By Ashley Winter
Some time ago I was bitten by something, quite possibly a snake, and this has caused issues over the years, resulting in a small disability. I also have an eye condition called keratoconus. Although I am not blind by any stretch of the imagination, I do have difficulty with light sensitivity, visual distortion and discomfort. I use two contact lenses per eye and this helps me gain vision just good enough to drive.
I aim to inspire others with such conditions to be positive and embrace life, and by testing myself in all kinds of extreme conditions, to prove that this can be done.
Since being diagnosed I have completed many challenges, including a 100 mile cycle sportive, coast to coast charity cycle, several 24 hour mountain bike endurance races, triathlon, swimming championships, half marathon, a ski racing programme, and most recently an expedition to the Arctic circle.
The expedition was in Arctic Sweden where temperatures reach -35°C at night. We travelled by dog sled, living off the land, and with the help of the locals. It was an incredible experience and something I shall never forget.
The most enjoyable part was doing something I had never experienced before, seeing the northern lights, making new friends, learning how to dog sled effectively and living off the land. The most challenging part was quite simply the cold – everything froze, including my eye medication (things like drops and solution)! The pain I felt in my extremities was unbelievable, something I had not prepared for.
I believe in the power of sport and adventure – you can lose yourself in the experience, and not worry about things you cannot change. My participation in sport and adventure gives me a purpose, a goal to strive for, and ultimately pushes me to be a better person.
Making that first step to the gym, track or pool, whether it is for a 100 mile cycle race or a 2 mile walk to work, helps me focus on something other than my condition and makes me feel better as my fitness increases.
I would certainly recommend joining a local club though; not only will this prevent you from getting bored from lone training, it is also helpful to be told if you are doing something wrong and how to improve it. Besides, it also gives you the opportunity to make new friends who share the same interests.
Joining Hereford Triathlon Club has been a very positive experience for me, they have made me feel welcome. Since joining I have attended swimming sessions and signed up for cycle time trials and I am now working towards a triathlon later in the year. Whatever abilities and disabilities you have, whatever your story, getting out there helps – embrace life!
Follow me on Twitter: @Ash_adventure