charity

The Significance of Pain ~ Walking 30 miles in a day for Make A Wish

Pain. It’s temporary they say. It will pass.

It’s true. Pain is a temporary thing and it does pass. But while you are experiencing it, well, it hurts.

Stating the obvious. It hurts.

Last Thursday I decided to do the second part of my charity challenge for Make A Wish. Having successfully cycled coast to coast, from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, 326 miles in 3 days, I set off at 6am to walk from Cheltenham to Worcester. A marathon in a day.
I will be completely honest. I had trained and was ready to cycle over 100 miles for 3 days in a row.
My walk was around 30 miles in total including walking to the station to get the train to Cheltenham and back home from Worcester Cathedral.
Had I trained? No. A few walks with my family down by the river or the canal. But no. No specific walking training.
Just a high level of fitness from cycling and a willpower to succeed and a determination to finish.

I first felt my ankle after a few miles. I recognised the pain. I had experienced it before, many years ago while trekking in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and in Nepal to trek to Everest. The outer bone that protrudes from my left ankle was sore and getting worse. The lateral malleolus…a bone you never think about, until it hurts.

So I walked on, in increasing pain. Every step I was conscious of my ankle rubbing, bruising, and being painful.
What can you do?

A. STOP!
B. Call a taxi / family and pick you up
C. Ignore the pain
D. Keep going
E. Smile / grin and bear it
F. Swear and shout and feel sorry for yourself.

What did I do? C,D&E

What did I think about doing, even briefly? A,B&F

Pain is temporary, but it hurts.
How do you ignore pain? It is easy to tell yourself to ignore pain, not so easy to listen to and follow your ow advice. But I focussed on some key facts and reasons to keep me motivated;

• You chose to do the walk
• You wanted to do it
• The walk will end at some point
• The pain is not stopping you from physically putting one foot in front of the other
• You believe you can do this
• You are walking in beautiful countryside
• You are walking on a lovely warm September day
• You know where you are going, you know the route
• Your pain will pass, for many children they live with constant pain and discomfort
• They can not turn off their pain and it may be more intense and more difficult to ignore
• You have a goal. You have an objective. You have made a committment
• It is easier to quit than continue. Don’t take the easy option
• People believe in you. They have supported you
• People have donated so you can do these challenges, and ultimately help life limited children
• Every step is a step in pain, but a step closer to home
• Focus on your purpose, not your present discomfort
• Be mindful of where you are, why you are there and the pleasure, not the pain you feel.

After many hours walking, passing quiet villages, along winding country roads, past hills and farms and alongside rivers, listening to the gentle sounds of an English afternoon in the countryside, I reached my destination by the River Severn and Worcester Cathedral.

I didn’t jump for joy and celebrate wildly for successfully walking a marathon. I said a quiet well done…actually more of a ‘job done’ and thought about getting a taxi home.
But the traffic was terrible and it was such a lovely evening that after 27 miles, I decided to walk home.

Ignoring the pain.
Remembering the pleasure.
Thinking of the reasons why I did it.
Knowing I had honoured my daughter Milla. Remembering her spirit. She lived a life of discomfort and pain, there was no let up. Her cerebral palsy meant painful spasms and stiff muscles. It also meant she could not walk.

So, I walked 30 miles. And each step my ankle reminded me that pain was something many children like Milla had / have to endure constantly.
But also that my pain was nothing.
It would fade.
Yet the memories of that day of solitary walking would not fade, the enjoyment and the amazing support and the money raised. £1,200 to help Make A Wish continue to grant wishes that create lasting memories.
But neither would the memories of my inspiration fade. My daughter Milla.

I walked for her, because she couldn’t.

charity, Motivation and Change

And in the End

And in the end…

And in the end it was all worth it.
The pain and struggle, the exhaustion, the sweat. The constant monotony of turning the pedals for mile after mile. Hour after hour. Day after day.
The ceaseless bumping and rattling, shaking and jolting over cracked and broken roads, the hundreds of unknown, unfamiliar roads and streets, undiscovered towns and villages that passed by in a blur.

To reach the end of any journey is to reach a point of contemplation, of reflection, of validation. Was what I have gone through of value, of note or significance. Or was it just that. A journey. Start to finish with nothing of importance in between.

After returning from my coast to coast challenge, and completing 3 days of cycling over 326 mountainous, hilly and windy miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, I have had chance to reflect.

The distances I cycled each day were easily achievable for anyone with a good level of fitness, experience on the bike and a determined mindset.
100, 112 and 114 miles respectively.
But as I know very well, it is so easy to talk of achievement before it has been accomplished. “I am going to cycle from coast to coast in 3 days”. It is said with a casual confidence. An implied certainty. A tacit guarantee. I will do it. No question.

But there are always questions and doubts, uncertainties and intangibles. The ‘what ifs’…will my body cope, what if I get sick, what if I have a mechanical problem I can’t fix, what if I have an accident, what if I just…stop?

Yet the journey would be far less interesting without that element of uncertainty and risk. When you are flying down a steep descent on a deserted mountain road at 35mph, with no one around, one mistake could be a disaster. A pothole, a sheep straying into your path, taking a corner too fast.

The journey is about overcoming your apprehension and fears and encountering and dealing with obstacles you will face. Mental, physical, or emotional.

From the steep climbs, to the wind and cold, the sapping tiredness, the aches and pains, to the nagging worries in your mind, the voice telling you to stop, the emotions that toy with you and make you question what you are doing, the ‘so what?’ that runs in your thoughts…so what if you have done this journey? What have you proved?
It all conspires to work against you.

So what.

So what did I prove?
A 50 year old man can cycle solo from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England in 3 days. I didn’t land on the moon or discover America. But I proved that a journey is more than just miles and reaching an end.

It is about awareness. Of our place on the planet. It is about appreciation. Of our beautiful world and the environment we inhabit. It is about recollection. A chance to spend time alone. In thought and memory. Recalling time spent happy with loved ones no longer here.
But most of all it IS about achievement. It is about confirming the “I am going to”. About bringing the guarantee to a reality.

And silencing doubts and leaving fears behind.

This journey was not just a cycle challenge. It was to raise awareness and money for a special charity, Make A Wish. I raised £1,100 which is fantastic. But it was also in memory of my daughter Milla. And by cycling and engaging people in my journey, I have sought to honour Milla’s memory and to keep her alive in my heart.

Thank you for reading.

Tony20180906_17453820180906_17393320180907_06395620180907_06370420180907_07433320180907_15405620180910_08524320180909_170655

charity, Uncategorized

Miles and Mind Games – 100 miles of mountains and hills on a bike. Day 1 Coast to Coast Charity Cycling Challenge for Make A Wish.

The mind is both your strongest ally and your worst enemy.
Day 1 of my 3 day solo charity cycle ride from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England was a true test. Of both body and mind.

After a night in Aberystwyth, I was up at 5am to prepare to cycle around 100 miles back to my home in Worcester.
I had already mentally prepared for the first part of the day. Hills. Mountains. Climbs. Sharp and steep, long and seemingly endless. But while you can visualise the climbs and anticipate how you may feel, it is nothing to the real experience.

As soon as I left the seafront at Aberystwyth I was climbing. The road rose steeply out of the town and continued a long climb towards Devil’s Bridge. The top of the climb coincided with sunrise, a gorgeous fiery orange streak sandwich between distant mountain tops and a layer of morning cloud.

From Devil’s Bridge the climb up towards Cwmystwyth started with a long drag pitching up to 15%. It softened to a manageable, but draining 8 or 9%. And went on. And on.

By the top at the Jubilee Arch, my legs were jelly. But the views were incredible. Stretching in front the Elan Valley awaited. A rapid descent through Cwmystwyth and I found myself on deserted valley roads, rolling with steep kicks and short descents. The valley was silent, save for the occasional baa-ing of the hundreds of sheep that lined the road watching as I slowly trundled past.

By the time I had sped down into Rayader after almost 30 miles, I had gone from sea level to 1,500ft and climbed 4 huge climbs and numerous others.

Rayader to Leominster was a relentless drag of continual hills. I pulled over at the side of the road before another long climb. My mind was giving in, partner in crime with my protesting legs. Neither wishes to carry on. I had never climbed so much and for so long. I am not a climber, too heavy and I was struggling.

But a quick check of messages gave me renewed impetus and I resolved to carry on. This hill proved the last major hill before a long, enjoyable descent towards Leominster where after 70 miles I rested up and refilled with lunch.

40 miles to go. Or so I thought. A mile or so out of Leominster a road sign announced Worcester 23. I felt a surge of adrenaline and pushed on, but 23 miles when you are already exhausted is a long way. The hills were less severe, but still plentiful.

By the time I reached Worcester I felt empty, despite eating energy bars and gels and bananas and a baked potato.
The legs still hurt, the mind still played games…A voice saying ‘Another hill. Why don’t you just stop? Give up?’
But another voice countering ‘It is not too far. Remember why you are doing this. Remember Milla.’

And after exactly 100 miles, 6,772 feet climbed, 3,500 calories burned and 7 and a half hours in the saddle, I reached home. And a lovely welcome from my wife Rini and daughter Louisa.

The messages kept me focussed and lots of donations to the fundraising page, some from people I don’t know, saw the total hit £840. Incredible.

So on to tomorrow.
120 miles to Peterborough. And a few less hills. My mind and legs will be happy.