Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Ride to Conquer Cancer – Melbourne

Only 13 days after I left the Sydney Ride to Conquer Cancer, I was again sitting at the start line in Melbourne ready to do it all over again.

13 days … 13 of the most difficult days I would ever have to face.
Painful is the only word I have to describe the 13 days. Nursing injuries from a fall in Sydney was only the surface of the deep pain and heartache I felt inside. Facing life without my Mum was something that at my age I couldn't even comprehend.
But if I was going to make Melbourne Ride to Conquer Cancer an event to remember, I was going to need to obey the Rules. Particularly Rule # 20 … which referred me to Rule #5.

In 13 days I had sat through my mum’s funeral, nursed my 3 kids through a loss they had never experienced and then needed to pick up and return to life – like nothing had ever happened. (Note – work places who expect 5 days bereavement leave to be sufficient time need a reality check! I couldn’t even farewell my mum within 5 days of her passing)
I managed to squeeze in some training – 105kms of Around the Bay! I had been given the opportunity to go to Perth to complete the Ride to Conquer Cancer on behalf of my Team Captain, but needed to pass on the opportunity given everything else that I had on. I knew I didn’t have the strength to leave my family again. So I did what I said I would do and I lined up for Around the Bay. In a nutshell, it was a long lonely painful ride. I had registered for the 210km ride but due to injuries, I really pushed the barrier to make it 105kms. Rule #5 again. And my heart was not in it. All I wanted to do was stay curled up under my blanket and be angry. I just wanted to stare at that one blank spot on the wall that had become my point of focus for many days … that spot that I could stare at for hours, stuck asking the one question no-one can yet answer … WHY?

So when the time came to start preparing for Melbourne Ride to Conquer, 1 thing had to change. I had to pack up my grief. I had to haul my arse out of the well of misery I was happy sitting in and I had to find my Reason 2 Ride. I thought about my Angels and Fighters.
I thought about all of the Angels who had left behind grieving daughters. I thought about the Angels who had flown from their husband’s embrace too early in time. I thought about my Fighters who were facing their fears of leaving their family and not knowing where the destination was. And I thought about many of my friends who had been there to support me in the 18 days since my Mum had passed, but mostly in the 13 most difficult days of my life. My friends who could feel my pain because they also had lost a parent. 1 year, 3 years, 17 years and 21 years … and still they cried. Still they felt pain.
So time to take one last look at my loss, recognise my pain and know that I could tuck that off to the side, still close enough to recognise it, but far enough away that I could smile – without feeling guilty! On Friday night, I packed up more than the one bag that I would be taking to the ride … I packed the emotional baggage and left it in my wardrobe.

Melbourne Ride to Conquer Cancer was also going to be a special event for me where both my Melbourne based team – Fighting Back would get the opportunity to meet the Vision Crusaders team that I am part of. A total of 21 people who were all there for the one purpose. To Ride to Conquer Cancer. Each of us had raised at least $2500 to be there – no easy feat. Each of us had dedicated a good part of our lives over the last year to being ready to ride 200kms. And now was our time, our moment, to make a difference. We all carried our own reasons why we were there. And we took time out to reflect on this.
Our Vision Crusaders team started a tradition in Brisbane where the following words are read out just prior to the official Opening Ceremony:



These words were written by my husband, and I was so proud that he was going to be there to read them out to my teams in Melbourne. And to have Vince in our circle, there to also hear his brother’s words, was such a special moment. One I will never ever forget.

Fighting Back and Vision Crusaders join forces
The opening ceremony is always an emotional moment. I have been through 4 of them so far of which they all follow the same format. But when I see 4 individuals escort the bike that represents the person we ride for – it gets me every time! And with all the emotion and hype, generating the purpose of why we gather, we are sent off … all 1200+ riders who have a whole weekend of reflection in front of them.
Unlike last year, we were in the first bunch to be released. This is a privilege given to the higher profile teams. It means that we get out of the start quickly and don’t get delays. Both Fighting Back and Vision Crusaders function on the principal that each person rides their own ride. We know each other well enough to know our other team mates who are of similar pace, we know to speak up if we are struggling and we know that no matter what – a Crusader is never far away.

That is what we do. We are there to make friends with other riders and learn the reasons why others ride. We are there to help other riders if they need it – may it be with a tire change, a full drink bottle or just a helping hand getting up a hill. The RTCC Domestiques almost! And we are there to have fun. And all of these things are what we pride ourselves on. We are known as the team that will be the first to leave … and we will always be there to bring the last rider in. Some members of our team will complete their ride and then they head back out to the last rider to make sure they are not alone. And the rest of us are based at camp to make sure there is a big roar when the last riders finally make it in for the day.

Robert, Sharon and Josh bring home Vicki .. the Ultimate Rider
So Day 1 and Day 2 riding were exactly what I had planned; to ride and spend time with each of my team mates. Creating memories! Whether we spent 3 minutes or 3 hours riding together, I have a memory of riding with the 8 members of Fighting Back and the 12 members from the Vision Crusaders.
Liv/giant represented!!! Love having my girls Tracey & Corinna along for the ride xo
And a memory of finishing Day 1 in my Team Captains Ambassador jersey and a big orange ribbon around my neck!

But the biggest memory of all is riding the last 3 kilometers side by side with my husband. It is always the moment that I see the finish line that my emotions bubble over. In Melbourne, we see this early and still have a full lap of Albert Park Lake to complete before we cross the finish. I started to choke up and managed to say to him “Now you will see the other side of this”
Coming home as a team ... Photo credit to Josh who seriously needs a Go Pro!
We rode the last 300 meters hand in hand. We crossed the line in a sea of tears – that quickly see-saw from happy to tears and back to happy. It is high emotion and for me, it is one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced. To see family and friends there who have travelled in to see us finish was the most amazing! Family and Friends who have supported us every kilometer of the long journey. Family and Friends who have helped us achieve our dream. And Family and Friends who we ride for.  Every hug starts and ends with a smile. And that moment in the middle where we embrace, something special happens and with unspoken words, I know I have made a difference to them.
We did it - for those who can't
This is my prize. This is the medal that will hang around my neck and will become part of my story! This is my thrill and this is what makes me feel like I have won the greatest prize of all. When I get home, I will wash my jersey and detach my name tags from my bike. And together, they are stored as a pride of place in my history.

The Reason I Ride is to make a difference. And I know I am doing that.
To those who can fight no more.  
To honor those who lost the fight.
To give strength to those who need it most.
I have the guts and the determination to dig deep. I always find the will to continue on.
And I know in my heart of hearts I MADE A DIFFERENCE.
Team Failla do it together in Melbourne

And a massive thanks to Liv/giant and Giant Hampton for all of your support leading up to this years event. You guys make such a difference to us!!!!

And for mum - I wore red socks just for you ... and took a little time out on Saturday evening alone to recognise that you were still there with me.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Ride to Conquer Cancer - Sydney

Ride to Conquer Cancer Sydney is going to be that one ride in my cycling CV that will define me.

It was an event that I was really looking forward to. As with all of our RTCC events, the actual ride is the time where I get to enjoy the hard work I have put in to fund-raise and be there. It is my time to pay tribute to my Angels and Fighters and time to catch up with people who also come together to make a difference to the future of Cancer. And it is a time where I get to meet up with my team - The Vision Crusaders and we share in the experience of ticking off another ride in our dreams of completing the Grand Slam!

But 4 days before the event, my world changed. At 6:37pm on Monday October 7, I answered a call no-one wants to make and no-one wants to receive. It was my dad. He said "I'm really sorry Rebecca. Your mother has died"

6:37pm 07/10/2013.

Mum had gone to bed on Sunday night. She was tired from a busy weekend and fell into a deep sleep that she would never wake from. Aged 62 years. Too young to just go to sleep and never wake up.

Only 24 hours after this news, I would also learn that our Team Captain from Vision Crusaders was being hospitalised with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. This was news I could not even think about as I was afraid that too much devastating news would take it's toll on me. Klaus was going to be in good hands and had the whole team to rally around him. All I was capable of saying is that I would be there to ride for him in Sydney. 

So where did I find the strength to actually ride 200kms 4 days after losing my mum? (NB - it was only 160kms) Simple - from the people around me. From my family who reassured me it was OK to go and it is what Mum would have wanted. From my amazing network of friends who all supported my decision to continue to Ride to Conquer and encouraged me every step of the way. But mainly for my Angels families and Fighters who see me ride for them. It gives them the strength and determination to not quit their fight and provides hope that one day there will be a more positive future for those who have to face Cancer. People like Klaus!  

Deliberately, I am keeping this blog short (for my standards). Quite simply, I did what I had to do with RTCC Sydney. And most of it I did on auto pilot. The only significant difference is that I had my first big stack. Both Mav and I came off worse for wear, but some repairs to us both saw us soldier on for the event.

But how this ride will define me is that I did not give up or quit when things got tough. And I am positive it could not have been any harder on me! I was given many excuses to quit and walk away from this ride. But I didn't. Both Mav and I will carry scars from Sydney forever, but this is our reminder that we will overcome everything. 

There was one photo taken of me at the start line and for me it shows exactly how I was feeling.  
Photo Courtesy of Julie Leitch
This photo shows how much RTCC Sydney weighed on my shoulders. And it shows me trying to draw on everything just to get me through. 

And at the finish line, I let my emotions go! I did a great job at keeping them all bottled up over the whole weekend, but once it was over, it was time!  

Photo Courtesy of Julie Leitch

Photo Courtesy of Julie Leitch

If this ride is to define me, it will be my courage that got me through. And I find it interesting that I mentioned in my last blog,  "Many people who have displayed great courage have remained in history as heroes" 

I am not sure what I did was heroic, but the below message is a treasured photo that I will cherish forever! 

Thanks Carol xo
Massive thanks needs to go to the following people:

  • Jo Hall and every single Liv/giant lady!
  • Every single member of the Vision Crusaders including Julie Leitch for your support over the weekend
  • Special mention to Nicole for being there at night when I needed you. And to Dani who made me laugh!
  • To Norm Douglas and Jess Douglas. While the 3am sleep monsters were not after me, I was kept entertained with updates from Norm throughout the night with Jess' progress at WEMBO! Virtual cheering also became my distraction!
  • Everyone who sent messages in any form to help me out and give me the encouragement I needed.
  • To everyone for the hugs - especially Baxter who made a special trip to hug it out!

And to my family for giving me the space to do what I needed to do despite everything that was happening. I did it tough without you there, but I am sure it will make me stronger! And I did mum proud!!!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Team Work!

9 days until I leave for Sydney. And yes, I have already started packing my bag. If I was to take anything away from my first interstate cycling adventure it is to pack less. 2 full days is spent in lycra, with a helmet on my head, sweating through 200kms. Therefore clothes, a hair brush and makeup are not even optional items. They are now known as excess baggage charge. Beyond a change of socks for day 2, toiletries and a tracksuit (doubling as PJ's) .. there is not a great deal that one needs to take. 

As I start to get excited for my Ride #2 on the RTCC calendar of events, I am also noticing the other activities of my fellow team mates. 15 of the Vision Crusaders are riding in  Sydney - 14 of us are from interstate. We are now talking daily to coordinate flights, taxi transfers, accommodation, dining options, support crew, what Black Milk leggings everyone is wearing and what colour nails the girls will have. (For the record - I am awaiting the surprise delivery from Black Milk Clothing, and my nails are Fluro Pink for October - National Breast Cancer month) We also share the up's and down's of fundraising .. given this is the only way we get to ride! 

The true essence of team is on constant display as we all try to help one another out. 

Beyond this, my other team in Liv/giant is also displaying hype in the ranks as our sisters all start preparing for events taking place this same weekend. 

Jessica Douglas - who will be defending her dual World Championship title at the WEMBO 24 hour Solo MTB Championship in Canberra. Yes - Jess will race her Mountain Bike for 24 hours ... even after almost 18 months I still can't get my head around that one! 

Kacey Willoughby, Catherine Thiele, Georgie Camakaris and Kristy Craft - all heading to Hawaii for Ironman (or should that be IronChick!) These girls will do a 180km bike ride ... after they swim 3.8km in the ocean and before they complete a 42km run! And they will all probably do it in under 10 hours. 

And we can add to this the girls who will be participating in the Shipwreck Coast - National Road Series race - notably Nicole Whitburn and all the girls who are out training for other events coming up in the next few months. That is right people, cycling / tri season is upon us! 

My Melbourne based RTCC team Fighting Back is also getting very excited with a lot of first timers ready to plunge into their first serious ride. Like me 12 months ago, this is the first taste of a cycling event they will have. And as a co Team Captain, I am doing what I can to calm the nerves and reassure everyone that they will be OK! 

Today I read an article posted on Facebook by the one and only Jess Douglas. 7 things Outstanding Leaders do Differently. Have a read!! And it got me thinking about how far I have come in the last 12 months. Number 4 stuck in my mind. 

4. They act with courage despite having fear

Outstanding leaders are admired for their courage. Many people who have displayed great courage have remained in history as heroes.
But what made these people different wasn’t their lack of fear. On the contrary. They felt fear just like any other human being. What set them apart was their ability to feel that fear and act despite having it.
Outstanding people have the same fears, doubts, inner conflicts and mixed emotions like everyone. But they have learned to follow their vision, no matter what they feel. They know they’re taking action for a bigger cause and  that vision inspires them to keep going even in the face of fear.
It’s not that they ignore their fear. In fact, they acknowledge it – since they admit their weaknesses and are confortable with exposing vulnerability – but they do whatever is more important for them and they don’t allow fear to paralyze them to inaction. They use fear as a catalyst that propels them in the desired direction.
With the help of the powerful leaders around me, I have faced my fears. I have displayed courage but most of all I have believed in myself. It doesn't make the fear disappear. But self belief has been the one thing that has changed my life. Why else would I have thought it was possible to raise $12,500 individually and ride 1000kms in RTCC events alone this year. (OK - I have not actually achieved either yet, but I will!

So here I am, about to appear on the starting line in 10 more sleeps. And I stand on the same line as my sisters. We will all await the starting signals and we will head off on an endurance test matched perfectly with our level of dedication for the sports that we love so much. I will ride, not race, through the suburbs of Sydney. Jess will race though the singletrack of Mt Stromlo and Kacey, Catherine, Georgie and Kristy will be covering 225kms of swimming, riding and running - in Hawaii! 

And right behind all of us will be our teams who got us there. Our support crews and all of the people that gave us the strength and encouragement to believe in ourselves.  And I know at the end of my Day 1 when I get to have a meal before trying to sleep on a yoga mat in a tent, I will be thinking of the great Jess Douglas who will be fighting her "3am sleep monstors" as she steers her Trusty Lusty through the dark tracks of Canberra. And as I think of Jess, someone out there will be thinking of me knowing that if they too believe in themselves, they one day could do what I do. 

This is one of the things I love most with what I do. Knowing that no matter what line we toe and wait for a starters gun, the sisterhood I share with the teams around me will never paralyse me into inaction. 

So thanks to all the teams who have been there for me - 
Liv/giant Australia : YOU CHICKS ROCK! 
Vision Crusaders : Your dedication to a cause so close to many has nothing but admiration from me. We have done it the hard way, but we have done it! 
Fighting Back : I am so proud of each and everyone of you and can't wait to celebrate Melbourne with you all. 
And the best team of all - TEAM FAILLA. I will never get sick of hearing "GO MUMMY GO!" 

So here is to 9 days time as I leave with Maverick and a small bag of essential items! 

Oh - best I start training. All the other girls are tapering :)