2016 Ride to Conquer Cancer

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Checked in and ready to go on Friday night

My dad challenged me to join the Ride to Conquer Cancer in February. I definitely thought he was joking until he booked a hotel room in Okotoks. So I bought a bike and started riding.  Everyone kept telling me I was ready and I would crush it, no problem. I had never cycled more than 70km at a time, or 100km in a weekend so I wasn’t sure I totally believed them. After almost 6 months  of training, it all came to fruition last weekend, whether I was ready or not.


Day 1

Ready to go at the start line at Winsport

Saturday started out bright and early at 5:30am. We headed over to COP and joined the hundreds of other cyclists milling around, eating breakfast, and getting ready to embark on the ride. The opening ceremonies were incredibly impactful. The team captain of Linnea’s Legion gave a speech about his experience with his wife’s breast cancer and the battle they were facing and had faced.  My dad had told me they walk a riderless bike across the start line to symbolize survivors that have lost their battle with cancer. They gave a short background on the survivor’s story as family and friends walked the bike across the line. I’ve been working with cancer patients over the past five years and I am always touched by every story I hear. After barely keeping it together during the opening ceremonies it was time to start. They hand out yellow flags to cancer survivors and golden helmets to riders that have cycled for 5 years. These riders started off the race and it was powerful to see so many yellow flags on bikes, carrying riders of all ages, lead the crowd.

The first 35km went pretty smoothly, I powered my way up hills, went flying down hills, and managed to avoid getting any flat tires. However, when I got off my bike at the second pit stop. Man oh man. My butt has never hurt that much. There’s been normal “I just rode 40km my butt hurts” but this was like shooting pain down the backs of my legs and I waddled everywhere. However, there were still 75km to go so we hopped back on our bikes and took off. We hit the lunch stop (60km) around 10:30am and I quickly learned the best part about the ride was that I got to eat cookies at every pit stop.

They had cheering crowds through Black Diamond and Turner Valley which gave me the extra push I needed. I was definitely feeling sore, permanently had a quad burn, and my low back felt like I was 90 years old. We lucked out and missed the rain, which arrived shortly after we got to Okotoks (in 4h of cycling I might add – yay personal best!).

Day 2

I started off day 2 by putting on some chamois cream. I probably should I have done that on Day 1 and I would have felt significantly better but oh well – live and learn. We stayed in a hotel (no glamping for us) so we had to bike back to the start line in Okotoks – that 1 km was probably one of the hardest kilometres I’ve ever done. I was seriously doubting my ability to ride another 115km but we got going and once I settled in I actually felt pretty strong. There is this phenomenon called “flow” where the exercise feels effortless, easy, and you’re totally zen and in the zone. I think I hit flow for a solid 20km after starting while cycling through the farms. My inner kines nerd definitely freaked out and got really excited as soon as I realized I was in that state.

Great energy amongst the 1500 riders at the Opening Ceremonies

Unfortunately, trouble struck around 50km in. I started getting some stabbing pain on the outside of my knee but lunch was soon so I persevered and hobbled off to the physio tent at lunch. Apparently I shouldn’t have stopped – immediately after leaving lunch we had to go up this massive up hill and the pain escalated from a 2 to an 8. I dragged my butt the 20km to the next pit stop with lots of swearing and self talk and managed to get there. After some advil, some voltaren, and a pep talk from my dad, we were ready to hit the road again with only 35km to go. At this point I seriously considered quitting and flagging down a sweep vehicle but I could still walk so I was bound and determined to make it.

Of course nothing is ever that easy. As soon as we turned into Springbank there was rolling hill after rolling hill into a strong head wind. I was pretty ready to trade in my first unborn child for a tail wind along this road as my knee pain got worse. I was essentially just pushing AND pulling with my left leg while my gimpy right leg went along for the ride. We FINALLY get up the last hill and turn into COP to a massive cheering crowd. It was amazing to ride through the finish line with that kind of energy surrounding you.

What I Learned

  1. Trust Yourself. This sounds super cliche but since the Olympics are on, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about trusting the training and preparation done before the event. That was exactly how I felt during the ride – particularly on day 2 before my knee started to bother me. Whenever I felt like I couldn’t get up a hill or possibly go another kilometre I thought about the thousands of kilometres and hills I had climbed since February and somehow I found the energy to get up the hill.
  2. The Hill is Never as Big as It Seems. The crappy thing about the route was you could see the hills way before you got there. Every time I climbed a hill and saw the next one I would feel this sense of dread, but when I hit the bottom of the hill, it always seemed a little bit shorter or less steep than I was expecting.
  3. Enjoy the Moment. I’m a pretty competitive person (even if you don’t think it’s a race, in my mind it’s a race). I have all the
    We did it! 230km conquered at the 2016 Ride to Conquer Cancer.

    gadgets to track my heart rate, speed, cadence… you name it, I got it. I still tracked all these things during the ride (would I really be an exercise physiologist if I didn’t?) but I tried to not look at them too much and focus more on enjoying the atmosphere. I think that made it way more enjoyable, particularly when I was forced to slow down on Day 2. I am going to try to implement this more in my day to day life.

All in all I had an absolutely amazing weekend. I got to hang out with my dad for a couple days and we got to do something awesome and active outdoors. The Ride to Conquer Cancer raised $6.35 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation and 1500 riders took part. Cancer has touched our family multiple times and it was great to be surrounded by others and to achieve a common goal. I cannot wait to do it all again next year!

Lauren still needs some help reaching her fundraising goal! Visit her donation page to support her ride.

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