By Heath Schreiweis
I am no cyclist, or even an athlete. Lately, life is pretty much a desk job with a few hours of gym each week. So when I decided to sign up for the QSuper Cardiac Challenge, I knew this would undoubtedly be one of the most physically demanding challenges of my life (and it was).
Telling people I planned to ride a bicycle 330-ish kilometres to Cooktown, I was often greeted with eye-protruding glares, followed up with “you’re-off-your-chops”.
The QSuper Cardiac Challenge is three days of bike riding anywhere between 80-110km per day.
I had no idea how I was going to achieve this – I had no bike and certainly didn’t qualify myself as “fit enough”, I needed a plan, and some help.
I was loaned a bicycle by a fellow Challenge cyclist. He told me that the ol’ bike had made its way to Cooktown eight times now, none of which he had ridden himself. He just lends it out each year to willing suckers who have decided to push (or punish) themselves.
My best friend and her son were the best support people I could hope for. They set up my bed each night, and had a drink waiting at the end of each day.
I chose to start at Speewah, (missing the Kuranda Range). It included many, many hills, 38+ degree heat, and a sucker of a mountain range (Desailly Range) which, after some massive encouragement, I made it to the top, to zoom down again and re-join my fellow rider friends in celebration. It’s something I will never forget.
During the ride we were in “packs”’ where we were trying not to run into anyone, staying at the same speed, and stirring-up the friendly-competition between each pack for a laugh. They quickly became family, and if I ever recognise any of them outside wearing lycra and a helmet, I know they would always stop and say hi, as we now share that Challenge experience.
Often when riding through the seemingly endless road, we started to chat about life, One question that I was asked by almost everyone was, ‘why?’, ‘why do you ride?’ it seems everyone on that ride had a reason to be there, whether it is simply a reason to be physically pushed, to be closer to family – and achieve this together. Others were riding in memory of a fallen comrade. My reason was to remind myself, I had heart surgery at a young age. I don’t remember much, but without it – who knows where I would be? In my day-to-day life, I take it for granted, and this challenge was my reminder.
This challenge has raised so much money (and continues to do so with a record breaking $500,000 this year) to help cardiac services in the Cairns and FNQ region. Hearing how the doctors can do amazing things with the world class equipment and facilities this event has given them is something, as a community, we should be immensely proud of.
Everyone’s support and encouragement from the event was something I will never forget. We had a shared achievement, even those who didn’t ride certainly worked hard to make the event something special. So once I regain the feeling in my legs and behind, I’ll get off it, and start training for next year. As I have a new ‘why’.
About the QSuper Cardiac Challenge
The QSuper Cardiac Challenge is an annual fundraising bike ride from Cairns to Cooktown, hosted by the Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation. 2021 will be the 15th time the Cardiac Challenge bike ride has been held, with more than $4 million raised for cardiac services by the Foundation, in that time.
QSuper is one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, with $120 billion in funds under administration. From humble beginnings more than a century ago, today they manage the retirement savings of more than 600,000 members. More information https://qsuper.qld.gov.au.
Photo: Heath Schreiweis and his support crew Kerrie Langdon and Dylan Michna.