A sea of riders ready to start their 220 km journey for the 2009 Calgary fundraising event: "The Ride To Conquer Cancer". The starting line is full of energy as the riders get fueled and charged up. Excitement is in the air. What lies ahead is unknown at this point.
Some fine machinery built for a fast ride in the Alberta countryside.
Below is a snapshot of myself (I'm second from the left) with a few friends on the 2009 RCC Ride.
Our roles for this ride was the caboose. Riding with the caboose means being the last riders on the journey. The job is to make sure that no one gets left behind. We are the motivators and inspiration for the people having a hard time or struggling with the ride. Being at the start of the line can be exciting, but being at the back can have its own challenges, rewards and lessons.
Although we are a nice bunch of people, you may not like riding with the caboose. We are there to assist and nudge you along in making it to the end. For some people, this ride can prove to be extremely physically and mentally challenging, so lots of encouragement and coaching is needed. There are some riders that simply have bigger hearts than physical fitness capabilities. Many people don't realize how difficult the length of this ride can be and are simply not prepared for it like they need to be. Unfortunately, they find out how challenging the ride is while they are doing it.
When it comes to training for charity rides, participants have the best intentions but circumstances can sometimes prevent them from being able to fully prepare for this event. It's really important to take the time to be as prepared as you can for a ride such as this as it can help to create an easier experience. Remember: people don't run marathons in a day, they prepare weeks and months in advance. Sometimes willpower can help you along in the meantime. Below is an example of someone I met along the way who had a strong will.
We met a gal on this ride with a will like no other. Her longest ride previous to the RCC was 14kms. This ride was 110 kms a day for two days. To say that she struggled would be an understatement. A large majority of people that participate in charity rides do it because they know someone that has or is suffering from cancer or some other disease. Charity riders don't need to suffer if they are better prepared. Considering the bike she was riding, she accomplished an incredibly difficult goal. She made it because she was determined and it was a great honour to be able to support her in reaching her goal of finishing.
In this photo, we caught up to one of the participants that was having challenges part way into day one and day two, who is mentioned in the story below. She is on the far right in the photo.
"When the defining moment comes, either you define the moment, or the moment defines you." Tin Cup
I will never forget the moment I had with this woman (above) in my lifetime. On day two, we met with her again 25kms into the ride. We were at the side of the road and she started to apologize to me for slowing the caboose down because she was the last rider. It was in that moment that I was able to put things into perspective for her. It was one of the warmest days of the summer. We were 125 kms from Calgary in some of Alberta's most beautiful countryside, riding our bikes. I told her it took real courage on her part to do the ride and that most people wouldn't even attempt a ride such as this. She had already accomplished much. Her bike did not make it an easy ride for her. Plus, she was not a cyclist and her lack of physical training for the ride was challenging in itself. This is where it could prevent people from doing the ride again in the future. Having a strong will is definitely an asset, but also being physically prepared will make the journey less painful and difficult. Success does comes easier when a person is prepared.
Like a lot of people that do charity rides, she was doing this because her life was directly affected by cancer, myself included. I suppose we all have varying views on the politics of disease and their causes and effects, but at the end of the day, these charity rides are about the people affected by disease. People that are giving it everything they've got to carry on because they are fighting for their lives.
This wall played a key role in another unforgettable moment from last year's ride. It's quite amazing that I have a photo of this spot considering I was not there when the photo was taken.
I remember this wall from lunch break on the first day. When I finally arrived here, there were only a few participants with their bikes left as most participants had eaten their lunch and were back on the road riding. I sent the other caboose members ahead while I waited for the last participant to start on his ride.
He was sitting on the grass chatting to one of the lunch crew. After ten minutes, I started to grow impatient. I approached him and asked if he was ready to start riding again. It was in this moment that he totally amazed me. He grabbed his bike, which lay right beside him, and used it to leverage his body up, inch by inch until he was standing upright. It was in this moment I realized he had two prosthetic legs. He used his bike to support himself while he walked over to the wall. Then he put his bike along the wall so he could use it again as support while he mounted his bike. I stood in awe of him and the strength and courage it took to do what he did. I felt ridiculous for feeling impatient.
When he turned out of the parking lot, he was immediately faced with the biggest hill to climb of the day. For him to be able to maintain motion, he needed to ride at a very high cadence. I waited at the bottom of the hill for him because I could not pedal slowly enough on my fixed gear bike and maintain enough momentum to remain staying upright. I sat at the bottom of the hill waiting for him and watching as this man rode up while I literally wept. I was in awe and filled with compassion of being in the presence of someone that had far more strength and courage that I could imagine. It was a moment I would never forget.
These moments and many others, were for me, an unforgettable experience. We met many wonderful people along the way. Each had their own reasons for doing the charity ride. Each had their own stories. But in each of those stories and reasons there was a common bond, wanting to be a part of making a difference and helping those we love. This was an incredibly humbling and life changing experience and I look forward to doing this journey again with you.
Photos courtesy of: Ryan Meyers
Stayed tuned for Part 2: Training for Charity Rides