• Joanna Sharpe

A big weekend, for a few reasons

This Saturday, with friends and family celebrating her wonderfulness, Britt was laid to rest.

But I wasn't there, why? Well it was a tough decision honestly. I wanted to honer my friend, hug her loved ones and see her laid to rest. I wanted to say goodbye and grieve with the love of others around me and at the same time it is only 3 weeks until I take on the Long White Ride world record attempt to continue raising awareness for Bowel Cancer NZ, the campaign so important to us both.

A trial run was planned, 900km in 2 days, kind of like riding from Cape Reianga to Bulls. I chatted it through with Britts best friend Nicole, asked Cam what he thought and with resignation decided that to honer her best I should keep on with the plan, it would be the last chance Id get to trial things before the big day.

Why not move it to next weekend you may ask, do both? Well riding 900km, solo, with no support crew and with only 5hrs sleep split into 2 or 3 naps takes its tole on the body. It takes a lot to recover from and to do it any nearer the world record attempt would not allow enough time for full recovery and mean my immune system would be a bit low even before I started the ride. It was an either or, I hope I made the right call.

So I got up at 2.30am Friday morning and headed out for 130km before work.

Yes I know, work right!! I do hold down a full time job so this all needs to be fitted in around that. The ride leg went well I had a ball. I held back my pace some knowing it was gonna be a big couple of days and rode into the dawn on some beautiful quiet roads to the black sand beaches of the west coast and deep into Waikato dairy country. The sound of the waves crashing in the distance was deafening in the night, such an uplifting experience and seeing the cows waiting for morning milking does give a little sense of satisfaction that you have embraced the day even before the 4am club. ThunderHawk (my epic brand new LIV bike)is having some settling in quirks, hes still a baby, so after the ride it was a quick trip to Evo Cycles Pukekohe for him to get a tinker whilst I headed to work.

The next leg of my adventure took me 220km from our Clarks Beach home to our other home in Coromandel town. This is a stunning ride that I do a lot, i just love it. You've got hills, flats, coast and highway so I was pumped to get started.

I could write for hours about how I eat both on and off the bike but as that's a blog in itself Ill leave it for another time. For now lets say I had the supplies I needed and headed out just before 4pm.

Not having a crew with me for this weekend and Jude away on a fishing holiday, everything takes longer than it will on the actual Long White Ride but once I got going it was smooth sailing. The changing light gives constant interest and excitement, the evening bird song, dappled shade in the paddocks, cows coming in from milking and the arrival of night birds and of course possums! These little critters were clearly having a party country wide, because of the reasonably large moon and I was avoiding them every few minutes as I got to the Hauraki Plains. This is more than I can say for the cars if the amount of road kill was anything to go by. That reminds me, goodness you smell some weird stuff as a cyclist, not all of it pleasant but Ill leave that to your imagination.

Once I got to the Coromandel Peninsular it was a beautiful ride along the coast, free from the highway traffic is was dream like and I knew Id be home about midnight for a nap. Unfortunately a few bike issues started to become apparent again so fixed into the small chain ring with limited gears I scaled the last few hills before home and spun along the flats before arriving.

Now here's a thing. Training for this is obviously very physical, my coach Dylan - Training Wheels Coaching has my back and I'm in great shape, but the mental side is the undoing of many. Ive worked hard on this for the last 12 months and so by now my attitude is not OMG how am I getting home in the middle of the night with nobody to call but more -well, we'll get home somehow who cares, for now its time for something to eat and 2hrs sleep.

I even work up before the alarm, I felt super and had a coffee and something to eat, filled up my pockets with the supplies I needed and headed back the way Id come. I love riding into the dawn, its my favorite time to ride and my mate Rossco had txt me to say he was heading out for a ride with some mates at regular oclock and would ride towards me to say hi on my way down the coast before he met them. I love this guy, hes so supportive and we have spent many many hours riding my favorite Coromadel roads together. It was super to see him. It doesn't occur to either of us at this point for me to draft off him, we know the routine now. I like company but have to do this on my own so in the middle of the night, on roads with no cars we rode side by side and chatted for a while, it was lovely. By the time he headed off the sun was coming up and the excitement of a long day ahead still filled my heart. I thought a lot about Britt and her loved ones preparing for her final journey and it filled my heart with even more determination to do my best.

It seems ThunderHawk isn't quite happy with his lot in life, maybe I'm asking too much of a baby and 130km in we had problem, a "Houston we have a problem" sized problem that locked me in one gear, and not one even Hamish Bond could climb hills out on! Well, in good news I wasn't in the hills at the time and for another I have many Evo friends, who don't all work Saturdays so whilst my savior was on the way to rescue me I just kept riding up and down the Hauraki Plains keeping the km ticking by and the legs working. It was actually very pleasant riding with the sea beside me and the occasional Mountain Biker riding along the trails. I was able to think my thoughts, be on my aeros and just be. It was a special place to find myself in as Britt was laid to rest and I wished for her sunshine and peace as her spirit was remembered by all those who loved her.

Unfortunately this was where, Thunderhawk and I had to part ways for a couple of days as the settling in kinks needed more than a roadside inspections could manage. Oh well, the Evo Boys just need to have a wee chat with him about his life's purpose so I left him with them to think about his behavior, told him I still love him but didnit like his choices right now but it will all be ok.

A few Km and now a few hours behind schedule I arrived back at Clarks Beach. Ok time for a 30min power nap and a refule. The dogs were happy to see me and even if I wasn't ravenous they were so I got them some tea, had a fuss and put on some nice clean kit.

Luckily for me I have my best friend Spitfire on hand to take over where ThunderHawk left off. Hes been put to pasture now, a life of retirement but that bike has taken me on more adventures than Phillies Fogg. Hes got another 350km in him, I knew it.

Back into the dark went. Now this is where things got interesting. Its been almost 40hrs since I had a real sleep and a real meal whats going to happen? The longest I've ridden for in one hit is 640km when I took on the Taupo Maxi Enduro last year and this is where we take it past that. Ill be at over 700km by the end of this leg of the weekend. I could tell my power was dropping off, well that's to be expected and I was fine with that but to get personal, some interesting things happen with the body when exercising non stop and one of them is nausea. A real mixture of things cause this but boy oh boy was it real. Thankfully I have the advice of Craig Harper - LWR world record holder and Race Across America finisher to call on for advice. He cave me some great tips. To be honest for this leg I had resigned myself to living in the place of nausea and it just is what it is, it didn't phase me you just have to accept it. To not would mean you wouldn't and couldn't do stuff like this and as I've said before, it will pass. For those with terminal bowel cancer that wont and I keep that as a reminder to just be grateful and deal with it. Sometimes you just have to focus on the mantra that slow is better than stop and keep peddling. Its not too hard when you don't consider defeat and stopping is not and never has been an option for me in this adventure. I choose to focus on the moment, be present, not think past the next km and remember my why. This too will pass. Its all ok. Dont panic, your fine. Soon enough it was all finished too and I was like.....Ok you know what, youve ridden almost 750km!! I rewarded myself with a quick shower, some food and a fabulous nap in bed yay!

3am- you don't appreciate a good sleep until you're where I am right now and that was a good sleep! may have been 2/1/2 hrs but i was epic! Nausea was still real but the rest of me felt great, I actually couldn't believe how good my legs felt. So back into some GF cocopuffs, gaviscon and a coffee (which I hate but needs must) and what I cant believe is my last 150km. This was probably my sweetest leg, I rode off the nausea, my power output was up from the last leg and as you all now know I was riding into my favorite time of day. Its true to say that eating (even the liquid food I survive on when doing these rides) is becoming harder to get down and I had to be even more attentive to drinking enough to not get dehydrated but I felt super, was cheerful as the dawn birds and when we spun the last revolution of the day I was so proud.

I know some people think Im crazy, some people think they could never do this but honestly, we can all do so much more than we think we can, our mind is the key, that and a super team.

I feel even more confident going into the Long White Ride now, I'm more appreciative than ever for the crew that will accompany me and make the journey so much easier. I'm grateful to my healthy body and mind for what it is achieving and I'm grateful that I had the friendship of Britt to inspire and enrich my life.

Shes a big job The Long White Ride, but together, we are gonna do it!

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