COOKTOWN nurse Dale Tan said the thought of his fellow healthcare workers struggling with mental health pushed him to finish a gruelling 5500km cycling race, despite mammoth physical and mental setbacks.
“I thought what I’m going through is just temporary, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr Tan said of his 31-day unsupported ride across Australia’s most remote and challenging terrain in the Indian Pacific Wheelrace.
“Some people are going through their darkest days; what I was doing was nothing compared to having to go through that.”
Mr Tan took part in the race, from Perth to Sydney, to raise funds for the Black Dog Institute, aiming to help support his fellow health workers who were struggling with the pressure of their roles, especially post-COVID.
“These selfless people give so much,” he said.
“It’s not an easy job and mental health support, research and education is of paramount importance. Black Dog Institute is quite active in that space and I’d like to contribute just a little bit to that.”
The epic race started with a setback when he arrived in Cairns to discover a bag full of vital equipment was missing.
“It was 8pm at night and my flight was at 9am the next morning, so I had to jump back in the car, drive all the way back to Cooktown, pick up the bag and got back to Cairns just in time to get to the airport; no sleep the night before the race, talk about jinxing myself!”
The setbacks continued with a crippling bout of gastro that lasted a week almost forcing Mr Tan to pull out of the race altogether.
“I was so weak I couldn’t stand up, I had fevers and full on gastro symptoms,” he said.
“I stayed in Coolgardie for a day and a half to recover, and had gastro symptoms which went on for about a week.
“I was on the verge of pulling out, but somehow managed to gather myself and keep going.”
Mr Tan said it would take about a month to physically and mentally recover from the race.
“Mentally just getting used to normal life and routines again,” he said.
“And physically, I have pain in my hips when I’m walking and trouble with my hands, which is something I’ve been working on; that’s what happens when you ride for almost a month.”
Now settling back into regular life at home in Cooktown, Mr Tan said while he will continue riding for fun and in shorter events, he has no intention of tackling the Wheelrace again.
“It’s so difficult, there are months and months of preparation and it’s so physically and mentally challenging,” he said.
“Every day thinking ‘I have to ride 200km today’ and then the next day exactly the same thing.
“Once you get to Adelaide, your confidence grows, but then after already doing 5000km you have to climb the mountains in Victoria and New South Wales, which is just the icing on the cake.”
Finishing in 14th place with a time of 31 days – one day longer than his previous Wheelrace effort – he said he was happy with the race overall, and the almost $2000 he raised for Black Dog Institute.