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It’s all over.

Well, a couple of weeks have now gone past since my ride and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and some extra sleeping to try to catch up. First of all, I think the most important thing to talk about is the amazing impact that this ride had for the Alzheimer Society and the amazing amount of funds raised. Even after the day, funds have continued to trickle in, and with a couple of last minute donations, the cash donated on the day, and the proceeds of cookie and lemonade sales, the grand total stands at $22,527.86!

That is an amount of money that I never dreamed I could raise. As I said elsewhere, $10,000 wasn’t a number I thought I could actually raise, and then to more than double that is beyond amazing. Numbers are great, and that sounds pretty impressive, right? Here’s another number which is even more impressive: 275. Two hundred seventy five is the number of families that this donation will allow to access the First Link Program. Somehow putting the total into that metric really brings it home for me.

The other amazing thing about this ride was the fantastic support of all the people who came out to cheer, and who came out to ride support laps with me. 280 laps were ridden in support of me. That meant that I rarely had to ride alone, and when I did, it was only for a couple of laps at a time. Some rode a lot of laps with me, some rode a few laps with me, but each of those laps was so gratefully received. I went back to the book where we recorded laps and here are all the people I have a record of: James, Ken, Danielle, Janice, Charlotte, Gwen, Lynn, Jeevan, Elliot, Paul, Amber, Ryan, Nicole, Mike, Anita, Mike, Tanya, Shymmon, David, Holly, Donna, Wayne, William, Sasha, Steven, Trish, Pat, Kat, Peggy, Pam, Chantal, Duncan, Matthew, Logan, Jarett, Aleta, Darren, and Pierce. I think there were a few others who didn’t make it on the list, so if I forgot you, please email me!

I didn’t keep track of all the people who made an appearance to cheer me on, but I want to say a particular thanks to those who manned my feed station and fulfilled my occasionally strange requests – bottles of skratch, of gatorade, of water, of vanilla coke, eat more bar, chips, fruit, gummies, crepes, and later in the night a hamburger. These kind souls are: Paul, Donna, Brian, Kelly, Parnell, Tessa, Elsa, Julie, Jackie, Nicole, Darren, Mike, Dawn, Rachel, Sue, and Jan. Thank you! Again, the list may not catch everyone so if I missed you please let me know. I am grateful to every single person who came out in support and for all the applause and cheers I got at the top each time. An extra special thanks to those who were there in the night – in Calgary in June it has to be pretty late/early to be out in the dark so I appreciate all the people who stuck it out in the wee hours. Also, to those who came out after night shift – I know how post nights feels, so thanks for hanging with me.

I should probably have started this article by thanking Aleta, but here it is in this section. She put so much effort into this event on my behalf, and I would not have been able to complete a fraction of what I did without her patience, support, and love.  While I was off “training” ie, riding my bike (which is fun) she was at home with our platoon of children holding down the fort. I know that the spouses of many endurance athletes are long suffering souls, and Aleta is no exception.

While I’m thanking Ambroses – I have to say a huge thank you to my in-laws, Hilluary and Sally. They stepped in and pretty much ran the kids while Aleta and I were at the ride. They also did lots of supporting in the days leading up to the ride. And, last but not least, the delicious eat more bar was courtesy of Sally. Again, I could not have done it without their support. Thanks!

I’m going to answer a few questions that I’ve been asked several times so that everyone who’s been wondering but is too shy to ask can know the answer. No, I didn’t have any chafing – chamois cream is our friend. No, I didn’t want to sell my bike after. Yes, I’ve ridden my bike since. Yes, the massage the next day was incredibly painful. No, I may not drink skratch mix for a very long time. And lastly, I’m not sure what’s happening next year.

The everesting is legit, and all signed off – you can view the infographic of the ride here. I feel a bit compelled to talk about this part because all in all it’s a little bittersweet. I joined one pretty amazing club – I am number 4 in Alberta and number 31 in Canada to complete an everesting. And yet, the higher goal was so tantalizingly close – I did literally 89% of my 10,000 m goal. Something feels unfinished. I won’t say I failed, because the bigger, more important and more meaningful activity was the awareness and fundraising activities, but, as I said, I feel like I didn’t achieve part of my objective. A lot of people have asked me if it was harder than I thought it was going to be, and the answer is no, it wasn’t harder, because I knew it was going to be tough. I feel disappointed that after all the preparation I didn’t execute properly to get myself enough sleep before hand. I think we all have things that are a bit bittersweet, and for me this is one. I keep playing it back in my head – if I’d gone faster would I have not run out of sleep? If I hadn’t stopped as much, would I have been in better shape? What if I hadn’t slowed down to ride the lap with Charlotte and cheer her on? I guess I could torture myself forever with what ifs.

If you recall my post on the history of everesting, you will remember that George Leigh Mallory’s grandson was the one who came up with this crazy activity. George Leigh Mallory, among many others, has a quote which I think is fitting to this situation:

Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. 

On both counts, the fundraising, and completing the everesting, I did something that on several occassions, I thought was impossible. Around midnight I ran out of steam – of food, of sleep, and of hope. James the Sherpa, my other friends, a stranger or two, and my family all helped me pull through that moment. I pushed on when I thought I couldn’t any more.

I’m proud of that, and I’m grateful that there are those around me who support me.

As a last thought to leave with you with, I want to challenge, and to support each one of you to go out into the world and do something amazing. Do something that raises your personal bar of what you think you’re capable of – you’ll be amazed at the results.

 

 

Quick reflections on my ride

So this post is not meant to be the big wrap up post that covers all the details of the ride, this is just a few quick reflections from the day. A few people follow this blog and we aren’t connected on facebook so I wanted to get some thoughts put down.

First and foremost is a huge sense of gratitude – to donors, to supporters, and to “sherpas” – people who rode support laps. As a lark we wondered how many total support laps would be done on the day so we (Aleta) decided to count. There were at least 280 support laps ridden by friends, family, and a few passers-by. That means that collectively, they put up 25,200 vertical meters.

There was a couple who had heard about me and cheered me on at the start, at midnight, in the rain. So amazing to have strangers supporting you.

I did not cover the full 10,000 meters. By midnight I realized that the hour of sleep that I had managed to get (angry babies and a flat tire on the vehicle with the bike rack on Friday) was not going to carry me through. The final stats were 8907 meters, 339 k and 27 hours. And then I went to bed. Stay tuned!

Logistics

The count down is on and  it’s time to get to nailing down some final logistics. While my aim is to be pretty independent, I know how much easier it is to do when others are around, not only for the company but also for prepping some of the food and water so I don’t have to jump off the bike and fill up water bottles, etc. I am also thinking that it would be a lot safer and nicer to have someone with me in those hours in the middle of the night.I’m hoping there are some people out there that might be willing to sign up to man the supplies for an hour or two, or more, over night on the Friday night into Saturday morning.

I’m planning to start on Friday night (which is actually June 23) at midnight. I expect it to take me 24-26 hours to complete the 10,000m. I already have a friend who has committed to being around from midnight to 2:30 and then Aleta is going to start riding around 4:30 to 6:30am and then will save some of her 2000m for the end of the day nearing to the next midnight as I continue to push along.

If you are available for an hour or two at any point to keep an eye on food and drink bottles for me, then please email Aleta at aleta.ambrose@shaw.ca and she will pencil you in. I appreciate all the support and the ability to just get in the groove and not have to worry about  supplies and fuel stops. It will be a pretty easy job – just keeping an eye on the drinks bottles and food supplies to make sure they are filled, accessible, and not being eaten by my children.

I will say it again, everyone is very welcome to come out to cheer me on on June 24th. Bring your bike and do a lap or two, or more. Challenge yourself and know it is all for supporting a great cause. Feel free to share it with others that you may know too. The more the merrier. I’m hoping to keep track of all the support laps ridden and see that add up to another 10,000 meters. Aleta is planning to do 2000, and Charlotte has sworn she will do one – don’t let a seven year old kick your butt!

I have the map on an earlier blog but to be specific, the main station is going to be at the top of the hill in Silver Springs. There is a small playground here and some big trees for shade. There’s lots of parking, there is food and drink nearby, but no bathrooms – so pee before you leave home.

On the topic of refreshment, my lovely friend Tracy has kindly volunteered to do a cookie and refreshment stand with the Charlotte and Gabrielle on the day. Fresh baked cookies and some cold drinks will be sold by donation so bring a few bucks. I can say with total honesty that Tracy’s amazing cookies have kept me going through many tough days since we got on her distribution list when the boys were born.

Also on the day I have two really nice prize bags that were donated and we will be raffling off to donors. We will also be drawing the prize for a year’s free subscription the Sufferfest training video app. Also, my mother-in-law Sally has promised to bring a tin of her amazing home made EatMore bar and anyone who rides a lap can have some. Seriously, you want some of this bar. On my training day I used this bar as a prize to stay motivated – it’s that good.

On the fundraising front, the total is $12,900. Donations are most welcome right up to the day, and are still coming in. If you want to donate, as always, you can do so here. If you’d prefer to wait until the day to donate please feel free – we can’t do cash donations on the day but you can always donate by credit card.

Oh, and one last thing – pray for reasonable weather.

Orchids

So it’s been an age since I wrote anything in the blog but I have some time this afternoon so here I am. On Monday, I did 5000 m, half my total goal. I hurt less than I was worried it would. Total time including stops was about 13 hours of total time with about 11.5 hours of moving time. I was quite happy with that. On my actual ride there will be people around to help me and so I shouldn’t have to stop and do things like filling bottles so I should save some time.

I suffered a bit, I thought a lot, I overcame a bad weekend with Gabrielle’s broken leg, and I had an amazing experience.

As of Sunday night our whole family was way behind on sleep with the weekend being so crazy. The weather was threatening rain. I had to prepare for the ride. In all, I wasn’t coming into this ride from a very excellent place. However, it had to be done so I got it started at 0710 on Monday morning.

56 laps, 180 km, 5000 vertical meters, and 13:08 later I was done. I won’t bore you with a lap by lap description of the ride but I learned some really interesting things:

  1. Foxes are really cool, and I didn’t know we had them in the city
  2. Seeing a snake on your bike ride is kind of neat
  3. Very few cyclists returned the wave that I tried to give everyone that I could. We are a grumpy looking bunch
  4. It’s really cool when total strangers cheer for you.

Lastly I want to share an amazing experience that I had during the ride. 13 hours of just turning the pedals gives you a lot of time to reflect on all your life choices, how much you hate climbing hills, how you should have trained more, how much your back hurts, and so on and so forth.

MSPring2009-42
Yellow Lady Slipper orchid (photo mine)

On my very last climb, lap 56, I noticed something that I had failed to notice on the previous 111 trips at one particular spot. On the climb was a little patch of Lady Slipper orchids.

Orchids are pretty amazing plants: they are parasites that feed on fungi in the soil to provide them with nutrients. They are beautiful, intricate, and delicate plants.

The reason I’m writing about orchids is that before my mum developed Alzheimer’s she was a devoted amateur botanist, and she was particularly interested in the orchids of Alberta.

We talked a lot about writing a book about them and got as far as me taking a number of photos and beginning some research. I never look at orchids without thinking of my mum, and there are dear to me.

It was amazing, at the end of 13 hours of living in my own head to have a reminder that I am doing this ride for something so much bigger than myself and my own ends. It was a good and humbling reminder of why I am doing this.

The fundraising total is $12,835 – please consider donating here and let’s get the total up to $15k.

PS, stay tuned for a final plan on the logistics and agenda for the day.

 

Nutrition

An important part of my ride will be staying hydrated and fed during the event. I’ve run some numbers, and I have some exciting news… frappI can have a unicorn frappe every 2 hours during my ride! So if I do like 22 hours of riding that would be in the order of 11 sweet magical unicorn frappes over the day! Go unicorn power.

Ewww. Just kidding. Plus, I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t be grinding up unicorns for coffee drinks… Okay, anyways, back to my ride. I wanted to give everyone a little inside look at my planning process and some of the logistics that are going into this ride.

As I’ve said elsewhere I like to see the numbers, and I love using spreadsheets. No, really, I actually do. So, not surprisingly I made a spreadsheet. It’s pretty cool… it does some math for me and tells me how much water, sports drink and food I’ll need to consume for a given amount of vertical.

Now, British Cycling, who work with these guys:

skybritishcycling_2758831
Gertaint Thomas, Mark Cavendish , Victoria Pendleton and Sir Bradley Wiggo

 

 

 

have some material on on bike nutrition. They recommend 0.5 – 1 g/kg/hr of carbohydrate over the course of the ride. Without giving too much away about my girlish figure, that means that I will be eating a reasonable amount of carbs throughout the ride.

How much you ask? Thank you for asking, I was hoping you would. Up to 28 peanut butter and jam sandwiches on top of the carbs that will come from sports drink. Maybe I could get one of those big sandwiches fromsubway, but just get it with PB&J. Mmm, six feet of PB&J!giant_sub_notext

Now, I don’t want to eat 28 PB&J sandwiches. One, and then licking the knife clean and putting it back in the drawer (just kidding)…(maybe) is pretty good but I had to come up with some other things to eat during my ride that I’m going to like, that are easy to prepare, are easy to eat on the bike, and are easy to digest. Steak sandwiches, maybe not so much.

There are lots of options: apples, bananas, other fruit, all the varieties of bread, PB, jam, honey, nutella, raisins, cashews, and weird sports food like cliff blocks and gels (which I’m trying to swoffle-with-coffeestay away from). But there is one thing that I’m particularly looking forward to: Stroopwafels.

Stroopwafels are so delicious. They are a Dutch delicacy. Sweet waffles filled with a delicious mix of syrup, brown sugar, butter and cinamon. Nom nom nom! These will totally be a treat for during the ride that I will give myself when I need something to pick me up. I’m so in love with stroopwafels that I’m deliberately holding back on buying them before the event because I know that I won’t be able to resist eating all of them that are in the house.

My other challenge with nutrition is how and when to take it on. On most rides that I’ve done before I’ve done most of the eating off the bike. Occasionally I’d have a snack but I did most of the eating at stops. On this ride, I don’t really want to do that because that means breaking rhythm and momentum to stop and eat, something that I will have to do relatively frequently. To that end I have a plan for eating near the top of the lap where the hill is easier and pretty straight.

I also have to take on fluid during the ride, somewhere in the order of 500-1000 mL per Waitress Mitterer carries twelve beer mugs during the last day at Munich's Oktoberfesthour. So if you’re keeping track, that’s somewhere around 10 -20-ish liters of water and drinks over the ride. Unfortunately, probably none of that will be beer. I was thinking of inviting this lady but she’s not around. That being said, you’re welcome to have a beer during my ride. Although it’s in a city park so discretion (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) is key! Please don’t get me kicked out.

So back to what I’ll be drinking… My plan right now is 750 mL/hr of fluid. 250 of water and 500 of sports drink. I’m a little bit worried about that amount of fluid so one of the things that I’ll be testing is how much fluid I actually need over the course of a ride and adjust my intake from there. The sport drink is great because it has electrolytes and some carbs so I don’t have to eat quite as much.

On another front, I want to thank my friends Mike and Anita Garland and his company Enerplus (who matched his donation) for a very generous donation. Thanks you guys! My total is $11,550 so we are definitely getting there. If you’d like to donate for the first time or again, as always, you can do it here.

Raising the bar

So as many of you know I’ve reached my initial fundraising goal. $10,000 is a huge amount of money, and I am amazed that I reached it. When I started this, I wasn’t sure if I could reach the goal at all. I never dreamed that I would be able to reach my goal in less than two months of fundraising. As I’ve said elsewhere, I feel amazingly humbled by the kindness and generosity of those who have supported and donated so far.

Having said that, donations have continued to come in, and as I write this the total is $10,325.  I feel like I can do more. So I’m raising my goal and my plan is to keep fundraising until my ride. I’d like to see what’s possible. As of right now, I’m raising the goal to $15,000.

I want to say very clearly to those who have donated that I am incredibly grateful for the generous support of this project. I’m a little worried that people who have already donated might feel that me raising my goal devalues their contribution. This is not at all the case, and in fact, quite the reverse. Every one of the donations so far has been so important in helping me reach my goal and helping to build momentum. I want to see how far we can take this.

In the coming days look for some information on the impact that your donations will have for the Alzheimer’s society, I’m also hoping to have some information about what the extra money will mean to the program.

Now one of the things that a few people have teased me about is adding meters to my ride. I think ten thousand is a pretty good effort, so to be clear… I’m not riding extra meters on my ride. I’m pretty sure adding too many more would have an excellent chance of killing me.

As always, thank you for reading, and if you’re willing to make a donation, you can do so here.

 

The 90/10 rule

So I’m at almost 90% of my fundraising goal. 87.16% if we’re being specific. First off, and while I’ve said it before, I will say it again, thank you. Thank you to people who are following this blog, people who are liking and sharing on Facebook, and people who are donating: their money, their time, and their support.

Someone said that 90% of the work takes 10% of the time, and 10% of the work takes 90% of the time. True for other projects, but not for mine. Before I even start the ride I will have spent a lot of hours in the saddle already. I will also have spent many hours fundraising, planning, and organizing. With 68 days until go day, I have a crazy long list of things to accomplish before the ride: I have to figure out a bunch of logistics, some electronics, I’m arranging some prizing for donors in the last stretch and I’m working on getting the blog out there a little bit more to draw some attention to my ride as we get into cycling season. Oh, yeah, and I have to train, and eat,  and help keep the house going, work, sleep, shower once in a while, and do a hundred other things too.

But what’s amazing to me is that all that work and effort are required just to show up on the day and make an attempt at riding 10,000 vertical meters. What got me thinking about this today was the finish to the Amstel Gold Race. (If you’re rolling your eyes because I’m talking about bike racing, hang in there, I promise I have a point.) 250 odd kilometers of tough racing, 34 climbs, 6 and half hours all comes down to two people with 300 m to ride. Philippe Gilbert won the sprint, did he prepare better than Michal Kwiatkowski? Did he just have better timing, or did everything come together today? I think what he had was a mix of preparation, skill, and luck.

So what’s the connection with my ride, and with Alzheimer’s? Here it is: I’ve been wondering how to write about my perspective on my mum’s journey for a while now, and I’ve never been able to figure out a way to. I think I’ve got it now. As my mum lives with Alzheimer’s what I realize more and more is the amount of work she has done, and that she has to do, on a daily basis just to try to live her life.

From the outside, all you and I see are the slips, the memory failure, the confusion. But we don’t know what she does to try to maintain her function. The calendaring, the post it notes, the humiliation of having to have something repeated moments later. Feeling you should to be able to remember something, but just not being able to. Wanting to be able to understand something that in your prime, was a simple concept, but now, you just can’t pin down. The other thing that I don’t see is how much she must struggle to keep that calendar in order. How she must look at the rows of post its in her house, and have absolutely no memory of the context in which they were written. Imagine seeing your own writing and being unable to remember ever writing it down. I know that I don’t often enough stop and recognize the tremendous amount of effort my mum must put forth just to go through her day.

When I’ve been under the weather a couple of times, I take time off from training. When I crashed my bike, I put it back on the trainer, where at least I can’t crash. My mum doesn’t have that luxury. Every single day, for the rest of her life, she will be required to put forth an enormous effort just to move through the world. A world that will only get harder and more alien to her despite her efforts.

It’s heartbreaking to know that she will lose the race. All the preparation, all the hard work, all the hardship, will be for naught. To stick with the analogy, mum did the work and she continues to fight, but in the end she will succumb to Alzheimer’s disease. My mum has told me so many times that she is afraid of what the future will bring for her – “I will lose my family and I will lose myself.” And what can any of us say to that? We tell her that we love her, that we will always be there for her and that no matter what she will be part of our family and that she will be loved and cared for.

Above I mentioned preparation, skill, and luck. My mum did the preparation – she quit smoking, took care of herself, kept a healthy weight, an active social life. We have the skill – she’s been seen by a number of extremely capable health professionals who have given very sound and supportive advice. But, when it boils right down to it, it just seems to be shitty ill luck that lands her with this disease. It seems so unfair, and so arbitrary, that it would happen to her. Everyone must say that, I guess.

Despite mum’s diagnosis, we are lucky. As a family we have knowledge, we have resources, and we have had so much support from family, friends and professionals.

When I clip in at the beginning of my ride, all of the preparation becomes history. I will stand on the shoulders of a giant that I, and all of the people who have supported me have built. On that day though, all I will have is that. The fundraising total will be what it will be, the weather will be what it will be, and all I will have is my own effort to make on that day. That is so much like my mum’s experience. All of her brilliance, her education, her ongoing emphasis on well-being and exercise, the help of her medications – all of these things build a platform for her. Unfortunately, piece by piece Alzheimer’s demolishes this platform so she has to work harder every day just to reach what she once did with ease.

If you think I’m courageous for taking this on, thank you. But in my family, I am not the most courageous one.

If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I want to ask you to please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s society First Link program to support people like my mum, and families like mine. We can’t do anything about bad luck, but what we can do is make sure that every patient and their family diagnosed in Alberta is connected to the incredible amount of skill and support that the Alzheimer’s Society has to offer. If you’d like to make a donation to support the program, you can do so here.