We are Stronger Together

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Over the last few days, I have been piecing together what was a spectacular day, and recalling the decisions that eventually brought me to Ride2Survive. With every decision we make, every experience, every new thing ... we learn right? Otherwise what's the point? Well, in December I took a step, a turn, a somewhat terrifying turn ("400km what am I thinking") into the welcoming arms of the R2S family and I had no idea what I was about to learn. 
I knew I would find a community of like-minded people, because I discovered this fact 2 years ago as support crew on the National Kids Cancer Ride, an event that changed my life. But there were new lessons waiting. I learned that more people want to make a difference, leave the world a little better, just like me. I learned that there is a community of these people in my backyard, led by 2 passionate & giving souls Kerry & Vicki Kunzli, who have a loyal following spanning this country. I learned that we could become a cohesive "fundraising team with a cycling problem" (quote by Kerry) in a matter of a few short months led by the remarkable Rich Gestle, raise an incredible amount of money for Cancer & form what I believe are lifelong friendships. I learned that we are better together. And finally, I learned that what matters the most is setting the goal and doing your damndest to get it done, even if it means sitting out for a moment. 
Which leads me to this: My body is strong, but not unstoppable and that is okay. My stamina is improving, but not unbreakable and that is okay. My bike is not immune to bad-luck mechanical on ride day, so get out of my head and get over it. The reason I am here is to band together with my people and stand up to Cancer. My team needs me, but they need me with a full tank, not running on empty ... SO when that strong but beaten body said "nuh-uh you're done right now", I listened and was better for it. Why? Because A/ it's ok to ask for help. And B/ my distance doesn't matter.
Did I quit? Hell no. I looked down at the names on my legs and the photos on my top tube & I acknowledged them. I am not here for me, i am here for them. Every pedal stroke mattered. Every-single-one represented something or someone, and I worked hard. And what happened as a result? Shouts of encouragement ("well done girl", "great job") as I pulled off, crew rushing to help & asking what I need, a new friend handing me a plate of food with simple instructions: "eat"! Nothing but positivity and acceptance. 
What else? I participated in a massive group fundraiser for a cause near and dear to my heart. With my generous donors, I was able to raise over $5,100 for Cancer programs (THANK YOU), contributing to the final team tally of near $1.1M. I trained & pushed my body harder than i ever have, climbed mountains, met crosswinds, cycled on roads only travelled by motorists. It was incredibly hard at times, but that was met with some incredible rewards: I descended the Kelowna connector into Merritt at a pace that made me smile & heard my friend Al behind me say "hey Caryl, you liked that didnt you", knowing full well I had a giant grin ear to ear, loving the open road on this massive downhill. I felt the speed of our police escort passing the rider "package" to close highways roads and intersections ahead & fully appreciated the "dance" they did as they escorted us into Merritt. I caught my breath realizing I was RIDING MY BIKE THRU THE BLOODY SNOWSHED for crying out loud. Who gets to do that?! I shouted at the wind when it tested me. I pushed through pain. I witnessed and experienced relentless kindness around me & watched a hundred strong "support and crew" (SAG) & cheer team members do everything in their power to keep the rider team motivated, hydrated, warm, safe, hold our gear & literally feed us if required. I saw new friendships develop, nicknames coined, learned the importance of lipstick, sang to my favorite songs while mountains faced me, and laughed at ridiculous jokes as cycling delirium set in. I saw crowds of people cheering, others crying, had dear friends show up unexpected when I needed them the most & heard shouts off of balconies urging us on. I saw my legs withstand the longest day ever and arrive safely home to Delta to the sound of pipes and the waiting arms of friends & family. I finished with my team. Feel my heart here, there's symbolism in all of this. And then I blinked and it was over.
But it wasn't over. It isnt. This community is now a part of me, and they're stuck with me. This fundraiser & ride has meant so much. I did it for Mom, I saw her sun-ray creep thru the open clouds in Mission. I chanted under my breath "Caitlyn is only 3, keep going" and "chemo is harder" when my legs were screaming. I wrote more names on my legs that reminded me why: Taylor, Addie, Billy, Cherri, Steph, Shannon, Tracey. We have farther to go, but caring people can make change. WE are stronger together. Watch for the evolution of Ride2Survive. We will be back.