Six months ago I signed up for an adventure that I truly thought was impossible for me to do. Little did I know that said adventure would be such a life changing one.
In the running and triathlon world, there are plenty of stories that illustrate kindness on the course and how that kindness shapes the reason many athletes continue to race. I’ve experienced it myself, but I’ve never experienced it like I did this past weekend during the Ride to Conquer Cancer.
I’ve already told many family members and friends that this ride was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding thing I have ever done. EVER. But like all the impossible things I think I can’t do, the juice was worth the squeeze.
Physically, the heat was intense, the hills seemed never ending, and I rode for about 7 hours each day. I pushed my body in a way that I never have before and I surprised myself at my ability to dig really deep to overcome some of the toughest mental battles I have ever faced.
I hit the wall at about 75km on both days. Mostly because of the heat, but also because of the rollercoaster of emotions throughout each day. This ride truly pulls on your heart strings.
It starts right from the start of the opening ceremonies. Riders listened to a speech from a survivor of a rare form of cancer that took her leg from the hip down when she was just a child. She spoke of losing her best friend in the hospital to cancer during one of her stays and how profoundly that shaped her life, but the most inspiring piece of her story was about how she signed up for the ride one year and pedaled the entire 220km route with a single leg. If that isn’t the epitome of inspiring, I’m not sure what is.
On day 1, I met a survivor named Dave and his wife Liz at the 2nd pit stop. Dave was feeling weak and like he was holding Liz back so I offered to ride with him through the Halton Hills at a more moderate pace. A survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma in his twenties, he shared his story about how scary of a time it was for him and his family and how every day above ground since was a blessing. Once we reached the 60km mark, the heat got the best of Dave and he had to call it a day, but he found me the next day after lunch, cheered my name and rode on with a pep in each stroke of his pedals.
On day 2, I saw a man who fashioned a set of steel bars, almost like a baby seat to the back of his bike that he had secured a bike helmet to. At first I wasn’t quite sure what it was but then I realized what it was. He was carrying an invisible rider with him.
Throughout the weekend there were countless people along the course cheering with signs of remembrance, and hundreds of riders with names of loved ones on their limbs or pictures on their backs.
To physically see these riders and images all around you is a constant reminder that no matter how much pain you feel, how tired you are, or how badly you want to quit, it’s NOTHING compared to what someone who has battled, is battling, or has succumbed to cancer has suffered.
For me personally, these are the individuals I rode for:
I was proud to wear the Carley’s Angels team jersey and to carry her message, “Always Smile”. To me, that was the real testament of the entire weekend, and she is absolutely right. There is ALWAYS something to smile about, and while we all ride for our own reasons, we also ride because we are so incredibly blessed to do so.
Lastly, an enormous thank you to the greatest guy on the planet, my husband Tyler. Bare with me as I go through the long list of everything he did because he deserves it. First things first, he never once questioned my ability or even remotely tried to deter me from taking this challenge on. Once the weekend hit, he drove me into TO the night before to drop my bike off, woke up an hour early on Saturday to make sure I had a solid breakfast, made a surprise $100 donation as soon as he dropped me off, came to see me at the 30km mark, picked up and attached an additional water bottle holder to my bike mid day, brought my niece up to the lunch pit to cheer for me, brought extra Gatorade to the lunch stop on day 2 (they ran out on day 1), tracked me along the entire route to keep the rest of the family up to speed, met me at the 180km mark to give me an extra push towards the finish, and of course cheered for me the entire way. Ty, I know I have thanked you profusely over the last 3 days to tell you how grateful I am, but I truly feel like it’s not enough. I may have been the one out there riding which seems like the real inspirational story, but I couldn’t do half of what I do without you. You are the true champion of the weekend for infinitely supporting me while I chased down this seemingly impossible goal. I am so unbelievably lucky that you’re my guy, I love you.
I’m still digesting many of my thoughts and emotions from this experience. It’s easy to see why given the fraction of what I’ve shared in this post, but the thing I want to do most is encourage others to sign up for the ride. All you need is a bike, a helmet, and some determination. I promise, you won’t regret it and I promise you CAN conquer it!