This past weekend I, along with 2500 other riders, rode my bike from Vancouver, BC to Redmond ,WA. Together we raised $9.2 million and I believe that number continue to rise. I rode with a group called Team Finn. We were 120 strong and our team raised over $500,000- HALF A MILLION!
I started the journey for this ride last year. A friend, Theo, participated in the 2009 ride and while he was riding he would text Rhiannon about the day’s events. Rhiannon would pass the information on to a few of us who were constantly amazed and inspired to learn that so many people were riding to fight cancer. The most moving and inspiring story from Theo was his re-telling of the speech Patrick Sullivan gave on the Saturday evening. Patrick told the story of Team Finn. He recounted his family’s painful experience of witnessing their 2 year old son, Finn, battle Cancer. He pledged to the entire audience that his original 3 team members, who then turned to 30 riders in 2009, would be 100 strong for the 2010 ride. Fortunately so many of us were able to make Patrick’s dream come true and together we managed to ride as 120 team members.
I also rode this weekend with Farley, Rhiannon, and Emily, 3 of my best friends (1 of who happens to be my sister). I rode side by side these fabulous women all 260 km. Each of us had our own stories of Cancer to share. Farley was riding in honour of her mother who passed away when Farley was in High school. Rhiannon was riding in honour of her father, who passed away 8 months ago. Emily and I rode in honour of our Dad (survivor), Cal (survivor), Joan (survivor), Anne (survivor), and Neil (SOON to be a survivor). Although our stories were different we had a common goal, to FINNish strong and to honour the people in our lives who have been touched by Cancer and who have bravely fought the battle.
The ride itself was epic. Each rider had to raise $2500.00 to participate and of course the more you were able to raise the better. The ride started out in Surrey, BC with opening ceremonies. Day 1 was inspiring, fun, and energizing. There were pit stops every 20-30 km with fresh food, water, Gatorade, bathrooms, music, and cheering squads. The route was relatively flat with a few hills and we were fortunate to have beautiful sunshine on Day 1. As we rode into camp Day 1 we parked our bikes and headed straight for the beer tent. Riders were casually sitting on the grass, drinking beer or wine, chilling, and retelling their stories of their personal journey that day. Tents were already set up for us and we were able to shower, eat, drink, and just relax before the evening speeches.
Saturday evening there were two speeches that had everyone in tears. The first was our team captain, Patrick Sullivan of Team Finn. Patrick recounted his family’s story and the battle fought by Finn. One part of his speech remains with me. He said “Finn didn’t lose his battle to Cancer. He died. He fought every day. He lived every day. You beat the battle of Cancer by how you live, not by how you die.” I will never forget that.
The 2nd speech was given by Riders for Ryder’s Team Captain. Ryder’s father spoke about his son who passed away from Cancer at the age of 6. He said when he started his team a co worker came up to him and said “Hey I want to join your team. It’s the least I can do.” Ryder’s dad responded “The least you can do?! No. In fact the least you can do is nothing. You are doing something.” His words struck a chord with me. I felt honoured to be a part of this ride. To know that I was doing something to fight a deadly disease that has claimed the lives of friends, friends of friends, family of friends, and family.
Day 2 started out bright and early and through each hill and as I rode through the rain I continually thought about the speeches from the night before. Although I was freezing I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to fight through the cold, the rain, and the ass pain (trust me it KILLS on day 2). When the “please stop” demons came to me, I was reminded of Finn and Ryder. If a 2 and 6 year old can smile through their pain, I have nothing to complain about. It was truly inspiring.
At the final pit stop all 120 Team Finn riders gathered together to ride the final 10 km together. We were a sea of PINK.
120 people. A sea of pink jerseys. In honour of a little boy named Finn. Spreading the word to live LIFE, to sing, run, jump, bounce, and PLAY. Half a million dollars.
All of those mantras were swimming through my head as we cheered ourselves across the FINNish line.
Now that I have completed the ride many people ask me, so will you do it again? My answer, absolutely.
For additional photos and video you can check out my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandacoolidge/sets/72157624201969641/