As the "About Pedal4Parkinson's" section of the blog will inform you I started this ride as a way of doing something for a cause which I was sick of hearing that there was really nothing we could do. While a lot of my passion for this cause was driven by showing my father my love and determination to help him in any way I could I was also determined to in some way help anyone else who might even remotely relate to the highs and lows experienced by my family as a result of Parkinson's over the past few years.
When most people ask me about the ride they tend to focus on physical fitness, making comments like "I wish I was fit enough" or "you're a beast". In all honesty after last years ride and training up towards this years I have to say the physical fitness required is only a very small component in comparison to the emotional strength required in the lead up and duration of the ride. I am expecting some will scoff and make some snide remark that all you need to do is sit and pedal, why would that require emotional strength?
Even if it wasn't for such a cause sitting on your bike day in day out for a number of hours gives you a lot of thinking time. While there are minor distractions of traffic and various obstacles this time is more or less forced reflection time. Given we as a society are becoming so good at distracting ourselves from such time it can be quite a daunting thing to run with especially when there is no place to hide. Be it thinking about you meals the last few, your future direction in life or the ones you love these thoughts can get quite deep and intrusive on their own, adding in the physical exhaustion of training and emotional exhaustion of a cause so close to your heart and I think you will see where I am coming from with the emotional strength.
The fact is there is no way I could have conjured up anywhere near the emotional strength to do last years ride let alone consider riding again this year without such a strong and inspirational network of family and friends. While there are many people I would like to thank for their love and support (I like to think you know who you are and that I have thanked you endlessly) I wanted to share a few stories of some very strong individuals who's stories and support have really helped me hang in there when things get hard.
This consists of my Dad, Mum and my little sister Mandi. As cliched as it is to thank my family for their love and support I could not go with out doing so, and to be honest I wish there was more I could do to thank them.
Firstly my dad, as you are all aware he is the centre of this whole ride for me. Since I could remember my dad has always taken a cup half full prospective on life, the first quote or saying I ever remember being repeated to me being "Don't be a glum-bum, don't be sour. With every rain, there blooms a flower". I really feel my dads optimisuum and positive outlook on life has not only helped me through a vast number of things including the ride but I like to think that just a little has rubbed off on my character. In combination to this my father has to be the strongest and bravest person I have ever known not just for surviving in a household of three very driven, stubborn and feisty women. Since being diagnosed with Parkinson's it has been a rough ride for us all and while it has been hard and we all have our moments my dad has pushed through and if anything pulled us through with him.
Then there is my mother, the most driven, powerful and inspirational woman I know. Mum had definitely given me direction in life as well as the determination to not just succeed in my goals but to push the limits and always give my 200% effort, the saying "the sky is the limit" definitely does not heights reached by my mother near the justice she deserves. While we have had out differences and clashed I like to think that these happen as a result of being to alike in many respects and for that I could not be more grateful.
Finally there is my Mandi, my sister, my partner in crime and most importantly my best friend. If there is one line to sum up our relationship it would have to be "family by chance, friends by choice" and I honestly could not have chosen a better best friend. For those of you who don't know my sister we are generally speaking polar opposites, to give you a brief insight I have put together the following quick comparison:
It should however be noted that no matter how different we are across the board we still seem to know each other inside out. I can always count on Mandi to be there when I need it, be it my gross lack of fassion knowledge, my inability to shop, someone to skype cook with, stalk pretties around town or to hold me up when I need the support I know my sister is always there. I can only aspire to provide the same in return.
When I first moved to Sydney to study everything was a little daunting, my fathers diagnosis was still fairly fresh and all I wanted was to be there to help, instead I was starting a degree in a different state. My first day of O-Week I encountered the most enthusiastic, passionate and inspirational young woman, Winey Suen. Going in top an engineering field words could not express how much I cherished meeting and being accepted by such a bubbly spirit. It was not until 6 months down the track that I realised Winey and I had a lot more in common when she announced she would be shaving her lovely long locks for Parkinson's to support her father. This was a massive turning point for me and I owe a lot to Winey as she changed my perspective on everything. I still remember standing there watching her hair falling to the floor and telling myself that's were I want to be, I aspired to be as strong, as forgiving and as generous as this beautiful woman and to thios day this aspiration keeps me going. I have no hesitation in saying that Winey is my Saint and with out a doubt my savior and I know I am not the only one she has touched.
It is always reassuring to know that you are not fighting alone, as such I was ecstatic when David Greaves introduced himself on my blog. David is from the UK and has conducted a Pedal for Parkinson's there called End to End since before I'd even thought of such an idea. Suffering from Parkinson's himself David's story will truly inspire you and can be found at his website. In talking to David over the past few weeks we have been throwing around some crazy but fantastic ideas of perhaps involving me paying a visit to the UK mid 2011, of which I could not be more excited.
Another inspirational rider was also brought to my attention by Parkinson's Victoria, John Vaughan-Fowler recently completed his cycle Top2Botom, cycling Darwin to Melbourne in aid of Parkinsion's. I am trying to touch base with John to find out more about his adventures but given he just got in he is probably indulging in a well earned rest. You can read more about John's story on his website.
I must also say without the Parkinson's organisations and their support groups (Parkinson's Australia, Parkinson's NSW and Parkinsons VIC) this endeavor would have been near impossible. From sharing professional resources, assisting in planning and very kind words of support I can not thank them all enough. Since I have known them each one of them treats their job with passion and strives to achieve the best outcomes, provide unbeatable support and unconditional friendship for suffers and their families. All I can say is that it takes a very special kind of person to not just do the job but do it well and these guys are the best at what they do.
Finally a brief mention, as this post is already ridiculously long, to all my friends who have been there for me. Be it supporting me on the ride, giving me hugs, making me go out and train, rest and eat when I really don't want to or even just putting up with my moods as a result of this emotional roller-coaster you have all been there for me and I promise I am always there to return the favor.
Thank you all.