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Karla Boddy is a road cyclist who is taking on a huge challenge – The Bike TransAlp to raise money for GAIN (Guillain-Barré & Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies). This is the toughest mountain bike stage race across the Alps. Karla will be writing about her training and experience of the race in a series of blogs for SportsCover Direct who are proud to be sponsoring and supporting her. Find out more about her epic adventure on the KB TransAlp Facebook and follow her progress @karlaboddy on twitter. If you would like to donate to visit https://www.justgiving.com/Karla-Boddy/.
The long road to Lake Garda and beyond….
Most people get to Lake Garda by plane. Most people go there on holiday to enjoy the scenery, culture, the delicious Italian cuisine and of course the wine. I am going there for slightly different reasons. And I will arrive by bike having ridden there from Austria over the Alps. Not around. Not through. But over. On my Mountain Bike.
Six months ago in September 2015 my sister, Anne, enjoyed a family holiday to Spain and returned home ready to send her children (Hugo, 14, Lucia, 12, Ava, 6) back into another school year and throw herself back into her business, running a café. She had a cold which had been lingering for some time and couldn’t shake the tiredness and numbness it was giving her arms and legs. Anne isn’t a ‘moaner’ and as always just got on with life but she was stopped in her tracks when a few days after returning from Spain she lost the ability to swallow and breathing was becoming difficult. A tentative 111 call turned into a 999 reaction and an ambulance was sent to pick up Anne.
Within a few days the Doctors had diagnosed Anne with Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS). GBS is a terrible illness. Your peripheral nervous system essentially stops working. And the peripheral nervous system is responsible for your muscles and all movement; including the ability to swallow, talk, close your eyes and mouth and importantly your ability to breath. Over the course of a couple of weeks Anne became completely paralysed and required full ventilation support. Despite being 100% lucid and engaged mentally Anne lost all ability to communicate with us apart from via eye movement. As a family we quickly learned how to navigate a word board and communicate with Anne.
It was, and is, an incredibly scary and no doubt lonely experience. Anne is like you and I; active and full of life. And all of a sudden this was taken away from her. Every single ounce of independence disappeared.
Most people recover from GBS. Of the few people per year who are diagnosed (circa 1,500) about 80% make a full recovery. A few will succumb to wider issues contracted as part of being so poorly and a further 12% will be left unable to recover in the same way as the other 80%. The other thing about GBS is that the longer you take to decline the longer it takes to recover. In hindsight Anne’s decline into GBS can be counted back many many weeks before. Some people’s decline will be over the course of days. Anne’s was over months. This means the trajectory for Anne’s recovery is less predictable and much longer team. Anne is currently in the Lane Fox Remoe unit in Surrey which is full focused on her rehab.
I don’t need too much encouragement to join a challenge, quest or adventure but it isn’t often I do it with such a passionate purpose. That’s why I decided I would do something quite different to the usual challenges I set myself. I do road bike; I have done for many years now but mountains biking (MTB) is very different. It is incredibly technically demanding and puts a huge demand on your body in different ways. So when I decide to ride the TransAlp I received a lot of ‘well wishes’ with an expression of worry on others faces. Others who know I am not an MTB rider. Who know I am not known for my technical skills. And mostly, those who know just how demanding this race is. The race is 7 days, 7 stages, 550km and 17,500mtrs of vertical climbing over the alps from Austria, Switzerland and to Lake Garda in Italy. It is known as one of the most epic and hardest mountain bike stage races in the world.
But it had to be that difficult. A sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless you suffer and I feel indebted to help Anne in some way, so I picked the GAIN charity (Guillain-Barré & Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies) which underpins support of GBS patients. It provides support to families who are suffering, raises awareness of this terrible illness and importantly contributes to research. As you can imagine such a small syndrome doesn’t warrant much investment from the health service. Nor do many people know what it is. But it is tragically life changing. And I want to raise awareness of this grim illness and ask for your support in raising money for this worthwhile and wonderful charity.
KBI will suffer. I will suffer training for the transalp. I will suffer racing the transalp. And I will probably suffer for a few days after! But. It is no suffering compared to what Anne goes through every day. The emotional and physical torture this illness brings is not comprehendible to most. I can only liken it to your life being stolen from you. It is that cruel.
I began my training in January and have a few trips planned before hand to make sure I am technically as sharp as I can be, and as fit as I can be! And this is where Sports Cover Direct comes in. Sports Cover Direct have been incredibly generous in sponsoring me by providing me with cover for my MTB trips this year and the event itself. As you can imagine MTB doesn’t come without its risks and knowing I have the peace and mind of their cover is just fantastic.
The road to Lake Garda is far longer than just Austria-Italy. And it isn’t just my personal investment of time and energy to this event. It is as long as it takes Anne to recover. For Anne to come home to her family is the ultimate end of the road for me.