Thanks to Mel Macoun, 2019 Tour Rider and Physiotherapist from Canberra, for sharing her "view from the road" from the first days of the Rural Outreach Tour
The day had come. Five months of anticipation, excitement, planning, preparing, training and a fair dose of nervous apprehension had led to this day. Our ride was to begin. We had all trickled into Devonport over the previous few days, most arriving the day before. We still hadn’t quite met each other when suddenly it was time for our first chorus of cleat clunks as we headed off together.
It was lovely finally getting those legs turning through rural Tasmania, enacting this long-anticipated journey. For me, my journey with Pain Science began long before the Revolution. I encountered “Explain Pain” 15 years ago, when it became an intimate and ever evolving part of my practice.
For me, the Pain Revolution was my way to finally connect into this growing network and to let the people who can make things happen know that I was here: a resource to be tapped into. It was truly delightful spending day and night with like-minded souls, all with their own skills and stories but with the same core passion and immense dedication to help people with persistent pain.
Finding Safety (then enjoying the views)
I was not used to riding in a bunch, and the concentration required, as for any new skill, was intense. When I grew brave enough, I snuck a few glances at our magnificent surrounds. We undulated past farmlands for a while. Some paddocks with thick chunks of earth churned up with grass mulch, others stripped down to their red flesh and furrowed into neat lines. The road leaned down to the coast, swaying along a shoreline with the scent of salt on the breeze and patches of raw rock shouldering the sun.
“Day One” was just a warm up. With such a range of physical capability amongst our numbers, we were split into three groups. The next few days took us up into the mountains and challenged us to find our inner strengths. We were nourished with home baked delights and cheered on by an incredible support crew, whose tireless efforts fuelled ours. But despite the best made plans to make this journey happen, the reality of the sport quickly became evident with injuries two days in a row that were bad enough to pull their riders off their wheels for the rest of the trip. These two brave team members had to adjust their expectations like no others on our journey, coming to terms with the intense disappointment of missing out on the ride after everything that they had sacrificed to be here. It was for them that the rest of us dug deep, and carried on.
As we rose up from Burnie, the raw sienna of wind swept grass glowed against a backdrop of morning cloud. Soon we were amongst the logging forests, whose truck drivers amazed the mainlanders amongst us with their friendliness and patience, even though they were being held up on their working routes by a train of polka dot jerseys and flashing lights.
Cradle Mountain – St Clair National Park dazzled us all. The sun was late to join us, arriving just in time to counter the cooling effect of our height gain. We had a steep, heavy effort up to a lookout on the day we arrived, and then set out the next morning to a valley bathed in early fog. Ghost white trees bearing their branches to the sky as if they’d been turned upside down in the soil. Wildflowers like blood splattered across the bushes, earthy scrub and a road as smooth as a raceway. We glided along in glorious spirits, feeling lucky to be alive. It was cool, calm, peaceful and spectacularly pretty.
We pedalled past mineral-laden rivers, through rainforest, and then along the bow of Mount Roland. There were fields full of cows every colour of chocolate, big burly bulls, and busy farmyards along the aptly named “Paradise Road”.
Smashing Our Comfort Zones
Our fourth day was the one that had tickled the anxieties of some of us since we first signed up to this event. 161km and 2550 vertical meters was bigger than any ride I had ever done, even with all that training. “Slow” group three were delayed by a wrong turn and a puncture before we’d even got out of Launceston, adding to our suspicions that we weren’t going to finish the full ride. But we continued with the mindset that “the ride will finish when it ends”, liberating ourselves of the pressure of expectation and allowing us to enjoy the day for what it was.
Hope grew as we left the city and were met with smells of wood fire and livestock trucks passing by fields full of classic milk-carton-black-and-white-cows and others the colours of salt and caramel. Charcoal cows paused mid-munch to stare at us as we passed, while sooty-faced sheep ignored our passage. Still more paddocks were full of rolled up hay bales, occasionally with a crumbled shed or a disused rusty wagon.
The gradients of our climbs were very forgiving and hope grew as we rose into the misty rain forested air, hinted by the scent of lemon. With such ridiculously perfect weather, breath taking beauty, and easy swooping roads, there was no way we could back out early. There was euphoria as we hit the top of our final rise and then descended around graceful curves, hearts bursting with pride as we rolled into St Helens after eight hours on the pedals. We had exceeded everyone’s expectations, including our own.
After such heights, weary legs, aching bodies, uncomfortable saddles and tired minds struggled a bit over the next couple of days to Hobart. But Tasmania’s natural charm distracted us from discomfort and encouraged us to carry on. We awoke to the sound of seagulls, and followed the coastline until Swansea. We had many pretty viewpoints of beach and bay, sandbars, dunes and islands. Off the waterline, there were numerous vineyards, and I looked forward to “wine time” after “climb time”.
We Ride as One
There was great comradery within our group. Chatting and laughing, supporting each other along the line and pulling each other up the hills. By now I had a reputation for being “Metronome Mel”, my slow but steady pace being welcome to keep some rhythm in the day. Our group now had a lot more coherence, having got used to each other’s wheels and feeling more comfortable tucking into a line together.
From Orford, we moved inland through the bushlands to the lovely town of Richmond with its pretty cottage gardens and stone bridge. As we drew closer to Hobart, we were struck by the fresh wounds of Tassie’s terrible bushfires.
We joined to our full swell of cyclist to pedal the Intercity Bike Path through Hobart, joining up for the final stretch to arrive, united, at Parliament Gardens. There was tremendous emotion and joy amid the riders and support crew alike, arriving at our destination, albeit with one more day loop to go. Time to reflect on what an incredible achievement it had been to get this far. A reminder of the sacrifices of following this passion and this pursuit, and of the sacrifices on the road itself.
We are all so lucky to be a part of Pain Revolution. There has been TREMENDOUS community engagement with our dedicated educational team at all the Outreach Events and with the Brain Bus. We have touched many lives and spread our message widely and well, helping to reduce the burden of chronic pain by giving people hope for recovery. It is for this cause that we rode – long, hard, proud and passionate for change.
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