Tour For Kids 2005 - Jana Marshall

To My Friends and Family, My Supporters,

I want to thank you so much for supporting me in my ride with Tour For Kids, to help support Camps Oochigeas, Trillium and Quality; camps that support children and families of children with cancer.

My four day adventure was challenging, exciting and very inspiring.

It all started with quite a BANG – or maybe I should say PSSSSSSSSST. That’s the sound of a tire going flat after just 3 kms of riding. Yes, I was barely out of the CNE grounds on the lakeshore with 177 kms to go when I got the tour’s first flat. Fortunately, a tour marshal came by and stopped to fix my tube only to find that my tire was split. It looked like I would have to take a shuttle to the first rest stop to meet up with the mechanics. After I swore (a little louder than just under my breath), I think Kevin, the tour marshal, realized how upset I was at missing some of the ride; so using his adventure racing skills, he managed to make a temporary fix for my tire. Then we (Kevin and my 2 friends, Anne and Jonathan, who had waited for me) were off, to catch the other riders – now long gone.

This was when we met Saint Peter – the policeman. He had seen our troubles and waited for us at the side of the road. He then escorted the four of us along Lakeshore Road all the way out to Mississauga Rd, stopping traffic at lights and letting us ride through all the red lights. That was pretty cool. We would meet up with Saint Peter at different times over the four days of our tour. He was instrumental in helping us maintain our high average speeds.

While, initially I was quite disappointed at not being part of the big group on Day 1, I quickly found out how lucky I really was. While cycling with the tour marshal, Kevin, I found myself talking to a bicycle store owner, an Eco-Challenge competitor (that’s the adventure race that lasts about 11 days and used to be televised on Discovery Channel) and a team member for the RAAM – that’s the Race Across America – a bicycle race that crosses the continent in about 9 days. If you thought what I was doing was crazy, they cycle non-stop taking a few hours nap here and there until they have crossed the whole continent. I felt like I was in the land of celebrities. Day 1 ended with cheers, whistles and claps from riders and families from Camp Quality as I rode into Markdale, 180kms from Toronto. Now, I felt like the celebrity! Tonight I had the opportunity to meet more riders and to chat and play games with the kids and families from Camp Quality.

Day 2 was a challenging day. The fastest riders head out early to ride 250km. I selected the 200km ride. We got pretty wet; water came at us from all directions. Rain from the heavens, and spray from the bikes and the road! I chose a pretty challenging group to ride with and it was really exciting. I learned a bit more about riding in an eschelon (a group cycling strategy to help each other out by breaking the wind for team members). I was keeping up fine, but working pretty hard – not quite sure when I might fall off the end of this group. But knowing that there was another group not too far behind, I figured I had nothing to loose. All went really well until the 150 km mark. There we had a break, but my legs were feeling pretty tired. Being optimistic, I reminded myself that the next break was just 25kms away. I really had to work hard to stay with the group now, but I was determined. I watched my bicycle computer counting down the kilometers. With one km to go, I thought “YES, I’ve made it.” But with about 100m to go, the leader shouted, “Anyone need to stop, or can we just roll on through. We’re just about there”. I shouted back, “How about a 2 minute break?.” But I obviously wasn’t heard (or perhaps I was being ignored). And on they went, and so did I. As we neared Minden the hills grew, and I just couldn’t hold on any longer. But once again, an angel was watching over me, and Freddie (today’s tour marshal) looked back and saw me, waited for me, then pulled me up to the group again. I was getting to know these tour marshal’s pretty well now (Remember, they are all fit, young, strong, good looking cyclists). Once with the group again, I held on and made it to camp. That was 200km and we averaged 29.7km/hr.

Day 3 dawned a little brighter. We were now heading from Minden to Wellington in Prince Edward County. At the start of the ride, members of yesterday’s group rallied to ride together again, and so we made up a similar group. Today was 230km – the biggest day. By now we were getting to know each other a little, so falling into pace lines or an eschelon was a bit easier. After 205 kms, we were at the last refreshment stop rehydrating and refueling. We looked at our computers and realized that our average speed was 29.9km/hr. I think when I said, “OK guys, we have to pick up the pace, I want my computer to read over 30km/hr today,” I officially become one of the guys. And we did it (a great tailwind really helped) – 30.6km/hr. Upon our arrival we were met with bagpipes and cheering LIT’s (Leaders in Training for Camp Trillium). Our campsite was right on the water, so we promptly leaned our bikes up against a tree and dove into the water. Ohhhh, what heaven!! That evening we ate dinner in the park and were treated to a campfire by the LIT’s.

Day 4 once again clouded over and by the time we climbed onto our bikes it was raining. Boy, in a summer where we’ve had nothing but sunshine, I can’t believe that we had 2 out of 4 days of rain. But come to think of it, it may have been better than those hot humid days of June and July. Today was a 165km day. We were actually shuttled to Colborne to start. We rode some of the biggest hills I’ve seen in Ontario. That was tough after having already spent 3 long days on the bike. Once again, a new friend came to my rescue as my quads screamed at me – and on several occasions I felt a light hand on my back to give me that tiny little bit of help to make it more easily up those hills.

The whole crew, about 135 riders congregated together before making our final parade to Canada’s Wonderland. It felt quite incredible, to be riding along, taking up the whole road. Cars were honking (the good kind like a wedding) for us as we proceeded along Rutherford Road. As we finished up at Canada’s Wonderland, medals were hung around our necks as we were congratulated. WOW!! We felt proud!

Together the riders have raised just about ½ a million dollars to help children with cancer. We have trained hard for it; it has been hard work, but it has been well worth it.

So once again, I want to thank you for supporting me in this experience. I’ve met some amazing people and made new friends. I’ve succeeded in meeting a great physical challenge as well. All of this while helping children and their families while they are going through an incredibly difficult time in their lives.

These four days have definitely been a highlight of my summer. I’ll be thinking about doing it again next year – and those of you who are cyclists, I encourage you to consider participating in this remarkable event (there are shorter ride options available).

I hope you’ve had as wonderful, inspiring and exciting a summer for yourself as well.

And just one more time.