So from Jessica Watson, to another brave woman I met yesterday on the River Ride.
I aimed to do a two hour ride, one and a half laps of the river yesterday. I felt I needed the time on the bike to prepare for next week's adventure race, and the river ride is easy. It's a backup; a default. It's a ride I think we all take for granted.
I was most of the way round and already calculating how I would make up the two hours when just near Davies Park I encountered a lady changing a flat. As is the custom amongst cyclists, I asked if she was OK. I could just tell from her hesitance to answer, that the answer should have been no.
Of course I stopped. She was kneeling on the ground with her two spare tubes laid out in front of her, trying to figure out what was next.
"I'm just a little out of practice. It's my first ride for a while," she explained.
Rather than take over and get her on her way quickly, I decided it would be more productive, and she would feel more comfortable, if I helped her less, and offered her moral support. After all, she did have all the gear and clearly was an old hand.
"I've booked my bike in for a service on Tuesday. I just thought I'd take a quick spin. And I get a flat." Everything had deteriorated - her spares took a lot of coaxing to get any air into and her pump just didn't work. I did what any cyclist would do, inflated her tyre with a CO2 cartridge, which she offered to return if I left her my details. I refused of course - it's just a canister. It's what cyclists do for each other.
She had been obviously quite agitated throughout the process, but it wasn't till we were almost ready to go that I found out her full story.
It had been 18 months since her last ride. Not long prior to that, she'd moved to Brisbane from the Gold Coast with her new husband. After just nine months of marriage, her husband, not even 50, had suffered a stroke. She was now his full time carer, and spent her days ferrying him to physical rehab, speech therapy... a long list of appointments, which took hours to prepare for and hours to get him home from and settled again.
As she guided him through his rehabilitation, and as he got a little better, she'd started searching for an opportunity to get back on the bike. She had let him know, but wasn't sure that he comprehended, that if he woke up one day and she'd left a helmet on the bed, that she was out riding; and that she would be home soon.
I could see the guilt weighing heavy upon her. That's what I'd identified as I'd first seen her kneeling by the side of the bike path, struggling to repair her bike so she could get home to him - preferably before he even knew she was gone.
As we parted ways I encouraged her not to let this one bad experience discourage her. I reassured her that her husband would understand her desire to ride.
In retrospect, I wish I had have given her my details. At the time, I'd declined for the right reasons, and even when I found out her situation, I felt that she needed the cost of the canister more than I did. But now I wish I could contact her, I wish I could continue to encourage her and support her.
For this lady, whose name I do not know, the River Ride is a luxury beyond my comprehension; she dreams of a Saturday when the River Ride is once again the default activity.
I hope she continues to pursue this dream. Even though yesterday didn't turn out quite as she would have liked, I hope she continues with the same bravery.