Fitz’s Challenge is an event that tests endurance and pushes riders to do their best. It’s also an opportunity to follow the example of a great Australian who has dedicated his life to raising money to help children with cancer.
As any cyclist knows, it all comes down to time on the road. So too it was for Col Reynolds back in the late 1980s.
The coach driver had clocked hundreds of thousands of kilometres in his career and knew better than most that it provided plenty of thinking time, an opportunity to ponder how to use one’s passions to give back to society.
Col Reynolds OAM was a tourist coach driver before being inspired to start The Kids' Cancer Project.
Little did he know that a pair of bald kids crossing in front of his bus outside the Children’s Hospital in Camperdown would have him metaphorically clipping into pedals for the ride of his life.
On a whim, he pulled over, followed them in and made the discovery that for all the smiles, hugs and visits to theme parks, the only way to improve outcomes for these kids would be through sheer hard work in the lab.
That was then. Today, the organisation he founded - The Kids’ Cancer Project - has saved countless lives by ensuring scientists receive the funding they need. It’s not the most glamorous of financial propositions but is the most effective.
In cycling terms, it’s a grind, a long, slow arduous climb that sets fire to the thighs, shrinks the lungs and is undertaken not for glory or cheering crowds but the sheer satisfaction of meeting the challenges one sets for yourself.
Which is why The Kids’ Cancer Project is the perfect fundraising fit for Fitz’s Challenge.
Team Rynkeby at Lake George in 2014 chose to honour children with cancer as part of their Fitz's Challenge.
Billed as “Canberra’s Toughest Cycling Event”, the Challenge has been aligned with the charity for over a decade. Like The Kids’ Cancer Project, it’s all about tackling seeming unconquerable mountains. The event began in 1989 with just 37 riders but today welcomes over 1200 riders every October.
And there’s something for everyone with five race distances through the Brindabella ranges on offer.
For novice riders, the 50 kilometre course with 880 metres of climbing provides a glimpse into the addictive world of ascent events. On the other end of the masochistic spectrum, the Fitz’s Extreme course covers 225 kilometres with over 5000 metres of climbing. The only other place in Canberra to offer such a perilous amount of ups and downs is Parliament House.
For Fitz’ Challenge Community Ambassador Jennifer Faerber there are two main attractions. The first is the fact that it’s not a race but a personal challenge the rider poses to his or her self. The second is the link with The Kids’ Cancer Project.
Jennifer Faerber, Fitz's Challenge Community-Ambassador.
“Cancer has been a big part of my life,” she said. “I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma when I was 11-years-old, but was considered totally cured after about 10 months of chemo and two years of check-ups.”
“I have a few ‘late effects’ as they’re known (holey teeth, low fertility) but the most significant lasting effect has been how close my family is and how we appreciate the most basic things, like having a meal together,” she said.
“The Kids’ Cancer Project funds research into childhood cancer that has already totally transformed the experience of a child undergoing treatment. My treatment was primitive and blunt compared to how targeted they can be now. I’m so grateful that people like my oncologist Dr Luce Dalla-Pozza are still working 22 years later to make even more improvements and that they’re receiving funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project to do it.”
So there you have it, the perfect excuse to don the lycra, head to the hills, test where you’re at in your own cycling game and save a life while you’re at it.
Eat right while training
While clocking up the k’s is vital training, fueling your body correctly for Fitz’s Challenge is just as important. Here are the top tips from Adjunct Professor in Sports Nutrition Vicki Deakin.
1. Fasting doesn’t equate to fast. Fasting (or inadequate intake of food, particularly carbohydrate-rich foods) before training is strongly associated with poor endurance capacity, early fatigue and poor recovery.
2. Train your gut to get used to eating before training. Start with liquids like a small glass fruit juice, low-fat milk drink, meal replacement formula drink, sports drink, then gradually add small amounts of solid foods that contain both carbohydrate and protein and are low in fat like breakfast cereal, fruit and yoghurt or muesli bars.
3. Avoid high-fibre, high-fat foods. These can lead to discomfort, bloating and even nausea.
4. A small pre-training snack or light breakfast eaten around 60 minutes beforehand. This is a common timeframe for a light breakfast or pre-training snack.
5. Drink up. Have a glass of water when you wake up and take in water in small amounts as you ride to avoid overhydration.
Fitz’s Challenge takes place on the last Sunday in October. For more information, go to fitzs.com.au
Donate to research and help find more effective treatments for kids with cancer.