Portsmouth news: The Girl on a Bike, a University of Portsmouth graduate, uses her platform to empower others and herself.
As seen on Portsmouth: An international business studies graduate of the University of Portsmouth, uses her experiences to help inspire and empower her 260,000 followers on social media, in schools and through motivational speaking.
She collided with a red light-jumping car while on her bicycle, shattering her right shoulder and right hip in the process.
This led to reconstructive surgery and seven operations in as many years. It was while on her long road to recovery that this adrenaline-loving woman decided to take up off-road motorbike riding, and so The Girl on a Bike was born.
Most recently this included being the first woman to enter, and then complete the gruelling eight-stage Tunisia Desert Challenge – but not without another life-threatening incident.
During the fourth stage, her bike malfunctioned at around 10.30am, and at first Vanessa, 35, was fine. ‘I was pretty chilled out. It was almost peaceful – I was sat in the dunes, I could randomly see and hear other competitors in the distance and there were quite a few vehicles going through.
‘Now I feel like I’ve taken back control’
‘The organisation really is incredible. I can’t emphasise enough how good the organisation is far as safety. There’s no need to die of heat and dehydration – we have the emergency systems in place. The organisers were spot on.
‘Competitors were stopping to give me food and water, I didn’t have shade, but I had my emergency blanket.’ However the winds began to pick up – to 50mph – and Vanessa was unable to prop her bike up to create a shade – the sand was too soft to dig in. But another vehicle stopped and helped her prop the bike and use a cape to create a bit of shade for her while waiting for sweeper truck at the back of the race to collect her.
Even with nine 1.5l bottles of water and keeping her skin covered from the sun, with the temperature reaching 45 centigrade, as Vanessa says: ‘The body can’t handle that heat and intensity for that long. ‘It was when the wind picked up to the point that I couldn’t breathe that I was getting panic attacks. My headache was building and there was so much sand.
‘I lay in the foetal position in my little patch of shade and I wrapped this scarf double to make a little air pocket I could breathe in. ‘Through my accident recovery I’ve discovered a lot of mindfulness, and it’s one of the ways I manage the chronic ongoing pain I have with my hip.
‘Loads of people picture you sitting on the floor humming, I’m not a sitting on the floor humming kind of person – I get itchy feet, I’m not very good at sitting still. Mindfulness has made me more able and more aware to be in control of my conscious thoughts, which leads your subconscious and your emotions directly link to your thoughts.
‘I was lying in the dunes trying to do my mindfulness. I was lying there going: “Right, Vanessa, you’re fine”, and I’m like: “I’m not fine. I’m in the desert on my own, and my head feels like it’s going to implode”. And I could hardly breathe because of the sand. I knew they were coming for me but I didn’t know when.’
And she still convinced herself: ‘I wasn’t a medical emergency, I hadn’t called for help, I wasn’t bleeding, I wasn’t broken. I was just hot.’ But the panic attacks kept coming, and it was then that Vanessa decided to press the help button, bringing aid to her via GPS location, but even that wasn’t simple in her addled state.
‘I never realized it would help so many people’Vanessa Ruck
‘I’m very often judged by my appearance. I’ve got naturally long eyelashes, I’m blonde, I obviously don’t know how to ride’, she says sarcastically, ‘and I’m just there to try and look pretty with a motorbike.
‘Seriously, when I’m riding, there’s nothing about trying to look pretty right now!
‘I think I have to work extra hard to be credible, to learn about the engines, to be able to have a conversation and an opinion, and I get people going: “Oh you know about that?” Well yes, I’m a motorbiker too.
‘I have a lot to learn still, but I’m getting that ability, and when I can overtake a guy who’s judged me before, it’s a little bit satisfying.’
For the rest of the Portsmouth News article see here.
If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harleys and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.