(for those that don't know Helen is the host of Today Tonight)
http://helenkapalos.com.au/helen-kapalo ... rettyPhoto
And the winner is….teamwork!
I may have mentioned sometime last year, I was given the call up to don lycra.. and just a matter of weeks to master a road bike.. the thought of which brought on night sweats. The result was completing a 200k course over two days for the “Ride to Conquer Cancer”. I met two groups of cyclists during this event which I am now lucky enough to count as good friends. The first group.. a friendly crew of male Italian cyclists I meet up with for the occasional ride. They have even introduced me to their families and I catch up with the boys, their wives and children for group dinners. Its amazing how one small gesture – simply calling out my name to join them for lunch.. has led to such a great connection with these lovely men, both on and off the road.
The second group I met.. Bec, Corrina and Tracey have also become great buddies and as I discovered recently, the ultimate team-mates in a crisis. But I had to find out the hard way. A quick flashback to last year for some context first. It was the Ride to Conquer Cancer again.. and once again I was at another pitstop, on my own, when a group of friendly faces approached. The girls introduced themselves from the LivGiant team, which I had just joined, and asked me if I would like to accompany them back to Melbourne, for the final stretch of the 200k ride. I was chuffed..and we headed back to Melbourne as a group.. in what proved to be an emotional and heartwarming cross to the finish line. You can cover a lot of ground in 50k’s.. and we hit it off instantly.
So after that event, I was approached to become the ambassador for the 2013 Netti Challenge Series – a series of four recreational rides hosted by Cycling Victoria. Each event provides a unique mix of picturesque scenery and testing cycling terrain.. from Marysville to Mt Macedon. The event raises money for the Cancer Council of Victoria.. and the organisers are just ace (Georgia Green u rock!!!). They put together a really feel-good event that caters for cyclists of all levels, which is why they asked me, because if I could do it, anyone could!!. I figured I would be fit and ready by March to complete the longer ride of the first series ride – the Marysville Lake Mountain Challenge. But as often happens, life gets in the way.. and a series of injuries, disrupted life patterns and distractions all halted the momentum that was accumulating to become a moderately fit rider.
So, I found myself at Marysville on the first weekend of March… ready or not.. to tackle the 120k course. My loyal buddies, Corrina, Tracey and Bec.. along with Bec’s husband ‘Mello’short for Carmello… were a formidable race pack… raring to go. The bad news for them: they had me on their team. In the days leading up the race, I had suffered bad case of insomnia due to the rising heat levels in my home.. which wasn’t air conditioned. I had felt a little drained and consequently missed a few alarm calls for early training rides. Boy, did I pay for it. During the first 10 kilometres, disaster struck in the form of a flat tyre. Just another 110 to go… err.. okay. no problemo. But the reality was, this time I just couldn’t keep up with the pack. I was never worried I couldn’t complete the course..(somewhat naively), but I was concerned about my pace.. far slower than normal.
So it became the ride of stop and starts for the rest of the team.. waiting for me to catch up.. how embaressment. By this stage, it had become blazing hot.. the temperature climbing up to thirty degrees by the time we reached the peak of Lake Eildon. I guess I was having a really off day. I have been in teams and witnessed it happening, but never imagined I would fall prey to the simplest of letdowns – plain old tiredness. They say a long course like this can challenge even the most experienced rider… with a series of twists, unmarked roads and long, rolling hills that seem to take forever to push through. Then you add me into the mix…the slow poke.. plugging away.. behind the pack… while every single person on my team fell back to speak with me.. assure me.. comfort me that we were on track and on song. Hell, I even started singing to keep up the faith. I was willing to do anything to stay on course.
At one stage, my feet were so cramped in pain, that during a stop, I threw the bike down and ripped off my shoes.. afraid my toes had been compressed beyond recognition.. They were still there.. and not even blue.. just lacking air..! When you strap on cycling shoes, they are glued to the pedals.. and so are you.. and there isn’t much room to move. Feet slip off the pedals… and you and the bike come crashing down. I started to let out gasps of acute pain in the last 22 kilometres.. wondering how I could keep my focus off the excruciating pain.. and then Tracey, overhearing my huge discomfort, said to me “pain is temporary… quitting is forever”. It was game on.. and the team let me know constantly, they would never leave me behind. It wasn’t in their game plan. Its never in the game plan.
The last 10k’s should have felt exhilarating.. at one stage the girls even threw a bottle of water over me.. They fed me those special sugar gels and bananas and whatever they could access… It wasn’t that my legs had stopped pedalling… they were just heavy with fatigue.. and so slow that I held everyone back. The last kilometre I was crying out in pain… unconvinced the finish was around a few more bends…I needed to stop.. my feet were burning and the pain reverberated throughout my body.. My shoulders, my elbows.. the strangest landscape of pain was emerging all over my body.. and I wondered whether I was shutting down under the sun’s fierce glare. When we all finally reached the finish line… the team made sure we were aligned on approach to cross the finish line and in the spirit of togetherness.. the kind of bond that lets you know you will never truly be alone. My legs began to buckle… then a huge tremble took hold… then we ground to a halt. We had made it. I had made it, thanks to my team. I can never remember coming so close to fading out. It was, for me, a very humbling experience. As one mate who had finished the ride earlier told me.. “its all about the camaraderie.. I’m sure your team loved having you with them. One of my mates bombed out in the last 30kms too, but its a battlefield out there.. you gotta get everybody home”. To Tracey, Bec, Mello and Corrina.. Thank you for getting me home. XXX