*GrandpasCan 2012 – So what really happened?*
*Please take a few minutes to read this summary. It will help clarify a few things. It did for me as I wrote it. *
It has been over two weeks since I arrived in Halifax, finishing my cross-Canada ride in 14 days and about 5 hours.
I had stated that I had a 51% chance of breaking my own GWR, but a 100% chance of making a difference to destitute/disadvantaged children. We had three goals ranked in this order of priority:
1. We wanted to create awareness and raise funds for MCF. The MCF group had an opportunity to give about 30 presentations and also do a number of radio interviews. Charity and I were thankful to tell our story live on 100 Huntley Street. They have a huge audience in Canada and the USA. My 2012 fund-raising is all built around GrandpasCan 2012, starting January 1 and finishing Dec. 31. So far we are sitting somewhere around $250,000, for which I am very thankful. Our 2012 goal is $375,000. I will continue to build the awareness by adding this year’s ride/experience to my ‘speaking resume’.
2. We wanted to remain true to our faith in Jesus Christ in whatever setting God provided. If you heard some of the life stories of the MCF young people, I am sure you were inspired.
3. I wanted to break the Guinness World Record of 13 days, 6 hours and 13 minutes, which I set in 2011. I was ahead of last year’s pace by about 6 hours, up until approximately 630 km from Halifax. That is when my world caved in on me.
*So what really happened? * * * We had decided that we would record/measure our progress against the actual time stations of my 2011 GWR ride. Over 6000 km, the weather and riding conditions can and will vary significantly from year to year. And they did. This simply meant that being ahead or behind 2011 ‘actual’ early on was not that important and not really a true indication of how I was doing. The first two days in BC it rained virtually non-stop, but more challenging was the absence of predominantly westerly winds after leaving the Rockies. I had a lot of north-easterly winds, making the progress much slower than in 2011. Success in the prairies, with little or no trees to give some reprieve from the wind, is very much dependant on the wind direction. I got to Winnipeg about 10 hours slower than in 2011. To be honest, I rode extremely well and was totally happy with the result. The weather/wind did improve after Winnipeg. We did hit a heat wave with temperature highs usually around 30 degrees Celsius. I did not mind it too much, as it also meant that the low at night would not be too bad. I prefer warm (reasonable) over cold temperatures. Rain after the mountains was minimal, with me narrowly avoiding some huge thunderstorms.
Chasing my shadow (stats from last year) became a bit of an obsession. Since I was functioning on about two hours of sleep a night, this shadow took on a personality in my mind. I recall telling my crew that IF I ever caught that shadow, I wanted to shake its hand. It took me till Mattawa, Ontario, the place I had taken 18 hours to deal with swollen legs in 2011, to catch my shadow. Now it was chasing me. I am not sure which was worse, as I was very much aware of the unreal strong finish in 2011. (In 2011 I rode the last 40 hours straight through to break the record by just under 3 hours.)
Physically I felt strong and rode very well. My new hip gave me no issues. There is another aspect to this, which is mental and emotional and even spiritual at times. Here is my take on what happened.
The plans to bring GrandpasCan 2012 to reality were all my responsibility. It had been a huge task, and I was never really able to let go during the ride. I always knew where the MCF team was performing, etc. Due to various reasons, we had three sets of different support crews. From Winnipeg to Ottawa and from Ottawa to the end I had a support crew of ALL rookies. I knew going in that they would be under tremendous pressure. It was a tall order, and they did very well. Supporting me physically was one part of their job, supporting me emotionally was another. We had no continuation or carry-over of experience, so I was left to explain things along the way. This was mentally taxing, but there was nothing the crew could do about it. It was not their fault. It was simply our reality. I was riding the bike, but I also needed to act as crew chief at times.
The crew, while doing a good job looking after my physical needs, was not able to, *nor expected to,* help with some of my emotional needs. I had thought going in that I would be able to handle this part of the challenge more or less alone. This mental and emotional component however became more prominent and played a bigger role because of the three unusual events that happened along the way.
1. In Regina I made a wrong turn. My support crew was doing a crew exchange and getting ready for night. I have cycled through Regina about 15 times before, but this time I took the wrong highway going south-east instead of east. This was the beginning of the most bizarre experience of my cycling career. For reasons I still can’t explain, I kept riding, even while sensing that I was on the wrong road. I rode for 25 km, somehow expecting my crew to come anytime. They never did, because they were on the right highway looking for me. I had only slept about 4 hours in total up to that point (three nights), which certainly made things harder. It began to get dark. I stopped and tried to flag a vehicle down to ask for directions. This is when it got really strange. I felt nobody saw me and at least 15 cars passed without even acknowledging my presence. I was not hitchhiking, I was waving people down, clearly indicating I was in trouble and needed help. Finally a truck pulling a camper stopped. Then it got even stranger. The driver, a man, began to scream and yell at me. I don’t know what he was thinking, but it all seemed totally surreal. He even asked me if I was planning on attacking him. It became a lot more graphic, but I will not go into details in a public blog. Meanwhile, thunder and lightning kept getting closer. He did eventually drive me back to Regina, where we were eventually able to reunite with my crew. Needless to say we were all emotional wrecks. In total I lost about three hours, but much more seriously was the emotional toll this experience had on me.
2. During the leg from Winnipeg to Ottawa, a pick-up truck swerved and hit the rocks of the Canadian shield. It flipped on its side and skidded to a halt literally 100 ft in front of me. I/we were the first people on the scene, trying to pry the door open. When other vehicles stopped, we flipped the truck back on its wheels and managed to get the driver out. He seemed to be ok, but was in shock, walking around to collect his food (lunch) that was dumped all over the road. Emotionally it was unsettling to say the least.
3. In New Brunswick I had managed to get myself into a great position to set a new record. I was about 8 hours ahead of 2011 with about 700 km to go. I knew how strong I had finished in 2011, so the record was no sure thing, but my chances were good. It was Saturday evening and I had just made my final plan. I was in race mode. Our 15 passenger van with our MCF friends had gone on to find accommodations for night. I was all set to buckle down. Then we came across another accident. A semi-trailer had virtually cut a small car in half and traffic was backed up for miles either way. NO ONE was getting through. At a truck stop, we spotted our MCF group entertaining the stranded travellers. I tried to relax, but of course the circumstances did not allow for me to rest. My plan, my ‘race mode,’ was gone. I saw precious time slip away on me, but more importantly I became overwhelmed with a sense that this was not doable anymore.
After about three hours, the gridlock cleared and we could move again. It was around midnight and I felt totally abandoned. My support crew was there, but suddenly I felt the weight of all the mental challenges and emotions I had carried going back to the incident in Regina. It closed in on me without warning. I tried to take a sleep break, etc, but nothing helped. Mentally, I lost my focus, my purpose. My rookie support crew, through no fault of theirs, was not prepared to deal with this. How could they? I was in charge, but my thinking was no longer rational. *To make a long story short, I abandoned my pursuit of a new record, while still about 6 hours ahead of record pace.* The mental aspect of what I had carried was all-consuming and robbed me of thinking rationally.
Ruth, my wife, had been on my support crew to Winnipeg only. She needed to go back to work. It was for that reason that we continued the ride with a support crew that had no prior crewing experience. They were great, but they were new to this, and certainly not expected to deal with what I was about to go through mentally and emotionally. Emotionally, mentally and physically I was done. I was the GWR holder, I had cycled to Halifax before, so what was the big deal about finishing anyway? I did not think it mattered. At that time I saw no value in it. I had carried such a mental burden that all I wanted was for everything to be lifted off my shoulders. I had even made my concession speech, first to my whole entourage and then even recorded a video stating that I was done. I held off posting this video on our website however. Perhaps the first sign that I wasn’t really entirely done?
Back in Winnipeg, my kids (specifically Stephanie) sensed things were difficult emotionally for me. Ruth, my rock on all my other endeavours, was not on the road with me this stage. ‘Life’ did not allow for this and we had decided to try one event without her being there near the end. Our kids pooled money along with some friends, made arrangements at Ruth’s work and sent her to be with me. Ruth arrived at the scene (hotel in New Brunswick) at 12:05am. We talked and talked. My son Paul, back in Winnipeg, has been part of my races since he was 12 years old. He has seen everything and has a very good understanding of what I go through. He called via skype. I did not want to talk to him.* I wanted to quit and I wanted understanding and support to do so.* My support crew on the road had given me that, they had no other option. They could not know any different. Ruth and Paul did not share that understanding and certainly challenged the position I took. Our skype call went late into the night. I was frustrated and still adamant it made no difference to quit here or finish in Halifax without setting a new record.
Paul reminded me that one of my statements was “quitting is not an option,” but of course I did not want to hear that. He also clearly laid out my three priorities.
1. Raise funds and create awareness about MCF. 2. Live our faith in God in whatever setting we found ourselves in. This included at a time when I wanted to quit something I strongly believed in. 3. Set a new GWR. By now that was no longer an option.
Goals 1 and 2 were still valid. By 3am, I at least agreed that in the event I would consider to ride to Halifax and finish what I had started, I needed to get some sleep. I woke up at 7am.
The mental and emotional darkness was lifted. I could think rationally again. Of course it made sense to finish what I had started. My mental burden had been lifted. Creating cycling history was a distant second to living a life of significance that mattered/inspired others to do the same. I got dressed in my cycling gear, and went down for breakfast. The whole entourage was there having no idea what we had gone through at night and certainly was not aware of what my decision was. I made a short speech, we prayed and my support crew (which now included Ruth) drove me back about 1.5 hours to where I had abandoned.
I rode the last 630 km to Halifax in just over 27 hours and got to Halifax in about 14 days and 5 hours – 23 hours slower than my GWR of 2011. From the time I came upon the accident on Saturday evening, until I was back on the bike on Monday morning was 39 hours. During that time I cycled only about 3 hours. I am not sure what that means, but being only 23 hours slower than the GWR while NOT riding for 36 hours within that time, makes for interesting speculation. I will leave it at that.
- GrandpasCan 2012 was a great success. I was able to introduce Charity to thousands of Canadians in person and to tens of thousands of 100 Huntley Street viewers live via TV. – It was an effective platform to launch *Hope for the Hopeless*, one of the most powerful true stories I have ever read. If you have not read it, I suggest you do. – We got a great boost in my 2012 fund-raising efforts and created an effective platform to continue to create awareness about Mully Children’s Family. – I was thrilled with my cycling performance, especially knowing I had a complete hip-replacement 10 months ago. I felt strong throughout, dealt effectively with my fluid retention issue, handled sleep (or lack thereof) extremely well for the most part.* At age 55, I am convinced that Grandpas still can.* – I am excited to find out how God will use this year’s event to help inspire others to use their God-given talents to make a significant difference to someone less fortunate.
I was reminded in the most powerful and real way about the role of mental/emotional aspect of anything we do in life. We all need people close to us that help fill that role of support. For me, that is my wife Ruth, and my family. To be honest, without their input, I would NOT have finished GrandpasCan 2012. For me, this also confirms the importance of ‘Family’ in Mully Children’s Family organization. That message came through loud and clear as the young people from MCF shared their life stories during the 30 presentations they did.
*Thank you all for your interest, prayer and support. Without you, none of this would be possible. * * * *Things we do for ourselves will be forgotten after we are gone.* *Things we do for others will live on. Grandpa Arvid*
PS. I chose not to cycle to St. John’s, because we would not be able to generate any significant exposure for MCF. Since I did not break the Halifax record, interest dropped off. I had 8 days to cycle the 1300 km to St. John’s and set a new World Records Academy Record, (the existing record is around 22 days) but it meant we would miss planned events back home in Manitoba. It was not important enough, and so along with a number of other presentations in Ontario, we chose to take advantage of the opportunity to appear live on 100 Huntley Street instead. We spent three days in the Toronto area before coming home to Winnipeg as scheduled.