Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Ride To Conquer Cancer - Brisbane

It is hard to imagine just 7 days ago I was freaking out about what lay ahead for me.

I was about to fly 1650kms with my bike to participate in a bike ride. Who was I and when did I become a travelling cyclist?

The answer is simple. It was when I decided that I wanted to make a bigger impact to Cancer Research and sign up for the Grand Slam with the Vision Crusaders. For me, that meant 5 rides in 5 different states and a grand total of $12,500 that I needed to raise to make it all possible.

Last week, I walked around fraught with anxiety. Not only was I having an incredibly busy week at work, I had so much that I needed to do. And as normal, there comes point in everything where it all has to go wrong, before it goes right. I quickly realised I was going to have to draw on every super power this wonder mum has to pull this off.

Ride Logistics:

· I had a bike box organised as part of our Vision Crusaders sponsorship, but getting it was going to be troublesome. I had a backup just in case.

· I had my Vision Crusaders kit ordered, but it was still not in Australia and we didn't know if it would arrive in time.

· I had my Liv/giant custom ordered kit on its way, but no guarantee that it would arrive in time for the ride.

· I had my bike and my tool kit - but no idea what it was going to take to pull it apart or put it together.

· I had organised travel to the airport, but then realised the case would not fit in either of our cars.

· I was having technical issues with my Brisbane Ride to Conquer fundraising tracker. Despite raising the $2500, my tracker will forever live its life displaying $1507.05 ... at 60% of my target.

· Despite my best efforts to have tent allocation, the Brisbane Ride Office still could not accommodate such a simple thing.

· When it is normal for me to be organised days before any major event in my life, I couldn't do anything as I was anxiously waiting on all of the above before I could even start to pack.

Family Logistics:

There was all the typical family activity that would still need to happen in my absence. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family, basketball for Sam, washing, dishes, story time, bath time, bed time, movie night ... all the stuff that I just do on auto pilot every day.

But as the days ticked over and I burnt the candle at any angle I could get to it, I got closer to knowing that I could pull this off. And by Thursday night, everything had fallen into place just nicely.

· I found out just how a bike all fits together ... or how easy it comes apart.

· I found out that sometimes you just need to ask others for support.

· I found out FedEx don't deliver to suburban Melbourne, despite it only being 30kms. They would rather fly a parcel to Brisbane than drive it half an hour. (I did the driving instead)

· I found out that it is not worth it to sweat the small stuff.

· I found out that Dad's do a brilliant job when their control freak wives are not around.

So here I was - ready to head off on a journey with one final hurdle to jump over. This was the part I was having the most trouble with. It was being 1650kms from my family when I was about to embark on one of the biggest physical and emotional rides of my life. After doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer in Melbourne last year, I knew what to expect. But I also knew how much I relied on my family and friends to help me get through that ride. How was I going to get through this next one without them?


Gear finally starts to arrive

My custom kit that pays tribute to my Angels and Fighters. I wear my heart on my sleeve
Maverick packed and ready to go. Now to put the rest of the stuff in
So the day came for me to set off on 4 days that would again change my life. My emotions were in another atmosphere and I just had to keep breathing and try not to let them get to me. Many others I know use visualisation to prepare themselves for events. But when I sit and close my eyes and “see” why I am doing this, I am reminded by the incredible sadness Cancer creates. I see the pain, I see the illness, I see the grief and I see the loss. That alone makes it hard. But that is why I do what I do. To end the pain, to end the sickness, to end the grief and end the loss.

So at 9:30am, my wonderful friend Pip arrived to take me to the airport. (The case fits in her car!!) I had said goodbye to Sam & Amy who had gone off to school and now it was time to say goodbye to Mia and Mello. This was the first time EVER that I was away from any of them. I missed them before I even left, but goodbye was easier than I thought.

Arriving at the airport, it was again a quick goodbye to Pip. An amazing hug and a few words of support and I was officially on my own. And it felt good. I knew from this point on, the rest was up to me. I had my trusty book “Oh The Places You Will Go” that would remind me of what I was doing.

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

That first paragraph is my daily mantra – but on this day, it meant so much more.

Bags got checked in, VIP treatment was received thanks to a certain CEO from Virgin who had seen this blog from his boss the previous day .. and it was time to now start enjoying what we had created. My fellow Victorian based Crusaders were all arriving at the airport and us girls were all on the same flight. This was time to get to know each other and understand why we got ourselves into something so big.

Arriving in Brisbane, we were greeted by some more of our fellow Crusaders. It was right at this point that it hit me. We had created something bigger than just 24 people who were going to ride 1200kms and raise $400,000 for Cancer research. We had created a team, a family, a support network and the craziest bunch of people who would not go unnoticed. AMAZING!!!

Out to St Lucia we all went ready to reassemble our bikes. There were even more Crusaders there who had come to drop their bikes off and help us travellers in any way they could. This is where I was met with one of the more surreal moments of the weekend. I was busy putting my rear wheel on the bike when from behind me came a voice.

“Are you Bec?”
I turned to see a strangers face.
“Yes I am”
“I saw your bike on Facebook” said this stranger .. who then went on to introduce herself, (but sorry, I was so blown away, I now cannot remember her name) and say that she thought that my bike was great.

And yes, the bike did create a lot of talk. Mav certainly stood out from the crowd!!

So, here I was, tired and thirsty and hungry enough to eat 4 horses. One thing I had done poorly all week was ride preparation. I had barely eaten, lost 3 kilos and was now doing a great job at dehydrating myself in the QLD sun. So, now to check in to the hotel and get to the place where we were meeting the whole team and where we would finally receive our new Vision Crusader jerseys.

We all just clicked and thanks to the power of social media, introductions were not really necessary. We all knew each other, we knew why we rode and we knew that we had such a strong bond already that we were going to be able to trust each other and lean on those around us to get through the next 2 days.

At dinner I also had another great surprise and that was the arrival of Vince and Di. They had made the trip down from Hervey Bay to be here and support me – knowing that I was going to really miss having Mello and the kids around me. But for me, it allowed Vince to see exactly why we all do what we do. Vince would love to ride, but physically cannot. So to help, both him and Di have done such a great job helping with fundraising. So far, they have raised almost $4000 and donated it to help me achieve the Grand Slam dream. So yes, I am literally riding for him!

Another sleepless night of tossing and turning and finally the alarm sounded at 4:30am to signal the start of the 2013 Brisbane Ride to Conquer Cancer – Ride 1 of 6 in our Grand Slam. Together with Greg – my bike husband, Vince and Di, we headed back to St Lucia. Here I tried to  eat the bircher museli and tried not to gag on the banana muffin that Greg had gone and collected for me. But I failed. Not because of nerves … but because it was just horrible!!! So, undernourished, I would face a 110km ride. Great start Bec.

And then the moment that would change our lives rang out. It was the start of the opening ceremony. I knew from Melbourne what to expect and my emotions again soared into orbit. As the Vision Crusaders gathered around, our Team Captain Klaus mentioned that he had received an email from someone who wanted a message read to the team before we started.

As we listened, you could see that there was not going to be a dry eye at the end of this. Klaus has a way with words – his or others, and it was almost haunting to listen to. I can only compare it to a last post. But the final 6 words hit me. They were “See you in Melbourne. From Mello”
My husband. My Rock. His words … delivered to our team in the moments before we would ride. PROUD. EMOTIONAL. And there – the floodgates opened.
The rest of the opening ceremony for me cemented the reasons we were all there. Hearing from Frank Gannon – Director and CEO of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute that combined we had raised $4.2M for the institute. There were 1236 riders who were participating. And then John’s story – a rider who on December 14, 2012 was told he had incurable Blood Cancer.  His whole story is on his donation page for those who may want to know about the reminders we were given before we were released onto the roads of Brisbane.
The ride, was just that. For a total of 225kms over 2 days, we turned our pedals. We climbed hills, we descended and felt the freedom of life rush past us. We met people and heard stories that will stick in our hearts and minds forever. It is like war – we were fighting for the future of others. And there are stories out there that will wake you at night and remind you that you lucky for a healthy life free of the pain of incurable illness.

Some of the highlights:
  • Hearing Klaus read the message from my husband.
  • Having Vince and Di share this experience. From the prelude dinner, the Opening Ceremony, Camp on Day 1 and the finish line … they were there.
  • Sharing a special moment with fellow Crusader – Robert Dixon who at the 16km mark clocked up 20,000kms on his Lymphominator. That is is 20,000 since his diagnosis of Non-hodgkins lymphoma. WHOO HOOO!!!
  • Having Dani receive an SMS from Sir Richard Branson wanting to know the dates of the rest of our rides. He is seeing if he can actually come and ride with her and the Vision Crusaders!
  • Making some noise and having a dance during the speeches at camp on Day 1. Yes, there is not one person who was there who now doesn’t know who the Vision Crusaders are and what we are going to achieve.
  • Having a 3 hour delay due to fog on Day 2. With visibility down to 30 meters and the QLD police deeming the ride too unsafe, we had no option but to entertain ourselves …. and everyone else in the process.
  • Riding out of camp under police escort alongside a fellow crusader by the name of Chris. There are moments on all of these rides that stick … and this is my moment. He has cared for his wife Amy who is now in remission. We don’t know what it is like to have Cancer, but we sure know what it is like to care for someone who does. And that is a survival story in itself. Sharing the memory of sitting beside a bed, fearful for a future without our loved one, afraid they were in pain … there is no drug or pain killer that is given to the carers. It is tough, and it was great to be able to recognise that.
  • Suffering a hunger flat 30kms in and not even pulling to the side of the road to re-fuel. Thanks to the 3 hour delay, my 5am breakfast had been digested before we left. And due to my brilliant preparation, I had nothing in me. Thanks to Dextro products, I was able to fuel up and quickly recover … without stopping. The people we ride for don’t give up. They don’t get the chance to get off, so neither would I.
  • Finishing this ride twice. First I did it for me. For my Fighters and for my Angels. And then I finished it with my team. Together. WOW!
  • Seeing the ribbons go viral. And now my term Angels and Fighters may follow in the same trend. It only takes one person to make a difference you see.

Now, I sit here at my desk trying to share this with you. Words just can’t do justice to what these rides mean to me. And as the title of my blog suggests – it is not about the ride. It is about the Reason I Ride. This is not a ride report, a race report and the only trophy you will see me raise is my trust bike Maverick.
At the end of 2 days and 225kms - I hold my prize
There are so many people I need to thank. So in no particular order:

Mello Failla, Jo Hall, Naomi Williams, Steve Munyard, Darren Rutherford, Pippa Parker, Sandra Lee, Vince Failla, Diane Jackson

Liv/giant Australia, Sun Graphics, Virgin Australia,

Pat Brunet from Event Photography

And those who made this what it was …

My fellow crusaders - Klaus Bartosch, Robert Dixon, Matt Leasegang, Tim Wakeman, Ken Dutton-Regester, Brenda Batten, Simon Mills, Dani Stevens, Nicole Whelan, Nicko Lunardi, Jeanette McGhee, Sharon Robson, Troy Douglas, Chris Hennessey, Josh Potter, Rona Wakeman, Greg Leitch, Kai Mcintyre, Stephen Hughes, Jacqueline Anthony, Lis Dargusch.
And as a special treat – here is us celebrating life. The road to conquering cancer can have fun in it too. And as the Vision Crusaders - this is how we do it.

The beautiful view from my deluxe suite

Where did that view go? The reason for our inpromtu party and 3 hour delay

We celebrated with some of the finest scotch there is. (Just don't tell Matt I had to add coke to finish it)

Our team table

My amazing kit!!!!!!

The party animals!!!!

Dani and I finishing Day 1. This lady is amazing. She had only ridden a total of 100kms in her life ... then cracked out this!

Congratulations Robert on 20,000kms

You can now head over to the Vision Crusaders site to read more about us and what we want to acheive.
You can also support me in my dream to keep this going and complete the Grand Slam. The next ride I need to cover is Sydney.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

And the winner is ...

Natalie O'Connell - you are the winner in more ways than one!

Back on July 31, Natalie became the new owner of the 2013 Liv/giant Via 1 W valued at $579 and today I was with her when she was able to head off to Giant Hampton to collect it. 

But Natalie was not the actual winner of the bike. 

At 7:30pm on July 31, the name that was drawn from the bucket by my 6 year old daughter was Jeanette McGhee. Jeanette is based in QLD and is one of my Vision Crusader team mates. She is a survivor of this disease we all ride for. And on this night, she showed a side of human spirit that will stay with me forever. 

Jeanette made the decision to donate the bike back to someone who has helped support me on my journey. Through some conversation, I gave Jeanette the names of a few people who had purchased a ticket for the Via that stood out, so I gave Jeanette the choice of who she would like to give the bike to. 

The person who Jeanette chose has had her own battle and knows what she needs to do to kick Cancers butt. She inspires me every day because I know there is life after a cancer diagnosis. And she inspired me to cut my hair and donate, because I know how much that meant to her when she underwent treatment. And she is one of my Fighters - one of the people who keep me Riding to Conquer Cancer. One of the people I think of whenever I see a lime green ribbon.

That is how Natalie - on behalf of Jeanette, became the proud owner of the Liv/giant Via. 

But little did either Jeanette or I know how much this was going to mean to Natalie. 

On the day that the decision had been made by a complete stranger to give Natalie such a perfect gift, Natalie had been at Peter Mac having screening tests done. Natalie is a survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma, but like any cancer survivor, there is always the thought of the disease returning. Natalie had been in getting tests done that day and had an anxious wait before she was going to get her results. Whilst in at Peter Mac, Natalie had noticed all of the RTCC advertising everywhere and kept thinking about the people are who tirelessly fundraise for this cause. And during all the waiting around, she was chastising herself thinking how she really needed to do more exercise to stay healthy to compliment all the other important things to prevent her cancer returning.  

It is odd how the universe works, but on this day, it was a random act of kindness that now allows Natalie to do exactly what she was thinking. And it was able to put a smile on her face : the face that was hiding her fear that she could have had another fight on her hands.

The last few weeks had been tough for Natalie. Not only did she face the very real possibility of having to fight again, she also spoke about her battle for the first time in a public forum. In front of over 100 of her work colleagues  Natalie spoke about her battle with Cancer. She spoke about her diagnosis, her treatment and how she felt when she watched her beautiful long hair disappear. She also spoke about how it made her feel when she saw what people like myself do daily to try and make a difference. Not only through fundraising, but also through the donation of hair. Natalie was the one who put me onto Pantene Beautiful Lengths. 

So today, standing in Giant Hampton and watching Natalie receive her bike, pick out her helmet and the perfect little bell (a retro pink heart bell) I was so proud to see Natalie overcome with excitement. It took her back to the last time she had ridden her bike - a time that she would define as pre-cancer. 

I only hope that the Via brings memories of those times back to her. The feeling of floating, the wind in her hair and the freedom that riding a bike gives. 

Natalie - you are an inspiration to many and on behalf of Jeanette, on behalf of Liv/giant and on behalf of me - ENJOY your "whole new way of living" ....

Thanks also has to go to Jo Hall at Liv/giant for donating the Via. It meant that 100% of ticket sales has been donated to my Ride To Conquer Cancer - an amount totalling $1030. 

Natalie receives her new bike!!

She wasn't quite ready to dink me home!!

Nat heads out ready for new adventures

... and tries to convince Bailey that this will be fun!! 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Event Preparation ... 11 days to go

It is moments like today when I start my event preparation that it highlights the massive difference to why I ride! 2 weeks prior to a big event, most "athletes" would have put in their best training, would be 100% fit and physically ready, have their gear all lined up ready to go and would be starting their taper. They would have their nutrition plans in place and their life would be revolving around a strict schedule to deliver the result they are aiming to achieve.

Me, I have been on the bike 3 times in the last month - and that was hooked up to the indoor trainer. I have been sick with gastro, I have had a cold, I have been injured after a fall and I have been far too busy with life to get any training done. 100% under done is what I am. And now instead of looking at tapering - I am looking at cramming whatever bike time I can get in. 5:30am for a 45 minute session before my day starts yep. 10:30pm for a quick half hour before bed - yep.

And the next two weeks I will be checking the post box like a crazy woman. I am expecting the following for my ride:
  • 2013 Brisbane Ride To Conquer Cancer Rider Pack - this includes all of tags for my bike, rider jersey etc. I won't be wearing the RTCC jersey, but I am still looking forward to receiving it. 
  • Vision Crusaders jersey - this is the team jersey that we will all be wearing on Day 1.
  • Vision Crusaders wind vest - I ordered the winter weight one to ensure we get warm weather for all 6 rides :) Reverse psychology!!! 
  • My customised Liv/giant Ride To Conquer Cancer kit. This is something that is extra special to me. This is something that I have had created to wear and it symbolises my Reason to Ride. Check it out below:

This kit is something that is special for many reasons. Firstly, I will be wearing the Liv/giant brand with pride. The brand Liv/giant means so much more to me than just bikes. It represents the people behind the brand and those who have been there to support me. It is the women (and men) who have given me endless guidance, support, encouragement and most of all - fun! I know that without this amazing bunch of women, my life on a bike would have been very very different. 

Then on the back is the 2 teams that I represent this year. The Vision Crusaders who are the 23 riders from across the nation who will be completing as many of the RTCC rides this year. And Fighting Back - my Melbourne Home team. In the middle of these 2 logos is the Ride To Conquer Cancer logo - the Reason I Ride. 

But the most important part of this kit is what you will see around the sleeves and legs.  It is the 14 different coloured memorial ribbons that represent the Cancers that have affected all of my Angels and Fighters. Sadly, the list of names of people that I ride for grows each year, so this is the way I can now represent each of them. Now, I can look at a ribbon and know who I ride for. 

So that is gear all organised.

Then there is Mav - my bike. She is off getting some love and attention too. For the last 10 days, she has been on holidays in Silvan getting her own little make over. I am sure my next blog will be all about her! And once she comes back home, then the fun will start. This is the first time I will travel with Mav. And to say it is causing a little anxiety is an understatement. I have organised a hard case for her to go in, but that is the easy part. I will arrive in Brisbane 16 hours before the ride. In that time, I will have to work out how to put Mav back together. I feel some intensive You Tube sessions coming on ... not to mention the purchase of a Torque Wrench! Lucky there are bike mechanics at the RTCC so at least I can get them to check her before I ride off to complete a 220km bike ride.

Then there is my family. For the first time ever, I will be away from my family. I am heading to Brisbane on my own and leaving Mello and the kids back here in Melbourne. For those who know us, you will know how hard this is going to be for all of us. We are a very close knit family and do everything together. So for me to do this without them is hard. But probably the hardest thing for me here is "who is going to feed them??" I am the head chef at Casa da Failla and it is rare that anyone else cooks in our house. But I will make sure the freezer is packed full of the family favourites to make that part a little easier for all of us.

The one part of me that is ready is my mind. My mental strength is at 100% and I know what I need to do to get the job done. Because my reason to ride is not to win, it is not to achieve a personal best and the only result I am interested in is the difference it makes to others. And this year, it is not even about the money that it raised. Yes, I have had to raise $2500 to qualify which by years end will be $12500 for Cancer Research.

But the difference I will make to others who have lost loved ones is what really matters. Just last week when I posted a photo on Facebook, I received these comments:

"everytime I see your bike I feel so proud that your riding for people but to know your riding in honour of my mum makes it even more that special! 
I love you Bec Failla and all that you do! Your one of a kind. Xx"

And this one

"Your so amazing Bec, huge inspiration! Always warms my heart reading our Angels names on your bike, bless xox"

Knowing that this is the difference I make to the families of my Angels and Fighters ... and knowing that I am providing that little bit of inspiration to others is what will keep me going this year. So I am not really that worried that I am not 100% physically ready because I know my mind is stronger than my legs will ever be!

This is the photo.... and the names on Mince ... my training partner 

So that is the start of my count down. 

11 days time I will be half way to Brisbane and all of this will be behind me. Now lets see what the next week can bring. Hopefully good health, time to get the legs moving and pressies from the postie :)