53-year-old Ken Schulzke is doing the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer for the very first time this August. He is motivated by a desire to help solve the cancer problem, and believes that if he can do this, almost anyone can! As he says, he has noticed that it is your will, not your body type, that gets you through marathon attempts. I spoke with Ken about his motivation, his training, and his experiences of preparing for his very first Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Like many among us, cancer has touched Ken’s life more than once. In 1998, he lost his brother-in-law to leukaemia. But that isn’t Ken’s only connection to cancer. His father is a three-time cancer survivor! At 79 years old, Ken’s dad has had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate, and skin cancers. Ken is grateful to medical advances and technology that have allowed his father to beat this horrible disease. Combined with his dedication to the cause, Ken has a love for cycling that has him excited to explore the foothills on his bike this summer. Father to two adult children aged 27 and 25, Ken hopes to encourage others to join the ninth annual Enbridge Ride in Alberta and show them an excellent way to make a major impact.
I spoke with Ken about his first Ride to Conquer Cancer
Joe: I understand this is your very first Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Would you care to share the reasons that prompted you to make this major decision to do a two-day bike journey?
Ken: It was Christmas Day and I had just received a gift in the family‘s $20 blind gift exchange. When I opened the gift, I saw that it was a decorative sign that read, “The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.” I immediately thought of my brother-in-law, Sean, who I lost to leukaemia and my father who has survived three battles with cancer. Reading the sign, I also thought about my love for cycling, and how I am always looking for new fitness challenges to keep me motivated to lose weight. All these factors came together and I announced to my family that I was going to do the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Joe: What is your primary motivation to do the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer?
Ken: To help solve the cancer problem. I’m participating in the Ride to help raise funds to conquer the disease, to reduce the likelihood that someone contracts cancer through education, and to assist those who have cancer, all in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
Joe: I hear you have a love of cycling. Could you tell us a bit about how cycling has played a role in your life so far?
Ken: I have biked recreationally for years. Once a year, I bike to work as part of a green challenge. My commute is 75 km from Red Deer to Stettler. It is an easy but impactful way to stay in shape. It relaxes me. I also love to bike on the weekends while listening to the Jays’ baseball game. It is a dream of mine to do a bike trip back to Saskatchewan one day (620 km to my hometown of Cudworth), or maybe even across Canada.
Joe: How will you prepare for the ride?
Ken: I prepare by doing indoor spin classes all winter (thanks to my instructor Brittany and my wife Sherry for the motivation). Once the snow clears, I hit the road on weekends. I will also do the eco commute challenge again in June.
Joe: Do you cycle all year round? If not, how do you maintain your fitness through the year?
Ken: I do a lot of different things to maintain my fitness. I do spin classes at the Collicutt Center in Red Deer, downhill skiing in the mountains, golfing (although poorly), and hiking in the mountains with my buddy Bruce.
Joe: How much money do you have to raise to participate in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer?
Answer: I have to raise $2,500 to participate in the Ride, but with support from the Ride and family and friends, I know I’ll be able to reach this goal. The best part about raising these funds is that they support breakthrough cancer research, clinical trials, enhanced care and the discovery of new cancer therapies at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Cross Cancer Institute and 15 other centers across Alberta.
Joe: I understand that many people find the fundraising more intimidating than the Ride itself. How has the fundraising been going for you?
Ken: I initially have only reached out to family. I intend to get active on social media as spring starts. I will be selling space on relay t-shirts for donors to put the name of loved ones who are/have been affected by cancer, and providing shirts to those who make a significant contribution.
Joe: Do you have any fundraising tips to share?
Ken: Don’t be afraid to ask people more than once. We are all busy and despite having good intentions, don’t forget to follow through when someone asks for support. Given we are almost a cashless society, most folks have to take the time and remember to go online to donate. So be persistent.
Joe: Which is easier – the fundraising or the training?
Ken: Neither. But both are much easier than dealing with cancer, so I just tell myself to suck it up and get it done.
Joe: Can you give me a URL for your personal Rider page, so people can go and donate if they want to support your efforts?
Will either of your grown-up kids be doing the Ride with you?
Ken: No, but my family will be there to support me and cheer me on.
What do your kids think about your decision to do this important but challenging Ride?
Ken: They think their Dad is taking on a ridiculous challenge, but hopefully they see someone trying to make a difference.
Joe: Do you have any words of encouragement for people who are thinking of doing the Ride, but who may be a little nervous, or think they can’t do it?
Ken: In my slightly younger years I have run six half marathons and one full marathon. All were daunting, especially for someone like me who is more a ‘plough horse’ than a thoroughbred. I was shocked and amazed by how supportive runners were of each other, and how encouraging the volunteers and spectators were. It made it – if not a little easier – a ton more enjoyable and rewarding. I am sure this event will be even more enjoyable and rewarding given the altruistic cause. The bottom line is if I can do it, almost anyone can.
Ken: The other thing I noticed at distance running was that it is your will, not your body type, that gets you through. I remember my first race, looking at the starting line, at the body types of the runners around me. I thought I would be kicking the butt of some of the big butts around me. Then the gun went off, they all sped by me, and I never saw them again. Their training and will power were the key, not their body type. Anyone can train, both their body and mind, to achieve success in such a venture as the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation presented by Evraz.
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