Day 15: Calgary to Bassano 140km
It was hard waking up today knowing I was going to leave Calgary. I had such a warm welcoming into the city and really enjoyed my time there. However, I was very excited to have a group of cyclists join me on the ride today. Some I knew were joining and others were a surprise.
Mel and Rande, friends of Mark who I cycled with on Day 6, came on their bikes, to send me on my way. Chris, a Calgary fire fighter, cycled with us for the first 50-60km, and Tim, Ross and Rob cycled the whole way to Bassano. Tim works with a suicide prevention agency in Calgary called LivingWorks and invited Ross and Rob to join. We also had a cheering sag wagon crew of Carla, Kelli and of course my mom and step dad. Each time we went to for a break at the side of the road we were greeted with cold water and abundance about of food to chose from. I felt like royalty pulling up on the side of the road and looking into the trunk of Carla’s car.
I was so grateful for their company on the ride today. It was such a fun way to start the morning getting to know everyone while cycling. They were keen to hear why I started Ride Away Stigma and very open to discussing mental health issues. I have had a lot of friends tease me about all my photographs with males and especially fire fighters during this ride. I explained to the group how important I felt it was to connect with men through this campaign because of our society’s views: that if a man is struggling he needs to be a man and pull it together and not discuss his issues, as it is a sign of weakness. This is incredibly important for first responders who may fear seeking help as they may then be viewed as not being fit for service. This view is far from correct and it takes courage and strength of both men, and women, to ask for help. I have wanted to create opportunities for men to discuss mental health and show others that they support those struggling.
There were a couple times on this ride that I felt I was going to melt because of the heat and doubted if I could complete the ride. When I approached the stop the first time I felt this way I was greeted by Tim throwing water over me. I saw him hiding the bottle behind his back and hoped that his intentions were to do just that. That was definitely a highlight for me though within the short time of our stop my shirt was almost dry again. I felt motivated cycling with the group and that I reached a personal best for 100km. I did it in 3:34. Yes it is a little different than the mountains but challenging in different ways so I am still proud.
I also felt proud that I was able to hold my own among these fits guys. I remember my first MEC group ride I thought since I had been doing all my training I would be able to be in the fast group, however, I quickly realized I was going to be in the slow group. Though the slow group is not what you may think of a slow group. Now I can tell how much faster I have become and am excited that I do not have to ask people to hold back for me.
The second time I doubted myself because of the heat, Ross shared with me how we just reached the distance of his longest ride. I told him that, that gave me a burst of energy to be cycling with him on his longest ride and that each kilometer was an accomplishment. The bike group he started is called Ride for Pleasure Ride for Purpose. On this ride I felt like I was riding for him to share that experience. In addition I felt special to have cyclists of their group all riding with me as they do everything with such intention and such support of each other. It made me feel honoured that I was receiving their support, as I knew that meant that they really cared about the cause.
Rob and I discussed his own cross-country ride he did and it was so great to hear all the stories. I shared with him how today would have been hard to ride on my own in that heat and while adjusting to the new landscape. It really does take time mentally to adjust. Even though the mountains are beyond powerful I feel protected by them. The wide-open space makes me feel more vulnerable on the bike and distances feel longer.
At night after our celebrations of the ride I began to feel insecure. It was so amazing having them there with me today. I felt like I was a part of a big family supporting me and encouraging me through out the ride (fortunately my mom and Paul will still be there). It was also so nice throughout these two weeks to have stops to look forward to where there would be friends, family and places I have visited before. I have not been to most places we are about to encounter. This is strange for me to feel this way as I have traveled to many countries on my own not knowing anyone or any of the spots ahead of the time. I couldn’t really wrap my head around why I was feeling this way. I told myself the same thing that I tell myself when I am travelling alone that if I am having a hard day I just need to push through as something exciting is just around the corner. I know I am going to meet even more wonderful people just as I have today, and throughout the trip, who will make me feel like I am at home.
We need to allow ourselves to have our moments and then refocus one step at a time. Something exciting it just around the corner and people are there rooting for Ride Away Stigma. I am not on this alone journey!