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.


  1. Replies
    1. And you are in my band Greg!!! Together we play the tune of hope :)

  2. beautifully said. brought a tear to my eye... I was very moved on Sunday when I stood on the side of the road (roasting in my onesie lol) Seeing the yellow flags on some bikes, knowing that these riders had undergone or were still having treatment made me well up inside and cheer them on harder.
    Seeing your group ride in, i instantly knew who you all were and was pleased to finally meet you.
    Watching the girls I ride with supporting our rider who is a cancer survivor and still having treatment come down the road was a great momment. I was so proud of Nicola for completing the ride.

    amazing people. thank you.


    1. I was also proud of Nikki for completing the ride this year. She was on our team last year and it broke all of hearts when she was not able to complete Day 2. To know she did it this year meant so much to her old team mates.

      It is such an emotional journey that we are all on - and something that as a Vision Crusader gives us such great reward as we are all putting in such hard work to make a difference.

      Thanks Libby and it was also great to meet you :)