17 September 2016

Ride On

As the summer cycling season comes to a close I can't help but look back at some of the awesome rides I completed.

Thanks in part to the Strava app, looking back at each and every ride is very easy... and full of stats. I can tell you with precision the improvements I've made on each segment of each path, trail or road I've ridden on. I am so impressed with this app, it's absolutely fantastic - if you don't use Strava, you're missing out.

Some bikers just put their head down and go, while I have done the same at times, I also stop to take photos along the way; you can't imagine what a gorgeous city we live in until you've travelled it by bike. I post a lot of these photos on Strava and quite a few on Instagram. If you're not taking in some of the scenery as your riding, I think you're missing out.

In April, I set a goal of doing 2500km this summer. So far, I've done 2665kms and expect to put on a few hundred more before the snow flies. I separated my shoulder on August 22 playing hockey which put a dent in my cycling, missing out on about 3 weeks of great conditions. I'm back on the saddle again and slowly conditioning myself to longer rides once more.

I took my Bianchi in to get fitted and made several adjustments including the purchase of a new saddle, new stem and new handlebars. My bike was now ready for some serious distance. Since buying my road bike in the summer of '14, I've ridden 4083kms.

Here's a few of my highlights from this summer:

The Badlands Fondo on June 25th in Drumheller was my first century ride (100 miles). This 167.3km ride was the first time I have ever rode my bike in the rain, a little unnerving on the descents, especially with the crosswind. The last 35km were into a 50kph headwind but I finished it in 7hrs 45mins including rest stops.

While in New York, I rented a BSO (bike shaped object) in Central Park on July 2 and did 25kms looping the park a few times. Was a beautiful day and even managed to get the 20psi tires to propel me 50kph for a bit. There were a lot of road bikers, but I'm not sure how challenging that would be on a regular basis, there's virtually no climbs and there are too many people to really open it up.

The Highwood Pass Fondo on July 9th in Kananaaskis Country was one of the most competitive rides I've been in. There were many serious riders. Although it wasn't as long as the Badlands Fondo, it was twice as much elevation. The 135.3km ride saw a total climb of 1656m with the last ascent taking over 1 hour to complete. What goes up, must come down... unfortunately, it was raining so I topped out at 76kph on the descent, I think on dry conditions I would have been a touch faster. I finished this ride in 5hrs 43mins, including stops, a fair bit faster than the Badlands ride.

The inaugural Spoke 'n Hot Fondo was held in Fort Que'Appelle, Saskatchewan on August 7. I was one of 40 people who entered the 165km century ride. The first 70kms was beautiful and we were sheltered in the valley riding around 3 of the 4 lakes, when we ascended onto the plains, the wind picked up and made for a little tougher ride but was still gorgeous country. My back started to act up on the first climb and the pressure on my sciatic nerve was getting to be a little more than uncomfortable, the second climb was painful and I began to worry about the 9hr drive home and how my back would hold up. Descending into the valley, we approached the finish line (read beer garden) before the final lap, it was at this point, I packed it in. With only 34kms left I stopped, I had lots of leg and lung left, but I didn't want to push it with my back. I did 131km in 5hrs 7 mins, including stops. I will kill it next year.

Two weeks later, after resting and stretching my back, I was ready to take on the Tour de Victoria. I entered the epic 140km race. This was by far the hardest, most painful ride I have done. The vertical was close to the Highwood Pass but the steep grades were off the charts and much more intense than any of the hills I trained on. Most of the ride was like a roller coaster, up and down and up and down. But, I did complete the ride in 6hrs and 17 mins, including stops and facing a fierce headwind for the last 25kms to the finish line. This was the most well organized event I've attended, there were over 1500 riders in the various heats and all along the 140km ride were people cheering, clapping and giving it a little more cow bell. I will do this one again, but will train a little more on the hills.

A big tip of the helmut to all the volunteers and sponsors who make these events happen.

Some stats so far this year:
Longest distance: 167.3km
Largest climb: 512m
Elevation gain: 13,892m
Fastest speed: 79.9kph
Rides: 64

I'm looking forward to biking this fall and racking up more kms. I'm not winning any races, not even close to winning the middle of the pack, but I've never felt more healthy and fit. I'm so glad I got back into cycling. My goal next year is to go on a bike tour with Two Wheel View or TDA Global Cycling... I want to be a member of the EFI Club on some epic journey.

16 September 2016

Go The Distance

Tonight I heard the news that WP Kinsella ended his life, taking full advantage of Canada's new law on assisted dying. He was one of my favourite authors.

I have read all of his books, some several times over but, there is one book in particular that I have never read; his most famous book, Shoeless Joe. I'll explain this odd exception later.

As a writer, Mr. Kinsella was mostly silent since the late 90's releasing only one book after an accident derailed his career. Like classic architecture, his stories are timeless and a marvel to take in. At some point after ebay surfaced, I made a point of collecting first editions of all the books I loved. I'm happy to report I've got most of the first editions WP Kinsella released.

There's one book that I can't seem to keep on my bookshelf though, "The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt and Other Baseball Stories" I enjoy this collection of short stories so much that I give it away to people I think would enjoy it. I've purchased several copies over the years and just realized I'm out of stock, again.

When WP was promoting Magic Time, I was fortunate enough to catch him in person at the Word on the Street festival in Calgary where we spoke for some time after his reading. Afterwards, he signed my copy of Magic Time along with "Go the distance."

Earlier this year I was in discussions with his agent, Carolyn, to see if I could sell his books through my companies online ebook store as well as the Walmart ebook store, which we operated. I could tell by the way that Carolyn spoke that WP was not just a client, but a very close friend.

In 1992, I heard Kinsella being interviewed on CBC radio one day and was intrigued, sounded like an interesting story. I stopped at the local bookstore in Edmonton, where I was living at the time, and purchased a copy of The Winter Helen Dropped By. I enjoyed this book so much, I immediately went back to the store to purchase another book by the same author. It was after reading Box Socials that I became a WP Kinsella fan.

"Every story is about sex or death, or sometimes both"

Kinsella's stories have a way of pulling you into the story, with scenes so vivid and characters so real as you read the book, you could swear you were there, that your name was just omitted by the editor to save some ink. But, you were there, man. Frankie Fencepost, Silas Ermineskin, Mike Houle, Ray Kinsella, Charlie O'Day, Gideon Clark, Joe McCoy, Mike Street and many others kept me company over the years as Kinsella wove story into story and created a very real story world. One filled with laughter and wonder.

Funny thing is, I'm not a baseball fan, I wouldn't go out of my way to see a baseball game, but his stories about baseball are so well crafted that you can't help but fall in love with the game, and every aspect of it. I am a big hockey fan, played the game for over 40 years and I've never once felt the same about hockey as I do about baseball after reading one of his baseball stories.

WP Kinsella is best known for Shoeless Joe, the only novel of his I have not read. Here's why: The movie Field of Dreams was based on Shoeless Joe and while I'm a huge Kinsella fan, I am also a huge fan of the movie. I would go so far as to say it's one of my favourite movies of all time. Do you see where I'm going with this? As you know, in most cases, the book is always better than the movie and I just don't want to tarnish my love for the flick. So, I've steered clear of the novel for fear of it wrecking the movie for me. So, I have an uncracked first edition copy of Shoeless Joe that is collecting dust... paid almost $200 for a book that I've not even opened.

Maybe it's time to take WP's advice and go the distance... pick it up and finally read it. I think I will.

Thank you Mr. Kinsella for blessing us with your marvelous stories.