Epica Training – Off the Rails

The discussion came up recently about the particular moment when a ride goes from being epic to being shitty. My friend Hal surmised that it is time related, and that most epic rides are shitty as they occur but become epic as time goes by, especially if the experience is rehashed by its participants over cocktails or espresso.

So here we are – only three weeks away from Actif Epica, which means I have three weeks to prepare for an undoubtably epic and potentially shitty 130 km race across the bald-ass Manitoba prairie on frozen rivers and old ox cart trails. It also means I only have another three weeks to endure people telling me how crazy I am for doing it.

One does not do something like this safely or successfully without dedicated training and preparation. In my last post I showed you how I am planning to dress. That post happened across the desk of one of my favourite bloggers (and secret girl-crush) Heidi Swift, who wrote a post about my winter commuting campaign and associated badger-wear in her kickass blog Grit and Glimmer. This kinda blew my mind becuase Heidi Swift is The Shit. She is a writer, races cyclocross, does cycle touring, and takes some pretty amazing pictures along the way. She’s also Editor-at-Large for a little bike magazine you might have heard of called Peloton. I’m pretty sure she has the best job in the whole world. I’d love to flatter myself by thinking we have a lot in common – racing, riding, writing – oh, and swearing a lot.

Unlike most normal circumstances, there is way more to proper training than what you wear, so I thought I should share some of the other aspects of my Actif Epica training program.

I have been doing a lot of strength training for the demanding parts of the course where I will need to portage (French for schlep) my bike across unrideable terrain. I am enjoying this training immensely, although apparently when I told my trainer I was registered for a long winter bike race, he misunderstood and thought I said I was trying out for Cirque de Soleil.I have also been doing a lot of indoor training and am pleased to report I finally learned to ride rollers with NO HANDS.This is a skill I thought I’d never be able to do and is of no particular use, but it’s always the first thing I get asked when someone finds out I ride rollers. I’m not sure how I can casually show off this trick at the race without it looking a little premeditated, but one thing is for sure, if I can ride rollers with no hands I can do anything.

In addition to commuting to-and-from work by bike, I have been doing longer rides outside. For the most part it is a peaceful and zen-like experience to ride alone for hours along a frozen river in the quiet solitude of winter.Until you happen to break through the ice and scream your head off like a crazy person.There are also times when it feels like I’m riding on the moon and I really start to question myself. And my choice of where to live.At times like this I remind myself that my annual trip to Tucson is only six weeks, three days, and fourteen hours away.

And finally, as part of my mental training I went to see The Banff Mountain Film Festival, which showcases short films about people doing way crazier shit than this. Like the Australian guy who followed the route of Ghengis Khan across Mongolia for three years with nothing but two horses, some camping gear, and a dog.

It was a beautiful and touching movie, but I suspect he left out the bits about ingrown toenails, lice, and pooping on prickly tundra bushes on purpose. Still, it was hard not to love that crazy hippy.

Or there’s Sketchy Andy, the highline walker/base jumper who’s complete disregard for his own safety puts him in a category that defies description.Although if I had to, the closest description I could use is free-spirited adrenaline junkie crazy-ass motherfucker. It’s too bad he probably won’t live very long, because the world could use more people like him.

I love guys like Andy because, as one of his friends put it, when you’re with him he makes you feel like you’re crazy for NOT jumping off a cliff.