Friday, 27 March 2015

NEW ZEALAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE Bealey To Christchurch- Day 5

STATS FOR THE DAY
Distance: 137 kilometres
Average speed: 25.9 kmph
Ride Time: 5hrs 18min
Maximum speed:  82 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 3 degrees
Temperature Maximum -  21 degrees
Metres climbed: 1009
Wind direction: Light headwind for last 60km's

ROAD KILL BY Jayden Swarbrick and Bob Vander-Wal,
12 rabbits, 9 bags of bones, 2 birds, Jayden's back wheel and Geoff's front tyre.

CATEGORY JERSEY: Won by Peter Monopili. This bloke is so deserving of this award. A kiwi local from Christchurch and next-door neighbour to the Wonderful Vander-Wal family. Peter is a real quiet achiever, never says much, but for 5 days now has been driving that lead vehicle in his no-fuss way and keeping all of us riders safe. None of the riders know this but Peter lost his Wife to a heart attack just 18 months ago. He was the first person on the scene and what he went through will stay with him for the rest of his life. Peter's daughter is also fighting her own personal battle with cancer as we speak. He is moving on with his life and I just want him to know that he now has an additional 38 Smiddy people in his life that he can now call his friends. Congratulations Peter.

GUEST SPEAKER: No guest speaker tonight.

Today was our final day on the road for the NZ Smiddy Challenge and on paper it promised to be a cracker of a course with the last 85km either downhill or flat. But as is per usual in any Smiddy event, what looks good on paper does not necessarily unfold as it reads out on the road. Our roll out today was at 7:30 and we got away right on time at 7:45. The next 50km's into morning tea at Lake Lyndon took close on 3 hours to complete. This included a wee stop and an awful lot of regrouping thanks to the constants up and downs of the road. The peloton, while tired, still appreciated the magnificent Alpine views that these Autumn mornings and the thick moist fog banks provided.

Rolling into morning tea we were all famished and not only was the food at its usual high standards but we were treated to two surprise guests arriving in their hire car in Maria and David Smiddy. It was so good to see them as we were not expecting them until the finish at Christchurch. Maria had just finished her latest round of chemotherapy for her Pancreatic cancer and she was extremely happy that the administration of the drug timed perfectly so that she could greet her beloved Smiddy riders and road crew. Always thinking of others our Maria! She looks great, always smiling and always positive, while David was his usual cheeky self and straight into me. And I wouldn't have it any other way!

After morning tea we had a small of amount of climbing up to 950 metres of altitude and then the big drop commenced. We lost 450 metres in just 5 kilometres and the ride of our lives was over way to quickly.

From the 60km point of the ride and into Christchurch was a gradual loss of another 500 metres of altitude over the remaining 77 kilometres. If not for the headwind we would have been hooting along at a much higher speed. But as it turned out, the rotation and work ethic of the entire peloton was fantastic and approximately a 30km average was the order of the day into Christchurch. Lunch was at the 101km mark by the side of the road in the shade of one of the hundreds of tall hedges that line all the farming roads over here.

From lunch into Christchurch and the final 36 kilometres, it was switch on time, thanks to going into the dense traffic that coincided with the schools finishing at 3pm. Killer chose a good safe route and we managed to get most of the green lights. It was one of the smoothest finishes to a Smiddy ride I could remember as we sailed through the suburbs of Christchurch with no incidents occurring, that saw all of us arrive safely to our home for the night at the Speights Ale House. A very popular choice of accommodation going by the riders reaction when they spotted the Speights Tavern sign sitting atop the welcoming building.

Hugs and congratulatory handshakes were the order of the day once the bikes were put to one side. Emotions were high and the riders and road crew indulged in some Smiddy love in those very special ten minutes. The huddle was taken by Karen and Bob Vander-wal and a very special cheer went out for our wonderful Maria and David Smiddy. And that was our day and of course there were a few highlights that will finish off this blog below.

What an amazing effort by just 26 riders and 9 road crew to raise in excess of $100,000 for Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation. A huge thank you to the crew and all the donors out there that believed in their chosen rider and what their reasons for doing this ride.

Over five days the peloton went up and over and down hundreds upon hundreds of small and large climbs and yet we had just one fall by Harry Nina. Great work by the riders for their patience and skill shown through 5 trying days of riding.

Speaking of falls I really must mention Harry Nina, and not just because he told me I had to, but because I think he deserves a mention. You see Harry woke up sore for some reason after falling on Wednesday? Yet he still managed to climb Arthur's Pass and then backed up today. Nice work mate and I, unlike all the other riders, will never tire of you telling your fall story and what a legend you are for continuing to ride!

To Geoff McKeon a heartfelt thank you for getting in the van with Kevvy for the morning session. I understand you had a sore knee but more important is that Kevvy will stop sulking thinking that no one loves him anymore. Good to see you out on the road again after morning tea and finishing all but 40km's of this 700km odyssey.

While on the subject of Geoff. That hair raising descent that was catapulting you down the road at 80km/h plus and you pull into the regrouping zone, stop and have a drink and the chatter was high from the excitement of the descent, when BAM! Down goes your front tyre... Someone was looking after you today champ.

Still on the descent. While I made a promise to Hawk that I would wear his Shark helmet cover all the way into Christchurch, I would just like to say that on each and every descent the wind velocity trying to tear my head from my shoulders had me questioning my loyalty.

Last night I awarded a signed Smiddy jersey to Harry Knowlman, at the end of the nighttime proceedings Harry re-gifted the jersey to his beloved Sister Charlotte as he felt she deserved it more. Harry was concerned that he offended me. I can assure you I re-gift all the time and that it was his to do with as he liked. But I thought it was a beautiful gesture. Having 4 wonderful and gorgeous sisters myself I fully understood where he was coming from.

It would be most unprofessional of me to name names here but it was noted today by one of the riders that a gender change may be on the cards for a number of the male riders. Wherever you looked, pink was the order of the day when it came to patching up either abrasions from falling off one's bike, or from having sore knees. That's all I am saying about that.

Okay it is official; not one cow was spotted today, which brought the total of no cows spotted over a 5 day period to still none, which is zero and nil and absolute in the total of 000000 non cows spotted. Therefore my theory of Alien abduction has been proven to be correct, and that's all that I can say about that. If I say anymore I am likely to be mistaken for a cow and may be abducted myself.

Slingers showed real Smiddy mateship on this trip, especially when Karl's battery shat itself. Every time Karl needed to change a gear for a particular section over the past 3 days, Slingers would be by his side lending his battery for the all important change. I know that Karl is extremely grateful to Jason, for without his support Karl knows he would not have finished this event.

That's it from me. Our next Smiddy event will be the Noosa Smiddy Challenge in a month's time. I look forward to writing about another bunch of wonderful human beings then.

Thanks again everyone out there for your support and on behalf of Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation our gratitude is eternal.

Cheers.

Sharky

Thursday, 26 March 2015

NEW ZEALAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE Greymouth To Bealey - Day 4

STATS FOR THE DAY
Distance: 115 kilometres
Average speed: 22.9 kmph
Ride Time: 5hrs 03min
Maximum speed:  66 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 12 degrees
Temperature Maximum -  22 degrees
Metres climbed: 1501
Wind direction: Not much wind at all to speak of

ROAD KILL BY Jayden Swarbrick and Bob Vander-Wal, 26 sets of legs, 3 possums, 2 rabbits, 2 fur pancakes, 1 dead wick, 1 dead mouse but that was in the wicks mouth, 2 unidentified birds, 1 magpie and not so rare Kiwi migrator who couldn't handle her local train tracks

CATEGORY JERSEY: Won by Harry Knowlman. Yesterday Harry was on death's door. Today he rode past a sign near the top of Arthur's Pass called Death's Corner. Harry laughed in its face, or in this case at the sign and carried on up that climb like a professional mountain climber. The man was back today and the smile on the little guys face said it all. A very worthy winner.

GUEST SPEAKER: Louise O'Brien got up tonight and shared with us her story of her father passing away from bowel cancer. He lived in Ireland and over a long period of time Louise got the call many times that her father was about to pass away, she would drop what she was doing, rush to be by his side and then he would miraculously recover. When he did pass away the call came too late and she didn't get to say goodbye.

ADDITIONAL STATS BY KARL AND BEN
Stats are a little different tonight as we don't have easy access to all our internet gadgetry...

Distance - 115km over 8h07m
Max Speed - 65.4km/h (of the sampled rider)
Calories for an average rider - 3124Cal
Elevation Gain - 1599m

TBD 5 minute top average speed -
TBD 60 minute top average speed -

IT WAS ALL ABOUT ARTHUR'S PASS TODAY!
Today was the day everyone had been talking about with the iconic climb up the legendary Arthur's Pass. Not a huge climb in length at just 4.7km's, but with an elevation gain of 500 metres over such a short distance you know the 'pain train' is awaiting you. Arthur's Pass tops out at 920 metres and some of the pitches were as high as 22% gradient. To get to that 4.7km section, first we left Greymouth and did the old gradual climb thingo up to the 400 metre mark in elevation, which equates to a touch over 90 kilometres of riding before hitting the main climb. Getting there was the fun part and a most casual schedule met with strong approval from the group, especially those riders that suffered badly yesterday. This is how it looked:

Roll out was at 7:45am and the light rain that had started in the wee hours of the morning abated just in time for the start. I definitely think we have dodged a bullet with the rain on this trip. The locals were telling me that the west coast side of this South Island generates 70 metres of rain a year. Back home we measure our rainfall in mills, I can't begin to imagine 70 metres of rain! The greenness and sogginess everywhere you look is evident that the rain does indeed fall heavy when it is falling, and thankfully not now while we are here enjoying this wonderful beautiful and scenic country, and for that we are eternally grateful for.

Our first stop was at just 11km's to visit an old long closed coal mine called Brunnerton Mine. As coincidence would have it, on this very day, back in 1896, the coal mine exploded and over 100 miners were tragically killed. The mine has been closed since and the locals have done a magnificent job in remembering those lost in the explosion by keeping the area intact and preserved. From there we rode to the 38km point for a lovely morning tea at Lake Brunner. The lake there is beyond descriptive words and the photos taken will not do it justice, but I have uploaded a few to my Mark Sharky Smoothy Facebook site so please check them out. The only disappointing thing about this stop was that the road crew used up their limited supply of banana and chocolate cake. We still had a choice of 10 different options of food, so I am not complaining, but just saying that cake was worth it's weight in gold.

From Brunner Lake, another short section of 33 km's, and onto another placed owned by Smiddy rider, Jackson Gerard in Jackson Tavern. Our old mate Jackson is loaded when it comes to bridges and taverns! It was here that Kevvy, Killer and Peter decided to go for a drive up the road and check out the climb for any safety issues. Our normal 40 minute lunch turned into nearly two hours. We all reckon they had gone straight to the pub down the road. Finally we were on our way and another short section to the base of the climb saw us get a final safety brief by Killer and Ben. The next 4.7km was our destiny for the remainder of the day.

Which brings me to my top ten moments from day 4 on the road:

Our beautiful and talented bike mechanic Chris, was situated right at the back of the peloton as we rolled out of Greymouth. 500 metres into our roll out and train tracks on an angle had to be negotiated. The thing I love about Chris is her desire to be different; a young girl who is a bike mechanic and owns her own bike shop in Airlie Beach, a young lady who decided to throw herself to the ground when crossing those train tracks, while everyone else got through safely. Of course I was there to witness the whole thing, while ironically Karen had positioned herself at the same spot and got photos of all the action. Chris was up quicker than Jack Robinson (I don't even know who Jack Robinson is?) While Chris got her chain back on, I straightened up her bent brake hood and we were back on the peloton without anyone aware of what happened. Even Kevvy, who was right behind us, missed the entire thing.

To Rocket Rod, who saved his best performance for this day. He unleashed his beast from within and made it to the top a clear winner in the world and universe Arthur's pass championship. A big congrats to this man with a warm heart, who went for it and did the fastest time of the day to get to the top in a little over 26 minutes. Rod actually wanted to then turn around and go back to the last rider to help out but was overruled due to roadworks making it too unsafe.

Jeff Mckeon had a second tough day at the office and even though he struggles for most of the day, and was the last rider to the top of Arthur's Pass, this big man, who weighs in at a touch over 100kg, made it the entire way up that sucker without stopping.

To our road kill counter Jayden, who halfway up the climb, had his back go on him and he had to get off and walk in his cleats up a 14% pitch. He remounted and finished, and later at the regroup spot, proudly showed the bottom of his cleats, worn to the sole. Nice work our youngest Smiddy rider on this tour at just 23 years of age.

To my Bro Martin, for not only donating $1000 out of his own pocket last night to his fundraising page, but he generously shouted everyone a coffee today at the cafe where we all met after the big climb. Thank you so much mate, your generosity is most appreciated. Martin has indicated his goal is $10,000 to raise for this ride and tells me that all his mates didn't think he would finish such a tough tour and would not donate until he finished. Not only will he finish but will finish as one of the strongest 52 year olds on tour out of the three of us. John, myself and Martin!

To all the girls on tour; each and everyone of you are determined not to do van time, if ever there was a time to get in the van, today was it, and none of you even looked close to accompanying Kevvy. Well done and big hugs to you all. Your supporters and love ones are surely proud of you.

To Kevvy I feel really sad for. Every Smiddy tour someone always gets in and keeps him company. He then shares a Kevvy story with them that assures that you will never do van time again! But seriously Kevvy is sad as he feels no one wants to spend anytime with him other than at night over a glass of red. It is the van time he pines for and I have a feeling on this trip it is not going to eventuate as these guys are too bloody determined to ride every single kilometre of this journey. Sorry Kev!

I now have half the peloton keeping an eye out for a cow. In four days not one sighting of this elusive animal. With one day remaining let it be known that if no cows are sighted then I will be able to reliably report that they must have been abducted by aliens.

The Townsville crew were our guest huddle speakers today and a fine job did Rowan, Jason, and Kirsteen did deliver. In nearly every Smiddy event we hold there is always Townsville representatives in either the riders or road crew. I love Townsville and the association we have with the people associated with Smiddy. Thanks guys for your involvement and support.

Where we are staying tonight at the Bealey Spur Hotel, has views so magic that you would not find better even if you were in the French or Italian Alps. Killer has organised the route, the accommodation, the places to stop and visit along the way, and I think all the riders would agree that he has done a stellar job. Definitely a Smiddy tour to remember for so many different reasons.

Finally to each and every one of the riders to make that climb today was simply awesome. I love you all for your efforts. Be proud! That's it from me and I am sorry to say that this tour is nearly done with just one day remaining.

Until tomorrow, take care and give someone close to you hug and tell them how apsecial they are.

Cheers.

Sharky.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

SMIDDY NEW ZEALAND CHALLENGE -DAY 3 Reefton to Greymouth

STATS FOR THE DAY
Distance:  172 kilometres
Average speed:  27.2 kmph
Ride Time: 6hrs 20min
Maximum speed:   kmph
Temperature Minimum - 5 degrees
Temperature Maximum -  24 degrees
Metres climbed: 1513
Wind direction: Very little wind all day with a slight tailwind from lunch

ROAD KILL BY Jayden Swarbrick and Bob Vander-Walve 13 possums, 1 rabbit, 2 wicks one in Paula's spokes, a rare bird that Dianne new the name of, a helmet, a BMC and Harry!

CATEGORY JERSEY: Won by Christine Labes for all the work she has been doing to the riders bikes. Working long into the night and up early attending to our bike needs. Thank you Chris.

GUEST SPEAKER: John Masson, who is a doctor  and 52 years of age, talked about the importance of getting the checks that may one day save our lives. A friend of his that was a doctor died of Colon cancer and would still be alive today had he gotten a regular check up. Also the effect of losing his Mother to breast cancer when John was just 7 years old. Research since then means more is now known about breast cancer and the majority of women are beating the disease.

ADDITIONAL STATS BY KARL AND BEN
Distance - 172.9km - 6h21m - 27.2km/h
Elevation gain - 1678m
Calories - 4200Cal for average rider
5 minute top average speed - 51.6km/h
60 minute top average speed - 30.3km/h
Fewest gear changes - 3 - Karl
Spectacular Dismounts - 1 - Harry
Energy burned - 47 timtams, 5.3L of chocolate milk, 29 Coronas

Cumulative stats - 466.5km, 4310m of elevation gain

A DAY FOR ME THAT WAS A REMINDER OF WHY?
Today was one of those deceptive days on paper; one glance at the profile card suggested an easy day with no climb bigger than 188 metres. But the spikes in the graph suggested in the proximity of close to a hundred small climbs throughout our 172km day. Now what happens throughout a day like this is this: the riders get excited and the pace is always a little high for the morning session. That enthusiasm continues on into lunchtime but the effects are starting to be felt and shows in the riders faces and body language. From lunchtime onwards the general feeling is the rider cannot wait for the bloody day to end. All those small climbs today still amounted to over 1500 metres of climbing and with an average of over 27km/h it was by no means an easy day in the saddle. While I admire the strong riders in the group immensely and respect that for the majority of the time they are actually doing it fairly easy, it is the guts riders that I tip my hat to. To the following riders; Louise, Diane, Spiderman, Dr Koala, Charlotte, Sandra, Rowan, Harry and Jeff, you are all legends of the highest order.

You see, each and everyone of you are capable of riding distances much further than what you rode today, if only you could do it at your own pace. What you have shown the peloton today was the guts and determination you possess to ride a 172km day, going at a pace that is out of your comfort zone. And let me tell you this; to do that, takes courage and an inner stubbornness that I know is admired by all.

A CHAT TO DIANE
I was talking to Diane today at lunchtime and she admitted surprise when I told her I have bad moments every day when I am on the bike during any Smiddy tour. Moments where I want to quit, get in the van, or constantly fight the negative thoughts going through my brain of why do I put myself through this suffering and tiredness? What I saw today with you guys is that you fought off those demons, refused to give in, even though every fibre of your very being was telling you otherwise. What did Diane do? Of course she was back out there after lunch and calling on the internal strength to see the job through.

Louise O'Brien;  if this girl had of gotten into cycling as a teenager she would have won the female Tour De France. Now in her early 'thirties' and new to cycling and with Smiddy being her very first charity ride, she displays so much determination and spunk when on the bike that it's as if she was born to the sport!

OUR TWO HARRY'S
Harry Nina falls off his bike on a descent traveling at 50km's an hour. I stop and sit down and force him to just lie there in my lap for a few minutes as I know the adrenaline is pumping through his veins and overriding any pain he may be feeling. Why? Because he wants to get straight back up and get back on his bike, giving in is not an option with Harry, with all of you. Our other Harry, Harry Knowlman, literally hits the wall, bonks so badly it is an effort just to turn the pedals. I know the feeling, I have been there many, many times in the past. I reached for the last gel I always carry for an emergency, not needed by me thank goodness, but needed by a mate. I am not leaving his side, I am so proud of this man, He is delirious, I steady him with a hand on his back; that hand that I have felt on my own back many times in the past by a fellow caring rider. I whisper words of encouragement, the gel starts to kick in, Harry responds, he digs in, he will not quit, he gets to the finish and collapses over his handlebars; he is a Smiddy rider! I loved that man right at that very moment.

SHARKY'S INSIGHT INTO A SMIDDY RIDER
You see, when a rider goes through a bad day, a bad moment, has a negative thought, but fights on regardless; that riders displays a trait of human nature that we all possess; kindness... I believe, on a very deep-seated level, without that person even realizing it at the time, that through hardship, is when a person must reach into themselves and deliver for someone other than themselves. I do it, and have done it so many times, more times than I can remember - for Adam Smiddy. A vast proportion of my fellow Smiddy riders, over the past ten years of Smiddy events, have been doing the exact same thing, but for their love ones, either lost to cancer or battling their own illness as we speak.

So today was one of those days, where I witnessed so many acts of kindness, that just the mere act of writing about these amazing human beings, wets my eyes with an emotion that I will call pride. How could I not be proud? Of not only this current crop of Smiddy riders, but for every single solitary sole that has signed up and completed a Smiddy event over these past ten years. Their random acts of kindness has brought in close to $6 million dollars for research at Mater Research and is actually saving lives as we speak due to many early warning cancer detection tests that were not available back when Adam passed away in 2006. My mate would be alive today had we known what we know now! Nothing will bring Adam back, but I sure do know him well enough, to say, that he would be extremely proud that his passing has had such a positive effect on so many lives in such a short space of time.

MANY THANK YOU'S TO SO MANY PEOPLE
Thank you riders for the hope you give each and every person that is going through their own version of hell right this every minute. We do not have cancer and I am so eternally grateful for that. Your very act of riding a bike has prompted all your amazing family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers to donate on your behalf. Whether you are a rider, a volunteer, a donor, a sponsor, or a supporter, on behalf of Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation we thank you, thank you and thank you 1 million times for showing that you care. Care enough to sponsor your chosen rider, care enough to make a difference thanks to your random act of kindness. Through these words I want to reach out and give you all a great big Smiddy cuddle. You are all now part of the Smiddy/Mater family and once inside it is a family you will never wish to leave!

Take care and with two more blogs to come before this ride wraps up on Friday, I am sure there will be many more stories to come out of bringing together so many good people for this New Zealand Smiddy Challenge 5 day cycling event.

Cheers,

Sharky.

P.S. Just before I go I just wanted to acknowledge a few special people. Firstly a big hello to Taylor, Jeff Mckeon's Son, who I know is reading these blogs. Taylor I do believe that you and I wear the exact same Ironman watch. Let me know when you are up for your first Ironman and we can do it together?

Harry Nina, thank you for bouncing so well at 50km/h and not seriously hurting yourself, although your pride may be a little wounded! Also for giving Killer a night off and taking on MC duties tonight. You were very funny and may do Killer out of a job!

To Mother Nature, for provided that stunning wet fog of the first 50km's of riding this morning. I am told the views were majestic for that section, if only we could have seen them!

Karen Vander-Wal, Sammi-Jo and Wendy, as far as all the riders are concerned we all wish you to be our Mums and cook that banana and chocolate cake for us each and every week. We're all moving in next week.

Peter and Rebecca, thank you for the additional tour of Reefton this morning. The backdrop of the buildings in the fog was outstanding.

To all the riders; averaging 30km/h for the first 69 kilometres to morning tea, while admirable, probably left not much gas in the tank for the afternoon session into Greymouth. But what the heck, it was fun and awesome at the time!

Karl Jameson, legend effort today by the little fella when his electronic battery died and he rode all those climbs in his big chainring to look like Michelin Man by the end of the day, legs only.

Sammi-Jo, for your efforts today in patching up quite a number of riders so that they could continue. Legend!

Mother Nature again for the West Coast scenic ocean views that has us all drooling for more, but please not another bloody long slow gradual climb!

Top 5 stats on NZ possums by Karl Jameson

1.Natural immunity. Possums are mostly immune to rabies, and in fact, they are eight times less likely to carry rabies compared to wild dogs. So the motto to that story is don't get bitten by a dog or a possum- although given there is no rabies in NZ this fact is totally useless. Anyway moving on.

2. Possums have superpowers against snakes. They have total immunity to the venom produced by rattlesnakes and vipers. This statistic is actually totally irrelevant as there are no snakes in NZ.

3.Natural defenses. When threatened, possums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate. Basically they act like Martin and Harry on a night out!!

4. When possums are threatened they also act as if they are dead. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and this catatonic state can last for up to four hours. Really a bit like Sharky after his wedding night.

5.Possums invaded what they thought was an island paradise in NZ. They now number near 30 million . It is legal to shoot and trap them. The Kiwi's hate them but they love them enough to make jackets and high end furniture from them. Basically It sucks to be a possum in New Zealand.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

NEW ZEALAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE DAY 2: Hamner Springs To Reefton

STATS FOR THE DAY
Distance:  138 kilometres
Average speed:  23.9 kmph
Ride Time: 5hrs 47min
Maximum speed:  82 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 2 degrees
Temperature Maximum -  16 degrees
Metres climbed: 1587
Wind direction: Headwind from 10km until lunch at 93km's

ROAD KILL BY Jayden Swarbrick and Bob Vander-Wal 23 possums, 13 bags of bones, 2 feather fascinators, 1 owl, 1 hedgehog, slingers chain, Sharky's jacket and Harry's sunnies

CATEGORY JERSEY: Won by Ben Walding for being a real team player today and helping out many riders who were under duress due to the difficult conditions.

GUEST SPEAKER: Rod Tanner spoke about his love for his Father, who survived a battle against Prostate cancer but passed away from a brain cancer 9 months later. Rod's Father  was a heavy gem miner and Rod noted how appropriate it was that he was speaking on this night that we were staying in Reefton, which is an old Gold mining town.

ADDITIONAL STATS BY KARL AND BEN
60 mega joules of energy produced by the group (equivalent to heating 600 cups of tea)
139km, 1740m of elevation gain, 8h11m of riding
3000 Calories of effort by the average rider
5 minute top average speed - 54.2km/h
60 minute top average speed - 27.9km/h
Equivalent to burning 1.2kg of methane

TODAY'S COURSE
Roll out was from 7am and the course today took in a yellow room stop at 27km's and today I was super proud of my aging bladder when it co-operated and held out until that first stop. Morning tea was held at a rest area at a small place called Engineers Camp at 50km's, where all the engineers in the peloton felt very special indeed that a camp was named after them. St James Walkway or Lewis Pass, saw the peloton regroup at 72km's, which was nearly at the top of the major climb up to 900 metres today. Lunch was at 93km's at Junction Springs where the coffee was horrible but the food delightfully yummy thanks to our beloved and huggable road crew. A last pee stop was scheduled at the 125km mark by the side of the road where a pet rock was adopted by Andy and Sharky. (More on that later in tomorrow's blog)Then the finish was at a quaint little town called Reefton at 138km's, with a short stop for the riders to admire the old suspension bridge that lead to many long ago closed Gold mines. It was here where Paula was most immature by bouncing on the suspension bridge and toppling 5 weary riders into the raging torrent of water many hundreds of metres below... We are now down 5 riders but from a road crew perspective their job just got a little easier! Okay I may have exaggerated a little there. The creek was flowing, just... The drop was 20 metres and none of the riders actually fell in, but  it is true that Paula was immature!

SHARKY'S TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS
1. Rolling out of Hanmer Springs today just as the sun was beginning to warm this part of the world, the air was a crisp snuggly 5 degrees, the mountain backdrops were visually stunning as the fog and mist clung to the sides in a gentle caress. The golden glow of the sunshine enticed the sheer mountainside cliffs to show their true colours, as does a peacock displaying her feathers to attract attention of the opposite sex. I can tell you now that Mother Nature this morning got the attention of all the peacocks in the Smiddy peloton.

2.It was tough going today with a very strong headwind appearing instantly at the 10km point of the ride, and I mean instantly. One moment it was dead-calm, the next we were pushing into a 30-knot headwind, and of course this coincided perfectly with the exact moment the road began to rise. So for the next 62 grueling kilometres, the elevation went from 200 metres up to just shy of 900 metres. It was hard going and you know what pleased me the most about this? It was the pure display of guts and determination from all the riders. The not so strong guys and girls just toughed it out, while I'm sure cursing under their breath, while the strong guys really pitched in to help. Guys like Rocket Rod, Jumping Jackson, Big Bad Ben, The Kill Man and Handy Andy, Perfect Paula and of course my Bro! What legends they were today and appreciated by all.

3.Two riders in the peloton are more famous than they have let on. First we have Harry Nina and we ride past a national park that is named after him, and then blow and behold, exactly and precisely 14.2 km's down the road, we happen upon Jackson Bridge, named after our esteemed rider and guest speaker from last night in Jackson Gerard. From this day on, our respect levels for these great men, has risen by 2.2 millimetres!

4.At Lunch today road crew extraordinaire, Kirsteen Masson, approached me with a great story of niceness and thoughtfulness. A lady and her husband in a campervan, who had sold up everything, brought a van and decided to live out their lives traveling around New Zealand as she had cancer. They were impressed with the story Kirsteen told of what us riders were out here doing. She offered to give Kirsteen some banana's to share with the riders, who had not arrived yet, and enquired how many would Kirsteen require. When the answer came back at 26 banana's, the lady apologised and said they only had 3. She ended up keeping them and Kirsteen walked off with no banana's but a nice story to tell me.

5.Maria and David Smiddy sent me a nice message yesterday to share with the riders. "Just a quick message to let everyone know we are thinking of you all. We send our best wishes for an amazing NZ Smiddy Challenge over the next five days. Wishing you safe cycling, amazing views, fantastic weather and lots of laughs. Can't wait to cheer riders and road crew in to Christchurch next Friday.xxoo" Maria and David. Maria also asked that Sammi-Jo to please behave herself and please try to be as mature as Sharky! True story...

6.The last 7 kilometres of the climb up to Lewis Pass was a go-at-your-own-pace section. The strong guys were basically given permission to 'release the beast'. Players today included Ben, Paula, Zane, John, my Bro Martin, Andy and Slingers. I went along for a while so I could report all the action; which basically meant going into the 'Everest Death Zone', with copious amounts of saliva spilling from my mouth and blood wheeping from my eyes and my legs imploding with still 5km's to go, I hung in there as the 'death march' music played in my head and just prior to passing out this is what I recall. Everyone got dropped except Paula and Ben. That's all I remember...

7.A gift from Hawk today, to little old me, touched my heart and warmed it immensely, on what was a cold chilly day that never required any of the full winter wardrobe that I had on to come off. Hawk, at just 1 year of age, was walking through the streets of one of the small towns that we rode through today and happened upon a store that sold Shark helmet covers. (I have posted a copy of this attached to my Shark head on my facebook site if you wish to see.) He said to his Mum Jaye, "Mummy please can I sue my pocket money to buy that shark helmet cover for my most favouritest NOT Uncle in the entire world? How could she say no when he asked so nice? So Hawk made a fuss and presented it to me at lunchtime. The speech he made was a little over the top but I appreciate that he thinks I am the greatest Shark that has ever lived on planet Earth since life first began. But at 1 how can he really know? Anyway it is on the helmet ad although it catches the wind and slows me down by 25 kilometres an hour on the descents, it is there to stay until the end of the NZ Challenge. Thank you Hawky!

7.Charlotte Knowlman is a really cool young lady. She rides like a trooper, never complains, or if she does I can't hear her, and if I ask her to do something she never has a problem saying yes. For two days now I have asked if she spotsa New Zealand cow to please let me know immediately. Two day down and still not a single sighting but I know she will not give in until she satisfies my quest for this very important sighting of this very rare creature. Thank you Charlotte for your diligence.

8.Spider Man and Dr Koala graciously did the huddle today and while I could not hear a word they were saying, the laughs all round suggested it was heartfelt and nicely worded. I had a little giggle to myself when after telling their account of their day they immediately went into the Smiddy chant. In their excitement they forgot to mention the road crew and the riders, although at lunchtime I sat them down and briefed them on what the huddle entailed. Nice job boys.

9..And finally, while this highlight may be at number ten it so definitely is my all-time number one. You see my threat of 1000 words per journal entry has failed miserably. Yesterday's count for day one was at 1389, while today's is now at 1488. I kind of suck at writing small journals, but isn't it great that I get to tell you about, in great detail, these wonderful beautiful human beings I am lucky enough to spend a whole week with?

10. Okay a last sneaky highlight that cannot be omitted was when after lunch we had one final climb to .\attend to, which finished at the 102km point. The remaining 36 kilometres was all downhill and the group was singing along at an average of 35km/h. Our overall average was 21 at the top of that last climb and 23.9 by the time we rolled into Reefton. It was a real hoot and the smiles all round confirmed that most riders were feeling the same sense of satisfaction, of a job well done, and earned, after such a tough start to the day.

That's it from me.

Cheers.

Sharky

Monday, 23 March 2015

NEW ZEALAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE - DAY 1 CHRISTCHURCH TO HANMER SPRINGS


Distance:  155 kilometres
Average speed:  25.4km/h
Ride Time: 6hrs 6min
Maximum speed:   65km/h
Temperature Minimum - 8 degrees
Temperature Maximum -  18 degrees
Metres climbed: 862
Wind direction: Little or no wind all day

ROAD KILL BY Jayden Swarbrick -1 Black kitten, 1 Hawk and thankfully it wasn't Zane and Jaye's son. 2 Rabbits and 1 possum and nine flat pancakes (unidentified flat objects)
Category Jersey: Won by Louise O'Brien for not only her awesome fundraising efforts totaling over $4000, but her efforts today in the peloton as at times the pace was a bit high for Louise but she refused to give in.
Guest Speaker: Jackson Gerard

ADDITIONAL STATS BY KARL AND BEN
70,500 wheel revolutions
3251 calories burned on average per rider
A 15 tooth sprocket engaged 1 million times
Top 5 minute speed was 36.2km/h

MEET THE RIDERS
As promised, prior to giving a rundown of the day, first let me introduce you to the stars of this ride. Without this dashing males and determined and beautiful females, there would be no New Zealand Smiddy Challenge. So to all the riders onboard the NZ Freight Train Express, bound for the entire South Island, I and all the team at Smiddy and the Mater Foundation tip our hats to you and the wonderful contribution you guys have made already to cancer research at Mater Medical.

So without further ado a big welcome to the following exceptional riders:
Townsville riders in Jason Slingsby, and Rowan Carr, 2 former Smiddy Challenge riders. John Masson, first time Smiddy participant and husband to road crew extraordinaire Kirsteen Masson.

The Swarbrick lads, Jayden and Ian from Ingham return for their 3rd Smiddy event after two successful Brisbane to Townsville Challenge rides. Jayden will be also taking on the immense responsibility of road kill counter.

Sister and brother pair of Charlotte and Harry Knowlman, who are both first-time Smiddy riders, thanks to Harry being the successful bid at a Mater function for two slots into this event. Harry originally thought he'd won a nice casual 50km a day cafe latte' ride, with 3 hour stops for shopping and sight-seeing every 25 kilometres

Diane Crowe, Louise O'Brien and Sandra Fields, all ladies of the highest order, with the greatest of hearts and enthusiasm, competing in their very first Smiddy event and  huge welcome to you three.

Glenn King, Rodney Tanner, Ben Walding and Andrew Hauff are four muscle bound lads destined for greatness on the climbs that lay in front of them this Smiddy tour and all first-time Smiddy participants. Thanks boys for coming onboard.

Jackson Gerard and Geoff McKeon, our Midi Smiddy boys, back for their second Smiddy event, with Geoff signed up to do the triple this year in NZ, Noosa and the Midi Smiddy. Nice work guys.

The inseparable buddies in Harry Nina and Martin Millard, who both completed the Noosa Smiddy last year and not only fell in love with Smiddy but fell in love with cycling all over again.

Paula Fleming is the workhorse out of the ladies for this ride and back for her second Smiddy event. She is a machine on the bike and will beat most of the guys up all the climbs. A more lovely lady you will not find and if we are lucky we should hear a song or two from her other passion in life - Singing.

Karl Jameson is back for Smiddy number two after completing his first Challenge event up to Townsville in 2013. Always good to have Karl back in the peloton as he gets what Smiddy is all about.

Christian and some dodgy bloke called Shark will also be riding. Killer will do his best to stop that Shark guy from taking the peloton on any shortcuts, known as 'Sharky Shortcuts'!

And then there is Zane Williams, who, if you yell out any train tracks, will shout that person a coffee each and every time... In house story that one. Zane has completed Smiddy Alps in Europe and two Challenge events up to Townsville. Being in the company of his Son Hawk and wife Jaye on this trip, will hopefully keep this great man upright on his bike.

Christine Labes, as mentioned in the road crew intro, is one of the riders as well and we are in her debt for giving up a week of her busy time to look after us riders.

Gary Leong is known as Dr Koala and completed the Italian Dolomites last year with Smiddy. He is cute and cuddly and actually resembles a koala. We love him and welcome him back for his second Smiddy experience and a third to follow this year when he completes the Midi as well.

Finally we have Bob Vander-Wal, our only resident Australian-Kiwi rider from Christchurch. A gentle giant of a bloke and I have a feeling, after this trip, our first ambassador to come out of NZ.

So our first day on the road looked like this:
Roll out was pushed forward by an hour to 6am to avoid the rush hour. Good call by Killer on that one as the traffic was horrendous, even at that hour, the many sets of lights were not in sync and the roads were crap with heaps of road works. Getting that first 30km done was a welcome relief and it just got better from there for the remainder of the ride.

Today's route saw us travel through:
Rangiora for a yellow room stop at 32km's, although I cracked at 16.2km's and had a sneaky wee stop when doing one of the many regroups for riders who got caught at lights.

Amberley at 61km's we were treated to a great morning tea stop by the beautiful road crew.
Waikari at 90km's was official pee stop number two.
Culverden saw the road crew deliver a lovely lunch in this cute little town that had great coffee for those that went looking.
Hamner Springs was at 155km's and is famous for its natural hotsprings, which is were everyone is now while I get this blog up to date.

Highlights of the day
The beautiful rock formations from morning tea onwards
The open fields of grass and sheep a plenty were bountiful and easy on the eyes.
The peloton working well together on day one like a well oiled machine.
Killer time trialling back on after picking up a dropped Go-Pro and looking a tad worse for wear for his efforts
The first spotting of a white horse and one legitimate windmill -there were a few bike wheels made into windmills that did not count
The tractor charity drive raising money for 'Care Flight' I believe
The fight of the cutest mascots between Hawk, who is one year old and very cute and Dr Koala's stuffed Koala that sits in the front passenger seat with Kevvy and keeps him company. Hawk won out!
The electric blankets in our rooms at Greenacres Motel were branded 'Shark' so I felt right at home
The huddle, we recognised our amazing road crew by inviting them into the middle to form their own midi huddle.
That amazing natural thermal and spa bath, where most riders spent their afternoons before retiring to the bar.
Harry and Andrew collecting their bikes from the airport at 2am and only getting 3 hours sleep.

NIGHTTIME SMIDDY TRADITIONS
After a relaxing afternoon in town or at the natural springs, the road crew then delivered a great barbecue dinner, while Killer gave a rundown of the day, Jackson delivered a very emotional speech about his parents and their battles with cancer. Jayden then read out the road kill count, while Karl and Ben delivered the stats of the day. Finally the intro blog was read out by me and my Brother Martin read out the day one blog. The riders then retired to their bedrooms, while the road crew went about completing their jobs in order for us riders to concentrate on the job at hand and doing what we do best - riding our bikes for obscene distances for causes worth riding for.

If keen to support any of your favourite riders please go to the Smiddy website to donate at www.smiddy.org.au

Cheers.

Sharky

Sunday, 22 March 2015

INTRO TO THE INAUGURAL NEW ZEALAND SMIDDY CHALLENGE


BLOG TIME AFTER 5 MONTHS OF SHARKY SILENCE
Not since the finish of my final leg of cycling around Australia, when 40 of us rode from Melbourne to Brisbane in October last year, have I pencilled in a blog. If you are reading this now it can only mean one thing; and you guessed it, the first Smiddy event of the year is not only looming but is near upon us as early as tomorrow, Monday the 23rd of March 2015, when the Inaugural New Zealand Smiddy Challenge commences. So first up a few quicks facts about this ride:

26 magnificent and enthusiastic Smiddy riders have signed up
9 gorgeous and warm-hearted charity minded individuals will give up a week of their time to become our very first international road crew. Of course headed up by Captain Kev Enchelmaier.
The course will take in over 700 kilometres of glorious South Island majestic views
Of course it would not be a Smiddy ride without a few hills, so the riders will test themselves by climbing over 7000 vertical metres in 5 days.

CHASING $100K
Our goal to raise $100,000 is tantalizingly close thanks to not only the riders, but the road crew also pitching in to raise close to $80,000 already!

YOU CAN TRUST THE NEW ZEALAND WEATHER RIGHT?
Now I'm told by the locals that if you wish to choose any month of the year to do a bike tour in New Zealand, then February would be that month. This was proven when I married my sweetheart Alyssa Coe, now Mrs Smoothy, exactly 1 month ago, when we exchanged our vows during the Iron distance event at Challenge Wanaka. The weather for those 10 adrenaline fueled days was spectacular! Meaning that the weather on this Smiddy Tour of the South Island, from Christchurch and back to Christchurch 5 days later, should be in true Smiddy fashion, absolute crap! I do honestly hope I am wrong, but if we expect the worse and get the best then it is a bonus right?

MEET THE CREW
Without these fine individuals volunteering their time it just would not be possible to run these events. So first up a huge thanks to our awesome road crew in:

>Captain Kev, signing up for his 9th year of volunteering in every Smiddy event that we have run since 2007.

>Rebecca Knight, who has been involved with Smiddy since 2011 when her husband Pete signed up for the Midi Smiddy. This lady is so good at what she does that she could organise to an ants nest to co-exist with a beehive of 10,000 African Killer bees. She truly is that good!

>Sammi-Jo, our most favourite Chinese Assassin Ninja warrior massage therapist, who not only is the cheekiest funniest lady in the entire world but has hugs that will crush the strongest of men

>Kirsteen Masson from Townsville, is normally a Smiddy rider, but has given up her spot so that her husband John can participate in his first Smiddy event, while Kirsteen tries her hand at road crew.

>Justine Swarbrick is the wife and mother of the father and son rider combination of Ian and Jayden. Here not only to support her boys but to see firsthand what the Smiddy experience is all about from a road crew perspective

>Jaye Williams is wife to Smiddy sponsor and rider in Zane Williams. Jaye has brought along a Smiddy mascot in their 1 year old son Hawk, who is already proving to be popular amongst the riders as we all scramble to hold Hawk; that is until he cries, dribbles or does a number 2 and then he's definitely handed back to mum!

>Christine Labes is our Smiddy mechanic for this tour and she owns a bike shop at Airlie Beach in North Qld. Chris, as we call her, is not only a girl, but a girl mechanic that knows how to hold her own in this male dominated industry. She will be riding with the peloton and stop when needed to attend any mechanicals.

>Karen Vander-Wal is a local lady and married to our only New Zealand rider actually living in New Zealand in Bob Vander-Wal. Karen brings that local knowledge that we need and offered up her home in Christchurch for the crew to do the baking required prior to the big depart tomorrow.

>Peter Monopili is the Vander-Wal's next door neighbour, he will be in the front vehicle utilising his local knowledge to help deliver the riders safely to their destination each day.

>Last but by no means least, is Smiddy and Mater employee Wendy Muir on board for her second Smiddy event. Wendy was part of the crew last year for the final week of the Melbourne to Brisbane Tour. She decided the experience was so grand that she wanted to work with the Smiddy crew. Four weeks ago her dream came true and she now works with the team at Smiddy and we are fortunate to have this beautiful passionate and highly intelligent lady on board.

>Oh and we have Christian Killeen (Killer), who also works for Smiddy and the Mater, but as he is riding I will fill you in tomorrow when I introduce you to the riders.

Sharky's final words for this entry
I promised myself this year that the daily journals must not keep me up writing until after midnight on any of the Smiddy tours, as has happened over the past 9 years. I need to look after my health and get just as much sleep as any of the other riders do, therefore my goal is nothing over 1000 words per entry.

So I'm at 941 words so will finish with yesterday's event that Smiddy riders Paula, Rod, Karl, Ben, Tim, Martin and myself participated in called Le Race. 100km's and 1800 metres of climbing. Lots of wind; tail, some head, some cross, fog at the top of the two passes, seat of your pants descents, we all finished, happy, smiling. 5 words left... BYE BYE!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

SHARKY'S OZ 7IN7 THE FINAL LEG - DAY 14

Kingscliff To Brisbane

Stats by David 'Stinky' Colahan
Distance: 139 kilometres
Average speed 26.9 kmph
Maximum speed: 65 kmph
Temperature Minimum - 13 degrees
Temperature Maximum - 32 degrees
Metres climbed: 987
Ride time: 4 hrs 21 min
Wind: Tailwind
Nice Police Escorts: 1

Road Kill by Nick 'TinkerBell' Bourns and Hava Mendelle
Too numerous to mention but many dogs, sheep, cats, cows, birds, giraffes and the odd American Brown Bear.

Video by Liam
Want to see what a day in the Smiddy peloton is like on the road? Well thanks to our old mate Liam Cavanagh or Cav. You can by following this link to see the excellent very last and final day 14 video into Brisbane http://youtu.be/kHmBS9j9_do

Category Jersey won by:
Captain Kev, for 7 years of loyal service for following my butt around Australia and for 8 years of Smiddy volunteering for nearly all our events on the calendar. Kev lost his Father to cancer and has always wanted to give something back. Well he has well and truly gone above the act of giving and me personally, and everyone at Smiddy and thr Mater Foundation are grateful for it. Thanks Kevvy and I can't wait for our next adventure together one day soon.

Dedication:
This final blog for the Sharky OZ 7in7 is dedicated to Maria and David Smiddy. The Smiddy family was dealt a severe blow when she was diagnosed with a tumour in her Pancreas shortly after this year's Smiddy Challenge ride up to Townsville. Since then she has undergone surgery to have the tumour removed successfully and has been in hospital close on 3 weeks now. Life is not fair sometimes and to hit the Smiddy family with this, after all that they have done for so many people over the years, is just plain wrong! But in typical Smiddy fashion they attack it with their heads held high and remain their beautiful cheery and positive selves. Thank you David and Maria and please know thousands of your friends, family, Smiddy riders, road crew and supporters, are thinking of you and sending you their love.

The Honour of the Cow Bell
Here it is now two days after we finished at UQ pool in what seemed liked a sea of people there to welcome the riders and road crew home to Brisbane. I knew I had this final blog to write, but celebrations, followed by sleep, followed by much eating and catching up with friends and family, consumed all available spare time. So roll out last Saturday from Kingscliffe was set for 7:30am. The ringing of the 100 year old cow bell is a tradition that has started nearly every Smiddy Challenge event and definitely every 7in7 event. To ring it is an extreme honour but one that must be earned. Under no circumstances do you ever ask Kev can you ring it.
Now not once during a Challenge event have I been asked and maybe just once many years ago did Kev get me to ring it in a 7in7 event. So when kev asked me last Saturday to ring these blessed bell, that has touched the hands of so many people, with their own cancer stories, over these past 8 years, his voice broke and that was the end of me. We were both a blubbering mess and as I hugged him we shared tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of pain and tears of a job well done as we got to this point in time by working in with one another and by being the greatest of friends. Thank you Captain Kev, you know I love you mate and will forever be grateful for what you have done, not just for me, but for Smiddy over the years. As I rang that bell I was a happy man as I looked around and spotted Michael and Cathy Jennings, who had spent the night at their home in Burringbar, but returned that morning to see the riders off and lend their support. Oh and the free smorgasbord breakfast offered by the resort may have attracted them as well!

The Border Crossing
After some wise words of wisdom about staying switched on and getting us all home safely from Stinky Dave the peloton rode the short 15km's to the NSW/Qld border crossing at Coolangatta. You see it was here that I asked Killer if we could stop as it was where our journey began back in 2008. That year Scott 'Falcon' May, Kev and myself, stood in that very same spot and asked a passer by to take a photo of us. The journey for Kev and I was complete. Having Falcon here riding the last 4 days and having completed 2 stages of the 7in7, we decided an identical photo, taken 7 years on, was the order of the day. A group shot followed and after Katie Dick and Sarah Crealy did a headstand in honour of Russell Conway, the group remounted their bikes and we continued on our way.

Coffee thanks to B-Rad
B-Rad works for Coca Cola and are suppliers of coffee to many hundreds of establishments around Australia. In every 7in7 event since its inception, we have always stopped for coffee. I asked Killer if he could make it happen on this final day, of course giving the man no notice, but the Kill Man is a magician and managed to squeeze it in on our way home to Brisbane. B-Rad then came in and sorted out the cafe to visit, arranged to pay for all the coffees, orders were taken by Jess that morning and just like that, the peloton rolled into Surfers and downed a coffee that was pre-made for us and 20 minutes later we were on the road again and heading for morning tea. Thank you Killer and especially to Brad for shouting all the riders and crew a well deserved treat. Katie thank you also for sharing your croissant treat with me that accidentally fell into your back pocket from the resort breakfast that morning!

Our Welcome Police Escort
Not long after our last delicious morning tea by our fabulous road crew, the peloton pushed off and were cruising at 38km/h thanks to that mother of a tailwind, we were joined by a police car that stayed with us right up until the inner suburbs of Brisbane were reached. The transformation of the motorists was astounding. How patient and supportive they were; there were no horns, no fingers giving us the birdy, no aggression and passing us and giving the peloton heaps of room. I did not catch the policeman's name but seeing him in action sent so much positive energy through the peloton that our pace increased to over 40km/h for many kilometres. For a good hour we got to feel extremely special and just maybe we are? A huge thank you to that nice man for getting us into Brisbane in the safest manner possible.

Last lunch and Zinc Time
Matty and Anna at Smiddy were busy getting a nice welcome set up for us at the UQ Aquatic Centre. Part of that celebration was encouraging the riders love ones and friends to zinc their faces. So after eating as much of the left overs from 14 days on the road as we could in the space of the 20 minutes we had for lunch, the road crew then covered all the riders in zinc. From our lunch stop it was a short 30 minute ride to the Aquatic Centre and into the arms of our love ones. Steely, Falcon and Myself were invited to lead the peloton in and what a lovely surprise it was to see so many people turn out on what was a glorious Spring afternoon. I left my sunnies on as many of my friends and fellow riders started to congratulate me, due to it being such a bright and sunny day. Oh and okay, maybe to cover the tears that, for the 18th time that day, flowed freely down my pink zinced up cheeks!

The Huddle
We had 15 minutes to catch up with family and friends before a microphone was given to me and my duty of taking on the very last ever 7in7 huddle began. The huddle circle was huge on the grassy grounds of the UQ Aquatic Centre. I invited special people into the middle to acknowledge their contribution. Captain Kev was first in and a round of applause erupted for this great man; a great man that at first sight, sporting a big white Santa beard and until he smiles you would be forgiven to think he is a cranky old man, but nothing could be further from the truth, as all that just hides his true demeanor of having one of the biggest caring hearts on this planet and a nicer man you could not meet.

That is until David Smiddy came on the scene, he may actually even be nicer than Kev, definitely cheekier! Anyway I welcomed David in next, thanked him for being there for us and standing in for Maria who could not get a leave pass out of the Mater Hospital. I know she dearly wished to be there but David's words later had the same effect on everyone present; that of respect and of awe of the strength of the Smiddy family and all that they stand for since the loss of their Son Adam back in 2006.

It was then time for all the road crew members to enter the centre of the huddle and be reminded of just how special those fine human beings were over that 2 week period on the road. Without you guys Smiddy events would be nothing. You guys are just as important as the riders and together we are Team Smiddy!

Next up, all the talented beautiful and incredibly resilient and strong female riders were invited into the middle and received an amazing applause from the appreciative crowd.

Finally the male 7in7 riders went into the centre and their strengths in helping the riders that were struggling was duly noted and acknowledged.

Councilor Peter Matic
Peter Matic was instrumental in the opening of Adam Smiddy Park and I invited him along to say a few words. He reminded everyone that the ever growing Smiddy family of supporters, riders, road crew, donors and researchers were just like the Brisbane community. Brisbane was a great place to live and work and go to school in, as the respect we have for one another in Brisbane is like we are all part of the one family. Peter also told the story of the opening of Adam Smiddy park and praised the whole Smiddy and Mater community for their involvement in changing peoples lives through what we do. Thank you Peter for your kind words and giving up your afternoon to welcome us in.

7in7 Final Leg Activities
After the huddle, afternoon tea was served and then we invited all the riders, road crew, families and supporters, to join us to sit on the grass for the very last tradition that we have done on every Smiddy and 7in7 event. The reading of the blog was done by the Birthday girl and head of the road crew, Jess Ebelt, thanks for that Jess and sorry for not giving you any warning as per usual! A live road crew count was done by Tinkerbell, stats by Stinky Dave and the last category jersey was handed out by me to none other than Captain Kev. You all know why so no need to repeat myself there. The guy is a dead set legend!

Special Presentation to Jae
Anna Tate then got Jae Marr up from the Aquatic Centre and presented him with a framed Smiddy Challenge jersey to say thanks for his support for Smiddy events since 2006. Jae, like many many hundreds of people we know, is the backbone of Smiddy and without these fine human's behind the scenes, Smiling for Smiddy would be not where it is today.

Puncture, Puncture, Puncture
How is that on the same set of Maxxis Refuse tyres I can ride from Brisbane to Townsville, 1600 km's in September this year, then one month later ride an additional 2600 km's from Melbourne to Brisbane, over some of the worsts roads in all of Australia, (talking all of NSW here) then in the final kilometre I suffer a slow leaking puncture? It was not until Alyssa was helping me to put my bike in the car that she told me my rear tyre was flat. Unbelievable! It was as if my bike was saying to me; "You are home, you are now resting, you are not to mount me for a week at the least - do you understand Sharky?" In my mind I replied; "Yes Mr Scott bike, that has been extremely loyal and never put a gear wrong all this time, I hear and will obey!" Thanks Matty and Mel from AvantiPlus The Valley, for yet again another fine bike to ride insane distances on!

Last Chance Pizza and Slide Show
Anna Tate, who works at the Mater and is one of the team that works on Smiddy events, had the entire office to herself while the team was away on the 7in7 Final Leg, worked long and hard to deliver that memorable finish for the crew. She also put in time to organise a celebration at the Schonell for pizza, presentations and a slide show. Kev and I were presented with a 7in7 jersey from Matt and Anna, that recognised our 7 years on the road and the slowest ever circumnavigation of Australia ever! It was a last chance to sit around in a relaxed atmosphere and chat with people that you had just spent 24/7 with for over two weeks straight. While I will miss the laughs, the riding, the food, the mateship, the good and even the shitty weather conditions, nothing beats sleeping in your own bed and coming home to someone that loves you unconditionally. Something I have not had for a very long time, but now I do and I could not be happier or more content.

Last words by Sharky
Steely and Kevvy stayed over on Saturday night and the celebrations continued in a much slower fashion. I was good for one beer and in bed by 9:30pm, while Kevvy and Steely showed their professionalism and elitism in consuming many beers and a few glasses of red while retelling stories from two weeks on the road.

I got asked a lot the question; "How does it feel to know you have rode 19,600 kilometres around Australia and in doing so covered every state and territory?" My answer has been, and always will be the same, "This stage of my life will stay with me because of the people!

The journey and the views of this ever changing Australian landscape, that only Mother Nature can produce, while beautiful and immense and great, and have definitely left a permanent stain on my cortex, will always be about the people that have come into my life and made me a better person. To each and every rider, road crew personal, family member, friends, donors, supporters, sponsors and the hundreds of random people that stopped to chat, donate, to offer accommodation, food or water, especially in those early years of 7in7 and 9 years of Smiling for Smiddy, I say a heartfelt thank you. The imprint you have left on my soul will stay with me until my time on this Earth is done and dusted. It is you that have made this trip worthwhile, and at times when it was ridiculously hard, sometimes dangerous and bordering on insanity, I thank my stubborness, for without it I would not have come in contact with each and every one of you and my life would not be changed for the better!

Until my next adventure take care.

Sharky

P.S. Thanks to a few more donations that came in I am now only short $1,062 shy of my target of raising $5,000. If you wish to donate just a few dollars it would be so appreciated. It is as easy as following this link: https://thefinalleg.everydayhero.com/au/mark-1