Ride to Conquer Cancer 2018
Day 1 - Saturday
The large crowd ahead of us.
8 am. There are 4,000 cyclists in the parking lot at the Ex dressed in team jerseys. Most of them appear to be from Deloitte. Teams have decorated helmets with potatoes (McCains), stuffed animals, and plungers (plumbing supply store). There are yellow survivor flags fluttering. We are the last team to leave but it’s not a race, right?
We start riding towards The Queensway and I feel rebellious riding through stop signs and in the middle of the road. A woman drives up, screams my name, which is prominently displayed on my bike, and tells me I’m doing great. Tavia says I’ll get used to it, but I listen to far too many murder podcasts to get comfortable with strangers in vans calling my name. As the ride goes on, others on bikes will pass me (this happens often) and call encouragement. Freaks me out every time.
The not-so-large crowd behind us
I can’t remember much about the actual ride because I was busy trying to breathe. We go through towns and villages, up and down hills. Along fields sweet with carpets of clover and through new construction. People wave from their driveways and call out their thanks. I see a man riding with a child’s helmet attached to his bike and a photo of an adorable toddler. A little while later, I pass a woman with a photo of two people hugging pinned on the back of her jersey. They look happy in each other’s arms.
There are pit stops every 20km or so where everyone waits to make sure I am still alive. Pit stops are also filled with snacks, which I eat because I need to keep my energy up. With chips. And sugar waffles. I am feeling surprisingly good. There’s a calming rhythm to biking that I never noticed on Toronto streets, where my focus is primarily on dodging cabs and car doors. For a moment, all is perfect in my world.
Then the hills come. I give up and walk them.
When we finally get into Hamilton, there’s a tent city set up. I collect my bag but on my way to the shower accidentally walk into the beer tent. It seems rude to say no, so I have a drink while I stretch to help loosen the muscles. The others arrive, having done various longer routes and hill challenges that I enthusiastically declined. Guy has apparently taken all of the harder options, did an extra 60 km for fun and still arrived hours ahead of us. Erin did the hill to "get her heart rate up". I nod seriously, as if this is something that makes sense to me.
I end up going to my tent at 6 pm to enjoy not moving. I luck out and my tentmate doesn’t appear. I wonder if I’ll be able to move the next day, let alone ride a bike. I need more water but that involves movement so I go thirsty. There are still people drinking and partying in the wee hours. They are obviously superhumans, probably from Deloitte.
Hours ridden: about 7?
Day 2 - Sunday
On Sunday, I wake at 5:45 am and feel…okay? This is so unexpected it throws me for a second. But yeah. I’m doing okay. I get on the bike and feel confident about the day. There's only 117 km left to ride. I did 103 km yesterday so this will be a cinch. I’m practically done.
I was initially worried about the first part of the ride, which was up the escarpment, but the trail is along a gorgeous wooded path and I barely notice I’m going uphill. Dave rides with me for a bit. Dave, I’ve noticed, is the nicest person in any given pack of riders. He stops at the lights to wave cars through with a genial wave, signals appropriately and every time I see him, is in animated conversation with someone.
We’re somewhere in the Greater Hamilton region when my knee starts to twinge and the wind picks up. Either of these events would be bad but together they are killing me. The wind is also magical and is in my face whichever way I turn. I struggle so visibly a man slows down to tell me that wind is in the mind, not the legs. This sounds good and I try to use it as a mantra until I give up and replace “wind is in the mind” with profanities. This helps.
Kyle has been close by, glancing behind occasionally to see where I am. He waits at the top as I trudge up the hills (I’m winded even walking) and I admire how he takes the down hills with reckless speed. I brake because I’m scared of killing myself. We’ve seen the aftermath of a couple accidents today. Kyle apparently has no such fear.
Pit stop near Fonthill.
He also mentions that the medical tents have Tylenol and A535. I smother myself in so much I smell like a package of mints. I also realize the extent of my chafing when the cream starts to feel like a chemical burn. Trying to wash A535 off in a porta-potty is not one of my life’s highlights.
We ride. A few cyclists sit at a gelato place in Fonthill but I’m a warrior and don’t even consider stopping. Also, no way am I paying for gelato when I have a bag of the free snacks they provide at every rest stop. The wind lets up but my knee is killing me so this has turned into an endurance ride. What helps is that I can see not everyone is a powerhouse. In front of me are two women and when one slows, her friend puts her hand on her back to encourage her. All around me are regular people doing their best.
Near Lincoln, there is a wooden pallet with a message written in marker: P.M.H is saving my life. Thank you.
I get my energy back.
We meet up for the final approach and the ride into Niagara is perfect in every way except for the pain. The sky is blue, the roads are smooth and on a slight decline. People line the sides with signs I can’t read because maybe, maybe I’ve teared up a little. The finish appears before I expect it and then…it’s done.
I did it.
Hours ridden: about 7ish?
By Lanna Crucefix