It all began so simply.
“Would you like to participate as a special guest rider in the 2014 Tour de Rock?” That was the question posed to me this past December.
Yes. I would like to. It would be an honour. Sure. How hard could it be?
I know I can ride one kilometre. I was pretty sure that riding more than that was just like riding one kilometre and then doing it again.
Okay, I didn’t really think it through.
It took all of one training session for me to realize that what was required was a serious skill set and a more serious work ethic.
On our first day of training back on March 2, we rode 16 kilometres. That’s about 15 kilometres further than I’d ridden in the last 40 years.
Now, we ride three times a week: hill night, speed night and endurance rides on Sundays. And I stretch three times a day – all morning, all afternoon and all night.
The skill-set learning curve was, and continues to be, as steep as an Observatory Hill climb.
Since those first few days I have made some strides, but not without help. What kind of Herculean effort is it taking to get me ready for a two-week 1,100 kilometre ride? Physiotherapist? The ride’s not happening without him. Trek cycling guru? Check. Family and friend support system? Got it in spades. My family is my biggest cheering section. My wife does, however, think I’m in a relationship with my physio.
Alongside me every training day are some ridiculously patient and supremely qualified trainers.
I am also bolstered by teammates who have taken it upon themselves to nurse me through the tough parts (the tough parts include, but are not limited to, those hill nights, speed nights and endurance rides on Sundays).
Frankly, I don’t know that I could do this ride without any of them. In short, I’m lucky to be surrounded by this amazing team of selfless people.
Speaking of those who do amazing things, I love how young people up and down the Island are so connected to this cause. At its core, my connection to the Cops for Cancer campaign comes from kids.
At Reynolds, where I teach, the level of commitment for this campaign runs deep. It’s woven into the fabric of the school’s culture. For the past nine years, in the last two weeks of September, the school has a singular focus. Put simply, the staff and students raise buckets of money for a cause that we seem to feel in our bones. In the past nine years, these two-week campaigns have raised more than $470,000 at Reynolds. This year, our tenth anniversary, we might actually surpass the half-million dollar mark.
Why do so many young people put so much energy into this campaign? Cancer is a disease that resonates with most everyone, and to be blunt, pediatric cancer is beyond horrible. I’ve been teaching students for more than 30 years so it comes as no surprise to me that kids are passionate about changing the world through their actions.
Kids helping kids; is there a more powerful image than that?
I understand that I am riding because what the students at Reynolds and at many other schools up and down Vancouver Island have done and continue to do is something awe-inspiring. It’s a responsibility, as a Tour ambassador for Vancouver Island schools, that I do not take lightly. That’s why I continue to face the challenge that training presents to me on a weekly basis, one kilometre at a time.
Dean Norris-Jones is vice-principal of Reynolds secondary school in Saanich, and a special guest rider on the 2014 Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock team. To donate to Norris-Jones’ fundraising campaign, visit the Tour de Rock donation page.