Sports Story: Cycling with Cerebral Palsy

Cycling with Cerebral Palsy: 100 miles
By Courtney Herrig

Clayton Gandy was 30-years-old before he decided to learn how to ride a bicycle, Clayton has Cerebral Palsy (CP).  On Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, he will ride 100 miles through North Tampa and Pasco County in the Ride Without Limits event organized by United Cerebral Palsy.  Each rider agrees to raise $500 to participate in the ride, Clayton has raised $3000.

Donna Gandy knew that something wasn’t right with Clayton when he as a year old,  “ He wouldn’t even try to sit up on his own” she says with her Mississippi accent.  At 16 months of age he was officially diagnosed with CP.  Clayton has some upper extremity symptoms of CP, but the majority of his symptoms affect his lower extremities.  

Because of CP, Clayton slouches in the patio chair as we discuss his search for a bicycle. “I ordered the recumbent bicycle from Bike Works in Brandon and I had to special order the pedals. They had to fashion a guard that extends several inches from the bottom of the pedal to keep my foot from turning in – so that my foot does not unlock”. For a healthy cyclist, the rider must turn is feet inward to remove their feet from the clipless pedals.  But for Clayton his feet naturally turn in, his custom designed pedals prevent his feet from slipping out.  

Clayton is a senior majoring in computer science at the University of South Florida and was just offered a graduate assistant position to design wireless networks.  When asked about special equipment for computer use, his mother explained, “In the beginning he used voice recognition, but once he got use to the keyboard he did not need the software anymore.”  The more he used his finger muscles, the better motor skills he developed in his hands.  

People with CP develop atrophy in their muscles as they get older. Donna explains, “That is the whole problem with a child who develops CP, if they don’t ever push it and use those muscles, they will never work.  The more you use the muscles the better they will function.”

When Clayton got older he decided he had to make lifestyle changes if he was going to fight the aging effects of his disorder. Clayton has a way of speaking, the listener knows that he doesn’t use his words lightly, “It was basically a draw to become active.  I knew that I was able to balance and pedal on a stationary bike. When I began, I had no stamina at all; I could do barely any miles. With time and persistence I was able to bring my average mileage up.”

Since he began training for the Ride Without Limits event, he has noticed better movement, better muscle tone, and better strength over all. “It is also improving my gait, my knees have a tendency to draw together, turn in when I am walking. The training is giving me the strength to keep my knees apart,” Clayton explains.

Training for the average athlete is tough, but for a person with CP even the process of putting on cycling shoes and  helmet, and getting onto the bicycle is a challenge in itself.  What takes the average triathlete two minutes in transition time at an event, could take Clayton up to 15 minutes. 

 Clayton wants to be an inspiration to individuals with CP and other disabilities, “I think over all, it is attitude and will that gets me on the bike. The training will help you, but unless you have the motivation and the inspiration to do it and to overcome pain you won’t succeed.”

“He is a pretty determined dude,” says Clayton’s mother.  

Donna tells me about Clayton’s aunt who has battled breast cancer. Her doctors keep telling her that she needs to become more active.  She tells Donna that she has no excuses when she sees the effort that Clayton goes through just to get equipped for a training session.  

“I don’t think I am unique in my situation,” Clayton humbly explains.  He goes on to say that his situation is no different from someone else who is truly determined to achieve better fitness and outlook on health.  

After Clayton finishes the Ride Without Limits event, he hopes to travel to Quebec and ride the P’tit du Nord. The trail runs for 120 miles from Saint-Jérôme to Mount-Laurier on an abandoned train route.  

Fact Box
Ride Without Limits November 17th and 18th
http://www.ridewithoutlimits.org
888.547.3239
Clayton Gandy’s Blog: http://www.tourdetampa.com

    

 

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