Riding Through Grief.

Going for a ride can mean different things to each person. For me it has always been a chance to explore and escape. Both physically and emotionally it has served as my vehicle of choice to ‘getaway’. Be it from a stressful day in the kitchen or exploring the hills and mountains that surround my home in Queenstown. My bike has got me above the clouds (metaphorically and literally) and let me clear my mind (and soul), being out in nature, doing what I love. That sense of freedom is something we all crave, from the anxieties and stresses of our daily lives, getting out on the bike has always been my cure. I consider myself lucky that I know what I love and what makes me happiest and also lucky that all I need is a bike and a trail to get there!

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I have very recently discovered just how much riding means to me and how vital a part of my life riding is. I am the type of person who like to think on the move and preferably outside. I’m a pacer, a walking-on-the-phone kind of person. In times of trouble or stress I will take to the trails either running or riding. Breaking that sweat to break down the mental barriers. Let the unconscious mind solve the problem while the conscious mind is focusing on pushing the body. Earning my mental respite with a t-shirt drenched in sweat and legs trembling, looking up from a hard climb scanning my new horizon, high in the mountains, the cold wind on my  sweating body is a sharp clarity through to my thought process. The fog of uncertainty is often cleared or at least put into perspective. A tiny, lone figure standing atop of hill ringed with towering snow-capped peaks the significance of my problems are brought in to clarity.

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This is my system and it has worked well for me over the years, from job worries and stresses (of which being a chef that is pretty much the whole job) to girl and financial issues. The pedal strokes have been my slow, steady therapy, a counselling made of movement and exertion.

This system is being put to the absolute test at this moment. To wrestle with one of the very toughest of human emotions. Grief and shock have torn into my happy and sheltered life. My perfectly crafted and cared for bubble of peace has been dealt an almighty blow that words can’t begin to explain. As some of my readers know but most do not my brother Neil recently killed himself. Out of the blue for me and the whole family, his death has knocked the air out of me emotionally and physically. I felt literally breathless for weeks after. The coming to terms with this loss will be  a constant struggle for the rest of my life. It has, and will, change me in ways I will neither know or fully understand. It is early days and I have no advice or insights at this time.  A part of my life for the last 27 years has been cut short and there is no fix for this. All I know is one thing, I needed to go for a ride.

I flew home as soon as I could, 35 hours back to the UK to be with my family and to help with the funeral. I arrived at Manchester Airport to a text and an email from my airline saying they had lost my baggage. Although fair play to them it was only in Heatherow Airport which, considering I took 6 different planes  to get there, I thought only losing one of the two was pretty good going. My main concern was which bag? The backpack filled with clothes or my bike box? Thankfully it was the clothes (which may I add, were then courier posted to my house the next day! Cheers British Airlines!) for the bike was my ticket to my inner sanctum.

My place of tranquility lay in that box. A jumbled collection of aluminium and steel wrapped in old towels and bubble wrap, ducttaped inside a big ass cardboard box. It had travelled halfway across the world to be my helping hand in my time of need.

I have got a great circle of close friends and family who have been absolutely amazing in helping my and my family through this time. I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Like I said early I don’t have any answers for anyone out there. I don’t know if this will help anyone out but that wasn’t my intention with this blog. All I know is that I have one way to deal with things and that is to ride. To get on that saddle and pedal into the beautiful wilds of this incredible planet.

So from now on, every ride I do, will be in memory of Neil Brindley 28/04/1984-31/08/2016 and I will continue to raise money for Mental Health.

Donate Here

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Getting to the Start Line -Off Road Aotearoa

 

 

Offroad Aotearoa About to start

You plan and tinker, pack and repack, map and reroute but at the end, all you have to do, is take that first step. Take that first pedal stroke and turn that first corner. As soon as the ride begins all bets are off. It’s all down to you, to adapt and rise to the challenge. The road is filled with pot holes, both metaphorically and physically. You ride it as best you can.

Many people asked along the way,

‘What do you do when it rains?’

‘I get wet.’

This kinda sums up my approach to touring, things happen to you, deal with it.

I made some ambitious claims before the ride ( ‘6.5 weeks/100 km a day’for example). Three weeks before I was set to leave I rode to Glenorchy and back. 111 km and 1723m elevation. It was a practise run of an ‘average’ day on the bike. This is what I should be doing, according to my plans, almost everyday for the next 6.5 weeks. I got back from the ride exhausted. Both knees were hurting and I wasn’t even carrying the full weight. I had to book into the physio for a massage and some dry needling. I was cardio fit but the knees were still giving me issues.

Strava of glenorchy ride adventurefuel

I downplayed it to everyone. I had set my mind on finishing this ride. If I needed to go slower I would but I had everyone behind me from friends and colleagues to sponsors and charities. I made a little pact with myself. I would only quit if I completely ruined myself. Worse or equal to Canada (dislocated knee) was my self imposed bench mark, anything less and I would push on. So there I was, mentally prepared for the worst but excited and hopeful for a good outcome.

Adventurefuel all of the kit overhead view nz cycle tour

The final two weeks were a nightmare. I was so busy, organising a last-minute fundraiser for Mental Health Foundation and packing up my life to move back to the UK. I didn’t go for a single ride. I assured myself that I had done all I could. Two weeks wouldn’t change much physiologically but it would definitely have calmed my nerves.

It was time, I sat in my flat and half-watched TV, anxiously glancing at the clock and back at the weather forecast. Cyclone Bart has hit the North Island. Creating some very serious weather as well as landslips over many major roads. This trip was already looking like a disaster movie and I hadn’t even started yet!

I flew up to Auckland and stayed with my friends Carly and Jono for the night before catching the bus to Kaitaia. Carly gave me a lift to the bus stop in Auckland CBD. It was dark still but very humid, easily 5C warmer than down in Queenstown. I napped briefly on the bus, I jerked awake to a vivid maroon sky, dark clouds slashing across the sunrise. To the North they rolled together into a seething mass of deep purple. Red sky at dawn shepherd’s warn.

Crossing the Auckland Bridge I stared down upon Auckland Harbour. The forest of white masts bucked and swayed like grass in a gale. The florid sky reflected in the sea, I realised this is the first time I had seen the sea in over a year. A smile crept through my worry about the weather. I would see plenty of that sea over the next few weeks.

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The bus up to Kaitaia took 2 hours longer than it should. The whole bus rocked as wind forced the rain sideways into the glass. The torrents of rain filled the air. We took a huge detour due to roads being closed after landslips.

I looked out of the lee ward side window, a deep mist surrounded us and sky and ground become indistinguishable. Every bridge we crossed the river is too close and splaying out and up the banks, trespassing into nearby fields The water was a pale, churning brown, filled with soil and debris. Trees were looking precarious, half submerged in the torrent. It was the heaviest rain I had ever seen, though perhaps the idea of having to ride in it the next day caused me to be superlative.

Arriving in Kaitaia in the late afternoon the weather started to clear, from screaming tantrum to loud rumblings of discontent. The sky was grey as far as the eye could see and thick with moisture. It was even warmer than Auckland.Erin come and picked me up and I got my supplies for the ride up to Cape Reinga and back.

She also filled me in on the tide times for riding the 90 Mile Beach ( an actual Highway that is on the beach) the sand hardens as the tide goes out to almost solid concrete. With the timing right you can ride the whole section in one go, just pray you don’t have a headwind, as there is absolutely no cover!

After an enormous dinner of fish and chips  I built my bike and pack it ready for the morning. Being in transit for the last two days I had been at the mercy of other people. The bus being late or my bike being lost on the plane, now it’s all down to me. From this point on I was on my own.

 

Anxiety disappears now it is just reckless excitement. 8 months of planning has come to this point! The planning is over now it’s time for adventure!