CYCLE 5 TO SURVIVE

A Journey of Purpose: From Passion to Impact

Written by Niyanta Baniya, Content Writer, PMV

2023 N America continental divide bike ride

P.L. Meindertsma has always been daring and a seeker of adventure. Competing in the Ironman Triathlon with his wife, Kristen, for their honeymoon, followed by numerous other remarkable quests over the years, his active lifestyle was anything but ordinary. 

However, after enduring eighty-hour workweeks around 2018-2019, the mounting stress made P.L. realize that there had to be more to life than his current routine. The answer came during a retreat, in what he calls his “aha” moment, which has become his personal motto: patience + purpose = peak performance. This was the seed that would grow into ‘Cycle 5 to Survive.’ 

After participating in a bike ride for the Terry Fox Foundation, the concept for Cycle 5 to Survive (C5TS) began to take shape in early 2022. Together with his wife Kristen, P.L. envisioned using their love for cycling to raise $500,000 for 5 charities by traversing across 5 continents on bikes. The number 5 symbolized a milestone, with P.L. turning 50 and Kristen 55 in 2022, marking the beginning of their purpose-filled journey. 

His heart set on transforming lives, P.L. custom-painted his bike with the C5TS logo, symbolizing his unwavering commitment and spreading the word about his goal locally. Yet, the path was far from clear, and the magnitude of the project seemed overwhelming. Despite his eagerness to jump into action, P.L. grappled with doubt. Questions plagued his mind:  

“Can I really pull this off? How will I manage? What if I fail?”  

 Meeting the Mentor  

In this moment of uncertainty, P.L.’s journey took a pivotal turn when a contact suggested Project Management Volunteers (PMV), an organization that had successfully supported similar fundraising efforts for Global Aid Network. P.L. reached out to Peter Mulholland, a seasoned PMV leader with “a calming presence”. Peter’s wisdom and experience provided the steady guidance P.L. needed. 

Together, they looked for a project manager; posting job descriptions on PMV site and interviewing volunteer project managers. Finally in June 2022, P.L. met Sarah Haysom, a project manager who would become an integral part of the team. P.L. recalled, 

 “Sarah was nice and had the right energy…I needed someone that could help me articulate what I need to do and the steps on how to get there and she just fit the bill.” 

-P.L. Meindertsma, Co-Founder, Cycle 5 to Survive

Sarah’s expertise in project management and passion for volunteering led her to PMV where she was consistently on the lookout for opportunities to make a difference. “I saw a quick overview of the project goals, and that hooked me,” Sarah said of C5TS when reflecting on her decision to apply for the role. 

Challenges and Perseverance 

As the passion project gained momentum, so did the vision. One significant hurdle was the fluctuating scope of the project. Initially, it was about one charity, Opportunity International Canada working in Dominion Republic, but feedback and evolving circumstances demanded adjustments. The vision quickly grew to raising $2.5 million in total for 5 charities. A huge change from the initial goal. 

Sarah, with her agile project management skills, was instrumental in navigating these changes. Her ability to adapt and maintain focus amid shifting goals and growing team was critical.  Sarah coordinated the critical aspects of the bike ride focusing on the date, route, fundraising, marketing, and website creation.   

“I leaned heavily on all the tools that I’ve learned throughout my project management experience. And again, Peter from PMV was amazing and a really good mentor. I’d often bounce ideas with him… [Peter] advised me not to overwhelm P.L. with all these project management templates but to find the middle ground on what the project needs.”

– Sarah Haysom, Volunteer Project Manager, PMV

As these elements came together, the first ride from Banff to Mexico in 2023 seemed within reach. However, just a month before the ride, Kristen faced a severe health issue, threatening the plan of her and P.L. doing the ride together. Sarah stepped in with a meticulously crafted contingency plan, outlining possible scenarios, risks and solution if one of them couldn’t participate. This preparation, combined with an unexpected recovery, allowed them to move forward. 

The ride was a crucible moment which P.L. described as: 

“It was an unsupported ride meaning that my wife and I were all by ourselves. We carried our own tents, our own sleeping bags, and our own food…90% [of the Banff to Mexico ride] was on gravel and 10% on road.” 

Every kilometer of the 4,300 km journey was a testament to their preparation and determination. The challenges—weather conditions, logistical issues, and physical exhaustion—pushed them to their limits. However, the unwavering support of donors and the team, along with the inspiring stories of lives being impacted by their efforts, provided the emotional fuel they needed to persevere. 

Results and Rewards 

Completing the first ride in 37 days brought immense sense of accomplishment to Kristen and P.L. Not only had they met their fundraising goals, but they also had established a strong framework for future rides and worked on their physical and mental progress. The experience deepened the team’s bond, and it garnered more support and visibility for their cause. 

With the first ride successfully behind them, the focus shifted to the future. P.L. and Sarah had to ensure that the momentum was sustained. The team engaged continuously with charities and fine-tuned plans for upcoming rides such as the one in Nepal. They aimed to maintain effective project management practices from their lessons learned including having a visual work breakdown structure, a project plan, regular status reports and Key Performance Indicators. 

The true measure of their journey’s impact emerged when Kristen, inspired by the project, resolved to embark on her own charitable initiative. After completing the 5-year journey of C5TS, her project will commence with a focus on local women and girls aiming to create safe and empowering spaces for those at risk. Sarah, too, found a renewed sense of purpose and is now a project manager with the team extending her role beyond a one-year volunteer term.  

Lessons for Future 

Drawing from his experience, P.L. offered his guidance to individuals and organizations, including not-for-profits and charities, seeking project management support,

 “PMV can do a process of elimination for the people that are afraid to take action and they can also create structure for people who take action without a plan.”  

P.L Meindertsma, Co-Founder, Cycle 5 To Survive

Similarly, Sarah encouraged her fellow project managers to consider volunteering with PMV,

“It’s a great opportunity to gain great experience and give back in a meaningful way.” 

Sarah Haysom, Volunteer Project Manager, PMV

The story of Cycle 5 to Survive is one of passion, resilience, and the power of community. It highlights how an individual’s vision, when combined with the right support and relentless determination, can lead to extraordinary outcomes.  As P.L., Kristen and Sarah look forward to the second major bike ride in July 2024, their journey reminds us that true impact comes from the heart and the courage to embark on our own unique paths. 

 For more information, visit https://cycle5tosurvive.com/. 

Also visit  PMV Website  to learn more. Contact us for free project management services for your social impact projects or find suitable volunteering opportunities.