Monica Bascio is used to waking up before the sun. Training for three Paralympic sports, the early morning workouts are what keep her ahead of the game, but recently the reasons for the early mornings have changed. Instead of waking up to an alarm, Bascio is waking up to the sounds of her 22-month-old son, Henry.
"Henry is climbing all over everything right now," Bascio laughed.
Two years ago, Bascio's priorities all changed. Taking the 2007-2008 season off, she switched gears from being an athlete to being a mom.
"It was kind of hard," Bascio said. "We try to balance it out, but it's certainly different in that he is clearly the priority. He sets the day's schedule, whether he knows it or not."
The balancing act is working. Bascio most recently finished on the podium in the women's 5K at the IPC Cross Country World Cup in Whistler, the site of next year's Paralympic Winter Games. She is leading the way for the U.S. women.
She has a very clear goal for next year after just missing the podium at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino.
"To perform well at the 2010 Paralympic Games representing the U.S.," she said.
Her dreams of representing the U.S once more at the 2008 Paralympic Games in cycling were dashed when she broke her leg in February before the competition. She knew it would be difficult to recover in time. She didn't have the time to prepare for the increasingly competitive field.
Instead she is looking forward to Vancouver all while spending as much time with her son as possible.
"He is at a really fun age where he repeats everything you say," Bascio said. "I love hearing him laugh, reading to him and playing with him."
But it's not easy to find time to train with an almost two-year-old running everywhere. Sometimes she needs a little help. That's where daycare, her husband, Ian, and family step in.
She's still trying to figure out how she balances life as an athlete and a mom.
"That's the $100,000 question," Bascio laughed. "How do I balance being a Paralympic athlete and a mom? If only I had an answer to that."
"It's really hard," she said. "Obviously I can count on him napping and sometimes that doesn't happen. I get up really early a lot to do my secondary training in the garage. I'm not a gym person, but I go when there is child care for strengthening."
Sometimes Henry even joins in on his mom's training.
"I pull him on the ski sometimes, but I'm not able to do that on the bike with the way it is set up. If I'm biking then I will have to have a child care set up or my husband works from home so he adjusts his schedule. It's very dynamic and ever changing."
Bascio admits that it is hard work being a mom.
"I realize now why people have babies in their 20s," she said. "I used to think I was too young and then I realized I was too old. It's a lot of energy to keep up with him."
Bascio is hoping to add more medals in the next year to her already impressive collection. She is a world champion handcyclist and has won the Sadler's Ultra Challenge, the longest and toughest wheelchair and handcycling race in the world, five times.
Henry is too young to understand all of his mom's accomplishments, but he enjoys the hardware she receives because of them.
"He wears them around his neck a lot," she said.
With Mother's Day this weekend, Bascio doesn't have anything special planned. She will be working at her job as an occupational therapist, but after she is done she will be going straight home to enjoy Henry's company.
"He is the cutest thing in the world and I am enjoying him thoroughly."