One man, one wheel, one mission
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.