(Photo By Ze Photography)
It’s over for another year!
I volunteered for a 2 day cycling charity event, The Ride to Conquer Cancer.
I’ve participated in this event for the last two years and it involves over a 1000 people riding a distance of 200km over 2 days.
For each of the last two years, I have spent about 5 hours of sitting on my ass and pedaling each day! And as I slogged away, part of what kept me going were the cheer squads dotted along the route – volunteers dressed in cowboy gear, pink tutus and Elvis costumes… but the craziest and most entertaining bunch were the Onesie Warriors.
They wore one piece animal suits, sang and danced, cheered, rang bells, hooted and hollered, and got up to all kinds of crazy antics that made us riders laugh and smile when we needed it the most. They made such a big, happy difference to our journey, lifted our moods, and pumped SO much energy and fun into the event.
I remember (during a relentless uphill slog on the bike in the pouring rain) looking at the Onesie crew thinking… where do they get their energy from?? They have been dancing and jumping around for hours! They must be drunk! They must be completely sugared up! They must be pumped full of Red Bull! Were they all fit, young 18 year olds, who are just used to all this raving!?
Anyway, that was the team I joined on the weekend.
There were 12 of us in the Onesie Warrior team, and we split into 3 groups of 4. We positioned our teams at different locations, where the route was most boring (20kms of flat farm land) or most difficult (long, slow, uphill climbs that go on forever) for the cyclists.
Basically the whole Onesie Warrior experience was… a crazy, roadside, dance party, with insane amounts of bad karaoke, bad dancing, raving and jumping!
We had pop music blasting from our car. We were shouting, cheering, whooping, waving clappers, ringing cowbells, shaking tambourines, tooting horns, blowing whistles… for 10 hours!
Oh man, it was sooo much fun.
I couldn’t even recognise myself. I was doing the most silliest, shameless and stupidest dance moves I’ve ever done in my whole life. And I did it on purpose! In front of people! To make them laugh! In broad daylight!
If you know me in real life, I’m usually very contained, calm, possibly soft spoken and maybe a bit shy. I am in no way a natural show pony. I don’t walk into a room and have a presence that commands people to take notice of me. In fact, I’m striving for a kind of quiet gracefulness.
But once I put on my giraffe onesie, I felt like I had permission to act like an exploding, hyperactive, crazy person!
With our encouragement, all 1311 riders made it safely to the night camp – the half way mark for the weekend.
They did SO WELL for their first day. They rode 105km. There was a very strong head wind blowing against the riders, and I could see them all pushing into it, grimacing in pain with every down stroke of the pedal. I knew their pain! They must’ve been exhausted!
There were a lot of cancer survivors who rode too. They rode with a yellow flag attached to their bikes to distinguish themselves. I thought of my husband, who has survived cancer twice and thought whether he would be able to ride this distance. His health is excellent, but fragile, and shouldn’t really be pushed to this level of exertion. Not to mention he was at home looking after the blessing of our three kids… while I was spending the weekend having this unusual, out of character experience.
I got a bit teary every time I saw a person with a yellow flag that reminded myself why I was here.
In fact, it only took a few minutes of chatting to a complete stranger to find out that every rider had a story or a connection to cancer, and that they were determined and inspired to do something about it. I was constantly teary and inspired!
As for me, I had woken up at 4am that day, started cheering at 7am, had only a few small breaks, and finished my shift at 5pm (to cheer the very last rider to arrive at camp).
So I went to bed at 7:30pm!
The next morning I woke at 4am again, and the weather looked REALLY BAD.
There was a 100% chance of rain, thunderstorms, hail and strong winds. Oh my god! I hoped the wind would be behind the riders and push them along.
For the second day, I was a frog. It was an apt costume for the wet weather. And apt, because my voice was very croaky.
At 6am, I hopped over to the start line and I bumped into these two ladies – Brooke and Sam. Er, well I actually just randomly walked up to them, because hey I’m in a frog suit, and I asked to take a photo with them because their cycling jerseys matched my green costume!
Then our team quickly drove to our first designated spot for the day and waited for the riders to come through.
We waited and waited.
In fact, we waited at the zebra crossing.
When the riders went by, we waved signs like “SAFARI SO GOOD!” and “KEEP THOSE CALVES MOOVING”! And other really bad animal puns.
We placed ourselves in silly positions to wave at the riders. Our chipmunk climbed a tree. Our cows climbed a hill. Our penguin sat on a branch.
I was a squashed frog on the path, but I only took this photo after the last rider rode past haha!
We made our way to several other positions along the route, and then back to the finish line to cheer the last rider through.
We danced and cheered for hours! We were projected up onto the big screen, we were photographed and we were on TV (did you see us?!). It was definitely one of the most crazy, fun and rewarding experience I’ve ever had. It certainly gave me an unusual perspective of the event.
In total, we raised $5.2 million that will go to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (used to be WAIMR), with all the funds going directly into cancer research projects. I was choked up with pride and happiness!
A HUGE thanks to all the organisers, the crew, the riders, the sponsors and the supporters who donated!!
I’ll see you all next year!!