One man, one wheel, one mis­sion

Northern Outlook - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - LEE GRIGGS

Have I bitten off more than I can chew? What if my legs can’t re­cover quick enough to com­plete each day? Am I set­ting my­self up to be­ing a laugh­ing stock?

It was less than a week be­fore I was set to start the 182km jour­ney from SH1, up the Awa­tere Val­ley and through the Molesworth Sta­tion over un­sealed roads to Han­mer Springs. A jour­ney which I had chal­lenged my­self to ride bal­anc­ing on only one wheel, and which en­tailed climb­ing more than 2600m and de­scend­ing more than 2300m. With back pedalling as my only safe op­tion for brakes, this wasn’t go­ing to be easy on the legs or bum. Had I re­ally got what it takes to com­plete this?

This was the sort of neg­a­tive self-talk that be­gan to flood my mind as the week closed in. I had to re­mem­ber why I was do­ing this, I had to re­mem­ber that this neg­a­tive self-talk was the ex­act sort of thing that had stopped me com­plet­ing many things in the past, and as Men­tal Health Aware­ness was the purpose for the chal­lenge, I couldn’t let it hold me back now.

I re­fo­cused on the chal­lenge ahead, and searched for faith in my­self and the train­ing I had done. I re­mem­bered the sup­port of my spon­sors, fam­ily and friends, and found the strength in their back­ing. The chal­lenge was back on, and Gla­dys my one-wheeled friend and I were set to go on Good Fri­day morn­ing.

It was a pic­ture per­fect start to the trip, with the sun on my back, not a cloud in the sky or breathe of wind in the air. This was the pat­tern of weather that fol­lowed me through­out the week­end, mak­ing a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge at least a lit­tle more en­joy­able.

Good Fri­day saw me say good­bye to the tar seal, and hello to the gravel. I climbed over Aotea Sad­dle, a climb I hadn’t fac­tored into the day, and then a se­ries of short punchy climbs that sapped the en­ergy out of my legs, to make the last 10kms very chal­leng­ing. I fin­ished the day putting into prac­tice some re­cov­ery tech­niques I’d learnt as a per­sonal trainer and prayed that my legs would be ready for more of the same in the morn­ing.

Day two came around quickly, and I was feel­ing good. My re­cov­ery tips and tricks had worked. I pushed on aim­ing for Muller Sta­tion and the half­way mark of the road to Han­mer. A day that saw me meet my maker, Up­cot Sad­dle, a climb I had been warned about. It reared up in front of me, re­sem­bling more of a heav­ily rut­ted and pot­holed wall, than a gravel road.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, I was bucked off soon af­ter start­ing up the wall, and af­ter sev­eral at­tempts to re­mount, gain­ing only min­i­mal progress up­wards each time, I de­cided to save my en­ergy, stretch my legs and walk the 3km climb. The rest of the day was eas­ier go­ing, although my knees were suf­fer­ing due to bat­tling the harsh cam­bers on the road.

Easter Sun­day, saw me fi­nally ar­rive at the Molesworth gate. From here the road con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther, with cor­ru­ga­tions, pot­holes and ero­sion ruts spread across the road like wild­fire. It was now a full time job con­cen­trat­ing on find­ing the path of least re­sis­tance to guide Gla­dys through. Wards Pass was a pleas­ant sur­prise, be­ing the high­est point on the road I’d ex­pected worse, but af­ter the Up­cot Sad­dle the day be­fore, this was a breeze, al­low­ing me to ride over half of the as­cent.

I fin­ished the day skip­ping across Iso­lated Flats and up the Acheron Val­ley to the Guide River con­flu­ence. It was here I called it a day, again my knees were ready to ex­plode. It was time for an­other big feed, some an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory gel and a good night’s sleep. Easter Mon­day, and the fi­nal 45km run into Han­mer Springs. Eas­ier said than done. I woke and the weather had changed, it was over­cast and a cool wind was gain­ing mo­men­tum through the val­ley. To make things re­ally dif­fi­cult, I could barely walk.

I gin­gerly mounted Gla­dys and be­gan to tick off the kilo­me­tres, not re­ally hav­ing much con­trol in my left pedal stroke. As the day warmed up and the adren­a­line lev­els from nearly hav­ing fin­ished this mam­moth task rose, I gained more con­trol and the pain sub­sided. Just a stiff head wind and Jacks Pass to tackle and I was home.

I reach the sum­mit at Jacks Pass, but my knees started to scream again as I tack­led the never end­ing de­scent into Han­mer. How­ever, I was spurred on by the thought of my fam­ily wait­ing at the fin­ish and what dif­fer­ence I hoped I had made for the Men­tal Health of my boys in the fu­ture.

Job done. Af­ter 9 months of plan­ning and train­ing, I’m pleased to say we have so far raised nearly $10,000 for the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion NZ. A large pro­por­tion of which was raised lo­cally in Marl­bor­ough. I can only hope the chal­lenge has also helped to en­cour­age oth­ers to talk openly about men­tal health, and use to ex­er­cise and learn­ing new skills as a tool to over­come their own suf­fer­ings.

For more in­for­ma­tion on what’s to come next or to do­nate, please check out the Uni­cy­cle Molesworth Face­book page


Men­tal health ad­vo­cate Lee Griggs as he nears the end of his 182km jour­ney.

The sup­port of fam­ily and friends kept cy­clist Lee Griggs on track.

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