Taking on an 800km coast-to-coast cycle ride along some of toughest roads in the Pyrenees

Chris Hawes is taking on a grueling challenge later this year with 65 Degrees North – an 800km coast-to-coast cycle ride along some of toughest roads in the Pyrenees. Raid’17 will be an immense test of physical and mental endurance for all who participate and a true demonstration of rehabilitation through adventure.

We caught up with Chris Hawes who’s just completed a week-long intensive training package in Portugal to help them prepare for September’s challenge.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent training camp you went on for RAID’17? 
It was an eye-opener! I am on a hand-bike and it gave me the opportunity to understand my own limits. It was tough and the hills were challenging, I injured my wrist on the first day so I then had to listen to my body and think about how far I could push it. I hit a low point in Portugal when I realised I wasn't as strong or as fit as some of the other guys but I overcame it and focussed on myself and my own ability and I pushed through it. The intensive training was challenging but I picked up some good tips and advice about how to upgrade my bike and improve my performance, and I am really looking forward to Raid 17.

What did you enjoy most?
It felt really good to back in an environment where I am around like-minded people; to be around the banter and camaraderie! I enjoyed the ride and it was good that we were all at different levels. There was no pressure; it wasn't a race and we all went at our own pace - we worked together as a team. Everyone was looking out for each other and encouraging other team members when times were tough. 

Why do you think other wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women should get involved with events like RAID’17?
I think it helps in the sense that it gets them back to some kind of 'normality'. During service they are fit and active so this kind of thing gives them the opportunity to get back out there, maybe not in the same capacity, but gives them a reason to push themselves in a different way - learning to live with a prosthetic limb for example, and just get back to some kind of 'normality'

How has getting involved with RAID’17 helped you on your journey to recovery?
It's given me the chance of something to aim for, a challenge to train for, and something for my mind to focus on and what I need to do to achieve it.

What are your next plans with RAID’17?
I am waiting to get my bike back as it is currently being repaired! In the meantime, I have been doing some other training - using my rowing machine and lifting some weights in order to stay on top of my physical fitness, but taking it slow in order for my wrist to heal. I don't think I am at my peak fitness yet and the challenge is going to be hard - but it wouldn't be worth doing if it wasn't a struggle! I am currently working on a fitness programme and looking forward to a day of testing and seminars at Swansea University next month. We are fortunate to have a team of experts helping us prepare physically and mentally and I know I have a great team around me if (or when) the going gets tough!

About Chris Hawes:
Chris joined the Royal Air Force in 1998 as a Ground Support Equipment Electrician. An accident during a PT lesson resulted in serious trauma to his left leg and left Chris suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). He was medically discharged in 2005 due to ongoing issues with his leg. Several years of constant pain, failed surgery and treatment left Chris suffering with depression as he was unable to participate in simple activities such as playing with his children or walking the dog. In 2011 he made the decision to have his leg amputated above knee and has no regrets. He is now pain free and has a much better quality of life.

Chris on his hand-bike during the training camp
Chris on his hand-bike during the training camp