On September 23rd, after 10 months of 5:15am early mornings to ride, weight training sessions 2X/week to build up my power, long rides on the weekends, an extra 3 weeks off to train to tackle my weakness, hills, $28,000 of personal money spent, $27,552.24 raised personally, $1.3 million dollars raised collectively, our Team 3 made three stops on our final day. As seems to often happen to me on my last day of charity rides, I blew a tire, and got into our support van, had the tire changed and rejoined our group. It was powerful for me to ride in close proximity to Domenic, an elite rider and racer, who was supporting his Dad to ride with us on our last day by putting his hand on his back for extra support. I thought about the many times I had a supporting hand on my back throughout the ride - Roger in the Rocky Mountains, Mark Burger throughout, and the odd other mystery hand. The image of Domenic with his Dad has stuck with me since. Particularly because the next night Eric and I had a beer with both Domenic and his Dad Vince, and we talked about the idea of why suffer?
Our group stopped at a Sears store in Halifax, and if we had gone in, I could have found the washrooms in the appliance section, because one of the things I had learned on this trip was the layout of Sears stores, go figure. This was surreal to me, we were here, and this epic journey was almost at its completion. The next stop was at IWK Children’s Hospital, which I knew well from my work in mental health, and we were plummotted into a high energy Inside Ride. God, I love those Inside Rides! A burst of energy from our group showed our feeling of victory. We heard another 16 year old young woman talk about her experience and recovery from cancer, and I heard the commitment in her voice when she said she was going to do this ride next year. I began to imagine what this ride would be like if more young people who had survived cancer took on the ride.
As we slowed down and pulled into the Swiss Air Memorial just outside of Peggy’s Cove, I wanted time to slow down. I stood beside Roger, one of my most powerful teachers on this ride, took in his tears, and the moment.
We rode into Peggy’s Cove, climbed onto the rocks by the lighthouse, and took some photos. The East Coast, The Atlantic Ocean. I reflected on looking into the Pacific Ocean at While Rock 15 days ago. I thought about walking on the beach with Jules in Victoria 17 days ago.
The last leg of the journey, 2 km’s to Point Pleasant Park. Down the streets of Halifax, I recognized some of the landmarks, and my whole body relaxed. We had done it! We turned the corner, coming into Point Pleasant Park, and my Dad was there first, his eyes moist as he moved toward me. My parents had been there for 2.5 hours, because they didn’t want to miss us. I hugged both my parents, and proudly started introducing them.
We had a ceremony of sorts where we threw our rocks into the Atlantic, and then walked down the sand at the beach, received a metal, and then all lined up in the water with our bikes, with our wheels in the water. I almost threw my $4,000 cervelo into the Atlantic I was so happy!
I have had 4 nights of good sleep, 2 in a hotel in Halifax, and 2 at home. I am relieved to be home, and feel intensely appreciative of all the little things. I loved doing 7 loads of laundry, going to the grocery store to pick out food, making food, using indoor plumbing, listening to music, walking to work, and going to a job that pays me.
After 10 months of using every waking minute other than working to fundraise and train, and the odd moment with family and friends, I feel liberated to have time to consider what I want to do, and how I want to spend my time. I feel relieved that the enormous effort of the preparation and the ride are complete.
I am aware that this is the most challening thing I have done on many levels. When I was grappling with myself on the hills of the Rocky Mountains, of Northern Ontario, and New Brunswick, Domenic helped me to put where I was in perspective. He asked me how long I had been seriously training for, and I said I had been riding for 5 years but seriously training for 10 months. He shared that it took 3-5 years of intense training to build a solid foundation. What he said made sense and put into perspective for me the challenges I experienced.
The physical challenge, and the conditions we experienced challenged my strength and reslience. My mind oscilated each day from “This is fantastic, I cannot believe what I am seeing” to: “slow down, stop, no more”, and I spent the majority of the trip walking myself through these paradoxes. It was not uncommon for me to hear from other riders that they found it easy, and I wondered if we were on the same ride.
I have thought a lot in the last 4 days about the fact that the challenge of what we experienced is complete, and yet, the fight against childhood cancer is just beginning. Yes, our national exposure, and the $1.3 million raised is a substantial contribution, and one to be extremely proud of. And, 10,000 children across the country live with conditions that change their lives profoundly, and they don’t have the choice for it to be over a 15 day duration, like we did. It is my hope, that the contributions to research that we collectively made will affect cancer research into the future for children and adults.
On our last night in Halifax over a beer with Domenic and Vince, and the discussion about the meaning of suffering, I asked Domenic, the elite racer if he suffered, although I already knew he didn’t. He said he did not, and that he admired those of us that did. I knew along the whole trip that I had much to learn from him, and he went on to share that he felt that suffering had a purpose if it helped those in the future not to suffer. He went on to say that hopefully our suffering would help kids dealing wtih cancer not to suffer in the future. This resonated for me.
As I re-enter my “normal” life, I have gained a sense of perspective and focus that allows me to see things differently. Work today was 50% less stressful for me because nothing seemed like a big deal. As I dealt with a difficult call, I had images of the difficult terrain I crossed. As I poured over my budget, I realized how easy this was in compared with what I just did.
When I first started this ride, David Wilson “warned me” that this ride would require a determination and focus, in comparison with the fun community event that I was previously used to through Friends for Life over the last 4 years. At the time, I grumbled at his proposition, and now, I realize that he was accurate, and, that every experience has something different to teach us. This experience required every ounce of my determination, focus, and perserverance, and that has allowed me a new perspective.
You know what they said that it takes a village to raise a child. I feel that it took a village to support me on this journey, and I feel profoundly grateful for the enormous support I had in order to help me make my dream of seeing Canada a reality.
Please allow me to thank a few people.
Jennifer Chalmers, for your early death, and the impact your life had on me and our family. It was my honour to carry you on my back during the ride.
Cath, Tom, and Jeff for teaching me about the power of grief, strength and resilience.
My parents, for your unbelievable 38 years of devotion and commitment to my life. For dedicating your time and energy to passionately recruit your friends and family on my behalf and for raising $10,000 for the Coast to Coast Foundation.
Banting Secondary School for raising $5600 through the amazing Inside Ride.
My soul sister Michelle. For riding with me every pedal stroke of the journey. For your inspiration in your courageous battle with brain cancer. Your support pulled me through my grief after Jana’s death, and I will continue to do whatever I can to support you in your journey.
For the Anita’s, Meghan’s, Josh’s, Jesse’s of the world and their families. For being the light on our journey. Your stories provided us with inspiration and hope.
For Ulana and the Ulana’s of the world, whose children unfortunately cannot benefit from our money raised, but who have the power and courage to pay it forward anyway. Ulana, you were my rider strength on this powerful journey. I am so happy we rode in with our blue ribbons into Point Pleasant Park.
For all of my sponsors, whose contributions will assist in the powerful movement of awareness to conquer childhood cancer.
To all of my friends who supported me, and in particular to Donna Turner, and Barb Peterson whose daily and weekly support was essential.
To Eric, for taking this journey on with me, for starting and completing this epic journey, and for being a solid, integral part of my learning.
To the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation for your 100% model, for taking on something incredibly ambitious and for reaching high.
To Team 3, for teaching me about pushing and pulling, leading and following, strengths and weaknesses, and working together as team.
Stay tuned for an invitation to see a slide show that Eric and I will put together.
Coast to Coast baby!