Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fall


Fall. For some reason, I have been much more aware of the seasonal change this autumn. It’s kind of like I’ve been sitting back, literally watching Mother Nature slowly redecorate. Noticing may be motivating me to ride more? Or riding may be motivating me to notice more? Either way I win, and feel more connected to nature and it’s rhythm. Riding through this section of the trail, I noticed the floating leaves as they fell off branches, graciously dancing as they were gently drawn to the earth, seemingly happy to join the rest of their siblings laying on the ground. The trees had worked so very hard all summer to grow all of these leaves. And then, just like that, they let them all go in a breathtaking, colorful masterpiece, not minding that they will have to grow them all back next Spring. Maybe my solo autumn rides aren’t as much about what they give me? Maybe my solo autumn rides are more about what they encourage me to let go? Fall.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Gravel Inspiration


“He looked around at the empty plaza again, feeling less desperate than before. This wasn’t a strange place; it was a new one…he had already traveled farther than any shepherd he knew. Oh, if they only knew how different things are just two hours by ship from where they are, he thought….As he mused about these things, he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. “I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure,” he said to himself.”
-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist



Inspiration.  It can’t be forced.  One can only let it surface.  As soon as I heard about the Rum Rummers trail in Nova Scotia last autumn, I was inspired.  Inspired by it’s reach.  Inspired by it’s adventure potential.  Inspired by the fact that it intersects the doorstep to Oak Island.  Inspired by it’s story.  I mean, bootlegging and secret buried treasures.  What else could one ask for in a gravel route?  I instantly knew that I absolutely needed to ride it.  The 119km shared use trail is built on a former rail bed.  The tale behind it’s name is that the railway was once used to transport barrels of liquor to be shipped from Canada to the “Rum Row” off the United States eastern seaboard on boats during the Prohibition-era from 1920 to 1933.   Local fishermen became international smugglers after they realized that they could make more money delivering a single load of booze compared to a full year of fishing.  The story fascinated me. The gravel lining of my soul had succumbed to the Rum Runners trail’s mythical lure.


My inspiration gave birth to a list of rides that I wanted to do in 2019.  Writing them down on paper minimized the chance that they ended up on the “someday” list that lives inside my head.  Too many great rides have gone there to die.  It was time to stop murdering ride ideas that way.  The Rum Runners trail was the first one on my new list.  A solo day trip was how I wanted the adventure  to unfold, a sacred communion between me, my bike and the gravel.  The older I get, the more that I crave and enjoy the cleansing effect of companionless pedalling.  My riding is becoming my meditation, my experience best absorbed moving at my own pace, not distracted by small talk.  Isn’t it strange how age maturity brings us back to basics, back to simply doing what makes our soul sing.


On August 7th, my wife and I drove to Lunenburg which is about 3 to 3.5 hours from where we live in New Brunswick.  We spent the rest of the day walking around, playing tourists.  The next morning, after leaving later than planned, my wife dropped me and my bike off in Mahone Bay.  I would miss the “Bay to Bay” section of the trail from Lunenburg, but would be less rushed to meet her in Halifax in time for supper.  She wished me luck before continuing her drive to Halifax and I started my ride.  My stoke level was that of a 10 year old on Christmas morning.  I had packed water, food, 3 tubes, 4 CO2 cartridges and tools to fix most everything that didn’t require a visit to a bike shop.  Once my wife left, I knew, and liked the idea really, that I was on my own.  I felt confident that I had everything that I needed.  Worse case, I had my credit card.


It was cloudy and a tad cool, but I quickly warmed up.  The dry and dusty sandstone gravel was whiter than I had imagined which made it almost feel like I was riding on Caribbean sand.  The “Dynamite” section out of Mahone Bay was absolutely gorgeous with it’s so very green, lily pad filled ponds and thick wooded sections.  I kept stopping to take it all in and snap photos, trying to find the right balance between experiencing and documenting my journey.  Some spots were so peaceful that I just wanted to sit there and nature bathe forever.  The serenity and peace of mind knowing that you’re not riding amongst car traffic really make up for the gentle trail grades and generally easy ride.  Rolling in and out of the many wooded sections, I was always excited to ride through the coastal communities that the trail crosses. 


I stopped to chat with an older couple walking on the trail near Martins Point.  They seemed quite surprised, concerned even when I told them that I was riding to Halifax.  They looked at me like I was insane and asked me if I had brought water.  I assured them that I had all that I needed and that I was good.  I asked them how far we were from Oak Island.  They told me that it was just ahead, a few kilometers off the trail.  I don’t really watch “The Curse of Oak Island” on the History channel, but I still felt intrigued by the legend of it’s lost treasures.  I had to stop to have a peek, even for just a few minutes.  I missed the road that leads to it, so I had to backtrack a bit, but I eventually found it.  The first impression that I got was how small the island actually is.  There isn’t even a bridge to get to it.  They just built a dirt road that connects it to the mainland.  The second impression is that it is very guarded.  The general public is not allowed anywhere other than around the interpretive centre unless on a paid guided tour.  There was a sign warning me that I may be filmed if I decided to enter the area.  I never saw any cameras.  I never saw any treasures either.  I ate a snack, took a few pictures and bathed in the island’s energy before heading back to the trail.


Back on the “Chester Connection” section of the trail, I pictured myself a passenger on one of the many trains that had travelled the same journey way back when.  I imagined how it must have felt for them to be in the exact same location but sitting in a train cart taking in the scenery rather than outside on a bike.  I wondered what they were thinking at the time.  I wondered what they talked about.  I wondered how they felt as I approached one of the old train stations.  It has been transformed into a very quaint visitor information centre and craft shop.  I imagined passengers hoping on and off the train at this station back in the day.  The rich history of the area made my imagination wander, keeping me entertained during the entire ride.


Cruising on the “St. Margaret’s Bay” section of the trail, I felt so very tall looking down at the roofs of the houses below as my tubeless 40mm tires floated over the gravel surface carved into the rocky hills along the shore.  This made me think about the amount of work that went into building the initial railway.  The task is so very impressive, especially back when modern machinery wasn’t as available as it is today.  I felt that those who built it would have been very happy to know that all of their work did not go to waste.  They would certainly be proud that their railway has been born again as an amazing trail system and that it is still used today.  Even the bridges are built on some of the original metal and preserved wood structure.  This repurposing  made me crack a deep smile.



Still on the “St. Margaret’s Bay” section and starting to feel the bonk, I wondered how far I was from the coffee shop.  My gaze, brushing the brim of my cycling cap, caught a glimpse of a barn red structure ahead.  It was another old train station, which is now the Bike and Bean CafĂ© and Bike Shop in Upper Tantallon.  The place has so much charm.  The main building is attached to an old railroad car that they use for bike storage.  And that soup, salad, dessert and latte sure tasted like a million bucks after 4 hours of spinning the pedals stirring white gravel gold dust.  I met a few other cyclists and chatted with the owner before heading back out for the final stretch of my voyage.  I started feeling rain drops just as I rolled into Halifax.  Perfect timing.  No flats or mechanicals.  An amazing ride that I will certainly not soon forget.  The day was capped off with supper with my wife and her nephews at The Wooden Monkey restaurant in Halifax as I basked in the after-ride stoke. 



Oh, and what about the other items on my 2019 ride list?  There certainly were some other outstanding gravel adventures in there as well.  Like the day that I got lost on purpose exploring the open spaces between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  It was one of those perfect July mornings where the green is so very green and you can taste the thickness of the warm air.  I wasn’t going fast, but the riding felt effortless.  It was like there was no wind even if I felt refreshed by a gentle cool breeze.  And there was also the day that I finally did the Dorchester Cape loop.  I had stopped in Johnson’s Mills for a quick snack just as I noticed the Sand Pipers dancing along the shore.  The beauty of how they were moving literally gave me goosebumps.  Yeah, those were amazingly great ride days as well.
 

We are sold the idea that the most beautiful places on this earth worth seeing are far away and expensive to visit.  But this way of thinking only makes us miss what’s right under our noses.  It makes us miss the treasures in our own neck of the woods.  Who knew that all this amazing gravel existed so close to home, just waiting to be ridden?   As much as the big bucket list ride destinations seem exciting and worth doing, I believe that we should all start with exploring where we already are, in our own backyards. 



I got through most of my 2019 ride list.  And those that I haven’t had the chance to ride yet, they may happen this fall?  If not, they’ll just be at the top of my 2020 list.  Maybe 2020 will the year of my first multi-day solo backpacking trip?  Maybe?  Inspiration.  It can’t be forced.  One can only let it surface.



Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Thank you like a hurricane !


Photo by Skylight Photo

Photo by Skylight Photo

Photo by Luc Arseneau

All I could do was to laugh out loud.  Part of it was nerves.  The other part was simply noticing how funny life really is.  I mean, come on, are you kidding me?  A friggin hurricane?!  The more that I looked at the weather forecast, the more that I realized that Dorian was definitely lining up to hit us on Saturday, the day of our Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes XII ride.  All other activities were being cancelled mid-week.  But we didn’t want to cancel just yet.  In denial, I was secretly hoping that we could still pull it off.  After so much work I wasn’t ready to just throw in the towel like that.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Photo by Skylight Photo

In so many ways, I have been in the same situation many, many times before.  Playing the Type 1 game, you plan everything so very carefully and then, out of the blue, Type 1 Diabetes starts playing dirty and all you can do is try to minimize damage.  No warnings.  No mercy.  Like the time that Adele’s blood sugar dropped dangerously low as we were trying to exit the airplane during one of our vacations.  All other passengers had disembarked.  The flight attendant came to see why we were stalling.  Little did she know that we were busy saving our daughter’s life.  And there was also that time when I was shoving juice and gummy bears into Adele’s mouth at the bottom of the ski hill when she was having a severe hypoglycemic insulin reaction, everyone around us oblivious to the fact that we were dealing with a life and death situation.  Living with Type 1 Diabetes is a constant, 24-7, delicate juggling act.  And all that you can do is do what you can do and hope for a good outcome.  It’s a life of constantly being chased by a hurricane.  We’re somewhat used to it.  But, we still feel like it’s slowly killing us.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Insulin isn’t a luxury for someone with Type 1 Diabetes.  It literally keeps them alive.  It is like oxygen to them.  Without insulin, Adele’s blood sugar would continue to rise as her body entered a state called Diabetic Ketoacidosis.  If left untreated, she would eventually slip into a coma and die.  This process would not take years, months or even days.  It would be a matter of hours.  Insulin is that powerful.
 

When Frederick Banting discovered insulin in 1922 he sold the patent for about a dollar.  Banting believed that “Insulin belongs to the world, not to him.”   Thank you Dr. Banting.  Not to put myself in the same category as Nobel Prize winner Frederick Banting, but I do feel the same way about the Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes ride to cure Type 1 Diabetes.  I feel that the ride does not belong to me.  It belongs to all the people living with Type 1 Diabetes.  It belongs to all the sponsors, donors, volunteers and participants.  Without them, it simply wouldn’t exist.  The only thing that is mine is the dream.  Thank you so very much for sharing and supporting this dream.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Photo by Luc Arseneau

It was a rough week leading up to the 12th edition of our ride this year.  I spent most of Thursday night tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep, trying to figure out what we should do.  Friday morning, the day before the ride, we made the decision to eliminate all afternoon rides because of the imminent hurricane.  The forecast seemed to indicate that we would be good in the morning as long as all rides were done before noon.  That left us with two groups riding 75 kilometers on the road and one group riding 45 kilometers on the gravel trails.  75 riders had pre-registered and close to 60 showed up to pedal for a cure on Saturday morning.  It was the very best outcome given the circumstances.  All rides started out dry but ended wet which somewhat made the smiles that much brighter. 

Photo by Skylight Photo

Despite hurricane Dorian, we still managed to raise $23,000 for JDRF!  This brings our total raised to close to a quarter of a million dollars since 2007!  Our event is definitely a survivor being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of its kind in our area.  Thank you.


Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to our main sponsor, Mike’s Bike Shop.  Rick Snyder, thank you for stepping up every single year and making this event as great as it has become.  Your generosity and undying support continue to amaze me year after year.  Without you the ride would simply not exist.  All people living with Type 1 Diabetes are forever indebted to you for all that you have done to help find a cure.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to the rest of the organizing committee who give so much time and energy throughout the year.  Thank you so very much Pablo Vergara for all that you do for Cyclebetes.  Your generosity and willingness to help and sacrifice your physical appearance for a cure always amazes me.  Thank you my friend.  Thank you so very much Luc Belliveau for all of your help even in the middle of selling your house.  I really appreciate it Luc.  And thank you to Jessica Melanson, newly hired NB and PEI JDRF engagement coordinator.  The support and contribution that you have provided to our event in such a short time period has been amazing.  Merci beaucoup Jessica.  I always feel humbled working with such an amazing team.  Thank you.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to all participants and donors.  I am always amazed by your generosity.  And a special thank you to all riders who set fundraising goals above their registration fee and worked tirelessly to reach and even surpass them, especially those with no ties to Type 1 Diabetes.  Thank you.

Photo by Luc Arseneau

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to Don Ricker at Skylight Photo for the amazing event and road ride photos.  Thank you to Luc Arseneau for the awesome gravel ride photos.  The event would simply not be what it is without your contribution.  Thank you.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to JDRF youth ambassador Vanessa Galluchon for your speech.  Your message reminded us why we were all there and what we were riding for.  Thank you.

Photo by Luc Arseneau

Thank you to all of our sponsors : Sobey’s in Dieppe, MacDonald Buick GMC, Giant bikes / Guy Pellerin of Pellerin Sports, City of Dieppe, Cavok Brewing Co., Cape Bald Packers, Terry Tomlin of Tomlin Sports Marketing, Kevin Noiles of Lambert, Pat Bolduc of Big Ring Sports, Nomad Supply Co.,  Jack Trudel of Trek Bicycles / Bontrager, DNA Swag Inc., Dieppe IGA / Coop, Long and McQuade, Vins Dandurand, Moncton Propane Services and Adrien Lesvesque at Fallstaff Media.  Thank you.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you Tim and Andrew Calvert for staying back and riding with the back end of the first group.  It makes for a very long day when you’re struggling to keep up and it makes all the difference to have someone there with you to pull you along.  Thank you.

Photo by Skylight Photo

Thank you to all of our other dedicated volunteers:  Jeff Currie, Bill Goobie, Martin Pelletier, Charles Cormier, Dany Benoit, Jonny St-Pierre, Tracy Renton, Gerry Allain, Elmer Wade, Pete Cormier, Lorraine LeBlanc, Erica Griffiths, Gilles Gallant, Steve Kikkert, Caroline Belliveau, Tania Morais, Rachel Parkins, Luc Melanson and Michele LeBlanc.  Events like these can’t happen without help from people like you.  Thank you. 

If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize and want to thank you as well.


And last but certainly not least, I would like to dedicate this year’s ride to two riders who have left us this past year.  Larry Spicer had ridden with us in 2014 and 2015.  He was registered to ride again last year, but ended up not being able to ride.  He passed this summer.  Ride in Peace Larry.  Derrick Keith fundraised and rode every single Cyclebetes ride from the beginning, in 2008, until he got sick last year.  Cyclebetes meant a lot to Derrick.  And Derrick meant a lot to Cyclebetes.  Derrick passed last fall.  Ride in peace Derrick.  Your generosity and dedication to our cause continue to inspire me to be and do better.  I am forever grateful to have had the privilege to know you.  Thank you.

Photo by Skylight Photo

We are already starting to plan the 13th edition of Mike’s Bike Shop Cyclebetes.  Mark the date: Saturday, September 12th, 2020.  I really hope that you can join us !

All online fundraising pages will still work until the end of the year so you can still donate here...  2019 Mike’s Bike ShopCyclebetes Ride to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.

Photo by Skylight Photo

2019, the year that we raced a hurricane…  Pretty sure we’ll remember this edition for a very long time...

Photo by Skylight Photo

I am forever humbled by your love and support… 

Thank you.

Peace
Mike

Friday, March 1, 2019

Look back but don't forget to also look within...


I started writing this post in December.  Year end, a time when I was feeling the need to take a moment to look back.  I wasn’t writing it as a “New Year’s resolution list” but am now realizing that ironically I am finishing and publishing it at a time when most people have usually already dropped the resolutions that they had set at the beginning of the year.  I wanted to take the time to identify what I have learned in 2018.  And I wanted to set intentions for 2019.  I prefer “intentions” to “resolutions” even if the word  doesn’t make me as accountable.  And I like being less accountable because no matter what I can’t fail, I can only learn.

Last year was certainly a milestone number year given that I turned 50 in September.  Usually not one to be impressed with birthdays, this one seemed very different.  It’s pretty mind-blowingly incredible when I think about it for a person to manage to stay alive for half a century.  When I was younger, I always assumed that I would grow old, but with every birthday I now realize that is in no way a given even if I do everything right.  Losing my friend Derrick Keith this fall was a bitter reminder of this.  I am grateful to have known you Derrick.  RIP my friend.


I have been seeing a psychologist regularly for a few years now.  At first it was  to deal with Adele’s Diabetes diagnosis.  Then 2 years ago I went to see someone new to help me with my concussion recovery.  The discussion strangely went from hitting my head to my many unresolved issues as a sexual abuse survivor.  My current psychologist was the first that suggested I needed to work on this.  That was one of the gifts that came from hitting my head.  If I had never crashed and suffered such a debilitating injury that literally brought me to my knees I am absolutely certain that I would not have done all the work to help heal my sexual abuse.  It blows me away sometimes how life works.  Whenever I take the time to look back, I always notice things lining up logically for me to learn and grow.  I don’t believe that there is a superior being up there somewhere calling the shots but I do believe that there is some type  of universal intelligence that exists that has our back and will guide and give us everything that we need in order to evolve and flourish. We need to look for it and then figure out what we’re supposed to learn.  And for this reason I am very grateful for my ever so slow post-concussion syndrome progress which has given me plenty of time to think and reflect.  Going through one of the most difficult periods of my life has also caused me to re-emerge on the other end more whole that I have felt in a very long time.

The whole concept of psychotherapy is very simple when you think about it.  It’s really just about telling your story to someone that you can trust and have no emotional attachment to.  Everyone has a story worth telling.  Everyone.  What happens is that whenever we chronicle the traumatic events in our life and hear our own words out loud we learn something.  Explaining the event makes us think about the details and enables us to step back and look at the big picture.  And eventually we start connecting the dots.  And the clarity that ensues is so very freeing.  In my unconscious mind, the details of my sexual abuse were so very convoluted, all mixed up.  Only by going back and getting into these details could I begin to understand how this trauma continued to affect me today.  And by understanding “why” I was deprogramming the fear and shame-based automated responses that I had unconsciously adopted since then.  Only by talking openly about difficult things can we begin to heal.  I couldn’t heal by avoiding the pain anymore.  I just had to step into my shit and work my way “through” it.

2018 was the year that I went public with my sexual abuse story.  As scary as it was, I am very happy and grateful for that.  To now be able to talk about it openly has been so very liberating but there are still a few steps remaining for me to become even more at peace.  My intentions for 2019 are to continue to work towards as much closure as I can get from this whole thing and make things as right as they can be at this point.

Through lots of self-reflection the past few years, I have gotten much better at identifying my feelings.  Like most males, I was taught to mask what was going on inside of me making me pretty much always clueless to what I was feeling.  I’d be in a bad mood and have no idea why.  I’m getting better at connecting with my feelings, definitely not perfect, but better.  I often know and understand where the unpleasant feelings are coming from.  And that’s the first step in freeing myself from their grip.  In 2019 I really want to practice expressing these feelings and letting them flow.  I remember as a kid feeling so much better after a good cry.  Why is it that most adults, especially males, have lost this ability to cry it out?  It’s sad that we don’t feel safe to express our feelings through tears.  We repress the urge so very much that eventually it becomes inaccessible even when we’re in a safe situation and place where it would be totally OK to shed tears.  In 2019 I would like to tap into this again.  In 2019, I would like to be able to cry more.  Some days, when I feel like shit I wish I could just isolate myself somewhere safe, either alone or with someone I can trust and cry it out.  I want to reprogram the automated response of keeping it all in.  I want to be able to let my shit flow through my tears.  Our emotions need to be processed before we can move on.  We need to feel it and pick ourselves up again when we’re ready.  It’s called grief and it’s not just for healing the loss of a person that we cared who has died.  

Surrendering to 2019 ! (Photo credit Don Ricker

)

I also changed my diet in 2018.  I set an intention to cut carbs and over a year later I am still eating this way about 80 to 90 % of the time.  I wouldn’t call it a Keto diet since I still eat enough carbs to keep me out of ketosis.  I guess it would be closer to Paleo but I still eat yogurt and cheese (the Paleo diet doesn’t include any dairy at all).  I have pretty much cut pasta, rice, bread and starches.  I’ll “cheat” occasionally and will feel crappy when I do but most of the time I follow it religiously.  This dietary change was to help with my post-concussion syndrome recovery as well as being a role model for Adele (I truly believe that all Type 1s should be prescribed a low-carb diet to help control blood sugar in combination with insulin therapy which can’t be avoided with Type 1).  I lost 7 – 8 lbs and have kept it off.  I am leaner than I was when I raced bikes even if I am not even close to being as fit.  My intention for 2019 is to continue exploring this way of eating in order to continue to heal my brain and inspire Adele.

Did you make any resolutions (or intentions) for 2019?  Have you managed to keep them now that we are 2 months into the year?

Peace
Mike