Veni, Vidi, Vici

or, as Bill Murray said in Ghostbusters: We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

On Saturday, June 19th, 2,250 riders showed up to a mall in Surrey, BC.  They departed said mall at 7am and rode 84 miles to Mount Vernon, WA. The next day they rode 76 miles to Redmond, WA.  Those 2,250 riders raised $9.2 MILLION dollars. The expenses of the ride (food, tents, sign, support staff, gas, materials, shirts, organization, website, administration, etc. were reported at about $1M. So $8.2 Million dollars went directly to cancer research.) There were easily 500 support staff members with us on the ride.

At the start, the mall was crowded with bikes, and many of us did not clip in for the first half mile because of the likelihood of stopping quickly to avoid crashing into the bike in front of us. Escorted by police motorbikes through the town of Surrey, things thinned out as we found ourselves edging toward the border. Pastoral Canada, with its smells of cows and sights of green grass and berry farms (“they say blueberries are going to be cheap this year, because of all of the extra coming in from the states, eh”) greeted us on our first 20km out.

That’s how you measured this thing: in Km’s. The whole way… It was an average of 20-30kms between pit stops (except for the border crossing one — there was one at Peace Arch and one in an elementary school in Blaine, and if your map is telling you that’s only like 4 km apart your map is right) and each stop was fueled with water, Gatorade, snacks, a medical setup, and bike mechanics.

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t need a bike mechanic the whole trip, nor did I fall.

Out of Blaine we headed to Bellingham, where the hills greeted us. Quite a few of them, in fact. We rode one that gently curved upward for what seemed forever — the hill itself was more than a mile long and at least a 5% grade– ate lunch, and then got on another, larger one. What goes up must come down, though, and we found ourselves screaming down the other side at speeds above 30 mph — in some cases faster than the cars were allowed to go.

The weather on Saturday was gorgeous.

We landed in Mount Vernon, managed to acquire beers and food and shower (not in that order: actual order was — as defined by me — beer gear shower food beer bed) and slept in tents.

Sunday morning the mist greeted us, and then followed it up with some rain, which lasted most of the day. It was a pretty straight slog for the first 50 miles or so, and then the ride managed to find every single large hill in Woodinville. Unlike the slow, lengthy climbs of the day before, these were steep, “stepping stone” type hills– go up this 9% grade hill for about 4 blocks, hit the top, and realize that a block later you will do it again. The temptation to give up and take the “quitters van” — the aide van that would happily take you to the next pit stop without any hesitation — was huge. Then you’d see an older rider huffing and puffing it to the top, with their yellow flag on their bike (Cancer Survivor). And you’d be ashamed of yourself, switch gears and tell your bike, “C’mon, let’s take this hill. It can’t be that bad.”

At points the cold and wet was bad enough to numb the fingers, when I found I could neither brake nor steer I got off the bike and walked a bit, then sat in the aide van (while it was parked) to warm up the hands. As the blood rushed back into them, it stung, and I got back on my bike.

I personally talked to 9 cancer survivors on this ride, but there were quite possibly as many as a hundred. One was 11 years cancer-free from a soft-tissue cancer in her back she got at 13. One was an elderly man 5 years free of bladder cancer. One was a year past his chemo, and his daughter suggested the ride. She was with him — in spirit, as he was waaaaaaay ahead of her on the course. And one said simply, “I’m doing this because when I was in the hospital for six months I didn’t feel like I fought all that much or all that hard. I laid in a bed, let them pump me full of chemo, and they fed me and were nice to me and tried to make me comfortable. I gained 40 pounds. I feel like I cheated, that I’m cancer free and I didn’t work all that hard. So I’m doing this to show that I can work hard.”

We’re doing it again in 2012. And this time, I’m raising $5,000.

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