The second in our occasional series of posts about some of those taking part. We hope you find them of interest, and inspire you to take part or donate to the ride.
I joined the RAF from college to be an electronics technician in telecommunications and much of my career was spent working on projects within different branches of the Armed Forces. I had a great 27-year career with the RAF, ending up as an Engineer Officer but then, in 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Initially, I continued in Service, but was eventually medically discharged in 2015, when my condition deteriorated.
Although I wasn’t sporty before I was diagnosed, I took up cycling at the suggestion of my physiotherapist at Headley Court (the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey) as a way of filling up my time after leaving the RAF. But my illness meant I was unable to ride an upright bike. That’s where Help for Heroes came in by grant-funding me a recumbent trike.
It was difficult to get to grips with cycling the trike at first and it’s not the easiest thing to fit the cleats to the pedals. It also became apparent very quickly that you use very different muscles on a recumbent trike compared to a normal bike. You can’t use your bodyweight to drive your legs and pushing your legs forwards doesn’t feel like a natural movement. This makes it slower going up hill and, to start off, it was difficult to make any long distance.
Even four miles felt a long way at the beginning. However, in my recovery I’ve had much bigger mountains to climb.
I kept going and doing a little further every time and gave myself a target to cycle 25km. Once I got that I increased it to 50km and so on. Since then, you’ve not been able to stop me! I’ve cycled from the West to East coast along Hadrian’s wall in Northumbria; 320-miles across South Africa, and represented the UK at the 2018 US Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games in Colorado Springs. While I still set myself goals, it’s not just about how far or fast I can go. It just makes me feel great. I get on my trike, start pedalling and instantly feel lifted. I don’t care where I’m going, I just love the journey. My mental health suffered when I was diagnosed and adaptive cycling doesn’t just alleviate many of my symptoms and make me healthier, but it also puts my head in the right place and is good for my emotional well-being.
This will be my biggest challenge and raising funds to support a charity I hold so dear, is my way of trying to repay them; for the help and assistance they provide.