More than for any previous event, I've had the odd doubt about this one. I know exactly what I’ve got in store for me! At times, I've wondered whether I really want to go through with the physical and emotional anguish that I know awaits. Indeed, for a brief moment a few weeks ago, I even considered putting in a “Did not start” result.
So how does this all relate to the title – “Friends”? By way of further introduction, let me repeat something I wrote in a previous piece, which is my finding that what keeps me continuing in a tough race is friends. I just don’t want to let them down. It’s a very powerful motivation! However, a while ago I was wondering whether even this would get me through the Graperide. There is now a chink in this armour, which is that, with what I've already accomplished, most of my friends now have a huge respect for me and this will not be diminished if I do not finish the course.
However, this is where friendship has now been taken to a whole new level. There is now no way that I am going to let my friends down. Instrumental to this change of heart is a fellow called Nick Dunne. But I also want to mention at least two others – Iain Clarke and Adam Johnston. There are many, many more who will be supporting and encouraging me on, but these three especially are to the front of my mind at the moment.
Nick is a fellow Wellingtonian endurance cyclist, but as a RAAM rider (Race Across America) he is in a totally different league to me. For some reason, Nick has befriended me and taken me under his wing.
I first met Nick two years ago at the first and only time I did the Graperide (the maximum distance was 505 km then). I immediately took to him. Nick is a tough, highly competitive, driven rider, who’s most frequently given advice is “Cycling rule number five” (code for “Harden the fuck up”). But he has a heart of gold and has been encouraging and supporting me ever since. This support has been taken to a whole new level for this race, with Nick urging me to get a support crew organised, write up a race plan, write up a plan for the support crew, and get an equipment/storage list sorted out. He’s even been sharing his own hard-earned knowledge about the tricks that will make the ride faster and more successful. Just last week, I heard that he had been around to see my crew members, checking up what they were doing and giving them advice on how to make me go faster. There are many other things that Nick’s done for my race preparation that I've very grateful for. For some reason and without knowing why, I’ve tapped into the rich gold mine that is Nick’s generous heart. This is definitely one friend that there is no way I will let down.
Iain is another friend who has come to my aid. I've enjoyed riding with him in the 60-40 group for almost three years. When I put out the call for a support crew a couple of months ago, Iain leapt forward to volunteer and has been going beyond the call of duty ever since. He’s read all the RAAM and endurance riding books and DVDs I've given my crew as preparation. Every few days I get a message giving further suggestions of things we can do to increase our chances of success. I know that he’s even put his own cycling on the back burner so that he can do other things, such as prepare inspirational stickers to keep me going, buy and set up a radio communication system for rider and crew, and so on. Another friend that I definitely can’t let down!
Last, and but no means least, is Adam Johnston. I've only known Adam for less than half a year, but he is another person who I took an instant liking to. Adam has a background in high level racing, both nationally and overseas, and also in adventure racing (something dear to my heart). He is a friendly and very generous guy and, for some reason, he too has taken a liking to me and what I’m trying to achieve. As the owner of a new and very popular local bike shop (Ranga’s – a triathlon shop actually) – the success of which owes much to Adam’s energy, enthusiasm and personality – Adam has been in a position to give me a lot of help. And he has! I owe him a lot. Without asking for any money, he’s given me a comprehensive and fantastic bike fit and ongoing servicing and maintenance of my bike. Just last night, I popped around to the shop to find Adam having spent a few hours taking my bike to pieces, replacing parts, and assembling it together, race-fit for action in a few days’ time. And this was well into the evening hours of a Sunday afternoon! I've also had lots of great advice and fantastic deals on equipment and gear. But the most valuable thing I've received from Adam is his friendship. Adam is yet another friend who will get me to the end of the Graperide and in the fastest time I can manage.
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Just three friends mentioned, but they are a sample of the many who have supported me and will be encouraging me on. I’ve no idea why I’ve received such support, as I tend to be a quiet, self-effacing individual who prefers to stick to the background. However, for whatever reason, that support is there and it’s making a difference. So thanks to all my many friends!