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The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer – Perth 2012

29 October 2012

Last weekend, I rode 200km in two days.

As you might know, I have been preparing and training for this fundraising cycling event for the last 11 months and to have the moment FINALLY ARRIVE was both mind blowing and terrifying!

I spent the few days leading up to the event being very excited, nervous and unable to sleep. I even had cycling dreams! You know you’re a serious cyclist when you have cycling dreams haha.

The night before the event, I packed my bag, my sleeping bag, my tent mat, my bike and all my gear… I put everything into my car and I was all ready to go.

After that, I felt very calm and I was REALLY looking forward to the next day. A bit like Christmas really. Or like I was getting married next morning. THAT’S how excited I was. I went to bed at 8:30 pm.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

The next morning, I woke up at 4am. I leapt out of bed in complete darkness, and went about getting ready.

I met my team mates at McCallum Park, just south of Perth City. The sun was rising over the river and there were hundreds of people with their bikes. There was pumping music, breakfast was being served, and there was an incredible buzz in the air.

I strolled through the crowd with a huge grin on my face – knowing we all were about to do something pretty damn cool.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

At 6:30am it was time to shuffle into position for the opening ceremony.

It was announced that there were 1219 riders in total, raising an amazing $4.6 million! Holy cow!

There were a few inspirational speeches where one young lady shared her cancer story… which was so heart-wrenching and moving that I had tears streaming down my face. I looked around and saw that everyone else was sniffing and crying too.

It was such a powerful – yet unusual moment – because here I was, sitting on my bike, looking up at the rising sun, squished together with thousands of other people on their bikes, everyone was dressed up in yellow lycra, helmets and sunglasses, everyone was crying… and it was as if I could feel everyone’s heartbeat sharing this one resolve – we’re doing this to conquer cancer.

Phew. It was a heavy moment.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

And off we went.

It was a slow start, because there were so many riders on the road.

We practically scooted our bikes over the start line… then for the first 3kms we were riding very slowly at 10km/hr. Everyone was finding their own pace and everyone was being courteous, careful and trying not to crash into each other.

After that the pace picked up and ahhh the ride was fantastic! There were so many people lined up along the roads cheering us on and waving flags and banners.

My group of 12 was split up because of all the traffic lights. But I stayed with a few people from my group and we rode leisurely at 25 – 28km/hr.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

At the first 25km pit stop, the queue for the toilets was so loooooong.

However we were well looked after with free fruit, muesli bars, biscuits, water and electrolytes.

Our team gathered together again for a quick chat and soon we were back on our bikes.

There were a lot of instances when I was separated from my team mates again and I was riding with complete strangers. But that was fine, all the strangers seemed like friends, and we all just chatted merrily and enjoyed the ride.

I was actually really surprised by how many “non-serious” bike riders were participating. There was lots of people on hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, fixies (single gear bikes), and even cute, stylish bikes with baskets. Lots of people I chatted to, said they had never ridden further than 50kms in one go.

But hey – they were here, riding for a cause. And really, this was a ride not a RACE.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

After another 25km, we stopped at the next pit stop for lunch. Chicken wraps never tasted so good!

We stopped for 40 minutes and on hind sight, I think we “rested” for too long.

Usually on our group training rides, we don’t stop for lunch. We don’t eat heavy foods, nor do we stop for such a long period of time.

So by now – sitting on the soft grass, in the warm sunshine for half an hour – my body was moving into sleepy, shut-down mode… and I needed a coffee pronto!

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

The weather was just brilliant.

Beautiful, big, bright, blue skies, warm sunshine, a gentle breeze.

And the road was just long, straight and flat!

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

This is Cheryl and I, riding along with big smiles!

I was wearing arm warmers (and these are the summer versions, called, sun sleeves) which are just like socks for your arms. They are SPF40+ and you’re supposed to wear them to protect your arms from the sun… but um, I was really hot, so I pushed them down and felt a bit like a rock star.

Also my husband drove himself and the kids down to meet me along the way. They stopped by the side of the road to wave, cheer, hoot and take photos of me as I rode past! Such sweeties!

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

I arrived at the camp grounds (actually the football oval in the town of Pinjarra) and it looked awesome!

A HUGE thanks to all the volunteers and crew members whole gave up their time to make the whole event run smoothly. For example, all the tents were set up by kids from the local primary school – over 600 two man tents!  The sleeping gear of every rider had been trucked down before we arrived, and there were volunteers unpacking it, and helping weary riders carry it to their tents. And guess what? The people unpacking the trucks (in the hot sun) were all volunteers… and some of them were scientists who work at the Research Institute.

Day One’s ride was a total of 97kms and it took me 4.5 hours of riding, with 2.5 hours of rest. Total time to complete was 7 hours.

Of my all my group mates, I arrived last because…… I stopped several times to take photos so I could upload them to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram :P

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

There were a LOT of bikes. From super expensive bikes, to a funny, old kids ‘chopper’ bike with small wheels. They looked like insects, nesting for the night.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

Speaking of resting insects, I found my tent and lay down to take an afternoon nap.

I was only looking up at the sky for a few seconds before I became unconscious.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

As evening fell, everyone had showers, a massage, joined in the yoga tents, and slowly gathered in the main tent, for a beer and to eat dinner. In the picture above, notice someone is having a nap at the dinner table, after having a nap in their tent.

Later there were some speeches and a band played. It was such a fabulous atmosphere. It was like a fun cross between camping, being at a really quiet rock concert, and having joined an army with a yellow uniform and excellent food.

During the speeches, someone shared how cancer had touched his life…how he slowly watched cancer defeat his best friend.

I sat in the crowd and looked around. I looked at people’s faces. Faces of total strangers. There were so many. In that moment, it made me appreciate that everyone had a story. Everyone around me, at some point in their life, cried heavy, silent tears for someone they loved and lost.

If there was one part of the Ride that I will remember forever, it would be that one.  I knew that my tears are not alone.

Phew, another heavy moment.

I went to bed at 8:30pm and fell asleep promptly! But I woke up at 2AM with a really sore back and I couldn’t get back to sleep because – there was an orchestral chorus of SNORING going on in several of the tents around me. So in that way, it was just like being at home :)

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

By 4AM I decided to “wake up” which was a good decision because I was first in line for the toilets, bathroom, coffee (they were damn fine coffees!) and the hot breakfast.

I don’t usually eat such a hearty meal before a long ride, but I was soooo hungry, and who can resist the smell of bacon? The breakfast spread was amazing.

I was quite worried about my ride for Day Two… because of my poor sleep, my sore back, my sore bum, having just eaten too much food before my ride… and the fact that I HAD NEVER RIDEN 100KMS BACK TO BACK BEFORE.

But hey, for Day Two, I think I had my best ride ever!!

I stayed with the faster riders of my group. We rode fast, we worked as a team, it was really exciting. Like REALLY EXCITING. And fun!

Then later on I lost my team because of a pit stop and bad communication (I didn’t shout out loud enough!).

So I rode with some strangers, and lead them peleton-style passed other riders, collecting a train of riders on our tail. Yes I was leading! Ok it wasn’t very fast (about 28-30km/hr). But still, talk about a RUSH!!

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

By lunch time we had rode 60km all in one go and I was quite pooped.

I saw all these bikes lying like sleepy cattle on the grass and it was exactly like how I felt.

So I decided to take it easy for the rest of the ride. You know, try to enjoy the last of the experience rather than ride hard and fast and give myself a heart attack.

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

The last 40kms was quite challenging and fun. We rode along main streets, on roads with lots of traffic and traffic lights.

There were quite a few hills that went up and down… I’m proud to say that I was fit enough. I did fine on the ascents and loved zipping down the descents. But I completely lost my group.

And finally for the last 10kms, we rode along my favourite part of the river in South Perth, with spectacular city views and crazy perfect weather!

(Yes I had 3kms left to the finish line and can you believe I stopped to take a tourist photo of the Perth City skyline?!)

The Sunsuper Ride to Conquer Cancer - Perth 2012

With the crowd cheering, I passed the finish line with a huge grin on my face. What an accomplishment! Definitely one of my proudest moments!

Day Two’s ride was 113kms, and I finished it in 6.5 hours (4.5 hours of riding with 2 hours of rest). So I rode a total of 210km over 2 days.

Pardon for the confusing photo above. I didn’t actually come second place (SILVER)! After I put my bike away, I wandered back to the finish line and noticed that the media on the big screen was playing a kind of honour roll for people who have raised the most money for the event. I saw my name pop up, got a bit of a shock, then I stood there till my name rolled past again and I took a snap!

Thanks to all my incredible supporters, I was ranked 12th highest individual fund raiser ($16,910) and given the honourary title of Silver Ambassador!

The Perth event raised a total of $4.6 million and was the largest cycling fundraiser in Western Australia’s history. The money raised will help fund life-saving cancer research at Western Australian Institute for Medical Research.

(And if you’re interested, the Brisbane event raise $5.2 million, Sydney raised $5.7 million and Melbourne raised $6.2 million – that’s over $21 million for cancer research… AMAZING!)

It was such a remarkable experience and event. To be part of something so huge was just EPIC! I completely recommend it!

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If you’d like to read about my whole cycling journey, you can follow me as I first rode an agonising 10km distance, to getting my first road bike, to discussing the anti-fashion of lycra, butt creams and having sore lady bits…

Or if you’d like to sign up for next year’s ride in 2013, head on over to the The Ride to Conquer Cancer website and choose your city.

Anyone want to join me next year? :)