When attempting a river crossing towards your dream goal, you must first pick a landing place on the opposite shore to target. You have to imagine being there with every fiber of yourself. You must want your feet in that earth more than your fear of strong currents. Then you have to shift your gaze back.
Losing sight of your target allows for focused concentration on the next step of your crossing. This step, this tiptoe forward along a hopeful path, seems so small compared to the river ahead. But if miscalculated, the entire crossing would be in vain.
For me, post long tethered open water swim goal, came the tandem tour. This tour consisted of a hopeful five days of riding with a total of 500km covered. It was, by far, the most worrisome. When you can't imagine how to untangle your soul, I suggest losing yourself in the catacombs of relentless past let downs you've stock piled and gain strength through first embracing weakness. Remarkably when the last seam of control unravels from your grasp, things begin to move in slow motion. Even when all time stands still, hope and fear tango to the same beat left pounding in your chest. The one that wants. The one that will push beyond what you know to be true to make magic happen.
"We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else could inflict" Jim Morrison
Training for this tour was very tricky. I imagine the planning was torturous for my coach, to whom I owe my entire summer. Motivating yourself is the hardest thing. Imagine the reality of constantly motivating another person, one who doesn't necessarily share in your dream goal but may agree to go along for the ride. Guide seeking for ultra anything is always the biggest adventure. Oh and then there was the awkwardness of not having a tandem bike either. However; Never let anything stop you, or everything will.
And so training became solitary hours on the trainer in the basement. The tandem eventually came by way of a dear friend who believed enough in my dream to fund raise for one. The event guide and host family was another dear friend Shannon, who has guided for me in the past. It seemed meant to be as all the details came together. A week after swimming 13.58km open water tethered, my bike tour began. July 28 was our first day. What follows is a recap of events to the best of my recollection.
Every night I wrote a few things down as to how I was feeling at the end of each day. So bits of my whimsical whining are intermixed with the actual details of the tour..
"Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased". John Steinbeck
Day Zero or Not a Creature Was Stirring....
This night was fairly simple. Food packed for tomorrow. Route picked. Clothes laid out (My superhero Salomon cycling gear!) and off to sleep. My last thoughts were of how I managed to find myself here.
Ambition breeds change. Or it should. It should spark a genuine curiosity for the "what if" that lives inside. Ambition's best friend is motivation. The hang out together like two star crossed lovers at a hunger games reunion. Motivation stirs desire aggressively into the soft folds of ambition. It can take you off guard if you're unprepared or unaware of its approach. Both daringly flirt with bravery and ignorance. This double date fiasco always leads to adventure. And in the moment before any concrete action physically takes place, electric sparks ripple through the air. Tangible soul empowering toughness, mixed with a soft smile of hope dance through this moment. It starts here, before you can catch your breath.
"The entire ocean is affected by a pebble" Blaise Pascal.
Day One or I am Stoker....
Total distance 93.7km
This day I was up at 4:40am. Tried to stretch a little. Oatmeal and vega pre-drink in the dark. Daisy's bags were packed and we set out around 6am. We got a little lost, travelled the same stretch of road three times. Therefore got to smell the dump three times. We saw (or experienced) the terrain to Lakefield, Duro, Warsaw and back. Stopped for banana ice cream, for frog crossings, veered around caterpillars, had random kittens climb into our snack bag. We lost feeling in our toes, we parked roadside for facilitated nerve flossing (to return feeling to our feet) and smiled almost the entire time. Once home, I practiced curse words on the foam roller, ate curry chicken, napped for a total of 26 minutes and had no regrets. And as I fell asleep, my head was full of random delusional thoughts...
"Terrain" is an awkward word. I've been thinking of that all day. There isn't nearly enough ups and downs in the word itself. It sits there on the screen, mundane and flat. After its brave tease with the capital "T" everything is the same until you reach the "i". Even that is a let down, with its middle of the word excitement syndrome. Life, adventure, challenge and actual terrain is no where near that. It is engrossed with newness every step, stroke or pedal. It is refreshing in difference every millisecond. even standing still changes the terrain. Three dimensional textures excite every firing neuron, every proprioceptive receptor that is actually paying attention. Life's ultimate request is simply that we pay attention. Living becomes enthralling, exuberant and entrancing when cosmic kind of awareness moves through your soul and intention. And sleep comes with dreams of day two.
"So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing" T.S. Eliot
Day Two or Maximum Tush Tolerance.....
Total distance 102km (split day)
This day I was up at 4:30am. Stretching, foam rolling, contemplating yoga moves. Oatmeal and vega pre`drink in the dark. Daisy's bags packed and out the door by 6am and again at 4pm. We finished this day in the rain. Out to Younges Point today and out towards Omeme on the rail trail later. It took 30km for my legs to wake up. We saw two herons, one dead otter, I ate a horrible banana flavoured gel (honestly I think I could have run over a banana with the bike and it would have tasted better).I accidentally peed on my shoe behind a tree, and we hit maximum tush tolerance. This is the place best described as the maximum amount of time your brain will allow you to ignore the pain in your tush while enduring the saddle. Plans and dialogues began to regroup with extra captain help. I spent the last 22km making words out the letters on the back of Shannon's jersey. Once home, I took the dog for a walk, danced away my sleepiness, stretched, foam rolled, ate and curled up with an almost empty head thinking of how beaten up I felt. How much I knew Shannon couldn't continue for three more full days. How well I understood that. How well I could feel that need to rest creeping in. And how much I loved her every desire to keep going anyway. But I made the calls and changed the plan. And I crossed my fingers things would work out. Even though self doubt was knocking. Last thoughts were of not giving in.
Strategically aligned stars are clearing the horizon in my soul. Knowing commitment is not the same as living it. Not the same as nurturing it. Not the same as going to bed with your legs on fire, tush bruised, knowing full well there's no going back on your word to yourself. Do or die. See. It.Through. Girl... and then sleep came
"You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with" Wayne Dyer
Day Three or Bike Grease Under My Nails
Total DIstance 55.2km
This day started at 5am. Shorter day so we slept in. Stretched, foam rolled, contemplated sanity. Oatmeal and vega pre`drink in the almost dark. And Daisy's bags packed and out the door by 7am. Today we went to Millbrook, Ida and around. I'm told in cycling circles this means something. All I know is that was one mother of a hill. In my mental fatigue I forgot my gloves. My wrists had started to hurt the night before due to the increased downward pressure on my lowered handle bars. Also spent a good chunk of time wondering if I smelled like diaper cream to anyone else. Todays ride had increased stops. Our chain jumped and tangled twice. The last attempt to fix it ended with us walking the last two blocks to home. The I spent an hour foam rolling and giggling over pictures of the horses we saw wearing zebra coats. Ate and hydrated. Plans organized for day four, with a captain switch to Jennifer (also a dear friend and previous guide). She was stepping in for the longest day too. And as I curled up t sleep, last thoughts were of fatigue...
Fatigue settles in by shoveling out ambition. It throws a tonic stink bomb into the room of motivation and purpose. It blows the weak links of doubt to bits and pieces. Then in the carnage, it flanks in and takes over. It works by holding back the defensive troops and attacks the cognitive function directly. It shuts down the brain power behind big dream chasing mentality. It plants seeds of realistic expectation everywhere. If there is anything I HATE... it's realistic expectation. If we all wallowed in that alone, we'd still be off meandering around with no fire, shivering, wishing someone somewhere would develop an app for that already.
"Fear is the static that prevents me from hearing myself" Samuel Bulter.
Day Four or Lets Play I spy
Total Distance 138.5km
This day I was up at 4:20am. Foam rolling and stretching in the dark. Feeling weak in spirit and tush. Jennifer's optimistic, albeit sleepy arrival was a comical relief that I needed to set off smiling. It was Bobcaygoen day. Also flat tire day. This provide us with a stop in Lindsay for pumping, a stop at the marina for pumping and watching the entire back tire being lowered into the water to check for leaks. I spent the day hungry. As if all the sudden i was awake from a long hibernation and ravenous. Thinking every time I opened a gel, please god don't be banana flavoured. We saw a million rabbits and one live otter. Jennifer discovered I swear when I'm tired. My wrists were screaming all day. We stopped for lunch and to ask directions a few times. We also stopped at a play ground so I could do some chin up traction on my wrists. The bumps became unbearable. the distance came up short. And yet I loved every second of this chance to stand up and say yes yes I can. even if I wasn't sure I could. At one point Jennifer looked sleepy so like a good stoker I asked her if she wanted to play I spy. I even offered to go first. That took a minute to achieve the giggles I was hoping for and Iwas rewarded later for my smartassness when she ducked to avoid a branch that then whacked me in the face. Once home, I ate and silently prayed for some kind of reason to stop. The problem is I'd always made my reasons for accomplishing this goal bigger than my fear. I knew this was my wall, my rock bottom, my emotional pit of self pity. I taped up my wrists, foam rolled, cold bathed and went to bed. and my last thoughts of the day were about defeat, or at least the many faces of it.
Rock bottom looks like this; freezing cold water, so cold it makes you cry, in a bath tub not your own, surrounded by people you love... and still feeling utterly alone. Your only company is self doubt and pity. Logic always says give in. Logic always asks for reprieve. Logic doesn't give a shit about your dreams. Logic is founded in your reality and the life limits you have constrained to every day. Dreams are whimsical and hover around thoughtfully like a fruit fly that won't leave your wine glass alone. Dreams and logic are hard to convince to make friends. Balance is key. Interspersed with long vacations apart. And in that moment when you lose yourself, when you completely and totally have no faith and cannot imagine digging deeper.... That is when you either find yourself or lose yourself. That is when you get to redefine yourself.
"There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them" Andre Gide
Day Five orThe Long Way Home
Total Distance 117.6km
This day started at 4:20am with tears on my foam roller. Some day I shall write a country song about the self induced pain and relief I've felt here. Karma was kicking my ass. Hard. I had to start my day with my wrists taped, convinced they were sprained. I'm also currently developing a theory on how convincible shorter women (sorry Shannon and Jennifer) are to do brave silly things like a bike tour. I was also extremely grateful Scott could step in for this my last adventurous day. And I loved that it meant we could raise the captains seat (and therefore my handlebars) Today we followed the Peterborough Half Ironman Route plus some trail. The sheep bleated good morning as we passed. And it was literally a downpour when we started. But start we did, and with smiles too. We stopped in Ponty pool for tea and donuts and borrowed a hammer (to raise the seat further) from the back of a beer filled pick up truck. Coming down the Millbrook hill we were clocked on the speed sign at 58km/hr and then met the nice OPP officer in the Macs store. Now this speed for a seasoned cyclist might seem normal or slow.... but as a stoker, who has no control over anything it is pure chaos. All I could do is close my eyes and let the world sweep by and trust completely. That feeling of letting go of every notion of my ability as I understood it to gain strength in my life was profound. To just be there in that moment as the white lines blurred under tire and know that whatever was meant to happen right now, would in fact happen regardless as to my feelings about it.
We whipped around some corners going over 30km/hr and I knew if i had stopped to let fear in, all of this momentum would make me cry. All i felt was endless belief in the dream of finishing this step. And potential, outside of the pain in my wrists and my tush, ebbed through my hope. The things I could plan to do in the future on this tandem were forming in my mind. Of course the reality was knocked hard back into me over several large moan eliciting bumps in the road. Scott, who hadn't endured five days of saddle time, and who obviously thought my reactions were funny, giggled and yelled back "did you cum yet?'. Just the right amount of comic relief to help us finish our trip and take us home.
Complete exhaustion won this day totaling my distance at 507km over five days. Three captains (Shannon, Jennifer and Scott), One chef and route planner (Gerald), Salomon cycling shorts and jersey to make me comfy and at least look like i knew what I was doing and one dog who sharing my yoga mat consistently every day.... and a million friends and family who tolerated my training and sent encouragement as the tour went on.... all made this possible. Endless thank you's to everyone who had a hand in helping and who dared to believe I could make such a thing come true.
Step two of this ultra tri goal is accomplished. Blood, sweat and tears and done. Increased my tan line, increased my belief. increased my hope.
Step Three, Dirty Girls 48hr Ultra run is August 9. My goal is to make 100 miles and up to now, I've not done over 50 miles. But I'm learning that boundaries are invisible. Unless you actually put effort into believing you see them.
"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you" Deepak Chopra.