This has a back story as most of my adventures seem to. I went to the young adult cancer survivors conference at Dana Farber in Early March. While there I met Jon Wilson a fellow cancer survivor but also the founder of AKP (always keep pedaling foundation). The foundation offers grants to cancer survivors to get out there and challenge themselves after diagnosis. You can apply for a grant for adaptive equipment, training sessions, or other adventures.
Shortly after I went I decided I wanted the Title 9 Sprint Triathlon to be my challenge. There was only one problem I don't have a bike to use to train or ride for the race. I also don't have the funds to get my own. I thought of AKP and went to take a look at their site. I ended up submitting the first application and then the second. Unfortunately something went a miss and my application was never received (probably something on my end, it usually is user error) so when I email Jon in mid July asking about it he kindly had me to them again and said the review committee would be meeting the end of August to make a decision. But that in the mean time they were hosting a bike retreat the weekend of August 10th in Vermont. I was very hesitant to even consider going mainly because biking was my least favorite as well as least successful triathlon sport. But some how I convinced myself that I had to at least try worst thing that could happen is I wouldn't be able to do it and would walk or get back in the van.
I am thrilled I made the decision to try it! There were a few of us from about the same area that were able to arrange a carpool so on Friday morning we headed out for our adventure!
About 3 hours later we arrived at our fantastic accommodations! We would be spending the weekend at the river road barn. It had a gorgeous view of the mountains and of course a pool!
We were greeted by Els (a friend of Jon's as well as a member of AKP's board and fellow cyclist). She was kind enough to show us around and get us situated. Jon arrived shortly after
and again checked in with us and gave a little run down of how the day was going to go. Everyone else proceeded to arrive for the next couple of hours. We all gathered together and went over what we were going to be doing for the day as well as the weekend.
Vermont biking Tours was kind enough to donated not only all the equipment we needed for the weekend but a guide, vehicle, gas, etc. for the weekend! So Chris our guide from VBT went over the bikes with us and got us all fitted. This is the point where I almost freaked out a bit. Els showed us the maps on our bikes of the course we would be riding and at the top it had the mile 17.9.
I honestly might have stopped breathing for a moment. I have not ridden more than 12 miles outside and almost 18 miles on the first day SCARED me! But I reminded myself that I needed to try so I got myself all ready. After doing all the waiver signing and such we headed out!
I am pleased to say that I survived all 17.9 miles well actually it ended up being 18.3 miles because we missed a turn. I'm not gonna lie I got off and walked a handful of time but I always got back on the bike and I never got back on the van. That was a win for me!
When we got back to farm we headed to the pool, where I discovered I had forgotten to pack my bathing suit, but I improvised! While we swam Jon, Els and Simon (Els's finance and Jon's long time friend) got dinner ready. Then it was time to eat!
Smoked Salmon, pasta salad, asparagus and salad. Although it was not my normal dinner it was still very good. After dinner some stayed up and played games but I was tired and just laid down on my bunk.
Day two was just as much fun. We had the pleasure of being able to do a yoga class at 8:30am. I was thrilled to have this offer. So we all were up and in the gym for 8:30am.
It was nice to have a good stretch after Friday's 18 mile ride. I was also happy to know that my yoga abilities had improved. I was able to pretty much keep up. It was both energizing and relaxing at the same time!
Then Jon's mom was kind enough to come and make us breakfast. I don't know about you but I love blueberry pancakes!
After breakfast we all got dressed, collected our gear and then Chris our VBT guide did a gear shifting clinic for us.
He was fantastic the whole weekend. Sharing his vast cycling knowledge, providing assistance with the bikes, giving us snacks and of course rides when we were tired.
Jon and Els then gave us all our maps of the days course. Today was only going to be a 13 mile ride however it started with a 3 mile 750 ft climb. They gave us a choice we could do all 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile or start at the top.I really had a lot of thinking to do, in the end I decided to do two miles. I did end up walking some of it but I did it none the less.
The rest of the course was mostly down hill. We were able to stop and an old query and go down to take a look.
It was quite beautiful. We did some minor rock climbing, some people went swimming in a small pool between rocks and then we got to eat lunch there. Then Jon uttered the these words, "Do you guys want to do some more or are you all done?" We all felt pretty good so we said, "Let's do it!" he did warn us that there was one hill, we later discover Jon's idea of a hill and ours (yes as a group) are VERY different.
We rode for a little while longer and then turned onto a side road and started our climb. I rode maybe 1/6 of mile up and then just couldn't do it anymore. My Garmin was blinking at me that my heart rate was over 185 so I got off and walked. Chris once again came around checking to see if we were ok if we wanted a ride up. I refused to ride I was getting myself up the mountain. That's right it was a mountain not a hill! :)
There were a handful of people behind me. I got back on my bike and rode the last little bit to the top. As we waited Chris came driving up with everyone who was behind me in the van I was thrilled that I made the decision to do it myself!
Before we left Jon told us that he had something special to show us after our ride. So we piked back into the van and left for our second adventure. Chris pulled over, we climbed over a guardrail and walked through a field. My first thought was, 'ok this is the part where we are all murdered.' I could not have been more wrong, Jon is a teacher as his full time job and he took to see where the Vermont mint used to be. He told us all about the history of Vermont becoming part of the colonies and therefore the mint was no longer needed. It was really beautiful!
At dinner that night Jon invited some friends of his. They were also cancer survivors, they were married and both of them had been through cancer. Their story was astounding yet inspiring. I loved that they were there and we were able to chat freely. They were perfectly willing to answer all our questions.
The next day was Sunday August 12th.
I thought it was very fitting that our final course for the weekend was on the two year anniversary of my diagnosis. I had come so far since then and this was the perfect way to display that! We got an early start because we all had to head home after. Again we had a choice at what course we took. We could either do a 12 mile course or a 21 mile course that went into New York and back again.
Once again I adopted the I need to try theory so I decided to do the 21 miles! It was a great ride! I was thrilled when I got to the New York border. I knew I could do the rest! I continued on and we all stopped and ate lunch at a cute little covered bridge! Even though I was in the group that was in the middle of the pack we got the bridge first because Jon had missed a turn so his group did an extra couple of miles.
It was beautiful there and great atmosphere to eat lunch. There were actually some people there on vacation from the Boston area I thought that was pretty funny.
After we were done eating we got a group shot on the bridge. We are a good looking group if I do say so myself!
We headed back and finished our 21 mile ride. We might have completed this adventure but it definitely gave me the confidence to keep searching for new adventures!
I really can't thank Jon, Els, Simon, Chris, Andrew (another friend of Jon's), the river road farm owners, VBT and everyone else involved with AKP enough for this weekend. As I said in the beginning my challenge was to train and complete a triathlon. Before this weekend I was overly worried about my ability to complete the bike portion of triathlon. By Sunday I was completely confident that I will be able to successfully complete the 10 mile bike. My famous last words to Jon were, "you made me hate biking a little bit less this weekend!"
Else and Simon were actually getting married the following weekend. I don't very many people who would give up the weekend before their wedding to do something like this. But that is what this foundation is made up of great people who care! Please be sure to check out their site, donate and of course spread the word to other cancer survivors. This is an experience I will never forget!
Take the road less traveled by it is usually the most fun!