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day 9

Day 9: Summit of Rogers Pass to Lake Louise (165km 2037m climbed)

How could it not be a great day when I get to start with an epic downhill ride? Once I got to the bottom of Rogers Pass, I saw that there were more tunnels and put on my bright reflector gear.  I was having so much fun and felt like I was bursting with positive energy.  Realizing that I don’t have time constraints and treating the rides more like training rides has helped me stay focused on the present. The present is pretty awesome too if you ask me.

I take each ride bit by bit and do not put expectations on myself at the beginning of the day. I wait to feel it out. I was just mesmerized by landscapes and was taking all of it in. I allowed more time simply stop and enjoy the views.  I was also starting to feel sad about how soon I will be leaving the mountains.

On today’s ride I felt the strongest yet. I thought that the weather was so beautiful and the forecast was not looking very good for the upcoming days, so I enjoyed being outside as long as I possible.  I considered trying to reach Lake Louise to add an extra rest day in the mountains and told myself that if I did not make it that, that would be ok too.  When I arrived in Golden where I was supposed to stop for the day I still had no interest in stopping other than for a quick bite.  I grabbed some Timmy’s including a couple timbits to inspire me to push forward. I have been surprised how little baked desserts I have eaten on this trip so far. All my long distance training rides back home are planned based on a route to a bakery. I guess here, it is always a new route and I’m so taken by each new location that I don’t need the same motivation.

I biked through a new time zone today and was really excited at the idea that I could also bike into a new province. I tried to use that excitement to distract me from the huge hill out of Golden.  I had discovered it this past winter. What I did not realize is that I must have fallen asleep on that car ride because I only remembered that one, and not the others that came after.  When I arrived in Field to see the only Alberta sign, I was pumped. I thought that all I had left was an easy hour of pedaling.  I was beaming.

As I pulled into the Visitors Center for a break and photo op, I got excited to see a touring cyclists with all the panniers. Before I tell you what happened in our conversation I would like to say how people who are able to do independent cycle touring like that, through the mountains, are my cycling Heroes. At times I struggle enough carrying my own weight up the mountain let alone carrying 60lbs or more of gear too. I still would like to try it one day but in the mountains it sure seems daunting.

Back to my story – while chatting with this cyclist, I became very impressed that at the age of 18 he had ridden from Montreal, with a friend for some of the time, and the rest on his own. He was also doing a charity ride and seemed completely in his element. I became excited talking to him, sharing experiences, until he said that it would be challenging for me to get to Lake Louise that day. He explained how had just descended an awesome hill meaning a huge climb, for me, and that there would be another one at Lake Louise.  My excitement and readiness to finish the ride came crashing down. I felt defeated.

I really wanted to complete the challenge I had given myself but was I really going to be able to do two big mountain climbs when I had already travelled 130km?  He didn’t seem confident in my idea either! But I thought about the challenges I added to Strava this month regarding trying to reach 8800m in elevation during the allotted time and how many kilometers can you bike in July. With this in mind I thought how exciting it would be to see my progression in the challenge at the end of the ride. I also reminded myself that I needed to take it piece by piece and could always stop and pick up where I left off the next day. With that in mind and trying to not get other’s views placed upon me, I slowly carried on. My mom noticed I was struggling a little bit on the hills so decided to not drive as far ahead each time.

While going up that next big hill I was thinking to myself, how can it still be this hot in the late afternoon?  I wanted to pour water on my head but didn’t want to waste the water I had. Then not long after that I cycled past a few little waterfalls right on the side of the road. Wow did they ever feel amazing. They gave off a cool freshening breeze encouraging me to push up that long, very long hill.  Hills in the mountains are no joke but are manageable when you just take them slow and stead. Though I do sometimes laugh to myself thinking are you serious, it is still going up.

But then I got to the top and saw the sign for Banff national park. I thought, I can do this. Again reminded myself to just enjoy the journey. It may sound like I was pushing myself so much on the destination that I wasn’t enjoying the journey but I was actually still having the time of my life! We cycled into Lake Louise and stopped at the sign to take a photo. I said to my mom that we had to go to the lake immediately as the sight is breath taking.  She warned me that it was uphill. But I knew how amazing I would feel when I got there so I carried on.

I thought of a couple things going up that last 4 km climb.  One was again the Strava Challenge and wanting to complete 2000m for the day. I thought to myself how close I was that I would even cycle back down the hill a bit if I did not get to the 2000. I ended surpassing it at 2032m.  Sometimes I wonder where this energy, came from.  How did I even think about doing it, let alone succeeding in doing it.

The second thing I thought about on that last hill climb was a student who I presented to this year asked me if I wanted to have kids one day and if I was worried that they may struggle with depression or another mental illness like me. I remember being so excited by how many students asked me questions, after that particular presentation.  Usually they become silent after I speak. I have a couple ideas of why that happens and have tried encouraging students to ask questions but usually I only get a couple. But that day in that classroom I got so many questions and was pumped by them and the connections we were making. Ok, back on track to her question. Her question made me think how back when I was on medication I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to have kids as I was told that I would not be able to be on an antidepressant while pregnant. Not that I was at all at the stage in life, however, at the time I thought I may have to be on medication for life. I do not think that there is anything negative or weak when one requires medication but I just remember thinking about how much I was struggling at the time and so much seemed impossible. I then discussed with the students how I would love to have children. Yes they may have their struggles and so have I. I have had traumas and challenges that I have had to overcome and others I still work on but I wouldn’t change my life. Of course I would love to have my dad back but that is not something that can happen. I also think everything I have gone through has given me greater understanding, compassion and patience for people. As well I have been so fortunate with life too and can’t deny all the amazing experiences I have had. While cycling up that last hill I thought about how fortunate I have been to be able to take seven and a half weeks off to do this cycling trip. So maybe I have had my struggles but they do not define me and I have been able to create such joy in life too so why would I not want to give that to someone else.

What I also think is important in sharing this is for those struggling to know that in the depths of our hard times when life seems too painful to carry on that things can improve. It may be daunting and extremely scary but one step at a time you can get there with the right supports in place. So never give up. There are so many people that care in this world. Through this campaign I have been amazed at how many people reached out to me. If only I knew how many people cared when I was hiding in that dark shell during my struggles. I think it is also important for those who see someone struggling, to realize how much of a difference reaching out can be for someone. That one conversation that you may feel is insignificant can connect with them in such a deep and meaningful way and can give them hope. I guess with all these thoughts going on in my head it powered me up that last hill.

O boy was I excited to arrive at the lake! I have only ever seen it in the winter and couldn’t wait to see the bright blue/green water. I do not even know how to describe the emotions I felt reaching it. I was bursting with rainbows hehe. I did it. I put my mind to it and I did it. I was staying focused and enjoying the present and it got me where I wanted to go. Woo hoo!!! The only down side of having that much excitement is that it takes me awhile to calm down and even though my body was physically exhausted I had troubles falling asleep that night. But laying there replaying the day in my head I had a big smile on my face and it all felt worth it.

That spot was one of the spots I dreamed about while training this past year. I actually did it. I followed my dream even with all the no’s I heard along the way and I got there! Don’t worry I’m not that excited that I forgot about the rest of the journey. I’m only at 833km., I think (too tired to check right now) but the reality of this ride and how hard I have worked for it is becoming more and more real.

I will leave you with this for now. Never let anyone or anything get in the way of your dreams. Sometimes the path may have to be altered but if you put your mind to it you can do it. I believe in that!