I am pleased to report that I completed the 200 km Melbourne Ride to Conquer Cancer without difficulty. It was a relief that my knee, after blowing up ten days earlier, gave me no grief at all.
Day 1 Saturday began at Albert Park Lake with an opening ceremony where it was announced that over $4.3 million dollars were raised for Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
I was then privileged to be introduced to the rostrum to tell a bit of my story, concluding with:
It is their commitment to PROACTIVE cancer research, treatment and care that makes Peter Mac special! That is why I am so happy to be a patient at Peter Mac! That is why we are here today to support Peter Mac!
There was a massive cheer from the 1223 riders who were ready to go, and dozens approached me afterwards and said that my words were motivational. Many riders are cancer survivors, and we either had a yellow flag stick on our bikes, or wore yellow flag pins. There were many teams, including medical staff at Peter Mac, which raised more than $25,000. We led the riders out around the lake and then with a tailwind down along Port Phillip Bay towards Frankston.
The staff, crew and volunteers did a fantastic job catering for us at pit-stops and lunch. The signage and traffic control volunteers made sure we didn’t get lost. In the Mornington Peninsula we rode up some long but gentle hills. The weather held and with the first 100 kms completed, I arrived at Hastings just after 1 pm when the rain started. After checking my bike into the storage pen, I headed straight into the massage tent for some enjoyable pain!
All riders shared 2-person tents set out in rows on a grass field. My duffle-bag arrived by truck and I made myself at home. I felt comfortable enough to go for a quiet walk along the Western Port foreshore, where I knew a handful of geocaches were hidden.
I returned to the main marquee to have many conversations with fellow riders and staff. There were sad stories of relatives and friends lost to cancer, but also inspiring stories from several who had beaten the disease. There were many handshakes, hugs and kisses. There was a presentation by one of the 520 clinical researchers and staff at Peter Mac who explained how the donated funds from the previous Ride had helped her get the equipment she needed for her investigations. The last rider arrived at camp shortly after 5 pm, and was given a mighty cheer. By 8 pm I was well fed and talked out, so retired to much-needed sleep. Apparently there were a few riders trying to sleep in nearby tents who didn’t bring earplugs!
On Day 2 Sunday we awoke at stupid o’clock to amplified announcements. After a quick breakfast we packed our gear up. I had feared that I would be terribly foggy, as is my typical morning state without testosterone. But at 6:40 am I was alert and on my bike heading back towards the City.
It was drizzling and cold, but I had gloves, goggles and two warm layers under my Ride jersey. I was in much better condition than I had expected. Without too much effort, I managed the hills across the Mornington Peninsula, but kept to low gears and didn’t fuss about the speedsters overtaking me.
I got a headache, which surprised me since I was keeping myself hydrated. Then I realised that in my rush I’d missed my morning coffee! Doh! Into the medical tent at lunch to get some paracetamol!
Once we got past a cruel hill at Mt Eliza (where I could not stand up and peddle without losing grip on wet pavement) and some inclines into Frankston, it was a 45 km flat-line to the end. The sun was out by then too, which lifted everyone’s spirits. Sail-boats were out on Port Phillip Bay, but the wind was light and not into my smiling face.
I stopped at every pit-stop to fuel up and chat with other riders and the volunteers, who continued to offer fantastic encouragement. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by happy, gregarious people, which really motivated me to rise to the occasion.
At the final stop only 18 kms from home, I rang my good friend Ray to hurry himself and his truck to the finish because I was arriving much earlier than expected. At 11 am I coasted under the finish gantry and big screen where MC Meredith (who’d introduced me at the start) gave me a huge welcome to the cheers of everyone waiting for their loved ones.
I was certainly spent by the end, as was evident when a video camera was pointed at me and nothing came out of my mouth at all! I think I eventually said good things, but I have no recollection! I was chuffed to be greeted with hugs from a former neighbour, and then Ray arrived to get me home and serve me beer from his esky. What a champion!
Thank you to everyone who supported me in this ride and donated to Peter Mac! I think a couple of postal donations are still to be accounted, but to date my campaign has reached $6,140, which is well over my target. While I was on the road, I received many SMS and Facebook messages of encouragement from all over the world, which really lifted me.
That 200 km course was the longest I’ve ever ridden in two days. I now know that the tracking on my website didn’t work as advertised, but at least you know where we went. Technology, meh! Due to my training and a light-weight road bike, I didn’t have to spend nearly as long as most riders on the saddle. The final finisher came through five hours after me.
The strain we put ourselves through on the Ride is symbolic of the physical and mental strain that we face enduring difficult cancer treatment. Having spent a weekend surrounded by people who exuded happiness with every breath, even when having to work much harder than me, I am determined now to keep that positive energy up and worry a little less about my own dilemmas.
I don’t plan on fund-raising and riding again next year, but I will definitely work for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in some capacity. After all, I am depending on Peter Mac for my survival.
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