Physician, heal thyself

It’s the first Monday Night Rides of the season, and the lineups to sign waivers is long. I’m talking to a friend I’ve not seen in far too long, when another bike friend taps my shoulder. We work together in the clinic, and because he does the building maintenance, and I am obsessive about being ready before patients arrive, we often have 7 AM chats before the day gets going. He looks somber.

“Did you hear about the news downstairs?”
I shake my head. “Downstairs” is the emergency room.
He pulls me aside, lowers his voice.
“Dr. X was found dead last night. That’s all I know.”
My eyes widen, I am sure my voice was a squeaky squawk. Dr. X was young, early sixties, fit, active and healthy. Foul play? Sudden cardiac arrest?
“I dunno. Like I said, that’s all I heard.”

I roll into clinic this morning, and pump my colleagues for information.
Method uncertain, but no doubt it was swift, clean, and definitive. Doctors are good at that sort of stuff. We all planned our own methods in residency, probably. My method was going to be potassium chloride via IV or a giant dose of opiate.
Residency was…not the greatest for nurturing mental health.

This is a small town. Our medical community is even smaller. When another colleague died of a brain tumour two years ago, a hole was left in the fabric of this tightly woven mesh.

The hole has just gotten bigger. Bigger and ragged-edged.

A patient comes in today about a tremor.
“I’m sure it’s just anxiety or stress or hypochondriasis.” he says. “But the thing is, after I turned fifty, I started seeing friends die. Ignoring symptoms, missing cancers, that sort of thing. I don’t want that to be me.”

He does not, I reassure him, have Parkinson’s, because I know that is what he is quietly worried about. Reading between the lines is not written in to the job description, but at its core, is what my job is about. It’s arguably what all social interaction is about.
Watchful waiting, I advise, and I give him my office number to come back if things evolve. He has my personal number from before, because sometimes, in a town this size, the lines between social and professional are very, very blurred.

When I first moved here nearly a decade ago, I was startled by the demographic. I no longer needed the extra large cuff for blood pressure measurement. I no longer saw as many strokes, or illness related to lifestyle factors. People here are picture perfect models of health and vitality.

A friend of mine here recently went away to visit family, and after leaving our little bubble, she texted me from an airport lounge that we were all elite fitness models, whether we realized it or not.

With this fitness and activity, there is an emphasis on youth; maintaining it, renewing it. There are ninety year-olds still skiing the mountain, and many of my elderly patients regularly doing laps around me on the cross country ski course or passing me on a ride. What’s that they say? Pain is just weakness leaving the body.

So illness, mental or physical, is carefully wrapped up and hidden away. Last night, a conversation was had with a thirty-something friend who is due for a hip replacement. She had hit a low over the winter, and the only reason people suspected something was up was because there were no social media posts of her launching jumps on her snowboard all winter. No fricking way she’d have said anything. But she’s triumphed over other demons in her life thus far, and I expect she will be just fine. I hope.
Is she medicated? Who knows. I suspect a lot of people are. Half my medical school class was.

But Dr. X? I guess you never really know. One can look cheerful and energetic and good good good, but then plunge deep down into deep holes that no one can pull you up from, even those close to you who are in the know.

Physician, heal thyself. Or at the very least, each other.

I only wish we could have.


A crooked photo as I try not to drop my paddle or my phone whilst taking this picture.

On Saturday mornings, I wake up early because I am an insomniac, and wander to the lake with my paddleboard. There, I pump it up, feeling the burn in my triceps and the sweat prickle between my shoulder blades in the cool morning air.

The lake is usually glass at this time of day, and it’s pretty spectacular. A friend of mine meets me and we head out together for a peaceful paddle where all manner of life is discussed. It’s a time to pause and reflect, reset from the chaos of the everyday. We talk about our families, our marriages, our children. We talk about our careers, and the things that make our hearts hurt, and then we encourage each other to dream God-sized dreams, to set goals that cannot be achieved without divine intervention. And sometimes, we remind each other that miracles need to manifested in the everyday, and we need to look for them.
We paddle back to the dock after about an hour or two, and both head off to start the weekend.

My son has been saving up the past few months for a Nintendo Switch. He was at $400, so I subsidized the rest and we put the order in last week. Since then, he’s been playing Legend of Zelda (his first game a gift from me and his dad). My husband loved that game as a kid, so they’re playing it together.

As a parent, I’ve been anxious about the fact that my children are growing. It happens, as it should, but I wasn’t ready for it. My daughter is ten going on sixteen, and I have been getting moments of startling clarity that if I don’t ensure our relationship is strong right now, she will one day be lost to me.
So on Friday, I pulled her out of school to spend a day with her in the city. She doesn’t love the things I do, so dragging her out on a bike ride or a ski date with me isn’t fun for her like it is when I go with my son. Instead, I booked a “beauty consultation” at department store, and they taught her how to put on makeup and all about skin care. Then, we met my friend for lunch on a rooftop patio at a fancy hotel. Said friend is an insolvency lawyer, and partner at an international firm, and was meeting a bunch of her other powerhouse female lawyer friends for afternoon drinks afterward. We ordered cocktails (a mocktail for the kiddo), and I not-so-subtly tried to manipulate the female role models my daughter is exposed to. Then, the kiddo and I shopped for some summer clothes and found a little charm for her bracelet, which, she told me later, was a memento of our most fabulous day together. The drive to and from the city was peppered with conversation in between listening to the most interesting podcast about chickens. Yes, chickens. It was a two-parter. Anyway, as much as I’ve managed to achieve in my lifetime, this day with my daughter was one for the books, and perhaps the first time in an eon where I felt a bit like I was being a pretty okay mom.

I brought the kids to the farmer’s market today, and I bought a mug from a potter who lives in a tiny town a couple hours north. The kids chose a few art prints from a woman and my son, ever inquisitive, asked her how long it took her to do a painting. She was honest, saying that sometimes she would have to re-paint some, because they looked too sad. And sometimes, it would be okay on the first try. Most days, she said, a painting would take her four hours. My son was blown away. We bought four prints from her, and we talked about how artists maybe work extra hard because not everyone understands how much time it takes to make beautiful things.

I’m getting the Sunday sads tonight, but my cup is full to overflowing, and there is so much going on that is and will be stressful, but it’s okay. I can have my ugly cry while doing my intervals on the trainer bike because I missed my dad this morning and wished I could send him photos of how amazing his granddaughter is growing up to be. I can squeeze my kiddos and take a nap and call a friend and sit on the deck and think about all the good things to come. I can dream about the dentist bike build (blue front chainring and black pedals with blue pins? or black chainring and blue pedals? blue grips? black grips with blue collars? how much is too much???), and tomorrow will be the first Monday Night Rides of the season, and a chance to see summer friends again and push each other to ride bicycles down fun and scary things.

And so it goes, my cup still full to overflowing.

The Dentist Project – Wheels

Soooo, I might have just spent a large sum of money.

And I’m pretty excited.

This bicycle project is taking up a good amount of brain space, and it’s wicked fun. So expect Dentist Project updates every so often, so that if I vanish, you’ll at least know where I was on the bike build.

The other night was spent making a spreadsheet, listing off all the bike parts I could think of that I need to source, then thinking about options I had, and what I wanted, then pricing them out. This build, if I were to obtain everything at retail prices, would likely top $13k. It makes me a little sick to my stomach. But I am not going to obtain everything at retail prices because maybe I know a guy who knows a guy or something. This is my drug of choice, and I have my dealer. It still might be in the $11-12k range though, which is about how much a top spec bike could be if bought stock, like I might if I were, say, a dentist.

Anyway. The most expensive parts of a bicycle are undoubtedly the frame, wheelset, and suspension.

The frame, in case you needed a reminder, will mean that even if you don’t find my body, you’ll find my bike.

The suspension isn’t that fun to look at, but the fork will be this one, which is just a larger volume version of the one I currently have. Keep in mind too, that decals can always be changed…

And I haven’t decided on the rear suspension yet. Have been reading a lot about progressive, regressive, and linear curves, ratios, and all sorts of physics I haven’t thought about in decades. I’m leaning toward an air shock, but the coil calls upon my curiosity.

Now, the WHEELS.
I actually dreamt about wheels last night. There are the ones I’m running now, which are carbon, with a very loud DTSwiss hub. They’re great. But if I want a set of my current wheels with the hub I want (the Onyx Vesper), it’s about $1k more than the wheels I ended up going with.

But why a different hub you ask?
Because I can’t hear myself think it’s so loud, and I can’t hear people talking to me because it’s so loud, and bonus, I scare away the bears and warn the cougars I’m coming, but holy hell is it ever obnoxious.
I debated a different hub, but it was a higher pitched buzz, with a bit of a whine to it. I’ve been told that if you grease it up, it’ll quieten down, but who can be bothered to be greasing it? A buddy of mine has to do it every 3-4 months to keep it quiet, and maybe I rode his bike down the narrow hall of the clinic just to hear the hub and found it a bit buzzy for my liking before going back to my paperwork.
The hub I want is dead silent. It is also known for it’s IMMEDIATE engagement, which I never realized could be so satisfying until I bought the XC bike I rode for the stage race last fall. That bike has a slight lag in hub engagement, and you can feel it and it’s really annoying. Which reminds me, I really need to work harder to sell that bike. Immediate engagement is a step toward making the bike simply an extension of your body.

Then come the rims. I ended up going with these wheels, made by a local (in our province) company called We Are One, also offering a lifetime warranty, but a bit newer to the game. They’re all wavy to optimize spoke angles, which apparently results in less spoke “nipple fatigue” (hahahahahahahah their words not mine, also, I am a child/I had children and had my own version of nipple fatigue) and increased strength.

Pretty cool right? Or clever marketing anyway.

And I found a local company that builds them up with the hubs I want. So I went ahead and anodized them.

Yes, it looks ridiculous like this. But all you’ll see is the blue. The pink widget part will hardly be visible, but is just that little something that I’ll know is there. And maybe it cost me an extra $15.
But my own little fun secret for $15 is a steal, in my opinion.

Anyway, I’m having major impostor syndrome, because I don’t feel like I’m a good enough rider to deserve this bike, and I also feel like a morally bereft selfish a-hole because it’s a lot of cash that could probably be better donated for worthy causes outside of my ego. For both of these, I have no remedy but to simply ignore and forge ahead. Life is short and then we die?

I also might otherwise be spending it on anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication and therapy, and bikes are sort of all that for me.

Speaking of ego, race photos from last weekend are out and this is one of my favourites, because I’ve got a stupid grin on my face, which pretty much captures how I feel about bikes in general, whatever the wheelset.

Photo by Joe Wakefield

Plus we get to ride with views like this:

Photo by Shane Roy

And this…

Photo by Kelly Cosgrove
Looking at this, I think I my body needs to be a little more forward/aggressive…

And I like this one because you can see my socks, which had clouds and bears on them.

Photo by Elodie Martin

At the end of the day, ride bikes, have fun.
And nerding out over componentry is just part of that.

Sucker punches and retail therapy

TL;DR: feel sad, buy things, nerd out (+++) about bikes.
You probably have better things to do with your time…Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Every now and then, I am reminded of my dad, and the startling revelation that he no longer exists on this mortal plane.

Each time this happens, I am struck out of nowhere, and reduced to tears. Great, big wracking sobs emerge, and if you know me in real life at all, this is not the dramatic stuff I am normally made of. Today, it happened at church service, in the middle of a song, and I ran off to the bathroom to pee and cry.

The last time I did that was at a scientific conference fifteen years ago, and an ex-boyfriend showed up and I held it together just long enough to act like I was fine, after presenting some research to a reasonably large audience and unfortunately sweating into my light-coloured blouse. I ran to the washroom with an ice cream cone in hand (I can’t remember why), where I sat and cried on a toilet. Straight out of a soppy teen movie. Barf.
Then I finished the ice cream, went to a mall and bought $80 of makeup.
I don’t even wear makeup.

Then, I went with my kids to a local garden centre, and we bought soil and all sorts of flowers to appease my daughter’s adoration of all things bright and pretty.
Beans? I suggest. Maybe lettuce or cucumber?
Flowers. Bright pink. Purple. Yellow.
And oh, look Mom! Those! Grampa had those at his house!
She is pointing at large purple irises.
Yes, I say. And the tears well up, and I am sucker punched again.

We buy one, and my daughter is delicately protective of her special plant on the way home. She later plants it in its own special pot where it stands tall and proud, and she gently kisses the stem after watering.

It is hot out, moving suddenly from interminable rain to thirty degree heat. We wander down to the lake, rife with tourists, and wade knee deep into the glacial melt. My kids play in the sand, and I sit with my dog on a rock, reviewing bike fork options, because it’s been a week, and I have just put a deposit down on this very fuschia frame:

After much dithering, I’ve decided I’ll stick with the Fox 38 fork as pictured, as a friend happens to have it in his arsenal, and is willing to sell it to me for less than the other one I was considering, which has just come on sale.

I want to build my own bike.
I know it will likely cost me astronomically more than just buying it stock, but I don’t like the stock build options. I just want to put what I want on it.
And I want the pink frame.

I want to put it all together myself. Every screw and cable and ferrule. I will likely need adult supervision, and some extra tools, but it will be mine, and I’ll know it inside out. I am so tempted to go all out and get the coolest boutiquey things, but I don’t have the riding skill to back it up, so I will stick with the great, though maybe not the greatest. Just so I don’t cement myself firmly into the realm of dentist bikes. But maybe I already have…

I feel the need to justify that this is not an impulse buy. I’ve been deliberating for weeks.

I had a race yesterday (the last of the three!), but the day before, when I was supposed to be drinking lots of water and going for an easy thirty minute pedal to loosen the legs up, I arranged to borrow a friend’s version of this bike. I needed to try some technical climbing, and some janky downhill and steep rock with compressions, obviously. I pick a trail I know well and pedal it out.

It’s fun, but not all that different from my current bike. Marginally more hard-charging with the bigger front wheel, maybe.
I am mildly disppointed, because with this knowledge, I am not going to spend the money just for a colour change.
I message a friend (who had the extra fork) with the verdict.
Try the medium frame, he says. Ride mine. It’s a tank.
Hm. I should be on a small frame, based on height.
Just. Try. It.
Okay, can I try Sunday? After the race. I’m supposed to be saving energy.
You really ought to try them back to back.
Sigh. Well, are you free?
Work is fluid.
Can you go now-ish?
About 45 minutes later, I’m meeting him on a service road where he’ll shuttle me up half way so I don’t have to pedal the whole climb again, but I’ll still get to do some techy climbing to see. And then descend. He’s had to change the suspension for my weight, switch the brake levers around (he runs them opposite) and change a tire on his other bike that he’ll be riding.

This is like the first time I tried a downhill bike.
I can just smash it into things and it takes it, supports me, smooths it all out.
It really is a tank.
He’s way ahead of me, but hollers back to go hard, that it’s built to take the abuse. It’s a bigger frame, a bigger front wheel than I’m used to, and while I think it ought to feel like riding a penny-farthing, it is sort of like riding my downhill bike, only I can climb on it. And these brakes, sensitive and controlled. Man I need to bleed my brakes.

We finish the lap and spend another twenty minutes talking about brakes before he heads off to do a lap with another friend of ours (who apparently later compared that bike to a magic carpet ride).

Surely, it’s not just the frame size.
No, suspension matters. Componentry matters. But mostly, suspension matters. He’s built the bike up with a different link, allowing an increase in front and rear travel by an extra 10-20 mm, so that it’s equivalent to my current bike’s travel. On the steeps and chunky bits, this makes a very noticeable difference.

Last weekend, I rode a race on a bike that has about 40 mm less travel front and back from my usual bike, making all the trails infinitely more terrifying and teeth-chattering.

The way he’s built his bike up is what I want to do.
I’ve been discussing it with a colleague of mine at work between patients, because it’s fun, who also happens to be a bike nerd and has the newest iteration of the Nomad, the “men’s” version of my current bike (called a Strega in the women’s lineup) in a medium size. This fuschia confection I’ve purchased is named the Roubion, which in the men’s lineup is called a Bronson. This colleague has advised that what I’m wanting to do is build a Bromad.

YES. All the Bromads.

The women’s branding is strange. They discontinued the Nomad (aka my Strega) and only have the Bronson (called the Roubion). The men’s and women’s frames are the EXACT SAME FRAMES. Just different colours and logos. And this season’s Bronsons and Nomads are coming out in pretty boring colours, so the fuschia Roubion it is. Only I’m going to make it a Strega/Nomad, effectively. The main change is that the new builds are mullet bikes, where the front wheel is 29″ and the rear wheel is 27.5″. I could talk numbers and geometry for days (yes, maybe I have a comparison chart compiled and saved), but ultimately, that’s why I absolutely had to try riding them first before committing.

Because it’s a bit weird right?

But commit I have. And it is such a great little rabbit hole of options now. Everything from tire valves to stems to handlebars and brakes! (I think I’m going to go with TRPs, for what it’s worth.)
Dammit Dad, I really, really miss you.

And meanwhile, my long-suffering husband continues to nod and smile politely when I start talking. What a champ.

Why So Serious?

It’s been a surprisingly relaxing few days. I’m finally sort of caught up on work, and because the training schedule has eased up for all the races, I’ve gotten to sleep in.

This morning, while lazing in bed, I was sent a link for race photos from last week. I like this one best.

Photo by Shane Roy

Holy heckins I love riding my bike. It’s freedom and exhilaration and challenge and fear and goofing around with friends, all in one giant, sloppy, smelly duffle bag.

So when we got the race email for the race tomorrow, sent at 730 am this morning, it was a bit of a shake-up.

These races are local races. Sure, there are a lot of world cup racers from our region, but these races are meant to be fun and challenging. Everyone kinda knows everyone through no more than three degrees of separation, and while the demographic here is generally Type A and competitive, there is a realistic sense of why we race (for fun). For tomorrow, there is a long course of 50 km, and a short course of 25 km.

Way back when a group of us registered for the short course, we all committed to riding our little bikes, “for sh*ts and giggles” being the objective. The short course is considerably easier, not only in distance but in trail difficulty, and it’s meant to be an intro to racing for people haven’t done it before. In my mind, it was going to be a fun day out on bikes with friends, on little bikes to make the easier trails scarier, with a little competition thrown in. I have no delusions about winning anything.

But this email! There were sentences written in ALL CAPS, some even highlighted red. So stern.
It was far too early in the morning to be shouted at, and such stark contrast to the emails we’d gotten from last week’s race organizer.
There was a safety briefing video and it was very serious, and gave the sense that the organizers expected carnage.
The worst part? Staggered starts, instead of self-seeded. This is practical of course, but counter-productive to our objective. All the men would start their race over two hours before the women. Almost all of our riding group would be nearly done by the time we girls started. Where are the sh*ts and giggles then? I was hoping to suffer the uphills all together to ease the pain, rehashing all the mistakes of each stage, catching up on a whole winter of not seeing these riding friends regularly.

There is a flurry of messages, sorting out cars and bikes and bits and bobs. Discussions about tire choices and footwear, and how to swing it so we all can ride together. It is decided the boys will just start later, with us. They’ll ask to switch start times, and since all our race plates have timing chips embedded in them, it really shouldn’t matter. There are four men’s categories, and only one women’s.

So, I’m looking forward to tomorrow with some trepidation, but hopefully it’ll be good, injury-free fun. You’ll be sure to hear about it if it isn’t (and of course, if it is :D)!

Winner winner chicken dinner

It’s me!
I won!

My disclaimer is that I was one of two people in my age category.
And the other woman had never raced an enduro before. I talked to her a bit on the first stage and she is a riot.
Whatever, I’m claiming it.
1. Because there were only 21 women between the ages of 14 and 45 in this race, including pros, out of 150 people.
2. Because there were only the two of us over forty.
3. Because we raced a few trails that are physically and technically demanding, and I didn’t flinch and didn’t hurt myself. (My heart rate almost hit max on the descents! The climbs were practically recovery.)

I’ve never won anything competitive before. Ever.
Much less athletic.

The day started with a few good-luck-have-fun texts from friends who weren’t racing.

Then, the girls I was going to be carpooling with started messaging.

Please read all texts with a strong English accent. Because apparently nearly everyone I ride with is from the UK.

Then we all piled into my car with all our bikes and gear and trundled off to the race.

After signing in and the racer’s meeting, a whole lotta watches beeped and off we went. Within the first fifteen minutes, I clip a pedal and topple off the edge of an embankment. Haha! We are off to a great start! A few guys pull me and my bike back on to the trail. I’ve bent my derailleur hanger, and now my chain keeps dropping off my big ring. At the top of the first stage, a friend manages to fix it enough for me to get through the day. I still don’t know how to fix my drivetrain, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been taught.

Blind racing is amazing. We’ve no idea where we’re going, how high, how long, and where.
The first stage went poorly for me, as I bumped into a stump and had to get off my bike, then I missed the race line and took the long way around.

As we arrive at the finishing tape, we’re hustled onto a shuttle bus after loading our bikes on another vehicle.

What? Where are we going?

We are shuttled to another zone about ten minutes away. NO ONE has been practicing here, because NO ONE could have anticipated we’d be racing these trails.
The arrival is met with confusion. How are we going to get another three to four race stages here? There are only three or four main trails here! Two are rated single black, and the others are rated double black trails, steep and loose, with big, high consequence features.

Ahh, but one of them is divided into three parts, so we race the middle section as our second stage. The upper section is too high consequence to put on a race, I imagine. I haven’t ridden any of it since last August when it was like riding moon dust, with no traction to be found anywhere. By mid stage, my legs are on fire, I’m breathing hard, and trying not to lose it on the tech bits. There’s a slight junction point on the service road, and I hear an ex-pro friend, who’s there supporting, yell my name and then “PEDAL PEDAL PEDAL!”. It’s so crazy how something like that actually makes you pedal, even when I thought my quads were cooked and wouldn’t work anymore. It’s all a blur, and I roll onto a rock that I can’t see over but there are two guys standing beside it and I yell, “What’s this?” to which one answers, “It rolls, but steep!” and all I hear is that it rolls, so I’m on the lip, plunging in. A few seconds later I come up on a girl who had been in front of me, picking up her bike and getting off the trail. She’s crashed, and assures me she’s fine, no need to stop to call for help. There was a rock with a little bridge to ride off one side, and then just a sharp drop on the other side. Nearly everyone missed the bridge, and had to do a deep incline pushup to save it when the front wheel inevitably compressed off the large step. Thank goodness for all my pushup practice. She apparently also missed the bridge, but went tumbling into a tree instead. We finish the stage and regroup at the end. This girl arrives, bloodied, but looking at the results, I think she still ended up finishing.

Stage three is more chill, with little jumps and what feels like an old, off camber riverbed toward the latter third with the odd little jump thrown in. A guy in front of me, who looks familiar but I don’t know, reminds me that on those sections, I’ll want to lay off the front brake. He’s right, it’s a squirrely time, but oh, so fun.

The final stage is the lower part of the three-parter. I remember nothing about it, but that it is more tech, more steep, more rock. I’m tired. I’m trying to loosen up but I’m worried that in my fatigue I’ll make a mistake and crash. I can’t remember where the trail goes. My legs are (still) on fire. There are people at the finish line and I can hear hollering and cowbells and whistles. It’s a steep weave through the trees and a few final pedal strokes to pass the timing radar, then relief. I’m breathing hard and feeling high. Adrenaline is a wondrous thing.

One of the guys we’ve been riding with advises that my friend, the one who hadn’t yet had her bowel movement, had a good crash on one of the upper rock sections. She’s okay, but she hasn’t got a working back brake. We wait, and she eventually appears, having walked down almost the entirety of the trail, carrying her bike. What a trooper. She’s never ridden any of these trails before, and she later said she tried riding a few of the features without her back brake, but didn’t realize that the exit of the feature would spit you out even faster and so she’d go tumbling again. We all cheer upon her arrival, then hop on the shuttle to get back to town. No one is entirely certain the race is over, everyone half expecting there to be one last stage, but there isn’t.

I meet a girl on the shuttle who has won this race for her age category nearly every year. We met last year, but I couldn’t remember what she looked like. She invites me to her house to shower before we head to apres, and I take her up on this, because it was sunny and hot, and the last three climbs were on exposed service road. I’m crusted in sunscreen and salt.

That’s just how these races are though, which is why, despite how intimidating it is for me every year, I keep signing up for them. Everyone is friendly, there to have a good time, grateful for a glorious whole day on bikes, pushing to the limit. We are reminded before the start line that we are to be good humans, that very few of us are going to lose sponsorships if we stop to help someone and don’t win.

And this race? Where we got shuttled off to race trails I’m pretty sure have never been officially raced? It’ll be one where one day, people will say, incredulously, “Remember that one year where the enduro had shuttles? And they raced PhD??”, and I’ll be able to say, YEAH! I raced that year!

I don’t think anyone even cared if they won anything. It was just an incredibly fun day. Everyone legitimately popped out at the finish of every stage sweaty, breathless, and with a massive grin.

But win we did! The three of us in my car all came home with prizes! One came 2nd in her age category, and the girl who crashed? She got the Resilience Award, which came with a massive bag of locally roasted coffee and a print of horses. Just because. (“I don’t even like horses,” she says.)

From the girl who stated that D Day was upon us, she finished it off with this:

“I’m genuinely the most stoked because I feel like we all went into today feeling a bit worried and anxious and we all ended up having a bloody GD time.”



This sound is akin to that made by a Wookie.

It is used to describe how one feels, at the age of forty-two, in the middle of the night after a single glass of wine, when one is awake. For no reason. At 3 am.

It is also descriptive of the morning upon waking after said single glass of wine.

And descriptive too of the workout that must be done because you may as well since you’re awake anyway.

So you don’t drink wine ever again. And maybe you start dreaming about renting an insulated, blacked-out, ventilated, temperature-controlled and sound-proofed storage container to sleep in, with a bottle of melatonin and a few CBD gummies for good measure.

I haven’t had alcohol really lately (and I don’t drink wine because it makes me sneeze) but this was a whole conversation/diatribe a friend and I had recently, raging against what can only be deemed the ills of aging.

I also just went to a drug company sponsored talk about a new-ish sleeping aid called Dayvigo, the only one on the market that targets the Orexin receptor and does not have all the issues the benzodiazepines and Z drugs have. Mechanistically interesting, it is being touted as a wonder drug for insomnia, and well, we shall see how it goes with our town’s population…

I slept in yesterday, missing my workout window, and then later going on a 2.5 hour mountain bike ride with said friend above. This morning, I did my trainer ride to make up for the one I missed, and the title sound again resonated through my body.

It is a sound that can be described also as when you lie on the floor because you ought to stretch or exercise or something but instead you are just lying on the floor.

That’s how I’ve felt about bike mechanics lately. So I took my downhill bike to The Bike Friend to put it all back together (along with changing rotors, fix bash guard, change spring for the coil shock, change sealant and re-mount tires), asking nicely of course and paying with any combination of cash, coffee or spirits. It still took him two hours at a freezing-fingers and chit-chat pace, so it would have taken me four. I hang out with him while he does the work, so I’m learning by observation. It’s a win all round for me, and good karma and coffee for him.
He finishes up and I am holding a steel and rubber ring still.
“But wait,” I say, “where’s this from?”
He looks at the item in my hand, then pauses, and looks at me sideways. I can hear his internal eyeroll, and commend his polite self-control.
“Um, that’s from your other bike.”
There is a literal dawning in my head, an epiphany if you will, as I realize this was the part I missed putting on my fork at the beginning of the season.
This is why I take my bike to him. Because he knows all my bikes, and the bits that go on them. And also because I have already been pre-judged for being an idiot, as opposed to going to a bike shop and getting judged by a bunch of strangers. Which I did anyway, because I had to buy another crown race (the ring in question) from them after they told me it was missing.
“Hang on to that one anyway, it’s a good one that should last, should the other one go on you.”


I’m going to lie down on the floor now.


I have never ever had a desire to ride this trail before. It’s never even been on my “Ooh, I’d like to look at it” list. But this year, I’ve been itching to give it a go.

I went last week with a friend. She’s been down it before, but only once, and she’s never ridden the famed chute this trail is known for.

As it was my first time down, I’d mentally given myself a pass in case I opted not to ride things. I didn’t ride a steep, long rock roll near the beginning. It was absolutely within my skill set, but the exit dirt looked sandy, and I wasn’t sure how bad the compression would be at the end. Things like this, I need to see someone do it, so I know what to expect.

All the intel on the trail is here, with videos at the bottom of the page. NONE of the footage does the rock roll or the chute justice in terms of just how big and how steep it all is.

Finally, we come to the chute. We climb down it, look up at it from the bottom to anticipate the exit line. Then we climb back up, looking at the entry line. I walk the bits I can, pretending I’m on my bike, picturing where I’ll need to put my front wheel, deciding where the point of commitment is, where I’ll still have traction, where I might get thrown off balance. I’ve seen videos of guys I know riding it, all getting spit out of the exit with decent speed, and letting the (newly built) berm catch them. But I see a hole after the exit rock, and I’m not sure I have reflexes fast enough to pull up to avoid it pitching me forward. It’s hard to pull things up when gravity is pointing you down. ARGH. I need to see someone ride this. To show me that hole won’t be a problem. I know it likely won’t be in my head, but I need to see it to be sure. Until then, I’m doubting. And doubt undermines everything.

There is no ride-around. Commit. Or it’s a team effort to get your bike down.

I get on my bike. I’m nervous. This is what a friend of mine calls “Squeaky Bum” syndrome. When you.. well, pucker.

Oh ho! I have my heart rate monitor on! My heart is pounding away at a solid 143 bpm! My resting heart rate is 55, for reference. I feel a knot in my stomach. It’s been a good while since I’ve felt like this. Ahh adrenaline.

Get it together! I tell myself. I take long, deep breaths, close my eyes, clear my mind. I give my handlebars a squeeze and get up on the pedals, then creep my way into the entrance. I make it midway…
And stop.
I’m trembly. Trembly is bad.

I get off my bike, turn it around, and hike it back up. The entry is fine. The mid-way is fine. It’s the exit. I can’t commit.

This blurry photo of me getting to the midway point does not do this feature justice. I cannot explain how daunting this felt.

Three more times I do this, and each time, I am hyping myself to ride the whole thing, and each time, I reflexively pull the brakes just before I can’t anymore. My heart isn’t as crazy in the latter attempts, the trembles are gone, and now I’m just annoyed and angry at myself.
But four attempts it is. I don’t like to try more than that, lest the reflexive stopping become a habit. I’ll come back another day and try again.

My friend (standing on that rock watching) attempts it. She does the same, and calls it after one go.
If she’d ridden it, I’d have climbed back up to do it. If I had ridden it, she would have too.

This stews all evening and into the next morning. And here I am, a week later, writing about it, still annoyed.

I see a colleague at work today. I’d texted him in frustration after my failed attempts last week.
Oh, that chute is always spicy, he replied.
Next time you go, I say, bring me. I just need to see it done once, and I’ll be able to do it.
Absolutely, he says. It’s well within your wheelhouse.

The first of the three races is coming up in a mere eleven days. I was worried this trail would be on the race, but after my little foray down the trail, I suspect now that they won’t put the chute on the race, because it will be what is gently referred to a “cluster”, obscenity to follow, in a race situation. There will be injuries and liabilities galore.

Then I got this email:

Hey Riders,
Less than two weeks! I hope you have been working on your smiles and hike-a-bike skills. Wanted to drop you a quick line with the barest of details. This year’s course brings the adventure. What it may lack in distance, it will make up in character-building opportunities. It’s a two sandwich kind of day and an extra pair of socks won’t hurt, maybe some snowshoes. More details next week!


The race organizer is a nurse-practitioner I’ve worked with. He may also be a good-natured sadist when it comes to race course planning.

Last year, the climb to the first stage took nearly two hours, many many snacks, and a lot of gumption to hike through mud and snow to get to the start. Then we literally raced top to bottom, arm pump burning and legs on fire, hanging on for dear life.
Then there were three more stages.
By the end, I had properly dissociated from my body.

I am expecting the same. I am nervous. I would like to do better in the standings than I did last year (I was second last). I would like to avoid any injury. I would like to finish well. I would like….for it to be over and for friends and I to be happily sitting at the end cheering on the winners as they claim their podiums.

Sigh. Why do I do this again?

Oh, right.
Because the pucker/squeakybum is followed by the rush and the whooping and all the joy.
Must remember that.


Two beings, both alike in heredity,
In fair Pemberton, where we lay our scene.
From ancient instinct break to new discovery,
Where local dirt makes shiny bikes unclean.

“Mom! It’s my first ride of the year! I need a break!” Indeed, everything he says is exclaimed.
He gulps down some water and catches his breath on the climb.
I’m pedaling slowly, and it’s suddenly much harder to go kid pace than I remembered.
We get to the top, and he tells me where we ought to take some selfies.
We do silly ones and serious ones. Ones where we get the mountain backdrop in. One with the radio tower.
A lean, bearded man on a hardtail rides past us and grins.
On the descent, I see a few sections that might give my son pause, and we get off to look at them. He’s not feeling ready for air time yet so we ride around the little drops and jumps. He’s riding slowly and tentatively. There are a few trail features he is daunted by, and he asks me if he has to ride them. Can’t he just walk them?
Normally, I would tell him he doesn’t have to ride anything, but I know these are well within his capability, with little to no consequence, and that he’s being psychologically lazy by not pushing himself.
“You have to ride them. You cannot walk.” I say sternly.
His shoulders slump.
He gives a dramatic sigh.
His face makes an expression like he might die, and that I am the worst mother in the world. Ah, such power I wield.
He gets on his bike and rides it, then carries on like it was no big deal. Which it wasn’t.

I roll my eyes.

The reward this day is a quick stop at McDonald’s, where his favourite thing is the breakfast bacon and egg sandwich, which he proceeds to eat at 4 pm, because rules about breakfast food are dumb.

On the drive home, he is chattering away about video games and YouTubers.
There is a pause as he stares out the window at the trees whizzing by.

“I had a really fun time today.”
He nods once, definitively, looking once more out the window.

My heart swells, and warmth spreads through my chest and into the smile that arcs across my face.
I wish I could hold on to some moments forever, like a fuzzy little ball that I could dangle next to my heart. I’d have a full lint trap of them swinging around in my ribcage.

Me too, kiddo. I had a really fun time too.

Onward, my child, to take on the world.

Easter and Underwear

“How’d you get on?” says a friend who couldn’t ride (bike in shop) who shuttled us to a trail I’d never ridden before.
A bit too muddy; that trail is not a great wet-weather one, I felt like I was wrecking it.
The rest of the ride though?
Now I’m in a Walmart with no underwear on.

Because sometimes you get so muddy it feels like your skin is porous enough for mud to seep in, and when you are changing on a service road, your clothes sticking to your wet skin, balancing on one foot, trying not to let the cuff of your dry pants touch the mud puddle forming at your feet, grit in your teeth, in your hair, on your fingers as you try to rub your eye…Experience dictates getting naked means you will warm up faster, that wet underwear will only keep the numb portions of your buttocks numb for longer. And well, if you want to fiddle with a pair of dry underwear in the pouring rain while balancing on one leg, power to you, but no undies will be drastically easier, and get you on the way to a hot shower that much sooner.

We get snacks at Walmart, the only cheap groceries to be had in a 70 km radius.

Then we get back on the road to home, over-ridden with tourists, hordes of families, and vehicles trying to squeeze the last bit of life from the ski season.

Upon arrival home, I can feel my fingers again, and some of my toes, and the skin on my legs.

I pull out the hose, lay out all my clothes on the driveway, lay out the bike.

There is something cathartic and strangely satisfying to washing the mud away.

It’s Easter, and I always avoid the Good Friday service because it makes me cry. So I go to the Easter Sunday service. This “holiday” is the pivotal basis of my faith. It’s the basis for Christianity. And it’s so huge and necessary on a theological and emotional level that it makes my brain and heart feel like they’ll explode. Those who have no religious history think it sounds insane, and those who do are often so traumatized by the church/the people in it that the massiveness of it can no longer be seen, and it is relegated to religious fanaticism.

For me though, it’s all my mud getting washed away. And it is freedom.
Akin to that I find flying through the forest on my bike, but on a metaphysical level maybe.

A quote I read today:
“Jesus laying down his life out of love for the world, rather than using all cosmic and political power to force the world to obey him, is the eternal critique of any form of Christianity that seeks to secure power in order to ensure that others conform to its will.” ~Benjamin Cremer

Christians, we need to do better.
Non-Christians, I’m pretty sure I’m not insane.

And I’m wearing underwear today, if that lends one any credibility.