Friday, July 9, 2010

The Ride2Survive

It has now been nearly three weeks since the "big day" and I am still somewhat in awe of not only what I have accomplished for myself but what the entire group has accomplished - both for the cancer community with the fund-raising and awareness building as well as athletically. And, oh boy, what a big day it was!! I don't seem to get tired of telling people (and I am sure some wish I would!) and reminding myself: 400km - 12,000 feet of climbing - 15 hours of net riding time over the span of 19 hours - about $300,000 raised for the Canadian Cancer Society with almost $3,500 from the ├╝ber-generous friends that have supported me. BIG DAY indeed!

Here now some of my ramblings on how this all came about and how I perceived this wonderful experience.

It all started very shortly after last year's Ride To Conquer Cancer. My friend Tim told me about this other ride to support cancer research called "Ride2Survive". A ride in which the riders get bussed up to Kelowna on a Friday and then spend the better part of Saturday riding back to Delta. What?? Are you kidding me?? All the way from Kelowna to Delta in one day? Surly not! But I Googled it and there it was. And I was quite intrigued...

We started talking some more about it and eventually made the plan to participate in 2010. We got other people roped into the idea as well and started forming a small team. Initially it was Tim, Lawrence, Kehl, and I. Then Alex, with whom we did the R2CC last year, was also keen and joined us. And when I told my friend Sean about it he was all over it as well. Over time, unfortunately, two of the team members had to bow out with injuries and two more were not able to commit to the required training time due to family commitments. So on Ride Day there was only Alex and I left. But we did have the pleasure of having the moral support, and so much more, from the other team members.

Sometime in late January we had the first R2S orientation meeting in Delta. It was interesting and when they presented the training plan for 2010 we quickly realized that we would not be able to have many training rides with the group. For once it would be very hard for us to go out to Delta as neither Lawrence nor I have a car, and also their training plan did just not jive with our combined R2S and Triathlon training plans. In the end I only managed to ride with that group twice but was very glad to get those rides in.

There were some training rides that really stuck in my mind though (all links go to the Garmin data for that ride):

  • Late last year a 3-hour ride in the pouring rain - by myself! Go figure… it rains and all of a sudden no one could make it.

  • First Century - a ride of 100 miles - that even included Mt. Seymour

  • The North Shore Trifecta: Mt. Seymour followed by Cypress Mountain and then Horse Shoe Bay. And yes, I know, HSB is not really a mountain but just some "rollers". But after Seymour and Cypress, every little hill felt like a mountain to me.

  • First 200k ride! If I recall correctly I did the second 100k on my own.

  • That crazy ride where we cycled to South Surrey to meet up with Leigh and Heather on 0-Ave. This ride had it all… torrential rain, sunshine, great company, great roads and shit roads and even some highways we were not supposed to be on. A garden variety flat and a spectacularly blown out tire as well as some stress injuries. Oh yea, and a Massey-Tunnel-Bike-Shuttle-Schedule-misread-by-Klaus… (sorry boys!).

  • And my favorite training ride: Whistler and back the day after my birthday. Fully supported by the most awesome TKU (Tracy and Kehl Union) who made sure we always had something to eat, our water bottles re-filled, and were safe and well entertained.

  • Finally, my second and last training ride with the R2S group I was able to do. We were supposed to do Cypress at the end but the weather was so horrible that it would simply be too unsafe. So the ride captains decided to do a loop around UBC instead. This was probably the coldest I have been on a bike!

Two weeks before Ride Day my training plan had the Oliver Half Ironman on it and while I thoroughly enjoyed the race, I did not do nearly as well on the swim and bike portion than I was hoping for. But Oliver is always a treat, I learned some more racing specific things (like not to have expired yogurt that has been cooking in the car the day prior for breakfast) and so I am not complaining.

On the Thursday before Ride Day I took the day off work, went with Esther to her store - the Minuteman Press on SE Marine Drive - in the morning and took a quick spin on my bike out to River Road and back. Then I drove to Delta to drop the bike off at Cap's South Shore Cycles and used the remainder of the day to prepare and make sure I did not forget anything to the next day.

Friday morning I went with Esther to the store again where Alex and a friend of his picked me up for the ride out to Cap's in Delta. There we got our ride numbers; fixed the fenders to make sure the flaps are long enough just in case it rains; loaded our gear and ourselves on the assigned busses and off to Kelowna we were.

I packed plenty of lunch stuff and reading material. The lunch stuff I really needed - but not the reading material… We first listened to a recording of stand-up comedian Russell Peters and followed by several episodes of season 1 of Modern Family. Lots of laughs! Quick stop in Merritt and the bus trip was over in a hurry.

In Kelowna we first checked into the Accent Inn where we Alex and I would share a room for whatever little sleep we expected to get. Next we went back to the church that was our Kelowna staging point, where dinner was going to be served and where we would have our ride-eve meeting.

The bikes were fitted with the fenders, handle bars turned straight again, the pedals put back on, ensured that the tires had the right pressure, and finally we put the ride numbers and some Ride2Survive stickers on.

While we were fussing with our toys err bikes, the awesome volunteers from the church made us a classic spaghetti dinner with meat sauce (no meat option available as well), Caesar salad, and garlic bread - and a wicked carrot cake for desert. Yum!!

While the church volunteers fixed the dinner, the R2S volunteers prepped tons of food for the next day. (Again with the food… always with the food… by now you surely will have noticed a pattern.)

After dinner we milled about a bit while the volunteers and the ride captains had a meeting on their own. After that there were a few more words of thanks and reminders of the rules for the next day from Kerry Kunzli - the driving force behind the R2S with his wife Vicki and daughter Aimee.

At around 7:00 PM we went around the room - some 100+ people - and everyone briefly mentioned their reason for participating in this event; whether as volunteer, solo or relay rider. This was incredibly emotional! Though it also had some funny moments and laughs. As insidious as cancer may be, this really showed that it has not been able to kill our good humor and the spirit of the people.

All the stories were deeply personal and moving, but three particularly stuck out:

First the well-spoken boy (I am not sure how old he is as I am not good with guessing ages - but not 15 yet) who so bravely told the story of how his mother passed away from cancer not long ago.
Then the lady who volunteered and was able to do so because of a new treatment option that allowed her to avoid chemo. New treatment that was discovered because funding was available for research!
And last but not least Dennis who 18 months ago was diagnosed with lung cancer. Dennis never smoked, worked in a coal mine, or had contact with asbestos - cancer didn't care. After having had a good part of his lung removed and was in extensive treatment he wanted to do something meaningful for the cancer community and signed up for the Ride2Survive. But he also wanted to do more… so he contacted Lance Armstrong, told him about his fight with cancer and what the Ride2Survive is doing, and got a letter from Lance in response just before the ride. Dennis told us that he spoke to some 17 doctors who worked on him during his ordeal and asked them why they came to work in BC. One common theme among the answers was because of how much the community here cares and supports cancer research with events such as this.

All in all, very powerful stuff!

Suddenly it was past 9:00 PM and it was time to try to get at least some sleep. Well, good luck with that… the excitement running pretty high and we had to get up early. Really early! Like 2:25 AM early!! There were going to be volunteers starting to shuttle people from the hotel to the church starting at 3:00 AM.

If we are willing to believe Alex unconditionally, I was snoring half the night and he got even less sleep. Well… I am not so sure about that?!

In any case, we did get up brutally early and were ready to head out of the door just before 3:00 AM. Actually… Alex did look a little tired.

Breakfast at the church was much needed coffee and oatmeal - and the group was off at 4:00 AM sharp!

As we rode out of Kelowna with the sun coming up it was absolutely stunning! We stopped briefly in Westbank after less than an hour of riding to load up some more food, adjust clothing as needed (it was still pretty nippy), and go for another quick pee-stop. (notice to my triathlon friends: yes, some people actually stop what they are doing to pee)

From here we stopped approximately every hour to hour-and-a-half for about 10 minutes to ensure we always had enough water and/or energy drink and food - and of course bio breaks.

The food available was absolutely astounding - both in quality and quantity! There were bananas, oranges, nut mix, sticky rice balls with all sorts of goodness in them, savory crepes, roasted potatoes, chips, luncheon meats, pretzels, twizzlers, and so much more! And that is not even counting the two longer stops where we also had warm food. To put it into perspective: over the 19 hour time span that included 15 net hours of riding at 25.3 km/h average speed covering 380 km… I gained weight!

The Volunteers! OMG the volunteers were awesome all around, but specifically when it came to fill up water bottles. At all stops they came and took the bottle/s from you and asked what you needed: water, eLoad, or Refresh. And next thing your bottles were filled and back to you or even on your bike already. And every stop all of the 80+ ride bags were lined up in case we needed anything. So they hauled all the bags out the truck, lined them up, and at the end loaded them back into the truck - for over a dozen rest stops! At the lunch/dinner stops there was no need to go to the food tables - the volunteers had a plate full with delicious food in your hands before you had chance to even think about getting one. At the Merritt lunch stop a volunteer asked me if I wanted some desert while I was still eating my main plate and I told her "thanks, maybe later, for new I want to see if there is some soup". Before I finished my plate she came back with soup for me! So lovely!! And yes, I also had some desert after that :-)
And at the Hope dinner stop she remembered me and asked if she could get me some soup.

As for the physical challenge, I was quite worried about going over two passes and being able to keep up with the group. Right at the beginning the Pennask Summit with an 800 meter climb over 30km and then the Coquihalla climb. But all my worries were unfounded and my training - including the constant pushing by Lawrence - did the trick. At all times I had good energy and found the pace very manageable. I was even able to briefly give some other riders a push that appeared to be struggling.

Here is a link to the Garmin output for the ride. Unfortunately the last 17.5 km are missing as my Garmin 310XT finally ran out of power. The actual end point was at Cap's South Shore Cycles on Scott Road and 80th Ave.

Having fuelled and hydrated properly - again due to the outstanding care and assistance by the volunteers - and using the energy and drafting benefits of the group along with the quite frequent mini breaks, I never felt depleted or physically exhausted. The hardest part for me was the mental fatigue. Getting up really early and having a 20+ hour day, 15 of which were spent cycling in a tight group where one has to be quite alert, does take quite a toll. The next hardest thing - or maybe this was the hardest, I am not sure - was the behind… Ouch! Let me just say: thanks for Chamois Butt'r! And also thanks for high quality cycling gear and the R2S veterans who recommended bringing as many kits as one has. I wore a total of three changes of gear - and liberally applied the Chamois Butt'r with every change! And still, toward the end I rode many a kilometer standing up.

Speaking of the end… coming up on Scott Road and towards 80th Ave and Cap's was totally surreal! Now Alex and I were riding together and he was so tired that he kept hitting all the potholes. By now it was pitch dark! The closer we got, the more people lined the road and cheered. Many - most - of them dressed in yellow to commemorate cancer survivors and victims alike. Except on the bikes we could really not see many details what with all the darkness and flash photography. The feeling was indescribable! Amazed at what we had done; happy to be off our bikes for the day; glad to see so many people coming out to support us; dead-freaking-tired!

Once we were in the parking lot and off the bikes our friends and supporters found us pretty quickly. Of course Esther was there, as were my friends Grahme, Kevin, Kehl, Gen (with cowbell), and Lawrence. Kevin also made good on his promise to cheer me in with a Stella at the ready - not that there was any doubt about that. And oh boy did that beer taste good! And it was all it took to get me completely plastered… cheap drunk I was that night for sure.

Alex' wife and son and his friend who drove us out to Delta the day before (was it really only the day before??) were there as well.

Kehl volunteered as the driver once again and gave us all a lift home. Once there I pretty much collapsed into bed and slept the better part of Sunday!

Participation in an event like this would not be possible without the help of some totallysuperwickedawesomecool people:

  • Before all, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my lovely wife Esther who has supported me all the way through training and not complained about the many Saturdays that I spent on the bike for the better part of the day. Or about when I was home that I was so knackered that I was not of much use for anything…

  • More than 60 individuals who supported me and donated almost $3,500 in total to the Canadian Cancer Society.

  • Tracy and Kehl (aka the TKU) who offered their time for an entire Saturday as support crew for one of our very long training rides - to Whistler and back.
    Thank you both so much - and we still owe you dinner!

  • Special thanks also to Lawrence who had to make the painful decision to pull out of the ride just over a month before Ride Day and who kept me very honest in the training. Dude… it paid off in spades; thanks!

  • All the other athletes - triathletes and runners alike - from the The Right Shoe training groups who kept giving me encouragement.

  • Big thanks to my tri and running Coach Lara Penno for her constant advice, unfailing moral support, and development of the training plan.

  • My buddy and lone remaining team mate, Alex, for hanging in there with the training despite missing a lot of time with his beautiful son.

These are just the people that made it possible for me to be part of this. Big, huge, heartfelt thanks to all of you!!

There are countless more people who must be thanked for making the entire ride a reality. This begins of course with the Kunzli family and extends from there to all the volunteers on the ride as well as in Kelowna and in Delta; the Ride Captains; the businesses that supported the R2S in various ways - first and foremost Cap's South Shore Cycles; the police officers who gave up their personal time off to escort the riders for the majority of the ride; and so many more.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Will I do it again? Probably; but not next year. Next year is booked solely for Ironman Canada - training and racing. After the R2CC last year and the Ride2Survive this year I think it is also not such a bad idea to give my network of friends a break from being hit up for donations. No matter how good the cause! They all have been so incredibly generous for two years in a row that it seems somewhat indecent to keep asking.

But I am not ruling it out that I am going to participate as a volunteer!

Should you do it? Absolutely!! If you ride a bike even just a very little - err scratch that. Even if you do not ride a bike at all but are not opposed to the idea of it and can commit to an admittedly somewhat time consuming training ride schedule, you CAN DO IT! And you will love it. And you will feel great about yourself. And you will have done something phenomenal to help beat cancer. And you will have improved your fitness level beyond what you thought possible. And so much more!

And if you cannot commit to the training or riding a bike is not for you, you can always volunteer and have just as much fun - without the saddle sores!

Official Ride2Survive Pictures on Flickr

Letter from Lance Armstrong to Dennis and the R2S Group


  1. That is awesome man. You hit 74km/h at on point!

    I feel bushed after 300m of climbing on my mountain bike. I can't imagine 4000+ of climbing.

  2. Congratulations Klaus - so very proud of you bud! Elena

  3. Big brother!!, it will be a forever moment for this ride and true enough, we both have wonderful wife to support our training and the ride. Whenever you decide to ride next time, I will do it but I am going to sleep in my own room...hahaha~

  4. How to go Klaus. I now run with some folks who also did the ride. Very inspiring!