100 miles to Nowhere.

Typically at this time of the year, the thought of riding  100 miles does not incite any type of concerns for me. Having had the summer months to ride, race and train, I normally would be coming off a fitness peak, hence in as good a biking shape as any avid cyclist. Alas, that was far from the case, the thought of riding 100 miles in a circle caused me a fair bit of anxiety and trepidation. 100 miles to raise money for the local cancer center, 100 miles to cause people to stop for a second and think of their friends are relatives who are fighting this disease, 100 miles to raise a few hundred dollars for a local cyclist who has been an inspiration and fighter to all those aware of his story, that was the plan, and this is how it went.

One of the 4 right hand turns on the route

Its hard to write any sort of ride report, or blog about the 7 hours it took to ride around a 3.2mile loop 33 times. Oh the drama – I turned right, then right, then right again and wait for it … I turned right again.

I would rather take you through the emotional paces of my ride and take some liberty to juxtapose it against what I assume could be the struggle of someone struggling with cancer.

You Never Know.

It always starts that way doesn’t it? I had an inclination I was not in the greatest shape to do this ride, however, I wasn’t sure, maybe I would have a great tailwind, maybe a bunch of people will come out, pace me all day and I would just sit on wheels, maybe I have residual fitness that magically surfaces, maybe from training for the gran fondo, and this ride would be a breeze. I assume that’s how it is till you are sitting across from a grim looking person in a lab jacket delivers the news to you that your life as you know it is about to change and in some cases, be over. We have ideas what our reactions, thoughts, next steps would be, but you never know, but all the same you go.

A Village at the Start.

When we set out at 9am, there were a good number of people, I was full of optimism, I knew it was going to be hard, but it was going to be fun. I was going to coast through the first 60 miles for sure and then slowly suffer. The energy was positive, we were out riding our bikes on a beautiful day what more could you ask for. It felt like something with a purpose behind it, everyone had a personal motivation for doing it. Slowly people hit their individual goals, some rode for an hour, some 2, and others 4, but slowly the field widdled.

Increasingly, the responsibility of completing this ride was becoming apparent “you told people, if you donate your money I will ride 100miles, not we”. The work was left to me to put one pedal in front of the other. Is this not how it is in most cases? We hear of this someone newly diagnosed and we are heart broken for them. In some cases we loose sleep, we immediately cook meals, send cards, say prayers, like fb post, but ultimately, and slowly something else wrestles away our attention, slowly another fire needs putout, another project take presidency and slowly the battle falls to the person and his close family/friends to carry on fighting. It is the reality of life for bystanders, the spirit is willing but the bandwidth is limited. Slowly, I saw less and less people as I kept making right turns.

 

Photo: Martin Heavner

True Suffering Begins

At about mile 45, I start seeing signs that this is going to be a longer day than I thought. For reference, I gif this same ride last year “75 miles to nowhere” which I completed in a little over 4.5hrs, average speed 16.4mph. On this ride, at mile 45, I start seeing cracks in my mind and body, I start hearing the voice of doubt yelling “dude, you are only at 45miles”! My out of shape triceps were starting to strain from holding my formerly furloughed gut. Every once in a while though a glimmer of hope and encouragement would appear, a friend and co worker parks at the side of the road and cheers me for a few laps, another friend shows up and rides in the wind letting me sit on his wheel for a while.

Wifey and daughter joining for a lap

Tom did 50miles with me. Believe it or not I caught a little draft from riding his wheel

I remember seeing chemo patients in a similar state, the same routine, treatment 4 days a week, 2 days off, go home, get sick lay in bed, loose weight, diarrhea, pain. Intermittently, they are buoyed by the visit of a grandchild, a pastor, a surprise card, a song on the radio or an encouraging scripture or video from coworkers. These things happen give you the will to keep going I imagine. I had to, I had 55miles to go.

The Dark Dark Days

Photo: Martin Heavner

For the last 30 miles of this ride, the appropriate word for my state is “pathetic”. I was barely pedaling. Thought like calling it quits, faking a crash, actually intentionally crashing, and believe it or not even giving my ride to someone to ride a few laps for me crossed my mind. The obvious answer is real cancer patients don’t get that choice, do they?

At mile 80, there were only 2 of us riding, me and Ryan. Ryan is also a cancer survivor and obviously tough as nails. I think he was suffering, but holding up better than I was. Somewhere around mile 60c my friend Ron shows up. I believe God usually gives us one or two champions who stick with us through the thick and thin. I see them walking down the hallways of the cancer centers: spouses on extended FMLA, children who quit their jobs, leave the city and move back home to be with dad, friends who never miss a single day of chemo and come sit in the room and watch terrible daytime television while treatment is given.

Ron & Brian making sure I finish

Things got pretty dark for me, if it were any other day it any other ride, I definitely would have been calling my wife to. One rescue me. But my friends Brian and Ron cajoled, guided and literarily pushes me around the loop.

The Last Mile

Ryan finished the 100miles 2 laps a head of me. I can not honestly say I was absolutely confident I would finish the ride, I fully expected the rapture somewhere between mile 86 and 100. I have heard of some people recently who have battled cancer and made it to the other side. They are an encouragement and a light to many. I can only imagine the anxiety that comes with the nearing of one’s final chemo or radiation, or the wait for the PET scab at 12months. There is so much to empathize with. When one is. It certain that the finish is the end.

Broken

Salt-Caked

Destroyed

The Bounty.

At the end of the day, we were able to raise $3160 after this ride. A solid $500 above the $2500 goal. This money will go the the Schwab Cancer center, for things the staff come up with to help patients, especially those without families and $500 goes to local cyclist and friend of all Sam.

Received $500 in cash donations

I would like to extend this platform to anyone who would like to fundraiser for a cause they believe in. Next year could be 50/75/100 miles to nowhere for the animal shelter, MS, human trafficking, domestic violence, you name it. I’m just tired to asking my friends for money and want to donate to what you care about. Let me know your plans.

Thank you to all those tho gave, Cameroon out, and encouraged. Big shout out to those who have battled or are battling, more grace and strength.

 

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Technique

“Technique”, such a beautiful word isn’t it? One of those words with its phoneme actually matching its definition. I put it in the same class as svelte, cajole, succinct, all words that are unpretentious and in a sense very “English”.  Technique is in fact quite a heavy and far reaching consideration – the way a task is executed- its comprises knowledge, individuality, propensities and personalities. In some cases, a lifetime is required to develop proper technique, in others, almost no time, technique is expedited by natural abilities or hindered by a scarcity of motivation.
In my host of extracurricular activities like cycling, hiking, photography etc, none has demanded the servitude to technique as much as skiing. There are few things that rival the beauty of a great skier carving a turn with skis on edge, the level control highlights commitment, intuition and an understanding of dynamic balance. Beautiful skiing is an ability that cannot be faked, you either know how to, or you’re not quite there yet. In sports like biking, you could get an aerodynamic advantage by sitting on a wheel or gain a boost in speed when you descend a mountain pass, in photography, you can click the setting to Auto and get lucky or if you shoot enough, there is a high possibility you will get a salvageable shot. Skiing however requires control under surrender, put succinctly, skiing with great technique is falling beautifully.
This bring to mind the concept of surrender, when we ski we surrender to the insurmountable, and omnipresent force – Gravity. This is reminiscent of life, we are constantly falling through the crests and trough of the mountain of life, in somethings we choose to  take the time to learn proper technique, in others, we opt to play the odds. The great bump skiers use the bumps to their advantage, both to check their speed and make turns, much easier said than done when one is not balanced on his skis. Romans 8:28 “All things work for good for them who love God, who are called according to his purpose” this is believe is the balance required in the mountain of life.
like anything, learning technique is daunting, but when mastered, produces beauty so enviable. like i said i love that word technique, now I just need to get me some.
Thanks for stopping by…

He who knows not….

The popular saying “He who knows not, but knows that he knows not is wise” comes to mind when i comtmplate the current trend of seeking the uknown. Excitement and adventure seems directly linked to the degree of discovery,and the risk of danger or failure. Many go to great lengths to peer into corners of cration yet unknown. The irony is the growing trend of eschewing discovery and longing for the rare surprises in today’s world. This is evident in young couples declining the oppotunity to know the sex of their unborn, people choosing to become Luddites  cut the cable, cord and whatever else tethers them to the grid. Alas, this is most evident in the nationalist, xenophobic outlook of many. Not knowing, for all its virtues also hides its other face, – disconnection.
I’m sure this is the point many click along to the next blog or news bulletin, but hang-on, these thought are far from political:
Many know the burden of wonder that come with pondering how one came to be at a particular place or time. Deprived of the stories of ancestors and stewards of culture, language, and memories, compulsions  one is left walking in circles trying to piece together the grand puzzles albeit with pieces withheld. We reinvent ourselves ignoring the voices that beg the question who really am I?
The African Americans come to mind as one such group, few are lucky enough to have that thread intact, the thread that anchors one’s identity, to a place, a time a people… others, not as lucky.
I am from the Okwarazorumba family, in Nkwerre, Imo state, Nigeria, West Aftrica. My family can be traced back to the founder who rowed his iroko canoe to the banks of Iyi Bekeh (whiteman river) and set up an enclave. He had 4 sons who make up the 4 indiginous villages one from which i hail. Through my travels in life, I have never had to wrestle with my identity, who I am or where i come from. Listening to extended family (my wife is white) talk about DNA testing and mapping out the rest of the family tree, like most native Africans, I scoffed and with no small measure of arrogance said “Well I’m glad i dont need that, I know where I’m from”. I was however challenged with – what if you did a DNA test and the results don’t line up with the stories told?
The grand quandary – Would i want to know that?
I have been venturing into telemark skiing lately. For a pretty decent alpine skier, grasping the new concepts; dynamic balance, weighting, edge control and the likes has really highlighted The things I do not know. Knowing seems pretty hard especially when not augmented by passion, knowledge builds passion and can only be attained as the fruits of a willingness to wonder a willingness to know.
There is much value in knowing, I suppose the same goes for not wanting to know? Some say ignorance is bliss: he who knows not and knows that he knows not is not ignorant, he is wise.

Home

Home they say is where the heart is, where one’s treasures are hidden. Home is the place where neither riches nor glory can replace, age and experience may take one through different stations in life, but as is affectionately said “home is home”. In the mist of chasing bluebird days, being awestruck by love, surviving immense swats of time chained to a computer in a cubicle, I find myself taken to different places in my childhood by the most random of things; A distinct sudden chill the rolls through my spine down to my fingers takes me to crisp mornings in boarding school, the simultaneous smell of gasoline and music pumping out of the the car stopped next to me at the stop light, reminds me of life in Abuja before it became what it is today. I have however been most captivated by light, more specifically the bursts of yellow, reds and orange peaking out beyond the horizon just before sunrise, its magnificence takes me to a place and time I can not put a finger on. Its like a time I have lived and one I am yet to see. It reminds me of home, one that is far, yet so close.
With my recent foray into serious photography, I am glad for the new found sensitivity to change, an appreciation of the extreme and the subtle, the rare and the routine. As we live life, it will do us good to be cognizant of where our eyes rest, we should strive for things that stir the heart, that create treasures of the heart, for the heart will always seek home.
Thanks for stopping by, lots of things coming up this year so subscribe, check out old posts, and keep your eyes on this space.
 lets hang out a little more in 2018.

Food for Thought

Can the world accommodate everyone living in their purpose, with every step and decision intentionally propelling them towards their pre-designed destiny? Many people I know are like trains locked into tracks made of responsibilities, obligations and social expectations, unforgiving and unrelenting. We are governed by mantras like – “man must chop” and “I have a family to think of”, the system needs everyone to play their role to exist, we must go to work to earn and pay the mortgage, the bank must give loans to kids to go to college, who must in turn find a job to pay back those loans and on and on. The system needs us just like we need it.

Staring out this window at my regular 15 minutes work breakfast, I watch people file into worker, I ponder their faces. Some look like they are still trying to fully awaken while others look laden by what awaits them as they walk in the door. I see some people who look like drones, compelled to put in their 8 hours by some unseen force, living for the 48hrs between Friday and Monday. I can’t help but wonder – are all these people doing what they want to do or better yet, are they doing what they are meant to do? Is it possible for us all to do what we are meant to do?

Can the world support a mass awakening, the systems: education, financial, political, social even spiritual are all built on people sucking it up and accepting the hand dealt, what would happen if half the people in our jobs decide to quit tomorrow and follow their heart, downsize and live for contentment. I am not quite sure. Would that be a good or a bad thing? What if the farmer, accountant, doctor decides to quit and become a musician, or load up a backpack and through hike the Appalachian trail? As much as I want this for everyone, I wonder how this would play out. In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam work to do, I assume he liked doing it, it was what he was meant to do. The woes of living in a fallen world.

As usual I have more questions than answers. I just am moved by our collective level of compromise, overwhelmed by the courage and vulnerability required to unshackle oneself and take the leap, intimately aware of the possibility of failure which if the other face of the coin on which courage lies. The saddest part is that the effort required to dream for a better tomorrow or contemplate decisions in the past that has lead us to our today, actually ends up robbing us of today. I guess all we can and should do is keep fighting, keep dreaming but all the while not forgetting to keep leaving because as of today, TODAY is all we have.

I do need to get some pictures, I know posts without pictures to lighten up the melancholy sometimes end up sounding depressing

 

The Planks.

 

I feel myself plummeting down this narrow sketchy patch of snow and ice, the lift line at the bottom of the run is approaching a lot faster than I would expect or like. I know I don’t want to skid my turns, like some of the seemingly cool kids do with a roost spraying off the trails of their skis, I want to be in control, riding the edges and using controlled turns to bleed speed the whole way down, however, that is not working. My brainstem is going crazy and relentlessly firing up my reflexes, I start leaning back, fighting gravity and turning away from the fall line. On a black diamond slope, things are happening so much faster, the stakes are higher and time for recovery is scant. I am rattled now and questioning my decision to turn down this trail, the next pitch is coming up and its much steeper.

The common thread that weaves through all these events, actions and reactions is the ever present “Fear”.

I read somewhere that there are only two emotions: Love and Fear. All negative emotions come fear, fear drives us to run, it dissuades us from inching closer to the edge, and taking the plunge, it keeps us grounded in the safe and predictable. We standby, watch others riding the waves, making the turns, airing it out and tell ourselves things like: “they have less to loose”, “they are much younger”, “they heal quicker than I do” when we see someone crash we hang on that as justification for our “caution/fear” Missing the point would be thinking that I am saying to endanger yourself, however we must be reasonably uncomfortable, a state where we feel more, are more vivid and embody a more intense version of ourselves.

After getting in the back seat a couple times, and unsuccessfully forcing my skis to turn before the edges engage, I stop!

At the edge of the trail, I take some deep breaths and acknowledge fear, yes this is dangerous, but it is not ever going to be, this trail is never going to get less steep just like I am never going to stop wanting to ski it, so today is as good a day as any to do it. I keep my eyes ahead – looking where I’m going and not where I have been, drop into proper squared up stance, I feel for my shin against the tongue of my boots and tell myself to keep them there, I loosen up and let the planks ride, carving Ses in the snow and ice. Fear is calling but I’m really not listening, just letting them skis ride, all the while loving not fearing.

Thanks for stopping by

Daring

I remember how I got into biking; I was astonished by the weight (pun intended) of the number staring back at me when I stepped on the scaled, in pom’s nomenclature I weighed more than about 10 stone. I reluctantly forked out $400 for my new bike, astonished that the bike guy was not overly impressed with my extravagance, I was half expecting the machine to levitate since I paid so much for it. Reality set in when I went to the back of the shop and saw bikes with multi thousand dollar sticker prices, I remember blacking out for a couple seconds. Thinking back to that time, I was completely open to learning something new, a champion of change, desire was strong and motivation virile, food tasted better and I took my tea spicy. For someone who had never been on anything more complicated that a vintage racing bike I stole from a friend in college, my 21 speed looked to me like a fighter jet.

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I doubt anyone has ever crashed as many times as I did on my first mountain bike ride. In my anticipations, I looked up mountain biking videos on YouTube and as you would expect I binged on hours on downhill mountain biking, planning to reenact these moves at my local trail on my $400 100mm travel pogo stick – I cannot be faulted for not trying, as you would expect, the results however was nothing like the videos. Ignorance about riding styles, equipment and abilities, was less than blissful let’s just say. I remember plummeting down gullies, and grabbing hand full of the front brake only to go over the bars, giving trees hugs, changing tubes, I remember how incomprehensible changing gears were and how unforgiving little humps were to submit. I can’t remember doing anything that hard before, even for someone who swims like a stone, this was immeasurable harder than my 10 week training block for a triathlon. Despite the toil, I still dreamt about being on that $400 bike every day, I still saw myself as Hans Ray. At this point in my life, I embraced change, I was not scared by something new, I did not care about success or failure, I just wanted to do something and Hot dog , I went out an did it.

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Black Eyed Susans (Maryland State flower)

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Attempt at a landscape shot… Not doing much for me

I just picked up a much smaller machine recently, this hast highlights have changed over the past few years. I picked up a nifty Olympus Pen E17 mirrorless DSLR camera, great entry level mirrorless camera. Photography has always moved me, in my heart, right next to the chamber which only great music occupies, is a space for awe inspiring images, just below the gourmet tacos chamber. I have however noticed a strange trepidation when it comes to fully immersing myself into this new experience. As a millennial accustoms to ever changing screens and buttons, I am completely overwhelmed by this device. Some much to learn; ISO, shutter speed, aperture, light displacement, image composition, hundreds of hours to be invested to even be mediocre at it. I constantly see myself wanting to just give up and go to the status quo of taking overly processed images on my iPhone using Instagram filters. I believe the greatest strength of a leader is anticipating and accepting change, its uncomfortable, it’s difficult and it can be avoided for only so long.

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My best shot so far… I think the model makes it, not the shooter

 

Through this, I have learnt to extend grace to the hidebound, to appreciate that every person experienced a time when they were vibrant and open, receptive and zealous, but slowly life and its minions make security the priority and society demonizes risk. I plan on mastering this photography thing, I plan on being good at it, I plan on having It add color, texture and context to my ballet of and in life and then I plan on moving on to sometime new before I settle into my immovable way of eating shrimp with old bay or none at all.

I leave you with this quote by Theodore Roosevelt

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight what knows neither victory nor defeat.

Thanks for stopping by.