My Paraversary - by Lizzie Tench

I first met Lizzie at one of our favourite wild swimming spots, where she was getting in some open water swimming training. I know I'm a slow swimmer, but in the time it took me to thrash about 50 metres she was a distant spot at the other end of the lake! And I got in before she did...

Of course, Lizzie isn't just a fast swimmer, she's red hot in her racing wheelchair and on her hand bike too, which is why she's been British Paratri Champion 2015-17, European Champion 2016, World Paratri Champs 2016 Silver and 2015 Bronze - and now, as I write, she's representing England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Go Lizzie, go!

Lizzie has contributed for us before (see here for her account of Rio 2016) and we're delighted to have her permission to republish this recent post she wrote on social media.

 

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The 17th March marks my paraversary: this year (2018) it is six years since I was knocked off my bike and lost the use of my legs. As it approached, there was a chance of it slipping by without me noticing, but I had this beautiful gift from my paratwin, Hannah Hunt, which could not be more apt since good luck is exactly what I need and we share our anniversary with St Patrick. On this day, I feel inclined towards reflection, as has become the custom. But first, I wish Hannah a very happy paraversary! It’s great to be able to share the journey with you Hanski. And then I wish a Happy St Patrick’s Day to all Irish people too and particularly my lovely friend, Ciara Murphy.

I can’t pretend that having a spinal cord injury is not a total pain in the proverbial (although there are some perks too), but I don’t miss my old life. For those that didn’t know me, I was a Children & Families Social Worker before I got injured; a life that is a whole world away from the one I’m living now. But that’s all life is... a series of chapters. When this one ends, I’ll find a new role, a new identity, and so it will go on. One thing is certain, I will never be bored. It is just not in my DNA.

This March, I’ll be travelling Down Under to represent Team England at the Commonwealth Games in the Paratriathlon on 7 April. It seems a bit surreal that this should be happening to me. If you’d have told me six years ago that this was part of my future, I’d have laughed hysterically. You see, I only ever wanted to complete a triathlon, just for the enjoyment, to prove to myself that I could do it, and to combine my love of swimming, cycling and running. The idea had started forming a long time before I was paralysed. However, the triathlon goal grew, quite accidentally, into something much bigger! I remember telling my parents post-injury that I was going to be a triathlete. They exchanged glances, smiled and said, “Oh yes?!” in a somewhat disbelieving tone. I think they thought it was a whimsical idea that I would soon forget about. I’m pretty sure this ignited something in me. I’ve always been determined and a bit of a self-imposed perfectionist, which has its advantages and also its drawbacks as I am my own worst critic. I can be stubborn and bloody-minded, which has caused me to defy a lot of people’s expectations about what a paraplegic can achieve. I live on my own and I am completely independent with most things, although I just can’t seem to work out a way to change lightbulbs!

Lizzie in action at the 2017 Paraduathlon National Championships (photo courtesy Scott Murray)

Lizzie in action at the 2017 Paraduathlon National Championships (photo courtesy Scott Murray)

Anyway, my overwhelming feeling today is of immense gratitude to everyone who has helped me over the past six years. Learning to accept help has been my biggest lesson and it has been enlightening because it has brought me so much unexpected joy through the wonderful people I have been lucky to meet. There are so many of you (literally hundreds) that it would be impossible (and dull for the reader!) for me to name them, but I am so very grateful to everyone who has supported me in any way from nurses and doctors in the NHS, to friends and family (particularly the unwavering support of my parents), to people who have given up their own precious time to help me in training and at races, and to people who have inspired me to carry on living life to the full. I also apologise to everyone I’ve neglected in order to achieve my goals. I have become totally focused and that has meant saying “no” to a lot of people and missing out on various opportunities outside of my total, 100% commitment to my training schedule over the last few months. I can say, without hesitation, that I have worked incredibly hard. So, whatever the outcome of these Commonwealth Games, just getting there has already surpassed my expectations and the experience will be beyond my wildest dreams. I am proud, honoured and very grateful indeed.