Climb to Conquer Cancer


I came to Richmond wanting to set a PR on Libby Hill. And if it was good enough, maybe win my age group (fat chance). I failed. I tied. Ugh.

Parking at Great Shiplock Park in Richmond

The Climb to Conquer Cancer is an event run by Amy’s Army of Cancer Warriors benefitting the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. I first did this event two years ago. In that event, I climbed Libby Hill three times, one pre-race, and twice during the race. Today I climbed it to get to registration and then during the event. I also did the climb once when I rode from Williamsburg to Richmond. So this was my sixth time.

Timing Chip – Climb to Conquer Cancer

In the COVID era, some events haven’t come back (Livestrong-Austin is canceled next month). Others are modified with smaller fields. This was an extreme modification. They offered no rest stops. None. Nada. I would have to carry everything I needed with me or stop along the route.

Survivor Bib – Climb to Conquer Cancer

Unlike past years where there was a small ceremony, National Anthem, then a police-escorted roll-out, today was “show and go.” For me, it meant not forming up with any other riders.

Registration Tent

I left the house around 6:15 a.m. which was a little late. My ETA was 7:45 which was later than I wanted to arrive. I parked at Great Shiplock Park which is convenient enough. I had iced my bottles and took Skratch mix with me. Added that to one bottle, poured ice water in both. Grabbed two packs of entry chews from Skratch and one gel. And that would be my nutrition and hydration for the day.

Libby Hill Cobbles.

I rode up Libby Hill, even stopping to take a picture of the cobbled route. It is much bumpier than I remembered.

Monument Libby Hill Richmond

Registration was giving your name and being handed a timing chip plate for the bike. With one zip tie, it never fit well on the bike. I should have forced the issue and used two ties. There were “bibs” for survivors, in honor of, and in memory of. But there were no Sharpies to write names on them. And there were no safety pins to attach and wear them.

Was this Amy?

I signed up knowing this would be a “lite” version. I was OK with not having support. But I wasn’t prepared for not having a Sharpie or safety pins. I had those in my car. I would have taken some to registration. But this was a major disappointment.

James River, Richmond

On a cancer ride, there is great community among the riders when they wear the names of others or even themselves. These are talking points. Connecting with others. And today, this ride missed that.

Battlefield Park Road

It was a beautiful day. The temperature at registration was 65º. There were some riders milling around and I wasn’t sure if they were waiting to register or not. I leaned my bike against a tree and registered. Then I rolled out by myself.

My Wahoo GPS seemed slow in drawing the route for me so I navigated from memory, a little, before it picked up the track. I only missed one turn but knew it right away. And then I was off and riding.

Virginia Capitol Trail

I had marked a number of segments, most were in the first half of the route, that I would compete for PRs. And they started coming just one after another. And each one was a PR. I caught and passed some riders. Twice I was passed by a paceline but it was actually once. After having been passed the paceline took a break at the 7-Eleven while I kept going.

Osborne Turnpike, Richmond

I rationed my food and water and never stepped off the bike. I put a foot down in the first block at a traffic light, then again crossing Rte 5, and finally, I took a natural break on a deserted side road (in the woods). No riders went by. I literally was by myself all day long only occasionally seeing riders up the road and passing them.

East Main Street, Richmond

Around Mile 50, with no additional food or hydration, my Wahoo tempted me with GO! I decided not to contest any more PR segments, waiting instead for the finish. I came to Libby Hill. There were a couple of volunteers at the base. I turned onto the cobbles.

Looking down Libby Hill

I have a bike better equipped for climbing the cobbles this year than I did two years ago. And I have a body better equipped. I should have set a PR. I looked for the gutter where I could ride the concrete instead of the cobbles. When that ended I turned the last corner. I saw a photographer so I naturally stood because standing photos are so much better than seated. But I quickly took a seat. It was too rough to be standing.

Finish line on Libby Hill

I finished. I asked about the timing chips and was told I could keep mine. There was nothing at the end. I wanted to take a photo of someone finishing. No one came. I left.

Capitol Trail coming back into Richmond

Other than Libby Hill, I’d say there are no hills on route at least after the first five miles. It’s a rolling country route, mostly roads but some on the Virginia Capital Trail. It’s neat to finish on Libby Hill. And it’s a good cause. I hope they can get back to a fully supported ride. With safety pins.

I don’t know about the timing on the climb. I sort of trust Strava uploads more than the chips on our bikes. I do not know what triggered the start of my climb. I did not see any timing mechanism at the start, only at the finish.

I don’t know what age groups the event has. If they use what Strava (and Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb) uses, I would be in the 65-69 age group. I was 9th overall, all-time, in my age group and five of those were done on Zwift in the comfort of their homes. And no one today was faster. But there may be someone who doesn’t use Strava. Or timing – maybe mine didn’t record for the event. I don’t know. And maybe they use a 60-69 age group and I can’t see the 60-64 age group. But it does look like maybe, just maybe, I won that age group today.

Overall, of people who uploaded to Strava, I was 16th out of 40.