By the Wild Women Team
Every year we are struck by the incredible and inspiring stories of our Coastrekkers. You are all seriously amazing and you don't make the task of choosing a Most Inspiring team easy.
For Melbourne Coastrek this year, we have chosen the incredible team Tush Toners for our Most Inspiring Team award for 2019. Team captain Trisha Brice's story is one of resilience, courage, and perseverance.
Trisha lives with Usher Syndrome, a condition that can result in partial or total hearing and vision loss. She wears two hearing aids and her eyesight has worsened over time. Tricia has blurry vision and experiences poor peripheral vision, but despite these physical obstacles, she's determined to push through and challenge herself. She's as proud as punch to give back by raising money for The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Trisha, Imogen, Sarika and Jenny took on the 30km challenge and so far they've raised over $7,800 for The Fred Hollows Foundation. All smiles at the finish line, these ladies embody T.E.A.M (Together Everyone Achieves More).
We asked Trisha how she managed training with her team members, how they went about raising so much money, and what she found most rewarding about the Coastrek experience.
You live with a condition called Usher Syndrome, when were you first diagnosed?
I wasn't diagnosed until my early 20s. Although I already had hearing loss, the vision problems didn't present until I was much older. My hearing loss was diagnosed when I was about 17 months old. But they didn't pick up the diagnosis of Usher Syndrome until my vision loss started to deteriorate.
When I was in my early 20s and going out clubbing, I started having problems in those dark situations and realised it was something more serious. I went to an optometrist and an ophthalmologist and they quickly realised I had hearing loss and vision loss. They gave me the diagnosis of the Usher Syndrome.
How has that diagnosis impacted your day to day life?
Slowly. At the time, it didn’t really mean much of a change other than I couldn’t drive at night. It wasn’t impacting me probably until the last six to 10 years. My peripheral vision started to deteriorate and I get quite blurry vision. I take medication for macular edema which is a condition associated with the vision loss part of Usher Syndrome.
There’s no cure for Usher Syndrome so my vision loss will deteriorate. Probably two years ago I decided it was a good idea I didn’t drive at all, so I no longer drive a car and I’m pretty clumsy at night.
My hearing loss has been stable for quite some time and there’s technology that enables me to hear. I’ve got pretty amazing digital hearing aids. I can hear TV, I can hear phones, I’m not too worried about that. I probably will need cochlear implants at some stage. The vision loss is definitely more confronting because there’s really nothing that can be done for that.
What was your driver to participate in Coastrek?
It was kind of unrelated to Usher Syndrome. It was more the fact that I was turning 40 and wanted to do something like an endurance event to challenge myself. I have always wanted to do something like a half marathon or something like that. I’m surrounded by people who can run and do amazing things and I wanted to try and do something for myself. Having Usher Syndrome certainly had its challenges. Training early in the morning or after work at night meant that I had to deal with the fact that I couldn’t see well.
So you managed with your situation, to make the most of it and do the training you could manage?
I was envious of all the training people were doing, going out on amazing bushwalks. But because I can’t drive I wasn’t able to do that. We just made do with walks around public transport-accessible areas. I don’t think it really held us back on the day. I think we were still fit enough!
What was training like with your team?
We followed the 12-week program Coastrek provided, which was awesome. We would plan the walks every fortnight based on the distances that were in there. One of the girls I train with doesn’t like driving, so we would meet locally and go for a walk together.
One of your team members is based in Sydney, how did you manage that?
We had a shared chat room where we talked about what we needed to do, then she would go out and do the distance. She mainly did the Spit to Manly walk. We had a messenger group where we constantly communicated and kept in touch that way.
What did you find most challenging and most rewarding about Coastrek?
Most challenging for me was the physical impact on my feet. I developed a bit of an injury in my foot and getting blisters was hard. At one point, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do the walk. That was challenging because I’d done so much training and really wanted to do it.
I think the most rewarding part was feeling everyone’s support in terms of the fundraising we did. And finishing the trek on the day was amazing. Our last three kilometres were our fastest because we were just so amped to finish. There’s definitely still gas in the tank!
I want to touch on your fundraising. You raised an extraordinary amount of money, over $7,800 for the Fred Hollows Foundation. How did you go about fundraising?
I set up a Facebook page and really used that as a way of engaging people in a way that was more about the team rather than the individual. We used that to share photos and update what we were doing so people could follow the story. Imogen turned 40 during training so she asked everyone to donate rather than give her presents. Jenny did the same so that was a big thing that helped.
What were you most proud of?
The money that we raised for Fred Hollows. I think for me, it was personal achievement of doing something for people who are less fortunate than myself, and knowing that money will genuinely help people.
What was the highlight?
I think the scenery was spectacular. Getting to the end of that soft sand beach was pretty good and also feeling like you could go on!