It has been said that numbers do not lie. If we accept that as a basic truth, then here are my numbers:
|½ million dollars raised for camps for children with cancer|
|800 kilometers (give or take)|
|300+ awesome riders overall (including those who rode one, two, or four days)|
|130 epic riders (those who rode all four days)|
|26 hours 39 minutes 11 seconds ‘in the saddle’|
|3 grateful sets of campers and camp staff|
|2 tired legs|
|1 slightly chaffed butt.|
What does all this mean? It means I am just back from having completed the Tour for Kids 2005. It also means that each and every one of you has been part of a phenomenal event and I want to thank you for your part in making it all happen. What follows is a brief recap of the event of August 11-14, 2005, for the perspective of one rider. I am sure as you talk to other riders, you will hear other stories and other perspectives.
Thursday, August 11, 2005 – Day 1
The morning was clear and sunny as the riders, volunteers, supporters, and curious on-lookers gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto. After some brief introduction, including greetings and words of support from Canadian cycling greats Steve Bauer and Kurt Harnett, and our very own 9-time Ironman winner Lisa Bentley, we all set out, under police escort, on the journey of a lifetime, for our first day ride to Markdale, a mere 179.1 kilometers away!
Other than a fairly consistent wind from the North-West, the ride was proving to be a real nice outing; police escorts ensuring we got ‘green lighted’ at every intersection, and cheers from the cars and the curious as we rode past, from City Hall, out through the CNE grounds, along the Lakeshore, through Port Credit, and then north towards Markdale. It was somewhere along Mississauga Road (heading north) that it first occurred to me that the wind direction and our destination were the same, and that this could be a very long day of soloing into the wind. I was thinking about how fortunate I was to be able to be doing this, and wondering what it would be like to do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next?
A minor crash on the first major hill of the day got folks a bit more focused on the task at hand and the riders got organized into smaller groups. We headed along, looking for our first stop at the 100k to go mark, (and this would become a familiar sign to look for!) as it usually meant food. This was our first experience with the fantastic volunteers who were there at every stop to tend to our nutritional and mechanical needs. The clear skies and sunshine were slowly replaced by a light, high cloud cover as we made our way further north. By evening, the high cloud was replaced by heavier cloud and the next day’s weather was beginning to look doubtful.
After a day of riding it was thrilling to approach the community centre in Markdale and hear the cheering of the volunteers, the campers and the camp staff from Camp Quality as I rode through the finish line. Day 1 done, with the exception of having to find the bags, find the tent, make camp, try to clean up, shower, change clothes, and be there to welcome Anne when she arrived.
Soon enough she was there, the tent was set up, dinner was eaten, and while some opted to watch a baseball game between the local firefighters and the campers, others went to participate in an egg-toss game, while still others were lined up for a much needed massage. It was a sign of the dedication of the volunteers to see the massage therapists working after dark on the bodies of the riders and the bike techies from Gears working on the bikes until well after dark!
Waiting for a massage, outdoors, as darkness fell and fireworks were being set off, was a wonderful way to end the day! It was then time to get ready to head to the tent and attempt to find some rest, even if it was only 9:30 p.m.!
Highlights of Day 1 for me included riding alongside Lisa Bentley and chatting about training and Ironman racing, recalling the XSNRG workouts from years gone by, and riding with/near Steve Bauer. Well, okay, I was mostly riding behind him; but, I could see him and I did talk to him.
Friday, August 12, 2005 - Day 2
Wake-up call came at 6:30 a.m. with the news that “coffee was ready” and the rain was imminent. The sky was heavy with dark clouds, unlike the sunshine of the previous day. We broke camp, had breakfast, readied our bikes, filled our drink bottles, organized nutrition for the first 100k, and boarded the busses to take us to the start of our second stage, a 200k ride to Minden.
The rain came as we prepared to set out and was with us for the day so there was nothing to do but get used to the fact it was going to be a “grit-in-the-spit” type of ride.
The bus took us to Wasaga Beach where, after some driving around, some frantic phone calls, lots of bad jokes about “…just driving us all to Minden”, we finally located the truck with our bikes, and it was “Game on” for Day 2.
The ride took us along the lake, inland through Elmvale, Beaver Valley, Coldwater, into Orillia and up through Rama before we stopped for lunch at the 100k to go mark. Although maps were provided, not every one had one, nor did those who had them necessarily read or follow them. This to say there were a few wrong turns made along the way, despite the signage and road paintings that had been put out for us.
With 100k to go, it seemed easy (with the exception that nagging away in the back of my mind: the fact we were heading for the highlands of Haliburton and this could only mean hills were waiting for us). Once again, the volunteers and support crew along the way did a fantastic job to keep us all rolling along, despite the weather.
As we neared Minden, heading for Camp Kilcoo (which, although it was not one of the camps being sponsored had agreed to host us for the night) the hills were certainly challenging our legs and the weather was challenging our spirits. We decided to give the 25k to go stop a pass in favour of a quicker end to the day, so continued on or way, thinking that every hill would be the last one. Boy, we were so wrong on so many occasions!
To get to Camp Kilcoo, we actually rode to a dock at the end of Gull Lake, put our bikes on the truck, and got on board for a boat ride to camp, across Gull Lake. While the seats were certainly softer than the bike seat was, the dampness of the day, the rain, and the spray off the water all combined to create a chill that was quickly going to the bone. The enthusiastic volunteers announced to us all that the camp was making available to us all of their resources in terms of activities – sailing, canoeing, rock climbing! I am not sure, other than one rider who got into a canoe and quickly tipping over and getting swamped, that anyone took them up on their kind offer. I just could not see rock climbing after 200k of riding. Go figure!
The familiar routine of finding the bags, setting up the tent, cleaning up and changing clothes, and greeting the rest of the riders began. It was spectacular to see how quickly an empty field could become a tent city (and how quickly it could return again to an empty field in the morning). Once camp was set up, dinner was eaten and showers were had, we headed for the bike techies for some serious lubricant and cleaning. Once again these guys were terrific and worked until well after dark.
Highlights of Day 2 included riding 200k in the rain, meeting new folks along the way, and riding with a pack the whole way.
Saturday, August 13, 2005 - Day 3
Day 3 dawned early, with the promise of clearing skies and sunshine, and there was a need for a 7:00 a.m. start. Rolling out of the tent at around 5:30 a.m. and seeing a break in the clouds and dry weather was a good start. This was a day of contrasts from the weather to the route. The weather was almost perfect for riding. Warm and not too hot, some sun and some high cloud cover, and what wind there was seemed to be came from the back. The route, which was to be the longest leg of the Tour this year at 230k was (reportedly) “mostly downhill”. Right!
We started with a mass start from the front gate of the camp, heading for Wellington, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Navigating the Haliburton Highlands, heading for Kawartha Lakes country before entering Prince Edward County, brought us some of the nicest scenery of the trip. We rode past water and fields, up hill and down, all the time thinking of how blessed we were to be able to do this wonderful thing in order to help those camps and campers who needed our help. The kilometers flew past and in no time we were at Coburg for lunch which meant only 100k to go. In actual fact it was going to be less than 100k and that was a good thing. By now, some of us were thinking (and voicing) the fact that if we were getting excited about only 100k to go, there just might be a problem!
For me this was likely the one day of cycling I’ve done to date that could be in the “near-perfect” category of cycling days. Despite some sizeable hills and climbs, we were going net downhill, the weather was cooperating, and the roads were (mostly) in good shape. The spirits of the riders in my group were high and folks seemed to be feeling good. At the 50k to go stop, some folks began comparing average speeds for the day, and it was established that most were near (if slightly under) 30k/hr. The lone female rider in our group (my friend Jana Marshall) said that we needed to pick up the pace as she wanted to average at least 30k/hr and she was only at a mere 29.9. (In hindsight she claims it was a joke, but I think not!) There is nothing like a challenge and so it was “Game On” for the last 50k. The nice (relatively) flat land of Prince Edward County helped us along and we powered our way past the vine yards into the lovely town of Wellington. Here we were greeted by a piper and cheering, sign-waving camp staff from Camp Trillium. As a bonus, we ended at the beach and so once the bike was parked it was directly into the lake for a much needed and very refreshing swim.
The afternoon / evening routine was again repeated with the tents being pitched on a patch of grass overlooking the lake, and dinner being served out on the grass. The Camp Trillium staff, and particularly the LIT (Leaders in Training) provided the ‘entertainment’ for the evening with songs and skits and a camp fire.
Three days done and one to go resulted in the need, if not the desire, for an early bedtime tonight.
Highlights of Day 3 included riding farther at one time than I had ever ridden before, being piped into the park by a piper, spending another day doing what I loved to help others and meeting new friends along the way. As well, there was the last 50k charge to the end to help Jana reach her desired average for the day!
Sunday, August 14, 2005 - Day 4
A pattern was developing – one day of sun followed by one day of rain! Sure enough the morning brought overcast skies and before breakfast was served and the coffee drank, it was raining. Oh well, I thought, it is the last day and it is the shortest leg of the Tour, being clocked at 167k (although there were some reports it was a mere 165!)
This meant it was on to the busses again for a ride to our start point in Colborne, with our destination of Canada’s Wonderland in mind.
Getting on the bikes in the rain, I decided I would go out with the lead group (a.k.a. the big dogs) for the first 50k or so (or as long as I could hang on) and then plan to finish the ride with Anne and her group. If not an adventure, it would certainly warm me up in a hurry! Off we went and were soon heading ‘home’ at about 42k/hr, a change from where I had been riding the previous days. I fell off the group and yet kept them in sight, for about 10k of riding. I thought I would just let them go and wait for the next group when we suddenly re-grouped at a rest stop, so on I went, vowing to hang at the back of the pack until the lunch stop, where I would wait for Anne and her group, and ride the last 50k or so with them.
Mission accomplished, and soon enough, after some challenging climbs and wet corners we arrived at the lunch stop. The rain was on and off by this time although the roads were slippery so caution needed to be the rule of the day. Soon enough the other group arrived, lunch was had and off we went for our final ‘push’ of the day. The rolling hills were seemingly endless as we worked our way west across the top of Durham Region, and York Region and on to our final destination. The rain was stopping and as we were approaching Wonderland, small bits of blue were appearing in between the clouds.
A decision was made to combine as many of the groups as we could for our last 4k ride from Rutherford Road and Bathurst Street to Wonderland. After a quick stop, we headed on with about 100 riders in our group now, wanting to make our arrival at Wonderland a spectacular event. There was something awesome about seeing the group, with police escort, rolling along.
We arrived at Canada’s Wonderland to cheering crowds, were awarded our medals and treated to a private concert by the Barenaked Ladies, put on just for us. It was a rather fine way to end this epic journey.
Highlights of Day 4 include being finished the ride, riding to the finish line hand-in-hand, and wheel-to-wheel with Anne, and seeing the joy and the sense of accomplishment in over 130 people, many of whom had never pushed themselves this hard physically. As was said many times during the Tour, what we were doing in 4 days was nothing compared to what kids with cancer go through every day as they fight the illness.
The rally cry at the end of it all was to double our efforts next year; double the riders and double the funds raised for camps for children with cancer. As you know, every dollar pledged to the riders goes directly to the camps; in this case it is nearly $500,000.00. Other costs are covered by corporate sponsors and by the very generous donation of time, effort and goods. The organizers of the Tour For Kids described the tour in terms of the theme “Ride Somewhere Meaningful”. As well, there was the thought expressed that, “Until there’s a cure… There’s Camp” tm.
I would like to suggest, as well, that as long as there are camps for children with cancer there will be a Tour For Kids and I invite you all to continue to be a part of it.
You, as my supporters, have been a part of this adventure and I want to thank you for your help. And be warned, I will be asking for your support again next year by inviting you joining the ride and share the adventure, or to sponsor those who do. Thank you all very much from the bottom of my heart. You made it happen!
Epic Rider Number 53