Kayak, Mountain Bike, Run/Walk
In June 2021 I had the honour of getting Alan to the finish line of the Rotorua 3D Redwoods Multisport event. The reason this is such a huge achievement is because Alan has Multiple Sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves.
In MS, resulting nerve damage disrupts communication between the brain and the body.
Multiple sclerosis causes many different symptoms, including vision loss, pain, fatigue and impaired coordination.
When I started to train Alan in July 2019 (2 years ago) he could hardly walk up my driveway, often needing to sleep for 3 days after our 30 minute strength and stretch sessions. After those 2 years of personal training he was able to kayak 4.5km, mountain bike 22.8km and then walk/crawl 5.5km. It was the best finish line moment of my life!
Here's how it began....
Alan is always challenging himself. He does 3 personal training sessions with me a week and walks on the alternate days. Alan pushes himself at every PT session and had been working pretty hard to get strength in his legs, wake up the nerves in his hips and glutes and strengthen his calves to walk without drop foot, plus to lift up his legs. He was looking for a challenge and decided on the Coast to Coast after seeing it on the News in 2021. The Coast to Coast is a white water kayak, a road cycle and a mountain run going from one side of the south island to the other. It is a 2 day event however I suggested the 3D Multisport event as a starting point to doing the kayaking, mountain bike and run/walk as the 3 types of dimentions.
Our training started with the kayaking early in the mornings on leisure kayaks....we learnt pretty quick that they feel like dragging logs on the water. We then got in contact with Richard at The Boat Shed, where we would hire our kayaks weekly for training on the water. Alan's balance is not the best because of his MS, so we settled on a double kayak for stability.
Training for the event
Alan walked twice a week, and had a practice walk around the Rotorua Blue Lake about 4 weeks before the event to see how he pulled up. He did it in 2 hours with his wife and 3 kids support, which was pretty impressive. We then realised we had underestimated the mountain bike section of the event so started to train at the Redwoods and the Te Miro mountain bike track. This was quite a challenge as when Alan gets off the bike (on steep hills or if I stop in front of him quickly) he can't stand and falls over, as he can not feel his feet. My goal was to get him through the bike in one piece and not fall off myself. I am a runner not a cyclist. He was fantastic on the bike and ended up coaching me through mountain biking. We were all set for the event day.
On the day....
It was pretty wet when we arrived, and very very muddy!!! Off we went on the kayak, feeling pretty good and passing many other kayakers. There was some waves and wind for much of it, and heavy rain but we SMASHED IT!! It took us 37:29 minutes, our fastest time yet. Then the bike was next.
We hired e-bikes to make the ride easier so Alan could get through the walk after the mountain bike section. We set off in the rain, muddy and slippery the whole way through the forest. Yes there were falls, there were bruises, there were cuts on our legs, there were fuel stops. It was a pretty hard ride, but we survived it without breaking a bone. Both of us were grateful when that was over....what an achievement. That took us 2 hours and 35 minutes.
The last leg...the walk
The 5.5km walk was next. Our support crew helped us get organised for the last leg. We started off pretty wet and a bit tired but at a good pace. Alan was seemingly positive and actually felt really good. The first 1.5km went well and we enjoyed the slight rain and views of the lake. Alan started to lose strength and control of his legs and hips. He had walking sticks to help him, but even with these the going was becoming increasingly slow. About two thirds of the way around his family joined us, and brought Alan some biotin, a supplement that helps the nerves communicate with the muscles for people with MS (Alan has his own supplement company, so is pretty clued up on what to take) and an energy drink. Having a sit down or lie down helped the muscles recover so the nerves worked a bit better and he could keep going. The last 4kms was a struggle but Alan was a champ and determined to finish. His courage and strength, as he was losing the ability to control his body, was inspiring. He was not going to give up. I was getting tired at this stage and was pleased for our support crew helping Alan with positive encouragement.
The finish line
The organisers of the event were fantastic! They kept the finish line open for us and as we approached we had cheering and support from everyone. It was so encouraging and a real success for Alan to make it this far. Many people walking around the lake and in the event offered help to Alan, but it was his personal challenge to finish it by himself. And he did!!! I asked him many times if he wanted to stop. He was not carried, wheeled or dragged. He made it through the finsh line by himself with so much admiration and support around him. What a moment. And the best part is....he's going back next year to beat his time. He got himself and his timing chip through the finish line and got his awesome 3D medal. You can do anything you put your mind to.
Bring on the Coast to Coast Alan.
you can do anything you put your mind to....even with a body that dosen't always cooporate.