|Newsletter - 2004 Archive|
In the Shadow: The LM
If you've never heard of Sylvius Leopold Weiss, don't worry; he was overshadowed in his day. Silvius was a composer who wrote some of the finest music ever written for the baroque lute, and would have (in my opinion) become a household name had it not been for the historical coincidence that he was born in both the same year and the same country as J S Bach. As if that wasn't enough to obscure his name forever, he also died the same year as Bach.
Does anyone out there remember a racehorse called Sham? If you follow horseracing and were around in 1973, you'll recall that the Triple Crown that year was won by a big red colt named Secretariat. Sham was the horse that ran second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Then, in the Belmont, Sham chased Secretariat for over a mile before spitting out the bit, fading to dead last, and remaining in perpetual oblivion thereafter.
How about Pete Best? Surely that name rings a bell with many of you. He was the drummer who lost his job to Ringo Starr.
Jan Ullrich? I needn't elaborate.
Why do I appear to be obsessed with also-rans? It's because I chose to ride the LM Summer 1000 rather than the Rocky Mountain 1200 - that's why. In the same way that Sylvius Weiss, Sham, Pete Best, and Jan Ullrich can all claim rare accomplishment, that the RM 1200 and LM 1000 occurred but a week apart is a mere accident of timing - an accident that will forever mean the LM 1000 will live forever in the shadow of its more ballyhooed cousin. Unlike the RM 1200, there was no field of nearly 100 entrants with whom to build collegiality and depend on for camaraderie. There was no special website for this event, or staffed controls, or bag drop. There were no familiar faces at the controls offering support and encouragement, nor hot meals waiting, or anyone to wake one up gently at a requested hour. This was not the QE II Luxury Cruise Brevet that everyone else rode the week prior, but a raw, visceral, experience that demanded at least as much in the way of fitness and fortitude as its Golden Boy competitor did. In no way was the LM Summer 1000 a lesser light in the annals rides offered this year; it just had the misfortune of being offered the same year as That Other Ride.
The Summer 1000 had a field of exactly two for the Okanagan Loop: Ken Bonner and myself. Ken had ridden the RM 1200 the week before and, apparently not wanting to give up the comforts of a supported ride, had pre-arranged for his wife to meet him in Kamloops and Manning Park. I, on the other hand, have no wife with a car who tolerates my insanity, and so I must make do with whatever I can fit into a Carradice saddlebag. Without pre-arranged stops, I could only ride as far as my legs would carry me each day and then discontinue riding at whatever point that might be. Thus, I had formulated a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. Without going into the boring details, Plan A was the best-case scenario, Plan B was the worst-case scenario, and Plan C (abandonment) was no scenario at all.
About eight hours into the ride, I unceremoniously tossed aside Plan A and adopted Plan B. Plan C, I am proud to say, was never opened for discussion. This is all to say that I finished the ride and achieved my first-ever ultra marathon success. What strikes me about the immediately preceding statement is that I could be lying - no one was there to witness it. Oh, sure, Ken was there at the start at Denny's Restaurant at 3 o'clock in the morning, and we rode the first 13 kilometres together before I said, "You're dropping me, Ken", and he said "Okay, see you later" and quickly disappeared into the early morning darkness. At that point, I could have simply turned around, headed home to my nice, warm bed, gotten a bunch of friends to sign my control card the next day, and then claimed to have completed the ride. No one will ever know with absolute certainty that I did, in fact, ride one thousand kilometres that weekend except me. I was on my honour. Unlike the RM 1200 where every rider had their every movement tracked, recorded, then posted on a website within minutes, my situation was completely the opposite: no one, not even my mother, had a damn clue where I was for three whole days. Those riding the RM 1200 were most decidedly NOT on their honour, thus implying that they could not be trusted. I mean, why else would there be the need for so many volunteers on that ride. There were no volunteers whatsoever on the Summer 1000, unless you count Ken's wife (I assume she has a name, but let's face it - non-cycling spouses merely tolerate their better-halves' obsession). No, the Summer 1000 was for those of us who don't like things all mapped out, pre-planned, organized, oven-ready, just-add-water-and-stir. The ride that I did was for those who savour the unpredictable, the spontaneous, and the organic. It was a ride for those who prefer the unconstrained excitement of live theatre to the contrived outcome of a movie; or the uniqueness of a home-cooked meal to the predictable taste of a fast-food hamburger. It was a ride for those who thrive on leaving home not knowing where one would sleep that night or the next, if one lived to sleep at all.
The details of the ride itself seem rather trivial compared to the matters of honesty, integrity, and honour discussed above. Yes, there were the unrelenting hills between Hope and Cache Creek. There were also the famous Fraser Canyon tunnels which, when occupied by motor vehicles, emit a subterranean, demonic roar giving the meek cyclist the feeling of traversing a series of hellish, Freudian birth canals. There was a blue moon that lit up the road between Cache Creek and Kamloops, and the Okanagan Valley was predictably hot, reaching 41 degrees centigrade at mid-day. After leaving Keremeos at 3:00 AM, my lack of sleep caused the most wonderful hallucinations: abominable snowmen running alongside the road that turned into sagebrush when I got too close to them. The descent from Manning Park took about the same amount of time as the climb due to heavy holiday traffic, and following this was by the predictable headwind as I left Hope in the late afternoon. At around 10 o'clock on the evening of the third day I returned to the starting point, the Denny's Restaurant on North Road in Burnaby. Feeling that 1022 kilometres was quite enough riding for the time being, I took the Skytrain home. After a plate of spaghetti, a glass of wine, and a quick cuddle with the cat, I went to bed for a very long time.
For three whole days over the August long weekend, no one knew exactly where I was or how I was doing. None of my needs was tended to by someone else but, instead, I had to rely on my own resourcefulness to ensure my well-being. No one outside of a few anonymous convenience store clerks can verify that I was where I claim to have been at the times that I claim to have been there. At ride's end, there existed only a control card initialled by strangers to prove that I rode 1000 kilometres that weekend - that is, to prove it to others. To me, however, the proof that I accomplished my goal was in the sore muscles that lasted for a few days and the sense of personal accomplishment that will last the rest of my life.
September 23, 2004