Report on the Becel Ride for Heart

Last Sunday I took part in the Becel Ride for Heart with my father (I blogged about it last April) for the Heart & Stroke Foundation (they help buy defibrillators & put them in public places, fund medical research, educate, etc – lots of important work).  I raised 86% of my $1500 goal – not bad. 
At the start, on the Gardiner Expressway, stopping to fix our clothes.
If you were in Toronto on Sunday at 5:30am you may have noticed the weather was less than hospitable for a fun charity bike ride. It was about 8 degrees celsius (46 Fahrenheit) and teaming rain. But Canadians are tough, and after the rain eased up a smidge people were eager to hit the road. Note: my helmet cover is pointy because I didn’t get a chance to remove the light on the top of my helmet.
A quick overview: the ride starts at 6:30am, downtown near the lake, at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), snakes across the bottom of the city along the Gardiner Expressway, then the hard part starts as it goes uphill along the Don Valley Parkway up to highway 401, and then you go back down, the same way you came up. There are three routes: 25km (15.5miles), 50km (31miles), and 75km (46.5 miles) for the truly hardcore. The 25 is pretty easy because you don’t hit the tough hills until after the point where they turn around and go back. We did the 50km. The 75km is really tough, they extra distance is made by repeating the hardest, uphill part of the course.  I saw one guy on a super fancy road bike flying by; I like to think think he was an athlete and probably did the 75km twice!
Pit Stop, port-o-pottie Selfie
The ride is big, there were 15,000 riders this year, and it was EXTREMELY well organized. Because of the rain we hit the road late, and thus hit the port-o-potties early. 
The return ride, on the Gardiner Expressway in front of the city.
I’m a commuter cyclist, I ride to work as long as the weather allows, and I’m used to riding in the rain. I have all kinds of wonderful rain gear from MEC (coat, pants, hat, special mitts, gloves, booties, ankle warmers, etc – it’s a little like getting dressed for skiing, lots of swishing nylon fabric), but riding in the rain for two and a half to three hours isn’t a party. We bore down and took pictures again when we were in the home stretch (and had a pretty back-drop of the city).  
Unfortunately, because we were so focused on finishing I didn’t get a picture of the pavilions that are set up at the half-way points. They play exciting music, have tents with bananas & water, energy bars, bike repairs, and port-o-potties as far as the eye can see. It’s a nice place to pat yourself on the back for making it up the big hill.
Did you notice that the cyclists in the picture behind us are kids?  There were TONS of kids taking part in the ride, lots of families. Some were on training wheels, some really little ones were pulled along in tent-like carts. 
After the ride selfie (my front camera lens needs cleaning)
When you complete the ride you return to the CNE to a celebration! Excited volunteers and booming motivational music welcomes you home. Sponsor tents are set up with food & other stuff (I never have a chance to see what else is being given out).  VIP fundraisers (over $1000 raised) return to a brunch, where an entire building (I want to say the food building?) is filled with tables & chairs, which are in turn filled with tired cyclists. It’s amazing to see how many people are committed to this cause. Well, I guess it’s not *that* surprising. Who doesn’t know someone who’s had a heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery, angioplasty, or a heart defect?  
Last but not least, here’s the story about the medals (above). Because of the bad weather this year we started later than normal, and when we pulled into the parking lot I saw a few people with these gold medals around their necks. I thought they must be among the first finishers, the people who completed the ride in record time or something sporty and important. When we were completing our ride I saw more medals and thought “Wow, these people are really sticking around for a long time after. Is there some kind of ceremony for them?” I passed through the food tent, crammed a banana in my face, and saw a bunch of people standing in line, waiting for something at another tent. What kind of sponsor swag was so good that these tired & hungry people would stop to line up? Medals – by the armload. I got two for my niece & nephew. Not having been an athletic kid, I’ve never really know what it feels like to wear a medal (the only award I ever received was a plaque from the Toronto Geography Teachers Association). I’ve gotta say, it doesn’t feel bad.