July 3, 2011

My Ride to Conquer Cancer

At this time one week ago I was in a tent at Chain Lakes Provincial Park trying to get some much needed shut-eye. 

You see, there was this matter of 109 kilometers between where I woke up that morning and where I had to sleep that night - and only one means of bridging that gap: my bike. Needless to say, this distance on a bike can tire a guy out!

When my Mom was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September, everything - and I mean everything - was pretty much a blur.  Including the fact that September was ovarian cancer awarness month.  Including the fact that the leaflets for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer were now available for the springtime event.    

It wasn't until February when my Mom was through about 90% of her chemotherapy treatments (that all went reasonably well, thank God) when a friend convinced me that it would be a good idea to register for The Ride. "200 km on a bike? Well, I don't have a bike!"  But then I realized that this was something that I just needed to do. Just as my Mom needed to do her part by conquering cancer - it was now time for me to do it in a different kind of a way.

And this is what it was like...

My Mom joined me at Spruce Meadows on Saturday morning for the opening ceremonies and to watch the 22 hundred of us pedal through the start gates and down the winding road to - well - hopefully somebody near the front knew where we were heading!  My group (Team Paladin West) all crossed the startline together and looked good with our navy blue & sunset golden orange team wardrobe on display for world to see. The weather was mild, our water bottles were filled. It was time to get the show literally on the road. 

The first pitstop was in Okotoks where the the whole town went nuts for us. We had to pedal right through one of the main streets in town so absolutely 100% of the Okotoks population came out to cheer us on and show their support for what we were trying to accomplish. 

After Okotoks I was able to get into a little bit more of a rythm as we started to get a little more spread out. Feeling good, riding with a few of my team mates, we managed to pound back the first forty clicks reasonably well. Close to the 40km mark, my pal Mike found me. He wasn't riding with my team, but rather with is 60 year old father who happens to be  living with cancer. Not only that, Mike's dad had accomplished riding this same 200 km event the previous 2 years! Needless to say, I stopped to get a picture with this cancer crusader & his son at the 40 km pitstop. The next 20 km length of road down to Longview I found to be pretty reasonable. The wind was a little rough, but sometimes in life, you just need to bear down and overcome the more difficult challenges. Plus, there was a really fun hill to go down just prior to pulling into the Longview lunch stop.

At lunch we chilled. We carbed up & hydrated. Longview I learned has excellent jerky but didn't quite get the opportunity to try any out. Time to ride some more.

Some of my good riding buddies were great too keep me going on each day's 60 - 80 km stretch of highway. Pacing is a big part of riding bike, as is stretching, eating, and stopping for pictures. The mountain view for this part of the ride was pretty remarkable. I am sure happy the weather was so terrific...

Day One was nearing completion. They even had a 100km marker in the road. But at this point, the only thing keeping me going was the conversation I was able to have with a truly amazing TPW member as we battled up and pounded through the last few hills.  And finally - camp was in sight. I made it. Now all I had to do was find my bag, sleeping bag, tent, bike rack, change of clothes, shower, food, and beer.  

The amenities at the camp were tremendous. They even offered yoga, acupuncture, and massages. Bike techs, hot showers, live music, and lots of food. (and beer). Some people were in bed before 8 but I somehow was up talking and enjoying my evening til past 10. When I found out that my tent mate was a snorer, it ended up being a pretty late, restless night indeed.

6 AM! GO!!!! My team wished to all start Day 2 of the ride together at 7 o'clock in the morning. Yikes. So, with sore knees, sore everything I was up packing my bags and strolling through the field under a slight drizzle towards the coffee decanter.  By the time I was awake enough to find my way to breakfast, the drizzle...strengthened.

Yup. There it was. Rain. Alllllll morning long. Cold, wet, cold morning. But cha know what?  A miserable morning in the rain is nothing compared to the battles that those living with and fighting against cancer has to deal with. So we did it. Mile after mile. With always that one more hill to climb, we made our ways from pitstop to pitstop.

But as things do, the day brightened up. Every quarter distance traveled on Day 2, the weather also improved by a proportionate amount. So despite having to cycle into harsh northwesterly's and a needly foot-soakening rain, and only slivers of blue sky to motivate us - we made it to Black Diamond (or Turner Valley?) for lunch. Which ever it was, the break here was very welcomed.  By the end of my ~1hr pitstop here, I was even a little bit warm! But I kept the foil wrapped around my feet and my windbreaker on just the same. A handful of people got swept and brought closer to home on this extremely challenging day, but I am proud to say that with the support of my team, my friends, my family, as well as strangers on the road urging me on - I did it. Alllll the way to the finish line, where an emcee announced each rider's name while completing about 220 km of cycling alongside Alberta's Rocky Mountains. What a rush!!!

At the end of the day, there was my Mom. She was waiting there for me in what turned out to be a pretty hot day! It was great seeing her after finishing this pretty huge accomplishment. (My $3315 gets to be directed specifically towards gynecoligic oncology).  The team mates that I crossed the line with were more than happy to take a picture with the person that inspires me - inspires us all - to do what we did over the weekend. Thank you Mom for everything.

Sidenote: please do not be cynical about the usage of funds. I can never say enough how every last dollar makes a difference towards the treatment of any cancer patient. Signing up for ACF events, I am understanding that the participant can choose any of the following areas of oncology for their hard-earned fundraising dollars:

prostate cancer
colon, rectum, GI cancers
gynecologic cancer
head & neck cancer
lung cancer
leukemia & lymphathic cancer
brain cancer
skin cancer
breast cancer
childhood cancers,      
priority cancer discovery fund

So sign up today!!!

The Shopper's Drug Mark Weekend To End Women's Cancers is the last weekend in July  but is in Calgary again. It consists of walking 32 km 1 day or 60 km over 2 days and asks that participants raise $1250 or $2000 for the 1 or 2 day event, respectively. As important is EVERY cause out there, I will be giving this one a miss. Heaven knows there are soooo many causes after all...

Today we celebrated my Mom's birthday at Delux Burger. Nicola Crosbie introduced us to this place by advocating ovarian cancer research at this restaurant in February. Not only was it my Mom's birthday today, but we were also able to celebrate 4 months of my mom being cancer free!