Nine months after Lauren Parker was paralysed from the waist down in a freak training accident, the resilient and inspiring Novocastrian will compete in her first triathlon.
The 29-year-old will line up in the St Kilda Paratriathlon Oceania Championships on Sunday, an event that also doubles as a qualifier for the Commonwealth Games.
If she completes the sprint distance course in less than two hours and is the first or second Australian to finish Parker could earn a spot on the national team for the Gold Coast games in April.
Regardless of the result, Parker will be happy to be back doing what she loves.
“I have just trained my whole life and I kind of know nothing else,” Parker said.
“It's just a part of me, so it was quite easy getting back into training.
“It's actually taken my mind off things and it's where I'm the most happy.”
In April last year Parker was in the final stages of preparation for the Ironman Australia Triathlon in Port Macquarie, where she was eyeing a podium finish, when both her tyres blew during a routine training session and sent her crashing into a guard rail.
She sustained broken ribs, a punctured lung, broken scapula, broken pelvis and a broken back and was given a one per cent chance of walking again.
Parker returned to the pool during rehabilitation and completed the swim leg of the Maitland Triathlon in November.
She has joined forces with Paralympic legend Kurt Fearnley for track training and has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I didn't have Commonwealth Games at all in my mind.” Parker said.
“It wasn't until I spoke with Triathlon Australia back in November and they were saying that they'd love to support me if I wanted to get into paratriathlon and one day race for Australia.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to get back into racing and training and triathlon … They gave me a few races to look at and I chose this one because it was a Commonwealth Games trial.”
It involves a 750-metre swim, 25-kilometre hand cycle and 5km in a racing chair.
"I'm getting nervous just because it's new,” Parker said.
“I’m nervous about transitions. I don't know if I'm going to be really bad at it and whether I'm going to be 10 minutes behind everyone or 10 minutes in front. I just have no idea.”
The fact she is set to compete at all is a little surreal.
I have trained my whole life and I kind of know nothing else. It's just a part of me, so it was quite easy getting back into training. It's actually taken my mind off things and it's where I'm the most happy.Lauren Parker
“I didn't even think that I would be back doing triathlon let alone doing it this quick but there has been a lot of support from the triathlon community, saying they'd love to have me back training and giving me the motivation to get back into it,” she said.
“I'm back to being a newbie again so I don't know what to expect … but it will be a good experience and I'll just go as hard as I can and see what the result is.
“If I qualify then that would be absolutely amazing. If I don't then it doesn't matter.”
Training with Fearnley under wheelchair coach Andrew Dawes has been a boost for the determined Parker.
”It's been so good, he’s such a machine,” she said.
“He does about four laps to my one but he's really encouraging and really good to train with. He pushes me.”
Her weekly training schedule in the build-up to this race has been four swim sessions, three hand cycle sessions and three racing chair sessions.
Each discipline has come with its own challenges.
“The hand cycle and racing chair are not really long sessions, but in a one-hour sessions it's pretty hard work,” Parker said.
"The racing chair is the most technical but the hand cycle is just really hard on your arms.
“Your arms are in pain the whole time.”
“I haven't hand cycled after swimming 750m and then the racing chair after the handcycle.”