I am thrilled to report that I “did the distance” (796km), which was more than I’d figured I was capable of. In doing this ride, I did two things I’ve never done before. First, I cycled farther than I’ve ever cycled in my life (179km, 200km, 230km, 167km), and as a result, had 3 “personal bests” in a row the first three days (I’d cycled a “century’ – 160km - over 10 years ago)! Second, I have raised almost $6,000 for Tour For Kids, with a few donations still trickling in, thanks to you and your support. Thanks for this, and for believing in me.
And “epic” it was. The thesaurus uses words like marathon, heroic, classic, larger-than-life, ambitious, grand, and impressive as words to describe the word “epic”. I’d say that it pretty well hits the mark.
Thursday (Day 1) was a lovely day to start the ride. The weather seemed perfect. The energy level was awesome. The police escort through downtown Toronto and out of the city was really neat. The flat my friend Jana had a few kilometers out wasn’t so neat, as it meant we got dropped from the pack, which then meant we had to kill ourselves trying (unsuccessfully) to catch up with the pack. (My boss Jonathan Tice had decided to ride with us, but probably regretted his decision, at least momentarily.)
Thankfully, Kevin Wallace from Gears (Tour For Kids organizer Jeff Rushton’s Race Across America partner) was there to rescue us, quickly changing Jana’s tire and fixing the tear, and then pulling us at a clip much faster than we’d ever had thought of doing, especially on the first day, and this early on in the ride! And, we were blessed with “Saint Peter”, a police officer in the “sweep” van who was patrolling the end of the ride, and was kind enough to stop traffic at pretty much every intersection heading out of the city and through Mississauga so that we could close the gap. (And, he did this every day of the ride!).
To make matters worse, I also flatted going up Mississauga Road (but thankfully Kevin was there to help, and several of the organizers happened along to pitch in as well – how convenient!) – what a way to start off! And, we were heading uphill and into the wind all day, which made for a tough day, over and above not being in a pack and benefiting from the draft.
179km later, I’d done a personal best, and was thrilled and relieved to be done. There were times earlier in the day when I questioned whether I’d be able to do the distance (this was a recurring theme, thankfully with the same outcome each and every day). I think my “endurance” marathon background was my saving grace. I seemed to get stronger as the ride progressed, each and every day.
The first night was in Markdale, where we were greeted by campers from Camp Quality. By the time I rolled in, it was clear that we were going to have rain for Day 2. Our “tent city” was quite a sight to be seen! Fortunately, it only started raining after we took our tent down in the morning after a very early rise. On Day 2 we got bussed to Wasaga Beach, where the Epic riders were starting their 200km day in the rain to ride to Minden through cottage country and lots of rolling hills (other than a few crazies, who opted for a 250km “elite riders only” route).
That night, we stayed over night at Camp Kilcoo, in our second “tent city”. Thankfully, the rain had stopped by the time we got to the camp, and the next day (Day 3 - the longest day) was a nice day, with a mixture of sun and cloud – also with rolling hills as we headed out of cottage country in the Haliburton region, towards Wellington (supposedly “downhill”!). I managed to get in with “the big boys”, (ok, not the elite guys, but the next pack behind them) and stuck with them for about 125km, but realized I was a bit out of my league, so I dropped back a group, and then quite enjoyed the rest of the ride into Wellington.
Ironically, I managed to hang in for the tough part in the hills, and then it flattened out after I moved back a pack! We were greeted by campers and counselors from Camp Trillium when we arrived in Wellington (and a bagpiper who I never heard – I guess I was pretty focused on getting off my bike, and ending my longest ride ever!). After being greeted by my proud husband, I headed with him down to Lake Ontario for a refreshing dip.
Day 4 was another rainy day, which was not the easiest way, or most motivating way, to finish of the Tour For Kids. We got bussed to Colborne for our 167km cycle into Canada’s Wonderland, and headed out on tired legs, but looking forward to the end of the day, and an amazing accomplishment.
Despite all of us being in differently paced groups, the Tour For Kids organizers had all the riders meet up together and wait for the last group about 8km outside of Canada’s Wonderland so that everyone could roll in together, accompanied by a police escort. For the motorists up in that neck of the woods, it was quite a sight!
We had lots of honks of support (ok, and probably a few frustrated ones!): it was hard not to recognize us with our yellow and blue Tour For Kids cycling jerseys on! Just before 4pm, on Sunday, August 14th, we rolled into Canada’s Wonderland, many of us with 796km in the saddle (it stopped raining just about the same time – how convenient!).
We were greeted by friends and family who’d come out to join us for a private concert by the Barenaked Ladies, and a nice reception before that for those of us who’d raised over $1,500 (which both Tim and I had). We were thrilled to be joined by Tim’s daughter and husband, and our 9 week old grand-daughter Carlyn, who has seen more of her grandparents in cycling clothes than not! We loved showing her off, and she was a great at her first-ever concert!
I think I drank about 6-8 bottles of Gatorade/Powerade each day, ate several Harvest Bars, and downed 6-8 chocolate Accelerate gels (oh, and there was “real food” for breakfast, lunch and dinner!). I enjoyed a celebratory Mars Bar later on Sunday night, but the few sips of chardonnay I took at the reception didn’t go down too well, so I’ll wait to celebrate another day!
This was probably the most challenging and amazing thing I’ve ever done in my life. I strongly encourage my cycling friends and colleagues to consider this great fund-raising event next year, and if not, I hope I can count on your support again.
It looks like close to $500,000 will have been raised by us this year, with a goal of $1 MILLION for next year (and, yes, the Barenaked Ladies did play “If I had a million dollars”!).
Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed my little “trip report”!