Late Summer Sunsets

Evening coolness,
Jersey flapping.
Tranquil spinning,
Absolute calm.
Dip behind a stroller,
Swerve around a runner,
Dodge a fortune teller,
Get dusted by a commuter.
Follow the narrow path to the left, then later to the right.
No need to worry about intervals, today’s a spin on the bike.
Heavy legs are okay, it means you rode hard before.
But pay heed to your recovery, because tomorrow you do more.
This cycle of stress and rest, many miss the bliss.
Not of riding fast or winning, but enjoying the easiness.

Foreign Roads

Embracing the foreign cracks, tight bends and unrelenting pitches of the winding pavement ahead, I brace my heaving chest over the rain-soaked handlebar. My breath mists out in front as a new extension of the dense fog clinging to the mountain side. Past the point of no return, the late afternoon light is fading, as is the energy in my legs.

The timer on my interval split time says I can stop my interval, my work day complete but there is more to climb, more to explore. Should I taper it back and enjoy the new road while enjoying the satisfying sensation of another workout complete or do I keep pedaling, using the unknown distance to the crest as a carrot, pulling my legs over the cranks, pushing for more.

New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions are for those who lack the courage to change today. It is silly. The natural order of change is to do just that! CHANGE! To undergo metamorphosis. Yes, it often means that in the process you discard that which is no longer useful, but no where does the word change or metamorphosis indicate that we have to wait until tomorrow, or next year to begin!

The fear of the unknown and fear of loss is what holds us in violent patterns of consistency. The beauty of change resides in its spontaneity, its lack of reason (or reasons we cannot comprehend at the given moment) and its often rejuvenating nature (to those listening).

Instead, a small goal or object each day can help one move forward now, not later. This goal can be as small as saying “good-day” to each person you meet on the bike trail, or something as large as finally finishing your thesis. Either way, a tangible and manageable goal today will take you one step closer to your aspirations. So have the courage to look within, find a task and do it completely. Make it the best “good-day” you can. Project that which you wish to receive and create a beautiful reality.

Get fired up with JSparls

Riding in the Winter

Everyone says…just deal with it. It makes you tough. You’ll be better off during the April Spring Series. You’ll have an edge at every rainy race. The group riders will think you’re a badass. Or if not, at least you think you are! Ride in the rain, snow, sleet, thunderstorms, tornadoes….get nuts!

Whow Ace….chill out. Inclement weather is just that, so respect it. But let’s take the ego out of the equation. Like this group of kids in Calgary. They ride to school because they like to ride their bikes. Period.

So next time you suit up for those inclement conditions….remember just why you are going out there. Hopefully it is because you love it. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Stay safe out there! To learn more about some gear choices, read this one!

 

Rediscovery

It’s dark, raining, cold, and slippery, but instinct is conquering habit so I keep pedaling.  Bright reds and whites glare off the glossy black of the surface out ahead of my handlebar spotlight. Shoulders hunched up close to my ears, forehead tipped down slightly, I squint my eyes away from the beating raindrops.

Out of the saddle, my legs flick underneath effortlessly. My gloves, still dry but dampening, warm my fingers as I gingerly navigate through the many slippery urban obstacles. The dinner in my tummy is now almost digested and I feel lighter and faster after each kilometer pedaled. Is commuting to dinner with friends better on the way to or on the way home? Balancing baguettes or pedaling out the flaky pastries?

Either way I don’t want to stop riding, I don’t want to stop moving forward. Sometimes it is the fight to stay upright, something that a cyclist can almost take for granted on dry roads, that reconnects an experienced rider with the joyful early days of bike riding. And as in life, sometimes those wobbles make the day and the journey worth remembering.

Thunderous Call Ups

December 11th, 2011:  After a long but “interesting” day on the Greyhound bus, I arrived back in Canada after 2.5 months of hard zone 2 training in Walla Walla, Washington. Although not quite home, staying the night in Vancouver on a friend’s couch, I head down to the coffee shop to find some internet.  Breathing in the fresh winter air and squinting against the rising but low-angled sun, my ‘greyhound’ lungs clear and my eyes gently tear.  Starting to feel human again now two days after my last real training session, I’m optimistic that I can bounce back from tomorrow’s dental surgery. It will be an operation that will pull me off the bike for 3 weeks, an operation that has single-handedly structured my entire off-season. My career depends how well I come back from tomorrow and how efficiently I can regain my fitness in January.

The thin paper cup of hot chocolate cradled in my hands gently burns my finger tips, and tingles against the roof of my mouth as I take the first gulp of ‘comfort’ food in months. Becoming lost in the over-sized leather seats adjacent to the cafe’s fireplace, I settle in and let my shoulders and low back slouch into the plush support. Wrapped under a thick winter top and covered by a grey toque, knowing that two months of hard work is “in the bank”, I relax and exhale.

Opening my laptop I surf through the usual social media and cycling news articles. The “regular” articles are there, scandal and words larger than legs. Then I see it! Gastown returns! Global Relay is pumping a big interest into our sport! Immediately I email my teammates…”WE HAVE TO GO TO THIS RACE”.
The next day I went into surgery with a goal, a goal made even more crystal clear by the news that Gastown, the biggest 1 day race in Canada, would return after a four year hiatus: I would be the national champion come its start line. #make it so.
BC Superweek 2012: Gastown GP: 30,000 spectators + 25 year race history = Best Call Up of my Life

Home Race

I’ve been extremely fortunate to race at many different venues across North America over the past 3 years, but there is something special when the ones you care about the most are right there on the sidelines. Instead of guestimating the intensity of the closing laps, the thunderousness of the crowd’s cacophony, or the oppressive heat of the sun through the wonderful albeit stifled experience that is online-streaming and/or television coverage, a home race provides the chance to connect and translate just how amazingly complex and interesting this whole sporting thing can be. It makes you want to push the limits even further.

Whether it is that quick moment to make a funny face as you pass by, or the increased pressure to leave everything on the course and achieve a worthy result, the pressure of home is a powerful performance enhancer. But just like anything though, it can overcome the unconditioned. Touching back on a mentality I first discussed at Cyclingintoque way back when, if you are confident that you are doing the right thing at every given moment, then there is no anxiety, only an open door to walk through. Of course at a bike race, those doors take you into larger and larger rooms filled with physical pain, but eventually you hope their is a finish line and maybe a beer awaiting you.

However the question remains not if you’ll make it to the finish line, but when you do that you cherished the journey as much as the summit. So take a breathe, relax, tuck down and enjoy that leadout because before you know it it’ll be your turn to lead and the finish line will come and go and journey might be over before you even noticed.

 

brenco-2012   leadout

Rainy Sunglasses

Out from under the soaked brim, my ill-chosen sunglasses darken the dim daylight further. Shielding my eyes from the unwelcome spray of a closely passing semi-truck, my dense gloves grip my rain-washed handlebars, stiffly steering my black tire and front wheel on a path forwards and to the right in anticipation of the “suction” wind gust. 
Cocooned, Stifled, Bound.
Out from under the soaked brim, my ill-chosen sunglasses darken the dim daylight further. Shielding my eyes from the unwelcome spray of a closely passing semi-truck, my dense gloves grip my rain-washed handlebars, stiffly steering my black tire and front wheel on a path forwards and to the right in anticipation of the “suction” wind gust. My black rain jacket hangs over my skinny arms, rain drops beading down and forwards, cascading along one flow of my arms, hands and then handlebars. Ahead, the slippery surface of the soaked asphalt melds with the glassy wetness of my upper body. Cutting through puddles splashes of wet bombard my boots, forming small pools between my toes. The dull cold ache in my legs returns at any red stoplight, mashing on the pedals after which to regain warmth and fluidity. But I feel.

Fresh, Bright, Alive

Up, out and away from the busy road, it is the day’s first climb. Jacket unzipped, it flaps slowly alongside my  torso as I grind and bob my way up the slippery grade. Flipping my glasses off, I perch them along my helmet’s brow at the road’s first respite. Lighting the day, I can now make out the details of the road’s surface, a stippled path of worn chipseal or pitted ashault I can never tell. Protected under the canopy of the climb’s roadside forest, the rain turns to drizzle. Water accumulates slowly along my cap’s brim, beading out to it’s edge, waiting, waiting, and then finally falling to a quiet “blop”.  As I climb up out of the saddle, pulling with my arms and pushing with the opposing legs, my shoulders sway just the smallest of amounts and tip the level of the brim. Left, right, then back all the way to the left before dropping off the brim’s edge. How many times can the next bead of water hold on, how long can it live at the edge? A rollercoaster ride of extremes; left, right, left, blop. Ha, it’s almost in sequence with the beat of the music in my ear. The smoother I pedal, the longer the beads avoid’s it’s splash. The hill is steep but I feel.

When riding in the rain anything can happen. Conditions can change rapidly, incidents ahead are harder to avoid, roadside moss ever more treacherous. But we you ride in the rain you can feel every element of the experience at any given moment, now matter how awful it may be. In the truest sense, you are alive.

A Throw of the Dice

For months we spend our time carefully crafting training plans, preparing post-ride meals and maintaining our space-age machines after battle with winter’s wet. Every day our season approaches faster and faster, our first ‘Monument’ faster. It seemed like October only yesterday; April, a distant future. 

Now, after our director orchestrates the day’s tactics and the commissaire drops the neutral flag, the day is here, the day is now. We trade that all-encompassing focus for every element of our training and recovery, tunneling all of our energy on only that which will get us to the finish line fastest and in front of those who we now ride with.  Like when shocked into an emergency state where only one thing can and should be thought of, the present moment, nothing outside the barrier-lined parcour penetrates our over-stimulated minds. 
A deep breath, relax into this moment’s stress. Attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance. Enjoy one’s own acknowledgement that the dice are airborne. That disaster may strike at any moment, that doors may open and close in front without a moment’s notice . However it is in this place, this present moment where anything can happen that opportunity presents itself.  Do we go full throttle now? Is this our moment? Or do we holster it and wait for a more opportune moment down the road? However betting on a future opportunity conflicts with one’s newly adopted state in the present. It is now that we must go. We must risk everything now. We must roll the dice now and worry about the next lap, day, month, year when that time comes. For it is only what we do in this present moment that matters. 
Besides if we are really prepared to go full throttle but the opportune moment has arrived sooner than expected, shouldn’t we be able to adapt and deploy immediately? Now? 
React. Race. Relish this moment now and relive it for years to come.

40’C Weather

Manual For Speed @Tumblr: The guys asked me to write something about racing in extreme heat, like my experience at Tulsa Tough in 2011. This is what I wrote: 

Morning Spin
Manual For Speed Tumblr
Oppressive Dew, Defy
Lethargic Mope, Hydrate
Sleepy Eyelids, Coffee
Tired Legs, Back to Bed


Full Throttle
Fired Eyes, Blinding UVs
Easy Breathing, Open Capillaries
Swollen Feet, Aching Toe Nails
Grippy Gloves, Protecting Palms
Skin Tightens, Veins Surface
Heart Beat Hastens, Fuel-Injection
Exhale Shortens, I NEED MORE AIR!
Tongue Parched, Where is my soigneur?
Recollect, Evaluate
Find Teammates, Discuss
Move Forward, Control
Match Opponents, Then Attack


Après Victory
Sticky Chamois, Wet Wipes
Sunscreen Slime, Shower
Blood Sugar Crash, Iced Coke
Ninety Minute Sauna; Drained.