Thursday 26 September 2013

Tough Mudder Challenge.

In my last blog I told you I was planning to take on the 'Tough Mudder Challenge'. I am so proud of myself because I completed the course with my brilliant team mates from AbleChildAfrica, and I have the aching muscles, bruises, t- shirt and headband to prove it! It was, without a doubt, the toughest challenge I have ever faced but ......I DID IT!!!! All the hard training in the Harlow Leisurezone gym with my personal trainer Mark Macciochi paid off and his encouragement and positivity really helped me. In fact, everyone in the gym was very supportive and I was raring to go.

A few days before I met with some members of the AbleChildAfrica team to plan our strategy and to work out how we would tackle the many different obstacles during the challenge. It was just like a military operation. If I was daunted before the meeting I was even more daunted after it, and I was worried about my ability to get through it all in a wheelchair.

We travelled to Wales in a mini bus provided  by another charity, The Barbara Bus Fund, and though long, our journey was made easier by the witty jokes of Anthony and the good company of my fellow travellers. We arrived at the camp site the team were staying at in tents. Unfortunately my disability and tents don't mix so I was picked up by a fantastic taxi driver, Trevor,from CTE Crickhowell taxis, run by Ann and Gareth. He refused to take my fare because he said 'I challenged him by doing 'the mud thing',as he called it.. What a lovely man! We arrived at the Soar Chapel Guest House in Beaufort, Ebbw Vale. What a luxurious place, family run by lovely people who made me feel so welcome. I highly recommend it if you're ever in Wales.

In the morning Trevor picked me up again and drove me to the site. He wished me good luck and I told him I would need it! I found everyone signing waiver documents and I finally realised there was no turning back. This was it and I was feeling very anxious because of fear of the unknown. What is Tough Mudder? It's not a marathon, it's not a race but it's a challenge, an unbelievably tough challenge. Deep down I knew I had the strength but I was off to tackle obstacles that were not even accessible to 'able bodied' people let alone a woman with almost zero trunk function  or use of her legs in a wheelchair.

We did a team warm up and headed to the start line, but before we even got there we had to climb over a small wall. The first obstacle was 'Kiss of Mud' where we had to crawl through mud with barbed wire just above our heads. I kissed a LOT of mud!

The next obstacle,'Glory Blades' involved climbing two walls that are inclined towards you. This is where the teamwork really began for me. Teamwork is the ability to work as a group towards a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry. My vision got blurrier after each obstacle, but the teamwork shone through everything.

'Arctic Enema' - whoever invented this one is a true sadist! You immerse your whole body in a trough of ice floating on top of freezing muddy water. As we approached this obstacle I was told I couldn't do it because there was no ramp. I reasoned with him and finally won through and completed it successfully with the help of my team. He obviously didn't realise we had the great  Olympic Gold medal winning swimmer, Mark Foster, in our team!

'Trench Warfare' was next and it makes you feel you are on a battlefield, and in a way, you are, except you can't see anything because it's completely dark. Chris, who was in front of me in the tunnel talked to me and gave words of encouragement, as well as encouraging himself , which again is part of teamwork. I took a lot of strain on my elbows as I slowly dragged my way forward. It made me realise my lack of trunk function can be a real hindrance in events like this one.

'Mud Mile', was it really just a mile because it seemed to go on forever! We went up and down muddy hills, me in my wheelchair that was thick with mud as my team helped to pull me along with ropes and I tried to steer so I didn't lose control of the chair. I remember going up a particularly steep hill with part of the team pulling whilst the other part pushed and struggled to keep the wheelchair upright. It was TOUGH! But we did it! As we struggled, Mike Wickens caught his ankle on the front of the wheelchair. We bound his ankle with duct tape until we reached the next medical help and the poor man had to have a few stitches when he returned home. Sorry Mike. Another member of our team, Jonathan Charles, pulled a leg muscle half way through but the two of them bravely soldiered on and finished the challenge. Somewhere along the way we also lost a piece of my front wheel, but it didn't hurt. Lewis French, an engineer at British Airways, patched up a repair using people's gloves. Amazing! What kept us all going was the water stations and the half a banana we were given.Heaven! As if we hadn't gone through enough with the mud and ice and water, the designers of the course devised 'Hero Carry'. This is where you have to carry a team mate a set distance. Our team really worked well here, with members pulling me with ropes as they also carried someone, whilst others pushed me from the back whilst also carrying someone, and I had someone on my lap as I also tried to push and steer my wheelchair. The power of team work really shone through here and I am so proud of myself and my team mates.

All along the way every person who was taking part were extremely supportive of each other, helping each other to overcome the obstacles. I remember going down a really steep and muddy hill and people from other teams joined our team to get me down, and back up the other side. It was truly inspiring to see so many people working together.

'Everest' - 15ft tall, 35ft wide, and almost vertical, and sometimes lubricated with water and vegetable oil to make getting up it even harder. Speed is vital to give you the impetus to ascend the obstacle. So how did I do it when I have no use of my legs so can't run?? After me everyone; TEAMWORK!
'Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success'. My team formed a human ladder then I had to work myself upwards using their bodies for support, and my own upper body strength to climb higher and higher. Halfway up  I almost gave up but the realisation that we were so close to the finish line spurred me on, as well as thinking about why we were doing the challenge. The crowd around us, the other 'Mudders' were roaring us on and yelling words of encouragement, and ladies and gentlemen, they got me up Everest. We went through the 'Electroshock Therapy' and we were finally crossing the Finish line. I want to give my personal thanks to all my Team mates by naming them - The best team ever;

Chris James.
Jane Anthony.
Mike Wickens.
Lewis French.
Ed Barney.
Nick McKenzie.
Becky Lawson.
Steve Booker.
Mike Anthony.
Aoife Twomey.
Jonathan Charles.
Mark Foster.

And a HUGE thank you to all the 'Mudders' who helped along the way.

People ask me why did I choose to do such a crazy thing? Growing up with a disability in Africa wasn't easy, and it still isn't easy for the people who live with a disability in the developing countries of the world. We are raising funds, and awareness, for AbleChildAfrica to continue their projects that supports disabled children to access their rights and give them the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential. You can make a donation to AbleChildAfrica by texting "MUDD13" £5 to 70070, and you can find out more at;

You can also donate online by going to;

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become. Don't listen to 'you can't', show them 'you can'!!!!

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Sunday 8 September 2013

Rising to the Challenge!

It ain't what they call me, it's what I choose to answer to!

It's already September, My son is back at school,  and the summer is going out with a whimper. Where has the time gone? I haven't had much of a racing season because of injury but now I'm back, feeling mentally strong. I have a lot of work to do to get back into shape and I feel very unfit at this moment in time. Watch this space though because I am determined to bounce back in style next season, stronger, fitter, and raring to chase fresh challenges.

Life is a roller coaster, and some people choose to ride it and some would choose not to. All I can tell you is whatever the ride you can close your eyes to things you don't want to see, but you can't close your heart to the things you don't want to feel. Let's say I wouldn't be doing some 'challenges' if I didn't understand what people with disabilities in Africa have to endure on a daily basis! I have been there, I have lived it and experienced the stigma and prejudices one has to face when you are a minority, when you are 'different', and when the society you live in labels you disabled and therefore useless. These people know they are being treated unfairly but they just have to carry on living and in most cases being denied the most basic human rights. As a woman who is differently able, I know it's not what these people have been through in their lives that defines who they are, it is purely how they get through it that will make them the people they are today and tomorrow. And yes, beautiful, strong and compassionate people do not just happen - they have to suffer first.

AbleChildAfrica is a relatively small charity yet it  does  so much in changing lives. Their sole purpose is to provide help, support, and encouragement to the differently abled young people of Africa and their families, and to promote the realisation of equal rights for them all. 

I discovered that when you know your value you stop selling yourself short, you stand tall and are never ashamed of who you are... and when those around you want to focus on disabilities, you remove the 'dis' and use all your abilities to rise above limitations and break boundaries... Ladies and gentlemen, I am going to attempt to complete the 'Tough Mudder' challenge

  an extreme assault course that includes ice, fire and underground tunnels, to name but a few. Not to 'boast', but  I will be tackling the challenge in my wheelchair, and I fully intend to finish it, no matter how long it takes.. Yes! I know it's tough but not as tough compared to the challenges differently able people in Africa have to face everyday of their lives. PLEASE support me in this challenge to raise much needed funds for AbleChildAfrica and help support giving a new lease of life to people who deserve it. Just click on the link below.

or text 'MUDD13' followed by the amount you wish to donate (£1,2,3,,5,10) to 70070

To end on a different note. Last summer I donated a racing wheelchair to the DR Congo so  Dedeline could compete in the Paralympics. That very same chair is now helping a young man to hopefully compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. That is how a small donation can help to change lives. I will be watching next year and cheering him on.

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