27 Aug 2009
Tour for Kids Ontario 2009
My friend and workmate Daniel Griffiths has just completed a 4 day cycling tour in Ontario, Canada, fund raising for Children with Cancer. Below is his account of the journey.
Well 4 days have now passed since the end of the 2009 Tour for Kids (T4K) Ontario and the last of the lactic acid has gone from my legs for sure. I wanted to thank you once again for your support and encouragement, and also to just share a bit of my experience of being part of this fantastic event.
In total there were about 350 riders registered for the ride, about 225 for the 4 day epic and another 125 weekenders. I had signed up as part of the Lapdogs Cycling Club team and we had all committed to riding the 160km distance on each day – for those of you out there who prefer good old imperial measurements, yes that is 100 miles – the original century ride. The “century” is still very much the yard stick for cyclists looking to push their limits. Runners have marathons, cyclists have century rides!
The fundraising goal that T4K had set was $850,000. It is great to be able to tell you that as of this evening the fund raising total sits at $886,000!! They may still hit the million dollar mark as pledges continue to come in. YOU were a part of that. My fund raising total was $2690 from a total of 50 sponsors – fantastic!! Again, thank you!!
The tour for me was an incredible experience. It was so well organized that it allowed me to focus on really dropping into the zone mentally and physically. The routes were challenging with rolling hills that were just relentless, but all through some pretty spectacular countryside. Whoever said Ontario was flat obviously never rode a bike through the Kawartha Lake District, Haldimand Hills and Haliburton Highlands! Unfortunately I did not complete all four days of cycling. I went into the tour with a couple of niggling injuries and they were to be my nemesis. I completed 3 full days, but with 20K to go on day 3 I felt something pop in my left knee and ankle and I knew something was not right. Last year I suffered a similar injury in my right leg so the feeling was familiar to me. I was pretty sure that I has dislocated my fibula. So on Saturday evening I spent some time laid out in the middle of the camp site on my cell phone talking to my mate Lester while he tried to diagnose the issues over the phone and talk me through getting the bones back into alignment (yes, fibula, talus bone and phalangeals!). Quite a comical situation in a weird kind of way – especially as I was getting eaten alive by mozzies and later found out that Lester was most way through a bottle of good Australian Shiraz! That night the staff from the children’s camp that came to talk to the tour riders delivered their presentation and talked about “failure”. Their message was that they talk to the kids at camp not about failing but only failing to try. My mind was made up. I was getting on that bloody bike on Sunday morning; at least I would try to start the ride.
So Sunday morning came and I tried. Within 500 metres I knew that riding 160km was going to be physically impossible. Pulling off the road and watching my pace group carry on up the hill without me was tough. It was not how I had envisioned finishing the Tour. I had really wanted to ride over the finish line with my crew and see Sarah & George there as I rode in. But, sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand and I figure that is what happens with the all the kids we were riding for. The real test is how you respond and react, what you do after that really counts. The ride sweeps helped me coast back to the start point where I then had to wait for a support vehicle to pick me up and get me to the finish. While I was there waiting another cyclist came in who appeared to be abandoning the ride so I went to see why. He had been involved in a collision on his bike and the rear derailleur had been snapped off the frame. So he was fine but his bike was done. I figured that his bike and I made a good pair; my bike and him would make a better pair! We were about the same height so that was that – I offered him my bike, he jumped on grinning like a Cheshire cat and sped off to try and catch his group! I would just find him and my bike at the finish line at the end of the day. So my bike finished the tour even though I did not!
Each day before we would all set off to ride, we were all introduced to a family that had dealt with (or were still dealing with) childhood cancer. They talked about their story and their experience. In all cases their children had been to either Camp Trillium, Camp Quality or Camp Oochigeas and the message was always the same. Camp was great medicine for their kids and exuded its own special kind of magic. It really brought hope into their lives. In essence that was the message of the whole weekend – hope. It may shock you to know (it did me) that there are 10,000 children in Canada living with cancer. It is the single largest cause of death in Canadian children. The good news is that with advancement in technology and medicine, 80% of children diagnosed with cancer now survive. The sad part of that is that 50% of that number will have to live with long term side effects usually caused by the treatment. Unlike treatment in adults, the treatment in children takes years – leukaemia for example generally takes 3 years of treatment. It is no wonder these kids grow up so fast.
The camps that benefit from the funds raised on this tour provide a unique opportunity for these children to spend 2 weeks away from home with other children that have similar experiences. Each evening one of the 3 camps would come and talk to the tour riders about what they do and why this fund raising is so important; number one reason being that they receive NO government funding, so without events like this they would not be able to operate. After being involved this year I know that I never want to see that happen. I heard too many inspiring stories and met too many inspired people to ever turn a blind eye and walk away from this. Like the 15 year old boy who slept in the bunk next to me on the last night. I just figured he was a young kid on the ride with his dad. Next morning during the dedications he stepped onto the stage with his dad; he had been battling leukaemia and just finished his last chemo treatment 2 weeks earlier, and here he was riding with everyone else! Then there was Chris Greig. The 21 year old guy who rode across Canada this year (unsupported!) to celebrate the life and courage of his best friend (Mike) who lost his 3.5 year battle to cancer in 2004 at the age of 17. Chris wanted to let Mike’s family know that friends were still thinking of him and would never forget him. What a story this guy has. If you want to read a bit more about it click the link below. He currently has it posted with Tim Horton’s for their “Best Road Trip Story” that involved Tim’s this summer – yes, Chris ate a lot of Tims’s bagels and muffins!