Today we are staying at a beauty of a place in the middle of the icefields parkway. That means we’re out of cell phone service, so if you’re wondering why I’m ignoring your texts…it’s nothing personal! The internet here is snail speed so I’m planning on reading books instead of blogs and on exploring a bit, but I thought I’d post a whole bunch of REALLY IMPORTANT words. JK
Here’s one photo–a teaser, if you will!
Summary of the day: awesome! The weather held even though it looked pretty icky and menacing this morning. We rode a bit out of Jasper before we made it to the base of Mt. Edith Cavell. When we got there, we kind of split up and rode up at our own pace. It’s about a 14km climb with a pretty un-impressive average grade but tell that to my legs—they felt it! I did it faster than I anticipated in a respectable 53 minutes (which was faster than lots of Strava posters), even though I held back a bit. About 4km into it, we saw a grizzly bear that was nearly on the road with a baby. They’re apparently only mean when their babies are around—eek! I sped up but then I thought I’d save some energy in case I needed a sprint. Seriously. I was so paranoid – I kept thinking I saw bears, but it turned out they were trees!
At the top of the climb, we reconvened and then explored. There’s glaciers up there and there’s a nice hike that we took to get a better look. It was freezing but absolutely gorgeous. Afterwards, the descent was pretty smooth riding. There was another bear but this time a black bear and my biking buddies were around so I wasn’t so worried. I used the traffic jam as a way to get ahead of a trailer that was holding me back so I ended up having a pretty quick descent. That being said, some of the switchbacks were a bit scary with a steep drop off, no guard rails, and quite a few cars heading up against us. Everyone had safe rides though and none of us were bear food!
After our descent, it was a nice ride to our lunch stop at Leech Lake. Prettier than the name suggests, we had some chicken and salad and crackers and then continued on to Athabasca Falls. It was pretty awesome – so fast moving and the mist felt cool and refreshing. Afterwards, we rode a bit more and then I stopped with my tour guide, Peter for some photos at a breathtaking overlook. I can’t wait for you guys to see the photos! The rest of the group missed out (I think they were feeling the hill from earlier) but that’s okay. It was a nice ride in to the hotel with Peter, who is one of the owners of the tour company and so is of course full of knowledge, good stories, and is just one of those people I WANT to talk to – it’s like “rub off on me, please!” We stopped at Honeymoon Lake, which is about 3km from our endpoint, and went for a swim in our bike clothes. The lake was surrounded by mountains and was perhaps the BEST way to end a day, but then we got to see ANOTHER black bear on the way down the last descent to our resort. I felt okay with this one since we were going DOWN and since it was a black bear more interested in berries than me (I hope). It was a big one though!
My legs are feeling fatigued—imagine that! I’m going to roll them, stretch a bit, and probably take an Advil. Things are hurting in different places than normal but I’m chalking it up to riding a lot more hills than normal and realizing that this is just a high volume week—stuff’s bound to be sore! I think an ice bath would be smart—maybe tomorrow. I can’t muster the energy to find ice here (we’re in cabins and I don’t even know where I’d go to find it) PLUS Honeymoon Lake was that “refreshing” temperature that is a nice way to say cold!
Enough with me rambling and recapping…now for the juicy words.
This trip has brought with it lots of time to think – flying out here, hanging out alone, riding my bike up mountains and not being able to converse with others for lack of oxygen. Love travelling for opening up your eyes and sparking some realizations. It’s like getting away gives you a chance to assimilate all the learning you’ve done…or for me, it does.
Some thoughts, in no particular order:
- THIS is why I’m fit. THIS is why I want to be healthy, able-bodied, and strong. To be able to go on trips like this, to decide that I want to bike 500km over 5 days over mountains, and to be able to do it with a smile on my face. Not to be a certain weight, not to win races, not to impress people, and not because I like wearing spandex (bonus).
- The way I have been riding on this trip confirms what I already knew: I’m embracing biking and cycling as not simply a form of exercise but as something that I do for the sake of doing. With my new interest in health and fitness and what it really means to be fit (a broad definition and you can thank Crossfit for opening my eyes to just how broad it is and how much I’m neglecting certain aspects if I don’t train besides swim/bike/run stuff), I get that cycling might not be the “ideal” exercise. But for me, it’s the ideal hobby and I love it. And you do what you love for the sake of doing it. This is a big shift from a girl who used to use biking as a way to burn calories—evidenced by the fact that I’d NEVER take in a gel or drink Gatorade or any of those smart moves that improve your performance…but now I’m ranting about who I used to be and getting away from the point: I’m here for the experience, not to exercise. J
- The approach to riding on this trip has just further opened my eyes. It’s kind of a metaphor for how you live – try to stay with me here. I could come here, ride my ass off, and not look around. Or, I can come here, challenge myself (or let the mountains take care of it for me !), AND look around a bit. I can slow down and take a pit stop when there’s a bear posing for a photo (or speed the hell up to get away from it – today we saw a momma grizzly and her cub and holy SHIT it was too close for my comfort!) or a beautiful vista. I think today we stopped more than we rode, but at the end of it, we still put in 88km, climbed Mt. Edith Cavell (which is Canada’s Alp d’Huez, apparently AND I was QOM on Strava), and saw glaciers, waterfalls, flowing rivers below us, and took a break right at the end of it all to jump in Honeymoon Lake (note: where the hell is my future husband when I need him?). So instead of trying to impress people by racing through this ride, slowing down to talk to the people I’m with, look around, stop and see the sights, and just to be present instead of wondering when we’ll get to where we’re going has proven to be amazing. If I was just worried about riding the 100km/day (roughly), I might as well be on a trainer in someone’s basement. But that’s not why I’m here. And similarly, I’m not living to get to some end goal. I’m not trying to race to my grave, and even on a less morbid note I’m starting to realize that the fun really is in the journey—to our goals, to all that good stuff.
- I really am awesome. I thought coming out here I might have trouble with these hills. Realization: even if you’re super fit, you’ve only got so many gears. You’re going to feel some challenge going up a mountain—that’s the way it is! The nice thing is, I have some experience from my last bike trip so it’s not such a shocker. I feel stronger and I know that mentally focusing on the challenge and thinking how strong I’m getting instead of worrying about how much I’m struggling or wondering when it will be over has only made the whole thing more enjoyable. When I realized that I’m actually half decent at this and accepted the compliments that I’m getting on my climbing ability (albeit something I thought I was going to be embarrassed of or lacking in), I’m trying to embrace it and believe it. Because the fact that I’m here, doing what I’m doing makes me epic. And I’m not bragging because I think every single person who loves cycling could and should do this—and the only way to get better at something that’s hard is to do it. So let’s plan next year’s trip!
- I don’t mind being alone. Just because I am alone right now doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this! In fact, I think it means I can enjoy it more. There’s no one to wait for on the hills (cuz I’m sure I’d hypothetical boyfriend’s ass). That being said, it would be nice to share some of this stuff with someone and I’ve taken a buttload of cute photos of the other couples, but being a 5th wheel is not so bad when you like yourself. Not that I wasn’t independent before, but here comes more confidence about being able to make it on my own. Realizing this opens up the door for more experiences…bring. It. On.
That’s all! I’m going to go avoid bears, check out the place we’re staying, and kill time until dinner. I’ve been eating all day on the bike and off but I’m looking forward to a sit-down meal without being mosquito food. Tomorrow the journey continues…but we’re halfway done! Holy smokes, time flies when you’re having fun!
Have you had any good epiphanies lately?
PS – Stay tuned for photos!