Friday, 7 September 2012

2012 Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge, Day 7

2012 Bottlemart Smiddy Challenge, Day 7
By: Sharky

Stats for the day
Course: Belyando Crossing to Charters Towers
Distance: 198km's
Average speed: 28.5km/h
Metres climbed: 850
Temperature min: 9 degrees
Temperature max: 37 degrees
Wind direction: NorthWest

Hi there, Sharky here and my turn to write some words on what has been another unbelievable journey of human courage, sacrifice and community involvement on the long road to Townsville.The journal readings each night have been such a pleasure and I am so appreciative to all the riders who forego a few hours sleep each night and have taken on this responsibility. Gone are the years where I write all the journals for the Challenge and what a treat it has been for all our followers out there. So without further adieu I welcome you to the day 7 report of the seventh annual Smiling for Smiddy Bottlemart Challenge.

One rider's words gets me thinking
On day one of this year's Smiddy Challenge one of the riders, Adam Felsman, turned to me, as we were riding the infamous 'Sharky Shortcut', and said; "Sharky, thank you." At the time we had just completed a climb that was a tortuous 21 percent gradient. By taking the shortcut we kept the riders off the busy and dangerous D'Aguiller highway for an additional 40 kilometres. Therefore my reaction to Adam's thank you was I thought he was having a dig at me as the shortcut had not only stupid steep climbs, but dirt roads and creek crossings. My reply to ADam's thank you was; "you're welcome mate but what are you thanking me for." Adam stated simply but with sincerity, "Sharky for this, the ride, today, for the next 8 days, thank you!" I was taken aback slightly as I was waiting for a ribbing about the shortcut but Adam was already having the time of his life and voicing his appreciation. Each year it means a great deal to me that the riders who come on board get what this journey is all about. Most riders come prepared for the physical challenges that arise from riding 1600 kilometres in 8 days, but not the emotional journey that ensures due to the outpouring of human emotion and incredible acts of kindness over the 8 days and nights. Never has Smiddy failed me in our quest to enlighten our riders as to what this is all about.

Anyway those simple words from Adam meant so much to me, more than he will ever know until he hears me read this out tonight during our celebration dinner on the final night in Townsville. But those words were enough for me to reflect for the rest of the day on what this ride means to, not just me, but for everyone that has come on board since that first epic year back in 2006 when Ron Steel, Oliver Bodak and myself completed the very first Smiddy Challenge.

I wish I could ride with Adam by my side
The one over-riding thought that came to mind was this: I would give back every experience I have ever had over the past six years since Adam's passing to have him back again and riding by my side. As we all know, that can never happen, but let me tell you here and now, that I have relished, appreciated and respected each and every occasion, since 2006, to come into contact with some extraordinarily special people. On this occasion, I have had the pleasure of hanging out with 63 of them during this years Smiddy Challenge. Those people of course are the riders and road crew and are sitting right here in this room with me now as I speak.

A road full of champions for the cause
The other thought that I mulled over was how much I wish all the riders family, friends, and donors could see these magnificent machines in action. By machines I of course am referring to the riders. How they perform day after day, without complaint, never a negative comment escapes their lips, (not that I hear anyway) regardless of how much they suffer. And I assure you that each and everyone of us suffers at various stages throughout every day. The saddle sores, the bruised sit bones of their bottoms, the constant pain in their necks, shoulders, joints, the hotspots in their feet; all from the constant jarring of riding on rough roads similar to sitting on a jackhammer.

Smiddy spirit alive and well!
Now let's fast forward a few days. Two very tough days in the saddle with the high speeds due to tailwinds of day 4, and the cross-headwinds on day 5. The riders rolled into Clermont totally spent but alive with a passion that showed they now believed in the aura of the Smiddy spirit and the bonding of the group as a whole. Handshakes and congratulatory hugs were now happening; not just a few but the entire group- road crew included. I had waited for that moment for 5 days, and Clermont was the day it materialised and I could not have been happier. One thing I take pride in -in each and every Smiddy journey- is the fact that even the most hard core athletes are broken down and accepting of the fact that during this 8 day journey it is okay to let your emotions show to the entire group. How can you not be, when you hear the stories of suffering and loss due to cancer from our fellow riders who speak so openly and passionately each night. My appreciation went out to my fellow Smiddy riders from the day they signed up 10 months ago, but now, each and every one of these fine human beings, having earned my admiration and respect. I do not apologise for wearing my heart on my sleeve, that is me- please know I hold you all in the highest regard and mere words can't express what your actions mean -not only to myself- but to Maria and David Smiddy. We are in awe of your contribution and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Cattle grids/Road kill and headwinds
So on the 7th edition of the Smiddy Challenge, day 7 from Belyando Crossing to Charters Towers, was a day like the 6 before; road crew up at 4:30am and doing the tireless job of prep for the riders. Breakfast was a self catered road crew affair from 5:30am and roll out was spot on 6:30am. Once again, for the 7th day straight, we were greeted with crystal clear blue skies, and thankfully the minimum temperature was now a balmy 9 degrees. The talk in the peloton was of the night spent under the stars, as all riders accommodation consisted of a night out in the open in swags. Talk was also rife of Rowan's rendition of the day in his night-time wrap of the days events and the good natured ribbing he inflicts on those that come into his line of sight. The cattle grids that brought down two riders in the peloton a couple of years ago were successfully navigated, and the road kill count was staggering as we entered what our great mate Andy Schindler referred to as 'The Kill Zone'. Dan and Nick, our entertaining road kill counters for this year's Smiddy Challenge, were under immense pressure. Were they up for the job? Would they crumble under the pressure? Would they have to bring in another deputy road kill counter? I am happy to say that they performed their duty with dedication and military precision, although this afternoon when the group participated in a 15 kilometre go-at-your-own-pace session into Charters Towers, the kill count was a bit of a blur due to the lads sitting on 45km/h. Nice job lads, proud of your work and time to give up your day jobs. Here is the exciting kill count for the day.

Schindlers List (road kill count) By Dan Maunders and Nick Bourns
2 emu's
89 kangaroo's
56 piles of bones
3 eagle type birds
1 camel
45 bad smells
16 furry unknowns
5 cars
3 bandicoot like things
4 common birds
2 wild pigs
2 lizard like messes
3 crime scene style messes

Now at our first water and pee stop, one hour into our departure, I called a group meeting and suggested that we take advantage of the distinct lack of wind. All agreed it was an excellent idea and that we would not go any faster than 35km/h. As we pushed off the speed went from 25 to 35 and then at 45km/h on a slight downhill, with riders salivating onto their top tubes and the sounds of heart valves popping, it was a unanimous unspoken decision, that my chat was in vain, and that we should go back to what was working for us originally before my little chat. The wind then reared its ugly head and it was a most uncomfortable slog fest into morning tea at 69 kilometres.

Our beautiful road crew and old dogs make mistakes
I can't begin to tell you how good it is when we turn that last corner and see our delightfully friendly and bubbly road crew standing on the roads edge waving us into our comfort stop. Personally I was suffering to the point of having thoughts of jumping in the sag wagon for the first time ever in 7 years of Smiddy Challenge events. I had made the cardinal sin of not drinking enough and was paying the price. I am the one instructing riders to drink and eat constantly but somewhere along the way I forgot to remind myself! Anyway the road crew are unbelievable; we roll up and a rolling buffet of food and drinks are on hand at every stop. They are there to help us do just about anything that we ask, although the line has been drawn when it comes to applying chamois cream to a riders nether regions. The crew this year consists of 13 wonderful volunteers who give up 8 days of their valuable time to look after 50 hungry and dirty riders.
Maria and David Smiddy are two of those 13, fronting up for their 5th Smiddy Tour, and without their involvement it just would not be the same. Maria's hugs are more valuable than the world's largest diamond, and she dispenses them at the drop of a hat and makes you feel extremely special. While David, with his sharp wit and cheeky grin, catches some unwary riders as to if he is serious or not  when having a dig. He of course means nothing but good fun, but it has been funny to watch new riders interact with Smiddy for the first time on this trip. We are indeed incredibly gifted to have their wonderful loving company and friendship. Thank you to all the road crew but especially to Maria and David. The courage they show each year to help in an event that reminds them of their loss must be extremely hard and on behalf of all the riders we tip our hats and remind them that they are truly special and loved by us all.

37 degrees/Headwinds/1440km's/Yet still energy for a hit out!
It was the same story all day; water stops, morning and afternoon teas, lunch, 180km's in fact, all into a strong cross-headwind that has now been against us for 3 days. The wind combined with the high temperatures brings on dehydration and the concentration levels waver. Therefore the chat within the group is vitally important to stop riders going into the slumber room. Brenton Cope, Natalie Gordon, John Leyshon and Christian 'Killer' Killeen are perfect examples of riders who constantly make noise type sounds, to their fellow riders, that resemble speech, which has the effect of keeping us on our toes and awake. Today was one of those days where if we did not have rider's doing this then accidents can and do happen. So a huge thank you to those mentioned above and all the other other guys not mentioned here who also make a contribution.
The final hit out in Charters Towers
One would think that riding 1600km's in 8 days would be enough to keep most energetic riders happy. Not so as on day's 3, 6 and 7 we have a go-at-your-own pace session over 15km's for those wishing to express themselves. Today 35 riders opted to hit the pavement at speeds close to ballistic as two groups were sent out as A and B grade. The B grade went first and got a 45 second head-start on A, which turned into nearly 3 minutes thanks to a wide load coming through that delayed the A grade start. As it turned out this was a good thing as Rowan Foster and Dan Maunders bridged the gap just before the line, with Dan the victor over the inform Row Man 

Huddle up and incredible kindness
Each day that the stages finish since Clermont the hugs and handshakes are a natural occurrence between all the rider and road crew. Today was no different as the Smiddy spirit has engulfed us all and we are powerless to act in any other way. Thank you to Smiddy rider David Lynch who led the huddle, which is done directly after we finish each stage. Once again the riders are sleeping under the stars tonight in their swags. I am tapping this out while Nathan has his legs up against the wall readying them for another big and final day of riding tomorrow. We are at the School of Distance Education for the fifth year running. The school allows us to use the school grounds and the rooms for those who wish to sleep on their swags inside. John and Anne Clarke are the amazing couple who help make this happen and we are eternally grateful for their support. The Charters Towers Lions and Rotary clubs feed the crew dinner and breakfast and there are no associated costs to us thanks to their involvement.


Night-time function wrap

The night wrapped up with our usual get-together where Ben and Dustin read out the days journal from day 6, while Daniel Knight and Brett Goebel spoke emotionally about their reasons for being on the ride. Thank you to all the wonderful and inspirational speakers over these past 7 nights. Category jersey winners for tonight were Scotty Fraser who received the 'Spirit' jersey, who thanked everyone for helping him to achieve his goal of riding as much of the Smiddy Challenge as was humanly possible. The very deserving 'Team' jersey went to a clearly excited David Silvestri, who admitted to having never won anything in his life. Well David, you have won the admiration of 50 riders and 13 support crew. These guys are your extended Smiddy family now mate and proud of your involvement.
Sharky's final words
What an amazing journey so far. Here we are 6 years since my mates passing. In that time we have completed 7 Smiddy Challenge events, 3 Midi Smiddy's, 2 Half Smiddy's, 1 Smiddy Pyrenee's, 1 Kiddy Smiddy, 2 Smiddy Noosa triathlons, 2 NSW Smiddy's, a 10km Smiddy Challenge swim, 2 documentary's have been made about the Smiddy story, a park was renamed Adam Smiddy Park in Milton Brisbane and the Smiddy 7in7 ride around Australia is now up to it's 5th year. In that time we have raised in excess of 3 million dollars for cancer research. But for me, the greatest success is that many thousands upon thousands of people now know the Adam Smiddy story and what a special story that is. I miss my mate and as Maria Smiddy once said, this is a story she wished she could have shared with her son.
I will leave you with this short poem I wrote on my tablecloth at Clermont, where we were invited to scribble down a poem on the disposable table clothes.

"...Ease our pain
Adam's spirit reigns
The Smiddy ride
Keeps his memory alive..."
Thanks guys for following this Smiddy Challenge journey. I look forward to updating you as I venture across the Nullarbor in a few days time.

Take care.

If keen to make a donation and help me reach my personal 20K goal please follow this link to my fundraising page. Thank you.

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