You still have a couple of years left…

While one light begins to shine brighter the other begins to fade. I’ll come back to that later.

This past year my friend Jeff mentioned, off the cuff of course, “you still have a few more years left to improve.” He was referring to the ability to get better as a cyclist as we start to push the darker side of the 40’s. I took Jeff’s comment to heart heading into the off-season and for my planning.

Bike racing is really hard. Actually, bike racing is really frigging hard, full stop. There is a chance that we will start having masters category races in Alberta but for now the old diesel engines have to line up with some highly tuned 4 cylinders. That said, I am approaching the season with a better tool kit. A few things have been missing in it for the last few years, namely a proper plan, investment in a dedicated coach, a nutrition map, and some lifestyle changes (code for less wine). I have noticed the crow feet around my eyes getting more pronounced and I will embrace the extra character on my face as I stare down my fellow competitors. I have targeted a few races as A races but most races will be riding support for the team as best I can. I dropped out of Cat 2 to ride with our juniors and this year I will go back to Cat 2 to ride for the team. There is some fun thrown in for good measure with some track racing and maybe I will go out in the fall and make a fool out of myself in some select cyclo-cross races. For some reason I tend to crash a lot when my bike leaves the tarmac and hits dirt and grass.

Having finally recovered from a hard crash in Mexico a few months ago we are now six weeks into the 2016 program plan and everything looks good so far. Cadence is improving, prescribed intervals are being completed as planned. Fatigue is more pronounced but that’s part of the process and the odd ice bath, massage and acupuncture helps.

As for that shining light.. well I am starting to plan for the day that our daughter takes up competitive sports. Cycling is selfish and takes a lot of time away from family and that’s time that can’t be recovered.

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Riding with my daughter in a little critters race last summer

Lets move!

JK

 

 

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1982 + Discovering Cycling

1982 was the year the cycling world opened its door to me or it was the year that I found it. I was in grade nine and had slowly been getting into cycling after competitive swimming came to an end and I was intrigued by bike racing. Growing up in St. Albert I got to see the annual Velo City road race fly past our door on Sir Winston Churchill Boulevard. The sound of the spinning cassettes was mesmerizing as the peleton would cruise past our condominium in Grandin Place. I had a bmx bike  which was quickly replaced with a nishiki road bike.

In 1982 my brother Keith and I starting riding together and we would ride longer distances from St. Albert to Edmonton to go see the Edmonton Drillers (soccer club) play (that was a good ride for a 13 year old at the time) and later that year in the Summer we did a bike Tour from Jasper to Blue River. Every day I rode I felt free and would explore roads around St. Albert which were mostly rural at the time. You needed to be quick in those days as local acreages were not fenced and dogs would chase you. The silca frame pumps came in handy to fend off local mutts and they were just the right length for whacking canines on the nose. Big Lake road was a particularly favourite route to ride.

Eventually I found my way to High Country Sports on 124 st in Edmonton. This was the original store that was in an old house and staffed with an eclectic group of mechanics and local frame builder Brad Proctor. At the time I think I was an annoyance for the owner Robert “Bob” Townsend  as I would just hang out in the store mesmerized at the displays, the smell of grease and kerosine, the frames and the constant stream of local riders and racers frequenting the store. Bob was a character. Generous, super tall, thin, bearded like a folk singer and he had an infectious smile. To Bob’s credit High Country was the folky western version of the LBS (local bike store) on the north side of the river and was the  rival to Velocity Sports that was run by the Zombar family in the Capilano area. Both stores supported grassroots cycling and were extremely important in supporting local clubs and racing. In Calgary the same would be said for Vitus sports and I.C.C. which were the main racing stores in YYC.

Each store was aligned with a club. High Country supported the Edmonton Road and Track Club and Velocity supported its namesake club. These were rival stores that really fueled the local scene. The world of cycling was different then as the LBS that was stocked with race bikes was a community hub and hang out. Cycling was a minority sport influenced mostly by working class European immigrants from the 60’s and 70’s. That Euro mystique created an aura around the sport which for me that was quite magical. Today we see a very different influence.

Eventually,  and after many annoying visits and overstaying my welcome well past an expiry date, Bob realized that he wasn’t getting rid of me. Looking back this was like being the student  patiently waiting for the potential mentor to welcome him into the fold after proving himself worthy of the attention. Not even the comments from the High Country wheelbuilder (crazy looking guy with a long beard and a name long lost to me) mentioning how annoying I was would make me leave. I was infatuated with the bike shop. One day Bob presented me a potential deal and offered to sell (super cheap) a bike frame that had no decalling and was of eastern european origins, along with a mix of parts and some tubular wheels. The price was next to nothing and my father agreed to pay for it. In some ways Bob was pretty smart because I learned quickly that by bringing family members to the store that High Country would get new customers and I would get good deals. Next, Bob asked me if I would like to race and then put me in touch with my first cycling coach and sadly one of my last until recently.

Robert Gilchrist was my first coach, he was very good and led by example. 940902_10153954397725530_1579794663002616980_n.jpg

Robert is pictured on the far right.

Robert was a strong rider, racer and no slouch. These were formative years and his coaching went beyond program setting. Robert’s Cycling 101 made you ride hard stuff on your road bike. Mountain bikes didn’t exist at the time and we would ride our road bikes down stuff that you probably wouldn’t do today. Robert’s idea of skill training was to ride your bike on rail road tracks, down staircases (the ones beside the High Level Bridge) in the Edmonton River Valley, on railroad rails (to see how long you could hold a straight line) and gravel roads. We would practice crashing in the Kinsmen soccer park (we would fall off the bike) and there was lots of bumping. All this came in handy and for the most part I managed to make it through most races without crashing. The greatest skill I learned which came in handy a few years later was bunny hopping. Robert taught us to bunny hop over riders and I remember executing this on a descent in the Gatineau park when a dozen riders crashed on the descent and I managed to get my bike up and over Peter Turbanerisch (sic)! Robert also taught us to love (hate) riding in foul weather which really nurtured the romance of the sport. Robert was quick to share old copies of Velo news with images of European pros caked in mud riding the Spring Classics. We rode a lot in the winter and in the rain and we rode really long long rides. I also remember Robert’s nutritional suggestion for ride snacks which was toast with jam and goat cheese or cream cheese.

On of the the best parts of Robert’s coaching was having us (juniors at the time) riding with seniors which accelerated our growth and skills. Along with Robert there was John Bryan, Brian Kenny, Brian Jolly, Paul Kozak, Peter Toth and many others who were also surrogate coaches, mentors and eventual competitors and who were all hard men on the road. Over the following years and as I grew I began to challenge my senior riders in local club races and quickly excelled mostly due to their help and willingness to ride with me and put up with me. As I got better my attitude, unfortunately, did not necessarily improve on the same track and my ego would quickly get the better of me on more than one occasion. I had results but I also burned some bridges which in a small world as it was then was not the best path.

Thirty years forward I am now entering my sixth season of racing after a long hiatus from the old days and I have gone back to working with a coach as well as coaching and volunteering as much as possible. My time racing a bike now exceeds my youth racing and I continually reflect on the efforts that were given to me as a young rider and at that time there was no cost to it. I sometimes took those efforts for granted then and I would say that I am trying to pay it back or “pay it forward.” I think deep down in all of us it is the natural progression as we mature to give back which is very rewarding.

Cycling was grassroots back in the day. Local shops were more involved and helped you as much as possible, clubs relied on the spirit of volunteerism and not so much on money to fuel the system. Attendance at races and club races along with club rosters was significant at that time. Cycling was mostly driven by the community. Not that I am saying it isn’t today but we are at a crossroads with parents more willing to pay for programming rather than being involved in the programs and professional events groups taking over more of the calendar.

I am thankful to have found form in the sport again and to be able to return some of what what was given.

Let’s move!

JK

 

 

 

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Cycling off the grid: Bici Bucerias part 1

Cyclists are inherently selfish or at least we can be perceived that way. Masters racers (blasters) are even more so with a fear that if we stop training or take a beach vacation we will loose everything (fitness) and the next season will be that much harder to hold the wheels of riders young enough to be our children. So what do you do if you want to go on a beach vacation and have the best of both worlds? That world being family fun, riding and sightseeing, go to Bucerias Mexico and try to convince your wife to ride on cobble stone roads, eat street food and ride local transit.

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Bucerias is a small Mexican town just north of Puerto Vallarta that is a mix of small hotels, VRBO rentals, expats, small markets, min-supers, friendly locals, safe streets, awesome restaurants and quiet beaches. Bucerias is also a great hub for road cycling which you would never think on first site. The area is a great launching pad to ride in to the back country on quiet roads, with scenic vistas, long climbs, colonial towns, inexpensive (cheap) food and, most importantly, safe places to ride. The locals show a lot of respect for cyclists and perhaps it speaks to a culture that relies on bikes for transportation, a stark contrast to riding around Calgary.

 

One of the more epic rides that we did was up to San Sebastian a 16th century Spanish silver mining town. What made the ride awesome was the climbing which is the only way to get there. Starting out just east of Puerto Vallarta you climb for roughly 36 km deep in to the Sierra mountains. The climbs have no rhythm as the mountains are a series of foothills that fold over top of each other and get increasingly higher. Just as you think you might be cresting the summit you descend a bit and start over again. The climb starts with palm trees at sea level and finishes with pine trees at roughly 14oo meters above sea level.

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Riding with Joel up the climb to Estancia
What makes the climb up to San Sebastian challenging is the last 3 km. We rolled in to the town of Estancia and then turned upwards once again to find a wall of cobbles. It’s hard enough to finish the ride but now you have to stop, let some air out of the tires to roll over the cobbles and then lock in with white knuckles to finish the ride safely. The last thing you want to do is crash on this road surface and I was nursing wounds suffered the previous day when I hit a tope and careened down a cobble stone street in San Juan. Strava adds some additional incentive as there is a KOM (King of the Mountain) and if you take one of the KOMs there is a Jersey that can be won from the local tour operator Bici Bucerias who was our host for the week. In reality, the best way to roll over cobbles is in a big gear, hands loose on the hoods or tops of the bars and find the high point on the lane.IMG_2807

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the last section to San Sebastian know as “The Wall”
We were fortunate on the ride with the weather which was perfect. As you ascend the temperature tends to drop and there was a 10 degree difference from bottom to top. Another aspect that made the ride awesome was that it was a supported ride. We had a driver who provided hand ups when needed but there were no sticky bidons.

The reward for climbing was a visit to a historic colonial town far removed from resorts and beaches and devoid  of tourists.IMG_2796

Side street in San Sebastian

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Lunch was served at a local ranch restaurant that had house made tequila (selling for 100 pesos per bottle) and shredded beef on soft tacos (beef was from the ranch).

Other rides were equally epic but sans climbing. One of my favorite rides was to Fortuna de Vallejo which is an 80 km out and back that skirts alongside the Sierra mountains and weaves through farming and ranch lands dotted by tiny farm towns. At one point on the ride you have to fjord over a small river but it is not too deep. IMG_2840

Each ride we were on had three guides of varying riding ability. If you want to ride fast tempo there is a guide for that. If you want to chill and enjoy the sites then there is a guide for that too. You would be hard pressed to drop your guide but I did do my best, like most master blasters, to push the pace.

IMG_2844Lunch with local guide Peter (left) and ex Blackberry exec Derrick who was the key man in the Spidertech sponsorship deal with Steve Bauer’s team.

The ride to Vallejo took us through a larger town called San Juan which we rode to on a number of occasions. If you find yourself there keep an eye out for the infamous JK tope. It turns out that this particular bump eats roadies on a regular basis.

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The last thing you want to hit going 35 km / hour is this thing. (note: I was not looking down)

If you want to combine riding, eating, beach going, site seeing then Bucerias is a great destination and very affordable. I would recommend leaving your bike at home and grabbing a rental  from Joel’s outfit at Bici Bucerias which has a selection of Specialized bikes with 25 mm tires which are perfect for the roads.

 

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The accommodations are far superior to staying in a hotel and we had a small villa that was shared with like minded riders and friends from Alberta.

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The Casa Victoria pool was a welcome relief after each ride and kept the family entertained each morning.

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When you’re not riding there are lots of towns close to Bucerias to explore but that’s another post for another day.

 

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Family Form + The Child’s Eye

Over the past few years I have written posts about finding form and I my original intention was to reflect on a personal journey of fitness and health. Periodically I have touched on family but I’m not sure if I have really addressed what form is or how we can define it. We can’t always be happy and some days are very challenging but if we can take a moment and recap what we do as a family and how our children filter those experiences we will have a pretty good barometer of family form and emotional health.

Positive emotional health really is the be-all and end-all of life. Last night my family came to visit me at work and as I work evenings it is a special treat to squeeze in some extra family time with a dinner visit. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” and working nights isn’t the easiest for helping to raise a daughter and nurture a family but we manage to make it work as best we can. My wife works very hard to make it all stick and structure and planned time helps backfill the week and makes sure that we are doing what we need to do as well as doing things that we enjoy together.

Anyway, last night Alison drew a picture of us riding together that really hit home for me personally about growing up and having experiences that will help shape her future. As a family if we make sure that we do something together every week then we are on the right track to encouraging a strong bond and love. If a child can happily reflect on the times they spent living and experiencing adventures with their parents then I think we are “finding family form.” Alison helped save money to buy a “wehoo” and she even built it with me when it arrived. She loves riding it with me and it’s quite a bit of fun to share the road together. The picture below is her latest version of riding the weehoo.

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This is the what it looks like in real life!IMG_1528

I heard an interview the other day asking the guest to tell the interviewer what their favourite early childhood memory was. When I put the question to myself I was pressed to dig that far back but in the end it would be the times that we, as a family, and when my family was together, spent time going to lakes in and around Edmonton and exploring country roads and watching airplanes take off at Edmonton International with my Father on Sundays and the annual stay-cation at Lake Eden that my mom would arrange.  AIn latter teen years  my memories revolve around times spent with my brothers and some of the amazing trips I did with my oldest brother Keith but that is another story.

Be happy and be healthy!

JK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Powerline-Highline Whammy

This is a great run!

Canmore Runner

This is the second trail running route post. It’s a variation on the previous one described in Hello Highline, a speedy, undulating and relatively short 6.5km round trip starting and ending at Quarry Lake, just outside of town. The Powerline-Highline Whammy also starts and ends in Quarry Lake. However, it covers an altogether more challenging 18.5km with 600m plus of elevation which looks like this on Garmin Connect:

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Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 19.58.04On the bright side, it has a more gentle beginning than Hello Highline. The first five kilometres along the Powerline Trail and on to Three Sisters Village are relatively gentle and offer spectacular views of the Three Sisters and Mount Lawrence Grassi. After that, it all becomes a little more challenging with a roughly (and at times rough) 2km climb up through the trees and the lower portion of the Highline.

But it’s well worth it because before long you’ll be tearing along…

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Growing

Yesterday our family spent the afternoon at the Canmore Nordic Center doing some cross country ski practice with Alison.

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My wife Misty is going to be a group leader / coach for the Jackrabbits program and Alison is in her class. Athletes don’t always make the best coaches (which I can attest to) but Misty has a good grasp of pedagogy and that, combined with being a great mother and a gentle touch, has made the learning curve less steep for Alison. Alison is a thrill-seeker but she has been a bit timid on the snow and the toboggan hill.

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 On of the tricks Misty is using is having “Stuffies” on the skis and having the kids slide on the skis like snakes.

Later that day we split up and Alison and I went do some sledding down by the Biathlon range. Now most kids in Canmore are naturals on the snow and have mad skills but up until this point most of our sledding had been a two person affair with Alison hanging on pretty tight. Today a switch went off and as a Parent I felt blessed to see it happen. Alison was on the edge when we were skiing but a good hour with Mom directing and Dad participating in the coaching lesson that Misty was testing on us improved Alison’s confidence. As Alison and I were walking down with sled in tow Alison turned to me and said “Daddy, I’m going to go one time by myself.” Ok? I said. Not wanting to push Alison after a few times down the hill she said “I want to go by myself this time.” And she did, again, and again and again. After six times I was asking if I could go too as we only had one sled. Our last sled of the day was together with Alison saying “Giddy up, giddy up!”

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 Alison proudly wearing her “Fast and Female” buffs.

The following morning Alison came in to our room as she does every morning and she jumped up on our bed and said “Dad, yesterday I wanted to make you proud and show you that I could go all by myself.” I can not full express how that made me feel other than to say that if you know what the concept of “filling your bucket is” well Alison filled my bucket. As a parent I was given one of those rewards that you could never buy and you will never forget. On reflection I saw the magic of growing, becoming strong and finding form.

#letsmove

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Finding Form

This blog was a way for me to record a journey that I have stepped in and out of for many years, that being, finding form. I have equated form in the past with performance, prestige and position while all that time I failed to think about happiness. A lack of personal happiness and a loss of position brought me to this place of searching.

Marriage has been a journey and it has had ups and downs. Being a father is a journey ,again, it has ups and downs. Needless to say, accepting happiness is the missing piece to truly feeling form. The selflessness needed to be a family will make you happy in the end.

I am grateful for what I have and being content is a nice place to be. My wife has been a great friend and mentor on this subject. She brought me to this very special place.

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JK

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