The Cabot Trail. 300 kilometres of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the world. The mountains caress the clouds and swoop down to the sea. When I think of the Cabot Trail, I visualize the most perfect balance of blue and green. I also visualize the road snaking from Baddeck, through Margaree to Cheticamp, up over French and MacKenzie Mountains, down into Pleasant Bay, up the long, steep climb of North Mountain and down into Cape North, along the rocky coast of Neil’s Harbour and into Ingonish, over Smokey and finally around St. Ann’s Bay to the Gaelic College. It is an amazing drive. It is an even more amazing bicycle ride.
When I tell my friends that I will bike the Cabot Trail, their reaction is usually to ask me if I’ve had my head checked lately. But it is a beautiful bike ride – one of the best in the world and it is in our back yard. And anyone can do it, with the proper training of course.
This year, I joined Dr. Kent Cadegan for the Recovery Ride. This is a ride which he has been doing annually for about a decade now. The purpose of the ride is to raise money for a scholarship for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and to raise awareness. It is a very successful ride that attracts about 10 riders each year. They usually raise several thousand dollars to give to a deserving student of Glace Bay High School. I was honoured to join the group this year for my second attempt at the trail.
My personal goal this year was to climb North Mountain without stopping. Last year, I had to stop once because I underestimated the challenge this mountain poses.This year, I had a strategy prepared and vowed I would stick to it. I was very tired after the first day’s ride to Cheticamp. It was a gorgeous ride up through the Margaree Valley and along the coast to Cheticamp. After a dip in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, I went to my friend Marieve’s house where I was staying for the night. We went to supper and I was very tired afterwards. The day’s ride had been 110 km and it was time for sleep. I needed to be ready for North. Of course, I tossed and turned all night because I was so anxious about the monster mountain that was awaiting me. I was worried when I awoke in the morning that I didn’t get enough rest.
My worries were quickly put to rest when we got on the bikes. I was feeling much better starting than I had last year on the second day. Then, I really paced myself well up French Mountain and was the first to arrive at the summit. I felt really good. As we descended MacKenzie into Pleasant Bay, my fears came back. What if I went too fast on French and used too much energy to make North? What if my back gave out? What if I didn’t train enough? We ate in Pleasant Bay then headed to North. As we approached it, I was feeling good and the strategy came to the front of my mind. I was to look only at the road directly in front of me, go really slow so that my breathing didn’t become too laboured and focus my mind on thoughts that would encourage me to keep going, especially when that part of my brain kicked in which told me to stop. It would be very interesting if we could record the thoughts of someone involved in a challenge like this. Those thoughts would probably sound like crazy babbling. But they are necessary – the swearing, the drawing on positive things, the yelling at yourself to keep going (all happening internally of course). Well, we reached North and I was locked into my strategy. It was intensely difficult and there were times when I thought I was going to collapse. My tongue was dragging on the road when I finally reached the top. But I did it! In one go! I accomplished my goal.
It’s important to set goals like this and to do your best to see them through. For the rest of day 2 and day 3, as I pedalled the remainder of our beautiful trail, I felt very proud of my accomplishment. We are lucky to have such a beautiful island which presents us with such challenges. And one other thing I thought on North Mountain that day…I thought of the challenge of the survivor of sexual abuse – the mountain which that survivor has to climb – and that certainly pushed me to make it to the top. If you would like to donate to the Recovery Ride or join us next year, please contact me at email@example.com.