A thank you to my Grandfather

So today was the first day of training for my job at school. Seems like some cool new people to work with; should be a good year for work.

I tell you this because I had to get from my apartment which is about 2.5 miles via my chosen route. Which means I rode my bike!

This is how my day went: get up, bike to work, work, bike home, eat some pizza, drink a beer (Summit Great Northern Porter), ride my bike again on an eleven mile loop, Had an epiphany about endurance racing and life.

Now here I am reflecting on the ride and things I’ve learned about physical strength, stubbornness, and determination.

The route I chose for my evening ride has a long medium grade hill. It gains something like 230 feet in a mile. Now this is by no means a big hill,  but for me it takes a bit of digging to get to the top. My legs felt like lead about half way up. My quads have the mass for lifting heavy objects (my profession of choice) but endurance is something I haven’t really trained my body for. I learned this in May while racing the General Clinton 70 mile Canoe Regatta in New York with my grandfather.

Not dead yet

I worked out a bit for this race but school and girls kept me from serious training. So I built some extra muscle in my shoulders but no endurance. After 10 miles in that canoe I thought I was going to die. I tried to quit at every pit stop. That’s 5 times for those that counted… Each time though something either kept me from getting out of the boat, or compelled me to get back into the boat after the portage at  mile 35. I hurt, my shoulders burned (until the left one went numb), I could hear my shoulders grind from time to time, and my not so old rugby injuries flared up. I stayed in that boat and we finished in 13 hours 59 minutes. we could have finished about 30 minutes faster had I not tried to die from heat exhaustion after 35 miles. We still managed to finish ahead of 5 other boats.

Here I am after getting dizzy, falling over, and dry heaving...

For the whole 13 hours I kept trying to figure out what had compelled my 76 year old grandfather to compete in this race for the past 19 years. Nothing about the experience I was having would have motivated me to paddle that distance in a day again. Every time I asked him he would say something about the beauty of nature and the peace of it all and that working hard for the sights made them better. I would promptly call Bull Shit and then brood and fume about the predicament I’d willingly gotten myself into. Icouldn’t begin to understand that race until after we finished.

In hind sight finishing that race was one of the most trivial, yet important things I have ever done. Trivial because it was just 14 hours out of my life, less than a day…

However that day changed my outlook on life.

Somehow in the sneaky silent way that he has, my grandfather taught me that life, like a race, is hard. I learned that to move forward one has to understand that the limits aren’t really the limits. There is a whole lot of energy you don’t even know about until you push past what were your pain thresholds. I came to that conclusion on my bike today when I wanted to quit half way up the hill, I told myself “lets give it everything and go a little further”. Once you give everything you find that you’ve got even more to give.

The real kicker I learned in that race; In those 13 hours and 59 minutes that I thought would never end…

It’s over before you know it and you have to “finish strong”.

I’m not going to forget that Grandpa… ever

We made it!

Now it’s on to a 100 mile bike ride


About Ben

Nearing a quarter of a century in age and almost done with college. I make art, I drink beer, and I ride my bike.
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