February 14, 2014

Mowen's 24-hour Challenge: 480km & 18,000m of climbing

Another

The numbers speak for themselves really: 24 hours on the bike, 480km covered and more than 18,000m of climbing. That’s what Brisbane’s Michael Owen — known to his mates as “Mowen” — achieved last weekend in a ride to raise money for the Cancer Council. Mowen was kind enough to write about his experience and the reason behind it.

In late 2013 I was invited to be part of the Beat Cancer Tour, an official part of the Santos Tour Down Under where a select group of riders were chosen to ride each stage of the race ahead of the professionals. I embarked on this journey with good friend and fellow cancer survivor Chris White.

This event checked a lot of boxes for me but first and foremost was the opportunity to raise money for cancer research and support. In 2011 I was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer: anaplastic astrocytoma. With treatment I had a 50% chance of living one year and less than a 2% chance of living two years. Only one surgeon agreed to operate.

I started treatment immediately with a course of radiation followed by aggressive chemotherapy to reduce the tumor to an operable size. My treatment lasted eight months. I am currently cancer free.

Climbing

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. Cancer doesn’t only turn your life upside down; it affects your loved ones and the people around you. No-one should have to go through this. This is why I chose to take on the 2014 Beat Cancer Tour.

But this didn’t seem enough to me, compared to the pain and suffering someone going through cancer must endure. Therefore, I challenged myself to ride for 24 hours around Mt. Coot-Tha in Brisbane to raise much needed funds for the Cancer Council.

The challenge was basic: 24 hours riding back-to-back laps of Mt. Coot-Tha on a bicycle. The 9.4km lap followed Sir Samuel Griffith Drive in an anticlockwise direction. Each lap contains 359m of elevation gain and a 2.2km ascent to the summit at an average gradient of 8.9%.

My goal was to manage 50 laps for a total distance of 470km and an elevation gain of 17,950m. That’s more than twice the height of Mt. Everest.

Descending

I planned the ride down to my nutritional requirements per lap and my hydration schedule. Setting myself a planned lap time average of 26 minutes seemed ambitious and many people agreed, but I came out of the blocks hard.

The first lap was under 20 minutes before I settled into a rhythm of 23 to 24 minutes a lap which took me to lap 25. At that point I was 2 hours ahead of schedule.

Then the darkness fell. It became harder to pace up the climb as it became difficult to read the numbers from the power meter and additionally there was the descent which was made increasingly difficult through the night.

The night also brought huge positives as a large number of people came out in support, including cyclists dressed as chickens and supermen. This support lifted my spirit, as did the University of Queensland Cycling Club’s version of Dutch Corner. Halfway up the climb they set up a barbecue, some beers and chanted every time I passed.

Through The Night

As the ride went into the wee hours of the morning I grew wearier and wearier, just begging for the sun to rise. The sunrise brought about a certain euphoria and flanked by my Rapida Cycling Team I made it through 50 laps in 22 hours and 45 minutes.

As I sat in a chair feeling broken, every inch of my body sore and exhausted, I knew we had to do one more lap. So with 30 minutes to go before the deadline we headed out for one more lap which felt like a victory lap.

It was great to know what had been accomplished, and to come home to a gathering of everyone who had assisted in making the ride possible.

Everyone congratulated me as I collapsed off the bike but I didn’t really get it — I had just been pedalling my bike as far as I was concerned, nothing too special. The real achievement has been smashing my $12,000 fundraising goal for the Cancer Council.

Support Team

The final statistics for the ride were:

Distance: 479.4km
Total ascent: 18,309m
Average power: 198W

A big thanks to Michael for taking the time to write this piece and congratulations to him on a simply inspiring effort. If you’ve got a climbing-related story you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

9 Comments

leave a comment
  1. Matt / Mar 14 2014

    Inspirational stuff – I’m interested to know how you would weigh up the achievement in terms of physical vs psychological. What percentage of this epic feat would you attribute to your mental strength? Views aside, do you feel like you can understand the mentality of Lance Armstrong in relation to his determination to succeed post cancer? I hope you live to be an old and healthy man. You’re a star mate.

  2. George Mallory / Feb 24 2014

    Monumental ride! Well done! KUDOS!

  3. Lachy / Feb 18 2014

    I did a couple of Coot-tha laps that day, and was stoked to see you still going at 4.30 the next morning when i headed out.

    Inspirational, well done!!!

    Kudos to your support team too!!

  4. MICHAEL CONDON / Feb 16 2014

    Wow! That is an incredible accomplishment on the bike. Fundraising some money can at times be equally challenging. Amazing effort.

  5. Michael Hodgson / Feb 15 2014

    As a fellow cancer survivor (GIST) and mad-keen cyclist, I salute you Mowen. Fantastic achievement on the bike and with your fundraising.

  6. Fat Fossil / Feb 14 2014

    Awesome effort – legendary stuff!

  7. Peter / Feb 14 2014

    Mowen, that is something to be very proud of……well done.

  8. Darren / Feb 14 2014

    That explains the Strava course you created.

    Inspiring story that undoubtedly meant a lot, not only to Michael, but others that he was doing it for.
    Double-Everest in a day. Massive!

  9. Lawson Lam / Feb 14 2014

    Michael Owen is amazing.
    Congrats for the effort and achievement for the cause!

Leave a Comment