A GIRL, A DOG and a bike

Hav­ing just spent two years on the couch, what bet­ter way to face the world again than to cy­cle the length of New Zealand with your best friend in tow. KIM TRIEGAARDT tells the story of a Canterbury-based multi-sport ath­lete on a four-month mis­sion with

New Zealand Fitness - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Kim Triegaardt

Leisa McNaughton was a high achiever – she had a great job, good friends and a love of adventure sports. She / had hiked in Nepal, moun­tain-biked in Banff [Canada], Colorado [USA] and adventure raced in New Zealand – un­til it all caught up with her.

“My world came to a dizzy­ing stop,” says 47-year-old Leisa. “My men­tal health took a blow and sud­denly I couldn’t get off the couch.”

Leisa cred­its her friends, an amaz­ing team of health pro­fes­sion­als and her best friend, her Bor­der Col­lie / Ber­nese Moun­tain dog named Indy, with help­ing pull her through the worst of it. It’s been a year of heal­ing, but now she’s ready for her next big adventure.

Leisa plans to cy­cle the length of New Zealand on part of the Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cy­cle Trail, set­ting off from Cape Reinga on 1 Oc­to­ber and fin­ish­ing up in Bluff four months later.

She’ll also use the trip as an op­por­tu­nity to fundraise for char­i­ties that are close to her heart. “We are so lucky to live in an amaz­ing coun­try and I want to see all of it. I also want to share the sights and sounds of it with as many peo­ple as I can, and help peo­ple along the way.”

And Indy will be at her side. Once de­scribed by a friendly stranger they met, as part bear/part gi­raffe, Indy has a spe­cially de­signed char­iot, man­u­fac­tured from alu­minium by a lo­cal busi­ness in Christchurch. The trailer is at­tached to Leisa’s bike and he can use it to rest in when he chooses to.

Leisa and Indy are an in­sep­a­ra­ble team, ever since she found him at the Christchurch

RSPCA as a puppy.

Field­ing nu­mer­ous as­ton­ished queries about why she has cho­sen to do such a chal­leng­ing cy­cle, Leisa says her im­me­di­ate re­sponse is al­ways: “Be­cause I can.”

“I will be trav­el­ling an av­er­age of 9km to 20km an hour – de­pend­ing on how many hills there are on the route – aim­ing for a to­tal dis­tance each day of 30km – 50km.

“When the tracks are tech­ni­cally too dif­fi­cult for Indy’s trailer, too re­mote or we are in Na­tional Parks where dogs aren’t al­lowed, I will be rid­ing self-sup­ported

and I am hop­ing adventure rid­ers will join me. My plan is to utilise a sup­port ve­hi­cle to take Indy and his trailer for these sec­tions.”

Leisa has di­vided her route up into 13 dif­fer­ent zones and is fundrais­ing for a dif­fer­ent char­ity for each leg of the trip. Each char­ity has a per­sonal con­nec­tion for Leisa. Her trip has been made pos­si­ble through the gen­er­ous spon­sor­ship of sev­eral busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als.

“I could not do this with­out the in­cred­i­ble gen­eros­ity from these peo­ple,” says Leisa.

“I’m so over­whelmed and touched by their kind­ness. I know the spirit of com­mu­nity and sup­port will keep me go­ing when the trail gets tough.”

Leisa plans to Instagram and Face­book her way down the coun­try with pho­tos and video di­aries, so peo­ple can fol­low her jour­ney and if they are in the same area as her, ac­tu­ally come along on their bikes.”

Asked what caused her world to come to a dizzy­ing stop, Leisa says: “Stress, lone­li­ness, not feel­ing like I was contributing enough to help­ing oth­ers af­ter the earth­quakes hit. I looked into buy­ing a cy­cle cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness while work­ing for fel.Group and re­signed in Au­gust of 2011.

Think­ing I was do­ing the right thing by a com­pany who I’d worked ex­tremely hard for eight years and was ex­tremely loyal to. Af­ter I re­signed and it be­came ob­vi­ous that any fu­ture plans I had in se­cur­ing the busi­ness would not be fi­nan­cially pos­si­ble, I lost all hope.

With a net­work of very good pro­fes­sional sup­port and a core group of friends I slowly “got back on the horse” at the end of Oc­to­ber 2014.

By the end of Fe­bru­ary I cy­cled Twizel to Oa­maru with Indy and his trailer, self sup­ported. I had the skills and this trip gave me the con­fi­dence to start plan­ning my length of New Zealand cy­cle jour­ney. I felt great; the ex­er­cise in­duced en­dor­phin’s even at a tour­ing pace, which my now un­fit body could man­age, plus the op­por­tu­nity to take in the ma­jes­tic scenery, talk to won­der­ful peo­ple and breath lots of fresh air where all ex­tremely pos­i­tive.”

On her up­com­ing cy­cle jour­ney, Leisa plans to stay in camp­grounds, farm­ers’ pad­docks and maybe schools – sleep­ing in a two-per­son tent with Indy.

“My hope is that fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing kids, though any­one is wel­come, will join me on the tracks. And also help fundraise for the char­i­ties by get­ting friends to spon­sor them for each kilo­me­tre they do.”

She also hopes to make con­tact with teach­ers along the way and make the 3,000km trip a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for young New Zealan­ders.

“I would love to see chil­dren get­ting out more and, if not cy­cling on these in­cred­i­ble trails, then at least learn­ing more about the amaz­ing coun­try they live in. If I can en­cour­age even just a few of them to do that through this ex­pe­ri­ence, then it will all have been worth it.”

At the end of this jour­ney Leisa is think­ing about get­ting into pub­lic speak­ing and writ­ing a book. She is also look­ing at con­tin­u­ing her vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tion to Ice­cy­cles [free bi­cy­cle main­te­nance in Christchurch].

“Let’s see what comes out of the jour­ney, maybe another adventure will present it­self?”

If you would like to con­trib­ute to Leisa’s fundrais­ing ef­forts, visit: https://givealit­tle. co.nz/cause/as­sistlei­saindy4nz­cy­cle­jour­ney. Any teacher who would like to in­volve their class with the trip, can reach Leisa through her Face­book page (Face­book/ LeisaMcNaug­ton or Face­book/Leisa & Indy’s NZ Char­ity Cy­cle Jour­ney) or by email to leisa.mcnaughton@gmail.com

Cy­clist Leisa McNaughton and her four-legged part­ner Indy, have been train­ing in Canterbury’s Port Hills, for their marathon cy­cle trip down the length of New Zealand.

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