Mick, Lee, Graeme, and Rob took on and completed the challenge of a lifetime – to raise money that will transform thousands of children’s lives. Team Abana cycled in a race across the USA to give back childhoods to thousands of street children. All costs of the event were covered by the riders themselves so all donations have gone directly to support improved services for street and other vulnerable children.
I grew up in Zimbabwe and although I now live in the UK, I still consider myself very much an African. I still have family who live in Zimbabwe and consequently return frequently. Each time I visit, I am reminded of the huge disparity between those children in the community where I now live who are fortunate enough to have shelter and food, a stable home life, access to good schools and a health service and those who have virtually nothing and consequently a pretty hopeless future. Because of my connection to Africa, it is important to me that I do something to try to redress the balance.
I have had many years’ experience in ultra-distance running (two 24-hour relay world records for 2- and 3-man teams, 10 Comrades and 10 Two Oceans ultra-marathons amongst others) but about 5 years I ago, while on a trip to Zimbabwe, I was converted to the challenge of mountain biking. Since then, I have used the combination of my endurance capability and my new found sport to use mountain biking as a means of raising money for charity while achieving personal milestones. A number of multi-day mountain bike tours such as the 5-day Tour de Tuli (through South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe) and the 3-day Zambezi Cycle Challenge (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) focus on providing both the challenge of riding across difficult, dangerous terrain with the opportunity to raise money for local communities. They were much tougher than I had anticipated but were immensely fulfilling, with the extra bonus of raising money to provide educational facilities for the local communities.
But those challenges pale into insignificance when viewed against the challenge which the RAAM brings. When Lee asked if I wanted to join the team to ‘Race across America’, I jumped at the chance. Its reputation as the toughest bicycle race in the world appeals to my ultra-distance masochistic tendencies. But equally, it is a massive opportunity to raise a substantial amount of money and make a very real difference to thousands of children.
I am putting in huge training mileage, with a steep learning curve on how to be efficient on a road bike, plus the art of getting enough food and liquid on board. But I think my biggest challenge is going to be avoiding falling asleep on the bike. For someone to whom a late night means bed at 10pm, the challenge of sleep deprivation looms large. Falling asleep while descending the Rockies at night is not recommended!