A team of Army cyclists arrived at Cape Reinga a day early this week, completing a trip to fundraise for children with heart conditions by riding the length of the country.
Lance Corporal Hannah Drake and her former boss Nicola Pointon came up with the idea after Ms Pointon's son Jacob died of a rare heart condition called Ebsteins Anomaly when he was 19.
Ms Drake, 28, became Jacob's babysitter and buddy when he was 6 while working for after school care at Tawa Primary School in Wellington, where Ms Pointon was her manager.
The Linton-based soldier, who drives a light armoured vehicle, said she made up her mind to do the trip the day before Jacob died in 2008. "I decided there's nothing I can do to make it better and, by cycling the length of the country, I could create awareness around his condition."
Jacob had a deformity in the valve of his heart and doctors operated on him four times to try and stop it from racing. He suffered a stroke during the final operation and died three days later. Only six people have the condition in the country and their average age of survival is 19.
Ms Pointon said there was no quick fix for heart problems and the money raised would be spent on research around another, more common condition called Long QT syndrome, as well as counselling.
She said Jacob required constant visits to hospital and never spoke about his heart condition.
"He just wanted to be normal. Sometimes he did things I didn't understand but he was just trying to pack as much as he could into his life."
Ms Drake and her Army colleagues started their journey in Bluff on November 13 and made it to Cape Reinga on Tuesday, a day earlier than expected. Ms Pointon followed them in a support van with food and refreshments. They met with heart families and stayed at army camps and marae along the way. Ms Drake said the toughest legs of the journey were through steep hills at Kaikoura and the Desert Rd, which was covered in ice.
The ride was an extra special feat for Ms Drake, given she almost died after being T-boned on her bike by a 4WD with bullbars in 2006.
The team were met by a team of cheering supporters at the Town Basin in Whangarei, including the family of Ms Drake's partner and Army LAV crew commander Josh Hermansen, who comes from Northland.
On arrival at the Cape they rode through a finish ribbon with messages of support attached and released balloons. The group now heads south to compete in this weekend's Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.