Monday, June 28, 2010

Ride2Survive 2010 - Tony's Story

I've been reading the posts from your regular hosts, and I can assure you, it's almost like being there. As for simulating the riding part, you'd need to run up and down the stairs all day carrying your computer while trying to sit on a chair that gets progressively less comfortable. If you're not interested in DH's on bicycles, you can skip this post.

I want to begin by thanking all our supporters and donors. The knitting community of this blog is now legendary within the R2S group, and I think several of the riders' spouses are now lurking here after being re-directed to the live blogs from the page. "Honest dear, I was just keeping up on where you were and how it was going". Next thing you know, it's "ding-dong...hey, there's a package for you at the door!'s soft and fluffy...MY WOLLMEISE!!..your WHAT?" You know how that goes though. My wife, and kids were amazing while we were out training in the rain, and it was really cool to pull into a rest stop on ride-day and see my wife there. Thank you all for allowing this non-knitting distraction on the blog, and your support, both financial and emotional were most welcome.

This year Ride2Survive looks on-track to raise over $300,000. Again, because of the way the costs of this ride are cover
ed by the riders, and there is no staff or expense budget for advertising. ALL of that total amount will be applied to research to fight Cancer. Well done all!

The energy in the room during the "telling of stories" was fantastic and very motivational.
Gladys cited a few of the more memorable quotes from that time, and after doing this ride for two years now, and having been involved to a much lesser level for the two years prior, I now call most of the people in that room "friend". Every person in that room has a deep, personal motivation for being there and giving of their time and energy to contribute to something terrifically positive. When was the last time you stood in a room with 150 "good people". It is a most rare opportunity to be a part of something like that.

Most of us turned to bed after that...I deliberately didn't say "went to sleep"...personally I lie awake and watch the ceiling until about 12AM before I get to sleep. My alarm goes off at 2:50AM. Get up, get dressed, eat and get on the bike. There was a significant air of relief as
riders detached the fenders they had put on their bikes last night. The sky was only partly cloudy and no sight of the torrential rain that had hammered down during our meeting the previous night, and the temperature
was about 14°C/58°F. Gladys' picture shows the image, but does not capture the sense of impending doom most riders felt upon seeing that rain.

The mayor of Kelowna personally rang the bell to send us on our way at 4:00 AM on the dot, and we were off.

I like the feeling I get at the beginning of a long ride. It's usually early in the day (not this early mind you), so it's cool. There isn't usually any wind, and there's a tranquility. The sounds of a bicycle being pedaled don't disturb that that peace. My legs feel strong, it's still a little cool, but I'm beginning to warm...there's no traffic on the road, just 100 blinking red LEDs mounted to the back of 100 bicycles. The flashing lights reflect off the glass of the store fronts. The road is ahead of us and it is all ours.

After about 10 minutes, we were on Harvey Road and heading over the new Bridge going west out of Kelowna. This next 5km section (3 miles if that suits you better) is one of my favourite
parts of the ride. The reason I like it so much has nothing to do with being about 10 minutes into a 15+ hour ride. If you look back over your right shoulder, you can see the dim lights of Kelowna's downtown as it still sleeps. The sun is just beginning to light the sky, and the string of blinking bicycle LEDs is in a more consistent, organized line. That peace still exists, but the sound of your breathing is rhythmical and rather than disturb it, seems to accentuate it. You can hear the smooth clicking of freewheels as riders coast momentarily.

The local Rotary chapter organizes our first stop at 4:45 at the Westbank Community Centre. These folks greet us warmly with coffee and cheers. Ten minutes to figure out your clothing options for the next hour or so...have a bite to eat...kiss the wife (that one is a new luxury for me this year) and back on the road.

The next hour passes through another of my favourite points on the ride. We head up to the
Coquihalla Connector, past Trepanier Road and begin the climb to the Pennask Summit. This climb is 26km (16 miles) in length and averages about 6.5% (click here for a profile if you are curious). the first 20k is at a solid 6%, the last 5km is at closer to 7% before it eases off for the last km. We stop about half-way up the climb at a chain-up area the truckers use. About 5km into the climb, we hit our rhythm. My breathing is heavy and regular, but I'm not struggling with the effort. The sun is just peeking up over the ridge over our right shoulders.

This year, as a Ride Captain, I have a radio. There are about 10 riders with radios, and the front pilot car, rear pilot car, and the two SAG vehicles have them too. (SAG is the name given to a vehicle that picks up riders that can't continue to ride...they need a rest for a while, or they've had a flat tire or similar "mechanical"). The chatter on the radio is upbeat and we're identifying riders who are struggling with the challenges of the lower portion of this climb. I love the sense of mission I get as we round a curve and we can see where the sun is hitting the road. It's warmer up there. The sun is shining. We want to be there. Keep turning the pedals.

I pulled alongside Cathy as she slows from the pace of the group. Cancer took Cathy's Mom. I reach out with my right and place it in the middle of her back, I push and take some of the load
off her tired legs so she can recover. I glance down at my handle bars and see the readout indicate my heart rate has jumped 10 beats per minute with the increased effort. Another ride captain pulls alongside me and begins to push me as I continue to push Cathy. This is how we get our team over the tough parts of the ride. We help one-another with words of encouragement, with a wheel to follow, and even push when we need it. This ride is a group effort. It is not a race. We start together. We ride together. We finish together.

I talked to several riders as we climbed. Words of encouragement to riders struggling with the effort can work wonders. Soon, we're at the rest stop. Add some clothes. We've climbed to about 1000m/3300' above sea level and even though it's now nearing 6:00AM and the sun is up, it's probably about 8°C/46°F. Refill the water bottles, grab some food, visit the bathroom quickly and we're back on the road.

The next section is the toughest, sustained climb and the highest elevation of the day. It is also
famous for the mosquitoes. At 12kph, the bugs can catch up to you as you ride. The chatter on the radio is gone, replaced by pain in my legs and lungs. The effort of the climb is showing. Riders are needing help at the back, and one-by-one, riders that were pushed lower on the slopes are being picked up by the SAG. The last 5 km of that climb were tough. It feels like it will never end, but the knowledge that it will is what keeps me climbing. The facial expressions of riders around us are ones of pain and effort. Faces wet with sweat and red with the effort.

There it is! The grade eases ahead. One km to go to the next rest stop, and that one will be much easier. The faces dry somewhat...the red fades and is replaced by a smile. We did it.

We pull into a small pullout near the summit and refill our, once again, empty water bottles. We
grab some food and add clothes. The next hour or so is up and down, but mostly down. It's 5°C/40°F and mercifully this year, there's no heavy head-wind like last year. We bundle up and ride into the morning sun. There's a somewhat ironic celebration as we pass the 1728m/5669' summit sign, the location of the pullout has you climbing a very gentle hill for about 500m and then you summit. I joked at my 4oth birthday party last month about knowing I was a cyclist when I got an "Over the Hill" balloon on one of my gifts, and my immediate reaction was "YES!".
On the downhill sections over the next hour, we topped 70kph/45mph. Eat and drink on this section of the ride. It is critical to replace fluids, electrolytes (salts) and calories burned on the climb. There's no headwind this year. It's fantastic. We're flying down the hills and regrouping on the climbs.

We quickly arrive at the chain-off area for another food and water stop...take off some of the clothes because the temperature is back up to what it was at the start back in Kelowna and
we're off for another downhill leg into Merritt. The ride into Merritt has a 5km/3mile descent at most of 70kph. Last year, I was pedalling hard into that wind to hold 38kph. We have a Police escort that meets us at the top of that hill this year and soon enough we're at Merritt; our first long rest stop.

It's 10:06AM. We've ridden about 100km/60 miles. Time for, to quote a famous Hobbit, "second breakfast". Many of us change into a clean pair of cycling shorts and a dry jersey. The temperature in Merritt is about 20°C/68°F, and it will get warmer in the next hour as we ride along the valley floor.

I had second breakfast/early lunch with Gladys and Markus and Dotty. Over the past 4 hours I've burned over 4500 calories; that's more than 2 day's food. Not bad for a morning. All to soon, a 5 minute warning is issued, and we're back on our bikes.

Coldwater road is next. This section was very difficult for me last year, and I don't remember it that well. It was so hard, that I was just focussed on keeping the pedals turning. This year was much nicer. I felt strong and it's really a very beautiful stretch of road. It's mostly uphill, but I've decided I actually like it.

There's a couple of cattle grates across the road on this road, and we slow right down for them. I didn't slow down enough apparently because I broke the cage that hold one of my water bottles as I crossed over the bumpy pipes. Conveniently enough, I have a radio and the SAG wagon has a spare cage they can install at the next stop. How cool is that?

This next stop is at the junction of Coldwater Road
and the Coquihalla Highway. It's a little rest stop by the side of the river, and I decided this year, upon detailed review, I like this stop too. It's beautiful and sunny and warm. And the food is great! It needs an espresso machine, but we can work on that for next year...

Another 10 minute stop, and it's time for Larson hill; 3 km at 6% and then a 1-2% grade for another 40 minutes or so. That "false flat" is the toughest part of the ride. First-time riders fear the Pennask summit. That climb happens early in the ride on fresh legs. The false flat has just enough hill to a rider down, but not enough that it's really perceivable. Last year, this is where the names on my legs (and a few tears along with encouraging words from other riders) were all that got me through it.

This year, for some completely unknown reason it felt far easier. At one point, I commented into the radio that we were all together as a group, travelling 31kph up a 1% climb. That's moving. We pulled into Britton Creek rest stop near where the toll booths used to be. I say "used to be" because they took them out in 2009, and if you're not from around here, when was the last time you heard of anyone taking out toll booths? The toll booths are 200km into the ride and represent the half-way point for distance.

I have no idea if I've gone into more detail here than anyone's interested in, so, seeing as we are at the half-way point, I'll stop here and put together a part 2 of this post. Besides, our ride's volunteer photographer hasn't had a chance to post photos past this point yet. Stay tuned for the 2nd half of the ride...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

dental floss PSA

Never, ever, ever rub your eye with the same hand that just pulled out a length of mint dental floss. It will hurt like hell. Trust me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Hubby & I are both recovering from the ride. Despite standing all day, my feet didn't hurt (love my Sloggers Premium Clogs; sadly no longer avail locally) but the lack of sleep and all day sun gave me a migraine which took a few days to shake off. I must remember to wear a hat if I'm going to be in the sun that long. Hubby is doing fine. He said that his legs hurt worse after a full day of skiing. His butt is also recovering nicely. Thank goodness the "sitting in a chair" part of his butt isn't the same as the "sitting in the saddle" part.

Hubby did the R2S raffle draw late Monday and I'm pleased to announce the winners (DaveC are you paying attention?). Linda is the lucky winner of a pair of handknit socks. Maureen won the quilt that I donated. And Gail won the quilt that Iris made. Gail is a member of my Wed night knitting group so I surprised her by bringing hubby yesterday night.

Gail was also the successful bidder for the auction quilt.

Thanks to everyone who donated and congrats to the winners.

The poor cats aren't liking me so much right now. After leaving them for 36 hours and then ignoring them the following day, I hauled them off to the vet's first thing Monday morning sans breakfast. I had them scheduled for their annual checkup, vaccinations, a bath, and teeth cleaning. Phoebe didn't get her teeth cleaned because the vet found a grade 4 (graded on a scale of 1 to 6; 6 being high) heart murmur. After a blood test & xrays, Phoebe's heart is enlarged so she's on medication for that. We've never had to pill her before and since this is going to be a long term issue, I bought pill pockets to hide the pill in. Works like a charm. She goes back in 2 weeks for a follow-up and more medication. Phoebe's thyroid is borderline abnormal and she'll need another blood test in 3 months. Poor Phoebe's starting to show her age (16 yo).

Ricky did get his teeth cleaned and one tooth had to be extracted. With the pain meds and recovering post-anesthesia, he was one groggy cat. We called him "dopey boy".

The bandage on his leg didn't help either. He tried to shake it off and then resorted to walking around on 3 legs. Ricky fell down a few steps while trying to run away from me.

I fed them when I got them home and Ricky made growly noises while he ate like he was really enjoying it. I've been told to feed Ricky soft foods for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, the only food he can eat comes in kibble form. I tried wetting it down but he wouldn't touch it. So I'm grinding it up in my food processor, adding a little bit of warm water, and a tiny amount of duck food to make it a bit more appetizing.

For the last few mornings, if Ricky even thinks I'm out to grab him (i.e. go upstairs while jangling my keys; opening & closing lots of doors), he'll run & hide under our bed. I think it's going to take awhile before he forgets that vet visit.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

how 'bout some peektures

It's 10:30am and hubby is still asleep (with both cats - awwwww, they missed us) and I don't want to wake him by banging around so you get to see some pictures from yesterday and a little commentary from me.

We've arrived at the church in Kelowna that is hosting us for the night. Everyone has brought bedding for sleeping on the floor. Hubby brought the heart quilt that I made for him.

There are bikes everywhere!!!! We estimated the value of the church went up by about $300,000 that day.

The volunteers provided us with a hearty spaghetti dinner and afterwards, the riders got to work writing names on legs & arms. It was a very moving experience to watch.

On a knitting note, WWKIP week was well represented. Gladys finished a sock with a teeny bit of yarn to spare and I was working on some fingerless mitts.

And these are the famous blue potties. We spent the day either looking for them at the next rest stop or following them on the road.

I found out that it's really hard to take pre-dawn pictures with my little point'n shoot camera. The guy right in the middle with the white/red/black Specialized bike is my hubby.

It's finally dawn. ::yawn:: We're at the trucker's chain-up area just prior to the Pennask Summit.

And they're still climbing... towards the Pennask summit.

The riders made a brief stop at the summit for water & access to their bags. The rest of the crew continued onto the trucker's brake-check stop on the other side of the summit.

It's a short stop (only 10 mins) so all the food & water/energy drinks must be laid out and easily accessible. And it wasn't just the riders eating a ton of food. The crew were pretty good snacks for the jumbo sized mosquitoes!!!!

And they're back on the road. Next stop - Merritt.

Tony (forefront; second from the left in the blue helmet & orange booties) & my hubby (4th from the left wearing the grey vest) arriving in Merritt.

Merritt was a long lunch stop for the riders (40 mins) so hot food was served to them. On the menu was macaroni & cheese, penne pasta, orzo salad, fruit salad, brownies, date squares, and chicken noodle soup (this is only a sample of the food that was available - there was a lot more). It was a lot of set up because the soup needed to be heated and all the hot food (some of it was donated by a restaurant and the rest of it had been dropped off the day before and heated up by volunteers in Merritt) needed to be pre-assembled onto plates so that they were ready to hand out. I found it hard to eat lunch at 10am. But that's ok because I was pretty much eating all day long.

Hubby's looking pretty good after riding 6 hours.

Hubby took the time to change into some fresh clothes so I had to hold a towel for him while he stripped out of his bib shorts. Once he had the clean ones on, he pulled out his chamois butt'r and gave me that look. As a crew member, I'm supposed to help the riders with anything they might need. But I draw the line at applying cream down there. It doesn't matter that it's hubby's sexy butt.

At Merritt, the riders picked up their police escort. They close down intersections to allow the cyclists to ride straight through. Pretty nice, eh?

At every stop, the riders are given access to their "stuff". We haul out 100 or so bags and lay them out in numerical order so that it's easy for them to find what they need & quickly. Some of these bags are less than light and my sore arms are complaining today.

I couldn't get a picture of all the bags in one photo. This is about half of them. And here's the chaos that occurs at every stop when the riders arrive:

Both this stop (Coldwater/Larson Hill) and Merritt were very hot. I must've drank a liter of water.

There was a short stop at the Britton Creek rest area followed by dinner (4pm) in Hope.

In addition to serving food and helping the riders, the crew is supposed to keep an eye out for riders in distress. While I was fetching some chicken soup and a Pepsi, I saw Tony sitting on the grass, clutching his thigh with a funny look on his face. I immediately stopped and asked what was wrong. He had me fetch one of the medical support people. He developed a severe cramp in his left thigh. The white stuff on his face wasn't sunscreen - it was salt. Tony was completely dehydrated and ended up being hauled on a stretcher to the RV where he had to load up on sodium rich drinks and sit out several legs of the ride. I believe Gladys has pictures of a pretty blonde pressing on Tony's upper thigh.

There were 3 more stops - DeRoche (before the 11% hill), the Mission Visitor's Center, and Maple Ridge before arriving in Delta. It was getting dark so I don't have any pictures. The riders encountered wind just before Hope and battled it the rest of the way home. It slowed them down by over an hour.

It was good to be back home. A good friend met us and brought us a breakfast package for when we rolled out of bed this morning. I've already eaten two of the bagels. If hubby doesn't get up soon, he's stuck with the cinnamon (sorry, Sarah) Nutella swirl cake and granola. And we got a ride to our car from another friend so that I didn't have to walk to it.

It's almost noon now and I have to get going. It's Father's Day and I have a few errands to run before I head over to see Dad.

they did it!

The ride is officially over. Our hubbies have accomplished something phenomenal today - riding 400 kms and it only took them 19 hours to do it (4am to 11pm). The entire event raised over $250,000. Thanks again for supporting them.

Now, it's off to bed (hubby groaned when he lay down) for both of us. I'm sure the rest of Team Purl Jam are also in their jammies.

We'll post pictures and more detailed stories in the upcoming week.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mission: Mission

We're leaving the oddest pitstop of all -- an abandoned gas station in Deroche. There's an abandoned car in the gas fillup lane and a rusty old engine dangling from a chain beside it.

There are just two more quick stops and the Golden Ears bridge.

The riders are exhausted, and currently climbing an 11 percent hill. They are in really good spirits, for the most part, and feeling like they're on the home stretch.

Next stop: Mission

Looking for Hope

We served bocconcini on sliced tomatoes with fresh basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, at the last pit stop. Kerry promised the riders that they'd be fed well -- no kidding!

The good part: they now have a police motorcycle escort.

The not-quite-as-good part: the "heavy humidity" is now closer to rain -- but we seem to be driving towards bluer skies.

We're about 20 minutes behind schedule but this stage is all downhill so we might make it up.

Next stop: Hope!

Follow the potties

Last stop: Coldwater Road. Next stop: Larson Hill

There are drops of rain on our windshield -- we're calling it "heavy humidity."

It's still hot out so the riders probably won't be too inconvenienced by it.

(Post title is because it's easy to find our convoy -- just follow the potties.)

Merritt Badge

Just finished cleanup from the Merritt stop. The riders were only 5 minutes late to that stop -- a huge difference from last year.

They all look like they're in great shape, though the "come to jesus" stages, as Tony calls them, are still to come.

No headwind this year, and no rain (yet?). It's been hot and sunny and a little buggy.

At the summit

We're at the Penask Summit. Food prep is done and the riders are coming in 5 minutes.

PS Crepes with nutella are on the menu. Tasty!

PPS Can't believe I'm awake.


It's just before 3am and we're up. Urgh! Gotta go catch the shuttle and head over to the church. Hopefully, the riders got some sleep!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Live tracking of the ride

They've got a GPS riding along in the pilot car. If you want to follow them along the route, you can see the map here.

I've got to be up in 4 hours to get to the church by 3:30'ish for the rollout at 4 am, so I'd better hit a bed now.

If I can get online via someone's bluetooth tomorrow, I'll blog from the road. If not, you'll get tons more photos on Sunday.

A few more snapshots

The staging location is a local church. Dinner tonight was carbs, carbs and more carbs. Giant platters of pasta, huge tureens of spaghetti sauce and giant tubs of tasty caesar salad.

And of course, carrot cake (this was a huge stack before the 150'ish people got through it).

Kerry, the ride organizer, thanked the kitchen staff profusely for all of their hard work.

And there are expensive bicycles stashed all over the church, between the pews, and everywhere.

Oh, the weather outside is ...

... a cyclist's nightmare. As the riders and crew meeting began tonight, this is what was happening outside. Fingers crossed for a dry day tomorrow!

It wasn't much drier inside. Riders are now covered in names of the people for whom they're riding, both in memoriam and in recognition of their strength in fighting cancer and surviving it.

Everyone gathered in one big room, and shared their stories of why they're here doing this ride, either as riders or as crew.

One of Tony's sister's closest friends has breast cancer. She has two young children, the same age as our kids. I can't even type that without tearing up.

The young man standing in the centre of the photo, said, "I'm volunteering because I lost my mom when I was 7." There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

There were other quotes:
  • "I'm here because cancer research saved my son's life."
  • "I would have died if I'd had cancer 10 years earlier."
  • "My neighbour, she's dying, and she's got two little kids. Cancer research kept her alive for Mother's Day."
  • "My mom was given 4 weeks. We lost her when I was flying the woman I would marry to meet her for the first time."
  • "My stepkids lost their mom when they were 13, 14 and 16. She was 39."
And one rider read out a letter from Lance Armstrong to the group. (Click to make it bigger.)

I'll leave you with a shot of Tony's legs, with many of your loved ones' names on it. There will be more photos in a blog post that he'll be writing.

Landed in Kelowna

A quick photos post ...

From this morning, waiting for the buses to come and pick us all up. We represented for WWKIP week.

On the bus to Kelowna ...

Ice cream at the stretch-your-legs stop in Merritt.

There's a rubber duckie in our motel bathroom. (We're not in the motel for long; we'll be out of here at 3 am tomorrow morning.)

And back at the church, the bikes are getting unloaded and being re-assembled for the riders behind the 18-wheeler trailer. There's a local community TV crew following the ride this year too, and making a documentary.

I'm off to help with dinner service now -- we'll be back with another post (with legs!) in a few hours!

wish us luck

Tomorrow is the big day. We are leaving shortly to take the bus up to Kelowna. Then it's a nervous evening of pasta eating, a last-minute meeting for the riders & crew, followed by a restless sleep and a 2:30am wake up call.

The boys will each burn a week's worth of calories in a single day. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that fact.

If you are interested, you can track our progress throughout the ride. One of the support vehicles will be carrying a GPS tracker and every 10 mins (satellite permitting), it will post its location. The data will be visible on the Ride2Survive homepage.

Thanks again for all your support. We'll announce the remaining raffle and quilt auction winners on Sunday followed by our after-ride stories.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Packing for the road

We leave tomorrow morning for the Ride2Survive. This week's been a whirlwind of activity, not counting the R2S activities, so my head is spinning.

(It included Andrew's 7th birthday party last Saturday, working late all week, a Boy Scouts open house on Monday, taking Andrew out to shop for his birthday gift on Wednesday, and taking him out for dinner for his birthday today.)

And tonight, we dropped off Tony's bike into the giant 18-wheeler trailer that will be hauling all of the riders' bikes to Kelowna tomorrow. That's our friend Graham loading bikes into the trailer. The boys got to climb up and wander around for a few minutes -- they liked that part.

The next photo is inside the utility trailer that will be hauling equipment and food. Click on the photo to see a closeup -- I think I'm going to love those heaters on Saturday. It's going to be cold and wet for most of Saturday, according to the current forecast. I've packed fingerless mittens and a winter hat, just in case it actually snows on us.

Apparently I didn't get the best photo of all -- way in the back of the utility trailer is the enormous heater, big enough to blow up a hot air balloon. Hopefully it will be big enough to get 70 cold and wet cyclists a little warmed up at the rest stops.