Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ride To Conquer Cancer 2012 Edition...

Where to begin... well, with the people who made it all possible!! I am so very fortunate to have had such amazing support. Thank you to each and every person who donated to the Alberta Cancer Foundation so that I could participate in this ride. There were a lot of you, and I am so grateful!! Seriously, last year when I went into the ride, I still had a LOT of money left to raise. And, the only way that they let you participate is if you put down your credit card, and for our family, that was a huge risk. It was very stressful, but I hoped I could do it, and I did. This year however, I actually reached my minimum well ahead of the ride. Seriously, so much nicer to be riding without that looming over me. So once again, I can't thank all you amazing donors enough!! It means the world to me to have your support. The money helps fund research and helps patient care in our province. One of the crew members on my team is living proof of the benefits of that research, having been involved in several clinical trials with her treatment plan. And the dollars from the Cancer Ride alone, have helped launch more than 50 cancer research projects!! So truly, every donation matters!!

Now, about that ride... I woke up rather early, and was pleased to see the ground was relatively dry. I took that as a positive sign, of course that was short lived!! I got down to Spruce Meadows (in the rain), and proceeded to get my gear checked and my bike set up.

Exactly what gear was involved, you were wondering, well, let me tell you!! I had my new ride jersey on (made by SUGOI of course), my shockaborber (if you don't know what this is, don't ask haha), my Garmin heart rate monitor & bike computer (so I could know my cadence, speed, temperature, time of day, total elapsed time, average speed, average cadence etc... yes I'm a numbers geek), my SUGOI shorts, my Giro helmet with SUGOI rain cover, my keen clip sandals (with SUGOI bootie covers), MEC gloves and hydration system (with Platypus insert, filled with 1st Endurance EFS (a sports drink similar to gatorade only a better mix of electrolytes), my SUGOI jacket,  my Norco CRR road bike, and a little bag under the seat with spare tube and CO2 cartridges. I also had a snack bag with a couple of GU gels and another bottle gel from 1st Endurance but that got lost overnight somewhere.

So, the opening ceremonies are always special because they remind you about why this ride matters. They remind you of the people we have lost to cancer, and the ones currently battling and the ones lucky enough to have survived the ordeal. And collectively, we raised over 8 million dollars. That's huge. That funds a lot of research. One of those research projects might lead to a cure!! And then away we went. Over 1800 of us. Bikes came in every shape and size. There were road bikes, hybrid bikes, mountain bikes, tri bikes, recumbent bikes, tandem bikes (seriously, I don't think I could ever get along well enough with someone to ride tandem for 2 days!!), and some fancy sort of elliptical type bike. Some bikes were brand new, some looked like they had their debut back in the 1800s or something.

And riders, they come in all shapes and sizes as well. Of course there are the Lance Armstrong wannabe types, that treat this like a race and probably arrived at camp just as the last people crossed the start line (okay, maybe it took a bit longer, but not by much). And there are the people who think they are Lance Armstrong, but clearly are not (you know, the ones that insist on riding in the passing area making it so nobody can get around them!!), there are serious riders, there are riders who are there for the experience, and there are riders who are cancer survivors. And there are tall riders and short riders, fat riders and skinny riders, there are even the occasional riders who smoke (although how their lungs handle some of those hills I'm not so sure!!). Anyhow, my point is, some people train for months and months to get ready for this ride. Others, barely put in a ride or two ahead of time. Yet, they are all there because they believe in something and have passion behind finding a cure for cancer. Some people are hardcore athletes, but others are just regular people, and all of them are doing this EPIC ride. So if you have considered doing this ride, but been scared off, don't be. Really, anyone can do it... you just need to believe in yourself. Of course now I'll tell you about the ride, and that might scare you off, but it shouldn't!!

Day One was different this year. We started out at Spruce Meadows and slowly made our way to Okotoks. From there, it was down to High River, then over to Highway 22 and down into Chain Lakes (camp for the night). It was a beautiful ride, although it had several moments of wet weather, finishing with some pretty good rain. Last year, it was sunny at the finish, not so much this year!! I had the best treat ever though, in that Jeremy and the boys drove down to cheer me on and wish me well!! Seeing those familiar faces was amazing and gave me the perfect boost to finish the day (I met them around the 120km mark). Oh yeah, about that!! With this new route, it was slightly longer than we were told. I believe I read that day one was 115km. Well, It was more like 125km. And let me say, that is really annoying!! In a ride of such a great length, just tell me. Let me be mentally prepared for that. I wanted to be done at 115km. Thank goodness I got to see my boys at that point because it gave me a charge to finish, but I felt bad for some of the first timers, because that's a big difference!! I don't mind doing it, just tell me!! (I felt the same way last year, when 100km was actually 115km haha).

So we finished on a rainy note. To be more specific, it was a muddy note. Right at the end was all mud. Seriously, my feet had stayed relatively dry up to that point, but with the finish, I ended up ankle deep in mud... uuugghhhh!! I took my bike and racked it up in the bike area, and went off in search of my gear, in the pouring rain of course. I found my bag and headed to my tent. I quickly grabbed some clean dry clothes and headed off to the showers. You can't imagine how good it felt to be in a hot shower!! Yes, they bring in mobile showers. I was able to get warm, clean (well, I couldn't quite scrub the mud line off my ankle, but close!!), and dry. The past part was to finally be in dry clothes. The tent was okay, but after finishing my recovery drink (another awesome 1st endurance product, thanks Jeremy!!), I headed for the big mess tent. I grabbed some food (chicken souvlaki with various salads and pitas... and there is always a vegetarian option, oh by the way, you just have to sign up for that!!). I went in search of a chair, because most people were "saving" them for teammates that had yet to appear. I headed to the far end of the tent and found a place to sit. To this point, I hadn't seen anyone on my team, but did manage to run into a couple of people I swim with!! I sat with another guy, and a family of four from Edmonton (dad rode, and mom and kids came to celebrate). Eventually the family left after finding other riders they knew (her parents)). I finished my meal and a short time later, a group of about five people came and sat down with me, and voila, it happened to be some of the team I was a part of. Everyone exchanged stories about their day and we got to hear about the crew, and various riders, the trials and tribulations of riding in less than favourable conditions!! It didn't take long for them to convince me I should join them in their trailer. It was still pouring rain, and thundering, when I headed back to the tent, repacked and walked over to the trailer. It felt SOOOOOOOOO nice to be in a warm, dry place, rather than the tent that was slowly starting to take on water!! We chatted a bit, heard more stories of the day and life in general, and soon enough, it was time to sleep!!

I wouldn't say I slept well, but I was warm, dry and truly appreciated the roof over my head. I would go so far as to say I now "get" the point of a trailer (vs a tent), especially in weather like that!! Although I still think I'm more of a backcountry girl!!

So, Sunday morning. It came early. Three of the people in the truck were crew, so they had to be up early. They headed off for breakfast, and slowly us riders began to figure out our day. I decided to wear  my compression tights under my bike shorts. I had everything packed to take with me, and stuffed everything else in my backpack to check at the gear trucks. I was a bit slower getting ready, so the others headed off to breakfast while I finished packing. I was a very effective packer. So much so, that I packed the bike shorts I was planning to wear over top of the tights. Whoops!! Too late now since the bag was checked. I grabbed my bike and walked back to the trailer with it. Before long we were off.

It was great leaving to the beats of "Feel So Close"... it was perfect, some great beats and awesome cheering got me pumped to get going (and since it's uphill straight away, that's a good thing!!). The weather was not great on Sunday. Not at all. It was misting in the morning, and that very quickly turned to rain. I skipped the first pit stop. Stopped for a bathroom break at the second one. Grabbed a quick snack and fake mocha (half hot chocolate/half coffee) at the lunch stop  (Popcorn Twists are my new favourite... they dissolve easily and are salty... mmmmmm), and kept pressing on... Next up came Millarville, and soon enough we had to ride through a river that had washed out part of a road. Seriously, it was a river... and the tricks it played on the mind were intense!! A car turned right, and the waves the car made while you drove through were almost too much but thank goodness I didn't fall cause I would have been soak soaked!! Shortly after the river, came the hail. Yup, a nice hail storm, cause it wasn't already crappy enough weather. I was glad I was wearing a helmet!! I passed the final pitstop and soon enough it was back onto Highway 22X. That is a fun road to ride, although it was much rainier than I might have preferred.

As the end approached, the bike computer died, but it sure was nice to have that company for the first 220km!! Only ten to go!! Ten kilometres left to think about what the ride really means. To think about how I saw my grandpa going through radiation years ago when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. About going out to visit my godfather (and uncle) when he was nearing the end of his battle with brain cancer. About watching Jeremy's dad get sick so quickly and dying from gall bladder cancer. And more recently, my friend Shelley going through colon cancer, and now finding out another uncle has colon cancer. It is truly frightening. Some of these cancers are easier to battle than others, but in no case is the outcome certain. And the pain and suffering while in treatment are so hard to see and hear about. Cancer is devastating. I also think about the research that goes into cancer, and how a lot of times those projects spin off to benefit other diseases as well. I watch my mom battle Lupus, and that is tough to see as well, yet many of the medications and drugs that help her are a direct result of research aimed at cancer. The research this ride funds, is really important.

But this weekend, I did my part. I did what I could to spread awareness and fundraise to help make a difference. I ride because I am healthy enough to do so. I ride for those who would, but can't. I ride to make a difference. I ride to honour the memory of those who have been lost, and to support those who are fighting. And because I know cancer will not go away unless we try and do something to stop it.

This ride isn't easy. This year was tough. Really, tough, but seriously, it pales in comparison to someone going through chemo and radiation and various surgeries to try and rid their body of cancer. I had one tough weekend, but that is nothing compared to the marathon of a cancer diagnosis and treatments. But even though the ride is tough, it's very doable. Consider it. Seriously. Even though it's tough, it is an incredible weekend and one that you won't soon forget. If you have any questions, ask away!! It would be great to have more company again next year!!

I will ride again next year. It's the effort I will make, to help make a difference. I know though, that I can only make that effort because of those of you who have cared enough to donate. I ride for each one of you as well, because without those donations I couldn't ride!! So thanks for that!!