A lesson in resilience

I didn’t want to get on the bike today. I normally ride first thing in the morning – after my coffee…I’m not insane. And normally my ride, which takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours plus stretching and core work, seems to consume most of my morning. But this morning was one I didn’t want to share. My oldest’s best friend’s birthday was today and we were celebrating Covid-style with a little parade past his house blaring music and waving signs and doing our best to create a special moment in a time of difficult moments. I knew if I got on the bike there was a good chance we would be late, and I was not going to risk it. So I made the decision to ride in the afternoon.

Three o’clock hit and I had some time to sneak off and jump on my bike. But I didn’t want to. My kids were playing outside and I was longing to be out there with them trying to soak up the now fleeting days of summer. I wanted to be out tending my gardens, feeling the sunshine, and listening to the hockey sticks slapping the pavement and their cheers of joy when they scored a goal. The problem was I had made a commitment.

I signed up to take part in the Great Cycle Challenge where riders from across Canada take to the pavement or their stationary bikes to rack up kilometers in the month of August. This is done to raise awareness about pediatric cancer and to collect donations for the SickKids Foundation – the charitable arm of The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. When I signed on I committed to riding 700 kms – a manageable goal based on what I was doing on the bike. I surpassed that goal this week, and so in a moment of confidence (delusion?) I upped the ante to 1,000 kms. I truly feel it is an honour to ride on behalf of the kids and their families. And so even though I did not want to do it, I hauled myself onto my bike and started to pedal.

Five minutes in and I wanted to get off. “Ok, just get to 5 kms before you quit” I lied to myself. And those first 5 kms were like having my mental wheels stuck in the mud…I had to push myself so hard. But I just kept pedaling. At 20 minutes in I told myself “just make it to 30 minutes and then you will be half way done and it will feel easy”. And so I pushed. And you know what? It did get easy. The second half of the ride I picked up the pace and I continued to pick it up, and it continued to feel easy. I rode for 60 minutes, the first 20 minutes being a hard mental push, and the last 20 minutes being a hard physical push. And I got a PR…but more than that, I got a lesson in how important resiliency is. How important determination is. How important it is to just.keep.pedaling.

And after I was finished, I picked up my phone to check my emails and there was an update from one of the organizers with the subject line “This is it…” A reminder that we are in the final week of the challenge. And a message of “Let’s bring it home” from a boy named Alex. A boy who 2 years ago was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. A boy whose doctors had now determined was palliative. A boy who, no matter what he faced, was not going to give up. And that made all of it worth it. I only wish there was more that I could do.

I will be on my bike tomorrow…

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