Volunteering for Cancer Research

So, you all know how I love to mix things up in life …?

Well this is how I spent my weekend – in a frog suit, being a volunteer for a fundraising event for cancer research haha!

Ride To Conquer Cancer 2017 - Volunteering

Back in 2012 and 2013, I participated in The Ride To Conquer Cancer, cycling 200km over two days.

It’s a pretty big and amazing event, with each year raising about $4 million – $5 million.

The event has a special place in my heart, so every year I make an effort to volunteer to support the event.

You can see all my blog posts about it here.

Ride To Conquer Cancer 2017 - Volunteering

I hooked up with my old team and we all dressed up in onesies.

They hired a couple of Mini Mokes (which look like jeeps), decorated them with streamers, installed an epic sound system and we drove around to cheer and help the participants.

I found all my volunteer gear from the previous years – even my big cat eye sunglasses.

We were on our feet from 5am and we were on the job for about 10 hours each day.

It was absolutely exhausting, but not as bad as cycling 200kms and definitely not as bad as going through chemo.

This was me, sitting in the backseat, next to Captain America, travelling at 40km with the wind in my hair.

Ride To Conquer Cancer 2017 - Volunteering

(There were 8 of us in total, but I can’t find a pic of all of us.)

Pretty much everyone I met, a cyclist or volunteer, had a story about having lost a mum, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother or child to cancer. Yep, it was pretty sobering. But everyone was in this together, with one resolve, giving 110%. It was the best feeling ever.

This year there were 855 riders and we raised $4.1 million!

If you’re keen to participate for next year, here’s the link to the Perth Ride to Conquer Cancer site.

There’s also a similar event in Melbourne and Brisbane too.

We raised $5.2 million for cancer research!!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014 - Photo By Ze Photography
(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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

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!!

Just Call Me Shorty the Giraffe

Giraffe Onesie

So this weekend, I will be travelling a distance of 200kms with a truck full of strangers dressed up in animal onesies… me dressed as a GIRAFFE, ringing a cow bell and being a cheerleader – all for charity!

I chose to dress up as a giraffe because, well, I thought it would be funny and ironic, since I was short and small.

I’ll be the shortest giraffe in history. Can’t wait for the craziness to begin!

Do follow me over the weekend on Instagram – @karenlycheng

Riding, volunteering or donating?

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013, photo by Ze Wong

Photo of me riding 200km over 2 days for The Ride To Conquer Cancer, October 2013. Photo by Ze Photography.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that for the past two years, I rode in The Ride to Conquer Cancer to raise money for cancer research.

The event is a 200km ride over two days, and is designed specifically for people who are NOT already experienced cyclists. It’s for newbies and beginner cyclists!

In 2012, when I took up the challenge to RIDE 200kms, I was very motivated about raising cancer awareness and raising funds for cancer research. This cause is something that is very close to my heart, since I nearly lost my husband to cancer, and because I have lost a good friend, who was, like me, a mother of young children. I wanted to make something good come out of my fear and loss.

But I was also deeply concerned that I could not actually do it. 200km seemed like a long way compared to walking the kids 2km to school! People in my extended family were actually counselling me against it: “Can you actually do it???”

Well, as it turned out… YES I COULD!

It was a fantastic experience… it completely transformed my views about personal fitness. It was a brilliant journey to go on. I learned so much about myself, about bikes, about fundraising, and the power of working as a collective. Over the two years, The Ride to Conquer Cancer event has raised approximately $39.1 million in Australia (the proceeds go directly to research facilities in each state) – which is amazing!

But this year, I am not riding. The truth is… I’ve now picked up a whole lot of other sports like running, netball, yoga and strength training. So while I’m still pretty fit and active, I haven’t actually been on my bike since October last year – 10 months ago! I just don’t have time to do the training.

But my dedication to the RTCC, and the cause, has not diminished, so I am still participating, as a Volunteer/Crew Member. I’m going to be finding out what it takes “behind the scenes” to make a huge event like this work. And of course, I am hoping to motivate YOU! So I’ll be reporting on what I see and do. Of course, I’ll be doing the Perth RTTC… but there are also rides in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

What can you do?

Ride!
I did it, so you definitely can do it too! You can sign up with a friend, or you can sign up by yourself and the RTCC people (volunteers like me) will match you up with a team of new friends you can train and ride with.

When I first started out, I was a complete beginner cyclist. A total noob! I started training with a 15 year old, rusted, mountain bike. Read about my whole journey from when I first started my cycling journey!

Volunteer?
The Ride to Conquer Cancer organisers are looking for people to join the volunteer and crew teams. It’s the best way to experience the event while you support the riders on their journey! Pop over to the Ride to Conquer Cancer Crew Page to find out more.

Donate!
If you can’t participate or volunteer, what about making a small (or large) donation that goes immediately and directly towards cancer research. You can go to my donations page and make any donation amount you wish – $20, $50, $100, $500! You can leave a public message, or a personal message, or just do it anonymously. And you get a receipt, so you can claim this against your tax.

More coming soon!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013 – Two Days of Sweat and Tears

A few weeks ago, I took part in an amazing charity event, The Ride to Conquer Cancer. We cycled 220kms over two days and raised funds for cancer research.

1336 riders took part in the event, and in total we raised an incredible $5.2 million dollars!!

For my own fundraising efforts, I raised $8,350 with the help of friends, family, my community and my wonderful blog readers – thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

So this is me at the start line. I woke up at 4am and was all geared up and ready to go by 6:30am.

I was feeling relieved that the day had finally arrived. I was happy and excited to be part of such a significant event. I was proud of myself for doing something so worthwhile. And I was emotional and humbled by the touching speeches. The organisers pushed a rider-less bike through the crowd to symbolise all those lost to cancer… and seeing that empty bike being wheeled towards the start line made tears well up in my eyes.

We set off at 7am.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

About an hour in, my riding buddy had a flat tyre! She rode over some broken glass and we had to pull over on the side of the road.

Oh man, I felt so bad for her. If that were me, I would have been in a fumbling mess… and would have lost all my confidence in riding the rest of the way. But instead, I joked around to calm her/our nerves.

Thankfully, a volunteer bike technician arrived in 3 minutes. He fixed the tyre, pumped it up and we were off again in less than 10 minutes! Amazing!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

THEN. The weather hit us.

Look at the storms clouds rolling towards us! The wind was strong. The rain poured. It was cold. It was a pretty miserable day to be riding.

Riding INTO the wind was difficult. It was bloody hard work! I struggled. I was in pain. It honestly felt like 5 hours of agony.

I wanted to cry and give up. My shoes were filled with water, my arms were shaking from the cold, my muscles were screaming in pain… and there was a moment where I thought to myself – WHY THE HELL AM I DOING THIS??!

But then… I’d see a rider pass me, with a yellow flag tied to his bike, indicating that he was a cancer survivor. Yup he was here on his bike too, struggling with the wind and rain, just like I was. Then another yellow flag would pass me. And another.

And yep, it put my own struggles into perspective.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

This is me, with my new attitude. Just cheer the hell up and enjoy the ride Karen!

There was so much rain and wind, that it was almost comical.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

I managed to finish the first day’s ride with a smile on my face. I rode 103km.

Man that was hard. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life.

I wasn’t very talkative that evening. I just wanted to have a hot shower, get changed into some dry clothes, put on some dry socks, eat some hot food, then go to bed.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

I was a little worried that other people’s snoring would keep me awake.

But there was so much rain throughout the night, that the sound of rain drowned out all the snoring. I slept very well!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

The next morning, the sun was shining! HOORAY!

But it was cold – I think it was 6°C or something.

I went to collect my bike from the bike racks and I felt – surprisingly – excited!

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

Me again. All rugged up and ready to go!

The weather warmed up and the day turned out to be sunny and spectacular. It was perfect riding weather.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

My poor riding buddy had ANOTHER flat!

Same tyre.

On the last 20kms of the ride, I took it easy and enjoyed the ride to the finish line.

Ride to Conquer Cancer 2013

WOOHOO I DID IT!!!

No words can describe the feeling when you choose to do something really difficult and you conquer it.

I know that I did this charity ride last year. But this time around, it was definitely much harder for me, because I was not as fit as I was last year. I had a few tears in my eyes the moment I crossed that finish line. It was hard work and I did it.

And just like when you watch a movie a second time around, I was much more aware of the little details… the people, the stories and the purpose… it really brought the whole experience to life. And I was so much more thankful for that.

I really want to thank the organisers, the volunteers, the riders, my team, and everyone who donated to this wonderful cause.

Thank to you, my readers, for following and supporting me on this journey!

xxx