I’m on my flight to Vancouver. The ‘oh dear, what did I sign up for?’ feeling seems to be lifting, and in its place is just a wish that I won’t hold up my team.
The thing is, I’m pretty new to cycling. I’ve always biked around – to my lifeguarding job as a teen, exploring the city when I lived in Toronto, and commuting to work and doing errands in Hamilton. Yet, I only bought a road bike and started logging real kms three years ago, when I was convinced to do Tour for Kids. (For context, many of my fellow riders have been road cycling for 30+ years). I had a few colleagues who’d done the National ride before, who then convinced me that I should be able to train for it. So, being a mix of ambitious and stubborn, I signed up.
I rode on a trainer in my house through the winter as I began to collect donations. I have to say, knowing I owed it to everyone who had been sponsoring me, helped get me off the couch after my Dad died – and that helped a lot in so many ways. I took off the red trainer wheel in March and started riding outside. Then, the last week of May, THIS happened.
I was hopping off a fence (long story… not at all exciting… I was just being my impatient self), and my foot landed, while my leg kept going – it slipped off my ankle like a scoop of icecream from a cone. The quick dislocation-relocation injury gave me second-degree tears in most of the ligaments on both sides of my ankle, hurt some nerves and landed me in a boot cast for a couple weeks. While I could get back on the trainer shortly after, it really took a while before I was back out properly training on the road, right in the middle of when I was supposed to be making big gains in fitness. Working all summer as an academic pediatric oncologist, I didn’t have much space to build in extra rides to make up the lost time. So I went to Tour for Kids, to ride with my National teammates for the first time (having missed the training rides in my cast) near the end of Aug, filled with nerves. I was slower than the rest, but with their help and encouragement finished 160, 160 and 100km over the three days.
Many people were surprised that I was still going to try to ride after my injury (beyond the surprise that I had signed up for this thing in the first place). But with my physiotherapist telling me it was safe, I felt like the ride might even carry more impact. You see, as an oncologist, I watch kids and teens struggle every day with the physical impacts of the therapies I recommend. This includes the little kiddos with ALL who start treatment with a month of steroids and get so weak in the big muscles of their arms and legs that many parents have to carry those hungry, angry honeybadgers everywhere. It includes the teenagers with sarcomas who lose limbs, nerves and their independence to the surgeries that are necessary to try to save their lives. It includes young adult survivors of childhood cancer whose hearts start failing from treatment decades ago, who know that their best chance to living well with this problem includes being active and losing weight. To all these people, I have been saying – ‘Let’s do it together. I know your legs hurt, and mine do too… but we both need to keep working at it.’ It seems to be resonating.