Opting to do something small to help 3 personally significant charities (Cardiac Risk in the Young, Combat Stress and Macmillan) that help thousands of people was the best thing I have done this year so far…. first stop; abseil down the Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth.
For the seasoned adrenaline-seeker, a 300 ft. (or there about) abseil down a building probably seems fairly mundane… but my life-long instinct has been to avoid heights with edges (usually anything that you can’t jump off without injury) at all costs. My ideas of being an adrenaline-seeker and risk-taker usually remain a daydream…with the instinctive survivalist in me winning in reality. So I decided it was about time to put my money where my mouth is (I’m self-funding any challenge cost) and do something well outside of my comfort zone. This impulsive moment is how I found myself 2 weeks later standing at the bottom of the tower wondering what possessed me to voluntarily pay to do this and praying that between the beta-blockers and breathing exercises my heart rhythm would behave!
At the back of my mind I was aware that having a heart condition Brugada Syndrome and associated bradycardia, plus 2 cardiac devices and a fairly well wired/glued/stitched body with a few other issues might be something of a kink in the plan. But I figured I would deal with that later. Luckily I was allowed to do it – disclaimer – not an approach I should advocate.
On the day I was joined by a very good friend for moral support and celebrations after. I spent about an hour watching others do it before finding myself in the lift to the appropriate floor. I can’t actually repeat the exact wording that sprung from my mouth, but let’s just say I went from being nervous to a complete wreck in a matter of seconds. Being up there was way worse than it had looked from below.
Without the reassuring wit and professionalism of the abseil team I would have frozen, chickened or timed-out up there; or turned around and recoiled into the lift back to ground level. That, and the amazing support, messages and donations from friends and family really did spur me on. I soon found myself harnessed up and waiting by what can only be described as a gang plank with the three others doing it at that time. I opted to go first so I didn’t have an excruciating wait.
Once I started the abseil after hanging there for what felt like ages, it was really quite “easy” …. insomuch that I basically started to slide down without really any control (at least that is what it felt like to me). Happily, the guys operating it and keeping us safe could control it from the plank or the ground if need be. My right arm quickly gave out on me and before I knew it I yelled above that I was going too fast (apparently you can’t) thanks to losing the strength in both arms and hands much more quickly than I envisaged. We all wore thick gloves, and accompanying me on the descent was a strong smell of burning and heat in from my right hand that was attempting to control my speed. My left hand was pretty well glued to the rope from the moment I stepped off the gang plank. I was relieved when my feet hit the reassuring solidity of the ground beneath, and let go of the ropes! I am not sure you would persuade me to do it now, at the time I agreed I probably would!
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me to date. I am very pleased to have gone past my original target in a couple of weeks, and now hope to increase it even more. Why I chose these charities to fundraise for is explained a little on my fundraising page www.virginmoneygiving.com/CatBurns.
My next challenge: A ½ mile swim at Newham, London as part of the Great Swim series on Saturday 16th July 2016 (to put into context, 2 lengths of a 25m pool is plenty to knacker both my arms) which I am determined (and stubborn enough) to achieve). My third challenge will likely be something walking (think trek style) or cycling in nature.