So this past weekend, I set out on a brand new journey. A new adventure. Something big. Something awesome. And something that, up until the day before, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to do. Fundraising is always a challenge, and the ride to conquer cancer was no exception. For me, coming off of Mother's Day, where we always put in a good effort to raise funds, since we know that the Mother's Day Run supports NICU and since that cause is obviously very near and dear to us, it was tough coming away from that, and turning around and basically asking all those same amazing people who supported us in that, to turn around and support the ride to conquer cancer as well. And really, things were not looking so good... with one night to go, I had $1000 left to raise... and since we aren't really in a position to afford that, it was tough deciding to go ahead or not. In the end, after getting a couple more donations, I went for it. I wanted to honour the donations I had already received and devised a plan to raise the rest, through a combination of a 50/50 draw and bottle drive.
So, then it was time to pack... hmmmm... deciding the night before a 200km ride, is not always the smartest move. I was scrambling trying to get everything together. Where was my platypus pack? Found the bag, found the backpack, found the tube, couldn't find the end piece... I remember Sebastian playing with it. It could be anywhere. Well, eventually found that, but then couldn't find my riding sandals (yes, my clip shoes are keen sandals... they are AWESOME!!). Well, Jeremy saved the day on the sandals, and I should also point out, that he was out in the garage working on my bike. Tuning it up, cleaning it up, making sure the gears shifted nicely and the brakes worked properly. He too, was signed up to ride, but hadn't raised any money, so him riding wasn't even a consideration that day. The work he put into my bike though, really meant a lot. He also offered up his bike. He has a nice Argon tri bike, but I just felt I'd be more comfortable on my mountain bike, so went with what I knew. Might not have been the fastest choice, but it was the choice I made!!
Went to bed with the alarm set for 0500hrs... did I mention I only work nightshifts? This was a VERY early morning for me, and the boys as well. We put my bike on the car, packed my bag, and off we went, headed for Spruce Meadows. It seemed a bit surreal, but there I was, getting ready to embark on a journey more epic than anything I had ever done before. To date, my longest ride has been 50km. So, the idea that over the next two days I'd go 200km seemed just a bit unbelievable. Yet, I knew I could. I never really doubted I had it in me... well, there was one point, but I will get to that in a bit. So I have to check in, since this was a last minute decision, I hadn't done that yet. Which is also the point where I hand over my credit card number and hope I might actually raise something in the next two months!! From there my gear was checked in, then it was time for a snack. Ran into my cousins and my uncle and chatted a bit, they didn't realize I was actually riding. The ride was important to them as another uncle had died from brain cancer and as they were quite close, it was especially hard to watch him suffer and ultimately lose his fight. Then, before I knew it, it was time to line up and get ready.
There were bikes as far as the eyes could see. I mean, when you have 2280 riders, you pretty much have 2280 bikes (except for a couple tandem bikes), and even an eliptical bike. And then there was every kind of bike for the rest of them. Road bikes, mountain bikes, tri bikes, mountain bikes with aero bars (Jeremy found this particularly amusing). And the riders came in all shapes and sizes. There were young people, old people, tall people, short people, thin people, fat people. Literally, every conceivable possible rider was there. Some had barely biked a day in their lives. Others were seasoned athletes for whom this was a mere training ride. It was really an incredible group. And when you realize that collectively, we had raised over 8 million dollars, that is powerful. That kind of money can do a lot of good in the world of research. And it's because of all those funds that everyone was there. And then there were the bikes with yellow flags on them. Each of those riders were cancer survivors. Having already battled a brutal disease, they were out here showing that cancer couldn't beat them, and taking on a huge challenge at the same time!!
There were a few speakers and of course by the end of it, I was in tears. Thank goodness I was in sunglasses. Jeremy was super emotional too (understandable since he lost his dad to cancer). It made the ride matter, it made doing this important. There are so many fundraisers out there, collecting for so many things, and all of them do matter. But today, this one really mattered. And for every person that has ever been diagnosed with cancer, and for every person that will be diagnosed, this mattered. This group of people went out of their way to try and help fight this disease. To honour the memories of those lost, to celebrate those fighting, and to try and make sure that nobody else will suffer in the future. So to everyone who took the time to donate and help me get to the starting line, thank you. Every donation mattered. Because together, with all the other donations, the money raised really will have an impact. An epic impact!! It's putting Alberta on the front stage of cancer research!!
And then we were off. I was a bit nervous on the count of my sandals and the fact that I don't have a lot of experience with clip shoes on a bike, and with so many bikes, it took a bit to get everyone going at a pace that is condusive to balancing while in clip shoes. I managed however and all was good. It was very emotional starting the ride, being part of something so much bigger!! Very soon, I settled into my ride and just kept riding. And then came the first hill, and there were people who stopped and walked their bikes up. I'm happy to report I made it to the top. And so the ride continued. With lots of hills. Soon, I approached the first pitstop in Okotoks. I was impressed I had made it that far. Grabbed myself some gatorade and a bagel with peanut butter and was on my way. Next pitstop came along and I got to snack on fruit cremes and munchies... yum!! Lunch was the third pitstop and now more than 60km was done. Chatted a bit with my uncle in Longview and then I was off again. The day was filled with lots and lots of hills and the last two legs were super windy. It was a tough ride, but it was good. I decided against the last pitstop as it was about half a kilometre off the highway and didn't really feel the need to stop, just wanted to get to the camp!! By now my butt was rather tired and not really too happy with my decision to bike so far all in one day. However, I finished and arrived at camp in the mid afternoon. Best thing ever? Having a chocolate covered cherry in your bag to eat at camp... yup, it was sooooo tasty!!
Camp was interesting. Hundreds of tents lined up in rows. Portable showers. Food. Drinks. Shops (Sugoi and gear for the race). Massage tent. Medical tent. Yoga tent. Racked my bike upon arriving and grabbed my gear. The whole thing was so well organized!! Had a shower, the shower felt so good, and the water was even hot. Who knew there were mobile showers like that!! Dinner was nice. Chatted with my uncle and cousins, and ran into a friend from work. It was nice running into her as she had given me all sorts of hints and tips for the ride. And for her the ride was especially meaningful as her dad had died just a few months earlier from cancer.
I wandered around, checking things out, filling up my platypus pack, and eventually headed towards my tent. Met my tentmate who was from BC and super nice. We chatted for a bit, and soon it was off to sleep. For being in a tent, on a foamie on a definitely not flat piece of land, I slept surprisingly well. Sadly however, I woke up to rain. This was not part of the plan. It took awhile to will myself out of my sleeping bag. The rain was depressing me to no end. I did not want to ride in the rain.
So, packed everything up, dropped my gear at the trucks, and headed off, wearing slightly different clothing from the day before. I kept my Sugoi compression tights on, along with my Sugoi bike shorts (you'll notice a trend here hahaha). Then I put on a long sleeved tech shirt, with my new Ride to Conquer Cancer jersey (also made by Sugoi), over top, and finally my Sugoi all weather jacket. At the last moment, I added another light jacket underneath, as it was really quite chilly. I had my helmet on, and away I went in search of something to help my feet (remember? bike sandals?? not so ideal in that weather!!). At the 2012 sign up tent they had garbage bags they were handing out, so I took one and made pseudo booties by wrapping my feet in the bag and taping them up. I also turned my bike gloves into mitts by wrapping part of the garbage bags around them and taping them (yeah, it was that chilly). I went out to my bike, and then had to clean out my sandals underneath so they'd be able to click in (since they were covered in mud). Yup, it was challenging, and hadn't even started riding yet. And I was absolutely dreading putting my sore butt down on that seat. Lucky for me, it was not nearly as painful as I was imagining it would be.
And off I went. It was raining, it was windy, it was cold. And, it was uphill. I had opted to skip breakfast as I didn't feel like standing in line in the rain, so I popped a GU gel and off I went. It was tough. And it was really cold and windy. rain was coming up under my sunglasses somehow, still trying to figure that one out!! The first pitstop was a welcome site. I grabbed a bagel and a banana. Stood there freezing while I ate it, then got back on the bike. Bikers were dropping like flies. Sweep vehicles went past, loaded with new bikes every time. It was tough to watch, and tempting to give up. At the second pitstop, they were asking who wanted to be swept. I made myself new booties with mylar blanket pieces so my feet would stay warmer, and headed out after some cookies and munchies. The hills going into Longview were tough, so stopping there would have been easy!! And then, the hills leaving Longview were tough. Fortunately, the next stop would be lunch, so I pushed onwards, even though it had started brutally raining again. At some moments, between the wind and the rain, even breathing wasn't so easy!! By the time I got to Turner Valley, the rain had subsided again, so lunch was pleasant enough. Ate and headed out. This time, it was the wind. Biking straight into the wind. Are you kidding me? First all the rain and cold, and now a strong head wind?? It was tough. And still some hills, let's not forget. By the end of this leg however, things were improving, the pitstop was in sight, and then, my chain falls off. Instant panic. I'm in clip shoes, and about to fall off my bike. Thankfully, I was able to get my one foot unclipped and then steady myself before falling. Phew!! Flipped my bike over, put the chain back on, and biked the 250m to the pitstop (yup, I was that close when it fell off). Got my final snacks and at this point knew I'd make it.
In chatting with a sweeper, there were 300 bikers who didn't even start on day 2, and they were picking up bikers 4 at a time from the course. And a bunch of others stopped at the pitstops. She even said good athlete type bikers couldn't take it. Lots of hypothermia that day!!
The last stretch was good. The beginning part was still tough, but let me tell you, once I hit 22X, I was a whole new rider. I had a renewed sense of energy, a new passion. And I pushed. I pushed hard. I got up to 65kilometers an hour even at one point. I just road and road my little heart out. And I thought about why I was there. Why I had just put myselft through 2 grueling days of biking 200+km (cause it's actually longer than 200km by the way, hahaha). I thought about my grandpa, and how I had seen him going through radiation at Foothills, back in the 1980s. I thought about Jeremy's dad, and how quickly cancer took over his body. And how hard it's been on Jeremy not having his dad, his go-to guy. I thought about my uncle, who was actually my godfather even. I went out and saw him in the summer before he passed away, trying hard to fight, but the cancer was winning. I thought about some of the kids I've seen at Ronald Mcdonald House, in the midst of chemo with no hair, trying to just be regular kids, probably not really understanding the battle they are facing. Cancer is horrible and takes away people we love, well before we should ever have to lose them. This ride gets people trying to do something about that. The funds raised go towards research. I truly hope one of the research projects leads to a cure, or at the very least, more effective, less destructive treatments. And the spinoffs. Some of the drugs go on to help with other diseases that just don't get the funds and attention that cancer does. So what this epic ride does, has an epic impact on the world of cancer resarch and treatment. It will make a difference.
As Spruce Meadows got closer, I was full of emotion. I was happy, I was sad. I was missing people that matter. People that should have had more time here. My heart was heavy for all those left to survive without their loved ones. It was very emotional, but in a good and healthy way. I am, so far, blessed with good health. I have a responsibility, to use that health to make a difference to those that aren't so lucky. It's important to take the time and be passionate about these causes, because they really do matter. I could hear the end. All the cheering, the announcer. It was incredible. I rounded the corner and the sides of the finish were lined with people cheering. The Canada flag (and several other flags), were all flapping in the distance. It was amazing. It was the perfect ending to two days of pushing myself to new limits. I rode through the end with tears streaming down my face. I saw my boys. I was so excited for them to be there and share in that moment. It really was epic.
Thank you so much to every single person who donated to this ride. Thank you for your kind words. Thank you for your support! Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping me reach my goal. Without each and every one of you, it would not have been possible. I am eternally grateful!!
So I'm signed up to do this again next year. And so is my husband. I want to keep trying to help and to make a difference. It's important. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have inspired someone else to join us. It's not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Fundraising is tough. Training is tough. Heck, the ride itself is tough, but it's amazingly well supported and worth every moment. So take these words, and be inspired. Come bike with us, and if that's not something you can do, then support us. Because it's that support that makes it possible for us to do this, and truly, it's the ultimate example of how much bigger we are, when we all work together for a common goal. So, if you want, feel free to donate to the 2012 ride!! You get a tax receipt... you know you wanna...