Woke up early-ish, walked Mr. Harold, grabbed all my gear and headed out to meet up with the super cool car-pool crew. Of course, we were all running late but got on the road to head to Spruce Meadows at around 6:30am. By the time we reached the start it was raining and we wouldn’t see the sun again until later on Sunday evening. The opening speeches were inspiring and I teared up. The cancer survivor speaking had gone through an intense test-trial treatment for rare cancerous tumours found in his lungs just this past December. Fortunately, the treatment did a great job and he was well enough to start training in April for this ride! He looked strong and full of energy and was completely inspiring. By around 8:30am the crowd of nearly 2000 riders were given the signal to begin our cycling journey… and we were off! What an amazing sight the road took with all the riders. It was raining and everyone had high spirits. Throughout the day I took my time and stopped at the aid-stations for breaks. When I reached the lunch stop (about 70km in to the ride) I didn’t feel hungry so didn’t eat much – had a banana, a granola bar and filled up my water bottle with Gatorade. This would later be a lesson in being conscience that I am properly fueled for long treks. I had never actually biked for longer than 60km in one day so I really had no idea how my body would react.
Later, I looked to my bike computer and saw that I had biked over 90km and I suddenly realized that this really is a long distance. This is actually really far… and I still had over 30km to go! Oh boy. I was feeling good though – not great but good enough to finish for sure. Near the junction at Hwy 22 I stopped to put on my rain jacket as it was starting to rain (again) and a support vehicle stopped to ensure I was ok, which I was, and I asked how much further it was to camp and he told me about 25km. I thought to myself “I can do 25km… no problem… I’ve biked lots of 25km… just not after 100km”. I climb back on my bike and start going again. Pedal pedal pedal. Then I hit the proverbial wall at about 115km – started bonking. What was happening? Why can’t I keep my mind on task and just keep pushing to camp? I’m starting to doubt myself. W.T.F. My eyes started getting teary and had a moment of *gasp* feeling sorry for myself which in turn made me feel instantly so lame because after all I was cycling for a cancer foundation event – I have no real reason to feel sorry for myself. I signed up for this – rain or shine – and being a bit cold and physically tired were not good enough reasons for this mental behaviour. As quickly as I started doubting myself the universe heard my call for help and motivation and I was passed by a lady with a yellow flag on her bike indicating she’s a cancer survivor participant. She was being pushed up the hill by a teammate of hers. I start crying again – now because I knew I can do this and that rider is why I signed up for this challenge.
Next thing I knew I felt like I must be getting close to camp – I looked to the west and saw the tents at Chain Lakes – what a glorious sight! I pedal in to the finish and lose all ability to think clearly and have no idea know where to go. I look up and see one of my teammates, Cindy, and she’s got her beautiful beaming smile cheering me on shouting “You did it”! I feel like I collapse in to a hug with her then I hear someone yell my name and to “look over here” and I see a bunch of the Road Rockets with big smiles and congratulating me. Unbelievable support. I pose for a picture and get directed to where to bring my bike. I ask what time it is – 2:55pm. I’ve been biking for nearly 6.5 hours – minus whatever time I spent at the aid-stations (which in retrospect was too long). Cindy walks with me to find my bag, find my tent then she goes the extra awesome teammate mile and even takes my shoes off for me (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU) before I go in to the shower trailer to have the most wonderful hot shower of my life. After getting cleaned up I’m still not thinking clearly since I still hadn’t eaten in hours but find my way to the snack tent and grab a pre-peanut buttered bagel and it is the most delicious thing I’ve eaten. I see my teammates patiently waiting for other Road Rocket riders to arrive and we chat and share ride stories. Everyone is doing great.
We eventually make our way to the dinner tent, get some yummy hot food and drink beers (mmm… Steam Whistle).
I head to bed at 8pm. It’s still raining and doesn’t sound like it will let up. Doesn’t matter – I’m tired. My super tent/teammate, Nicole, and I wrap our-sleeping bagged-selves in shiny space blankets and look like a big burrito when we finally settle in for the night. Zzz-time.
We wake up at around 6am – it’s not raining! Well technically it is not raining but rather now it was 100% humidity and we’re in a cloud of foggy abyss mist. We get packed, make our way to breakfast, grab our bikes, hit the bathrooms and we’re off for Day 2 by around 7:15am.
As Nicole and I pedal out of the camp we chat about meeting at the end then like a power button switched on Nicole takes off with her super legs up the hill. My legs feel like lead and it takes about 10km to really loosen up and to not ‘hurt’ then just move mechanically. Then I start feeling my butt and the real tenderness of the sit-bones. I readjusted my position on the saddle a lot throughout the morning and don’t really find a ‘sweet spot’ that feels completely comfortable. Luckily my legs begin to feel really good and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to push them which was amazing because there were a lot more hills to tackle than I expected. Gear down – stand up – pedal hard. Good mantra to play repeatedly when it hurts more to sit than stand.
I make it to the Longview pit stop and find Nicole and Lyn there! Hooray I’m keeping up and catching up! It’s a quick break to grab Gatorade and a granola bar then it’s on to more hills to tackle. I make it to the Turner Valley lunch stop by 10:30am and find out we only have a little over 40km left… this is awesome. I see one of the RTCC organizers, Tim, and he tells me that it might be sunny back in Calgary by the time we get there! Hearing this is wonderful news after the unbelievable amount of rain I’ve been biking in … I believe the weather forecast he kindly shows me on his iPhone. The forecast would eventually be true… but not until far later in the day. Before leaving the lunch stop I take off my arm & leg warmers, wind breaker and rain jacket – it was warm and not raining. I left Turner Valley feeling strong and pumped to be just a few hours away from the end. Not long after getting back on the road, near Millarville, I saw a bunch of trucks and constructions signs saying washed out road ahead. Frick…really? There are a lot of volunteers shouting instructions to get in to the middle of the road and go straight through – there is at least 6” of water and it’s a fast flowing brown river going over the road. Oh man was it ever COLD but kind of fun (to be honest). However, what little bit of warmth I had in my shoes (my toes had been mostly cold/numb all morning) was gone and were filled with cold mountain river water. Luckily (actually) there was a hill right after the washed out road and I warm up fairly quickly.
The rest of the day went by fast. One final thing that happened was that at some point after the lunch stop it started raining so hard the drops were bouncing off the ground and coming back at me. It was unbelievable. What was funny about it was that I kept hearing a bell ring sporadically. First I thought it was someone behind me chiming that they were going to pass me so I waved with my left hand that it was all good. Then I heard it again and yelled out ‘Yup’. When I heard it the third time I looked over my shoulder and saw no one behind me for at least 500m. This is when I realized the ringing was my own bell being struck by the ginormous rain drops and I started laughing out loud. Ha!
I rolled in strong in to Spruce Meadows at around 12:30pm and met up with a few teammates that were at the finish line. Soaked through and super stoked to have completed this monumental event! What an amazing challenge and experience. Throughout Sunday I thought a lot about whether I would do this again and even while being cold and tired my mind constantly returned to a resounding => YES! Fantastic fundraising cause and I’m capable. Any sense of self-doubt I had about myself being able to be part of and do something big like this is gone.
Here is some 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer statistics compiled by yours truly:
Number of registered Riders: 1854
Dollars raised for cancer research and centres: over $8 MILLION!
Kilometers biked: 225km
Time on the saddle: ~11 hours
Amount of rainfall: unknown biblical proportions