The Great Cycle Challenge

Yesterday marked the beginning of The Great Cycle Challenge 2016.  A cycle challenge that will get me out and cycling 450K this June.  This challenge is to raise awareness and money for SickKids Foundation in Toronto, the leading children’s hospital in cancer research.  Once you register to participate in the challenge, you decide how many kilometres you’d like to ride and start raising money.  I happen to live fairly close to where I work (which is a bit of of drag, I gotta be honest) so I figured if I rode my bike to work every day and threw in a longer cycle on the weekends, 250K should be a manageable amount.  June is my busiest month at work so I didn’t want to overdo it.  And to make it nice and easy, my fundraising goal was $250.  One dollar for every kilometre.  It had a nice ring to it.

But when I posted it on Facebook, friends and family jumped on board and within a few short hours, I had already raised 80% of my goal!  Well, I wanted to encourage others to donate because the more I could raise for children with cancer, the better!  So I put it out into the ether that I would cycle 1K for every dollar raised.

By the start of the Challenge, four days later, I had raised $450!

But that had also meant that I had to bike 450K!  I started calculating…450K divided by 30 days in June is 15K a day.  Ok, that’s not much.  I used to bike 40K a day a few years ago when I lived considerably farther away from work.  I could do it.  I just had to get my butt in gear!  (And toughened up again for these long hauls that I’ll be doing!)  Where are my padded shorts???

So here is a chronicle of my thoughts as I add up the kilometres and raise money to help fight kids’ cancer.  Check back regularly to read updates throughout June.  If you are interested in supporting me in my challenge and helping kids with cancer (and adding a few more kilometres onto my goal!), you can find me at The Great Cycle Challenge 2016.

Day 1, 6:00 am:  It starts today! The Great Cycle Challenge 2016! My supporters have challenged me to cycle 450 km within the month of June in support of SickKids Foundation. Bring it.

Day 1
Bring. It. On.

6:00 pm: Day 1 of the Great Cycle Challenge is done. 31 km down and only 419 to go!

Here are some stats on the ride:
Total Time: 1:48
Dragonfly collisions: 7
Bugs swallowed: 2
Caterpillars squashed: 3
Colour of dust from the Greenbelt trail coating everything: light grey, almost opaque
Times gravel almost got the best of me: 5
Times I had no idea where I was: 3
Glasses of wine: 1 and counting

It’s going to be quite a month.

On the way home, I felt the need to stop and take a picture of the geese. There are so many photo opportunities when you get off the road and onto the extensive Ottawa bike paths.

Day 2, 7:30 am:  If I take The Long Way to work, it’s 17K.  I ride on an asphalt road for about 5K and then turn off onto one of the NCC pathways.  Unlike some of them, which are relatively smooth asphalt, this one is gravel and extremely winding.  It forces me to go slowly because the wheels on my touring bike just don’t want to turn quickly in it.But like many NCC trails, this trail goes through several different – yet all beautiful – landscapes.  First, dense woods.  Then farmland.  For a brief time, parallel to a major highway (which is not beautiful to listen to but it’s exhilarating to realize that I am not stuck in traffic like those motorists are).  Then past more fields, past a golf course (whose driving range is quite busy at such an early hour) and then over several small brooks and finally through open meadows.  The last 5K are through quiet, slow-paced, residential streets.

I can think of a million worse places to be at 7:30 in the morning.  This cycle challenge might just prove to be the best thing I could have done for my own health and soul.

I arrived at work feeling alive.

5:30 pm:  I just put my morning cycle clothes back on.  I feel disgusting.  My shirt didn’t dry out and it’s cold and clammy and stinks.  And after a day of unexpected chaos, I’m taking the short, 4K way home.  And I’m stopping to buy dinner because after I get home, walk the dogs and shower, I’m sure as hell not cooking anything.  I wonder … do I have enough wine for tonight?

Distance today: 21.5K

Total distance to date: 52K, only 398 left to go!

Day 5:  I made it to $500!!  I doubled my fundraising goal!  Woot!!

Getting back on the bike this afternoon was so hard.  I did an easy 10K on Friday to give my body a break and yesterday I was at the cabin.  When I returned home this afternoon, rain was looming but I did it.  I cycled 30K – to Britannia Beach and back.  As soon as I hit the NCC trail, I started to feel more awake.  It had already rained so there were puddles on the ground but at least the dust from the gravel trail didn’t coat everything.

I ended up seeing an array of different animals that really lifted my spirits.  I guess they have figured out that the bike paths will be quiet on a rainy day and start to get more adventurous.  I saw chipmunks, squirrels, a hare ran right across in front of me (thank goodness it was faster!), cardinals, robins, goldfinches and the best of part of my day….

Yes, I know, I’m the idiot trying to take a video of something on a moving bike.  But I was going super slow so as not to scare her.  Isn’t she beautiful??

I biked to Britannia Beach and then decided to turn around.  It was a good thing I did, because within minutes, the rain started.  It wasn’t too bad at first but half an hour later, I was soaked.  I didn’t care.  There’s something about doing outdoor activities in the rain when everyone else is staying dry indoors that kind of makes me feel kick ass.  Know what I mean?

My total so far is 93K in 5 days!

Day 7:  In my first week, I have  raised $500 and have cycled 119K and have completed 24% of my goal.

I’m. So. Tired.

I really don’t know if 500K is do-able but I’m going to try my best.  One of my gifts is determination.  There’s been a few hiccups that I wasn’t anticipating – wind, rain, my overall energy levels in my busiest month of the year at work.  Yesterday, I felt great and was planning on doing my 17K route to work and at the last moment, remembered there was an early-morning staff meeting.  So I only had time to do 10K.  And then my chain malfunctioned and I spent 10 minutes on the side of the road fixing it.  I made it to the meeting, albeit, greasy and sweaty.  Kudos to those who cycle greater distances every day to get to work.  It takes far more organization than I was expecting.

On the bright side, my butt has stopped hurting.

Tomorrow?  A badly-needed rest day.

Day 9:  After cycling 27K to and from work today (and it was 8°C this morning with gusts of wind up to 38km/h!), I still found the energy to ride 1.6K through the neighbourhood to the pub for dinner and date night!

Date Night
I’ll always have enough energy to bike to wine!

Total distance to date: 150K

Day 10:  20K uphill today.  No joke.  I entered the ride into MapMyRun and the elevation clearly states that 17K of that 20K was uphill.  With one massive downhill at the end.  Definitely a route I will ride again the opposite way.  I should really check the elevation gain of a route more often so I don’t kill myself.

Day 11:  Pouring rain in the morning.  Leaving town this afternoon so no ride today.  😦

Day 14:  I didn’t cycle today.  I hiked instead.  But because it was 32K, 14.5 hours and a whole lot of pain, I think it should count.  I entered it manually into my distance.

Total distance to date:  202K

Day 16:  Halfway through the month and not quite halfway through my goal.  Not bad, I’d say.  Unfortunately, I have been the proud recipient of the latest virus going around work and I can’t speak right now.  So probably not a good idea to be out exhausting myself on a bike.  I’ll have to lay low until I feel better and then get back into it.  Highly unlikely I’ll make my goal now but I still promise to do my best.

Day 18:  Back in the saddle again today after several days off.  Felt good.

I’ve noticed that the larger distances of cycling, especially when on paths and I don’t need to concentrate on traffic, have been really helpful for me to reflect on and process things going on in my life.  For the past week, I’ve had some anxiety over something that has occurred in my life (nothing major but something that has been occupying my thoughts) and this morning’s cycle was the perfect opportunity to work through it.  I went 18K into the city, through the woods and then eventually along the Ottawa river, where I stopped and pondered.  By the time I returned home, I had reached a point of acceptance and clarity that I hadn’t been able to get to earlier in the week due to the hectic pace.  I don’t know if it’s because of the silence, the solitude, the length of time available to think, the physical activity of burning off the anxiety or all of them together that allows the brain to process problems in new ways but it’s a great feeling.

And it’s a whole lot cheaper than therapy.

Hello. Do you have anything for me to stuff in the other cheek?

While I sat upon a rock wall and reflected, this little guy kept visiting me, looking for some more food.

Today’s distance:  36K

Total distance to date: 239K

Day 23:  I have cycled almost every day this week.  I took a day off of cycling yesterday because it was my birthday and I was heading downtown for some birthday fun at Chicken and Rib Fest after work.  As it happened, today I had the day off work due to a doctor’s appointment and I was excited to have some extra time to get some extra mileage in.  I had a 40K route planned.

But when I got on the bike, it quickly went downhill (and not the fun kind).  I was so tired.  My legs were like lead.  My back was stiff.  My lungs were hacking up gunk.  I couldn’t get the bike to any kind of decent speed to go any amount of decent distance.   I managed to pull off 25K and felt like I had failed.

Woah.  Wait a second.  What?  FAILED?

I thought about how much time I spent on the bike this month.  The days I could cycle, I usually spent about two hours on the bike.  That’s a lot of time!  That’s a lot of mileage!  And this is along with everything else I have to do – packing, learning to drive a standard, housework (well, that’s usually the first thing to be pushed to the side), actually working at my job, walking the dogs, after-work homework and trying to recover from bronchitis.  I needed to cut myself some slack.

I truly believe that we can all push ourselves beyond what we feel we can do.  I know anyone is capable of achieving more than they expect of themselves.  But perspective is also a really important thing to have.

Now I know the goal I chose is too high.  My original goal perhaps was too low; I would’ve finished it and might not have experienced all the benefits the long rides have given me.  But maybe doubling it was a little ambitious.  Now that I’ve acknowledged that, I feel like I can relax and ride for enjoyment instead of for a goal.

We’ll see how far I get in the next week.  At the end of June, I’ll know I did my best and gave it my all.

Total distance so far: 340K

Day 25: Today wasn’t exactly a cycle.  But I’m not going to get stuck in the letter of the law.  I’m going to follow the spirit of the law.

Today I ran 8K in a Kilt for the for the Guinness World Record in the 2016 Perth Kilt Run . It was 30°C and I still have bronchitis so the effort was worthy enough to enter into my Great Cycle Challenge mileage.

Kilt Run
Not exactly cycling but difficult enough to count the mileage!

Total distance to date: 348K

Day 28: The last week to put in some extra kilometres.  One dollar for every kilometre became too difficult thanks to the incredibly generous donations of those around me.  Wow.  What a month it has been.  I have realized how much I love cycling.  I love the fresh air, the speed, the distance I am able to cover, the feel of the road or trail, the physical way one needs to negotiate turns or stops or uneven terrain.  I love the rush of endorphins that comes after a good workout and I love watching the scenery change with every kilometre.  I love how commuter cyclists always say hello in the morning and that starting each day connecting with people leaves me in a more positive mental space, unlike the silent isolation of being in the car and the angry thoughts that others’ bad driving elicits.  It has been a very hectic month but a great one.  Other than the fact that I am still very sick, this challenge has made this month a one to remember.

Total distance to date: 404K

Day 30:  Well, today it officially ends.  I was hoping to get a few more kilometres in today but unfortunately, the bronchitis isn’t letting up and now a sinus cold has moved in to keep it company.  However, I am doing a 6K hike this afternoon so I will count that, bringing my total to (drum roll please…..)

410K!  Woot!!  I’m pretty happy with that!

This was a great experience.  It got me outside, it gave me time to decompress.  It really shows how beneficial exercise is for the mind and soul as well as being outside.  Thanks to the generous donations of friends and family, I was able to raise $552 to help SickKids fight childrens’ cancer.  I think that’s a win for everyone.

Now, onto my next adventure!





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