Adaptive adventurer and public speaker Nikki Bradley is about to push herself to her limits yet again in a bid to raise €50,000 for key cancer charities.
Diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer at 16 years of age, Nikki Bradley is one of less than 10 people to survive worldwide from her form of Ewings Sarcoma.
Over the years she has to endure severe pain due to the deep nerve damage caused by her illness. Told by doctors that they had reached the end of the road with regard to medical options for pain relief, Nikki decided to take matters into her own hands.
Enlisting the help of a physio and personal trainer to see if they could help to manage her pain she started doing extreme physio, adapting her movements to see what she could actually do. Within a very short time her pain had been reduced significantly and she was able to come off her pain medication.
It wasn’t long before Nikki was organising challenges as part of her charity, Fighting Fit for Ewings. Over the years, she has pushed the boundaries of what is possible further and further, taking on challenges that have been previously deemed impossible for somebody on crutches with the use of just one of her legs.
This summer Nikki will once again push herself to her limits as she attempts to climb four of Ireland’s toughest peaks in just 24 hours.
Here she tells us how she is feeling ahead of the big day.
Can you run us through your upcoming Four Peaks Challenge?
I’m aiming to climb four of Ireland’s biggest peaks – Carrauntoohil, Croagh Patrick, Slieve Donard and Mt Eirrgal on 21 July. I am starting with Carrauntoohil. That will be really interesting as I haven’t gone up via the Devil’s Ladder before. I am hoping to complete Carrauntoohil in about seven hours. I’ll then be hopping into our motor home and heading for Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo. This will be followed by Slieve Donard in Co Down before finishing at Mt Errigal in Co Donegal.
How long do you think it will take in total?
We said 24 hours but that was in the early days when we were hoping to use helicopter transport but that isn’t happening anymore. The whole thing including travel will obviously take over the 24 hours but we’ll still have the four mountains climbed within 24 hours.
What was it about a Four Peaks Challenge that grabbed your interest?
Credit where credit is due, it wasn’t my idea. Derry McVey who is a talent agent from Young Silver Hatch talent agency gave me the idea. He had a big overall plan and I just took bits from it. I then sat down with my team and we chose the peaks ourselves.
We chose the mountains for lots of different reasons. I wanted the challenge to benefit everyone across the country, north and south, as cancer has no boarders.
What will be the most challenging mountain for you do you think?
Crough Patrick isn’t my favourite mountain to climb because of the rocks and stones underfoot. For somebody like myself who walks with crutches I don’t get to look at the view as I’m looking at the ground the whole time. The rocky terrain on Crough Patrick makes the climb very monotonous. Obviously, the view at the top is amazing but the climb up is tough. Slieve Donard is completely different as you walk through forestry before you get to the path and then you walk as far as the wall where you’ve got the view of the Mourne Mountains and then you go up the final part of the mountain. It has a lot going on which means that even though I’m looking at the ground a good bit of the time the ground changes so that’s important.
And what peak are you most looking forward to?
Mt Errigal has been such a big part of my hard-begun journey with Fighting Fit for Ewing’s. My first time climbing in the snow was Mt Errigal, my first time falling on a mountain was Mt Errigal. So many amazing things have happened on that mountain so it seemed like a no-brainer to include it.
I use Mt Errigal quite a lot for training and now that we’re getting closer to the event I’ve started visualising how I’ll feel on the day when I’m coming back down. It will be the final push and even during training I’m finding I’m getting a bit emotional because I know how amazing it’s going to feel when I reach the bottom of Errigal even if my body’s battered and I’m knackered.
Will anyone join you or is this a solo effort?
So, it definitely won’t be solo because I can’t find my way out of a paper bag!! My navigation is awful. I have a team of five people. Iain Miller, who has been my mentor since I’ve set up the campaign, he is absolutely incredible. My boyfriend Ian Parks will be there for all the other support that I could possibly need and also for somebody that I can shout at without getting in trouble! My trainer Billy Fannaren who is a member of the Irish army will also be there. Billy is amazing. His determination and stamina and level of fitness is unlike anything I’ve actually seen before. He’s pushed me far beyond where I thought I could be pushed so he will be a really important part of the team on the day. Joe Ladrigan and his assistant are also joining us and will be photographing and videoing the entire thing.
I’d love for people to come out too and meet us at the base of each mountain and support us because I know I’ll need that bit of a push. The kindness of strangers during those tough times has been really motivating for me in the past.
Tell me a little bit more about this rigorous training regime that you’ve been put under. What has that entailed?
The Radisson Letterkenny has a machine called the Versa climber which is basically a machine that allows you to train for specifically mountain climbing so it couldn’t be more perfect for me. I need to build up the strength in my right leg muscle all around my calf and my hamstring as it’s very weak still.
I’ve definitely been making the most of the good weather too though. I’ve been doing a spot of outdoor climbing, kayaking, swimming and other things that will build up the muscle without having to do the same thing in the gym day in day out because I think everybody will agree that gets quite boring.
I’m not somebody that plans everything to perfection because I just now from experience with everything in the past that it never goes exactly how you want it to go and if you have a plan that can’t be changed you’re kind of setting yourself up for disappointment so each day I just see what the weather is going to be like and then plan accordingly.
You must have to work on a combination of cardio and strength. And strength not just in your legs but in your arms as well surely with the crutches is that right?
Exactly. My right leg on the day will actually do very little work because I’ll be walking with the two crutches. The majority of my weight will be going through my arms and then obviously the step in between the crutches will be done with my left leg so my right leg will pretty much have an easy ride of it but it does need to have a certain amount of muscle and strength. So, the areas that I concentrate on, especially in the gym, are upper body and also cardio.
In addition to that I need to build up the skin on my hands because the crutches obviously create friction and burns on the palms of my hands. I’m not killing myself in terms of speed I’m just using the crutches for long periods of time to encourage the skin on my hands to toughen up.
What other challenges do you think you will face?
I am always a big fan of the sunshine but on the day the heat can be as bad a high winds and rain. I’ve been using a new hip brace which is strapped across my stomach. On a hot day that absolutely drains me. My back is saturated before I’ve even left the car park. My hands will also get very sweaty and start to slip off the crutches. It’s not life or death but it is very irritating. I’ve planned for the weather to be a bit hotter than usual and have had new neoprene grips made for my crutches.
With all your focus on the ground as you hike, how do you distract yourself from the task in hand when things get tough?
When things get really tough or when I’m finding that I’m really losing motivation I count. I started that when I did my world record attempt in Holland because that involved going around an Olympic track 12.5 times, which doesn’t sound that much but on crutches it took us ages and it was so unbelievably monotonous. So, I just started counting to certain numbers or I’d count backwards and before I knew it another lap had gone. So that strategy seems to work quite well and it’s so simple.
What are you most apprehensive about?
I’m most worried about fatigue. There are so many factors that will add to my levels of tiredness. If we do get a hot day I will get tired so much quicker, so I’m trying to be as strict with planning as I can for that alone.
Having the motor home was so important because I will need to lie down between mountains. If I’m in a seated position in between climbs that’s not going to help my hip, that’s going to further encourage the pain and stiffness. I’m most worried about my body getting so tired that I slow down to a crawl which will obviously then interfere with my timing and with the daylight hours.
Great day of training today. Thanks to @uniqueascent for these amazing photos! Muckish twice then on to Errigal. I won’t lie I’m pretty shattered but it is definitely getting a little easier to go a little further. Roll on next July? #4peakchallenge #2018 #mountains #climbing #instagoals #endurence #trekking #crutches #TheMotivationFactory #nikkibradleybeyondlimits @sidestix @moterum.crutch.tip @kahtoola
How are you planning your food and what kind of things will you be eating along the way?
I am working with a company based in Letterkenny, Glorious Seasons who are providing my meals for me which makes such a difference. My snacks will all be stuff that will give me energy without making me feel starchy. Heavy meals feel great while you’re eating them but 10-15 minutes later you feel lethargic. I want to avoid that like the plague.
What one piece of advice would you give to people who are tentatively thinking of doing a challenge that they might deem outside their comfort zone?
Research! Find people who have done whatever you’re doing and get in touch with them. If you’re organising an event like what I’m doing where it’s maybe a fundraiser and it’s a slightly bigger event than you’ve done before recruit a team.
You are raising funds for charities that are very close to your heart, can you tell us about them and how people can donate?
We are hoping to raise €50,000 for the Irish Cancer Society, Action Cancer and The Ross Nugent Foundation. We didn’t pick three cancer charities by chance. It was very important to me that all three charities were cancer-based. The work that they’re doing is unbelievable and so much of what they do goes unnoticed.
I would really appreciate any donations that people can make through my GoFundMe Page.
Check out our Hard as Nails podcast:
Like this? You should check these out:
- 17 Mind Blowing Beaches in Ireland You’ve Never Heard Of
- How to: Train for Your First Ultra Marathon
- Cycling to Work Will Change Your Life, Here’s Why