The easiest question to answer on the application form to join the Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour 2019 was “why do you want to join this ride?” Having carried a passion for pain and the brain for over fifteen years, the idea of spending a week on the road with like-minded souls and sharing that passion with others in need, was far too good to pass up. Add to that the spectacular beauty of Tasmania AND getting to see it from the saddle of a bike. What more could I ask for? Oh, how about the physical challenge of getting ready for it?
The advertisement to apply for the ride first caught my attention one day when I was off sick, on the couch, with tonsillitis. At that time, the idea of riding 700km seemed impossible. But I knew my tonsillitis was temporary, and that an out-of-action-mother-of-two could be trained, given the five months we had to prepare. When I first got accepted onto the team, I was both thrilled and ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED. Could I really get myself fit enough?? Could I really fundraise such a lot of money?? But WHAT an opportunity. It was worth the commitment. I had to give it my BEST.
I hadn’t even been on my bike for about a year and cycling to me was always something I did for commuting, fun or touring – nothing too challenging. However, I had participated in enough strenuous long-distance walks in my life to know that the scale of what lay ahead could not be underestimated. I literally rushed home on the day I got the “you have been accepted” email to dust off my indoor trainer and start pedalling.
Initially, half an hour in the saddle was “quite enough”, and when our first training schedule came through a couple of weeks later with two-hour rides as the starting point, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in for. I persisted. Two hours was, at first, quite exhausting, but a month or two later, two hours was considered a “short” ride as the longer ones had stretched to four or five hours.
My road bike was stolen about ten years ago, and I’d never replaced it so I even had to buy a new bike and get used to the relatively stooped position of a road bike again. I had to get used to clicking in and out with new, firmer cleats than what I was used to. I even had to get used to different gear and brake systems.
I had to re-acquaint myself with negotiating unfamiliar corners and curves, debris and pedestrians, road crossing, underpasses, potholes, speed bumps and sandy patches ready to watch me slip. Eventually, I had to venture more and more from cycle paths to the road. I had to get used to the texture and the traffic, riding in the margin, holding my breath when a truck zooms past way too close (because that helps, right?) and trying not to veer onto the road when I saw a potential hazard up ahead. I don’t know how many times I asked myself “stick, bark or snake?” I had to get used to fast descents, steep puffy climbs and ultimately, long long hours in the saddle.
For me, MUCH harder than all the chaffing, sweating, aching and panting, was having to leave my young boys behind while mummy went for “yet another ride”. At four and six they are still very fond of mummy cuddles and it was torture sometimes having to give that final hug in order to hit the road before the traffic levels or temperature got too high. There were many tears and many times I wanted to stay. I had to convince myself that there was value in my role modelling: working hard towards a goal, showing a commitment and exercising regularly. Many of my duties as a mother were put on hold while training became a priority. My heart ached at every departure because of that decision, but never with regret.
With growing fitness came growing confidence. I got to know my new bike. I got to love the feeling of freedom when I was out on the open road with nothing but my vigilance and my thoughts. I got to love the cool summer mornings when I headed out, sometimes in the dark, to try and get my K’s in before the heat got too unbearable. I loved the grassy stretches of farmland and field, the many colours of cows, the forested mountain roads, the bush and the beach. The effort of a climb and the rush of a descent. I appreciated stopping and soaking in the fresh air with a top up of water and a snack. The breeze off the lake would cool my sweaty head and my bare feet quivered in the grass for just a few minutes, before I was back on the saddle again.
I embraced the pedal powered collective, all out on two wheels (or one!), each doing their own thing: a pair of unicyclists, a man with a dog in his front basket, a group of thirty grey haired folk trickling along in a line, and a one-legged cyclist powering up a hill with his custom-made wheels. There was many a polite nod to fellow cyclists also out on the “safer” roads to get some peaceful distance into their legs. There was also a wonderful community forming on-line, with our Peloton of Pain Revolutionaries recording all their rides and spurring each other on with beautiful photos, encouraging comments, inspiring rides and personal bests.
I enjoyed the feeling of coming home after six or seven hours and being able to stay on my feet and be a mum for the rest of the day where once I had been temporarily supine after the bigger rides. The one time I clocked 151km was no “harder” than any other ride over the 100km standard. When that happened, in the same week that I breached the 400km mark and my Everyday Hero fundraising account came up to just a whisper away from the goal line, I knew for sure that I was ready.
Being involved with PR 19 has been a massive personal achievement…and the ride itself hasn’t even started yet! For no other event have I ever put in so many hours of preparation and been so consistently committed to something at the sacrifice of so much else. I can’t wait to meet the incredible team of people about to embark on this event together and to hear the other lead up stories and achievements that have embraced us all for the last five months.
Vive la révolution!!
About the author: Mel Macoun is a physiotherapist working in private practice in Canberra and a musculoskeletal clinical educator for Physiotherapy students at the Uni of Canberra. She loves educating others; giving students the power to be better physios, and patients the skills and knowledge to better their lives. Her greatest passion is in helping people with persistent pain use the marvellous discoveries of the brain in pain to re-conceptualise their pain experiences and make incredible steps forward to living well again.
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