I’ve really had enough of the cold weather. Yes, being Canadian, I do accept winter, and embrace it. But at this point in the season, I can’t help but fantasize about the ice melting so I can get out on my bike.
This will be my third season since discovering my fitness passion. My first season, 2012, I progressed from a starting point of zero kilometres in spring to the 100-kilometre Ride For Karen at the end of the summer’one weekend after Labour Day. To be honest, I was scared to commit to doing the Ride For Karen because it was pretty darned intimidating to try such a long ride. The reason I took a deep breath and said ‘Yes’, though, was that it was for charity. How could I not do something to help kids with cancer get to summer camp? How could I be worried about the pain and suffering I’d put up with when those poor kids have true pain and suffering? Knowing that raising funds for them would put smiles on their faces and allow them to have fun despite their illness really was something I couldn’t say no to.
The second cycling season, last year, I made a point of challenging myself to do more: a 350k cycling trip across PEI with Two-Wheeling Women in June was first up. Now, this wasn’t for charity’but when it was over, I felt a little guilty about having such an amazing experience: I met some great women and saw such gorgeous scenery in PEI. So I donated $350 ($1 for every kilometre cycled) to a local PEI charity, Village Feast. Then came the Tour For Kids weekend in August (100k per day, two days in a row), which, like Ride For Karen, raises money for kids with cancer to go to camp. And I capped off that summer by once again doing Ride For Karen.
So, what’s on my radar this year? My cycling season is going to start FAR sooner than I would have anticipated just a short time ago! And the ice may not even have melted: On March 14, in a symbolic 10k, I’ll be riding with Clara Hughes as she kicks off Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk campaign that raises awareness of mental health issues. Best Health is the national magazine partner for Clara’s Big Ride, during which the celebrated Olympian is going to ride some 12,000 kilometres around Canada’yes, in a huge circle from Ontario, through Quebec, the Maritimes, Newfoundland, our Territories, B.C., Alberta, the Prairies, across the top of Ontario and into Ottawa’just on time for the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. She’ll be riding more than 100k per day from March 14 to July 1. Wow, is all I can say.
Next up: My challenge to myself this third season is to do a ‘true’ century, which in the cycling world is 100 miles’160 kilometres. Gulp. I usually ride solo (not by choice; I just don’t have anyone in my circle of friends or family who cycle), but sure didn’t fancy doing a century all by my lonesome. So when I mentioned this in passing to Jacki Lewis, owner of Two Wheeling Women, she got excited and we cooked up a plan together: she’s organizing the century for anyone who is interested, so it’ll be a group ride (yay!). And because we both really wanted this to be about charity, she is doing it on a non-profit basis. So anyone who wants to join the century will pay only for the cost of the support for the ride’and the registration price will include a minimum charitable donation of $100 per person (the money will go to Right To Play). The ride will be in the Niagara region, mostly on paved bike paths’and, importantly, pretty flat!! And because I know I’m pretty slow (average about 22km/hr on a long ride), we’ll need a LOT of sunlight hours, so we’re doing it, fittingly, on the longest day of the year: Summer Solstice, June 21, which happens to be a Saturday.
Beyond that, my only other plan is to do Ride For Karen for a third straight year’as always, it takes place the Sunday after Labour Day weekend (Sept. 7). What a way that will be to cap off a cycling season. (Here’s a photo of brothers Kirk and Kris Tobias, the guys who started this charity ride 12 years ago in honour of their mom, Karen, who died of cancer.)
Stepping up the physical challenges each year and (hopefully) achieving them feels so fantastic’to the point of being guilt-inducing. That’s why I couldn’t imagine doing these events without the added incentive that it helps someone else besides myself’because it just doesn’t sit right to feel so great physically when you train for and finish these challenges and not share the good feeling with others, in the form of helping a worthy cause.
Whatever way you step it up, and for whatever cause, if you have participated in a charitable physical event, please join the Best Health Challenge and share your stories and photos to inspire other women across Canada. (Bonus: There are great prizes to be won!) Just go to besthealthmag.ca/challengecontest.