Monday, June 21, 2010

It's working

Patrick Sullivan, captain of Team Finn and father of Finn Sullivan who died in 2008 made a pledge at last years ride that in 2010 he would be back with his team (of then 12) and they would be 100 riders strong. This year, the pink jersey's of Team Finn were 152 riders strong and together they raised over $500,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation. As such an incredible ambassador, Patrick was given the privilege and opportunity to tour hospitals and speak directly with researchers and doctors working to find a cure for cancer. He addressed the crowd at camp Saturday night with one message. It's working.

This years Ride to Conquer Cancer was 2,252 riders large and the funds raised totalled 9.2 million dollars. The clear and constant message is that we're making progress. Every dollar raised goes directly into the fight against cancer and while this road is long, this battle is tough, this task seems overwhelming, this is clear - Cancer. Will. Not. Win.

What an incredible weekend. We couldn't have asked for better weather Saturday. It was a beautiful day in Vancouver and spirits were high at the opening ceremonies. Riding out the start gates and through city blocks of supporters cheering and holding signs that read "Thank You All" it became overwhelming as it was suddenly very clear how much support there was out there. Not just for me obviously, but how many others had stories and reasons of their own for being there. Family and friends, just like mine out to support and do something in the name of those they have loved and maybe lost. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking in the same moment.

This weekend was not just about me and my loss. I wasn't the only one who lost someone this year. My sisters lost their stepmom, my aunt and uncles lost their sister and countless people lost a friend. To keep those people with me and recognize their loss and their support in fighting this fight too, attached to the back of my bike were the ribbons from some of the flower arrangements at Mom's service in January. There was one from my sister's that reads "Grandma Noie" one from her best friend Barb that says "Dearest Friend" and the ribbon from my flowers that says "Mom".

This really was an epic event. While the distances were somewhat daunting and we weren't sure "how fast" we going going to be able to go, we were quickly humbled by the variety of riders we saw. We saw mountain bikes, touring bikes (saddle bags and all), tandem bikes and believe it or not... there was even a unicycle.

Young and old, lean and round, they were all out there. The numbers of "cyclist" in full spandex and sponsor jersey's were far out numbered by average joe/jane who took this on as a challenge. The route was designed specifically for the non-cyclist taking every easy option avoiding large hills and high traffic areas. Scenery and entertainment were paramount on this ride. The pit stops were perfectly distanced apart and each one was stocked with food and water from the first peloton passing through to the last group of ladies and their flashy green wigs creatively fastened to their helmets whom arrived many hours later.

Camp on day 1 was incredibly organized. We arrived, racked our bikes and walked strategically and with great purpose first to the massage tent to book our free 15min rub down, then directly to the beer tent for our complimentary cold beverage. Once we took care of our parched pouters we picked up our bags at the truck we left it with in Vancouver and then over to our pre-assigned and already set up tent. Brilliant. We laid out our sleeping bags and grabbed our shower kits and fresh clothes and headed to the shower trailers. Expecting a soggy, dribble of luke warm (if we were lucky) water we were pleasantly surprised to find luxury mobile shower units complete with enough hot water for all, clean cozy carpeted change rooms and complimentary toiletries from foot scrub to hair gel, q-tips and face cleanser. 5 star all the way.

Day two we were not so lucky with the weather and our hot breakfast was about the only thing we enjoyed warm and dry. As if on que, the rain began as soon as we sat on our bike seats. And rain was what it did - all day. Nonetheless, we made it through. We made it to the finish line together and smiling (ok maybe a little crying). My boyfriend and Kierstie's husband drove down to meet us there and they even surprised us on the route on the side of the road cheering and yelling with support. They lugged our bikes and all our gear back to the cars and drove us home.

Looking back, this was not just another event. This event changes lives. It helps those that need it. It supports those that need a little reminder not to give up fighting, that we are all in this together. 1 in 4 people in Canada will hear the words "you have cancer". Nearly everyone you know will have been touched by this disease be it directly or indirectly, and while I see that the dollars raised go directly to the cause (all riders and even the volunteers have to pay a fee to register to cover the costs of the event) and that we're making difference, the more rewarding difference we are making for me is that we are giving hope. Families are still struggling, people are still fighting and still winning battles every day. Witnessing a mass of people this large, all in it for the same cause generates the feeling of power, inspires hope and gives strength for another day. There is strength in numbers and together, we are making a difference.

Now that its all over, the question is not "would I do it again?" the question is - who's doing it with me in 2011? I've already registered. Anthony has already joined the team and as an incredible surprise on my ride home last night, I found out that two of my amazing, incredible and awesome sisters have registered and created a Powered By Noie team in Ontario for next year.

My goal for 2011 is to have a Powered By Noie team in BC, Ontario and Alberta, each province where Mom lived, loved and had an impact on peoples lives. I want to have at least 10 riders on the BC team and raise a minimum of $25,000. If you want to ride next year, PLEASE join our team, everyone is welcome no matter what your riding experience (Anthony's already signed up and the only bikes he rides are on a mountain and going downhill). If you live in Ontario - register and join Powered By Noie. You don't have to know my sisters... just join the team! Alberta - I'm coming after you next!

Finally, I promised that I would keep all my contributors in mind this weekend and I did. I have only two very simple, but very true and heartfelt words for you. Thank you.

Friday, June 18, 2010


So here we are. It was just a few short months ago when Kierstie and I decided to participate in this incredible event and join the fight against cancer. The fundraising was daunting and the training was going to be long, but we did it, here we are, ready to go.

First and foremost, we are so incredibly touched by the generosity of those that made contributions to our team. We set out with a goal of raising $5000 and in just 11 weeks, we've raised $6,307. We are so grateful for each gift, without you, we couldn't have done this.

So the training is done, the funds are raised and tomorrow the journey begins. The ride may only last for two days, but the Powered By Noie team is only starting to gain momentum. We've very quietly started telling people that we'll be coming back next year and already, our team has grown to 9 riders strong in BC. A friend of Mom's in Alberta has expressed interest and I know the support is in Ontario when I start looking for a team there. In 2011, Powered By Noie will span across Canada in each of the provinces where Mom had family, friends and an impact on peoples lives.

Our jerseys arrived on time and looking incredible. They are such a perfect expression and salute to Mom and what her lessons to us were.

The inspiration started with a "dream catcher". These native aboriginal pieces resemble spider webs and are are hung above or near your bed and are said to catch your dreams as you sleep. Mom had a few of these and believed in their powers. While the focal point of the jersey appears to be a flower at first glance, it's actually a closely cropped image of the center of a larger dream catcher.

Surrounding the dream catcher on either side are "power words" or words we used to both describe my Mom and what we learned from her. Repeated throughout the jersey (front and back) are the words inspire, reach, dream, conquer, perservere, laugh, love, live, happy, believe, influence, spirit, beautiful, confidence, independent,friendships, sisterhood, patience, smile, listen, kindness, fearless, miracles, family, angels.

There are two yellow panels on each side of the jersey and written length wise in white is "REACH" on the left and "INSPIRE" on the right. These are easily readable while we're riding to anyone looking at us and this way we remind others to reach for their dreams and by doing so, continue inspiring others to do the same.

Finally, my most favourite part. What you can't see is inside the collar, tightly hugged around our necks, the word "DREAM" is woven in amongst a vine of Forget Me Nots, one of Mom's favourite flowers and a perfectly appropriate symbol of why we're here.

Tomorrow morning Kierstie and I and 2000 other riders leave Vancouver at 7am to cover 262km's on our bikes. We are riding to remember those that we lost. We ride to support those that are still fighting. We ride so that some day, we won't have to ride anymore.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Becoming real

By last Wednesday I had had enough of the grey and rain in Vancouver and with very little planning, packed my things and headed to Penticton in search of heat, training and sun. I've found all three.

Thanks to a great friend that lives here, I've got super stellar accommodations right in Penticton. I arrived Thursday by noon and by 12:35 I was in the lake for my first swim in OK Lake. The water was a bit cold and I got the heebie-jeebies swimming alone once I couldn't see the bottom of the lake. I normally do fine in open water, but something spooks me about being out there alone. I guess I figure if OgoPogo or the OK Lake Creepy Crawlies are going to swoop in and have me for brunch, if I was with a group of people, then being a part of a sea monster buffet was just my fate. However, swimming alone is just setting yourself up for disaster - far less selection. Plus, my Mom told me never to swim alone.

Anyhow, after lunch I headed out for a nice and easy 1:35min run. Since I had never actually seen the Ironman run course after it leaves downtown Penticton, I was SO excited to finally be running it (or part of it anyway).

This whole "awesome" approach to training has been incredible. Since redirecting my focus from performance to attitude, my entire experience has changed. I feel better, I train better and even though I haven't done any number crunching, I wouldn't be surprised to see that I'm getting faster.

Being here in Penticton has a completely different feeling for me this year. It's really real now and in a few short months I'll be running these streets and calling myself an Ironman. Unbelievable. I was thinking about that as I ran along side beautiful Skaha Lake and the smile on my face was ear to ear. Anyone passing me must have thought I was crazy. For approximately 16km's I was grinning so huge that at some points I was laughing. I'm just so proud and happy to be here.

Today I went out for an epic bike ride in the valley. Last year I was so impressed with British Columbia when I rode out in Osoyoos for the first time. The desert and mountains and lakes are amazing. Today though, I rode some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. Not just in BC or in Canada - ever, anywhere. I left from Pentiction and past Skaha Lake into OK Falls and took a somewhat backroad (paved obviously) and rode up and over the mountain pass into the valley. Wineries, ranches, desert and beautiful, incredible, postcard perfect emerald green and turquoise lakes. The day was perfect - blue bird sky and 28 degrees. Awesome.

While it was a pretty ride scenery wise, I certainly worked for it. There are very little flats in the Okanagan. Seems your almost always either going up or coming down. After 4 hours of riding, I was toast. I definitely deserved that funky-monkey booster juice and the nap on the beach afterwards.

Tomorrow, another swim and an equally epic 2:30 run coming my way. Can't wait.

I brought my camera but it died before I could take the first photo. This shot from my blackberry as I cruised down a mountain road will have to do for now. It does no justice.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Book of Awesome

What an amazing week. Following last weeks stellar training performances, I spent a bit of time crusin' through a bunch of different blogs that I like to follow. Through one of these, I found a link to an inspiring post-race, race report from an obviously talented long course triathlete. Seeing as my theme of the day was "feeling awesome" this guys report was both timely and relevant.

He mentions early in his post that when it came to his training, choosing his mental state was not enough, he was going to have to practice it. This made a whole lot of sense too me, especially after my promise to celebrate every success with myself. So that's what I did this week - I practiced feeling awesome.

It started with simple things, like keeping a big hardy grin on my face as I walk to and from the pool. Then it turned into a skip in my step and a bounce during my run, but on Thursday, my practising awesomeness kicked into high gear.

It's been raining and basically crap weather in Vancouver for God knows how long now and although Kierstie and I had planned a rain-or-shine training ride, we still bailed out due to the torrential downpour we were experiencing downtown. I mean, it was raining puddles. So instead we opted for the much dryer (and far more rare) trip to the gym. Gasp! I know... the gym (I hate the gym). I took advantage of the machines and free weights that were available on this one time guest pass opportunity I was granted and we worked our upper bodies like there would never be another chance to do another Lat Pull Down... ever. Well wouldn't you know it, but before our workout was over, the rain stopped. So, not missing any opportunity, I ditched the free weights and ran home to jump on my bike. I was headed out for the 60km ride I had originally planned for.

Ok - so after 45km's of hills on the North Shore, I was starting to feel that gym workout. Plus, in all my excitement of clear skies I forgot to eat after the gym. Time to start practising awesome. Ever heard that phrase "fake it 'till ya make it"?

I was riding like I was dragging a spare tire behind me. I had almost made it home but there was still one very large obstacle in my way. That damn Lions Gate Bridge is my nemesis. It's always a bitch to get over, especially at the end of a hard (or what feels like hard) ride. Any how, up I went. Head down I imagined a giant magnet on the back of the guy who was in front of me. I pictured my legs attached to a pulley system that with each spin of my pedals, pulled me closer to the top. And finally, my mind was roaring. Screaming! BOOMING like a machine - I FEEL AWWWWWESOMMMME!

Well it worked. The guy in front of me never dropped me and I moved up and over that stupid bridge 3km's /hr faster than on my best of days.

So maybe practise will make perfect. I figure if I want to race feeling awesome, I should train that way to.

If that wasn't enough, this weekend while shopping around my fav wholesale membership club chain warehouse for a years supply of toilet paper and toothpaste, from out of the corner of my eye I see a book staring me down. I kid you not - The Book of AWESOME.

A totally different kind of awesome. Like high-fiving babies, putting on underwear right out of the dryer and remembering that movie that that guy is from. That kind of awesome. Any how, since it was my theme of the week, I figured I can't pass up such an obvious sign from the universe and I made my whole sale purchase. Now have an book to bring to the beach and something new to share with all of you. See side bar for Sarah's Fav Awesome Things.

Finally, I'll end on letting everyone know that Powered By Noie has raised over $6,100 for this years Ride To Conquer Cancer. That's so incredible. Kierstie and I are so ready for this ride and we are so grateful for all the support we've received. Thank you all so very much. The ride is in less than two weeks and we can't wait.

Happy training everyone! Train happy, train healthy!