Your calling. An emotional day. Huda campaign & 1 big cheque.

After only 5 hours sleep I woke up to the realization it was the final day and I couldn’t quite believe it. I was emotional..I couldn’t wait to see Nic, Harrison and Will in a few hours, and I was also realizing this would be the last time I would put on all of my cycling gear and go through the extensive process of getting ready for another day on the bike for cyclefor16. I had been on an incredible life-changing journey for the past 7 months, and I started to realize it was coming to an end; did I want it to end? I wanted to go home and be with my family, but had I also developed a form of Stockholm syndrome whereby my captor was the road, the physical challenge and exertion, the wonderful people we had met, the amazing country, my bike, the painful bike seat, Heartbeat, the children we are helping and their families. We were making a difference, a real difference, and we were achieving more than I dreamt we could ever achieve at the start of this journey 7 months ago. It had been tough, effectively doing 2 jobs, training extensively prior to the ride, and then the ride itself, but I was enjoying it, it was a good pain, an addictive pain, a pain reflecting positive change for so many people including myself. Perhaps I had found my calling, and this thought led me to think about a diagram I saw a couple of years ago, the diagram had 3 circles all overlapping with the centre of the 3 being 'Your Calling'. The first circle is ‘doing something you are good at’, the second circle is ‘feeling appreciated’ the third circle is  ‘making people’s lives better’, I thought about this for a second and cyclefor16 definitely fitted into the intersection of all three circles. With these thoughts I did a funny walk into the bathroom, scared myself and knew it was time to end the journey.

With only 25km’s to ride to complete 1,600kms, I decided today I would pay homage to my training, I wanted Jon & Aji to see where I had been training and that I hadn’t been escaping to the pub at the weekend. We rode through the small villages and rough roads of Cat Lai, passing by Children smiling and waving and men & women working in the hot fields. We rode onto the Cat Lai ferry crossing the Saigon river before entering HCMC, as soon as we got off the ferry, the traffic descended into chaos, articulated lorries blocking roads, motorbikes everywhere, cars pulling out without looking, throughout the entire trip the last 15kms were without doubt the most chaotic and dangerous we experienced from a traffic perspective. We passed the Australian International School after having completed 1,598kms, it would have been fitting to have passed the 1,600km mark outside the school but it wasn’t meant to be, we navigated our way through the container truck traffic heading towards District 2. With the iconic Bitexco tower in the horizon I passed 1,600kms, an incredible moment, I was filled with joy & relief, I was so happy I had done it, my body had held up, my bike had held up – not a single issue! I hadn’t let anyone down, I had helped to save so many people, I had accomplished more than what I ever thought possible, I had done this with an incredible team, my wife Nic, Harrison and Will, and Simon and the team at Geometry. With this running through my head & heart I couldn’t get back to an impromptu stop quick enough, we were heading to District 1 via a quick detour to my house. As we pulled in, I couldn’t quite believe it, I was back, we had done it. Huge hugs and kisses followed and I was overjoyed.

It was a short stop as the ride wasn’t finished, we still needed to make it to the Caravelle Hotel in District 1 and I wanted to ride a minimum of 1,617km, the distance Google tells me it is from Hanoi to HCMC. We picked up Simon (who was thankfully over his extreme case of Man Flu) & Raj, two people who had been such a key part of the success, two people who had been there from the start with me, so it was fantastic that they could both join us for the final part of the ride. We rode brilliantly and with Simon full of TUE's he took off over the Saigon bridge faster than a speeding Honda, unfortunately he went that fast he headed the wrong way… instead of heading to the Caravelle he was off to the airport!… After the past 7 months perhaps he wasn't going the wrong way at all! We passed by Notre Damn and stopped to collect Nic, Harrison and Will for the final part of the ride, it was such a proud moment for me, to have all of my family riding with me, everyone was chuffed and I think Harrison would have ridden 50km for me given the chance.

As we turned the corner to the Caravelle I saw Ang and Grantley and realising what we had achieved let out an enormous woohoo! As we cycled up towards the Caravelle entrance I saw a glimps of what was coming, there was a lot of people out of the front of the hotel and I could see a finish line. Harrison looked at me, and with a smile broader than the Sydney harbour bridge I said to him go for it, and he sprinted toward the finish line, I was so chuffed, that will be a memory that will last with Harrison forever. 

We stopped, and I couldn’t believe it, I looked around and saw TV camera’s, photographers, so many familiar faces of family and friends, it was so humbling to see how the Vietnamese press and everyone whom we have met has embraced this journey and what we are doing to help Heartbeat Vietnam.

We moved to the famous Saigon Saigon bar at the rooftop of the Caravelle Hotel and I was shocked and amazed at what I walked into, a room full of people and press, I could only imagine what it had taken by so many people to arrange this very special ending, and I will forever be grateful to the great team at Geometry Global Vietnam who have donated so much of their time to this journey and who have made a life-saving difference to over 60 disadvantaged children. Hopefully our efforts have helped raise awareness of the issue and of Heartbeat Vietnam.

My brain was fried, I was shocked, and thankfully I had written a speech for the occasion, but I didn’t need one as Will decided to take over the press conference, tapping the microphone to ensure it was on, he proceed to say “good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, you all look handsome and beautiful today (to much laughter in the room)”. For those of you who were unable to attend on Saturday I have copied my speech below. I will forever be grateful to everyone who has been a part of cyclefor16.

I truly hope this journey has inspired my children and many more to do something good in the community, to make a difference, and to have a go. Nothing is impossible.

Signing off with a very cold beer - all part of the Huda campaign Jon & I dreamt up on the ride leaving Hoi An...brilliant work by the illusive hairless silverback gorilla of Central Vietnam :)

PS : It’s never too late to donate, there are currently over 20,000 children who have congenital heart disease and who need surgery but their parents cannot afford the $1,200 cost to save them, 85% of these children (+17,000) will die without our help. Thank you for your continued support, thank you for helping Heartbeat Vietnam on their ongoing quest, you have made a difference this year and you have helped save the lives of over 60 children.

As many of you know, my wife Nicole and I decided we wanted to give back to others, to make a difference, a real difference to a part of the community in desperate need of help.
This initiative started with us lying on the sofa and saying we have to do something, let's have a go and see what happens, maybe we will not achieve much but we will achieve something, let's try, let's do something.
So I sent an email to a number of people I know asking whether they knew of any worthwhile charities with whom we could work with to try and make a difference. After reviewing numerous worthy charities, I met Rad of Heartbeat Vietnam and was immediately inspired, he told me so much about the work they do, how they identify children with their outreach clinics, how they raise money to fund the cost of surgery, how they help families get back on their feet and importantly how every single dollar and cent that is donated goes to the child as the overheads of Heartbeat are funded by VinaCapital. I told him my idea for cyclefor16 and I genuinely think he thought I was crazy, I told him I may not raise much money, I've never done this before and I think raising enough money to fund life saving heart surgery for 16 children is an ambition and I may not achieve it. Rad being Rad didn't blink, he looked me in the eye and said I believe you will do it, and whatever support you need from me and my team you just say. So To Rad personally, thank you, thank you for inspiring me, for believing and for offering all of your support, I am a grass roots initiative and you never made me feel like that, you made me feel like I could make a huge difference. So, Rad, and the entire team at Heartbeat, thank you, it truly is a team effort and you guys have been amazing. You continue to do an amazing job helping so many disadvantaged people each day, each week, each year, I think you guys are incredible, you are an inspiration and thank you for allowing me to be a part of the family for a short period of time.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank my family. This initiative has been a huge commitment and part of all of our lives for the past 7 months, my wife Nicole, and my sons Harrison and Will have all had to make significant sacrifices, but because we are such a strong team and because we understand it is to try and make a difference to people who desperately need help, no one complained, I am amazed by the maturity and understanding of Harrison and Will, I hope you are both proud of me and what we have achieved together, and I hope that I have inspired you both to think about how you can help other people who desperately need help. Your messages of support throughout the ride got me through each day, With Harrison telling me don't lose commitment, don't lose energy, don't give up, ride like the wind, and Will telling me to ride like a unicorn :) I thought of these words at least 5 times a day and they got me through the tough times, thank you boys I love you both so much. And with a twist in the words of AA Milne, to my boys and all the children who we are helping, “promise me you'll remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and anything is possible if you put everything into it.”
To my wife Nicole, thank you for your support, for your love, for your understanding, for making everything as easy as possible for me. There is so much that Nic does that no one sees, she makes everything possible, please know that none of this would be possible without you, you are an amazing person whom I love more each day. We did it!!
On the theme of making this possible, I would like to thank Simon and the team at Geometry Global who have been with me from the start. What a job you did, what a team, the campaign, the execution, the commitment from everyone, again, guys , this is because of you, thank you so so much, I hope you realise you have all made a life saving difference to over 60 children. I cannot thank you enough. Simon, thanks mate, I definitely couldn't have done this without you, thank you.
To everyone who rode with me, thank you, week 1 was hard, over 8 hours on a bike by yourself makes for a long day but Ronnie got me through it, giving me words of encouragement, putting cold towels on my head when I needed it, and being a huge support, I think he got married twice along the way, and I know I couldn’t have got through the first week without him there. Thanks mate. Having Aji, Jon, Mike, Andrew, Grant, Ang, Lisa, An, Marilyn, and my wife Nicole with me made the ride a thousand times easier. Your support and commitment has been incredible, and the amounts of money you have raised has been astonishing. Thank you all so much, thank you for getting me to the end.
A final thanks goes to everyone who has donated to cyclefor16, I am amazed by your kindness and generosity. You took action this year, you decided to make a difference, you decided to help save the life of a child or in some instances children who desperately need help. I can do this but without your action nothing happens. To quote from the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not.” Together we have helped to save the lives of over 60 disadvantaged children. Please know you have truly made a difference and you have saved a life. I cannot thank you enough, and to Rad and the Heartbeat team, to Nic, Harrison and Will, to Simon and everyone at Geometry, to all the riders who got me through this, in particular Jon and Aji, and to everyone who has donated I can never thank you enough. Not only have you changed the lives of 60 children you have also changed mine.
Thank you and enjoy the afternoon.