I set myself the goal this year of riding a century’100 miles, which is 160 kilometres. Why? In part to keep myself motivated to train, and feel good about getting fit; and in part because as Editor of Best Health, I have to keep fit! But mainly, I set this goal thanks to Clara Hughes’ example. If she’s not the most inspirational Canadian right now, I don’t know who is. (Read more about Clara’s Big Ride in my Q&A with her in the Summer issue of Best Health.) I could do ONE DAY of cycling, couldn’t I? She was doing this distance, or more, each day for six days a week for more than three months. And she was doing it for an amazing cause: Raising mental health awareness.
I mentioned my goal to Jacki Lewis, owner of Two Wheeling Women, a cycling tour company I’d gone to PEI with last year, and, a month ago, to Cape Cod. It was during a ride beside Lake Ontario one cold November Saturday. She said, ‘Where will you do this ride?’ I said, ‘I have no idea, but it has to be somewhere flat!’ Well, didn’t Jacki have the perfect route’in the Niagara region’and she offered to give me the route plan. Awesome! I told her I planned to donate money to Right To Play after I’d completed it, and she said, ‘I’ve always wanted to organize a ride for charity! Let me get the word out and I’ll arrange the whole thing for no profit.’
Fast forward to last Saturday, the Summer Solstice, and 8 of us lined up for a pre-ride photo outside of our hotel in Niagara Falls, then wheeled off along the Niagara River. Some planned to do 100k, three of us planned on the 160k and a couple of others weren’t sure what distance they would do. All of us donated a minimum of $100 to Right To Play. It was an absolutely perfect day, with sunshine and little wind.
A few of us settled into a nice pace of around 23k/hour and simply enjoyed the ride, and kept snacked-up on protein bars, energy gels, fruit and nuts. Nope, we sure weren’t going to break any speed records; the plan was to simply finish. After 50k, I started feeling it in the legs. Around 70k, my arms and shoulders were now also saying, ‘Umm, what are we doing?’ We took frequent bio breaks, taking the opportunity to stretch out, and finally got to our lunch spot at 100k, a picnic under some trees next to the pretty Welland Canal.
The longest distance I’d cycled to date was 110k, in Cape Cod, and before that I’d done five 100ks. Still 60k to go!
And to get through that last 60k, I thought of how nice a massage would be afterwards. But truly what got me through the exponentially increasing aches and pains was the thought that Clara Hughes was on her bike at that moment too, and that she was riding about the same distance not only on that day, but had been doing so almost every day since mid March. And as I write this she still has a week to go before she arrives on Parliament Hill on Canada Day. It’s just mind-boggling, isn’t it?
Clara’s Big Ride has inspired me to do my little bit, to challenge myself and help a cause. She is doing her BIG bit by visiting countless communities and talking to tens of thousands of Canadians about mental illness, with the aim of reducing stigma so that more people can feel comfortable coming forward and seeking help, rather than suffer in silence. The ride is funded by Bell Canada. We at Best Health magazine are absolutely honoured to be a part of Clara’s Big Ride right from the first day, March 14, as national magazine partner to help spread the word about this crucial issue.
I’m also hoping that Clara’s Big Ride encourages other people to challenge themselves to a physical feat in the name of charity. Actually, Clara has a few words to say to Canadians about our Best Health Challenge, in which we are collecting people’s stories about what ride, walk, run, swim, or whatever they have accomplished. (Check out this special video message from Clara.)
Back to Niagara. Yes, I did do the ride. Three of us’an American named Candy and a fellow Torontonian named Judy’finished what turned out to be a 168k ride. It took a good 8 hours in the saddle, breaks not included. (Good thing it was the longest day of the year.) Yes, we were slow-paced, but we were steady. And feeling pretty good physically, considering. But mentally, feeling even stronger than ever.