I used to be fair weather cyclist. And by “fair weather” I mean “conditions must be no worse than perfect.”

Although I’m no stranger to physical discomfort or pushing past my limits — I’ve been a runner since high school, have done numerous road races, and decided one year it’d be “fun” to do a leg of the Canadian Death Race — that motivation never found itself firmly planted onto the seat of a bicycle. Thus, when my friend Todd asked me if I was interested in joining his team for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in honour of his wife (and one of my best friends) Linnea, my answer in the affirmative was immediately followed by a realization of what I signed up for. (I think it sounded a bit like, “I have to ride how long in how short of a time span???”)

Not that the distance would have mattered; this ride isn’t a race and because I was riding for Linnea my “fair weather” status meant nothing in this case. But still… I already could hear my leg muscles whimpering.

Since that moment of “Sure, I’ll sign up!”, I’ve put a variety of miles on my trusty new bike. From a sudden snow storm at the top of Highwood Pass to slippery rainy trails in the Edmonton river valley to blustery headwinds on the open road in Pincher Creek to an (unplanned) single-track should-have-been-on-a-mountain-bike adventure near the Crowsnest Pass, it’s been anything but a fair weather summer of riding. Yet, every time I find myself getting frustrated, tired or sore, I remind myself that I am doing this for Linnea and that — compared to what she is enduring in her battle — this is nothing.

This is nothing. This is nothing. It’s a strange and sometimes unsettling driving force… Commanding yourself to push past a barrier because you know your discomfort cannot begin to compare to what your loved one is experiencing. Indeed, I find that my silent chant sometimes brings my emotions to the forefront while I’m riding, as it reminds me of the darker reality behind why I’m doing what I’m doing. Nonetheless, mantras can help quiet our minds and center our thoughts, especially as we’re travelling through those tougher parts of our journey.

Through all of this, I still relish a glorious sunny day when hopping in the saddle, but I realize that not all days are going to be cloud-free, or calm, or warm. There will be hills, there will be wind. There will be pain, there will seeming impossibilities. But those obstacles are nothing. They simply bring my focus back to the very reason I’m on that bike in the first place — to honour and celebrate my most wonderful friendship with Linnea.

And that? That is everything.