My 300 Kilometer Ride... musing through life...

My Story Riding the Cabot Trail…  2015

I’m home now, after a week of travel that took me to Nova Scotia, via Atlanta, New York la Guardia, and back through the same ports, to Mexico. It was a long trip that took a lot out of me. But clearly I got a lot out of it, as well.

The reason for the trip began about three months ago. A group I have developed a relationship with over the past five years, Give to Live, was recruiting for bicycle riders who would ride the Cabot Trail… to raise money for cancer research.

The Cabot Trail is a 300 kilometer loop that goes from Baddeck, in Nova Scotia, a province on the east coast of Canada… North and west through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park; then south along the western shore of the island where it meets the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the North Atlantic; the Trail then turns east, back  across the island, finishing in Baddeck.

This is Cape Breton, on the North Eastern tip of Nova Scotia… The Cabot Trail is the yellow colored loop,
 and includes the National Park called Cape Breton Highlands… anyone that has visited Scotland
would recognize the topography, the music, the languages and the hospitality…

It is a well-known track for cyclists, tourists in campers, cars and on motorcycles. It has seven  Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rated climbs including two Cat 2, two Cat 3, and three Category 4. These ratings mean that riders are expected to ride 300 kilometers and during that riding, climb hills that are equivalent to many in the Tour de France. Also, they would be expected to do the ride in just one day… during the period from dawn to dusk… no night riding. This would require an average speed of 19 kph… this translates by my reckoning to about 24 kph when including stops!

At first I had to really think through the ride... I looked at it on Google Maps; I checked the climb elevations on Garmin and Map-My-Ride... and I decided it was too much for me to try and do the whole route in one day. I had done it in three days, twice... my memories of those rides were all about the pain of the climbs. My strength-to-weight ratio and conditioning was no better now, and I was three years younger that last ride.

Lynnda and I agreed that raising the money for research into nutrition and exercise as a way to avoid cancer is important... so I signed up for the ride... the first 100 kilometers. This meant only one major climb, and a nice four hour ride. Then I heard my friend Ron Allen was planning to do the whole 300 kilometers (186 miles). He and I had age in common... he is 70 years old, I am trying to get there in three years! So I called him one evening at his home in Nova Scotia.

I have ridden with Ron and the G2L teams on several occasions. Early on, we didn't really care much for each other... more because we had never really talked about things that are important to us. That evening, we connected and I decided to commit to the whole ride. He made the difference, because he is one person on a bike that has always amazed me... strength, leadership, safety... all words that I can use to describe Ron... Halifax-to-Austin;Vancouver-Austin; Ottawa-to-Halifax; the Cabot Trail... he had done these and more... coaxed others to not only ride them but to survive, strive and thrive... all while raising thousands of dollars for Give to Live cancer research.

Ron Allen and me getting ready to leave
Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in the rain, headed
to Halifax in 2014

I knew that it would take some motivation, hard work on the bike and I would have to change my strength-to-weight ratio. Strength comes through time on the bike riding long miles. It also comes from training right. I consulted several resources including an article in Cycling Magazine that got me interested in climbing technique; repeated sprints; and the joy of changing my capability... even at my very poor conditioning starting point.

I also got information from Livestrong about losing weight and strengthening my core... upon which cycling depends for the hard climbs. The weight issue became easy when I put in the details to an app at Livestrong... Weight 172, Target weight 150, and number of days to goal... 61. Out popped my guideline... 1,250 calories a day!

At the same time I had had a conversation with my cardiologist about my check-up. There had been only one blood factor that was not normal... MCV. This relates to the size of my red blood cells. They were way, way to large and could be affecting my ability to replenish my muscles with oxygen. He had recommended that I stop all alcohol intake and start a regimen of daily Folic Acid, and Vitamins B6 and B12. That helped me rationalize the 1,250 calories... I had been taking in thousands of empty calories with my meals based on alcohol... so that was "full stop". 

Lynnda helped a lot by keeping me focused on the weight loss... while I was focused on miles in the saddle. I used some motivation tools during that period, since I was riding daily 50 to 100 kilometers... I always leave the house with a mental list of questions I need to answer; people I need to understand; challenges and hills I need to overcome and so on... I had recently lost a distant, but good friend in Jeff Clarke, to cancer.
Dannie Titus came to the finish of
the Ottawa/Halifax ride to pace us
in, even though she was still in a life-
and death battle with her cancer.
Another friend, Danelle Titus was struggling with a rare cancer... she had been on our cycling team on the Vancouver to Austin, Texas ride in 2010 and was still in her early 20's ... didn't seem fair, so I tried to use her as a motivation... the questions often didn't have good answers, but the strength was coming and the weight was leaving...

I started gaining confidence as I trained. The weight was leaving... 1,250 calories and over 50 km per day makes that happen. But two things started as a result of "over training... first was that my left knee, which has had two surgeries in the past (ACL, MCL and a Smoothing) was starting to hurt a lot more than in the past, after my rides. I tried ice, heat, lime juice (which included the rind and had been recommended by my physician and had a big impact on night cramps)... but the only thing that worked was a reduction in mileage.

At the same time the rainy season was starting here in central Mexico. I don't mind the rain, having grown up in Nova Scotia where it is either raining, snowing, sleating or fogging practically every day on the eastern shore where we had lived in the "oo's"... so I was used to it. It is that it rains hard at night and the debris from the run-off in the hills causes flat tyres to be a regular thing. I had to make adjustments on days when the previous night it had rained hard... it turned into a blessing!

A two flat day, waiting for a pic-up
since I was still only carrying one
gas tube and no pump... that would
change after this ride, being stuck
30 kilometers from home.

I started going to our Health Club at La Reserva, where Lynnda and I have a second home in the yacht club there. They have a couple of spin-bikes, lots of other cross training equipment and a full cadre of free weights. I started doing my training on the spiners... using my cycling shoes in the clips, I found I could get amazing workouts. The proximity to the weights and some coaching I had received from Victor Youcha my chiropractic supporter gave me the strength improvement that just riding the roads doesn't get us. I also threw in 20 minute planking work outs every 60 minutes on the spinner. 

I started seeing even better results and on the days I did road cycling, I could feel the difference. WoW... training works. I realized that I was getting into better shape than at any time in my life. This at 67 years old was embarrassing... I had wasted opportunities, and based on the cancer research that Dr. Ryan Rhodes (the doc that our rides have been supporting at the University of Victoria for the past three years), maybe I had missed opportunities to avoid some cancers associated with nutrition and exercise. Another chance to do better for anyone... we just need motivation, goals and friend/family support.

By the time the 61 days were finished, I had gotten to 152 pounds. I was needing new clothes, since even my jeans were falling off my ass. My medium sized t-shirts were too big and my bib-shorts were starting to bind while on the bike. I had never imagined what it would be like to ride at 152, but I was soon to find out. The ride was just a week off and it was time to get ready to go. My travel plans were all in order, it was time to start storing energy, while trying not to add weight... more reading on loading, what to load and when... I had about a week, but the trip was about to start...

On Tuesday the 14th of July my road to the Cabot Trail got started with a drive to the airport. A friend, Bryan Clark took me at around 10:30 pm since I was on a Red-eye to Atlanta, leaving at Midnight. I had been upgraded for the flight and that had the benefit not only of better seating, but baggage priority through the entire flight… I would need that the way things worked out.

I got some sleep on the flight and we arrived in Atlanta in good time. But my connection was tight enough that I had a plan in place if I missed the connection… luckily, Delta’s Atlanta baggage handlers got it right, and my bags were practically first off. I had to go through immigration, so I used the Global Entry on my USA passport. My bags were there when I got into the baggage hall… I passed through customs and dropped the forwarding bags off for the flight to La Guardia.

I adhere to the hurry-up and wait philosophy of travelling. So, with 45 minutes to get from ‘E’ Concourse to ‘B’ Concourse I pushed quickly to the Hartsfield intra-train… and got to the Laguardia flight gate. Then I did the several things about which nature was calling. This was the only non-upgraded flight, so I grabbed a sandwich and water… and boarded, on time.

Then came the first delay… baggage handlers and gate workers were on a cycle-strike… at Laguardia… I guess I don’t blame them… but when it hits you personally, there is a tendency to take it that way. I was irritated, but what can be done… nothing! I do wish other travelers and the non-unionized workers the best, my delay wasn’t enough to gripe over. My time in Mexico has had the benefit of my newfound mañana attitude...

We ended up getting to Halifax a little late; I was somewhat short of ‘good humor’… I went to Hertz for my car rental and hit my first opportunity to be ‘stupid’. They had my reservation for a full size car… I had not taken the Priceline insurance because if you do have an accident, you have to pay the costs, and then apply for the restitution… all time consuming and cash flow negative.

The car was a great deal… I think it was a full size Toyota Camry… for $50.oo CAD. The insurance… collision, pl/pd and roadside assist was another $54 per day! The car was going to cost me about $1,000 CAD… lucky I was using a USA credit card. Then the fill-up was $62.oo if you bring the car back empty… good deal… I didn’t argue, figuring I would just play it the opposite way I usually do when I fill up on the way to the airport. I would let the tank drift down and if I needed fuel near the end of the rental, I would just put a few liters in… that worked out well in the end… I know as I write this that the car was under 1/8 tank…

Got to Truro, the town in which I grew up, in good time… I had a plan to have dinner with Danny Joseph. Checked into the Belgravia B&B… honestly, these folks… the McDonagh family… are the best hosts. Am I at home there… yes… they not only pasted some of my fundraising blogs and emails on their website… they donated $75.oo to the ride directly, getting me to the $8,000 level of donations. WoW!

I was in ‘my’ room, and relaxing… doing some reading that I had planned. I opened several of the seven packages I had delivered from Amazon and other retailers that don’t operate here in Mexico. My new Garmin watch had arrived with its heart rate monitor. 

I also had ordered several hard copy books… Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail… Bold by Peter Diamandis… The Innovators by Walter Isaacson… and Moments of Impact by Chris Ertel, et al. My reading list for the rest of the month. It was an exciting haul, since I already had most of them on the Kindle, but graphics on the Kindle were not up to speed for reading business stuff which has all sorts of charts… and I can’t really mark up the pages (shown on the page itself) on the Kindle I have… looking forward to that functionality!

I also had ordered bike lights in case my Domane had lost its lights in the nine months it had been stored in Halifax. I also had my tooth paste delivered from Immunotec in Montreal… this is for folks who have had oral cancer… I don’t use it exclusively, but sometimes the harsh stuff from Crest is just too much for my old tissues.

It soon was time to meet up with Danny. He is one of the guys with whom I never lose touch … he has been in my life since Junior High School… an usher in my first wedding, and so on. When we see each other, the conversation picks up from the last time… good friends. 

Danny took me to a restaurant in down town Truro… The Nook and Cranny. I had a great meal. We saw, talked to and had laughs with several people either Danny or I or both knew… saw Charles Cox who was in our class and became a lawyer in Truro.

After dinner, it was back to the Belgravia for some reading and sleep. I would have to go to Halifax in the morning… but would meet Marianne Cullip who sells Isagenix products, which I was interested in trying for the ride.

At breakfast, as is usual at good B&Bs, I was treated to the best food in town… and I got to meet new friends… this time it was two couples… one from Quebec City, and one from Ohio. The folks from Quebec were headed, as I was, for the Cabot Trail. The others on that day, were looking for places to see on the Bay of Fundy. I was able to help both couples understand the great places to experience along the way… augmenting what Anne and D’Arcy McDonah, our hosts were laying out for them.

The freshest home picked blue and strawberries over yogurt to start… just like home, but better fruit than we get here in Mexico… Egg(s) Benedict… only one for me… and muffins that D’Arcy bakes fresh every morning… I was packing on calories for a good reason. I had gotten close to my target weight for the ride… but now I needed some stored energy for the long haul up the mountains of the Cabot Trail.

Oops, 0900 and I nearly forgot Marianne… so I ended up a little late meeting up with her. What a cool lady… grew up in the Onslow area and now married with kids and a great marriage… nice. Marianne offered me several products, and would not take money for them… there were three flavored tubes of electrolyte hydration… there was a protein recovery pack with a mixing jar… there were three bottles of a Jolt like product, I don’t remember the name. I would use them on the ride, to augment the natural ones I was used to… dried blueberries, cherries, nuts and so on. Marianne knew her products, and unlike many who sell supplements, she uses them as an athlete and as a very busy business person.

After seeing Marianne, I headed to Halifax… about 100 km. My first stop was with Chad Robertson at the VGII Hospital, downtown. Chad was my cancer surgeon back in 2005. He did three procedures on my oral and head/neck cancer… one of which was the definitive 11 hour procedure to remove 53 of  my lymph nodes where it had metastasized. In the first he had removed five teeth and part of my upper jaw. He also placed the implants where the bar that keeps the upper jaw formed and allows my appliance to rest in the cavity.

The biggest things that Chad did for me however, came after the surgery. We became friends. He encouraged me to become active again… we talked a lot about ocean kayaking… so I bought two kayaks, a tandem in case Lynnda grew into water sports since we lived on the ocean; and the other a carbon fiber racing kayak that I ended up using almost daily in ocean chop, big waves and tidal, rip-currents. It helped me gain confidence, and upper body and leg strength. I had lost about 40 pounds during my cancer and needed strength and toning.

Just after we left Nova Scotia to move to Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake, Chad emailed me and asked if I would like to go on a bike ride with him. I had, at his urging, already started riding my Giant 960C again, when I was still in Nova Scotia… but the cycling along Highway #7 was dangerous, so I was limited to riding the 12 km to Jeddore and back… it was beautiful but had become boring, so I wasn’t really in cycling shape. Actually, I never really understood what being in shape for cycling really meant.

I first said “yes”. Then he told me about “Give to Live”, raising donation money, and then, that the ride was from Vancouver to Austin, Texas. That took a little thinking to get my mind around… but I agreed… then they sent a letter to me indicating the speeds I would be expected to carry, and the need for a 12/28 cassette… because there was a lot of climbing. At the bike shop they told me I couldn’t put a 12/28 cassette on the old tech carbon Giant… new bike in order!

For the ride I bought my first Trek bicycle, a Madone carbon fiber bike. It was beautiful, had the better cassette and lots of features that I would learn over the ensuing years, to appreciate. I had a lot to learn, but having the right bike was a big step. Ian Forbes at BikeFit sold it to me, and years later he would have become a great friend, a cycling buddy, and someone I learned a lot from, about organizing volunteers for long multi-day rides.

So, Chad and I had a lot to talk about… as well. While at the hospital, he gave me a once over looking at the condition of my oral health, and my neck where he had once found a lymph node swollen, my first notice of a metastases. My Madone, my Domane, the coming ride on the Cabot Trail and so on… as well, his family and all their activities… amazing what commitment it takes to raise a family these days. It was a great discussion in the dental clinic… and no tumors present!

Then I went to pick up my Domane from Todd MacDonald at Energy Atlantica. Todd and Ashley Ward were two of the founders of ‘Give to Live’… a friend had dropped my bike and bike box/riding gear… at the company that Todd owns. I was happy to find the bike in great condition and we loaded it into my rental… it would be protected with the insurance I had paid so dearly for at Hertz.

Then the next stop was also relative to my cancer and dentists who had also become friends… Drs. Paula Yliheikkila and Stuart Richardson… Dr. Paula has done, essentially, all of the prosthesis work in my post cancer treatment. Her husband and I have ridden together on the Cabot Trail several years ago and also in California with Chad Robertson at the CTS training camp in Santa Ynez.

Soooo, Dr. Paula did a set of panoramic-xrays and a complete oral exam… said my lower jaw is in normal condition. This was great news because ten years ago we had been concerned that the cancer radiation would cause me to need a replacement for my lower jaw. This good news is perhaps one of the health benefits of daily exercise… good bone density! I will keep this in mind for conversations about women's health issues like bone density... exercise and nutrition have benefits!

Then, I had lunch with Jason Hale, our US Tax expert with Grant Thornton… Jason has done Lynnda and my tax work and that of our foundation since we were living in Germany… he is a great guy… another who is deeply involved in family commitments with his wife… their two boys are playing one or another sport practically every day of each week… again… amazing commitment parents make for their children… the pay-off is likely that they do well and don’t live at home, post-college!

I then had the opportunity to drive back to Truro and decided to take the longer route… passing streets that I had haunted as a university student in the 60s and 70s. I stopped at a large graveyard by the Public Gardens to visit Dr. Elizabeth Chard. She had been a mentor to me during university, and for all the years after... until she died after an intense battle with cancer. I left a ten peso coin, an American Penny and a Canadian quarter near the head stone, so she would feel me around. I still talk to her, and feel I still get that look when I know I am doing something to which she would not approve.

I drove by the Oxford Theatre that was the best in Halifax in the 70's… and now, preserved, has off market films, often the best to watch. Down Quinpool Road from Oxford, after jumping the light for an illegal left turn (I had practiced this in the seventies); then, by some beautiful old Halifax homes to Connaught Boulevard, and some speed down the hill to make the light… here is the turn onto Bayers Road where the decision for 'not taking a bridge' to head to Truro is made… more speed down the hill… I used to ride my bike on this, too… thinking like a cyclist… back then I had a steel framed Fuji with flat bar-breaks and ten speeds… hot bike then, in a maroon color… SMU colors of course!

On the highway toward Bedford I had to use cruise control… before radar, this was highway that I would run at 100 mph in several of the cars I owned… but during my student years, my top speed was only 62mph in my ’64 VW Beetle… full-out, into the wind, the front end sometimes seeming to lift clear of the ground. Funny, that's the current speed limit on this highway, over 40 years later.

Got to Truro after switching over to Hwy#2 at Brookfield… the old Truro to Halifax highway that I had biked many times as a teenager. The last time I had ridden it was just last year, as part of the Ottawa-Halifax ‘Give to Live’ bicycle trip. The last day! When I thought my cycling career was finished!

Also some memories on that highway… smashed headlight-to-headlight in a Buick convertible with a brand new Camaro that was passing a car, and didn’t see us. Totaled both cars; bruised my 'car' ego; and the heads of most passengers… but all was OK within a couple of days… seat-lap belts were on everyone, probably because of the novelty of having them in the two very new vehicles. I still see the accident in my mind's memory, as I pass by the old drive-in movie theater… can still hear the smash, too... BAMB!

Through Millbrook First Nations Mi’kmag Village where in the 60’s we had several friends who played hockey with us. Then there was not a term “First Nations’… the spelling of the Tribal Name was just MicMac. The new format seems an improvement and the village looks better today than then… I would be driving through several ‘reserves’ in the coming days. It was good to see Millbrook in such good condition.

Back in Truro at the Belgravia I started working on the Trek Domane…  I hadn't seen it since I left it in Halifax last fall, thinking my riding career was over. I didn't want such a great bike to be wasted, so I left it there for a friend to use. He never did ride it, so I had decided that I would take it back and ride the 'Trail' with it. 

I assessed what was needing attention before I headed to Cape Breton in the morning. I knew I could go downtown and visit with the good folks at Hub Cycle for any parts. The big missing part in my saddle bag was a small, multi-tool. I had not brought one from Mexico, thinking there would be one in the box… but ‘not’!

I knew I could only carry one tube replacement and a 6 ounce Co2 tank… had them from the Ottawa trip where I had gone about 1,000 km flat-free. I went down to Hub Cycle and bought a bunch of energy packs to augment what I had from Marianne and from Mexico… Bruce and Daisy Roberts the owners at Hub, treat ‘Give to Live’ cyclists very well, and discount almost everything for us… great place! I got the multi-tool, as well.

I did have a disappointment that evening. Chad Robertson had indicated he might be able to ride the trail with us on Saturday. I was really looking forward to it. He is a huge inspiration to me, as well as an amazing, strong rider who could pace anyone that would be on the ride. I would know he was ahead of me, and that would be motivation. Rightly so, Chad had to support his family who were headed to two different venues on Saturday; it would have been impossible for Lisa to pull that one off… so, Chad had to miss one of his bucket list rides, again… maybe I will get to ride it with him next year.

I drove through New Glasgow and Antigonish... towns where I had ‘played’ as a younger man, and where I had also played hockey for Truro High School and Junior Hockey Bearcats. It was mental reminiscing at its best… I wasn’t in a hurry to get to Baddeck for the ‘Give to Live’ ride registration… and I bought coconut milk and chocolate chip and oat cookies from President’s Choice (only in Canada you say… Pity!). 

I had gotten my weight down to 152 pounds for the ride, but now it was time to load up on some energy in the form of fats and carbs… mmmmm, GOOD! As I headed to Cape Breton via the Canso Causeway I kept flashing back to some of my trips to Sidney, Mabou, Baddeck, Whitney Pier and of course the Cabot Trial itself.

There hadn't been all that many, but each trip I remembered as special, in so many ways… the people I was with, the things I was doing, the car or bus I was driving/riding in… and so on. There was the time with Wayne Fulcher in his Porsche just a couple of years ago, travelling to Mabou,  to help HBI in a board meeting at the Inverness golf sanctuary called Cabot Links and their European-like inn. A hockey trip in 1965 to play Sidney High School in a Headmaster’s play-off game (we won the first of a two-game home-n-home total goal game 8-4) the ride home in an old, yellow school bus was happy but freezing cold… the heater was dead, the gas stations and restaurants closed and that is a memory I hadn’t intend to keep.

A mind of its own, on its own, remembers things better forgotten sometimes (we lost the back game by five goals, and were out of the championship).

Arriving in Cape Breton is like having a change of life… as you come off the Causeway that links Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia you arrive at a traffic circle that sends cars to various parts of the split geography that is Cape Breton Island… split geography and split personality… the hardened coal and steel section of Sidney and Whitney Pier…  the Scotland(like) shores of the Bras d'Or Lakes; the highlands, forests and ocean views of the National Park; the French influenced areas on the north-west shores at Cheticamp; the Scottish and Gaelic influences in Inverness and the Ceilidhs (parties with fiddling, piping piano music and dancing)… and the co-emergence of all this culture into one of the most fascinating and picturesque areas of the world. 

It was tugging at me… but by then I had to pee… and then I really knew I was home… just stopping at road side, hiding behind an open passenger door… ahhhh, the privilege of being a male in Nova Scotia.

As I drove into Baddeck, I remembered being there with Lynnda just a few years ago… maybe ten… when we spent the better part of a day at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum… what an amazing tribute to Bell… and to technologies like the telephone and first flight of the Silver Dart Biplane, in 1909. Given his relationship to National Geographic Magazine where Bell was the first President of NGM. National Geographic introduced Cape Breton and its Bras d' Or Lakes to the world through its pictures and stories, initiated by Alexander Graham Bell. It was appropriate that I drop in, and I did for just enough time to see it, again, and remember that great trip a few year ago.

I checked into the Telegraph House Inn… yes, Bell frequented this inn which was built in 1865, and is still open. It was an amazing check-in… “no Sir, we don’t need your credit card, when you check-out is fine”, said the young lass at the desk. Up to the room and it was as advertised… bathtub, check… that’s all I cared about, I would need to soak post ride and many inns today have only showers. I guess, in retrospect, I cared about the bed, too. It was a single, in a room that today is smaller than most walk-in closets... but the room was more than adequate, and smelled of its history... had Bell ever slept here?

I left my bike in the car… I had left the bike-box in Truro in the basement of the Belgravia… another example of the hospitality there… “no problem Bruce” said Darcy… "let me help you carry it down… watch your head… let me know when you need it".

I walked over to the Baddeck Rec Center to register… WoW… it was like old home week. And the planning to ‘not look to eager’ had worked to perfection… I was the last to check-in! They had a great welcome meeting with explanations of practically all the parts of the ride. Also a great safety session and a pep talk from the founders, Ashley Ward and Todd MacDonald.

It was like being home again… Ron Allan, Chris MacDougall, Sean LeMoine, Paul McQueen, Todd MacDonald, Ashley Ward, Bill MacDougall, and countless others with whom I had ‘ridden somewhere meaningful’. There was anticipation and energy in the rink… then the picture, and we were out-a-there. Find your energy source… 

This is the Give to Live group that was together to ride the Cabot Trail on July 18th, 2015. I am second from the left (back row).
 Ashley Ward is next to Chris Kidd (who I rode with for the last 140 km of the Cabot Trail) in the lower right corner.
Paul McQueen is over her left shoulder with the envelope in hand. Todd MacDonald is barely visible by the second pole from the right side…
Todd and Ashley and Paul are the hearts of G2L Today.

I ended up going back to the Telegraph House to grab some warmer clothing… especially a hoodie… the weather tonight didn’t bode well for the close of the ride on Saturday… I was planning to arrive back in Baddeck, at the end of the ride, at about 9PM... and here it was feeling like freezing at just 8PM, on Friday night. Coming from Mexico where we never, never, ever have these low temperatures, this was a warp for me. Hoodie on, hood up, off I went to the Inverary Resort where there was a pub with music. 

I met a group at a table… Ron, Sean, and a friend of Ron’s, Ian MacRae…  there were several others around the pub… lots of music, being drowned out by enthusiastic, embellished stories, egged on by good food and drink.

I ordered a Crab Salad and a Beck’s NA beer… the salad came and turned out to be all of about 150 calories of food (a very small serving of minced crab on a half of an avocado. I quickly augmented it with an order of fries… but still not substantial enough given my need for some loading of carbs and fat. It was delicious, but not fulfilling.

I stuck around for half-an-hour and then walked back, bundled in my hoodie, to the Telegraph House, where I had stashed peanut butter and white bread… and coconut milk to wash it down. I took a benadryl laced Aleve PM so I could get to sleep fast, and then set my alarm for 4AM.

4AM to get up for a bike-ride… what were they thinking?

I slept soundly… it was a cool night, the window was by the bed so there was copious fresh air. I don’t 'remember' any dreams… but for weeks I had been visualizing the climbs at Cape Smokey, North, MacKenzie, French and Hunter Mountains in order to motivate me to get into shape… so I suspect that between the sweetness of the air, and the Benadryl, it was likely that my dreams that night were more focused on the descents than the climbs!

The first alarm went off at 0400 and I hit the snooze… but, I had no snooze in me… I jumped out of bed and into the shower… then I ate the avocado and a banana that I had bought for breakfast. I drank most of what was left of the Coconut Milk, and ate a peanut butter sandwich… that would be it until I started riding… I was hoping I could digest it all before 0515. I then filled my three water bottles and added some electrolyte powder… then stuffed my riding eats in my right side singlet pocket.

In the early darkness it was cool, as forecasted… so I decided to wear a t-shirt under my riding kit.. I had brought a Livestrong t-shirt just for this occasion… Livestrong’s cancer patient support work has been one of my motivators since I was a late stage cancer patient, almost ten years ago. Also, for my riding kit… the riding shirt, bib-shorts, arm-warmers, and socks I had brought my Arkansas Heart Hospital gear… red, white and black… it would go well with my black Trek Domane bicycle. The Heart Hospital has saved my life twice in the past, with their healthcare industry leading excellence in heart and peripheral vascular disease treatments. 

I've had my Aortic Valve replaced in open heart surgery, twice. I have used this outfit as one of my motivators for the last two years when I ride the annual Cardiac Classic bike ride in Little Rock each April… it works! Remembering the people who fixed me, cared for and care for me to this day, while I am riding, is a huge motivator.

Over my AHH kit, would be my reflective riding vest… it has the names of sixteen of my family members who have died or survived cancer printed on it… I wore it for the entire Ottawa to Halifax ride, in 2014. I really don’t like wearing these vests during the day, but this morning, it would double as a warming vest. It went well with my reflective lime-yellow Shimano shoes that I had bought for evening and night riding… 

I was all set! Later, someone told me I was looking rather dapper… but that was after I had taken off my vest! But I didn't take off those names that were riding on my shoulder every inch of the way...

I had prepared my other gear with a check-list… two bags of food for the transition points (clearly I had too much food in the bags, but I have starved and bonked on long rides in the past, and it wasn’t going to happen on this, the longest single day ride I would ever do). I checked my bike's front and rear lights; my Edge 800 GPS and trip computer; heart-rate chest strap sensor; arm warmers and my trip watch.

I had three lenses for my eye-protection… clear (riding in the semi-dark), yellow for fog and rain, and bug-eyed blue for bright-light riding. I had put 100 SPF on my arms, ears and below my cheeks to my jaw. I brought my Blistex and some extra 100 SPF in a small tube for after I removed my arm warmers. I checked that I had Canadian money in my shoe. 

My saddle bag had a tube and CO2 bottle and a flashing red light… I was prepared to fix only one flat, but was confident that with my newer 25 mm tyres and the new tubes I had put in them the day before… I could go 'flat-free'. If I did have more than one flat, I knew I couldn’t make the cut-off times with the riding plan I had put together… so I would be out of the ride with two flats… so just one would do.

I rode over to the starting point where most people had already congregated. I hadn’t counted on carrying the food in two bags. As I peddled in the early morning darkness, the bags swung wildly from the handle bars from which they were hanging. Was I to have an accident before the Cabot Trail ride even started? I smoothed my technique and I made it to the start point in time for the speeches and so on. No early accident!

Then I remembered the list… “Check  my brakes and the air pressure in the tyres”… I found Paul McQueen who always comes prepared… he had a pump in his SUV and got it for me… I then found Ron Allen and Ian MacRae… the organizers wanted us riding at least in pairs… we figured we should at least “start” that way… although I knew it was likely I would ride most of the way alone… I prefer this, since that’s the way ride here in Mexico… and I am comfortable that I am safe and able to attend to my own problems if they pop-up. I was set!

 “Give(ing) to Live”… Riding the Cabot Trail in One Day all 300 kilometers is a lot of giving…

After the instructions from Paul McQueen, mercifully brief, the first group of riders went through the starting arch… I chose to be in that group after Ron and Ian had moved their start-time forward to 0515. I went out through the arch and up the first wee hill… to the highway that would take us to the main provincial highway, that we had to travel to get to the beginning of the Cabot Trail.

The morning was hazy, and not nearly as cold I had anticipated and dressed for… easily 15˚C. The sun was at our backs for the start. It was interesting for me… my muscle memory was
The morning was hazy, and not nearly as cold I had anticipated and dressed for…
 easily 15˚C… a view at the start of the ride, The Bras d’or Lakes looking for the sun-up…
clicking in … although I had not ridden this bike in eight months… and had done no riding in a week, on a moving bike (I had last been on the spinning bike at the La Reserva Club). I started out by tracking Ron and Ian. For the first couple of kilometers I tucked in behind Ron, moved up to pull for a while; and then as they came through, Ian took the lead.

Ron Allen and Ian MacRae as we were ready to start the ride at Day Break on 18 July, 2015.
These guys are buds from the South Shore of Nova Scotia…
Great athletes and capable riders who like to have a grand time, all the time.

My trip computer was telling me that Ron and Ian were now pulling faster than my planned speed of 24 km/h. I didn’t try and stay with them, but once they lost sight of me on the bridge of a hill, Ron’s mental safety alarm went off… he slowed, and I caught up to them… I indicated that I was going to ride to my plan, and begged… had to ‘beg’ him to go ahead and leave me. Ian was setting the pace and Ron went over the hill ahead with him… I would see both Ron and Ian later-on, during the ride. Clearly they were stronger than me, I needed to chill a little, behind them. 

Along the way toward Cape Smokey and Ingonish beyond, there were two stops that were required check-points… The first was not far from the beginning of the ride. It was really just like a train-station, whistle-stop… I hadn’t really gotten into my water or food yet, so really I just called out my number and name and headed off. There were a few folks there, it was great that the volunteers had set up a short distance stop… it was a good place to adjust clothing and our bikes.

At a different time of the day, clearly I would have spent more time at that first stop… it was in the parking lot, in front of the “Lobster Galley Restaurant”… thanks to these and all the Cape Bretoners along the route, for hosting us. We were going to interface with the best of Cape Breton’s renowned hospitality… between rest stops at restaurants, there were Fire Halls, a Bike Shop and so on. It was to be a great sunny-day ride, on a World Class Route.

Just past the first stop was the first flat that I was to see during the day… thankfully, it wasn’t mine…  it was one of  a strong group of riders that included Sean La Moine. It was clearly in hand, so I continued without stopping. I started riding in pace with two young women who were riding very strongly… I kept pace with them for a while… they were friends and clearly used to riding with each other… strong, fast and determined, they were on the one-hundred kilometer, first-leg ride… in a couple of kilometers, I had to let them go, since I still was on my plan and didn’t want to wear myself out too early.

Also, just when I was dropped by the girls, several youngsters passed me… including a couple with Bike Monkey Cycle Shop riding gear. Danny MacDougall was among them… they were moving at around 30 km/h and had caught me, even though they had started a half-an-hour after we had… they were determined to do a nine to ten hour ride around the trail… 40 years ago, I would have tried it, as well!

More of the faster riders started coming through. I was doing well, and was able to speed up a little to track with some of the guys that I recognized. Several knew the Trail better than I did, and kept talking about the next stop… in the parking lot of a famous breakfast restaurant… The Clucking Hen Café. I was looking forward to my memory bank opening to remind me of it, hopefully, when I saw it. When finally I got there, I had no recollection. I did have to stop and take on some water… I had planned a bottle per 25km at these temperatures; so far the plan was working. Again, the volunteers were enthusiastic… I gobbled a banana, a cookie and asked for 

The Clucking Hen Cafe, the sun still wasn't up so the Roosters 
weren't crowing... but the riders were still headed for Smokey

directions to the base of Smokey… straight ahead, about 20km… Cock-a-doodle-doooo… I hit the road, wanting to make it to Ingonish on the other side of Smokey with plenty of rest time, in case I needed it. Ingonish was the first time-limited transition point… not there in time, the ride was over for me.
Around that point of the morning, the sun was rising and starting to heat things up a little. That was going to be good for me… I was tense from the slight chill in the air, especially in the shade and when a breeze came up from the water’s edge, along parts of the route. I had been concentrating on my riding positioning; mentally calculating my average speed; trying to understand how my body was going to react to the first climb that would start around the 80km point… Cape Smokey.

In this section of the ride, I had an opportunity to ride with Eileen Burchill. She was on the 100 km leg and we had an interesting discussion. One of the great things about these rides is that you get to meet some really cool folks. From her posts on Facebook since the ride, I have learned a lot about life and about Eileen. I am lucky to have met her, and to have her as a friend. She is a very good cyclist, as well. I don't recall the circumstances, but I left her along the way, and ended up riding alone, again.

Also, through this section of the Cabot Trail, there are about ten kilometers of very rough road. It takes a toll on the arms and shoulders to ride this patchy stuff. Also, there are dangerous drop-offs on the curb side… this is caused by the run-off from the spring rains, and can swallow a car’s wheel if it drops off… in some areas, a bike wheel could practically disappear into the holes… very dangerous, requiring maximum concentration… stressful and tiring! This section was like that… causing one to be more mentally alert, especially when cars or other. 

This pic of the rough road of Cape Smokey is a little rougher than the sections of which I speak, and Smokey today is smooth on the roadway, but with some big drop-offs. This picture is from the forties, things are better now, but that warning sign at the hairpin should still be in place. 

One of the weak points of my training was that I couldn’t do more than 100km without getting into knee pain… and resulting, serous night-time knee pain… so I was being very sensitive to conversations I had had with my manager/coach… Lynnda Ross. She had been emphatic, “If you are in pain after the first 100km, promise me you will stop!”…. “I will, I promise” I could remember as I got out of the car at the Guadalajara Airport… and again each evening I had spoken with her since then. I think she knew I was fibbing a little… Hmmmm?

My knee… Sixteen years ago I had been skiing with Dr. Jim Margolis at Snowmass, Colorado. We were off-piste on the boundary, in a steep, and deep section, I compressed into the underlying terrain, but didn’t get my knees bent, hyper-extending my left knee and the sudden, audible “crack” of my ACL blowing is still haunting all these years later… after a patellar tendon harvest, and replacement prosthesis, and a second management surgery in 2003… it is still an occasional reminder that pushing one’s limits, has its price. 

While today walking is something of a problem, riding the bike is not usually a pain… (really, riding is like sitting down on the job… without the butt-spread) until I have long, standing climbs or I push it too long in a day, or too hard for consecutive days. I was being careful in Cape Breton, to baby my knee as long as it would hold up. That’s why Cape Smokey was front and center… and because for a long time before you get to it… you can see it… it works on your psyche…

I was starting to feel fatigue from the ride, just in my legs, at about 70 kilometers… this was starting to remind me of my nemesis climb on the Vancouver to Austin ride in 2010… Douglas Pass, in Colorado. We had ridden about 85 kilometers already as we approached the climb… I remember being close to our sag-wagon at the base. I had studied the profile of the Pass and was, frankly, afraid of it. Parts were steep enough that you couldn’t safely stop once you were in the section… I had no experience with this phenomenon… I had no patience with myself… I candy-assed and got into the SAG. It is on my bucket list to ride before I die.

This is the view from the summit of the climb at Douglas Pass in Colorado on Highway about 8,300 feet. In many ways, it is the view from the top that makes the climb worthwhile… and then, of course, the descent is the "Waaaaaho" of the ride.

The great part of long rides is that you get to think about what is happening to you. In this case, I had analyzed the Douglas Pass debacle for hundreds of hours while on my bikes, over the ensuing years. I realized that this failure, and another, on a 220 kilometer ride that actually caused me to crash, was caused by a combination of poor hydration and poorer nutrition. As I thought about it on this day, I reached into my back pocket for a hand-full of raisins and dried blueberries… this mouth-watering combination delivers sugar and near instant mental energy… experience is a good teacher! I would not let myself bonk today.

I keep the mix in a small bag for any ride over 75 km, in my back right shirt pocket and nibble at it when my mind thinks, or my GPS’s calorie alarm goes off… there are about 300 calories in each 100 grams of the mix. That’s about 100 calories for each dig into my pocket. With a slurp of my electrolyte, I was more assured that my body would not let me down on the coming climbs… especially Cape Smokey. Feeling more confident, I pressed on, looking for the sign that I knew was just up the road.

When you see this sign, there are only 100 meters before you to a 270˚ 
switch-back, and practically go from flat to 15% mountain climb… 
smashing gears as you get up in the peddles; 
averaging over 10% for the 2.1 kilometers to the top.

Just as I came to the sign, there were two groups of riders at the side of the road. There is a ‘pull-off’ for vehicles before Smokey. Basically it’s there so truck drivers can check tires, breaks and loads before heading up the mountain. For cyclists, it is a great point to also check their bike, talk or think through strategy for the climb; have a last hydration sip; and get psyched for the coming challenge.

I got to the sign and knew what to expect… a 270 degree curve and then immediately, stand-on-the-peddles to keep momentum… and then twelve minutes of heart-pounding-at-160-beats-per-minute-climbing… beautiful views of the North Atlantic (it was beautiful morning sun on the water)… catch-up to the guy who was just fifty meters ahead on the climb (later he told me that he knew I was coming and he was doing his best not to let me catch him)… and then ‘fuck’… a very strong head-wind struck us as we rounded the first switchback… something to fight with, rationalize… it had a cooling effect, but made the climb much tougher… why hadn’t I stopped at the rest point and peeled of my reflective vest… why hadn’t I had a drink at the base… why, why, why?

I passed both spots where in the past I had rested... "not today, Alice". I was up in the peddles for twenty cranks, then back on the seat... holding 7 km was my goal... each time I fell below I stood and pounded... that was what my heart was doing... "don't look Alice, don't look"... just getting it to 160 was a big win today... head down, feeling the wind, knowing there was a crown to come, satisfaction, sweat, swearing, cadence, stand, sit, spit...

As I crested the top of Smokey I was amazed… there were lots of riders at the top taking pictures, resting, celebrating… as was I… but I decided to keep it inside… and hurtle down the descent… I mean, isn’t that what climbing big hills is all about… WeeeeeHaaaaa...

In the shade, the up-slope wind wasn’t a bother… there were a few bumps, the descent of Smokey toward Ingonish isn’t very steep… I tucked the ride, screaming like a banshee, I passed a couple of bikes and a car… 65 kilometers per hour came easily, peddling like hell I got to 71 then the big bend slowed me down… and I relaxed… Smokey was behind me and a rest-stop was ahead, soon, in Ingonish… I could take stock of my energy level... and my parts...

Pulling into the Transition/Rest-stop at Ingonish my mind was leaning toward Lynnda’s admonition to only go the 100 kilometers. I was feeling pretty good though, so I decided to wander around the large, mowed field in the park-like area of Ingonish. Walking felt good, just using different muscles to move was like ‘ssenippah’ spelt backward… I have ridden many Metric Centuries, but this was one of the best, because I was actually not sore, or tired… I was really in the best physical condition for any riding I had ever done… the training had paid-off. I couldn’t have known it, until today. Smokey and the ride to it, was a very good test… no reason to end the test now!

I had a food drop at the Ingonish site. I checked what I had with me still in my pockets… I had anticipated needing 3,000 calories for the ride. I had consumed about 600 and I also needed electrolyte/H2O… my bottles were empty. I refilled them, and used some of Marianne Cullip’s Isagenics Electrolyte in a tube… I restocked my pocket larders, put my arm-warmers and yellow safety vest into the food sack and asked that it be delivered back to Baddeck.

I realized that my bladder was full. I looked around and in fact, there were restrooms at the park and before leaving the transition… relief in a urinal was better than challenging the coyotes and bears in the woods. This bear was ready to go… that’s a bear (Bruce Edward Alexander Ross) on the roads.

This would be the hardest part of the ride… if there was a ‘harder’ part! In-between the next three rest areas were three very complicated climbs. I use complicated because of the combination of steepness and length… and the back-to-back-to-back nature of the three. I have done each of them twice before… but never after having done Cape Smokey, on the same day. There would be about 40 kilometers of rolling hill cycling before a rest stop at the Cape North Fire Hall. Following that stop, immediately the climb begins onto North Mountain.

North Mountain, is arguably the hardest of all the climbs on the Trail… it is as steep as Smokey and longer. As I was sitting at the fire hall rest stop, I knew my knee was telling me that it was past it’s “use(ful) before date”. There was no swelling, but when I walked around on it, the clicking was discernable… bone-on-bone is like that (I never know if I am hearing the noise, or feeling it up through my spine into my ears)… there was not any real pain, but the soreness was telling the story. My leg muscles were OK… the quads and calves were willing, if my knee may not be… there was only one way to know… test it! Push it! Up the mountain…
This is me coming up to the base of North Mountain, just before
deciding I had had enough

I went onto the climb behind two riders with two behind me. A couple of hundred meters up the start, around a turn from the rest stop, it was time to stand and find out… the pain was no longer soreness… it was shooting pain when up on the peddles… God didn’t make me stupid, although sometimes I make myself that way… it didn’t take me but a moment to know my day was over…

Sadly, I excused myself from the pace line and turned down the hill toward the rest stop… I had the notion that I could ride the Mountain, but was wrong and admitted to myself that while the pain went away almost immediately as I turned down the hill, there was no sense doing more damage.

At the rest stop, I just put the bike down and started trolling for a ride, in one direction or the other… back to Ingonish/Baddeck (142 km) or around to Cheticamp… about 65 kilometers and then back to Baddeck making it about 150 km to home. I was more than happy having gotten more into the ride than I actually expected… it was a great day, and one to remember. I had ridden well, and really pounded it on Cape Smokey… I would never fear that mountain again! I was out 140 km... and happy!

In just a few minutes a very cool, attractive lady (I can say that at 67 years old), Brin Jones, offered to take me to Cheticamp. Her life partner was one of the more elite riders, and she was just along for the ride, and to take pictures. She had a red, diesel VW Golf that worked really well in the hills; it had a bike rack on the roof… Thule, same rack as on our car, in Mexico.

Parked on North Mountain look-off, bike up in
the Thule, in the familiar “carry me” mode
We started out up North Mountain, this time in the diesel Golf… we passed the riders I had started with… clearly it was a monumental struggle climbing this hill after having ridden 140 km, including Smokey… The sun was in full-strength… yellow in the sky, burning through the haze… dismantling the riders’ resolve, with heat rays like they were deadly, sun-guns… adding to the pain of the 

Frankly, I was pleased with my decision to take the ride back to Baddeck. I am not usually that smart… I can remember lots of ‘stupids’, as I like to call the decisions that turn out to be bad for my health… “stupid is as stupid does” is the way Forrest Gump rightly described it… smart guy!

I was very comfortable in the car and the discussions we had about nutrition, Yoga, cycling and so on were stimulating. Brin clearly loved Nova Scotia and the healthy life-style she and Dan Corbett are living. For what it is worth, now, I really didn’t thank Brin enough and don’t have a contact point, but she was the key to what would become my successes, on this day… she motivated me to see the beauty in what we were doing… and to understand that riding was about the trip, not the grind. I soon began to long for riding again, now that the pain was subsiding. So, late better than never, Brin, thank you for the ride and saving my day… and for making the memory soooo much better.

This is part way up North Mountain… it is very hard work. Many riders bring walking sneakers because it is practically inevitable that some will go for a stroll during the climb. You don’t know who, till it’s your turn. We see this grouping At the next rest stop…

When we left the look-off on North Mountain we had just a little way to drive before getting to the next rest stop. This spot was at the Mid-Trail Motel… the owners of the property had been great to us on the Sears Ride for Kids/Give to Live co-operative ride several years ago. Actually, the restaurant has great food, facilities and hospitality. I remembered it well; it’s at the base of the MacKenzie Mountain climb, and the saddle onto French Mountain. In combination with North Mountain, these three climbs were more like the Tour de France, than a leisurely ride to raise funding for some nutrition and exercise research trying to avoid cancer. 

This was harder than anything I personally had done, and I knew many of these riders hadn’t experienced much in the way of physical pain… never mind the mental pain that was to come once MacKenzie was under wheel. They were in for a big challenge, most loved it!

I had, at this rest-stop, already given up on the ride… this is picture is after
 Ron Allen had climbed North Mountain. Ron was telling me he
was dehydrated and needing salt… thus the potato chips. By this time,
I was feeling great, likely better than Ron… he left moments later for
the next climb, MacKenzie Mountain.
These two old guys… me at 67 and Ron at 70 were the elders of the ride.
My knee was feeling much better by the time we stopped at the Mid-Trail Motel. There was a large covered/shaded rest area, lots of food and hydration. The enthusiasm at this stop was palpable. Everyone was having fun, especially the volunteers running the stop… greeting riders, helping with the bikes, and so on. I kicked back and waited for the next group of riders. Brin was taking pictures, and catching up with her friends working the rest stop.

It turned out the next group coming in was to be five guys that we had watched and photographed as they climbed North Mountain, including Ron Allen. It was here that I started trying to talk Ron off the bike. He had walked much of North, and was clearly hurting, but insisted that he could do the ride to Cheticamp. He said his electrolyte balance was off, and tried some salty foods to help out. 

His muscles were cramping in his legs, even as we were sitting in the shade of the rest area. He was really hurting… as were many of the riders who were trying to extend themselves for this ride… all in the name of this cause… raising funding for cancer research. 

It is a powerful motivation, but as I tried to convince Ron, it isn’t worth endangering ourselves… the same thoughts I myself had had, at the base of North Mountain… his determination to continue was having a reverse impact on me… I was regretting, now, that I had gotten off the bike… seeing him minimize his situation… we were in the “ya ba” zone… “I can do it!” I started feeling it, too.

The other guys in the grouping were ready to go… Ron filled his water bottle and went to his new ride, a beautiful Scott Carbon 56 cm… appropriate for the MacKenzie climb… they were soon off… Brin and I could take off, too. Dan was in that group, so she was comfortable that all was well…

At the base of MacKenzie Mountain, Ron Allen,  having
done Smokey, and North Mountain climbs, these guys 
were raising money for cancer research and digging deep
to find their limits... Ron Allen, Andrew Inch, Dan Corbett 
and two other riders... help me if you know their name
 It was just then that I came in contact with Chris Kidd. Chris is a PhD anthropologist that had spent some 15 years in Africa working with the Pigmy population there. His home is Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, where I had visited for several days in 1997. He had moved to “New Scotland” which is the English translation of the Latin… Nova Scotia just a few years ago, after meeting his wife Heather, while in Africa.

Chris had not ridden a bike, even in his youth and had taken to it after developing a relationship with “Give to Live”.  In 2014 he had swam the 14 kilometer Northumberland Strait from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, with Give to Live. He then sprouted an interest in cycling and had bought a Trek 2.1 Aluminum bike on eBay for $800. Just six months before this 300km ride, he committed to raise the money for cancer research, and started training. He had pushed himself too hard through the first 160 or so kilometers and was spent, and hurting. He had figured he couldn’t meet the Cheticamp cut-off time, so was contemplating giving up the ride at the base of MacKenzie. It was likely he had lots left, sometimes we don’t know it until we get past the “stupid” part of rides. It was just the MacKenzie/French climb that was standing in the way of an even more incredible day.

I asked him if he felt he could ride the flat sections along the coast, with what energy he had left in the tank… he said he could, and that he really wanted to ride at least to Cheticamp, but couldn’t climb MacKenzie and French. I told him what had happened with me; how I had ridden in the car with Brin, and that I was now feeling like I could pace him from French Mountain to Cheticamp if he would take a lift with his wife in their VW Van Wagon, up these two climbs. A deal was struck… he acquiesced after I told him that descent was the most beautiful I had done in all of my riding… we would meet at a rest pull-off at the top of French.

Brin took me to the summit of French Mountain, I thanked her, perhaps not enough… I was already thinking about the descent. I put my wheel back on the bike, helmet, gloves, glasses all on, challenged any coyotes or bears in the woods, and finally… was ready for the ride into Cheticamp. I knew the road well, and aside from some potential cross-wind, there was little that would slow us down. Chris soon arrived, and was clearly up for the challenge… he kissed Heather g’bye and joined me… I told Chris to be careful, watch the road if he could, and I would see him at the bottom…

We started out together… Woooosh, the descent is electrifying… the switchbacks are dangerous… our visual senses needing to look at the views, while our autonomic sixth senses are trying to survive the 200 degree curves; with 300 meter cliffs just an instantaneous blow-out, or a steel guard-rail away. The guts and glory come from the heart, but the brain is fighting for survival…  it takes just 6 minutes to dive from 800 meters to sea level… speeds of 60 to 80 kilometers are easily achieved.

This group of three pictures are of the French Mountain descent… the one at the top is taken from a look-off that is to the Nort-west… there are no safe stopping points, so the second picture (on the left) is a difficult one to get, safely… this is the view I consider one of the best descent views in the world. The bottom right is a pic from a plane, and it shows not only the descent, but the run-out toward Cheticamp… the next pictures of Chris and me were taken at the rest-area along the shore at the top right of this photograph. It really puts the fall line and run-out into perspective…the satisfaction of finding our legs after this, was stimulating…

Once one is in the chute, there really is no stopping… a touch of the breaks, a bad bounce off the bumps swales and cracks, a truant stone, a scurrying squirrel, a slowing car, or a mindless cyclist caught up in the scenery, can end the thrill. I love this type of riding, and with my Trek Domane wearing new tyres and tubes, I was willing to let it all hang out, on the edges… You can think about a lot of things in six or seven minutes… looking down at the spinning tyre in front of my nose as I leaned into the curves looking for more speed… on the corners you can see the hub, in the middle of the wheel turning curiously slowly… the super thin spokes and the air in the tyres giving strength to otherwise weak structure… the physics of cycling, boggling…  

I had promised myself that if I got this far I would be reciting the many names of family and friends who had succumbed to this cancer disease… part of my planning and motivation for the ride…

I did… starting with my Uncle Bothwell who was diagnosed with brain cancer and died when he was barely a teenager, and I was about a year old; including my Mom, Edith who lost her leg to cancer and her life to a metastasis; her brother, David (Liver cancer); her cousins Alex (bowel) and Dirk (stomach); my father Ted who had survived bowel cancer only to die in a fall; Lynnda’s father Dan (pancreatic cancer), her brother Walter (liver cancer)… after surviving a kidney transplant; Lynnda’s niece Debbie Dillon (Burkitt's Lymphoma); our VanAus cycling friend, Danelle with her lymphoma; my college buddy Jeff Clark, lung cancer; my university mentor Dr. Elizabeth Chard, uterine cancer; my first wife (divorced) Christene with her breast and brain metastases; and of course my friend Bert Segers from Belgium who had gotten me and so many other Spectranetics folks through the learning curves of interventional cardiology, only to crash on the hairpin of cancer just two years ago; and the list goes on, as I thought on French Mountain, and wonder now, as I write of these wonderful people … “WHY”… As my friend Ron Smith said to me when I told him I had been diagnosed with cancer in 2005… “fuck, it isn’t fair!”…more WOOOOOsh… WeeeeeeHaaaa...

How the brain works when Riding...

Soon enough, the descent gave way to sea level, and then the undulating hills and lazy curves that are the run-out… the digital speed on my GPS had read 79kph at its highest… but was now scrubbing to 34, 33, 32… I could now get traction in my top gear… all that time, “no chain” was engaged… like having a sail up in a strong, following wind… my family and friends helped me down French Mountain… which becomes the French Shore of Cape Breton … and the coming

This is the first stop after the descent off French Mountain in the background. Chris and I had initiated what would become a symbiotic relationship all the way to Cheticamp… feeding off each other’s egos, our grit and especially our ability to find the humor in relatively naïve comments… that come when there is nothing left to say…

villages of Petit Etang, Belle Marche, and Cheticamp… overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence, part of the North Atlantic… in December this would be the most inhospitable place on earth. But today, it was perfect, we would now have an onshore breeze, slightly behind, but across our path… making it easier. There was no traffic so Chris and I could ride ‘two-up’ as we moved toward Cheticamp. We stopped for a couple of pictures and began a conversation that would last all the way back to Baddeck.

I started asking about his time in Africa, where he had worked with the Pygmy population. It was a fascinating conversation… juxtaposing trying to decipher an understanding of these little people of the jungle, with my knowledge that the sections of road we had just ridden were full of snow just months ago... what would those little people do... Hmmm?

Annual snowfalls of 10 feet and more, drifting to 15’on these mountains are not unusual, melting,
 just in time for June cycling! While Chris likely
wasn't thinking about winter, I had a few giggles
as I was coming off the mountain thinking about
him in Africa in our conversation, the winter that
had just relinquished its grip on this roadway, and
what would have been had the devils who picked
this route had picked an earlier date...

There is nothing but ocean on our left as we come off the descent... today it is beautiful, fairly calm. I catch myself wondering if we would see any whales off-shore. The slight onshore wind was helping us at our backs... the road is undulating here and we came to a rise that is just a small climb... at the top we stopped, there is a beautiful look of, from which we looked back at the course we had just came down. Both of us were feeling high and ready to ride... it is great to meet someone and instantly 'get along'.

We headed toward Cheticamp. It wasn't long before we had passed through a couple of small fishing villages and came to a sign for "entering Cheticamp". I hadn't remembered that it was so close, but we were excited that we were carrying over 30 km/h and feeling great... but Cheticamp is at least the longest town on Cape Breton... we rode and rode, and rode some more... it was like we had passed through the town and missed the bike shop at which there was a transition point and where the end of our day was to be...

We rode some more... and started seeing more life and stores and cars... and finally, we saw the bike shop... there were lots of cars, people and Chris' wife was there waiting in the VW van... 

We had arrive at the transition just four minutes before the cut-off. This meant that if we wanted, we could get going, and finish the ride... I started filling my water bottles and added food back into my pockets... this time with bars and energy packs... 

"Chris, you want to finish the ride... just 100 kilometers" I yelled. Chris stopped mid-sentence, as he was talking with friends who had stopped at the transition, finished for the day... he started slowly walking to me... "ya tink we cn'do't"... his Scotish tongue struggled to get out the English version... "we have a weeee bit of tyme to d'cide" I said... he pulled his ride from the van, splashed some water into bottles... Heather was to follow, in case we couldn't do it... but we knew... this was our chance... just about 100 km to getting this off the bucket list... 

We headed off... just the two of us... and started laughing almost immediately... the sign for 'leaving Cheticamp' is about ten kilometers from the middle of the town. What they will do for extra tax dollars!

It was starting to cool off and we were clearly tired. We were on fairly flat, rolling road way. It was smoother than some we had ridden earlier, so we were making good time... around 24 km/h. At this pace, we would be back to Baddeck, as planned, buy 9 pm. As we rode we knew Heather was just ahead... once Chris and I stopped for him to get some pain meds. He gets such pain in his arms that he takes meds when he is riding. Some of the time he is leaning on one elbow while riding to ease the soreness in his hands.

We talked about lots of things. I tried to get him to exercise his Ulnar nerve to relieve his pain... to no avail. He pushed on... and I knew I was fading too. He would laugh when I would scream "I'm done"... the many times I did it... that changed to "I'm dying" then to "I'm dead!"... but I was keeping the pace, pulling most of the time. 

We got to the last rest stop... a firehall... where a little boy was sitting in their fire truck at the top of a rise before the fire hall, blowing the siren as a warning that we were coming over the hill... it was a scream to see him... a delight to see all the people at the hall, with food, drink and encouragement... this is Margaree Valley... one of the best fishing places on the planet... wonderful people... did we feel good, just getting there... but Ohhhh, those mosquitos... they were thick... we had thought we were getting sprinkled on with rain... turns out it was mosquitos hitting our glasses and if we opened our mouths, we got the protein boost our muscles needed!

We had thought we were the last riders... we were not! Over the hill came a car and then two cyclists... Sean La Moine and Ian MacRae... This was an amazing story, really. Ian had been riding with Ron Allen... in fact, we had started the ride together like the Three Musketeers. Ron had made it, with Ian, to the last rest stop... but had decided that enough was enough, finally. Ian wanted to finish the ride... so started off on his own, behind Chris and I. 
Ian leaving Cheticamp on his own

Sean, always a great and caring guy had stopped riding in Cheticamp. Along the way, he had helped many people who were struggling... remember early in this story, he was helping fix someone's flat tyre. I have ridden with Sean several times, and this is his MO... just a great guy...

When he realized that Ian was riding on his own, without a pacer/buddy, he got someone to drive him and his bike to catch Ian. Sean then got on his bike, and continued the ride, pacing and at times following Ian who was determined to finish. When the got to the Firehall in Margaree, we all decided to form a pace line of four bikes... things would be a breeze from there... only Hunter Mountain as an obstacle remained...
Coming through Margaree falls... the hills were steep, eh?

By now my and Chris' GPS were dead... we had been on the road over 12 hours... so we didn't know our speed, or where we were mileage-wise. I knew Hunter was ahead, so we all just put our heads down and went for it... much of the time the pace line hung together, except that Ian wanted to be the lead rider... no issue, but by the time we got to Hunter, he and Sean dropped us.

It was getting cold, and we were getting real rain sprinkles. I started being concerned about hyperthermia and slippery conditions. The rain is colder than the air... but it didn't last and we climbed Hunter, dry. 

The next way-point would be the Red Barn at the intersection of the main highway... I think it is #105. We were clearly struggling, but we caught up with Ian and Sean by the time we got to the Barn... we knew we had just 15 kilometers to be finished... this part is nice, safe highway with a good cycling lane. We headed off with no hesitation... Ian in the lead... there are long hills, nothing over 4% and we were making good time. 

It was getting dark. I turned on my headlight, and we could follow easily because we all had good tail lights... the ten or so kilometers to the next turn went by easily... we could see the exit to go into Baddeck... but we knew as well, that there are two exits... we didn't know which to take...

Another good luck thing then happened... as we came to the first exit... there were the two founders of Give to Live, waiting on their bikes to escort us in... I almost cried... Todd McDonald and Ashley Ward started pacing us in... it was great. I dropped back and talked with them... although most of my mind's synapses were focused on getting to the Community Center... we also had an ambulance following us, with the red lights flashing... to protect our backs in the early darkness.
It was very thoughtful and appreciated to have
Ashley Ward here behind Todd McDonald
meet us at the turn off from the 105 highway

We had one small climb left to get to the finish... we rounded out the turn, the sirens started, lights flashing and many, seemingly thousands of people were waiting for us to completed the ride... (there were about 75 people)... WoW, what a feeling. A little girl came up to me with a medal on a ribbon and put it around my neck... there was lots of back slapping... we were finished!

Chris, Sean and Ian are the first three of our final group to turn
into the finish, Ashley, Todd and I are at the back with the
ambulance following us to the finish...

They had a reception, outside, with some speeches... as I stood in the cold, everything seemed anti-climatic... so I let a few people know I needed to get warm, and I would be back to the bar later...

I climbed back on my bike and rode to the hotel... I needed to be in that bathtub, sooner than later... I had also left some coconut milk and the Protein Mix that Marianne had donated from Isagenix... and lots of Aleve... but first, a warming bath!

I put the bike in my room, stripped... my clothes were soaked from the inside... while the bath ran... with about four inches of water I climbed in, stretched out, smiled, and sighed to myself... I would be back again, to do 300 kilometers, not the 268 km that I had completed.

Then the water turned cold!


I waited, with the cold water running over my feet, thinking this too will end! The only reason I had this room was it had a bath tub! The water didn't turn hot again... I started to shiver in the tub... It didn't take any longer to convince me that I needed to get out... in a hurry. I wrapped the towels around me, closed the window... but still couldn't stop the chatter in my teeth... on with the sweat pants, the hoodie, socks, into bed...

At about 2AM I woke... having missed the party... but not without relief. I opened a bottle of Tequila... there was only a plastic glass for Petron Gold! One for the ages...

Chris and Heather Kidd
Saturday, July 18th 5:00am Opening Ceremony­ ALL RIDERS ON SITE 5:10am Wave One Start 5:30am Wave Two Start 6:00am Wave Three Start Rest Stop #1 Lobster Galley Restaurant Close Stop at 7:30am Rest Stop #2 Clucking Hen Cafe FIRST AID AVAILABLE Close Stop at 9:30am Rest Stop #3/Transition #1 Ingonish Beach LUNCH STOP Close Stop at 12:15pm SOLO 300K RIDERS NEED TO BE HERE BY 10:23am 9:30am for relay start Rest Stop #4 Cape North Fire Hall FIRST AID AVAILABLE Close Stop at 1:15pm SOLO 300K RIDERS NEED TO BE HERE BY 12:19pm Rest Stop #5 Midtrial Motel Close Stop at 3:00pm SOLO 300K RIDERS NEED TO BE HERE BY 1:55pm Rest Stop #6/Transition #2 Velo Max Bike Shop Close stop at 6:00pm SOLO 300K RIDERS NEED TO BE HERE BY 4:06pm 2:30pm relay start Rest Stop #7 Margaree Forks Fire Hall FIRST AID AVAILABLE Close stop at 7:00pm SOLO 300K RIDERS NEED TO BE HERE BY 6:06pm Barbeque and Celebration 6:00­9:00pm


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