Michael Halliwell knows a thing or two about taking on the epic Enbridge Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer.
The two-day, 200-plus-kilometre charity ride – which has more than 1,900 participants – has taken place in Alberta every summer for a decade, and has raised more than $74 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation since its inception.
Michael has taken part in the event since it began 10 years ago. He has participated as a rider, a volunteer and one year cycled with a hand-cycle to support a friend who became a paraplegic. Over that time, the Edmontonian has raised nearly $50,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation to invest in research, enhanced care and treatment for Albertans facing cancer.
Here he shares some tips for those new to the Ride.
- “It’s a ride, not a race.” Michael has seen riders representing the entire spectrum of fitness levels from the Olympic gold medalist to the dude who “pulled their bike out of the closet two weeks before the ride.” His advice? Ride in a way that best suits your training and abilities rather than pushing to be the first one to cross the finish line. “It’s a ride. Enjoy it,” he says.
- It’s OK to ask for help. Actually, it’s encouraged. There will be lots of support along the ride route which includes pit stops, rest stations and areas where riders can get mechanical support for their bikes. There are also shuttles that can get you through hills or rough patches. “There’s no shame in taking the shuttle if you need to,” Michael says.
- “Bike shorts are your friend.” There are also specialty anti-chafing cremes available at most bike stores. Michael suggests getting comfortable with your gear before the ride rather than trying to break in a new set of shoes or shorts for the ride.
- Pack right – which pretty much translates into pack light. Michael says riders are well-catered to along the ride route with regular pit stops and refreshments along the way so you only need to pack the essentials. He suggests packing a lightweight cycling shell, small enough to fit in your jersey pocket.
- “Don’t go great guns out of the gate.” Pace yourself because it’s going to be a long ride and there will be hills. “The hills can suck. There’s no way around it,” Michael says. “Pace yourself because they can eat up a lot of energy and you will be sore at the end of the day.”
- Be prepared for it to be an emotional journey. It’s always been one for Michael. “The opening ceremony is always tough because a lot of people aren’t around to see it,” Michael says. “We’ve lost riders, we’ve lost friends, and we’ve lost family who are not there to cheer us on. That is part of what motivates us to get there every year.” “Getting to the finish line is a little hard on the emotional side, too. It’s hard to put into words,” Michael says. “You hope that what we’ve done will continue to make a difference and help those fighting cancer. My ultimate hope is that we would get to the point where a cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence for so many people, that if you catch it early enough it’s almost on par with having a cold. I’d love to get to that point.”
This year, the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer will take place from August 17 to 18. You can support the Ride by donating to a participant or a team. Your donations will directly support patients and families at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton and 15 cancer centres throughout Alberta and move us closer to our vision of a cancer-free future. To support Michael Halliwell, donate here.