By Catherine Bancroft
When I was accepted as one of 50 cyclists for the coast to coast Sears National Kids Cancer Ride September 2010, I made a commitment to get my body ready to cycle an average of 180 km/day, for 16 days, at an average speed of 32 km/hour. In previous years I had cycled 100 km/day for 6 days to Montreal, but I was intimidated by the level of training I needed to do to get my body ready for this ride.
I’m now into what feels like Phase 2 of the training. Phase 1 involved finding time, in my already full life, to fit in the additional training, adjusting to the exercise and dealing with exhaustion. Many nights, by the time I fell into to bed my body felt so heavy, I felt dead!
Last December I signed up for 80 sessions over ten months with personal trainer Jason Edgehill, at Good Life Fitness. Jason is also a cyclist—bonus! We work on strength training, flexibility, and stretching, including lots of squats and lunges that gave me a sharp, burning, knife-like pain and made me dizzy after every set. I knew that my history with severe hypoglycemia was going to be my biggest challenge. This became clear when it took me some time to get the room to come back into view after each set.
After 34 sessions my stamina has increased and the room no longer spins when I do my sets of squats and lunges. To work on improving my cycling technique, I signed up for group classes with Absolute Endurance, a tri gym, where they tested my lactate threshold, then determined my heart rate zones. My wattage is measured with a cyclometer. To build a solid base I’ve been working in Zone 1 for 6 weeks, with a heart rate of 128.
In addition to this, I do cycling classes at Good Life, and take one yoga class a week. I love yoga, because it’s pain free, and gives me time to relax. I take Sundays off and relish the day! All in all, I put approximately 7 hours into my training each week. This is going to increase significantly very soon.
How do I keep my focus and stay motivated during all that training? I picture a portion of the terrain on the ride. Bringing the terrain into my mind takes me out of the pain in my muscles. I also think of the children that we are raising the money for, and their families. I know that the challenges I’m facing are incredibly small compared with what they are facing. I remember my cousin Jenny—with whom I still feel a deep connection—who died when I was 12. I picture her life and the courage she faced dying of leukemia when she was just 15 years old. When she died it left a hole in my heart. I put the emotional energy from that experience into every squat, every lunge, every turn of my pedal, and I know that I am lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to do this ride for kids with cancer.