Monday, 29 October 2012

Epic Ride, Epic Weekend, Epic Cause

This will be a difficult post to encapsulate all the emotion, energy and effort into words, but as I am one never to be lost for words I will do my best but please excuse the length of it, it will be a doozy.  Those that follow me on Twitter and are in my facebook groups will know that this weekend I took on the second hardest physical challenge in my life (the hardest being Kokoda in 2006) which saw myself and my team of 5 others including my brave and amazing wife (more to come about that later) ride 200kms over the weekend to raise money for Peter Mac Cancer Hospital.

We have been preparing for this for 6 months and this has been the catalyst for us getting fit and joining the 12WBT to be 100% honest with myself, but still it was a huge distance and there were doubts at times and I wondered how I would be able to do it over 2 days.  We have been out raising funds through a number of different ways and I managed to raise a total of $6540 and Julie managed approx. $3600 which is amazing.  Our team of 6 raised just over $26K which is just unbelievable.  We are so proud of our efforts and so grateful to all the wonderful people that have donated.  It means so much to us.  To all the people that donated to me, it has blown me away.  Some of them I don’t even know, but knowing the cause impacted them they did it anyway.  Just shows you how important it is.  Saturday morning saw the culmination of all the hard work, both on and off the bike, with a very early start to the day.

Early night to bed on Friday, which was hard as we were so excited, but as we were leaving home at 5am we needed it.  We dropped off the bikes and bags and loaded them onto the trucks and were waiting with the other 2000 odd riders to get on the road.  The excitement or anticipation could be felt in the crowd as well as the emotion.  The most amazing thing about this ride was that it was not about how fast you could do it, how fit you were or how much money you had raised, it was all about the cause.  People of all body shapes and sizes were there in lycra outfits riding for loved ones that had survived the battle, some have lost the battle and some still going through it.  It was emotional stuff.  There were tears prior to the start from some, but they were tears of joy as we were trying to do our bit to make a difference.  Might not be much, but it is the least we can do to support the hospital that Julie’s dad is currently undergoing his treatment in.  After the obligatory speeches we were let loose on the roads at around 7am.  As you can imagine, trying to get 2000 cyclists out of Melbourne is no easy feat, so we were let go in waves.
Nervous but excited prior to Day 1

Needless to say the first part around the lake, through South Melbourne and up the Yarra was slow going.  This continued pretty much until we hit Yarra Boulevard and the hills.  Now we were able to stretch out a bit with all the riders being at differing levels of ability in the hills.  Thankfully at this point I was able to stick with Bec (our team leader) and the Giant girls (Tracey and Corinna, aka Cheap & Nasty).  These ladies are all machines and way out of my league, so they were obviously being nice to me early on.  It was good riding with accomplished cyclists as it taught me a lot and they are pretty good chicks as well.  We found ourselves back on the heading through Fairfield and Ivanhoe to our first pit stop.  We were all there waiting for the rest of the team when Julie and Nicki came in just behind us.  It was at this time where reality really smacked us in the face.  Nicki found out 10 minutes prior to the pit stop that the person she was riding for had passed away that morning.  If we did not know by then why we needed to raise money to find a cure, we sure do now.  It was awesome to see the team rally around Nicki, but she wanted us to do the ride at our own pace and let her continue.  She is an amazing person.
The next part of our ride was where we started heading towards the north eastern parts of town where I knew there were going to be some hills and sadly after trying to keep up with the girls I was shown my limitations and they were gone up some of those hills.  It was not worth it for me to push with only 35kms done on the first day and Corinna was an animal tackling those.  I made it to Research, almost half way on day 1 still intact with no dramas or mechanical issues.  Time to refuel and get ready for the real hills that were about to hit us.  Little did I know they were a lot sooner than I had anticipated.  Julie met up with us at this pit stop and was not a happy camper.  I have no idea why as she was in a mood that meant it best I not talk to her, so I soon jump on the beast and off I went to tackle my own issues, HILLS!!!!  The first big climb was immediately out the pit stop and it was not a nice one at all.  After this we had nasty little downhill on wet road to a slippery roundabout (so the volunteers were telling us) and then the next monster which was to be the big one for the day.  I started up this hill full of gusto determined to make it to the top only to find that my granny gears were not available.  This meant I was really struggling when I reached the last third of the hill and unfortunately had to get off and walk.  Not what I was planning to do but I had no option otherwise I would have fallen off.  In the grand scheme of things it was not a big deal, my main focus was to make sure that I finished the 2 days not burn myself out 50kms into the ride.  After this there were lots of rolling hills, which meant I was having to be a little more risky on the downhill sections and travel quicker than I wanted to on slippery roads in order to have the speed to get up the other side.  Thankfully I rolled into Lilydale for the lunch stop and that meant 76kms down and a chance to fuel up and also get my gears checked by the mechanic.
Me at lunch on Day 1

With an amazing lunch came some sunshine, which was perfect as it was a bit cold during the morning and overcast as well.  With a fixed bike it was now time to tackle the last 24kms and look forward to a rest, a beer and a feed.  On the way to the finish there was another pit stop at Domain Chandon, of all places.  I wondered how many ladies stopped there and didn’t leave.  I thought Julie might have been one of them, but sadly for here she was already in a vehicle being driven past it with her day being over due to injury.  I finally made it to Healesville thinking my day was over only to find the camp site was 3kms out the other side and up another blasted hill.  Head down, bum up and off we go.  We I finally arrived not only was Bec and Cheap & Nasty waiting to cheer me home but a huge crowd of finishers and volunteers were there cheering for every person that rode in the gates.  It was an amazing experience and one that I will remember for a long time.  Finally off that bike, I put him to bed and went to get the tent set up then get changed and eat.  Food was sensational as was the onsite coffee machines and dessert selection.  Whilst I didn’t have any, the fact that there was quality food available made everyone happy.
Bikes all tucked up for the night

We were tucked up in bed at 8:30 for a good night’s sleep only to have that idea come crashing down with a lot of people deciding to have discussions outside our tent and also there being a competition to see who could snore or fart the loudest.  Let’s just say it was an interesting night.  We were then woken up by some stupid cow who set her alarm for 5am and had it right next to my head in the tent behind.  That mean pretty much everyone in the tent city was up then.  We were not allowed to leave until 6:30am  so we had plenty of time to pack up, eat the hearty brekkie provided and get ready.

Tent city full of activity morning of day 2

Which is what we did and off we headed at around 6:45am for another long and gruelling day.  Let’s just say if we thought all the hills were in day 1 we were very much mistaken.  Day 2 was full of bigger and more gruelling hills with one of them being over 2kms in length.  What were they thinking sending amateur cyclists on this sort of route.  I worked as hard as I could to conquer some of these but even experienced fit cyclists were walking up these hills which made me feel better.  Sadly Julie was not able to ride these hills due to her ankle swelling up but to her credit she tried.  She was taken to the halfway point by the sweep vehicle. 
Now my journey was one that I never expected to be on 8 months ago and I was so proud of my efforts so far.  I was feeling good after 100kms down, legs strong and confident.  During the first part of the morning and 50kms I had proven to myself that I was a lot more mentally and physically stronger than I had given myself credit for.  This was something that tested me in a number of different ways and was really going to get hard as we got nearer to the finish line.  I managed to get to the lunch stop at 74kms but as we took off I experienced a cramp in my right hamstring.  This meant that I was not able to raise my leg to pedal without cramping.  Makes it hard to ride then doesn’t it.  I finally got rid of the cramps and continued on making it through the outer suburbs and into the Yarra Boulevard area on my way home.  I had forgotten the hills that were involved on the boulevard and was not happy about them but as I neared the top of one I could hear cheering and cow bells.  It was all the volunteers at the top and it was the pit stop, which meant I could have a drink, rest and wait for Julie.  I received a text from her telling me she was back on the bike and determined to finish.  I called her and told her I would wait so we would finish together.  I did mention to her that she still had some hills to go up and whilst I expected her to walk them I had forgotten how stubborn she can be.  I waited an hour and bit then thought I would go out onto the road to see if I could see her walking up the hill and give her some support.  I then saw this determined looking figure riding up the hill, which made me so proud.  She was in obviously pain and not feeling the best but she was determined to do this for her dad.  She really is a trooper.  I was so happy that I had waited for her and we would finish this together.
Julie powering up the last hill

After she quickly had a drink and something to eat we jumped back on the bike and knew there were no more hills.  We were only 14kms from the finish, which meant a ride along the Yarra trail and then through some city streets to Albert Park lake and down the finishing tunnel.  We crossed the line together and it was an amazing feeling knowing that we had done it.  I had made the 200kms without incident, proving that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.  I openly admit that I had not done enough training leading into this, especially considering I had not done any hills, but if you want something bad enough you will make it happen.

I sent a tweet after the ride finished to Michelle Bridges to notify her that my SSS was finished and that over the course of the 2 days and 200kms I had managed to burn 10700 calories.  See her response below.
The Guru answering my tweet

It was an emotional ending all round with hugs between team members, congratulations and then getting to meet the reason Bec starting doing this, her brother in law Vince who was told 5 years ago he had 6 months and now he is okay.  Peter Mac helped him and if he had been sick, Bec would not have started her crusade to help Peter Mac and I would never have done this.  Whilst I don’t want anyone to be sick, the fact that we are all wiser and better for it now, Vince included has helped a lot more people and raised $$ and awareness. 
Before I finish off this lengthy post, I would love to thank the volunteers and crew members as they were amazing.  All of them went out of their way to make our weekend the best it could be and their support, cheering and encouragement were sensational.  If anyone is interested in taking part next year, I have already signed up, let me know as we would welcome as many new team members as possible.  You don’t have to be a cyclist, I wasn’t, but it is all about the cause, proving you can do it and helping get rid of this horrible disease.
Proud team at the finish line, mission accomplished

Remember, if your mind can CONCEIVE, and your heart can BELIEVE it, then you can ACHIEVE it.  JFDI!!!!!


  1. So very, very proud of you, and love you more each day xxxxx

  2. You both are absolutely positively INCREDIBLE. You deserve to shout this from the highest mountain. What an achievement, what an experience. You are both rock stars! Congratulations.


    1. Thanks Carol. It was amazing an we are both very proud of our efforts.

  3. Wow Greg,you and Julie are truly amazing people. My dad, and a friends 4 year old daughter are both fighting cancer right now, one day, I hope to be well enough to support them as you and Julie have supported her dad. Awesome effort!!

    1. Thanks Bella. It was a special weekend and that good that we are doing it again. I hope one day you can also do something like this.

  4. Great work, it must feel amazing to have finished

    1. Anne it did feel amazing to finish and it was even better to ride across that line with my wife. She was the one that originally decided to do this, so without her I wouldn't have contemplated it. Now I am hooked.