There will be those days! Just remember those days are the ones that define you and remind you what it takes to succeed.
When being diagnosed with chronic pain I had two options: live with it, or live with it positively
Most of us will face challenges at some point in our life, some of them can seem impossible to overcome. My challenge is chronic pain. Cycling has always been a passion. Little did I know how important it would be in helping to empower me. Cycling has helped me build the physical and mental strength to live with this life long condition. The Ventoux project was my way to share my challenges and how I overcome them. It was a way to document my preparation and attempt to climb Ventoux 3 times in 24 hours. And above all this project was an attempt to try and empower others. The Ventoux project is for those of you who face your own mountain-like challenges.
When being diagnosed with chronic pain I had two options, live with it, or live with it positively! After looking at my options I decided I had to break out of the box. I refused to be dependent on medication and wasn’t prepared to be written off. My decision to ride as a pain management tool was criticised by some. Some even suggesting that if I can ride a bike up mountains there was nothing wrong with me. I don’t expect people to understand what it feels like to suffer from chronic pain. However those who ride and push beyond their limits understand me best. When I ride with like-minded riders I feel normal and no longer marginalised. Riding my bike is my happy place.
If you find what makes you happy you are one step closer to dealing better with what life throws at you. Cycling makes me happy. It allows me to explore and enjoy the place I love the most — the great outdoors. Riding also provides me with physical and mental benefits that help me deal with my chronic pain better. My advice is to go find what makes you happy and do it as often as you can!
I first climbed Ventoux back in September 2015. One ascent only from the Malaucéne side. It was a dark day. It wasn’t glorious and it certainly wasn’t pretty. During the climb my pain was immense. It freaked me as I really thought my love affair with climbing mountains was coming to an end. Since this defining moment I worked hard to find and explore new ways to manage my condition better. Nutrition, yoga, mindfulness and of course riding all help to minimise and manage the pain.
‘The race is won by the rider who can suffer the most.’
A lot of my prep work for the challenge was done on a turbo trainer. The primary benefits of using trainers, such as increasing speed and gaining strength are of course useful. However for me the trainer is also a perfect pain management tool. The trainer allows me to build up my tolerance to cope with the chronic pain. Research shows that you can train yourself to cope with pain better. Some things you can’t change, but you can change how you deal with it. After all, in the words of the great Eddy Merckx, ‘The race is won by the rider who can suffer the most.’
A journey like this is often better when accompanied. Never be afraid to seek help and advice. My journey would not have been as rich, rewarding and possible without those who have helped me along the way. I have received support from my chiropractor, consultant and mentors. This support has helped me achieve what seemed like the unachievable. However even with support there are days when you simply feel like you are drowning. Being flexible and compassionate to yourself, when you need it most, is the key to getting through.
‘Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.’
The ‘Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux’ challenge has a special place in my heart. Sometimes simply getting out of bed can be an achievement in itself. It’s at times like this when I draw on the strength gained from conquering the beast of Provence. It took me over 3 years to build up the physical and mental strength to do this. Never give up dreaming!