Around the Bay 2003 – Where’s the finishing line?

Just thought I’d send you a quick report of Around the Bay in a Day.  Yes – despite the shocking weather conditions I made it!  It took us fourteen hours, and by the time we got back it was dark and they had packed up the finishing line!!!

Yesterday morning the alarm woke me up at 3.45am.  I jumped out of bed and joined the masses of bike dudes heading down to St Kilda for the start of the ride.  It was a lovely balmy morning at 4am – little were we to know what was to follow…

At 5am we started off.  My main aim in the early stages was to successfully stop at the traffic lights and to not fall off my bike.  (There was only one traffic light where I wasn’t able to get my feet out of the pedals and had to run the red light.  Luckily there were no cars coming at the time.)

The first big challenge for the O’Connor girls was the Westgate Bridge.  Surprisingly this was easier than I thought.  The views were fantastic.  Leanne and I laughed at Janice bringing a camera, but we got some great photos from the top of the Bridge.  Soon after that Leanne and I dumped Janice (she goes a bit too slow for us) and we sped off on our way down to Werribee.  I found this part of the ride really hard – Leanne actually zoomed off in front of me – I couldn’t work out why I was going so slow, but finally I realised I was in the wrong gear.

After Werribee the dreaded rain began.  (For those that don’t live in Melbourne it poured yesterday.)  The wind was driving the rain into us, and it was so hard it was stinging our faces.  Occasionally we would ride under an overpass and there were all these wet miserable cyclists waiting for the SAG Wagon to pick them up.  If you can’t go any further you turn your bike up side down and wait for the SAG WAGON (a little mini bus) to come and pick you up.

We managed to make it to the Little River service station and made the fatal error of stopping too long.  By the time we got back on our bikes we were frozen.  At this stage I was only going as far as Geelong and had every intention of finding a shop, buying myself some warm clothing and then catching a train back to Melbourne.  Unfortunately I didn’t bargain on my little sister being so determined to keep going.  I felt like I was going to let the team down if we stopped.

And so we continued on down to Queenscliff.  By the time we got there my shoulders and neck were so sore that I was crying.  We got down there at 11.50 (which was really slow going).  Unfortunately we just missed a ferry and so had to sit around for over a hour waiting for the next one.  I was so cold and miserable.  I sat huddled up on a bench, my body shivering and teeth chattering.  I promised myself I would never ever do this to myself again.  What made it worse was that we called Janice to find out that she had caught the bus back to Melbourne and was on her way home to have a hot shower.

When we got to Sorrento there was a miracle – there was blue sky and the sun started to shine!  Talk about four seasons in one day.  Soon we put away the rain coats and were applying sun screen.

The sun eventually dried my clothes and warmed by bones, but it didn’t fix my sore neck & shoulders.  The pain was beginning to get really bad again.  I began wishing that my bike would get a flat tyre so all of this would come to a gracious end.  Sometimes prayers are answered and next thing I knew my sister Leanne had got a flat tyre.  Yah!!  I thought this is the end I can turn my bike upside down and wait for the SAG WAGON to collect us.  But no, Leanne isn’t pleased – she’s mad!  I suddenly see a new side to my sister.  Usually I am the strong one, but today I am a crying whingeing mess, while she is this determined woman of steel.  There was no way she was going to let this flat tyre beat her.  I had no choice but to get out my bicycle repair kit and attempt to fix the flat.  Although we had the tools neither of us had ever fixed a flat tyre before.  For over 30 mins we wrestled with the tyre.  Cyclist after cyclist rode by us – they seem blind to our plight.  (Admittedly we didn’t stop to help any of the other riders we saw with flats during the day.)  Eventually a bus stopped.  The driver said she was the last bus for the day.  If we wanted to give up this was our last chance.  Excitedly with renewed energy I ran to my bike reedy to dump the damn thing on the bus.  Leanne however wasn’t as keen and so the bus driver fixed her tyre for her (in less than 5 mins).

And so it was back on the road again.  By this time we couldn’t see any bike riders in front of us nor behind us!  It was so depressing.

The iron woman Leanne finally began to run out of steam near Mornington.  At one stage she had to get off her bike and walk up a hill.  Watching someone suffer seemed to give me more energy – suddenly I was the one ploughing up and down the hills.  The view as we were riding down the hill at Frankston seemed to make the day all worthwhile (well almost).

At Carrum I lost it again.  My neck was so sore.  I ended up calling Janice to tell her where we were and burst into tears.  As were travelled back along Beach Road towards St Kilda, conversation between Leanne and I ceased.  Each of us were in our own little world, focussing on that finish line, willing ourselves to make it.  The sunset was beautiful and as the night closed in we had to pull out our bike lights again.

Eventually at 7pm we pulled into the finish line.  Fourteen hours after we began we had made it home – well what was left of the Finish Line.  They had almost finished packing everting up.  There was no one there to meet us, but some stranger clapped us which made us feel better.

Leanne and I were almost crying at the thought of having to ride home from St Kilda, but we discovered Janice waiting with her car to pick us up (how nice was that).  We had our photo taken with the time clock to prove we made it, and then as if on cue the heavens opened up and it started raining again.

And so ends the Around the Bay in a Day adventure.

Feeling okay today, but neck and shoulders still sore – could do with a massage.  My bike is currently in pieces on the bathroom floor – am unsure if and when I’ll put it back together.  Leanne is already talking about doing it again next year – I think I will take a bit of convincing.

Thanks for the e-mails and text messages of support.  Thanks also for the sponsorship – I sure earned that money for the Smith Family.

P.S.  I never want to see a banana, energy bars, lollies or blue Gatorade ever again…

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