Sunday, 15 September 2013

Shaz's story

Editor's note: Shahzad Ahmed brightened our lives during the first three days of the mHealth Grand Tour. On his last evening with us, he told me his story, and I asked him to share it with you. We're looking forward to seeing him again for the last leg into Barcelona.
My story is about how the mHealth Grand Tour has transformed my life. I am a 45 year old Canadian living in UAE and working for Etisalat for more than 5 years. I have been fairly obese (111 kgs) and suffered from high blood pressure and I had very low stamina to perform any fitness activities. A short while ago, I decided that I was not going to be overweight and made my mind to take control of my health. My strategy was to watch my diet and start engaging in some fitness activities. In May 2013, an opportunity to participate in the mHealth Tour was announced at my workplace and I instantly knew that I wanted to participate in it.
I started training for cycling for the first time in my life just about 3 months prior to the start of mHealth Tour. I trained in the hot weather of UAE almost on a daily basis for several hours each day after work or on weekends. Every Tuesday I trained in the formula 1 circuit of Yas Marina circuit sponsored by Daman Active Life in Abu Dhabi.
I faced many challenges while I was training due to extreme heat and a month of fasting during the daytime when I trained during the night time. I also had an accident injury that prevented me from cycling for two weeks. Also, I could not give enough time to my family and my 6 year old daughter especially.
I was quite happy that I had lost more than 15kgs of weight and 6 inches of waistline in 3 months just when I arrived in Brussels. However, I was a bit nervous that I did not have enough experience to ride in cold and wet weather and hilly terrain.
The first day of the mHealth Tour was a great experience for me. I got the opportunity to meet Xavier Trias (Mayor of Barcelona) and Anne Bouverot (Director General, GSMA), which was especially exciting as I know our Group CEO Mr Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar is also a member of the GSMA board. Moreover, the support from mHealth Grand Tour organizing team and my Etisalat team was great. Some of the mHealth Tour organizing team riders rode along with me at times to encourage me and motivate me. My experience to ride through the centre of Brusssels escorted by police and my ride through the mountains and small towns of Belgium, France, Luxemboug and Germany provided me with happy memories that I will cherish throughout my life.

On third day of the tour I got up early as it was my daughter's birthday. I missed her badly so I called her to say happy birthday. As I was getting ready for cycling at my hotel at Saarbrucken, I got a text message from her: "Baba - you are my hero!" I think it gave me enough strength to take on any challenge that would come my way.

By the third day I felt I had enough stamina, courage and strength to cycle from Saarbrucken to Baden-Baden (about 156k) without any issues. However, when I started it was raining and I had to put on my rain jacket and  I was a bit nervous riding downhill on wet roads, the types where I was doing 50kph downhill on previous days. This time, I did only 30kph but I preferred safety over time.

After lunch, two experienced riders, Richie and Susan from the mHealth organizing team, rode with me. They highly appreciated my effort. I was good on time so we stopped for a coffee enroute together and took some pictures over the Rhine bridge and mountains.
At the end of the day 3 and stage 1 in Baden-Baden, there was a formal dinner at the hotel where we were staying with speeches from our mHealth tour director Adam and Steve from the Etisalat team. Adam highlighted my story and appreciated my performance by riding over 100 miles on average each day of stage 1. When the audience gave me applause for my achievement, I felt like a hero for a moment with thoughts about my daughter.
I am looking forward to re-joining the Tour on the last stage and riding to the finish line in Barcelona and partying with all fellow riders and organizing teams.
Thank you mHealth Grand Tour organizing team, GSMA and team Etisalat for organizing such a wonderful life-changing, thrilling, adventurous, fabulous and perfect tour.

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