Huzzah! I did it! I rode 20 KM, pretty much nonstop, zipping along at 8 KM/HR.

The ride took me nearly 2 and a half hours to complete. I was the last one to return to the stadium.

Despite my last place finish, I’m proud of myself. Obviously, I’m proud to have gotten out of my comfort zone. I’d never ridden so publicly before, so riding with hundreds of other riders was daunting. I’m also proud to have tackled the physical challenge of Ride Don’t Hide, breaking my record for longest ride by an impressive 10 kilometers.

More so, I’m proud of the tenacity I exhibited throughout my involvement with Ride Don’t Hide.

I could have missed the ride. I mean, the way things were going, who would’ve blamed me? Relapses, loss of supports, and the ill effects of many medication changes easily could have prevented me from attending. But from the start of my training to the moment my tires crossed the finish line, I persevered. I pushed myself to go for weekly rides and to blog about the details of my illness, addiction, and training progress, despite numerous setbacks.

As I began riding the 20KM route, I became oblivious to memories of the past three turbulent months. I was close to my victory moment. I could taste it.  I’ll be honest, as I neared the 10KM turnaround point, my pace slowed and I struggled to keep going.  But the voice at the back of my head kept shouting, “FINISH!”  That’s what mattered most to me, finishing the ride. So, I rode on, with the sun beating down on me, and the wind against my face.

Finishing Ride Don’t Hide was a personal victory, lifting my confidence and validating my strong-willed drive to succeed. I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, having now ridden in Ride Don’t Hide. And building self-awareness is…empowering.

But, I suspect, mine wasn’t the only victory on Sunday.

In my mind, Sunday represented a victory for all Canadians touched by mental illness and addiction.

It was a day of celebration, unity, and courage. Standing up for change always takes courage, so I would like to personally thank all those who attended Sunday’s ride. It is my hope that this year’s Ride Don’t Hide has brought us closer to living in a stigma free and mental health literate society.

Now, I look forward to whatever lies ahead. To quote Jack Kerouac, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” And as I ride on down this road, I think, how blessed I was to have been a part an event that is as heartwarming as it is impactful.

See you next year!

Sincerely,

Andrew Woods