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My Journey to the Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

On Saturday June 7th, I participated in the 2014 Ride to Conquer Cancer. The Ride to Conquer Cancer is a charity event that supports cancer research for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The ride entailed a two day 200km+ bike ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls. The end of the first day stops about halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls in Hamilton. It’s been quite the journey leading up to the ride. I’ve put together a photo-blog with my own pictures to document this amazing first-time experience. Here it is:

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

This is where it all started. The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre across the street from where I work at Toronto General Hospital. Last year, my boss Lydia Lee participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer and came out of the event glowing. She encouraged me to participate and join the cause. Her enthusiasm was quite contagious so I decided to sign up.

GoodLife Fitness

GoodLife Fitness

I signed up for the ride towards the end of the cycling season in October 2013. While I managed to fit in a few rides before stopping in November, mostof my preparation and training was done indoors during the winter season. I first started off here in the spinning studio at the GoodLife Fitness club near my home in downtown Toronto.

John Innes Community Centre

John Innes Community Centre

In addition to spinning at GoodLife I worked out regularly at the gym and went lane swimming at a nearby community centre. Going to the gym and swimming were regular activities for me prior to signing up for the ride. But it was now more important than ever to maintain my conditioning in preparation for the long ride.

Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy

Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy (my bike out front!)

In January 2014, I was recommended by a colleague to check out a facility to help me prepare for the ride in the off-season. This facility pictured above is Absolute Endurance Training and Therapy. It’s described as a “training and health care facility”, but really it’s a fitness centre intended for people training for triathlons.

CompuTrainer

CompuTrainer

In addition to a full set of gym equipment and an endless swimming pool, the facility housed a CompuTrainer classroom. CompuTrainer is a bicycle trainer hooked up to a computer program that simulates cycling courses. Throughout a “course”, the resistance on the trainer will increase and decrease to simulate a real ride. This was a great way for me to continue my training in the winter season.

CompuTrainer stats

CompuTrainer stats

Not only was I able to continue riding on my own bike during the off-season, CompuTrainer provided a dynamic live look at my output including the distance traveled,  cycling speed and energy output. Because this information was displayed on a TV screen for everyone to see, I was pushed a little harder each time to keep up with the other cyclists.

All the nice bikes in storage at AETT

All the nice bikes in storage at AETT

Clipless!

Clipless!

2014 marked my second season of cycling and new to me this year, was riding with clipless pedals. Clipless pedals means that your shoes are “clipped-in” or attached to the pedal. In order to get out, you need to “un-clip” and for anyone riding clipless for the first time, it can be somewhat of a daunting experience. Luckily with practice, I became more comfortable with it, however not without some falls!

My ride kit!

My participant rider kit!

Fast-forward a few months and my ride kit arrived. Included in the kit was the official ride jersey, some name-tags for my bike and a few other freebies. This definitely got me pumped for the event.

Studying instead of riding

Studying instead of riding

A few weeks before the ride, an opportunity came up at work to participate in a PMP (Project Management Professional) prep course. I took the opportunity and also scheduled my examination one week before the ride. For a few weekends leading up to the exam, I was sadly indoors studying instead of outside training and riding. To help me focus, I actually went to work on the weekends to study.

Training in West Vancouver

Training in West Vancouver (Dundarave Park)

The week leading up to the ride, I found myself in Vancouver for a work-related conference. I tried not to let this get in the way of my training. Vancouver was good to me that week, offering gorgeous spring weather and plenty of bike shops with road bike rentals. I squeezed in two rides during the week including the one pictured above, where I rode from downtown Vancouver to West Vancouver.

View from the Capilana Suspension Bridge (downtown Vancouver in the background)

The view from the Capilano Suspension Bridge (downtown Vancouver in the background)

I don’t take selfies very often, so this was my idea of smiling for the camera.

At the drop-off zone

At the drop-off zone – tags attached and ready to go!

On the day before the ride I dropped-off my bike at Ontario Place to avoid rushing to the start-line the next morning with all my belongings.

Other bikes at the drop-off zone

Other bikes at the drop-off zone

Pictured above, lots and lots of bikes parked at Ontario Place over-night before Day 1 of the ride.

Getting ready to start bright and early Saturday morning

Getting ready to start bright and early Saturday morning

Day 1 arrived and I was nervous but eager to get started. Pictured above is the preparation before the start of the ride. A few announcements, the singing of the national anthem and some breakfast. We were only a couple of minutes away from a very long bike ride!

This year, I had the pleasure of joining Team Erin. Everyone on Team Erin placed purple tape on the back of their helmets to help identity themselves during the ride. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures during the actual 104km ride on Day 1 or the 114km ride on Day 2. I was a little too focused on the ride and didn’t stop to take pictures. I’ve added a section at the end of this post with some pictures taken by the event photographers to give you an idea of what each day encompassed. Here’s a map of the route on Day 1 and Day 2.

The first finish line

The first finish line

Day 1 started around 8:30am and I finished and rolled across the first finish line (pictured above) in Hamilton at approximately 2:30pm. In about 6 hours, I rode 114km from Toronto to Hamilton with a few bathroom stops, a lunch break, and a couple of stops to get some medical attention. More on this below…

Camp after Day 1

Camp after Day 1

Chiropractic and massage tent

Chiropractic and massage tent

After finishing the ride on Day 1, we arrived at “camp” in Hamilton. Camp was filled with everything you needed after a 100km bike ride. Food, beer, bathrooms, massage tents and more food! The amount of setup and coordination at camp was unbelievable. Setting up a camp site for 5200 hungry and exhausted cyclists is no easy task. The organizers did a fantastic job of accommodating everyone.

Mobile showers!

Mobile showers!

Blue tents for everyone staying the night

Blue tents for everyone staying the night

There were also mobile showers on camp! I made alternate arrangements to stay at a nearby college residence. I didn’t get to experience the mobile showers or sleeping overnight in a tent. Missed opportunity? Maybe, but my body was thankful that night for sleeping in a real bed!

I was leaking everywhere on Day 1

I was leaking everywhere on Day 1

I also had the thrill of falling while at a stop-light on Day 1. One of the perks of riding clipless is leaning on the wrong side and not clipping out quickly enough resulting in an always embarrassing fall. I was assured by others that it happens to all newbies riding clipless!

Bike parking at the end of Day 1

Bike parking at the end of Day 1

All bikes are parked in a secure area over night on site at camp. Needless to say, there were A LOT of bikes.

We're almost there!

We’re almost there!

114km later on Day 2, we’re about 1km away from the finish line in Niagara Falls and Team Erin starts to gather so that we can finish together as a team!

We did it!

We did it!

A couple of quick-shots before we cross the finish line! My UHN pals, Robin Gould-Soil and Lydia Lee. Thank you for your great company and support. It was an absolute blast preparing for this event and riding with you two.

My other riding buddy.

My other riding buddy.

Another thanks to Sid Soil (Robin’s husband). You were a great partner to ride with, pushing me and keeping me entertained along the way. I’m also very appreciative of your help with my flat!

Crossing the final finish line!

Crossing the final finish line!

Crossing the final finish line was a surreal moment. After 2 long days, I accomplished something I never thought I would have. There were hundreds of people cheering at the end and it was quite overwhelming. My parents and girlfriend drove all the way to Niagara to watch me finish. A huge thanks to them for all their support over the past eight months of training and making the trek to Niagara to watch me finish. It meant a lot to me.

The pose that you're entitled to upon completing the Ride to Conquer Cancer!

The pose that you’re entitled to striking upon completing the Ride to Conquer Cancer!

Completing the ride was bitter-sweet for me. It was a long and tiring two days of cycling. But it was an incredible experience and the I’ve learned so much about myself and others throughout the entire journey leading up to completing the ride. A few final thoughts on the experience:

  • THANK YOU to Team Erin (especially team captains Aubrey, Denise, Lorne and Noah) for all your support leading up to and throughout the ride. Your leadership, generosity, professionalism and genuine kindness made my experience that much better.
  • The logistics behind operating such a large event must have been enormous. But the organizers pulled it off without a hitch. Everything about the ride was so incredibly organized and accommodating. The staff and volunteers were all very kind and helpful along the way. Kudos to the entire organizing team for pulling this together.
  • And most importantly, thank you to all my supporters! I could not have done this without you. I initially thought raising $2500 was going to be a daunting task, but thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues I managed to exceed that and raised $2910 through the support of 32 very generous donors. THANK YOU!

I walk away from this event with a new found confidence in my own ability and a huge amount of respect for the community of cancer survivors, researchers and fighters. We will conquer cancer one day, and I’m glad to have been part of the cause.

————————————————————————————————-

I’ve included a few extra photos and blurbs to explain a few other elements of the ride that weren’t captured in my own photos. 

It was incredible to see the sheer amount of people amped up and ready to go on Day 1 at the start line. It was high energy and it really added to the excitement. It also helped that it was such a gorgeous day.

It was incredible to see the sheer amount of people amped up and ready to go on Day 1 at the start line. It was high energy and it really added to my excitement. It was also a gorgeous day.

Lots of people have asked me if roads were closed off for riders. Only a portion of the road was completely closed at the beginning of Day 1. For the majority of Day 1 and all of Day 2, roads were not closed off. But there would always be a steady stream of enough people to occupy one lane on the road. Drivers were very respectable and we also had police officers helping out at intersections helping to control traffic.

Lots of people have asked me if roads were closed off for riders. Only a portion of the road was completely closed at the beginning of Day 1. For the majority of Day 1 and all of Day 2, roads were not closed off. But there would always be a steady stream of enough people to occupy one lane on the road. Drivers were very respectable and we also had police officers helping out at intersections helping to control traffic.

There was some beautiful scenaryy throughout the 2 day ride. I didn't stop to take any pictures, but here's an example of the view from the escarpment on Day 2 in Hamilton.

There was a lot of beautiful scenary throughout the 2 day ride. I didn’t stop to take any pictures, but here’s an example of the view looking out from the escarpment on Day 2 in Hamilton.

Yes, you can stop along the way! Another frequent question I've received. There are assigned pit stops about every 20km on the route each day. There are bathrooms, food, water, medical personnel and bike personnel at each pit stop to help you out along the way. And don't forget, there are lunch stops each day to help us re-fuel.

Yes, you can stop along the way! Another frequent question I’ve received. There are assigned pit stops about every 20km on the route each day. There are bathrooms, food, water, medical personnel and bike techs at each pit stop to help you out along the way. And don’t forget, there are lunch stops each day to help you re-fuel.

Not ONCE during the entire weekend did I worry about leaving my bike unattended at a pit stop or during lunch. Everyone there is part of a community, and there was great comfort knowing that.

Not ONCE during the entire weekend did I worry about leaving my bike unattended at a pit stop. Everyone at the ride was part of a community, and there was great comfort knowing that.

I cannot emphasize this enough. There were a shitload of bikes parked at camp after day 1!

I cannot emphasize this enough. There were a lot of bikes parked at camp after day 1!

As part of the whole experience, you see a lot of inspiring posters and messages from family members and survivors. Really inspiring.

Throughout the two day ride, you see a lot of posters and messages from family members and survivors. Really inspiring.

There are family members and supporters cheering you along the way on the route on both days. Those cheers and screams can be very helpful when you're in need of a little push to keep on going.

There are also family members and supporters cheering you on throughout both days. Those cheers and screams were very helpful when you’re in need of a little push to keep on going.

There are people of all ages, demographics and backgrounds participating in the ride. It was truly great to see some very young participants and a few older ones. And I can't forget the folks with yellow flags. They represent survivors of cancer. Oh, and you don't need a road-bike to participate. Any bike will do!

There are people of all ages, sizes and backgrounds who participated in the ride. It was truly great to see some very young participants and a few older ones come out for the challenge. And I can’t forget the folks with yellow flags. They represent survivors of cancer. Oh, and you don’t need a road-bike to participate. Any bike will do!

A lot of teams gather and cross the finish line together. Team Erin did the same thing.

A lot of teams gather and cross the finish line together. It’s quite the sight seeing some of the large teams finish proudly together.

If you have any questions about the ride, don’t hesitate to ask! If you’re interested in signing up for next year’s ride, click here!

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5 thoughts on “My Journey to the Ride to Conquer Cancer 2014

  1. Amazing job Julian! Also a very insightful post for individuals who are interested in getting into biking.

  2. It was a privilege riding with you Julian! Hope you will consider signing up again next year since you are now a Pro!

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