By Ed Veal, Para-cycling pilot & Founder of Real Deal Racing
What could possibly make you ride 300 kms in one day? How many out there have gone that far on their bike and if you have, what made you do it? I am always trying to figure out why I do the things I do and why others do the things they do. I find it fascinating. The physical challenge is one thing but that isn’t enough for me. It has always been the mental challenge that keeps me coming back for more. The reason why you do certain things may change, but it is incredible what you can accomplish if you believe in it strongly enough. I believe in this sport. I love cycling. It continues to add joy and purpose and I am thankful every day that it has come into my life.
As the words left my mouth, the commitment started to settle in. While texting with the Board of Directors of the Forest City Velodrome, I mentioned that I would ride 300 kms a day, every day, until the end of September as a stunt to help save the place. My goal was to raise funds to keep the doors open at this great little track in London, Ontario. As you all know, the COVID pandemic has been hard. We are all feeling it – many small businesses including gyms and fitness facilities have been rocked due to restrictions and/or closure. We worked so hard to bring FCV back to life with the RealDeal 24 Hour Track Attack. We cleaned, polished, painted, and then partied. It was such a success; new heating was installed, new events took place, membership was up and pride was restored.
It felt like things were heading in the right direction until they weren’t. When I heard the financial report during one of our board meetings, I got so sad. Then it left my mouth: “I will ride 300 kms every day until we raise enough funds to pay the bills.” I couldn’t write a cheque to cover the costs but I could use another type of currency to help do my part. Immediately we started working on a name, a concept, some sort of structure. We needed a timeline, a schedule, a plan. It all happened so quickly. With one slip of the tongue I had now devoted all my thoughts and energy to trying to pull this off.
Only a few days later, on September 11th the Ride4Real endurance challenge fundraiser began in support of the Forest City Velodrome, The MS society of Canada and the RealHero project. 300 kms a day until… well we would see. I really had no clue how long I would be able to do it for, but I told myself I would try to make it until the end of the month. Saying that out loud was overwhelming. 300 kms a day for 21 straight days. This was very much a “let’s take this one day at a time” approach. I reassured everyone I wasn’t going to injure myself to pull this off. It was known this wouldn’t be a big deal on day one and we knew it wouldn’t get any attention on day two or three either. The hope was that by the end of the first week people might start to take notice. 300 kms once is tough, 300 kms 7 days in a row riding 60 hours and covering 2100 kms is really tough. Most days were between 9 and 12 hours on the bike.
Many days I would start before 8 a.m. and with food and bathroom breaks finish after 10 p.m. only to clean up, go to bed and do it all over again the following day, all the while trying to promote the ride and spread the word. It was beyond grueling. Right from the start the roller coaster of emotions was in full swing. I would be down, cranky, even lethargic and then laughing and smiling. I would question does this even matter? Does anyone even care? And then a nice message or generous donation would come in and make it all worthwhile. The messages of support and the very generous donations were the only thing keeping me going. Well, that and about 10,000+ calories of whatever I wanted to eat all day, every day. Yes there were some perks, and eating my face off was one of them. The grocery bill was massive but so was the calorie expenditure. Good quality fuel (food + love and support) are what made this possible.
Another thing that got me through this challenge was the variety of bikes I rode. I needed to switch things up so I would have something to look forward to. I would ride 150 kms to the FCV in London and then ride the remainder of the kms on the track. Getting a recumbent bike might have been the best decision I’ve ever made. Seriously, that bike saved my butt and back on numerous occasions throughout the entire challenge. It also gave my hands a rest. Of everything that was hurting (and everything was) my hands hurt the most. I even had the recumbent at the top of the track, up on the yellow line doing hot laps at FCV. I would hit the trails on my mountain bike and then would rush home to get the remainder of the kms on Zwift rolling along in a fast group.
One of the highlights was meeting up with my hand cycling buddies and going for a rip with them out near the Thursday Night Time Trial course. To make that amazing ride happen, I had to go home afterwards and ride past midnight. Day 7 was the 300 km ride to Windsor. How cool is it to be able to do a point to point 300 km ride? That will be a memory I will cherish forever. Sun up until sun down, and arriving only to ride 500 kms with Darcy Haggith of Infinit Nutrition. The Rick Meloche Memorial Ride was a 500 km adventure that started at midnight on September 18 and ended around midnight the following day. As crazy as this may sound, we drove home from Windsor in the morning and I was on the trainer getting my 300 kms the very next day. It’s impossible to recap the entire adventure day by day but on October 1st, after 21 grueling days, the Ride4Real had finally come to an end. It may have ended for me but many others continued to take part and do their very own Ride4Real challenge individually and as teams, trying to set their own personal best time and distance goals. It was very inspiring to say the least and my hope is to grow this event for years to come.
21 days – 185 hours – 6300 kms – 200,000+ calories and $13,500 raised for 3 very deserving and worthwhile causes.
I do this for the sport and the people involved in it, especially the kids. Cycling has really changed me and my life for the better. It showed up when I needed it the most and I am forever grateful. FCV and cycling facilities across the country are hard to come by and everyone involved with keeping them alive and supporting our sport should be embraced and cherished. It was worth every pedal stroke if this place and this sport can affect someone else’s life as much as it has affected mine. Thank you to everyone who gives back and does their part to foster growth. Thank you to all the people who rode in support of the event and gave generously. Who knows what stunt is next but if it can somehow effect change and help our sport please count me in!