Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Cycle of Hope

A retro post from 2008 - lest we forget!

Hi folks

I know you're probably all getting tired of my spam (although I think I've left some people off earlier emails) so this will probably be my last e-mail to wrap up the Cycle of Hope 2008. It's a long one though, so if you have the time grab a cuppa before you continue. If at any stage you're overcome by an urge to donate money (or more money) to help people with cancer or help fund education and research to fight cancer, here's a link to my fund raising web site Although Daffodil Day has been and gone for this year there's no time limit on donations.

The Cycling Continues - Around Mt Taranaki (or The Tour de Food!)
After finishing work on Thursday afternoon, Peter Dickinson, another cyclist and work mate from Wellington, drove to Levin to pick me up and we headed north to New Plymouth, arriving about 10:15pm. We hurriedly checked into our motel and set about preparing food, clothing, drinks, bikes and ourselves for an early start the next day. After another 4:30am wake-up we headed off to the National Bank branch in Devon St to start the ride bright and early at 6am.

It was a mild, overcast Friday morning and we had a dozen riders. As we headed south west out of New Plymouth through the pre-dawn gloom towards Okato we traversed the rolling hills on the north west slopes of the mountain. My tired body struggled a bit with some of the rises but there are no really big uphill grunts so I managed to hang on to the bunch which was cruising at a fairly sedate pace. We had drizzle and showers for a while but it cleared up before it got too miserable and we even started getting a few breaks of sunshine.

A Sticky Bun at Manaia, Morning Tea at Hawera
We made stops at Okato, where one rider made a planned return to New Plymouth, and at Manaia, to repair a cut tire, say 'Hi' to the ladies at the local Daffodil Day collection outside Yarrow's Bakery (world famous in the 'Naki') and so one of our riders could sample a Yarrow's sticky bun. We then carried on to Hawera where we arrived at about 10:45am to a rousing welcome from the National Bank staff who laid on a very nice morning tea. At this point we'd covered 95km so the home baked scones, fruit, biscuits and mini chocolate bars were quickly devoured.

After a good scoff we headed out of town, turning left to head north towards Stratford which was to be our lunch stop. We were escorted out of town by some of the Hawera branch staff who'd dusted their bikes off so they could join us - their support was a nice touch. It was amusing at times too as there was at least one chain that came off and quite a lot of squeaking and rattling from bikes and riders alike! A couple of young chaps stayed with us all the way to Stratford which was a great effort.

Ngaere School, Music to Our Ears
The highlight of the day for most of us was when we made a pre-arranged stop at Ngaere Primary School. The entire school roll were lined up on the front steps and sang us a welcoming song, with guitar accompaniment provided by one of the teachers, as we rode in. There were even kids in pyjamas who were (I presume) meant to be at home sick but were allowed to pop into school to be a part of the occasion! An exchange of greetings and a couple of short speeches followed and they handed us a bag full of money they'd raised through Daffodil Day donations. Cool. Then they sang us another couple of songs, one of which was "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain", and we went on our way after lots of high fives with some of the kids in the front row.

Mobile Donations
An amusing thing happened shortly afterwards when a local farmer, who'd heard the ride being covered on the local radio station, rang Stratford branch to find out when we were due past his place. He then came racing up the road outside us on his 6-wheeler farm buggy, crossed over onto the road shoulder just in front of us and slowed down. We were a little concerned about this activity in such close proximity to our cycling bunch, however, all became clear when he flicked his arm out and handed one of our lead riders a donation as we went past!

Lunch at Stratford
After a very tasty and plentiful lunch at Stratford we headed on up the road, turning off at Inglewood to divert to Waitara, arriving a bit before 3pm, for a final branch visit. Although this meant extra distance we got more food - a great afternoon tea was laid on for us - so I was happy! While we were there a customer walked in wondering what all the bikes and oddly dressed, smelly people were doing. When she found out we were raising money for Daffodil Day she made an impromptu $50 donation saying her mother had cancer so she would like to support our efforts. Hopefully her mother will benefit from some of the money raised in Taranaki.

Beer and Chips at New Plymouth
Having covered over 195km we arrived back at National Bank New Plymouth just before 4pm as planned, and were welcomed by some of the staff along with a bag of hot potato wedges and a cold beer - very nice they were too! We spent an hour or so chin-wagging and telling lies about how we all felt fresh as a daisy right to the end of the ride, then went our separate ways. Peter Dickinson and I argued light-heartedly about who should go and get our vehicle as it was parked a couple of kilometres away and we were feeling that we'd done enough exercise for the day. After agreeing a taxi was a really good idea I managed to score a lift with one of the Rural guys from the branch who was going home in that direction. Whew! We scored a shower at the branch then headed off on the long drive home.

This had been a great days riding. The scenery was nice, good roads, no big hills, generally good traffic (very light on the western side of the mountain, moderate elsewhere), and we had a great bunch of people. I enjoyed the company of everyone on the ride; a number were actually Taranaki customers not Bank staff. It was great to have customers involved and it made for more diverse conversation. Special thanks to Kara for initiating and Selwyn for organising the ride and helping to make sure we all got around safely.

Selwyn also organises the annual Yarrows Taranaki Cycle Challenge so if you're looking for a fun, scenic bike ride to have a go at I'd recommend this one, 24th January 2009 is the next date. It's a great ride, especially the first half which is on quiet, rolling to flat country roads with views of the sea and the mountain - well, on a good day anyway. The mountain had it's beanie on, no doubt due to the gentle but cool southerly breeze so we didn't set eyes on it all day.

Some Stats
The following figures are totals for the three days of riding:
Time on the bike - 25hrs 5mins
Kilometres covered - 705.62
Calories burnt (HRM estimate) - 12,238

After a weekend at home I've had a chance to let the body rebuild a bit. I got the kids to their sports on time all weekend and even managed to limp/crawl around the lawns behind the mower yesterday. Apart from moderately sore leg and hip muscles the main problems are a sore behind (no surprises there really) and sore ribs. This latter injury occurred at the Levin velodrome when I was trying to get on my bike, i.e. when it wasn't even moving! Long story short, to do with clip less pedals and being a bit tired and lacking concentration. Must have looked hilarious but fortunately nobody was looking.

So what have I learnt/achieved from all this cycling silliness?

    I've confirmed my suspicion that riding for hours in circles around a velodrome is INCREDIBLY BORING! A comment accompanying one of the donations on my fundraising web site implied that it was nice that I got to do what I love while raising money. Well, after two days of riding round a velodrome I can tell you I was seeing the irony in that well-meant comment! I was starting to wonder whether I enjoyed cycling at all. Happily though, the Taranaki ride on Friday made up for it and more, despite the fact I was very saddle sore and tired for most of it.
    I've met some nice people and look forward to involvement with them again during the COH 2009.
    Based on that first point I have, to a very small degree, emulated some of the inconvenience, pain, mental and physical challenge (but not the emotional roller coaster) a cancer sufferer has to deal with. It may seem perverse but to suffer a bit was actually a goal and something that I hoped would add credence to the funds I raised. This doesn't make me unusual or special in any way. Anyone setting out in an endurance event has to accept hardship along the way, relying on determination and 'character' to see them through. The difference between an endurance athlete and a cancer sufferer is that an endurance athlete is doing it by choice and can 'pull the pin' at any time if it gets too much. A cancer sufferer has no choice and cannot pull the pin unless accepting defeat. Defeat for an athlete and defeat for a cancer sufferer are two very different things.
    Everyone should act on the advice to eat more fruit and vege, especially greens. They are the best and cheapest protection we have against developing cancer and provide numerous other health benefits.
    Hopefully I've raised the profile of the Cancer Society and the work it does among the people on this distribution list. Please share this information with people you speak to.
    Most importantly, with your help, I've raised nearly $1,200 to help fight a disease that affects one in three people in our country. In this way I know I have made a very small but tangible difference in our community and to the health and happiness of fellow New Zealanders. Thanks for being a part of that.


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