It’s hard to believe that the 2012 Ride to Conquer Cancer has come and gone. It was an amazing experience for TEAM UBC.
The week leading up to the Ride was divided between carb-loading and nervous anticipation. On the Friday before the race, we battled rush hour traffic to drop off our bikes at the starting location. We were met with a sea of bikes, many sporting the yellow flags that indicated its owner was a cancer survivor.
TEAM UBC had a designated meeting point and time for Saturday morning. Only half of us managed to get there as scheduled, so there was no opportunity for a team photo (which was just as well, because the rain was coming down and no one really wanted to take off their jackets, no matter how cool our jerseys were).
To put it charitably, the weather on Saturday was unkind. As one team mate commented: “It didn’t rain all day. Sometimes it poured.” If the rain wasn’t bad enough, there was a long stretch that we had to ride into a headwind, at times uphill.
By the time we arrived at the base camp at the end of day one, it was a massive, muddy field – picture Glastonbury, but instead of musicians, a town of blue tents and racked bikes. Unlike Friday night, almost no one had bothered to put a plastic bag over their bike seat to keep it dry – there wasn’t any point.
Dinner on Saturday night was a quiet affair. We went to a Mexican restaurant adjacent to the not-so-lovely hotel we were booked into. Despite the fact the décor was circa 1978 and the rooms smelled a bit off (seriously, they actually still have smoking rooms?), it didn’t matter as we were all so grateful we weren’t camping in a blue tent over at mud city.
Sunday was more promising. The skies stayed dry for the majority of the Ride, except for one downfall midday. Most of the journey was very flat, and allowed the riders the vantage point of viewing some rather interesting road-kill along the way. I’m still wondering:
a) How a frog found its way on to the road, and
b) If we were close to a nuclear facility, as it was the largest frog I’d ever seen (dead or alive).
Unfortunately the miles of flat, easy terrain lulled us into a false sense of security. Veteran riders had told us that Sunday was the “easy” day, and other than a series of three rolling hills, it was a piece of cake. What they didn’t tell us was that the three small rolling hills were actually three rolling mountains, and that they saved it to the end of the Ride when we were at our most tired.
Those f***ing hills were soul destroying. I was on the verge of starting to cry at one point. Paola admitted to thinking some pretty colourful language. Despite this, it provided the two of us with one of the most poignant moments of the ride. Paola and I passed Malcolm (we all had name tags on our bikes) a few times. We had pulled to the side of the road to catch our breath, and Malcolm shouted “on your left,” and shared with total glee that it was the first time over the course of the Ride that he managed to pass anyone. We loved Malcolm. He must have been at least in his mid-sixties, and seeing how wobbly he was on his bike, you had to know he had a damn good reason for being out on the Ride.
The Ride brought different challenges to the members of the team. Those who were worried about fund-raising the entry fee of $2,500 felt good as they had all reached what they thought at times was an impossible goal.
For Paola, the Ride meant something else. Her bike had three flat tires, and she changed every one of those flat inner tubes. At one point, a vehicle stopped to help and offered to “sweep” us to the next pit stop where Paola could get one of the bike companies that had volunteered to fix the bike. “No, I just need a bike pump!” she responded, then turned to me and apologized. It would have been a perfectly reasonable thing to do, being swept to the next pit stop. But at that point, I realized how important it was to her to ride every single kilometer of the Ride.
And we made it through every bloody (three falls between us), windy, wet kilometer the Ride threw at us.
By the time we had reached the finishing point, the crowds had dispersed and the only two people cheering for us when we crossed the finishing line were Paola’s husband and son. Regardless, we both crossed the line with big smiles on our faces, Paola with tears running down her cheeks. I am so glad I didn’t miss a moment of this.
Would we do it again? Already all but two members of TEAM UBC have registered for next year, and we’ve already recruited two new riders. I hope you’ll consider joining us, too. There’s always room for more, whether on a bike or supporting the team along the way.
My original purpose for this blog was to share with folks some insight through the lens of a novice rider what it was like training and participating in the Ride. Alas, this is my final blog posting.
Thanks, everyone, for your amazing support.