Trials and tribulations of cycling across Australia

 By Kerryn Harvey, She Science Ambassador & founder of START foundation 

Just a few short weeks ago I completed what I consider to be the cycling adventure of a lifetime.  Ride For The Royal Adelaide Hospital was a 3,600km, 5-week ride, from Perth to Melbourne raising funds for a critical care research project at the hospital.

Following 18 months of planning, a team of passionate and enthusiastic cyclists and support crew left Perth on a wet, April day, and began our journey East.  All of us were filled with a combination of trepidation and excitement, unsure of what challenges lay ahead.  We had all trained hard in the lead up, but had we done enough?

On paper I had selected the days that looked to be most challenging, either by their length, or the terrain we were covering.  In reality, the most challenging days came along mostly unexpected.  The weather was usually the catalyst that affected how well the day went.  On our longest day of 225km from Southern Cross (WA) to Kalgoorlie (WA), we were lucky enough to have a roaring tailwind and fine conditions, arriving at our destination 2 hours ahead of schedule.  For many of the riders it was the longest they had ever ridden in a day and they were over the moon at their achievement and how great they felt.  We were on a high!

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One of the most challenging days was on the Nullabor, a 181km slight downhill ride, from Madura Roadhouse to Eucla Roadhouse.  On paper it looked like a long, gentle roll.  We left Madura before the sun rose and instantly felt the fresh air in our faces.  Not long after the sun came up, the wind picked up and became a strong westerly, blowing hard relentlessly the whole day.  Despite working together as a team into the headwind, our speed was extremely slow, and the day seemed to drag on and on.  The last 40km we desperately tried to make it in before sunset but were beaten and finished off the ride well after it was dark.  I was physically shattered from the day and so thankful we had a rest day the following day as I definitely had no interest in getting on a bike!

Each day had its highs and lows and each day brought our team closer together.  We became like a travelling family, working together seamlessly to help everyone arrive safely at our new destination each night.  I soon realized I was living with a group of like-minded, driven individuals.  We were striving toward a common goal on a number of levels.  Firstly it was about achieving our riding goal of traversing across the country under our own steam.  Secondly it was about fundraising and raising awareness of Royal Adelaide Hospital.

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Everyone on the ride, especially me, had an emotional attachment to Royal Adelaide Hospital and was committed to our fundraising goal.  This was because the Royal Adelaide Hospital had saved my life 2 ½ years ago after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria.  Fundraising for the hospital was my way of saying thanks for saving my life.  The emotion boiled over when we arrived in Adelaide on our bikes in early May and landed at the front gates of the hospital.  Staff, dignitaries, and our families welcomed us, and we presented a $40,000 cheque to the hospital.  I had tried desperately to keep myself together on the bike on this day but the closer we came to arriving the more overwhelmed I felt, and I rode the last few km’s with tears streaming down my face.

Arriving home to Melbourne a week or so later, at the end of our journey was equally overwhelming, especially after a week of riding in cold, wet conditions from Adelaide.  We had made it!  An incredible journey made possible by some incredible people – family, friends, sponsors, and everyone who donated.

All the cyclists, volunteers, and myself recognize we have experienced something unique and amazing.  For me it ticked so many boxes, the cycling challenge, the camaraderie in the team, the friendships, being in the great outdoors, seeing parts of Australia by bike, and giving something back to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

We all agreed we wanted to do another major cycling event again.  Now I am resting up, my mind is ticking…………watch this space.

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A woman that has overcomed significant adversity in Life, Kerryn continues to inspire us with what she achieves. In the past years Kerryn has gone from learning to tackle life as an amputee to winning the ITU Para-Triathlon World qualifying event, founding the START foundation and finishing her qualifications to be a Personal Trainer. Kerryn’s committment to empowering people with disabilities to achieve their sporting dreams is inspiring. Follow Kerryn via @startfoundation_aus

 

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