Tim Neal’s blog
I’m Tim, 55, and have osteoarthritis. No matter what your age, a diagnosis of arthritis is a difficult change to come to terms with. I want to encourage others who live with arthritis to do the single best thing in their lives – keep moving.In August 2017 I take part in my toughest cycling challenge yet – the Le Mans Pearl Izumi 24H Velo.
Today’s words come to you courtesy of something all who live with ART (my nickname for arthritis) will understand, I’m sure.
Next month I take part in my toughest cycling challenge yet – the Le Mans Pearl Izumi 24H Velo. Apart from the physical training, the mental conditioning is a tough call. The hardest part to train is the brain.
So… what’s it like, waking up in the dark early hours of the morning listening to rain on the roof? I’m going to use the word ‘discomfort’ and not ‘pain’. Pain is so negative but I can do something positive about discomfort. The definition is the only hard part. The reality is it’s really very easy. How easy?
As simple as getting up and moving – that easy.
Yes – it hurts. Yes – it’s early, it’s cold, I don’t want to move, I just want to lie here and let ART dictate my day.
To be frank, bugger that, ART isn’t me and it isn’t you. ART is just an unwelcome guest that has moved in and there’s no polite way to get him to leave, yet.
You can make ART work for his living with you. Take him for a walk, you and the dog, take him for a bike ride, take him to the lounge and make him stretch and flex over a Swiss Ball, take him down the 24-hour gym and sit on a spin bike, do some stretches, lift some weights.
Guess what, ART is like all unwelcome guests – he’s lazy, he’s annoying, but HE’S NOT YOU!
ART hates you getting up and moving, he hates being active, he hates it when you get warm and get that blood flowing and he most of all hates endorphins. Endorphins make you happy and ART hates happy.
This morning I woke at 4.30am. I lay in my warm bed with that ever-present ache. I got up, made a good cup of coffee, ate some muesli then got on my bike and rode for 3.5 hours. And the good news is that ART’s packing a sad someplace else for the rest of the day.
Tim Neal lives with osteoarthritis and has endured several major operations on his joints. But that won’t stop him competing next month in the Le Mans Pearl Izumi 24 hour cycling race in France and raising money for Arthritis New Zealand.
Tim was first diagnosed with osteoarthritis when he was in his twenties. Then, when he was in his mid-forties his neck collapsed; he was bent double with agonising pain and could barely shuffle half a dozen steps.
“In short, I thought my life was over!”
It was a defining moment. Tim weighed 136 kg and smoked heavily but after complex surgery to reconstruct his neck with titanium rods, screws and wires, he vowed to turn his life around. Less than 48 hours after the operation, he got out of bed and walked unaided out of the hospital and down two flights of stairs.
“I vowed on that day to make changes to my life, to live to the fullest and show respect for the hard work of the doctors and nurses who gave me back my life.”
Tim ditched the cigarettes, worked hard with a physiotherapist for months, joined a gym and had ongoing support from many people to get back on his feet. He decided to buy a bike, having previously learnt how good cycling was for his joints. He started to ride, and ride some more. A decade on, now aged 56, he’s still riding every day.
Now he’s in training as #24HrTim for the Le Mans Pearl Izumi cycling race in France on 26 and 27 August this year where he’ll be cycling for 24 hours nonstop with a personal target of 600kms. More than 4000 riders from 20 countries are expected to take part.
Tim is riding for Arthritis New Zealand because he wants to give back to the people who’ve helped him on his journey with osteoarthritis. He’s in a good place now, and wants to encourage others to get there too.
“It’s always been very important to me to give back to the people who have aided me. Every kilometre I’m able to cover now is a celebration of life and a thank you to my partner and all my supporters along the way.
“No matter what your age, a diagnosis of arthritis is a difficult change to come to terms with. I want to encourage others who live with arthritis to do the single best thing in their lives – keep moving.”
Just 18 months after his neck surgery, Tim fronted up at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and rode 320kms in two laps of the lake. He’s done it four times since, in spite of coping with a hip replacement followed by a lumbar spinal fusion.
“Eight months after my hip replacement I was back at the lake for not two, but four laps or 640kms. The lumbar surgery, I have to say, knocked the stuffing out of me and it’s taken two long years of pain and suffering to get back to feeling human and in a place where I can look ahead to more ultra-distance cycling challenges.”
Tim now feels literally thousands of kilometres away from his previous lifestyle. “I’m a different man now.”
You can follow Tim’s training blog and donate to support him and Arthritis New Zealand at https://24hrtim.everydayhero.com/nz/tim
Big day yesterday started my mental conditioning. In endurance sports, you can train the physical side with hours and k’s in the saddle, but that can never prepare you for the many things you will mentally have to deal with. The hardest part to train and maintain is the “top 4 inches” the grey stuff at the top of the skull. So yesterday with basically no sleep I swung my leg over the topbar at 4 am and rode the 55km to Whanganui. Turned around and joined 2 others riding out of Whanganui and we rode down to Levin. It was raining, dark and hilly for the first 90km before settling into a slow steady 50km to have lunch with Lis at my Mums. This meant I had to ride past home at the 90km point, which is a tough thing to do when you’re wet, tired and hungry.
This week I put better tyres on the bike rather than the super heavy hard treacle like ones! The weather’s turned nasty this week, wind and rain, but on the bright side only 3 more days at work until I can start my full on training program. From Monday onwards, I’ll start ramping up the hours on the bike, pushing it out by around 10-15% per week as the strength builds & recovery rates increase.