Tomorrow is the day!
My fourth “Ride to Conquer Cancer”. It’s been almost four years, since the day a friend came by with wine and a CRAZY idea, as I hobbled around on a painful and bandaged leg, cursing the malignant melanoma that had just been removed, and regretting those mid-80s baby oil ‘tans’. “Some of us are going to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer”, she said, “and I think you should too”. “HECK, YES I’ll ride my bike 250 km (155 miles) from Vancouver to Seattle!”, I replied, arguably under the influence of both wine and pain killers, “I just need to get a bike…and a basic level of fitness. But I’m IN”.
In those four years, with the help of many cycling buddies and encouraging friends and colleagues, I’ve ridden my trusty red road bike almost 8,000 km. More importantly, I’ve raised over $17,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation, money that has gone to innovative research and treatment. Money that has helped to save lives.
Tomorrow morning, 2000 Riders will gather in Cloverdale, British Columbia, on the US border just south of Vancouver, at 6 am. We’ll hug and we’ll cheer. We’ll shed tears of grief for those we’ve lost and tears of joy for those who are with us still. I’ll search the crowd for the young mother I met my first year of the Ride, who’d lived 4 years already, when the doctors told her she’d only have 2. She was there year 2, and year 3 and I hope like hell I’ll see her again this year and know that she’s still winning her fight.
We’ll cross the US border around 8, and thank the US border officials who open 2 lanes just for The Ride, and who cheer us on and remind us that borders don’t make a difference in many things, including the fight against cancer.
We’ll ride along the ocean, breathing the fresh air, we’ll chat with other cyclists as we roll along long country roads, and we’ll be grateful for the cheers of encouragement that help us climb the hills.
125 km later we’ll be welcomed to camp at Mt. Vernon, we’ll be tired, maybe even exhausted, yet somehow still energized enough for yoga, for conversation, and dancing. Until about 9, when most of us will collapse into one of hundreds of little blue tents set up by some of the 400 volunteers who make this event happen.
Sunday morning we’ll be up at 6 (or earlier if the guy in the tent next door snores). We’ll eat a lot of breakfast and feel no guilt for the extra slice of bacon or 3. We’ll set off by 7 through a long stretch of farmland, trying to work the kinks out of our legs, hoping they warm up before the hills hit, hoping the next rest stop will have A5-35 like last year. Some will be fast, the rest of us will be slow. We’ll try the snacks at every rest stop. We’ll ‘drive through’ for coffee. We’ll rest by a lake at lunch and maybe even take a nap. We’ll enjoy the journey as much as the finish line.
It will be 2, or maybe even 4, when we roll into Redmond, on the outskirts of Seattle. Our legs may be shot but our smiles will be huge. We’ll celebrate with friends, many of them people we’ve met through the Ride, and will see the looks of pride on the family members who’ve followed us down, and who know more than anyone that as much as we love this, none of it has come easy.
As I pack my bag, wash my bike and prepare for tomorrow, I’ll be thinking of all the people who’ve worked so hard to make this event happen. All the people fighting cancer now, and the ones who’ve sadly lost their fight.
If you’d like to know more about the Ride to Conquer Cancer events across Canada visit www.conquercancer.ca.
If you’d like to donate to the Ride to Conquer Cancer, in support of the BC Cancer Foundation you can do so here: www.conquercancer.ca/goto/kirstenktelford.