Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Greg, Angie and Alan have arrived in Leh. They say the weather is awesome - great news considering some of the weather forecasts have been predicting close to freezing!!

Viv and I start our journey tomorrow morning, and we reach Leh on Friday morning.

Greg, Angie, Viv and I have spent the last few months training at a high altitude simulation facility here inSingapore. Initially, I went there to get comfortable that I didn't face any specific risk caused by the damage to my neuro system. I got happy with that pretty quickly. Since then, and for Greg, Angie and Viv, the main aim has been to try to condition our bodies to hypoxia. We've all made good progress on that front. So, two big boxes ticked providing a great deal of comfort (for me, and I think the same for the others). And then, as the icing on the cake (excuse the pun), the gym installed an ice bath. I know my shiver reflex doesn't function well and the ice bath was a great opportunity to get myself prepared for the cooler temperatures (and see if I got any of the other recovery benefits its supposed to provide). Another box ticked. And I enjoyed it - bizarrely!

A big thanks to Stan Tan and the great team at Altitude for your support. See you all when we all get back.

Here's a few shots Viv took from our last session this morning.

The "Step Forward"

Last Friday night Gregory and I spoke to my colleagues in the Singapore office. That was our first time speaking together in public - we really enjoyed it, and it seemed to go down very well. To mark the occasion Johnnie Walker had a special cocktail made - the "Step Forward". How cool is that!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

“When your reality changes, your dreams don’t have to”

Marc Herremans is a Belgian triathlete. In 2001 he competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, widely regarded as the toughest triathlon competition in the world. He was expected to compete for one of the top three positions the following year. But in 2002, Marc fell off his bike during training, landed on rocks and broke his back. He was paralysed from his stomach to his feet. Only 3 months after the accident, Marc began training for the Ironman as a wheelchair athlete and, just 10 months after his accident, Marc participated in the Ironman of Hawaii. In 2006, he became the first wheelchair athlete to finish the Ironman of Hawaii!
Here is a film Marc made with Johnnie Walker. Very inspiring!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Viv - my stretching solution!

One of the lasting effects of spinal cord injury is excessive muscle tone, myofascial tightness and spasticity. No-one knows whether or when that will subside or go away and until it does managing it remains a big part of my daily life (twi...ce daily streching, good breathing, massage etc). Exercise can and does help, but over exertion can increase the tone. I live in a hot climate, but I know from trips to cold places that my shiver reflex doesn't function well and that can make the tone worse. In Ladakh, as well as keeping myself warm, I will need to stretch well before and after each day's trek. Fortunately, I'll have Viv Spanopoulos with me to help me out! I first met Viv many years ago at one of her yoga classes (she's kind of renowned here in Singapore, and has a big following). After my accident I went to see Viv, expecting a gentle re-introduction to yoga. Instead, she introduced me to a modality called Meridian Resistive Stretching, which targets the fascia and has crossovers with yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and elements of psychology. Last year Viv had a spell in Boston, specialising in the system and has worked on me since she came back to Singapore in January. I'm lucky to have her coming along....and I know she'll be great fun in the group!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Our mountain leader

Meet our mountain leader, Alan Ward. This photo was taken in Ladakh back in February when Alan went out there to do a recce. Alan knows Ladakh, has a big focus on safety and, having led blind and partially sighted trekkers to Everest Base Camp, is experienced in leading groups of people with disabilities. Safety is paramount, and I feel we are in good hands!

Meet Angie Tan

I'm trekking with a very talented, creative bunch of people! Angie, Greg's wife, is a photographer. Here's a link to Angie's website. I won't be packing a camera!!

Up and running

Yeah! I'm up and running on the donations. Many, many thanks to Danny Walsh for getting us going.

You all know how much this matters to me, so please help in whatever way you can - donate, share the link to my donations page, spread the word, whatever you can. Cheers

Fundraising - Spinal Research and Wings for Life

I've set up a fundraising page with Virgin Money Giving. Here's the link.

Many of you donated very generously to my 10k fund raising just a few months ago and it does not feel right to ask those of you who did so to donate again. Instead, can I ask those friends to share this link with anyone who you feel might like to follow our journey and might wish to donate. Your support in doing that would be really appreciated.

This time I am raising funds for Wings for Life, as well as Spinal Research. Both charities share the goal to find a cure for paralysis.

For last December's fund raising I set an initial target of GBP 5,000 and ended up raising over GBP17,000! I honestly don't know what to aim for this time. I've gone for GBP20,000, which I hope isn't too ambitious!! Let's see!

Gregory Burns

Here's a link to Gregory's website. An amazing, inspirational guy. Great fun too!!

"I believe that rather than hindering my creative spirit, being stricken with polio challenged me to develop areas of my character that enhanced my message and communication skills. Speaking before international audiences of all sizes, I stress that we must learn to harness the setbacks in our lives which are what push us forward and bring us inner strength."


India's most remote and least populated region, Ladakh sits on the western edge of the Tibetan plateau, sandwiched between the Himalaya to the south and the Karakoram mountain range to the north With much of the region over 3,000m and the Himalaya blocking the monsoon clouds to create a high altitude desert, Ladakh is one of the highest and driest inhabited places on earth.

Ladakh is renowned for its spectacular mountain beauty and rich culture. It has strong cultural and geographical similarities with Tibet, and is sometimes called 'Little Tibet'. I found this link, which gives you an idea of what we have to look forward to.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Ladakh trek - Paul Fairhurst and Gregory Burns

Today I've launched a Facebook page for my next challenge - a 35km high altitude trek  in the remote, spectacularly beautiful Indian province of Ladakh, with my friend Gregory Burns a paralympic athlete, internationally recognised artist and motivational speaker.

Here's a link to the Facebook page and my first post: 

I’m a walking quadriplegic. In June 2011 a cycling accident left me with a C5/6/7 spinal cord injury - paralysed and with almost no sensation from the shoulders down. From the moment I regained consciousness I’ve held a passionate belief that I would recover. I’ve been left with excessive muscle tone and spasticity and constant neuropathic pain. But I can walk and I am fully functional and independent. I know that most people with this injury never walk again and many face a lifetime of serious medical complications. I know I’m very lucky, and I’m very grateful.

I have this very strong sense that opportunity lies ahead of me, and that motivates me to keep pushing myself forward. In December last year I completed a 10km walk and raised over £17,000 for research into a cure for paralysis. Now I am taking on my next challenge – a 35km, 5 day trek at high altitude, in the remote, spectacularly beautiful Indian province of Ladakh.

If you’re going to take on a really big test of physical and mental strength, who better to have alongside you for inspiration than an Olympian!

I met Gregory Burns a year ago. Gregory contracted polio as a young child, which required him to depend on leg braces and forearm crutches for mobility.  Rather than being hindered by his paralysis, Gregory harnessed it to develop his character, inner strength and creative spirit. A three time Paralympian, he set four world records and captured half a dozen medals. He is an internationally recognized painter, a motivational speaker and artist. And, I’ve found, he’s good at sowing crazy ideas for big challenges.

Very soon after we met, the idea surfaced that Gregory and I should do something together. Eventually, that something became this trek, and after months of planning, we are very nearly ready to go.

I work for Diageo, the Johnnie Walker brand owner. The Johnnie Walker brand values are all about personal progress, and its “Keep Walking” tagline is world famous. The connections between the brand and what Gregory and I strive to do kind of hit you hard between the eyes and within no time Johnnie Walker came enthusiastically on board to sponsor the trek. A photo blog and short documentary will be published on Johnnie Walker social media platforms, and we are all very excited about that!

Joining us on the trek will be Gregory’s wife Angie Tan; my therapist Viv Spanopoulos; our mountain leader Alan Ward; the film director Mike Rogers and photographer Scott Woodward; and a local team of mountain guides, ponymen and cooks.

We all have many hopes and expectations. Amongst mine is the hope that through this journey I can help to raise the profile of the efforts to find a cure for paralysis. I will be raising funds for two charities who are at the forefront of those efforts: Spinal Research and Wings for Life.