The call to challenge, the call to change.

For years I have been making false-starts at returning to fitness.  I have run half marathons and competed in martial arts, but most of those events are now several years in the past.

I now sit heavier than I have in decades, and it is not working out very well. My kidneys are not healthy, my energy levels are low and its downright embarrassing. I have a great career, one that I love so far, but lately it has come with a extra hours, travelling and stress.  I am tired and can pull from hundreds of excuses, but no matter what, something needed to change in my life.

My wife of 15 years, the sweet gorgeous women who is my best friend, and an absolute must-have in my life, got very ill too.  It was frightening kind. Not the easy “she has a cold, she needs orange juice” kind of ill. It was the “we could lose her” type.

That kind of worry for me, my wife and my kids really got me thinking. I thought about several scenarios that don’t end up well. Time has given me an amazing life, but our health has not been one of our top priorities, so time itself becomes uncertain.

What a wake up call.

These are also the last months of my life where I am closer to 40 than 50. So I started making changes in May.  I am hitting the gym, trying yoga (only a bit), slowly fixing bad diet habits and beginning to use a fitness plan.  However, I am still way too heavy.  The kind of heavy that worries me, worries my wife and worries my friends.  I am very muscular but still hold too much of the jiggly stuff to ignore it.  Think ‘rugby or football player that quit a few years back and favours lager over jogging’.  Not terrible, but not healthy.

I also have a tendency to surround myself 2-3 times a year with the fittest, grittiest people that I have ever met: endurance cyclists.  I have routinely volunteered for the RBC GranFondo Banff, RBC GranFondo Whistler and the Bici Gusti Whistler (Four Seasons).  Ok, so Bici Gusti is not quite as gritty as a GranFondo, but seriously, those guys ride hard and then fuel up on Prosseco and fine Italian food!

Every year I would say to myself and my wife – “this year I will get a bike & get into shape”.  But alas…it never happened.

Until a text from 3 of my friends from High School came in: “We signed up for the GranFondo Whistler…get a bike, stop being fat, and stop being a chicken”.

Done. Sold.  I had a bike within the week and signed up for the ride and the clinic.  Never mind that it is 122km, a total elevation of 1900m, and that I get very tired just driving the route in my car. I am doing this, and doing it on an actual bike.

Its hard being my size going into bike stores looking for kit.  Apparently my lovely little, hardly used, hybrid bike wouldn’t work, I need a decent road bike and kit.  So I asked my cyclist friends to translate the language of “cycle-ese” into plain English.

Plenty of help was available. The good news is that when they have my size, its often available in older models which can be heavily discounted.

I Got a Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert (Carbon & Ultegra) from Dunbar Cycles on Broadway, so now I cannot blame my kit. The price and service were great.  No one laughed at me, and in fact they gave me a lot of advice and encouragement.

I then bought the pedals, accessories and clothing.  The clothing included a jersey and bib shorts.

Moments before trying the clothing on I almost quit.  My mind raced: I don’t do spandex or lycra.  I lift weights, I do judo, I drink beer, I have a bit of a gut and already own huge legs. Sir Mix a Lot once performed a song in praise of my calibre of backside.  My wife noticed the fear so came into the change room.  Fortunately, it looked only bad enough to motivate me.  Not bad enough to have me quit.

I then feared that I would break the bike as I tip the scale in-excess of the maximum weight for the warranty. Flash backs came of all those chairs that I have broken simply by sitting in them.  I have done that many times at people’s homes, restaurants, and of course my own house.  I was reassured by several people: they have seen bigger people ride such bikes without issue, and without an excuse.

Finally I got to worrying about the inevitability of riding the trek alone.  My friends are all over 100lbs lighter.  The way up the mountain has a lot of up-hill action.  So I figure that I would make friends fast during the training and the ride itself. This community seems to be a positive, supportive horde.  The riders generally strike me as being there for each other, with encouragement, tools, advice and banter (something I respond very well to!)

These parts of the journey, that have scared me so far, will likely pale in comparison to the actual struggles of the day, and the struggles of training.  That last major climb before Whistler, the one My car struggles with, will beat me far worse than my insecurities over my weight.

Oddly, that feeling one gets when they face these challenges and feel those inner personal victories, is something I crave.

So the next steps are clear: get some initial rides in, draw up a training schedule and make some goals.  I will update you shortly.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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