On this particular day in June 2012, breakfast had taken place hours earlier, shortly after 3:30 a.m., in a church in Kelowna.
By mid-day, amid seemingly interminable uphill stretches on the highway, with massive leg pain and mind-numbing fatigue having set in, an occasional glance downward kept Siobhan Coates going – for what would total 17 hours of pedalling, covering 400 kilometres from Kelowna to North Delta.
Having trained the previous year (2011) as a support crew member, this was her first Ride2Survive event as a full rider, and it wasn’t easy.
But she had taped to her bike a photo of her sister and nephew.
Her sister, she remembered, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, just one week before the first Ride2Survive event Coates was involved with.
“I had no idea when I joined the group.”
So, on this day in 2012, she pushed on, keeping in sync with the other riders.
“I was very headstrong,” the Surrey woman says. “I would not listen to my legs.”
Her sister had already had her surgery, a double mastectomy with reconstruction, but it wasn’t yet clear if she was out of the woods.
“I had a lot of anger as well. So any time in the ride of 2012, whenever I would get tired or think I couldn’t do it, I would just look down at the picture of my sister and think, well, my sister had no choice, so I’m gonna just focus on the fact that she powered through.
“And I never wanted my nephew to not have his mother.”
The picture on the bike was only replaced in 2014, as the original was worn out.
While Ride2Survive offered hope as cancer threatened her sister, there were also other positive distractions to come from being involved in the event every year since.
Initially, she was Ride2Survive support crew member – the connection was made by local spin instructor and ride founder Vicki Kunzli.
“I didn’t have a road bike at this point,” she says. “I had a $200 Canadian Tire bike. I didn’t have the clip-on shoes or anything fancy.”
At the time, she didn’t aspire to more than just supporting the group – 400 kilometres in one day seemed impossible.
She went on a few training rides with the group, and half-way through the training season (in 2011), she splurged on a proper road bike, knowing that she was interested in joining as a rider the following year.
She still rode the last 80 kilometres in the first year – she had to pay tribute to her sister.
That year, among other new friends, Coates was introduced to a veteran Ride2Survive member and cancer survivor named Graham Street.
Wedding photo by Sig Novak, Shine Photography
“I met Graham in 2011 and thought he was a great guy. He was a ride captain and well known within the group.”
The following year, spending more time alongside others in training and on the ride day, she got to know the riders better, including Street.
“A few of the riders were like, ‘Ooh, yeah, Graham’s great, and you guys should look at maybe dating,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no, we’re just friends,’ that kind of thing.”
It wasn’t until after the 2012 ride that the friendship flourished – their first date was two weeks later.
Two full years later, and just one week after the Ride2Survive, the couple got married on June 28, 2014.
“The ceremony was at the Columbia Theatre in New West, and the reception was on the Fraser River Paddleboat,” Coats recalls.
“My sister Patsy gave me away as my dad was too old to make the trip from Nova Scotia.”
Half of the 60 wedding guests were Ride2Survive members.
Coates is planning to re-join Ride2Survive in 2015.
“It’s my friends, it’s my husband, it’s my life.”
▶ Ride2Survive, which takes place every June, has been raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society for 10 years
▶ All proceeds go to cancer research
▶ RCMP and BC Ambulance escort is all volunteer
▶ The 400-kilometre route from Kelowna to Delta includes about 11 stops (most are 10 minutes; two are 40-minute stops in Merritt and Hope)
▶ Riders have the option of solo (full-distance) or relay rides
For more information, visit www.ride2survive.ca