"Are you kidding me?" I asked to no one in particular as I stared through the pouring rain at the top of Hamilton Mountain. Three kilometers -- uphill, in the pouring rain -- and no coffee at breakfast this morning!
Last weekend was the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 200-kilometer bicycle journey from Toronto to Niagara Falls. I was one of 4,800 people to participate. It was a gruelling two-day ride through torrential rains and (on the second day) blistering heat. We were raising funds for cancer research -- not just cancer treatment research, but also research aimed at prevention, detection, and survivorship.
Watching the bikes with the bright yellow flags made me very aware that there were survivors who were thriving -- and riding their bikes right past me as I plodded up Hamilton Mountain, as a matter of fact. With the inspiration of all those yellow flags, I got my mojo back. I put my fancy new bike into granny gear (couldnít they call it something else?) and just kept on pedaling. I kept my eyes ahead and put one foot in front of the other, inch after inch, and I made it up that three-kilometer mountain. It wasnít pretty, but I made it.
Thirty minutes after I reached the top, when I could breathe again, I reflected on how hard that climb was and yet how easy it must have seemed to those folks with the yellow flags. They had been through so much more. Their mountain was a real mountain, not just an Ontario-style hill-mountain. And I did not hear one of those riders complain. In fact, when I commented casually to one of the survivor riders on the tough ride we had before us, he called back to me, "This is nothing. Chemo is tough," as he picked up speed.
"Very valid point," I yelled ahead to him as he disappeared over the next hill. "Show-off."
We reached Hamilton, our first-day stop, at about 4:00 p.m. By 9:00 p.m., after supper and a beverage of my choice (coffee), my entire team was tucked in and sound asleep. The next morning, we were up at the crack of dawn, ready for the second leg of our journey.
Thank goodness itís not raining, we commented to one another. My motherís famous words, "Be careful what you wish for," came to mind a few times as the temperature soared to a sunny 34 degrees Celsius (about 95 F). When we arrived in Niagara Falls six hours later, I was hot, dehydrated, sore in parts I never knew I had, and proud. I was proud to be a part of this amazing initiative, proud that my team and I lasted all 200 kilometers, and proud to learn that, along with the other riders that weekend, we had raised $18.2 million for cancer research.
Awesome. That should get us somewhere on the road to conquer cancer!
PS: This oneís for you, Mom.