Newsletter - 2004 Archive

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Lungs for Life
by Sarah Tennent

To be 70 years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894), O Magazine, October 2003

It's not often that a 26 year old gets to spend 24 hours with a 50, 61, 68 and a 76 year old. I never really planned to do the Fleche Pacifique this year but when Wayne Harrington appealed to my competitive and patriotic side by saying that with Harold and I on his team we were destined to bring the Lungs for Life trophy to Canada, how could I resist? Plus Harold Bridge's slide show last year at the club social is one of my first and clearest memories of Randonneur riding! As I recall, it started with a photo of his parents on their honeymoon on a tandem bike and Harold boldly stating, "this is how it all began for me." Finally I was sitting in a room where my bizarre transportation method was normal. Riding 1,000km in a year was not abnormal- it was adequate. In fact, the iron butt award went to Ken Bonner that year…he has now ridden over 80,000km in his 'lifetime'! And lifetime is being defined as when he started rando riding so his 'life' began when he was 40…??? I'm guessing on that one but somewhere around there.

So it was with great enthusiasm that I agreed to be part of this group of experienced riders. The event started for me Friday afternoon when Harold came to pick me up from work (I wasn't allowed to ride my bike in case a car hit me…didn't he realize I had been riding all week?)but I wasn't about to argue. Being treated like a princess is part of the reason I like randonneur riding :o)

We drove out to Harold's house stopping at White Spot on the way for a good carbo dinner and I got to hear all sort of fun stories about his daughter, rides from the past, his car accident, his amazing recovery and his upcoming ride across Canada. As a person in their 20s I find it very difficult to keep life in perspective sometimes. My week leading up to the Fleche had been one of those weeks where the world had gone from cracking under my feet to flying by me WAY TOO FAST. I'm realizing life isn't going to get any slower or easier…(all you more 'mature' people can chuckle at my overdramatic words:o)) Harold's wise words and his ability to make sense of even horrible events like car accidents eased my quarter life crisis as I realized everything works out especially if you ride a bike and have a great positive outlook!

I know that last paragraph sounds a tad overdramatic however staying at Harold's house the night before the Fleche was truly relaxing, a good opportunity for the team to get to know each other (Keith Fletcher also stayed over and Wayne came over to keep me company while Harold played taxi again and picked Keith up from the ferry) and a trip down Randonneur history lane. Somewhere on the bc rando website, Eric makes the comment that luckily Harold kept all the records of the club since 1979. Well, every piece of history appears to be on his walls. It's the neatest thing. And even neater is the stories Harold can add to these unique jerseys, medals, plaques and photos. His memory for detail is amazing (either that or he's just a really good story teller and is able to make things up on the spot with a lot of conviction).

The ride itself was a great route! I was a little concerned when we all showed up at Tim Hortons at 6:45am and NOBODY had a route sheet BUT everyone but me had ridden the route 3-6 times so we weren't bothered. We were a tad bothered by the rain but Harold kept saying, RAIN BY SEVEN CLEAR BY ELEVEN. And well, he was pretty much right. It rained from 7-11am and then a little later on but compared to what the Friday night riders experienced, we were in heaven.

In fact the entire ride was ideal. We didn't have a single flat, the guys knew the route so well that we never got lost nor did we have to ask for directions and our checkpoints were perfectly spaced out. We headed across the border to Sedro Wooley, through Concrete the town, and into Marblemount. Concrete fascinated me as it's such a bizarre name for a town. I looked it up on the internet and it turns out that in 1909, the two towns of cement city and Baker were united to form concrete. So a cement company did play a role in naming the city!! On the way home, we took the same route back but instead of returning to Port Coquitlam, we headed to Harrison Hot Springs via Mission. The Fleche is an interesting event as you have to choose a challenging enough distance that you won't get bored going too slow but it can't be so challenging that you can't finish. I was glad Wayne did such a good job organizing it. In fact, I'd steal his route if I do another Fleche :o)

The other thing I really enjoy about Randonneur riding is that you can ride with a group of people! These people can provide copious amounts of entertainment (especially if they have the pun ability of Harold Bridge), they can pull you along (I think I hid behind all four of them as we headed into Harrison…holy head winds) or they can just be there as silent companions! It's great.

My biggest weakness on the ride was my inability to stay awake! At the last two controls I don't think I ate a thing nor did I say I word. Whenever I stopped biking my head would hit the bench, table or anything else that was underneath it. In fact, at one point I was so exhausted I had to bike ahead of the group as fast as I could and when I was far enough ahead, I'd crash on the side of the road (figuring they needed me to win the Lungs for Life award so they'd wake me up). And they woke me up. However if we didn't have time restraints, I would have insisted on a nap. Who would have thought a 26 year old would have to sleep LONG before the rest of the crew! These four men are pros.

It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides.
George Sand (1804 - 1876)

Back in Harrison Hot Springs, we had a shower and I had yet another nap before the breakfast. The other great organizational feat of our group is that we had Bob meet us in Marblemount with dry clothes and Keith's wife to meet us in Harrison. They're smiling faces were needed…especially by me.

The breakfast was a blast! Awards were given out and I heard some of the FUNNIEST stories I think I've ever heard. Or maybe I was so tired they just seemed funny but I honestly think they could have a collection of the stories we told on Sunday: teams getting stuck on bike criterium courses, animals, lots of wet cyclists and flats! We could write a HOW TO GUIDE: how to herd a cow on your bike, how to build fenders in Phoenix or how to create the worst weather ever (just mix Winnipeg snow with Phoenix humidity) and how to flood a Chevron with only the clothes you have on your body!!

What an event! I'll definitely be back but that was one of the toughest things I've had to do in my short 26 year old life (especially since I haven't been doing as much long distance cycling this year). The people who organized it: Danelle, John, and the secret controls did such a fantastic job. Next time…I'm staying in Harrison till Monday :o)

Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest.
Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy, 1980

I'm hoping as I get older, the Fleche will only become easier and one day I can master the Fleche and stay awake the whole 24 hours just like Keith, Norm, Wayne and Harold did! And if for some horrible reason I can't do a Fleche at the age of 77, I know I will always remember my Victoria Day weekend 2004.

Best of Luck to Harold on his 80+ day trip across Canada !:

June 4, 2004