EyesUp Rolling #6 – Slow Down in front

This cycling journey has been full of surprises.  Last weekend I found myself at the front of the peloton about 15 kms into our 100km training ride.  Given it was 10 weeks to the day since I picked up my bike for the first time, this was surprising in itself.  However what came next was even more of a shock – a call came from the back “Slow Down in Front”. Seriously?!  Never in my wildest cycling fantasies did I ever expect such a call to be directed at me.

Actually to tell the truth I never really had any cycling fantasies.  Taking on the challenge to ride the Westpac Tour 200, 300 kms over 3 days, my aspiration was simply to make it to the starting line and reach my ambitious fundraising target.  With less than 2 weeks to go it looks like I’m odds on to make it – now the hardest days of training are done, it’s time to regroup and rest up for the big ride.  So the “slow down” call has come at the perfect time to prompt some more considered reflection and importantly, to remind me to appreciate what I have around me.

Caught up in the mad maelstrom of the past few weeks of training, work, more training, getting kids back to school, training again, fundraising, physio, more work, getting kids to sport, yet more training, I’ve often looked to deep emotional stories to act as inspiration and to focus on the next milestone.  I have driven myself hard for a good cause but still tried to do everything else… I have forgotten what I learnt a few years ago about the importance of slowing down.

This week marks 6 years since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes.  My life was somewhat in disarray at that time as well, and I was being treated for anxiety and depression.  As part of  my recovery, I realised the power in asking those around for help when I needed it, stopping to smell the roses along the way, and learning to appreciate the present moment more than I ever had before.

The beauty of the peloton, as described in EyesUp Rolling #4, is that it is more powerful together than the sum of its parts.  Riders at the front might be trying to get their as fast as they can, but if the peloton splits those behind will need to work 30% harder.  So the “Slow Down” call is part of ensuring we continue to help each other by sticking together and riding to the pace of the slowest.

Off the bike, the Tour group has formed a close community,a support network with great encouragement shown by more experienced riders towards the novices, and connections forged over chats during rides and coffee stops that will endure beyond the event.

I have achieved my training goals and my ambitious fundraising target.  Time to slow down and enjoy what is going on.  Stop occasionally on a morning ride and snap a photo of the sunrise.  Live in the moment, but recognise how far I’ve come.

EyesUp…….

(even though I’ve reached my target you can still donate to the cause here!)

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EyesUp Rolling #5 – Tired & Emotional, but still determined

Ask anyone who’s trained hard for anything…. those moments come when it all gets on top of you and it becomes difficult to work out how you are ever going to reach your goal.

I started out being very unsure of my ability to even master the road bike.  Then I doubted whether I would get fit enough to ride 1oo kms a day…. and I was at a loss as to how I was going to meet my fundraising target of $10,000.   It remains a struggle to climb out of bed before 5am for three or more days a week to ride for 2 hours plus … and get the laundry done, get the kids to school, and be a nice person around the house, even before turning up at work with a smile on my face.  A meltdown is just one spilt coffee or forgotten sports uniform away……

During and after a long, taxing ride is a good time to reflect again on the reasons for doing something this tough, and to draw on the emotion of personal stories.  The photo above is of the beautiful Sarah, who I was fortunate enough to know for a couple of years…. best described in her own words from her blog:

“I am a journalist by day, blogger by night and lover of ice cream at all times. I used to edit Girlfriend magazine….Amongst other things I like swimming in the ocean, sunny days, riding my bike, wine, dark chocolate, a good book, great design, live music, laughing. I never met a piece of cheese I didn’t like.”

Sarah died in July 2013 from Ovarian cancer which she had battled for 2 years.  She was 39. She was married to my husband’s brother, the love of her life.  She tried all avenues to beat the cancer discovered when they were trying to start a family.  Ultimately the cancer was detected too late…. she maintained her positive attitude and dignity, passing away at home on her own terms on a Saturday afternoon.  The finality of the events that evening remain with me, breaking the news to family and coming to terms with such a loss and its impacts.

Sah was described by her colleagues as “grace personified” during her battle…. but she was not ready to die, and we were not ready to lose her.

Research into early detection of ovarian cancer remains vital to improve survival rates.

I will never be a cancer researcher, but I can raise awareness and money in support of those who are.  I am determined to smash my fundraising goal and make it to the end of the Tour 200 in support of Tour De Cure.

Let’s face it, just like finding breakthroughs in cancer research, if it was easy everyone would do it.

EyesUp and stay focussed on the goal….

Please donate via this link and read more about Tour De Cure and the Westpac Tour 200

EyesUp Rolling #4 – the power of the peloton

Riding around Sydney on your road bike, even on your own, is fun and good exercise.  Add in a couple of riding buddies and you get the opportunity to have a bit of a chat.  But add in another 20+ people and you have a peloton.  This is when it starts to get serious.

We’ve all watched big cycling road races like the Tour De France, where the pack sticks together and chases down some poor lone rider who has dared to strike out on his own.  Even when race teams are competing against each other, the peloton is used to move everyone along at a faster pace.  The load is shared in order to get through the distance in the most efficient way.

Riders in organised road races have the luxury of a road closed to other traffic.  Training for the Westpac Tour 200 on the roads of Sydney is a different kettle of fish altogether – and the peloton is force to be reckoned with.  Get 20 riders in formation, 2 by 2, riding tight on each other’s back wheel, and the peloton takes up the same space as a semi trailer on the road, having the right to a whole lane.  But riding in a peloton requires intense concentration and the ability to speak a whole new language – both verbally and in hand signals for when you are too tired to talk. (Read the Tour De Cure etiquette guide for more detail if you need it!)

Some calls are obvious – a shout of “hole middle” meaning there is a hole in the road you might like to avoid – or “car back” meaning a car is coming around the group.  Others are plain confusing until you get used to them – “Over” means over to the RIGHT – but only gets called from the BACK of the peloton where there is visibility to the front that all is safe.  And the signal for moving to single file, holding your hand straight up on your head, is bizarrely the same as the signal for “SHARK” if you’ve ever been scuba diving…..

The true power in the peloton is the fact that as a group, you are more powerful than on your own.  Stronger riders rotate through the front, driving the speed and buffering those behind from headwinds.  Weaker or struggling riders travel directly behind this “engine room” in what is known as the armchair or “business class” – taking full advantage of the wind break and drag from the engine room in front.  Bringing up the rear is another set of stronger riders who ensure the peloton stays together and make key calls as other vehicles come past.

Riding in a peloton reminds me how individuals can be organised to make a difference to each other.  Charities such as Tour De Cure are based on this principal – an idea to raise funds for cancer research started over a coffee chat has resulted in funding for key research breakthroughs in treatment.  I’ve also been fortunate to be involved with another fantastic cancer charity, the Nelune Foundation,  and I will be dedicating a day of my Tour 200 ride to the amazing Nelune and Anna,the Nelune Foundation founders.

I can’t do credit to Nelune and Anna’s story here, but this clip from a few years ago will give you an overview.   The reason I will ride for them is to honour their commitment to making a difference, to finding areas which are gaps in the system, and rallying support through their networks to fund ever increasingly ambitious projects.  The power they call on is simply to engage people in the story, and to develop genuinely human relationships which create a groundswell of support for their causes.  From grass roots patient transfer services for chemo treatments, right up to world class cancer centres, the Nelune Foundation seeks to help patients fight cancer with dignity.   They have previously benefitted from Tour De Cure grants for their projects and I hope will again in the future.

The human relationships being formed during the Tour 200 will enrich our lives for a long time to come.  The power of our peloton is people power, and together we ride stronger than on their own.  The power of Tour De Cure & the Nelune Foundation is also people power, everyday human beings striving hard to make a difference.  Sure, there’s a lot of emotion in that statement, but also a lot of facts and real results to show this is worth all the effort.

Donations to this ride will got straight to Tour De Cure where the next breakthrough can’t be far away – 18 cancer breakthroughs have been directly attributed to research funded by Tour De Cure.

EyesUp and feel the power…..

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