in the hospital where I had many tests taken including a surgery for a biopsy on my birthday (June 7th). That day I found that I had cancer (Hodgkin´s disease). I went through chemo and radiotherapy for 6 months and during that time I continued working out because I really wanted to compete on a triathlon at least one time in my life. Of course it was tough because I felt tired most of the time, but I kept trying and four months after I finished all my treatments I was able to compete on a sprint distance event. I finished in the last place, but it was an amazing experience which made me fall in love even more with triathlon.
A year ago the doctors told me I was fully recovered and I´ve been working out and competing locally on Olympic distance events since that day. It´s been a long journey because even though I try to make excellent times, it hasn´t been easy. Sometimes it´s frustrating because I know that a lot of people if they would just workout as hard I do, they would have much better times than me, but I still keep trying. Going to Vancouver to the World Championships is by the far the craziest biggest dream I´ve ever had. I know it is going to be a one-time only experience because it is very expensive and I don´t know how long I´ll be able to work out as I do. I haven´t had any support from anyone, everyone just think I´m crazy. I took a job to be able to pay for my coach, the registration fees of the events, and all my triathlon gear. It is not in very good conditions, but at least I have something to compete. Also, the race is on my birthday, so I couldn´t think of a best possible way of celebrating it, it´s exactly 3 years after I was diagnosed.
The last challenge I faced before knowing that I´ll be at Vancouver was my Visa, I had saved the money and already paid for the airline tickets and went to the Canada embassy to apply. I got rejected because they said I didn´t have enough resources to be at Canada and that I would probably want to stay there, even though I have a job in Costa Rica. That day I felt that my dream was falling apart, but after crying a lot I decided to call the event organization, I talked with Sunny Erfan and she helped me get a letter for the embassy. I finally got my Visa and I´m ready to compete and beat my own record.