After buying a bike last week to ride again for the first time since I was a child, and due to a lack of childcare, Gabriele’s new seat has arrived so that I can take him out on the road with me. I chose a front facing seat so that I could see exactly what he’s doing and know that he’s safe whilst we cycle together. It is such a peaceful and wonderful thing to do together and makes us appreciate how lucky we are to have our good health and physical ability so we want to use this to help others. Why not combine my new found love of cycling together with my desire to help others, and after just a couple of outings on my bike I have signed up for a 15mile Tour De Vale charity bike ride in support of WheelPower on June 8th 2014. Let’s hope that I can get up to scratch in time as it’s only a couple of weeks away and if I don’t get enough practise in I could well end up spending the entire race upside down in a hedge. I’ve never cycled side by side with another rider, let alone in a flock of hundreds of bikes as I’m still a total Bambi for steering but I’m going to give it my all and use the charity ride as my goalpost. If I can do it then anyone can, and I hope that you will please help me to raise funds for this amazing charity by visiting my donation page by clicking the WheelPower icon at the bottom of this page. Whether you know me or not, every penny raised goes directly to such an amazing cause to change so many lives. Please like, subscribe and share this with your friends and family to raise awareness, and give whatever you can spare even if it’s just a few pence. Thank you for your time, I hope to do the disabled children and adults alike proud in my cycle.
1200 men, women and children become paralysed due to an accident or illness every year. Many more people acquire a different disability that means they need to use a wheelchair. All will benefit by participating in wheelchair sport and leading a healthier, more active life. Through sport many people whose lives have been traumatically changed can enjoy the tremendous physical and psychological benefits of participation and competition. Sport can make an amazing difference to the life of a person with a spinal cord injury. It aids rehabilitation, decreases the need for long term healthcare and medical treatment because of the healthy lifestyle, restores independence enabling people to undertake everyday tasks more easily including dressing, transferring in and out of their wheelchairs to the car, bath and bed, and motivates disabled people by giving them new goals and increases confidence and self belief.
There are many benefits to be gained from participation in sport by disabled children. It improves physical fitness as playing sport helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, preventing illness with an improved psychological outlook, developing confidence, self esteem and social skills through participation, success and interaction with peers; this leads leads to greater independence, less reliance on others and therefore a more satisfying life. Participation leads to an awareness of the vocational training possibilities which sport can offer as well as integrating disabled children into mainstream school activities, which means they are less isolated from their able bodied friends.
In 1944, Dr Guttmann was asked by the British government to found the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, near Aylesbury. Guttmann believed sport was an essential part of the rehabilitation programmes of his patients, using it to help build physical strength and self-respect. In 1948 the first ever wheelchair games took place, and became known as the Stoke Mandeville Games. In 1952 competitors from the Netherlands took part in the competition, giving an international notion to the movement. The Stoke Mandeville Games continued to grow impressing Olympics officials and the international community. 2013 was the largest ever Tour de Vale bike ride with over 1,500 riders took part and raised a whopping £34,000 to help disabled people.
UPDATE: 29/05/14 Wheel Power On Facebook
I had a lovely email from Wheel Power asking if they could share Gabriele and I’s fundraising page on their Facebook account to help raise awareness. I really hope that we can make a difference with our donations, no matter how big or small, just to know that we’ve contributed and tried our best to benefit people in need means so much to us. I hope that you too will help to support this amazing charity, not just today by in the future too, it doesn’t have to be for an event or special occasion as you can give all year round. Just whatever you can spare. The weather has been horrendous, raining everyday all week so we’ve still only had two bike rides in total. Let’s hope that we get at least one more attempt at a practise before the big day.
UPDATE: 03/06/14 – 5 Days To Go
With the weather being so wet and stormy and the half term holidays meaning that my daughter is off school, I’ve not been able to cycle at all until today. Despite it spitting with rain, today Gabriele and I donned our raincoats, helmets, bottles, nappies and milky bars, and got on the road for another practise. We managed a glorious 13.7mile ride whilst Millie was at school, making it home just in time for tea. As of yet we haven’t achieved 15miles in a single ride, but now that we’ve crept closer to the finish line, I am confident that we will do it on the day.
UPDATE: 05/06/14 – 3 Days To Go
Today I managed a 6.3mile cycle as I didn’t get out until late following Gabriele’s nap time, and we couldn’t go far as Millie was finishing school shortly after. I used this ride to build up my strength and kept my bike in seventh gear the whole way, pushing hard on the peddles with my heels and taking long strong movements. I really hope that the very limited training that I’ve had will allow me to complete the cycle on par with the rest of the riders.
I went to bed this evening feeling rubbish, my throat is dry and sore and my skin is sensitive all over, I have no energy and my eyes are burning hot. Oh and the cramping pain in my stomach is beloved Mother Nature’s impending monthly visit. Please don’t let me get ill before the weekend, we’re so close now! Come hell or high water I will finish the race no matter what. Our sponsorship total now stands at £62.50 and we are over the moon to have received such kind and generous donations. There is still time to sponsor us as Wheel Power do such amazing work for so many, so please find it in your heart to spare whatever you can and help us to help others.
For more information, to enter the event or learn more about WheelPower, please visit their website here!
UPDATE: 08/06/14 Event Day!
For the past three days my health has really gone downhill, a couple of days ago I passed out, my entire body felt tender and bruised, and my skin burning hot whilst I was shivering and wrapped in a hoody and jeans on a scorching hot day. As the hours ticked by to event day, the odds stacked up against me. It was like what I would expect walking on the moon to feel like, as if my feet were made of lead and my head was pounding, my face bright red and my throat dry and raw.
Poor little Gabriele had such a snotty nose and wanted nothing but cuddles and love, yet I barely had the strength to even lift him let along stand upright. The joys of being a single parent eh, you never get sick at a convenient time do you? I had been looking forward to doing our first ever charity cycle together so much that it saddened me to think that if Gabriele didn’t get better in time then he wouldn’t be able to take part. I would never put him at risk or make him do something that he wasn’t comfortable with, and I cherished our little training rides together where he would point at birds and squeal with joy when he saw a lorry and say “heya” to every pedestrian we passed. I guess I took for granted that I would feel rubbish for 24/48hrs or so and come the event day on Sunday it would be this perfect morning out in the countryside with hundreds of others all raising money for a good cause. And it was, but not in the way I’d expected.
The night before the race I was burning up so bad that I laid like a starfish ontop of my bed, windows wide open, cold flannels over me, painkillers, snotty tissues, cold water and an anaesthetic throat spray so that I could swallow and breath. I struggled to get even five hours sleep, and at 6am after leaning my head against the shower wall standing under the cool running water for what seemed like an eternity, I managed to somehow eat a crumpet and a raw tomato before I couldn’t physically swallow any more. My entire body was telling me to admit defeat, my family were concerned, the out of hours doctor told me to go to the hospital and get seen to, and Gabriele was still sleeping peacefully after such a fitful night. So that looked like that was it, I’d signed up for the race with my very best intentions of taking part but sickness had just got in the way, bad luck, how unfortunate. For several minutes I lay back on the bed, closed my eyes and admitted defeat, it felt so effortless to shut my eyes and let all the aches and pains just float out of me as I listened to the morning breeze and birds chirping. My skin so tender and hot against the cool morning bedsheets as my damp towel dried hair soothingly chilled the side of my face. Yes, this was what I needed, complete bed rest and painkillers, to stay in my duvet nest and ring a little bell for room service to answer my every needs. I hardly ever catch a cold, and when I do I refuse to take painkillers, I just drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy. But this wasn’t like a normal cold, this packed a sucker punch that knocked me for six.
In that moment spent with my eyes shut I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, what a muppet, why was I even thinking about giving up!? What a load of tosh, of course I could overcome this, I’ve given birth twice without pain relief for goodness sake. My pain threshold isn’t anything special, but my mind and passion is. It’s just a case of mind over matter. If I could lay on my bed and zone out, granted from weakness, then what was to stop me from zoning out for the duration of a bike ride for an amazing cause, all fifteen miles of amazingness. So long as I made it over the start line, no matter how far I manage to cycle at least I’ve given it my best shot, and worst case scenario if I passed out again at least there would be plenty of people around to make sure I don’t take up residency in a hedgerow for the foreseeable future. The little cogs started to turn in my head and I devised a plan to prepare my body. If I took my painkillers half an hour before the race then they would kick in as I hit the starting line, hopefully giving me immunity from weakness for a couple of hours, all I’d have to do is cycle as fast as I could to achieve the 15miles before the tablets wore off. Easy! There was the slight issue of not being able to breath through my nose as it was clogged with snot, and breathing with my mouth made the dry, burning, razor-blade sensation in the back of my throat unbearable, but if I were to take sips from my water bottle little and often I could hopefully keep my throat moist so long as I didn’t pant too much. It was already scorching hot outside so I changed into a pair of shorts and a vest top in the hope that if my shivering returned part way that at least it would cool me down.
And that was that, I swallowed my painkillers, filled up my water bottle, attached my cycle number to my bike, clicked my helmet into place and lined up at the starting grid with the other riders. I hoped nobody would look at me and realise I was off colour and pull me out of the race, all I wanted was to try. At 10:30am the horn sounded and off we all went. Yes I was a little shaky at first, but I told myself that every peddle was one step closer to the finish line, all I had to do was breath gently and stay focused because no matter what the outcome at least I had made it out of bed and tried my best. And if I hadn’t suffered enough already, after cycling out of the stadium and along the main road, my water bottle decided to somehow snap off of my bike, I didn’t knock it, I hadn’t even taken my first sip, people say lightening never strikes twice, well by then I felt like I’d already celebrated my centenary. It’s as if everything in the world was deliberately steering me away from taking part, weighing me down until I caved in and making it impossible to go on. So do you know what I did? I tried even harder.
As I reached the main road I pulled over to drop off my water bottle which I had no way of carrying after my one and only sip, knowing that there were two water stops across the following fifteen miles, so I simply had to hold out for each checkpoint. From the sheer volume of riders the crowd moved at a painfully crawling pace as I darted my front wheel left and right in a bid to keep balance whilst moving so slow; if I didn’t pick up pace then my painkillers would run out, yet I could only go as fast as the person infront of me as we trailed like elephants through the busy traffic. As we reached the country roads I found my flight, the wind on my face, the stunning sounds and smells of nature, surrounded by positive happy men, women and children, all cycling together for the same uniting cause. The adrenaline and atmosphere left me in awe, and I had the biggest smile on my face as I clicked my gears up to their maximum, pushed my legs with every ounce of strength within me, and weaved around the other cyclists as I conquered the inclines, bends, crossings and checkpoints with surprising ease. I was shocked at how close the first checkpoint was for a water stop, but the riders beside me pepped each other up by celebrating being half way. Half way? Where did that go! I’ve only just started? The smiling volunteers offered out cereal bars and raisins but because I couldn’t swallow I simply quenched my throat with a disposable cup of water before setting off the the second half. And just like a dream, again I found myself at the next checkpoint. A further plastic cup of water and some well done nods to the other riders and I carried on my way to the home stretch. And as I crossed the finish line I just had the biggest sense of love and happiness inside my heart. To think that so many people had all come together, of all ages and abilities for a good cause was entirely captivating. And as I dismounted my bicycle, one of the volunteers reminded me to go and collect my medal.
Beaming with pride and energy, I noticed a pitch amongst the music and BBQ’s where people were peddling on an exercise bike wired up to a printer and curiosity led me to stand and watch. Cyclists had to peddle at a constant pace to power the printer to print off a certificate for completing the race, and without totally meaning to I found the queue had moved forward and it was my turn next. So I gave it a go. I smiled and chatted to the ladies as they took my certificate and wrote my name on it, and my family came to greet me and bring me some water. What an amazing day, I’m still pinching myself that I did it all and then some.
Several minutes after I finished, I took a funny turn, I guess my adrenaline had ended and the painkillers wore off; I felt sick, shaky and needed to desperately get home to eat and sleep and collapse in my duvet nest. And then I was taken to hospital and it was confirmed that I have severe tonsillitis, a cold and fever. Thankfully I was given medication and sent home for bed rest, with the advice that I should use my throat numbing spray, take painkillers and medication several times a day until the course is complete, but if I got any worse then I should come back in. So now here I am, utterly astonished at what I was capable of. I have never cycled fifteen miles, I have never got up like nothing was wrong when I’ve been this ill, and I have never believed in myself as much as I did today. My children inspired me to go on, the thousands of people out there who were depending on the fundraising grounded me, and the overwhelming sense of hope and community spirit from being a part of so many people lifted me. I certainly do not say this lightly when I realise that all of the odds were very much stacked against me, but through it all I gave it my best and became a part of something amazing. The cycle was a record breaking event for the number of participants involved and I am eagerly awaiting to find out the grand total raised. Gabriele and I contributed £93 in sponsorship and I kept my children in my heart every step of the way. I would like to say a huge congratulations to everybody who took part, for such tremendous effort and selflessness, because together we have made such a difference to so many.
It is now 04:31am on Monday 9th June and I’ve yet to fall asleep from my sore throat and aching body, which is why I’m updating my blog before my alarm goes off for the school run in three hours time. Something incredible happened out there, and if I were to be actively religious, you could forgive me for presuming I had a guardian angel. I wish all of the men, women, children, charity and recipients involved the very best. You are all incredibly stronger and more capable than you think.
I made this video of my experience, please let me know what you think and feel free to tag any rear-view of riders that you may recognise, share and spread the word of the amazing charity Wheel Power: