Friday, November 27, 2009

Something More

In June 2010 I will be participating in the Race Across the West, a 1400 kilometre non-stop bicycle race from Oceanside California to Durango Colorado. This adventure represents a giant step upward in terms of my expectations of myself. I am not an elite athlete; in fact there is nothing particularly special about me at all, except that I have made the decision to complete this race. And I like to take giant steps upward.

A short time ago I wrote that while racing in scores of long distance athletic events over the years, I had always wondered if I was ultimately working towards achieving something more than a finisher’s medal or a T-shirt at the end of the race. I have also written of winning the “lottery” of life, since I have been blessed since birth with appallingly good health.

My participation in Race Across the West will be dedicated to raising money and awareness for the Canadian myeloma community.

Multiple Myeloma is a life-threatening cancer of the plasma cells. Although it is relatively rare - affecting about 6,000 Canadians – it is the second most prevalent blood cancer, after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Myeloma is without a cure so far. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated, and I believe that that the people who are fighting it deserve to be given every advantage possible. Their best advantage begins with our awareness.

We have Myeloma Canada to thank for spreading the knowledge. This dynamic grass roots organization is much of the reason that so much attention has been paid recently, and why so much progress will certainly be made down the road. Others are joining in. This past summer cyclist Shane Saunderson rode from Calgary to Toronto to raise cash and awareness for the myeloma community, and he succeeded spectacularly in raising both.

Myeloma knows no class, social boundaries or lifestyles. The two cherished friends whom I have lost to this disease were strong, healthy, vital people. The remarkable Canadian actress and model Lisa Ray was diagnosed last summer and she is lending her voice. Visit her blog for an eloquent insight:

Please join me in spreading the word about the quest to tame multiple myeloma and ultimately to defeat it. By the time I finish the Race Across the West next June I want many more people to know about this disease and to support the fight against it.

I will be building a website shortly that will contain more information, and I will continue to post entries to this blog, so stay tuned!

“With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes satin”.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Daring Greatly

Over the past decades I have undertaken a variety of athletic exploits, many of which have raised eyebrows among family and friends who remember me as anything but an athlete. Despite my limitations or reputation I have managed to finish what I started in nearly every event (the painful exception being the Comrades Marathon last spring). Now, after completing half a dozen Ironmans and countless marathons, triathlons, cycling tours and other endurance events, I believe I am ready to try something more.

Cycling in the RAW
I am about to embark on a new adventure, which may end up being the eyebrow-raisingest of them all. I have signed up for a bicycling event known as the Race Across the West (hereinafter referred to as RAW), which takes place next June, 2010.

RAW is a subset of the famous Race Across America (RAAM) and is a non-stop bicycle race from Oceanside California to Durango Colorado, a distance of about 1400 kilometres. To put the effort into perspective, in September I raced in a 220 kilometre event in the Adirondacks and was pretty darned tired by the time I crossed the finish line. RAW is more than six times as long. Add being sandblasted and sunbroiled across the California desert and then climbing up the western slope of the Rocky Mountains and the whole thing seems more than just a pleasure tour. In fact, the Race Across the West is so grueling that since it began there have been only a couple of solo finishers. Mercifully, the race organizers have shortened the distance a little this year and allowed a more generous time limit.

Bringing Extra Sunscreen
I’m not sure when the exact moment was: when it was that I decided for sure I was going to ride my bicycle nonstop across all those vast kilometres of the American Southwest, but it might have been when I came across the following entry in the comprehensive rulebook issued by the race:

Rule 850(8)
Crew or Racers may not strip and dance naked for any reason outside of the support vehicle without appropriate coverings or curtains.

This was a rule that was obviously just crying out to be broken.

Team Lyricycle
In addition to the obvious physical commitment, the project promises to be vast in terms of scope and organization. In fact for me, merely getting myself and my crew to the starting line is the most daunting aspect of the whole thing. The coordination of vehicles, supplies people and so forth would be overwhelming if I had to deal with it all by myself. Luckily Team Lyricycle begins with my willing and able Crew Chief: my son Duncan, who also happens to be a bike mechanic. This is a great start.

Like so many of my other adventures, there is no guarantee of success and a strong possibility of, well...less than success. But that of course is one of the reasons I do it. As Edmund Hillary remarked, if you start out on a challenge with absolute knowledge that you are going to succeed, why bother starting?

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”
Theodore Roosevelt.