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You think you’re tough?

Sharman Parr, 56 years old and has qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman no less than five times and I haven’t even grazed the surface of her achievements and ability. Parr is leading the SheSpoke Cycle Wear team through the hottest, and hardest mountain bike race in the world; the Crocodile Trophy.

Although Parr is convinced that she has no athletic ability at all, she considers her abilities a mixture of tenacity and persistence. Parr tells me that the Crocodile Trophy is the equivalent of ten Ironman races back to back, there is no doubt that this woman is without fear and she is out to prove it.

It hasn’t all been fun. During the Kona Hawaii Ironman, Parr was blown from her bike in 60km/h winds. During the Ironman Japan, she mistakenly drank her own urine in the bike leg, and she has vomited noodles out her nose at a race commonly knows as Satan’s Velodrome (Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race) where she was also the first women to start and finish.

Rowena Scott of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) caught up with Sharman to find out exactly how tough this 56 year old power house really is.

BNA: You qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman 5 times, it’s an amazing achievement, but it doesn’t even begin to cover all your achievements, what drives you to compete?

Parr: Many reasons really but mostly to prove you can be a fearless femme. I just love any chance to push myself and stretch my personal limits in endurance race events. It’s an addictive self fulfilling thing and it comes down to this amazing ultimate challenge of you against your self. I just thrive on how I have learnt over the past 25 years, or more to ignore the warning signs of exhaustion pain and doubt. I just seem to push myself on into another zone. I just love to be able to test my mind and body. I don’t have any athletic ability but just the tenacity and persistence. The tougher it gets the tougher I get. So I just never give up even if I cry, vomit noodles out my nose, drink my own urine or crash. I try to let people think I am enjoying the journey and always try to smile. Wear perfume, pink lipstick and motivate other woman.

BNA: You rode the Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race and you where the first ever women to finish, how does it make you feel?

Parr: Pleased to achieve a first for woman in sport. It also convinced me that my mind is the most powerful organ of them all. It was a very tough race nicknamed Satan’s Velodrome as it was so hot 47 degrees with 396 sand dunes on day 2. I always believe girls can do anything if they want to.

BNA: You where with the Jungle Patrol Wilderness Medicine Team at the Crocodile Trophy in 2009 where you had to provide potentially lifesaving first aid to a Dutch rider, who sustained head injuries, are you hoping for a less adventurous race this year?

Parr: I will not be surprised if we give first aid on the course especially as one of my fearless team mates is a Paramedic (one of only two women in Cairns who go in the Rescue Helicopter). I have over the years, a history of finding fellow wounded riders. One of our team mates in the Croc last year Andrew Graham also crashed and he needed 8 sutures. Amazingly, he rode the last 50kms of a stage with only vision in one eye.

BNA: You have done 13 Ironman races, sounds to me like you were born with the ability to suffer, and how brutal is this race?

Parr: Please do not tell my team mates, it’s brutal!!!! If you do not have a couple of male domestiques to tow you? you will be singing; it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. It’s not called the worlds hardest, longest, hottest and most adventurous mountain bike race in the world for nothing. For me it was like doing 10 Hawaii ironman and was tougher than any of the 10 day XPD adventure races I have done. It’s a race where you are pushing your self to the limit every day trying to go as fast as you can against the elements. Then at the end of each day you are in the middle of no where for the night camping.

BNA: What are the biggest obstacles that you and the team will face on the trails?

Parr: We are in the same race as the world class professional riders with lots of young male riders. As mere amateurs we are racing against the clock to not be last in.

The extreme heat, dust, rocks and dry creek beds! Trying not to succumb to heat stress.

Chaffing is savage due to the rough tracks so good cycle gear and chamois cream will be truly tested.

Mechanical worries for us girls in the middle of know where and no phone coverage.

Not crashing on the technical stages, you just pray you survive some of the descents.

Riding kilometres in the sand and heat, one stage has 80km and sand with hills in the distance looking like a centipede

BNA: What expectations do you have for yourself this year?

Parr: At 56 years old, none for me. I want to be one of 7 female starters to finish, and I’m old enough to be a mother to some of the pros. It’s about our great SheSpoke Cycle Wear team. Ret is a little dynamo on the hills and Maree is a time trial Queen. As we all work and do not have the luxury of full time training it will be about the journey to the finish line and of course beating a few men. This year is about making history for woman, with the first ever team to finish in the 15 year race history, so, go girl power!

I must also mention though that my husband of 25 years is also racing again in an Aussie men’s team. So it’s always so great to have him as usual waiting for me at the finish

BNA: What was the best moment of last year’s race?

Parr: The finish having a decent shower, receiving my finishers trophy and still able to wear high heels

BNA: Do you have any advice for women who are about to give up?

Parr: Read the book by sport psychologist Terry Orlick called, In Pursuit of Excellence, before they start. Tell them to be a fearless femme and not let the men have all the glory, hop on my wheel and I will get them to the finish line. Otherwise I will give them my two wrists bands- pink for breast cancer and black which says H.T.F.U.

Bicycles Network Australia wishes Sharman Parr and the SheSpoke Cycle Wear Team lots of luck and determination for the savage race that is the 2010 Crocodile Trophy (starts October 19, 2010 in Cairns).

Further information about the Crocodile Trophy can be found at www.crocodile-trophy.com, information about SheSpoke cycle wear and the team can also be found at www.shespoke.com.au.

Rowena Scott
Rowena Scotthttp://www.sheridescycling.com.au
is a Melbourne based road cyclist and covers women's interests in cycling, you can view her website at www.sheridescycling.com.au
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