Hello again and wishing a very happy 2019 to all those who read this! 2018 seemed to fly by, alas here we are another year older and wiser. I had many things to be grateful for in 2018, also a few challenges that I wish were never thrown my way. I was grateful however for an experience that I finished my 2018 that taught me the importance of patience whilst on a journey to wherever we may be heading.
The 22nd of December marked the summer solstice in Tasmania, Australia and subsequently the longest day of the year. A friend of mine named Steve whom also is a former professional cyclist floated an idea for this day that upon first hearing sounded fairly silly. The proposal was to cycle our bikes 500km from the town Stanley at the top of Tasmania to Hobart at the bottom in 1 day. I thought about this for about 2seconds before my cycling head jumped at the opportunity and I committed to joining Steve and 4 others on this magnificent adventure. We would attempt to finish most of the ride in the 14hours of daylight offered on this day, meaning we would have to push a pace of over 30km/h for most of the day which is very ambitious giving we had 6500m of elevation to climb over also.
We set off just before
the first glimpses of sunlight at 3.30am from the northern fishing
village of Stanley. Spirits and motivation were high in these
initial hours of the ride, as the sun rose winds were very light and
we were making good progress. As with many journey’s the motivation
is at it’s peak in the initial phases. Capitalising on the strong
motivation and good conditions we covered good ground in the first 3
hours covering over 110km. However at the first big mountain climb
of the day we lost our first 2 victims to the challenges of the ride
who hopped in the support vehicle we had organised due to sickness
and fatigue. Leaving just 4 of us to share the work for the
remaining 390km. As the mountains became steeper and longer at the
150km mark, my legs started succumbing to the difficulty of this
ride. Turning the pedals was becoming more and more of a struggle as
each kilometre ticked over. But perhaps the most difficult thing at
this part of the ride was knowing that there was still 300+km
remaining. My longest ride up until this day was just over 310km
which I remember as being extremely difficult and writing me off
physically for weeks. The mental knowledge of what lay ahead seemed
monumental and insurmountable.
As the remaining 4 of us
became more and more fatigued throughout the day normally
insignificant issues seemed far bigger and dramatic than they needed
to be. I remember becoming so frustrated with the constant humming
of the diesel van following us that I cracked it and yelled at the
driver to pass on the seemingly wide enough section of road. The
fatigue in my legs and in my head was making mountains out of
molehills so to speak.
I remember in the days leading up to the ride I remarked to the ride leader Steve that having miles in legs was likely very important for a ride like this. His response stuck with me through the day.. He said “more importantly- miles in the HEAD”. Experience brings perspective in cycling and in life in general, being able to interpret all the mountains, wind, darkness and fatigue that lay ahead as something that was manageable was only possible with an experienced, trustworthy, steady and balanced leader like Steve.
Steve was one of the key
ingredients that made this ride possible for the 4 of us that
finished this ride. To get through any challenge I believe the
ingredients I learned about and had to use in this ride are
beneficial no matter what the context of the challenge. The first
ingredient I just alluded to:
1. Leadership: Steve brought us perspective
and sustained the faith that what we were undertaking was possible.
2. Company: Having someone to share the
workload of the ride and help sustain the spirits was crucial, even
when completely exhausted just being able to share a few words or a
smile with your mates granted me a few extra ounces of energy.
Teamwork makes the dream work ;).
3. Patience/ Tolerance: From that 110km mark I was pretty deep into the hurt locker, but from that point, the pain never got worse. I just had to keep tolerating that level of discomfort/pain. When you put yourself into a level of struggle that is so deep, often anything else can get thrown at you and the level of hurt sustains, you just need a reason to keep tolerating it.
4. Purpose: This is what made the
tolerance of that hurt locker more possible. We were raising
awareness and funds for a Tasmanian charity named ‘Speak Up- Stay
Chatty’ which provides mental health support and services for the
people of Tasmania. They provide workshops in schools and community
groups about the importance of sharing issues with another to
lighten the burden and subsequently reduce the stigma of mental
health challenges and the incidence of suicide in Tasmania. Knowing
we were riding for something greater than ‘strava’ or just miles in
a bike computer gave us a bit more mental fortitude to withstand the
hurt that the ride was dishing out to us.
As far as my blood sugars
were concerned this day was one of the best managed days I’ve ever
experienced. The constant exercise and regular eating kept me pretty
much in a straight line of blood sugar management for the entire
day. I was lucky enough to be using CGM for the ride and had the
best managed day I had ever seen on the graph. Perhaps that is the
secret to perfect diabetes management - cycle 500km each day ;).
The recovery has been another difficult part of this journey and now a month afterward I still feel a lingering fatigue when I wake each morning, but I am on the mend day by day. As I was reminded of on the ride- ‘good things come to those who are patient’ :-).
Thank you again for reading.
After receiving a diagnosis of type1 diabetes at age ten, Justin’s dreams and goals in life were threatened. Turning to cycling to help him cope with type1 diabetes quickly proved to not only be beneficial but also the start to a successful pro cycling career. Justin spent five years as a professional in road cycling travelling the world racing his bike. Dealing with the challenges of sport and diabetes across five different continents has given Justin a wealth of stories and knowledge about dealing with challenges on and off the bike.
Having since transitioned from a pro cycling career to completing two university degrees in psychology and education from Macquarie University in 2015 and being awarded with a University Blues Award for excellence in sport and academics. Justin continues to fuel his competitive streak with multi day mountain bike racing for team SubarumarathonMTB.com, having achieved podium finishes at The Crocodile Trophy, The Simpson Desert BikeChallenge, The Pioneer in New Zealand and The Mongolia Bike Challenge.
Since 2011 Justin has complemented his cycling career with sharing a message of hope, empowerment and overcoming adversity to audiences internationally.