By Coreen Spencer
The message I sent to friends on Facebook and my Twitter feed: “Mission Accomplished!”
They all knew what that message meant. I’d only been talking, texting, posting and tweeting about the Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer for the past eight months. Julie Grant and I had also done a big fundraiser for it in February.
Ride weekend had finally happened. The original date was June 23 & 23, just as flood waters were devastating everything to the south of us.
All the communities we were to ride through were under water.
A day and a half before the ride, the decision was made to postpone it — indefinitely.
While it was very disappointing for us to put the brakes on when we were so ready to ride, we felt absolutely heartbroken for the people in the areas affected.
But within a week The Ride office sent out a notice that the event was rescheduled for August 10 & 11.
I was anxious about this because I would not be able to train at all for almost the entire month of July due to commitments that took me far away from anywhere I could ride my road bike.
But as soon as I arrived back in Sylvan Lake, I put on my gear and hit the roads to remind my body and mind what was in store. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to remember.
The Friday before the ride, husband David and I headed to Calgary for meetings as he had committed to being Gear Captain for the third year and organizing needed to happen before Saturday morning. This crew loads all of the riders’ gear and camp gear, transports it to camp, unloads it, then does the same the following day back at the finish line.
Saturday saw us back at the starting venue before sunrise. David loading and organizing gear trucks. Me, just taking in the grounds, visiting with fellow riders, having breakfast and mentally preparing for the ride ahead. After listening to opening ceremonies and being inspired by stories from cancer survivors who were also riding, we were off for the first day.
We rode 120 km through Bragg Creek, Millarville, Priddis, Black Diamond and into Okotoks to camp for the night. It is awesome to arrive to fanfare at camp after a tiring day of hills, hot sun and wind, followed by some yoga and a shower! Supper and tent time came early even though it was a beautiful evening.
Sunday was an earlier, a 7 a.m. start. Many of us were on our way hoping to beat the heat. It was a 110 km. day with some new hills to challenge us. The camaraderie of riders and encouragement helps and you quickly learn to encourage others. Being stubborn and refusing to let the hills beat you also helps!
This was the first time in the three years of doing the ride that David has been able to see me cross the finish line. Actually having a familiar face in the crowd is awesome and getting a picture of me crossing is pretty great too. It’s important to stress that this ride is something anyone can take on. It is to raise funds and to honour those we have lost, as well as those who are fighting. We also hope that by doing all we are doing now, our children and their children will never have to deal with cancer.
There is every fitness level on this ride (and just about every type of bike you can imagine), from elite, to casual, to riders like Julie & I who are active, but know this ride will challenge us. Some might need to walk their bike up a hill, or take a sweep vehicle to the next pit stop. It is really about each individual doing the best they can along with raising funds and awareness. There are also lots of volunteer positions for people wanting to be involved in some way.
This year I visited with a two time cancer survivor — riding even while still going through radiation treatments. Also a young lady who just finished her treatments for breast cancer, and her husband who was riding his first ride for her. Their gratitude for all the cancer centres and staff, as well as all the people who take part in the fundraisers, is evident. They have such a positive and new outlook on life. It’s inspiring and teaches me how fortunate I am to have a strong healthy body to be able to do these things to help others.
Julie, her mom, her daughter Elle, and I went out for a celebratory lunch a couple days after the ride. We shared stories and our experiences. We also contemplated registering for the 2014 Ride. I made the comment, “If I ever get cancer, I hope somebody would ride for me”. Julie, without skipping a beat, said, “I would ride for you”.
Spencer and Grant raised $8,100 for this year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer.
If this ride sounds like something you might like to take part in, or volunteer with, check out www.conquercancer.ca or contact Julie Grant or Coreen Spencer.