Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The USADA process and Lance Armstrong

I have written a couple of posts recently about my views on the recent doping charges brought against Lance Armstrong and in my last post on this I broached the bug bear I have with the way us so called “Lance fans” are derided for seemingly appearing to possess no critical faculties in our desire to keep Lance on some sort of pedestal.

Well I have answered that one and now I feel compelled to move past addressing what has been up until now seen as the Lance supporter camp versus those who argue that we must know, it is important to know everything about this era of cycling so the sport can finally move on and as one journalist argued that it would finally help to heal the sport. Okay well now we are in very different territory with this latest round of doping allegations against Lance. As Outside magazine themselves, and I might add coming from this particular publication considering their historical negative Lance stance, and therefore I truly  appreciate their opinion and feel  it has a lot of weight, well I feel that for me their journalists argument encapsulates in a nut shell what many of us deeply feel, we have now entered a period where it is not so much the argument anymore of whether we need to know or not, but the “how “of the way USADA are pursuing this case, that now must be addressed.

I have not been able to pinpoint exactly why I have felt so un well  each time I have seen the events in this particular case that have unfolded since mid-June gather pace like a freight train . The speed and momentum of this case against Lance has been quite astonishing. I think Outside magazine has finally put the finger on it for me. It doesn’t sit right because the way the end result that is desired by USADA is being pursued , is  beginning to feel as if it is riding rough shod all over a person’s right to reply in a timely manner.

I must interject now with something personal that has just happened to me and it has happened at a moment in all of this that has starkly brought in to relief just what it must feel like right now for Lance, that sensation of being backed in to a corner with a deluge coming at you of accusations and not feeling as if you have the space or room to reply in a manner that feels in any way fair. I had a difference of opinion with someone a day or so ago that really escalated, it escalated to a shocking degree resulting in me receiving an email of the likes I have never had the misfortune of opening in my entire life. I am absolutely not going to go in to this here and I am also not going to imply either that the content of my email equates in any way to what Lance has to deal with right now. It is just that feeling, the feeling of being cornered to an extent where you cannot breathe. I would not wish it on anyone and I think if we are all honest as humans with feelings and hence empathy, because we all do possess the same spectrum of human emotions, that is what is going on now for a lot of people, even those not in the Lance camp so to speak, because of that empathy we all possess because we know what it feels like to well be human so to speak, we are all coming to this, that this process, it all doesn’t sit well with us.

If you think about it that is what has enabled our society to evolve in the way it has through the ages, that ability to empathise. It has meant that quite often we have been able to pull back and weigh up situations, that however much maybe in some ways it can be argued that a pursuit of justice is being undertaken, that if the “how” is becoming misguided in certain ways, empathy will prevail and so as the Outside magazine itself argues, sometimes we must drop things. Simple as, because it is just not possible to pursue a matter and keep it within the bounds of what you can expect another person to be able to cope with. None of us really want to wish an unbearable weight of emotional pain upon another human being. That is what I think makes us truly special as a society, this evolution of respect of a person’s well being over all else.

Can many of us actually maintain at this stage that the way this is being pursued against Lance is going to result in a situation whereby more good than harm is going to come of the eventual resolution USADA are gunning for at the rapid pace they are pushing it forward? For many of my fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders it has gotten to the point where I have seen comments tonight not of as some of you might be levelling at us of our constant discussion of lance’s innocence, no there is barely a mention of this debate, many comments are really about the USADA process and as one of us pointed out, many people long ago made up their minds about this debate and now with the way this is being pursued it will cause more hurt than good.

What bothers me the most about all this, is when I peruse some of the more vitriolic twitter conversations of those who very much are at the opposite end of my camp in all this, when I manage to clear away the truly unpalatable stuff and look closely at their arguments and debates and in some cases some really very well written blog posts, well in all of it I say to myself these people truly have nothing to gain from any of this as they know what they know and are long decided, it provides for them merely hours of interesting debate nothing more. Yet there are so many and yes I do speak now of those who rely so very much on the care and services and crucially hope they receive from LIVESTRONG, in some cases very innocent people in terms of their knowledge of this whole cycling saga, they truly have a lot to lose in all of this. Then of course there is Lance, his family and friends. I shudder to think what it is like for them at the moment. 

I have sifted through all the debates over the last few days, that is how I am I like to read and understand as much as I can even the most extreme diametrically opposed views to my own, then all the more generalised less emotional stuff in the middle, and then yes of course the opinions of those in my camp who truly love LIVESTRONG and their mission. I must conclude that the way this is shaping up, the course and speed and process of this pursuit, I see more damage than good coming from this.  I do not trust speed in any process, you only have to look at the so called “locomotives of history” that have resulted in revolution, and we know how all those processes have ended up. However “right “people, organisations, governments etc. might be there are usually processes attached to things that plod along fairly slowly in the way they come to a resolution. 

Whatever the outcome of all of this for Lance, and yes it goes without saying I fall into the camp of many who will be behind him regardless of the outcome of these proceedings, I feel many of us will be left with feeling that the “how” of this process left a lot to be desired and I think once this becomes the historical footnote that everything ends up being eventually, it will not be viewed as a favourable one.
I hope there are more and more of us out there who put empathy first in our consideration of all this and I will leave this tonight with this question. How far can you push a man, a human being?

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Lance and LIVESTRONG gives us hope and strength

I read an article a couple of weeks ago and I desperately wanted to reply to it, but I felt as if I had said enough about how I personally feel about the current USADA doping case against Lance Armstrong. Sitting this morning it keeps rotating around in my mind and I feel like this. It has been levelled at us so called “Lance Supporters” that we are fairly deluded in our need to see him as some sort of unblemished hero.

Well I can only speak for myself as a Lance supporter and say this, I have a History degree and my powers of critical analysis are pretty good, I also have a huge capacity to read a lot of material, and I also understand the concept of there being the truth and then the truth, and actually of there being no truth at all and just the ability to tell the most compelling argument. Another thing I have learnt from my plunge in to the catacombs of history is this, that we have always been looking for heroes and someone or something to follow. When I think of some of the historical figures I have studied spanning all the way back to the 9th century many of them where certainly flawed hero’s but they all possessed one thing in common, they had the ability to provide hope. One thing that has never changed all throughout time is this need we have, in our difficult lives, to find hope.

How do you quantify hope? I would argue that we are always looking for hero’s not human beings and maybe we all need to grow up a bit, but sometimes if you look at the human being you can see where the real hero lies.  As someone who has an illness with a lot of stigma still attached to it, what has always struck me the most about Lance’s story is the part where the conversation between Lance and his doctor is recited at the end of his treatment for cancer? He was given the choice to go out of the back door and get on with his life and forget about this awful disease, or he could pick up the obligation of the cured and leave by the front door and in so doing tell his cancer story as a way to help others and most crucially help tear down stigma.

We always focus on Lance’s strength and courage on the bike but if we want to look for where his real heroism lies it is actually in what he did that day by walking out the front door of his doctor’s office and then tirelessly from that day on telling his  cancer story over and over again. Can you actually imagine what that must have been like as a young man from Texas having just gone through testicular cancer? It is unfathomable for many of us the guts this took. I will say something else right now, for those of you who think Lance did dope, well then this actually makes what he did even more heroic. That would have taken a lot of guts to have to live out loud about his disease while possibly making other difficult choices.

 “ LIVESTRONG”  has nothing nowadays  to do with winning bike races and everything to do with living your life with hope, with strength and out loud and proud. This is what I mean about there being truth and then truth. When we talk about the Lance Armstrong Foundation let’s focus on that word foundation for a moment. Lance laid the foundation stone for what has now become a place of hope.  Not just in physical terms but also in mental and emotional and spiritual terms. Does what he did or didn’t do on his bike all those years ago change this reality that exists in the present right here and now for many of us? for me personally absolutely not.

Would I have made it in to the water at Ironman France on Sunday without this ethos behind me, that you keep trying, you never give up and you are audacious enough to think you can change your life and give people around you the hope to think they can change theirs?

Ironman France is probably the greatest example of the absolute factual truth I have in my life for this being the case. I trained for 8 weeks! Even my coach said it possibly was actually 7 weeks?! I was finished with this back in February because of lingering injuries and depression, and what changed was my trip to Austin and visiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and then daring to hope. I also felt a huge obligation to them after my trip out there to fundraise and remain a part of Team LIVESTRONG Ironman. I trained as hard as I could and I hoped and I prayed I would be able to pull something out in France, even just the swim, but mostly I just said to myself hit the fundraising goal if you can and get suited up with them and be out there and visible as someone who both supports the Lance Armstrong Foundation and also supports them in their endeavour to give hope to the 28 million living with cancer.

It was such a blow when Lance was barred from competing with us in France and I have shared about it that I didn’t even want to go, but of course I did. I became even more determined to support the foundation and be visible on the Ironman course in my LIVESTRONG Nike gear. Jennifer a cancer survivor and LIVESTRONG leader said to me you must go as you don’t know who it will give hope too, if they see you out there racing, you can’t know.  I was shouted at out there so much and two women did scream at me that I was an inspiration, I can’t know for sure if anyone who needed hope saw me but I certainly know for sure that people love more than anything to see people out there fighting whether we are racing against Ironman or out trying to live our best lives.

Team LIVESTRONG Chris, Helen and Shu made me feel like anything was possible and also inside of myself there was this strength I did not know I possessed. I honestly believe it has been built up because of all the stories of hope I carry around inside of me. I remember when I read Lance’s book in 2009 and I was able to carry on and take my History finals, I then was able to qualify as a fitness professional, and start doing Triathlons. There is so much more but that is the beginning. On this road since 2009 I have collected many more stories since Lance’s whether it has been face to face or on my social media, all of them have built up inside of me and have kept making me stronger. 

In France when I met the rest of Team LIVESTRONG Ironman every one of them told their story about why they supported the Lance Armstrong foundation.  All of them spoke of their cancer experience and then mostly the hope they received from Lance’s story and the hope they discovered in how the foundation empowers people affected by cancer. I spoke to a lot of people in France and a lot of serious age grouper athletes as well. Everyone has their opinion now but no one I spoke too did not support Lance, think that he was nothing but an amazing athlete, or that he was not an inspiration in all he had achieved regardless. Most especially they all think the foundation does amazing work.

I nearly completed an Ironman after a ridiculously short period of consistent training! I am still reeling; hell my coach is still reeling. I have never been as proud as I was that day to be out wearing my LIVESTRONG all day long. Lance gave all of us a lovely card and he said he was disappointed but that in the end it is all about the LIVESTRONG mission, and that is greater than one man.   When I got home I posted up my blog about my experience of what was one of the best days of my adult life in France. There is a guy who supports me in Ireland as a LIVESTRONG Leader, he is 16 years of age and has just finished cancer treatment for the second time. He sent me a message the other night with some YouTube links to Ironman videos; I found this the most touching gesture. Then yesterday he uploaded a new picture of himself to Facebook wearing a LIVESTRONG top and holding a bike helmet…

LIVESTRONG is about hope, and when any of us who have been empowered by the hope we have received from being involved with LIVESTRONG get out and live our best lives we then in turn provide hope to others and then it goes on and on being passed along. Whatever the outcome of any of this at the moment it can never ever be changed that the first story of hope that began this foundation and journey for many of us, was Lance’s, he passed his story on first, he started all of it. LIVESTRONG are working on an anti-stigma campaign in Japan right now based on this, telling your story. 

As I said at the beginning I have all my powers of critical analysis, I have my own views on all of this plus my own thoughts on doping in cycling. What I also know for a fact is the truth of all I have recited above. They can say Lance doped but they can never take away his legacy of all of us, of me in France on Sunday and Donal in Ireland yesterday, and of others all over the world who are the  recipients of the effect that telling his story had. I will finish again though with this, he was still the greatest bad ass of them all on the bike, always will be, maybe everyone just needs to grow up a bit…

Monday, 25 June 2012

The most incredible experience !

What a truly incredible experience! I will never forget what has been one of the most amazing days of my adult life, Sunday June 24th 2012 when I lined up with Team LIVESTRONG Ironman and raced Nice. Well all 170km ish...I ran out of knee and out of time literally. I will say this Ironman is a worthy adversary. I remember Chrissie Wellington saying that you train for Ironman giving it the respect it deserves. Well I can safely say I get that one now. What I don't get and am sure I never will  is how are the pro triathletes actually human beings?

I need to say the biggest Thank yous it is possible to express here to my amazing friend and fellow LIVESTRONG Leader Shu Milne, to say that she has gone above and beyond in friendship over the last few days is putting it mildly. I also need to say Thank you to Team LIVESTRONG Chris Brewer and Helen Knost for their unbelievable support and warmth. Racing with LIVESTRONG is more like being in a family as opposed to being on a team. We had the most fantastic lunch with them and other members of the team on Friday. It really kicked my weekend off meeting them and the team  and hearing other peoples stories about why they race LIVESTRONG. The team is made up of a really diverse group of people but what we all have in common is what LIVESTRONG means to us and why we want to race Ironman for them.

It only hit me what I was actually doing when we went down to check my bike in to the bike park and leave my bags in to transition on Saturday evening. There is nothing like the sight of 2,500 bikes under the fading pink Mediterranean sun to make you feel oddly surreal. I had great plans to sleep well and of course I clocked about 3 hours in the end and found myself upstairs at breakfast in the hotel with my fellow athletes at 4.30 am . Shu met me in my room and we brought my special needs bags and swim bag with us for the walk to the start line.My impression of the  warm air in a dark morning walking through Nice carrying my wetsuit  as other athletes and their families made the same pilgrimage to the start line will never leave me. Again another surreal moment of many I was to have over the next few hours.

Shu had to leave me at the gate of the bike park and I was allowed to check my bike and sort out my bottles and then we had to move up and leave our swim bag in and then get changed for the swim. The whole time you move up through the bike park and on up to the swim start line friends and family can walk alongside you from the other side of the railing. Shu tracked me the whole way up and it helped so much. Once I was suited up though I had to head down to the beach on my own and that is when I psychologically started getting in to a bit of trouble. I was really overwhelmed. I will not pretend otherwise. There where so many people or should I say so many men and we where packed on to this small pebbly beach and they where pumping out this dance music and I was just getting more terrified by the second as jet skis and boats circled in front of us and the furthest swim buoy was pretty much invisible to my eye.

Then suddenly a girl was by my arm and she said hello and we started to chat. She said to me do you know that we make up 7% of the entrants in the race and I said I had some idea but I didn't realise it was that small. She told me she was from California and had just done the Triathlon escape from Alcatraz a few weeks ago and she just loves racing. She emphasised how she feels it is important for us as women to get out there and be visible racing. Then she told me that she is originally from Afghanistan and she was lucky enough to get to leave there when she was a child. She carries it with her always this thought, as she see's it about this opportunity of freedom that was afforded to her as a woman and how she must not waste it. Her way of honouring that freedom is to race strong . Her story completely took me out of myself and then all of a sudden she melted off in to the throng but she left me with her story and I felt stronger.

Not so strong that I was able to take to the water with everyone else when they crashed in like an avenging army. I can put my hand up here and say I did a sort of slide on my bottom in to the water while I watched it all spread out ahead of me in shock. So I just started slow and tried to pretend I was on my own and I stuck to the side so canoes where close by. By doing this eventually I must have caught up with a group of swimmers and then I just focused on them and watching whoever was next to me swimming. I only looked up too sight the odd time and just to listen if they shouted at us to get back over and if we where being led around a buoy. I didn't allow myself to think about where I was in relation to the coastline or how long I had to swim, I just kept it about my stroke and breathing and whoever was next to me. I had to swim slow too. My shoulder had been pretty bad on the swims since I had arrived and they had been 600 metres or so. This was 3.4km! There was one moment during the swim when the sun really started to rise and all I could think was how beautiful is this and how lucky am I to be sharing this ocean with 2,500 people on a Sunday morning.

After the swim I felt amazing but I realised as well that I had been quite slow but at this stage that didn't bother me as I was just reeling with delight from completing an Ironman swim. Like all my dreams I had ever had suddenly coming true in front of me. I ran past Helen coming out of the swim and she was cheering me on and then as I got on to my Bike Chris was there with his huge smile and that was fantastic as well. I felt good getting on to my bike but then I started to feel really sick in my stomach and this was the start of a day where pretty much thinking about your tummy off and on is an ongoing obsession, hence now I get this nutrition thing and how important it is. One lesson I have learnt is I actually cannot eat anything solid, like anything. I actually almost collapsed laughing at km 70 when they handed me my special needs bag that I had packed a baguette and crisps in to! I looked at it in horror and grabbed the Pepsi and handed the rest of the bag back.

I felt really sick for I would actually say about 100 or so km. I just kept on taking gels and water and coke anyway and kept on following a 15 minute rule with getting something in to me. I sort of had this routine in the end that I stuck to on the run with gels, coke, power bar mix and small bits of banana. Every time I even tried to have a bike bar I nearly got sick but I knew I had to keep getting calories in so it must have worked because I completed 180km of the most brutal, beautiful and terrifying bike course I have ever been on in my life. I met some great people a long the way too. Not many triathletes as the pack was long gone, I was very much one of the lone rangers and there where times that I really felt as if I was actually not even on course as I was just climbing up these mountains just me and the bike and the twisty road and this unrelenting sun searing you across your back as you inch up. It was so quiet at times that I found it meditative. I found it really peaceful up there just the bike and me up against those steep roads. It was painful and slow though. I was going very slowly and I was aware of that too. Once the descending starts though it is a whole other ball game as then I was fighting off vertigo at times trying not to look sideways on turns as I just did not want to know how far up I was descending from. At some point up there I pulled my knee pretty bad and it really started to kick in on the way down. By the time I was 60km away from Nice I was in a good bit of pain every time I turned the peddle on the right side. 10km out and it was screaming at me. But the adrenaline of trying to make it back before the bike cut off time was really pushing me on and I was getting a massive second wind. As I was biking along the promenade the marathon was in full swing and it was really spurring me on. As I jumped off my bike I asked did I make it? It was actually a spectator who told me that it was by 17 minutes!

I think I sort of knew after lap one of the marathon course that I wasn't going to finish but I just wanted to stay out until I knew for sure. There was this conflicting dream/reality thing still going on. The cut off at Nice is 16 hours not 17 hours and so because of that it was going to be really hard especially as my knee was getting worse. I jogged the first two 10 km laps only walking through the aid stations so I could do the coke, water and gel thing. Then on lap three I started walking and running was pretty much limping at that stage on the knee. I just wanted to stop I was so upset. I did think then of people who inspire me and LIVESTRONG and I kept saying come on just keep going. I really wanted it as well for myself and all day those words Allez Vanessa had been ringing in my ears. From early in the morning all through the day and now in to the night on the promenade des Anglais those two words had been shouted to me whether it was from young french cyclists out on a training ride bounding like kangaroos up the hills in front of me shouting out their encouragement in their wake, or people on the sides of the road, at the aid stations and now lining the promenade all calling my name. All my wonderful team LIVESTRONG Shu, Chris and Helen. Chris told me how proud he was of me when I started on the run and it really spurred me on and then Shu and Helen stood tirelessly about a third of the way from the finish line cheering us all on. I told Shu to give me an idea of my time doing the third lap as my garmin had died up on a mountain hours ago and anyway I was too tired to think for myself at this stage. When we realised that I had actually gone down to the snails pace of 1hr 30 minutes we knew that Ironman France had , had his day with me and he had won by 10km or so. 

It was hard walking back to the bike park on the other side of the finish line and hearing the spectacle that is an Ironman finish, especially one in the South of France. It is like magic the setting. Nice at night time with the Ironman party all around is again something surreal. But Ironman is not fair. It is your adversary and you either win or you lose. I think I lost fair and square. I did not expect to finish and I think I only got upset because it happened so close to the finish but once the reality of what I had actually achieved sank in I was able to let go of that pretty fast this morning. I decided to keep on with the Ironman this year so I could fulfil my commitment of racing with Team Livestrong Ironman. As I started training properly with the help of my amazing coach Claudia yes as each week went by I did keep thinking hey maybe I can aim for more than the swim , oh maybe I can do the whole bike and yes last week I started to think I might get off the bike too. Never once did I think I would finish and actually when I got to Nice and became very intimidated by the whole Ironman environment and the other athletes I started to feel like a fool and that I really shouldn't start, but I made myself start because all the support from Shu and Team LIVESTRONG and the inspiration I draw from the people in my life who are either cancer survivors or are people who are out trying to live their best lives, all of it pushes you to just try, and then finally that girl from Afghanistan her story probably got me in to the water. All our stories bound together can help us to do anything we want to do.

The only time I started wanting to finish the Ironman was as my amazing day unfolded in front of me. I will not pretend I was not terrified or felt completely out of my depth as an athlete compared to most other people. I wont say that I was not in a lot of pain too but what overrode it was the trip. The journey of that day in the sea and on my bike and on that long run was just amazing. I actually loved every single second of it. Ironman is a sensory , emotional , physical and mental experience like none other. Everyone is out there driven by something. Everyone is pushing themselves so hard you can feel it and to be part of all that energy even as the lone ranger close to the back is like none other. My coach said to me that Ironman is about you being empowered to see that anything is possible, well she was not wrong.

The only thing is Ironman France has 10km or more belonging to me. As I took off in the plane over the promenade today I looked down on to the marathon route and I said I will be back. Last night I lay with a cold heinekin can in place of ice on my knee as Shu said the ice machine was well and truly cleared out. Suprise suprise! As I lay there I said never ever again, but as every good defeat you wake up the next day feeling stronger.  I replied to one of Helen's emails just before deciding to write my blog before sleep and I thanked her for all of their support. I also said that it had been so inspiring hearing all the team members stories. I told her that I will be going back to Nice in 2013 in exactly the same tri vest  racing for LIVESTRONG and both raising funds and trying to get that last 10km or so for my medal. More than ever now I want to keep racing for LIVESTRONG and more than ever I want to keep racing Ironman. What ever happens in the future Team LIVESTRONG Ironman will keep getting stronger as a team both in Honor of the ultimate athlete and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and also to keep raising funds for the LIVESTRONG mission to serve the 28 million living with cancer. I have a feeling that there are a lot more potential team LIVESTRONG Ironmen out there!

Thank you to every single person who supported me in my dream to be a member of Team LIVESTRONG Ironman and most especially to all my donors. As in the absolute bigger picture we are all out there supporting the 28 million living and fighting cancer every day of their lives.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I really do not want to race in France with no Lance...

I have felt sick since I heard the news yesterday that the WTC (world Triathlon Corporation) have banned Lance Armstrong from competing in next Sunday’s Iron man France in Nice on June 24th. Due to the allegations that USADA are bringing against Lance the WTC have said that this makes him ineligible to compete in any of their races.
 Whatever the validity or not of  any charges against Lance concerning his past cycling career, what over shadow’s any of that issue is the way in which all of this is being conducted. The timing apart from anything else is appalling. This has been timed to cause as much trouble as possible for Lance, his family and friends who were looking forward to seeing him compete. This will cause upset to his fellow competitors and spectators of the sport, and most importantly his foundation LIVESTRONG and their investment in his Iron man journey with Team LIVESTRONG Iron man. Funds that may I stress where being raised for the fight against Cancer.  To level all this at him one week before Nice, The timing is just nasty. I am sorry but it is.

As someone who has been both a cycling fan and a Triathlon fan it has gotten to the point now where you just want to scream. I cannot see how any of this bears any relevance on anything anymore. People have decided, they have made their decisions about all this, and also the past is the past and like everything in history the further away we get from something the harder it gets to judge, as we cannot possibly really understand the full circumstances around those events and conditions from our standpoint in the present.  What is truly shoddy about all of this is the pointing of the finger at one cyclist.  Many of us know plenty about that era in cycling and if it was indeed a culture of doping, well you cannot bring that to bear on one person’s doorstep, least of all a cyclist. Everyone knows that if there is a culture of anything going on in sport then the athlete is usually as much of a victim as anyone can be, faced quite often with impossible choices.  Considering the era we are referring too it makes it even more dreadful to pluck a few people out and hang them out to dry and try to pin on them the blame for an entire period of time that was complex and opaque. This is exactly what a witch hunt does. A with hunt tries to simplify the complex to get nice and neat answers and so they will vilify a few people to get their boxes ticked.

Life is not black and white and sometimes we cannot have the answers and even more importantly sometimes we cannot ever know and we need to be satisfied with that. Lance is being targeted because of his celebrity and visibility it really is that simple. In February there was a collective sigh of relief and most people I think felt that relief not because absolutely everyone felt Lance was lily white but because they recognised that it didn’t matter. we didn’t need to know any more about this and what was more important was Lance’s tireless work for the cancer community in the present day, and his legacy in that regard, and even more importantly the future potential of LIVESTRONG, his foundation, still in its infancy but doing amazing things for the global cancer community, many people saw that this was what needed to be preserved and maintained above all else.

I visited Austin Texas in March and attended the LIVESTRONG assembly and I toured their Headquarters and heard LIVESTRONG speak to us for two days about their mission and their future goals all geared towards helping the 28 million living with cancer around the world. I listened to both Doug Ulman and Lance speak, and there was such an air of optimism about the future for their organisation. It was truly lovely to witness. I have supported them now for just over 3 years. I did find the organisation via Lance’s book but quickly became incredibly impressed by LIVESTRONG, the cancer organisation and all it had to offer the global cancer community.

LIVESTRONG and Lance are of course intertwined and he brought to bear on the building of his foundation the same will power, fight and intensity as we witnessed on the bike and we read about in how he fought his own cancer battle. LIVESTRONG are all about people. They started with one man’s cancer story and they are now all about millions of people’s cancer story. Lance has always maintained that it is all about the story, the power of a person’s cancer story to both release them and also to help release others, whether from loneliness or from stigma. LIVESTRONG has been built from this one guiding principle, the person and their story, they also let that guide their programs and initiatives they either implement or get behind. 

They want to strip lance of his jerseys maybe? But they cannot strip him of attributes he possesses that have enabled him to fight off a truly deadly cancer diagnosis and build a truly wonderful cancer foundation, a truly unique foundation. Think about the wristband? As Doug Ulman said himself, this wristband democratised philanthropy, for the first time ever for a dollar anyone could participate in the awareness raising process. The wristband was also there before social media, it actually did what social media campaigns do now on line, raise mass awareness about a cause. LIVESTRONG have always been at the forefront of new ways of raising awareness and fighting cancer. They didn’t invent the concept of survivor ship but they have run with it in such a way that it has brought it to the forefront of the cancer community consciousness in such a way as it never was before. Nearly everything they support or implement is based on this element.

I do want to mention Lance as a cyclist as well. I read a really good blog post this morning by a girl and in it at the end she said when all is said and done there was no one more bad ass on a bike than Lance and we all loved watching him, all of us. We build up our sporting heroes and invest in them so much and we do forget they are people just like the rest of us. But whatever Lance did or didn’t do during the course of his cycling career no one can take that away from him, it was intensely beautiful to watch him on a bike. That absolute will power and determination of spirit stamped all over everything he did out there on the road, that part was real, for sure it was and he brought that in to everything he has built up ever since.

The bottom line in all of this is, we don’t need to know anything more about what went on or didn’t during Lance’s cycling career, this was a difficult period for the sport of cycling, but then one could argue every decade has been a challenging one for the sport of cycling. Are we going to blame him for what went on during the Tour De France in 1911? Hmmm quite. 

What is truly cruel about all this is the timing when he had just been given a breathing space after the federal prosecution was closed down in February. Finally he could get on with helping to run his foundation, look after his family and also getting back to his triathlon roots.  Lance loves to compete, he is let’s face it one of the most competitive sportsmen on the planet and he is the ultimate athlete, to rob him of that outlet and also rob the rest of us from the spectacle that was Lance racing Iron man and all the attendant fun and drama inherent in that. Lance was bringing a lot of good in Ironman’s direction and there were also a lot of us starting to get out there and raise funds for Team LIVESTRONG Iron man so we could race in a team with Lance and also give back to LIVESTRONG and the cancer fight at the same time.

I pulled from Iron man France last year after a really bad injury I couldn’t shake, I then pulled again this March just passed from Iron man France 2012 because of the same injury that was still playing up. What changed? I went to the USA and the confidence and inspiration I got from being out in that country, first from staying with my friend in LA and then my trip to Austin with LIVESTRONG. I also stayed with my triathlon coach Claudia Spooner in Austin for an extra week and it was then it began to grow in me to try and give it a go, give it a go for Team LIVESTRONG even if I am not up to it. Liz Kreutz, Lance’s long time photographer spoke to me at the LIVESTRONG assembly and said just do it, don’t miss out on France and how amazing it will be to be out there with all of us and LIVESTRONG, she said even just train enough to do the swim. She made me realise that this was bigger than me. I was committed to my fund raising goal and to Team LIVESTRONG and of course the absolute treat of getting to be on the same race course as Lance Armstrong for a day.

So I came back to Ireland on April 7th wondering can I? It has been so hard, the injury is clearing but not quite but there was a miracle. I did start hitting the training goals, I started to love swim, bike and run again and I started to get really excited about going to France with Team LIVESTRONG Iron man to race and raise awareness about cancer. I have a fabulous coach in Claudia, and I got amazing support from fellow LIVESTRONG leaders, even one of my LIVESTRONG leader friends Shu Milne was coming to Nice to support me and cheer me on. I have had all throughout this period of time as well so many doubts. I am so tired and I have a shoulder problem now from swimming that I didn’t talk about this last week. I am finding it hard to keep weight on as it has been such a dramatic build up over the last few weeks to just see if I can do this.

As soon as I heard about this latest action against Lance yesterday I felt physically sick and I knew right then and there I didn’t want to go to Nice but at the same time I felt I should sleep on it and just see, especially as I picked up a bit of a bug yesterday and so I was really not in the right frame of mind to make decisions. I got a lovely message from Team LIVESTRONG about the race but I just felt sick. I think it’s all been so emotional anyway all of this for me. I have trained very hard in a very short period of time so I could not miss out and be part of this and yes of course I desperately want Iron man, but deep down inside I did know I was going there to not so much complete but participate so that has been hard mentally on me as well, to have to prepare for a race like that, knowing it’s not realistic to really expect to finish.

I have had a really difficult couple of years with injury and other issues, recently I have been so lucky to be injury free enough to work, and I am also working again for a really great person Tina Murphy, I love her company “Run with Tina”, and her ethos around fitness. I had gotten back to loving my Triathlon training too, but this has knocked me out for the count it really has. I feel like I  spent as a cycling fan two years listening to poisonous stuff then there is a break and now it’s leaking all over triathlon stuff as well. I am also really disappointed in the WTC, I can’t help it. I know they are saying it’s their rules but I can’t help it I feel disillusioned and I just have lost faith right now.

I am thinking about taking a huge step back from Triathlon and just swimming, biking and running this year for the love of it and then reassessing Iron man next year. To be honest I feel right now like I  don’t want to race until I hear an apology to Lance and a lift on that ban so he can get back to doing what he loves best. But we will see.
I have really important things in my life with my fitness career and also I wrote my part of a press release today for the joint program as a LIVESTRONG leader I am doing with bray cancer support centre for cancer survivors. This is what counts, my work for LIVESTRONG and this is what I said and it helped me a lot today.

"I am excited to be involved in this fantastic program. Ever since I first had a meeting with Bray cancer centre I was struck by the similarity in their outlook and focus with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and their shared priorities in both the initiatives and programs they implement themselves and support.
Bray Cancer Centre and LIVESTRONG both put survivor ship at the top of their agenda’s and a program such as this one reflects that priority, based as it is upon the cancer survivors needs and the desire to enhance their quality of life.
Due to the inspiration and education I have received from LIVESTRONG as one of their volunteer leaders I decided to begin the process of qualifying myself to be trained in prescribing physical activity to cancer survivors. This area is now understood to be a crucial component of survivor ship and cancer survivors are encouraged to participate in exercise to help in their on-going recovery. Through my LIVESTRONG connections I have also built up knowledge about nutrition principles that are beneficial for cancer survivors to be educated about.
I feel honoured to be part of this program with bray cancer support. For me this will be the first time I will be using my skills as a cancer survivor physical trainer and I thank bray cancer and LIVESTRONG who have both made this development possible!"

This is what counts for all of us involved in the cancer community, what helps people affected by cancer? And to put it simply LIVESTRONG help people affected by cancer, right now in the present in the now and their potential to do that in the future can only grow a thousand fold. Lance’s legacy is this work, that’s what counts now and the rest of it, the past it needs to be left alone.
I am not sure what I will do about France but I am so happy I hit my fund raising goal for the team and I still have some dollars from training miles I put in, still to add to the fund.  It was an article in the Iron man magazine, " Lava" that inspired me to donate a dollar per mile for my own training to LIVESTRONG. Yes Lance brought a lot in to the sport of Iron man in a short period of time, he really did. I just hope for him because he love’s Triathlon and for the good of the sport he will be back again one day. In the meantime I wish Lance and his family and friends all the very best through this difficult time.