Well the Paris to Ancaster race….otherwise known as P2A has come and gone and I survived. With 1800 racers in 3 waves, it was definitely, by far, the largest race I have ever been too. Although this would be the first time I have attended this race, I have heard stories from many years past about the epic nature of this event.
This year did not disappoint. In true Paris to Ancaster style….after a week of spectacular dry weather, it dumped rain the morning of the race. Racers were everywhere, warming up in the pouring rain. A quick view of the weather satellite before I left home and I packed my arsenal of warm up attire…..a garbage bag to help keep me dry and warm pre-race.
It didn’t take long for me to notice how many people had cyclocross bikes. I brought my Fhast 29’er with some slim tires but I knew that it would be a struggle to keep up on the road sections being on a mountain bike and a different gear ratio. I was up for the challenge and ultimately my goal was to finish the race intact.
I found the start line exciting and nerve wracking. There were a lot of people eager to get out and based on previous race experience…..they go out really fast off the start. Fearful of crashing at the start of the race, I took my time when the horn sounded, holding my position until we rounded the first bend. The field began to break apart, the gaps opened and I was off on my adventure in the rain.
Trailing behind a mass of other riders that ventured into the mud before me made the trail sections incredibly deep mud baths and bogs. Ankle deep mud and massive puddles filled the forested sections. I surfed, slid and bounced off objects that lay hidden beneath the mud. All the while, I stayed on my bike, only having to dismount three times. I rode up and down the hills and that is a key to my riding and racing….I don’t like getting off my bike and avoid it as much as possible. Where others were walking, I continued to ride hearing many words of encouragement as I continued to remain on my bike. My suffering came on the road where I couldn’t match the speed of the cyclocross riders. Even as I pedalled my hardest, I couldn’t gain the speed so I knew that finishing the race was going to be my main goal.
Well, those that have ridden with me, know how much I love to climb hills. The longer, steeper, nastier the hill is, the more excited I become. I had heard stories about the epic climb to the Finish line and when I rounded the bend and saw it, I smiled! A flashback of my chemotherapy popped into my head and it reinforced that the pain I was about to feel was going to be easy and temporary. I donned my determination face….flaring nostrils and raging bull look and off I went. After 59 km of mud eating, gear grinding, soaked to the bone riding, I felt revived and I was in my element. The cheering from the crowd was incredible as the angle of the hill steepened, then I saw the finish line and put the hammer down for the finish. Anything I have left I always give up going for the finish.
Waiting at the finish was my amazing husband with a smile on his face and a look of relief that I wasn’t injured. He knows of my constant physical struggles since enduring chemotherapy and the lasting affects that it has left. My efforts are with pain besides the discomfort of the race and there is a severe penalty to pay for the effort. He has been the key to helping me fulfill my goals and it has been his constant support that has given me the strength to keep pushing beyond the pain and living my life to the fullest.
He cleared the mud from my face as I told him of the highlights of my adventure. The greatest highlight during the mudfest was seeing a very elderly woman in a wheelchair sitting out in the drizzle, ringing her cowbell, smiling and pointing all of us adventure seekers along the proper path. It was her willingness to be out in elements supporting this event that touched me. Even though she could not ride a bicycle, she was supporting all of us that were. It was her image that I took with me throughout the race.
I finished 10th out of 39 in the Female 40-49 or 25th out of 89 total female entrants. It was a great race and I rode my best. My goal was to finish and have the opportunity to say, “Yes, I did the Paris to Ancaster. It was dirty, it was nasty and it was awesome!”
My final highlight of the day was watching one of my dearest friends and training partner, Mandy Dreyer, receive her award for 1st place for women overall. She is an incredible woman. I have had the privilege of riding with her and watching her skill and strength as a rider grow. She had the opportunity to shine in this race and she did it. I am so proud of her. She is now on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator for her amazing, but not surprising, accomplishment.
I have to thank Tim Farrar and all those that helped make this event possible. It is because of their hard work that it allows those of us that wish to push our threshold and see what we are truly made of, possible.