Create’s Personal Challenges

At the start of 2015, the staff at Create Development were asked to consider an exciting, personal challenge and to explore what personal and professional learning they might gain from the experience. It had to be something that they really wanted to do, may have already planned to do and it had to be outside our traditional skill set or really difficult for us to achieve. Staff journeys were then documented in a blog.

The team set out on their challenges, some physical, some practical, some personal, in the hope that we could all experience the same progressive challenges as the amazing teachers we deliver to, increasing our empathy and improving our own practice. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing a selection of blogs documenting some of our successful and still progressing challenges, as we watch our team redefine what’s possible for themselves!

This week, we’ll be checking in with Jan Parker, who set herself the amazing task of completing the Manchester to Blackpool cycle ride in aid of the M.E. Association. Here’s Part 1 of her fantastic adventure!

Jan’s Blog – Part 1
First of all, I have to say that when the email came through, my initial thoughts were, “Oh no, something else I have to and fit in when all I want is to sleep for a week!” However, that soon changed when I opened the attachment and read the task – genius! What a great task – pick anything I want to do and chart my learning journey. So, the first problem to think about was what I was going to do. There were lots of things I considered: something along the sewing/craft line, learning to play the piano better than I can now (so that people may just want to listen to me playing rather than cover their ears!), and I love food, so maybe something around cooking?

In the end, though, I wanted something that would provide a challenge in more than one area but also something I would enjoy doing and would be able to fit into my lifestyle. I enjoy pootling around on my bike, usually on holiday, so I thought what about making that more of a challenge and aiming for a long distance ride? And, whilst I was about it, what about also raising some money for charity? Roger (my husband) was totally supportive (and actually I think slightly jealous that he didn’t get such CPD opportunities from his school!), so being the kind of guy he is, agreed to join me in this challenge.

The Physical Challenge
To train on my bike and aim to complete the Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride on 12th July 2015.

The Personal Challenge
I haven’t really trained hard for anything probably since my lacrosse playing days so discipline is going to be a challenge. Four years ago, I spent several months on crutches after arthroscopies on both knees. My original consultant told me that I would not be able to run, jump, hop or basically do anything much physically – needless to say, I soon ditched him! It has been, and continues to be at times, a hard journey. I have learnt to manage my knees and limit my activity – but I always want to do more. One of the reasons I picked cycling is because it is minimal impact and actually helps my knees. I also know that I can be very determined when I have a goal in sight.

When I was on the long rehab road, one of my long term goals was to climb to the top of Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran (2888m). Having been there for two years on the trot both times either on crutches or able to only walk short distances, this was a real incentive. The weather nearly scuppered my plans – 10 foot of snow fell the week before we arrived! – but I want to have that feeling of achievement again.
Mountain 2Untitled1




The Social Challenge

SisterThis is my lovely sister in law, Isabel. Isabel has suffered for over 30 years now with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalopathy). Despite the way in which this illness has wreaked havoc on her life, she has become light and sound sensitive which means that she has to sit in sunglasses even on a dull day, she can only drive short distances and that only on a good day. If she has an evening out she has to completely rest for the preceding three days and the following three days she remains positive and one of the most beautiful people I have the privilege of knowing. So, my challenge will include raiding funds for the M.E Association and also researching about the illness so that I can have a greater understanding of Isabel and others like her.

The Cognitive Challenge
My cognitive focus is going to be around finding out more about M.E but also about long distance biking. I will also need to learn how to maintain my bike and what sort of bike is best for longer distances.

Most of this time was spent finding out about the long distance bike rides available. I learned that the type of ride I am going to do is called a “sportive” ie: they are not timed so they are not a race (phew!) and many of them are charity rides. I settled on the Manchester to Blackpool because:
• I don’t have to travel far to get to the start
• It seems like a distance that will challenge – particularly the hilly part through Wigan and Preston – but should (!) be achievable.

I also realised that something like this would be really difficult on my hybrid bike which is lovely and comfortable but heavy and hard going over long distances. I researched on my own but also spoke to lots of people in the know (including our own Phil Wylie) and eventually settled on a Tourer Bike – light like a road bike but a bit more stable and able to take panniers. Both Roger and I felt this was important as we wanted this to be long term and something that we continue to pursue beyond the Create challenge.

I also started to research the use of stains for people with M.E as Isabel really suffers with taking these; she finds it hard to read more than a couple of sentences at a time now because it all “wobbles” due to her M.E. This made very interesting reading and was something practical I could do for her.

March was a key month in that we purchased our new bikes (eek!). I also attended a bike maintenance workshop (fortuitously put on by another team in my workplace for members of the public). In theory, I can now mend a puncture. It also introduced me to the wonderful Leham who not only ran the workshop but gave us great advice and ended up building our bikes for us.

First time out on the bike and first impressions: it was not as stable as my hybrid and I felt pretty vulnerable. It took me time to get used to the different gears and I am sure I live in pothole heaven! This took me a bit by surprise as I wasn’t expecting this. Oh, and I need to get some gel shorts!
Work (Livewire) have also purchased “staff bikes” to enable us to get round the town for meetings etc which I have been able to make use of.

We had a week on the Isle of Arran and took the hybrids as we knew we might do a bit of track riding. Not really training as such: lots of stops and coffee shops along the way but got to see some magnificent views.

Since returning, I have managed to get out twice a week – sometimes just a training ride around Tatton Park (13km) but, at other times, a longer distance.

I have also had some frustrations to deal with as my problem knee has made itself felt – it’s often hard to know what the exBikes 1act cause is but I have had to rest for the last week or so which I never find easy.

Interestingly, the cycling has prompted me to think more about my general health and fitness. This has coincided with Livewire offering free gym membership to all employees – I had been going twice a week for 3 months – now this has kickstarted me into using the gym on a regular basis. I was using it before but not regularly enough. I also decided that it would be good to lose some weight which I have allowed to creep on so, two weeks in to keeping a food and exercise diary, I have lost 5lbs.

I am also enjoying exploring more of the countryside around where I live. There is so much and it is particularly nice at this time of year.

Road 1Next steps:

  • Actually enter the ride and start to raise some funds.
  • Get a proper training programme sorted
  • Contact the M.E. Association for information but also spend some time on their website.

Watch this space to read Part 2 of Jan’s Blog and find out if she completed her challenging cycle ride.