Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Women's 100 Ride

On Sunday July 7, I joined thousands of women around the world and rode 100kms! The ride, orchestrated by Rapha has the aim to create a global event with thousands of women taking to the road to complete a 100 km journey.

July 7 is the date of the Etape de Tour - the amateur cyclists chance to ride a major mountain stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France. Rapha sent 100 women to participate in the sportive which formed part of the days festivities. It was not competitive, but more about gathering a global community of women around the world to take part in this shared event.

On this day, out of the all the registered participants, women got together to collectively ride the equivalent of 2.4 laps around the world. And I am happy to say I put in 103.93kms of that!!!

But as many who now know me well and follow this blog, it was never that simple. And on this day, Sunday July 7, 2013 I conquered something much bigger than a mountain in the Pyreness.

The thing is, when I first started riding all those months ago I did it all alone. I did it alone because I didn't know anyone else who I could ride with. On those rides, which were always really hard, I would often draw on the names of the people I was riding for. No matter what barrier was in front of me, I would always find a way through by focussing on the strength of those who had fought battles harder than anything I would have on the bike. It was always draining, more-so mentally than physically. It almost always ended in tears.

I can honestly say that after doing RTCC in 2012, I had a lot of emotional closure. During Day 2, I had to draw on every name that stared back at me, and from that day, I knew that I could conquer mountains. I knew that I had the strength in me to get over any line. But what I didn't realise is that I also got my strength from the amazing team of girls that I also had around me.

Over the last 8 months, instead of focussing on the real reason I started riding, I found another reason. First is because I loved it so much. Second is why I loved it so much and it is because of the amazing bunch of supportive friends that I have made along the way. Yep - all the girls that I have met through the Liv/giant rides. Slowly, I had began to rely on these girls. I found that I traded in my passion for soul searching solo rides and replaced them with social fun rides that always ended in laughter, not tears. And why not!!!! Laughing is such a wonderful thing to do!

So back in June when I pulled out of the Whittlesea Challenge, it was because I couldn't face the road alone. I doubted my ability to be able to turn up to an event on my own, to ride without my support and I questioned my strength. In the first few weeks after the non-event, I was OK with it. But it ate at me more than I realised.

It wasn't until the plans of a group ride started to unravel in days leading up to the Womens 100. For all different reasons, the girls that I was going to rely on to get the job done were not going to be there. And by event eve, there I was again, facing a ride alone.

But instead of hanging Mav back up in the garage and packing my kit away, I faced my mountain!

I faced the long boring stretch of Plenty Road. And with that came thoughts of the past. I went past the Whittlesea Cemetery and immediately I was confronted with the thoughts of my Angels who have travelled over 4000kms with me so far. I stood in a crowd of 70 women and I stood alone. And I took off up my mountain ready to tick off each of the 100 kilometres I would ride alone that day.

To say I did it tough on the bike is an understatement. After 12kms, I had a technical issue with my cleats and fell hard, yet gracefully off my bike. In zero degree temperatures, in physical pain I had never experienced and in fog that has viability down to less than 10 meters I ticked off the kilometres.

At 60 kms my Rock of Gibraltar arrived : that is my family. Just knowing that they were close gave me the strength I needed. They also sat in the escape vehicle should I feel the need to quit.

At 75 kms I hit my wall. Hard. Pain was crippling me. I was hungry. And my legs just wouldn't shut up! So I did the only thing I knew and that was to look down. I looked down at a whole range of names and with that, it hit me. All the emotion of why I ride. All the emotion that I had kept under control for so long. All the tears I had covered with laughter. There they all were.

At this point, I was joined by the backmarker of the Womens 100 ride. (Yep - last again) A lady by the name of Amanda who had also done the RTCC last year. She had ridden with her siblings in memory of her sister who they had lost to bowel cancer. But I couldn't listen to Amanda's story at that time. All I could do was try and stay upright on the bike and wait from my Rock to come past and collect me. I was weighed down with fatigue, but mostly, I was then weighed down with pain ... both physical and mental.

I finally made it to 82kms and to a much needed rest stop. I got off Mav and declared that I was done. I thanked the Women's 100 girls for organising the event, but I wasn't going to finish it. I couldn't go on any further. My family were there, and I made the choice to join them in the coffee shop. I quit! I had coffee, I cried in emotional and physical pain and I rested. And as we got up to leave, I went outside and here was Mav waiting for me. Maverick my bike who carries the names and hopes of many who I ride for stared back at me and if bikes could talk ... she said "DON'T QUIT, BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T!"

OK ... so it was me who said it ... but you all know I see Mav as something more than just a bike.

I clipped on my helmet, I drank what was left of my energy drink and I said to Mello that once I got to 100kms, that was it. And I got back on Mav and I did not quit. I took the short cut home, but what it lacked in distance, it made up for in gradient. Why did I think a 4kms road at 8% gradient was a good idea when I had 91kms of painful hill climbing already stored in the bank for that day? But I did it. And I got to 100kms .... and rode straight past my family as I shouted "I'll see you at home"

103.93kms of good soul searching riding. And to places I had never ridden to before. Kinglake, Yarra Glen and Pain Central. But along the way I also got to meet my inner self again, I reunited myself with my Angels and Fighters and on that day, I declared I would not quit - because they didn't.

So thank you Rapha. But mostly thank you to Women all across the world who make cycling fun. And a big thank you to my Liv/giant girls who make it the best type of fun!!!! xo

And special mention must go to one person who manages to keep me going no matter what. Jessica Douglas - knowing you were out there ticking off a 300km ride on this very day did more for me than you will know.

This is what zero degrees looks like

Humevale in the beautiful fog. This was before it got really thick.
Hard to think that is was an inferno 4 years ago, but the scars are still there.
My pain face - after dismantling knee first

The 103.93km loop
Only a few hills. And descents in 0 degree fog is not fun at all!  

Where I declared I would not quit ... and I didn't! 

Monday, 22 July 2013

It's not just hair

Well, I said I wouldn't do it again. But I did!!

I said I would have to top my last fundraising goal of $2690 to do it again. I didn't.

I did it again but this time I did it for a better outcome.

In 2011, I cut off all my hair for one reason; to support a friend who had lost her hair from chemotherapy. I had made the statement "It is only hair, it will grow back" to which she said "You will never understand".

I sought to understand how she felt by raising money for Peter Mac and cutting all of my hair off. I put a bounty on my hair and within 9 days, together with some wonderful friends, we raised $2690. That was the start of Fighting Back!! That was the start of me making a difference.

And you know what? My friend was exactly right. It is not just hair.

So this time, I knew what I was getting myself into. But this time, I was going to donate my hair to a woman in need. I watched this video about 6 months ago and couldn't avoid that feeling that I wanted to help.

The thing is, I understood that feeling of being unattractive, anxious and exposed. Because the last time I made such a drastic change to my hair style, this is how I felt. I never felt myself until the day that I finally was able to tie my hair back again. 

But, this video struck a cord with me. My hair could help someone feel hopeful and beautiful. But most important - I could help someone feel STRONG! I could help someone feel all those things that I felt when I was comfortable with the way I looked. This time, I figured that when I looked in the mirror and felt unattractive, there would be someone out there who could look in the mirror and feel beautiful. When I am anxious, they are hopeful. And when I am exposed, they feel STRONG. 

We have all had a bad hair day, and I know that I am in for quite a few of them during my "growing it back" stage. But for every day that I feel like crap, not wanting to go out because suddenly my wardrobe doesn't suit my hair style, I will think about that person who now has the courage to Look Good and most importantly, Feel Better!!! 

It's not just hair. 

Like our clothes, our hair style is something we choose. It's our personal style that we display. I chose comfortable, plain and no fuss. That is me! Short, chic, funky ... whatever else is used to describe short hair - that is not me. Far from it! But there is one thing that my new hairstyle does say about my personality. It shows people that I mean business. It shows everyone that I am willing to stop at nothing to support people with Cancer. That is part of my personality that can never be taken away. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Why Brisbane means so much

In 33 days, approximately 2000 riders will be leaving the University of Queensland St Lucia campus on the Brisbane Ride to Conquer Cancer.

And I plan to be one of them!

Many people have asked me why?
Many people have made comment "why not just Peter Mac and Melbourne?"

There is only one reason for this. My Brother In Law Vince!

On June 20, 2007 at 4:49pm Vince called us to say he had been diagnosed with Cancer. He lives in Hervey Bay, QLD and after presenting to the local emergency department with a sore leg he was admitted for tests. Tests varied, but after having a CT scan, it showed that he had Cancer in his kidney and in his lymph nodes. Only having the CT scan to go by, the doctors 'assumed' that Vince's primary cancer in the kidney had spread. This generally only means one thing - how long?

The QLD medical professionals didn't give Vince much hope at all. The fact is they told him to go home and get his affairs into order was an indication of what they really thought.

THANK GOD that Vince had some amazing people that organised for him to get his second quote from Peter Mac in Melbourne. Because Peter Mac is a dedicated to Cancer research, they were able to find that Vince had 2 primary cancers and that both were treatable.

So this is why Brisbane means so much. Had Vince listened to the experts in QLD he would not be here FULL STOP! I often think, how many others just went home, put their affairs in order and accepted the 'fact' that they had terminal cancer and were going to die? How many people are no longer here because the right technology was not available to correctly diagnose them.

I will raise $2500 as my pledge to make a difference to Brisbane.

And I will raise $2500 for Sydney.
And I will raise $2500 for Melbourne.
And I will raise $2500 for Perth.
And I will raise $2500 for Adelaide.

And I will help every member of my home team Fighting Back who will raise an additional $37,500 if we hit our targets.

And I am part of the Vision Crusaders Grand Slam Team - a team who will raise over $400,000 for Cancer Research across this country this year.

Make a difference - YOU BET!!!

I do this for the Ride. But most of all I do it to CONQUER CANCER!

Donations to my Brisbane Ride can be made here - DONATE NOW

A massive thanks to Liv/giant Australia for your ongoing support.

And don't forget - for every $20 donation, you get the chance to win one of the below bikes - all thanks to Liv/giant Australia xo
2013  Via 1 W valued at $579

2014 Holly 20" valued at $229

2014 Roam 2 valued at $649

All bikes will be available at Giant Hampton