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TransRockies Day 3 Report: The View of Life from the Edge of the Precipice

July 23, 2011

Human lives are simple mathematics, constants and variables. The constants, within our control, make up the bulk of who and what we are – they are the sum of the small decisions we make through the course of our days. The rest, the variables, are defined by the things that happen to us, out of our control, and what we do in response.


Yesterday evening and this morning I made a handful of decisions that directly – and significantly – impacted the course of six very long hours of my life today.

During the first two days of the race, as I’ve described in previous posts, I’ve been feeling pretty lethargic, my heart rate not getting up into typical race (high aerobic) zones. I recognize this for what it is: simply my beta blockers doing their job. While training in the weeks leading up to the race, this typically hasn’t been much of an issue. I’ve experimented with my dosing, coming to a system of taking my drugs before bed, thereby giving them time before evening workouts the following day to diminish in concentration such that they’re still effective – dampening and regulating my rhythms – but don’t knock my maximum rates down as low as shortly following dosing, those diminished maximal rates correspondingly diminishing my capacity for athletic output. In practice, this means that in training for TransRockies, doing workouts that would normally have my heart rate around 175 bpm would instead yield rates of closer to the low-150s; my max heart rate, usually around 195 is, when medicated, around 168. I figured none of this would be an issue for the race, given Matt and I were able to do sustained training rides of up to six hours at heart rates hovering near my medicated max, and do so at pretty decent levels of output.

Not so, it seems, now that I’m here. I’m uncertain the reason – though I suspect it’s the altitude – and, as I’ve said before, who cares? We’re about having fun here, so it’s no big deal if my output isn’t as high as I’m used to or would like. Or is it? Part of having fun on a mountain bike is going fast, and my depressed heart rates mean I can’t go as fast as I’d like, even within a non-competitive, fun-focused context.

So, I experimented last night. I made a small decision.

Instead of my usual 25 mg dose I took 12.5 mg, my thinking being that at the lower dose I would still get the moderating effect of the drugs, but that that effect would be dampened, allowing my heart rate to climb somewhat higher and me go somewhat faster.


Yesterday Matt and I were riding the endorphin high of a day spent at the limit – the giddy satisfaction that only such times deliver: completely depleted, content in the knowledge you tapped over ounce of energy you had to offer, surrounded by mates and, post-effort, recounting the stories of your day. We were complete. And we iced our completeness and satisfaction with saccharine laughter, hurtling down the highway in our rented RV, shuttling between the finish of Stage 2 and the start venue of Stage 3.

And then the laughter ceased and a cold quiet replaced it in the cab of the RV. Matt had his phone cupped in his hands, reading an email that had downloaded while we drove through a rare band of connectivity near the Continental Divide. His shoulders slumped; his head, muscles failing involuntarily, tipped to the right. With his left had he simply passed me his phone.

On the screen was news he hadd expected, but not now. Not while living so completely. Not while paying homage to vitality with every next pedal stroke. Not while so far away. Jonathan, his young friend riddled with cancer, had lost his fight. His pedals had stopped turning. He was gone.

And as our departed loved ones do, without malice, he had left Matt to feel the pain he had escaped. Matt wore it like a lead jacket as he sat there in the passenger seat. All I could think to do was to stay close – two vital bodies in close proximity, fighting anguish in tandem. I held my Adonis partner’s shoulder in my small hand and squeezed hard, hoping to pull some of the pain from him, to be the teammate he deserved. I didn’t say a thing – I had words flooding into me, but none of any use to share.

The best I could do the next morning, this morning, was to post this message on the web, letting it be known to the world what today was about: Today’s for you, Jonathan & Lindsay*. #TransRockies #FuckCancer #LiveHardLoveDeep

*For those who don’t know, Lindsay is the beautiful dynamo former girlfriend of the best man at my wedding. A woman with a lovely young daughter. A woman who should live forever and continue, as is her wont, to cajole us to try to keep up. But she’s been caught – cancer too – and the doctors say she’s not going to finish this race. Her sickness – the illness and frailty of someone so young and deserving of life – has punched me in the stomach.

I felt that pain as we rolled out this morning, wanted it to wrap around me so I could carry a little of it. Knowing, ultimately, that it would blow away, not mine to bear.

But I took you both with me today.

[Update – July 22, 2011: Nearly a year after beginning this post, sitting in the dark, the Rocky Mountains all around me as they were during the bike race I’m describing, I’m thinking again of Lindsay as I try to finish the words that have haunted me these 12 months. And she is gone. Lindsay left on August 20th, 2010, short weeks after my original writing, and the world is a colder place for her loss. I still ride for you, Elle.]


Tweaking my meds worked like a hot damn.

Straight off the gun I felt better, my heart rate higher, my legs stronger. We rolled out of the start, first onto a dirt road and then a rougher jeep track, sitting near the front of the pack as the pace ramped up. It was a good thing we were there, too, as right behind us a duo of riders veered around a pothole and into three rows of traffic, causing a massive pile-up I heard first and then saw unfolding as I checked over my shoulder. But I didn’t see Matt, who’s typically sitting on my wheel in the first few hundred metres of stages. I looked back again and still didn’t see him, getting a little worried. Then I heard his voice immediately to my other side: “Keep riding – you don’t think kierin boy is going to let himself get caught up in that s#!t, do you?”

We rolled on, the pace of the front group ramping up ever higher, us dangling off the end. Matty, uncharacteristically, wasn’t feeling his oats. We were, as a team, rolling through the classic TransRockies conundrum: one of you is ready to rock, the other needs some time to warm up – what to do? I’ve heard horror stories of this situation, tales of the speedier partner (on that day – remember, everyone has a relatively bad day in a week-long stage race) simply turning his heels on his partner, in the process, in some cases, dropping not only his teammate, but a long-standing friendship.

For what? No good reason. There was no consideration for us, the decision was made – I shouted to Matt that we were good where we were, didn’t need to bury ourselves to hang onto the front group, that we should let them go. So off they went, though not far, perpetually dangling a scant couple of hundred metres up the trail as we turned the cranks, Matt tucked in behind me. The road continued to rise, and with it the challenge of staying on top of the gear. I though, on my low-dose meds, felt fantastic. Matt continued to curse at the hills, heading towards a dark emotional place. I could feel the cloud of his angst creeping forward from my slipstream, and I wanted none of it. I called him up beside me, took my eyes off the trail and stared at him hard and pointed. The sullen prick wouldn’t look at me for a while, but eventually he had to hold my stare. And when he did I asked him – in language that made clear I wasn’t asking a question – why we were here. I didn’t give him the chance to answer. Not for podiums, placings or foolishly-defined glory. But for those that can’t be here today, pushing because they’ve run out of power, hurting so we can know compassion. We’re here to suck the marrow out of this day, this blessing, that we’ve been given. We’re here to live, and sometimes, like when the road turns uphill, living gets hard. But our job is to dig, only, and not to worry about where that digging leaves us relative to the rest of the field.

Matt’s a focused competitor – he wants to be at the pointy end, wants to win – but predominantly he’s an intelligent human being, and the rational truth of my lecture sunk in. He dug in, sucked up, and stopped worrying about the riders up the trail.

And, not surprisingly, he rode into his powerful legs, such that by the time we reached the second checkpoint at ~ 40km he was once again up front, taking his characteristic mammoth pulls, garnering the appreciation of those able to hold his wheel. We hit that check point feeling like we were just warming up, ready to attack the 3000′ of vertical left to carry us over the Continental Divide into Alberta.


Writing now, many days later, I desperately wish I could have held onto that feeling: strong, on top of the pedals, wind in my face, emotionally unburdened, focused purely on the physical task at hand. Heart working properly. But I know now that it wasn’t to last, can see through the rearview mirror of retrospect that leaving the checkpoint the wheels were about to fall off. That as we started into the climb my heart rate would first track the elevation gain, skyrocketing, and then get erratic, pulsing frantically and spastically, trying to flush oxygen to my body to fuel my legs and brain, but doing a piss-poor job of the task.

Following a short stretch of singletrack, the trail opened up to reveal an obstacle we’d been warned of the night before in the pre-stage briefing: a (seemingly) near-vertical hike-a-bike along a plumb-line straight seismic line drawn straight up an imposing hill pointed in the direction of the Continental Divide, still unseen. Matt shot a quick bit of video of the comedy of that horrendous climb as seen from the bottom, and then we got down to it, me still feeling fine. As we climbed, though, step by slippery, alder-impeded step, my energy levels started plummeting towards sea level. In these situations, it’s hard to be objective about what’s going on. We’re a couple of hours into our third day of hard riding. I’m from sea level and we’re getting up high. The trail’s simply really efffing hard. There were plenty of good reasons for me to be feeling more and more sluggish with every step.

I asked Matt to stop to take a break, leaning over my bike and trying to pull oxygen from the air, watching a caravan of racers trudge by. It must have killed Matt to just sit and watch them make their way up the trail. But I was slipping. Matt didn’t enquire what was going on and I didn’t offer. I still wasn’t sure what was up, thought perhaps I was just tired, hoped it’d pass, figured I’d just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Very. Slowly. More guys went by, few words exchanged. My head started creeping farther towards my knees, my power slowly draining. I started to realize through the growing mental fog what was going on. My breathing began to grow raspy, the too-familiar feeling setting in that only the top 10% of my lungs were getting air. My field of view grew narrower, black creeping in along the edges. Holding my balance became problematic.

I kept my mouth shut. By this time I knew I was symptomatic, but also knew a handful more pertinent facts:

1. There was no going back: We were about halfway through the stage so going forward was about the same as going backward. (Getting picked off the hill wasn’t considered as an option.)
2. Telling Matt wasn’t going to change anything. Unless he truly had an AED strapped to his bike – as he’d joked throughout our months of training together – he wasn’t going to be able to fix my broken ticker.
3. I’d made another fateful decision before this stage; actually, an omission during my rush to get to the start line: I didn’t have my bottle of heart meds with me. I had no way to stabilize my heart, now feeling like it was set to explode in my chest.

So it got worse. I started to weave. My head was nearly resting on my handlebars as I pushed my bike. My breathing took on the character of a steam locomotive. Matt took note.

“You doing alright?”

“Fine,” I responded, a little too curtly if I was trying to convince him of the truth of the word. When I get like this, physically, my heart pumping inefficiently and my body teetering towards shut-down, I go to a dark place mentally. I want to be alone. I wrap myself in a ball of resolve and commit to simply pushing as hard as I can, forward, ever forward. I don’t want help. I just want the finish line. And I’m damn certain I can get there on my own. Regardless all indications to the contrary. I am a stubborn fuck.

“Why don’t I take your bike for a bit?” Matt was now looking over his shoulder at me. He’d seen me walking my bike already in this race, seen me pushing up against the governor of my medication, but it was clear he could tell this was different. The first hint of concern was reflecting in his eyes.

(Wheeze) “No.”

He looked at me more closely. He’d also seen this before, seen me in distress, knew the obstinate prick I become. We’d talked about it. I had promised him during our training that I wouldn’t be an idiot.

“Give me your fucking bike, idiot.”

I considered refusing, started girding myself to put up a fight, but by that point I knew I was in trouble. What rational brain I still had access to told me to acquiesce. I pushed my bike in Matt’s direction. I couldn’t look him in the eye, feeling ashamed. I leant on my knees and sucked in the thin air of the Continental Divide, hoping the breather would see me to the other side. My head swam. This wasn’t going to fix itself. I had to keep going. At least now I didn’t have to push my bike. I started putting one foot in front of the other, head pulled down by lack of oxygen and defeated pride.

It killed me seeing my burly teammate ahead of me, pushing both our bikes while I hobbled in tow. Other teams passed us in a steady stream, looking at me compassionately, figuring I was just too weak to get up the hill on my own, not knowing the other factors. I didn’t correct them. “Keep going, mate; you can do it.” Thin grin. “I hate you,” I respond inside my head. And smiled again. I abhor those platitudes, revolt at the fact I’m the recipient. Just leave me alone. But I know my fellow racers mean well, have the best intentions, are full of goodness. I’m simply a ball of metastasized rage. So I keep my mouth shut, knowing better than to let what’s inside out. I don’t tell anyone what’s going on because I recoil from few things more violently than justifications from the sidelines of a race gone wrong. It’s happened to us all. Just get on with it. No, I don’t care that you pulled your hamstring. Yes, the air’s full of pollen isn’t it – oh, that’s why you’re having trouble breathing? Not your day? So sorry to hear it. Keep fucking pedalling.

Because, you know what, it sure as hell isn’t Lindsay’s day. She’s back in Victoria, probably in a hospital bed somewhere, perhaps hooked up to a deadly main line of chemo drugs. She has a notebook in one hand, list of phone numbers in another. The phone’s lodged between her ear and an ever-more-protruding collarbone. She’s gotten so thin. Calling every doctor she can track down, imploring them to give her a better prognosis, hoping this one has a glimmer of hope to offer. Names are crossed off her list; reality gets closer to an empty white page.

Still walking, hands still pushing down on my knees with every step, I start to cry.

She’s so fucking strong, so vital, so mad to live. She’s the wrong person. I didn’t see her that way, with the phone, her desire and a hospital gown. My wife did, one day on the ward at the cancer agency where she’s a nurse. She came home rattled, inspired and disgusted by injustice. “She was so good to me,” Aviva said, “As though I was the one sick and in need of care.” They spoke with the intensity shared by those two blonde forces of nature. They talked about the progression of the disease, Lindsay’s treatment and prognosis. They talked about the things women talk about when meeting again after years apart. They talked about life. “I’m not ready to die, Aviva. I don’t want to leave Abi behind.” The doctors are telling Lindsay that she only has a couple of months, that it would be best for her to find acceptance. But acceptance and acquiescence don’t live there, in the heart of that fireball. “So I’m fighting, y’know, Aviva? Fighting for my life. I’ll call every goddam oncologist in North America if I have to, until I have one that’ll give me a chance.” Aviva has no response. Only admiration. And the tears she’s able to hold back until she arrives home that night. The same tears streaking muddy tracks down my face as I take another step upwards towards the Divide.

Ahead of Matt now, him chatting easily with another team of riders, I’m glad they can’t see me, aren’t paying attention to the shuddering of my shoulders as the last aftershocks of emotion course through me. I pull it together. The rivers on my cheeks run dry. I look up for the first time and see the beauty around me. Another few hundred feet of vertical. Keep going. Get angry. Fight up this rise. Push hard. I bear down and narrow my eyes, squinting the hundred meters of this hill into a shorter distance. Try to accelerate to a jog despite the protests of my bike Sherpa teammate behind me. Get angry_er. C’mon, damnit!

My legs start getting weak as I near the top of this latest hill, the view in front of my still-squinting eyes starting to disappear completely, two black discs covering my irises, blocking out the light. I’m dizzy. Weaving. Damn, my head’s swimming. Who’s making all that noise? Oh, it’s my breathing. Hmm…my hands are going numb…probably not good. Keep pushing, pussy! Clench my teeth. Growl. So. Fucking. Angry. Almost there. It’ll get easier over the rise. Dizzy. Weak. Wait, what’s this…uh oh, now my face is going numb. Definitely not good. Perhaps I should …

Just as I’m getting to the top of the hill my legs give out and I fall like the dead weight I am to the ground. Momentum tucking me into a fetal position. “This is good,” I think, “I’ll just stay here for a while.” But Matt’s running up to me, the bikes discarded, asking me how I am. I’m not so good at talking just then, but I guess my grey pallor gave him all the answer he needed. Knowing enough about my faulty physiology to understand that blood simply isn’t leaving my heart with any effectivity, and that my numb grey face hides a brain being denied oxygen, Matt lifts me up by the ankles and hangs me in a head-down aspect. My god how stupid we must look, I have the wherewithal left to observe. Muffled jokes from passing riders filter through my ringing ears. Something about high altitude yoga. A few words of concern. My complete lack of caring. The blood slowly returning to my head, and with it my eyesight. Sitting now, head between my knees, pulling it together, reflecting on our spot on the racecourse and our available courses of action. Clambering back on my bike and offering a word of thanks that the trail does downhill for 200 meters. Starting again to cry.

I’m overcome again with emotion, but this time not simply thinking of Jonathan and Lindsay, but also thinking of myself. The life that had been taken from me and the theft that I had accepted. The years I had spent away from the things I love the most: the outdoors, the fitness, the striving, the achievement, the sharing, the truth. Thinking also of what it meant to me to be back, living this life once again, out in the wilds and at the limit of my abilities. And, for one of the very few times since I’ve been battling this condition, afraid that it was going to be taken away again, and permanently.

I’m writing now, a year later, and only at this point able to admit that as I hit the ground out there near the Continental Divide, my legs gone feeble and my eyes nearly blind, my heart a broken muscle, I wondered whether I might die. I lay there scared and ready for sleep, asking myself what the hell I was doing, how could this possibly be worth it.

The answers I came to out there were as fuzzy as my eyesight, but they had something to do with the grand themes of striving, honouring the gifts we’re given, of filling every minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.

I kept pedalling. And when that was too hard I kept walking. Eventually, I crossed the Continental Divide and looked east towards what lay ahead.

In the year that has passed I’ve had time to clarify those thoughts from the trailside, to come up with better answers to the question, “Why?” Many of those answers echo the words of Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen:

“Most people have come to prefer certain of life’s experiences and deny and reject others, unaware of the value of the hidden things that may come wrapped in plain and even ugly paper. In avoiding all pain and seeking comfort at all costs, we may be left without intimacy or compassion; in rejecting change and risk we often cheat ourselves of the quest; in denying our suffering we may never know our strength or our greatness.”


For Johnny and for Lindsay. For too many before and since. For their strength so manifest and my own still being uncovered. For the realization that while we are living we owe it to them, to ourselves and to this world we inhabit to make the decision to truly live.

dum vivimus, vivamus

TransRockies Day 7 Report: Team Dynamics (Rafter Six Ranch -> Canmore)

August 14, 2010

[I owe you a few posts. Since my last, post-Stage 2, one helluva lot has happened, much of it wonderful and enriching, some of it very hard and reflection-inducing. Because of that last, I’ve been challenged by the prospect – both physically and emotionally – of putting what’s happened down on digital paper. I’ve started a report from Stage 3, a TSN Turning Point for Matt and I, but it’s going to take me a little while to get it internally digested, distilled and then described on these pages. Thank you for your patience (and for the queries in the digiverse about what the heck’s been going on with us while we’ve been in the middle of the mountains and outside the bubble of the internet). For now, here’s how things wrapped up…]

We crossed the final finish line in Canmore a couple of hours ago, as a team of four Tinhorn Creek riders, hand in hand, the grins painted across our faces those that only the palate of complete satisfaction can create. Matt and I had been talking about the final stage for a few days and, after making a final decision, let Mark and Keith – the A Team, Team Tinhorn Creek Crush Club – know that we’d like to ride with them today on the last leg into Canmore. They were happy to accept the suggestion, with only the slightest trepidation on the face of Mark after we told him we were going to pour on the full speed of the Purple Train* in the early road section of the stage and that his end of the deal was simply to do his best to hang on.

*This is one of the things I’m forever going to remember about this race, the nickname given to Matt and I by our fellow competitors, in reference to the fact that though my heart has left me less than powerful at times in the singletrack and high mountains, fortuitously it seems that whenever we’ve hit a road or jeep track section I’ve been in decent physiological condition, allowing Matt and I to pour all our collective cycling miles into the pedals, often quite happily inviting other racers to jump on for the ride amidst our contrails. Ego leaves an acrid taste in my mouth, but I’d be falsely modest to not admit that this nickname – and the pats on the back in combination with which it’s often used – is a source of pleasure and pride. (By the by, the videographers seem to have their own nickname for Matt and I: more simply, “Da Boyz.” Love that one too.) Read more…

Epic: TransRockies Day 6

August 13, 2010

Matt (between gasps):  “Rumon, you hear that?”

Rumon (equally outta breath):  “Uh-huh.  What do you think it’s doing?”

Matt (solemnly): “It’s probably medivac-ing someone else down in the valley.”

The ‘thwack-thwack’ of the helicopter overhead punctuated the fact that things had gone seriously bad during Stage 6 of the TransRockies Challenge, and we were only two hours into what turned out to be six of the most dangerous hours I’ve ever spent on a bike.

The storms that poured through at the end of Stage 5 left new snow on the high peaks above camp, and we all went to bed with an uneasy feeling about what lay ahead for Stage 6, knowing full well that the ride would take us up high, into the alpine and cold.  Our fears were realized when we woke to cold and drizzle reminiscent of Vancouver in February.  The hot topic of the morning was what to wear;  do we continue with our ‘light and fast’ philosophy or do we gear up, putting on extra layers that would not only weigh us down, but also risk overheating on the 7400 ft of climbing we would do this day.  We all decided that a compromise was the best bet, but in hindsight, I’d have taken every damn stitch of clothing I could get my hands on. Read more…

The Wallowing: TransRockies Days 4 and 5

August 12, 2010

I hate cow poo.  This may come as no surprise, as most sane people wouldn’t profess to a penchant for bovine feces, but I really, really hate cowshit.  We’ve spent Stages 4 and 5 riding in it, walking in it, and falling in it.  Our most detested practice entails riding behind your partner, mouth agape because you’re in the hurt locker, and a big blob of fresh cow poo shoots off his spinning rear wheel straight into your mouth.  This was not an uncommon experience.

Over the last two days, the course has taken us down the eastern slopes of the continental divide and into the lowlands of Kananaskis Country.  We’ve encountered some incredible climbs, insane downhills, but without doubt, the majority of the last 10 hours of racing we’ve done has been spent slogging through endless bog-like pastures amongst herds of cattle who were none too happy that we were anywhere near them.  At one point, as we were crossing a pasture, Rumon, from behind, shouts up to me ‘Cow Back!’ and I look back over to my shoulder to see 1000 lbs of agitated beef bounding up the trail behind me. Normally, I’d be damn scared of being flattened, but the sight of this ungainly behemoth jumping and bucking actually elicited a laugh, in light of the dismal poo-walking we’d been enduring. Read more…

Highs and Lows: TransRockies Day 2 Report

August 10, 2010

I knew that the Day 2 stage of our TransRockies adventure was going to be my first true test of the race, with the 1100m climb up and over Fernie Ridge testing both my legs and lungs, and the ripping descent to the valley bottom pushing my sissy descent skills to their limit.  Little did I know that the gut punch of the day wouldn’t come from some harrowing crash down one of the many cliff-cum-hills we slashed across while screaming down the face of the ridge, but instead would come post-ride, with the receipt of an email I knew was coming but was willing it not to with futile hope.

Waking to clearing clouds was a blessing after yesterday’s three-hour wallow in the greasiest, most abundant mud I’ve ever ridden in.  Stories of Tickle and Bushleague’s epic 5 days of enduring the same sludge during last year’s TR had me spooked that we may be in for the same suffering, but beautiful Mother Nature decided to smile upon us and reveal endless ranges of stunning mountains as the cloak of cloud peeled away. Read more…

TransRockies Day 2 Report: Turning Uphill & Turning the Screws – Another Day Spent at the Limit

August 10, 2010

Back at home, before we started the TransRockies, Matty and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We’d started out feeling scared, moved onto and through trepidation, and found ourselves tapering into the race feeling conservatively confident. Not, as I’ve said before, confident in any sense of feeling like we were going to attack the race by the jugular, just confident that we’d be able to get through it feeling solid. We’d put in multiple 6+ hour training days and had welcomed the sensations of a modicum of strength. So, back home, anticipating the race, we’d discussed how we would pace ourselves. Objective one was to never “go lactic.” (For the non racers in the crowd, that refers to going to a place of oxygen deprivation where your body metabolizes fuel in an inefficient manner. It’s a fight-or-flight physiological response that’s good to get you through a short stretch of intense effort, but quickly leaves you depleted.) In other words, we were going to ride moderately throughout. Then it got a little trickier to plan: Over seven long days, how best to allocate effort? Having fun was, is and always will be our primary goal, but part of the fun of mountain biking is going fast. So we figured we’d keep it rolling, but always have the throttle dialed back a little in the opening days, with a view to still feeling strong in the second half of the race. Note “still feeling strong” for what comes next. Read more…

TransRockies Day 1 Report: Mud, Altitude, Gorgeous Trails & Some Quality Time in the Hurt Locker

August 8, 2010

I’d forgotten all the logistics involved with these races, especially when they include mountain bikes + mud. Washing bodies and bikes, eating, a couple of hours on bike maintenance, more eating, prepping for tomorrow, more eating … suddenly it’s past 10:30 p.m. and I should really be heading to bed if I was thinking about intelligence and optimal race prep. However, this race for us isn’t about optimal race prep. It isn’t about squeezing every second out of our race time. It isn’t after chasing podiums. It’s instead about chasing experiences and squeezing every last iota of enjoyment out of those. And sharing some of those along the way.

And it’s a good thing too as today was a tough day for me, not one where we as a team could therefore have any concern about being anywhere near the podium. The responsibility for this rests squarely on my shoulders – I just didn’t have any jam today. I felt stellar yesterday on our short evening pre-ride, I’m completely rested – i.e. I have no excuses – but as soon as we started into the first ramps of the initial 1800′ climb (of 4265′ on the day), I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hang with my choo choo teammate as he accelerated away from me. Read more…

Speaking of The Stoke – Endorphin-Inducing Article in the Globe & Mail

August 7, 2010

We’re en route to the race start in Fernie, Teams Tinhorn Creek Crush Club (The A Team) & Tinhorn Creek NSA rolling along in our land yacht RV. Along the way I got a text from my dear mum asking, in passing, whether I’d brought bear spray. “Why?” I replied. “There’s an article on your race in today’s Globe,” she let me know, without editorialization.

So when we stopped in Cranbrook to resupply, we grabbed the paper. After reading the article –, three observations:

1. Probably not the article you want your mum to read the day before the race you’ve been keeping strategically quiet about.

2. From Matt: “Hey, I’m cooler than I thought I was!” [*raised eyebrow* from his teammate]

3. The boys are now very, very stoked.


ties that bind – a guest post of sorts

August 5, 2010

It’s not a TransRockies update but I posted to my personal blog and figured, after some consideration, that it made sense to cross-post it here. No bikes involved, no crashing, no Lycra. But it’s about, on some level, the magical ties that this sporting life of ours creates and, when life gets tough, how those ties function to hold us together. So it’s about, in that way, what Matt and I are doing here and out on the trail.

It’s also an explanation to those following along on Twitter or Facebook why I got a little philosophical about life and babies a little while back.

Anyway, here it is:

The Stoke

August 4, 2010

I’ve been tossing and turning for the past three nights, I can’t stay focused at work, and I’ve got a serious case of the Jimmy Legs.  It is definitely time.  With our departure for Fernie, the start of our week-long race, only two sleeps away, I’m feeling like a hopped-up 12-year old kid who ate way too many candy canes, snuck a couple of Mom’s rum balls, and now has to lay in bed for what feels like a geologic epoch before the arrival of Christmas morning.

Fortunately, I’m not alone.  Tickles, Bushleague, and the Hurricane all feel the same giddy anticipation, as witnessed by feverishly typed emails and text messages.  “Who’s packing the disco ball?”  “Don’t forget to pack the XBox!”  “Are we painting flames and fangs on the motorhome!?!?”  All very important questions and comments that are being shot back and forth with an urgency normally reserved for saving a small child that has fallen down a well on an Iowa farm.

There is a simple word that explains this urgency, uneasiness, and excitement: Stoke.  Months of training, organizing, training, doubting, training, whinging, training, recovering, and, oh yah, training, has led to this point.  With decreased riding volume over the last 10 days of our taper, our bodies are actually getting much-needed rest, but unfortunately, the result is a feeling of pent-up energy that leaves us feeling restless and chomping at the bit.

Tickles and Bushleague make Whistler look goooooood.

Fortunately, all of us being athletes of one type or another, we deftly anticipated this reaction and threw together a great final training weekend at Whistler where we were able to further cement the solid friendships that will keep us laughing at and with each other into the times when saddle sores, sunburns, and seized-up legs turn our ‘fun outing’ into a test of will.

Not ones to pass up a great riding opportunity, we also used this final weekend session to polish up on our technical skills riding many of the classic valley trails, and managing to get lost on a trail that is bordered on four sides by paved roads.  It was pure comedy watching Bush and Tickles ‘Laurel and Hardy’ it back and forth insisting that ‘Whistler is that way!’  Without their bike-mounted GPS’s, the two of them reminded me of that classic Far Side couple…

The unfortunate thing about the weekend was the absence of Rumon, but fully understanding of the Hurricane’s family obligations, we managed to get in some great team downhill training without him.  With a little ingenuity, some master craftsmanship, and a healthy degree of bravado, we developed a descent method that is sure to not only land us atop the podium at the end of the first days team time trial in Fernie, but most importantly, to get us there with stoke and in the most dramatic style! (Watch for Bushleague’s shoe in the slo-mo replay!)