Archive | May, 2019

MND and Me Pies to Pacific 2019

19 May

Last year, I did this same ride for the first time. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I got off my bike, and told myself I was never going to do it again. Fast forward 12 months… MND Pies to Pacific 2019, and you find me here again… glutton for punishment? I’d rather consider it a good reason to raise a few $$ for Motor Neurone Disease. A disease I dislike immensely (Mum and Dad told me never to hate…), and a disease I’d love to see treated and eliminated. The nerves had well kicked in the week before, self-doubt returned, and I wondered why the heck I decided AGAIN that this would be a good idea.

The short event report is this:

Distance: 154km, Climb: 1187m, Time: 6:27, Average speed 23.9km/hr, Top speed: 57km/hr, Average Heart Rate: 156bpm

The longer event report is this:

A 4.45am alarm had us heading for the Yatala Pie Shop at 5.30am – we had about a 40 minute drive to get to our start location. Fellow rider Jim joined us for the trip down, and it’s always nice to have a familiar face starting an event with you.  We made good time and there was a bit of waiting around for the ride to start. Something which always escalates my nerves and had me feeling like I was going to vomit.  I wanted to just get it started!


Ready to roll!

We rolled out perfectly on time at 7.04am – we were the third peloton to leave – the 170km set off at 7, the 155 faster crew at 7.02, and then my “Enthusiast” 155km crew – saving the best to last… I was pleased to see the friendly faces of Matthew (our ride captain), Fletcher (encouraging us from the back) and Jim (strong cyclist – and extra helpful with those of us less experienced). I remember all three from last year – as they were all there to help and encourage. I felt immediately more at ease just for seeing their faces and hearing their welcome greetings.

Last year I rolled out of the start in second wheel and stayed in that position for the 60km to morning tea. I remember feeling like I practically flew to morning tea with very little effort. This year I rolled out a lot further down the peloton, and it felt hard. I remember feeling concerned that I was only 20km in, when suddenly Jim cycled next to me and told me to jump on his wheel and he’d pull me up to the front (it would not be the only time this reshuffle happened). A couple of us came right up to second/third wheel in the peloton – a position where it was suddenly so much easier – can someone explain the science in this to me? Why is the start of the peloton better than further back? Anyway… it felt noticeably better.  The roads were slightly wet and I was eating a fair bit of road juice off the tyres in front before I remembered to keep my mouth shut and breathe through my nose!! But in second and third wheel 28/29km/hr was so much more comfortable. The remainder of the first part to morning tea was uneventful.  I met a variety of new people as people went to help Matthew out in front, and as the group moved around a little, but I tried to keep my place near the front of the group. As a side note, I’m thankful this happened just before we saw Dave by the side of the road – so the video he has of our group has me near the front of the pack and smiling… timing is everything…


Morning Tea – 59km in

59km was our morning tea break.  The carpark at Bunnings turned into a sea of blue as all three pelotons refilled water bottles, chowed down on food and drink and took a minute to stretch off the bike.  Jim’s partner Kym and her parents were at this pitt stop – it was nice to see them and also good to see Kym (who broke her pelvis horse riding or she would have been pedalling too). I knew that the bit from morning tea to lunch was going to be pretty riding.  About another 50km, but we would start to see the ocean, and skirt around the waters edge as we continued south to the border.

71km into our ride we stopped for our third mechanical – a third flat tyre. They all happened in the space of about 5km – we must have cycled through something! The mechanic in the rear support vehicle was wonderful – and for the third time, jumped out, changed the wheel over with one already pumped up and ready to go. This makes a stop fairly quick.  I had just enough time to have some water and a gel. Just as Matt turned around to ask me how Pete was this year, and ask after his children, I over balanced and felt myself going down… Yes, it takes incredible talent to fall off your bike while stationary!! I was clipped in with my right foot still, and tilted to the right and didn’t get my foot out quick enough. Thankfully I had enough time to warn those around me that I was falling. I’d love to say it was graceful, it wasn’t. Thanks also to the three guys who then got me back up when I was trying to work out how I was going to untangle myself from my bike and get vertical again… A skun knee, a sore right ankle but the biggest damage was my pride… it’s very conspicuous when you fall while doing nothing…


Photo Credit: Jim Ramsay – this is actually the first 155km peloton not mine, but we looked as good as this too 😉

Once again, having the police escort made our transit south much safer and more efficient.  Saturday morning traffic, and Election Day made the roads busy. As soon as we hit the border and the police peeled off home, we missed their presence – and caught what felt like every red light between the border and the Tweed Coast Way.  It seemed we lost all momentum after some nice solid downhill’s to find red traffic lights at the bottom of the hill before we went up the next one – DARN!!  Just keep pedalling and avoiding pot holes on the NSW roads – gosh they were rough! As the road got narrower we hit single file for much of the Tweed Coast Way. I found single file quite difficult. I struggled to find a good pace.  I would catch the person ahead, then have to brake heavily, then drop them as they accelerated. It felt like a high intensity workout. The smooth, constant cadence was definitely absent.  A solid tow from Jim as we neared lunch brought me and a few others back to the peloton so we could roll into Pottsville for lunch as one group (just like last year). 108km done!


Rolling into Pottsville for lunch

I ate, drank, and refilled my bottles – the plan again was to put my nutrition in my drink so that I would be able to keep taking nutrition easily without having to worry about gels. I knew it was rolling hills and therefore I thought that was going to be easiest – and I’m pleased I went with that plan. It was nice to see Dave at lunch, as well as the many other support crew and volunteers making sure we all had everything we needed.

The ride starts after lunch.  When you’re 108km into a 155km ride, and there are going to be rolling hills, you know it’s time to knuckle down and see what grit you’ve got… or perhaps if you’ve got grit! The first 15km (ish) out of Pottsville is fairly flat and as a peloton we were able to turn the legs over as we got our weary legs working again after their rest.  After that, it was time for the fun to begin. It wasn’t long before I got to spend a bit more time with my favourite cycling buddy Fletcher (you literally can’t be slower than him because he has to be last and communicating with Matthew up the front).  There was a time when Fletch said in his radio – “Matty, there is a good 500m between you and me – we’ve stretched out too much, knock the pace off a bit”. I apologised to Fletcher feeling responsible for him being so far behind.  It must not have been the first time… he said “Jen, if you say sorry to me one more time I’m going to clobber you” I managed to laugh and keep pedalling, refraining from apologising again at that point…  As we hit one of the hills at about the 120km mark I remember saying “you know Fletch, I said I’ve been working on my hill legs, but I’m just not sure they have what they need – I don’t know if I’m able to do it this time”.  His reply was essentially our legs are a funning thing – if you don’t use them when you’re swimming, you’d drown, so to not drown, you use them. What can happen with cycling… you know your leg strength is between your ears and has nothing to do with your legs – what are some sore calves and hamstrings anyway… I got his point, and kept on going.

Many times I wanted to quit. The other voices in my head were Julie “You’re stronger than you think Jen” and my brother “You’ve got this Jen”. bikestemI can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.  I just had to look down at my top tube collage to remind myself that people with illnesses don’t get to quit when the going gets tough, and I just needed to toughen up.  I remember one hill that I was spinning my way up, following a fellow cyclist when I heard some yelling – he was literally yelling at himself to get up to the crest of the hill. I appreciated it so much, while some took the hills in their stride, others of us gave everything we could find to keep pedalling. It was definitely just as hard as it was last year. Some new to cycling with only months of experience and less than 100km longest distance in their legs were still well ahead of me – who has cycled about 15,000km in the last few years (one day I’ll be fitter!!). There were probably 4 or 5 of us near the back of our peloton this year – which I appreciated. It’s nice to have some company near the rear of a group. I could give you a blow by blow account of every hill – I can still picture them all, and how I got up each one (but I’ll save you that pain).  There were some pretty stretches of long slow climb, and some shorter pinchy bits, there were tree covered climbs, and wide open space climbs… there were some sharp steep descents, wide sweeping beds, and hairpin descents… it was a mix that kept changing – and the scenery helped to distract me a little.

One final regroup once we made it out of the hills and with only a couple of kilometres to the finish had another peloton reshuffle. Those of us who are out to do the ride for personal reasons get encouraged to take the front. There were a few of us with immediate family with MND riding in the group this year. I was encouraged to take the front, and for the last 5km lead a leisurely pace into Byron Bay. So incredibly relieved to be off the bike.  Everyone was getting ready to enjoy their “Stone and Wood” refreshment, Paul pointed me to the esky of soft drink and I found a Sunkist and happily downed that.  A final g’day to our support crew who we would be lost without (and perhaps stranded in Byron Bay as there is NO WAY I was riding back!!).

I took the opportunity to say thanks to many of those who I chatted to along the way, those who helped lead the peloton so others of us could hang in the group out of the wind. However I particularly want to thank – Matthew who set an achievable pace for our group and continually checked up on me when I was brought up to second wheel, ensuring the speed was appropriate.  To Jim, for towing me back to the peloton the times I slipped back. To Fletch who is the encouraging voice from the back – reminding you you’re there for a reason, that you can find some grit deep down when the going gets tough, and for always encouraging us up the hills with his humour and positivity.  It was not unusual to hear his voice boom when you crested a hill after slugging it out, or to hear a “ok Jen, go get ‘em” as I accelerated down a descent and pedalled past the people I’d fallen away from on the climb. As well as these three guys keeping us safe and well cared for, they all took the time to check up on how Pete was going – having remembered him from last year. They asked after him, his family, and our family generally and I felt this really captured the heart behind the ride.

Thank you to all those who gave up their time to help organise and run this event.  I felt safe, cared for and well supported. I’d like to say as long as this ride is on, I’ll be back. But today, when I think the only thing that doesn’t hurt is … actually, nah I just wiggled my nose and it was a bit sore too… give me a few days to forget the painful bits, and no doubt I’ll be back again next year…

Thank you to those who financially supported me, after all, that was why I went through this pain. As at right now, my contribution – with your help – to the $124,600 total is $2025. So thank you so VERY much for your support!


Stone & Wood – the Finish. I’m done!